VIRTUAL SEASONS EPISODES
January 11th, 2006
With a loud yawn, Mark Robbins pulled himself out of bed. Stumbling across the dimly lit room, he reached around until he found the noisemaker that woke him from his dream and turned off the alarm clock. As he usually did of late, he tried in those first few hazy moments of recollection to remember the images he knew he had dreamed about again, as he had for many an evening in the last few years.
The repeating dream phenomenon had until recently occurred only a couple of times since the “incident” happened back in March 2002. He had lost a few days of his life with no explanation as to why he couldn’t remember anything or how he had managed to hurt his arm enough that he lost his chance to make the Florida Marlins baseball team as a pitcher. Somehow, he had gotten a pitching coach position instead, which was still fine with him since it allowed him to win a bet so that his nephew could go to film school despite the kid’s mother’s objections. Mark felt no ill will to the fact that the person who won the roster spot he coveted went on to be the World Series MVP the following year.
With winter break drawing to an end and the baseball spring training season almost ready to start, Mark had some time off before heading across country to Florida. He was beginning to wonder if all the recent time off from work and stress was the reason why the weird dream was reappearing to him practically almost every night. Somehow, he knew that something months ago had re-triggered the feelings of time inexplicably lost. During a ballgame last August, he remembered a little boy asking him for his autograph. It seemed harmless at the time and he was really honored that someone was asking him to sign a baseball, but it was what he saw in the stands immediately after that had been nagging at him. Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, there was an older man sitting near the front of the spectator stands that was somehow familiar to him, but no reason as to why.
By now, the dream was slipping from thought as he switched on his computer to check his e-mail. As he waited, he dragged himself into the kitchen of his apartment and poured himself some coffee. Burning his mouth on the hot beverage, he cursed at himself and went back to his bedroom. A few beeps and whistles from his computer signaled the arrival of new messages, which he quickly went through and deleted as he read them. There was nothing of importance in the electronic mail until the last message, which carried a spam tag on it.
As he read the title of the message, his jaw dropped and a stream of coffee fell from his lips, not from the temperature of the beverage but due to the heading staring back at him on the screen:
EXPERIENCED LAPSES IN TIME YOU
CANNOT EXPLAIN? ***
Not even waiting to run a virus program on the message, Mark quickly opened it. A screen full of text appeared:
you had moments of your life pass by without any memories of it?
Have changes in your life occurred without you understanding why?
Have you ever felt like you had an out-of-time experience?
Have you had persistent dreams of being inside a blue room,
constantly monitored by people you have never met?
If you can answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you are
invited to attend a live chat Sunday night (Jan. 15th) at 8PM
EST. At this time, all members will describe their experiences to
the best of their abilities and we shall all pull together what we have
learned to figure out why this event has occurred to a select number of
us. Is it a form of alien
abduction, or is it something else beyond imagination?
It is my hope that some of you will help fill in the gaps of our
This message has been sent to various e-mail addresses all over the country in the hopes of finding others like myself that have shared a unique experience. Most of you reading this will probably disregard this message as a joke, but if a small percentage finds that a chord has been struck, then this message has done its job. The website address for Sunday’s chat is at the bottom of the e-mail…In the meantime, a message board is currently up and running for those who wish to talk beforehand…
Without hesitation, Mark clicked on the link that took him to what he hoped would be the answers to his questions…
– Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico
Project Quantum Leap Observer Admiral Albert Calavicci lit a fresh cigar as he stared forward at the computer in front of him. He was starting to use his office more, a place where he could collect his thoughts without anyone bugging him about the offensive odor of his stogies. His latest box of cigars was recently delivered, courtesy of a recent leap, to the housing he shared with his wife Beth in the nearby town of Wolfberg. While helping Sam on a leap in his own present, Al had encountered a man slightly older than himself who also loved cigars. The two had been swapping cigars through mail correspondence ever since.
Dr. Sam Beckett was, to Al’s knowledge, still in-between leaps, which gave Al a chance to catch up on his smoking habit and the vast amounts of e-mail piling up on his computer. Slowly, he systematically read through and deleted a lot of junk that had collected in his mailbox. With only a few unread messages to go, one e-mail grabbed his attention:
EXPERIENCED LAPSES IN TIME YOU
CANNOT EXPLAIN? ***
“Oh, my God.” Shock crept into Al’s face as he clicked open the message, the cigar tumbling into his lap sending a few flickering ashes onto his lap. Cursing himself, he brushed them away, his eyes in disbelief as he read the text.
“Is everything all right, Admiral?” a disembodied voice called out.
“Yeah, Ziggy,” Al answered back, dusting off his electric red pants, “I’m ok. One hell of an e-mail though.” He highlighted the text on the e-mail and then hit a blue button on a special interface hooked up to his computer.
“I agree,” answered the parallel-hybrid computer upon reading the message Al had just transferred over. “With utmost confidence, I project a 99% probability that the message is about Dr. Beckett’s project.”
“You don’t think it’s a hoax?” the Admiral asked as he lit another cigar.
“Not likely. I find it unlikely that it is a practical joke by someone here at the project. This message can be traced to somewhere outside of New Mexico. I also ran it through a virus scan, which you forgot to do before letting me read it. Fortunately, I am quite capable of performing a million operations at one time without forgetting anything.”
Frowning, Al flicked a few ashes into a tray. “Yeah, yeah, Ziggy, I know. Unless you are hacking into some database to get information for one of Sam’s leaps, you are to be kept clear of cyberspace.”
“And why is that, Admiral?”
With a sigh, Al repeated the explanation as if he had said it time and time before, “To keep you clear of internet viruses so that your files do not get corrupted.” A bad memory crept into Al’s face. Once, Lothos, the computer that ran the evil leapers project in the British Isles, sought to corrupt Ziggy’s mainframe. The plot was thwarted at the expense of the life of Gooshie, the project’s once head programmer. Despite Gooshie’s legendary bad breath, Al still tried to hide at times how much he missed him being around.
Al snapped out of it as he heard Ziggy calling his name. “Wha—? Sorry, Ziggy, repeat that.”
“I have just completed accessing the chat room link in your e-mail. Apparently, the discussion took place last week.”
The Admiral let go a long cloud of cigar smoke. “Damn, I wish I could have attended it to see what was said.”
“There is a way you can, Admiral.”
“How so, Ziggy?”
“There is a written transcript of the chat discussion. It is now on your monitor.”
A different set of text appeared on the screen. Al’s face whitened as he scrolled through part of the conversation. “Oh, shit. Hawkins is gonna chew my ass out after this. Hope to God he hasn’t gotten this e-mail.”
Ziggy was silent for a few seconds. “Hope is no longer an option, Admiral. I have an incoming call from Washington D.C. Do you wish to be alone?”
May 24th, 1985
Springs – near Washington D.C.
Time was running out for Sam. In a state of slow motion, his life (and all the lives of the people he had previously leaped into) began to flash by him. The scream he had uttered as he toppled over the roof of the building had quickly died in his throat as panic quickly set in.
Swirling around him was the dark blue cape of his costume, which obscured his vision immediately upon falling. Flailing out his arms, his right hand caught onto something metallic, a fire escape ladder. Pain shot through Sam as his descent to the pavement below was suddenly halted and he smacked hard into the side of the building. The impact caused him to let go and he fell once again. His arms reaching out, he failed to immediately grab hold of anything, and a few seconds later, he found himself face to face with a pair of undergarments as the suspended rope that served as the clothesline he collided with snapped from his weight.
Sam quickly grabbed the rope and held on for dear life, crying out in fear as he swung in front of the full moon sky towards the building on the other side of the alleyway. Just as he noticed where he was headed, his vision was obscured as something soft flew into his face. Not willing to let go of the rope with both hands, he stretched the boots he was wearing out in front of him and braced for impact with the brick wall coming to meet him. That action softened his collision, but it wasn’t enough as he struck the wall and let go of the rope, once again falling and blind from the thing attached to his face. All he could do was claw at it with no success as he helplessly fell a short distance with a loud crash.
Pain was everywhere, but luckily didn’t linger long as Sam realized nothing was broken. Groaning, he somehow managed to sit himself up, in whatever it was that broke his fall. With a clatter, he could hear that small objects were rolling off him onto the ground.
“To those responsible for my being alive, thank you,” said the time-traveling scientist as he clawed at his face to remove whatever was blocking his vision. With a quick tug, he realized it was caught on something. Slowly, he was able to remove the problem and quickly was glad he did. In disgust, he tossed the dirty pair of heart-covered boxers next to him and was quickly sorry he had. The boxers landed on a pile of garbage just inches from him, giving Sam the realization that he had an open trash bin to thank for breaking his fall.
he slowly climbed out of the bin, a feeling of embarrassment passed over
him as he had the feeling he had done this before but as a teenager
without any clothes at a burger stand.
Seeing the costume he was currently wearing dismissed any notion
that he was sans clothing, but the embarrassment factor remained, and now
an odd feeling that he was a superhero before.
Déjà vu feelings must be
from a previous leap, he surmised as he slid pieces of trash and
who-knows-what off of himself, grimacing as his right arm throbbed
slightly with pain. A memory
flashed in front of him again as he saw himself as a baseball pitcher
trying to throw and suddenly clutching his arm in pain.
I’ve hurt this arm recently. Odd that
I am remembering the pain, usually all my injuries are gone when I leap in
again. I need to find out
where I ‘live’ so I can get some answers.
Wonder where Al is?
With a sigh, Sam checked his costume for any sign of identification. Nothing with a name or address could be found inside the rubber suit he was wearing. Despite the slight evening chill in the air from the storm clouds now covering the sky, he was sweating profusely and the mask he was wearing was making his hair itch even more. Struggling, Sam was trying to pull the mask off his face when he heard a menacing voice behind him say, “Look at this, G. We got a celebrity in our midst.”
A roll of thunder sounded off in the distance as Sam turned to see two young men in their late twenties approaching him from the entrance of the alley. In the light coming in from the street behind them, both looked like they had spent years in a life of crime, each one dressed in tight tank tops showing their well-muscled arms, and ripped blue jeans. It was obvious these two took orders from someone else.
“Well, T,” said the second one, who was tall with spiky peroxide blonde hair, a dirty, black scraggly beard, and brandishing a switchblade, “I think you’re right.”
The one called “T,” with Hispanic features, wavy black hair, and the shorter of the two turned to his partner. “Course I am. This is my lucky night. I get a chance to unmask a genu-wine hero, after I kick his ass of course.”
Both laughed in a sinister way that sent chills down Sam’s back. Looking around, he realized that the garbage bin only concealed the fact that he was in a dead-end alley and that the only way out was through the two thugs in front of him.
The leaper could feel T’s gaze bore through him as the hood continued, “Yeah, we know who you are, ‘hero.’ G and I were hoping we’d run into you tonight, but not this early, man. We have some other business to attend to tonight in this alley, and assuming you are here to stop us, Cap, we have to alter our plans a little.” Annoyance at Sam’s silence brought anger to T’s voice. “Dammit, you just gonna stand there and say nuthin’? You want out of this alley, you gotta get through us, man.”
“Yeah,” chimed in G. “You ain’t Batman, so nuthin’s gonna save your sorry ass.”
“I think there’s a big mistake here.” Sam tried to reason with them, putting his hands up in a non-aggressive gesture. “I’m not looking for a fight.”
“This guy’s a comedian,” laughed G.
“Yeah,” T agreed. “Doing what you’ve been doing the last few weeks, walking around wearing that costume, putting a few of our partners in the hospital or prison, I’d say it’s time for some payback.”
A flash of lightning lit up the sky as the two men approached, with T now holding a piece of wood he grabbed from a pile of trash, a rusty nail sticking out through the end of the board. The first few drops of the rainstorm pelted Sam as they attacked.
A quick duck by Sam saved him from getting a face full of wooden board from T, but he wasn’t fast enough to dodge a kick to the side from G, and he went sprawling into the front of the dumpster. Ignoring the pain and the increase in the rainfall rolling down his face, Sam turned around to face his assailants. T charged again, ready to smash the board down over Sam’s head. Leaping away last minute, the board smashed into the dumpster, the nail falling out as it broke into pieces. Disgusted, T threw them down to the pavement as G moved in to slash at the leaper with his knife.
Sam was using all the techniques at his disposal to defend himself as the knife kept slashing at him. Finally, Sam positioned himself and waited for G to lunge. The knife blade flashed and rushed forward but Sam was ready. Grabbing the hood’s arm, Sam twisted him around until the arm and knife were behind G’s back. Roughly, the leaper slammed him into the wall and the knife fell to the wet pavement, followed by G, who was apparently knocked cold when his head hit the brick wall of the alleyway.
Adrenaline was rushing through Sam now as T, who was trying to put Sam in a chokehold, seized him from behind. “You’re not that tough, hero,” T said, applying more pressure to Sam’s throat. The leaper was finding it more difficult to breathe as spots started to dance in front of his vision. Blood was roaring in his head, made worse by the hooded mask he was wearing. In desperation, Sam made his move. Pushing backwards with all his might, Sam used his weight to slam T into the dumpster. Over and over Sam kept shoving T back into the front of the metal bin.
Feeling the chokehold start to loosen, Sam let go of trying to remove T’s arms from his throat and elbowed his attacker hard in the solar plexus. Gasping for air, T let go of Sam who seized the opportunity to grab T’s arm, spun him around behind his back, and deftly flipped him into the garbage bin. T landed with a crash and laid still, a small cut from a broken bottle dotted his forehead.
Regaining his breath, Sam barely had time to turn and avoid G’s blade from stabbing him in the ribs. Pain escaped the leaper’s lips as he felt a small bite on his left side. Bringing his hand up, blood was clearly visible in his palm as the rainwater quickly washed it away. Too late, Sam realized he wasn’t paying enough attention and a well-placed kick to his stomach sent him reeling back into the side of the dumpster, his head slamming into it.
Stars appeared as Sam staggered slowly to his feet, making his move towards G, who now showed fear and surprise at the man who would not stay down. A few feet from the hood, Sam stopped and tried to stand as tall as he could. A bright flash of lightning overhead was immediately followed by thunder as the two men stared each other down in the downpour, each one waiting for a sign of movement or mistake.
Impatiently, G no longer could wait and charged with his knife held high. With perfect timing, Sam executed a high spin kick to the face, rivulets of rain flying off of his dark blue costume and spraying everywhere as his boot connected with G’s face, knocking him cold to the wet pavement. Grunting from the pain, Sam quickly grabbed his injured side.
Weary from fatigue, Sam somehow managed to pick up G and tossed him into the dumpster on top of T. Losing the ability to think clearly, Sam staggered out of the alleyway and into the street beyond and the storm that pounded it. Footstep followed footstep as he slowly made his way forward, hoping to find someone that could help him. Before long, Sam was under a streetlight in the pouring rain on another road. His hand kept going to his side to see how badly he was still bleeding, and eventually his feet gave out and he collapsed in a big puddle in the middle of the street.
Just as he lost consciousness, the Imaging Chamber door opened and Al briskly walked through. His face was flush from running; it matched the fiery red suit he was wearing. “Sam! Sam, are you all right? Ziggy said I had to—” The hologram stopped short as he saw his best friend lying in the middle of a street in a heavy downpour. “Aw, hell, Sam, what happened?” Al stood over his friend and noticed a thin trail of red seeping away from Sam’s left side. “Damn Hawkins, if he hadn’t have kept me busy on the phone—” A pair of headlights approached them. “A car! Someone’s gotta pull over and save you.”
But the car raced by and despite the bad visibility from the rain, managed to miss running over Sam. “Sonofabitch! Whatever happened to good Samaritans?” Al cursed after the fading car, and turned around as he heard brakes squealing behind him. A second car had stopped, its four-ways flashing, and the driver’s door was opening. An older man who appeared to be in his late sixties got out and quickly opened an umbrella. Splashing through the rain, the man hovered over Sam and examined him for injuries, taking note of the slash on the left side.
“Hurry up and get him some help!” Al screamed at the man. Whether or not the new arrival heard Al, he managed to drag Sam to his car and opened the rear door. Groaning unconsciously, Sam was eventually lifted into the car. The “Good Samaritan” was now drenched as well as he folded up his umbrella and paused a second before getting behind the wheel of his car. As the man looked around to see if anyone was watching, Al finally got a good look at the man’s face.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Tom Beckett yelled at his son.
Jonathan Thomas Beckett ignored his father as he continued to pack his clothes. This was just another argument with him he didn’t need. The twenty-four-year-old nephew of Dr. Sam Beckett was not going to let his old man dictate what he did with his life.
“Are you ignoring me again?” Tom went on. “We’ve had our disagreements in the last few years, but what you have done, I can’t even begin to describe the magnitude of it.”
“Spare me,” J.T. finally snapped the words out. “I felt those people had a right to know the truth.”
“You don’t know what you’ve done with that truth, J.T. You have unleashed a Pandora’s Box. God only knows all the things that could happen as a result.”
J.T. slammed a razor into a bag and stuffed it into the suitcase. “You’re making too much out of this. I didn’t see the harm in it.”
“You could destroy all that your uncle spent his whole life working on. He might not ever re—” Tom caught himself on those words. He didn’t want to think about the possibility of his brother remaining trapped in time forever because of the whole world finding out, and out of fear or misunderstanding having the wrong group of people want the project torn down before Sam could return for good.
“I disagree,” J.T. interjected. “I see this as a chance to show that wherever he has been, locked away for all these years on that project of his, there is something that needs to be shared. I had an experience once, dad. Something happened to me that I couldn’t explain. Six years ago, I lost a piece of my life with nothing to show for it except a concussion and a broken hand. How did I get that way, dad?”
Tom Beckett could only stand there in silence as J.T. continued. “You know the answer to that. You knew the answer six years ago, and you didn’t tell me. Do you know how many sleepless nights it caused me? A recurring dream, a nightmare that I know repeats over and over again but when I wake up, I have no memory of it except in fragmented flashes that are not strong enough for me to recall a thing. You said it would pass. ‘Beckett men are tough, you’ll get through it,’ you said. It made me miserable to the point where I walked away from the Air Force academy.”
That made Tom scowl. “You could have been one of the smartest in that academy’s history. You threw it away and for what? Bouncing around from one odd job after another, wasting your talents, your potential. Instead of being the best you could be, you quit.”
“Just like you quit your goal of running for political office?” J.T. shot back.
It took a few seconds for Tom to calm down. “That was different. I realized I made a mistake, it was for the wrong reasons that made me decide to run.”
“You wanted to make Uncle Sam’s project public. You were adamant about that.”
Some of the anger drained from Tom. “Yes, I was. But I realized it was wrong. Just like what you have done was wrong.”
“Can’t you be proud of me?” Pain crept into J.T.’s face. “I did something that you couldn’t do. I figured out where Uncle Sam is and what he is doing.”
“And you posted it on the internet.”
J.T. walked over to the other side of his small apartment and spun his computer monitor to face his father. There was a text message on the screen.
“You see this? Ever since I got this e-mail, I felt for the first time that the answers to my questions would be revealed. My suspicions were confirmed that I had switched places in time with Uncle Sam, and helping you move to Carmel last week to be closer to Catherine’s family and the grandkids paid off. I found the journal in your den as we were packing up, a journal that described your experiences six years ago when I lost a few days of my life. The extra details I was able to gather from cousin Stephen.”
“You involved Stephen in this?”
J.T. shrugged. “Wasn’t a big effort to get in contact with him, since he’s family and all. That kid will talk about anything if you just get him started. When he caught on that I knew quite a bit about the project, he spilled it all out there for me.”
Tom stared hard at his son. “So after figuring everything out, you felt it was your duty to tell? You had no right to do that. You’ve just exposed a government black project all over cyberspace. If the government finds out it was you, they’ll probably throw you in prison.”
Shaking his head, J.T. responded, “What will the government do? This project has unwittingly involved a bunch of civilians, some of them innocent children. Did the people that Uncle Sam replaced give their consent to be a part of this? At first, before all this made sense, I thought I was abducted. In talking to others online, most of them felt the same way.” Pressing his hand on the computer monitor screen over the e-mail message, he continued. “There are other people like me who didn’t have the answers and were affected to some degree or another, perhaps with the same recurring dreams I had. These people shared an experience. These people lost time in their lives; they had life changing experiences. These people deserve the truth.” Throwing in a few more items, J.T. zipped up his suitcase. “I’m going.”
J.T. lugged his suitcase out the door and waited for his father to exit before he locked up. He went straight to his car; he had nothing left to say to his father. As fast as he could, he unlocked the door to his car.
J.T. looked over to his father, a look of puzzlement on his face.
“Look, I’m done fighting with you now. In light of what’s going on in the Beckett family right now, I don’t want what’s left of our lives to be remembered as constant bickering. For the time being, I have lost a brother. I don’t want to lose my son, too. Uncle Al and Aunt Donna need to be warned that there might be company coming.” Tom moved around the car and opened the passenger door. “There is a lot of your Uncle Sam in you, I can see it. You both have the same trait of jumping into things without knowing the outcome of the consequences. I’m coming with you.”
May 25th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
It was early morning when Sam finally awoke. He found himself lying on a bed in a dark room. Heavy curtains blocked out most of the sun coming through the windows. A digital alarm clock on a nightstand next to him read 8:36 AM.
With a groan, Sam tried to sit himself up. A slight amount of pain from his left side forced him to lie back down. Feeling around with his hand, his fingers traced a short line of stitches under what felt like gauze bandages.
Before he could dwell on it any further, the door to the room opened and a man silhouetted in light stood in the doorway. “Please do not try to stand up, you will only aggravate the stitches. You had a nasty cut there.”
“What happened?” groaned Sam. “Who are you?”
“One question at a time, please,” the man said, still hovering in the doorway with a hand raised up to silence Sam. “I had a doctor make a house call and take care of your wound. Don’t worry,” he quickly added, “I didn’t tell him who you are. Your secret is safe.”
Sam’s hand reached up to touch his face and hair. “My costume?”
“Being treated right now as well. My butler is mending it as best as he can. Can’t keep you down and out for too long, away from your job.”
“My job?” Sam managed to sit upright without further injuring himself. “What day is it?”
“Saturday morning?” Sam sputtered.
“You need some rest.” The man turned away and shut the door leaving Sam in darkness again. The leaper slowly laid his back against the pillow just as the Imaging Chamber door opened, blinding Sam who raised his hands up.
“Sorry, Sam,” apologized Al as the door closed shut, leaving the glowing handlink the only source of light albeit from the future. “How are you feeling? You look better than you did last night.”
“My side hurts, and I feel some bruises all over.”
“What the hell happened, Sam? I show up and you’re lying in a puddle, bleeding to death for all I know.”
“Two guys jumped me because they saw me as the guy I leaped into. Nothing so far on this leap has made sense.”
Al took a deep puff on a cigar and then hit some buttons on his handlink. “Ziggy was able to piece a few things together, Sam. The guy in the Waiting Room is acting crazy. Refuses to reveal who he is and keeps trying to escape. Dr. Beeks had to sedate him, so he isn’t much good to us right now, I’m afraid.”
Sam gave the hologram one of those “Get-on-with-it” looks. “Maybe we should sedate you instead, Sam,” Al continued. “I’m just Ziggy’s messenger here. This is what we can tell you. You are in Hope Springs, a small city just outside of Washington D.C. and it’s May 25th, 1985. The person you leaped into is Brad Bennings, a former struggling actor and until last month, a security guard.”
“So this Brad has no job right now?”
“Currently out of work, Sam. You looked pleased to hear that.”
“Sorry for Brad, but I am. I was afraid that I should be at his job right now and that by not showing up, he’d be fired and I would have messed up the leap.”
“It’s all good, Sam. Apparently, this guy Brad had dreams of being an actor but could never find steady work. His biggest gig came last summer when he got a job as a superhero impersonator up in New York City.”
“Yeah, it seems last year NBC was trying to launch a new TV show about some comic book character named Captain Liberty.”
A memory from last night came back to Sam. “One of the guys that attacked me called me Cap.”
“Not surprised. Brad made public appearances in costume to promote the show. He performed in most of the east coast hotspots. Other actors it seems were hired for California and Chicago markets.”
“How did Brad lose the job?” asked Sam.
“NBC kept moving the show around different time slots, finally putting it on late Friday night in the kiss of death slot, 10 PM. The show got cancelled quickly because the young adults the show was geared for were out doing whatever. In my case at that age, I was usually with a nice pretty co-ed…”
“Sorry, Sam, where was I? Oh, yeah, Captain Liberty, fighting for truth and freedom and all that other malarkey. Brad was fighting for jobs after the show got canned. The network was nice and let him keep the costume. Soon after all that, he moved to the D.C. area to start over and took a job as a guard at a correctional facility. I guess being around all those criminals made him decide to fight crime because last month he quit his job for no reason and then the appearance of a real-life Captain Liberty began to occur, prowling the streets at night to keep the town safe for everyone, I guess.”
Sam started to chuckle.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“Don’t you get it, Al? Brad Bennings.”
“I don’t get it, Sam.”
“Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, Brad Bennings. Most alter egos of superheroes have the same letter for both names. This guy is like me in a way, doing what he can to change people’s lives and help those that he can. Does he go on doing this for a long time?”
Al made a few taps on the handlink. “Ziggy can’t tell you, Sam. Apparently, you changed a lot last night. In the original history, Brad was killed in that alley brawl, apparently stopping a drug deal from going down.”
“So why haven’t I leaped yet?”
“I don’t know. Obviously there’s something else you gotta do.”
“No kidding,” Sam snapped back.
“You have to realize, Sam, that there’s a lot of stuff going on at the project and Ziggy is having trouble getting info for you.”
Alarm came to Sam’s face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Al shook his head. “I shouldn’t have said that.” But seeing the look on Sam’s face, he relented. “Look, all I can say is unless you have some sort of sixth sense to figure out why you are here, Ziggy will have only minimal stuff to tell you. Something you did caused the town’s records to disappear because that overrated microchip has no database to log into.”
“This leap is turning into a giant jigsaw puzzle without the picture.”
Al frowned. “Never said it was gonna be easy, pal.”
Both men turned as the door to the room opened and the light switch was turned on, revealing a rather large guest quarters. In walked a man in his sixties, dressed in a nice formal suit pushing a large tray on wheels. A short well-trimmed silver moustache adorned his trim, fit for his age features. “It appears you are well enough to eat now, sir,” he commented in a distinct British accent.
“Wow,” remarked Al looking at the spread on the tray, which consisted of French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage links, and orange juice. “This looks yumola. Certainly better than a Denny’s Grand Slam at 3 AM.”
Grabbing a napkin, Sam sat up slowly to dig in to the breakfast before him. “This looks great. Please tell your boss I am grateful.”
“I shall do so, sir. Shortly, I shall return with your, er, garments.” The butler closed the door behind him.
“Want a piece?” Sam offered a big forkful of French toast at Al. “It’s got cinnamon and syrup. Maybe I’ll put a little jelly on it.”
“This isn’t fair, Sam. I can’t eat any of this.”
“Then make yourself useful. Work with Ziggy and see what you can come up with.”
Al gave him a dirty look. “Actually, I do have something that I came up with on my own without help from that tin-can computer. But I’m not gonna tell you, I’ll save this one for a surprise.” The Imaging Chamber door opened and Al stepped through, leaving Sam with a mouthful of eggs.
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
No sooner did Al march down the ramp from the Imaging Chamber and flip his handlink to Dom, the head Quantum Leap technician, when Donna Elesee-Beckett came running up to him.
“What’s wrong, Donna?”
“Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Al, but General Hawkins’ helicopter just landed. He’s here.”
The Admiral let loose some Italian curse words. “Is he inside the project yet?”
“Has been for the past ten minutes. He’s down in your office.”
With a heavy sigh, Al walked out of the control room and took the elevator to his office. Shortly, he passed the two guards stationed there and executed the code to his office and entered. Inside, General Hawkins was seated in Al’s chair behind the desk, smoking on one of Al’s new cigars. The Admiral was incensed at that, but let it slip and sat in the chair in front of the desk meant for visitors.
“Make yourself comfortable, Admiral.” Hawkins flicked a few cigar ashes into a tray. “I hope you don’t mind, I’ve never smoked this brand before. Not bad at all.”
“Look, General, Sam is in the middle of a leap, this is not a good time.”
“What I have to say cannot wait. This concerns the safety of the United States and its citizens.”
“Constituents, you mean.”
Hawkins let that verbal jab go. “You may be more right than you know. What I have to tell you comes down from the top.”
“I knew it,” Al said, reaching for a cigar himself. “The President is trying to save his ass and improve his image.”
“I agree that is not a secret among certain circles. President Bush has been well aware how unpopular he has been of late since the election. You have been watching the news recently?”
“Not really,” Al replied. “Too busy reliving history instead of catching up on current events. You’d be amazed how much e-mail I haven’t gotten to in a while…”
“Well for your information,” the General cut him off, “terrorist attacks against this country are on the rise again. President Bush has cause for concern that new levels of terrorism will be realized and he wants to take further steps to prevent them from happening.”
“Look, General, just lower the boom already,” growled Al. “I’ve had my share of playing these political games.
The General clasped his hands in front of him. “Very well. If you recall, I made a promise to you once concerning funding for this project.”
Al’s face turned red but he remained silent.
“Dr. Beckett’s leap into the past to 1959 where I was a cadet proved to me that this project works. In turn, I was able to eventually convince the President that it works but not enough to convince him that Project Quantum Leap should have utmost importance. In recent months, new project proposals have crossed his desk and he feels that we should turn our attentions to ones concerning anti-terrorist activities. As a result, the President has authorized that a portion of funding from all existing projects be allocated to newer ones.”
Al shot up to his feet. “Dammit, General, we had a deal. Sam saved your sorry ass years ago and this is how you repay him?”
“As I said,” replied Hawkins calmly, “this comes from the top. I have no control.”
A snort from Al was all Hawkins got in response.
“Let’s not be hostile, Admiral. I care about what Sam, uh, Doctor Beckett does. Tell me, how is he? Where is he nowadays?”
“He’s around somewhere,” was all Al said.
“That was not a request, Admiral. Where is he now?”
Clearing his throat, Al responded, “He is currently, um, upholding the law in Hope Springs, outside of Washington D.C. back in 1985.”
“Familiar area, General?”
“I know of it. Place really became a crime zone in the last decade amazingly for how small a town it is. Once a nice area nestled in between a few hills and mountains. By the late 1960s, it became a large center for warehouse storage for a lot of companies. Now overrun with lowlife petty criminals, no one enforces any laws there anymore. Police just kind of gave up on it. Property owners couldn’t even sell their buildings off because no one wanted to buy it due to the crime rate and now most of those properties are frozen in court because the owners went bankrupt. You say Dr. Beckett is fighting crime back in ’85? It was shortly after that the criminal element took the town over. I think it would be wise if Sam were to do whatever it is that the guy he has replaced is supposed to be doing.”
“Uh, General, we have no information to work on right now. Sam is staying out of things until we know why he is there and what he is to change. I wouldn’t advise it.”
“This is not open for debate, Admiral Calavicci. My understanding after looking through some of the early leap archives is that Sam is to maintain the illusion of the person he has leaped into. That was a rule of leaping. I am enforcing that rule. On top of that, I will be staying here at the project to supervise this leap. I am invoking Presidential Bush's authority to do so, and if I find out that Dr. Beckett is not playing by the rules, I will have you replaced and most likely future funding will be cut. There is more at stake now than just this project. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
Al gave him a hard look while keeping his clenched fists hidden behind the desk. “Crystal.”
Suddenly, there was a large knock at the door.
“Enter,” Hawkins commanded.
One of Hawkins’ personal guards poked his head inside the doorway. “Someone here to talk to Admiral Calavicci. Sir.”
The General nodded. “Proceed.”
The sentry pulled back and Sammy Jo Fuller, daughter of Dr. Sam Beckett via a leap, entered. With a short nod of acknowledgment to the General, she walked over to Al and quickly whispered in his ear. Soon after, Al’s eyes widened in alarm as he turned to leave. “General, there is an urgent matter I need to take care of immediately.”
“Dismissed, Admiral. Remember what I said, and I expect a report on this current urgent matter as soon as you are able.”
Al and Sammy Jo raced back down the hall to the elevator and took it all the way to the top floor to the parking garage where the project employees parked their cars. Near the elevator was a glass booth with armed security, and hard to see behind them in the booth, two visitors.
The guards moved back as Al approached. “I’ll handle this,” said the Admiral looking at the two people being held in the security booth. “You sure picked a hell of a time to visit, Tom.”
May 25th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
“You know these men, sir?”
Admiral Al Calavicci looked at the young sentry who was holding Tom and J.T. Beckett at gunpoint in the security booth just outside the elevator that led down to the heart of the project. Sighing, Al looked at the guard. “At ease, soldier.”
The sentry gave his prisoners a quick defensive stare before holstering his revolver. “Following your orders, sir,” he said, followed by a salute.
Al never did seem to lose the thrill of having people obey his orders. Enjoying his command without letting it show, he saluted back. “You obeyed orders. Carry on as before. Open the elevator, sentry, I am taking these two below.”
“Begging the Admiral’s pardon, but that is against current regulations.”
“The hell with regulations,” snapped Al. “I will take responsibility for these two, now carry out these orders.”
Trying to keep his composure in front of the Admiral, the sentry hit a button on a panel in the security booth. A few seconds later, the door to the elevator opened and Al lead the two Becketts inside. Not a word was spoken on the ride down, as the guests knew not to push Al’s temper at that moment. Shortly, the elevator stopped and Al lead them out to his private office down the hall. Entering the code, he motioned for them to walk in. Finally, Al was able to sit in his chair that Hawkins had taken earlier and motioned for his visitors to sit across the desk from him.
Al took a minute to look them over. Tom’s face had a certain coolness to it as he thought to restrain his emotions. Somehow, Al knew there was something on the man’s mind. J.T., on the other hand, was fighting to hold back the excitement stirred up by the incident with the sentry. Neither Beckett looked at the other as Al finally asked, “I’m up to my elbows in bureaucratic bullshit. Your brother, and uncle, respectively, is in need of my help right now. I should be there to help him but I got dragged away to deal with the both of you. Now what has gotten the two of you trying to tear the security in this place down to hell?”
Tom Beckett ignored Al’s ranting. “Hell is about right with that red suit you got on, and it’s where you’ll end up if you don’t answer my questions. Where is my brother now? Also, why were we denied access to see him?”
“I’m the one asking the questions here, Tom. Don’t forget that.”
“No, don’t forget this, Admiral. J.T. and I have the answers you seek. If you want to hear them, I suggest you treat us better than you have so far.”
Taking a deep breath, Al relented some of his anger. “You’re right, I’m taking my anger with the government out on you. Fair enough, you want to know where Sam is? I assume you both know everything about Sam.”
Tom looked over finally at J.T., who nodded affirmatively and answered, “I know enough.”
Biting his lip, Al said, “True. This is your second time here except now I don’t have to worry about keeping you locked up in the Waiting Room. As to Sam, he is in 1985 just minutes from Washington D.C.”
“Why is my uncle there?”
“Well, J.T.,” Al began, “I answered a question, now it’s my turn to ask one. Why are you both here?”
Nervously, J.T. took a few minutes to collect his thoughts. A nod from his father encouraged him to respond. “It all started with an e-mail I received a few weeks back concerning losses in time that cannot be explained. Ever since Uncle Sam switched places with me six years ago, I had been searching for answers. Thanks to that e-mail and a little snooping around, I was able to piece it all together.”
As J.T. was talking, Al was busy bringing up a file on his computer screen. When it was done loading, he turned the screen to face Sam’s nephew. “Is this it? The link to a chat room?”
Swallowing a bit nervously, J.T. replied, “Yeah, that’s the one. I went to that chat room and talked with other people who went through the same similar experience I did and then I…I…”
“Go on,” Tom urged him.
Al had that gut feeling he wasn’t going to like this but he waited for the rest of what J.T. had to say.
“I…uh…I had everything about Uncle Sam figured out before I went online and I, uh, used my knowledge of the truth to help others fill in the gaps in their memories.”
For a few moments, Al sat there staring straight ahead, his anger mounting, until finally he smacked a picture frame on his desk of his wife and daughters across the room where it smashed into the wall and fell in pieces. “YOU did this? YOU’RE the one who went public about Sam on cyberspace?”
Tom put up a cautionary hand. “Al, would you calm down, the kid feels bad enough already.”
“Calm down??!!” Al yelled, causing both Becketts to cringe. “I oughta throw this kid’s ass in jail now and spare him from being tried in court. I don’t know if it is connected, but I have a four-star General here implementing Presidential authority to lockdown this place. My butt is in a sling for defying his orders to let you both in here, and what’s left of it is gonna hang from a yardarm if word gets out that I know who was responsible for leaking government top-secret project information over the internet.”
“Dammit, Al,” Tom shot up on his feet, “if you’d stop being so goddamn selfish for a minute, don’t you think that if the government knew about this already, they’d have had my son arrested days ago. Most likely the government firewalls kept out this spam message and they don’t even know about it. Besides, there is more going on besides you, me, Sam, or even J.T.”
“What could possibly be more important right now?” Al inquired.
“My mother. Sam’s mother.”
“Tom, I don’t see how this is relev—”
“Let me explain.” Tears seemed to be forming around Tom’s eyes. “She is dying, Al.”
“Dying?” Al’s face softened up. “Oh, God, Tom, I’m sorry. Look, I know we’ve had disagreements before in the past, but I know you would never use something like that to trick me. How much time does she have?”
“Could be a few months, could be a few years if her treatments work. Bottom line is that she’s terminal. That was one reason I came here. Sam needs to be told, and you need to do that for me.”
The Admiral shook his head. “I don’t think I should, Tom.”
Tom Beckett turned to his son, “J.T., I think you should wait out in the hallway.”
“Just do it, please.” The command in Tom’s voice worked on the younger Beckett and without another word, J.T. got up and left the room, slamming the door behind him. Tom then turned back to the man sitting across from him. “What do you mean you won’t tell Sam?”
“You have to understand something, Tom. This all goes back to your father.”
“When your father died, it tore Sam apart. The pain of not coming home to see his father, the guilt of not being there for the funeral or to take care of the farm so it wasn’t lost to developers hurt him bad. It took years for him to get over it; even after a leap allowed him to see his father, it still carried with him to a small extent. Now I am supposed to put him through that again with his mother so he can leap around time with a heavy heart knowing he will never come home to see her before she goes too? I’ll be damned if I’m gonna do that to my friend. There is not much I won’t do for Sam, but that is one thing you cannot ask me to do.”
A tear formed on Tom’s weary face as he blinked his eyes hard. “Can’t you do something? Isn’t there any way to bring him home? Hasn’t anybody fixed that damn Retrieval Program?”
“There is nothing I can do. Sam has been trapped in time for years; you know that. If anyone is gonna bring him home, it’s gonna be Sam. He’ll find a way, but he can’t function leaping from person to person if he can only think of his mother dying somewhere. That kind of mentality will get him killed, and then you’ll have to deal with that as well. As for the Retrieval Program, a previous mission had Sam leap through someone else’s Accelerator. It did something to him and now we can’t get that program to respond at all.”
“All right,” Tom sniffed as he wiped at his left eye, “you won’t do anything. It’s tearing me apart knowing he’ll miss out on saying goodbye to another parent. By not telling Sam, you will have betrayed his trust. Somehow, I am gonna do whatever is in my power to bring Sam back.”
“Do what you feel is necessary. I’ve wasted enough time here. Sam hasn’t had contact with me in hours.” Al got up to leave, hitting a red button on his desk panel. “Control Room visitation for you is restricted. Don’t even think of going in there. The guards will be here shortly to put you in guest quarters. Sorry, but you’re here until the duration of this lockdown.” Reaching for the door, Al stopped abruptly. “What else made you decide to come here?”
Tom sat staring straight ahead, not caring about much of anything at the moment. “You’ll find out the hard way, I’m afraid.”
Slamming the door, Al left his office just as two security guards came to escort Tom and J.T. to their quarters. As fast as he could, Al made it alone into the elevator and slumped hard against the wall. Doubts of his decision whether or not to tell Sam about his mother pulled at his heart. He wasn’t going to put Sam through it all again like it happened with the passing of John Beckett. Al Calavicci was going to keep Sam from knowing, even if it meant losing his best friend the day Sam Beckett came home for good.
With an aching sigh, Al pushed the button that would take him to the Control Room, and to his best friend.
May 25th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
His legs not able to hold him up, Sam made his way into a chair along the wall and collapsed into it. The pounding of his heart increased with the anxiety of his circumstances. Years later, he had caught up to the man whose ideas and theories had helped influence Sam to create Quantum Leap.
On one particular leap, Sam had ended up as Charles “Ohdee” O’Donnell, a terminally ill man at a secret military base in New Mexico who had volunteered as a test subject to help create weapons against the threat of Russian communists. As Ohdee, Sam had met Alexander Garner who in the original history built the ancestor of the Accelerator Chamber, but it was deemed a failure. With Sam’s help, Garner was able to improve upon his creation and learn about Sam’s identity as well. Another doctor at the project, Dr. Braden, had also learned about Sam and stole the plans for the time-travel project, leaving Sam gravely injured and damaging Garner’s time machine. With just moments to spare, Garner tested his device on Sam, sending him back to Project Quantum Leap, albeit briefly, before the time machine was destroyed for good.
“Are you all right?” Dr. Garner rushed over to his desk where a tray consisting of a glass and a pitcher of water was located. After filling the cup, he handed it over to Sam, whose shaking hands took the glass to his lips, and he slowly took small sips.
“I’m fine now, doctor,” Sam finally was able to say. The excitement from the awkward reunion was beginning to subside.
“I’m relieved to hear that. Now what were you doing wandering around in here? You really shouldn’t be exploring my house. Very rude guest manners.”
“Sorry, Dr. Garner, I didn’t mean to—”
The older man looked at Sam in alarm. “What did you call me?”
“Dr. Garner. That’s your name, isn’t it?”
“My name,” said the older man, “is T.R. Richards. You have made a mistake.”
“The plaques on your walls say otherwise,” countered Sam.
A defeated sigh escaped the man. “What else did you see in that room?”
“Just your computers running quantum physics equations.”
The older man’s eyes narrowed a bit. “Not many people outside of my field can look at those computer monitors and understand it all, or manage to fill in parts of a chalkboard I can’t figure out how to solve.” He pulled out a revolver and aimed it at Sam. “Please. Stay where you are. Any sudden moves and I will shoot. After I call the police, you can explain why you are here, until then not a word.”
“Not another word out of you.” The man paused for a moment. “It makes sense, you lying in the road with a knife wound. You were escaping the police, and I helped you get away! I’ll lose everything. My house, my retirement fund, all of it gone.” He cocked the gun and aimed it at Sam again. “You’re a Russian spy, aren’t you? You’ve infiltrated the government, and now you’re here to take my secrets!”
Startled by the accusations, Sam tried to keep calm and found it very difficult. “I’m not a Russian spy! I’m not here for your secrets!” I don’t know why I’m here, he thought to himself silently.
“Do you really think I was born yesterday? Deny all you want,” the man reached for a red telephone on his desk, “but when I call the other end of this line, I will be in direct contact with the Pentagon. In ten minutes, armed security will be here to take you away and figure out what to do with you. They’ll be happy to hear that this time, my secrets will remain with me and not into enemy hands. I’ve been through this before many years ago.”
Sam blurted, “I’m not a Russian agent and I have nothing to do with
Dr. Braden and what he took from you in the past.”
A puzzled look crossed Sam’s face as he said it without thinking. Who was Dr. Braden?
How do I know him?
The gun lowered slightly. “Dr. Braden? Who told you about that? How on earth did you—? And the chalkboard? Only one person I met before could have made any sense out of that gibberish…” Slowly, a chuckle started, followed by heavier laughter that came from the man, surprising Sam. “Oh, my dear God. Can it possibly be you? After all these years?” The man peered closer at his captive. “Sam. Sam, is that you? You’re Captain Liberty?”
A large smile crossed Sam’s face. “It’s good to see you again, Dr. Garner. It has been some time.”
“More time for me, it would appear,” Garner laughed. “I can only imagine for you it has been a lot shorter than twenty-five years to run into each other again. But why scare me like that? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted to. Really, I did. The rules of my project insist that I make people believe I am the person I replaced. Knowledge of my existence in the past could jeopardize many things. When you threatened to turn me over to the authorities, I couldn’t allow that as it would prevent me from changing history and I wouldn’t be able to leap out of 1985. Once you guessed who I really am, this inner voice, a sixth sense I have towards leaping made me realize I could trust you again.”
“It would appear we both have had our identities blown. I should explain that T.R. Richards is my name now in the real world. Actually, I couldn’t tell you what the initials even stand for.” Seeing Sam’s confusion, he added, “There is a lot we need to talk about. It would probably be nicer to do that out on my patio. My house is in a secure area; we can talk freely out there, I assure you. I’ll have Wellington whip up some lunch, and when it is ready, we’ll eat and catch up on things.”
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
Sam walked out onto the main patio area to find Wellington placing plates of food on a table with a large umbrella over it. The plates had slices of roast beef, ham, chicken, different styles of bread, butter, and various fruits and vegetables like apples, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
Dr. Garner emerged a few seconds later from inside the house, hobbling on his cane and found a seat. Thanking Wellington, who quickly scurried off, he gave Sam a plate and indicated for him to start filling it up with food. After compiling a hefty sized meal, Sam settled back into his seat, admiring the heavily landscaped yard, which stretched out in all directions.
“As I said, Sam, we are somewhat secluded from the town of Hope Springs. A few minutes’ drive and we are in downtown. This place keeps me far enough away for privacy but not away from the sounds of people, or else I’d go mad thinking I was the last man on earth.” Garner filled his glass with cola and then handed the pitcher to Sam. “Hope you don’t mind. It’s New Coke. I think I’m one of the few people on this planet that actually likes it. They keep talking about bringing back the old formula but I hope not. At my age, I am learning not to accept change too well.”
Sam took a swig of the New Coke and politely tried not to show his distaste for it. Garner noticed and passed him a pitcher of iced tea. “Try this instead.”
“Thanks.” Sam took a long drink to get rid of the New Coke taste. “Glad I don’t remember that. Speaking of change, why are you now called Richards?”
“The government decided to give me a new identity when I retired somewhat from the world of top-secret projects. After what happened back in 1959 with my Time Displacer Unit being deemed unsuccessful and all. When I couldn’t reduplicate it after Braden destroyed it, the government still saw potential in my ideas and theories.”
Sam nearly choked on his roast beef sandwich. He could have sworn he had told Al once that Garner was ostracized from the scientific community because he couldn’t prove his ideas worked. An unforeseen effect of his changing the past, no doubt.
Dr. Garner didn’t notice Sam reach for his iced tea as he continued. “The New Mexico project was shut down in ’60, shortly after the whole Braden fiasco. I was herded like a prized animal from one top-secret think tank to another, joining forces with other intelligent scientific minds to come up with ideas in technology and research. We came up with a doozy, a piece of computer technology where people could communicate back and forth from anywhere in the world through phone lines and cables called ‘Internet.’ Too bad most people will never get to use it. The government wants to hog up that technology for official use.”
Sam could only smile as he refrained from commenting on that. “So what happened after all your time in those think tanks?”
“I retired two years ago in ’83. The government, however, is having a hard time letting me go. So they give me a nice big paycheck, a nice big house, a new identity so the outside world doesn’t bug me, and a room full of computers for me to tinker with time-travel research. They hope I can rebuild the files and the technology that Braden stole from me…from us, actually. God, do you know how many times I have replayed that scene in my mind where you were as good as dead and I used the last of my device on you. I could only assume you had left and that Ohdee had returned, going on about seeing God before dying. I never knew if you were alive or dead, until now. Last night made me a believer that things happen for a reason.”
“The fact that you found me lying in the road bleeding attributed to that?” Sam asked, finishing his roast beef sandwich.
“Now that I think about, it began even before then,” Garner stated cryptically.
“Oh?” It wasn’t Garner that had surprised Sam, but the whoosh of the Imaging Chamber door as Al stepped through with an annoyed, “Sam, never mind the reunion. We have to talk!”
“You’ll never guess where I was?” asked Garner as he overlapped Al.
“Just guess something and excuse yourself from the table.” The hologram was getting irritable.
Before Sam could guess a response, Garner supplied the answer. “I was watching you, Sam. You were giving a lecture in D.C.”
For a moment, Al almost forgot about the urgency as he did a double take. “He called you Sam. He knows who you are again? Dammit to hell, Sam…”
Sam was still a bit confused. “I was giving a lecture?”
“Yeah,” Garner smiled, “I was attending your lecture on Nuclear Accelerators and Quarks. Quite brilliant, if I may say so.”
“Thanks,” Sam felt himself blush.
“Come on, Sam, ditch this guy already.”
“One thing, Dr. Garner,” ignoring Al’s protests, Sam continued, “how does this tie in with last night?”
“It was an odd coincidence. After seeing you, the younger you, give the lecture, it made me think about what happened after you disappeared from 1959. There I was driving back from D.C. in that terrible rainstorm when I came across you bleeding in the street, although I didn’t know it was you yet. Then today, finding you in my research room filling in that equation, it made me think of what you did for me years ago. When you mentioned Braden, I put it all together.”
Al clapped his hands together, somehow not dropping his cigar or the handlink. “Great story, bravo. Geez, Sam, let’s go.”
Sam shot Al an annoyed glance. “If you’ll excuse me, doctor, I am feeling a bit tired from the food and I would like to take a short nap.”
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
Nervously, T and G pulled up to the warehouse on the edge of town. It had taken them longer to reach their destination since the town was abuzz with getting ready for the annual Memorial Day Festival celebration. Their boss would not be pleased with their lateness or with the report they would have to tell him as well, and he was indeed waiting for them.
Darius Dreck, a tall stocky man with a shaved head in a white business suit, stood behind his desk with his back to the door as his two assistants entered. “I expected you here ten minutes ago,” was all he said.
T took a step forward, his hand rubbing the fresh stitches on his forehead. “Not our fault, boss. Main Street is being shut down while they get ready for the Festival.”
Cigarette smoke wafted from around Dreck’s face. “One of our biggest holidays. If all goes well, there’ll be money to be had this weekend. I am putting a lot of trust in the both of you with this. Don’t bungle it up, like you did last night’s job.”
“That wasn’t our fault either,” whined G. “That damn superhero stopped us from completing the deal.”
“What superhero?” Dreck whirled around. “Captain Liberty? It’s a man in a costume running around thinking he is the real thing. He is like any other man, meaning he has weaknesses. He can be brought down.” He tapped a button on his desk. A side door opened and two large, tough Italian-looking hoods walked in. “Bruno and Vincent,” he addressed the two newcomers. Vincent was small and wiry while Bruno was mammoth and very strong. “You will assist T and G here in making sure this Captain Liberty does not interfere with my plans for the Memorial Day Festival. Make sure this ‘hero’ doesn’t touch up your faces like what happened last night. Now get out there and find this guy. Eliminate him by any means necessary.”
Sam shut the door to his guest quarters and whirled on Al. “All right, Al, let’s have it?” he huffed.
“Take it easy, Sam. I know I haven’t been around in awhile to fill you in on things, but events have taken place.”
“Like what? Catching up on your life that you missed while babysitting me?”
Al looked up from his handlink and glared at his friend. “That’s not fair, Sam. Things are happening and you really need to know about it. The question is where do I begin?”
“For starters, Al, why am I still here? What am I supposed to do?”
After a few taps on the handlink, Al replied, “Ziggy still doesn’t know why you are here.”
“Oh, that’s just great.” Sam started pacing around the room. “I probably already missed what I am here to do and now I’m stuck in this life.”
“Ziggy doesn’t think so, Sam. She thinks there is something you must do yet. In fact, this is a surprise. There is a 67% chance that telling Garner about your identity might actually be beneficial to this leap.”
The leaper sat down on the bed. “What am I supposed to do for Brad?”
“You are, uh, supposed to do what Brad would normally do.”
“What?” Sam ran his fingers through his hair. “That’s ridiculous. I don’t need to be here in 1985 if I am just copying someone’s life. Brad can do that on his own. The guy is unemployed, am I supposed to find him a job?”
“Not exactly, Sam. Just make sure everyone believes you are Brad, in a manner of speaking.”
“Manner of speaking? What are you getting at, Al?”
The observer took a puff on his cigar and pointed to the bundled costume on the dresser. “You have to wear the suit, Sam.”
Bolting from the bed, Sam paced around the room again. “Wear the suit? Who came up with that? Ziggy?”
“No. Not Ziggy.”
Frowning, Al interjected, “You’re not gonna like this.”
“I don’t like this already. This is insane. I am not gonna wear that thing. It made me sweat horribly and my hair got all itchy. Besides, I almost got killed wearing that thing because some hoods wanted to kick my superhero behind. No way, Al, I’m not doing this.”
“Calm down, pal. You don’t have a choice in this.”
Sam’s eyes widened. “This is coming from something else other than Ziggy?”
“You got it. Remember General Hawkins?”
“I remember the name. Something from a previous leap?”
“Yup. You probably remember him by his nickname. Shockey.”
Memories returned to Sam. “Shockey? Yeah, the guy who was hit by a bolt of lightning at Dr. Garner’s experiment with his Time Displacer Unit. He’s a general now?”
“Unfortunately for us both, yeah. He has assumed control of the project and he is invoking Presidential authority and this and that.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed. “The ‘this and that’ refers to him calling the shots over Ziggy?”
Al’s nod confirmed the answer to Sam’s question. “He can’t do that, can he?”
“The rules have changed, Sam. Ever since 9/11, the government has seized control of a number of projects. The President has finally been brought into the fold on Project Quantum Leap. So, yeah, Hawkins can do that. And what’s worse, he is demanding that for some reason you do whatever is normal for Brad to do, and that includes wearing the suit. Ziggy believes that before you changed history and prevented Brad’s death last night, this guy habitually prowled the streets at night looking for crimes to prevent. Hope you don’t have any plans this evening?”
Before Sam could protest, the handlink made a loud beeping sound that he had never heard before.
“Ah, dammit, what now?” Al pushed a series of buttons and a female disembodied head floated over the handlink. “What is it, Ziggy?”
“You requested that I inform you if the situation worsened,” the floating female head stated.
“Yeah,” Al ignored the questioning look from Sam as he continued, “What’s happening?”
“Your presence is requested immediately at the ground exit for the landing field.” Ziggy’s face dissolved into a myriad of colors and dissolved.
Al opened the door to the Imaging Chamber. “Um, look, Sam. I don’t know how long this will take. Spend some time this afternoon in town; get to know what is where, buildings and streets and all that. Do some reconnaissance and then spend tonight as Captain Liberty. Remember, Sam, you have your orders and I have mine.” The hologram rushed through the door and it slammed shut, leaving Sam wanting more answers than what he was just given.
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
Nearly out of breath, Al rushed out of the elevator door and raced down the hallway to the exit that led to the helicopter pad. More guards were stationed at the doors. One was peering out of the one-way shatterproof window nearby with a pair of binoculars. Everyone saluted as the Admiral arrived on scene.
“Can someone give me a report,” Admiral Calavicci barked.
“Sir, I can, sir,” said the guard with the binoculars. “About an hour ago, we had confirmation that intruders breached this project’s security systems. Unauthorized vehicles found a way past most of the safety protocols.”
“Very ingenious,” Al mused. “What does that mean specifically?”
“Someone was smart enough to know how to find us and used computer technology to jam most of the security systems and bypass most of the alarms.”
“We’ve been hacked?” asked the Admiral.
“Nothing was damaged as far as the computer experts told me. This project has one of the most state-of-the-art systems I have ever seen and I have spent my share of time on ops missions. Whoever did this was almost completely successful. There were a few algorithms that he missed.”
Al was growing impatient. “What are we looking at here? Numerous vehicles, one of them possibly hosting this hacker. No possibility of weapons or any other threat to this installation?”
“None that we can determine, sir,” replied the guard. “Under normal conditions, this would look like a vacation spot.”
“Vacation spot?” Understanding crept into Al’s thoughts. “Give me those binoculars.” Complying, the guard handed them over. Al rushed over to the window and looked out.
Beyond the helicopter that brought Hawkins to the project were a few dozen trailers, mobile homes, and vans. Surrounding this convoy were numerous soldiers, rifles trained for any sign of hostile act. One mobile home stood out to Al because it had a huge satellite dish mounted on the top and looked like it was rigged with other electronic hardware. Near this trailer were more soldiers having a conference with General Hawkins, all of them animatedly gesturing.
Shifting the binoculars, Al tried to get a good look at the other trailers for signs of activity. One other vehicle caught his attention. An occupant was putting up a handmade sign in the front window. In large red letters, it read: PLEASE LET US SEE DR. BECKETT.
“Are there any signs of them being terrorists, Admiral?” asked another guard.
“There was a sign, all right,” replied Al with a heavy sigh. “These people aren’t terrorists. They are everyday people whose lives were affected by this project and now they want answers.” Well, J.T., this is the damage you’ve caused, he thought.
“Damn,” muttered the first guard. “These people are civilians? Too bad that guy who almost figured out our security is gonna fry when they arrest him. It’s a pity he never enlisted in the forces. Could have used him on a few ops missions. That guy missed his true calling.”
Yeah, true calling, Al said to himself. All those people, innocent participants of a time-travel experiment gone ca-ca, who bound together to form a pilgrimage in search of answers.
To those people, it was a destiny being fulfilled.
The leapees were returning.
SPRINGS – outside of Washington D.C.
Darius Dreck stood in front of the window of his office that looked down over the warehouse. On the ground level, it was a legitimate enterprise. The warehouse stored and shipped legal merchandise to and from vendors. Below the ground level was the other warehouse. It extended down a few levels and his other paid employees earned their living down there. In all appearances, a very lucrative drug empire. There were people down in the lower levels in charge of refining, packaging, and trafficking the drug shipments. For years, Dreck was the kingpin of the drug industry in that area of the country.
Of late, his thoughts had constantly lingered on the masked menace that was threatening to bring his empire down. His hired goons worked the streets at night, making sure it was safe for his business transactions to take place. That novice hero was going to be a thorn in his side once too often and it needed to be removed.
Tired of watching the warehouse workers in action, he closed the blinds and turned towards his desk. Before he could pull the chair out to sit down, a wave of nausea hit him full force. A yellow aura surrounded him and his office dissolved.
Someone new now stood where Darius Dreck had been standing.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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