VIRTUAL SEASONS EPISODES
* PREVIOUSLY ON QUANTUM
In 2006, an e-mail message has been circulated to a vast number of people in an attempt to unite any living leapees to find answers to their questions at Project Quantum Leap. J.T. Beckett, Sam’s nephew and a former leapee, replies through a chat room link in the e-mail and tells all he knows about the project, and then decides to meet other leapees there with Tom Beckett in tow.
Sam finds himself in a town called Hope Springs just outside of Washington D.C. The year is 1985 and Sam is Brad Bennings, an out-of-work actor who used to make public appearances as a fictitious television superhero impersonator by the name of Captain Liberty. Apparently, Brad took the role seriously as he recently had begun patrolling the city at night to fight crime. Meanwhile, Admiral Calavicci has his hands full trying to figure out who sent the e-mail all over the country, and having to deal with General Hawkins who has taken a rather strong interest in Sam’s current leap. Because Hawkins realized Sam’s project worked in a previous leap, the General has now brought the President into the loop, and through Presidential authorization, Hawkins has instituted a lockdown of the project until Sam’s leap is completed.
Shortly after the leap-in, Sam is attacked by a couple of hoods named T and G who work for Darius Dreck, the man in charge of crime in Hope Springs. Wounded in the attack, Sam managed to get away and was picked up by none other than Dr. Garner, who was on his way back from seeing the Sam Beckett of 1985 give a physics lecture in D.C. Sam had met him before in a leap in 1959 (*See “Guinea Pig,” Parts I & II), and before long, Dr. Garner realizes that it is Sam again. Meanwhile, General Hawkins has ordered Sam to maintain the illusion that he is Brad, and that means wearing the Captain Liberty suit at night to fight crime. To make matters worse, the leapees had begun to arrive at the project, somehow bypassing the lockdown security codes…
As Sam was getting used to a life of fighting crime, a new threat emerged in the form of Dr. Maxwell Connors (*See “Second Genesis,” Parts I & II), who leaped into Darius Dreck. During another fight with T and G, the latter is killed and T learns of the identity of Brad Bennings as Captain Liberty before escaping. At the same time, Connors has learned that a younger Sam Beckett will be giving a lecture in D.C. the following day.
In Project Quantum Leap’s present, Hawkins has ordered that Sam must attend his younger self’s lecture. It is believed that Dr. Braden, who stole time-travel secrets from Sam and Dr. Garner in the past, will be present at the lecture to sell those secrets. Sam finally begins to realize that he is to blame for the evil project that used Alia and Zoë, and believes that capturing Braden would prevent that. However, temptation mounts for Sam as he realizes he could warn himself about stepping into the Accelerator and never leaping at all. At the lecture, trouble quickly looms as Sam’s chances of finding Braden are thwarted by Connors’ scheme…
May 26th, 1985
The side door nearest the stage opened and a very young Sam Beckett entered the room, escorted by hotel security. With a cheery smile, he waved and greeted the people in the room, who answered him with thunderous applause. The man at the podium urged the crowd to be quiet as younger Sam approached. “Please be seated, everyone. As soon as everyone has been served and finished eating, we will have our special guest presentation.”
Sam sat at his table and watched himself in wonder as his younger self was brought a large plate of food. There he was, young with his future ahead of him, only a short time away before Star Bright would take up a large piece of his life. Young enough to be his own person, to be himself, not trapped in time. The temptation to meet himself began to manifest itself.
Just then, Garner grabbed Sam’s arm. “Look over in the back right corner table. Is it him?”
Sam looked over to where Garner had pointed out and saw a table with three people sitting at it. One man in a fancy expensive suit had his back to him; another man with Middle Eastern features was talking animatedly as he looked through the contents of a briefcase before him. The third person was in a basic gray suit and tie and looked like he was living out of a suitcase. His hair, which once was black, now had lines of silver in it and was cut extremely short; a thick pepper-colored beard covered his face beneath a pair of dark framed eyeglasses. Braden’s face lit up with joy, as the man with his back to Sam pushed a briefcase in the direction of the British scientist. Not looking inside it, Braden quickly placed the new briefcase under the table.
The leaper’s heart sank. It was Braden, he was sure of it. The man was selling his secrets right out in the open at the banquet hall, ironically in the presence of a young Beckett who had yet to test his time-travel experiments. If I could talk to myself, this will never happen, he thought. Braden is probably here to make sure I get support so that someday he’ll get rich off of me. Before he could think about that any further, a steak knife appeared at his throat.
“Fancy meeting you here, hero,” whispered T into Sam’s ear. “I thought you looked familiar, Mr. Bennings. Just sit back and watch the show. When my boss gets through with that guy on the stage, I’ll take care of you personally.”
Sam’s eyes widened at the implication of what was about to happen. Boss gets through with the man on stage? Someone was about to go after his younger self. But how? Until this morning, nothing with his leap as Brad had anything to do with himself. How could this be happening?
Just a few tables ahead, Dr. Connors dressed like a chef, motioned for Vincent and Bruno, positioned on both sides of the room dressed as servers, to advance to the front of the stage.
Garner looked on in horror as Sam was held at knifepoint, not knowing that two of the other banquet servers and a chef were advancing towards the stage, targeting the younger version of the man sitting next to him.
T lowered the steak knife away and pressed it against Sam’s back. “No need to attract attention yet, so just stay cool, man.” The thug turned to his left. “You, old timer, stay quiet too and do as you’re told.”
Dr. Garner’s eyes switched back and forth from Sam to the table in the corner. The three men were apparently done concluding their business as other servers brought them their meals. Braden politely declined his dish.
With a whoosh, the Imaging Chamber Door flew open and Al rushed through wearing his Admiral whites. His momentum took him into the middle of the table Sam and Dr. Garner were being held prisoner at. Seeing the table centerpiece sticking through him, he quickly took a step back.
“Sam, listen up. Everything’s hitting the fan. Ziggy is heading for a major breakdown. Braden is here and so is another leaper!” Al started waving for Sam to get up. “It took forever for Ziggy to get me all this information. Sam, would you get up!” The handlink squealed like mad suddenly. “What the hell? Sam, now Ziggy says if you don’t do something, your younger self is gonna disappear in the next ten minutes!” Suddenly, Al caught sight of T standing behind his friend. “What’s going on here?” The observer walked around the table and saw the knife pressing against Sam’s back. “Oh, shit. What is this? Beckett Appreciation Day?” Sam gave him a helpless look for advice as the Admiral continued, “You have to do something soon, Sam. Braden is about to leave, Bennings is gonna die, and your other self is gonna vanish. If that happens, history is gonna go ca-ca!”
A much younger Sam Beckett was halfway through his meal when he started to feel sick. Holding his stomach, a wave of nausea hit him without warning. Grabbing a napkin, he quickly wiped his mouth and then got up to leave.
“Is something wrong, Dr. Beckett?” asked the emcee, the man who had introduced him into the room just moments earlier.
Younger Sam mopped at his brow. “Not feeling well all of a sudden. Think I’m getting feverish.”
The emcee took a fork and probed at Sam’s plate. “I don’t think it’s the food. Everything looks cooked appropriately. Besides, most of us are eating the same thing and no one else has gotten a reaction.”
More nausea overcame the younger Beckett, and he immediately excused himself to head for the hallway outside in search of a bathroom. As he headed for the steps to leave the stage, an odd sight hit him. Amid the calm of the guests dining on their meals, a Naval officer in dress whites was screaming animatedly at a table in the back. He could almost make out what the man was screaming, but for some unknown reason, it sounded distorted like radio static at times. To top it off, the image of the officer seemed to flicker like a bad television signal. Shaking his head, young Beckett attributed it to whatever was making him feel sick.
At the bottom of the steps, a chef approached him. “Are you feeling ill?” Connors asked.
“Something is definitely disagreeing with me,” answered young Beckett, trying to steady himself as the sickness brought on dizziness.
Connors reached out to steady him. “Perhaps I should assist you in finding someplace where you will feel better.” By now, people were starting to watch what was going on.
“I believe this is the moment for you to make your move, Doctor,”
Morpheus cautioned the rogue leaper.
“The window of opportunity
is beginning to close rapidly.”
As Morpheus began to speak, a younger guest at a table near the buffet table stood up and screamed as he covered his ears. “That loud buzzing noise, make it stop!”
“Hurry, Dr. Connors,” Morpheus continued, causing the man in pain to scream again. “I have been detecting another temporal anomaly in this room. The other Dr. Beckett is here somewhere.”
Sick as the younger Beckett was, he still tried to walk to the man in distress. Connors tried to hold him back as Sam countered, “I’m a doctor. I can help him.”
To the confusion of the other Sam, Connors muttered under his breath, “How long have you known? When were you going to tell me this?”
“That I’m a doctor?” young Beckett asked, puzzled.
“I cannot ascertain Dr. Beckett’s precise location here due to a quantum signal that is interfering with my program. I believe this interference is originating from a neurological transmission being emitted by Dr. Beckett’s holographic observer, who has likely been masking his presence here. He is within the vicinity as well. I advise that you do not let the other Dr. Beckett touch you. It will set up a magnetic convergence field that will allow both of them to see you as yourself and not as Dreck.”
Al’s handlink beeped again. “Sam, this is hard to believe. That man over there yelling is Dr. Maxwell Connors. Ziggy says he is the other leaper. No, wait. What the—? Ziggy says there are two Connors here. The Connors in pain is not the leaper Connors, but a younger one!”
All Sam could do was slightly nod grimly that he understood as T watched the younger Connors holding tightly to his ears, the knife still held to the leaper’s back. Looking up from his link to Ziggy, Al noticed movement towards the exit door close to the stage. “Sam, those guys are up to something with your other self. One of them must be the other Connors. I don’t know how, Sam, but you gotta get out of this.”
While all of the patrons turned their attention to the man in pain, satisfaction came to Connors. He had remembered that his younger self attended this conference and gambled that he would be adversely susceptible to Morpheus’s communications. Although he hated to put that younger self in this position, it was deemed a necessary and acceptable risk. With a twisted smile, Connors hurriedly escorted young Beckett out the door, explaining to the people standing there that Dr. Beckett was sick and needed some air. Bruno and Vincent hurried along after. The exit door closed shut and young Sam was out of the room.
Poking the knife a bit further, T leaned closer to Sam. “Time to get going.”
“What are you going to do with him?” demanded Garner.
“That’s no concern of yours, old timer,” snarled T, indicating with his knife that Sam was to stand up. “Mr. Bennings and I have a trip to take. Get up,” he ordered Sam, who slowly rose to his feet. “Now, very casually, you will walk out the exit and leave the building. Any tricks and you’re dead, man.”
“Sam,” Al interjected, “if you leave with this nozzle, Braden is gonna get away, and Hawkins made it clear we can’t fail this mission.”
With a defeated look, Sam rose to his feet and proceeded to head for the exit with T right behind him. “Al,” Sam whispered, “check on the other me.”
“No talking,” growled T as he followed Sam through the banquet hall exit.
“Oh, God,” muttered Al, who for once seemed totally helpless. “Both Sams are in trouble, Brad is gonna die, and Braden is gonna escape.” Sighing, he looked up to the ceiling. “I could use some help about now.” Getting no answer, he yelled, “Dom, center me on the other Sam!”
Just as Al vanished, Garner rose to his feet, nearly colliding with another man. Fear and recognition showed in his face as he locked eye contact with the other man and exclaimed, “Braden!”
QUANTUM LEAP – New Mexico
The inside of the tent, Sammy Jo found upon entering, was sparsely furnished. A small table for Hawkins to sit behind was at one end facing a couple of folding chairs. A cadet was off to one side working a video camera on a tripod. Guards stood both inside and outside of the entrance flap.
“Have a seat, Miss…?” Hawkins inquired.
“Fuller, General. Samantha Jo Fuller,” she responded.
“Well, Miss Fuller,” said the General, pointing to a chair next to him. “Please have a seat.” He turned to one of the guards. “I think we’re ready for the first one.” The guard saluted and left. “I hope this goes better than earlier,” Hawkins turned to Sammy Jo. “I talked to both of those Becketts this morning and neither one would tell me anything. Those two are hiding something from me, especially the younger one.”
The guard returned with the first leapee. “For your questioning, sir,” he saluted and resumed his post at the flap.
Hawkins stared at the man in front of him. The General guessed the person was in his early sixties, with silver hair, clear complexion, and a pair of black eyeglasses sitting atop a hawkish nose.
“Is Dr. Beckett here?” the man asked, staring around as he took a seat.
“No, I am afraid not,” Hawkins replied. “I would be more worried about the fact that you marched onto a military instillation than I would be about someone else, sir. First off, name please, and a little about yourself.”
The leapee cleared his throat. “My name is Cameron Wilson, sixty-two years of age. Most people call me Cam. I am a retired used car salesman from Pasadena, California. My wife, Jill, was unable to come with me due to her illness.”
“I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Wilson.” Hawkins shifted in his chair. “If you don’t mind, I need you to supply me with answers. For example, how did you get here? What has brought you here before us right now?”
“Well,” Cam began, “recently I received an e-mail on the internet.”
“Yes, I know about it,” Hawkins stated abruptly. “Anything to add on that?”
“Years ago, back in 1961, I lost a few days of my life. There was no explanation for it. I awoke from a bad dream and found out I had a girlfriend. Not that I am mad about that, since Dr. Beckett helped fix us up and I eventually married her.”
“Don’t jump around, Mr. Wilson,” instructed the General. “Try to keep your story in order.”
“Yes, sir,” swallowed Cam. “As I said, I lost moments of my life to some fuzzy recollection. For years, even after Jill and I got married and opened a business selling and repairing used classic cars, I was bothered by dreams. People hovering over me in some strange blue room, God, it seems like it was yesterday, the memories are still that vivid. Then recently, I got that e-mail and it told of a chat room that would be running soon. In that chat room, there were others like me who told of nearly the exact same experiences. Then something happened, a newcomer to the chat room came in and started posting fantastic stories about a time-travel experiment, a scientist named Dr. Beckett, and a project in Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico. It sounded incredulous, but everyone in that chat room decided to see if it was on the level. We all thought, why not all meet in person and then go find this project. After we gathered in Albuquerque, we made our way here. Considering the reception your soldiers have given us, I would bet everything is true, isn’t it?”
Hawkins ignored the question and gave one of his own. “Everyone just decided to come here and you just showed up? How was this done?”
“I don’t think I should answer that question, sir,” stated Cam. “This is a bit too early for me these days. I don’t think too well on an empty stomach. Is there a mess hall that has a burger and a shake or something?”
“I’m afraid not, Mr. Wilson,” Hawkins said gruffly. “That is all, you are dismissed.”
As the leapee got up to leave, Sammy Jo asked, “Hey Cam, how is your sister Cheryl?”
A smile came to Cam’s face. “She and her husband are fine. They both do missionary work sometimes, but not as much as they used to. Both of them are happy, another thanks to Dr. Beckett, I suppose.”
“That will be all, Mr. Wilson. Dismissed!”
“Dismissed?” Cam turned back from the tent flap. “That’s all? You won’t even tell me what will happen to me or to any of us outside? It’s not just the people that Dr. Beckett encountered that are out there, General. Some of us have brought along our families. There are children, and even grandchildren, of the people whose lives were affected by that man. They were brought here to show the difference that Sam has made, and we want him to know about it and maybe even thank him for it.” Without waiting for a response from Hawkins, Cam turned and stormed out of the tent.
Sammy Jo smiled as Hawkins ordered the next leapee in.
May 26th, 1985
Admiral Al Calavicci found himself out in the parking lot of the Sheraton, looking for any telltale signs of the younger Sam Beckett. It didn’t take long for him to spot Connors in the persona of Darius Dreck, accompanied by his two servants, tough Italian-looking types. Each of them was taking turns moving Sam along as they removed their kitchen worker disguises. They all stopped near the observer alongside a Rolls Royce.
“Sam?!” Al yelled, not giving a damn about rules or paradoxes. “I hope to God you can hear me.” The observer wasn’t sure, but it looked like young Beckett could.
Young Sam groaned, looking very sick to his stomach, as he tried to find where the familiar voice was coming from. For some reason, it sounded like someone he knew from back at the Star Bright Project.
“Al?!” Young Sam whispered groggily, barely able to focus on anything.
“Sam, you can hear me?” Al let out a huge gasp of air. “I know you’re out of it right now. Those yutzes must have drugged your food and waited for you to get sick so they could get you out of here…” He stopped as he noticed Connors and the other two open the back door of the Rolls and start to push Sam into it. “No, no, nooo! Stop! This isn’t supposed to happen like this. Dom, center me back on our Sam!”
Al vanished only to appear a few yards back. T was now walking up to his Buick parked next to the Rolls, with Sam being pushed in front of him.
“This is just getting better and better,” lamented the hologram, noticing Sam watching his younger self being put in the Rolls.
“What the hell are you doing?” Connors asked T.
“I have my reasons, boss. This is the guy who killed G. This is Captain Liberty. I finally caught him. Now I’m gonna take him back with us and have some fun with him.”
“Captain Liberty?” Connors suddenly realized that this was who Dreck had sent these men after to eliminate and decided to remain in character. “Doesn’t look like much of a hero to me without his costume,” the rogue leaper remarked as he meant to push Sam aside to get in his car.
As the two men brushed, each experienced an odd tingling sensation. Suddenly, the hefty man appeared to shift his features and shorten in size as he now looked like another person. Connors also witnessed an odd transformation as Brad shifted into the features of the older version of the person he was presently abducting.
“The ‘current’ Dr. Beckett, I presume,” intoned the rogue leaper’s neural link. “His holographic
observer must be nearby which explains why I couldn’t pinpoint the
doctor’s precise location once again.”
Shock came quickly to Connors’ face as he tried to conceal his excitement. “This man will be adequate insurance, although we have the one that truly matters,” Connors reasoned to T, as the other two had young Beckett secured in the back seat. Vincent went to the front and started up the engine as Bruno got into the rear passenger seat next to Sam. “This hero will insure that nothing can jeopardize my plan. Place him in the Buick. When we get back to the warehouse, do with him as you wish.” Dr. Connors opened the other rear door of the Rolls and climbed in, ordering Vincent to head back to the warehouse in Hope Springs. The vehicle took off at top speed, nearly colliding with a Ford that almost seemed to be following them out to the highway.
As the Rolls sped off out of the parking lot, T had already opened his car trunk and produced a handgun to replace his steak knife. “Get in, hero,” T gestured with the gun towards the trunk. Helpless, Sam could only obey and squeeze into the trunk.
“This is insane,” Al yelled to no one. “Sam, you have to fight back. Ziggy says that once Connors takes the younger you back to his warehouse, you’ll disappear and never be found.”
But Sam could only duck his head as T slammed the trunk door down on him. Not wasting a second, he hopped behind the dashboard and started up his car. T wasted no time peeling out of his parking space as he roared to the exit.
May 26th, 1985
In the back of the Rolls, cruising down the highway back to Hope Springs, young Beckett was sweating feverishly, mumbling incoherently. Dr. Connors reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a flask.
“Hey, boss, you planning to get this guy plastered, too?” queried Bruno.
“No, you fool,” replied Connors. “This is the antidote for the poison I put in his food.”
“What gives, boss?” Vincent asked from the driver’s seat. “Why go through all this trouble to poison the guy, abduct him, and then revive him. Why not just give him more poison and let him die.”
“Yeah, boss,” chimed in Vincent. “What’s so important about this guy? You come up with the plan to nab him, you show your face in the D.C. area which I thought you said once was a dangerous thing to do, and then blow a perfectly good chance to waste this scientist guy.”
Connors held the flask up to Sam’s mouth and forced him to drink it. “This man is very important to me. Eliminating him back in the hotel was not the right way to accomplish my goal. I need to buy some more time before I can figure out what needs to be done.”
Coughing, Sam’s health seemed to improve. Some color came to his cheeks as he fought to clear his head.
“We could kill him for ya if you want, boss,” Bruno offered.
“No,” Connors said. “I will do it…in my own good time.”
Vincent looked at his rearview mirror. “Hey, boss, I think there’s a Ford back there trying to follow us. It keeps matching my speed and staying back of us.”
Connors looked out the back window and noticed the Ford, thinking of the car that almost hit them in the parking lot. “Lose that car,” he commanded.
A look of surprise came upon Wellington’s face as Dr. Garner approached the Cadillac. The butler had spent his time in the Sheraton gift shop after he had dropped Sam and Garner off, looking for a newspaper to read. After his purchase, he had gone back to the car to peruse over current events.
It was now nearly an hour later, and only Dr. Garner had returned holding a damp cloth to his head, wincing now as cop cars and an ambulance proceeded to arrive at the parking lot, sirens blaring. Most of the officers jumped out and a medical team rushed in.
“What happened?” Wellington inquired.
Garner waved him off as he climbed into the passenger side of the car. “Get the car started. I’ll explain later.”
Wellington did not question his boss as he turned the engine over and headed out of the parking lot. “Where are we going?”
“That Buick that just shot out of here. Go after it and to hell with the speed limit.”
Garner shot back in his seat as Wellington cut off cars and accelerated onto the highway. The Cadillac was approaching dangerous speeds as it zipped in and out of traffic. Angry motorists honked their horns in disapproval.
After about a minute, Garner spotted a brown car speeding recklessly ahead. “There’s the Buick!”
“I see it, sir,” Wellington responded, pushing the car even faster.
“Just stay on him.”
Vincent made good time making the exit for Hope Springs. It wasn’t long before they would be back at the warehouse. As the car approached the bottom of the ramp, it turned right and headed towards the entrance to the city limits. Shortly after, the road narrowed down to a one-way lane.
“Hey, boss,” observed Vincent, “I don’t think that Ford is behind us anymore.”
“Excellent work,” praised the rogue leaper, who was starting to feel good about completing his mission. Both Becketts captured by him at the same time. Nothing was going to stop him now.
Young Beckett looked around slowly. The effects of the poison were wearing off and he was starting to feel better. However, his disorientation continued as he realized there were two strangers seated on either side of him.
“Who are you people?” he asked. “What do you want with me?”
“At last I have you where I want you, Dr. Beckett,” commented Connors. “Forgive me if I fail to introduce myself. I am afraid that doing so would just be even more confusing for everyone. All you need to know is that your existence poses a significant threat to humanity. By abducting you, I am about to do the world a favor.”
Sam was about to comment on how crazy he thought Connors was, when he saw a very disturbing sight. Outside of the car, almost seemingly floating on thin air was the Naval officer he thought he had remembered seeing at the convention. With a start, it almost appeared that the apparition seemed to know he was spotted. A split second later, the floating man appeared to have said something, and disappeared before Sam could get a good look at him.
“Just sit back and enjoy the last few moments of your life, Dr. Beckett,” started Connors. “It will be coming to an end very soon.”
“Don’t count on that just yet, Doctor,” Morpheus spoke up, almost startling Connors.
Without warning, Vincent slammed on the breaks. All at once, everyone doubled forward and then just as fast returned upright in their seats.
“What’s going on?” demanded Connors.
“Traffic jam,” answered Vincent. “Ah, dammit, it looks like the roads are blocked off up ahead for that Memorial Day thing over at the athletic field.”
“Turn this car around!” Connors ordered.
“I can’t,” Vincent said in frustration. “This is a one-way street. There are people backed up behind me and I don’t have the room for a U-turn.” It was true. On one side were a series of row homes and on the other were parked cars along the curb.
“Damn, we can’t just sit here,” fumed Connors, watching in dread as people in the cars behind him started filing out and walking towards the festival. “Back in your cars, people,” he screamed at them. “It’s no use. Everyone is illegally parking on this side street.”
“Sir, if we can make it down the road to the athletic field. The warehouse is just a bit farther on the other side past the river.”
Resigned to his only option, Connors conceded, “All right, Bruno, we walk. It won’t do us much good to just wait here and let the police find us. None of these cars are going anywhere, so it seems our only option is to blend in with the people in the festival and get to the warehouse. If we walk down any of the other streets in plain sight, we might be spotted.” Connors saw his reflection in the window, a big hefty shaven-headed man. “This could be a problem; it appears I am too big of a person to hide that easily.” Looking over, he saw a man walking at the edge of the athletic field pushing a large cart covered with cotton candy. It would easily provide cover for him to hide behind and cause people to move faster to let him by. “Gentlemen, there is my ticket to make it through this crowd and get to the other side. Unfortunately, we cannot wait for our insurance policy in the Buick.” He turned to Sam. “That means full cooperation from you. Please do not try to escape from us.”
Sam nodded that he understood. “You won’t get away with this.”
“Get moving,” Bruno growled, shoving Sam forward as they headed for the athletic field and the festival, closing in on the man with the cotton candy cart.
A few minutes later, T had run into a similar situation. The side street had suddenly stopped and everyone was parking wherever they could. Cursing under his breath, he sat there for a few minutes before turning off the car and running back towards the trunk, his gun still sitting on the front seat.
Fumbling for the keys, T frantically tried to unlock it. Carelessly moving too fast, the keys fell from his hand, bounced off his leg, and landed onto the pavement underneath the car. Getting down on his hands and knees, he felt around until he picked them back up from behind a tire. Triumphantly, he selected the right key and placed it in the lock. As he opened the trunk, a voice behind him yelled, “Hold it right there. Don’t turn around.”
T spun around to see Wellington and Garner standing behind him. “What army is gonna stop me, man,” he laughed. “The two of you?”
“Not them,” answered Al, who popped in just seconds before. “Sam, if you can hear me, kick the door hard!”
Suddenly, the trunk shot upward, slamming into T and knocking him to the pavement. Before anyone could make a move, T got up and ran off limping down the street towards the festival.
Slowly, Sam crawled out, holding his sore back. “Thanks. Am I glad to see everyone. There wasn’t much room in there. What’s going on?” Upon seeing the hologram, Sam added, “Al, Connors is here. He touched me, he knows I’m Brad.”
“Sam,” Garner cut in solemnly, touching his forehead. “Braden got away. He knocked me down at the banquet room and escaped. Looks like your mission failed. As far as your other self, I don’t know.”
Al’s handlink chirped. “Sam, your other self is being taken towards the festival up the road. They must be trying to lose themselves in the crowd before they take you to their warehouse. Ziggy says that it is on the other side of the athletic field. Head for the festival, I’m gonna have Dom try to get a lock on you in that big crowd. If Connors is with you, I might be able to get a better fix through him.”
“My friend Al says we need to go to the festival,” Sam repeated as he started to run down the street.
“Hold on a minute,” Garner called after him. Wellington stooped down to pick up a large duffel bag he had carried with him from the car and tossed it to Sam.
A curious look came over the leaper’s face as he looked inside. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Sam, even if this Connors person knows who you are as Brad, Captain Liberty, or as your real self, this town needs its hero to save the day. Since Brad started doing this weeks ago, the town’s morale has really improved.”
The hologram looked up from the handlink. “He’s right, Sam. Ziggy says the importance of you wearing the costume is 99.8%.”
The leaper took the bag. “I’ll change when we get there. Al, get going.” The Admiral tapped a button and was gone.
“We’re only gonna slow you down, Sam,” reasoned Garner, “so don’t wait for us. Go as fast as you can.” The leaper nodded and ran off towards the festival.
Wellington approached Dr. Garner. “Sir, when there is ample opportunity, I hope you will fill me in on what the hell is going on?”
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
Two people now stood before General Hawkins and Sammy Jo. One was a young adult male in his early twenties while the other appeared to be a much older version in his early seventies and carrying a wooden cane. After a nod from Hawkins, they took their seats.
“One at a time, please identify yourselves,” Hawkins requested.
The elderly man spoke up first. “My name is Arnold Watkins.”
“David Watkins,” the younger one responded.
“Am I to understand that the two of you arrived in the trailer with all the hi-tech equipment?”
“Yes,” they both replied.
“Interesting,” Hawkins mused. “I have had my top computer experts go over the exterior of your trailer and they tell me that whoever set this all up is the work of a genius. Now if one of you sitting here would care to tell me who is responsible for this, I may find it in me to be extremely lenient when it comes time to press charges.”
Sammy Jo shot him a dirty look but remained silent as the two sitting before her began to converse in whispers. At first, it appeared that Arnold was getting angry until a few words from David seemed to calm him down. After a few more exchanges, David rose to his feet.
“I did it, sir. My grandfather had nothing to do with it.”
“We just wanted answers,” Arnold explained. “When I was a college student, I had a death wish for performing stunts. One day, something happened. I woke up with the disturbing realization that time had passed without my knowing of it. Over and over, I kept dreaming about a blue room and a man named Al who convinced me that I had to give up the stunts because ultimately it would kill me. Lord bless him, he was right.”
David looked back at his grandfather, who now appeared to be finished. “What about grandma? Why don’t you find out about her?”
“I don’t think these people here know about it,” Arnold replied.
“What is he referring to?” inquired Sammy Jo.
“David is referring to my wife, Dawn. She attended college with me and had close to the same experience as I did, but for some reason, it affected her worse.”
“Worse? What do you mean worse?” Hawkins asked as Sammy Jo had a feeling she knew what the answer would be.
“Around roughly the same time, Dawn too had an experience with time advancing on her like I did, but that is pretty much where the similarities end, General. I recall being in a blue room, she recalls a hellish red room, where people tortured her and abused her. After her ordeal, we had discovered that both of us experienced a phenomenon that could not be explained. The fact that I was the only one that understood her led to us dating until eventually we were married. We were happy at first and then the nightmares began to appear to her. She would wake up screaming about some red-haired woman making her suffer. It has taken years of therapy for her to get over that and she still is not completely mentally healed from it. She came with us for this trip but she refuses to leave the trailer. Now I know that Dr. Beckett cannot be responsible for that, but what could have done that to my wife?”
“You deserve the truth,” stated Sammy Jo.
“Careful, Miss Fuller,” cautioned Hawkins. “We are not ready to divulge that. These people have learned too much already.”
“Divulge what, General?” questioned Arnold. “My wife has gone through years of mental hell and I will be damned if I leave here without those answers.”
“Calm down!” thundered the General.
“Dammit, General,” Sammy Jo shouted. “These people deserve to know. They have been a part of this project without consent. Morally, what has been done over the years might be considered criminal in a court of law. We have abducted people from their daily lives, sent a stranger in their place to act as friends, family members, and even lovers.” She turned to Arnold and looked him in the eye as honestly as she could. “While this project strives to change history and make things better, another project was created with evil, malicious intent to undo what Dr. Beckett has done and make people’s lives miserable.”
“Guards!” roared Hawkins at the sentries in front of the tent flap.
“Oh, what are you gonna do, General? Arrest me? These people already know the truth. You can’t silence them now. Not even you are capable of killing those people outside just to keep this project under wraps. They are a part of this project whether you like it or not.”
“Orders, sir?” asked one of the sentries.
Hawkins felt his anger begin to subside. “Stand ready for now, until I instruct you further.” To Sammy Jo, he ordered, “No further outbursts like that again, or you will be removed.” Looking forward, he realized that the two Watkins were watching him with apprehension, waiting to see what he would do next. “Back to our conversation. David, you claim you are responsible for breaking through this project’s security?”
David nodded. “At an early age, I learned I had a high aptitude for mathematics and computer programming. Almost got busted for hacking Pentagon files when I was sixteen. This place was easier to hack into than I thought.”
“The boy is gifted,” added Arnold, “but he has a habit of getting himself into trouble. If he had kept his record clean, he would have had a full scholarship to M.I.T. Still, he spent all his free time growing up putting all of his money into computer systems. He would always impress me with taking things apart and putting them back together, better than before and with improvements I would never have thought of.”
“All that computer technology responsible for bringing everyone here through our defenses, was by your design?”
“Yes,” David admitted, an air of hesitancy in his voice.
“Is there something else?” observed the General.
David took a deep breath before answering, “I am also responsible partly for everyone being here.” Hawkins’ silence told him to continue, “You’ve probably been made aware of an e-mail that circulated around recently about people losing periods of time in their lives. I am the one responsible for sending out that message. My grandfather often talks about what he and grandma went through, and I wanted to find a way for them to get answers. If you want to arrest me, fine, but let my grandparents go.”
Hawkins sat there for a few seconds, mulling over an idea. “The two of you may return to your trailer, accompanied with my computer experts. They’ll want to see what you have in there.”
Deep inside the project, J.T. Beckett paced in his room. He and his father Tom had been placed under guard ever since General Hawkins had grilled them earlier that morning over what they knew about the leapees, the e-mail, and who was responsible for telling the chat room about the project.
“All that pacing is gonna wear you out, son,” Tom said.
“Too much on my mind. I’m responsible for the fate of those people outside. I need to prove I can do the right thing and take responsibility for my actions.”
“What do you propose to do then?”
May 26th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
The athletic field was bustling with activity for the festival. Screams of excited people on the rides or playing games of chance mingled with the sounds of a live band playing on a stage at the rear of the field and a children’s merry-go-round at the other end. Lines were long at the food stands as well, and it seemed that the festival was an early success considering how packed the field had become.
Sam was having trouble threading his way through the crowd. In vain, he tried to look for Connors, who was somewhere among the crowd with his younger self. Eventually, he would have to find a place to change into his costume, but he felt it too early to do so. Walking around as Captain Liberty would bring too much distraction, and he would be mobbed and accomplish nothing. Pressing forward, he made his way towards the back of the field where the stage was located, hoping for a sign from Al.
Meanwhile, Connors, along with Vincent, Bruno, and young Beckett in tow, were finding their way to the back end of the field limited by pedestrians as well, even with the cotton candy cart. It was slow going, but no one was going to catch up with them in this crowd. The only person who found the trek easy was Al, as he kept tabs on young Beckett, walking through people without even thinking about it.
“Dr. Connors,” Morpheus
chimed in, “I am getting a strong
reading that Dr. Beckett is closing in on your position. I estimate that it will take at least five more minutes to
get off the field behind the stage and cross the bridge that leads to the
warehouse property. It will
also take a few minutes to gain access to the building.
Based on factors at my disposal, I estimate a 92.4% chance that
once you get Dr. Beckett inside the warehouse, you will be able to
complete your mission.”
“Sounds like you have more to tell me,” Connors stated, turning away from the others to avoid them eavesdropping, not knowing that a holographic observer was listening to his every word.
“Given what choices you had and the circumstances that developed, making your way through the festival to avoid detection by authorities was the best option. However, the possibility exists that the ‘current’ Dr. Beckett may yet catch up to you before you are able to leave the athletic field.”
“Sounds like I need a diversion,” the rogue leaper decided, as he and the others stopped near the side of the stage. The local rock band was just wrapping up a set and getting ready to take a break.
“What are you doing, Connors?” Al asked, not expecting an answer. “Dom,” he yelled, “center me back on our Sam, now!”
Sam managed to thread his way to the back of the crowd that was watching the local band when Al appeared next to him.
“Sam,” the observer shouted, waving his arms as people walked through him, “Connors is just ahead near the left side of the stage. You gotta hurry, he’s about to do something. Ziggy says you have to get in costume. Quick, duck between those two game booths over there and change. I’m gonna check on Connors.” Once again, Al vanished.
Believing no one was watching closely, Sam made his way behind a ring toss booth and a dart game booth. Moving fast, he reached into his bag and pulled the costume out. Looking around, he began to remove his shirt when he heard a child’s voice behind him. “Hey, mister, what are you doing?”
The leaper turned to find a six-year-old boy watching him.
“Um, actually, little boy, I’m part of the entertainment.” Sam looked around for another place to change. One booth down, he saw a blue colored port-a-potty. It wasn’t a phone booth, but it would have to do. Sighing, he held his nose and entered. A few minutes later, Sam emerged in the guise of Captain Liberty.
“Wow, Captain Liberty!” the little boy cried out.
Sam walked over and knelt down to the boy’s eye level. “Go find your parents. It might not be safe here in a few minutes.”
As the little boy nodded and ran off, a commotion could be heard near the stage area. People were screaming in alarm. Whatever Connors had planned, it was about to happen.
A loud squeal came over the sound system speakers as a microphone was turned on. “Attention, festival guests, attention.”
“Connors!” Sam recognized the voice.
Al appeared again, dread on his face. “Sam, Connors had those Italian goons grab a young girl and they have her up on the stage. Hurry!”
Sam raced out from behind the booths into the crowd. Cries of surprise came from some of the people as they recognized that their hero had arrived to save the day. As he arrived to the back of the crowd at the stage, Sam could see that Bruno and Vincent were on the stage with the girl, her arms tied behind her with an amplifier cord. Hovering like a guardian angel next to the terrified girl was Al. Connors was nowhere to be seen as Sam noticed police officers had arrived and began moving people back.
Meanwhile, the voice of Connors continued, “It seems there is a little girl who has become separated from her daddy. I would think they would very much like to be reunited. In the crowd with us today, we have a treat. A hero walks amongst us. Surely, he would be able to reunite father and daughter. All the hero needs to do is come up on stage and rescue the little girl. I might add that if anyone tries to leave the grounds around the stage area, harm will come to the little girl.”
As Sam made his way to the front of the crowd, officers recognized him and allowed room for him to join them. Standing with the group was a very distraught Sheriff McPhearson. “They have my Lorraine,” he choked on the words, trying to suppress his fear.
“Looks like they want to deal with you, Cap,” one of the officers stated, “and it looks like they mean business.”
Another officer emerged from behind the stage area and hurried over. “We have men surrounding the stage front and back, but until we get the girl away from them, we can’t do a thing without risking injury to her. They’ve made it very clear no one but Cap is to go up on stage. Also, I don’t know who is doing the talking. It might be someone away from the stage with a cordless microphone, we can’t tell.”
McPhearson turned to Sam. “Please, do something. You’re the only one who can get my daughter back.”
The leaper turned back towards the stage. By now, only a low murmur came from the concerned crowd hovering back to watch what would unfold.
“Sam,” Al yelled from the stage, “this is a distraction. Connors has these guys keeping you here so he can take your other self to the warehouse. You’re gonna have to fight these guys to get to Connors or else the girl up here is gonna die. Ziggy says if you go straight to the warehouse instead, some young nervous cop with an itchy trigger finger is gonna accidentally shoot her when they try to take control of the stage.”
Looking back, Sam noticed that Dr. Garner and Wellington had finally worked their way to the front of the onlookers. Knowing what he had to do, Sam grimly made his way to the steps leading up to the stage. All at once, a cheer arose from the crowd, urging on their hero. Vincent and Bruno stood in the center of the stage, waiting.
“I can’t believe we agreed to this,” Bruno whispered over. “The boss ordering us to give ourselves up to buy him some time.”
“I’m not worried,” Vincent replied back, “I’m sure the boss will bail us out like he normally does.”
Sam bounded up the stairs and faced his two opponents. “Release the girl,” he ordered gruffly.
“Sorry, but that ain’t an option yet.” Bruno picked up a microphone stand, tossed the microphone aside, and advanced on Sam. Swirling it around, Bruno lashed out with it, taking a few nasty swings at the leaper. Vincent stayed back hovering near the scared little girl by the sound equipment just next to the drum kit, to make sure no one else approached the stage.
The first swing Sam managed to duck, but the second one found him in the side, right where his stitches were. An agonized cry came from him, as he knew his stitches had ripped. The crowd gasped and even Al had to, as Sam staggered across the stage trying to regain his balance.
“Ready for more, hero,” taunted Bruno.
Sam walked to center stage and faced his attacker, assuming a defensive pose, fists raised in the air. Once he felt he was close enough, he launched into a flurry of punches, none of them seeming to do any damage as Bruno managed to block most of them and showed no sign of pain on the ones that landed, including one to the jaw.
“This isn’t good, Sam,” Al cautioned. “This guy obviously knows some moves.”
“No kidding,” Sam muttered as Bruno closed in, his right fist colliding with Sam’s chin as the left fist soon after found Sam’s eye. The leaper’s knees buckled, and he fell to the ground. Putting his hand to his face, he saw blood on his fingers as he realized his vision was becoming blurry. Rolling over, he got himself once again into a standing position.
Yelling, Sam ran towards Bruno and leaped into a flying kick, sending the other sprawling into a giant speaker, knocking it backwards with a loud crash. Shaking his head, Bruno came back at Sam.
The two adversaries circled each other, feinting and posturing, trying to find an opening to land a critical punch. As they revolved around on the stage, Bruno feinted with a right hook and lashed out with his left foot. The kick caught squarely on the liberty bell emblem on Sam’s chest and back he went again, falling to the floor of the stage.
“Get up, Sam,” Al urged. “I have an idea. It worked before.”
As Bruno stood there in an aggressive stance waiting for Sam to get back up so he could knock him down again, Al moved to stand behind him. In pain, Sam slowly rose to his feet.
“Look for my hands, Sam,” instructed the hologram. Sam squinted ahead and saw what appeared to be Al’s hand sticking through Bruno’s solar plexus. “Hit him here.”
Back and forth the two antagonists exchanged blows until Sam saw his opening and punched as hard as he could at Al’s hand. Bruno gasped as Sam’s fist hit on target. Not even waiting, Sam quickly went into his patented spin kick, but Bruno was waiting. Blocking Sam’s kick, he swept a leg out and knocked Sam’s other leg out from under him, causing Sam to fall again. The crowd’s reaction was quickly one of alarm as their hero was taking a pounding.
“Damn,” cursed Al, “this guy is really good.”
Again, Sam found the strength to get back up. But instead of charging forward, he cautiously kept taking a few steps back as Bruno slowly moved towards him. Vincent, still guarding Lorraine, failed in time to see what Sam had done. The leaper had made it appear that Bruno had pressed him backwards like a coward. But Sam had positioned himself to make his move. With cat-like skill, Sam punched Vincent in the nose, the crack of it breaking clearly audible to anyone nearby. Wailing, Vincent cupped his hands to his bloody nose as Sam quickly grabbed the captive girl, her hands still bound by cord, and ran forward to the edge of the stage with her. Police officers came over and hurriedly snatched her off the stage. Lorraine was taken away to safety, screaming and crying.
“Get her out of here, now!” Sheriff McPhearson ordered his men, as he turned to watch Sam with all of his might sprint forward in an attempt to bowl the brute over. The leaper quickly found it was like hitting into a brick wall as Bruno quickly overpowered him, putting him in a chokehold.
Clawing for air, Sam vainly tried to pry Bruno’s arm away from his throat. Gasping, the leaper found some hidden reserve of energy and broke free. The force of getting away and the lack of oxygen caused Sam to lose his footing.
Not waiting for Sam to get back up, Bruno rushed forward and like a wrestler, performed a flying jump onto Sam, crushing him. The leaper screamed in agony as he felt a few ribs crack from the impact. Dusting himself off, Bruno stood up and grabbed Sam by the collar with both hands, lifting him up. Al could only stand there mortified, as Sam looked completely lifeless.
“Wake up!” Al could only scream, but it fell on deaf ears.
Hoisting Sam up like a rag doll over his head, Bruno walked to the edge of the stage. Horrified screams came from the townspeople bringing a smile to Bruno’s face. “This is your hero’s end,” he called to the crowd, bringing Sam down to his knee in a backbreaker move. Sam, barely aware of his surroundings, screamed in horror and collapsed to the floor, causing Al to turn away as the crowd cried in fear.
Bruno hauled Sam up onto his knees and made him face the crowd. “This masquerade is over,” the brute shouted as he reached for the mask of Captain Liberty. Screams of “Don’t do it!” and “Fight back, Captain!” came from the townspeople, but nothing was going to save their hero. With a quick move, the hooded mask came free of Sam’s face. A large gasp of astonishment came from the crowd as the identity of Captain Liberty was brought to light in the afternoon sun. Al felt a knot in his stomach as he saw not Brad’s face, but the face of his friend beaten to a pulp. Sam’s lip was split, and his left eye was swollen shut.
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
General Hawkins dismissed Mark Robbins from further questioning. As the former ballplayer was being led away, another soldier rushed in. “General, someone wishes to see you,” he said.
Sighing, Hawkins rubbed at his temples. This whole interrogation was taking too long in his opinion and he still had a few more people left to go. “Show that person in,” he grumbled.
The soldier nodded and stepped outside. A moment later, he returned with J.T.
“Mr. Beckett,” Hawkins greeted him in an annoyed voice, “I am very busy right now conducting these interrogations. You had your chance earlier to speak up. So whatever you have to say, make it quick.”
Straightening his shoulders, J.T. looked across at the man who would make or break his future. “I’ve come to confess.”
Hawkins’ eyes narrowed. “Very well. Miss Fuller, you are not needed at the moment. Please return inside the installation.”
Sammy Jo stood up and excused herself, a lingering gaze held onto J.T. as she left the tent and headed back for the project entrance. A guard, upon seeing her approach, let her in. Marching down the hallway, she stepped into the elevator and made her descent down to the Control Room. There, she found Dom and Tina Martinez-O’Farrell hard at work regulating Ziggy’s systems. Both of them could see the sadness in Sammy Jo’s eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Dom asked her.
Sammy Jo took a collective breath, but her voice still managed to choke. “It’s J.T., he’s about to confess to Hawkins what he did. From what I can gather has been going on around here with all those people outside, it’s pretty severe. I believe J.T. is going to spend the rest of his life in prison.” Tears began to form around her eyes as she excused herself and ran for the security of her quarters.
Tina watched her go before sighing, “I wonder, Dom, if we should have told her what Ziggy just told us about how Dr. Beckett is right now fighting for his very life.”
May 26th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
The stunned crowd could only stand and stare at the man who had brought hope and courage to their city during the wave of crime that had seized it. Many in the crowd were crying, others felt a burst of anger and rebellion course through them. A holographic observer was speechless.
“Your hero is no more,” Bruno screamed at the crowd, tossing Sam aside like a sack of potatoes. The leaper fell to the floor, unmoving.
“Brad is dead. He killed Brad!” exclaimed Mr. Taylor.
“That man risked his life for all of us,” yelled George the postal worker.
“He sacrificed himself trying to save my daughter,” said Sheriff McPhearson to his officers. “I can never repay that debt, but I am sure as hell gonna try. Keep everyone back, this one is mine.” The sheriff climbed the steps, tossing his service revolver to a deputy. “Shooting you will serve no justice today,” McPhearson addressed Bruno, rolling up his sleeves. Bruno signaled him to come forward.
“This guy is gonna mop the floor with you!” Al screamed at the Sheriff.
True to the hologram’s prediction, McPhearson failed to land a strike against Bruno. One punch from the brute to the Sheriff’s face sent him staggering into the drums, knocking them over with a crash. McPhearson lay there stunned.
Bruno turned back to the crowd and laughed at them. “Anyone else care to challenge me?” he sneered. Suddenly, a soda-can bounced off his chest. “Who threw that?” he demanded.
“I did,” Mr. Taylor, the elderly hardware storeowner, answered, his gaze unwavering from Bruno’s.
“You want to come up here, old man, so I can beat you around, too?”
Dr. Garner stepped forward. “If you harm him, you’ll find another old man to take his place.”
George walked forward. “If you want a fight, you have to come through me.”
“And me,” a deputy announced next to him.
“Same here,” said a high school teenager. A woman next to him echoed the response. Before long, the whole crowd generated a show of support in defense of their fallen hero. As one, the townspeople converged onto the stage and cornered Bruno against the cowardly sniveling Vincent, still cowering with his nose bleeding. With an angry roar, they launched themselves at the brute. So many people at once made it difficult for Bruno to fight back, before long the mob had him on the ground as they kicked and beat at him.
On the other side of the stage, Sam slowly tried to get up. “Al?” he hissed through bloody teeth, but the observer paid no attention, watching the crowd. With considerable effort, Sam ignored the pain to his face, injured side, and ribs, and limped, almost crawling to the angry citizens of Hope Springs. “Stop this!” he shouted hoarsely. Some people stopped, but others continued to pummel Bruno. “I said stop this, now!”
“Sam, are you ok?” Al asked, a look of relief on his face.
“Why?” George turned to face the leaper. “After what this guy did to Lorraine, to the Sheriff, and to you, he deserves this.”
“No,” Sam shook his head, “this is not justice. You’ve become an angry mob. If you want to give him what he deserves, then arrest him, try him, and send him to prison. That’s what justice is about in this country. Not taking the law into our own hands.”
“Isn’t that what you’ve been doing?” Mr. Taylor queried. “Walking around behind a mask meting out justice with your fists?”
Sam started to cough and nearly fell forward, but Dr. Garner caught him and helped him up, supporting his weight. “At first, I admit I enjoyed it, I got a rush from it. But now, I’ve come to realize what I have been doing is wrong. Being unmasked today has liberated me from doing the wrong thing. Now that everyone knows what I’ve been doing, it’s time to retire from this other life. There are other ways to be a hero, and I guess I’ll have to find one of them. If you want a hero to return to Hope Springs, then look inside yourselves and make sure each and every one of you lives a good life. You can’t depend on me forever because Captain Liberty is officially no more.”
“Not yet, Sam,” Al stated, as ambulance crews began arriving at the scene. “Ziggy says you were here to be unmasked, to end Brad’s career as a superhero.” Al’s handlink started flashing. “She says there’s one more thing left. You still have Connors to deal with yet.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” Sam said to the confusion of the scientist holding him up.
“Forgotten what, Sam?” Dr. Garner asked.
“Forgotten what I learned here today,” Sam replied.
“I know you haven’t forgotten, Sam,” said Al. “You just keep putting everyone else’s needs in front of you. The fact that you are still here means that Connors hasn’t finished your younger self off yet. Ziggy says he is in the warehouse just past the river behind the stage here. Get going! I’m gonna monitor what he is doing.” Sam turned away to leave the stage as Al was about to vanish, his handlink beeping again. “What now, Ziggy? This isn’t a good time! Sammy Jo?” Finding out what the hail was about, Al opened the door to the Imaging Chamber, instead of popping out to check on the younger Beckett, and headed through it.
Paramedics rushed over to Sam while deputies were leading Bruno and Vincent away down the steps in handcuffs. Bruno was placed in a squad car while Vincent was taken inside one of the ambulances. As the medical personnel approached, Sam waved them off. “I don’t have time for this right now.”
“You need medical attention, sir,” reasoned a paramedic.
“Someone else is in danger and needs my help. I don’t have time to explain this right now.”
“Maybe I can help,” said a groggy McPhearson, holding his broken arm. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes, Sheriff, keep everyone away from the factory back there. A man has a hostage in there and only I can do this.”
“You’re not a superhero anymore, Brad. You said so yourself.”
“I don’t have time to argue. Give me twenty minutes. If I don’t return, then do what you have to. Twenty minutes, please.”
McPhearson thought it over briefly before answering, “Twenty minutes. After that, I do my job.” He started to leave. “Good luck, hero,” the sheriff said, offering his hand. “Your clock is ticking.”
Moments later, Sam found himself standing in front of a side door that led into the main warehouse area. A light breeze had begun to blow, stirring Sam’s cape all around him. Showing no fear, Sam pushed on the door, and not surprised, found that it swung open with ease.
His senses alert despite the pain that coursed through him, Sam found himself on the main floor of the warehouse. Skids of crated boxes were scattered throughout the area. On the far side of the room, a long diagonal flight of metal steps led up to an office area, the window blinds tightly shut. All around were the sounds of machinery as conveyor belts and compactors were busily engaged in their functions, despite the fact that no one appeared to be operating them.
A low steady rumbling could be heard from somewhere in the warehouse. As Sam limped towards the metal steps, the roar of the rumbling grew steadily louder. Too late, the leaper realized it was coming behind him. Turning, he saw a forklift bearing down on him, the metal tongs of the lift approaching quickly at chest level.
Rolling to his right, he managed to avoid the destructive impact of the forklift as it crashed into a palette, knocking it to the floor with a tremendous crash. The operator of the forklift put the vehicle in reverse, looking around for his target, but it had disappeared.
Shifting gears, the forklift operator steered down another row. There were skids and stacks of crates on both sides. Near the end of the row, Sam jumped from one of the stacks, and landed on the roof of the forklift cab. The operator had no time to pull out his switchblade as the leaper swung into the cab feet first and knocked the operator out.
The man got to his feet and pulled out his switchblade. “We meet again, Mr. Bennings,” T announced, brandishing his weapon.
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
Admiral Calavicci thundered down the ramp to the control room. Sammy Jo was standing there waiting for him, a look of urgency on her face. Beside her stood General Hawkins, a look of grave concern on his face.
“What is it?” blustered Al, obviously in a hurry to get back to Sam in the Imaging Chamber.
“I need your help,” Sammy Jo explained awkwardly. “Ziggy says we have to do something on our end to help my father. She says we need one of the leapees.”
“We need one of them to do what?” questioned Al.
“We need one of them to be let in.”
The Admiral’s jaw dropped. “You can’t be serious.”
“I had the same reaction,” Hawkins chimed in. “This is an ill-advisable risk. It’s bad enough those people are parked outside wanting to come in and now we open the door for one of them?”
“General,” Al began, “when you showed up here at the beginning of this leap, you told me that it was very important that Sam completes this leap the way you need it done. If Ziggy believes that the success of Sam’s leap comes down to letting someone back in, then that is what we do. As much as that damn computer gets on my nerves, more than often she’s right.”
Hawkins chewed on his lower lip. There was a lot riding on Sam’s success. A lot more than what Hawkins was able to tell them at this point. “Very well. Against my better judgment, find out who it is, and bring him in.”
Damn, thought Al, J.T. was on to something when he suggested we let them in.
May 26th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
“You look like hell, hero,” smirked T, looking over Sam’s battered face. “You should have let me finish you off. There’d be no pain, I promise you.” He advanced towards Sam, slashing with his knife, his grin almost as wicked as the blade.
Sam backed away from the attacks, making sure he wasn’t cornered in anywhere. Then, as fast as he could move, he ran down another aisle.
“There’s nowhere for you to hide, man. Make it easy on yourself,” T laughed, searching for him.
The leaper was severely tired and knew time was running out if he was going to have a chance to rescue his younger self. In his mind, a paradox formed. How can I save my past self? If he remains a prisoner in my past, how can I be here to save him? I shouldn’t be standing here. Deep down, Sam knew he had to do something. If it meant his current existence became erased to save his younger self from dying, then so be it.
Limping down another aisle, he saw the metal steps twenty yards away. Grunting from the pain, he made his way over and started climbing slowly towards the office door above. Each step was pure agony as pain flooded through him.
“No!” T yelled, running to the base of the steps. Nimbly, he climbed upward after Sam. As the leaper neared the top of the stairwell, T slashed at Sam’s heels. Sidestepping the blade, Sam kicked out, causing T to fall down a few steps.
Cursing in pain, T returned to his feet and moved quickly to regain ground. Just as Sam reached the walkway ledge that led to the office door, T was on him. The blade was screaming down in an arc, hoping to break through the costume into Sam’s chest. At the last second, the leaper grabbed T’s arm with both hands and held it, his muscles aching as the blade moved closer and closer downward.
While T’s one hand was busy with the knife, his other hand found Sam’s throat and began to squeeze as he backed Sam up to the railing that overlooked the warehouse below. The leaper could feel his back start to arch over the side, pain from his ribs and his ripped stitches flooding through him. More pain came to his awareness as the edge of the knife blade began to puncture his costume. In desperation, Sam slammed his knee up into T’s groin. Howling in pain, the hood dropped the knife and staggered backwards a few steps. His one foot went over the edge of the metal stairwell and before Sam could do anything, T teetered off the railing, tumbling over a few times as he finally landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs.
Disgusted at himself for not being able to save T from his fate, Sam looked upward at whomever might be watching down on him. “That wasn’t justice, that was self-defense.”
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
The elevator came to a stop at the Control Room level and opened, allowing Al, Sammy Jo, General Hawkins, and Arnold Watkins to emerge. Arnold looked around puzzled as he was led past the Control Center where Dom and Tina were still at work. His cane almost slipped from his hand as he looked up to see Ziggy’s glowing blue orb.
“Sorry, Arnold,” Al apologized, “no time for sight-seeing right now. You have a job to do.” Moments later, they found themselves in front of the Waiting Room door. Al entered his security clearance code and the guards stepped aside as the door opened.
Arnold was the first one in. Peering inside, he found it was just as he remembered it. Blue walls on all sides, a table in the middle, and an office area was located at the far side of the room. An attractive black woman walked out of the office accompanied by a man in a Fermi suit.
“Dr. Beeks?” the man greeted her, extending his hand. The woman took it with a confused look on her face. “Oh, I’m sorry,” the elderly man said, “you probably don’t remember me. My name is Arnold Watkins. You probably knew me as the Midnight Marauder.”
Recognition came to Dr. Beeks’ face. “Yes, I do remember now. But you were a lot younger the last time you were here.” She looked at Al, questioning the appearance of the man in front of her.
“It’s all right, Verbena,” Al assured her. “It’s been cleared.”
Arnold offered his hand to the man in the Fermi suit. “Dr. Beckett? It is an honor to finally meet you, sir.” His face twisted into one of confusion as the man in the Fermi suit stood there looking at him.
“I apologize,” Verbena explained. “This may look like Dr. Beckett, but it is not him.”
Arnold’s face flushed in embarrassment. “That’s right. I forgot he switches places with people. I just got so caught up in the moment.” He looked around to see that everyone was watching him curiously. “I take it you brought me here for a reason.”
Al nodded as Verbena informed him, “I finally got our leapee off the sedatives. He should be calm enough to talk to now.”
“Very good.” The Admiral then pulled Arnold aside. “Arnold, you are going to be given a unique opportunity in regards to our project. Do you remember when you were here all those years ago?”
“How can I forget? I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“Yeah,” Al realized, “dumb question. Do you remember when I had you sitting here on this table and told you why you had to give up being the Midnight Marauder?”
“Vaguely. I remember you said how I was lucky that I survived all those dumb stunts and that eventually I might have been killed. You were right. I’m convinced you saved my life that day.”
Al stared over at the man in the Fermi suit. “That gentleman over there, his name is Brad. He is currently in a situation similar to yours. For weeks now, he has gone around his town dressed as a superhero fighting crime, and eventually he won’t be lucky.”
Arnold looked over at Brad. “You need me to give him the same pep talk you gave me all those years ago, right?”
“Yeah,” replied Al. “Since you actually went through something like this, you’re a better candidate to convince him to do something else with his life. Just make sure when you are done, that he has decided to walk away from being a superhero.”
“I understand, Admiral. I accept your challenge.”
Everyone but Beeks filed out as Arnold began his task. Motioning for Brad to sit on the table, Arnold sat down next to him, pausing for a few seconds to figure out what he should say.
“Why did you refer to yourself as the Midnight Marauder?” Brad broke the ice.
Arnold smiled, knowing he would not fail his job.
May 26th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
With about ten minutes left in his deadline, Sam opened the office door and entered to find himself in a small room with a coffee machine, a fridge, and a microwave. At the other end was a second door. Opening that revealed a hallway with two doors on the left and the right. Systematically, Sam tried the first door on the left and found it locked. Moving down, he grabbed the second door on the left and found it was unlocked.
Inside, Sam found himself in an office. Except for the desk and the window behind it with the shades drawn, the room was pretty much empty. To the side of the desk was a door that led to a side area. This too was unlocked as Sam entered the room and found himself in a lounge area that looked like it was converted into a living quarters.
Sitting on the bed sat young Beckett, his hands bound and his mouth gagged. Most peculiar, however, was the fact that his eyes were closed as though he was asleep. Behind the bed stood a figure staring out the window, deep in thought.
As Sam pushed the door open wider to gain entry, it emitted an extremely loud squeak. Cursing himself, Sam pushed the door open wide and walked in.
“I wondered if you would find me if I gave you enough time,” the man said, turning to greet his visitor, a gun in his hand. “My, time hasn’t aged your face very well has it? Beaten to a pulp, it would appear.”
“Connors, what are you doing here?” Sam voiced.
“I would ask you the same question being that neither one of us is supposed to be meddling in this timeline to begin with.” Connors noted Sam’s glance at his prone younger self. “Oh, don’t mind him. I had him drugged until I could figure out what to do with him. Fate, it seems, has dropped both of you into my lap at the same time. That is of course assuming I actually buy into your theory that God or Time or Fate is controlling both of our journeys through time.”
Sam started to take a step towards Connors. “Uh-uh,” the rogue leaper waved his gun at Sam, “have a seat over there in that chair. Arms behind your back please.” Sam complied and sat down as Connors took some rope and tied his hands behind him.
“Now then…before you so rudely interrupted me, I was in the process of weighing the outcome of a decision—one that affects you, I might add.”
Sam looked behind the rogue leaper as the Imaging Chamber door appeared and Al walked through. “Good news, Sam, I think we made some progress on your leap and…” The observer took notice of his Sam tied to the chair. “Goddamit, Sam. How did this happen?”
The leaper ignored the hologram. “What do you have in mind?” he asked Connors.
“Ever since that day you came into my life a year ago and changed it, a plan has been forming in my subconscious. Apparently, you have been traveling back and forth within your own lifetime for quite some time now, playing God by changing events in history. What has given you that right?”
“We’ve gone over this before, Connors,” Sam reminded him. “I don’t have control over where I go and who I leap into. At least, not most of the time anyway.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Are you aware of what you do every time you alter history? Imagine an eraser wearing through a piece of paper over and over again. Eventually, the paper will tear, forming a hole in the fabric. This is the best analogy to describe what is slowly happening to the space-time continuum. The timeline has been erased and rewritten so many times that the damage will soon be beyond repair. It has been a goal of mine to undo what you have changed and restore it to the way it originally was. History needs to be balanced.”
“You accuse me of playing God?” scoffed Sam. “You should look in a mirror sometime. How can you stand there and tell me it is acceptable to return people to the bad choices in their lives, the horrible fates that some of these people almost had to endure? Seems to me, you are doing the same thing from a different perspective.”
“Seems to me,” countered Connors, “that if God or Time or Fate had wanted things to end up the way you change them to, then those things should have happened that way in the first place. Seeing as how I don’t believe in any such omnipotent force, your whole reason for jumping around in time is unjustified.” Connors cocked his gun and leveled it at young Beckett’s head. “Before you arrived, I was contemplating whether or not it would be justified to erase your timeline changes with one swift stroke.”
“I don’t like where there is going, Sam,” fretted Al.
“You intend to kill me before I step into the Accelerator Chamber for the first time,” reasoned Sam. “That’s cold-blooded murder.”
“Is it murder to undo the hundreds of wrongs that you’ve committed? Would it have been considered murder to kill Hitler as a child before he had the chance to influence history?”
“That’s not the same thing,” Sam argued.
“In a few seconds, you won’t be here to judge if I am right or wrong,” Connors placed the gun against young Sam’s temple.
“Oh, geez, it’s gonna happen, he’s gonna shoot you, Sam!” Al was beside himself knowing there was nothing that he could do to help his friend.
“Can you live with yourself if you kill me?” Sam tried to find a chink in Connors’ mental armor. “Can you tell yourself it is morally justified?”
“Shut up!” Connors screamed, the gun moving away from young Beckett’s head.
“Sam, you’re reaching him!”
“What happens to you then, Connors?
“Go ahead and shoot me if you must.”
“Sam…” Al warned his friend to get off that line of reasoning.
“But if you kill me, “ Sam continued, “you’ll still be trapped in time, living your life where you’re not supposed to be. Just by being here now, events are changing, and after I am gone and you remain, they will still keep changing. Killing me now will not affect as much as you think. If you still go around leaping into people after I am dead, you are changing their lives even if you believe you are correcting time. You must realize this. It’s a contradiction.”
“NO!” Connors pulled back on the hammer of the gun, making it click. His finger close to squeezing the trigger, the rogue leaper’s face twisted into that of someone mentally unbalanced.
“Don’t fire!” Al screamed, stepping between Connors and young Sam as if he could take the bullet for his friend.
Sweat poured down Connors’ face as the moment of decision rapidly approached. At the last second, he swung the gun away and fired a bullet into the carpet. Drained, he slumped down against the wall in front of the window.
“No,” the rogue leaper shook his head dejectedly, “it’s not supposed to happen this way. Killing you will not solve my dilemma. I realize that now. There has to be another way to do this. Something I haven’t thought of.” Slowly, he rose to his feet.
From the doorway came a gunshot. Connors was knocked back against the window, a bullet wound to the shoulder. His eyes shut from pain and shock, he slid to the floor and lay still. Both Sam and Al flinched and turned to see a man standing in the hallway, a smoking pistol in his hand. As he walked into the room, his silver streaked hair and peppered beard did little to disguise his features.
“Braden?!” Al couldn’t believe what was happening. The man who tried to kill Sam once in the past was now saving his life!
Quickly, Braden went to the bed and cut the bonds that held young Beckett captive. The unconscious leaper-to-be fell over and lay sprawled on the bed. Speechless, Sam watched as Braden came over to him and cut only his hands, leaving his legs tied to the chair.
“Don’t try to catch up with me, whoever you are,” instructed Braden in his British accent. “When that man on the bed wakes up, tell him that Dr. Braden owed him one. I’ve gotten so rich off of this guy that I needed to return the favor somehow. After I saw him abducted at the Sheraton, I had to do something to save him; otherwise, I would never have acquired all my wealth. He can die another day, another time, I suppose.” Braden left the room, laughing.
Al walked over to check on young Beckett. “He appears to be ok,” he reported.
Sam’s gaze watched the observer move past his younger self. A glint on his other self’s finger made him look again. “Is that a wedding ring I have on?” he asked.
“Wedding ring, don’t be silly,” Al suddenly appeared flustered.
“I’ve probably asked before, but am I married, Al?”
“No,” the hologram replied simply.
“I hope you’re not holding back anything about my personal life, Al,” Sam said as he tried to untie the knots still attached to his legs. “I would think that if anything happened to my brother, my sister, or even my mother, you would tell me.”
The thought of what Tom told Al about Sam’s mother came to mind. His decision made prior, Al still intended not to tell his best friend that his mother was dying. That would remain a secret for quite a while longer.
A bustle of activity caught his attention as police officers stormed into the room, followed by McPhearson. “Help that man get untied,” he ordered a deputy. “What happened here?” he asked Sam as officers helped the unconscious young Beckett up. Paramedics were called in to administer aid to him.
“Someone came in here and shot Con—er, whoever that man is,” Sam explained as more paramedics arrived to check on Connors. As the leaper watched, an aura of yellow energy enveloped Connors, and a hefty man with a shaved-head took his place.
“Whoever it was, he just took down Darius Dreck,” McPhearson stated. “It will be a pleasure arresting this lowlife scum. Looks like his little criminal empire has been overthrown. If I ever find the guy who did this, I’ll personally pin a medal on him. A deputy said he saw a Ford race outta here like a bat outta hell. I’ll have an APB out for that vehicle.”
Sam looked over at Al who sadly shook his head. ”He won’t be found, Sam.”
Quantum Leap – New Mexico
Seated in Hawkins’ tent outside the project, Al had left Sam behind in 1985, wondering why his friend had not leaped yet. All seemed well. Brad’s secret identity was blown as Ziggy determined had to happen, Connors was defeated, and young Beckett was released from the hospital and back on his lecture tour. The only down side was that Braden had gotten away.
“Twice!” roared Hawkins, causing Al to jolt out of his daydreaming. “You and Beckett had Braden in your midst twice, and you failed to stop him.”
“There were unforeseen events, General,” Al tried to explain. “Both times there was a rogue leaper who interfered.”
“A discussion for another time,” Hawkins claimed. “I have yet to read all of Ziggy’s report on Dr. Maxwell Connors. However, if what you claim is true, perhaps stopping Braden would not have mattered after all.”
“But intelligence has proven that Braden might have sold his secrets to a Middle Eastern business man that now in the present might have connections to Al-Qaeda.”
“True. But like a weed in a garden, where there is one, there is another and another.”
“What are you getting at, General?”
“This Connors business. If Braden were stopped, his secrets never sold, this ‘rogue leaper’ as you put it would still be doing his thing. Now more than ever, my purpose has never been made clearer. At this point, I will not go deeper into details, but I have a project currently in development that will need the support of this project here.”
“When do you expect to include us in that loop, General?”
“Another time, Admiral. Not yet.”
Just as Al was about to make a snide comment, the tent flap burst open and a leapee marched in, followed by a soldier. The Admiral’s jaw dropped, star-struck at the presence of the man in front of him.
“Have you thought about what I said earlier?” Tom Selleck demanded, his moustache bristling as he spoke.
Al thought this was too good to pass up, so he turned his chair around to enjoy the show.
“Mr. Selleck, indeed I have. Given what you told me, it appears I have little choice than to cave in to your demands.”
“That’s all I wanted to hear. Thank you, General, I know you made the right decision.” Without waiting to be dismissed, Tom Selleck stormed back out.
“What the hell was that about?” Al asked.
“It appears that I have to let the leapees go. With the exception of David Watkins and the Becketts, the others will be released.” From the tone of the General’s voice, it was apparent that this was not in the original plans.
“What brought this change of heart, General?”
Hawkins’ shoulders slumped. “If you must know, Hollywood won out again. Mr. Selleck claims that before he left, he left notes with some of his show biz friends involved with Scientology. He claims that if he doesn’t return within a specified amount of time, they are instructed to open the letters, which would brief them on this project. Christ, the last thing I need is Hollywood getting involved trying to uncover this project. I can’t take that risk. As far as I know, Dr. Ruther is the only other celebrity outside this tent, and there’s no telling what she is capable of. Besides, I have recorded a list of all the people who have come here, so if anything compromises this project, those people will be immediately arrested and brought up on charges.”
“That was nice of you,” Al commented dryly. “What about David Watkins and J.T.? What will become of them? Are they facing charges?”
Hawkins lit up a cigar and sat back down. “They have been taken care of accordingly.”
Al made his way back down to the Control Room. “Any updates on Sam?” he asked aloud.
“Dr. Beckett is still located in 1985 in the persona of Brad Bennings,” Ziggy intoned.
“No reason why he hasn’t leaped yet?”
“Nothing I can calculate at this time. Dr. Beckett changed Brad Bennings’ history, ruined Darius Dreck’s organization, and although he failed to capture Dr. Braden, he did complete the primary goal set forth by General Hawkins.”
Al’s eyes narrowed. “And just what was that objective, Ziggy?”
“By defeating Darius Dreck, the crime rate of Hope Springs lowered exponentially over the next few years. In the original history, the crime rate was extremely high; property owners could not sell their possessions. Since history has now changed, all of the properties surrounding and including Dreck’s warehouse were sold for modestly high prices back in 1989.”
“Sold to whom?”
Ziggy’s globe swirled as she accumulated the data. “The properties in Hope Springs were sold to the United States Government. Strangely enough, there is no record of those buildings being used until two years ago, 2004.”
“Hawkins, that son of a bitch. He dictated Sam’s leap for personal gain, even if it was for the government. Hell, I bet this comes from the top, the President himself.”
“Is there anything else, Admiral?”
“No, Ziggy,” Al headed for the Waiting Room door. “I’ve heard enough for now.” After entering his code, he entered to find Arnold and Brad having an animated discussion on the examination table.
Arnold looked up as Al stepped into the room. “I think I got through to him, Admiral,” he said with a smile.
May 26th, 1985
Springs – outside of Washington D.C.
Wellington emerged from the kitchen door carrying a tray of iced tea and New Coke out to the patio. Dr. Garner and Sam were sitting at the table, enjoying the rest of the afternoon sun. Although puzzled as to why he was still in 1985, he didn’t actually argue the fact that he had an afternoon off to relax. Sipping on his tea, he leaned back in the chair and relaxed. No sooner was he comfortable than the Imaging Chamber door opened and Al emerged, dressed now in more casual attire.
“Hi ya, Sammy boy,” greeted the observer. “You look like a walking band-aid box.”
“Al’s here,” Sam told Dr. Garner.
“Hi, Al,” they both said.
“Dr. Garner,” Al acknowledged. “Wait a minute. What the hell am I talking to you for, you can’t hear me.”
“Anything new, Al?” Sam wanted to know.
“Quite a bit, actually. Ziggy has no idea why you are still here, which comes as no surprise. You saved Brad’s life, of course. Remember Arnold Watkins, the Midnight Marauder?”
Sam scratched his head. “Vaguely.”
“Well, Sam, he was one of the leapees that showed up at the project. We had him go into the Waiting Room and talk to Brad about his choice of vocation. Arnold convinced him to hang up the cape. Get this, Brad will enroll in the police academy and work for Sheriff McPhearson for a few years, then he transfers to Washington D.C. In fact, he is still an officer today.”
“That’s good to hear. Anything else?”
“Dreck rots in jail as do his Italian goons. His organization is done and Hope Springs becomes a better place to live. George the postal worker starts neighborhood crime watches and the police academy sees an increase in people enrolling.”
“What about the leapees? What about J.T.? Is he still in trouble?”
“Hawkins had a rare change of heart and let everyone go home, except for J.T., your brother Tom, and Arnold Watkins’ grandson, David.”
Sam’s face fell. “What will happen to them?”
“This is where it gets a bit hinky, Sam. They are all staying on to assist with some new project Hawkins is about to launch.”
“Project? What project?”
“In response to 9/11, the government is afraid that terrorists will get their hands on the secrets Braden got out of you.”
“Along the lines of the Lothos project,” Sam said in disgust.
“Hey, would you stop beating yourself up about that?” Al sounded annoyed. “Your face is already smashed in a bit already. You had no control over what Braden did. From what I can gather, it is some kind of anti-terrorism project. As Hawkins said earlier, where there is one, there is another and another. If the Lothos project never came to be, you can bet something else would have. Evil by any other name is still evil.”
“Sam, because of this leap, Hawkins somehow gets control of Dreck’s warehouse and the surrounding properties. Ziggy only knows it is some kind of project and it’s gonna be based here in Hope Springs almost twenty years from now.”
“How does this tie in with Tom and the others?”
“Personnel, Sam. Hawkins needs a staff to run his project. Tom is the new project supervisor.”
Sam spit out his drink. “How can Tom work for that guy?”
“It was a compromise, Sam. Hawkins wanted him badly for his project. Tom said if Hawkins refused to press charges against J.T. for the whole Internet thing that he would take the job, with one other condition, I might add. J.T. will be working at Hawkins’ project as assistant head of security.”
The leaper frowned. “I guess having two Becketts will prevent that project from running amok,” he mused. “What about David?”
“David was responsible for bypassing our project’s security defenses. The kid is a genius. Where quantum physics was your gift, his is in computers. Hawkins has him on his payroll now, too. He’s learning under Dom until he gets up to speed.”
“I guess everything is all right then.” A thought occurred to Sam. “What about the budget? Will Hawkins take from our budget again to finance this new project?”
Al nodded solemnly. “I was afraid you’d ask that. Yeah, Hawkins is diverting from us even after that man promised us our funding indefinitely.”
“Hawkins can’t do that.”
“As I said, Sam, yeah he can. The President is holding the reins now.”
“What can’t Hawkins do?” asked Garner.
“He’s taking money away from my project’s funding for his own agenda even though he once promised he wouldn’t.”
“I see,” Garner chewed at his lower lip. “Perhaps I can be of assistance.”
“What can you do?”
“I get a huge paycheck from Uncle Sam every week. Most of it is sitting in a bank account collecting gobs of interest. I highly doubt that money will be spent.”
“You can’t do that, Dr. Garner.”
“Yes, I can, Sam, and call me Alexander. I happen to have a little pull with our current commander-in-chief. With a little luck, I can have it set up that an untouchable funding account be set up in your name. Your other self mentioned at the convention the other day that he was part of something called the Star Bright Project so I’ll say it is for him. If my influence is enough, you will always have government funding that cannot be touched by anyone else, and it shall remain in use until you personally cancel the account, meaning you make it back home for good.”
Sam could only smile. “That is quite a generous gift, Dr.—I mean, Alexander.”
“Least I can do, Sam.”
Al looked up from his handlink. “Sam, that was why you didn’t leap yet. You were here to make sure Garner helps keep our funding alive. Get ready to leap, Sam.”
The leaper turned to Garner and shook his hand. “Thank you for everything. I hope I don’t forget you.”
Garner returned the handshake. “The pleasure has been mine that we got to meet again. Don’t worry, Sam, I’ll help Brad adjust to what’s transpired in his absence when he comes back.”
The leaping sensation began to take hold of Sam. “I think the hero is about to return.” Dr. Garner’s patio dissolved into a blue void.
Al found himself alone in the confines of the Imaging Chamber. Sam had left 1985 and was now on his way to some other place, some other time. Without another word, the observer walked down the ramp of the Imaging Chamber and flipped his handlink to Dom, who was being observed at his post by David Watkins. Sammy Jo was there to greet him.
“The leapees have gone, Al. Hawkins sent them away.”
“That’s good news. One less headache to deal with.”
Sammy Jo gave him a piece of paper. “Mark Robbins, one of the leapees, wanted me to give you this. He, uh, doesn’t want General Hawkins to see this,” she added conspiratorially.
Al perused the note and as he finished reading, began to laugh in a heartfelt manner. “That is one hell of an idea. I approve.”
EPILOGUE – (SEVEN MONTHS LATER FROM JANUARY…)
“We’re here,” Al announced as he stepped out of the car. He was dressed in his bright devil red suit, beige shirt, red tie, and red sunglasses.
Out of the vehicle came Donna, dressed in a fabulous outfit that almost made him envy Sam if it weren’t for his wife Beth, who followed Donna out. She too looked like a knockout in her blue dress, a calla lilly in her hair.
Next came Sammy Jo, in a dress covered in floral designs. The dress managed to do her justice despite how far along she was with her pregnancy. She was due any day and couldn’t wait for the bundle of joy that would soon enrich her and Daniel’s life. After Sammy Jo, her younger brother Stephen emerged replete in a little tuxedo.
“This is the place, right?” Donna asked.
Al pulled out the seven-month-old note. “Yeah, according to Mark’s directions, this is the place. Albuquerque Best Western.”
The procession from Project Quantum Leap entered the lobby where a sign said: ALTERATIONS CONVENTION – BANQUET HALL B – PRIVATE PARTY. “Must be it,” commented Beth as they made their way to the door. A woman sat at a table checking off names on the guest list. “Names please?” she asked.
“Calavicci party,” Beth replied.
The woman smiled as she checked the name off the list. “Please enter, they’ve been expecting you.”
Al opened the door and everyone walked in. A party was in progress. There was a dance floor with people on it, and a buffet table lined along the right wall. Tables crowded with people filled the rest of the room.
“This is what I call a Quantum Leap convention,” Al quipped.
“You made it!” shouted a voice behind them.
They all turned to see Mark Robbins in a very formal suit approach them. “Good to see all of you. Looks like our main guest won’t be attending this time?” he asked with a note of disappointment.
“I’m afraid not this time,” Donna answered, a tear forming on her face.
“Don’t cry, Mrs. Beckett, your husband will celebrate with us one of these years.” Mark excused himself and headed for the DJ table.
“I don’t understand,” said Beth. “What is going on here? What did you drag us to?”
“It was the leapees’ idea,” Sammy Jo explained. “Every year on Sam’s birthday, they all want to get together and catch up on events in their lives, and meet the new people that Sam has done good for. They will continue to meet here every year until dad is finally home to celebrate it. As long as you are the result of a leap or connected to one, you have a standing invitation for life.”
Suddenly, the music stopped. “May I have your attention please,” came the voice of Mark Robbins, who was DJing the event. “Will the Calavicci party please take to the dance floor.”
Each of them puzzled, they walked to the now empty floor. A large spotlight came on them as the house lights dimmed. “May I present the people responsible for us being here today to commemorate all the good that Dr. Beckett has done for us.”
The members of Quantum Leap stood under the spotlight as everyone in the room stood up and applauded. Among the people that they could recognize based on name tags (as they were considerably older since their time in the Waiting Room) were Arnold Watkins and his wife Dawn, the Cameron Wilson family (along with Cheryl), Dr. Ruth, Tom Selleck, Frankie and Teresa LaPalma, Jimmy LaMotta, Linda Bruckner and her daughter Teresa, Eddie Vega, Butchie Rickett and his family, Katie McBain, and standing off to the side, Al noticed a much older Brad Bennings. Other leapees filled the banquet hall, but were hard to tell who they were.
Touched by the show of people in the room, Donna began to cry. Stephen moved over to comfort her as she grabbed him in a big hug.
“I wonder how all these people got invites?” Al wanted to know, taking a glass off a serving tray offered to him by one of the leapees.
“Weren’t you ever curious as to what I was doing to take my mind off my pregnancy?” Sammy Jo shot back, refusing her glass due to her condition. The woman moved down to offer a glass to Beth as Sam’s daughter continued, “I accessed Ziggy’s database and found out which of the leapees were still alive and contacted them personally. No e-mail. Hawkins will never know. It was the least I could do for these people.”
“Whose idea was it to have this shindig on Sam’s birthday?” Beth inquired.
Sammy Jo laughed. “Guilty.” She took a moment to look at all the people staring back at her. All those people were here because their lives were touched by my father, she thought, feeling special because she too shared a bond with them, having been the result of a leap herself. In turn, her child would be added to that list of people who would not be here if not for Sam.
“OK everybody,” Mark’s voice echoed over the sound system speakers, “the buffet and dancing will commence shortly. But first,” he raised his glass of champagne, “a toast. To Dr. Sam Beckett. May he find his way home. Happy birthday, Sam.” A moment of silence followed as glasses were then clinked and consumed. “Please feel free to mingle and get to know your fellow leapees and their families.” Dance music began to blast over the speakers.
“Rap music?” complained Al, as the group started to walk off the dance floor. “Don’t they have Ray Charles?”
cry of alarm sounded from behind the Admiral.
He turned to see Sammy Jo clutching at her swollen belly.
“I think it's time,” she cried out.
water’s broken,” Beth observed. “Help
me get her off the dance floor. I
don't think we’re gonna get to a hospital in time.
Isabella wants out now!” By
now, the crowd had gathered to offer assistance to the little miracle that
would soon enter their lives. All
of the people touched by Sam that were still alive were here now to
witness the birth of his grandchild.
gonna notify Daniel,” Donna said as she hurried to get her cell phone.
of the leapees then stepped forward, revealing himself to be Phillip
Mililani, Sammy Jo’s stepfather. Reaching
out, he grabbed his stepdaughter’s hand in his own.
“I’m here,” he told her.
bravely up at him, she asked Phillip, “Is mom here?”
shook his head. “No.
Just like you requested, I came up with an excuse to leave the
hotel. She thinks we’re
still on our way to visit you in time before you give birth, not knowing
that it was all planned for me to be here with you tonight.
Whatever your reasons, your mother has no knowledge of this party
or of you being here. Too bad
the baby couldn’t wait a few more days.”
Jo nodded. Deep down she knew
there was no way that her mother Abigail could ever know about Sam
Beckett. It was simply enough
that her stepfather understand why he had recently lost time in his life
without knowing why and leave it at that.
With a nod of her head, she beckoned Al to come over.
As the Admiral grasped her other hand and smiled, his best
friend’s daughter whispered into his ear, “Despite the wonders of
Quantum Leaping you share with my father, I would never trade any of that
for the ability to create life and the daughter I will soon share with the
world. Someday, I hope he
will be a part of her life.”
“Speaking of sharing, it looks like someone else will share Sam’s birthday with him,” Al remarked as he waited with the rest of the room for the arrival. Glancing past the bar, the Admiral thought he recognized a familiar overweight bartender behind the counter, grinning from ear to ear almost looking misty-eyed, holding up a glass of champagne as if to salute him. Waiting for people to walk past him, Al looked again only to discover no one was behind the bar.
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