Episode 1128
Quantum Evolution 

September 7, 2001
Plainfield, New Jersey

Leaping into a young man with astral projection ability, Sam enters the world of parapsychic phenomenon and begins to realize what his once-in-a-generation brain is really capable of. Meanwhile, General Hawkins’ new anti-terrorist project nears completion. 

Written By:

Greg Carey




Friday, September 7th, 2001

Plainfield, New Jersey



     The inner peace that Sam could sense in the blue void while waiting for his next assignment carried over with him as he felt the electrical tingle of leaping in begin to dissipate.  His eyes were closed, and his breathing, if it even seemed like breathing, was slow, deep, and steady as he felt serenity all about him.  All of his muscles were relaxed as he realized he was lying comfortably on a flat surface.

     Despite the heightened awareness of calm, the leaper decided that it was time to face his new reality and take in the new surroundings.  Opening his eyes, he found darkness waiting for him.  From what he could tell as his vision adjusted, the small room he was in seemed to be full of monitoring equipment and computers.  The blinking red light of a video camera on a tripod told him that he was being recorded for some purpose.  Across the room was a large mirror on the wall with a closed door next to it.

     Sam’s eyes traveled back to the monitoring equipment located on either side of the platform he was lying on.  As a doctor, he was able to figure out that they were cardiograph and electroencephalograph machines used to monitor heart conditions and electrical brainwave patterns.  Wires from the machines were connected to his head, bare chest, and arms through electrodes and small shiny, silver discs.  What puzzled Sam was that he had no feeling of anything being attached to him at all.  Even more confusing was why he was unattended.  There was no one in the room with him; he was totally alone in the dark, hooked up to machines that were making faint whirring noises as they recorded data.

     With a start, Sam rose upright on the platform.  His ears were not picking up any signs of breathing; it was only the sounds of the machines making the faint noises.  On top of that, he could physically tell he wasn’t breathing.  There was no air intake or exhalation from his lungs.  Sam sat there and watched his chest and discovered there was no movement there, as if he had forgotten how to breathe but he wasn’t suffocating.  Then came another shock, the wires that appeared to be attached to him were no longer on him at all.  They were going right through him, still attached to something on the bed behind his back.

     In panic, Sam moved off the platform and stared at horror at what he could perceive in the dark room.  Where he had been lying was a medical examination table with a prone body still situated on it with wires attached to the head, chest, and arms.  At first, Sam thought the body was dead but then noticed it was breathing oxygen.  Moving closer, the leaper leaned over to get a better look at the body’s face in the dark room and recoiled in shock.

     The man on the table had Sam’s face!

     “Ohhh boy…” was all Sam could think of, not realizing that he now hovered a few inches off the floor.




Hope Springs, Virginia

Monday, May 8th, 2006



     It felt weird for a worn-out Admiral Al Calavicci to physically (not as a hologram) find himself being driven around the streets of Hope Springs.  In some respects, it didn’t feel right for him to be here.  The events of the last twenty-four hours were still filtering through his groggy brain.  His nerves were still on red alert after watching Sam slit his own throat with a razorblade; dying in that hospital room, and then the Imaging Chamber visual dissolved, separating him from his best friend.  Somehow, Al had found a way to pull himself together before he strode down the exit ramp to the Control Room.  Hiding the loss he was feeling, he had inquired to Ziggy about his best friend.

     “Dr. Beckett leaped,” Ziggy replied.

     Al’s head popped up at what Ziggy announced in shock. “What?”

     “Dr. Beckett has leaped,” Ziggy reiterated patiently.

     Al quickly moved to the mainframe and blinked as he listened to Ziggy’s report.

     “I’m sorry, Admiral, I can’t ascertain the time period the person is from. There is someone in the Waiting Room, but they are in a comatose state. Based on what I know, I cannot figure out anything regarding his newest leap. Dr. Beckett is in the past, but I cannot find him.”

     Relief flooded through the Admiral.  Even if Sam was lost somewhere, he was still alive.  The odds suddenly seemed to go the Observer’s way.

     Before Al could comment, Dominic had entered the room.  “Admiral, General Hawkins called for you just a few minutes ago.  He wanted to remind you that the testing of Project Liberty is scheduled for tomorrow, and he wants to know if you’ll be coming.”

     The Admiral cursed under his breath.  “It’s tomorrow?  Damn, I forgot all about it with all the crazy leaps lately.  I really wanted to see what this Liberty is all about so that we know if that project threatens ours.  Dom, tell him I can’t go, not with what just happened with Sam.”

     Dom nodded and turned to go when Ziggy interjected, “You should go, Admiral.”

     “What about Sam, Ziggy?  We need to find him.”

     “Admiral, although we have a comatose person in the Waiting Room right now, I can assure you with 99.6% certainty that Dr. Beckett will not leap in for at least twenty-four hours.”

     “How can you know that?” demanded Al.

     “I cannot say for certain.  A subroutine is telling me this.”

     “Subroutine?” Dom frowned.  “What subroutine?”

     “One that was put into my programming once by former head technician Gooshie,” Ziggy answered with just a twinge of sadness in her voice.  “It’s telling me that Dr. Beckett is one day from leaping in, and it’s also telling me that Admiral Calavicci needs to go to Project Liberty.”

     “This sounds like a load of bull, Ziggy.  You wouldn’t be lying to me by any chance?”

     “Would I lie to you, Admiral?”

     “That’s a topic for another time, Ziggy.”

     The blue orb paused slightly before responding, “When it comes to my father, I would never lie.”

     Sighing, Al turned to Dom.  “Get on the phone and tell the pompous ass that I’m packing now and will be there first thing in the morning.”

     Despite his mistrust of Ziggy’s ability to tell the truth when it came to Hawkins, Al had taken the early flight to D.C.  Although he felt this trip to Project Liberty was necessary, he was upset that he would not find time to squeeze in a chance to visit with his daughter Jules, who was in the area.  It had taken some doing for Ziggy to trace Jules recent phone call to her father, but now it seemed like a wasted task for the time being.  Instead, it was off to Hope Springs.

     Since Sam’s first leap to this town back in 1985, it had changed drastically.  The crime rate dropped dramatically, but most of the buildings and businesses seemed the same.  The atmosphere was like a ghost town on the warehouse side of town, which contrasted greatly with the thriving suburbia on the other side.

     Few people on the sidewalks stopped to look and see who was on the other side of the tinted windows of the government car.  Al was a bit surprised when he had gotten off the plane at Dulles and found a chauffeur waiting for him.  He had expected to rent a car for himself, and protested the ride he was being offered, but exhausted as he was, he eventually conceded and climbed into the backseat.  Apparently, his visit to Hope Springs was deemed important and his host was going to offer every courtesy possible.  Now, he was glad he made his decision, as his back had stiffened up a bit after the flight and he wanted to just relax and not worry about anything.  It had been hectic for Al over the last four months as Sam repeatedly leaped in quickly after each previous assignment was completed.  Instead of the usual week or so, Sam was leaping in almost a day or two immediately after, giving Al little time to rest.  That meant Al’s visit to Hope Springs was going to be extremely short to allow him to head back to New Mexico quickly in case Sam needed him.

     The current trip down memory lane in this town reminded him of when Sam, or even the younger version of Sam for that matter, had both almost died at the hands of a rogue leaper named Dr. Maxwell Connors.  The rogue leaper was somewhere lost in time, not even God or Time or Fate probably knew where he was right now.  Al could only pray that his own existence would not be wiped out by that madman.  Then again, anything Sam did over the years could produce that same effect, which really didn’t make him feel any more comfortable than he was feeling at the moment.

     Peering out the passenger window, a shiver went down the Admiral’s spine as the car passed by a cemetery.  Al always had an aversion to things regarding the supernatural and he tended to shy away from those things if he could.  Vampires, ghosts, or even dead people were things he could do without in his lifetime.  It also didn’t help that a friend of Sam’s by the name of Dr. Alexander Garner was buried in that cemetery, a victim of cancer in 2003 at the age of 89.

       Before long, the car made its way through the heart of the city.  Al continued to stare at the scenery in silence, the chauffeur apparently not in a talkative mood.  Just as well, since they were now just passing the alleyway where Sam had been injured by a knife in a brawl and the Admiral felt queasy remembering the image of his best friend on a side street lying in a puddle during a downpour, blood trickling from the wound.

     After passing what was left of an abandoned dilapidated athletic field, the car made it’s way around another street and cruised past a series of warehouses and storage areas.  Before Al could fully recall the memory of Sam being beaten to a pulp during a Memorial Day festival at the athletic field, the sight of a small mountain range alongside a tributary of the Potomac River off in the distance behind the warehouses grabbed his attention.  It was breathtaking to see the silver and green scenery combined with the clear blue sky positioned above it.  The majestic view made up for the remains of the deserted end of town, which once had been a thriving enterprise.  Various people had once made a living running their own warehouse businesses, but Sam’s visit here in the past allowed the government to buy up all these properties at high prices that the owners couldn’t refuse.  Now this area was rundown and looked like it needed a facelift badly.  The only reason why the town was practically without crime was due to the fact that the government had secretly moved into the neighborhood and kept things in check.

     The squeal of the car’s brakes brought Al back to where he was and why he was here in Hope Springs.  The vehicle had stopped outside of a large group of warehouses, one of which once housed the drug empire of a Darius Dreck until that previous leap by Sam brought the criminal down.  A large fence, most likely electrified, surrounded all the warehouses, cutting off the outside world from intruding on this side of town.  All the buildings were now covered with signs reading Hanswik Industries to make it look like one big company (albeit one no one had ever heard of) owned all the property here.

     The road leading up to the warehouses finally came to a gate with a security booth.  To the casual observer, it looked like the booth of any other business that checked ID and badges before letting ‘employees’ inside.  To the trained eye, it spelled government property.  Fighting back the strong urge to nod off, Al smirked as his driver handed an ID complete with bar code over to the ‘security guard’.  To the Admiral’s tired eyes, he had ‘military soldier’ written all over him.  The guard checked the ID and handed it back to the driver before he opened the electrified gate and motioned them through.

     Pulling up to one warehouse in particular, the driver stopped the vehicle and seconds later, got out to open Al’s door.  Inside the car, Al was fast asleep, snoring loudly.  Rolling his eyes, the driver gave the Admiral a light nudge.  Stretching from intense fatigue, Al climbed out and tried to overcome the dread that his sense of déjà vu was giving him.  Over twenty years ago, Sam had almost died at the hands of Dr. Connors in this building.

     The side door to the warehouse opened and Al was greeted by two people who apparently were waiting for him.  One was General Hawkins, the man who invited him here.  The other person was a tall, muscular man with brown hair in his early forties dressed in what appeared to be a military uniform jumpsuit.

     Hawkins knew not to extend his hand to Al as he puffed on a cigar.  “Admiral, welcome to Project Liberty.  My associate here is Isaac Lane, head of security.”

     Al almost made a blunder when he meant to reply with a ‘We already met’, but at the last second kept his mouth shut.  Al really wasn’t supposed to know about the secrets inside the warehouse.  He wasn’t supposed to know that Hawkins’ project existed underground in Hope Springs, contained an unauthorized copy of Ziggy through the blackmailing of Dominic Lofton, and that Hawkins had to a smaller extent copied Sam’s blueprints for said project.  The only reason Al had this knowledge was because Sam had recently leaped into Isaac and as a holographic observer, he got a sneak peak at what was inside.  Sweating just a bit, the Admiral hoped that the head of security did not recognize him from his recent visit to the Waiting Room.

     Instead of saying the wrong thing, Al smoothly wiped his sweaty palm on his white Admiral’s uniform and extended his hand to Isaac and managed to say, “Mr. Lane.  Nice to meet you.”

     “Likewise,” Isaac responded, almost crushing Al’s hand in a viselike grip.

     “You are dismissed,” Hawkins informed the driver as he turned to Al and asked, “Dr. Beckett is between leaps now?”

     Al nodded as professionally polite as possible.  “As far as I know, he leaped out yesterday, which allowed me to grab the first plane out here to honor your invitation.  I am eager to see what awaits inside.”  The Admiral nearly winced as he lied about his emotions concerning this project.  The less time around Hawkins, the better it would be for him.  A few months ago, he had walked in on the General’s Project Quantum Leap office and was a witness to finding two dead personnel on the floor with Hawkins holding a flagpole with a bloody tip.  The General had claimed self-defense against spies with Ziggy validating the story.  But something in Al’s mind did not add up about the whole affair and Hawkins’ order that he remain quiet about it didn’t help his feelings about any of it.

     General Hawkins tried not to scowl.  “We shouldn’t be discussing all this outside of the main building.” He stole a quick glance at his watch.  “The testing phase is scheduled to commence in one hour.  I suppose that gives us time to give you a quick tour,” he said half-heartedly. 

     At first, the General hesitated, as if he wanted to pull Al aside, and then thought better of it.  Al wondered if Hawkins’ conscience was starting to emerge with feelings of guilt over the murders.  Maybe the General was ready to talk about it and admit the truth.  The look the General had that he wanted to say something vanished, leaving Al more confused over recent events.

     Trying to look interested, Al followed the other men into the main warehouse.  Out of the corner of his eye, he felt as if someone was watching him from an upper story window.  Looking closely, the Admiral decided it was his imagination playing tricks on him.  Shrugging, Al walked onward.


*              *              *



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico

Monday, May 8th, 2006



     For a pregnant woman, Sammy Jo Fuller managed to maneuver her way around the technicians who were busy at work at the entrance to the PQL Control Room.  Inside the small chamber she found Tina, Dom, and Ziggy (of course) waiting for her, looks of concern obvious on the human faces.

     “What’s going on?” Sammy Jo wanted to know.

     After popping a bubble with her gum, Tina responded, “We’re still waiting for Donna yet before we get into this.”

     “I see,” Sammy Jo frowned, turning her attention to the technicians in the doorway.  “Is all this work necessary?”

     Dom’s face tightened as he tried to keep his emotions in check, somewhat still angry with himself for recent events.  Luckily, everyone knew not to bring up the way Hawkins had recently blackmailed him into giving out top secret project information.  “After the leapees showed up a while back and because of the security breach when that guy hitched a ride in my car and almost made it all the way to the project elevator, the government wants to give this place state-of-the-art security measures.”

     “Don’t forget like those three recent leap-ins Sammy Jo detected a few months ago,” Tina added.

     “How high tech are we talking here?” inquired Sammy Jo who suddenly remembered another occurrence; the female leaper who had temporarily replaced her father when he had leaped back home to the project months earlier.

     Another pop of Tina’s gum sounded before Dom answered, “Gonna be a few changes around here.  If there is enough in the funding after this phase is complete, I’d like to see a Def-Con type light indicator system hooked up on each level, especially the control room.  Basically, if Sam is between leaps, the light indicator is green; a yellow light indicates when he has leaped in somewhere, and a red light will signal if security has been breached.  Basically, I’d like to establish a system so that everyone in the project knows Dr. Beckett’s status.  For the time being, we’re looking at thermal-scans; infrared kinda stuff.  Daniel Fulton, as head of security, is in charge of the installation proceedings.  Everyone’s gonna have their own unique thermal body signature encoded into the system.  If you aren’t in the system, you can’t access anything, making the elevator and the doors to the lower levels instantly restricted.  We’ll have to meet with Beth and Aurora then and have special subcutaneous sensors placed somewhere in our wrists.  That will allow Ziggy to track any one of us at any time throughout the levels of the project like a homing device.”

     “The downside is that Ziggy or anyone else with access will like know who is doing what with other people,” Tina grumbled.  “It’s an invasion of privacy.”

     “What about my father?” wondered Sammy Jo.  “When the leapee shows up in the Waiting Room, will it show the body signature of the new person or the host?”

     “Good question,” mused Dom as Donna entered the room  and made her way past the technicians who were now installing sensors in the doorway.  “But I am afraid that will have to wait.  Now that you’re here Donna, we can get down to the situation at hand.”

     Donna Elesee-Beckett kept a stern face as Dom launched into the briefing.  “About twenty minutes ago, Sam leaped back into the timeline. The leapee has been under Verbena’s care since yesterday.”
     “Since yesterday?  These recent leaps have been a marathon for all of us.  Will Verbena need some assistance?”

     Dom shook his head.  “We’re not sure, Donna.  I already called Aurora and Beth and had them go to the Waiting Room to assist.  Verbena told me she just witnessed something extraordinary.  Right after the leap-in, the leapee immediately laid down flat, went rigid, and then acted as though it were deceased.  All vital signs were barely there.  Heart rate was extremely slow, and synaptic functions were almost non-existent, meaning the leapee by all appearances became a vegetable.  But then, as if a switch had been thrown, all vital functions returned and synaptic energy resumed normally.”

     “What does all this mean?” inquired Donna.  “Is my husband affected somehow?”

     Dom raised a hand.  “I’m getting to that.  Based on vital readings and the synaptic patterns, the best guess from Verbena is that the leapee had an out of body experience, as if the soul had left the shell behind and then returned to inhabit the body again.  The leapee suddenly bolted upright, shivering from lack of heat.  It, because we don’t know the gender, thinks it’s dead and gone to heaven; won’t tell me who it is, so right now we have no way of knowing the person’s identity.”

     “Can’t Ziggy figure out who our guest is?” Sammy Jo aimed her question at Ziggy, whose blue sphere seemed to stop swirling slightly but remained silent.

     “Ziggy is very perplexed right now,” responded Tina.  “Something seems to be blocking her ability to think clearly on anything regarding this new leap.  Ask her to perform any task or find information on anything not related to this leap, and she can fulfill her assignments.  As soon as she tries to compute any type of data or make a prediction for this leap, her system goes into a loop until we can give her something else to work on.  Something has her spinning her wheels.”

     “Great,” muttered Sammy Jo.  “My father has leaped into someone who at times is a vegetable and our parallel-hybrid computer is displaying the same ability?”

     “Afraid so,” Dom replied gravely.  “To make things worse, something has affected Ziggy’s circuitry regarding the Imaging Chamber door.  Nothing appears wrong with it from what Tina and I had checked out, but for some reason when we try to open the door, Ziggy goes into that loop again.  Even the override has failed and we don’t know why.  Until we can get the door to open, we have no idea how this leap is affecting Dr. Beckett.”

     “Al picked a swell time to jet across the country,” Sammy Jo sighed.

     “Don’t blame the Admiral,” asserted Dom.  “He left right after Sam had leaped out.  There was no way to know that Sam was going to leap back in sooner than Ziggy predicted, even though this has been happening frequently lately.”

     “It still doesn’t help any of us that we can’t figure out who the leapee is.  Worse than that, no one can get inside the Imaging Chamber to help Sam,” worried Donna as she looked up at the swirling blue sphere and wondered what had become of her husband and Ziggy this time.


*              *              *



Plainfield, New Jersey

Friday, September 7th, 2001


     ‘Am I dead?’ Sam wondered.  ‘Did I kill myself?  I remember feeling a young girl’s guilt over someone dying, and I also remember holding a razorblade and slashing my throat.  Now I’m here standing over myself, I must be dead.  Maybe it’s a nightmare.  If it is, I’d like to wake up now.’ 

     There was no doubt in Sam’s mind that the person lying on the examination table he was hovering over was somehow himself, right down to the wisp of gray hair and the crow’s feet.  An image flashed in his mind of sitting at the bar at Al’s Place and seeing himself in the mirror, wondering if he was dreaming or not.  Sam wondered if there was a connection or an explanation to all this.

     The leaper would not get the chance to find out as the door next to the one-way mirror suddenly flew open, spilling light into the room.  Before Sam knew what had happened, the room seemed to spin in a whirl of light, and he quickly found himself lying on the table, shivering from the cold as he felt his movements constricted slightly by the electrodes and silver discs he could now feel attached to himself.

     A dark haired man in his late forties wearing a white medical jacket rushed into the room.  “Reg, are you ok?”

     Sam couldn’t respond, his teeth chattering furiously.

     The man grabbed a blanket from underneath the examination table and quickly threw it over Sam and then hit a switch to turn on the room’s heating unit.  Gradually, Sam’s shaking subsided and the man started to check the machines alongside the table.

     “Incredible,” the man remarked.  “Look at all the activity on these pages.  The EKG and EEG readings went off the scale for a few seconds, and that was before it recorded the decrease in synaptic activity.”

     “It must have sensed my leap…” Sam started to mumble.

     “What was that?” asked the man as he leaned over to examine Sam.  The identification badge on his lapel read Dr. Daniels.

     “Nothing, doctor.  Just disoriented.”  Looking into the mirror by the door only added to the confusion.  He wasn’t seeing himself anymore.  The image staring back at him was a young male in his early twenties with blonde hair and a clean-shaven average face.  He called me Reg,’ Sam realized.  I’m not here as myself.’

     “Are you feeling better now?”

     “Much warmer.  That weird experience was the longest few minutes of my life.”

     The doctor gave Sam a quizzical look.  “Few minutes?  Reg, the event only lasted twenty seconds.”

     “What?  That’s impossible.”

     “Can you describe it at all?  Apparently, time seemed to move slower for you.”

     Sam thought carefully over his answer.  “It was like being in a dream state.  I felt myself floating.  Things looked distorted.  I thought I was dead.”

     A smile came to Daniels’ face.  “You almost did it!  You were on the verge of astral projecting yourself.”

     “Astral projecting?” echoed Sam in a whisper.

     “We’ll do another test shortly once you’re ready to try again.  If this works, imagine what this would mean for science.  Other quantum states of being, other realities, turning the mind into pure energy, and being free from the bonds of our mortal shells.  Of course, once those military big-shots get word that this might work, they’re gonna exploit it anyway they can.”

     Sam looked up concerned, feeling as though he had heard this tune once too many times before recently.  “What’s the military got to do with this?”

     “I know you’ve only been here two days, but don’t tell me you volunteered without anyone explaining the purpose of this to you?”  Sam’s silence brought a sigh from the doctor as he continued.  “The research done here at the Williams Science Institute is geared towards metaphysical and parapsychic phenomena and applying it to military operations.  Basically, we are attempting to develop astral projection and ESP abilities to aid the military.”

     Sam started to chuckle.  “If I recall something I read in school once, parapsychic phenomena also included the existence of angels or the souls of the dead on another plane of existence.”

     “True,” agreed Daniels, “but I don’t understand the humor here.  I take my research very seriously.”

     “I have a friend named Al,” Sam explained, “who tried to convince me once that angels exist.  I wish he was standing here right now to listen to us talk about it.”  He kept waiting for the whoosh of the Imaging Chamber door but never got it.

     “Maybe your friend Al could try to convince the Colonel sent here to observe the experiments for his boss General Horowitz.  He thinks that the research here is a waste of time and that none of these projects will ever work.  Somehow I feel that even if I can prove you have astral projection ability, that Hawkins guy is just gonna shoot my research down.”

     Sam sat up on the table, as a memory from a past leap came to light.  “Hawkins is here?”

     “Yeah,” nodded Daniels, “you know of him?”

     Sam tried not to let the shock show on his face.  “Uhh, never mind.  Must be thinking of someone else.  The Hawkins I knew was a young cadet, more like a security guard.”    

     “Doesn’t sound like the colonel, although you might run into him.  He’s spending the day in the ESP ward voicing his opinions on how this institute is a waste of time.”

     The leaper leaned back down on the table, exhaled deeply, and muttered, “Ohhh, boy…”





Hope Springs, Virginia

Monday, May 8th, 2006



     Al managed to keep his cool about the new project as General Hawkins and Isaac Lane showed him around the project.  The main warehouse was crawling with armed guards and the upper levels that were once Darius Dreck’s private offices were now converted into computer rooms and complex surveillance suites.  Near the far wall was a metal staircase that led upstairs to the upper levels and close by was a large, wide stack of crates that piled up to the ceiling.  Isaac slid a small secret panel on one of the crates to reveal elevator controls and pushed a button.

     Moments later, the front panels slid up on a few of the bottom crates to reveal an open elevator car.  General Hawkins nodded for Al to follow Isaac and himself inside.  After the door closed, Hawkins pushed a button and the car traveled downward.

     “We’re passing the original underground levels that were built under this warehouse,” Isaac explained.  “The drug dealer that once owned this had about three hidden floors for his illegal drug racket.  Those levels we converted to housing, personnel, cafeteria, and recreational areas.  After obtaining this building we tunneled out some more floors for the main part of the project.”

     The elevator came to a stop and all three men stepped out and headed down a brightly lit, long corridor.  At the end of the hall was the entrance to another elevator with a marine guard on duty who snapped a salute as the others entered the other elevator.

     “I feel like I’m in the opening credits of Get Smart with all these long hallways,” quipped Al to relieve the nervous tension he was experiencing.  “Do we get to fall down inside a telephone booth at the end?”  Isaac chuckled at that remark while Hawkins made no show of emotion.

     The ride this time was shorter and barely a few seconds later, they stepped out into another hallway.  Two marine guards this time blocked a doorway at the far end.  They too saluted Hawkins as the General placed his hand on an identification scanner mounted on the wall by the door.  The red light above the scanner turned green and the door slid to the side with a whoosh.

     As they entered, Al still found himself impressed by the sleek Control Room despite his objections to this project.  Computer consoles were everywhere as were numerous technicians who scurried  around performing final diagnostic checks.  One technician was David Watkins, the grandson of Arnold Watkins, the Midnight Marauder from one of Sam’s past leaps.  With a nod and a slight smile, David hurried past Al to give an attractive, voluptuous, leggy female technician his clipboard.

      “Quite a distraction, isn’t she?” smiled Isaac.

      “Huh?” the Admiral blinked.

      “That tall blonde technician you seem to have just noticed.  That’s Lexia Stafford, head programmer for this project.  Don’t tangle with her, she’s very smart.  The body count on crushed male egos with her is beyond number.”

     “I’m happily married,” was all Al could counter with.

     Isaac shrugged.  “That hasn’t stopped some of our personnel here.  At least one person a week tries to tame Red Sonja over there.  Tell me she doesn’t look like a young Brigette Nielsen with that blonde hair.”

     The Admiral gave the woman another look.  “She does look familiar somehow.”

     Al dismissed the thought as he then peered out the thick glass windows to get a good glimpse of the main project.  It was like being in a press box looking out a few feet over a basketball court.  In this case, the Imaging Chamber Grid appeared to be in a pit below.  The door between the two sets of glass windows in the Control Room led out to a narrow walkway ledge with railings that traveled all around the chamber, leading to an elevator on the right side that led down to the Imaging Chamber Grid below.  More marines guarded the elevator.  Across the chamber, past the pit, was the Accelerator Chamber.  The far-left wall housed the Conference Room.  Suspended above the pit was a giant blue sphere.  A smaller version was placed in the ceiling in the Control Room.

     Al shook his head in disgust as he saw the finished product of what Hawkins had forced Dom to create for him. Turning around inside the Control Room, Al glanced around at some of the computer consoles.  Some were just simply computer terminals while others housed video monitors that showed live video feeds from the Accelerator and the Imaging Chamber Grid.

     All talking in the room ceased as the doors that led out to the walkway ledge opened and Captain Tom Beckett, brought out of retirement as a former Commander, walked in, dressed in his old military uniform.  Behind him were four soldiers dressed in odd military fatigues, and bringing up the rear in a guard’s uniform was J.T. Beckett.

     Tom ignored Al and marched up to General Hawkins to report.  “Mission briefing in the Conference Room complete.  All essential personnel ready for test phase as ordered.”

     “Excellent,” Hawkins nodded as he turned to J.T.  “Prepare for next phase of the mission.  Take the soldiers over to the Accelerator Chamber immediately.”

     J.T. and the four soldiers saluted as they marched out to the walkway and headed along the ledge to the Accelerator Chamber.

     “While we wait, Admiral,” Hawkins began, “I think it is time that you were brought up to speed.  Months ago, I told you that President Bush wanted to focus more on anti-terrorist related projects.  When I had informed him that Dr. Beckett’s project was a success, it was decided to create a project that dealt with fighting terrorism in a manner that involved time travel.  Project Liberty is the end result.  After numerous scientific think tank committees and the assistance of Dr. Samuel Beckett’s proven theories, we are now about to embark on an historic mission.  We will have improved upon Dr. Beckett’s project by sending small elite troops into the past as themselves.  No leapees and no Waiting Room required.  The soldiers will go back fully clothed; their fatigues are specially designed Fermi suits.  These soldiers will ensure that no one else will go back and change things that will affect the course of American history.  What you will see here today is the evolution of Project Quantum Leap.”

     Al was unmoved by the speech.  “What you’re doing is playing God.  What do you really hope to accomplish with this?”

     “This project will stand ready to combat any foreign powers that decide to alter our way of life, and with Omega, our parallel hybrid computer running the show, we will have fair warning to send troops back in the event of an emergency.  Ultimately, should today’s test prove successful, the President has authorized that we initiate an attempt to send soldiers back to prevent the airplane attacks of 9-11.”

     “Unbelievable,” remarked the Admiral in disgust. 

     “You disapprove of Project Liberty, Admiral?  A pity.  I really wanted you on my side in this matter, considering you help Dr. Beckett ‘Play God’ on a regular basis.”

     “Damn right I disapprove…sir.  Whether you believe it or not, there is a force beyond our reasoning.  Call it Time, Fate, God, or whatever you want, but this force has been selecting Sam’s assignments.  For you to just pick and choose your missions as you please goes against this force’s plans.  Hell, you could even find yourself undoing any number of Sam’s previous leaps.  I admit I lost a lot of friends in the Pentagon on 9-11, and I would dearly love to bring them all back.  At one time, I truly wished Sam could will himself back and change it.”

     “What changed your mind?”

     “Something you once said, General, when you talked about how Sam’s failure to capture Dr. Braden in 1985 didn’t actually change much in the whole scheme of things.”

     “Refresh my memory,” ordered Hawkins.

     “You told me that if Dr. Braden had been stopped by Sam, some other criminal element might have come up with a similar idea to Project Quantum Leap.  ‘Where there is one, there is another and another’.  Did I misquote you?  Because I feel the same holds true to stopping 9-11.  If that horrible tragedy were to be prevented, the terrorists would have come up with something else until they had succeeded in attacking this country again.  Stopping one thing would cause another to happen.”

     “But that is the beauty of this project,” reasoned the General.  “We prevent 9-11 and as soon as the terrorists try

something else, Omega notices the change in history and we send our troops back to prevent that.  Our best scientists described it to the President as a temporal war scenario, and we have to be ready to fight on that battleground, whenever it may be.”

     Al chewed on his lower lip.  “Perhaps it has some merit.  However, I question your methods to get to this point.  You sliced funding from other projects including Sam’s to finance this, stole ideas from the blueprints for Sam’s project to build this, and you blackmailed one of my men to get a working copy of Ziggy to run your project.  Using your influence, you then manipulated one of Sam’s leaps to secure a location for this project.  Above all else, there is now blood on your hands.  I question your morals that you had the audacity to do all this.  The end result does not justify the means.”

     A quizzical look came over the General’s face.  “Blood on my hands?  What are you talking about?  Surely there is no need for overdramatics, Admiral.  I admit I may have done a few unorthodox things on the road to launching this project—”

     “Un-Unorthodox?!” Al sputtered.  “You call what you did to those two men--?  Forget it, you don’t want to talk about it with all these people around.  You may have swept all this under the rug, but don’t think you’ve heard the end of this.  Believe me, sir, this is gonna be like the snake charmer who turned his back on the cobra.  It’s gonna bite you in the ass.”

     An almost evil smile came to Hawkins’ face.  “If you feel you have evidence to bring me up on charges, Admiral, then by all means file a report.  Right now, I have a Presidential Approval card in my hand, which gives me all the right I need.  Nothing you can do will stick to me in a court of law, so you might as well give your support to this project because it is going to become operational in just moments.”

     Before Al could argue further, the outer door opened and J.T. entered the room.  “All soldier personnel are situated inside the Accelerator Chamber, sir.”

     “Thank you, Mr. Beckett.  Return to your duties.”

     J.T. saluted the General and assumed a position by the back wall of the Control Room, which contained a spiral stairwell that led down to the Imaging Chamber Grid.  That entranceway could only be opened by a special code.

     “Tell me something, General,” Al inquired skeptically, “how are you going to be able to supply power to leap four people back at the same time?  Sam’s project takes up quite a bit of power just for one person.”

     “Did you enjoy the scenery on the way in, Admiral?”

     “Yeah, I did, but what is the point?”

     The General smirked.  “Come now, Admiral.  Surely you can’t believe that a power source big enough to run this project is located under the warehouse.”

     Al’s eyes widened in understanding.  “The mountains.  You built a nuclear reactor under all those mountains?”

     A twinkle shone in Hawkins’ eyes.  “Wasn’t easy to tunnel all that out, but we managed.  What took the longest amount of time was connecting the control center of this complex to the reactor.  Our biggest concern was accidentally digging into the water on the surface above.  The tributary and its springs provide adequate water to power the energy plant.  The citizens of Hope Springs have been living in the shadow of a nuclear reactor for the last six years and have no idea as to its existence.  The facility also has a power collector to absorb the quantum energy.  Can’t have the damn mountains glowing all day and night to attract tourists and other unwelcome guests.”

     “Collecting that much energy is dangerous,” Al countered.  “What would happen to this town if that collector overloaded and went critical?” 

     Before the General could reply, the door that led to the long hallway opened and a familiar, clean-shaven, well-groomed man in his late forties entered the room.  “Dr. Hasselein,” Hawkins greeted the newcomer.  “Welcome, we are just moments away from testing the project.  Hopefully, you’ll have a favorable report to take back to the President.”

     “I hope so, too,” responded Dr. Hasselein.  “The fact that it doesn’t appear you are ready at this moment has me concerned.”

     “Well,” squirmed the General, “we had a slight glitch in our main computer software this morning.  At first it appeared that another program was trying to overwrite itself but after careful scrutiny, it appears that it cleared up. No traces of any foreign software present.  A minor setback, I assure you.  As soon as Ms. Stafford runs a few more quick tests, we will be ready.  In the meantime, please take a moment to meet the staff and ask questions.”

     Obviously not pleased, Hasselein excused himself and wandered off to observe Tom talking with Lexia and David, then decided instead to head towards a rear station where a medical crew was monitoring the vital signs of the soldiers on four special monitors.  “That was the Chief Scientific Advisor to the President,” Hawkins explained.

     “I know,” shrugged Al.  “I saw him on Larry King once.”

     “Few months ago, I believe,” recalled the General.  “Been so busy with Project Liberty, I tend to have trouble keeping track of time or remembering what day it is.”

     “Experienced lapses in time you can’t explain?” Al remarked sarcastically.

     Something in what Al said struck the General hard, and Al didn’t miss it.  “Was it something I said?”

     “I’m not sure,” responded the General.

     For the first time, Al saw the General as a vulnerable, fragile individual.  Hawkins’ confidence and arrogance seemed to have been ripped away from him.

     “Something to do with lost periods of time?” Al prodded.

     The fragile look on Hawkins’ face disappeared, as it looked like the General was about to change his mind again about getting something heavy off his chest.  Any chance of Al prompting Hawkins further to open up about his problem was lost as Captain Beckett walked to the center of the control room and motioned for everyone to be silent.

     “Ladies and gentleman,” Tom finally announced.  “Ms. Stafford has finished final diagnostics and in a few minutes, everything will be a go.  Everyone to his or her stations please.  General, Admiral, and Dr. Hasselein, you may stand at the far window to observe.”

     As everybody moved to his or her positions, Tom grabbed Al’s arm and pulled him aside.  “Did you tell Sam about his mother dying yet, Admiral?”

     Al pulled his arm away and straightened his sleeve.  “No,” he replied indignantly.  “You know I won’t do that.”

     Sighing, Tom stared at Al coldly.  “Then it was justified that I took the job here.  If you won’t tell Sam, then I am gonna use this project to do what I can to find my brother and bring him home, even if you won’t help me.”

     “Does Hawkins know about this?” demanded the Admiral. 

     Tom spun on his heels and stormed away as Al called after him, “Guess not.”  God, how can this guy be related to Sam?

     All eyes now were staring out across the pit of the Imaging Chamber grid to the Accelerator room on the other side.  Looking through the windows, the forms of the four soldiers could be seen, each one standing equidistant apart.

     “Alignment is in sync,” David Hawkins announced from his computer station in front of the other set of windows that overlooked the project.

     “Sigmatron on line?” came the question from Lexia Stafford from her post at the multi-colored control station in the middle of the room.  Above her, the blue globe of Omega swirled in time to the vastly larger version of the orb that hung suspended over the Imaging Chamber grid outside.

     “Affirmative,” David shot back.  “Sigmatron online and ready to fire.”

     Despite his objections, Al couldn’t help but feel the excitement build as the hum of the Accelerator and Omega’s systems geared up into a powerful crescendo.  The hairs on the Admiral’s back began to rise.  Whether from goose bumps or from the static electrical power being produced, he couldn’t tell.

     “Firing!” yelled Lexia as she placed her hand on the top of the multi-colored console.  Above her, Omega’s globe began to pulse and glow even brighter, almost like a sun growing larger. 

     Remembering Gooshie’s description once about how the former head programmer was immersed in the wake of quantum energy when Sam first leaped, Al expected to feel the effects of the Accelerator overtake him, but then he realized that this new project design kept all that energy spread across the chamber.  Apparently all the power was absorbed or distributed to all the rooms through the large Omega sphere outside, making it the central hub of the project.

     Across the chamber, all eyes watched inside the Accelerator room as the four soldiers used as test subjects began to glow in blue leap energy, their arms reaching upward in euphoria.

     “Soldiers are leaping!” confirmed David.

     “Confirmed,” Tom Beckett stated from another station.  “After leap-in is complete, I will initiate next phase.”  Seconds later, the four forms disappeared, leaving the Accelerator empty.  “Heading for the Imaging Chamber.”  Tom walked over to the doorway next to his son, J.T. and entered his code to take the winding stairway down to the pit.

     “Tom is the project observer?” Al asked Hawkins, stunned.

     “One of four, actually,” Hawkins replied.  “The other three are still recovering in the medical ward from having the neural links installed in their brains.  Tom was the only one who could handle it without ill effects.  For some strange reason, Omega only likes Captain Beckett’s link.  Besides, for this operation all four soldiers will be in the same area, so one observer will suffice.  We only need four observers when they are split up in different locations.  That’s why the grid is split up into four squares.  We can monitor all four from up here separately.”

     The room quieted as each square below suddenly contained a blue glowing form.  As the glow dissipated, a test soldier took up each space.  Everyone in the control room cheered as the soldiers looked around confused in their new environment, which consisted of an empty office with two windows and a door. 

     “Instantaneous leaping?” Al said in disbelief.  “No lag time in between?”

     “Come now, Admiral, my scientists may not be as smart as Dr. Beckett, but I put enough of them together that they were able to come up with something that was an upgrade.  Originally, the President wanted us to simply send a man back at least seven days into the past.  I think we outdid our goals here, wouldn’t you say?”

     Al could only nod in agreement as he realized how obsolete Sam’s project was about to become.  What would that mean for Sam?

     “Another change,” the General continued as he spoke softly to Al, “is that no one has to touch the observer to see what is going on in the Imaging Chamber.  If you recall, the accident back in 1959 with Dr. Garner’s experiment did some damage to me.  I couldn’t see any images in your Imaging Chamber and for this project I need to know what is happening at all times, forgive the pun.  We made some progress in that we can see it all happening directly below or we can watch the live feed on smaller monitors up here.  That way, we can give the observers assistance in combat situations.  Extra eyes can’t hurt.  Considering the amount of money that was poured into this, there will only be one project like Liberty.  All of us here must make sure that nothing goes wrong because we won’t get a second chance with this.”

     Al looked on in amazement as he watched the soldiers check out the room.  One went to a set of windows and pulled the blind, only to discover that they were overlooking the inside of the warehouse that housed Project Liberty.  Another one tried the door and found it to be locked while a third soldier opened the blinds to the other window and looked out to see a car pull up to the building.  Al’s eyes widened as he saw it was himself an hour in the past getting helped out of the military car and stretching from the fatigue of his plane ride.

     “Soldiers have reached leap-in target,” stated David.  “May 8th, 2006.  Exactly one hour ago, inside one of the old upper level offices in the main warehouse.”

     In the pit below, Tom Beckett entered the room carrying a multi-colored handlink.  All four test-soldiers seemed oblivious to his presence.  Standing in the exact middle of the grid, Tom hit a button on the handlink and suddenly all four soldiers turned and approached him.  One put out his hand and was shocked to find it pass through Tom.  “Congratulations, men,” said the new holographic observer’s voice over speakers scattered through the control room.  “Phase one is a success.  You have gone back an hour in time.”

     “One small leap for mankind,” one of the soldier’s voices crackled over the speaker.

     “Have to fix the leapers’ vocal distortion,” muttered Lexia as she pressed a button on her console.  “Tom, please inform the men that we are about to initiate retrieval process.”

     Looking up at the control room, Tom nodded and did as he was instructed.  Then he pushed a button and walked to the exit from the pit, leaving the soldiers confused as they looked around but could not see him. 

     Once Tom was back up in the control room, Lexia barked to David, “Prepare to execute Project Liberty Retrieval Program.”

     “Program ready,” David replied.

     Exhaling deeply, Lexia placed her hand on the console.  “Execute.”

     David hit some buttons on his console and brought the retrieval program on-line.  Once again, the energy output in the project built up to a climax, the hum of the Accelerator even this far away was almost deafening.  Down in the pit, all four soldiers stood still as their bodies became enveloped by blue energy. 

     Even Al was amazed as the four soldiers disappeared off the grid.  “Your program works!” he exclaimed, thinking of how he could get this to work for his best friend Sam.

     Across the chamber, everyone stared at the four masses of blue energy beginning to take shape in the Accelerator.  The globs of energy began to take on human form slowly, blue  quantum electrical energy dispelling from them.  Suddenly at David and Lexia’s stations, sparks began to fly from the controls as alarms sounded.

     “The glitch is back!” shouted Lexia in horror.

     “Shut down the power!” thundered Hawkins over the cries of alarm coming from the onlookers. 

     “If we do that,” yelled David as he tried to work the controls  without electrocuting himself, “we don’t know what will happen to the soldiers.  They might return back to one hour ago, or they might return here.”

     “They might even become stuck between times!” added Lexia as the hum of the power got even stronger.

     The four shapes of blue quantum energy dimmed to almost nonexistence and then suddenly returned with a fierce blue glow.  “What the hell?” screamed Lexia as the blue energy suddenly shifted to a fierce blinding red.  Sparks and small fires now sprang from several consoles and monitors.  Without warning, the red glow vanished and the power levels returned to safer levels.  J.T. and a few of the technicians grabbed fire extinguishers to put out the small fires.

     Silence filled the room as people tried to figure out what had happened.  “Where the hell are my men?” demanded Hawkins, peering out at an empty Accelerator Chamber.

     “Not sure,” Lexia trembled from the shock.  “The glitch has disappeared again.  Omega has no lock on any of their vital signs.”

     “There won’t be any vital signs,” remarked Al gravely as he pointed to a monitor that showed the interior of the Accelerator.  “They returned home all right.”

     Cries of horror and the sounds of nauseous people filled the control room.  Sadly, Al turned to Hawkins, trying not to show how horrified he was at the moment.  “General, I’ve seen enough today.  I’m heading back.  Looks like there’s more blood on your hands now and this time, you can’t cover it up.”  Without another word, Al walked out of the project and did not look back, leaving Hawkins to stare at the monitor, where four burnt unrecognizable masses lay smoldering on the Accelerator Room floor, burnt from the inside out by quantum energy.  So caught up in the horrible tragedy, the General pushed aside any notion of confiding in Al that he had recently experienced lapses in time he could not explain.





Friday, September 7th, 2001

Plainfield, New Jersey



     Sam made sure the wires were still firmly attached to his bare arms and chest before lying back and covering himself with the blanket on the examination table.  Before long, he felt relaxed and ready to begin the experiment again.

     “Ready to proceed?” Daniels wanted to know.

     “Yeah,” Sam groggily answered, his eyelids starting to droop from the inner peace he was feeling.

     Dr. Daniels activated the EKG and EEG machines and then turned off the light before exiting the room, leaving Sam in darkness.

     “Can you hear me in there?” the doctor’s voice crackled over a small intercom located in the ceiling.

     “Yeah,” Sam replied again.

     “Good.  Quiet your mind and free it from any thoughts, concerns, or fears,” instructed the doctor’s voice from the other room.  “As long as doubt clouds your mind, you will not achieve your goal.  It must be controlled.  Achieved by not doing anything.”

     Sam laid there, his eyes shut.  His breathing slowing down as he tried to clear his mind of thought, especially concerning his leap and the lack of Al’s presence, and he was finding it difficult to do so.

     “Relax your body, Reg,” the voice of the doctor soothed. “Relax your face…your jaw…relaxing.  Now relax your shoulders…your neck…your arms and hands.  Feel at peace now.  Let go of thought.  Relax your hips…your torso…your legs and feet.  You should be completely relaxed.”

     The feeling of inner peace seemed to augment inside Sam as he heard Daniels continue, “Focus on your breathing.  Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth slowly.  Soon, you will see yourself floating away from your physical body.  Let go of the fear, the inhibitions that deny you the experience.  In your mind, pick a location directly in front of you in the room.  Target that area and project yourself to it.  Remain conscious while your body is asleep, free of physical sensations.  You may feel a tingling or electrical energy building up inside you, push it down, keep it at bay.”

     For a brief moment, Sam felt overly relaxed and began to feel a tingling.  Growing stronger, it began to feel like quantum electrical energy signaling that he was about to leap out.  Calmness stayed with him.  Instead of crying out in fear or letting the sensation overwhelm him, Sam found he was calmly able to push the sensation down, down deep past his toes until it was gone.

     Suddenly, a familiar sensation took over as Sam realized he had stopped breathing and yet felt unaffected.  Opening his eyes, he was shocked to find himself upright, hovering a few inches off the floor.  Once again on the table, under the blanket, was himself.  Not the young blonde face, but the aged face of Sam Beckett, eyes closed, oblivious to the world, and breathing very slowly.

     “Amazing, isn’t it, Sam?”

     The leaper hovered only by a few inches and turned to see who called him by name.  All he could perceive was a figure all in white, shining brightly.  But before Sam could make out the face, the room spun around again and he found himself back on the table shivering as he pulled the blanket tightly around himself.

     Immediately after, the door opened and Daniels hit the light switch.  Trying to overcome the chilly air while adjusting his eyes to the brightness of the room, Sam was able to make out the forms of Daniels and Al, dressed in his military whites.  Sam kept quiet as he tried to hide his delight in finally seeing his friend.  A part of him wanted to strangle his holographic partner for being late.

     Dr. Daniels checked his printouts and then began to unfasten the electrodes and discs.  “That was a much better attempt. According to these machines, you briefly had an out of body experience.  Too bad you lost the control and returned.  Almost seemed like something shocked you back.”

     Sam gave Al a sideways look as the doctor handed Sam his clothes.  “Go ahead and put them on, Reg.  We’re done for today.  I have a few more people to check in on later this afternoon and then I’m off to Blockbuster after work.  My niece and nephew are coming to visit this weekend from Hope Springs, Virginia and they want me to rent that X-Men movie.  My niece Phoebe is such a tomboy, watching superhero movies all the time.  Can’t believe she’s almost a teenager already.  You like superhero movies, Reg?”

     The leaper winced as he recalled a recent leap in Hope Springs as a superhero named Captain Liberty.  “Not really.  Had a bad experience as one once.”  Sam’s mind did a somersault.  Where have I heard the name Phoebe Daniels before?  Hope Springs?  Coincidence?

     “Ohh-kay.” Baffled by the enigmatic answer, Daniels headed for the door.  “After you’ve dressed, you can let yourself out.  Have a good weekend.  I’ll see you Monday.”

     After saying goodbye and making sure Daniels was gone, Sam turned to Al.    “Where have you been?” the leaper demanded.  “Did you see what I was just able to do?  I was able to astral project myself!  It was amazing, Al, to be able to touch another plane of reality.  We might have just witnessed the evolution of man’s existence!”

     The Admiral didn’t quite seem to share Sam’s excitement.  “Apparently, I interrupted your session.  My apologies, Sam, but I couldn’t get here any faster.  Other issues have preoccupied my time.”

     “Other issues?  Like what, Al?”

     “I can’t go into it right now.  Events keep changing, and we can no longer determine what will happen any longer.”

     Puzzlement crossed Sam’s face.  “What events?  What’s happening?  Is it something I changed, or didn’t change?”

     Al’s face remained blank.  “We don’t know if it’s something on your end, or ours.  Something is about to happen in your present, and mine.  Something that might also have future repercussions.”

     “What are you talking about?  Do you have any information for me?”

     The Admiral clasped his hands together.  “I’ll share what I know.  Right now, you are Reginald van Halstrom, age 23, and it’s September 7th, 2001.  By this time, you must realize that Reginald has parapsychic ability in that he can utilize an area of his brain most people have never tapped into and astral project himself.”

     “His ability is being examined by the military here for some sort of project,” Sam added.  “Apparently, I inherited Reginald’s ability.”

     A half-smile crossed Al’s face.  “Yes, and no.  You leaped into Reginald just as the ability was manifesting itself.  It triggered the area in your brain that controls that.  In most, it is a dead area of the brain since most people never learn to tap into it.  Many of us have mental abilities that we never knew we possessed and will never get to use them.  Your once-in-a-generation brain is quite easily capable of reaching to these dead areas.”

     “You think my brain is capable of doing more than just astral projecting?”

     “Perhaps,” Al nodded.  “But you have to believe in yourself to do it. Self-doubt will always be your enemy.”

     Sam looked at his friend in a new light.  “Al, you’re getting very philosophical on me all of a sudden.”

     Al’s eyes twinkled in amusement, as if he were holding back on an inside joke.  “You’re right, we shouldn’t be talking about all this right now.  I should be telling you why you are here.”

     “No one needs a psychic to figure that one out,” Sam remarked.

     The Admiral ignored that.  “From what I was told, you have to stop a scientist that is working here on a project.”

     “That’s very straight forward.  Seems like all I do anymore is destroy people’s projects.  This just seems too simple a leap, I thought they were gonna get tougher?”

     “It is a simple leap, Sam, but it may surprise you that the tougher part depends on your point of view.”

     “Why do I get the feeling you aren’t telling me everything?”

     Al clasped his hands again.  “I’ve told you all I can.”

     “Give me some more details.  Who is this scientist we are supposed to stop?  What project is he working on?”

     “The scientist’s name is Dr. Badi-al-Zaman Qasim, from the Middle East.  He is working here at the Williams Science Institute in an attempt to prove that early versions of your String Theory work.”

     Sam could only stare back at his friend in shock and disbelief for a few seconds before uttering, “What?  How is that possible?”

     “Don’t you remember one of your past leaps, Sam?  When you and Dr. Garner went to D.C. to catch Dr. Braden?” (Author’s note: See True Callings Part III)

     Vague recollection came to Sam’s mind as Al continued, “The table in the corner that Dr. Braden was sitting at.  There were two men with him.  One was a Middle Eastern man who was looking at what Braden had to sell.  That was Abdul-Azim Mustafa, a very prominent businessman.  He bought the secrets of Quantum Leap and gave them to Dr. Qasim, the man sitting with his back to you at the table.  Mustafa has employed Qasim in the States for the last fifteen years to determine whether or not he could prove the theories work and secure American funding that he would then steal and bring back to his country.  According to their plan, Mustafa and Qasim would then build their own project, one with ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.”

     “Al Qaeda?  What is that?”

     “Long story, Sam.  It’s a group of terrorists that have done horrible things to the world in Quantum Leap’s present.  If this project gets completed, and the al Qaeda get time travel technology, it will be hell on earth.  Mustafa and especially Qasim must be stopped.”

     “So how do I go about this?”

     “Mustafa has recently arrived in the country and will be here this afternoon at the Institute to check on Qasim’s progress.  In 2001, the terrorist network hasn’t been fully brought to public awareness yet until 9-11 happens, so these men will be respected somewhat amongst their peers.  Somehow, whatever materials they have must be destroyed.”

     “9:11?  What happens at 9:11?”

     “It’s not so much a time of day as it is a date in history.”

     “If today is the 7th, then…” Sam’s voice trailed off.

     “No, Sam,” Al said gravely.  “You’re not here to change 9-11.”

     “But something will happen, won’t it?” Sam demanded to know.  “Innocent people will be affected.”

     “Believe me when I say to you that 9-11 is far too complicated for Reginald van Halstrom to prevent while in New Jersey.”

     Saddened, Sam glanced at the clock.  “It’s 1:25 now.  How much time do I have on this leap?”

     Al paused for a moment.  “Mustafa will be here at 2pm sharp.  I suggest you get to Qasim’s lab immediately and demolish the place.  If you act now, you can accomplish your goal before anyone finds out.”

     Incredulously, the leaper turned to his friend.  “I’m supposed to break into someone’s lab and vandalize it?  What if I’m caught?  What would happen to Reginald?”

     “In the grand scheme of things, one person’s fate versus the fate of the world puts things into clarity.  None of us are pleased that this all can’t be resolved with a happy ending.  No matter how we try to change things, this is the best option possible.  This project has to be destroyed in the next hour or Hawkins’ boss General Horowitz will green light it, and major history will be changed.”

     “Al, Hawkins is here with me in the past.”

     “I know, Sam, but whatever you do, you are not to change anything in his life.”

     “Why not, Al?  I should at least warn him about Dr. Qasim and Mustafa.”

     Al shook his head.  “It’s too risky.  At this point in time he would have no knowledge of Project Quantum Leap.  If you change anything concerning Hawkins, he might not decide to continue funding in the future during your leap into Ohdee back in 1959.  Since Mustafa and Braden were not stopped in ’85, this is the next best place in the timeline to alter it.  I have trust in you that you won’t be caught and Reginald’s life will go forward as before.  I have to check back in, Sam, so good luck.  Qasim’s office is reached by leaving Dr. Daniels’ lab and making a right down the hall.  Turn left at the end and go through a pair of double doors.  Go past the snack area and turn right.  Go down some steps and make a left.  The lab at the end is Qasim’s.”

     Sam headed for the lab exit and paused, amazed at how Al was able to rattle off that information.  Over and over in his brain, things did not add up.  Something wasn’t right with Al, he seemed different.  His observer wasn’t telling him everything he knew, things were being held back.  Turning around to confront his friend, he realized the room was empty and Al was gone.

     Trying to keep himself calm, Sam left the lab and turned right, down the hall.  At the end, he made a left as Al instructed him to do, and opened up a pair of double doors and walked through them.  A long hallway stretched beyond and a snack area complete with vending machines, and a few tables were located within on the right.  A little further down on the left side was a receptionist area where a couple of scientists in lab coats were talking to two military men.  Although somewhat older, Sam recognized the one man as Hawkins, now a colonel in this time.

     “Excuse me,” came a voice from the snack area.

     Sam turned to see there was a lone occupant inside the area.  He was a man in his early thirties, with slicked back blonde hair, dressed in black, and sitting in a wheelchair.  “Can I help you?” the leaper asked.

     “Yeah.  I need you to do me a big favor.  The paper towel roll is empty and I obviously can’t reach the replacement rolls up on the top shelf of the pantry.  My bad leg won’t let me reach up for them.  Haven’t graduated to a cane yet.””

     “Sure,” Sam replied hurriedly, thinking this would only take a second and then he would be on his way to Qasim’s office with no great amount of time lost. 

     “Really appreciate this.  Can’t do much until I start the therapy on my leg I’m afraid.  Name’s Johnny, by the way.”

     “Mine’s Reginald.”  Walking inside the snack area, Sam reached the pantry and grabbed a roll of paper towels, then handed it to the young man.  As soon as Johnny touched the roll, his body froze up and an odd look came over his face.  Quickly, the look disappeared, but the look of fear was unquestionably present.

     “Are you all right?” asked Sam in alarm.

     “I’m fine.  I get like this from time to time.  Everything will be cool in a few minutes,” the young man said as he regained his breath.

     Sam nodded.  “Well, you seem ok, I really must be going.”

     As the leaper turned to leave, Johnny called out, “Wish I could say you’ll be ok, Sam.”

     Whirling around, Sam walked back to Johnny.  “What did you call me?”

     “If you want to go by Reginald, that’s fine with me,” Johnny replied cryptically, “Even though we both know that isn’t true.”

     “Who are you?”

     “I told you, Sam, my name is Johnny.  Haven’t been awake from my coma a week yet when this reverend I know named Purdy decides to fly me down from Maine for the day to be a part of some psychic experiment because he is buddies with this one Colonel who supervises here.  Apparently I have abilities, or so they claim, from a car accident I was involved in six years ago that left me in that coma.  The scientists here tell me I’ve accessed some sort of unused dead area of my brain.  Contact with an object gives me vibes on a person’s past, present, or future.  When I touched the roll after you gave it to me, I got glimpses of your life.  I knew your name was Sam from what I saw.”

     “What else do you know about me?” wondered Sam.

     Johnny took a towel and wiped a small soda spill off the table.  “For starters, in my vision, there was one specific guy’s face with many different faces overlapping it one at a time.  I also know what you plan to do in Qasim’s lab and it won’t work.”

     “What did you see?”

     “If you go into Qasim’s lab in the next hour by yourself, you will be killed.”  The look of dread returned to Johnny’s eyes as he slowly continued, “A horrible tragedy will occur.  I don’t think the catastrophe will occur today, but sometime in the future.  It looked like Armageddon.”

     The revelation hit Sam hard as he shut his eyes and exhaled deeply.  “I have to stop this project, even if it means my life.  I caused all this and I am not gonna be responsible for causing anything even close to Armageddon.”

     Johnny stared Sam hard in the face.  “I don’t know how I’d react if I were in your place like that, stopping Armageddon I mean.  I do know that you will be killed if you carry out your plan.  Whatever it is you are here to stop must be very important.”

     Before Sam could speak, Colonel Hawkins marched into the room.  Even though Hawkins could not recognize Sam, the leaper still tried to hide himself from the other man’s gaze. 

     “There you are, Mr. Smith,” Hawkins bellowed in his deep voice as he pushed Johnny’s wheelchair towards the hallway.  “Your little break is over.  Time we returned back to the lab.  I promised Reverend Purdy we’d have you back on a plane to Maine within the next few hours.”  As the Colonel started to guide the wheelchair, a gasp of pain escaped his lips as he grasped his left arm and began to double over.

     “Are you all right, Colonel?” Johnny asked as he reflexively put out an arm to help steady Hawkins.

     “I’m fine,” Hawkins replied as he reached out for Johnny’s assistance.  “It’s just an old injury that flares up from time to time.  Got shocked by a lightning bolt once back in the 50’s.”

     As Hawkins grabbed Johnny’s arm, Sam could notice the odd look come over the psychic’s face.  Again, the look quickly vanished as Johnny was slowly led away towards the exit.

     “A moment please, Colonel.”  Johnny stopped short, turned his wheelchair around, and moved himself back to talk to Sam.

     “Make it quick, Mr. Smith,” warned Hawkins as he massaged his sore arm.  “The sooner I am done with these ridiculous projects, the better.  I don’t want anything I do here risking my chances for the promotion I’m up for.”

     Johnny ignored Hawkins as he leaned close to Sam’s ear and whispered as calmly as he could, “Do not trust anyone, people are not who they appear to be.  Be careful of broken glass or you will fail.  The Colonel is the man you want.  He’s part of something that will cause Armageddon.  He must be stopped or Washington D.C. will burn in flames!”

     Johnny called over to Hawkins. “I’m ready to go now, Shockey.”

     “How do you know about that?” the bewildered Colonel gasped.  Without another word, Johnny left with Hawkins, leaving behind a very stunned time-traveler.





Friday, September 7th, 2001

Plainfield, New Jersey



     His mind swimming, all Sam could think of was the prophecy that Hawkins would cause Armageddon.  On one level it made sense but on another it was a contradiction.  Wasn’t it the point to stop Mustafa and Qasim in order to prevent their project from seeing the light of day and thus avoiding the catastrophe?  But Johnny said Washington D.C. would burn in flames and Hawkins would be the cause of it all.  What was the missing piece that linked all of this together?

     In alarm, Sam saw the clock, which read 1:56pm.  John Smith’s revelations had caused him to become so lost in thought that he had lost sense of time as well.  As fast as he could, Sam turned right out of the snack area, and then made another immediate right and ran down a flight of stairs to a lower corridor.  At the left end of the hall was a door and on the right was an open janitor’s closet.

     Sam tried to open the door on the left.  To his dismay, it was locked.  With all his weight, he tried slamming into the door to try to break it open but to no avail.  Hunched over and panting from exhaustion, Sam’s gaze traveled back up the hall to the flight of steps.  Two pairs of shoes were descending towards him.  With no time to lose, Sam bolted into the janitor’s closet and closed the door just far enough that he could peek out and see who was coming.

     Two men with Middle Eastern features, talking animatedly in Arabic, approached the locked door across the hallway.  Sam recognized the one, Mustafa, from a previous leap, his Swiss-cheesed memory not in effect this time as he remembered the man sitting at a table in a previous leap, buying secrets from Dr. Braden.  The other man, apparently Dr. Qasim, produced a key from his lab coat and unlocked the door.  Both men entered, the door closing and locking behind them.

     Cursing under his breath, Sam decided to come up with a plan.  Turning on the closet light, he looked around to see what he could use.  All he saw was a mop bucket, a broom, a ladder, and some spray bottles.  Considering his options, Sam grabbed the broom and snapped off the handle at the bristles.

     Opening the door, Sam glanced around to make sure no one was coming, and then trotted over to the door.  Inside, he could hear the sound of machinery humming loudly. As he reached for the door to knock, the sound of footsteps on the stairs forced Sam to dart back into the closet.

     The footsteps became louder as the newcomer came into Sam’s view.  To the leaper’s astonishment, he saw that it was yet another older version of his friend from previous past leaps, Dr. Alexander Garner, who now looked to be in his late eighties, slightly stooped over, very frail, and hobbling on a cane.  It was quite clear that the cancer Garner was fighting was taking its toll, plainly evident by the lack of hair on his head and the tone of his skin.  Sam watched as Garner knocked loudly on the door and soon after Mustafa opened it.

     “The power generator is gearing up now,” Mustafa informed Garner.

     “Excellent,” replied Garner weakly.  “I’ll get the Colonel and the General.”  Mustafa nodded and shut the door again as Garner slowly disappeared back up the steps.

     Sam’s mind reeled.  His friend was in league with Mustafa and Qasim, the same two he and Garner had watched buy information from Braden?  Worse yet, Hawkins was involved, and, if Johnny Smith was right, also the one responsible for a major catastrophe.  Was Garner connected to this tragedy somehow, too?

     Johnny also said Sam would die if he took on Mustafa and Qasim alone, but he was determined to end this right here and now by any means necessary.  Grabbing the broomstick as a club, Sam marched across the hall and pounded on the door.  Seconds later, it opened and Sam found himself face to face with Qasim, the scientist.  Apparently expecting Garner, he was surprised to find Sam in the guise of a young man with blonde hair.  Using the element of surprise, Sam pushed the man backward to the floor and followed him into the room.

     The lab was full of electrical equipment and other type of apparatus.  A power generator was situated to one side of all of this, operating at a very high speed.  In the center of the equipment was a man-sized oval container that was connected to almost everything.  Inside the container, small threads of electrical energy moved within.

     “What is the meaning of this?” Qasim demanded as he got to his feet and stood next to his partner.

     “I know what you’re doing in here,” Sam brandished his broomstick, pointing the jagged broken end towards the two men, “and I’m gonna make sure this project ends here.”

     “This project,” Mustafa shrugged, “is just a harmless experiment in an attempt to accelerate and harness energy at a sub-atomic level.  You appear to have entered a lab you do not belong in.  Please leave immediately.”

     “Don’t lie to me!” snapped Sam.  “You’re in the early stages of conducting a time travel experiment, and I can’t permit this to continue.”

     “I don’t think so,” Mustafa said in astonishment, pulling out a gun from under his lab coat.  “You will not be allowed to interfere.  Tell me, my young friend, what do you know about this?”

     “I know enough,” Sam shouted, the roar of the machinery increasing.  “I was there sixteen years ago when you made the deal to purchase all these secrets.”

     “Liar!” snarled Mustafa.  “You would have been a boy all those years ago.”

     “How could a little boy remember you sitting in a corner at a Washington D.C. hotel, buying a suitcase full of secrets from a bearded man with glasses?” reasoned the leaper. 

     Fear began to cross the businessman’s face.  “Who sent you?”

     “Do you believe in Fate?” Sam countered, noticing the itchy trigger finger that the gunman was developing.

     “I believe in Allah,” responded Mustafa icily, the gun shaking in his hand, “and very, very soon, America will fall to its knees, begging for forgiveness.”

     “Sam,” came Al’s voice suddenly from behind the leaper, “he’s going to shoot you if you don’t act now.”

     “I’ll die first before this experiment succeeds!” Sam cried.

     Before anyone could act, the door to the lab opened and Dr. Garner entered the room followed by Colonel Hawkins and General Horowitz.

     “What the hell is going on here?” thundered Horowitz who saw Mustafa’s weapon and out of reflex, reached for his own sidearm.  Startled by the intrusion, Mustafa turned and fired a shot that struck the General in the chest.  As Hawkins reached with his right hand for his sidearm, a second bullet found his left shoulder and knocked him to the ground where he lay motionless from shock.  Dr. Garner made an attempt to leave the room but stopped when a bullet winged past him into the wall by the door.

     “Away from the door, doctor!  Move over next to him,” Mustafa motioned with his gun towards Sam.

     “You fool!” Qasim screamed at his partner.  “Without the aid of the military, we won’t be able to steal their funding and equipment and return home with it.  We’ll be lucky to get out of this country with our lives!”

     “Silence,” ordered Mustafa.  “It was an accident.  My finger slipped on the trigger with the General.  We can still get out of this,” he sneered, turning to Sam, “as long as we eliminate witnesses.  Qasim, go to the main power generator controls and overload the output.  We can’t leave any traces of this experiment behind for someone to copy.  The work will be continued someplace else.  Considering what is planned to happen in a few days, it would be best if we stay with our plan and take what we have now and leave this country immediately.”

     Qasim nodded and walked over to the control panel and initiated the power regulator.  The hum and the noise grew deafening as all the power directed into the oval container began to overload the equipment.  Larger strands of electricity began to fill it now.

     Sam, unclear as to whether the psychic’s vision was coming to pass, stared straight ahead and yelled, “Al, I could use some help right now!  Al?”

     “Al?” Garner turned to the leaper, eyes wide in understanding. “Sam, if that is you, I’m sorry you became involved in this. I was asked by the Colonel to come out of retirement and supervise this project.  I wanted to see how much information they had.   Had no idea they were capable of this much.  Can’t let them duplicate our work.”

     “Shut up!” screamed Mustafa before Garner could comment further.  “Qasim, pick up my briefcase.  We may have lost this experiment but at least I’ll have the notes to start over again.  It took over fifteen years to get this far with the meager funding I’ve gotten, I can wait another fifteen more.  The day this technology becomes a reality, time will have a new meaning for me.”

     Dr. Qasim picked up the briefcase and handed it to Mustafa.  Before Qasim knew what happened next, Mustafa shot him in the chest.  Falling forward, the doctor clawed at Mustafa, who stepped back to allow his victim to slide off of him.  Surprise lit up Qasim’s eyes before they rolled back and he collapsed to the floor, dead.

     “I can always find a scientist back home that won’t have any knowledge of what has happened here today,” the businessman laughed, turning his attention back on Sam and Dr. Garner.  “Two bullets left, and two more witnesses to dispose of.”

     “Do something now, Sam,” pleaded Al, as Mustafa’s gun swiveled in Sam’s direction.  “We’re running out of time!”

     Sam’s mind went into overdrive.  Was this the vision that Johnny tried to warn him about?  By barging into the lab alone, was he about to meet his fate?  But he wasn’t alone, Dr. Garner was with him.  Would the vision be changed?

     Before the leaper could figure out an answer, the most incredulous sight of this leap filled his eyes.  Al, his best friend and holographic observer, walked up to Dr. Garner and stepped not through him, but into him!

     Dr. Garner, his face contorted into a look of brief puzzlement and then understanding, dropped his cane as he shook for a brief moment as a man possessed and walked on his own power between Sam and Mustafa.  This time I’m going to die with dignity!” the doctor screamed as he threw himself puppet-like at the evil businessman.  Two cracks sounded as Mustafa emptied his last two bullets into the left side of Dr. Garner’s chest.

     “NOOOO!” The recent feelings of possibly being betrayed by the scientist forgotten, Sam yelled in anguish, watching the man he had known over the course of his leaping, fall to the floor, blood seeping outward to form puddles around him.  Garner’s eyes were glazed over, and a second later, he ceased to live.

     Enraged, Sam charged at Mustafa in a bloodcurdling roar and hit him hard with the broomstick.  With so much anger in the swing, the stick broke in two across the businessman’s chest, sending the al Qaeda operative screaming backwards into a collection of machinery where he collided with a loud smash.  Somehow, it took all of Mustafa’s strength to stand back up, his hand now clutching a long jagged piece of glass that had broken off of a display panel.  Barely able to stand, he assessed the damage and broken bones he knew were inflicted on him as he staggered forward.

     “By Allah, I will strike you down, infidel,” Mustafa vowed, spitting out blood as he cursed Sam.  “Your death will most assuredly be much slower and more excruciating than Dr. Garner’s,” he continued as he managed to slash out at Sam.  Each time, the leaper was able to avoid the sting of the sharp glass, but it allowed the businessman to advance closer and get into better striking distance.

     In a last desperate attempt, Mustafa drove his hand forward to stab the leaper in the stomach.  Just in time, Sam reached out with both hands and grabbed Mustafa’s wrist, the blade edge almost pressed into the fabric of his shirt.  The businessman’s face twisted in pain, blood pouring from the hand tightly clutching the broken glass, as he used his other hand to try and remove Sam’s grip on his wrist.  Pushing outward, it seemed Sam was slowly starting to win the battle of strength as the blade inched away bit by bit.  Muscles straining from the effort, the leaper was surprised by the tenacity of his foe’s attack.  After a weird merry-go-round struggle of going in circles to keep Mustafa from impaling him on the glass, Sam soon found himself pressed up against the same machinery he had knocked the businessman into just moments earlier.   

     Sensing the momentum was going his way, Mustafa renewed his attack with a fierce determination, the glass blade once again close to finding its way past Sam’s flesh.  In what seemed like another lifetime, Sam’s memory suddenly flashed on another scene. 

     Standing in a dark alley as a heavy downpour crashed down over him, Sam peered out through the eye-slits of a mask. Without mistake, he quickly realized he was back in the garb of Captain Liberty.  Coming towards him brandishing a knife was a street punk with blond peroxide hair.  Impatiently, the punk raced forward to stab him just as a bright flash of lightning blinded the leaper followed by a loud clap of thunder…

     Just as quickly, the flash faded and Sam found himself standing in a police station office wearing an officer’s uniform.  On the name badge was the name McPhearson.  In another room he heard someone answer a telephone by saying, “Hope Springs Police Department.” 

     Standing across from him was Al.

     “From what Ziggy just told me, General Hawkins has opened another project,” the Observer’s voice spoke.

     “What?” Sam heard himself ask in disbelief.  The leaper spoke the words, but he really wasn’t saying them.  It was as if he was the Observer instead of the leaper, eavesdropping on a conversation between Al and another Sam.

     Al nodded his head appropriately at Sam’s shocked response. “You heard me.” Al pocketed the handlink then threw his hands up in the air and let them flop back down to his sides. “I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Ziggy said that it dealt with anti-terrorism. What a riot -- a maniac dealing with the maniacs! Talk about redundant.”

     Sam began to pace. “Did Ziggy say what the project would entail? Will it affect us at all?”

     Al frowned and screwed up his mouth. “Well, that’s the problem, Sam. We don’t know.”…

    The image brightened intensely again as Sam found himself as he was an hour ago, sitting on the examination table inside Dr. Daniels research room.  Again, Al stood near him in his military whites uniform and the same feeling of being an observer overcame the leaper.

    “Events keep changing, and we can no longer determine what will happen any longer,” Al informed him.

     Puzzlement crossed Sam’s face.  “What events?  What’s happening?  Is it something I changed, or didn’t change?”

     Al’s face remained blank.  “We don’t know if it’s something on your end, or ours.  Something is about to happen in your present, and mine.  Something that might also have future repercussions.”…

    Sam found himself in the Institute’s snack area, facing the psychic seated across the table from him.  A look of dread filled Johnny’s eyes as he slowly said, “A horrible tragedy will occur.  I don’t think the catastrophe will occur today, but sometime in the future.  It looked like Armageddon.”

     The revelation hit Sam hard as he shut his eyes and exhaled deeply.  “I have to stop this project, even if it means my life.  I caused all this and I am not gonna be responsible for causing anything even close to Armageddon.”

     Johnny leaned close to Sam’s ear and whispered as calmly as he could, “Do not trust anyone, people are not who they appear to be.  Be careful of broken glass or you will fail.  The Colonel is the man you want.  He’s part of something that will cause Armageddon.  He must be stopped or Washington D.C. will burn in flames!”…

    Another intense flash of lightning found the leaper back again as Captain Liberty in the alley.  The punk was rushing towards him again, the knife held high. With perfect timing, Sam executed a high spin kick to the face, rivulets of rain flying off of his dark blue costume and spraying everywhere as his boot connected with the punk’s face, knocking him cold to the wet pavement.

     Exhausted, Sam stood in the downpour and reached down to his side, expecting to find blood from a knife slash wound.  To his amazement, he was unharmed. 

    ‘What is going on?’ he wondered.  ‘Am I having a vision like Johnny Smith’s?  Have I touched upon another mental ability in my mind that most people never tap into?’   Before he could understand anything further, the bright flash returned…

     Reality came back to the leaper as he found himself still pressed against the machinery, just moments from losing his life to Mustafa.  I can’t let this man win,’ Sam thought as he renewed his strength to avoid being stabbed.  ‘There was no blood or a knife wound on me in my vision even though everything played out as before.  Fate has shown me I will not die here.  This experiment will not be completed.  It will not be run by terrorists.  But how is this linked to Hawkins?  Is this vision telling me I need to stop both?”

     Sam realized it was now or never, the moment of truth had arrived.  Bracing his left foot against the machinery, he launched himself off from it as hard as he could.  The momentum spun him and Mustafa around, eventually breaking Sam free from being harmed by the glass shard, hurling him a short distance away.

     Coming to a stop, the leaper turned to see Mustafa snarling at him.  Both men stared at each other in silence, waiting to see what the other would do.  Seconds later, Mustafa impatiently charged at Sam, the glass shard held high in an attempt to stab down and slash at his throat.

     Sam smiled cryptically as everything played out before him in slow motion.  The images he had flashed on now made sense to him; he knew what to do.  Everything leading up to this point had happened for a reason. 

     Seeing the odd look on Sam’s face cost Mustafa an extra second in his attack, allowing Sam the opportunity to time his defense.  As the businessman drew near, the leaper spun around and executed a high kick to Mustafa’s face.  Howling in pain, the al Qaeda operative dropped the glass shard as he staggered back a few steps, blood flowing from a cut to his face.  Unarmed, all Mustafa could do was stand there and take a sideways kick to his chest that sent him sprawling back into the oval container.  With a crash, it exploded, bombarding Mustafa with megawatts of electricity.  Explosions rocked the controls and equipment as flames leaped up from them, initiating the fire alarm to evacuate the building.  It was obvious to Sam that this section of the building was going to go up in a fireball and nothing could be done to prevent it.

     Picking up the briefcase, Sam hurled it into the fiery remains of the container.  It struck the charred, smoking corpse of Mustafa and began to burn.  “Take your damn secrets with you, you son of a bitch!”

     “Come on, Sam,” Al’s voice mysteriously shouted from behind the leaper.  “This place is gonna blow!”

     Another explosion rocked the room, causing pieces of ceiling to rain down on Sam.  Big chunks slammed into the doorway over the dead body of General Horowitz, breaking into smaller pieces that struck the injured Hawkins in the right leg as he was attempting to stand up.  The pile of debris had now created an effective cave-in as the Colonel screamed in pain and fell over.

     “Is there another way out, Al?” Sam coughed as the smoke from the fires started to fill his lings.  Soot and ash had started to cover him and Hawkins.

     Al looked around.  “You have to dig, Sam.”

     The leaper raced over to the blocked doorway and began moving pieces of debris aside.  “How did you do that, Al?  How did you do that to Garner?”

     “Keep digging, Sam!” Al ordered, ignoring the questions.  “Don’t make Garner’s sacrifice a vain one.”

     Sam felt his lungs begin to burn as he scooped fragments away.  Hawkins, now conscious and on his feet, tried to help with his one good arm while favoring his injured leg.  Both worked in silence until they heard a voice from the other end yell, “Is anyone in there?”

     “Yes!” screamed Sam. “Help us get out of here!  We need you to try to move the pieces on your side.”

     “I hear you,” came the voice on the other end.

     “Sam,” Al cried, “get the broomstick.  Use it as a fulcrum to shift the debris.”

     Nodding, Sam ran over to where the fires were growing stronger.  The sparks and explosions were growing as well and Sam knew he was running out of time.  Braving the fire, Sam reached down and grabbed the larger half of the broken  broomstick and returned to assist Hawkins.  After a few strenuous efforts, Sam used the broomstick as a fulcrum.  With one good push, he was dismayed to see the stick splinter and snap, but to his relief, it was enough to dislodge some of the pieces that blocked the door.

     Noticing there was enough room, Sam grabbed Hawkins and helped him scramble up the remains of the doorway and into the hallway beyond.  To the leaper’s surprise, Dr. Daniels was there to greet them as he stood on the top of the debris pile.

     “Help the Colonel get outside,” Sam ordered Daniels, who nodded and allowed himself to serve as Hawkins’ crutch as they worked their way up the stairs.

     Sam turned around to look back at the wrecked lab filled with flames and sparks.  His eyes locked onto what was left of Mustafa and the burning briefcase.  Then, his eyes lingered onto the bodies of Dr. Qasim and finally Dr. Garner.  His legs almost gave out on him as tears filled his eyes.  “Goodbye, doctor,” he spoke softly.

     “Get out of there, Sam,” came Al’s voice from the hallway now.  “Everyone is out of the building. This wing is going to go up.  Sam!!!”

     Hearing Al’s voice, Sam nodded and raced up the hallway and flew up the stairs.  Finding an emergency exit, Sam forced his way out the door; thankful for the fresh oxygen he was receiving.  Then without warning, the ground shook as the lab gave one last explosion, and Sam fell into unconsciousness.


*              *              *


Friday, September 7th, 2001

Plainfield, New Jersey



     Sam was floating.  Feeling completely relaxed and at peace, he felt a familiar tingling sensation engulf him.  With no effort, he forced that feeling down past his toes until it subsided.  Looking around, he could see his friend Al standing there watching him, almost as if the observer could see him hovering.  What kept him here in this room?  Why couldn’t he just go home?  Thoughts of home and the project suddenly flooded through him.  Faces of people he felt he knew there suddenly flooded his mind and suddenly, the room spun by in a flash and he felt himself lying on a bed.   

     When Sam came to, he found himself wearing a hospital gown, lying in a bed.  Disorientation hit him as the events of the last eight hours flooded through him.  Not surprised that Al was standing nearby, Sam whispered, “I must be here for smoke inhalation.  Was I projecting again?”

     Al looked at his friend with concern.  “You almost leaped out.  Somehow you stopped yourself, and it’s a good thing you did.”

     Sam looked at the observer quizzically.  “What does that mean?”

     “You can’t leap to another assignment yet.  There is more you must do now.”

     Before Sam could ask another question, the door to the Imaging Chamber opened up and Al Calavicci walked through, dressed in his military whites.  “Thank God, it finally worked.  I’m in, Dom!” the second Al yelled back through the holographic door.

     Blinking, Sam sat upright in bed as he saw the double set of Al’s looking back at him.

     “You ok, Sam?” the new Al inquired.  “You look like you’ve seen a ghost…” His voice trailed off as he followed Sam’s gaze and saw his twin standing on the other side of the room.  “Saaaam…what the hell is going on here?”

     “You tell me, Al,” Sam said.  “I thought the Al on this leap was acting funny.  He talked differently, he never used a handlink, and he never used the Imaging Chamber door.  I’ve had this happen before.  It’s déjà vu, just like I’ve felt over recent leaps.”

     “What the hell are you talking about, Sam?”  The new Al hit a few buttons on his multi-colored handlink.  “This other me, whatever it is, isn’t real.  Ziggy gets no reading from him at all.  Whoever’s been with you on this leap, it wasn’t me.  I just got back from Washington D.C. an hour ago.  We’ve had no way of contacting you until just a minute ago.”

     “Gentleman,” began the imposter, “I believe my guise is no longer needed, now that Sam has changed what he needed to.”  The image of the fake Al shimmered, and was then replaced by that of a younger Dr. Garner, in his forties, dressed in normal clothes and a lab coat over top.  Without mistake, he was now the spitting image of himself from 1959.

     “What the hell is this?” snapped Al.

     “That can’t be you, doctor,” gasped Sam.  “I watched you die.  How could you be Al?”

     “You did indeed watch my sacrifice,” Garner explained as he looked upward and then back to the leaper.  “The Lord works in mysterious ways, Sam.”

     Understanding dawned on Sam.  “You’re working for the Bartender, aren’t you?”

     Before Garner could explain further, everyone turned as Al’s handlink let off a long series of high-pitched squeals.  Oh, my god!” exhaled the Admiral as he staggered backward seconds later, his voice quaking as the handlink nearly fell from his hand.  The leaper had never seen his friend so pale.

     “What is it, Al?  What’s happened?”

     Gaining his composure as best as he could, Al gravely turned to his best friend, finding it hard to speak and breathe.  “Sam, Ziggy just monitored a live breaking news report.  Twenty minutes ago from my present time, a massive nuclear explosion occurred right outside of Hope Springs, Virginia.”

     Garner remained emotionless and silent as Sam jumped out of bed, reached into a closet and began putting on his clothes.  “A nuclear explosion in Hope Springs?!  That’s Hawkins’ project!  How bad is it?”

     “Bad enough.  There’s more, Sam.  The nuclear blast was powerful enough to cause damage to the capital region.  Counting the aftermath of the radiation that will fall on the survivors of the civilian population, Ziggy calculates a 100% probability that Washington D.C. will be a total disaster area by nightfall.”

     Closing his eyes in horror, Sam sank back upon the bed.  “Ohhh, boy!”




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