Episode 611

Danger In The Sky

by: A. J. Burfield and Erik Dreiling

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PRELUDE

 

Through a blue haze Dr. Sam Beckett could see he was holding something in his hand. The hum of humanity bustling around him distracted him momentarily, and when he finally focused in on his hand again he saw what it was he was holding: a plane ticket. Beyond his hand he saw a leather satchel sitting on the floor by his feet. Then he heard a womanís voice over and intercom announce, "Last call for flight number 211 to Dallas, with continuing service to Los Angeles and San Francisco, now boarding!"

  He looked up to see that he was leaning against a marble pillar inside an airport terminal. He saw a jet parked outside the huge window, with a wheeled ramp rolled up to the hatch. ĎThis is a time before tube ramps,í he thought to himself, noting his classic style of dress and dark fedora atop his head. "The 50ís?" he spoke aloud softly, looking around at the clothing styles. He also noticed the pert, uniformed blonde standing in the exit doorway, smiling at him, a confused look on her face. She whispered to a uniformed man, who then slipped out the exit and up the planeís ramp.

Sam had the feeling they were talking about him. He looked at the ticket, and saw it was for flight 211, so he grabbed the bag and stepped up to the lady, a few more passengers scrambling in line behind him.

"I thought you were on this flight, sir!" she said brightly, tearing his ticket. "Right up the ramp! Have a good flight!"

The smell of airplane fuel on a brisk wind hit him in the face as he stepped from the building. A majority of the planes on the tarmac were propeller styles, but the one he was directed to was a jet. He recalled that the jets started flying commercially in the late 50ís, and knew heíd at least partially answered the Ďwhení of this leap. All that was left was the what, who and why.

He walked up the ramp and found the copilot standing just outside the cockpit to greet him. "Good day, sir," he said with a smile. Sam got the impression that he was sizing him up. The uniformed man the woman had spoken with earlier was standing aside, waiting to disembark, but wouldnít meet Samís eyes. 

ĎWhat did I do to make them nervous?í he thought, dragging the satchel down the aisle. He found his seat, and stuffed the bag under it. He looked up to see the copilot studying him for a second, then return to the cockpit. Sam shook it off, and settled in his seat. He saw the name ĎJon Kyleí on the ticket, and noted the date as being October 9, 1959. He also saw that he was a young, white male by the look of his hands. There wasnít a wedding ring, and he let out a sigh of relief on that non-discovery. When he put the ticket back in his coat pocket the stewardess approached him and reminded him to buckle his seat belt.

As Sam went to oblige, he felt a hard lump in his armpit. He peeked inside his jacket and saw the butt of a gun in a shoulder holster. His eyes grew wide, and he quickly closed the jacket. "Oh, boyÖ am I a good guy or a bad guy?" he said softly to himself as the faint hope that Jon Kyle was going on vacation dropped from his mind.


 
 

PART ONE

 

October 9, 1959

Chicago, Illinois

 

Quantum Leaping and flying could be similar in some ways. I like the feeling of being among the clouds, floating above the masses, having to stay in one spot and reflect on what things are is store for you. But when I flew in an airplane in the past, at least I knew where I was going and why I was going there. I needed information. And I knew that speaking with Al in these cramped quarters was going to be problematic. Now there was something for me to reflect onÖ.

 

Sam had noticed that the jet wasnít completely full, and to his relief, the seat right next to him was empty. He resigned himself to gaze out the window at the earth falling away beneath him, the planeís shadow playing a never ending game of chase across the countryside. Smiling, he recalled watching jets fly overhead from the fields of his fatherís farm and wondering where those people were going. The smile was replaced with a slight frown as he tried to recall through his Swiss-cheesed memory where, exactly, that farm was. Was he over it now? He leaned closer to the window, his forehead on the cold glass as he tried to see if he recognized anything below. His usual fear of heights never bothered him on a plane, and he never understood why. Maybe it was the closeness of the planeís hull. 

He was well into a Ďwhere the heck am I?í game when he finally heard the familiar clink and whoosh of the Imaging Room door, and let loose a sigh of relief. As he swung his head around with his mouth opened for a comment, he saw the face of the male passenger sitting by him sticking out of his holographic Observerís stomach. The vision took his speech away momentarily, and the passenger gave him a surprised, then dirty, look as Sam stared, open-mouthed. It was a sight from a B rated horror movieÖ.

Observer Al Calavicci looked up from his hand link to see Sam staring at his stomach. 

"Eww, yuck!" the hologram yelped at the sight of a manís head protruding from his belly button. He immediately stepped back in the aisle. The male passenger snapped the newspaper up in front of his face to block Samís stare.

"Oh, sorry," Sam mumbled, nodding slightly towards the window. Al caught the hint, and tapped a few buttons on the link and disappeared, only to pop back insight outside the window.

"Howís this?" Al said, holding his arms out. 

Sam hesitated, taking in his friendís powder blue and yellow outfit topped with a matching fedora perched at a cocky angle. The vague memory of Ďa monster on the wing of the planeí story line shot through his head, but all details on the meaning of the thought were lost to him. He just smiled a crooked smile at the vision of his friend floating in the air. 

Al looked around, noting his location, and said, "OK, I know this looks unconventional but, hey, what can I do?"

Not sure if he meant his dress or his location, Sam decided to reserve his comments until later and, instead, simply shook his head. 

"I know you canít talk, so let me fill you in on what we have," the hologram said. Sam visibly perked up. "Which isnít much." Noting the crestfallen look come to his friendís face, Al continued, feeling slightly guilty. "Well, itís October 9th, 1959, but you probably already saw that on your ticket." He glanced at Sam and saw impatience. "And you know your name is Jon Kyle?" Sam nodded the desire to yell clear on his face. Al looked back at the hand link, hoping there was something new there to offer. "Well, Mr. Kyle is really messed up in the Waiting Room there, Sam, and wasnít willing to give us much. It took a lot of coaxing by Beeks to get that much." Samís face softened a bit then the link squealed, getting Alís attention once more. "Oh, hereís something, Sam. Ziggy says that on this date Flight 211 ex .." Al frowned and whacked the link. "211X? Whatís that mean? NoÖ exÖ plodes." Both Al and Samís widened eyes met. "Explodes! In mid air! Oh, Sam, thatís not good!"

Samís face morphed into a Ďno shit, Sherlock!í expression. Al then managed to calm himself. "OK, settle down, Sam, just let me get some details here." He read on. "Ziggy says it explodes shortly after takeoff out of Dallas. 150 people die! Zig postulates thatís why youíre here. To stop the explosion. You just left Chicago, so Dallas is your next stop."

Al could see Sam biting his lip to keep from yelling. There was panic there, yes, but his mind was also working. "The investigation isnít very sophisticated, compared to todayís techniques, but they think that the explosion took place in the passenger compartment. They donít know what caused it, though. And Kyle doesnít die. He gets off in Dallas. Ziggy calculates it to be around 75% that the explosion is deliberate."

Sam rolled back into his seat, staring straight ahead. ' Most of these people die,' he thought. ' What can I do from here? Is there a bomb? Where should he start?' This was extremely frustrating. The close quarters would make maneuvering difficult, and he couldnít start a panic, either. He had an idea that the copilot already thought he was nuts, which didnít help the situation. The arms of the seats were clutched in his white-knuckled grasp as he tried to figure out what to do next

"Your pockets, Sam," Al offered. "Maybe you have something on you that will give us a clue what to do next."

Samís eyebrows rose, and he lifted the coat away from the gun slightly so Al could see it.

"Whoa! Thatís some firepower you have there. Why are you carrying that? Are you a cop, I dearly hope?"

Sam shrugged slightly, then unobtrusively patted his pockets for some sort of identification. He was glad his row mate was still behind his newspaper, unable to see him wiggling in his seat. He found a wallet in a back pocket, and pulled it out. It was unusually flat. Sam flipped it open and he and Al both gaped at the flat Chicago Police Department badge. The other side of the wallet was the Department ID card. Sam saw that Kyle was blond haired and blue eyed, somewhere in his thirties. The stare Jon Kyle gave the camera was cold and icy, giving Sam a chill.

"Gee, that looks like a mug shot," Al commented. "I wonder why a Chicago cop is going to Dallas? Maybe itís a vacation!"

Sam gave him a frustrated, Ďyeah. Like thatís going to happenÖí look.

"Iíll run some more scenarios and information by Ziggy, and try to talk to this Kyle guy again, Sam." He pecked at the keys of the link, and the Imaging Room door opened. "Iíll be back soon. Sit tight! Ha, ha!" Seeing his joke fall flat on a glaring Samís ears, Al gratefully stepped back into the year 2000.
 



Project Quantum Leap

Stallionís Gate, New Mexico

February 11, 2000

 

Al exited the Imaging Chamber then placed the hand link on the console in front of Gooshie completely on automatic. His mind was busy on other thoughts, most of them concerning the new Visitor. When he had first leaped in Al happened to be there, right next to the bed. The first thing the Admiral had noticed was the change in his friendís eyes. 

When a Visitor leaped in, Al noticed the hazel eyes of his friend usually light up, then become afraid, shocked, hysterical, confused or vacant again. There was only one other time he saw unbridled anger, and that leap had turned out very badly with the 1950ís Visitor escaping the facility with a gun. Al had seen that same expression in this new visitor. It was only there for a fraction of a second, but it had been there. Beeks had missed it, but the look had chilled Al to the bone. The look had been replaced by one of confusion, but Alís radar was on full force with this one.

He went directly to Dr. Beeks office, and she admitted him. Dr. Beeks was behind her desk surrounded by neat, orderly stacks of paperwork and a quick feeling of admiration made Al smile. She never looked ruffled. She held up a hand to indicate she needed to finish a notation, so he turned his attention to the one way mirror to the Waiting Room.

The current Visitor was sitting up in the bed, studying the room. Alís first impression was that he was planning something, and tried to convince himself it was just a reaction to his first feelings about the guy. He decided to keep his suspicions to himself, and just observe for the time being. He would, however, double the guard outside the door. As Al was standing there thinking, Jon Kyleís eyes fell on the mirror. The look in his eyes gave Al another chill. There was no denying it; those were the eyes of a predator. The closest parallel Al could come up with was a Great White Shark, and when Officer Kyle smiled at the mirror Al had to stifle a gasp. It was pure evil. And he knew he was the one being studied.

"OK, Admiral, Iím all yours," Dr. Beeks said lightly. "Whatís up?"

All the double entendres of Dr. Beeks greeting went right over Alís head. He turned slowly to her, reluctant to have his back toward the Visitor, and stepped away from the glass. "Iím doubling the guard on the Waiting Room," he stated without preamble.

Beeks raised her eyebrows, but knew better than to question his feelings. "OK," she said slowly. "And your reason isÖ..?"

Al took a moment to unsheathe a fresh cigar from his pocket, taking the time to calm his thoughts. "Well, to sound like Sam, I have this gut feeling. Humor me, OK?"

Beeks leaned back in her chair and grinned. "Sure, Admiral. It wonít interfere with my day. Is that why you came?"

He couldnít help but smile. "Well, not at first. What I really wanted was an update. Find anything new? Any facts at all?"

"No, he still seems confused. The Swiss-cheese syndrome seems unusually strong. Are you concerned heís going to do something?"

"I donít know," he replied, looking back through the mirror. "I just have a bad feeling about this, and I donít know why that is. Youíll be the first to know when I figure it out."

"Iíd appreciate it." In her time here Dr. Beeks had learned never to discount the Admiralís gut feelings. Or Dr. Beckettís. She decided a long time ago that they must unconsciously process body language and verbal cues somehow, and labeled the assessment as a Ďgut feelingí. It was an interesting phenomenon she would love to write a paper on, but with all she had to deal with here at the Project anyway, she could be writing papers for the rest of her life. She let out a sigh as Al left the office. So many opportunities here; but she knew that being hands on was her favorite part of this job. The papers would have to wait, and she mentally pushed the thought aside as she attacked another budget report.
 
 

PART TWO

 

Airborne between Chicago and Dallas

October 9, 1959 

 

Sam was getting antsy sitting idly in this seat. The idea of the plane crashing was heavy on his mind. Was it deliberate? It had to be. Thatís why he was here, wasnít it? And all he was doing was sitting? In all actuality, there really wasnít anything he could do. There wasnít anyplace to go, and how could he conduct a search with out looking like a nut case or, worse yet, causing panic? What should he do?

He closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat for a few minutes when he had the feeling that he was being watched. Opening his eyes he saw a young lady standing in the aisle who had the cheeriest smile Sam could ever remember seeing. "Can I get you anything, sir? Hot tea or coffee?"

"Sure. How about some coffee?" Sam needed to keep his hands busy.

She poured a cup from the rolling tray and handed it across Samís row mate, who seemed to be getting more irritated with being in the center of Samís activities.

The smile never wavered as she turned down the aisle to the next row, pushing the cart. Samís row mate got up and walked up the aisle just as soon as it was clear without a glance in Samís direction and Sam decided to take the opportunity to move over and check out his neighboring passengers. Just as he started to switch seats with the hot coffee in his hand, a man about Kyleís age popped up from a row in front of him somewhere and plopped into the seat next to Sam. Sam tried not to look surprised as he pulled back, but winced as the coffee sloshed onto his hand. 

"Jon, I just saw him. Heís about five rows ahead of me." He spoke in a hushed voice as he hastily pointed a finger in the direction he just came from. Sam started to stand and look, but the man motioned with a hand for him to stay. "It wonít do any good for him to see us. Weíre a couple of lucky bastards that he hasnít seen us yet." The man briefly looked out the window before speaking again. "I just donít know why you didnít wait for me back at the terminal. I thought that you were going to wait for me to get there."

Sam had no answer for him, so he remained silent. Were they following someone? The man quickly rose and said softly, "Iím going to be just a couple of rows ahead of you, Jon, so I can keep and eye on him. Donít you worry. I got this all taken care of. You just be ready when the plane lands. We can make our move then." With a slight not, he headed to his seat. 

Cautiously looking around, Sam didnít see anyone else that appeared suspicious, but then again, what did a suspicious person look like? What was going on? Who was that guy? And did this have anything at all to do with the plane crashing? Where was Al? He dared not to get up now until he knew whom he was supposed to be following. He put the coffee down, and settled into his seat to wait. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and closed his eyes, and tried to run through the relaxation techniques taught to him by Ö someone. He hated his spotty memory. 

Eventually Sam opened his eyes and stretched. After rubbing his eyes he looked at this watch. Heíd been out for nearly a half-hour! He picked up the coffee from the center tray table, took a cautious sip and grimaced. Cold. And his row mate hadnít returned. Sam suspected heíd moved permanently. 

Heíd had enough of sitting here. He decided to head to the bathroom and casually look around. Remembering what the other guy had said about someone sitting ahead of him, he went to the rear of the plane. There was a short line for the bathrooms, but Sam didnít mind. It felt good to stand. He unobtrusively looked around, hoping to see a package labeled Ďbombí, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. When he was at the head of the line, he heard the noise that preceded Alís arrival.

"Hey, Sam, I got some info for ya. Oh, good, youíre headiní to the bathroom." He snorted a short laugh. "This ought to be real cozy!"

Finally, an ĎOccupiedí door latch switched to ĎVacantí and the little door pushed out. 'A phone booth was roomier that this,' Sam thought feeling a little like Superman as he stepped inside and slid the lock closed. The feeble light flickered on, and Sam noticed how loud the engine noise was in here. Good; at least he could talk. Al re-centered himself so his torso protruded up from the sink in front of the mirror. Sam could see Jon Kyleís reflection behind the hologram. The manís eyes still gave him the creeps.

"Al, what is going on? Who am I? After you left last time some man sat down next to me and started running on about someone weíre following. I think. Please tell me you found something out."

"Well, yes we did. And interesting what you said about the other guy. That must be Kyleís partner, Billy Michaels. You work together as Detectives in the Chicago Police Department."

"My partner."

"Yeah. Ziggy checked the Department records and found that out. Kyle and Michaels have outstanding careers. They have the best conviction records in the force for many years. Right now they are listed as going to a convention in San Francisco on mob and gang related arrests. You know, how to gather evidence and all that. Wiretapping; all that good stuff!" He continued to tap on the keys. "Apparently, they both retire shortly after this plane crash. They claim it shook their confidence. Kyle here thinks the explosion was caused by a bomb meant for him." Al input Samís remark about following someone as he rattled off the original history.

"Kyle told you that may be a possibility?"

"He hasnít told me squat, Sam, and itís startiní to bug me. We got that information from the newspapers. I think heís holding back on us." Al stuck an unlit cigar between his teeth with one hand, and held the link with the other. His eyes narrowed as he thought. "I thinks Beeks is startiní to get suspicious, too."

"So who am I supposed to be following, then, if Iím going to a convention?" The handlink squealed just as Sam finished his sentence.

Al studied the readout, and his eyebrows rose close to his hairline. "Well! Ainít this interesting!" He punched the keys again. "When I put in the information about you following someone, Ziggy checked the passenger list again. Thereís an ex-cop named Jordan Connor on board. In June last year Jon Kyle was the arresting officer of one Jordan Connor." Al slowed down as he read the data trailing across the hand link. Sam perked up. Finally! Something he could work with! Al continued, "Kyle arrested Connor for accepting bribes. He inferred connections with local organized crime syndicates in his report, but a lot of the statements were unable to be confirmed. The City called Kyle a hero, but Connor was never convicted." Alís voice became heavy with sarcasm. "It seems the Ďfactsí in Kyleís report were not proven, and the DA felt they couldnít make a conviction, so Connor walked. Ruined his career, though. The innuendo totally shot down his credibility. And everyone knows that a cop without credibility ainít worth his weight in feathers." Al lowered the hand link and gave Sam a long stare. 

Sam had no idea what to say next. "What does Connor look like?" he finally whispered.

Al gave him a basic description. So was he here to get the evidence he needed to convict Connor? Did Connor have the bomb, planning to get revenge on Kyle? A tap on the door derailed his train of thought.

"Are you all right in there, Sir?" came a pleasant female voice.

Alís face lit up. "Why donít you invite her in, Sam? You could be the first close encounter in an airplane restroom!" The statement was tinged with a lecherous tone.

Sam gave him an exasperated look, and he unlocked the door. "Sorry. I mean, Iím fine." He stepped from the small room, smiling apologetically to the lady in line. "Sorry." He slipped by and made it back to his seat. Al re-centered to the seat next to him. No sooner had they got settled when Michaels appeared and flopped down in Alís holographic lap. 

"Hey!" Al yelped. "This lap is reserved for a stewardess!" He punched the link and popped into the aisle seat. He gave Michaels the visual once over, then started typing on the hand link.

"So far, so good," Michaels said to Sam. "He hasnít noticed us yet. When the plane lands," he paused briefly to look at his watch, "which should be in about an hour, weíll make our move. We have to settle this, once and for all." There was a definite tone in the manís voice that put Sam on edge. Sam was becoming more suspicious of this guy and Kyle. "And now if youíll excuse me, I have to use the restroom." He got up and headed towards the rear of the plane.

Al spoke in a low voice. "Personally, Sam, I donít trust these two. I had Ziggy check on them further. It seems that when they retire, they both move to California. Within six months, they both have numerous, untraceable cash deposits that total up to around $25 thousand dollars each at two different banks. Between the minuscule Department pension and the cash, they live quite comfortably." His eyes narrowed. "Somethingís fishy here."

"Thatís what I was thinking," Sam whispered. "They survive and explosion, retire, move to California and have loads of money in the bank from untraceable sources. What do you think is going on? I thought Connor may be following Kyle, but itís looking like itís the other way around."

"Maybe they know Connorís following Kyle, but Michaels is following ConnorÖ" the Observer was making switching movements with his hands and getting totally confused. "He knows that he knows, but he doesnít knowÖ ah, forget it!" Al tapped on the link, and the Imaging Chamber door opened. "I donít know whatís going on, but itís not kosher and I plan to find out whatís happening. Later, Sam."

Sam planned to fish more information from Michaels when he got back, and was trying to figure out how to not sound like an idiot, when he again got the feeling he was being watched. Slowly, he looked up and saw a man standing in the aisle with a look of complete shock on his face. The description matched that of Jordan Connor. When the shock turned to thinly veiled terror, Sam knew instantly that Connor wasnít the one doing the following.
 

 

PART THREE

 

Project Quantum Leap

Stallionís Gate, New Mexico

February 11, 2000

 

Al paced the Waiting Room while holding his gaze at the Visitor sitting cross-legged on the exam table. In the last forty-five minutes he had gotten nowhere with this guy, and Alís suspicion that his memory wasnít as Swiss-cheesed as he claimed was undeniable. He pocketed the hand link and turned towards the table. He said as calmly as he could with his rising blood pressure, "Does the name Jordan Connor ring any bells?"

Kyleís eyes narrowed and he shook his head. "Not a one, Admiral. I already told you, my memory is so full of holes I canít remember much. In fact, I have a hard time just trying to remember my own name. Why are you interrogating me like this? I havenít done anything wrong, have I?"

"Youíre not being interrogated at all. We just need your help in catching a criminal. The sooner you help us, the sooner you can get out of here." Al knew he had no evidence of criminal action, but decided to throw that in.

Kyle studied Al, nodding his head slightly. "I see." He paused then, continued. "I must admit, Admiral, this is quite a trick." He looked at Samís reflection in the shiny table next to the bed and tugged on the collar of the Fermi suit. "But, is this really necessary? Itís getting kinda annoying, ya know." 

Al felt Kyle was playing with him, knowing the Admiralís patience was wearing thin. The Observer stepped right up to the Visitorís face, and met his unflinching eyes. He suppressed the chill the manís eyes gave him. "I know you know more than youíre letting on, so letís cut the crap and get to the point. Tell me, Lieutenant Kyle: Who is Jordan Connor?"

The Visitor never flinched and defiantly held his eyes. "Youíre the genius, pal. You figure it out." Kyle paused for a beat. "Now, when do I get the hell out of here?" 

Resisting the urge to punch this nozzle, Al refrained from answering. He quietly walked to the exit and entered his access code. When the door slid open, he didnít look back as he walked out. In his mindís eye he could see that infuriating grin that he so badly wanted to slap off his face. Just before the door was all the way closed, he heard, "See ya later, Admiral!" and a small laugh.

Gooshie only needed one glance at Alís face when he entered the Control Room to know he was pissed. When Al grabbed the link from the console without preamble, he asked carefully, "I take it things didnít go well in the Waiting Room?"

Al just had time for a glare at the programmer when a silky voice emanated from all around. "After monitoring your conversation with Lieutenant Kyle, I must concur with your statement, Admiral. He is definitely concealing some vital information in regards to Dr. Beckettís current leap. As to what that information is, I havenít yet figured out." Ziggyís tone was tinged with annoyance. 

The Admiral turned his attention to the glowing orb suspended from the ceiling. "I know damn well that putz is holding something back." He jabbed a finger in the direction of the Waiting Room. "I have to reach him in order to help Sam." Al headed to the Imaging Chamber, link in hand. "Iím going to check up on Sam. Maybe heís having better luck than I am." The door slid closed behind him.

Inside, while standing on the metal floor disc, he took a moment to take some deep breaths. He had to calm himself down. That man was so exasperating! After a while, he tapped commands into the link and the Imaging Room door activated.

 

 

One strong impression hit Sam as he returned Jordan Connorís stare: A deer caught in the headlights. The man was frozen. Sam first saw wide-eyed shock, followed quickly by fear, then panic. After a nervous glance around the panic was replaced by defiance and Jordan Connor locked eyes with Sam and squared his shoulders.

"Lieutenant Kyle," he said stiffly. "Your kind usually travels in pairs. Whereís Lieutenant Michaels? Lying in wait somewhere? Under a rock, maybe?"

"Ah," Sam didnít quite know how to respond.

"People know Iím here," Connor said quietly but firmly. "And after the next stop, theyíll know youíre here, too."

People? "Is that a threat?" Sam asked, surprised.

"Itís a promise, Lieutenant." Connor practically spit out the rank. "Your day will come. And I plan on being there to see you and your partner fall."

"My day?" ' I sound like a parrot,' Sam thought. He wondered if the Ďpeopleí Connor mentioned were part of the mob syndicate he was supposedly connected with. His gut feeling was telling him something wasnít right, here; Connorís eyes did not look like those of a killer. Kyleís, on the other handÖ.

Connorís head snapped up, and he backed off a step. Michaels had returned and was now standing next to Samís seat.

"Well," Michaels said his voice tight. "I guess they let anyone on these flights. Or did you escape the cargo hold?"

Connor held his ground and smiled. "Iím going to enjoy watching you fall." Then he turned and walked away.

Michaels plopped down in the seat next to Sam. "Well," he said, picking at his fingernails. "So much for stealth. Our plan will still work, though. We just have to make sure he gets back on the plane in Dallas."

Little red warning flags were waving like storm driven ocean in Samís mind. "Heís booked through Dallas?"

Michaels looked at him. "Yeah! At least you said he was! Isnít he booked to San Francisco, like us? You checked on that!" He sat up straighter, looking worried.

"Uh, yeah, I did." Samís mind was racing. "He said he was going to call someone from Dallas."

"He did? I wouldnít worry about that, Jon. He doesnít have anything. If he did, well," he laughed, and leaned back in the seat. Sam envisioned a hyena. "We wouldnít be here, thatís for sure! Heís bluffing. At least for now. That would change if he got to ĎFrisco, though." He crossed his arms and closed his eyes. "Now that our coverís blown, I guess I can relax now." He chuckled. " ĎBlowní! Ha! Nice choice of words. Wake me before landing, will ya?" He buckled his seat belt and settled down, not expecting an answer.

Sam was shocked at what he deduced from all that had just happened. It was obvious Connor didnít know he was being followed. And why was he going to San Francisco? A coincidence with the convention? He thought not. Were Kyle and Michaels following him to get solid information for a conviction? No, that didnít make sense, either. Was Connor meeting someone at the convention? That didnít make sense if Connor was the bad guy here, but it did if he was the good guy.

Sam knew he was on the right track. Everything was adding up. ĎSo,í he thought. ĎIf Connor is the good guy here, that makes us,í he looked at the napping Michaels, Ďthe bad guys! Oh, boy.í He was convinced now that Michaels was going to blow up the plane, somehow, to kill Connor. He got a shiver. What kind of man would kill all these other innocent people? Did Connor know something that important? And what was Connor going to learn in San Francisco? And where, exactly, was Michaelsí seat so he could search that area?

He squirmed in his seat. Where was Al when he needed him? They would be landing in Dallas soon, and Sam needed to know what to do. He restlessly passed the time until the stewardess announced final approach to Dallas. Sam buckled his seat belt and, to his great relief, heard the Imaging Chamber door swoosh open. 

Al appeared in the middle seat. "Hey, Sam," he said flatly. "Howíre ya doiní?"

"Miserably, Al!" he whispered fiercely. I havenít done one damn thing to stop the explosion, and Iím running out of time, here! Did you get any information from Kyle?"

"I couldnít get anything from that nozzle. I questioned him for almost an hour and came up dry. He says he canít remember anything, and wonít give me a straight answer on anything." 

Sam noted the definite tone of disbelief in his friendís words. He cocked his head and said, "You donít believe him, do you?"

"No, I donít believe him! I believe that putz is keeping something to himself that he remembers in detail. I think heís faking the Swiss-cheese memory, and Beeks and Ziggy concur."

Sam took the opportunity to fill Al in on his conversations and suspicions. Al was typing like a madman on the link, and as the plane touched down the Imaging Chamber door whooshed open. "Keep Michaels away from Connor, Sam. And donít get back on this plane!"

"Whereíre you going?" Sam said in a barely restrained voice. "I canít save myself and let these people die!"

"Iím getting more information from that nozzle in the Waiting Room. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Connor!"

"Al!" It was no use. He was speaking to thin air.
 

 

PART FOUR

 

The landing went smoothly. Sam sat nervously, waiting to see if Connor was, indeed, going to leave the plane. The stewardess announced that the flight would continue on to Los Angeles in about a half-hour, and through passengers could disembark to stretch their legs. Everyone filed out in an orderly manner, and Sam saw Connorís back as he shuffled to the exit. Sam leaped up and managed to get over Michaels without waking him, or so he thought.

As Sam filed out the open hatch, Michaels rose slowly and followed.

It was overcast in Dallas, but not cold. Sam carefully stepped down the ramp to the tarmac and followed the group into the terminal, keeping an eye on Connor. True to his word, Connor went directly to the phone. He watched his animated discussion with someone on the other end, and saw his shoulders slump when he hung up the phone. Then he rested his head momentarily on the phone booth wall. After a few seconds, he straightened up, left the booth, and walked to the bathroom. 

Sam followed him, and stood behind him at a not-threatening distance as he washed his hands. The bathroom was empty. Connor glanced up and saw Sam in the mirror, his face an unreadable mask.

"So," Connor said calmly. "This is it, huh? My untimely demise in a public restroom? Kinda risky, isnít it Lieutenant?"

"I think you are in danger, Jordan, but not from me. Donít ask me to explain, but I need to get you to safety."

Connor snorted. "Safety! Do you think Iím stupid or something? Iím not going anywhere with you." He stood up and turned to face Sam as he dried his hands. "Iím going to authorities who will aid me in exposing you and your rotten partner, Jon. Nothing will stop me. Now, keep away from me." He spun around and left the room.

Samís head dropped. This was an impossible situation, but he wouldnít give up. Connor was getting back on the plane; that meant Sam had to follow. Michaels wouldnít blow up his partner, would he? It was a chance he had to take, and he followed Connor out.

When they had left the restroom, there was the click of an unlatching stall door in the far corner. The stall door slowly opened, and Michaels stepped out, a grim expression on his face. 

ĎIt seems Iím on my own, now,í he thought. 

 

 

It was a nerve-wracking ride from the terminal to the runway. Samís palms were wet with sweat as he wondered what it would be like to be in the center of an explosion. He was partially reassured when he saw Michaels board after him and take his seat between him and Connor. ĎSurely he wouldnít blow himself up, too.í Sam thought. ĎIíve got to check his seat for the bomb.í He was glad that no one else had claimed a seat in his row, so he was sort of alone. 

Just as the jet accelerated down the runway, Sam saw the Imaging Chamber door open in the aisle next to him. "Sam! Youíve changed history and the plane doesnít blow up now!"

Sam felt himself sink back into his seat in relief. "Thatís great," he whispered as he felt the nose of the jet rise up. Shortly after he felt the Ďclunkí of the landing gear stowing away.

"Well, thatís the good news, anyway," Al commented as he drew a cigar out of an inside pocket of his blue jacket.

Samís heart sank. "So, whatís the bad news, then?" he asked carefully.

"Ziggy doesnít know what you did by getting back on the plane, but now it explodes taking off out of Los Angeles."

"Great. Just great," Sam mumbled.

"Thereís more, buddy." Sam didnít like his tone at all, and turned to him. "Jon Kyle isnít on the plane when it blows, but Connor is. Same result, different state. BUT," Al lit the cigar, and rolled it in his fingers. "According to the papers, Jon Kyleís body is found in the airport restroom. Murdered. Shot through the heart."

This was worse than before! Sam felt his jaw drop. "Connor?"

"Donít know. No one ever figures it out. The L.A. cops call it a botched robbery. But you know whatís weird?" He paused, having Samís full attention, and continued thoughtfully. "Michaels gets off the plane in L.A., too. Not once, but twice."

"Huh?" Sam was lost on this news.

"According to the papers, Michaels gets off the plane when it lands in L.A., then boards, then gets off again. He says that he notices his partner didnít get back on, so he leaves the plane at the last minute. To find him, supposedly, because they were supposed to go to this conference together. So, you tell me. Incredibly lucky, or incredibly well planned?"

"And it still doesnít tell us who kills me, er, I mean, Kyle."

"Right. Both of them are off the plane during Kyleís estimated time of death. But I personally think that Kyleís partner there is the bomber, so heís capable of the killing. Iíll go check out any baggage around his seat. Perfect hologram duty, wouldnít you say?" He popped out of sight before Sam could make comment.

It was difficult to sit quietly while Al was away, and he wasnít even gone that long. He had nothing to add on his return. "No bag, no briefcase, no nothiní. Heís obviously got the bomb stashed somewhere on board. Iíll have Ziggy pull the schematics of this type plane, and any photos from the investigation. She said there wasnít much there, but Iíd like to have a look. Iím gonna talk to that nozzle in the Waiting Room again. I didnít get time to see him on my last return, and now Iím really annoyed. Later, Sam."

Sam passed the time tapping his foot. He decided to try and get information from Michaels, but didnít have to go anywhere. Michaels flopped down next to him just a few minutes later.

"Well, uh, partner," Sam said uncomfortably. "Shall we go over this again?"

Michaels gave him a sideways look with squinted eyes. Sam got the distinct impression that something had changed; Michaels seemed edgy, almost angry. Of course, the plane was to have been rubble by now. "You tell me, partner," he replied slowly. "You seem to be making up the rules as we go along, now."

"Yeah, well, I got back on the plane because, ah," Sam thought fast. "I wanted to see if I could get some names from Connor. You know, see if heís really bluffing or not." That even sounded lame to Sam. As he looked at Michaels all the pieces of information fell in place in his mind. Michaels and Kyle followed Connor to kill him. Michaels had a bomb stashed somewhere, and Connor had some information that was dangerous to Kyle and Michaels. Michaels seemed to be the only one of the two willing to kill. Sam had to get Connor off the plane in Los Angeles. "In fact, Iíll go do that now." He got up, stepped over his scowling partner, and walked up the aisle. It would be a close contest as to whose heart was beating faster when he sat down next to Connor.

"Get away from me, Jon," Connor warned, feeling trapped in his seat.

"Listen, Jordan. Iím trying to save you, here. You have to get off the plane in L.A., you hear me? And donít get back on. Your life is in danger."

Connor had an incredulous look. "You really expect me to believe you?" He let out a short laugh. "Iíve learned a few things about you, Jon, and I wouldnít believe you if you said the sky was blue. Iím gonna take you down, and you deserve it. You two ruined my life and my credibility. I plan on fighting to get it back. Youíre slime, Jon, and the good city of Chicago will be sorry they ever knew your name. Get out of my way." Connor didnít wait for a reply, and simply worked his way around Sam and went to the bathrooms. It was the only place on the jet to get away. 

Connor never returned to his seat. Sam buckled in at the announcement of final approach into Los Angeles. There were many vacant seats, and Connor had obviously found one away from Sam. Sam had no desire to return to Michaels. It was an awkward landing.
 

Project Quantum Leap

Stallionís Gate, New Mexico

February 11, 2000

 

Admiral Calavicci was worked up. He was getting nothing more from the crash reports on the flight, and the schematics didnít help much. The flight out of L.A. was packed, compared to the other legs of the flight, but where exactly everyone was sitting wasnít clear. They simply didnít keep those kinds of records on computer in those days. Even Ziggy was speaking in a clipped, annoyed tone. He wanted to interrogate the Visitor again, but he wanted all his ducks lined up in a row first. Newspapers still reported the plane exploding between L.A. and San Francisco, and the death toll was much higher than before; the plane was full this time, and it crashed over a more populated area. Al gnawed unconsciously on his unlit cigar when he read the total lives lost. His blood pressure was rising when he strode down the hallway to the Waiting Room, and the two Marines at the door parted like the Red Sea on his arrival. The Admiral was a man on a mission.

When Al reached the entrance of the Waiting Room he paused briefly, took a deep breath, and entered his access code. The door slid open with the same sound as the Imaging Chamber door. Al stepped thought and the door closed behind him. He saw Kyle lying on the hospital-style bed, next to a shiny, metallic table, staring at the ceiling. Al pocketed the hand link and briskly walked over to him. He was in no mood to put up with this manís crap anymore. Time was very short for Sam.

Kyle slightly turned his head and slowly sat upright. He couldnít help but to let a small grin escape at the sight of Al. When he was close enough Al grabbed the collar of the Fermi suit and yanked the astonished Visitor forward, bringing his face inches from his own. Alís eyes narrowed to tiny slits as he spoke.

"Now, you listen to me, you bastard. Youíll tell me what you know about the plane explosion and how youíre involved. I know youíre involved but I want to know how." 

The Visitorís expression shifted from shock to anger. He shot Al a sour look but didnít offer resistance. "Back off, Admiral!" he growled. "I donít have to answer to you or anyone else here in Ö wherever this place is. You think that by bringing me here and pulling this stupid parlor trick," he pointed to Samís reflection in the table top, "you can intimidate me into talking? Well, sir, it wonít work!"

There was about a half-second of a glaring standoff when, in a single fluid motion, Al pulled a gun out from his waistband and pressed the cold muzzle against the manís temple. The Visitorís face froze in wide-eyed shock.

"Now," Al spoke in a barely audible tone. "Letís try this againÖ."
 
 

PART FIVE

 

Los Angeles International Airport

October 9, 1959

 

If the circumstances werenít so dire, the stop at the terminal would have been funny. It was a three-man stand off on the plane. Connor stood with the pilots at the cockpit door, making light conversation. Sam figured he was really there to have a witness if anything happened to him, since he was now determined to do the exact opposite of everything Sam asked of him.

Michaels prowled around the rear of the plane, which made Sam nervous. He kept an eye on his hands, but never saw any indication of explosives. It was also obvious to Sam that h is partner was keeping his distance, and wondered what was up with that. He ran over all heíd done since the last jovial conversation with him and couldnít see why he was getting the cold shoulder. Except for the part about the plane not blowing when it was supposed to.

Sam stayed in the aisle between them, leaning against the end seat in his row. The plane cleaning crew bustled through, working around them all, and left just prior to the San Francisco bound passengers boarding. Sam felt his palms sweating again as the jet pulled away from the terminal. Michaels hadnít gotten off. That was a good sign, but he still wanted to learn from Al that the plane didnít explode.

They were just settling into level flight at altitude when Al stepped from the Chamber into the aisle of the jet, adjusting his bolo tie. "Hey, Sam, I got some good stuff for ya," he said before looking up. "Gee, the planeís kinda packed." The hologram adjusted his position so he was again floating outside the window. 

Al noticed Samís wide-eyed look as he mouthed the word, Ďwhat?í. There weren't any empty seats this time, and Sam was trapped in his window seat.

"Oh, by the way, you changed history again and the plane doesnít blow up at all." Sam visibly relaxed. "But wait until you hear about the Boy Scout youíve leaped into." Alís tone was sarcastic as he began the tale.

Chicago, it seems, was a large city with a nasty history of corruption in the Police Department, and Kyle and Michaels were the leaders of a crime syndicate started by their fathers. Both men had grown up in the city, both were the sons of Chicago policemen, and had contacts in nearly every aspect of business and commerce. Over the years they managed to gather and direct an impressive number of officers loyal to them, and the money they earned from their loyalty was substantial. Protection money, Ďprivate securityí gigs, cuts from drug sales; the list was impressive. The Department pay was a laugh compared to what those two pulled in on a monthly basis. It was no wonder they fared so well in their retirement. With Ziggyís help, Al had enough names, dates and transaction information to put the two men away forever. Then along came Jordan Connor.

Connor had also grown up in Chicago, but on the decent side of town. He was the first in his family to join the police force and what he saw there sickened him. He quietly tried to gather as much incrimination information as he could. The problem was the syndicateís reach was farther than he anticipated; it wasnít just the Police, but included the District Attorneyís office as well. Connor discovered this too late, and was denounced and fired before he could get his information confirmed. Heíd been quietly continuing his investigation, and the syndicate felt he was a real threat. Apparently, Connor was going to the Feds who were in San Francisco for the convention because most of the department heads that could help him were there at the same time, and it was as far from Chicago as he could possibly get. They had followed Connor to kill him.

Sam now knew what he had to do. He worked his way out of his seat and up the aisle, stopping at Connorís row. With a backward glance to Michaels, who he could see watching him over the seat tops, he crawled over the one person in Connorís row and set himself down in the empty seat next to the very nervous man. Sam started talking, relaying dates, times and names as Al rattled them off. It took a few minutes for the stunned Connor to realize this was good information, and start writing it down. He was still writing when the plane touched down in San Francisco. Sam managed to block the aisle to allow Connor to disembark ahead of most of the crowd, and he did so in quickly, disappearing in the crowd in the terminal. 

When Connor left the plane, Sam felt warm air tickle his ear as Michaels leaned close from behind him. "Jon," he said quietly, "I need to talk to you right away. Letís find a more... private place. I donít want anyone else to hear us. We obviously need to change our plans."

"Uh, oh, Sam! This doesnít look good! Ziggy says Kyle is now found dead in the restroom here! I guess this answers the question about who kills him!"

The pressing of the passengers in the aisle forced them off the plane and Michaels led Sam to a public restroom in a quiet part of the terminal. Al rattled off information all the way. "Historyís changed, Sam! Connor lives and gets the information to the right authorities, which result in getting Kyle and the other corrupt cops arrested and convicted. They all go to jail. The day before their trial starts, though, Jon Kyle dies. Found hanging from his bunk. Yuk." He continued to read the link, head down, frowning "So why havenít you leaped?"

Sam entered the restroom first, his heart pounding. Michaels followed, and stood in front of the door to block anyone else entering. "I saw you talking to Connor on the plane. That seems to be a strange way to be taking care of our Ďlittle problemí. Now I have two problems on my hands." Michaels pulled out the gun from his shoulder holster ahead of Sam. "Just drop it on the floor, wonít you?"

Al walked through the restroom wall, his head still down. It snapped up when he heard Michaelsí voice. "Oh, Sam, be careful!"

Michaels smiled as Sam dropped his gun. He had Sam back up, and he picked up the weapon and put it in his pocket. "I donít really want to do this, but youíve left me no choice. I heard you talking to Connor in Los Angeles, Jon. Now I have to kill you. Talk about your bad days." Michaels was calm as he pointed the gun at Samís heart. "I donít know why you had to go and do that. It was a very simple plan but you had to go and make it far more difficult than it has to be. Why?" 

Sam was quiet. What could he say? Al was even quiet, looking for any opening for Sam to attack.

"Donít play dumb with me, Jon. You must have one hell of a reason for going behind my back like that. What I want to know is, why?"

"Because what we were doing was wrong. Lots of innocent people were going to die."

"This guy is evil, Sam, just like Kyle. He doesnít care about right or wrong," Al commented disgustingly.

Michaels laughed and stepped closer. Incredulously, he said, "Because itís Ďwrongí? What the hellís gotten into you? It was your plan to blow him up!" He shook his head. "Youíre really confusing me here, buddy. Maybe youíre really working with Connor. That would explain why youíve been acting so weird. Maybe you thought that by telling me and the others that if you took care of this problem, you could take the opportunity to actually get him to a safe place. Brilliant. What did they offer? Full immunity? I doubt you actually developed a conscious."

Sam wondered at this point how many Ďothersí there actually were. For them to take this big of a chance at getting rid of Connor in such a public fashion, this could be more widespread than even Al reported. 

Just at that moment, the hand link squealed, and Sam glanced in Alís direction. The movement caused Michaels to glance at the door, thinking someone had entered. Sam seized the opportunity and pivoted on his left foot while kicking with his right, knocking the gun out of Michaelsí hand. The gun fell to the floor and skittered into a corner under the sink. Michaelsí turned around just in time to have Samís fist connect with his face.

"Good one, Sam! I bet he sees stars!" Al was shadow punching Michaels from the side.

The impact of the blow sent Michaels reeling back and he slammed against a wall. When Sam approached him Michaels swung wildly and landed a punch across his jaw. Staggering back, Sam windmilled his arms and kept his balance. Michaels rushed him and they both collided against the wall. Sam pushed the other man back and swung again, hitting Michaels in the left cheek. He flew back onto the floor and slid a bit towards the sinks.

He and Sam both saw the gun at the same time.

"Sam! Heís gonna go for it!" Al yelled, pointing at the gun in the corner, jumping up and down in excitement.

Sam dove for it as Michaels tried to crawl there first. They wound up in a pile under the sink, and Sam managed to knock the gun in one direction and Michaels in the other. Sam lunged in the direction of the gun and came up with it first. He aimed it at Michaels and he froze, hands up. He still had Samís gun in his pocket. 

"Donít trust him, Sam! Heís got nothiní to lose!" Al warned.

True to the Observerís comment, he dropped and rolled, pulling the gun from his pocket. Sam shot him as he was raising the weapon up. Michaels slammed against the wall, and a crimson spot spread over the front of his white shirt. He slumped down, gasped for breath, then went limp. The gun clattered to the floor. 

Sam inhaled sharply and staggered back himself as a pool of blood gathered in Michaelsí lap and dripped to the floor. It soon stopped. Sam felt his knees grow weak.

"You had to do it, Sam. It was you or him." Al knew that taking a life was difficult for the scientist, even when it meant saving his own. That was something else he admired about his friend.

Sam backed out of the restroom, and stood outside the door, the gun still in his hand but low against his leg. "What happens now, Al?" he whispered, his voice quavering slightly.

"I donít know. You should have leaped by now." He regarded the link. "Ziggy says you still have to find the bomb. She thinks itís still on the plane."

Just then Sam noticed the stewardess from his flight quickly walk in the terminal door and stop, looking around. She had the leather satchel Sam had taken on board in her hand. She saw Sam, smiled, and held it up. Sam started to walk to her when the buckle broke on the front of the bag. Out spilled the makings of a bomb.

Sam stopped, shocked. He pointed to the bag and looked at his friend, wide-eyed. "Al! I had it all along!" he whispered out loud. Then, he leaped.
 

 

EPILOGUE
 

Usually when I leap Iím filled with confusion and hesitance; nothing compares to being dropped unexpectedly into the middle of someone elseís life. This time, though, it was thrilling. I felt great. It was like the rush you get when driving really fast on a curvy road.

I was on top of the world.

 

The sound exploded in Samís ears at about the same time he felt the weight in his hands. He heard a female voice shout, "Wow, guys, you sounded great!" and the clink of glass. Blinking, his first vision was of a cluttered garage and a pair of denim dressed girls handing out beer bottles. Curious about the weight in his hands Sam looked down and saw a bright blue and gray electric guitar hanging on his hip, still quivering from the last chords played. He smiled. 

ĎCool! Iím in a band!í he thought happily, giving the strings a plunk. He about fell over from surprise at the volume of the sound that hit him in response. Laughter caught his attention, and he looked up again.

"Good one, Russ! Youíve got my dad down to a T!" There were more chuckles as the group downed the beers and Sam slowly put the guitar down. The four guys appeared to be in their early 20ís, grungily dressed in saggy pants and droopy shirts. Their hair was shoulder length and stringy, and Sam wondered what the two girls saw in any of these grubby looking males. But then again, the girlsí hair wasnít much better. At least their clothes fit. Sam frowned and looked closer at the blonde girl. Was that an earring in her belly button?

The other girl, whose belly Sam couldnít see, swayed over to him and pressed the icy beer bottle in his hand. She was slight in build, with brown hair and blue eyes, and about a million earrings lined up on the curve of each ear. Her smile was tentative, tinged with sadness as she looked through her lashes up at Sam. "We sounded good together, donít you think?" There was more conviction in her tone than in her body language. She took a swig on the bottle, expectantly waiting for an answer.

"Uh, yeah!" Sam replied, taking a taste of the brew. It felt warm and fuzzy going down his throat, and he happily swallowed more. It soothed him, and he savored the flavor on his tongue for the moment.

"We sure do sex and singing well together, donít we Russ?" she said between sips.

Sam gagged at her comment, beer fizzing up his nose causing his eyes to water. "Oh, boy!" he choked out as his band mates again laughed at him.

 

 E-mail A. J. Burfield & Erik Dreiling