Episode 617

Intersection With A Leaper

by: A. J. Burfield

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The somewhat giddy, weightless feeling of between leaps vanished quickly, replaced with total blackness. Sam inhaled sharply, and blinked rapidly to check if his eyes had even been open; it was so dark he couldn't tell. Without visual landmarks he couldn't tell if he was even upright, and threw his arms out sideways to find out. When he reached out, his hands collided with hard coldness. Stone? 

He determined he was lying on his back on the same cold, hard surface. There were sharp points poking him in his back, legs and head. He still couldn't see, and a chill set in. After a moment, his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw a faint circle of light above him, dust fluttering down in the weak ray of diffuse light. It smelled wet and earthy. It took a moment for all the clues to add up.

"A cave," he said to himself. His voice echoed hollowly in the cavern. Carefully, he stood up and shakily felt for a wall to lean against. He still didn't have his bearings together enough to keep balance, and hoped he didn't fall over anything. Or into anything. He swallowed the panic rising in his throat from that last thought, and felt like a blind man as he groped for support. 

His fingers finally brushed against a wall, packed earth crumbling from under his touch, and he lurched against it, bracing his feet. The impact of his body against the wall caused a small avalanche of rock and dirt to get in his hair and eyes and he shook his head. His vision was getting better, but the view wasn't. All he could see were vague outlines of rocks and boulders faintly illuminated by the single opening above his head.

He stood, listening. All he could hear was his own breathing. "Hello?" he called shakily. "Anyone else here?"

No answer. "Oh, boy," he breathed. "Now what?"



September 28, 1979

Mountains near Ruidoso, New Mexico


The pale circle of sky that Sam could see was getting dark and fading. He had no way of telling the time, and had no idea how long he'd been here. He sat on his haunches, hugging his knees to keep warm and yelling towards the hole occasionally when he thought he could hear something. He was never so happy to hear the sound of the Imaging Chamber door in his life…or the short amount of his life he could recall.

He shot to his feet, a tiny landslide of dirt sounding loud in his ears as he bumped the wall. "Al!" he shouted gratefully. "I thought you'd never get here!"

The hologram from the future finally located him in the darkness just as the Chamber door shut. "Hey, it's dark in here. Hang on." He fiddled with the hand link until a tiny beam of light pierced the black. "Ah, there you are! Hey, Sam."

Sam motioned his friend over. "Come over here, Al, I can't see where I'm stepping. Where am I, anyway?"

Al spoke as he floated towards Sam. "Well, that's a problem, Sam. It seems that when you leaped into the Visitor, he had just fallen in that hole, I guess." He pointed up to the opening in the ceiling that was just about black now. "It would explain his injuries, anyway."

"How injured is he?" Sam inquired, his fear slowly ebbing.

"Pretty bad. Skull fracture, broken vertebrae in his upper back, and lots of bruises. He's on full ventilation; can't breathe on his own. Verbena says he may not make it."

When Al didn't get a response, he aimed the light into Sam's face. Sam looked scared again. "Who is he?" Sam whispered.

"His name is Joshua Raddick. He's 16 years old, Sam. We got his name from the school identification in his pocket. He's just a kid." Al sounded somber, trying to stay professional. "Ziggy says he disappeared on September 27, 1979, from a small town outside of Ruidoso, New Mexico. He was never found."

"I leaped to late to save him, Al, so what can I do now? Am I supposed to get out and get help? How can I do that in the dark? Where exactly am I anyway?" Sam started shifting his feet in an effort to stave off the coldness coming in from the hole.

Al continued to read the hand link. "According to the papers, Joshua left home in the middle of the night. He didn't have a car, or take one. They figured he ran away. The family, though, didn't believe that." The link squealed loudly in Al's hand, demanding attention. He pushed a few bright buttons. "What?" he demanded of it. 

"What's going on?" Sam asked.

"There's more. Apparently, Joshua had been having dreams involving creatures examining him in a spaceship; bright lights, little gray men, the whole alien abduction shebang. His twin sister Olivia says the thoughts were getting worse. He was starting to see things while he was awake, too."

"What kind of things?" Sam wondered out loud, curious now.

"He wouldn't tell her too much. Just kept telling her, 'They're going to take me'. Neither one told the parents any of this because they were afraid of being separated." Al read a little more, then smirked, "Oh! I see who she is now!" and let out a short laugh. "That explains a lot!"

Sam was perplexed. "What are you talking about?"

Al grinned as he read. "You probably don't recall, but Olivia Raddick is one of the top alien abduction proponents in the country. I bet this is where it all started." He looked around the black cave. "Sure doesn't look like a spaceship! Ha!"

Sam didn't return the laugh. "I need to get out of here, Al."

"Yeah, yeah. Ziggy agrees. By the way, she's pinpointed your location on a map. You won't be happy to know that you're in the middle of nowhere. The nearest road is a mile that way," he pointed off to his right. "The nearest town is 6.43 miles that way," he pointed straight ahead. "And this cavern doesn't show up on any maps. So I guess it's up to you to find a way out, Sam. Sorry." 

"So how did Joshua get out to the middle of nowhere?"

"The police have sightings of him hitchhiking out of his home town, but nothing after that. Simply disappeared. Until now, that is."

Sam sighed. He wasn't too happy about this, but there was nothing he could do about it. He just had to figure out a way out before the young man died. He shivered at the thought.

"So," he said hesitatingly as he mentally prepared to explore more. "What happens if Joshua, you know; dies? Did I, ahem, have any contingency plan for that?" 

Al's eyes rolled up to catch Sam's look. He pulled out a cigar from an inside pocket, and rolled it thoughtfully between his fingers, regarding his friend. "No, Sam, you didn't. Ziggy's not sure what would happen. Best estimate is, you stay here in 1979 as Joshua."

"Trapped in a cave. Great." Sam took a deep breath, then let it go. He could barely see the steamy cloud it made in the coldness. "Let's go. You have the light, so you go first."

Al played the light around the cave, then trained it on Sam. "Hey, nice gold chain. Really sparkles down here."

Sam glanced down, then looked up, unimpressed.

"Which way?" Al said, changing the subject.

Sam let out a short laugh. "Does it really matter?" he replied softly.

Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

April 25, 2000


"CODE BLUE IN THE INFIRMARY!" The soft voice was insistent and repetitive, and it had the small number of personnel in the medical section scurrying to the single hospital room of the Project.

"We were never meant to handle a patient like this," Dr. Adams snapped as he pushed the door open, Verbena Beeks close on his heels.

"I realize that, Daniel, but we can't move him from the complex. We have just about everything we need to keep him stable."

"He needs more than that. He's going to need surgery. And even then, I don't think…" he stopped his thought when he reached the patient. Grabbing the heart paddles, he barked, "300."

Verbena twisted the dial before the sole nurse had a chance. Dr. Adams placed them on the bruised and battered chest of the patient and said, "Clear!" just as he fired the paddles. The patient jerked, and the heart monitor leaped, then settled to a regular beat.

"It's a good thing he's young. Any one less healthy would be dead," the doctor mused, checking the patient's vitals.

Dr. Beeks gazed at the familiar face of the Visitor, knowing it wasn't Sam Beckett, but unable to react to his face being so swathed in bandages. She could only see one bruised eye, his nose, and part of his mouth, which had a ventilation tube taped in it. His chest rose automatically with the machine's 'shush-shush' rhythm, but the rest of his body was limp. She knew this Visitor would never wake up; it was just a matter of time. His systems were slowly collapsing, one at a time.

"Dr. Adams, the scans are here." A corpsman handed the doctor an envelope.

The doctor pulled out the x-rays and snapped them on to the light board. Humming and clicking his tongue, he tapped at the skull photos. "He's got major damage here, and here. And, what's this?"

He and Verbena both leaned closer. Dr. Adams pulled out the photos the next photos in the series of the CAT scan. Verbena exhaled through her teeth as she pointed out a red spot on the film. "That's a tumor," she said softly.

"Hmmm. And it would explain the patient's hallucinations you told be about earlier," Dr. Adams agreed. "There's really nothing we can do for him, Verbena." He said gently, taking her arm. "I can stabilize him for now, but even if I fixed his injuries, he would eventually die from that tumor. It's in an inoperable position as far as I can see, and would explain the rapid system shut down we've been seeing. I'm surprised he survived the fall at all. I could get an oncologist to look at this, but I'm sure he'd agree."

The room was quiet except for the 'shush-shush' of the ventilator. "I think we were meant to find that, Daniel. Go ahead and call for the second opinion, but in the meanwhile, we need to move him to the Waiting Room," Verbena thought out loud, trying not to think of could happen if Joshua Raddick died in this time. That was something for Donna and her staff to mull over.

"Can do. I'll start immediately," Dr. Adams waved at the nurse, and stepped to the bedside. 

Verbena headed to the Waiting Room, calling a meeting as she walked.

New Mexico desert

September 28, 1979


Sam was cold, wet with sweat, and totally miserable. He dreamed of feeling the sun again. It seemed like an eternity since he started his way deeper into the cave. After feeling around under the opening with the feeble light supplied by the hand link, he determined that there was no way to climb up there; the walls curved away like the inside of a dome. He was surprised more of the ceiling hadn't collapsed. He guessed that the cave was made by underground water eating the dirt away, but there hadn't been any water here in awhile. 

Al suggested moving up in the direction where the water source originated. With nothing to argue against that thought, Sam did so. It was slow, dirty work and the tunnel narrowed down quickly to where Sam would have to crawl. He took a break.

"I don't think this is the right thing to do," Sam mused. "If there were an opening, I wouldn't see it! It's dark out there!"

"But you would feel the air," Al argued.

"The only breeze I feel is coming from the direction I came from," Sam replied, sitting down. "I know I've got to get somewhere where Joshua can be found, but I think I should wait until daylight. And I don't think this is the way. I can't fit in there!" He waved in the direction of the minuscule tunnel.

"OK, OK. You don't have a lot of time though, Sam, so hurry up and do something. Joshua's not doing well at all."

"Really?" Sam suddenly had an insight. His gut instinct instantly engaged, and he knew he had to get back to the cave opening. He couldn't explain it; he just knew. And he decided to follow that instinct, against Al's insistence to stay put. 

The Observer groused all the way back, but didn't try to talk his friend out of it.

"It'll be dawn in a few hours, Sam. Why don't you rest?"

"Yeah." He breathed. "I think I will." He made himself comfortable just under the opening, and looked at the small circle of stars. He felt calm. Then he felt the familiar tingle.

"Oh, oh, Sam. Ziggy says that Joshua has just died." His fingers flew over the keys. "They're doing CPR now!"

Sam looked at Al calmly. "Tell them to stop, Al." He pulled his knees closer. "Just tell them to stop, OK?"

"But Sam!" Then Al saw the pale blue aura in the darkness, and knew Sam was right. As he finished tapping in the request, he was blinded by the brilliant blue light, and Sam leaped. 




Burbank, California

September 12, 1994


"Do it again with excitement." 

Sam’s hearing was just clearing the white noise of Leaping, but the rest of his senses were still unfocused. He froze. Were they talking to him? As his vision cleared of the blue electrical haze, blinking at the brightness, he found himself gazing on a pretty, dark-haired woman. He was behind a desk, tablet of paper on his lap and pencil poised in his hand, watching the woman speaking excitedly to a handsome man, who looked vaguely familiar. Sam shook his head and looked again, frowning. She was holding a thick stack of papers, and reading from it. So was he. They were both focused on each other and didn’t seem aware of him or the person sitting next to him. A script? Is that what they were reading? 

"Oh, Sam, that’s wonderful!" the actress gushed. She seemed so…phony.

"It will change things as we know it," he replied, just as excited. "Just think: we can travel anywhere! Any time, any place! Time travel, Donna!"

Sam’s jaw dropped. What did he say? He was so shocked the pencil slipped from his grasp and clattered to the floor. Jumping slightly at the sound caused the tablet in his lap to follow the pencil. He tried to catch it, but failed. The resulting ruckus distracted the actors and they glared at him as he leaned down to get the errant office supplies. As he leaned over, the chair, which was on wheels, scooted out from under him and he fell on his hands and knees.

"Nick, dear." The voice was right next to him. He slowly twisted his head sideways to look at the face of a smiling black woman who was sitting next to him. "Are you quite through?" 

"Uh, sorry!" Sam gasped, gathering his things and retrieving the runaway chair. He listened to the black woman thank the two actors, then saw her stand and collect their scripts, which she plopped down on the desk. Sam glanced at the title on the front cover and his heart jumped into his throat.

There, on the cover of the dog-eared script, was boldly typed: ‘The Quantum Leaping Project: The Unofficial Biography of Dr. Samuel Beckett by Olivia Raddick.’

"Oh, boy!" he whispered as the woman showed the actors the door. 

He felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. Leaning on the desk for support, sure his knees would buckle if he tried to put his full weight on them, he barely heard the ‘thank you for coming’ and other departing statements made at the office door just before it closed with a muted bang. The thumping of muffled high heels on carpet worked its way over to him, and he felt the presence of the woman stop across the desktop from him.

"Nick, what’s your problem?" She sounded very business-like, then her tone softened when he didn’t answer. "Are you all right? I didn’t think they were that bad." She picked up a Dayrunner appointment book that had been next to the script and flipped the pages.

"I...uh," he swallowed and tore his eyes away from the screenplay cover, and tried to look at the woman. He felt…naked. And sick. "I don’t feel very well," he mumbled, unable to meet her eyes.

She shot him a look, read him in a glance. "You do look bad. It's a good thing that was the final audition for the day. Why don’t you take off? Go home and get to bed. See how you feel in the morning. We’ll decide tomorrow." She made some notes in the book. "We have been pushing this awfully hard."

Sam tried to think over his queasiness. When he reached for the script, he saw his hand was shaking. He held the booklet with both hands to disguise the shaking. "Yeah. Good idea." When he turned to the door, he felt displaced, like he was in a fog. Frowning, he recalled darkness from another time, another place, Al's voice, and a light.

"Hey!" the woman called.

Sam stopped, but leaned against the wall to help out his shaking knees, and pulled his attention from the dark place. "Uh, yeah?"

"Don’t forget your jacket. It’s getting a little nippy out there. Well, as nippy as it gets in California!" She snorted a short laugh. "Take some aspirin, Nicky. Good night!"

Sam retrieved the jacket, and made his way to the door. He slipped out, noticing how sweaty-wet his hand was on the doorknob, and dried it on the jacket. He left through a tiny waiting room with small, patchy couches lining the walls and finally trusted himself to breathe again in the main hallway.

Clutching the script tightly as he waited for the elevator, he re-read the cover, afraid to open it. What was this? Who was Olivia Raddick? Was this really his whole life here in his hands?

The elevator door swished open and Sam stepped inside. There was a trio of rumpled looking young women, obviously tired and heading home. Sam hardly gave them a glance, but became aware of his shaking hands and he held the script in front of him. It was torture standing there with this personal gold mine in his hands, but he didn’t want to open it just yet, and especially not in front of strangers. The ride down was quiet, and he was thankful for that. 

When the reached the bottom floor and the doors slid open, there was a noise and a bright light that the women walked through, oblivious to its presence. Al Calavicci was standing in the opening looking rather rumpled himself. Sam noticed his friend looked slightly out of breath, and clutched the script tighter.

"Al," he said in greeting, in a suspicious tone. Al seemed to be daring him to leave the elevator.

"Sam," Al returned, slipping the hand link into his pocket and regarding Sam carefully. "What are you doing?"

Sam dropped his hands casually and tried to hide the script behind him. "I’m leaving work. And going home. Where I, I mean, Nick lives. Excuse me," he was almost stuttering, and wouldn’t look Al in the eye as he moved through the hologram into the small lobby.

Quantum Leaping always left Sam with what was termed as a Swiss-cheese memory. He recalled little of his life before leaping. The staff of the Project felt it best he wasn’t told anything, fearing it would effect the leap by changing history in a negative way, and he would never get home. Sam was always pestering Al about his past life, and Al rarely budged. 

That could all change now. He had all he wanted was right here in his hands.

"Sam, what’s that in your hand?" Al centered himself on his friend and fell into step next to him.

"Oh, nothing. Just a script. I think I read them or something as a job. Am I right?" Sam kept the title against his leg as he walked.

Al squinted at him, obviously suspicious. "Right. Your name is Nick Clement, and you are the assistant to Olivia Raddick. She’s a TV and soon to be movie producer, among other things." Al hesitated, and pulled out a cigar as they walked out the front door to a parking lot. "Do you remember any of her work, Sam?" Al asked carefully, trying to sound light.

"No," Sam admitted. "Not really. Where’s Nick’s car?"

Holding the unlit cigar between his teeth, Al pulled out the link and typed in the question. "Look for a light blue Mercedes." He scanned the lot. "Over there, I think."

"So, why are you so out of breath?" Sam asked. He had a suspicion he knew why; it was right here in his sweaty grip.

"Me? Out of breath? Ha, ha! I’m not out of breath." Al put the link back in his pocket and twirled the cigar in between his fingers. " Why are you hiding that script?"

They just arrived at the car and Sam unlocked the door. "Me? Hiding this?" He held it up and waved it for a second, the title carefully turned away from the Observer’s eyes, then tossed it face down in the car seat. He knew he was a bad liar, and Al could read him like a book. He slid behind the wheel and slammed the door but didn’t start the car. Instead, he rested his hands on the steering wheel and studied his fingers. "Why am I here, Al?" he asked softly.

"It’s not why you think, Sam." Al melted through the car door and ‘sat’ in the passenger’s seat next to his friend. "I know what that is." He indicated the script in the back seat. "I know you don’t remember, Sam, but Olivia Raddick makes her living being the Queen of Innuendo. She sees conspiracies everywhere. First she was a UFO and alien abduction proponent, then became famous from her TV show ‘The Conspiracy Files’ and a TV movie called ‘Incident at Roswell.’ She makes the government look like a bad spy movie." Al hesitated. Sam’s eyes met his friend’s, then fell to the script. "That script is not your life, Sam."

"There must be some truth in it. What does she say about me?" Sam could feel his heart pounding a little harder.

"Yeah, there’s some truth. It’s just another TV movie. She thinks you found a way to leap to other planets!" Al laughed.

"What?!?!" Sam couldn’t help but smile himself.

"We don’t know where she got her information, but it’s pretty sketchy about the Project itself. She projected that theory from her own beliefs about UFO’s and stuff. The personal stuff was easier. There’s a lot out there from when you won the Nobel Prize."

"I won the Noble Prize?" Sam’s mouth gaped open.

Al sighed. "Yeah, you did. Look, Sam, I can’t keep you from opening that script. It’s a huge temptation, I know, but remember that there is a lot of conjecture in there. Ziggy about sprung her sprockets when she figured out where you had leaped. Everything about this leap goes against the rules you programmed into her. You know, about your past and stuff." Al shifted and chewed the cigar. He spoke with it still between his lips. "Olivia Raddick takes a free hand with her conjecture. She thinks you are an Ambassador of sorts on another planet, and the government is covering it up. All these conspiracy ideas of hers stem from the disappearance of her brother, years ago. She’s convinced he was abducted by aliens, and the government knows all about it, and the Project is the alien’s Grand Central Station."

"Aliens?" Sam said, thoughtfully. "Wow. I wonder where her research is…"

"Sam! This is ridiculous!! There’s no aliens!" 

"How do you know that? There are a lot of planets up there. We may not be alone, Al."

Exasperated, Al sputtered, "That may be true, Sam, but they certainly haven’t contacted Olivia Raddick and let her in on their plans, either! Ziggy says you’re here to tell her what really happened to her brother. She gives it a 98.7% chance that’s why you’re here."

Sam started the car. "That's pretty high. I’ll keep that in mind," he said calmly. The script was still heavy on his mind. "Where do I live?"

"Nick lives in the Valley. You’re in Burbank right now." Al gave Sam directions as he maneuvered through traffic. It was dark, and well into the evening, but traffic was still heavy. "Typical. Los Angeles is one, big traffic jam."

Al gave Sam basic driving directions as he puffed on the cigar. "I was afraid of this the second we realized who you’d leaped into. Before you read that script, and don’t give me that innocent look!" He jabbed the burning cigar in Sam’s direction. Sam looked properly chastised. "I know you’ll read it! Let me tell you how that stupid movie affected your Project. And remember, Sam, that little package there," he poked the cigar in the direction of the script, "is so out in left field you’ll think Raddick his related to Rod Serling!"

Sam frowned. "Who?"

Al wasn’t surprised, and waved the active cigar in the air between them like a chalkboard eraser. "The Twilight Zone. Where you are now." The Observer let out a short laugh at Sam’s perplexed expression. "Never mind. Anyway, this movie was released shortly after you leaped the first time. Someone, we don’t know who, leaked just enough information to light her creative fire, so to speak."

"What, exactly, was leaked?" Sam asked curiously.

"The only parts that are true are the location of the Project, the name of the Project, and the idea that you went somewhere. We suspect it was one of the contracted workers who built the place, because the physical stuff is basically true. Nothin’ about software or computer details. Points to someone that left before Ziggy was installed. Everything else has been padded."


"Yeah. Padded, built up, conjecture. Known facts skewed out of proportion. Even the public record stuff, like your Nobel Prize. When I saw the flick it made me wonder if they were talking about the same people!" He let out another short laugh, and directed Sam off the freeway and onto a major street, then continued. "It’s been a pain in the neck ever since! We’ve had to double security, and there are these UFO and alien groupies hanging around the perimeter constantly. It’s like a shrine in the desert to them! We’re basically trapped in the Project because they accost and annoy everyone anytime they leave the site. The stress level is tremendous because we’re being observed by idiots 24-hours a day. Shoulda bought stock in Prozac." He popped the cigar back in his mouth, and pointed out the turn Sam should take.

Soon they were in front of a tiny little stucco house, one of the original California style bungalows that popped up in the 1940’s. It had a tiny, brown lawn in front, and neatly trimmed bushes along the sidewalk. The air was a bit cool, but a weak blast of warmer air tousled the Scientist’s hair as he studied the house for signs of life. The house was dark, and he visibly relaxed.

"Should be a nice night," Al commented, tapping on the hand link. "Ziggy says a Santa Ana’s moving in." He noticed the questioning glance his friend gave him as he was retrieving the script from the back seat. "Santa Ana. A very warm and dry wind from the east. They can get really gusty." The hologram waited while Sam locked up the car and started up the front path. A stronger gust of warm wind battered the small trees along the side of the house, adding to the suspense of the situation.

"Sam." The Observer’s serious tone of voice caused him to stop and face him, giving his friend his full attention. "There’s stuff in that script that will hurt you. I just want to remember it’s mostly conjecture."

Sam smile faintly, butterflies starting to flutter in his stomach. "Thanks, Al."

"You’re welcome. I just wanted you to be warned ahead of time." He punched on the link and the Imaging Room door slid open. "I’m going to run some scenarios and get some sleep. I’ll check back in the morning."

"Good night, Al."

"’Night Sam," and the friend from his time stepped back to where he belonged.

Project Quantum Leap

April 26, 2000


Donna met Al at the foot of the Imaging Chamber ramp. Her eyes were wide, even with the small frown lines on her forehead. "Well? Does he remember the other leap?"

"No, he doesn't," Al mused, knowing the real reason she was standing there. "And, no, he hasn't read the script yet, but he has it in his hands." He saw her bite her lower lip as she dropped her head.

"He can't know about me, Al. I feel so helpless." She was absently twisting the wedding ring on her finger as she spoke. "It's probably in the odds that he'll forget about me after this leap, but what happens before then? What if he won't feel free to act on something important because he feels obligated to me?"

Al simply put his arm around her shoulders and walked her to the main console where Gooshie was pretending to work and not overhearing them. Al put the hand link down on the console. 

He really didn't know what to say. She was right in her fear; but they didn't have any control over it at this point, so he said just that. "We're gonna have to rely on Fate or Whomever to do the right thing. So far their batting average ain't been too bad, right?" He smiled a genuine smile at her, and she relaxed a bit.

"Yeah. That's true." She straightened up a bit. "I guess I'm still unnerved by the last visitor dying like that. I was sure we'd lost Sam." Her voice wavered slightly, and she took a deep breath. "Well. Did you tell Sam about the dead brother?"

"I didn't bother. He probably wouldn't have heard me anyway." Al walked out of the Control Room, Donna by his side. "It's not like the poor sap can get rescued now, over 16 years later. I'll tell him tomorrow." 

"OK," she agreed, pushing her hair over an ear. "How about a dinner date?"

Al laughed. "Great! Microwave beef stew, my dear? I know this great place called 'The Cafeteria'. All the rage in the underground crowd!"

She linked her arm in his offered elbow. "Do they take reservations, or do you bribe the matre'd?"

Their quiet laughter echoed off the hallway walls as they slowly left the Control Room behind.



Burbank, California

September 13, 1994


It was a long night for Sam, but he didn't notice. When he finished the script, his mind was so alive there was no possibility of sleep anyway. He moved to a chair by the front windows, turned off all the lights, and watched the trees sway in the hot wind. Al was right; it was quite windy. The moonlight gave everything a surreal glow, and the whistling of the occasional gust added to the eerieness of the night. It complimented Sam's frame of mind. 

He was married! No wonder the name 'Donna' struck a chord at the audition. He tried to picture her face, but it was rather vague, and the features of the actress in Olivia's office were all that was solid for him. He assumed she had a passing resemblance to the real Donna; the actor sure reminded him of himself. Well, what he remembered himself to look like, anyway. 

He wondered if he'd changed, physically. He wondered what Donna really looked like. He wondered what his brother Tom would look like if he was still alive. The fact that he was killed in Vietnam years ago was irrelevant; it was news to Sam, and he felt a tear drift down his cheek in mourning for both his brother and his father. For the millionth time this night, he cursed his faulty memory. The Nobel Prize and all his listed degrees impressed even himself, and he had a hard time believing any of it was true. This script was about a total stranger. 

He felt completely unconnected and drifting. An island of a person. And with what Al told him, this must be the same way Olivia Raddick felt, with her missing twin brother and all. There was a difference, though; she could have her mind at peace by finding him, and Sam could do that for her. He, though, was at the whim of whomever was leaping him around. Maybe someday they would do for him what he would do for her, and make him complete again.

When the dawn lessened the hot winds, Sam jerked awake at the sound of the newspaper hitting the driveway and realized that he had dozed off. The whole night seemed like a dream. 

Rubbing his eyes he stood, and went to the kitchen to prepare coffee. The tattered script sat on the counter, and he leaned against the stove staring at it. Was it worth it, now having read it? He couldn't say at this point. He probably wouldn't remember any of it after he leaped, so all it was doing was making him miserable now.

He was too tired to respond to the noise of the Imaging Chamber door, and had his back to his friend as he poured a cup of coffee. The door shut with a swoosh.

There was a few seconds of silence. When he turned around, both hands wrapped around the warm cup, he didn't even notice the garishly flowered Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts worn by his friend.

Their eyes met silently for several seconds. Al broke the impasse. "You look like hell," he said softly, his eyes wandering to the script, then the hand link.

"Why didn't you tell me I was married?" Sam said softly.

Al took a deep breath, and held it momentarily. "Because you're not, Sam. And if you were, I couldn't tell you anyway. The rules." He looked up, right into his friend's eyes, so the lie would be believed. Every hint of emotion was gone from his face. "I told you there were things in there that would hurt you. And that it was all conjecture."

"But I remember her, Al, or I think I do. I do remember a wedding." Sam's eyes got big. "And you were there!" He perked up.

"Yeah, well, you and I were there, but Donna wasn't. She left you at the altar, Sam." Al had a hard time keeping is face straight at the look of horror on Sam's face. "I guess you don't remember that part."

"But it says there…" he picked up the script, sloshing coffee on the counter as he put the mug down.

"Like I said, conjecture. You and Donna took out a license, but the wedding never happened. Olivia Raddick needed a female role in the movie, and just picked up on that idea from the public records of the license. You were never married." Al felt like a rat.

Sam let that sink in. Somehow, on a deeper level, it seemed true. "What about Tom? And my dad? Are they really dead?" Sam whispered, looking absolutely devastated.

Gratefully, Al turned his attention on the hand link and shifted his weight uncomfortably. "Look, I can't tell you. I've already told you more than I should. Olivia Raddick fiddles with the facts to make a good story, Sam. Just forget all that, will you? Let's move on, and get this over with. Ziggy says if you take her to her brother's remains, she'll accept his loss as nothing supernatural, and you can leap. Then maybe she won't make this damn movie after all." He sighed. "Sure would make our lives a lot easier."

Sam leaned on the counter for a moment, the script in his hand, a thoughtful look on his face. Finally, he said, "I need a shower." As he walked out of the kitchen, the slammed the script into a trash can next to the refrigerator, then said flatly, "get me the exact location of the body. I'll get her there." 

Al watched him disappear down a hallway then whacked the link in disgust. It squealed in response, and the Imaging Room door slid open. "Damn rules," he mumbled, stepping back into the year 2000.

Project Quantum Leap

April 26, 2000


Again, Donna met him at the bottom of the ramp, her eyes shiny with unshed tears but a look of quiet satisfaction on her face.

"I heard what you told him," she said softly.

Al studied his toes as the door shut. "I felt like a heel."

She lay a hand on his arm. "You had to do it, Al. And you know what's weird? At one time in my life, what you told him could have happened." She was thoughtful as she walked him to the console. "If I'd have met Sam any earlier, I'm not sure we would be married. I just wasn't ready. Weird, huh?" Her smile was one of conviction, so sure she had made the right decision to deny Sam the truth. 

It made Al feel a little better. "I don't know about that. You two were meant for each other. You're both martyrs," he smiled at the jab, then turned his attention to the ceiling. "Ziggy! Get me a map of that cave location, will you?" 

Donna laughed in response, and left the Control Room after giving Al a quick hug.

Burbank, California

September 13, 1994


I am so tired. The shower did little to revive me physically, but I did resolve to make sure that Olivia Raddick had a chance to become a whole person again. One of us should get something lasting out of this leap. Now I want to forget, and the only way I can do that is to do what I have to do, and get out of here. But first I have to figure out how to get Olivia to the cave in the middle of nowhere. Come on Beckett, get that Nobel winning brain in gear and think!


 Sam dragged himself out of the bathroom and donned fresh clothing. It was just past 8:30 when the phone rang.

"Hello?" he answered tiredly.

"Well, don't you sound like Mr. Sunshine," Olivia's voice teased. "How do you feel, Nicky? Ready to work?"

"I'm fine, Olivia, just a bit tired. Yeah, I'll be in."

"Well, don't bother coming to the office. I'm on my way over in a cab. Toss some stuff together, hon, we're headin' to the desert!"

"Huh? The desert?" Sam was sure he sounded like an idiot.

"Yeah, I figured we can look over the audition notes on the plane. Since we're behind schedule, I think we can make up some time by scouting locations at the same time! Be sure to bring sunscreen. I'll be there in 10 minutes." The phone clicked off before he could respond. 

Well, thought Sam. That takes care of getting her to the desert. He just hoped it was the right desert. Poking around in Nick's closet, he found a small suitcase and started packing.



Olivia Raddick was a workaholic. As Sam leafed through stacks of paper on the plane, he wondered how someone could carry so much and keep it in order. He knew from the script the desert area she had in mind for the movie. The actual Project site was well north of that area; this was closer to Roswell. She seemed thrilled about that, actually, and Sam saw how her conspiracy beliefs affected her thinking process. She strongly felt she was doing the public a service by informing them of these 'black projects' that were responsible for so many missing people, and couldn't wait for the day that the government was 'found out.'

"I'd really like to get closer to where the real Quantum Leaping Project is," she murmured, looking over the map. "But all the good spots are off limits."

"Lucky for us," Al interjected as he stepped from the bright doorway to the aisle of the plane. Just as he shut the Imaging Room door a beverage cart passed through his stomach, pushed by a perky flight attendant. The male attendant jumped a bit like he'd been goosed then smiled, when he passed through the hologram. 

"Ewww!" Al exclaimed, stepping out of the aisle to an empty seat near Sam.

Sam had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. His holographic friend mumbled something about the good old days of stewardesses in skirts while Sam distracted himself by pawing through the papers to locate the map Olivia had peppered with 'X's marking possible shot locations.

"The Project is in a perfect mountain for outside photography…it's just beautiful. But we can't get close enough to use it." She leaned over the map on Sam's tray table. Al stretched his neck to see it, too. "I want something similar, without snow, so we have to get the crew out there before November. Let's see…."

"Here's where Joshua Raddick's body is," Al said, pointing to a location a little south of the X marks. "Right in there. Ziggy has the longitude and latitude … let's see," he rattled off the numbers and Sam narrowed it down a bit more on the map.

"What about down here?" he suggested casually, indicating the area Al described.

"I don't know," she replied. "I don't recall that area. It's been over 16 years since I was down there." Her voice had softened and trailed off thoughtfully.

"There's a very picturesque range there," Al said, reading the hand link. "But that's according to Ziggy. What does she know about beauty?" he snorted. The hand link squealed, and he whacked it. "Same to you!" he snapped.

"I … I think there's a nice area down there," Sam pitched. "Look. We can drive through that area after the others. It's close." He traced a road that branched off the main highway with his finger.

Olivia frowned at the map. "Look at that road, Nick!" she laughed. "It hasn't been used for at lease a decade! It's probably dirt now, and you'll get yourself all dusty and I know how you hate dirt!" Her giggling continued. "I'd go that way just to see you rough it for once!" 

Her reaction made Sam wonder what kind of guy he'd leaped into and glared at Al for an explanation.

The Observer was grinning, too. "I know what she means! I think this Nick guy is a germ-a-phobic or something, Sam. He insisted Verbena wear gloves and wipe down all the surfaces in the Waiting Room. He keeps washing your face … I mean, his face … I think he thinks that will fix his reflection. Definitely a city boy!"

Sam rolled his eyes. Great. He'd leaped into a clean freak. How could he carry that off in the desert?

"I'll get the exact driving directions from Ziggy that'll get you close to the cavern, Sam. There's nothing more I can do for you right now, so I'll check in with you…" he had pulled out the hand link and was preparing to tap his way back to the Project, but a look from Sam stopped him.

Sam unbuckled his seat belt. "Excuse me," he said to the still smirking Olivia. "Ah, you know." He pointed forward. "Restroom." He gave Al a 'follow me now' look, and the hologram groaned and popped out of sight.

When Sam closed and latched the lavatory door, Al popped in again, in front of the mirror. The lower half of his body disappeared into the sink vanity.

"I hate airplane bathrooms," the Observer mumbled grouchily. "OK, I'm here. What?"

The bathroom was too small to pace, so Sam pumped his arms in an agitated manner as he spoke. "And just how do you propose I get Olivia to the middle of nowhere? I assume this cavern isn't conveniently next to the road, is it?"

Al sighed patiently. "No. It's not. It's about a mile off the road. You can get close with a jeep, but you have to hoof it to the opening."

Sam ran both his hands through the close cropped hair of Nick Clements' reflection in a motion of frustration. "I know," Sam snapped angrily. "I'll tell her I had a vision! Or .. or how about that I'm channeling Joshua's spirit?" His tone was sarcastic.

"Yeah! Maybe she'll say 'Come on, Joshua, take me to your leader'!" Al replied just as sarcastically. "Won't work, Sam. Channeling became popular when that Shirley McLaine book came out in the eighties. Remember the autobiography where she channels through a toaster or something? Anyway, it's passé now." He started to punch the links' buttons, but froze at the look dawning on Sam's face. It was the look of a budding idea. The slow smile pulling at the scientists' mouth put the hologram on guard. "Oh, oh. I don't like that look Sam! It always means trouble for me!"

"I got it! Al! All I need is a mothership!"

Al looked blank. "Huh?"

Sam was excited now. "Don't you see? Olivia will go charging into those hills if she thinks there's a UFO up there! Don't you remember that movie? You know! The one where the guy sneaks up the hill to see a bunch of UFO's … I know you know it!"

Al frowned for a second then his eyebrows shot up. "Oh! You mean the one where the guy makes the mountain out of the mashed potatoes! Yeah! Uh…Close Encounters!" Then he looked puzzled. "You remember that?"

"That's it!" Sam agreed, snapping his fingers. "I'll get her in the area, and you and Ziggy have to figure out how I can make it look like a UFO is up there. Check the military records, anything. Comon'! It'll work!"

Al was nodding brightly. "I see your point, Sam, but I'm not sure how we can help in the future." He rubbed his chin, thinking, then glanced at the hand link as it squealed at him. After reading the device, his eyebrows raised, and he called for the Imaging Room door. The bright rectangle opened behind him. "Ziggy seems to think she has something. I'll be back in awhile. Meanwhile, try to get some sleep, OK?"

"Yeah, yeah," Sam waved him off, his mind racing. 

He left the lavatory feeling like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and that he may just get something done on this leap. He knew they were landing soon in Albuquerque and it was, at least, a three hour drive to the area Olivia wanted to see. Settling in his seat, he closed his eyes and recalled the map in his mind and the little road that lead to the middle of nowhere and some peace of mind for Olivia. Drifting off to sleep, visions of his long-ago family ran happily through his dreams.

Project Quantum Leap

April 26, 2000


Four pairs of unbelieving eyes were locked on Al when he finished telling Sam's idea. There was a moment of silence before Sammy Jo broke down with a soft giggle.

Gooshie's mouth silently opened, then shut, speechless.

Tina snapped her gum. "Cool!" she said, nodding her head, her earrings jangling.

A smile slowly grew on Donna's mouth and she shook her head. "He did like that movie. Said he could identify with the guy in it." Now it was Donna's turn to be stared at. "You know! Having this vision no one else understood?" She explained.

"Oh!" Sammy Jo acknowledged. "I get it. Well. I wonder what Ziggy has up her sleeve…" 

"I know precisely what Dr. Beckett needs," the parallel hybrid computer crooned. 

Donna eyed the ceiling suspiciously. "I'm not going to ask you what you mean by that," she commented. 

Ziggy made a computer version of an insulted sniff. "I still have the brain scan results of Joshua Raddick in my memory."

Sammy Jo glanced curiously at Tina, who glanced at Gooshie.

"Yeah.." Donna replied carefully, regarding the orb hanging above them.

"We can configure a holographic production, projected from the hand link, that is in tune with his brain waves."

"Yes!" Sammy Jo yelped. "Yes, I see what you mean! It's simple; we can do it like this…" The three scientists huddled together over the console as Sammy Jo pitched her idea. Heads were nodding all around.

Donna frowned, and turned to Al. "I guess Joshua's information is still available to us because we didn't really change the time line for him. He died in that cave before, and he still died there even with Sam's intervention." Her face softened a bit as Al nodded in agreement.

"Guess so," he said. He'd noticed that the memory hadn't faded, and that he was able to recall the whole event. "And with Olivia and Joshua being twins, their brain waves may be similar? So she'll see a hologram tuned to his brain?"

"Well," Donna mused. "Twins, yes, but fraternal twins, so their brain structure isn't identical. But being siblings, it still has a chance of working." She smiled. "Well, I guess I'd better refigure the power grids." Turning to go she briefly touched Al's arm. "I guess you have a bit of a break, Al! Beth was looking for you earlier. And so was the Security Chief. Have fun!" She left the room, consulting a clipboard.

Al followed soon after when he realized there was nothing more for him to do here. The thought of Beth warmed him, and a tinge of guilt about his lie to Sam brought his mind back to work. "Guess I'll check in on the Chief," he muttered to himself.

As he walked the corridors he thought of how all these auxiliary duties kept him away from his family, and suddenly he knew exactly how Sam must feel. He did these extra duties, like head of Security, budgeting and allocations, all willingly, but now it didn't seem so important. It took him away from Beth, much in the same way Sam was away from Donna. And now that the girls were gone, he realized how this time away must make Beth feel, too. Maybe it was time for some changes, time to delegate some duties.

With that decision made his step was a little lighter when he reached his quarters. He hadn't even realized he'd passed right by the Chief's door, and grinned at his unconscious decision making. "Might as well go with it!" he mumbled happily as he let himself in his quarters to be with Beth.



Outside Roswell, New Mexico

September 13, 1994 


The drive from Albuquerque was long. The fact that Sam was still tired from the night before didn't help his concentration, but he managed to organize all the paperwork with Olivia's direction as she drove. They had their short list of actors and technical staff, and a list of calls to make for the pre-production crew for the stock shots. All they needed now was a list of shot locations.

Sam's head was buzzing with fatigue by the time they neared Roswell. Olivia was complaining of hunger and stiff muscles, so they stopped in the infamous town for a bite to eat at the 'UFO Café', which boasted the best coffee in the universe. 

Olivia was oddly reserved as they entered the town. As they sat, warming their hands on their mugs of steamy coffee, Sam attempted some small talk.

"So, you grew up around here, huh? Seems nice." A couple of teenagers walked by the window of the café as he spoke. One had a spiked, orange mohawk haircut with numerous silver earrings, and the other had tattoos all down his neck, up his arms and on his shaven head. Sam cleared his throat, embarrassed.

Laughing shortly at the timing of Sam's remark, she replied. "We were well outside this town, thank God. The atmosphere here is too much like a circus. They don't get the seriousness of the reason they're on the map. It's all tourism to them." She took a sip, and gazed into the hot liquid. "They have no idea what the government is doing to families. The stomped-on freedoms, the harassment; everyone is in danger, and they don't even realize it. Look at this Quantum Leaping Project, " she started.

Sam squirmed in his seat and felt his cheeks grow hot. This was too weird, openly discussing his project with a stranger! He figured he'd better keep his mouth shut on this one, which was very difficult. She described the reclusive Dr. Beckett as the head of another Manhattan Project; just replace the A-bomb with the Accelerator Chamber. She predicted dire consequences from the whole thing and that Dr. Beckett, like Oppenheimer, would rue the day he ever built it. Children of the 50's feared getting bombed; children of the next century would fear getting attacked, enslaved and wiped out by the new enemy: Aliens from another planet. And Joshua was only one example of how they operated. This Quantum Leaping Project was a result of all those years of collecting data on innocent Americans.

Sam couldn't sit still. "Ah, weren't Beckett's theories geared to time travel?" he ventured. "Not space travel?"

When she looked up, her eyes gleamed. "What's space travel without time travel? They're connected at the hip," she said, stopping suddenly. A look of nostalgia passed over her face. Her voice dropped, and she smiled sadly. "That's what they used to say about Joshua and me. Joined at the hip. We were so close." The hard determination returned. "That's why I know he didn't run away or even wander off. He was taken. He would never leave me alone like that." 

Just then the waitress came by, and presented them with their check. Sam pulled out his wallet while Olivia stood and stretched. After paying, they left the café, and Sam offered to drive. It was early in the afternoon. The sun would be low by the time they reached the hilly region indicated by Al on the map. Olivia was still willing to take the small road Sam suggested, still entertained by the idea of Nick in the dust.

"We'll drive on through to Carlsbad when we're done. There's no way I'm coming back to stay here for the night," she said as she nodded in the direction of the UFO Museums' fake UFO that appeared to be crashing into side of the building. Sam cocked his head at that. Couldn't blame her logic on that decision!

They drove south. Olivia was pointing out various peaks, and even had Sam stop so she could take some Polaroids, but none of them were quite what she was looking for; she wanted something more isolated, more solitary. When they reached the area of the narrow turn off, Sam almost missed it. He was glad they had rented a Jeep when he ventured off the main road. Although it was paved, this old road obviously wasn't high on the maintenance list. They couldn't find any towns nearby. Its only function appeared to be to connect the road they just left with the main highway from Albuquerque at one time. Other, bigger roads now filled that function, so this one simply existed as a way through nowhere. It was a victim of progress, so to speak.

After traveling about an hour, they rounded the end of some foothills and were presented with a huge open space with more foothills in the distance. Within this open space were a couple of smaller ranges, each with one or two majestic peaks. Olivia sucked in her breath as soon as she saw them. The late afternoon sun had colored them red and purple, with sharp, black shadows in the east-facing valleys.

"That's it!" she announced. "One of those! Perfect! Get closer, Nicky, before we lose the light completely!" She was clicking away with the Polaroid, then impatiently waited for the photos to develop. Then she lay them side by side on her lap and studied them.

The sound of the Imaging Chamber was muted by the sound of the wind and the tires on the rough road, so when Sam caught Al's red flowered shirt in his peripheral vision, he jumped. The car jerked for a second, sending the Polaroids flying. 

"Nicky! Careful!" Olivia scolded as she bent to retrieve them.

"Yeah, Sam, careful!" Al chided. Sam just glared at him, then gave him a 'Well? What have you got for me?' look. 

"You're headin' in the right direction. Isn't this the desolate area?" He looked around at the scenery. "The area you want is, let's see…" He compared what was on the link with the surroundings. "Looks like the second range there…see? The one with the peak in the center and the roundish foothills on either side. Joshua's in the foothills on the right side there, the side closer to the road. 

"That symmetrical peak there seems to be, what, about a mile off the road?" Sam said out loud, wording it for both Sam and Olivia.

Olivia looked up and out the window. "I guess," she answered, her gaze locked on the peak.

"Right on, Sam. It's just 1.1 miles in, to be exact."

"Take me there," Olivia said calmly. 

Al and Sam both glanced over at her. She was still staring at the peak.

"It's perfect! Look at it, Nick! Stunning! Pull over so I can get a distance shot!" Sam did as he was told.

"Wow, Sam, that's creepy." Al commented as Olivia got out of the Jeep. 

Sam stayed in the car and spoke from behind a hand shielding his mouth. "It's a coincidence, Al, that's all." Sam whispered. 

"I don't know about that. There's that twins' thing about them being attached mentally," Al mused.

"First, he's dead, Al. There's no mind out there to attach with! Second, you're talking about identical twins, not fraternal twins!"

Al didn't look convinced. "You have to admit, it's creepy. Look at her!"

Sam glanced over to Olivia, who was mesmerized by the mountain and gently waving the developing pictures back and forth. It was creepy.

"What has Ziggy figured out?" Sam said, breaking the silent spell.

Al grinned, pulled out a cigar and rolled it in his fingers. "The details aren't quite worked out yet, but they've got on an idea. Should be ready for a shakedown cruise by the time you get close."

Sam nodded. "What was Joshua doing out here, Al?" he wondered.

"Well, in 1979 when he disappeared this road was a lot busier. Big trucks used it a lot. He probably hitchhiked out this far, then just wandered off."

"Wandered off? In the middle of nowhere?"

"He was having paranoid hallucinations at the time of his disappearance, Sam. Wouldn't the middle of nowhere be the best place to hide?"

Olivia walked back and got in the Jeep before Sam could answer. "Let's get as close as possible before it's completely dark, OK? I need closer shots." Sam complied.

"You need to go off road in about 10 miles. I'll tell ya where."

It grew darker with each passing mile. The moon wasn't quite up yet to help with light, and Sam began to have doubts about the safety of this venture. Al rode quietly in the back, commenting on the clear sky and barren landscape. Olivia was thoughtfully quiet, but her eyes were fixed on the peak. 

"Here, Sam, pull off road, and head straight to the first foothills, there…"

He slowed and pulled off the road. "Hey!" Olivia started, then saw his idea and grinned. "Wow! You're getting' into this dirt thing! Go for it, babe!"

She buckled down tighter, and gripped the dashboard as they bounced along the final mile.

"Well, she didn't need much encouragement to get out here!" Al said loudly over the clanking of the Jeep.

Two steep slopes that cradled a dried up creek bed eventually stopped them. It was a very short distance to the cavern, Al noted, once you were on the other side of the ravine. Olivia was all grins.

"OK, Nick, this is the spot. We can set up tents for the crew when they get here." She was writing notes. "We can start in two weeks."

"Don't you want to get closer?" Sam asked. "You know, check it out on foot?"

She looked at him quizzically. "No. This is as close as we need. Why?"

"They're ready, Sam. I gotta get closer to direct the light show. Get her out of the car, and I'll lead you to the cavern. Now Sam," Al said directly to his face. "All you'll probably see is me. These holograms I'll be projecting are tuned to her only…or her brother, I should say. So hang on, and go with what she says, OK?" Al popped out of sight.

"Well," he addressed her, "we're out here anyway. I need to stretch my legs." Sam got out without waiting for an answer and searched the fading foothill with his eyes. He saw a glimmer that looked like his friend by the hill, and heard Olivia get out. As he was stretching, he heard Olivia gasp.

"Oh, my Lord!" she whispered. "Nick! Get over here!" Sam trotted to her side, trying not to laugh. "Look at that light!" she said, pointing towards the hills. 

Sam looked, didn't see anything, but said, "What is that?"

She was transfixed for about a second. "Let's go, and grab the camera!" she said in a whisper, and started down the ravine, Polaroid in hand. Sam grabbed the other camera and followed, pleased that this was working.

Olivia was in excellent shape and trotted to the hill in no time. When they got closer, she pointed up a short valley. "Look at that! It's a ball of light!"

"Saint Elmo's Fire? Swamp gas? Ball lightning?" Sam pitched, now really curious as to what she was seeing.

"Pshaw!" she breathed. "It ain't none of that! There's a parcel of Government land on the other side of this range! I bet they have something to do with it!" and she darted up the valley. Sam watched as her head tilted up higher and higher, until she was forced to stop. "Did you get a picture? I don't think the cameras will work. It's too dark, and I don't want to use the flash. We have to get closer! It went up there! I swear it looked like it had wings, Nick! Little stubby ones! Didn't you see them?"

"Hard to say," Sam said noncommittally. "It's too bright."

She ran down the list why this thing wasn't a helicopter, or a jet, or a hang glider or a flare. She commented at the silence of it. They started up the hill. "Oh, look! Two more just joined it! Smaller ones! Look at how maneuverable they are! This isn't any test plane."

The climb was gradual, and by the time they hit the top of the first knoll, Sam looked back and noticed he couldn't see the Jeep any longer due to the darkness. He was panting hard when he heard Olivia squeal, and felt her grip his arm. "WOW!" she exclaimed. "It's beautiful! Nick! I see windows!"

Sam was considering a response when Al popped in next to him, chuckling, his hand pointing the hand link towards the top of he peak. "Glad she likes the show! Right now she's looking at a design by Dr. Fuller that has Mel Gibson mooning us through a window. I volunteered for the shot, but was out voted. Can you imagine? Too bad you can't see it, though; too far away. Hmmm...I wonder if she'd mistake his cheeks for an alien's head if she did see it?"

Sam's jaw just quivered as he tried not to laugh. "Al," he choked. "Where's the cavern?" Olivia was so busy trying to keep behind cover and get closer at the same time, she didn't hear Sam at all.

Al was still chuckling at Olivia. "Oh, it's over here. I'm gonna make the mothership there go over the hill, then I'll go inside the cavern and shine the light up and out. She should see that. Eww…" Al shivered. "I'm not too happy sharing space with a skeleton, though." Al, cigar between his fingers, poked at the hand link.

"Just do it, Al."

The Observer fiddled with the link a little longer, and Sam heard Olivia say, "Oh! There it goes! The little ones are following it! Oh, Nick, I can't believe this! Amazing!" She had tears in her eyes when she got to Sam. "My dream has come true! I actually saw them! I know where my brother went, Nick! This confirms it!" Suddenly, her head jerked to the side. "What's that?" she said, pointing.

Sam of course, didn't see anything. "That light?" he said. "I don't know."

"It's coming out of the ground!" Olivia made her way over to it, then stopped a short distance away. "There's an opening in the ground!" she said, creeping closer, Sam at her side. They were right to the edge before Sam could see the hole, and it was solid black to him.

Olivia was hypnotized and lay flat on her stomach, inching to the opening. She carefully peered over the edge.

"Sam!" he heard Al shout. "Sam! Hurry it up, will you? I wanna get outta here!"

"Oh, my God." Olivia whispered, her eyes adjusting to a light only she could see. I don't see where the light's coming from...it kind of a glow.. like the rocks themselves are glowing...and...what's that?" She squinted, then gripped Sam's arm tighter. "Nick! There's a skeleton down there! Right below us! It looks like it's leaning against the wall! Nick, it looks human!" she squinted again. "It's about 10 feet below us; and there's something sparkly…." Suddenly, in mid sentence, Olivia gasped and started to cry. "Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!" 

Sam had to hold her back as she leaned further into the hole, almost falling in herself. Part of the edge crumbled and fell away. Sam heard it hit the floor.

Olivia was weeping openly, deep, gasping cries. "Joshua!" was all Sam could make out as he held her. 

Al popped in next to them. "Show's over, Sam. After she started crying, I switched to a light frequency that I could see by and looked at the bones. There's a thick, gold rope necklace still there that glitters in the light. I think she recognized it."

Olivia rambled on how she had discounted the police reports that said her brother had hitch hiked in this area the night of his disappearance. He'd never hitch hiked before that she knew of, and thought the whole thing was a set up, that the truck drivers were told what to say by the government. 

"Could all my memories be false?" she wailed. "Why would he leave me? Why? I can't believe he'd do that! I don't want to believe this!" She cried her heart out as Sam held her. Sam looked at his friend, the question clear in his eyes.

"I don't know why you haven't leaped, Sam." Al punched the link. "Ziggy thinks you need to convince her that her brother died of natural events, not supernatural. Once she starts to believe that, you're outta here."

So, Sam simply held her. She rambled on about her memories of her brother, and how close they were. He made her focus on how he'd changed the months before he disappeared, running through every symptom. She had simply refused to believe her brother's bizarre behavior had anything to do with earthly reasons; now with time and experience about people and what makes them do what they do, she became quiet. 

After awhile, her sniffles dried and she sat up. "My brother was ill!" she finally concluded. "My parents weren't around to notice; they both worked. I suppose if he'd been around longer they would have eventually, but it all happened so fast. Just within a few months…" she thought. Sam could see the lines of grief on her forehead shallow, then disappear. Finally she smiled. "And none of it was my fault. I suppose I could have told my parents about his dreams and stuff, but I was only 16. What did I know about that stuff? I was afraid we'd be separated. And I was right; we were." She sighed and wiped her eyes. "I guess it's time I brought him home to stay."

Sam helped her to her feet, and glanced at Al. "Oh, she does fine, Sam. The autopsy reveals the fractured skull and other injuries that caused his death. What she doesn't know is that he was going to die from an inoperable brain tumor anyway. The tumor caused the hallucinations, Sam. Anyway, her heart falls out of all those conspiracy theories and she doesn't make that stupid movie! Good job, buddy!" Al seemed happy at that. "She changes her focus to finding missing teens at risk; produces spots aimed at runaways, urging them to contact home, stuff like that. She's still doing a lot of good. Good job. Again."

When Sam went to her side as she looked in the hole, he saw how calm she seemed. "I wonder where the light went?" she said curiously, looking to the sky. "Where did it come from?" She frowned. "What's that noise?"

Soft rumbling sounds around them grew to the familiar 'whup-whup' and roaring of a helicopter. As the military chopper appeared over the ridge where the 'mothership' had vanished, Olivia's shoulders sank a bit. "It's only the military after all. All those lights, all those sightings. I guess there's an explanation for everything, if you look close enough." She didn't seem disappointed. She seemed relieved.

Seeing Olivia's peace of mind rekindled Sam's desire for the same. He backed away discreetly from Olivia as she watched the chopper, so she wouldn't hear him talking to Al.

"I know you won't tell me how long I've been gone, Al, but does my family understand? Do they miss me?" Sam's voice cracked slightly at the last word, and he swallowed hard, turning to hold his friend's eyes.

The look of longing was too much for the Observer. "Sam," Al started, remembering how bad he felt about lying to his friend before. The lie then hurt him; the lie now would hopefully erase that and give him a few meager seconds of peace before he leaped and forgot everything once again. "Yeah, Sam, they are very proud of you. And they miss you, too, but they understand. Don't worry about that, buddy."

Relief washed over Sam's features and his eyes got shiny as he stood a little taller. Then he felt the tingling, and tilted his head towards Al one last time in this time, his voice husky. "Thanks, Al. That means a lot to me. Tell them all I love them, will you?" 

"Will do, Sam. Will do."

Then Sam felt lifted by a blue light, and leaped. 



Dr. Sam Beckett shook his head to clear the last of the fog from his vision.  The first thing he saw was toes, his toes, in comfortable tennis shoes, then he noticed the comfortable jeans.  There were calm voices murmuring in the background.   He held his breath for a second and continued to study his toes while using his peripheral vision to see if anyone was addressing him.  He issued a slight sigh when all he saw were T-shirt clad backs to him, the wearers all huddled over something he couldn’t see on a low table. 

Sam continued his self-examination and discovered he was leaning casually against a wall with his arms crossed against his chest.  Slowly, he looked around and took in the surroundings.  There was a dirty wood floor, a cheesy looking bed and a dilapidated table that the other occupants were crowded around, illuminated by a thrift shop lamp.  It was impossible to 
determine the era by this room; everything appeared to be used, hand me downs.  Only his shoes gave a hint of the time 
because they were a very complicated style of Nike shoe.  Sam was impressed and confused at the same time by an expensive shoe owner being in such a tacky room. 

He stood up straighter, making the decision to move closer to the crowd and listen in when one of the men stood up and faced him.  It was a younger man, in his mid to late 20’s, trim and athletic.  He was holding a telephone receiver to his ear, his hand over the mouthpiece blocking the next question from the person at the other end. He looked right at Sam with a perplexed expression. 

"He wants a helicopter, twenty-five thousand dollars cash in unmarked bills and a pizza! What do I do?"  The young man appeared to be as stumped as the four other clones, all of which were staring at Sam and obviously expecting an answer. 

Caught off guard and completely unprepared, Dr. Sam Beckett, time traveler, froze, then replied softly, "Oh, boy!"


E-mail A. J. Burfield