Episode 618

Hostile Takeover I

by: A. J. Burfield

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PRELUDE

 

    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!" 


PART ONE 

 

I really have no idea exactly how long I've been Quantum Leaping. If I sat down and tried to think it out, I'd probably not be able to come up with a number.  I could, however, come up with a list of skills I have picked up.  One of them being 'deflecting attention', which gives me the precious time I need to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. It works most of the time. Sometimes it comes right back at me. 

 

The men were obviously expecting an answer, so Sam gave them one.  "Ask what he wants on it." 
       There were confused looks exchanged among them, as well as shrugged shoulders. 
       "On the pizza.  What does he want on the pizza?"  Sam clarified verbally as he scrambled mentally to come up with something else to say.  He heard the man with the phone ask repeat the question into the receiver. 

"He's laughing, sir," the young man reported, turning to face Sam again.  The team was now totally stumped.  "And he's asking for you."  He held out the receiver, frowning. 
        Sam hesitated, then stepped forward and accepted the phone.  "Hello?" He said tentatively.  The laughter on the other end died down only slightly. 
         "OK! That's it, Billy!  I think we've tortured them enough!"  Sam heard more chuckling then the phone went dead. 
          A couple of the half dozen young men checked their watches then looked expectantly at Sam. 
          A training scenario of some sort? Sam wasn't sure what he was supposed to do, and got the feeling he was in charge here.  He was just at the point of dismissing all of them when a powerfully built man burst into the room, a smile on his rugged face.  "OK, troops! Short lunch break then back here in an hour.  Field PT is next, so wear your fatigues.  We'll be doing some recon.  Get outta here." 
         The group talked amongst themselves and started to file out of the room, discussing where the closest lunch could be had.  One man broke off and approached Sam. 
         "Sergeant, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity.  They don't come around too often," and he stuck his hand out. 
          Sam shook his hand and murmured a response, as a thought ran through his head. 'Sergeant?  In what army?'  The big man was gathering up the radio equipment, and tossed two portable radios to Sam. 
         "Here. I don't know where the box went.  Whatcha want for lunch?"  Arms loaded, the man followed the group out the door.  Sam was the last one to leave, and gave the room a last, puzzled look as he closed the wobbly door.  He followed the big guy down a narrow, dark set of wooden stairs that opened out into a very short street.  The others piled into two separate cars and zoomed off, and Sam noticed that the paved road turned to dirt just a few buildings away.  In fact, the whole 'town' stopped just a few buildings away. 
         Sam stopped and took in the whole scene.  It was a fake town! Something you'd see on a Hollywood back lot, except this little grouping was set in a clearing between two long hills that were covered with trees. There was nothing else around. 
         "Hey! Bill!" The large man called.  Sam, still a bit stunned, looked up.  "You ridin' with me? No sense in taking two cars." 
         "Uh, yeah, OK," Sam replied. 
         Sam's partner opened the trunk of a plain, brown sedan parked close to the building they had just exited, and tossed in the radios.  Following suit, Sam walked over and put the radios he was holding in the same trunk while the man got in the driver's seat.  The contents of the trunk were fascinating; there were metal ammo boxes galore and canvas bags with batons and handcuffs spilling out.  There was one long, metal box that Sam suspected must hold a rifle of some sort, figuring that all this stuff had to do with law enforcement in some way.  Or so he hoped.  As he closed the trunk, the car started up.  Sam had to trot to the passenger door or be left behind. 
         He was barely seated when the car took off.  The motion of it shooting forward made the door close and Sam scrambled to hook the seat belt.  They left the 'town' in a cloud of dust. 
         The big guy whistled tunelessly as Sam inspected the car.  There was a police radio bolted low on the dashboard, and a laptop computer on the floor, along with several empty fast food restaurant cups.  The driver was fast, but good and Sam relaxed a bit as he smoothly took the curves. Soon the dirt road joined with a paved one, then a security gate.  The others had left it open for them, and after they passed through the driver got out to shut and lock the gate.  Sam took the opportunity to move the rearview mirror over so he could see what he looked like this leap. 
         The eyes of a man of Asian descent looked back at him.  His hair was military short, black and glossy.  His skin was a medium tone, and Sam guessed Japanese.  He was a good-looking man who kept himself in shape.  The mirror was re-adjusted before the driver returned, and Sam had enough time to quickly slip the wallet from his back pocket.  It was black and flat, and when he opened it up Sam saw an FBI shield on one side and a photo ID on the other for William Takeshta.  Sergeant William Takeshta.  Sam slipped the wallet back in his pocket as the driver jumped in. 
         The car shot forward once again. 
         "So, how about sub sandwiches?  It's the closest.  And we do want to get back in time to set up some booby traps!"  He obviously enjoyed his work. 
         "Uh, sure," Sam responded. 
         "Hey, I forgot to congratulate you for making the Lieutenant's list again.  I hear you're number one.  That right?" 
         "I think so, " Sam guessed, wishing his holographic Observer would arrive soon to fill in these details. 
         "That's great!  Are you gonna take the bars this time?  You can't keep refusing promotions and get anywhere in this Department.  How may times have you turned it down? Twice?" The man laughed out loud, making Sam smile.  "I can't even get on the damn list and you're turning them down!  You must have huevos the size of coconuts, bro!"  He laughed again.  "Hey! You must know that written test pretty good by now." 
         Sam took that as a rhetorical question and just smiled as the man rambled on, talking and whistling.  Apparently Bill Takeshta wasn't known as a conversationalist, or this guy just liked to talk. 
         Looking around, Sam saw a notebook on the back seat and reached back for it. "Elements of Hostage Negotiation" was printed on the front cover.  He only had time to leaf through a few chapters before his partner spoke again. 
         "Hey, the class schedules are on the floor back there.  We gotta make sure they get passed out when we get back.  Grab, 'em will ya? If they're up here, I'll see 'em.  Give 'em a look over, too, see if there are any typos.  Can't trust Vicky sometimes." 
         Sam exchanged the notebook for the fat envelope he saw on the floor.  He slipped out the papers, stapled together in pairs.  On the top was "Hostage Negotiation Team Training" just below the Federal Bureau of Investigations letterhead.  Looking for a date, Sam was disappointed to see only "February 5 - 9" with no year.  He quickly glanced over the program, not noting any typos, and slipped them back into the envelope. At least he knew what he was in for for the next few days. 
         For some reason that didn't make him feel better.  He glanced at his watch as they pulled into a small strip mall, the first civilization since they had left the training ground.  It had been almost an hour and no sign of Al. The car bounced to a stop in front of a small sandwich shop.  The others were already there milling around inside, and the driver hopped out and cheerfully joined them.  Sam sighed and reached for the door handle.  It was going to be a long afternoon. 
 

Project Quantum Leap 

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico 

March 15, 2000 

 

   "He's leaped, Dr. Elesee."  The wild-haired programmer found it hard not to fidget, and rubbed his hands together while he shifted his feet.  He knew what had to be done, but wasn't exactly sure who had the authority to approve the action.  In a groundbreaking project like this, there were always times when rules were made on the fly during seat-of-your-pants actions.  This was one of those times. 
         "This had to happen sooner or later," Donna Elesee-Beckett mused. "The Admiral can't be expected to be chained here.  It's a good thing we kept Sammy Jo available.  We have to include this scenario in the procedures manual." 
         Gooshie raised his eyebrows.  "We have a procedure manual?" 
         Donna couldn't help but grin.  "Yeah.  It's up here," and she tapped her temple.  "Writing it down is another item on my things-to-do list.  A physicists' work is never done," she sighed. "Ziggy?" 
         "Yesssssss?" the feminine parallel hybrid computer drawled. 
        Although she was a machine, Donna thought she noticed a tone of distraction in Ziggy's response, and her brow wrinkled for an instant in a frown. She also knew the computer tended towards emotional fits and almost human concerns based on whatever she was inputting at the moment, and made a mental note to ask her about it later.  God knows what she was scanning at this moment.  "Ziggy, please call Dr. Fuller to the Waiting Room for briefing." 
        There was a slight hesitation.  "All right, Dr. Elesee.  And may I ask where you will be?" 
       That made Gooshie and Donna glance up at the glittering orb suspended over their heads, then back to each other.  Gooshie shook his head and shrugged, indicating he had no idea what was going on in Ziggy's 'mind'.  She usually dismissed Project staff as necessary pests, and didn't inquire about their plans.  She could talk to them anywhere in the catacombs of the Project. 
        "I'll be in the Project, Ziggy.  I'm not going outside, so you can find me at any time. Is that what you wanted to know?" 
         Again, a hesitation.  "OK.  And I've notified Dr. Fuller." 
         "Ziggy?" Donna asked.  "Is something wrong?" 
         The artificial intelligence sniffed.  "That is a subjective question, Dr. Elesee.  Bosnia is wrong. Bigotry is wrong.  Those shoes with that skirt is wrong." 
         Donna couldn't help but glance at her feet as Gooshie stifled a laugh, then clamped her lips shut as she looked at the ceiling.  "What do you know about fashion?" She snapped, putting her hand up in a stop motion.  "No, don't tell me. Sorry I asked.  Is Dr. Beeks with the Visitor?" 
         "Yes.  And everything is fine in the Waiting Room." 
        Donna Elesee wasn't a mother, but she recognized the awkward way a child would try to direct someone away from something, and Ziggy, being akin to a stepchild, was doing just that.  She was immediately suspicious.  "That's good, because that's just where I'm headed." 
        She spun on her heel and headed to the door.  Ziggy was oddly silent. 
 

The Marriott Suites 

Washington D.C. 

March 15, 2000 

 

  Admiral Albert Calavicci sighed as he flipped the suitcase shut, zipped it, and locked it with a chuckle.  'If anyone really wanted in this thing, that piss-ant lock wouldn't stop 'em', he thought.  It gave his wife peace of mind, though, so he was happy to oblige.  Her makeup was safe from thievery for the time being. 
         "Hey!" he called out cheerily. "You ready?" 
         "Yeah, yeah, cool your jets," came the lilting reply from the bathroom.  Beth Calavicci stepped out, tugging at a stubborn earring and smiling. 
        Al couldn't help but marvel at her.  Even after four children she was beautiful as when he first met her.  They rarely had time together apart from Project Quantum Leap, and she was the reason these budgeting junkets were even bearable.  He stepped up and circled his arms around her waist and drew her close. 
        She wrapped her arms around his neck.  "Did you call the bellman?" She asked coyly. 
         "Why? Aren't I enough?" He teased, nibbling at her pearl-dressed neck. His hands drifted down to her rump. 
         She giggled softly in his ear.  "Back for more, sailor?" 
         His voice was muffled.  "I'll take as much as I can get!" 
         She rubbed his back and tossed her head back.  He was kissing her adam's apple when there was a knock at the door. 
        "Bellman!" a voice chirped from the hall. 
        Al hesitated for a second.  "I didn't hear that." 
         Beth laughed and gently pushed him back.  "Sorry.  Reality rears its ugly head, dear." 
         He tugged at his beltline.  "Ahem," he coughed.  "I'll let the interloper in." 
         As Beth smoothed her blouse, Al opened the door and allowed the bellman in, pointing out the suitcases on the bed.  The worker loaded them onto the brass cart and Al slipped him a tip. 
         "And hail a cab for us, will you?" 
         "Yes, sir!" the man replied.  "Are you all checked out?" 
         Al gave Beth a sly smile, "Unfortunately, yes." 
         The bellman nodded a quick acknowledgment and disappeared down the hall.  Beth collected her purse and coat, and helped her husband on with his dress blue jacket.  She retrieved the white cover from the closet, handed it to him, and he tucked it under his arm. He offered the other arm to her, and she took it with a smile.  As they left the hotel room, Beth snatched Al's briefcase from a chair by the door.  The door clicked shut on their heels. 
         Waiting for an elevator, Beth brushed some lint from Al's jacket.  "Ah, a man in uniform," she sighed.  It was their private joke.  "Always good to turn the ladies' heads." 
         He smiled at her, and took her hand.  His military bearing was second nature, and he refrained from any physical demonstrations of affections (PDA's, he called them) while in public.  Beth knew this and endlessly tortured him with her teasing.  She got a kick out of watching him squirm. 
         He grinned.  "I only care about one head," he said quietly. 
         Beth's face lit up like a summer sunrise.  "You don't say?" Her hand dropped low, hovering in the area of his crotch.  "And what, exactly, do you mean by that, hmmmm?" 
         Al was saved by the ding of and arriving elevator.  The occupants behind the parting doors saw a dignified couple step into the car, no idea of what was going through the heads of the uniformed Admiral and his attractive wife. 
         Al cleared his throat as the doors closed.  Beth bit her lips to keep from laughing. He spoke while studying the lighted, descending numbers over the doorway.  "So you'll be picking up that coat for Liz while I'm at Weitzman's office, right?" 
         "Right.  Do you think there'll be a problem with the flight?" 
         "Nah," he finally dared to look at her and grinned.  "I checked with my Pentagon contacts, and the jet is just sitting there, ready to go.  I'm glad we got all this budgeting ca-ca straightened out early.  Can't wait to get back to someplace warm," he covered his mouth with his hand so only Beth could hear him, "so I can rip your clothes off and run amok." 
         Beth feigned a coughing fit to cover her laughter as her husband looked innocently up at the indicator just reaching 'L'. 
 

 

PART TWO 

 

This was one beginning to be one of the weirdest leaps I could remember.  Well, that's not saying much; with my mind being so Swiss-cheesed from leaping, it was impossible to rely on any of my few remaining memories.  But I did know that I had been here for quite a while, and it was weird that Al hadn't checked in yet.  I really needed to talk to him.  Although I had the name of my host, I've been unable to figure out where in the past I was.  It's like the Land That Time Forgot…there was nothing here to tell me the date!

 

The boys, as Sam thought of them, had tossed back lunch in a spirited fashion.  The conversation centered around terrorists, weapons and negotiating techniques.  Sam picked up a lot, so it wasn't a waste of time for him.  Whenever a student asked him a question, he did the instructor trick of asking, "What do you think?"  Worked every time.  Eventually, they directed their questions to Chuck, Sam's burly partner. 
         After lunch, they all headed back to the fake, Hollywood-style town that made up part of the training grounds.  The 'boys' scattered and donned green fatigues stored in their cars.  Meanwhile, Chuck shoved a hand drawn map into Sam's hands and pointed out red 'Xs' scattered around the roughly sketched training area. 
         "That's where we'll gas 'em," Chuck said happily.  "Put about a half dozen canisters at each site.  I love this part!" 
         Taking the map, Sam oriented himself and looked around for the canisters.  Unable to locate anything remotely resembling a canister, he tapped Chuck on the shoulder.  Chuck was pulling on his camouflaged shirt.  "Uh, where's the canisters?" 
         Chuck looked at him like he sprouted a third eyeball.  "You didn't bring 'em?  You said you'd get 'em!" 
         Sam stepped back, "Oh, yeah! I did, huh? Never mind. I know where they are." 
         Chuck looked relieved. "OK, then." 
         Sam went back to the scattered cars and played a deduction game.  Which one of these cars was his?  He fished keys from his front jeans pocket, and zeroed in on another bland looking sedan.  How come all company cars look alike? He wondered, not at all surprised when the key fit in the trunk.  He popped it and found a case of canisters labeled 'CS Tear Gas'.  Eureka! He said to himself and pocketed the keys. He glanced around the interior and found a metal gun case similar to Chuck's, and two duffel bags.  One had green fatigues in it, so Sam took it out.  The other had radios, manuals, pads of lined paper and an extremely dog-eared map book.  'Hey!' he thought.  'Those map books are updated yearly. I can get an idea of…'  A hearty thump on his back nearly took the wind out of him as it derailed his thoughts. 
         "Hurry up, Billy! I wanna get outta here before dark!"  Chuck started loading canisters in every available pocket and an empty duffel bag. 
         Sam shrugged on the fatigue jacket, and filled his pockets, too.  Chuck handed him the duffel.  "Here.  Drop those off and I'll get them started.  I'll meet ya at Point 1."  He slammed the trunk with a beefy hand and trotted off, whistling for attention.  Looking at the map, Sam located Point 1 and plotted the route there via all the red 'Xs'.  With a sigh, Sam jogged into the woods. 
 

Project Quantum Leap 
      March 15, 2000 

 

   Donna had tried to go directly to the Waiting Room, but was stopped by a couple of technicians while enroute to sign off paperwork. 'Better now than piled on my desk,' she thought as she glanced over the papers and scribbled a signature.  Routine stuff.  She was almost to the Waiting Room when the lights dimmed, then returned to their normal level. 
         "Ziggy?" she asked, slowing.  "Why did the lights dim?"  They dimmed again, and she stopped in the hall.  "Ziggy?" 
         "I don't know, Dr. Elesee," the voice replied.  "I'm running a diagnostic of basic systems now.  There.  It seems to be located in Section 15.  A power coupling failing." 
         "Well, get the troubleshooters over there."  Donna started forward again, noting that Section 15 was in the complete opposite direction. 
         "I don't trust them, Dr. Elesee," Ziggy pouted.  "One of them used a hammer on my relays last week.  Could you check it?" 
         Donna hesitated, eyes narrowing at a point in the ceiling.  She got the distinct feeling she was being stalled.  But if there was a failing coupling, there was always the danger of fire, and fire in an underground complex was a serious matter.  She sighed. "Fine." Let Ziggy win this one, she thought.  "But if this is a ruse to keep me from the Waiting Room, I'll fry your relays myself." 
         "Yes, ma'am," Ziggy replied politely. 
         That's when Donna knew the computer was covering something.  Ziggy was never polite.  She started back to Section 15 at a ground eating pace. 

 

 

   Dr. Verbena Beeks had been playing verbal volleyball with the latest Visitor ever since he'd leaped in.  He was skilled at saying a lot without saying anything, using a minimum of words.  She was skilled in reading all that wasn't said.  It was quite a match. 
         She could read his body language, too, and saw that he was a lot more scared than he indicated; obviously a man used to being in control.  They were insufferably polite to each other, and Beeks felt they both came away with a mutual feeling of distrust, apparently something they were both used to. The only time that she felt the Visitor knew he had the edge was when Beeks asked him the date.  It was impossible to cover her shock, and she saw him repress a smile when he realized he got her. 
          The conversational sparring was tiring, and Beeks was thrown into mental turmoil as to her next course of action.  Thoughtfully, she perused the personal information she had obtained: Name: William Takeshta. Age: 34. Occupation: FBI Investigator, currently working as a hostage negotiator in the Virginia area.  It wasn't much, but she'd worked with less before, and she knew that Ziggy had started researching the instant the information was available.  But the date issue had taken Beeks by surprise. She hated to admit it, but she was stumped for the moment. 
          She knew Ziggy had digested the information, and was surprised the parallel hybrid computer hadn't commented already. Beeks looked at the ceiling thoughtfully.  "Ziggy," she asked.  "Did you see the date Sam's leaped into?" 
        "Yes, Dr. Beeks, I noticed it immediately.  I'm currently running scenarios as to how this could adversely effect the Project." 
        "That was my concern, also.  Normally, we'd tell the Admiral.  The circumstances have made that well, problematic."  Beeks mused. 
        "The Observer needs to be informed, but Dr. Beckett should not.  And also knowing the entanglements of human relations, Dr. Elesee should not be informed, either."  Ziggy's tone was one of regret. 
         Beeks thought a second, arms crossed over her chest.  "The Observer will no doubt be Sammy Jo on this one, at least for now.  Hopefully she can hold the fort until the Admiral gets here later tonight."  She tapped her lower lip with a well-manicured nail.  "And Dr. Elesee is a professional, Ziggy.  I think she would be fine with it, but we may have to make the date available on a need-to-know basis only.  And right now, she doesn't need to know." 
        "All right, Dr. Beeks. But I want to inform you that Dr. Elesee is on her way here and should arrive in 1.25 minutes.  And I think she may be very…curious." 
        Verbena raised her eyebrows at that one.  " 'Curious'?  Is there a reason she would be 'curious'?" 
        Ziggy hesitated a second.  "It's time to run system diagnostics.  I will answer your inquiry later, after I research human emotional responses in a bit more detail." 
        Beeks laughed shortly at the obvious dodge.  If her feelings were right, it would be the only laugh she would have for awhile. 
 

Washington D.C. 

 

   The cab dropped off Al in front of the Senate Office Building on Constitution Avenue.  He gave Beth a quick peck on the cheek and said he'd meet her at the airport terminal.  He stepped out into the brisk, spring day feeling very content.  He gripped the briefcase and smiled at Beth throwing him a kiss through the cab window as she pulled away. 
         He entered the building and automatically removed his cover from his head.  He easily passed through the metal detectors, and was picking up his briefcase when he felt his pager vibrate on his wrist. He knew what it meant, and also knew Sam would be annoyed at him arriving late in the leap; Sammy Jo did a good job, but Al felt that Sam was more comfortable with him. 
         When he entered Weitzman's office the receptionist smiled and immediately lifted the intercom to inform Weitzman of Al's arrival.  "Hi, honey! Tell Wietzman I just got paged, so I'll be in the conference room." She nodded and passed on the message as Al slipped into the empty room.  He opened the briefcase and flipped open the small computer inside, turning it on.  When it was ready, he typed in his password and "What's up?" 
         The cryptic reply, "Target has moved, your presence is requested," made him grin.  The non-information wouldn't be of any help to any hackers. 
         "I'll be there as scheduled, exact time to follow," he typed in, then logged off.  He just finished securing the case when Weitzman breezed in the room, followed by his two aides. 
         "Admiral," he greeted with a phony grin, offering his hand.  Al shook it in an automatic response. 
         "Senator," he replied.  "Just got a message that I'm needed out West, and taking up your offer for the jet." 
         "Actually, that works out well, Admiral.  I'm hitching a ride to Chicago, then it's all yours. The crew's already prepping for departure." 
         Well, Al thought. That works out well; it makes the wait at the terminal shorter for him and Beth.  "Great," he replied. "So can I hitch a ride to the airport?" 
         "Yep, just on our way.  I just have to drop some papers off at the Capitol Building, and the car is waiting there already.  Let's go." 
        Al picked up the case, pleased at the timing of all this. True, he was stuck in the jet with a windbag politician and his bean-counting aides, but it wouldn't be for that long.  He and Beth would have the bird to themselves from Chicago to New Mexico. He couldn't help but grin at that thought. 
         They left the office, aides following like trained dogs, and went down to an underground level where the Senate subway would take them directly to the Capitol Building.  Another Senate perk, Al thought.  Never have to worry about parking.  But then again, that was never a problem at the Project, either! 
         The open-sided rail car arrived as soon as they got there, and soon they were whisked away from the platform, en route the Capitol Building at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue. 

 

 

  It had taken a lot less time than Beth had anticipated picking up the coat for their daughter Liz.  She arrived at the small airport terminal way ahead of her husband.  She tipped the driver, and had the bags taken to the jet, then settled into the comfortable chair in the VIP lounge that overlooked the tarmac.  She got a cup of hot chocolate, and pulled out a novel.  She rarely had time to read, and settled down happily.  The room was empty except for the host behind the small bar. 
         Absorbed in her book, she hardly noticed that she'd finished the drink and the amount of time that had passed.  She'd read more than expected, felt how stiff her lower back was, and thought that Al should have been here by now.  Glancing at her watch, she stood up and stretched.  There was a wall-mounted television over the small bar, the volume off.  What caught Beth's attention was the jiggly picture of the White House, obviously taken by a hand held camera at the scene.  A harried looking reporter was talking directly in the camera, and Beth could see scores of uniformed Police scurrying in the background. 
         A very bad feeling hit her. "Turn up the sound!" she ordered, eyes glued to the screen.  By the time she got to the bar, the host had turned on the sound. 
         "Right now, officials tell us a negotiating team is being called in, and the identity of the suspect is unknown.  Clark," the TV screen reverted to a studio, with the live feed displayed on the side. 
         "Thank you, Doug, for that update.  We will check in with you as the situation changes."  The dapperly dressed talking head turned to the TV audience.  "For those just tuning in, an unknown man has taken the White House gate guards hostage, claiming the truck he is in contains a bomb.  The scene for five blocks around is in the process of being secured, and the President, who is inside the White House, has been notified." Beth gasped, and the host's eyes widened in shock.  "It is unknown where the President is inside the White House right now, but the situation is considered critical, and not yet secure.  Everyone in a ten block area is advised to stay inside and lock all doors." 
         The host snorted.  "Lotta good that's gonna do if it's anything like Oklahoma City."  Beth had to agree.  The camera, obviously a long distance away, showed a shaky image of a white van next to a guardhouse, outside the White House fence, but within a stone's throw to the building. If that van were packed with explosives as the driver claimed, it would do a lot of damage. 
         She pulled out her cell phone and called Weitzman's office. The line was busy, and stayed busy for quite awhile. Patiently, she kept trying.  She knew Al wasn't going near the White House, but it was odd he wasn't here.  She felt more concerned as time passed, and no Al. Finally, she got through to Terri, the receptionist, who told her the whole area was locked down and secured, and Weitzman and Al were probably stuck on the subway.  "At least, being underground, they're safe if that thing goes," Terri reasoned, trying to calm herself and Beth. "If they were in the Senate Building they would have called, but in the subway, nothing works.  I guess we just have to wait it out."  Beth thanked her and hung up, only a little bit comforted. 
         Her next call was to the Project. 

 

 

    When the subway screeched to a stop, the lights flickering, the first thought that entered Al's head was, 'That's what they get for using low bid contractors.'  It was several minutes before a pre-recorded message came over the intercom. 
        "There has been a Security breach.  Service will resume when security protocol has been re-established."  The message was repeated in four languages, twice. 
        Weitzman, meanwhile just sighed.  "This happens a couple of times a month. It'll get started up soon," then he turned to talk to his aide. 
        'Great,' Al thought.  'And I didn't even bring a book.'  He settled down, and let his mind wander.  Everyone else on the trolley car was as unconcerned as Weitzman. 
        Al was pulled out of his mental vacation by the uneasy shifting of the other passengers.  He glanced at his watch.  It had been about twenty minutes, and now everyone seemed to be growing edgy. He loosened his collar, as it was growing a little warmer in the closeness of the tunnel.  Al noticed Weitzman checking his watch, too.  Several passengers were poking at their cell phones, and obviously perturbed at their uselessness. 
        "Something's not right," Weitzman mumbled.  He sent an aide forward to the next car. Just as the aid disappeared from sight, the whole car was rocked by a loud noise. Everyone shot to their feet. 
        "That sounded like an explosion!" Al snapped, his heart racing.  Instinctively, the occupants crowded to the back of the car, away from the perceived direction of the noise.  It was several tense minutes before another, smaller explosion was heard, and a large puff of smoke wafted over the cars.  The aide shot back into the car, just as faint popping noises were heard. 
        "I heard gunfire up ahead! Everyone out the back!"  The aide was followed by a wide-eyed crowd attempting to put distance between themselves and the explosions. 
        Al joined them as they moved to the back car to escape, as the tunnel was too narrow to exit out the side of the cars.  He didn't like feeling trapped in the crowd; he studied the cars and the tunnel, looking for any way out.  He grabbed the aide by his sleeve. "Keep these people calm.  They'll trample each other!"  The Admiral's demeanor left no room for argument and the aide moved to obey. 
        The cars emptied out quickly.  Al could hear footfalls in the tunnel, and headed to the exit himself.  Just as he reached the doorway platform, the sound of gunfire came from the tunnel, and he hit the floor in an automatic reaction.  The lights in the tunnel flickered, then went out, and screams echoed in the darkness.  When the gunfire stopped, he jumped out of the car and started grabbing people. 
        "Back in the car!" he ordered, shoving the dark forms behind him, towards the vehicles.  He could feel smoke stinging his nostrils as he helped as many people as he could.  His eyes adjusted to the darkness enough to see a few forms on the ground, and he heard someone barking orders.  He stood between the rails, trying to focus on the speakers, when someone roughly grabbed his arm and shoved him backwards. 
        "Move it!" 
      Al glanced over into the eyes of a masked man, and knew they were all in big trouble. 

 

PART THREE 

Project Quantum Leap 

 

  After Donna received the call from Beth, she immediately had Ziggy check out all the resources at her disposal, knowing they would be more timely and accurate than CNN.  Ziggy briefed her, and she told the parallel hybrid computer to update her immediately with any changes.  Then, she headed to the Control Room. 
         On her way there, she reflected on what she knew so far. 
         Earlier, when she had finally made it to Beeks' office, she demanded answers to Ziggy's elusiveness. After being calmed by the annoyingly cool Beeks, she had finally gotten the information on the Visitor, and almost wished she hadn't asked. 
          Her husband had leaped into the present.  Today, in fact.  He was a mere few minutes behind them, somewhere in Virginia!  The idea had made her giddy and breathless.  She could call him on the phone!  As her fingers twitched at the idea and she felt her body tense at the urge to strangle a phone number out of the Visitor, Beeks had to grasp her shoulders and bring her back down to Earth. The doctor made her see that there weren't enough facts on this Leap to give them any direction of action, and under the circumstances Sam shouldn't be told how this information related to the Project's timeline.  In fact, they had to find out if he already knew, so it was time to send Sammy Jo on a fact-finding mission. 
         When Donna left Beeks for the Control Room, she had to fight the urge to stop in the Waiting Room.  This was when Ziggy had alerted her to Beth's call, and after speaking with her and getting the news updates from Ziggy, Donna was convinced this Leap wasn't a coincidence. 
         It was Fate.  And Fate wasn't done yet. 
         When she got to the Control Room, Gooshie, Tina and Sammy Jo were at the console, huddled over a slightly re-designed hand link like a new toy.  They all looked up when she entered, the link instantly forgotten. 
         "Dr. Elesee," Sammy Jo greeted.  "Ziggy has been very mysterious about some complications with this Leap?"  They all gave Donna their full attention, their faces etched with curiosity. 
        Donna didn't know where to start.  She managed to explain the Visitor's information, the skimpy information on the White House bomber, and Al and Sam's proximity to all this in a clinical, professional tone, but knew that her internal turmoil was visible in her eyes.  He was so close, but so far.  And other than Beeks, she told them no one else was to know this information, including Sam, Al and Beth, until Ziggy could narrow in on Sam's mission. 
        They all nodded in agreement as Sammy Jo readied herself for the Imaging Chamber. 

 

 

  Sam had about as much 'fun' as he could handle on this leap, and wiped the sweat from his forehead as he grumbled once again about the lateness of his Observer. He'd better have a good excuse, Sam thought as he readied another tear gas canister for launch.  The only good thing about all this was that at least he wasn't on the receiving end of the gas! 
         Chuck, his partner in applying this torture, was grinning ear to ear.  He'd thrown twice as many canisters as Sam, yelling "Geronimo!" each time and cackling like a crazed man.  Sam had to admire him for his enthusiasm. 
        "OK, now let's try to get them to split up.  You stay here, I'll go over there," Chuck pointed north.  "If they do split up, let's see if we can get 'em to shoot each other!"  He smiled with glee. 
        Sam hesitantly smiled back, "OK, sounds like a plan, I guess. Go." 
        No sooner had Chuck departed than Sam heard the welcome sound of the Imaging Chamber door.  He dropped his head momentarily in relief, then threw the canister towards the unsuspecting team crawling through the brush below.  Then he spun towards the noise, ready to chastise his friend for his lateness. The words stalled on his tongue when he saw a woman step through the portal. 
        He was speechless for a few seconds, trying to dredge up a memory about her.  She was familiar; he knew she was connected to the Project somehow.  But her name escaped him for a few seconds. 
        "Dr. Beckett," she smiled, a hopeful thought crossing her mind.  Would he remember her as his daughter? 
        "Ah…Doctor…um," his forehead creased. "Fuller, right? Is that right?" 
        She nodded, her face carefully neutral as she disguised her disappointment.  Instead, she smiled.  "Right." She looked around.  "Where are we?" 
        Sam glanced at the cursing in the brush below him as the gas he'd administered spread to its target. "Er…training.  Actually, gassing a bunch of students." 
        Sammy Jo looked a bit confused, but nodded. "OK, that fits, I guess." 
        "Where's Al?" Sam asked, trying to seem curious and not demanding. 
        "He's on a budgeting assignment." She shrugged. "It happens at the worst times, as you know! Ha, ha."  She regarded the link to distract Sam from that train of thought. "Well, the Visitor did say he was an instructor." 
        "So why am I here? I haven't got a clue, and I've been here for hours. What's Ziggy say?" 
        Just then they heard and enthusiastic "Geronimo!!" from across the narrow valley, the hissing of a canister releasing its fog, and scrambling noises from the bottom of the rift. Sam ignored it and held Sammy Jo's eyes. 
        "Ah, well, we think that…" Sammy Jo was interrupted by the sound of a pager. 
        Sam looked at her blankly, then realized it was coming from his own pocket.  He fumbled and recovered the device, which continued to beep in his hand. 
        "Actually, that's probably why you're here," the pointed at the pager.  "There's a negotiation team being assembled for a barricaded suspect with a hostage." 
        Punching buttons until the object ceased beeping, Sam read '10-89 CP Constitution and Third' on the tiny message window.  He read it out loud. "What does that mean?" he asked her 
        She punched in the information.  "10-89 is code for bomb threat.  CP, hmmm.  Ziggy says that means Command Post.  The streets are the location of the Command Post." 
        The words were no sooner out of her mouth than Chuck came crashing through the brush.  "That's us, pard.  I guess these guys lucked out."  He put his hands around his mouth.  "CLASS DISMISSED!" he bellowed. Several heads appeared in the brush below.  "CHECK THE NEWS TO SEE IF THERE'S CLASS TOMORROW!" Then he turned and grinned at Sam.  "Saddle up!" and he was off towards the car. 
        Sammy Jo looked after him with her mouth hanging open, which made Sam smile.  "He's a little over enthusiastic. Come on, follow me."  He started down to the mini Hollywood town.  "So, what happens?  What am I supposed to do?" 
        Sammy Jo was grateful that Dr. Beckett had to concentrate on making his way thorough the brush, distracting him from her. What should she tell him? Since it was practically present time, they had no idea what was going to happen, either, but she couldn't let him know that.  He obviously didn't know the date, being out here in the boonies, and she hoped it would stay that way. 
        "Ziggy's not sure," she hedged.  "She hasn't checked on all the involved parties yet." 
         She could tell by the way Sam's neck stiffened that he was upset. "What?" he breathed, continuing his hike down the narrow path, swatting brush out of his way.  "She's had a couple of hours!  What's her problem?  And don't tell me she's pouting." 
         "Good question! We've had a problem with the, ah, you know. The interface junctions.  It seems there's so much information, that she's having trouble figuring out what pertains to you."  Talk about double speak, she thought, frantically tapping the link.  "I'll get back to you on the details."  The door opened behind her and she happily stepped back through the doorway.  Sam just had time to free himself from a spiky branch, spin around in disbelief, and watch her go. 
         "Hey!" was all she heard. 
         Sam stood there and watched the door shut.  He had no more information now than before she arrived!  He didn't even know if the bomb was real, or ever exploded, or anything! Acting on his gut instinct was something he did naturally, and he knew he'd probably do all right, but the way Dr. Fuller had acted was weird.  What was going on, and where was Al, exactly? 
 He pondered those thoughts, as well as others relating to hostage negotiations as he finally emerged from the brush and headed to his car, right behind Chuck. 
 

Project Quantum Leap 
      March 15, 2000 

  

  Sammy Jo emerged from the Imaging Chamber a bit shaken.  She hadn't liked lying to Dr. Beckett, and felt like a rat leaving like that, but she'd found out what they needed to know; Sam wasn't aware of the exact time he had leaped into. Not yet, anyway.  That was sure to change once he got to the scene of the incident.  She had almost let the fact that they didn't know what was going to happen slip out. Everything she said had to be carefully worded, and that hadn't been an easy job, and she hoped Al would get here before Sam realized where he was.  She didn't want to handle that at all. 
         "He doesn't know," she said to Dr. Elesee, Tina and Gooshie as she dropped off the hand link. "Now what?" 
         "Well," Dr. Elesee started. 
         "Dr. Elesee," Ziggy crooned abruptly. 
         "Yes, Ziggy?" 
         There was a slight pause.  "There's a problem at the incident scene.  The police tactical radios are reporting that there is a secondary hostage situation, and they now believe the White House bomber was just a diversionary tactic." She sighed. 
         They all looked at each other, knowing instinctively that this was about to get a lot more complicated. 
         "Where's the secondary situation located?" Dr. Elesee asked, dreading the response. 
         "It appears that the Senate subway that runs from the Russell Senate Office Building to the Capitol Building has been seized by unknown terrorists.  I don't think Admiral Calavicci will be making it back soon." 
         Dr. Elesee's stomach sank, and she placed her hand on her chest to settle her heart, and closed her eyes. 
         "Oh, no," Sammy Jo whispered, covering her mouth. 
         Gooshie and Tina simply stood with their mouths open.  There were several seconds of shocked silence. 
         Dr. Elesee took a deep breath. "OK.  We have to decide what we need to do.  We can't tell Sam."  Her voice cracked slightly, but she continued to regain her composure. "He'll focus too much on Al, and we don't know if that's why he's there.  Ziggy, what's your probabilities on scenarios?" She paced, studying the floor as they listened to the computer's response. 
         "That Dr. Beckett is there to save the White House from being bombed, 35.67%; to take the bombing suspect alive; 17.21%; dead, 42.87%; to negotiate a release of the subway hostages, 72.44%; to allow the hostages to escape, 85.59%.  Those are all the scenarios I can calculate with the information I have." 
         "What more information do you need?" Gooshie asked. 
         "Well," the computer sniffed. "Who exactly these terrorists are would help.  And who, exactly, are the hostages, as well as the training and experience of both the negotiators, the terrorists and the hostages.  I can only work with what I have, you know." 
         "Yes, Ziggy, we know.  But you're the only one who can find all that out in a timely manner right now. Let us know what you find?"  Dr. Elesee was starting to feel helpless about this whole leap.  "I've got to update Verbena.  The Visitor is the only source of information we can get our hands on now.  We can't go to Sam yet, not until we have something that can help him.  Sammy Jo, don't go far," she flashed a weak smile. "I think this leap is going to keep us on all our toes.  Poor Beth; I hope she's all right."  The others nodded solemnly.  "Ziggy, could you continuous feed the news channels to the screens?" 
         "Yes, Dr. Elesee.  And I'm sorry about Admiral Calavicci.  I'm quite fond of him, you know." 
         They all grinned slightly as the moved off to get busy. 
         "Yeah, we know," Dr. Elesee responded. "We know." 
 

Senate Airport 
      Washington, D.C. 

 

   Beth was glued to the small television screen when she saw the news flash, and all the feelings that she'd had when Al had been reported as Missing in Action in Vietnam came crashing down on her again.  She collapsed on a chair in the small terminal, and the host came rushing over. 
         "You OK, lady? You're white as a sheet!"  He helped her get settled. 
         "My husband.  He's in that subway," she whispered, dreading that she had to tell her daughters and the Project staff.  "I have to make some phone calls." Her hands shook so badly she had to punch in the first phone number several times before she got it.  "I need to get to the scene when I'm through."  She turned her beautiful, brown eyes, shiny with unshed tears, on the host. "Can you figure out how I can get there, please?" 
         He couldn't refuse.  "Yes, ma'am," he replied, giving her shoulder a pat.  "Don't give it a second thought.  I'll drive you there myself if I have to."  And he scurried off. 
 

 

PART FOUR 

 

  I had a gut instinct that something about this leap wasn't right.  Al was missing, the stand-in Observer, Dr. Fuller, had given me nothing the one time I'd seen her, and I'd been here for hours and was still without a clue as to why I was here.  My gut instinct told me that this incident I was responding to was my reason for leaping here, whenever this was.  I felt so unprepared for what lay ahead; I was glad I had at least perused the 'Elements of Hostage Negotiations' notebook in Chuck's car. Thanks to my photographic memory, I at least had some of the jargon available and the organizational chart in my head.  I just hoped I wasn't the one listed at the top of the chart as the 'Incident Commander'; that sounded more like Al's place.  I could only hope I'd see him soon. 

         

   Sam kept as close to Chuck as he could, but Chuck was as enthusiastic about driving as he was about teaching.  They pastoral surroundings gave way quickly to city streets, and Sam finally saw a city he remembered: Arlington.  He knew they were in the beltway of Washington DC at that point.  Chuck had one of those detachable red 'bubble lights' on his dashboard, as well as a siren, and broke every driving rule in the book to get to the Command Post.  Sam wasn't sure he could pry his own knuckles from the steering wheel when Chuck finally parked. 
         Chaos reigned the streets where they stopped.  Cars were everywhere, and everyone in sight had a uniform, badge, gun, or bulletproof vest over their clothes, or any combination of those items.  Sam had tried to listen to the police radio, but it was all gibberish to him; too many codes, too many voices.  He didn't even have a car radio to listen to the news. 
         Chuck had pulled over a curb and slammed on his brakes on a patch of grass not meant to be a parking lot.  He was completely professional as he got out, donned his fatigues and vest, and clipped his badge to his belt.  Sam followed suit, always feeling like he was playing catch-up with the big man.  He also couldn't help but noticed the large number of officers that respectfully acknowledged them.  Sam hoped he wouldn't damage Sgt. Takeshta's reputation. 
         They strode off together towards a large, white bus bedecked with antennas and satellite dishes in the distance.  They had parked as close as they could get in all this mess.  Sam saw a large contingent of military men patrolling the area; he couldn't see the White House yet, but could tell the direction it was in by the increasing numbers of soldiers. Nervously, Sam licked his lips and wiped his sweaty hands on his pants.  He sure could use some help, here; the closer he got to the Command Post, the less sure he was about pulling this off. 
         When they arrived at the bus, there was little backslapping and hearty greeting; everyone knew the bleakness of the situation.  When their number reached about a dozen, a man with great command presence raised his hand and they were all quiet.  The only noise he couldn't control was the 'whup-whup' of the helicopters overhead, distant sirens and muted police radios. 
         "OK, troops, I'm your Incident Commander, Captain Burroughs." 
 Sam let out a big sigh, and relaxed slightly. 
         "I'm passing out a sketch of the area, and the blocked off streets.  We have commandeered the lobby of that building behind you," everyone turned and noted the office building, "and it will be the Command Post. I've penciled in some unit leaders at the bottom.  If your name is listed, follow me to the lobby now.  The rest of you stay here until you're called to your particular unit.  There's no big surprises here, folks.  I'm not taking this time for training, so you will all be in familiar units." 
         'Yeah, right,' Sam groaned to himself.  He looked at the paper and wasn't surprised to see Takeshta's name written on the bottom. He whispered softly to the heavens, "Al, where are you??" 
         The lobby of the Command Post was a busy place.  Tables were being set up around the perimeter, and loaded with equipment.  Captain Burroughs herded them to the quietest corner.  "OK," he started.  "Most of you probably got the low-down on your radios on the way over, but I'll go over it again to clarify our part in this. 
         "Since we paged you, another situation has arisen, and the first thing we have to do is verify a connection.  At approximately 1425 hours, a dark skinned male believed to be of Iranian descent drove up to the northeast White House guard shack in a white panel truck, and took the two guards there hostage.  He claims the truck is loaded with explosives.  He appears calm and in no hurry at all, and had duct-taped the guards' hands and feet.  They are still in the guard shack, and the suspect is sitting in the truck.  As a result, Level 1 security measures were enacted with shut down all access to the White House, the Capitol Building and all the Senate and House office buildings.  This includes the underground trolley that runs between the Capitol Building and office buildings. 
         "At approximately 1500 hours, word came me that the Senate trolley line, which is underground, has also been seized by an unknown number of suspects in the section that connects from the Senate Building to the Russell Senate Office Building.  I have that area noted on your maps. 
         "We believe that the first event was a diversion for the second event, allowing the armed suspects to move about freely in public, armed to the teeth, so to speak.  There have been no demands made yet." 
         He paused to allow the group to chat amongst themselves for a few minutes.  Sam was shocked at the news, and tried to absorb what he could from the people around him.  Chuck was very animated in his discussion, and Sam tried to hear every word.  Sam saw the Captain consult with another man, who handed him a paper, then he motioned for silence. 
         "OK, here's the line up: Incident Commander, me.  Negotiation Supervisor: Chuck Crossman." Chuck raised his hand so everyone could see him.  "Tactical Supervisor, Bob McMartin."  A man near Chuck raised his hand. "Primary Negotiator," Sam felt butterflies in his stomach. "Tom Williams." Sam sighed.  "Secondary Negotiator, Sandy Allen." 
        A short haired woman yelped, "Here!" and everyone laughed briefly. 
        Burroughs continued, "Dr. Carlson is here for Mental Health and brought his team, and Communications Center Lieutenant Axall will head up Support, and the Intelligence Officer will be, of course, Sergeant Takeshta." 
        Sam didn't say anything, but many heads turned his way.  He felt himself blush, and tried to find his position on the chain of command diagram in his head.  He was pleased to find he was in the third row from the top, and exhaled gratefully. 
        "Refer all press inquires to Lieutenant Dann; No press inside the inner perimeter on you maps, and I want updates in one-half hour.  If you have any questions, ask me now.  Dismissed." 

  Project Quantum Leap 

 

  They all watched the scenario unfold before them on the television screens, narrated by Ziggy as she relayed the police radio traffic. Everyone felt helpless and useless. 
        Donna's mind was flying beneath her calm fašade.  'How can we help Sam?' she thought. 'What can we give him that he can use?'  Finally, a thought occurred to her.  "Ziggy, ask Dr. Beeks if our Visitor is usually assigned to a particular position on the negotiation team, and what that job entails.  Maybe we can do Sam's work for him." 
        There was a slight pause before Ziggy replied.  "I've already researched Mr. Takeshta's records and have deduced a pattern.  There is a 95.22% probability that Dr. Beckett will be the Intelligence Officer.  The Intelligence Officer gathers and assembles all background and information on both the hostages and hostiles. The information is used to bargain with, and to determine who will be the strong and weak links in the hostages.  As they say, there can never be enough information." 
         "True," Donna smiled.  "I also assume Sam will have his own computer terminal at the Command Post?" she inquired further. 
         At this question, all heads raised and faced her, realizing what she was building up to. 
         "Yes.  That assumption is correct." 
         Donna burst into a huge smile. Finally! Some way to help!  "OK, Ziggy, we're going to be Dr. Beckett's own, personal information source.  We get the radio traffic a few minutes ahead of Sam, so let's gather our list.  Tap all sources.  I know the Senate office buildings have cameras all over the place, so let's review those from the subway platform.  We need names and backgrounds on all of the hostages, including the guards at the guardhouse.  Check the license on the box truck.  We need to find out who the terrorists are.  Any ideas, anyone?" 
         "If I had fingerprints I could check Interpol and all other fingerprint data bases," Ziggy suggested. 
         Gooshie's frowning face was replaced with a bright expression. "I can refigure the hand link to project a light that can enhance a print.  The Observer just needs to shine it on a print we know to be one of the terrorist's." 
        "Do it," Donna said, starting to pace. "Sammy Jo, get ready to center on Al and check that out.  Ziggy, find Dr. Beckett's station at the Command Post and hack into his line only.  We're going to be his sole source of information.  And be sure to delete any references to Al for now.  He can't get focused on one person.  We need to make this as easy as possible for him." 
         "Nothing about this leap has been easy so far," Tina quipped as her fingers flew over the console. 
         "Tell me about it," Donna mumbled in response.
 

 

PART FIVE 

 

   Sam got swept up in the hustle of setting up stations at the command posts.  Computers! Something he knew something about! Although it was simple work, and didn't recognize some of the components he was working with, he figured everything out and savored the time.  He'd already had a half dozen investigators report to him and he sent them out on fact-finding missions.  The job of Intelligence was collecting information; he felt he could do that, especially with such a good team that worked with little supervision.  His scribe, a pinch-faced man called Scanlon, recorded everything for him instantly, and gave him updates regularly, and even had a report ready for Sam to give the Commander at the requested time. 
        'This is almost too easy,' he thought.  That idea made him especially cautious, and he looked carefully around him as he worked.  Still nothing stood out for his attention, and he went back to his setting up. 
        Finally, he was able to sit at the computer station and fire it up.  Scanlon placed a list of stations and their network locations next to Sam.  As soon as he logged in, information started rolling in. 
        Scanlon gave the screen a double take. "Wow! Dispatch sure is on the ball today, Sergeant. But then again, with a high profile incident like this I guess they have to be." 
        "Yeah," Sam agreed.  He was just sorting through the list of known hostages when a man in fatigues walked over, a hand held radio on his ear. 
        "Sir?  The tactical field team is ready to feed the camera into the subway. The rest of your team is in the field, so they want to confirm that you'll be there." 
        Sam blinked for a second, having no idea what that meant. "Yeah, sure.  Now?" 
        "Yes sir.  I'll take you there." The man confirmed the information on the radio, the slipped it in his holder.  "Let's go." 
        Sam glanced at Scanlon. "Cover for me here, OK?" 
        "Yes, sir." 
        As they walked out to the bustle of the outside, camera flashes went off by the dozens.  Reports, held in a certain area outside, had erected scaffolds and platforms by the score.  Vans with satellite dishes were everywhere.  Questions were being thrown at him, dozens at a time, and he couldn't hear any one of them clearly.  Sam's escort had ducked his head and grabbed Sam's arm.  "This way," he said. 
        They left the demanding reports behind as they weaved their way between cars, using them as cover at the same time.  Soon they were at an intersection that was cordoned off with bright yellow tape that said "Do Not Cross - Police Line".  Sam saw a group of heavily armored men grouped together over a manhole cover. 
        Sam's escort briefed him.  "We figured out that some of the suspects got access to the subway tunnel via the sewer.  We found an abandoned catering truck down the road, stopped right over the top of one of the manholes.  They staged a vehicle breakdown, and all the while were going through a trapdoor in the bottom of the truck into the maintenance tunnels.  From there, getting to the subway tunnel was just like running a maze. 
        "We used sound equipment to pinpoint where the people are gathered, and are making a hole to insert the fiber-optic camera.  Should be able to monitor what's happening, and get a good list as to exactly who's down there for you.  We have a feed set up to go to your station and the head negotiator's station.  We need you to approve the camera placement, but I think it's the best location we'll get." 
        "OK," Sam acknowledged.  When the reached the manhole, the agents stood back and let them by.  Sam carefully went down the ladder into the dark, dank cavern, followed closely by his escort.  It was wet down there, and Sam's shoes were soon squishy with liquid. He tried not to think about what he was walking in as he trotted after his guide, passing heavily armed stationed at each intersection of tunnels.  The smell didn't help, either. 
        They'd twisted through a few turns and passed under an open manhole above them. "This is where they came in.  The truck's right up there," his guide stated as the cruised by. 
        Soon they met up with a cluster of five other men who were unraveling what looked like cable lines.  One man had a small video screen in front of him which showed shades of grey and black lines.  The man motioned Sam over. 
        "OK, we're running the camera around the various pipes hanging above the subway cars.  It's a good thing those cars have open sides, or we probably wouldn't be able to see inside. A lot of the tunnel lighting is out." 
        Sam wasn't sure if he was making sense of what he saw, or his imagination was taking over.  Eventually he was able to figure out what he was looking at.  The tunnel had pipes running the length of the ceiling, and Sam could see the seats in the cars with a bird's eye view.  The first two cars he saw were empty, but there was movement in the car coming up.  Identifying anybody from the tops of their heads wasn't going to be easy, but if they could drop the cable down, maybe the darkness would conceal its presence. 
        The technician seemed to read Sam's mind, and the view on the monitor gradually changed to more of a profile image. "That's the last car, sir.  The hostages are being held in one spot, it seems.  There could be more of them further down the tunnel.  I count three armed suspects so far," he touched the screen and Sam noted the masks and rifles.  "And let's see…at least eleven hostages." He adjusted some dials, which affected the focus.  "I recognize two Senators, at least.  Four women.  Hmmm..and I think one guy's in uniform." 
        Sam squinted at the screen.  It was drifting in and out of focus as he studied it, but saw the dark patch pointed out by the agent.  Everyone was sitting on the seats, but this guy standing with his back to the camera, his arms held out to his sides. The agent said it looked like a Navy Officer dress blues uniform, and by the way his arms were moving, looked like he was talking to one of the masked men standing just a foot or two in front of him.  They watched as a fourth masked man stepped up from the darkness, his mouth working furiously under the mask. The Navy man did not back down.  The agent gasped when the masked man suddenly raised the butt of his rifle and jabbed the Navy man in the chest, sending him flying backwards towards the camera.  He landed on the floor, out of the camera's field of vision. 
        "Whoa, that had to hurt! I hope he doesn't antagonize the suspects any further," the agent commented, furiously working the dials. 
        Sam was transfixed by what he saw on the screen.  All those innocent people! And where was the Observer to tell him what happens? 
        "Is this view OK for you guys up there, or do we need to run the cable to the other side of this group? We run the chance of the fiber being detected if I try to keep going over their heads, but it could give us an idea of who is in the tunnel ahead." 
        "No, no," Sam said distractedly. "This will do. Go ahead and run it to the Command Post."  He stared at the monitor, watching the uniformed man slowly stand and brush himself off.  His back was still to the camera, and the suspect that had pushed him was pointing at him, his mouth still working under the mask. Then he sharply raised the rifle to the level of the Officer's head, and Sam saw the hostage slowly put his hands behind his head. 
        "Oh, oh.  This doesn't look to good," an agent whispered. 
       They all watched as the Navy Officer slowly turned towards the camera.  He stood straight, chin up and jaw set, not showing any fear.  His expression was one of defiance, the fire in his eyes clear even in the poor lighting. 
       Sam felt his heart leap up into his throat and he instantly broke out into a cold sweat as he watched his friend and Observer prepare himself to die. 

 

To Be Continued

 

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