Episode 701

Hostile Takeover II

by:  A. J. Burfield

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Sam has leaped into William Takeshta, a FBI hostage negotiator in the Virginia area. He arrives in a surreal place, unable to figure out what year he is in, and patiently waits for his Observer to show up.

  Meanwhile, the Project staff realizes that Sam has almost leaped home; he is a mere few minutes behind their current time, but on the other side of the country. Al on the other hand, is nearby Sam in Washington D.C. Getting ready to head back west, Al finds himself a hostage during simultaneous terrorist attacks on the White House and the Senate subway. He does not know that Sam has leaped in to help him.

  The Project staff decides not to tell Sam when he has leaped. Because they don't have the information themselves due to the closeness in time of Sam's leap, they have a difficult time explaining to him why they can't supply any information. Finally, Sam gets called to the scene to negotiate with the terrorists, and sees Al as one of the hostages.



March 15, 2000

Washington DC


Al stood stiffly, his back to the masked men and steeled himself. He said his good-byes silently and quickly - Beth, each of his daughters, and of course Sam and everyone at the Project. Maybe Sam will come back and change this some day, he thought as he laced his fingers behind his head as ordered. He was surprised at the thought, then chastised himself. Why should that thought surprise me?

 The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and he felt a burning spot where he figured the bullet would enter his head. Involuntarily, he held his breath, and that horrific picture of the Vietnamese man being executed with a pistol flew through his head. Stop it! He told himself, standing straighter. He closed his eyes and thought instead: All those years in the Navy, at sea and in the air and here I am dying underground. Whoda thunk. Sweat rolled down between his eyes. When several seconds passed without the expected explosion, he opened his eyes and realized the two men behind him were arguing. He cocked an eyebrow. Something's up, he thought with a slight grin, and his gut told him he was safe for now. Al was very familiar with the expected behavior of a captive; his Vietnam experience was a painful reminder, so he didn't move a muscle. 

 As the seconds ticked by, Al replayed his previous actions in his mind. Trying to keep a calm demeanor, he'd requested that the women be released in a show of good faith. All he could see of the tall man he addressed were his eyes and lips. Al had seen a flash of something in the man's eyes. Was it surprise? The emotion was quickly squelched, but something had gone on. Al couldn't fathom what that was about.

 The resulting actions from his request had told him three things. First, they spoke a Middle Eastern dialect; second, the painful stab at his chest accented the fact they weren't in the mood to bargain; and third, at least one of them had a hot temper. It had been tough to keep up the passive front, and was almost glad to turn his back on his captors when the rifle was aimed at him and he was ordered to turn around. At least they couldn't see the rage he knew showed in his eyes at the time. He refused to believe they would shoot him, but he found himself holding his breath just the same and focused his thoughts on Beth and his family.

 The heated debate between his captors stopped and became a long, nerve-wracking stretch of silence. He felt his wallet get plucked from his back pocket, and was shoved unceremoniously to the side and commanded to be silent. He took a seat and slowly let out his breath as the captors made the rounds collecting identification from each hostage, and patting everyone down for weapons. Mentally, he took stock of any possible weapons at hand, made a roster of hostages in his head, and readied himself for the duration. The two masked men that had argued were replaced by two clones, and disappeared in the darkness of the tunnel. Al wondered where they were going and how extensive their network was down here. And the idea that the tall man may have recognized him was unnerving.

 He resolved to keep his eyes open and try to save everyone's butts.



There was a collective sigh around Sam as they watched the drama unfold on the tiny screen. The fiber optic camera gave everything a weird, fish-eye bend that just added to the surreal feeling of the whole situation. He felt weak in the knees for a few moments when he finally realized his friend was given a reprieve.

 "I'll connect this up to the CP, OK, sir?" The agent asked as he fiddled with the wires.

 Slightly dazed, Sam realized he was being spoken to. "Yeah, do that." He turned to the guide that had brought him down here, now determined to find out who these people were and help his friend. "Let's go," he snapped. The guide nodded and left at a brisk pace with Sam close behind. 

 Sam's mind was whirling with thoughts, none of them ending happily for Al. This was complicated, and he wondered if he was able to handle it. When he popped his head out to the light of day, his face was etched with grim determination to save his friend. When he saw Dr. Fuller waiting for him behind some parked cars, he waved off his escort and headed straight for her.

 "Al is in there! Is that why he's not here? What happens on this leap? Does he die?" Sam's voice shook at the very thought. "I'm here to save him, aren't I?"

 Sammie Jo tried to keep a calm appearance although her heart was beating like crazy. That's the very thing she'd like to tell him, but there were other potential victims out there, too. "Dr. Beckett, you can't focus on just the Admiral. That's why we didn't tell you about him in the beginning. And I can't tell you what happens here, either. The Admiral's presence really muddies the waters, and we can't take any chances. You can't narrow your focus!"

 Sam's eyes were burning with anger. "So that's why he's not here? So he won't influence me one way or the other, then? Or is he dead?"

 She kept her emotions in check, and did not back down. She locked eyes with her father, and realized how much her eyes resembled his. Softening her stance only slightly, she said with finality, "I can't tell you. Your rules." She raised the link to call up the Imaging Chamber door but stopped herself from a coward's retreat.

 Acting out of frustration, Sam reached out to grab her arm to stop her. As his hands passed through her, he realized the futileness of the motion. He raised his hands and shook his fists in the air as he turned his back on her. He took a few deep breaths, and paced. Slowly, he began to calm down. Sammie Jo looked on in silence, feeling completely useless. She couldn't deny him his anger, and stood quietly until he was ready to speak.

 "OK, OK," he said to himself as he paced a small circle, finally stopping in front of the hologram once again. He ran his hands through his hair in a motion of resignation, calming his thoughts. Raising his head, he caught her eyes. For a second, a feeling of deja-vu overcame him when he saw her expression, confusing him momentarily. He got the feeling that there was more to Dr. Fuller than met the eye, but shook off the thought in order to concentrate on the present situation. Well, the present for him, that is. Or was. He sighed.

 "Ziggy's being tight about information." Sammie Jo lied. "So there's not much about the bomb we can tell you. She says your arrival has already changed things and she refuses to speculate. I'll see what I can coerce out of her." This lying was getting to be too easy, and it made her uneasy. "I'll check back with you later. Be careful."

 Sam saw shift in her eyes and the thought that she was lying crossed his mind. He immediately pushed the thought aside, refusing to believe it. "Tell Al 'hi' for me, OK?" He casually said instead.

 She smiled softly. "Good try, Dr. Beckett." Then she tapped on the handlink and disappeared, relocating herself in the Senate subway.



Sammie Jo blinked at the abrupt change from daylight to dark, and stood still until her eyes adjusted. She could hear the mumbling and movements of people around her, and finally was able to make out the dark forms in the shadows of the tunnel. The tram had feeble interior lights, and it gave the impression that the captives were players on a lighted stage with Sammie Jo watching from the audience. 

 She was here to get fingerprints. Gooshie had rigged the handlink to act as a scanner and all she had to do was find something that the terrorists had touched. She didn't want to get too close, because she knew that Al could see her, and didn't want to surprise him or get him in any more trouble. Squinting in the poor lighting, she saw the Admiral seated on a rear bench among other men. The women had been separated and placed on the opposite side of the car, and she counted a dozen captives in all. She toyed with the idea of contacting Al. He should be able to see her, since her DNA was related to Dr. Beckett's, but she decided to hold off. He didn't need any attention drawn to him right now.

 It was difficult to stay out of Al's sight, but she just had to make sure he was all right. She could see the anger in his profile, but he looked undamaged, so she backed off into the darkness again, and wandered down the tunnel. It wasn't easy to figure out who the leader was; they were all dressed so similarly that it took her awhile to keep them straight. She walked deeper into the tunnel and found a cluster of about eight of them listening intently to a tall man. This far down the tunnel they were out of sight of the hostages, so they had pushed their masks up and off their faces. Sammie Jo perked up and asked if the link could scan faces too. Ziggy replied with an affirmative. 

 The hologram quickly moved around the circle scanning faces, but was only able to get about four of them including the tall man before the circle broke up. She decided he was a leader by the way he gave directions and dispatched the men. Then he grabbed a metal pipe on the wall to balance himself as he stepped over an obstacle in the darkness. "Gotcha!" Sammie Jo whispered as she aimed the handlink beam at the pipe. She worked it around at different angles, and Ziggy squealed when an adequate print was photographed. "Mission accomplished," she whispered. She made a mental count of how many terrorists she had seen, then after checking that she was out of sight of the tram cars, she called for the Imaging Chamber door. 



When Dr. Fuller left, Sam started back to the Command Post, his mind racing. How could he get down there? What was he here to do? What should he do next? His whirling mind skipped a beat when he overheard a woman's voice pleading with someone. Something about the voice made him stop and scan the crowd gathered behind the police line. Eventually he saw a dark haired woman talking briskly with one of the burly sentries. Sam sucked in his breath and held it for a moment. He knew her! 

 As he racked his brain trying to recall her name, she glanced in his direction and saw him staring at her. She tried to smile, but the weird mix of anger and panic had taken control of her expression. Then it hit him: It was Beth!

 Without a second thought he strode over to the line and took her elbow. Her mouth dropped open in surprise. "I authorize her entry," Sam ordered the sentry, and he stepped aside. Beth gratefully passed the line and walked close to Sam's side. He could feel her shaking.

 "Do I know you?" She asked, studying his profile.

 "Uh, no," Sam stuttered. "I'm the Intelligence Officer. You're Mrs. Calavicci, aren't you? I, ah, saw your picture in my research." That sounded believable.

 "Oh, yes, of course." She was trying to be cordial, but her voice was quivering. "Al.. I mean, the Admiral's all right isn't he? Have you seen him?" Her grip tightened, the shaking gone.

 "I just saw him; well, I saw live pictures of him, and he's fine." Sam was wondering now how he was going to explain her presence in the Command Post. "Ah, I thought you may help us with some names. Are you up to it?"

 Beth's jaw set and she stood a little straighter. "You bet I am," she said determinedly. Her resolve made Sam grin.

 He led her to his station where the fiber optic feed was now showing on his computer screen. "It's kinda dark, but let your eyes adjust. We counted about a dozen hostages, and have figured out the Senators and Al .. I mean, your husband. Do you recognize anyone else?" As she studied the screen, Sam started having second thoughts about having her here. What was the point? So she could watch him get tortured? Maybe die? Then Sam had to finally admit that she was here for purely selfish reasons. She was as close as he was going to get to home right now. She was like a lifeline that he wanted to keep close, and didn't want to let go and those thoughts started to make him uncomfortable. This probably wasn't a good idea, but he wasn't moving to send her away, either. He made a promise to himself that if her well being became threatened, he would send her away to safety. 

 "There," she said pointing to a hunched over man. "That's Avery, Weitzman's aide. The woman behind him is a clerk in the office…let's see..Cindy? I think that's it."

 Sam compared the names to his list, and brought up their personnel files. The pictures matched. "Halfway there," Sam mused. Six more hostages to identify. 

 The sound of the Imaging Chamber door made him jump. He rolled his eyes in the direction of Dr. Fuller and caught the complete surprise on her face when she saw Beth. Her gaping and protests reminded him of Al, and he suppressed a smirk.

 "What's she doing here? Don't you think that's a bit risky?! You haven't told her, have you?!" Dr. Fuller was practically prancing in place. Then something dawned on her, and she frowned suspiciously. "Do you even know who she is?" She asked quietly.

 He frowned at her and shook his head, then stepped aside to pick up a phone to use as a prop. Beth didn't notice his shift in position, and Sam stepped out of her hearing zone.

 "Yes. It's Beth Calavicci, isn't it? And no, I didn't tell her," he whispered.

 "What's she doing here?!" The hologram repeated, the handlink squealing in protest.

 Sam set his chin. "I thought she could help."

 Dr. Fuller's eyes narrowed. He wasn't fooling her.

 "OK, OK. It felt like the right thing to do, OK? What are you gonna do about it, anyway? You're not even here!"

 Dr. Fuller sputtered and Ziggy squealed, and Sam simply stood fast and glared at them, unmoved. Finally, they gave up. "Fine. But you need to resist all temptation, Dr. Beckett! No cryptic messages or stuff like that, OK?"

 Sam looked hurt. "Would I do that?" He said innocently. Her scowl was his answer. "Fine. No messages. Now why are you here? To give me more non-information?"

 Now it was Sammie Jo's turn to look hurt. "Of course not! We have some good stuff here. Got some names for you. Fastid Hazzim, Rahstem G'hard and Alexander Moussad. Ziggy's hacking into some overseas system that has their records…hang on…they don't have work visas. No big surprise there. Hey! Moussad is an army pilot!" Sammie Jo's fingers flew over the keyboard. "Well, this is weird. He trained here in the US in the mid-seventies, squadron VT-10 in Pensacola."

 "VT-10?" He repeated, not expecting the reaction he got from Beth.

 Her head snapped up. "Squadron VT-10? In Pensacola?" Her eyes were wide with wonder.

 Sam stared at her, not believing what he just heard. "You know it?" He asked.

 "Sure. Al was their Commanding Officer in the seventies…let's see..it was in 1975. He got enough stick time there to qualify for the astronaut program. He loved it."

 Sam could see Sammie Jo staring at her, too. " 'Stick time?' " They said together.

 Beth grinned. "Oh, yeah. You're a civilian…stick time…flight time in a jet. You know? The joystick??"

 "Oh!" They replied in unison, the term suddenly clear.

 She laughed lightly. "He loved that duty. He said it was his job to try and make the trainees in the back sick…" She hesitated as her voice cracked on the last word.

 Sam, noting her distress, asked quietly, "Did he train pilots for the Iranian Air Force?"

 "Sometimes. But mostly he was there to train the second-seaters. The Navigators and the Radar Officers in the back." Her voice was soft as she returned her attention to the screen. Sam saw her touch it lightly with her fingertips. "How is that connected to this?"

 Sam looked at Dr. Fuller, who then returned to poking the handlink. "Oh, oh. That checks out, all right. Al trained him in '75. I wonder if that's merely a coincidence?"

 "I don't believe in coincidence," Sam grumbled.

 "Hey! I don't believe this!" Sammie Jo couldn't help but smack the handlink to try and get it to speed up. "This is incredible!"

 "What?" Sam replied after he made his heart settle down from her outburst.

 "Ziggy has accessed Moussad's complete flying history with the Iranian Air Force. It seems that he was in the area of the USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988." She sounded angry. "So the Captain was right after all!"

 "What?" Sam growled through clenched teeth. He had no idea what she was talking about.

 "So you don't remember …oh, sorry. Swiss cheese, huh?" She ignored his glare and continued. "On July 3, 1988, while on patrol in the Persian Gulf, the Captain of the USS Vincennes reported picking up the transponder code of an Iranian F-14. He tried all he could to confirm, but the jet didn't respond, so he felt he was under attack, and shot it down. The problem was, he shot down a civilian Airbus and killed everyone aboard. All civilians."

 The shock on Sam's face was clear.

 Sammie Jo continued. "But these records show Moussad was flying in the area! So the Captain was right all along! He did read a Fighter transponder, and all those people died because of that jerk in there!" She pointed to the screen. "I wish we could release this for the Vincennes Captain. He really suffered." She sighed. 

 "Why can't you release it?" Sam demanded.

 Dr. Fuller patiently replied, "Because how are we, as a secret project, going to answer where we got it? Our computer hacked your computer? Sorry, Dr. Beckett. No can do."

 "Release what?" Beth's soft voice sounded concerned. "Something about Al?"

 Sam covered his anger and faced her. "It looks like your husband trained one of the terrorists as a pilot in '75. I guess we don't want to release that fact."

 "Oh! Really? That's weird, huh?" She looked perplexed. "Do you think it's connected?"

 Sam's mind was spinning, trying to make a connection. What if it was? What does that mean to Al? Was this coincidence, or did they plan to get him? He didn't like it when a leap had more questions than answers this far in the game. Then suddenly another question sprung into his brain, and he snapped his head around to face the hologram.

 "Why is it that you just found that out?" He pointedly asked Dr. Fuller. "Didn't you have all this from the original history? I understand the part about Ziggy getting that classified stuff, but didn't you have any of the terrorist's identification from the original history?"

 Sammie Jo froze. "Well," she started. "Well, they, ah, got away before."

 Sam knew she was lying as she beat a hasty retreat through the Imaging Chamber door, trying to escape Sam's questions. The only thing that stopped her was the gasp of terror that escaped Beth's lips.

 "They're taking him! They just grabbed Al!"

 Sam dropped the phone and centered himself in front of the screen. All he saw were retreating heels. Beth's hand was over her mouth, and her eyes were wide and shiny with fear as she tried to catch her breath. Sam held her shoulders to stop her sobs, and glared at Dr. Fuller over Beth's head. His lips formed the word, "Go to him!"

 "Center me on Al!" Dr. Fuller ordered as the Imaging Chamber door shut, cutting off her exit. She punched the handlink, and popped out of Sam's sight.



The tunnel was starting to feel hot and close to Al. Mentally running through some relaxing techniques that Beth had taught him kept him from jumping up and berating each masked captor as they passed. After what seemed like forever two of the terrorists approached him, and without a word grabbed his arms and forced him to exit the tram. They bound his hands behind his back, and started down the tunnel. He heard Weitzman utter an oral objection that was quickly silenced.

 Once they were around the bend from the trams and out of sight Al was able to make out a group of four men waiting for them.

 "Tea time?" Al inquired sarcastically. "Gee, I forgot the crumpets." They responded by shoving him to his knees in front of the group. The tall man stepped forward, and Al thought he might be the one that had thumped him in the chest earlier. Did he know him? "Gonna aim better this time?" He sneered at the man.

 "Ah. Calavicci, isn't it?" The man replied with a thick Middle Eastern accent. 

 All Al could see were the man's lips and eyes, and he studied them closely for any sign of recognition and future reference, if he had a future.

 "And an Admiral. Well. We know a bit about you already." The man paused.

 "Well," Al said smartly. "I didn't know I had a fan club."

 The tall man smiled. "You know? We had our list of demands all set to go, then along came you to complicate things. Actually, that's not quite true." The tall man started pacing a slow circle. "In reality, you are the icing on the cake, so to speak. A nice surprise."

 Al didn't like the sound of this. "So this is a surprise party."

 "Yeah. And your part is to tell us all you know about the Starbright and Quantum Leap projects." He turned suddenly and pushed Al in the chest with his booted foot. 

 The Admiral toppled backwards and opted to lay still. He felt the tip of the man's rifle against his temple, and glared at him in the dark. 

 "You can start anytime," the man growled through the mask.



Sam felt the alarms going off in his head. He calmed Beth down, and she pulled herself together quickly. He had to admire her; she could work under stress. The clock was ticking on this one, and his desire to be with his friend was overwhelming. He had to get down there. But how?

 Just then Chuck sauntered up, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a pile of papers in his hand. "Hey, Billy, who's your helper?" He asked quietly, nodding his head towards Beth.

 "Oh. She's the wife of one of the hostages. She's been able to put some names to some faces for me."

 He chuckled quietly and shook his head. "I don't know where you get these plans, Billy-boy, but I guess ya gotta milk any cow you can get for information, huh".

 Sam didn't know how to respond to that, so he didn't.

 Chuck rubbed his forehead. "This is weird, Billy. I thought we were dealing with an organized group here, and would have their demands by now. I wonder what's up their sleeves?"

 "No list of demands yet?"

 "No. And the longer we wait the more nervous I get. There's something not right here. So, who are these guys?"

 Sam started in on what he had. Chuck was amazed at the amount of information Sam had, but passed off any comment with a clap to the back that nearly knocked Sam off his feet. "You keep this up, and you're going to have nothing to do!" He commented.

 Sam brightened. "I know. My guys are doing great and don't really need me. So, I want to be on the entry team."

 Chuck looked stunned. "What? You gave that up years ago! And we need you here…" 

 Sam cut him off. "No, you don't. My guys are doing great, just like you said. And I am the most experienced, right?" Sam took a gamble with that comment, but with the respect William Takeshta seemed to command, he didn't think he was far off.

 "Well, maybe." Chuck studied him closely. "And they do need the experience, now that they have to make two entry teams. You sure about this?"

 Sam nodded. "Extremely."

 "I know they have the van team already lined up. You'd be needed on the tunnel team."

 "Yeah, I know." In reality, he didn't know, but was pleased at the luck.

 Chuck seemed to be calculating in his head. "OK, I'll see what I can do. Stand by."

 "Yes, sir," Sam automatically answered, causing Chuck to guffaw loudly.

 " 'Sir'! You crack me up, Billy!" Shaking his head, he walked away.



Al thought his head was going to explode. He was careful not to move as he slowly came back to consciousness, not wanting to draw attention to himself. Was the buzzing he heard in his head, or real? Mentally pushing the throbbing aside, he concentrated on the noise and it slowly morphed into a man's voice. It sounded like it was right in front of him.

 Moving his head ever so slightly, he made sure he was facing the noise. He cracked an eyelid just enough to make out movement in the dark, then was suddenly blinded by a bright light. Was he dead? Was this the tunnel to…where ever it was those near-death experiences went to? He saw the shape of a person in front of the bright light, then the shape stepped back. 

 An angel?


 Al held back from calling to the form, and it disappeared. He squinted, trying to see it again, but it was gone. His thinking was fuzzy for a few moments more, and then the buzzing in his head again transformed into a man's voice, which was coming from a shadow of a man near the wall. As his thinking cleared, he dismissed the thoughts of Beth and the angel from his head. The pain made it obvious he was still alive. 

 From what Al could see, the shadow-man was by himself, carrying on a conversation in … Chinese? Al shut his eyes again, took a relaxing breath, and listened again. It was Chinese. Not all Chinese, though. The conversation was interlaced with Arabic.

 Again he opened his eye, but just enough to verify what he heard. The bi-lingual man was talking to the wall. No, he had something in his hand. Ignoring the drumbeats in his head, Al concentrated on the man and focused his woozy thinking process. The man was talking on a phone that was hard wired into the mass of cables in the ceiling of the tunnel. 

 He had a contact somewhere on the outside! A contact who spoke Chinese? 

For the third time he wondered if he was hallucinating, but the taste of blood on his tongue, as well as the conga drums playing in his skull convinced him this was reality. Al didn't know any Chinese, but he did recognize one term the man had just used, and it was the term for the Chinese Silkworm missile. Al quickly put together the connection; those were the types of missiles used to guard the entrance to the Persian Gulf! 

 Then Al heard two other terms he knew, 'Starbright' and 'Quantum Leap', and knew a deal was going down. These terrorists were mercenaries, and they had an outside contact!


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico


 Donna knew that time counted on this one. Even Ziggy may not be fast enough when the time came for information. What they needed was information accessible in a heartbeat, and the Visitor was the only source on hand with this expertise. 

 She strode into Dr. Beeks office and brainstormed the situation. If things started moving quickly in D.C. they knew the Visitor could turn the tide. If he would help was another question.

 "We've built up an unspoken bond of respect," Verbena commented. "I think he'd listen to me. Shall I tell him everything?"

 Donna went with her gut instinct. "Yes," she said without hesitation.

 "Stay here," the psychiatrist said as she left her office. Donna watched through the one-way glass as Dr. Beeks entered the room. The image of Sam's body was on top of the bed reading a book, and straightened up when the doctor entered. The fact that a Marine guard stood just inside the closed door didn't escape the Visitor's notice, and Donna grinned at the ploy. The Marine's presence added to the doc's credibility.

 Sam's face was unreadable as he sat with his hands crossed in his lap. Donna could see Verbena's hands and mouth moving as she spoke, apparently with no response from the Visitor. Then, Verbena rolled a small, metal table to the bedside, and cleared off the top. She pointed at the reflective surface, and Donna saw the man hesitate. Verbena crossed her arms and took a step back, waiting. 

 Billy Takeshta wasn't an impulsive man, but he obviously was a curious one. It was just a matter of minutes before he leaned over the table. Donna had to admire him for his restraint, and knew it was involuntary motion that made his hands go to his face. That seemed to be the first motion a Visitor did upon seeing Sam's face returning in a reflection, and it made her smile. Some things were consistent in a leap, after all!

FBI Command Post

Washington, D.C.


Sam spent the time conversing with Beth, trying to keep her distracted. She was able to identify two more people by the time Chuck returned.

 "McMartin was relieved you volunteered. He was short handed. Get over to his station to get geared up. I think we trained everyone on the team, so they'll know you!" His short laugh made Sam wonder what he meant by that. "Hey," he added as he turned to go. "The demands came through finally. And boy, are they weird. Something's going on here that we don't know about."

 Sam's eyebrows crawled up to his hairline, and he felt goosebumps on his arms. He didn't like the sound of this. He stopped Chuck from leaving with a touch to his arm, then asked. "What are they?"

 Chuck consulted his paper. "Well, they want the immediate release of Fazir Gha'bi from prison in Israel. He's up there with Bin Laudin as far as terrorist leaders go, and they want some government secrets."

 "Which secrets?"

 "Real secret-secrets. Black project stuff, I guess. Something called Starbright, and another called Quantum Leap. I've never heard of them, but the upper mucky-mucks sure are tightlipped about 'em. I don't see how they expect us to negotiate with something we know nothin' about." He flipped the paper back in a file and walked off, shaking his head and mumbling about keeping secrets from the FBI.

 Sam felt the blood drain from his face. He hardly heard Chuck finish his thought before he moved away. How did they know about the Project? Was Al the target all along? Or Weitzman?

 Is that why he was here?

 Somewhat dazed, Sam returned to Beth and thanked her for her help. Since the airport bar host had given her a ride to the Command Post, she had no way to leave so Sam told her that she could stay at his station. He left instructions with Scanlon to take over, and to keep and eye on Beth.

 It was all he could do to keep from running to the staging area for the entry teams. The thought that he might get killed right along with Al didn't even cross his mind.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico


Gooshie, Tina, Donna, Dr. Beeks and Billy Takeshta were gathered in front of the screen. The picture screen showed a team of men trotting down the stairs of the Command Post. The picture was fuzzy and a little bouncy, obviously taken from a distance away. Donna's first impression was how they looked like a bunch of turtles; they were thick and round from the amount of armor they wore. Only their heads were uncovered, their helmets and gas masks tucked under their arms for now. The camera zoomed in to the faces of the men, one at a time as they passed the camera. The Visitor whispered each man's name as they passed, and ticked off the count on his fingers. When they were finally assembled in front of their supervisor, obviously getting last minute instructions, Billy said, "That's the first string right there. The diversion group must be assembling somewhere else." He pointed at the screen. "These are the guys this is all riding on. I bet the diversion team will stabilize the van while these men neutralize the targets holding the hostages."

 "How can you tell?" Beeks asked, squinting at the screen.

 The Visitor smiled. "I know these guys like my own brothers. I know their strengths. They want the bigger guys to take down the target holding the deadman's switch, and the more maneuverable men to infiltrate the hostage scene. Can you show the two cameras side by side? The fiber optic and this news feed?" He asked Beeks, but she answered by glancing up.


 Ziggy did the computer equivalent of an insulted sniff. "Of course I can," she snapped, and the screen split.

 The Visitor reached up and put his fingers on the screen, touching the group of men. It was like a dream. He wondered again if he was dead, and this was perhaps a chance to redeem himself? He shook his head to stop that train of thought, and noticed the nagging feeling that there was a vital piece of information missing on this action. He started running everything he knew through his mind once more. "Could I run through some of those photos again?" He asked. Tina handed him a fat file, and he started through them, one by one, while the others watched the drama unfold. The entry team moved away from the camera, donning their headgear. The assault was about to begin.

 "All right, are we all set? This isn't going to be easy. We have to pass on information instantly. Every second counts." Donna shifted nervously as she spoke.

 Everyone nodded, and Gooshie notified Sammie Jo. "She said she's going to stick to Dr. Beckett like glue," Gooshie reported. 

 "She'd better," the Visitor said. "After that helmet's on, everyone looks alike. And she has to yell. He has ear plugs on for the explosives." Gooshie passed on the information.

 When the men disappeared from the screen, the view got a little boring. On one side was the fuzzy image of the hostages, and on the other the news camera view of outside the Command Post. Donna was glad the volume was turned down and didn't have to listen to the inane comments she was sure the reporters were tossing out to keep the viewers tuned in. It seemed like forever, sitting there waiting for something to happen with the sound of the Visitor flipping through the stack of photos. He was unflappable. Those were his best friends heading off into who-knows-what, and he didn't appear to notice.

 After awhile, the sound stopped abruptly, and Donna glanced his way. She saw his head slowly rise up after studying one particular photo, a puzzled look on his frowning face. 

 "Oh my God!" Tina screamed, snapping Donna's attention back to the screen. "What happened?! Oh, God, it exploded! Al and Beth!" Her knees wobbled and Verbena kept her from collapsing to the floor. Donna felt the blood drain from her face.

 The television picture shook violently as the screen filled with black and yellow, then static. It took a few seconds for the studio news crew to realize what had happened and cut back to the studio. Feeling sick, Donna leaned forward and turned up the volume.

 "There's been an explosion! We have no details yet, but it appears there has been some sort of explosion. We are unable to contact our crew on the scene at the moment…"

 The Visitor's eyes were locked on the screen, his hands still gripping the photos. "A back up detonator! That's it!" He flipped quickly through the photos, tossing all but three aside. He jumped to his feet, and slammed the photos down on the console. "They immobilized the target in the van, who had a detonator." He pointed to the suspect's hand, gripping something tightly. "It's either a dummy detonator, or they gang wired a second one in the subway, tied into the same explosives!" He was talking excitedly now, pointing to a second picture from the tunnel, taken by the remote camera. "Here. That guy has it. I assumed it was a grenade of some sort, but something didn't look right and it's been bothering me."

 He pointed out the device to Gooshie and Donna. "See? I bet both are wired to the same pile of explosives, or the one in the van is a dummy. That explains the passiveness of the van driver. Did you notice how he wasn't the one giving the demands? This one," he tapped at a fuzzy picture taken of a suspect in the tunnel, "will insure detonation. A back up system! You've got to tell your man! Where is he right now?" Billy Takeshta had gotten a grip on this time travel concept, and wasn't wasting time mourning over his currently dead friends when he knew he could save them.

 Gooshie's hand flew over the controls. "They're entering the sewers now. We have..uh...85 seconds until the explosion."

"I need to see a replay of the remote camera feed! We've got to locate this guy!" The Visitor waved the picture above his head. 

Ziggy instantly cut the news room scene so the fish-eye distorted, black and white remote camera view took up the whole screen. The picture rewound, and the Visitor studied it carefully as the seconds ticked by. Sam and Al's lives, all the lives on the screen, depended on the expert eye of Billy Takeshta. The murmur of barely controlled, current-time hysteria could be heard on another television screen across the room, but the Visitor was cool and professional.

"They've set the explosive to enter the tunnel," Gooshie reported.

 The Visitor barely acknowledged him as his eyes were tuned to the screen. "Filter out some of the black," he ordered. Ziggy complied without hesitation, and the screen lightened a bit. "There!" he barked, finger jabbing the screen. There was about a second of movement in the lower left part of the screen. "I've accounted for everyone else. That's him. The team will enter off to his left, so your man has to duck right immediately and grab this guy!"

 "They're entering the tunnel!" Gooshie breathed.

 "Tell him not to shoot!" Billy ordered, spinning to face the programmer. The man's face was right in front of Gooshie's, oblivious to the programmer's halitosis. "Don't shoot him! His hand has to be immobilized! It's a deadman's switch. If he lets go of it, everything goes!"

 Gooshie was passing on the information as it left the Visitor's lips, and Donna proceeded to drag the Visitor back to the Waiting Room praying for an impending leap.

Senate Subway

Washington, D.C.


All Sam could hear was the pounding of his heart in his ears, and his own heavy breathing. His fingers tingled with fear as he followed the team. He recognized the final section from the reconnaissance photographs, and he felt the fear change into determination. It was up to him to save Al and all the others. Failure was not an option. He flexed his hands, loosening his death grip on the rifle. Visibility was poor through the mask, but he had a clear idea of what to expect once inside. It was now or never. Voices crackled in his ear.

"Nothing's changed. The hostages are still in place. Ready on my count. First diversion is underway." Sam's heart jumped to his throat, and he willed it back down. This was it.

"First target neutralized! Go!"

Instantly, the team leaped forward, the wall caving in from an expertly placed explosion. They spilled into the tunnel, right into the side of the rail car as planned. 

 Then Sam heard Dr. Fuller screaming at him. As he entered the opening, he instinctively turned to his right, realizing afterwards that that's what she had been yelling. His body followed her directions before his brain had time to make sense of them, and found himself grappling with one of the terrorists. Sam had dropped his rifle, and it was dangling by the shoulder strap as he wrestled the masked man. 

Sam realized now what he was doing as he tried to maintain his death grip on the terrorist's fist. They crashed to the floor and rolled over and over in the darkness. All he could hear was, "Don't let go! Don't let go!" and the snarling of the suspect. He felt himself yanked up, then slammed onto the side of the tram, the bare area of his neck just below his helmet cracking on the edge of one of the seats. He saw stars. His adversary slammed him into the seat again, and Sam started to see black edges surrounding the stars. Sam poured all his fading strength into his grip.

After what seemed like an eternity, Sam felt his adversary jerk back and a tug on his rifle's shoulder strap. "Hang on tight, kid!" A familiar, gravely voice beckoned from the closing darkness, and he complied. There was a short burst of fire that deafened Sam, and his arms were about yanked out of his sockets as the terrorist fell lifelessly to the floor, dragging the scientist down to land with a thump on top of the masked body. Sam still had his grip on the deadman's trigger, and he felt his rifle clank on the floor next to him. It smelled strongly of gunpowder. 

"Ya did good, kid," coughed the voice of Al Calavicci close to his ear. Sam tried to look at his friend, but the gas mask made it impossible to turn his head. He couldn't let go of the trigger to face his friend, and by the time his woozy brain cleared and he was able to speak, Al had moved off to brief the agents on his information concerning the Chinese.

 "Dr. Beckett!" Sam hardly heard the hologram next to him. "Ziggy says you've done it! Looks like the Admiral uncovered more than just a terrorist attack. There's a conspiracy to steal American technology, too! They know about the Project!"

 "I want to see Al!" He choked, his eyes watering. 

 Another team member with 'Bomb Squad' embossed across his body armor knelt by him, and took over control of the switch. "I got it. Good job, Billy!" Two more technicians joined him, and Sam was finally able to loosen his cramped fingers and back away. He struggled to his feet. 

 The smoke was clearing slowly, and he ripped off the gas mask. There was a stinging in his eyes and throat as he searched the rail car with his eyes. Just as he located his friend in the darkness, Al turned and met his eyes. The older man smiled slightly, stood up straight, gave Sam a crisp salute from across the car, and turned back to the agents. Apparently he didn't see the Observer in the smoke.

 "How did the Chinese find out about the Project?" Sammie Jo asked the beeping handlink.

 Sam felt the tingling of the impending leap, took a step and reached out to his friend. "Al!" He coughed, and then an electric blue cloud engulfed his vision. 



The blinding blue-white light flickered, and then faded. After the last of the tingling sensation lingered away, Dr. Sam Beckett relaxed. He could hear the pleasant chirping of birds, the laughter of children that emanated from somewhere close to him, and he could feel the warm sunlight on his face. A gentle breeze has whisked by, making the dried leaves lying at Sam’s feet stir on the ground. Sam glanced down and could see lush green grass beneath his feet. He found himself in a crouched position, and felt something soft in his left hand. Lifting up his hand he could see that he was holding a blue tennis ball. The ball looked as if it had been chewed on; the fuzz was frayed and the ball was bare on a few spots. Sam then saw that he was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jean shorts, and sandals. Slowly, Sam stood up and got a better view of his surroundings.

He could tell that he was in the backyard of a two-story house. The house was tan colored, with a patio a few feet from where Sam was standing. Next to the sliding glass door, leading into the living room, a small black barbeque was placed, along with a black streaked bag of charcoal. There was a flowerbed that lined the side of the house. The bed was filled with small red and yellow roses. There was a white table with an umbrella in its center. The table’s top had gathered a remarkable amount of dirt and leaves. There were four chairs around the table, one on each of its side. Turning to his left he could see a worn, brown, metal tool shed. The shed was small, and had gathered a bit of rust on its door and roof. The paint on the shed was rather faded, due to the weather. The perimeter of the yard was lined with a small fence that seemed to stretch for miles. Over on the other side of the small fence, five children were happily playing, three boys and two girls. They were running around the yard, tagging each other and shouting "You’re it!" One of the children saw Sam and smiled at him. "Hi, Mr. McDaniel." Sam smiled back and waved. The child laughed and then ran back to his friends. Sam chuckled and turned around.

The backyard itself was rather large and sloped a bit in a few places. Sam noticed that the yard was semi-littered with what looked like dog toys. He could see a half chewed stuffed animal by the tool shed, a couple rubber chew bones strewn about, a small piece of white and red colored rope, and a neon green leash a few feet ahead of him. Sam didn’t find anything out of the ordinary; everything seemed normal. Sam sighed. For once I didn’t Leap into the middle of some disaster. Sam raised his hand and tossed the tennis ball. He turned around and took a few steps towards the house when he heard a growling sound coming from behind him. Very slowly, he turned around and was faced with a Doberman pinscher, growling at him, showing Sam all its teeth. At the dog’s feet was the blue tennis ball. Sam’s eyes widened as he took a step back. The dog started to bark loudly. Sam quickly glanced around, and he saw two more Doberman pinschers join the barking dog. Sam stared gape mouthed at the three dogs, with no idea what to do. Sam took a few more steps back; making the other dogs join in on the barking. Sam broke out into a sweat, and it wasn’t because of the weather. 

Sam breathed an "Oh boy."


 E-mail A. J. Burfield