Episode 715


by:  A. J. Burfield

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It didn't matter how many times Sam Beckett dropped into another life; it never got any easier. 'Whatever happened to the benefits of experience?' He thought, as he tried to unscramble the ghostly images left behind in his brain by his current host's mind. Sam knew he'd been doing this for a long time; it felt like forever. Had he ever had a life before leaping?

He knew it was disorienting at first; that wasn't surprising. But what was surprising this time was the strength of the disorientation. The spinning thoughts made him feel unbalanced, and he fought stay upright. Sam stopped, and tried to physically settle himself as he barely noticed his surroundings. His thoughts were turned inward, wild and raw. Sam Beckett felt like he was trying to fight something off in his mind.

Raising his hands to his temples, he squeezed in an effort stop the spinning. With arms raised, he noticed his own foul body odor. He looked down at his high-top, sneaker-clad feet and vaguely made note of his dirty black jeans, difficult to see in the darkness of the night. 'Stop it!' he mentally implored the persistent images pushing at the edges of his sanity, and he had a moment of silence, dropping his hands to his side.

The moment was long enough for him to find he was outside a modest two story house. The air was cool, but not cold. There was a clay birdbath standing next to him on the grass. There was barely a breeze, and he saw the merest flutter of a lacy curtain in an open window on the ground floor of the house. He fixed his eyes on the curtain, and felt himself drawn to the window. Once there, he peered inside and made out a form asleep in a bed. Sam felt himself blush. 'Just walk away,' he told himself. 'What am I? A peeping Tom?' His feet, however, wouldn't move.

Then he heard a voice. A bare whisper, tickling his mind. He could barely make out the words. He moved his hands to hitch up his pants when his fingers brushed a lump in his back pocket, and he pulled out a Walkman with a cassette inside. Sam squinted at the cassette label, and saw the name 'AC/DC'. He blinked, perplexed, and the voice was suddenly clear, chilling him to the bone. 

'Serve me and I will protect you.'

Then Sam felt himself pushed into another leap. This time he fell into the life with sudden surprise, and launched himself out of the bed he had been in. Sam stood, breathing raggedly, and noticed he was standing by a window. He tried to calm himself, and looked out the window to see that he was above the ground, probably in the second story of a house because he could see over a fence into a house next door. It was barely dawn. His eyes flicked around the grassy yard, and he saw a clay birdbath, knocked over. 'That wasn't like that before,' he caught himself thinking with a frown. "I was here … there.." he whispered out loud. A sudden chill swallowed him, and he felt drawn to the bedroom door, and down the stairs to the first level of the house. He stood in the hall at the bottom of the stairs and saw some mail stacked on a small table. The top envelope was addressed to Mrs. Jennie Vincow. Sam looked down at himself and saw that he was a man wearing pajama bottoms. So who was Jennie Vincow? His wife?

Sam's feet took on life of their own as they took him to a closed door. He absently noted that the room behind this door was directly below the one he had awakened in. Instantly, his hands felt clammy as they, also, moved on their own to the doorknob. 'No.' Sam's mind said, 'Don't..' But his body was being moved by another force as the door opened and he stepped through.

The horror of the scene before him didn't sink in immediately. Sam's mind was trying to deny it all. But soon the fluttering lace curtain, the blood, the disarray, and the angle of the nearly decapitated head of the old woman were etched in his mind's eye. And the tingling of the impending leap was never so welcome.




Project Quantum Leap

March 23, 2001


"Gooshie!" Admiral Calavicci yelled at the top of his lungs. "What the hell was that? Ziggy? What's going on?" His yelling was aimed at the ceiling of the Waiting Room, but his attention was on the empty bed. Dr. Beeks was across from him, a surprised look still on her face, her mouth hanging open.

"Dr. Beckett has leaped, Admiral. Twice." The voice of the parallel hybrid computer whispered. Was that a slight edge of confusion on Ziggy's voice?

"No kidding! We didn't get identification on either one!"

Dr. Beeks took no time at all in regaining her professional decorum. "I'm sure they were two different people, Al. Two leaps into two different people. You got here after the second Visitor arrived." Al could tell by her clinical tone that something had disturbed her about one of the Visitors. She covered being rattled by that very tone.

"This guy seemed rather…normal." Al commented, going back through the comment to see if he'd missed something.

"He was, Al. The first Visitor, though, was different." She smoothed her skirt, then the sheets on the bed, and stepped around to Al's side. "The first one was more aggressive. By that I mean mentally aggressive."

"I don't get you," Al frowned.

"It's hard to explain verbally. Let's look at the tape. Ziggy, play back the Visitor before this last one." They had moved into her office outside the room. There was one way glass between her office and the Waiting Room, and the camera filmed every Visitor from here. 

The picture on the monitor screen on her desk flickered to life showing a form appeared in the middle of the room that looked like Sam Beckett. The form looked around slowly, unperturbed. The smile that creeped onto the face was chilling. Al could see the expression in the eyes clearly, even with the distance and poor resolution, and he felt the little hairs on the back of his neck spring to attention.

"He isn't showing any fear." Al commented.

"No. He never did. I watched him from in here for a minute or so, and decided to have a guard outside before I approached him. He never moved; by the time I got in there, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. He said something, then he was gone. Never even acknowledged me. I have no idea who he was. That's when I called you."

"He said something?" 

They watched the monitor. His lips moved briefly. "Ziggy, enhance the sound so we can hear him." 

The video rewound, and zoomed in on the face. With the audio up, they were able to make out the words over the white noise of the tape.

"I will serve you."

Al and Beeks looked at each other, each covering the chill they got at the voice. 

"So when I got here, it was the second guy?"

"Yeah." Al could see Beek's brain whirling.

Al studied the video as the grinning man disappeared. "I'm getting a bad feeling about this," he mumbled.



With a jerk, Sam dropped into another life, this time behind the wheel of a car. He was thankful it was at a stoplight. His right turn signal was on, and he was second in line, so he was able to look around for a few seconds. It was night, and a lit sign told him he was turning onto Alhambra Avenue. He looked down at his hands on the wheel and could tell he was a woman. The ladies' watch on his wrist said 11:10. It was his turn to go, so Sam made the right turn and pulled directly into a lighted parking lot which was empty due to the time of night.

He put the Chevrolet into park, and found a purse next to him. The wallet inside yielded a driver's license that told him he was currently in the life of Maria Hernandez who lived on Alhambra Avenue, Los Angeles. 'That answers the question of where she was going', a relieved Sam thought. He saw the block number he was on, and figured he was heading the right way. Curious, he pulled out the checkbook and looked at the last check written out. March 1985. 'Well, I have the who, when, and where. All I need to know now is the why.'

Nothing else was revealed to him by the contents of the purse or the car, and after several minutes he decided to continue on his way. Driving this time of night was fun. The lights, the music, the freedom; it was a nice feeling as Sam drove up to the garage of Maria's condo. Singing 'Walk Like an Egyptian' as he pressed the garage door opener and rolled inside, he didn't hear the sound of the Imaging Chamber door. 

He had just stepped from the car when he heard a voice say, "Get out of the way." 

Sam spun around and saw a gaunt man dressed all in black just inside the garage, a gun pointed at him, as he heard Al's voice yell, "Sam! Duck!"

Sam heard the gunfire as he raised his arms and dropped at the same time. He felt incredible pain in his hand as he fell to the floor.

"Play dead, Sam!!"

That wasn't hard. He'd whacked his head on the concrete floor and his vision was wavering, so he closed his eyes and held his breath. His hand throbbed painfully; he could still feel the car keys clenched in his fingers. As he lay there, he heard soft footfalls come near him, hesitate, then continue on. The strong smell of body odor trailed behind as he heard the door into the condo open and close. Again, he felt the tingling of the impending leap, and Sam thought, 'I just got here!'

In the seconds before leaping, he heard his Observer yelling, "You saved her, Sam, but her room mate….!"

And the next thing Sam knew he was in an angry swirl of emotions; a combination of sexual thrill, enthrallment, and omnipotence. He was frighteningly out of control, and felt the strong resistance to his mind. Finding himself in the dark, looking down his outstretched arm through the sights of a handgun to a sleeping form, Sam was relieved when the leap finally took him away from the maelstrom…into another dark room where his ears were ringing. The smell of gunpowder was strong, and the grisly form of a bloodied man on a couch made his stomach turn. Sam stumbled back from the scene, down a hall where a door flew open and exposed a frightened woman in a nightgown.

"Vincent!" She screamed, backing up in terror, her eyes on Sam. 

Unable to stop himself, Sam continued forward into the room, and leaped again. This time he heard laughing in his mind.



"Gooshie! Center me on him again!" Al howled furiously at the ceiling.

"I'm trying, Admiral, but there's interference!" Gooshie's voice as breathy with exertion.

"Dr. Beckett has leaped again, Admiral," Ziggy said calmly.

"I KNOW THAT YOU DAMNEDABLE MACHINE!" Al yelled. "Open the door!"

"You don't have to yell," Ziggy pouted as the Imaging Chamber door opened, allowing the furious Admiral to charge out. 

"What is going on!?" Al demanded of the harried pair behind the console.

Tina and Gooshie barely gave the furious Admiral a glance as their fingers flew over the settings. Ziggy's orb glowed brightly. The electricity's movement over the orb gave the illusion that it was spinning. Al hadn't recalled seeing it look like that before.

"As near as we can tell, Dr. Beckett has been continually leaping, back to back. But some of these readings are odd." Tina said.

"I know he's been leaping! Odd?! What do you mean by that?!" Al tried to get his anger in check, knowing it was based in worry about Sam, and these two were doing their best.

"Well, when Dr. Beckett normally leaps, we have a regular curve in the energy readings. You know, the graph climbs then jumps and levels out. When he leaps out, it falls to the original level. Where we're seeing here is the level starting to climb, then a jagged peak, a drop, then it shoots up and levels off. It's like there's interference." Tina's explanation came between gum popping and her hands and eyes never left the console. 

"That's happened on the last few leaps?"

Gooshie reviewed a chart. "It's happened with just the last two. There was a similar spike on the first leap of this series, but it was at the end of the leap. The other two were at the beginning." He frowned. "I don't understand. No outside source we have can account for these spikes."

The vision of the scary Visitor crossed Al's mind. "Were lucky the last leap lasted long enough to get a name. And I didn't like what we found out from that. Ziggy, get the times of those spikes and compare to Beek's…" He didn't even get to finish the sentence.

"The spikes coincide with the arrival of two of the Visitors, and the exit of the first Visitor of the series. That's a pitiful amount of information to work with," the computer said sulkily, "but I deduce with 47% accuracy that the spikes occurred with the leaping of the same individual three separate times as the spikes are all exactly the same intensity. But as I said, that isn't much data to predict with."

Al's mouth was tight as he spoke. "In other words, don't blame you if you're wrong."

"It wouldn't be my fault." Ziggy summed up. "And Dr. Beckett has leaped again."

Al darted to the Imaging Chamber. "Get ready to lock me instantly! Get Beeks standing by in the Waiting Room and on the intercom! Move it!"

The Observer was worried. When the history of the last person Sam had leaped in came up, he'd only gotten as far as 'murdered in the garage of her home' before he went on line in the Imaging Chamber. This time Miss Maria Hernandez was kept alive, but her roommate, Dayle Okazaki, still died by a point-blank gunshot. Sam had leaped into one of those weird, spiked leaps instead and didn't get the chance to save her. Something was going on here; this was all too odd. And if Sam would quit these back-to-back leaps for a few minutes and give them a break, he could work on finding the connection; and he knew in his gut there was a connection.

His thoughts helped to keep his nausea down as time swirled around him. The instant Beeks had a speck of information on Sam's whereabouts in time Al could lock on immediately. This method wasted some energy, and upset Al's stomach, but it made for a fast connection.

Impatiently, he waited.


        The next few … minutes? Hours?…were blurry and nauseating for Sam. Twice, he felt like he was on the first big drop of a roller coaster. After the second stomach-lurching impression, all he had time to see was what he thought was his hand holding …. lipstick?… with a pentagram star of the same color drawn on something in front of him. Sam dropped the lipstick and stepped back, horrified.

His host had just drawn the five-pointed star on the thigh of a woman! A beaten, bloody, old woman! Before he had time to even feel the bile rise in his throat, she faded away in blue, and he leaped again…

…into a stunned gardener. Sam was standing outside a small house in the slight chill of early morning with a weed whacker in his hand, which he immediately dropped. He was rooted to his spot, afraid to move. His heart pounded in his chest, and he could feel he was gasping for breath. He didn't dare move. Sam cautiously looked around, noting he was in a clean looking neighborhood. Birds sang, a dog barked in the distance, and a car slowly went by on the street. He noticed a beat up truck parked at the curb with 'landscaping' stenciled on the door and assumed it was his host's truck.

Sam straightened, a bit more confidant. It wasn't long before the welcome sound of the Imaging Chamber door greeted his ears.

"Sam! Are you all right?" Al hurried through the door, fingers flying on the hand link.

"I…I think so," Sam stammered. "I don't want to move, though. What's going on, Al?" Sam's voice had a worried tinge to it.

"I wish we knew, Sam, I wish we knew. You have now leaped eight times in less than two hours. And three of those leaps have had weird power surges." The hand link squealed. "Make that four…no, five. This is weird! Everyone's working all out on this one, buddy."

Sam blinked at his friend, the information slowly sinking in. "Did the last two, spikes you call them, just occur? Just before I leaped into … into…" he pointed at his chest.

"Ramon Gallegos. That's who you are now. And yeah, just before. Why? Did you notice something?"

The feelings and visions came back in flashes, and Sam felt like he was going to retch. He put his hand on his stomach and his knees wobbled.

"Whoa, Sam, hang on, pal. You just turned whiter than Tina's bleached teeth. What?"

"I .. I saw.. blood. I felt like I was falling, twice. The second time I saw blood, and…and a pentagram. Oh, God, Al, I think the pentagram was on a dead lady's leg!" Sam's eyes were wide, and it was Al's turn to go pale. "Al! I think I drew the pentagram on there!"

"Not you, Sam, not you. It was the creep you leaped into!" Al's fingers flew over the hand link. We finally have a couple of names. Gallegos and a woman…Maria Hernandez. Ziggy's cross checking the two names and….uh, oh."

Sam's heart rate shot up again at Al's tone. It wasn't good. Sam's voice was shaky. "What, Al?" he stammered, part of him not really wanting to know.

Al looked up with huge, sad eyes, and said calmly. "You have to go in the house, Sam. You have to. A woman's life is at stake." Al was too calm, and Sam felt his hands start to shake. "Go, Sam, now. Before it's too late. Go."

Sam started wobbling to the house, the hologram never leaving his side. "I'm warning you now, Sam, it won't be pretty. But there's someone alive in there, and you have to help her." Sam felt his strength slowly build up from his friend's encouragement and constant chatter. It could have been to build up Al's reserves, too, but at this point, Sam didn't care.

The front door was locked, and Al told him to go check a side window. There was one open, and there was wet blood on its sill. Both of them saw it, but didn't mention it. Sam slowly climbed in, and dropped into a grisly scene. Tables were overturned, belongings scattered, and blood was everywhere. Sam picked his way to the bedroom door and glanced down to see an old woman crushed under a heavy table.

"That's not the one, Sam. You can't help her. Go into the next room."

Sam lifted his eyes, and saw the familiar pentagram drawn on the wall in lipstick before he stepped in the hall, then into another bedroom. The first thing he saw was the overturned wheelchair and a hospital bed with blood stained sheets. He rushed forward when he saw feeble movement on the bed; another elderly woman fighting to breath. She was naked and bloody, and Sam saw the pentagram on her thigh, but he didn't have time to be shocked as he swung into life saving mode.

Al spoke in a calm monotone. "Blanche Wolfe. 79 years old and an invalid. The other was her sister, Malvia Keller, 83. Both died in the original history, but Blanche survives now that you are here, Sam."

Sam worked feverishly, and when the bleeding was stemmed, he called 911. Al fed him the address, and then Sam hung up and went back to his patient.

"What's happening, Al?" Sam growled from clenched teeth as he lay a hand on the poor woman's forehead. "Who did this?"

"The Nightstalker, Sam. You seem to be chasing the Nightstalker."



Project Quantum Leap

February 1, 2001


Al wasn't surprised at all when Sam leaped at the sound of the arriving police and ambulance. In fact, he was kind of surprised Sam stayed as long as he did with the beaten woman. This leap, and he'd grouped all these leaps since the scary guy as one leap, was both astonishing and tiring. Al was itching to do more research, and typed all he could into the hand link as he waited the short time for Sam to leap.

In Al's present history, Richard Ramirez, the Nightstalker, had never been captured. He'd terrorized Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle for years before disappearing. His crimes followed the same heinous pattern of having no pattern; some were killed, some were not, all were violent and bloody, some by gun, some by blunt instrument. Sometimes he robbed. Most of the time passages were written in blood to Satan. Even with a name and a face published nationwide, he still wasn't in custody, and nobody knew where he had disappeared. Home security had become a booming business, and there was no such thing as an unlocked door anymore. Beth didn't even like to dive alone anymore, day or night. Al felt like all innocence had been taken away.

When Sam finally leaped, Al's resolve had focused his energy.

"Ziggy, pull up every fact about every victim of Richard Ramirez, also known as the Nightstalker. We're gonna have to head him off at the pass."

"Done, Admiral. I have also formed a theory why Dr. Beckett is getting bumped from his leaps in the first place."

Al paused at the console and threw a glance at Gooshie, who shrugged his shoulders. "And what would that theory be, Ziggy?" Gooshie asked. Donna moved up beside him, interested in the response.

"I have checked all systems and power sources directly related to Dr. Beckett's leaps and have found them all sound and functioning. Therefore, it is not the hardware. My diagnostics, primary, secondary and tertiary, all prove that the software is functioning within acceptable limits, and was functioning properly at the time of the leaps in question. That leaves only one other source, and I have no way of checking that."

Al, Gooshie and Donna waited patiently. "Well?" They said together. "What is it?"

"It is the God, Fate, Time or Whoever entity. Possibly even another entity we have not even considered."

Sammie Jo and Tina had walked in at this point, and had caught on what had gone down immediately. All four of them stood planted, regarding each other.

After several silent seconds, Sammie Jo said quietly, "You don't think…." and sort of let her sentence run off. 

"Like another leaper?" Tina suggested. 

"No, another leaper doesn't look like that," Donna said, referring to the chart. "We've seen that before. This is almost like Sam's own mind is doing it. It's within his brain waves."

Al silently unwrapped a cigar, and clamped it between his teeth without lighting it. "Don't tell me you think Sam's possessed. Because Sam has no idea if it's something he's doing."

"Have you asked Dr. Beckett?" Ziggy asked smugly. "You have no trouble asking me if I'm doing something I'm not aware of!"

Al snorted. "I'm not touching that with a ten foot pole. Give me the victim information, Ziggy. It's our only source to help."

"You realize there are slayings here that are only suspected as being work of the Nightstalker. Many have no evidence at all. Why haven't the authorities been able to catch this person, Admiral? He is only human." Ziggy mused.

"Good question, Zig." Al agreed. "Good question. Come on troops, let's correlate this information to this leap."



Sam couldn't really tell, but he thought that there was a little more suspension time after his last leap. He seemed to be given the opportunity to gather his wits, then felt himself hurled into another body once again. The connection seemed forced, however, and Sam found his initial confusion edged with urgency. He had to take control of this life quickly.

It was night, and he was standing behind a dumpster in an alley. The smell that assaulted his nostrils was foul, and as he backed away, he realized that most of the odor was coming from his current body. Sam felt his stomach lurch as an unconscious thought in the back of his mind tried to force its way forward.

Disoriented, he turned down the dark, seedy alley and made his way to the street. He hadn't even noticed the headphones around his neck still playing some heavy metal tune until the shrieky guitar rift made his head pound. Sam felt for the walkman controls and turned it off. That's when he found himself under one of the few unbroken streetlights and noticed he was dressed entirely in black. Dirty, smelly clothing that hung loosely, with dirty, white high-top sneakers on his feet that gave him a creepy feeling of deja-vu. He felt his face, the prominent cheekbones and long, unkempt hair, and had an immediate desire to bathe. 

Glancing around, he looked for any place that might have a public restroom. He certainly wasn't going to get invited into anyone's house like this. As he walked the empty street he noticed most of the signs were in Spanish and many walls were adorned with gang tags. Sam turned onto a larger street, which had the occasional low rider cruise by, and saw that the few groups out this time of night were predominantly male Hispanics. The larger street connected with a major boulevard, and Sam saw a dented sign proclaiming the neighborhood as Boyle Heights. The sound of rushing cars was constant, and Sam figured he was near a freeway somewhere.

Finally, Sam found a rundown gas station that was still open, and he rounded the back to the restroom. The universal 'men' sign was dangling by one bolt, and the door was dented and filthy, and locked. Dreading the contact, he went around to the front and pushed the door open to the small store section. The lone worker looked up in alarm from behind his bulletproof cage, and eyed Sam suspiciously as he approached.

"Can I have the restroom key, please?" Sam asked politely.

The attendant hesitated, squinting at Sam to evaluate him. Sam kept his hands in sight, and tried to stay relaxed. Finally the man relented and slid a key on a long stick under the glass. "Cinqo minutos, comprende?" He growled.

"Si," Sam replied automatically, accepting the key.

He went back to the restroom, unlocked the door, and pushed it open. The inside was as bad as the door itself, and much smellier. Sam suppressed a shudder as he let the door solidly slam behind him. Graffiti laced the walls in an intricate pattern, gum was stuck on the floor and sink, and the faucet let a steady drip-drip-drip into a rust-stained sink. Sam edged to the sink, and turned on the water. There was no soap, but surprisingly there were paper towels. He scrubbed his hands as well as he could before turning to the cracked and spotted mirror on the wall above the sink.

A long, diagonal crack with spidery offshoots split the mirror into two halves that offset the face Sam looked into. In the dim light of the bare ceiling bulb, Sam held his breath as he felt the face he wore. Gothic was the first term that entered his mind, followed by downright eerie. His host's face was gaunt, the eyes dark and haunted, with full lips. Sam grimaced at the uneven, rotted teeth and long, wild hair. He could tell that he was Hispanic, but pale for his race. It was the eyes that caught him; they were dark and deep-set, completely unfathomable.

Sam wiped a tentative wet palm across the cheek to see what would come off. He was shocked when the eyes in the mirror locked with him, and seemed to burn within. The lips curled into a wolfish grin.

"Ah. So we meet face to face, Sam Beckett."

The voice was deep, low, confidant; and it seemed to come from the reflection. Sam's feet turned cold as he replied in his mind.

"Who are you?"

The reflection continued to grin the grin of a skeleton. Sam felt himself being pulled into the glowing eyes.

"You mean you don't know me? I'm insulted."

"I..I..have no idea.." Sam stammered.

"Yes, you do." The image snapped. "You know me well. You and I cross paths regularly; I certainly know you."

Sam fought the feeling of falling into the blackness of the smoldering eyes. He felt instinctively that this was a force to be feared.

"I don't know what to tell you," Sam replied, trying to concentrate on the part of him still here in this form.

"You think you are the only tool of the Divine? That there is only one Divine One? You are a fool, Beckett, and you will lose this battle. This one is mine, heart and soul. I will guide and protect this one as my son, because he is blessed."

Sam gripped the sink as he felt himself sway. The light dangling from the ceiling swayed from and unknown force and the room started to spin slowly.

"You will not interfere," the voice commanded, growing stronger. Sam saw the split face in the mirror break into a hideous laugh as the eyes turned red.

"Let's go for a ride!"

Sam felt himself launched upward, an ascending roller coaster out of control. He saw himself in this body fling the bathroom door open, denting the wall, and literally leap from the small room, laughing hysterically. His feet pounded down the street in the darkness, the curses from the station attendant growing faint behind him. Like riding a wild horse, Sam clenched his inner eyes shut and tried to hang on, the first big fall of the coaster looming on the horizon.



"I decided to wait for backup," Beeks said quietly from her adjacent office as Al and a Marine guard watched the Visitor. "Al, why don't you go in with me and the Corporal can monitor from in here."

"Sounds like a plan," Al agreed. Actually, he wasn't crazy about getting anywhere near this guy, but wouldn't leave Beeks on her own, either. 

This Visitor seemed to know exactly where he was. He stood calmly in the center of the room, and hadn't moved until Al had arrived in Beek's office. At his first glance Al pegged this one as creepy as the other Visitor. He and Beeks had no sooner stepped up to the one-way glass when he deliberately turned his head and looked directly at the mirror. No, Al corrected to himself. He's looking through it! And his head turns just like that girl in the Exorcist! The face that was his friend's then smiled an eerie smile that sent chills down Al's spine. It may have the aura of Sam, but there wasn't a speck of Sam Beckett there.

When Beeks and Al stepped into the room, the figure tracked them with his eyes, grinning. He didn't move an inch, but stood squarely on his feet, his hands clasped together in front, his arms relaxed and loose. Al knew to keep his distance, as did Beeks, because they stopped several feet from him.

"Greetings," the Visitor hissed. "I take no offense in your distance," he grinned wolfishly. "Very prudent, in fact."

"Glad you approve," Al snapped. "Now who are you?"

"Al," Beeks warned, placing her hand on the Admiral's forearm.

"Yes, Al," the grinning Visitor said mockingly. "Let's keep our heads, shall we?" The chuckle that followed was also mocking. Al wanted to strangle him right there.

"My name is Verbena Beeks, and I'm a psychiatrist," she stated simply. "This is Albert Calavicci. And what is your name?"

"Pleased to meet you, Doctor." The aura of Sam slowly ducked his head in a polite nod, pointedly ignoring Al. "I have wanted to meet you for a long while. And I am known by many names; I will let you choose that which you are more comfortable with." His eyes seemed to smolder as he regarded Beeks head to toe.

Al felt his hackles rise. "Hey," he snapped, protectively pulling Verbena behind him. "I know a couple of things I'd call you right now, but the lady wouldn't appreciate it." He stepped between them and squared his shoulders, forcing the Visitor to meet his eyes. The Visitor looked amused. "Talk me, pal. Who are you?"

The Visitor's smile grew a bit as he and Al began a stare down. "You should know me well, Admiral. When we first met, you were a mere Lieutenant."

That made Al blink, shocked, but he didn't back down, and covered his surprise as he stood his ground.

"Tell me, Al," the Visitor crooned, crossing his arms across his chest, his eyes shining and his smile broadening to skeletal dimensions. "Have you still an aversion to small places made of bamboo?" 

Al reeled back a half step, and felt his arm pull back in preparation for a punch to the thing's jaw. The Visitor laughed heartily, and Verbena managed to pull Al back and contain him.

"What have you done to Sam?!" Al yelled over Beeks' shoulder.

The grinning Visitor again locked eyes with Al. They appeared to Al to be glowing, and he had no doubt who their Visitor was; he would be dammed if he'd let him have Sam. He fought against Beeks and barely felt the Marine Corporal pull him out of the room. The Visitor's laugh still echoed in his mind.

Al shook off the Marine in the office.

"Al! Are all right?" Beeks demanded, holding his hands. "Look at me! Are you all right?" Her voice was clear and strong.

"I'm fine!" Al spat, straightening his jacket. "Verbena, don't go in there again. That's an order!"

"You can't order me.." Verbena started.

"Yes I can as Administrator of this Project. You stay out of there. I can only help Sam from the Imaging Chamber. Ziggy!" 

"Yes, Admiral?" Ziggy purred.

"Fire up the Imaging Chamber, I'm on my way."

"Yes, Admiral," the parallel hybrid computer replied. "Is Dr. Beckett in danger?"

Al pushed his way out of the office, ordering the Marine to stay. "I hope not, Ziggy." He hurried down the hall to the Control Room.

June 27, July 2, July 5, and July 7, July 20, August 5 and August 8, 1985

Arcadia, California


The sights Sam saw were a blur. He couldn't tell if they were all separate leaps, or one long, horrific one, but he had no control. He struggled to keep what was there of himself centered, but it was nearly impossible.

It started with a young woman getting her throat slashed. Sam knew his hands were not his as it was done, and fell into a clinical mode as he ticked off the larynx, esophagus and jugular veins in his mind as they were laid open. Next was another woman beaten to a pulp, followed by another beaten woman. Sam tried to intervene, finally thinking he had a foothold in this mind, and the woman lived, but the next victim was then beaten and horribly mutilated as Sam's attempt to control slipped. 

Again, he fought against the force and the next attack was weakened and another victim lived. The taunting entity stepped back and shot the next several victims, finding it easier to keep Sam at bay if he didn't touch the victims right away. After shooting them, several were beaten, taking advantage of Sam's lapse in horror.

Finally, it all seemed to cease to Sam. He was floating in his between leap place, feeling completely used. The vague idea of God, Fate, Time or Whoever controlling his leaps sharpened; he was being used. Some force was trying to use him to stop this evil thing. 

And he was failing. And it was getting harder to get back into the fray.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico


The Control room was barely controlled chaos. Ziggy kept insisting Dr. Beckett was leaping, but the Visitor remained. His laughing was heard in the hall outside the Waiting Room; Beeks had no problem with Al's orders now. All she could do was keep the tape running and take copious notes.

Al kept pressuring Ziggy to keep tabs on Sam, trying to predict where he would leap next. They weren't able to lock on any of the times; the Visitor wasn't supplying any information. And the list of victims on Al's list slowly got checked off as he guessed which one was next by the number of leaps Sam had taken since the two old women. His gut told him he was pretty close, but the leaps were happening too quickly for him to lock on.

Finally, there was a lull. Beeks called from the Waiting Room.

"He's gone, Al. There's no one here," she said in her clinical tone. "But I have enough video to give the Exorcist a run for their money in theatres."

"I know what you mean. Take a break, OK?"

Al leaned on the console; Gooshie and Tina slumped against the wall behind them. Donna paced a worried little circle, and Sammie Jo sat on the floor in the corner. "It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop," she mumbled.

"I guess I'm not the only one who feels this isn't over, " Al replied, resting his forehead on he forearms. "Maybe there's another angle we can take," he said out loud. "What are we missing?"

"Well," Tina mused. "We've tried to predict where he would be next, but we can't prove if we were right or not because we didn't have time to get confirmation. What happens next?"

Al didn't even have to read the link. "The next victim, if my tally is correct, is in San Francisco. It's either August 17, 1985, February 1, 1986 or August 25. That last one is in Mission Viejo. That's also assuming I've kept the leap count correct, and he's leaping in chronological order."

Beth had walked in during Al's last statement, and stopped next to her husband to rub his back.

"Maybe you're approaching this wrong," she said softly. "You're using the victims to predict this creature's path, right?"

"That's all we have," Al muttered.

"No it's not. What about the witnesses?"

"There were no witnesses," Al sighed. 

Tina cocked her head. "Yes, there were," she said, suddenly eager. "But not in the way you think. Not witnesses to the actual murders, anyway. But there were people that reported suspicious looking characters in the area after the fact."

Al's head popped up so quickly he almost collided with Beth, and stared at the pulse technician. "Yeah," he said. "After some of the murders, people recalled seeing someone odd hanging around before the crime! If Sam got there before the event, outside Ramirez' body, he could catch him! There's enough evidence now to nail him without getting him in the act!" Al ruffled through his notes. "Ziggy? Fire up the Imaging Chamber. Let's see…" Al studied the notes.

"The next crime is a carjacking and murder by handgun in Boyle Heights, August 31, 1986." Ziggy summarized. "A man had reported seeing a person matching Ramirez's description hours before, but did not call it in until after the crime occurred."

"Bring it up," Al ordered, heading down the hall. "I bet Sam's gonna show there next, and he needs all the help he can get." He glanced heavenward. "Hear me up there?"

Donna bit her lower lip. "I agree, Al, but we haven't been able to do much so far. It's like something else is controlling the leaps."

"Well," Al mused as the door slid open. "It's time for the good guys to come up to bat."



Saturday, August 31, 1985

Boyle Heights, California


Sam awoke with a start. It was hot, and the thin bed sheet barely covering him was damp from sweat. His heart raced for a moment as the shadows of memory paraded through his mind. The sights were vaguely disturbing, but he couldn't focus on any one clearly. He rolled to his back and watched a ceiling fan slowly draw circles through the hot air in the room. He noticed he wasn't wearing a shirt, and that he was a muscled young man, and sighed a sigh of relief. Music from a Mexican radio station drifted in from the open window, and Sam realized it was morning and the sun was shining in on him. It must have been summer; it was already stifling hot. 

He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and found himself in a small bedroom furnished with the bed, a desk and a bureau. A white tank top style T-shirt was thrown over the desk chair, so Sam pulled it on along with the baggy chino pants with it. He checked his hair in the mirror and saw that he was a good-looking Hispanic boy, somewhere around 18. The wallet on his desk yielded a learner's permit with the name Julio Burgoin of Los Angeles, California.

Before leaving the room, Sam glanced out the window and saw he was on the second floor of a crowded neighborhood. Pedestrians were moving slow in the heat, and cars traveled up and down the street. The music was coming from a radio in the front yard where another young man was washing his low rider in the driveway.

The quiet scene relaxed Sam and the ominous thoughts he'd had slipped away. He left the room and followed the wonderful smells of breakfast down to the kitchen.

A trim, older Hispanic woman turned and smiled at him as she scrambled some eggs. "Ah, good morning, mijo, it's about time you got up!" The Mexican accent was slight, but still there, and sounded musical to Sam's ears. "Toast or tortilla with your eggs?"

"Tortilla," Sam replied, rolling the double l's just like the woman.

"Papa needs some help in the yard when you're done, although he'd never admit it. I know you don't go to work until later today, so maybe you could help, eh? How was work last night? Friday nights are always so busy."

The woman happily chatted, not really pausing for any answers, and Sam enjoyed the perceived closeness. She sat with him while he ate and filled him in on all the happenings of the street from the previous day. Sam didn't know who anyone was, but liked the company. When he was finished, Sam moved to take the plates to the sink but the woman took them instead.

"Here. I'll do that. Go help Jamie finish up, and both of you go help Papa in the back, OK?"

"Jamie?" Sam said slowly.

"Yes. Your brother the genius is washing his car right now. Someone egged it last night and he is not happy. That's what he gets for not putting it in the garage like Papa said! He just want's to show it off. See what happens?"

Sam smiled, "Yeah," he stated and started making his way outside. He had just opened the front door when he saw the Imaging Chamber door open right in front of him on the old, wooden porch. "Al!" He barked, coming to a stop. "You scared me!" Gently, he closed the door behind him.

"Sam? Hey, buddy, you don't know what scary means! Are you all right?" Al stepped up to him and looked him up and down. "I'm so glad to see you!"

"What? Why wouldn't I be all right?" A sinking feeling of dread started in Sam's stomach.

Al eyed him carefully. "You don't remember anything that's gone on in the past few leaps?"

The heavy feeling of fear started tingling in his toes and fingers as unclear images of blood and disarray flashed through his mind. "I was .. fighting something.." Sam mumbled, thankfully remembering very little.

"Yeah, Sam, you are. And it's not over. From what we have figured from some weird power readings and the from the Visitor in the Waiting Room, we think the other entity we never figured out has been trying to leap you into a particular person."

"What do you mean, 'other entity'?" Sam questioned.

"You know, the God, Time, Fate or Whatever entity. The one that's been messing us up from the first leap. That entity. It, he or her has been working overtime to get you into a certain person named Richard Ramirez, also known as the Nightstalker, to stop a bunch of murders, but it hasn't worked."

"Hasn't worked? What does that mean? I'm being rejected or something?" Sam couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Well, not exactly rejected. More like pushed out." Al explained carefully. "Ziggy thinks it's … another entity." Al looked nervous as he rocked on his heels. 

"Ziggy thinks? Or you think?"

"OK, Sam, I admit. I think. This is an evil thing you're dealing with, Sam. Really evil. Satan himself, I think. I heard Ramirez pledge himself to it, and I think the entity is protecting him." Al was on a roll now. 

"Oh, come on, Al."

"How would you explain it, Sam? I the original history, this maniac is suspected in over 35 mutilation murders throughout the country and has never been caught! They even know his name and have a full description! How is it possible not to be caught when you face is on every newspaper? This guy is being watched over by something evil, Sam, that's the only explanation!"

Sam regarded his friend, and could see the fear in his eyes. It may sound crazy, but he sure believed it. And, hey, if someone were to step up to Papa in the backyard and say someone could travel through time, they would think he was nuts, too. Sam sighed, knowing he couldn't rule out anything in this leaping game.

"OK, so I've failed to make the guy turn himself in. Now what?"

"Well, most every time you've been booted from Ramirez's body, you've gone into someone close, someone who was the first one at the scene and could help, but it was always after the fact. We think you've finally been leaped into someone who can help. Someone who can stop him."

"Me?" Sam said with a squeak. "I'm in the body of a 17 year old kid! What can he do?"

Al began to scan the street as he spoke. "You can keep your eyes open. On this street any minute now, the Nightstalker forces his way into a car driven by a young lady, carjacks the car and kills the girl. Nobody realized what happened until she was gone, so come on. Start lookin'. The girl's car is her dad's Impala."

Sam followed Al to the sidewalk as Al read the hand link. "Her house is right over there, her last name is Pinon. Look, there's her dad in the front yard."

They strolled down the street to the house indicated by Al. "Go on, Sam, ask him where his daughter is."

"Ah, excuse me? Mr. Pinon?" The man looked up and smiled as he watered his lawn. "Could you tell me where your daughter is? I think she may be in trouble." 

The smile dropped from the man's face. "Trouble? What do you mean, trouble? She just drove around the corner." The man dropped the hose and walked briskly to the corner and looked as Sam followed

"Oh my God, Sam, there he is!"

Sam recognized him immediately. In his mind's eye he saw that same fce in a split mirror with glowing eyes. The black clothes, the stringy hair, the predator smile, it all came back. "Hey!" Sam yelled, but the man didn't slow. The car was stopped at a stoplight, and the girl didn't even see him approaching the car.

"HEY!" Mr. Pinon yelled, dashing up the street when he realized what was about to happen. 

Sam was rooted, shocked, as he watched the Nightstalker yank the car door open and heard the girl scream. Mr. Pinon was yelling as he ran, and managed to yank open the other door and had a tug of war with his daughter.

"HEY! Leave her alone!" Sam finally yelled, and he heard running feet coming in his direction. Both Jamie and an older man that must have been Papa were running to him, and all three of them went to help the girl. Ramirez released her, and looked up as they ran towards him.

"Go, Sam! Get him!" Al screamed.

When Sam's eyes met with Ramirez's, it felt like a shot of electricity. The eyes were as black and soulless as he now remembered, and possessed by and evil greater than he could imagine. And Sam knew he was recognized. Then Ramirez blinked, and the effect was gone. The man in black now realized he was the prey, and he took of running.

Sam could hear screaming, and voices saying, "It's him! The Nightstalker!" His game was finally over; he was recognized, and the pursuit was on. He ran down streets and through alleys, but Sam and the others would not stop. With each step the Nightstalker grew weaker and more desperate. A sizeable crowd was now trying to surround him, and his expression took on one of a trapped animal, abandoned by his savior. Someone finally hit him with a metal bar, and Sam and Jamie were able to tackle him and hold the struggling man down.

So incensed was the crowd that Sam was sure they would beat him to death. Spectators urged them to do just that; Sam covered him with his body and held him down. By the time the police finally arrived, Richard Ramirez, the Nightstalker was a frightened, regular man, bleeding profusely as he was dragged to the squad car.

"You did it, Sam!" Al said. "I probably would have killed him had it been me, but that's probably why you have this job instead. Julio and Jamie and their dad are hailed as the heroes that caught the Nightstalker, and you saved at least 20 other people from dying. Good work, Sam."

Panting heavily, Sam backed away from the congratulatory crowd to speak to his friend. "I should have done something sooner," he said breathing heavily.

"Well, it's not like you didn't try. God, Fate, Time or Whatever just came up against a power they underestimated, I guess."

"And so did he," Sam summed up, indicating Ramirez. 

"You can say that again, buddy. And it's time to say good bye."

"OK." Sam turned to give the man in the back of the squad car one more look as he felt the impending leap. As the blue fog overtook him, he saw Ramirez staring at him. 

His eyes were glowing red. 




If ever there was the possibility to make up his own rules regarding leaping, the first one he would make, Sam thought would be to leap in with no one else present. The most difficult part of leaping was dealing with other people before he knew who, where, when, or what he was.

Sam always hoped that the 'what' he had leaped into would be a man; it made life so much easier. Of course, the 'where' was reasonably easy to pinpoint once Sam had given himself a bit of time to look around. The 'when' depended most of the time on the clothing people were wearing. Sometimes Sam was way off, others he was right on. That only left the 'who', the hardest of all. He often had to wait for Al to show up before he knew with any certainty who he was supposed to be. All this ran through Sam’s mind in the instant between one leap and the next. He felt the nerves in his extremities tingle and he knew he was on the verge of another person’s life. Sam settled in and waited for the leaping process to leave and his senses to return.

As yet another reality came into existence around him, Sam realized with not a small amount of alarm that there was a pair of lips firmly pressed up against his own. His mind reeling, Sam snapped his head back, breaking contact with the other person. He opened his eyes, forcibly holding down the urge to wipe his hand across his mouth. As his vision focused, he became aware of a pair of startled gray eyes several inches in front of him. Sam blinked and the eyes narrowed, staring back at him.

"What was that all about Claire?"

Claire? CLAIRE! Sam thought wildly. Oh boy, surely not again!


 E-mail A. J. Burfield