Episode 730

Leapless In New Mexico

by:  A. J. Burfield & William Elsom

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 It was one of those rare desert downpours. Donna stood on the run-down, gum stained sidewalk of Alamagordo and watched the torrent splash her shoes even as she stood under the overhang of the coffee shop.

"Damn," she whispered to herself. "The one day I don't wear my boots."

She edged back as far as she could without being able to fully dodge the drops.

"When it rains, it pours," she mumbled. She tried to scoot back further, and bumped the door of the business, which opened a bit to the ring of a bell attached to the inside. Turning her head to apologize, she saw the place was empty, save a waitress behind the counter.

Donna took advantage of the situation and turned into the place. "Are you open?" She asked, brushing the drops off her sleeves.

"I was just going to close, but you need something warm to drink? Like coffee? I'm just cleaning counters."

Smiling, Donna took her up on the offer, and the two passed friendly banter back and forth for a few minutes. The woman turned her back to work on the rearmost counters, leaving Donna to sit in her own reverie for a few minutes. The waitress briskly scrubbing the counters made a calming noise combined with the sound of the rain.

"It's really coming down," Donna commented, the aromatic steam making its way to her nose. She felt so cozy. All she needed was a fire and close friends .. or Sam.

The other woman glanced out. "Yeah. Shoulda known. I had a catered affair scheduled for this afternoon at an outdoor park, and now all I have is a bunch of leftovers and a rented espresso maker." She shook her head as she scrubbed. "Never fails."

"Really?" Donna said. "Gee, that's too bad. All that food isn't wasted, is it?"

"Not all of it, thank heaven," the woman laughed. "They moved it indoors, but it was a much smaller space, so we had to cut back a lot. My husband stayed to handle it. Had to cut the staff, too, and I volunteered to go!" She tossed the cloth in a hamper, and washed her hands. "The deposit is non refundable, so we didn't lose that much, really."

Donna was struck with an idea. She wanted to share this feeling of camaraderie. "Have any leftover desserts?" she queried with a raised brow.

"Eclairs, fruit tarts, cheesecake or cream puffs?" The waitress rattled off with a grin.

"Oh, boy!" Donna replied, rubbing her hands.




September 22, 2001

Project Quantum Leap


Tina and Sammie Jo were not really tired. Even though they were yawning as they checked the Control area, clipboards in hand, each of them knew the real reason. Boredom. 

Once in a great while, the time between Sam Beckett's leaps seemed endless. You could only run diagnostics and system checks so much; they had even allowed most of the staff to leave the compound for a break. It had been raining all day, and although they didn't feel the effects 14 stories underground, some of them had homes to protect from flooding that was common in these desert squalls. They would be back as soon as they were sure their possessions were safe. Meanwhile, the place seemed like a ghost town.

"Where's St. John?" Tina asked, trying to get the name to sound like the new head programmer wanted. To the Yankee staff ears, it sounded like 'SinJin'.

Sammie Jo giggled. "You manage that better than I do," she said.

"It's all in the tongue, honey," Tina quipped with a wink. "And I've been told I have a gooooood tongue!"

"Tina!" Sammie Jo laughed, nearly dropping her clipboard. 

"Excuse me, Dr. Fuller, for interrupting," purred a smooth voice that seemed to come from everywhere.

"Yes, Ziggy?" Sammie Jo said as she tried to stifle her giggle.

Ziggy did a hybrid computer version of a melancholy sigh. "I haven't heard laughing like that since the accident." Ziggy's implanted ego sounded dreamy as she recalled the unfortunate circumstances that took Gooshie from them.

Tina's bawdy grin slipped away immediately, and she turned her eyes back to her clipboard. She and Gooshie had been close. Very close. It was still a tender spot to her.

Sammie Jo coughed shortly. "Well little Mary sunshine, is that what you wanted to tell us?" She said to the ceiling, all business.

"No, Dr. Fuller. I wanted to inform you that Dr. Elesee is back. She is requesting your assistance with some boxes."

"Boxes?" Sammie Jo repeated. "Can't the guards at the entry help her?"

"They did," Ziggy said dreamily. "But she requested your help and Dr. Martinez-O'Farrell's help in the cafeteria."

Tina looked at Sammie Jo, confused. "The cafeteria?" Tina said absently twirling her glowing pen.

"That is what she said," sniffed Ziggy. "Dr. Elesee is pushing a large cart with several boxes on it, along with, if my data banks are correct, a large espresso maker." 

"What?" The two women chorused, facing each other.

"I said," Ziggy started with a miffed sigh and a definite attitude.

"No, no, it's OK, Ziggy, we got you," Sammie Jo said with a grin. "OK, I'll bite. Let's go!" She nodded towards the door, and the two scientists made their way to the elevator in the hall, leaving the clipboards on the Control console.



Dr. Verbena Beeks was just finishing up the last of her daily yoga exercises when there was a tapping on her door.

"Verbena?" She recognized Beth Calavicci's voice immediately, and also detected the hesitation there. It didn't sound like her emergency voice.

"Come!" She said, and the door slid open. Verbena didn't bother to get up, but stretched her arms up high in an act of final relaxation. Beth stepped in cautiously, smiling when their eyes met.

"I'm not bothering you, am I?" Beth asked politely, taking a seat on a comfy chair near Beeks.

"Heaven's no. Just finishing up. Al still sleeping?" Verbena stood and shook out her legs, and sat on the chair across from her college and friend, towel draped around her neck.

"Yeah, he's really out," Beth said with relief. "He stayed up as long as he could fight it, trying to reduce the piles of paper on his desk but the Sandman won," she laughed lightly. "It's been a nice break. Sam's leaps have been so hard lately. We all deserve the break."

"And Al needs the sleep. A straight eight hours would be great!" Beeks agreed. Neither one of them brought up the subject of where, exactly, Sam Beckett was during these breaks. Although Tina, Sammie Jo and St. John could speculate scientifically where he was, the thought simply gave Beth and Verbena the creeps. "Still raining?"

Beth nodded with a sigh. "Yep. News says it may keep up all night. Maybe we'll finally get a lake around here."

"Yeah, and I can take up water skiing!" Verbena added, and they both laughed. At that moment her intercom chimed. "Yes?" She said as she thumbed the volume.

" 'Bena?" It was Tina, sounding out of breath.

"Yes? Everything all right?" Verbena's brow furrowed, and she glanced at Beth, who shrugged her shoulders in ignorance.

"We need your, ah, opinion here." The giggling in the background was unmistakable, and Beeks couldn't help but smile herself. Beth just looked curious.

"My opinion, huh?" She drawled through her smile. "Where exactly are you?"

"The cafeteria. And if Beth's around, you may need her assistance. But she can't tell Al." More stifled laughter.

Beth covered her mouth, smiling. "OK. We're on our way!" Beeks clicked off the intercom. "Well. I wonder who's supplying the laughing gas?" She queried out loud as she slipped on her shoes.

"Why do I get the feeling we're entering the Twilight Zone?" Beth said as they stepped from the room.



When Verbena and Beth arrived at the cafeteria, they had to stop just inside the door to take in the scene. 

Sammie Jo was setting one of the tables with coffee cups and small plates. Behind her were several open bakery boxes filled with confections that made their mouths water just seeing them. An assortment of the delectables was the centerpiece to the coffee cups. Behind her, Donna and Tina could be seen tinkering with a big, golden contraption of some sort.

"Jeeze, between us we must have at least a dozen advanced degrees, and we can't even figure out a stupid espresso maker." Donna was grousing as she twisted some knobs and lifted some lids.

"I don't know about you, but none of my lab training included espresso making," Tina was commenting, peering behind the machine. "Where does the water go?"

Verbena thought this was a most interesting display. All these professional women reduced to …. well, this, by sweets and caffeine. She raised her brows. "Count me in!" she said airily as she stepped up to the massive machine. Beth followed her instantly, giving her opinion even before she reached them, and grabbed an éclair as she went by.

Two eclairs later, the machine still wasn't producing. The four of them stood and stared at it. Sammie Jo was sitting at a table, with her feet up, licking whipped cream from her fingers. Her duty was obviously done.

"I don't get it." Donna said.

"It doesn’t work in a logical way," Tina growled.

"Maybe it's broken," Verbena offered.

"There isn't a manual of some sort?" Beth asked.

They all turned to the cafeteria door as it swooshed open. Edward St. John V stepped smartly in, studying a hand link. He stopped abruptly, feeling the eyes on him, and raised his head. He looked right past the women and said with his perky British accent, "A 1930 LaPavoni! What a gem!" The women parted like the Red Sea as St. John strode up to the machine and ran his hands over it lovingly. 

"You know how to run it?" Donna asked bluntly.

"Yes, of course! My mum had one from her father's side of the family. A long lineage of restaurateurs; I worked one like this as a boy." He sounded gleeful, then noticed the women looking at him. Donna had a crooked grin.

"Show us how!" She asked.

"Show her how," Tina corrected, taking a seat next to Sammie Jo and stretching out her long legs as she kicked off her heels and wiggled her painted toes.

St. John's eyes glowed. "I'll show you all. Better yet, I'll serve you all! It's been a rather hectic week, and I'd be pleased to give you ladies a chance to relax. Go, sit!" He waved Beeks, Beth and Donna to their seats and started fussing with the machine, humming happily.



It wasn't long before the smell of strong coffee permeated the air. St. John was snooping in the refrigerator for various espresso accoutrements. 

"I thought you had a knack for mechanics, Tina" Donna commented as she picked a kiwi slice from her tart and brought it to her lips.

"I do!" Tina insisted. "But I have to see the guts first." She peeled open an éclair as she spoke.

"My brother was like that," Beth mentioned. "Took everything apart as a kid." She was focused on a cream puff and swinging her crossed leg as she spoke

"I drove my mom nuts doin' it," Tina said, tapping the éclair insides with a well-manicured nail. The women all pulled their chairs closer to the table, and hunkered down as some invisible cue told them all it was time to listen. "I was the middle girl in a family of three girls. Our dad left us when I was little. My sister had just been born."

"Gee, that's tough," Donna sighed.

"Yeah, I guess, but hey, I didn't know any better. I entertained myself by figuring out how everything in the house worked. It was a small apartment, and I recall mom yellin' at me about having parts all over the place. She pretty much left me alone when she saw I could fix anything in the place. Saved her big bucks in repairs." As she examined her cream-laden nail, the sound of released compressed steam made them all jump.

"Oh, sorry, ladies," St. John apologized. "Steaming the milk. Here you go, ladies. First batch!" Scents of cinnamon and nutmeg floated through the air, and the women oooh'd and ahhh'd as St. John passed the mugs around. He then prepared the machine again, and searched around for more ingredients.

"How did you manage college, Tina?" Sammie Jo asked. "It was hard enough on my mom with just me. I can't imagine three kids and one income."

"Scholarships. My older sister Mariana was the brainy one. A real bookworm, but she kept us in line when mom was at work. She and mom were real pals. My baby sis was, well, just that. The baby of the family, and treated like it. She could do no wrong. I think that's why I was so wild as a teenager; trying to get noticed, I guess." Tina tugged at her skirt and shifted her legs, fingering a gaudy earring in an unconscious gesture. "College was a hoot. The classes were so easy; I adored physics, and couldn't get enough of the computers. Plenty of time for fun, too, but us 'brainy' kids had a hard time mixin' in. I discovered the way to get invited to the best parties was to dress the part. The shorter the skirts, the better! It was so much fun…" a sly grin pulled on one corner of her mouth. "After college I had not problem getting' a job, but nothing I did was really…. satisfying. Then I went to this symposium in New York; I admit, the only reason I volunteered to go to the darn thing was for the shopping, but when I heard Dr. Beckett talk," she got a far away look in her eye, remembering. "I was hooked. I could clearly see in my head what he was talkin' about. It all made sense." Her eyes glazed at the memory and she fingered the warm cup in her hands seductively. "The mental stimulation was….incredible!" She breathed. "Best I ever had!"

The other women stared at her with their mouths open, hands frozen on their mugs, speechless. Even St. John was transfixed; forgetting momentarily about the hot machine as he blindly fingered the toggles. A blast of steam shook them all from their reverie.

"Oh, my!" Verbena breathed softly, resting her hand on her chest.

The others recovered with giggles and murmurs. Tina, drawn back to reality by the commotion, looked at them all in wide-eyed innocence. "What?" She said, noticing everyone's averted eyes and red cheeks. "Well? Why are you here, then?" She said as she waved a hand over the group.

Donna perked up. "Well, I guess it's obvious why I'm here!" She said brightly. Then a sly grin crossed her face. "Gee, you could say the same Beckett charisma is responsible, but, well, in a different way, I guess," she stammered as the others laughed lightly. "OK, I'll admit. His brains weren't what first got my attention!" She settled into her seat as the others leaned closer.

"I was in the office at Star Bright, dropping something off. I don't even remember what it was, exactly. Anyway, Al walked in the lobby from the back offices followed closely by this young man wildly gesturing with his hands as he talked." She made circular motions with her hands that made everyone laugh and nod. It was a perfect Sam Beckett imitation. "Well, the hands may have got my attention, those long fingers and all, but it was his eyes that held me. They were so…bright. Intense. Alive. Know what I mean?"

Everyone nodded. Even St. John.

"He must have noticed me staring at him because he gave me one of those classic double takes, and stopped dead in his tracks." Donna smiled into her coffee cup, swirling it. "I remember a woman with an armload of files ran right into the back of him. Papers flew everywhere!" She laughed, and the others joined in as they sipped and nibbled. "So there was Sam, trying to keep his eyes on me while he was apologizing and picking up files. I was all ready red as a beet, and didn't want to embarrass him or myself anymore, so I dropped my papers off and literally ran the lobby." She giggled as she spoke. "I could see Sam piling files on this poor woman when I glanced back once, then I heard a thump, and he yelled, 'Wait!' He had vaulted the front counter to come after me!"

"Why does that not surprise me?" Beth mused, elbow on the table and chin in hand.

"When he caught up to me, I was so, well, flustered. Of course I knew who he was. Who didn't? But I expected someone more … selfish, I guess. He was so…nice, and easy to talk to. We became inseparable. It's almost embarrassing to admit how quickly. My time was up at Star Bright, but we just knew, I suppose, that we were meant to be together." She gave a sad smile to the group, not wanting to bring down the atmosphere.

Verbena was the first to speak. "And you were right, you know. You are still together." She put her hand on top of Donna's. "Connected at the heart."

A lopsided grin from Donna acknowledged the comment, and the sadness was replaced by an evil glint in her eye. "Maybe so, Verbena, but you know," then in a complete un-Donna like manner, she reached back and grabbed a can of whipped cream that St. John had been shaking and said in a Groucho Marx imitation, "let me tell ya where I'd really like to be connected…." Then she squirted the whipped cream in her coffee with a suggestive 'shusssshhhhh!', and tossed the can back to St. John, who then raised his eyebrows as they all shrieked in laughter. The foamy cream ran down the side of Donna's warm mug and she traced a line in it with her fingertip and a grin.

"You girls are bad!" St. John said, feigning insult, then eyeing the can, cracked a grin. "Oh! Anyone else?" His eyebrow waggled suggestively as he offered the can to the group.

"NO!" they all replied breathlessly, waving him off.

Trying to regain their composure, Donna decided to shift the attention from herself. "Beth!" she cried out. "Your turn! We know Al brought you here, but how'd you meet him in the first place?"

They all wiped their eyes and collected themselves as Beth Calavicci snuggled deeper into her chair. "I had been serving at an Air Force base in Cyprus for three years. Nursing, of course. That's all I ever did after leaving college. I had a yen to care for people.

"When I was sent to the Mediterranean, I was happy to go. I had just split up with my seventh boyfriend in two years, and I perfectly happy to see the backside of the American male for a while.

"In a strange way, I enjoyed Cyprus. It was a mid-point for flights to and from Vietnam, and I met a lot of people during that time, though no one 'special'." She stirred her beverage with a spoon as she continued. "I signed up for a second, and then a third, stint and had told my Commander that I would sign up for another year. He told me that I ought to go home because I hadn't seen my family for all that time, and my best friend was begging me to come back for her wedding the following year. 

"I was totally unsure what to do. I prayed for divine intervention, and smoked a good few cigarettes while I mulled the idea over. I was due to make a final decision one lunchtime, and early in the morning I went for a walk and a puff and a prayer or two."

Beth turned her chin up, remembering. "I watched a jet take off, amazed at the sight as much then as I had been the first time. If I was looking for a sign, then I got two. The first I almost laughed off; the clouds, dissipated by the jet, formed what looked like an index finger pointing after the plane, pointing home."

"Wild!" Whispered Tina, listening intently.

"The second was as I walked back to the center. I saw a spider that had been dislodged from its web. The web was several feet above the ground, and the surface was slippery. It took a little while, but the spider made it back to its home. Perhaps that was what changed my mind, or perhaps I just knew it was time to go. Or perhaps I was fed up with my hair being turned red by the constant exposure to the sunlight of the Mediterranean! I am a brunette, really, you know!" She touched her hair.

There was a chorus of agreement, and Verbena leaned over to Donna and said, "We all are when we cover the grey!" Everyone laughed.

Beth laughed, too, then continued. "I told my Commander that I was going home, and within two weeks I was on a military jet, America bound. I had a funny feeling that the next few days would decide my future; with the war on, my colleagues were all subscribers to Fate, Kismet, 'Your Lot in Life', where I wasn't. On the jet home, I suddenly began to feel what they felt all along. My fate was about to be sealed. I could feel it."

She wrapped her arms around herself unconsciously. "I prayed that my fate would be nice." 

"Don't we all?" Interjected Sammie Jo, with everyone agreeing.

"Well, the plane touched down in Pensacola, and I was the last to disembark. I stood at the top of the staircase from the plane, and took in the view. Even an Air Force base is attractive after a long flight, and it was very welcome to be home.

"As I looked out, I could see Air Force personnel bustling about, busy in their routines. There was one element of calm amongst all this." Her eyes squinted with the memory. "I saw a serviceman looking at me. Well, staring, actually! He was quite a distance away, but did the typical man thing. When he saw me watching him, he looked away. This was funny! This smartly turned out Airman was shy! But it was clear he fancied me. And, though I found it hard to take in, I could not take my eyes of him.

"Barely back on American soil and kicked down the stairs of this plane by Kismet?" Donna said romantically.

Beth chuckled. "Actually, no. It was the pilot telling me to disembark."

Light laughter circled the table.

"I went to get my luggage, but kept an eye on my admirer. It was no surprise, twenty-five minutes later, to find him hanging around outside the hanger. I smiled at him, and he blushed! Then, struggled to get under way!"

"Are we talking about our Al or another Al?" Tina quipped.

"My mother had sent me some Calla Lilies to the Officer's lounge to welcome me home, and carrying them along with two suitcases was very difficult. This gave the shy, retiring Romeo his chance. He asked to carry my luggage with this wicked glint in his eyes, hidden only by the nerves. I expect you are well aware of how guys panic when asking a woman out." They all nodded, smiling. "You should have seen this man! His brow was sweaty and I could see his heart pumping through his flight suit. At this point I would have accepted help from anyone, and so I said yes. I did wonder if he would have offered me assistance if he didn't fancy me so much. I guess he would have.

"He asked where I was headed, and I told him I was to meet a car on the other side of the base. I carried a map of the base I had been given and the Calla Lilies. Al struggled manfully with my bags, struggling to make small talk through his heavy breathing. He introduced himself as Lieutenant Albert Calavicci, and asked my name. I told him that although I was born Elizabeth O'Dwyer, but I had only ever been called Beth. I asked him what had been happening at home since I had been abroad, and he replied, stating marriage ceremonies had dropped dramatically, 'because all the good looking women had gone abroad.' I laughed at that!

"I asked what he was doing on base, and he said he was awaiting orders, and looking for a wife. 'Not a mistress?' I said. 'Well, if one was the ONLY option, but mainly, a wife.' " Beth imitated his gruff speech perfectly.

"He asked, with all the lack of subtlety that I have come to love, whether I was married. When I said no, his eyes lit up and he did a jig. I guess that pleased him.

"My car was very late, but I didn't mind, and I am sure Al didn't either, because we were having fun. But wanting the car to be a day late was no good, and it eventually arrived. I expected Al to ask how he could reach me, but all he did was pick up my suitcases and put them in the trunk of the car. The man clearly wanted to say something, but I guess his ego was getting in the way. I decided to tease him by just driving off. Not very far, though. He was going to take me out even if I had to be the one that initiated it!

"I looked back to see him waving and looking like his dog had just died. I asked the driver to stop after thirty or forty yards. I threw the door open, and marched back to him standing in shock on the same spot I had left him."

"Beth!" Shrieked Sammie Jo. "YOU made the first move? Unbelievable!"

"Isn't it, though? I don't know what came over me, but I looked at him, and he didn't, or couldn't, say anything! I let him suffer for a few more seconds, then placed my hands on my hips, and let rip. 'When,' I demanded, 'When, Lieutenant, are you going to ask me out? I am beginning to wonder if I look like a frump, or worse!' I snorted down at him, and tossed my nose skywards. 'A woman ought to be offended!' "

"Al swallowed deeply and took a deep breath. 'I, er, I, ah,' was all he could say, so I gently put an arm around his shoulder and said, 'Take a deep breath, and I promise not to make the next ten minutes difficult for you.' I was giving Al a huge signal that I was very interested, and I prayed it worked. It did.

" 'Beth, Miss O'Dwyer, I was so taken by exquisite beauty, that for only the second time in my life, I was speechless! I would be greatly honored if you would join me for dinner at your earliest convenience. How about tomorrow evening?' He finally said.

"I could see a visible sigh of relief as he began to breathe normally. I nodded at him. 'Take me to the Jazz Club on 32nd and Main! And if you really want to impress me, get me some more Calla Lilies, ensure Enrico has some decent Mexican cuisine, and that Ray Charles is on the jukebox.' I turned around and marched back to the car where I wrote my address on a piece of paper and handed it to him. 'Pick me up at eight?' I said. All he did was nod. I think he was still shocked that I had said yes. He nodded, though, and I was about to ask the driver to move off, when he waved to me. He had something to say, so I leaned out of the car window and took his right hand, 'is there something else you want to say?' I asked.

"I was very surprised when Al dropped to one knee so heavily I heard the impact of his patella striking the tarmac. Somehow, though, I wasn't surprised when he said, 'Beth, will you marry me?' "

"Good grief, you knew each other a half an hour!" Yelped Donna.

"I know! But I didn't hesitate, not even for a moment! 'Someday!' I said! And he replied 'Supreme!' I felt that Kismet, Destiny, perhaps God, Time, Fate or Whatever was telling me in no uncertain terms where my future lay. When I looked behind me as the car approached the base exit, Al was still on his knee. The following night, we had dinner, and the rest, as they say, is history." A smiling Beth looked at all the faces around her. "All right, you might believe that I would fall in love at first sight, but would anyone believe it of Al?"

"Yep!" Was the response without hesitation. All St. John issued was a sigh.



"Well, doctor/patient relations really keep me from telling you too much about me personally, but I can tell you why I'm here." Verbena tossed to the group.

"It must be hard keeping that aloof persona down here," Tina said. "Don't cha just wanna let loose sometimes?" She wiggled in her seat as she spoke, barely restrained energy. Or caffeine.

Beeks kept her smile professional, but her eyes sparkled brightly. "How do you know I don't?" she challenged.

"Typical! Answer a question with a question!" Tina accused as the others laughed.

"Come on, 'Bena. Tell us why you're here." Donna urged. "Someone with your experience must have outside offers."

"Maybe I do," Beeks said noncommittally. "I guess every psychiatrist looks for their specialty, their niche. Either that or money. And since I work for the government, it sure isn't money!" They all voiced agreement and clinked their mugs in a toast.

"Anyway, I was more or less assigned to Star Bright. I could have turned it down, but didn't because it was an opportunity to watch the effects on people working 'trapped' together under pressure with an indefinite goal. Lots of stress, but the chance of seeing teamwork at its best. I wanted to see how people handled it. How teamwork evolves. I did get a paper published about it, but all names were changed to protect the innocent!"

"I remember that paper!" Beth interjected. "I caught Al reading it to see if he was in there anywhere. He was going to really jump on you if he was! But he really got into it; totally enthralled after the first few pages. He'll never admit that he learned something from it, though. You know how he is about 'shrinks'!" 

Verbena grinned a stunning grin. "You don't think I remember? I had just submitted it when this Tasmanian Devil of a man stormed my office and gave me his personal opinion on 'shrinks' in full detail!"

"I can just picture that !" Sammie Jo laughed.

"After it was published, he actually came back and apologized to me."

"He did?" Beth was surprised. "He didn't tell me that! I do know he didn't consider you 'like all the other shrinks' after that." 

"So why are you still here?" Tina inquired. "More of the same?"

Verbena met Donna's eyes briefly, a look exchanging between them. Donna had been particularly quiet, like she knew why all ready. 

"No, not exactly," Beeks said slowly. "I find aspects of the personalities here…interesting. It fascinates me how this all works," she indicated the group with a sweep of a hand, "with a missing leader." She turned a sympathetic eye to Donna, who ducked her head in response. "And look at the number of women here in non-traditional roles. Men, too. There's a paper here, somewhere. I just have to correlate it all." She sipped her foamy drinks. "I think it's based around a 'sacrifice for the good of others' theme, but not entirely." Her eyes gleamed as her brain worked. "It's simply unique and fascinating here. Plus, I simply like all of you."

"Uh, oh. The doc's letting her personal feelings show!" Tina quipped. "But we are all human, huh?"

Agreement went around the table as St. John fiddled with a bottle of almond flavoring and his next concoction. A round of cream puffs made its way through the group. 

"Well, Sammie Jo. It's your turn!" Beth commented. "I guess we know the reason you've stayed, but what brought you here in the first place? Isn't it kind of coincidental? I know Al couldn't turn you away when he saw your credentials, but why did you apply here to begin with?"

Although the youngest of the group, Sammie Jo Fuller was still an intellectual equal to this group and she knew it was mostly because of her father's genes.

"Well, when I was at MIT, Dr. Beckett's reputation was still a topic of discussion. A lot of students pulled his theses from the library and try to follow it or expand on it. It's sort of a challenge, I guess, to try and out think a 17 year old genius!" She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she talked. "I felt … I don't know, I felt .. compassion for him through his theses. Because I was in a similar situation, one of the younger students there, I think I tried to figure out how the famous Dr. Beckett got through it all by studying his theories. Like there was a key hidden in there somewhere that would help me cope. The more I went over his theories, the more sense it made. I didn't dare share those thoughts with my classmates, though, because no one else could make sense of it, and that would make me even more odd!"

"You mean that the students thought Sam was odd ?" Donna asked. "Even after he was gone from there?"

Sammie Jo shook her head. "No, not odd, but he was sort of a goal. It seemed everyone wanted to measure up to him and failed. I was afraid that if I told anyone I understood his writings, I'd be just as…. lonely … as I perceived he was. I mean, I knew what I was going through, and I was older than he was at that point. Not by much, but still older."

"Well, I certainly didn't have that problem," Donna commented. "I was only weird because I liked science!" Tina nodded in agreement, her mouth bulging with a fruit tart. "That extra pressure of being younger must have been difficult."

"Sometimes," Sammie Jo smiled. "But my mom had moved into the area and I lived with her, so it was like a weird, warped high school experience, socially! Academically, it was a blast."

Tina nodded vigorously. "Yeah! That was my experience, too! But I was kinda glad my mom was far away. I mean, I love my mom to death and all, but she sure could put a damper on dating!"

They all laughed again. "My mom was pretty cool," Sammie Jo mused. "She didn't get my intellect at all, but respected it. And I guess her, well, 'normalness' kept me balanced socially. She dated a lot, too; mom's pretty woman."

Donna raised an eyebrow at that. "And why didn't she ever marry again? Do you have any idea? Or do you mind my asking?" Although they were both well aware of Sammie Jo's genetic history, they had never really talked about it. The subject was a bit awkward to Donna, because she could never figure out a way, or a reason, to approach it. It had taken her months to figure out how, exactly, Sammie Jo fit in her history, and in that time discovered she liked the gentle, thoughtful woman she was. Donna had never met Abagail Fuller, Sammie Jo's mother, but had a feeling that the two were probably very much alike. And it that were so, she could see why Sam had been attracted to Abagail, and that was getting into an area of emotion Donna wasn't ready to deal with yet although intellectually it was clear to her.

"Well," Sammie Jo started, well aware that this subject had never been brought up before. "I'm not totally sure, but I think she wanted to see me settled first. Then after I became self sufficient, she moved back home and became very involved with the community and opened a preschool. She loves working with kids. And actually," Sammie Jo smiled a big smile, "the last time I talked to her she was starting to date a single dad with two high school kids! They go to the high school football games all the time. Sounds like she's finally having some fun!"

"You've never told her what you've learned here, have you? About Dr. Beckett?" Tina wasn't one to tippy-toe around when it came to facts. In fact, everyone at the table wanted the answer to that one, but was not comfortable asking the question. Immediately, they all leaned forward to hear the reply, all feeling a little bit guilty for being so curious. Even Verbena.

Sammie Jo reddened a bit. "Ah…" she looked to Donna for some sort of clue, some sign that Sam's wife would be uncomfortable. All she saw was curiosity. "No," she admitted. "I never have. And I never will. What would be the point, after all? She's still on good terms with Will Kinman, and he's been good to both of us. I mean, I we all thought he was my dad, and he did what he could, but I never felt close to him. After he married and had kids of his own, he still treated me with respect and affection, and I admire him for that. He's a good man, too. They don't deserve the .. weirdness … of it all. Plus, everything here is a government secret, and I don't want to spend the rest of my years in Leavenworth! I'd never be able to bring Dr. Beckett home, and my mom would probably move next door!"

Laughing, they all had to agree with that thought, and welcomed the lighter way off the subject. By this time, St. John had finished his culinary creativeness and was leaning against the counter with one of his mixtures between his hands. He was happily listening to the give and take of the conversation, thinking his own thoughts, when he felt eyes on him. Looking up, he saw all the women leaning back and looking at him expectantly.

"What?" He said innocently. "I'm supposed to interject in this database?"

"Yes," they all informed him together. 

Donna helped him along. "We know Ziggy found you. We also know that she went through a lot of 'interviews' before she hooked up with you. Did you know that?"

He expression relaxed a bit, and he smiled. "Really? I guess I never asked, but there is something I've wanted to know about that." He pulled over a chair, and sat in it backwards, leaning on the backrest. "Was it my imagination, or was everyone here a bit of afraid of me when I came in the first time? I had the feeling that everyone was giving me a wide berth."

"No," Donna giggled. "You weren't imagining it. It's just that ..well, the people that had been interviewed before … were …ah…." Donna, ever the diplomat, was trying for a nice word to describe the first bunch of applicants Ziggy had supplied.

"They were weird, OK?" Verbena supplied, everyone looked at her in shock, then laughed.

"Boy, ain't that the truth!" Tina shrieked.

"Is 'weird' an acceptable shrink tern?" Beth asked with a giggle.

"Maybe not, but it fits!" Beeks said with conviction.

St. John grinned at the information. "So, I wasn't 'weird' like they were?"

"Not by a long shot, my friend!" Donna added, wiping her eyes. All this laughing had made her cry. She was sure running mascara was making her look like a raccoon, then realized she wasn't alone in that analogy! "We don't know what was up with Ziggy, but the candidates in before you were like bad incarnations of old television characters. It was really weird. Ziggy insisted on searching without our help, though, and we did have our hands full."

St. John nodded. "I can imagine. She's quite an armful to handle. My dad was fascinated by this whole idea, but we hadn't spoken for years before he died. I think that if time and other things had been just slightly different, he would be here in my stead. I suppose he was the reason I responded to Ziggy's query. You know I didn't even know it was a computer I was communicating with?" He said with a short laugh. "And now that I'm here, I certainly don't feel silly about that anymore! I think she could fool anyone."

"That's what Sam wanted," Donna said, as the all nodded in agreement. "It sure would be nice if he could be here now, since he's the one that brought us all together."

There was a murmur of agreement when Ziggy's voice broke the mood. "This has been interesting, but I have to inform you that Dr. Beckett has leaped."

"You've been spying on us, Ziggy?" Verbena said playfully as the chairs scraped across the floor to everyone's rising.

"I don't spy," Ziggy replied haughtily. "I observe and gather information."

"Uh, huh. Sure, we'll buy that," Sammie Jo said as she cleared the table of plates. "I'll get this," she said. "I'm stuck on my retrieval program anyway."

"Oh, really? What's the problem?" Donna said as she fell alongside her college and almost-daughter. They continued a quiet discussion as Beth took the coffee cups to the sink and began to rinse them.

"I'll go get Al after I rinse these," Beth offered from the sink.

Tina and St. John walked out chatting animatedly as Verbena followed behind and turned the opposite direction at the door with a wave.

Project Quantum Leap was back to work.



The mind numbing effect of Leaping settled down leaving him with an inebriated feeling. He waited for the sensation to pass as he relied on his senses to tell him of the place he’d leapt into. His senses slowly came back to him. At least he could tell he was sitting down, his body somewhat slumped into a hard uncomfortable chair. He could smell different mixtures of cologne and perfume that lingered in the room. It was then that he could feel two objects - somewhat heavy- leaning on both of his shoulders. As his hearing improved, he could hear a tapping of some kind. Then slowly, his vision cleared and his mouth dropped open.

A middle-aged man stood at the chalkboard drawing a female reproduction system. He glanced around the room to find that he was in a classroom of teens who looked positively bored. He glanced at his shoulders to find that two young men had propped their textbooks there then had laid their heads down to sleep. Nothing could surprise him more than leaping into a teenager during a sexual education lecture in Science class, or so he thought.

"Reproduction," the teacher supplied as he turned around placing the chalk onto the board. "It’s very simple and yet very important." The blonde haired middle-aged man pulled off his glasses and huffed a couple of breaths at the lens, then wiped at them with a handkerchief he had pulled out from his pocket. "When is the best time for a woman to conceive?"

Sam closed his eyes and slightly shook his head. He didn’t need this, not now. He prayed with earnest that the man wouldn’t look to him to answer that question. When the teacher picked up a piece of paper from the desk to look at it for a moment, Sam wondered if this was the classes’ regular teacher, but dismissed the thought quickly as he tried to act attentive.

"Mr. . . . ah . . . " the teacher looked around the room searching for a student to match the seating chart. "Joewarskie." The teacher’s eyes fixed on a young man a few seats up from Sam.

"What’s conceived?" The young man asked with a slight flush to his face embarrassed that he had been called upon.

"Well, you know . . . to be fertile." The teacher prompted him as he again puffed on the other lens to clean it. 

"Uh . . . oh . . . ask Naugarellie, Mr. Stewart." He quipped.

"Mr. Naugarellie?" He prompted simply looking at another young man who sat cater-cornered from the other.

The raven haired young man leaned back in his chair showing the students around him the Playboy magazine that he had been hiding in his textbook before shoving it down to his desk. "Ask Goose," he replied with a grin.

Mr. Stewart prompted, "Mr. Goose?" 

Sam could tell already from this line of questioning that Mr. Stewart must be the substitute teacher for this particular class. Lifting his hand to his head, he grinned as he listened to them.

The young man toward the back of the room who wore goggles about his neck and had on a leather jacket lifted his head at his name being called. "Asck Demuchie."

"Mr. Demuchie?" Mr. Stewart pressed as he began to get a little impatient as he looked to the student in front of the Goose.

"Whaaa?" He asked innocently as he chewed his gum.

"Conceive?" Mr. Stewart repeated patiently. "What’s the best time?" He asked placing his glasses back on.

Mr. Demuchie glanced toward his friends, who had answered around him, grinned then shrugged as he answered with his own question, "At night?"

Mr. Stewart sighed. "Well, I can see that we aren’t getting very far here," he stated pointedly.

"I have the same problem." Demuchie answered with a mischievous grin.

Sam rolled his eyes as the class giggled at the teen’s response. He glanced around the room again and from the clothes, it looked like he had leapt into the late 50's or early 60's. "Oh boy . . . " he began. "Oh boy oh boy oh boy . . . what’s next?" He questioned the highest sovereignty with a sigh.


 E-mail A. J. Burfield & William Elsom