An enjoyable father/son camping trip takes a
fatal turn when Sam leaps into his nephew, Jonathan Thomas Beckett. Sam's mission of
keeping his brother Tom from exposing the Project turns to one of life and death as they
struggle to survive in the wilderness.
Previously on Quantum Leap
Sam has leaped into his nephew and Tom Beckett's son, J.T. just as Tom is retiring from
the military. To his horror he discovers that Tom's goal is to make public Project Quantum
Leap, along with other government black projects, by running for Government office. What
Sam doesn't realize is that Tom is doing this based on a promise made to his dying wife,
and Becketts are known to keep their promises. Enroute to the Air Force Academy, where
J.T. is to begin school, they get into a car crash in the wilderness and now have to fight
for survival. Making it more difficult is the fact that, due to a head injury or God,
Time, Fate or Whomever, Tom now can see Sam as he really is.
He awoke with a start to find himself drenched in sweat and gasping for breath. It took
him a second to notice the softness of the bed, the comforting darkness of the room and
the gentle breathing of his wife.
Admiral Calavicci pressed his palm to his chest in an effort to slow his racing heart.
After a few more controlled breaths, the pounding under his hand slowed to a less alarming
rate. He glanced at the clock. I went to bed just a little while ago, he realized
as the panic he initially felt faded away and his logical mind finally took over once
Wide awake, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. What woke me up? He thought
for a second. Frowning and shaking his head he stood carefully, not wanting to awaken
Beth. He slipped on his silky robe and quietly left the room, gently closing the door
behind him. He padded to the kitchen area of the compact quarters and paused, leaning his
still shaking hands on the counter. Something's not right, his instincts were
telling him. Finally, he spoke out loud.
"Ziggy? What's going on with the leap?"
"Admiral," Ziggy replied immediately, a hint of surprise in her voice. Al had to
grin at that; a computer, surprised. Sam's baby had certainly grown a lot on her own in
the past years. "I was just correlating some scenarios, and was about to wake you.
Something Dr. Beckett has done has changed history."
Al's heart began to race again. "What has changed, Ziggy?" he said dead calm.
"History is still in flux, Admiral, and seems to be focused around Dr. Beckett's
"Ziggy," Al replied, fighting to keep his voice under control. "What
"It seems, Admiral, that Thomas Beckett and his son Jonathon, have disappeared."
Al began to move as he spoke. "Tell St. John I'm on my way."
The first thing Sam noticed was a buzzing in his ears. The second thing was that something
was tickling his nose. Then many things began to assault his senses all at once, and Sam
grabbed at anything within reach to help contain the chaos he felt. He was hanging.
Not quite upside down, but darn close and only restrained by something tight across his
Gasping for breath he clawed at the pressure and realized it was a seat belt, which served
to calm him a bit. He hung there, blinking in the darkness, trying to recall where he was
and what had happened. Automatically, his hand went to his face to scratch the tickle of
his nose and he felt sticky wetness. Blood, he thought instantly. It was all over
his face, and the buzzing in his ears began to make some sense. Concussion. I have a
Then he noticed a smell of electricity, and began scanning his surroundings. It was so
dark he could barely make out anything. Reaching out with his hands he felt something soft
below and next to him, and the name came to his lips instantly. "Tom!" he said
out loud, his own voice sounding far away. There was no movement from his brother.
The memory of driving came to him, and a deer . "Tom, are you all right?"
Still no answer. "We have to get out of here." Sam began fumbling with the belt.
A loud noise made him cringe in pain, and a bright light opened to his right.
"Sam!" Al yelled, even before he was clear of the Imaging Chamber door. "We
finally found you! We weren't able to get a lock on you!"
"I've been unconscious, I think," Sam mumbled. His voice still sounded detached.
"Are you OK? I mean, you're talking, so you must be OK, but how's Tom?" The
hologram leaned through the side of the truck until he was practically nose to nose with
Sam's brother. "He doesn't look too good, Sam."
"I know. He's still out. I can't get out of this damn belt. OW!!" Sam grabbed
his left hand with his right and hugged it close to his chest. He probed the hand gently.
"I think something in my hand is broken, Al. And I have a concussion. Tom's
breathing, I think, but I can't see anything." He heard his own voice slurring words.
"We need help, Al." He fell on the seatbelt again, one handed.
"I know Sam, I know, but I'm just a hologram! Ziggy says you're in the middle of
nowhere, and it's going to start raining soon. You need to get to shelter." The
Observer didn't mention the possibility of shock, and instead fenangled the handlink to
work as a flashlight and played it over his friend.
Sam looked awful. Al clamped down on his initial shock and kept his face passive.
"You almost have it there, Sam," he said quietly instead. "Careful. When
you break loose you'll fall into Tom, so brace yourself."
Sam found the button to free the belt, and braced his injured arm against Tom's headrest.
With some jiggling and curses, the belt released and Sam grunted as his weight was dropped
on his arm. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he felt around the cab for the glove box.
"Dad always made sure we had a flashlight in our cars," he mumbled. The small
door was tweaked and finally popped open with a groan. The contents tumbled out noisily.
"I see one, Sam. It fell on Tom's leg, there." He pointed to a dark spot that
turned out to be just what Sam was looking for. He switched the light on, and focused on
It was easy for Sam to be clinical, as he was concentrating on trying to see straight. Al,
however, had to bite his lip to keep his first impression to himself. Tom's face was a
"Lucky he had an airbag," the hologram said quietly. "Although it probably
didn't help much after the first bump." Al floated back to check out the exterior of
Sam checked his brother's eyes and breathing and found he had a hard time focusing. He
brushed it off for now, and saw that Al had returned. "Looks like he has a broken
nose, and some facial fractures. I can't tell about the rest of him."
Al nodded in reply. "I hate to bring this up, Sam, but if you two don't get out of
here soon, that may be the least of his problems."
"Why?" Sam continued his inspection.
"The truck is perched on the lip of an outcropping. You went off the road and down
the mountainside about 200 yards through heavy brush, which slowed you some, and
eventually stopped you, but about 20 feet ahead is a sheer drop of 150 feet. At the bottom
is a dry riverbed filled with boulders. All that's holding you that I can see is a thick
stand of manzanita, and it's cracking. Hear it?"
All Sam could hear was the buzzing in his ears, but there was also a crackling sound he
hadn't noticed before. The headache beginning to bloom didn't help much, either. He was
having a difficult time coming up with a plan.
"Help me, Al, I can't think." He closed his eyes in pain, and took a deep
breath, which hurt more than he cared to admit.
Al also noted the slur to Sam's voice and knew he had to keep him awake. "Come on,
Sam. You can do it. First, get him out of the seatbelt."
Sam felt around for the release button with numb fingers, unsuccessfully poking it.
"I think it's jammed."
"Doesn't J.T. carry a pocket knife?" Al suggested, trying to keep the panic from
his voice. Only he could see the brush ever so slowly bending to the weight of the truck.
Sam fingered the key chain dangling from the truck ignition and felt small pocket knife.
He pulled the keys out and struggled to open the tiny blade.
"That'll do, buddy. Come on, move it."
Sam fumbling fingers finally opened the small knife and he started sawing at the belt.
"Al, see what I can salvage and take with me. We need to stay warm."
Glad for the distraction, Al canvassed the bed of the truck and the surrounding area with
the light from the link. By the time he returned to the cab, he was on the edge of
screaming; the truck was on its last supporting branch of the brush.
Sam broke through the belt just as the hologram returned and panted, "Got it, Al.
He's free. I need to get out." He tried his door without success at first and
resorted to using his legs to force the door open, his back braced against his brother.
The door screamed as it reluctantly gave away, and Sam crawled through the narrow space,
battling his way through branches to the cold ground.
"There's some sleeping bags and backpacks over here, Sam! You're gonna make a
backboard, right? The back pack frame would work just fine, but you gotta hurry."
"Yeah, yeah," Sam mumbled, glad the Observer was doing the thinking for him.
Right now it was all he could do to focus on his own hands. He found the pack and dumped
it, then dragged it back to the truck. "I need rope, Al." Sam's focus was
getting narrower and his voice sounded more and more foreign to him. His head pounded. He
knew time was running out.
Time running out. Sam let out a giddy laugh at that thought. Here I am, the great
time traveler, and I'm running out of the one commodity my theories are based on. He
laughed again as he stumbled back to the truck.
"Sam! What's the matter with you? Move it, already!" Al slipped into his Admiral
mode instinctively, realizing that someone had to take control of the situation to get the
objective met. "Slip the pack in first. Then you. There's a coil of rope by your
feet. Come in on this side. Sam! Move it!"
The cracking of the brush was becoming more distinctive. Al snapped orders on maneuvering
the pack frame under Tom, a daunting task for a one-armed Sam who was working
automatically because he was focused only on Al's words. When the pack was snugly under
Tom, the truck shimmied in a nauseating fashion and Sam felt a surge of adrenalin. With
the rope, he secured Tom to the pack, then ran the rope out of the pried-open door and
around the first sturdy tree he stumbled across. Al told him to secure the rope to the
tree before hauling Tom out; he didn't trust Sam's grip.
With the pack tied off, Sam crawled back into the truck. "Come on, Tom. Let's get out
of here," he slurred, more to bolster his own fading strength than to connect with
his brother. Sam wrapped the fingers of his uninjured arm around the frame and used his
legs to push himself and his brother out of the truck. Inch by inch they made their way
out; first getting hung up on the stick shift, and again on the doorframe. It was all Al
could do to make himself appear calm and in control; inside he was screaming, HURRY! and
chewing the inside of his cheek in exasperation. It took all his self-control to stay his
Finally, Sam was clear of the cab, and Tom was partially out. That was the moment the
manzanita gave up with a flurry of snaps and cracks; the truck slipped slowly away from
under Tom, gathering speed as the brush gave way. Sam couldn't see anything in the
darkness; all he saw was the truck disappear from his narrow line of vision. Several
seconds later there was a distant booming sound.
"It's all right, Sam. Ignore that. Concentrate on Tom. We need to get him in some
kind of shelter. Here, over here."
Sam blinked in a confused way, breathing in painful gasps, and slowly turned his head in
the direction of his friend. "Al, I don't.." he started weakly.
"You have to, Sam! Do it!" Al ordered. "I can't help you. You are the only
one that can save him."
From somewhere deep inside, Sam pulled from a reserve he didn't know he had and hauled his
brother towards the voice of his Observer and friend. When Al finally told him he could
stop, Sam dropped the end of the makeshift backboard, sat down hard and drew his knees to
his chest in a tight hug.
"No, no, Sam. Not yet. The hard part is over, buddy. Now all you have to do is keep
warm until the morning. Here, the sleeping bags are over here. Come on!"
Following his friend's voice, the scientist slowly uncoiled himself and felt around in the
darkness until he had two soft lumps under his arms. He made it back to Tom and made sure
his brother was covered, reported his vital signs to Al, then crawled into his own bag.
Wiggling until his back was snug against his brother's side, Sam finally gave in to the
pain a fatigue.
Al knew he should try to keep Sam awake; he also knew the fruitlessness of that plan,
being in another time and all. Biting his lip, he whispered hoarsely, "Good job, Sam.
I'll keep an eye on you, buddy." He studied his friend's lax features for a minute or
two, then began to document verbally to Ziggy what had happened as he settled in for a
The Voice wouldn't shut up. In Sam's mind he saw himself pushing away a vague form, and
covering his ears. "Stop talking!" he said in his dream.
"I won't stop talking until you open your eyes, Sam. I want to see your pupils. Sam?
Come on, wake up!"
With a groan Sam rolled on to his back and cracked his lids. He saw a jumbled black and
white pattern in front of him and squinted his eyes to make it out. Then a fuzzy ball
obliterated the pattern.
"Come on, let me see your eyeballs, Sam. Verbena insists. Open wide!"
"Al?" Sam said groggily, the fuzzy ball clearing somewhat to reveal his friend's
worried face. He blinked slowly, which caused his throbbing head to pound harder, and
decided to focus on the pattern instead.
"Yeah, it's me and you need to wake up. You have to take care of Tom."
Branches. The pattern above his head was branches. Tangles of branches then Sam
felt something cold on his face. He automatically reached up and touched his face. It felt
"It's raining lightly, Sam. You're in some wild animal's bed, I think. It's a hollow
place in some brush. Pretty cozy, actually, but not exactly the Ritz."
Sam began to sit up, but the motion made him nauseous and he gripped his head between his
hands. That motion made the pain of his injured arm flare, and he yelped in pain and
gripped his arm. "I feel terrible," he groaned.
"You don't look any better with all that dried blood on your face, either. Check on
Tom, Sam. Let's get his vital signs."
Tom! Sam thought, looking
dizzily around. He saw a form and crawled towards it. "Al, Tom saw me," he
"He hasn't seen anything, he's still out like a light."
"No, I mean, before that. He saw me before we we crashed.." flashes of
memory came to him. The realization of what had happened allowed him to push his pain
aside and focus on Tom and his injuries.
Seeing his brother so close made his throat tighten up with emotion. "Tom," he
whispered, checking his eyes. "You hear me? Tom?" The eyes did not respond. Tom
was still unconscious. Sam probed his brother's face with his good hand. "His nose is
broken, and there may be some facial fractures. His pulse is strong; well, considering the
circumstances anyway." He continued his exam and loosened his brother from the
makeshift backboard. "His shoulder is swollen. I think it was dislocated, but seems
in place now, and possibly some broken ribs. I need to bind him." Sam turned a bit
too quickly and the severity of his own injuries made itself known. He sucked in a breath
"Sam, Ziggy says that there's nothing on you, I mean Jonathan, and Tom. This storm
turns pretty nasty soon, and the truck is washed away in a flash flood. Everyone looks for
you in the wrong place."
"We aren't found?"
"No. And Ziggy says the timeline is still in flux. In the original history, the crash
never happened, so stuff is sketchy at best. This is all new territory."
A rustling noise outside caught their attention. Sam slipped out the rest of the way from
the bag, trying to ignore the pain, and inched toward the small opening in the brush.
"I don't see anything," Sam said. "You're the Observer; go look!"
"Right." Al stepped through the brush and disappeared from Sam's sight. A few
seconds later he popped back in. "Ah I think I found the owner of this
homestead. Or, the owner found us."
"What is it, Al? A deer?"
"Um, no, but he coulda had one for dinner and is now looking for some catnip for
"What are you talking about?" Sam snapped, regretting the tone that made his
"About 10 yards outside this hidey hole is a kitty cat the size of Tom's truck, and
he's looking hungry!"
"A mountain lion?" Sam frowned. "It won't bother us, will it?"
Al brought up the link and requested information. "Er, maybe not, but there's been a
history of attacks in this area in the last few years. A grown woman jogging in an area
west of here was attacked and killed just last year." He looked apologetically at
Sam. "You probably didn't need to hear that."
Sam returned his attention to Tom, who had groaned. "I think he's coming around. Go
see if you can scare it away." He checked Tom's pupils. "It's an animal, you're
a hologram; it should be able to see you." Sam noticed how his own voice sounded
drunk to him.
"Right. OK, here I go." He lifted the link. "Now I know how the Christians
felt in Rome " and with a poke of a finger, disappeared.
Tom was waking up. Sam checked his vital signs, and then sat as close to his brother as he
could. "Tom?" He said gently. "Tom, do you hear me?"
The older man cracked his eyes and blinked, his shaky hand coming automatically to his
face. "Oh, man," he croaked. He touched his nose and his hand jerked back.
Sam put his hands on Tom's shoulders to restrain him. "Don't try to sit up, or you'll
really regret it. I think you broke your nose."
Tom blinked at the voice, his forehead lined with concentration. "Where am I? And ..
who " he attempted to focus his blurry eyes on Sam. "This can't be
happening," he finally sighed, sinking back to the ground. "What happened?"
His voice was hoarse and low.
Trying to keep his voice even, Sam replied, "We were in a crash. The truck's gone,
and we have to get help." He kept the subject of identity out of it, waiting to see
what Tom was seeing: Jonathon or Sam? Nervously, he tried to control his own spinning head
as he examined his brother with his one good arm in the meager light of the hollow. He
felt his brother's eyes on him every second.
The physicist's eyes flickered to his brother's, and he felt his heart begin to race,
which didn't help the marching band pounding in his head. "Is that what you
see?" he replied quietly, part of him glad and another part scared to death.
"Well, you're certainly not Florence Nightingale," he growled. "That hurts!
Everything hurts. And this is the most realistic hallucination I've ever had."
Sam couldn't help but laugh. "No, it's not a hallucination, Tom. It's me."
Tom's eyes examined him critically. "Can't be. My little brother is sequestered away
somewhere in a mountain, I think." His voice was slurry and weak, but his eyes were
focused and clearly relayed the anger inside. "Well, if you're Sam, where's
Dropping his eyes, Sam continued his exam of his brother not so much for information as to
give himself time to collect his thoughts. Where to begin? Is this why he was here?
Something in this whole, awful mess felt right, finally, as the thought crossed his mind.
His gut was telling him that this was the time.
"J.T. is fine and uninjured," Sam said slowly, rolling back and sitting Indian
style next to his patient as he cradled his own injured arm in his lap. Outside he could
hear Al insulting the mountain lion one last time with what sounded like a parting shot.
He met Tom's eyes and began to speak. "Do you know what Project Quantum Leap is based
on, Tom?" He asked, talking slowly and trying to keep his words from slurring.
The anger in Tom's eyes lessened some as he recalled. "My sources tell me it's about
traveling in time. I would consider that bunk, but there were multiple, unconnected
sources that said the same thing."
Just then, Al popped in next to Sam. "He's gone for now, Sam, but I'm sure he'll be
After a quick sideways glance at his Observer, Sam continued. "It's true, Tom. I
travel in time."
"Sam!!! What are you doing?!" Al yelped, making Sam jump and throw him another
Without a break in speech, Sam explained, "The way it works is that I leap into
someone in the past. Physically, I'm in the past and the person I leap into is at the
Project in the future. What everyone sees is the aura of the displaced person surrounding
our physical bodies."
"You can't tell him all this, Sam! You won't leap!" Al frantically began
pounding the handlink as he bounced on his toes.
"Aura? Why do I see you now, then?" Tom's eyes were squinting, either in pain or
Sam spoke slowly. "There are some circumstances where I am seen as who I really am.
Small children, animals and some mentally ill people can see me. It has to do with brain
function, I think. And you've probably had a brain injury. That may have something to do
"Sam, shut up, will ya? Tom's already making it difficult enough on us! He doesn't
need more ammo!" Al was getting angry now.
"This is why I'm here," Sam snapped back at the hologram. "I'm following my
gut instinct, OK?"
Tom followed the outburst with interest. At first he thought Sam was yelling at him, but
then realized that his brother was looking somewhere else. "You weren't talking to
me, were you?" He stated flatly. Even with all the pain and unfocused thoughts, he
recalled something his sources had said. "Someone is watching you, aren't they? An
Sam's eyes widened with surprise. "Your sources are pretty accurate. Sounds like we
might have a leak at the Project?" Sam ended his comment with a raised eyebrow at Al.
Al proceeded to shake the hand link in Tom's direction. "There's no leak here, you
nozzle! It's those political whores in D.C. that can be bought with a buck or two!"
Al raged at the oblivious brother.
"Al. Calm down," Sam asked softly.
"Al? Admiral Calavicci? He's the Observer?" Tom tried to laugh, but ended up
wincing in pain and closing his eyes. "I knew he knew more than he was telling me.
What about Donna? Does she observe you, too? How does she explain your absence to Stephen?
The same way she explains it to our mother?"
Sam was startled by the mention of the names; suddenly, all sorts of images flooded into
his mind, and he was shaken, unable to speak.
Al shot a very guilty look at Sam and his voice dropped. "I'm sorry, kid. I couldn't
tell you," he said apologetically, momentarily distracted from his tirade at Tom.
"That was a low blow," the hologram then snarled in Tom's direction. He spoke
again to his friend in a calm tone. "Shake it off, Sam. Come on, you started this.
Now finish it."
Tom noticed his brother's sudden look of grief. "You do remember them, don't you Sam?
Your wife? Your mother? They still remember you. Your Son? He only knows your picture,
Sam, because he was born after you disappeared! Boy, that took some royal bullshitting on
the Admiral's part, trying to explain why you weren't there."
"My .. my memory tends to be spotty because of the process." Sam sounded
defensive, and rubbed his eyes distractedly. "Why are you doing this?" Sam said
softly. How could he have forgotten them? He pressed his uninjured hand to his temple in
an effort to concentrate on the holes in his memory.
"Because someone has to!" Even in pain Tom spoke with edgy passion. "You
disappear of the face of the earth for almost 7 years, and expect no one to notice? How
would you feel? Donna and the Admiral have covered for you all that time, and now no one
even asks anymore. It's like an elephant on the stairs, Sam; everyone knows it's there,
but no one wants to point it out. Well, I'm pointing. I have to."
Too shaken to argue any more, Sam crawled out of the shelter to clear his head and try to
concentrate on saving their lives. I have a son. And a wife! kept repeated through
his head, which didn't help. The emotional and physical strain was beginning to take its
Al watched quietly from a short distance. He could see the pain his friend was going
through, and truly felt sorry for him, but he also knew that the first thing that had to
be done here was to save their lives. It was going to be up to him to keep Sam focused. He
approached his friend and kept his voice calm.
"Sam, I know you're tired. I know this is a lot for you to deal with. But you have to
concentrate on getting both of you out of here. There's a break in the rain at the moment.
It's supposed to start up again later, and be a whole lot worse. There's a road up
there." He indicated the direction with the handlink. "Ziggy says it's your best
bet. It's not well traveled, but there are Park Rangers that patrol this area. Your
chances are better there. Now, let's see what you have in the way of supplies while the
landlord is away. He's gonna want his place back eventually, or a meal. And you guys are
bloody enough to smell like a McDonalds drive thru to him. Or her. So let's get
Something in that comment ticked in Sam's mind. "He said he had to, Al. Tom said, 'I
have to'. What did he mean by that?"
Al shook his head. "I don't know. I'll tell Ziggy to get Beeks on that. I'm not
leaving you until I'm sure you two are safe from the lion king." His fingers flew
over the link. When he was done he stepped close to his friend, caught his eyes and held
them with a commanding gaze. "Sam. You're first priority is to get out of here. Focus
on that. You hear me? Sam?"
Ever so slowly, Sam's eyes cleared as he prioritized his thoughts and seemed to pull
himself together. "Yeah. I hear you. OK, then. I need to, um, stabilize the
"And then you need to move it, buddy. Come on, let's go. Don't let Tom distract you.
Tune him out." Al added.
That made Sam smirk. "Easier said than done." He returned to the nest area with
a little more resolve.
With the hologram cajoling him relentlessly it was a little easier to brush off Tom's
comments, but when Sam actually began moving his brother, Tom was forced to concentrate on
not passing out from the pain and stopped his questioning. Further probing had revealed a
break or very bad sprain of Tom's ankle; walking was out of the question.
The backpack frame was a satisfactory backboard and all he had to do was secure it better
and find a way to protect Tom's head and neck. When the time finally came to actually
begin moving his brother, Sam realized how difficult this would actually be with his own
injuries. Luckily, his legs were mostly intact, and he figured the only way to get
anywhere was to drag Tom behind him with the makeshift backboard tied to his waist. That
way, Sam could use his one good arm to climb and Tom could use his good leg to push. When
he outlined his plan to his brother, Tom snapped, "Fine. Let's move."
Al had forged ahead and planned out the easiest course, but it was still going to be
extremely difficult. They had quite a slope to negotiate and the mountain lion was surely
still in the area. Sam collected all he could possibly carry in the second backpack,
giving Tom a hunting knife, rain parkas and the broken fishing rod he'd found in the
"For a splint," he explained briefly to the questioning looks from both brother
and Observer. Finally, Sam started off in the direction indicated by his the hologram.
"Why this way?" Tom asked, gritting his teeth.
"Al says it's the best way," Sam replied.
"You put an awful lot of trust in him," Tom commented in an accusatory tone.
"Too much, in my opinion."
"He's earned it," Sam snapped a bit too quickly as he negotiated the tricky
"He has? What about the things he doesn't tell you, Sam? Things about your family,
for instance? It seems he doesn't have your best interest in mind." Tom was speaking
through clenched teeth, using his anger to put off the pain.
"Not his .. fault," Sam grunted, glad for the physical release. It made it
easier to focus on the task and not the emotions. "Rules. I made rules. Al follows
them on my orders."
"Rules that keep you in the dark on purpose? That's stupid! How can you operate like
that?" That sentence ended with a hiss as the backboard negotiated a rock.
"Need to know basis . you .. know the term, " Sam puffed. "I
need to .. concentrate ..on the job."
Tom dug in his good heel to steady the frame over the rock and help push his body along.
"What job? Proving your stupid theory? Is that's all your life is? Proving you're
right? Well, it's done, already, for God's sake! What's left to do? Why haven't you come
home?" His voice broke and grew choppy as he negotiated the pain of being moved.
Sam gritted his teeth and forced his blurry vision ahead to keep the emotions at bay. He
felt anger and sadness boiling in his mind and alternately fought back tears and the
desire to punch his brother in the jaw. He stumbled, slipped and finally made it over the
patch of rocks to the stand of trees where Al waited.
The hologram instantly picked up on Sam's distress with one glance at his face. Al had
been too far away to hear the interaction, but could tell it was disturbing to the
physicist. He also knew they had to concentrate on the job at hand; he'd seen the lion
ahead of them, lurking around the perimeter, and the weather report was becoming more dire
by the minute. He had to make sure Sam kept control of the situation. Knowing Sam's thick-
headed brother was the source of the distraction, he curbed his anger and maintained an
aura of command presence. "Over here, Sam. Concentrate on me, OK? You can do
Sam was grateful for the focal point and struggled on. Thankfully, Tom had fallen silent
and still continued to help with his good leg. It seemed like forever before Al told him
to rest. He had no idea how far they'd come; the whole distance had been broken down to
the measure of his wobbly steps, and he hadn't bother counting them. They seemed endless.
He collapsed, panting heavily and head spinning, against a tree on a level patch of
ground. His arm throbbed mercilessly and it felt like needles were being stuck in his
temples. As he fought of the galaxy of stars spinning in his vision, he felt something
pressed into his good arm. He looked down. It was a canteen.
"Here," Tom said quietly. "Drink." Sam accepted it with a shaky hand.
They rested quietly. Al prowled the perimeter as a look out and to keep his nervousness at
bay. It was getting to be late in the day and they weren't close enough to the next spot
of shelter to suit him. The race with the storm would be close. The mountain lion had been
out of sight for a while now, but the Observer knew he was still around. He looked back at
the bowed head of his friend and decided to take his nervousness elsewhere for a bit. Sam
didn't need any grief from him and his brother right now.
"Sam, I'm going to look for Simba. He's playing hide and seek, and I'd like to know
exactly where he is." Sam nodded tiredly. "I'll be right back."
Sam didn't even look up as the hologram disappeared into the trees. He was too tired.
After he swallowed some water, he turned to help Tom drink since Sam had immobilized his
other arm due to the broken collarbone. It was a sloppy drink, but he managed to get the
"We're a fine pair, aren't we?" Tom said quietly. "Between the two of us we
barely make up one undamaged person."
Sam laughed shortly as he struggled to get the cap back on the canteen. "The little
things are the biggest battles," he commented as he fumbled the cap, dropping it for
what seemed like the millionth time. "Good thing the cap is attached to the canteen
with a chain." Finally, he secured the container.
"How much farther?" Tom asked, obviously worn out himself.
"I don't know. Al hasn't said."
"He's not here?"
"No," Sam replied. "He went looking for the .. uh .. you know. The
cat." Sam felt his eyelids getting heavy and concentrated on keeping them open.
The silence between them was thick with questions, and through his fog Sam could feel the
tenseness. Finally, Tom broke the quiet.
"So what's your job, Sam?" he said firmly.
Sam tilted his head in his brother's direction. "Job?"
"Yeah. You said you had a job to do. What is it, if it's not proving your
Tom wasn't going to let this rest, Sam realized. Now I see what Al complains about,
he thought, then smiled to himself. "Now I understand the annoyance of the Beckett
stubbornness." He said quietly in response. Tom didn't smile. Sam sighed, too tired
and in pain to be angry, and wiggled around until he was facing his brother. "My job
is to put right what has gone wrong somewhere in the past, with the someone I have leaped
into." Tom frowned, and Sam explained a little more. "I fix something in
someone's past. Then I leap again."
Tom's perplexed look slowly transformed into one of wide-eyed horror. "You've got to
be kiddin' me!"
At first Sam thought he was amazed, but then realized it wasn't amazement he was looking
at - it was outrage. The only feeling that came over his fuzzy, pounding brain was
puzzlement. "No," he said slowly. "I'm not." What had he said to upset
Tom's reply made it clear what he thought. "You've put your family aside to play God?
What gives you that right? " His voice was low and gravelly and filled with anger. He
wiggled where he lay, actually trying to get some distance between him and his brother.
Sam was astonished at the reaction. Play God? Is that what he thought? Pressing his
fingers on his furrowed brow, Sam tried to clear his thoughts of the constant fog.
"No," he stuttered. "No, that's not what .. you don't understand .. "
"Of course I don't understand! What's happened to you, Sam? When did you become so ..
so ... self righteous?" He sputtered angrily.
"I'm not explaining this right," Sam started, his head pounding. Anger was also
rising from inside.
"What's to explain? My little brother's decided to take on God's job? Who gave you
the right to do that?"
The anger rising finally spilled; Sam had enough and pushed himself to his knees, moving
right up to his brother's side. "You don't get it, do you?" Sam yelled, ignoring
the fireworks of pain in his head as the held back tears finally broke loose along with
his thick tongue. "I have nochoice! I have no control, Tom! We don't
even know who or what makes me leap! I just do! And there's always a wrong
to be righted, always ! I jump from one life to the next without any choice at all!
My retrireview program doesn't work, no one knows why, and I can't even remember my name
half the time!" The last came out in a choking sob and Sam fell back into a sit and
inhaled deeply to stop the tears and painful pounding behind his eyes. He calmed himself,
then spoke again, concentrating on sounding clear. "The first time I leaped I felt
like something grabbed me, but nothing was quantifiable on Ziggy's end. There's nothing
physical to trace, no hint of what happened. All I had .. have is a feeling of what
to do each time. One time though," Sam's voice dropped to almost a whisper and he
frowned in thought, trying to recall a specific leap in detail. "One time I think I
met who was responsible." Sam rubbed his forehead. "He warned me about things
Tom watched his brother as he spoke and kept his thoughts to himself. The idea that what
he was saying might be true scared him to death, as well as the idea that he may simply be
crazy; but here he is, he thought, right here in front of me. Who was the
crazy one? Himself or Sam? Could he honestly convince himself that this was all a
Finally Sam let out a sigh, and faced his brother with a weak smile. "I know it
sounds crazy. I know that's what you're thinking. But you know me, Tom, you know my
intentions have always been good. God, time, fate or whatever has taken over and I can't
stop." The popping in of Al made him jerk his head to face the hologram in surprise,
eliciting a groan of pain. "Damn it, don't do that!" he barked as he held his
"I'd like to say I'm sorry, but I'm not. You two gotta get moving. I found that
overgrown housecat dining on a deer carcass up that way." He pointed almost directly
"Must be the one we hit." Sam said.
"I take it the Admiral is here?" Tom growled, grouchy from the pain and the
indecision he felt about his own sanity. God, time, fate or whatever? he turned
over in his mind.
"Well, that's not all, buddy. It seems Morris has a girlfriend or something. Anyway,
there's two of them, and they look like they need fattening up for the winter. You two
need to get out of here, pronto." Al finally looked from Sam to Tom, picking up that
he had interrupted something. He squinted at Sam. "What's going on, kid? What have
you been talking about?" That comment resulted in a flash of guilt in Sam's eyes. And
after all this time, Al could read his friend like a book. "Sam? What did you tell
"I told him everything, Al. About my first leap and our loss of control."
"WHAT?" Al barked. "Everything?"
A snort of laughter from Tom made both of them look over to the prone man. His head lolled
to one side as he spoke, "He's probably not happy that I finally got the information
I've been looking for for the past seven years, is he? His security is finally
Al glared at him. "He, of all people, should know the reasons for classified
projects. Nozzle." He turned back to Sam. "Sorry, I know he's your brother and
all, but he can really be a pain in the ass, can't he?"
It was Sam's turn to issue a snort of laughter. "You can say that again."
"What?" Tom interrupted. "What did he say?" Sam just shook his head a
waved him off.
"Well, you two need to get moving anyway. Come on, Sam."
With a sigh and a nod, Sam began to gather things together. "We have to go. And keep
a lookout for mountain lions. There are two of them now."
The sorry pair continued to struggle up the slope, the rain threatening to fall at any
moment. The wind was picking up, and the lower branches whipped Sam's face as he battled
to work through the pain and get his brother to a safe spot. He could hear Tom grunting
with effort, too, and the fleeting vision of two lame horses trying to pull a wheel-less
cart uphill flashed through his mind. His throbbing arm brought him sharply back to
reality. His head swam, and his vision was spinning stars pulsing in rhythm to his aching
head. Every breath was a painful endeavor, and if it wasn't for the voice of Al he would
have collapsed and given up then and there.
Al could see that Sam was failing, and failing fast both emotionally and physically. He
couldn't understand why Sam hadn't leaped yet; J.T. would be physically suited to this
task. He began to wonder if what ever entity sent Sam here liked to see him suffer; Ziggy
kept insisting that there was something else Sam had to do, and it focused around Tom. All
Al could see was that Tom needed rescuing; he'd had the chance to see that his brother was
all right and even got an explanation. What else could there be? Then he recalled
something Sam had noticed earlier: Tom had said he 'had' to find out about Sam. Did he
mean he 'had' to unveil the Project, too? Why? What exactly was Tom's motive in his
political move, anyway?
"Sam!" Al said loudly next to his friend. "Sam! I think I got it! I think
you have to find out why Tom's running for office! I don't think outing the Project to the
public is the reason there's something else. You have to find out why, Sam!
Why is he so driven to do this? Sam?"
He was simply in too much pain to reply. When Al's words finally sank into his beleaguered
brain, Sam simply stopped, breathing heavily and each breath hurting more than the one
just before. His head hung and his eyes closed, and then Sam Beckett's body simply decided
to stop working and he collapsed straight down into a heap.
The wind was steady and strong, and the leaves in the trees began to whistle. Tom craned
his neck around, and felt a tickling of drizzle on his face.
"Sam, get up!" Al barked.
"Sam?" Tom yelled over the wind. When he got no response, he began to struggle
in the frame when something in the corner of his vision caught his eye. He stopped moving,
and slowly looked in that direction, keeping his groans of pain to himself. There
was a pair of eyes watching him from a stand of shrubs less than a dozen yards away.
As he stared, the mountain lion crept from the bushes, keeping low to the ground, his eyes
intent on the motionless Sam who was just out of Tom's reach. He felt for the hunting
knife, found it, and began sawing at the rope securing him at the waist, ignoring the
sharp pain that accompanied the motions. He ground his teeth in determination, his eyes
flicking back and forth between his brother and the cat.
Al, who was kneeling by Sam's side, glanced up and saw Tom looking elsewhere and
frantically cutting at the ropes. He followed his line of sight and saw the cat.
"Hey!" He jumped up and flapped his arms. "Go away!" Al lunged at the
animal's face, waving the flashing handlink. "Shoo! Git!" The cat's ears
flattened back and it pulled back, growling a hair raising growl and taking a swipe at the
hologram with a horribly huge clawed paw. "Go on!"
Tom's cutting slowed a bit as he saw the cat backing away. He blinked and frowned,
momentarily confused. "Admiral?" he said questioningly. "If that's you,
thanks!" His voice was gravelly and cracked, as breathing was not a painless affair.
It took quite a bit of concentration to turn back to the ropes, which were now slick with
drizzle, and finish his chore.
Al, hearing the thanks, glanced back at Tom. "No problem! Really! I mean you
appreciate me so much, why not save your sorry butt?" He was directing his tirade
loudly at the lion since the intended target had deaf ears. Finally, when Al had the link
shoot a laser light from one end and he aimed it at the lion's eyes, the lion ran off,
shaking his head in surprise and pain. "Blinded by the light!" the hologram
quipped. "Ziggy says it's temporary, so come on back for more! You and your
partner!" The last was yelled at a retreating tail.
rain started with big, fat drops coming in at a sharp angle. The wind didn't let up and it
was disturbing to Tom to see his brother unmoved by the tempest. He still lay where he had
fallen, still as a stone. His hair fluttered uncertainly in the wind then began to give in
to the rain and lay flat and wet against his pale face. Grunting, Tom rolled to his
uninjured side and began working his way to his knees
Oblivious to Tom's motions Al knelt next to his friend and pleaded with him to awaken.
"Sam, come on, buddy, wake up will ya? We have to get you out of here! Ziggy? How
long until he wakes up?"
"I am concerned also, Admiral, but I do not have any input to calculate a
Slowly, Tom made his way over on his knees to his brother's side. Gently he felt his
forehead and brushed his soaked hair from his eyes as he fought with his mind about the
reality of this whole situation. The relentless pain in his entire body convinced him that
he was indeed awake, but he also recalled the stories of hallucinations relayed to him by
recovered P.O.W.s and various Purple Heart recipients; all of them having been fueled by
past regrets, actions or feelings, but none of them had been described as being as clear
and vivid as this was.
Al, knowing how helpless he was as a hologram, eyed Tom first with suspicion and then with
envy. Mostly to himself, he muttered, "He's your brother, you know. You're both
stubborn Becketts through and through, that being the reason why you're not on the ravine
floor right now squashed in a truck pancake."
Looking within, Tom seemed to reach a decision just as Al's comment closed. "OK,
little brother, let's get out of here." He turned for the backpack frame and winced
visibly. "Easier said than done, but not impossible," he tried to convince
himself through clenched teeth. His moves were efficient and remarkably speedy for one so
injured which, alone, made it difficult to work. The cold, hard rain didn't help one bit,
and both brother and hologram noted with thanks that at least the wind had died down as
quickly as it had come.
"Small favors," Tom grunted with a glance at the clouds.
"Amen," Al agreed, feeling as useless as a nipple on a duck.
Once Sam was strapped on the frame Tom tied one end of the rope to it and began scanning
the hill for a place to haul his cargo to.
"That patch up there," Al indicated. "The tree overhang and brush will
protect you from the rain."
Much to his surprise Tom seemed to hear him as he came to the same conclusion. He
painfully donned a parka (A little late for that, Al thought), draped the second
one over the still form of Sam, and grabbed the sleeping bags, stuffing one inside the
other along with the broken fishing rod. It was a slow process with only one good working
Al frowned at the fishing rod. "Well, OK. I hope it's worth the bother."
Unhearing, Tom, with rope in hand, started up the hill on his knees. The broken lower leg
constantly made itself known in no uncertain terms and he moved ever so slowly with his
eyes locked determinedly on his goal, dragging the sleeping bags and rope along.
Sweating from nervousness and bouncing on his toes, Al gave encouraging words even though
he knew they were useless. When the link beeped in his hand, it surprised him.
"What?" he barked, unable to tear his eyes away from the scene progressing
"Could you please step into the Control Room, Admiral?" St. John asked.
Reluctantly, Al glanced again at Tom and Sam, and scanned the surrounding brush. No
respectful lion would attack in the rain, would it? His only reference was the actions
of their housecat in the rain. Distracted by the thought, he asked the Imaging Chamber
Door to open.
Al strode through the door to the Control Console, fleetingly happy for the break.
"This had better be good," he growled. Giving Donna and Verbena a surprised
double take, his face softened as he stepped over and gave the former a quick hug and
reassuring smile. "He's doing fine, Donna, really. He'll be OK."
Donna nodded, then ducked her head and cleared her throat. "Thanks, Al. Um, I called
you out so we can shut down the power grid momentarily. You've been in there a long
time." Her voice cracked slightly, and she cleared her throat again. "We need to
re sequence the power intake components. They're getting too hot." She rubbed her
forehead and caught the Admiral's sympathetic eyes. "The Project wasn't designed to
be online as much as it has been in the past few years, and some of the components are
showing their age. We need to set up a schedule to revamp some things. Introduce some new,
more efficient technology "
"And re calculate the budget to do so, I know," Al concluded for her.
"After this leap we'll focus on that, OK?" If this leap ends with Sam alive. The
unspoken thought popped into his mind unbidden, and he instantly felt guilty. I must be
more tired than I thought.
She nodded and fiddled with her pen and clipboard. "If I could just see him for a
second," she said quietly. Verbena responded by putting her arm around her shoulders,
and Al put his hands on top of Donna's.
"I know," he said. "He'll get through this, Donna. One Beckett is stubborn
enough. Two only makes me feel sorry for the elements."
Verbena and Donna laughed a short laugh, and Donna smiled a hopeful grin. "Three, if
you count J.T. He's getting pretty indignant in there," she added, tilting her head
in the direction of the Waiting Room.
"I'll say!" Verbena confirmed heartily.
"Lord protect us!" Al laughed.
"Admiral? It may be a bit longer than expected until she's online again," St.
John stated as he adjusted dials with a frown.
"There was more damage in one area than expected. Shouldn't take long. Twenty
"I was afraid of that," Donna sighed. "I'll move 'em along." She
turned to go, then stopped and faced Al again. "Thanks, Al. For being there."
"Anytime, honey, anytime." He replied. I'm mostly useless there until Sam
wakes up anyway, he reasoned to himself to try and ease the sense of urgency
made his way past the target stopping point to wrap the rope around a sturdy tree, then
slipped back down to haul his brother up.
"Al, if you're here, it would sure be nice to have a lion lookout." He knew the
lion, at least, could see the hologram. "But since I have no idea if you're here or
not I have to work like you aren't. Sorry." Another thought about his own sanity
crossed his mind as he spoke to thin air.
The dampness of the rain actually helped lubricate the rope as it slipped against the tree
that was acting as a pulley, but didn't help his grip any. He forced himself to visually
concentrate on one distant spot, inhale, pull and exhale, reposition his hand and repeat.
Ever so slowly Sam's form slipped over the muddy ground and closer to Tom. Finally, the
form bumped its way into the desired spot and Tom sank down to rest, his body screaming in
The shrubs around them did a fair job of protecting them from the rain but Tom knew they
needed better to keep hypothermia at bay. He snapped the parkas together and threw them
over a low branch, making a small pup tent over Sam, and pulled the drier sleeping bag out
from inside the wetter one. He unzipped both, cuddled in as close to Sam as he could get,
and covered both of them in a double layer.
"Just like when we visited Grandma Beckett and had to share a bed," he mumbled,
shaking uncontrollably from cold and shock. He tried to get his body to relax as he
checked his brother's breathing and pulse, and settled down for the duration.
"Remember when we used to camp in the cornfield? I can honestly say this is much
worse. I'll take the bugs now. And at least in 'Nam we didn't have to worry about
freezing." Finally, he drifted into an uneasy sleep plagued with Vietnam flashbacks,
Melissa, and mountain lions.
It was the middle of the night when Al returned. Between the rain and darkness, he had a
hard time locating the pair. The bright yellow parkas finally flagged their location and
the hologram nodded approval at the makeshift tent.
snug and you can get," he said quietly when he peered in on the pair. They both
looked deathly pale and bruised; Al marveled at their constitution. "It ain't over
yet, boys," he sighed as he began his survey of the area. He intended to find the
pair of lions and keep an eye on them. It was all he could think to do.
Prowling around in the dark was still nerve wracking even though he knew the animals
couldn't hurt him. "Here, kitty, kitty!" he called, searching in an ever
widening circle. It was much easier as a hologram, as the bushes and trees were obstacles
he simply walked through. He found the pair lying together by the remains of the fawn
killed by Tom's truck, licking each other under a stand of thick brush. They stopped and
stared at the odd holographic vision, and pinned their ears back. "Well, at least you
two don't want to venture out in the rain." He glanced at the tiny skeleton.
"That just looks like an horsd'oeurve for cats your size." Unnerved by the
vision, the cats bared their teeth, growled, and planted their feet. Al could see their
muscles rippling under their tawny coats. "OK, I can see when I'm not welcome."
He pointed at them and scowled. "You stay away. Got it?" The larger cat moved a
bit forward and crouched menacingly, then twitched, startled, as the figure simply
It took a moment to sniff the air, then, satisfied that whatever that was wasn't a threat
anymore, settled back down with his mate.
Al had a chair brought in the Imaging Chamber so he could sit watch, unwilling to let the
brothers be unguarded and constantly using Ziggy to monitor the Park Ranger activities.
When they were in the area, he wanted to know, pronto. Not that the Beckett boys were in
any shape to do anything about it; he just didn't want any opportunity, no matter how
small, to pass.
The rain lessened in its intensity a little before dawn. When morning broke, there was a
break in the downpour. Al peeked in the makeshift tent and saw Tom's eyes snap open with a
"You look like you were run over by a truck," Al said, noting the purplish cast
to his face and the extremely swollen nose. "And I bet your head hurts, too."
Tom struggled to sit, and looked outside. Then he turned to Sam. "Hey, Sam."
With the arm that was less painful to use, he shook Sam's shoulder. "Come on, wake
up. You've rested long enough, and we have to move."
"You can say that again," Al agreed. The sooner they were on the roadside, the
better their chances. They weren't even going to be reported as missing for another two
days, at least, and the truck wouldn't be found washed down river until after that.
After a vigorous shaking and cajoling Tom managed to elicit a groan from his brother.
"Sam, wake up!" Tom ordered.
The voice put Sam in another time a place. "No school. Sick," he mumbled as he
smacked his lips and scowled at the sour taste.
"Good grief. We need his brain here, not in Indiana!" Al commented.
Tom couldn't stop the twitch of a smile at the corners of his mouth at the Sam's reply;
he'd heard that before, albeit rarely, from is school-loving brother when they were much
younger. "No, Sam," he said with a chuckle, then a wince. "Don't make me
laugh. It hurts my nose. Come on, wake up."
Sam rolled on to his side, utterly confused by the nauseating pain his body felt.
"Oohhh " he groaned, cradling his broken arm tightly against his body.
"I don't feel .. I'm going to be .. " Without finishing the sentence he began to
dry heave. Tom fumbled to roll him back to his side.
"Oh, Sam, you're in bad shape," Al said with more sympathy.
"You have a concussion, little brother, " Tom said softly, supporting him until
the retching stopped. "We need to get you well, both of us, to a doctor."
"Hear, hear," the hologram agreed.
Sam rolled on to his back again, exhausted and panting slightly. As the recent events
slowly came back to him, he felt even more tired and sick. "I haven't leaped,"
he said quietly.
"No, you haven't," the brother and hologram said together.
Sam blinked and tried to focus his eyes. "Al?" he said to the figure hovering
"You had us scared for a bit there, Sam. You went into shock, I think."
"Yeah," the duo replied. Al shot Tom an annoyed glance.
"That's what I think," Tom added, glancing around. "I guess Al's here? He
see any lions around?"
"Huh?" Sam still seemed confused, but coming around.
"Tell him they aren't far off, Sam, and still a danger."
"Al says they're in danger," Sam slurred, not making much sense or any effort to
"I think I know what you mean. Look, both of us need some rest. I have an idea to
make us safe, for a while at least. " Tom gave Sam some water. "I'll be
" 'K." Sam didn't feel like going anywhere.
"Hey!" Al yelped. "You have to get to the road! Come back here!"
Sam weakly waved his good arm. "Let him go, Al. I don't feel very well." His
voice trailed down to barely a whisper and Al realized he'd fallen asleep.
"Sam! Come on, wake up!" There was no response. He began to pace nervously.
"I don't like this. Not one little bit." He stopped and regarded his friend.
"But I guess I have not choice, do I, with me here and you there, and him out ..
there " He tapped the link. "Let's see exactly what your brother is up
When the hologram popped outside he found Tom moving around on his knees and dragging the
broken fishing rod behind him as he approached the brush.
"What are you thinking?" Al mused, now curious. It didn't take him long to
figure it out. "Snares and booby traps! Very good, Tom! Something useful from the old
jungle days." Al watched approvingly as Tom designed and rigged trip wires and snares
that virtually surrounded the camp area. Some were meant to scare, but most were down
right deadly. The fishing line would be relentless in its hold. Tom designed the traps to
suspend its prey, making death or mutilation rather quick. "Ya gotta do what ya gotta
do," Al mused. "You have a skilled touch there, my man."
Tom was shaking with exhaustion when he was done, and crawled back to the puny tent. He
surveyed the area one more time, then obviously feeling safe enough to sleep, returned to
his brother's side to do just that.
"Well, you get some rest, I suppose," the Observer said quietly. "I'll
stand watch. But Sam better wake up soon; he can't leap if he's asleep, and I know that
Im sick of this place." He settled into the chair once again, and asked St.
John to bring him some coffee and food.
The rain had been forgiving while Tom did his deeds, but he wasn't settled long before the
wet stuff began to come down steadily again. Sam appeared to be dead to the world, and
Tom, finally feeling some measure of safety, soon joined him.
Becketts were motionless most of the day and the rain continued in endless sheets. It was
late afternoon before it showed signs of slacking off. Tom had managed to divert most of
the water from running through their pitiful shelter, but they still got wet. Tom was
beginning to rouse from a fairly restful sleep when he heard an unearthly scream outside.
Even Sam jerked awake and sat up, holding his head in regret.
Al, who had been dozing in the chair, leaped to his feet, instantly awake. The brush next
to him swayed wildly and the screaming was cut short.
"Hey! You got one!"
Tom crawled from the tent carefully, wary of the trapped animal. Sam, who looked the best
he had in a day but still appeared to be one of the walking dead, followed him closely.
"Jeeze, Tom, what's happening?" He asked softly, wishing the noise of the brush
cracking would stop hurting his head. He held his stomach to try and quell the nausea.
"Visitor." He said shortly. "Sounds like a big one."
The crashing brush slowly subsided, and Tom finally figured it was safe to approach. He
held the hunting knife tightly in his good hand and moved towards the brush on his knees,
Sam close behind without realizing what he was really doing; following his brother was a
"It's OK now, I think it's dead," Al said quietly. "He's a big one."
The snare had caught the mountain lion high on the neck, just behind the jaw, and the
young sapling that had strung it up bowed a bit at the weight.
"One down," Tom said quietly as he looked around. "There's one more out
"She ran off when he made all the ruckus," Al commented. "That way."
He pointed in the very direction they needed to go. "Of course. Couldn't go back to
your house, could you?"
"Al says she ran off." Sam mumbled, staring at the swinging body. "You did
this?" He asked Tom, indicating the snare with a sweep of his hand.
"Yup. And there's more, so don't walk around unattended."
"Walk. Right." Sam sank to the mud. "I'm so sorry, Tom." His voice was
tinged with sorrow.
"Sorry? About what?"
"This. All this. We wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me."
Tom was strangely quiet. The anger that had bubbled inside him was still there; he didn't
trust his voice to say anything. Sam was right. Some other entity may be leaping him
around now, but Sam was the one that stepped in the Accelerator Chamber the first time.
"Stop it, Sam. That's not helping." Al said sharply.
"But it's true." Sam was sitting on the wet ground, his knees pulled to his
chest and his head resting on them.
Finally Tom moved towards the tent. "Come on. Let's get to the road."
"I can't." The words came quickly and without hesitation. Sam was simply too
tired and too hurt, both physically and mentally. He couldn't find any more reserves to
pull from. "You go. Take the parkas."
"You can't give up! If you give up, you don't leap!" Al yelled. "You have
to pick his brains more, Sam, and find out why he does what he does! Then you can get out
Tom replied immediately. "Then I stay, too. No way am I leaving you alone, little
brother. I've done too much to find you." To himself in a whisper, he added.
"And I don't break my promises."
Al's ears perked up at that. "Promises? What promises? Sam, that may be it! Sam? You
hear me?" The hologram strode up to the still form and squatted next to him. "I
think that's it, buddy. Sam? Ask him about the promises he made!"
The nagging Observer would not be put off, Sam knew, and he spoke with his head still on
his knees. "What promises?"
"What?" Tom was too far away to hear exactly what was asked.
Sam raised his throbbing head. "Promises. You made promises. To who?"
Tom stared at his brother not so much from surprise that he'd heard what was whispered,
but to try and put the jumbling of emotions he felt in some coherent order. Unable to do
so, he instead crawled next to his brother and sat, his gaze drifting upwards to the sky.
Before just tired and indifferent, Sam's interest now stirred and he studied the man next
to him. For him not to burst forth with an immediate reply was telling; he'd never seen
his brother so conflicted. It was both curious and frightening. What was he thinking?
When Tom began to speak, what he said was not what Sam expected at all from his in-charge,
"When I met Melissa, my whole world changed," he said quietly. "She was my
connection to life itself. You probably didn't know that, did you?"
Sam shook his head gently. He couldn't even remember Melissa; rather than dwell on that
guilt he focused on Tom's words.
"She was beautiful, vibrant, loving and the perfect life partner. Military life is a
hard life, and it makes connecting with the outside world on a, well, normal level
difficult. She made it easier; she kept me in touch with life, and why I did what I did.
She made sure our value system, those things that are important, really important, didn't
fall aside as I advanced in my career." He hesitated momentarily to steady his
quaking voice. "It's family, Sam. Family is what is ultimately what's most important,
and what I was in the military for; I was making sure that every American kept their right
to have a family and safely raise them to adulthood with the values they hold." He
glanced over and met Sam's eyes. "When she died, part of me died with her. And just
before she died, she made me promise to find you. She knew I wasn't complete because of
you." He dropped his eyes to the mud, unconsciously rubbing his broken and swollen
ankle. "It drove me crazy, Sam, not knowing where you were. I needed a complete
family." The anger was starting to swell again. "Why did you go, Sam? Why? Can't
you even tell me that?"
The sound of rustling brush behind them caught their attention, and Sam heard Al yell,
"Sam! The other lion!" Together, both Tom and Sam turned just as the angry mate
burst from the brush, a hind leg barely caught in one of the snares. "Ohh, she's
really pissed! Look out!"
The lion lunged out of fear and anger, making it further into the campsite than any of
them expected. She swiped her huge paw at the pair, who were barely able to dodge it. Tom
and Sam rolled in opposite directions, Sam the slower of the two. The cat was becoming
hysterically angry, and managed to snag Sam's lower pant leg with a second swipe of her
paw. Immediately she slapped her other paw on him and began to drag him towards her jaws.
The snare, however, proved to be her nemesis; she tried to lunge in, but the pain in her
back leg distracted her and she turned to snap at the invisible foe, releasing Sam for a
fraction of a second.
"Sam!! Move it! Hey, you bitch, leave him alone!" Al was swinging his arms
wildly, causing further distraction to the furious feline. Ensnared, though, she was
trapped and unable to run away; they all knew that made her even more dangerous.
Sam painfully tried to pull himself away, but they all could see he wouldn't be fast
enough. The lion, now torn between two new types of threat, a hologram and a practically
invisible snare, went for the only solid thing it could see within its grasp and leaped
towards Sam again.
What happened next was a blur to the hologram; the cat was on Sam's legs, and something
was on the cat. There was screaming, both human and animal, and flying fur and mud. Al saw
Sam roll away, then saw the cat collapse in a snarling heap with Tom on top, his hand
still gripping the hunting knife that was deeply imbedded in the cat's heart. He lay like
that, panting painfully and heavily, until the last twitch of life issued from the lion.
His head rested on the cat's shoulders as he paid for his action with unbelievable pain.
Shakily, Sam crawled to him. "My God, Tom, are you hurt?"
He saw his brother's grip on the knife slip, and amazingly, heard him start to laugh,
wince in pain, and laugh again. "Just where exactly have you .. been
the past few days, bro?" He panted.
Sam realizing the absurdity of his question began to laugh himself, albeit very carefully
as any movement hurt.
Al, still shaking, looked at both of them incredulously. "You're both nuts!" he
commented, collapsing into his chair. "I'm going to have a heart attack before this
leap is over," he complained.
Tom crawled off the body and the brothers sat together, leaning back to back, breathing
heavily, wincing in pain with every move, and trying to stop laughing as it hurt too much.
Soon their breathing evened out, but neither one had the strength or initiative to move.
They sat quietly, their heads hanging. Sam noticed his jean leg was shredded, but his skin
underneath remarkably unscathed save for some minor puncture wounds.
They sat in silence, both of them deep in thought. Something Al had said simmered in Sam's
"Al says were both nuts," Sam said quietly.
Tom snorted. "Not nuts. Just Becketts."
"Boy, you can say that again," Al griped.
"We are family." Sam affirmed quietly. "That makes us a lot alike in a lot
"I suppose," Tom answered.
Sam frowned as his thoughts finally made some connections. "We both made the choice
to go away because we thought it was the right thing."
Tom's forehead wrinkled in thought. "Vietnam? Of course that was the right thing to
do! I was defending our country! You can't compare what I did to what you do! I came
"Not the first time," Sam said firmly.
Al sat up ramrod straight. "Sam," he said cautiously.
There was a pause, then Tom said angrily, "What?"
"The first time. You didn't come back the first time, Tom."
The hologram was on his feet now. "Sam, you're not ."
"What are you saying, Sam?" Tom painfully worked his way around to face his
brother, his tone angry.
"April 8, 1970. Remember that day, Tom? You promised me you'd get into the
deepest bunker in Vietnam. You didn't. Remember?"
Tom's statement went from angry to total confusion. "Ye yes.." That
disastrous day would be forever etched in his memory.
Sam took a breath to steel himself, but the words still came out shaky. "You died
the first time, Tom. You didn't come home."
" 'The first time?' " Tom echoed, shocked.
"Yes. I leaped and changed that, but death still happened," his voice caught at
the memory of beautiful, vibrant Maggie. "One life for another."
Tom's mouth hung as he weighed the implications. "You're saying Maggie died instead
Sam nodded guiltily, ducking his eyes.
After a moment, expecting angry about playing God, all Tom said was, "You can't prove
"I know," the physicist said quietly. "But I was there, Tom. Both times. I
remember being told you were dead, and I remember you coming home alive. I can't prove it.
I just know, and Ziggy knows, but no one else can ever know. The power, the implications
of what I do cannot be made public, can't you see that? It scares me to death sometimes.
The responsibility is staggering."
Al bowed his head at that comment. He never knew that Sam really realized that fact; in
his own thoughts, Al figured the Swiss-cheesing of his memory was to prevent that
thinking, which was another reason to believe that some other entity was really in charge
here. "You're a Boy Scout, Sam. You're the only person I'd trust with this job."
He said softly.
There was a moment of silence as Sam let the reality of Al's words wash over him.
"We're the same, Tom. We both made decisions based on what we thought was the right
thing. You came back because of my decision. I didn't. One life for another. I need you to
respect my decision like I respected yours."
There was another length of silence as Tom began to reassemble his reasons that drove him
on his quest. He'd kept his promise to Melissa; he'd found Sam. He hadn't promised to keep
him. Suddenly he felt a huge weight lifted from his shoulders as the anger drained away.
"But when will you come home?"
"I don't know," he replied honestly. "When I can, I guess. It's not up to
"What should I tell Mom?"
Sam took a moment to keep his tears at bay. "Tell her I love her. And when this is
over, Tom, and I leap? You may not remember any of this. JT will be back, and life for you
will go on from here. All that will be left is your usual common sense and strength of
family. Use that in your career making, not your grief and anger."
Tom tried to grin, but winced and touched his tender nose. "So I gotta learn to do
things differently, huh? If there's a possibility that I won't remember this anyway, why
did you tell me all this, little brother?"
Sam smiled in return. "Because deep inside you know it's the truth. Just listen to
your inner voice, your gut instinct. It seems to be the way Becketts think best,
"You can say that again," Al snorted.
"I think that God, Time, Fate or Whatever will guide you, as it does me," Sam
said quietly as he felt the familiar tingle of the impending leap. He made sure his eyes
connected with Tom's for the last moments. "Take care of Donna and Stephen, Tom.
Watch over them for me. Part of me is always there in them." His eyes glimmered with
tears as he raised his good hand in farewell. "I love you all."
Tom sat up straighter and reached out, a puzzled look falling over his face, and Sam
The veil of blue fell over his vision as Tom faded away, and Sam fell into that comforting
void where time floated him between leaps. This time, he had the feeling of not being
alone, but couldn't find another soul. Instead, a voice that seemed to come from inside
him spoke in a distinctly feminine voice, feathery and light.
"Thank you, Sam," the voice said.
He knew that no one was around him, but he had a clear, brief glimpse in his mind of a
woman standing on a distant shore who then turned and walked away, only to vanish into the
The music was the first thing that filtered through the haze
clouding Sams mind as a new leap congealed around him. Acoustic guitar, trumpet,
piano; without even realizing it, he accurately identified each instrument that was
playing the soft jazz in the background.
His surroundings took on
substance and he found himself sitting at a bar, an empty glass held loosely in his right
hand. Slowly Sam looked around him, there were a couple of other people sitting further
down the counter, behind him the rest of the room was lit by low lights, a raised platform
on one side of the medium sized room held the quartet who were playing the music. Several
tables and chairs were dotted around the room with a little over half occupied by people
either listening to the music or deep in conversation. A clink of glass turned Sams
attention back around where he found a man filling the glass in front of him.
No, Im fine
thanks. Sam put his hand out. I didnt order that.
Yeah, I know
Carl. The bartender responded and then jerked a thumb at a woman a few seats away.
The blonde down there paid for it.
Sam cast his eyes in the
direction that the barman indicated. A woman was sitting four seats away, she had long
blonde hair that cascaded down over her shoulders and swept the middle of her back, she
had an open honest face with wide eyes and full sensuous lips coated in a luscious shade
of red. She noticed Sam looking at her and lifted her glass to him. He nodded his thanks
and turned back to the man who was wiping glasses. Who is she? Sam
No idea, she asked
if I could point out Carl Talford to her, I did and she said she wanted to buy you a
drink. Knowing you, I didnt think youd turn it down. He smiled.
I wonder what she
wants. Sam pondered; he glanced back down at the woman trying to appear unobtrusive;
something in her face made him draw his breath in sharply, an air of helplessness, a
sadness that seemed to weigh heavily on her. Suddenly to his thorough surprise, Sam felt
an instant attraction. He found himself wondering what it would be like to hold her in his
arms, to take away whatever was causing the heartache in her eyes.
Well, gee Carl,
heres a thought, why dont you go and ask her. The man leaned on the bar
and fixed Sam with a penetrating look. She might have a job for you.
What sort of
job? Sam wondered aloud.
bartender replied with patience, and then glanced down at the woman. Go and ask
her no on second thoughts, forget that, shes coming to you. He stepped
back and continued to work as the woman perched herself on the stool next to Sam and
placed her glass on the bar.
breathed. My names Elise Forrester.
replied warily. Thanks for the drink.
welcome. She ran a finger around the top of her glass. Ive been asking
around town for someone to do a job, your name was the one that came up most often. Are
Sam rested his arms on
the edge of the bar and studied the woman. Outwardly, he hoped he was giving the
impression that he was considering her offer. Inwardly, his mind was working furiously
trying to discern what his line of work was supposed to be. Swallowing past the lump of
misgiving lodged firmly in his throat, Sam raised his eyes to the womans face. A
nervous smile was lifting one corner of her mouth.
What do you have in
mind? He asked finally.
believe in ghosts? She asked in a hesitant voice.
Sam repeated, staring at the woman incredulously. He rubbed a hand across his face
muffling an exasperated Oh boy!