Episode 832

Leap From Hell I

by: A. J. Burfield, M. J. Cogburn & Katherine Freymuth

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PROLOGUE

                                                                            

When Julianna suggested to Al that they go visit her mother for a short time, Al couldn’t say no.  After all, Julianna was his daughter and it had been years since he last saw Lisa Sherman.  Plus, Beth wasn’t going to let him break his promise that he had made over a month ago.

            “Sweetheart,” Al called out to Julianna as he grabbed the suitcases that were sitting beside the couch.   Both of them were Julianna’s.  One was for the trip to her mother's, while the other was packed for a hasty trip to the hospital to deliver her little baby boy if needed. "You ready?"  Even as he thought about the child in her womb, Al’s chest swelled with pride.  He’d have another grandchild – a grandson.  He glanced down the hallway, knowing that she had to make one last stop before getting into the car.  “Let's go! Daylight’s burning.”

The bathroom door opened and Julianna emerged.  She was supporting her back with her right hand as she wobbled down the hall toward her father.  She smiled at him as she met him in the entryway.  “I’m ready when you are, but I really wish you would let me bring Hanson with us.”  She saw the stubborn set of her father’s jaw but continued.  "You’re still not as safe as you think you are.  You know what happened with Congressman Black.  That sniper is still out there.”

“Julianna, you worry too much.  Besides, I can take care of myself.”

“Now, I didn’t say that, did I?”  Julianna gave him a smile and started toward the door.  “Come on, Dad.  Mom’s waiting and any drive with a very pregnant woman is a long drive.  You have your hands full.”

Al sighed then gave her a smile.  “Okay, okay.  You’ve made your point, babydoll.”  He opened the door for her and allowed her to step through first before turning to lock the door behind him. 

 

 

Through the gun sight, the woman clearly saw the man who had put her mother through hell. Although two men had killed her parents, this one had first paralyzed her mother all by himself then, much later, had helped kill her with the help of his accomplice. It was time he was paid back and payback was going to be as slow and painful as she could make it.

Lying low on the ground with the rifle in her arms, she took careful aim at the door.  It was only a matter of time before Calavicci’s oldest daughter would come strolling out of there and when she did... BAM!  Her plan would be in motion.  All she had to do now was wait just a little bit longer . . . 

Seeing a movement from inside the house, she grinned as she centered the gun sight on the front door.  She caught her breath in anticipation when she saw the door open.  “There you are, you bitch,” she whispered lightly as she aimed at a spot high on her victim's torso.  As Julianna Calavicci hesitated on the steps, the woman squeezed the trigger, smiling victoriously as she watched Julianna collapse and Admiral Albert Calavicci rush to his daughter's side.

 

   

PART ONE

 

The report of the rifle and Julianna's collapse were almost simultaneous. Caught completely by surprise, the Admiral hesitated only a moment before rushing to her side.   “Jules?" He brushed a loose lock of hair from her forehead as her eyes, wide with shock, met his. "What’s...” he started, then glanced over her body and saw blood blossoming like a flower from a spot just above her abdomen.  “Oh... God... Jules?”  Instantly, tears blurred his vision but he wasn’t about to lose control when his daughter needed him most.  He reached deep inside and pulled out all the stops. He glanced around desperately, cursing the isolation of the house in the country.

“Damn…!”  Julianna breathed, her clenched teeth attesting to the pain.  Her attempt to sit only resulted in her body rolling to her side, as her body didn't seem to want to obey her mental commands. Trying to sort the multitude of inputs her body was struggling to deal with, her hands clutched at the oozing wound as she barely recognized the signs of shock. Squeezing her eyes to the cacophony of brain impulses, all she could whisper was, “Oh... daddy!” in a feathery voice.

“What, honey?!” Al asked her as he knelt beside her.  He didn’t know what he could do.  He pressed his shaking hands over hers as he tried to think. 

Julianna breathing changed to panting, and Al felt the muscles under his hand tighten. Something wasn't right; he moved his hands off of hers, and lightly laid them on her protruding abdomen. He tried not to notice the bloody handprints he was leaving, but quickly forgot about that when he felt the muscles under his hands harden. "You're having contractions,” he said lowly. When his daughter cracked her eyes open in acknowledgement, he also saw the pain and anguish there. “I’m going to call 911,” he told her as calmly as he could, knowing that they needed to get to safety.  As he started to get up, a flurry of movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention, but before he could react, he felt pain everywhere.

“No...”  Julianna called weakly as she helplessly watched two men rush up onto the porch and subdue her father with what looked like a tazer. She wanted to help him, but was too weak; her vision was darkening around the edges and she knew they were in deep trouble.  The men grabbed her downed father, punched him, kicked him, and then bent his arms at impossible angles. She cringed at her father’s cries as they pinned him against the floor and tied his hands behind him, punching him twice in the kidneys when he uttered a curse.

With a surreal view through fading sight, Julianna watched as a woman strolled confidently up to them, a rifle cradled lovingly in her arms. The vision smiled at Julianna, then dismissed her with a flip of her head and focused on the subdued Admiral. She reached down with a chuckle and lightly caressed his cheek.  “Oh, my God.  Is it really you?" The woman crooned. "Is it really the Ex-Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci?” she said in a teasing tone.

“What do you want?” Al growled at her. "Let my daughter go and we'll talk."

The woman motioned for the men to haul him up. They did so, ignoring his grunts of pain, and slammed him against the wall. Then, she leaned in close and kissed him hard, enjoying his feeble attempt to disengage her lips. She pulled back and held his chin with her hand.  “I just want my just reward,” she told him softly.  She traced her finger down his neck, his shoulder, his back, then lightly patted his butt.  “My just reward,” she repeated softly, looking into his eyes with a mischievous grin.  She ignored the glare he gave her in return, and she glanced at Julianna lying on the steps a few feet away. “Why... if it isn’t his daughter – the illustrious Captain Julianna Contessa Calavicci,” she said as she strolled to Julianna's side and knelt down, her head tilted to one side as she observed the injured woman.  “It’s a little early to be having those contractions, don’t you think?  But then again, it's amazing what shock can do to a body,” the woman said as she glanced back at Al.  “Bullets do tend to bring on other complications.”

“You leave her the hell alone!” Al yelled out as he struggled vainly in his captors' grip.

The auburn-haired woman turned her attention back to Julianna and laid her hand on the rounded abdomen, ignoring Al’s statement.  She felt a contraction heighten, heard Julianna’s panting moans and looked into the stricken woman's pain filled eyes.  “Well! Things are moving along quickly, aren't they? How nice for me!” Focused solely on the variety of pains shooting through her, Julianna's brain barely made out the words. The woman continued, "I was going to carve the little darling out myself, but it looks like nature will take care of it for me!"

The sniper signaled the men with a flip of her free hand.  “Raul, take her inside the house.  Darren, take the Admiral into the house as well.  Keep him quiet." She frowned at the blood on her hand, then wiped it on Julianna's sleeve  "I don’t want to hear his foolish ranting and raving.”

The blond-haired minion gathered up Julianna, carrying her inside roughly.  “Take her to that bedroom, right there,” demanded the woman.  As he moved Julianna down the hall, the woman grinned at her good fortune and followed, the rifle still cradled in her arm like a child.  She stopped just inside the door, enjoying the sight of her man dumping the pregnant woman on the bed and the scream of agony that followed.  She wondered which hurt more: the bullet or the coming child.

From the living room, she heard Al demand, “Let me go! Dammit, she needs me!” followed by the sound of him struggling in his captors hold. "Stay here," she ordered the blond as she stepped in the hall and swaggered towards Al's voice. Once in the living room she saw Al struggling in her man’s grip.  “Take me to my daughter!” he immediately demanded of the woman.

She looked him over once, and then stepped up and slapped his face so hard his head snapped back.  “You will not tell me what I will or will not do.”  She stepped back and leveled the rifle, pressing the barrel under his chin.  She tilted his head up slightly with the barrel to look into his eyes.  “Shut this piece of trash up.  I don’t care how you do it, Darren, but do it now.”

“Yes, Miss Tala,” the man said curtly. He dragged Al by his now swollen arms to the other side of the room.

Moaning down the hall caught her attention and she returned to the bedroom. Tala paused in the doorway to look at her victim, hardly noticing the blood soaking into the comforter. “Calling out to your precious daddy won’t help matters dear.  He’s... busy at the moment." She strolled to the bed and sat down beside Julianna, whose pale face was lined in pain as another contraction hit her.

“Please...” Julianna's voice was barely audible.

“Please?” Tala questioned back.  “Please what?  Put you out of your misery?  That’ll come soon enough.  I just want you to know,” she said as another contraction began to ache in Julianna’s abdomen, “that I’ll take good care of your child as if he were my own.”  She gazed at Julianna’s stomach as if she could see the baby inside, fighting to be born.

Even through the pain Julianna felt the wave of fear come over her when the realization of what the woman had said hit her.  “You’re going to steal my baby,” she whispered weakly.

Tala shook her head almost adamantly.  “Oh no.  I’m not going to steal your baby from you.  You won’t be here to take care of it.  Hence, someone needs to.”  She blinked at Julianna as she moved to stand at near the foot of the bed.  “And from the looks of it, my son will be here shortly.” Tala calmly walked out of the room and grabbed a couple of towels from the closet.  Going into the bathroom, she searched it and found some essentials that would help her with the birthing process then headed back into the room.

Tala knew how weak Julianna was, but she also knew that when focused, Calavicci determination would get the job done. "You have two choices," Tala said sharply as she positioned herself on the bed for the birth of the baby.  "You can help me help you get this child out alive, or you can not help and kill your baby. It's up to you. Just remember that I want this child alive as much as you do." Julianna's eyes burned with anger between contractions, but her demeanor told Tala her choice; she knew the priority here was the safety of her child.

Tala coached Julianna through the contractions telling her when to bear down and push.  Julianna was fading fast, and the blood from her wound had soaked the bedding thoroughly. Her total focus being on saving her child, she pushed the pain aside and worked to get the job done. Finally, she felt the end of her struggle coming near.

With a final order to push, Tala cradled the crowing head and turned the wrinkled face sideways. Taking great care, she helped the baby out, cleaned his mouth and nose and heard his first cry.  With a satisfied smile, she snipped the umbilical cord and tied it tightly close to the child with a shoestring, and left the rest to fate.  Moving the baby to the other side of the room and carefully laid the crying child on the table, she cleaned him off in an extraordinarily gentle manner, shushing his cries with motherly coos.

From the bed, all Julianna knew was that she couldn't feel her body anymore. The infant's cries reached into her clouded mind like a piece of distant sunshine. Her head lolled to one side, and she fought to open her eyes.  “My baby,” she whispered, her own voice sounding very far away.

Tala smiled at the little boy lying on the table as she wrapped him up in a large, soft towel.  She picked him up and held him close to her.  Walking to the edge of the bed, she looked down at the boy in her arms and smiled at him then looked up at Julianna.  “He’s gorgeous.  He’s absolutely perfect... and, he’s mine.”

Jules swallowed hard at the words, too weak to lift her arms.  “No,” she said with as much determination as she could muster. She felt detached from her body, and waves of sorrow and heartache washed over her unfocused mind. "No."

Tala watched as Julianna’s body seemed to sink deeper in the bloody mattress.  She snuggled the child close.  “Well, goodbye, Jules,” Tala said with a smirk.  “Thank you for my son.” 

Turning away from the failing woman, she walked out of the bedroom, leaving Julianna to bleed to death.

   

PART TWO

 

Al had been struggling from time to time to try and get back to Julianna’s room but the two men held tight.  It had been very quiet for a long time before the weak sound of a baby's cry was heard. The Admiral's eyes were locked on the hallway, his ears straining to hear and indication of his daughter's welfare. When Tala entered the living room carrying the baby, he was struck with awe and despair.  “Julianna!” he called, dragging his eyes away from the sweet child and struggling with a fierceness he didn't know he had, even though every movement caused unbearable pain.  He knew that he had to get his grandson and daughter away from this crazy woman.  “Julianna!”  Again, silence met him.  “Get your fucking hands off of me!” he spat at his captors.

"I don't think she's up for visitors," Tala said in a light voice, her eyes on the child. "In fact, I don't think she's up for much of anything anymore. My condolences, Admiral."

“Who the hell are you?” roared Al, fighting to keep the worst from his mind. "Where's Julianna?"

Tala smiled down at the baby in her arms and lightly kissed his forehead.  “I have always wanted children, especially a son.  And now I have one.  I think you owe me that much since you killed my parents, don’t you think, Admiral Calavicci?” she asked, a steely look in her eye.  She positioned herself so that he could see his grandson clearly.  “Isn’t my son gorgeous?”

“He is not your son!” Al told her angrily and began to struggle again in his captives' arms.  “You murdered my daughter to kidnap her son – my grandson!  I’m not going to let you get away with this!”

Tala pulled the baby closer and looked at Al oddly, as if he had said something outlandish.  “I did not murder your daughter!  She had problems in child birth,” Tala reasoned with a grin.  “I’m just doing what any other person would do in my place.  Taking the baby and being the mother to it.”  She smiled at the little boy in her arms. “Anyway, you can’t do anything to stop me.  It’s already done.”  The baby began to cry and she quietly rocked him back and forth in her arms.  “It’s okay, Nathaniel,” she crooned at him.  “It’s okay.”

“His name is Francis Xavier Calavicci,” Al spat with contempt, managing to jerk one arm free of the men. A moment later, though, he found himself face down, his cheek pressed hard into the carpet as one of the men stepped on his head.

"His name is Nathaniel. After my father." Tala bent down with the child in her arms then turned her head to look at the struggling captive.  “Admiral, I would think that you would know better than that.  But then again, you did just lose your daughter and your grandson all at once, now didn’t you?  Just like I did when I walked in to find my parents dead.”  Looking down at the child, she nodded slightly.  “Yes, this child will suffice for my loss nicely.”

“What do you want?”  Al demanded, wincing in agony as the blond-haired man jerked him to his feet by his ever-swelling arms.  “If the baby is the only thing you want, then why are you still here?  Who are you?” Al demanded again, wracking his brain to find any clue as to who this madwoman was.

Settling down in a comfortable chair before him, she began to speak to the child as if she were telling a bedtime story. “My name is Tala if you must know.  I’m one of two who were born in a project far away from here.  My sister, Siren, is waiting for us in the car and acting as lookout." She paused, and turned her eyes on Al. "We are the daughters of Dr. ZoŽ Malvison and Dr. Nathaniel Lothoman." Her voice now had a hardened edge. "Do you remember them, Admiral?  Do you remember shooting my mother in the back?  And how she was paralyzed and in a wheelchair the next time you saw her?  And how you and Dr. Beckett murdered my father in the Control Center of his project, then fried my mother along side him?”  Her words became crisp and clear as her anger grew.  “When I found them, there wasn’t anything that I could do to save them, you bastard!  So I have no pity for you when you lose family members.  In fact, I think that your family tree might need some more thinning!” The baby began to fuss as the words became angry. Tala stopped her story to console the child.

‘ZoŽ and Lothoman’s daughter?’ Al thought with a frown.  Her words were so filled with hatred and self-righteousness that he knew that there was nothing that he could say to change her point of view.  ‘She would never believe that her mother committed suicide or that anything that Sam and I did was self-defense,’ he thought sourly.  Her comment about thinning his family down caused red flags to go up.   “What do you mean?” he growled at her, pushing the growing sorrow at Julianna's loss aside in his mind and trying to keep hope. His heart, though, was another matter.

Tala touched her chin thoughtfully as she rocked the baby.  “I mean,” she said softly as she leaned closer to him, “… that perhaps your remaining four daughters, or better yet maybe even Beth, need to die as well.”  She looked down at the baby in her arms once more.  “As far as I’m concerned, your family still owes me a death.  You took both my parents, so I'll take two of yours.  And I’m keeping the baby for me.  He’s mine. Nathaniel Lothoman the Second.”

Al's jaw pumped in anger, his teeth clenched.  “No,” he told her firmly.  “If you have to take your revenge on someone, if you have to take a life, take mine.  Leave my family alone and release Frankie.”  He knew he might as well be talking to a wall.  She was completely unmoved by his pleas and he watched helplessly as she flicked her hand at him and stood up. 

“Gag him.”  Tala said softly as she walked the baby out of the living room and went to the back rooms in search of clothing for the baby.  Darren and Raul pushed him back into the chair and promptly shoved a balled handkerchief into his mouth.  Then they ripped off a piece of duct tape and covered his mouth so that he couldn’t even whisper a goodbye to his beloved daughter.

 

 

Siren glanced at her wristwatch as she walked up onto the porch of the Calavicci house. She stopped and looked at the blood that had spilled there and sighed before continuing on to enter the house.  When she pushed the door open, she saw her sister's back receding down the hallway and then glanced to her right to see Darren and Raul gagging whom she suspected to be Admiral Calavicci. She pursed her lips for a thoughtful second, and then followed the trail of blood that led to the back bedroom. When she looked in the room, the woman on the bed appeared to be dead. 

Frowning, she entered the room and shut the door quietly behind her.  Moving quickly, she went to Julianna's side and felt for a pulse at the neck, avoiding the bloody mess surrounding the body.  When she felt a very weak throb, she quickly rolled up her sleeves. Tala wanted her dead, but Siren knew that Julianna Calavicci would suffer enough knowing that Tala had taken her child.  She quickly tied the umbilical cord with a remaining piece of string to stop the blood from continuing to seep out of her.  She glanced around the room and found a large white blanket to place against the bullet wound, and applied pressure.  With her teeth she tore strips from the blanket to keep the dressing from slipping. Siren looked into Julianna’s face as the woman weakly and amazingly opened her eyes.  “Shhhh,” she said softly.  “Everything will be okay.  I’ll call someone as soon as we leave.  I won’t let you die, Julianna.”

Julianna's fuzzy vision saw the woman who stole her son.  It was an unreal feeling that this woman was helping her and telling her that she wouldn’t let her die.  Yet, Julianna saw something different in her eyes.  This isn't the same woman, her fuzzy logic realized.  “Frankie...” she whispered up to the twin.

Siren shook her head.  “I can’t get to him and I don’t want Tala to have him anymore than you do. I’ll watch over him, and if possible get him back to you.”  Siren leaned down and lightly kissed her forehead.  “Please, don’t say a word or she’ll kill you for sure.  Close your eyes." She stroked Julianna's cheek until her eyes floated shut. "Someone will be by soon to get you.  I promise.” She rose and hurried to the door, straightening up as she opened it. She squared her shoulders as she saw Tala coming out of a room further up the hall with the baby cradled in her arms.  “She’s gone, Tala.  Nice work.”  She shut the door with a click.  ‘I just hope that she remembers what I told her,’ she thought and then followed her sister to the living room.

 “Of course I did a good job.  I don’t do shoddy work.  Here,” she said as she shoved a diaper bag over to Siren.  “Fill this.  We’re leaving.” She snuggled the infant closer and strode to the door. "Bring him," she ordered the two men sharply. "I need to put you in a baby seat!" she said with a happy coo to the child.

"The Admiral's car out front," Siren said,  "with a baby seat ready to go. The guys can follow in the van." Siren indicated the departing men with a nod of her head. Siren watched from the top of the porch stairs until Tala was busy loading the child and the men were unlocking the back of the white van with Al in their grip. When she was sure they were occupied she ran to the back room and stuffed the diaper bag full. Quickly, she glanced in at Julianna, whispered, "I promise to get him back," and left her door ajar hoping she was still alive. In the living room, she grabbed a quilt from the couch and snatched up the phone, dialed 911, then laid it down on the table. With one last glance down the hallway, she stepped outside.

With the baby secured, Tala watched happily as her goons stuffed Al into the back of the van. She then looked back up at the house and saw Siren coming out with an armload of things.  Smiling in victory, she stepped around to the Admiral's sport utility vehicle and slipped behind the wheel, and then signaled Siren for the diaper bag.  After putting on her seatbelt, she started the car and revved the engine. Siren quickly tossed in the bag and said, "I'm going to cover the Admiral with this quilt so he can't be seen from outside the van."

"Good idea," Tala noted with a grin. "Maybe he'll suffocate!" She giggled giddily as she turned and tickled the infant's cheek.

Siren moved quickly to the back of the van as the two men were getting in the front. As they argued about what radio station to listen to, Siren leaned over and threw the blanket over the prone Admiral, who was having difficulty breathing. He watched her with burning anger in his eyes; she leaned close and started to peel off the duct tape. "Don't talk. I'm taking out the gag so you can breathe. Listen carefully," she said lowly as she peeled off the tape and fished out the balled up handkerchief from his mouth. "I don't have a vendetta like my sister. Help should be here soon for Julianna; I called 911."

The Admiral blinked in surprise and whispered, "Thank you," with a glance to the front of the van. The anger still burned in his eyes and his thanks sounded tentative.

          "Oh, don't worry about those idiots. They can't recall what they did five minutes ago. I have to put the tape back on, though." Quickly she did so. "I'm going to try and get the baby back to you and your daughter. Just realize that I'm not like Tala." Al's eyes looked skeptical. "Just try to believe me." She stepped back and said louder. "OK! He's covered!" She winked at him and slammed the back hatch of the van as the engine turned over. When she trotted to Tala's car and jumped in, the pair of cars sped from the house.

 

 

PART THREE

 

When Siren had dialed 911 from Julianna Calavicci's home, the call didn't go to where she had intended. With security as tight as it was at the Project, the phone lines of all the employees were tapped into Ziggy's system. When a 911 call was made it was automatically intercepted by Ziggy and handled by in-house Security. This time, no one was more satisfied with that system than Beth Calavicci as a team of plain clothed Security and medics arrived at the house in an unmarked pair of vehicles. A 911 from Julianna's house could only be bad, and Beth was determined to be among the first in. When they arrived and she saw the spilled blood on the porch, Beth’s heart leaped into her throat and her step paused. “Al?! Julianna?!” she called worriedly, forcing her feet to move again. 

Beth rushed into the house right behind the armed guards and followed the trail of blood down the hall. "Here, ma'am!" a security man called, waving her to come. She thundered down the hall with her team behind her and gasped when she saw a very pale Julianna lying on a very bloody bed.  "Oh, God," she whispered as she quickly set the medical team to work.  She concentrated on trying to wake Julianna.  When her eyes finally cracked open opened, Beth breathed a sigh of relief.  "Oh, Jules... baby... I'm here... mommy's here," she said, softly stroking her cheek and trying to read the faces of her team.

"Mom?" Julianna whispered as she blinked at her stepmother’s worried face.

"Where.... where's your father?"  Beth asked with a forced calm.  All of this pointed to something bad and evil, and Beth could feel the cold tendrils of panic beginning to rise in her heart.

 Julianna gasped, trying to keep her emotions in check. "Gone," she said quietly, her voice cracking. She winced in pain as she turned her head away to hide the tears slipping from her eyes.  "Oh... God, they're gone." She began to weep weakly.

"Beth, she has a wound over here. It looks like a gunshot," one of the examining medics said quietly. Beth's eyes grew huge, her eyes asking about the baby. "It's gone," the medic said so quietly that Beth barely heard it.

"What?" She responded, stunned.

The medic leaned close to Beth's ear. "The baby is gone, Beth. Between that and the wound, Jules has lost a lot of blood. She needs to be stabilized and transported immediately!"

"Yes, of course," Beth stammered, now seeing the wisdom of handing the case over to another. She was simply too emotionally attached, and stepped back in shock. The medics swarmed Julianna as she wept weakly for her loss.

 Mentally, Beth tried to make sense of what had happened here. The blood on the porch must be from the gunshot wound, she reasoned. But where's Al? And who took the baby?  She felt herself grow cold with fear. There were three lives on the line here, but only one she could do something about. Quickly she turned on her heel, pushed her fear aside, and helped to ready her stepdaughter for transport while the security team tried to put the pieces at the scene together.

 

 

When awareness came to Julianna Calavicci once again, it came at a painful price. Every part throbbed in pain; breathing hurt, moving hurt, and the light hurt her eyes. Thinking even hurt when the events began to coalesce in her mind, and the physical pains became secondary.

"Dad!" she gasped, hissing at the searing pain speaking caused. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. "My baby!" Her hands clutched at her stomach, and all she felt was the thick wrappings of bandages. Her attention was drawn to a motion at her side, and she began to bat at the swaying IV bags and lines in her way of getting up.

"Julianna, lay back down, honey," a firm but gentle voice commanded from her other side. She rolled her head to face the speaker. It took all her concentration to focus on the concerned face. "Please..." Beth looked into her eyes and finally caught Julianna’s attention.  "Don't move, honey."

"Have to... find them," Julianna's voice dropped to a whisper as she fought to control the surge of inputs her body was sending her brain.

 Beth nodded in agreement.  “You're right.  We will find them.  But you, my dear, aren’t leaving these quarters for a while.  You’re too weak and if I have to, I’ll tie you down, young lady.” The look she gave Julianna was one she hadn't used since her stepdaughter was a teenager.

“Young lady?” Julianna’s mumbled, a bit perturbed. 

Beth raised her eyebrow.  “Listen, Julie, I’m only going to tell you this once.  I don’t want to sedate you, but if I have to, I will.  And quit looking at me like that,” Beth told her firmly.  “To me you are a young lady, so there.”  Beth stuck her tongue out at her.

 The surprise of that act, and Beth calling her Julie – a name she hadn’t gone by in years - had its effect and Julianna choked out a laugh, much to her chagrin at the stab of pain it brought. It was so Beth. “Sorry.  Scared." She gulped some more air, finding it hard to breathe with the bandages wound tightly about her. "... couldn’t ... do ... a thing!” Her eyes again filled with sorrow at the memory of helplessness.

Beth knew exactly what she was talking about.  Taking a deep breath, she leaned toward Julianna and lovingly brushed her hair back away from her face.  “I know, Julie.  It’s going to be okay.”  Beth paused, gauging her strength before carefully asking, “Did you call 911?”

"No."

 "Then who did? Was it Al?"  Beth asked. It was a mystery all team was wondering. The prints on the receiver had been too smeared for any identification. The whole scene had been a complete mystery, and more than just Beth was carefully monitoring Julianna's reply. 

 "Don't know... who... she was." Her forehead furrowed as she tried to recall the name. It was difficult to concentrate on anything. "Siren. Said her name was Siren." Julianna worked her mouth, annoyed by its dryness as well as elusive coherent thought.

Beth pulled a chair up closer and sat down beside Julianna.  "Okay. Honey, you need to start from the beginning.  I know you're in pain, and it's hard to think, but we have to know what happened." Beth hesitated to calm her voice before continuing. "We need something to know where to start looking. Tell me what happened, baby.  Ziggy, you better pay attention here."

 "With my capabilities I can do multiple tasks and still have my attention where it needs to be, Mrs. Calavicci," Ziggy purred.

 Beth rolled her eyes at the computer and shook her head.  "Go ahead, Jules.  Tell me what happened."

 It took her a minute to put her confused thoughts in order and control her breathing for a minimum of pain. "Um, Dad and I were… leaving the house," Julianna began.  "I stepped out to the porch, and I… fell…" Her eyes grew hard. "Someone shot me, I think!"

"Did you see them?" Beth asked, squeezing her hand.

"No. I don't remember much after that. There were other people; two men... they had Dad..." her voice cracked and she felt tears building in her eyes again. "They hit him, tied him up," she stopped to control her breathing and the tears.  "There was a woman... " Julianna was unable to stop the tears and gasped from the realization of what happened next. "She… just… waited… and took him!" She again tried to sit, and Beth had to hold her down. "She took Frankie, Beth!"

 "Shh, shh… OK, honey. Please, Julie, you have to stay still." Inside, Beth was horrified. Her worst thoughts were coming true, and hot anger flooded into her body.  "Oh baby, I'm so sorry, shhh…" Her stepdaughter finally collapsed under her hands as she gave in to the tears of sorrow. She stroked Julianna's cheek and kept her voice calm. "We'll find them, honey. We'll find them." Then a thought struck her. "Julianna, honey. Help me, here. Was Siren the woman who took Frankie?"

Julianna shook her head. "No… another woman… Tala? She said the name Tala, I think." Talking and grief had taken a toll on the usually vibrant woman. Her face was ghostly pale, and her voice barely audible.

Beth knew she was at the end of her strength right now. "You need to sleep for awhile, Julie, and get your strength back.  Close your eyes and sleep.  I'll be here if you need me. "

 "I... can't…" she started as her voice trailed off and her eyes floated closed.

 "Then I guess that you should just lay there and stare at the ceiling.  Rest.  You need it." With a final touch to her sleeping face, Beth stood, finding her legs shaky. My God. I hope Al can protect Frankie until we find them. She bit her lip and stepped from the room to find Dr. Beeks and Donna Elesee-Beckett waiting for her. She met their worried eyes, and that was enough to start the tears.

 

 

PART FOUR

 

The van ride was long and bumpy, and Al felt every sore spot that had been inflicted on him. That was secondary, though, to the visions he had of his daughter and grandson. He tried to imagine their plight, and his thoughts kept coming back to the woman that had covered him as they left. Every feeling told him she was one of them and not to be trusted, but his instincts were telling him that she would be their only link to escape. He mentally began to set his priorities; it was difficult to put his daughter second on that list; he commanded himself to not think of her right now, as the baby was the only possibility within his reach at this moment.

The van finally stopped and the engine turned off. Al struggled to sit, but was barely there when the door flung open and the bright sunshine caused temporary blindness. Rough hands grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and yanked him outside.  Al didn’t even have time to balance himself and he wound up face down in gravel grunting slightly in pain. He blinked and saw a pair of women's boots by his face.

“You know, you could at least wait until you have him inside to treat him badly," another woman's voice said.  

Al saw the boots twist slightly then heard a loud slap. “Don’t you dare tell me what to do," the familiar voice of the Evil Sister barked. "I run this dog and pony show. Don't tell me what I can or cannot do.  Understand?”

There was a heartbeat of silence, and then who Al surmised was Siren said in a low, threatening voice,  “Lay a hand on me again, and it’ll be your last, Tala.” Al could see the sisters in his mind's eye glaring at each other.  'You tell her, sister!' He thought, a seed of trust now planted in his mind for the defiant woman.

Finally, Tala spoke coldly. "Take Nathaniel inside." He heard footsteps retreating, and rolled his eyes to see a stately house some yards away. Al slowly sat up, his body throbbing in pain. He watched Siren's backside retreating toward a house that looked like an old Southern plantation.  He wondered where on earth they could be and looked around for some sign to give him a hint to their location, but a kick in his gut brought his attention back up at the woman standing over him. 

“Get up, Admiral.  Now.” Tala's eyes were steely cold and her hands defiantly on her hips.

Al sneered at her and then somehow made it to his knees. His bound arms were completely numb and useless. He suspected his shoulders were dislocated, and a flashback of Vietnam made him lose his concentration for a moment. As he tried to wobble to his feet, she grabbed his arm and yanked him up impatiently.  Hearing the scream that Al let out only made her smile with apparent glee.  When his angry eyes met hers, she leaned toward him and said, “Either you do things right when I ask around here, or you’ll get punished.  Do I make myself clear, Admiral?” A flicker in his hateful glare was all the response he gave her.

 Receiving the glare with flashing eyes Tala proved her point by jerking on his bound hands. The flare of pain almost made him pass out, and he swayed drunkenly in her grip.  “I want to make myself perfectly clear here, Al," she sneered. "If you don’t follow instructions, we’ll kill the baby. One way or another, I'll get what I want. The baby is negotiable.”  She yanked on his arms once more for good measure before pushing him toward the house. “Walk.”

Al stumbled roughly as the two men flanked him, and somehow managed to keep his feet. The thought of Frankie's survival drove him forward, up the stairs and onto the porch with Tala right behind.  One of the men opened the front door, and he stumbled in, blinking in the sudden darkness. "Stop." Tala barked, walking in behind him. He stood, puffing, and trying not to move his arms as any movement from them caused sharp pain. Tala stepped in front of him and pulled out a shiny automatic from a table in the entry foyer. She pointed it directly at him and he met her eyes with a steady glare as she spoke. He wondered where Frankie was. "The gentlemen are going to untie your hands and sit you on the couch.  If for you try to get up, I'll shoot your knee out."  The men shoved him to the sitting area just off the foyer and pushed him down on a small couch as he heard her call, "Siren!"  

Tala stepped into the sitting area, with Siren appearing a moment later with the baby. Tala moved to her sister's side and calmly pointed the gun at the little baby in her arms.  "I've changed my mind. You can keep your knees. If you don't cooperate, Nathaniel's the first casualty."  Glancing to the Admiral, she gave him a small smile.  "Understand?"

Siren’s eyes widened at the proclamation.  “What is wrong with you?  Point that away from him!” Siren said as she stepped back and tried to cover the baby with her arm. 

"Move back one more step and I'll shoot out your knee, Siren."  Tala told her menacingly, lowering the gun to take aim on her threat.  "I won't have my own sister working against me," she said so lowly that only Siren heard her.  Siren stopped, shocked, and Tala repositioned the gun back on the child. Then she gave Al a smug look.

Al kept his eyes on Tala as the men untied his hands.  Slowly, he worked his stiff arms around to his lap. His anger was hot and ready to explode but he wasn’t willing to take the risk and let her hurt his grandson.  Besides, he wasn't sure if his arms even worked yet. He divided a glance from the astonished Siren to Tala and swallowed hard, biding his time. 

"It looks like you are willing to cooperate after all."  Tala said lightly.  "Take off that tape."

 Slowly and painstakingly, Al took off the tape, not even wincing at the sting that it caused. "You haven't given me much of a choice. Killing my daughter. Holding my grandson hostage...."

 "My child," Tala corrected, interrupting him.  "He's my child, remember?"  She looked at the baby with a smile, the gun still poised at his tiny body. "It would really hurt me to shoot him. And when I hurt, everyone hurts. Got that?"

Every fiber of his being was telling him to correct her and tell her that Frank Calavicci will never be her son, but he knew that he needed to think through this rationally and not emotionally.  He ran his tongue along the inside of his cheek letting a moment of silence pass between them before he decided to speak again.  “What do you want?” he asked. “There's more to this than revenge.  What do you want, Tala?”  He kept his voice calm and collected, trying to keep a lid on the situation. When Tala didn’t answer immediately, Al glanced at Siren and then back to whom he'd mentally tagged 'The Evil Sister'. "Besides wanting a son to raise..." he said plainly but he couldn’t hide the clear hatred that he harbored for her.

"Well, since you are so in tune with the circumstances here, Al…" Tala said as she tapped her foot, never taking the gun off of Nathaniel.  “I want to know the secrets of Project Quantum Leap.  That’s all.”

Al exhaled slowly. After a moment he swallowed and asked, “Is that all?"

Tala gazed at the Admiral.  "That might save your family, yes."  She nodded slightly.  "But then again, it might not."  Dropping any emotion from her face except for the pure hatred of the man before her she added, "And if not, watching them die would be a pleasure. I'd do it myself."

 Al suddenly felt weary to the bones. How can you fight someone who would shoot a newborn?  "What do you want to know?" he asked, resignation clear in his voice.

 Signaling Siren to sit in a chair close to Al, Tala settled down across from him and smiled.  "Everything.  Start at point one and go to the end.  It may take you a few hours, but I think that in the end everyone may be alive.  Don't you think so too, Admiral?"  Tala motioned for Siren to give her the child. 

When she had the sleeping child in her arms, she laid the gun on his stomach, the muzzle aimed toward his head. Siren glanced nervously from Al to the baby.  Looking from the Admiral to the child, Tala smiled. Keeping her eyes on him, she murmured softly, “Mommy will take care of everything.”

 In that moment, Al's confirmation of Tala's insanity was set. He had no choice from this point on; there would be no reasoning and no negotiating. Biting his lip, he leaned back. Betraying everything that he had ever believed, he started telling her everything that he knew about Quantum Leap; at least everything that they would expect him to know.  Of course, there was quite a bit that he knew that he wasn’t supposed to, but he was willing to wait and see if he needed to play those cards.

 It seemed like hours before he stopped. His throat was dry, and his voice raspy, and the baby had slept quietly in Tala's arms through the whole recitation. Al sat calmly with his hands in his lap, waiting for a response. He could feel a trickle of sweat running between his shoulder blades, and he unconsciously flexed his fingers.

Tala sat there for a moment, looking down at the child in her arms.  The air was thick with tension. “Pity,” she finally said softly.  "It's a pity that you won't grow up to be the person I could make you, dear one."  She lifted the gun from his stomach and pressed the barrel against his tiny head. Her lower lip pouted as she spoke.  "It's a pity that your grandfather thinks I'm stupid.  I guess," she said calmly with a slow blink at Al, "I guess that I'm going to have to take you away from this earth, along with your grandmother and your aunts. Say goodbye, child."  

Al tried to stand when he saw the gun put to Frankie’s head but the goons pushed him back down.  He swallowed and closed his eyes, ‘Dammit! Dammit! DAMMIT!’ he thought to himself.  “I know Dr. Beckett’s codes,” he blurted.  He opened his eyes, and locked his eyes with Tala’s.  “Don’t hurt him, please.”  As he watched Tala slowly tilt the gun aside, Al gave a weak, sickly laugh in response.  “You can’t blame me for trying," he choked in disgust. He wasn’t even supposed to know Sam's code, but he'd picked up a thing or two in his time with his best friend.  With those codes, she could re-write enough of Ziggy's commands to end both Project Quantum Leap and Sam Beckett's connection with this time at once.

She nodded at the men, and Al found himself attached to some kind of machine out of his sight behind the couch. "And they are?" she asked with a raised eyebrow and an excited gleam in her eye when they were done.  "Oh, and if you try to bullshit your way through, I’ll know.”  She motioned to the wires trailing behind the couch.  “That machine will tell me. In addition, if you lie, he gets the first bullet." She gazed at the small body. "I really think that's all it will take for the little darling. After that, it will be one more family member per lie."

Her cold smile chilled him to the bone. He tried to lick his dry lips with his equally dry tongue as he looked at the black cuff surrounding the upper half of his right arm. The thing almost reminded him of a lie detector. "And how will you know if I'm lying or if it's stress?"

 Tala smiled in response. "Oh, my dear Admiral, you don't know do you?  This machine is one of my father's own inventions.  It knows stress.  It's lived with stress... and it knows lies." The smile dropped away from her face in a flash. “I know this machine intimately. My father did not approve of lying." Her eyes glazed momentarily. "I could never fool that machine. I suggest you don't even try, Admiral." Her eyes cleared, and she smiled that cold smile again. "The stakes are just a bit too high, don't you think?" She indicated the sleeping child with a slight nod. "Now, shall we start with something simple?”

Al frowned, and he tried to glance behind him. "You make it sound as if the machine is alive." 

 "Who's to say that it isn't?" she said lowly.  With a slight nod from Tala, Al was grabbed from behind by one of the men. The second man injected something near his elbow that had a line trailing over the couch back; Al cringed with pain as he felt the nauseating crawl of the machine becoming a part of him. 

 "Like I said, let's try something simple. Your wife's name. What is it?" Tala's voice swam in his head as he tried to get accustom to the feeling of the machine invading his body. It took a moment to gather his thoughts before he could answer the first question.  The feeling wasn't as nauseating as it was a moment ago, and he wondered what would happen if he should lie.  “Elizabeth,” he said plainly. 

 "Very good, Admiral.  So far... so good."  Tala leaned back in the chair again and looked down at the baby as she swung her crossed leg nervously. She knew exactly what he was feeling.  "What is the name of your grandson?" she asked knowing there was a good chance he'd get that one wrong.

 Al glared at her furiously. No matter what she said, his grandson's name was the one his mother gave him. Period.  "Francis Xavier Cal...." he couldn’t even get the last name out as an intense wave of pain filled his arm and part of his chest. He couldn’t keep the scream from escaping his lips.

 The scream causes the baby to wake with a jolt. Tala rocked him back and forth softly shushing his cries.  "Shall we try that one again, Admiral?" she said as she looked up at him with a look of satisfaction.  "What is the name of your grandson?" she asked again as she stood and handed the baby back to Siren.  With a wave of her hand, she dismissed her sister from being in the room. 

Tala moved to sit beside him and she motioned to her men to restrain him tightly, making it impossible to move.  “You see, that machine knows the truth.  It knows what's up here," she said as she lightly tapped his forehead with her index finger. "And you know what?  It knows exactly how much pain it can give you each time you do tell a lie.   And the most interesting part about that machine is that with each successive lie it gets worse.  So, keeping that in mind, what is the name of your grandson, Admiral Calavicci?  Say it.  Don't take the pain again.  Just say it." 

 Al looked down at his arm wincing as he saw what looked like tentacles spreading underneath his skin. He swallowed tightly, glaring at her with deep-seated hatred.  “My grandson’s name is F...” he winced, biting his lip in response to the tingle in his arm. "His... name… is… Nathaniel."

 Tala nodded lightly at his words and before she could stop herself, she leaned over and kissed his cheek lightly.  When his eyes came back up at her action, she couldn’t help but smile back at him.  “See?  It’s not that hard when you stop and think about it, is it?  He’ll be happy.  He’ll be in the best of schools.  He’ll be with me.”

Returning to the chair across from him, she crossed her legs and leaned back as she looked at him.  "Let's try one more and then we'll get started on the really heavy stuff,” she said as she patted his cheek a little too hard.  "Name and location of Samuel Beckett's mother, sister and brother.”

 Al gritted his teeth.  Before he could even tell her to ‘Go to hell’, hell came to him. 

 Seeing the pain that was inflicted on him, Tala knew exactly what he was thinking.  "Oh... did I forget to mention that if you think of something to say and it's negative that you'll be punished as well?  I'm sorry.  I must have forgotten that part.  Now, name and location of Samuel Beckett's mother, sister and brother."

 Al swallowed. "I won't tell you," he said as firmly as he could, anticipating the pain. ‘If it hurts this much on the small stuff, what'll I feel when she starts asking the tough stuff?' shot through his mind as he writhed in the pain. This time, though, the pain was sharper. Much sharper. Al could feel his body spasm, which increased as a rather nasty thought he had about Tala passed through his pain wracked brain, and the fleeting memory of Alia's fear of Lothos became understandable.

With the pain finally receding as he emptied his mind, Al Calavicci felt nothing but sorrow as he made his decision to stab his best friend and colleague in the back. "His mother's name is Thelma. She lives with Katie and Jim Bonnick in Hawaii. Tom lives in Colorado." The only thing he allowed his mind to focus on was the safety of the baby in the other room, and hoped Sam would forgive him.

 Tala smiled at him.  "Ahhhh, Hawaii.  What a wonderful place to live... or die," she said then paused as she looked at him.   "Well, Admiral, I think that we are ready - don't you think?  First and foremost, Admiral, you will tell me the codes of Dr. Beckett's Project Quantum Leap.  All of them. You may start when you are ready."

 Suddenly, Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci felt very, very old and wondered if he would live to see another day.

   

PART FIVE

 

The night had been longer than any other she could remember.  Beth shifted in the chair to try and get the circulation back in her legs as she scanned the monitors one more time in hope.

Julianna's decline was gradual but definite. Her body was burning with toxemia, a risk always inherent in childbirth, and with the unsanitary, unsupervised process she had experienced, not surprising she'd be inflicted with it. Beth was sure other infections plagued her body and the antibiotics were waging quite a battle; all they could do now was wait.

Beth, exhausted from worry and lack of sleep, felt herself floating in a near fugue state, sometimes completely detached from the happenings around her. She missed the strength of her husband and felt once again like the helpless cruise wife from decades ago. Tiredly, she rubbed her eyes to stave off weary tears of frustration.

"Mrs. Calavicci." The voice was soft and silky and seemed to emanate from everywhere.

"Yes, Ziggy?" she replied woodenly.

"I have received a telephone call. I believe it may be important."

"Who is it?" Beth asked without hope. The security teams were coming up with nothing, and it was hard to be positive anymore.

"The woman had an inside phone number to the Project. She also knew the Project D.O.D. UMBRA clearance number and Admiral Calavicci's Navy serial number."

Beth blinked, her attention piqued. Her tired brain was trying to fathom where all that information could have been kept as public knowledge, and was drawing a blank.

"She also gave me Dr. Beckett's personal clearance code. And, I detected something I've come to recognize in her tone of her voice." The computer sounded smug at the last bit of information.

"What's that, Ziggy?" She replied, distracted in frazzled thought.

"Compassion. She seems to be very compassionate."

"Name?" Beth whispered, now alert and her heart pounding at the possibility. Could this be the little bit of hope that she - that they all - had prayed for? "Ziggy, did she give her name?" she said a bit louder.

"She said her name was Siren." Beth leaped to her feet, knocking the chair to the floor. "Shall I patch her through to you?"

"Yes, by all means! And tell Security!" She grabbed the phone, holding it like a lifeline, and it rang almost instantaneously. Punching the connection to life before the first ring even finished, Beth tried to slow her racing heart. "Hello?" she breathed. "Who are you? Where's my husband?!"

At first, there was only the sound of breathing on the line. "I asked to speak to Julianna Calavicci," the voice said.

"She's not available right now, so you got me, Beth Calavicci," Beth said firmly. "Where's my husband? And my grandson? Are they all right? Who are you?"

"I... I wanted to see if Julianna is all right. I'm the one that called 911."

"I know that. Julianna told me. I also know that you were there when they took Frankie," Beth's voice cracked. "And Al. What's going on? Are they all right?"

The sound of a sigh crossed the phone line. "The last I saw they were both alive. What about Julianna?"

"She's alive," Beth said, but the statement hung in the air, thick with despair.

"Something's wrong? She can't die!" The voice sounded truly sorrowful, and struck Beth with a pang of empathy. "Please tell me she won't die. I can't… I won't…" the sentence was not finished.

"Tell me," Beth said more calmly. "Why do you care? How are you mixed up in this if you don't want anyone hurt? What is going on?!"  The sound of Donna and Verbena entering the room barely registered with her, so intent on the conversation was she.

Donna's finger hovered over the 'speaker' button and she looked to Beth for the OK to push it. Beth looked up, nodded, and Donna pushed it and adjusted the volume until she could hear the breathing.

"My name is Siren," the voice began after a few moments. "My sister Tala is the one running the show here, and she has a vendetta against Admiral Calavicci because he and Dr. Sam Beckett killed our father and mother."

All three women looked at each other, frowned and shrugged. It didn't make sense.

"Siren, who were your father and mother?" Beth asked wringing her hands as she tried to understand.

"Their names were Nathaniel Lothoman and ZoŽ Malvison. I guess they were better known as ZoŽ and Lothos."

Three pairs of eyes widened in realization, and Donna covered her mouth with her hand. Beth continued, "Don't you want revenge, too, Siren?"

"No. I had other parents. I mean, I lived with other people that I consider my parents and Tala, my sister, lived with ZoŽ and Nathaniel. I guess it was pretty rough on her. They both were both neglectful and cruel as parents. I don't think Tala's very mentally stable as a result." Siren hesitated a second. "I just recently found out that my mom and dad weren't…well, my biological parents. As far as ZoŽ and Nathaniel are concerned, it's good riddance to bad rubbish."

"Then how can you stand by and allow all this to happen, Siren?" Beth demanded. "Why didn't you stop it?"

Siren let out a short laugh. "You obviously don't know my sister. She's more vicious than her parents combined. If I'm not careful, she'll kill me too, and no one will be able to help the Admiral or your grandson."

"Frankie," Beth sobbed, fighting to keep control. "Is he all right?"

"Yes. Tala wants to raise him herself."

"No!" The weak voice surprised all of them and they turned to find Julianna's eyes locked on the speakerphone. "That won't happen as long as I'm alive!" Beth moved to her side and placed her cool hand on her hot forehead, keeping her from sitting up.

"Is that Julianna?" Siren asked, her voice more animated.

"Yes." Donna answered, smiling at the mother and daughter, and then returning her attention to the phone. "How are your going to help us?" she asked bluntly.

"I'm going to try and get little Frank away from Tala. I don’t know how, but I'll try."

"You don't try, you do it." Julianna's feverish eyes burned with determination. "Do it, you hear me? If you don't, then I'm looking for you after I finish with your sister." Beth was alarmed at the heat emanating from her skin. She glanced at the monitors: 103 degrees.

"I'm not the enemy, here!" barked Siren. "Can't you see that?"

"All I see is that my child and father are gone, and you are our only connection." Exhausted, Julianna sank deep into the pillow, her strength gone. "Please. Get them back." Her eyes rolled up in her head and Beth watched helplessly as all the monitors began to fluctuate.

"Get the doctor!" Beth called out, and Donna slapped her wrist communicator. Beeks moved in to Julianna's other side and began to lower the bed. "Jules! Stay with us!" Beth yelled frantically. "JULES!"

"Her systems are shutting down, Beth! It must be the infections!" Beeks put a breathing mask on the ghostly woman's face and started the oxygen flow.

On the other end of the phone, Siren clutched the payphone until her knuckles were white. She dared not to speak and interrupt the drama playing out on the other end of the line.

"Massive infection!" "Arrhythmia! Get the paddles! Code Blue!" "Jules! Come on, Jules!"

The ruckus of activity over rode the voices, and Siren heard more voices than she could keep track of.

"No!" She whispered, tears building.

"She's hemorrhaging! She's bleeding out!" "Bicarb and epinephrine!" "JULES!" The sound of a flat-line heart monitor sang in the background as she heard the words, "CLEAR!" more than once, each time followed by a heavy silence. The third charge was edged with sobbing. After hearing the hard thud of heart paddles six times, Siren dropped the phone and slid down the wall, crying as if her heart would break. "JULES! NO!" "Oh, my God, no!" The receiver swung back and forth like a pendulum against the wall next to her head, the sounds of angry disbelief and grieving sounding small and tinny to her ear. Gritting her teeth to stop the tears, she vowed out loud to save the rest of the Calavicci family.

 

PART SIX

 

Get up and move! her brain told her. If you bring in the troops, everyone dies! Siren struggled to her feet and forced herself to walk away. PQL Security would be here as soon as they traced the call, and if they showed up at Tala's hideout, Al's and Frankie's death warrants would be signed, sealed and delivered. She still couldn't get herself to hang up the phone, and let it swing by the wiry cord.

Siren jumped in the van and wiped her eyes again knowing this wasn't her fault, but feeling the guilt nonetheless. She took a deep breath and vowed to stop this somehow. She started the engine.

It was just past midnight when she had slipped out of the house under the premise of getting supplies. The baby had been asleep and the Admiral had finally passed out. He'd already given up more information on the Project than she thought he knew; Tala's eyes had been bright with excitement. Siren had observed her sister's glow and wondered if it was a sick high from watching her enemy tortured or if the information was really what she wanted. Sickened, Siren had a difficult time keeping an outward cool. When the Admiral had finally passed out, she had to get out. He needs a reason to live, she reasoned. I have to find out about Julianna.

Now, Siren gripped the wheel tightly as she followed the path of the van's headlights, not relishing the news she knew she had to tell him. Frankie had to be his sole reason for living now: Frankie and the rest of his family.

When she arrived at the house and killed the lights, she sighed a sigh of determination and gathered the grocery bags. The house appeared quiet; the two goons were napping on chairs in the entry foyer and Tala was not in sight. Siren put away the groceries and decided to take a chance.

She crept into the living room and knelt next to the Admiral, who was lying on the couch with his hands still tied and in front of him. His feet had been secured together with tape, and she wasn't sure if he was asleep or unconscious.  Deep, torturous lines etched his face and his cheeks and eyelids twitched as he lay there in total abandon. The damned machine had left raised, spidery bruises on his arms where it had been inserted.

Softly, she touched his cheek and felt the stubble of a beard and the leathery toughness of his skin. "Admiral," she whispered. "Wake up. Admiral?" His eyes snapped open and she immediately covered his mouth to keep him quiet. "Shhh. You have to be quiet or Tala will hear. Do you understand me?" His eyes, which had shot about wildly, settled on her eyes but were still wide and filled with suspicion. He struggled to sit up. "Hold on. Let me undo your feet." She released his mouth and ripped off the tape on his legs. Immediately he moved to sit, but she had to help him. "You're very weak," she whispered. "Water?" He nodded, and she poured a glass from a pitcher on a corner table. Kneeling, she helped him to drink. "Better?"

He nodded again. "Why are you helping me?" he rasped quietly.

She smiled a sad smile. "You sound like your wife," she said. "Suspicious."

His eyes widened. "You spoke to Beth?" he asked hoarsely.

"Yes. I called the Project. One of the inside numbers you gave earlier."

His eyes burned again as he squinted at her. "Are they coming for me?"

Siren dropped her head, ashamed. "No. If they come anywhere near here both you and Frankie will die." She looked at him again. "You have to believe that, Admiral. Tala has a vendetta against you for killing her parents."

He studied her for a second. "But you don't? You look just like her. You have to be sisters."

She nodded. "We are, but I was raised by a real family that I only recently found out had adopted me. Tala was raised by our biological parents, ZoŽ Malvison and Nathaniel Lothoman."

His eyes grew hard. "I see."

"Look, I'm not like her. I know ZoŽ and Nathaniel were not good people. It didn't take me long to figure that out. I just want this all to stop, but I can only do so much."

"Like get help for Julianna after she was hurt?"

"Yes," she replied quietly.

"Is Julianna alive?" he asked, point blank with hard eyes. When she looked into his eyes, she could tell he knew the answer already. The brown of his eyes softened and he looked much older than his years. Still, he held his head up and ignored the tear that began to run down his cheek. "Tell me," he demanded softly, and Julianna relayed what she had heard on the telephone. She could see his hands clenching and unclenching, and the muscle in his jaw flexing as he worked to keep the tears back.

"I am so sorry," she said, laying her hand on his. "I'm so sorry." The words were completely inadequate, she knew, but was all she had to offer from her heart.

Finally, he dropped his head and took several minutes to collect himself. "Thank you for telling me," he finally said with a gravelly voice as he lay back down. After a few minutes longer he asked quietly. "Are you going to help me?"

"I'm going to try," Siren said. "I haven't figured out how yet."

"Do me a favor and focus on helping Frankie, will you?" His voice was flat and defeated, the wind completely taken out from his sails. He seemed to visibly shrink in stature right in front of her eyes

Siren knew it was a huge step for him to ask that. She also realized that he knew his chances for survival himself were very low. "I will," she replied quietly. "I promise."

His silence was the cue she took to leave him alone with his grief. Wrapped in her own remorse, Siren did not notice the shadow watching her from the top of the staircase.  

 

 

Al had no feeling of the night passing. He barely noticed the shapes in the room becoming visible with the creeping daylight; he didn't really hear any of the night noises that faded into dawn awakenings. Al Calavicci had been reliving his life in his mind, and didn't really know if he'd been awake or asleep. All he knew now was that he was weary, deathly weary, and it was the start of another hopeless day. He chastised himself severely for that thought and tried to work up some feeling, any feeling, that would help him to save his grandson. It was all he had the power to do right now.

So ingrained in thought, Al didn't even hear Tala enter the room until she cleared her throat dramatically. He winced before he could stop himself, and he heard her bark at the two musclemen to sit him up. Trying to make himself as heavy as possible, he let them do their job. Tala's face broke into a huge grin.

"Well, Admiral, I can honestly say you look like hell!" Chuckling, she checked her nails and waved the men off. "Too bad you slept through breakfast. I bet a good, strong cup of coffee would do you some good."

"Only if I could burn your face with it," he grumbled, working his ankles to get his circulation moving.

Tala snorted a short laugh. "Hmm. I see your legs became mysteriously un-taped last night. Gee, I wonder how that happened?" She rolled her eyes upwards in innocence then yelled. "Siren! Bring Nathaniel down!" Then she fixed her burning eyes on Al. "I am surprised, Admiral, that you haven't realized that I know everything that goes on here. Really, you treat me like such an amateur." She indicated the men to attach Al to the machine once again as the soft footfall of someone coming down the stairs blended into the background.

Al winced, the pain of the injection making his empty stomach turn nauseatingly. He was vaguely aware of someone entering the room, but didn't look up immediately.

"Ah, here's my little man!" Tala cooed.

Al looked up disgustedly as his nemesis gathered up the tiny bundle from her sister. Then Al's eye's fell on Siren's face - it was a mass of bruises, with dried blood around her nostrils and one corner of her mouth. She guiltily glanced at Al and dropped her head, ashamed, as she tried to cover her similarly bruised arms once the baby was taken from her. She stood, silent.

Tala cuddled the baby and watched his expression change from indifference to shock. "Oh!" she said lightly, "I see you noticed my lovely sister! Well, I can tell you that she noticed you, too. If she had removed more than the tape around your legs, or if you would have escaped, she would be in a lot worse shape." Now her voice was hard, and the baby shifted in her arms. "Let that be a lesson to both of you. I run the show here." With a nod of her head, Al was held firmly on the couch by his shoulders by the two men.

Al’s eyes focused on Frankie in her arms.  It was wrong.  All wrong.  He swallowed down his vehemence and tried to keep himself calm.  He knew that he’d have to admit defeat when it came to his family.  He was totally powerless against her while she held Frankie in her arms.  He couldn’t help but fear what she might do to him.  “What do you want, Tala?” he asked quietly, almost meekly, feeling incredibly sick.

“Oh, Al,” she said softly as she looked down at the baby in her arms.  “Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all the codes and things you gave me yesterday, but you and I both know that those codes have probably been changed by now. You know, to prevent access to your precious Project. No, what I really want to know is how Dr. Beckett made Ziggy, and I know that you know how he did it." She bounced the baby boy calmly as she spoke.  "Tell me and we won’t lose something that we both want to keep,” she said as she raised the baby up toward her head and lightly kissed his forehead.

Al closed his eyes and exhaled.  “It’s not as easy as that, Tala.  You can’t just tell someone how to build a hybrid-computer,” he sighed painfully.  “And if you think that you can just learn how to build one overnight, then,” he swallowed tightly.  “Then my grandson is already dead.” Al looked at Tala firmly.  “And I’m telling you as plainly as I can that it’s not something you can just describe.  You have to see it.”  He watched as she slowly switched her hold on Frankie – the kind of hold where she could easily break his neck in a heartbeat.  Al closed his eyes and pursed his lips as he pondered what he was about to do.  ‘God, I’m sorry, Sam.  But you’d do the same if you were in my shoes,’ he thought miserably.  “Sam was the brains behind Ziggy.  Not even I understand exactly what he did,” he said softly.

Tala raised an eyebrow at him.  “And you expect me to believe that you have no idea.... when you are the one who handles all the budgets, all the details... all of everything that goes on in your precious Project?  I think not.  I know. I’ve done the research, Al.  It’s not just a part of Sam.  It’s a part of you too, now, isn’t it?”  Tala shifted her hands again this time making Siren nervous enough to take a few steps toward Tala but a single glare in her direction stopped her.

“Okay.  Okay...” Al said as he tilted his head downward.  “Get your recorder ready.  I’ll tell you everything that I know about how Sam built Ziggy,” he glared at her.  “But if you harm even a hair on his head, I’ll kill you.”

Tala looked at Al with a grin as she motioned to the recorder.  “Then I guess you should start talking.  Now.”

“First... give F. ." he twitched at the jolt of pain the machine warned him with.  "… Nathaniel to Siren,” he said plainly.

Nodding to him, Tala gave the baby to Siren then looked back at him.  “Satisfied?”

Feeling that Frankie was safe at least for the moment, he took a deep breath and proceeded to betray his best friend. It took him hours to tell them everything that he knew about Ziggy.  By the time he was finished, he could hear Sam’s voice in his head asking "Why?" over his own mind reminding him again and again of the betrayal that he had just committed. From this point on he knew his time was very short, and he tried not to care; death would almost be better than having to face the disappointment of his best friend. But inside, somewhere, was still that small flicker of hope fighting to be fanned into a flame.

Leaning back on the chair across from him with her legs stretched out before her, Tala smiled at him.  “Well, now, that wasn’t so hard, now, was it?”

Al’s heart clenched at her words and he swallowed with great difficulty.  “I’ve told you what you want.  Now, let my grandson go.”  Even as he asked, he knew the hopelessness of that demand.

Tala indicated the men to release Al from the machine. The invasiveness of the device didn't seem as horrible today, he realized. Mentally, however, he knew he had been deeply invaded.  Mentally detached, he watched Tala lean toward one of the men and whisper in his ear. Then she turned to the Admiral and smiled. “Oh, you'll be going free, Admiral, or so to speak.”

She watched with glee as they lifted him, struggling, from the couch and out the front door to the waiting van. Siren had been crying softly, and Tala shoved the child into her arms. "Let's go, sis!" she yelped maniacally, jumping off the porch and clearing the stairs happily.  Once they climbed into the van, she twisted around and smiled broadly at the man in the back. “Let’s go, gentlemen!" She ordered the driver.  "Let’s go toward Project Quantum Leap.”  Then, while smiling at Al, she then gave explicit directions.

Her words eventually sunk in and Al looked at her in shock.  How she even found out where exactly where Project Quantum Leap was, was a mystery to him.  He'd never told her any of that.  “How’d you find it?” he asked, alarmed.

Tala smiled at him. “I have other sources other than you, Admiral. Many sources, including those in Washington. Some would say that my sources were the cause of the action in the underground tunnel that happened not so long ago." She grinned and watched another expression of shock cross his face. "I must say that they did an excellent job, don’t you think?”

Al's look was cold.  “The mercenaries,” he stated plainly.  “The ones the Chinese hired to take the Congressional subway. I figured there was a rotten fish in that roll of newspaper." The events of that particular hostile takeover were very clear in his mind, as he had been on the front lines.  He never would have connected that with this. "You went through all of that just to get revenge for your parent’s deaths?”

Tala shook her head and wrinkled her nose. “Oh, no, that wasn’t for revenge," she laughed. "That, my dear Admiral, was just for fun. Oh, and by the way, I remember Dr. Beckett being there, too!  Don't you?” He just frowned at her. “Oh, you forget so quickly,” she said with a sigh.  “Must be your age. It was Lothos, dear Lothos.  I was the one that watched many of Dr. Beckett's leaps.”

“You had a leaper there?  In that subway?” Al asked, surprised.

Tala smiled at him evilly.  “And why wouldn’t we have someone there?” she asked raising an eyebrow.  With a sigh, she nodded.  “Yes, we did.  Unfortunately, he was one of the ones that got shot in both timelines. We couldn't save him.”

Al huffed slightly.  “I’m so sorry to hear that bit of news,” he said sarcastically.  Tala dropped her smile. “So, are you going to tell me why we are going to the Project? A direct attack, or is it a surprise?  ’Cause you know how much I love surprises,” he finished with all the sarcasm he could muster.

Tala didn’t answer.  Instead, she turned her back on him and they continued in silence for a good while before they stopped.  The men jumped from the van, followed by Tala as Siren began crying silently. The back door opened and the men dragged Al from the car towards a lonely shanty that looked like it had been beaten down by the elements. 

As he was dragged inside, he saw Siren slowly climbed from the van and turn to look at his face. She held Frankie close, and her cheeks were shiny with tears. 

Al was dumped unceremoniously on the crumbled wood floor, causing him to tumble onto his side.  The goons up-righted him using his hair, causing him to grimace in pain.  He didn’t say a word as Tala slowly circled him like a vulture, speaking to him in sonorous tones that don’t match the intention that was clear in her eyes. Finally, she spoke softly.

“Is your wife as safe as she can be, Admiral?”  Tala continued to circle him. He followed her with hard eyes, breathing heavily.  “And what about little Christa?  Is she going to be able to go to college?  Or what about Elizabeth, Victoria or Jacqueline?  Are any of them safe?”  Before he had a chance to respond, Tala pulled out a syringe from her pocket and displayed it like a prize in front of him. There was finality to her expression that made his heart leap in alarm.  She motioned the men to hold him and bare a forearm. Then she kneeled, stroking the exposed part of his arm lovingly with her cold hand. With a smile as icy as her heart, she injected a yellowish serum into his arm.

Al struggled as best as he could.  The serum burned as soon as it left the needle, and only increased in its intensity. He gasped loudly, closing his eyes to keep himself from cursing and screaming out in pain. “What... was that?” he gasped out loudly.

“It’s a concoction of my own doing," Tala said lowly, stepping back. "I know exactly what it’s doing to you. First, it lights up your veins like liquid fire," her eyes began to glow as she described the effects just as he was feeling them. "Imagine your veins expanding, wider and wider to let the nasty stuff in it flow through easier." As Al writhed in pain, falling to the floor, she got on her knees and whispered hotly in his ear. "Then, nasty stuff moves in." She wielded another syringe. "It’s a form of arsenic, you know, and you will die, but slowly and painfully.”  She pecked him on the top of his head, and trained the needle on his subdued arm. He gasped, the burning feeling getting impossibly worse and spreading through his limbs. Even though his vision was growing blurry and dark, he saw Siren step into the frame of light made by the shanty doorway and felt a rush of amazement and hope as if she was stepping from the Accelerator Chamber itself. He ran a litany of apologies through his mind, and kept his eyes locked on his grandson.

Tala grinned as she watched him writhe and behold his grandson.  “Listen carefully, Albert,” Tala said plainly, leaning in close to his ear.  “I will put him in the finest schools, give him everything that he wants and be the mother that he deserves, just like mine was.  I so want you to know one thing, Admiral: he will hate you, your family, your friends. He’ll never, never know them like you do, and he will eventually kill your family one by one until there is no one left.  Interesting, isn’t it, that your own grandson will be the downfall of the Calaviccis?” 

With great effort, Al tore his eyes from his daughter's son and promised Tala one last promise, fighting through white-hot pain with every word. "Calaviccis... never... die; they… just… get revenge." With that, Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci's heart finally gave in to the pain as the infant began to cry at precisely the same moment. 

Tala's icy eyes glared at the corpse of her victim. One final sigh had marked her enemy's passing, and with the infant's cry, her head snapped up to Siren cuddling the child close. She ordered her sister to get back in the van and dismissed the two goons with a sharp glance. Looking down at the form Admiral Albert Calavicci growing cold at her feet, Tala smiled once more.  She stood, still looking down at the body, and she gave him one hard kick in the gut before turning to leave. Before stepping through the rectangle of light, she turned and whispered, “Goodbye, Admiral Calavicci.  I’ll see you in hell.”

 

 

Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

 

It hadn't even been two full days since Julianna’s death and a pallor of despair still hung in the air. Dr. Beeks had gotten little sleep, putting everyone's grief ahead of her own, and told herself for the millionth time that this, too, will pass, and it was her job to get everyone on that next step in the grieving process. So focused, it was easier to take the next step and avoid looking at the whole picture. She shook her head and smiled at her own deflection of thoughts.

The Admiral and his grandson were still out there. The stress of waiting was getting to them all; this dynamic bunch didn't do well with waiting, even though that is all they seemed to do. The wait for Dr. Sam Beckett to return home was now another hope in a line of hopes waiting to be fulfilled either by hard work or by God, Time, Fate or Whomever. She rubbed her burning eyes as she pushed herself away from her desk and stood, her thoughts interrupted by the silky voice of Ziggy.

“Dr. Beeks,” Ziggy said softly. She had admitted to Beeks earlier that she was learning much about humans by watching them grieve, and was even feeling… guilty?… about how interesting it was. Ever since, her vocal tones had been softer and more respectful, which Beeks noticed even now.

“Yes, Ziggy, what is it?”

Ziggy paused a moment before replying, as if searching for a way to relay the information. The pause gave Beeks a chill.  “Dr. Beckett has leaped again,” Ziggy informed her.  “We have a visitor in the Waiting Room.  I will inform Dr. Fuller immediately.”

Verbena nodded, but had a feeling there was more. "Then do so. Is there anything else?" Again, that chilling pause.

"Yes," Ziggy said quietly. Right now, Verbena missed the normal, sassy attitude of the computer, and she tried to keep her pulse from racing and her hands from suddenly feeling so cold. "I have been monitoring police frequencies ever since the Admiral has been missing. I regret to inform you that they are at the scene of a found body." Verbena sank into her chair as her knees suddenly turned to Jello. Ziggy's words washed over her, barely heard. "The body is that of a Caucasian male was found in an abandoned building thirty miles from here.  The description matches that of Admiral Calavicci.  I am sorry, Dr. Beeks.”

"Thank you, Ziggy. I will inform Mrs. Calavicci." A feeling of total exhaustion enveloped Dr. Beeks as she mechanically stood again and pushed her chair in. Step by step she made her way out of the door and down the hall to sickbay, where she knew Beth was trying to keep busy. Her daughters were sequestered in various quarters within the Project for security reasons while they all waited.

When the door slipped open and Verbena stepped inside, she only acknowledged with a smile the various greetings from the regular staff. They all grew quiet as she passed through the room to the office in the back. Beth's voice could be heard giving orders, and Verbena stopped in the doorway to wait to be noticed. After handing off a clipboard, Beth turned her head and saw Verbena. Verbena assessed the dark shadows under her eyes and the faint quake in the timbre of her voice and mentally braced herself.

"Beth," she said softly.

Elizabeth Calavicci froze. This scenario had played in her mind numerous times in the past, but she had been a young nurse and Al a young pilot, and years since had retired the scenario to the recesses of her mind. Now, even with new players, the vision snapped forth and she felt herself sway. "They found Al," she whispered. "I've had this feeling for a day or two, Verbena." She began to cry softly as she slowly sank to the floor, Verbena quickly kneeling by her side.

"I'm sorry, Beth. But it hasn't been confirmed," Verbena said soothingly.

"It doesn't need to be," Beth cried. "I know. I felt it. I dreamed it. I just know." And she cried, heartbroken, as she tried to imagine life without her soul mate.  

 

 

EPILOGUE 

 

Sam Beckett's descent into another life was as pleasant this time as he could recall from anytime in the past. That wasn't saying much, however, taking in to account the Swiss-cheese effect that reduced his memory to bits and pieces, and the parts he did recall might not necessarily be his won life but one of some other person he had helped. 

But at this point, it didn't matter what he recalled because right now he had to figure out where he was. He immediately realized he was on an airplane; that much was evident from the seat, the tray table attached to the seat in front of him and the steady drone. In another second he realized that his was First Class due to the legroom, the clothe table cover on his tray and the crystal glass of wine on the tray table. Sam had to keep from beaming; finally! Some comfort on a leap in! Gratefully he noticed the sole seat next to him was currently vacant, and moved his hand to take the glass. Suddenly the tray bounced and the glass teetered off to the side, sailing to the floor. Sam tried to grab for it, but the table leaped again, knocking the tin of Macadamia nuts to the floor in the wake of the wine. 

It was then that he realized what had happened: Around his wrist was a shiny handcuff! He froze in shock as his eyes followed the chain that lead from the cuff to something below the tray. The chain had upset the tray table. 

"Oh, dear! Here, let me help you!" The cheery attendant had appeared instantly at his side even before the last nut hit the floor. 

"Huh? Oh, sure," Sam stammered as the attendant squatted down and gathered up the glass and nuts. 

"Lucky you! The glass didn't break. I'll get you a clean one. And I'll just wipe off your case for you." She began wiping down an object at the end of Sam's wrist chain. It was a steel briefcase with impressive looking locks on the top. 

"Thank you," Sam said with a tight smile, trying to appear like this happened all the time. The attendant had everything scooped up in no time and was off with a wink. 

"Be Right back!" She chirped. Sam smiled in return, and when she was gone he leaned down and dragged the case to his lap. 'Whatever's in here must be pretty valuable because this case looks like it would take a bomb to open it.' He inspected all sides of it and fiddled with the locks. It had two keyholes, and Sam flashed back on an old movie about launching missiles from some secret Military base where two very professional looking soldiers with separate keys kept their cool and averted a false launch. Or did thy launch it by mistake? Sam shook his head in annoyance. Some lost details were enough to drive him nuts. 'Al will know what movie I'm thinking of,' he thought. His reverie was broken by the arrival of his seatmate. 

"Oh," the beautiful woman said. "Looks like we had a little accident while I was gone!" Her smile was dazzling, and Sam momentarily forgot to speak. He was saved by the arrival of the attendant. 

"Your seat is fine, Miss Swint. Mr. Bell just dropped his wine on the floor." 

Miss Swint settled in her seat and Sam mentally noted her expensive, well-fitted business suit and hairstyle to try and place the decade. The lines were so classic it could cover both the 1980's and the 90's, possibly even later. The same could be said for the attendant's uniform, and Sam decided again to wait for his Observer before getting too deep in conversation. 

"Well, we can't have that, now can we?" Miss Swint replied. "Seconds, Mr. Bell?" 

"Um, sure," he responded. He sure hoped he wasn't supposed to know this woman. The attendant handed Sam his clean glass, which he gave to Miss Swint, and backed off so a second attendant could pour the wine. His seatmate thanked her as the first attendant returned with a second glass and more nuts. 

As Sam's glass was filled his seatmate raised her glass. "Let's see; we need a little toast. How about 'to strangers meeting on airplanes'?" 

Relief washed over him as he raised his glass. "Perfect. To strangers." They clinked glasses and took a sip. 

"Now that we're introduced and stuck on a three hour flight together, would you like to chat a bit?" 

"Actually, I was going to nap a bit. Long day." He hoped that didn't sound as lame to her as it did to him. 

"I understand," she answered, patting his arm and settling back in her seat as she pulled a magazine from her bag. Sam turned to the window and looked out at the clouds knowing the lady-killing Admiral would be chastising him relentlessly at this point if he were here. 

'I sure could use your company now, Al,' he thought, a bit miffed. 'How can I do this without you?' He mentally settled down to wait for his friend and Observer. 

As they raced gracefully over the banks of brilliant white, cottony clouds that reminded him of Heaven, Sam wondered when Al would arrive to help him. He figured nothing could really happen in three hours, and let the serene cloud-filled horizon carry his mind away. He found himself reflecting on how lucky he was to have a friend like Al Calavicci to help him find his way.

 

To Be Continued

 

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