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 own 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 cloth 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 led 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 they 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.
"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
"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
'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.
The three-hour flight
was quiet, allowing Sam to sleep fairly comfortably in the First Class chair almost the
entire way. The pilot's announcement of their landing in Los Angeles International Airport
woke him. As his awareness increased, an elbow nudged him. Opening his eyes he looked to
find Miss Swint - he still didn't know her first name - giving him a smile.
landing," she told him as she stretched in her seat. "I can't wait to stretch my
legs before that long flight to Beijing. My sister better have a nice room ready for me
when I get there."
meeting you?" Sam asked as he saw the familiar spider-like building that was a L.A.
airport landmark grow closer though his window.
"No. She's in
some remote lab. I'll be taken there after I get some sleep."
discussion stopped as the plane touched down and approached the gate. Miss Swint was first
on her feet, and retrieved her bag from the overhead locker.
"Well, it was
nice meeting you, Mr. Bell. Happy traveling!"
Sam gave her a tired
smile as she moved into the aisle and out the hatch. He followed in a more leisurely pace,
stalling. Where are you, Al? With now
sign of the Observer, Sam decided to find out what he could on his own. He headed to the
public bathroom and wrestled his plane ticket from his pocket, trying not to tangle
himself up in the handcuff chain. It took some juggling, but he finally found the ticket
and discovered that he, too, was headed to Beijing. He also saw his name was P.
Bell. The wallet in his pocket said he was Paul Bell from Virginia, and an
accompanying passport confirmed it. A bit more satisfied, Sam left the restroom to look
for his connecting flight gate. You better have a good excuse for being so late,
Al, he thought. I've been this guy for hours now!
As if on cue the
Imaging Chamber door opened practically next to him. He flinched in surprise, breaking his
stride momentarily, and with a sideways glance, stopped in surprise.
Beckett," Sammy Jo said in a slightly hoarse voice. "Sorry it took so long to
get to you."
Sam glanced around
and moved to the closest bank of phones and snatched up the first receiver. "Dr.
Ferrell, right?" he said, looking at her. He noticed that her eyes were red as if she
had been crying.
she corrected softly.
Right." He was having difficulty covering his annoyance. "Where have you been,
and where's Al?"
She ducked her head
momentarily, but the motion didn't cover the quiver of her chin. Getting the twitch under
control, she raised her head. "We had an emergency arise, but the important thing is
that I'm here now so we can get this leap over with." She brought up the link and
nervously punched the keys. A tear trailed down one cheek, and she wiped it away quickly.
Instantly, Sam felt a
knot in his stomach and his palms tingled in fear. Something was dreadfully wrong. He
stepped towards her with the intent to comfort, but was stopped short by the phone cord.
He reached out with the other hand, but the heavy briefcase attached to it cut that motion
short. "What's wrong?" he asked in a low voice, afraid of the response.
A woman brushed by
Sam, passing through the hologram, and gave the scientist an odd look. Sam realized the
phone wasn't on his ear and he was talking to thin air. He clamped the receiver to his ear
and bowed head to feign speaking into the device. He spoke in a low, firm voice.
"What's happened, Dr. Fuller?"
The hologram opened
her mouth, but nothing came out. She clamped her mouth shut and fought for control.
Alarms were now going
off in Sam's head. "Is it Al? What's wrong?" He knew it had been too long;
the last time Al hadn't shown up for a leap he was being operated on,
he thought. And another time, Al had been a hostage with a gun to his head. There was even
a time he vaguely remembered where he was chasing someone to save Sam from a police shoot
out. Dr. Fuller's silent weeping was not a good sign, and the urge to go home was never so
Finally, Sammy Jo's
eyes met with Sam's. She swallowed hard, tried unsuccessfully to speak again, and cleared
her throat. Her voice was raw. "He's dead."
Sam stared at the
hologram as if she was speaking in tongues. His brain refused to work for a moment, and he
simply stared into her eyes in incomprehension. A bang made him twitch, and he realized
he'd dropped the phone. He stupidly looked at the receiver swinging on the silver cord,
and then looked at her again in total confusion.
Sammy Jo's jaw worked
silently for a moment as she found her voice. She shook her head and blinked to clear her
eyes from the tears and met Sam's shocked gaze. "Al." She managed to choke. The
tears started silently anew, but she stood firmly.
didn't hear his own voice. His line of sight narrowed down to the single sight of the
crying woman. His chest tightened to the point of pain, and he couldn't breathe. His knees
wobbled and threatened to drop him to the floor, and he sagged against the phone bank, the
swinging receiver long forgotten. The handcuff chain tangled with the phone cord and he
was momentarily distracted in the fight to free himself.
He felt sick.
I can't do this
without him! Was the only thought that occupied his mind as he
blindly flailed at the cords holding him. Finally bursting free, he stumbled back into a
nearby wall and sank to the floor, his head between his hands. This can't be
happening. His vision grew foggy with tears.
Sammy Jo tried to
catch him, but Sam's body simply passed through her arms. She knelt beside him and spoke
gently through her tears, not thinking about the words. "Oh, daddy, I'm so sorry. I'm
Sam forced his mind
into some sort of order, and Sammy Jo's revelation didn't immediately strike him.
"Tell me . . ." he choked, tears barely at bay. "Tell me everything."
His tone was firm through the tears.
Bystanders began to
join Sam to check on his welfare. The hologram stood fast with the bodies passing through
her. With a fortifying breath, Sammy Jo spoke. "We . . . we don't know yet," she
said quietly. "We're all still in shock and . . ." she took another breath and
calmed enough to turn all business. She could see that Sam needed her to be strong for
him. "We do know that it is imperative that you are on that plane to Beijing. Are you
listening to me, Sam? You have to compose yourself and get on that plane. Ziggy
Sammy Jo had to
repeat herself, and became firmer with her voice. Sam heard her, but not exactly what was
said. He saw faces bending over him, and was able to note that one was a security officer.
"I'm all right," he rasped automatically, without thought and numb with shock.
The crowd backed off when he repeated himself.
Al was dead.
Ziggy says to
get on the plane. That must mean this can change, and it's up to me, and the answers lie
in Beijing. I have to hang on. Al is depending on me. Right now, in this time, he's still
alive. Sam was so focused on
these thoughts that he didn't remember getting on the plane, the take off, or when Dr.
The next thing he
realized was he was in the sky, up in the clouds where his best friend loved to be. It was
a constant struggle to keep from screaming, and the anger was overwhelming. Unable to sit
any longer, Sam prowled around the huge plane with the case hugged to his chest. He
stumbled across a lounge area where a familiar face made him pause.
Miss Swint was seated
with a glass of wine. She smiled at him, and then frowned. "Are you all right?"
Sam stood rooted, the
somewhat familiar voice pulling him from his reverie. "Yes. No. I don't know."
His thoughts calmed. "It's been a bad day," he finally admitted as he sank down
next to her.
She studied him for a
moment. His forlorn face tugged at her heart. "Do you want to talk about it? It might
A million thoughts
ran through his mind, none of which he wanted to share with a stranger, but the idea of
isolation scared him. "I . . . I just heard that someone close to me . . . has . . . died." Saying it out loud did nothing
to ease the pain, but it did help him focus his thoughts.
Miss Swint laid her
hand sympathetically on his forearm. It was warm and soft and solid, and did more to
comfort him than the words she spoke. "I'm so sorry."
Sam hugged the metal briefcase to his chest, illogically finding some comfort from it.
"I just wonder if I could have prevented it," he said. That's why I'm
here, he thought, the briefcase suddenly becoming his focus. The woman spoke
kindly, but he didn't hear. What's in this case? he wondered. Is
there a clue for saving Al?
The sound of the
Imaging Chamber caught his attention, and he stood. He felt Miss Swint's hand slide from
his arm, and turned to her as Dr. Fuller stepped from the doorway. He realized he hadn't
heard a word of what the woman had said. "I'm sorry," he apologized to the Miss
Swint. "I need to be alone for a few minutes." Miss Swint nodded in
understanding, and Sam found a lavatory.
It was a typical
airplane lavatory, small and confining. It also brought memories of the other times he was
in such a place and it was Al speaking to him. He brushed the thought aside as Dr.
Fuller's torso appeared on top of the sink. Sam couldn't help but snort a short laugh.
Funny how things change but stay the same, he thought.
Sammy Jo raised her
eyebrow. "What?" Inwardly she was glad to see some semblance of a smile.
Listen, I must be here to save Al, and I think this case has something to do with
The handlink was
poised in Sammy Jo's hand as Sam spoke, and she nodded. "Great minds think alike.
That's what Ziggy's saying. It took awhile, though. She's been . . . depressed." She
stopped lamely. Sam didn't notice her discomfort, and spoke confidently.
"So what's in
it?" He patted the case.
She studied the read
out. "Don't know. Ziggy says there's a 74% chance that you are here to keep whatever
is in that suitcase from getting to its destination, though."
guess at what's in here?"
Sammy Jo tapped the
buttons. "She says that Paul Bell, you, is a well known courier for hire. She found
this out by going through delete e-mails of the appropriations committee. Bell usually
deals in illegal documents. He was last seen in the same motel in D.C. as some of the
members of the appropriations committee for the Project. Between that and the fact that
you're heading to Beijing indicates a 25% chance that the case may contain secret
information on the Project."
"What does Beijing have to do with the Project?"
Sammy Jo sighed and
pocketed the link, along with both her hands. She didn't need to ask Ziggy about that one.
"A few leaps ago, there was a terrorist threat against the Project. The terrorists
were mercenaries, and their contract was linked to the Chinese. We don't know if it was a
private contract or if the Chinese government was involved. That's all we have to work
Sam looked at the
case. "The Chinese knew about the Project," he said flatly. He was now sure as
to what was in the case. "I can't pass this on. It more than likely contains Project
confirm that. Yet. She needs more time."
Sam found that he was
studying Sammy Jo as she spoke. Something was familiar about her; then he recalled
something she had said in the airport. He frowned and waved his finger in her direction as
she looked at him questioningly.
"You called me
'daddy'," he said simply.
She was caught
completely off guard by the remark. Suddenly, the take-charge persona she had forced
herself to wear, crumbled. Her mouth worked silently for a moment as she felt the tears
building. Frantically, she pounded on the handlink.
The Imaging Chamber
door opened, and Sammy Jo Fuller darted through to keep her emotional distance.
It was a hot morning in Wolfsburg. Donna
could already tell the day was going to top 100 degrees and it wasn't even 7:00 yet. The
scrambled egg smelled good, but she just didn't seem to have an appetite in the heat of
the summer. Of course, with all the tragedy going on at the Project, she hadn't felt very
hungry lately anyway. If she didn't have to feed Stephen she wouldn't be cooking at all.
In fact, she would probably be living at the Project. There was so much to do now that Al
Her stomach lurched at the thought of her
friend. She was way beyond tears at this point; she'd cried them all out in the first day.
The sweet voice dragged her out of the morbid
thoughts and she gave the eggs a final stir. "Almost done, Stephen!" She tried
to sound cheery.
The small boy entered the kitchen
uncharacteristically slow, like he was walking on eggs. His eyes were big and hazel, just
like his father's, and he carried a tiny version of the handlink Tina had fashioned for
him. "Mommy? Do you think Uncle Al needs this?" He held up the toy.
Donna blinked and her lips made a thin line
as she clamped her mouth tightly shut to hold back a sob. After a moment she squatted down
and took the item from the child's hand. She inspected it closely as her mind raced trying
to figure out where the little genius was going with his line of thought. "Um."
She cleared her throat. "I don't think so. Why do you ask?"
Stephen's expression was serious. "Well,
he always had it with him at the Project, and we can't let him take the real one to
heaven, so I thought it would just feel right in his pocket. Him being so used to having
it and all."
She had to bite her lip to keep the tears
back, and she couldn't keep the smile from breaking loose. She reached for her son and
pulled him into a tight embrace. "Oh, Stephen. I know he'd appreciate that."
He threw his arms around her neck in response
and they held tightly to each other. "Mommy?"
"The eggs are burning."
"OH!" Donna let go and leaped to
the stove. "Oh no!" The pan's contents were a total loss. She quickly dumped it
in the sink and turned on the water, which hissed loudly as soon as it hit the pan. She
stared at the mess and tsk'd her tongue. "Some chicken put her all into that
egg," she commented. "And now it's food for the garbage disposal!" Stephen
giggled, and Donna smiled slyly at him. The kitchen was growing too hot anyway. "How
about letting Denny's do the cookin', honey bunch?" She wiped her hands on her jeans.
"Grand Slam!" he yelled excitedly.
"You got it!" She picked him up,
grabbed her purse from the table and headed for the door. "And you already have shoes
on for once! What's up with that?" She pulled open the front door and nearly ran into
the man standing there. "OH!" She squeaked in surprise and slid to a stop.
"Uncle Tom!" Stephen shrieked. He
launched himself from Donna's arms to the surprised Tom Beckett. He caught the boy
"Whoa! What a greeting!" he laughed
cheerily. He held the boy aloft and jiggled him. Stephen giggled uncontrollably.
"Good grief, you're getting big! I can't do this anymore!" With an exaggerated
gasp he dropped the boy down to the porch and squatted in front of him.
"My gosh, Tom! Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" Donna collected herself
quickly. "Please, come in!"
"Mommy! Denny's! I'm hungry!"
"Hungry, huh?" Tom laughed.
"Allow me! My treat. Is that OK, Donna?" When he turned to face Donna with the
question, she saw something in his eyes. This wasn't a simple visit, and Tom Beckett would
get around to tell her why he was here as soon as he was ready.
"Um, sure! I don't cook either way, so
He returned his gaze to the boy, still eye to
eye, his face serious. "OK, then. You driving?"
"Can I? I drove the tractor once,
remember? Can I?"
Donna laughed. "Tom!"
"Oh, yeah. That's right. You have to be
old to drive here, huh?" Tom stood with a grin and took Stephen's hand.
"You mean I could drive if I lived in
Colorado like you? Mommy? Can we move to Colorado?"
"No, dear. Not today. But you can visit
Uncle Tom in Colorado and he can teach you!" With a smug, I-got-you-now smirk at Tom
she secured the boy in the back seat of the Jeep.
"Guess I'm in trouble now, huh?"
Tom said good naturedly as she shut the door on the boy. She smiled back at him. More
seriously, he took one of her hands. "How are you Donna? I heard about Al."
"It's not good, Tom." She dropped
her eyes and again fought back tears.
"I'll drive." He took the keys from
her. "We'll talk later, OK?" He opened the door for her and she slipped into the
passenger seat. After trotting to the driver's side, he jumped in the car. "OK,
now!" He said cheerily as he started the engine. "Off to school!"
"School? No! Denny's!" Stephen
"What? No school? Aren't you going to
Indiana State yet?"
"I'm only in third grade! Denny's! I
"Oh, yeah! I forgot!" He winked at
Donna and backed from the driveway. Donna felt a bit of the load lifted from her shoulders
already without knowing why.
For the first time in like what seemed like
forever, Donna had a good time. Tom kept up the banter with Stephen and kept him giggling
most of the time. After the meal, Donna shoo'd the boy to the restroom to wash the syrup
from his hands. She and Tom waited for him outside the restroom.
"When's the funeral?" Tom asked
Donna, more relaxed than she felt in days,
was able to talk without tears. "Memorial, actually. Three days. They invited him to
be buried in Arlington, but Beth said that he wanted his ashes spread at sea by a Naval
aviator out of Coronado. He's being cremated tomorrow."
"That sounds appropriate. He was quite a
guy. He did manage to get my goat, though, I have to admit."
"Yeah. He was a unique individual. We
can't believe . . ." her voice caught, and Tom gently laid his hand on her shoulder.
"Donna, I want to help."
She managed to stop her tears and frowned at
"Yes. I know how much the Project relied
on him. I investigated it myself, remember? Well, now that I'm retired, I have the time
and the talent. I'd like to help fill in the void."
Donna blinked at him in shock. That was the
last thing she'd expected, but for some reason she couldn't find anything wrong with the
Tom continued. "I have the same
experience as the Admiral in staff supervision, paperwork and dealing with the government.
I know D.C. I know the Project . . ." The skeptical look on Donna's face made him
smile. "OK, I don't know the Project as well as Al, but I do know what it's all
about. And I know you, and vice versa. And I know my brother." The sound of the
bathroom door swishing open made him pause.
"Let's go!" Stephen yelped happily
as he raced by. "Can we go to the museum? Please?"
Donna and Tom fell in behind the boy.
"I have to get back to . . ." Donna
"I can take him. I'd like to spend the
day with him." Tom smiled at the boy as he shrieked in pleasure. In a lower voice, he
said. "Is there anyone else you could trust to help you? Think about it." He
secured Stephen in his booster seat, and opened the door for Donna. "Take my car to
the Project. I'll keep the kid and the car."
"Oh, boy!" Stephen said.
"Dinosaurs and atoms!"
Donna laughed at Tom's perplexed expression.
"He likes just about everything at the Natural History and Science Museum. You won't
Tom shook his head. "Just like his dad.
Too much information is not enough. OK, Stephen, let's go dump the chick and have a mans'
day out, shall we?"
It was Stephen's happiness and comfort with
Tom that made up Donna's mind, and she instantly felt relief. Tomorrow, Quantum Leap was
going to have a new co-administrator.
When Donna arrived at the Project she felt
better than she had in days. She was calmer and her mind more ordered. Already, she was
dividing the workload and found it surprisingly easy. She'd have to get his security
clearances today, and hold a staff meeting, but she didn't expect any problems. If Tom's
presence had the same effect on everyone else, that would be an added bonus.
Her mind was racing with plans as she
descended to the Control Room level. When the doors opened, she stepped into the hall with
confidence and was practically mowed over by Sammy Jo.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Sammy Jo sniffed.
Donna looked at the woman in shock. She
looked terrible - her eyes were red and bloodshot, her face pale, and when Donna put her
hands on her shoulders to steady her, she could feel her body shaking.
"Sammy Jo, my God, are you all
The eyes that met Donna's were so mournful
she couldn't help but pull her stepdaughter into a tight hug. That's when Sammy Jo broke
down, sobbing. Over the crying woman's shoulder, Donna saw St. John and Tina in the
Control Room doorway looking on in concern. Donna motioned them away and escorted Sammie
Jo to her office nearby.
After settling her on a couch and sitting
next to her Sammy Jo started showing signs of calming down. Donna offered her a box of
tissues, which were gratefully accepted.
"I'm sorry." Sammy Jo dabbed at her
eyes. "I think all the stress has caught up to me. I couldn't handle it. I'll be
OK." She sniffed, and Donna patted her shoulder. She shyly looked at Donna and
fiddled with a tissue. "He knows I'm his daughter. I sorta let it slip and called him
"Really?" Donna said. Here's
a new twist, she thought.
"Yeah. Usually, when he does figure it
out, it's just before he leaps, then forgets again. He's gonna know the whole leap this
time. It sorta shook me up."
"I guess it would. We need to talk to
Verbena on how to handle it."
"That's a good idea." She hiccupped
as the tears faded away. "I just can't think anymore right now, Donna. I'm not
handling this very well. I miss Al." Her eyes began to water anew.
Donna, on the other hand, felt stronger.
"We all miss him. But things will continue here, and so must we. It won't be easy,
but it will all work out. You have a lot on your plate, Sammy Jo. I don't want you to feel
that you have to fill the Admiral's place. It's going to be a team effort." She
waited a moment then continued. "I'm going to bring in Tom Beckett to help in the
administration area. He's already offered."
Sammy Jo's head snapped up.
"Really?" Her red eyes sparkled for a moment. "That . . . just may be a
good idea. He doesn't know I'm his niece, does he?"
Donna's face was thoughtful, and then she
grinned. "No, I don't think so. Boy, he's getting more than he realizes, isn't
They both laughed, and Sammy Jo filled in
Donna on Sam's leap. As she relayed Sam's reaction to the news, they both nearly broke
down again but managed to contain themselves. It was obvious that Sammy Jo felt better
after the cleansing crying spree. Donna called Verbena and sent Sammy Jo to the
psychiatrist's office. "Take a nap after that. Sam's stuck on a plane for about 13
hours, so he's not going anywhere. You have to re group."
Sammy Jo nodded and left the office. Donna
settled behind her desk and reflected on the situation. Somehow, everything didn't seem as
dire as it did the day before, and with a lighter tone in her voice, she began making
arrangements for a staff meeting.
Sam was long enough in the lavatory that the
flight attendant tapped on the door and asked about his welfare. He assured her everything
was all right and returned to the lounge. There were more people there, all tired of
cramped seats and taking advantage of the space. Miss Swint was chatting happily with two
young men, but paused to acknowledge Sam with a nod. Her expression asked if he was all
right, and Sam managed a small smile and nod.
Not in the mingling mood, he returned to his
seat and decided to take the time and investigate the small carry on bag tagged with Paul
Bell's name. He pulled it into his lap and riffled through the personal items, pulling out
a bottle of prescription pills. Sleeping pills. That's one way to deal with jet
lag. There's nothing I can do until we land, anyway. Might as well sleep now.
What he was careful not to admit to himself was that he was simply tired of thinking. His
thoughts of Al and Sammy Jo were all tumbled and intense; he needed the break. Without a
second thought, he rang for the attendant, and poured out a pill. He had recapped the
bottle and stowed the bag by the time the attendant came. Sam requested water, and the
perky girl came back with it in record time. She even brought a pillow and a small
"Not uncommon for frequent overseas
passengers to take those," she said knowingly, indicating with a tilt of her head the
sleeping row next to Sam. "Sweet dreams!"
Feeling a little better, Sam downed the pills
but didn't respond to the attendant. There was no way he wanted to dream; he was hoping
for total blackness.
Sammy Jo woke after a solid sleep of seven
hours. She felt guilty for a moment, but when she realized how much better she felt, the
guilt dissipated. By the time she stepped from the shower she felt like a million bucks,
and for the first time today, felt hungry. She tossed on casual clothes and was getting
ready to head to the cafeteria when Ziggy paged her.
"Yes?" Sammy Jo, like most people
in the Project, looked upward as she spoke.
"Staff meeting in one hour. And I note
that Dr. Elesee seems much happier."
"You could tell by her voice?"
"Yes. But Mrs. Calavicci doesn't sound
any better. I listened in on a phone call Dr. Elesee made to the Calavicci house."
"Ziggy! You eavesdropped? Shame on
Ziggy let out a computer version of a sigh,
and her voice took on a pouty tone. "I don't feel my study of human grief has any
boundaries. It helps me cope."
"Cope?" That's a new one,
Sammy Jo thought, slightly amused. Then she sighed a human sigh. "Well, we all need
to cope, I guess. But don't listen in on any of my phone calls, OK?"
"Fine. Dr. Beckett's brother is coming
to the Project."
"I know. I think it may be a good
"But he's not Admiral Calavicci."
"I know. But you got used to St. John
after Gooshie died. You'll get used to Tom. I'm leaving now, Ziggy. I'm starving."
"Maybe Dr. Beckett will change things so
the Admiral will be back."
"That would be nice, wouldn't it?"
Sammy Jo slipped from the room. Ziggy had been in quite a funk for the past few days. It
was nice to hear her voice again.
Sammy Jo was so hungry, the food in the
cafeteria even tasted good. She had seconds on the chili and cornbread, and a huge salad.
By the time she finished, it was time for the meeting.
Donna was already seated, as was St. John and
Tina. Sammy Jo entered the room with a couple of head technicians and Verbena Beeks. The
room didn't quite seem filled, and everyone knew why. The chairs usually occupied by Beth
and Al seemed to be larger than the rest as they stood side-by-side, empty. Donna cleared
her throat to signal the start of the meeting.
The announcement of Tom Beckett being brought
on board was met with silent approval. They realized the need, but didn't want to
acknowledge the reason. It was as if they were all battle weary. With Sam on the plane
most of the day, Donna had seen to it that most of the staff got some rest, so their eyes
weren't as red. The evidence of grief was still clear, however, and Donna decided to touch
on the subject of Sam's current leap.
"Ziggy says there is a possibility that
Dr. Beckett's current leap may bring Al back to us, but we have no guarantee, as you know.
All I ask is for all of you to work as hard as you always have, and give Tom Beckett all
the help you can. If the leap doesn't fix
this," she hesitated to make her point clear. "We will all continue to function
as we always have - like a family. Thank you, that's all I have to say."
When the group left, Donna was relieved to
know that at least they had something else to think about for a while. Meanwhile, Donna
knew she had to work on a task she had been putting off: Deciding who could go to the
Albert Calavicci's memorial.
Sam awoke with a start and a strong feeling
of deja vu. There was an announcement for their descent into Beijing, and the passengers
started readying for landing. Sam put his seat upright and tried to rid his neck of the
crick he had developed. He still felt groggy from the pill, and second-guessed his
decision of taking it. They were just about to touch down when he heard the Imaging
Chamber door swoosh open next to him.
Unable to talk because other passengers
surrounded him, all Sam could do was give Sammy Jo his attention. I don't know
why I didn't see it before. She has my eyes and Katie's face. He thought. But
then a whole new area opened to him: Who is her mother? he thought.
"Hi." Sammy Jo, now rested and
confidant had decided to take the bull by the horns. "I know you can't talk, so I
will. Yes, I'm your daughter. My mother is Abagail Fuller, a woman you helped in three
successive leaps in 1955, 1966 and 1978. In 1966 you leaped into my mother's fiancÚ, and,
well, made me." She blushed momentarily as she stuttered out the explanation. The
vision of a dark haired beauty flashed in Sam's mind as she spoke. "Abagail does not know you are my father.
She still thinks Will Kinmon, her fiancÚ at the time, is. I've worked at Project Quantum
Leap since 1996, shortly after you leaped. I found out by mistake that you were my father
by a slip of the Admiral's tongue. I think he did it intentionally, though. It was a dire
situation." She could see the questions in her father's eyes. "I promise I'll
fill in the blanks when you can talk. Now it's time for you to get off this plane and save
Al. And maybe, just maybe, you'll remember who I am next time."
Sam felt choked up with emotion. He had a
daughter, a confident, intelligent daughter that was working by his side. He blinked.
Well, sort of. The weirdness of his life deflated him for a second but he was distracted
by the hustling crowd debarking the plane and moved past the thought. He still felt a bit
foggy from the sleeping pill he'd taken, and the events of the day just seemed more
Sammy Jo stayed right by his side the whole
time and guided him through customs, which he thought would be more problematic with the
locked case. Apparently, they were expecting him, and he was passed without a fuss. This
made Sammy Jo suspicious, and she entered the information in the handlink.
Sam couldn't wait to be alone with his
daughter. He had so many questions; he hoped she'd answer him and ignore that blasted rule
about 'if you don't remember, I can't tell you' that Al always quoted.
Al. That was another sore subject he wanted
to tackle. Sam bit his lip, and realized that he had passed the last hour in a complete
fog as he willingly followed Sammy Jo's directions.
He was so tired. The case attached to his
wrist had become sort of a shield, something solid he could hold on to. He hugged it close
to his chest getting some measure of comfort from it, his inner gut telling him that it
was his only chance to save Al. His body heat had warmed the coldness of the metal case
until it felt like it was part of him.
As he picked up his bag with his free hand
and Sammy Jo began to tell him where the exit was, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Sam
turned and found himself face to face with Miss Swint.
"Hey, I just wanted to see if you were
all right. You look pretty groggy, my friend." She smiled a kind smile.
"Uh, thanks. I'm doing better, I
think." He hugged the case closer.
She pressed a card in his hand hugging the
case. "Listen, we're both a long way from home. If you feel like you need to talk
tonight, call me. My name and where I'm staying is written on the back of the card. I'll
be leaving the hotel tomorrow around 11:00. Take care of yourself, Mr. Bell." She
patted his hand.
"Thank you, I . . . will."
She moved off in the direction of a line of
cabs and was lost in the crowd.
"Well, she was nice." Sammy Jo
commented. "Met her on the plane, I take it?"
"Yes. She was very kind to me." He
looked at the card tiredly, but had to smirk at what was written there. "Now there's
an odd name. Siren Swint."
Sammy Jo froze. "What did you say her
Sam glanced at her, perplexed. "Swint.
Siren Swint." He held the card up for her to read.
"Oh my God." Sammy Jo yanked out
the link and input the name and the company printed on the card. The handlink shrieked in
response. "Dad, it's very important you talk to her, you hear me?" She was
bouncing on her toes with excitement as she read the handlink, and near tears. "Ziggy
says the odds are now 98% that you are here to save the Admiral, and she's an important
part. You have to meet her again and get her to help you!"
Without a second thought Sam pushed all his
other questions from his mind and headed for the door, suddenly energized. He scanned the
"Over here!" Sammy Jo waved him
over to the line of cabs.
Sam pushed his way through the crowed just in
time to see Siren slide into a cab and drive away.
"Follow her, dad! Get a cab!" Sammy
Sam began to wave his arm and run to the cab
line when he felt someone grab his arm. "Hey!" He yelped as he was spun around
by his assailant.
"Mr. Bell?" The voice was low and
heavily accented Chinese.
"What?" Sam barked, trying to free
his arm from the iron grip.
"Dad! You can't let her get away!"
"Mr. Bell, come with us now, please. Our
boss wants the papers to be safe until morning." The man speaking was one of a pair
of well-dressed Chinese, backed by two armed security guards. The man's grip on Sam's arm
tightened. "We insist."
Sammy Jo's jaw dropped when she saw the
interaction, and began peppering the link with jabs. "Ziggy doesn't know who they
are. You have to get out of here, dad!"
The security guards flanked the squirming
scientist, and one of the well-dressed men relieved Sam of his suitcase. They forced him
to walk to a waiting black sedan with tinted windows, and they all slipped inside.
The sedan drove off in the opposite direction
of Siren's cab and all Sam could do was sit quietly, wedged between the security guards,
and look helplessly at the figure of his daughter frantically pounding the handlink.
watched the unfamiliar streets of Beijing pass by the darkened windows of the sedan in
nervous silence. He hugged the case to his chest. The security guards kept their eyes
forward and their hands on the butts of their holstered guns. Sammy Jo floated in front of
the scientist, hammering on the hand link.
you have to listen. Im going to tell you why Siren is so important. Its not
going to be easy, her voice cracked on the last word, but she swallowed hard and
controlled her emotion. But you need to know. You are going to have to appeal to her
altruistic side, and appeal hard. She has to betray her sister. She already has . . . er .
. . does eventually but she needs to do it now.
paused her speech and her fingers, and met her fathers eyes somberly. This
wont be easy to hear, dad, or to tell. So prepare yourself.
that, she relayed what the police report had told them, and what they had personally
experienced from the first contact on Juliannas front porch, Sirens revelation
of Talia and her motives, Juliannas death as Siren listened on the phone, and the
discovery of Als body in the remote shack.
Jo was right. It wasnt easy to hear and Sam ground his teeth and ducked his head to
keep the tears at bay. So Tala was the point of all this and Siren was the key, Sam
thought. He took a bracing sigh, and one of the guards tilted his head curiously in his
direction. Tired, Sam explained. The guard looked forward again.
Jo just glared at the uniformed men. Well, arent they the life of the
party, she snorted.
sedan pulled into the driveway of a large hotel as Sammy Jo finished supplying the
background. Sam was resolved in finding Siren, and stepped from the car with a new eye;
his mind was on escape. He was escorted into the hotel, flanked by the twin guards and his
holographic shadow, and directly to the elevator. One of the well-dressed men stayed with
him and the other handled Sams bag. He was whisked to the 7th floor of
the Jin Guang New World hotel and into a room near the elevator banks. After checking the
room, the guards stepped into the hall.
nice place, dad. Sammy Jo walked through the well-appointed suite grateful to have
something of a lighter nature to talk about.
will stay the night outside your door. The talkative well-dressed man indicated the
guards with a sweep of his hand as they closed the door. His silent twin left Sams
bag in the bedroom and posted himself by the exit as his partner continued. You will
not leave the room. It is for your safety. Order what ever you need, but stay inside until
the meeting tomorrow. We will pick you up at 8:00.
when whom ever is in charge gets this, right? He held the case aloft.
man bowed his head slightly in a positive response. After that, you will be taken to
the airport. So have your bag ready when we pick you up.
Sammy Jo exclaimed shortly. No tour of the city? No lunch? No complementary
cocktails? How rude.
silent twin opened the door and with a short bow, they both stepped outside leaving Sam
alone with his Observer.
was an awkward moment of silence. Sam moved to the window and took a moment to appreciate
the sweeping view of Beijing in the fading daylight and roll over in his tired brain what
hed learned in the past several hours. He felt shell-shocked.
of a day, he said softly.
shit. Oops, sorry. Sammy Jo covered her mouth with her hand and smiled. Mom
always said I had a potty mouth."
looked at her and smiled a sad smile. Abagail. I think I remember her. Dark hair
about this long? He used his hands to indicate a length somewhere below his
shoulders. What he didnt tell her was the tingling of desire he felt when he thought
of her. He turned back to the view to hide the blush he felt rising.
Theres a some grey now, but she still has the same good figure. Sammy
Jos eyes sparkled. Shed noticed the flush in his cheeks. Any way, we
have to figure out how to get you out of here and meet Siren.
spared one last look outside and stepped back in surprise as he noticed for the first time
how high they were and how close to the window he was standing. His fear of heights made
his stomach lurch. Id say out the window is out of the question.
handlink squealed and caught Sammy Jos attention. She took a moment to read the
screen then let out a short laugh. Ziggy! Have you been watching late night movies
Sam asked, smiling weakly.
gave Sam an up and down sweep with her eyes. Ziggy says that this Bell guy is about
the same size as your average Chinese man.
looked perplexed. So?
much money is in your wallet?
pulled out the worn leather wallet and opened it. It was fat with bills. Looks like,
lets see, theres a couple of hundred dollars here.
Ziggy suggests some room service. Sammy Jos grin helped him figure it out.
Then you sorta ask the waiter for a favor."
supposed to order room service and bribe the waiter to switch places with me.
work like a charm. Most of the hotel workers are poor, working class guys that would
probably relish wallowing in this for a night!
plan seemed too easy. "To get Siren to believe me, I need to prove myself to her. Put
yourself in her shoes; it's a far-fetched story. Give me something to convince her."
Jo nodded and tapped away at the hand link. "Let's see. All I can do is give you her
bio. We can predict from what we know where she's going and what she's going to hear. You
can use that."
paced the room suddenly nervous. "That doesn't seem like enough." He frowned in
thought. "We've discovered that minds with specific theta and alpha waves can see me
as I am. Is there a way I can use that? Hypnosis, perhaps?"
it was Sammy Jo's turn to frown as she put in the information. "Boy, talk about
pushing a first date. This goes beyond the one night stand." Her chin jerked up and
she blushed when she realized what she'd said. "Um, not that I'd know anything about
... uh... that."
shared her grin and looked for the phone. What do you suppose is the specialty of
Jo stepped from the Accelerator Chamber with a bounce in her step. She felt more
optimistic now than she had in days, and was determined to keep her attitude positive.
St. John! Get Dr. Elesee and Tina in here. We have to talk, pronto.
paced, frowning in thought the whole time it took the two women to arrive. Along with St.
John at the console, she lay out the plan.
need to alter PQLs programming on paper, and we need to do it tonight. We have one
opportunity to fix this. When Sam gets Sirens help, she needs to know how to alter
the programming when the time comes.
she forget all of this when Sam leaps? Donna asked.
Jos elation came to a screeching standstill. Donna looked apologetic. Tina popped
her gum, and then chewed furiously. Everyone at the Project had learned that when this
particular scientist abused her gum at a faster speed it usually meant that she was on the
trail of something interesting, if not brilliant. The other three turned their attention
to her as she spoke between chews.
she twanged in her nasal tone. It doesnt really matter if she remembers or
not. The new program is going to be needed at some point if we are to believe that Dr.
Becketts there to stop Tala, am I right? After a moment everyone nodded in
have to believe that, Donna said softly. Otherwise, there would be no point to
this leap. We have to believe that for Beth and the rest of us.
slapped the counter with her palm. Then lets do it. We can guess whats
in those papers - right? - according to the date and where they came from? Well just
take it from there.
Jo grinned again, revived. Its gonna be a long night.
guess Ill call in Tom to cover for us. If were pulling an all
dont want to be disturbed. Donna moved to the secure landline. Good
thing his security clearance came in so fast. I bet he never planned on getting his feet
wet so soon.
found it surprisingly easy to talk the waiter into swapping clothes. Sammy Jo was right;
not only was the working-class young man thrilled to bask in luxury for awhile, Sam
thought his eyes would fall out of his head when he offered him money on top of it all. By
the time Sam adjusted the towel over his manacled wrist and stowed the case under the
cart, the young man was happily flipping through television channels with his feet up,
nibbling on the meal Sam had ordered.
his head ducked, the guards outside the door never gave Sam a second glance.
stashed the uniform cap and jacket on the food cart and stuffed everything in a utility
closet near a back entrance. He pulled the address Siren had given him from his pocket and
waved down a taxi in the surprisingly crowded street.
ride to the Palace Hotel was wild. Sam had to brace himself with every limb as the driver
cut, swerved and weaved his way through the mob. By the time they bumped to a stop at the
Palace, Sam's heart was making itself well known. Shakily, he left the cab and threw some
money at the driver.
stepped into the lobby and took a moment to stop his knees from shaking. The stress, both
physical and mental, was starting to show. He felt a little sick - but quite determined -
pressed on, and approached the front desk. The clerk rang Siren's room for him and
indicated the house phone to speak with her. With shaking hands, Sam picked up the
Mr. Bell. I wasn't expecting to hear from you so soon! Stay there, I'll be right down.
Have you eaten?"
no. I haven't." Sam wasn't thrilled about speaking with her in a public place, but
then again getting her to invite him to her room would be a trick. It dawned on him just
then how hard this conversation was going to be.
I hear the food is delicious in the hotel restaurant. Give me 15 minutes." The phone
clicked as she hung up, leaving Sam to wait the longest quarter hour of his life.
TO BE CONTINUED