Episode 902

Leap From Hell III

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

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Palace Hotel

Beijing, China

September 15, 2001


Siren was true to her word and stepped from the elevator right on time. She smiled when she saw Sam, and indicated with a nod of her head where the restaurant was located. It was dimly lit and fairly busy. Siren kept up light chatter as they were seated and attended to by the staff. Sam ordered soup and fiddled with the place settings until the waiter left. He felt time ticking away in his mind.


"You know, you never told me exactly what it was you were going to do for your sister." At the thought of what was to come crossed his mind, Sam felt a flutter of butterflies in his stomach.


"I'm a computer programmer," Siren said. "When Tala and I finally realized what our true relationship was, she immediately started talking about working together. I'm a bit leery, knowing how mom and dad were. But I have the time right now, and didn't want to pass the opportunity and regret it later."


‘If you only knew, you'd regret it now,’ Sam thought, but held his tongue and let her talk.


Siren frowned slightly. "Mom and dad. That still sounds weird to me," she sighed. "You know? Who am I kidding here? I really think that I came because I want to find out why I was given away as a baby and they kept Tala. Silly, huh? After all this time? I mean, what does it matter at this point?" She smiled at Sam and he could tell that she was simply curious. Siren certainly wasn't lacking in confidence. "And to tell you the truth, I always thought Tala was a bit of a flake."


That was the opening Sam was waiting for. If Siren was on the fence about her feelings toward her sister, now was the time to make her trust her own feelings before she was in so deep she'd never get out.


"Tell me about Tala. Everything. What do you mean by 'a flake'?"


Dinner seemed to pass quickly as Siren related her experiences working with her sister and parents. Listening to the evolution of Lothos and learning more about the people that made it happen caused Sam to lose his appetite and he merely picked at his food. Siren had no idea how dangerous Tala was; as far as she was concerned, it was just her parents that were unstable in her mind. As Siren spoke, flashes of memory came to him in the form of faces. He remembered Alia.


‘Alia might be the key again,’ Sam realized. Siren hadn't mentioned her, but she must have met her at some point. How would a mere courier like Bell know of Alia? It wasn't much, he realized, but it was a place to start.


Both Sam and Siren declined dessert. "I see your appetite wasn't too big tonight," she commented. "I guess you've had a pretty upsetting day, and I've been sitting her yakking my head off." She leaned over and patted his hand. "How are you doing?" she asked sincerely.


He smiled nervously. "I've been better."


The bill came and Siren signed for it. "Hey, my sister is paying. And it's not like you had that much!"


Sam didn't offer any resistance. His mind was elsewhere, trying to decide how to start. How could he convince her of Tala's cruelty? When the waiter left, Sam made his decision.

"Siren, I need to tell you a story. It doesn't have a happy ending and I'm not sure you want to hear it. But you must, because it's the truth." He laid his hands on the metal case in his lap. "What's in here connects us, well, will connect us. If left unaltered, it will lead us both down a very bad road filled with pain and regret. It will take both of us to change that, but you have to believe me."


She eyed him cautiously, and let out a nervous breath that sounded like a strangled laugh. "You make it sound like someone's going to die."


"Someone does," he replied quietly, holding her eyes with his.


She blinked. "How would you know that?" Nervously she glanced around as if looking for an escape and unconsciously spun her glass with her fingertips. Sam put his hand on hers and stilled her. "So," her voice trembled. "Tell me what I've done. Or rather, what I'm going to do."


A flicker of amusement flashed in as his eyes narrowed with a brief, sad grin. He gave her hand a squeeze. How do you convince someone of her blood relative's cruelty?


"You haven't done anything yet you can't live with. And I intend to keep it that way. Can we go somewhere more private to talk? We don't have a lot of time."


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

March 3, 2003


When Tom arrived at the Project, a Marine guard and Verbena Beeks met him at the main gate. He'd been this far before, but not beyond. There was no feeling of accomplishment as Dr. Beeks introduced herself and escorted him to the elevator. He knew the dire circumstances that had gotten him to this point, and respected Al Calavicci enough to take no satisfaction in his current situation.


"It's nice to meet you face to face," Tom said as the elevator dropped. "I know most everyone on paper only."


"And we know you well, too, Commander." Her tone was ambiguous, but a genuine smile put him at ease.


"Please, call me Tom. I'm retired." He clipped the temporary ID to his shirt.


"We have some things to talk about before you jump in," Beeks said. "I know you have information on the major players here, but there's some things you still don't know. First, you need to meet Ziggy. Ziggy? Say hello to Tom Beckett."


"Hello, Tom Beckett," the parallel hybrid computer replied smoothly.


Beeks noted the bright tone to the mechanical voice and eyed the ceiling suspiciously. Politeness wasn't one of Ziggy's strong suits.


Tom's eyes swept the area above him. "Hi, Ziggy. So you're the computer?"


Uh, oh!  Beeks thought. Whatever pleasantry Ziggy had in her voice evaporated.


There was a slight hesitation. "I was looking forward to working with Dr. Beckett's brother, but I've changed my mind." There was a definite chill to the voice. "Don't call me, I'll call you." The non-sound of an angry hang up was clear to the psychiatrist.


Tom looked confused. "What was that all about?"


"Ego. It was all about ego," she sighed. "Shall we step into my office for a moment?"


It took nearly an hour to fill Tom in on the Project and its staff. By the end of her briefing, Tom's eyes were wide with astonishment. "I had no idea," he said slowly. "Even with all the information I had, there's no way I could have figured out the extent of this place. I knew Sam was brilliant, but this is beyond that, isn't it?"


Beeks nodded. "Are you ready to see our current Visitor? We might as well get that shock out of the way right now."


Tom nodded shakily, and Beeks lead him through the door to the Observation Room. Through the one-way glass, he could see his brother pacing the small room. He wasn't prepared for the emotional reaction that came automatically upon seeing the form; he hadn't set eyes on his brother for years. He put one hand flat on the cold glass. "Sam," he said softly. He felt a hand on his forearm.


"Relax your eyes, Tom, like you're looking at one of those hidden pictures. Look closer."


The new Project Administrator fought the desire to burst into the room and embrace his long lost brother. He took a steadying breath and forced himself to relax. He closed his eyes for a second, and when he opened them again what he saw puzzled him. "That's not Sam," he said lowly. Now he could see the form of a shorter man with black hair. As he studied the man, he could see his brother's form outlining the man's silhouette. "What's going on?" he whispered. "I see Sam, yet I see some other guy."


"That's what I suspected," Beeks began. "You and Sam have nearly identical DNA, so you can see through Sam's aura to the real person. Al has . . . had . . . that same ability, but that was engineered. Stephen has the ability sometimes, too, being Sam's son, but his youth may have something to do with that. The only other person on staff with that ability is Sammy Jo, and it seems to be sporadic with her."


It took a moment for that to sink in. "Dr. Fuller? But how . . . she would have to be related."


"She is," Beeks said calmly. "That's another story." She sketched a quick summary of how Sammy Jo came to be as Tom studied the man in the Waiting Room.


"So she's my niece." He shook his head. "I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone. If I wasn't seeing this with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it."


"You aren't alone on that one," Beeks replied. "Now, are you ready to take on some paperwork and field some calls? I know it's the middle of the night, but this place runs to Dr. Beckett's schedule. The others need to brainstorm and can't be disturbed. That makes you the final word for now." Her kind brown eyes met his green ones with warmth and sympathy. "Are you ready for this?"


"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," he replied. "I've been idle too long. Let's go."



The Yanging Project

Outside Beijing, China


The eerie rugged mountains seemed to loom for thousands of miles, giving a look of antiquity to the area. Among the almost fairy-tale-like rocks and trees was a large ancient building, its ornate spires reaching for the sky and paying homage to the great builders of the past who were somehow able to incorporate this piece of timeless treasure with the landscape. The ancient oriental temple rested against the side of one of the steeper mountainsides, the only apparent access being a marble-like rock-hewn staircase that gradually descended in a spiral to the canyon floor. From the entrance of the great temple, one would never know that it was possible to land a helicopter on its doorstep.


A small group of men were led through the main entrance and down the long corridors to the great hall. The hall, once the center of worship in this building, had been redecorated and converted into a private and very large bathing room especially designed for one person. The décor matched the age of the building. Ancient red and gold colors filled the room along with jade and midnight blue. Ornate statues and vases lined the great hall. For all intents and purposes, it looked as if an emperor or empress had seized the temple and made it his or her home.


In a way, an empress had. Rising from the large bathing pool as the men entered the room, the new owner of the temple greeted them with a nod, unaffected by her lack of clothing in front of them. She motioned for a robe from a waiting servant, who quickly and obediently brought one to her and helped her into it. Tying the robe around her tall elegant frame, she approached the men who came for her attention.


“Gentlemen, I am pleased that you could make it,” she greeted them with words at last. “I hope that your journey here was amicable.”


One of the men took a step toward her. He was a short man but his demeanor showed that he wasn’t the kind of person to cross swords with. His appearance in every way told that he was as Chinese as the building in which he now stood and was as proud of his heritage as were the ancestors who built the temple. At the moment, he seemed wary of the woman in front of him.


“Miss Lothoman,” he said firmly. “We have not come for pleasure. This is strictly business. We want to know where the funds we have invested are being used and we want to know now. Your father may have left you enough to purchase this land but it is we who stand to lose if results are not produced.” He lowered his eyelids as he finished. “I hope that you will not disappoint us. It would be… bad business.”


Tala Lothoman smiled widely at his words. “Have I yet disappointed you, Mr. Yong? Haven’t you seen growths in all of your business because of our shared interest in this project?”


“They are negligible,” Yong told her plainly. “We have yet to see growths in this area of our business. If you cannot produce the results that we require, we shall have to remove our interests in this project.” He took another step towards her. “It would be wise, Tala, not to disappoint us. We are not forgiving men.”


‘How typically Hollywood,’ Tala thought as she silently huffed at his words. "Triads. Can't live with them, can't fulfill my father's legacy without their money."


“I have no intention of persuading you to remove your interests,” she told Yong plainly. “In fact, I was planning on securing your interests indefinitely.” Strolling to a pedestal to the right of the bathing pool, she raised an ornate brass bell and rang it for only a second. Within thirty seconds, every exit from the room was blocked by the contingent of armed guards that surrounded Tala and the Triad investors.


“Please take our guests downstairs and convince them to hand over all of their assets to us,” she told the head guard who came to her side. She smiled at Yong. “As much as I appreciate your generous contributions to the project, I need far, far more to achieve my goals. You see, there are so many expenses and I’ve used all that you have given this project in just building this complex and procuring the personnel. I still need funds to build the computer and the accelerator. And since you have placed a cap on those funds…” she shook her head, “… you’ve left me no choice but to take them from you with or without your consent. I’m sure, though, that after a few hours with our quite skilled torture masters that you will give not only your consent but will also beg for your own deaths.”


“This is insane!” one of the other investors protested. “You can’t possibly think that you will succeed in this. If you do anything to us, we will be avenged by our families.”


Tala slapped him hard. “Your families are all dead by now! Do you think me a fool? Do you think that I would honestly allow a blood war to even be started between us? You can’t have a blood war if there are no soldiers to fight, old man!” He moved to throttle her but was abruptly stopped by a guard.


“Well? What are you waiting for?” she bellowed at the guards and then flicked her hand towards the exit. She watched as the men were forcibly taken out of the room and listened with amusement to their threats against her, knowing that there was nothing to keep her from her destiny to follow in her father’s footsteps and create a new world … with her as its empress.




It was a long, unbelievable tale he told. His even voice carried on into the early hours of the morning in her suite, and she found herself unable to speak or reply. Siren's emotions swung wildly during the telling of the fantastic story from numb shock, to angry disbelief, to teary anguish. Near the end she simply absorbed it all with an eerie detachment as if she listened from an out of body experience. At one point, she wondered about her sanity of allowing this stranger in her suite.


Finally, when his tale came to its unsatisfying end she had this weird notion that if she simply kept him here within her sight, none of what he said would happen, none of it would be true. She wanted a happy ending. This Beckett/Bell persona was a compelling speaker.


"I . . . I don't know what to say," she said. Rising on wobbly legs she stepped to the small bar for support. The water decanter rattled against the rim of the crystal glass and gave away her nervousness. She could never accept the role he said she played in upcoming events. "I can't see me doing any of that. I can't see Tala as a murderer."


She turned to face him and leaned against the bar. The eyes that regarded her showed sympathy and deep sadness. She could tell that he understood her reluctance to believe him. Siren turned it around in her mind and put herself in his shoes. Was there anything he could possibly say that would make her believe?


The man rubbed his eyes wearily and hung his head. He looked like a drowning man ready to give in to his watery grave. Suddenly, his head snapped up and to the side. His eyes fixed on something she couldn't see. He rose and stood, head bowed as if reading something. Concentration and weariness furrowed his brow. His lips moved, quietly speaking, and occasionally he pointed at something immediately in front of him and nodded.


Siren swore he was talking to someone and reading some invisible missive. Fatigue and shock staid her feet and she simply watched, the bar her only physical connection to reality. She heard snatches of his one-sided conversation and recognized the language of computer code. How he could possibly remember what he was saying made her pause. Eidetic memory? She smiled sickly. Siren was oddly comforted to find something in common with this unsettling man.


"Writing paper?"


His voice made her blink and focus. "Uh, yeah." She found hotel stationery in the writing desk. He moved in next to her and his hand began to fly over the blankness and fill it with figures, almost too rapidly for her tired eyes to follow.  He filled all the sheets; both front and back, then paused as he scanned for more. He grabbed the paperback book on the desk and held it up.




She nodded. He pressed it open and began to scribble in the margins. When he was finally finished, he folded the stationery papers and tucked them inside the book. Carefully, he pressed the book closed and laid both hands flat on the cover as if the book was the only thing keeping him on his feet. He bit his lip and angled his face towards her.


"Keep this and read it. It will look familiar when you eventually see what's in here." He patted the metal case attached to his wrist. They barely noticed it anymore. The cold hardness clinging to him had become a part of their existence. "What I've written will change everything. In theory, anyway." His smile was weak with weariness.


"Because you know what's in there, right?" She indicated the case.


"I wrote it." He stood up and stretched his back. "When you read this," he tapped the paperback, "and compare it to what's in this case, I hope it will be enough to believe me." He looked at her with sorry eyes. "But I can't take that chance that it will be enough. I need to do one more thing, but you need to trust me."


Siren felt the zing of fear tickle her limbs as she acknowledged the fight-or-flight syndrome that overcame her. It took a lot to keep her feet planted firmly in the carpet. She swallowed hard. "What?" she whispered.


Sam motioned for her to sit on the small couch and he sat next to her, careful to leave space between them. She saw that he fought the urge to take her hands and forced his own hands to relax in his lap. "I'm asking you to betray your sister. I'm trying to convince you she's a monster. If I were in your place I'd want some concrete proof. I'm not sure how concrete you'd call it, but I think I can offer something if you'll let me. It would involve some hypnosis. Self hypnosis," he added quickly. He explained alpha and theta brainwaves and how it was highly possible she could see his holographic Observer if those brainwaves could be altered through hypnosis. There was an awkward silence after his explanation.


"You are doing all this to save one person," she said.


"He would do the same for me. He's done more, actually," Sam replied. "I can do this without touching you. Dr. Beeks is going to help me."


"Beeks," Siren repeated, trying to place the name in the myriad of names she'd heard this night. "The staff shrink in this Project of yours."


Sam smiled. "Yes. You ready?"


Siren settled back in the couch and wondered if she would simply fall asleep instead. That wouldn't be too hard to do right now. Sam's voice was telling her to relax and concentrate on her breathing as well as what she could feel against her skin. The city noises outside became obvious as she focused her awareness. Just as she became acutely aware of every sensation surrounding her, his steady voice told her to disregard each sensation one by one. It was like walking through a house and shutting off the lights in each room as she left it; soon she saw herself standing in a dark hallway filled with his voice. He told her to imagine a white wall at the end of the corridor. She saw it clearly.


"Walk slowly toward it in your mind," he said. "I'm standing there. Open your eyes, Siren."


She hadn't realized her eyes were closed. She was so focused on this all-encompassing vision, like a blank movie screen, that all else was gone. She marveled at the acute focus; she felt more aware than ever! When she opened her eyes she saw kind, hazel eyes looking back at her from a handsome face lined in sadness. A shock of grey hair fell from a full head of brown. Paul Bell was nowhere to be seen, but this face she knew from the cover of Time magazine and other articles she had read.


"It's you," she whispered. A motion off to the side made her eyes move. Next to him were the same kind eyes in a woman's face. This other woman's outline was fuzzy and Siren realized she could see right through her. Instinctively Siren reached out to touch the ghostly figure but her hand passed right through. The Observer glanced down at Siren's hand and grinned as her hazel eyes warmed with humor.  Siren knew there was no way she could imagine this. The shock of it made her mind race and lose its focus.


The Observer disappeared and the figure of Paul Bell watched Siren from the couch.

"Whoa!" Siren yelped suddenly very awake. She leaped to her feet, her heart thudding like a runaway horse. "What the hell?!" She backed away and almost gave in to flight.


Mr. Bell ducked his head tiredly and stood. "I have to go. I have to deliver this." To Siren, the metal case seemed like a curse inflicted on this tortured soul. "There's one more thing that may convince you. I want you to remember a name. There's no way Paul Bell would know the significance of this name in your parent's history. The name is Alia."


"Alia?" Siren repeated breathlessly. "She was involved with my parent's project. That's documented."


He smiled sadly and moved to the door to leave. Dawn was beginning to show itself with the growing pastels of the sky outside the picture window.  "Yes, I know. But what I'm sure isn't documented is the fact that she's free, and that I freed her. Thanks to Alia being free, I was able to destroy Lothos." The pain in his voice told her this was something he wasn't proud of; it hung on his soul like dead weight. "It was necessary. I took no joy in it."


"So you killed my mother and father?"


"No, I didn't kill your mother. I tried to save her." He opened the door and stepped into the hallway. "And I think your father was long gone before I dealt with him. I've given you all I can, Siren. You need to choose your path, and I'm telling you that one path leads into darkness. Avoid it."


"And maybe your friend can be saved?"


Sam smiled. "Maybe." His eyes told her 'that's up to you.'



Tom Beckett couldn't believe this place. Here it was the middle of the night, and the phone and intercom were constantly nagging him. He'd barely made a dent in the paperwork that teetered on the edge of his desk and the trashcan was overflowing. "This place makes the Navy look lazy," he mumbled as he slapped the wristcom calling to him. It still felt like a pit bull dangling from his arm; would he ever get used to it?


"Yes?" he said to his wrist. He knew he was speaking too loud again when he didn't get an instant response.


"Commander Beckett? Can I see you a moment?" the female voice sounded tired.


Tom had no idea who it was on the other end and frowned as he ran a list of likely suspects through his mind. "Uh, sure, Dr. Fuller."


"I'll be right there." The com clicked off.


‘Well, that's one rabbit out of my hat,’ the Co-Administrator thought with the lucky guess. Tom rubbed his tired eyes. "Ziggy, where can I get some coffee?" Getting used to speaking to no one was proving to be the biggest challenge.


"From the coffee maker, where else?" snapped Ziggy in response. "Do I look like a secretary?"


"Well, actually, you sound too sexy for any secretary I ever dealt with." Tom replied without hesitation. He'd learned from the Navy that showing uncertainty to your staff or the enemy could be construed as a sign of weakness, and he intended to get this glorified computer's respect one way or another. Competence in paperwork and excellent people skills weren't cutting it, so he made the instant decision to go right for the ego. "Whose idea was your voice, anyway? My brother's?"


"Dr. Beckett originally programmed a male voice," Ziggy sniffed disdainfully. "Admiral Calavicci suggested a female voice. He said the staff would respond better to this voice." The parallel hybrid computer actually sounded sad. "I miss the Admiral." Now she sounded downright gloomy.


Tom's mouth opened to reply, but he found he couldn't figure out what to say. The switch in Ziggy's tone had caught him off guard. ‘She sounds just like Catherine,’ and was disturbed that a computer would remind him of his daughter. He was relieved to hear the tap on his office door. "Come in, please!" He almost begged. The door swooshed open and he turned towards it and came face to face with his brother's eyes.


"Commander," the woman stopped and extended her hand. "We haven't met yet. I'm . . ."


"Dr. Samantha Josephine Fuller," Tom finished for her as he took her hand. "Please call me Tom. You are my niece after all." He indicated she sit on the overstuffed chair as he sank back into his desk chair. "This has been one of the more memorable days in my life," he said. "What makes it even more weird if the fact that if we're successful, this whole experience will never happen."


Sammy Jo laughed but Tom could tell she was nervous. "It does take some getting used to." She looked at him and smiled shyly. "I'm really glad to finally meet you, though."


"Me too, even though I only found out about you a few hours ago. How long have you known that Sam was your father?"


"It's been a little over three years."


"Does Stephen know?"


"Yeah. He's a great kid. Tiring, but a great kid."


It was Tom's turn to laugh. "He's just like his dad, alright. Sam used to drive us nuts with his questions. I don't see how Donna does it all."

He rubbed his eyes. "Ok, what's up? Did you just leave Sam?"


"Yeah. I showed him the altered code and he seemed to think it would work. I think he convinced Siren to help him, too." She unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn. "Tina, Donna and St. John are catching some sleep. We figure we have a little time before the shit hits the fan. Oh. Sorry." She covered her mouth with her hand and blushed.


"Believe me, I've heard worse," Tom chortled. "Don't worry about it. I think you'd better get some rest, too, but would you be kind enough to show me where the coffee is?"



The taxi ride back to his hotel wasn't even enough to stave off sleep.  When the driver roused Sam they were already at the hotel. Wearily, Sam threw the man some money and crawled from the back seat. The morning sun peeked over the horizon and right into his eyes. He screwed up his face and turned his back to it as he entered the hotel to the sound of the taxi tearing off.


Sam recovered his uniform and his wits and managed to commandeer a breakfast on a cart for the return to his room. When he got there, the guards gave his a quick once over. They looked as fresh as they did the previous evening, and Sam held his breath. They missed the metal case under the stack of tablecloths in the bottom of the cart. Sam had to knock on the door hard twice before the door cracked open.


The sleepy waiter didn't say a word as he accepted the uniform jacket and pants. Sam saw that the television was still on in the living room area, and that the opulent bed was mussed up. ‘At least someone's had some decent rest!’ he thought. Sam could see the hint of a smile on the waiter's lips as he rolled the empty cart to the door. Just before he stepped outside, Sam saw him wink and smile. Then he felt a familiar tingle, and the world around him faded away just as the no nonsense face of a newscaster on the government weather station predicted a severe storm hitting the Beijing area within the next 24 hours.




It felt like Sam had stepped across a dark abyss and was now teetering on the edge of a bottomless void. His stomach twisted and he felt nauseous; instinct made his arms fly out as he sought balance.


"Oh, baby, I must have accidentally pulled off your ring." The sultry voice dissolved into a hoarse giggle that told Sam there was no accident involved. He felt hot breath in an ear and a tug on the earlobe. The tug turned into pain as his lobe was nipped, and the pain brought his new world into instant focus. He felt warm, moist lips trail from his throbbing ear to the back of his neck.


He tensed, cold fear freezing his flight.


"Your heart is racing like scared rabbit," the silky voice whispered before it dissolved into a frightening low laugh. "I guess you liked that." Sam felt a hand slip across his bare chest. The tingling of his left nipple indicated where the hand had just been.


Eyes wide in dread, Sam slowly looked down and saw that his host's shirt was unbuttoned to the waist, the tails tucked into impossibly tight black leather pants. A well manicured woman's hand dragged her excessively long red nails lightly over his bare chest as it left the vulnerable opening in his shirt. He felt the press of her body against his back and he responded with a shiver of goose bumps. The woman laughed lowly again and dragged her palm along the outside of his shirt diagonally downward where the wayward hand came around and joined its mate behind Sam, each one firmly claiming its part of Sam's buttocks. The unseen woman pressed her ample breasts into his back as she squeezed each buttock possessively. He jumped and twisted around as she released him.


With a throaty laugh the woman stepped back and adjusted her hair with her hands. "Oh, my man, I wish we had the time." The statement was hissed through her teeth as she smiled a wolf-like smile. She wore a tight, black daringly short skirt and a long jacket that accented impressive cleavage. She wore no blouse under the jacket. "But my sister is on her way up and I want you to escort her in here. Button up your shirt so you don't look like the gigolo you are." The woman turned her back on him and the tack-tack-tacking sound of her heels on the hard floor brought Sam to life. He tore his eyes away from the form that swayed under the form-fitting suit.


He gratefully buttoned the shirt. His shaking hands made the task difficult but he persevered. The cover was welcome to the cold chill he felt standing in this room, which was constructed with stones shiny with age. A tapestry on one wall merely suggested at warmth but the notion was as faded as the woven picture of ancient, bloody battle. Sam saw that the lead horseman in the battle scene held a severed head aloft as a talisman for his troops to follow.


Suddenly he felt chilled to the bone. The woman now stood behind her desk looking down at some mail. She picked up a stiletto letter opener and one of the envelopes, and slashed it open with a flick of her wrist. The bloody red fingernails flashed like wielded weapons with the motion. For a moment, Sam expected to see arterial blood spurt from the sliced envelope. She looked up at him through her long, dark lashes. One corner of her mouth twisted into a grin as she worked. "I'll find time later, Troy-boy. I do have a new toy to show you." Her wink made Sam catch his breath. "Now go meet our guest and bring her up." The tone was as dismissive as her sudden focus on the correspondence in front of her. Sam took a step back, feeling like he'd just been tossed out like yesterday's trash.


He blinked and remembered to breathe. "Um, yeah. Yes, m'am."


The woman, however, seemed to had forgotten he was there. Sam scampered from the room and the massive, carved wood door closed with a firm and secure thud. He felt like he'd leaped to another planet; he'd never felt so alien to a place in his life, or what he could remember of it anyway.


Sam exhaled sharply to calm his nerves and glanced around the room. It was as cold feeling as the one he just left. A small desk was to his side, the top of it unnaturally neat. His eyes caught a framed picture on the wall behind the desk and he stepped to it in hopes of seeing his reflection. The picture behind the glass startled him for a moment; an ancient painting depicted a man and a woman in a sex act. Both were dressed in rich, flowing robes of ancient times. The woman held a black whip. The style of the print hinted at its age and a term jumped to his mind.


"Kama Sutra." As he whispered the words Sam felt his face grow hot. He immediately refocused his eyes to the glass where he saw a brooding face looking back at him. His host had short, black spiked hair, dark, wide eyes and an edgy looking goatee that joined his mustache and framed firm lips.


He stepped back from the glass and appraised his torso in the reflection. It was lean and well muscled. The white shirt was just body hugging enough to push the envelope of business-like. He looked down and picked at the leather pants, suddenly very aware of how form fitting they were. "Jeeze, I am a gigolo!" he said through clenched teeth.


The pants had no pockets to interfere with the designer's lines. Sam pulled open the desk drawer and found a black leather pouch, inside of which he found a passport along with other papers. He flipped the passport open and the goateed face and smoldering brown eyes confirmed he was Troy Allan Webster. He flipped through the numerous Visa stamps and deduced the latest one to be in Chinese.


"I'm in China?" The question was rhetorical. The rooms he'd seen so far suggested nothing but, so he wasn't surprised; he was shocked. Sam instantly felt very alone.  He glanced again at the desk and saw the desk calendar that thankfully had the dates crossed out.  The last one that wasn’t marked read:  September 15, 2001.  Further down on the calendar, September 30 was circled with words written in red ink:  “Mtg with Australian Members for office in Melbourne.”  He tapped it, shook his head and sighed.  He dropped the pouch and passport and thought about the woman behind the heavy door.


Suddenly, he felt like prey and the ancient door between them didn't seem nearly heavy enough.


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico


"Dr. Beckett has leaped."


The silky voice penetrated Sammy Jo's groggy brain as she hugged her pillow tighter. "Ten more minutes," the scientist mumbled.


"I don't have a snooze button," Ziggy snapped.


Sammy Jo winced. "All right, all ready." She forced her legs over the edge of the bed and tiredly swayed upright, pillow in her lap. "I'm up." She forced her eyes open and yawned. "Where is he?"


"If you mean Dr. Beckett, I don't know. If you mean the Visitor, try the Waiting Room."


"Aren't we surly this morning," Sammy Jo said as she stood. She rubbed her eyes and looked for her shoes. "I'm on my way."


By the time she got to the Waiting Room, Sammy Jo was much more alert thanks to the steaming mug of coffee in her hand. She stepped into the observation area where she saw Dr. Beeks' back through the one-way glass. Sammy Jo paused and watched the psychiatrist deal with the Dr. Beckett's latest host.


On first impression the Visitor seemed to be aggressive. All she could really see were his Fermi-suit clad arms because Beeks was standing between them, but when she stood aside, Sammy Jo realized the aggressive movement was a front. The guy was terrified. It was very clear in his eyes, even through her father's aura.


Sammy Jo sipped her coffee. The Visitor she saw wasn't that bad looking, but kinda creepy. The goatee made him seem vaguely evil. ‘Nice shoulders,’ she thought appreciatively. ‘He obviously works out.’ Her eyes fell to his chest and she choked on the mouthful of coffee. A nipple ring! She could see a nipple ring outlined against the snug Fermi-suit!


"Good Lord!" After she caught her breath she began to giggle, and was just managing to control it when Beeks got him settled and stepped into the room.


"Nice," Verbena said. "He's more in control than you are." Her voice was tinged in humor.


"I'm sorry," Sammy Jo replied, wiping her eyes. "I don't think dad's gonna be too comfortable on this one!"


Verbena glanced through the glass. The Visitor was lying on the bed, tense as a bowstring. "He is interesting and is rather resentful of me," she admitted. "I think the aggressiveness is how he handles pressure. In fact, he's rather submissive. Dr. Beckett can use that and do just fine. One problem, though."


Sammy Jo was immediately sober. "Why don't I like the sound of that?"


"I'm sure it's temporary, but he can't remember his name. In fact, I would bet my degree that he has hysterical amnesia."


"Oh, great." Sammy Jo sank into a convenient overstuffed chair. "How are we going to find dad?"


Dr. Beeks raised her wrist com to her mouth. Before she called the co-administrator she tried to calm her friend. "Give him a little time, Sammy Jo. I think things will come along." She activated the com. "Commander Beckett? Ready for the latest?"



Siren tried not to fidget and keep worked at keeping an appearance of cool detachment. The entry to Tala's property was impressive, and the wind-whipped leading edge of an approaching storm seemed fitting to the mood of the place. She'd known it was an old monastery, but the ancientness of it was sudden reality. The thought of awakening some sort of Chinese dragon of terror came to her, and she shuddered.


The alcove appeared cold because of the stonework and lack of textiles to soften the appearance. She stood alone. The driver had escorted her to the alcove and departed. ‘Fled, more like it.’ Siren thought as she began to notice some details in the room. A small, illuminated niche drew her attention and she wandered over. In the niche were several carved ivory pieces. She picked one up and looked closely at it, then quickly set it down when she realized it depicted a couple engaging in a sex act.


"Good grief," she muttered, drawing her canvas tote closer to her body. She slipped her hand in the tote and fingered the book that had been defaced just hours ago by Paul Bell. Or Sam Beckett. Although she wasn't sure she bought his story, touching the notes he had written gave her some comfort. ‘Follow my gut instinct,’ she told herself. The sound of footsteps changed her focus to an arched doorway on one side of the alcove just as a figure stepped into view.


Siren's first thought when she saw the man made her blush. When she noticed his nervousness she chided herself for making a judgment based on appearance. She would have felt sorry for him, but the goatee and spiky hair made him seem unapproachable. His eyes, which seemed to belong to a lost boy, were the only soft things about him and she decided to center her attention on that part of him.


"Uh, I'm, um, Troy." The man stood in front of her like a nervous cat and wrung his hands shakily.  "I'm supposed to take you to, I mean, up." He waved his hand vaguely in the direction he came from. He didn't meet her eyes directly.


"OK, lead away." She smiled to try and set him at ease. "My name is Siren."


When she said her name, the man's head jerked up and his eyes connected with hers for few seconds. He frowned. "We . . . haven't met before?" His tone was that of someone searching his memory.


Something in his eyes jolted her. They looked familiar, but the feeling passed quickly. "Ah, no. I don't think so," she stammered. "Tala's this way?" She stepped past him towards the archway. He didn't follow right away. He seemed stunned into motionlessness.


"Um. Tala. Yes." Finally he seemed to pull himself together and lead the way.


Siren followed the nervous, if odd-looking, man as he led her down a long corridor and through a large set of mahogany doors which led into what looked like a very fancily decorated receptionist’s area. While the man asked her to wait for a moment and went to the next door to announce her, Siren looked around with a slight frown. The room was quite lovely, filled with those same rich, of faded jade, gold and red colors. But what caused her to frown was that at least two of the walls had depictions of sexual acts, both of them bordering on the sadomasochistic side. ‘What have you got yourself into this time, Siren?’ she thought as the man motioned her to go ahead of him into the next room.


Tala’s office was huge compared to what Siren might see in any ordinary office building. But, then again, she wasn’t in an office building but rather an ancient monastery. She watched as the tall elegant woman approached her with a smile so wide that one might think that Siren’s arrival here was a surprise. Siren returned the smile as her sister took her hand and then hugged her. For some reason that she couldn’t put her finger on, Siren suddenly understood why the cab driver had fled from this place. There was something very… eerie about her twin.


‘So, this is my long lost twin sister,’ Siren thought as she noted Tala’s form and her tight fitting and very sexy outfit. ‘She dresses like a hussy. Or maybe a… dominatrix. What have I walked into?’ Still, this was a family reunion and Siren was going to try to keep an open mind, even if the scrawled equations in her paperback book were almost begging to be read.


“Siren, darling, it is so good to finally meet you,” Tala told her with a lilt in her voice. “I’d heard rumors that I had a twin sister somewhere and they couldn’t be more right.” She held Siren’s shoulders and looked at her at length. “It’s like looking into a mirror.”


Siren smiled at her greeting. “I’m glad to meet you finally as well, Tala. I’m sure we have many stories to share during my stay.”


Tala’s eyes gleamed at that. “Oh, yes. I’m sure that we do.” She took a breath and, as if it just occurred to her, spoke again. “I have dinner being prepared as we speak but, for now, we must sit and get acquainted. After all, it isn’t every day that you meet your only living family person to person.” She raised her head. “Troy, dear, be so kind as to fetch something to drink for us. Perhaps a little wine before dinner?” she suggested to Siren, but didn’t give her a chance to reply as she gave Sam further instructions. “The best bottle in the cellar, Troy.” It seemed as if she were holding back a last order, something to the extent of “and be quick about it.”


As Sam was leaving the large office/boudoir, he heard Tala beckon her sister to sit so that they could talk. He was a little grateful for the chance to get away from that woman. He could still feel the tingling sensation on his nipple. Based on her words and gestures and the paintings and pictures that Sam seemed to find throughout the building, it was becoming clear to him that Tala and Troy had a less than equal sexual relationship. He shook his head and started out of the receptionist’s area to go find the wine that had been ordered, even though he hadn’t the faintest idea where in the mammoth structure to find it.


Within only five minutes, Sam was well on the way to being completely lost. “Where the hell is this cellar that she was talking about?” he muttered to himself, looking around for any clues to help him. “If Al would just hurry up and get here, he could just ask Ziggy and…”


It felt as if someone had just hit him in the stomach with an aluminum baseball bat. Sam suddenly found it hard to breathe as he leaned against a wall, tears threatening to spill from his eyes. Al’s… “Dead,” he whispered, finishing the thought aloud. “Sammy Jo said that he was tortured to death by someone named…” He straightened quickly as the memory of that conversation from his previous leap returned. Turning his head in the direction from which he came, his mind finished his sentence. ‘Tala. That woman in that room with her twin sister murdered Al!’ He literally had to hold onto a wall lantern to keep from rushing back to throttle the woman.


‘You have to calm down, Sam,’ he thought. Was it just his imagination but did his thought suddenly seem like Al’s voice right then. ‘You aren’t going to do anyone any good by reacting in an irrational manner.’


 “Right,” he answered himself. “I’ll just have to play this through until Sammy Jo comes in and tells me what I have to put right as Troy Allan Webster.” But first… he needed to find that wine cellar.


Forcing himself to put his personal feelings to the side, Sam continued in his search until he noticed a couple of people going into what appeared to be a kitchen. Following them in, he received a glaring look from one of the chefs there.


“What do you want, whore boy?” the chef spat at him.


‘Oh, boy. I’m getting the feeling that it isn’t a secret that Troy is this Tala’s gigolo.’  He swallowed.  “Tala wants some wine for her guest. She said to get the best bottle we have,” Sam replied.


The chef huffed at his answer and walked to a door on the other side of the kitchen. He disappeared through the door and then returned with a bottle in hand. Then, with quick precision, he laid out a small tray, placed a cloth napkin on it and set the bottle on the tray along with two wine glasses and a corkscrew.


Giving the tray to Sam, he told him bluntly, “We only have one bottle being chilled right now and it’s for dinner. Just make it sound like a special thing and Tala won’t rip off anymore from below your belt.” Sam flushed at that, not sure that he wanted to know the details on what the chef meant by that.


“Uh, thanks,” Sam murmured, leaving the kitchen with the tray and headed back towards the mammoth office/boudoir he had left several minutes before. If anything, he was more certain now than ever that he wanted to get this leap over with and get the hell out of Dodge, as it were.



Verbena Beeks was frustrated, and it fascinated Donna. She'd never seen her like that. As the staff psychiatrist, Dr. Beeks was always the picture of professionalism and efficiency. She ran the Waiting Room like her own personal practice, which for all intensive purposes, it was.


When Donna entered the observation area Beeks had her arms across her chest and swore that the attractive African American was tapping her foot in annoyance. The foot motion stopped as soon as the door opened but not quickly enough; Donna had to hold back a smirk. Beeks was human after all!


Donna cleared her throat and stood by her friend for several silent moments. The man on the other side of the one-way glass was pacing the room, but not in a hysterical manner but in a calm, consistent rhythm that seemed to soothe him: eight paces, turn, eight paces, turn, and showing no sign of stopping.  The two women's heads followed like they were watching a slow motion tennis match.


"He hasn't said anything?" Donna finally inquired.


"Oh, he's said some stuff, all right." Beeks sighed to release tightness in her voice. "Not a lot, but he's made his position clear."




They watched the man make a couple more passes in the room.


"So, you called me to tell me what he said?"


Verbena looked thoughtful and didn't really answer the question. "You know, I've never had this problem before. Not here, anyway. I did during my internship, but I had all the time in the world to deal with the one case I came across and I eventually got my way. We're on a deadline here, though, and I think we need to try something unorthodox."


"This whole place is unorthodox, Verbena. You know that. What exactly is the problem?"


"He's a misogynist with tendencies to obsession-compulsion disorder. He simply won't talk to me because I'm female. Won't talk to Sammy Jo, either. The hysterical amnesia comes from the OCD; he's been taken from his comfort zone, and he's only seen females here. I'm not really sure what he knows or doesn't know. I'd say he's as on the edge as he can be and a prime candidate for a melt down of some kind. If Dr. Beckett doesn't get this information he's going to stick out like a sore thumb with his behavior, and if we don't get the information from this guy before he has a breakdown, I don't think we will for a long, long while."


Donna nodded. "I see your point. What is it you want to try?"


"I want to send in Commander Beckett. You are most familiar with him, and I just wanted your approval and your opinion."


There was a moment of thoughtful silence. "We don't have much choice, do we?" Donna finally replied quietly. "I think Tom will be all right. He knows what's at stake."



Tom Beckett was walking cautiously down a hall somewhere in the area of his office. "At least ships have marks on the bulkhead to tell you where you are," he grumbled quietly.


"You are on level 14, hallway 2 C, 15 meters from the intersection of 3 C."


Tom glared at the ceiling. "You hear everything, don't you?"


"Yes. And don't forget that," Ziggy replied smugly.


"So where does 3 C end up?"


"Where are you trying to go?"


"Why should I tell you?"

"Why should I help you?"


Tom stopped and rolled his eyes. "When did I end up in Kindergarten again?"


"What do you mean by that?"


"Never mind. Just tell me how to get to the Archive Room."




Mouth open, Tom pulled himself to his full height and scowled at the ceiling. "No? Why not?"


"Because Dr. Beeks wants you at the Waiting Room. She'll meet you in the hallway outside. Can you find that, Commander Beckett?" The condescending tone was not lost on Tom.


"I will, thank you very much. Tell her I'm on my way." He spun on his heel and retraced his steps, noticing that Ziggy didn't bother to reply. He found Dr. Beeks rather quickly and she gave him the rundown on the Visitor.


"We need his name the date when Sam leaped into him. Where he was would be nice, too, as well as his role there. It may not be too easy for you, Tom, but if you play into his woman-hating and aggressive tendencies you may be more successful; I think he's all bluff. Don't show weakness. Oh, and if you see through Sam's aura again, you may be a little surprised by his appearance. Our Visitor is sort of a cross between 'punk' and 'Goth'."


"Great. Thanks for the heads up. I'll see what I can get." Tom nodded and took a deep breath.  This job was a lot more varied in duties than I ever could have imagined. I certainly won't be bored!’ he thought.


He stepped into the Waiting Room carrying himself with full Military bearing and locked his eyes onto the Visitor's within seconds of the door closing. "Who are you?" he immediately demanded in his Commander voice.


The Visitor stopped in his tracks, his eyes smoldering. He, too, drew himself up to his full height. He didn't physically measure up to the man in front of him but didn't retreat. "Why the hell should I tell you?" he snapped in reply.


The very slight tremor of his hands didn't escape Tom's notice and he knew the man was testing him. Without missing a beat he stepped right up to his face and told him, "I'm the guy that's gonna pound the crap out of you if you don't tell me your name and the date right now."


The Visitor appeared to deflate in front of the Commander and immediately spilled his guts with out a trace of amnesia. He seemed relieved to do so.




When the door to the Imaging Chamber opened Sammy Jo realized instantly that the noise caught her father completely off guard. He jumped like a frightened gazelle and his panicked gasp didn't escape her.


"Oh, sorry, dad. I should have . . . are you all right?"


He was frozen with his back against the wall and his hand against his chest. It took a moment for his eyes to clear. "Yeah," he finally said. "Yeah. I just . . . I'm just on edge. What do you have? Where is this place?"


Sammy Jo noted his anxiety and spoke in a calm, professional voice. "Your name is Troy Webster, and you are the personal assistant to Tala Lothoman. You are in a position to stop her from murdering the Admiral. Now for the hard part." Her father's eyes grew bigger, and he remained pressed against the wall. "It seems this Troy guy has a . . . unique . . . position in this project, dad. In his own, warped way, he loves Tala. They have a twisted relationship."


Sam paled. Sammy Jo continued in a calm tone, her heart breaking at his frailty.


"Troy is also a woman hater and a masochist. Tala's physical prowess and dominance over Troy is what he likes. You can't show one hint that you are working with Siren, or Tala will flip out. Killing you isn't beyond her. And by the way, on your previous leap, you told Siren everything about you and the Project, and she has the program in her possession that should fix this. You gave it to her, but she has to believe you before she will implement it. " Sammy Jo paused.


"I can't . . . " Sam's voice wavered and stopped.


"Dad. You have to. And Dr. Beeks says that in recent leaps your mind has magnafluxed with your hosts' in a stronger manner. You may have more of a connection with Troy than you want or need. You have to be aware of it and work around it. That's where your hesitation is coming from, dad. You understand? You have to fight it."


Sammy Jo could see the mental battle her father was waging and had to fight to keep from consoling him. She had to be the strong one; it was a lesson she'd learned from Al.


Finally, Sam swallowed hard and stood on his own two wobbly feet. "OK," he said meekly. His hands clenched and unclenched. In a stronger voice, he said, "I understand."


"I'm going to get more information for you, so I'll be back. Try and make a connection with Siren. Tell her who you are. Hopefully, some of your Swiss cheese will fill in when you speak with her, but like I said, she has all she needs in programming notes. OK?" She got a nod in acknowledgement. "All right, then. I'll check back in a little bit, dad."


With a confidant punch at the handlink, Sammy Jo closed the connection between them and stepped from the Imaging Chamber. Donna was waiting in the hall.


"I guess it wasn't a good time to tell Sam that Troy Webster nearly kills three women a couple of years from his time." She spoke softly as she fell into step with Sammy Jo.


"I think dad has enough to deal with right now," Sammy Jo sighed. "You know? This Observer job is a lot more complicated than the Admiral ever let on."


Donna couldn't help but smile. "He was more flexible than he let on, that's for sure."


"I miss him."


"Join the club."



Waiting for a moment when Siren was alone took longer than Sam expected. His nervousness and feelings of panic made the time pass even more slowly. He managed to find a 'to-do' list in Troy's precise handwriting and busied himself with looking like he knew what he was doing. His mind grew a little more organized and less emotional with the mindless duties, and he found he was curious as to who was funding Tala; that may be another approach.


Although Tala kept a majority of that information in her personal files, Sam was able to come up with a couple of names. He found them on Tala's meeting schedule, which Troy kept on an organized calendar. Sam was committing the last of the names to memory when he heard lively conversation punctuated with the staccato clip of high-heeled shoes. Tala and Siren, chuckling at a private joke between them, entered Sam's office area and paused.


Sam had to admit that the Tala he saw now was completely innocuous. The edgy, dangerous woman he saw earlier was nowhere to be seen.


"Ah, my man Troy. My sister, Siren's agreed to stay with us awhile, starting now. The storm outside wouldn't allow for a cab, anyway, so the timing is perfect." She left Siren's side and moved to her office door. "When the weather allows, get her things over here from the hotel, will you?"


"Sure." Sam nodded. The lack of a response made him glance up into his boss's eyes. He saw fire quickly extinguished, and how the smile on her face was forced to stay in place. He could tell it was an effort for her to keep her voice light.


"You are a dear." He knew that's not what she was thinking. "Now, show her the computer facilities. There's some code there for her to look over. I'll expect you in my office in an hour."


"Yes, m'am," Sam mumbled nervously.


Tala turned her fixed smile to Siren. "Troy will show you the lab and then your room. This will be so fun! I'll see you at dinner, then, so you can have some time to relax."


Sam moved to Siren's side and indicated that they exit the office. Luckily there was only one door out, as he had no clue where the lab was. He just wanted to escape Tala. He dreaded returning in an hour.


He chewed his lip as they moved down the hall, his mind racing. Siren followed obediently, looking curiously around. After several turns that ended up in dead end hallways, she regarded him with suspicious eyes.


"Do you know where you're going?" she said finally.


"What? Oh, sure. We're going . . . um," he took her elbow and opened the next door. "Here." He pulled her inside and fumbled for the light, then put himself between her and the exit. "I have to talk to you. It's important."


Siren glanced around the tiny conference room/storage room. There wasn't a computer in sight. Her face took on a confused expression.


"I'm not Troy Webster. I mean, you see Troy, but it's me, Sam Beckett. I guess we met last night."


She froze, and her eyes grew wide. Instinctively, she hugged her tote closer to her body in a protective manner. "Ah, excuse me?" Her cheeks drained of color and she stepped back, sweeping Sam from head to toe with her eyes. "I, ah . . ."


"I know what's in the tote. I have to get you to believe me about Tala, Siren, and implement the code I gave you." Sam's fingers intertwined with each other in nervous energy. "But you have to know that if Tala suspects anything, we are both in real danger."


"Siren told me there would be attempts to stop us. She told me all about the Triads and how they want what she has."


"I’m not part of that. I told you where I came from last night."


Siren's laugh was short and nervous. "I know what I heard. As for what I saw, I'm still not sure what that was all about. We did have a drink together. It could have been drugged. Tala has assured me that the Triads will most likely try and go through me to get to her and then kill me."


"She's convinced you, then, that I'm not to be trusted?"


"Well, not you exactly, but everything she said accounts for what you told me." She rubbed her temple. "I don't know who to believe. You and that Bell guy could have come up with this together. Tala said the Triad put out a pricey contract on her that would hand all this over to them and get rid of her. Us. She said to trust no one but her."


"She's a cold blooded killer."


"She's my sister. I haven't seen any behavior to support that."


Sam bit his lip in frustration and dropped his head. Then an idea struck. "Alia. Find out about Alia. Only Sam Beckett would know what really happened to her, and I'm sure Tala found out from your mother."


"Alia. Sure. I'll keep that in mind." Sam could tell she was patronizing him so she could leave.


"And keep your eyes open. Your sister is a sociopath and a murderer. She can't cover that behavior for long."


"You're right. It would be impossible. I'll keep my eyes open." She calmly held his eyes but kept her grip tight on the tote.


Sam sighed. "I guess there's nothing else I can do now. Let's find the lab." He turned and opened the door.


"Thanks, but I can find it on my own." She slipped by him and out the door, obviously shaken.


He watched her retreat then looked down at himself. ‘Looking like this, wouldn't believe me, either,’ he thought disgustedly.


The Imaging Chamber door swooshed open moments later.

"Hey dad, thought you might need a layout to the place."


"Oh, now you bring the goods."


"Well, excuse me. Goatee boy is a little slow in his revelations." Sammy Jo crossed her arms across her chest. "Did you talk to Siren?"


"Yes. She doesn’t believe me, but I get the feeling she can be convinced."




Sam looked at his daughter nervously. "Well, I gave her information on Alia that only Sam Beckett would know. Next I plan on showing her how the program files Tala gave her can be twisted for our use. And if that doesn't work," Sam stopped talking and turned his back on Sammy Jo.


"What? What then?"


"If that fails, I have to show her how cruel Tala can be," Sam said softly.



With Sammy Jo's directions Sam found the computer center quickly and slipped inside. Siren was already seated at a state of the art set up and was leafing through a folder of paper. Her tote sat on the floor beside her. There were other technicians in the room, which would make conversation difficult. He was considering his next move when Siren reached down and pulled out a paperback book.


From where he stood Sam could see the folded paper inside and watched as she began to compare code on both sets of paper. Seeing the paper brought back memory and Sam could see what code he'd written. Drawn forward, he moved behind her chair. She was so engaged in thought she didn't hear him and jumped when he reached over her shoulder to point something out.


"Look here. What does this indicate to you?" he asked, ignoring her alarm.


"Uh, it looks impossible, if you ask me. This is science fiction!"


"No, it's not. It works. Did you ask about Alia? She escaped in time. This shows how it was done."


"So what does this other program do?" she asked suspiciously, holding the book aloft.


Sam spoke softly. "It traps her. It creates a feedback loop from the accelerator and basically keeps her within the boundaries of the chamber itself. Reading it as radium radiation, the door will seal." He paused and met her eyes. He took a deep breath, then finished.  “She continues to leap within a trapped room for the life of the chamber."


"Which is what?  The half life of nuclear fuel?" Siren could see in her mind how the programs worked now, but it belied established scientific theory. Dr. Beckett was either a genius or a madman.


Sam somewhat nodded.  “Basically, in cosmic terms, it will take one-half the life of the radium ring to expire before the door will open.”  Seeing Siren raise her eyebrow at him quizzically, he finished, “Sixteen hundred years.”


Siren’s eyes widened then turned back to the work before her and shook her head not believing his words.  He was definitely a mad man.


"So how far is Tala on implementing this program?" Sam pointed at the papers that Bell had supplied.


"It's practically done," she said simply.


Sam's heart sank. He had no idea Tala was this far along! "Then what's this for?" He pointed at the papers. "She doesn't need them!"


"My sister believes there are people out there trying to stop her. These papers are for comparison only to confirm that she has the real deal. I'm supposed to compare and edit as needed. She got rid of the old team when she found a Triad informant."


Sam felt cold. "So when is she going to actually step in the chamber? How far along is it?"


Siren found that she had grown comfortable around this man, as long as she didn't have to look at him. The voice and body didn't match, and she began to wonder about the story she'd heard the previous night. Quietly, she responded. "Within the month. As soon as I confirm the program and make sure this is the latest version and the informant didn't tamper with it, it's a go." Suddenly, the realization of the power of this program hit her. ‘This is a recipe to change history! If it's true and possible . . .’  She leaped to her feet and Sam stumbled backwards. Instantly, she was scared. "I need to think. Please leave."


"Siren, you need to believe . . ."


"Just go, will you? This is too much at once." What she didn't tell him was that her gut instinct was telling her to trust him over her blood relative.


Sam slowly backed away. The other technicians, drawn by the sudden movement, were watching him curiously. One man smirked. Feeling like he was the unwanted center of attention, Sam slipped out the door.


His time was running out as he was getting desperate.



In her private quarters Tala shook her head and tapped a cattle prod across her palm in a steady rhythm. She watched her boy toy Troy on the small screen back from the room.  They had spoken too softly for her to hear anything clearly, but Siren's demeanor told her that Troy had been rebuffed. He was up to something, and Tala couldn't allow that. More than one Triad mole had been uncovered in her domain, so she wasn't surprised there could be another.


And this mole looked like he was trying to get back up. She pressed her lips together and nodded approvingly at her sister's response. Siren was going to be a great asset. Troy, however, was a loose end.


"Pity," she sighed as she watched him on the security monitor. "He has such a nice ass. Oh, well. There's more where he came from." She swung the electric device like a baton as she snapped off the screen and had Troy Webster paged.



Tala stood firmly on her stiletto heels, legs slightly spread to stretch the short skirt taut against her toned thighs. Her arms hung closely against her sides and she angled her shoulders back to cause the space between the buttons of her snug jacket to pucker from tension across her breast. She took in Sam with her chin tilted down; her eyes were angled up at him and glowed dangerously from beneath spiky lashes.


Sam shut the door behind him but made sure it didn't latch, preparing for a fast escape. Her eyes said it all; he could practically feel the anger stabbing towards him. He wondered what set her off. His palms began to sweat in anticipation of conflict.


He stepped closer, feeling like a piece of raw meat in a tiger's cage, but the only thing that moved were her eyes as they followed him. Strangely, Sam felt drawn to them like a moth to a flame. It was hypnotic, and it was too late before he realized that it was Troy's mind making his feet move and he couldn't get them to stop.


Tala's pose was very well practiced. Sam hadn't noticed that her hands were hidden behind her. When he was within arm's length, one side of her mouth curled up in a deadly sneer and her eyes ignited.


Sam dropped like a bag of rocks as his world exploded in pain. In the next instant he gasped for breath as he felt himself yanked to his knees, his hands shackled behind him in cold, hard cuffs. His entire body tingled and his thoughts were muddled and disjointed. He felt something smooth dragged across his cheek and groggily thought it might be a knife.


Tala gripped the cuffs, twisting them cruelly as she knelt behind him. Her chin pressed against his neck. "My favorite toy," she purred lowly, not a trace of mirth in her tone. She trailed the modified cattle prod down his neck, then his chest and let the tip rest low on Sam's groin. Sam's breath came in panicked gasps of anticipation; he felt her tilt her chin down. "Oh, baby, used to be I could see your appreciation by now." She slowly rubbed the prod back and forth against the leather of his pants. Sam's recovering muscles tensed. "Hm. Must be like any other addiction and you just need more to get the same high."


Her laugh chilled him to the bone. He gasped for breath and tried to organize the thoughts that were running wildly in all directions. Tala pulled him in tightly against her chest and Sam heard the electric prod clatter gently to the floor. He had no choice but to follow her movements as she leaned sideways and reached to the side. His heart beat wildly against his ribs as the tingling from the shock receded. Tala's arm briefly passed in his peripheral vision and he felt something thick and stiff dropped over his head. He shook his head in a feeble attempt to knock whatever it was away, but the collar settled around his neck anyway.


"I see we aren't quite convinced yet that I'm in control here." Pressure on his neck increased. Suddenly with a growl Tala tightened the leather strap around his neck with a twist of her wrist. Sam gasped and his vision began to swim. He could feel her warm breath in his ear as she rode him down to the cold, marble floor where his head struck the stone with an alarming crack.


Sam's head pounded; his wavering vision was framed with shooting stars and he felt sick.


Tala's voice was instantly cold and hard as ice. "How dare you!" She hissed hotly in his ear. "Trying to enlist my sister to work against me?" The weight lifted from his back as she sat up, but the relief was fleeting as she pulled his head off the floor with the collar. Sam tried vainly to get a breath of air. "She is no match for me and neither are you."


She pushed the back of his head and released the collar, smashing his face in the unyielding marble. One eye instantly swelled shut, and Sam felt a warm trickle run down his cheek and puddle into a slick smear on the hard floor. Consciousness flickered. Tala repeated the motion again and Sam's vision narrowed down to a long, dark corridor. Stupidly he thought he was looking through the wrong end of binoculars and wondered where he was. Tala's voice sounded far away, but no less threatening.


"There will not be a repeat of the Alia fiasco that doomed my parents! You hear me?" She shouted. "She may have escaped in time, but you won't. There's no Sam Beckett here to save you!"



Quietly, Siren closed the heavy door and made sure it didn't latch. She'd never seen such savagery. Her heart was pounding so hard she could barely think. Her feet wanted to flee the horrible scene she'd just witnessed in Tala's office, but her mind screamed at her to move with caution.


Everything Bell and Troy told her was true. Tala was insane.


As soon as she said that to herself, an unnatural calm fell over her. Siren realized she'd been fighting her gut instinct in the interest of getting her blood relative to approve of her. ‘Which is exactly what the Siren of Sam Beckett's description was doing when Tala killed that Admiral.’ She swallowed hard.


Accepting how easy it was to make bad mistakes, Siren realized in a flash that she had to start making better choices to avoid the horrible future that had been revealed to her. Her hand fell to her tote and she fingered the book.  Then she turned on her heel and hurried to the computer room.


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico


"All this whirling is making me sick!" Sammy Jo swayed on her feet in the Imaging Room and clutched her stomach.


"We can't seem to get a lock," St. John said through the intercom. "Hold on. I think we have it now."


The scene around her settled as he spoke, but her stomach continued to lurch. It wasn't from the Project mechanism, but from the scene in front of her.


Tala was sitting on Sam's back and he was trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Sammy Jo couldn't clearly hear Tala's words as the scene kept flickering in and out of distortion. What she did see was her father's head being pounded on a stone floor and blood smeared over his bruised face.


"Dad!" She screamed, falling to his side. His eyes were fixed blindly on nothing. "You bitch!"


Tala hesitated, dropped Sam's head one last time and rose to her feet. A satisfied smile grew on her flushed face like a fungus. She stepped aside and wiped her hands together. "The last thing you'll see is me, Troy, holding your leash." Indeed, there was a fine chain leading from the tight leather collar on Sam's neck to Tala's fist. She stood in the dying man's line of vision like she was waiting for a bus.


Sammy Jo placed her form between them. "Dad!" She cried as she attempted to cradle his face in her hands. "I'm here, dad!" Tears streamed down her cheeks as she watched the life drain from his eyes. He blinked slowly, one eye nearly swollen shut, and met her eyes. He coughed up blood and tried to smile.


"I love you," he choked, barely audible.

"I love you, too!" Sammy Jo sobbed.


Then the hologram landscape snapped off and Sammy Jo was surrounded by the cold steel of the Project. "NO!" she screamed as she leaped to her feet. "St. John! Lock me on again!"


"Dr. Beckett has leaped," Ziggy's voice smoothly interjected.



March 28, 2003

The Calavicci Home

Albuquerque, New Mexico


Days melted from one to another under the mantle of grief. Living with such raw emotion for even such a tiny march of days had left its mark; Beth Calavicci had finally accepted the fact that she was a widow because she was simply too tired to deal with the grief anymore. Since her acceptance of her new station, she felt drained and lost. She was not prepared to enter this phase of her life.


Surrounded by loving daughters and family did help, but it also accented the fact that there were two others missing aside from Al. Her grandson should be here, cradled in the loving arms of his mother. It was fitting to say goodbye to Julianna and Al at the same memorial. It made up, in Beth's mind, for the years apart. Now, they could spend eternity together.


Beth's eyes burned, but did not tear. She didn't have any tears left. All she could focus on now was the love they had. She felt like he was sitting there at her side and took comfort in that idea. A soft smile shaped her mouth.


"Mom?" Victoria Jayne leaned forward and touched her knee. "Are you all right?"


"Yes," Beth replied. "I'm fine. Well, I will be fine."


"I just wish Donna and Tina could have come."


"I know. Your father would understand." Beth hadn't been back to the Project since she'd received the news about her husband's death.


The black sedan pulled up to the peaceful park and slowed to a stop. Beth could see a gathering of military uniforms and civilians but their names escaped her. The multitude of people wanting to memorialize her husband was overwhelming; she dropped her head to compose herself before stepping from the opened door.


"Come on, mom. Take my hand."


Beth gripped the hand that touched her elbow and allowed her escort to help her from the car. Her vision swam, and for a moment Beth thought she was going to faint. Still looking down, she squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to stop the vertigo.


"Beth? Honey, are you all right?"


For a second, the voice threw her. Her eyes snapped open as she braced her feet for balance just as she felt the warm, familiar arm encircle her waist. Then she smelled the familiar after-shave. Beth gasped and tilted her head and found warm, loving brown eyes studying her worriedly.


"Beth?" Al said again.


Tears filled her eyes as her vision swam and she fell into his arms. His cheek was stubbly against her neck, his body firm in its hug. "Oh, Al!" she said before dissolving into tears.


He simply held her and slowly rocked. "I had no idea you missed me so much." Al chuckled. "Did you think Julianna and I were moving in with Lisa?"


"Julianna?" Beth gasped. "You and Julianna . . . you were visiting Lisa."


Al stepped back and held his wife by her shoulders, his eyes both curious and worried. "Yeah. You just picked me up from Julianna's. Are you all right?"


"Oh!" Beth blinked. "Yes! Of course. I know that." Suddenly, the odd feeling of loneliness she'd had moments before were completely gone. Suddenly, everything seemed clean and fresh, like waking up from a bad dream to a spring day. What was it she was so upset about? "I … I did miss you...obviously more than I knew."


Al smiled and relaxed. He took her hand and put it in the crook of his arm and began to walk up the path to their home. "I must have been nuts to volunteer to be trapped so long in a car with a pregnant woman," he said as he patted her hand. "I'd forgotten how they can be."


"Oh, really?" Beth teased. "And how is that, exactly?"


Al stopped and looked deeply into his wife's eyes. His own eyes twinkled with mischief. "Beautiful, of course," he said lovingly. "Absolutely beautiful."


January 7, 2002


The day had finally arrived.  Tala was so giddy with excitement that it was hard for her to stand still as she watched the technician throw the switch to start the sequence to run what she had rightly named (from Beckett’s research), the Accelerator.  Her eyes scanned the machine as it began to hum and her heartbeat skipped as the technician nodded his approval.


“Well, is everything functioning correctly?” she asked anxiously.


From out of nowhere, a male voice seemed to float around her.  “Running diagnostic.”  There was a pause then the voice replied almost dreamily, “The system is fully operational and is ready for the first participant, Tala.”


The voice that had floated down to her was one that she knew rather well over the last couple of years.  She had been intimate enough with him to know that voice, and it made her smile coyly.  “Thank you, Troy.”  She grinned then snapped her fingers meaning to call in the newly appointed leaper, to enter the accelerator.  However, when the woman, a rather tall lovely woman with flowing purple hair, didn’t show, Tala scowled.  “Where is Trinity?”


Troy answered her immediately.  “Trinity is currently in the restroom closest to her quarters.  She is violently ill.  Perhaps…”


Tala sighed aggravatedly as she stomped over to the closet and yanked out the white Fermi suit. Siren entered the room just in time to see her sister tug the arms into place, the black, leather body suit she'd peeled off in a heap on the floor.


“We haven't run the program fully, Tala. What if something should go wrong?” Siren asked taking a hesitant step toward her sister.  “I mean . . .”


“That’s what you’re here for, right?” Tala snapped at her.


Siren glanced at the Accelerator knowing full well what she had done with the programming. After she had seen Tala torture and succeed in killing Troy Webster only a few months ago, she wondered if Tala's idea of using a part of his brain to help with the implementation of their super computer would complicate the altered programming.  She didn’t want to see her sister hurt, but at the same time she didn’t want her sister to hurt any more people.  “Won’t you reconsider?  Why don’t we just wait until Trinity feels better?  I mean, one more day won’t hurt anything.  Then you can direct the leap into Donna Beckett like you wanted.”


Tala quickly turned and walked the few steps over to Siren and slapped her hard across the face.  “Listen here, little sister,” Tala spit at her, “I run this show and since I want this to work now, I will take action.  I’ll leap into Donna and take the chance.  Understand?”


Getting Tala to be the first one to step in the Accelerator had been the trickiest part of Siren's plan. Tala was going to send in her new assistant Trinity first, relishing the idea of acting like God and directing past events with a wave of her hand. Siren had slowly poisoned Trinity, insuring that she would be sick for a long time. Tala wouldn't have the patience to put off the first trial; Siren counted on that, and hadn’t been disappointed.


Siren massaged her cheek and silently nodded her head.  She darted her eyes down toward the floor as she stood in front of her sister, but slowly, she looked up as Tala walked toward the Accelerator.  “Have a lovely leap, Tala,” she whispered so softly that she wasn’t sure if she said it or not.  “It’s definitely going to be a long one.”


Tala took her place on the Accelerator pad and took a deep breath then said, “Let’s get this show on the road.  I want to get into some… trouble.”  She grinned then watched as the door closed on her and sealed her inside. 


In the moments to follow the energy surge that consumed the rooms, along with the technicians words of “Firing in three… two… one… fire!” echoed through the room. There was a hum and a pulse of energy, then relative silence.


Siren glanced around the room then ordered the Acceleration room to be opened.  When the door opened, Siren looked inside to see that Tala was gone. 


“Troy, was it successful?” She asked, concerned and hopeful at the same time.


A hollow laugh echoed through the room.  “The leap was successful, Ms. Siren. The program works perfectly.”


Siren hurried to the Imaging Chamber across the hall and ordered the window she had them put in because of her new calculations be opened.  Inside the Imaging Chamber was Tala, walking around in a solid white room with a concerned expression on her face.  Siren glanced around the room and found her sister.  Siren pressed the intercom button then called out, “Tala?”


Tala turned to her sister.  “It… it didn’t work.  All I did was leap into the Imaging Chamber.  This program is full of errors!  You didn’t do something right!”  Tala stepped toward her sister at the window and slapped at the window.  “What the hell is going on?  What… what did you do?”


Siren looked at Tala with a small smile of satisfaction.  “You won’t be hurting anyone else, Tala.  You’re staying right here.” 


Tala shrieked out in anger, her holographic fingers raking at the window. All Siren did was blink.  “Goodbye, Tala. I’ll come by to check on you from time to time.”  Siren turned her back on her sister then slowly turned back around.  “Don’t worry, the other contributors to the project will be coming to check on you, too. In fact, they're planning on making this place one of their office buildings, so to speak. You'll be like a piece of modern performance art! Remember, it’s their money and their project. I know they'll be happy.”


“NO!!”  Tala screamed at her.  “YOU… YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME IN HERE ALONE!  YOU CAN’T!”  Tala shrieked at the top of her lungs as she watched Siren turn away from the window and walk away.  Tala slapped at the window again yelled once again, “DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE, SIREN!  I’M YOUR SISTER, DAMMIT!!” 


A soft male voice floated down around her as the door clicked shut.  “She didn’t leave you alone, Tala.”


Tala’s eyes scanned the white room. “What?” she asked, still in shock at the turn of events.  “Wh… what did you say?”


“She didn’t leave you alone, Tala.  I’m here.  Remember… your favorite toy?”


“No,” Tala breathed heavily.  “No.  This can’t be happening.  I want outta here!  LET ME OUT!”  She went to the door of the Imaging Chamber and tried to beat on the door but to no avail.  “LET ME OUT!”


“You can’t leave,” Troy’s voice traveled down to her.  “Just remember, Tala, the last thing you’ll see… is me… holding your leash.”


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