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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
Gentlemen, I am pleased that you could
make it, she greeted them with words at last. I hope that your journey here
One of the men took a step toward her. He was
a short man but his demeanor showed that he wasnt 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
Tala Lothoman smiled widely at his words.
Have I yet disappointed you, Mr. Yong? Havent 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 Ive 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
youve left me no choice but to take them from you with or without
your consent. Im 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
This is insane! one of the other
investors protested. You cant 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 cant have a blood war if there are no
soldiers to fight, old man! He moved to throttle her but was abruptly stopped by a
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
fathers 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
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
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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.
"I'll be right there." The com
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
"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
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
"Does Stephen know?"
"Yeah. He's a great kid. Tiring, but a
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
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
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 wasnt 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
"I don't have a snooze button,"
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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 receptionists 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.
Talas office was huge compared to what
Siren might see in any ordinary office building. But, then again, she wasnt 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 Sirens arrival here
was a surprise. Siren returned the smile as her sister took her hand and then hugged her.
For some reason that she couldnt put her finger on, Siren suddenly understood why
the cab driver had fled from this place. There was something very
eerie about her
So, this is my long lost twin sister, Siren thought as she noted
Talas 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. Id heard
rumors that I had a twin sister somewhere and they couldnt be more right. She
held Sirens shoulders and looked at her at length. Its like looking into
Siren smiled at her greeting. Im
glad to meet you finally as well, Tala. Im sure we have many stories to share during
Talas eyes gleamed at that. Oh,
yes. Im 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 isnt 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 didnt 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
receptionists area to go find the wine that had been ordered, even though he
hadnt 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. Als
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 Als voice right then. You
arent going to do anyone any good by reacting in an irrational manner.
he answered himself. Ill 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
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. Im getting the
feeling that it isnt a secret that Troy is this Talas 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
Giving the tray to Sam, he told him bluntly,
We only have one bottle being chilled right now and its for dinner. Just make
it sound like a special thing and Tala wont 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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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."
"Im 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
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
The Imaging Chamber door swooshed open
"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 doesnt 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
"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.
Sirens 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
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 . . .
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
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
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
"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
"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
has leaped," Ziggy's voice smoothly interjected.
March 28, 2003
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.
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.
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.
Victoria Jayne leaned forward and touched her knee. "Are you all right?"
Beth replied. "I'm fine. Well, I will be fine."
"I just wish
Donna and Tina could have come."
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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?"
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
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 Becketts 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, didnt 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 . . .
Thats what youre 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 didnt want to
see her sister hurt, but at the same time she didnt want her sister to hurt any more
people. Wont you reconsider? Why dont we just wait until Trinity feels
better? I mean, one more day wont 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. Ill
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 hadnt 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 wasnt sure if she said it or not. Its definitely going to be a long
Tala took her place on the Accelerator pad
and took a deep breath then said, Lets 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
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 didnt work. All I did was leap into the Imaging Chamber. This program is full of errors! You didnt 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 wont be
hurting anyone else, Tala. Youre
staying right here.
Tala shrieked out in anger, her holographic
fingers raking at the window. All Siren did was blink.
Goodbye, Tala. Ill come by to check on you from time to time. Siren turned her back on her sister then slowly
turned back around. Dont 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, its their money and their
project. I know they'll be happy.
NO!! Tala screamed at her. YOU
YOU CANT LEAVE ME IN HERE
ALONE! YOU CANT! 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, DONT LEAVE ME
ALONE, SIREN! IM YOUR SISTER,
A soft male voice floated down around her as
the door clicked shut. She didnt
leave you alone, Tala.
Talas eyes scanned the white room.
What? she asked, still in shock at the turn of events. Wh
what did you say?
She didnt leave you alone, Tala. Im here.
your favorite toy?
No, Tala breathed heavily. No. This
cant 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!
cant leave, Troys voice traveled down to her. Just remember, Tala, the last thing
holding your leash.