AUTHOR'S NOTES: First things first: I don't own any rights to these characters and no money was made from this. QUANTUM LEAP, and all things associated to the show, belongs to Don Bellisario and Universal Television. Ok, now that *that's* out of the way, I would like to thank, profusely, the following people for all that they've done during the writing of this story: Ann Marie Tajuddin - Where do I start? *hug* Thanks. Pat Chachich - For not strangling me. Yet. ;D Jennie Rowland - For all her help in the beginning, with the editing and stuff. I got the idea for this story, almost a year ago. I still had to finish up ETC and A LEAP FOR KELLY before I could seriously concentrate on writing it. I sent Ann Marie and Jennie what essentially turned out to be the climax of the story after Christmas 1997, so I wouldn't lose the idea. In essence, it took me a year to write this. And it's not finished. I made it a two-parter, mostly so I feel as if I'm making progress, but also so I don't get the urge to re-write what's already done. I think certain people might decide to flog me with wet noodles if I did such a thing. ;D Well, enjoy! Please feel free to email me with comments. Christina L. Bartruff November 29, 1998 =============================== "Close to Home" by Christina L. Bartruff firstname.lastname@example.org Chapter I DECEMBER 17, 2000, PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP, STALLIONS GATE, NM "So, have you hired a replacement for Claudine yet?" Dr. Samantha Josephine Fuller asked her best friend, Dr. Alberta Calavicci. "No. Most of the applicants are disqualified by security check before I ever see their applications," Bertie replied. "And those who do, don't want the job because they don't want to travel." Sammie Jo shook her head. Claudine Louisa Barnhilt, until recently, was Bertie's administrative assistant. Thanks to the ripple effects of a recent leap, Claudine's mother Sabina Rose Barnhilt won a U. S. Senate seat for Kansas in the November elections. Fearing a conflict of interest, Claudine resigned as Bertie's assistant after her mother won the election. Al, Ziggy, and Sammie Jo were the only three who were aware that she *never* ran for the Senate on another time line. Ziggy spent a week trying to pinpoint exactly how the change resulted in Sabina making the decision. Since March, Sammie Jo's awareness of other time lines was sporadic at best. Sometimes after a leap, she could remember things clearly the way they were before, and other times she couldn't remember anything different. Donna could not offer an explanation why she affected. All agreed, however, it had something to do with Sam's leap to 1969. One of the results of that leap sat in front of Sammie Jo's terminal, facing her at her workbench. To look at her most people assumed, erroneously, that Bertie was younger than her twenty-four years. Nature had blessed her with extreme intelligence, and then cursed her with her father's small, wiry build. With her dark, sharp, bright eyes and her close-cropped dark, curly hair, Bertie Calavicci resembled her father. Today the tiny genius was wearing a red dress suit. Fresh from another project evaluation, Bertie hadn't bothered changing into her customary jeans and a T-shirt before dropping in on her friend. She kicked off her pumps and draped the jacket over the back of the chair. Sammie Jo resumed her task of gutting out one of the several old desktop personal computers. Tina had her salvaging parts to cut costs. "How about Ann Marie McNeill? Claudine trained her." Bertie snorted. "She wouldn't leave this project for all the money in the world." Sammie Jo was surprised by this. "She likes it here that much?" "You have no idea." They were silent. After a minute or two, Sammie Jo spoke. "Why aren't you helping your parents with the Christmas tree?" Bertie arched an eyebrow. "If I know my parents, they're extensively testing the mistletoe by now," Bertie informed her drily. Sammie Jo nearly snapped a very expensive, and usable, memory chip. "Bertie!" Bertie grinned slyly. "White Christmas lights instead of candlelight. Eggnog instead of champagne. Christmas carols playing softly. Very romantic. If Kevin were here, I'd find a way to kick mom and dad out of the house." "Cute. Speaking of Kevin, when's he coming out to New Mexico?" Before Bertie could reply, Ziggy interrupted. "Dr. Fuller, there is a new Visitor in the Waiting Room." Sammie Jo grunted. Verbena and Donna were in Phoenix for some Christmas shopping, which meant that she had Waiting Room duty until Al returned to the project. "Have you informed the admiral?" "Yes, doctor." Ziggy sounded smug. Bertie grinned. Sammie Jo rolled her eyes at them both. "Well," Bertie said, stepping into her shoes and pulling on her jacket. "I think I'll go work on some reports, or invent something completely useless." Bertie generally avoided getting involved with the leaps. "Speaking of useless inventions, want to give the ol' Retrieval Program another whack?" Bertie shrugged. "Sure." Sammie Jo handed over the disks and files. The hallway outside Sammie Jo's office was deserted, which surprised her. She was expecting to see Bertie's bodyguard, Paul Ryder. "Where's your watchdog?" "Oh, I sent him off to amuse himself. He doesn't need to hover around while we're here. He's shooting baskets or making brownies." Bertie frowned slightly. "He's been behaving very peculiar lately." Sammie Jo hid a smile from her friend. She had a little secret that she was saving for Christmas. They walked in silence until they came to a juncture in the corridor where they would go their separate ways. "Good luck," Bertie called. "You, too." Sammie Jo responded, indicating the files. Sammie Jo entered the Observation Room and greeted the technician on duty. Looking out into the Waiting Room, she sighed. As always, she saw only Sam. That summer, Bertie had helped perfect a program Gushie and Sammie Jo had created. In a nutshell, the program would allow anyone present in the Waiting or Observation Rooms to see past the aura, and see the person Sam had leaped into. After its trial run, Donna had nixed its implementation into Ziggy's main operating system. The current Visitor, sitting on the floor with arms wrapped around ‘Sam's' knees, glanced around the room with wide, frightened eyes, clearly terrified. "Any ideas?" Sammie Jo asked the tech. The technician consulted the database of the behaviors of all the previous Visitors. Ziggy scanned the database and matched the present Visitor's behavior with those of the past. It was hardly foolproof, but until Al arrived or the Visitor did something like shout out his or her name, age, and date of birth, they had to wing it. "Child, possibly female. Maybe between the ages of six and ten," the tech supplied, dubiously. "Has anyone contacted Dr. Beeks?" "Yes, we've left a message at her hotel." Sammie Jo studied the person in the Waiting Room for a few more moments, trying to correlate what Ziggy had offered up as a suggestion and the body language of the Visitor. Whoever it was, the movements did remind her of a child. Sammie Jo sighed. "Well, let me get in there." The opening door startled the already distressed Visitor. He (and Sammie Jo would continue to think this until otherwise notified) immediately scrambled to his feet and put the mirrored table between them, without looking down at the reflection. With a friendly smile and slow, careful movements, Sammie Jo advanced into the room. "Hello, my name is Sammie Jo. Can I get you anything? A blanket perhaps? Or something to eat or drink?" The Visitor shook Sam's head vigorously. "Where am I?" he asked softly, hugging himself. Soothingly, Sammie Jo said, "It's all right. You're safe. No one will hurt you." With each passing second, she was becoming ever more convinced this person *was* a child. "Can you tell me your name?" A pause, and then more vigorous head shaking. *Either he can't remember, or he was told never talk to strangers.* "Please, can I leave?" It was barely more than a whisper, eyes wide. "No, honey," Sammie Jo replied, regretfully. "I'm afraid not. You see, you got here accidently. In order for us to get you home, you have to stay here while my friend fixes something." "Where's here?" "New Mexico." Thanks to the notoriety of Roswell, Al allowed the Visitors to know at least the state. The Roswell incident happened in 1947 and so far, with a few minor exceptions, all Sam's leaps were after August 8, 1953. The eyes got wider. "New Mexico?" Sammie Jo nodded. "How long do I have to stay here?" The voice was now on the verge of tears. "That depends on a lot of things. My friend has to fix something and sometimes that takes longer than we expect." She paused. "You could help us by telling us a few things about yourself, if you can remember them. Okay?" The Visitor nodded, hesitantly. "Ok. What can you remember doing before you came here? Can you remember certain things like today's date perhaps, or where you live? Can you remember your age?" The trembling figure blinked several times, obviously trying to remember. Sammie Jo didn't move or speak. The look of remembrance spread across `Sam's' face, and two large tears began to run down his face. He immediately clutched his left wrist. Without uttering a word, and still holding on to the wrist, the Visitor began to sob. Whatever the memory was, it was obviously very painful. Sammie Jo moved to put an arm around his shoulder, and he flinched away. The Visitor sank to the floor, cowering. The actions made Sammie Jo wonder whether or not this person had been abused. Torn between wanting to comfort the Visitor and leaving to waylay the admiral (before he came barging in and further upsetting the Visitor), she backed up slowly and said soothingly, "It's ok. I have to leave, and see some friends about helping you. If you need anything, just call out. Someone is always monitoring this room." The Visitor didn't indicate that he heard her, so she quietly left the room. She hurried down the hall and caught Al just as he was stepping off the elevator. "What do you have so far?" he asked, all business, as they walked back the way she came. Sammie Jo briefed him. "Al, I think we're dealing with child abuse." Al sighed. "It seems we get a lot of those lately," he murmured. She snagged his arm, veering him toward the Observation Room. "I want you to take a look first, before you go rushing in." They entered the Observation Room. Al glanced through the window. The figure was still huddled on the far side of the room, making it impossible to get a good view. He grunted. "Ziggy, zoom in." Al turned toward the monitor. Sammie Jo watched his face turn as white as the Fermi suit as he sat heavily in the spare chair. "Oh, boy," he said, weakly.