Chapter V DECEMBER 18, 2000, PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP, STALLIONS GATE, NM Bertie studied the equation on the screen in front of her. It was 2 a.m., and she was restless. Bertie had gone to bed earlier, but couldn't sleep more than a few hours. *Practice for those 2 a.m. feedings,* she thought, sipping her tea. Bertie carefully deleted the equation, sighing. Retrieving Sam, based on the current program as written by Donna, was like catching butterflies blindfolded: darn near impossible to catch one. Her attempts to remove the blindfold had produced some unexpected, but disappointing, results. First came That Darn Chip, as it was affectionately known (no one ever gave it a proper name and it was called TDC for short). The chip was actually a failure for the project. It did nothing to improve Ziggy's capabilities. However, NASA asked for the chip and the darn thing saved them millions of dollars, and then went on to help Bertie win the Nobel. The Imaging Enhancer got mixed responses from the project. It only allowed the project staff to see the Visitor. Donna hated it, so it was never used. The only thing, so far, that had worked in tracking Sam was the program, Tracker 2000. A dumb name, but Gushie didn't seem to care and neither did anyone else. It enhanced Ziggy's ability to predict the time lapse between leaps. It wasn't 100% accurate, but it was never more than two days off. So far. It was a step in the right direction. *Now only if we could find a way to grab him,* Bertie thought. Then there was the whole debate on who was controlling the leaps. Bertie had a few suspicions about that, but kept them to herself. Regardless of who controlled the leaps, Bertie doubted that Sam would just reappear on the door step. She and the others would have to work at getting him back. When the time was right, the solution would present itself. She just hoped it was soon. "Dr. Calavicci?" Bertie flinched. "Yes, Ziggy?" "The Visitor has awakened." "And?" Bertie scrolled up, rereading the file. "What does that have to do with me? I'm not part of the project." "The staff is asleep, doctor," the computer replied tartly. "Well, wake one of them up, Ziggy. It never stopped you before, or so I've been told." She tried another equation. "Why don't you wake up Sammie Jo?" she told the computer, absently. "Dr. Fuller is currently . . . occupied." *Occupied?* "Ziggy," Bertie started. She stopped, finally registering the meaning behind the computer's statement. Ziggy normally only used that term when referring to Bertie's parents when they were amorously engaged. The young scientist sat several seconds, speechless. She had no idea what to say. Finally, she asked, "Do I know Sammie Jo's . . . `friend'?" "Yes, doctor." "Well?" Bertie demanded. "It's not my place to spread rumors, Dr. Calavicci," the computer replied smugly. "Getting back to the original subject, it would not be prudent, until Dr. Beeks returns to the project, to have either of your parents enter the Waiting Room." Bertie slid out of bed and demanded, "Why not? What's going on here, Ziggy? Who did Sam leap into?" "Dr. Beckett has leaped into Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Calavicci on April 1, 1973." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Beth opened her eyes, confused and disoriented. At least now she remembered her name. Her first one, anyway. She sat up, wincing. Beth had fallen asleep on the floor. Her whole body was sore and her head was pounding. She looked around. Beth found herself still in the strange blue-white room with the strange looking table. She carefully got to her feet and tried to find the door the other woman had used earlier. She wasn't successful. Giving up, Beth moved over to the strange table. It appeared to be some sort of bed, but instead of a mattress or frame, it had a mirror mounted on it. Her disheveled face gazed miserably back up at her. She climbed up on the table and closed her eyes, trying to remember how she got there. She remembered part of the conversation she had with the stranger, but it all still seemed like a bad dream. Maybe it was. *Maybe this is an asylum or sanitarium. Maybe I've finally had a nervous breakdown. Gran always said I'd give myself one, one of these days.* Beth thought wearily. *But why am I here? I must've blotted out the reason.* She rubbed her aching head. *Gran! I can remember Gran!* She opened her eyes. Gran had been dead for years now, but the fact that Beth could remember her was one step closer to remembering other things. The last thing she remembered was going to work that morning. Now she was in a strange room, in New Mexico (if it wasn't a dream), without her wedding ring or her bracelet. Beth *rarely* took the bracelet off, since the day she put it on. If she had to take it off, it was always on her person. Beth couldn't remember removing it or her rings. Then the image of a face with warm dark eyes and a smile that could melt stone, rose in her mind. It was the face of her husband. She couldn't remember his name at the moment, but she remembered the sound of his voice and his touch. Beth hadn't heard or touched him in so long, that the memory always overwhelmed her, and it was threatening to do it again. *My God, he's dead,* Beth thought miserably. *They came to tell me that and I lost it, then they put me in here. Why else would I take my rings and my bracelet off? Why else would I been in a room like this, dressed the way I am?* The image of her husband's face did not diminish, and Beth could feel a wave of unbearable grief, mixed with the deep love she felt for him, overcame her. A fresh stream of tears coursed their way down her checks as she buried her face in her hands. Beth didn't know how long she sat there, crying at the loss of her husband, when she heard the door slide open. Putting her grief aside, she immediately cleared her eyes and looked up. Standing in the doorway was a girl. The new arrival had short, dark, curly black hair, and looked to be no more than five feet, if that. Her expression was unreadable, and there was something very familiar about her. The girl was carrying a thermos, a box of tissues, and a bathrobe. The girl was dressed in a bathrobe and pajamas. Apparently, it was night time for the people who worked here. Beth couldn't fathom how long she'd been asleep. Beth tried to see behind the girl, but all she could see were the backs of a pair of US Marines. At least, that's what they looked like to Beth. *I work with Marines,* she thought, as a stray memory surfaced. She tried to remember more, but nothing else would come. The stranger made no move yet, and it occurred to Beth that she was waiting for permission to come in. At a loss, Beth just nodded at the new arrival. Apparently, that was enough. The stranger advanced and as she drew nearer, Beth realized that the girl was in fact a woman. "Hello," the young woman said. "I've brought you some tea." Beth tentatively reached for the thermos, never taking her eyes off the stranger's face. It was *so* familiar to her. "Thank you." "You might want to put this on," she continued, holding out the bathrobe to Beth. "The Fermi suit isn't the most modest thing ever made." While Beth put the robe on, the stranger placed the box of tissues on the mirrored surface, fishing in her own bathrobe pockets for something. The young woman pulled out a plastic spoon and several packets of something that turned out to be sweetener. The oddity of everything she'd encountered so far puzzled Beth and she still wasn't sure she dreamed the earlier conversation or not. Though her grief was still fresh, curiosity overcame her. "Someone told me this was New Mexico, and that I got here accidently," Beth said. "That's correct," the younger woman said, face betraying nothing. "Does it have anything to do with my . . . my husband?" The younger woman's dark brown eyes studied her like a hawk. "What do you remember about him?" Beth swallowed painfully. "He's . . . he's been gone for a very long time. Captured, I think." "Missing in Action, in Vietnam," the woman supplied. Beth looked sharply at her, heart sinking. "How do you know that?" "I know who you are, and who he is." "How? I haven't told anyone my name." "Elizabeth Calavicci. Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy. You're a registered nurse, working at Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego, California," she replied evenly. Beth blinked several times, the information nearly overwhelming her. "Calavicci," she whispered. She struggled to find the first name of the man it belonged to. "I can't remember his name." "Albert." *Al!* With that, an onslaught of memories hit her: their wedding, his return from the first tour, the fight they had when he told her he would be leaving again, and the day she found out that he had been shot down. Beth started to cry again. A gentle hand touched her shoulder. Beth looked up at her, through the tears. The woman's eyes were filled with compassion. She handed Beth a tissue, and Beth composed herself enough to ask, "When will they release me from here? I want to attend his funeral." The young woman's eye grew wide with astonishment. "You think he's dead?" "Why else would I be here?" "That depends. Where do you think you are?" "In some sort of asylum or mental institution. I can't remember anything beyond going to work this morning. I think I had a nervous breakdown." Why they would bring her all the way to New Mexico was still beyond Beth. "Trust me when I tell you that your husband is alive." "How do you know that?" Beth asked, suspicious. Fear that the woman might be wrong kept her from letting go, and she fought back a wave of joy. Her companion sighed. "He was found by a rather persistent SEAL team on March 29, 1973. It took a couple of days for the team to get word back to the appropriate people. On April 6, 1973, you were unofficially notified that he was on his way home, alive. On April 27, 1973, you received the best birthday gift in years: your husband was admitted into Balboa." Beth's head began to throb. "Why do you keep referring to things as if they already happened?" "Because to me, they have. It's not 1973." "What do you mean?" "I mean, this is the year 2000," the woman informed her. Beth was speechless. Her head was beginning to pound harder. *She's got to be kidding. She must be a patient here, too.* Beth ignored the fact that she had known things about her. "You're lying." The young woman's eyes grew wide. "What?" "I said, you're lying. You're lying about the year, and about Al." Her voice broke as she spoke his name. "How could you be so cruel?" The stranger was staring at her. "I'm not lying." Anger and grief began to well up inside Beth. "Go away! Just leave me alone!" The mask fell and the young woman looked deeply hurt. Without another word, the stranger turned and stormed out of the room. Beth, once again in tears, took the box of tissues and curled on the floor under the table, crying herself to sleep.