Carol Selene Belyea & Stephanie Lynn Minor Chances PROLOGUE Star Bright Program Washington D.C. Summer, 1985 The dark, curly haired man stood in front of the vending machine, swaying and barely able to make out the coin slot. Clutched in his right fist was a dime, ready to be pushed through the slot. Though he was a cigar smoker, he preferred a pack of Marlboro's tonight, for some odd reason he didn't care to identify. Intoxication can do that to a person. The Captain carefully stuck in the coin and made his selection, but nothing came out in return. As angry and frustrated as he was already, this just made it doubly worse. He banged the side of the machine; but still nothing. With each slam of his fists against the metal, his dark eyes flared viciously and rage grew. As if to spill forth all the emotions clogged and cluttered inside, he began to play a one sided boxing match with the inanimate object. Finally, he smashed his hand though the hard glass. The impact created a large, deep gash on his square, olive colored hands. The crunching sounds his knuckles made didn't sound, or look, promising. Neither did the free-flowing crimson dripping onto the once gray linoleum. But he didn't feel any pain. Yet. "Damn. Damn! Damn!" The angry Captain yelled, each word punctuated with a slam of a bloody fist. He stopped momentarily and looked around in desperation. In the last few days they have had some construction work being done around the building. That was clear as day, being there were a few tools and hard hats in sight. He spotted a tall ladder near to where he was. Then he saw the heavy leather tool belt dangling from it. He marched unsteadily over towards the ladder and wrapped his pudgy fingers around a large handle that unmistakably belonged to a hammer. He then started back to the incooperative machine, with the hammer wavering in the air. The young physicist leaned back in the large chair, gave a big, audible yawn, and swept the gray fore-lock of hair away from his tired, puppy dog hazel eyes. He had just finished work and was closing up his laboratory. Ever since his ex-partner was caught stealing his theories and was booted out of the Program, he had been a loner until he could find someone else to work with. His personality was an exact replica of Don Quixote's. To right the unright able wrong. To love pure and chase from afar. He dreamed the Impossible Dream of traveling through time. The calculations he had, but there were still the matters of funding, not to mention a couple thousand other details that needed to be considered. He needed someone who knew how to deal with the government and could pull some strings. He looked around his bare laboratory and sighed. Another day gone by, another equation to solve. Upon stepping out into the hall, the scientist heard the smashing of glass, and the pronounced indenting of metal. Instinct of being a terminal good guy took over. Forgetting to lock the door, he rushed to the scene immediately. What was going on? He followed the loud sound to his destination. The young physicist saw a man in a uniform who distinctly looked Italian. He had fresh blood stains on his hands and appeared rather drunk. The man ran up to the older one, who had no idea that he was even there. When he approached, he reached up and grabbed the hammer in mid swing. As to prevent it from damaging the machine any farther. (Like it wasn't destroyed enough already.) The Captain was startled by the surprising interruption. He uneasily spun around to face the blurred figure. He tried his best to get the man's fingers from around the hammer, but failed."Let go!" he growled. The young man studied the shorter man and shook his head. "No, Captain. I think you need some rest, and I recommend some hot coffee, too." The Captain narrowed his eyes and slurred, "Why? Who are you? How do ya know me?" He looked somewhat confused and was full of questions. Where did he come from? People don't just appear out of thin air. Sam carefully eased the Captain's fingers from around the hammer's handle."The name's Beckett, Dr. Sam Beckett." "As in Good Sam? No relation to the play write? Or just plain Sam?" "Just Sam." The Captain huffed, "Doctor, huh?" Then, keeping an eye fixed on the other, he placed it on top of the vending machine out of the Captain's reach. "I followed your Apollo mission very carefully, and I recognized you, Captain, from pictures I've seen. I've also read your thesis on aerodynamical exploitation." "Nobody remembers those." He said cynically in a low tone. "That's not true, Captain." Sam said politely, "I do." The Captain did not look at him when he retorted, "Crap!" He was in a very angry state, Sam could tell. So instead of replying, he half asked and half ordered, "Let me see your hand." He painstakingly took hold of his right hand, the one that appeared to be badly abused, and examined it. "It looks like you broke the third and fourth . . ." The Captain pulled back his hand, too suddenly, and fell backwards to land on the floor in an almost sitting position. But he didn't seem to notice and scowled up at Sam. "How would you know? Since when did you become a doctor?" The comment was made very sarcastically. Sam sighed and kneeled beside the other man, "I am a doctor, remember, Captain? I just finished getting my sixth doctorate a couple months ago. And if it means anything, I care." The Captain was staring at him, and was beginning to calm down now. "Yeah, right." "Truly, I do, Captain,." Sam smiled one of his all-too-famous, wrap-around smiles. He was getting somewhere, and he had a feeling that underneath the instability caused by the alcohol, there was a really terrific person. The older man laughed sarcastically, "You are something else." Sam grinned, "My mother always says so." The Captain's attitude toward this whole conversation hadn't changed, "At least you have a mother." "Don't you, Captain?" Asked Sam, somewhat surprised. The Captain decided there was no point in telling this cross-of-a-farm-boy-and-80's-casual-clothes about his past. Unlike this Beckett character, he didn't think this little, inconvenient event would make a significant impact on their supposedly brief relationship. "Quit calling me Captain'," he mumbled. "You can call me Al." The event in which they met was now all but forgotten. Al was practically unaware of what he had done. He definately was not the type to destroy public property. Though lately he has been entangled in the enrapturing world of intoxication. (In all actuality, he had been in an unsober state for a couple of months.) Sam, on the other hand, had not forgotten why he was there. To help. Plain and simple, right? He had always been that way, ever since he was a young lad'. Since his brother and father had died, he had practically devoted his whole life around helping others. Six doctorates and a theory that could change a lot of history for the better. "Ok, Captain Calavicci. Uh. . . Al. Come on, we have to get you to the bathroom and get you cleaned up. Do you have a place to stay? You can come over to my place and stay for the night." "I don't need charity!", Al objected. "It's not charity." Sam said calmly, "Call it Helping out a friend in need.'" Al was skeptical. "I don't even know you." Sam simply stayed calm and replied with a smile, "You do now." Captain Al Calavicci gave no protest when Dr. Beckett helped him off the floor, and placed a supporting arm around his shoulders to steady him. Then he led him away to the men's room, to wash up his blood stained hands and bloodshot eyes. And then to Sam's awaiting car, not far from where they were. . . . and that's how Al and I met. After drying him out the week after with every possible juice that was ever thought of, we became pretty close acquaintances. He always complained that he could never look at fruit juices again without wondering if it's spiked with Seven-up. Between that period of time, though, I asked him to promise me that he would never again drink any hard liquor. It's been fifteen years since we met, and so far he hasn't overly consumed any alcohol. Since that day, I've learned a lot about Al Calavicci. One is why he started drinking in the first place. He's had a very tough life. When he was seven, Al and his Down-Syndromed sister, Trudy, were abandoned by their mother. When he was ten, his father died. When he was eighteen, he found that his beloved Trudy had also left the living world. Having no family left, he escaped depression by enlisting himself in the U.S. Navy. In 1962, he married his first wife, Beth,who was a Naval nurse at Balboa Naval Hospital. Then in 1964 he made his first tour over Vietnam, and in late 1965 he made his second. His A-4 fighter plane was then shot down and Al was captured and taken prisoner by the Viet Cong. When he was finally released in 1975, he came home in critical condition only to find out that Beth had remarried. Shortly after, he had been given the opportunity to join the space program at NASA, and was given the incredible chance to fly on Apollo. It was actually a doomed mission but he was a hero to the nation for landing the crippled ship. Press releases kept him busy for a while and made him known to the world, which was how I recognized him. Yet itwas the feeling of being abandoned and alone that was the proverbial straw for the condition in which I found him. After Al got over his drinking facade, we began to share my Impossible Dream. We began working endless nights and days on the creation of Project Quantum Leap. After he pulled a lot of strings, we finally obtained funding and a land site in New Mexico for what would soon become the Project's complex. We had the structure, the theories, calculations, and the parallel-hybrid computer, Ziggy (which Al anonymously named after a comic strip character). All we needed was the ability to prove to those government nozzles' (as Al would put it) that one really could travel through time. I've already tried explaining my string theory with Dick and Jane emphasis. It was really fairly easy to understand. The string represents your lifetime. One end is your birth. The other end is your death. Tie the ends together. Your life is now a loop. Ball the loop and the days of your life touch each other out of sequence. Thus enabling you to move backwards or forwards within your own lifetime. I guess they just didn't get it. Then it was time for more drastic measures. While Al was out of town, doing what he does best (which includes a drop-dead-gorgeous blond), I convinced our head programmer to run another test on the Project Accelerator. He thought it was just another test, but I had pre-programmed it to do the real thing. I Leaped . . . . . .I should have gotten there sooner. I knew Sam was up to something. He gets this crazy, disguised innocent look and always says everything is ' A-okay'. But I always knew better, the kid's easier to read than a book. But hey, what could possibly have happened within a few hours? Well a lot, I learned. The moral of this story is, never trust a physicist farm boy with a devilish grin. I was enjoying the drive home when I received a call that made me speed up to the maximum of 120 miles per hour. I got there too late, to my ever- lasting annoyance, and he leaped. Now that I look back on it, the incident occurred for the better. Cause if he hadn't stepped into the accelerator prematurely, we would never have gotten hold of the funds. I was able to be projected as a hologram to the confused Dr. Beckett as his only link to his own time. His memory was swiss-cheesed as we say, or full of holes, so he couldn't remember very much. And what he couldn't remember, I wasn't allowed to tell him. So all-in-all he was pretty incoherent. The people, or beings, he inhabited would end up in the Waiting Room with Sam's aura, instead of their own. Sam's first leap was targetless. He couldn't even remember his own name. But I tried to keep a positive view on the whole thing saying that it was Nobel Prize time. We practically celebrated for six days straight, popping the Champagne. We figured that Sam had to put something right in that time-line before Leaping out again. We all hoped that when he Leaped, it would be back home. But it wasn't . He Leaped into another time-line, and then another after that. At first, it was an exciting dream that had turned into reality. But after a year or two, it transformed into a living hell. During one Leap where Sam Leaped into a patient at a mental hospital, he was given shock therapy. I wish I could've ringed the neck of whoever the bastard who carried through with it was. Through the years, the friendship I have with Sam has grown so much that I just couldn't let that happen. But it had and I never felt so helpless in my life(as much as I hate to admit). The therapy kicked out Sam's ego and left a valley that was filled by people he Leapt into in the past. What a mess! And because of that, the holographical connection between us was fading faster than I could read. Not only that, he even questioned who I was! Just as he had his first Leap. Painfully enough, they had to give him shock therapy again, in order to Leap out. Course, those doctors in 1953 didn't know he was Leaping out. They simply thought that he was just another hysterical patient receiving a session of treatment. Throughout the four more years full of countless leaps, we've tried numerous times to retrieve Sam, but it just never happened. We both finally decided that his leaps and destinations were controlled by the great spiritual something-or-other, that I never really had much faith in for my own reasons. But anyway, some force wasn't allowing Sam to come home. I did make a promise to Sam though. I promised him that no matter what, I would make sure that he would get home someday. I couldn't do anything but hope I wasn't lying to him. Or myself.