Chapter Fourteen

"I finally got a look at their schedule."

Edward St. John lifted his head from the pillow and stared at Deanna
Calavicci, his red-rimmed eyes filled with excitement. "You've made it,
then? That first time wasn't a fluke?"

"Nope. I've been back twice already." Deanna sat back in the worn leather
chair and looked over the emaciated form of St. John, covered by a white
hospital sheet and propped up by several pillows. She thought about the
other St. John, the one in Sam Beckett's world, and felt an unexpected rush
of sympathy for the man before her. This St. John, although much kinder,
did not have his good health.

I wish you did, she thought sadly. I need help on this, you know.

"The first time," she continued, "the one you helped me with, gave me a
feel for the Imaging Chamber and the complex itself. That was where I ran
into my father, only he didn't know it."

"And watched their review board arrive."

"Yes. These past two times have been to get a better idea of the layout of
their building, to find out about the people there and, finally, I read the
itinerary today."

"You made sure to avoid contact with Doctor Beckett?"

"Yes, and you, too. The odds are pretty good that both of you can see me.
I'm still wearing that custodian's uniform, just in case that happens."

"I thought that would be best," he sighed. "Just don't walk through any

Deanna smiled. "Aw, come on. Just one?"

St. John chuckle as he pulled the bed sheet over his chest. "Well, if no
one's looking, I guess it's all right. What did you find out?"

"Starting tomorrow morning, the committee will question Sam and Al about
Project Quantum Leap. They already have statements and materials from the
rest of the staff to excuse them from personal testimony. All this will be
compared with what Sam and Al say. It's expected to last several months."

"Sounds more like an inquisition," St. John said flatly. "What do you have
in mind?"

"I plan to stick as close to the action as I can. Find out who's up to
what." Deanna paused. "You never did tell me. Why have I contacted this
other dimension of time instead of ours?"

"I don't know why," St. John replied. He pressed his head back against the
pillows. "I can't be sure, of course, but the only conclusion I can draw is
that Doctor Beckett may be... dead. To us, that is. I've thought it over,
and I can't help but come to that conclusion." His hands roamed along the
edges of the bed and he closed his eyes. "Or perhaps I gave Samuel some
incomplete information. I might have--"

"It's no one's fault," she interrupted him. Her mind flashed back to the
information that Ziggy had given her about Sam Beckett, and his death at
the hands of Leida Aiders. "We weren't able to retrieve him because he
messed up his own future, in another reality."

"Oh, yes, those leaps you found. I'd forgotten." His eyes cracked open and
he regarded Deanna with a tired look. "You realize what this means? The
experiment is out of control. Nothing more can be done except to watch how
it came to such an end."

"I wouldn't say that."

"Why? What have you got in mind?"

Deanna simply grinned.

St. John's eyes opened wider. "You're not planning to alter their history,
are you?"

"How could I do that, when I'm only a hologram to them?"

"A hologram can do enough damage. I should know." He turned over with some
effort and clasped her hand. "Do you have any idea what you're dealing
with? Why, one wrong move on our part and--"

"And what?" she challenged. "What more damage could be done. Sam Beckett is
gone, the experiment is a failure, and Project Engram won't last more than
another year. You know that."

St. John bowed his head and nodded.

"Besides," she added, "I have more to risk than anyone. If something goes
wrong, then I simply won't exist any more. I don't know if I can change
things," she said quietly, "but I know that Ziggy-- Alpha, that is-- put us
in contact with them at a critical juncture for a reason. I have to try and
make things better."

"That's what Doctor Beckett wanted to do. Look where it got him." St. John
squeezed her hand. "I can't advise you on this, since it's your life that
will probably be altered more than mine, but are you absolutely certain
that you want to do this?"

She lifted her right hand and showed him the neatly-stitched wound across
the top of it, the result of the operation he'd done to her.

"I think it's what I have to do, and you know it, too."

"All right, then."

St. John nodded and struggled into a sitting position. As Deanna moved to
help, he reached for her and pulled her close to him.

"I wish you the best, Deanna," he told her. "And I apologize for how I've
treated you."

Before Deanna could respond, St. John placed a gentle kiss against her
cheek, then released her hand and lay down. Deanna smiled, then stood up
and headed for the door. Behind her, St. John's raspy breathing seemed more
labored than before, and she couldn't help but pause before she opened the
door. She spoke again without turning around.


The words, "see you again" almost escaped her, but she took a deep breath
and swallowed.

Don't lie, she thought. Not to him and not to yourself.

"I'll miss you," she said softly.

"And I, you," he responded in a weak voice.

Deanna clenched her jaw and pulled the heavy door open, then stepped
swiftly out of the room before St. John could see the anguish on her face.


Deanna reached quickly over the desk and shoved the powder blue maid's
uniform onto her chair, then straightened up and greeted the person
standing at the door with a curt nod.

"Good afternoon," she said in an even voice.

Sammi Jo Trenton glanced around from the doorway, then moved cautiously
into the brightly-lit room of the holding chamber.

"Since you've never invited me in here," she said, "I decided to see what
I'm missing out on."

"Nothing you've never seen before." Deanna gestured to the computer
terminal and the filing cabinet. "That's all I've added to this space since
it was handed to me. That and this desk."

Sammi Jo went to the terminal. She watched the screen saver, an homage to
science-fiction artwork, for a moment, then moved her hand towards the
mouse. "Mind if I take a look?"

"Actually, I do," Deanna said quickly. Then, to cover up the sudden flash
of wariness, she shrugged. "It's using the Project network right now,
downloading some information for me."

She moved her hand away from the terminal. "What are you up to today?"

Deanna jerked her thumb towards the closed door of the Imaging Chamber.
"St. John asked me to analyze the Chamber. Like your memo said you wanted."

Her shoulders tensed up. "Have you come up with anything?"

"I'll let you know."

With a grunt of frustration, Sammi Jo seated herself in the edge of the
computer table. "In case you've forgotten, Lieutenant--"

Deanna stiffened as Sammi Jo brought her rank into the conversation, but
said nothing.

"--I'm in charge of this project and you're here because I say so. Not
because I want you there, but I need you there. Now, I'm telling you that I
have the right to know everything connected with it."

"That's Sam Beckett's privilege," Deanna replied coldly. "He's the expert
on this place."

"Sam Beckett is gone," Sammi Jo said in a tight voice. "I am in charge of
what's left."

"Must be pitiful settling for seconds."

"I don't appreciate your attitude!" she shouted. "I also didn't appreciate
the fact that you waited until today before telling me that St. John was in
the hospital."

"He said he's been there four times already this year. You never asked
about him before."

"The visits were routine, he said. Just check-ups. But now you're in charge
until he gets back."

"He's not coming back."

Sammi Jo gave Deanna a frightened look. "Why not?"

Deanna turned her head and looked at the wall. "Because he's dying," she
replied. "The cancer treatments weakened him more than the doctors thought
it would. He doesn't have the strength to fight the disease any more."

"You're sure?" she asked softly.


Deanna closed her eyes and rubbed her fingers against the bridge of her
nose, then took in a long breath and opened her eyes. She blinked with
confusion when her gaze settled on the empty spot next to the computer

"What are you working on now?"

Deanna turned quickly to her left as Sammi Jo spoke, then pressed her lips
together as the other woman moved around the desk, the blue housekeeper's
garment in her hands. Sammi Jo held it up, raised her eyebrows and
approached Deanna.

"New college course? Custodial Arts?"

"That's none of your damned business!" Deanna snatched the uniform out of
her hands.

"We've been through this already Everything is my business. I don't give a
damn if you are Navy. You're still working for me. Do something wrong and
it just gives me the chance to bust you on two levels-- civilian and
military. You wouldn't want to mess up your sterling record now, would

Deanna felt a cruel reply build in her mind, but a memory of St. John
stopped her from uttering it. She remembered the operation on her hand and
how sad he looked as he'd stitched it up.

"I wish you two could get along as Samuel and I did," he had said. "This
project might have a future if you and Sammi Jo could stop arguing."

"We don't argue," she had replied. "We just badger the hell out of each

The memory sobered her, and she watched as Sammi Jo thumbed casually
through a science magazine on her desk.

"What kind of work was he doing that you want me to continue?" Deanna found
herself asking. She knew, of course, but Sammi Jo had no clue about her
current holographic experiments.

"He didn't tell you?" She looked up from the magazine. "You mean, you have
no idea? You've been down here for three years."

"St. John said," Deanna replied with a straight face, "that the current
Project Leader didn't feel I was authorized to know."

Without a word of reproach, Sammi Jo slid off the desk and walked abruptly
to the door with a dazed look. Deanna watched her go, and restrained the
urge to call after her. She crossed her arms and sat down at the desk.

"Now that she thinks I'm in the dark about all of this," Deanna said out
loud, "maybe I can get some work done without her nosing around."

"Whenever you're ready, Lieutenant," Ziggy said. "I have locked onto the
proper destination."

Deanna looked down at the crumpled blue uniform on the corner of the desk,
then glanced back at the door.

"Ziggy, I've got a bad feeling that if we don't do something about this
situation, then Sammi Jo will."

"I agree," the computer replied simply.

                              Chapter Fifteen

"Tough break."

Al Calavicci gave one final swipe to the gray stain on his white polyester
pants, then straightened up and glanced at the young woman beside him.

"This just isn't my day, I guess," he replied in a gruff voice.

The woman smiled and tugged at her dark brown ponytail. She locked her
hands together and set them on top of her head.

"I guess not. I never wanted to join anything where I had to wear white,"
she added with a wink.

Despite his sour mood, Al grinned at the remark.

"I warned you, though," she continued. She jerked her head towards the torn
"Wet Paint" sign taped to the banister. "If you hadn't been so ticked off,
you might've listened."

"Yea, maybe." Al tilted his head back and looked up the empty stairwell. "I
should've taken the elevator," he mumbled as he kicked the bottom step.

The woman shrugged and continued to roll the manual vacuum cleaner across
the carpeted floor, its plastic wheels rumbling loudly against the flat
gray carpeting. Her efforts didn't appear to do much good; the dust balls
remained in place.

Al started up the next flight of stairs, then stopped halfway and turned to
stare down at the woman intently. After a moment, the girl tilted her face
towards him and raised her eyebrows, meeting his gaze with a combined look
of irritation and amusement.

"Sorry, Admiral, I'm not interested."

Al winced. "Uh, no. That's not it... you just remind me of... someone.
What's you're name?"

She looked disturbed for a moment, then shrugged. "My name's Deanna."

"Deanna. Deanna..." He waved his hand around in a circle and waited for her
to complete the name.

She hesitated again. "Uh, Trenton," she finally replied.

Al sighed as if disappointed.

"What? Do you want me to pick a new name?"

"Huh? Oh, no, it's just that I thought maybe you were--"

The alarm from his wristwatch suddenly emitted a series of electronic
beeps. He accidentally dropped his briefcase as he fumbled for the alarm
button, then watched the brown case as it tumbled down the stairs and
landed at Deanna's feet. With a cry of surprise, she jumped back to avoid
the case, pulling the vacuum with her.

"Watch it!" she snapped.


Al trotted down the stairs and retrieved the case, then glanced at his
watch again. "I'm late," he hissed.

As he reached the landing, he looked down at Deanna again, puzzled about
why she looked so familiar to him. The texture of her brown hair, the
triangular shape of her face, and her eyes--

"I'll see you later, Beth," he heard himself say.

"Deanna," she corrected him.

"Right. Deanna." Al tapped his ring against the banister, then pulled his
hand up and looked at the gray paint that coated his palm. "Aw, hell."

Deanna started to laugh as Al opened the exit door, and her laughter faded
away as the heavy door closed with a pneumatic hiss.

"Nice to see you again. Al."

Deanna glanced around her, then took a deep breath and turned back to the
thick sweat band around her wrist. She pulled back the terry cloth edge to
reveal the com bracelet, which sparked to life and emitted neon colors and
a series of low beeps and squeals.

"All right, Ziggy," she said. "Let's just see what this review board has
planned. But re-adjust my image a bit before you zap me in there. I don't
want to be seen."

Deanna's holographic form wavered as the hybrid computer shifted the
frequency in the Imaging Chamber, and she managed to look around once more
before her image disappeared, vacuum cleaner in hand, and the stairwell
stood empty again.


The situation struck Admiral Albert Calavicci as oddly familiar.

The review board had chosen to handle the investigation of Project Quantum
Leap in a manner similar to that of a military court. They had seated
themselves at a long table in the front of the room, with a smaller table
and two chairs in front of it.

As he took his seat, Al noted the arrangement of the board members. Admiral
Peovis sat in the middle of the table, with St. John on one side and Doctor
Virginia Mayes on the other. Admiral Mirosa and Doctor Steiner occupied the
seats to the left of Doctor Mayes, and Captain Adams and Doctor Levin sat
to the right of St. John.

A part of Al's mind whispered to him: divide and conquer.

As the double doors slammed shut behind him, Al headed up the aisle and
slid into the empty chair beside Sam.

"I apologize for my lateness," he began. He rubbed his palms together
nervously, unaware of the gray flecks of pain that fell into his lap. "It
won't happen again."

"I hope not," Admiral Peovis remarked. "We've got a lot of ground to cover.
From this point on, gentlemen, please understand that we will conduct these
meetings on time, with whichever one of you shows up."

Al nodded. "Understood, sir."

Admiral Peovis returned the nod. "Now, the first order of business is to
trace the beginnings of Project Quantum Leap. The board has already
discussed the basic information that was supplied to us. We know that the
idea first took shape during the working operations of Project Starbright,
and that most of Doctor Beckett's staff and equipment came from that space
research program.

St. John leaned forward. "Could you explain to us, in your own words, the
relationship between projects Starbright and Quantum Leap?"

Al snorted and glanced at the military stenographer in the corner, taking
down a verbal record of all that transpired at the meeting. Sam ignored
Al's reaction. He locked his hands together and began to speak.

"Project Starbright was concerned with the study of the speed of light and
the propulsion of matter in space. Our goal was to re-examine and confirm
known facts, discover new information and then relate it all to time
travel. We knew that space would only allows for a forward passage of time,
but by applying this knowledge to a metaphysical framework, Professor
LoNiegro and I had hoped to achieve results that would allow us to travel
into the past."

"So you're saying that Project Starbright," Dr. Steiner interrupted, "was
the research stage, whereas Quantum Leap was the experimental one."


"Were there any plans to carry your work further than this?" St. John

"I... had hoped to perfect everything," Sam confessed, "but no definite
plans were made, no."

Admiral Mirosa spoke up. "We have the record of Professor LoNiegro's
nervous breakdown and subsequent suicide, and how most of the essential
information from Starbright was lost after he destroyed the central data
banks with a timed virus. It's amazing, Doctor Beckett, that your own
project wasn't completely washed out by these events."

"It was difficult to regroup," Sam replied, "but even though our in-depth
data was crippled, I had still my own files to replace a lot of the missing

Doctor Levin bobbed his head at Sam. "It's a credit to your abilities,
Doctor, that you could continue after such devastating events."

Admiral Peovis cleared his throat. "I would like to start this phase of our
questioning with an as-yet undocumented event, if you don't mind. Namely,
your first involvement with Admiral Calavicci."

Sam and Al exchanged looks of apprehension, then turned back to Peovis.

"The day before the failure of Starbright," Sam replied hesitantly. "That's
when we first talked..."

                              Chapter Sixteen

"Doctor Beckett!"

His mind caught up in the intricate study of quantum mechanics,
thirty-seven-year-old Sam Beckett looked up from his textbook in surprise
as Gushie skidded to a stop in front of his office door. The short man
grabbed clumsily for the door frame and pulled himself into the room, his
breathing shallow and rapid.

"There's trouble," he gasped. "In the lounge."

Sam stood and tossed his book on the chair. "What kind of trouble?"

"Please, just come," Gushie insisted. He glanced over his shoulder, then
combed his fingers through his curly red hair. "He needs help."

Sam hesitated, then nodded and followed Gushie down the passageway at a
fast trot. Up ahead, Sam noticed a knot of people gathered around the open
door of Project Starbright's staff lounge.

"What's going on?" Sam asked.

Gushie started to speak and Sam moved farther to one side to avoid the
man's halitosis.

"You know that astronaut guy? The one who found the Professor's body? Well,

A deafening crash echoed from the end of the hall and grabbed Sam's
attention. He outpaced Gushie as he sprinted for the lounge, moving through
the silent group of people blocking the door until he stood within the
room. Sam broke through the front of the crowd, where everyone had pulled
back into a half-circle, afraid to move forward but hypnotized by the
action in front of them.

The staff lounge, a comfortable room with a few pieces of overstuffed
furniture, had a row of vending machines against two walls. The wall to the
right of the door supported four soda machines of different brands of soft
drinks, spaced apart by tall white recycling bins. Likewise, four snack
machines occupied the wall to the right of the soda machines. One of these
machines now lay on its side, the contents of candy bars and small snack
bags scattered across the carpeting. The glass window had shattered when
the machine hit the floor, and its florescent bulb flickered in its bent
metal frame.

A man sat in the middle of the broken glass and scattered candy bars.

Sam Beckett realized at once why no one wanted to approach him. The man sat
with his lower back against the fallen machine, his eyes half-open and a
bag of potato chips between his knees. Every few seconds, he reached into
the bag with one cut and bleeding hand, then popped a potato chip into his
mouth and munched on it mechanically. He had a large claw hammer balanced
in his other hand.

"He's crazy," someone muttered.

"No." Sam recognized Gushie's voice, low and disgusted. "He's drunk."

"Did someone call security yet?" another person asked.

"I did," Gushie replied. "Just now."

The man on the floor apparently heard this. He raised his head and stared
at Sam, his dark eyes shining with fear, anger and... something else. Sam
swallowed nervously.

He might not be crazy, Sam thought, but he sure as hell isn't stable right

Sam approached him carefully and knelt down a few feet away. He tried to
avoid the worst of the broken glass as he sat in front of him and picked up
a candy bar that lay nearby.

Vice Admiral, Sam suddenly remembered. What's his name? Al. Al something.

Sam smiled and unwrapped the candy bar. "Hi, Al."

The man, Al, regarded him with curiosity for a moment before he looked back
down. "Hey, pal, how's it going?" he replied in a slurred voice.

"Have a little trouble here?"

Al shrugged and ate another potato chip. "Took my money," he mumbled.

Sam took a bite of the candy bar. "It happens."

Al regarded the broken machine, his dark bushy eyebrows raised, with
drunken amusement. "Not any more."

"No, I guess not." Sam looked at the doorway, half-expecting to see the
building's security-- a company of Marines-- run in with rifles raised. "I
suppose security will be here soon," he said as he glanced at Gushie.

Gushie slowly shook his head.

Sam stared at Al for a moment as he realized what the gesture meant. Al,
although not a part of Starbright's core group, still counted as a member
of the Project-- and therefore counted as one of them. Al had found
Professor LoNiegro's body the day before, and Gushie apparently felt that
Sam had the responsibility to look out for him.

"Well, uh, why don't we take a walk?" Sam suggested. He stood and put a
hand out towards Al. "You look like you could use some air."

Al looked at him suspiciously, then took Sam's hand and staggered to his
feet. "Could use a drink. Got a couple bottles in my quarters."

Waves of liquor-tainted air came off him, and Sam shook his head as he put
one harm around Al's shoulders.

"Come on," Sam encouraged him. "Before security really does show up," he
muttered to himself.

The two men weaved their way through the crowd and into the hallway, their
pace disrupted by the people clogging their path as much as by Al's drunken
stumble. Al leaned heavily on Sam, his head down and his breathing slow and

Sam nodded to Gushie, who came forward and slipped an arm under Al, and
together they half-dragged, half-carried him to the elevator. Sam reached
out and touched the button for the elevator, which cracked open a moment

"I'm on five," Al offered in a dazed voice as they entered the elevator.

Sam hit the plastic button for the second floor. "Well, we've got to make a
little stop first," Sam remarked. "Okay?"

"Huh? Oh, sure." Al's head rolled back and his eyes closed.

Gushie looked around Al's relaxed form. "Medical, huh?"

"Yea," Sam replied in a solemn voice. "This is not normal, Gushie. I think
this guy's got a problem."


Doctor Richard Merralin showed Sam the results of the blood test, then
glanced back at the unconscious body of Al Calavicci in the nearby hospital

"Close call with this one," Doctor Merralin muttered. He pushed one chubby
finger under the numbers on the medical chart. "See the figures? By the
time you got him here and the alcohol in his stomach entered his system,
his blood alcohol level was up to point four one."

"And point five is fatal," Sam added in an absent voice.

"Is he a friend of yours?"

"I hardly know him," Sam admitted. "He's been here for about three months,
in another section. Professor LoNiegro had him handing research funding."

The doctor nodded and removed his wire-rimmed glasses. "Shame what
happened. I did the autopsy this morning. Death from a self-inflicted
gunshot wound to the head."

"From what I've been told," Sam said, "this guy, Al, was the one who found

"It was a hell of a sight." A troubled look came into the doctor's blue
eyes as he thought about the scene. "I guess I can't blame him for wanting
to get drunk, but not to this state."

Al groaned and shifted his position under the blanket that covered him.

"No, I can't, either." Sam approached Al's bed. "Will he be all right?"

"This time." The doctor paused. "You do know that he's an alcoholic? I've
been trying to treat him since he arrived. If you can, maybe you can talk
him into getting more specialized care as soon as possible."

Sam watched as Doctor Merralin left the room, then he turned his attention
back to Al. As he pulled up a chair beside the bed, Sam looked away
momentarily and then straightened up in surprise as Al stared back at him,
his eyes half-open and glassy.


Al did not appear to have heard him. He continued to stare at Sam without
expression, his mouth open and his body limp.

"You feeling all right?" Sam said as he sat down.

Why bother, he asked himself. I might as well be talking to the bed.

"Chip," Al said in a deep, hoarse voice.

Sam leaned forward.

"Beckett," Al added weakly.

"I'm here." Sam placed one hand on his arm.

Al closed his eyes and rocked his head from one side to the other. "So I'm
him and he's me."

Sam sighed. He's delirious, he thought.

"Sorry," Al whispered. He continued to move his head back and forth.
"Didn't need to be there. So much blood. Didn't have to make me see it."

Sam shook Al's arm. "Were you there when--"


Sam jerked back in shock at the sudden scream that emitted from the
prostrate man, then leaned towards him again. Al's eyes popped open and he
stared up at the ceiling.

"Even if I believed you," Al said in a firm, clear voice, "would you do
this if you were me?"

Sam took in a quick breath. How does he know about my hologram theory?

Sam shook Al again as his body began to relax again and his eyelids
fluttered. "Al, wait. I need to know. Who told you about the hologram?"

For a moment, Al Calavicci looked at Sam Beckett with more clarity than
he'd displayed before. He swallowed, licked his lips, then turned his head
towards Sam.

"I did," Al muttered. His eyes closed and his breathing became slow and
regular, and before Sam Beckett could ask him anything else, Al began to