Author's Introduction If you want to hear about the history of this novel and a little bit about me, feel free to read on. But, if you're one of those readers that doesn't want to peek behind the curtain and enjoys stting in the audience, reveling in the illusion, then you can skip all of this stuff. I became interested in the NBC television series "Quantum Leap" from the first episode I saw. I recognized its originality and heart from the very beginning, but I didn't really become a fanatic about it until later on that fall. One night in my dorm room at Northern Michigan University, I went through various cable channels and ended up watching "Married to the Mob." After a while, I picked up the remote and continued flipping through the stations. Then I hit the end of a "Quantum Leap" episode-- "What Price Gloria?" in Sam's first experience as a woman. The stills at the end of the show had the same actor I'd just seen in "Married to the Mob," and I got curious. Who was this guy? I didn't recognize the man right off. So I decided to investigate. The next day, I went to the college library and started doing some reading. The first book I picked up contained the name I was looking for: STOCKWELL, ROBERT DEAN. But the small black-and-white picture showed a little boy in a film called, "Down to the Sea in Ships." Same guy, I wondered? I flipped through a few more pages. "The Boy With Green Hair" and "Kim" showed the kid again... but I couldn't be sure yet. "Dean Stockwell" sounded like it might be a common enough name. I kept looking through the book. The next photo I found cemented it. There stood the unmistakable image of Dean Stockwell, a cigarette dangling from one hand, his slightly bowed posture and facial expression a younger but exact match for the older man I'd glimpsed on television. The caption below the photo read: Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles in "Compulsion." So, I began a tri-quest of information from that point-- on "Quantum Leap," on the career of Dean Stockwell, and on "Compulsion." "Quantum Leap," being an ongoing television show, turned out to be the easier research project. I also began to piece Dean Stockwell's career together bit by bit with the idea of doing a biography, but I eventually gave it up; there are pieces of his life missing from the media that only he can fill, if he ever decides to do so. "Compulsion" became the enigma wrapped up in a mystery surrounded by a secret, et al, that I didn't expect it to be. Meyer Levin's fiction story was based on the 1924 murder of a Chicago youngster named Robert Franks by two teenagers, Nathan F. Leopold and Richard Loeb. It was released as a book in 1956, ran on Broadway from October 1957 to February 1958, and was released by the film studio Twentieth-Century Fox as a motion picture in 1959. The book and the film had a certain amount of information on them; the short-lived play, however, occupied most of my frantic runs to the microfilm stacks. All three projects were loaded with legal battles. Anyway, back to "Quantum Leap." I got the idea for this novel shortly after watching the final episode of "Quantum Leap." I didn't want to believe that Bellisario had presented an unsolvable situation for Sam Beckett, the hero of so many adventures in an obviously beloved storyline, so I began to think of a way to "repair the damage" that Bellisario had made in his final three sentences. While stationed at Great Lakes NTC in Illinois, I gave myself a crash course in physics as the novel began to come together in my head. I picked apart a kind of "Physics For Laymen" book, writing down theories that applied and discarding others that didn't. (Incidentally, I also had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Wolfberg, the comedian/actor who played Gushie, before his death some two years later from a heart attack. He was part of the USO Comedy Tour that visited Great Lakes on November 23, 1992 (my birthday) for a special which later aired on cable. I showed up at the second show of the evening, inadvertently listened to him on the phone with his wife while waiting for a soda (they were discussing their daughter's cold), and got his autograph later that evening-- an autograph which I'm frantically trying to locate at this moment.) I started writing the novel on May 14, 1993, while underway on the USS Shenandoah, a Navy ship bound for the Mediterranean. As we steamed across the Atlantic and sat anchored in Augusta Bay, Sicily, I wrote a chapter every two or three days, and with a "captive audience" (the bored men in my workspace, 31E), I had enough motivation to finish it by July 31-- the evening before I began "cranking," or working in the ship's galley. Revisions took longer than the writing, but I finally submitted three chapters and an outline to Ace Books, in the hopes of getting it published. They rejected it. I tried it again a year later. They rejected it again, because it didn't meet their pre-set "guidelines." Frustrated, the novel sat in my writer's box (doesn't EVERYONE have one?) with a scant audience of maybe six people behind it... until I found this web site, that is. Now, I hope you will enjoy "Friends For All Time," because this is not just for me, it's for everyone who wants to see the story live again. And, if I may say so, I do believe I've made it happen. Prologue Deanna leaned against the hard cushion of the gray swivel chair and rested her chin in her hand, her dark brown eyes focused on the three sentences printed across the computer screen in front of her: Beth never remarried. She and Al have four daughters and will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary in June. Doctor Sam Beckett never returned. She shook her head and sighed. Three years, she thought with disgust. I spend three years digging into the guts of this damned computer and I come up with this. No dates and no explanations. Deanna punched a key on the keyboard with her middle finger, then stared at the screen in disbelief. The words remained unchanged, white characters against a grayish-black background. I swear this thing's got a mind of its own. Deanna placed her elbows on the desk and let out a grunt of frustration. She hit the key again, then tapped it several times. "UNABLE TO PRINT" flashed beneath the sentences, followed by the words, "CLASSIFIED INFORMATION." "What the hell kind of a response is that?" she muttered. "You know I can access this stuff or you wouldn't even let me into the system, Ziggy." Deanna shook her head and read over the sentences again. She didn't connect the names "Beth" and "Al" to anything offhand, but Dr. Samuel Beckett had become both a tragic and heroic figure among the staff of Project Engram, formerly Project Quantum Leap. According to government records (which, Deanna noticed, steered away from any scientific proof) the brilliant quantum physicist had been vaporized during his first time travel experiment. In April 1997, two years and seven months after the first test and apparent failure of Project Quantum Leap, Lieutenant Deanna Calavicci received orders to go to Engram. The classified report and subsequent orders requested Deanna by name, supposedly on her extensive knowledge of Josephson junctions and superconductors. Arriving in New Mexico, however, Deanna discovered that the project leader-- Dr. Sammi Jo Trenton, a civilian computer genius-- did not know about or agree with the orders. Also, the rest of the staff copied Sammi Jo's display of hostility and left Deanna to work virtually alone in her office, the holding chamber once referred to as the "waiting room." She found the title quite apt for her situation. "I can't really blame Sammi Jo," Deanna said out loud, "can I? With the way the government's been messing things up for everyone-- funds cut, almost all of the original staff dismissed-- it's no wonder no one here trusts me." Deanna reached out for the black-and-white combination cover next to the computer, and fingered the gold elastic band across the front of it, listening to the hum of electricity as the sound echoed off the bright blue walls of the Holding Chamber. "Ziggy," she muttered. "I don't know why, but I can't call you Alpha. That's everyone else's name for you, and it's pretty clear that I don't belong." She looked away, then turned back to the terminal. "Why won't you talk to me?" she asked sadly. "I know I'm here because you want me for something. Those orders weren't just a fluke. I've put up with everyone shutting me out, I've spent forever trying to access information from you, and you're not letting me get anywhere." Deanna stood and waved one hand at the screen. "Oh, excuse me. You let me have this... stuff. Thanks, but I don't know who your 'Beth' and 'Al' are, how they relate to this project, or why you say Doctor Beckett never came back when he's supposed to be dead." The steady hum continued and the words remained on the monitor. "Damn it, tell me something!" Deanna shouted. "Why wait until now to give me these sentences, huh? Why wait this long? Why wait three years?" She leaned towards the terminal. "Talk to me!" she ordered. With a beep, the three sentences vanished. Deanna stared at the screen in shock and sat down. She reached for the keyboard, then withdrew her hand as rows of data began to spill out onto the monitor. The information began with Dr. Beckett's historic leap on September 17, 1995, then explained the events that followed-- time travel "leaps" that she never knew existed. She became hypnotized by the incredible wealth of names, dates, places and changes to history that the computer revealed. Deanna barely grasped the significance of one leap before information came on another. Two hours passed before she came across "Leap 87: April 1, 1969," and the names "Albert Calavicci" and "Beth Lynn Calavicci." Deanna's mouth hung open as she connected the information with Ziggy's first remarks. "Mom and Dad were never part of this project!" she exclaimed. "What's going on?" For this leap, Ziggy slowed down the flood of information and gave her time to study the facts. Deanna learned of the failure of her father's first marriage, her mother's remarriage to a lawyer, and the four failed marriages that followed for one Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci. "That's not what happened," she argued. "And what about Dad? He's a full admiral. All of this never existed. This is like an alternate reality." The information sped up again as Ziggy continued to throw out more data on other leaps. Deanna watched the screen for a few more hours before it slowed again at "Leap 190." She didn't understand its importance until the name "Sammi Jo" came up. Suddenly, the murder trial of a woman named Abigail Fuller, Sammi Jo's mother, took on special meaning. At the end of the leap, Ziggy cleared out the screen and supplied two more pieces of information. DR. SAMMI JO FULLER IS LIVING IN NEW MEXICO AS A MEMBER OF PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP. SHE HAS NO KNOWLEDGE THAT DR. SAM BECKETT IS HER FATHER OR THAT THE PROJECT ALTERED HER ORIGINAL HISTORY. "Fuller," Deanna muttered. "Not Trenton. And you say she's in Quantum Leap, but she got here just after the project folded. You brought her here just like you did with me, didn't you? And she is, or could be, Sam Beckett's daughter? If these leaps really happened, then that's who she is. But right here, right now--" Deanna rubbed her arms as her mind wandered over the possibilities, then she nodded to herself and pressed her shoulders against the back of the chair. "Finish it, Ziggy. I want to know it all." About forty more leaps followed, then the screen went blank again. Deanna took a deep breath as one more sentence flashed in front of her. THE FINAL LEAP. AUGUST 8, 1953/ MAY 10, 2000. Final, she thought. The final one recorded by Ziggy or the last one Sam Beckett ever made? She reached up and touched the screen gently, her cool fingertips pressed against the glass beneath the date. I don't understand. That's Beckett's birthday, but the other date is three months from now. What's going to happen in three months? Or what happened in 1953? "I need a break, Ziggy." Deanna swallowed and brought her hand down, then pushed herself up and took several clumsy steps backwards. "I think I know what's coming. Hell, I'm living in it, aren't I? I definitely need a break." "PAUSE" appeared at the bottom of the screen. Deanna lifted her head, then quickly turned and bolted for the door. She swung her palm near the wall and triggered a panel to slide upwards, then stepped quickly out of the room. As the metal door slid back down with a loud hiss, the computer terminal emitted a high-pitched beep and the screen flashed to black. Chapter One In the first few moments after the darkness dissipated and he completed his leap, Doctor Samuel Beckett sat with his elbows on his knees and watched his feet swing back and forth. With his hands clasped in front of him and his head down, Sam closed his eyes and allowed himself a moment of peace. Through an oversight in his own experiment, Sam Beckett had been traveling uncontrollably through time, "leaping," or exchanging places with different people to correct some piece of history. He didn't know how long the experiment had been going on, and his Project Observer, Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci, never told him. Now, in the silent, empty room where he found himself, Sam found the time to ponder an important question. How long has it been? he asked himself. He stared at the white tile floor and tried to piece together his scattered days spent in the leaps. There had been so many people and so much had happened, that the memories stunned Sam as he reviewed them. I've been leaping for at least four years now, he finally decided. Yes, it has to be about that. Sam raised his head and drew in a quick, startled breath. I remember my leaps! All those people... Wait. This room. I know it, don't I? As he struggled to recall his surroundings, the familiar blank wall of his post-leap amnesia abruptly cut off any other memories, and his shoulders slumped in disappointment. He knew the memory lapses protected him from any distractions as he leaped into new (and potentially deadly) situations, but they still frustrated him. Give it time, he reminded himself. It'll come back to you. Just go with it for now and find out why you're here. As Sam looked across the room, the rectangular outline of a door caught his attention. He slid off the table and approached the wall opposite him, his head cocked to one side and his right hand raised. He passed his palm near a hole in the wall, then moved back and watched as a panel slid open. Electric eye. How did I know that was there? As the panel disappeared with a loud metallic hiss, Sam stepped through the doorway and into a passageway. The murmur of voices interspersed with electronic beeps came from one end of the gray-carpeted hall, and Sam turned in that direction. "Well, there's gotta be some indication of where he is!" Al? Sam froze as the voice echoed down to him. Despite the distance and background noise, he recognized the peculiar New York accent of the Observer and began to walk faster. The floor inclined as he came to the bend in the passageway, then he pressed against the wall to look around the corner. Another door, twice the size of the one he'd just walked through, had been left open and Sam gaped in surprise at the flurry of activity within the room. Lights flashed and buzzers went off from walls lined with computer equipment and people ran from one end of the room to the other, their lab coats open and flapping around them; to Sam, they looked like startled birds caught in rush-hour traffic. Once again, Sam heard Al's voice shout over the bustle of activity. "Someone take care of that guy!" Several heads turned in Sam's direction as he swallowed and moved into full view, looking for Al. Most of them ignored his presence as the system's alarms demanded their attention, but finally a gray-bearded man came forward. He took Sam's arm gently and led him back around the corner and down the incline. Sam glanced behind him, then at the grim-faced man at his elbow. "What's going on?" he asked. "N-nothing for you to w-worry about," the man replied. "We've just g-g-got a little problem with our equipment. Now you just go back to where you were and someone w-will come and explain everything." "But they can't!" Sam blurted out. "This is a top-secret project. You can't just hand out information to everyone who leaps in here, Don." Sam and the bearded man came to an abrupt stop and stared at each other. As his words sank in, Sam Beckett felt his body grow numb with shock. He glanced at the now-familiar face of Don Benettelli, then looked in the direction of the Control Room, the nerve center of Project Quantum Leap. Sam reached out and touched the wall beside him, then leaned against it as he and Don exchanged looks of surprise and disbelief. "My God," he whispered. "I'm home. I actually made it home." "Admiral?" Albert Calavicci felt a tap on his shoulder as Gushie, Ziggy's head programmer, tried to get his attention, but he shrugged and continued to monitor the readout on the control panel. "Admiral," Gushie persisted, "I think there's some kind of problem." "I know there's a problem," he snarled. "We--" "No," Gushie interrupted. "I mean with them." Al lifted his gaze just as the Leaper and Don Benettelli returned to the Control Room, then he looked to his left at the tense, pale face of Donna Beckett. She rested one hand on his forearm as the familiar/unfamiliar form of Sam approached them. Al could feel the heat of Donna's hand through the pink rayon fabric of his shirt. "I thought I said to get him out of here!" Al snapped at Don. Al watched as the Leaper paused several feet away, but caught up in the crisis of losing track of Sam's brainwaves, Al felt no sympathy for the person. Although the individuals that leaped in possessed Sam's physical aura, the resemblance ended there; he or she, pulled out of their different times, stayed safe in the Waiting Room as Sam Beckett risked his life to fix theirs. "Don, you heard me!" Al jerked free of Donna's grip and stepped around the control panel to position himself between Donna and the Leaper. "A-a-admiral, th-there's..." Don brushed his hand over his forehead and tried again, his face red from the effort and embarrassment of his stutter. "It's all right," the Leaper said in a calm, understanding voice. "Don't excite yourself. He doesn't know yet." "Look, fella," Al began. He swung his gaze from Don to the Leaper, then stopped. Early on, he'd always seen Sam in the Leapers that came in, but he and Sam had exchanged brainwaves at one point and afterwards he'd seen the Leapers' faces in the Waiting Room. Now, however, the man that stood before him stared at him with Sam's face. Al watched as the man's right hand came near his chest, and he felt pressure as the Leaper's fingertips pushed against his black velvet vest. "It's you, Al." As he looked at Al, Sam Beckett's bright blue eyes began to fill with tears and he laid his hand against Al's chest. "It's really you," Sam mumbled. "I can feel your heart beating." Al Calavicci hesitated as the noise and movement around him came to a halt; even Ziggy had ceased her furious beeps and squeals. He drew in a sharp breath as he received a look of recognition. "Sam?" Sam smiled and nodded. Only after he touched Al did he feel the sudden rush of his full memory return. Every detail of his past came to him then, clear and sharp in an overwhelming flood. "Yea," he replied in a choked voice. "It's me. I'm back home." "Oh, thank God!" Al exclaimed as a glassy sheen formed over his own eyes. They embraced each other, Sam's face buried in Al's shoulder and Al's arms around the taller man's neck. As they stood there, their arms wrapped tightly around each other, the voices of the rest of the staff echoed around them. "It's him? Really?" "It can't be!" "Doctor Beckett?" "It has to be Doctor Beckett," Gushie said in a loud voice. "Admiral Calavicci doesn't hug anyone unless it's a woman." A round of laughter broke out at Gushie's comment, and Al and Sam released each other and stepped back. Everyone came forward and surrounded Sam then, to pat him on the back, shake his hand or just touch him in some way. Eased back by the flow of people, Al moved to the edge of the group and shook his head in amazement. Then he saw Donna, and his smile drifted away. Donna stood beside the control panel with silent tears running down her cheeks. She pressed one hand against her mouth as she stared at Sam, and Al moved to her and took her hand. "Come on, Donna," he said softly. "It is him." Al felt Donna begin to shake, and he put one arm over her shoulders to comfort her. She allowed him to pull her forward, but her gaze still remained fixed on Sam's smiling face. The room grew silent again, and people began to clear a path to Sam. "It's all right," Al soothed her. "Go to him." Donna took four slow steps in Sam's direction as Sam turned and looked at her. For so many years, she had seen his face and body in the Waiting Room, but beneath the image had been the personalities of strangers. Even now, she hesitated to let herself believe that he had, as promised, come back to her. Sam tilted his head to one side. "Donna?" "Oh, Sam!" Donna ran forward and pressed herself up against her husband, her arms around his chest and her head cradled beneath his. She gave in to her relief and sobbed fiercely, her body trembling with the unexpected surge of her emotions. Everyone cheered the reunion of Sam and Donna Beckett, but only Al noticed the blank look in Sam's eyes as he hugged her. Sam still smiled, but his look of joy had changed to one of uncertainty. Al shouted to him, but his voice couldn't penetrate the curtain of noise that rose between them. He started to move people aside, but the crowd had already begun to lead Sam out of the Control Room. A hand rested on Al's shoulder, and he turned to find Verbeena Beeks, the project psychiatrist, beside him. He blinked, then gestured weakly at the crowd. "You didn't greet him," he mumbled. "No, I just got here." Verbeena looked at him closely. "What is it, Al? What's wrong?" Al sighed. "I dunno, Verbeena. Something about Sam didn't seem right. Did you see his face?" She shook her head, the silver in her turquoise earrings reflecting the light against her shoulders. "I just saw you. Is something wrong with Sam?" "Maybe." He took her thin, brown hand in his and squeezed it. "Mind if we talk later?" "Sure, Al. Just come up to the office." Verbeena placed her other hand over his, then released his grip and put her hands on her hips as she surveyed the Control Room. With the exception of a few extra flashing lights, Ziggy had returned to her normal state. Verbeena shivered. "Now that Sam's back," she said, "there's going to be a lot of changes." "Yea," Al agreed solemnly. "There will be." Al watched as the last of Sam's welcome-home party slipped out the door, then gave Verbeena a brief smile and left her, following the entourage down the hall.