CHAPTER 8 PHOENIX, ARIZONA Date: April 2, 1999 "So, Albert," the tall, large man with the black goatee said from behind his rimmed glasses, "vould you care to tell me what is troubling you today?" Al Calavicci was silent for a moment. He had finally made it to Dr. Gyore's office, and the moment he was admitted to the doctor's office, Al had gone to the plush, red-cushioned sofa and stretched out on it. Generally, Al refused to lie down like this--it made him feel weak, subservient. And given his life and the troubles he'd gone through as a boy and as a POW, being weak wasn't something he allowed himself to be. Well, almost never, anyway. Today, Al WAS feeling weak and out of control. He had no idea what was happening inside him. Was he crazy? Was it a tumor? Was it some delayed stress-syndrome effect? Al's mind turned the dilemma around and around, but all he got was dizzy. Dr. Gyore, sitting in the chair next to Al, noticed Al's distracted mind and spoke softly. "Albert. You are thinking too hard, und in circles. Take a deep breath, and start from ze beginning." Al opened his eyes and looked at the doctor. Obviously German as his strong accent implied, Doctor Gyore was one of the few psychiatrists that Al had ever met whom he felt comfortable opening himself to in therapy. It had a lot to do with how Doctor Gyore had no tolerance for people being hard on themselves. 'Zere are too many things in ze world that will hurt you,' he'd told Al the first time they met. 'Why in ze world would you hurt yourself, too?' He had a sense of humor, and a sense of when to be serious and when to laugh. Al believed in him because he so obviously believed in those he worked with and the patients he helped. That still didn't make it easy for Al to admit what was going on. But he knew he couldn't continue with the way things were going, so he took a deep breath and began. "Doctor, there's....there's something wrong with me. With m-my mind." Doctor Gyore nodded softly. "Und what makes you think so?" Al closed his eyes again, trying to explain the confusion in his head. "I...I'm having trouble remembering things. Things I should know. Things that I HAVE known, my entire life." Gyore's voice was soothing in Al's ears. "There are many reasons that could happen. Almost every one of them is minor--even normal--at times in our lives. Are you having any stress in your life? Any problems?" Al shook his head. "None. Beth and I are happy, the kids are doing well, and the Government has asked me to take over budgetary matters for one of their projects. I've got it all, and I've never been happier. Until now." Gyore's voice was, as always, honest in his expression of feelings. "I am glad for you, Albert. You deserve to be happy. So maybe it's something else. Why don't you tell me what the memory problems are like. Are you forgetting recent events or long past memories?" Al opened his eyes and looked at the Doctor. "You don't understand, Doc. I haven't forgotten anything." He sighed and shook his head. "The memory problem is I remember too much." He looked at Doctor Gyore and hoped he could express it well enough. "I've got my memories in my head. But I've also got someone else's. It's like someone did a data dump into my brain, and now I'm two people in here," Al said as he pointed to his head. "But that's not the worst part." Doctor Gyore nodded. "Und what is?" Al looked at the ceiling, worry clear on his face and in his voice. "The other person is me, too. I've lived two lives, Doctor. And suddenly I remember them both. Which is impossible, as they contradict each other completely." Doctor Gyore was silent for a moment. Al remained fixed on the ceiling, and because of that, he missed the Doctor make a few notes on his notepad. Even if he had looked over, of course, Al wouldn't have been able to see that the Doctor had written: possible personality schisms--MPD with possible attempts at reintegration. "So," Doctor Gyore said, already thinking of ways to treat his patient and deal with the 'two people in Al's head'. "Why don't you tell me when this all started..." PROJECT REVISION, STALLION'S GATE, NEW MEXICO Date: April 2, 1999 Sammy Jo shielded her eyes from the sun as she stood outside, watching Gushie and Tina as they drove off down the dirt road leading away from the project. All morning long she had thought furiously, trying to figure out a way to accomplish her testing without breaking Gushie's rules. It's nearly impossible, she thought as she watched sunlight glare off the car as it sped away. Alpha keeps track of everything, and with the military takeover of the project, those records were untouchable by someone with her clearance. And that wouldn't change the fact that Alpha hates me, Sammy Jo sighed. Whatever I do this weekend, I'm going to have to be extremely careful. Alpha is more than capable of fooling me into believing that I've accomplished my goal, only to keep records of what I've done and send them to Gooshie or Tina or the President, if she wanted to do so. Put the orders Gooshie's given me together with Alpha's hatred, and I should be completely unable to act. Fortunately, Sammy Jo thought, I had already planned for Alpha's reactions. Circumventing the orders is easy compared to defeating a computer that records everything anyone does in the project. Sammy Jo turned and entered the shed that hid the main elevator down into the project. Opening a small door in the back of the shed, Sammy Jo nodded to the three guards who had their weapons drawn on her. I can't believe this has happened to Dr. Beckett's project, Sammy Jo thought as she walked past them--SLOWLY--to the retinal scanner. If Sam could see this, he'd die for real. He didn't design Quantum Leap for the military. He didn't design it so that the United States Government could 'fix' problems in the past and make themselves more powerful. This was all incredibly wrong. Sammy Jo held her forehead against the pad above the scanner. Immediately, a laser shot out, mapping her retina and matching it to the copy of Sammy Jo Fuller on record. The guards did not relax their weapons in any way, and wouldn't, Sammy Jo knew, until she had passed all the tests. It made no difference how many times she came into the project. It made no difference that she KNEW these guards by name (and had even dated one, for a few weeks, at one point). It was their job to make sure no one got into this project who didn't belong there. And they did it very well. What was the total number now, Sammy Jo wondered, as she held her hand over a fingerprint scanner. 25? 30? The government had given very specific orders to the military concerning this project. "Deadly Force is Authorized with Military or Project Leader Approval". The graves ten miles from the project showed how often that approval was given. And the public thought Area 51 was hard to get into, Sammy Jo thought as she leaned over to a microphone next to the scanners. "Sammy Jo Fuller," she said, and the voice was analyzed against her recorded voice. The guards finally lowered their weapons as the elevator door opened, allowing Sammy Jo back into the project. She stepped inside, and the elevator dropped quickly, as the main floor of the project was several hundred feet below the ground. Somehow, there has to be a way around Gushie and Alpha, Sammy Jo thought. Dr. Beckett's disappearance (not death--she didn't care what anyone else said) has caused all of this--if he were still here, this wouldn't have happened. We would still be Project Quantum Leap. We would still be helping humanity. Not destroying it. Sammy Jo sighed. She wanted so desperately to put right what once went wrong, to save Dr. Beckett from stepping into the Accelerator Chamber. If he'd only waited three days--THREE DAYS--they'd have found the programming errors in Alpha's leaping matrix, and he'd have successfully leaped instead of disappearing in a blue flash of electrons and neutrons as he disintegrated. It was that blue flash, Sammy Jo was convinced, that had disrupted the attempts to leap someone to that time and stop Sam from dying. Alpha reported that there was nothing wrong, that a leaper should be able to go there. But every time they tried, the leaper bounced--literally bounced through time--and landed somewhere else. It was as if someone or something had thrown them through time. Those leaps were the only times that Project Revision didn't have control over where a leaper landed. Some of them had been found and retrieved. Most hadn't. The government had ordered a cover-up of these missing leapers. Sammy Jo knew from records that she was the only one besides the nurses that checked on those who were missing in time. The room where their bodies lay was cold and dark. The bodies were still alive, which confused the doctors in the project. Did it mean that these people were still OUT there, somewhere, leaped into someone else's body? If that was true, why didn't the person they leaped into leap into the body in the project? It was a dilemma no one had an answer for, so they simply left the bodies on beds, with the nurses exercising them and feeding them intravenously. Recent budgetary cutbacks had announced that the bodies would be removed from life support in 60 days. Then the poor people who had tried to save Dr. Beckett would be just as dead as he was supposed to be now. She had nightmares about those people, lost in time, unable to communicate with the project, unable to tell anyone what had happened. Unable to ever get home. Those nightmares had been the beginning of her determination to find a way to save Dr. Beckett. If she could get to him, then these people would never have leaped--and they'd all be saved in one instant. Then, one day nearly 2 years ago, she had seen a report (deleted 20 minutes later when she tried to retrieve a hard copy of it) that claimed there was ANOTHER body somewhere in the Project, one under Highest Priority Clearance. Since Sammy Jo had been at this project since the first leaper, she was quite aware that all the lost leapers were accounted for in that sad, lonely room where their bodies lay. So who was this other body? Sammy Jo was quite sure it was none other than Samuel Beckett. After all, there was only one place in the project that she was aware of that used Highest Priority clearance. The corridor and offices of Samuel Beckett, closed under that security since the moment he was 'killed' in his leap. Sammy Jo believed Dr. Beckett's body was inside those offices. If she could get in there and find his body, it would be proof that he wasn't dead--and it would be the final steps necessary for her plan to save him. The blue flash recorded by Alpha when Sam leaped was the key. Sammy Jo believed it was an electrical flash--that it was not him disintegrating at all. She had gone through the records carefully, over and over them. Sam wasn't dying in that chamber, she was convinced. He was leaping. It didn't look anything like the leaps they had done several months later, after Congress was done with the investigation and the Pentagon had taken over the project. No--those leaps were far more subtle, the electricity a dark red as it curled across the leaper from top to bottom, right before the flash as the leaper's body (or soul, depending on your theory) leaped. The best way to describe what it looked like with current leapers was to say they imploded, the electricity spiraling in as though the leaper was traveling through a wormhole. What Sammy Jo was seeing in the records of Sam's leap was a leap of explosion. And that's why the two couldn't connect--why no one could get to Sam and stop him. Because the two leaps were opposites- and two waves of opposite value cancel each other out. When someone from Project Revision tried to leap close to Sam's leap--the two cancelled each other, and the Revision leaper was thrown through time in a rebound effect. Sammy Jo was convinced the same had happened to Sam. Somewhere, in some moment in time, HE was still alive, too. All she had to do to prove that was find his body. As she entered the main project room to check on current Revision leapers, she smiled to herself. Today, her theories would be put to the test. She was in charge, no matter what Alpha said. She had a plan to get into Sam's office, and today she intended to go through with it. Then she intended to find a way to leap as SAM did--the explosion leap. Then she'd be able to reach him. And she'd change this damn future forever. "It's about time you got here, Sammy Jo," said Alpha, putting a tremendous amount of disdain into a computer voice. Sammy Jo always did wonder why in the world Sam had given this thing Streisand's ego. "I was saying good-bye to Gushie and Tina," Sammy Jo said, annoyed that she had to defend herself against a machine. "I was also making sure there weren't any last minute requests or orders from them." Sammy Jo sat down in front of the main interface and placed her hand onto the scanner. A red beam shot down and into her hand. She was now connected to every leaper and the entire computer through voice-interface. Alpha sniffed and replied. "There were, of course, no new orders. I'd given that a .003 percent chance. Gushie's on to you, Sammy Jo, and there's no way you're going to get around that. It's time you let Sam Beckett go. He leaped--he died and we can't leap to him to change that." Sammy Jo tried to ignore Alpha as she checked the status of current leapers and their reports on their success. "So what are the odds I can change that, Alpha? Huh? Is that why you're so afraid? Have you calculated the odds and seen that I actually might prove you wrong?" There was a pause long enough that Sammy Jo realized it was a pause. Now that's strange, Sammy Jo thought. Alpha's responses are almost always instantaneous. She can't actually be thinking about what I've said. Even if she DID have odds that I could find Sam, she'd never admit to them. Finally, after nearly 30 seconds, Alpha responded. Her voice seemed somewhat subdued. Sammy Jo found that even more bizarre. "Sammy Jo, I don't have fears. I am either right or wrong with everything I do. It's probability, and it rarely reaches 100%. In this case, I have found a 34% chance that you might be able to find a way to save Sam." Sammy Jo sat up straight so fast it made her go slightly dizzy. "34%! Why haven't you told Gushie and Tina that? That's 10 percent higher than any prediction before!" There was silence for an even longer moment--nearly a full minute. "Sammy Jo Fuller," Alpha finally said, her voice nearly without inflection, "you are incorrect. When we first attempted to leap someone to stop Dr. Beckett, the odds of it succeeding were 78%. Each day since then, the odds are dropping. Gushie and Tina are aware of the current odds of anyone at this project solving the problem. In your case, they have decided the odds are not worth the extra problems it causes." Sammy Jo was so stunned by what she was hearing, she almost missed the last sentence Alpha said. Alpha's comments were wrong. Flat out incorrect. Two weeks ago, Alpha had predicted that the greatest chance to leap and save Sam was only 24%. It had fluctuated slightly in the years since he had disappeared (or died, everyone else said). But it had never topped 30%. Not once. She had to see this for herself. "Alpha, please show me the records of these percentage projections for all members of the project." This time there was no delay. "That information is limited to the Project Leader only, Sammy Jo, and--" "And I AM the Project leader for this weekend, Alpha," Sammy Jo cut in. She was not about to let this weekend start with Alpha trying to bully her. Not when things were so crucial, and especially not if the odds Alpha claimed were real. "Show me the damn percentages!" As the percentages began to roll across the screen in front of her, Sammy Jo paled for the second time in two days. Alpha was telling the truth. Which meant Sammy Jo remembered something different than history. Which meant either Sammy Jo was losing her mind... Or someone was changing history again- and once again, she still remembered the other version. Suddenly she remembered what Alpha had said about her odds not being worth the extra problems. "Alpha, show me the odds on me saving Sam Beckett." "That information," Alpha replied in stiff tones, "comes dangerously close to disobeying the orders from Gush--" "I swear to God, Alpha, if you don't show me the information, I will plug your outside interface into the television and lock the DVD player into a loop of Three's Company. You'll hear them forever! Now do it!" The information came across immediately. Not even a computer could handle that threat. Sammy Jo looked at the information as it came through. She looked at it again, and then a third time. Why in the world would her odds of saving Sam Beckett have anything to do with needing a retired Admiral from the Navy??? Alpha did not like what her processors were telling her--not at all. The odds on Sammy Jo being killed this weekend continued to bounce and spin, literally hundreds of times per second. She thought of a million different options she could take, and as she was used to doing with the leapers in the project, she attempted to get odds on the future based on the actions she debated taking. Nothing she could do seemed to help. In fact, the only thing that DIDN'T make the odds bounce faster was to continue in exactly the same pattern she was following now. As Alpha had told Sammy Jo, she followed the odds. Right now, every choice she could make except pretending to hate Sammy Jo made things worse. That's what the odds were telling her. She had to belittle Sammy Jo at every turn, second-guess her actions, be belligerent and even, if possible, catch Sammy Jo disobeying orders and get her fired. If she told Sammy Jo the truth--which was that Alpha admired Sammy Jo for her refusal to give up on Dr. Beckett, even against all the odds--the odds on Sammy Jo dying spun even faster. Alpha knew all about the odds, and while she applauded Sammy Jo for bucking them, she could not. Sammy Jo was trying to save lives when she refused to listen to them. If Alpha refused to listen, lives could be destroyed. Something was very wrong inside the Project, and Alpha wondered if perhaps all of their tampering in time was creating an unstable future, one that could no longer hold cohesion enough to exist. Frankly, Alpha had no idea what was going on at all. So, as always, she did the best she could. And right now, the best she could do was attack Sammy Jo--and keep tabs on Gushie as he headed off to Tahoe. For some reason, the moment he left the Project, the spinning odds had frozen for nearly a minute. Alpha really wished she knew why. Alpha lived her entire existence by binary numbers. Right now she had a heck of a lot of 0's. PHOENIX, ARIZONA Date: April 2, 1999 Dr. Gyore closed his notes and looked at Al for a few seconds. "Albert, it is very possible zat you are simply under a great deal of stress from something or other, and your mind is tying to cope with zis by creating a false 'reality'. A warning signal from your brain to you saying 'Please take it easy, Al--your world could have been this way, and that would be much worse, so please, relax.'" Al shook his head. That didn't feel like the right solution at all. "Not a chance, Doc. I love my life, and I wouldn't change it for anything. But it's like I DID change it...or...or someone did, at some point...it's like I've lived in two different realities, somehow." Doctor Gyore nodded. "I can understand how confusing that would be." He would have to call Albert's wife and see if she had noticed anything different about him. If it were truly an MPD breakdown, Albert would need to be very carefully re-integrated. Otherwise, he could splinter farther or even have a complete psychotic breakdown. "Why don't we make an appointment for tomorrow at the same time and we can work on ways of finding out the truth of these dual memories. Can you make it then?" Al was staring at the ceiling. The Doctor repeated, "Albert, can you make it tomorrow at this time?" Al was sure he heard a different tone in the Doctor's voice--an urgency. Oh, no, he thought. I really am losing my mind. "Sure, Doc," he said softly. "I can make it tomorrow." He sat up and smiled at the doctor. And screamed. Instantly, Doctor Rubenstein was off of her chair, calming her patient down. "Al...come on, Al....it's going to be okay. I don't know what upset you, but whatever it is, you're safe here. I promise everything's going to be okay." Al started to sob for only the third time in his life. It's not okay, he thought as he cried, as he was being held by a woman doctor who he'd never met in his life and who he'd known for over a decade. It's never going to be okay again.