Chapter Nineteen Sam stood alone in the room that held the Accelerator, the intensity of his thoughts showing on his face. Ziggy had been functioning well enough to help with the reestablishing of her operations. Her deportment would change from the initial military-issue computer of her early days to the opinionated, self-obliging supercomputer they had come to know and love. Even Al didn't mind the comments she would make. He had missed the way she could respond with as much attitude as any human, but didn't realize how much until now. Walking around the large metallic disc-shaped grate set in the floor in the centre of the room, he didn't notice the woman standing in the corner. "So, this is where it all started?" He nearly jumped out of his skin. Monica! "Looks similar to ours, but instead of an overhead system, the entire cell is the system. But you call it the Accelerator Chamber, don't you?" She looked around. "I like this one much better. More, spacious. Our chamber is about the size of a telephone booth." The tone in her voice had changed since Sam's first meeting with her. Before, she had been more gentle, more caring. Now, her words held an edge, like sharpened steel. Confidently, she began striding towards Sam. He half expected to hear her high-heeled shoes clicking on the tiled floor. Regaining his composure, the Leaper stepped towards her, attempting to cut off her approach to the Accelerator disc. He wasn't sure if she could take this information back to her 'project', but he wasn't about to test the possibility. "What are you doing here? It's not time for me to go yet." Is it? No, it's still early on December 31st. No where near midnight. "I know, darling. I just wanted to check on your progress." Monica crossed her arms, her lip protruding slightly, faking a pout. "I'm disappointed in you, Sam. I thought you and I had an agreement. You weren't supposed to let them know who you really are. You promised you'd just tie up the loose ends you'd left when you died." "You also made me a promise," Sam countered. "You weren't supposed to follow me here." "So, I guess we're both natural liars. Touch=82." She turned, starting to pace back to where Sam first saw her. "I've already been in the, what did that pregnant woman call it, the 'Control Room'? Yes, that's it the Control Room. Your little group of megabrains seems to have everything under control. Perhaps you can pull this off. I certainly hope so ... for your sake, of course." Something in her tone made Sam's skin crawl. She sounded too haughty to simply be wishing him well. "You told me you wouldn't bother me until I had to help Kara's friend. Why can't I just call and tell her I'll meet her at some other restaurant. That should prevent her from being killed." She held her hand to her face, like she had done when she had first appeared to him. "No, Roger says that you must be there to prevent it. Calling her won't help. You know how young girls are. The all have their favourite pick-up joints. You've got to be there to prevent it. Sorry." "But that's not until after midnight tonight. Come back then." Monica walked in a circle around Sam, deliberating making him turn to follow her movements. "Tsk, tsk, Sam. I thought you'd be pleased to know that everything's running according to Roger's predicted schedule." "I don't believe Roger's predictions are right." "Aren't right? Why, Sam, do you doubt Roger's capability? After all, he is as good as your Ziggy. In most respects, he's better. His accuracy in predicting Ann's assignments and outcomes have always been nearly one hundred percent." Al burst into the room, his eyes mirroring the concern on his face. "Sam, Ziggy says she can sense someone else in here with you?" His eyes quickly scanned the room, but saw only the body Sam occupied. "Since everyone else is in the Control Room ..." His gaze never left Monica. "It's the other Observer, Al. She came to check up on me, us." He words came through gritted teeth. "But she was just leaving." "Alright, darling," she almost purred. "I'll go. But just remember, you've got a job to finish for me. I'll be back in twelve hours and nineteen minutes, give or take a few seconds. See you then." She blew him a kiss, then disappeared. Sam flashed a look of contempt where she had just stood. "Is she gone?" Al's eyes wandered around the room, as if he could still sense her presence. So this is what it looks like when others saw Sam talking to me. Weird. Very weird. "Yeah, she's gone." Sam replied, walking towards Al and out the door. Al followed him down the corridor leading to the makeshift kitchen they had established in an abandoned office. Sam picked up the coffee pot and, checking to see if its contents were still drinkable, pour two cups, handing one to Al. "What did she want?", Al asked, accepting the overstrong brew. "To remind me of my 'duty' to finish her leaper's job." He was chewing his bottom lip, thinking, but Al could tell it wasn't about whether or not the coffee was consumable. "What's up?" "Huh?" "You're a million miles away. What's up?" "Al, what if I'm not here to save Kara's friend. What if my real job was to get Project Quantum Leap back on track?" He set his untouched coffee on the desk. "What if, Whoever's been sending me all over time made a mistake, and this is how they want it corrected?" Al mulled it over in his mind. "It's possible, Sam, but what about the girl? If you don't save her, she'll die. I know you too well. You're not going to let someone die just so you can get what you want, no matter how important what you want is ..." to everyone here as well as yourself. The sentence finished in his head. But Sam knew. He knew that everyone they had called to help them wanted nothing more than Sam's return to his proper place in time. His return would also let them be free of the humdrum monotony their lives had become since his 'death' three years before. "I thought that Kara could just call her and tell her to meet someplace else. I mean, how many twenty-one year old's would turn down finding a new place to party, especially on New Year's Eve? That way, I could stay here and work, maybe even leap back to where I should be =FE or home." Al smiled, his mind wandering, remembering all the conquests he'd made on New Year's Eve's past. People, especially young, unattached female-type people, tended to be less inhibited at the start of a new year. Of course, several hours of 'warm-up' cocktails hadn't hurt his chances either. Finding a new spot each year made the pickings more 'interesting'. New faces, new conquests. "... but she said it wouldn't work." Al snapped out of his reflections. "Sorry, Sam, what was that?" Sitting on the edge of the desk, he let out a 'keep up with me' sigh. "I said, I told Monica about just calling Kara's friend, but she said it wouldn't work. Something about the girlfriend not wanting to change party venues." He clenched his teeth, speaking in a soft whisper. "But I know she's wrong." He stood and began to pace. "Al, I think I'm right. I'm here to help myself get back to our Project. Back before I died." "Well, I know what odds Ziggy'd give that theory. But if we don't get her fully functional before midnight tonight, you'll be gone. Saving that girl or not, you'll leap." "Then I guess we'd better get her fixed. Before midnight." Setting his half-empty cup down next to the still full one, Al followed Sam out of the room, heading for what could be either his friend's new future or his own old one. "Bill's just called. He says Matthew's back with the part, so he'll start workin' on your car right away." Molly stood on the backporch, wiping her hands on a towel. It had been nearly six hours since she'd first pulled, or rather had been towed, into this small town. It was mid-afternoon now, and her book was long since finished. Again, she had offered to help Molly prepare whatever it was needed to be prepared, and again she was turned down. "I think I'll go over to the garage," she shouted back. "I want to take a walk anyway." "Best not to get in Bill's way, though. When he's got himself into a new car, ain't nothin' but an act of God gonna pull him out." "Thanks. I won't get in his way. I just want to ... get something else to read from the car. I've finished my book already." She held up the book for Molly to see as she started towards the side gate. Her purse swung from her other hand. Approaching the garage, she could hear Patsy Cline singing "I Fall To Pieces". The tinny sound was blaring from an old radio set high on a shelf. The mechanic was leaning over his work station studying diagrams. What looked like a car part sat next to him on the desktop. "Hi, Bill. Molly said you called." "Yup. Just lookin' over the instructions. Might take a bit longer than I thought. I need to go over the Mac's garage and borrow some tools. These newer cars tend to take metric- sized everything." He spat out the word metric as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. And it probably did. Old timers like him disliked change, especially in their personal field of expertise. "I, uh, just wanted to get something out of the car ... before you put it back up on the hoist." As she reached for the door, her foot slid on a small patch of oil. As she cried out, reaching for anything for support, she knocked off her sunglasses. Bill reached out, grabbing her upper arm. "You okay, ma'am?" He looked her up and down, reassuring himself that no major damage had been done. "I'm fine. I probably just banged my leg a little." She reached down and brushed at her pantleg. She then reached down for her sunglasses, but Bill had already started to scoop them up. "Here ya go," he said, wiping them on a rag then handing them back. "Thank you," she replied. As she looked at him, she saw his gaze fix her on her eye. There was still some slight discolouration where Philip had hit her. That's why she needs to get going so fast, he thought. I better get that car down double quick. She turned away, quickly ran her fingers around the rim of the glasses to remove any oil or dirt, then put them on. Then she turned to face him again. "I'll just ... go for a walk." She tried to ignore what had happened, and to his credit, Bill didn't mention it. "Is there a store close by? I finished my book and need something else to read while I'm waiting." She wiped her fingers on the cloth Bill had pulled from his back pocket. "Yeah. Just go down the road away from the house. It's about five buildings down." She thanked him, then left, walking quickly away. Once she was out of view, Bill grabbed up the phone, dialling his house. He quickly told Molly about what he had seen, telling her he'd stay and finish the car, even if it took until midnight.