Chapter Two Sam's jaw moved, but nothing came out. He just looked at the woman, sitting where Al should have been. "You still haven't mastered a clutch system after all the bouncing around you've done," she said, chastising Sam with humour in her eyes. "Who ..." "... are you? Let's see." She touched the side of her head, just in front of her left ear. She looked like a newscaster receiving a bulletin. "Your name is Consuela Ramirez, but you go by the name Kara. You're originally from Phoenix, Arizona, but have an apartment in New York City. You're a 21 year old model, and apparently, doing quite well at it." She gave the car, a '66 Mustang, a deep, loving gaze. "I guess this is the car you keep at daddy's for when you're home." Sam looked across the seat at this woman. Where's Al? Who is this woman? He was about to ask that very question of her when there was a knock at his window. He turned to find the other model, the one the blonde had identified as Carnie. Grasping the nob on the door, he lowered the driver's window and she bent over, coming face to face with him. "What's up? You still coming or not?" Sam turned his head towards the woman seated beside him, then back to the girl in the window. "I just remembered that I have something else to do. I'll see you guys later, okay?" "Yeah, sure, no problem. Merry Christmas!" She jumped back into the other car and sped off. Sam raised the window back up, and turned back to face the stranger in the seat next to him. "Where ..." "... are you? It's ..." "Would you please stop interrupting me? I really hate that!" Sam hated blowing up, especially at a woman, but after only a few seconds, she was driving him crazy. She must be a temporary observer while Al's in divorce court again. Please, let her be a temporary observer. "Saw-w-w-w-re-e-e-e-y. Geez, you sure do get testy when you jump into someone new. So, do you like being a fashion model? All those lovely clothes, bright lights, stiletto heels." A long intake of breath followed by a satisfied sounding sigh told Sam that she wasn't teasing him, but imagining what it would be like. She can have it! She quickly sat up, placing her hand against her ear again. "More info coming through." Without the handlink? Sam looked at her, more confused with each passing minute. "You, that is Kara, is here, in Phoenix, modelling as a favour for a designer wannabe, Jean-Louis Vectra" She sneared. "His real name is Louis Vernon and he's from 'da Bronx', and he's really not very good. Gawd, I hate it when people can't be who they are to get somewhere," she glanced over at him, "not like you, eh, darlin'." A mischievous grin spread across her face, the double entendre not lost on the Leaper. Sam began to speak, but she held up her hand, stopping him. Bending her head, as if straining to listen to something, she continued. "It's two days before Christmas, and, ... come on, Rog, ... there's an eighty-two percent point three three chance that you're here to prevent Kara's best friend, Beverly Heathcote, from getting killed on New Year's Eve. She gets killed by a drunk driver on her way home from a party, in Albuquerque. Gawd, I hate people who drink and drive. Just plain stupid! It happens at 1:38 a.m., Mountain Time, fifteen minutes after she leaves the party. If you're there with her, there's a ninety-five percent chance that you can keep her from leaving the party before 1:23 a.m., saving her life." She removed her hand from her face and entwined her fingers, placing her hands in her lap. "So, that means you've got a whole week to get ready. I guess you can go and get me a real nice Christmas present, courtesy of Kara's credit cards." Her eyes twinkled, giving away the joke she was trying to make. "How can you communicate with Ziggy without the handlink?", he asked, the look on his face conveying his puzzlement. "Ziggy?" Now she was the one to be confused. "Who's Ziggy?" "What do you mean 'who's Ziggy'? Ziggy's the ..." He stopped. Surely she must have to know about Ziggy to be here in Al's place? "Where's Al?", he questioned her, a demanding tone now taking the place of the confused one. "Al? Al who? Look, you're not having one of those 'who am I, who are you?' experiences again. I mean, you and I have been together from day one, haven't we?" He didn't remember there being any women observers on the Project. Only Al, and once or twice, Gushie. But, somewhere in the back of his mind a bell rang. A warning bell. What is it? What should I be remembering? Sam strained to remember. Another leaper! There was another leaper! What was her name? Think, Sam, think. Your life might depend on it. "What's wrong? You look more confused than ever." Think. Alia! That's it. Alia. And her Observer ... Zoey! Could this be her? "Come on, Annie, it's me, Monica." Now he was really confused. Annie? Monica? Was Alia dead? Was Zoey gone, too? "Who's Annie?" "Don't tell me I'm going to have to go over your entire life, again. This is getting really tedious. We've got to get that program fixed. You seem to be confused about who you are more often than not after your first jump into someone new." Confused didn't begin to cover it for Sam. "Okay, let's start again. Look at me and tell me what you see." Monica turned to better face him. She sighed, as if she would do it just to humour him. "I see a very young, very beautiful young woman, about 21 years old, with long black hair, blue eyes that I'd kill for, and no make-up, not that you, uh she, needs any, dressed in bluejeans, a rather plain blouse, which by the way desperately needs to be ironed, a jean jacket and sneakers, driving the car of my dreams. What do you see?" Sam looked into the rearview mirror. He, of course, saw the same thing, but that was because he was looking through someone else's eyes. He turned back to the woman. "What you should be able to see is me, the person I really am, not the person I'm in. Maybe you should go back and get Al." "That's the second time you've mentioned this 'Al'. Who is he?" "Who's Al? He's the guy in charge of the Project while I'm leaping all over the place. Now please, go and get him." "Wait just a minute. I'm the one in charge of this 'project', as you call it." Concern crossed her face. "Something's not right." She touched the side of her head again. "Roger, tell me what your readings are on Annie?" Annie again? She nodded her head a few times, accompanied by an occasional 'uh-huh'. "What!!", she shrieked, causing Sam to nearly jump out of his skin. She tried to compose herself before continuing. "Roger says that you have a few extra, um, bits that you shouldn't have." She seemed slightly embarrassed. "Bits like what." As far as he knew, he had everything he should have for Sam Beckett. "Things like, your appendix, a larger Adam's apple than you should have, and .... shall we say you have some equipment that you shouldn't have." "Some equipment ..." It suddenly dawned on him what she meant. He looked down at his lap, then quickly back at her. "What do you mean I shouldn't have that! Of course I should, I'm a man!" "You're a what!? What do you mean you're a man. You're Dr. Ann Warrington, who, for the past eight months, has been bouncing across time, changing people's lives for the better, or at least trying to. Kind of a ... timetravelling Superman." This woman is nuts. Al! Help! Her head popped up, her hand moving quickly to her ear again. "What's that, Rog? Are you sure? Work on it and get back to me, pronto." The motion of her hand moving up and down from her face reminded Sam of his other question. "Where's the handlink?" "What handlink?" "The communications handlink that keeps you in contact with Ziggy. Al always uses the handlink or he can't communicate with the computer." "Okay, I've had enough." The new observer looked up at the roof of the car, talking as if someone was glued above her head. "Roger, give me what you've got." There was a pause as she took in whatever information she was receiving. "Are you sure about that? Of course you're sure, you always are." She turned back to Sam. "I think I know what's happened. What's your name, your real name." He was hesitant in providing this to her. "Look, my computer, thinks he has an idea of what's happened, but first I need your name to prove it." "Sam," he said slowly, "Sam Beckett." Her eyes widened in surprise. "Sam Beckett? THE Sam Beckett? Nobel prize wining, multiple doctorate, speaks several languages, smartest man in recorded history, Dr. Sam Beckett?!" "Yes, that Sam Beckett." He really hated it when someone was more concerned about what he had done rather than the person he was. The joy was obvious on her face as she once again reached for the spot below her left ear. "Sam Beckett," she repeated to the roof of the car. "Are you sure? Okay." Monica turned back to face the Leaper. "Rog says that he's found proof that there was another time travelling program going on. He believes that you are the one doing the travelling." "What do you mean 'another' time travelling program?" Sam's face held a look of extreme alarm. No one outside the Project and the Committee overseeing it was supposed to know what they were really doing. A knock at the window startled them both. Sam turned to find the small man, the one the other girls had called Bobby Blue, standing there. He rolled down the window. "Got car trouble, doll?", he asked pleasantly, as if he hadn't screamed blue murder at the model less than an hour before. "Uh, no. Why?" "I saw you leave with Carnie and Wanda, about twenty minutes ago. Since the other two are already gone, I thought maybe you were having some trouble." Think fast, Sammy boy. "Actually, I've already called Triple A for help. I guess it's just taking a bit longer." "Do you want me to stay and keep you company?" "Uh, no, that's okay. Shouldn't be too much longer." "You sure?" Just go away! "Yeah, I'm sure." "Okay, then. But if nobody shows up in ten minutes, don't wait out here. Go inside. They're still cleaning up in there. I'll see you later. Merry Christmas." The man walked away, getting into the only other car left in the same area of the parking lot. Resetting the window, Sam turned back to Monica. She continued the discussion where he had left off. "You are Dr. Sam Beckett, aren't you? Head of the Quantum Leap Project of the late 1990's?" She took his silence as confirmation. "Like I said, another time travelling program. I belong to a time travelling program established by Dr. Ann Warrington, the person you are supposed to be. Our computer, Roger, theorizes that you two crossed when you both finished your respective last 'assignments', and she is now occupying your place in your leap, as you call it, as you are here in hers." "So, why didn't you know I wasn't Dr. Warrington when you first saw me?" "Because I can only see Annie as the person she's in. We locate her once she's pushed the hyperlink transmitter. It's a device which has been implanted into the side of her face, next to her ear. I have one, too." She pointed to the place she had been touching occasionally. Sam saw a small scar, as if she'd had a birthmark removed. "It's how I communicate with Roger. I guess that's our version of the 'handlink' you mentioned." The efficiency of not having one or both hands constantly tied up using the handlink was logical to Sam, but he knew that there was no way Al would even consider having something implanted in his head. Having Ziggy keep that close an eye on him would be more of a strain that having the carry the handlink. "Since I don't have one, a hyperlink transmitter, how did you find me?" "It took us a while, but so far Annie's jumps, uh leaps, have been restricted to a very small, very specific timeframe and locale. Your brainwaves must be similar. Probably because Ann's IQ is 203, not very far from your own, comparatively speaking." Something about the that name, Dr. Ann Warrington, finally twigged a response in the back of Sam's swiss-cheese mind. They had been linked in some smalltime science magazine, both professionally and romantically. He didn't remember ever having met the woman, although he couldn't necessarily rely on his swiss-cheese memory for such things. He quickly dismissed this recollection as unimportant. He'd had so many articles about him and his work published, he hadn't bothered reading most of the smaller ones. They usually just regurgitated the larger articles. "Does Roger have any idea as to how I'm to get back to where I should be?" "He thinks that all you have to do is complete the job Annie would have done had she been here. She's probably doing your job as well. When you're both finished your jobs, hopefully at the same time, you should cross paths again, each returning to your own time." She smiled, seeming content with that. "In the meantime, enjoy it. After all, it's only two days to Christmas. Why don't you try calling your family, saying Merry Christmas, that kind of stuff." Call his family! He hadn't spoken to his mother, sister or brother in what seemed like a lifetime. But Project protocol wouldn't allow it. No communication with any family member, not until returning to his own timeline. Not that he would even know where they might be right now. He looked down, worrying his fingers. "I can't," he said in a small voice. Then gathering himself, tried to change the subject. "So, what's the exact date, anyway." "Your date or mine?" She flashed a friendly, teasing grin. He wasn't amused. "Both." She took the hint, her mood changed, matching his. "Well, where I am, it's August 3, 2005, but here, it's December 22, 2002." Sam's head snapped up. "Two thousand and two?" Three years since I last remember leaping? That can't be right. "Are you sure about the year?" "Completely, why?" "Because I can't leap beyond the confines of my own lifetime, and if it's 2002, then ..." The entire reality of it overcame him. "Then I've been leaping for nearly eight years." Eight years! Eight years away from everyone he loved. Eight years of fixing things for other people, but never himself. "Hey, look on the bright side. At least you know you're alive in 2002, and that the end-of-the-world theorists were wrong." She was trying to make a joke, to make him feel better. It didn't work. He tried to remember his last leap. He remembered leaping into a teenager, a boy luckily, and helping him to, what was it again? He couldn't quite remember, but he new it turned out well, because he leaped out. No, wait. He remembered looking up and seeing Al and Dr. Elesee standing next to him, holding his hands. They were both crying. No, not looking up at them. Looking down at them. "What was the last leap Dr. Warrington was involved in, before this one?" "She was in the body of a woman named Carolyn Hewlett, a cop in some small town, End-Of-The-World-Turn- Left, New Mexico, on December 31, 1999. Her job was to prevent Officer Hewlett from getting shot during a gunfight, which took place at the stroke of midnight in a crackhouse." "Did she?", Sam asked. "We're not sure. There was some kind of major electrical interference happening. Something happened that sapped a great deal of power from our supply. Roger blew nearly half his circuits. He still hasn't figured out what happened. I think it's like human selective memory loss. You know, 'deny all knowledge'. Anyway, Annie leaped before we could find out if she had completed the job. We assumed she had, because you, who should be Annie, are here now." "Since you said she leaped during an 'electrical interference', maybe that's why we crossed paths and ended up in each others leaps." "That's what Roger theorizes has happened." "If I'm here with you, we can assume that Dr. Warrington' leaped to where I should have gone. Right?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Then Al will know she's not me. When I leap, Al can see me as me, rather than as the person I've leaped into." "Sam, ... there's more." She spoke quietly, as if she didn't want to relay the information. "Roger has found evidence that, on January 1, 2000 ... Dr. Sam Beckett died." Died! He was sure he felt his heart stop. His mind swam with a thousand different things and nothing at all. Dead. I can't be dead. "Sam, I didn't know. All records of your project are well protected. Roger only just found out. I'm sorry." She reached out, trying to touch his shoulder to comfort him, but her hand moved through him instead. His mind began to race. If he leaped out of this timeline, would he then be dead? Would he leap into his body as it was now? What had become of Al and the team? Did they even know of his existence in this other timeline? He had to find them. Slowly, he began to speak. "Can ... can your computer give me information about where other people are in this timeline?" "Sure. But I don't think ..." "Where are the others from my Project." "I really shouldn't, Sam. They've most likely moved on with their lives since your death and to see you, even as someone else ..." "I promise I won't try to find any of them, I just want to know what's happened to them." He had hated lying to her, but he had to be able to find out, to get them back together. To Monica, the look on his face seemed to be an honest one. He simply wants to know. She touched the side of her face. "Roger, Dr. Beckett would like some information about his friends. I know, Roger, just please do it." She turned to Sam. "I'll need their proper names, and birth dates, if you have them." Sam tried to remember all that he could about Al, Verbeena, Sammi Jo, Tina and Gushie. They sat in silence waiting for the information. After a few moments, Monica spoke. "Dr. Verbeena Beeks is teaching psychology at Harvard and writing a book about some of her experiences at the Project." She saw the horrified look on Sam's face. "Don't worry, it's a sci-fi under a pen name. Tina Martinez-O'Farrell and Dr. Gushman are married and living in Western New York, just outside Buffalo, not too far from where Tina grew up. They have a fifteen month old daughter and are expecting another child soon. Dr. Gushman owns a computer software company where he's the main designer. Mrs. Gushman also designs, when she can. Sammi Jo Fuller is working in Silicon Valley - her job is classified. Dr. Donna Elesee is remarried and living in San Bernardino, California, she was employed in an office, some mundane paper-shuffling job, but is no longer working." Dr. Donna Elesee? I don't remember ... Remarried? Was she married before she came to the Project? Monica paused, "Sam, Roger can't locate an Admiral Calavicci or an Al Calavicci in the age bracket you mentioned anywhere." "Is he ... is he dead?," Sam asked, not wanting to know the answer. "No, no Roger doesn't think so. He just can't locate him. It seems he just disappeared after the Quantum Leap Project was discontinued." "Discontinued?", his voice cracked. Feeling like he'd been stabbed in the heart, pain suddenly crossed his face. Everything he had worked so hard for had disappeared in one crushing blow. His friends and his lifes work, all gone. He opened the car door, quickly getting out. He felt as if the car itself were closing in on him. He needed air, and to be alone. Monica appeared beside him. "Sam, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it like that. I just assumed that you would know that your Project would have ended upon your return." Slowly, his voice returned to him, but the pain was still evident as he spoke. "I'm going to the Project headquarters." She wanted to console him, but in her holographic state, could do nothing but speak. "Sam, is that such a good idea? I mean, we don't even know if it's still there. It may have been torn down after it was ...", she let her voice trail off, not wanting to vocalize his pain again. "I still want to go." He turned to face her. "I need to go, to see if anyone's there, if there's any way I can do anything to fix this, this mess." "I've already told you that everyone's gone. They have all moved on to other things. Besides, you promised me that you wouldn't contact anyone. And don't forget, you've still got a job to do, here." He gave her a questioning look. "You've got to finish the job that Ann would have done, had she been here instead of you." Anger came to him. "I've got my own job to finish. I didn't ask to trade places with your leaper," he snarled. Monica countered softly. "Would you let a young woman die because you didn't want to be here?" Shame crossed Sam's face as he looked towards the ground, then away from her. "I didn't think so. Maybe we can work something out. You can go to your 'project' site, but when it's time for you to leave to save Kara's friend, you must do so." He nearly agreed, but stopped. "If you could find me here, what's to prevent you from following me to my Project?" "All I can do is give you my solemn word that no one on my end will follow you. I fully understand the need for complete confidence, even if that need no longer fully exists. I can order Roger to never mention anything about you as well, so don't worry about us finding your Project. But, as I said, you must finish Ann's work here. Perhaps you were meant to be here in stead of her, for this leap, anyway." His face suddenly lit up. "Maybe that's it! Maybe, I was meant to do both, save Kara's friend and restart Project Quantum Leap!" Monica turned her head slightly, listening to her computer. "Roger feels that that theory has only a sixty-two percent chance of being correct. Sorry, Rog. Sixty-two point one four three percent. He can be such a pain in the butt about accuracy." Sam grinned. "So can Ziggy." "He also has two theories of his own. In the first hypothesis, he believes that you are here only to complete Annie's work, and that, once you're gone from this timeline, from Annie's leaping, none of us will remember you were here, and you won't remember us. The figures on that are ... eighty- one point zero seven percent." She cocked her head slightly. "In his second hypothesis, you still must save Kara's friend, but you'll be allowed time to finish whatever loose ends you may have with your friends. You probably won't have the time or facilities to restart the Project, though. He estimates you will have approximately one week after you save Kara's friend. Roger estimates that probability at ... eighty-eight point five percent." She lowered her hand, her recitation complete. Sam was quiet, his mind processing all the information Monica had just related. So I've either got one or two weeks to do everything. Not much time. Lost in his thoughts, he didn't realize that she had become quiet for another reason, but when she spoke, her voice was hushed. "Sam, Roger believes that the reason you're ... dead in the other timeline is because," she turned away, looking off into the distance, but not seeing it, "... because Ann died." She had succeeded in pulling him from his thoughts. Sam walked around to face her. "But, if Dr. Warrington has died in my body, that can only mean that she was killed in her last leap. Assuming that she's still able to leap," he paused, wanting to spare her anymore pain, "she may still come back dead." Monica looked down at her hands, then up to face him. She had regained control, for now. "Sam, Annie knew the consequences of her leaping. If your theory is the right one, and it works, you must go back to your own time. It's not fair to make you stay here. If she does come back dead, then that's part of the game she played. She knew that." A disquieting silence stood between them. "Look, just go to wherever your Project is. You've got a week. I'll come and get you before you're needed. Agreed?" "Yeah, sure. Agreed." "See you in a week then." Monica touched the side of her face and disappeared before his eyes. Sam returned to the car, and began the longest journey of his life.