"Basis of Control" pt. XI

October, 1999
Stallions Gate, NM

  Sam Beckett walked around his quarters with a kind of awe. He  had felt
fairly certain he'd had a house, but Al told him it had been sold after he
leaped and all his things moved to the once temporary quarters or into
storage. Even if things here had been slightly rearranged, he had the feeling
it was almost exactly as he had left it. He also had the feeling Al had done
that on purpose. Al, who didn't yet want to leave Marina or Julia, told Sam
he'd stop by later. In the meantime, Sam took advantage of the unusual lapse
of action to just relax and enjoy himself. As himself.
  Just so long as he avoided the mirrors.
  Never one to let a good thing lie, Sam soon found himself wondering why he
hadn't leaped. Not that he was in any particular hurry to, but just because he
never liked an unsolved mystery. Part of him wished the holographic Al would
return, and part of him hoped he would just drink himself numb and go to bed
with Beth. Well, maybe not quite numb...
  Sam laid down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling absently. Save Al's
daughters, and then save Al. That was it, right? Everything had to have turned
out fine or Al would have returned by this point, or, at the very least,
Verbena would have.
  He closed his eyes, half-heartedly fighting off sleep. He was tired, but he
was also eager to talk with Al later - just talk. It would feel so good...
Besides, he still owed him a hug.

	^Sam stared around the cluttered room. In an instant, he knew he was in a
hotel - only a hotel had the nondescript cream- colored phone by the bedside,
or the little soaps on the sink, or the bed made so tightly it took the jaws
of life to get into it. Sam grinned and shook his head.
	Sam whirled in surprise. Al rarely ever got there that fast. Right off the
bat, he knew something was wrong. For starters, instead of some loud suit or
jacket, Al was dressed in jeans and a polo shirt. To top that off, the
handlink was tucked into one of the front pockets and the typically flashing
lights were unusually dark.
	"Al?" Sam backed away a step to get a better look at him. "What's wrong?"
	"Jonathan!" Al and Sam whirled simultaneously to face the door. A man was
standing in the doorway, an impatient look on his face. "Are you going to take
all day getting your files together?" he demanded. "I want to tell you about
why I called you all the way out here. I want to tell you how I'm going to
make them understand - make them _feel_...how I feel." He sounded excited, as
if eager to share a theory or idea.
	Sam shook his head slightly, but followed him into the adjoining room. "How?"
he managed, looking desperately at Al.
	"Sam," Al whispered, "it's October 29, 1999 and this is Dave Tucker. He just
found out about Project Quantum Leap a week ago and he's been sending me
letters ever since. He..." Al trailed off and stared at Dave. Then he turned
away from both of them.
	Concerned, Sam looked fiercely at Dave. "What did you do?"
	"I just sent him a letter, that's all."
		Sam tried to ignore Al's solemn presence, but his friend's condition had
started his imagination running. "You can't do this, Dave. I don't intend to
let you do anything, do you understand?"
	Dave stared at him and Sam could easily see the fire blazing in his eyes. "I
lost two children - my two daughters! Because of something those people did.
You can't just sit there and trivialize that."
	Sam swallowed. "I'm not, but neither is it your right or your privilege to
exact revenge."
	"Why would anyone help a murderer? They deserve whatever they've got coming!"
	Suddenly, Sam understood. Al still hadn't moved, perhaps because he couldn't,
but Sam knew. His face turned a pasty white. "You're going to kill his
daughters, aren't you?" *Please make me believe you aren't going to do that.
Al, please tell me I'm wrong!*
	"What? No!"
	"Yes," Al murmured quietly under Dave's exclamation. Sam barely picked out
Al's response.
	Sam advanced on Dave's position, fury nearly blinding him to what he was
doing. "You keep saying you wanted him to feel what you felt and you were
serious - you're going to kill his kids!"
	"You're insane! I could never..."
	"I don't believe you."
	Dave turned on Sam, pointing angrily. "Then I don't need you. You're either
in with me on this or you're not."
	Sam closed his eyes. If he didn't play the role of the supportive brother, he
might not be able to stop this. By sticking with Dave, maybe he could warn Al
or, at the very least, be there to avert the disaster when the time came. "The
deal was you wouldn't hurt anyone," he said slowly, feeling his way around
past his anger into Dave's psyche. "Personally, I don't even see why you have
to play these games to begin with, but you can't hurt anyone. Those are my
	"You're just gonna have to trust me on that one."
	"Sam," Al said quietly from just behind him, "please don't let him do this.
I'll do anything, Sam, anything. I tried to leap myself but they wouldn't let
	Sam flinched. He didn't trust Dave in the slightest, but he knew what he had
to do. "I'm in."^

November, 1999
Stallions Gate, NM

  Admiral Calavicci exited the Imaging Chamber on crutches and tossed the
handlink on the console, barely pausing to look at anyone. Part of him felt
_good_, but part of him was still numb with a grief there wasn't any need for
anymore. The last few days had been the most stressful he'd ever endured and
if they didn't lock him away in a padded cell, he figured he'd be doing great.
  Beth, bless her heart, was being a saint about the whole thing, as usual.
She didn't remember the other history, of course, but she listened as he tried
to tell her about it, and she'd held him while he cried. She was making
herself accessible as well. Come to think of it, Verbena was, too. For once,
Al felt no anger that Beth was "tipping off the shrink".
  Al wandered into his office, where he often went to think and get his
bearings, and closed and locked the door. He turned on the small desk lamp and
squinted in the dim light. Knowing that Beth would be able to tell if he'd
been smoking, but that she'd cut him some slack, Al reached for his seldom-
used stash.
  He wished Marina hadn't left already. When Sam first changed history, she
was just on her way back to the airport. He'd stopped them on the way out the
door and just grabbed her and clung to her as if he could never let go. Julia,
too. His entire family probably thought he'd flipped for sure this time.
  At least Julia was still in the complex.
  He felt he just needed some time alone, though, so he lit a cigar and sat in
the near-darkness.
  God, he was so lucky.
  Al smiled slowly to himself as he rolled the cigar between his fingers.
Mostly, he was just tired. After Marina died, in the other history, Beth had
gone to the hospital to be with Julia. Because of Sam (and especially because
of the position Sam was in), Al couldn't go to the hospital as often, but he
did notice that whenever he made it out there, Beth was always asleep at
Julia's bedside. It was as if grief had drained her and all she could find the
energy to do was sleep.
  Al had the sudden urge to hold her, to comfort her, but there was no need
for it. If it was going to be any way, it would be exactly the opposite. Al
stifled a sigh. He had the wound, but he didn't have the memories yet. He
didn't remember Marina and Julia coming home from Santa Fe that day, he didn't
remember being attacked in the parking garage of Project Quantum Leap, and he
didn't remember being able to touch his best friend. What he did remember was
entirely too painful to delve into.
  "I ought to go find Julia," he said aloud, just to break the stillness. The
sense of parental duty merged with personal need carried with it a familiar
feeling. It reminded him of how he felt just before Marina had come to see him
in his office. That, at least, had been the same in both histories, but the
revised history added more to the story.

	^Al had just left the hospital again. He and Beth had spent at least an hour
talking in low tones as Julia carried on just surviving. The grief was
suffocating in the room and in the lobby of the hospital, where Megan and Emma
were asleep, curled up in the chairs.
	Now Al found himself with the task of entering the Imaging Chamber again. If
the welfare of his children hadn't depended on it, he wasn't so sure he would
have been capable of doing it. Gooshie looked sympathetically at him as he
passed, but he didn't notice. He wasn't aware of how out of focus he was until
he set himself up. Standing in the middle of the Chamber, he activated the
handlink and listened to the words, "Gooshie, center me on Marina," come out
of his mouth. Before he could say anything to undo what was about to be done,
he found himself in the guest quarters assigned to her. 
	She was sitting on the bed, seemingly lost in thought. Then, before he could
move or do anything, she glanced up and stared straight at him. She trembled
slightly and a tear slid down her face. He dropped the handlink and heard it
land on the hard floor as if from a great distance. He mouthed her name but,
of course, she couldn't have heard him anyway.
	Suddenly, she seemed to shake herself out of whatever thoughts had captured
her. "This is silly," she muttered, and stood up. She wiped her eyes and bent
over to pick up her cane.
	He took a step closer, unable to stop himself. "Oh, baby, I'm sorry," he
whispered, his voice quivering. "I love you so much, Marina."
		She straightened slowly. "Hello?" she called out.
	Al's body shook and a tear squeezed its way out.
	"Great," she continued, "now I'm imagining things...I must be losing it."
	"I don't know how I'm going to make it without you, honey," Al murmured,
taking a step closer to her.
	She busied herself with unpacking while he stood watching her every move as
if drinking in her presence. It quieted the agony, even if only briefly.
Suddenly, as if overcome with resolve, she lifted the phone and dialed an
extension. "Mom?" she asked. "Is Dad there?"
	Al let the rest of the phone conversation melt into the background. He knew
what was coming - he'd done it a few days before. He'd been there. Marina hung
up the phone and gathered her sweater and her cane and headed for the door.
Entirely against his better judgement, Al followed her. He paused at the door
to his own office, but didn't enter until she called out to him.
	"I'm not late, am I?" Al heard the admiral say. Then he entered the office.
The idle chatter never registered. All he remembered later was staring into
Marina's eyes - watching the pain and loss there that he was somehow
communicating to her across the barriers of space and time.
	And death.
	"Can I have a hug?" she asked.
	Al leaned heavily against the Imaging Chamber wall. "Oh, Marina," he gasped
out, "you always used to do that. Ever since you were a little girl. We'd be
spending time with your sisters and you'd come up just as sweet as you please
and ask for a hug." Tears welled in Al's eyes again. "Oh, I wish... I wish I
could give you one," he said softly, his voice breaking. "How I wish I could
just hold you one more time."
	"Why are you crying?" the admiral asked his daughter, a concerned smile on
his face.
	She blushed slightly. "I don't know."
	Al was weighted to the floor, huddled against the wall, unable to think,
unable to function, unable to move.^

	^Completely unknown to Al, a debate carried on outside the Imaging Chamber
Door as Gooshie called Verbena to the Control Room.
	"What is it?" the psychiatrist asked as she entered the room.
  	Gooshie lowered his gaze. "Admiral Calavicci. He had me center him on his
daughter, and...it doesn't look good."
	"What happened?" she asked, concern shadowing her eyes.
	"I don't really know. I heard him talking and thought he was talking to me,
but..." Gooshie shifted uncomfortably. "Dr. Beeks, I don't want to intrude on
him or-"
	"Okay," she said calmly, breathing in deeply. "Call Beth and tell her if she
can spare the time away from Julia that we need her. I'll...go talk to him."
She took a step towards the door.
	"Dr. Beeks," Gooshie said quickly, "I don't think that's such a good idea."
	She looked back, frustrated. "We can't leave him alone, Gooshie. He just lost
a child."
	The scientist frowned. "I know. But I just don't think... You're not the
person he needs to see."
	Verbena stopped and looked at the scientist, his meaning slowly becoming