"Rebirth" Part X January, 2003 Santa Fe, NM Elane's doctor, apparently satisfied with her rapid rate of recovery (or driven to the brink by her constant pleas for release - she could never be sure), did indeed send her on her way under Sam's care the following morning. Sam dropped her home with express orders to get some rest. He then proceeded on to the project, uncertain of what he would find when he got there, or what he would do about it. One thing was certain: he couldn't go now and just put in a normal day's work. By the same token, he couldn't further raise the suspicions of anyone, especially the committee. It was a confused, tangled mess he was caught up in and he was completely embedded in it. The thought that had surfaced last night in Al's hotel room rose into his stream of consciousness again and he shied away from it. It wasn't a viable option - too messy, too complicated. He walked into his office and found a fax demanding the alpha program of the retrieval process by the end of the week. He'd been working for an hour when another fax came through. "Be careful with whom you associate," it warned. "You are on a top secret project and any leaks are unacceptable. -Sen. Weitzman" Congress had their stranglehold, and now they were applying the pressure. Sam closed down the program, pulled out a notebook and a calculator, and started writing. ~~~~~~ January, 2003 Stallion Springs, NM "Oh, I don't know about this, Sam," Al said as he paced. "It's not a good idea. Can't you just filch up the retrieval program instead?" "I'm not leaving anyone stranded out there and I don't care who he or she is," Sam said sharply. Elane glanced at Al. "I'm sure that's not what he meant." Al sighed and started to pace faster. "No, of course not. But you two know more about these systems than anyone else. Can't you kind of sabotage it quietly without anyone knowing what you're doing?" "With all the millions spent on failsafes?" Elane asked. "Not likely." "So you'll dismantle the failsafes first," Al said calmly. "I can take this conversation back as many steps as you two." He stopped moving and faced them. "We're not out of options yet. You don't have to do this." Sam started ticking off points on his fingers. "Leaping is faster, it could solve all our problems-" "-Or create new ones," Al interjected. "-And there's less chance of getting caught. It's not sabotaging the program, it's simply altering its objective a little bit." "And what are you going to change, huh? What could you possibly do that would undo this without eliciting a lot of massive shock waves?" Elane, who had been silent up to this point, suddenly spoke up. "What if we don't just undo it. What if we fix it?" "What do you mean?" Al wanted to know. "Well, we're saying that we can't sabotage the project because they're keeping a close eye on you, Sam, so what if you make it to the Accelerator and just leap back, say, a minute. But you leap back into someone no-one would ever be watching." "Leap back and do what?" Al demanded. Sam crossed his arms. "Delete Ziggy's memory banks. That's the only place the data's stored - we get rid of that and they've got nothing left." "Delete it and you'll be deleting your retrieval program, too." "You could put a delay on it," Elane said excitedly, leaning forward. "Have the entire core wiped _after_ you leap back, but not long enough that anyone can stop it." "We'd still need to reconfigure the project to leap you back and not forward," Al said. "How long would that take and how do you do it without getting caught?" "It would take a good eight to twelve hours," Sam confessed. "Well, there goes that. No way I could go unnoticed for that long without someone realizing what we were up to." "And how long to find and erase all the data in Ziggy's memory banks once you'd leaped?" "Couple hours. Plus an hour to deactivate failsafes." Sam sighed. "I guess we're back to square one." "Yeah." They sat in frustration for a few more minutes. "Sam?" Al asked suddenly, "just for curiosity's sake, who were you gonna have observing for that guy, what's-his-name?" "Boyd," Elane supplied. "Yeah, him." Sam shrugged. "That wasn't entirely settled yet, but we were trying to hook up a few observers. I was gonna be at least one of them." "No," Al snapped, then seemed to catch himself. He backtracked. "I mean, I was thinking... Could you do your 12 hour project if you had a hologram looking over your shoulder for you?" Sam was about to demand why Al was so adamant about him not observing, but the latest idea sufficiently diverted his attention. "How would you get into the Imaging Chamber? It's not like everyone knows you, but those we've carried over from Project Quantum Leap do, and you were with us for a month." Al moved restlessly. "Well, now, I hadn't gotten that far, yet." "Hey, fellas, first things first," Elane inserted calmly. She seemed to provide helpful reminders of the big picture each time Al and Sam became ensnared in details. "Sam, is this even viable? If we got Al to the chamber, could you do it?" "It could work," he said slowly, "but you couldn't be involved, Elane. You'd never get in." "I know, but there's got to be something I can do. It'll present itself when I'm needed." Al smiled and Sam kissed her briefly. "So now we need to figure out my end of things," Al said when the momentary victory had passed. Sam let out a heavy breath. At every step seemed to be more complications. Elane had joked about `cloak and dagger' earlier and he'd laughed, but now... Hiding in hotel rooms? Breaking into government installations? If it wasn't cloak and dagger, he didn't want to know what was. "I don't know, Al, maybe we just gotta sleep on this one." "If you can get me a roster and shift schedules - for everyone - maybe I can do you one better and figure it out," Al suggested. "Hey!" he added, brightly, "you said Ziggy was up and running, right? Maybe we can convince her to-" "No good. She's had a...um...personality shift. She's still as arrogant as anything and nosy as hell, but she tends to follow the rules. She won't keep us out as long as we've got proper codes, but neither would she let us in without them." "What about snooping around and changing her systems? Won't she be keeping a record of that?" "Yes," Elane said, "but there's likewise a recording of anyone accessing those files. I have no doubt Wetizman's been regularly peeking into them, but if Sam's careful about how he manipulates the system, hopefully no cause for alarm will show." Sam groaned. "I just can't believe we're doing this." "Are you kidding?" Al grinned. "This is _it_ kiddo! This is what it's all about." Sam raised both eyebrows. "I worry about you, Al. I really do." ~~~~~~ January, 2003 Stallions Gate, NM Sam had been working double-time on the retrieval program. After all, he didn't want to leap until it was ready. It was in the process of completing this task that Weitzman found him. "Senator," he said in surprise and with an internal tremble, "I had no idea you were down this way. If I'd have known you were flying in, I'd've-" "Which is why I didn't tell you," he interrupted smoothly. "I can see you're hard at work on some-" he slid the notepad around so he could look at it right-side up "-complex looking calculations, and so I'll be brief. This is not your project: you know it and I know it. If it was, you'd be leaping. As it is, Dr. Boyd will fly down here on Friday. You are to brief him over the weekend and we'll do prelim testing all next week." "What if the retrieval program's not done by then?" "You job is to see that it is." "What if I told you I wanted off the project?" Sam asked, testing the waters. "You wouldn't do that." The senator's confidence was beginning to grate on Sam's nerves. "How can you be so sure?" "A couple of reasons, actually. It's a new frontier. You're not the kind of man who could resist a new frontier if you tried. And, secondly, if you don't finish it, Dr. Boyd will have no way to get home." Sam stood angrily. "You'd still do it, even knowing that he might never get back." "You forced our hand, Doctor, when you leaped. You knew it wasn't ready and you still did it." "That's different - I had a choice!" Weitzman inclined his head slightly. "You still do have a choice. You can finish the program or not." The senator turned to go, but Sam spoke out, halting his retreat. "What are you going to use it for?" Weitzman shook his head sadly and put his hands together, his fingertips touching and pointing towards Sam. "I have only myself to blame for this, I suppose. I should never have let Calavicci back into the picture. An oversight on my part. Doctor, we are not a group of thieves and bandits conspiring against the harmony of the world. This is not some elaborate game of, `What's tomorrow night's winning lottery number?'" "I know that," Sam said, "but can you honestly tell me it doesn't have the potential to do just as much harm? I went into Quantum Leap with the most noble - I thought - of ideas. And, yet, there were temptations that arose. There could be things in that future that we're just not ready for, yet." He laid his hands on the cluttered desktop. "How can any group of people look past temptation and decide what we can and can't handle?" "I don't know, Doctor, what did you have in mind when you started this project?" "That it was my project." He actually laughed. "And then Admiral Calavicci transplanted his ideas into your head," he surmised. "This isn't about Al. He was always a little more paranoid than me, anyhow. These are _my_ concerns." Weitzman nodded slowly in apparent approval, then lifted a small model from Sam's desk and turned it over in his hands. "I hear he's been snooping around here again." Shock and worry flooded Sam's senses. "Who told you that?" The senator smiled. "You did - just now." "I didn't say he was here." "Not with words, no, but a lot can be read through nonverbal communications." He paused. "Do you play poker, Dr. Beckett?" "Not really, no." "Too bad. I'd love to play you." He shrugged, replaced the model on the desktop, and folded his arms. Sam sighed. Trying to have a straightforward conversation with the man was so draining. "What are you going to do?" He didn't answer, but he did leave Sam with a warning: "You tell Admiral Calavicci to watch his step because if he pushes his luck on this one, he'll lose. I'm legally within my rights to use whatever means necessary to remove him from the complex if he sets foot in it. Am I making myself perfectly clear?" Sam faced him down angrily. "You tried that method with me once before - it won't work again." He shrugged. "Suit yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you." Sam could have hit him. "Don't threaten me - or Al! And don't tell me who to associate with." "Do you think you can find your way around the pitfalls without my advice?" he questioned. "I don't."