April, 1999 San Fransisco, CA Dr. Christina Meth twisted the phone cord around an anxious finger. "Hello?" came the voice from the reciever. "Yes, I'm calling about my appointment tomorrow afternoon in Santa Fe. This is Dr. Meth. I'm afraid I'm not going to make it." "One moment, please," returned the voice without preamble and she was put on hold. Christina gave a little sigh and leaned back in her chair. Not much had changed over the past couple years. She was still in the same office in the same building with the same desk, she still had the same assistant, and she was still being sponsored by the same people. Unfortunately, she also still hadn't figured out the secrets of time. Time hid her treasures well and she rarely disclosed anything to prying minds. Dr. Meth knew that as well as anyone, but she had developed another theory as to the location of Dr. Beckett and she was beginning to suspect that time had made an exception and perhaps he had cracked the code. She tapped a pencil on the table and reflected on the fact that the last thing she wanted to do was spend time talking Senator Franklin out of a meeting. They were keeping her on hold a long time and this was her dime she was dishing out here. Long distance from LA to Santa Fe could get pretty expensive, especially in the middle of the day. "Senator Franklin," he said in brisk, business like tones and she jumped despite herself. Even miles away, he still intimidated her. Then again, offhand, she couldn't think of anyone the man didn't intimidate. "Senator, this is Dr. Meth. I am calling because I don't think I will be able to make that meeting tomorrow." "I beg your pardon?"' he asked and his voice chilled her to the core. She wished she had had her assistant handle this; she was better at dealing with Christina's sponsors than Christina herself. But her assistant hadn't been seen in a couple days. Christina wasn't entirely aware of the implications of this yet, she was so absorbed in what she was doing that she only tended to notice the woman when she needed something done and she wasn't there to do it. Like now. "I have a lot to do and I think I'm on the verge of something that-" "Have you forgotten who sponsors you?" he demanded forcefully. "You _live_ off of what we give you. You work off of it, you eat off of it, and you sleep off of it. And I will not have my employee telling me how to run my affairs. A plane ticket in your name for Santa Fe will be arriving at your home tonight. You have one day to pack your things because you're moving to Santa Fe." Her mouth dropped open. "You're kidding," she stated, momentarily forgetting who she was talking to. He ignored her comment. "I don't think you will mind this meeting, doctor. I think it may offer the opportunity you've been waiting for." "What?" she choked out. "I have a new project up in the works. It's very top secret and not even the government knows about it. And you are going to be the Head Scientist. We will get all the information for you and all you have to do is decipher it and assist in creating and maintaing the project. I will be the Project Head and you will report directly to me. Any more questions will have to be discussed once you arrive." "Can you at least tell me what it involves?" she asked. "Not on an insecure line. The messenger tonight will have additional instructions. I will pick you up at the airport tomorrow." He hung up without warning, but Christina was already too immersed in what she was thinking to notice little details like that, let alone object to them. She waited all day, for the first time unable to concentrate on her work for curiosity's sake. At around ten in the evening, there was a knock on the door of her apartment. She rose and went to the door, openeing it slowly. A nondescript man stood stiffly. Wordlessly, he handed her a manilla envelope and walked away. She took it to her table and emptied its contents onto the smooth surface, shaking it gently to make sure that was all it contained. Some plane tickets fell out and she picked them up, noting her departure time. Her home was a comglomeration of boxes and bags, and typed out neatly on another sheet from the envelope were directions about the moving of all the things she couldn't take with her on the plane, which added up to a surprisingly few cases of belongings. Well, it surprised her; it would not have surprised the few who knew her. And that was all there was. She opened the envelope again, peeking inside to see if there was anything she had missed. Sure enough, nestled in the corner where she had been holding the envelope when she emptied it, was a small piece of torn notebook paper, folded in two. She fished out the paper and opened it to reveal two words: "time travel". ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 Stallions Gate, NM "Admiral Payne, I'm glad we got ahold of you." "Al," the motherly voice responded warmly. "It's been a while since I've heard from you. The Navy keeping you busy?" "Always, Maria," he responded, thankful that she reverted to the first name basis. "I have a problem and I was wondering if you could help me with it." "Always glad to lend a hand." "I got a phone call the other day that concerns me and possibly project security." He took a deep breath and lifted the note, reading it slowly to her over the phone. When he finished, his hand dropped as if a string had been cut and he leaned back. "Honestly, I have no idea how to handle this. Defense and security is your area, got any ideas?" There was a shocked pause. "Why don't you turn it over to the local authorities, Al?" He breathed out slowly. "I'm not so sure that's a good idea. If this person knows something about Project Quantum Leap, they could make a pretty nasty scandal. I know my office number isn't even traced to this location, but how did they get hold of it in the first place? And then there's their claim to worry about. I mean, if they do have a hostage, we may be risking his or her life. But I also am not too keen on the idea of going there by myself unarmed without the slightest clue of what's going on." "I can't say as I blame you." She cleared her throat and gave a small sigh. "Well, you're perfectly capable of handling this yourself if you feel up to it. But don't go alone, okay? And I wouldn't go unarmed, either. You never know if they're lying." He gave an uneasy laugh. "I hadn't planned on it. Thanks, Maria, I just needed to know I had the okay to clear this up myself." He smiled. "You and I are going to have to get together next time I'm in your neck of the woods. I believe I still owe you a dinner." She laughed. "I'm not sure my husband, Tom, would appreciate that unless he came along." Then it was Al's turn to laugh. "Just so long as he sits at a different table. I'll talk to you later, Maria." As soon as he hung up, he set about gathering some of his people together for the following evening. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 Charleston, SC The man walked slowly around the apartment and turned to his wife. "I don't know where she could be. She should have gotten back days ago. She's been gone for days and nobody even knew?! How is that possible?" The woman moved next to him and gently took his arm. "I'm sorry, Matthew. She was taking three days after the conference off from work, they said. The authorities checked with the Santa Fe airport and she never went to pick up her tickets." He sank down onto the couch and buried his face in his hands. His wife lowered herself slowly beside him and wrapped a supportive arm around his shoulders. He smiled weakly at her. "There's so much going on lately. And now this. And neither of us can really afford this time we're taking off from work. This would be easier if she had just come back to live with us when dad died. But you know my mom....she's got to do it all herself. Wonderwoman," he added somberly. "It's not a crime," she said. "She was too dedicated to her profession here. Besides, just because she lost her husband didn't make her an invalid. Matthew, we've got to go get a motel room before it gets too late, okay?" He closed his eyes and sagged lightly against her comforting embrace. "I don't want to go home until we've found her. We have to go to Santa Fe." "There's nothing we can do. And we can't get in the way of a police investigation." "Andrea, she's my mother!" "I know," Andrea said gently. "Let's just stay here for the night, okay? I'm sure your mother wouldn't mind considering the circumstances." She paused. "Do you want to talk to the police commissioner before they leave?" He nodded and she went outside to get him. A moment later, a short, heavy-set man entered the room with Andrea trailing behind him. "Commissioner," Matthew greeted, wiping his eyes and rising to shake hands. The officer nodded in response, obviously having forgotten Matthew's name. "What can you tell me about my mother?" He cleared his throat slightly and motioned for Matthew to sit back down, sitting himself in an armchair across the room. "All we know for the moment is that she did not leave Santa Fe by air. I can give you the name of the detective in New Mexico who is going to be handling the case and you can call him any time for more details. At this time, all those who attended the conference with her are being interviewed. We haven't come up with anything at this time, but you'll be the first to know if we do. Um, forgive me for asking, but don't you have a brother?" Matthew cleared his throat. "Brian. Yeah, he's in Africa at the moment doing research work, though, so we haven't been able to reach him yet. But we're working on it." "Good. Well, I'll leave you alone now and if you have any additional information or questions, please, don't hesitate to call." He stood and Matthew did as well. "Thank you for all your help. And I was wondering if there was any way I could help..." The officer looked uneasy for a moment. "Sir, these guys know what they're doing. I'm sorry to say it, but all you really can do is wait. But we'll keep you updated. Ma'am," he added, turning to Andrea, and he left. Matthew sank back down on the couch as soon as the door closed and sighed. "'Wait', he says. 'Wait'. How long do you wait before you give up hope?" Andrea had no answer for him.