pt. V

July, 1985
Atlanta, GA

  The hum of the elevator as it ascended was the only thing Al could hear
over the sound of his own breathing. The desperate look Sam threw him was
almost enough to send him into a fit, but he tightened the grip on his own
emotions. He glanced at the handlink in his hand and saw scenarios flashing
faster than he could read. There was really nothing else he could do, except
pray, and he wasn't inclined to do that.
  Andrew stood behind Sam, the gun still pressed against his head, offering
no room for Sam to manuever. He was pressed against the corner so that he
could easily hide the gun should anyone join him in the elevator.
  "Okay, Sam, Ziggy's got an idea," Al said suddenly, startling Sam and
causing Andrew to push a little harder. He was starting to develop one heck
of a headache, but that was nothing compared to the problems he'd face if he
didn't get out of this. Why would God, Fate, Time, or Whatever want him to
save this nozzle's life anyhow? "Sam, you need to hit the alarm button on
your way out of the elevator and then stall until security arrives. Ziggy
says that's your best bet." Al's voice sounded low and strained and Sam
wanted to ask what the odds were but Al's refusal to volunteer the figures
indicated that he probably didn't want to know anyhow.
  Sam reached out a hand towards the controls carefully, trying not to alarm
his captor. "Up a bit, Sam," Al instructed, twisting to get a better view.
"One button over. That's it, Sam. Now just wait a second...."
  The elevator lurched to a stop and Sam hit the button as he was dragged out
onto the rooftop. The July heat hit him full in the face and he flinched,
thankful that it was night. "Wait," he cried out as Andrew yanked him to the
edge. "Andrew, please, you don't want to do this. What about your children?
What will happen to them if you go to jail for this?"
  The man laughed. "Why would I go to jail because you comitted suicide?"
  "But I'm not Senator Price!" Sam cried out in last-minute desperation.
  "Sam..." Al warned.
  "Please, I'm not him!"
  That at least stopped the death march over the edge - literally. "What do
you mean you're not him?" he demanded. Then a cold humor came over his face.
"Oh....that's right, you're his evil twin."
  "No," Sam sucked in a breath, eyeing the open elevator door, wishing they
would hurry up. "No, I'm Dr. Sam Beckett. I'm a -"
  "Too much, Sam," Al said quietly. "You've got his attention for better or
for worse, don't give away any more." Sam hesitated and Al was uncertain if
he wanted Sam to listen to him or ignore him. His insides were knotted up so
tightly that he actually started to feel physical agony as a result.
  "You're a what?" Andrew asked, his voice laced with sarcasm.
  "I'm not a politician," Sam improvised. Al looked on with hopeful eyes.
  "So how come you look like Senator Price? I'm not buying this for a
moment." He smirked. "I was about to say you're not crazy, but I don't
believe in passing hasty judgement."
  "Sam, Ziggy says they're on their way up. Just hang in there!" The sound of
the stairwell door caught the trio's attention and Al breathed a sigh of
relief. Then he checked the handlink. "Sam, you've got to do something! Ziggy
says he's gonna kill you _and_ himself!"
  "Stop!" a guard yelled, one of two that had come up to investigate. "Put
down the gun."
  "I can't," Andrew said, his voice oddly calm.
  "Andrew," Sam whispered. "I'm innocent. I'm not Price, but if you don't
believe me, then think of your kids. They're innocent. You wouldn't just be
hurting me."
  "Now he takes my suggestion," Al said, but there was no anger in his voice,
only anticipation.
  "I'm doing this for them. For her," he insisted, but he sounded less sure
of himself than before.
  "No," Sam said. "Listen, you've got your job back and I won't press
charges. But if you do this, you'll be in prison and your children will be no
better off. Please."
  Andrew paused and Sam touched his arm gently, as much to calm him as to
assure both himself and Al that the man holding him at gunpoint was indeed
Andrew Sems. Not that his earlier proclamation that he was Sam Beckett
wouldn't have done it. Andrew flinched at the contact, but he sighed and Sam
felt something inside of the man break and crumble away. Al saw it too and
motioned for Sam to take the gun. He did and security converged on the spot.
  "Remember," Sam said to Andrew and the guards, "I promised you your job
back and that I wouldn't press charges." Andrew nodded and Sam sighed with
relief, certain that Andrew and two witnesses would be enough to force Wilson
Price's hand. "I'll be down in a moment," Sam told them.
  Al blew out a breath he felt he had been holding for the past ten minutes
and smiled at Sam. "A little too close for my comfort. You okay?"
  Sam nodded, walking back slowly to the spot where Al "stood". "What happens
to him, Al?"
  Al began punching buttons. "Well, he starts working again and he seems to
turn out okay. Oh, and get this, Senator Price starts to knock off his
Scrooge act and...." Al trailed off, a thoughtful look on his face.
  "Well, Andrew must have mentioned that little 'I'm Sam Beckett' thing to
him because he's on the Senate Subcommittee for Quantum Leap. I remember he
was one of our main supporters back when we were just getting started. Must
have recognized your name and put two and two together. And he was
responsible for getting us our budget increase this past spring."
  Sam grinned. "I knew there had to be a reason I was here to save this guy.
So he turns out alright?"
  Al pulled out a cigar to celebrate. "Sure does." They stood in
companionable silence as Al lit up. "You know, Sam, there has been some wierd
stuff going on back at the project and I was sure for a moment that Andrew
was Alia."
  Sam gave him a puzzled look. "Who's Alia?" he asked, and leaped.

September, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

  Al walked slowly down the ramp, a confused expression pasted on his face.
Why would Sam not know who Alia was? Unless he just swiss-cheesed it. That
had to be it; his run-in with Alia was not one he was likely to forget.
  "Where's Dr. Beeks?" Al asked the short, nervous scientist.
  Gooshie shifted his weight and tilted his head. "She's in with...._her_."
  Al sighed and walked to the guest quarters, wondering what to make of this.
He didn't get but two steps into the room when Verbeena motioned for him to
go back out. With a raised eyebrow, he complied and she joined him. "What's
the story?" he asked.
  Verbeena eyed his cigar, but refrained from comment. "Well, I asked her a
few questions and she said that she had no idea what I was talking about."
  "Verbeena," he said in slow tones, "I just spent the last half hour
watching Sam held at gunpoint and almost thrown off a building. _I_ have no
idea what you're talking about."
  She grimmaced and nodded slowly. "Okay, start at the beginning."
  "Nice idea."
  She ignored his sarcasm. "I didn't want to question her on things that
hadn't happened yet, so I had to kind of make them round-about, if you know
what I mean. Al, she didn't seem to have any idea what Project Quantum Leap
does, and the concept of time travel seemed absurd to her. She has been
working with a Dr. Christina Meth for the past four years, but doesn't even
know all that the woman has been working on! Then, about a year ago, the
people Dr. Meth work for called them both to Santa Fe and she was moved into
a military complex, was how she described it. Al, she doesn't remember what
happened to her most of the last year! I can't figure out if it's repressed
memories or what, but if the people we think had her did indeed have her, I
wouldn't be surprised."
  "So she claims any information she could have she's forgotten?" Al gestured
with a hand. "Nonsense."
  The psychiatrist shook her head. "I think she's telling the truth. Of
course, I could be wrong, but...." she trailed off when she saw the look in
Al's face. "What?"
  He didn't say anything for a moment, trying to order his thoughts.
"Verbeena, Sam didn't remember Alia."
  "So? Sam forgets things all the time."
  He shook his head. "Do you think it's possible that _we_ changed the
future? That we changed her future?" Al gestured to the door with his cigar.
  She thought for a moment. "No, I don't think that's possible."
  "No, wait think about it. Sam changed the future by leaping, right? And by
running across Alia, he changed what I know of the future, too. So what if
originally, I let Alia go and she fell right back into the hands of whoever
it is that's behind this mess."
  She shook her head. "Then how come I remember her?"
  He chewed absently on his cigar for a moment, unwilling to admit he didn't
have an answer yet. "I hate to admit it, but she did the right thing in the
end. Ziggy detected a minor change in the time stream for the better the
moment she leaped out of that prison. That's how come we know she's out there
on the other end of things for once. What if....what if she didn't know what
she was getting into when she got into it. I told you how swiss-cheesed Sam
was when he first leaped. It would be easy to make her think things that
weren't true, but what she was told to do went against her nature and in the
end she couldn't do it." He paused again. "What if she just did it because
she wanted to go home. Isn't that what Sam's trying to do?"
  Verbeena wasn't sure if he wanted her to answer or not, so she just nodded.
  Al tucked his free hand into his pocket, abnormally subdued by the thoughts
he was having. "The question is, will keeping her safe alter the timeline for
the better, or for the worse? Will Zoe leap instead? In which case, she'd
shoot him without a second thought." He had contemplated keeping Alia out of
harm's way earlier, but then decided against it. Now, he was starting to
think that it might be the best way after all.
  Verbeena, for her part, was wondering how Al knew Alia in the first place;
she certainly had never heard of her. "There's one more thing you should
know, Al." He looked up at her. "Dr. Meth worked for Senator Franklin."
  Al closed his eyes and felt the entire world fall to pieces around him.

September, 2000
Santa Fe, NM

  "Please, drink," Senator Franklin urged, pushing the glass of water that
had finally arrived into her hand. She tried not to recoil because she really
wanted that glass, but something in his eyes made her want to run from the
room. She was still watching with a kind of detached manner as the situation
formed around her, not quite able to accept that it was actually happening to
  "Time travel," she repeated for the third or fourth time since he had
brought it up.
  "Yes, we are looking for someone to be our link to the past, if you will.
My associate has already agreed to perform services as a guide, an observer.
She is quite accomplished. The scientist to whom we owe our ablility to
decipher the information we have gathered had donated her assistant to the
task, but, after a short debate, we decided you would be more suited to the
job. Alia is so....squeamish." He grinned. "Weak."
  She was curious despite herself. "And what would you have me do? What would
be the purpose of doing that in the first place?"
  "Simple: to alter what is into what should be."
  Ingalls narrowed her eyes. "To benefit you."
  "Where opportunity provides, yes."
  "And where it doesn't?"
  He leaned forward and she reclined slightly in her seat. "Don't you find
chaos fascinating?"
  The glass in her hand started to tremble and she raised her other hand to
help still it. "What if I refuse?" she asked, testing the waters.
  "Simple. I haven't given you that option. Conditioning will begin in one
  She swallowed and placed the glass on the edge of his desk for fear she
would spill it. "Time travel isn't possible," she insisted, still trying to
deny her position.
  "Ah, but two men have found a way to do it. Dr. Sam Beckett is, as we
speak, in the past, changing things here and there. If he can do it, why
can't we?"
  "How do you know this?"
  He gave a small sigh of pity for her ignorance. "Because I'm on the
committee that approved it. Oh, I fought against it, of course, but I lost.
So I'm turning that loss into a win. Admiral Calavicci fought the good fight,
but we have already slipped in and out under his nose and we have all the
information we need." She closed her eyes, missing the satisfied look that
shone in his eyes, feeling a fist closing around her, pushing all the air out
of her lungs. "And if we _do_ need any more, he has to report to us - to me -
monthly, and I can get any information I need. And that, my dear lady, is all
I am inclined to tell you. I do regret having to tie you up again, but
construction isn't complete and we have nowhere else to keep you. I do hope
you will be comfortable."
  A tall black man entered the room at his call, slender with short, dark
hair cropped close to his skull and cold brown eyes. He smiled at the woman
sitting in front of Senator Franklin, his sharp features twisting into an
expression of pleasure. "Please come with me, dear. I think you will find
your new room to be to your liking."
  It was pointless to protest, and she allowed herself to be led out of the
room, looking as if the spirit, the life, had been pulled out of her. A small
part of her wondered what would be left over when it was.