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. "What?" "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 her. "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 week." 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.