pt. VI September, 2000 Santa Fe, NM Dr. Christina Meth took a deep breath, trying to force herself to go through with it. She was in too deep, she knew, over her head and Senator Franklin didn't care if she drowned. After he had what he needed. Even Christina wasn't naive enought to miss the obvious fact that he would gladly eliminate her after she did her part to get the project up and running. That is why she had to do this now, before that time came. Still holding her breath, she twisted the knob and entered the room. Senator Franklin's secretary looked up with a cold gaze and raised an eyebrow in question. "May I help you, Dr. Meth? I'm afraid Senator Franklin isn't in at the moment." The woman's face clearly indicated that she was too busy to be bothered. Christina noticed she was twisting her hands anxiously and she forced them into stillness. "Oh, I know he's not in," she said, squeezing out a tight smile. "He needed - I needed - some calculations from his office and so he said I could come get them." "One moment, please." The woman lifted the phone and dialed a number. There was a pause and it felt to Christina that the entire room held its breath along with her. "Senator Franklin? Dr. Meth is here; do you know anything about this?...... Yes, sir....... Yes, she said she needed something from your office...... Of course." She hung up the phone and cocked her head, motioning to the door. "You have one minute to find what you need." One minute. That might not be enough time. "Thank you," she said and hurried into the office. She closed the door almost all the way behind her and moved quickly to the desk, pulling some papers out of her coat pocket as she went. She placed the papers on the corner of the desk and opened the filing cabinent. "Come on," she muttered to herself as she flipped through the pages with muted panic. Finally, her hand settled on a sheaf of papers, stapled together and she pulled them out eagerly, placing them on the desktop half on top of the forms she brought in. She gave a silent prayer of thanks for her photographic memory and flipped to the second page entitled "Project Quantum Leap Senate Subcommittee", scrolling down with her finger until she reached the fax number and phone number for Admiral Albert Calavicci. If anyone could help her, it would be him, she was sure. She allowed herself a small sigh of relief, but didn't slow her movements, well aware that there was a time constraint. She put the papers back and closed the filing cabinent. No sooner had she turned back to the desk then the office door opened and the senator's secretary looked in with a suspicious air. "One minute is up, Doctor." Christina smiled and held up the papers she had brought in the room herself. "That's okay. Found 'em." She crossed the office and walked by the other woman, fighting hard not to reveal her anxiety. *And this,* she thought, *was just the easy part.* ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 Stallions Gate, NM Al Calavicci didn't know exactly what to do with the information he had just been handed, but he decided that it was time to talk to Alia himself. Senator Franklin was an influential force on the subcommittee for the project and the first rule of combat was to know your enemy. He had always considered Franklin his enemy, with the man's constant suggestions of budget cuts and demands for reports and extra meetings at each opportunity, but now he knew there was much more going on that he had been totally unaware of. Alia lifted her head as he entered the room and fixed her sharp blue eyes on him. He caught and held her gaze, looking for any hint of the malice he had seen there before. Sam had changed something somewhere along the line, perhaps just by the initial act of leaping and it had drastically altered....something. But _could_ Al change the future? The future that was destined to be? He thought of the present as being altered, constantly re-written by Whomever, but could he himself change the future that was already written? This wasn't his second chance; it was only his first. Would things turn out as they were meant to be no matter what he did? But Sam had forgotten Alia, which indicated that, regardless of what he may think, he did change something. Wordlessly, Al crossed the room and sat in a chair across from her. He pulled in a deep breath and made his decision. If he let her go, they would just get their hands back on her, he realized. And unless it came down to either her or Sam, he could not send her to be trapped in time. It was bad enough that he had failed in stopping Sam, but..... Al shyed away from that line of thought and looked up at Alia again. In the end, she had been free. *Like Sam is free?* asked a bitter voice in his mind. "I need to talk to you," he said finally, breaking her gaze as he spoke. Alia blew out a sigh and looked down at her hands, resting limply on the table. "I don't know what to tell you. I don't remember a whole lot, and what I do remember, I told Dr. Beeks." Al nodded. "Do you remember if Dr. Meth's experiments had anything to do with time travel?" Her eyes narrowed slightly in disbelief. "I don't know exactly what she was working with Senator Franklin on, but I know that time travel was always a special interest of hers. She was always going on about Dr. Sam Beckett. He was the scientist who got her into that stuff. She claims she even met him once. Heard of him?" A wry grin formed on Al's face. "You could say that, yeah." She cast him a puzzled look, but didn't respond. "Well, Dr. Meth worked, and still does work for all I know, for Senator Franklin. I don't believe she was supposed to tell me that because most of the time she'd dance around the subject of who was sponsoring her work, but Dr. Meth wasn't always all there, you know? Many times she even had _me_ talking to him, making excuses for her absence or some other odd job she couldn't be bothered to do herself. I mean, she's a genius and it can be a thrill to work with her, even in spite of her odd nature, but she can be a little....out there at times. Just completely unaware of what's going on around her. " Al grinned a little. "Yeah, I know a person or two like that." "Right, then you understand." Alia was starting to relax, to warm up to her narrative. "Well, one day I get a call from her asking me to go in her place to a meeting in Santa Fe. So I go and these two business men tell me that Dr. Meth was supposed to take a tour of their facility. Well, I called Dr. Meth and she said she didn't remember anything of the sort, which is not altogether surprising and so I wasn't suspicious. But she tells me to go and take notes for her." Alia paused to take a sip of the water Dr. Beeks had apparantly brought in for her earlier. She shivered and whether it was due to a flash of memory or the lack of, Al couldn't say. "So I went with them and that's all I can remember. I couldn't even say where we went." Her hand trembled and she leaned back in her seat. Al cocked his head, turning over the information in his mind, connecting the pieces of the puzzle that he could. "And what's the first thing you remember after that?" She shivered again. "I remember them telling me-" "The same two guys?" Al interrupted. Her brow furrowed and she opened her mouth, but nothing came out for a moment. "I don't remember. Maybe." She shrugged. "Sorry." "Go on," he urged, leaning forward in his seat. "I remember them telling me that they found someone else for my job and that it would delay the start of the project a bit, but it was worth it. In the meantime, they had another job for me and that's when they decided that I'd be more valuable as a - hostage." Al felt a twinge of pity that he never thought he would feel for this woman. He thought back, trying to recall new memories that were years old. He still recalled Sam leaping into Jimmy LaMotta for a second time, but things still happened differently. There was stil a gun involved, he thought, and a woman with dark hair. He just couldn't recall yet. He closed his eyes trying to grasp the fading memory. "Are you okay?" Alia asked, leaning forward to touch his arm. He snapped his eyes open and she drew back at the pain they held, although he couldn't say why. He sighed, his concentration broken. "I'm fine. Listen, we're going to keep you here, where you'll be safe, okay?" She studied him carefully, saw how much that decision had cost him, and nodded slowly. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 Santa Fe, NM Christina noted as she entered the room that Ingalls, the woman Franklin had told her to work with, was not tied up. Apparantly, much to her good fortune, he had decided an armed guard would be enough. The room, if it could be called that, was quite a vile place. It was deep in the bowels of of building, with exposed pipes, rough cement floors, and almost unbearable heat. She felt herself begin to sweat almost the instant she walked through the door. Ingalls sat up suddenly as she walked in the room. She had been curled up on the floor, apparantly trying to get some sleep. The top of the plain blue dress that she wore had been almost completely unbuttoned due to the heat and she clutched the edges of the cloth together in surprise. "I brought you something to eat," Christina said gently and turned her back to the woman while she made herself presentable. "Thank you," Ingalls said quietly and she crossed the room towards where Dr. Meth sat, trying to find a comfortable position. "Did Franklin send you down here?" "Actually, he doesn't know I'm here. Probably wouldn't be all that happy if he knew, but...." "I'm afraid I don't know what's going on here," she said, reaching hesitantly for the bottle of water the scientist offered. "I'm sorry," Christina said quickly and abruptly. "This is all my fault." "Your fault?" her companion asked, cocking her head to study her. "Believe me, my involvement is not entirely your fault, no matter what your part is." She paused and then closed her eyes, composing herself. When she opened them again, there was a forced smile on her face. "I was just careless, that's all." Christina let out a nervous laugh at the irony of the statement. "I've come to ask a favor. It's a big one, but hopefully it can help put a stop to all of this." The woman started to speak, but Christina held up a hand to stop her. "Please, before you accept or refuse, listen to me. I have information that could help all of us, but I'll need to get out of the complex. You-" "Whatever it is," she interrupted, gripping the scientist's arm for emphasis, "I'll do it. Just....tell them I'm here." She held Christina's gaze as firmly as her arm. "Please." Slowly, Dr. Meth nodded.