Chapter 2 A LEAP, SOMEPLACE, SOMETIME Leaping around in time is something you would think I would get used to after so many years. At least, I should get used to the disorientation, the moments when I have no idea who I am or why I am that person or what I have to do to get out of there and leap closer to home. It should get easier to figure out what once went wrong and easier to move on. Right? Maybe you think so. But no leap in the four--five? six?--years since I started had gotten me ready for anything like the beginning of this one. The time between leaps is instantaneous for me--an explosion of electricity out and then another one back into someone else. At least, that's how I had always experienced it. Not this time. This time, it took forever...and it hurt. Had something gone wrong? Had I failed? It didn't seem possible, not after....that man...that BARTENDER--GOD, I met GOD. I knew why I leaped, now. God had given me the controls, the ability to choose where I leaped, and I had leaped to Beth. I had changed Al's life, I had saved his marriage. Then...something. Something had happened there, at the end. My swiss-cheese memory wouldn't dredge it up, but something had been different than I expected--and now I was here. Wherever here was. It was time to take a look around. The room was stark and silent, comprised entirely of metal that gleamed almost-white. A soft blue glow seemed to bathe Dr. Samuel Beckett as he looked around his new time and space. The room had the feel of something futuristic--austere and almost like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The walls had no visible joints but instead curved in such a way as to create a soft, bubble shaped area. There was a bed in one corner. That was where Sam had leaped--the person he was in now had been lying there, alone. In fact, there was no one to be found anywhere in the room. Sam looked once more around, trying to find any signs of where and when he was. It didn't take long--the room's objects consisted of only the bed, a table, and a few antique novels, Shakespeare and Moliere and the like. Sam suddenly realized that the room's decor was practically designed to avoid any identification of time or location. He found it confusing. Even more confusing, though was the next thought. Why did it all seem so familiar? Had Sam ever leaped here before? If so, swiss-cheese had erased it this leap. But he knew this place...somehow, he recognized it. Rarely the one to sit and wait, Sam headed for the door to the room to find the answers. That was when he realized something far more alarming. The door had no knob on this side. No pad, no handle, not even a thumb-print electronic device. Sam couldn't leave this room. Not unless someone else opened the door from outside and let him. Maybe it really was an alien ship. Maybe it was anything. But Sam Beckett was suddenly quite aware that he (or rather, the person he had now become) was quite possibly there against his will. Whoever he had leaped into could very well be a prisoner with this room a very durable cell. He pushed the door once, just to see if maybe it didn't need a knob. Instantly, from the walls around him, a voice spoke. "You will step away from the door immediately or you will be sedated. Am I clear?" Sam looked around, trying to find a camera or some way of monitoring him. Whoever had designed this place (and it certainly seemed to be a cell NOW) had done an excellent job--he couldn't see anything. "AM I CLEAR OR DO YOU NOT SPEAK ENGLISH?" The voice was suddenly boomingly loud inside the room. Sam clamped his hands over his ears and noticed that the voice had remained entirely neutral when it spoke. There was no emotion in it whatsoever, and the loudness was simply the volume turned up several decibels. Sam realized he was getting more worried by the moment. Yet somehow, even the way the voice was amplified seemed familiar to him. He could still swear he recognized where he was--but if that voice continued at its current level, he wouldn't be able to think about anything at all. "Yes. you're clear!" he called out to the invisible monitor, hoping that this would be the end of the ear-splitting noise. "EXCELLENT, DOCTOR," the voice boomed, and then lowered the volume to a manageable level. "If you continue to follow the rules, nothing will happen to you, and you will be returned as soon as we have made the necessary adjustments." Sam's head spun, gathering information--he was a doctor, someone was adjusting something, and he was...what? In the way? Part of the problem--or part of the solution? "Food will be served to you in one hour," the voice continued. "Do not attempt to damage the one who brings it again, or you will have nothing to eat for the rest of your stay." Sam listened silently. The more information he gathered now, the better. Especially since Al had failed to show up. Where was he anyway? Sam refused to let his mind get distracted, but the question was gaining power. Sam knew that it sometimes took Al and Ziggy a while to find him, but in a leap like this, time was always of the essence. The last time Sam remembered leaping into a prisoner, he'd nearly been electrocuted--and that was not a possibility he wanted to cope with again without his friend. Without Al, Sam would be in real trouble. Al was Sam's lifeline to the maze of fixing time. As such, Al's information was crucial to Sam's leaps--often differently than they planned, and seldom the way Ziggy wanted it--but always critical. If Al didn't show soon, Sam would have no clue how to proceed. Information was always crucial to helping Sam complete a leap. Without Al, Sam was quickly coming to believe he wouldn't have nearly enough information to do what he was here to do. Without Al, Sam was lost. Apparently not interested in continuing it's recitation of the rules, the voice had quieted. Sam waited to see if any other reminder was announced or if he could hear that voice speaking to another prisoner in a different cell. Nothing. Sam needed more information, anything that could help him. He began to walk around the room as he put his several-doctorate mind to work on the problem. Should he try and speak to the monitor? Some prisons allowed such, and some not, but rarely did they answer in more than yes or no fashion, and they quickly got tired of being pleasant about answering at all. He could try and get information from the person bringing in the food (if it was a person at all, Sam's inner voice whispered). Sam tried hard not to let that imagination continue, especially as the idea of alien ships was tickling something in the back of his swiss-cheesed memories. He forced his mind back to the person who would deliver the food. Asking questions of that person might be considered an attempt at harming him or she or it...and Sam could end up punished. After one trip through electro-shock therapy (a leap that he never forgot, for some reason), Sam was clear that he never wanted punishment of any kind again. It could damage his ability to function far too severely. As Sam reached one end of the room, he stopped, quite suddenly. The camera for the room was right above him. It was recessed into the wall with a covering over it that made it look like there was nothing. Sam was confused. How on earth did he know that? Sam had never leaped here before--he was pretty convinced of that--and there was no way he could be so certain of a place that he'd never been to before now. Was it a mind-blending situation? That had happened before, where part of his mind and part of the leaper's had infused, giving Sam information that was necessary and that only the person he leaped into would know. Was it that again? Sam closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on where the knowledge came from. No, Sam finally decided--this wasn't information from the Leaped Body. He himself, Sam Beckett, knew the camera was here. And he couldn't for the life of him understand how. Or why. But he did know what to do to test it. Sam casually leaned back against the wall, and stretched his arms up, as if trying to unkink some sore muscles. As his hands slid up the wall, he covered the area where the camera could be--WAS, his brain demanded--and waited to see what happened. "You will remove your hands from the camera lens this instant," the voice intoned suddenly, still with no emotional inflection as it spoke. I was RIGHT, Sam thought, with no small amount of wonder. How can that be? "I believe it is time for you to understand how serious we are about you following rules, Doctor." The voice said each word with the same lack of emotion, far scarier without an evil menacing tone than it could ever have been had the monitor tried to sound threatening. "Step forward to the table, now." Sam realized that he might be in for some torture, anyway, but what he had learned was crucial. Somehow, he knew more about this place than he should. And that knowledge could come in handy when he needed to leave it. IF he was SUPPOSED to leave it. WHERE WAS AL??? Sam moved towards the table, praying for the sound of the Imaging Chamber door opening. As if called by his very thought, Sam heard the familiar WHOOSH of the door slide open. He quickly looked around, trying to appear to the monitor watching him as if he were merely stretching his neck. He was already wondering how he was going to talk to Al in that room, how sensitive the microphones were-- A hand connected to his jaw, and Sam stumbled, caught completely by surprise. He glanced towards the person behind the hand, and with shocking clarity, everything fell into place. Sam finally began to understand what was happening. It made no sense, but he began to understand the facts of his current leap. He had never been so terrified in his life. "I expect the slap has made you pay attention, correct?" The woman standing in front of him was an attractive black woman. Her suit was severe, as was her expression, and there was a hint of enjoying the pain she had caused in her eyes, as well as a stronger hint of madness. It was clearly not the reality he had known her in, but Sam knew this woman anyway. He had just been slapped by Verbeena Beeks, psychiatrist and soul-saver of Project Quantum Leap. She lifted Sam's face by the chin and smiled, cruelly. "I know over four hundred ways of harming you without any bruising, Doctor," she cooed. "Shall I show you some of them?" Behind her, the door to Sam's cell closed again. It made the same WHOOSH of the Imaging Chamber door. Of course it does, Sam thought randomly, as his brain began to overload from the shock. Every secure door back home at the Project sounds the same. "I suggest you answer," said the voice from the walls, and Sam realized he had missed a question asked to him. He tried to respond, to answer, but the answers were coming more rapidly now, and he was losing control. Sam recognized this room not from leaps...but because he had designed it. It was the Waiting Room. Sam had leaped into the Waiting Room--which meant that he had leaped into his own body! That meant Sam had leaped HOME! So why was he a prisoner? Why was Verbeena pulling her fist back to hit him again? "Not answering is unacceptable, Doctor Beckett." The voice from the wall was Ziggy, Sam suddenly realized--but it was Ziggy without emotions. What in the world had happened to her? What had happened HERE, at the Project? WHAT WAS GOING ON??? If he was himself, why were they hurting him? Verbeena's fist slammed forward, rocking Sam's head as it connected with his jaw. He would have fallen had she not been holding him, and even still, his head snapped downwards as force was expended. That was when the final piece fell into place. Below him, a face reflected from the table. It was definitely Dr. Beckett. But not Samuel Beckett. It was the woman who he loved more than anything. It was Donna. Donna Beckett looked up at Sam from the mirror. Dear God, he thought, I'm married. In the reflection, Donna Beckett looked as shocked as Sam felt. The blue lighting of the room seemed to shimmer across her face, reminding Sam of something he'd seen recently. Before he could even try to pull that memory, Verbeena grabbed his chin and yanked him back to look at her. "Now, are you going to talk?" she hissed. Sam nodded weakly. "Good, Donna Beckett. Very good. So talk." Sam opened his mouth, and the shocks overtook him once and for all. "Ohhhh...boy," he said. And then he saw nothing but black.