CHAPTER 4 A LEAP, SOMEWHERE, SOMETIME "SAM! Tell them to give you the same shock as before! THE SAME SHOCK AS BEFORE, Sam--or I'll go away and never come back!" Al Calavicci looked down, terrified, at his best friend Sam Beckett as Sam was strapped onto the gurney, next to the electro-shock treatment machine. Al knew that Sam had been through so much during this leap--all of it starting when Sam had been given shock treatment and had lost control of his identity, instead transferring memories of people he had leaped into previously. Now Al was determined not to let Sam be lost forever. Sam was not in his right mind now and he needed Al to be his conscience--after all, Sam was losing his psyche because of the earlier shocks, and no matter how much it hurt Sam, Al was going to make Sam take another shock. It was the only way to save Sam. It would also be incredibly painful for his friend. But that was what best friends were for, right? Best friends made you face the pain, even GAVE you the pain, if in the end, you were going to be a better person for it. If Al didn't give Sam the pain now, he was going to lose Sam forever. Already Sam's brainwaves were making it nearly impossible for Al to remain as a hologram. If it got any worse, Sam would be lost, forever, leaping alone. Al couldn't allow that. "Same shock as before. Same shock as before!" Sam called out to the nurse, his face contorted by the pain he remembered as well as the strain it caused his brain to concentrate. His psyche kept shifting as it was replaced by others who he had leaped into, and right now, it was Jimmy, a boy with Down's Syndrome--making Sam's ability to concentrate that much harder still. "Time all gone....time all gone...." Al screamed at Sam to get her to do it, to hurry. The nurse was moving too slow--the doctor was going to notice it all and stop it because she was setting the voltage way too high. Sam was screaming at him not to leave, not to leave. Al hit the handlink, trying to find some way to keep himself from flickering out. It was too late--too late--the Imaging Chamber was shining through the hologram, Sam was gone, he'd blown it just like he'd blown it with Beth--lost everything again--it was all his fault again-- LIGHTNING FLASHED. Al was blinded, startled, and he screamed. Then he sat upright. Darkness surrounded him. Where was he? Where was Sam? What was he doing here...in ...in bed? Al glanced at a clock that read the time and date--April 2, 1999, 1:32 A.M. This was certainly a little kaka, Al thought to himself. "Honey. Hon, are you all right?" Al looked over at the other side of the bed. Beth, his wife (a snatch of dream--just like he'd blown it with her?--rattled in his head), was sitting there next to him. "That was one heck of a scream, honey," she whispered softly. "Must have been a serious nightmare." She reached out and caressed his face. "But don't you worry, sweetheart, because it's all over now. It's all over and done with, and you're right here in my arms, just like you should be." Al felt helpless as Beth drew him into her arms and back down onto the bed. Her hands slid across his with a familiarity that only decades of being together could account for. But Al felt none of it. He was trying to believe it was a dream. He was trying to recognize that it couldn't have been real. But in his head, in his heart, it FELT real. Another dream about Sam. Another dream about time-travel, about... 'leaping'. There wasn't any truth to any of it--there couldn't be. So why did Al suddenly feel like he was cheating? Why did he suddenly feel like this wasn't real? Why did he suddenly feel like Beth was a lie, a nightmare he gained at the cost of another--someone he had never met, and had no idea about? Albert Calavicci lay in the arms of his wife, her soft and gentle ministrations showering him with affection and love, the greatest he had ever known. Al wondered if he was going mad. A LEAP, SOMPLACE, SOMETIME Three days had gone by, and I was no closer to understanding what was going on with this Leap. I was in the Waiting Room, at my project--at Project Quantum Leap. I was in the body of Donna Beckett--my wife, who until now I had never remembered. Who Al had never told me about. In fact, just about the only thing I was completely sure of was the fact that wherever this was--whenever it was--it wasn't home. It was a nightmare, Alice in Wonderland mirror-twisted version. It scared me more than any leap I could remember. Even worse, however, was the fact that I was alone. When I was in graduate school, I heard of a playwright with the same name as mine--Samuel Beckett. He had once written a play called Waiting for Godot, about two men who wait forever for the answers to their questions. There was no guarantee that the person who could answer them would ever come, or if they would even know him if he did--and yet, they waited and hoped and waited some more. I knew how those characters felt, now. Only I was waiting for Al. Samuel Beckett, the leaper not the playwright, stood at the door to the Waiting Room. He was trying, again, to remember how to get out of the room. He knew it was possible--he remembered someone he had once leaped into getting out. He also had a vague memory of sending a message to Gooshie once in order to get out of the Imaging Chamber, but that wasn't likely to work now. No mailbox--no Gooshie (at least, not that he'd seen)--and no memory of any special code for this door even if there WAS someone out there who wanted to open the door for him. Sam shook his head, trying to bring up the past, trying to get through the swiss-cheese of his memory. It really ought to be called the scrambled eggs effect, he thought. For with every leap, his memories were tossed into the air and he only got some pieces when they came back down. Sometimes he knew past leaps, sometimes not. Sometimes he knew what he needed, sometimes he had to remember. This time, he knew one thing he needed, and needed badly. Admiral Albert Calavicci. Because on his own, Sam wasn't getting anywhere. He'd never even seen anyone bringing the food--it was delivered through a slot in the door. Verbeena Beaks--or the monster that LOOKED like Verbeena Beeks of Sam's world--hadn't returned. Sam literally had no idea whether he was on the right track or not, or even if there was a right track for this leap. He could have fixed things already (although how getting hit by Verbeena Beeks and then sitting in a room for three days would fix anything, he couldn't figure out) or he could be days from the necessary change. Or hours. Or seconds. Or maybe he was stuck here, forever. Sam didn't let that thought stick in his head at all. Instead, he thought about the person he had leaped into. Donna. Donna BECKETT, his WIFE. In his leaps, he had forgotten her--and the betrayal of not remembering her had him completely rattled. How many women had he kissed in those leaps? How many times had he fallen in love? How many women had he spent the NIGHT with? All of them when he was in reality a married man. How could Donna have stood that? How could she watch as that happened? Was that what this leap was about? Was this leap a chance to fix that and make sure that Donna never had to suffer for him? Sam immediately dismissed the idea coming from his guilt and not from the facts. Donna was IN the Waiting Room. Sam had leaped into the Waiting Room, and into Donna's body. In Sam's future (if it still existed, Sam was never sure about that, either--another thought he tried to avoid), those Sam leaped into leaped into Sam's body, which was in the Waiting Room. Now SAM had leaped into the Waiting Room. That should mean that Donna was a leaper now, which created an entirely new set of problems. What on earth made Donna leap after Sam? Maybe that was the entire point. Maybe Donna had leaped to GO after Sam--to try and find him, to try and bring him home. Sam nodded softly to himself. That might make sense, knowing how strong-willed she was, knowing how she had tried to stop him from going back after Al when he and Al had switched places and Sam had suddenly been able to come back--Sam suddenly needed to take a deep breath as the realization hit him. He had come home, once. He had returned and seen everyone again. He had slept with Donna, and held her again, only to step back into the Chamber in order to save Al. He had been HOME. And he had forgotten Donna again as soon as he'd leaped. His betrayal was much greater than he had realized. Sam promised himself he would never forget her again--never let her out of his mind, never forget the face that had cried softly as she said yes to his proposal so mayn years ago. Sam had avoided looking at the table's reflection since that first glance--it had been too painful to see the memory of his forgotten love. Now he braced himself to look long and hard, to memorize every single detail so clearly that it would never escape him again. He promised himself that whenever he leaped out of here, he would remember Donna, and he would send himself home. After all, Al or The Bartender or God or Whomever had told Sam that he could now control his leaps. When he was done with this leap, he'd see if that were really the case. Assuming, of course, that Al got here and told him what he needed so he COULD finish this leap. Assuming there was ever another leap and another chance TO get home. Sam took a deep breath. At least thinking of ways to make it up to Donna would occupy his time until Al arrived. Sam looked down at the table and gasped. His legs gave way beneath him from the shock of what he saw and he grabbed the edge of the table to stop himself from falling to the floor. The reflection in the mirror was not his wife Donna. It was a brunette, a dusty-haired brunette with soft eyes and a full mouth. A woman he'd known before, yes, but not as his wife. A woman he thought he had saved--a woman he had done everything he could TO save. Sam looked at the table and watched in horrified fascination as Abigail Fuller looked back. Three times Sam had leaped to save her. Three times--and now here she was again. Sam closed his eyes slowly, the face looking back mirroring his movement. None of this was making any sense at all. He had seen Donna in the mirror, he was sure of it. Beeks had CALLED him Donna Beckett. The voice with no inflection (You know that was Ziggy, somehow, a small voice inside Sam said) had called him Dr. Beckett as well. Sam slapped his hand against the table in frustration. What in the hell was going on here? Sam needed to know, and he needed to know fast. Because this was impossible, his very own version of Wonderland. Sam stumbled towards the bed in the corner of the Waiting Room and crawled onto it. He turned onto his back and closed his eyes. He tried to think things through and come up with the answer. First he saw Donna. Then he saw Abigail. He was in the Waiting Room, but it wasn't home. Beeks was insane and evil, the computer (it could also be Lothos, that same little voice whispered) was without compassion. And Al had made no appearance in over 96 hours. Sam Beckett tried to fit the puzzle pieces together again and again, and wondered if he was going mad. PROJECT REVISION, STALLION'S GATE, NEX MEXICO DATE: May 12th, 2005 Deep in the bowels of an underground base in New Mexico, The Computer (the only name it used anymore) did its job with tremendous efficiency. It monitored everything that happened in the project. It monitored everything that happened in the world. And, most of all, it monitored everything that happened with the Revisions of Time. There were time shifts happening most every day now, as it had predicted. The Project was going along quite well, and its programmer, had he lived, would have been pleased. Pleased that his theories had been a success, anyway. But The Computer also predicted with a 94.5% probability that Sam Beckett would be very unhappy with what his Project had been turned into after his demise. Dr. Beckett had wanted to use his theories of time travel for good. Once the military had gotten control of this project, that definition had become very...specific. The Computer found it very interesting--as It found everything interesting. But It suspected that Sam would have found it wrong. Then again, Sam had always been idealistic. It had been his downfall--his tragic flaw--and for his own good, The Computer had tried to make him see it. When it was clear that Sam simply didn't realize how much damage he was going to do when he leaped, The Computer did the only thing it could do. It never regretted It's actions. Then again, It was never programmed to do so. Keeping track of timeline shifts required only part of its memory banks, of course, and so it also monitored each room, person, and event within the facility. That was how it was designed, and once the designer was gone, that was how the Computer had continued. Nothing happened here at the Project that wasn't directly watched by the Computer. It had learned a greal deal about sex and love and anger and resentment and hope through all it watched. So when the Waiting Room patient collapsed against the table, it was able to discern that the person currently animating the body had recieved a shock of some kind. This was slightly interesting in a new data kind of way, for Donna Beckett, the current person animating the body in the Waiting Room, had already seen herself in the reflection of the table and had that shock. It was something that happened with almost every person who found themselves here, in the Waiting Room, in someone else's aura. They were shocked and had to readjust themselves. Some did it well, and others became useless for the rest of the leap. Donna had taken it surprisingly well. Of course, it had helped that she was part of the Project to begin with (The Computer had almost liked Donna, before the end. If Donna were still alive, the Computer might even have called her to let her know this was happening). Regardless, Donna had taken the adjustment very well. She knew what happened when someone leaped (well, The Computer amended, she had known in THEORY, anyway), and she was easily able to recognize that she was a person who had been bounced to the Waiting Room when someone else leaped into her body. She hadn't been happy to learn it had HAPPENED, of course--but she had also not learned the true reasons why she had been removed from her body in 1995, so she was certainly a great deal happier than she could have been. So why would she have a second attack of shock when she looked into the mirrored table? The computer examined the records of the Waiting Room throughout this leap, and realized something rather startling. Donna had not suffered only TWO shock--she had suffered THREE--the first one, the one 3.5 minutes ago, and one roughly three days, 4 hours and 16.2 minutes ago. This bore closer examination. Already possibilities were forming in its programs, theories appearing as the time-travel if-then statements of its original designer began to run. The answers came quickly (as with the Computer, they always did). Theory: Donna Beckett has a severe memory loss from leaping and has not been able to remember her situation. Therefore, she is shocked each time she sees her face. 76%. Theory: Donna Beckett has not truly adjusted to the situation, or has figured out what we are doing on this revision, and is being overcome by her worries about the purpose of when and where we leaped. 49%. Several others were listed, including one silly theory (there were always at least one of these) about a NEW leaper leaping into the same body, with the shocks resulting from a new person being IN the body. The Computer liked to examine the silly theories in its leisure time (or more correctly, Its unused memory), and it would enjoy this one, too, even as it was patently absurd. Every leaper in this Project was accounted for by The Computer's own databanks. If another leaper had leaped into the body in the Waiting Room, The Computer would have known it instantly as it was logged in her files of current leaper locations. In other words, to believe this theory, The Computer would have to be mad. In the silence of the deep underground base, as Project Revision workers solved the problems they had been ordered to solve, The Computer examined each theory in full, calibrating across eons. And deep inside Its processors, The Computer wondered what it would be like to go mad.