Chapter Nineteen

     Sam stood alone in the room that held the Accelerator,
the intensity of his thoughts showing on his face.  Ziggy had
been functioning well enough to help with the reestablishing of
her operations.  Her deportment would change from the initial
military-issue computer of her early days to the opinionated,
self-obliging supercomputer they had come to know and love.
Even Al didn't mind the comments she would make.  He had
missed the way she could respond with as much attitude as any
human, but didn't realize how much until now.
     Walking around the large metallic disc-shaped grate set
in the floor in the centre of the room, he didn't notice the
woman standing in the corner.
     "So, this is where it all started?"  He nearly jumped out
of his skin.  Monica!  "Looks similar to ours, but instead of an
overhead system, the entire cell is the system.  But you call it
the Accelerator Chamber, don't you?"  She looked around.  "I
like this one much better.  More, spacious.  Our chamber is
about the size of a telephone booth."  The tone in her voice had
changed since Sam's first meeting with her.  Before, she had
been more gentle, more caring.  Now, her words held an edge,
like sharpened steel.  Confidently, she began striding towards
Sam.  He half expected to hear her high-heeled shoes clicking
on the tiled floor.
     Regaining his composure, the Leaper stepped towards
her, attempting to cut off her approach to the Accelerator disc.
He wasn't sure if she could take this information back to her
'project', but he wasn't about to test the possibility.  "What are
you doing here?  It's not time for me to go yet."  Is it?  No,
it's still early on December 31st.  No where near midnight.
     "I know, darling.  I just wanted to check on your
     Monica crossed her arms, her lip protruding slightly,
faking a pout.  "I'm disappointed in you, Sam.  I thought you
and I had an agreement.  You weren't supposed to let them
know who you really are.  You promised you'd just tie up the
loose ends you'd left when you died."
     "You also made me a promise," Sam countered.  "You
weren't supposed to follow me here."
     "So, I guess we're both natural liars.  Touch=82."  She
turned, starting to pace back to where Sam first saw her.  "I've
already been in the, what did that pregnant woman call it, the
'Control Room'?  Yes, that's it the Control Room.  Your little
group of megabrains seems to have everything under control.
Perhaps you can pull this off.  I certainly hope so ... for your
sake, of course."  Something in her tone made Sam's skin
crawl.  She sounded too haughty to simply be wishing him
     "You told me you wouldn't bother me until I had to help
Kara's friend.  Why can't I just call and tell her I'll meet her
at some other restaurant.  That should prevent her from being
     She held her hand to her face, like she had done when
she had first appeared to him.  "No, Roger says that you must
be there to prevent it.  Calling her won't help.  You know how
young girls are.  The all have their favourite pick-up joints.
You've got to be there to prevent it.  Sorry."
     "But that's not until after midnight tonight.  Come back
     Monica walked in a circle around Sam, deliberating
making him turn to follow her movements.  "Tsk, tsk, Sam.
I thought you'd be pleased to know that everything's running
according to Roger's predicted schedule."
     "I don't believe Roger's predictions are right."
     "Aren't right?  Why, Sam, do you doubt Roger's
capability?  After all, he is as good as your Ziggy.  In most
respects, he's better.  His accuracy in predicting Ann's
assignments and outcomes have always been nearly one hundred
     Al burst into the room, his eyes mirroring the concern
on his face.  "Sam, Ziggy says she can sense someone else in
here with you?"  His eyes quickly scanned the room, but saw
only the body Sam occupied.  "Since everyone else is in the
Control Room ..."
     His gaze never left Monica.  "It's the other Observer,
Al.  She came to check up on me, us."  He words came
through gritted teeth.  "But she was just leaving."
     "Alright, darling," she almost purred.  "I'll go.  But just
remember, you've got a job to finish for me.  I'll be back in
twelve hours and nineteen minutes, give or take a few seconds.
See you then."  She blew him a kiss, then disappeared.  Sam
flashed a look of contempt where she had just stood.
     "Is she gone?"  Al's eyes wandered around the room, as
if he could still sense her presence.  So this is what it looks like
when others saw Sam talking to me.  Weird.  Very weird.
     "Yeah, she's gone."  Sam replied, walking towards Al
and out the door.  Al followed him down the corridor leading
to the makeshift kitchen they had established in an abandoned
     Sam picked up the coffee pot and, checking to see if its
contents were still drinkable, pour two cups, handing one to Al.
     "What did she want?", Al asked, accepting the
overstrong brew.
     "To remind me of my 'duty' to finish her leaper's job."
He was chewing his bottom lip, thinking, but Al could tell it
wasn't about whether or not the coffee was consumable.
     "What's up?"
     "You're a million miles away.  What's up?"
     "Al, what if I'm not here to save Kara's friend.  What
if my real job was to get Project Quantum Leap back on track?"
He set his untouched coffee on the desk.  "What if, Whoever's
been sending me all over time made a mistake, and this is how
they want it corrected?"
     Al mulled it over in his mind.  "It's possible, Sam, but
what about the girl?  If you don't save her, she'll die.  I know
you too well.  You're not going to let someone die just so you
can get what you want, no matter how important what you want
is ..."  to everyone here as well as yourself.  The sentence
finished in his head.  But Sam knew.  He knew that everyone
they had called to help them wanted nothing more than Sam's
return to his proper place in time.  His return would also let
them be free of the humdrum monotony their lives had become
since his 'death' three years before.
     "I thought that Kara could just call her and tell her to
meet someplace else.  I mean, how many twenty-one year old's
would turn down finding a new place to party, especially on
New Year's Eve?  That way, I could stay here and work,
maybe even leap back to where I should be =FE or home."
     Al smiled, his mind wandering, remembering all the
conquests he'd made on New Year's Eve's past.  People,
especially young, unattached female-type people, tended to be
less inhibited at the start of a new year.  Of course, several
hours of 'warm-up' cocktails hadn't hurt his chances either.
Finding a new spot each year made the pickings more
'interesting'.  New faces, new conquests.
     "... but she said it wouldn't work."
     Al snapped out of his reflections.  "Sorry, Sam, what
was that?"
     Sitting on the edge of the desk, he let out a 'keep up
with me' sigh.  "I said, I told Monica about just calling Kara's
friend, but she said it wouldn't work.  Something about the
girlfriend not wanting to change party venues."  He clenched
his teeth, speaking in a soft whisper.  "But I know she's
wrong."  He stood and began to pace.  "Al, I think I'm right.
I'm here to help myself get back to our Project.  Back before
I died."
     "Well, I know what odds Ziggy'd give that theory.  But
if we don't get her fully functional before midnight tonight,
you'll be gone.  Saving that girl or not, you'll leap."
     "Then I guess we'd better get her fixed.  Before
midnight."  Setting his half-empty cup down next to the still full
one, Al followed Sam out of the room, heading for what could
be either his friend's new future or his own old one.

     "Bill's just called.  He says Matthew's back with the
part, so he'll start workin' on your car right away."  Molly
stood on the backporch, wiping her hands on a towel.  It had
been nearly six hours since she'd first pulled, or rather had
been towed, into this small town.  It was mid-afternoon now,
and her book was long since finished.  Again, she had offered
to help Molly prepare whatever it was needed to be prepared,
and again she was turned down.
     "I think I'll go over to the garage," she shouted back.
"I want to take a walk anyway."
     "Best not to get in Bill's way, though.  When he's got
himself into a new car, ain't nothin' but an act of God gonna
pull him out."
     "Thanks.  I won't get in his way.  I just want to ... get
something else to read from the car.  I've finished my book
already."  She held up the book for Molly to see as she started
towards the side gate.  Her purse swung from her other hand.
     Approaching the garage, she could hear Patsy Cline
singing "I Fall To Pieces".  The tinny sound was blaring from
an old radio set high on a shelf.  The mechanic was leaning
over his work station studying diagrams.  What looked like a
car part sat next to him on the desktop.
     "Hi, Bill.  Molly said you called."
     "Yup.  Just lookin' over the instructions.  Might take a
bit longer than I thought.  I need to go over the Mac's garage
and borrow some tools.  These newer cars tend to take metric-
sized everything."  He spat out the word metric as if it left a
bad taste in his mouth.  And it probably did.  Old timers like
him disliked change, especially in their personal field of
     "I, uh, just wanted to get something out of the car ...
before you put it back up on the hoist."  As she reached for the
door, her foot slid on a small patch of oil.  As she cried out,
reaching for anything for support, she knocked off her
sunglasses.  Bill reached out, grabbing her upper arm.
     "You okay, ma'am?"  He looked her up and down,
reassuring himself that no major damage had been done.
     "I'm fine.  I probably just banged my leg a little."  She
reached down and brushed at her pantleg.  She then reached
down for her sunglasses, but Bill had already started to scoop
them up.
     "Here ya go," he said, wiping them on a rag then
handing them back.
     "Thank you," she replied.  As she looked at him, she
saw his gaze fix her on her eye.  There was still some slight
discolouration where Philip had hit her.  That's why she needs
to get going so fast, he thought.  I better get that car down
double quick.
     She turned away, quickly ran her fingers around the rim
of the glasses to remove any oil or dirt, then put them on.
Then she turned to face him again.
     "I'll just ... go for a walk."  She tried to ignore what
had happened, and to his credit, Bill didn't mention it.  "Is
there a store close by?  I finished my book and need something
else to read while I'm waiting."  She wiped her fingers on the
cloth Bill had pulled from his back pocket.
     "Yeah.  Just go down the road away from the house.
It's about five buildings down."
     She thanked him, then left, walking quickly away.  Once
she was out of view, Bill grabbed up the phone, dialling his
house.  He quickly told Molly about what he had seen, telling
her he'd stay and finish the car, even if it took until midnight.