Chapter Twenty-Two There was no way to test if the Accelerator would work. It just had to. It was too close to midnight and they were out of time. Sam knew that Monica would be back for him any minute now. Actually, he was surprised she hadn't already returned. Al had mentioned the fermi suit, the white one-piece outfit that he had worn when he had initially leaped. "Can't leap without it, Sam. At least, you couldn't the first time." "Well, since we don't have one, I'll have to do without it. Maybe my not being in my own body will make things easier." "Or more difficult," Al had added, although he really didn't need to. The group stood in the Control Room, a heavy silence hanging over them. He had things he needed, wanted to say, but didn't know where to begin. 'Thank you' didn't seem like enough. These people, his friends, had given up more than just a week of their lives. By helping to rebuild Ziggy, they may have given up the lives they had made for themselves. Lives they had made because he had died. They stood in a circle, but everyone's eyes were on him. "I'd, I'd just like to thank ...", his voice trailed off. It sounds like a bloody acceptance speech. "I don't know what to say. You've all given up so much for me, not only this week, but all those years before," he trailed off. "It's been good to see all of you, to be able to actually touch each of you," he looked down, holding out hands not belonging to him, "even if it's not with my own skin." Verbeena stepped forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. He embraced her in return, the muscles in the arms of his mind not matching those in the body he inhabited. In turn, Sammi Jo and Tina stepped forward. Then Gushie, hand outstretched. Sam took his hand, then pulled him into a hug. Gushie was hesitant. After all, it may have been Dr. Beckett inside, but the outside was still a 21-year old model. "Go, ahead, Gushie. I promise not to be jealous," Tina chuckled, breaking the tension in the room. Gushie returned Sam's embrace. "It is twenty-three hundred hours, forty-three minutes, Dr. Beckett." Ziggy's voice came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. "Right, Ziggy. Take care of yourself." There was a slight pause. "You to ... Sam." The only one left was Al. He motioned for Sam to walk out of the Control Room, moving well out of earshot of the others. "Well, Al." "Well, Sam." An awkward silence stood between the two friends. "God, I hate goodbyes." "If it works out right, we'll never know we were ever here." "And if it doesn't ... I'll have lost you again." Sam knew he was right, and he hated himself for putting his friend, all his friends, through a possible second loss. But if I don't at least try to get back ... "Sam," the sultry feminine voice appeared from behind him, a voice he'd been expecting. "It's time. You've got a job to finish." "Yeah, I know." "Know what?" Al's face held a questioning look. "It's Monica. She's back." Turning to face her, Sam let out a sigh as he spoke, "She's just reminding me that I have another job to finish ... even though I haven't finished this one." "Oh, I think you are more than finished here. After all, I've let you play at trying to put your little computer back together for the past week. Roger has been more than generous as well =FE supplying you with enough power so that you can live here, make your feeble attempts to restart your Project." Her eyes glinted with self-satisfaction. "What do you mean Roger supplied the power?" "Whose Roger?" Al asked, annoyance sounding in his voice. He really hated being left out of a conversation, especially this one. "Her computer, like Ziggy," Sam threw over his shoulder. "You didn't answer my question?" "Roger's been sending some of his reserve power to your computer, making you think you were progressing forward. Instead, you were pretty much standing still." Monica drummed her fingers on her elbows. "Sam!" The impatience in Al's voice was lost to the other two. His eyes moved from Sam to where he assumed Monica stood. "You mean Roger's been making everything happen ... to Ziggy?" "Roger!" Al's voice again punctuated the conversation, although neither the Leaper nor the other Observer paid any attention. "Well, yes and no. Roger did supply the power source, but anything that was part of your Ziggy before is pure Ziggy now." "How did he supply her with power?" Monica took a few steps forward, confidence showing in each stride. "I'm not sure, really. Government subterranean cable systems, perhaps. That's really something that only the supercomputers can truly understand. And frankly, I'm not really interested in knowing." "What's she saying, Sam?" The Leaper didn't, or couldn't, hear his friend. He was too devastated by what Monica had told him. "Ziggy ... Ziggy isn't really working at all." The disappointment in Sam's voice matched the wrenching in his heart. Al stumbled back. "All for nothing?", his whispered. The Leaper struggled to regain his control, stepping towards Monica. He refused to believe that Roger was the key to everything that had taken place over the past week. He knew he had to stall for a few more minutes, to give Ziggy a chance. "How could Roger possibly continue to be fully functional if he was transferring power to Ziggy?" "Transfer power to Ziggy?", Al echoed. "Sam, darling, as I told you before, Roger is far more powerful than your Ziggy. After all, you are standing nearly three years into the future. Three years beyond your recorded death. You created Ziggy over eight years ago. Many things have changed since then." Sam wasn't sure, but he go the feeling that she was bluffing, trying to stall him. Ziggy's voice interrupted them. "Dr. Beckett, you asked to be informed of the time. It is twenty-three hundred hours, fifty-two minutes." Monica looked up at the ceiling. "Ziggy, I take it." "Yes, that's Ziggy." "Interesting choice for the sound of her voice. I'm sure she and Roger could ... cross a few circuits." The half-smile on her face told Sam that she really wasn't making a joke. "Sam. Sam. Sam!" The voice from behind startled him. He had forgotten Al was there. The Admiral stepped around so that he could also see Sam's face. His own held a look of deep concentration, liking trying to recall some long forgotten detail. "Sam, what's her full name?" "I can't tell you that. My identification is also top secret, as his would have been during your leaps." "She won't tell me, Al." "Then, what does she look like. Describe her." His head was still bent, his eyes narrowed as if searching in the dark. "She's about five foot five, short blonde hair, fair complexion. What's this about, Al?" Al began to pace, slowly the memory began to surface. "What about her legs, Sam." The Leaper was beginning to understand where his friend was leading. The tone he used wasn't the way Al would normally ask such a question. "Are they, you know, shapely?" "I guess you could say that." Monica began to shift her weight, shuffling from shapely leg to shapely leg. When she spoke, her voice had lost some of its edge. "This is ridiculous, Sam. We've got to go, now!" She nervous about something. Al's onto something and she doesn't like it. Al continued his thought process. "Anything else? Any special facial features?" "She's got a mole on her right cheek, just below her eye." "Monica, Monica. There's something about that name." Abruptly, he stopped pacing, his head popping up. He turned to face the two figures, only one of which he could see. "Sam, she's Monica Turner! She used to work on the Project, but left about a year before you died. She just disappeared one night. Now I know why." His eyes narrow, aiming where he thought she stood, bearing down so hard on Monica that she squirmed. "She's trying to prevent you from leaping out. She wants you to continue in her project, because her leaper was killed instead of you." "Al, I know her leaper died. I already told you that." "No, Sam. Think about it. If her leaper died, when you get back on track, her project dies. If you complete the exchange, that's it for her. But, if she manages to screw up your leaping back into our timeline, then she can keep you here, working for her!" "The man's out of his mind!" Monica's voice was raising in tone, getting louder. "Sam, I've already told you. Roger says that ..." "I don't care about what Roger says! Al, are you sure?" "Yes, Sam. You know I never forget a pretty face. I hired her myself. But she disappeared. She must have taken copies of everything with her. How else could she have started her own project!" "Sam, you've still got to save Kara's friend." Monica spoke in a tone that did little to cover her growing anxiety. "Ziggy," he spoke to the ceiling, "what are the chances of Beverly Heathcote being killed by a drunk driver tonight." "Less than one percent. The person in question is currently in her home in New York City. Eastern Standard Time is currently 1:57 a.m." Sam bore down on Monica. "You said that she'd be killed tonight if I didn't save her. It's nearly midnight here, but not where she is." "The time is two minutes to midnight," Ziggy's voice broke in. "Sam, you've got to get into the Accelerator, now! Forget about her. You've got to leap before midnight!" Al could hear the faint sound of someone running down the steps in the stairwell at the end of the hall, getting closer. "Ziggy, do you have enough energy to power the Accelerator Chamber?" "I had stored a significant amount of energy to ensure a complete cycle within the Accelerator Chamber, as well as maintain a lock on your position until Admiral Calavicci can enter the Imaging Chamber. Total energy stored will last for two point three months. Give or take a minute." Monica's eyes grew large in disbelief. "That's impossible! Roger only fed her enough power to run only the barest of systems!" "Apparently Ziggy's a better poker player than Roger gave her credit for." "Forty-five second to midnight." Ziggy's voice held a hint of 'gotcha'. Sam gave Monica one last, hard stare, then opened the door to the Accelerator Chamber. "Sam!" She followed him into the Chamber. "Sam, wait a minute. I need your help. Admiral Calavicci is wrong. If you do as I've told you, you'll leap back into your own body. I promise!" Sam moved from panel to panel, checking that all was ready. Seeing that tactic wasn't working, she tried another. "Roger says that now, if you don't help us, Kara will die in a car accident tomorrow. You don't want to see that happen do you, Sam. Sam!" But he was ignoring her. "Sam!" The voice came from the end of the hallway. Al turned to see Donna running towards him. "Donna. What the ..." "Al, stop him. Make him stop. I can't lose him again. Make him stop!" The Leaper stepped onto the metallic grating and, slowly lifting his arms, called out. "Ziggy, go!" The supercomputer began the process it had performed only once, eight years ago. The sound could be heard in the corridor where Al stood with a distraught Donna. Ziggy's voice counted down from ten, echoing throughout the cavernous building. "I can't. He's already started the process." "If you don't stop him, then I will." With a strength she didn't know she had, Donna pushed past Al, reaching for the door to the Accelerator Chamber. "Ziggy! Secure the door! Don't let her in there!" Al reached for Donna, pulling her back at the same time. Inside the Accelerator Chamber, Sam was beginning his journey. The power of the machine forced wind and vapour upward. Slowly, as before, he began to see the white light that heralded his first leap close in around him. Faintly, as if in a dream, he could hear the voices of two women, somewhere in the distance, screaming, "NO!". One in anguish, the other, desperation. Then he was gone. Admiral Calavicci sat at his desk in his office at Project Quantum Leap. Dressed in his khakis, pant leg crease sharp enough to cut a steak, he read the papers he held in front of him. He glanced up at the person occupying the chair on the opposite side of his desk, then removed his glasses from the brim of his nose. "Your resume is very impressive, but I don't think we have need of your talents at this time. However, if something does come available, I'll be sure to let you know." He stood, extending his hand. "Thank you, Ms. Turner."