"Undergraduate degree in physics from Harvard, Masters and Doctorate in =
Quantum Physics from MIT."

	Al sat in his office the next morning listening to Ziggy. It was quite =
early in the morning, in fact. Even after retirement, Al could not grow =
accustomed to sleeping in. his internal clock, having been set by the =
Navy eons ago, would not allow him to watch the sun rise in a prone =
position. Not even this morning, not even after he had had the most =
restful nights sleep in years.

	"She worked for private firms from the Midwest to the West Coast and =
became a part of the Project 18 months ago."

	Fingering his unlit cigar, Al asked, "Who hired her?"

	"You did, Admiral," Ziggy answered. "You do all the hiring of Project =

	"But, I didn't hire her. At least I don't remember hiring her." And =
believe me, I would remember her.

	Last night was one for the record books. Not because of sex, those =
books were over flowing with stories and conquests. No, last night was =
special because there had been no love making between them. Only =
caressing, holding and comforting. Al had almost forgotten how wonderful =
just holding a woman closely could be. They had fallen asleep like that, =
in each other's arms, like two spoons in the kitchen drawer. He =
discovered when he awoke at 5 am that she liked to sleep on her back, =
mouth open, snoring softly with each breath. Even like that she was =
attractive. He hated to leave her, the peace and contentment he had =
found, but, as always, he was duty bound. And so he found himself =
sitting in his mostly barren office at 06:00, listening to Ziggy drone =


	"Uh, what?" Al was brought back to the present. "What did you say?"

	"I am not accustomed to being ignored," the feminine voice complained.

	Now, that's the type of woman I'm used to dealing with.

	"I'm sorry, Ziggy," Al soothed, "I was just contemplating our current =
problem, that's all."

	"You were contemplating Dr. Aldrich."

	Al chuckled as he finally lit his cigar. "You sound jealous."

	Ziggy humphed. "I have never been jealous of any of your previous =
affairs, why should I start now?"

	Watching the flame slowly consume the tobacco on the end of his cigar, =
Al soothingly said, "In the future, I will try to be more attentive."

	"See that you do," Ziggy pouted.

	"Now, where were we?"

	"Dr. Aldrich, and that's where the problem arose."

	"Yes, Dr. Aldrich." He took a long, deep drag, exhaling the smoke =
leisurely. "Why does she call me Bingo? Nobody calls me that anymore."

	"Dr. Beckett was currently in 1963, during the Leap that concerned you, =
when she first arrived at the Project."

	Al frowned. "But, that is classified information, Ziggy>"

	"She has access to all my data, Admiral," Ziggy said matter of factly. =
"Everyone with her security clearance does."

	All stiffened.  "What was she hired to do?"

	"You hired her to work on the retrieval program."

	"But, that's Donna's area," Al protested.

	"Dr. Elessi is not in this time, Admiral," Ziggy reminded him.

	"I don't like someone I know nothing about having access to you."

	Ziggy sighed softly. "But, your signature is on her security clearance. =
You must have trusted her enough, or you won't have signed..."

	Al slammed his fist down hard on his metal desk. "I didn't sign =
anything!" He waited until the echo died away. "At least I don't =
remember signing anything. You of all microchips should understand =

	If Ziggy felt any sympathy for the Admiral's predicament, the hybrid =
computer did not show it. "If you would like to see the hard copies, =
they are in the personnel office."

	"No, that won't be necessary, Al dismissed the thought with a wave of =
his hand. She was here, so he must have trusted her, believed in her =
enough to bring her into Sam's secret world. At least in one time he =
did. God, how I want to trust her.

	"What time is it where Sam is?"

	"7:43 am."

	Pushing himself away from his desk, Al began to walk out of his office. =
"Have the Imaging Chamber ready, Ziggy. I'm going to pop in on 1988."

	"I would extinguish the cigar before leaving your office," Ziggy =
suggested. "You know how Dr. Beeks dislikes the smell of cigar smoke."

Al winced. Too many friendly arguments with Verbeena about his smoking =
had resulted in a compromise: Al smoked in his office, in his quarters =
and in the Imaging Chamber only. And the good doctor saw to it that Al =
adhered to their bargain.

	"Is she awake?"

	"Just entering the cafeteria on her way to the coffee maker," Ziggy =

	Al quickly snuffed the cigar out.

	"Admiral, I have a few personal phone messages that where taken for you =
by the front office. Two are from lawyers and the third one is from a =
very strange man claiming to be with..."

	"Not now, Ziggy," Al cut the computer off, "I'll handle them later. =
Right now, it's time to see Sam." He exited his office without turning =
off the light. He never turned off anything; Ziggy always took care of =
that. Ziggy took care of everything.

	Sam had long ago become accustomed to seeing another face in the =
mirror. A shock at first, but now he looked at the strange reflection =
with fascination.

	Piercing blue eyes blinked back at him from the bathroom medicine =
cabinet. Curly black hair framed a better than average face. It wasn't =
gorgeous by any means, but it was not completely unattractive either. =
Because of the dark hair, this face looked like it needed a shave even =
though Sam had just finished that task. The ruddy skin shone.

	Glancing down he saw the beginnings of a pot belly, not too pronounced, =
but if Dr. Aldrich didn't start exercising in a few years his belly =
would begin to proceed him as he went around corners. Sam had always =
taken the time to exercise. In fact, he had taken the time to become a =
master in several different martial arts disciplines. Sam felt that a =
body should not be neglected for the sake of the mind, (The other way =
around went without saying). He realized that not every academic had the =
time he had. Most people spent their whole lives achieving the academic =
status that he had done seven times over. But, even when things in his =
life had been the most hectic, his residency for one, he had made, =
grabbed, snuck time to exercise. Grabbing the slight gut and giving it a =
shake, Sam could tell that his host did not feel the same way.

	"I have two words for you: Low Fat."

	Sam looked up, but knew that he would not see another reflection in the =
mirror Holograms don't cast them. "Good morning, Al," Sam said cheerily =
as he turned and walked out of the bathroom.

	"Good morning, Sam," Al returned the greeting. He stepped aside to =
allow his friend to pass. Sam could have walked through him, being a =
hologram and all, but Al knew that Sam liked to preserve as much =
normalcy as possible, given his ever changing situation. So, Al obliged =
him with acting like he was solid. "Good night's sleep, Sam?" Al asked =
as he watched Same get dressed.

	"Very restful, thank you. And you?"

	"The same." Al bounced on the balls of his feet waiting for Sam to ask =
the inevitable. Only Sam didn't. He just went about his business of =
getting dressed as if nothing was unusual. Watching Sam summarily ignore =
him and remembering the argument they had had yesterday, Al grew =
impatient. Suddenly he shouted, "Well, don't you want to know what Ziggy =

	"No," Sam replied while slipping on a pair of worn penny loafers.

	Al crossed to the bed where Sam sat. "Why not? I mean things could have =
changed since yesterday."

	Sam looked up. "Have they?"

	Al didn't need to consult the handlink. "No."
	"Then there is no need to discuss it," Sam said, standing up quickly, =
"I know I didn't Leap in her just to make sure a man dies in some freak =
accident. Ziggy's wrong." Sam walked out to the other room of hotel =
suite with the Observer right on his heels.

	"But Ziggy gives it a 92% probability."

	Sam turned around. "Last time it was only 8325%."

	"You must have changed something."

	Grabbing a coat from the extra bed, Sam snapped, "I didn't do anything =
yesterday. I Leaped in, played a little with the accelerator, talked to =
you, got caught talking to myself, again, tried to break into a =
restricted file and managed to piss of Dr. Michaels. God only knows =

	"A restricted file?," Al asked, his interest piqued.

	"Yeah." They left the hotel room and headed toward the elevator. "I =
came across it as I was playing with the lab's computer. Whatever =
information is in that file, people want it to stay hidden."

	"Then you didn't get in?" Al sounded disappointed.

	The elevator doors opened, Sam stepped in. Even Al entered the car =
before the doors shut, a fact Sam was grateful for. "No, I got in. I =
just didn't have the time to see what was in the file. Dr. Michaels =
walked in and I had to blank the screen."

	"Who's Dr. Michaels?"

	Sam wasn't able to answer Al until he had crossed the lobby and exited =
the hotel. "Just a colleague, that's all."

	Al stood beside Sam in the hazy August sun. "Not to change the subject, =
but did you get all dolled up just to stand around?"

	"I'm going back to the lab. I called for someone to pick me up. They =
should be here any minute."

	"Ah," was all Al said.

	"Guess what the password for the file was," Sam said, breaking the =
moments long silence.

	"What?," Al asked, absently punching the handlink.

	"Quantum Leap."

	"Quantum Leap," Al repeated. He went back to punching the handlink. =
Suddenly it hit him. "Quantum Leap! That's ours!"

	Waving and approaching van over, Sam said, "Seems kind of coincidental =
thought, doesn't it? What with the research and all."

	"Coincidental, my ass!," All fumed.

	Sam paused before getting into the van. "Coming?"
	Al shrugged. "Why not?" Sam entered the van via the front passenger =
door while Al entered his usual way: walking straight through.

	"Good morning, Dr. Aldrich," the driver greeted Sam. The person behind =
the wheel couldn't have been more than 17 or 18, hardly old enough to =
get a license.=20

	"Kinda' young, isn't he?," Al noticed from his perch in the backseat. =
"Doesn't lend an air of confidence."

	"How old are you...?," Sam asked the driver, purposefully leaving the =
question hanging in the hope that the kid would fill in the appropriate =
answer: his name.

	"Name's, probably Johnny or Timmy or Junior," Al quipped.

	"Alex," the kid said, offering his hand even as he merged with the =
speeding traffic on the highway. "And I'm 22, Sir. I just look young for =
my age, that's all."

	"That's an understatement," the Observer mumbled.

	"You work for...?" Sam wasn't sure of the name of the project he had =
leapt into let alone the name of the lab. "The lab?"

	Veering to the left without signaling, Alex answered, "In a manner of =

	Al spoke up. "What kind of answer is that?"

	"And is driving all that you do, or do you have other duties?"

	Alex stole a glance at his passenger. "I'm afraid I can't tell you =
that, Sir."

	Sam blinked in surprise. "What?"

	"That information is given out only on a need to know basis, and as far =
as I've been told, you don't need to know."

	"Then who does need to know, Alex?," Sam asked, his skin beginning to =

	Alex began to chuckle. "That I can't tell you either."

	"On a need to know basis again, and I don't need to know, right?"

	"In a manner of speaking, Sir."

	Sam's stomach began to churn as he listened to they young man's =
doublespeak. "Who are you?"

	Making a rude gesture out the window to a car that had just cut him =
off, the young man replied, "You work for the lab, for the government."

	"And you don't?"

	Alex smiled. "In a manner of speaking."

	"What's this kid talking about?," Al said, leaning closer.

	"I'm sorry, Alex," Sam said, trying to sound sincere, "But I don't =

	"And I thought you brainy types understood everything."

	"We both work for the lab, right?"

	"In a manner of speaking, that's right, Sir."

	"I wish he would stop saying that," Al said angrily.

	"And the lab is working for the government," Sam continued, trying to =
set all the non-facts he was getting straight in his mind.

	"If that's what they told you, Sir," Alex said as he pulled into the =
lab's driveway.

	Sam had not noticed the lab's exterior when he had left the previous =
evening. His attention was focused on Dr. Michaels and her bizarre mood =
swing. This morning, however, his attention was riveted. As they pulled =
past the front of the building, he saw that it was nondescript, it =
looked like a thousand other buildings in a hundred other office parks =
across the nation. A parking garage loomed between each pair of =
buildings and was busy with people hurrying to work. What struck Sam as =
out of the ordinary was that none of the buildings were marked, not with =
numbers, letters or even logos of the businesses housed within. The =
whole place had a utilitarian feel to it, and the high shrubs that hid =
the offices from the street only added to that feeling.

	"Here we are, Sir," Alex announced as they arrived at the front of =
building 2. Well, it was the second one on the right and in Sam's mind =
it should have been number 2. "Will ya' need me to drive you back to the =
hotel this evening, Dr?"

	"I would say that was a big NO," Al muttered, walking through the side =
of the van and out onto the sidewalk.

	"No, thank you, Alex," Sam said as he opened the car door. He paused, =
one leg on the pavement, the other still in the passenger compartment. =
"you still haven't answered my initial question, Alex."

	Alex stared back at Sam with an expression that was too hard for his =
young face. His face may have been young, Sam suddenly realized, but =
those eyes were many years ahead. "As you well know, Doctor, there are =
many different parts to one equation. The more complex, the more parts =
there are. All those parts sometimes work independently of each other, =
sometimes without even knowing the other even exists." He shrugged. =
"When it all works out right, who cares what those parts were anymore. =
Ya' see?"

	"In a manner of speaking," Sam said.

	He stood on the sidewalk and watched the van drive away. He knew he had =
just been handed a large piece of the puzzle of this Leap, but he didn't =
even know what picture he was trying to recreate. He balled his fists in =

	"Well, that was an illuminating conversation," Al said sarcastically.

	Sam whirled around and headed into the building.  "Come with me, Al."

	Al had to run to keep up with Sam. Instead of heading to his office, =
like Al assumed, Sam headed through the front doors and directly into =
the bathroom.

	"You were supposed to take care of that before we left, Sam," Al =
shouted his irritation, "And if you're going to the john, why do you =
need my help?"

	Sam ignored the crass remark. "Something is not right here, Al."

	"You're telling me."

	Keeping his voice low, he motioned to his partner with a curt nod of =
his head and drew them to the far corner of the bathroom. "I want you to =
check out the others in this lab. Nine ways to Sunday. I want to know =
what elementary school they attended, what their blood type is and in =
the case of the males, whether they have been circumcised. Everything." =
This sudden paranoia startled Sam, but his gut told him to tread with =
one eye ahead and the other on planted firmly over his shoulder.

	Al coaxed the information out of Ziggy. "Canady, Swilling and =
Michaels." Sam nodded, "What are you going to do now?"

	"Break into that file again." Sam paused at the door and glanced back =
at his friend. Al had already opened the Door and was nearly swallowed =
up by the incandescent light. "I don't know what I'm going to find. But, =
suddenly it scares the hell out of me."

Sam didn't think he would be able to find any blank discs in his office =
since it had first been occupied only yesterday. But, after a quick =
search through the desk, he found a package of 10 unopened, formatted =
discs ready for data input.

	After checking the hall and seeing that it was empty, Sam closed the =
door. He was a little irritated that there was no lock, but by =
positioning a chair in just the right way, it would give him a slim =
warning if someone was entering his office, and that was all the time he =
would need.

	The computer was slower to boot this morning; more people working than =
yesterday evening. The menu flashed and he immediately chose the =
forbidden file. "Quantum Leap."

	File open.

	Shoving the disc into the hard drive, Sam ran through the steps to copy =
as fast as the computer would let him. A little bar graph appeared on =
the screen and through some agonizing moments, Sam watched as the =
percentage of copied data grew higher and higher.

	"Come on, come one," Sam whispered under his breath. He heard voices =
out in the hall and he couldn't tell if they were just passing by or =
they were headed for him.

	65% complete.

	A cold sweat began to trickle down his back. The voices were coming =

	78% complete.

As he watched the thick blue line move at a snail's pace from left to =
right, Sam's conviction that this file was the answer to his Leap grew. =
He didn't even know what was in the file. Maybe it was just somebody's =
little black book of numbers, or somebody's under the table accounting =
records. Or maybe it was something else. Something that could and would =
affect him very personally. Or maybe the kid in the van had just spooked =
the hell of out him.

	81% complete.

	The voices stopped outside his office.

	Why Quantum Leap? That phrase had been part of the English vernacular =
for ages. Why should the use of those two simple words unnerve him so =
much? Could it be that they were working on blackbody experiments here? =
Because there was obviously someone else's hand in this than just Uncle =

	93% complete.

	A knock sounded on his door.

	"Just a minute," Sam croaked, his hand poised over the keyboard.

	97% complete.

	"Dr. Aldrich, may I come in?"

	100% complete.

	Sam tore the disc out of the hard drive, shoved it in his pocket and =
didn't even bother to close the program; he just simply just down the =

	The knock came again. "Dr. Aldrich?"

	"Coming!," Sam rushed to the door, pushing the chair out of the way. He =
literally flung the door open, startling the young woman on the other =
side. "What?"

	She instinctively took a few steps back and held her hand up in self- =
preservation. "I'm sorry to have bothered you, Dr. Aldrich, but your =
phone is not hooked up yet, and there are some forms I need you to fill =

	Sam let out the breath that he was holding with a big rush. All his =
tension of the past few minutes exited his body and he found he had to =
hold onto the doorframe to keep himself upright. "Forms?"

	"Yes, Sir," the young woman answered, still staying on the opposite =
side of the hall, "Social Security number, next of kin, that sort of =
thing. I need those filled out before I can put you into the system."

	Sam stared blankly at the young woman.

	"That is, if you want to get paid," she added.

	"Oh, yes, of course," Sam laughed, trying to sound casual while he =
wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Sure, I want to get paid."

	The young woman smiled back. "Then, if you would just come with me, we =
can get this out of the way."

	Sam reached behind him and pulled the office door closed. "Whenever =
you're ready, Ma'am."

	She lead the way down the hall. "Please don't call me ma'am. It makes =
be feel so old. My name is Shelia."

	"Nice to meet you, Shelia," Sam said, smiling his most wining smile. =
Sliding his hand into his lab coat pocket, he wrapped his hand tightly =
around the disc, confirming its presence. "You probably get tired of all =
those forms, all the paperwork, don't you?"

	Glancing to her side, she looked up into Sam's eyes. "In a manner of =