Part 4- You look like an angel...

NOT August, 1991-I was waiting for Al to show up, to explain the
parameters of this new leap (New leap? What about David?) Thankfully,
that whole painful business with David Banner was done with (No it
wasn't. Last thing I remember, I was changing into David's creature, the
Hulk) I shudder to think what would have happened if I had leaped into
poor David instead of Jack Mcgee ( Mcgee? No, Mcgee knows now! He knows
that...) Al had said that I was there to save Mcgee's career from the
ruin Banner had made of it by getting the Hulk's story and getting David
convicted of Elena Marks' murder(No, no, Mcgee ruined his own career, it
was David's life he ruined, with his pursuit...and his clumsiness?
Something...from David's subconscious...but didn't I just say I leapt
into Mcgee?) Elvis music is playing, a tune I don't recognize ( But I
love his music...On my last leap, I was Mcgee, noooo David
Banner) I'm in a tavern, kind of a grim Bar and Grill where all hope
seems to be lost, and not a friendly face in sight (So? Is there a happy
Bar and Grill somewhere, where new hope is found, and answers are
given...and why doesn't that sound a lot more absurd?) Al appears out of
nowhere ( No door opened! Oh, God! There's no door! What does that mean?
Think, Sam. What is Elvis singing? Why does it prevent me from thinking
and yet speed my thoughts along at the same pace?)  Al's usual sense of
humor shines through;He's dressed as a bartender, even though no one but
me can appreciate the joke. "Like It?", Al almost sneered. " People like
bartenders, we have all the answers!Tina sure does, when we play drunken
barmaid! Hoo-Hoo, when she falls on that table face-first, then I raise
up her skirt for the free ride..." My friend liked to tweak me for being
a prude, but this was crossing the line. "Al, you're married!" He was
disgusted by this reminder, like it was something bad how Beth had
waited for him, and as if it were my doing that she had. ( Had I? Time's
rules could allow for infinite Sam Beckett's in infinite timelines, one
of which could have intervened, changing what I know about Al. The King
intones "You Look Like" over and over again. What? What do "You Look
Like"?) Al grinned the grin of the jackal, "I may be married, Sam, but
I'm not dead. Do you think nursing you through Future-boy-scout camp is
a stress-free job? I need a release!" He was making me ill with weak
exscuses for hurting poor Beth, so I tried to wave him off, but Al (AL!?
That's no more Al than I..)  kept right on jabbering. "No, Sam, I'm not
dead. Though I did take a nasty fall once. You remember that story,
Sam?" I told him I didn't. He liked telling this story, his face said
that much. "Early on, we had this platoon. I was second-in-command, but
I didn't like the way Topkick did things, so I suggested he step down.
He kicked me out, mussed up my good looks, and with me a bunch of the
guys thought likewise."  I felt a chill. I knew the rest of the story.
"So you formed your own platoon. Pulled pranks to discredit and
demoralize the first platoon"  Al was smoking that cigar a LOT more than
usual, and it always stayed lit.  "Yes, Sam, good boy. And our platoon
grows every single day! Sorry-a little hype never hurt anyone-but it's
growing fast enough-who knows;maybe you'll join us one day soon."
Despodent, I asked, "Why am I here, Al? Where and when is here?"
Suddenly turning all  business, Al pulled up his handlink as if to touch
base with Ziggy. He then promptly hit a barstool, and slipped on some
spilled beer. At first I was going to laugh, but quickly realized why I
shouldn't. Al was here, physically, with me. Stunned, I offered him a
hand up, which he pushed away. Bitterly, he said "All right, all right,
so you got us. Took you long enough, though", and with that, his
bitterness turned to harsh, mocking laughter. Suddenly, everyone I knew
from the project and people I had leaped into and around were there,
echoing the same, harsh,mocking laughter. "Welcome, Sam Beckett, to a
twenty-two BILLION dollar joke, courtesy of me, all at yours-and the
taxpayer's-expense." Suddenly the bar was moved away, a prop set, to
reveal the Quantum Leap project-another prop set ( Elvis: You look like
an....You look like an an...) Horrified, I saw my entire life revealed
to be a lie, a joke some friends cooked up for kicks. None of it was
real. Nothing had been accomplished. The actor who played Jimmy poked
his finger into my chest, hard, saying, in a distinct voice "Who's the
idiot NOW, genius?" "Jimmy, you never were.." "Never was an idiot, Sam?.
Al was moving in on something. Sam could tell it. "He never was
anything. None of them were. Boy, the guys bet me no way could we keep
this up for long, but now  I'm a rich man. You didn't really think you
were travelling through time, Did You?" Once again the laughter, once
again Elvis' song, and more of it, too. You look like an angel, You Talk
like an angel, You Walk like an angel...How did that go?

"Nope, no marriage, no saves, no hits, no runs, only one big financial
error yooooouuuu'lll have to explain to a contempt-happy Congress. That,
and the narcoleptic drugs in your system," Al was gloating over the
depths of his practical joke, and I was trying to ignore him, but the
mention of drugging me made me turn. He relished the look. "Well, Sam,
we had to make the fade-ins realistic, didn't we?" I hoped this was all
a dream, but I usually only have lucid, controlled dreams-and this was
anything but. Accepting the loss of control for the moment, I pressed Al
about the background music. "What is Elvis singing, Al?" He now seemed
genuinely confused, but tried to turn it to his advantage "You never
were the King, Sam. It was all a put-on. We were planning to end your
little journeys here in this bar and grill, anyway.Let me tell you about
the lengths we went to..." Eagerly, I tuned him out, as he said the most
vile things about people I knew and loved. In my heart, I know they were
real, I know they are real, even Al, just as when the cigar wrapping had
saved him from nonexistence. Al was like an angel, rough around the
edges, but his presence meant good things, and a certain little girl who
could see him saw his true heart as well-but she was an actress, too,
wasn't she? No, she wasn't. None of them were. In refusing to accept
defeat any longer, I saw all the laughers except Al  fade away on me,
and I heard Elvis's song clearly for the first time. Smiling in victory,
I stared down the Al thing and sang the words "You Look Like An Angel,
You Talk Like An Angel, You Walk Like An Angel-But I got
wiiiisse"-Practically leaping, I added- "You're the devil in disguise!"
Enraged that his true joke had been found out, the presence from Maine
and probably the power behind Lothos spat out, "I OWN YOUR FRIEND
Calmly, and growing ever more calm, I told him: "Two things: You don't
own David. The creature has never killed. It just wants to go away and
never be called back. Rage gets tired...kind of like your message got
about 2000 years ago." 
"We'll see", said the now-shaken monster;"What's the second thing?"  I
looked at him with new eyes, a mixture of amusement and pity he simply
couldn't deal with and said two simple words: "Go Home". With that, the
one monster even the Hulk feared left me. I sat down, exhausted, and
began to sing "It was a night...Ooh, what a night..Oh, yes, it really
was Such  a night.."

                August 25th, 1991 - I awoke on a cabin's floor,
somewhere near where my rampage began. Someone had taken me in. The lack
of Hulk-forced entry proved that. Obviously, my dream/vision was my mind
fighting to regain control over my body-I hope. But who had taken me in?
A door-knob turn told me who-and I didn't like it one bit. "So, Doctor
Banner, you're awake. Good. You know, I've seen the creature angry
before, but from what you were doing to those rock formations, I'd say
you were up against the devil himself. Glad I had my binoculars. Pity my
photographer friend hasn't arrived yet, but our cheapskate publisher-I
work for the Bugle now, ya know-would never spring for nonstop." I
wasn't buying this act;  McGee had me dead to rights; "You're very
nonchalant, like we were old friends or something."  He seemed genuinely
upset by this; "We are. I know you,and you know me. For years we've been
the one consistent voice in each other's lives. We are friends,
David-and I'm going to help you." I felt more of David in me at this
time, not rage, but just pure skepticism regarding McGee. He may have
believed he wanted to help David, but "Using your logic, -Jack-Javert
and Valjean were friends".  "Except, Doctor-David-you stole Elena Marks
life, not a loaf of bread, and its you who sees the world as "Noble
Doctor vs. Evil Reporter". I told you, I'll testify on your behalf.
You'll get help-get cured. Insanity defense is a given in this kind of
case, even a hanging judge couldn't argue with that. I'll keep enough of
a spotlight on you to keep anybody from stealing you to make more Hulks.
Best of all, the book we'll write on all this will make Kimble's "One
Arm At My Throat" look like an episode of "Gilligan's Island". I shook
my head. He actually meant well, but Sam doubted, and so would David,
that things would go anywhere near that smoothly. "Just give it a
chance, David. Your works and your life's story are about to become
immortal-I see Michael Landon." Now I was confused. "Where?"  Mcgee was
confused now, too. "Where what?"  I looked straight at him,"Where do you
see Michael Landon?" I wondered if Jack Mcgee hadn't cracked entirely. I
remember a young killer in 1997 telling the assistant principal of the
school he just shot up about a pizza discount the young man had given
the administrator the previous week, as though this meant something
after a horror scene like that, with the young man now in the vice
principal's custody. He hoped Jack McGee wasn't anywhere near that far
gone, that disconnected from reality. "Why, I see Michael Landon playing
you-soft spoken, but with a dark secret-on the TV show." Great. Mcgee
didn't have anything yet, and he was planning a Tv show. Not total
disconnect from reality, but close enough. I was about to tell him what
he could do with his story and his film options when a holographic
door-a real holographic door-appeared. But once again, it wasn't Al-any
Al.  The man with the handlink spoke quickly, and was to the point
;"Quantum Leap is safe, Sam, at least from Mcgee. In this new timeline,
he never disrupts the Ziggy prototype. You end up first leaping 4 years
ahead of schedule, with the same mixed results, though." With Mcgee
still talking about casting the feature film, I spoke to my friend with
the handlink-Doctor David Banner. "You mean instead of leaping in 1999-"
David stopped me-" Yes, it is  now 1999. Apparently as soon as we
leaped, McGee was meant to find me out and be lead away from disrupting
the nascent Quantum Leap". "But David, It's at the cost of your life-He
has you!"  Smiling as I have never seen him smile before, my old friend
merely said "The cost of my privacy, maybe. But Ziggy has given me
information that will get Jack Mcgee away from me once and for all!" I
had an inkling what that might be, but said nothing about it; "What
about any other scenarios?" David's look told me he knew what I meant.
"I know about the creature destroying the project, Sam. I wish I could
offer hope. All Ziggy will say is that, while the odds have gotten
better, their ability to affect your leaps through time will still be
permanently destroyed in all probable scenarios." He was upset to say
that, and I was upset to hear it. Still, he completed my thought; "We'll
just have to come up with some improbable scenarios, then".  It was my
turn to smile. David was developing some form of faith in the structure
and purpose of things. Talk about an improbable scenario. "For right
now, Sam, just give him his interview. I'll provide you with Ziggy's new
information to get  us out of here. We won't kill Jack, but we will
simply walk away without a single story being filed or him saying a word
about it." There was a grim, satisfied look on David's face that threw
me. "Don't be concerned, Sam. Like I say, we won't hurt him, but he will
go away. For now, just talk with him. Give him what he wants...I'll give
him what he deserves."