CHAPTER 2 Al bent his head low, saddened by the thought of his friend's leaving. Why hadn't Sam discussed this with him? Sam had spent all of his time since his return in the lab, going over his notes and printouts, never speaking to anyone. He had thought it best to leave him alone, let him adjust. Now he knew he shouldn't have done that, he should have insisted that Sam take time-off, get away, leave the project for a while. Never once did Sam ask him how he'd kept the project alive, kept it running. Sam never knew of the years he'd endured battling with the High Court. This battle had been more fierce than any he'd undergone in all of his career in active service. News monger's had somehow infiltrated the legal system and the project went public. There had been an outcry from government bodies and a formal investigation was held. Project Quantum Leap was no longer "A Top Secret Project" it had been a "Public Spectacle". Two years ago the investigation was wound down after there were no satisfactory conclusions. The government dropped all funding and the project closed. There were a few, however, who had taken the Nobel Prize winner to their hearts, one being Austin Bebrooks. Austin Bebrooks was a powerful and wealthy magistrate, he'd gathered together a sympathetic business conglomerate, they had taken over the funding, and Project Quantum Leap. Now all Al had to worry about was how to inform Austin Bebrooks that Sam had gone again. Austin would be here tomorrow, he'd arranged this meeting to discuss with Sam the technicalities of the project. Al hadn't told Sam of this meeting, he hadn't seen him. He was going to tell him later today, but never had the chance, would never have the chance. "Ziggy do you have a location yet for Sam?" Al's utterance broke the silence in the Control Room. "Not yet Admiral." "What's takin' yer so long, yer know the year he's leapt back to?" "There's no trace on him yet for the year 2000." "What do yer mean? We know he's there." "I cannot locate him." "Aw, not again Ziggy, where's he gone this time? Do a complete scan, right from 1900, use Sammi Jo's program." "Already initiated Admiral." "Humph, biggy two shoes." Al muttered under his breath. "It will take quite some time, I only deduced the known facts as far as 1918 the last time I ran the program, and there is an abundance of statistics to recover from this period onwards." "Okay, let me know when you locate him, I'll see if I can get some rest before tomorrow, boy it's gonna be a toughie." Al walked back to his accommodation, deep in thought. He meandered through the accustomed maze of underground corridors making his way back to his quarters. Once inside, he looked at Beth sleeping. Not disturbing her, he lay back on the bed, he could not sleep, too many thoughts intruded into his mind. His eyes kept straying to the clock, 5 am, 5:10, 5:15. At 5:30, he conceded to the thoughts and returned to the Control Room. "Ziggy contact Sammi Jo and get her down here, I have a feeling that it's all gone ca-ca again." Al paced the Control Room uneasily, waiting. Fifteen minutes later Sammi Jo entered, "Al what is it? Couldn't this have waited until morning?" "No it can't wait 'til morning!" Al snapped. Sammi Jo sensed the frustration in his voice. "What's happened?" "Sam's leapt again," his eyes looked pleadingly into Sammy Jo's. "I don't understand, why would he leap again after all these years?" "Ah, the usual," Al wafted a hand, "he's gone to save Donna. He's gone to stop the accident eight years ago." "But he can't do that, he's gonna change our history. What about Matt and Leone?" "I know, that's what I was thinking. Ziggy can't get a position on Sam. How does your program find where Sam is in time?" "The program checks for minor changes in history, I mean Sam can't do exactly the same thing or affect the same people as in the original history. As soon as Sam does something different or influences a change. The program detects that change and the location is made, but it can't find him until a change has been made." "Sounds pretty simple, ugh." Sammi Jo walked over to the control panel and checked the settings. "He's set the date for September 16 2000, we'll just have to keep monitoring the middle part of September." "What if he doesn't change anything? Would that be good?" "I suppose so, but what if he leaves it to the last minute, we maybe too late." "Knowing Sam, he'll not be able to resist anything, especially changing something." Al shook his head, hoping he knew his friend as well as he thought he did. "I know you're worried what Sam's gonna do, so am I. I'm worried about Matt too, he's been so good for you since Bruce died." "I loved Bruce, you know I did, I'd love to have him back," Sammi Jo twisted at the ring on her wedding finger, "but I love Matt too and Leone, she's just a baby. Oh Al, what a mess." Al could see the tears forming in Sammi Jo's eyes, he pulled her close and squeezed her tenderly. "I know kiddo, life can be so cruel, but if Sam knew about Matt and Leone he wouldn't change that. We didn't tell him, we never had the chance, he shut himself away in that lab of his." Al took Sammi Jo by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. "Look, all we can do is wait. In the meantime you have a think about Bruce and Matt, it's gonna have to be your decision. Who knows if Bruce does come back, you may still have Leone, but we can't be sure, it's up to you to decide." "Oh Al, how can I decide, you know it'll be up to Sam, how could he save Donna and the others and not save Bruce. You know Sam wouldn't do that." "Yeah I understand Sammi, I think I knew it all along. I just didn't want to upset you any more. Come on, we've got work to do, we've got a Nobel Prize winner to find. Bebrooks is due later today and he'll be mad as hell if Sam's not here when he arrives." "Perhaps we can stall him, I know enough about this project to bide us some time, maybe I could talk to him." "You could try, but I don't think he'll have it, yer see I've talked with him before, he likes to deal with the top gun." Al walked away from Sammi Jo, he nervously rubbed his chin. "He knew Sam was here and he made it quite plain that he wanted only to speak with Sam. I think we have a problem here." "I can all but try Al, what other choice do we have, if we can't locate Sam?" "Ziggy, do you have any trace on Sam yet?" "No Admiral, I've drawn a blank, nothing has changed in the history of 2000." Ziggy sounded disconcerted, "I'm still checking through the other years though." "Good, er, I-I mean erm, oh darn it. I don't know what I mean." Al felt uneasy. "I know what you mean, some things are hard to explain." "Yeah, like Sam's disappearance again, that's really gonna be hard to explain to Bebrooks, he wants results, that's what he's paying for, him and his cronies. I don't know who's the greater evil, him or the government." "At least you don't have Senator Dreasney breathing down your neck every five minutes, and what was it with her aide, what's her name, erm, Jessie. She was so-so complex." "Oh Sam had a thing with her, before the project really got off the ground. Of course he didn't know then who she was, that's what made it so embarrassing for Sam. He'd never been able to talk to people, especially women, he didn't know how to react. He took everything so personal. I mean when Donna jilted him at the altar the first time, he blamed himself for his inadequacies, but what Sam didn't realise was, it wasn't him, but the fact it was Donna who was insecure." "I never realised he felt that way." Sammi Jo looked down at her feet. * * * * Sam felt the accustomed tingle of the leap subside, he looked around at familiar white walls. He was in the Accelerator Chamber of Project Quantum Leap. He ran out to the Control Room but it was dark and empty. "Ziggy, lights." There was no response. "Ziggy, lights." He repeated, but nothing happened. He made his way in the darkness to the control panel. Feint lights indicated that Ziggy was still connected so why wasn't she responding. "Ziggy, speak to me." Still no answer. Sam squinted at the dim diodes on the control panel and found the key to turn the lights on manually. He pressed it with a finger, there was nothing there. He waved his hand he couldn't feel the control panel, he couldn't touch it. He could see it but couldn't touch. A sudden wave of realisation ran though him, making him shudder. Was he a hologram? He moved forward, through the control panel to the other side. This confirmed it, he was a hologram. His eyes slowly became accustomed to the darkness and he steadily walked around the control room. He noticed the clock on the wall, it was 3:04. Was it night or day? He had no way of knowing in this underground compound. He left through the door into the natural tunnels, all was pitch black. The motion detectors didn't react to his presence, so he stood there in complete darkness. Imprinted in his brain was the map of the tunnels but he was unsure, he had never made this journey in darkness before. Al had been afraid being caught in the darkness of the corridors and had made provisions for such an occasion. Every one hundred yards there was a cabinet which held torches and batteries, but these could not help him now. He knew the corridors were four strides wide, so with his arms outstretched in front he took four strides forward. He could not feel the walls. He took another two, still he felt nothing. Suddenly overcome with fear he strode back the six paces, turned around and went back into the Control Room. After being in the pitch black he could see more clearly, he could see outlines to objects. On a shelf by the control panel he saw the hand-link, unanticipating this situation, he had gone into the Accelerator Chamber without the hand-link. The code which had been deleted from the program had changed more than his retrieval, it had changed his semblance. He was mad at himself for not having the hand-link, but why should he be, he'd never need it before, it had always been Al that'd had it, the hologram. Instantly he remembered, this was his intention in the first place, to observe, there was no error in the coding, just his own stupidity at forgetting the hand-link. The one object he needed to communicate to Ziggy.