"Basis of Control" pt. I October, 1999 Stallions Gate, NM Repairs on Ziggy were under full swing. Unfortunately, they hadn't even progressed beyond determining what, specifically, the problem was. Actually, they didn't even have a general idea of what the problem was, let alone a specific one. She just seemed...slow. Al walked purposefully down the halls, a cup of coffee growing cold between his hands. He was no computer expert, at least, not on the level that Sam Beckett had attained, but he was still able to help here and there. And he would be damned if he wasn't going to do what he could. Two days had already passed since Sam's leap-out and he could be leaping back in any day now. Times between leaps had the potential to vary from two to three days to a week and a half. Lately, they seemed to favor the former. "Al!" Verbena's voice called from behind him, and he slowed his pace. "'Bena," Al greeted her as she came up beside him. "Any news?" Verbena's normally serene features twisted into a gesture of frustration. "No. Can you believe this? I mean, we're hitting this on all fronts and still nothing!" Al stepped up to the elevator and pressed the button, turning to face her. "What do you mean by that?" "Well, you and all the other would-be engineers," she said, smiling playfully at him, "are off insisting on checking every inch of wiring while Gooshie's got someone at every terminal doing-" she shrugged "-whatever it is they do. And as for me, they've got me counseling her." "Cute," Al remarked, stepping into the elevator. "Didja find out about how much she loves her father?" Verbena's eyebrows flicked up in amusement. "Oh, yes. And it seems she's got a thing for you, too." "Is that supposed to be a compliment? I mean, after all, she loves Gooshie." The psychiatrist leaned in as if to avoid Ziggy's prying. "Yes, but not in _that_way_." She broke off in a light laugh. "I'm glad you find my personal life so amusing," Ziggy said, sounding insulted. "Just wait and see how long I keep you in session when I tell you every detail of my childhood." "You don't have a childhood, Ziggy," Al countered good-naturedly. "There was my beta version," she insisted. The elevator doors opened and Verbena peered out curiously into the empty hall. "This your floor?" she asked Al. When he nodded, she said, "What's here?" Al consulted a notepad he held in his palm. "Level 4, Section 7, Corridor B." "Sounds fun." "We're doing a deck-by-deck evaluation," Al said, smiling slightly. "We've got to get whatever's wrong fixed before Sam's next leap. We barely made it through this last one with him in one piece." Verbena watched Al step out into the hallway with a patient smile. "Just make sure you get some sleep tonight, Admiral," she called out, just as the doors slid shut. He waved her away, feeling certain that Beth had told her he hadn't even gone to bed the night before. He rolled his eyes. Women! They always stuck together. Al knelt down, opened the panel, and started inspecting the wiring. In a way, it was comforting, rolling up his sleeves and getting back to basics. It reminded him of times with Sam. Al chuckled slightly to himself, remembering the celebration they'd had when they finally finished the Imaging Chamber. Two major design flaws that had held up completion of the chamber for weeks and hiked up the proposed budget by almost 10% had only strengthened their resolve to enjoy themselves when it was finally done. They'd met in Sam's office and it wasn't until Sam poured champagne straight through Al's holographic wine glass that he realize his friend wasn't actually there. Al had teased him mercilessly as he stalked through the project, knowing Sam couldn't get rid of him...until he noticed Sam was heading for the Imaging Chamber. He'd hidden out for the rest of the day. He shook his head slightly at the memory and reached for another wire. He had only been at work for about twenty minutes when Beth came down the hall. He glanced up when he saw her out of the corner of his eye. It was early yet and she looked as if she had just showered. Her hair was damp and fell down over her forehead. She wore a white cotton shirt buttoned up half-way over a sleeveless top and a pair of blue jeans, his cellular phone clipped to the front pocket. "'Morning," he said quietly, reverting from his crouching position to sit on the floor. His back was starting to ache. "Darn, I wish I knew you were coming; I'd've told Ziggy to ask you to bring some more coffee." She smiled at him and sat down beside him, leaning against the wall. "Emma called." "Oh?" Emma and Beth had always been especially close. Emma was the baby of the family and, even though he knew each time she called the majority of the time was spent talking to her mother, Al couldn't help feeling a little hurt that Beth hadn't told him she was on the line so he could talk to her, too. "She still with that guy, what's his name, Harry?" "Henry," Beth corrected automatically. "Yeah, him. Still need to meet him," he added in a mumble. "I think she purposely moved far away before ever becoming involved with anyone so she could spend months in intensive training with him to prep him meeting you," Beth said quietly. He smiled. "And, yes, she's still with him. At least, I assume so." "You assume so? What did you two talk about?" Beth shrugged. "Nothing. She wanted to talk to you. Said it was urgent. I told her I'd find you and to call back in ten minutes." She motioned to the phone clipped to her jeans. Al looked puzzled. "Is something wrong?" "I think so." The blunt comment took him off-guard and he put aside his tools. "I mean, she didn't say specifically, but she did ask if you were all right." The phone rang and both of them jumped. Beth took it off and handed it to Al. "I'm just gonna stick around to make sure everything's okay," she said quietly. Al nodded and lifted the phone. "Hi, sweetie." "Guess Mom found you okay," came the voice of his youngest daughter. "Yeah, sorry I wasn't in earlier, but things are kinda hectic at work." Al and Beth had lived just outside Santa Fe while the girls were still at home, but once the last bird had flown and they had an empty nest, they took quarters at Project Quantum Leap. Both of them worked there and with the crazy hours Sam's leaps subjected them to, it was just easier that way. Whenever one of the girls came to visit, they stayed in the upper level quarters, where all guests to the project were restricted to. None of their children knew exactly what went on at Quantum Leap. "So Mom said. Look, is everything okay over there?" Al frowned. "Look, hon, you know I love talking to you, I really do. But I'm on a real tight schedule and it's important that I-" "Okay, yeah, sorry," Emma said quietly. "I won't beat around the bush. I, uh, I got a letter today and I just thought I should call you and tell you about it." Al waited, letting her fumble to the point in her own time. The sounds of crinkling paper vibrated over the line and then she cleared her throat. "This is what it says. 'Emma Calavicci: Please relay this message to your father. The right to alter people, the right to change their lives, the right to control is not yours alone.'" Her voice faded at the last line and Al took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Go on," he said finally. "That's it," she said. "No signature, no return address?" Al guessed. "No." "What about the postmark?" he asked. "Where was it sent from?" There was a small pause and then she spoke again, sounding even more concerned. "Here." Al was getting to his feet now, shoving his tools and manuals against the wall, out of the way of normal traffic. "Emma, don't you think it's time for a visit?" "What?" she asked, clearly confused, as if he'd made a jump of logic she'd missed. Al summoned the elevator again, Beth standing next to him, her face a mixture of concern and curiosity. "I mean you could take some time off work and-" "I just can't pick up everything and go," she protested. When she wanted to, she could call up some of the fiery temper she had inherited. "Besides, Henry had a banquet they're honoring him at and I promised I'd be there for him. It's a real big deal, Dad." By now Beth looked downright scared and she gripped Al's arm in a silent plea for information. He untangled himself and put his arm around her shoulders. *Just a minute,* his actions said. "I know you have a busy life, but I think it might be for the best if you came." The elevator opened up in front of them and they stepped inside. Al pushed the button to the floor of their quarters. "Are you in some kind of trouble, Dad?" Al tilted his head against the phone, capturing it between his head and his shoulder while he scrubbed at his face with his free hand. "I didn't think I was, but it seems I was wrong." His daughter sighed deeply. "I'll see what I can do." "Try hard, okay, sweetheart? I'll talk to you soon." "Bye, Dad. Love you." "I love you, too." Al cut off the connection and handed the phone back to Beth. "What is it?" she persisted. "Al, what's going on?" He swallowed tightly. "Someone knows about the project. We have a leak or something or..." Al trailed off, his expression pained. "How do you know? Al?" He pulled out the paper he'd read, contemplated briefly, and then stuffed in his jacket pocket, completely forgetting about it as he did so. Wordlessly, he handed it to Beth. "I got this fax the other night after Sam leaped out. What do you make of it?" She read over it, shaking her head slightly. "'It begins'?" she echoed. "What does that mean?" "Emma got a letter," Al said breathlessly. "A letter warning me." "Warning you? Of what?" "Ziggy?" he asked. Of course, Ziggy had been listening in on the conversation. She always did and, on one level, Al liked it that way. On another level, it got downright annoying. Her tone haughty, as if she was doing him a tremendous favor, Ziggy repeated to Beth what the letter had said. Beth's breath caught in her throat and Al tightened his reassuring hold on her. "I see now why you wanted her to come here." "The sooner the better," he agreed. "Do you think we should call the other girls?" Al considered this. "We haven't heard from them yet, which may mean whoever's behind this knows where Emma is, but no-one else. I don't want to risk losing that advantage." Then phone rang again and he released Beth to let her answer it. "Hello?" She smiled sadly and handed the phone back to Al. "It's Donna. I think she had another sleepless night last night," she added, covering up the speaker with her palm. "Sam's last leap and all these problems are making it really hard on her." Belaying the expected, Donna still seemed to seek out Al rather than Beth when these fits of restlessness struck. Beth and Verbena were close as they worked together daily, but Donna mainly worked with Gooshie and Tina and she never felt compelled to go to them for comfort. She never really worked with Al, either, but perhaps it was because Al was the closest to Sam that she was closest to Al. In fact, she was rarely ever even around the project these days. "Hey, kid, how are ya doing?" "Al?" Donna sounded as if she had been crying. Again. "Can you spare an hour or two?" Al listened intently for a moment to the sound of her breathing, trying to gauge her state of mind, and then smiled encouragingly, as if Donna could see it. "Sure, sweetheart. I need a break, anyhow. Just give me an hour or so." He hung up and then kissed Beth gently. "Help me get Emma here, huh?" She forced a smile and nodded, then closed her eyes so she couldn't see his retreating back. ^----^----^----^----^ October, 1999 Grant, NM Jonathan Tucker sat on the hotel room bed, fingering the stack of papers to his right. He shifted uneasily. "Are you certain about all this?" he asked his brother and partner, Dave Tucker. "Sure I'm sure," he replied angrily. "You're not having second thoughts about all this, are you?" "Well...I..." Dave got up from the table he was sitting at and spun to face Jonathan. Fire sparked in his pale hazel eyes. "The information is legit, I'm telling you! My friend of 15 years gave it to me!" Jonathan still didn't seem too certain. "I mean, it's just that ever since Mary and Claudia died, well, it seems something just sorta-" "Snapped?" Dave demanded. He advanced on the other man's position. "Is that what you want to tell me? That I've snapped?" *You're not exactly making a good case that you haven't.* "No, I meant that-" "No one has the right to do this, do you understand? It should be left to God, not _them_." "Maybe you're right." "I'm right. Trust me, I'm right." Jonathan took a deep breath. "So why are we invoking that same right as our special privilege?" "John, you're my blood. You're my brother. But you've never lost anyone close to you. I have to do this." He sounded very certain of himself. "I have to make these people understand what they're doing is very, very wrong. I have to make them _feel_..." "What you've felt?" Dave sat miserably on the edge of the bed. "Don't you think they deserve it?" "Where do we draw the line?" When his brother finally looked up, Jonathan didn't like what he saw in his eyes. "We won't hurt anyone. Not really." *I don't believe you.* "Don't you think it's our duty to make them see?" Dave resumed. *I don't know...* "I guess so. I guess someone has to." "And the government has _supported_ them! Condoned this!" Dave said suddenly, sweeping the stack of papers off the bed. Jonathan didn't react. Dave stood again and paced the room like a caged animal. "Our money has gone to support this madness." "Maybe they don't understand the extent to which-" "They understand," Dave interrupted, rounding to face his brother and levelling an accusing finger. "And _I_ understand that if it hadn't been for the divine power they've seized that my two daughters would still be alive today. But they changed history and now they're dead. They're murderers," he said, suddenly quiet, "and they have to be stopped."