"Basis of Control" pt. II

October, 1999
Stallions Gate, NM

  Beth entered her quarters slowly and saw Al standing in the corner of
the room, his back to her. The tension in his shoulders gave her pause,
but she pressed inward, closing the door silently behind her. He was
leaning forward, bracing himself on the small table pressed up against
the wall. She came up slowly behind him, wondering if he even knew she
was there. She stopped a few feet away from him and hesitated.
  "You heard?" he asked suddenly, his voice harsh and raspy.
  Beth cleared her throat and blinked rapidly. "I heard about the
accident and I know she was rushed to the hospital. But I don't know any
of the details." Al turned to face her, then, and she caught her breath
at the sadness in his eyes. She reached for his hand, falling just short
of making contact. "She's dead, isn't she?"
  He looked as if he was about to answer, but then changed his mind. He
didn't have to - the question didn't really require a verbal response.
"Do you mind if we sit down?" he asked. "I mean, before we get into
  She took the hand he now offered and let him lead her to the couch
stationed in the center of the room. Al seemed greatly ill at ease and
she really couldn't blame him. As for her own emotions, Beth knew that
she hadn't really known about the tragedy long enough for it to sink in
and really hit home. "What happened?" she asked softly.
  Al released her abruptly and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his
knees and his head in his hands. "She - ah - she was shot once. In the
  Beth bit her bottom lip and then swallowed harshly. The lighting was
beginning to seem a little too bright and the normal hum of the project a
little too loud. "I don't understand..."
  "Well, she...fell down the stairs when she tried to get help. We think
it was the fall that killed her." His words were spaced by deep breaths,
as if he was having trouble inhaling. She caressed his hand, her touch
gentle, each release of breath a whispered prayer.
  They sat in silence a moment longer and then Al finally sat up, reached
over, and embraced his wife. Beth held onto him tightly, trying her best
to offer comfort and receive it in the same instant. The sound of the
door chime interrupted the moment and Beth pulled away and rose
automatically, crossing the room to open the door. It was Verbena.
  "Sorry to intrude," the psychologist said quietly, staring Beth in the
eyes, "but I wanted to let you know that Donna just died on the operating
  "I know," Beth said in equally subdued tones. "Al just told me."
  Verbena looked past her to Al, still sitting on the couch. "Is he
okay?" she whispered.
  Beth nodded minutely. "So far."
  "What's he going to do? I mean, about Sam?"
  "We haven't reached that point yet. Besides, what _can_ he do?"
  Verbena shook her head and stifled a sigh. "Did he tell you that he
found her?"
  Beth's eyes widened slightly. "No, he didn't. Oh, no..."
  Verbena patted her friend's shoulder warmly. "I'll leave you alone to
talk. I just wanted to make sure you had heard."
  "Anything on Ziggy yet?"
  Her companion frowned deeply. "Nothing. I have a feeling we're in for a
rough ride."
  Beth felt inclined to agree, but she didn't say so. The last thing they
needed was more negativity. "Well, just make sure people keep Al updated
or he'll start climbing the walls."
  The psychiatrist smiled slightly and waved absently with one hand as she
left the Calaviccis' doorway. 
  Beth rejoined her husband on the couch. "Verbena said you found her."
  Al squeezed his eyes shut. "Yeah."
  "Is there gonna be a memorial service, or..."
  "Soon. Within a couple days, at most, depending on Sam's leaps."
  She swallowed tightly. "Where...is she? I mean, we don't really have a
morgue or anything..."
  He opened his eyes and gazed steadily at her. "She wasn't taken to
Quantum Leap. They took her to the hospital in Santa Fe."
  Beth gaped at him, feeling like a fish suddenly pulled from water.
"You're kidding! What about top secret? What about keeping-"
  "It had nothing to do with PQL," he interrupted, shrugging wearily.
  "Al, she was _shot_. Probably by the same guy who knows about us." She
was hard-pressed to temper her incredulity.
  He avoided her eyes. "It was out of my hands." He ran his hands
uneasily along the couch and then stood up. "Listen, I need to keep on
these problems with Ziggy."
  She looked at him, trying not to become angry at his avoidance of her
questions. And the ones he _was_ addressing were being answered with
bottled responses. Why on earth _had_ he brought her to Santa Fe? Surely
Verbena had to be wondering the same thing. "Verbena promised me they'd
keep you updated. Why don't you get some sleep?" 
  He turned a frustrated gaze on her. "What good would that do anybody?"
he demanded, then sighed deeply, relenting. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I...I
should really get some work done," he finished, exactly as she'd known he
would. Well, at least that was normal, familiar. 
  "What are you going to tell Sam?" she asked softly, looking for words
to fill up the silence, trying to keep him in the room. Why, she wasn't
sure, but she had the feeling other thoughts still craved expression.
  "What can I tell him?" Al said passively. "Would telling him he had
a wife and she's now dead be any better than telling him he had one while
she was still alive?" Beth didn't have an answer for him, but she didn't
think he really expected one. "No," he continued after a moment, "it's
better just to keep this to ourselves."
  Beth drew in a deep breath through her nose. "Can you do that?"
  Some of the detachment melted away as he peered at her and she relaxed
minutely. "Do what?"
  "Keep the truth from Sam."
  Al exhaled heavily. "If I have to. I kept the truth from him this long,
didn't I?"
  She just looked sadly at him, watching him consciously shouldering the
weight of his position again, a wordless end to the conversation.

October, 1999
outside Santa Fe, NM

  Beth Calavicci paused at the door to the Beckett home. She wasn't sure
exactly why she'd come - there was nothing to do here. 
  Al had insisted that they not sell the house, that it still be there
in Sam's name until the owner was there to put it on the market himself. Al 
and Beth were pretty much living off of the government anyhow and could
more than spare the money to keep Sam's home maintained; Al wanted to
keep everything as close as he could to how Sam left it. Beth had just
listened to Al's concerns and readily agreed, knowing how much Sam and Al
meant to each other and knowing how important it was to Al to invest every
hope in Sam's eventual return.
  Beth and Donna, on the other hand, had never been especially close.
Their areas of expertise were so vastly different that they rarely worked
together and, in spite of any similarities the woman's situation had with
Beth's past, she always seemed more comfortable with Al. And, because Beth
had already been through what Donna had been experiencing, she could
easily understand (and accept) the woman's desire to be near anyone who had
contact with her husband.
  Beth turned the extra key Al owned and entered the house slowly,
letting the screen door swing shut after her. She left the front door to
stand open and advanced inside. It was painfully silent and Beth went
back into the kitchen and turned on the radio, releasing a breath she
didn't even realize she'd been holding as she did so. Tension from her
conversation with Al still vibrated around her - the uneasiness with
which he'd spoken to her, the way he refused to meet her eyes while they
spoke... All of it was decidedly uncharacteristic.
  Then again, it was an uncharacteristic time. She was probably just
reading too much into it.
  The oldies music filtered through the small room and Beth absently
washed the few dishes resting in the sink, more to give herself something
to do than anything else. She went from room to room throughout the house
like that, straightening a stack of papers in the study, putting away a
book in the den, wondering what exactly she was looking for. By the time
she got to the bedroom, she was starting to feel frustrated and
disheartened. She was finally ready to give up.
  But when she entered the room, the thin mattress on the floor beside
the bed gave her pause. She'd be lying to herself if she said she was
fond of the fact that Al slept there at least once every couple of weeks
in an attempt to soothe Donna's fears and loneliness, but she certainly
could understand it. With a small sigh, she rolled up the makeshift bed
and stood it up in the closet, and then she began to realize why she'd
  Beth was looking for grief, puzzled at her own inability to feel any.
She felt the anguish of Al's position more keenly than any sorrow of her
own and there was a small voice inside her that told her it was wrong.
  But as the first feelings of any constant in a world of inconsistencies
began to envelop her, Beth was suddenly aware of a mental twinge. "It"
was like a fuzzy blur on the edge of her vision which vanished when she
turned to look at it. Something was definitely wrong.
  The question was: what?

January, 1989
Cleveland, OH

  He was whistling. The tune faltered and then died as the passing of the
torch was completed and the last essence of the host slid from Sam
Beckett's body.
  He unpursed his lips and bit his bottom lip instead as a sudden, sharp
pain registered.
  "Shouldn't you flip that? It's gonna burn," advised a voice to Sam's
immediate right, just on the edge of his vision.
  With his customary lack of preparation, Sam remained flustered until he
realized that he was standing over a pan where three pancakes were
turning a gold brown. The other was now distinctly black. Not only that,
but the mysterious pain he was in seemed to be growing.
  Making a noise of uneasiness, Sam removed the charred mess and, for
lack of a better place to put it, flipped it onto a countertop,
accidentally brushing the hand of the boy standing beside him. The kid
(couldn't have been more than 10 or 11, by Sam's estimate) yelped and
jerked back.
  "Oh, geez, I'm sorry, I..." Sam braced himself for a tongue lashing as
he fumbled into incoherency, but all he got was a puzzled glance and a
muttered, "Gotta have something to tell the shrink," as the boy turned
away to nurse his hand and run it under cold water.
  Sam looked down at himself - jeans and a t-shirt. He sighed in relief
until a bracelet on his right wrist caught in the light and glittered
innocently at him. "Oh, boy," he muttered under his breath. "I _hate_
being a woman..."
  "Aw, geez, Sam, can't you even cook pancakes right?" Al made a disgusted
sound as he popped in, bent over the pan from the other side of the
  Sam glanced up to see his holographic partner, phasing in and out of
clarity. "Al," he hissed sharply, finally understanding his previous
sensations, "I've got pierced ears!" 
  "Mom?" the boy asked. "Who...are you talking to?"
  Al looked pointedly at Sam. "Hey, Einstein, do you wanna go somewhere
so we can talk before your family locks you away?"
  Sam fumbled for a moment before realizing any excuse he offered the 
kid would be inadequate. He finally handed the spatula off to the boy,
ignoring the question entirely. "Uh...can you take care of this? I need
to, uh, take care of something in...the back." He glanced back at Al, but
the admiral was engrossed in relations with Ziggy via the handlink.
  As Sam wandered back through the house, he watched Al's image become
less erratic and then stabilize. "What's wrong, Al?" he hissed as they
ducked into what was obviously the master bedroom. Sam checked the
adjoining bathroom to make sure "Dad" wasn't around.
  "Wrong?" Al hedged, "nothing's wrong. This handlink-" he waved the
offending device through the air "-just needs a tune-up or something."
  Sam stood silently by while Al fought the 'link for a few more minutes
and then sighed and dropped the hand with the terminal to his side. Sam
was tempted to press (there were obviously technical problems back at the
project), but the rigid stance in Al's posture and the way his friend
avoided his eyes made him think twice. "Okay, Al, okay." He took a deep
breath. "What's the story this time?"
  Al looked distinctly guilty. "Story?"
  "With this woman I've leaped into. You know...the woman with the
pierced ears..." He grimaced and rubbed at his earlobes, muttering
something about primitive cultures and the beauty of clip-ons.
  "Oh, right." He relaxed visibly and lifted the handlink again. "Let's
see...it's January 7, 1989 and you're in Cleveland, Ohio. Your name is
Sylvia Landers and you're the housewife of Aaron Landers. He's a field
technician for a construction company a few minutes south of here. You're
33 years old and you have two children: Matt and Christina. Matt is 9 and
Christina is 4."
  Al stopped and Sam raised his eyebrows. "So what am I here to do? Does
one of them die, or get in trouble, or what?"
  Al shrugged and waved the 'link around again. "We don't know yet, Sam.
It's gonna take a little bit of time to track down their personal
histories, but as best as we can figure, nothing in the immediate future
happens to this family."
  "What about friends or relatives?"
  Al started to pace as he read. "Well, that'll take even longer to
figure based on who you guys associate with. That's a little harder to
find information on, you know. But we'll keep running scenarios and as
soon as we find out, you'll be the first to know. As it stands right now,
the best Ziggy can give me is that it has something directly to do with
you - uh - Sylvia."
  "What are the odds?"
  "That's not bad," Sam mused, rubbing at his cheek absently. "But, Al,
in the meantime, I have to..._live_ with Sylvia's husband."
  "Aaron," Al supplied.
  Sam wasn't comforted. "Yeah, well, whatever his name is, I have to
pretend to be married to him, don't I? I can't do that!"
  Al nodded sympathetically and then frowned. "Huh. Sam, according to
Ziggy, that may not be a problem. Apparently, this guy isn't around a
whole lot. He does a lot of travelling with the company and he's pretty
dedicated to his work, if you know what I mean. He - geez!"
  "What?" Sam was suddenly alert.
  "He wouldn't even leave a meeting when his daughter was born because he
had to close a deal or something."
  "You're kidding."
  Al waved his hands in front of Sam's face. "You're married to a real
  "Maybe I'm here to-"
  "Wait, here it comes," Al interrupted. "Two years from now, Sylvia and
Aaron get a divorce. Ziggy estimates that whatever happens to cause that
starts here."
  "Any more specifics than that?" Sam asked, leaning in towards his
  Al glanced at the readout. "Nada," he stated. "Maybe," he added, some
of the familiar glint coming back into his eyes, "they were having a
rough sex life."
  Sam's glare could have melted steel. "Funny, Al. Very, very funny..."
  He was about to keep talking when the distracted expression on Al's
face told him his focus was elsewhere. "What?" he prompted.
  "Uh, yeah, Gooshie," Al said, speaking over Sam's words and staring
upwards. "Tell her I'll be there in a half hour and not to move. Sam," he
resumed, "I've got to go. Just do a little nosing around, find out what
you can, okay? And I'll be back as soon as I can."
  Sam's brow furrowed. He _hated_ being left in the dark. "Is everything
  "Sure. Beth just wants me to look at some wallpaper or something for
our quarters. You know women: they've got to change everything around
every three months. Everything's fine. I'll be back real soon, no
  Al's excess reassurances hinted at the severity of his problem, but
before Sam could pester any further, the Door opened and he was gone.