Part X

January, 2003
Santa Fe, NM

Elane's doctor, apparently satisfied with her rapid rate of recovery (or
driven to the brink by her constant pleas for release - she could never
be sure), did indeed send her on her way under Sam's care the following
morning. Sam dropped her home with express orders to get some rest.

He then proceeded on to the project, uncertain of what he would find
when he got there, or what he would do about it. One thing was certain:
he couldn't go now and just put in a normal day's work. By the same
token, he couldn't further raise the suspicions of anyone, especially
the committee.

It was a confused, tangled mess he was caught up in and he was
completely embedded in it. The thought that had surfaced last night in
Al's hotel room rose into his stream of consciousness again and he shied
away from it. It wasn't a viable option - too messy, too complicated.

He walked into his office and found a fax demanding the alpha program of
the retrieval process by the end of the week.

He'd been working for an hour when another fax came through.

"Be careful with whom you associate," it warned. "You are on a top
secret project and any leaks are unacceptable. -Sen. Weitzman"

Congress had their stranglehold, and now they were applying the
pressure. Sam closed down the program, pulled out a notebook and a
calculator, and started writing.

January, 2003
Stallion Springs, NM

"Oh, I don't know about this, Sam," Al said as he paced. "It's not a
good idea. Can't you just filch up the retrieval program instead?"

"I'm not leaving anyone stranded out there and I don't care who he or
she is," Sam said sharply.

Elane glanced at Al. "I'm sure that's not what he meant."

Al sighed and started to pace faster. "No, of course not. But you two
know more about these systems than anyone else. Can't you kind of
sabotage it quietly without anyone knowing what you're doing?"

"With all the millions spent on failsafes?" Elane asked. "Not likely."

"So you'll dismantle the failsafes first," Al said calmly. "I can take
this conversation back as many steps as you two." He stopped moving and
faced them. "We're not out of options yet. You don't have to do this."

Sam started ticking off points on his fingers. "Leaping is faster, it
could solve all our problems-"

"-Or create new ones," Al interjected.

"-And there's less chance of getting caught. It's not sabotaging the
program, it's simply altering its objective a little bit."

"And what are you going to change, huh? What could you possibly do that
would undo this without eliciting a lot of massive shock waves?"

Elane, who had been silent up to this point, suddenly spoke up. "What if
we don't just undo it. What if we fix it?"

"What do you mean?" Al wanted to know.

"Well, we're saying that we can't sabotage the project because they're
keeping a close eye on you, Sam, so what if you make it to the
Accelerator and just leap back, say, a minute. But you leap back into
someone no-one would ever be watching."

"Leap back and do what?" Al demanded.

Sam crossed his arms. "Delete Ziggy's memory banks. That's the only
place the data's stored - we get rid of that and they've got nothing

"Delete it and you'll be deleting your retrieval program, too."

"You could put a delay on it," Elane said excitedly, leaning forward.
"Have the entire core wiped _after_ you leap back, but not long enough
that anyone can stop it."

"We'd still need to reconfigure the project to leap you back and not
forward," Al said. "How long would that take and how do you do it
without getting caught?"

"It would take a good eight to twelve hours," Sam confessed. "Well,
there goes that. No way I could go unnoticed for that long without
someone realizing what we were up to."

"And how long to find and erase all the data in Ziggy's memory banks
once you'd leaped?"

"Couple hours. Plus an hour to deactivate failsafes." Sam sighed. "I
guess we're back to square one."

"Yeah." They sat in frustration for a few more minutes. "Sam?" Al asked
suddenly, "just for curiosity's sake, who were you gonna have observing
for that guy, what's-his-name?"

"Boyd," Elane supplied.

"Yeah, him."

Sam shrugged. "That wasn't entirely settled yet, but we were trying to
hook up a few observers. I was gonna be at least one of them."

"No," Al snapped, then seemed to catch himself. He backtracked. "I mean,
I was thinking... Could you do your 12 hour project if you had a
hologram looking over your shoulder for you?"

Sam was about to demand why Al was so adamant about him not observing,
but the latest idea sufficiently diverted his attention. "How would you
get into the Imaging Chamber? It's not like everyone knows you, but
those we've carried over from Project Quantum Leap do, and you were with
us for a month."

Al moved restlessly. "Well, now, I hadn't gotten that far, yet."

"Hey, fellas, first things first," Elane inserted calmly. She seemed to
provide helpful reminders of the big picture each time Al and Sam became
ensnared in details. "Sam, is this even viable? If we got Al to the
chamber, could you do it?"

"It could work," he said slowly, "but you couldn't be involved, Elane.
You'd never get in."

"I know, but there's got to be something I can do. It'll present itself
when I'm needed." Al smiled
and Sam kissed her briefly.

"So now we need to figure out my end of things," Al said when the
momentary victory had passed.

Sam let out a heavy breath. At every step seemed to be more
complications. Elane had joked about `cloak and dagger' earlier and he'd
laughed, but now... Hiding in hotel rooms? Breaking into government
installations? If it wasn't cloak and dagger, he didn't want to know
what was. "I don't know, Al, maybe we just gotta sleep on this one."

"If you can get me a roster and shift schedules - for everyone - maybe I
can do you one better and figure it out," Al suggested. "Hey!" he added,
brightly, "you said Ziggy was up and running, right? Maybe we can
convince her to-"

"No good. She's had a...um...personality shift. She's still as arrogant
as anything and nosy as hell, but she tends to follow the rules. She
won't keep us out as long as we've got proper codes, but neither would
she let us in without them."

"What about snooping around and changing her systems? Won't she be
keeping a record of that?"

"Yes," Elane said, "but there's likewise a recording of anyone accessing
those files. I have no doubt Wetizman's been regularly peeking into
them, but if Sam's careful about how he manipulates the system,
hopefully no cause for alarm will show."

Sam groaned. "I just can't believe we're doing this."

"Are you kidding?" Al grinned. "This is _it_ kiddo! This is what it's
all about."

Sam raised both eyebrows. "I worry about you, Al. I really do."

January, 2003
Stallions Gate, NM

Sam had been working double-time on the retrieval program. After all, he
didn't want to leap until it was ready. It was in the process of
completing this task that Weitzman found him.

"Senator," he said in surprise and with an internal tremble, "I had no
idea you were down this way. If I'd have known you were flying in,

"Which is why I didn't tell you," he interrupted smoothly. "I can see
you're hard at work on some-" he slid the notepad around so he could
look at it right-side up "-complex looking calculations, and so I'll be
brief. This is not your project: you know it and I know it. If it was,
you'd be leaping. As it is, Dr. Boyd will fly down here on Friday. You
are to brief him over the weekend and we'll do prelim testing all next

"What if the retrieval program's not done by then?"

"You job is to see that it is."

"What if I told you I wanted off the project?" Sam asked, testing the

"You wouldn't do that."

The senator's confidence was beginning to grate on Sam's nerves. "How
can you be so sure?"

"A couple of reasons, actually. It's a new frontier. You're not the kind
of man who could resist a new frontier if you tried. And, secondly, if
you don't finish it, Dr. Boyd will have no way to get home."

Sam stood angrily. "You'd still do it, even knowing that he might never
get back."

"You forced our hand, Doctor, when you leaped. You knew it wasn't ready
and you still did it."

"That's different - I had a choice!"

Weitzman inclined his head slightly. "You still do have a choice. You
can finish the program or not."

The senator turned to go, but Sam spoke out, halting his retreat. "What
are you going to use it for?"

Weitzman shook his head sadly and put his hands together, his fingertips
touching and pointing towards Sam. "I have only myself to blame for
this, I suppose. I should never have let Calavicci back into the
picture. An oversight on my part. Doctor, we are not a group of thieves
and bandits conspiring against the harmony of the world. This is not
some elaborate game of, `What's tomorrow night's winning lottery

"I know that," Sam said, "but can you honestly tell me it doesn't have
the potential to do just as much harm? I went into Quantum Leap with the
most noble - I thought - of ideas. And, yet, there were temptations that
arose. There could be things in that future that we're just not ready
for, yet." He laid his hands on the cluttered desktop. "How can any
group of people look past temptation and decide what we can and can't

"I don't know, Doctor, what did you have in mind when you started this

"That it was my project."

He actually laughed. "And then Admiral Calavicci transplanted his ideas
into your head," he surmised.

"This isn't about Al. He was always a little more paranoid than me,
anyhow. These are _my_ concerns."

Weitzman nodded slowly in apparent approval, then lifted a small model
from Sam's desk and turned it over in his hands. "I hear he's been
snooping around here again."

Shock and worry flooded Sam's senses. "Who told you that?"

The senator smiled. "You did - just now."

"I didn't say he was here."

"Not with words, no, but a lot can be read through nonverbal
communications." He paused. "Do you play poker, Dr. Beckett?"

"Not really, no."

"Too bad. I'd love to play you." He shrugged, replaced the model on the
desktop, and folded his arms.

Sam sighed. Trying to have a straightforward conversation with the man
was so draining. "What are you going to do?"

He didn't answer, but he did leave Sam with a warning: "You tell Admiral
Calavicci to watch his step because if he pushes his luck on this one,
he'll lose. I'm legally within my rights to use whatever means necessary
to remove him from the complex if he sets foot in it. Am I making myself
perfectly clear?"

Sam faced him down angrily. "You tried that method with me once before -
it won't work again."

He shrugged. "Suit yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you."

Sam could have hit him. "Don't threaten me - or Al! And don't tell me
who to associate with."

"Do you think you can find your way around the pitfalls without my
advice?" he questioned. "I don't."