Note: If you HAVE NOT read "Good Intentions", I am not responsible for any confused looks from here on out. :) Also, I use the notation of ^^ to represent flashbacks and the like as some people don't get italics and such on their system. -amkt "In Circles" pt. I September, 2000 Stallion's Gate, NM Admiral Al Calavicci entered Project Quantum Leap and palmed the scanner to his office. Sam was safely between leaps, Beth was on her way back to South Carolina, and he was long overdue for some paperwork. Somehow, seeing his ex-wife again had dampened his desire to seek out Tina and goodness only knew how long that would hold out. Best to get his work done now, before she found him. With a small sigh he sat down in his seat and pulled out the first load of work to be accomplished. As he tried to focus on the task before him, however, he found himself thinking of Senator Franklin and the other project. He had made a promise, a promise that he fully intended to keep. He had promised both the Senator and himself that he would not give up in finding a way to stop him. The telephone rang suddenly, startling him out of his thoughts. He blinked once to re-orient himself before lifting it out of its cradle. "Calavicci." "Admiral Calavicci?" The voice on the other end was not one Al could place immediately. The speaker was a man with a gruff, uninviting voice. He sounded slightly panicked. "Yes. Who is this?" He was hoping against hope that it wasn't someone's husband. "I'm at the diner, the one just outside of Santa Fe," he exclaimed, his words tumbling over each other. "Please, I need to talk to you immediately. I-" He was cut off abruptly by the sounds of a scuffle in the background. The phone emmitted a loud thud as the speaker was pushed against a wall. Al knew the diner the man was talking about. He often used it as a place to get away from the project without going too far in case Sam should need him. It was sort of a rundown place on the outskirts of the city. If someone were to drive from it due East and keep driving after the road ended, they would find themselves at the project. As a result, the project was quite a distance from where the road ended so that, should anyone be feeling particularly adventurous, hopefully they would be discouraged by the rough unhospitable terrain and abandon their progression before anything even came into view. The project had once been as unassuming as a derilect building but ever since about six months after Sam leaped and hadn't returned, most of the staff had opted to move into the complex itself, which created definite problems in hiding the rows of cars outside. Nonetheless, everything was hidden as best possible. Al knew that he wasn't the only one from the project to frequent the little restaruant. It was a common occurence to see other people who's names he knew but couldn't be bothered to sit and remember come in at the same time as he and Tina were there. He waited, picturing the phone over in the far corner of the room, trying to picture a person to go along with the voice. "Hello?" He waited a minute more and was about to hang up when a sound exploded through the reciever. It was a sound he knew well: the sound of a gun going off. Once. Twice. Then silence. Seconds later, the phone went dead. Al shot from his chair with sudden panic, though he couldn't say exactly why. The last time he had recieved a phone call from an unknown person, it had led to finding Beth tied up in a basement of.... He blinked. Looking down, he saw he still hadn't hung up the phone. A trembling hand replaced it and he left the office. He met Verbena in the hall and grasped her arm as she passed by him. "'Bena, listen I need to go out for something. Call me if Sam leaps in. I have something I need to look into." She looked at him curiously. "What's wrong, Al?" He looked up at her and she gasped from the sudden look of pain that had just materialized in his eyes. "Al?" "Sam," he choked and his hands tightened on her arms. "What?" "Sam," he repeated, his voice slowly growing louder. "He's been shot. Verbeena...... I've got to go." "What?" she called after him, feeling a sense of helplessness wash over her. "Al!" He disappeared around the corner at a full run and she blinked in astonishment, not certain she had fully registered or understood anything of what he had just said. Sam? Shot? Sam hadn't landed, how could he be in trouble? She was tempted to have Ziggy call him or to have his route blocked off, but Al usually had a good reason for flying off the handle and far be it for her to get in the way if he knew something she didn't. And so she did what she was often reduced to: worry. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 Santa Fe, NM He barely paused to turn off the ignition before tearing out of the car and into the small diner. There was a commotion in the corner and it seemed he had made it there even before the ambulance or police, who would have city traffic to contend with before getting out on the open road. Al pushed his way ruthlessly through the small crowd of people near the phone and broke through the center of the crowd. "Sam?!" he called, panic seeping into his tone despite his best efforts. "Sam, is that you?" He knelt beside a very still form and gazed up just long enough to demand for either a doctor or some room, then he refocused his attention to the man he thought, no _knew_, was Sam. If asked how he knew, he would have been hard pressed to explain. He just _did_. The man lying on the floor was one of those tough looking guys you wouldn't want to be caught in an alley with. His build was fuller and more powerful looking than Sam's own. He wore a business suit and Al saw the clip of a beeper peeking out from one of the pockets. A clean-shaven face and slicked back hair framed a darkly tanned face. Light hazel eyes opened and stared blankly up at the ceiling, then closed again slowly. "Sam," Al breathed, pulling the figure against himself. Blood seeped onto Al's brown suit and through it onto his own skin. Swallowing, he cradled Sam's head in the crook of his arm. "Sam, is it really you? Aw, what have you gone and done to yourself?" It was hard to get the words out, as if he was speaking around a thick paste in his mouth. The eyes opened again, glazed and unseeing. Al had seen that look before. Finally, he seemed to focus on Al's face. "Al?" A slight smile. "You came." "Of course I came. Come on, we've got to get you back to the project." "Al, I have to talk to you,.....but not here." Sam coughed and a red line slid from the side of his mouth. Al wiped it away, fighting tears. "Of course not here. We'll take you back to the project where Verbeena can get a look at you and-" "No. Al." He inhaled sharply, a final plea evident in his eyes. "Sam, please," Al pleaded. "Please don't leave me alone like this." "Out of _here_," Sam insisted, as if stating something incredibly obvious. Without another word, he helped Sam to his feet and supported his slow progress out of the restaruant. Not even aware of the looks they were getting, Al assisted his movements entirely, trying to save him as much pain as he could. Sam collapsed heavily with a painful gasp into the car seat and let Al drive them both several miles away from the diner before stopping him. "Al, stop." "Sam." Al's voice sounded strained and Sam didn't even want to see the admiral's face. "Sam, you'll die if we don't get you help." "Stop. You have to hear. You have to know." "I can know later, Sam. You need to get to a hospital." Sam took a breath, trying not to react from the pain, but he was not entirely successful. Beside him, Al felt a pain in his own gut. "It could be the only way, Al." Reluctantly, Al pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the car. When Sam looked at him, he noticed through the thick curtain of haziness and pain that his friend's face was wet. "Please, Al, you have to listen." Al grasped his hand into a stong grip, as if willing the life to flow back into him. "Whatever you say, Sam. Whatever you say." Slowly, laboriously, Sam related his story. ^----^----^----^----^ September, 2000 - Original History Stallion's Gate, NM Admiral Al Calavicci entered Project Quantum Leap and palmed the scanner to his office. Sam was safely between leaps, Beth was on her way back to South Carolina, and he was long overdue for some paperwork. Somehow, seeing his ex-wife again had dampened his desire to seek out Tina and goodness only knew how long that would hold out. Best to get his work done now, before she found him. With a small sigh he sat down in his seat and pulled out the first load of work to be accomplished. As he tried to focus on the task before him, however, he found himself thinking of Senator Franklin and the other project. He had made a promise, a promise that he fully intended to keep. He had promised both the Senator and himself that he would not give up in finding a way to stop him. He had worked through about half of the stack when the phone rang. Absently, he lifted the reciever. "Calavicci." "Admiral, it's Senator McBride." The pen he was still holding fell from his hands and suddenly she had his full attention. "What can I do for you, Senator?" "Admiral, I hate to tell you this over the phone, but we are calling an emergency meeting. I'm afraid there is a high chance that your funding will be cut." Any ounce of his attention she may not have had before was now at her disposal. "May I ask what brought this on?" he asked when he trusted himself to speak. "You can ask, but I really can't tell you. All I can say is that I have been unable to hold back the tidal wave of disadvantages you have any longer. Wietzman is finally unwilling to do this any more and although I'm not sure I agree, I can't blame him. We have no proof of Project Quantum Leap and we simply can't keep this up indefinitely for the sake of one man who only may be doing-" "He _is_, Senator," Al countered sharply. A small sigh escaped her. "I'm not calling you a liar, Admiral. I fully believe you think that Dr. Beckett is travelling in time." "Fine." His tone was like the crack of a whip. "So you don't think I'm a liar, you think I'm a loony. Tell me, Senator, don't you think if I could bring him back, I would? We're making progress on a retrieval program, but it's going to take some time." Desperation he would have liked to conceal were brought out by his words. "I may be able to buy you more time, Admiral, but I can't say how much. We are convening a meeting in two days. I suggest you be there." He could tell the conversation was over. "I will see you there, then. Senator." It took all the will-power he could muster not to slam the phone down. Perfect ending to a perfect day. "Admiral, Dr. Beckett has landed." "Just....perfect." Al left his office to head to the Imaging Chamber. He got fully two steps before he closed his eyes and sank slowly to the floor.