"In Circles" pt. XII October, 2000 Stallion's Gate, NM Al leaned back in his chair. After a two week vacation during which the entire complex had been locked up and the key all but thrown away, Al was glad to have Sam back within sight. The scientist and Donna had taken off to Hawaii so Sam could visit family, among other things. As soon as Sam decided what his next project was going to be, he knew things would pick back up again, but until then, he planned to enjoy the lull. Al had convinced the now disbanded committee to give them enough power to still use the complex as a lab and office building and he suspected whatever Sam did next, it would probably involve Ziggy. "So, Al, where'd you go for the past couple of weeks?" Al smiled at him. "Well...Charleston, if you must know." Sam, seated on the other side of Al's desk, still had the blissful appearance of someone who had just had a long needed rest. "Oh? What's there?" Al looked down at the pen he was holding. "A friend." Sam most certainly would have let it pass had Al not avoided his gaze. "Al? What's going on? Is something wrong?" "No. Nothing's wrong, exactly. There's just something you don't know about," he added before Sam could ask. "It's nothing bad. Recently, about a month ago, possibly less, I sort of met up with Beth." He looked up to catch his friend's reaction. Sam was speechless for a moment. "Beth? Al, um, you're not going to cause, I mean-" The admiral smiled gently. "We've become friends, Sam. She's got two sons and I got to meet one of them this past week." The smile widened. "He's really great." "What about, um...?" Sam trailed off and glanced at the desk top. Al sighed. "He passed away some time ago. I kinda wish I could have met him, though. After all, Beth's got good taste, you know." He laughed. "She and I have been spending a lot of time talking, just clearing the air." Sam reached over and touched Al's hand lightly. He had taken to doing that quite a bit since he got back. "Oh, I'm so happy to hear that, Al. How's Tina taken it?" He made a face. "We still have some patching up to do, but we'll work through it." Sam grinned and started telling Al all about his visit home and all the new stories he had both heard and remembered. After a while, he started to talk about the future and what he was hoping to do with all the time he suddenly had on his hands. "Well, Sam, before you just go off, let me tell you that I do have a few concerns." Sam sighed with contented peace. "Such as?" Al covered his annoyance that Sam wasn't taking him seriously. "Such as the fact that for five years plus we've been sapping billions of dollars from the government and the day they finally close us down you just happen to come back? That does not bode well, Sam." His brow furrowed. "Well, why can't we just tell them what happened?" "First of all, why should they believe us? Secondly, the retrieval program we used on you wasn't of our own creation." "What do you mean?" "I sort of bargained for it from the other project," Al confessed, his voice low and tense. "Other project?" Sam demanded suspiciously. Then he realized what Al was referring to and his face became red with anger and shock. "Al! You didn't..." "I didn't have a choice, Sam. Trust me, I didn't. Anyway, it got you home, right?" "Al, what's going on? You're hiding something," Sam accused, pointing a finger at his partner. "Did you stop them?" "I couldn't." Seeing his friend's expression, Al began to talk faster, hoping to convince him. "Sam, I couldn't stop them. If I did, they were going to take us out. Who do you think shut us down in the first place?" "Franklin did," Sam retorted. "Exactly." Al watched realization dawn and he sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "They had the perfect set-up." "Well, can't we do something now?" he asked. Al shook his head. "They've moved. I don't know where they relocated to and nobody's gonna listen to us. I haven't exactly made a lot of new friends in D.C. since you leaped." Sam leaned forward, resting his head on his hands. "So what do we do to convince them that this whole thing wasn't a hoax?" "Well, officially, the committee's done with because the project's done with, but they still want a report from you and maybe we can use that to our advantage. There have got to be ways to convince them. The fact that one of your leaps directly impacted Senator McBride should be a big help; she's been great through all this." "Right. I'll get on it. In the meantime, I was going to work with Ziggy to perfect the leaping process-" "No, Sam," Al cut him off. "We are not doing this. You promised me." "Calm down, Al. I know what I promised you. I'm not talking about for me, but if I can convince the government that it works, and if I can perfect that retrieval program, then maybe we can perfect it for other people to use. I mean, just think of what we could do," he said, waving his arms about excitedly. "Okay, fine. You just convince them you leaped and you let me worry about that," Al said calmly. "Most of the staff here included a note on their resignations. It seems you've got a pretty loyal bunch here. They wanted to make sure we notified them all about our next project so they could sign on." He grinned. "Guess I didn't chase them all off." Sam grinned back. "I wouldn't have thought it possible." "I have a couple other staff suggestions as well. Dr. Meth and her assistant. You don't know them yet, but, trust me, they know a bit about the leaping process." "Good. Al, we've got to shut down that other project, though," he added somberly. "I don't see how we can. Franklin's methods aren't exactly traditional and I think he'd be willing to leave us alone if we leave him alone, but if we mess with him....he plays hard ball, Sam." "Come on, Al, you can handle him," Sam teased, but Al didn't smile. "Sam, listen to me," he said firmly. "You do not mess with that man without coming to me first, you got that, pal?" "What could he do to us? The project is over now and even if we get it back up and running, if he says something, he'll get it from the committee." "Sure, but he'll drag us down with him." Sam began to get frusturated. "Al, we can't let this go on. What's the worst he can do?" Al looked Sam directly in the eye. "I didn't just run into Beth in the supermarket," he said flatly. Sam blinked and then closed his eyes. "He got her involved?" he asked quietly. Al slammed his hand down on the desk and stood up. "He did more than that. He was going to leap her," he raged, his anger coming to the front. "She had a few broken ribs by the time I got to her and goodness knows what else they did to her. She never talked about it to me." "Oh, no, Al. I'm sorry." "Well, you didn't know," Al relented. "The point is, we've got to chose our openings carefully. I'll do a little digging and see what I can't come up with, okay?" "Okay." Sam smiled again. "So, Sancho, you ready for our next adventure?" Al returned the smile. "Can I get a cup of coffee, first?" ^----^----^----^----^ December, 2000 Stallion's Gate, NM "No, here! Here," Sam insisted, gesturing to some diagram Al didn't recognize. Gooshie, standing beside him, took the paper excitedly. "What about the pressure?" he asked. "Well, that's a controllable variable if we're dealing with this." He pointed to another point and Al shook his head from the doorway. "Don't you people believe in weekends?" he demanded and the two scientists turned abruptly. "Sure we do," Sam said with a smile. "Doesn't mean we won't work through them, but we believe in them. "Yeah, no kidding." Al glaced behind himself and then turned back to Sam. "I've got someone here I wanted you to meet." Sam looked knowingly at him, even though Al hadn't told him anything about a visitor. Al took Beth's hand and pulled her into the room behind him, glancing reassuringly at her. He released her hand and motioned to Sam. "This is Dr. Samuel Beckett. Sam, Beth Ingalls." "Ingalls?" Sam asked, taking her hand. She accepted his handshake with a shy smile. "It's my maiden name," she explained. "It's nice to finally meet you, Dr. Beckett. Al thinks a lot of you." "Sam," he corrected. "Not Jake?" she asked and her eyes glittered with amusement and maybe even a touch of embarrassment. Sam's eyes shifted in surprise from her to Al. "I told her, Sam. It wasn't like she wasn't gonna know about the project after all that happened." "No, no I suppose not. Well, welcome to Project Quantum Leap," he said. "The new revised version." They laughed and talked for an hour or so and ended up retrieving Donna from another section of the project and all of them, Gooshie included, went out to dinner. Beth stayed the weekend at a hotel in Santa Fe, declining Sam's offer of a room at the project, before returning to Charleston. Sam had the opportunity to spend some time with her and found her to be as much of a bright, intelligent woman as she had been thirty years ago. And much less sad, too. Privately, he was enjoying the effects their friendship was having on Al as well. The project continued on with extensive experimentation, not the least of which included minimizing power requirements and thus cost. The new committee, which Al managed to keep Franklin off of, was adamant that nobody would set foot into the Accelerator until cost requirements had been addressed. In the meantime, the search for Franklin's project continued with little success, but Al was grateful that Sam had given up the chase for the moment. Sam, on the other hand, felt the answer was getting Project Quantum Leap running again so they could find them that way. Either way, Sam was there to stay, and that was enough for most of the people involved. Al had his promise and as long as they stuck together, nothing could go wrong that they couldn't handle.