September, 2000
Santa Fe, NM

  "Admiral, we just got a call for you from Project Quantum Leap," the
coporal said, handing Al the phone.
  "Calavicci," he said, tucking the gun back into his waistband at the same
  "Al?" Verbeena asked. "Sam's landed. And from the data Ziggy's shooting out
here, it would seem he's in a bit of trouble."
  He nodded sharply and motioned for his troops to continue as he got in the
car with the corporal. "Wonderful. His timing is, as always, perfect. I'll be
right there."
  About a half hour later, Al marched into PQL, Alia and two guards in tow.
He had been getting the details of Sam's situation over the phone on the way
and so he had had little time to dedicate to Alia. "Put her in some personal
quarters and stand guard," he instructed, barely slowing as he swept into the
control room and retrieved the handlink from the console upon which it had
been resting. "Verbeena, I have a job for you while I'm in there," he told
her, already walking up the ramp. Things didn't sound good for Sam. If only
he had been at the project when he leaped, he could have prevented the mess
his friend was now in, but it was too late to worry about that.
  She paused in the middle of wading through print-outs Ziggy was frantically
spitting out to spare him a glance. "Shoot."
  He heaved a sigh. *When it rains...* "I have a guest I need you to examine.
It's-" he paused for another deep breath "-Alia." Al barely caught Dr. Beeks'
reaction as he swept into the Imaging Chamber.
  Al's heart fell at the sight which met his eyes. Sam was barely able to
offer a glance in his direction; he was too intent on driving and following
the sporatic driections the gunman in the other seat was offering him.
"Damn," Al murmured. "Sam, I'm sorry...."
  Sam swallowed. "Just where is it we're going?" he asked carefully.
  The man responded immediately, cocking the gun to emphasize the point. "I
told you to _shut up_!"
  Al winced. "Sam, I'll give you all the information you need, don't worry.
Just don't get him angrier than he already is, okay?" Sam nodded slightly,
trying to ignore his insides churning. Al spoke in soft tomes, evenly and
slowly and Sam appreciated his attempts to calm him. "Your name is Senator
Wilson Price. You're a big time politician who's motto appears to be that
other people are merely stepping stones to personal success." Al shook his
head in disgust. "Three months ago, you, well, Price fired this guy, um,
Andrew Sems, because he asked for a week off for his wife's surgery. When he
got fired, he couldn't afford the operation, which was for cancer of the
larynx, and she died. She died...." he paused as he pried the information
from the handlink. "Ziggy, I am _not_ in the mood," he intoned in a cold,
hard voice. The handlink responded with what Sam could have sworn was a
frightened squeal and Al continued. "She died a week ago. The  guy's got two
kids and he hasn't been able to find another job. I  guess it sort of got to
him. I have here that Senator Price died in an apparant suicide when
he...jumped from the top of a skyrise at exactly 3:00 AM this morning." Al's
voice wavered slightly as he reached the end of his recitation.
  "Andrew," Sam said cautiously.
  "Ah, so you remember my name now, do you?" he pressed the gun closer to
Sam's skull. "Well, now's a bit late. Give me back my job and....and Jessica
and I'll let you go. Otherwise..."
  "Jessica's his wife, Sam," Al interjected unnecessarily.
  "I can't, Andrew. I can give you a job, but I can't bring back your wife.
I'm sorry," he replied honestly.
  "I don't need your pity!" Andrew snarled.
  "Careful, Sam," Al warned, running scenarious through the computer as fast
as he could. "He's wound pretty tight. Try talking about his kids. If he gets
caught, they'll suffer, too."
  *I don't know if that would work. I don't think he's exactly planning on
getting caught, Al,* Sam thought sourly and years of observing for Sam caused
Al to realize what the look meant.
  "He may be less inclined to do this if you make him see what it could do to
his children," Al persisted. "Even  if he's not caught, maybe-" he stopped
suddenly and Sam shot him a questioning look.
  Andrew didn't notice the glance. "Yeah, you give me my job back. You do
that and where would it get me? She was my life, and now she's gone because
you didn't need my anymore and heaven forbid you should have one more person
on staff than you absolutely need." His voice had an unpleasant tone to it
that set Sam's nerves screaming.
  "Sam," Al was saying in urgent tones. "You haven't touched him yet, have
you? Sam?"
  Sam was giving Al the most frusturated look he could manage and Andrew
finally noticed it, misinterpreting the look. "Yeah, you have the compassion
of a politician alright," he slumped back in his seat, suddenly calm. "But
that's okay."
  "Geez, Sam, this guy is really starting to scare me," Al muttered and Sam
couldn't agree more.
  "That's okay because you're going to be dead soon and Jessica's senseless
death will be avenged, at least." Andrew smiled slowly and it sent shivers up
and down Al's back.
  "Sam, you didn't answer me: did you touch him?" he repeated slowly. Sam
thought back, wondering at the absurdity of the question. but he trusted Al
and Al's judgement and he wouldn't be making such a big deal about this if it
wasn't important. Slowly, he shook his head and Al tensed. "Alia," he
whispered and Sam's eyes widened partly in protest, partly in amazement.
  Alia was free, he remembered. Besides, even if it was Alia or Zoe, they
wouldn't hesitate to just shoot him and ruin both of their lives. Irritated
that he couldn't voice these thoughts to Al, he wondered what made his friend
think of that in the first place.
  "Stop the car." Andrew's voice cut into his thoughts and he reluctantly put
the car in park and turned off the ignition. Andrew smiled.

September, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

  Lieutenant John Harrison, who was actually Herbert Kessler, walked out to
his car with a self-satisfied grin. His mother always said he'd do something
big with his life, that he was so smart he could probably crack any code. And
he could, too. This case was harder than usual, granted, but he had still
done it. And he had been brilliant. Clever, too. "The admiral instructed me
to retrieve his sidearm from his quarters" indeed! And he had fallen for it,
the fool. What kind of security was Calavicci running here? Of course, when
the corporal called up to confirm the orders when he thought Kessler was out
of sight, he had had to shoot him. Pity, really, that it was only a
tranquilizer. But that gave him easy access to the admiral's quarters and his
computer terminal.
  Then, of course, there was the computer to contend with. Those he was
working for had somehow gotten the admiral's security codes weeks ago, and in
this business, you didn't ask how. A simple downloading of information did
not go as a warning in the system, so all he had to do was convince the
computer that he was Admiral Al Calavicci. Difficult even for the computer
genius, but with enough persistance, any system can be cracked, even one with
a consciousness. That plus planting a little virus in the system a week
before led to a successful raid. The virus only attacked minor  systems, but
it was just there as a distraction.
  Kessler got into his car and drove off, leaving Project Quantum Leap in the
dust. Aside from Senator Franklin, he was the only one of the group who knew
where the project was, and he wondered if they were going to try to dispose
of it after they were up and running. He didn't ask where Franklin came
across that information either.
  Of course, Kessler wasn't privy to the information that Senator Franklin
was a member of the senate subcommittee that did regular evaluations on PQL,
but what would have have done with that information if he had known? And rule
number one was never give away any more than was absolutely necessary.

September, 2000
Santa Fe, NM

  If the woman had known that Matthew and his wife Andrea had already
discovered her absence and notified the authorites, she would have breathed a
little easier. A little. And if she had known, she would have been wrong to
do so because there was no way the authorities were going to find her where
she was. Not only did she not know where she was, but she hadn't the
slightest clue why.
  The woman took a shaky breath, rubbing her neck gently. She assumed she had
been grabbed and drugged as she went out to her car to return home from her
annual conference in Santa Fe, but that was based on the fact that that was
the only memory she had before waking up here was leaving the building where
the gathering was held. Waking up hadn't been such a pleasant experince,
either. She swallowed hard at the memory. Her wrists and ankles and even her
neck still hurt from where sharp rope had cut into soft flesh. Mercifully,
she hadn't been left there for too long. She had no idea why she was the
person they picked for whatever it was they wanted, but she hoped she was
about to find out.
  Senator Franklin smiled from the chair behind his desk. "Ms. Ingalls,
please have a seat."
  She made no move for the chair. "What do you want?"
  He leaned back with a self-satisfied grin. "Trust me, you don't want to
make this any harder on you than it already it. Originally, we were only
going to require your sevices for a day or so, but plans change, correct?"
  She felt she would rather do anything than sit in the chair, but she felt
lightheaded and sick to her stomach and it was either that or collapse, and
so she sat slowly down. "So they say," she commented dryly, rubbing her neck
  He laughed. "Forgive my manners. Can I get you something to drink?"
  She gave him a hard look, but didn't respond. He called in his secretary
anyway and requested a glass of water. "What do you want?" she asked again.
He was completely too self assured and calm for her liking.
  Franklin twirled a pen between his fingers and eyed her thoughfully. "You
were originally going to be a bargaining chip with an adversary of mine, but
someone else beat you to the spot. We thought...." he eyed her again in a
manner that made her squirm in her seat. "We thought you might be better
suited for her job than she. You have more training, more education, more
variety of interests."
  She ran a hand through her dark hair, and cleared her throat. "I'm not
looking for a job," she said, trying to inject more conviction in her tone.
  "No, but we're offering. Tell me, Ms. Ingalls, how do you feel about...time