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 time. "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 again. 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 travel?"