"Oh, boy," Dr. Sam Beckett sighed as he landed in a flash of bluish light … somewhere. As always, it was a wholly unfamiliar place. Ever since that incident with the Cokeburg, Pennsylvania bartender,, he had lost touch with Project Quantum Leap. That leap had felt almost philosophical, and things had changed.
He had been a pioneer, a time traveler, wending his way through a means that was originally his own design but, he quickly learned, he had little control over any of it. For the first few years, he had ping-ponged between what he had known as the present time – the late 1990s and early 2000s – to events that had occurred during his lifetime. Being born in the early 1950s meant that he had had over fifty years' worth of destinations. His memory had holes in it like Swiss cheese, but he had managed all right.
His first leap had been targeted. But the first leap back in time brought with it the need to fix something, to put right what had once been wrong, and then he had leapt again. But his leaps were no longer targeted. He would leap 'into' someone else's life, fix, and involuntarily leap again. Simplifying matters had been his guide from Project Quantum Leap, Admiral Albert Calavicci. They had worked well together for a few years.
Then he'd been whisked to a bar in Pennsylvania, and everything just sort of came together, as he had seen visions of people he'd helped during his peregrinations. He had fixed one last thing – for Al Calavicci, it had turned out – and that had utterly cut him off from not only Al, but from everyone and everything else he had ever known.
Leaping, ever since then, had gotten even stranger, but at least he had his full memory back. That had stood him in good stead as he had made his way. No longer shackled to his own lifetime – and suspecting that he was possibly dead – he had leaped all over the past. He'd been to the American Revolution, the assassination of Julius Caesar in Rome, the moment that Marco Polo had met Kublai Khan, and even the first taming of fire by primitives.
But this was different.
For one thing, there was some beeping in the background. For another, there was an incredibly hot redhead standing in front of him. She was wearing a blue jumpsuit, almost as if she was a garage mechanic. "Welcome back, Captain," she smiled.
"Uh, thanks, um," his voice trailed off for a second until he noticed there was a patch on her left arm that said J. Crossman, "Crossman." It felt odd to be referring to this beauty by her last name, but a run-through of every female name that started with J would take a while.
"Sir, are you feeling all right?"
"Sir," Crossman stated, "You seem a bit, I dunno, disoriented, if I may say so. Can I escort you to Sick Bay?"
"Sure, yes, that would be a good idea." Sam walked along with her, wondering how he'd be able to figure out her first name. That wasn't the only thing he was wondering about.
There were somewhat dimly lit corridors in the building. The ceilings were a bit low; he sometimes had to duck. There were some worn spots and, sometimes, he'd spot a person fixing something or other. They all wore the same uniform and, Sam, realized, so did he. No one saluted him, but they did refer to him as Captain as he and Crossman strolled. Finally, some tall, balding guy referred to his companion as Jenny. Thank God for small miracles, Sam thought. She flipped open what looked like a small cell phone, "Hoshi, can you get me Commander T'Pol?" she asked.
"Sure," came a female voice from the phone's tiny speaker, "go ahead."
"Thanks. Commander, Captain Archer's back. But he seems a little tired so I'm bringing him to Sick Bay."
"Thank you, Ensign," it was another female voice, but this one was a little lower in pitch and seemed a bit flat. Perhaps the Commander didn't care about much of anything, thought Sam. Ensign, Ensign, that would be the Navy, Sam thought, but with so many women serving alongside men? That would put the date at somewhere near the end of what he had been referring to as his 'first life', for lack of a better expression.
Then the building lurched, and Sam realized it was no building. They were moving. It was a ship – maybe – but it was larger than he expected. It was also darkish and there were no windows. Below decks seemed huge. "So we're underway, Ensign Crossman?"
She looked at him strangely. "I think Sick Bay was a good idea, sir. After all, we've been underway in the Delphic Expanse for months."
"Yes, yes, of course." It was an old time traveler's trick that Sam himself had invented. No matter what anyone says to you, say yes to everything. Everything is known, everything is happening, everything is wonderful, everything is solid, you agree to everything. Vamp until you figure out what the hell everything actually means.
There was a pair of double doors with a Caduceus on each of them, etched in what appeared to be glass. It was obviously Sick Bay. "I'll take it from here, Ensign."
"Sure, sir," but Jenny did hit the control to get the doors open, the moment she noticed him staring at the doors and trying to figure them out. He nodded and she departed.
Sam turned to the swishing sound of the opening doors to find a menagerie of experimental animals in cages. And, with them, there was a doctor in a lab coat, facing away from him. "Ah, Captain Archer!" The doctor enthused, but still with his back facing Sam. "I understand your visit to Degra's ship might have gotten you a tad disoriented."
"Yes, yes, of course." Agree to everything, whatever it is.
The doctor turned, and Sam's jaw dropped. "Sp-space alien?" All semblance of coolness was gone. Whoever he had leapt into, that person, this Captain Archer, he knew space aliens!
"Excuse me, Captain?" the alien inquired, with an abundance of calm.
Sam blinked several times and found he was hyperventilating. Despite everything, despite how long he had been traveling in time, absolutely nothing had prepared him for this. His jaw was moving, but no sound was coming out. Finally, he squeaked out, "Where am I? What year is this? Who the hell are you? What are you?" Then the floor came up to meet him, quickly, and things got black.
When he awoke, he was on a bed. That same strange doctor was standing over him, and so was a woman with odd pointed ears who, Sam realized, was possibly also a space alien. Nearby, fortunately, was the only person he kinda, sorta knew – Jenny Crossman. She fretted a little, wringing her hands. "I never should've left him," she said, pacing a little.
"You had no idea, Ensign," assured the alien doctor. He looked at Sam. "Now, Captain, I'm curious. Did anything happen while you were on Degra's ship?"
"Uh …." Just saying yes could potentially be a major problem. Whoever this Degra person was, Archer had visited him – Her? It? – voluntarily. Getting this Degra person into trouble – was that a good decision that would speed everything along, or not?
"Doctor," said the woman with the odd pointed ears, "the captain appears to be incapacitated. Perhaps I should speak with Degra."
"No," Sam interjected. "I, well, I don't really know." He raised himself up on his elbows. "Can I say something?"
"By all means," said the pointy-eared woman.
"I want to help you – I do – but I'm not really sure of what to say."
"Captain?" asked the woman. She raised one eyebrow.
"That's just it. I'm not your captain. I know I must look like him to you – and I wish I knew where he was. If I had access to Al, I'd know this," Or maybe Ziggy, he thought quietly to himself, thinking of the parallel hybrid computer that effectively ran Project Quantum Leap, "But, well," he tried to address the confused looks on their faces, "I think I should explain things. But I barely know where to start."
"If you are not Captain Archer," the pointy-eared woman asked, "then who are you?"
Now or never, Sam thought. There was always a moment like this in any leap, where he had to almost blindly trust someone. She may have been a space alien, but the pointy-eared woman seemed capable of handling the full truth of the situation.
"My name is Dr. Sam Beckett. Please, please, stop looking at me like I'm delusional. I know that this sounds insane, but I assure you that, well, within what's been happening to me, which I admit is more than a little, er, caca, I am perfectly sane. I am; I'm a time traveler. But it's not fully controlled. I didn't want to displace and leap into your Captain Archer, but it looks like I have."
"Is that a permanent condition?" inquired the pointy-eared woman.
"No," Sam assured her, "I have to do something, to fix something in time. I know how crazy that sounds. But once it's done, I essentially leap out, your Captain Archer leaps back, and I'm on my merry way to some unknown destination."
"Cap–, uh, Dr. Beckett," the doctor adopted a soothing tone, "perhaps it would be best if I were to give you an examination, all right? Ensign, Commander, perhaps you should both depart."
"No, no, that's okay," Sam hastily spoke, hoping for witnesses. And Jenny was the only human who knew him at all. "Unless I have to disrobe."
"No worries." The doctor's face twisted into a far too-wide approximation of a human grin, and Sam nearly fainted a second time. "Just lie back, and you'll go through the imaging chamber."
"Imaging? Huh, it looks like an MRI," Sam mused.
"Dr. Phlox," Jenny asked, "what's an MRI?"
"I do believe it's a medical instrument from over a century ago. Now, lie still, please." The doctor fiddled with controls that Sam couldn't see, and the bed slowly moved backwards. It was maybe a minute later, and the bed's direction was reversed. "There, now, give it a moment."
"What do you hope to accomplish, Doctor?" It was the pointy-eared woman talking again.
"I am attempting to confirm Dr. Beckett's story." He peered at an instrument. "How very interesting."
"Well?" asked Jenny.
"The DNA scan is not quite right. Dr. Beckett, I can't say whether this is perfect proof that you're telling the truth, but it is certainly possible that you are. It does not rule out your story."
There was a chime, sounding like it came from an intercom. The pointy-eared woman pressed on a panel on the wall. "T'Pol here."
"Commander," it was a voice with a Southern twang, "the Xindi are comin' around again."
"Do you believe it to be a hostile act?" she asked.
"I don't think so," was the response. "But I'll let you know if I'm wrong. Tucker out."
She turned to face the rest of them. "Dr. Beckett, I do not necessarily believe your story. However, I am curious. Why is it that you have come here, to this time and this place? And, how? The Vulcan Science Directorate has postulated that time travel is impossible, yet we do have some proof."
"Proof? You have the means to travel in time? You could send me back!" Sam cried out.
"Dr. Beckett," the pointy-eared woman attempted to explain, "Dr. Phlox and Ensign Crossman here certainly remember Crewman Daniels. But his equipment is off-limits and even an engineer such as Ensign Crossman or Commander Tucker does not know how to use that equipment."
"Gooshie would come in awfully handy right about now," Sam commented.
"Gooshie?" asked the alien doctor.
"He's the Head Programmer for Project Quantum Leap. I don't know if he'd be able to use your equipment, uh, Daniels's equipment, that is. But I bet he'd give it the old college try."
The pointy-eared woman thought for a minute. "We should have a meeting of the senior staff. Ensign, you may as well attend. Your roommate is the sous-chef, is that correct?"
"Yes, Commander T'Pol."
"Contact her, please, as this meeting will likely continue into our next mealtime."
"Right away." Jenny flipped open her cell phone-like device and could be heard quietly requesting a catered meal for a conference room. "Dr. Beckett," she asked, "do you have any dietary restrictions?"
"No," Sam said, "and thanks, to all of you. I never know when I end up in these situations, if the people are friendly. It looks like you are; I'm glad of that."
Jenny smiled and spoke into her device, "Yeah, Lili, I guess he'll have the turkey. Thanks; see you soon, Roomie." She flipped the device closed. "I get the feeling what you're going to tell us is gonna be big."
"Definitely. Uh, Doctor?" Sam asked, "Do you have a mirror?"
"Certainly." The doctor departed to get the mirror.
"Why a mirror?" asked the pointy-eared woman.
"I gotta see who I leaped into. And I didn't catch your name."
"My name is T'Pol."
Sam made as if to shake her hand, but she drew back. "I come in peace," Sam said.
"There are certain issues with physical contact," she explained.
"Oh." The doctor had returned with the mirror, and gave it to Sam, who peered into it. "Hey, I look just like Archer. Or maybe he looks like me. Say, Doctor, I wasn't introduced to you, either."
"My name is Phlox." The doctor extended his hand for Sam to shake.
"So, you shake hands, but she doesn't?"
"You'll get used to it," Jenny assured him as they started to walk to a conference room. "How long have you been doing this, Dr. Beckett?"
"Time's a little incoherent," Sam explained, "for me, it's all over the place. I've been on the road – the temporal road, I guess you could call it – for quite a while now. Sorry that's not more specific. You're an engineer; I bet you like things explained."
"There's something to be said for a little mystery. Ah, here we are."
Jenny got the door to the conference room open. There were already six people in it. T'Pol spoke as one of the people, a very pale middle-aged blonde woman, began to set out food on the table, turkey sandwiches and salads. The blonde smiled at Sam as T'Pol explained, "We have a possible situation. This man claims to be a Dr. Sam Beckett. As you have noticed, he looks just like Captain Archer, only a bit younger. But Dr. Phlox's DNA scans show that he is a separate person. It is expected that you will all have questions, and the biggest one is likely whether this is a Xindi ruse. However, I believe it would be best to introduce yourselves to Dr. Beckett and provide some nonclassified information about your role on the ship. Commander Tucker?"
"Yes," it was that same twangy Southern inflection that Sam had heard earlier. "I'm Charles Tucker III, Chief Engineer here on the Enterprise. Call me Trip. And, uh, Jenny is my best engineer."
"Enterprise?" asked Sam.
Tucker nodded. "The Enterprise is the first Warp Five starship." He smiled proudly and turned to an Asian woman sitting next to him. "Hoshi?"
"I'm Hoshi Sato; I'm the Communications Officer. My job is to translate alien languages."
"That must be very difficult," Sam commiserated. He looked at the very thin man sitting next her.
"Yes," said the man, who had an upper class British accent. "I'm Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, the ship's Armory Officer. Travis?"
Travis was a dark-skinned man. "I'm Travis Mayweather; I'm the pilot."
"Is anybody flying the ship?" Sam asked.
The blonde started to laugh. "When I was introduced to the senior staff, I had the same question."
"The second shift is on the Bridge," Travis explained. "So it's Chris Harris."
"Got it," Sam said. He turned to a well-built guy sitting next to Travis. "And you are …?"
"Major Jay Hayes. My uh, my mother's maiden name was Beckett, but I bet we're unrelated. I'm the head of the MACO unit. It stands for Military Assault Combat Operations. My people were brought in to help fight the Xindi."
"Xindi," Sam said, turning the unfamiliar word over in his head a few times, "I take it they're the bad guys?"
"More or less," Hayes replied.
"And you?" Sam turned to the blonde.
"Oh, don't worry about me."
"No, I wanna know," Sam encouraged.
"My name is Lili O'Day. I'm the sous-chef. I wield a mean spatula."
"Got it," Sam smiled.
Phlox said, "My species is Denobulan. I take it you have never seen anyone of my kind before."
"Doctor, I come from a time where we still think we're alone in the universe. I guess we're wrong."
T'Pol explained, "My species is Vulcan. Our first contact with humans was in 2063. It was the first time your species had ever met an extraterrestrial intelligence."
"I see. Now let me tell you about me. My name is Sam Beckett. I've got seven degrees, including as a medical doctor. I was born on August 8, 1953. I take it this is a lot later than that."
"It's October 12, 2153," Jenny explained.
"I'm a two hundred year old man," Sam sighed. "I guess it's obvious; I'm a time traveler. I invented a system, using a type of string theory. I was able to travel throughout my lifetime. That part started in 1999. It went on for about five years, and then I was sent to Cokeburg, Pennsylvania and it suddenly all changed. I had had a guide and I lost him, I lost the project, and I became somewhat directionless. At the same time, though, I also got my memory back. That's been a kind of good news, bad news thing. I do miss my family. It's so much harder because I remember them now."
"I was thinking," T'Pol said, "that we could enter Crewman Daniels's old quarters and see if Dr. Beckett here can make any sense of the equipment in it. Perhaps that would allow him to return to his home time and location, and for Captain Archer to return to us." There was a communications chime and she answered it on a unit that was built into the table. "Yes?"
"Commander, this is Sandra Sloane at Communications. I've just received the strangest piece of email."
"Commander, this note is from Captain Archer, and it's for a Dr. Sam Beckett."
Everyone looked around the room. "Send the note to my PADD," Commander T'Pol requested. Once the data had been passed, she showed the screen to Sam. "I will not read it; it is your own private communication." Sam looked at the note.
Hopefully the timing is good for this note and you're getting it after you've started to get your bearings. I was surprised to find that my beam back to the Enterprise from Degra's ship ended up instead being a leap back in time to 2014. The people at Project Quantum Leap said that my appearance was the first coherent activity they had seen in a decade.
I'm sure we both have jobs to do. I know mine is to stop the Xindi Ultimate Weapon from destroying Earth. They explained that you will do everything in your power to help me, and I appreciate that. Your programmer, Gooshie, and your Dr. Beeks, they both say that they think that my appearance, our switching, and our being so close genetically means that there may be a chance for them to retrieve you.
Dr. Eleese was particularly affected when she saw me. She didn't want me to mention this because no one at the Project is sure about the state of your memory. But I am going to tell you because I think it's the right thing to do. Sam, she is your wife. She said to tell you that she looks at Megrez every night. I'm sure that's something private between the two of you but you might like to know that that's the star which the Xyrillian home world revolves around. T'Pol would know. It's a small galaxy, I suppose.
I can't be sure what your mission is, and your computer Ziggy has no data. Your friend Al says he thinks you are there because of something to do with Degra. I can tell you that we had a decent meeting but he remains suspicious and doubts that our people will be friends. Maybe you can convince him. Maybe that is your mission. Tucker, Reed, and Hayes might have other ideas, though.
It was Sammy Jo Fuller's idea to write this note. I do hope that it actually got to you, and we really did switch places and you are in October of 2153 and are on the Enterprise. Good luck to you. Hell, good luck to both of us.
All the best,
Sam looked up. "Looks like Archer and I kind of switched places and we kind of didn't. He's at Project Quantum Leap, but he's there a decade after I lost contact with them and the leaping all changed. So it's hard to say. But he said that he thinks I'm here to try to convince this Degra person to help you. He also mentioned something about a weapon. What's going on?"
"We are at war," Malcolm explained, "the Xindi attacked with a weapon that split Florida and South America in two. It killed seven million people." Commander Tucker looked down.
"I take it," Sam commented, "that some of those losses were more personal than others."
"You could say that," Tucker's words were barely audible.
"All right," Sam agreed, "I will try. But I don't know anything more about your war or about Degra or any of this, other than what you're telling me. How can I be the one to convince this Degra character? Is he the leader of these Xindi?"
"He's the designer of the weapon," Jenny explained.
"Oh. I don't know what to say to that," Sam replied honestly.
"You should have a MACO presence with you," Jay suggested, "You don't know how to use our weapons."
"Then it should be Security," Malcolm remarked.
"I, I don't want it to be weapons," Sam declared.
"These are dangerous people," Jay stated.
"I have to agree with the Major," Malcolm said, and the unspoken implication was – just this one time.
"No," Sam reiterated. "This guy is just an engineer, right? So he thinks like, like Jenny here. If I go in there, guns a-blazing, don't you think that'll destroy whatever trust Archer was trying to build in the first place? Even if all I've got is a holstered weapon, or the gun's not loaded, it doesn't matter. He'll see it as a threat and that we're suspicious. And he would be absolutely right. I can't condone that."
"Nobody wants you to be risking your life," Travis pointed out.
"I'll be all right," Sam tried to assure them all. "Listen, I want you to understand something about what I've been doing for the last, I guess, decade. I've been in all sorts of dangerous situations. I was a medic at Saratoga during the American Revolution. I hunted wooly mammoth on the steppes of what I'm guessing became Russia. I was in the Roman Senate when they knifed Julius Caesar. I was in Nile floods during the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt, battles during the Crusades, and I was a part of the Siege of Masada. And through all of this, my bacon was saved, over and over again. Whatever is leaping me around, be it God or fate or time or whatever, well, that's looking out for me as well, I guess."
"Fate protects fools, 'lil children, and I think it protects the Enterprise, too," Tucker commented. "Still, Cap – I mean, Dr. Beckett. Dammit, why do you have to look so much like him, too? With all due respect, you don't know anything about this. You just fell into this."
"Leaped," Sam corrected him, but smiled a little.
"Fine, you leaped. It's still not right. We shouldn't, we should not be enabling this."
"Are there other opinions?" T'Pol asked.
"I say there needs to be a Security presence, but the mission should go ahead," stated Malcolm.
"Same here, but with a MACO presence," Jay countered, "We're better trained in hand to hand."
"Gentlemen," T'Pol interjected, "your suggestions are under advisement. Ensign Sato?"
"It feels wrong. I would say no."
"Ensign Mayweather?" asked T'Pol.
"I gotta say, I'm liking the idea of you going in alone, unarmed. I think you're right, Dr. Beckett. I don't think they'll even try to trust you any other way."
"I agree with Ensign Mayweather and Dr. Beckett," Phlox stated. "The act of establishing trust means that you need to; as you like to say, walk the walk."
"What about you two?" Sam turned to Jenny and Lili, who was clearing the dishes.
"Us? Oh, we don't get a vote," Jenny explained.
"Why not?" Sam asked, "And don't tell me about rank. I don't have any sort of a rank. And I wanna hear what you have to say."
"Really?" Jenny asked. Sam nodded. She looked around nervously as they were all looking at her. "I can see the idea of wanting to be open and trusting. And I believe you when you say you've had your feet pulled out of the fire more than once. But I just, you know, I don't wanna see you get hurt."
Now they were all staring at Lili. "I dunno. I could make you a cake to bring. I'm, uh, this is why I'm not in Tactical." She turned back to the task of clearing the dishes.
"Commander?" Sam asked T'Pol.
"Captain Archer would have gone in unarmed. And now you will, too, Dr. Beckett."