"Cry, Angel...Cry" by C. Eleiece Krawiec
Balboa Naval Hospital/Delivery Room
San Francisco, CA
December 24, 1985 0737 a.m.
As the vast blueness faded and the next life that needed something put right focused, as he felt himself take form, Sam instantly knew three things with certainty.
One, he was laying on his back and bright light was shining down on him. Obeying instinct, he squeezed his eyes shut against it. Shivering as a waft of cool air washed over his body clarified the second item: he was cold and wet all over. And third...he was naked. Then he heard the voices and the noise. Voices speaking in sharp, urgent tones. The sound of monitors of some sort. Then he heard the crying.
Fighting rising panic, he carefully half opened his eyes. It took a couple of seconds before he realized where he was. I'm in an operating room he thought, then frowned. No...a delivery room.
Even as that thought occurred to him, Sam's mind was moving at hyper-speed, adding up what little he could see through his half open eyes. He then added to that equation the sound most prominent in the room...the sobbing.
Remaining motionless he glanced around. Almost instantly his gaze went to the woman still on the delivery table while the doctor was finishing up with the after-delivery aspects of the birth. He noted that no one, not the doctor or nurses or even the woman on the table was paying him any attention.
Sam's brows knitted ever so slightly when the doctor nodded at the chief delivery room nurse who paused beside him.
"Yes, doctor?" she said quietly.
Sam's wonder deepened when the man said in equally low tones, "I want her to have something to help her sleep as soon as she's out of recovery."
The nurse nodded, listening carefully to the medication order, then moved away. Tilting his head slightly the doctor looked down the length of his patient's body to her tear-washed face.
Even from his position, and though only his eyes were revealed, Sam could see the touch of sadness in the doctor's eyes. But the man's next words as he turned his gaze in Sam's direction let loose a flood of uneasy disbelief in the time traveler's mind as all the bits and pieces came together.
"They wanted you so very much, too" the man's deep voice was low and gentle as he uttered the achingly sad words.
Sam felt the blood drain from his face as he went absolutely still. The shocking realization of...who he had leaped into seemed to drain every ounce of reactionary strength from his body.
He waited until the doctor returned his attention to finishing with his patient, then glanced down at himself, at the aura surrounding his body, and barely stifled a gasp.
Oh my God! The words seemed to repeat and echo endlessly in Sam's mind as he stared, unable to take his eyes off the clamp on the severed umbilical stump in the middle of his belly. My God! he shouted frantically into his mind. What wrong can I possibly set right as a newborn infant?... Al! Where are you?
He sneaked another glance at himself, then closed his eyes tightly. Only two words managed to make themselves coherent in the wild jumble of his thoughts ...Ohhhh Boy!
Project Quantum Leap
Stallion's Gate, New Mexico
December 24, 2001 7:30 a.m.
Al was sitting at the table in his quarters finishing a rare leisurely second cup of coffee after breakfast and listening to Beth in the other room getting ready to go out to do some last minute Christmas shopping. He looked up when she came to the door, digging in her purse for something.
"Are you warm enough?" he teased.
Dressed in jeans, a red cable-knit Christmas sweater, ski boots and a dark blue ski jacket, Beth Calavicci gave her husband an equally saucy grin. Ignoring his cheeky question, she dropped a kiss on his lips.
"It's twenty degrees outside," Beth informed him as she continued her search. "Oh, I just checked with the airlines. Pippa and Alan's plane will arrive at ten-thirty from San Francisco. Jennie's plane will be arriving from Dallas at eleven ten."
"Was Mike able to make the trip?" Al asked about his newest son-in-law of eleven months.
"Yes. Jen said he almost didn't make it. Traffic snarl right outside the airport."
"What about Ann Marie?" He glanced toward the hall behind her. Is she still sleeping?"
"Yes. Let her sleep as long as she wants."
"What time did she get in?"
"She told me she finished up her last exam yesterday morning about ten," Beth said. "But there was a snow delay and her flight was delayed seven hours..."
Beth nodded, pausing in her search. "The plane didn't leave Boston till a little after five yesterday afternoon. When she got into Dallas, she managed to book a seat on the last flight into Albuquerque, and that didn't get in until nine twenty-two last night. She didn't get here till nearly eleven." She met his eyes. "You were still in that committee meeting."
"Don't remind me," Al grimaced.
"Poor baby was in bed ten minutes after she got here." She fixed him with a pointed look and admonished, "Regardless of what's on your agenda this morning, don't forget to send a car to the airport."
"When was the last time I forgot to pick up any of my daughters at the airport?" Al challenged. Beth didn't even pause as she dumped the contents of her purse on the table.
"How about last year when Ann Marie came home from college for the Easter holiday? It was two in the morning on Good Friday, when she called to say she'd been waiting over two hours," she said, arching her dark brows and sending a pointed glance at him, "for 'someone' who had promised faithfully to meet her at the arrival gate even though her flight wouldn't arrive till midnight.
Aha!" she said, finding the object of her search and stuffing it quickly in a pocket. Scooping up the items on the table and stuffing them in her purse again, she fixed her husband of forty years with a "when-will-you-learn" grin. "Shall I continue?"
Just as Al was about to concede, his wrist communicator chirped. "Saved by bell," he grinned as he tapped in a response code.
"Sounds more like a canary with a sore throat," she said, picking up her purse and keys. "I'll be back in a few hours." She bent to kiss him again. "Don't forget..."
"...the car." Catching her face between his hands he looked deep into her blue eyes. "I love it when the whole family can come together for Christmas," he said softly then returned her kiss. When he drew back a moment later, he saw the wistful sadness in the depths of her eyes, and knew what she was thinking. Almost the whole family.
"Honey..." Al began gently, but a second insistent chirp from his communicator broke the moment, and Beth straightened up and headed for the front door. Not until the door closed behind her did he respond to yet a third chirp.
"Yeah, Ziggy. What is it?"
"It is critically urgent that you get to the Waiting Room."
"Why?" he asked, getting to his feet, and reaching for the dark red jacket on the back of his chair. Slipping it on, he headed for the front door of his and Beth's quarters.
"A new Visitor has arrived and is incapable of speaking," Ziggy responded. "She is also having difficulty breathing."
Alarm bells went off in Al's mind. "What's wrong with her?" he demanded. He paused just long enough to lock his door then headed for the elevator at the end of the hall. "Has the medical unit been alerted?"
"Doctor Sanderson and the medical unit are working on her," Ziggy answered. "Doctor Beeks is assisting them, but the Visitor may require a specialist if she is to live."
That stopped Al in his tracks, his finger still pressing the elevator button. "What kind of specialist?" he said sharply. Realizing the doors were open, he stepped in and punched the button for the lowest level of the Project. He didn't like the ominous direction this leap was taking in its first few minutes. Sam had leaped into some woman who not only couldn't talk, but who was having problems breathing, and that might require a specialist. "What kind of specialist?" he repeated. Ziggy's response brought him up cold.
The doors of the elevator opened on Level Twelve and still Al didn't move. Finally... "But...that would mean that Sam's leaped into a...a..." The computer supplied the word he couldn't get past his lips.
"...baby," Ziggy said in her calm, emotionless voice. "More specifically," she clarified, "Doctor Beckett has leaped into a newborn female infant."
"H..how..old is she?" Al asked as he left the elevator at a run, turning left. "Door!" he yelled. As he ran into the Waiting Room, he skidded to a halt, the sight of the doctor and several nurses clustered around the hospital bed where "visitors" rested during their stay, made his stomach churn uneasily. "How old is she, Ziggy?" he demanded, his tone only slightly lower in deference to the situation. He noticed that Verbena moved away from the bed. Her grave expression tightened the knot in his stomach as he went to her.
"How old is she, Bena," Al demanded.
"Gordon says she was born literally seconds before Sam leaped into her," she said quietly. "She can't be more than two, possibly three minutes old." She paused, then said, "And she's having difficulty breathing."
"Why?" Al asked, stepping past the psychiatrist. Moving closer to the beehive of concentrated activity around the bed, he was careful not to interfere. He maneuvered to get a closer look at the tiny visitor. He felt a hand on his arm, and met Verbena's gaze.
"How premature?" Al asked, quickly moving to fill the gap left when one of the nurses stepped away from the bed. Instantly his eye was caught by a tiny dark pink birthmark on the still motionless baby's left shoulder. Suddenly it was Al who was having trouble catching his breath.
"Gordon estimates about three, maybe four weeks." Seeing the Observer's face suddenly go ashen put Verbena on instant alert. "Al, what is it?"
"Are you okay, Admiral?" Helen Olsen, one of the Navy nurses assisting the doctor asked. She followed his glance and quickly assured him, "Not to worry, Admiral. It's..."
"...where the angel kissed her just before she was born," Al whispered, his gaze fixed on the birthmark shaped like the tiny pursed lips of a cherub. "Clear her windpipe!"
Gordon Sanderson, chief medical physician on the Project glanced up from his tiny patient. "Her nose and throat are clear..." he began.
"No!" Al yelled at the startled man. "Check again! There's mucous lodged in her windpipe.."
"How do you..."
"It's there!" Al's voice had risen to a shout as he leaned over the bed toward the doctor. "Just check it!"
Now it was Verbena's instincts slamming into overdrive. "Al, do you know who this baby is?"
"Yes." The single word response was barely audible. Al held his breath as he watched the doctor thread a tiny lighted fiber optic instrument down the baby's throat. Then...
"Suction!" Doctor Sanderson ordered sharply. Taking the instrument offered, he carefully maneuvered it down the dark-haired newborn's throat. The low sucking sound the instrument made changed slightly, and before it could be removed, the baby made a choking sound. As quickly as the instrument was pulled out of her throat, the child gasped, caught a breath and began to cry. It wasn't a particularly vigorous cry, but Al didn't care. It was a cry.
He squatted down so his eyes were on a level with the tiny crying infant, unaware of the tears forming in his eyes. "That's it, Georgie," he encouraged softly. "Cry, angel. Cry."
"Admiral?" Ziggy said.
"I believe you should make contact with Doctor Beckett."
Al hesitated another minute, watching as the dark-haired baby girl, her cries strengthening, was gently but quickly checked over. It took every ounce of discipline he'd ever learned to turn his back and walk out of the Waiting Room and head for the Imaging Chamber.
As he entered the Control Room, a beehive of activity as the Imaging Chamber was brought online, Al spoke aloud as he took the handlink Gooshie offered. "Ziggy, do you..."
"Yes. There is a ninety-nine point three five percent probability that Doctor Beckett has leaped into...the infant to prevent her death by asphyxiation four minutes after her birth. In the original history..." This time it was Ziggy who was cut off.
As the Imaging Chamber Door opened before him, Al said sharply, "I know what happened... originally."
"What happened originally, Al?" Verbena asked as she hurried into the Control Room just as the Observer finished speaking. She practically ran up the ramp to confront him. She expected to see angry defiance in his dark eyes. What she saw was an unshakable determination. "Who is that baby, Al?"
Meeting her eyes, Al held her gaze for a long five seconds, then entered the Imaging Chamber. "Her name is Georgia."
"Who is she?" Verbena repeated.
Just as the door slid shut, he looked into her eyes and said softly, "She's my daughter."
Balboa Naval Hospital/Delivery Room
San Diego, California
December 24, 1985 0739 a.m.
His last desperate, almost mind-numbing thoughts had barely faded from his mind, when Sam saw the Imaging Chamber door open literally right in front of him. His relief at seeing Al hurry toward him was cut short by the Observer's tense expression. Coupled with the fact that his friend didn't waste words on small talk re-emphasized the seriousness of this leap. He remained silent and unmoving as Al came to his side and bent down so he could look into his eyes.
"Judging by the look in your eyes, you've figured out you've leaped into a newborn baby." He paused to take a breath then started talking. "Ziggy's figured out why you're here. Time is of the essence, so here it is."
For a half second Al paused. At this moment, because of some of Sam's mesons and neurons implanted in his body several years ago, he now looked down at both his best friend and a tiny, very fragile newborn baby girl. Then, giving himself a sharp mental shake, he met Sam's half open eyes.
"You've leaped into mine and Beth's last child, Georgia Angelina Calavicci." He nodded as Sam's eyes widened slightly.
"Yeah. I almost fainted, too. Anyway, in the original history, Georgia was born five weeks prematurely. She died four minutes after birth. The autopsy Beth and I demanded showed that she could have lived if the doctor had worked on her another couple of minutes. They checked her throat, but not her windpipe and because she was premature they..." He hesitated, swallowing hard before continuing. "...they didn't do anything else. And...and my sweet angel lay...where you are now and choked to death on a tiny bit of thick mucous lodged in her windpipe. We sued and won, but Beth never really got over Georgia's death."
Sam saw the pain in his friend's dark eyes. Neither did you, Al he thought. Quickly he refocused on what Al was saying.
"Ziggy says all you have to do is cry, and keep crying till you leap. She says it'll be enough to sustain Georgia till she leaps back into herself. Ziggy gives it a ninety-nine point three-five percent probability that you're here to prevent Georgia's premature death." He saw the question clearly in the leaper's eyes. Without hesitation Al turned the handlink so Sam could see the bold black numbers on the small screen. "I swear, Sam. Ziggy told me the probability before I got the chance to ask."
In all the years of leaping, one of the things Samuel Beckett had learned to rely on without hesitation was the instinct of his heart. He relied on it now without question, and nodded his head subtly.
Just then a nurse walking past the table where Sam lay, bumped the corner of the tray of sterilized instruments she was carrying, gasping as the tray's contents clattered to the floor. It was the perfect cover. "Someone help me!" Sam said urgently, knowing that anything he said would only be heard as crying.
The reaction in the delivery room was instant shock and suddenly all attention turned to him. Even the woman on the delivery table...Beth ...had snapped her head over to look at Sam, her eyes wide.
"She cried!" Beth whispered. "Doctor Bartlett, my baby cried!"
Suddenly Sam found himself on the receiving end of massive attention as an air mask was placed over his mouth and nose, and a stethoscope was placed on his chest. Geez, that's cold! In spite of everything happening, he looked around for Al, then smiled.
He watched as his best friend went to stand by the delivery table, looking down at his beloved wife. Watched as the couple, though separated by vast oceans of time, shared tears of happiness. Sam felt tears form in his eyes as he listened to Al whispering over and over, even though Beth couldn't hear him, "It's okay, honey. She's gonna live. Our sweet little Georgia's gonna make it."
For the next minute or so Sam kept up a steady one-sided conversation with the people who could only hear a baby's crying. He smiled when Al finally returned to his side.
"So? How do things turn out?"
Al pulled the handlink from his pocket. Unashamedly he wiped his eyes with the back of one hand, then focused on punching in codes into the multi-colored handlink. As information began to flash across the tiny screen, he couldn't have disguised the happiness in his voice even if he'd wanted to try.
"Right now, at the Project, the doctors have her stabilized. Ziggy says you should keep crying... talking until Georgia leaps back into herself."
"What happens to her?"
"Even as we speak Georgie...Georgia's a healthy, beautiful, headstrong girl who..." he paused to take a shaky breath. "...is driving me and her mom nuts with more shenanigans than even I remember getting into." He paused again then said with quiet fervency, "Thanks, Sam. Thank you for our Christmas angel." The shocked look in his friend's eyes prompted him.
"You probably don't remember, but Georgia was born at seven thirty seven a.m. Christmas Eve morning, 1985." As he glanced at his watch at that moment, something occurred to the Observer. Bending over so his face was mere inches from Sam's, Al gave his friend the only Christmas gift he could, even if it only lasted a moment. He glanced at his watch again then back to Sam's eyes and said, his voice nearly inaudible in its softness, "Georgie just turned 16."
The Observer smiled as he watched the realization of the meaning of his words dawn in Sam's eyes. "Merry Christmas, Sam."
"Thanks, Al," Sam said softly. He let his eyes say what he knew he didn't have time to say aloud as a familiar feeling deep inside steadily intensified.
"Merry Christmas," Sam said, and leaped.
The year 1985 faded away, and Al heard the Imaging Chamber door open. As he walked out into the Control Room he was 'confronted' by a more than annoyed hybrid computer.
"Admiral Calavicci, I have a complaint."
"What is it, Ziggy?"
"If your youngest child doesn't learn and abide by certain rules," Ziggy said with the closest thing to a 'snap' in her voice Al had ever heard, "She may one day find herself locked in a room not easily located. And I will erase all knowledge of that room's location!"
"What did she do now?"
As he listened to Ziggy rant about his youngest daughter...and mentally grinning like a Cheshire cat..., two words continually looped through the Observer's mind.