"Flying Dutchmen"

By Lorraine Anderson

August 14, 1995

Al,

Call me Jack.

Ishmael will do as well. As will Corey, Troy, Zachery, Judy, Joseph, and Mary. There may have been a Jesus in there... I never did find the name of the Mexican man I Hopped into. But Jack was the original name, the name my Mother and Father gave me.

My mother was a tesseract, my father a temporal anomaly. That statement is as true as my mother's name being Thelma, my father John. John and Thelma Beckett. My family doesn't exist anymore, at least not how I know it. Ok, I have another name. The Flying Dutchman.

You're probably thinking I'm crazy by now. Damn. I should throw this letter away, start over. But if you're the good friend you were, you'll understand.

I can't keep any formal records, or any sort of diary, except in my head. I've been blessed (or cursed with) an exceptional photographic memory, so I've been told: If I think about making an entry, I just imagine writing a page in my head, when I need it, it's there. It's only been recently that I've thought of recording my thoughts and placing them in "time capsules", so to speak. From now on, when I find myself in 1995 and later, I'll write letters, and send them out to Project Quantum Leap, care of Admiral Calavicci, do not open until 1998. I can forge Sam's handwriting well enough for those purposes.

Al. If you haven't kept your memories of the other timeline, you're probably wondering who I am. You're probably suspicious, and you're probably wondering where the security break is. There's no security break, Al. Read on and let me explain.

I come from a timeline apparently created by your nemesis, Alia. Alia, bless the poor girl -- she's being forced into her evil deeds -- infected Thelma Beckett with Rubella when she was carrying Sam by caring for Tommy when he was sick. In my timeline, this had horrible consequences, and Sam had the intellect of a three-year-old. Because Thelma and John weren't as busy with your genius Sam, I was conceived two years after Sammy, between Sammy and Katie.

I grew up fascinated with time travel. I was enchanted with "The Time Machine," and "Planet of the Apes" was great, too. I started college at 16, and at 19, had earned a double Masters in Computer Science and Theoretical Physics. At 20, I had my Doctorate in both degrees. I studied with Professor LoNigro at MIT... which is where you and I met... and he and I worked out a theory called the Web theory... that all lives have intersecting sections, quite often spiraling from the middle, or birth, and one can Hop sections of the Web to go back to whatever time in one's life.

With your expertise in Washington politics (and you weren't bad at science, either), you and I finagled a Project -- Project Hopscotch -- in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

By this time, my Dad had passed away of heart disease, and my Mom had worked herself to death taking care of Sammy. In 1993, I had to put Sammy in a group home, which killed me, but I... and my wife, Dr. Donna Elisi... and you were knee-deep in the Project. Oh, we got away. We took trips to Disney Land with Sammy, and he was so fascinated that we had quite a time getting him to leave. But I was lonely. Tom had been killed in Vietnam, and Katie was in Hawaii. I swore my first Hop would be back to my family, maybe to change some things.

I shouldn't have said it out loud. You nixed it. You Hopped instead, as soon as the tests were done and I wasn't looking. You swore the balance of time was too fragile to try making changes.

You had landed into Tommy. In spite of everything, I was elated that it worked, but then you started spouting off about Sam being a genius, and Project Quantum Leap, and... you didn't know me. You told me that Sam had Leapt into Tommy, and Sam had gotten Rubella and given it to Mom, therefore harming the fetus that would grow up to be my Sammy. You finally convinced me that your timeline was better than mine, but in order to save your life... and keep Mom from getting Rubella, I had to Hop into your place and convince Alia of the wrongness of what she was doing.

Time flipped back to the way you remembered it. Sam, as Tommy, still got Rubella, but Dad took care of him, instead of Mom. So it worked. But since I was out of the timeline, I didn't cease to exist, as I had expected. I became, instead, Sam's counterpart. I couldn't stand to leave things worse, I had to make things better where I landed. I don't always know whether I have helped, because, you see, I have no Observer. And you have no way to track me, even if you wanted, because how do you track the brain waves of someone that doesn't exist?

And what's weirder is that sometimes I Hop in as myself, and sometimes I hop in as someone else. Where does the Hoppee go? I don't know. I suspect that they're suspended in the same place I am between Hops. Sometimes I get some memories of that in-between place.

Well. Anyway. History out of the way. Why am I writing? Part of it is that I suppose I'm being selfish. I like what I'm doing... beats theoretical physics... but I miss you. And I miss Donna like hell. And Verbena. And Tina. And even Gooshie, the goofball. I need a connection to home. You see, unlike Sam, I have all of my memories. I'm not certain if that's good or bad.

But I am looking over Sam. I guess that's what I wanted to tell you, because now I he's like me.

You see, I was there in Al's Bar when he Leapt in as... himself. Actually, not real accurate, although close enough, because everybody has a twin someplace or sometime, Sam's just happened to be when he was born. Or maybe he was himself. I overheard just enough of Sam's conversation with the bartender to be a bit spooked. And Sam seemed to recognize a whole lot of people, while calling them by the wrong name. Me? I was Staupagh. I pulled the name out of thin air, forgetting it was your uncle's name. It was a weird, cold feeling, being Staugpagh, and there were times I wasn't quite in control. I'm not sure of all that was going on there.

Afterward, I know he was himself. I saw him, although he didn't see me. Sometimes he's himself, sometimes he was somebody else. I hadn't gotten close enough to let him touch me... you know what happens.

But he is alive. I wanted to let you know that.

You know, I was peeking in the window when he told Beth about you... I hope you are happy now. Oh, God, if you're still married to Beth, are you still there?

I can't think about that. Time wouldn't be that cruel to keep you from Sam in his time of need.

Anyway, he hadn't seen me... until this last Leap.

I found myself in a warm spring day, standing in the middle of a stand of trees. In the distance was a field, just being spaded. It could be Indiana, it could be almost anywhere in the Midwest, but it was close enough to home to make me feel nostalgic. A nice warm breeze through the trees... I half expected Bambi to stroll out of the underbrush.

I took a deep breath, heard a loud noise... next thing I know, I'm breathing leaves, and my shoulder hurts like hell. Something must've dropped out of the trees was my only thought, and I turned over to look up. I hear a pounding noise, and suddenly a face is hovering over me.

"Oh, boy," we both say, albeit for different reasons. Because it was Sam. He was wearing a young face, but I knew him.

I heard another loud noise, and Sam flinched. "We can't stay here," he says, and he tries to scoop me up. As soon as we touch, he says, "What the..." The aura had melted away, and I saw Sam.

"Never mind that. I'm too heavy," I gasp. "Help me run."

He went over to my good shoulder, and grabbed me up. Almost as soon as I'm up, we start running, and I'm not sure who started first. Getting shot does that to me. My adrenaline kicked in with a vengeance.

"We gotta get out of the woods. And into a church. Know of any close by?"

"I'm a stranger here myself."

"So I gathered."

No, he didn't know me. Well, we only met before for a couple minutes, and he was sick, so, I guess that's the reason. "I suggest that we pray."

"That's what I've been doing."

We ran, oh, about a half a mile, and I was getting to the end of my strength, when we burst upon a road... and, halleluia, there was a church only 200 yards down. It was locked. We banged on the door, and there was no answer.

Would you believe Sam judo-kicked the door? I guess you would. We tumbled in, and Sam closed the door... as well as he could... and dragged me to a pew. No niceties like sheets, I lay on the pew and bled all over their nice seat cushions. Somebody was going to get a shock come Sunday.

Sam laid me down, then ran for... the office, I suppose. I lifted myself up and made sure he wasn't going for the altar linens, and he wasn't. Mom trained him well. Although I'm sure she wouldn't have minded the altar linens in an emergency, she would've stressed any other option, first.

Sam came back dragging a first aid kit, a pillow, a sheet... a crib sheet, from the looks of it, and a sewing kit. God only knows where he came up with them all. He must've ransacked all of the Sunday School rooms.

"Sit up." He carefully pulled my shirt off, and sucked in his breath at my shoulder. Then he pulled out all of the antibiotics in the kit and started ripping things open. "The wound's clean. No bullet. But this is going to hurt," he said, looking me in the face. His forehead wrinkled, and I thought a saw a glimpse of recognition.

"No booze?"

Sam winced. "Sorry. This is a Methodist Church. Just grape juice."

It didn't seem quite the time to ask him, "Well, hey, how are you doing, Sam?" so I asked the obvious question: "Who was that?"

"That," he said, "is one angry person?"

"Any idea why he's chasing you? And why a church for protection?" I felt the alcohol hit, and almost sprang forward three rows. Instead, I gripped the seat in front of me. The wood probably still has my fingertips.

"I'm... not sure why he's chasing me." I looked around. He had a puzzled look on his face. "And a church seemed the thing to do at the time."

"Uh-huh."

I could almost hear him shrug, and he got an apologetic tone to his voice. "It's the best I can do."

Great. He must've Leapt in just before I did. I looked down the floor. No use of keeping secrets in a situation like this. "Do you know me, Sam?"

He was just threading the needle to stitch my wounds, and he stopped dead still. He looked at me up and down, then the shock hit his eyes. "You're Jack. You're the brother I never had."

I winced. "I'm the brother you gained. You've always been my big brother."

"That was the Leap... no, that was the timeline, where I was..."

"Slow."

"Yeah." He continued to thread the needle, then pushed me forward.

"Do you know what you're doing?"

"Don't worry, I'm a doctor."

"A medical doctor and a physicist?!"

He was slow in answering. He's still a good deal like the Sam I knew, and I bet he was blushing. "I have five Doctorates."

I smiled. I think. It may have been a grimace. "Beats my two all hollow."

"Which two?" He was distracted, I know, he just wanted to keep me talking, I think.

"Computer Science and Theoretical Physics. Went to MIT and studied with Professor LoNigro."

He stopped. "Really? I did, too."

I felt a chill go up my back. You didn't tell me that, Al. "You notice a bit of synchronicity here?" I said, slowly.

"Yeah." The next words came slowly. "Did Katie...?"

"She did. Nothing could stop Katie when she set her mind. I wish I could've done something."

"Yeah. I know. Me, too. But I was at college."

"Me, too." I looked forward at the altar of the church. "Now that we know who each other is, do you have any ideas on the mad church-loving hunter that shot me?"

Sam snorted. "When I Leapt in, I was beside this guy. He said, 'I'll give you half a minute until I start shooting. I suggest you run.' So I didn't hang around to reason with him." He turned me gently, and starting working on my front shoulder. "I had hidden in some underbrush when I heard him shoot. He must have thought that I was you. You looked just like a teenaged boy." He slowed. "I wish Al were here."

"Yeah. So do I." I did a double-take. "Al's not with you?" I guess I hadn't realized that before this.

"No. Not since..."

I closed my eyes. "Oh, God. Al's Bar."

"You were there?"

"I was Staupagh."

Sam exhaled. "That explains a lot."

"It does? I wish you would tell me about what happened there." We heard a banging at the door, then silence. "I sure hope your instincts are correct, big brother," I said, straining to turn around to look at the door.

I heard a crash, and another. "Get down," Sam hissed, and he ducked under a pew.

"Oh, great," I muttered, as I fell under my own pew. I looked at Sam. His eyes narrowed. Then I heard the door crash open.

"I know you're in here. You can't get away." A madman. Completely calm. Totally psychopathic. I saw his legs pause at the door, then he genuflected. Catholic. Well, madness doesn't only affect Protestants.

"You're desecrating a church. You know that, boy? You got the devil in you. The Devil don't like churches." He was treading back and forth, apparently trying to illicit a response. "Your mom didn't like churches. Your mom burst into flames every time she came near a church. I saw it, boy. I saw it on her skin." He stopped. "Oh, she smiled. She wore a cross. She went to Mass and took Communion along with the good folks. But she desecrated the Host. The Host recoiled from her, boy. The Host hurt her."

So Sam had Leapt in as the man's son. I wondered idly who I was.

He started going down an aisle, and I glanced over at Sam. He was watching the feet. As soon as he passed the row in back of us, he rolled back to the previous aisle, so I did the same as the feet passed by. I bit my lip to hold back the gasp I felt from rolling on my bad shoulder.

I glanced over at Sam. He was crouching, as if he were going to spring on the man. I touched his ankle, and shook my head when he looked at me. He shrugged.

I saw the man pause at the altar, looking at the plain cross. "This isn't a Catholic Church, boy. But it is a church, and I can't allow you to desecrate a church. I purified your mother, boy. She's in heaven now. I want to purify you. I love you, boy. Let me purify you."

No stinking chance.

He must be schizophrenic, I thought idly, but I couldn't feel a shred of sympathy.

Far in the distance, I heard sirens, then I heard silence. Had Sam heard them? Had Sam called them? I looked over... and he was gone. I swore silently up at the seat, then looked around for another set of feet. He was sneaking up the aisle.

I risked my head and looked over the edge of the seat. The man was looking at the cross, making the sign of the cross over and over again. He looked normal... but normal is as normal does. He wore a dark blue leisure suit, and had hitched his rifle over his shoulder, as if he were out hunting and had just dropped in. Although I don't think that anyone ever wore a leisure suit hunting.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven..." Sam jerked the rifle out of his grasp and leveled it at the man. "How dare you, boy... You're not Jacob. Or are you? You keep shifting. The Devil has got you, boy." He looked closer at Sam. "And you don't have any wound, boy. I know I got you."

Oh, jeez, the man was seeing Sam. Would Sam shoot if the man came toward him? I didn't know. Sammy always was a gentle soul; I wasn't sure about Sam. I crept over to the other aisle and started down it, crouching as much as I was able. Sam saw me, and moved to one side, keeping the man's face away from my side of the church.

Was the police ever going to get here? I thought about that for a second.

"Give me the gun. You need to get the Devil out of you."

I gently unhooked a cord on the way by the last seats... apparently, this church had reserved seating for some members.

I walked quietly behind him as he was rambling on, tossed the cord over his chest, and pulled with my good hand. He was a small man, smaller than I thought, and he pitched over readily. Sam threw the gun down with the barrel pointing away from us... good thinking... pulled the man over, and started to hog-tie him.

"Ok, son," said a gentle voice. "I'll take him now."

I started, and Sam did the same. I looked up into the face of a county deputy and sat, transfixed. For a minute, I couldn't figure out where he came from, then I looked around. There, in the open door, was a sheriff car, and I looked over to Sam. He was hyper-ventilating, but stopped with an effort. "I thought you wouldn't get here in time. I didn't think you believed me."

The deputy winced while he was hand-cuffing the man. "Um... we didn't, son. But you did sound panicked, and I didn't have anything else to do..." He jerked the man up. "Besides, it looked like you had things under control."

"You're the Devil!" the man yelped. I saw him strain his hands forward. "Oh, Lord, what have I done that you abandon me to Hell's minions? Kyrie Eleison..."

The deputy looked bemused at the man. "This is your father?"

Sam bit his lips. "Unfortunately."

I got up, and the deputy got his first good look at me. "We got to get you to a hospital, son!"

I pulled away from him. I never was quite sure whether I carried physical injuries with me or left them with my Hoppee. "It's just a scratch."

"Uh-huh. What's that thread hanging from your shoulder?" I looked down at the needle and thread. "Well, let me get your father out to the car and we'll see about that scratch..."

I sat down with Sam, and we looked at each other. "I'm about to Leap," he said, without preliminary.

I had felt the cold skittering over my skin, myself. "I'd like to talk to you more," I said.

"It must be odd for you to have a brother... that can understand you when you talk theoretical physics." He grinned, almost uncertainly. He didn't know where to stand with me.

I smiled fondly at him. "Sammy, you're just the same, and I've always been proud to call you my brother."

He looked at me, then smiled. He leaned in, then hugged me. Then we Leapt.

We landed together on the next Leap -- have stayed together for a few Leaps now -- and I'll let that go until the next letter. He obviously still has a small amount of memory loss... I mentioned Donna, and he gave me a blank look. I'm working on him to the fact that he has friends and family back home that need his help, but he just gets this tired, stubborn look on his face that I knew so well with Sammy, and I know he needs and wants to stay and solve the situation he's in. But I have a feeling that someday we'll Leap home. He's promised me that much. I want to see you all again, even if you all will have to be introduced to me.

Godspeed, and I hope you are wishing us the same.

Jack

End