Put a Little English on the Ball
by Lorraine Anderson
A Parallel History
October 27, 1998
"Samuel, you are," Edward St. John sniffed, "without doubt, the most frustrating man I have ever met." He picked up a cup from the desk, took a sip, and spat it out, looking disgusted.
Samuel laughed and straightened up from his computer terminal. He brushed his sandy brown hair back. "Your tea is over here," he smiled. "Right where you left it."
"Yes, well." The Englishman relaxed and smiled privately at himself. He had known that his genius friend had needed a little break, but he hadn't planned to amuse him by spitting. "Do you wish your coffee now?" He held out the cup to Samuel.
Samuel raised his arms and backed off, grinning. "No, no, That's fine. I was through, anyway."
"You must have been finished," St. John said. "Your coffee was cold."
Samuel looked bemused. "Was it? Really? I just got it."
"Over two hours ago."
Samuel looked at his watch. "Oh. Yeah. I guess it was, wasn't it? That's probably why I'm hungry."
St. John nodded deliberately. "Most people usually are, Samuel, when they've missed lunch and supper," he said wryly.
"Didn't I have any lunch?" Samuel looked at the computer, punched a couple of keys, then turned it off. "No, I didn't, did I? But, St. John, I'm this close," he demonstrated with his index finger and his thumb, "to solving the retrieval problem."
St. John held up his hand when it looked like he was going to explain further. "You know, Samuel, that I don't understand you when you talk computer gibberish."
Samuel snorted. "And I can't understand why you like paperwork. Speaking of which, when are you going to get a word processor in your office? Or, for that matter, an electric typewriter?"
St. John rolled his eyes. "My generation is still trying to figure out the doorbell."
Samuel started to tidy his desk. "Joe McCawley in Imaging Processing has five years on you, and he's used computers for years. And do I have to mention Mary Kingsley?" He smiled. "Besides, you don't have to figure out how a computer works to use it... just think of it as
magic." He stared ruefully at the computer. "I'm beginning to think that I'll need magic to time travel," he muttered.
St. John ignored the last remark. "Those two are a geniuses, like you." St. John noticed Samuel blushing and smiled. "I'm too old," he added.
"Basically, you just like your 1923 Underwood."
"Yes, of course. Woody and I are friends. Just oil him now and then, and he's fine."
Samuel looked at him. "You've named your typewriter Woody, and you've named the ZGE computer Alpha..." He smiled. "And you call me Samuel? It's amazing you call your daughter 'Tootie'. You're inconsistent, you know that?"
St. John winced. He generally disliked using nicknames for people, although he had no problem using nicknames for inanimate objects. The nickname "Tootie" had been his late wife's idea. Nonetheless, the name fitted Jennifer. It was sad that Rose died in that automobile accident away before the girl grew up. Rose would've so enjoyed the grandchildren. And Tootie... a doctor!
He pulled himself back to the conversation before he got lost in memories. "That's different. Alpha was seen by the Finance Committee, not to mention various other dignitaries. It needs to have a dignified name."
"Not to mention a dignified personality to match," Samuel sighed. "I know you're right. I just wish..."
St. John snorted. "I'm a paperpusher. If I had the clout in Washington to get you the money, I would. As it is, we have to impress them with your ideas, not our cleverness in names. We do not dare get too inventive."
"I wish you would've had some clout in Washington. I wish I had some clout. We could have started the project two years earlier, at least." Samuel gathered up some candy bar wrappers and crushed them loudly. St. John winced, and Samuel glanced up. "I know. It's not your fault. At least I had two more years to do calculations, even if I didn't get paid for it." He smiled. "I'll get some supper now. I promise. And call me Sam."
St. John smiled. He knew the scientist hated being called Samuel something about an aunt that used the name but he tolerated it from St. John. Samuel's correction of St. John was an old joke that started back when they met at MIT. "Yes, Samuel. Perhaps I should steal the computer's electric cord. Or perhaps turn off your electricity."
Samuel gave him the "you do and you die" look, and St. John grinned. He left, wondering why he felt so guilty. He was doing the best he could. It was just that around Samuel, it never seemed quite enough, and he didn't know why.
December 3, 1998
"You think you have the retrieval problem solved." St. John looked up from his typewriter, felt a pang of fear, and squashed it rapidly. He had promised he would be the guinea pig, hadn't he? "Are you sure?" He glanced into the outer room. His secretary was staring at him. When he noticed St. John looking at him, he ducked back around the corner.
"Reasonably," Samuel smiled.
St. John rolled his eyes. "Reasonably?"
The tall man started pacing St. John's office. "I'm not sure the whole project is even going to work, my friend. You know that. It's just not one of those projects that can use experimental animals."
St. John sighed. He knew Samuel was wishing that he could be the one in the Accelerator, but St. John had convinced him that the idea was unreasonable. What if something went wrong? The best place for Samuel to be was in the role of holographic Observer. Besides, St. John was thirteen years older, which meant he could Leap back to his birthdate in 1940. Samuel could only Leap back to 1953. There was an advantage to that...
He shook his head. Here he was, trying to convince himself again. Samuel was looking at him. "Getting nervous?"
St. John smiled ruefully. "Of course. Aren't you?"
"Well, yes. But I'm not the one who's going to be Leaping."
St. John cocked his head. "Leaping. Sounds like I'm going to achieve the Olympic long jump."
"Well, it sounds better than 'bodily transference'"
"But less accurate."
Samuel snorted. "Arguable."
St. John sat back. "So... when do we start?"
"Whenever you want. I've already set up the Imaging Chamber." He passed his hand through St. John's typewriter, then pulled the hand link out of his pocket and laughed.
St. John gasped, then shook his finger at Samuel's image. "Shame on you," he said, grinning. "You mean all this time, my secretary thinks I've been talking to myself?"
"You got it. Besides, I've seen you talk to yourself."
St. John rolled his eyes upwards. "Shaun," he called out. "Don't worry. Dr. Beckett's playing tricks again."
"Oh," said the dubious voice out in St. John's outer office.
December 6, 1998
St. John stood in the middle of the Accelerator Chamber, feeling very foolish. The white jumpsuit he was wearing left absolutely nothing to the imagination. He saw Gooshie's wife, Tina, eyeing him, and he turned a bright red.
"Warm?" Samuel said, oblivious. He bent over and continued checking the platform's circuitry.
"I wish I could put on some decent clothing," St. John muttered. "You know, you would make a horrible nudist." He looked up and smiled.
St. John eyed him. "And you would be any better?"
Samuel laughed. "I doubt it."
St. John looked around. "You are certain this is safe."
Samuel winced and hesitated. "Nothing is one hundred percent foolproof. But if I wasn't ninety nine percent sure," he went on rapidly, "I wouldn't be shooting my best friend out into Time."
He looked wistful, and St. John felt guilty. "I know you wanted to go. But if something goes wrong..." He left the rest of the sentence undone: ...better me than you.
Samuel punched a button in his hand link and sighed. "Ready?"
"Absolutely." Actually, his bladder was acting up again, but he told himself firmly that it was his imagination.
Samuel nodded and patted him on the arm. "Godspeed," he said, and walked slowly out of the Chamber, looking back only once.
St. John nodded to Gooshie. Steam rose around him, then a gust of wind stirred his hair. An odd feeling, like the crawling of a hundred bees on his skin, started and intensified. He gasped, and...
...found himself in bed. He raised his eyebrows. It worked, he thought, then wrinkled his forehead. What worked? It must have been a dream.
He rolled over. A lady with blond hair was beside him. A lady he had never seen before. A very pregnant lady...
December 15, 1998
He gasped and found himself back in the Accelerator Chamber. Gooshie rushed out at him, pale. "St. John! Are you alright? Are you alright?"
St. John shook him off. "Of course. I'm fine. Where's Samuel?"
Gooshie wouldn't meet his eyes. "He...uh...took your place."
"He what?" St. John grabbed Gooshie's shoulders. Gooshie looked at him, stricken. "I told him to stay here. We can't risk him." His voice rose. "I though I convinced him of that. What happened?"
"He saved you. You Leapt successfully, but... something went wrong." He shook his head, broke St. John's grip, and started to pace the Accelerator Chamber. "It's been a week and three days. It took a week to locate you." He looked at St. John. "Um... what do you remember?"
"What IS there to remember? I stepped into the Accelerator Chamber... everything went bright and then dark... and then you came in."
Gooshie stopped pacing. "Is that all you remember?" St. John thought. "Yes..." He cocked his head. "No. I think I remember a woman. A pregnant woman." He shook his head. He had that flash of... something... then it was gone.
Gooshie started pacing again. "Good. We were afraid you might remember... um... what went wrong. Although we couldn't see how."
St. John looked at him, chilled. "Go on," he said slowly.
"You Leapt into 1956, into the life of a test pilot named Tom Stratton. You remembered very little of the project, but you knew that you were not Stratton. Dr. Beckett said you acted quite well in the situation, in fact, he said, better than he would've." He smiled wanly. "However, Stratton's wife still knew something was wrong, especially when you panicked at 'your' face in the shower, and then you wouldn't admit to pulling a practical joke."
"'My' face?" he interrupted.
"Um...everybody saw you as Tom Stratton... including yourself."
"I see," St. John mused.
Gooshie sighed and went on. "In fact, you tried to tell his wife who you were. Alpha said that this was why we couldn't retrieve you in the first place."
"You tried to retrieve me?"
"Oh, yes. That first night. After we found how little you actually remembered."
St. John closed his eyes. "That bloody retrieval program."
Gooshie looked away. "Uh... Alpha isn't certain it's the problem of the retrieval program. He seemed to think... something... was keeping you back there until you accomplished your purpose."
"What purpose? I wasn't supposed to do anything back in time except look around until you pulled me back!"
"Tom Stratton originally died trying to make Mach 3. His plane blew up. Alpha thought you were there to accomplish what he couldn't."
"But... I do not know how to fly, and neither does Samuel." St. John looked puzzled. "How did we get past that?"
"You... uh... you didn't." Gooshie looked down at his feet. "You see, we sent for a old test pilot... a Captain Birdell... and he didn't get here in time. You just spiraled into the ground."
He hesitated. "Sam went crazy. He put on an Accelerator suit and insisted we send him back in your place before the accident. When we reminded him that we didn't have an Observer ready for him... that it took time for Alpha to scan the brain waves of a potential Observer... he insisted that you had already been scanned, and that you would be his Observer when you got back. Alpha said no. He accepted Alpha's conclusions reluctantly, then he overrode Alpha and Leapt out into the middle of the night. Fortunately, Alpha put out the alarm." St. John shook his head. "That sounds just like him."
He thought a moment. "Did you try to retrieve him?"
Gooshie sighed. "Yeah. No go."
St. John grimaced. "Is the test pilot here now?"
"He'll be here in a couple of hours."
"So we have a chance. How much time do we have? Three days?"
He looked at him. "I'm going into the Imaging Chamber. Now. Get me that hand link."
"What about your clothes?"
St. John glared at him. "To bloody hell with my clothes! I have to see if Samuel's alright." He strode out of the Acceleration Chamber, trailed by Gooshie.
"Alpha thinks he's fine!"
"But his memory? I want to see for myself." He grabbed the hand link that Tina was holding mutely out to him, ignored the cheers that followed his wake, and strode into the Imaging Chamber.
He closed his eyes, prayed, then looked upwards. "Gooshie, center me on Samuel."
"You got it," Gooshie said, resigned.
The image formed around him. He was standing in a
shower, the water droplets going through him. Samuel at least the hand link said that the man was Samuel was standing in the same shower in boxer shorts and looking at the door, where a very pregnant lady with blondish hair was shaking her head at him. She turned and walked down the hall. St. John sighed. Samuel seemed to be all right for the moment.
"Ahem," he said, automatically stepping over the side of the tub, then he felt foolish. Why was he stepping over a holographic image?
The dark haired man turned and paled. "Who are you?"
"St. John!" In spite of what Gooshie had said, St. John was startled. Samuel didn't remember him!
"St. John," Samuel mused. He looked the man over, chewing his lip, and apparently didn't like the conclusion he reached. He blushed. "This is going to sound silly, but am I dead?"
"Well," he said slowly. "You're standing there, all dressed in white... am I in some sort of mid stream reincarnation or something, like, um..." St. John could see the effort he made to remember. "Like Warren Beatty in 'Heaven can Wait'?"
St. John rubbed the bridge of his nose. This was not going to be easy. He remembered that there was a whole list of things he wasn't supposed to mention, but this was a bit
much. "In the first place, Samuel Beckett, my name is Edward St. John the Fifth. I am not an angel."
Samuel got out of the tub, tried to grab St. John by the shoulders, and went right through his chest. "A ghost, then. Although I don't believe in ghosts... I think." His forehead wrinkled. "You knew my name, didn't you? My real name."
St. John sighed. "I am a hologram. I am a neurological hologram that only you can see."
Samuel stood silent for a second and rubbed his forehead. "A neurological hologram is created by a sub atomic agitation of carbon quarks tuned to the mesons of my optic and otic neurons..."
St. John grinned broadly. "You are remembering!"
Samuel shook his head and grimaced. "No. I almost had something there, but it's gone."
St. John's smiled faded. "Oh. Well." He paced the bathroom, inadvertently walking through the stool. "What do you remember?"
Peg appeared at the door, and both men looked up, startled. "Are you talking to me..." She cocked her head, puzzled. "You haven't taken your shower yet!" She walked over to Samuel and put her hand on his forehead. "Are you sure you're feeling alright? You don't feel like you have a fever."
"Fine." Samuel smiled at Peg. "Just a little slow waking up this morning."
"Well, you're going to have to get moving if you want Bird Dog to take you to the base. He just called, you know."
Peg looked at him, worried. "Yes. The base. Edwards Air Force Base. Although I'm beginning to think you had better see Dr. Burger and Dr. Ernst."
"But..." Samuel apparently swallowed the rest of his words. He grinned. "Aw... I'm just pulling your leg again. I'll get moving... mother." He patted Peg's stomach.
Peg smiled carefully. "Uh huh. Well, Mikey and I will be in the kitchen having breakfast." She disappeared slowly down the hall.
St. John had been watching, bemused. "I am sorry, Samuel. You're a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base named Tom Stratton."
Samuel nodded. "Yes. I know." St. John raised his eyebrows. "Peg inadvertently told me," Samuel said apologetically.
"Ah." St. John punched the hand link. "Mikey is your son. Bird Dog is a test pilot named Captain Bill Birdell." St. John looked at the hand link again. Was that the same Captain Birdell that was on the way to the base?
Samuel gave St. John a long look, and got into the shower. "Ok, St. John, you need to do some explaining," he whispered. "One, why am I here, and two, why am I seeing somebody else's face in the mirror?" He looked St. John up and down. "And why are you dressed in that white... jogging suit?" He shook his head. "Where did that term come from?"
St. John sighed. "Oh, Samuel. If you could remember, it would make it ever so much simpler... You are part of a time travel experiment named Quantum Leap." St. John paused for a long second. "And...?"
"And we're apparently having trouble with the retrieval program."
"Apparently? Oh, good. And who was the genius who wrote this one? You?" He started washing his hair, but tried to stare St. John down.
St. John gulped.
A genderless voice interrupted, in a pleasant tenor. "You should not tell the test subject anything about his abilities. In fact, you should not have told the test subject his name. You should not..."
"Oh, be quiet, Alpha." St. John growled.
The hand link spoke again. "Sorry, St. John," Gooshie said. "Alpha got away from me for a minute. He's been having a fit, but I've managed to keep the voice monitor off."
"Alpha? Short guy with bad breath, right?" Samuel asked.
"No, Samuel, that is Gooshie. Sorry, Gooshie... Alpha is the parallel hybrid..."
"...computer that runs Quantum Leap." Samuel said slowly. "But who designed this setup, and is he or she working to get me out of this?"
St. John didn't like the slight panic he heard in Samuel's voice. He didn't want to lie, but he didn't want to tell the truth, either. He sighed. "You did, Samuel. You engineered Project Quantum Leap."
Samuel stood still for a moment. "You're right. I do remember a little. I almost wish you had lied."
"I do, too... You had better dry off, Samuel, before you look like a prune."
"Mmm. Yeah." He turned off the shower and started towelling down.
"And what are my chances of getting back, St. John?"
St. John punched the hand link, then looked up. "There's a fifty fifty chance that you will leap home if you save the life of Tom Stratton."
"Fifty fifty? And how am I supposed to do this?"
"You... um, you have to break Mach 3 in an experimental plane called the X 2."
Sam stared at St. John. "I don't know how to fly."
"Well, you will not have to fly until three days from now. And a former test pilot should be on Project within the day."
"This is supposed to comfort me?"
"Well," St. John didn't want to meet Sam's gaze. "Would you rather get to 1998 the hard way and strand Tom Stratton?"
"No." Samuel shook his head wistfully. "Living forty years in the future wouldn't be fair to Stratton. Any other options? Does anybody else at the project have any ideas?"
St. John punched the hand link. "Nothing practical. Unless you wish to be at Ground Zero in a nuclear blast."
"Not really..." He looked straight ahead and froze. St. John looked up. Peg was staring at Samuel through the semi open bathroom door.
"What are you doing?" she said, turning pale.
He wrapped the towel quickly around him. "Oh, boy." He looked up. "I'm... setting up a joke."
She came in and leaned against the sink. "No, you're not. I heard two voices in here. There's something wrong. You're scaring me."
Samuel winced. "I didn't mean to."
"You've lost your memory, haven't you?"
St. John stared at her. "Direct, isn't she?"
Samuel glanced at St. John, then at Peg. "Who said that?" she gasped. She looked at the spot where St. John was standing, looked at Samuel, then back at St. John. She gasped. "There's something there!"
Samuel looked at St. John. "What do you see?"
Peg put her arms around her belly. "I see... the vague outline of a man... a ghost."
"Oh, boy." He turned to St. John. "We're going to have to tell her."
"I would advise against it. There's a seventy percent chance that the shock..." He glanced at Peg.
"She needs to know the truth." St. John knew that when Samuel's jaw set like that, he would never convince him otherwise. "Let me put on a robe, and we'll go out to the living room." He put on the robe over the towel, then let the towel drop. Peg noticed Samuel's modesty and raised her eyebrows, worried. Samuel stepped out of the tub and put his hand on Peg's shoulder. She stood up, shivering, and Samuel helped her into the living room and onto the couch.
Samuel looked at St. John's hand link. "Can you adjust that thing?"
St. John was startled. "Um... I don't know. I don't know too much about the hand link. Gooshie...?" He yelled, calling upwards.
Gooshie sighed over the intercom. "I know. I've been monitoring. And I can't understand why she can see you at all, considering you're adjusted to Sam's brainwaves... Alpha thinks that she might be closer to your pattern." He paused a minute. "There."
Peg gasped and stared straight at him. He looked down at the jumpsuit he was wearing, suddenly self conscious, and blushed. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Stratton. I didn't have enough time to change into proper clothing."
"Oh." She sat down suddenly, looking wide eyed at him.
Samuel looked sideways at him, then his eyes opened wide and he chewed his lip. "You remember?" St. John said lowly.
"Yes. Some of it."
"Tom, what's going on?" Peg said tight mouthed. Her hands were clenched in tight balls.
"Um... this is Edward St. John."
"Is this some sort of experiment from Edwards? Is this why you can't remember anything? Did they botch something?" She spoke quickly.
The two glanced at each other.
"Yes," St. John said.
"No," Samuel said. He glared at St. John. "This is a... botched experiment from the future."
"I do not like this idea," St. John said. He turned his back to Peg and spoke in a whisper. "Samuel, she doesn't look good..."
"From the future?" Her voice was disbelieving, but she kept glancing at St. John.
"Yes." Samuel spoke slowly, hesitantly. He looked at St. John, then back at Peg. "Peg, I am not your husband. I am Sam Beckett, and I am part of a project from 1998 called Quantum Leap."
She wrinkled her forehead. "You believe this, don't you, Tom? If you're from the future, how come you look like Tom?"
St. John could see Samuel start to explain and cut in. "Because that's the way it works. Samuel, I'm warning you..."
"If you believe this... Mr. Sam Beckett... then where's Tom." Peg's voice started to go flat. Too flat. She was hugging her stomach, and starting to turn pale.
"He's... in 1998." Samuel hesitated. "St. John, can you holo a picture of Tom in the waiting room?"
St. John looked at the handlink. "I can... but, Samuel, are you sure...?"
St. John sighed and punched a couple of buttons. A picture of Samuel appeared, floating over the living room floor.
"That's not Tom..." Peg said, then looked at him closer and paled. "Oh, my God. He's calling for me. He's calling for me!" She started punching Sam. "Get him back! Get him back! Get him..." She clutched her stomach and went down.
A little boy burst from the kitchen. "What's going on... Mommy!" He knelt down by his mother.
"Samuel!" St. John took a step towards Peg, then stood, feeling very ineffectual.
Samuel dropped to his knees beside Peg. "She's gone into labor. But it's too early..."
A knock came at the door. "Hey, Tom, you ready yet?" a male voice said.
"That's probably Captain Birdell." St. John said.
"Bird Dog." Samuel mused. "Bird Dog!" Samuel rushed to the door. "Get in here!" he yelled, slamming open the door.
"What...what in the world?" He turned pale when he saw Peg on the floor.
"We have to get her to the hospital. Now! She's in labor."
"In labor?" Bird Dog said. "But..."
Peg looked up at Samuel, then at St. John, in obvious terror. "No! You're not taking my baby, too!" She got up, still in obvious pain, and rushed into the bathroom.
"I'll... call the ambulance," Birdell said. He started dialing.
Samuel nodded, then followed Peg down the hall and knocked on the bathroom door. When he didn't get any answer, he turned the knob. It was locked.
"I won't go!" Peg said from behind the door.
Samuel bit his lip. "Peg. This will not solve anything."
"You are not taking my baby. Give me Tom back."
St. John stepped around Samuel. Samuel ignored him. "Peg, it doesn't work that way," Samuel said. "We told youit was a botched experiment."
St. John started to walk through the bathroom door, but Samuel motioned him back. "They tried to retrieve him once, and it didn't work, Mrs. Stratton. If we could give you Tom back, we would."
"How do I know? Huh?"
Samuel sighed. "You don't. You just have to trust us." "Trust you? How can I trust you?"
St. John stepped forward. "Mrs. Stratton. Samuel is here to save your husband's life!" He hesitated and glanced at Samuel. Samuel grimaced and nodded. "Future history records that your husband dies three days from now in a test plane, trying to break Mach Three."
"Tom is a good pilot. Are you a pilot?" she said, suspiciously. Samuel blushed and stayed silent. "I didn't think so."
Birdell stepped behind Samuel. "The ambulance is coming. Three minutes," he said.
"Bird Dog," Peg said, her voice shaking. "How many people do you see out there in the hall?"
Birdell glanced at Samuel, alarmed. "I see... Tom. And myself, of course." He stared at the door, then spoke lowly in Samuel's ear. "Is this some sort of pregnant woman thing?"
"No." Samuel didn't elaborate.
The boy came down the hall. "Dad, is Mom..." He saw the closed door and stopped short.
"Mikey," Peg said lowly. "Go into the living room."
The boy stared up at Samuel. "Do as your mother says," Samuel said, pushing the boy gently forward.
They heard sirens in the distance. Birdell rushed to a window. "Here's the ambulance."
Samuel closed his eyes. "Peg. You're in labor."
Peg snorted. "Obviously."
"Will you let Bird Dog ride with you to the hospital?"
She narrowed her eyes. "I would rather have Tom."
"He will be with you three days from now," St. John said.
"Or dead," she said.
"Samuel will not let him die." St. John said steadily. There was silence behind the door, then they heard the lock click. The door opened, and Peg looked at Birdell. "No," she said, determined, looking at Samuel. "You're wrong. I will not let him die." She looked suddenly weary. Samuel pushed Birdell forward, then stepped back as Birdell helped her down the hall. As they walked by, she glanced at Samuel and St. John coldly.
"Dad?" Mikey said, looking down the hall.
Samuel closed his eyes. "Go with Bird Dog and your mother," he said slowly. "I'll be along later." He watched them walk through the living room, and down the front sidewalk, where the ambulance attendants met them and placed her on a cart. The ambulance rushed off with a wail.
St. John closed his eyes. Samuel looked so... defeated.
He punched the hand link, then stared at it, mesmerized. "Samuel... you did it. You changed history. You saved Stratton!"
Samuel glanced at him, puzzled. "How?"
"It seems Peg was as good as her word," St. John smiled. "Tom Stratton never flew that fatal flight, then resigned from the services the next year. He retired five years ago... my time... from flying commercial airlines and is alive today."
Samuel smiled slowly, then his smile fell. "Peg? The baby?"
"Mrs. Stratton will be fine." St. John looked at the hand link and gulped. "The baby doesn't make it." He looked bleak. "It was a girl."
Samuel hit the coffee table hard, making an ashtray dance, then looked up with sudden hope. "I don't suppose that I'm a doctor...?"
St. John shook his head, afraid to say more than that. Actually, Sam had planned on becoming a physician... until St. John talked him into specializing in microbiology, instead.
"Damn. If only..."
St. John had a thought. "Gooshie...?" He started to say, then the scene shifted, and St. John found himself inside the empty Imaging Chamber.
"Too late," Gooshie's voice said. "He's Leapt."
St. John looked up hopefully. "Here? 1998?"
Gooshie hesitated a second. "Alpha?"
Alpha's calm, even tones came over the handlink. "No. He has not returned to 1998. Probability 90.25 percent that he will remain in the past."
"Oh, Samuel," St. John lamented. "I told you to leave me if something happened."
"St. John," Gooshie said. "You should have known that Dr. Beckett couldn't do that."
"I know," St. John sighed. "I know."
July 21, 1999
Still another Leap, and back to work. St. John picked up his hand link and sighed. Thank heavens he was back at the project in time... or more or less in time. According to Gooshie, Sam had only been in the young man's life a day... what was the Navy pilot's name..? He punched the hand link. Oh, Albert Calavicci.
St. John had talked to the man in the Waiting Room. A rather brash one, with some rough edges. He had insisted that the whole setup was a practical trick of one of his buddies, until something about St. John irritated him and he clammed up. Finally, they had to send Dr. Beaks into the room. The psychologist calmed him down, but he still wasn't saying much.
St. John punched a few buttons on the hand link tentatively. Seemed to be in good working order. Even after a half a year, he still hadn't gotten comfortable with the gadget.
"Have a good vacation?" Gooshie said congenially.
"Wonderful," St. John replied, distracted. St. John had hated to leave the project, but his daughter and son in law had insisted that he come to Massachusetts on a vacation, and, to be honest, St. John felt much invigorated. He loved seeing the grandchildren.
Nonetheless, Samuel was in trouble. He was about to be tried for the rape and murder of his Commander's wife, and the odds didn't look good. Marcy Riker the wife seemed to have been a nymphomaniac who "initiated " all the the new recruits. What effect would somebody like that have had on young man with a background like Calavicci's? He nodded to Gooshie, then walked through the Imaging Chamber door.
St. John found himself in a spartan bedroom. A tall man in dress whites was facing Samuel, who was standing at attention and looking distinctly uncomfortable. The man was square faced and had a dangerous glint in his eye. This, then, must be Commander Dirk Riker.
Samuel glanced at St. John and inclined his head slightly. He looked thin, with dark hair and dark eyes. And young! Because St. John had talked to the body image of Samuel, he hadn't quite realized how young Calavicci was. It was a major disadvantage that they hadn't been able to get past the body aura so that they could see who they actually were talking to in the Waiting Room. It felt so much like talking to Samuel.
St. John looked at the Commander and shivered. There was something cold about the man.
Commander Riker stared at Samuel. "But, then again, you're not going to get any older, are you, Ensign?"
"Sir...I did not rape and murder your wife," Samuel said, low but insistent.
Commander Riker looked at him with daggers in his eyes. "Of course you did, mister. I watched you do it." Samuel looked at him in blank astonishment. The commander went on, almost matter of fact. "I was on the cliff. I watched you run from your car. I watched you catch her, tear her clothes off... rape her."
Samuel, apparently, couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You watched your wife being raped and did nothing to stop it?"
The commander looked with grim amusement. "It was some kind of game, wasn't it? You didn't want to sleep with Marcy, you wanted to rape her."
"I didn't rape your wife," Samuel said, insistently.
The commander acted like he didn't hear Samuel. "So Saturday night, she decided to play along." He paused. "That's it, isn't it."
Samuel said what was uppermost in St. John's mind. "You're sick."
The commander was emotionless. "So was Marcy. That was the beauty of our relationship." He kept getting closer to Samuel, and his voice dropped. "We were both equally perverted. And when there's equal perversion, there's no perversion." He leaned close to Samuel's ear. "Just pleasure," he whispered. He backed off, to St. John's relief. "But now she's gone. It's all gone. And I'll never find another woman to love me like that... ever. That's why tomorrow, I'm sending you to the gas chamber." The lack of emotion sent chills up and down St. John's spine.
Samuel glared at him. "By lying on the witness stand."
Commander Riker looked at him dispassionately. "No, just by telling the truth." He dropped his burning cigarette on the floor and walked out past a guard. The guard shut the door, emotionless.
"Oh, my Lord." St. John said, staring at the door.
"Where were you?" Samuel said, a little angry. "I'm about to be condemned for murder!"
"Huh...?" With an effort, St. John put his mind back on Samuel. "Oh, I was East. I was spending some time with Tootie. I told you, didn't I?"
Samuel ran his hand through his hair. "Possibly. You know my memory."
St. John looked apologetic. "My flight got cancelled. Engine trouble. We got transferred to another flight."
"Um... is there anything I can do?"
"No... not now," Samuel said. "Wait. Yes. You can check on a young woman. I think I might have saved her career." He pointed at a picture on a dresser. "Her name is Lisa. I'm not sure of her last name. Sherman, I think."
St. John punched the hand link. He grimaced when the results came up. "I'm sorry, Samuel."
Samuel looked stricken. "I didn't save her career?"
St. John hated to tell Samuel, but it had to be done. "Alpha reports that a Lt. Lisa Sherman was killed this night. A car accident." St. John paused. "Can you confirm that, Alpha?" A black and white picture came up on the hand link.
"Yes. That's her," Samuel sighed. He moved to the window and looked out. "I thought sure I was here to save her career. She was a girlfriend of Calavicci's. A married girlfriend. They were in a motel room the night Marcy Riker was killed. She wanted to be my alibi. I convinced her otherwise. I didn't want to see her ruin her career." He looked at the disapproving look on St. John's face. "Apparently, she didn't have much of a marriage to ruin."
St. John stood silent a second. "Is there anything else I can do?"
"Yeah," Samuel said slowly. "Please. Just stay with me. Ok?"
St. John knew how lonely Samuel often was. "Of course. Whenever you want."
"Thanks." They spent a moment in silence, then heard a knock on the door. Samuel sighed and stood up. "Come in," he said, resigned. Another young Navy Ensign poked his head in the door. He looked distraught. "Chip," Samuel said, concerned. "Come in."
St. John punched his hand link. This must be the "Chip Fergeson" that Calavicci insisted was pulling a joke on him in the Waiting Room.
"I brought some friends and some drinks," Chip said. "You'll need it."
"I'll need it," Samuel said. "Why?"
Chip hung his head. "Lisa... Lisa had an car accident."
"Lisa?" Sudden comprehension came over Samuel's face, quickly disguised. "What happened? How is she?"
"Lisa... died. She hit a truck ," Chip said lowly. "Dear God," Samuel whispered. He went to the bed and satdown heavily, his face turned away from Chip.
The other young men came quietly in the room. They talked quietly until Samuel started yawning, then left. Chip stayed until Samuel was asleep. St. John stayed all night.
The trial. St. John stood over Samuel's shoulder, trying not to shudder. The Commander's tale was devastating.
Commander Hugh Dobbs Calavicci's defense lawyer tried to discredit Riker's testimony by pointing out that he did nothing while his wife was being raped. Commander Riker replied that he tried to climb down the cliff to the beach, fell, hit his head, and blacked out for a short time. When he awoke, his wife was dead.
When Commander Dobbs asked him incredulously why he didn't yell, Commander Riker calmly replied that she deserved it. St. John couldn't believe his ears. Riker was jeopardizing his career to get this conviction! He couldn't decide whether this was self gratification, or a perverted love for his wife.
The recess couldn't have come at a better time. St. John was sweating, in spite of the cool temperature in the Imaging Chamber. They walked slowly across the lawn, shadowed at a distance by the guard.
"St. John," Samuel said lowly. "I don't like this at all. Riker's going to ruin himself to convict me."
St. John sighed. "Maybe you are not here to save the Ensign. Maybe you are here to get him convicted. Perhaps he is guilty."
"But that makes no sense! I thought I was here to save Lisa's career, and she died in a car wreck... I just don't think that Calavicci is guilty." Samuel rubbed his jaw. "Check the odds, ok?"
St. John punched the hand link. "Ninety six percent certainty and going up... ninety eight percent... ninety nine... One hundred percent. Yes, there is a 100% certainty that Ensign Calavicci will be found guilty and executed in the gas chamber." He looked up.
Samuel was looking at St. John, puzzled. St. John felt a chill go over him, but met Samuel's gaze, concerned. "Why are you staring at me like that, Samuel?" He looked quickly down at himself. Everything was in place. He was wearing a dark suit, a striped tie, and a cream shirt... nothing out of place that he could see. He looked up at Samuel, his forehead wrinkled.
Samuel looked almost alarmed. "Where did you get that hand link?" St. John looked down at the hand link. It looked like the same one he had used for the last year. Samuel circled him. "And where's Al?" Samuel continued.
"Al," St. John said, puzzled.
"You know, Al!" Samuel sputtered.
His guard looked alarmed at him. St. John looked at the hand link, then looked up at Samuel, concerned. What was going on in Samuel's mind? "There's an 88% probability that that young man will shoot at the slightest provocation." He pointed at the guard.
Samuel looked at St. John, then pushed his arms though St. John's chest. St. John looked down, puzzled. Once again, Samuel was acting like he didn't know him! He looked stern at him. "You are attracting undue attention, Samuel."
Samuel looked astonished. "You're a hologram! You're a hologram!" He dropped his arms. "What happened... to Al." He turned away and acted alarmed. "What happened to Al?"
St. John looked puzzled. Who was Al... suddenly it came to him. "Al... oh, that young pilot that you Leaped into!" He punched the hand link, all the time wondering why Samuel was suddenly calling the Leaper "Al." "There's no change. He's still found guilty and sentenced to die in the gas chamber."
"He dies in the gas chamber." Samuel looked down.
"At midnight, October 6, 1960." St. John looked up.
Samuel looked stricken. "Oh, my God. I've changed history. I've killed Al."
What was the matter with Samuel? "No. No, Al's in the Waiting Room." St. John tried to make his voice calm.
Samuel turned violently. "Young Al is. Old Al is dead!"
This was a new twist. "Old Al?"
Samuel started to say something, then shook his head, confused. "And look... I'm losing my memory. What's Bingo's last name?"
"Ensign Calavicci." It looked to St. John as if Samuel was trying to press it into his brain. "Calavicci! Calavicci! I've got to remember that!"
St. John couldn't stand it any longer. Samuel acted like he was going to tear himself apart. "What is happening, Samuel!"
Samuel turned away. "I'm losing my memory."
Was that it? St. John didn't think so, but he went ahead with the standard explanation. "Portions of your memory are always erased due to your Leap. Don't you remember?" he pleaded.
St. John noticed out the corner of his eye that Commander Dobbs and the guard were looking alarmed at Samuel. "Ensign," the Commander said, and waved for him to go back in.
Samuel and St. John started walking back to the building Samuel seemed to pull himself back together, and, in fact, was slightly conciliatory. Which was strange, St. John reflected. Then a thought came to him. An odd thought, but it would make sense. I wonder... I wonder if he is remembering an alternate timeline?
"You're right about my memory on this leap," Sam was saying. "There's a very specific segment of it missing."
St. John glanced sideways at him. "What segment is that?"
They passed the guard. "We're going back in now," Samuel said to the guard, then spoke to St. John. "The segment pertaining to you. I don't seem to have any memory of you... your name or anything."
In the middle of a Leap? Still, if St. John's theory was correct... He smiled. "St. John. Edward St. John the Fifth."
"Nice to meet you, St. John."
Samuel seemed more confident. St. John wondered whether he had come to the same conclusion about the alternate timelines.
"St. John, I believe that Commander Riker is trying to frame me for the murder of his wife."
Well, that was possible. Maybe the Calavicci is guilty theory was wrong. He punched the hand link. "Alpha gives that a sixty two percent probability."
Samuel looked puzzled. "Alpha?" He opened the door and went into the building.
St. John was astonished. Forget his brainchild? "You don't remember Alpha?"
"Parallel hybrid computer," Samuel said deliberately.
"That you designed to run Quantum Leap."
Sam looked wryly amused. "Al called her 'Ziggy'."
Samuel stopped at the wall before going into the courtroom, raised his hat to his face, and talked behind it. "Look. Have Alpha directly interrogate Bingo with questions designed to illicit knowledge about that murder that he might not consciously be aware of."
St. John couldn't believe what he was hearing. Still, if his theory was correct... "Direct questions will require taking Ensign Calavicci into the Control Room. We have never done that with a Leaper!"
"I know that. No matter. If it works, he'll be there in forty years, anyway."
"Forty years!" His theory was correct. Samuel thought Calavicci had something to do with the project. Maybe Calavicci knew... will know, he corrected himself... how to correct the retrieval program! Maybe this will mean that they can retrieve Samuel!
"Just do it!"
St. John acted resigned. He had better play it like he hadn't figured anything out. Alpha was hardnosed in cases that might alter the project, and Gooshie wasn't much better. "Samuel, anything you say." He sighed.
Samuel turned on him, apparently upset. "And don't call me Samuel!" He paused and calmed down. "The last person to do that was my Great Aunt Tillie."
The guard was looking at Samuel again. "Sir?... Sir?"
Samuel started for the courtroom. "Come on, shadow."
St. John was confused. He didn't even remember why St. John called him Samuel. Well, of course, he thought to himself. Samuel didn't even remember him... why should he remember the old joke? Then he had a horrible thought: in this alternate timeline Samuel was remembering... were he and Samuel even friends? He shook his head. He certainly hoped so!
He exited the Imaging Chamber. "He wants Alpha to question Ensign Calavicci directly."
Gooshie was shaking his head. "I know. I heard. What's gotten into Dr. Beckett?"
"I'm not entirely sure." St. John turned toward the Waiting Room door.
Gooshie interposed himself in the way. "You're not seriously considering taking the Leaper in the control room, are you?"
St. John cocked an eyebrow at him. "Of course I am."
"Then I insist that you take at least two security guards and Dr. Beaks."
St. John frowned. Gooshie had a point. Young Calavicci had just about decked him the first time he had met St. John. And, in spite of what he might become in the future, he could not be allowed to roam free throughout the project. "Well," he said. "Get them here."
"Also," Gooshie said. "This is something Alpha suggested. The Ensign hasn't had any supper. He might be... friendlier... with a good meal down him."
St. John snorted. "Samuel is on trial for murder, and you're suggesting we feed the condemned man a last meal? Would you use the cafeteria food?"
"According to the odds, the Ensign will not be killed today," Alpha interrupted through the hand link. "We wish to convince the Ensign of our good intentions. Also, you might insure that Pulse Communication Technician Tina is present."
"Tina?" Gooshie spouted. "Why in the world does my wife need to be present?"
"The Ensign has a partiality for beautiful females. Her presence, along with the presence of Dr. Beaks, may serve to relax the Ensign. You and Gooshie are not beautiful."
"Alpha," St. John said reprovingly. "How do you know who is beautiful and who isn't? That was not in your programming."
Alpha was silent for a second. "I overheard staff talk."
St. John raised his eyebrows at Gooshie. "I think Samuel may have fed Alpha some stray data behind my back."
Gooshie blushed. "Yes. I helped."
St. John sighed. "Well, what's past is past. Let's get Calavicci ready."
Ensign Calavicci looked suspicious when St. John entered the Waiting Room. He set his empty plate down. "Well, Ensign," St. John said cheerily. "We're going for a walk."
"A long walk off a short pier... is that it?" The Ensign shook his head. "Tell me something. I know I'm a dunce, but since when did the Navy recruit English butlers to escort the condemned man to the gas chamber?"
St. John stepped in front of Calavicci. "You are not going to the gas chamber. Where did you get that idea?"
"I remembered about the arrest. Riker was out to get my butt. I think he's got me hopped up on hallucinatory drugs, the bastard." He looked pointedly at St. John, then looked upwards. "It's not going to work, you hear me? Even drugs won't make me think I'm guilty. I'm innocent. I have nothing to be afraid of."
"Well, good," Dr. Beaks said, entering the Chamber. She was followed by a pair of security guards. "Then you won't mind accompanying us to the Control Room."
The Ensign looked at the lovely black lady. "'I am black, but comely.'"
"Song of Solomon. Quite a knowledge of the bible," Beaks smiled.
Calavicci blushed. "I was raised in a Catholic orphanage. I liked the Song of Solomon. Much of the rest seemed deadly dull."
Beaks laughed. "I see. Well, will you come with us? We just want to ask you some questions." Her voice became ernest. "We honestly want to establish your innocence."
Calavicci looked at her, then seemed to come to a decision. "Lovely lady, I'm still not sure I believe you.
But I might as well get this over with." He exited the Waiting Room, flanked by the security guards."
"Verbena," St. John said plaintively. "How do you do that?"
The psychologist looked rueful. "Applied psychology.
You are not beautiful. Neither am I," she added, "but the Ensign thinks so."
"You are a lovely lady," St. John replied. "Alpha thinks so. He also agrees that I am not beautiful."
"Alpha?" Dr. Beaks said, startled.
"It seems that Samuel and Gooshie..."
"Ah," Dr. Beaks mused. "Well, let's catch up with the Ensign."
Calavicci was grinning at the deadpan security guards as Dr. Beaks and St. John caught up. "You look like a couple of dead fish, you know that? Can't you at least talk to a condemned man?"
"Albert," St. John said, exasperated. "We are not taking you to the gas chamber."
The Ensign snorted. "And I'm Peter Pan."
St. John glared at the young man. "I give up." He passed the Ensign, who gave him a raspberry on the way by, and punched the code into the lock to open the Control Room door. The door slid up, and Calavicci looked in, curious. His mouth dropped open.
"I take that back," Calavicci said slowly. "You were taking me to heaven."
St. John followed his gaze. Calavicci's eyes were focused on Pulse Communications Technician Tina.
"I'm sure you'll answer some questions now, Ensign?" Dr. Beaks said.
"Who am I to say no to the heavenly bodies?" Calavicci said jauntily. He looked sideways at St. John. "Unless, of couse, it's classified. I still don't trust him."
St. John sighed.
Samuel was looking out this window, looking like he was engaged in a personal struggle. "You are quite impossible," St. John said reprovingly.
Samuel raised his eyebrows. "Pardon?"
"Well, actually, not you, Samuel... Sam." He inclined his head. "You know, that... uh... satyr that you leaped into."
Samuel looked amused. "Ok. What happened?"
"I did as you requested. I took Ensign Calavicci into the Control Room. He was stunned."
Samuel nodded. "By the technology."
St. John shook his head. "By Pulse Communication Technician Tina." It was almost amusing to see his reaction.
Samuel laughed and turned towards the window. "They're lovers!"
St. John looked at him, alarmed. "But she's married to Gooshie!"
Samuel seemed to collapse in on himself. "Oh... I gotta get history back on track... What did Ziggy... What did Alpha say?"
"He projected a seventy two percent chance that the Ensign's black Corvette..." St. John shook his head. He
never did like sports cars. "A singularly vulgar vehicle, if I may say so... could be used to prove his innocence."
Samuel stared at him and raised one eyebrow. "His car."
Samuel had quite a time convincing "Shadow" that he needed something out of his car. Still, he had swayed the stubborn guard, and they were down in the garage.
St. John stood by the guard and checked the percentages on the hand link for signs of change. He wished he knew what was going to happen. If history was going to change like he thought, he hoped that at least he would remain on the project! If nothing else, Samuel needed someone competent to do his paperwork.
He shook his head slightly. He hoped that he and Samuel were at least friends in this alternative timeline. But if that wasn't the way things were going to work out, then so be it. Whatever the cost, if it would save Samuel... and young Calavicci, he thought belatedly.
The guard looked nervous. "I will shoot you, if this is a trick, sir." He acted as if Samuel was going to pull out a gun.
Samuel seemed absorbed, looking around the outside of the car. "This is not a trick, Sergeant."
The guard looked surprised. "I'm a corporal, sir."
Samuel looked at him, then turned his attention back to the car. "Yes, you are. I'm sorry."
St. John punched the hand link. Still no change. He punched a question in to Alpha what is Samuel looking for? "What are you searching for, sir?" the guard asked.
Samuel continued looking. "I'm not sure."
St. John looked up. "Neither is Alpha! He's predicting that something in the car is important, but that the car itself can prove your innocence."
Samuel got into the car. "The car, itself?"
"Sir?" the guard asked.
St. John watched Samuel reach down, apparently finding something...
...and found himself behind his desk at Project Quantum Leap. He looked down at his paperwork... time schedules for the employees. How did he get here? Why wasn't he in the Imaging Chamber?
The Imaging Chamber? What in the world would he be doing in there? Albert Calavicci was the Observer here... and a better one than he would have made, he had to admit.
But, wait a minute. He sat back and looked at his typewriter. He seemed to have two sets of memories. Then he sat bolt upright. "He proved Albert's innocence! What he got out of the car proved Albert's innocence."
His secretary looked in at him. "Were you calling me?"
St. John shook his head, but he couldn't keep a silly grin from spreading on his face. "No." He bent back to his work. He wished he could tell his wife Rose about saving Albert, but the project was top secret. Still, Rose liked Albert. Perhaps they could treat him to dinner later on.
Albert poked his head in later, looking somewhat apprehensive. The gaudy silver coat and bolo tie that Albert so often wore now seemed welcome to St. John, rather than a vulgar expression of American fashion. "Samuel is fine?" St. John said, quietly.
"Yeah." He came in and sat down, heavily. "Now I know why you seemed so familiar."
St. John smiled slightly. "You remember."
"Yes. Thank you for saving my life." He grinned. "You do remember that, don't you?"
"Most of it. You know. Possibly, it is part of being an Observer. I have two sets of memories." He shook his head. "How did you save yourself from the gas chamber?"
Albert grinned. "It was Sam's idea. Once we knew who was with her on the beach..."
"Who was it?"
Albert's smile faded. "Chip Fergeson. You saw Chip?" St. John nodded. "It was an accident. Chip was infatuated with Marcy and wanted more than the initiation. Marcy's mind just didn't work that way. He picked up Marcy after Riker had been roughhousing her and took her to the beach. Apparently they started something, then Marcy tried to move away. He tripped her, and she hit her head on the rocks. Anyway, Sam proposed that we Leap... Bingo back into himself the night of the murder, and keep Chip away from Marcy that night." He smiled again. "It worked. The murder never happened, Lisa wasn't killed in the accident, thank God... and I didn't die in the gas chamber."
"Good. Actually, I was rather hoping this would bring Samuel back." He smiled. "Although I'm glad you're here. I probably would have convinced him that his idea wouldn't work. I made a lousy Observer. And he's got a better friend in you."
Al shook his head. "Don't shortchange yourself. You were ready to sacrifice the life you knew for him. I'm just glad you ended up here." He extended his hand.
St. John took it. "I am, too, Albert. I am, too."