Intellectual Exercise

Quantum Leap/The Real Ghostbusters

Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing. Originally published in Our Favorite Things #25, by Elan Press.

Intellectual Exercise

Susan M. M.

Sam Beckett saw the familiar blue light, felt the familiar sensation of leaping, and found himself in a room that seemed half office, half lab. There were two sleeping men in the office with him. He looked down, and was surprised to see he was wearing some sort of khaki jumpsuit. So were the two sleeping men.

There was a half cup of coffee on the desk in front of him. He took a sip, then frowned. It was as cold as February. He pushed the cup away. A clock on the wall said it was 2:12. The room he was in had no windows, but he was willing to guess it was AM, not PM. Whomever he'd leapt into must have been pulling an all-nighter, or trying to. Sam remembered doing that when he was working on – on – . The memory slipped away through one of the holes in his Swiss cheese brain.

Sam stood up and stretched. It felt like whomever he'd leapt into had been sprawled in one position too long. This body was stiff and sore. He glanced at the computer monitor on the table. A smile lit up his face. The monitor displayed an essay for a hypothetical physics problem: stipulating the existence of a parallel universe, it was an attempt to gain access to that universe. There were even schematics for a gateway to achieve that goal.

Sam doubted that's what the trio had worked themselves to exhaustion on. Probably this was just an intellectual exercise to limber up their brains, to break a mental logjam when they were stuck on their real problem. He'd done the same himself, playing with syllogisms, working out calculations with imaginary numbers, playing with theoretical physics. Sam grinned. One such occasion at MIT had been directly responsible for Project Quantum Leap. He and – he paused, unable to remember his colleague's name. He could picture her face; he could hear her voice. But he couldn't remember her name. Dawn? Denise? Danielle? Nor could he remember what problem they'd been stuck on. But he could remember they'd been up much too late, that they'd taken a pizza break, and gone from discussing bad SF movies to various time travel novels, comparing fictional theories and methods of time travel, and then on to how they would handle time travel if they were developing a temporal transportation system. Temporal transportation, he remembered, was quite a tongue-twister at oh-my-God in the morning. Why could he remember that when he couldn't remember his lab partner's name? And why did it feel so important to him that he ought to remember her?

Sam took a closer look at the words on the screen. One eyebrow rose, impressed. Whoever he and his sleeping companions were, they'd put quite a bit of work into this hypothetical exercise. The monograph drew on physics, philosophy, and fantasy equally, citing not only physicists Erwin Schrödinger and Richard Feynman, but Stan Lee and Steve Ditko of Marvel Comics, as well as 17th century British theologian Joseph Glanvill, and a medieval mideastern philosopher, Abdul al-Hazred. Sam shivered when he read that last name, although he didn't know why. The phrase 'the mad Arab' rushed into, through, and out of one of the holes in his Swiss cheese memory.

Sam glanced at the monitor again. He used to have quite a bit of fun with hypothetical physics experiments. And with all the leaping he'd been doing lately, solving other people's problems, thrust into personal dilemmas and moral quagmires with too little data to choose the right path … an intellectual exercise was just what he needed to give himself a mini mental vacation. He sat down at the computer to see if he could add anything to the parallel dimension question.


"Good grief! Don't tell me you guys stayed up all night working on this Netherworld business." Winston Zeddemore stood at the open doorway of the lab, staring in dismay at his sleeping colleagues.

Egon Spengler yawned himself awake. "Such had not been our intention."

Ray Stantz rubbed his eyes. "How far did we get before we zonked out?"

"Coffee," Peter Venkman muttered. "I need an IV of coffee."

"Ray, come look at this," Egon invited. The tall blond was leaning over the computer, one eyebrow arched high.

"What is it?" Ray hurried to the computer.

"The design and schematics for a gateway to the Netherworld," Egon said slowly, "although about a third of the way through the monograph the theory behind the design changes completely."

"Huh? I thought the theory behind the gate was the only thing the three of us could agree on." Peter still looked half asleep. "You guys change your minds after I drifted off?"

Egon said nothing, merely raised his other eyebrow. He had developed their original theory; none of the others had more than vague notions, certainly not a fully developed alternate theory about the nature of the Netherworld. Nor would they have changed the theoretical basis of the project without discussing it with him first. He scrolled down, reading quickly. Even if he had suddenly taken to somnambulism, he could not have written this. Not only was this not his theory, it wasn't his writing. Although perfectly literate, it lacked the sesquipedalianism that marked his writing style. And the spelling was too good for Peter to have written it. Although Peter was familiar with the rules of English orthography, he was a terrible typist. And Ray's brain and fingers never went at the same speed, so he tended toward a lot of sentence fragments and run-on sentences. Ray constantly interrupted himself when he typed as one new idea replaced the previous three.

"Who finished this?" Egon asked slowly.

"Huh? I thought you did," Peter said. He pointed to the diagrams for the gate device. "Or Ray. I could never design anything like that."

Ray looked at Egon. "I thought you did."

"I was out with Taneisha," Winston pointed out.

The Ghostbusters looked at the computer, then at each other.

"Has anyone been doing experiments with automatic writing?" Peter asked.