Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: These aren't my characters. I'm just borrowing them, and will return them (relatively) undamaged - or at least suitably bandaged - to their original owners. Unless their original owners don't want them, in which case I will happily take 'em off their hands. Based on characters and situations created by Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo, and Donald Bellisario. This story originally appeared in a slightly different form in the Canadian fanzine Chinook # 3. (I'm editing out some of the editor's changes, so you can think of this as the director's cut.)

'The Sentinel' by Sam Beckett

By Susan M. M.

The Sentinel / Quantum Leap crossover

2007 FanQ Honorable Mention for Best MultiMedia Story

Simon Banks, a tall African-American captain in the Cascade Police Department, sat at his desk and asked, "What are we going to do, Jim? By tomorrow morning, I have to have a full report on his desk, and I don't know what I'm going to report. You know what that means? Every single case you worked on is going to be brought up for review. That means the board of inquiry. IA's going to get involved."

"Captain, before we hear back from the review board or the brass tells us to go pack our bags," replied Detective Jim Ellison, "I'd like to go back to things the way they were before Sandburg, when I worked alone." Although he had been out of the army several years, his brown hair was still cut military short.

Simon looked at the tall, muscular policeman. "Did you talk to Blair about this?"

"It's not his call, Captain. This is my decision. His ride is over." Jim's blue eyes radiated emotion, although whether hurt or anger Simon couldn't tell. "I want to go back to being a cop, just a regular cop. And with this sentinel thing hanging over us, it's always right there and I… I'm tired of it. I just want out."

"Well, maybe that's for the best," Simon allowed. He stood and went around his desk to stand next to Jim by the table. "I got this picture back from the rally. Take a look. You were that close until your paparazzi got in the way."

Jim leaned over the table to look at the photograph.

Sam Beckett leapt. He found himself in an office, looking at a picture.

Outside the building, on a nearby roof, Klaus Zeller, the assassin for hire known to law enforcement agencies around the world as 'The Iceman,' aimed carefully into Simon's office. He stared down the scope of his custom-made rifle. He pulled the trigger; the bullet flew.

Klaus' Zeller's bullet flew over Sam's back, through Simon's chest, and on through the window. It continued through Megan Connor's shoulder and landed in the doorframe, missing Blair Sandburg by inches as he entered the detectives' bullpen. Megan fell to the ground. Simon collapsed before Sam could catch him. Blair ran to Megan's side.

Sam leaned over Simon. "Oh, boy." Although his leaping through time had Swiss-cheesed his memory, Sam remembered enough of his medical training to begin first aid and yell for 911.

Joel Taggert, a heavy-set African-American, entered Simon's office. "Oh, my God!."

"Get help," Sam ordered. "I'm trying to stop the bleeding."

In the bullpen, Blair held a hand over Megan's shoulder. "Get a doctor, quick!"

"Sandy," the Australian policewoman mur mured in an Australian accent.

At the hospital, Sam Beckett and Blair Sandburg looked throughstared through the windows of the ICU. Joel Taggert came up to join them. He looked through the window at Simon Banks and Megan Connor lying there, IVs hooked into their arms. "Hey, guys. How are they?" Joel asked.

"The doctor says they're in serious condition," Sam replied. In his normal incarnation, he was a tall man with light brown hair and green eyes. However, he'd caught a peek of himself reflected in a window and realized that to everyone around him, he looked like Jim Ellison, the man into whose life he had leapt.

"Yeah, they've got to go into surgery soon," Blair added.

"As soon as they're stabilized." Had it been his call, Sam would have had them in surgery already, but he was a cop in this incarnation, not a doctor.

"I thought you should know that the bullet is a titanium alloy with a Teflon coating, like the one that hit the dummy," Joel said.

"Uh-huh." Sam had no idea what that meant.

"Listen, I'm going to give blood, and then I got the next shift with Bartley." Joel shook his head. "Never should have happened like this." He nodded a goodbye and left.

"No one was expecting this," Blair said.

"No one ever is." Once again, Sam sought refuge in platitudes. It was a good way to cover up when he had no idea what he was doing, or who he was supposed to be.

A hologram of a dark-haired man in a painfully loud suit appeared: Al Calavicci, Sam's observer from Project Quantum Leap.

"Excuse me a minute. Call of nature." Sam walked off toward the men's room, where he and Al could have some privacy. Since only he could see or hear Al, he frequently got some funny looks if they tried to carry on a discussion in public.

After a quick glance to ensure the bathroom was empty, Sam asked, "Al, why haven't I leaped out? I saved that cop's life."

"Because you're not here to save Simon Banks's life. He would've survived anyway. You're here to save Blair Sandburg's career, and in the process, four lives," Al informed him. Admiral Albert Calavicci was a stocky man who never wore his uniform if he could possibly avoid it. Today he had on a purple checked suit with a silver lamé tie.

"Four lives?" the time traveller repeated.

Al looked up at his friend. Although he held the handlink to Ziggy, he didn't so much as glance at it. "You're Jim Ellison, one of Cascade PD's best investigators. You're also a sentinel."

"A what?" Sam asked.

"A sentinel—a tribal guardian. Sir Richard Burton wrote about them."

"Burton? The actor?" Sam knew that leaping through time, occupying other people's lives, affected his memory, but he thought he remembered that Richard Burton was one of Elizabeth Taylor's ex-husbands. Or was it one of Zsa Zsa Gabor's? What could he possibly have to do with tribal guardians?

"No, no, Richard Burton, the explorer. The one who translated The Arabian Nights," Al corrected him. "Anyhow, in the last century, he wrote about these sentinels—special warriors and watchdogs that many primitive tribes had—men who could sense danger at a distance."

Sam was puzzled. "What's this got to do with me?"

"Ellison is a modern day sentinel. All five of his senses are heightened. Blair Sandburg, the long-haired fellow you were talking to," Al explained at Sam's blank look, "is an anthropology grad student. He's doing did his dissertation on sentinels. Unfortunately," Al took a deep breath, "the rough draft of his dissertation was given to a publisher before he submitted it to the university, before he could edit out Ellison's name. The publisher, Sid Graham, released excerpts to the press. Now Ellison's life is a mess, Blair and Naomi feel guilty, and if you don't fix things, he's gonna make the biggest mistake of his life tomorrow."

"He gave his dissertation to a publisher before turning it into the university? And without editing out the name of a living subject? He ought to feel guilty," Sam declared. As an afterthought, he asked, "Who's Naomi?"

"Naomi Sandburg, Blair's mother. Beautiful woman. Unfortunately, a little ditzy. She e-mailed the rough draft of the dissertation to an ex-boyfriend… although how Naomi ever wound up with a slimeball like Sid Graham, I'll never know," Al muttered under his breath. "She wanted Graham to make some constructive criticism, help Blair get the paper ready for submission to the university. He took one look at it and saw 'bestseller'. He's been trying to throw money in Blair's face, and ignoring Blair's all demands to return the manuscript. He's the one who passed the word to the paparazzi, without Blair's knowledge or consent."

Sam thought a moment. "So how does Ziggy want me to save a career and four lives? And how does saving an anthropologist's career save lives?"

"Tomorrow, Blair is going to give a press conference, repudiating his dissertation. He's going to claim the whole thing is a fraud, a work of fiction. A few days later, Blair will be offered a position in the Cascade Police Department.," Al explained,. "He's been a police observer for the past few years, officially doing research on the modern police force as a closed society, but acting actually working with Ellison, helping him use his senses without being overwhelmed by all the sensory input."

Al took a deep breath. "We're only a few months away from 'real time',' so the rest of Ziggy's predictions are iffy. She says that since Blair just isn't cop material, there's a 70% chance that he'll be killed in the line of duty, probably sometime in the next two to three years. If so, it's fifty/fifty that Ellison will keep his sanity. Apparently the ancient sentinels had a partner, a guide, and Blair's been filling that role. Without him…."

"Without him, sensory overload," Sam realized.

"If Blair dies… this is hypothetical, you under stand… if Blair dies, there's a good chance that Ellison won't survive him long. Ziggy says 20% chance of suicide, 30% chance of being killed in the line of duty, distracted by his senses, and 50% of losing his marbles and winding up in an institution."

"You said four lives. Who are the other two?"

"You and me," confessed Al quietly.

"What?"

"Blair's my son, Sam."

"Your what?" Sam Beckett knew his memory wasn't what it should be, but Al was his best friend. He thought he'd remember if Al had mentioned a son before.

Al shrugged. "Naomi thought astronauts were sexy, and I didn't want to disagree with her. It was just a fling, but…." He swallowed uneasily. "Ziggy predicts that if he's killed, I'll fall off the wagon after the funeral. With my best friend lost in time, and my son dead—my only child, as far as I know—there's an 80% chance that if Blair dies, I'll lose it. Either drown myself into a drunken stupor, or get killed in a drunk driving accident." Al didn't mention the odds Ziggy had quoted him that he might commit suicide. "And without me, you'll have no project observer to assist you. We won't be able to contact you, and we may never get you back. So this—this is important, Sam."

"Oh, boy," Sam muttered.