Title: The Uncertainty Principle
Summary: Sam may or may not be in the future, he may or may not look like himself, and he may or may not be able to get back. Quantum Leap/Enterprise crossover.
Disclaim: Hey, They cast him, it's all Their fault. Otherwise; Bellisario, Braga, Berman, Blah.
Setting: Sometime really early in Season 1 for 'Enterprise', sometime in S5 ( before 'Mirror Image' - Tina's still around) for Sam.
Etc: Couldn't find any QL/ENT, so I had to make me own. Yes, it's kinda cheezy - sorry about that, tis the nature of crossover. This is also the longest fic I've ever written and the only one with any real semblance of a 'plot'. So go gentle.
- - - - - -
Blue. Blue, some part of Sam still remembers, is associated with time travel for some reason, some fluke of physics. The fact waves at him from a stray fragment of his own theory that exists in his memory now as nothing more than a vague sense of...blue.
Blue light floods the space around him and he squeezes his eyes closed in an effort to keep some of it out. There's a sound that isn't quite white noise, but might be, eventually, if he could listen to it for long enough. It nags at him, as though it's trying to tell him something important.
But the light and the sound fade almost as soon as they have begun, and Sam is somewhere else...
He heard a dog bark.
Sam felt a pressure at his knees and looked down to see a beagle on its hind legs, leaning against him and yelping enthusiastically. He smiled - a nice, safe, domesticated Leap if the dog was anything to go by. He crouched down and let the dog lick at his face. "Hello there..." He shifted the dog slightly, "...boy."
Well, at least somebody's pleased to see me. He checked the dog for a collar and found none, just short well-groomed hairs. "Your owner should be more careful, wouldn't want you getting taken to the pound." He rubbed the dog's back as he looked around the room. Dark walls...looked like some kind of metal...spartan...a basketball in a railed storage space...window...stars, so it was night...bed...mirror... He stared at the wall-mounted sheet of silver-backed glass. He stood up and took a deep breath. Time to see who he was this time. The dog followed him, its tail wagging excitedly.
He almost didn't recognise the face in the mirror. How long had it been? Five years? Six? More than six? He reached out and ran his fingers over the image in the glass. His own eyes looked back at him, squinting in confusion. Sam Beckett, meet...Sam Beckett.
"The guy in the Waiting Room," says Gooshie, breathlessly, "It isn't Sam."
Al looks at him and wonders why the man before him has run all the way to bring him this information. "It's never Sam, Gooshie, that's the whole point."
"Yeah, but, he looks like Sam."
"Have you spoken to him?" Al is suddenly ultra-alert, ready for action; the echoes of the military in him. He sets off down the corridor to the Waiting Room, Gooshie shambling along behind him.
"You told me never to talk to Visitors."
"OK, I just didn't expect you to actually listen to me."
Sam gazed at his reflection - his own reflection - for a full five minutes. "This can't be." He closed his eyes and counted to ten. When he opened them again he was still staring at himself. A little older, a few more lines, but unmistakeably his own face. He shook his head and glanced around the room again. My own future?
As he stared at the impossible reflection he found himself slipping into the internal monologue that had kept him something close to sane over the years of Leaping.
In all my years of being shunted back and forward through time, I've picked up a few snippets that I like to think of as the 'rules' of Leaping. Rule number one is that there is always, somewhere in any given situation, a wrong to be righted. Pretty close behind that in terms of reliability is that I can only Leap around between 1953 and 1995, between the day I was born and the day I stepped into the Accelerator. So being myself in the future - being anyone in the future - involves somebody, somewhere breaking one of the rules.
A thought struck him and he opened his mouth, examining his teeth in the mirror. He could remember a chipped tooth and a childhood extraction; I can't remember my mother's name but I can remember my dental history? Someone up there's making fun of me.
The chip was unchipped and the missing molar...wasn't missing. So I'm not me. Or he's not me. Or something.
Well, they say everyone has a double somewhere... He gazed into the mirror as he tried to puzzle things out. Good teeth and a dog. I can deal with good teeth and a dog. He realized that he was trying to commit the face that wasn't quite his to memory. Just in case.
He moved away from the mirror, eventually.
The man bleached white by the bright lights of the Waiting Room does indeed look like Sam. Al's heartrate quickens and he feels an absurd, impossible hope. He concentrates on making it go away. If Sam was back the Waiting Room would be empty. This may be a younger Sam or an older Sam or Sam from some parallel universe where he never he never leaped, but this is not, by any means, my Sam. An older Sam though...an older Sam who somehow managed to get back home. The idea is stirring, and he looks at the Visitor carefully. He realises that he is apprehensive.
The man looks up at Al through the haze of post-Leap trauma. His eyes meet Al's and a flicker of nothingness passes between them. No joy, no recognition, no confusion, nothing. Al blinks first. "Don't worry, you'll be out of here in no time," he says, and walks away from the man who is not Sam. They don't need to talk to him, Ziggy has all the records. He can stay here in the Waiting Room and then Sam can Leap and his doppelganger can be replaced by someone else. No need to talk to him. Leave well alone, thinks Al.
He leaves the Waiting Room with his shoulders slumped and his head dipped a little. He is lighting his first cigar of this Leap when Tina places a hand on his arm and tells him that they can't find Sam.
The lighter hits the ground with a dull thud.
Sam Beckett was not a man to over-react. Years - Too many years - of Leaping had taught him the value of observation and patience. And so while he could, indeed, go bounding out through the dull grey door into whatever madness lay beyond, he told himself that he wasn't going to. He would stay here, in this cell-like room (Was it, for that matter, a cell?) until Al showed up and gave him a concise and colloquial summary of the where, the when and the who. And maybe, he thought as he caught a glimpse of the impossible mirror from the corner of his eye, the what-the-hell.
Get his bearings, that was what he should do. He looked around the room for any helpful information and cursed neat people. I'm neat, protested a part of him that claimed not to be swiss-cheesed, and he wondered if it was true.
The clothes in the drawers were drab and functional. He glanced down and saw that he was wearing a t-shirt and trousers that looked like they belonged to a tracksuit. The fabrics in the clothes were soft like cotton but when he scrunched up a vest experimentally the creases didn't stay and he noticed that the light didn't seem to be reflecting the way it should. He wished he could remember more about optical physics. The seams on the clothes didn't quite seem... there. Man-made polymers, he decided for the materials. And pretty advanced ones. Someone's future...
The dog whined and Sam gave up his cursory inspection. The animal seemed to want something. He hoped it was house-trained.
House-trained. Walk the dog. Outside. Window.
He stood up and headed for the glass that separated him from the night. Take a look outside. Stars. He looked down a little. Stars. Further. Stars. Further still. Stars. Further down and he was staring at the sealed edges of the window frame. He pressed his hands against the glass. It felt cold. He pushed his fingers firmly onto it and dragged them down. The dog yelped at a high-pitched noise that Sam recognised as being emphatically not the sound of skin against glass. He gazed out at the endless, directionless, stars.
He looked down at the dog. "Your name isn't Toto by any chance, is it?"
Al sleeps, because he hasn't and he should. He suspects he'll get three hours at the most before another crisis happens, but still he sleeps. He sleeps and lets the day sink in and the worries accumulate. After a while the black oblivion flashes and fades up to white, like a scene-change in an art-house film. He is standing in the Accelerator Chamber, and while he knows that he wasn't there a moment ago, he also knows that he has been standing there forever.
He wears full Naval regalia, and he blends into the background, white cloth against white paint. A quantum chameleon which for some reason is funny and for some other, equally opaque reason, isn't. A medal falls from his chest and hits the ground in silence. He picks it up and rust rubs onto his fingers.
"Entropy," says Sam, and Al looks up into clear blue eyes that seem to chuckle in defiance of his solemn expression.
"Entropy?" Al keeps his voice casual; yeah, I know this, it's just slipped my mind for a moment.
"Entropy," says Sam, producing a sheet of paper which glows the whitest white, "Is the decay from order to chaos, occuring with the passing of time." He shows Al the sheet of paper, which is covered in a meaningless jumble that blurs before his eyes. Al blinks, and the paper is gone.
"Is this the part where you start talking about cheese?"
Sam smiles and starts clicking his fingers to mark the seconds. "You're very lucid today, Admiral."
Al nods towards the Accelerator. "You gonna Leap?"
Sam shrugs. "Probably. No point in building it otherwise, right?"
Another medal hits the floor. "Entropy, Al, no time like the present."
So Sam Leaps, and Al shuts his eyes against the glare, white light burning against his skin and turning it red.
He opens his eyes to a worried Tina.
"It's OK," he says, "Just had a nightmare that there was a monkey in the White House. Like, you know, Planet of the Apes?" He sighs. "Never mind."
He closes his eyes again, but this time he manages not to dream.
The thing about scientists, of course, is that they are fascinated. Sam had a vague memory of saying this once, or maybe hearing someone else say it. 'Fascinated' was the reason, ultimately, why Sam was here, years and miles from...wherever he was supposed to be. Arizona?
Science is the home of the fascinated, of people who touch things they probably shouldn't and take things apart to see how they work. Sam was born fascinated.
He was fascinated when he was twelve years old and stood in a field trying to pick out the constellations. He was fascinated when he found a book that named the stars and spent two days commiting it to memory. And he was fascinated now.
He was in space. He knew this with a stubborn certainty because the stars beyond this window didn't twinkle, and they seemed, very slightly, to be moving. He found himself looking for Orion. His eyes were wide, and they glittered in the starlight.
He remembered that the constellations were nothing more than a line of sight phenomenon, and felt a little stupid. But he chose three stars at random and named them for Orion's Belt. A bright star in the middle-distance became, arbitrarily, Alnilam, and a nearer, bluer star became Alnitak. The star that was not really Mintaka hung in space like a ruby on a black velvet cloth. It gleamed, and he felt a little more at home. Wherever 'home' was.
"We've found him."
Al leans against the door frame and rubs an hour of interrupted sleep from his eyes. "Where is he?"
Gooshie flushes a little, and glances down at the clean white floor. "Well, uh, we don't actually...know."
Al narrows his eyes, "You don't know? How can you not know?" Gooshie fumbles with his own sleeves. "Gooshie! Where is he?!"
"Ziggy has a fix on Doctor Beckett and she says she can get him in the Imaging Chamber, but she won't...uh...she won't tell us where he is."
"Won't tell us?" OK, Al, stop repeating everything he says. Calm blue ocean, calm blue...
"She shuts down all the interfaces when we try to get a look at the numbers. I think she's embarrassed. She says she needs some time to think."
"Hack into her memory or whatever it is they pay you guys to do."
Gooshie shrugs the shrug of the helpless. "We tried. She's changed the locks."
"She can do that?"
Al sighs. "Just get Sam for me, OK? Maybe he'll have something we can work with."
Sam looked up when he heard the Waiting Room door slide open. The dog yapped wildly and sniffed suspiciously at the holographic figure of Al.
"You're flickering," said Sam.
Al looked down pointlessly - as though he expected to see the effect himself. "Well, we've got a couple of possibilities for that. Probably the Leap's made your brainwaves go a little caca. Gooshie thinks it'll settle down." He paused, coughed nervously.
Sam looked at him significantly. "Isn't this weird?" He gestured towards himself. "Me looking like me, I mean. Also the stars."
"And I thought one Sam Beckett was bad enough..."
"Well, he's a little older than me..."
"His hair's younger."
Sam sighed at the hologram. "You always have to say something, don't you?"
Al shrugged, "Always do what you're good at. I do the one-liners, you do the... y'know... Lone Ranger thing. You're sensitive, embrace that."
"I'm in space, Al." Sam grinned like Tina discovering a new mall.
Al sighed inwardly as it finally hit him that Sam was in enthusiatic mode. "Let's not be too hasty now, Sam..."
"Hasty? Al, look out the window - I'm in space."
"Well, that's one possibility, yeah..."
Sam looked at him, tilted his head a little to one side. "One possibiity?"
"Ziggy says there's a six-" he smacked the handlink. It bleeped. "Sixty percent chance that all this isn't real."
"You know, all this space stuff. Sam, if you really were in space you'd have to be in the future, and you aren't. In the future."
"Sam, if you're in space why is there gravity, huh? Why is there a carpet? And why, and I really don't think I can stress this one too much, is there a dog sniffing at my shoes? Which, by the way, aren't really anywhere near this dog that doesn't exist."
"Al, how do we know what the future's gonna be like? How do we know this isn't the future?"
"Sam, you know damn well that you can't Leap into the future, and definately not far enough into the future for all this crap to be real."
"But we also thought that I couldn't go back before my own birth, or into the body of a chimp. Open-minded, Al, we have to be open-minded. That's the basic rule of science."
Al shook his head and stared at the handlink. "Well, the guy in the Waiting Room is called Jonathan Archer. Ziggy's being a little coy with us at the minute so we don't have any information on him other than what he's told us himself."
Al sighed and looked wearily at Sam. "He says that he's the Captain of a starship called the Enterprise and that he works for something called Starfleet, which I'm pretty sure is a Japanese cartoon series from the 1980s."
"What does Ziggy say?"
"Not much. I think she's having her time of the silicone month or whatever AI supercomputers get. Now, Doctor Beeks is in the Waiting Room with the wack-job," he caught Sam's look and replaced the word, "Visitor in question trying to figure out how sane he may or...may not be, so hopefully when I get back to you I'll have it all figured out. We'll figure out where you really are."
"You're seeing it too, Al."
"That's because I'm tied into your brainwaves, Sam. Scramble things up enough and I'll see anything. Ziggy thinks that you're...uhh...well, she thinks that maybe..." He tailed off.
"Well, she didn't put it so...nicely, but that's the general...idea. Don't take this the wrong way, Sam."
"The dog can see you, Al!"
"There is no dog, Sam!"
They stared at each other. Al cleared his throat. "So, I'll just...go and see what Doctor Beeks...I'll just..."
"You stay here, OK? Stay in this...room. OK?"
"With the dog."
"With the...dog. Yeah." Al pressed a button on the handlink and the door to the Imaging Chamber slid open, white light shimmering in the air. "Hang in there, Sam," he said quietly, and disappeared.
He is scared. Not Vietnam scared, or Cuba scared, this is the same fear he felt when Ziggy ran her first calculations on getting Sam back from his Leaps. He is 'zero point three percent probability' scared. Al closes his eyes for a moment, opens them, and lights another cigar.
"So...dog. Just you and me then, huh?" The dog looked at him. "I don't suppose dogs in the future can speak or anything like that?" The dog blinked. "Guess not." Sam sat down on the bed and leaned down to scratch the dog behind the ears.
"Did Al scare you? Yeah, you look scared." The dog leaned in against his leg, looked up with baleful eyes. "What do you want? Walkies? Food?" It barked. "Food? I'm supposed to stay here until Al gets back." The dog barked again. "Beside, it's not really my food to give you. It's...well, whoever owns you...his food." Sam stood up.
"Hi, I'm Al, sent to you by Rent-a-Scully." The dog looked blank. "What? Come on, if that piece of popular culture can survive my swiss-cheesed memory then I think it deserves a little respect." The bog barked. "Philistine."
Something bleeped and made Sam jump. He looked around the room, puzzled, but the dog trotted calmly over to the door and looked back up at him expectantly. "Well, you know this place better than I do, so..." To the right of the door was a small panel that, based on Sam's considerable experience with doors, opened this door. He stared at it. OK, if I'd designed this door, which button would be 'open'? He got it right first time, and smiled a self-satisfied grin.
"You look happy." The door had opened onto a narrow corridor with metal walls and ceiling lights. A blond man in a dark blue jumpsuit was leaning against the doorway.
"Still not sleeping, huh?" A Southern drawl, something far too everyday for the depths of space. Sam felt almost disappointed. He'd wanted to meet an alien, he realised, and everyone knew that aliens didn't have American accents. Presumably.
Sam felt the need to answer the man's concern. "I got a...couple of hours. So..."
The man nodded. "Damn, and there I was hoping you'd changed your mind about this."
"Uh...no. No, I'm still...enthusiastic." Sam did his best 'All-American enthusiasm' face. He was quite good at that, he felt.
"I didn't think we were going to be that casual about it."
Sam followed the man's gaze downwards. I should be wearing a uniform of some kind... "Yeah, I'll just go... you wait here."
Barely concealed amusement; "Aye, sir."
The door slid shut again. Sam exhaled and went to look for whatever he was supposed to be wearing.
There is a woman talking to him, quietly. Jon looks up and tries to focus his eyes. A hand touches his shoulder, "Easy, you'll be experiencing some disorientation from the Leap."
The voice continues. "I'm Verbena Beeks. I'm a doctor, I want to ask you a few questions."
"Someone already...there was..." His head hurt when he spoke. He winced.
"That was Admiral Calavicci. I'm very sorry about him. He's... been under a lot of stress lately." No, really, he's not usually like this...
"Where am I?"
"Where do you think you are?"
He looks around the room, white walls that seemed to glow, a sealed door.
"I don't know. I don't remember...was I injured? Am I in some kind of hospital?" Yes, that would make sense. The pain and the sterile-looking environment. He was sick or injured. Something like that.
"Can you tell me what year it is, Jonathan?"
"Um..." He frowns.
"That's OK. Give it a few minutes." Verbena looks at her wristwatch and then makes a note on her clipboard, an almost-illegible scrawl. Subject still disoriented. Unlikely at this stage to be deliberately withholding information. She tries another avenue. "Can you remember where you were born, any family members?"
His eyes move - up and to the right; trying to remember. "My father. He designed engines. He used to bring parts home to show me."
Verbena nods and notes this down too. She looks back up at her patient. "Automobile engines? Aircraft engines?"
A light seems to spark in his eyes. He moves a hand to imitate flight. "Warp engines."
"What's a warp engine, Jonathan?"
His eyes move again - up and to the left; lying. "I don't remember."
Authors Notes: So, umm, yeah, to be continued. Let me know if you think there's any point in finishing this, as I'm not entirely sure meself. Course, I might just finish it anyway, out of spite. But feedback is always nice. Hint, hint.