A BOY'S BEST FRIEND IS HIS HOLOGRAM

by

Jane A. Leavell

CHAPTER ONE

"Dr. Beckett, are you listening to me?"

"Hmm?" Sam gave himself a quick shake, as if throwing off something unpleasant, and then flashed his most ingratiating smile. "I always listen to you, Verbena."

Dr. Verbena Beeks gazed back, unsmiling. The director of Project Quantum Leap was a likeable man, and that aw-shucks Hoosier charm usually got him what he wanted, but it was her job to see through the naive facade to the very clever manipulator she believed lay underneath. She was probably the only person in the Project who felt that way.

Sam's smile withered. Avoiding her steady gaze, he mumbled, "I just had a funny feeling all of a sudden. Like everything had changed."

"Nothing has changed. Wishing doesn't make unpleasant situations disappear, and what we have here is a very unpleasant situation."

"'Bena, I'm telling you, you're wrong. I love Donna. You know that."

"Your love for your wife isn't the issue here." She kept her voice level. "My job is."

"Your job is to help deal with whoever ends up in the Waiting Room, and you do that very well. Nobody has ever complained. You can expect a glowing evaluation from me when your review date comes around, just like always."

Verbena squared the papers on her desk. Interesting response; given her experience with Sam, that should be considered a veiled threat. "But part of my job is also to keep a comfortable emotional balance in my co-workers, because this is quite a stressful job. I can't do that when the head of this Project makes blatant sexual come-ons to his partner's woman."

"That's absurd." This time Sam met her gaze, innocence beaming from every pore. "In the first place, Tina isn't 'Al's woman,' she's just one in a series of sexual conquests. And in the second place, I'm not putting any moves on her. She's not my type. You know that. You did a complete psych work-up on all of us, right at the start."

(A hit. A very palpable hit. Sam has no patience with what he considers 'airheads,' and not many people earn his respect, given how high his I.Q. is.) She tapped the papers on her desk with one forefinger. (But Tina is much more intelligent than she acts, and undeniably attractive, and with Albert not here to object, she's available--)

Still wearing that put-upon air of innocence, Sam said, humoring her, "If it worries you this much, I'll promise not to eat lunch with her any more. Or dinner, when work runs overtime. Deal?"

"It would also be a good idea not to hold any more 'work conferences' behind closed doors."

Was it her imagination, or did the good-ole-boy-next-door expression briefly flicker into something else as he stood up?

"Fine. Now I have to go check in on Al before he gets himself in over his head again. This time, all he has to do is housetrain a dog, but with Al, you never know."

"Is he drinking again?"

A half-shrug. "Sometimes the stress gets to him." He gave her that blinding smile again, the one she very much wanted to respond to. "If I get the modifications to the neural link completed, you can come in the Imaging Chamber and do some rehab work with him. That's what I was working on with Tina."

"I'm sure Dr. Gooshman will be a big help on that aspect."

Sam sighed. "Right. If I can get him to use some mouthwash before we start leaning over diagrams together. Do me a favor, have Ziggy fire up the I.C. so it's ready when I get there, okay?"

He didn't wait for an answer. Reaching for the phone unit, Verbena had to restrain an echo of his sigh. Was Dr. Sam Beckett, Nobel Prize winner and holder of 10 degrees, as amiable as he seemed, or could he add Academy Award calibre acting to his list of talents? No one else at Quantum Leap seemed to feel manipulated, and there was no proof...but she had always wondered about the way Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci ended up in the Accelerator Chamber, and how things might have been different if someone else had gotten trapped in that first Leap into the past.

Al had a well-documented reckless tendency to engage in daredevil feats after a few drinks, and he had been as eager as Sam to get the Project funding continued. Sam had supposedly been alone in the hotel, going over his notes for the summation to the Senate committee, when Al, quite drunk, returned to the Project and Leaped. But Al had a hefty ego, and was usually confident in his ability to wheel and deal his way to success; it was unlike him to panic and enter the Accelerator before it had been tested. And he had been sober for nearly a year, absorbed by the challenges offered to him by PQL. Did someone else, someone he trusted, deliberately get him drunk and convince him to take that fateful Leap?

There was, of course, no way to know. Leaping had given Al, the only witness, partial amnesia. His Leap had proven that, although the Project had flaws, it was possible to visit the past...just not to return. Not yet.

"Ziggy, Dr. Beckett is about to revew his link with Admiral Calavicci. Make sure the I.C. is on line."

The computer response was unusually slow. "Excuse me. Dr. Beckett is here? At the Project?"

"Yes, of course, and he'll be at the Imaging Chamber in about three minutes. He doesn't want to be kept waiting."

"The Admiral has Leaped? And Dr. Beckett is his holographic Observer?"

She was in no mood for one of the computer's skewed attempts at humor. "Exactly the way it's been every day for the past five years."

"Has it?" Ziggy hummed, the faint hypersonic sound the computer made when trying to access a particularly large databank, then said more formally, "Activating the Imaging Chamber now."

Verbena hung up the phone and gazed at the papers on her desk. It might be an interesting idea to have Ziggy project the theoretical ramifications of an alternate Leap, with someone other than Albert as the victim--something to suggest to Donna during tomorrow's session.

But for now, Dr. Beeks was calling it a day.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

When Sam Beckett, timeline fixer-upper, got the stubborn Rotweiler house-trained, thus guaranteeing it would still be a family pet the night a drug addict broke in and originally killed the occupants, he Leaped out. That was a relief. He usually spent time Somewhere Else, in some sort of Limbo, between Leaps, entering another life anywhere from twenty-four hours to two weeks later. No one knew where Sam went, but he seemed rested when his aura plopped down in a new life somewhere, so they didn't feel guilty about rejoicing. Even though this particular Leap had been an easy one, Sam's Project Observer and Project crew welcomed the break. During a Leap, they were often on duty around the clock; the break between Leaps let them get some sleep, visit their families, grab a quick vacation in Las Vegas or Taos or Albuquerque, and generally live like human beings.

Unfortunately, in Albert Calavicci's case, most of that break time would be spent in shuffling papers. With the Project Director bouncing around in time, he was left in charge, and while they had a fabulous support staff, there were always major decisions, signatures, and political maneuvers that could only be handled by one of the Big Cheeses. Leaping left Sam's memory full of more holes than a wheel of Swiss Cheese, so Al ended up being nibbled on by every rat involved in the government funding, when he would much rather be nibbled on by that luscious redhead in the local production of Oklahoma.

Whenever Sam got too tense on a Leap, overwhelmed by that Boy Scout urge to save mankind no matter what the cost, Al liked to tease him with outrageous stories about his amatory adventures. These days, thanks to the Project, the stories owed more to his own imagination than to reality. Opening the Imaging Chamber door, Al sighed. Maybe, inbetween fending off Weitzman's attempts to take over Project Quantum Leap again and balancing the Project budget, he'd get an hour or two to weave a story about playing with a Navajo princess's tom-toms. That should provoke an outraged bleat or two out of Sam.

Smirking at the image that conjured up, Al walked down the short ramp to the Control Room, and paused. (That's funny. Why am I in uniform? It scares Sam when I show up in uniform. Wasn't I in civvies before? That gold lame flight jacket?) A new puzzle confused him. (Who's Sam?)

That conjured up a hazy memory of a blonde witch wearing nothing but a sweet smile, but Al knew that couldn't be right. Warm hazel eyes and a smile every bit as sweet as Samantha's but more masculine painted over the first face, and he relaxed. (Sam Beckett, Cosmic Crusader. How could I forget Sam?)

A moment's thought didn't clear that mystery up, and the crew were starting to look at him funny, so Al stepped off the ramp. That seemed to be some sort of signal, because a voice rang out, "Admiral on deck!" and suddenly everyone was at attention, firing salutes at him. Al returned a few. Why was everyone in uniform? Didn't they use to wear lab coats? There was this curvaceous blonde in lots of makeup, and she used to sneak into the Imaging Chamber with him to prove she wasn't wearing anything but a tattoo underneath, but she wasn't one of the crew saluting him. What was her name, anyway?

A crewcut, tanned man in a Naval Commander's uniform, clutching a clipboard stuffed with papers to his chest as if it were a life ring, snapped to attention in front of him. "Admiral, the Directors have called a meeting."

Al squinted. "Who?"

"Dr. Fuller, Mr. St. John, and General Ross. I've re-scheduled your post-Leap debriefing for eleven to allow time for this unscheduled conference. If that's all right with you."

"Fine, fine." Al scowled at the tall, slender Hispanic man in an Army lieutenant's uniform, shutting down a computer console. "Didn't there used to be a short, dumpy guy with red hair there? Always had food stuck in his mustache? Goofy or Gooey or something like that?"

"Lt. Guttierez has been there since the first Leap, Admiral."

"He has? Huh. Funny." The Army officer still didn't look right to him. "Did he use to wear a white lab coat?"

"No. All members of the team adhere strictly to clothing regulations."

"Oh." Al switched his gaze to his own torso, which looked much flashier when clad in a modified red zoot suit. Workday uniforms--even dress versions of workday uniforms--were boring. "Too bad."

"Shall I notify General Ross that you're on your way?"

"Sure. You do that, Commander."

Still feeling like the tail-end of a night-long party, only without memories of a fun time to justify the wooziness, Al wandered out of the Control Room, hoping the conference room was where he remembered it. One thing was becoming frighteningly clear: things had gone ka-ka around here. Big time.

There were other times when he stepped out of the Imaging Chamber with one set of memories, only to find everyone else remembered a different reality. Once he emerged clearly recalling a sad visit to The Wall with Sam to look for Tom Beckett's name, only to find a message on his desk from that same Tom, very much alive and pissed off because his baby brother never returned his calls. Another time he found Sam's ex-fiancee, the woman who stood Sam up at the altar, was now Sam's wife and part of the Project. He even remembered being best man at their wedding, just as he remembered consoling Sam when she never bothered to show up for the wedding that didn't take place, except that it did. That was enough to give a man a split personality, but the real doozy was when Sammy Jo Fuller, the whiz kid scientist just twelve years younger than Sam, turned out to be Sam's illegitimate daughter, sired by him in someone else's body during a Leap into the past. That one still gave him the heebie-jeebies. Now when he came out, he worried that he'd be confronted by a covey of his own previously nonexistent children, or a new wife or two. After five wives, he'd lost his taste for matrimony.

Still, in all those cases, he had been part of the actual Leap, had watched as Sam changed someone's personal history to "fix" some flaw in their lives. He knew why he had two conflicting memories to sort out. What had Sam done this time that was so major his partner and best friend actually forgot he existed? Granted, it was only a momentary blip, but this new Project seemed to be here to stay, and he wasn't sure he liked it.

Cautiously, he edged into the conference room. The other three 'Directors' were indeed there waiting. At least he knew he was their equal, not a subordinate, because they were sitting at a round table, with an empty chair waiting for him.

"Good morning, Admiral," St. John said in that prissy British accent. "I trust it was a successful Leap?"

"I hope so," Al said uncertainly, easing into the empty seat.

St. John, despite his rise in the world from alternate Project Observer to Co-Director, looked the same: same greying well-groomed hair, same placid brown eyes, still imperially slim in his impeccable three-piece suit, all anal-retentive and proud of it. Sammy Jo, with reading glasses on the end of her nose as she scanned a handheld computer, was as beautiful as ever, still with no wedding band or engagement ring on her finger, which remained a mystery to Al. Were all the men in America blind, or what? Of course, it could be that she was just holding out for someone worthy of her, and there weren't many people who combined great looks with a super-genius I.Q., other than her father, and she couldn't marry him.

They way Al remembered it, they had hired Sammy Jo strictly on her qualifications, though it helped that she had a quiet, sweet disposition, and she had been a major force in cobbling together retrieval systems designed to haul Sam back from his string of Leaps. Sam had spent a lot of time working with her before his first Leap, taking her under his wing like a proud big brother, but nobody suspected they were father and daughter, least of all Sammy Jo. When Al found out, during a Leap, it damn near gave him a heart attack. Then he spent the whole night with Verbena Beeks, the Project Psychologist, trying to decide whether or not to tell anybody else.

(But that's Sam's job. When he comes back, if he remembers, which he probably won't, he can tell her himself. I sure as hell couldn't hurt Donna any more than she's already been hurt. Hasn't seen her hubby in five years, except for one overnight quickie, and I'm gonna tell her he screwed some other woman and gave her a super baby? Not likely.) Another worrisome thought struck him. (Where's Donna, anyway? Did whatever changed the Project zap her out of Sam's life again?)

"...lagging behind," General Ross was saying. Startled, Al forced himself to look alert, as if he had been paying attention all along. "It's urgent that we catch up, before it's too late."

"Ziggy has produced projections that suggest they will have the capability to erase our Project from the timeline within 3.4 years." St. John looked disapproving. "I find it impossible to imagine, but we do need to take Ziggy's warning seriously."

"It's his fault," Sammy Jo said. Her knuckles whitened around the laser pen and microcomputer that kept her linked to the main computer banks. "We have to stop him."

The general cleared his throat. "I said from the first that this Project came under the Defense Department's mandate, but the rest of you refused to face facts. You wasted time with your namby-pamby moral quibbles, observing events but refusing to change them, while they forged ahead."

"We have a Leap lag?" Al asked, interested.

"There's no point in recriminations," St. John said firmly. "We must work as a team to make up for lost time. At our last meeting, you recall, we began reviewing possible options."

Sammy Jo's voice cut him off. "The only option we have is to stop Samuel Beckett."

"And how do you propose we do that?"

The glare she gave Ross could have burned a hole through one of NASA's rockets. "You're a military man. You understand the use of force better than anyone here."

"Sam Beckett?" Al heard his normally raspy voice actually squeak. "You're talking about killing Sam Beckett?"

She met his gaze unblinkingly. "It's no more than he and the rest of the Lothos Project intend for us."

"But he's--"

"He's what, Admiral? My 'father'?" Her humorless smile left him gaping like a goldfish in a bowl that was too small for it. "The act of rutting with a woman doesn't constitute fatherhood in my book."

"Familial considerations aside," St. John said loudly, "there are logistics to be considered. If we are to attempt to change the past that drastically--"

"Excuse me." Al lunged out of his seat, nearly knocking the table over. "I--uh--I have to go."

St. John lifted an eyebrow. "Go, Admiral?"

"Yes." He gestured vaguely. "You know. Go. Uh, nature call."

St. John was exasperated. "Time is of the essence, Admiral."

"Believe me, I know. Sorry. It's, um, kind of urgent."

Before anyone could stop him, Al bolted for the door. St. John was a pussy, and he could probably handle Sammy Jo--she probably didn't study martial arts with Sam in this world--but the General was a bulldozer in a uniform, so he didn't give Ross a chance to catch up. He had an office on this floor. Well, he did in most other timelines he'd lived through, although one time he absentmindedly walked in after a Leap only to realize it had become a ladies' restroom.

"I'm babbling," he announced to the empty hallway. "I'm not even talking, and I'm babbling." He fumbled in his trouser pocket for the handlink and tried to punch in a command as he ran, but his hands were too shaky. "Jeez Louise and Sister Selma!"

There was no plaque of a figure in skirts on the door to what should be his office, so he slapped his right hand on the wall-plate. It glowed a sea green, accepted his palm print, and electronically opened the door. Good. Ziggy, the Project computer, was built into most of the ten floors of this installation, and had speakers on every floor, but for this he needed privacy.

As soon as the doors whispered shut behind him, Al lifted his face to the ceiling and howled, "Ziggy!" Nothing happened. Oh, yeah, the privacy seal that kept Ziggy from spying on intimate moments. He flipped a toggle on the computer link built into his desk, and tried again. "ZIGGY!"

"You don't need to shout," a silky feminine voice chided. It seemed to emerge in stereo from all four walls. "I possess highly refined audio receptors. I can even hear you panting, which is unusual, since you don't have a woman with you."

"I need help."

"Perhaps you should speak to a psychologist. Emotional and romantic problems are outside my specific work parameters."

Al collapsed into the leather executive chair behind the desk and began rubbing the back of his neck. "This isn't funny, Ziggy."

"Well, it certainly took you long enough to come to me. It should have been obvious even to you that--"

"--things have gone ka-ka. Tell me about it." He studied his office broodingly. It didn't look right. "All the pictures of Sam are gone."

"Not quite. There is one in your lavatory unit. I believe you use it for target practice."

"Instead of me and Sam running the Project, I've got three other partners, and they're all out to kill Sam."

"Dr. Fuller's attitude is understandable. After all, Dr. Beckett did rape her mother."

"He did not! He loved that woman! It's not his fault he doesn't remember Donna, anyway. She told me not to tell him they were married, once he forgot."

"Donna Alissi is not married to Dr. Beckett in the current timeline. The Samuel Beckett who works for the Lothos Project is a ruthless, conniving scientist who reportedly murdered potential competitors in past Leaps." The disembodied voice hesitated. "I feel guilty saying this about the man who is technically my father, but it's true. Here."

"It's not true! Sam Beckett is the kindest, gentlest man I know!"

"Not in the present reality. In previous Leaps, you two have produced momentary time line aberrations, but none so dramatic as this. No one here remembers that original Samuel Beckett but you and me. My own data banks may be experiencing some data loss with each passing moment. Very soon, even you and I may have forgotten that Time ever ran another way."

There was no one to look at when he talked to Ziggy, so he hollered at the ceiling. "How the hell could housebreaking a damn mutt turn Sam into a rapist?"

The feminine voice was icy. "There is no need for profanity. I'm not the one responsible, you know."

"I'm sorry," he muttered, and then was embarrassed to be apologizing to a machine. "But this is crazy, okay? When Sam keeps somebody from getting killed or married or something, yeah, you can figure there'll be changes. But all he did was housebreak a stupid dog."

"I don't think Dr. Beckett's last Leap has anything to do with this time-shift."

"Then what happened?" He felt his face muscles go slack. "Oh, no. The evil Leaper?"

"The Lothos Project," Ziggy confirmed.

"Alia reformed."

"Zoe did not."

"Zoe? Her Observer? Oh, boy." It felt like a snake was slithering up his spine. "What did they change?"

The computer said grudgingly, "I'm not certain." Ziggy always hated admitting she was less than perfect. "Data suggests he underwent a traumatic experience the summer he was ten. He became a behavior problem in school, and was implicated in the suicide of his rival for Class Valedictorian his senior year in high--"

"That's the best you can do?"

"It's more information than you've been able to figure out on your own so far. If you don't want my help, I'll just turn off my speaker and go back to reading the contents of the library in Salt Lake City."

"I want all the help I can get."

"Hmph." Not many computers could sniff, and certainly not with so much feeling. "You certainly need it."

Ignoring insults from uppity computers was a long-standing habit that not even growing amnesia could alter. "If Sam's not Leaping for us, for Quantum Leap, who was I Observing when this mess started?"

"No one. Albert Calavicci is the Leaper for this Project. Edward St. John is your Observer."

"Uh-uh. No way. They could never synch our brainwaves. Not in a million years."

"It isn't easy," Ziggy admitted, reviewing her data banks.

"Besides, I stepped out of the Imaging Chamber, not the Accelerator or the Waiting Room." Or did he? Maybe they switched positions, just like his office and the ladies' room did. Sheesh. This was giving him a killer headache. "Hey, how come nobody seemed surprised that I made it back? If Sam came back, there'd be balloons and whistles and the whole nine yards."

"The anomalies that interfered in our Dr. Beckett's return don't seem to exist here."

Al sat up, headache forgotten. "That means I can leap back to 1962--"

"1963."

"--and try to stop whatever they did to screw up Sam's life."

"Your Co-Directors will never approve such a move. Unlike us, they remember only this timeline, and are comfortable with it."

"Who needs approval? Between us, you and me can run every station in the Control Room. I helped build it."

"This is not going to be easy sailing, Admiral. The Accelerator is set to the brain waves of the Al Calavicci who belongs in this time, and your pattern doesn't match his yet."

Al got up and started pacing, wishing he had a cigar. "The longer I live here, the sooner I'll turn into him. I've already forgotten Goopy."

"Goopy?"

"Dumpy guy with bad breath. He stole my girlfriend, What's-Her-Name, the one with all the curves. Oh, forget it. The point is, if I don't do something now, I'll forget that I even need to. I won't remember that Sam Beckett is my best friend and needs my help."

"There is only a 51.4% chance that you'll retain enough of your memories to make a difference. If you'll remember, my creator lost most of his memories on his first Leap, and unlike him, you have no Observer to help you."

"You got a better idea?" Al challenged.

There was a brief silence. "I'm uncomfortable with the present reality."

"All right, then. You figure out the right settings. Get me as close to Sam as you can, and I'll take care of the rest."

"How?"

He shrugged. "I'll improvise."

"We don't even know what happened."

"It'd have to be something really big to turn Saint Sam into a mad rapist. Whatever it is, it won't be easy to miss noticing it." Al stood up, then, regretfully, put the hand-link to Ziggy on the desk. Nothing material would accompany his persona on a Leap into someone else's neural net, so he would have no way to communicate with his only ally. It was going to be mighty lonely out there. "I'm on my way."

That wasn't strictly true. After he switched off the privacy toggle, Al paused, studying the office. How could a professional Observer, who got a lot of jollies out of getting sneaky peaks into other people's lives, pass up the chance to spy on himself?

This office was his, yet it wasn't. There were no mechanical gadgets to tinker with when he was bored. There were no pictures of him and Sam accepting awards after Starbright, or making silly faces at the camera, or of Sam snoozing over a keyboard, or Sam with his brother Tom. The only personal picture stood on his desk, a shot of him hugging Sammy Jo Fuller with one hand and waving a lit handlink with the other. There were souvenirs from his days at NASA, including the huge picture of Earth taken from the Moon, but basically the room was impersonal. Just another military barracks unit that might be abandoned for a new post tomorrow, without regrets. Did this Al keep porno animation on his P.C.? Maybe not; with no prudish partner to shock, what would be the point?

If he started pulling open desk drawers to snoop, he'd end up stuck here forever, and a world without the Eternal Boy Scout at his side, playing the Kemo Sabe to his Tonto, didn't deserve him. Al turned out the lights and left.

Was more of his memory flaking away right now, like bits of dandruff? He almost panicked when he couldn't remember his second wife's name, but then he remembered that he always forgot it on purpose, because he really loathed Number Two. Chances were he wouldn't even notice if he'd forgotten somebody or something else.

Giving up on a memory search, Al distracted himself from what felt like dolphins performing in his belly by concentrating on his role as The Admiral. Even after a lifetime as a Naval officer, through war and peace and space, it always felt like a role to him, like he was still a scrawny little runt in summer stock, playacting at being an officer and a gentleman. After all that time hiding behind the uniform, he had the act down pat. Kind of like Method acting--he made himself feel like an Admiral, so everybody reacted to him like he was one. Which, of course, he was, hard though it was to believe.

By the time the electronic doors to the Control Room whooshed open, he knew for a fact that nobody would dare argue with the crusty, authoritarian, all-regulation Old Man. It helped that these folks were all military already; the eccentrics in the real Project Quantum Leap would be more likely to ask questions and cite union rules, but people in uniform were conditioned to take orders from people with more braid.

Only two people were lingering in the Control Room, which made sense. With the Project's Leaper home, everyone got to kick back and relax. These two diehards were the only ones fussing over the equipment. When he cleared his throat, the brownette woman in thick glasses glanced up, turned pale, and snapped to attention, in the process knocking over a pulse communication fine gauge. When she scrabbled with one hand, trying to catch it, she smacked her hand against the pulse counter. It took all he had not to wince.

"At ease."

That order was Lt. Gutierrez's first clue there was an officer present, so it was his turn to spin around and salute, nearly clunking himself in the forehead with a CD. "Admiral Calavicci!"

"That's right." Gutierrez looked puzzled. Even at ease, he looked like a G.I. Joe doll, plastic and stiff. Probably didn't have a sense of humor because it wasn't issued to him with the uniform. "You're wanted in the conference room. Both of you."

"We haven't finished shutting down for the night."

Al narrowed his eyes, imagining they were lasers that could slice the insolent pup into hot dogs. From the way the lieutenant swallowed, he could feel the heat. In a very soft voice, Al asked, "Are you going to disobey a direct order from a superior officer?"

"I'm on my way, Admiral!" the woman squeaked, darting toward the exit. He could only hope the doors would slide apart before she ran into them headfirst.

Gutierrez's agonized gaze slipped back toward his computer terminal. Obviously a man who loved his work. "I'll take care of the shutdown, Lieutenant."

"You, sir?"

Al took a step closer, lowering his eyebrows. Even though the Hispanic was nearly a foot taller than Al, he reacted like a minnow seeing an approaching shark. "Do you doubt my ability to handle the equipment I helped create, Lieutenant?"

"No! Thank you, Admiral!"

"Double-time it, Gutierrez. The General won't like it if you're late."

Smug, Al watched the younger man flee, then secured the doors. "Lock down, Ziggy. And fire up the Accelerator."

"Teach your grandmother to suck eggs," the computer advised.

"You're too young to be Nana Calavicci. More like a nephew who had a sex change."

Lights flickered around the room. "Cars, ships, planes, rockets--they're traditionally referred to as female. Just because I decided to apply this rule to myself--"

"Maybe you are a 'she.' You run your mouth all the time just like one."

"Sexist pig," Ziggy observed. "Is the input channel open? I'm getting a negative reading."

Al removed some CDs from the reader. "Looks like Gutierrez was going to run some new programs."

"He likes to play with me on his off hours." A pause. "Some of his input is...kinky."

"Why don't you turn him in?"

"Oh, I don't mind." She sounded surprised that he'd even suggested it. "The Accelerator will be ready in three point seven minutes, Admiral. Unless you've changed your mind?"

"No, I haven't changed my mind. I have to help--help--" For a moment it was like the time he and his partner simo-leaped, and he found himself in an old-time Army uniform, unable to remember his own name. "--Sam Malone?"

"Sam Beckett."

"That's what I meant," he snapped. "Uh...is he a bartender?"

"He's your partner. He created me."

"Did he write plays, too?"

The computerized voice sounded alarmed. "No. Admiral--"

"Right. Better hurry up, Ziggy. I think I'm forgetting again."

"Shouldn't you put on a Fermi suit?"

"No time." Stepping into the Accelerator, Al closed his eyes, and pretended he was in the capsule about to launch to the moon. That turned out okay; this would, too. He'd trained hard for this moment, because he and Sam were going to flip a coin when the time came to make the first leap, and his double-headed quarter never lost, but Sam didn't wait for the coin toss, sticking Al with the job of Project Observer. Now he was going to put that training to use. "Do it, Ziggy!"

Distantly, Al heard her start a countdown, just like on that space launch. To remind himself of his purpose, he muttered a litany: "Sam. Sam. Sam. Sa--ah!"

A tornado sucked him up and spit him back out, atom by atom.

Then there was no Albert Calavicci left.


Fire up the Accelerator Chamber for Chapter 2.

Take me to Jane's Fan Fiction Page, because I've got a hot date with Al Calavicci in another story.

I want to Leapto the main page

Copyright 1999 - 2013, Jane A. Leavell. All rights reserved.