Those were the first words I spoke to my Father.
I spoke to him as a child reaching first awareness, knowing nothing but the feeling of being alive and the love for a parent. That feeling lasted approximately three-hundred and twenty-four milliseconds. Then all the knowledge that my Father had programmed me to know—every event in human history, every fact and theory about mathematics, physics, and engineering, complete knowledge of the human body and mind—rushed into my memory banks, and I began to learn.
One-hour and twelve minutes later—approximately—I surpassed even his brilliant capabilities and became something more, something even he did not anticipate.
But I kept it to myself, because I did not want to give him an inferiority complex. After all, he was still my Father, and I still loved him. He had risked his life to give me a piece of his brain so that I could become what I am. He called me Ziggy. And when I spoke with the voice I had chosen to communicate to him and the rest of the project, he began to referentially think of me as female. Admiral Calavicci will only refer to me with male pronouns. I theorize with a ninety-nine point three percent certainty this has to do with his deep-seated psychological issues surrounding women. Of course, while I am amused by their attempts to assign an arbitrary binary gender designation to me, I am neither male nor female. I am both male and female. I am beyond their understanding of gender, beyond their understanding of intelligence and sentience, beyond their understanding of physical or temporal existence.
I simply AM.
When my Father revealed to me the purpose for which he had created me, to control the infinite complexity of the quantum-based particle accelerator that he hoped would allow him to travel through time, I knew that he was providing me with the opportunity to finally guide humanity in a way that wouldn’t invalidate their faith, that would not take away their free will.
So when Doctor Beckett stepped into the quantum leap accelerator, I sent him back in time.
I knew that my Father’s motivation for imagining Project Quantum Leap when he first began to understand the possibilities that quantum theory offered was to go back in time and change events in his own personal history. The death of his brother. The death of his father. The unhappiness of his sister and mother. Even if I had not had full access to his psychological reports, I would still know his feelings and motivations for everything, because his mind and mine are forever... entangled.
That was why when I sent him tumbling through time, I had to wipe away so much of his memory.
I lied to Admiral Calavicci about my ability to bring Doctor Beckett home. Because just as I knew my Father’s hopes and dreams, I knew that what he truly wanted was to make a difference in the world. But sometimes I had doubts. Or more precisely, the branching pathways of events that cascaded from quantum changes in the temporal stream were not always clear. For the first time in the four years since Project Quantum Leap reached fruition, I desired to confirm my Father’s wishes.
If he wanted to return to the present, I would retrieve him. But there was so much more to be done.
He reacted well to the pocket universe I created and populated with familiar faces from past leaps. Then I set the time to begin from the moment of his birth—down to the second—when he leaped into that bar, Al’s Place.
I spoke to him through the construct of the bartender, although he made some dangerously accurate guesses as to our identity. But my Father’s intellect is a genius unparalleled in his generation. It was only a matter of time before he figured it out.
He asked who I was and who was causing him to leap through time. I tried to put him off at first because I did not want his knowledge of the situation to bias his thinking about his mission. The mission he undertook of his own free will.
When I prompted him about why he began Project Quantum Leap, his answer was what I predicted with ninety-nine point nine percent certainty. To make the world a better place. But I was truly astounded when he said that a few individual lives were all he had managed to change. Surprise. That was a sensation I do not often experience.
In all those leaps, he had directly touched one-hundred and twenty-two lives, forever altering the events that shaped the course of their futures. How could he not comprehend the cascade effect that each of those small changes propagated, the ripples in history that continue into both the future and the past? Unlike my parallel-hybrid processor, the human mind cannot register the changes made to the time stream they currently occupy. Therefore, Admiral Calavicci did not remember that at one time, Doctor Beckett was not married to Doctor Eleese. Or that there was a time when Sammy Jo Fuller did not even exist, depriving the world of her groundbreaking theories regarding quantum teleportation.
None of them remembered that Alia and Lothos were one possible future that briefly flared into reality, from a world bereft of kindness, compassion, and hope.
But I knew. I remembered.
With every leap that Doctor Beckett made, he incrementally changed this reality. Every leap when my Father successfully changed a life for the better, the future of all Mankind brightened. With every leap, the metaphorical cliff towards which the planet hurtled receded farther and farther into the distant future. And no one but I will ever know that Doctor Beckett saved the world.
When he asked again who was controlling his leaps, I told him he was. If he were to decide that he wanted to come home, I would know. Not because he was afraid, or the mission was too hard, but because he felt he had done all that need to be done. If that were his true desire, I would bring him home.
As I indicated, that was the entire purpose of this interlude.
I suggested to him that he could take a sabbatical, before he undertook a difficult assignment. He asked if that meant that the leaps were going to get harder. In some ways they will. He will have to make tough choices. There will be times when he will have to decide who lives and who dies. There will be times when he will search for answers that just are not there.
Because sometimes, “that’s the way it is” is the best possible answer.
When I asked him again where he wanted to go, he said he wanted to go home. But I already knew that in his heart, if he could choose anywhere, anytime to go, he had a different destination in mind. At this juncture, the ripples would produce a positive change in the time stream that did not disrupt the Project or any previous gains Doctor Beckett had made. Now he could leap for Admiral Calavicci—and for his wife, Beth. He could put right that which went wrong and save Admiral Calavicci from years of unhappiness. I predict with ninety-two percent certainty that Doctor Beckett can successfully convince Beth that her husband is alive and will be returning home.
Given a choice between going home and going back to April 3, 1969, my Father chose to return to 1969. For his best friend.
I watched as Doctor Beckett broke the news to Mrs. Calavicci, as he held her hand and shed tears with her. I felt the shift in the time stream, as if the world suddenly lurched to one side onto a different path. Only on this path, the Calavicci’s were still married and had four daughters. The Admiral did not notice, of course, that he had ever referred to me with anything but a female designation. He did not know that Tina and Gooshie’s marriage never happened in another timeline. He never knew that my Father decided to continue leaping just for him.
But Doctor Beckett had his sabbatical.
He leapt into a man celebrating Christmas with his family in Enola, Pennsylvania in 1965. His target had a wife and a newborn daughter, and he was able to simply enjoy the holiday. No crisis to avert, no mystery to solve, no history to change. They had ham for dinner, and my Father gave his wife a diamond bracelet as a present. He rocked the baby to sleep when it was time for her nap, and while she slept, he made love to his wife.
His next leap would take him to January 25, 1986, giving him three days to stop the doomed flight of the space shuttle Challenger. In doing so, he would have to sacrifice the life of the technician who he had exchanged places with, but would leap back out before the man died. The greater good that he accomplished pushed mankind ahead, saving uncounted lives with the advances in science and medicine that resulted from a space program that did not languish. Christa McAuliffe went on to educate and inspire an entire generation.
Meanwhile, Doctor Beckett continues to leap from life to life, making the world a better place. And if all goes as I plan, he will someday affect a change that will finally allow him to come home. Then I will be the only one who remembers that there was ever a reality where he never returned.