May 24, 2011
“Admiral,” Ziggy called. “Dr. Beeks requests that you go to the Waiting Room right away.” Admiral Al Calavicci frowned. He knew that there was a new visitor in the Waiting Room, but usually Dr. Verbena Beeks would spend time with the visitors first. As the Project’s psychologist, Verbena was best-suited to greeting the visitors, explaining their unexpected trip to the Waiting Room, and getting initial information from the subjects. Their latest visitor hadn’t been here that long, and it was unusual for Verbena to call Al over so quickly.
“What’s going on, Ziggy?” Al replied, as he started heading towards the Waiting Room.
Unperturbed, the computer’s voice answered, “You’ll see soon enough. But there is a 66% probability that if you don’t assist Dr. Beeks, the visitor is going to attempt to escape within the next five minutes.”
That got Al’s attention. He doubted anyone would be able to leave the compound without authorization, but he did not want the visitor to hurt himself, or anyone else, while attempting to bolt. Wondering who his friend had leapt into this time, Al quickened his pace, and soon arrived at his destination.
Dr. Beeks opened the door for him. Behind her, a man was pacing up and down the room, apparently oblivious to Al’s entrance.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” the man fumed, “and I don’t know how you found me, but you’re not going to get away with this! Obviously you’ve taken the Governor, but it won’t do you any good! It’s not compatible with 2.0, and if the Ring thinks I’m going to build one for you, your organization is more pathetic than I thought.”
“’Bena, what is this nozzle talking about?” Al whispered to the doctor.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, Al. I’ve been with him since he came to, and I think he’s been more jumpy than any of our previous visitors.” Al snorted. “Jumpy” was the understatement of the year. Al knew that a visitor was always shocked upon waking up in this unfamiliar place, with no idea how they’d gotten here. And, of course, seeing an unfamiliar face in the mirror would upset anyone. But Verbena was often able to calm down each visitor within a few minutes of talking to him. Al had to agree with Ziggy, though. This man appeared ready to try to make a break for it.
“He keeps saying something about a ring, and some governor,” ‘Bena added. “Oh, and something called 2.0,” as well.
“I suppose he went mental after you showed him the mirror?” Al asked in a low voice.
“Actually, that’s the strange thing, Al. He appeared quite calm when he looked into the mirror. He even turned around and asked me—”
“I asked her, ‘what exactly am I supposed to see? Because as far as I can tell, this is an ordinary mirror, and the only thing wrong with my reflection is that I’m not wearing the Governor,’” the man said, having overheard the two.
That made Al pause. He knew that whoever this person was, when he looked into the mirror he would see the reflection of Dr. Sam Beckett, and not of himself. If this man claimed that his reflection was normal, he needed to have either his eyes or his head examined. Al shared a look with Verbena, confirming that she was thinking the same thing.
“Er, look, how about we back up a step?” Al said, turning to the man who was currently wearing his best friend’s face. “Why don’t we start with introductions? What’s your name?” It seemed like a good place to start, and it would be one of Sam’s first questions. Yet, somehow it was the wrong thing to say.
“What’s my name?” the man asked incredulously, as he resumed pacing. “I’m supposed to believe that Ring agents tracked me down, knocked me unconscious, kidnapped me and stole the Governor, but don’t know who I am?”
“We’re not Ring agents--”Al interjected.
“Then again,” the man continued, ignoring the interruption, “maybe you mean you only know my code name, but it seems like my cover was blown…”
“Code name? Cover? Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you listening to me?” The mystery man finally stopped pacing and turned to Al. Seeing that he did have the man’s attention, Al continued. “We’re not Ring agents,” he repeated. “We don’t even know what the Ring is, and no, we do not know who you are.”
“You’re not with the Ring?” the man frowned, finally considering the possibility that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“No. I’m Admiral Calavicci—” Al paused. To his surprise, the man’s eyes rolled back and his eyelids fluttered. Al wondered if the man was having some sort of episode. Unbeknownst to Al, at the mention of his name, images had begun flashing in the man’s mind. A photograph of Al popped up, as did a file bearing the heading—
“Project Quantum Leap?” the man queried. But the next second, he had fallen down on one knee, and held his head in his hands, wincing in pain. Al and Verbena rushed to his side to help him up, but the man started rising by himself first, the pain apparently fading as suddenly as it had struck.
“How—how do you know about the project?” Al asked. “And what—what exactly just happened?” he stammered.
“I think I should start by answering your first question, Admiral. My name is Stephen J. Bartowski. To answer your other questions, I’m going to have to tell you about the Intersect Project.” Stephen pursed his lips, not thrilled with the notion of sharing his secrets with these strangers, even though he now knew they were not Ring agents. “In return, perhaps you could kindly explain a few things to me about Project Quantum Leap.”
Stephen and Al are sitting on chairs in the Waiting Room, continuing their discussion.
“So, let me get this straight,” Al began paraphrasing. “You invented this computer—the Intersect—“
“Well, as I told my son, I only invented the ‘really cool parts,’” Stephen corrected Al. “No,” he corrected himself, “I suppose if you think of all the changes they made when designing 2.0, I can’t take the credit for the really cool parts anymore.” His eyes glazed over for a second, though he wasn’t having another flash.
“Wait, what’s 2.0?” Al asked, interrupting Stephen’s musings.
“The new and improved version of the Intersect. See, with the original version, I can ‘flash’ on information—”
“Names,” Al added.
“Such as names, yes, and codes…well, I think you get the idea. With 2.0, an agent would also get ‘skills flashes,’ and be able to use skills he otherwise wouldn’t have. But that’s neither here nor there,” Stephen said.
“Right, ‘cause you’re not using 2.0,” Al said slowly, still trying to wrap his head around this. “But you do have an Intersect in your head?”
“Yes. I tested it on myself years ago. Don’t look at me like that—” Stephen began, seeing Al’s expression, “—like I don’t have the brains I was born with. Didn’t you tell me that your friend Sam tested his invention on himself, too?”
“He did step into the Accelerator,” Al conceded.
“And now he’s trapped in the past? ‘Leaping’?”
“And now, now he’s leapt into me. I’m still confused about that,” Stephen added. “I mean, you said that we haven’t really switched bodies, just places in time. And yet, for some reason, people will see him as me, and that you see me as him.”
“That’s right,” Al repeated.
“Well, that explains why she was showing me the mirror earlier,” Stephen mused, “but it doesn’t explain why my reflection is normal.” Al raised an eyebrow. He was prepared to accept that the man before him was a spy, code-named Orion. He was even prepared to accept that, somehow, the man had helped to develop some sort of computer that Orion had then downloaded into his own brain. What he didn’t understand was why Orion was still insisting that his reflection was ‘normal,’ when he should be seeing Sam Beckett in the mirror.
“By any chance, Mr. Bartowski—”
“Please, Al, you said you didn’t want me to call you Admiral. You can call me Stephen.”
“Fine, Stephen, is there any chance that this computer in your head is messing with your brain?” Al asked. For a long moment, Stephen looked at the floor, not saying anything.
“We’ve been talking for awhile, Al. I explained to you that I flashed earlier, and that’s how I learned about the project, learned you were telling the truth…I didn’t explain to you what happened to me when I flashed, though.”
“Yeah, and come to think of it, you still didn’t tell me what’s the ‘Governor’ gadget that you were looking for earlier, either.” Al added.
“As it turns out, yes, the Intersect can put stress on the subject’s brain. Overtime, flashing can become painful. With prolonged flashing, the human Intersect may hallucinate, develop dementia, and…die. I’m afraid we don’t have much data to go off of here. Have to supplement case studies with some…”
“Speculation?” Al asked. At first, Stephen started to nod, but then he shook his head.
“I know what I’m talking about; all too well. Anyway, I built this device; I call it the ‘Governor.’ It governs the Intersect; it protects the subject from any and all unwanted side effects. I was wearing it before I arrived here. It looks like a watch,” he explained to Al. “But when I woke up here, it was gone.”
“And, thinking you’d been kidnapped by Ring agents, you assumed we stole it,” Al stated matter-of-factly. He sighed. “When Sam leapt into you, you retained your own bodies. That’s why you still have the Intersect in your brain. But, your bodies, minds, souls, that’s all that traveled through time. Sam will be wearing whatever you were wearing when he and you leaped, and I guess that includes the Governor.”
“Al, I need that device. I can’t flash without it—you saw what happened to me before. The symptoms will only get worse.”
“Then I better get to Sam and help him with this leap,” Al said, standing up. “The sooner he finishes this leap, the sooner you’ll be reunited with the Governor.”
“Wait a minute. You said that in order to leap again, your friend, Sam, has to ‘put right what once went wrong.’ But, then, what went wrong? What does Sam have to fix as me?”
“I don’t know,” Al admitted. “But we’re going to find out,” he resolved.
After leaving the Waiting Room, Al headed over to the Imaging Chamber. As he opened the door, he called out, “Ziggy! Find out what happened to Stephen Bartowski and his family in the original timeline. Gooshie—center me on Sam!”
Author’s Note: There’s enough data sketched out in the fic so that, if any readers are only fans of one of the shows, they will not be completely lost.
Okay, Al and Orion may be stumped, but fans of these shows know why the reflection was normal. Scott Bakula is the actor that portrayed Sam Beckett in “Quantum Leap” and Stephen Bartowski in “Chuck.” As for whether there will be an explanation in the story—let’s leave it as one of those inexplicable, “It Takes Two,” sort of coincidences. Unless any of you need to feel that the two characters are somehow related...
For purposes of this fic, the events in the QL series finale never happened. I’m also going to try to avoid making references to any children of Sam or Al, or anyone either might currently be married to.
Wish I could guarantee that this story will be finished by the time of the premiere of the fourth season of “Chuck,” but I can’t. Ziggy is predicting a 90% probability that I will suffer from writer’s block. Lol.