Donna’s eyes flew open at the sound of her own name. Standing beside her bed was a pretty, middle-aged woman with shoulder-length brown hair and kind eyes wearing an emerald green blouse and black skirt.
“How did you know..?” she began.
The woman smiled. “We’ve been friends for a long time. I certainly hope I know your name.”
Donna frowned, trying to call up a picture of this woman in her mind, but everything except her own name still escaped her. “I’m sorry, I…”
“I know you don’t remember me, but that’s all right. I’m Beth.”
“Pleased to meet you…again. I guess they told you I’ve got amnesia, huh?”
Beth smiled. “Well, no, not exactly. In fact, that diagnosis wouldn’t be completely accurate. What you’ve got is what we call a swiss-cheesed memory.”
Donna smiled at the accuracy of the term. “It’s a typical symptom of what you’ve been through,” her companion continued.
“You mean being shot or whatever?”
Beth laughed. “No. In case you haven’t already figured it out, you’re not the one who was shot. You’re not Ferne Marshall.”
“I’m glad somebody finally noticed. What am I, some sort of Secret Agent surgically altered to look like her in order to catch the gunman?”
“Well, something like that, although I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated.”
“More complicated? Oh, boy!”
Beth smiled at Donna’s subconscious usage of Sam’s favorite expression.
“You’re right about one thing, it is secret. So secret that I can’t even fill you in on all the details you’ve forgotten. Only what you need to do what you’re here for.”
Donna nodded curiously.
“Your name is Donna Alessi, and you’re one of the top administrative and research associates on Project Quantum Leap. The reason you can’t remember much is the same reason you see Ferne Marshall’s face when you look in the mirror. You’ve traveled twenty-two years back in time.”
Incredible as it was, the story rang a faint bell in Donna’s mind. Without any further explanation she was able to connect the two seemingly unrelated mysteries.
“Yes, I remember…sort of. But then how did you…how can you…?”
Beth held out one hand towards her. “Take my hand.”
Donna reached for the outstretched hand and her fingers passed right through it. She stared open-mouthed at the ghostly visitor.
“I’m a neurological hologram, projected from your own time to help you. Because of this, I can only be seen and heard by you.”
“You’re just a hologram? But I thought you said we had been friends for a long time?”
“I’m a hologram to you, but where I am, which is what we call the Imaging Chamber, you and everything else here is a hologram to me.”
Once again the bizarre explanation made perfect sense and small bits of memory were coming back to fill in the details.
“So, if no one else can see you, I guess I’d better not talk to you when there’s anyone else around.”
“That’s a good policy, although sometimes we’ll have to talk in the prescence of others. I’d suggest just trying to phrase what you say to me in a way that they’ll think it’s directed at them.”
Donna nodded. “Did I volunteer to do this?”
Beth smiled sadly. “Yes you did.”
The hologram hesitated. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you. One of the rules we operate under is that we can never tell you anything about yourself that you don’t remember.”
The woman in the bed stared at her in disbelief. “But you don’t understand how important this is!”
“Yes I do, Donna. Believe me, I understand better than anyone, but I can’t tell you.”
“Will I ever remember?”
“I don’t know, Donna. I hope so.”
“How long will I be here, anyway?”
“Until you do what has to be done here. In the original history, there was a second attempt on Ferne Marshall’s life, and that one was successful. Ziggy says there’s and eighty-four percent chance you’re here to find the killer and stop him.”
“But wait a minute…what happens if I don’t succeed?”
“Then you won’t Leap.”
“And I’ll be the one who ends up being killed…”
Beth smiled ironically. “I’m afraid so.”
Donna sighed and shook her head. “I never realized time travel was such a dangerous pastime!” There was a heavy pause, then she spoke again hesitantly. “Beth…who’s Ziggy?”