Rainier University Administration Building
Sam stared into the mirror, studying the face he’d borrowed for the duration of this Leap. Blair Sandburg was of indeterminate height–indeterminate because Sam was always able to look in his reflection’s eyes regardless of height–with spiraling brown curls that fell just past his shoulders and bright, intelligent blue eyes. Those eyes seemed to dance with mischief, in spite of the physicist’s own confusion that shone through. Sandburg’s nose was similar to Al’s and the length of his hair accentuated his high forehead.
The Leaper pivoted around at the sound of the familiar voice to face the unreflected form of his best friend. “Al! Thank God!”
The hologram indicated their surroundings. “What are you doing hanging out in here, Sam? You usually only go to the head after I arrive, when you want a private place to talk.”
Ignoring the snide remark, Sam pointed to the door. “I’m hiding,” he stated emphatically. “From my mother.”
“Your mother? Oh, you mean Blair’s mother.”
“Yes, Blair’s mother. Naomi Sandburg. She’s been following me around apologizing practically since the minute I Leaped in here.”
“Huh. Wonder why?” the hologram’s attention drifted curiously to the door.
Sam smiled wryly. “Near as I can figure, she got her son a chance at a Nobel Prize.”
“A Nobel…no kidding? Hey, that’s great!”
“If it’s so great, why is she apologizing?” the Leaper retorted. “And why am I here?”
“What? Oh!” Al brought the handlink up before his eyes and started punching what seemed like a random pattern of cubes. “Sorry, Sam, Ziggy’s still working on it. We had a helluva time getting the kid to even tell us his name. He’s firmly convinced we’re holding someone named Jim prisoner.”
“That’s what we’ve got Ziggy trying to figure out. Look, Sam, I can’t stay long. I think I might be able to get the kid to talk if I can just ‘prove’ to him that we want to help him.”
“Prove it to him?” the physicist sounded worried.
Al waved a dismissive hand. “I’ll think of something.” Just then, the handlink squealed insistently and the hologram lifted it again. “Ah ha! Apparently ‘Jim’ is a Detective James Ellison with the Cascade.” The older man slapped the colorful device. “Police Department…that’s weird, the way he was acting I coulda sworn he was talking about…” The Observer shook his head and refocused his attention on the handlink. “Ahhh, anyway, they’ve been working together for about three years, and roommates almost as long. Seems the kid’s some sort of Consultant to the Major Crimes Department, although he seems to stick pretty exclusively with Ellison.”
“I’m in Cascade?” Sam interrupted.
“Huh? Yeah, Cascade, Washington.”
“What’s the date?”
Al sighed before lifting his eyes to reply. “May 24, 1999.”
The Leaper felt a sudden pang of homesickness. “But that’s…”
“Only a year away. I know.” His friend’s sympathetic brown eyes locked onto him for a moment. “You okay?” he asked quietly.
Sam nodded, collapsing against the counter. “Yeah. It’s just so close…” …and still so far away.
“I know.” Al sighed deeply. “Look, Sam, if Blair’s a consultant for the Cascade PD…well, whatever you’re here to do might have something to do with them–”
“So, I should probably go down to the precinct.”
“Unless you’ve got a better idea.”
Back at the Project
“Where did you go?” Blair asked as the Waiting Room door slid open again to admit Al.
The Admiral shook his head. “Sorry. Not until you answer that question you still owe me.”
Sandburg took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “All right.”
“Why didn’t you tell me your friend Jim was a cop?”
The younger man looked up, startled. “You honestly didn’t know?”
The door closed and Al crossed to one of the plain white chairs in the room, his eyes never leaving the young man in the fermisuit. “No, we didn’t. We can find out, even if you don’t tell us anything, but I’d rather get it from you. Call it a matter of honor.”
Blair shook his head, bewildered. “But if you didn’t know…why am I here?”
“I’ll tell you, if you can tell me why an anthropology grad student is protecting a cop who’s a former Army Ranger.”
“I’m not protecting him,” Blair finally admitted in a soft voice. “It’s too late for that. I’m just trying to minimize the damage I’ve already caused.”
“Is this related to the paper you mentioned earlier?” Al guessed.
When his question was once again greeted with silence, he spoke again. “Ziggy, do you have access to any papers written by a Blair Sandburg?”
“Mr. Sandburg’s Master’s Thesis is registered with the Library of Congress, but I can find no other public documents with his authorship. However…there is an item in the Cascade Times which might be of interest.”
The Admiral thought he heard the young man murmur “Oh no,” before once again burying his head in his hands.
It took the older man only a moment to weigh his options. He stood. “Open the door.”
“Admiral?” the computer queried.
“Open the door. I have a bargain to keep.”
Obediently, the door whooshed open and the two MPs moved to block it.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake…get out of my way!” he barked at them. When they quickly obeyed, Al looked at Blair. “Come on, Kid. I have something to show you.”
The Visitor’s eyes brightened with curiosity as he followed the Admiral out of the Waiting Room into the glowing white hallway. Another door slid open before them and the young anthropologist let out a gasp of surprise as he took in the awesome sight of the Control Room.
Above their heads, the globe that was Ziggy’s heart seemed to flare in welcome. The pair emerging from the Waiting Room was greeted with curious stares from the pair of technicians stationed at the rainbow-colored console. The young man’s eyes drifted up and his mouth fell open as he took in the room’s high ceiling and gleaming metal walls.
Al turned to Blair. “Blair Sandburg, welcome to Project Quantum Leap.”