Project Quantum Leap
Blair was either in heaven or hell, he hadn’t decided which yet. Although the sight tugged on his scientist’s heart, the incongruous blending of sterility and oddly-placed colors did nothing to assuage his fear that this was a facility designed to contain a Sentinel.
“Al, what the hell are you thinking?” a woman with long, wavy dark hair exploded as she approached them. “If the Committee hears about this–” Whatever she had been saying died on her full lips when she looked at Blair.
“Sam…” Her heart seemed to splinter in her eyes. Without finishing she suddenly turned on one heel and disappeared through a different door than the one they had entered by.
An older woman closed the distance between them, this one with straight brunette hair cut just past her chin. God, she’s beautiful, Blair thought in frank admiration.
“Al?” the woman asked them with a glance in Blair’s direction. She sounded unhappy as well.
The Admiral sighed and buried his face in her hair. “Beth, honey, I swear I forgot.”
And taken, the anthropologist amended his earlier thought with a silent sigh.
“Al, you know the rules,” Beth reminded her husband gently.
He nodded. “Yeah, but I also know what I’m doing.”
“And what’s that?”
“Saving this Leap, I hope.” He turned to a tall black woman who was watching them with a raised eyebrow. “Verbena? Can you keep an eye on things here for a moment?”
The tall black woman nodded. “I hope you’ve decided what you’re going to tell him, Al.”
“I’m going to tell him whatever he wants to know. I want him to know he can trust us.”
Obligingly, the computer opened another door. Al gestured for Blair to go ahead of him. Still a little leery but too curious to refuse, the anthropologist did as directed.
“We’ll be back in a few minutes. If you need me before then, have Ziggy page me in my office.” With that, the Admiral and Beth followed the Visitor out of the room.
Major Crimes Bullpen
Sam stepped off the elevator into the bullpen then let out his breath in a nervous stream. Almost immediately, he was spotted by a man in a suit who grinned in his direction.
“Hey, Sandburg,” the man called in a teasing voice. “Who’s playing you on the Sentinel TV show? I know, Adam Sandler.”
An older man echoed the grin. “Listen, I hear Denzel is playing me.”
“Sentinel TV show”? Sam thought frantically. Al! I really wish you’d come back and clue me in here!
The two men seemed to be having a good laugh at his expense. From a glance into the room, though, another man several desks away wasn’t enjoying the joke any more than he was.
“Look, there isn’t going to be a TV show, all right?” the Leaper told them, beginning to get annoyed.
“Just a Nobel prize,” a third man contributed.
As if they all functioned with a single brain, most of the occupants of the room began bowing in an exaggerated, obsequious manner in his direction. Only the man he’d noticed before didn’t participate in the display.
What do you want to bet that’s Ellison?
“We’re not worthy,” the group chanted. “We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy.”
“Guys, grow up,” Sam admonished, before turning and leaving the room in disgust.
Showing up had accomplished one thing, though. Now that he had seen Jim Ellison, he had a very strong feeling that whatever he was here to do had something to do with him.
Office of Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci
Back at the Project
Blair turned to the Admiral with an expression of excitement that was startling in its familiarity. God. What must it be like to see that expression on Sam’s face again? Al thought with a pang. Once again, he found himself grateful he no longer saw a stranger’s soul looking through his best friend’s eyes.
“Man, this is wild,” the younger man enthused. “You guys really travel in time?”
“Well, we all don’t,” the Observer confirmed with a smile. “But yeah, one of us does.”
At that moment, a door slid open again and the Visitor’s eyes widened appreciatively at the sight of Tina, who graced him with her most deceptively empty-headed smiles. Al suppressed a chuckle and leaned in towards Blair. “Sorry, Kid–she’s engaged to Gooshie.”
“Dr. Beckett, is that you?” the bubbly technician asked, practically bouncing into the office.
“Ah…no, my name’s Blair Sandburg.” The young man shook her hand with a dazzling smile. “Although you can call me disappointed if you really are engaged.”
Tina beamed and Al and Beth snickered under their breath.
“Awwww,” the redhead melted into a high-pitched giggle. “Do you look as cute as you talk?”
Blair blinked in surprise. “What?”
Al smiled. “You know that proof I promised you? Here, take a look.” He accepted a small hand-mirror from Tina and held it out to the young man.
Still smiling in confusion, Sandburg accepted the mirror, and with it, the biggest shock of his life. One glance into the glass made his smile fade and his stomach turn cold.
A face stared up at him from the reflection, but it wasn’t his. It was an older man, a man who had to be in his early forties. He had light brown hair with a little bit of a wave and a shock of silver falling forward over his forehead. Green-hazel eyes looked into his, filled with the same shock he felt. He reached for his face, and an unfamiliar hand appeared in the glass, touching a prominent nose that suggested the man who owned it had at least one Slavic ancestor.
Blair stumbled to his feet, dropping the mirror with a loud clatter.
“Blair, calm down.” Al was instantly at his side, laying a comforting hand on the younger man’s arm.
“Al, didja hafta scare him like that?” Tina pouted cutely.
“What happened to me?” the young anthropologist demanded.
“The man you see in that mirror,” Al pointed to it. “That’s Sam Beckett. As I explained to you, you’ve temporarily switched places, so that Sam can fix something that went wrong the first time May twenty-fourth of 1999 came around.”
Something that went wrong…Oh, God.
“But he’s too late,” Blair whispered. “He’s a day too late.”