Stallion Springs, New Mexico
January 27, 1996
Mulder climbed back into the driver’s seat of the car with a satisfied smile on his face. Without saying a word, he closed his door, buckled his seat-belt, and started the engine, still grinning.
“Well?” Scully asked.
“I’m going to take a wild guess and say that they told you something you wanted to hear.”
“How do mysterious lights out in the direction of the Trinity site strike you? Rumors of a mountain that glows blue?”
The redhead’s mouth dropped open and she stared at her partner. “You’re kidding.”
The grin on the other agent’s face turned positively triumphant in nature. “Nope. They all confirmed it. In fact…one woman there–Tina, I think she said her name was–was driven right to it once when her car broke down on the road.” He related the story the woman had told him, from the moment the man in the ‘ultra-modern’ car offered her a ride, to the strange conversation he had with someone over a speaker, to their arrival at the mountain, when she was turned over to a couple of MPs who had instructions to drive her back into town.
“She said that the person who called said ‘He’s Leaping’ and that was when the man who had picked her up really floored it,” he repeated excitedly.
“So, that must be the right place,” Lois deduced, her eyes beginning to catch Mulder’s enthusiasm.
“Now all we have to do is get there,” Clark agreed.
Still wearing the same victorious grin, Mulder nodded. “And she told me what road to take.”
Office of Rear Admiral Albert V. Calavicci, Project Observer
Project Quantum Leap
Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico
half an hour later
Al sighed at the sound of the MP’s voice, rubbing his forehead wearily. Since Sam had Leaped out yesterday, this was the first moment he’d found to relax, and something told him that plan had just been changed.
“What is it?” he asked wearily, leaning close to the intercom so that his voice could be heard more easily.
“The FBI agents are here.”
The admiral started, his eyes widening in surprise. “What FBI agents?”
“Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The ones sent to do the inspection for the funding committee.”
A puzzled look crept over Al’s face. The funding review had already happened, just recently. And it was something he wasn’t likely to forget, considering that the head of the committee had literally changed in front of his eyes. Besides, what would they be sending the FBI out here for? Quantum Leap was a black project. Most of the FBI, even the upper echelons, didn’t even know of its existence.
“Sir? They’re waiting for you on Level 1.”
Alarmed, Al practically jumped out of his seat. “You let them into the complex??”
“Yes, sir. They had the proper clearance for the minimum security level.”
The Observer swore under his breath. “How long ago was this?”
“Approximately ten minutes ago, sir.”
“Then why the hell didn’t you tell me sooner??” His voice was incredulous.
“You weren’t in your office.” There was a slight pause, and when the man’s voice came again, it sounded extremely worried. “Is there a problem, sir?”
Translation: How badly did I mess up? Al added silently to himself. “I hope not.”
Level 1, minimum security
Project Quantum Leap
Scully shook her head, trying to clear it. From the moment the electric blue mountain that apparently hid the Project’s power source had come into sight, she had been overwhelmed by an intense feeling of *deja vu*. Everything, even the hallway they were currently walking down, seemed familiar, and all her attempts to rationalize it were falling flat, especially once she began anticipating things they were going to see before they came in view.
The thought flitted briefly through her mind that if the case in Toronto that Mulder had referred to had been as trying on her reason as this one was rapidly becoming, she was glad she couldn’t remember it. Now if only she could forget this too…
Slowly the sound of Clark’s voice began to break through her thoughts, and she forced herself to focus on his words. She could leave the problem of her familiarity with this place to puzzle out later–maybe.
“So,” he was saying, “the elevator we were in goes down to the maximum security level, but not from this level while occupied, for security reasons.”
“Which means there must be another elevator down to the second level,” Lois reasoned.
“There is,” Scully was startled to hear herself say. “It’s past the personnel office.”
Three pairs of curious eyes focused on her, Mulder smiling slightly. “And how do you know that, Scully?”
For a brief moment, a vague image of herself and a young man she didn’t recognize standing together in an elevator flashed through her mind, but it was gone seconds later.
“I–I don’t know.”
In the hesitant silence that followed this statement, Clark turned and peered down the hallway. “She’s right.” There was another moment of stunned quiet, then, so as not to intensify Scully’s increasingly apparent discomfort, all three of her companions decided not to bring it up again.
“Now we just have to figure out how to get past security on this level…” Mulder whispered to his partner as the four of them moved down the hall. Scully nodded, glad for the diversion from her deja vu. Their clearances, they had been told very emphatically by the guards at the surface, would only get them to the first level. Beyond that, they’d have to be escorted by a member of the Project staff…
The guard at the elevator they were approaching waved eagerly, hurrying forward to grasp Lois’s hand. The other three fell back a step, startled.
“It is still Dr. Alessi, isn’t it?” He pumped the astonished reporter’s hand. “I mean, it would be too confusing having two Dr. Becketts on staff. I still can’t believe you managed to snag him, Donna.”
Donna… Lois smiled as another piece of the puzzle fell into place. The woman Sherman…or Beckett rather…mistook me for. She must be his wife…
“You’ve got me pegged,” she replied with a smile. “But, for the life of me, I can’t remember your name.”
“Well, of course not. I’m sorry! I mean, we haven’t seen each other since StarBright, and I wasn’t nearly as big a name on the Project as you. I’m Stan Hanson. Al just hired me for Quantum Leap a week ago.”
“Well, Stan, it’s good to see you again! Now, I hate to rush, but Al’s expecting me to bring Agents Mulder and Scully down to see him right away…”
“Another funding review?” When Lois nodded the guard grinned and began rambling again. “One thing’s for sure, whoever told me I wouldn’t recognize you anymore must have been lying. Unless they were talking about the haircut. Other than that, you haven’t changed a bit.”
Lois flashed him a charming smile. “Well, I’m glad you think so. But may we..?” She gestured towards the elevator.
With a sheepish grin, and a muttered “Yeah, of course,” Stan hit the button and the elevator doors slid open. “Hope everything goes OK down there!”
“So do I.”
When the elevator doors finally slid shut behind them, Lois let herself collapse against her fiancé, laughing. “That was so weird!” she finally managed to gasp out.
“Do things like that happen to you frequently, Ms. Lane?” Mulder asked, one eyebrow raised in amused inquiry.
Clark snorted. She glared at him and he just shrugged.
“But every now and then, my life does get a little strange.” This with a wink at the Kryptonian.
At almost the same moment that Mulder, Scully, Lois and Clark entered the elevator, which ran only between the first and second levels of the Project, Admiral Albert Calavicci stepped out of the other elevator onto the first level. Awaiting him were the two surface guards, as well as most of the MPs assigned to the first level. Al noticed with a touch of annoyance that Hanson was late, and not for the first time, questioned his own wisdom in hiring the man, even though he had been very effective on StarBright. What could have happened in the interim?
“Now, what’s the situation?” he snapped. As the surface guards who had first intercepted the four intruders began to explain what had happened, Al began to wonder if something in the New Mexico air had a negative effect on the intelligence of MPs. All of them had acted virtually incompetent in dealing with this situation. What was next–letting a Visitor leave the Project and go exploring?
If it weren’t for Ziggy, Al thought grimly to himself, Project Quantum Leap would probably be on television by now.
About halfway through the excuse portion of the guards’ story, he noticed Hanson arrive, and felt no qualms about interrupting.
“Hanson, did you by any chance fail punctuality in boot camp?”
He was not usually this venomous, but it had been a long Leap, he was tired, and he was dealing with a completely unexpected situation. How had four strangers managed to *find* this Project, let alone penetrate the first level of security? And why the hell wasn’t Ziggy doing anything about it?
“No, sir, I was just–”
“I don’t care what you were doing. We have intruders, and I want every one of you doing your damnedest to catch them! Have you seen a couple of FBI agents?”
A look of sudden horror crossed the man’s face. “Yes, sir.”
Al’s eyes narrowed. “And what did you do with them.”
“I…I let them into…the elevator.”
“But sir, Dr. Alessi was with them! She looks good with short hair, by the way…”
For a moment, Al stared at Hanson in utter disbelief, then one thing the man had said began to register. Donna looks good with short hair…
The Admiral swore under his breath, remembering something Ziggy had told him a couple of days ago, about receiving an Internet communication from the reporter Lois Lane. She had remarked in particular about how easily they had broken through security…and the fact that Lane bore a strong resemblance to Donna Alessi at the time she and Sam had met on StarBright…
“Will they be all right?” Scully asked, concerned, nodding in the direction of the two immobile MPs standing on either side of the doors to the high-security elevator. Lois looked up from where she was tapping Sam Beckett’s UMBRA clearance into the keypad on the doors, turning to Clark.
He nodded. “I didn’t actually freeze them very much. They should recover in a few minutes. I could have put them out for longer, but that’s just too risky…”
Lois shivered slightly. At that moment, the words “CLEARANCE ACCEPTED” flashed on the tiny screen above the keypad, and the doors opened.
“Well,” the reporter commented as she and her companions piled again into the elevator. “That was easy.”
“Too easy,” Mulder muttered with a frown.
There was a sudden, slight hum that filled the elevator, barely loud enough for most of them to hear, although it came through as a sharp electronic buzz to Clark. Immediately, the Kryptonian pushed his glasses down on his nose, letting his eyes scan the interior of the elevator.
“We’re being scanned,” he announced.
“Are you sure?” Scully asked.
The elevator lurched suddenly, and began to reverse course. The four exchanged disappointed glances. To come this far for nothing..!
Then, curiously, their transport slowed, seemed to hesitate, and reversed course again.
“Admiral Calavicci,” Ziggy’s voice came out of nowhere. “I think you might want to come down to the Control Room.”
Uh, oh… “Why?”
“We have some visitors. Oh, and on your way, please check on the guards at the second level elevator doors. They appear to be…frozen.” The computer sounded both curious and puzzled.
Frozen? How on earth…? Feeling almost ready to scream, Al instead took the opportunity to vigorously straighten his opalescent orange tie. This was getting more insane by the minute!
“I’ll be right down.”