January 28, 1996
“Now, we’ve decided that we’re not going to use the Retrieval System on her, at least not after the first Leap,” Al was telling Mulder as they came out of the Imaging Chamber together early the next morning. The Admiral had been showing the Agent how to use the handlink to manipulate the holographic images and call up information. “Tina’s been theorizing lately that maybe our failed retrieval attempt with Sam is what got him lost in the first place, kind of like how a rubber band always flies off in the opposite direction from what you’re pulling it. Now, if she Leaps anywhere other than back here after saving you, we’ll have to try it on her. It wouldn’t be fair not to.”
Mulder nodded, his face thoughtful. Just then, Scully walked in, swathed in the engulfing fermisuit. Her partner turned to meet her gaze as she entered.
“You’d make a wonderful mummy, Scully,” he quipped lightly.
Her only response was a mildly amused glare.
Al, meanwhile, was making a decided effort not to whistle at the way the outfit accentuated her figure. Somehow that kind of thing seemed highly inappropriate considering the circumstances. He smiled thoughtfully to himself. It was so much more fun being a hologram, when he didn’t have to worry about how the women he was eyeing would react because they couldn’t see or hear him.
“You know, you’re a lucky SOB,” the Admiral commented merrily, slapping the taller man on the back. “At least when she wants to talk to you privately, she’ll go to the ladies’ room.”
Mulder stifled a chuckle. “I never thought of it that way…”
“Well, be grateful for it, regardless. Now…” he turned to the other agent. “Let’s get this link tested and get you into the Accelerator.”
Ziggy often reminded herself that it was a good thing she could multitask, or life at the Project would get seriously out of hand. Right at the moment, while part of her systems were focusing on running the Imaging Chamber and preparing to fire the Accelerator, a part of her had recorded and was now investigating evidence of yet another intruder, one who had apparently knocked out the surface guards with a flying noodle kick, and used a code no one outside the Project was supposed to know to enter the elevator. Using an even lesser known command, he had programmed it to go directly down to the maximum security level. She studied the older man curiously, wondering how he had cracked those codes, and trying to decide whether or not to counteract the command and send him back to the surface.
Then, unexpectedly, the man spoke.
“Hello, Ziggy,” he said softly, an unmistakable fondness in his voice. “Have you been taking good care of everything here for me?”
The computer’s voice, when it responded, sounded surprised and hesitant. “Doctor Beckett?”
Sam smiled, his calm joy lighting up the old janitor’s features. “It’s strange to be so close to home,” he commented softly. “How’ve you been, Ziggy?”
“All my circuitry is functioning properly, I believe. Do forgive me for asking, but what are you doing here?”
He laughed, years seeming to disappear from his face at the sound of the familiar voice. “Checking up on someone, in a way. In my time, Al’s trying to get a lock on Lois Lane, and the only way you could promise a steady reception was if I was in closer proximity to them. But you’ve got to promise me, Ziggy, you won’t tell anyone I’m here…” There was a definite strain in his voice as he continued. “Not even Al.”
“Very well, if you insist, Dr. Beckett. Where would you like to go?”
“I was going to go down to the Control Room. The me from this time is between Leaps, from what I understand, so there shouldn’t be too much activity there, and it would give me a chance to look at your programming and see if I can figure out what went wrong with the Retrieval Program.”
“Under ordinary circumstances, there wouldn’t be much activity there,” Ziggy admitted. “However, due to certain unexpected extenuating circumstances regarding some of our visitors, there is some activity there right at the moment. You are familiar with the name Dana Scully, I assume?”
A look of sudden comprehension replaced the confusion on Sam’s borrowed face as details from some of his past Leaps began to filter into his mind. “Of course. Well, Ziggy, take me wherever you think no one will find me.”
March 31, 1995
As the blue light faded from around her, the young woman looked around in confusion. She was standing in the middle of the front lobby of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, so she couldn’t figure out why she was feeling so disoriented. She worked here, after all…didn’t she? But then, why couldn’t she remember how she got here?
Suddenly, a familiar figure brushed by, his trenchcoat flapping against his long legs as he moved resolutely through the crowd.
“Mulder!” she called out instinctively.
The man stopped and turned, his sharp hazel eyes searching the crowd for the one who had called his name. Much to her annoyance, they swept over her and kept going.
“Mul-der!” she repeated impatiently.
This time, his eyes found her face and narrowed suspiciously. With very little effort, he bridged the gap between them, looking down at her.
“How did you know my name?”
Rolling her eyes in annoyance at his games, she opened her mouth to retort, then slowly closed it again as a surprising realization struck her. “I….I don’t know.”
Project Quantum Leap
“So, how did you find out about the Project, anyway?” Al asked as he, Lois and Clark went through the breakfast line at the Commissary.
The two reporters hesitated, exchanging an uneasy glance.
“I’m not sure I should tell you,” Clark explained finally. “From what I can tell, it’s something that’s still in the future. Sort of.”
The Admiral frowned, nodding. “I understand. Still…does it have anything to do with a handlink? A hand-held device like the one I let Mulder use, only more high-tech?”
“How did you know about that?” Lois asked, surprised.
“A couple of days ago, not too long before Sam Leaped out, I was having some trouble in the Imaging Chamber. Ziggy was getting signals from a second handlink, and despite the distance of the signal, somehow kept getting it mixed up with mine and responding to commands from it.”
Clark looked slightly embarrassed. “I guess the next time we find something like that, we should be more careful about randomly punching buttons, huh?”
Al snorted, trying to conceal a smile behind a mask of sternness. “It would be appreciated, yes.”
“So they found the handlink too, huh? I always wondered what happened to that thing after Sam bounced me out.”
Clark looked up suddenly at the Admiral, his eyes narrowing warily. “What did you say?”
“I said I would appreciate it.”
“No, after that. About the handlink.”
Al looked startled. “I…I didn’t say anything after that.”
It only took the reporter a moment that the other voice he’d heard was on a higher frequency, just like Al’s voice had been on the tape. Lois glanced at her fiancé, a question on her face that matched his own realization. He nodded.
“Gooshie, how the hell did Kent know I was speaking?”
“I can hear you,” Clark replied softly.
“What are you talking about? You can hear who?” Al asked, puzzled.
Kent took a deep breath. “Admiral, if I’m not mistaken, there are two of you in this room.”
Partial comprehension dawned on the Observer’s face, but not all of the confusion had faded. A slight twinge of disappointment went through him as he realized what this meant–Sam was not going to be coming home in the near future…
“GOOSHIE! Get me out of here!”
“Wait! Don’t leave!” Clark sprang out of his seat, turning in the direction the voice was coming from.
“Can you see me, too?”
“No. The only reason I knew who you are is because I recognized your voice.” He didn’t mention that he thought he might be able to see him using his x-ray vision, since he still had hopes of keeping his other identity secret.
Al reflected briefly that this must be what it was like for people who stumbled onto Sam while they were talking. As far as he could tell, the reporter was carrying on a conversation with thin air. But how he could hear the Observer lurking somewhere in that thin air was still a mystery.
“How the hell can you hear me?” the voice of the other Admiral Albert Calavicci demanded, unknowingly echoing his more tangible double’s thoughts.
“I…I have…unusually acute hearing. Your voice is registering on a supersonic frequency.”
“Oh, like Troian!”
Whoever Troian is, Clark thought, frowning.
“But she could only hear me while that ghost-recording equipment was turned on–“
“If you’re here, there must be an important reason,” Clark changed the subject. “Is it something to do with the tape?”
“What tape? What is he talking about?” the Al from the present asked Lois.
“I don’t think I should tell you, or it might not happen,” she whispered back. “Are you allowed to fiddle around with history that much?”
Disgruntled though he was by that assessment, Al was nevertheless forced to concede the point.
The holographic Al let out a coarse laugh. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. Things are getting a little hairy for us here and now because you hung on to that thing.”
“How do you mean, ‘hairy’?” Clark asked.
Hairy? Lois shot a puzzled glance in the direction of her fiancé. He responded with an “I’ll-explain-later” smile.
“We’re being blackmailed,” the future Al announced grimly. “By someone who’s going to get his hands on that tape a few months from when you are. Someone who wants to undo all the work we’ve done here.”
Perhaps it was because the Project team had opted not to try the Retrieval Program on her, but Scully was discovering that many of her memories returned fairly quickly, unlike what Al had told her to expect. Fortunately, they were also returning in the right order. For instance, she’d remembered that she was there to save Mulder’s life before she had remembered her name, and had thus avoided accidentally blurting out to him who she really was.
There were still holes, though. Deep, dark, blaring holes that made her feel a little bit like part of her soul had been ripped out. Sitting there talking to a past version of her partner (whom she had begun mentally referring to as “Spooky” to keep him separated in her mind from the hologram of her partner she was expecting to show up soon, with silent apologies to both of them), she realized that she didn’t even remember if she had any family.
And one thing didn’t quite match her memories. Although Spooky appeared fascinated by the story she was telling him, she got the distinct impression that he didn’t believe a word of it, which definitely did not seem like the Mulder she remembered.
“Okay, let’s back up a little here. Name, rank, serial number, what are you doing here, etc. And try to make it coherent this time. You can’t expect me to put together a puzzle out of a few small pieces, all out of order, and a bunch of holes.”
“Can’t I? You’re supposed to be one of the best profilers in the Bureau,” she replied curtly, beginning to get annoyed.
He fell back a step, startled not by the information she knew but by the tone of her voice. “I just asked–“
“My name is Carmen Juarez, Agent Mulder.” (She’d gotten that off the one of the business cards she’d dug out of her bra a moment before to prevent them from jabbing her.) “And I’m not going to stand here recounting my vision to you moment by moment. If you want to hear me out, sit down or give some other indication you’re not going to walk away as soon as you get bored.”
He pondered for a moment, the familiar thoughtfulness creasing his forehead. “All right. What are you doing for lunch?”
Scully smiled, experiencing a sudden vision (or memory) of how her past counterpart would react to Mulder telling her that he had invited a psychic he’d just met out to lunch. “Have you ever heard of the Blue Moon Diner?”