Sam’s first reaction when he heard the doorknob turning was to hide, having momentarily forgotten the face he wore. He relaxed though, realizing he might have trouble explaining Mack Sherman’s presence at the Project, but it would be much easier than explaining his own. He’d think of something.
That certainty almost died when he saw Al in the doorway. The Admiral hesitated there for a minute, his eyes fixed piercingly on the face of the old janitor he saw, as if looking through it. He didn’t seem at all irritated, surprisingly, at the sight of the intruder.
“Sam?” Al asked.
Silently cursing the computer for breaking his promise, Sam smiled. “Hey Al.”
In a moment, the shorter man had crossed the room and enfolded him in a bear hug.
“Damn, it’s good to see you,” he commented gruffly, pulling back with an embarrassed look in his eyes. Sam smiled wisely, knowing how much Al’s military background made it hard for the older man to express emotions. “Even if you don’t look like yourself,” the Observer continued wryly.
“It’s good to see you too–although I’m going to kill Ziggy for telling you where I was.”
Al shook his head. “Actually, for once this isn’t his fault. I made him tell me.”
“How’d you find out I was here?”
The Admiral chuckled. “Turns out that one of our ‘guests’ can hear me–the future me that came with you, that is.”
Sam’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Really?”
“Yeah, Clark Kent. The guy’s full of surprises.”
The Leaper frowned and Al could see his friend’s genius mind going to work on the problem.
“I’ve got a few ideas, but I have a feeling it’s not something he wants us to figure out, so I’m not saying anything. I mean, it’s not like we’ve never been in that position.” He grinned and Sam returned the smile, his focus shifting with the Admiral’s assessment of the matter.
“Can I just ask you one thing, Sam?” Al was suddenly serious again. “Why didn’t you want Ziggy to tell me you were here?” He looked hurt.
Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I didn’t want you to get discouraged.”
“Discouraged?? By finding out you’ll still be alive five years from now? Are you kidding?”
“But I won’t be home yet,” the Leaper protested.
“No joke. But, hell, like I said, you’re alive. And that means a lot, kid.”
“I’d ask you what you’ve been up to,” Al continued. “But I’m probably not supposed to know until I get there, huh?”
“That’s the rule.”
“Not that we always stick to the rules…”
The Leaper smiled wryly. “True.”
“How about this? Give me your end of this Leap, like what else you’re supposed to be doing besides spying on the fearsome foursome there.”
Sam’s smile spread into a grin. “Now, *that* I can do.”
Mulder stared fixedly at his fish tank, trying to puzzle out what Carmen had told him in light of what had happened to Scully that afternoon. At first, the psychic’s words had made pretty easy sense–if he didn’t want to die, all he had to do was cancel his meeting with this guy…
That’s what he’d made up his mind to do.
But if Scully had seen a vision of him–he had occasionally seen things that made him suspect she might have ‘The Sight,’ even though she denied it vigorously, especially to herself–did that mean that it didn’t make any difference what he did, he was still going to die?
The man who called him had promised answers. Not that he trusted him, but the temptation was strong, and Heinrich had given hints over the phone that made it sound like he knew what he was talking about. Could he risk his life for that slim possibility?
But on the other hand, if it meant possibly finding Sam, could he not?
Maybe it was inevitable. And maybe, if he did get some of the answers he’d been looking for, it was worth it.
Only one thing gave him pause–Scully. The changes Carmen had predicted for his partner frightened him more than his own death ever could. If only there were some way he could prevent that…
Maybe there was. Carmen had said Scully would blame herself for his death, for not being able to be there to prevent it. Maybe if he could somehow let her know that he understood the risk…and that he thought it was worth it…
Decision made, Mulder began to scour his apartment for a blank piece of paper. Upon finding one, he sat down to write.
I know it bothers you when I leave you behind–you’ve told me often enough. But I had to this time. Heinrich might be able to give me some of the answers I need, but I can’t ask you to risk your life for them. If anything happens to me…I’m sorry. But please, know that I understood the risk I was taking in going to speak to him. I knew I probably wouldn’t come back alive. But I thought it was worth the chance. I hope you can forgive me for this, but I have to know.
He propped the note against a stack of papers on the coffee table, where she’d be sure to look if she came searching for him. Then he took out the number he’d scribbled down yesterday and picked up the phone. He just hoped Heinrich wouldn’t mind switching their meeting to tonight.
Project Quantum Leap
Mulder rubbed his nose, his mind turning over what the two reporters had just told him. It didn’t surprise him, really, that there was much more at stake here than his life. He knew his partner was willing to risk a lot for him, but he certainly didn’t expect that from the people at the Project. But until this, they’d had no other suitable explanation for why the tape had fallen into Lois and Clark’s hands than so that in some convoluted way it would bring Scully here. Now, that seemed to be turning out to be more of a fortunate side effect.
“So, what do we do about it?” he asked.
“Well,” Clark responded. “So far, the best idea we could come up with is to ‘send’ Superman back for it…” (All three smiled at this.) “…and destroy it or hand it over to Ziggy once we get back here. But Al suggested we wait on that until your partner gets back, just to make sure this doesn’t effect what she has to do.”
Mulder nodded. “That makes sense.” He stood to leave. “I think I’d better get back to Scully, so I can fill her in on this…if that’s okay?”
Clark glanced at empty air behind him and turned back a moment later, nodding. “Al thinks that’s a good idea too.”
Carmen Juarez’s home
“Where have you been?” Scully nearly pounced on her Observer the moment he appeared in the living room of Carmen’s small house.
“Reminiscing a little and taking care of something back at the Project. Why?”
“Why haven’t I Leaped? I thought the chances of you getting killed were down to thirty percent and still dropping this afternoon.”
“They were,” he replied calmly, almost amused by her uncharacteristic nervousness.
Scully frowned. “Something’s gone wrong.”
With a sigh, Mulder pulled the handlink out of his pocket and poked at it. What he saw made his face turn white, and she heard him mutter ‘shit’ under his breath.
“What’s wrong?” she asked guardedly.
“The odds are up to seventy-five percent that I’m going to get killed tonight.”
“What??? How the hell did that happen??”
“I don’t know!” he replied honestly.
Scully ran a pensive hand across her forehead. “Where are they meeting?”
“Same place as before.”
His partner grabbed Carmen’s purse and started for the door.
“Where are you going?” Mulder asked, startled.
“I’m going after him.”
The door slammed behind her before he could finish his sentence.
Mulder swore. If he didn’t know how stubborn she could be–that was one of the few things they had in common–he’d go after her. Somehow, he knew, this had to be all his fault, since things hadn’t gone wrong like this when she’d made the trip without an Observer in the previous timeline. Did it have something to do with his trip to the office this afternoon?
A new memory trickling into his mind confirmed that suspicion, causing him to swear again softly. If only the past Scully hadn’t been able to see him…
He stopped mid-thought. Maybe his little escapade this afternoon had gotten them into this mess in the first place, but it might also be able to get them out of it.
Knowing he had no time to waste, Mulder began rapidly pushing buttons on the handlink. A few seconds later, he disappeared.
Scully’s apartment building
She turned suddenly, startled to see her partner behind her, waving at her almost frantically. “Mulder, what’s wrong?”
He stopped inches from her, looking down at her with an expression of intense…fear…on his face. “Unless you want the next time you see me to be when you identify my body in the morgue, you’d better get down to the Twelfth Street Warehouse, now!”
She stared at him. “Are you threatening me?”
“No! I’m telling you a straight fact. If you don’t go down there right now, I may very well be dead the next time you see me. The odds are going up that I’ll be killed and y–Carmen doesn’t have a gun.”
“Mulder, stop babbling for one moment and make sense. How can you be in danger on Twelfth Street if you’re talking to me here?”
“Because almost a year in your future you risked your life to come back in time and save me from getting killed tonight,” his words sent an icy chill through her. “And because you did, I survived to come with you as a holographic observer when you had to make the trip again as a preventative measure in the alternate timeline created.” He held out a hand to her. “You weren’t hallucinating when you saw me standing in your desk, Scully, and you aren’t now. The holographic frequency I’m on is tuned to your brain waves, that’s why you can see me. But if I disappear, it won’t mean that the frequency’s changed. It will mean that history changed and I didn’t survive that change.”
She was still staring at him, openmouthed. “Mulder–”
“Scully, just try to take my hand.”
Almost automatically, she reached for his hand…and hers passed right through it. With a half-smile at his white-faced partner, Mulder gazed once again down at the colorful device in his hands, and his own face drained of color.
“Ninety-six percent. “Ninety-seven. Scully…” His eyes met hers, terrified. “*Please*! Ninety-nine–”
In that instant, a panic unlike anything she’d ever felt before came over the agent. Without a thought, she was moving, running down the stairs to where she had parked. When she reached her car, she climbed in and tried to start the motor. Scully turned the key four times, but each time the engine only sputtered. Her sense of panic increasing, she clambered out of the car and raced back to the street, her eyes searching desperately for an empty taxi. Nothing.
Then, a yellow station wagon that looked like an early-eighties model caught her eye pulling up to a nearby stoplight. Uttering a quick, silent prayer, Scully sprinted after it, flashing her badge at the driver.
“Federal Agent. I need to borrow your car.”
The woman in the driver’s seat seemed to think a moment. Then, she nodded. “Get in.”
“Where to?” she asked as soon as the agent had closed the door and reached for her seat-belt.
“The Warehouse on Twelfth Street. And hurry, please.”
The driver nodded and hit the gas as soon as the light changed.
“Amanda Stetson,” she introduced herself as she took a sharp corner. “And you are?”
“Special Agent Dana Scully.”
“Why in such a hurry to get to Twelfth Street?”
“My partner’s in danger.”
A look of understanding mixed with determination came over the other woman’s features, and she pressed her foot down on the gas just a little harder. “We’ll be there in a minute.”
Twelfth Street Warehouse
It would have to be a warehouse, Mulder thought, amused. He stepped carefully into the empty building with his flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other.
Suddenly, he felt something hard and cold press into his back. “Drop the gun, Agent Mulder,” a voice hissed in his ear. Heart sinking, Mulder did so.
Heinrich chuckled. “Good. Now, there’s a light switch over by the door. Turn it on.”
“Can’t hit me in the dark?” Mulder quipped.
The other man laughed again, bending down to pick up the gun while the agent turned on the light. He slipped it into his rather large pocket. “No. I like to watch people die.”
Dana Scully the Leaper blinked at the sudden brightness, pulling back further into the shadows. For once in her life, she realized, she was going to have to act without thinking through her actions first, because she had no idea how she was going to prevent Heinrich from shooting her partner.
“You know, Agent Mulder, you are just too easy to manipulate,” the assassin remarked, amused, as his victim turned to face him. “All I had to do was mention your sister and you came right to me. Most people would take a little more convincing.”
“Sorry, I’ll try to be more stubborn next time,” the agent replied dryly.
“There isn’t going to be a next time, I’m afraid.” He leveled the gun at Mulder and cocked it. “Say goodbye, Fox.”
Scully sprang out of the shadows, lunging towards her partner and knocking him to the ground. Startled, Carl Heinrich fired directly at her heart…
And in that instant, she Leaped.
Carmen Juarez collapsed to the ground beside Mulder, her head loudly striking the cement floor.
Heinrich swore and pulled back to fire again.
“Federal Agent! Drop your weapon!”
Mulder’s head came up at the sound of his partner’s voice. How did she find me?
Reluctantly, the assassin obeyed, glaring at the red-haired woman in the doorway. She indicated a tall support beam not too far away from where Heinrich was standing.
“Put your arms around that.” Scully followed him just long enough to cuff him, then returned to where her partner was kneeling over the unconscious psychic.
“Are you all right?”
Mulder nodded, smiling gratefully at the concern in her voice, then indicated Carmen. “She knocked me out of the way–I think he shot her.”
Kneeling beside her partner, Scully examined the psychic for any signs of a bullet wound. “Well, it looks like you were both lucky–he apparently missed.”
He looked surprised. “Really? But I saw him shoot her…”
“Mulder, except for the concussion from hitting her head on the floor, she’s fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Mulder sat back, puzzled. He was certain he’d seen her be shot…he glanced back to where Heinrich was glaring at them.
“I don’t miss.”
Scully turned her gaze back to the man who had almost killed her partner. “Well, there’s a first time for everything,” she replied icily.
Pushing those questions aside, Mulder turned back to his partner. “How did you know to come her, anyway? I never told you…”
An odd look crossed Scully’s face. “I’ll tell you later.” She pulled out her cell phone. “Right now, I’m going to call for backup…and an ambulance to take Ms. Juarez to the hospital.”