LEAPTREK, Katriena Knights

It was cold, and fire, and electricity; it was pain and a suffocating sensation that drained him down to the bones he could no longer feel. And, since this misbegotten experiment with time had begun, it had never lasted so long. He saw glimpses, snatches of reality, or thought he did, but it was like drowning, struggling for the surface, seeing the open sky while water filled up your lungs ...

Then it was gone, and Sam Beckett was _there_ -- the only way he knew to describe the certainty of the end of the leap. He was _there_, ensconced in someone else's reality. This time he was in a large, padded chair, fingers dug deep into the arms. His attention went first to himself -- to his heart that felt like it might implode if it contracted upon itself any harder, to his breathing which came far too fast -apturing control of himself before looking where he had leaped.

He looked up then, to see. He was surrounded by people at instrument panels, and in front of them a wide screen showed a swath of stars and whorls of strange color. Then the world tipped out from under them all and Sam was dumped unceremoniously to the floor. The edge of the chair's arm made painful contact with his temple.

"Red alert!" a voice shouted.

"Oh, boy," Sam mumbled, and blacked out.


"Damage report." The same voice, in its commanding tone. A hand closed on Sam's arm and the voice continued, gentler, "Captain, are you all right?"

Sam looked up. Apparently he had only blacked out for a moment. His head felt fairly clear, other than the usual leap-induced muzziness. The hand on his arm was attached to a dark-haired, bearded man about Sam's age, perhaps a little younger. The man wore a red and black uniform, and his grey-blue eyes held genuine concern.

"Captain?" he said again.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Sam mumbled. He brushed himself off. The other man helped him get up and back into the chair. Sam was also uniformed in red and black. All around him, voices were coming out of the air, reporting minor damage and minor injuries. Behind it all was a wail of claxons. "What was that, anyway?" Sam asked no one in particular.

"I have no answer as of yet, sir." The voice came from a gold-clad person seated ahead of Sam and to his left. The man turned then, to face Sam. "It appears to have been an aftershock created by an anomaly in our quadrant combined with the gravitational forces of our return from warp drive."

Sam missed most of the words. The man speaking to him had the flesh tones of a man three days dead, and his eyes were yellow.

"Um ... I see. Well. Continue to investigate and ... let me know what you find out."

"Affirmative, sir." The man turned back to face front.

_What the hell was that?_ Sam thought. _And where the hell am I?_ "And where the hell is Al?" he mumbled.

"I'm sorry, Captain?" The man with the beard again, leaning toward him expectantly.

"Nothing. Um ... how much damage have we sustained?"

"Surprisingly minor. Nothing that will keep us from continuing on our course to Earth."

Sam realized then that the strange, wide ribbons of color on the screen ahead of him had disappeared, leaving only a wide starfield. This is a movie, he thought. I've leaped into an actor, and we're filming a movie. "Well, then. Let's ... get going."

Yellow Eyes peered back over his shoulder. "We are going, Captain."

Sam nodded emphatically. "Yes. Right. Well."

The bearded man, seated now to Sam's right, was leaning toward him. "Are you sure you're all right, Captain? Perhaps you might want to sit in the ready room for a few minutes. I think I can handle things here. I'll have Dr. Crusher up right away."

If this is a movie, Sam was thinking, where are the cameras? And why is this man adjusting to me instead of looking at me like I don't know my lines?

"Captain?" the man said again. Sam looked at him. The concern was very real.

"Not a bad idea," Sam said. "You take care of things here for a while. But don't disturb the doctor. I'm sure I'm all right. Just ... a little bang on the head."

Sam stood, rubbing his temple where the chair had connected. The flesh felt puffy and warm, but he was certain the blackout had been more an aftereffect of the extended leap than a result of the injury.

"Ensign." The dark-haired man again, in a hiss Sam thought he was not supposed to have heard. "Escort the captain."

Thank God, Sam thought. Now I don't have to fumble around trying to figure out where the ready room is ... The thought trailed off as the ensign took his arm. She was a pretty woman, with dark hair and even features, but the bumpy growth across the bridge of her nose was as offputting as the complexion of the man who had spoken to Sam earlier.

_Where _are_ you, Al?_

The ensign gently guided Sam to a door at the back of the room. From this angle, it was obvious that the area was a command center of some kind. In fact, Sam was beginning to have the distinct impression that he was on a spaceship.

The door slid open as Sam and the bumpy-nosed ensign approached it. "Would you like me to stay?" she asked.

"No. No, I'm fine. I'll just ... I'll be back in a few minutes."

He stepped in quickly and the door hissed shut behind him.

"Al!" Sam hissed. "_What_ is going on?"

No answer. There was a desk in the room, with a chair behind it. Sam sat down.

The room could have kept him fascinated for hours, with the strange pictures on the walls and the models of weird-looking vessels displayed here and there, but Sam's attention was immediately grabbed by the computer terminal on the desk. First because it was obviously a source of information, but then because the black, staring screen returned him his reflection.

The face that looked back at him was that of an older man, perhaps fifty. The small portion of his hair that had not succumbed to male pattern baldness was grey. His eyes were grey, as well, and the entire face had the look of a man who carried authority out of habit. Very Captainly, Sam thought. He was relieved to see that he did not have corpse-white skin, or a bony, bumpy nose-bridge. He looked perfectly normal.

Sam found the switch on the small computer terminal and turned it on. He was trying to puzzle out the machine's operating system when he heard the familiar sound of the Imaging Chamber door opening. There was Al, finally, in a chartreuse suit accessoried with magenta tie, shoes and lapel pin, handlink blinking brightly in one hand, cigar smouldering in the other.

"It is about time!" Sam snapped.

But Al had other things on his mind. "Thank God you're all right, Sam. For a while there, we thought we'd lost you permanently."

"For how long?"

"You don't want to know. We had a devil of a time locking on to your signal."

"Where am I? Who am I?"

"Well, I hate to break this to you, Sam ... In fact, maybe you'd better sit down ..."

"I'm on a spaceship, aren't I?"

Al looked up from the handlink, a surprised expression on his face. "How did you know?"

"Just a guess. How can I be on a spaceship? There are no spaceships. Are all these people aliens or something?"

"Ziggy has no idea. He's been blowing gaskets trying to find information, and he's coming up with nothing."

"Ziggy doesn't have gaskets."

"Well, you know, it's just an expression." He poked at the handlink, then smacked it. "Okay, here's what we _do_ know. You're in 1995. But the guy in the waiting room says he's from the 24th century."

"No way. He must be nuts."

"Well, he seems to be completely sane. He says his name is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship _Enterprise_."

"So now I'm ... John Luke."

"Jean-Luc. It's French. Yes, apparently you are."

"So why am I here?"

Al shrugged, sucking on his cigar. "There's no way to know. If this guy's from the 24th century, whatever it is you're supposed to change hasn't happened yet."

"But you said it's 1995."

"February 27, 1995, yes."

"Then it's not the future. It's my immediate past."

"But whatever happened here isn't recorded in any newspapers or anything Ziggy can access, because you're in a high orbit above planet Earth."

Sam slumped, digesting this decidedly convoluted batch of information. It posed more questions than it answered. But that was fairly standard for Ziggy. In the end, though, he supposed he could fake his way through this situation as well as any other.

"So I really am on board a spaceship, huh?"

"It looks that way, yes."

"And it's from the 24th century?"


"So what happened? Did they get caught in a ... I don't know ... a time warp or something?"

"That's what Picard thinks. He says they detected some anomalous readings off their port bow just as they came out of warp drive." Al shrugged. "I know. Doesn't make any sense to me, either. But he says this kind of thing has happened to them before under various circumstances. I explained our setup to him and he seemed to understand it. In fact, he called it quaint."

Sam gaped, offended. "Quaint? Quaint? My life's work and all he can come up with is quaint?"

Al shrugged. "Well, you have to admit it would be a lot more impressive if we had some kind of control over it."

"Yeah, right." Sam scrubbed forehead with fingertips. "My guess is I'm here to help them get back where they belong."

"A fair enough guess. Oh, by the way, I got some names for you on your crew."

"Okay, shoot. I could use that."

"Your second-in-command is Commander William Riker..." Al paused. "Hold on." He fiddled with the handlink a moment, then stepped to the door and stuck his face through it. When it came back, he continued, "He's the guy with the beard." Al frowned, then looked through the door again. "Jeez, there's some weird-looking folks out there. Anyway. The guy who looks like he's been dead for a week is Lieutenant Commander Data. Picard says he's an android."

"An android? You're kidding."

"I don't know. Why don't you stick a screwdriver in him and find out? Anyway, then there's an Ensign Ro, she's the one - I think - with the weird nose. And somebody named Worf, but he's not on the bridge right now. Neither is Counsellor Troi, she's off duty at the moment."

"Well, that's a start, anyway."

"Right. Look, I'm going to get back and see what else I can do to figure out what's going on. I'm going to try to keep Picard nearby while I'm in contact with you so he can help supply information. Verbena says he's taking this all like just another day on the job, so there's no risk of creating any trauma."

"Good. Get back to me as soon as you can."

"You bet."

The Imaging Chamber door appeared again, and Al stepped back through, giving Sam a look that was meant to be encouraging but looked far too worried to be helpful. Taking a deep breath, Sam rubbed at his eyes. He had a feeling this short reprieve was nearing an end.

He was right. A voice addressed him just as he was returning his attention to the computer. After a second, more insistent, "Captain Picard," Sam realized the voice was coming from the pin on his uniform. He poked at it experimentally and it made a trilling sound. "Um ... Picard here," he said, trying to sound authoritative.

"It's Beverly, Captain. Commander Riker said you suffered a head injury. I really think it would be best if you let me look at it, just in case. Can I see you in sick bay in five minutes?"

Sam considered. As a doctor, he knew she was probably right. As a man masquerading as the ship's captain, he wasn't sure he wanted to be poked and prodded and examined with instruments of a technological level he knew nothing about. In the end, he decided that to succumb would create the least suspicion.

"All right. I'll be there shortly."

"Good." The voice sounded relieved, but also a little smug. Sam stood resignedly. His uniform shirt had crept up and he yanked it back down with some annoyance.

Commander Riker stood as Sam returned to the bridge, giving his captain an expectant look. Sam waved for him to sit back down.

"As you were, Commander. I've been ordered to sick bay."

Riker gave him a knowing smile. "We'll contact you as soon as we have more information on what happened."

"Yes, do that."

Sam realized then that he had no idea how to get to sick bay. There was a door ahead of him that said TURBO LIFT, though. That looked promising. He headed toward it. No one was giving him strange looks, so he assumed he was doing the right thing.

The space beyond the door bore a comforting resemblance to an elevator, but there were no buttons at all, much less one conveniently labeled, "SICK BAY."

"Oh, great," Sam muttered. "So how do I get to sick bay?"

Immediately, the elevator began to move. On a hunch, Sam said, "Stop." The movement stopped. "Continue." He grinned as the elevator went on its way again. "Voice activated. Cool."

He was not so entranced, though, when the lift came to a halt and the opening door revealed a hallway rather than an immediate entrance into sickbay.

"Now what?" he mumbled. There were people wandering in the halls, but about the best way he could think of to blow his cover would be for him to stop one of them and ask the way. And there didn't seem to be any "You are Here" signs.

"Don't even think about trying to avoid this, Jean-Luc." Sam turned at the familiar voice. Apparently this was Beverly, who had been speaking out of his chest a few minutes ago. She took his arm and headed him down the corridor, and Sam knew from the way she touched him that the relationship between the doctor and her captain transcended the purely formal. Understandable, given her remarkable sweep of copper-coloured hair. "I can't believe you would think I would let a head injury get by me."

"It's nothing, really," Sam insisted. "I'm sure there were other people hurt more severely ..."

"I had one broken wrist and a twisted ankle," Beverly cut in. "Now get in there and sit down."

Her tone startled Sam a little, but he saw she was smiling so he smiled back and did as told, taking a seat on one of the empty tables. Next to him, a young black man sat with his right wrist enclosed in a metallic sleeve which was attached to a control panel in the wall. He was smiling, also, apparently amused by the interchange. It was difficult to read very much into his expression because his eyes were hidden behind a metallic strip which appeared to be attached to his head at each temple.

"Even the captain can't avoid getting a once-over, huh?" the man said.

"Oh, she can once me over any time." Al's voice, of course. "Or twice, or thrice ..." Sam resisted the urge to swing around to look at him. The suit would only hurt his eyes, anyway. "Man o man o man ..." Al stepped through the table and positioned himself where Sam could see him. Sam took advantage of the opportunity to shoot him a dirty look.

"It is _not_ that bad, Captain," Beverly said in response. "I'm just going to be sure there's no sign of concussion..." She broke off, shaking the instrument. She made some adjustments and pointed it at him again.

"I've got Picard here with me," Al continued. "Don't even ask if you can see him, because we're already pumping out mega-power to get my signal to you."

"Yeah, yeah," Sam mumbled, covering both situations. Beverly was still tapping delicately on her instrument and frowning.

"Anyway," said Al, "this lovely lady is Dr. Beverly Crusher, Chief Medical Officer. The guy with the thing on his face ... " He stopped, looking somewhere to his left, undoubtedly at the real Picard. "Visor? It's a VISOR, Sam. What? Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement ... He _sees_ with it? Really? Amazing. Isn't that amazing, Sam?"

Sam nodded. It was, indeed, amazing. He wondered what else the technology of the 24th century had accomplished, but at the same time he was afraid to ask, knowing what the consequences could be.

Al, however, seemed not to be at all intimidated by either the technology or the captain. "... No, I will _not_ put out this cigar!" he was informing the air. "Because I outrank you, that's why." He turned back to Sam. "Sorry, Sam. This guy is really getting on my nerves. He reminds me of one of the captains I used to serve under .. ." Catching Sam's look, he waved the thought off. "Never mind. Anyway. This is Geordi LaForge. He's Chief Engineer."

Sam filed the name mentally. There were a hundred other things he wanted to ask, but obviously they would have to wait. His inability to speak freely with Al was becoming more frustrating by the minute.

"Well," Beverly said, looking at her instrument, "if I can trust my scanner, you seem to be all right."

"Why wouldn't you trust the scanner?"

"Because it's telling me your blood is AB positive."

"AB positive?" Sam repeated. Which, of course, was absolutely correct, but apparently not for Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

"Yes. Explain that one to me."

"Yeah, that's strange, all right." He slipped down from the table. The action was met by another outburst from Beverly.

"Don't move, Captain. Get back on the table and wait while I get another scanner."

"Don't let her get another scanner, Sam!" Al protested. "She'll start poking and prodding and finding out all kinds of things ..." He hesitated. "Not that that would be so bad, really ..."

"Dr. Crusher," Sam said firmly. "I do not need to be scanned again. I am perfectly all right. I merely sustained a minor bump to the head. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to speak with Mister LaForge here, and then I would appreciate it if you would allow me to return to my bridge."

Beverly slumped, finally admitting defeat.

"Aw, Sam, you hurt her feelings ..."

"All right," Beverly said. "But if you feel the slightest bit dizzy, or anything else unusual, call me immediately."

"I feel a little dizzy," Al said hopefully.

Sam gave the doctor a small smile. It did not seem inappropriate. "You can count on it."

Beverly shook her head in mock disgust. "And you can talk to Geordi, also, if you like. I'm almost finished with him, anyway."

"Thank you."

Sam turned to LaForge, who had been watching him rather intently, if it was possible to judge by the angle of his VISOR.

"What did you want to talk to me about, Captain?"

"Where were you when we hit this ... turbulence? I was wondering if you might have some idea what might have caused it."

Geordi nodded toward the arm which was being treated. "Well, _un_fortunately, I was out on a catwalk. Fortunately, it was a low catwalk."

"Why were you on the catwalk?"

"Just doing some curiosity checks. You know me, always fiddling." He tilted his head slightly. Sam wondered what exactly he was looking at. It was disconcerting, not being able to see the man's eyes. Not only was it very difficult to read his face, but Sam was not certain where to look while conversing. "Ensign Lara may have gotten some readings. I'm sure Data has spoken with her by now."

Sam glanced nonchalantly in Al's direction. Al shrugged. "It was worth a shot."

"All right, Mister LaForge," Sam said. "Take care of yourself."

"Aye, sir."

_Now back to the bridge_, Sam thought, heading for the door, _to see if there are any answers yet_.

"I'll meet you on the bridge," Al said. Sam nodded.

As the sickbay door slid open, Sam's chest badge spoke up again.

"Riker to Picard."

"Picard here," Sam told it.

"Captain, we have some information for you. I think you should come to the bridge."

"I'm on my way."

Katriena Knights
"Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!" -- Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot" --
* PCB/UseNet Gateway from Sparkware #1


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ú Message-ID: <1992Jun8.154708.22519@porthos.cc.bellcore.com> ú Subject: LEAPTREK - PART II


by Katriena Knights


On the bridge, another person had taken his post behind the captain's chair. Sam swallowed a great deal of air in his effort to contain an exclamation of surprise as he stepped out of the turbolift. In fact, he nearly turned around and got back on the turbolift. He wasn't sure he wanted to be anywhere too near this large, dark-skinned creature with a forehead that looked like a beetle's carapace. But then the man -- or whatever -- looked at him, and he saw respect in the dark, hooded eyes.

"I am glad you are well, Captain." The voice was deep and resonant, pleasant in a dour sort of way. Sam forced a smile.

"Thank you."

Riker switched to his own chair as Sam approached, letting Sam take the captain's chair.

"Mister Data," Riker said, settling back in, "give the Captain a full report."

The pale android swung around in his chair. Most of his movements, Sam noticed, were smooth and precise, but when he spoke his head bobbed back and forth like a robin investigating a wormhole.

"The turbulence we experienced appeared to be caused by a spatial anomaly combined with the gravitational effects of our return to impulse power from warp speed, as I suggested earlier. However, it appears now that the anomaly was temporal as well as spatial, and has affected our normal placement on the time continuum."

"You mean we've travelled in time," Sam stated.

"That seems to be the case, yes, Captain."

"Any idea how far, or in which direction?"

"Analysis of star positions in this sector indicate late 20th century, Captain."

"Any suggestions on how we might get back?"

"If the anomaly still exists, we may be able to utilize it to create a reverse effect. Otherwise, we can make use of the slingshot approach by accelerating around the planet. However, given the unlikelihood of the first possibility and the inherent dangers of the second, it would be worthwhile to investigate further."

"How long will it be before we have enough information to make a decision?"

"One could spend an infinite amount of time analyzing the possibilities, Captain. And even then, given the difficult nature of the problem, one could never be certain of a definitive answer ..."

"Take two hours," Riker broke in. "Come up with a couple of reasonable alternatives with input from Geordi and Worf. Then we can meet and discuss." He looked at Sam, awaiting confirmation.

"That seems appro --"

"Holy Great God Almighty!"

"Captain, I have detected an unusual reading off our port bow."

Sam jerked around in his chair, trying to look like he was responding to the announcement from the non-human officer behind him. In truth, Al's sudden exclamation had just about sent him out of his skin.

"What the hell is that?" Al continued. Apparently Picard made some contribution, for Al turned his head away from Sam. "Oh, I see. That's Lieutenant Worf, Sam. He's a Klinger. What? Oh, sorry. Kling -_on_. God, is he ugly." He gave Sam a knowing look. "Makes me glad I'm a hologram. Don't get this one mad, huh, Sam?"

Sam dropped his face to one hand. "Can we see it on the screen, Mister Worf?"

There was some beeping and clicking from behind Sam's shoulder as Worf fiddled with the controls. "Negative, Captain. Composition still uncertain, but it is not visible."

"Do some checking," Sam said. "See if you can figure out what it is. Data, you find out what you can about alternatives for dealing with this situation, and have Commander LaForge provide information on the ship's ability to manage any of them. We'll meet in two hours formally to discuss our findings."

Sam looked at Al. He was talking to thin air, apparently discussing something with Picard. At his station, Data stood and turned toward Sam.

"Permission to join Commander LaForge in Engineering, Captain. I believe it would be easier to make judgements on viable alternatives if we work together."

"Granted," Sam said.

"You need to get to your little office over there, Sam, so we can talk," Al put in. "Picard here says he doesn't like the idea of you impersonating him, but as long as you seem to have the welfare of his ship in mind, he'll help you out. But you need to get some information from him as soon as possible."

Sam turned and gave Al a questioning look over his shoulder. Worf apparently thought it was aimed at him and began poking at his control panel again.

"Tell them you want to do some investigating yourself. Give Riker the conn."

Sam nodded. From behind him, Worf announced, "The anomaly appears to be unchanged, Captain. It also appears to be stationary. Shall I continue monitoring?"

"Yes, please do." He stood, administering a yank to the perennially creeping tunic. "I'm going to do some investigating, myself. Commander Riker, you have the conn. I'll see you in two hours."


As usual after a long session of brainstorming with Data, Geordi LaForge was beginning to feel as if he had a head full of oatmeal. He had reached his limit about twenty minutes ago, what with the continuous tingle of residual pain in his mended wrist and the deeper ache of pain from other recent events. He had about forty minutes until they were due to meet in the conference room, and it was just past the time he had been starting his sessions with Counsellor Troi. Normally, under an emergency situation, he would have foregone anything else. But lately he felt like his own systems were working on little more than auxiliary power, and he wasn't sure he could make it through the day without at least a few minutes with Troi. Besides, Data and Ensign Lara had things well in hand, and anything was better than sitting here next to Lara, trying not to think about what had passed between them and been ended so abruptly three days ago. And today, for once, he had something else to discuss with the Counsellor.

Geordi swiveled his chair away from Data's, rubbing his wrist. "If you think this is all under control, I'm going to slide down to sickbay and have this wrist looked at again."

Data answered without looking up. "That would be advisable, Geordi, if your wrist is still causing you distress."

"Right." Geordi allowed a glance at Lara. "Keep up the good work."

"Aye, sir," the ensign replied. She didn't return his glance. He forced himself not to look at her again, though the delicate curvature of her faced danced at the edge of his vision, daring him. Resolutely turning his back, he left Engineering and headed for the turbo lift.

Of course, he did not go to sick bay. Deanna Troi was in her quarters when he arrived.

"I'm sorry I'm late," Geordi said as, smiling, she waved him in.

"Oh, not at all, Geordi. I assumed you wouldn't be here because of everything else that's going on. Come in and sit down. I was just watering my plants." She gestured with the small watering can she was carrying.

Geordi did as bidden. He was certain, after some limited research, that Deanna had the most comfortable furniture on the ship. Of course, it was logical, considering her job, but a nice perk nonetheless. Deanna disappeared into her bedroom for a moment, letting Geordi settle in. When she came back, she had her Counsellor face on. She sat down across from him. She always looked so relaxed when she sat down; it was hard not to follow her example.

"So, how are you doing today, Geordi?"

"I don't know. I was feeling all right this morning, but now..."

"I do sense a great deal of turbulence."

Geordi laughed mirthlessly. "Yeah. Turbulence. That's a word for it, I guess." He paused, looking at his hands. "I've been in Engineering all morning brainstorming with Data and ... Kylaree. It wasn't easy."

"Have you spoken with her at all?"

"No. She doesn't want to talk. She won't even look at me. It just makes it that much more difficult to understand."

Deanna nodded. "As much as we hope these things won't happen, sometimes they do. And when they do, sometimes they take a long time to heal. But it will get better. I promise."

Geordi took a deep, slow breath, trying to get his insides to settle down. He had heard the words before, and from anyone else he would have considered them patronizing. But from Deanna he could take them to heart, because he knew she knew exactly how he felt. He was not certain what exactly had gone on between her and Will Riker, but he knew she must have suffered something similar to what he was feeling now.

"I think it would be easier if it hadn't been so sudden. I mean, it all came out of nowhere and it was one of the most intense things I've ever experienced. Then she just ... decided it had to be over ..." Vaguely, he felt Deanna's light touch on his hand as his words trailed off. More than anything, he wanted to ask her if Lara had been coming to see her, if she was hurting the way he was. But Troi wouldn't tell him even if he had the nerve to ask. He put his hand over his VISOR, blocking himself off for a moment. Forcefully, he turned his mind to the other reason why he had decided to keep his appointment with the counsellor.

"Have you sensed anything unusual from the captain lately? I mean, since we struck the anomaly?"

Deanna looked puzzled, probably as much by the sudden change of subject as by the question. "I can't say I've been concentrating too strongly on the captain since I went off duty this afternoon. Everything seemed to be well in hand. Why do you ask?"

"Well ..." Geordi considered, trying to figure out how to explain this without sounding foolish. "I saw him in sick bay just after we took that jolt and he just didn't look right. It was like ... well, it was like his image was coming from a different set of wavelengths. And when Dr. Crusher was checking him to be sure he hadn't suffered a concussion, the scanner registered the wrong blood type."

Troi shrugged. "It could have been a defective scanner."

"Yes, you're right. It could have been. But when Dr. Crusher tried to get another one, to double check, Captain Picard effectively ordered her to leave him alone."

"Well, that sounds typical. You know the captain hates being fussed over."

"I don't know. It just seems weird." He shook his head. "Maybe I'm reading something into nothing, just because I'm wound up."

"That's possible."

"Well." He stood. "I think I'll go have Dr. Crusher take a look at my VISOR, just in case it's malfunctioning. Although it seems odd that it would malfunction only on Captain Picard."

Deanna smiled. "That sounds like a good idea. And then see if you can get some rest before the briefing."


After a briefing from the real Captain Picard -- via Al -- Sam felt much more sure of himself. The briefing, however, had not changed the magnitude of the problem he was facing. It had only given him an idea about how to handle it.

When he arrived at the conference room, all the requested participants were there except Geordi LaForge. Sam watched them while they waited, reminding himself of names, ranks, and functions.

Commander Will Riker, Second-in-Command; Lieutenant Commander Data, android, repository of multitudinous information, useful and otherwise; Lieutenant Worf, Klingon, head of security, inclined to assume hostility from anything unfamiliar; Deanna Troi, ship's counsellor, half human, half Betazoid, who according to Picard could often supply unique insights in situations dealing with alien intelligences. Sam was not completely certain why she was here, but Picard had said she was usually included in these meetings. Sam had already braced himself for Al's reaction to her presence; she was an extremely attractive woman, and the low cut of her tunic flattered her nicely.

Al, however, was surprisingly restrained. He walked around her a couple of times, going through the table to get all possible views, sucking thoughtfully on his cigar. Sam tried not to watch him, though he, too, was intrigued by Troi.

After a time, Al removed the cigar, looking thoughtful. "I wonder if she's just like a human woman."

Sam shook his head and wondered why he had expected anything else.

"Oh, don't tell me you don't look at her, too." Al was talking to the empty space next to him again. "Man, if I was captain of a ship full of women like that I'd ..." He broke off. "You," he said, pointing emphatically to nothing with the cigar, "are worse than Sam Beckett. I'm stuck in a world of prudes ..."

_So that's what I look like talking to Al_, Sam thought. _No wonder everybody thinks I'm nuts._

Geordi appeared then. He sat down next to Troi, who smiled at him.

"Well, we're all here, so let's begin," Sam said. "Commander LaForge, what conclusions have you come to?"

LaForge nodded to Data. "I'd like to allow Commander Data to summarize, if I may."

Sam nodded approval to the android. Data was sitting very straight, his too-white hands folded primly on the table. His head rotated precisely to face Sam.

"Captain, analysis of the anomaly indicates that it is a rudimentary form of time bubble."

Al's attention jerked from Troi to Data. "_What_ did he say?"

Data had more bombshells to drop. "Its shape and size are remarkably regular, implying that its source is artificial. In addition, it appears to be stationary over a particular point on the planet, indicating a source from the planet's surface."

"What point on the planet appears to be the source?" Sam put in, but he had a feeling he knew the answer.

"It appears to be emanating from somewhere in New Mexico."

_Oh, boy_, Sam thought. Al was poking furiously at the handlink. "I'll be back," he said. "I'm going to check this out."

Sam nodded to him. Across the table, Deanna Troi was watching him rather closely. He wondered if he had betrayed something in his face when Al had spoken. The Counsellor's expression was neutral -- almost too neutral, like a poker player holding a royal flush.

Data was continuing his discourse.

"In any case, Captain, if we were to try to duplicate the effect which led us here, we would have to strike the bubble while returning from warp speed. I see no reason why we would not be able to reproduce this combination of factors, but I cannot guarantee it will produce the desired results."

"And what about the slingshot approach? What's the viability of that?"

"I have calculated the necessary acceleration to achieve the appropriate length of time leap using the slingshot technique. However, the accuracy of these calculations is, as always, questionable. In addition, under these conditions there is always the danger that the massive gravitational forces will destroy the ship."

"I see." Sam couldn't help but feel a little smug. They were from the 24th century, and they still obviously had very little knowledge of controlling time travel. And Picard had had the nerve to call Project Quantum Leap quaint! "Well. Those are the options. Any further input?"

"I would like to comment, Captain." Geordi leaned into the table as he spoke, looking past Data. Sam nodded for him to continue. "I would suggest attempting the former option simply because the danger to the ship is less. We were travelling at warp 6 when we came out and contacted the anomaly. Recreating this situation would cause very little stress to the engines. Attempting a slingshot effect would produce considerable strain. But, in any case, before we attempt anything, I would like to run a diagnostic test on the engines to be sure no hidden damage was done in the initial jump."

"That seems wise. Does anyone else have anything to add?"

Riker and Troi shook their heads. Worf cleared his throat.

"Captain, has it occurred to you that this might have been a trap set by the Romulans to prevent our arrival on Earth to discuss the reconfiguration of the Neutral Zone?"

Riker shrugged. "He does have a point, Captain. It seems odd that we encountered this problem so close to Earth, and while engaged in so important a mission."

"If this is the case," Worf continued, "then it might be wise for us to approach the anomaly very cautiously. It may be a trap."

"Agreed. Thank you, Lieutenant Worf." Sam stood. "Mr. Data, continue to monitor the bubble and let me know if there are any changes, or if you are able to derive any additional information. I'd like to know as much as possible before we make a final decision. Mr. LaForge, run your diagnostics and let me know the results. The rest of you may return to your stations. Thank you."

As they walked out, Troi took hold of Geordi's arm and began to speak to him in a low voice. Wondering what that was all about, Sam sat back down in his chair and leaned back, pondering.

Al popped back in before Sam could form a coherent thought. "Oh, shoot, she's gone."

Sam swiveled in his chair to face the hologram. "What did you find out?"

"Ziggy says it's very likely that this bubble thingama-whatcha-hoosie is caused by Project Quantum Leap."

"He can't tell you for sure?" Sam was not only disappointed, but amazed. Ziggy always had an opinion, calculated to at least two decimal places. He was as bad as Data.

"Well, Ziggy's not concentrating too well. He's not used to transmitting signals into space."

"Well, hopefully this will all be over soon. I'll see if I can find out from here if there's a connection. If there is, Data should be able to come up with something."

"That's right, I forgot. You've got your own little version of Ziggy up there keeping you company." He poked idly at the handlink. "I hope it's over soon," he said, lowering his voice. "I'm getting sick and tired of this Picard guy."

"Oh, come on, Al, surely he's not that bad."

"Well ..." Al hesitated. "Tina thinks he's sweet."

"Ah. Jealousy strikes again."

"Yeah, well, he could have the decency to not be so friendly."

"Why? What's he doing?"

"Oh, he's been, you know, talking to her."

Sam gasped in mock horror. "Oh, no! Not that!"

"Oh, come on, Sam. What is a highly educated guy from the 24th century going to talk to Tina about?"

"I don't think you give Tina enough credit. She's a very sweet girl."

"Oh, what do you know? You can barely remember your own name."

"Sam Beckett," Sam said defensively.

"Yeah, but what's your _middle_ name?"

Sam opened his mouth, then closed it again as he found himself mentally staring down another of the many gaping holes in his selectively edited memory.

"Ha!" said Al.

"Well ... I do have one, don't I?" Encounters with the empty spots in his memory always left Sam feeling insecure, and this example was particularly disquieting.

And Al was no help. He shrugged. "I don't know. You never told me."

"Al ..." Sam started, but he was interrupted by the return of LaForge and Troi to the conference room. Which was just as well, because he was not at all certain what he had been about to say.

"Look sharp," said Al. "They look worried."

They did, indeed, look worried. Sam stood.

"Some final concerns?" he asked.

Geordi looked at Troi, who looked back at Geordi and nodded once.

"Yes ... Captain," said Geordi. "We'd like to know just who the hell you are."

"Oh, boy," said Al.

Katriena Knights
"Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!" -- Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot" --
* PCB/UseNet Gateway from Sparkware #1


Path: dosgate!canrem!uunet.ca!uunet!walter!porthos!pyuxe!krk1 From: krk1@pyuxe.uucp (24220s-knights)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Keywords: Story in 4 parts
Message-ID: <1992Jun8.154708.22519@porthos.cc.bellcore.com> Date: Mon, 8 Jun 92 15:47:08 GMT
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ú Message-ID: <1992Jun8.154746.22575@porthos.cc.bellcore.com> ú Subject: LEAPTREK - PART III


by Katriena Knights


Deanna Troi shook her head in frustration. "None of this makes any sense at all."

"Tell me about it," Al mumbled.

"No, no, wait a minute," Geordi broke in. "I think I get it." He faced Sam squarely. "If you're in contact with the real Captain Picard, then you can prove it."

Sam shrugged. "Yeah, I suppose I could. Al, are we in contact with Picard?"

"Not at the moment. He's probably flirting with Tina. I'll be back."

As Al slipped out the Imaging Chamber door, Troi protested again. "He's talking to thin air and you believe him?"

"I don't know," Geordi replied. "Do you sense any ... insanity? Dishonesty?"

Troi calmed, looking at Sam. Sam found her scrutiny unnerving at best. "He believes what he says is the truth, and he does not feel any hostility towards us. Beyond that ..."

Sam looked from Troi to Geordi and back. Some pieces were falling into place. "Wait a minute. What does he mean do you sense anything? You're telepathic or something?"

"No. I'm not telepathic. I'm an empath. I'm only half Betazoid." Her tone indicated she had explained this more times than anyone could count.

"Picard didn't tell us that. He _knew_ you would figure it out, so he didn't tell us." Sam didn't know whether to be angry or impressed, so instead he turned his attention to the problem at hand. "Al went to get Picard. He'll be back in a minute. In the mean time, is there someplace you can look, I don't know, some history files or something, where there might be some record of Project Quantum Leap? I wrote a good number of papers, as I remember."

"Computer," Geordi said. "Do you have anything on a Sam Beckett?"

A voice, apparently from nowhere, said, "Working."

"What's going on?"

"The computer's looking," Geordi replied.

"You have a voice activated computer? Cool."

"What's so great about that?" Al had returned. "Ziggy's voice activated."

"Yeah, but this is a lot bigger than Ziggy. Al's back," he added to the others by way of explanation.

"Beckett, Samuel." The voice came from overhead, a pleasant though sedate woman's voice. "There are two entries in the history files. First entry: Beckett, Samuel. Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1906. Shall I continue with this entry?"

"No, that's the wrong one," Sam said. "Go to the next one."

"Beckett, Samuel. Born 1956, Elk Ridge, Indiana. Shall I continue with this entry?"

"That's it. Um ... Could you please skip a death date, if it's recorded?"

"Affirmative. Beckett, Samuel. Born 1956, Elk Ridge, Indiana. Received seven doctoral degrees from MIT, including quantum physics, medicine and music. Received Nobel Prize in physics, 1993. Best known for development of Quantum String Theory of time travel. Founded Project Quantum Leap in 1995. Project involved time travel within the lifetime of the traveller. For further details, I will have to consult the archives. Shall I do so?"

"Not yet," Geordi said. "Can you tell us the exact location where Project Quantum Leap was built?"

"In the vicinity of Blue Rock, New Mexico."

"Thank you."

"The computer doesn't know your middle name, either," Al put in.

Sam chose to ignore the comment. "Do you have Picard there?"

"Yeah, he's here."

"He's here," Sam said.

Troi frowned. "If the captain is here, why can I not sense his presence?"

"Because he's not _here_ here -- he's four years in the future. I just have contact with him through Al."

"Can you see him?"

"No, I can't. I can see Al, but Ziggy can't put out enough power to allow me to see Picard, too, because he's using so much power to get Al's signal to me."

"Who's Ziggy?" LaForge put in.

"Ziggy is the computer that runs Project Quantum Leap."

"But what ..."

"Wait a minute, Geordi," Troi broke in. "I want to know if he really is in contact with the captain, or if he's just standing there talking to himself."

Geordi gestured for her to proceed. Troi settled herself in her chair and regarded Sam intently.

"God, is she cute." Al was looking just as intently back at Troi.

"What was that?" Troi demanded.

Sam was puzzled. "What was what?"

"I sense irritation."

Impressed, Sam said, "Yes, a little. Al just said something rude."

Sam was no empath, but he could tell Troi was getting annoyed. "I want to talk to the captain."

"Deanna, you have done very well," Al said suddenly.


"Tell her that, Sam. It's what Baldy just said."

"Picard says, 'Deanna, you have done very well.'"


Sam waved for Al to continue. It was awkward, running the conversation in relay form, but they had done similar things before.

"Deanna," Picard continued, "I deliberately did not mention your empathic abilities because I had hoped you would ascertain what was happening. Obviously, you have done so."

Deanna looked slightly abashed. "Actually, Captain -- if I am, indeed, speaking to the captain -- I wouldn't have realized anything was amiss if Geordi hadn't felt something strange was gong on."

"Commander LaForge? How did he come to that conclusion? Yeah," Al added for himself. "I can understand the telepathic thing, but what tipped _him_ off?"

Geordi tapped his VISOR. "I see different wavelengths than sighted people. The image I was seeing of the captain seemed like it was coming in on another wavelength. It's difficult to explain to someone who can't see it. Then when I was in sickbay and Dr. Crusher's scanner read the wrong blood type ... well, that's when I went to Counsellor Troi."

"Nice job, Geordi," Picard said, though coming from Al's mouth it didn't sound very complimentary. Sam retranslated. "I hadn't thought of that. But I suppose I should have after the other times your VISOR has helped us. Like with the analysis of the shielding on Moab IV. But it seems we make more use of your talents, Counsellor, such as on Vegra II when you were able to help save most of the away team as well as yourself and Ben from Armus. But it was a pity we lost Tasha Yar." Al paused. "Is that enough?"

"Was that from you or from Picard?" Sam asked.

"From me. You know how much I hate this kind of thing."

Judging by the obvious softening of Deanna Troi's features, Sam guessed that she had been convinced.

"Do you need to hear anymore?" he asked her.

"No," she said quietly. "No, I don't think so. But there is one more thing I would like to ask."

"And that is?"

"What course of action does the captain recommend?"

Sam watched Al nod and concentrate for a time, then Al supplied the answer.

"He would like to see Commander Riker apprised of the situation so that, if the need arises, he will not hesitate to make crucial command decisions. Then he would suggest that Commander LaForge do the diagnostics on the engines, as planned, and that you attempt to recreate the jump through the anomaly ... Which is about what I would have recommended," Sam finished.

Deanna was studying him intently again. "I sense in you an honest desire to help us," she said. "I believe you."

Sam smiled a little. "I have to help you," he said. "Otherwise I may never get home."

* * * *

" ... Now let me see if I have this right. This man travels through time by taking the place of people who exist on that timeframe?"

"Apparently, yes." Deanna was more amused than annoyed by Riker's seeming inability to comprehend the situation. Sam merely sat calmly by, behind Picard's face, adding nothing. LaForge had departed earlier to begin the diagnostics on the engines.

"And he has no control over where he goes, or who he displaces."

"None whatsoever."

"But he's in contact with 1999 through a person who we can't see, and this person has been relaying messages from the _real_ Captain Picard, who is also in 1999, while we are in 1995?"


Arms crossed over his chest, the tall commander stood chewing over the thought through a long silence. Finally, then, he turned his gaze to Sam. There was a look of slowly dawning realization in his grey eyes.

"When you hit your head. That was when it happened. Am I right?"

"You're close," Sam answered. "It was a split second before that."

Riker nodded. He was already mulling again, weighing implications. "There's one thing I don't understand, though."

"What's that?" Troi prompted.

"If the anomaly which we are dealing with now is indeed being produced by your Project Quantum Leap, or Ziggy, or whatever -- then what produced the initial effect in our present that threw us back here?"

"And that, of course," Sam said, "is a very good question. Al is checking right now to see if, theoretically, our initial startup of the accelerator could have produced some kind of folding effect ..."

He was broken off by the sharp bleeping of Riker's communicator.

"Commander Riker, this is LaForge."

"Go ahead, Geordi."

"We've got some problems here. I think we'd better discuss this in person."

"We'll be in the conference room in ten."


Geordi's hands would not stop shaking. The diagnostics results were blinking on the viewscreen in the conference room, red and yellow and green, blinking and blinking, and all he could think about or see was Lara. Lara asking him question after question about the engines, obsessed with details of function, devouring information with a hunger that rivaled his own. It was this more than anything else that had brought them together so quickly, so intensely. He had told her things about his engines he had never told anyone else. And he had given her the most valuable thing he had ever possessed -- his diary, where he documented every change, every modification, every emergency backup system he had ever installed on the Enterprise. Now his mind replayed the scene again and again -- her eagerness, the almost frightened, reverent way she had taken the disc from his hand -- and he felt such a sick sense of betrayal he thought for a moment he was going to vomit, or to weep.

Deanna, of course, sensed it as soon as she walked into the room -robably before. She opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off with a sharp jerk of his head. This was not the time. The whole, sordid story would come out soon enough.

Riker and the man, Sam Beckett, who did and did not look like Captain Picard, followed the Counsellor into the room.

"Are you all right, Geordi?" Riker asked.

"No, I'm not," Geordi shot back. He gestured to the screen. "None of us are."

Sliding into a chair, the commander squinted at the screen. "What have you got?"

Geordi swallowed. The sound was so loud he was certain they all must have heard it. Deanna was watching him closely. He couldn't bear to meet her gaze. Looking at Beckett gave him a headache. So he focused on the screen and its damning blips of red and green.

"If we try to go to warp speed, the anti-matter containment system will fail."

Riker's eyes widened. "How long will it take you to correct that?"

Geordi bit the inside of his lip fiercely. "I can't."

"What do you mean you can't?" The question, sharp as an accusation, made Geordi bite his lip until he tasted blood. One hand curled into a fist on the table.

"Every move I could have made has been anticipated. Every backup circuit in the system has been blown. The only way to repair this is with an entirely new control panel."

"Well, do we have one?"

"We did. We don't anymore. As far as I can tell, it was destroyed with a phaser."

"Well, can we replicate one?"

"We could, except several vital substances have been purged from the replicator stores."

"Sabotage," said Beckett quietly.

Riker threw himself out of his chair, passing a look of daggers at their time-travelling refugee. "No kidding. Who in the hell could have done this?"

A hand brushed against Geordi's arm -- Deanna's, of course. He kept himself focused on the screen, on Riker's anger.

"There are only three people on this ship who possess sufficient knowledge," Geordi said quietly. "Myself, Commander Data, and Ensign Kylaree Lara."

"Who?" Riker demanded.

"Ensign Lara is new to Engineering," Deanna put in. "She transferred to the Enterprise from the USS Asimov six months ago. Geordi was training her on engine maintenance."

"How could a raw ensign manage something like this?"

_Here it is_, Geordi thought. _Confession time._ He still couldn't believe this was happening. Not Lara. Not Kylie. It wasn't possible.

"She had access to my diaries, Commander."

Riker stared at him. Geordi saw the same sense of betrayal in Riker's eyes that he felt in the pit of his own stomach.

"You gave her your diaries? Six months on board and you gave her your diaries? What were you thinking? What in the hell were you thinking?"

Geordi gave back silence. Slowly, Riker began to nod.

"So that's it. Well, LaForge, that's a damned irresponsible way to behave."

"Number One!" The familiar voice of the captain sliced through the argument. "This is not the time for recriminations. And I don't think you can say you haven't been guilty of the same crime."

Silence filled the room. Geordi and the others gaped at Beckett. Their response to the voice had been automatic; now they did not know whether to feel foolish or angry.

"Sorry," Beckett finally said. "Picard thought it was getting out of hand, and he asked me to step in." He paused, cleared his throat. "I think we should look at how we can get out of this situation rather than trying to determine whose fault it is."

"He's right, Will," said Deanna.

"Yeah. Yeah, I suppose he is." Riker sat down again, defeated. "So what do we do?"

"We leap you back," said Beckett. All eyes turned to him, but he was batting a hand at an empty space next to him. "No, Al, shut up a minute. I think I've got this figured out."

"Well, please elaborate," Riker prompted.

"The theory behind the Quantum Leap accelerator is to enable time travel within the lifetime of the traveler. So, if you are displaced out of your native timestream, the tendency should be to throw you forward, back into your own timestream."

Riker was skeptical. "I don't know. Your movement in time has been thoroughly randomized. How do we know we'll end up where we're supposed to be? Or that we won't end up like you, displacing somebody else? I mean, we could end up as Ferengi or something."

"Well, surely your technology is advanced enough that you could make some improvements on my efforts. Is there anyone aboard who is well-versed in time theory?"

"Data knows about everything there is to know as far as current theory. I don't know if he would have any knowledge of something as outdated as your work."

A flash of strangely Picard-like irritation moved over Beckett's face. "Well, why don't we ask him?" he said tightly.

"We will," Riker answered, terse. "First we have a saboteur to deal with." He tapped his communicator. "Riker to Lieutenant Worf."

There was a pause, then Worf's dark voice answered, "Worf here."

"Send a security team to apprehend Ensign Kylaree Lara. Take her to ..."

"Commander," Geordi broke in quietly.

"Hold a moment, Worf. What is it, LaForge?"

"I want to see her first."

"I hardly think that would be appropriate."

"Please, Commander. All I ask for is a few minutes."

Riker hesitated, his eyes moving automatically to the captain for confirmation or denial. Beckett gave none. Finally, the commander tapped the communicator again. "Worf, belay that order for fifteen minutes, then proceed."

"Affirmative, Commander."

"All right, Geordi," Riker said. "You've got fifteen minutes."

"Thank you, Commander."


"Picard and Ziggy both think you're on to something." Al had left the imaging chamber when Sam had outlined his plan for setting the _Enterprise_ back on the right timeline, and popped back in just as Geordi walked out the door. "But Ziggy says you're going to need a good bit more power, and somebody will have to do some reprogramming to pull it off. And whatever programming was changed will have to be changed back to keep from interfering with our future. Or past. Or whatever."

"Well, I'm assuming Data can handle that?" Sam put in. Al looked at the empty spot where Sam knew Picard was standing and nodded.

"Picard says yes."

"But how do we get him there?"

"We beam him down," said Riker. "We pin down the exact coordinates of the source of this anomaly. From there, he can determine if it is, indeed, Ziggy, interface with it, and do whatever has to be done."

"Him," Sam said.


"Interface with 'him.' Not 'it.' Ziggy is a 'him.'"

Riker was dumbfounded. "It's a computer."

"So is Data, and you call it him."

"Data is an android. I hardly think ..."

"Riker, LaForge." Geordi's voice came tight and broken. "I think you'd better come down here."

"Where are you, Geordi?"

"Ensign Lara's quarters."

The look Riker gave Troi did not make Sam optimistic about what they were going to find there. The commander started for the door, indicating with a jerk of his head that the others should follow. "We're on our way."


She had, at least, done it cleanly. Sam did not know what else to think as he stood there, useless, watching Beverly Crusher run a scanner over the body. The dead woman was beautiful, with deep red hair and very pale skin. Her eyes had been closed when they came in, but somehow Sam was sure they must be green. She lay on a couch on her back, her arms crossed over her chest. She wore a red dress. The room smelled of roses, but there were no flowers to be seen.

"It was poison," Dr. Crusher announced. "A highly potent strain often used by Romulans. My guess is it was taken voluntarily."

Geordi had moved away from the rest of them, standing by the wall with his back turned. From the edge of his vision, Sam saw Deanna move to touch him, saw Geordi jerk away from her touch as if afraid her hand would burn him. Deanna retreated. Her eyes were brimming, and Sam knew the pain was not her own.

His own throat tightening painfully, Sam turned away. Eyes brushed over him, he could feel them, looking and turning away. Beverly's scrutiny was particularly intense. Captain or no, he wore the captain's face, and habit made them look to him for guidance.

"I don't understand what's going on here," Riker mumbled, partly to Sam, partly to himself. "She was a Starfleet officer. Tested, scanned and verified. How could this happen?"

Sam shrugged. "I don't know. I ..."

"Hey, Sam. What's this?" Al had been nosing through the room, peering at and putting his fingers through things. Now he was pointing to the computer terminal, which was on. A single word flashed blue on the screen: "Geordi."

"Commander LaForge," Sam said gently. "There's something here for you."

Geordi started at him for a moment, as if he could not remember who he was talking to.

"What is it?" he mumbled.

"I don't know. Maybe an answer."

Geordi's approach was hesitant. Sam imagined he was wondering if he would be within his rights to ask the others to leave. In the end he said nothing, but went to the terminal and touched the keypad. Sam admired him for it. They all had a right to know what had happened, but that would have been easy for Geordi to ignore, and his selfishness would have been easy to forgive, under the circumstances.

Ensign Lara's face appeared on the screen, beautiful and alive, but very pale. Her eyes were, indeed, green. Her voice bore a trace of accent, one Sam did not recognize.

"Geordi ..." she started. The word trembled and broke off. She looked down, hardened her mouth, looked back up again. "I don't know what to say to you. I'm sorry I hurt you, but I couldn't go on, knowing what I had to do. I won't kill you like they said I must, not any of you. You can make a life here -- I can't take that from you. You can never go back. I did make certain of that, so they will never know I didn't carry out all of their orders." She paused, blinking back the tears that were trying to come. "Look at my records, Geordi. Two years ago I disappeared during a furlough. I came back and passed all the tests, but that was because the Romulans made sure I would. They have my daughter, Geordi. They took her from me. I'll never see her again but at least they'll let her go. This was the condition. I'm sorry, Geordi. I shouldn't have told you any of this but I thought I owed you an explanation. I do care about you." She stopped. Her lips were trembling. "Goodbye, Geordi."

The image in the screen reached forward and the screen went black.

"So that was it," Geordi murmured. "She sacrificed us to the Romulans in exchange for her child. And she used me to do it."

The silence in the room was deep and painful. Beverly opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again. Finally Sam laid a hand on Geordi's shoulder.

"We'll get out of this, Geordi," he said. "We know something the Romulans don't."

Geordi met his gaze and nodded. Something in his face had hardened into determination.

Behind them, the door slid open, and Worf and two security guards stepped into the room.

"What's happened?" Worf demanded.

"You can return to your stations," Riker informed him. "I'm afraid you're not needed here anymore."

The Klingon hesitated, looking as if he wanted to press on with more questions. Riker raised his eyebrows and nodded toward the door.

"Let's go," Sam said to the others. "I think Geordi needs a little time."

"I'll stay with him," said Al, "make sure he's okay."

Sam nodded. The group left the room as quietly as possible. Outside, Riker turned to Beverly.

"Dr. Crusher, I'd like a full autopsy report and a copy of Lara's personal files to deliver to Starfleet when we get back." He looked at Sam. "I'm gong to get together with Data and be sure both of us are briefed. Counsellor, Captain, I recommend we meet again in thirty minutes to finalize a plan of action."

"Agreed," said Sam.

Katriena Knights
"Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!" -- Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot" --
* PCB/UseNet Gateway from Sparkware #1


Path: dosgate!canrem!uunet.ca!uunet!walter!porthos!pyuxe!krk1 From: krk1@pyuxe.uucp (24220s-knights)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Keywords: Story in 4 parts
Message-ID: <1992Jun8.154746.22575@porthos.cc.bellcore.com> Date: Mon, 8 Jun 92 15:47:46 GMT
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ú Message-ID: <1992Jun8.154833.22688@porthos.cc.bellcore.com> ú Subject: LEAPTREK - PART IV


by Katriena Knights

Part IV

Since he had nothing else to do, Sam went straight to the conference room. He was trying to manage his way into the computer through the terminal on the table when Al popped in.

"Better be careful there, Sam," Al told him. "There's probably a hell of a lot of stuff in there that you don't want to know."

"That's not the half of it. Think about all the things that have happened. I mean, we've gone into space, we've established relations with alien life forms ... it's mind-boggling. And I don't dare look at any of it, for fear that, if I know, something I do may cause it never to happen."

"Well, Sam, so far you haven't been able to alter any major historical events."

"Even so." He paused, mulling. The temptation was enormous, especially since he knew there had been advances in time travel. Finally he forced himself to turn away from the terminal and said, "How's Geordi?"

"He'll be all right. That's one tough kid."

"That's about how I had him figured ..." He broke off, stabbing the return key in frustration. "I can't figure this damn thing out."

"Why don't you just ... talk to it."

Al had a particularly annoying manner when pointing out the obvious. Sam gave him a tight look. "Computer, I'd like to access data in the archives on quantum string theory and application."

"One moment, please."

Al looked impressed. "She's much more polite than Ziggy."

"But not nearly as entertaining."

The pleasant, feminine voice spoke again. "There are 35 documents currently in the archives regarding quantum string theory. Please specify by date or by author."

"Author, Beckett, Samuel. Date, before ... 1999."

Another pause. "Five documents fit this description. Please consult your terminal."

Sam glanced down. A listing of five titles had appeared. The first three involved theory, the last two implementation. The second of the implementation papers related directly to the construction of Ziggy, the imaging chamber and the accelerator ring. He chose that one.

It was a long paper, but Sam only needed bits and pieces of the information in it. It galled him that he couldn't remember most of what he knew he had written.

"What do you think, Sam?" Al asked after a time.

"I think we can make this work." He tapped thoughtfully on the table. "What does Ziggy say about the folding theory?"

"He says it's not likely."

"Okay. Then we'll have to ..." He broke off. The door to the conference room had slid open. Deanna Troi stood just inside it, hesitant.

"May I come in?" she asked.

"Please do."

"Oh, Sam ..." Al, of course, had to put in his two cents worth. "I think she wants to get to know you a little better."

Deanna looked perplexed. "Did Al just say something rude again?"

Sam laughed. "How could you tell?"

"You were annoyed again." She paused, involuntarily looking around the room. "What did he say?"

"Nothing you want to hear, believe me." He looked at Al, who was shaking his head. "My friend Al is ... intensely appreciative of the opposite sex."

"Oh, I see. And you're not?"

"Well, I mean, I'm, well ... appreciative, I just ... I wouldn't word things quite the way he does."

"No, you wouldn't word them at all," Al countered.

Sam ignored him. Deanna smiled. "I see. So you're a gentleman."

"I try to be."

Al snorted. "Gentleman. You're a prude, that's what you are, you're just like a little old lady." He poked at the handlink and the Imaging Chamber opened behind him. "I'm outta here. I can't stand to watch you miss these opportunities. It makes me want to cry."

The door closed before Sam could reply. He turned away, face in his hands, then looked apologetically at Deanna. Her smile was partly perplexed, partly amazed. She shook her head.

"I've seen some very strange things in my time," she said, "but this is definitely among the strangest. You look like the captain, you sound like the captain, but you act and react in a totally different manner."

"Well, now that the secret's out, I must admit I'm not trying very hard."

"You say that you've ... been in the lives of many people, that you've helped them change situations in their lives. Why do you do it?"

"I have to. I keep hoping that the next time I leap I'll find myself back where I belong." He paused, shrugging. "I'm just trying to get home."

But Deanna was shaking her head. Sam found his eyes drawn to the movement of her dark ringlets against her skin, then to the remarkable darkness of her eyes. "No," she said. "There's more to it than that. You were hurting for Geordi -- almost as much as I was."

"Why is that remarkable? The man was in pain."

Deanna shook her head, frustrated at her inability to say what she wanted to say. "Yes, and the rest of them -- Will, Beverly -- they all felt for him, they all sympathized -- but it was pity. With you -- it was as if it was all happening to you as well as to Geordi. So many people have that ability and have blocked themselves off from it. You haven't. In fact, it seems that you have nurtured it." She stopped again. "Reading you is almost like reading another empath, except you can't sense me."

Sam was bewildered. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I thought it might be an answer. I thought it might explain why all this has happened to you. You said you sometimes feel like you were chosen, but you don't know how, or by whom, or why. It just seemed to me that this might be the answer to the why. Because you have an uncanny ability to identify with other people's feelings."

Sam nodded. "I see. Thank you."

Some of the intensity had left the counsellor's eyes. "If this works, you may have saved our lives. I thought I owed you that much."

At a loss for words, Sam turned his gaze again to the terminal. From the tops of his vision he say Deanna shift again, gathering herself for something else.

"Dr. Beckett ..." she started.

"Sam," he broke in. "Just call me Sam."

"It's difficult enough for me to remember not to call you Captain Picard."

"Or _when_ not to call me Captain Picard."

She laughed. Her smile was captivating. Suddenly Sam was very glad Al had left. "What do you really look like?" she said.

It was not what he had expected her to ask. He sobered, realizing how long it had been since his own face had looked back at him from a mirror. The picture of it was becoming dim even to him.

"Computer," he said. "Do you have a visual on Samuel Beckett? Before 1999."

"One moment, please."

A pause, and then a newspaper photo appeared on the viewscreen. The caption under the photo said, "MIT Grad Wins Nobel Prize."

"Well, there you go," he said. He studied the face, himself, taking the chance to refresh his own memory. He didn't want to forget that face in the swamp of other faces he kept seeing in all the different mirrors he encountered.

"It's not what I expected," Deanna said. She was smiling. Smiling warmly, even.

"Why? What did you expect?"

"I don't know. Something a little more ... scholarly, I guess."

"You mean a geeky looking guy with greasy hair, thick glasses and a pocket protector?"

"Um, well, I suppose for your time period, a man with seven doctoral degrees would have been expected to look like that." She tilted her head a little. "You know, I can see you a little. I mean, I can still see Picard, but now ... " She shook her head. "It's fading in and out." She hesitated again, her scrutiny again intense. "It must be very hard for you, living this way."

Sam was beginning to feel very warm. "It'll be over someday."

"Is there anyone you left behind? Anyone waiting for you?"

"Well, there's Al, and Gooshie, and Tina, and Dr. Beeks, and the rest of the staff."

"No, I mean someone special. Someone you care for."

"I don't remember."

Deanna leaned forward and laid a hand on his. "You're a very special person, Sam. Don't ever forget that."

"Thank you," he mumbled. Her hand was warm and soft. For a moment he wondered what might have happened if he had not worn the captain's face, or if she had been able to see through it completely. Then the door slid open and Will Riker entered the room, Data and Geordi close behind him.

"Who's that?" Riker asked, indicating the screen.

"That's me," said Sam. Deanna had not moved her hand and he was suddenly very self-conscious, afraid, for some reason, that Riker would see and misinterpret. Deanna obviously felt his discomfort, for she looked at him with a mischievous smile, patted his hand and let it go.

"That's you?" Riker said.

"Yes," said Deanna. "I wanted to know what he really looked like."

Data's attention was jerking from the screen to Sam and back again. "I take this to mean that you do not always have the appearance of Captain Picard."

"No, I don't." Obviously Data, too, had been informed of Sam's trespass into their Captain's existence. Which was probably for the best.

Data hesitated, considering, then looked at Sam again, head tilted. "I do not recall any provision for this phenomenon in the materials I read concerning your string theory of time travel."

"That's because there was none. Computer, discontinue image."

The screen went black. Data stepped to the table and took a seat. "I have reviewed all of the available information on your theory of time travel and how it was implemented," he said. "Your work was really quite brilliant for the time in which it was done."

"Thank you."

"In fact, I find it fascinating that, given the advanced nature of our current knowledge, no one has as of yet formally assimilated your work into current theory. It seems to me that your hypotheses would parallel the work of ..."

"Data," Riker broke in. "Can we please stick to the subject at hand?"

"He's worse than Ziggy." Al's mumble came from behind Sam's left shoulder. Sam glanced back, acknowledging, but Al's attention was already elsewhere. "Oh, really? Well, if your technology is so advanced, how come you haven't figured out some way to keep your hair?"

Riker's interruption had not fazed Data in the slightest. "Of course, Commander. I have evaluated the structure and energy requirements of the radium accelerator ring and I believe that, with Geordi's help, we can create a supplemental energy source which will enable the accelerator to place us back along our original timeline. I should also be able to interface with Ziggy to make appropriate programming changes, which I will place in a directory which will erase itself after the transfer is complete."

"You're absolutely certain you can do this without damaging Ziggy?" Sam was beginning to feel like they were proposing brain surgery on his own child, and the feeling made him nervous. "I mean, we're playing around in my past, here. I don't want to ... program myself out of existence or something."

Riker laughed tensely. "Of course, there's always the possibility that our modifications are what made your project work in the first place."

"I do _not_ want to hear that," Sam said emphatically. "I'd like to think the work I put my whole life into had some merit."

Riker was taken aback. Data stepped into the commander's lack of words.

"I do not believe Commander Riker intended any slight to your accomplishments, Dr. Beckett. I believe his comment was an attempt at humor, intended to make our situation seem less serious. In fact, according to my analysis, your theories and their implementation should be functional without any interference on our part."

"Which is why we want to be sure nothing we do will change Ziggy as he currently exists." This was Geordi's first contribution to the conversation. "I have devised a way to increase the power flow to your radium accelerator ring by approximately 600%."

"So she did leave us with enough raw materials to work our way out of this," Riker commented.

"Simply because the Romulans did not anticipate the interference of Dr. Beckett," Data clarified. "I have analyzed the anomalous readings we encountered just before coming out of warp drive. These appear to have been generated by a field similar to that created by Project Quantum Leap, but skewed to increase the length of the timeline affected. The power source was not a radium ring, but rather a source much like that employed by a Romulan cloaking device. Apparently, the Romulans assumed that, because of the antiquity of the theory they were making use of, we would be unable to determine what had occurred, and would not be able to return to our own time."

"And the anomalous readings here?" Riker said.

"Are created by a radium accelerator ring in Blue Rock, New Mexico."

Riker turned to Sam. "Do we have contact with Captain Picard? What is his opinion of this course of action?"

Al removed his cigar from his mouth and blew a languid ring of smoke. "He wishes you'd all quit yapping and _do_ something."

"He approves," Sam relayed.

"All right. Data, can you do this all yourself?"

"Yes, Commander."

"Then you beam down and get the job done. I don't want anyone to see you, and I don't want anything left behind that could cause any problems."

"Affirmative, Commander."

"Beckett, you check over Geordi's work and make sure there won't be any interface problems with your computer. Data, you triple check it. Beckett, be sure Data has any and all security codes to get in and out of your building." Riker stood, decisive, jerking his uniform tunic into place. "Now. Are we absolutely certain that when we make this jump back to our own time, Captain Picard will be put back where he belongs?"

"Based on past experience, I would have to say yes," Sam replied.

"Based on past experience," Riker mumbled. "I'd like to be a little more certain than that."

"Well, that's as certain as you're gonna get," Al put in. "Tell him to loosen up. God, he's stiff even for a military man. Just looking at him makes me uncomfortable. He looks like somebody stuck a broomstick up his ..."

"I'm afraid I can't give you any certainties." Sam spoke a little too loudly, trying to overpower Al even though no one else could hear him. "But I'm willing to take the risk."

"Well. I guess we have no other choice. You all have your orders. Make it so."


There was nothing more infuriating than having to wait. Sam had grown used to leaping into a situation, evaluating it, taking immediate action, and leaping back out. To have the entire leap -- his fate as well as the fate of the ship and crew -- on someone else's shoulders was driving him crazy.

He was sitting in the command chair on the bridge because he didn't know what else to do. Commander Riker sat next to him, nervously running his hands up and down his thighs. Data had been gone for twenty minutes. To avoid problems, he had been instructed to check in at twenty minute intervals. They were waiting for the first check-in.

Deanna, seated to Sam's left, crossed her arms and settled back firmly into her chair. Her lips were tight, closed up on her own unease. She passed a sidelong glance to Sam, then to Riker. Sam gave her a small smile. Riker gave her nothing.

"Enterprise, this is Lt. Commander Data."

Riker didn't jump up out of his seat, but his abrupt forward movement had the same effect. He started to open his mouth, then closed it, looking at Sam.

"Go ahead, Data," Sam said.

"I have completed the initial interface with the computer. I must say, Ziggy is quite intriguing. It seems almost to have emotional response, and yet is enclosed in a machine-like structure which ..."

"What's the status of the interface?" Sam broke in. Not that he didn't enjoy listening to Data praise Ziggy, but there was no time for it now.

"The interface has so far been quite successful." Data paused. "I think Ziggy likes me."

Riker hid a smile behind one hand. "How about the additional power generators? Any problems there?"

"I am beginning the connections now. It appears that there will be no difficulties."

"Just don't forget the erasure programs," Sam added.

"I will not forget, Captain," Data answered.

"Check in again in another twenty minutes," Riker finished. "Enterprise out." He turned to Sam, but his eyes only paused there a moment before going on to Troi. "Well, so far, so good."

"I'm sure everything will be fine," Troi said. She looked at Riker first, then settled on Sam. Sam felt decidedly uncomfortable. He had a feeling the attention Troi was giving him did not endear him at all to Riker.

Riker's suddenly sour look confirmed Sam's suspicions. "Well, the sooner we get this over with, the better."

Deanna grinned. Sam relaxed a little, realizing Deanna was not expressing a genuine interest in him, but was just trying to annoy Riker. Apparently Riker knew it, too, and was annoyed that it was working.

"I think she likes you," Al commented. He was standing just to Deanna's right, and was not keeping his eyes forward. "I know I like her."

"Trust me, Al, you would not be able to handle a woman who can read your mind," Sam muttered. Al gave him a dirty look. Deanna grinned, knowing who he was talking to, and Riker quirked an eyebrow.

"Pardon me, Captain?"

"Never mind, Number One."

"Captain." Worf was fiddling with his control panel, probably re-examining readings on the anomaly. "Has it been sufficiently established that this anomaly is not a result of enemy interference? I do not think it would be wise to discount that possibility."

Sam straightened in his chair. "Well, Lieutenant, it has been proven beyond a doubt that the initial anomaly was indeed a result of enemy interference. However, the version which exists in this time zone is created by a particularly brilliant scientist who was experimenting with time travel, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Romulans."

"'A particularly brilliant scientist?'" Al repeated. "Don't lay it on too thick, there, Sam."

"A scientist?" Worf said. "Are we certain that he was not planted in this time zone by the Romulans?"

Sam looked back over his shoulder at the Klingon. His expression indicated that he was completely serious. To Deanna, Sam mumbled, "Is he always this paranoid?"

"Yes," Deanna replied. She turned to Worf. "I have been in contact with the scientist, and he is quite willing to help. I am certain he has no connection with the Romulans."

Worf nodded decisively. "I will defer to your judgement then, Captain."

"Thank you, Mr. Worf."

"Captain Picard." Data's voice, over the intercom. Sam was certain it had not yet been twenty minutes.

"Go ahead, Data."

"The power generators have been successfully connected, and should provide enough additional strength to the time bubble to enable our movement forward in time without the additional impact of the return from warp speed. I have installed the erasure programs into Ziggy's main memory banks. As soon as the appropriate subroutine is completed, it will be erased."

"Good," Riker said. "Prepare to beam up."

"Affirmative, Commander."

Riker turned to Sam. "Well, this is it," he said in a low voice. "How will we know if it worked?"

"If this runs true to form, I should know a split second before it happens. Then Picard will be back, and I'll be gone."

"Off to your next mission," Deanna said, a little wistfully.

Sam shrugged. "Or, if I'm lucky, back home."

She smiled gently and closed a hand on his arm. "I wish you luck."

"Thank you."

"O'Brien, do we have Commander Data?" Riker said to the air.

"Affirmative, Commander."

"All right, then, we're ready." He nodded to Sam.

"Ensign Ro," Sam said, "modify our orbital path so that our next sweep will take us directly through the bubble."

"Aye, Captain."


"You didn't stick your finger up in the air," Al said.

"What?" Sam was befuddled by this.

"Picard just said he always sticks his finger up in the air, like this." Al demonstrated.

"Go away," Sam said.

"No, I think I'll stick this one out. I want to be sure you leap."

"Well, we'll know in a minute." They had been roughly over the Ukraine when Sam had given the order. Below them now the east coast of the United States was coming into view.

"Beautiful, isn't it, Sam?" Al said. "This reminds me of my astronaut days ... There's New Jersey. I met my .. second, no, fifth ... fifth? ... fifth wife in Jersey City ..."

"I know, Al," Sam mumbled. "You've told me this story before."

"Oh. Well. I never know when you're going to forget it."

"We're approaching the bubble, Captain," Ro announced. Sam nodded. All eyes were on the viewscreen. Silly, Sam thought, because they wouldn't be able to tell if they had made it or not just by looking out the window.

"Making contact with the bubble ... now."

Sam felt it then, the indescribable little lurch in his stomach that told him all was well, and this was over. He turned to Commander Riker and nodded ...


Captain Jean-Luc Picard straightened in his command chair. "Ensign Ro, where are we?"

Ro consulted her station readouts. "On a direct heading for Earth, approaching high orbit." She paused. "Star charts indicate we are about two hours after we left."

There was a cheer on the bridge. Picard sank back in his chair. "Thank God."

"Are you all right, Captain?" Riker asked.

"I think so. But I'll be much happier when we are safely on Earth. Lieutenant Worf, open a channel to Starfleet Command."

"Channel open, sir."

As the captain related the occurrences of the last several hours to Starfleet, Deanna Troi looked out at the bright starfield, suddenly sad.

"Thank you, Sam," she whispered.

Commander Riker caught her eye and smiled.

Katriena Knights

"Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!"
Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot"