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Old June 19 2014, 01:50 PM   #2
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Re: "Theorizing" - Challenge Winter 2014 - Other Universes

Chapter 2

June of 2014 at Project Quantum Leap had threatened to be an awful lot like May of 2014, which had been like April and before that, going back in an unbroken chain to when contact with Sam Beckett had been lost. But then Rear Admiral (Retired) Albert Calavicci had received a mysterious text message from Ziggy, the parallel hybrid computer, just when he had been about to sit down to dinner with his wife, Beth, and their five daughters, assorted sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and a passel of grandchildren. He had sprung up from his seat, whooped louder and longer than any guy in his early seventies had any right to, and had woken up his youngest grandson, Logan.

Alone in her quiet home, as she sat near the edge of the swimming pool, Dr. Donna Eleese had been picking at takeout and trying not to think about things as the stars winked on, including, in the Big Dipper, Megrez. She had made a wish, “Here’s to you, Sam, wherever you may be.” She received the same text message, but she didn’t whoop or jump. She just sat there and sniffled, and then dried her eyes. “I do hope it’s not another false alarm,” she had sighed.

That had been a few days previously. It had been no false alarm; rather, it was almost the universe’s version of a good news, bad news joke. The good news was that the project was not dead. The bad news was that the person who had leaped was not Sam Beckett at all. And the cruelest news of all was how much Jonathan Archer looked and sounded like Sam Beckett – at least, like a somewhat older version of him. Dr. Verbena Beeks had performed the DNA test herself, and had determined that Jonathan and Sam were close, albeit not identical. Still, the DNA relationship was closer than even for non-twin siblings.

Archer had been fitted with one of Beckett’s old suits, a condition that had made Donna really cry when she had gotten home that first night. On the following day, he had asked to get out and see New Mexico, and Al had driven him around in a candy apple red sports car. “Yanno,” Al had mentioned then, “they tell me there are a lotta beautiful women around here. But,” he had shrugged, “I have no idea. I can’t see anyone but Beth.” Jonathan had smiled a little at that, a surprising revelation from someone he had no other way of knowing.

That had been the day before. Archer was being kept at the project’s secret offices and, apart from Al’s tour of the area, he hadn’t been outside. The spending of his time had been about the unexpected leap, his story about where and when he was from, and the project trying to figure out how to believe him – and be able to justify their decision, if it ever came to that. But they had come around eventually, all of them.

This time, he asked Gooshie and Sammy Jo Fuller and Dr. Beeks, “Do you think there’s any chance of me going back to my ship?”

“Well, Doc– uh, Captain Archer, I can’t really be sure. Ziggy says there’s a fourteen percent chance that you’re with us for good,” Gooshie reported.

“What do you think?”

“I have no idea. Tina and I were talking, and she thinks, well, honey, why don’t you tell the captain yourself?” He gestured encouragingly to Tina, who was a technician at the project.

Tina came over, as Captain Archer and Dr. Beeks looked on. “See, it’s like this.” She had a pair of ribbons in her hair and took them both out. “Your – I mean, Dr. Beckett’s – theory is that your life is like a string. And his time travel technology works by allowing you to ball up that string and then the days that you live all touch each other in these weird and unexpected ways. It stops being linear.”

“All right,” Captain Archer remarked, “I’m with you so far.”

“But, see, look at these two ribbons. What can you tell me about ‘em?”

“They’re both turquoise,” Jonathan said, “and that one is a little bit wrinkled.”

She smoothed the wrinkled ribbon as well as she could. “Now, are they the same dimensions?”

“I think so. They look like they are. What are you driving at?”

“Here.” She put her hands behind her back for a few seconds and then showed him both ribbons again; and now they were both a bit wrinkled. “Can you tell me which of these ribbons was in my left hand before I hid them?”

“No, I can’t. Not without knowing more about them, maybe on a quantum level.”

“Exactly,” she started to fix up her hair again. “So the way I see it is, your string – or your ribbon, if you prefer – it looks just like Dr. Beckett’s. At least it does to the naked eye and probably to the level of granularity that our instruments are set at. The instruments look at both ribbons and they can’t tell ‘em apart. So it grabs one but it thinks it’s got the other. Or maybe it doesn’t even realize that there are two. That might not matter quite so much. But either way, it’s got the wrong one. And the instruments – or maybe God, or fate, or time – I was never much for that theory, well, maybe they made a mistake. Maybe this is supposed to be a way to get Dr. Beckett back.”

“Maybe,” Gooshie allowed. “Dr. Beeks here and I were talking, and we agreed that this might be a sign that Sam’s mission is coming to a close.”

“This might even be a chance to retrieve Dr. Beckett,” Dr. Beeks clarified.

“But my people will be skeptical, and they might unknowingly interfere with Dr. Beckett’s mission,” Archer said. “I just wish there was a way to get them a message. You know, just in case Dr. Beckett really is there on the Enterprise, and not just lost somewhere. I mean, the idea is that we’re thinking this was some sort of a reciprocal leap, right?”

“Right. Al might know,” Gooshie stated. He hit the preset on his cell phone. “Admiral, can you come in here a moment?”

“Sure; be right there.”

Once Al arrived, Tina asked him, “How would you get a message to the future?”

“The future?” asked Al. “Huh.” He thought for a few seconds, and then snapped his fingers. “Wait, we did this! When I was stuck in 1945! I wrote a letter and I asked a law firm to deliver it to the project. Don’t you remember, Gooshie?”

“Some of that time frame from before Dr. Beckett’s disappearance is a little fuzzy for me,” the programmer admitted.

Dr. Beeks offered, “I can check our files. I’m guessing this was a paper letter.”

“Well, sure,” replied the admiral, “post-World War II America didn’t get email until a lot later.”

“It should be an email,” Sammy Jo said, “do you still have email?”

“We do,” the captain replied.

“So send an email,” Sammy Jo urged.

“Then we’ll make it an email,” Jonathan declared. “I can; maybe I should send something to Beckett himself. The fact that there’s a note from me to him will probably convince my staff. And then he can get some information and maybe even share it if he thinks it’ll help.” Tina had a tablet computer with her and loaned it to him. “Uh, thanks. This won’t be more than a few minutes.”

Once he’d gotten the email written, Captain Archer looked up. “I’ll need a courier.”

“I think a law firm is your best bet,” Al stated. “Just pass ‘em a few and they’ll do it.”

“I didn’t exactly leap here with my wallet,” Archer said.

“Not to worry. I’ll take it outta project funds,” Al said, “We’ll call it stamps, or something. Tina, can you find a likely candidate firm?”

“Sure.” She took her tablet back and started tapping on it furiously. “Huh. Here’s one: Koenig & Brooks. They okay with you?”

“They’re all the same to me,” the captain commented.

“Here, I’ll Skype,” Tina offered, “and then we can all see and hear what’s going on.”

A paralegal answered. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“I want to send an email,” the captain explained.

“Our overall inquiry address is –”

“No,” Jonathan explained, “actually, I’m looking for a future delivery.”

“I’m not sure I follow why you’re calling us,” admitted the paralegal. “Can’t you just schedule delivery through your online mail provider?”

“It’s a far future delivery. There’s a possibility that my online mail provider might not exist then,” Captain Archer said.

“How far in the future are we looking at?”

“October 12, 2153,” Al explained.

“You’re putting me on,” complained the paralegal.

“Tell ya what,” Al offered, “I’m guessing your billing rate is maybe a hundred an hour or so? So let’s make the price tag an even five hundred. All of this is for maybe five minutes’ worth of work. You take the money, you take the email, and you set it up for delivery. Check every few years to make sure the provider is still in business. If you leave the firm get your replacement to do this. Even all of these little checks won’t come to five hours between now and then, nearly a hundred and forty years from now. You’ll look great, too, for bringing in all that cash up front. So, whaddaya say?”

“Um, all right; send it over. But I still think this is crazy.”

“We’ll look over the email, make sure we’re fine with it and then transfer it over with your funds,” Al promised. “Bye.” Once the connection was cut, he looked at the others. “I think she’ll do it. Once you electronically transfer the file over, I think you can consider it sent, for all intents and purposes.”

“All right,” Jonathan allowed, picking up the tablet again. “We should ask Dr. Eleese what she thinks before we go any further with this.” He sighed. “She’s been avoiding me; I imagine it’s not hard to figure out why.”

Sammy Jo looked at him. “I think it’s on account that it’s been so very long.” She had a bit of a southern accent, pleasant to the ear. “It’s your look, too, I imagine. If you had had any other sort of a look, Captain, I think she would be more accepting. Now, I suspect, to look at you is to give her yet another painful reminder.”

“I don’t mean to hurt her.”

“Of course you don’t,” Al said. “But these last few days, they’ve gotta be hope and disappointment, all put together in one neat little package for her.” He hit the preset on his cell phone. “Donna, yeah, can you come over to project headquarters? We have an idea, but we wanna run it by you first.”

When Donna Eleese arrived, she cautiously entered the room. “I have a hard time even so much as looking at you, Captain Archer,” she admitted.

“I’m sorry,” Jonathan said, “I’m not like this in order to, to cause you any pain.”

“I know,” Donna allowed, “but it hurts all the same. Tell me, Al, why am I here?”

“We wanna send an email to Sam. The captain here says that it’ll smooth the way and make it easier for his people to help Sam. Otherwise, they might be spinning their wheels there for a while.”

“I see. And what are you planning to put into this letter?”

“I’ll write to him, Dr. Eleese, and I’ll mention everyone’s name and, at the very least, all the name-dropping will convince him that I’m legit. And I’ll drop some of the names of my staff. That ought to convince them.”

“This is fine,” Donna said, “but only under one condition.”

“Which is?” asked Jonathan.

“You must never tell Sam that I exist. He wouldn’t be able to do what he needs to, and he wouldn’t be able to commit fully to the people he’s trying to help, if he remembered that he was married.” She turned away, sorrowful.

“But what about you?” asked Captain Archer, “Don’t you get a say in the matter?”

“You’ve just heard my say.”

“You’re entitled to have your husband remember you; to miss you and want desperately to return to you.”

“No,” Donna said flatly, “I’m not. I don’t matter anywhere near as much as the people who Sam is supposed to be helping. I’m doing right by him.”

“By keeping him in the dark?” Jonathan’s tone remained an incredulous one.

“Yes, by keeping him in the dark. Now, if you’ll all excuse me? I have to get out of here. I’m sorry, Captain. I’m sure you’re a fine man and all of that. I don’t suspect you of ill will or foul play. But I just, I can’t even be in the same room with you. Please, please! If you are somehow stuck here, please understand. It’s nothing personal but I, I just can’t look at you anymore. Please, never again.” In tears, she turned away and fumbled for the door.

Dr. Beeks got up, too. “Dr. Eleese,” she said, “let me go with you. You need someone to talk to.”

“Yes, yes, of course.” Donna turned back and looked, one last time, her lower jaw trembling. “I can’t stay. Send your email. I hope it does you some good.” The two women departed.

Sammy Jo sighed. “I don’t think we should be crowdsourcing this. Captain Archer, whatever you wanna write, I’m sure it’s fine. I approve of this and I want it and I don’t, well, I don’t dislike you or anything like that. But I’m also having a lotta trouble looking at you, Captain. Please forgive me.”

“Just seal it,” Al suggested. “Look it over and seal it. They can’t look at your face. I’m not so sure I can look at your words, to be honest.”

“I understand,” Jonathan murmured. He looked over the email again, added a few more lines and sealed it. He handed the tablet to Tina who forwarded the message to the law firm.
Oh, Stewardess! I speak Jive! (fanfic with all ratings). Author of Untrustworthy
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