“I love astronomy.” Janna commented, “I love feeling small in something so big.” Al took a slow drag on his cigar. “Not a common feeling for you, I bet.” Janna looked at him for a moment, breaking into a wide smile and then looking away. “Not as often as I’d like.” she admitted, “Its quite disingenuous - everyone wanting to talk to you, to impress you. More often than not, wanting something from you. In all honesty, I‘d be much happier in a bunker with my thoughts.” Al nodded, exhaling smoke into the night, “I can certainly understand that.”
Janna snorted, “I figured you could. Why else would you circle the wagons?” She looked at him with piercing green eyes, and Al smiled, realizing he had been caught. “Still…” she continued, “dressed like that, avoiding attention must be difficult.” Al looked at his outfit, mocking mild offense. This only made Janna laugh harder at his playfulness. Al shrugged, “A bunker, huh? Is that why you’re out here?” Janna was still looking out at the stars, taking a moment to reflect on the question.
“Can I have a hit from that, you think?” she asked, still gazing. Al pulled the cigar from his mouth, “I’ve chewed it a bit.” he admitted. Janna looked at him charmingly, “You don’t have cooties, do you?” she playfully asked, and Al responded by extending the cigar to Janna. Janna took a slow drag, letting the smoke slowly pour from her mouth as she handed it back. “I met Sam Beckett once.” she began, “A long time ago. He, um, he lectured when I was in college.” Janna scoffed, “Only thing there that made me feel stupid.”
“I love science. I love everything about it - how everything has a purpose and a reason, how there is always something to discover and always something to fix.” Janna explained, shivering lightly. Al slipped off his white waistcoat and wrapped her shoulders as she continued, “I made things and people got rich. Sam Beckett made things and people got better.” Al contemplated for a moment. “You are still a genius. People use what you created to make lives better for people all of the world.” he offered.
“The government wants to use my technology for War Games.” Janna replied, “God, does this government like war.” Al said nothing, taking in everything she said. “The bad thing about power is everyone ’likes’ you. Everyone is nice to you.” Janna paused, looking down at her hands, “They all want something from you eventually.” Al nodded, “That must be awful. Everyone falling over themselves to be nice. Sounds like a real kick in the butt.”
Janna looked at him, “Are you heckling me, Admiral?” she asked charmingly. They both shared a laugh and he puffed his cigar. “That’s my money Al. It isn’t me.” She replied. They leaned against the gate enjoying the silence for several moments as the shower came to an end. “Want to hear the best part of being that rich?” she asked, avoiding his glance. Al raised his eyebrows, turning to face her as she looked up curiously. Janna dropped her glance down to meet his gaze, smiling, “I get just about anything I want.” she said coolly.
Their shared gaze was interrupted as Al’s coat began to make a sound akin to a broken cassette recorder. Janna looked down as Al slipped his hand inside the coat, pressing lightly to her. “Pardon me.” he commented, producing the handlink. Janna watched fascinated as Al clicked it one, and the handlink began lighting on and making noises. Al stared at it for a few seconds, putting out his cigar. “It looks like I have to go in. Ziggy’s got some information on Sam.” Al explained. Janna looked up brightly, “Is Sam available? I‘d love to speak with him, or with Dr. Alessi.”
Janna removed his jacket, offering it back to him. “Anything you want, huh?” Al asked. Janna blushed, stepping back, “Just about.” Al looked at her as he straightened his collar. Al checked the Handlink a second time and they both began walking back to the compound. As they reached the doors and began scanning their security badges, Al instructed sternly, “Once we are inside the Control Room, you can observe but we work like a well-oiled machine. Any interference could cost Sam his life.” Janna, realizing the seriousness in his tone, simply nodded meek understanding as the door was unbolted and opened.
Al was all business as they walked quickly down the corridor. They passed another security checkpoint, and Janna was stunned as the underground levels proved to be a complete departure from the usual business offices above. She followed close as Al keyed into the handlink and briskly walked to the Control Room door. He placed his right hand to the security panel and the door opened, giving Janna her first glimpse of Ziggy. “What‘s the word?” Al asked he entered.
Donna looked up, “Seems Henry has had some difficulty sleeping in the Waiting Room. Dr. Beeks has gone in and will be administering a mild sedative.” Al nodded, looking over the control panel as Janna backed to the wall, watching with brimming enthusiasm. “Admiral?” Ziggy asked, as Al continued to read over data. “Admiral” Ziggy tried again, with artificial sincerity. Al failed to look up, “What is it, Ziggy?” he asked.
“Who is your friend?” Ziggy asked. Janna looked up, oddly nervous at the computer’s newfound interest, but it was Donna who addressed it.
“Ziggy, this is Dr. Janna Irons. She’s here to assist the project and to meet and learn about you.” Donna said gently, “What do you say to that?” Janna blushed mildly as everyone in the room seemed to notice her at once. “I think the suit works on her, but her ankles are too think for ankle strap heels.” Ziggy commented flatly. No one looked up from their work, and Janna burst into a fit of laughter. “Oh, I like her.” he exclaimed, taking a step closer to the panel. “Don‘t be shy.” Ziggy soothed, “I‘m used to being the lady all the scientists want to touch.”
Janna timidly extended a hand, and Donna helped her place it on the panel. There was a sound which Janna immediately recognized as resembling a beam up from Star Trek, but she dare not say that aloud. Ziggy hummed along, and responded, “Interesting profile, Dr. Irons. I seriously doubt you’re 109 pounds as your license would suggest.” This only made Janna laugh harder. Al tabbed the info onto his handlink, “Don‘t encourage her.” he warned as he walked past and made his way to the Imagining Chamber Door. Janna watched him straighten, the door open, and he stepped into the smoky corridor and disappeared from sight.
Janna knew the least in the room, and this realization immediately made her uneasy. She watched as the three scientists worked at each station, trying to absorb everything. “So, what do you think?” Ziggy asked. Janna looked about, unsure where to answer. “I think you should perhaps focus on assisting the Admiral with Dr. Beckett.” Janna answered. Gooshie looked up ominously, “Here we go.” Ziggy’s voice changed pitch, and she cuttingly replied, “I’ll have you know, Doctor, that I am easily capable of a billion gigabyte processes and I can perform a trillion floating-point operations at once.”
Ziggy said confidently, “I’m sure I can address the Admiral’s any concern and still have plenty of energy left to address your Manolo knockoffs.” Janna stifled her chuckling as Donna cleared her throat, “Ziggy?” she called, “Be nice.” After a beat Ziggy replied, “Yes mother.” Donna turned to Gooshie, “And you tell Tina- no more fashion magazines are to be scanned into her database.” Donna stretched, stepping back from the panel exhausted. She shook hands with Janna, who was still a bit overwhelmed.
“Mother?” Janna said with mock-ish surprise. Donna smiled, looking up at her neural net. “She can be a handful. I hope you aren’t thin-skinned.” Ziggy replied, “I can still hear you.” as and amused Janna just shrugged. “They are knockoffs.” she admitted, “Who would pay retail for something like that?” Ziggy called down, “Billionaires?” Donna looked up annoyed, but Janna was perfectly at home with the roasting. She looked up sweetly and replied, “Shoes don’t turn me on. Now….hybrid computers? That’s something you want to open the checkbook for.”
Ziggy moaned softly, “Don‘t let this voice fool you, Doctor. I‘m all man in here.” Janna blushed, nodding earnest capitulation. “Perhaps too much man for me.” Ziggy huffed, “This from the woman who walked in with Admiral Calavicci.” Donna interjected, “I have so technical information to discuss with you, but do you have any questions to start?”
Janna rested her chin on her fist, “Everything.” she blurted, “Where is Dr. Beckett? What’s he doing?” Donna rolled her eyes and nodded slowly. “Well, that’s a bit complicated.” she began, “Let’s start simple. Dr. Beckett is currently in the year 1972.” Gooshie interjected, “Except that his body is in Waiting Room.” Donna turned to Gooshie, gesturing with her hands, “Right. His body is right down this corridor, in the Waiting Room, and he is in 1972.”
Janna pointed behind her, “So that room leads to 1972?” Donna bit the inside of her cheek, “Not exactly. See, when a Quantum Leap takes place our Sam leaps into a person existing in a given place. He takes their place in the Waiting Room…more or less.” Janna pondered for a moment. “If you wanted to travel in time, you‘d go to the Accelerator Chamber.” Sammy Jo offered. Gooshie chimed in, “Only you wouldn’t want to, because with Dr. Beckett leaping, and the Waiting Room full, there is no mathematical certainty of where you would end up.”
“Unless of course, you were making a predetermined leap into yourself or a fixed object within the system.” Donna corrected, “Then there is a 19% probability to would complete your destination.” Janna looked among them, nodding slowly. Her eyes wide, she replied, “19%?” The three operators sighed, replying in near unison, “Right.” Janna stood quietly, trying to take it all in as Ziggy called down, “I’m right here you know.” All the operators rolled their eyes, and Janna shook her head.
“So what is Sam in 1972 to do?” Janna asked. Gooshie was stacking clipboards, barely looking up as he answered, “He‘s there to prevent the death of a Vietnam Veteran.” Janna was shocked. “Like…to save his life?” she asked, “It’s a matter of life and death?” Ziggy sighed loudly, “It usually is.” As the reality of that sank in, she watched these people scramble around plugging information and running scenarios. “Well…how many lives has Dr. Beckett, and the project saved?” Janna muttered, trying to understand it all.
“To date, Dr. Beckett has saved 243 lives.” Ziggy answered, “Not counting Admiral Calavicci, who has been saved twice.” Janna shook her head as Donna rounded the panel, “And we have to fight every month for lights and printer paper.” Janna was startled as Al rested a hand on her shoulder and handed the handlink off to Donna. “Sam has saved my life more than twice.” he said softly to her.
“I‘m turning in.” Al announced, “Should anything come up, I’ll be in my office Ziggy.” Ziggy huffed, “I know.” Al turned to Janna, whose head was spinning. “Do you need a ride someplace?” Janna looked around the room, “Did I pass? Am I going to get to work with you?” Donna looked about, “I think its safe to say anything you can add would be greatly appreciated.” Janna flashed a zealous smile, “Then I won’t be needing a ride. I came here to work.”
She smoothed her skirt, “Just let me grab my purse from the main hall, and if you‘ll point me toward any quiet room, I start studying.” Janna made eye contact and warmly shook each person’s hand, stopping at Donna Alessi. “Thank you.” Donna said. Janna smiled, “You wont be fighting for paper anymore.”