Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert, to develop a top-secret project known as Quantum Leap. Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the project accelerator, and vanished...
He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own. Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through brain-wave transmissions with Al, the project observer, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Dr. Beckett can see and hear. Trapped in the past, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next Leap will be the Leap home.
Sometimes when you leap, it's easy to get your bearings. A calendar on the wall, wallet on the nightstand, and maybe a handy mirror to look into as the smell of coffee wafts through the air.
And sometimes you just leap right into the thick of things.
Now, I wasn't sure who had shouted, but the big guy in front of me didn't seem to have listened, and the fire leaping around seemed to make running a good idea.
The heat was intense, and Sam lost track of where the others were, all except the big kid with black hair that he was pushing ahead of him. "Al! Al! Where are you?"
A large snout snapped over the holographic door as Al stepped out, looking around at the flames, which were taking on the forms of fantastic mythical beasts. "Ain't that a kick in the pants."
On noting Sam's disbelieving glare, Al flinched a bit and said, "Look, Sam, you gotta get out of this - the door's over that way... Jeez, talk about a death trap. Don't these people have fire marshals or something to keep the junk from piling up like this?"
"What kind of fire is this?" Sam yelled over the noise of the roaring flames, still pushing the near-catatonic dark haired boy. "Is it fireworks?"
"Well, you see..." Sam kept pushing, but had to stop and change direction when a giant snake made of fire hissed and swirled around them. "Ziggy thinks it's magic!"
"Magic?" Sam exclaimed, just as the snake fully encircled them, and the boy Sam had been pushing let out a thin, piteous scream before fainting. Staggering from the considerable dead weight that had landed on him, Sam wrapped his arms around the boy and looked around desperately for a way out.
Salvation seemed at hand, as something was flying through the air. It was a boy, wearing some sort of dress and riding a broomstick. Sam wasn't about to quibble, and he held up his hand, but the boy was going by too fast and his own hand was slippery with sweat from the encroaching heat.
"IF WE DIE FOR THEM, I'LL KILL YOU, HARRY!" someone roared, and Sam looked up in time to see two more kids on a broom swoop in just ahead of some flames shaped like a lion's head on a goat's body. The two kids picked up the unconscious boy and flew away, and Sam scrambled to climb onto the other broom.
"The door, get to the door, the door!" he shouted, pointing the way Al had guided them. The smoke was thick around them, and all that Sam could see through the inferno was destruction.
Then they turned in mid-air, gravity making a serious bid to pull Sam down into the fire as they turned, and he screamed, "What are you doing, what are you doing, the door's that way!"
The boy in front of him - Harry - grabbed something out of the air, then made another hairpin turn to get away from a snake of fire that was lunging at them. Sam clutched him as tightly as he could against the feeling that he'd fall off, and the dizziness from the motion and the smoke inhalation.
After an eternity, they went through a door and hit a wall, and Sam rolled with the fall, coughing and trying not to lose whatever lunch this boy had eaten, which didn't seem like much. "You okay, Sam?"
He used his physical distress as a cover to turn his head and hiss, "No!"
"Look, the other kid, Lobster - lobster?" Al hit the side of his hand unit and then said, "Crabbe, his name was Crabbe. Did you get him out?"
"C-Crabbe," Sam managed to choke out. Still unsure who that was, he tried again, "C-Crabbe..."
"He's dead," the red-headed boy spat out.
"Uh oh," said Al, and Sam rolled over so he could collapse onto his back in despair. "Look, Vincent Crabbe was the one that stayed in there, the one next to you is... Gregory Goyle. Ziggy thought you were supposed to save Crabbe, but she doesn't have a lot of information yet, so she could be wrong. We thought it was a cult, with all the abracadabra mumbo jumbo, but with the flying and the dragons and--"
The walls shook with crashes and bangs from somewhere close by, and a stream of translucent men on horseback galloped past in a blur of silver. Al shrugged. "And those. Ghosts, no less. I... I don't know what to tell you, Sam."
Any attempt to answer discreetly was cut off by Harry shouting, "Where's Ginny? She was here. She was supposed to be going back into the Room of Requirement."
"Room of Requirement?" Sam mouthed to Al, who shrugged and pointed at the blank spot of wall where there had been a door to a room on fire.
"Blimey, d'you reckon it'll still work after that fire?" said the redhead. "Shall we split up and look--"
"No," said the other kid, who was a girl with singed bushy hair. Sam stayed down, grimacing at Al over the slumped body of the boy mountain, still unidentified. "Let's stick together. I say we go-- Harry, what's that on your arm?"
"What? Oh yeah--" Harry held up what might've been a tiara once, before it started oozing what looked like tar.
Sam didn't bother to be subtle as he hissed, "Al!" but luckily no one was paying attention.
"Hang on, hang on." Al was concentrating on typing something on the hand unit. "Fiend... Fire... Says it has nothing - wait, it thinks fire is with a y. And I thought I had trouble spelling..."
"But don't you realize?" the girl whispered, nowhere near softly enough not to be heard. "This means, if we can just get the snake--"
"More snakes?" Sam groaned, but then the noises of fighting moved closer. Four men were fighting, two of them with red hair, but the other two were wearing the same kind of black dresses that Sam and the unconscious Goyle were wearing. "Who're the good guys?"
"Hello, Minister!" shouted one of the redheads, and some light came from the stick in his hands to hit the man whose hood had slipped down.
Al talked over the shouting, nonchalantly stepping through one of the fighters. "Well, masks are usually bad, but Minister like Prime Minister means that guy's from the government, so..."
"They're fighting with a light show!" Sam whispered emphatically. "I think that's more-- Watch out!"
Without thinking, Sam tossed himself through the air and tackled the boy who was laughing, just as the air was torn apart by an explosion. Sharp rocks flew threw the air, tearing the cloth off Sam's back and leaving bleeding furrows in their wake.
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