Rocky smiled as he watched the Aquitian Rangers teleporting away. After weeks of relying on the Aquitians, Rocky and his friends were finally back to normal. Even better, they had found all five pieces of the Zeo Crystal, which would provide them with new powers to replace the ones Zedd had destroyed. Rocky could hardly wait. He was practically jumping up and down with excitement.
The others apparently felt the same way.
"Come on, guys," Tommy said, unable to hide the excitement in his voice. "Let's get back to the Command Center."
"Right," Billy replied.
Rocky grinned and pressed the button to teleport. He felt a thrill of electricity, and then everything dissolved into light… but not the red light he had expected. Instead, he was suddenly filled with a brilliant flare of blue-white energy…
"Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi!" was the first thing Sam Beckett heard as he Leaped in. When his vision cleared, Sam saw that the words had been spoken by some kind of robot. It was standing next to an African-American girl in an orange and yellow dress, across the room from Sam. Immediately to Sam's left were four more people, all of whom seemed to be in their late teens.
"Alpha, what's wrong?!" asked one of the teens, a tall boy dressed in grey and white.
"Goldar and Rito have stolen the Zeo Crystal!" the little robot — Alpha, Sam surmised — exclaimed.
A blonde girl, who wore a blue dress over a pink blouse, stepped into the center of the room, where a strange metallic device rested on a pedestal. She paled and put her hand to her face.
"Oh no," she murmured, in a distinctly Australian accent.
Sam was completely confused. The room they were in seemed to be some kind of high-tech computer center, but what were a bunch of kids doing there? What was the Zeo Crystal? Most importantly, where was Al?
"We'll have to get it back!" said a dark-haired Asian boy.
Sam opened his mouth, intending to ask how they could do that, when suddenly all hell broke loose.
There was a thunderous noise and a blinding flash of light. Sam yelled in surprise as the room shook and he was thrown against a nearby console. He could hear the others screaming as sparks flew through the air and electricity arced between consoles.
"What's happening?!" the girl in the yellow dress exclaimed in panic. She never got an answer, because then the room was rocked by another explosion. The lights went out, and Sam coughed as smoke began to fill the room.
"RANGERS," came a strange voice. "YOU MUST EVACUATE THE COMMAND CENTER."
"We can't leave you!" the black-clad Asian yelled back.
Another explosion echoed through the room. Sam yelped as a shower of sparks rained down on him, and he heard more screams.
"Get out of here now, Rangers!" Alpha exclaimed. "Hurry! Go!"
Sam would have gladly complied, but he didn't know how. He didn't see anything that even looked like an exit.
Where are you, Al? he wondered desperately. What am I supposed to do here?
There was another flash and boom, and everyone was thrown to the floor. Pieces of the ceiling began crashing down, and Sam barely rolled out of the way as one plummeted to the ground inches from his head. The smoke in the room was beginning to get thick, and there was a horrible smell of ozone and melted wiring.
"ALPHA, TELEPORT THEM OUT NOW!" ordered the same voice Sam had heard before. It seemed to be coming from somewhere on the far side of the room, but Sam couldn't see the speaker through the smoke, sparks, and falling debris that filled the air.
"Aye-yi-yi! Right, Zordon!" the robot replied over the din. It hurried to a nearby control panel and began punching buttons.
"AL-PHA!" someone screamed. "NOOOOOOOOO!!!" A young man in a blue plaid shirt, his blond hair streaked with soot from the explosions, dashed toward a console on the far side of the room.
"Billy, don't!" one of the girls yelled.
Just then, the Imaging Chamber Door slid open.
"Al!" Sam exclaimed in relief, struggling back to his feet. "Thank God—"
Al cut him off, pointing to the boy in blue. "Stop him, Sam! That panel's gonna—"
Sam didn't wait to hear the rest. He took two running steps and threw himself at the boy, catching him in a flying tackle. They rolled along the floor and came up just in time to see the console explode in a flash of blinding white light. Sparks flew everywhere as light kept pouring from the control panel, completely engulfing the spot where Billy had been only a moment before.
"Thanks, Rocky," the blond boy said shakily, looking up at Sam. "I owe you one."
"We've gotta get out of here first," Sam replied, but his voice was lost to another explosion.
"Teleportation sequence activated!" came Alpha's voice, and then Sam's vision dissolved into red.
I must be Leaping, was Sam's thought as ruby bolts of lightning coursed through him. Suddenly the red light vanished, and Sam crashed heavily to the ground.
He sat up slowly, coughing, and then looked around. He and the five teenagers had landed in a desert area. High on a ridge above them was an odd-shaped building that was nearly the color of the sand. As Sam and the others got to their feet, an entire side of the building blew outward in a flare of light. Sam threw up his arms to shield himself as huge hunks of debris came flying at them. There was another massive blast, and they were all thrown to the ground.
"Is everyone all right?" one of the guys asked after a long moment.
"Yeah, I think so," the girl in yellow answered.
Sam sat up, groaning. "Billy?" he asked quickly, turning to the blond boy who had landed next to him.
Billy gave a weak smile and nodded. "I'm fine. Thanks a lot, Rocky." Then he caught sight of the building on the ridge… or what was left of it.
"No," he gasped. "Please, no…"
It was completely decimated. Black smoke drifted up from the shattered remains of walls, the main pieces of which were now scattered across the desert. The teens all got to their feet and stared at the ruins in horror. Whatever the building had been, Sam could tell it meant a great deal to them.
As the others stared at the destruction, Sam stepped aside to talk with Al.
"Are you okay, buddy?" the hologram asked with concern.
Sam managed a smile, though he was sore all over. "Yeah, I'm fine. Did I do what I was supposed to do?"
"Yeah." Al glanced at the handlink. "You Leaped into Rocky in order to save Billy from that explosion." He frowned. "This is really strange, though…"
"What?" Sam asked curiously.
"Well, Ziggy analyzed that control panel and discovered that it didn't actually blow up. A power conduit ruptured inside the console… the light you saw was just radiation."
"So I Leaped in to save him from the radiation. What's the difference?"
"The difference is that he shouldn't have needed saving," Al replied with a bewildered expression. "According to Ziggy, the radiation was in the form of negative proton particles, which are essentially harmless. He wouldn't have suffered any lasting physical effects."
"So I saved him from something that wouldn't even have hurt him?"
Al nodded. "Yeah. Doesn't that seem kinda pointless?"
Sam almost said yes, then stopped. He turned to look at Billy standing with his friends, who, judging from the events of the past five minutes, were obviously more than they seemed.
"I don't know, Al," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe it was more important than we'll ever know."
Then he Leaped.
Author's Notes: This story was originally posted on October 4, 1996. Much of the dialogue was borrowed from the MMPR episode "Hogday Afternoon, Pt. 2." Blame Saban for the negative proton particles… although Quantum Leap isn't exactly known for great science, either (subatomic agitation of carbon quarks, anyone?).