Author: MavenAlysse PM
part 3 - Blair's a Shaman, right? or 'How to be an Active Participant in your Own Rescue'.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Spiritual/Hurt/Comfort - Words: 18,130 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 5 - Published: 11-19-11 - id: 7564767
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sentinel Fan Fiction
Disclaimer: Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, and the rest of the Major Crimes gang do not belong to me but rather to Pet Fly. No money is being made off of this, nor is any disrespect intended. Any characters not familiar to 'the Sentinel' universe are solely of my own imagination. Let me know if you decide to use any of them in your own stories before borrowing, thanks.
Warnings: PG13 – some violence (references to torture, some good fight scenes, and non-canon character deaths) and cursing (they have every right, but I kept it mild).
Spoilers: vague references to 'The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg' and 'Cypher.'
This is a companion story to "Demonstrating Wisdom" (this story was set post-'Sentinel Too, part 2' and pre-'TSbBS'), but you don't have to read it first in order to understand what's going on. "Spirit Walk" takes place sometime during the second year after Blair becomes a detective. (Yeah, sorry, but I couldn't let him rot in academia.) Guess you'd consider this AU.
Special Thanks = To Aislinn: your continuous support has meant so much to me. Thank you so much for listening to my absent ramblings and bringing me back on track. To the folks at IHOP: for putting up with long, odd hours when all I'd get was coffee. Thanks for being there with friendly smiles and for being such good listeners. To KimberlyFDR: for going over the story and supporting the direction it went, even when you thought it should have gone in a different one. I guess this one can be chalked up to AU and we'll do better the next time, huh? Smile
Enjoy the story and let me know what you think of it.
Speech set in ~ ~ indicate spirit talk.Spirit Walk
- Non-descript office in an unknown location. -
Standing at rigid attention, the young soldier gave his message. "The Brass wants to know what's taking so long, sir."
Behind his desk, the older gentleman leaned back in his chair, one hand brushing absently through his graying brown hair. "The manuscript we confiscated gives us the information we need, it was very thorough on that point, but what of the other side of the equation?"
Though he had been speaking out-loud to himself, the soldier spoke up. "We don't know sir, there is very little information available on the subject. I don't know why it was never researched further."
The man smoothed the lapels of his dark colored suit and smiled thinly. "It wasn't the main focus of the study, there was only enough to let you know that it was important, but not enough to do anything about." He sighed, suddenly weary. "Until we know more, the project cannot move forward. There are too many unfamiliar and unfavorable variables."
"Your orders, sir?"
Leaning forward, elbows on the armrests, fingers tented in front of his mouth, the man blinked pale washed out blue eyes. His gaze focused sharply on the younger man. "Bring him in. Perhaps he can be persuaded to share the information we seek."
Saluting, the soldier barked out, "Very good, sir."
- Twelve hours later: another unknown location. -
The man paced the length of the cell, staring at him, though the blue eyes wouldn't have been able to discern more than a shadowy figure on the other side of the double-paned shatterproof glass. Though he'd thrown himself at the glass several times, he showed no sign of any pain or discomfort. "You can't do this! You can't keep me here."
Smiling thinly, he responded, his voice echoing in the cell with an odd metallic quality to it as it was filtered through the distortion machine. "On the contrary, we can and have done this. And you will remain our … guest … until our curiosity is satisfied."
Face twisted in contempt and disgust, the pacing man spat, "I won't tell you shit."
"Oh, I can assure you that one way or the other you will tell us everything you want to know."
"Wanna bet?" came the low snarl.
Mr. Johnson, the only name those at the installation knew, or cared to know him by, tilted his head, unsurprised at the defiance, and allowed a measure of confidence and satisfaction to permeate his tone. "You can do this one of two ways – either cooperate with us freely or we will be forced to resort to … less pleasant means of persuasion.
The man stopped pacing, locking gazes with Mr. Johnson. The blue eyes hardened to diamond points as the prisoner stared through the one-way mirror into the other's pale washed out blue eyes. "Screw this. I'm outta here."
Snorting, he indulged in a casual lie, one that had been used effectively before in demoralizing other men he'd had contained. "Please. You're locked in a cell deep underground with state of the art security keeping an eye on every move you make. No one knows where you are, or who has you, so you can forget about being rescued by your … esteemed … partner. You won't be going anywhere for quite some time. Not unless I wish it."
A feral wolfish grin flashed, startling him, and Blair Sandburg's voice dropped into a low growl. "Watch me."
Mr. Johnson snapped his fingers, and the door set in the left-hand wall opened and two soldiers-cum-guards entered. One carried a pair of shackles, the other something that looked like a cattle prod. Mr. Johnson watched dispassionately as Blair immediately put up a fight to keep from being restrained. He'd read the file on this particular man, and hoped the shackles would make him more complaint to their wishes. The guard struck Blair repeatedly with the prod, sending the shorter man into mild convulsions. The first guard snapped the wrist restraints on and the two manhandled the Guide into the lab.
- Seven hours later. -
Mr. Johnson's voice sounded again, reverberating through the cell and his skull. "As you can see, Detective Sandburg, we're quite prepared do deal with you if you feel you cannot communicate with us on the level which we request."
Fine tremors of pain and exhaustion wracked his limbs, but Blair stood rigidly in the center of his cell, blue eyes ablaze with anger and contempt. Wishing desperately that he could just collapse into a quivering heap, but not wanting to give the faceless man the satisfaction of knowing how much he had hurt him, Blair waited.
Insincerity oozed from the other man's voice, sounding clearly even through the distortion. "I give you the night to think about helping us on your own. I do hope you come to your senses by morning. I'd hate to have to break you to learn your secrets, but I will learn them, don't doubt that."
The light on the other side in the mirror went out, bringing his own bruise-besmudged face into sharp focus, and telling the young man that the other had gone, unwittingly giving the young Shaman some much needed privacy. A small circle of the mirror near the upper right hand corner let the exhausted man know that his respite was limited, they had a camera on him. He hid a smile as he levered himself into a sitting position, trying not to pull sore and strained muscles. 'Let them watch me sleep. It'll be as much fun as watching paint dry.'
He rubbed tenderly at his throat, for though he had never spoken a single word the entire time he'd been … interrogated … in the lab, he had been unable to keep from screaming out in pain and frustration. He shuddered, closing his eyes briefly, then opening them to look about the room. He purposefully kept his gaze from landing too long on the camera, but Jim had taught him well, better than they ever would expect, let them think he was unaware of it. He hid another smile, then grimaced as he lowered himself down onto his side. It felt like every part of his body was on fire; his nerves thinly stretched wires that sang and hummed from the abuse that had been poured on them. The "doctors" who had worked him over hadn't used drugs … 'Yet,' … but Blair knew they were frustrated with his silence and probably wouldn't wait long the next day before bringing them into play. 'Gonna have to get out of here before then. Time to get some help.'
A couple of years ago, Blair had discovered the ability to spirit walk, he hoped to use that same ability to help him now. He relaxed, breathing deeply as he let the tension flow from him. Finding his center, he felt the almost physical jolt that heralded his connection with the astral plane and he felt the pain recede. With just a thought, Blair left his body, standing easily – his spirit could now travel unhindered of pain or obstacles. He felt a nudge at the small of his back. Turning, he met the gaze of his spirit guide. The wolf seemed to grin at him. With a matching wicked grin he ghosted through the mirror, the wolf at his side. ~Let's see exactly how extensive this 'state of the art' security really is.~
- The Loft. -
Detective Jim Ellison prowled the perimeter of the loft, desperately searching for anything to clue him in on his partner's whereabouts. Blair had stayed home that day, a rare day-off that didn't also involve his partner. The two had invited several of the other members of Major Crimes to come over that evening for a poker game. Jim had come home expecting to find Blair in the middle of dinner preparations, or setting up the living room to accommodate the extra people. Instead, he'd found the front and balcony doors broken into, the loft trashed, and his Guide missing. The Sentinel was decidedly pissed.
The others had arrived shortly after, and immediately starting checking the place for clues. Detectives Henri Brown and Brian Rafe combed the kitchen area. Blair had checked in with Jim just before lunch and the half-eaten sandwich on the table told them that the younger detective had probably been taken sometime around one o'clock. They discovered a bloody knife lying behind the island, but after a quick check, Ellison confirmed that the blood did not belong to his Guide.
Captain Joel Taggart found another entry point; the window in Blair's room leading to the fire escape had been forced open.
Inspector Megan Conner kept a close eye on Jim, ensuring he didn't zone out on them while Captain Simon Banks barked orders into his cell phone, requesting a forensics team to check the place out as well.
Ellison cast about the room using sight and smell. Filtering out his friends' scents, he detected the unfamiliar scents of four other individuals. He could picture the attack in his mind, it would have been methodologically planned – two men in through the front door, one through Blair's room, and the fourth from the balcony. His partner would have had no chance to escape the pincer movement. A flash of red caught his eye. Jim put on a rubber glove and stooped to pick the object up, careful not to handle it too much. "We can probably expect some sort of ransom call soon." He showed the tranquilizer dart to the others.
The group relaxed marginally, relieved to find some sort of evidence that Blair might still be alive. It wasn't usually common procedure to subdue someone if you planned on killing them. But then, nothing dealing with Sandburg was common.
A low growl caught everyone's attention and all eyes turned to the balcony. Blair stood in the doorway.
"Sandburg!" Captain Banks barked, almost biting his cigar in two in his agitation. "Where the hell…?" he trailed off when he saw the large gray wolf that stood leaning against the younger man's thigh. Blair gave no notice to him, instead focusing entirely on Jim, one hand absently carding through the wolf's thick fur.
"Chief?" Jim started hesitantly. His heart told him Blair was standing right in front of him, as did his eyes, but his other senses…
~Hey, Jim.~ The voice was soft and echoed strangely as if from a long distance. ~I'm in a bit of a predicament here. ~ He smiled softly at the understatement. His form shifted and flickered like a projection on smoke and the others held their breaths in shocked awe, realizing they were witnessing the impossible.
"What happened Blair?" Jim got to the point, no longer ill at ease with the metaphysical and mystical.
~Government goons. Least, that's who they said they were – never said what branch though. I get the feeling that they're more free-lance than sanctioned. Everything's a bit too … roughshod … for a permissible government act.~ He took a breath. ~Look, man, they know about you. Guess I did too good a job on my dissertation, huh?~ His expression sobered with frightening suddenness. ~They think they've got you pegged, Jim, based on that information. And now they want to know about Guides. Consequently, I'm there and not here.~
"Where are you, buddy?" Jim's voice had grown both softer and harder as his body flooded with anger and adrenaline. 'How dare anyone mess with my Guide!'
~I'm at an installation about a hundred miles north of here and I could really use some help getting out.~
"Just tell me what I need to do, Chief. We'll get you out of there." The calm assurance brought a small smile to the Shaman's lips.
Then, as if just noticing them for the first time, Blair looked up at the others and the smile blossomed into a full-blown grin, though it contained a harsh edge to it. ~Cool, the more the merrier. 'Cause I gotta tell you, the hospitality here sucks!~
The small rescue group coasted silently up on the shore. The installation was located on an island 50 miles off shore of the Washington coast – for which Simon Banks was oddly grateful. He had a feeling things could get messy on the mission – the fact that they were outside U.S. jurisdiction made justifying what they might have to do that much easier.
They concealed their boat, avoiding the cameras and sensory equipment with the help of Jim's own senses and Blair's prior warning. They made their way in the dim moonlight to where the young Shaman was waiting for them on the beach. His ghostly form illuminated as if from within, the proximity of his body giving him more control over his astral self. ~There are two pairs of guards running patrol along the island's perimeter. Another two guards are watching the docks. There are three cruisers, two wave skimmers, and a yacht. Nothing real fancy though.~
"Taggart, Brown, would you two gentleman ensure we're the only ones capable of leaving this island?" Both men shared the feral grin Banks flashed. With a nod, the two slipped off towards the makeshift port.
While they dealt with the transportation, Ellison and Conner went after one set of patrolling guards while Banks and Rafe went after the other. The entire group met at the entrance of the installation, breathing hard, but triumphant.
"So far, so good," H murmured.
"Area secured?" Ellison asked.
"Distributor caps and spark plugs tossed out to sea. Salt water in the gas tanks just in case they had replacement parts," Brown responded.
"Those two guards won't be saying much, either," Taggart added.
Blair gave them the code to get into the building, warning them of the guard on the other side of the door.
Each individual had a dart-gun that shot off tranquilizer darts similar to the one found in the loft. Jim had made a phone call from the loft before their departure and had picked up the six weapons along with an abundance of ammunition as they had traveled. No one asked any questions. As no one wanted to kill, their silence as to how Jim got hold of the guns was a small price to pay – they were operating way out of their jurisdiction and normal operating procedures. Keeping the damage to a minimum was one way of easing their souls and consciences.
Ellison slid the door open and grinned predatorily at the guard in the inside alcove. The man rose to his feet, one hand reaching for his weapon. Before he could draw it, Megan dropped to a knee, firing around Jim and catching the guard in the shoulder. The guard stared at the dart in stunned wonder before slowly crumpling. One hand reached out instinctively to slam against the silent alarm, but Jim caught him first, easing him away and down to the ground. Simon handed him some plastic zip-ties and soon the guard was trussed up out of sight behind his chair, a portion of his uniform serving as a suitable gag.
"Blair, can you check the hall to see if there are any guards?" When his partner didn't answer immediately, Jim frowned, a prickling sensation crawling across his scalp.
The wolf gave a low growl, the end of it spiraling up in a whine of pain. Blair was hunched over, pain filling his expressive face. Instinctively, Jim reached a hand to his friend, only to meet with empty air. "Blair?"
The Shaman raised his head, pain and anger flashing in his ocean blue eyes. ~I think they've just figured something may be up.~ Another wince crossed his face and he paused for breath before continuing. ~Labs and cells are in the back. Storage, the security system and communications console is in the center, across the hall. Data room's on the right, so's Mr. Johnson's office. Break room for the personnel and the experimentation rooms are on the left.~ The flow of words cut off with a gasp and a low moan. Blair's knuckles were white as he clutched at the wolf's fur for some relief from the pain the others could clearly see him experiencing. His voice sounded even further away as he murmured, ~If they wanted to tick me off, they're doing a great job so far.~ His form wavered and he gave a half-choked chuckle. ~Should teach them a lesson for messing with a Shaman.~
The wolf yipped in agreement, then whimpered and nuzzled Blair's side. Blair was wracked by another spasm that left him gasping for breath, his face white and tight-pinched with pain. Not a word was spoken, but each silently prayed for their friend. As if gaining strength from their support, Blair straightened with an effort. Everyone could see the determination shining alongside the pain and anger in his eyes as he faded. ~See you on the other side.~ Then he was gone.
The scientist-cum-medic blandly applied the electrodes to the young man's body for a fifth time. They'd discovered the patient a few hours ago in this unresponsive state, some type of self-induced coma. Drugs – certain chemical stimulants that the body reacted to similarly to caffeine – had done nothing to change the patient's condition. A judicial beating had acquired no response, nor had the low-level electrical currents that the prods produced. The elector-shock machine was their last resort.
As the electricity coursed through the young man's body, neither the two scientists nor the guard were prepared when blue eyes blazed open and a fist came up in a perfect roundhouse punch.
The medic administering the shocks fell backwards into the guard's legs, spilling them both to the floor in a tangled heap. Blair rolled to his feet. His body ached and shook from the punishment that it had been through, both current and prior, and he was a bit unsteady from returning to his body so quickly, but his mind was clear and he was furious.
The second scientist skirted his struggling fellows, pulling a syringe out of his pocket as he warily approached the trembling young man. So quickly it was almost a single motion, Blair scooped up the electrodes, dialed up the juice, and struck out blindly. Luck was with him, the scientist didn't see the move coming and caught the blow directly on the chest. The man's anguished scream froze the other two men. The scientist collapsed to the floor, convulsing violently before lying still.
Blair frowned absently and yanked the wires out of the machine, rendering it useless. Or so the guard thought. Finally freed from his entanglement with the medic, the larger and more powerfully built man lumbered to his feet only to find himself once more tumbling helplessly back to the floor as the entire weight of the electric shock machine caught him fully in the chest. He fell, the air knocked out of his lungs. The back of his head struck the concrete floor and he lay still, stunned.
The medical scientist scrambled out of the way, unwilling to be the larger man's tumbling mat once more. In his haste, he lost track of Blair. He suddenly felt his arm twisted violently and painfully behind him until his wrist nearly touched the back of his neck. Standing on tiptoes to try and alleviate the pressure, the grip too strong and sure to break, he felt Blair's hot breath against his ear as the prisoner spoke harshly. "How do I open the door?"
He intended to remain silent, but a slight increase in pressure made him gasp out, "Y-you can't."
The arm was twisted slightly, bringing more pain. Blair's voice was a low growl. "Don't screw with me, man. I am definitely not in the mood."
The medic felt something pop in his shoulder, the agony spreading down his arm and across his chest. He sobbed, just wanting the pain to stop. "I'm telling you the truth. The door can only be opened from the outside. There's a guard out there, we signal him. But he won't open it, not now."
He felt his blood chill at the growled indifference in the detective's voice. "Then what good are you to me?" He felt Blair pivot, torqueing the arm up even higher, causing a strangled yelp of pain to escape. He felt himself moving forward as the prisoner used his own momentum to increase the speed of his fall. The medic saw the wall racing towards him quickly. He barely even felt the additional pain as he connected and everything went dark.
Stepping away from the unconscious medic, Blair cursed his stupidity as a large meaty fist slammed into his lower back, sending him careening into the mirror. As the man closed in on him, he could clearly read the guard's enraged expression in the reflection; it matched the one on his own face. A small section of him also noticed a vague shadowy figure on the other side of the glass, but ignored it, his present predicament of more concern.
With one hand, the guard spun him about, pressing him against the mirror, both hands encircling his throat and lifting. Blair struck out in a series of kicks as he felt his feet leave the ground, but the guard was too close for the kicks to inflict any damage. He knew he was in serious trouble, the guard was beyond reason and could snap him in two.
The guard tightened his grip and leered at his helpless captive.
Blair could see black dots encroaching upon his vision as his oxygen was cut off. In a move that would have done his self-defense instructor back at the Academy proud, Blair jabbed the fingers of his right hand deep into the hollow of the guard's throat while simultaneously hitting a pressure point in the man's forearm with his left.
Suddenly bereft of air himself and in considerable pain, the guard released his prisoner, gasping for breath. One hand wrapped about his throat, the other hanging uselessly at his side, he backed away from the smaller man. Not giving the man time to recover, Blair followed up on a piece of advice his instructor had given him. "If you can't escape an attacker, make sure he can't attack you again." Blair brought his foot up in a snap kick to the guard's groin, dropping the man to his knees. A stiff-armed palm blow broke the guard's nose and Blair swung a two-handed club strike to the man's temple, sending him into oblivion. The guard collapsed, face red from exertion, and blood streaming down his face.
Blair gasped for breath, one hand gently massaging his throat as he tried to organize his thoughts, figure a way out of the cell. The sound of the door opening behind him had the Shaman spinning about, a snarl on his lips.
The two guards lounged in their chairs, their belief that no one could land on the island let alone try to break into the installation without their knowledge leading them to complacency.
"I don't know, Richards," one of the men was saying. "After some of the things I heard they did to him earlier, I'm surprised he had the strength to stand let alone walk back to his cell under his own power." He shook his head, a faint look of disgust on his face. "What came over video was bad enough, but did they have to keep the sound on?"
"Well, he succumbed to it in the end. He's in some sort of coma now, or something. Dr. Rivens has some of his people working on him. Mr. Johnson wants him up and about a.s.a.p. You can't get answers out of an unconscious body." There was a degree of sadistic amusement in that nasally voice.
The other, older man shook his head, brow wrinkled in a thoughtful frown. "All this stuff about Guides and Sentinels. I'm not sure where Mr. Johnson is leading with all this. Working on Ellison, I can understand, what with him being a Sentinel, but…"
Richards interrupted. "Oh, come off it, Sanderson. They're just labels. So that Ellison guy manages to catch more clues than most. It doesn't make him a superhero or anything. I think Mr. Johnson's really reaching with this 'research' he's got going. And what's with snatching that Sandburg guy? I mean, really, did you get a good look at him? What a joke."
Sanderson frowned more deeply, an itch developing between his shoulder blades. "I have a feeling we're underestimating him. Underestimating them both."
The two men were badly startled by a low growl of a voice behind them. "You are." Two darts took the two men out before they could react. Jim stared down at them, his face carved into a mask. Without glancing up he asked, "Can you make heads or tails out of this consul? I'm not much with computers."
Megan pushed Richards out of his chair, not taking care to lower the body gently to the floor. "I'm not up to Sandy's caliber, but I'll give it a go."
Jim nodded, still staring with a perplexing intensity at Sanderson. "Jam communications if you can, and…" he paused, his voice thick. "Everything's probably recorded around here, see if you can find the tape they were talking about."
Megan's fingers paused over the keyboard, and then she nodded slightly, returning to her work. Ellison secured the two men, leaving Richards on the floor, but strapping Sanderson into his chair with the zip-ties. Both sported makeshift gags.
Ellison watched the Australian Inspector work for several tense minutes. She worried her bottom lip with her teeth. A moment later, a gleam of satisfaction lit her eyes. "Video's off-line, so's communication. We ought to be fine as long as they don't have a back-up system somewhere. All the doors can be manipulated electrically. I just locked three personnel in the break room and four others in the office. That ought to reduce the odds more in our favor."
Jim nodded then spoke into the mike clipped to his collar. "It's a go. Break room and office are locked; the rest are wide open. Good hunting, gentlemen."
He received confirmation from the two teams and turned his attention back to Conner. "Let's see about that video, shall we?" There was a dangerous edge to him. Megan thought he looked like a man about to explode into violent anger at any second and she admired the control it took him to contain that rage, as well as pitied the men who that anger was directed to.
Detectives Brian Rafe and Henri Brown took off down the corridor, weapons ready. Easing through the steel-enforced door, they faced a t-intersection. Brown nodded towards the left and mouthed, "Break room." The scent of coffee, melted cheese and pepperoni confirming his guess. Rafe nodded and the two detectives stepped through the right-hand door. Another long corridor, this one littered with open, half-empty packing crates. Four doors broke the left-hand wall at even intervals; the hall ended in a fifth steel-enforced doorway.
With the ease of long practice, the two men systematically searched the first two rooms. One entering the room in a low crouch while the other covered him from a position behind the doorframe. Half-setup equipment and machinery lined the walls of the rooms, looking like a mad scientist's den. It was obviously a work in progress. Both rooms were searched, but no one was found.
The third room was different. As the two detectives entered the room, senses straining, they were surprised to see what looked like a large aquarium sitting in the middle of the room. It nearly reached the ceiling, measuring roughly six feet in width. Several machines were connected to the tank, but either man would have been hard pressed to guess what they were for. Unlike the other rooms, this one looked fully functional, and both felt a chill run down their spines. The sound of wires shifting brought their attention back on the rest of the room. Silently, Brown motioned for Rafe to head in one direction, while he took the other. The younger detective nodded and the two split up in order to trap their guest between the two of them.
Rounding one of the corners, Rafe flinched back as a clipboard sailed past his face. He took aim and shouted in pain as an unfamiliar metal object landed hard on his wrist, sending his shot wild. The wild-eyed man in the white lab coat swiftly turned, trying to reach the emergency button set into the wall. Rafe heard a *wft* sound and the scientist slumped to the ground.
Brown holstered his weapon, pulling out zip-ties. "You okay?"
Rafe gingerly moved his wrist, hissing at the pain. "I think it's sprained." He painfully transferred the weapon into his left hand, keeping an eye out in case the noise alerted any nearby guards.
Brown finished with the scientist, ripping off a section of the lapel and shoving it unceremoniously into the unconscious man's mouth. He rose from where he knelt and approached his partner. "Let's see it."
Without a word, and without dropping his vigilance, Rafe stretched out the offending limb to his partner. Brown winced in sympathy as the angry red mark. It was already starting to swell and darken. Returning to the unconscious scientist, Brown ripped another section from the man's lab coat. At Rafe's raised brow he countered with a shrug. "Hey, least we don't have to rip our own clothes, right?" Carefully, he wrapped the limb, then jerry-rigged a sling for it. With a final adjustment, he patted his friend's shoulder. "Good thing you learned to shoot with your left hand after the last time you broke your arm."
"Ambidextria is the way to go," Rafe agreed, and the two resumed their patrol.
The final room was similar to the first two: half setup equipment, and, thankfully, empty. The two men jumped at the sound of a crash sounding from behind the fifth door. Rafe shoved open the door, covering as Brown went in.
Captains Simon Banks and Joel Taggart headed down the other side of the corridor after the radio confirmation. They eased through the first door facing a t-intersection. The door on the right was a heavy solid oak monstrosity that practically screamed corporate. Both men nodded, recognizing the room for the executive office that it was. Turning, they flanked the steel-enforced door on the left. Counting to three, Joel threw open the door while Simon darted in at a crouch.
Unfortunately for the two rescuers, their movements quite clearly indicated that they didn't belong at the installation. The rangy redheaded guard that had been in the corridor, dropped behind some packing crates and took no time at all in firing upon them. Simon threw himself backward out of the room, a slug planting itself in the doorjamb near his head, making the two men flinch. Joel returned fire, but missed. A pounding began on the other side of the executive door as the men inside tried to find out what was going on. "So much for quiet," Simon muttered.
Joel fired again, his dart catching the corner of a crate and quivering in suppressed motion. He threw his friend a semi-astonished glance. "You actually thought this was going to be a no-fuss kind of operation?"
"With Ellison and Sandburg involved?" Simon raised a brow, a wry grin flashing briefly. Another thump came from the office. It sounded like the men inside were using office furniture to try to break down the door. "Glad that door's locked, though. Wouldn't like the odds on this one, if they were out."
A woman in a white lab coat peeked from a door recessed halfway down in the corridor's right wall. Simon aimed carefully, firing off a shot. The scientist dropped in a heap, her body keeping the door open. The two captains jerked as a bullet whizzed by and Joel noticed two sets of hands quickly pull the body back into the room. "There's at least two others in that room, but I don't think they're armed."
Simon agreed with the assessment. "We're not going to be able to hit this guy from this angle. I'm going to see if I can get any closer. Cover me."
The two fired simultaneously, causing the guard to duck down behind his makeshift shelter. Simon took the open opportunity and slid into the room, taking cover behind another of the ever-present crates. The guard didn't notice one of his assailants had moved.
From his new vantage point, Simon merely waited until the guard rose from his crouched position to fire at Joel before discharging his own weapon. The dart caught the man's sleeve, but didn't penetrate the skin and Simon had to retreat to avoid being hit himself. A muffled curse accompanied the sound of a body hitting the floor. "Joel?" Simon's gaze darted to the door, his voice thin with worry.
"I'm fine. Keep your eyes peeled for those others." The large man moved with surprising grace as he crossed the floor to the unconscious guard's side. Reaching for a zip-tie he began to truss up his prisoner.
A whisper of sound at the door behind him had Simon whirling about, weapon ready. He sighed in exasperation as Ellison and Conner slid into the room. 'Conner's getting as bad as Sandburg, must be Jim's bad influence, he can't seem to knock any self-preservation skills into the heads of his partners.'
Ellison spoke quietly. "We thought you could use some help, sir." At Simon's nod he jerked his head towards the right-hand door. "There are three of them in there, though one's heartbeat is off."
Simon nodded, "One got curious, and I tranqued her. Anyone else?"
"One in the room at the end of the corridor."
Megan helped Joel shove the guard into one of the mostly empty crates, keeping him out of sight. "You three get that room, I'll take care of our other problem."
"You sure?" Simon asked.
"No worries," the Aussie assured.
Jim, Simon and Joel stood on either side of the door. Simon tested the door; something had been placed against it on the other side, blocking it shut. Together, Simon and Jim kicked out, the force of the combined blows reverberating up their legs, but opening the door. Joel covered them and the three went inside.
Simon felt a violent shove in the small of his back as Jim propelled him into the room. The heavy metal rod one of the researchers wielded narrowly missed creasing his skull. 'Gonna have to remember to thank Jim for that.' With a right hook, Simon laid into the man, throwing him up against the wall and sending him sliding into oblivion.
The woman lay along the side wall, her breathing and respiration slow and even. The last scientist had wedged himself behind a line of file cabinets, obviously hoping it would be sufficient concealment. And it would have been, if one of his searchers had not been a Sentinel. He was found almost immediately, his rapid heartbeat sounding like a drum to the increasingly shorter-tempered man. About the same age as Sandburg, the researcher looked helplessly into ice cold blue eyes and found himself unable to look away.
Jim wrapped one hand around the front of the man's coat, pulling him out of his hiding spot and raising him until the two were eye to eye. The researcher felt himself dangling from the powerful grip and could only stare in wonder and despair at the man who had been up to this point just a name on a piece of paper. "Y-you're Ellison." The large man only nodded. "Y-you c-came after S-sandburg." A narrowing of those cold eyes and the clenching of the Sentinel's jaw was his answer.
When Jim spoke, it was with icy deliberateness. "Where is my partner?"
"In cell one. B-back of the in-installation. D-dr. Rivens w-wants him prepped for the tank in a couple of hours."
If possible, those eyes grew even colder. "And where is Dr. Rivens?"
"I-in Mr. J-j-johnson's office."
The Sentinel jerked his head at the file cabinets that the other two men were rifling. "What're in those?"
"Files." The younger man choked when the fist twisted the jacket, tightening it around his throat. "O-on you. And Sentinels. S-some about Guides. I-it's really qui-quite interesting." He was trying his best to look enduring and as non-threatening as possible, not hard when you're being held three feet off the ground one-handed by a man who looked like he could bench press a truck.
Annoyance shot across the large man's face. The scientist felt himself being lowered to the ground and he breathed a sigh of relief. The respite was short, in an instant he felt the sharp prick of a dart as Ellison shot him.
Ignoring the captains for a moment, Jim wandered down the line of file cabinets. The amount of research those cabinets held staggered him, assuming all were as packed as Blair's used to be. Jim felt drawn to the file cabinet at the end of the row – he could smell Blair's scent emanating from it. Frowning when it wouldn't open, he pulled his jungle knife from its sheath and popped the lock. Clipping the blade back onto his belt, he opened the drawer, his frown deepening.
Inside, folded with care, were his partner's clothes. His shoes lay on top, his socks rolled and placed inside. In a plastic Ziploc bag were Blair's wallet and badge, a set of handcuffs, a familiar pocketknife and a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles.
Megan Conner skirted the half-empty packaging crates as she moved towards the door at the end of the corridor. Standing on one side of the door, she used her free hand to turn the handle and push it open slightly. Listening intently, she could hear no sounds from the other room. Frowning, the Australian Inspector entered the room at a crouch, gun before her, senses alert. A quick visual scan showed her that the room was empty. 'Jim said there was someone in here, guess I'm looking for another way out.'
The small lab wasn't set up for use. Only a minimal amount of equipment was there and none of it looked plugged in or even fully assembled yet. The cabinets were empty and the shelves were bare. In one corner of the lab was another, smaller room. One wall was completely made of glass and it reminded her of the interrogation room at the precinct. She deduced that it was a one way mirror, but didn't take the time to check that theory out. Uneasy, Megan strode through the lab and found a small door tucked into one corner. The symbol for high radiation was displayed on the center of the door, the only label she'd seen in the entire installation.
Steeling herself, she entered the room. Long and narrow, it seemed more of a connecting corridor rather than a room, but recessed into the walls were several nightmarish machines. Since being in the States, and more specifically Cascade Major Crimes, Conner had become familiar with the more advanced machinery used in a hospital. A x-ray machine and a CAT scanner stood on one side. A digital microscope and blood analysis machine rested on the other side. Unlike the lab she'd just left, this room looked fully functional and Megan shuddered at the sudden thought of Sandy being strapped to one of those examining tables.
Another door beckoned from the other end and the Australian sighed to herself. 'This place has more entrances and exits than a fun house.' Hand on the doorknob, she froze at the sound of a tremendous crash.
Sargent Martin Neist watched the drama through the one way mirror – years of self-control kept him from wincing as each shock was applied to their prisoner's body. He knew that this was necessary. There were certain tests to be performed and questions to be answered that required a conscious, semi-alert body with which to direct them to, but it didn't mean he had to be comfortable about it. The whole operation had seemed rushed and disorganized to him, but his superiors, Mr. Johnson, Lieutenant Carr and Dr. Rivens hadn't listened when he tried to point that out.
As the scientist readied the machine for the fifth time, the Sargent felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle as if someone was staring at him. He turned, eyes sweeping the lab with a glance, but there was no one there. Neist's instincts had saved his life on more than one occasion, so he was not one to discount a feeling. He strode over to the doorway leading to the experimentation room and listened hard. He knew one of the other scientists was in room three prepping the tank once more for tomorrow's session with their reticent prisoner. He heard the muffled grumblings of the guard and scientist behind him and tuned them out, concentrating on the corridor.
Hearing nothing amiss, but frowning none-the-less, he re-entered the lab. Neist jumped with a start as one of the scientists was slammed into the wall headfirst by their prisoner. 'What the…?' Racing to the mirror he saw the other scientist lying in a heap, the twitching of his limbs giving an indication to what had felled him. 'Son of a…'
The guard who'd been sent in to help the two scientists control the prisoner, if necessary, rose and kidney punched the smaller man, slamming the curly-haired detective up against the glass. The Sargent's and prisoner's eyes met for a brief instant, then the guard roughly spun the man around, wrapping hands the size of hams around the slender throat of his captive.
Neist cursed, hands curling into fists in his frustration. He'd warned his superior's that Ferrel was too hotheaded for this kind of job. But, funding was tight, the installation needed every body it could get its hands on. Neist had been overruled, 'And now the idiot's gonna kill our subject.'
He scrambled for his gun as he headed for the door and hurriedly punched in the code. Weapon out and ready, he nearly dropped it in surprise when the prisoner spun around to face him, a feral snarl on his lips.
Neist took in the scene; Ferrel was out cold, the bubbling of blood around his nose the only indication that the larger man was still alive. The two scientists lay in crumpled heaps on the floor, unmoving save for the sporadic jerking the one given the electrical shock kept experiencing.
Neist stared into brilliant blue orbs reading the anger, fear and desperation in them. The young man was in a slight crouch, and the Sargent knew that if he didn't get things under control and fast, he would be joining his co-workers in a pain-filled slumber.
He took a firmer stance, leveling his weapon to aim at center mass. At this distance, there was no way he could miss; he only hoped the young man knew this as well. Sandburg stared at the gun, hitching in breath after breath through a tortured throat. Minute trembling shook him from head to toe, a reaction, Neist knew, from the electric shocks and the drugs that had been administered earlier. To Neist's experienced eye, Sandburg looked ready to drop where he stood, only alert and upright through sheer tenacity and stubbornness.
Neist struggled to keep his anger, surprise, and grudging respect from his voice. "Don't move, son. I don't want to shoot you, but I will if necessary."
Sandburg's gaze shot to his face, those blue orbs boring into him, taking in every move he made, no matter how slight. 'He's watching my eyes,' Neist thought with some surprise, 'Hoping I'll telegraph my next move.' The respect grew. 'Someone's taught him well.'
"So what now?" The low tenor was raspy from abuse. Neist blinked at being addressed. He'd watched the tapes of what had been done to Sandburg – and had expected the angry man to continue his silence. When Sandburg had started screaming, it had taken him by surprise at first, but then he'd recognized it for the strategy it was. Scream yourself hoarse – you can't give anything away if you can't talk.
He pulled a set of handcuffs off his belt, showed them to his prisoner and tossed the set to him. Sandburg caught them reflexively. Neist kept his tone even. "As a police officer, you should know how this works. Put them on. Hands behind your back."
Sandburg stared at him, his face carefully blank. Neist's aim never wavered. With an almost non-discernable nod, the detective snapped the cuffs around one wrist and then the other, turning without being told to present his bound hands to the Sargent. Neist approached slowly, aware of Sandburg's gaze in the mirror. He checked the cuffs, satisfied that they weren't too loose. He took hold of the smaller man's arm and pulled him from the cell, the fine trembling an almost constant hum against his fingers.
Sandburg made a sharp movement away from the hand on his arm and Neist tightened his grip, digging the gun into the smaller man's side. "Don't make this any harder than it has to be, son."
A short bark of laughter was his reply. "Know something I don't, Sargent?"
Neist guided Sandburg into the lab and noticed an increase in the prisoner's breathing as they neared the gurney that had been used to interrogate him previously. Almost subconsciously, Sandburg stuttered to a near halt, which resulted in him being half-dragged forward by his taller captor. He was shaking his head, murmuring rapidly under his breath, "Oh, man, oh, man, oh, man…" as he tried to yank his arm out of the Sargent's bruisingly tight grip.
One look in those glazed over eyes, and Neist knew that Sandburg wasn't quite all there at the moment as he relived some particularly nasty moments in his head. It was getting harder to hang onto the kid. Sliding his weapon into its holster, he grabbed hold of Sandburg's arm, trying to drag him closer to the counter where a syringe of sedatives lay just for this purpose.
As his hand closed around the needle, two things occurred. One, he felt a tug on his belt and two, Sandburg stopped struggling, sagging as his knees gave way, head lolling on his shoulders. Neist hastily readjusted his grip, reflexively trying to keep the younger man off the floor. Off balance and with his hands full, Neist cursed himself roundly for dropping his guard as Sandburg's arms came out from behind his back, Neist's own weapon in his hand from where the detective had plucked it from his belt. The butt of the gun slammed against his head, rocking him backward to land heavily against the counter. Using his military training, Neist kicked out, connecting and sending the gun flying across the room. He launched himself at Sandburg, intent on subduing him. As much as a portion of his mind screamed at him to eliminate the threat before it eliminated him a larger, more practical part informed him of what Mr. Johnson would do to him if their prisoner died before his questions were answered. Slamming into the slight form, Neist let his momentum carry the two of them into the gurney. If he could just strap the smaller man down, he could see about getting some reinforcements in to help the others.
Neist tried to land a blow to knock the tenacious prisoner out, while simultaneously trying to avoid the open end of the handcuffs Sandburg was using as a makeshift weapon. A blow aimed at his face caught on his collar as he dodged at the last moment. Ripping cloth filled his ears and the cold brush of metal against his skin had him shuddering at the close call. He continued grappling with the man, trying to wear him out enough to catch an arm in one of the gurney's straps.
Blair flailed his feet trying to find the leverage he needed to push the Sargent away. He was bent over backwards against the gurney, the larger man's weight pinning him down. His struggles were the only thing keeping his captor from strapping him down, but the Shaman could feel his strength ebbing. His heart pounded loudly in his ears and he couldn't seem to catch his breath. He wielded his impromptu hook grimly, looking around desperately for something to take the Sargent out. A first aid kit close by caught his attention. Still attacking with his right hand – the cuffs jangling with the movement – Blair reached for the small white metal box with his left. On the fourth try, he caught a corner. Ignoring the pain from his dislocated thumb, he pulled the box closer to him for a better grip. Blair felt the Sargent's larger hand grasp his right wrist, fingers wrapping around flesh and manacle, tightening painfully. He could feel the bones shift and grind against each other as the Sargent raised his arm, trying to force it into the gurney straps. With a grimace of pain and a harsh yell, Blair brought the first aid kit around, connecting solidly with the other man's temple.
Neist staggered backward, one hand clutching his head where blood poured from the cut. He fell into one of the medicine cabinets, sending it crashing to the floor. Neist shook his head trying to clear his vision, trying to rise to his feet. Sandburg leaned heavily against the gurney, posture one of determined exhaustion. Ocean blue eyes darkened to navy met his and the two warriors studied one another, evaluating weaknesses and possible level of stamina.
Neist's respect had grown to full-blown admiration for the kid. 'Do what it takes to survive. Give no information to the enemy. Try to escape at any presented opportunity. Create opportunities if none are available.' He was surprised to see wartime behavior from a man who'd never been in the military, but then he remembered that this particular man's partner had once been a Ranger – Black Ops.
The stare-down was disrupted when both doors to the lab swung open. Neist swung about, one hand going for his weapon when he felt two stings – one at his neck and the other in his arm – and he felt oddly glad as he slid down into darkness.
Detective Brian Rafe followed his partner through the gray-metal door and into what looked like a lab of some sort, weapons trained on the uniformed individual who lay on the floor. He noticed Megan step into the room from a door on his right, but his attention was arrested by the figure a few feet away.
Blair Sandburg's grip on a white metal box loosened as recognition filled his blue eyes. The crimson stained box fell to the floor with a metallic clang as he leaned against a medical gurney looking both utterly weary and painfully hyper-alert. Limbs twitched occasionally. Bruises on his cheek and neck stood out in sharp contrast to the pale complexion. He was dressed in pale green hospital scrubs, the top hanging open. Brian caught a glimpse of angry red welts and darkening bruises on Blair's torso and abdomen. Blair padded closer to the fallen soldier, bare feet gliding soundlessly along the linoleum tiles, avoiding the shattered glass and spilled liquid on the floor. He studied the man, then raised bloodshot blue eyes to meet theirs. "Good timing." Rafe winced at the harsh sound of Blair's voice. "Where's Jim, Simon, and Joel?"
Megan responded, her tone soft and soothing. "They were securing the data room. I expect Jim will be along soon." She stepped forward, skirting the soldier on the floor until she stood beside Blair. "Sandy?" She reached a hand to gently touch the bruise that threatened to close Blair's left eye. Blair jerked away, eyes closed, breathing harsh. "Sandy?" she asked again, the concern and worry plain in her voice.
"Sorry, sorry." The whisper caused Henri to glance up sharply from where he was tying the Sargent's hands and feet.
"Hairboy," H began.
Blair interrupted. "Better check on those others." He jerked his head in the direction of the cell, his eyes asking for a break from the questions he knew everyone had.
Nodding, Brown and Conner moved into the cell. Rafe, not wanting to intrude in the younger man's personal space, watched silently as Blair prowled the lab and began rummaging though the shelves and items on the counters with a frightening intensity. Puzzled, Rafe watched while Blair began pouring items down the sink with a dogged determination. His hands shook as he opened containers and dumped out their contents. 'Hell, he's shaking all over, and I've a feeling it's not from the cold.'
Twice he'd tried to get closer to Blair in order to determine the extent of his injuries, and twice the younger man had flinched away, throwing a wry half-grin that looked more like a grimace his way in apology. Both times, Rafe pulled back, feeling useless and enraged that his friend had been put through so much.
Blair was staring at a rack filled with vials of blood, blank of expression, who-knows-what going through his mind. His expressive face crumpled with disgust, anger and shame. With a swift movement, he swept the entire rack into the sink, smashing every vial. The other two raced back into the room at the noise, but Blair never turned from where he watched the running water dilute and swirl the blood down the drain. His fingers clutched white-knuckled on the edge of the sink, breath fast and reedy in his chest. Brown moved to Blair's side and again came the flinch – a quick withdrawal that was halted the moment Blair was aware of it. Not looking up from the swirling water Blair asked quietly, "Can we leave now?"
Henri nodded, his chest constricting at the flatness and desolation in that normally exuberant voice. "Let's take care of this fellow and we can meet back up with Jim. That okay with you?"
Blair nodded, then shook his head sharply to clear it as he swayed slightly. "The cell can only be opened from the outside. Put him in there."
It took all three rescuers to lift the dead weight of the Sargent and move him to the cell. Rafe's eyes widened at the sight of the three downed men already lying trussed up. He was impressed – even injured Blair was a force to be reckoned with.
Rafe stopped, spotting the machine in the corner of the cell. Prodding it with one foot, he flipped in upright. The dials and gauges, not to mention the ripped wires lying nearby, explained its use, and the detective felt himself grow cold as he understood the nature of some of the injuries he's seen on his friend. "Jim's gonna be pissed."
Henri glanced at him, eyebrows raised. "I'd say it's a bit late for that. Ellison's already pissed. This though could put him over the edge."
Conner left the two men to search their captives for hidden weapons. She wanted to check on Sandburg and wasn't quite sure she could keep herself from injuring the already trussed up individuals. Striding into the lab, a swift glance around the room showed that Blair hadn't been standing idly by. She watched him saw the last restraint off the gurney with a wicked looking scalpel.
He caught her gaze out of the corner of his eye and he turned towards her, carefully setting the blade down. "Childish, huh?" His smile was sad and a bit self-recriminating.
She moved slowly over, leaning against the wall facing him, glad when he didn't draw away from her. "No," she shook her head firmly. "Extremely understandable. Though I'd have probably trashed the gurney itself as well."
His smile lightened a bit. "Too much energy. Wrecked the camera, though."
She turned and saw that a small camera had been wrenched from its moorings, the device lying in pieces on the floor. "Feeling a bit destructive, are we, luv?"
A harsh look crossed his face. "You could say that." He looked down at his hands, frowning slightly. "Thanks for coming after me."
"Was there ever a doubt?" She gently reached over and tucked a lock of curly brown hair behind his ear, her chest tightening when she felt him shudder. "You would have done the exact same thing for any of us, Sandy." Moving back out of his personal space, she glanced at his left thumb. "Is it dislocated?"
Almost absently, Blair grabbed the digit and gave it a sharp tug, sliding the bone back into the socket with an audible pop as he nodded, explaining with a wry smile, his voice easing slightly from its previous croak. "Got tired of getting tied up all the time with no way out. I asked a few friends of mine for tips on getting out of restraints. I've gotten to the point where I can dislocate my thumb and one of my shoulders anytime I need to, now. Handcuffs aren't a problem anymore, neither are straight jackets." He flashed a grin at her, which she returned. "Ropes still give me some problems, depending on the knots used, tape is nearly impossible unless I've got something to cut it with." He shrugged, his gaze flickering around the room, casing each door. His body was still tight with tension, as if just waiting for another attack.
Detectives Brown and Rafe exited the cell, carrying the electric shock machine and a few weapons which they dumped on the counter, closing the self-locking door behind them. Blair strode over, rifling through the pile, ignoring the machine. Rafe held out a key and within moments Blair was gingerly rubbing at his newly freed wrist. "Thanks."
Jim left the other two men to finish up in the data room. Banks had decided to grab some of the files for Blair, leaving Taggart to use his expertise to destroy the rest of the information. "I don't like the idea of this being in their hands. So, we'll just have to burn it all," Banks instructed Taggart.
The Sentinel used his hearing to lead him unerringly toward the familiar heartbeat of his Shaman. He glided smoothly through the unused lab and X-ray room, and into the other lab. He immediately zeroed in on his Guide, ignoring the others in the room. Blair remained still while Jim extended his senses, locating and cataloguing injuries.
Ellison frowned, one hand lightly tracing the bruises around eye and cheek, the frown deepening as his Guide tried to keep from flinching away. Limbs still jerked and jittered minutely from the electricity and the drugs. His heart rate faster than the Sentinel liked, his pupils dilated to the point where only a thin rim of blue could be seen, his breathing slightly strained. He could feel the heat from the bruising and welts that decorated chest, sides, abdomen and throat. Jim raised pain-filled blue eyes and met the surprisingly clear and calm ones of his Shaman. "Ah, Chief," he whispered. A part of him was crying in anguish at the injuries his friend had suffered, another part seethed at the treatment of his Guide and Shaman which sparked a desire for retribution.
Simon and Joel entered the room in time to see the battered young man grasp Jim's forearm and grin. Blair rasped, "You should see the other guys." He jerked a slightly swollen and shaking thumb towards the cell.
That was the last straw for the Sentinel. Without thought, Jim enfolded Blair in his arms, as if his embrace could still the incessant trembling. At first, Blair stood stiffly, as if expecting a blow, but an instant later, he relaxed against Jim, cheek pressed against his chest, arms coming up to wrap loosely around the taller man. "I'm ready to go home now." The whisper was almost too low for even Jim to hear. He could feel Blair's smile through the cloth of his shirt. "In actuality this time, not just in spirit."
Banks and Taggart looked through the window at the four unconscious men. Taggart teased Blair gently. "Couldn't wait for us, huh Sandburg?"
A chuckle that held more than a hint of a sob to it came from the figure in Jim's arms. Blair pulled away, a grin spreading across his face. "Hey, man, I was just being an active participant in my own rescue. It sure beat just sitting around." He noticed Joel's frown as another visible shudder wracked his limbs. He tried to put the older man at ease. "It's okay, Joel. I'm just wired beyond belief." He glanced around at the others. "I'd like to get out of here before I crash. I could sleep for a week, but I'd rather not be carried out of here, if it's all the same to you."
When he trembled again, this time with the cold, Joel handed him a bundle. "Thought you might want these."
Blair snatched at it enthusiastically. "Thanks, man. Although this ensemble is the epitome of hostage fashion, I do prefer walking out of here in my own clothes." The tone was light and joking, but none in the room liked the shadow that briefly darkened his eyes. The others busied themselves with checking their weapons and the items in the room while Blair changed. "Jim?" the soft question was pitched for Sentinel ears only. "I – I need some help." Quietly, Jim rejoined his friend. Blair was shaking too much to be able to manipulate the numerous buttons. "Sorry, man."
Jim's eyes locked onto Blair's, seeing the embarrassment and shame in them. Finishing the last button, he laid his hands on his friend's shoulders, mindful of the bruises. "Now you listen to me, Chief. You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for. These assholes put you through hell, but you're still fighting. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Got it?"
The two stared at one another. Jim let his support, pride and confidence in his partner shine in his eyes. After a moment, Blair nodded, gratitude and a newfound determination drowning out the shame. Jim patted his shoulder, then handed Blair the plastic bag containing the rest of his belongings. Jim moved to Banks' side while Blair transferred his things to his pockets. He nodded in approval as Blair snagged one of the electric prods as he passed by the counter on his way to rejoin the other detectives.
Simon and Joel looked up, both with concern and anger in their eyes. "Is he all right?" Joel's voice was gruffer than usual.
"He'll be fine once we're out of here." Jim lowered his voice, pitching it so only the Captains could hear. "I don't know how long he'll be able to go on like this. They did a number on him and his system. I think he's running on pure anger and adrenaline right now. When he crashes, it's going to be hard. But he's right, we aren't going to be able to carry him out of here, not easily. Especially if we run into any other soldiers. I want to get as close to the boat as we can before he collapses." His expression grew pensive, he was worried about more than just his partner's health.
Simon grabbed Jim's elbow to gain his attention. "What is it?"
"We got rid of the data they had, but what's going to keep them from doing something like this again?"
Neither man had an answer. "We'll just have to deal with it if and when it becomes an issue."
Jim nodded, clearly not happy, but willing to put it aside for now. He motioned for the others. "We're moving out, people."
They exited through the door Brown and Rafe had entered. Once out in the hallway, Blair stopped at the second door and waited until Joel had pulled even. "Hey Joel, you're good at taking things apart, would you help me with something?" He was looking at the door with an odd expression on his face and his voice was calm and detached sounding. The others stopped, exchanging puzzled looks. Joel glanced at Jim questioningly, he knew they were in a hurry. Jim studied his Guide for a moment, then nodded at Joel.
"Sure, Blair," the ex-Bomb Squad Captain said. "Whatever you want."
Blair, oblivious to the exchange, shoved the door open without another word and entered the room. The others scrambling to keep up.
The noise startled the trussed scientist who was just coming around. Rodriguez took one look at the man he'd helped … interrogate … earlier and shrank back with fear. The freed prisoner's face was a blank mask but his eyes were alight with an unholy look of rage. The large black man who followed initially looked perplexed; face and eyes hardening as he looked at the tank that dominated the room. The five others who crowded in through the doorway all had varying looks of puzzlement, nervousness and anger on their faces. No one paid any attention to the scientist, for which he was profoundly grateful. He found himself suddenly praying to a God he'd long since abandoned that this group would leave him be.
"Help me destroy this thing before we go." The raspy voice startled Rodriguez. The absolute fury in it made him try to blend into the walls, hoping the man wouldn't notice him.
'I knew I shouldn't have taken this job, but the money and opportunity for research was just too good to resist.' Rodriguez's heart nearly froze in his chest when his stifled moan had attracted the attention of one of the men who turned twin blue laser beams on him. The scientist recognized Ellison from the files. He had been looking forward to working with the Sentinel – to see if the reports were true. But the scientist had expected the man to be restrained when they met, not the other way around. The promise of pain he read in those eyes was nearly too much for him, and the scientist closed his eyes against them, shuddering.
Conner frowned at the glass-enclosed monstrosity. "What is it, Sandy?"
Blair was unplugging the machine mechanically, his tone flat and emotionless. "It's a sensory deprivation tank."
Jim's voice was a low growl, the anger apparent, his certainty clear. "How long were you in it, Chief?"
The slight hesitation before Blair answered didn't go unnoticed. "They said three hours. Felt longer. I'm supposed to have another go tomorrow." He paused, then resumed his systematic pulling of wires while the others muttered darkly to themselves. "Course, they really brought it with you in mind, but figured they could use me as a control subject until they were ready to bring you in as well."
Jim frowned at the flat tone, as well as the thin thread of fear he detected in his friend's voice. If destroying this thing helped his friend in any way, then the delay was justified. He'd get his friend to talk about it once they were safely home.
Rodriguez couldn't help but stare in utter amazement. A three million dollar piece of equipment that had taken a team of twelve individuals four hours to painstakingly and precisely assemble had been reduce to parts in less than fifteen minutes by seven highly motivated people. The pieces laid strewn about like a child's tinker toys - vital components smashed beyond repair.
Done, they grinned at one another in satisfaction.
Sandburg was crouched near the scientist, shredding some wiring, when he suddenly turned to Rodriguez. Not a word was spoken, but the message was clear. If the Guide ever saw him again, the scientist's life wouldn't be worth spit. Rodriguez nodded in acknowledgment. That gaze held him for what felt like an eternity and Rodriguez breathed a sigh of relief when the younger man gracefully rose and broke eye contact. Ellison shot him a glare and the scientist close his eyes in shame as he felt a sudden liquid warmth as the seven silently filed out of the room, each on guard.
Ellison took the lead, followed closely by Sandburg. Though he wished Blair would drop back into the relative safety of the group, he knew he'd have a fight on his hands if he suggested it. That Blair had made it this far without collapsing filled the Sentinel with a fierce pride in his Guide – he just wasn't sure how much longer the smaller man could go on.
Unknowingly, Blair mirrored his thoughts. He could feel his body's complaints, but was pushing himself to keep going and soon he knew he'd have to pay for that pushing. He just hoped they were out of danger before that happened. He had a fistful of Jim's jacket, both to ground his Sentinel while the older man used his senses, as well as to center and steady himself. He felt a solid warm presence by his side. Looking down, he saw nothing, until he relaxed and concentrated his sight. His spirit guide loped alongside him, lending silent strength and support. The wolf gave his right hand a comforting lick and the Shaman felt a gentle surge of energy that eased his trembling and dulled the pain.
The Sentinel noticed the change in his Guide immediately. The vibrating tremors had lessened, breathing and heart rate had smoothed out. Glancing at his friend, he was heartened to see Blair's smile of awe. Blair patted the air, and peripherally, Jim thought he could make out the faint form of a wolf padding beside his friend.
The seven reached the guard room without incident, ensured the man was still secured, though the man was groggily awake, and slipped out into the night.
- Inside the office. -
The room was filled with static. Once aware that they'd been locked inside with no means of communicating with anyone, Mr. Johnson had turned on a portable white noise generator, certain of who had infiltrated the installation.
"Son of a … I can't believe it's that easy." Patrick Malloy stared at the screen in disbelief.
Mr. Johnson's icy tones caused him to turn rapidly in his seat. "What are you talking about, Malloy?"
"The intruders, sir. All they did was a general system lock down, sir."
There was a pause and when Mr. Johnson spoke again a shudder raced up Malloy's spine at the implied menace. "Do you mean to tell me that it took you over an hour to discover our extensive security system was merely locked down?"
Malloy swallowed convulsively. "I – I apologize, sir. I was looking for something more complicated and temporarily forgot the obvious. It won't happen again."
"Do you have control of the system?"
"Yes, sir." Turning back to the consul he immediately entered the commands that would unlock the doors to the office and break room.
Mr. Johnson faced the other occupants in the room. "Lieutenant Carr, we'll need to assume the worst has occurred and that most, if not all, of your men are dead. I believe Ellison brought a small group to infiltrate this installation and rescue our prisoner. I need Sandburg and Ellison alive. You may dispose of the rest."
A predatory smile crossed the Lieutenant's face, though one hand absently caressed a recently bandaged wound on his forearm. Without a word, the Lieutenant began checking his weapons.
"Dr. Riven, once we have the installation secured again, I want Sandburg prepped for the tank as soon as possible." He waved a careless hand. "We'll let Ellison watch."
"How long to do you want the experiment to go on?"
"We'll start with four hours. Then a battery of physical and mental tests followed by another four-hour period. Then we'll repeat the process with Ellison"
Dr. Riven made a note on his clipboard. "Very good, sir."
Mr. Johnson handed the doctor a spare gun. "Check and see if there are any survivors. Mr. Malloy will accompany you."
It was a cautious group that crept across the beach towards their hidden craft. The air was crisp and cool, with a breeze sending a light misting of sea spray into the air. Clouds scuttled across the sky, alternately revealing and hiding the waxing gibbous moon; creating a patchwork of shadows on the sand and turning the beach into an unfamiliar alien landscape.
The moon broke free from the clouds' clutches and Ellison came to a sudden halt, throwing his arms out to the side to stop the others as the sand in front of him was peppered with bullets. "Nobody move," a voice called out. "Lay your weapons down and place your hands on your head."
The group exchanged glances. "Can you tell how many there are?" Simon asked.
Jim frowned, concentrating. "It's hard to tell. The ocean's creating too much background noise."
"You've got it categorized," Blair stated softly. "Dismiss the sound and concentrate on the others' heartbeats."
Before Jim could comply, he covered his ears as another barrage of bullets cut through the air, sounding like they were going off in his head. He felt Blair's hand on his arm, trying to get him to turn down the dial.
"I repeat, put down your weapons or I'll be forced to shoot you."
Slowly and reluctantly, each member of Major Crimes knelt and put down their dart guns onto the sand. "Now put your hands on the top of your heads."
Joel glanced up at the sky and raised an eyebrow at the others. He received answering nods and as the moon once again disappeared behind the clouds, plunging the beach into darkness, the group scattered, running for the dubious protection of the dunes. Another short burst from the automatic weapon sent them scurrying even faster, praying they weren't running toward more guards.
Jim cursed as he slid over the top of the rise. Not only did he not have a weapon but his Guide had gotten separated from him in the confusion. This close to the water's edge and without his Shaman's guidance, he was unable to listen beyond the sound of the waves to pick out his friends' heartbeat.
Joel rolled down the dune to land beside him. "Anyone hit?"
Jim shook his head. "I don't think so. I didn't hear any impacts. Do you know which way Blair went?"
A look of concern crossed the large man's face. "No. It was too dark. Jeez, I hope the kid's with someone."
Jim nodded in grim agreement.
Henri Brown had bolted in the same direction Blair had. The two had to cross a dozen yards of open beach before they reached the relative safety of a small sand dune. H helped Blair scramble over the small rise and was shocked by the intensity of the shudders that wracked the smaller man's frame. "Blair, you okay?"
Blair huddled on the ground utterly exhausted; shock was setting in. He shook his head, unable to speak. Brown pulled off his jacket and draped it over Blair, dropping beside his friend and began rubbing his back with small circles, trying to calm the shaking while keeping an eye out. Blair buried his face in his arms, unable to find the energy to raise his head, let alone open his eyes. He tried to stay focused, stay awake – they weren't safe yet – but his body refused to cooperate. He thought he heard shouting off in the distance, but fatigue turned the sounds into a meaningless roaring in his ears. His body was gripped by a frightening numbness and consciousness slowly slipped away.
"Blair?" H shook the younger man's shoulder cursing when there was no response. "Oh, man. Jim, we could really use your help here." A few yards away, he spotted some boulders that would make a better defensive position than the sand dune. Mindful of injuries, he rolled the unconscious detective onto his back, pulled him into a sitting position, and hoisted him up into a fireman's carry. Brown grunted with the effort. Though small, Blair was not light; his compact body was solidly built. Brown waited until the moon was hidden before darting across the sand. The boulders created a small alcove in their center. Laying Sandburg down Brown was satisfied that it would do. Brown laid two fingers on Sandburg's temple where the pulse point was strongest. The heartbeat felt weak and sluggish. "I'm going to find Jim. Don't go anywhere." 'Not that that'll be likely.' He sent a silent prayer upwards that everything would turn out all right and slipped out of the alcove heading back to the dunes where he last saw the larger detective.
Conner jerked her sleeve out of the man's grasp. The Australian ducked downward, avoiding a punch and grimacing as the sudden movement blurred her vision. Her right eye was nearly closed from the first sudden blow she'd walked into. The man was one of the soldiers she and Jim had taken out before entering the installation. The man was not amused at having been tranqued and tied. Conner was equally unpleased that he'd managed to free himself.
The guard aimed a kick at her. She shifted, but not quick enough, the point of his boot catching her shoulder thrusting her backwards. He stepped forward, one foot back ready for another kick. Shielding her own eyes, Conner tossed a handful of sand into the man's face. At his shout of pain, she smiled grimly and kicked out, sweeping his feet from underneath him. He fell heavily, but rolled towards her, his fingers catching at the hair she'd knotted at the nape of her neck.
Grabbing another handful of sand, she scoured his face, grinding the grains into his skin as well as into his mouth, nose and eyes. A judicious use of her nails drew bloody lines down his face as well. Unprepared for the vicious attack, the guard let go of her hair gripping his face and rolling away from her in agony. Crawling over, she landed a back fisted blow to his temple, knocking him out. Rising, holding her shoulder, she dashed for some cover, unable to spend the time to re-secure the man as random gunfire sounded too close by.
Brian Rafe lay silent and still as a guard with a semi-automatic weapon moved below his spot on top of the dunes. Eyes narrowed against the light breeze that had sprung up sending ocean spray and sand into the air the detective followed the soldier's progress past his hiding place. Clouds slipped away from the moon and the guard looked up as Rafe's shadow appeared on the ground beside him. Rafe leapt at the man at the same time that the guard was able to swing his weapon around and fire off a shot. Rafe crashed into him and they landed heavily on the sandy beach. Both were still for a moment, the treacherous moon sliding unconcernedly back behind the clouds.
Shuddering in pain, Rafe rolled off the other man, wincing at a line of fire along his side. One fist raised in precaution, Rafe checked his opponent out. A sigh escaped him as the man's open, empty eyes stared up at him. Gingerly shifting him, a large ragged-edged rock buried in the sand testified to the means of death. Shaking in reaction and pain, Rafe closed the death man's eyes. "Vaya con Dios," he whispered, then, clutching his side, he scooped up the weapon and turned his attention to finding the others or their means of transportation.
Simon Banks dashed down to the shore and dived into the chill Pacific waters. The black waters closed over his head and he struck out towards his left. If he could locate the boat without being spotted he'd be in a better position for gathering his people together again. He surfaced secure in knowing that even if the moon did come out, he'd be nearly impossible to locate against the dark waters. As if to prove his point, the area brightened as the three-quarters moon shone down. Banks could make Jim and Joel huddled behind a dune. Rafe and Conner were not in sight, though he heard gunfire off to one side. He shivered hoping none of his people had been injured. As he broke though another wave, he thought he saw Brown skulking behind some dead wood, he hoped Sandburg had found a secure location to hide.
A tight-lipped grin graced his dark features as he spotted a large silhouette bobbing in the waters. Using a slow crawl stroke he silently worked his way to the boat's side. Treading water, a motion caught his attention and he held his breath, clamping his teeth together to keep them from chattering as the inactivity made the water seem even colder. A prone figure along the prow of the boat had shifted positions ever so slightly. Simon could just make out the barrel of a weapon jutting out past the edge of the boat. "This is not my idea of a good time," he muttered to himself as he floated just beneath the weapon. Taking a deep breath he propelled himself upward with a powerful kick, grabbing the barrel with both hands he yanked down. The guard tightened his grip involuntarily and the power of the Captain's yank had the other man following his weapon over the edge and into the water with a startled yell that was suddenly cut off when the waves closed over his head.
Simon got control of the rifle. The guard came up gasping for air and was met with the butt of his own weapon. Simon connected with a solid blow, then grabbed the guard before the other could slide down to a watery death. Checking for other soldiers, Simon floated the guard over to a rocky outcropping and hoisted the man's unconscious body so that it rested out of the water. "Sure hope high tide's over with." With numbed and chilled limbs, the Captain clambered onto the deck of the boat. Aware of what they had done to the enemy's equipment, Simon checked that the boat had not been sabotaged. Slipping its moorings, Banks allowed the waves to drift the boat further down the beach and closer to where he had last seen his friends.
Jim Ellison and Joel Taggart exchanged frustrated glances as they were forced to move away from their hiding spot. Eight men had exited the installation, though a few looked unsteady on their feet, showing the uneven gait of men recently coming out of sedation.
A swift scan gave Jim a glimpse of Simon in the water, and he hoped the Captain had luck finding the boat. The Sentinel was still having difficulty filtering out the sound of the ocean, his worry and exhaustion conspiring against him. He'd started catching the sounds of heartbeats over the noise from the water, but he couldn't tell who was who.
Joel had managed to scoop up two dart guns in their dash for cover and the two examined the weapons. Jim hunkered down next to Joel, putting his mouth close to the other man's ear. "We need to take care of these guys before they become a problem. I have three darts left. You?"
Joel grimaced, "Two."
The group split into two, four men headed one way, four the other. Making a quick decision, Jim motioned for Joel to follow him. The two police officers crept silently after the closest group. Once far enough that the other group would be unable to react quickly, the two took up prone firing stances. They dropped two men before the other two took evasive maneuvers.
"Damn!" Joel's last shot missed and they were now in danger of being serious ventilated as the two guards returned fire. He winced as Jim cursed, tossing his jammed weapon onto ground.
Joel scrambled over the dune out of range of fire. Jim slid to the right and used the sporadic deeper shadows to hide his rush at the two soldiers. The taller detective slammed into one man from the side, bowling him over into the other with the combined momentum. Jim laid into them, taking some wicked blows in return, but staying too close for them to use their rifles. The two men tried to overwhelm the Sentinel, their weight bearing him to the ground. Joel barreled into the fray, knocking the two men off Jim. The two detectives finished the other men off, then sat back, panting. The salt-water mist stung their cuts and the two rose stiffly, and cautiously made their way after the other four men.
The beach was dotted with rocky out-croppings and the four men split up to search for their escaped prisoner and his would-be rescuers. One soldier stepped around a dune and froze. Henri Brown looked up, eyes wide and startled as the soldier aimed his weapon at him. "Where's Sandburg?"
H's gaze snapped from the barrel of the gun to the man's face. "Who?"
The soldier sneered as he moved closer. "Sandburg."
"Oh!" Brown nodded sagely. "Short man, long hair, baggy clothes, real smart? Sorry, haven't seen him." He grabbed for the man's arm, shoving the gun out of the way. The two struggled for it. The soldier lost his grip and the weapon went flying, half burying itself in the ground.
Brown used every dirty trick he could think of and was dismayed when it appeared his opponent had grown up in the same neighborhood. "Let's see if you're familiar with a Sandburg special." He brought both fists down on either side of the man's neck, shattering the collarbones. It had been the smaller man who had pointed out that muscle mass was useless when you attacked a spot with no protection. The soldier screamed a terrible, painful sound. Smashing his elbow into the man's face, Brown temporarily put the man out of his misery.
Brown struggled to his feet, breath hitching in his chest. He took quick stock of his injuries: jaw swollen and lip split from a lucky punch, left knee aching where he slammed it against a rock rather than into the soldier's body as planned, ribs felt tender and the muscles stretched and pulled along his back as he stood.
He stood on the balls of his feet wondering whether to go on, or return to where he'd left Blair. A sudden prickling sensation on the back of his neck had him turned around and working his way back to the rocks.
After the detective left, the wolf lay lengthwise against the comatose Shaman. It shivered in response to the chill that had seeped into the man's muscles and bones. Slowly and carefully it warmed the young man, keeping shock and the colder icy touch of Death at bay. A soft yowl caught the wolf's attention; the panther padded over to lay on the Shaman's other side, both spirit guides standing watch over the young Guide until the Sentinel could arrive.
Canine and feline ears perked at the sound of crunching sand. Unheard low growls emanated from twin throats as a pair of black military boots appeared. The uniformed man with the blonde hair and green eyes stared down at the unconscious man, a twisted smile flitting across his face. The moon shown down, brightening the area. Wolf's growl deepened at the darkness that seemed to cling to the man like a second skin.
"Mr. Johnson. Over here, sir. I've found him." The man knelt and grabbed a fistful of Sandburg's shirt, hauling the man upright. With his other hand, he slapped Blair's face, his voice a mockery of friendly concern. "Wakey, wakey. Time to pay the piper." Dazed blue eyes opened slowly then widened in startled recognition. A hand came up in a weak grip, trying to break free. "Ah. I see you remember me. Oh, don't worry about my arm, it's healing nicely. You know, there are lots of things that can be done with blades, I'm sure Mr. Johnson will let me repay you in kind."
As if summoned by the sound of his name, the older man stepped out from the shadows. The panther snarled, this man seemed cloaked in a dark mist, blacker and fouler than the soldier's own. "Excellent, Lieutenant Carr." He stood studying Blair, a scowl of anger and annoyance stamped on his features.
The Lieutenant grinned down at his captive, then snarled in anger as Blair brought his other hand up slamming the electrical prod into his side. The Lieutenant backhanded the smaller man and Blair dropped the prod, groaning in pain. Carr raised his hand, intending to punch his captive. Mr. Johnson stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. He crouched down to on level with the captive. Blair stared back helplessly, his body too weakened to put up more than a token of resistance. "I'll enjoy seeing you break, Mr. Sandburg. I think a ten hour session in the tank will be the first order of business." A nasty smile crossed his face as Blair paled.
Wolf crouched low, upset as his Shaman's heart rate skyrocketed with fear. The tank had frightened Blair more than he cared to admit. A kinetic spirit by nature - the complete suppression of all movement, all sensation, had very nearly driven the Shaman mad. Only his tenacity and sheer determination that he would not allow his Sentinel to have to endure the same torture had kept Blair from succumbing. Shudders that had nothing to do with his injuries shook his frame. Wolf growled in warning as the young man's heart started beating erratically with fear.
Mr. Johnson leaned in closer, obviously enjoying the look of terror that filled the expressive blue eyes. "And then," his voice dropped to a menacing whisper. "I'll let you watch as we place your Sentinel into the tank. It'll be interesting to see what will happen when a man with heightened senses is deprived of them all."
Wolf felt a sudden surge of power as the terror racing through the Shaman suddenly transformed into a white-hot rage. The moon, as if in fear, hid its face, plunging the area into darkness as Wolf's growls joined Panther's snarls filling the air with their own cries of rage.
With an intensity that nearly drove him to his knees, Jim became aware of the racing heartbeat of his partner/friend/Shaman and Guide as his hearing came on-line. The wind shifted and the Sentinel could smell Blair's fear as well as the dry stink of frustrated annoyance coming off the two men nearby. Extending his hearing, he caught part of the threat directed at his Guide and he growled low in his throat. He mentioned for Joel to hurry as he picked up the place, the area clear as day to his eyesight. He could hear Joel stumbling behind him but couldn't spare the time to check if the older man was keeping up okay.
An oily voice oozed with self-satisfied menace. Jim scowled as Blair's heart sped up impossibly at the word "tank" – stuttering and erratic. The fear he scented in the air was almost palpable and all the Sentinel could think of was ridding his Guide of his source of distress. The next words would have passed him by, so complete was his rage, if not for the instantaneous reaction from his Shaman. "…be interesting to see what will happen when a man with heightened senses is deprived of them all." The fear switched off to be replaced by the hot desert scent of absolute rage. The heart hammered in triple time, no longer erratic, but strong and steady, fast and furious. The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention and Jim could taste ozone in the air.
A feline scream joined the deep growls of a wolf. Joel caught up to him, skin a dusky gray. "Tell me I'm hearing things."
Jim just shook his head. Screams from more earthly throats filled the air that went on for several long moments. All was quiet as Jim and Joel approached a set of boulders clustered close together. Henri Brown dashed over, eyes wide, and the three men ran the last few feet to the alcove.
Blair was on his feet, staring blankly down at the two figures lying spread-eagle on the sand, but Jim didn't think Blair was seeing them. Though dark, Jim's heightened eyesight could make out each laceration and blood-filled wound, the two bodies barely distinguishable as human beings any more. He heard a low snarl and felt a velvet softness brush past him. The Sentinel nodded in grim appreciation. Stepping around the bodies, Jim approached the shell-shocked Guide, blocking the view with his own body. "Chief?"
Blair stood tensely, fists clenched, body vibrating like a tightly strung piano wire.
"What happened?" Brown asked in a hoarse whisper.
Jim answered absently, "They threatened to put me in the sensory deprivation tank." He reached out and gently touched his Shaman's shoulder, speaking softly, trying to break through the younger man's rage. "It's all right, Blair. I'm safe and they won't be doing anything to anyone ever again."
Slowly, oh so slowly, the rage drained from the small figure. Blue eyes filled with an unutterable weariness met his and Jim had only a split second's warning as those blue orbs rolled to the back of his head and Blair collapsed. Jim caught his friend's body, sweeping up the compact frame in his arms, cradling him close to his chest. Not giving the two carcasses a second glance, he strode away from the grisly scene, set upon finding Simon and the boat to get his Guide out of there.
Brown and Taggart stared in shock; the moon glistening wetly along the lengths of the bodies. They exchanged glances confirming with one another the rumors they'd heard about the partners. Everyone knew not to mess with Sandburg or you'd have Ellison to deal with. However, this was the most violent piece of evidence they'd seen that supported the darker rumor that you didn't mess with Ellison unless you wanted to deal with Sandburg.
Dr. Rivens skirted the edge of the compound. Of them all, he had the best idea of what a Sentinel in "Full Blessed Protector" mode was capable of and he didn't want to be anywhere in the area when the Sentinel expressed his annoyance. He'd watched as the soldiers were taken out one by one. He stood at the corner of the installation wavering between staying to see if Sandburg was recaptured or taking off for the opposite end of the island where he had a wave runner hidden. The snarls and screams decided him. The doctor slipped off and began running once he hit the tree line. "Go back to the mainland. Reach my contacts. I don't know how they found him, but next time we have Sandburg in possession, no one will be able to locate the young man." Plans in mind for the types of tests he wanted to perform on the Guide, he didn't hear the soft rustlings in the brush that paralleled his course.
He broke from the trees and moved unerringly in the dim light towards the tiny harbor where he'd secured the wave runner. Supplies were already on board and the tank was full, he'd be able to make it to the coast of Canada, then work his way back down to the States.
Rivens paused, there was something strange about the wave runner. The silhouette was misshapen somehow. Two strides forward and the doctor felt his blood run cold in his veins as twin emerald orbs gazed at him. Milk white fangs glistened as the jaws gaped open in a silent sneering yawn. The large cat lounging on the seat of the wave runner was of the deepest sable, blending in almost invisibly with the night. Slowly backing a step, he jerked as the feline dropped to the sandy ground with liquid grace. It paced him a step backwards, then another. Shivering in fright, he watched mesmerized as a tongue flicked out languidly, licking off drops of blood caught in the whiskers.
Dr. Rivens turned, ever so slowly, with the idea of trying to make a run for it. One step, two, three, then he froze as a large gray wolf materialized out of the trees. Amber eyes locked on his and he saw his own death reflected in their depths. The creature padded towards him, its footfalls drowned out by the thundering of his own heartbeats. As it neared, Rivens could feel its growls reverberate through his chest. Quicker than thought it leapt, a misty blur. Paws slammed into his chest, knocking him backwards. The weight pushed the air from his lungs and he gasped for breath, unable to voice his terror. Growling louder, it snapped at his face and Rivens got a much too good a view of a multitude of teeth that looked like they could tear into his flesh with ease. The claws sliced through his clothing, pricking his chest with the promise of further violence if he struggled any. Being allergic to pain, the doctor stilled. The animal lowered its head and Rivens' lost control of his bodily functions as the jaws closed around his throat. The vice tightened and he could feel rivulets of blood run down his neck and mat in his hair as the canines pierced the skin. His breathing came fast and shallow, his heart trying to leap from his chest. 'Oh, God. I'm going to die, I'm going to die, I'm going to die,' the litany screamed over and over in his head.
The panther yowled softly and after a moment, the pressure let up, slightly. The wolf glanced at the cat, waiting, jaws still around the doctor's throat. Another yowl from the feline, this time with a hint of command to it. The wolf snarled, the pressure increasing briefly before the creature gave a snort of disgust leaving the doctor lying on the wet soiled sand, wondering why his throat hadn't been torn out. The wolf kicked sand at the prone man before disappearing back into the woods. Dr. Rivens would have sworn the panther sighed. It turned it's gaze back on him and stood watching him for several long minutes. When it was satisfied he wasn't going to try and retaliate, it melted back into the shadows.
Gingerly, shakily, and with many nervous looks over his shoulder, the doctor rose, clambered aboard his wave runner, and headed away from the island and the current occupants on it as quickly as possible.
Simon Banks slipped back into the water, pulling the boat to shore. He staked the line and waited, weapon ready. He'd been keeping a close on the action on shore. The screams had chilled him, but somehow he knew they weren't from any of his own people.
With his partner cradled protectively in his arms, Ellison strode across the sand towards him. Taggart and Brown trailed after him. Before they'd come very far, Rafe and Conners joined them. All looked like they'd been through the wringer. The four detectives kept watch around Sentinel and Guide.
The clouds swept across the sky, creating a dizzying display of light and shadows dance across the sand. One moment, Ellison was hurrying them towards the boat, the next; they were pinned by the searing beam of a spotlight. Simon turned trying to pinpoint the source of the light. He came face to face with a masked individual, dressed entirely in black, eyes covered by tinted goggles and pointing an assault rifle at him. Banks closed his eyes briefly in resignation. After everything they'd been through – to be caught now. He was gestured to his feet. Simon rose reluctantly, still holding the rope, and turned his gaze towards his people.
Surrounded by armed soldiers, the detectives stood in a huddled bunch, looking a bit puzzled when not commanded to drop their weapons. Ellison had his gaze fixed off to one side, his grip tensing subconsciously around Sandburg's body. A powerfully built man, dressed like the others, stepped into the sphere of light until he stood before the Sentinel. He glanced down at Sandburg, ignoring Ellison's glare. In the silence, his words could easily be heard. "Looks like he could use a hospital." The man locked gazes with Ellison. "Nothing happened here." A moment passed. Simon saw Jim's expression harden and he nodded once, curtly. The man waved an arm and the soldiers turned away from the detectives heading, towards the installation.
The spotlight was switched off and Simon struggled to regain his night vision. He felt rather than saw his guard leave his side. Ellison herded the silent and confused detectives to the boat and Simon helped them aboard. Jim boarded and settled himself on one of the benches, never once relinquishing his hold on his friend. Simon reversed the engine, backing away from the shore uneasily, unsure if they were really being allowed to leave or were just being toyed with. He turned the boat around and aimed it towards Washington, the spot between his shoulder blades itching.
A few miles away, each turned as a loud explosion sounded. Jim absently stroked Blair's curly hair and nodded at their questioning looks, the installation was gone.
Blair's eyes were open, an unreadable look in his eyes as he gazed at the distant blaze. Jim spoke softly, not wanting to startle the younger man. "Blair? Chief? You hanging in there?"
"Is everyone okay?" the voice was so low the boat's engine nearly drowned it out.
"Scratches and bruises, Chief. Nothing real serious."
Eyes the color of storm-tossed seas drifted from person to person. Each member of Major Crimes nodded as the penetrating gaze landed on him or her, silently sending their reassurances to the young Shaman. He read the truth in their expressions and relaxed, eyes closing. Jim tightened his grip, rubbing his hands up and down Blair's arms, trying to stave off the chill wind. Shudders still visibly wracked Blair's frame and his face was an unhealthy gray color.
"We'll be back to shore in a few minutes and we'll get you to a hospital. You just say with us till then, you hear me Sandburg?" His concern made Simon's voice harsher than he meant it to be.
Surprisingly, Blair cracked open one eye and gave a lopsided grin. "Aye, aye, Captain." He settled deeper into Jim's arms, voice soft. "No other place I'd rather be."
- Later, in a storage room in an unknown location. -
"This is the last of it, Sir." The soldier placed the box on the floor next to a line of file cabinets.
"Very well. Thank you, Sergeant."
"Does the Brass plan to pursue this any further?"
"No. It appears we've made a slight miscalculation. In order for us to be able to control a Sentinel/Guide pair, we would have to obtain them before they form too close an attachment to one another. However, it's that very closeness that makes them such a remarkable team. The alternatives are a greatly reduced partnering, or more incidents like what we just had. No, I think it's best if we shelve the whole thing for now." He escorted the Sargent out of the room. "It's a shame about Dr. Rivens, though. Intelligent man like that."
"He's at the federal psychiatric hospital, isn't he?"
"Yes. Visual hallucinations coupled by a severe case of paranoia. Kept thinking he was being stalked by wild animals." The man shook his head. "Shame. Well, good night, Sargent."
"Good night, Sir. Drive safely."
The lights were turned off and all was dark.
- Completed 6/2000