Author's note: I do not own the rights to The Magnificent Seven or The Sentinel. No profit was made and only respect was intended.
I would like to thank Caitriona3 for her efforts as beta for this story. She did a great job and any remaining mistakes are my fault. (PM me about where they are and I'll correct them, if you find any particularly irritating ones.)
This is the sixth story in the 'Finding Family' series.
"I think we can take it as proven that Tanner has better vision than me," suggested Detective James Joseph Ellison, Sentinel of Cascade. It was early autumn in Colorado and the comfortable breeze combined with the relaxed atmosphere made for a surprisingly enjoyable second visit to the Denver area. Almost five months had passed since Jim first rushed to the city, concerned for his friend and Guide after the younger man's attempted reconciliation with his mother became an introduction to a father Blair never knew existed. Jim probably would have left his partner to sort out the family drama on his own had Blair not revealed one of 'dad's' coworkers as a latent Sentinel. When the latent went to active after less than twenty-four hours of contact with Blair, Jim couldn't board a plane fast enough. He refused to repeat history and leave Blair at the mercy of an unknown Sentinel ever again. Thankfully, Vin Tanner, the new Sentinel (or Guardian as his tribe called them) was not the psychotic disaster they came to expect after Alex Barnes.
In fact, once they moved past the initial growling phase Jim and Vin actually got along pretty well. Jim even followed his impulse to give Tanner his email, in case the other thought of any Sentinel questions. He felt honestly surprised when after a month and a half of silence Tanner sent a query about preferred soaps. Vin experienced on and off skin rashes and nothing they tried worked. Jim happily sent a short list of products he used, remembering all too well how quickly even a small rash could send you from distracted to completely unable to get relief. The simple exchange led to an ongoing correspondence with the two sharing how the senses impacted their work in ways both good and bad. Jim felt especially pleased when a warning of his saved Vin a trip to the hospital, and it was not long before Jim thought of Tanner as both a protégé and a friend.
Jim welcomed Blair's suggestion to take a second trip out to Denver so Blair could help Chris get a better read on Vin's capabilities. While he was not exactly jumping for joy at the idea of running through a Blair-designed maze of tests, he also remembered what a pain in the ass the senses were initially and he wanted to help Tanner get past this rough spot as fast as he could. It surprised Jim when he discovered how much he enjoyed the opportunity to really stretch his senses against someone with similar abilities. Nathan Jackson and Josiah Sanchez, a medic and anthropologist/psychologist respectively asked to witness the testing. Jim did not usually like using his abilities around those he did not know, but since both men, as members of Larabee's team, knew about Tanner's gifts and worked with him regularly, Jim agreed. The pride he had felt at consistently beating Tanner in all of the hearing tests made it easier to concede the younger man possessed far superior sight.
"You've been holding out on me, man," Blair accused good naturedly. "The results I'm recording from you and Vin are significantly better than what I've got on record." Blair typed away on the laptop his father gave him earlier, guaranteed to be 'hack proof' according to JD. Currently, it held all of Blair's accumulated knowledge and work on Sentinels in general and both Jim and Vin in particular. It also included information saved from his short study of Alex Barnes, but he preferred to ignore that data. Beside him, Chris read off another list of numbers. These, pertaining to Vin, caused Blair to whistle in amazement while he typed them in. "And you Vin, I think you could give hawks a run for their money when it comes to visual acuity."
"Always had good eyes," Vin stated with a shrug.
"What about you, Jim? Do you have any explanation for why you can see twice as far as when I tested you four years ago?" asked Blair.
"Exercise," Jim offered. "The more you use a skill or ability the better you get at it. When you tested me I hadn't used my senses in years. Now I use them daily to varying degrees. It's got to have an effect; just like muscles strengthened by exercise."
"Does that mean Vin's vision might get even better," wondered Chris. As far as he was concerned his Guardian's eyesight was already astounding.
"Possibly, probably," murmured Blair. "I'd love to get an image of their brains while they're using their senses."
"Why?" asked Nathan, "Do you mean like an MRI or something? Would that show anything? I thought it was their senses that were unusual." The medic, who took on the job of overseeing the tests Blair and Chris devised for their partners, remained fascinated by the science behind their abilities. He thought after watching Vin start to use his senses at work that he possessed an idea of these men's capabilities, but the things he witnessed today were truly phenomenal.
"Well they are," agreed Blair. "But the latest studies on visual acuity indicated there are no perceivable structural differences in the eyes of people with 20/20 verses people with 20/10 vision. This led to the current most prominent theory suggesting superior or hyper visual acuity relies on both sound eye structure and excellent brain connections working in concert. I've also noted Jim and Vin both have a natural ability to control the dilation of their eyes which is something most people have to learn how to do through practice. Much the same way a person could learn how to control their breathing or heart rate through Lamaze or meditation."
"So how would Jim and Vin's vision rate on a standard vision scale?" wondered Nathan.
"Actually, since most vision charts have 20/10 as their smallest line Jim and Vin are a bit beyond the standard. I'm putting Jim down as 20/7 and estimating Vin to be closer to 20/5. Both are comparable to the believed range of many birds of prey," Blair explained.
"So could you find anyone who is not a Sentinel with that sort of eyesight?" asked Chris as he set down his notepad.
"Well it is definitely rare," conceded Blair, "But another study found a group of men diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorders maintained, on average, 20/7 vision, which lends a bit of support to the idea indicating our software," Blair tapped the side of his skull, "plays a part in what we're able to perceive."
"You're talking about the article by Emma Ashwin's group," confirmed Josiah.
"Yes, you read it too?" Blair asked.
"Is this where you tell us heightened senses are often a sign of mental illness?" wondered Jim. He had not forgotten how the only person besides himself to see the spirit of a murder victim, was a diagnosed schizophrenic.
"No," insisted Blair, "though I would point out someone who color codes their Tupperware could possibly fall into the high functioning end of the autism spectrum."
"It's called being organized," Jim maintained.
"Anal," Blair muttered under his breath.
"I heard that," Jim informed in a warning tone while Vin began to chuckle.
"Good," Blair smiled, "You were meant to." He hit enter on his keyboard one more time and then leaned back in his seat. "Well I've got everything we've done so far documented for us to reference later. Which sense do you guys want to test next?"
"Taste," Chris asserted decisively, "as in you and I head out to pick up fresh steaks for the barbeque. We've already been at this for several hours and I think everyone has earned a break. I doubt I'm the only one here getting hungry. Buck and JD are due in another hour, but I don't trust them to bring anything but chips and soda. So we need to get the good stuff ourselves."
"What about Ezra?" asked Blair. "Isn't he coming?"
"He had to cancel," Chris explained, "when his mother and her latest boyfriend showed up unannounced."
"Okay, I could go for some food, but I want to pick up some vegetables to go with all of the red meat," Blair returned adamantly.
"We could look for some shish kebab fixings," suggested Chris. "Maybe a couple heads of cauliflower to roast." Blair scribbled down a list of food items even as the other men kept adding more and more suggestions. "Enough," demanded Chris, "I am not feeding an army, at least not unless you boys start paying to cover the bill." Blair happily accepted money from Nathan and Josiah.
Jim started to dig into his wallet too when Vin stopped him. "Chris promised me all I could eat if I didn't gripe about the tests they planned. Seems only fair; you should get a free meal too."
Jim broke into a grin, "Hear that, Chief?"
"Yeah, yeah," muttered Blair, "I'll cover you." Blair added another twenty from his own wallet to the pot. A few minutes later father and son pulled out of the driveway in Chris's truck.
They spent a surprisingly short amount of time in the store considering the long list of groceries they were expected to procure. Upon reconsideration Blair decided perhaps it was not so surprising when he realized his father treated a trip to the grocery the same way he likely treated his SEAL team missions. Review objectives before deployment; in this case read the list before entering the store. Evade enemy patrols; also known as wondering children and adults with overloaded shopping carts. Capture targets; grab the items on the list. Make a quick retreat when the mission objective is achieved; as known as, handing the cashier cash while helping to bag his own groceries. "I think I can honestly say that constituted the fastest trip to the grocery store I've ever been on which didn't involve getting three items or less," Blair assessed with more than a bit of respect.
"Even when I got married to Sarah I kept doing the grocery shopping as my part of the household chores," Chris explained. "Sarah used to joke, saying I approached shopping like I was invading another country." Chris found himself surprised he mentioned his wife's name so easily. Possibly even more shocking; he felt only a shadow of stabbing pain he usually felt.
"Sounds like one very observant lady," decided Blair.
"No one could get anything past Sarah," Chris agreed. "Her students used to swear she had eyes in the back of her head." Chris noted how the familiar dull ache of her memory became overridden by thoughts of happier times. It still hurt a bit, but it also felt good to be able to talk about her again. He did not know if enough time passed for him to finally move into acceptance or if it was simply that Blair felt so easy to talk to. Either way he was glad it happened.
They were just starting to load their bags into the back seat of Chris's truck when Blair's phone started to play the theme from Mission Impossible.
"That better not be one of the boys asking us to get something else," warned Chris, "because I'm not going back in there."
"No," murmured Blair a bit confused, "this is my ring tone for Jack Kelso." He hit the receive button even as he deposited the last bag. "Hey, Jack, how's it going? I haven't heard from you in a while."
"Thank God, I got a hold of you. I may be worrying over nothing but your boss said you were both on vacation and I couldn't reach Jim on his cell," Jack spoke in a rush.
"We're in the Rocky Mountains; cell service is a little spotty," explained Blair. He really did not like the borderline panic he heard in the former CIA agent's voice. "What's going on Jack? You're starting to worry me." Chris instinctively began to survey their surroundings, picking up on his son's unease.
"Brackett's in the wind," Jack alerted. "I just got word of his release last week, into the custody of a Brigadier General Colton, who did not possess authorization to release anyone. Now both are missing and I don't think it's a coincidence that the same General proposed and had his funding denied for what my source called 'the Sentinel project'."
"Crap," Blair hopped into the truck slamming the door. "Drive," he ordered Chris. "Get us to the ranch as fast as you can. Jack said Brackett escaped from his little hole some time last week with a General who'd just been denied funding for his own little Sentinel project."
Chris responded immediately, shifting the vehicle into gear and pealing out of the parking lot. His hazard lights and his horn the only warnings for others to get out of his way. Once on the road he dug his own cell out of his pocket and handed it to Blair. "Speed dial nine is the ranch's land line. The others are going to need a heads up."
"Right," Blair muttered hitting the nine. "Hang on Jack. I need to warn Jim."
"He's not with you?" Jack asked.
"No, he's at my Dad's ranch," Blair explained.
"Your Dad?" Jack sounded more confused with every question.
"ATF Group Supervisor Chris Larabee of Denver's Team Seven. It's a long story. I'll . . ."
"Larabee's Looney Bin," greeted Buck from Chris's cell. "How may I direct your call?"
Blair ignored Buck, hoping that Jim stood in earshot of the phone. "Jim, Brackett is on the loose thanks to the backing of a General who's ticked off about not getting his Sentinel project funded. Chris and I are coming back to the ranch. Don't you dare get kidnapped before I get there!"
"We'll be careful, Chief," Jim assured in the background.
"What do we need to be on the lookout for?" asked Buck all trace of his earlier silliness gone.
"Lee Brackett CIA agent turned self-serving traitor," Blair began.
"Him, I know," growled Buck.
Blair remembered Buck had also been on Chris's SEAL team, which likely meant he knew the team member Brackett's grand standing long ago caused the death of. "He may be in the company of Brigadier General Colton. I'll have to talk to Jack before I know more about him."
"I'll get JD working on our end," assured Buck. "Does Chris want me to call Ezra in?"
Blair tipped the phone away from his mouth, "Ezra?"
"I'll call Ezra," Chris raised his voice so Buck could hear him. "You are in charge of the security detail effective immediately. And Buck, don't take risks by making assumptions."
Blair ended the call with the ranch and then immediately called Ezra's cell number before handing it back to Chris. Picking up his own cell Blair tried to force some calm and focus through his scattered thoughts. "Thanks for waiting, Jack. Jim knows about the threat, now what else can you tell me?"
"I'm going to be honest with you Blair. Bracket is not the only person who has managed to connect the dots where Jim is concerned. Nor is Jim the only soldier to have exhibited heightened senses. The main difference being none of the others have shown the consistency Jim has since teaming up with you. There was some talk of bringing the two of you in to consult on a possible project, but it ended due to a combination of budget constraints and the belief that neither of you would be very inclined to help the military establishment train their Sentinels. Especially considering your past experiences." Jack's short speech shocked Blair silent.
In the drivers seat Chris ended his quick call to Ezra and refocused on getting back to the others. "It will take seven more minutes to reach the ranch," he updated.
Blair shook himself from his stupor to ask Jack, "What about this General Colton? What is he really after in all of this?"
"Colton claimed he wanted to form a Sentinel unit to better investigate ways to train and utilize their abilities. It doesn't sound so bad on the surface, but he proposed drafting anyone who exhibited signs of being a Sentinel and requiring they fulfill a mandatory ten year term of military service. His very weak justification being Sentinels were genetically predisposed to protect others and the military exemplified the best way to do so," informed Jack.
"Ten years of mandatory military service for anyone identified as a Sentinel?" The thought of how many rights Colton's project would trample staggered. Even when the draft had been in effect back in the sixties and early seventies, mandatory service only lasted two years and it still allowed waivers or non-combat postings for conscientious objectors. Colton did not sound like the type to allow such leeway.
"A specialized draft targeting Sentinels?" Chris spoke up from beside him. "That not just illegal; it's unconstitutional."
"Let me assure you, Blair," Jack continued through the cell, "even those who thought a Sentinel unit had some potential were opposed to the mandatory service idea. When he refused to back off on the concept, Colton's superiors sidelined his command and eliminated his funding. Apparently that's when he decided to work with Brackett. I doubt you have forgotten how good Brackett is at working an angle to his advantage."
"Blair we're being followed," cautioned Chris. "They've been hanging back, but it's the same SUV that followed us out of the parking lot."
"We're still another five minutes from the ranch, right?" asked Blair. "Should we warn them we're being followed?"
Chris frown as his eyes darted from the windshield to the rear view mirror. "Vin's first instinct will be to come to us. I don't want to play into Brackett's hands that way." Despite what Vin or Jim might think; Sentinels were not the only ones with an instinctive drive to protect their partners. "I'm going to try a back way to the ranch. There are a couple of unmapped dirt roads I doubt their rental is sturdy enough to handle."
"Let's go for it," Blair agreed. The last thing he wanted was to be used as bait to capture his Sentinel.
"What's going on?" demanded Jack, hissing static interfering with their call.
"Dad says we've got a tail. We're going to try to shake them," Blair explained.
Several states away, sitting in a wheelchair, Jack struggled to think of some way he could help his young friend. "Do you have your gun with you?"
"Yes, and my Swiss army knife and some water," Blair listed.
"I've got backpacks full of survival gear stowed under the bench seat behind us and a flare gun in the glove box," volunteered Chris. "Pull them out now, incase we need to bale from the truck."
"At least if we end up fleeing for our lives, through Colorado's untamed forests, we'll be well supplied," Blair commented as he turned to reach under the back seat. When he almost dropped the phone he paused. "Sorry Jack, but I'm going to let you go now. Thanks for the warning; we'll do our best to make good use of it."
"Wait Blair!" warned Jack, "Tuck your cell phone into your shoe. It will be the easiest way for us to track you if we need to, and it is often missed during pat down searches. Under your sock and in your shoe if possible," the former spy suggested.
"Got it," Blair assured, thankful he had decided to stick with his small cell rather than upgrade to the bigger screen with his last renewal. "Thanks again," Blair ended the call then immediately began unlacing his right boot deciding it felt to be the looser fitting of the two. He wasted only a few seconds consideration to determine tucking the cell along the inside of his foot would give him the best chance of keeping the device hidden while still allowing him to run unhindered.
"Son of a bitch!" Chris cursed. They were fast approaching a semi-trailer, turned sideways to block the entire road ahead of them.
"That can't be Brackett," Blair denied.
"It sure as hell ain't a sobriety check point," countered Chris.
"What about the off road trails you were talking about?" Blair could feel Brackett's well planned trap closing in around them.
"The access point is on the other side of that road block," Chris explained. Closing in on the semi, the agent tried to gage their chances of getting around it without sliding into the very deep gully bordering the road.
"But we can get around that thing, right?" Blair really hoped Chris aced whatever evasive driving lessons the military provided for their special forces.
"Maybe," was the best Chris could offer. "It's our only choice. Our tail is closing in. Grab the survival packs incase we need to flee on foot."
Blair followed his father's instructions, taking note of the cliché black SUV bearing down on their bumper. Two unknown henchmen occupied the front seat. Ahead, by the ever nearing semi, Blair saw a blonde head he thought he recognized as Brackett's. He barely suppressed the sudden impulse to draw and aim his weapon at the smug traitor.
"Hang on!" Chris warned before he stepped on the gas and swung to the right, trying to thread the narrow passage between the semi and the ditch. Brackett immediately recognized what Chris hoped to achieve and began shouting and gesturing franticly at the young man with him. Blair thought he saw the flash of sunlight reflecting off a long piece of metal, probably a rifle barrel. Then the truck swerved past the trailer; gravel spraying as the right tires sought to maintain traction. Metal screeched when Chris's truck sideswiped of the larger semi. A bang from the muzzle of a gun forced Blair to duck and Chris to tighten his already white knuckled grip on the steering wheel. The swivel of the back end suddenly intensified and Blair realized the bullet likely struck one of the truck's tires. "Hang on!" Chris repeated as the truck slid sideways towards the gully. Time seemed to shift into slow motion as the increasing incline forced the truck to teeter and then roll, end over end, to the bottom.
The tumbling of the truck combined with the clashing sounds of metal bending and glass shattering made it difficult to maintain his bearings. When the vehicle finally came to an inverted stop Blair released a breath he never realized he had been holding. Hanging by his seatbelt he took a quick mental inventory of any injures before attempting to unbuckle. "Dad are you . . ."
"I'm good," Chris assured. "Can you get out your window? We need to move." The ATF agent left unmentioned the ambushers sure to be closing in.
"Yeah," Blair grunted as the buckle released and he dropped gracelessly to the truck roof. Grabbing the survival pack he landed on, Blair pushed it through the broken passenger window, doing his best to widen the opening and clear away the more jagged bits of glass. He shimmied out the window, verified their adversaries were still loitering on the road at the top of the gully, snagged the second emergency pack out of the cab and reached back in to help pull Chris out.
"Sandburg," Bracket yelled down towards the upended vehicle. "You're making this harder than it has to be. Surrender and we'll go easy on you and your companion."
Blair felt a surge of anger at the former spy's words. When his eyes met his father's he could see the elder man appeared equally opposed to giving up. Setting his resolve, Blair un-holstered his gun and straightened to take aim over the truck's still spinning tire. Blair did not bother with the usual police warning. The ambushers had already fired upon them once and Brackett's announcement showed all, he knew exactly who his victims were. Blair placed the blonde traitor in his sights and pulled the trigger on an exhale, just like he had been taught. Any relief he might have felt at seeing Brackett jerk and scramble for cover was muted by the tingling sensation creeping beneath his skin. Then he saw him; a black haired, deeply tan teenager with gang tattoos on his neck and arms, who was cringing; not in fear of the enemy fire, but in pain from the overwhelming noise of gunfire assaulting his sensitive ears. Blair ducked back down behind the cover of the truck. "Brackett has a Sentinel with him," he announced with a mix of panic and confusion. Panic because while Vin might be a much more trustworthy and honorable Sentinel than Alex had been, Blair could not conceive of any circumstances under which he would trust a Sentinel with Brackett. Confusion because if Brackett already had his own pet Sentinel why would he come after Jim and Blair again.
Chris squeezed his sons shoulder to both offer support and capture his attention. "We need to lay down some cover fire and make a break for the woods," were his words, but with his eyes and hands the ATF Group Supervisor signaled he really wanted them to take cover in a nearby group of trees. Once he received a nod of understanding from his son, both men rose and fired on the ambushers who were starting to make their way down towards the base of the gully. After firing perhaps half a dozen rounds between them; just enough to force their opponents to dive for cover, they grabbed the survival packs and made a quick dash to the nearby cover. Within the shelter of the trees Chris turned back and took careful aim at his truck's exposed gas tank. One bullet latter the battered vehicle erupted in a fiery explosion thanks to the full tank of gas he had acquired in preparation for his son's visit. Knowing they would not get a better distraction than the fumes and flames of the wrecked truck's death throes, father and son scampered up the forest side of the gully away from the road and their attackers.
They were able to get a bit ahead of their hunters, but not so far ahead they could not hear them crashing through the trees in pursuit. Blair felt pretty sure they were fleeing away from Chris's ranch, though with his often maligned sense of direction he was not willing to bet on it. He let Chris set the direction and pace, understanding his father's years of training and experience were their best chance of getting out of the situation in one piece. Chris's knowledge of the local terrain would also be an advantage.
They had just hopped across a small stream and moved past a thicket of bushes when Chris signaled to stop. He snagged an energy bar and a water bottle out of his bag and indicated Blair should do the same. Half of a water bottle and several bites of an energy bar were consumed before he finally spoke in a hushed whisper, "How are you holding up?"
"I'm good," Blair whispered back. "I can keep going all day if it keeps us out of Brackett's reach." Blair continued devouring his own bar, knowing he would need the energy boost. Adrenalin could only keep you going for so long.
"There is a sheriff's substation not far from here," Chris informed. "But we are going to have to get past a grazing meadow and cross two roads to get to it." Unspoken remained the understanding that crossing the open terrain of the meadow and roads would leave them very vulnerable.
"This is your home turf," said Blair, "I trust your judgment. Sorry about your truck, by the way."
Chris offered a weary smile, "Better it than us. Besides my special forces training won't allow me to leave anything behind for the enemy to use." As he spoke he tucked the now empty water bottle and wrapper into a side pocket of his pack. "Ready to get moving again?" Blair nodded, following his father's example of stowing his trash to help to minimize the trail they left.
They moved quickly through the forest with Chris again in the lead. Blair was hard pressed not to look back over his shoulder at every cracked twig and rustle of leaves. Though he had not seen any direct evidence of their ambushers since before the short snack break, he was not foolish enough to think they were in the clear. The first road to come into view was not as bad as Blair had feared; trees lining both sides, meaning they would only be out of cover for a few seconds. Chris paused long enough to make certain the road looked clear of traffic, and then both men raced across. Back in the cover of the trees, Blair gave in to temptation and looked back towards the road. Coming out of the tree line on the far side of the road were two men, possibly the ones driving the SUV, but Blair could not be certain.
"Keep moving," urged Chris, "we're still almost a mile away." Seeing the bad guys still in hot pursuit became a great motivator to pick up the pace.
The trees thinned out and brought the meadow into view. Blair did not have time to feel relieved; another challenge had been reached. The tingling beneath his skin intensified, making his head swivel as he sought out the hostile Sentinel he knew was getting closer. "Dad," Blair started to warn.
"Tingling under the skin," Chris cut him off. "I can feel it too. Now I get why being around Vin had you so edgy at first." Chris led them down an incline towards the fence dividing the forest from the meadow. Several cattle grazed on the far side of a rolling hill. Chris's hand hovered near the fence line for a second. "It's electrified but we can crawl under it. The charge is pretty low; just enough to make the animals think twice about approaching, but it will still give you a jolt if you touch the line," he warned. Chris shucked his pack and tossed it over the fence before lowering his body to the ground to shimmy under.
Blair followed suit asking, "What about the cattle? Are they going to be okay with us running through their field?" He really did not like the look of the horns on the bull.
"They're pretty domesticated," assured Chris rising to his feet. "As long as we don't charge or threaten the herd they shouldn't bother us." One hand pulled Blair to his feet while the other handed him his pack. "We'll follow the watershed to the drainage tunnel. We'll be less exposed if we go under the road rather than over it." Chris pointed out the path he wanted to take.
Without trees to dodge both men were running at top speed. The meadow spread out widely; easily a half to three-quarters of a mile across before being broken by the road they were aiming for. It extended off to the left and right even further. Blair quickly found himself wishing he had inherited his father's long legs. As hard as he ran it just did not feel like he moved fast enough. Then a noise intruded into his thoughts. As a vehicle of some kind rumbled down the road; moving in their direction. Chris made a slight course adjustment to bring them lower into the watershed, taking advantage of the landscape's natural cover. Blair's boots splashed through the puddled remnants of last night's rain. He could see the tunnel up ahead; it looked to be about three feet in diameter. Too small to walk through, but crawling would be easy enough if a bit messy.
The approaching vehicle continued to move closer before skidding to a sudden stop, shattering Blair's hope it might be some random traveler on the road. He would have sped up a notch, were his legs not already aching from being pushed beyond their limits. The tingling sensation elevated to new levels; leading Blair to pray his new found Sentinel detection system did not work both ways. When he heard a door open, a quick glance showed Brackett getting out on the driver's side while the mystery Sentinel vacated the passenger seat. A corner of Blair's mind wondered again why Brackett seemed so determined to capture Blair, when he clearly would not need to use him as leverage against Jim. He ducked low as he ran trying to keep out of their adversaries' line of sight. The tunnel appeared only twenty feet away, letting Blair hope they might be able to slip past Brackett's goons. Even if they cut off the other end of the tunnel, with their guns and a few well placed shots they could likely discourage any one else from entering until help arrived. Especially since aside from the one shot fired at Chris's truck tire there had been no attempts to return fire when Blair and Chris used their guns. Maybe Brackett wanted to capture Blair unharmed, but Blair was not going to make it easy for him.
Blair reexamined his assumptions after a bang led to Chris staggering ahead of him. Reaching his father's side; Blair search for a bullet wound. Instead he found a tranquilizer dart stuck in the agent's thigh. Chris's, "Crap," seemed to sum up their situation perfectly. "Keep running," his father insisted even as he fell to a stumble.
"I'm not leaving you," Blair countered, "We just have to make it to the tunnel." Half dragging Chris, he pushed onward; just a few more feet to go. Then the combination of another bang and a needle slamming into Blair's shoulder destroyed his plans. He yanked the dart out of his arm, but it had already done its job and injected him with a powerful sedative, even now taking affect. He dove for the tunnel entrance dragging his barely conscious father with him. Chris retained just enough awareness to thrust his gun into Blair's hand before succumbing to the drug's grip. Blair pulled his father further into the tunnel and un-holstered his own weapon so he could aim a gun at each exit.
"Are you sure you got them both?" he could hear Brackett ask from just outside the tunnel.
The reply sounded garbled while Blair's vision started to get fuzzy. He leaned back against the curved surface as he tried to fight against the sedative invading his system. The guns were just too heavy to keep aiming; his eyelids too heavy to hold open. "Sorry, Jim," he slurred as he slipped into Morpheus's hold. Sadly, the only Sentinel to hear him was not his own.
Author's note: The study by Emma Ashwin's group on the visual acuity of men diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders is real. I thought it would be fun to add a little science fact in with all of the science fiction.