Author's notes: This is an Alternate Universe science fiction story using characters and premise of The Sentinel, set on another planet. It is very different from my other TS/MacGyver series, bascally stemming from a weird mood, my new Titantic soundtrack, and watching too much TS/Voyager back to back. I suppose I should also put out another hair alert...
Characters from other TV shows will pop up in this story, among them MacGyver and Nash Bridges. If I've seen the show, it's fair game.
I wish to extend my thanks to Zadra, Sharon and Cassie, for without their collective encouragement and enthusiasm for this wild story, I'd have never finished it. I also want to thank Zadra for the 'alien communication and antatomy' discussions; Laura for her insightful comments and suggestions on the intro; Susan for her questions; Sealie for her corrections, suggestions, and different perspective; Wolfpup for the final check and posting it; and to Andre Norton, whose amazing worlds have kept me entertained for years.
Please send any comments to email@example.com
Enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Most of characters are not mine. I'm borrowing them out of deep reverence, affection and respect. I will accept only personal fulfillment, and no monetary gain. If you do sue, you will not get much and I will send over my Black Lab mix, who will stare at you pathetically for hours, and probably con you out of all your food.
Rated PG-13, for violence and language.
C. L. Combs
"Two hundred and eight years ago, our daring ancestors left the overcrowded home planet and set out to colonize a new world. While their goal was still two years away, mechanical problems struck their craft. However, they showed their resilience in finding this planet Roachia to land, making due with what they had. Ever since, we have shown our ingenuity, our perseverance, and our strength in making this small, isolated continent home. This in spite of the Roachians across the seas who begrudge us even that. We must continue to show our strength in order to keep what our ancestors worked so hard to build.
"We, as guides and potential guides to sentinels, are the first line of defense in this struggle. You were chosen for your bloodlines, your intelligence, and your empathy. For the past six years, the Mountain Center has provided you the opportunity to learn the tremendous body of knowledge you will need to guide and protect your sentinel well.
"However, I must tell you that you have only begun to learn. As you go on to find your partner and stride to protect our people, you will discover there is a wide gap between theory and practice. It is up to each of you to fill in that gap. You will have to be flexible and wise as well as well-trained. Sometimes you will have to follow your gut instead of your mind. This may be different from what others have told you in these hallow halls, but soon the world outside will call you.
"My best advise as an experienced guide is this: rules and tradition should only guide your path, never dictate it. When the action becomes fast, when the situation is confusing and difficult, depend on yourself and your sentinel.
"Now go out and find your sentinel. Guide him well. Our civilization depends on you."
- Keegan Jeffery, commencement speech to guide class of 200 AL (After Landing)
"The news this evening from the southern line is grim. Our human army has been forced to retreat to the Sturgis River Delta, leaving the Federal State of Greenwalk to fall into Roachian hands. This advance brings the districts of Leesborough and Chadville into the danger zone, with Sealand now within bombing range.
"Reports indicate that Queen Towers are already being built in the Greenwalk capital of Henley. The loss of the state now brings the southern one third of our continent under Roachian control, all lost since the devastating Claria invasion eleven years ago. The question has become, how much territory can we hold on to until winter arrives and the cold drives the drones back to their Towers?
"Casualty numbers for both military and civilians are high, with thousands of new refugees streaming northward to avoid death or the work camps. Search and Rescue Teams have their hands full retrieving civilians from the wreckage. Already overburden relief groups are begging for any help or donations that you can spare.
"In other news, today marks the thirty-first anniversary since the Mountain Center and her surrounding towns were destroyed, soon followed by the murders of the three remaining Sentinel/Guide pairs by the Roachians. Ceremonies today in several of our larger cities marked this tragic event, mourning that our beloved protectors are not still with us today. Their gifts would be welcomed in helping us where our technology can not, though it is doubtful even our legendary protectors could have made a difference against such incredible odds. We can only hope that our tech centers can produce new weapons and defenses to stop the menace."
- Newscast, summer of 306 AL
Sealand, one late summer evening, 306 AL
~BOOM~ He grabbed her arm, yanking her out of the way as a wall crashed in front of them. He barely saw her frightened eyes as he turned them around. "This way!" he shouted, struggling to be heard over the screeching sirens. Desperate, they scrambled over the debris scattered throughout the once immaculate hall. Red lights flashed on and off, revealing the damage already done by the bombing. Shoving back a lock of curly brown hair, deep blue eyes spotted a woman half buried, obviously dead. Horrified, he briefly hesitated before urgency forced him to move. Shielding the sight from the young woman, he pushed her back through another narrow hall. Another nearby percussion nearly knocked the couple off their feet.
Spying the falling metal doors up ahead, they scrabbled forward over broken concrete and paneling. The doors slammed down with a thud before they could reach it. "What are we going to do now, Blair!" the young woman wailed.
For a moment, he fought back the rising panic, struggling to think. *There is always another way, you just have to find it.* The remembered voice calmed him for the instant he needed. "This way!" He again grabbed her arm, dashing around the debris to the window at the end of the hall.
"Blair...?" she whispered as he frantically searched the area with his eyes, finally spotting a piece of rebar broken from the wall.
The metal rod easily cracked the glass. With another hard strike at the window the glass shattered, most of it falling to the grass outside. Brushing away the shards with the edge of his shirt, he helped her over the ledge, quickly following her outside. "We have to make it to that deep trench by the road!" he shouted.
They raced across the pitted yard, leaving the besieged center behind them. The sky was filled with the horrifying sounds of Roachian craft. The bulbous grey instruments of death were pouring the whistling bombs to the ground, exploding near and far. Fear tried to rise up in his throat as they dodged new holes wrenched into the earth. He forced it back down. He could panic later; there wasn't time for it now.
They had nearly made it. One step away from minimal safety of the trench she tripped, falling out of his grasp. He immediately turned, planning to haul her down into the trench as fast as he could.
But they had run out of time. A bomb exploded nearby. Barely having a chance to shield his eyes from the blast, his body was violently thrown backwards. He slammed hard onto the trench's packed dirt, explosions of light flashing painfully inside his head as well as outside it. In that instant, the trench was rocked by a massive explosion, far greater than any of the previous ones. His eyes barely registered the fiery fireball roaring above as darkness overwhelmed him.
Three days later.
Captain James Ellison, hands on his head, followed his Major and tried to ignore the icy fingers of fear and panic twisting in his gut. "It's not over yet. We have a chance," he chanted quietly to himself. Memories of stench, pain, screams, death, and grueling work threatened to overwhelm him. Forcefully he pushed them back, refusing to think of his previous stay at a Roaches' work camp, knowing he would lose it if he dwelt on them. He couldn't lose it. His Major and the others were counting on him to stay in control. Glancing up into the clear night's sky, Ellison spotted two of Roachia's three moons. They had always been his companions on nights like tonight and helped to settle his nerves.
Calmer, he surveyed the Roaches around him. They towered over the humans, even the Major who was at least six foot five. Their brown, scaly skins covered thin bodies, six appendages, and a broad tail. While they didn't look very speedy standing on only their lower thick legs, Ellison knew from experience that they gained speed when the middle pair ran with the lower. Nor did much get past their large, multiple eyes.
Yet he could sense their confusion from their increasing stench. This latest attack had over stretched their forces. It would take time for the drones to consolidate their position in this newly gained territory. That could only be used to their advantage. He had escaped from the work camps. This should be a piece of cake.
Using an electronic translator, a Roach ordered them to stop. Or at least that was what it sounded like - the translation between the human's vocal speech and the Roachian's combination of scent and ultrasonic clicks had never been perfected. As they stood, Ellison took advantage of the break to take quick glances at his team. Major Simon Banks looked furious, ready to tear the Roaches apart with his bare hands if given the chance. The explosives expert Sergeant Joel Taggart was studying the buildings surrounding them, probably recording the details in his mind in case they might be of use later. Brown, standing straight and proud, was surveying the terrain with a knowing eye. Henri had grown up in this area and knew it well. Rafael Janson, holding his injured arm to his chest, was looking at the Roaches with a haunted expression. He had been in the camps, too, and was struggling against his own nightmares. Another good reason to stay in control - if Jim lost it, Rafe would not be far behind. Nor did he want the younger man to take any more damage from the Roaches' wicked claws.
They had nearly made it. Their assignment was to get as many of the human survivors in the newly lost zone out before they were captured or killed. The last 'load' of refugees had just been sent on their way when the Roaches grabbed them. Now the city's burning rubble was occupied only by the Roaches and the dead.
It was hard to comprehend just how few human survivors there were from this recently thriving area. The loss from the initial surprise attack had been great. Most of the main government buildings and the three main engineering centers had been totally destroyed by the Roaches new, more powerful bombs. Even the engineering researchers and staff in supposedly bomb-proof shelters had been killed. Ellison's team, the Panthers, had managed to help nearly three hundred people back to the new safe zones before being caught. Jim just wished there had been more survivors to help.
So much had been lost in the Roaches' continuing march to wipe the alien humans off the planet. The humans were barely able to slow them down. Jim's own family and home had been destroyed five years ago. Memories of Cascadia's ruins washed over him as they were forced to walk through the cracked Sealand streets, overturned vehicles and dead bodies casting shadows from the fires still burning after three days.
The team was ushered into one of the few human buildings still standing. It was a large, ornate building, flanked by two damaged towers. But instead of up, the prisoners were forced down to the basement. They were shoved into what had once been a storage area. The cement room now contained only a cot and a small sink. The door was slammed and locked behind them.
"Brown, what is this place?" Major Banks demanded.
"Would you believe a church," Brown replied, his eyes glowing with suppressed anger. Then a grim smile crossed his face. "However, there's a tunnel down here that goes to the river for baptisms which I bet the Roaches haven't found yet. We get out of this room and we have a shot."
"Taggart..." Banks began.
"On it, Simon," Taggart quickly responded, already kneeling beside the door.
Ellison had been standing further back in the room, only half listening to the exchange. He had thought he heard something. Again, a soft scrape barely touched his ear.
Janson, noting the head tilt, asked softly, "What is it?" The team was aware that Ellison occasionally had episodes of sentinel senses. However, they were sporadic at best and sometimes sent Jim into a trance-like state which was difficult to break. They had been told that a guide could help Ellison to gain control, perhaps even bring the senses on-line permanently. Unfortunately, all the guides, sentinels, and their teachers were killed before Rafe was born. Worried that attention to the untrained sentinel would place him in danger from both the Roaches and others in the colony's federal government, the Panthers kept the tentative abilities a secret. They also kept a protective eye on Ellison.
"Something over here." Ellison cautiously crept over to the cot. Janson silently alerted the Major and they followed. Slowly, Ellison knelt and looked beneath the cot. The sight that met his eyes sent a jolt of horror through his heart. "Oh, hell," he whispered softly. He looked back at the Major and Janson. "Help me move this, but be careful."
Banks and Janson traded worried looks. Banks helped Ellison lift the cot, revealing a bruised and bloody figure huddled tightly against the corner.
Ellison knelt again. The pale, naked figure was shivering, covered with bruises, cuts, and burns. The face was tucked into the corner, but Jim could see the blood-matted hair. "Easy there," Jim soothed. The slim body flinched and shook harder. For an instant, Jim was back in the camps, cold and hurt and scared, trying to find a way to squeeze into the cement wall next to him so the Roaches couldn't hurt him anymore. Blinking away the memories, Jim continued to talk softly in his most soothing voice.
Behind him, Janson slowly slipped off and opened his pack. Using carefully deliberate movements so as not to scare their fellow prisoner, Rafe used his good hand to pull out an emergency blanket and unfolded it. He passed it to Jim. A few feet away, Banks quietly watched his men work. Both Ellison and Janson were good at this. He just wished they hadn't had to go through their experience in the camps to become this good.
After several minutes of coaxing and soothing, Ellison managed to drape the blanket over the slim shoulders. The prisoner, perhaps subconsciously realizing the soldier was 'safe', simply crumpled into Ellison. Jim pulled the young man into his arms, gently tucking the blanket around him. The kid was so cold. Jim suddenly flashed back again, holding his dying brother in a freezing cell. He immediately shoved it out of his mind. This kid needed help and becoming a basket case wouldn't help. A bruised, long-fingered hand lifted out of the blanket just enough to grasp Jim's shirt.
Rafe knelt beside them, hazel eyes wide with concern. "Here," he said softly, holding out a handkerchief Banks had ran under the sink faucet.
Ellison took the wet cloth from Janson. "See if you can get the cuffs off his wrists," he suggested, using the same soothing voice. "I think one of them may be broken." Gently, Jim wiped away the blood from the face. Both eyes were bruised and swollen shut, but most of the blood seemed to be from a gash along the side of his head. Ellison's face grew grim as he examined it. Head wounds normally bled a lot, but this one looked particularly long and nasty. The kid was slowly slipping into unconsciousness.
Jim looked down at Rafe's soft curse as Simon glanced over his shoulder. The deep bruising of restraints stood out across the lower and upper right arm, as well as several injection sites at the inside elbow. The three commandos exchanged looks. The Roaches only resorted to drugs when they wanted important information and the prisoner wasn't cooperating fast enough. Jim soothingly brushed back a brown curl. While hard to tell with the bruising, the young man didn't even look twenty-one. What the hell would a kid this young know that was that important?
Banks quietly studied the marks, forcing back his anger. They had to get out of this cell fast and take the kid with them. While it was probable the Roaches already had the information they sought, Banks had to prevent the young man from possibly being interrogated further. There was no doubt the kid would die soon without medical help and would certainly not survive another interrogation.
The door popped open. "We got it," Henri quietly called back. He and Taggart cautiously checked the hallway. Banks helped Ellison bundle and lift the kid up, settling him across Ellison's shoulders. Following Brown's lead, the five men silently crept down the tile floor. Brown stopped by a large statue. Touching the base, the statue swung out, revealing a passageway.
"How'd you...?" Janson whispered.
Brown faintly smiled as he lead them down the dark passage. "I was best friends with the pastor's kid."
Ellison continued to follow, praying that the young charge over his shoulders could hang on until they reached medical help.
Two weeks later, Front Ridge Base
Ellison walked into the med center, almost fearful of what he would find. Their unit had been out on a rescue mission for the past 48 hours, so he hadn't been able to keep up his twice daily visits to the young man they had found in the church. While their escape had been relatively easy, the kid barely made the trip to their base's medical center. Even now he was still in a coma, though Sheree said his vitals were growing stronger every day. Jim knew that his stats improved when he or one of the Panthers were visiting. He was worried that their absence had negatively impacted the fragile young man who was barely clinging to life.
He paused at the window looking into the kid's room and blew out a sigh of relief. The slim figure was still there. Then Jim chided himself for being so concerned. He didn't even know the kid's name, yet somehow it was important to him that this survivor make it. Was it because the kid was alone? No one had been able to identify him yet. Or was it because he somehow connected him to Steve? Jim quickly shoved that thought out of his mind as he saw a slim, elegant woman with chocolate-colored skin approach.
Dr. Sheree Jackson smiled as she spotted the captain. She had heard her Henri's unit was back and had wondered how long it would be before Ellison was checking on the Panthers' 'pet project'. Cradling her data padd close to her chest, she greeted the man in gray-green fatigues, "Hello, Captain."
"Hi Doc," Ellison said with a slight smile. "How's he doing?"
"Actually, I have a bit of good news. He woke up last night." Watching the spark of relief and gladness flash across the normally reserved face, Sheree hated to tell him the rest. "However, he hasn't stayed awake for more than a couple minutes at a time, and he hasn't responded to any of our questions. There may be some brain damage."
Jim glanced back inside the room. He could see the bandages protecting the long gash. They seemed to overwhelm the shaved head. "Do you think it is due to the head injury, or the drugs?"
Sheree shrugged. "Hard to say at this point. The drug levels are still rather high in his system. He simply can't process them like average people. He may improve as the levels drop, but that may take a while."
Jim simply shook his head. Sheree had explained earlier that the young man's body had had serious reactions to the drugs used to interrogate him. It was even likely that they had failed to get the information they sought, due to the reactions. While it may mean something to the higher ups, Jim really didn't care if the kid gave information or not. Everyone had a breaking point and the kid had certainly been put through hell. It was the physical and emotional aftermath they had to deal with now. Something Jim knew about from first-hand experience. "Is it still all right for me to sit with him?"
Sheree nodded. "Since we haven't tracked down any family, I think it would be helpful for him to have whatever support he can get." She quickly gave him updated instructions on what to expect.
Jim thanked her and stepped inside, sitting in the chair that was becoming extremely familiar. He picked up the book from the stand. It had been the normally gruff Major's idea of reading to the comatose patient. Each member of the team had been reading a chapter while they visited. This was now the fourth book. Guess he wasn't the only tough guy to be taken with the kid.
Only, Jim didn't want to disturb him since the kid was no longer in a coma. The fine-boned young man looked too thin and fragile as it was. He studied the patient a moment. With the swelling down and the bruises fading, Jim could now see the deep-set eyes and the small-tipped nose. Jim had spent hours wondering what color the eyes, how deep the voice, or how much Clarian was in him. Since most of the kid's severe drug reactions had been due to earlier treatment for the disease statcus, they suspected he must have been part of the first group of refugees, forced to flee Claria Island at the southernmost tip of the continent. Many had come down with the disease planted by the Roaches, which resulted in the rest of the human population being inoculated against it. Jim pondered about how much bad luck someone could have in a short lifetime. Not that his own 29 years had been a cakewalk, either.
Movement drew his attention. The head moved, eyelids fluttered. Jim gently laid a hand on the slim arm. "Easy, kid. You're safe now." The lids parted to reveal deep blue eyes, filled with confusion and pain. Jim pressed the call button, then continued in his soothing voice. "Everything is going to be okay." He waved at the nurse who peeked through the window.
The young man moved his head slightly towards Jim, wincing from pain. "Easy there. I bet you have a huge headache, don't you?" The blue eyes struggled to focus on Jim as he tried to swallow. "Would you like some water? The doc said you could have some when you woke up."
Seeing a slight nod, Jim reached over for the pitcher. He seemed to understand that sentence, though his head must be killing him. Placing the straw to the young man's mouth, the patient managed a couple sips before leaning back into the pillows. The eyes sought Jim's, confusion still evident. "My name is Captain Jim Ellison," Jim said with a gentle smile, hoping to put the kid at ease. "It was my unit that brought you back to a safe zone."
The eyes blinked thoughtfully. Jim could almost hear the wheels turning inside, processing what he had just said. The arm in a cast attempted to move, but was quickly abandoned. "Easy kid," Jim soothed. "Just take your time." The other hand lifted, slowly moving up, then weakly tapped the patient's chest before laying across his body.
Jim's brows wrinkled, trying to understand. Blue eyes held blue eyes a moment. Again, the fingers tapped the chest as Jim read the questioning in the other's eyes. Suddenly, realization dawned. "You want to know your name?" The head nodded slightly, eyes expectant. So expectant and vulnerable, Jim hated to disappoint him. "I'm sorry, we don't know. We found you in a Roaches' prison and haven't been able to track down your identity yet." Confusion and fear flooded the blue eyes before him. Comfortingly, Jim reached over and squeezed the young man's shoulder. "Easy. There are people here who care about you, even if we don't know your name yet. I'm sure we'll find something out. You'll probably even remember on your own before we do. You just have to give your mind and body time to heal. Okay?" The head slightly nodded again as the eyes wearily closed. Jim glanced up to see Sheree give him an encouraging smile. Giving the bony shoulder another squeeze, Jim soothed, "Go ahead and get some more sleep. We'll talk more later." Gently rubbing the shoulder, Jim could feel the thin body relax and drift into sleep.
Two weeks later, Headquarters
Simon Banks shook his head as he studied the map. "We are losing an awful lot of territory here, Jack."
Colonel Jack Pendergrast lit his cigar. "Tell me something we don't know. With these new bombs, plus their seemingly unending supply of drones, they have almost become unstoppable. Thank God winter will be here soon. If we can just hold out until they retreat to warmer regions, it may buy us some time."
Simon's eyes immediately sought out Coopertown, gauging the distance from the new front lines. His mother and son should still be outside invasion range, but were getting closer to the danger of long-range bombing flights. A little too close. Only six months ago, there had been nine federal states to the south of his home. Now there were four and a half. Without more help from the tech people, Coopertown would be taken in a year or two. He glanced up at his commanding officer and friend. "How is the development of the ultrasound fencing coming along?"
Simon straightened. "What? Why not?"
Jack's face turned to stone. "Because they were being developed at the Franklyn Center..."
"Which was destroyed about a month ago," Simon finished. He could close his eyes, and still see the smoking black hole left by the bomb. "We searched for survivors, Jack, but..."
"I know. I read your report. Which is why most of the bomb shelters are being moved and refitted as fast as possible." Jack could see how the destruction of all those people still hurt his officer. "Unless that kid you pulled out is from there and can tell us something, all that research is gone."
Gone. Just like that. The bombing raid coupled with the swift invading forces had left the scientists and civilians little time to evacuate. "Are the techs working on anything else?"
"There are a few ideas in the works," Jack replied. Simon could tell most were classified by Jack's pause. "However, due to the losses at Sealand and Chadville, they're really scrambling. The President and his circle are getting even more antsy."
Banks shook his head. Even in the northernmost states well away from the threat, everyone was geared up for the war with the Roaches. Most all of the young people were funneled into either the military, the technical work, or the relief effort. Their government was becoming more like martial law than the free democracy of its design. This was not the kind of world Simon wanted for his son.
"By the way, I wanted to ask how your team handled being nearly captured."
Simon gave Jack a hard stare. "We went in and escaped as a team. I'd say we handled it."
"You know what I mean, Banks. Your men used to be mine. Rafe was my ward. I want to know how well he and Ellison handled it. The whole situation had to stir up a lot of ghosts for them." Images of a battered Ellison, badly injured while evading the Roaches for a month after his escape, flashed across Jack's mind. It had been his patrol, seconded by Banks, that had found the young man who told them of the camps and their location.
"It did," Simon admitted reluctantly. "I think Rafe had his nightmares again for nearly a week after that."
Memories of tough, teen-aged Rafe waking up in the night crying out in terror still haunted Jack. The young man had practically become a son to him and his wife Elly. He hated to think of the Roaches having another chance to hurt him or his older friend. "What about Ellison?"
"Hell, you know Jim. He'd never admit to losing control, even in his sleep. However, I think he's been too wrapped up with the kid to dwell on his memories. In fact, I think finding that kid helped both Ellison and Janson concentrate on something other than being in a cell again."
"How attached is Ellison getting to the kid?" Jack inquired. While he had seen Jim expertly handle scared and injured refugees, he had never heard of Jim doing much more than a courtesy visit once they were safe. Ellison had suffered too many losses to allow many to get close.
"Very. Hell, the whole unit has been taken with the kid. But Jim... he's been good with the kid. Rafe says it reminds him of how Jim was with his brother Steve."
Jack frowned slightly. "That's the brother who died in the camps, right?" At Simon's nod, Jack's frown deepened. He knew that the death of Ellison's brother had left the deepest wounds in the young officer's psyche. "How is the kid doing?"
"As you know, he's out of the coma. Still isn't talking, and still can't remember anything from before. Sheree isn't sure whether it's due to the head injury, the drugs, or just plain trauma. The Roaches really worked him over good. He is slowly improving physically and Sheree says there is hope he can get back to leading a productive life. But whether he will recover his memories, or even start talking again, no one knows.
"Has there been any luck on his id?"
"No. The records from Sealand were mostly destroyed. We have tried searching through the Clarian refugee listings, but there are a couple thousand boys within the range age the kid would have been in. Human Services has lost track of many of them, especially those adopted by foster families."
Jack shook his head. "It would be so much easier if we had an id. Then we would know what the Roaches were trying to pull out of him."
"And it would be easier on him, especially if he has family somewhere. Hell, at this point, just giving the kid a name would help. The guys have started calling him 'BT' for Bull Terrier, but I'm sure he'd like his real name."
At the look on Jack's face, Simon chuckled. "Brown tagged him with it, since he is small but tough and stubborn. Hell, he'd have to be, in order to live through what he did. Brown said he just reminded him of the dog he grew up with."
"Speaking of Henri, has he proposed to Sheree yet...."
Three weeks later, Front Ridge Base
BT gave the wheelchair a glare when Jim rolled it in. The contraption was becoming more and more unbearable now that he could walk decently. He couldn't understand why he still had to use it.
Jim caught the glare. "I know, but we have a ways to walk to the living quarters and Sheree insisted we don't wear you out."
Continuing to glare, BT folded his arm over his cast across his chest. The grey-green military sweatshirt puffed out, overwhelming the bony frame beneath it.
Jim glared back. "This trip will be tiring enough on you. If you are too exhausted afterwards, Sheree might not let you go for a while." Seeing a slight shift in expression, Jim pressed, "and if you don't get in this chair, you're not going."
Stubborn blue eyes met even more stubborn blue eyes. Finally, BT sighed and sat in the wheelchair. It was very hard and frustrating to argue in pantomime. Yet he couldn't seem to make the connection to talk. Doc Sheree said that it may come back eventually, but BT wanted to talk now. Just like he wanted to walk now. Just like he wanted to remember now.
Jim laid a hand on BT's shoulder. "I know, kid. But I promise you the trip will be worth it."
Soon, the frustration eased as Jim rolled the wheelchair out of the med center and into the rest of the base. BT soaked up the sights. It was the first time they had allowed him out and he intended to enjoy it. Noting the construction equipment, he turned back to face Jim and pointed.
"They are working on updating the bomb shelters and re-enforcing the bunkers," Jim explained. He quickly forced the destruction of the centers at Sealand out of his mind. He shuddered to think what a bomb like that would do to their base. He just hoped the new reinforcement would work. Not for the first time, Jim wondered if BT had been connected with one of the destroyed engineering centers. There was intelligence behind those blues eyes when not clouded with pain and confusion.
The living area Jim rolled him into was a large room filled with plush couches and chairs, tables for work and cards, and a pool table in the corner. Several doors placed throughout the room were closed, but BT remembered from Rafe's description that they led to the individual bedrooms. The whole area looked comfortable, especially compared to the drab hospital bed he had been stuck in. What brought the smile to his face though was the warm greetings he received.
"Hey BT, decided to see how the rest of us live?" Rafe gently rubbed his head, rearranging the short tuffs of hair beginning to grow back.
"Probably looking for some better food. The hospital grub is even worse than what our cafeteria dishes out." Joel patted his shoulder with a huge grin and a wink.
"Hey, give the kid some room to breathe," Henri jokingly ordered. "I bet the kid is antsy to get out of that chair and walk around. "
BT grinned and pushed out of the chair that Jim held steady. The others parted to reveal Major Banks standing by one of the tables. "Well, get on over here. There's a package waiting with your name on it."
Puzzled, BT walked over. Joel held out a chair for him. Sitting, he took the package from the Major. Wrapped in newspaper, the package was about the size of a large notebook, yet was heavier. BT looked up at the men surrounding him, uncertain.
"Yes, it is for you. Go ahead and open it." Jim gently nudged him.
Shrugging, BT tore open the wrapper with his good hand. Inside was a computerized data padd. Eyes lit with awe lifted, searching the faces of each of the men.
"We figured it would be easier if you could type out words, instead of trying to handle a pencil with the wrong hand," Rafe quietly explained, a smile stretching across his face.
BT stood up again then enthusiastically gave Jim and Rafe a hug. As he turned to the major, Banks held up his hands. "Hey, you're going to give us tough guys a bad rap." BT paused uncertain, then Simon continued, "Ah, what the hell," and pulled him in for a hug.
At that moment, sirens shrieked to life. BT jumped back, then sought Jim's eyes. The others quickly traded looks. "We're not scheduled for a drill," Joel shouted over the sirens.
"Ah hell," Banks moaned. "Let's get to our station!"
Jim grabbed BT's arm. "There's no time to take you back and this isn't a safe place. You think you can keep up?"
BT nodded seriously. Half-remembered fear was flashing through him. He would keep up no matter what, since he didn't want to be left alone. He tucked the new padd into his sling between his body and light cast, then gripped Jim's arm as they ran towards a tunnel. Vaguely, BT understood they were heading for a defensive cannon installation, though he didn't have time to wonder why he knew that.
An explosion roared, causing cracked masonry to fall from the ceiling. Ellison shielded his young friend the best he could as they ran. BT felt almost like he was floating, feet barely touching the ground as he kept up with Jim's help. Aches and pain touched the outer corners of his mind, but he was too pumped with adrenaline to notice. They dodged around broken pieces of wall and ceiling as they raced.
Suddenly, all the lights in the tunnel blinked out. The entire team skidded to a stop as they were plunged into darkness. Another distant explosion could be heard. "Jim!" Banks shouted. He knew that if anyone could lead them out, Jim could. If his senses were working.
Jim heard his major's unspoken question and felt a reassuring squeeze on his arm from BT. Damn, the kid had to be half scared out of his mind, yet was thinking of him. Concentrating, the darkness lifted. He could see BT next to him, the rest of the team close by. Better still, he could see the debris. "OK, I've got it. Can you guys grab hands or something, and follow me out?"
BT felt a large hand lay on his shoulder and gently squeeze. "Someone this short has to be BT," Taggart's voice rumbled. "Is he still holding onto you, Jim?"
"Yes." Soon as the rest of the team confirmed they were connected, Jim started leading them. Another rumble slightly rocked the tunnel. As he focused tighter, the view narrowed and became fuzzy. A sharp squeeze on his arm pulled him back. Shaking his head, Jim continued on until they reached the cannons with their auxiliary lighting.
Able to see again, the rest of the team scattered to their places. Jim quickly led BT to an alcove set back in the rock. "Stay here," he ordered. Then he dashed to his own position.
BT sat on a bench and pulled his feet off the ground, tucking them close to his body. The sounds of the airstrike were louder here, due to the open hole to the cold autumn sky. Fear surged through him. A sharp recollection, of being trapped in the dark by debris and trying to reach another small hand, flashed before his mind. It was gone before he could latch onto it.
Brown was barely in the cold metal seat before he was lining up a shot. Their base was not ready yet for the huge bombs that were dropped in Sealand. Henri shoved aside thoughts of Sheree vulnerable at the med center. He had to protect their base, perhaps getting in a little vengeance for his ruined hometown, too. He poured his firepower at the oncoming craft, briefly satisfied to see it veer off.
"Brown! Three at Northwest!" Janson shouted from his position at the radar. "Ellison, two from South!"
Cold air rushed by his cheeks as Brown swung the guns towards the left. The handles vibrated hard against his hands as he fired on the ugly crafts. He managed two solid hits, enough so that they veered off with one smoking. In the background, he heard an explosion of a crash. Ellison must have got one.
"Oh man, Henri, a HUGE one to your right. It's got to be a Doom ship!"
"Damn!" Brown exclaimed as he swung back around. Witnesses among the refugees had described the ships with the new bombs as being twice the size of the other craft. One had called it 'the Ship of Doom'.
Brown flipped a switch on his mount, activating the missiles. The new missiles had a better chance of taking down a Doom ship, but he only had four of them. Deliberately aiming for the engines, Brown fired the first missile, then fired another at the main body, hoping to hit the fuel cell. Dread sank to his stomach when the first missile missed the ship, only to turn to joy when the second hit. It must have hit something vital, because the ship tore into pieces. Cheers went up around Henri as the ship plummeted to the ground.
"You got 'im, Brown!" Joel cheered from his lower gunmount.
"Two to your right, Major!" Janson shouted, breaking the spell. But the battle had turned. The destruction of the Doom ship took the fight out of the smaller craft, which were soon scurrying back south.
Finally, the Major wearily declared, "I think that's it, boys. Those Roaches are on their way home."
Taggart looked back from his position. "Bad news, Simon. The tunnel looks completely collapsed now."
Banks sighed. "Guess they'll have to rescue us from up top. Janson, try to call up HQ and see how soon before someone can get us."
Having grown cold listening to the battle, BT looked up to see Jim walking towards him. "Hey kid, how are you doing?" he asked with a gentle smile. Then he frowned as he laid a hand on his friend's cheek. "You're shivering," he stated as he pulled off his sweater.
Frowning, BT shook his head, then quickly typed out on the padd he had pulled out, /You need it./
Jim swiftly read the message, and shook his head. "You need it more right now. I'll be okay for a couple minutes."
As he helped to pull the sweater over BT's head, Rafe called out, "It's going to be a couple hours. They have their hands full digging out at the moment."
"Any word on the med center?" Brown asked worriedly.
"Already checked. It took a near hit, but Sheree managed to get herself, some patients, and staff into a shower room. They're okay, and Sheree is working on causalities."
Jim gently squeezed BT's shoulder. "Speaking of the med center, how are you?" BT shrugged, not meeting the larger man's eyes. Jim lifted his chin to search his face. "You're hurting, aren't you?" Jim really didn't need to ask the question. He could see the pain lines growing across the young man's forehead and eyes. "Okay, you stay put and stay awake. I'll be right back."
Trotting over to the trunks where emergency supplies were kept, Jim met the major. "How's the kid?" Banks asked.
"Cold and hurting. This was a whole lot more than he should be doing." Jim leaned over and snagged a sleepbag.
"Thank God your senses came on line. I don't think we'd have gotten out of that tunnel otherwise."
Ellison glanced back at the cold young man shivering on the bench. "Thank BT. I started to zone, but he pulled me out. Hell, most of the time it felt like he was anchoring me."
Banks looked at him, startled. "He kept you from zoning?" He, too, took a quick glance back. "You don't suppose..."
Ellison shifted the sleepbag and med kit so he could grab a blanket. "I don't know. I doubt he even realized he did anything. And even if he is, this is too much to dump on him right now. He's barely out of a hospital bed. Hell, he ought to be in one right now."
"Then take care of him. We certainly can't take the chance of losing him now."
Hurrying over to the bench, Jim quickly pulled the sleepbag out of its sack. "Stand up a minute."
BT stood, shivering and suddenly realizing how much his legs ached. Jim quickly unzipped the bag, spreading it over the bench. Motioning for BT to sit down again, Jim sat down next to him. "Is your heading hurting?" BT nodded reluctantly, feeling another headache tightening around his head. "The rest of you hurting, too?" Again a slight nod. "Okay, hold out your hand." Jim dropped a couple pills into it. "Take them. Here's some water." As soon as BT drank from the bottle, Jim draped his arm around the cold, thin shoulders, gently pulling him close. "We now just need to keep you warm until our ride arrives." One handed, Jim tried to pull the blanket over them.
Rafe stopped next to them and smiled. "Can I join this party?"
Jim chuckled. "Only if you will help me with this blanket." The additional body warmth could only help.
Rafe helped to spread out the blanket, then slipped underneath next to BT. "You doing okay, kid?"
BT drowsily nodded, the increasing warmth and medication taking effect.
"Why don't you try and get some sleep while we wait?" Jim suggested.
Again a sleepy nod. BT snuggled closer to Jim, his head sliding to rest on his chest. Rafe picked up his feet and pulled them into his lap. "Man, your feet are ice in these light shoes. We need to get you some decent boots."
Jim felt the light nod as the young man drifted into dreams.
He snuggled closer to the large, strong body. He had never felt so safe and warm before, nor so loved. All the fear and sickness seemed to melt away as an arm wrapped around him, shifting him closer. "Would you two like to hear a story?" a warm baritone drawled.
"Tell us a Keegan story," pleaded a small, high voice on the other side of the body.
"All right." The deep voice paused a moment in thought. "Once there was a sentinel named Harry. He could see like an eagle, hear like a cat, smell like a dog, taste the slightest of flavors, and feel even the tiniest of imperfections. Yet it was dangerous to have these skills, for while a sentinel focused on his talent, he became vulnerable to other dangers. So every *sentinel needs a guide to watch his back and guard against a zoneout. Harry's guide was named Keegan, a wise and intelligent man who was brave and tough and quick thinking. The two had many adventures together...
Two days later
Simon turned from the entrance of the temporary offices to see Colonel Pendergrast approach. "Hi Jack. Didn't expect to see you here."
Pendergrast raised an eyebrow. "You send me a message with a potential bomb in it and you don't expect me to react?"
Banks hid a grin. He hoped that Jack would understand the 'BT - guide?' sticky note he had stuck on his report. "Well, I didn't expect you to come to a disaster zone."
"It does look bad," the man behind Jack commented.
"Dr. Mike?" Banks asked, surprised to see the therapist who had worked with Ellison and Janson.
Dr. Michael Andrews smiled. "I've always felt that I left the job half-done with Ellison. If I'm reading the note you sent the Colonel correctly, we may get some of this solved."
Simon returned the smile. "Well, let's go somewhere private to discuss this."
As he approached the cot in the corner, Jim quietly studied the blanket-covered form. BT had had a rough couple days since the bombing. He had struggled with the return of severe headaches and a fever probably caused from becoming so chilled. Plus with the damage to the med center and dorms, the kid was placed in the regular troop tents. While the Panthers made sure BT had a cot near one of the heaters, it was still drafty and often noisy.
Sheree had suggested that it might be time to place BT in a long-term care facility well behind the lines, but Jim resisted. He had spent some time in such a facility after the camps and didn't want the overworked, impersonal service for his young friend. Jim knew that the minute BT had one of his stubborn bouts, he'd be dumped in a corner and forgotten. Jim sat down on his cot next to BT's. No, every instinct he had was screaming to protect this young man and to keep him close. Jim just could not do otherwise.
The thin body moved under the grey blankets, carefully rolling over towards Jim. A face appeared, the head still wearing the wool cap Brown had lent him. The big blue eyes blinked a question.
"Yeah, sleepyhead, it's lunchtime. You sleep all morning?"
BT nodded as he sat up, rubbing his eyes.
Jim laid the back of his hand against BT's forehead, noting the absence of fever. "How's the head?"
BT sighed and raised a finger. That meant on a scale of one to five, his headache was a one.
Eyes narrowed as Jim studied the lines around the young man's eyes. "You sure?" Shoulders shrugged, then two fingers were raised.
"Hey guys, I brought you some chow." Joel walked over, carrying a tray. Steam rose from three bowls of soup, surrounded by piles of sandwiches. Jim pulled out a small stand for Taggart to rest the tray, then the three gathered to eat. Joel and Jim discussed the cleanup work they had done that morning, while secretly keeping track of how much the kid ate.
"Captain Ellison?" Jim turned to see a nurse from the med center, with a man behind her. "This is Dr. Katts. He is a therapist sent to work with BT."
Jim frowned slightly, studying the slim man before him. "I hadn't heard you were coming."
Dr. Katts gave him a self-assured smile. "No reason for you to be informed, Captain." He turned to BT staring at him from the corner. "If you will follow me, young man, we may get started."
BT slowly slipped on his light shoes, shooting uncertain glances at his friends. Jim was still frowning, while Joel looked puzzled. Standing, he picked up his data padd, accepted the coat Joel handed to him, and followed the Doctor.
Once they left the tent, Ellison quietly asked his teammate, "Does this strike you as wrong?"
Joel shrugged. "Definitely feels like they may be rushing it a bit. But then, BT was doing better before the bombing."
Jim ran his hand over his hair. "Let's see if we can find Sheree or Simon and find out what is going on."
"So Jim felt like the kid was anchoring him," Jack repeated thoughtfully. "Was he, or did Jim wanting to protect him make it feel that way?"
"That is the main question," Dr. Mike remarked, still studying the reports on BT's progress.
"All I know is that Jim has been good for the kid," Simon stated. "He can reach him when no one else can. "
Dr. Mike looked up. "Jim has been protective of him from the start?"
"Pretty much. Jim was the one to find him in the cell." Simon studied the thoughtful expression on the psychologist's face. "Is that important?"
"Perhaps," Mike shrugged. "From what little I've been able to find in my research of sentinels and guides, each are said to be very protective of his partner. Of course, that can happen within bonds of family and friendship, too. Has anything been said about Jim's abilities to the young man?"
"No, we don't know if the kid is ready for it yet. "
Mike nodded, "True." He flipped over a report, quickly reading the end statements. "However, I would recommend that we keep, what do you call him, BT? That we keep Jim and BT together. The friendship of Jim and the rest of the unit can only help the young man's recovery. If he is guide material, then the bond between him and Jim needs to be nurtured until he is well enough to allow it to blossom."
"Do you think he could be a guide?" Pendergrast asked.
Again, Mike shrugged. "Everything from tradition dictates that the lineage for both sentinel and guide abilities ended when the Mountain Center was destroyed. However, I can't imagine sentinels and guides are any less likely to have illegitimate children than the average human male. We know that Jim has developed sentinel abilities. It is possible that BT has the seeds of a guide, especially if he is originally from Claria. If I could work with him and Jim, perhaps I can give you a better answer."
A knock on the door interrupted them. Ellison poked his head around the door, "Major, I need... Colonel? Dr. Mike?"
"Hi Jim," Mike greeted.
"What's up, Ellison?" Simon asked. Usually Ellison didn't interrupt meetings without due cause.
"Do you know anything about a therapist being called in to work with BT?"
Simon's face wrinkled. "No, things are too disrupted around here. Why do you ask?"
Jim sighed, worried about sounding over-protective of the kid, yet his instincts were shouting that something was wrong. "A Dr. Katts just showed up out of the blue, demanding to start work with BT. It just doesn't feel right."
"Dr. Katts?" Mike repeated. "Is he a slim man, about 5'11, reddish blonde hair?" Please say no, Jim.
"Yeah, that is what he looked like."
"Damn." Mike immediately rose from his chair.
"Who is he?" Pendergrast asked.
"He's a debriefer, and a harsh one at that."
"WHAT!" Jim roared. "BT isn't ready for that! Heck, the kid can't even remember his name, let alone being held by the Roaches!" Jim's own memories of being debriefed after the camps were not pleasant, though both Simon and Jack had been there to help him through it.
"After seeing his files, I agree." Mike quickly joined Jim at the door. "I suggest we find your friend and relieve him of Dr. Katts' presence."
Jim led him out the main building, briefly wondering why Dr. Mike was looking at BT's file.
After fifteen minutes, BT was getting frustrated. Dr. Katts had a talent for making him feel stupid and guilty at the same time. Yet for the life of him, BT couldn't figure out why he should feel guilty. Now the Doctor was insisting that BT answer his questionnaire.
Picking up his data padd, BT again pointed to the sentence there. /I know the answers to these questions./ For each question, BT knew the possible responses and the meaning behind each response. He didn't know how he knew, but it made trying to form an answer difficult.
Finally, the Doctor turned to face him, fury growing in his face. "That is impossible! How can you know answers when you are playing dumb? What exactly are you trying to hide?"
BT could feel his headache beginning to grow. He quickly typed, /I don't know how I know. I just do. I'm not hiding anything./ I don't know anything TO hide.
"I will not tolerate your games. You had better stop playing dumb, and start telling me exactly what you told the Roaches."
What! /I don't understand/ Fear grew deep within him as he struggled to make sense of the words.
The doctor sternly walked towards BT. "Don't give me that! If you tell me what information you gave them, then maybe you won't be placed in prison for treason."
BT began to shake his head in shock and denial. Oh my God, did I give information to the enemy? He began to back up as the doctor invaded his personal space.
"You have betrayed the trust of your people! If you don't tell me what you told them, who knows how many more innocents will die!"
The vision of being trapped in debris and reaching for a hand swept past his eyes. I caused that? I did that to someone else? BT began to shiver.
The doctor stepped in front of BT and shouted in his face. "ANSWER ME!"
Without conscious thought, BT's flight instinct took over. He pushed past the doctor, managing to open and escape out the door before the debriefer could react.
"Jim!" Henri quickly turned to walk with Jim's group, nodding to the officers and Dr. Mike. "Sheree doesn't know anything about a therapist for BT, either."
"He's a debriefer," Jim said shortly, trying to keep his anger in check.
"What! The kid isn't ready for that!"
Jim was about to reply, when he saw a slim figure escape from the building ahead and race for the tents.
Simon spotted him, too. "There's BT!"
"I'm going after him," Jim called back as he dashed after his friend.
"We'll go see the Doctor," Simon shouted after him.
"Easy, kid, easy." Jim could hear Rafe's soothing voice, and followed it. Rafe was kneeling on the ground, eyes trained on the shivering, hunched figure huddled between a cot and a trunk set next to the tent canvas.
Jim gently laid a hand on Rafe's shoulder. Rafe stood up and let Jim take his place. He walked back to Henri and Dr. Mike for an explanation, still half-focused on the scared young man.
Jim was barely aware of anyone else in the tent, his attention trained on BT. The young man, shivering without hat or coat, made no acknowledgment of Jim's presence. With graceful ease, Jim lowered himself to the ground a couple feet away from his friend. Not looking up, BT simply shivered harder and pushed back farther under the cot. Softly Jim whispered, "Easy, kid, it's Jim. Can you look at me?"
The uncovered head slightly shook in the negative.
Focusing, Jim could see a corner of BT's data padd tucked under his good arm. "Can you tell me what happened with Dr. Katts?"
The red-rimmed eyes glanced up briefly, then back down.
"Come on, kid," Jim coaxed, trying to figure out how to reach him. Trying to remember what upset him so much about his own debriefing. Then realization dawned. "BT, if you don't tell me what happened, I can't tell if Dr. Katts lied to you or not."
The data padd came forward, and BT typed, /You won't like me anymore./
Anxiously, Jim read the words before BT could even turn the padd around. "Nothing that happened in there is going to change our friendship." No response. "Did I ever tell you that you remind me of my brother?"
BT finally looked up, and shook his head.
"You do. And just like there is nothing that Steve could have done to change my opinion of him, there is nothing that is going to make me turn away from you."
Jim felt the close scrutiny of those big blue eyes. He kept his face as open and as calm as possible. Finally, BT started pecking away one-handed at the keyboard. Jim again focused his sight on the words BT typed from his seat on the ground. It was the most the kid had ever typed at one time. The shock, fear, and guilt rolled from the words, hitting Jim hard. He wanted to give the kid a hug, to let him know that he wasn't responsible for anything he may or may not have said to the roaches. Yet BT's closed body language strongly stated the kid wasn't ready for forgiveness or human contact yet.
When BT finished the story, his eyes shifted to the ground, not sure if he wanted to hand the padd over to his friend to read.
Jim was a few steps ahead of him. "BT, look at me."
Slowly, BT lifted his face to meet Jim's eyes.
"You did not willingly give information to the Roaches. We don't even know if you gave them information, period."
BT quickly typed, /But what if people were hurt by what I told them?/
"No, BT," Jim stated forcefully. "Whether you told them anything or not, you most certainly are not responsible for anyone the Roaches hurt."
/But if I gave them informa/...
"Trust me, kid. You did not hand them information willing. They took it by force."
For a moment, BT studied Jim. Confusion, pain and fear warred across his face, but Jim thought he saw just a touch of hope. Quickly, BT typed, /How do you know that?/
Jim gave him a sad smile. "The evidence."
"Hold out your arm." Hesitantly, BT extended his right arm. Jim took the hand reassuringly into his own. Man, the kid feels like ice. Lightly, Jim ran his finger over a newly-healed scar around BT's wrist. "When we found you, both your wrists were torn up. They had you cuffed and you fought against those cuffs. If you had gone willing with them, you wouldn't have struggled against them." Jim looked up into BT's eyes. "When we brought you in, Sheree said you had not had any food in several days. The Roaches will often try to starve someone to make them talk." Jim gently rubbed the cold hand he was still holding. "Remember how much you hurt when you first woke up? How much you still ache sometimes? That's because the Roaches beat you. They do that to try and break you, to force you to do what they want." Memories of beatings touched the edge of Jim's mind, but he pushed them aside. "All these things point to the fact you were not cooperating. Finally, when they get impatient, they resort to drugs. Remember Sheree telling you how the drugs are still messing up your system?" Reluctantly, BT nodded. Jim then laid gentle fingers on the inside of BT's elbow. "They gave you interrogation drugs. We could see the needle marks on your arm." Jim captured the blue eyes across from him with his own. "Once they gave you that first shot, there was absolutely nothing you could do. You had no control over what you told them, or how you reacted. I know it is hard to accept that, but it is the truth."
Tears began streaming down the pale face. In the whole time Jim had known him, through headaches, pain, frustration, and excruciating physical therapy, the kid had never shed a tear. Gently rubbing his hand up and down the cold arm, Jim continued, "If you did tell them something, it was under extreme duress. You won't be put in jail, because it was not your fault. No one will hold you responsible. Rafe does not hold you responsible, nor Henri, nor Sheree, nor Joel, nor the Major. And I mostly certainly do not. You did the best you could, and that's all us or anyone else can ask."
A sob escaped as BT broke eye contact. Jim leaned over and pulled the young man into an embrace. Wrapping his good arm tightly around the larger man's waist, BT buried his face into Jim's sweater, sobbing heavily. Jim slowly began to rock, running his hand up and down the cold back and shoulders. "That's it, kid. Just let it out. Just let it all out."
As he rocked his friend, Jim carefully listened behind him.
"We need to get him someplace warmer." That was Sheree's worried tone.
"Leave them be until he's done crying. He feels safe enough with Jim right now to let go of some of his emotional pain and stress. We need to allow him this time." Jim smiled at Dr. Mike's soft yet confident tones. The man's quiet wisdom had helped him so much after the camps.
"Where can we take him?" Rafe, ever the practical one, asked.
"Well, there are a couple possibilities..."
An hour later
Jim sat in the Major's chair rubbing BT's shoulder, still amazed they were able to fit a cot in such a tiny office. In one of the few buildings intact and with heat, the Panthers and Sheree decided to place BT there. The thin figure was now curled under a blanket still shivering. After crying out his emotions, the kid had been exhausted. However, residual fear and another blinding headache was keeping him from falling into the sleep he needed. Sheree had gone to get her medical bag, and promised to be back soon.
Shaking his head, Jim silently berated himself. He should have never let BT go with Katts until he knew what was going on. Every instinct told him this kid was important yet vulnerable. Jim didn't know whether it was due to his mentally connecting the kid to Steve, or the sentinel business, or the fact a man so young had been so important to the Roaches. He just knew he had to do a better job of protecting him, of being there for him. That was the only reason he was here and not out there pounding in the face of the good Dr. Katts.
Hearing the outer door open, Jim focused his hearing, unconsciously squeezing BT's shoulder to anchor himself.
"I am not through interrogating that young man!" Jim's jaw clenched as he recognized Dr. Katts' voice.
Before he could stand up, he heard the Colonel. "Yes, you are. That young man is off-limits to you until I see some orders." Jim glanced down. BT showed no signs of increased stress, so only Jim could hear the men argue.
"You have no say in the matter, Colonel."
"But I do." Dr. Mike's quiet yet strong voice overrode the other two men.
Dr. Katts seemed to be surprised. "What are you doing here, Andrews?"
"I was asked to work with the young man in question due to my experience with former prisoners. You know that you need official authorization by a physician and a psychiatrist before interrogating someone who was so badly injured and abused. You have neither."
"He's faking it! He has all of you manipulated into thinking he's some dumb kid needing protection!"
"I have the medical reports here that say otherwise. Nor did you have the right to threaten him with prison, when you know damn well the drugs given him negate any legal responsibility. You didn't have the right to interrogate him at all without at least two representatives for the young man present."
"He may have given important information..."
"Which he can't remember at the moment. All your actions here will be in my report. If you don't leave now, I will personally call Tess Colton and give her my report verbally."
After a tense pause, Jim heard the door slam behind Katts. This Tess Colton must have a lot of power.
Unfortunately, the slam was loud enough to disturb BT. The kid jerked, and shivered harder. Jim continued the comforting circles he rubbed on the bony shoulder. "It's okay, BT. You're safe. Are you getting warm now?" The head turned just enough to squint up at Jim and nod. "Head still hurting?" Again a slight nod. The hand worked itself out of the covers, and held up four fingers. Jim sighed. At least it was down from the earlier five fingers.
The hall door opened again. Jim could pick out Sheree's warm, light tones mixed with Henri's deep baritone. "I think Sheree is here. Will you be okay a couple minutes while I go talk with her?" Eyes closed again, BT nodded. Jim gave his shoulder one last squeeze and stood up.
Jim quietly shut the office door. The reception area was getting crowded with Sheree, Henri, Dr. Mike, Simon and Pendergrast.
After giving Jim a searching look, Sheree asked softly. "How is he doing?"
"Calming down and warming up. He says the headache is at a four, though."
"Well, I'll see what I can do about that." Jim allowed Sheree to step around him and enter.
"Guess I am out an office for a while," Banks grumbled, though Jim could see the worry in his eyes.
"Then let's find some coffee and a quiet place to talk. I haven't finished updating you." The Colonel opened the outer door, and the two senior officers left.
"How are you doing, Jim?" Henri asked.
"Okay," Jim replied, rubbing his eyes. "Just wish I could help the kid more."
Henri shifted uncomfortably. "Ah, Jim, you know when BT was typing out his words for you in the tent?"
"Ah, well, you were reading them from quite a distance. Sheree noticed." Jim looked up at Henri while he continued. "So, I had to tell her about, well, the sentinel stuff."
Jim sighed. "That's okay. I trust her."
The corner of Henri's mouth lifted. "Well, she was pretty mad we hadn't told her before this."
"Oh, hell, Henri. I didn't mean to get you into trouble for keeping secrets."
"No, that wasn't why she was mad," Henri chuckled. "She understands why it needs to be kept quiet. She was mad because she remembers learning that sentinels react differently than other people to drugs and things. It scared her to think she could have treated you with something that you couldn't handle."
Jim relaxed. After losing his home, family, and most of his friends, it felt good to know that others still cared what happened to him. That was another reason he wanted to stay close to BT, knowing the kid needed that, too.
"Well, I'd better join Taggart and Janson on the cleanup crews. We'll stop by later."
As Henri left, Jim turned to Dr. Mike. "Who called you in on BT's case?"
Mike smiled. "So you were listening. The Colonel did, since I have worked with you before. Do you mind?"
"Nah, I trust you. Who's Tess Colton?"
"She is the boss a couple levels above me. Delightful woman, I just love working for her. But you don't want to get on the wrong side of an argument with her."
Jim glanced back at the door. "I don't get it, Mike. Why put pressure on the kid?"
Mike sighed. "Things have been in an uproar since the Sealand attack. Many of our top researchers were killed and their work destroyed. It set us back greatly in development. On top of that, four more of our top researchers have either disappeared or been assassinated, in areas well within what should have been safe. In fact, I'm just as glad I didn't have to contact Tess. Her eldest son disappeared at the same time as one of the researchers. The theory is that Frank witnessed the abduction of Jeff MacGregor and tried to prevent it. Seems that the two have been friends for years. It's like losing two sons for Tess. We've been trying to lighten the load for her."
"MacGregor," Jim repeated. "Wasn't he the one who came up with the early warning system? And the sonic sea barrier?"
"Yes, his disappearance is a great loss in among many others. There are rumors flying that someone is leaking information to the Roaches. That has the president and his circle upset, which is why Katts and his kind are getting so aggressive."
"BT didn't need this, Mike. That kid has been half sick since getting so cold during the attack."
"I know, I've been reading the reports."
Jim turned serious eyes to Mike. "What do you think? Will he recover?"
Mike squeezed Jim's shoulder reassuringly. "I think it is a good possibility." He led Jim to a chair. "What are your impressions of him?"
"Well, he is extremely stubborn."
Mike laughed. "Sounds like someone else I know."
Jim smiled in return. "Yeah, but maybe stubbornness can be a good thing. I suspect that is how he was able to survive. That and a spiritual toughness in him, even if he is pretty fragile physically at the moment."
"Could be. What else?"
"I suspect he is very intelligent. I know that sounds strange about a man who has no memory and isn't talking, but I can see it in his eyes. He gets very frustrated sometimes. I suspect part of it is not being able to express himself."
"That is my impression, too." Mike slipped BT's data padd from the desk. "He left this behind, so I picked it up. Despite being upset, his vocabulary and sentence structure are impressive. I also find it interesting that he says he knew the answers to the questionnaire, and thus didn't know how to respond."
Puzzlement filled Jim's face. "I didn't get that. How can someone know the answers to a psychological test?"
"You can if you are familiar with the test and how is it analyzed. Those tests can't be administered to a subject familiar with it. I took a look at the one Katts was using. An undergraduate psychology major would know it."
"So BT could be a psychology student?"
"Yes, that is a possibility." Mike quietly studied his former client a moment. "I also find it interesting, in that psychology was one of the subjects required for guides in training."
Jim rolled his eyes. "Mike, we have no way of knowing if BT is a potential guide. In fact, the odds are against it."
"We suspect he's Clarian. As a pleasure island, prostitution was big business, group sex was common in the communes, and illegitimate children the norm. He could have guide genes and no one be the wiser. You are a sentinel, yet all we can track is that your grandmother had family in the center."
"I don't want that kind of pressure on him yet. He's not ready for it."
"I agree. But how do YOU feel about it?"
Sighing, Jim shook his head. "I don't know. All I know is that I feel this overwhelming instinct to protect him. To help him get well. That somehow, he's important."
"From everything I've read, what little there is, one of the main themes is that a sentinel and guide pair are very protective of each other. That they are bonded as brothers, that one's family is the other's."
"My feelings for him are like what I felt for Steve," Jim admitted.
"Then let's see where it goes. He needs someone looking out for him now, and maybe something will develop. I'm not any surer about all this than you are, but we should leave the door open."
"How are we going to keep Katts and his kind from going after BT again?"
"I have an idea about that."
Couldn't see. A sharp pain radiated from his trapped leg whenever he tried to move it. Hard edges were poking into his prone body at various places. Above, he could sense the enormous mass weighing heavily on the object protecting him. Yet it was too dark to see any of it. But he had to see, had to find someone. Someone who was very important. "SAM!" he called out, his voice cracking. "SAM!" He struggled to move, hampered by the debris and his immobile leg. A young, pain-filled voice reached his ears. He reached forward, groping blindly for the voice. His hand brushed against flesh, then his fingertips barely curved around another set.
BT shot up to a sitting position, breathing hard. Instantly, a pair of large, warm hands grasped his shoulders. "Easy, kid, easy. You're safe."
Blinking the confused panic out of his eyes, BT looked into the face of his friend. His body began to relax. Somehow, he knew he was safe with this man.
Jim could feel the tension ease out of his young friend. "That's right. Just take it easy." After BT's breathing was back to normal, Jim gently asked, "You have a nightmare?" BT started to nod, then shrugged. Jim's eyes narrowed. Something was going on here. He pulled BT's data padd from off the desk. "Why don't you describe it to me?" BT glanced at him, the fear still evident. "Sometimes it helps to tell someone else about a bad dream. Makes it easier to handle."
Pausing a moment, BT took the padd and started to type. Jim's head slightly tilted to the side, hearing the outer door open. Recognizing the voices, he smiled. "I think we have company."
BT's eyes shot up, panic beginning to swirl in them. Jim quickly reassured him. "Good company." His nose twitched. It was amazing how his senses came on-line just being in the younger man's presence. "Maybe it's Rafe with supper. You hungry?" BT nodded. "Okay, finish writing up your dream, and I'll see if Rafe needs help."
Jim opened the inner door. Rafe was uncovering the trays he had carried, while Dr. Mike was pouring steaming tea from a thermos. Glancing up, Rafe asked, "Is he awake?"
"Yeah, he'll be out in a moment." Jim took another sniff. "Fish casserole again?"
"After the bombing, we're lucky to have food, let alone anything with meat," Rafe replied. He smiled as he spotted BT slipping out the door. "Hey kid, feel like eating?" BT nodded, then hesitantly looked at the stranger. "Oh, BT? This is Dr. Mike. He is an old friend of mine and Jim's."
Mike gave the young man a warm smile, trying to ease his tension. I can see what Jim means about his eyes. Extremely expressive, and still rather spooked at the moment.
Jim pulled out a chair, and patted the seat. Mike could see BT gather up his courage and walk over. He laid his padd next to the plate and picked up a fork.
"What are you writing?" Rafe asked curiously, dipping his spoon into the green and blue vegetables.
BT glanced at Jim. Jim smiled reassuringly. "BT was telling me about the bad dream he just had."
Carefully concealing his interest, Dr. Mike sipped his tea. Dreams are often the window to a person's subconscious. Or in BT's case, perhaps memories trying to work their way through the drugs and trauma.
"Would you mind if I read it out loud?" Jim asked.
BT stirred the mass of noodles on his plate. He knew and trusted Jim and Rafe, and Rafe said the other guy was a friend. Maybe they could help him sort it out. He finally looked up and nodded.
Jim picked up the padd and read it. He carefully hid his reaction. It sounded like so many others, from people that the Panther unit had dug out of bombed buildings.
"That does sound scary," Rafe told BT. "Have you had it before?" Dr. Mike hid a smile. Rafe was a veteran of old memories haunting his dreams. He knew what questions to ask.
BT nodded. Jim studied him a moment. "Did you have them before the bombing?" BT paused, then shook his head.
Rafe gently smiled at him. "That's not too surprising. That whole tunnel incident was enough to give me nightmares, too." BT shared his smile, comforted by the thought that the older, bigger man had nightmares as well. "Is Sam a girl?" BT shook his head. "A boy, then?" BT nodded.
Quietly, so as not to undo the young man's current ease, Dr. Mike asked, "You said Sam was young. Were you a lot older than Sam?"
Brow wrinkled, BT puzzled over the question as Jim returned the padd. /I'm not sure. But I think my voice was changing./
About 12 to 14, then. If we are guessing his age right, probably not the Clarian invasion. Dr. Mike opened his mouth to ask another question, but Jim beat him to it.
"Does this feel like just a dream, or perhaps a memory?"
Abandoning any pretense of eating, BT returned Jim's gaze with a haunted look of his own. "A memory?" Jim guessed. Who is this Sam? A friend? A cousin? A brother? A foster brother?
BT shrugged, but Jim could see the truth in his eyes. Quickly, he typed, /If it is a memory, then what happened to Sam?/
The three older men exchanged looks. "Only you can answer that," Dr. Mike gently told him. "Once you regain your memory."
Rafe smiled encouragingly. "You remember hearing a voice, touching a hand, and you are here now. Most likely, this Sam got out, too. You just have to hang onto that thought until you remember."
BT turned back to Jim. "Rafe's right. This Sam may be looking for you right now. We'll just have to wait and see." As BT went back to picking at his food, Jim glanced at Dr. Mike for support. "I do have another question for you."
BT looked up. Jim was hit by the trust in the big blue eyes. This is the right thing. "Until this Sam or your family finds you, would you like a temporary guardian?" The blue eyes turned puzzled. "Since we don't know if you are 21, a temporary guardian would help you make decisions and get through any paperwork until your family is found or you are back to full strength." Jim gave him a reassuring smile. "In addition, anyone like Dr. Katts would have to go through the guardian in order to get to you."
"It can be really nice," Rafe added. "Colonel Pendergrast was my temporary guardian after I was in the camps. He and his wife helped me a lot until I could take care of myself again."
BT gave Rafe a sharp look, then typed, /You were in the camps?/
"Both Rafe and I were," Jim explained.
BT thought for a moment, then typed, /Who?/
"Who would be your guardian?" Jim asked. At BT's nod, Jim responded, "How about me?"
Jim had his answer as the blue eyes lit up in joy.
Jim opened his eyes. Leaves? Why was he lying in a pile of leaves? He took a deep breath, smelling the lush vegetation and humid soil. Just like, well, just like when he had been hiding from the Roaches after escaping from the prison camp. Glancing around, Jim realized he was back to that area. This had to be a dream, or a nightmare. Standing, he spotted a large black cat, like the ancient Earth's panther that graced his unit's emblem. With a flick of the tail, the cat turned and started to run. Jim raced after it, crashing through the underbrush and ducking under limbs. The forest opened up to a clearing, revealing a tall staircase of stone. Someone was sleeping on the next to the bottom step. Jim skidded to a stop. It was BT. A snarl drew his attention back to the cat. Only the panther had changed into a man.
After a moment, Jim responded. "I remember you. You told me how to stay out of the Roaches' way until I could meet up with Pendergrast's patrol."
"That is right, young sentinel."
"Why did you bring me here? I haven't been here since I was hiding from the Roaches."
"You took your first step onto the path of the sentinel then. Now, it is time for your next one."
Jim glanced back at his sleeping friend. "Is BT my guide?"
"Each sentinel is provided with a guide. This little one has been ordained as yours."
Jim unconsciously stepped between the spirit and the young man in a protective gesture. "But I've been told there are no more guides or sentinels."
The man laughed. "There are still plenty of seeds for the sentinels and the guides in mankind. Only the teachers of old became arrogant. They thought they could determine where the talent laid, yet they could not. They were warned of the growing evil, but felt themselves out of reach. They were wrong and paid the price."
"Then how can we, with no knowledge, do what is right?" Jim felt so out of his depth.
"Three on this side possess both the seeds and the knowledge of the guides. Together, they are strong. The evil of this world has tried many times to destroy them and failed. However, it has finally pulled them apart. This little one is the most vulnerable now. He falls under your protection so he can grow into his destiny."
"Will he recover?" Jim quietly asked. Even here, the young man looked too pale and too thin.
"Oh yes, he will recover to fulfill his role as your guide, as long as you protect him from the evil. As he heals, you will find him to be brave, strong, and wise beyond his years. He will lead you well as long as you listen, protect you if you allow him. He is now your brother. His path and yours are linked."
"What of the others?" Jim asked, wondering if they could help.
"They fight their own battles with the evil. Eventually, they will all fall under your protection. Together, you will lead mankind out of this place of evil and to the place of light."
"Evil? Do you mean the Roaches?"
"They are only one of the physical manifestations of the evil on this world. You together will fight many."
"What do you mean?" Jim asked. Suddenly, the scene swirled around him. Next thing he knew, he was waking up in Simon's chair, hand still lying on BT's shoulder.
Hundreds of miles away
A young man in his late teens sat on the bed of the tiny room, rubbing his brown eyes. This was the only place where he could get a few moments of privacy. The only place where he could be himself. Running a hand through his straight brown hair, he twisted his neck trying to relieve the tension.
Glancing around the spartan room, another wave of homesickness and grief swept over him. Without Dad and Blair, he really didn't have a place to call home. Sure, several family friends would take him in, but it just wouldn't be the same. Plus with his current assignment, he couldn't even use his real name. That certainly ruled out contacting anyone. He sighed. Uncle Pete and Grandma Tess were really going to ream him when this was all over.
He tensed again, thinking of the unfriendly, selfish people he was currently working with. Any one of whom could be responsible for what happened to his family. It was starting to get to him, having no one to trust. Yet he had to do it. He carefully slipped a picture out of his shirt. Gazing at the faces, he drew strength in knowing he had to do this, HAD to find out what happened.
"MAXWELL! GET YOUR BUTT IN HERE!"
With another sigh, the young man slipped the picture back into his shirt and stood up to find his employer.
Next morning, Front Ridge Base
Slowly opening his eyes, BT was disoriented a moment. Then the events of the previous day crashed around him. Oh man, he was in Major Banks' office. Surely the Major couldn't be too happy to lose it to a wuss like himself. The thought of Dr. Katts sent a shudder through him. Sure didn't handle that well. It still scared him to think of what he may have said to the Roaches.
But Jim claimed it wasn't his fault. He shuddered again, reviewing Jim's description of what had happened to him. Why couldn't he remember any of that? How could he know if that really was what happened?
Because he trusted Jim. And Rafe said that he and Jim had been in the camps. Shoving aside his own fears for a moment, BT pondered that fact. He vaguely recalled the scenes of the battered and starved men that had been rescued. Remembered learning about the tortures they had endured, on top of the devastating losses of their families and homes. That had happened to Jim and Rafe? It hurt to think of the two people who had always been there for him going through that. Was that why they protected him? Why they always seemed to understand? Suddenly, BT realized just how personal Jim's description of the Roaches' torture must have been. Jim had never mentioned the camps. How much did it hurt to think about it, just to help him?
Yet Jim had done it. Not only that, Jim was willing to be his guardian to protect him. Again, BT was flooded with the warmth of that action. Somehow, BT knew he was of age, yet for right now, he knew he wasn't ready to be on his own. It felt good to realize Jim understood that, to know that Jim would stand between him and Dr. Katts. Somehow, he had to find a way to repay this man the huge debt he owed him. But first he had to find the bathroom.
Upon returning, BT found Jim and Joel in the front room. "There you are," Joel greeted him warmly. "How are you feeling?"
BT returned his smile, waving his hand in a 'so so' manner.
"How's the head?" Jim asked, still studying him with a frown.
Shrugging, BT held up a finger. He really didn't feel the headache as long as he didn't think about it. The older man didn't look totally convinced. But then, BT realized he had given Jim quite a scare yesterday. Heck, he'd given himself a scare.
With a sigh, Jim picked up BT's coat from military surplus and tossed it to him. "Major wants us to meet him in the briefing room." At BT's puzzled glance, Jim shrugged. "Yes, he wants you there, too."
"We don't know what is going on, either," Joel added. "The Major was in a meeting with the Colonel most of yesterday. I suspect this is when we find out what they were discussing."
Walking between the two much bigger men, BT pondered why he would be called, too. He wasn't a member of the Panthers. Was the Major going to tell him that the unit was leaving, and he would be left behind? BT fought down a wave of panic. He didn't know anyone else besides the med staff. Where would he go? What would he do?
Then a large hand comfortingly squeezed his shoulder. BT looked up into Jim's strong face. Everything would be all right. Jim would help him sort it out, whatever was going on.
Soon, they and the rest of the Panthers were seated in the metal chairs of the briefing room. Sheree was also there, with the same puzzled expression that BT was sure graced his own face. Looking around, he noted the large white board at the front and a rolled up screen hanging above it. A flapping noise drew his attention to the ceiling. Plastic canvas covered where the roof had been damaged.
Then the Colonel, with Major Banks a step behind him, entered the room. The unit around him immediately stood up from their chairs. BT, slightly lost, stood up a beat behind them and tried to copy the attention stance.
"At ease," Colonel Pendergrast called out. After everyone was sitting, he began. "As you know, the vulnerability of our research establishments has recently become all too clear. Much work has been lost in the past few months, work we can not afford to lose and win this war. Thus, some of the more critical work groups will be moved to more remote bases, deep in our territory. However, to insure that these groups are protected from the Roaches, various military units will be stationed with them. Since the Panthers recently proved their worth in protecting this base, you and your support have been selected to accompany one of these groups. This includes Dr. Jackson and a couple members of her staff that she may chose," Sheree nodded back. "And BT, since he, too, helped in the defense."
BT blinked. How did he help, except by trying to keep up by hanging on to Jim?
The Major then stood up. "Since this assignment will be well behind the lines, families will also be included on the base." Simon traded a smile with Joel. Both men missed their families. "However, the area will be remote, with few leaves granted. To prepare for such, you will all have a two week leave in Manhaven." Now smiles stretched across Janson and Brown's faces as well. The large city of Manhaven, deep within the northern safe zone, had been so far untouched by the war. "The plane will leave tomorrow morning at oh six hundred. Dismissed."
Two days later, Manhaven shopping district
"Do you have everything?" Henri asked, holding open the door.
BT looked up and nodded, a content smile on his face. He shifted his packages in order to help hold the door for Rafe behind him.
"How's the head?" Rafe inquired once they were on the city street.
BT smiled back at him as he shifted the bags off his weaker left wrist. After a good night's rest on the soft, warm hotel bed, followed by the best breakfast he could remember, BT felt better than he had in a long time. Only a dull ache in his knees reminded him that he wasn't use to this much walking.
Rafe studied him a moment more. The lines that had graced the young man's face the last two months were mostly gone, making him look even younger than normal. Apparently, he was handling the shopping so far. They had found some of the items the kid would need on their future assignment. However, since BT was starting out with practically nothing, they still had a lot more to buy. Rafe had promised Jim not to wear the kid out this first time.
Henri glanced at his watch. "Well, we have about 45 minutes before meeting Jim for lunch. What do you want to do now?"
After another glance at the younger man, Rafe lifted his head. A nearby sign reminded him of another pressing need BT had. "Hey BT, how about we check into getting you some decent boots?"
Jim took a deep breath as he stepped out onto the sidewalk, trying to shake off three hours of planning meeting. He, the Major, and Joel had hashed out some of the details, but it was hard when they had so little information to go on. They still weren't sure where they were going, or even what project they were protecting. Hopefully, they would have more facts when they met with the science team in a few days.
Checking out the clear autumn sky above, Jim decided to walk to the diner instead of taking a taxi. Stretching his legs at a ground-eating pace, he unconsciously reached out with his senses. It felt so good to be out in a modern city's bustling streets, instead of the bombed out ones from their recent missions. He could take comfort from the tall, glass skyscrapers and the shorter, older buildings with blue-green creeping plants covering their sides. The sights and sounds of people were almost comforting.
As he turned to walk across the street, he took another deep breath. Suddenly, he was slammed with memories. Memories of the camps, of the Roaches' cruelty, of pain and stench and hunger. Jim instantly zoned out on the remembered horror, unaware of the truck that had turned and was heading his way.
In spite of his aching knees, BT's feet felt bouncy in the new boots. He couldn't wait to show them to Jim. Henri flashed him a grin as he bounced ahead, anxious to get to the diner. Then Henri turned his head back to Rafe. BT smiled as he listened to Rafe's tale of searching for the best food in the city.
Glancing ahead, BT spotted Jim just about to step across the street. Wondering how to catch the older man's attention, BT saw the terror suddenly fill Jim's face before going slack. As Jim froze in the street, BT spotted the truck rolling towards him.
"JIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Henri and Rafe looked up in surprise as BT shouted, racing ahead. With all his meager strength and slight weight, the kid tackled Ellison. The other two watched in horror as the truck drove over them. It wasn't until a shaky BT sat up that they could take another breath and dash over to help.
Jim shook his head. What happened? He saw the truck stop a few feet ahead of him. Then he realized that he had just been under that truck. Hands gently grabbed his arm. He turned, and saw BT looking at him with frightened eyes.
"Are you okay, Jim?" BT asked in a hoarse voice.
"BT?" Jim questioned. Since when did the kid start talking?
The hotel room was in chaos when Dr. Mike entered. Voices talking at once, bodies moving, pacing, confronting. Knowing the players as well as he did, the situation was easy to decipher. Major Banks was in the center of the room, furiously trying to get answers. Brown, still shaken, was rearranging a pile of shopping bags while trying to talk with Taggart and answer Banks' questions. Rafe, also shaken, was trying to talk with a pacing Ellison, who was still in a state of denial about what had happened. A glance at Jim's haunted expression pulled Dr. Mike up short. More was going on here than a simple zone out. Finally, sitting cross-legged on a bed towards the back of the room was BT. Wrapped in a blanket and holding a mug in his hands, the young man was lost in thought. Dr. Mike could almost see the wheels spinning in his head, trying to make sense of everything. Oh well, it was about time someone brought some order to this scene.
Across the room, BT had tuned out everything around him. He wasn't even thinking about regaining the voice he had so sorely missed. Instead, he was concentrating on what had happened. He had been so scared, seeing Jim pause in front of that truck and knowing he was about to be hit. Knowing Jim didn't see it, wasn't going to move. How did he know that? Why did Jim just freeze?
Suddenly, the warm voice of his good dreams softly recited in his head. The drop in air pressure and the changes in the wind reminded Harry of that time when he was a child, petrified as a tornado bore down on him. He froze, overwhelmed by the sensations and the terror. By his side, Keegan realized that this was a zoneout, more intense than others from the look of fear on his sentinel's face. He had to pull Harry out of it quickly, to learn what danger they faced so they could combat it. BT thought about the horror on Jim's face before it froze. Remembered the distance Jim was able to read his data padd that day in the tent. How Jim led them out of the pitch-black tunnel. The way Jim seemed to know who was approaching before BT even knew someone was there. Could it be?...
Dr. Mike shouted across the room, "QUIET!" Everyone paused to look at him. The easy-going doctor rarely raised his voice.
Before he could continue, a small, hoarse voice quietly stated into the silence, "You are a sentinel."
Surprised, Jim turned to find blue eyes staring intently at him. He ignored the shocked gasps around him as he gazed back. Knowing there was no way around it, Jim softly replied, "Yes, I am."
"You zoned in front of that truck." There was no question in the voice.
"Yes, I did." The rest were quietly watching Jim and BT, wondering where this was going to lead.
BT then briefly broke eye contact as he glanced around the room, studying the team around him. Looking back into his older friend's eyes, he asked, "Who is your guide?"
Leave it to the kid to notice the stumbling block. "I don't have one."
"What!" BT's eyes widened in alarm. "Jim, it's dangerous for a sentinel not to have a guide! Look what happened today!"
"I know," Jim sighed, not wanting to think about it yet. "But the Center was destroyed years ago, kid. The team looks out for me, but there is no one else to help."
BT sat his mug to the side and pulled his legs up close, mind spinning as he grasped vague memories.
"How do you know about sentinels and guides, BT?" Dr. Mike quietly asked.
"From Keegan stories." Puzzled, BT searched the blank faces around him. "Haven't you guys ever heard Keegan stories?"
"No," Jim casually told him, sitting in the chair by the bed. "We don't know much at all about sentinels and guides. How do you know about Keegan stories?"
A frown stretched across the pale face. "From my dreams."
Now Jim was beginning to worry. He could almost see the headache forming behind the serious blue eyes. "Nightmares?"
"No, my good dreams." BT looked up and smiled. "I can hear someone telling me Keegan stories. It always makes me feel safe and loved."
Bedtime stories? It made sense to Jim that the legends of sentinels would be good stories for children.
"Keegan," Dr. Mike softly repeated. "Do you mean Keegan Jeffrey?" BT nodded.
"Who's Keegan Jeffrey?" Major Banks asked.
"Keegan Jeffrey was Harry McHahn's guide," Dr. Mike explained. 'Ohs' filled the room. Everyone had heard of the legendary sentinel from over a century ago, just that no one was familiar with his guide's first name.
However, BT was more worried about what had happened that afternoon than of stories about the past. It still scared him to think how close his protector had been to getting killed. "Jim, what did you zone on?"
Tension drew Jim's face taut. "I'm not sure. One minute, I was enjoying a fall day. The next, I was right back in the camps again." Rafe gently laid a hand on his shoulder for support.
"So something triggered a memory," Dr. Mike mused. "Did you see something? Hear something?"
Jim shook his head. "No, neither. I'm not sure what happened."
"Could it have been a smell?" BT asked. "Scents have a way of triggering memory at a more subconscious level." Dr. Mike secretly stole a glance at the young man, more certain than ever that psychology and human behavior had to be part of his educational background. He decided to remain quiet to see where BT led.
Jim studied the young man more openly. "How do I remember a smell?"
"Close your eyes and think back to when you were on the sidewalk." Seeing the residual fear flash through his friend's eyes, BT laid his hand on Jim's leg. "It's okay. You're safe, and we are all here so you're not alone." Rafe squeezed Jim's shoulder, emphasizing that fact. The rest of the unit stepped closer, lending their support.
With a deep breath, Jim closed his eyes, thinking back to a couple hours ago. Remembering how good he had felt. "You know, I think I was stretching out my senses. I wasn't thinking about it, but it just felt right."
"What did you sense?" BT gently asked.
Jim faintly noted what a deep, soothing voice the young man had, in spite of the slight hoarseness from disuse. He leaned further into the chair as he turned his mind back to the sidewalk. "Warmth of the sun on my skin. Brightness of the light shinning off the windows. Colors and textures from the benches, signs and people's clothing. The sounds of people, walking, talking, breathing around me. Normal sounds. Content sounds."
No word about smells. Was Jim avoiding smells? BT subconsciously lowered his voice, trying to ooze as much support and comfort as he could. "What did you smell?"
Jim's head tilted and his nostrils flared as he searched his memory. "Fuel. Leather and rubber. Wieners, chili, mustard and red sauce from the street vendor. Woman's perfume. People scents. Ro... Oh Hell!" Jim's eyes flew open as he jerked upright. "I smelled Roaches!"
"What?" Banks bellowed. "How could you smell Roaches in Manhaven?"
"I didn't see any Roaches," Brown replied in confusion.
"Trust me, Roaches isn't exactly a smell you forget," Rafe stated, his stomach churning as his own thoughts returned to the camps.
"Could it be just something that you associate with Roaches?" Joel asked.
Jim shook his head, eyes glazed as he searched inward. "It was that smell that warned me when I was hiding out in the jungle. I definitely smelled that particular scent. That's why I zoned." Jim's head snapped towards Dr. Mike. "Didn't you tell me that researchers were being targeted in safe zones?"
Mike nodded, eyes filling with dread. "If the Roaches have found a way to approach large human populations without being noticed, that would explain how they could reach them."
"You mean, we were near a Roach this morning?" BT pulled his bent legs tighter to his body and began to shiver.
Jim immediately wrapped a protective arm around the young man. At the same time, he reached up to grasp Rafe's arm as he sensed Rafe begin to tremble, too. "I don't smell them now. We are safe here." Rafe squeezed Jim's shoulder in acknowledgment.
BT leaned into the safety of his friend. The headache that had started when he had shoved Jim under the truck was growing as the tension from the past two hours took its toll.
The Major looked around the room, witnessing the impact of the enemies' presence in a safe zone on his men and the Doctor. His own gut was contracting with fear at the thought. Worst of all, the young man who was the best guide candidate for Jim had just turned two more shades paler. He had to take action. "That's right. We are safe now, and there is nothing we can do about the Roaches at this time. Why don't we all take a breather before deciding our next move?"
Jim quietly watched as BT slipped into sleep. Thankfully, Sheree had given him the pain meds before they'd left. With the headache growing behind the blue eyes, Jim doubted the kid would have fallen asleep otherwise. Plus he was going to be sore tomorrow. Jim shook his head, still trying to figure out how BT had managed to tackle him. They were lucky both of them weren't dead.
One of the main themes is that a sentinel and guide pair are very protective of each other. Dr. Mike's words returned. BT had been protecting him. Each sentinel is provided with a guide. This little one has been ordained as yours. The panther's words, telling him BT was indeed his guide.
Jim studied the young man. His guide. That magical pair of words Jim had doubted he would ever be able to say. However, was his guide any more prepared for this than he was? Did BT even realize he WAS his guide?
Silently standing up, Jim quietly crossed the room to the connecting door. With another penetrating stare at his guide, he slipped out into his and Brown's room.
Dr. Mike sat on the other side, flipping through a large book. He glanced up as Jim entered the room. "How is he?"
"He's got another headache." Jim sat in the bed opposite the doctor. "I think this morning was too rough on him. He is still so fragile health-wise."
"How are you doing?" Rafe's quiet voice carried from the chair by the window.
Jim gave his younger friend a reassuring smile. "I'm doing all right. I wasn't the one to tackle someone twice his size." Rafe's return smile was faint. He could still see his two friends falling before the truck.
"I suspect BT is a lot tougher than you realize." At Jim's questioning look, Dr. Mike continued. "All on his own, he figured out you were a sentinel and immediately launched into trying to find out why you zoned. That was in spite of his headache or the fact he is now talking. I'm not even sure that fact has hit home yet."
"I know," Jim replied, glancing at the door. "I keep waiting for it to sink in."
Mike shrugged. "Has he mentioned the Keegan stories before?"
Both Jim and Rafe shook their heads. Jim replied, "No. He's only mentioned that nightmare of his."
"Well, I find the whole thing rather enlightening."
Jim turned puzzled. "Why? Because of some bedtime stories?"
"How many famous sentinels can you name?"
Rafe's eyebrows drew together in concentration. "Armando, Hito,..."
"Lawson, Cramer, McHahn, ..." Jim shrugged.
"Now name their guides."
Rafe and Jim looked at each other. Hesitantly, Jim stalled, "Well... Wasn't Cramer's named Thomas?"
"Oh." Jim paused again, stumped.
"No one ever talks much about the guides," Rafe stated thoughtfully.
"No, they don't. While all the legends say the guides were important, they usually focus in on the sentinels. However, here is a young man remembering 'Keegan' stories, a Guide's stories. The least-known half of probably the strongest sentinel-guide pair in our history."
"So BT would have a better idea of what a guide is suppose to do than most," Jim concluded.
Rafe thought a moment. "If everyone knows the stories from the sentinel's point of view, then why does BT know them from the guide's?"
"I've been thinking on that," Mike replied. "What if a guide family wanted to make sure the history of their ancestors was not lost, especially in the aftermath of the Center's destruction?"
Jim snapped his fingers. "They would orally tell the history to their children as stories!"
Mike smiled in triumph. "Exactly."
Rafe looked from Jim to Dr. Mike and back. "You guys think BT might be a guide?" Both men nodded. Rafe's eyes widened. Suddenly, BT's leading Jim through the zoneout earlier had new meaning. Jim quickly explained how BT had anchored him in the tunnel.
"So," Jim returned to the earlier thought, "Could BT be a descendant of Keegan Jeffrey? Surely that would be easier to trace than the Clarian lead."
Mike sighed and shook his head. "The main records were destroyed with the Center. I'm going to see if I can dig up anything, but I doubt it would be much."
"Damn," Jim swore. "It would be so much easier on the kid if we had an ID for him."
"Especially if there's a Sam or family looking for him," Rafe commented softly. Memories of his search for Jim after being rescued from the camps weighed heavily on his mind. Rafe didn't even want to think of where he might be now if he hadn't found his older friend, or had never met the Pendergrasts during the search.
The room door opened, letting in Brown and Major Banks. The other three looked up in expectation.
Simon sighed as he saw their faces. "I talked with Jack. Unfortunately, Jim thinking he smelled a Roach isn't enough to really do anything."
"I know what I smelled, Simon," Jim defended himself.
"We realize that. But it doesn't give us anything to work with. Hell, we don't even know where to start looking. Since Jack has been keeping Jim's abilities quiet, there really isn't any way to check up on it.
Jim sighed, inwardly admitting his CO was right. He just hoped they could get through this trip without running into a Roach.
Sam! Sam, answer me!
BT shot up in the bed. For an instant, he thought he was still in the nightmare. But as his eyes began to discern the tall wardrobe and the other bed, he relaxed. He must have slept for several hours, since the room had darkened with the approaching night.
"BT?" Rafe was standing in the frame of the connecting door, looking at him worriedly. "Are you all right?" When the young man simply nodded, Rafe walked over to his own bed and turned on the table lamp to its lowest setting. Sitting on his bed across from BT's, Rafe studied the younger man for a moment. "You had that nightmare with Sam, didn't you?" As BT's eyes widened in surprise, Rafe explained, "You shouted his name."
"Oops," BT mumbled, staring down at his folded legs as a slight blush darkened his cheeks.
Rafe chuckled. "Don't worry. I'll probably be returning the favor tonight."
BT took a quick glance at Rafe. Did the older man really have nightmares, or was he just trying to make him feel better? Then it struck him. He had spoken Sam's name out loud. "I can talk again," he whispered, quiet joy filling his soul.
"Yep," Rafe said with a smile. "We were wondering when you'd realize that."
For a moment, BT soaked up the joyous fact. Then another thought plunged his joy to the ground.
"What?" Rafe asked, seeing the light go out.
"I still don't remember anything," BT stated softly. "I can't even remember my own name."
Leaning down, Rafe caught his eyes. "That's okay. You're still healing from some pretty severe injuries. Talking is a big step. I'll even bet that these dreams are probably just memories trying to get through all the trauma and drugs. They are all good signs."
BT sighed. "Yeah, I know. I just want it all now, you know?"
Rafe comfortingly rubbed his hand across the newly grown hair. "I know."
Jim poked his head around the connecting door. "Anyone hungry in here?"
"I am," Rafe stated firmly.
"I guess I am a little," BT replied.
"Good," Jim replied. "Especially since we are planning this dinner in your honor." At the young man's confused expression Jim shrugged, hiding his smile. "It isn't every day that someone is both a hero AND gets his voice back. We're going to celebrate!"
Two days later
BT leaned back on the bench near the hospital entrance and closed his eyes. Never had he been so glad to be outside in the sunshine. Then he felt two others join him on either side of the bench.
"Someone doesn't look very impressed with the Manhaven Medical Research Hospital," Brown's deep voice commented from the right.
"I'd say he looks downright relieved to be out," observed Janson's voice on the left.
Without opening his eyes, BT sighed, "Oh, Dr. Sloan and the rest of Sheree's doctor friends were really friendly and considerate. I just feel like a bruised and squeezed pin cushion that has been asked almost every embarrassing question in the book."
Both older men chuckled. "Sounds like the vampires," Rafe replied, pulling out an old nickname from his past.
"Hey! My future wife is one of them," Henri protested.
"And a very nice one, too." Rafe paused a moment. "For a vampire."
BT laughed and ducked as Henri tried to hit Rafe over the top of BT's head. After avoiding Henri's swing, Rafe laughingly asked, "Where's Jim?"
"Oh, he's talking with Sheree and the doctors. He should be out soon. I just needed to get out of there."
Janson and Brown traded looks over BT's head, wondering what the doctors had found. Each intended to find out from their own source as soon as possible, but neither wanted to discuss it in front of BT. Henri glanced at his watch. "Well, Jim better be out soon. I'm starved."
"Me, too. Where are we going to eat?" BT asked.
Rafe lifted an eyebrow. The kid was hungry? That was a switch. Maybe they'd finally be able to get some weight on him. "Well, there's an outdoor restaurant not too far from here."
"Carino's?" Henri asked. "That sounds good to me."
"Sounds good to me, too." All three heads lifted to see Jim standing over them. "Let's go. I'm starved."
It had been a good morning. Nash Branson so rarely had a day to spend with Cassidy, his twelve-year-old daughter. He enjoyed talking with her, playing games in the park, feeding the fuzztails, just BEING with her. With the demands of his research and the war effort, it was hard to find time for his child. Yet if he didn't work so hard, Cassidy's future might disappear under the weight of the Roaches advance. He quickly ran a hand through his sandy blond hair, shoving the horrific images from news reports out of his mind. He returned to watching the slim girl, brown hair in a long ponytail, feed a nut to the black and grey fuzztail.
Running his fingers through the grey-green moss grass, Nash reflected back. The day had not started well. Cassidy wasn't happy about leaving her friends and home to go to the new research facility. Nash had to be his charming best to cajole her into thinking of it as an adventure, pointing out that his friends' children, JJ and Lucinda, were coming and that she would meet new people. When that didn't seem to be working, he pointed out that they would have a chance to see some of the northern wildlife first-hand. That had helped, since she loved animals. How she would feel about it once she realized how isolated the base was would be something he'd deal with later.
Nash truly wished she could stay in Manhaven with all the opportunities here. However, his ex-wife was swamped with her refugee work near the front lines and had agreed their daughter was safer with him. His sister was also swamped with her government work. Stacy would have a hard time looking after her niece with her odd schedule. Nor was his eccentric father Nick able to handle the bright and quick girl for long periods. Sometimes it felt like the practical Cassidy was baby-sitting Nick instead. Besides, Nash felt better knowing she was close by and safe. After what happened to MacGregor, Nash himself would feel safer once they were in the new facility.
Cassidy stood up and brushed the dirt off her pants. Nash marveled at how pretty she looked in her royal blue sweater against the reddish-blue fall foliage. Turning, she asked, "Daddy? Are there any more nuts?"
"No, they're all gone," Nash replied with a smile as he held up the empty bag. "How about if we feed ourselves and bring some more nuts to the fuzztails later?"
"Okay," she agreed amicably, walking over to him.
"Where would you like to go?"
Cassidy thought a moment, then her pale blue eyes lit up. "Could we go to Carino's and sit under one of those big, red umbrellas?"
"Sure, sister, sounds good to me."
In the shadows of the trees, two men watched the father and daughter turn and walk away from the busy park. The path they took was one of the shaded, less traveled paths. One announced to the other that this was their chance. Only it was not spoken aloud as humans normally spoke. It was all done by a change of scent.
They were standing on a corner, debating which way led to Carino's.
"I'm sure it's on the other side of the park," Rafe insisted.
"No, I think it was on Riverside," Henri disagreed.
Impatient and hungry, Jim decided to try smelling for the food. He had barely had the thought when he was slammed with a familiar stench. Almost immediately, he was falling into the swirling void of a zoneout.
BT felt Jim suddenly tighten with tension. Glancing up, he realized that the sentinel was barely breathing. "Jim? Jim, can you hear me?" Urgently, he grabbed his older friend's arm, catching the attention of the other two men.
Amazingly, Jim heard the soft, urgent voice. He latched on to it, following the sound back to the world around him. Shaking his head, he discovered three worried pairs of eyes on him. As Rafe opened his mouth to speak, Jim announced tersely, "I smell Roaches!"
As the startled trio paused, Jim dashed across the street into the park. Instantly, the other three ran after him.
"Daddy, are there tuxer birds up where we are going?"
Nash was about to reply when he was grabbed from behind. He immediately swung an elbow into the face above him, but the man had a few inches on him and several pounds. Damn, this bastard is huge.
"DADDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Cassidy screamed as she was shoved roughly into the bushes.
"DADDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" The scream nearly overpowered the untrained sentinel's ears as he tried to find the threat. The thought of the Roaches after a child sent a wave of anger through him. He could not allow that to happen, not while he was alive and breathing. He quickly turned towards the scream, barely aware of his team behind him.
Breaking through the brush onto a path, Ellison spotted a large man injecting the contents of a syringe into the struggling man he held. A second large man was walking towards the others. However, while Jim's eyes said 'man', his subconscious mind yelled 'Roach'. Reacting, Ellison raced over, meeting the second man half-way. Ducking under a swing, Jim punched the man in the shoulder as he would with a Roach. While the blow would not have seriously hurt a tough man, this one fell as if Ellison had hit him in the groin. Another blow to the chest, and
the man was down.
As Ellison fought, Janson and Brown raced over to the abductor and his victim. The perp tried at first to run with the unconscious man. Then he shoved the man at them, turning to disappear in the brush. Brown continued to chase him, as Janson caught the victim and gently lowered him to the ground.
BT, breathing hard from trying to keep up with his larger, healthier friends, paused on the path. He spotted a struggling, crying girl, her blue sweater tangled in the thorny brush. Quickly, he trotted over to her. "Easy, there," he wheezed, still trying to catch his breath.
"They're hurting my Dad!" the girl shouted, trying to tug her arm out of her sweater.
"Easy." BT took a quick glance back, spotting Rafe with an older man. "I think he's safe. My friends have rescued him."
"He's okay?" The girl twisted, trying to see. Tears streamed down her face.
"Let's get you out of this bush and you can see for yourself," BT soothed, burying his own fears in order to calm the girl. "Are you hurt?"
Looking up into the warm blue eyes, Cassidy took a shaky gulp of air. He looked trustworthy enough. "I'm okay. I just want to see my Dad."
While keeping an eye on the man that smelled like a Roach, Ellison called over to Janson. "How is he?"
"I think the drug just knocked him out."
Suddenly, the abductor yanked out a knife. Before Ellison could move, the man slashed his own throat. Florescent orange fluid ran out as the creature died.
"Oh, God," Rafe whispered in shock, watching Roach blood flow out of a human body. BT turned, then immediately shielded the sight from the girl as he himself turned paler.
Jim was not surprised at what his senses had been telling him all along, but it scared him in another way. If Roaches could look like humans, how were they ever going to be safe?
Sheree carefully pulled a book off her mentor's self. She had thought she had seen it a while back. Lightly, she ran her fingers over the title, 'A Common Doctor's Guide to Sentinel Medicine'. Hopefully, it would provide her with some answers. What little she knew on the subject only made her hesitant to treat Jim.
"Hi Sheree," Dr. Mark Sloan called out as he entered his office.
"Hi Mark," Sheree turned, nonchalantly placing the book behind her. Even if she could lie to the dear man, she didn't think she could come up with a believable one.
However, Mark's white head was down, intent on studying the papers he was holding. "I have some preliminary results on your Mr. BT."
"What did you find?" Sheree asked eagerly.
"His body chemistry is still off, probably due to those interrogation drugs." Mark slowly shook his head. "That must have been a wicked combination they gave him. I'm also guessing that the head injury came a day or two before the drugs."
"You're kidding," Sheree stated slowly. "That injury was pretty severe, Mark. How did those creatures expect him to give information in that condition?"
"The Roaches don't care to learn about human limitations, because we are not worth it. They only care about their own needs." For a moment, Mark's age shone through his normally youthful face. Then he shook it off. "The only up side is that I doubt they succeeded in this case. It is unlikely the young man was coherent enough to give them any answers."
Sheree sadly shook her head. "He is such a good-hearted young man. He didn't deserve this kind of treatment and he is still suffering. Those headaches are so debilitating."
"We are still waiting on some results for those. I suspect they should gradually ease as he grows stronger. Perhaps if he was to stay in a long-term facility with therapy, he would progress faster."
"That won't happen," Sheree stated with a rueful smile. "His temporary guardian nearly bit my head off when I suggested it."
Sheree sighed. "Captain Ellison is the camp survivor who managed to escape. Just before he was found by Banks' patrol, he fractured both legs and cracked several ribs. With no home or family to look after him, he was placed in long-term care to recover. Apparently, it was one of those overworked, overcrowded facilities. By the time his friends found him, he was badly neglected and malnourished. There is no way he'd let BT anywhere near one."
Mark shook his head sadly at the thought of such bad care. "I noticed he was rather protective of the young man."
"Henri says that BT is around the same age as Jim's brother when he died in the camps."
"That would explain it." Mark paused a moment. "Some interesting reading, there."
Sheree followed Mark's eyes to the book she had forgotten was in her hands. "Oh! Well, yes, well, it is suppose to be fairly isolated where I'm going, and I thought it would be a good read." Sheree knew that wasn't going to fly from the hint of disbelief on her mentor's face. She'd seen that look before.
"You know, I have never known you to read anything that you didn't have an immediate use for. Now, why would you have a need for that particular book?"
Sheree quietly studied the kind doctor who had helped her so much. "Okay, hypothetical question: What would you do if you discovered that among your patients is a developing Sentinel?"
Mark's eyes narrowed for a second on his former student, then sat on the corner of his desk. "Hypothetically, I'd first be cheering with joy."
Mark chuckled at the look on Sheree's face. "The town I had my first practice in was protected by a Sentinel/guide pair. Both were very fine men. I always felt safe, knowing they were there. Feeling safe is becoming a rare quantity now-a-days."
Sheree's eyes widened. Mark was familiar with sentinels? She just barely stopped herself from asking all the questions she had that in turn would betray Jim's secret.
"Now, however, I can see the problem. Back then, whenever I had to treat Dickens, I just had to consult with his guide Tom, or in a worse case situation, called back to the Center. Tell me, does this hypothetical sentinel have a guide?"
Sheree rolled her eyes at Mark's innocent look. She knew she'd never get away with this. "No, the hypothetical sentinel does not have a guide. The hypothetical sentinel barely knows what to do with his gifts as it is."
Mark frowned. "That wouldn't be good. A sentinel can be a very powerful ally, but the gifts can make him very vulnerable if there isn't a guide to watch out for him."
"Unfortunately, the hypothetical sentinel doesn't have many options with the Center gone."
"Very true," Mark commented. Sheree could already see the sharp mind making connections behind the facade of a simple man. "Too bad BT is so young. It seems that Captain Ellison has bonded quite quickly with him."
"Huh?" Sheree's mind bent in three different directions, trying to process her mentor's last comment. "Mark, how ...well, is it that obvious?"
He laughed. "How did I know Ellison is your sentinel? His alertness and his protectiveness over BT. I swear that is just how Dickens would act when I was working on Tom. It is only obvious because I have had experience with sentinels. Even then, I doubt I would have put it together if you hadn't mentioned the possibility. People believe that we no longer have sentinels to protect us, so we don't look for them." Mark paused in thought for a moment. "I wonder how many other latent sentinels may be running around?"
"Well, from what Henri says, it doesn't do Jim much good without a guide," Sheree pointed out. "What did you mean about BT being too young? What makes you think BT's a guide in the first place?"
"To answer your first question, guides were usually older than their sentinels because of the amount of education they needed. Tom was a good five years older than Dickens."
"But now, there is no education programs for guides," Sheree pointed out. "Would the same rules apply?"
Mark shrugged. "I honestly don't know. While the sentinel talent laid more in the physical, with his senses and his physical training, the guide's was more scholarly and emotional. They had to not only learn a tremendous amount of information, they had to be able to use it. Just like med students," Mark flashed a smile at his former student.
"What makes you think that BT might be one?" Sheree persisted.
"He strikes me as both intelligent and compassionate. You should have seen him calming a child with a broken arm while waiting for his own scan. I wondered at the time whether he might be a pre-med, and if not, whether I could sign him up." He and Sheree shared a wealth of memories in their eyes. "But the dead give-away is how your Captain Ellison is with him. Sentinels tend to be protective towards their people anyway, but it is more intense when their guide is hurt. Captain Ellison fits my profile of a sentinel with a seriously sick or injured guide to perfection."
"But Mark, BT can't even remember his own name right now. The Center was destroyed before his birth. How can he be a guide?"
Mark shrugged. "How can Captain Ellison be a sentinel? Sometimes, my dear, things just have a way of working out. All a good doctor can do is stand back and hope for the best."
Joel watched each floor number brighten in succession as the elevator slowly climbed. The tension, which began the instant he had read the message about Jim's Roaches, tightened his body. Then the slim arm around his waist squeezed him. Joel looked down into his wife's almond-shaped eyes. Ariel gave him an encouraging smile, then tucked her dark, curly head back into his shoulder. He squeezed her back, rubbing the creamy brown skin of her arm, again grateful to have this delightful, exotic woman in his life. He just hoped she was still safe from the Roaches here.
The elevator dinged, opening up onto the chaos on the hospital's tenth floor. Joel, Ariel still by his side, quickly spotted Rafe and BT off to the left. BT was sitting, head down, leaning forward with his arms resting on his thighs. Rafe's arm was draped protectively around the younger man's shoulders, softly talking to him. When Rafe glanced to see who had arrived, Joel was struck by how pale Rafe looked. Damn, Rafe didn't look much better than BT. Did something happen to Ellison?
"Hey, you two," Joel said comfortingly, bending his large frame next to them.
Rafe smiled faintly in greeting. "Hi Joel, hi Ariel. Sorry to drag you two away from your plans."
"No problem," Ariel replied with a smile. She had learned early that her husband's line of work often involved sudden changes. Besides, as a former Clarian refugee, she had always had a soft spot for Janson and Ellison. She quickly studied the other young man she had heard so much about.
"You okay, BT?" Joel softly asked, concerned.
BT shrugged his shoulders, and gave him a weak smile. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just got a little dizzy."
"You passed out," Rafe corrected sternly. He turned to Joel. "He didn't have breakfast this morning due to the blood tests they wanted to run. Then with all the excitement, we missed lunch."
Ariel frowned. "Then maybe you two should eat something." Joel was right, BT was way too skinny. A quick glance also confirmed that Joel needed to speak with his teammates alone. "I think the cafeteria is just a couple floors down. I'll run down and pick something up."
"I'm not..." BT began.
"Thanks, Ariel," Rafe stated over him, giving the older woman a grateful smile.
As soon as Ariel was in the elevator, Joel glanced around to make sure no one was paying attention to them. Then he demanded to know what had happened. Rafe, with bits from BT, quickly filled in him. Joel barely contained his shudder. Now they had Roaches that looked like humans? No wonder Rafe looked so pale. The only saving grace was that Jim could smell them.
"The doctors say that Dr. Branson, the guy we saved, was injected with some pretty powerful sedatives. They don't expect him to wake up for at least another couple hours."
"Dr. Nash Branson?" Joel asked, stunned.
Rafe and BT exchanged looks. "Yes," Rafe confirmed. "Do you know him?"
Joel shrugged, "I briefly met him through one of Ariel's friends a while back." Glancing around at the excitement behind him, Joel asked, "What is going on now?"
"Soon after we came here, Cassidy called a friend of her father's, then a group of people started showing up," BT explained.
"Plus, Jim and Henri are talking with the Major and the local police and I think some of the local guard are filtering in as well. I don't think anyone has a procedure for covering this," Rafe explained ruefully.
Joel ran his hand over his face. No, the last thing anyone expected was a Roach that looked like a human in the middle of Manhaven. The higher-ups must be having a cow some where.
"Hey Sport, I thought you might like some juice," a warm voice stated as someone approached. Joel turned to see a man with brown curly hair sprinkled with gray, carrying a glass.
"Harvey?" Joel asked in surprise.
"Joel? Hey man, what are you doing here?" Harvey handed the glass to the pale young man and turned to his friend.
"These two are part of my unit," Joel explained. Seeing the puzzled looks on Rafe's and BT's faces, he continued, "Harv, this is Rafe Janson and BT. Guys, this is Harvey Lane. He's the young seaman whose yacht brought Ariel and the girls safely over from Claria."
A light turned on behind Harvey's eyes during the introductions, but he returned with a smile, "My last sea voyage and the most worthwhile." He studied BT a moment. "How are you feeling now?"
"Kinda stupid," BT mumbled, staring at the floor.
Harvey chuckled. "I can understand that, though you have nothing to feel stupid about. Cassidy is singing your praises to Inger about how you rescued her from the bush. We are pretty grateful to you. To all of you,' as he included Rafe.
"Just in the right place at the right time," Rafe returned, slightly embarrassed. He turned back to BT. "Drink up. It will do you good."
As BT sighed and took a sip, Joel nodded to Harvey and the two slipped into a corner. "What's going on?" Joel softly asked.
"Chaos," Harvey stated grimly. "Nobody is quite sure what to do. Hell, if it wasn't for the body, I'm not sure how many would believe this story. The really weird part though, is that our work group is scheduled to be relocated next week because of the mysterious disappearances. Guess we now know how they do it."
"Yeah, we are up for security detail due to the increase risk to science groups," Joel added, thinking hard. "I hadn't realized you guys were doing anything that sensitive."
Harvey shrugged. "Well, our work has made a few subtle shifts recently. Jeff MacGregor's group was placed on one of the projects hit during the Sealand attack, which resulted in us being upgraded and placed on one of theirs. Harvey glanced back at Rafe and BT. "Speaking of which, is that the kid you wanted me to check the refugee records for?"
Joel nodded. "Yeah. He regained his voice a couple days ago, but other than some vague dreams, he still doesn't remember anything prior to waking up in the med center."
Harvey studied him another moment. "He looks like he might be from one of the East end communes, though those big blue eyes are a bit different. Unfortunately, most of my contacts are from the West end pleasure resort areas."
"So you don't think you can trace him?" Joel spotted Ariel reenter the room, carrying a tray with sandwiches, soup and cookies.
"Hard to say. The East end was hit first, forcing all the survivors to the West end to escape. That whole evacuation scene was Hell. Too many people were fighting to get onto too few boats. Finally, the children were simply shoved into any corner of a boat they could squeeze into. My craft normally held 30 people. I took 83, mostly children and young mothers. My captain even jumped off so that two more children could be loaded on." Harvey sadly thought back on his mentor's heroic deed. "It was just as bad when we reached the other side. With statcus starting to hit, everyone was worried we were contagious. We were crammed into tent cities for several weeks before they determined it was caused by contaminated water. There were so many orphan children running around scared. I kept an eye on the ones I brought over, with help from Ariel and a couple of the other women, but that whole scene was a logistical nightmare. Lots of kids were lost in the cracks."
Joel shook his head. Ariel had told him about the tent cities. With her skills as an apprentice chef, she had been among the first groups allowed out. She had taken her baby girl Lily and a three-year-old named Tabby with her. Tabby's grandmother had begged her to look after the child as Ariel waited to climb onto Harvey's boat. Joel shuddered thinking of his dear stepdaughter by herself in the tents. Did a nine- or ten-year-old BT have anyone to look after him then? Was he looking out for a younger Sam as well?
At that moment, Major Banks with Ellison and Brown made their way through the crowd. Seeing the Major wave him over, Taggart quickly said good-bye to Harvey and joined his team.
"I just got a call from the Colonel," Simon began. "Plans have changed. First, all relocation timetables have been moved up. We leave tomorrow morning to set up the security at the new base. "
"But Major, maybe I could help these guys search for the other Roach," Ellison pointed out.
"No," Banks ordered softly but firmly. "You can not sniff every man, woman and child in Manhaven looking for a Roach. We both know you're not ready for that yet."
Ellison was about to argue until he saw BT's pale face. True, they weren't ready yet. The doctors that morning had said BT may have a chance at full recovery, if the young man was given time to take it easy and continue to heal. Chasing around with an untrained sentinel
searching for the humans' worst enemy was not taking it easy.
"We have also been reassigned. It is felt that since you have gained the trust of the Branson research team, it will make the transition period go smoother if we are assigned as their security. Their team will join us in a couple days." Simon looked into the faces of each of his men. Much had happened in the last few hours, changing their world drastically, perhaps forever. "Now, let's get moving, people."
Next day, another city
"Damn it, they moved up the Branson group departure!" Accountant Michaelson's voice roared across the small office. In the corner, a young man winced. That tone didn't bode well for the afternoon.
"Moved it up? But aren't we suppose to audit them next week?" whined the secretary. Leesa hated anything that meant more work.
"What, are they AFRAID of the Roaches or something?" Griffin sneered. Griffin had an even lower opinion of the 'cowardly' scientists than Michaelson, who hated anyone who didn't understand the fine art of accounting.
"Well, it is rumored that Dr. Branson was nearly kidnapped," Leesa piped up. She loved hearing and spreading gossip.
The young man's head lifted. Oh God, no. Not another one.
"Well, the Roaches must be slipping, because he's still here. Only now we'll have to track him down Lord knows where to audit his project! Why we are spending money on that one at all is beyond me."
Lifeboat. Son, there is always a chance we'll lose this war. If that is the case, there is only one place left to retreat. But don't worry, we don't plan to lose. Lifeboat is like option Y on the list. God, are we running out of options that quickly?
"MAXWELL! Aren't you done with those packages yet? You are so SLOW, boy."
Three days later, Science Base Delta
Ellison stopped a moment, watching BT testing security nodes. The kid had swiftly picked up on how to connect the nodes, using the black box to check them and set the switches. In fact, the team had been impressed at how quickly BT picked up on the electronics of the entire security system. Thanks to their new team member, they were well ahead of schedule. Just what did you do before? Dr. Mike says psychology. Sheree guesses pre-med. Yet you take to wires and circuits like a fish to water. What kind of a life have you led, kid?
At least the nightmares were easing. Both BT and Rafe had awakened him during the first two nights after finding the human-like Roach. Jim hadn't dared tell either that his own sleep was filled with friends suddenly changing into Roaches. At least this remote base felt safe. Jim vowed to smell each newcomer individually, to make sure everyone in their midst were as human as they looked. Starting with the scientists and tech people arriving today.
"Hey Ellison, will you help me move this console?" Brown shouted. With a last glance at the blissfully occupied BT, Jim left the room to find Henri.
The box made a snorting buzz as BT connected it to the node. Hmm, what's wrong with you, little guy? Looking up, he realized he was alone in the room. Oh well, where did Jim put that toolbox? Searching the room with his eyes, BT spied the open box, contents scattered around it. Grabbing a couple of screw drivers, he turned back to the node.
A few minutes later, he was smiling as the node finally tested properly. Picking up the metal casing, BT started turning it, trying to remember how it fit. Sam, why did you have to design this thing so tight? Wait a minute... where did that thought come from?
However, his musing was rudely interrupted by a shout. "HEY! What do you think you are doing!?!" BT jumped up from the floor, pieces of node in his hands, face to face with a big man yelling at him. "You are NOT suppose to touch these boxes! They are only to be opened by certified techs!"
"But I was just..."
"This is an expensive and complicated piece of equipment. It is probably shot to hell now, thanks to you." BT took a step back from the man's wrath.
"Are you picking fights with the locals again, Bettina?" BT looked up to see that Dr. Branson had entered the room, along with Joel's friend Harvey and a younger dark-haired man about BT's age.
"Nash, this kid tore apart one of the security nodes. You know the rules state that only an authorized tech can touch these!"
BT tried not to shiver. He thought he had fixed it. Would he be forbidden from working on the system now? He didn't resist when the dark-haired man took the node, too scared to notice his kind brown eyes.
"Hey! Back off!" A large hand grasped his shoulder reassuringly in spite of the bark. The cavalry had arrived in the form of Jim Ellison.
"What kind of an operation are you running here?" The big man was in a full rampage now.
"We are your security," the Major stated firmly from behind BT. "Is there a problem?"
"Bettina, shut up," Nash told him firmly. He turned to the large men backing the scared kid in front of him. "There just seems to be some confusion on procedures." He gave the kid a warm smile. Damn, he looked half sick. "I'm Nash Branson, leader of this project." He held out his hand to the tall, dark man who seemed to be in charge.
Simon shook the hand. "I'm Major Simon Banks, I head the security detail. This is my second officer, Captain Ellison, and our budding electronics genius is BT."
Nash's eyes narrowed a moment. "Then I not only owe you an apology, but my gratitude. You were the ones who saved my daughter and I the other day."
"That's right," Ellison stated, trying not to growl. Every one of his protective hackles had raised when he had heard the other man hassling BT. It was hard to turn them back down. One hand firmly grasping BT's shoulder, he discretely sniffed the air. Only human smells, thank God.
"What is the problem?" Banks asked reasonably.
"Well, these security nodes are rather complicated," Harvey explained, carefully studying BT. "Not too many people understand how they work, so our group is under orders to leave them alone."
BT blinked. They weren't THAT complicated. "I'm sorry, I was just fixing it."
Nash chuckled. "That's okay. We know you were only trying to help."
"He did fix it."
Startled, Nash turned back to his assistant. "What?"
"He fixed it." Flipping the case over to check the id number, he continued, "Harv, this is our old friend, D1TD0T."
"Ditdot? You're kidding?" Harvey turned back to address his boss. "Nash, that node has given Evan and I fits from the start. We planned to ship it back, but it must have been tossed in by mistake during the packing rush."
"You fixed it?" Nash turned back to the young man trying to find a way to hide. "When did you learn about security nodes? Are you a tech?"
"I don't know..." BT stated softly, not sure what to do.
Before Ellison could defend him, Harv jumped in, "It's okay, BT. Good work. Maybe once we're set up, you can work with us a little." Harv flashed Nash a hidden sign, indicating he'd explain later.
Nash was quick on the uptake. "Sounds like a plan to me. We can use some help around here. What do you say?"
"Okay," BT quietly responded. Dr. Branson and the other two seemed all right. He would like to see what they were working on.
"Now that that's settled, we need to work on the command center. Nice meeting you, Dr. Branson. Hopefully, we can talk this afternoon." Simon led his men through the door.
"Sounds good," Nash called back. Once they were gone, he turned to Harvey. "Okay, what's going on here?"
One week later, another city
"Well, little orphy, you have the right attire in that bag?"
The young man couldn't prevent the eye roll, though he held enough control not to slam a fist into Griffin's face as he walked past him. Since turning down Griffin's pass the first week, the man had done everything he could to aggravate the teenager. He would love, at the very least, to tell the huge man where to shove it. But that would not be in keeping with a scared refugee kid trying to hang on to his job. Damn, he never dreamed that acting like a meek office boy would be so hard. He hated the annoying nickname Griffin gave him. Maybe because it's true; Maybe I am an orphan. He immediately shoved that thought away, refusing to think that way. Dad had to be alive.
He slipped his light duffel in next to the crates of paperwork he had loaded earlier. Of course, neither Griffin nor Michaelson helped. There were times he wasn't sure who he wanted to be the traitor. Then there was times he wasn't sure if either were the one.
But not now. There had been too many coincidences, the timing too convenient. One of these men was betraying their own people to the Roaches. He just had to catch them in the act before another scientist became a target.
Science Base Delta
"Is that it for the acquisitions list?" Joe Domingez asked, searching the faces around the table. It was his first chance to have all of the heads of the facility and their seconds in one room. He knew Nash and his science team well, since his wife Inger was on it. However, he hadn't been able to talk with Dr. Jackson, Major Banks, or Captain Ellison. So far, he was impressed. He felt safer already.
"If that's it, we need to..." Nash began.
"No, one more thing," Joe jumped back in. "I just found out that auditor Michaelson and his people are coming for a visit in a couple days." Joe barely controlled a shudder.
"Damn," Nash muttered. "That guy's becoming a real pain."
"An auditor? Already?" Banks asked in disbelief.
Nash shrugged. "Michaelson's life mission is to find waste and root out all violations of accounting procedures. He seems to think we're a prime candidate. They were going to check us out before we came here, but things were shuffled."
"How many people are we talking here?" Ellison asked. He had personally met every one of the 118 people currently residing at the base, double-checking by scent that they were human. As a by-product, he now felt somehow responsible for their safety. Maybe it was a sentinel thing. Still, he planned to continue the checks if he could.
"Three or four, I think," Joe stated thoughtfully. "Michaelson and his assistant auditor for certain. Probably his secretary and his gopher as well."
Harvey shifted in his seat, a frown on his face. Catching the look, Nash said, "Wait a minute. Harv, was this the guy you thought might be mistreating the kid working for him?"
Harv shrugged. "Maybe." Seeing the puzzled looks from Banks and Ellison, he continued, "Teenaged refugee kids are often taken in by businessmen as cheap labor. With little or no parental backing, they can be overworked and underpaid. Yet they're too scared of losing their sole means of support to complain. Sometimes it can even get to the point of verbal and physical abuse."
"Abuse? Don't the agencies keep an eye on that?" Sheree asked.
"Too many refugees, not enough manpower," Harvey pointed out. "It's been happening since the Clarian invasion and it only seems to get worse."
"And you suspect this with Michaelson?" Simon asked slowly. He had rescued too many refugees not to realize how vulnerable they could be.
"Let's just say I interrupted a situation that I thought looked suspicious, but not enough to write up."
"And I've learned to listen to Harvey's suspicions. Hell, that's how we got Evan." Nash paused, remembering the eager-to-please teen they had taken in only a few years ago who was now growing into a top-notch scientist.
The Major and Captain exchanged their own looks. "All right, we will pass the message on to the rest of the unit. If we spot anything suspicious, we'll see what we can do."
After discussing a few more topics, the meeting was dismissed. As everyone shuffled out, Jim worked his way over to Harvey. "Hey Lane, how did BT do this morning?"
Overhearing the question, Nash answered. "That kid is great. He really knows computer systems."
"Any headaches?" Jim questioned. He hadn't seen his friend since that morning, trying not to hover over him like some weird mother hen. He still worried, though.
"No, he was doing fine," Harvey replied. "Evan made sure he took breaks and ate lunch."
"Good." That meant that Jim didn't have to force the kid to the med center. Jim hated to see those blue eyes filled with pain.
"Oh, by the way," Harv added, "Evan and I did a little checking into whether any of the security nodes techs are missing. There were two from Sealand, but one was a woman and the other a 45-year-old man."
"Damn," Jim whispered, clenching his jaw. It seemed like every possible lead they had turned into a dead end. Even the Keegan Jeffery lead ended when Dr. Mike reported Jeffery was said to have had no heirs. No known heirs, anyway.
"We're still looking," Harvey was quick to add. "Evan suggested that BT might be known to the nodes' designers, so we are trying to dig up which group it came out of."
"Thanks," Jim replied. It was amazing how quickly people took up the young man's cause.
Nash waved him off. "No problem. He's a good kid."
As Branson and Lane turned to the science labs, Sheree caught up with Ellison. "Did I hear that they were doing some checking on BT?"
"Yeah, but no luck so far," Jim replied.
"That's too bad." Sheree checked to make sure the hall was empty. "Jim, have you ever considered that BT might be a guide?"
Jim stopped, turning to the doctor with a blank expression. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Sheree hesitated, then plunged in. "I picked up a book from my mentor in Manhaven on sentinel medicine."
Jim gave her a resigned look. "In order to treat me?" He felt weird that she would have to go to such trouble to help him. Nor did he like the thought that he wasn't normal like everyone else. He turned towards the main security center, hiding his dismay behind his impassive face.
"Of course," Sheree replied, trying to keep up with Jim's long-legged stride. "Just like I would with anyone else under my care with special needs."
Jim sighed. Great, now he had 'special needs'. "Okay, but what does this have to do with BT?"
"The book gives a little background on sentinels and guides, including a profile used to pick out potential guides. BT fits the description in all but the Center's training program and his age."
"His age?" Jim repeated, puzzled.
Sheree shrugged. "The book says that young sentinels were always introduced to older guides in hopes they'd bond. Supposedly, the additional years provide the guide with the extra experience, maturity, and education he needs to handle a sentinel. Thus, they tried to pair a sentinel with a guide three to five years older."
"Keegan was five years younger than Harry."
Sheree and Jim stopped in surprise, looking at BT who had silently joined them in time to hear Sheree's last statement. "Really?" Jim asked, casually beginning to walk again. BT's headaches lately were usually preceded by BT pushing his memory, so Jim didn't want him to push.
"Yeah," BT fell into step alongside them. "Actually, the Center tried to pair Harry with an older guide, but he just didn't bond with anyone. Then one day, Harry was jogging through a park when he heard a little girl scream. She'd been playing with her puppy and fell into the river. Harry was soon joined in the rescue efforts by Keegan, who was in the park reading his books for class. By the time they delivered the little girl to her mother, Harry knew Keegan was the one."
Just like that. Jim realized that was how he felt about BT.
"Just like that?" Sheree questioned in amazement. "What did Keegan say?"
BT chuckled. "He wasn't too sure at first. It wasn't suppose to happen that way, plus the Center was really upset that one of their strongest sentinels would chose a kid only half-way through his guide training. Harry flat-out told them that it was Keegan or he would leave the guild. Since leaving the guild was practically unheard of, they relented. They apparently gave Keegan a hard time during the rest of his schooling, though."
"How do you know this, BT? Your dreams?" Sheree asked.
BT paused. "Yeah, I think so. I know the story of how they met. Not sure about the rest of it, though."
Sheree and Jim traded glances. Other than stories, where would BT learn it? Jim shoved the question to the side for now. "Hey, weren't you going to show me how to work those monitors?"
Two days later, Science Base Delta
After the narrow tunnel entrance, the young man was surprised when it opened into the huge cavern. Slipping out of the land vehicle, he stared at the tall stone walls that curved over him. Part of this had to be natural. He couldn't see how else the builders had cut out such a large cavern in so short a time. Lights above blazed to illuminate the cluster of buildings ahead.
"Stop gawking, Maxwell, and get the gear." He winced at the angry tone. Michaelson's mood had grown worse during the drive here. This was not going to be a fun trip.
At the inside gate, Rafe had been studying the group as Nichols called up to the main control to report the day-early arrival of the accountants. Something about the whole situation made Rafe uneasy, but he couldn't pinpoint why. Then he noticed the kid in his late teens wince. Remembering the Major's briefing, he decided he'd better check it out. Gesturing to Nichols that she should stay at the gate controls and monitors, Rafe stepped out of the guard building.
The young man unlocked the trunk, sighing at the load inside that Michaelson would want as soon as possible. Glancing over the vehicle roof, he noticed a tall, broad shouldered white man in his twenties approach. The man was wearing the drab greens of the military, probably security. Grabbing Michaelson's briefcase and the form box, the young man carried the items to his boss.
"We need to see the facilities, then meet with your accountant as soon as possible," Michaelson demanded in his most authoritative voice.
The young man had to struggle not to smile when the security officer didn't seem the least bit phased. "Your hosts are on their way down now. Since you were scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning, the members of the party will need a few minutes to reach the gate. In the meantime, I will need to check your papers again." The patch on the officer's left shoulder showed a large black cat in mid-leap, claws outstretched. Not just security then, but one of the military units stationed to protect the projects.
Michaelson glared at the officer as he handed over the papers. Griffin was looking around the complex with a mixture of disgust and boredom. Leeza was studying the attractive guard with lustful eyes, probably wondering how she could get some time alone with him. Oh yes, his group really knew how to make an impression. Then his boss noticed him. "About time, Maxwell," Michaelson snarled as he grabbed the briefcase.
Just then, Mr. Domingez arrived nearly out of breath, followed by a large black man with a round face wearing a uniform matching the first guard. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Michaelson."
"You should be," Michaelson practically snapped. "We have wasted valuable time coming all the way out here." The second guard briefly raised an eyebrow, which was met with a swift eye-roll by the first. Oh yeah, they love us already.
"If you follow me, we have a room for you to set up in. Then Dr. Branson can give you a tour of the facilities." Poor Mr. Domingez was practically vibrating with tension. Considering the near-disasters of the last audit, that wasn't too surprising.
"Maxwell! Grab the office supplies." Michaelson, Griffin and Leeza followed Mr. Domingez, leaving the gopher to handle the bags alone.
A fact not lost on Rafe. No wonder Lane suspected mistreatment. "Here, let me give you a hand." He stooped over, picking up one of the boxes. It was heavy. "What are you guys carrying in here? Rocks?" That kid must be stronger than he looks if he was used to carrying this stuff.
The young man chuckled, "Yeah, it's amazing how heavy paperwork can be." He swung a large bag over his shoulder, and picked up another box. Following the guard, he absently answered questions about the trip as he studied the base. The nicest part was a large courtyard area. Grow lights lined the walls and walkway, nourishing beds of flowers and plants. Suddenly, he dropped the box.
"You okay?" Rafe turned around, noting just how pale the kid looked. He wondered when the teen had last ate.
"I'm fine," he replied, trying to keep the tremble out of his voice. Kneeling down to pick up the lid and the pile of papers that had spilled out, he took another glance at the slim figure sitting on a bench reading. Oh God, it can't be. He looks so thin and pale. But it is him. How? Then he mentally shook himself. Get it together. You're so close. You can't blow your cover now.
Rafe waited until the kid had picked up the box again, then continued to the room. Helping the kid unload the boxes, he glanced over his shoulder to where Domingez was talking with the accountants, suggesting lunch and bragging about Ariel's cooking to lighten the mood. Rafe then softly tapped the young man on the shoulder. "My name is Lt. Rafe Janson," he whispered. "If you need anything, let me know."
"Thanks." Maxwell gave him a quiet smile, then scurried off to follow his group. Rafe shook his head. The kid was about the same age he had been after getting out of the camps. Rafe again felt a surge of gratitude towards the Pendergrasts. But for them, Jim, and the grace of God, he could have landed in a similar situation. Or else have volunteered for the first available suicide mission.
Finishing the book he'd borrowed, BT sighed in boredom. While he wished he could go with Jim on his morning watches, both Jim and Sheree had vetoed the idea. True, he wasn't really up to covering Jim's six mile route in the time he did it. However, he was worried about the sentinel. What if something happened that caused Jim to zone? Jim didn't seem to know when the senses would turn on. In fact, Jim didn't seem to have any control of the senses at all. Standing up, BT started to walk. Somehow, he knew that he could help Jim if he'd just regain his memory and health. While BT felt he would eventually be able to cover the walks with Jim, the memory problem was a lot more iffy.
Pondering his dark thoughts, BT wandered into Evan and Harv's workshop area. He enjoyed spending time with the two men, laughing at their jokes and helping them to install their equipment. They always welcomed him, easily including him into whatever they were doing. It never occurred to BT that his knowledge allowed him to fit in and help them.
Harvey and Evan were standing around their worktable, studying plans Dr. Branson had just rolled out. BT paused, debating on whether to slip back out. However, Dr. Branson had spotted him. "Well hi, BT," he called out warmly. "You want to see what we're working on?"
Intrigued, BT walked up to the table and glanced down at the plans. A long, round modular stretched across the paper. In his mind's eye, BT instinctively knew that this thing would be massive, would rotate slowly to produce a light gravity and keep the skin cool. That this, this ship...
A tall, lanky man with light brown hair and sparkling brown eyes unrolled the paper out on the dinning room table. "I have something I want you boys to look at," the familiar warm baritone voice declared. "It's a project call..."
"Lifeboat," BT whispered.
Nash, Harv, and Evan gave each other startled glances. No one else outside the science team knew what they were working on. "Have you seen this before, BT?" Evan asked.
BT was rubbing his eyes and forehead, trying to grasp the elusive memory. "Someone showed it to me."
"Do you remember who? Where?" Harvey questioned, wondering who it could have been.
BT finally shook his head. "I can vaguely see him. I'm not sure who he is, though." The one who told me Keegan stories, but I'll save that bit for Jim later. Looking up, he noticed the intense scrutiny from the three scientists. "I'm sorry."
Nash gently wrapped his hand around the young man's neck. Massaging the tense muscles there, he assured him, "That's okay, kid. It'll come back. You just have to give it time."
BT struggled to give him a smile. "People keep telling me that. I'm just not sure I believe them."
"Believe it," Nash lightly ordered. "Now, what do you think of our plans?"
BT returned to studying the plans. "Hey, what happened to the stationary solar panel ring?"
"Huh?" Evan questioned.
"What solar panel ring?" Harvey asked. "Did you ever see a ring, Nash?"
Nash tried to hide a smile. "No, but why don't you tell us about it, BT."
Mike Andrews was concentrating hard on the book in his hands. While it seemed that Keegan Jeffery had no heirs, he still hadn't given up on the idea that there was some connection to the legendary guide and Ellison's potential one. After much digging, he had finally come up with a dusty old book discussing sentinel and guide lineage. Surely there had to be a clue here somewhere.
Tess Colton walked into the Human Services department. The large black woman was hoping that with the lunch hour, she could slip through the central room to her office and not receive the pitying and worried looks from her employees. Though her heart was still suspended between grief and denial, she was tired of being treated like fragile glass. She had to continue on, to get back into the fight. She may have lost loved ones, but there were still so many others who needed help.
Looking around, she discovered the desks and chairs empty, except for Andrews in the corner. Mike was a good man, quiet yet strong. He was also the type to forget about little things like eating and sleeping when he was working on something important. Just like another dear boy she had recently lost. She hadn't been keeping informed on Mike's work load like she normally did. Better see what he was doing, and make sure he remembered to eat.
The greeting she'd planned died upon her lips when she caught sight of the book title. "Andrews, why on Roachia are you reading a book on sentinel lineage?"
Mike jumped, then recognized his superior. "Oh, hi Tess. Didn't hear you come over."
"Apparently not," she replied with faint amusement. It warmed Mike's heart to see the beginning of the smile that had been missing for nearly three months. "But you didn't answer my question."
"Oh, um," Mike pulled his thoughts together, so that he could explain to Tess without revealing Jim's secret. "It's due to a case I've been asked to help with. The Panthers S&R unit rescued a young man a few months back from the Roachians. He's had a long recovery, due to the
traumatic injuries and the interrogation drugs used on him."
"Interrogation drugs?" Tess questioned, sitting in a nearby chair. "The Roachians only use them in special cases. What did they want?"
"That's the question. The young man has lost his memory and we haven't been able to identify him."
"So you are looking at sentinel lineage? Isn't that being a little too thorough?"
"Well, he has been having dreams of someone telling him 'Keegan' stories, about the man who guided Harry McHahn, so I thought...Tess?"
Tess' face had turned gray, eyes round with shock. "Mike, WHERE was the young man found?"
"Sealand, a few days after the invasion," Mike answered slowly. "Why? What's wrong?"
Tess leaned over Mike's desk to stare intensely into his eyes. "Do you have a photograph of this young man?"
Puzzled, Mike opened his file on BT and pulled out a picture.
Tess stared at the photo for a few minutes, then lightly ran a finger over the face. "It's a miracle," she whispered softly, tears beginning to flow down her face. "He's alive."
Science Base Delta
He barely heard the tour being give by Dr. Branson. His thoughts were still focused on what he had learned at lunch. By discreet, nonchalant inquiries, he had discovered that the young man was called BT. "Great guy and really smart. He's still recovering from pretty severe injuries," one unknowing informant told him. The food server noted, "Real shame, what the Roaches did to him. Guess he still doesn't remember his name or his past." "Oh yeah, BT was picked up by the Panthers on a S&R into Sealand," a girl next to him had mentioned. "They have kinda adopted him."
Oh man, he's alive. Hurt and without his memory, but alive. Now what am I going to do? If I tell him who he is, that blows my cover and my chance to find Dad. Might even put him in danger, if I am right about what I suspect. I can't allow that, he's not ready to defend himself yet. I can't lose him again. Maybe I could leave a note for Lt. Janson?
Then he noticed the way Michaelson was studying the defensive cannons. Oh hell, is he the traitor? Will he betray this base? Not again. I will NOT let that happen to Blair again.
Joel paused in the doorway of the small guard lounge. Ellison had just draped an afghan over BT, who had fallen asleep. Quietly, Jim walked back over to Joel.
"Another headache?" Joel inquired worriedly.
"Yeah, though he said it was only a two." Jim shook his head. "I'm not too surprised. BT remembered something this morning, and he's been puzzling over it ever since."
Joel nodded. "Harvey told me what happened."
Jim glanced at him. "What did Lane say? BT felt like he had said something that surprised them."
Joel chuckled, "He sure did! Harv said that with one look at the plans, he announced the code name of the project they're working on. A name only their team and the team working on it before should know."
That caught Jim's attention. "So only a select few should know that name?"
"Exactly." The excitement in Joel's eyes matched Jim's. "Also, Evan has finally tracked down which group the security node design came out of. Jim, it's the same team."
"So BT has to be connected to it!" Jim could barely keep his voice muted. A swift glance at his friend confirmed they hadn't awakened him.
"That's what Nash thinks. He has sent a priority message to that team with a picture of BT, inquiring if they can identify him. He and Harv think that BT might be a student that worked for them."
"More than that, Joel. BT connected the man he remembers telling him about the plans as being the same one who told him Keegan stories."
"Damn," Joel whispered. "Family? Foster family? Family friend?"
Jim shrugged. "Who knows? With a little luck, whoever it is will see the picture Branson sent and come forward. Perhaps if BT actually sees the man in person, his memory will start clicking. If nothing else, he can at least give BT his name and tell him who he is." A tiny wave of fear washed over him. If BT found out who he was, would his family and past reclaim him? Would he leave the sentinel behind? Jim pushed that thought away. It was too selfish to keep BT from his family. While the sentinel had bonded with the guide, the guide didn't even know he WAS a guide. Perhaps he wasn't, until he recognized Jim as his sentinel. Only BT could make that decision.
"Hey, Jim, did you hear that those accountants arrived a day early?"
Casually, the young man kept an eye on his boss for the rest of the day. After running poor Mr. Domingez ragged, Michaelson finally called a break for the day at suppertime. He barely noticed the wonderful casserole he was eating. If Michaelson was the traitor, this evening would be a good time to do his dirty work. He had to stay sharp, and prevent the treason from occurring.
Too bad he had no one to contact about this. He had been uncomfortable with this 'no backup' situation from the start, but really hated it at this moment. Briefly, the thought of finding Blair and telling him crossed his mind. But no. Blair didn't know him right now, and it would only place him in danger, too. A pang of hurt ran through his heart. He had always been able to go to Blair when in trouble. Now, he still had to be on his own to protect him.
Michaelson rose from the dinning hall chair, and strolled alone to the exit. He quietly stood and followed.
"Do you play five card stud, Sanchez?" Rafe gave the shorter man an almost predatory glance.
Evan's dark eyes narrowed playfully back as they walked down the hall. "I've played a time or two. How about you, BT?"
"I'm not sure," BT stated thoughtfully. "What are the rules?"
"Oh, oh," Jim replied. "Why do I think BT is going to clean us all out?"
The four men laughed, sharing the joke. Then suddenly, Jim came to a dead stop. BT and Rafe immediately noticed and turned back. Evan had taken another step before realizing the others were no longer with him.
"Jim?" BT questioned, lying a hand on his arm. He noticed the sentinel's nostril flare. "What do you smell?"
Huh? Evan looked around, not smelling anything.
Rafe and BT shot worried glances at each other as Evan became more confused. "The only ones you haven't checked out yet are the accountants," Rafe commented slowly. "A couple of those guys are big."
"What direction, Jim?" BT asked calmly, though his chest was squeezed by fear.
"This way," Jim replied, turning down the hall. Rafe and BT dashed after him, Evan tagging along to find out what was going on.
Michaelson ducked into a small storage room they had passed on the tour. The young man's eye's narrowed. He could think of absolutely no reason why his boss would go in there. Except one.
Slipping into the room, he paused a moment, trying to orient himself. A soft 'click' led the teen to the right. Around a tall pallet of supplies, his boss stood next to a crate. On the top, Michaelson sat a small metal device on its three squat feet. He was pulling up a thin antenna from the back.
Oh my god, that's a Roaches' radio! Instantly, he grabbed a nearby crowbar. There was no thought, no time as he raced towards the danger. The radio flew from the crate with a swoosh. Next thing he knew, he was thrown into the crates several yards away, winding him. Fighting to regain his breath, he stared across the room at his furious boss.
"MAXWELL! What do you think you are doing?"
"Me?" he gasped, then took another deep breath. "What do you think YOU were doing? Calling in an airstrike on this base? Setting up another abduction for Dr. Branson?" He struggled to stand, still breathing heavy.
"My, you have quite an imagination," Michaelson spoke tersely. "You should go to bed before you embarrass yourself, boy."
"Embarrass myself? I know a Roach radio when I see one." Concentrating on the large man in front of him, he missed other movement in the area. "I just want to know what happened to the scientists you set up."
His boss shrugged. "I don't know. I just do the targeting."
"Damn you!" Sam cursed, filled with rage. "Why would you betray scientists to the Roaches? Why would you tell them where to drop bombs, killing innocent people? Why would you betray your kind to those killers?!?"
Michaelson sneered at him. "Quite simply, my boy, you are inferior and not worthy of this land. Besides, you have no proof."
Forcing the former confusing statement aside, he latched onto the latter. "Oh, I think that smashed radio in the corner is all I need."
A sudden voice barked, "SAM! RIGHT!"
From long-developed reflexes, he instantly sprang to the right. A slug hitted the crate he had been leaning against. A second slug sliced through his leg as he rolled under a table.
On the other side of the room, BT winced as he saw the slim form hit. Still in shock that the person of his dreams was not only here but under attack, BT didn't resist when Jim shoved him behind a crate.
Janson's voice rang out sharply from the left, "Security! Drop your weapon and raise your hands!"
Griffin turned, and glared at him. "I just shot a traitor. Maxwell was trying to contact the Roaches with the radio my boss just smashed against the wall there."
"I don't think so," Ellison returned sternly, aiming his gun at Michaelson. He could see the young man under the table, red blood streaming from the wound in his leg. "The kid is human. You and your boss are not, Roach."
Griffin raised his gun to fire on Ellison. Instantly, Janson fired on the 'accountant'. He fell backwards, flourescent orange blood spurting out the holes in his chest. Michaelson started to draw a knife from his jacket when Ellison shot him twice. A second pool of orange flowed out onto the floor.
BT didn't care about either. He dashed over to the table. "Sam!" he called out, helping to slide the younger man out into the open. He could barely hear Evan call for medics on Rafe's radio.
"Blair," Sam whispered. Trembling from shock, he wrapped his arms tightly around BT, burying his face into the other man's neck.
Returning the embrace as he tried to comfort the shivering figure, BT softly whispered, "It's okay now Sam, you're safe. You're safe." He glanced over Sam's shoulder to see Jim signal that the Roaches were dead.
A muffled sob rose from the precious one he held. "They said you were dead, Blair. They said you were dead!" The voice cracked as the body shook harder.
BT tightened his arms, resting his cheek on the soft, fine hair. He gently began rocking, hoping to soothe. "I'm not dead. I'm right here. Everything is going to be all right. I'm right here. I'm right here."
In what seemed like both a lifetime and a moment, BT dragged his eyes upward when Jim gently tapped his shoulder. Jim mouthed, "Let me check his leg."
Briefly, BT tightened his hold, then whispered, "Sam, let's have your leg checked out." Still shivering, Sam allowed BT to turn him around, finally resting his head on BT's chest. Protectively cradling Sam's body, BT's own face turned pale as he realized how much blood was flowing from the thigh wound. He rubbed Sam's arms, trying to calm him.
Jim quickly grabbed the aid supplies Rafe pulled out of the kit, using them to apply pressure as he elevated the wound. While the kid should be lying flat, Jim gauged that he needed BT's closeness at that moment more. He studied his patient's pale face. Sam looked to be in his late teens, his straight brown hair a couple shades lighter than BT's thicker curls. Brown eyes gazed back at him dully in pain and shock. "It's going to be okay, Sam. I just need to slow down this bleeding. The medics should be here soon, then we'll get you to our Doc to be patched up."
Sam nodded his head at the large man. He tried to stop shaking, but his body wasn't cooperating.
"It's okay, Sam," BT softly soothed. He stared across the room a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. Something was wrong here, but his faulty memory wasn't saying what. Finally, he asked, "Sam, why were you working for these guys?"
Sam drew a shaky breath. "I was trying to find the traitor. Didn't know there'd be two of them, and that they'd both be Roaches."
"But why?" BT persisted, trying to grab hold of elusive memories. "Shouldn't you be in school?"
Sam gently squeezed the hand holding his. "A few days after ... " Sam paused, not wanting to bring up that subject yet, "Well, this guy approached me. Said they suspected that there was a traitor who was giving the Roaches vital information on what buildings to bomb and which scientists to take." For a moment, Sam paused to soak up the warm presence he never thought he'd feel again. It helped him to handle the pain throbbing from his leg.
"What guy?" BT questioned. Something else was wrong here, but he wanted to find out who was behind this stunt.
"Colonel Richards," Sam replied hazily. "He said they had pinned it down to a couple a possibilities, including Michaelson's group. They needed someone to get a job with him and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. He figured I was young enough not to be suspected."
"Didn't you have any backup?" Jim quietly asked. He was fighting his own anger at the thought of a teenager being used to search for a dangerous traitor.
"No, Colonel Richards thought that would give me away." Feeling cold and increasingly light-headed, Sam nestled deeper into BT as Lt. Janson draped a blanket over them.
"Why did you agree to do this?" BT questioned, still feeling like he was missing something, something vital. He soothingly stroked back a lock of hair from Sam's face.
Fighting to concentrate on his words, Sam softly answered, "Because there was no one to talk me out of it."
In a flash of noise and activity, the medics arrived one step ahead of Major Banks and Taggart. Sam was lifted up off of BT, checked, strapped to a stretcher, and whisked out the room. BT followed, racing to keep up.
Jim entered the waiting area to find BT pacing. "Any word?" he asked when he caught up.
BT shook his head. "No, not yet."
"How are you doing?" Jim studied the pale face.
"Okay, just feeling scattered." BT took a deep breath. "That's Sam, Jim. The one from my dreams."
"I gathered that," Jim replied. "Did you catch what he called you?"
BT blinked. "He, he called me Blair."
Jim smiled. "Yeah, he called you Blair. Think that just might be your name?"
A faint answering smile crossed the younger man's face. "Yeah, that's my name. The minute Sam said it, I knew. I didn't even have to think about it."
Squeezing his friend's shoulder, Jim assured him, "In a few hours, he can probably help jog your memory some more." Seeing BT's worried frown, Jim continued, "He's going to be fine. I don't think the slug hit the bone, so Sheree should have no trouble patching him up. He'll just need some time to recoup."
"I know," Blair stated softly. "But there is something wrong, Jim. I don't know exactly what, but I can feel it."
Jim didn't respond. He, too, had caught Sam's hesitation. What wasn't the teenager saying? He looked up as one of the medics entered.
"BT?" he asked hesitantly. When Blair turned around, the tall blond explained, "The guy's in surgery now. Sheree will come out when she's done, but she wanted me to give you this. We found it when we were prepping him."
Blair silently took the picture, staring at it.
"Thanks, Tom," Jim replied. He glanced over his friend's shoulder. The picture was of Sam and Blair, a couple of years younger and wearing floppy hats and light shirts for hiking. Standing between them with his arms looped over their shoulders was an older man in his late thirties, early forties. His light brown hair, warm brown eyes, and fine features were very similar to Sam's. His pride in the young men on either side was obvious. Jim could almost feel the joy and love radiating from the smiling faces.
"It's Dad," Blair whispered. He fought to keep from shaking. "He's the one who told me Keegan stories and showed me the plans. Sam's my brother. He's my Dad."
He is BT's Dad, Blair's Dad. Where is he?
"Something's happened to him," Blair stated, unknowingly echoing Jim's thoughts. "He'd never let Sam get involved with this. Sam said there was no one to talk him out of it. He thought I was dead. What happened to Dad?"
Jim could think of a few possibilities, all of them bad. He again tried to comfort the younger man by squeezing his shoulder. "I don't know, but Sam can tell us when he's on the mend."
Simon and Rafe entered the room. "Any word?" Rafe asked. He had liked the quiet young man even before he had realized the teen was BT's Sam.
Blair shook his head. Jim quietly answered, "Sam's in surgery right now."
Nash, Joe, Harvey and Evan entered in time to catch Jim's words. "You said his name is Sam?" Joe asked. "I thought his name was Shaun Maxwell."
"Some Colonel talked him into going undercover to find a traitor," Rafe explained, trying to keep his anger under control.
"That kid? Hell, he can't be much more than 18," Nash exclaimed with heat. "Whose dumb idea was that?"
"A Colonel Richards," Major Banks answered. "I already have calls out to find him. Jack's going to make sure he gets his ass chewed out for this one."
"I want a shot at him, too," Blair interjected. Jim and Rafe traded glances. They'd never heard such cold anger in their friend's voice before.
"Do you know this Sam, BT?" Harvey asked.
"Yeah, I've been trying to remember him for weeks now." He sighed, again staring at the picture. "He's my brother."
The others exchanged startled glances. Jim protectively rubbed his friend's shoulder. "They found a photo on Sam before taking him into surgery. It's of Sam, BT, and an older man who BT has identified as their father."
Simon glanced over BT's shoulder to view the picture. "Do you remember his name, kid? Rafe said your name is Blair. Do you remember your last name?"
Blair slowly shook his head, feeling another headache coming on. "No, just that he's my dad and Sam's my brother." He handed the picture to Rafe to see.
"It's a beginning, Blair," Rafe told him comfortingly, studying the picture.
Nash took a glance at the photo, then nearly tore it out of Rafe's hands to get a better look. "Ah, hell," he exclaimed in disgust, running a hand through his hair. He caught everyone's attention, including Blair's.
"Who is it?" Evan asked.
Nash looked into Blair's guarded eyes, not wanting to hurt him. "It's Jeff MacGregor." Now it was time for Jim to run his hands through his own short hair. Harvey, Joe and Evan traded worried looks.
"Jeff MacGregor," Blair softly repeated. "My name is Blair MacGregor." He took the photo back from Dr. Branson. "What happened to him?"
"He is one of the scientists the Roaches abducted," Nash sadly answered. "I'm sorry, Blair."
Blair turned abruptly away from everyone. He walked over to the corner and quietly leaned his head against the wall. His father was missing, perhaps dead, perhaps going through the hell Jim had said Blair had gone through. A tear slid down his face. He just wanted to see his dad, to hug him, to remember him. If he felt that way now, what had Sam gone through the past few months? Blair was chilled at the thought of how alone his brother must have felt. Even injured and without memory, he had had people there for him. Just how scared and alone had the grieving Sam been in order to think hunting for a traitor was a GOOD idea? How long did that Colonel wait before approaching his younger brother?
A large, comforting arm draped itself over his shoulders. His friend, his protector, his sentinel was there. Even more grateful for his friend's strength, Blair softly said, "Thanks, Jim. Thanks for being there for me."
"Always, kid," Jim stated, gently ruffling the short curls with his other hand. Pain lines were again forming across Blair's forehead. Jim wasn't sure if it was due to emotional strain or another headache. "I am here for you and so are the Panthers. We will sort this out. I promise."
As Blair leaned into his friend, drawing strength, Jim opened his hearing.
"...loved those two boys dearly. In fact Bartok, a colleague of ours, said that if it wasn't for the signs of struggle, he and half of Jeff's friends would have suspected Jeff had left for Sealand to search for his son."
"He was planning to go into Sealand after the invasion?" Simon questioned in disbelief. "MacGregor would have been too valuable to risk in a lost zone."
Nash sadly chuckled. "Wouldn't have stopped him, especially with his son missing. Besides, Jeff knew how to take care of himself. Bartok was more afraid of what Jeff would find than of the Roaches catching him."
"Do you know who we should contact about these two?" Simon asked.
"No," Nash replied, "but I have a suspicion they'll be hunting us up."
Evan laughed softly. "Man, Willis must have had a cow when he saw our message."
"Joe?" Inger Domingez had entered the waiting room and zeroed in on her husband. "What is going on? Someone said there was a problem with the accountants."
"I'd say," Joe replied, "Michaelson and his assistant Griffin were Roaches."
"Joe!" Inger admonished. "Just because you don't like them doesn't mean you should insult them..."
Jim pulled back and refocused on his guide. The next couple of days were sure to be hectic, especially if someone did come for Blair. Hopefully, his young friend was strong enough now to handle it. Hopefully, who ever it was wouldn't take his guide away.
Jim glanced into the infirmary room. Sam was sleeping peacefully, his bandaged leg propped up. In the bed across from him, Blair was curled up on his side, the light blanket Jim had draped over him the night before still in place. Jim gazed at the young men, the words of the panther returning to him, Three on this side possess both the seeds and the knowledge of the guides. Jeff MacGregor, in telling his two sons 'Keegan' stories, had kept the knowledge of the guides alive. In spite of what Dr. Mike had said, was there Keegan blood in their family?
The panther had also said the other two besides Blair were 'fighting evil'. Chasing down a traitor that turned out to be Roaches in disguise sure qualified. Now Sam was under his protection, too. Did that mean that Jeff MacGregor, in spite of all fears of his friends and family, was still alive, fighting the Roaches? For Blair's sake, Jim hoped so. He also hoped he could continue to keep the two young men safe.
Blair stirred, slowly becoming aware of his surroundings. He glanced over to Sam, making sure the events of last night really did occur. His brother was right here and very real. With a quick inventory of his memory, he had to admit there were still more holes than anything else. Yet he now knew his name and remembered the closeness he felt with Sam and with his Dad. That was enough for now.
Spotting Jim standing in the doorway, Blair sat up and grabbed his boots. Walking quietly so as not to disturb his brother, he followed the sentinel out the door.
"Why don't we get you some breakfast?" Jim suggested, studying the younger man's face. The pain lines had faded, but Blair still looked a little wobbly.
Blair shook his head as he slid on a boot. "I don't want to leave Sam alone."
"We have that covered."
Just then, Rafe strolled into the hallway. "Hi guys. You ready for breakfast?" Blair gave him a puzzled look. Rafe returned a smile. "Jim and I figured Sam shouldn't wake up alone."
Blair was about to thank him, when a commotion around the corner caught their attention. Focusing his hearing, Jim frowned. "Damn! Katts is back."
"What?" Blair asked, eyes wide. "I still don't remember anything about the Roaches."
"He's here for Sam. Sounds like Colonel Richards is here, too. Amy and Tom are trying to head them off, but I don't think it's working."
"Damn," Rafe repeated. "What do we do?"
"Call up Simon, and let him know what's going on. Then you and Blair stay with Sam. I'll run interference."
"I'm going with you," Blair stated grimly. "I have a few things to say to Colonel Richards."
Jim exchanged a bemused glance with Rafe. "All right. Let's go."
"The patient just had surgery last night. He needs his rest," Amy stated firmly, wishing Dr. Jackson was there. The men didn't seem to think they needed to listen to the slim nurse. If Tom hadn't been there to back her, they'd already be to Sam's room.
"Mr. Maxwell is under Colonel Richard's authority. We will see him now!" Katts demanded.
"Problem?" Ellison stood behind Amy and Tom, his steady, cool gaze trained at the Dr. and Colonel.
Dr. Katts glared back. He was still furious at how the Captain and his unit had kept him away from the Sealand refugee. "What is your business here, Captain?"
"I'm security. You will go no further without authorization from the young man's doctor."
"I am Maxwell's commanding officer. I have the right to see him."
Blair focused on the man who put his brother in danger. "Colonel Richards?" he asked, pausing for the Colonel's nod. "His name is Samuel MacGregor, though you already know that. I want to know why he is working for you, considering he's underage."
The Colonel waved him off. "That young man is a near genius. He is quite capable of undercover work."
While Jim's eyes narrowed at the new information on Sam, Blair plowed on. "His intelligence doesn't make him any older. Anyone under 21 needs parental permission to join the services and I know damn well you didn't get permission for this. Hell, is this even official?"
Red crept into the Colonel's face. "He is an orphan. He didn't need permission and he was eager to join."
Blair nearly lost it. "Orphan? No one knows that yet. Eager? Hell, when did you approach him? How many days after the Sealand attack? How many days after Dad disappeared? Did you even give him a week before laying out how he could get back at the Roaches? Did you even allow him a chance to tell anyone what he was doing? You preyed on him. There is no way you're seeing him today."
Katts jumped onto his next target. "What right do YOU have to say anything! Twice now you have been in the same location as Roaches masquerading as humans. Are you giving them directions on how to find our most important people? Are YOU human?"
As Ellison took a protective step in front of his ward and opened his mouth to defend him, another loud voice interrupted. "DOCTOR KATTS! Are you still trying to step over your bounds?"
Everyone turned to see a large black woman, dark eyes snapping with anger. Behind her was Dr. Mike, an amused expression on his face.
Katts turned to face her. "What are you doing here, Ms. Colton?"
"That is DOCTOR Colton to you. I am here on both personal and professional business. I will certainly not allow you to accuse this young man of being a Roachian."
"What?" Major Banks asked as he entered the hall. "I can assure you that young man's blood is as red as mine. We certainly saw enough of it."
Dr. Katts ignored the officer. "Dr. Colton, I am TRYING to search for traitors here! I would think that you of all people would understand that. In fact, we are here to debrief Sam MacGregor."
"Sam is here?" Tess Colton questioned. "What is he doing here? We've been searching for him the last three months! Why does he need to be debriefed?"
"Colonel Richards over there talked him into going undercover searching for traitors," Ellison stated innocently, suspecting he was dropping the matter into the perfect hands. He waited for the explosion.
"WHAT!" Tess turned toward the Colonel. "You talked an 18-year-old into going after a ROACH!" The colonel nearly cringed.
Katts jumped in again. "We must use any means necessary to weed out the traitors among us. That is why we need to debrief MacGregor and interrogate this young man as soon as possible."
" 'Any means necessary', " Dr. Colton parroted the man snidely. "I'll show you 'Any means necessary'. As Sam's guardian, you will NOT be allowed to see him until I say so! And I suggest you lay off this young man, or you will have some explaining to do to General
"What needs to be explained to me?" Half the people in the room immediately stood at attention as the three star General in charge of research and development entered the room, followed by Colonel Pendergrast. However, the commanding officer ignored them and stared at Blair, pure joy crossing his face. "Good to see you again, son," he said softly to the young man.
Blair desperately tried to keep the confusion off his face. A general and a doctor who is Sam's guardian, both acting like they know him. Who were these people? Why couldn't he remember? He was beginning to feel light-headed.
A soft hand gently cupped his face. "Don't worry, baby," Tess cooed, her brown eyes warm. "I know this is confusing for you. We'll sit down and have a nice long talk," she turned back towards Katts, her voice growing harder, "once we've finish taking care of the trash."
The General turned to Dr. Colton. "What is going on, Tess?"
"First, did you know Sam is here?"
"I've been briefed." The General nodded his head at Pendergrast.
"Well, Colonel Richards is the man over there," Tess waved her hand. The General gave him a cool look. "Then this Dr. Katts insists that Blair is working with the Roachians and demands to interrogate him now."
The General turned to Katts. "Do you have any evidence against Blair?"
"He spent who knows how long with the Roaches. Then he and the Panthers just happen to discover the only two pairs of Roaches disguised as humans that we know of. I find that a little too convenient."
Tess smiled and shook her head. The general asked, "Tess?"
"Remember the senior paper?"
Thornton's eyes widened, then he smiled, too. "So Jeff won the argument?"
Tess glanced at the large man standing protectively by Blair. "I'd say so."
"General, I do not know what you are talking about, but I insist that I interrogate this man."
Tess rolled her eyes. "Blair baby, have you remembered anything about the Roaches or the Sealand invasion?" Blair shook his head negatively, still too overwhelmed to speak.
The general leveled a cold look at the debriefer. "Then why are you bothering my godson?"
Godson? This general is my godfather?
"Godson?" Katts practically squeaked.
"Yes, my godson. A responsibility I do not take lightly. And without evidence, I can not believe Blair would willing do anything to harm his people and especially his father."
"Father?" Katts repeated, looking very trapped.
"Jeff MacGregor. Now, I suggest you go look elsewhere for traitors while I have a little talk with Colonel Richards."
Dr. Katts stormed out of the room, head down in anger and embarrassment. Colonel Richards followed in his wake, his head also down.
General Thornton paused, gently resting a hand on his godson's shoulder. "Are you all right, Blair?"
"Yeah." Round blue looked up into the General's face. "Just a little confused. Are you really my godfather?"
The General smiled, hiding the hurt that question caused. "Yes, your father tagged me your unofficial godfather after I helped him with all the paperwork."
"Paperwork?" Blair asked, puzzled.
Thornton chuckled. "Armed with only a name and town, you escaped from the tent cities and found your Dad. Pretty good for a 10-year-old refugee kid who'd never been out of Claria before. However, there were a lot of people not too happy with you, especially since you were coming down with statcus at the time. Between proving Mac was your father, fighting the health department, fighting Human Services, fighting the Clarian committee, and everything else, there was a lot of paperwork. You got to know your 'Uncle Pete' pretty well before the end of that year."
"Uncle Pete," Blair repeated quietly. The memory of a large man in sweater and slacks, boosting him up into a train flashed across his mind. "You'd take Sam and I to ride the train by a harbor."
"That's right," Pete's smile widened with relief. "Why don't we meet later? I need to give Colonel Richards a chewing out."
"Okay," Blair replied with a smile.
"Then I'll go talk with that other prodigal son of Jeff's," Tess stated as the general left. "That boy needs a good talking to."
"He was shot last night by the Roach," Blair put in, concerned.
"Oh, don't worry Baby. I won't be that hard on him. I just want to make sure he doesn't do it again." Tess studied Blair's pale face. He appeared so slim and fragile, much quieter than the normally energetic young man she knew. "While I'm talking with him, why don't you take a nap?"
"We were going to breakfast before all this happened," Jim put in. He figured food and quiet would be the best thing for his young guide.
"Oh, you must be the Captain Ellison that Mike told me about," Tess returned, giving him a brilliant smile. "I am so grateful for the way you and the Panthers have looked out for Blair. I'm also glad Blair finally found you. Jeff always said he would."
"Huh?" Both Jim and Blair stared at the woman in confusion. In the background, Dr. Mike could barely contain his laughter.
"Oh, just an old argument between friends. While we all knew Sam was going to follow in his father's footsteps, none of us were sure what Blair would decide on. Pete always hoped you'd use your talent with computer systems, since his department needed them so badly. I always felt that with your compassion and talent with people, you'd make a fine therapist or psychologist." She chuckled, remembering evenings spent arguing over the young man's future. "After we'd debate the subject for a while, your father would just lean back and quietly state that if there were any sentinels still left on this world, you would find him and be his guide. And that apparently is just what you've done."
Blair stared at her wide-eyed, while Jim breathed a sigh of relief. Mike chuckled, "Yeah Blair, you even wrote one of your senior papers on sentinels and the probability that latent sentinels existed today."
"Really?" Blair asked. He turned to Tess. "You wouldn't happen to have a copy, would you?"
Tess smiled. "In my bags. I'll get it for you once I've talked to that brother of yours." She turned down the hall.
As Mike turned follow her, Jim grabbed his arm "Senior paper?" he whispered.
Mike chuckled again. "Both Blair and Sam tested near genius level like their father. Blair started college at 16, and graduated last year with a double major in Psychology and Cultural Studies, with minors in biology, math, computers, and history. His senior paper for Cultural Studies was on Sentinels. Turns out that the Center thought the talent was only passed down through the male lineage. Jeff descended from Keegan's daughter."
Jim shook his head, then ushered Blair out the door for breakfast.
General Thornton relaxed once Colonel Richards was out of the room. He rather enjoyed verbally ripping the man to shreds, considering all the anxiety he had suffered worrying about Sam.
Colonel Jack Pendergrast leaned back with a smile. "Good work, General. I couldn't have said it better myself."
The General shrugged. "Having never had children, I have always enjoyed playing 'Uncle Pete' with Jeff's boys. I don't like someone hurting either of them. On the professional level, Sam is the most likely candidate to figure out Jeff's ideas and plans. To risk him on an undercover assignment is ridiculous."
Nash Branson placed his elbows on the table. He had only met the General a couple of times before, but had always appreciated his down-to-earth approach. "How far along is Sam?"
Pride stretched across the General's face. "Sam was starting his last year of college before he disappeared on us. He started when he wasn't quite 16."
Nash slowly shook his head. "Jeff was such a master at thinking up innovated ideas and devising them into practical solutions. I think most of the scientific community is reeling from his loss. I hadn't realized his sons were involved."
"Jeff tried to keep it that way," Thornton explained. "He didn't want any pressure on the boys. Both of them inherited their father's intelligence, so Jeff worked hard to raise them to be practical as well. He'd often bring home projects or ideas, allowing the boys to work on them. Why, it was Sam, with some help from Blair, who designed the security nodes we all use. Jeff just kept the source quiet to protect them. He has had enough close calls with both of them as it is."
"So that's why Blair could fix them," Nash commented.
"Do you think that might be what the Roaches were after?" asked Jack.
The General slowly shook his head, troubled by what had been done to his godson. "I don't know. Not that many people knew about Sam's connection, and even less about Blair's. Plus there were several other projects Blair had worked on or knew about from his father's group. If they connected him to Jeff, that is a possibility. Or if the Roaches had realized he was from the Franklyn Center, they may have tried to find out about their research. I honestly don't know and personally, I'd rather not have Blair remember."
"Same here," Simon Banks finally spoke up. He could still see the battered and severely injured young man as they had found him in the church. Another thought crossed his mind. "How much time was there between the Sealand attack and MacGregor's disappearance?"
"About 56 hours," Thornton replied. "Why?"
Simon took a deep breath, wondering if he should even mention it. "Well, all I can say is that if the Roaches had shown me my son in the condition we'd found BT in, I'd have probably given away the store to get him some help."
The silence that met him was deafening.
"Oh hell," Nash whispered.
"One thing," Jack quietly pointed out. "There wasn't enough time to get Jeff to Sealand before your unit found Blair."
"And Jeff wouldn't have told them anything until he had seen Blair first hand," Thornton confirmed.
"True," Simon conceded. "But the Roaches didn't expect us to escape with him."
Again, the silence stretched out. Finally, Thorton conceded, "A real threat to Sam or Blair would be Jeff's greatest weakness. Which is very troubling, in that if Jeff is alive, they could both still be in danger."
Jack glanced at Simon, then at Branson. Seeing both men nod once, Jack replied, "Actually, we have a couple suggestions..."
Blair poked his head into the infirmary room. Seeing Sam was awake and alone, he stepped inside, smiling. "Hi! How's it going?"
A mischievous twinkle struggled to light the tired brown eyes. "Trying to figure out a way to get out of this bed. This really sucks, man."
"Yeah, I know how dull hospital beds can be," Blair agreed as he sat in the chair next to the bed.
"Sheer boredom with short periods of trapped terror," Sam amended. "First that pretty nurse Amy comes in with a BIG needle. Then I didn't have any way to escape Grandma Tess' lecture. Then she told me Uncle Pete is around here somewhere. I'm trying to figure out a place to hide before HE finds me!"
"You deserve it!" Blair replied forcefully. "You really had them worried." Then he frowned a moment as a memory tried to slip through.
Sam sat silent as well, watching his brother's face. Rafe had told him about Blair's injuries and slow recovery. He didn't want to upset things if Blair was remembering something.
"Molasses cookies," Blair whispered. "Big, chewy ones. Out of all the cookies Grandma Tess makes, they are my favorite. But you always preferred the milknut pineapple ones."
"With the big tartberry in the center," Sam added, a smile stretching across his face. "Do you remember her big kitchen in Harbor Bay?"
An answering smile slowly spread across Blair's face. "We'd go there on Saturdays and sit around a big table with ... with Willie? And his sister?"
"Yeah, Willie and Ebony. Uncle Jesse's kids."
Blair's brow wrinkled in concentration. "How are they related?"
Sam chuckled, trying to hide the sinking of his heart. Blair was so close. "Dad went to live with our Great Grandpa Harry after his parents died. Tess and her boys, Frank, Jesse, and Billy, lived next door. She always said that Dad was over there so much, he was just like one of the family, so they kinda adopted him."
"Grandpa Harry," Blair mused. "He's the one who told Dad Keegan stories."
"That's right," Sam encouraged. "Keegan was Harry's grandfather and told the stories to him. Do you remember them?"
"Oh yeah. That was one of the first things I remembered, Dad telling us Keegan stories. I just didn't know who you or Dad were."
"What else did you remember?" Sam asked, curious.
"Something about us being trapped under a building?"
Sam looked at him in alarm. "You remember that?"
"Yeah. I kept calling to you, trying to reach your hand."
"Oh, man," Sam shuddered. "I'd think that would be one time you'd try to forget."
"That was when Harbor Bay was first bombed. You were 13, I was ten. Our house took a near hit. Aunt Dotty was in the kitchen and didn't make it. You and I were in the garden-level den working on a puzzle."
Blair's face wrinkled in concentration. "The three dimensional fortress one, right? With four stories?"
"Right. We were trying to figure out a way to motorize the gate when the attack started. You were yelling at me to get under the table when the bomb hit. Somehow, the bookcases that lined the walls landed on the heavy tables, protecting us from being crushed."
"Okay," Blair nodded his head, "That is what I remembered feeling. There were books poking at me everywhere, but it was so dark."
"It was pitch black. I had a broken collar bone, a concussion, and was scared to death. Finally, I was able to just barely reach your fingers. We laid there for several hours, you telling me Keegan stories while I was trying not to cry. We didn't know Dad was above us, telling the police chief we were NOT dead while he and the Coltons worked to dig us out."
Images flashed across Blair's mind. A light shining between two of the bookcases. Dad's face peering at him through the fallen books. A crushing hug once he had been freed.
"So are you two plotting again?" Tess walked into the room, her jolly voice booming in the room.
Blair chuckled. "No, Sam is helping me sort through the holes in my memory." He beamed up at the large woman, now remembering her warmth and generosity.
"Then these should help, too." She handed him two small, round discs in protective casing. "Your senior paper, and Keegan's journals. You gave me copies before you left for Sealand, just in case something happened and you lost them."
"Yeah, I have copies, too," Sam added. "I gave them to Willie for safekeeping."
"Who should have called me the minute he knew you were up to something," Tess growled, thinking of her grandson.
"I swore him to secrecy. Blood oath and everything," Sam defended him.
"Keegan's journals?" Blair broke in, struggling to remember.
Sam answered, "Yeah, you used them for your paper, though you didn't tell anyone you had them. The Center always thought that the talent for sentinel and guide were only passed down through sons and totally ignored the daughters. Keegan was certain that his daughter Miranda's descendants would have the talent, but he was afraid they wouldn't get any training. So he told Grandpa Harry all about his adventures with his sentinel, whom Harry was named after. Then he secretly gave Harry his journals before he died."
Blair stared at the discs, a thoughtful look filling his face. He now had all he needed to help Jim.
"What's up?" Sam asked, reading his brother's face.
"Oh, your brother is already plotting his game plan with Keegan's journals," Tess replied warmly, enjoying a sight she didn't think she'd see again.
"Huh? Wait a minute..." Sam turned back to his brother. "You found a sentinel?" he whispered, trying to keep his excitement level down. Blair gave him an answering smile. "Man, that is so GREAT! Who? Not Rafe, I didn't see the signs this morning. Wait a minute..." Sam closed his eyes, remembering the night before. "The big white guy, who was taking care of my leg. Is he the sentinel?"
Blair chuckled. "Yeah, it's Jim. But keep it down - it's not common knowledge. Jim hasn't had any guidance, so he's still pretty vulnerable."
"He knew that Griffin and Michaelson were Roaches and that I wasn't. How?"
"By smell. The first two times he smelled Roaches among humans, he zoned. I worry about him."
"You can help him," Sam stated confidently. "You've wanted to be a guide since Dad told you your first Keegan story."
"Really?" Blair asked.
Tess and Sam looked at each other then immediately started laughing hard. "Oh yeah," Sam finally croaked out. "Oh yeah."
Tess wiped tears away from her eyes. "Oh yes, baby. Why do you think you wrote that paper?"
A knock on the door interrupted them. Dr. Branson stuck his head in. "Hi. May I come in a minute?"
"Sure," Blair shrugged.
"I need to talk to Sam alone for a few minutes. Do you mind?"
"That's fine. Blair and I can wait outside," Tess replied, suspecting what was happening. She quickly ushered Blair out of the room.
Outside the door, Jim was waiting. "Hey kid, you look like you need some air. Want to go up on the deck?"
Blair's eyes narrowed a second, realizing something was up. "Sure."
On top of the mountain that hid the science base from view was a small observation deck. The two men had been leaning on the rails, staring at the magnificent scenery for several minutes before Blair finally stated, "Okay, give."
Jim turned to face him. "Huh?"
Blair chuckled. "Well, I don't think you dragged me up here for my health. Plus it would be nice to get back inside before I turned into a popsicle."
"You too cold?" Jim frowned.
"Not now, but I will be if you don't tell me what's up soon." Blair tensed, wondering if it was bad news.
Jim looked down at his feet. "Well, now that you have your memory back, I was wondering if you'd be leaving us soon."
Oh Hell. Blair screwed up his courage and quietly asked, "Do you want me to leave?"
"NO!" Jim instantly looked up, pinning Blair with his ice blue eyes. "That's not it at all. It's just that, well, before you didn't have any where else to go. Now you do. Now you have a choice."
Blair continued to hold Jim's eyes with his own. "Why would you want me to stay?"
The eyes never wavered. "You've become important to us, one of the team. Plus," Jim took a deep breath, then plunged in, "I need you. I don't know anything about being a sentinel, but you do. You've helped me more than any one else."
"You want me to be your guide?" Blair asked hopefully. While he had hoped to convince Jim that would be a good idea, he hadn't been sure it would work. He was, after all, a lot younger than Jim, and was uncertain he knew how to handle the sentinel.
"You are my guide." Jim made the statement without doubt or indecision. It was fact.
"What?" Blair whispered in shock. Surely it couldn't be this easy. "What are you saying?"
"You are my guide. From the beginning, I knew you were important to me, though I didn't know why. You've always felt like family. Perhaps even more than Rafe, who's the closest to family I've got now. Then in the tunnel, I started to suspect. You were anchoring me in a way no one else had before. By the time you saved me from that truck, I knew. Just like Harry knew Keegan was his and was willing to fight the Center for him. You are my guide. I was just waiting for you to heal enough to realize that."
Blair stood a moment in shock. What he had always wanted, had always hoped for, had aimed for, was suddenly dumped into his lap. The doubts soon threatened to swamp him. "I'm a lot younger than you are."
"Keegan was five years younger than Harry."
"I'm pretty small compared to the rest of you guys."
"You're big enough. We just have to get you healthy and in shape."
"I don't think I've had any weapons or combat training."
"That's my job description. Yours is to watch my back and help me handle these senses."
"I really don't have any guide training, either."
"You know a lot more than I do. Probably more than anyone else left alive on this planet."
"You really want ME?"
Jim sighed in exasperation. "YES, I want you. If you'll take the job." He held out his hand.
A shy smile spread across Blair's face. "Okay, I accept the job." He shook Jim's hand, then was suddenly pulled into a bear hug. His protector, his sentinel had accepted him before Blair even knew he was a guide. Blair soaked up the warmth, realizing that with this man standing beside him, they could tackle anything.
When they pulled apart, Blair tentatively asked, "What does the Colonel and Major Banks say about this?"
Jim chuckled. "Full approval, all the way up to your 'Uncle Pete'. Jack and Simon feel you're their best hope to get my senses on-line full time. The General feels you're safest here with us. He's worried that with your background, you may be targeted by the Roaches like your father."
"Oh man," Blair moaned. "I hadn't even thought of that." He paused a moment. "What about Sam? He'd be even more likely to be targeted than me."
"Dr. Branson is offering him a position here as we speak. He can even set it up so that Sam can finish his final year of college with only a couple trips to Glendale. Apparently, they had worked out a similar deal for Evan."
"Great!" Blair shouted. Everything was falling into place. He had a sentinel, Sam would be close by, he now had good friends. If only...
Seeing the eyes sadden, Jim asked, "What's wrong?"
"I just wish I could tell Dad about all this," Blair admitted. There was a place in his heart crying out for his father.
Jim draped an arm around his guide. "I'd like to meet this father of yours, too. But you know what? I have a feeling that one day I will meet him. If he is anything like his sons, I know I will. So don't give up!" He gave the short curly head an affectionate rub. "Now let's get inside before you DO turn into a popsicle!" He grinned at the man who was now his guide and his brother.
"Okay," Blair replied as they turned towards the stairs. "Hey Jim, I've got some ideas on how we can tests your senses. See how sensitive they are."
"Tests? You never said anything about tests before."
"Well, I'm your guide. I've got to know these things."
"I never agreed to any tests..."
Author's note 6/20/98: In case anyone is interested <smile>, there were 35 characters (from major to briefly mentioned) in this story that were either taken or roughly based on characters from seven different TV shows. Below is a list of the shows and number of characters from each. I have a detailed list if you want to see if you have picked them all out <grin>
If people are interested, I do have a sequel in mind for this story. However, I promise my next piece will be 'Hot Time in Chicago', which should be a light-hearted romp in my TS/MacGyver world. I've had enough of dark pieces for now.
TV Show # of Characters
major minor brief mention
Diagnosis Murder 0 2 0 0
Legend 0 0 0 1
MacGyver 0 3 0 5
Nash Bridges 0 5 2 4
Star Trek: Voyager 0 0 1 0
Touched by an Angel 0 2 0 0
The Sentinel 2 5 2 1
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