Wages of Sin Part 2




Disclaimers/Warnings: see part 1


Robert Rose stood watching the person on the other side of the observation mirror.  The subject of his fascination stared off into space and muttered softly.  Rose reached out and touched the window before him reverently.  “Soon.  Very soon, my dear.  When Ellison is safely out of the way and doing Max’s bidding, you’ll have what you need.  And you and I will be writing our own ticket.”


He turned and walked from the observation room.  He had to go and see how Captain Ellison and his guide were doing.  Holloway was having a difficult time with the stubborn captain.  He smiled.  Ellison and Holloway would sink or swim.  They were not really his priority.  Maxwell wanted his own sentinel so that he could prove to his detractors that he was not the relic that he indeed was.  All Rose wanted from Ellison was a little DNA.  That he already had.  Full physical exams had their benefit.  The look on Ellison’s face had been priceless when Rose had given him that cup and told him what he was to do it.  What he really wanted was Blair Sandburg.  A strong natural guide was what Rose really needed.  What she needed.  Now, he only needed to separate the young man from Jim Ellison once and for all.  Perhaps, young Blair should learn the truth about his fine friend.  A few twists and turns in the truth could not hurt his cause either.  Rose sighed with contentment and ambled down the hallway, exiting the part of the facility that the good colonel was not even aware was inhabited.



“Damn it, Holloway!  Get out of my face!  Can’t you follow a simple order, soldier?” Jim exclaimed, shoving the younger man back.


“You were on the verge of zoning, Captain.  It’s my job to keep you from zoning.”  The hint of disrespect in the tone did not go unnoticed.


“Oh, and just how did you determine that I was about to zone?”


“Your eyes were all glassy and unfocused.”  Holloway waved his own hand around his eyes.


Jim sighed.  “Holloway, do you think that maybe what you thought was glassy and unfocused was actually just concentration?  Do you think that maybe I was trying to see the very smallest detail until your ugly face moved in to block my view and nearly give me a heart attack?”


“Well, this doesn’t seem to be going well.” 


Jim turned to face Robert Rose.  “Would you please explain to this ‘guide’ that he does not have to get in my face every time he thinks I’m zoning?  I hate that.  And would you please explain that concentration is not the same thing as a zone?  I can’t get any work done if he interrupts me constantly.”


“Holloway, why don’t you go get some lunch?  I have to speak with Captain Ellison.”


Holloway gave them both a half-hearted salute and left quickly.  Jim shoved the cards he had been concentrating on for this latest test away and faced Rose with a glare. 


“What is this stuff supposed to prove?”  He flung out one hand at the cards. 


“That you can distinguish even the most minute color variations.  It’s just a visual acuity test, Jim.  Nothing more.”


“I’ve already done this kind of stuff with Sandburg and you have his notes and dissertation.”


Rose only smiled slightly and changed the subject.  “We need to talk about Blair, Jim.”


“What about him?”  Jim suppressed both the anxiety and the irritation that the mention of Blair evoked and fought to remain as passive as possible.


“As you know, the colonel does not want him here.  I have thus far been able to keep Maxwell placated but that has been becoming more and more difficult.  It does not help my cause that Blair is not being cooperative at all.”


“He told you everything you wanted hear.  What else could he need to cooperate with?”


“Well, you see, I have convinced Maxwell that Blair might be beneficial to the program in the capacity of a trainer for new guides but Blair is unwilling to sign on.  I was hoping that you could speak with him.”


Jim’s heart dropped into his feet.  Face Blair with the truth, that’s what Rose wanted.  He wanted Jim to walk into that room in uniform and tell his best friend that he was actively participating in the project and that Blair should be too.  Let Blair know that he was not the prisoner that Blair was.  Let his old guide know that he had been replaced.  Show himself and his betrayal to the man he had accused of betrayal.  “What--”  He took a deep breath.  “What do you want me to say to him?”


“Just tell him to do what he is told.  Tell him to cooperate, do whatever he is asked.  Otherwise, I’ll do the talking.”


“You’re going to tell him everything, aren’t you?”


“He’ll find out eventually.  It’s best if he finds out now and accepts it so that we can all move ahead before Maxwell becomes impatient enough to do something drastic.  Don’t you agree?”


Jim swallowed the lump in his throat.  “One way or another, he’s going to hate me, right?”


“Oh, I don’t know.  Our Blair has been very forgiving so far. I’m hoping that he can continue to forgive and forget.”


Jim chuckled a little.  “Rose, Sandburg may forgive but he never forgets.”


“That may well be but we must have him on board or Maxwell is going to have him shipped away to a mental hospital with orders for lots of thorazine.”


Jim swore under his breath.  That was exactly what he had been afraid of.




Kit Chase sat up in bed and rubbed one hand over his face.  “Damn, I hate that.” He could still feel the heat of the jungle that had surrounded him in the strange dream.  Dream, he thought.  “Yeah, right.  Gramps, I hate these vision things,” he spoke aloud to the man who had first taught him what he was and how to use his ability to his advantage.  He debated calling his grandfather and having the old man help him decipher what he had seen.  He had been in a strange place, somewhere he had never seen or been, looking at a temple, and watching a wolf pace on the steps of that temple.  He had not been the only one watching the wolf either.  There were others there.  He could not see them at first, but he could sense them.  Then the wolf howled, the sound somehow mournful and angry at the same time.  Suddenly, there was an Indian in front of him.  Kit did not recognize the older man’s tribe from his clothing.  He had opened his mouth to ask questions only to be cut off with a wave of the man’s hand.


“You must guard.”


“Why me?”


The man had actually shrugged. “Because you can.  Look and understand.”


Kit then turned back to the temple and saw the man in the doorway.  He sat with his legs drawn up to his chest, his wary eyes on the jungle.  The wolf stopped next to him, his hackles raised as he too stared out into the trees beyond the steps of the temple.  Kit had moved so that he could see what had alarmed them.  Jaguars, one black and one spotted, moved in the underbrush.  Even closer to the steps, Kit could see a large snake and off to one side, a wild, rabid-looking dog.  Kit had turned back to the Indian only to find himself alone.  He woke up at that point.


“Fuck.  Something tells me that this assignment just got really complicated.”




Jim woke up and dressed in his dress uniform just as he had been instructed.  Today was the day that he would have to face Blair with the truth.  He drew himself up to his full height and opened the door to come face to face with Rose. 


“Good morning, Jim.”


“Sir.” Jim nodded slightly.


“Are you ready?”


Again, Jim nodded.


“Good.  Shall we then?”  He gestured down the hall and Jim preceded him.  “Now when we arrive, wait outside the room until I tell you to enter.  I’ll try to explain the situation to Blair before he sees you and jumps to conclusions.”


Jim knew better but he was in no position to argue and he knew it.  Rose would tell Blair whatever he wanted and Blair would no doubt hate Jim all the more for it. He would take Blair’s hatred as his just reward for his fear and his failure.  After all, Jim had signed away Blair’s life along with his own all those years ago without ever knowing it.  They arrived outside Blair’s prison all too soon and Jim stopped in front of the door where a corporal waited to allow him entry when the time came.  Rose continued on into the observation room and disappeared behind that door.  Against his better judgment, Jim decided to listen.




“Good morning, Blair.”


“Screw you, man.  I told you what you wanted and you promised I could see Jim.  I still haven’t seen him.  Have you hurt him?  Is that why I haven’t seen him?  If he’s hurt, I need to see him!  And you’re still sending those goons in here to drug me, you fucker.  Now, what the hell is going on?”  Blair Sandburg was irate.  He was up and pacing in front of the mirror.


“We are just giving you tranquilizers because you seem to be having some difficulty sleeping.”


“Oh, right.  Gee, I wonder why I’m having difficulty sleeping.  Let’s see, couldn’t be my lovely accommodations.  Couldn’t be the fact that I can’t tell day from night shut up in here with the lights on all the time.  Couldn’t be the fact that you drug me into oblivion over and over so that my system’s all screwed up.  And it certainly couldn’t be that I have asked over and over to see Jim and you still haven’t let me so I’m so worried that you might have killed him that I can’t sleep.  Where is Jim, damn it!?”


“Actually, Blair, he is waiting right outside your door.  He just wanted me to talk to you first.  He wants me to try to help you understand.”


The young man’s eyes flicked over to the door and then back to the mirror.  Rose could see the conflict in his eyes.  He wanted to talk to Ellison but he wanted the forthcoming explanation too.  His curiosity won.  “Understand what?”


“Let me see if I can explain this.  You see, when Captain Ellison returned from Peru, he was plagued by out of control sensory input.  He was referred to me for treatment for what everyone thought was some sort of hallucination.  But I discovered very quickly that he was not hallucinating at all.  I went in search of answers for this extraordinary phenomenon and found a monograph by an anthropologist named Richard Burton.  Suddenly, it all made sense.  Captain James Ellison was a sentinel.  We worked with him, tried to help him control his gift but we could only get so far before he would enter what you have termed a zone out.  So, I went back to Burton’s writings for answers and found out about the sentinel’s companion.  Unfortunately, Burton did not seem as interested in the companion as perhaps he should have been because there was nothing there to really work with.  I, on the other hand, decided that the companion had to be the key to the sentinel’s ability to function.  I put together a profile of what I thought the companion should be and sent out feelers.  One person that I sent out a feeler to was my old high school chum, Eli Stoddard.”


Blair Sandburg was no idiot.  Rose smiled as he watched his captive audience put the pieces together.  He was shaking his head.  “No.  That’s not possible.”


“It’s true.  Eli told me about his favorite student.  He suggested that I send the information I had on sentinels to Rainier and he would try to see if he could get this favored student interested in studying the subject.  Now, don’t get angry with Eli.  He had no idea what our real plans were.  He just wanted to help out an old friend and a student at the same time.  He figured the subject would challenge you and that your study would enable me to get the government to institute and finance a larger study.”


“You sent the monograph to Dr. Stoddard?”


“Yes, and funded a great deal of your research.  The majority of your grants came from us or from sources that we control.”


“No!  I won’t believe that.  I worked for what I got! I taught and applied for grants and got scholarships!  You did not give me anything!”


“It’s true that we did not give you everything.  You have worked very hard.  In fact, we would have been happier if you had not taken a teaching fellowship.  It took you away from your research, but that we could not control.  The university was as blissfully unaware as Eli, and you, for that matter.”


Sandburg stared at him for a long moment then shook his head as if trying to clear it.  “And Jim?  How much did he know?”


“Captain Ellison was aware that we were attempting to find a companion for him.  A guide, if you prefer.  He also knew that we were having some problems and that his guide would not be fully trained for a number of years.  He voluntarily underwent hypnosis to suppress his memories of his senses.  He wanted to be normal, he said, at least for a little while.  Now, we weren’t quite ready for the two of you to meet.  And the hypnosis was not as successful as we hoped but fate brought the two of you together and for quite a while things seemed to be going just fine.  Then Ms. Barnes came along.  Tell me, Blair, what was it like?  Dying, I mean.  At the hands of a sentinel, no less.  How ironic.  At any rate, the two of you survive that only to have your dissertation become public.  Do you realize that if you had not declared yourself a fraud, we would not have been able to touch you?  If you disappeared there would have been too many questions.  But after your little announcement, no one would think it odd that you decided to disappear for a while or forever, for that matter.  Irony yet again.  To make matters worse, Captain Ellison, once he was reactivated, was behaving like a jackass.  We weren’t sure of his motivation.  Was he trying to drive you away or was he simply reverting to his black ops persona?”


“Jim knew?  When did he know?”  The voice had gone from irate to defeated. 


“Oh, right after the Barnes incident.  We were concerned about his behavior.  We had put quite a bit of time into you.  We couldn’t have you end up dead or maimed or damaged.  His performance was less than stellar, don’t you agree?”


“And he didn’t tell me.”


Rose smiled at the whispered comment.  “Blair, this was a black op, of sorts.  He was not authorized to tell you or anyone.  He was following orders.”


“Following orders?  Following orders.  Bastard.”


“Perhaps but he is a soldier and soldiers follow orders.  Now, Blair, I’m hoping that you will listen to reason.  We would like to have you on board the program.  You are, as far as we can tell, not just a scholar on our subject but I believe that you are a natural guide.  That as genetic as Ellison’s gifts are, yours are just as genetic.”


“That’s ridiculous.  Not only is that not likely in and of itself, do you realize how astronomical the odds are that you just happened to ‘find’ me, a so called natural guide, with your stupid plan and profile.  And just what kind of profile?  No, this is ridiculous.”


“Well, it’s my theory.  Now, we just have to prove it.  So, can I count on you?”


“Forget it.”


“I thought you might say that.  Perhaps you’ll change your mind after you speak with Captain Ellison.”




A moment of silence followed that declaration then Blair turned to face the door as he heard it open.  Then Jim was there.  He was healthy and whole, dressed in his Army uniform.  If that were not enough to tell him that Rose was not lying, Blair could also see the shame in Jim’s eyes before the sentinel slammed down his shields to show Blair the hard glint of the covert operative he had once been and was again.  “Jim?”  Blair felt tears of betrayal and pain welling up and could not stop them from falling. 


“Sandburg.  Do what they ask.”


“But Jim--”


“Just do what you’re told!  You do not have any other real choice.  It’s the program or--”


“Or what?”


“You don’t want to know.”


“You son of a bitch.  How could you do this to me?  Why?  What did I ever do to you but try to help?  Why, Jim?  Just tell me why.”


“I was following orders, Sandburg.  Like you should.”


“So, I should be a good little guide and follow orders.  Their orders, your orders.  Just follow along behind you like a well-trained puppy?”


“Not me, Sandburg.  I have a guide.”


“What?”  Blair felt as if he had been punched in the gut.  He struggled to catch his breath.


“You’ll be training my new guide, Sandburg.”


“No.  Fuck you.  And fuck you!” Blair screamed at the mirror.  “You can all go to hell.”


“Captain Ellison, please leave the room and let Blair think this over.  He’s too emotional right now to make a logical decision about this.”  The voice instructed and Jim was gone before Blair could say anything more but he also knew that Jim could still hear him. 


“I hate you, Ellison.  You fucking hypocrite.  I will never forgive you for this.  Never.”




Simon stared at the letter that had been hand delivered to his office by one of the Anthropology TA’s from Rainier.  He had thanked the young woman and watched her go before folding his big body into his desk chair and carefully placing the letter on his blotter.  The envelope lay there, daring him to open it.  Slowly, he lifted one hand and touched the thing.  He drew a deep breath and snatched it up.  He tore into it and quickly unfolded the paper inside before he could lose his nerve. 


“Look under your desk drawer, Simon.  I’m sorry and thank you for everything.  Blair.”  He read aloud then swallowed the lump in his throat that threatened to choke him.


He put the paper on the desk and slid out of his chair.  He reached under the desktop and found what was taped there.  He pulled the key and the card off the drawer and looked at them.  Minutes later he was on his way to First Union Bank of Cascade.  Once there, the manager led him to the safety deposit box.  He stared alternately at the key and the box for a few moments before taking a deep breath and slipping the key into the lock.  The manager smiled at him and placed his own key into the second lock.  Together they pulled out the box only to discover that it was empty.  Simon swore under his breath.  “The bastards beat me to it,” he said aloud. 


“I haven’t let anyone in here, sir.”  The manager looked sincerely upset.  “I don’t understand.”


Simon sighed.  “It’s not your fault.  Thank you.”  He shuffled out of the bank, leaving the manager to puzzle out his security breach on his own.  Simon had his own problems. 




“Have you had enough time to calm down and think about your options?”


Blair spun around to face the mirror.  “I don’t have any options and you know that, you son of a bitch.”


“Blair, Blair, that’s not helping anyone.  All you have to do is work with me here.  I think we can all benefit from this turn of events.”


Blair laughed bitterly.  “Benefit?  You think I can benefit from this?  I’m locked up in this room.  I’m never going to be allowed to walk out of here, am I?  And the best I can hope for is the privilege of training Lord Captain Ellison’s ‘new’ guide.  That’s real nice.  Thank you.  Sounds like a great life to me.”


“Actually, there is something else you can do for me.  If you agree, I may be able to find you some other options.”


Blair was suspicious.  He glared at the glass with narrowed eyes.  “What?  And what other options?”


“If you can behave yourself, I’ll show you.  I think that you and I can do great things together.  What do you say?”


“Let’s hear it then.”


“I’ll send Corporal Burns to get you in a few moments.”


He was getting out of this room.  And if there was half a chance, he was going to get out of this place if he had to die trying.  He stood staring defiantly at the door, half wondering who Burns was.  Would it be Bubba or Jake?  Another part of his brain was trying to sift through the past year of his life.  He had died and come back.  He had lost his job, his reputation, his dream of becoming a PhD, and now, apparently his best friend.  If indeed Jim had been a friend at all.  A pain shot through his chest at that thought.  Jim had known what they were going to do but he had not told Blair.  He let it happen.  He let them lock Blair into this room and drug him and humiliate him.  He swallowed the lump in his throat and blinked away the threatening tears.  The door opened and Bubba stepped inside.  The big man crooked a finger at him.  Blair hesitated for a split second then moved to the door.  Amazingly enough, they did not restrain him in any way.  He had expected handcuffs, but instead Bubba Burns just let him walk.  Burns walked behind him, pointing the way from time to time.  He led Blair into a part of the facility that looked deserted.  Then he ordered Blair to stop in front of a door.  He knocked on the door and a moment later, an older man with salt and pepper hair opened the door. 


“Come in, Blair.  Corporal, you wait here.  Thank you.”  The man grabbed Blair by the arm and then tucked Blair under his arm as they started down the hall.  Blair tried to pull away from the suddenly overly friendly man but he held tight.  Blair was all at once uncertain that he had made the right choice.  His mind conjured up all sorts of things that the man might require of him.  “Blair, my name is Robert Rose.  You and I have a lot in common.  I know you don’t believe that but it’s true.  We are both scientists with an interest in sentinels.  I know that you think that this mess with Captain Ellison is the end of your dream of helping a sentinel but you are wrong.  Captain Ellison has moved on.  He is resuming his military career, which was always the goal of the project.  He has a new guide that suits the needs of the military as well as Captain Ellison’s needs.  However, that doesn’t mean that you will not have the opportunity to work with a sentinel again.”


Blair was puzzled.  “You’ve found another sentinel?”


“No, not exactly.”  Rose stopped.  There was a door at his back.  He turned quickly and unlocked it.  “We didn’t find another sentinel.”  The man placed a hand on Blair’s back and pushed him forward even as he opened the door.  “You did.”


The door closed behind him before he could ask what Rose was talking about and he was locked in the room.  “Hey!  What the hell is going on here?”


A growl from behind him caused his heart to drop into his feet.  He turned slowly and faced the nightmare that had haunted him for nearly a year.  “No,” he whispered.  “Oh god.”


She rose slowly from her crouch in the corner and moved toward him.  She sniffed the air and growled again. 


“Rose!  Get me outta here!” he screamed and pounded on the door without taking his eyes off of her.  “She’s gonna kill me, Rose!  You can’t leave me in here!”


“You’re a guide.  You can help her.  You will help her, Blair.  If you refuse, you will never see the outside world again.  Do you understand?”


“Oh god.  This can’t be happening.  She’s crazy, Rose!  She lost her mind, man.”


“But not her senses.  She is your sentinel, Blair.  You can and will do this.”


She was circling him and he trembled as she touched the back of his neck.  Her hand caressed his neck as she came around to stand just inches from his face.  He could feel her breath on his face and he raised his eyes to hers.  He knew instantly that that was the wrong thing to do.  He was on his back with her hands wrapped around his throat in the space of a second.  “Alex, no please, not again.”


Moments passed into eternity and Blair’s vision dimmed as he started to lose consciousness.  Then Alex’s face was replaced with Bubba’s and Blair was surprised at how happy he was to see the big ugly man hovering over him.  It was a fleeting happiness, however, as he remembered that he should be trying to escape.  He surged up and shoved at Bubba hard and the corporal fell on his ass.  Rose had his hands full trying to hold onto Alex and the door stood open.  Blair cleared the room door and the hall door before Bubba appeared to give pursuit.  Blair could hear Rose yelling at the man, telling him not to kill Blair and Blair was absurdly thankful for that.  Briefly, he worried that he was only clothed in boxers then dismissed that worry.  He would rather be naked and free than be tied to Alex Barnes and Robert Rose.  Suddenly, he saw what he was looking for: an outside door.  His hand just touched the handle when the pain overtook him.  He dropped to his knees even as his mind registered what was happening.  He had been hit with a tazor.  He tried to scream his defiance but nothing would come out of his mouth.  He tried to struggle back to his feet but the electricity coursing through him kept his body from obeying his orders.  The last conscious thought he had as he succumbed was that Jim had known.  He had to know.  Jim would have sensed Alex.  Wouldn’t he?  Jim had told him to do as he was told.  Jim had known.  That betrayal hurt worse than the bite of the tazor and something in Blair cracked and broke.  He welcomed the darkness and vowed to stay there.






Jim turned and faced Incacha.  The Chopec shaman walked slowly toward him, out of the jungle foliage.  He was glaring at Jim in a way that made Jim’s face flush.  “Incacha, I don’t need riddles right now.”


“No riddles.  What have you done, Enqueri?”


“What do want me to say, Incacha?  I screwed up.  I didn’t handle this very well but I’m going to fix it somehow.  Okay?”


“You have deserted your guide.”


“I didn’t have a choice.  I have another guide, one that’s military and understands operational necessity.  Blair never did and never could.  And I’m going to make Rose release him.  Once I get back on an even keel with Holloway, I’ll have some leverage.  Who knows, maybe Sandburg will work on the project.”


The man was shaking his head even as Jim spoke.  “Look, Enqueri.  Look what you have done.”  The man pointed and Jim turned.  His breath caught in his throat.  Blair Sandburg huddled in the doorway of a temple that rose up from the jungle floor.  The wolf that Jim knew as the younger man’s spirit guide paced before him, stopping occasionally to growl and snap his jaws at adversaries that only it could see.  Jim’s feet moved of their own accord.  He approached the temple only to be stopped by a hand on his shoulder.


He faced Incacha once again.  “What?”


“You have lost the right.  He is not your guide anymore.”


“Incacha, he needs me.”


“Does he?  No, he needs a sentinel.”


“I’m a sentinel.”


“No, you are not.”




“You deserted your guide.  No sentinel would do that.  You are no longer a sentinel.”


“A sentinel is a sentinel as long as he chooses to be.  You told me that.”


“Or as long as he deserves to be.  You were given a gift and you turned your back on it.”


“I didn’t have a choice!”  Jim abruptly pulled away.  “He looks terrible,” he mumbled.  He moved toward the temple again.  This time, Incacha did not try to stop him.  He paused at the bottom of the steps.  “Blair?”


The wolf spun on him and snarled even as Blair surged to his feet.  Jim saw the knife in his friend’s hand.  He held out one hand in entreaty and raised the other to show that he was not armed.  A sound off to Jim’s right made him look and he nearly stepped back at the sight of a large snake.  “Shit.  Blair, come on, buddy.  Let me help.”  He started up the steps but he did not get far.  The wolf lunged for him.


And he woke up.  He sat up in bed and wiped one hand across his face.  Something was very wrong with Sandburg.  He was torn.  He was not supposed to care.  He needed not to care but he got out of bed and got dressed.  He left his room.  He fought to keep his pace casual.  Running through the corridors would blow the illusion of apathy.  He was halfway to Blair’s prison and he tried to extend his hearing in the hopes that he would find that his midnight stroll was just a waste of good sleeping time.  His ears did not seem to want to cooperate, however.  He shook his head and tried again.  Nothing happened.  He stopped in mid-stride.  One by one, he tested his other senses.  Usually, in the corridors of the facility, he could pick up stimulus for all his senses.  The air was always scented with sweat, gun oil, and institutional cleansers.  His sense of taste could taste that gun oil and a sharp lemon flavor that hung in the air from the floor wax.  His eyes could pick out even the smallest crack in the tiles under his feet.  He could tell which corridors had been recently occupied by registering residual heat.  It was always warmer where the people had been.  And hearing was especially interesting.  The building echoed every little sound, even the ones too small for ordinary ears to pick up initially.  Jim could hear them all and all their echoes.  Normally.  Not now.  Then it hit him.  In the dream, Incacha had told him that he was no longer a sentinel.  He was so focused on Sandburg when he woke up that he had forgotten about that. 


Jim swore under his breath.  “That’s just great, Incacha.  Thanks.  Fuck!”  He closed his eyes and stood there for a moment.  “We are so very fucked now.”  He started to just go back to his room.  What could he do after all?  But his conscience would not let him.  He had to see Sandburg.  He sighed and continued down the hallway.  There was a guard on the door.  Jim nodded at the man then slipped into the observation room and closed the door behind him.  There was no one in the room at that time of night and Jim moved to the window.  What he saw sent a wave of panic through him and he ran from the room.  “Open the door!” he ordered the soldier on duty.


“Sir?  I can’t, sir.”


“Open that damn door now!”




Jim grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall.  “Give me the keys, soldier.  That is an order.”


“But I’m under orders from the Colonel.”  The younger man stammered even as he fumbled with the key. 


Jim snatched the key from him and then dropped the man.  “I’ll handle the Colonel.  Call Rose.  Do it now.”  Jim quickly unlocked the door and stumbled into the brightly lit room.  He flung himself on the floor next to the prone figure of his former guide.  “Sandburg!”  There was no response.  No movement or reaction.  Blair Sandburg’s blue eyes were open and staring, empty, dead.  But, Jim realized in wonder, his chest rose and fell.  He was alive.  “Blair?” Jim cringed at the pathetic desperation he heard in his own voice.  He reached out and touched the younger man’s forehead.  And was in the jungle again.  The wolf lunged for his throat and Jim fell back.  He hit the jungle floor and rolled away from the powerful jaws.  The snake hissed at him as he landed right next to it.  He scrambled back and turned to defend himself from the wolf again only to see that it had returned to Sandburg’s side.  He turned as he heard other sounds behind him but could only see shadows moving in the trees.  The wolf howled then and the sound cut through Jim’s chest like a knife. 


“Captain Ellison!”  Rose’s voice brought him back from the vision.


Jim was up and in the man’s face in an instant.  “What the hell did you do to him?”


“Blair tried to escape.  We did not injure him.  We simply stopped him.  He will be fine.”


“You call that fine?  He’s catatonic!”


“I believe it to be an act to get us to let down our guard.  I have told him, however, that I will not allow this farce to go on for long.  If he continues this, he will be punished.  Now, I have answered your questions.  Answer mine. What are you doing here?”


“You stupid son of a bitch.  That is not an act—,” Jim shook his head and covered his mouth with his hand. 


“Captain, what are you doing here?”


“Confirming my reservation in hell.”  Jim sat down on the floor next to the man that had taught him that he was not a freak, the man that gave him unconditional friendship, the man that trusted him and called him a Blessed Protector.  “I am so very sorry, Blair.”



They were trying to take his project from him.  He should have known.  Rose threw the notice on the desk.  He should have expected the double-cross.  After all, he was planning one or two himself.  MacNamara was sending some “scientists” to check on his progress.  He was not falling for that.  This was the very last thing he needed at the moment.  Ellison was claiming that he had lost his sentinel abilities.  Sandburg was still pulling his zombie routine, despite Rose’s promise of punishment.  Adler was all up in arms because “his” sentinel was not “working.”  Holloway was useless.  And now, MacNamara was sending his people in to spy on him.  He had hoped to have his own sentinel “working” so to speak before he was visited by his backers. 


It was not that he was not grateful to MacNamara.  After all, the man had managed to keep the project from being shut down by Adler’s enemies in the Pentagon.  It amazed Robert to find that some of the people in the Pentagon did actually have scruples.  They were willing to overlook the highly irregular re-enlistment of Captain James Ellison, using the fact that he did sign that questionable agreement when he was released from the service.  But for some reason, they decided to get all upset over the acquisition of Blair Sandburg.  MacNamara’s people came up with some interesting photos of the whiners and suddenly, the Pentagon was back on board.  But now… now, MacNamara was up to something.  Of course, when the man’s spies got here they would be sorely disappointed.  Alex Barnes was still a feral creature and Blair Sandburg was a vegetable.  Correction, playing the vegetable.  He grinned.  Actually, that worked in his favor.  MacNamara would still need him.  Only he could control Barnes. 


Still, he did not want interlopers.  Yet, they would be here in the morning, this Lieutenant Devereaux and two “scientists.”  Drs. Barrow and Parker, how ridiculous.  Well, they would find nothing, see nothing, and do nothing.  Nothing but die.  It was time to rid himself of Max and his delusions.  It was time to get rid of Goody-Two-Shoes Ellison.  Tomorrow night he would leave here with his sentinel and her reluctant guide.  And when Blair had been taught his place in the world, Robert would sell Alex’s talents to the highest bidder and he would be a rich man indeed.  He rose from his desk.  He had work to do.  And now, he had just the right people to take the blame.

Part 2b