Warnings: 1. A very few swear words. 2. The first story I have written since College Freshman English (1969). Also, the first one I ever enjoyed writing. Only 'our boys' could get me to enjoy writing. I know who they really belong to, see the Disclaimer. 3. This is an alternate journey. It's told in parts rather than one seamless story. 4. Deaths of minor character and original characters.

My undying gratitude goes to:) TA DAH: hercat! Thank you for betaing this first story of mine. It had to be scary to have an unknown writer dump this in your lap. Believe me folks, it's MUCH more readable now. All errors are mine. I don't want them, but no one else does either.



complete in 13 parts

by ljc


Summary: AU. What if destiny plays it's part a little differently and their paths merged before they even met. Now for their future . . . it's not TSbBS.

Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.


1. Prologue: The Meeting

The day was pleasantly cool and breezy, but with a brilliant sun to warm him. He recognized his ambivalence toward his journey here, but it was definitely make or break time. All the skills and teachings he had absorbed in his life seemed to have led him to this place and time.

He hadn't told anyone where he was going or when he would be back, only that he was leaving. How could he, since he didn't know his destination? He only knew he had to go. This was the time. But why here, and why now, he wondered. This was a very secluded area and he would certainly not have chosen early spring. It was just too cold. Still, it was beautiful and the air was crisp, the leaves of the trees splendid in their myriad spring greens, ferns just sprouting from the earth and tiny violets like a tapestry spread on the new spring grass.

He'd blithely flung himself through life before his expedition to Peru. A certain Shaman had taught him awareness and appreciation of the ebb and flow of life and the small wonders of nature that gave such pleasure if you just took the time to notice.

He knew when he saw the tiny stream that this was his destination. When summer came, this tiny stream would barely trickle to the small pool below. This peaceful place drew him and with a calmness he had rarely known he set about to make camp. He'd traveled light, so his shelter was complete in a short time and he set out to explore. He knew somehow, the rest was not up to him.

As a student his travels had led him to many remote places and many remote peoples who had a depth of knowledge of the land, themselves, and their place in the journey of their lives. He envied them their certainty that their lives were as they ought to be. He remembered one in particular, Incacha; Shaman, teacher, healer and more. Incacha had tried to impart his teachings to this eager student, but had only left the young man unsure of his place in his own life. Something was missing in Blair's life, and Incacha had been as helpful as he could be in setting him on the path to find it. The teacher could only guide the student. He could not follow the path for him. And this young man had not a clue. So he meandered around his camp, searching the vistas before him, hoping the meaning of his journey, and maybe of his life, would be revealed to him.

He was not a man to sit quietly for very long. The calmness of the first hours left him and his agitation grew. The student remembered the teachings of the Shaman and decided he had waited long enough. There must be something he could do. Some ritual he could perform to set him on his path.


The Shaman had seen a strength in his student, and a gift. He had tried to teach him what the young man would need on his life's journey; much like a father would teach his son, for this son would follow in his footsteps and be a great Shaman. So it was foretold in his visions.


So the student followed the Shaman's teachings. He did his best to ready his mind, body and spirit with deep breathing and meditation, holding off on the more questionable technique of hallucinogenic aids. Being the student he was, he knew body chemistry could be changed by the former methods alone. Not that he wasn't prepared to go to even further lengths, but he was loath to go against the heartfelt lessons of his mother: that he was a child of the earth and his spirit was pure and to poison himself was not the path he should choose.

He felt at such great peace. The bright sun's fingers on his face faded from his reality, as did the sun-warmed earth beneath him. The threads of hair brushing his face faded from his notice as did the forest sounds, until another reality gently brushed his senses. A different forest surrounded him, with a jungle lushness he recognized from his travels. Memories of Incacha came to the fore, and he found himself sitting in the jungle. It was not the jungle of his memories. There was a lack of depth to this place, and not a sound could be heard. And yet, there was a feeling that life existed in all its richness if only he could see a little clearer, listen a little harder.

With great joy he saw Incacha approaching. The Shaman wore a smile for his student, knowing that that for which he searched with such dedication was about to find him. The young man had a thousand questions for his teacher, but his intentions were to be thwarted. Incacha knew their time was short here. There was nothing he could do or say to prepare the young one further. The time was upon him to meet his destiny.

The student longed for understanding.

“Why are you here? Why have I come to this place? I've searched so long to fill this emptiness inside me. Is my journey over? Is this the place I was destined to find?”

“Young one, you have the wisdom and the knowledge, it is your destiny to now be the Teacher. It was not a place you sought, for your heart's home will not be a place but a companion.” Amusement sparkled in the wise face as he thought of the companion. One who was just as strong of will, and of little patience but gifted with the capacity for greatness within that strong heart. “Awake now, your journey has yet to begin.”

The student's wordless cry hovered in the air. Too short the time. Too few the answers. So much left unsaid. His fists hit the ground, once, twice. Then grabbing handfuls of grass and leaves he lowered his head in confusion. What now? He had thought this was surely the way, the answer to all his questions. His thoughts led him around in circles. Thoughts of his lovely, lively mother. Of his many friends. Acquaintances? So few he could call friends with any surety. No real friend of the heart. No one friend to stay by him all his days. There were so many times in his life when he would turn as if to share a thought, a joyous moment, a quiet contemplation and the spot at his side was empty when it should have held...? Something was always missing. The yearned for warmth hurt him soul deep.

With a great sigh, he began to turn his thoughts outwards. The sun again blessed his body with its warmth. The bits of flora he'd scraped up felt cool to his fingers and the earthy smell reached his nose and made it twitch. He tilted his head back and breathed in a lungful of the fresh, crisp air, then was pulled headlong into the present. His eyes opened, and with startlement, he gazed on the face of a stranger.

His bafflement deepened when the stranger stayed motionless, not even seeming to breathe. It was the oddest thing. Here he was, in the middle of nowhere, with this statue-like apparition before him. He began to scoot away but then stopped when there was no reaction from the man. It seemed the man had simply crouched in front of him, frozen in the midst of reaching out to him. When he realized nothing bad had happened to him, he began to wonder if there was something wrong with this person. He began to wonder if the man was ill. He slowly regained his feet and put his mind to the task.

His regard of the man told him many things. He was older. He was bigger. Neither of these things eased his mind. Wait, he wasn't blinking, and his lips had a bluish tinge. He couldn't walk away. The man was in trouble. He did the normal thing, he waved his hand in front of his face...no reaction. Held his hand under the man's nose...he felt just the slightest touch of breath. His gently questing fingers felt a pulse that seemed slow and weak to him, but he was hardly an expert. The man's muscles appeared to be locked rigidly to keep him from falling, so the young man slowly rubbed his hands up and down the stranger's arms and shoulders hoping to get them to relax. The response he got was, to say the least, unexpected.

He was flattened. He looked up into the stranger's eyes, with the man's palm flat on his chest pressing him into the earth. The big man's stare was accompanied by a low growl and a command,

“Stay where you are. Stop that. Just keep your hands off me.”

The student stared into the strangers eyes, blue, cooler than his own bright blue eyes. It was a joyous moment, one to share with his closest friend. The companion. The destiny of two, now one. With a growing, if somewhat hesitant smile,

“Hello, my friend. My name is Blair.”

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2. A Step

A look of consternation appeared fleetingly on the face of the stranger. The look was soon replaced with a look more stoic, as if hiding himself from view would also hide the wealth of pain, despair and hopelessness embodied within.

“You're no friend of mine. Do you think because you brought me out of the zone that gives you the right to make false assumptions? You're nothing to me.”

“It was a zone? Then you must be a Sentinel!”

“What would you know about Sentinels?”

“I'm an anthropologist. I've read everything I can find on the subject. You're amazing, man. This is fabulous. Do you mind if I ask a few questions? Are all five senses enhanced? Where's your Guide? Are you out here to hone your control? What's your range? What work do you do? Is it Search & Rescue? Is that why you're here? Are you on an assignment?”

“Stop! What makes you think I want to answer questions from someone I don't even know?”

“I'm sorry, I get carried away sometimes. But I told you my name, it's Blair, Blair Sandburg. And your name? . . . And do you think you could get your hand off my chest?”

The big man sat back on his heels with a start. “Sorry. The name's Ellison.”

As Blair got to his feet he glanced around. “Where is your Guide? You didn't come all the way out here alone did you? That's not safe. What if you zoned? But you did zone! How could he have left you without backup?”

“Stop right there. I don't have a Guide. I don't need a Guide. Besides, I would have come out of the zone eventually.”

“But we're out in the forest. You could have been hurt. Anyway, since your Guide isn't here to tell you, you were practically not breathing and your heart rate was slow.”

“How do you know that?” Blair watched Ellison's stoicism turn to distrust. “You're an anthropologist not a doctor. Where did you get that information?”

“I was pretty freaked out to open my eyes and see a statue in front of me, man! I'm an anthropologist. I study people, places, cultures. I observe! You were a 'statue' my friend and you were turning blue. You were in trouble. I couldn't turn my back on you could I? I found a weak pulse, and when I rubbed your arms to try to relax you and draw your attention, you came to immediately. Hey, great reflexes man.”

“Only a Guide has the right to connect to his Sentinel when he's zoned. I have no Guide.”

Blair was stunned but only temporarily speechless. He knew a great deal about Sentinels because of Incacha's teachings. What he had gleaned from his research hadn't enlightened him further. Even the writings of Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, only gave cursory details of the Sentinel/Guide pair he had observed. They said little about the Sentinel, less about the Guide, and nearly ignored the connection between the two. What little had been learned since had shown that the two were nearly inseparable and were connected in some scarcely acknowledged psychic/empathic/spiritual way depending on who you listened to.

He was getting some negative vibes from this Sentinel. No Guide? This was very irregular. How had he survived? How had Blair brought him out of the zone? He wasn't trained to Guide, not even as a temporary Guide. He knew about the military Sentinels/Guides and their more often than not clandestine activities. He knew that usually the Sentinel had to make do with an Interim Guide because technical or physical circumstances required a different pairing. Going by first impressions, this man could easily be military.

“Mr. Ellison . . . do you have a first name?”

“Ellison will do.”

The man is definitely military. “Right. Haven't you ever had a Guide? Unpartnered Sentinels don't live long without. . .”

“What, a keeper? I don't need a Guide. I don't need you. You can just find yourself another Sentinel to . . .”

“Stop right there! Who said I was a Guide or looking for a Sentinel?”

“Anyone can tell you're a Guide. It's obvious.”

“Obvious to who? Not me! I was just out here minding my own business.”

“What business?”

“Nothing. Really.”

“I don't believe you. Really.”


“What kind of answer is that?” Jim was marshalling his interrogation skills.

Blair thought he sounded like his mother. “This is going to sound strange.”

“I asked didn't I?”

Blair sighed and figured it couldn't hurt to tell him. “Have you ever not known where your life was leading?” That was probably a stupid question. “Don't take this the wrong way but you look like the kind of person who probably had a plan for your whole life from the age of six, but me, I've just felt like I was drifting my whole life, not really able to settle down and focus on a goal. Always dabbling in other peoples lives, never committing to one place, one person. I've never settled in one place for very long. I've lived with research subjects longer than I've ever lived in a home of my own. I came here because I just had this sense of expectation. That somehow this was the end of the aimless wandering. That something momentous was just ahead of me. There was some step I needed to take. Some responsibility I needed to take on.”

“I'm no one's duty,” snarled Ellison. “Who do you think you are? I'm a highly trained ex-military and police officer, I can damn well be responsible for myself. I refuse to be answerable to the likes of some neo-hippie witch doctor punk.”

“Whoa. I came by the hippie part honestly. You should see my Mom. Maybe not. No, not a good idea. I worked too hard to keep her out of jail. She's not too keen on pigs. Sorry cops. Wait, do you think I want to be your Guide? That's not going to happen man. One, I'm an anthropologist. I travel all over the world. That's my job. No way am I going to settle down in some Sentinel's territory and try to fit into his life's work. Two, I don't have the training. What do you expect me to do, just wing it? Three, you're a pig, a cop, an oppressor of the people. Well, I suppose that's more my Mom's opinion than mine. If you have a dissenting opinion we can talk. As for witch doctor, that is so politically incorrect, although I did study Shamanism with this really cool guy. And what do you mean by punk? I am not a hoodlum! And if you mean I'm a punk rock fan, well yeah, but I think all music is great.”


Ellison was a little stunned at this rebuttal. The punk, alright, anthropologist, had just stood up to him. Even fellow cops gave way to the 'Ellison glare', and he'd had it up full force. But he didn't need a Guide. Even if he was starting to realize the kid had grit, that didn't make him his Guide. He had brought him out of the zone, but then Interim Guides had done the same. Still, this one was different somehow. His appearance did nothing to invite confidence but first impressions could be deceiving, and they could change after you got to know someone. Even now, in his eyes he saw energy and enthusiasm and warmth. His scent was distinct, soothing, and when breathed over his tongue the taste was spicy but not overwhelming. His touch had relaxed not jarred. And last, but not least, especially for a Guide, his voice did not stress his hearing but eased it. How could he not know he was a Guide? It was obvious.

He couldn't keep arguing with himself. Was Sandburg a Guide or not? Yes, he was a Guide. His reaction to him, even zoned, proved that to him. Was he HIS Guide or not? Well, maybe. Out loud he could deny it all he wanted but he knew his time was short. Sandburg was right about that, an unpartnered Sentinel didn't live long without a companion. That was what Incacha had called a Guide. When Ellison had worked with Incacha's people in Peru, the shaman had told the Sentinel that he would soon find his true companion. Losing his team along with his Interim Guide had been a devastating blow, one he hadn't known if he would survive. One he hadn't been sure he wanted to survive. He'd known his chances were slim without a Guide, but with Incacha's help he'd made it until reinforcements arrived. Now, on the police force his colleagues all did their best to help out.

Even if this kid, anthropologist, was HIS Guide, how was he supposed to convince the kid? Should he even try? Guiding was not a job for the untrained. He could get them both killed, and civilians, too. Well, training would probably be the easy part. Sandburg was young and he looked healthy. He'd help his Guide make it through it because it was necessary. It was a small part of what a Sentinel did for his Guide.

Maybe convincing the kid wouldn't be that hard either. There was a real longing in his voice when he'd tried to explain why he was here. Yeah, maybe it wouldn't be so hard to convince him after all. Telling him about Incacha would be a good start. Being an anthropologist, he'd probably love to hear about 'indigenous people' and a real Shaman. Being a Guide was a full time commitment, like being a Sentinel. He thought Sandburg would understand that. Maybe even welcome it.

He'd come out here for a little downtime, thinking he could relieve some of the stress of the sensory spikes, maybe do a little fishing. He grinned and figured he may have gotten the biggest catch of all, a Sentinel's Guide. This Sentinel's Guide.


3. Musing

Blair woke early that Monday morning. His warehouse home was cold as usual. He always laughed to himself that the rats scurried away in the morning because they were freaked out by his bed head. He'd just fallen into bed last night and his long curly hair was worse than usual this morning after the weekend on the mountain. Jim! Blair slowly sat at his table, unable to shake the daze that settled over his mind. Their hike down the trail had been interspersed with Jim's remembrances. Blair, unusually for him, had been nearly silent. What was he going to do? Incacha had mentored both of them. How freaky was that!

Jim seemed accepting of Guide Sandburg, when Guide Sandburg barely knew what a Guide was. Was there a Guide Guidebook? He sure hoped so.

Jim had said he'd worked with an Interim Guide in the Rangers. He'd explained that no military Sentinel or Guide tried to connect too solidly, it was just too risky. If one was lost then the other usually was, which could make a bad situation worse for their team.

At least Jim seemed to have some control. To think, he'd zoned on Blair! When Blair had asked him what happened he thought Jim would bust his jaw. But when he finally got an answer, Blair had just laughed. Snorted really. Real cool Sandburg. But the silliness of it floored him. Jim had said he could smell him from a dozen yards away. Just how bad was that? Jim hadn't looked amused, not at all.

Then it'd hit him, that must have been the imprint a Sentinel made of his Guide. Was there Guide-at-first-sight, sort of like love at first sight? Why else would Jim be so accepting? There was more, there had to be, for all the senses needed to be involved. Was the process completed? Not just the physical sensing but the spiritual as well. Were they connected now on the physical and spiritual plane? This probably called for another trip to 'visit' Incacha. Blair wondered if Jim would go along with him.


Dust motes swirled around him in his tiny office. There was no music playing. His Monday office hours were finally over. There was nothing he absolutely needed to do right this minute. So he just sat staring at the dust motes. He'd been trying not to think about this all day. He sat, not on his chair but hunkered down against the wall behind his desk. He wasn't hiding. Nope, not Blair Sandburg. There wasn't anything to be afraid of, not here. Still, he felt a bit more protected in this little corner. It wasn't a physical threat he feared, but threat to his emotional balance. The upheaval one tall, blue-eyed Sentinel-in-need-of-a-Guide threw his way. HOW could he know INCACHA?

Incacha was a Shaman for Pete's sake! In Chopec territory! Deep in the heart of Peru! It didn't make sense that they would both know this man. It was way beyond coincidence. What was the statistical probability that these three people had met in that place for the Shaman to teach them of Sentinels and Guides? Was it karma? Fate? Some huge cosmic joke? Could it even be an Ellison joke? And yet, Incacha was the reason Blair had been on that mountain last weekend. He was the reason Jim survived to be on that mountain, if Blair could trust what Ellison had told him.

Well, he couldn't hide here like a little kid afraid of the big bad bogeyman. No matter how much he'd like to. Blair sighed. It was time to face the beast. He chided himself. He'd faced native spears, wild beasts, even poachers with some of the best weapons on the market, he could face one Sentinel/Detective who had sworn to uphold the law, to serve and protect. If Ellison was just threatening his safety he could have scrounged up the courage to face that more easily than the threat to his career, his future . . . and on second thought, maybe his safety. It couldn't be too safe being a pig's Guide. Well, he'd better watch the p-i-gs around the other cops. He wouldn't last long if he didn't try to fit in their little closed society.

Who was he kidding? They'd take one look at him and . . . Blair made himself stop right there. He'd been there before. If you didn't walk the walk, and talk the talk, you were on the outside looking in, wanting in, but excluded, for any reason or no reason. Looks, name, religion, ethnicity, status, anything at all could be used against you by someone who wanted you out. Name calling was easy. And effective.

Well, Blair might not want to be a Guide, but he'd been able to help Ellison, Jim. Incacha had pointed him towards this path, with subtle lessons about sense awareness buried in his teachings. And Jim seemed curiously accepting of this, of him, whereas this very intelligent, well traveled, and good looking grad student was quaking behind his desk.

“Alright, let's do this logically. I need to do research: the thin blue line, urban tribal societies, assimilation into a closed society, hierarchical divisions and the chain of command in pseudo-military establishments. . .”

“That sounds like an anthropologist talking.”

“Jim,” was that his squeak?

“I was hoping you'd be thinking more along the line of 'Guiding Your Sentinel 101'.”

“I didn't know there was such a course.”

“There isn't. Yet. You're a teacher and I've done my own research. You've published some articles, too. Maybe it's time someone wrote the book on maintaining a happy Sentinel.”

“Do I get to experiment on you?”

“Do you have another Sentinel, Einstein?”

“Well, they are kind of scarce. Just remember that it was your idea.”

For a minute Jim wondered if he'd just created a monster. “Actually, I just came from a meeting with my Captain, Simon Banks, the Police Chief and the Police Commissioner. They were genuinely pleased, no make that ecstatic, at having a Sentinel/Guide pair on the force. They calmed down a little when I explained your youth and lack of experience with police work.”

“Thanks Jim. You complained about not needing a keeper. You make me sound like I need a babysitter.”

“It wasn't that bad, Sandburg, but we did come up with an accelerated program just for you. How does self-defense, firearms training, first aid, Sentinel first aid, first response situations, police procedures and documents, and law for police cadets sound for a start? Then we can get down to the heavier stuff like tactical weapons and strategy, forensics, profiling basics, crime scene analysis . . . Sandburg are you alright? You look a little pale. Why are you sitting on the floor?” Coming around the desk, Jim put his hand to Blair's forehead. “Put your head down between your knees, breathe through your nose. That's it. Again. Now can you tell me what's going on?”

Blair could only stare straight ahead. He couldn't look at Jim. He refused to show his fear. He wondered if he could really do this. It was crazy! He needed to get out of there. Obfuscation, yes.

“Well I was feeling a little out of sorts, and I still have all that research to do. Perhaps I should head home a little early. I'll think over what you said.”

“Sandburg, we've got to talk. This can't wait.”

Blair figured he needed to study up on diversionary tactics too. Okay, he could do this talking thing. “The Commissioner really cleared this? And your Captain, too? What's he like?”

“Oh, Simon, he's a teddy bear. He needs you to come in and fill out some forms and arrange a physical, and you do know you'll need to take a drug test, and pass. Right Darwin?”

“Come on Ellison, I thought we were past the first impressions stage. I'm a responsible citizen. I have a responsibility to the University, and even more importantly to me, to my students, to uphold an ethical standard of conduct.”

“Sorry, Chief, but after the lecture by the Commissioner and then the Chief of Police, and then my little 'talk' with Simon I just wanted you to understand that a lot is at stake. Reputations will be on the line. Lives may depend on your judgment calls. They just want to know that you're serious about this position.”

“You know I realize the seriousness of the situation. I'm not a kid fresh out of college. I'm not naïve. I've studied society and people. I haven't just visited different cultures, Jim, I've lived in different cultures. Wait, you said position. What position? I'll be your Guide, right?”

“Well, we think the S/G pairing should be kept secret, need-to-know for now. Only Major Crimes personnel are aware of my 'talents'. Sentinels aren't well known, but information is out there. It could be dangerous, and not just for us.”

“So, what am I supposed to do? Just arrive at the PD, sit at your desk and fill out forms? Won't the other cops think it's odd that I go with you as your backup? What's the plan Ellison? What aren't you telling me?”

“Well, for now, until you've received your training, you won't actually be my backup. You can't carry a gun. And to be honest Chief, since I served in the Rangers, if the military thinks we could be useful there's a risk they would 'ask' for our help. Although, since you're not military I doubt they would conscript you. Besides, I served my country, and a Sentinel who loses even an Interim Guide is always granted a medical discharge.”

Inwardly, Blair frowned. This was getting worse and worse. Sentinels weren't put in combat situations because they could be overwhelmed by stimuli, but Ellison had lost a Guide! What else hadn't he shared? Blair knew he'd been discharged after Peru. Ellison had told him he was in Peru to track guerrillas and the situation had gone bad. How bad?

Even if the military wouldn't be screwing with their lives, could he live like this? He didn't have to be a Guide, did he? But was that really the question? What would happen to Jim without him? With no Guide at all, most likely insanity and death. With a true Interim Guide, if one could be found, he'd still only have marginal control, which left him at risk on the job. And a Sentinel couldn't 'leave his position'. He had it for life.

Blair couldn't leave him in trouble, anymore than he could have left him on the mountain. Right now his duty was here. He could remember what Jim had said on the mountain. That he didn't want a 'duty' Guide. He didn't want or need someone who just felt obligated to guide him. He had to keep in mind the vision of Incacha on the mountain.

He'd appeared just before Blair awoke and found Jim, or Jim found him. He believed Blair's path led to a companion and that he would be a teacher. But what could Blair teach Ellison? The training he'd mentioned for Blair was probably rookie stuff to him. Could Incacha's teachings apply to the city of Cascade and one tough guy Sentinel? The vision was pretty vague and could fit a lot of situations, but hopefully it fit a Sentinel's Guide.

Blair didn't want to be a cop. He really didn't want to even touch a gun. What he really needed was peace and quiet and about two weeks of meditation to process this, but he didn't think his future could be put off that long. There must be great rewards to doing police work, otherwise men like Jim wouldn't give their lives to this career. Maybe if he just threw himself into the training, immersed himself in the work he could accept the situation. No, that wasn't right. He couldn't do this without a major commitment. It just wouldn't be fair to Jim. And it wouldn't be fair to him. It was his life.

It was his life.

This was where his life was heading. He sighed. That seemed like an awful lot to leave to fate. Jim seemed to be a good, decent man. His chosen job was 'to protect and to serve', how fitting a choice for a Sentinel. Whether it was for Blair remained to be decided. It was simply too big a decision to make after only three days. Maybe the answer would resolve itself over time.

“Jim, you didn't answer me about my position.”

“Well Chief, you said you observed cultures and people. You're going to be just that: Police Observer.”

A Police Observer, of his very own Sentinel, with his very own tribe.

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4. A Home. . .

Blair didn't even want to think about senses. Right now his senses told him he was cold and tired. He and Jim had just had a session at the University Labs. It had gone well enough but he was tired and Jim was frustrated. Blair thought he was picking up Guide training quickly. What he really needed more of was 'Jim training'.

He needed to know Jim's normal responses to stimuli before he could detect anomalies quickly enough to help him. He was sure it was just a matter of accommodation. Jim hated the tests, but they were for the benefit of both of them. The last thing he wanted was to fail his Sentinel. He prayed they'd have enough time. He didn't want his Sentinel injured, or worse, on their first assignment. The adjustment period was just going to take longer than they thought. Jim was already getting antsy about getting back to work, and they'd only met four days ago.

Well, he'd feel better after some hot tea and some supper. Pulling into his parking spot in front of his warehouse, he didn't know if he felt better or worse. He'd lived in worse places. But for the kindness of near strangers, he'd have had no place of all at times. He knew too well what living on the edge could mean. Memories of the past sent a shiver down his spine. Missed meals were bad enough, but no roof over your head was that one step over the edge he hadn't stumbled over yet.

He failed to take a good look around before he climbed out of his car, a sure sign of fatigue. His mother had taught him better than that: if the light is out, don't get out; look once, twice, then look again; always have your key in your hand. Good suggestions for anyone. His mind drifted as he remembered one student who wanted a better grade.

That'd scared the hell out of him. He'd done his look around and then left Hargrove Hall, and this kid ran at him from the dark just beyond the light and thrust a note in his hand. It was a stupid bit of harassment, I mean come on, the note was evidence against him. Threats against a teacher were not ignored these days. But it happened so fast, he rushed him and then was gone in seconds. And he could have had something besides a note. He shivered again.

Blair figured he'd better get inside before he froze. The rain felt that cold.

“Hey, Blair.”

Blair stopped dead. He thought his heart would stop too, before he recognized Angie's voice. “Angie, honey, why are you out here? Where's your Mom and Dad?”

“Mom wasn't feeling too good so Daddy went to the Salvation Army place to see if he could bring some food home for us tonight.”

“Is your Mom real sick Angie?”

“She's got a real bad cough, but she said she'll be okay. Daddy will make her go to the Clinic if she gets worse, Blair. Daddy takes good care of us.”

“He sure does Angie. He's a good Dad.” Blair wondered if he'd had any luck getting work. He'd talk to him tomorrow. Angie didn't need more to worry about right now. “If you need anything, you just come ring my doorbell, anytime, even in the middle of the night. You tell your Dad that, okay Angie?”

“Okay Blair. I gotta go back to my Mom. Daddy should be back soon. Mom said to thank you for the paper and pencils. She's teaching me my ABC's.”

“I'd like to see how you're doing Angie. Maybe this weekend you can show me what you learned, okay?”

“I'll work hard Blair, see you.”

“See you too, Angie, honey. Goodnight.”

And Blair thought he had it rough. Angie's Dad was a hard worker, but all it took was one lost paycheck for many families, and they started a downward spiral financially. Unfortunately he wasn't in any position to offer much help, and they were proud people. They didn't like to ask for help. Blair didn't know if they would have if it hadn't been for Angie. Their eyes lit right up when they talked about her. They were good people. He hoped they'd get a break real soon. If his landlord found out they were living in the other side of the warehouse they'd be back on the street.

Blair, deep in thought and concerned for their future, trudged slowly up the stairs, and turned on the light in his kitchen. He heard some scraping and a crash from further into his area but didn't investigate beyond the lit room. He could take only so much of those beady eyes staring back at him. Another shiver. To heck with supper and the tea, a nice cocoon of blankets sounded really good right now, and about twelve hours of sleep. Well, he could dream about sleep anyway, for a little while. Jim had plans for them, early.

He didn't even bother to undress.

It was a good thing really. The shocks the night would bring would leave the gentle young man with nightmares he'd gladly have foregone.

He woke when the rats started to desert their 'ship' by running over his cocoon of blankets. That brought him awake and upright with his heart thumping wildly. His first thought was to check his fingers and toes to make sure they were all still there. His second thought was, 'There's smoke!' There wasn't much thought after that, just panic. Panicked breathing led to coughing, and safety lessons kicked in. He slid down to the floor under the worst of the smoke. He had to get outside. Crawling to the door he climbed over his backpack. His computer! He hooked one arm through the strap and continued in the direction he thought the door was in. So much smoke, and now he could hear flames. He forced himself to go faster. Down the stairs and out. He'd made it. The Andersons, Angie. Where were they? He could see a glow over the roof arch, on their side of the warehouse. 911 first? The phone was upstairs. The pay phone was a block away, if it worked. There wasn't time.

He did his best. He fought his way in the other side. But this area wasn't like his side of the warehouse. He called and searched until he couldn't breathe for all the coughing that wracked him. By the time the fire trucks arrived the building was fully involved. The inside floors were collapsing and the firemen were well aware how lucky the man was that came staggering out of the smoke and flames. They didn't know the tears were not just from the smoke or the painful coughing spasms.

The dazed young man let them care for him and take him to the hospital in the ambulance. Shock they thought. If they only knew.


Being part of a closed society meant the members looked out for each other, and leant amazing speed to gossip. News of Ellison's Observer-to-be had gotten around to a few of the brothers in blue already, and his Captain was duly called. Simon Banks didn't know much about Sentinels and Guides but he knew each was important to the other's well-being. He hadn't met the young man yet, but Jim seemed willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as far as Guiding went.

But was it a professional type of relationship, friendship, or was it closer to a symbiotic relationship? He wasn't sure how to treat them. He was Jim's friend, so he would go to tell him about Sandburg being in the hospital, and being burned out of his home. He knew the area where the warehouse used to be. It was an area the police stayed away from unless they were undercover, or riding in a squad car with a partner for backup. What was Sandburg doing living there? Well, he'd done a background search on him. Jim hadn't asked him to but when he told him there was nothing on his record he didn't seem surprised or upset that Simon had done it. This night's development only added to the rocky start of his friend's new partnership.


Simon had wanted to go with Jim to the hospital, but Jim had figured that the kid was having a bad enough night without adding meeting his new boss to it. As soon as Blair had given him the address he'd known the kind of neighbourhood the kid was living in. Why he hadn't gotten him out of there. He'd only known him a few days, but the kid was his Guide. He deserved better than that rattrap. The thing was, he just didn't know how to say anything without making him feel embarrassed, and for that he'd almost lost him.

He hoped that Blair would let him help. He had to let him know he wasn't alone anymore. There was someone for him to lean on now. Jim was going to offer his spare room. It needed some work, but maybe if the kid knew it would make him feel better to help, he'd feel better about accepting. He had a lot of pride. Jim hoped he'd be okay with this.


Jim's breath left him in a rush. Oh buddy. What had really happened to Blair tonight? They'd cleaned him up, got him dressed in scrubs, bandaged his hands, and he was lying on the gurney getting oxygen. That much he could see. But his eyes, they might be red and weeping, but the despair was evident. Couldn't the doctors and nurses see it? They just left him there, alone. He shouldn't be alone. Something terrible had happened tonight.

Blair hadn't been seriously hurt and was discharged, so Jim just took him home. He had to get him to tell him what happened, but Blair was moving like he wasn't really present, almost like a ghost. Not a good thought. Jim made him some tea. He'd learned that about his Guide this week. He liked tea. He'd learned more about tea than he'd ever wanted to know, but had gone out and acquired a supply for him. See, he could listen. He thought Blair would be surprised about that, but pleased too. But no matter where his body was tonight, Blair's mind wasn't in the loft. Jim got him to drink some tea then settled him on the couch for the night.

As Jim settled his Guide again he wished he'd been wrong about the nightmares he'd expected. Who was Angie? Jim made a call to a friend, Debra Reeves, at the CFD. The fire was still too hot for them to investigate, but they thought it had started on the other side, not Sandburg's side, of the warehouse. That side was vacant, or it was supposed to be. Jim didn't have to tell them to search for bodies. Squatters weren't unknown. The homeless slept where they could in places they hoped would be safe but rarely were. Jim also learned something else, Blair hadn't been found coming out of his place, but out of the other side. Debra questioned whether Blair could be somehow at fault for the fire. Jim assured her otherwise. He was pretty sure it was squatters, and his friend agreed it was the most likely scenario. They both promised to keep the other informed.


Jim wondered how he could help his Guide. The bodies of the family had been found, and Jim had finally coaxed a few words of explanation from Blair before he closed up like a clam. No matter what Blair said, Jim knew he was far from alright. He'd be willing to swear he could almost feel his Guide's pain. The grief was written on his face. Such a senseless loss. It seemed likely that Mr. Anderson had just been trying to make it warmer for his sick wife and his little girl. He could see the grief in Blair's eyes. That he could understand, but not the guilt. Blair had no reason blame himself. Now Jim just had to make him believe it.

“Why, Jim? I don't understand.” He looked so lost. Jim tried again to get him to open up but then his Guide said something that really shook him. He realized then what Blair was thinking about. He spoke with such sadness, “The average homeless person in the United States is 9 years old.” That truly made Jim sick. How could this happen? Why did they let this continue? Was there a way to make the situation better? There had to be. Didn't there? He hoped so. But this was a bigger problem than one Sentinel and Guide could cure.

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5.... is not a place

When Blair woke on Thursday, he wasn't sure where he was at first. His memories of the past day, or was it two, were hazy at best. He realized he was at Jim's place and everything came rushing back. Oh God, the Andersons. He felt a hand on his arm. It's gentle grip was comforting, but the tears in his eyes blurred his image of Jim. Jim just held on until he could get past the lump in his throat. He was grateful for the silence; he didn't know what to say. His thoughts seemed scattered far and wide, but the grief just seemed to sit on his chest and make it hard to breathe.

“Take it easy, Chief. There's no hurry. Just take a moment to catch your breath. We don't have anywhere we have to be this morning, though you need to sign a formal statement at the PD later. I didn't want to drag you down there yesterday. You were still in shock, and you haven't even met the Detectives in Major Crime yet, or Captain Banks. I didn't want to put you through that before you had a chance to recover a little of your balance. This case isn't being handled by Major Crime anyway.”

“Thanks Jim, I appreciate the thought. It needs to be done soon, so today is good. I need to get on with my life. God, I lost everything. My home. What am I going to do? Sorry, I know you let me stay here last night and I'm grateful. I just need to make some plans, you know?”

“Blair, you and I haven't had time to get to know each other very well, but I hope you know me well enough to accept my hospitality. I have a spare room and it's yours for as long as you need it. I don't want you to make quick decisions and take options that may not be the best for you. I just want you to know you have options now. I'm your Sentinel. We Sentinels take care of our Guides. Remember that, okay? You have the time to take stock of what's happened to you. Use it. You have a safe place to live, and you won't go hungry. I even bought tea.”

“Tea, huh. I thought you didn't like tea?”

“Well I didn't throw out the coffee, Darwin.”

Blair wondered what he was going to do. He couldn't expect Jim to take him in like some homeless kid. His face paled as he remembered his last talk with Angie.

Jim saw the change that had come over Blair. He continued trying to reassure him, “Blair, we're partners, and if I remember Incacha's teachings, a Sentinel and Guide are like brothers, nearly inseparable. If we're going to be family and share our lives, then I can share my home with you. The spare room is yours, buddy, for as long as you need.

The fire department got your car towed away from the building, and I had them bring it here. It's parked outside. I have a friend in the CFD, Debra Reeves, that arranged for the salvageable items to be cleaned. I didn't want you to have to go down there again if you didn't need to. I think most of the furniture is gone. You had some things in boxes that may be usable and you can look them over in a few days, but your clothes need to be replaced. How about it, Chief, can you put up with me for a while?”

“Jim . . . I don't know what to say.” How could Blair thank him? It was too much.

“You can say, 'Thank you, I'd be happy to sleep on your futon.'”

“I owe you more than a thank you, man. You're a life saver. Ah, Jim? You told me they found the Anderson's bodies. What's going to happen to them?”

“Actually, their family came from a small rural community up the coast. Their family had a plot in the local cemetery. The town has procedures for taking care of the arrangements in a situation like this. They remember Mr. Anderson's father well. They'll take care of them.”

Blair's bitterness rushed to the surface, “Too bad there was no help for them before.”

“I'm sorry, Blair.”

“It was just so senseless. They were good, decent people, just down on their luck. It shouldn't have happened. Why didn't I ask them into my place? There was plenty of room. Not much heat, but more than where they were. I could have done that and I didn't. They'd still be alive Jim. Why didn't I help them?”

“You're a good, decent man too Blair. You couldn't see what would happen. We both know Incacha sometimes would have visions. Did you? No, you didn't, did you. I didn't think so. When you left that night you were tired. You said you talked to Angie. Everything seemed okay and Angie's Dad knew where to go for help. He knew where to find food, a doctor, and shelter if they were that cold and sick. It's not a perfect world, but we try. It's all we can do.

We're only two people and we can't right or cure all the wrongs in the world. Right now I just want you to know that this is your home now, that you are safe and you have a protector who is all but family. We have an obligation to our own too, to make sure they are safe and secure and protected and that's my job right now, to take care of my Guide. At times it will be your job to keep me safe and secure and protected.”

“Jim, that is my promise to you, my Sentinel. I've lived in many places, but none I could call home. I'm beginning to believe Incacha's words, that my home will not be a place, but a companion.”

“Incacha was a wise man, Chief.”

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6. Of Sentinels and Guides

Incacha had tried to instill a 'sense awareness' in Blair during his stay in Peru. He'd somehow known that he would need to have an idea of what to expect sense wise in order to be of help to Jim.

Jim knew more about being a Sentinel than he did, but Blair doubted he could really know what it was to Guide. He seemed to think all Blair had to do was be here by his side and watch him to prevent a zone. He couldn't really believe that could he? Maybe that was all an Interim Guide could do.

Blair had recognized when Jim imprinted on him. Jim had catalogued him with his senses, Blair just knew he had. If the trigger for imprinting was the Guide, then the response should be trust. But Jim was older than most Sentinels when they imprinted on a Guide. What if the critical period was near it's end or if it was too late for a complete bond?

This was impossible to know. Too little was known about human imprinting. Blair couldn't extrapolate from ethology to human behavior. If imprinting did take place then attachment followed and the effect was irreversible. Didn't Jim realize that made a huge difference between him and an Interim Guide?

Jim had been around people, instructors, who worked with S/G pairs. Didn't they tell him, or didn't they want him to know how close the connection could get? What did Jim know about the spiritual connection? How much did he instinctively sense of me, his Guide? They needed to get down to basics.

Blair just hoped Jim didn't think he just KNEW this stuff.


Jim had thought he knew what a Guide did, but Blair defied all logic. He didn't understand this connection. Should he tell Blair he could hear his heartbeat? But he was Jim's Guide, did he already know that? He just knew he was going to regret this, but they had to talk.


It was incredible. Incacha seemed to have laid the foundation for the spiritual connection between Jim and me. Jim had never walked a spiritual plane but he'd been present when Incacha journeyed, so he was at least aware of the possibility. Jim had said he would just sit calmly with him, waiting, that Incacha never expected him to join him. Maybe he was easing him into meditation. Blair suspected Incacha knew he would be resistant to transcendency. Jim was one down to earth guy and with his senses being exceptional he would resist accepting what he couldn't confirm with those senses.

In his talks with Blair, Jim had seemed to confuse an altered state with a hypnotic trance. Although Blair was sure Jim knew there was a difference now, Blair didn't think Jim quite trusted that this wasn't some sham or an attempt to control him, his actions, as if Blair could. He'd never sensed a stronger will in anyone. He knew he couldn't change Jim's innate character, his essence. He also knew that he would never want to, it would be a tragedy to do so.


Meditation. Transcendecy. Spiritual planes. Sandburg had to be kidding. He just seemed so earnest. Maybe Blair had been raised with this, but it was a little hard for Jim to take. He was trying, because if it was important to Blair, it was going to be important to Jim. This was Blair, not just his Guide. He was a good person. The kind of person who cared about everything. Who cared about Jim. Maybe that wasn't transcendental, maybe it was. Jim was sure he didn't know. But this kid was here, now, because of him. Jim wondered what he would think if he called him 'my little guru'?


Jim and Blair had known each other only two weeks. At first, Jim had seemed nervous about him keeping notes, but Blair thought he was okay with it now. Blair'd just reminded him about him saying there needed to be a course, a Sentinel 101. Now Blair was thinking maybe a Guidebook, too. Jim had mumbled something about it coming back to bite him on the a__ when he thought Blair wasn't listening.

Jim wouldn't be happy to be the subject of a published text. Was the private sector the way to go with this? Public would be better. The less need for super secret agencies the better, right? But what about the danger to people like Sentinel cops? They'd always be in harms way. Maybe the government was their best bet. He must be crazy. Naomi would burn a whole forest of sage if she knew Blair had thought that. But they already knew and used S/G pairs in limited situations. They had the infrastructure to instruct and to keep the secrets that would keep the pairs safe. But secrets leaked. He just didn't know.

The best idea would probably be a compromise. A private/public sector academy perhaps. That idea needed work too. Was there some way to control the dissemination of information? There had to be. There was a real need for it among Sentinels and Guides. There weren't many of them, but with just a little training they could be a real force for good. Did he sound idealistic? Man, he hoped so, the world needed idealism. It needed all the help it could get. Someone to 'fight the good fight'. It needed Sentinels. It needed men like Jim.

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7. .38 Special

Blair reminded himself to slow down and breathe. What had he gotten himself into? This wasn't like learning another language. That he could do. But he couldn't feel like they did. This was such a part of their closed society they didn't even realize how horrifying the whole concept of 'carrying' could be to the novice.

He knew that a lot of people bought a gun for protection, and if they were smart they got the proper training and practice, and let's not forget a gun safe. But most of those people didn't 'carry'. It wasn't a fashion statement, thank God, at least not yet. But when he finally became Jim's partner he'd have to have one on his person whenever he was out of his home. This was so not him. How did he get to this point? Well, his Sentinel WAS a cop. Such was his luck. He couldn't be in S&R?

Did Jim have any idea how freaked he was today? He now had his very own .38 Special. Wow. Not. Jim had said it was a good defensive weapon since it was easy to carry, weighed less than a pound, and didn't have a big kick when fired. All so very casually explained.

Did you know it was a rare occurrence to have to fire more than 4 or 5 shots in a shootout? He hadn't. His .38 Special had six shots. He was all set.

Jim had casually mentioned you could even shoot it from your pocket or in his case, maybe his backpack. Autoloaders could jam in that situation. Another good thing to know, right?

He'd better get back. Jim would worry. He guessed this was stuff he'd need to know. Jim'd even had to explain the difference between a revolver and a clip-fed automatic. He actually should have known that. All the cop shows showed clips being popped out of guns and the old western shows showed 'cartridges' (Jim's word, not 'bullets') being shoved in the cylinder.

But what really drove him out of there was that his .38 Special could be cocked. He'd thought that's what you did. It was what they did on TV. Jim had kind of freaked though and now he knew why. He'd told Blair to take his finger off the trigger and to ease the hammer down. Then he'd explained 'double action'. When you pulled the trigger it cocked the gun and fired. It took a lot of pressure to do that. If you cocked it first it took a lot less pressure to pull the trigger. He'd just given his .38 Special a 'hair trigger'.

Blair figured he still had a lot to learn. Frankly, it scared the hell out of him. Jim'd sent him to buy 'ammo'. Easy right? He'd had to write it down: 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoint .38 Special+P

No problem, Jim. I'll be right back.


8. Larry

It was such a beautiful spring day. This must've been the kind of day Robert Browning was thinking about when he wrote, “God's in his heaven, All is right with the world.” Maybe he'd give Jim the night off tonight, no tests. Jim liked to fish, maybe they could get away tomorrow. He'd love to get away from the city for a while, relax, and recharge those batteries. Meditate, maybe up at that spot where he and Jim first met. Maybe get Incacha to 'join' them. He had a few more questions for their mentor.

Oh well, first things first, work. He couldn't believe he was going to get paid for that article on Larry. That little Barbary ape was going to keep him in tea for a while. He was such a great little guy. Jim sure hadn't been happy when he'd brought Larry home last weekend, but he'd warmed up to him easier than Blair thought he would. Jim knew that Blair really had to finish that research. He just wished he had a picture of Jim and Larry sharing the popcorn. He could make more money out of that than on the article.

He'd gone to visit Larry today, who'd been glad to see him. The lab tech had let Blair take him out for a while. He hated to lock him back up. Blair wondered if they'd let him visit Larry regularly. The little ape was involved in other behavioral studies. They wouldn't want him to affect the outcome of other studies inadvertantly. He'd have to keep tabs on him though, make sure he was alright, maybe sneak him some popcorn. Maybe he would finish writing that piece up out on the quad and enjoy the sun while he could.


As Blair got closer, he started to wonder what was going on. Campus security was all over the place. They were headed for Administration. o city cops evident. A campus rescue unit was arriving. He hoped no one had been hurt. His curiosity wanted him to get over there but they didn't need him in the way.

Time to head to class anyway, he couldn't afford to miss teaching this week too. He'd lost enough time after the fire. He'd been pretty out of it for a few days. His hands had been bandaged, and moving around too much wore him out until his lungs started to recover. It had taken time to move and clean what he could salvage, and he'd had to work with Jim. That was too important. He flat out refused to risk Jim.

Jim was great. He hadn't even hinted that Blair should be looking for a place. In fact, he kept trying to help him decorate his room, the spare room. It really looked like Blair's room now. He'd brought some of his artifacts to the U to fix up and try to air them out. Jim didn't need smoke damaged items around, and Blair didn't like to be reminded by the smell. He sighed and reminded himself not to let it get too homey. He liked being with Jim, it was like having a big brother. He was going to miss him when he got his own place. Blair decided he'd better get going before all his students left, although he'd probably be the first one there. They were probably all watching the Security officers and the Rescue Unit.


“Officer Tomaki, hello. What can I do for you?”

“I'm afraid that Chancellor Edwards sent me Mr. Sandburg. She'd like to see you in her office.”

“Me? Now? Why? Sorry, I just have no idea why she'd want to see me.”

“There was a disturbance in her office earlier in the day. After some investigation I've come to believe you inadvertently were the cause. But I would rather get both of us to her office as soon as possible. Things were still unsettled there. The Chancellor was quite distressed and you don't want to keep her waiting.”

“But, I don't understand . . .”

“Please, Mr. Sandburg, can we leave now? All you need to know is that a certain primate named Larry escaped his cage and demolished her office.”

This couldn't be good.


“Well, Mr. Sandburg, do you have an explanation for your negligence?”

“Chancellor Edwards, Officer Tomaki told me Larry escaped his cage. I don't understand how that could be my fault.”

“Maybe because you didn't latch the cage, Mr. Sandburg.”

Blair thought furiously. He knew he'd latched it. He remembered latching it…but what if he hadn't latched it all the way? Nonono. He was so dead. “I remember latching the cage Chancellor Edwards. Perhaps it didn't lock in place correctly. If that's what happened, I'm very sorry. I'll clean this up right away.”

“YOU, will not touch anything. YOU are suspended as of this moment. I will not have someone whose negligence was responsible for all this mess and has also been derelict in his duties continue working for the University. After Officer Tomaki left I had my secretary pull your file. There was a recent extensive absence on your record {during} the last month. I will review your suspension with the proper department next week. Until then please remove yourself and your property from the campus.”

“But Chancellor, my absence was only the last two weeks, my department knows the reasons. They approved them.”

“You are a teaching assistant with well defined duties. I am within my rights to review your compliance. You are therefore under review. If I am too busy next week to undertake that review it may be postponed indefinitely. Do I make myself clear Mr. Sandburg?”

“Yes, of course Chancellor Edwards. I won't bother you further.” Blair looked around the once beautiful room. It was really damaged badly in places. Larry must have thrown everything he could lift in the room at one point. He winced when he saw some gouges in the mahogany paneling. And the desk, too? Seeing the Chancellor glaring at him he figured he'd better retreat for now. He'd pack up his stuff and call the head of the department for advice. Larry, what did you do to me buddy?

Oh no! Jim! Now he didn't have a job. He hadn't even started observing yet.


Telling Jim was no picnic. The sentinel really didn't get it. No job. No money. The end of Blair's education, at least at Rainier. He needed academic affiliation to make it possible to publish. Without a degree he didn't have creditable standing for scientific publication. No Sentinel 101. No Guidebook. What was he going to do now?


Sandburg was really upset. Jim decided to do something to help him out. He guessed he didn't understand the importance of this job to Blair's future work. He was Jim's Guide. He'd thought that was Blair's future. That was probably way too self-centered. Being a Guide was only going to be part of his future. He should have known that. Blair had way too much energy, enthusiasm and curiosity to be limited to one area of study. Jim supposed he just didn't want to think that his guide would have other interests than him. He snorted, he hadn't been this jealous of Carolyn, his ex.

“Suzanne, hi.”

“Jim, what are you doing here?”

“I couldn't just come to visit an old friend, Officer Tomaki?”

“Who's old?”

“That joke's old.”

Suzanne grinned, “So what can I do for you, Jim?”

“A friend of mine, Blair Sandburg, seems to be in trouble. I know that ape, Larry. He did a number on my apartment, too. Twice. Do you think it was fair to blame Blair?”

“Well, the only evidence I had was that Blair was the last one known to open the cage door. The Chancellor may have overreacted but she was within her rights to review his assistantship.”

“Would you mind letting me look at the cage? You see, I'm thinking that monkey is one cagey little ape. Could he have let himself out?”

“Let's find out. It was a harsh punishment for Blair. I hope we can find something.”


“Amy, you're one of the lab techs that care for these animals, can you remember any of them getting out of their cages before?”

“These animals are very well cared for Officer Tomaki. We'd never let them run loose. It wouldn't be safe.”

“We believe you Amy, but maybe they are a little mischievous. They're locked up in these cages most of the time. They see the locks being engaged. Are they bright enough to learn to do it themselves? You haven't been introduced to Detective Ellison have you? He's with the Cascade PD.”

“Uh, Detective Ellison? Is this being investigated by the police?”

Jim stood tall and used his most professional tone, kind of like Joe Friday, “We just want to get to the truth Miss. Mr. Sandburg's career may hinge on the outcome. Has Larry been out before without explanation? Could he have opened the cage?”

“Uh, well, it is possible. I'm sorry I didn't say anything before, but none of us here wanted to get in trouble. You see, that latch doesn't work right all the time. All of us here know to jiggle it to make it catch properly. I don't know for sure that it failed to work that time but it is possible. It may not be Mr. Sandburg's fault. I'm so sorry. I should have spoken up before but I didn't know Larry'd gotten into the Chancellor's office, and when we did find out we were afraid of what would happen to us after what happened to Blair.”

“Thanks, Amy. Is there anything else I should put in my report?”

“Please put in that Dr. Rhodes isn't at fault. He's our department head, Detective Ellison. He requisitioned some new equipment, new locks, even some bigger cages so the animals could socialize better, but the budget was cut substantially. Some things you just have to make do with, or without, in this case. Mr. Sandburg shouldn't have to take the blame, but it wasn't Dr. Rhodes fault either.”

“Thanks Amy, I'll be sure to include this in my report. I'll do all I can to put the blame where it belongs.”


“Suzanne, where does the blame belong?”

“The Finance Department puts together suggestions but Chancellor Edwards has final say on budget cuts.”

“Let me know when Edwards gets this report. I'll give her a little leeway but she'd better make this right, or I just may have to have a chat with her.”

“I'll deliver it myself. I want to explain a few things in person.”

“We always did understand each other Suzanne.”


9. A Friend in Need

Blair wondered how much more wretched his life could get. What was he supposed to do now, become Jim's live-in cook and housekeeper, oh, and destitute Guide? What a loser. It wasn't even his fault. At least he didn't think so. It wasn't fair though. He didn't deserve suspension. That was way overboard. Great, now he was whining. How pathetic. Straighten up Sandburg. Take it like a man. Even if everything else was lost, he still had a Sentinel. And as Guide to one stubborn Sentinel he had his hands full anyway.

He had to get his mind off himself and stop this pity party for a while. He couldn't change anything in his pathetic life right now. How could he help his Sentinel? Well, he could help him better if he knew the range of his senses. It wouldn't hurt if Jim was more confident of his own capabilities either. They needed to test to find his upper and lower limits. Jim had seemed surprised at his own test results the other day. Blair wondered if having a bonded guide was making the difference.

Vision had so many components: depth, color, brightness. How high or low a wavelength could Jim see? Could he see into the ultraviolet and infrared ranges? If so, was it possible to go even further into radio waves and X-rays? That had to be impossible. Jim “S” Ellison. Superman he wasn't. Get back to Earth, Blair.

When Jim had a sensory spike it was usually hearing. There were lots of auditory lab tests they could do. If he could get Jim in a lab again. He was so stubborn. Maybe Blair could work on his boss. Anyway, he should test sensitivity to intensity, multiple source sorting, pitch distinction, harmonics, acoustic properties. He was sure he could think of more given time.

Gustatory and olfactory tests were going to be difficult. There'd be a lot of overlap since one sense affected the other. Could they be separated for testing? That would take some thought. A Sentinel could have a higher density of receptor cells. Research in the elderly found they had diminished sensitivity which affected their nutritional habits, to their detriment. Could a higher sensitivity hurt his Sentinel's nutrition? He had to watch that.

And last, but wow, the somatosenses. That covered so much, both external and internal senses of position and movement, warmth and cold, tickle and itch, pressure and vibration, and pain anywhere in the body. He could just imagine Jim's reaction when Blair asked him if he could test his pain perception. And how ticklish was a Sentinel anyway? Right. He wouldn't have to worry about being Jim's live-in anything.


“Blair, I'm home.”

“Jim, I'm not 'the little woman'.”

“Sorry Chief.”

“I'm not the dog either,” Blair mumbled.

“I heard that.”

“No kidding. I'm sorry, Jim. I guess I'm just feeling a little sorry for myself.”

“I've got news. Suzanne called while I was at the PD.”

“Suzanne Tomaki?”

“Right. I met her on a case a few years ago. She found some additional information that should get you off the hook, if Edwards will be halfway fair.”

“That might be expecting too much. That's not one of her outstanding character traits.”

“There are other pressures that can be applied. We'll work things out. I know this is important to you.”

“Thanks, Jim. You already had a hand in this, didn't you?”

“Well, Suzanne and I do go back a long way. What are friends for?”


10. Waiting and Meeting

Sandburg's knee was still bouncing. It hadn't stopped. It had bounced at the breakfast table. Jim didn't know how, but it had kept bouncing when he dragged his shoes on. He didn't think Blair had hit one step on the way down two flights of stairs. He'd even beaten Jim to the truck by a full 2 minutes. He'd still been locking the door of the Loft. He knew the guy was nervous, but Jim's nerves were starting to jump just being around him. It wasn't like Jim could ignore him. Every time he turned around he was tripping over Sandburg. It was very annoying. But he wasn't going to miss this meeting for anything.

Simon had already smoothed the way. Blair just had to drop off the completed forms, get his picture taken, pick up his badge and he was an official Cascade PD Observer.

Jim'd been running him ragged since the fiasco with Larry. Trying to keep him occupied. He hoped Blair really was committed to this Guide thing. He'd seen the misgivings on his face at the range. Blair had done well with his revolver. Not sharpshooter material unless he wanted to work really hard at it, but Jim didn't think he needed to worry about losing him to SWAT. Blair needed to come at this 'gun thing' his own way. Jim couldn't make it easier except to talk to him about his own experiences, and listen to Blair in turn. He needed to reassure him that they'd be out there side by side, partners. He wouldn't be alone with his Sentinel by his side. Yes, he'd make that very clear.

Blair had also finished up some work at the U. Jim'd thought the work on Larry's article was done, but Blair had said he had a few things to finish up with a fellow teacher. Jim wasn't sure if he was telling the whole truth about that, but Blair had been so quiet Jim figured he'd let it go for now.


Simon finished his call to Vera in Personnel. They were on their way. Vera had sounded . . . odd. For the hundredth time Simon wondered what he was getting into.


Blair reminded himself over and over that he could do this. Who was he kidding? He was going to be sick.

He'd tried to sleep last night, but wound up walking the floors instead. Round and round until he'd finally worn himself out. Two hours was enough right? He was going to fall asleep at Jim's desk if he sat down. If the adrenaline ever stopped pumping. This was worse than his first day a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e. Mom had been right, all those other firsts weren't anything to worry about.

He did inventory. Let's see: his clothes were new since the fire, shoes polished, brushed teeth, 'gargled' with mouthwash, got his backpack. Got his Sentinel at his side. Big breath . . . in . . . out. He was relaxed. All set.


Here we go, Chief. Calm down buddy, I'm right here. I'll guide you for a while.


Ellison had this great big grin on his face. Where was Sandburg? No. That couldn't be right. “Ellison, my office.” Damn, he was bringing the kid with him.

“Jim, is that Simon? You've got to be kidding.” Blair asked very quietly and was that just a touch of awe or fear?

“Yeah, Simon? You expected Sandburg and me this morning didn't you?”

“Mr. Sandburg could you wait outside for a moment?” Simon stood from behind his desk and turned to stare out the window, his cigar clenched between his teeth while Blair gave Jim a misgiving look and turned to wait outside.

“Simon, what's wrong? I'm still on leave of absence. Has something come up I should know about?”

“No, Detective, there's something I should have known about. Your Guide is just a kid, for one thing. He's going to be your partner. Maybe I'm wrong but he is not going to fit in with Major Crimes personnel. How is he going to fit in when you're working with the uniforms? Can you stand there and honestly tell me differently?”

“Simon, I thought this was settled at the meeting with the Chief and the Commissioner. I don't get to pick my Guide. He just IS my Guide. He isn't someone I would have picked at first sight. Well actually, it was at first sight. Didn't I tell you how we met? No? Well, anyway, Blair Sandburg is my Guide. We'll make it work, not just because we've made a commitment to do so, but we actually seem to fit well together. You only just saw him. You haven't given him a chance. For this to work in Major Crimes someone has to give us a chance, Simon. They'll take their cue from you. This is going to be hard enough since we can't tell anybody outside of Major Crimes. He's a good man Simon, he deserves better than that reaction from you.”

Simon didn't want to give up that first impression, but his friend had asked him to give his Guide a chance. So much was riding on that kid. The pressure for success was intense. There had never been an S/G pair at the PD, at least to anyone's knowledge, as if anyone could or would hide abilities like that. Well, this wasn't his choice anymore, he just had to make it work. He'd keep a tight rein on them until he was convinced this would work out. Then he recalled the report from the CFD. The kid had risked his life for that homeless family. Alright then, if Sandburg got Ellison's approval, there had to be more than appearance to the kid - Guide - Sandburg, whatever. He'd get his chance.

Jim saw when Simon came around and he let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He gave a little grin to Simon, “Got a cup of coffee for my Guide, Simon?”


11. Onward

For several days Jim and Blair occupied themselves with Sentinel and Guide activities. That translated to one trying to out-stubborn the other. Jim absolutely refused to be a guinea pig for pain perception tests, so Blair finally settled for less confrontational areas for testing. For now.

But Blair did have a major surprise for Jim. Jack Kelso had called. His friend Jack. THE Jack Kelso. Ex-CIA spook. And Blair's co-conspirator.

Jim was a little in awe. Blair knew Jack Kelso? He know OF Jack Kelso, and wasn't sure he wanted to know more. Kelso was on a different playing field entirely from an ex-covert ops ex-Army Ranger. And hippie pacifist Blair Sandburg was a friend of Kelso's. He never would have guessed.

Jim would have been surprised to find out that Kelso thought the same about Jim.

Jack had some intriguing news for Blair, and wanted to get together to discuss things with him and Jim.

Jim was surprised that he was wanted there, too. What was Blair doing now? It must be Sentinel related. At what point had it been decided to let Kelso in on their 'need to know' Sentinel/Guide partnership?


“Well Blair, I think we did it.”

“Did what, Blair? Is there something you forgot to tell me Chief?”

“Jack, I haven't even told Jim about this yet. I'm sorry about that Jim. I can't believe this. I really didn't know it could happen this fast. It was just a preliminary grant proposal, I thought. When you called with their counter-proposal, Jack, I couldn't believe they could just decide to approve it so quickly. Too much time spent in academia, the land of committees ad infinitum.”

“I'm getting a little nervous here, Chief. What have you gone and done?”

“I guess it's too late to break this to you slowly, so here goes: I proposed research based on a Sentinel/Guide partnership from within the partnership. Then when Jack and I talked again later I submitted a plan for a Sentinel/Guide Academy to be based just outside of Rainier National Park. I know the area pretty well from hiking through the park over the years. There are government lands suitable for Search and Rescue training, and other training grounds for cops, firemen, etc. There's a set of buildings from a closed private school that would be a good beginning for the dorms and classrooms needed for the students. I don't know all the areas that S/G pairs are employed in, so classes offered will probably vary greatly and have to be tailored to their needs. Actual course work could be done at other educational institutions, but Sentinel/Guide training will be provided at the Academy for these unique pairings, with seminars offered for officers and officials working with them in the field. I've been thinking about this for a while, but it was too ambitious for a research grant proposal from a grad student.”

Jim was truly speechless.

Jack encouraged Blair onward. “You teased me once that there should be a manual on maintaining a happy Sentinel. I always added, to myself, that I could use a Guidebook too. I took you at your word. That's where this is heading Jim. Sentinel training for the public and private sectors, funded by both, with lots of options available to the S/G pairs, with research and funding to help them and train them. We're a team, Jim. Tell me you're okay with this.”

Jim mulled over the leap his Guide had made. A Sentinel/Guide Academy. Because of one teasing remark made by his Sentinel. What an amazing man his Guide was. Jim managed to swallow that lump in his throat, and smile at his Guide. “Just tell me I won't be the only Sentinel pulling 'testing duty' Chief and I'll be a happy Sentinel.”

“I don't know Jim. You're pretty amazing. You blew the curve on your tests. I think I need some advanced testing for you.”

“Just as long as you're my Mad-Scientist, Chief. You're going to be involved with the research there aren't you? Do you need to go back to Rainier? If not, then you won't have to worry about Edwards ever revoking your assistantship.”

Jack jumped in at that point, “Jim, you'll be relieved to know that Blair will be one of the lead researchers, after all, he's already published in critically acclaimed journals. But more importantly, this researcher is not just an observer, he's inside this tiny 'Sentinel/Guide closed society' and that gives him a unique view. That's one reason they moved so fast. The government and these corporations that are involved know that this S/G pair is headed out to police work soon. They hope to entice you into coming back at times once it's up and running to do more research, to train, to receive training, to mentor, etc. They saw the potential and plan to take advantage of 'inside information'. That's why when Blair proposed his own line of research with a continuing education element, they were so intrigued by the possibilities they couldn't approve it fast enough. Blair may be the first Phd. in Sentinel/Guide Studies.”

Jim looked at his Guide. “What do you think, Chief. This is another big commitment. Does it sound like what you expected? Is it something you want? I know you were worried about your academic future after the run in with Edwards.”

“Yeah, Jim. This sounds perfect. I worry about you. I worried about the others out there. We can do good things here, Jim. Better than the two of us could do alone. We have a chance to be in at the beginning and make sure it's done right. And you know I like the sound of Blair Sandburg, Phd. How about you, Jim? I know you didn't expect this. Can you live with this?”

“This isn't what I was looking for on the mountain that day. This is much, much more. I think Incacha will be proud of you Chief, I know I am.”


12. One Year Later

Incacha would be proud of him, right Jim? What a fool he'd been. He'd thought they could make something good happen and it had become a nightmare. It had only been a year. It had seemed to begin so well. How naïve could one person be? Blair figured Jim'd had his doubts all along and knew his head was in the clouds. His Sentinel was just so much more experienced in the REAL world, where every pat on the back could also be a stab in the back. They'd lost control so easily. Maybe they'd never had it.

Incacha had tried to warn Blair in his visions. And then the visions had stopped and this feeling of panic, of overwhelming despair had come over him one night. He'd woken Jim and dragged him into the Cascades to where they'd first met. That vision quest had sent them both reeling. Incacha was dead. There had been an illness in the tribe probably brought in by outsiders. There were land and resource developers throughout the region. The Chopec seemed to have little resistance to the infections they had brought. Incacha had tried to save them but many had fallen ill and died, himself included. Jim and Blair didn't speak more than a handful of words coming back down from the mountain. They'd both been in shock.

It took a few days before they would talk about Incacha and what they were going to do about the Academy and the nearly imprisoned Sentinel/Guide pairs studying there. They'd had Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and D . . . Nothing felt remotely possible with the resources they'd had. Gloom and despair was their world.

It had been Saturday when it changed for us.

Jim had asked if he'd heard noise outside the door. He hadn't. No surprise there. But Jim had walked cautiously to the door, picking up his gun on the way. That had gotten Blair's attention.

“Easy Chief, this is just a precaution. I smell something I haven't smelled since Peru.”

He'd opened the door. At his feet was a long bundle. There was a letter lying atop the package addressed to Blair Sandburg.

“Jim what was it you smelled?”

“It's more a combination of smells that I associate with Incacha.” After taking the letter and bundle inside, Jim hadn't had to encourage him to open the letter. “It's from Father Raoul in Sierre Verde. He says that the Chopec village is without a Shaman now. They have lost a number of the tribe members and are joining with another group farther inland toward the high mountains. It was Incacha's last wish that his Shaman's staff be sent to his 'son', a Shaman, in America.”

Blair's hands were shaking. He let Jim take the letter to read for himself. “He says that his American 'sons' have made him very proud.” Jim too had discovered tears were too hard to read through.

It had taken a few tries but they'd finally gotten through the letter. Their grief had been renewed to such an extent that it was Jim who'd suggested meditating. Blair had been grateful. Setting the candles out and arranging the seating had given them a few moments to share memories of their friend and mentor. They had often sat around the fire in the village sharing their day with the other. They were never in the village at one time, all three of them together, yet they felt like a family of three. Soon they were ready and settled down, breathing in the ancient rhythm.

Slowly their breathing had deepened. Slower. Till they'd seemed to be floating. Sinking deeper and deeper still, into quiet. Calm. Floating deeper till peace both surrounded and filled them. The darkness deepened and seemed to broaden to an awareness of blueness. The blue of a jungle never seen on this earth. Consciousness awakened in them simultaneously. Opening their eyes they saw each other as they were in their Loft home, but with a small fire between them, not a cluster of lightly scented candles.

“Jim, do you think we can find Incacha?”

“I hope so Blair, I'd like to see him again.”

They arose together. “Which way Jim?”

“I don't know Chief, you're the Shaman.”

Blair's wide eyes made Jim chuckle, “Come on Chief, I think if we're supposed to find him, then we will find him.”

“That's very deep Jim,” Blair snorted “but maybe if we actually look for him our chances will be better. Can you use your senses here Jim? Do you hear or smell Incacha? You said you sensed smells you associated with him when someone dropped the staff off at the door.”

“I don't think the senses work that way here. But I do have a feeling that's urging me downstream, and toward that rise. Willing to check it out Chief?”

“Lead on Jim.” No senses, huh. Just feelings. They hadn't done any field tests for a while. There must be a test for 'feelings'.

They walked on for a short while content in each others company. From the rise they could see the cut blocks of stone overgrown with the thick tangle of foliage of long forgotten ruins. Blair was captivated and his intuition told him this was of great importance to them as Sentinel and Guide. He urged Jim on faster until they reached the stone steps leading upward.

Incacha's voice stopped them cold. His appearance astounded them, and his bemused smile broke them from their astonishment. He held his hand up to them as if to say stop. “We have little time my sons. Blair, you have received my shaman staff. It is now yours as is your right as Shaman. It's strength is now yours to use. Sentinel, your Shaman's strength will aid you, guide you in the coming battle.

“Battle? You mean with Academy officials?”

“You know not your true enemy, Shaman. The truth must be learned for justice to win. You have the skills, Sentinel to track your enemies. You Shaman, will have the resources to win this fight if you seek them. Inside this Temple lie many answers for one Sentinel and his Guide. If answers are what you seek, then this is where you must begin. Do not fear. Sentinel and Guide will seek as one. Come. We have much to accomplish my sons.”


13. Epilogue

They stood on the knoll behind the administration building. The taller man stood behind the smaller with his left hand on his shoulder. The smaller man clutched an ornate and ancient staff with a white knuckled grip. “We've done some crazy things in our time, but this just beats all, Chief.” Blair's grim smile was his only answer to that. He just hoped it worked.

“What do you hear Jim?”

“Lots of confusion. Nothing definite yet.”

“It's going to work. At least if I read the vision correctly.”

“It will Chief. You have to give them a little time to sort themselves out. It's not every day that they have to deal with the supernatural.”

“I know you're right. I just want my stomach to unknot. We expected things wouldn't turn out exactly the way we wanted when we started the Academy, but everything went so totally bad in such a short time. Greed just knows no limits. Money and power run the world. That shouldn't have surprised me.”

“You were always too idealistic.”

“Too idealistic? You went along with the idea of the Sentinel/Guide Academy. I knew you had misgivings, so did I.”

“We did the best we could, Chief. We had no idea how far the corruption went. So now we wait. When the dust settles we'll see if they need another Shamanesque nudge.”


Jim couldn't believe he'd let Blair talk him into this, but his visions had been horrifyingly accurate. He hoped they'd acted soon enough to prevent that future from prevailing. With the skills honed with the help of his Guide and Shaman, they'd found the men at the top, and Blair had played his hand. Jim had been with him on that 'journey'. He'd been his psychic backup. He couldn't believe he'd just thought that. Simon's eyes would glaze over if he told him that part. But Simon had been present for the journey too, physically if not spiritually. They'd appreciated the backup, even if it probably wasn't necessary. Moral support was always nice.

They'd never realized where Blair did most of his research. Oh, he published totally acceptable research papers, but his spirit teacher, Incacha, was behind his shamanic training. Since those first visions he'd become so quiet. Jim was sure he couldn't convey the true tenor of them. He'd tried to up to a point, but the look on his face, such disbelief, regret, guilt, and outright horror. Jim didn't ever want to see that again. All he could do was hold him when they tore him from his sleep. What little that Blair could or would repeat left him horrified and sleepless. They kept each other company. Incacha's spirit teachings were essential to stopping those bastards. They couldn't afford to pass up any advantage, even ones he scarcely believed were possible.


Jim and Blair had both known what COULD happen. They had thought they'd been careful. Not enough. Not nearly enough. Blair had thought they'd have more input, but they had been quietly but firmly pushed out the door to do 'cop stuff'. Another agenda in place before the doors even opened. But they were prepared to keep on fighting. Those others didn't know it, but this was war. He would not let this happen to them.

When Blair had asked for Incacha's help and had been invited to be a Shaman he'd thought, this will be neat: spirit animals, traveling on the spirit plane, Incacha as his guardian spirit, all pretty cool. He'd thought getting hints about the future could help a couple of cops, not scare them to death. Had he been reaching too far too fast with the Academy? Could destiny be changed? Was it preordained? Incacha must not believe that or he wouldn't have enlisted us in this battle.

Sentinels and Guides had to have their own lives. They couldn't be allowed to twist anyone else's lives. Alex Barnes was one too many. She had deserved better than to be driven catatonic by their manipulations. When she'd been found by recruiters she was already in jail, her ethics perverted by her incipient insanity. They'd hoped to program her to do their bidding. She could have been saved, but it was too late for her now. Blair was so sorry for that.

Blair and Jim felt they should have acted sooner, but realistically, they hadn't known enough about the true backers. Now these people had been warned. Maybe now they had some inkling of what they were up against. He only hoped they hadn't frightened them too much. Hopefully they wouldn't retaliate.

Jim had been adamant that they not travel to confront them in their own human forms. He hadn't wanted Blair to be a target. Blair was happy to oblige since he didn't want to be a target either, or Jim. On the advice of their spirit animals, who had accompanied their adopted warrior forms, they appeared to all of the backers individually and simultaneously.

This the backers could and had verified with each other with a little indirection on their part, and no little hysteria. They'd gotten the message alright. They'd gotten it a second time when they attempted an 'inspection' of the Academy. Their guards probably thought these men were crazy because they couldn't see 'it'. But the backers did. Blair had invoked the nature spirits to protect the Academy, and the spirit of the place protected it too. They'd been forced out and barriers were now in place to keep out those who would do them harm.

The backers were impotent against the elemental spirits and they knew it. Now, had they given up? Did they realize they were literally playing with fire - and earth, air and water, too?


“Hey Blair, I think you got your miracle.” His eyes tell the story. Relief this time. He pulled this off. They'd probably have to wait for the visions to confirm it. Hopefully those nightmarish images of that possible future would end. But Jim wouldn't have told him if he wasn't very sure there would be no surprises or reprisals. From their little conference just now Jim could tell they were frightened, but still in reasonably sound mind.

He could smell the fear, but the truth could be 'read' too. Sandburg had taught him very well. They had thought they knew the skills of the Sentinels and had planned accordingly, but they didn't know the power of the Guides. They knew now this was something beyond their control, beyond their understanding, almost beyond their belief. They'd just have to endure. Like anyone else, they would get legitimate help when legitimate help was needed. That was all.

“We did it Jim, we're free, man. With Incacha's guidance and the support of our friends, the Academy belongs to Sentinels and Guides now, to direct at their discretion. We will protect our tribe, not just do the bidding of those who would manipulate us and pervert our duty and responsibility. One future was averted and with vigilance can be prevented. Come on Jim, we've got a lot of work to do. We have a tribe to protect, to serve, and to teach.”