Disclaimer: The Sentinel is the property of Pet Fly.

Author's Notes: A short bit intended as first dues for the SentinelAngst List before I discovered another convoluted idiosyncratic technical difficulty which prevents me from subscribing. Knew I shouldn't have named this thing Hal.




The Jungles of Peru...

The air was humid, hot and heavy, hard to breathe. The sun was a red coal in the eastern sky. Far above him, the treetops stirred and leaves rustled and danced, but no cooling breeze reached the rain forest floor. A bird cried out and was silent again. He took a deep breath, tainted with the smell of his own sweat, dank earth, decaying leaves and death.

The blood of his men mixed with his sweat, drying stickily on his skin. Captain James Ellison dug a grave with a broken piece of rotor, laid Sarris to rest, filled in the grave. He set up the crude cross he'd made by tying two dead branches together with a vine and hung the man's dogtags over the arms of the cross.

He took a break, knowing the danger of heatstroke under a blazing sun. After a short hike back to his base camp, he drank a careful ration of his drinking water, fighting the urge to upend the canteen over his head, and sat down to rest. Letting his breath slow down and steady out, until he no longer had to fight for each inhalation, until it no longer felt like he had a brick of wet clay in his chest.

It was funny. He'd always pictured Hell as a desert. At least then you could say it was a dry heat. Here, there was no escape from the sweltering humidity. One escape, provided by his rifle or the machete. Not an option for him. There was his duty to complete. Somewhere in the distance, a jaguar screamed. He got back to his feet and headed back to the crash site.

They'd been betrayed by the colonel, had placed their lives in Jim's hands, and Jim had placed his trust in his C.O. And the colonel had thrown it away, betrayed the men to their deaths for a bribe. Betrayed the men Jim had hand-picked for the mission and then buried with his bare hands.

Now he just had to bury Blair Sandburg.

He trudged past the wreckage and studied the tangled pile of bodies. So many. So many times he wasn't fast enough, or smart enough, or good enough... so many times, so many deaths...

The first body was as broken as the men in the chopper, picked up and thrown like a ragdoll when the bomb the Switchman—Sarris' daughter—set in the tour bus had gone off. The second body's hands were bound behind his back with duct tape, a neat bullet hole in the center of the smooth forehead courtesy of the Sun Rise Patriots. Another torn and smashed by the explosion of the warehouse. Curls plastered wetly to his cheek and a yellow scarf knotted around his throat.

All of them dead. All of them Blair. All of them his fault. So many deaths: stabbed, shot, drugged... his fault. A second too late. A wrong guess. His selfishness at letting Blair leave the safety of his ivory tower to walk down mean streets at his side. His fault.

He hesitated over the body of the wolf, but it was still Blair, so he pulled the crossbow bolt free and tried to smooth the rumpled and blood-stiff fur over the wound. Another wet one, cold and blue and smelling of chlorine. He lifted Blair wearily in his arms, then glanced at the pile of bodies. Not many more now. The one Brad Ventriss had beaten to death, and the one Kincaid had killed again. Two more dead of gunshot wounds, one in a carjacking and one undercover, another...

"Jim! Hey, Jim! C'mon, man, wake up! You're gonna be late for work, I'm gonna be late for school, let's move!"

And James Ellison sat up, drawing his knees up under the sheets and rested his forehead on them, listening to Blair Sandburg move around downstairs, alive and well, until he stopped shaking.

~ End ~

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Page last updated 8/15/03.