Disclaimer: > The Sentinel is a Pet Fly production, no copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: (For the entire series)
Author's Notes: For DawnC.
Jim Ellison hefted the grocery bag and balanced it against his hip as he fished for the keys to his truck, lost somewhere in the depths of a jacket pocket. He was thinking about that, and about the roast he was planning to cook for dinner that night, and the New Year's Eve party, which was usually pretty grim but was looking promising this year since he had a date with Lenore down in Records, and he was watching his footing on the icy pavement, so although the black van parked next to the truck opening its side door registered, he really wasn't paying attention.
Until the click of the tranquilizer pistol.
And then it was too late.
No one noticed the sinisterly nondescript man take aim with a tranquilizer pistol. Nobody noticed the long-haired young man let out a surprised squeak and topple over, scattering an armload of books all over the sidewalk. Nobody noticed the man load the unconscious figure into the van beside its other passenger, then carefully collect the dropped belongings, before the unmarked black van disappeared down a maze of streets.
Jim woke with a start, in a strange bedroom. He was lying on top of a nine-patch quilt in shades of yellow and blue. Plain dark wood furniture. No windows. He sat up, rubbing the back of his neck and frowning as he remembered what had happened, and checked his watch. He got up and tried the door. To his surprise, it opened.
A hall. Hardwood floor, pale green and cream wallpaper. Doors. A full bathroom. Another bedroom, and he was half relieved, half disquieted to find Blair Sandburg sprawled out on an Indian print bedspread of a smaller version of his bed. Very disquieted that whoever responsible for their abduction had provided him with a king-sized bed and Blair with a double... like at the loft.
He could hear the steady beat of Blair's heart, but just to reassure himself, walked over and gently laid his hand on the younger man's throat, feeling the warm skin, the pulse, the rush of air traveling from the parted lips to the lungs. His guide safe for the moment, the sentinel ventured forth to explore the confines of their prison.
The hall opened out on a kitchen. Granite and stainless steel. He opened the fridge, fully stocked. His mouth twitched as he recognized some of his groceries, checked the freezer. Yep. His roast. The kitchen was open to a living area. Overstuffed green couch, small table. TV with VCR. No phone.
No windows. A blank slab of a sliding door. A desk with Blair's backpack and books. He searched the backpack eagerly, but the cellphone and laptop were missing. He tried the door but couldn't budge it.
Jim dropped onto the couch and rubbed at his temples. There was a soft chime, and then an electronically disguised voice. Jim pinpointed the hidden speaker in four seconds.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am your host, you may call me Noah. Allow me to assure you I mean you no harm, on the contrary, I hope you find your temporary quarters comfortable and all your needs anticipated. You will be released unharmed in two days. I assume you have all heard of what is known as the Y2K bug. Some experts believe this will cause only scattered annoyances. Other equally qualified experts believe this may lead to nuclear disaster of untold proportions. Or at least a significant disruption of civilization. To speak plainly, you are the worst case scenario. All of you possess... unique talents. Should Armageddon come to pass, your lives must be preserved, for you will be needed in the aftermath. Should brighter predictions prevail, you will be reinserted into your lives with my apologies for the inconvenience. Should you require anything, you may contact me through the intercom on your desk. Thank you."
Jim stood up, wondering if he was going to be able to make it up to Lenore, for standing her up. He went back to the bedrooms to wake Sandburg.
Blair didn't seem to want to wake up. Which was kind of funny, he was one of those annoyingly cheerful and energetic morning people, who was usually up, dressed, and fixing breakfast while Jim was still blinking rapidly and trying to remember how his eyes focused.
He patiently repeated the younger man's name, shaking his shoulder gently, not really surprised that it was taking so long to wake him, whatever they'd been drugged with was pretty powerful stuff... and since one of his sentinel abilities seemed to be shaking off the effects of sedatives and painkillers fast... it would explain Blair still being out of it.
"uhn. Jim? Wat... wazzit?"
"Come on, kid. Come to. We've got trouble."
Blair woke, and when the cobwebs had cleared, he explained the situation. Blair was deeply creeped out by it, but as Jim pointed out, there was nothing they could do yet. Blair wandered around 'his' room, investigating the drawers and closets. New clothing in the right sizes. In the living area, he explored the bookshelves and the tapes.
"At least it's a gilded cage. I haven't seen this movie yet." He waved one of the videotapes before putting it back in the cabinet of the entertainment center. Jim was looking through the kitchen cupboards, getting out plates, cups, silverware, and a frying pan.
"You're making breakfast?" Blair asked incredulously.
"If they wanted us dead, we'd be dead. And I'm hungry." Jim shrugged and started the coffee.
Blair looked up. "Hm?" He waited, walking over to the kitchen, but Jim didn't say anything, he was just serving out scrambled eggs onto the plates.
So Blair shrugged it off as his imagination. They sat down at the table to eat. Thinking he'd heard his name gave him an idea, though. He took a bite of his eggs, and whispered, "You think this place is bugged?"
Jim tilted his head, listening. "Nope."
"Can you hear anything?"
Jim shook his head again. "Soundproofed. I think there's white noise generators in the walls."
Blair pushed his plate away, sickly. "My diss. Brackett. People who possess 'unique' talents."
Jim glanced up, and then away. "Yeah. I've been expecting something. Not this."
"Jim... what are we going to do?"
"Give him the two days. There's no way out of here... unless I use you for a battering ram." Jim gestured at the blank door with a forkful of sausage.
Blair made a mocking face, but resigned himself to the enforced weekend vacation. And tried not to think about what would happen if Noah was right.
It was later that afternoon. They were sitting on the couch. Blair was watching the movie he'd found earlier, and Jim was reading a copy of David Simon's Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets he'd picked up from the bookshelf.
Blair looked up, and said, "What?" in an annoyed tone of voice.
"What what?" Jim asked, not looking up from the book.
"What do you mean, what? You keep whispering my name and then pretending you didn't!" Jim lowered the book as Blair turned to look at him, mild irritation on the younger man's face turning to stark outright terror, eyes growing wide, face paling. "Oh god, not again..."
"Blair?" Jim asked, feeling a cold lump of terror knotting in his belly.
Blair pointed into the empty corner, whispering. "He's burning, and his skin is flaking off and turning to ash..."
Jim catapulted off the couch and hit the button on the intercom. Behind him he could hear Sandburg clapping and muttering "I don't believe in fire people," over and over, laughing hysterically.
"Yes, Detective Ellison?" Noah's modulated voice emerged from the intercom.
"I need some medical assistance now!" Jim growled. "Sandburg's having a flashback."
"Ah. Yes. There was a fifteen percent chance the sedative would cause a Golden flashback, unfortunately it was the most effective injectable, with the least amount of other adverse side effects. Can you use your senses to determine his heart rate?"
Jim hesitated, but counted off, and reported the numbers aloud.
"Within normal limits," Noah noted. "I'm afraid you'll have to ride it out, Detective. Unless his symptoms become life-threatening, and then you will be transported to a local hospital. I fear your medic training will have to serve."
The intercom light went out. Jim muttered an oath and turned to approach Blair, who was sitting huddled on the couch, his legs tucked under him.
"Watch it, Jim."
"What it is, buddy?" Jim asked gently.
Blair was staring at the floor with wide-eyed fascination. "The snakes. See how their scales shine silver and gold? But you're gonna step on 'em, man, and squish 'em."
"Okay. I'll watch where I put my feet."
Jim spent the next few hours with his heart in his mouth, watching as Blair bounced from hallucination to hallucination, some of them merely unsettling, like Blair's description of the snakes, some of them horrifying. Jim gathered the kid in his arms, and rocked him gently while trying to convince him that his mother hadn't been one of Lash's victims... Blair was sure Lash had strangled her, and he wept for his mother like a lost child.
Eventually, emotionally wrung out, Blair Sandburg slept. His sentinel stood watch.
The second day of their captivity was spent in an embarrassed silence. Blair didn't exactly recall what he'd done, but he knew he'd humiliated himself. Jim tried to reassure him that he didn't hold it against him. The original Golden incident wasn't his fault, and neither was this. Jim understood, zones embarrassed him, leaving him standing stupidly, helpless. Jim knew how to handle it, carefully concerned, but not treating him differently, until time healed the wounds.
Blair got up to go to the bathroom. He went into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He got one of his schoolbooks and opened it, then put the book back down and turned on the television, changing channels. Local channels had been blocked, to keep them from learning their location. Then he turned the TV off and went over to look at the bookshelves. And he sighed deeply.
Jim had been up all night. And had been held captive, which he found extremely irritating. And he'd had the crap scared out of him by Blair's flashbacks. So without a great deal of tact, he groaned, "Chief, can't you sit still for five minutes?"
"Sorry, Jim." Blair dropped down on the couch and dropped his head into his hands. "I'm so sorry..." he whispered.
Jim bit the inside of his bottom lip, kicking himself. They'd done the talking thing already, everything was supposed to start getting better now. Luckily, after their last disaster, they'd worked out a method for dealing with obsessive undeserved guilt. Jim leaned over and whapped him lightly on the side of the head. "Sandburg. Snap out of it." Blair looked up at him with a wan grin, and Jim slowly and distinctly pronounced, "Its. Not. Your. Fault."
It had worked for him after Blair's press conference denying his dissertation. It did seem to cheer the kid up a bit, but Blair waved his arms in frustrated reference to their captivity. "But what are we gonna do, man."
Jim shrugged. "Wait it out. See what happens next. Its New Year's Day... tomorrow we find out." It was something he'd learned in the service, how to be held prisoner. You didn't waste any energy worrying about what was going to happen to you. You simply bided your time and watched for the opportunity to escape. Even so, he had a certain amount of apprehension. He didn't believe in the Y2K apocalypse scenario... all that remained to see was if Noah, whoever he or they were, was actually going to let them go.
He fixed the roast as he'd planned. One of the vegetable bins in the fridge held potatoes, onions, and carrots, all the trimmings. Neither of them slept very well that night.
It was midmorning the next day, Jim was cleaning up the breakfast dishes, and Blair had wandered out of the bathroom after his shower, half-dressed and looking for his Swiss army knife to cut the tags off a new red plaid flannel shirt from his closet. Jim had confiscated the knife during the delusions. The soft chime sounded again.
"Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. We've passed the point of no return on the catastrophe curve and the optimists have prevailed. I thank you for your time." This was followed by a barely audible hiss. Jim located and started for the hidden gas jet, but he never made it.
They woke in the loft, lying on top of the covers of their own beds. Blair stumbled out of his room and looked up at Jim coming down the stairs.
"Did that actually happen or did I just, like, dream it?"
Jim looked at him. Blair looked down and saw that he was wearing the red plaid flannel shirt. He checked his pocket for his Swiss army knife. It was there. His backpack was under the hooks with their jackets. Everything put back neatly.
Jim went to the phone and called Simon, established that yes, they'd been missing for four days and yes, the Major Crimes Unit had been running around in panicked circles trying to find them. Jim gave a thumbnail description of what had happened and added that he was taking Blair to the hospital to have him checked out. Blair grumbled, but went along, and was relieved to come out with no aftereffects.
There were no witnesses to either abduction. There was no physical evidence.
Neither Jim's old friends in the alphabet agencies nor any of Jack Kelso's contacts could find any trace of an individual, organization, or project known as Noah.
Lenore refused to return Jim's phone calls.
Things were beginning to return to normal, Jim came home with a copy of the Homicide book he'd found at the library, since he wanted to see how it ended. Blair was sitting on the couch staring at a sheet of paper. The day's mail was scattered on the coffee table. Jim looked at him inquiringly. Blair passed over the sheet of paper.
Plain white paper. All caps. Black ink.
MISTER SANDBURG. FIFTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR COMPENSATION HAS BEEN TRANSFERRED INTO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. MY SINCERE APOLOGIES FOR CAUSING YOU PAIN. NOAH.
Jim whistled. "I do love a secret society that does the right thing."
"You think I should keep it?" Blair said uncertainly.
Jim raised his eyebrows. "I don't see why not. You can't return it."
"I thought... evidence. Or I should give it to charity. Or something." Blair waved a hand. He thought about it. "No. I'll donate some of it, but I can pay a few bills. Student loans, get the Volvo fixed... back rent," he added with a grin.
Jim grinned at him as he went to get a beer.
"You know what really bugs me about this?" Blair asked, leaning back.
"Only one thing bugs you about this?"
Blair turned to give him a twisted grin. "Yeah, well, I've passed beyond paranoia into your little Zen the only thing I can control is my response to the lack of control thing you had going on in there. But think a minute. Noah was expecting the world to end, collected people with unique talents, special abilities, to rebuild society. And he grabbed us because you're a sentinel..." Blair swallowed. "Didn't the original Noah collect two of everything? And it wasn't Alex 'cause you didn't freak out."
There was a crash in the kitchen as Jim dropped his beer bottle.
~ End ~
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Page last updated 8/15/03.