Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are completely the property of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. I use them out of reverence, solely for fun and not for profit.


Computer Ease
by
Ismaro

ligela@sympatico.ca

 

December 31, 1999
3:00 p.m.

Simon flung wide the door to his office, and bellowed, "Listen up, people!" in a particularly vocal manner.

People listened up.

"I have just been informed," across Simon's face flitted an expression like that of a parfumier faced with the remains of an irresponsible pet owner's walk with his St. Bernard, "that the PD administration's bank is unable to effect," the cigar hanging from Simon's lips was hastily snatched away before it was severed by the teeth action on the last word, "any electronic transfers of our monthly pay for December, 1999."

"What the...?"

"Huh?"

"Hey, they can't..."

"SANDBURG! Is this your doing?"

"Simon? SIMON!!!"

"You heard what I said, yes, that is what I said, they can do it, and no, it isn't something he did, and it's 'Captain' to you, Sandburg!"

A hush fell over the room and detective looked at detective throughout the Major Crimes Department. They had been half-expecting some kind of New Year's/Millennium trick to be pulled on the Department by the anthropologist-observer in return for scoffing at his tales of millennial crazes and curses of the past, but this was more than just a trick.

"Sorry, Simon, uh, Captain," Blair Sandburg said sheepishly, breaking the quiet. (He never hesitated to go where angels feared to tread. There might just be something interesting there, y'know?) "Um, what does that mean in, like, practical terms here?"

A dull muttering filled the room. Right question to ask, asked by the right person. Maybe they'd get an answer they could live with.

"It means, Sandburg, that it's New Year's Eve, and no one is going to find any cash in his or her bank account today, because the bank screwed up all the electronic transfers somehow. Yes, I actually talked to the Commissioner myself so it isn't one of Sandburg's jokes. I don't know if Y2K is involved, and I don't want to know, so don't bother to ask! Got it?"

The glare Simon Banks was directing at the most height-challenged member of his Department (even if he was just an observer, since TSbyBS never happened in this author's universe, y'know, at least until she finishes PJ, in which case it never counted anyway), should have frizzled him like a bacon strip after three minutes alone in the microwave. But this was Blair Sandburg, and he didn't do frizzled for nobody nohow, and certainly not a guy he went fishing with in good weather, even if they did end up being bait for fresh air fiends and psychos more often than they caught any fish.

"Yeah, Simon, uh, Captain, but like, how do the guys get paid?"

"Ah, now there's the question." Simon suddenly recovered his cool, and a mellow look replaced the ogre's stare. Simon played with his cigar, enjoying every second of the anticipation—or torture—of his staff before he announced the answer.

"Uh, sir, do you suppose you could...?" Jim Ellison prompted, grabbing his partner by the shoulder and forcing him to stagger back two steps. "Shut up, Sandburg!" the Sentinel hissed at his Guide.

The Guide's answer was unheard by anyone but the Sentinel, but Jim turned two shades of red darker than he'd been before.

However, Simon took the prompt from his best detective, and gestured with the cigar at the other part of his best team. "Now, see, Sandburg, you could learn a lot from Ellison, if you'd only observe him."

A distinctive 'crunch' was heard as Blair stomped on Jim's arch and Rafe, who was closest to them, caught, "Jim, look what you've done. He's on a roll now."

Jim was biting his lip, whether from the pain in his foot or the one in his butt was not known. Rafe took a wild guess.

Simon had by that time wound down again in his lecture on the niceties of cross-examining the Captain of Major Crimes, and was finally giving the necessary information. "Accounting is cutting the cheques now, and will be delivering them ASAP."

"We're getting paper cheques?"

"When is 'ASAP'?"

"We've gotta bank these ourselves?"

"Shit, my bank closes... NOW!"

"What's the limit on my ATM again?"

The news was not going over well with the staff.

"All right, everyone, since we're in for the duration, please keep it down and GET BACK TO WORK!"

Having spread the anguish amongst all his subordinates, and Blair Sandburg, Simon Banks betook his chequeless self to his office and slammed the door with great satisfaction.

"Geez, Jim, is this gonna make a difference to you?" Sandburg asked his Sentinel, partner, roommate and best friend to death and back again.

"Well, Croesus, it just might." Jim looked down his chiselled straight nose at his anxious co-worker. Blair bounced twice with impatience, and Jim took pity on him. "I'll have to bank through the ATM, and that limits how much cash I can take out."

"So what do you need cash for?" Blair pushed again.

"We're hosting the party tomorrow. I was gonna shop for it and for the next couple of weeks' groceries too, because our schedules just have been crazy over Christmas and will be until the Millennium craze settles down, and there just isn't any other time to shop but now."

"And of course you don't use direct debit cards because the likelihood of fraud is too high," Blair mumbled, helping along the recitation.

"Exactly. So it looks as if I'm gonna come up short on the loan you asked for, Chief." Jim said this quietly, catching his best friend's gaze with real regret.

"Ah, geez, Jim, no, don't. It's, um, it doesn't matter, it's okay." The babble of words didn't hide the rising of the heartbeat and other telltale markers that Blair was shading the truth more than a little, hiding his real feelings from his Sentinel unsuccessfully.

"Where were you gonna take her?" Jim asked, trying to find a way out of the dilemma for the sake of his chronically broke grad student pal, whose really very valuable services at the PD were unfortunately unpaid, and the date he had arranged with the most beautiful staffer in Administrative Services. "If I compromise, if I don't shop for anything but the weekend and the party, there'd be enough, wouldn't there?"

"Jim, I'm not taking every cent of cash off you!" Blair shot back hotly. "You've got a date with Greer, too, and even if you use credit cards, you need cash for cabs and tips and just in case. I'll, I'll find Louise and work something out. Can you lend me enough for a good bottle of champagne?"

"Oh, yeah, that and more," Jim promised. There might be a way for Blair to salvage this date, even if it was a private at-home way, instead of an out-on-the-town way. What a time for the banking system to fail!

Everyone was doing calculations and checking their wallets when the courier from Accounting brought in a stuffed manila envelope. Rhonda fielded it, and, grinning at the rest of the staff, knocked on Simon's door, handing it through to the eager Captain of Major Crimes.

He stepped out and tore the inter-office memo envelope to shreds. It had seen its last stop. A shower of white letter-sized envelopes fell out, each addressed to a member of the department.

Simon and Rhonda began the hand-to-hand delivery.

"Brown. Connor."

"Taggart, Upshaw."

"Ellison, Fishburn."

"Van Rijn, Zalman."

The last name on the list had not received the designated envelope before the first shriek shattered what had passed for peace in the office.

"Goddlemighty, I don't believe this!"

"What?" and "What's wrong?" rang through the halls.

"It's for the right amount," one of the guys said.

"Look at the freaking DATE!"

"Oh, man," was the least of the comments when the significance of the dates on the computer-generated cheques, all personally signed by the Commissioner and the Chief of Police, penetrated.

"Y2K struck," Blair whispered.

Someone in Accounting had taken the easy way out of Y2K-proofing the "unnecessary" program that happened to include cheque-generating. The cheques were all staledated by more than two decades.

"This isn't happening," Jim yelled, and then looked very self-conscious and shut up entirely.

Everyone else yelled for him, Simon included.

When the screams had brought the third individual from Fraud (across the hallway) in to ask if they needed help, Captain Banks recovered his aplomb and silenced the room with another booming roar.

"I am going to go take this up with the people in Accounting and if there is any way whatsoever for this monstrosity to be corrected, I will see to it that it is!" Simon vowed.

His people cheered. He could have been mayor if he'd been politically minded. He rattled his cheque as if waving to the crowd.

Blair stood off to the side, observing. H was doing some kind of dance routine that might have called down the lightning gods in some obscure tribe elsewhere in the world. Rafe was tearing his hair. Joel just looked a little stunned and Rhonda a little more stunned.

Jim, though. Jim was looking sick.

"Hey, buddy?" Blair asked sotto voce.

"Geez, Blair, I don't know what to say," Jim started.

Blair put his hand on his best friend's shoulder and squeezed.

"I mean, there's the party, and I've only got, and I promised you, and what the hell do we do now?" Jim went on.

"Yo, Jim! Jim!" Blair cut in, shaking the shoulder he was gripping in order to break through his friend's train of thought. When the sky blue eyes met his own Mediterranean ones, the Guide said, "It's gonna be all right. I promise." Then a little smirk played around Sandburg's lips and Jim's eyes got very big indeed.

"You. You. You. What did you do?" Jim stuttered out.

"Shhhhhh! Keep it down! It'll only be a minute more! I swear to you." Blair looked around the room and smiled to himself.

"I'm gonna kill you," Jim announced under his breath.

"Nah, you aren't. Sentinels don't get to kill Guides who are just proving their Guidedom to the tribe."

"That's what this is?" Jim started laughing despite himself. "You're proving your Guidedom to the tribe?" He was so hysterical by the end of this sentence that he attracted the attention of the rest of department.

"Sandburg DID do it!" Brown shouted, throwing his envelope on the floor.

"You are a dead man," Rafe commented as he tore his cheque into little itsy-bitsy pieces, apparently practising his technique. "A very dead man."

"Oh, yeah, Sandy. I'm helping to bury the body."

"No, Connor, I am," Banks claimed superiority.

But as the room began to shrink for Blair Sandburg, who had strategically manoeuvred himself behind his big, brave Sentinel and their desk, enduring a brief but real period of emotional distress as a result of the reasonable apprehension that he was about to be owied, which is an owie in and of itself, BTW, which is why this qualifies as a Dawn Theme Fic, a magnificently

proportioned petite brunette saved the Guide from extinction.

"Excuse me, does anyone want these?" Louise from Administration sang overtop of the noise of threats and mayhem. She riffled through a set of envelopes that look very much like the ones just mangled and maimed by every member of the Department.

"And those would be," Simon asked, clearing his throat and getting back into character again.

"This month's pay cheques."

"Give me those!" Simon ground out, snatching the things away from the woman everyone knew was Blair's date for the evening. She sauntered over to Blair and received a hug for her daring. Major Crimes in full cry is not a pretty sight.

Captain Banks had found his own cheque, and everyone watched like snakes as he scrutinised it. "Yes!" he crowed, and kissed the paper.

He was deluged by his staff and went under.

Back at Jim's desk, Louise collected another hug and excused herself to head back to her office. Administration was hopping; the number of calls about the banking problems had been unbelievable.

"So you wanna explain this, Chief?" Jim asked, hoisting his bruised foot to rest against the chair Blair had collapsed into.

"What, the Guidedom thing?"

"Yeah, all of it."

"Well, y'know, everyone was expecting me to come up with some kind of millennium disaster," Blair grinned unabashedly.

"Yeah." Jim didn't blink.

"Although they have to learn to trust The Guide and respect His Guidedom, I didn't intend to sink to that level." He spread his hands wide.

"No, of course not." Jim paused. "Until..."

"The opportunity presented itself this morning." Blair started laughing and it was hard to get the words out. "Louise knew almost immediately about the banking problem, and called me so I could tell you."

"And you didn't? You are such a rat bas..."

"Hey, wait a minute, Mulder. I got the call soon enough to take care of the cash problem. Kinda."

"Huh? Whatcha mean?"

"I used my safety stash. You know, the one you insist I have at all times."

Jim smiled again at his partner. He himself had folded the one-hundred dollar bill into postage-stamp size and hidden it in a pocket of Blair's ever-present bookbag, after an almost interminable argument with his Guide over the need for such a thing in a world full of maniacs each of whom came complete with explicit directions to wherever Blair Sandburg happened to be standing at the moment.

"We're stocked for the party and next week too, Jim, so you can stop worrying there." Blair stopped for breath and caught his friend's grin. He grinned back.

"So how about your date?"

"Well, if you can't spot me until I get next month's grant, we'll just spend it quietly at the loft, if that's okay with you?" Blair was asking permission and about his roommate's plans as well for the last night of all four-digit years starting with the numeral 19. "I didn't cause the bank failure, y'know. It really was a fluke. Just the fake cheques."

"Do I wanna know who signed them?"

"Do you have to ask?"

They started to laugh again, and Jim bent over to cage his seated partner in his chair, hands on either armrest.

"You wanna do New Year's on your own with Louise?" the Sentinel asked in a low tone.

"Really?" Blair looked long and hard into his best friend's eyes.

"Yeah. Really."

"I'd kinda like it if the four of us could be together when the ball drops, y'know." Blair was nodding, more so that he didn't have to look into Jim's eyes than to accentuate his words.

"I'd kinda like it too," Jim said, and when Blair looked up again, he knew that Jim meant what he meant, that they both wanted to see the New Year, if not the New Millennium, in together.

"So...?" the Guide asked.

"I booked a table for four at Rendezvous six months ago," Jim admitted.

"No way! You did? Jim, man, that's like..." Blair didn't have words. The place was elite and exquisite and expensive. That his partner wanted to share the once-in-a-lifetime year change with him enough to book for them both that far back was... "Too much. Jim, it's too much."

"Nah, it's just about right, from where I stand." And the Sentinel looked down at his Guide, finding the same depths in the ocean-dark eyes as in his own. "We can split up afterwards, you take the loft, I'll make do with hotels and credit cards, since I have credit cards."

Blair began to laugh again. "Maybe it should be the other way around, Jim, man. I mean, when was the last time you and your date needed the loft? You might prefer to spend your night in your own bed, all alone. Lend me the credit card."

"You wish!" Jim replied, bucking back off the chair so he was upright." After this stunt, I'm gonna keep you under my eye every second of every day and night—almost."

"Yeah, well, it's the 'almost' you've gotta watch out for," Blair replied, and began hassling his buddy for his credit card until Simon came over and blasted them back to work again.

~ End ~

Author's Additional Notes: Y'know, when the third person from Fraud showed up to ask what was the matter, the techs in Major Crimes ought to have caught a clue, right? Only this is the elite batch of people who don't know Jim's a Sentinel, so I suppose the story is consistent with canon.


E-Mail Ismaro at ligela@sympatico.ca
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