Disclaimer: Usual drill, Sentinel characters belong to Petfly. I'm just taking them for a short trip through time.
I seem to be stuck in the World War II Pacific Theatre. This is an AU set during the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines. I would really appreciate some feedback on this story. (See, I can beg with the best of them!)
"Hey Sandburg, Doc needs you in the Med tent," was shouted from outside the tent.
"Come on, man, I just got off duty." Blair struggled to get up off of the cot. "What's so damn important that I have to go back?" He asked stepping out of the tent.
"Hey, man, I'm just the messenger. It's not my fault you're the only one who can talk the loonies out of the corners," the soldier explained.
Blair sighed and retraced the same trail he had walked a short half-hour before. It had been determined early in his tour as a medic that he had the touch or to be more specific the voice. He could talk a soldier down without resorting to drugs or restraints. His abilities had saved many a soldier from a Psych discharge. Even though he had been asked repeatedly how he did it he never explained; he would just shrug and say he didn't have a clue. He knew better than to tell that he could feel the patient's pain and could tailor his approach to their needs.
The young medic stopped outside the tent taking a deep breath, he tried to steel himself against the pain and emotions within. It was growing increasingly difficult as time went by to maintain his barriers enough to function. Bracing himself he entered.
"About time you got here, Sandburg," barked Dr. Lewis.
"What do we have, Doc?" Blair asked wearily, hoping this would be quick or he would be the one who collapsed.
The doctor gave him a sharp look. Lewis had noticed the growing exhaustion in the young man and privately worried that one day there would be that one case too many. "This one has been a prisoner somewhere. He walked out of the jungle this morning. He's been starved and tortured. The morning patrol brought him in when they saw how badly he was injured."
"Has he responded to anything?"
The doctor shook his head. "It's like the lights are on but nobody's home. I've seen coma patients who respond more." He directed the medic to his newest patient.
Blair gasped at the grayness he felt from the damaged man in front of him. His patient had curled into a fetal position in the corner of the tent storage room, eyes tightly closed and hands over his ears. His body was as still as if he had been carved from stone. "Why hasn't he been cleaned up?" Blair asked quietly.
"When he came in, he wouldn't let anyone touch him." The doctor shuddered with the memory of the tortured man's screams. "I was afraid if we moved him we might lose him for good." The doctor had been watching the young medic long enough to figure out his abilities. He accepted Blair's talents, willing to use anything to help the men in his care.
The young man nodded. He moved slowly to the wounded man, speaking quietly under his breath. "Okay, big guy, I'm just here to help. I promise everything is going to be okay." He crept closer. "I'm here to help, but you need to reach out to me. I need you to give me a sign that you know I'm here." There was a lightening of the gray clouding the big man's mind. "That's it, big guy. Just relax. You can do it." Sitting on his heels in front of the soldier, Blair reached out carefully and touched the man's shoulder.
The medic was shocked into speechlessness by the instantaneous connection. His barriers flowed into place around himself and the man he was touching, blocking everyone else. The man's head lifted slowly and his eyes opened. The pain was visible in the man's blue eyes. Blair braced himself waiting for the pain, nothing happened. He had never reached anyone in the past without being hit with their pain. He took a closer look at the man in front of him. He could see the lines of pain in his face begin to ease. The medic was confused but decided to go with it. "It's going to be okay, big guy."
The man started to uncurl, and a rusty voice spoke. "Jim, I am Captain James Ellison." The voice was hoarse and full of pain.
"I'm very glad to meet you, Jim. Do you know what happened to you?" Before the Captain shook his head, Blair was hit with a confusing array of images and sensations. It felt like a total sensory overload. The young medic's eyes widened. "Oh man, no wonder you were so out of it." He glanced around to make sure there wasn't anyone in earshot. "Okay, Jim. I think I know what's going on with you but you need to work with me. Can you do that?" There was a barely perceptible nod. "Can you picture a dial? Can you see it?" Jim nodded. "Now I want you to turn the dial down until everything starts feeling normal." He watched as the lines of tension eased even more. "Better?" Blair asked as Jim uncurled completely.
"Yeah," he said softly.
"Do you feel like you can stand? We need to get you cleaned up." Jim nodded and between the two of them managed to get the big man to his feet. They slowly exited the storage room.
The Doctor approached. "Okay, Sandburg, we can take it from here."
Blair felt the flash of fear from the wounded man. "That won't be necessary, Doc. I'll take care of him." He turned to his patient. "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. Just take it easy." He said leading the big man to a cot. "Okay, first things first, we need to get rid of these clothes." The young man gestured at the torn and bloody rags Jim was wearing. Jim raised his hands to do as requested. He gave a frustrated groan when his hands refused to cooperate.
"Here let me help." Blair started cutting away the damaged clothing. He looked over his shoulder. "Hey, Henri, rustle up some clothes for Captain Ellison." He looked at his patient. "Everything from the skin out. Make sure it's soft"
"You got it." Henri hurried off to get the requested items.
Blair filled a basin with warm water and grabbed the softest cloth he could find. "Now we need to get you cleaned up and these wounds treated." He finished pulling away the tattered clothing. The medic hissed at the sight of the damaged flesh. "Jim, I'm going to need the doctor's help. He 's going to need to touch you; will you let him?" The big man tensed. "I'm going to be right here, I swear." Jim closed his eyes and nodded.
Blair looked across the room and waved to the doctor. As he approached Blair whispered. "Just keep a good hold on the dials." The medic straightened when Doctor Lewis reached them. "Looks like Captain Ellison here is in need of you expert skills."
The doctor carefully examined the Captains wounds as Blair cleaned them. They explained what they were going to do before every step. When the doctor began to stitch some of the deeper wounds Jim gripped the younger man's arm. He focused everything on the younger man's voice. "Keep the dials down, you can do it. You're going to be fine once we get everything taken care of."
Before they knew it the doctor had finished. Once the bandaging was finished and he was dressed in the largest pair of patient pajamas Henri could find, they got him settled into a clean cot. Blair could tell the big man was at the limits of his endurance. "Jim, I want you to try and get some sleep. When you wake up, I will get you something good to eat."
"Don't go." The big man whispered, in his confused mind the young medic was the only island of sanity.
"Not to worry, they'll have to force me out of here. I'll be here when you wake up."
Jim relaxed into a deep healing sleep. The doctor motioned for Blair to join him. "Sandburg, he's going to sleep for a while; go and get some rest."
"Sorry, Doc. I promised I'd stick around." Blair said shaking his head.
"It wasn't a request. This is an order."
"But, sir, I need to stay here." The young man pleaded. "If he should wake..."
Doctor Lewis interrupted. "I'm sorry, Sandburg, but you've been on duty for over twenty three hours. Go." The doctor didn't notice as he pushed the younger man out of the tent that the Captain became restless. Blair was upset that his advice had been discounted. He knew the doctor had his best interests at heart but the young man had a feeling that things would get worse if he wasn't allowed to oversee Captain Ellison's care.
Knowing he wouldn't be able to rest, he went in search of food the former prisoner would be able to eat. As malnourished as the big man was, Blair knew small bland meals would be the order of the day. He started to feel uncomfortable and was about to return to the Med Tent no matter what the doctor ordered when Henri raced up.
"San...Sand..." Henri panted, leaning forward trying to catch his breath. He pointed in the direction of the Med Tent.
"Shit!" Blair exclaimed, shoving the food he had gathered into Henri's hands and taking off at a run. As he drew closer, he could hear the chaos from within the tent. He burst through the tent flap in time to see his patient backing away from the gathered medics and doctors. He took a deep breath to calm himself before he started quietly speaking. "Hey, big guy, sorry I had to leave for a minute. Look at me, big guy." Blair said as he pushed his way through the crowd. "Focus on me; ignore the rest." He motioned for the others to get back. "Jim, listen to me." Ellison tilted his head and, finding the sound he had been searching for, began to calm. Gradually the blade lowered. "You can drop it, no one will touch you." Jim's hand slowly opened; the scalpel fell to the ground.
As Blair came within reach, the big man crumpled into the younger man's arms. His body shaking with fear. "It's okay, I won't let them send me away again." It took over an hour but Blair finally convince the big man to move back to his cot. He refused to release the younger man's hand. Blair managed to get him to eat, and sleep quickly followed. The captain's sleep was repeatedly interrupted by nightmares. The young man whispered reassurances and Jim would quickly settle back to sleep.
"Hey, man." Henri whispered. "Is there anything I can do to help? You need some coffee or something?"
Blair shook his head and smiled. "Not right now, buddy, maybe later."
"Just give me a holler if you need anything." The younger man nodded and returned his attention to the man beside him.
//I wish I knew what he's been through, maybe I would know what to do,// Blair thought as he rested his head on the cot and fell asleep.
Jim Ellison opened his eyes. He glanced around in confusion, seeing the man asleep with his head on the cot. His hand tightened and the curly head raised. The young man's face lit up.
"Hey, Captain, how are you feeling?"
Ellison's brow creased. "Who are you?" Blair could feel the stress levels rise.
"It's okay, I'm Blair Sandburg, I'm a medic. You're in Hospital One outside Limay."
"I'm in a hospital?"
"Yeah, you walked in from the jungle yesterday." Blair explained as he checked the big man's vital signs. He sat down beside the older man. "You feel like trying something to eat?"
Ellison thought for a moment. "Yeah, I could eat."
"Great, give me a minute and I'll go and get you something." He felt the big man's panic level begin to increase. "I'll be right back."
Jim watched as the young man left the tent. Without realizing it, he listened as Blair walked across the compound. The further the younger man walked, the harder Jim listened. Soon the sound was the only thing he was aware of. Blair returned with a tray of food and was greeted with the sight of the captain sitting on his cot staring blindly into the distance.
"Oh, man, I thought we were making progress." He set the tray down on the end of the cot and knelt in front of the big man. "Okay, Jim, come out of it. I'm right here." Blair looked around trying to see what might have caused the relapse. Taking a good look at Jim, he noticed that his head was tilted slightly. "What were you listening to?" Remembering how the Captain had reacted the last time he had to leave and suspecting the big man's hearing was enhanced, the medic put two and two together. "Damn, you were listening for me. Okay, think Sandburg what can you do?" He thought back to the monograph he had read before being drafted. "If all of you senses are enhanced like I think they are, we just need to get you refocused." He picked up the Captain's hand and rested it against his throat. "I hope you can feel my pulse." He continued to speak quietly, not wanting to attract the attention of the doctors.
He could feel the gray haze lifting from the big man's mind. "Hey, Jim, glad to have you back." The Captain looked puzzled. Blair held up his hand to forestall any questions. "I know you are getting tired of these gray-outs. I think I have an explanation."
"Let's hear it."
"Tell me if I get this right. You've noticed all of your senses are more sensitive?" Jim nodded. "All five?"
"Yeah. What's wrong with me?"
"You are what's known as a Sentinel." Blair explained. "A Sentinel is a watchman to his tribe. With all of his senses enhanced, he is an early warning system. The Sentinel and a companion known as a guide protected the others. You've already experienced one of the biggest drawbacks. It's called a zone-out. Zone-outs are caused by focusing on one sense to the exclusion of all others. We just need to work on a way to keep you from zoning."
Jim was amazed at the amount of time the young man could talk without taking a breath. "How did I get these senses?" Jim asked when he could get a word in edgewise.
"Well, there is one theory that it is just something you are born with. Did you have these senses as a child?"
Jim frowned. "I don't know. I can't remember anything."
"What do you mean...you can't remember?" Blair asked calmly.
"The first thing I remember is seeing the patrol yesterday and that my name is Captain James Ellison."
"We'll have to work on that. I'm sure we'll be able to figure it out." He picked up the tray. "Now you need to get some food into your stomach. Then we'll decide what to do." As they ate, the younger man's mind was racing, trying to figure out a way for Jim to get a measure of control over his abilities. He also wanted to explore the changes in his own abilities since he met the Sentinel.
"As soon as the doctor comes through we'll see if he'll let you out of here."
"Works for me." Jim agreed.
"Our best option would be to share a tent but there is one thing that might be a problem."
Blair chuckled. "Like you officer, me enlisted."
"Don't worry, Chief. It'll work out." Jim patted the younger man on the side of the face. "I just have to get sprung from here first."
Several hours later, they convinced the doctor to release the Captain. Doc Lewis agreed the hospital tent might not be the best place for the big man to recuperate. He didn't want a repeat of the previous night. "I don't want the Captain to be left alone for a while yet. Sandburg, I'm assigning you to the captain. You will stay with him. Find an empty tent and get moved in." He looked at the young medic. "You have tomorrow off. Try and get some rest."
Blair smiled. "Yes, Sir." He turned to his new tent mate. "Come on, Captain. Let's go find a home."
They found a tent that had been recently vacated and settled in. They had scrounged everything they would need to make the tent livable. As they wandered through out the camp, Jim vented his frustration. "Why haven't they been able to find out who I am?"
"Our unit hasn't been able to make contact with headquarters in days. I don't know why the lines are down. We haven't received medical supplies and rations for the past two weeks. Blair shrugged. "We should be hearing from them any time now, I hope." The last two words were said under his breath forgetting the older man could hear him.
Jim looked up and saw the worry in the young man's face. "Take it easy. This has happened before, right?" Blair nodded. "Then we should be getting the new supplies any day now."
"Yeah, you're right." Blair gave him a halfhearted smile. "Come on. Let's go get my stuff from my other tent." Blair had been sharing a tent with three other medics. It was one of the reasons he had so much trouble with his barriers. He was packing up his stuff when one of his tent-mates entered.
"Where you going?" Mickey asked.
"Been assigned to another tent. I guess the Doc got tired of hearing me complaining about your snoring." Blair laughed as he left the tent leading the way to their new home.
The pair spent all of their free time working with Jim's senses. It helped to keep the big man's thought off of the memories he was missing. Things changed a week after they moved into their new home.
Blair had been asleep for a few hours when he was awakened by a hand over his mouth. His eyes opened wide trying to see in the dark. "Sh-h-h, don't say anything." Jim whispered. "There's someone moving around outside." Blair nodded, letting the older man know he would stay quiet. Jim quietly moved to the opening of the tent. As the dark shape entered the tent, Jim had the intruder on the ground with an arm around his throat.
Blair lit a lantern. "Oh, man. Jim, you can let him up." He put his hand on the Sentinel's shoulder. "It's okay; he's a friend." Jim slowly disengaged his hold on the intruder. He stood and helped the man to his feet, keeping his body between Sandburg and the stranger.
"Jim." Blair said stepping around the big man. "This is Brian Rafe. He's a medic." The big man relaxed.
Brian breathed a sigh of relief. "Sandburg, the doc needs you in the Med Tent. We've got a boatload of wounded coming in. We're going to need all the help we can get."
"Tell him we'll be right there." Blair said as he started to get dressed. Jim was at his own cot getting ready.
Their arrival at the Med tent coincided with that of the wounded. Blair hurried to help triage the injured men. For a moment Jim watched the macabre ballet that made up emergency surgery. Looking for a way to help, he moved to help carrying in the wounded. As he was leaving to get another stretcher, Jim saw a young soldier begin to thrash around, dislodging the tourniquet in his leg. Released, the severed femoral artery began to bleed out. The sudden gout of blood caused something to click in the mind of Captain James Ellison. He moved to the patient and replaced the tourniquet and grabbed the nearest medic and ordered her to find him a table. The medic led the way. As soon as they had him on the table, Jim started to prep the soldier for surgery.
Blair looked up from the patient he was triaging and saw his Sentinel across the tent operating. Blair motioned for another medic to take his place. He quickly gloved up and moved to Jim's side. A swift glance showed that the older man knew exactly what he was doing. The two men worked together like a well-oiled machine. Blair would hand Jim what he needed without even being asked. "I take it your memory has returned?" Blair asked.
Jim nodded, holding his hand out for sutures. "Yes." He said distractedly. Blair decided to hold his questions until they had a break. The young medic was amazed by the older man's skill. He could see that Jim was using his senses as he worked. The young man kept up a quiet stream of words to keep the Sentinel grounded in the real world. Blair watched for signs that the big man was reaching the limits of his endurance. Jim was still recovering himself.
As they neared the end of the wounded, Jim could feel his control on his senses begin to slip. Finishing up with his patient, Blair was suddenly at his elbow. "Come on, Jim, there are enough people to take over now. The worst is over." Jim looked at him blankly. "Come on, man. I can feel the dials spinning. We've been working for ten straight hours. I don't know about you but I'm ready for a break." Blair motioned for the orderly to take the patient to the recovery tent. "Let's go get cleaned up and get something to eat." Doctor Lewis started toward the pair; he had been watching off and on from the beginning. Reassured by his former patient's expertise, he hadn't interfered, grateful for the extra pair of hands.
Blair saw him moving in; he could see the questions on the doctor's face. The medic held up a hand and shook his head no, warning the doctor to wait. Lewis could see the way the big man was leaning on the young medic and nodded. His questions could wait.
Blair supported Jim with an arm around his waist, leading him out of the tent. They grabbed a bite to eat and mutually decided to wait to discuss what had happened. Once they returned to their tent and settled in for the night, Jim began to speak. "I remember." He paused. I remember everything..."
Captain James Ellison had been in the bush so long he was beginning to forget what civilization was. He was the only doctor with in a twenty-mile radius of the front lines. He and a medic worked to stabilize the wounded before they were shipped to the hospital units.
"Hey, Chet! Those supplies show up yet?" Jim asked.
"Not yet Cap, I'm hopin' they show up today. We're almost out of everything."
Ellison shook his head. "Then we'll just have to make do."
"You mean you're gonna use those native medicines?" The medic asked.
"It won't be the first time." Jim answered.
The last batch of wounded had been shipped from the aid station that morning. They were enjoying a rare moment of peace. Jim stood outside the lean-to breathing in the damp humid air. He looked out into the jungle. He could feel that something was wrong. The doctor could feel the hairs on his neck stand up.
"Chet, grab your pack. We need to get out of here."
"What's going on?" The medic asked emerging from the shelter packs in hand. He handed one to the captain.
"It's too quiet. I just have a feeling that it's about to get real unsafe, real quick." They headed out in the only direction Ellison felt was safe. They had gone several hundred yards when Jim heard running feet behind them. He pulled his sidearm and ordered the younger man ahead of him. "Chet, I want you to go as far and as fast as you can. Keep going straight and you'll run into a patrol of our guys. I'll catch up as soon as I can."
"That's an order, sergeant. Now get moving." Chet gave him one last look and took off running.
Captain Ellison turned and started moving back down the trail. He watched the enemy soldiers as they approached. He took a defensive position. His only plan was to give the young medic a chance to escape. He started to fire drawing the attention of the soldiers, keeping them pinned down for the few minutes it took to run out of ammunition. He turned to run and found himself nose to barrel with an automatic weapon.
"Shit." He slowly raised his arms. The soldier in front of him dealt him a vicious blow to the abdomen, doubling him over. They pulled him to his feet and tied his hands behind his back. Captain James Ellison was now a prisoner of war.
It took a week of forced marching before they reached a trail passable by transport. Jim found himself among a group of seven prisoners all captured within the past week. The men quietly introduced themselves when the guards attention was else where. Jim could see that two of his fellow prisoners had badly infected wounds. He watched and listened, trying to find a guard with the ability to speak English. Finding one, he carefully schooled his face into a respectful expression and gained the guard's attention.
Keeping his eyes lowered, he made his request. "Sir, may we have water and medicines for our wounded? They will be of no use as prisoners if they are dead."
The guard stared at the tall captain with amused disbelief. "No" was the answer. The guard turned and walked away.
Jim returned to the other men. "Did you really think they would give us anything?" The man who identified himself as Captain Adams asked.
"Not really, but it was worth a try." Jim shrugged. The guards returned, prodding the men to their feet and forcing them back into the rear canvas covered truck. As each climbed up, they were chained with a manacle to a ring in the bed of the truck. They endured a long and bumpy ride to the prison camp. Jim grew increasingly worried about the two men with the worst injuries. They were growing progressively weaker. By the time they reached the camp, one had died and the others wounds had become gangrenous.
They were unchained and shoved from the truck and ordered to take the dead soldier to the burial pit. Jim looked around, trying to find someone in charge. One of the prisoners walked up to him. "Captain, if you and the others will come with me, we'll get you settled." They all followed the thin man in the tattered uniform. "This is a kind of clearing house for prisoners. They sort us by occupations and then ship prisoners to where ever they need them. Now, if you're a teacher, don't tell any one. They have a Captain hate going against teachers. They'll just march them over to the pit and shoot them." He looked at Jim. "So Captain, what do you do?"
"I'm a doctor."
"No, shit. Talk about perfect timing! Our last doc died two days ago."
"Great." Jim muttered. "Where's the other doctor's stuff?" He asked, hoping to find medicines.
"I'll take you to them in a minute." He turned to one of his fellow prisoners. "Nelson, check the rest of these guys in while I take the doc to his new home."
The next few weeks were exercises in futility; trying to heal people without equipment or drugs. The few times he was ordered to treat a guard, he managed to steal enough medicine to try and hold back the tide. The system worked until the new camp commander arrived. Jim watched as he drove into the compound and knew there would be trouble. The guards even looked afraid of the man. He looked like the type who enjoyed inflicting pain. Things remained calm for a couple of days until one of the younger prisoners caught the eye of the commander. The young man was working in the compound when the commander walked up to him and ran his hand along the kid's face. Carter reacted without thinking, knocking the commander's hand away. The enraged reaction was immediate. The commander backhanded the boy to the ground and began beating him with the metal tipped cane in his other hand.
Jim had stepped out of the prisoners quarters when he saw the first blow to the young man's unprotected ribs. Knowing that he was probably signing his own death warrant, he quickly moved behind the commander and caught the cane as it was raised to deliver another blow. He jerked the cane out of the shorter man's hand and threw it to the ground. He stared at the livid man. The anger blended with madness was the last thing he saw for a while.
Jim awoke to find himself chained by his wrists to a post. He could feel the breeze against his bare skin. "Very good captain. I'm very happy you decided to join us. I wouldn't have wanted you to miss this." Jim heard the whistle to the whip before it struck.
The beating lasted for an hour. Jim drifted in and out of conciseness; the only constant was the pain. It was the worst form of torture. There were no questions to answer, no way to stop the pain. The commander stopped when his arm grew tired. Jim's back was beaten to a bloody mess. Water was thrown over him to revive him time after time until he no longer responded. He was unchained and thrown into the solitary pit.
The big man lost track of time in the pit. He grew steadily weaker. His time in isolation made him feel that he was going crazy. He could hear conversations from across the compound and could see the bugs crawling on the walls of his dark prison. He learned how to track the guard who brought him food every day. It was during a food delivery that he devised a plan to escape. He heard the guard crossing the compound and arranged himself to look dead. When the guard entered the pit to check, Jim broke his neck. Listening for additional guards he crept through the compound, under the wire and slipped into the jungle.
"I don't know how many days I was in the jungle. I had lost track of time. Eventually I found myself here." Jim told the younger man as he ended his tale. He looked up from his hands, surprised to see the younger man sitting beside him with his hand on his shoulder. Blair took a deep breath, letting his mind fill with the pain the older man was feeling. He fought to release the pain. Jim could hear the younger man's heartrate increasing and started to focus on it. His control, however, was shot and he quickly zoned. Blair felt it the instant the Sentinel zoned.
"Come on, big guy, time to wake up." It only took a minute before Jim responded to his guide's voice. Jim took a deep breath.
"It happened again?"
"Yeah, but it only took a minute to pull you out of it." Blair smiled. "It's getting better."
"But what if I zone when I'm working on a patient?" Jim asked, worried.
"That's what I'm here for."
"You're the guide."
"Yep, and right now I'd like to guide you to sleep. This will all make more sense in the morning." Blair advised.
"You have a point, chief. Things will make more sense in the morning." The big man laid down and closed his eyes. He listened as the younger man settled in for the night. He heard the slowing of Blair's heart beat as he fell asleep and unconsciously slowed his own to match it. For the first time in what felt like years, he fell asleep feeling safe.
Whispers of impending retreat and the encroaching Japanese army made their way through the camp. The rumor mill was in full swing. Captain Jim Ellison could hear them all. By putting together all of the pieces, he had a good idea of the time table. He shared his observations with the young medic. They had many discussions about their options when they were off duty.
"It won't be too long now." Jim informed his tent mate. "They are going to start shipping out the nurses out tomorrow."
"Are they sending them out to the rock?"
"Yeah, they figure the nurses and patients will be safer in the Corregidor tunnels.
"When are they shipping the doctors and medics?" Blair asked. He had been on the small island and had an idea of the supplies that had been stored there.
"They will be shipped over as space and time allows. The rest..." The big man's voice trailed off. "All we can do is wait."
The next few days were a study in mass confusion. The Japanese were drawing close enough to light the night sky with mortar shells. It soon became too late for further evacuations. The remaining personnel, including Captain James Ellison and Sergeant Blair Sandburg, were captured.
The two men managed to stay close when the forced march began. Blair's ability to shield himself had improved but it was only while close to his Sentinel that the barriers stay firmly in place.
"Where do you think they're taking us?" Blair asked quietly. He was growing worried; the strain was building in the tall doctor. The fear of being returned to a prison camp was growing with every step they took.
"It doesn't matter." Jim whispered. "As soon as we get a chance, we're out of here." He glanced around. I know this stretch of road. Soon we will be coming to a mile of twists and turns. The way the guards are spaced, we will have a few minutes to get away without anyone seeing us."
"Just say the word." The younger man said, trust shining clear in his voice. He knew that if they were separated it would be a death sentence for them both. Jim could zone, overloading on one sense and be killed, and Blair would slowly go insane from constantly battling the emotions of others. Wherever Jim led, Blair would follow.
Blair quietly asked the men he knew around them if they wanted to try to escape with them, but there were no takers. Jim listened as they walked, using his guide as an anchor. Afternoon had moved into dusk; soon it would be growing dark. Jim could hear people about a hundred yards away to the side of the trail. His smile grew when he realized they were speaking Chinese. The prisoners were being paced by the Hua Zhi, Chinese anti-Japanese guerrillas.
"Hey, Sandburg, you speak Chinese?"
"Yeah, a little. Why?"
"In a few minutes we're going to make a break for it and, if everything goes well, you'll need to translate." The pair started to drift off to the side, taking advantage of the decreasing light and the curves in the road. As soon as the guard in front rounded the curve and they had gone out of the rear guards sight, they slipped away before even their fellow prisoners noticed them missing.
Blair kept his eyes on Jim's back and followed directly behind the big man without a sound. After they had gone about seventy-five yards away from the line of prisoners, the young medic was surprised to see they were surrounded by men with guns and machetes. Blair looked at his partner. "Chinese?" He whispered. Jim nodded. The leader of the group motioned for them to follow the small band of guerrillas.
The Hua Zhi began to speak amongst themselves.
*Do you think they will be worth saving?* The young guerrilla with a bandaged arm asked.
*They can't be any worse than the others. The big one looks like a soldier. I'm not so sure about the little one. They can at least fire a weapon.* The leader looked back at the two Americans when he heard Blair's whispered translations.
"What are you saying?" He asked curious about the strange pair.
Blair looked at him and said. *We hope to be worthy of your aid*
Chen Li came to a halt upon hearing almost perfect Chinese from the younger man. He realized that he had severely underestimated the pair and promised himself he would find out the story behind the two men. He shook his head and continued on.
Blair kept his attention divided between the conversations in front of him and his Sentinel. When they had traveled several miles, Jim finally began to relax and start dialing back his hearing. "Safe?" Blair asked quietly.
Jim smiled. "As safe as we can be for the time being."
"I hope we get where we're going soon. I can't see anything." Blair complained mildly.
Jim listened in the direction they were moving. "We're close. I can hear voices." Before too much longer they arrived at the guerrilla camp. There were curious glances from the inhabitants toward the new arrivals. The biggest reaction however was Blair's; he suddenly stopped and grabbed Jim's arm.
"Oh, man, I don't believe it." Jim was initially worried but realized as he looked at the younger man's face that it was excitement not fear that was affecting his heart rate.
"Do you know who that man is over there?" The young man said with awe in his voice trying to discretely gesture. Jim looked over at the tall black man who was talking to the leader of the group that had brought them in.
He shook his head. "Sorry, Chief, who is he?"
Blair looked at him with disbelief. "Where have you been? No, don't answer that." He said briefly ashamed that he had forgotten. His mind flashing on the memory of the tortured man from the months before.
"It's okay, I swear. But I will smack you upside the head if you don't tell me."
Blair took an excited breath. "He is Simon Banks. He initially came to the Philippines as a Gunnery Sergeant. His unit was pinned down when they went on patrol it looked like they were all going to die. They were about to run out of ammunition and did not have the high ground. Gunnery Sgt. Banks volunteered to move around the enemy's position. He crawled around the enemy machine gun nest and attacked from behind. Cleaning out the position became a hand to hand battle and Banks was wounded. He made it possible for the rest of the unit to move to a more secure location. When he rejoined his unit, he found that the lieutenant had been killed. He took command of the unit and managed to lead them back to friendly forces. Only after making sure all of his men had been taken care of did he report to the Medic. They removed one bullet from his right leg and another from his chest. The doctors were amazed that he had lived as long as he did. When the brass heard the story it was decided to field promote him to Lieutenant. He declined at first but his men convinced him to accept. He was rapidly promoted to Captain," Blair paused for a moment. Jim personally thought it was because he had run out of breath. "After the Japanese took Manila, Banks disappeared. There were rumors of his appearing all over. On of the main rumors was that he had been attached to one of the Chinese Filipino resistance units."
Jim had watched as the Captain made his way of toward them. Blair didn't notice because he was so caught up in his story. Banks stopped and stood right behind the enthusiastic young man.
"You make me sound like some kind of a mythological hero." Said the deep bass voice. Blair jumped and turned, almost falling back on Jim.
"Whoa, Chief, take it easy." Jim cautioned trying not to smile at his now speechless partner. The big man held out his hand. "Jim Ellison, and my quiet friend here is Blair Sandburg." Blair gulped and shook the man's hand.
"Glad to have you here. There's food over there and you can grab a bedroll from the hut over there." He gestured to the hut across from them. "Chen Li tells me that you escaped from the prisoners being marched from Bataan. What can you do?" He asked wondering if the Captain was going to make a move to take over command.
"I'm a doctor and Blair is a medic." Jim answered.
Blair could feel the relief radiating from the big man. Banks' face lit up when he smiled. "It's about time we caught a break. You don't know how much we've needed a doc around here." He motioned for a small Filipino man to join them. "This is Doc Sanchez. He has been taking care of the sick. He's the local vet."
The small man smiled. "I am happy you are here. Now I can go back to patients who don't talk back." They all smiled.
"Don't go to far, Doc. I know we will be needing your help." Jim said and Blair nodded.
Sanchez was reassured as he watched the two men that his patients would be in good hands. Blair's attention was captured by a young girl who walked up and tugged on his sleeve. He knelt down to talk to her.
"Yes, little one?" He asked, curious.
She motioned for her to move closer. He leaned over and she whispered into his ear. "My Grandmother told me to bring you and the blue-eyed one to her. She said it was important." She looked at him shyly.
Blair looked up at Jim. The big man had been listening and nodded his agreement. The medic stood and took the young girls hand. The odd looking trio made their way to the child's home.
Blair could feel an aura of power as they drew closer to the old woman's hut. As he raised a hand to knock he heard an imperious voice order them to enter. Opening the door, they saw a diminutive woman motioning them to sit across from her. At first she just stared at them as if measuring their worth. She seemed to come to a decision.
"You are welcome in my home." She struggled to her feet, motioning for them to remain seated. She first rested her hand on Jim's head then she reached her other hand to Blair. When she touched him, she was rocked by the connection between the two men. "You are a tightly bonded Guardian and Guide. You must always trust the other."
They looked at each other; the strangeness in their lives had allowed them to accept the unusual with greater ease. They had learned from Banks before they left with the girl; he had informed them that if the old woman didn't accept their presence, they would be sent on their way because none of the Filipino people would have anything to do with them. If she approved they would be allowed to stay.
After spending a few more minutes with the old woman, they took their leave and rejoined Captain Banks. The Captain gave them the tour of the village and the underground rebel camp. "We have a hospital setup in the tunnels." He said as he led them to their new home. Both men were amazed by the extent of the rebel facility. Blair looked at the supplies.
"You've got more supplies here than we did at the Bataan Hospital. Where did it all come from?" He gestured at the boxes.
Simon looked around. "We gathered most of it when Manila fell. The rest has been liberated bit by bit from the Japanese. We've been trying to help the villages as best we could. They are more willing to help our guys since they know they can count on us."
"How many Americans are there in the area?" Jim asked marveling at the level of organization.
"There are only four besides the two of you. We also have a couple of Australians who escaped the interment camps for civilians. Two of your guys are over there." He pointed to the right.
The younger man turned and looked. Jim was checking the medical supplies but his attention changed focus when the young medic's heart began to race. He quickly moved to his friend's side.
"What's up, Chief?"
Blair gestured at the pair across the camp. "Talk about a small world." He had last seen the pair when they had been reassigned to Hospital One outside of Limay. They walked over to the men working. "Do you see what I see?" Blair asked as they drew closer.
"I don't know, they look familiar, but..." Jim paused.
Henri Brown spun around when he heard the voices behind him. His eyes rounded and his mouth dropped open. "Oh, my God, is it really you?" He rushed at the younger man, hauling him into a bone-crushing hug. Waves of emotion crashed over the young man. The remainder of grief and the surge of joy. Rafe stood dumbfounded. They had heard about the prisoners being moved from Mariveles to San Fernando. They had scouts hidden along the trail to watch for escapees and transport those they found to safety. They never expected to see the pair again.
Simon broke the silence. "Brown, Rafe, why don't you show the Doc and Sandburg to their new home." He watched the small group with a smile. Reunions between friends would be few and far between.
They settled into the routine of the guerrilla camp with ease. Working with their patients made time pass quickly. They had gotten to know all of the people in the camp rather quickly. Both men had grown to admire the young Australian woman in their midst. Megan Connor was an expert on the local area and had the ability to briefly study a dialect and be able to easily translate and had proven her ability to mediate potentially dangerous disputes. The other Australian wasn't as easy to get to know. Blair was unable to get within twenty feet of the man without Jim at his side. Everytime he drew near, he would be hit with a debilitating wave of depression. The first time they met had driven the younger man to his knees. Megan quickly filled the pair in. Jordan's escape from the internment camp had not been without a high price. His young wife had tried to escape with him. She had been cut down by a Japanese bullet. The first few weeks he had been at the camp he had attempted suicide more than once. Simon had finally managed to channel the man's grief, and had hope that time would heal. Blair wasn't so sure.
Simon entered the hospital area looking for the new medical team. He watched from the other side of the room, amazed by how smoothly they worked together. Without words each knew what the other needed. He stepped forward. "Gentlemen, we need your assistance on a little raid tomorrow night."
Blair looked at the Captain. "What and where are we going?" Jim listened to the details as he finished bandaging the wounded man on the cot in front of him.
"There will be a meeting in an hour in my hut. I will explain everything then."
An hour later they were all gathered around the rickety table. "We're going to raid the supply depot in Manila. We've had reports that the Japanese received a resupply last week and haven't had a chance to distribute anything to their troops." Simon explained. He rolled out a map of the area. He assigned the different members of the team specific items to search for. "Ellison and Sandburg, you will go in with Lt. Ramirez and Sgt. Santos." The Filipino soldiers nodded. "You will collect as many medical supplies as possible."
"No problem, sir." Jim said. Simon was pleased with the resolve on the faces of his men.
Megan entered the hut and, from the expression on her face, she was not pleased. "What's this I hear about a little shopping trip? I can't believe I'm not invited." She glared at Simon.
The big man cleared his throat. "Connor, stop and think for a moment. Your skills are needed here. The meeting between the Huk and the Hua Zhi is in two weeks and you are the only one who can translate if they refuse to speak English. This agreement is too important. If you were injured, the whole thing could fall apart."
Megan stood defiantly for a long minute before sighing. "I know, just getting a bit stir crazy.
The Filipino members of their party disguised themselves as farmers and traveled by cart up the road. The back of the cart was filled with produce to give them entry past the enemy checkpoints. The others traveled along the side of the road, keeping out of sight. The Sentinel and Guide stayed close together. Jim's senses made it possible to travel for relatively long distances on the road. They traveled without incident the first day. The morning of the second, Blair used the time to help Jim with his control of his senses. They had just taken a break when the younger man suddenly stopped in his tracks.
"What is it?" Jim was alarmed by the sudden graying of his friend's face. Blair started to shake and pointed to the ground directly in front of him. Jim saw what was left of the body that had been literally trampled flat into the road. "Oh Lord." He put his arm around his partner and led him away from the grisly reminder of the forced march of the prisoners. Blair spent the rest of the trip silent trying to deal with what he had seen and felt. Drawing comfort from the solid presence of his friend.
They finally reached the outskirts of the city. Under the cover of darkness, they made their way to the warehouse. The next few hours were spent watching the Japanese patrols, waiting for a weak spot. Finally their patience paid off. One of the guards was very lax in his routine. He would step around the corner every hour and smoke a couple of cigarettes. This would leave the rear entrance to the building unguarded. They were ready for the next break. They didn't want to kill anyone, knowing reprisals would be taken against the civilian people in the city.
Throughout the wait, Simon had watched the pair. The closeness he had noticed at camp and on the journey had made him curious. He noticed every once in a while the big man would seem to stop breathing and the younger man would pat him on the back and start whispering. Within moments everything would be fine. Simon filed his observations in the wait and ask later file.
"Jim, what do you hear?" Blair asked quietly.
"The warehouse is empty now." He looked and saw that the guard had just moved around the corner. "Perfect timing." He muttered.
Simon motioned for them to move in. In a well-orchestrated maneuver, they tracked down the supplies they had come to steal. Blair and Jim headed straight for the Medical supplies. They selectively filled the rucksacks they had carried in. Their priority was the sulfa drugs and other medicines. The young medic was jumping for joy when they found a cache of anti-malarial drugs. They finished long before the others and, after placing their goods by the exit, they started to look around. Walking past one pallet, Jim was barely able to suppress a sneeze. When Blair looked at him, he shrugged and pointed at the box. "Spices." He whispered. Blair motioned for Jim to step back. He then started checking the boxes.
"Yes." The younger man whispered. Jim focused in and smiled. His partner had found a supply of salt, desperately needed to prevent dehydration. They continued to walk through the warehouse. Jim listened to the rest of the team, keeping track of their progress. He watched his young friend move from crate to crate. He was reminded of a squirrel gathering nuts. Blair would pick things up and, if they were deemed necessary, placed them in the pack. He smiled when he saw the items that had been chosen with the female members of the camp in mind.
Jim directed them back to the exit as the rest of their party gathered. Simon started to open the door, trusting in luck that the guard was out of sight. Jim grabbed his arm before he could turn the handle. He had heard the guard's footsteps approaching the door. The Captain looked at him questioningly. Jim held up his hand to forestall any questions. When the guard had turned the corner and Jim heard him light up, he released the Captain's arm and nodded. Simon quietly opened the door and the loaded down team escaped without being seen.
It was still dark when they reached the carts. They quickly unloaded the carts, exposing the floorboards that covered a false bottom. After loading the supplies into the cart they returned the produce into position. The Filipinos drove the carts into Manila to sell the contents. The rest of the team found hiding places and settled in for the day. That evening the seemingly empty carts exited the city.
The group made good time back to camp. Simon walked with them and asked the questions that had been bothering him.
"I think I deserve an explanation. Now I'm not complaining about how the two of you seem to know things but I do need to know what kind of assets you will be."
Jim and Blair looked at each other. Simon could see that a decision was being reached. Jim nodded and Blair began to speak.
"You need to swear that, no matter what, this stays between the three of us." Blair demanded.
"I swear on my honor I won't say anything."
"Jim is a Sentinel; his senses are enhanced." Blair said bluntly. Simon looked confused. "All five of his senses are many times stronger than most anyone else. He can hear things walking almost a mile away. He can hear a whisper from over a hundred feet away. He can see... well, we're not sure how far because everything gets stronger as we practice. Taste and touch are also better."
"Okay," Simon said, nodding his head as the pieces fell into place. "What is your part in this? I've seen you wake him when it looks like he has stopped breathing."
"One of the drawbacks of being a Sentinel is that, at times, you focus on one sense and everything grays out. I call it a zone out. I'm able to bring Jim back to reality when it happens."
"Can anyone bring you out of this zone thing?" Simon asked Jim.
Jim shook his head. "No, Blair's the only one." Simon looked at the medic as if trying to figure out what was so special about the young man. Jim caught Blair's eye and motioned for him to tell the rest of it.
"The Sentinel never works alone; he always has a Guide with him. I am Jim's guide." He took a deep breath and trusting Jim's instincts, finished explaining. "I think I am Jim's Guide because of what I can do. I am an empath; I can feel what other people are feeling. It's difficult because, unless I'm with Jim, I have a hard time blocking them." Simon looked skeptical. Blair smiled at him and decided to demonstrate. "You are feeling very confused, a bit nervous but you're not afraid." Simon looked startled. "I don't read minds...just emotions."
"Well, I've seen strange things. I'm just glad you're on my team." He spent a good part of the return trip questioning the pair about the details of their respective gifts.
As they drew closer to the village they all started to relax. Once they were within a mile, Jim motioned to the Captain. Simon quickly moved to the Doctor's side. "What is it?"
"I hear Japanese in the village."
"Damn! Can you tell what's going on?" Simon asked.
As Jim focused in on the village, Blair rested his hand on his Sentinel's back, keeping him anchored. "They are trying to get Megan to tell where the rest of the Gai-jin are hiding. She's refusing to say anything." Jim flinched as he heard the Australian woman being beaten. "We've got to get there now. They are talking about shooting the children to get her to talk." All of the men broke into a run. They burst through the jungle into the village with their weapons ready. Jim put a bullet into the soldier holding a child by her hair. He later recognized the child as Mei Li, the girl whose grandmother welcomed them. Simon and the rest took out the remaining Japanese soldiers.
Luckily few of their people were severely injured. Jim knelt down beside Megan to assess her injuries. Blair started walking towards them when he saw one of the enemy wounded raise his weapon, aiming at Jim. Before he could fire, the young medic pulled out the handgun he had been given and, without thinking, shot the man on the ground. The feeling accompanying the death of the soldier flashed back at the young man who killed him, sending Blair into a zone of his own. Jim had looked up in time to see the fatal shot. He quickly stood and rushed to his stricken partner just in time to catch him as he collapsed.
"What happened?" Simon asked, worried about the grayish cast to the medic's face.
"Flashback." Jim said tersely.
"What do you mean? I don't see a mark on him."
"Not from shrapnel. He felt the guy die when he shot him."
"Oh, shit. He gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, we can deal with this if we can be alone for a while. Remember what he said about barriers?" Simon nodded. "Well, my guess is that they are totally shot and we are going to need to rebuild them. Since we don't have any life threatening injuries, I need to take care of Blair first."
Simon recognized that if Sandburg wasn't 100%, Ellison wouldn't be either. "Take the time you need to get him on his feet. By that time we will have this place back to normal."
"Thank you, Captain." He said as he lifted his partner into his arms and made his way to their hut.
Megan walked up to Simon, holding her bruised ribs. "What's going on? Is the kid going to be alright?" The entire camp had grown attached to the young medic.
"Yeah, he'll be fine. Doc just needs to take care of him. They'll both be in good shape then." The Captain said hopefully.
Jim carried Blair into the hut and laid him down on the cot next to the wall. The big man then knelt down by his friend's side. "Okay, Chief, looks like it's my turn to bring you back from the pit." He placed one hand on Blair's forehead and the other on the younger man's chest over his heart. "Listen to what I'm sending you, buddy." Those were the last words uttered for hours. Following the lessons that Blair had taught him about meditating, Jim focused all of his attention on calming himself. He put the worry he had about the younger man's slowing heartrate out of his mind. He sent out calm and reassuring emotions, putting the feelings he had for his guide in the forefront. He wanted to be sure the younger man knew he considered him to be his brother. Eventually, through their link, he felt Blair respond. At first it felt as insubstantial as a whisper, growing in strength as time passed. Blair opened his eyes to see the one person he knew he would always be able to count on.
Later that day they emerged from their hut. The younger man looked shaky but was moving under his own power. Simon had explained to the others that it had been the first time the young healer had ever killed. Knowing the lengths the two men went to save lives they understood how the taking of a life could affect the younger man. They all made sure he knew how much the rest of the village cared for them. The old woman even came out of her small house. She hobbled over to the pair and placed her hands against their faces. She nodded as she felt the healing power flowing between them. Her face wrinkled even more as she smiled. Her village would survive due to the Guardian, his Guide and the people they collected.