I want to thank all of the people who wrote asking for more. This is dedicated to you.
What if the Sentinel and his Guide met under the stress of war---say, 50 years ago in the Pacific? Please join me in a new alternate universe.
"Army regs, Chief." Jim tried to explain. "Now that you are on a military installation, you have to follow the regulations just like the rest of us."
Blair started bouncing at his side, "Nope, I'm not cutting my hair. I've grown very attached to it this past year and a half." He grinned up at his companion. "I'm kind of superstitious about it." Jim nodded; he understood about superstitions, even though he thought the younger man was trying to pull one over on him. "Plus, I'm not regular army. I'm attached to the Australian Navy, like the other coastwatchers. My rank is an assimilated military rank." He smiled, pleased that he had remembered the loophole. "Unless I see the Australian reg saying I have to cut my hair, no one is touching it with anything sharp."
Jim looked at him with amusement. "Okay, Chief, but we need to try and keep you out of the General's sight or else we might not have a choice if we want to stay together."
'You got it," came the quick agreement. Blair would not let anything threaten their working together. As they walked toward the tents, the younger man noticed the strange looks aimed their way. He moved closer to the older man. "What's up with them?" He whispered, trying to discretely gesture at the people they were passing.
Jim turned up his hearing and listened in on the pilots walking the other direction. He recognized them as being problems in the past with their attitude toward his wingman, Henri Brown.
"What's Ellison doing with that..."
Jim's jaw clenched at the slur against his companion.
"I heard he found him on the island he landed on. Maybe he's the Captain's new pet." The pilot said with a nasty laugh. "You know where he's been assigned? Banks' company."
"Oh yeah, the misfit company." The other man laughed. "We'll be getting rid of Brown at the same time."
Blair was becoming concerned by the tension radiating from the big man at his side. He could see the jaw muscles clench so tight that even without Sentinel hearing, the teeth grinding together were audible. He put his hand on the big man's arm.
"Jim, come back." Blair said softly, trying to pull his friends attention away from the conversation.
Jim pulled back and looked at his companion, anger still visible on his face. "Whoa, big guy. Whatever they were saying isn't worth getting court-martialed over. Relax your fists." Jim looked down at his hands, surprised to see the clenched fists, knuckles white with tension. He turned them palm up and slowly opened his hands, watching as the blood welled up in the wounds made by his fingernails. He stared blankly at his hands, amazed by the lack of pain. It was as if the thought triggered his sense of touch. Suddenly his sense of touch spiked, the pain almost driving him to his knees. He searched frantically for the dials but couldn't grasp them with his mind. He heard his guide's voice.
"You can do it, Jim. The dials are right in front of you. Just turn them down." Ellison followed the younger man's voice, gaining strength and control. Blair could feel the muscles under his hand begin to relax. "That's it, big guy. Just keep it turned down." Jim looked at his guide. "We need to go and get your hands treated." Jim started to protest. Blair held up his hand. "You know how quickly infection can set in." Jim nodded, willing to follow his guide.
Blair promised himself he would find out what had upset his Sentinel as soon as they were settled in. As they walked to the hospital tent, Jim tried to figure out why a few overheard comments had upset him so much. He remembered what the kid had said about the protective bond between Sentinel and Guide. He felt more at ease as he accepted what he had been told.
At the hospital tent, Jim's hands were bandaged by a medic who kept giving the younger man dirty looks as Blair questioned him every step of the way about the medicines he was using to treat the cuts on Ellison's hands. The medic finished bandaging the wounds in silence, disapproval of the two men evident in his body language. Jim glared at the medic, growing tired of the man's attitude.
"Do you have a problem, Sergeant Macklin?" Jim asked angrily.
"No, sir," was the curt reply. "Just doing my job, sir."
Blair realized the potential for the situation to get out of hand so he tapped Jim on the back. The big man turned and looked over his shoulder. "What?"
"If you're about done here, we need to find out where we've been billeted."
"You're right, Chief. I'm ready to go." Jim stood quickly forcing the medic to jerk back out of his way. He turned on his heel and followed his young partner out. After leaving the hospital tent, they quickly found their tent.
As Jim pulled open the flap on the tent, he was greeted by a wet towel in the face that had been thrown over the shoulder of the man in the center of the tent.
"What the hell?" Jim growled.
The standing occupant of the tent turned. "Jim!" Rafe said with surprise. "They didn't tell us you were back." He reached over and picked up his sleepy friend's feet and dropped them.
"What?" was the grumpy sound from the mosquito net covered cot.
"Open your eyes, lazy." Rafe laughed. "We've got company."
Henri struggled up from the depths of sleep. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Hey Jim, glad you're back."
"Just in time too." Rafe added. Henri was about to make off with your soap collection. Brown tried to smack his friend on the back of the head. Jim smiled at the Stooges like antics of the pair of young pilots. Blair watched with amusement and a bit of worry. These were friends of his Sentinel and he hoped they would accept him in their space.
Henri was the first to notice the new addition to their group. He stopped and looked at Ellison's companion. He slowly walked around Ellison and the younger man. Rafe was puzzled at first but decided to play along. "What's wrong, Henri?"
"It's not fair."
"What's not fair?"
"Most people lost in the jungle bring back a parrot or a spider monkey, but not Ellison. He brought back a little brother. I was really counting on a spider monkey." Henri said, pouting. Rafe fell back on his bunk, laughing.
"Blair, the two clowns in front of you are, Brian Rafe and Henri Brown. They were the ones flying with me just before I was shot down. Blair pulled himself to his full 5'9" height and stepped forward with his hand out smiling.
"Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg, former coastwatcher." He shook hands with both Rafe and Henri. "Right now I'm assigned to Capt. Ellison." At their puzzled looks. He explained using their cover story. "You know there's a shortage of planes." Both men nodded. "We've been assigned same as you to Major Banks and the 164th to help the Marines reinforce the perimeter. I guess he thought my coastwatcher experience would help." The younger man shrugged.
Rafe and Brown looked back and forth between the mismatched pair noting the smile on the taller man's face. They appeared to simultaneously come to a decision.
"Welcome aboard, kid," Rafe said.
"Yeah, anyone who can get stone-face Ellison to smile is okay in my book," Henri added. They helped him get settled in his new home. Blair started to relax; things seemed to be working out. The Captain's pilot friends were welcoming him. Jim could hear the younger man's heartrate slow as he grew more comfortable with his surroundings. He knew the younger man was making a major adjustment coming from the isolation on the island to a crowded military installation.
Blair flopped back on his cot and had just closed his eyes as he listened to Ellison tell an expurgated version of what happened on the island. He had almost dozed off when a runner knocked on the outside tent support.
"Capt. Ellison and Lt. Sandburg." The young private called out. Jim stepped out of the tent.
"Yes, Private Jefferies. What do you need?"
"Major Banks has requested your presence at the ops tent at 1400."
Jim looked at his watch and noted that they had only ten minutes. "Come on, chief, we need to get moving."
Blair stuffed his hair under his hat not wanting to incur the displeasure of their new commander. Jim raised an eyebrow.
"You really think that is going to work?" Jim asked amused.
"Can't hurt to try." Blair answered.
They quickly made their way to the Major's tent. Jim reached out and knocked on the tent support.
They went into the tent, coming to a halt in front the major's desk and came to attention.
"Capt. Ellison and Lt. Sandburg reporting as ordered."
"At ease." Major Simon Banks said as he looked at the mismatched pair in front of him. He stood and walked around them, noting the long strand of hair escaping from beneath the younger man's hat. He returned to his desk, and looked over the papers in front of him.
Major Simon Banks had already received the reports about the unorthodox pair. He had read all of the reports about the Captain's vision problem, which had been sent by the Doc on the sub, that had picked them up from the island. He also had read the general's report. At first he had wondered why the army was willing to keep someone who could become catatonic without warning. Then he had read the Captain's performance evaluations. The man had a reputation for excellence but a bad habit of being shot down. He had also noted the eccentric young man in front of him had served with distinction even after being all but forgotten by his command. Sandburg's ability to bring the Captain out of his trances made him invaluable. If they had any two seat planes available the pair would have been sent to do long range recon. The Major was willing to overlook the minor uniform code violations.
"So Captain, you've been assigned to me because you were grounded for vision problems?"
"Vision problems that only the Lieutenant here can help with?"
"Lt. Sandburg." Blair attempted to stand at attention.
"Relax, lieutenant." The major could see the worry in the young man's eyes. "I have no problems with the General's recommendation to attach the two of you to my unit." He stared at the pair. "You will be reporting directly to me." He looked at Sandburg. "Lt. I'm only going to say this once. If the general sees you with your hair loose, I will have no choice but to force you to get it cut." Simon paused. "Is this understood?"
"Yes, sir." Blair said smiling with relief.
"For the next week I am assigning the two of you to the southeast corner of the perimeter. We will all be reporting to Col. Moore. Get your gear together and report to here." He pointed out the coordinates they were assigned to on the map. "Dismissed." The two men came to attention, turned and exited the tent. The major shook his head and said a silent prayer for the pair. He could tell there was something special about them.
"I hate wet. I hate rainy, muggy, nasty, weather. I want to be dry."
Jim watched his young friend huddled under his poncho looking totally miserable. The younger man's hair had escaped from beneath his helmet, and was hanging in soggy ringlets against his face and neck. He couldn't help but smile at how much Blair reminded him of a wet puppy. After about twenty solid minutes of griping, Jim came up with a way to take the younger man's mind off of the uncomfortable conditions.
"Hey, Chief, I need your help with something." Blair looked up at his companion. "I'm having a problem with my senses."
Those were the magic words. The look of misery left the younger man's face; his sole focus was now his Sentinel.
"What kind of a problem?" Blair asked trying not to bounce in place. The big guy had finally asked for help with out being prompted; definite progress in the younger man's mind.
"The rain is making it very hard to hear anything. It's like it is muting everything around me."
Blair thought for a moment trying to find a solution for a potentially deadly problem. "Okay, I want you to take a deep breath and focus on only one sound." Jim closed his eyes and nodded. He reached for the one sound he could always find. When he heard the muffled heartbeat he nodded. "All right, now I want you to picture the dial, you got it?" Jim nodded again. "Now, picture another dial beside the first one, okay?"
"Yeah, Chief I got it."
"The first one is for volume, the new one is for tuning, just like a radio. The rain is a station you don't want so you need to tune it out. Eliminate it from your hearing." Blair watched as the big man started to relax.
Jim stretched out his hearing, happy the interference was gone. "Thanks Chief, that helped now I can hear..." He suddenly stiffened as he heard an unfamiliar sound. Blair put his hand on the big man's shoulder fearing a zone out.
"What is it. Jim?" The younger man asked.
Jim shook his head. "It can't be..." He turned to his companion. "Come on, buddy, we need to get the C.O. There are Japanese soldiers about an hour away from here."
As they ran to where Major Banks was positioned, Blair began to question his Sentinel. "What did you hear?"
"I can hear hundreds of troops, most are quiet but the ones who are talking are speaking Japanese."
"Can you tell how far away they are in miles?"
"Yeah, they're about a mile out, but they are moving slow trying not to give up the element of surprise. It's going to take them over an hour to reach the perimeter."
"Good, that will give us enough time to get ready for them." Blair said as they stopped outside the Major's position.
Banks overheard the last statement. "Get ready for who?"
Jim came to attention. "Sir, the Japanese are close and from the sound of things are planning to attack soon."
"How do you know this?" Simon asked.
The two men looked at each other. Jim nodded. Blair began to speak. "Sir, we will explain everything in just a few moments but you really need to put the field on alert." Simon looked at the younger man in disbelief. "I know you haven't known us for very long but, please, trust us on this one."
The Major gave a long measuring look at the pair and picked up the field phone connecting him with headquarters. "Col. Moore, we have reports of a massing of Japanese troops a few miles southeast of the airfields perimeter." There was a short pause. "Yes sir, it is an eyewitness report. The enemy troops are moving in." Simon listened for his orders. "Yes, sir." He returned the field phone to its case. He then called out to the sergeant outside.
"Sgt. Williams! Notify the company's officers to meet me here in five minutes."
Williams took off at a run to notify the unit's officers.
"You have five minutes. Explain why I just had the airfield put on alert on the basis of your word?"
Blair took a deep breath and began to explain. "Sir, Jim is a Sentinel. His senses are all enhanced."
Major Banks shook his head in disbelief. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"His senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are all many times more sensitive than the average person. We haven't even been able to test the full extent of his abilities." Blair took a breath.
"Why is this the first I've heard about this?" The Major said angrily.
"We told the General that only one sense was enhanced, Jim's sight. It's not exactly something we want everyone to know about." The younger man could see the lack of understanding on the Majors face. "Think about it, sir, if the Army Command staff found out about Jim, they would take him away to study to see if they could make more super soldiers. The enemy would be after him, too, for the same reason. It would be like painting a big target on his back and expecting no one to see it."
Simon realized the pair was not crazy and could see the scenarios in his mind. He was amazed they had trusted him enough to tell him the truth. He vowed to keep their secret.
"Lt. you have made your point and this information will stay between us. As far as I can tell, we are the only ones who need to know." He watched both men sag with relief. He was about to ask questions when Ellison tilted his head slightly to the side.
"The others are almost here." Jim said holding up his hand.
The briefing was quick, utilizing the information Ellison had provided; the troops were in position within 15 minutes and waiting for the attack to begin.
The tension was palpable. Blair was occupied with keeping his partner from zoning out as the big man focused on the Japanese as they crept forward through the jungle. Jim kept a constant update of the enemy position that was then relayed by the Major. His unit was prepared when the Japanese burst out of the jungle running at the Americans shouting 'Banzai' at the top of their lungs, throwing grenades, and firing their weapons.
The army troops opened fire. The Japanese fought hard trying to find a weakness in the American defenses. Blair crouched slightly behind his partner holding a weapon but not yet firing; his Sentinel held his attention. He was helping him to maintain the dials on his hearing and sight through the explosions and bright flashes of light that almost overloaded the older man.
Jim was grateful for the support from the younger man. The constant pressure of Blair's hand on his back and speech kept the Sentinel focused. He was able to methodically pick off the enemy soldiers as they moved into range. Jim could tell the battle was going as well as could be expected for green troops. The Japanese were obviously surprised by the stiff resistance. His attention was caught by the sound of a soft thud on the ground a few feet away. He glanced down and saw a grenade. He shouted "Grenade" and grabbing hold of his young companion threw them both to the ground a second before the explosion.
Blair hadn't any warning before he was suddenly tackled to the ground. "What the..." The rest of his words were drowned out by the explosion a few feet away. He laid there for a second trying to catch his breath. "Jim, you can get off me now." There was no response. "Jim, this isn't funny." He realized the big man was not responding. Blair wriggled his way out from under his partner and began to check him over. Jim was unconscious and bleeding from several shrapnel wounds on his back. Luckily, the majority seemed to be superficial. The wound that worried Blair the most was a head wound.
"MEDIC!" Blair shouted adding his voice to the large number also calling for aid.
The Japanese, noting a weakness in the perimeter, moved toward the pair's position. Blair looked up to see an enemy soldier twenty feet away raising his weapon and taking aim. Relying on instinct, Blair raised his weapon and fired catching the soldier in the chest before the enemy soldier had a chance to fire. Blair then picked up Jim's weapon and began firing on the encroaching soldiers. In a quiet corner of his mind he wondered if this was part of the guide's instinctive need to protect the Sentinel.
Major Banks continued back and forth along the line fighting along side and encouraging his men. He finally reached Ellison and Sandburg's position. He was shocked to see the big man wounded with Sandburg crouched beside him firing at the now retreating enemy. He knew the younger man had never been in a battle and would probably have a very bad reaction to killing anyone, even in war.
"Sandburg." The Major called from a few yards away, trying not to startle the young man.
Blair heard the voice, but tried to ignore it. He was protecting his Sentinel and nothing must interfere.
"Sandburg, this is Major Banks. We need to take Captain Ellison to the medics. I need your help." Simon said softly. Blair turned to face the Major. Banks watched as awareness returned to the younger man's eyes. Blair looked at the weapon in his hands and the bodies of the dead around him and started to shake.
"Sandburg." Simon said forcefully "I need you to help me carry him." The younger man visibly pulled himself together. The major hoped Ellison would regain consciousness before the kid fell apart.
When they reached the field hospital they were directed to the first empty cot. After laying Ellison down, Simon took a really good look at the young man and realized with horror that the blood on Sandburg wasn't all Ellison's. He could see the hole in Blair's uniform pants that had been caused by a Japanese bullet. The area around the hole was soaked with blood, but the kid hadn't made any indication that he had been wounded.
"Sandburg, what happened to your leg?"
Blair looked at him blankly and then glanced down. The young man turned ghost white and his eyes rolled back in his head a fraction of a second before he passed out in the Major's arms.
"Shit!" Simon said before shouting for a doctor.
"He's right over there, Jim." Ellison looked around and saw Rafe sitting next to him in the crowded hospital tent. "The kid is on the other side of the tent. The docs all say he's going to be okay."
Jim tried to lift himself up to look but dropped back in the cot as the pain stabbed through his head. He had to be content with the sound of his guide's heartbeat. "What happened?" Jim asked weakly.
"The kid saved your ass. It seems a grenade took you out of the game, then the kid picked up your weapon and started firing. He is a pretty good shot. The Major said that for a minute after he found you he thought the kid was going to shoot him. Sandburg was in protect mode and wasn't going to let anyone near you." Rafe shook his head. "The Major didn't even know the kid had been shot until they got you here."
"But he is going to be okay, right?" Jim asked worried. "How long has he been out?"
"About 25 hours. The kid has the docs all confused. They don't understand why he hasn't come to yet." Rafe explained.
Jim had a feeling he knew why but needed to get closer to his guide. He imagined the kid telling him to turn down the dials, and managed to turn down the pain enough to move.
"Hold up, where do you think you're going?" Rafe asked, worried the big man would injure himself and relapse. He snagged the attention of a medic.
"I need to get closer to him." Jim said emphatically.
"No way, Captain. Neither one of you is to be moved." The medic stated.
"If you don't get me closer he is going to continue to shutdown and might never come out of it." Jim tried to explain without telling them that he could hear the slowing of his friend's heartrate and respiration.
"I'm sorry, Captain." The medic said. "Now unless you want me to strap you down, you will stay still and allow yourself to heal. I will take care of 'Lt. Sandburg'." Jim's eyes narrowed at the sound of derision in the medic's voice and realized it was the same one from a few days before... the one who had grudgingly treated his hands. He heard Macklin mutter under his breath. "First thing is to shave the little punk's head."
Jim was barely able to keep from exploding. He spoke through clenched teeth. "Rafe, go get Major Banks, now!"
Rafe could feel the tension emanating in waves from the captain. "Right away, Jim." He jumped up and raced out. Acting on instinct, he grabbed his tent-mate Brown and sent him to the hospital tent with the warning to watch over Ellison and Sandburg.
Brown raced to the tent in time to see Ellison struggling to get up, while across the tent a medic approached Sandburg with a pair of scissors and an unholy look of glee on his face. He could barely make out what the medic was saying.
"We'll see how pretty you look without all of that long curly hair. Making a mockery of the army regs. I can fix that.' As he reached for the young man's hair the hand with the scissors was grabbed from behind. "What..." Macklin looked over his shoulder, his eyes falling on to captain's bars at eye level.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Henri asked, anger evident in his voice.
"Just giving this guy a hair cut, sir."
"I think not," were the only words spoken by the enraged man whose hand was now wrapped around Macklin's throat. Macklin looked into the most deadly eyes he had ever seen, those of Captain Jim Ellison.
The big man's face was pale with pain and the effort of standing upright. His hand tightening around the medics throat. He zoned on the sight of the scissors still in Macklin's hand.
"Jim." Brown tried to get the big man's attention. "Jim, you have to let him go." He tried to loosen Ellison's grip to no avail.
"What the hell's going on here?" was the question bellowed from the entry of the tent. Major Simon Banks stood looking at the tableau in front of him. Noting that Ellison looked catatonic with a man slowly dying from strangulation dangling from his grip. The major quickly moved to the side of his men.
"Sandburg, if you can hear me, you need to wake up. Ellison needs your help, now." Simon said urgently. He hoped he be able to get the attention of one of the pair before the medic died.
Blair pulled himself out of the comfort of nothingness when he heard that his friend needed him. He carefully opened his eyes. "Jim." His voice was whisper soft but it got an immediate response. Jim dropped the medic and knelt beside the younger man's cot.
"You okay, Chief?" Jim asked, his concern for the young man in front of him visible on his face.
"Yeah, what happened? I take a little nap and all hell breaks loose."
"Just a minor problem. The Major is taking care of it." He could hear the Major order Macklin to be taken to the stockade.
"Jim, I had to do it. I..." Blair looked away. His heart started racing. Jim made his young friend face him.
"Chief, I understand. You did what you had to do to protect the both of us. You had no choice."
"I know but I can see their faces. All of their dead faces."
"I know, buddy, but you don't have to face them alone. We can work this out, together. I promise."
Blair realized that for the first time in his life he had someone he could lean on when thing got tough and the nightmares crept in. He was no longer alone.
End Chapter 2
I have taken a few liberties with the actual battle's time frame but am trying to keep thing relatively accurate.
On the night of October 23rd 1942, Moore and his troops heard the Japanese begin their attempt to retake Henderson field. Two nights later the Japanese hit the 164th. Despite armor, artillery, air, and naval support, the Japanese could only achieve temporary breakthroughs. The 164th put up a stiffer defense than the enemy expected of a green unit and, with the Marines, repulsed the enemy. The U.S. lost 26 killed, 52 wounded, and 4 missing.