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Please note:  The copyright on The Sentinel and all it's characters is owned by Pet Fly Productions and Paramount.


by Kristine Williams

Part 2

"I've gotta stretch my legs."

"Uh-huh." Blair barely heard what Jim said. He was on a roll, and had been since late last night, as he tried to get more of his thoughts and discoveries down on paper before the reasoning behind them eluded him again. There were times when something Jim said or did sparked an entirely new theory or train of thought for Blair, but usually the timing was such that he was unable to document anything right away, and often not for more than 12 hours. Typically, he could recall what sparked his sudden enlightenment, but there were times, and last week was one of them, that the thought, once crystal clear in his mind, suddenly faded and tried to run away.

But this time he had it. Maybe. Something was there to chase. There was always the chance he'd sit down next week to review his notes, and they'd make as much sense as a child's dream. But he was on a roll. There was movement beside him and Blair realized Jim was sitting back down. He hadn't even noticed him get up.

"Hey, Jim, when you where in Peru, can you recall what first made you aware your senses were changing?" Blair kept his voice down, not sure if anyone around them was listening. Not that they'd have a clue as to what he was saying.

Jim shook his head, picking up his book. "We've gone over this before, Sandburg."

Dammit, again with the wall. "I know, Jim, but I really feel this is important. I need to know if they all came to you at once, one at a time, slowly, quickly. I need more." He needed a man who wasn't so afraid of his memories. No, he needed Jim to not be afraid of his memories. His new theories were hinging on this all of a sudden, and if he didn't get somewhere soon, he'd lose it completely, and be back to square one...or thirteen.

"I told you, I don't remember." Jim turned back to his book, effectively putting an end to his side of the conversation.

Blair nodded slowly, pursing his lips and raising both eyebrows. Well, it wasn't as if he hadn't tried before, and been given the same answer. He returned to his notebook and could almost physically feel the repeated disappointment dampen his enthusiastic writing of so many hours. He stared at the pages for a full three minutes, or what to his mind felt like an hour, then flipped back several pages and tried to read through them. It was no good. His concentration was lost, and his mind kept trying to find a new way to ask Jim the same question. There had to be the right combination of words, and maybe timing, that would get him to open up about that crash in Peru five years ago. Come on, Sandburg, you're just not going about this the right way. Jim always opens up to you eventually...so what are you not doing right this time? Blair was certain beyond any doubts that the crash, the trauma, and the isolation all had to have combined in order to bring out Jim's latent abilities. The crash itself, and the mission, couldn't have been the only factors. Jim was Army trained, and Covert Ops was a way of life for him.

He was prepared for things like that, and knew how to deal with them.

No, it was more, much more than just the crash. And it was more than just being the sole survivor, he was sure. But that had to have played a big part. Jim's sense of responsibility, and his almost overwhelming ability to feel guilt for something that only he felt was in his control, were such a part of his psyche that it would have had a major effect on him. Possibly to the point of causing the Sentinel senses to manifest as a defense, or as a counter measure. If the emotional trauma was sufficient, Jim could very well have brought out his senses subconsciously, by an act of will that he was completely unaware of. And then, how did they manifest? All at once? One at a time? And if so, then which one first? And what did his mind do to compensate or explain it at the time? Or, did the villagers have more to do with it than he remembered? Blair would get nowhere with his theories if Jim continued to refuse any attempts to remember the details of those 18 months, starting with the crash. He just hadn't found the right combination of timing and wording. But he would. He had to.

Blair closed his notebook, suddenly too tired to add any more. He felt cramping in his right hand, an ache up his forearm from manipulating the pen for so long. He flexed tired fingers and massaged his arm, then flinched at a twinge of pain in his chest. The ribs had healed, but he still got achy if he sat in one position for too long, or exerted himself too much. It hadn't been much of a problem, but then, he hadn't counted on sitting in the cramped quarters of a plane for so long, either.

"You okay, Chief?" Jim asked without taking his eyes from the book he held.

"Yeah, just a little stiff." He shifted as best he could in the small seat, but only managed to move the bulk of his weight from one cheek to the other. "When do we land?"

Jim turned his wrist just long enough to glance at his watch. "About 20 minutes."

Blair raised both eyebrows, surprised at how long he'd been writing. Of course, his right hand was less than impressed. And, now that he'd acknowledge the passing of so much time, his bladder was making itself felt, as well as his numb butt.

"Um, Jim, sorry, but I need to get up."

Jim nodded, closed his book, and stood. "I asked you a few minutes ago if you needed to."

"Sorry, wasn't listening." Blair stood and sidled out between the seats, smiling apologetically at Jim.


He made his way to the back of the plane, and had to stand in line as other passengers realized they'd be landing soon. When it was his turn, he stepped inside and closed the door, wondering as he did each time he flew, why on earth they had to make these things so small. He'd gone up to first class once, to use the bathroom, and had been rather pleased to discover it was no bigger than the coach-class rooms at the tail of the plane. When he had finished washing his hands, he splashed cold water on his face, then stood there for a moment, letting his legs enjoy the stretch. On the train, they'd had more room to walk around or stand if need be. But at least now they were just bringing someone back, straightforward and simple. No secrets, no cold medication, and no one to toss Jim out any windows.

Blair remembered the other passengers then and exited the bathroom, smiling his apologies to the lady who was next in line. He'd considered begging out of this trip, knowing it wasn't really something his partner would need him on. But, Jim's sense of duty was so deep and well-defined, Blair couldn't very well stay behind just because he didn't want to go. That would have opened the door for Jim to argue his case on those times he did want to go. When Blair got back to the seats, he found Jim had taken the window, leaving the aisle for him. His notebook was in Jim's lap, and Blair was slightly surprised to find him not reading it. But then, as he sat down, he realized he shouldn't be surprised. Other than listening in when Blair was examined by doctors, Jim was a very strong respecter of privacy.

"So, what do you think of Jack's book?" Blair reached around and fastened his seatbelt, then did his best to stuff both feet under the seat in front of him. He couldn't help but wonder where Jim managed to fit his own, much longer legs.

"It's good." Jim closed the book and rubbed his eyes. "I'm just getting a little tired of the subject, though. Makes you start to wonder just who you can trust these days."

"Yeah, well all that covert stuff. I don't know how you ever got used to it, man." Blair shook his head. "Makes my head spin."

"I dunno, Chief. I think you have a better grasp of it than you think."

Blair looked up, expecting to see that glimmer of amusement in Jim's eyes that told him he was joking. It wasn't there. "You're kidding, right?"

Jim just shook his head. "Nope."

Further explanation was interrupted by the chime of the seatbelt sign and the speakers that sparked to life.

"This is your Captain. Please return all seatbacks to their full upright position. We will be landing in ten minutes. Local time is 4:15 PM. The temperature in Mexico City is a steaming 95 degrees. We here on United Flight 117 want to thank you for flying with us."

Blair instinctively glanced out the window, but was rewarded with the same view he'd had for the past 4 hours, a closeup of the plane's right wing. He'd been to Mexico City many times, but it was the jungle preserves that held his fascination. Mexico was one of those rare countries, alive with a past that held new wonder each time you visited a site. And the art, once you got past the slew of tourist areas and overabundance of ceramics, was incredible. The Mexicans' use of color and patterns was just as telling as the art itself, lending a grace and history to each piece.

"Man, seems a shame to come all the way down here, just to pick up some guy and fly back."

"This is work, Chief, not a vacation. No different than if we took a train down to Portland and back."

Blair shook his head. "No, man, this is different. It had better be different."

Jim laughed, closing his book and stuffing it between his leg and the seat. "Not that different, Sandburg. I'll be keeping Martinez handcuffed to you."

"Ah, great." Blair made a face. "That's just great, Jim."

They landed smoothly, then had to wait while the majority of passengers crowded their way off before they could even stand up. Blair reached up to the overhead to retrieve his pack, and a twinge of remembered pain clutched his chest. Wordlessly, Jim reached up with longer arms and grabbed both packs, handing Blair his as he closed the compartment.

"Come on, we've got another plane to catch." Jim led the way off the plane, then across the airport to the customs area. He presented his badge, and Blair produced his ID. After a quick inspection of their packs, they were cleared to proceed. Jim found the right ticket counter and explained who he was. Blair was only half-listening to the directions Jim was being given, having just spotted what could only be described as the most beautiful Mexican woman he had ever seen in his young life. He was just contemplating the wisdom of approaching her when a very large man beat him to it. A man she immediately greeted with a very long, and what Blair could only imagine was a very heartfelt, kiss. He turned back to Jim just as he finished his conversation with the ticket person.

"Well, we've got 40 minutes to kill. You hungry?"

Blair considered that for a moment. "No, not really. Thirsty, though." It was easy not to drink much on a plane, when you considered the size of the bathrooms. But air travel did dehydrate him.

Jim nodded, handing Blair his pack. "We're at gate 2. Why don't you go over there? I'll be right there with some water."

Blair hefted Jim's pack onto his shoulder, then turned to find gate 2. He was pretty sure reminding him to get bottled water wasn't necessary, so he just continued to the gate. There was no one else in sight, and gate 2 was as far from the rest of the airport as it could possibly get and still be considered indoors. There were no chairs, so Blair set the packs down against the wall and slid down next to them. The hot Mexican sun was beating in through the dirty windows, but when he sat down, his face and body where shaded by a large partition. He leaned his head against the wall and tried to ignore his butt as it told him it had just spent 4 hours in this very position and could really do with a change of scenery. Sweat was beginning to build up on his forehead and chest when Jim walked up, handing him a bottle of water.

"Thanks." He took the bottle and unscrewed the cap, taking a long drink. Jim had a bottle of the same, and he stood, looking out over the tarmac as he drank. Blair's butt once again demanded attention, so he reluctantly stood and turned to look outside.

A plane was landing in front of them and he watched it come down. It was old, and there was what Blair swore had to be moss growing out of one wing. And he knew. Somehow he knew, based on his typical version of luck, that it was the very plane he and Jim were about to board.

"I don't suppose..." He let his voice trail off, hoping that Jim, or some god of karma, could prove him wrong.

"I wouldn't doubt it one bit."

Great. Either that meant they were both wrong, or Jim's karma was slipping. They watched silently as the old plane lumbered over to gate 2, discharging a huge, billowing black cloud as it rolled to a jerky stop. A few minutes later, the side door was pushed open, and Blair could have sworn he heard it squeak. Someone dropped a folding ladder out the door, and three very large, rather sweaty Mexican women climbed down, each of them carrying a farm animal.

Blair started to chuckle. "What is this, an old John Wayne war movie?" He hadn't seen such a stereotypical display since...well, since the last old movie he'd watched.

"What this is, Sandburg, is the end of what was supposed to be a very pleasant weekend." Jim screwed the cap back on his water bottle and picked up his pack.

Blair followed suit, once again wondering what had kept him from backing out of this trip when he had the chance. No, he couldn't have done that. Jim Ellison did what was asked of him without complaint; he didn't pick and chose his assignments, and there was no way Blair could start doing that. He was Jim's partner, in it for the good as well as the bad. And except for those times he had to be at the University, he went with Jim.

They boarded the plane, and Blair was immediately hit with the fresh smell of farm animals. He could only imagine what Jim was going through as he spoke with the pilot, confirming their destination and dashing all final hope that this wasn't the right flight. Blair found a seat that seemed less inundated with feathers than most of the others, and sat down, grateful to find a seatbelt in working order. Jim found a seat on the opposite side. No sooner had they both sat down and buckled in, then the plane pulled away from the airport and began to cough its way down the runway.

Just an hour over the jungle to Chiautla, pick up Martinez, and an hour back please God on any other plane, and then another 4 hours on a more comfortable flight and it would all be over. Maybe Blair could even pick up on his train of thought again and get more of his notes in order. That might prove hard to accomplish if Jim really meant to keep him handcuffed to this guy all the way home. But surely he was joking.

Blair glanced at Jim, hoping his friend had found the right balance to filter out most of the smells they were being treated to. His eyes were closed, and he even seemed to be falling asleep. He was pretty good at sleeping in odd places at odd times, but Jim was by far the master. Blair's butt was throbbing so much, he couldn't find a comfortable position nd so stayed awake, staring out the window at the lush green jungle below. He'd flown over Chiautla once before, on his way to the Gulf coast, but he remembered it as being farther south than they were flying. In fact, it seemed to him they were turning around. And rather sharply.

"Jim?" Blair became alarmed when the plane banked to the left, sending several crates flying.

Jim was instantly awake, glancing first at Blair, then up toward the pilot. "Stay put." He released his seatbelt, then pulled against the tipping of the plane to get up, fighting his way to the cockpit.

Blair heard Jim's voice, but no pilot's response. "Jim?" The plane was still turning, and now began to dive. He'd just reached for the clip on his own seatbelt when a voice shouted back to him.

"Sit down and hold on!"

Fear gripped him as he could made out Jim sitting down in the co-pilot's seat. "Jim, what's going on?!" The noise of the engines seemed to grow as the jungle rushed up to meet them.

"We're going down! Hold on!"

Down? Oh no, no no! This was definitely a John Wayne movie. A really bad John Wayne movie! Blair tightened his seatbelt, glancing out the window in time to see a tree level with the plane. Hundreds of stewardesses' crash lectures flew past, as did another tree. He wanted everything to just get put on hold, so Jim could tell him what the hell was going on, but the plane, and the Mexican landscape, had other things in mind.

Blair felt something smack against the underside of the plane, and through his feet could feel the scraping of metal against tree.

Suddenly there was a jolt, and he put his head down, covering it with both arms just as the belly of the plane slammed hard into the ground. Metal protested, screaming as it fought against the trees that snapped under its weight. There was a horrendous wrenching sound as one wing was torn off. The forward motion of the plane altered violently into a spin, and Blair was thrown against the side of the plane. His right arm came up instinctively, and went through the window as it smashed apart against the one tree that had the power to resist the forward motion of the crashing plane. His head slammed into the edge of the window at the same time the plane stopped. Dazed, Blair was too stunned to do anything more than realize numbly that he was alive.


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