"I've gotta stretch my legs."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
okay, Chief?" Jim asked without taking his eyes from the book he held.
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
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
"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."
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.
seems a shame to come all the way down here, just to pick up some guy and fly
"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."
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.
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."
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
"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
"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.
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
"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
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
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.
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.