Warnings:This little story contains spoilers for The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg. If you don't want the spoilers then, please hit then go away now.
Warnings pt2: unbeta'd only spellchecked.
"Did you hear what happened?" The softly spoken words echoed oddly in the room. "Sandburg got canned."
"What the %^&*?" This voice was loud and strident. Within minutes the sound of voices echoed loudly throughout the TA's lounge.
The loud clap of a heavy book hitting the table caught everyone's attention. Heads turned, mouths still open to speak, eyes wide at the interruption. Standing in front of them, a pair of young teachers glared angrily.
"If you want to complain and bitch about the problem, fine. Go elsewhere." An accented voice cut through the silence. "If you want to solve it, we have work to do."
Slow, evil smiles crossed the startled faces. Oh, yeah, twenty of the most notorious Teaching Fellows, in one room, plotting together. Missing was the one rational voice that had always kept them under control. Rainier would never be the same.
Sid Grant couldn't believe how badly things had turned out. It had started so simply. Just read a manuscript and give his opinion on it. Not a big deal. At least not usually. Then things had escalated and gotten completely out of hand.
Naomi had only meant well. Hell, he'd only meant well. He had expected to like Blair's dissertation. He hadn't expected to be enthralled by it. The very idea of a sentinel was so exciting. For nature to create a man with enhanced senses. One who could see, hear, taste, feel, smell better than any other. One who was genetically programmed to protect the rest.
Blair may have disowned his own work, called himself and his research fraudulent, but Grant knew better. He understood. Having read the dissertation twice, he couldn't help but understand. If Ellison was the sentinel, then Blair had to be the guide. He frowned at the thought. Blair had given up everything to protect his sentinel. He just couldn't believe to younger man's actions.
The strident ring of the phone caught his attention. "Sid Grant, speaking."
"Mr. Grant. This is Devon Cheshire, from Rainier University." The voice was young and unknown. Not someone he'd worked with before. "I teach a couple of the journalism classes and I was wondering if..."
"No, Mr. Cheshire." The irony of the name and the upbeat voice trickled through the publisher's mind. "I don't think I can..."
His decline was ignored as the voice on the phone continued. "it would be such a great opportunity. They could get information on how the publishing world ..."
He let the voice drone on. He was learning to really hate university students. First they come up with the most wonderful discoveries and then they disown them. Then, their friends start... a name caught his attention. "Did you say Alex Fortaleza is in your class?"
"Um, yeah. Brushing up on a couple of things." The boy sounded curious. "Teaches photojournalism. Hates writing anything to go with the pics though."
"I'll do it. When?" Grant couldn't believe his luck. The photographer had flat out refused to go to New York to sign the new contract. Pinning the kid down here in Cascade would make up for his failure with Blair Sandburg's dissertation. Part of his mind wondered what on earth was Fortaleza doing in Cascade anyway.
"He took the bait." Devon turned and grinned at his silent audience.
"Good." The cool demeanor of the leader of the group was unshaken. "Pass the word to your classes, we want him cold."
"Done. I'll help them with the questions needed." Devon's smiled turned nasty.
"What about us?" Another grad student asked.
"I need you to check the open assignment lists. We need law students to check into the legality of what Grant did. Med students to check into the feasibility of Blair's theory. Anthro students to vindicate his research on Burton's works." He smiled, the sharp, vicious smile of a predator about to bite. His pale eyes scanned the group, noting that they were already taking notes and comparing assignments. The opening of the door caught his attention.
"I have the file." A tall, geeky young man waved a computer disk over his head.
"Good. Let's get to work." At his words the crowd dispersed. They had little time to accomplish their mission. The sight of all their efforts assured him that they would succeed.
Sid Grant couldn't believe the turn out for his question and answer session. He'd thought that there would be ten or eleven students. Not this huge gathering. There had to be at least one hundred people in the small auditorium. Obviously the journalism classes were a big pull at the university. They'd already asked him more questions in the past thirty minutes than he'd ever gotten from a prospective author in a year's communication.
"Do you only take a manuscript from the author? Or can you accept it from someone else?" A shy voice asked him. He wondered how this young woman was going to ever become a reporter with her demure ways.
"We work with either the author or the author's legal agent." He smiled at her, enjoying the wide blue eyes.
"So you can't take a manuscript from just anybody?" The girl continued wistfully, looking away from him.
"No. Only the author has the right to sell a manuscript. To accept a manuscript from someone else, who isn't the author or their representative is tantamount to theft . . ." He froze, understanding finally creeping into his thoughts.
"So, what you're saying is that you accepted stolen property when you accepted an unpublished, unfinished dissertation." A new voice spoke from the edges of the crowded room. A figure paced forwards, a microphone clipped to her vest. "Then to add to the theft of his work, you tried to force him into selling it by leaking pieces of that work to the press. Isn't that the truth, Mr. Grant?"
"It wasn't theft. I was given the dissertation to look over by..." He couldn't bring Naomi into this. He had the feeling that these students would go ballistic if he wasn't very careful.
"To look over? As in to check and see if it was a good first draft?" The woman's voice was still cold and icy. He frowned. He knew that voice, he'd heard it before. "That means you had no rights to any of the material itself. You were asked to edit, to review, to proofread."
The sweat began to cool his skin. He was in trouble. This was no student. The woman was too controlled. He began to stand up. He was no fool. He wanted out before this went any farther.
"Mr. Grant? I have one more question for you... how will your current clients react? I mean, the ones who went with your publishing company strictly because of its good reputation?" She smiled. For the first time, he could see her face. The controlled fury in her eyes told the tale. His career was over. Fortaleza would never renegotiate her contract now. And when she left, others would follow.
"Ms. Fortaleza, I..."
She handed him a sheaf of papers. Light bulbs went off throughout the auditorium. "These are copies of the paperwork that was delivered to your company this morning. I called everyone who owed me favors and cashed them in. I am their legal representative. All the contracts which are in negotiation are hereby refused."
"Wait..." He floundered.
"No one hurts one of us, Sid." She smiled and turned to leave. "Oh, and Sid? I'll see you in the news."
Several reporters, ones with camera crews and microphones charged the podium. Their bright lights and strident questions on the ethics of his behavior grated on his nerves, giving him a giant headache.
The dean stared at her colleagues in shock. She asked them again, "They what?"
"All of the anthropology classes taught by graduate students have been dismissed. The grades have been turned in and the classrooms are empty." The man shook his head in wonder. The sharp rap at the door made him turn.
"Pat? What is going on?" A gravelly voiced man strode angrily into the room. "All of my seminar students apologized for withdrawing from their classes. Then my 300 and 400 level classes didn't show up. According to the secretary, they all dropped."
"My graduate seminar students got together with the medical students and filed a defense of parts of Sandburg's dissertation." A balding, rotund professor, his voice sounded too high pitched for his body. He narrowly missed running into the gravelly voiced man. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Mine decided to defend the excerpts of his dissertation that involved ancient works." This was from a sharp faced woman who had already been in the office. The two professors looked at each other with identical frowns.
The dean looked over at the professors standing close to her .
Before she could answer the newcomers, the phone rang. She picked
it up, wondering what else could go wrong. As she listened, she turned
pale. She looked up in shock and whispered quietly. "They've staged
a protest. A sit-in on the greens."
Simon Banks couldn't believe it. He listened to the mayor and tried to stop the smile that was crossing his face. As he hung up the phone he started to chuckle. Within a few minutes, the chuckles became full fledged laughter. It was loud enough to bring his detectives to the open doorway.
"Sir?" Jim Ellison's voice made him look up. The poor man looked confused, his eyes concerned.
"It's Sandburg." Banks could hardly talk for the laughter.
"What's Sandy done this time?" The soft spoken words of the Australian made him shake his head.
"He didn't do anything. He's just the cause." Still smiling, trying not to laugh, the big captain stood and leaned against his desk. Slowly the detectives slipped into his office, openly curious now.
"Cause of what, sir?" Ellison was rubbing his temple, like a headache was starting to bother him.
"Every single Anthropology student on campus joined a sit in this morning." At his words the chuckles began. They knew their observer. He was infectious with his enthusiasm. They understood how his students could have caught on to some of his infamous hippy ways. "As the rest of the campus joined in, they started chanting that they wanted Sandburg back. So the mayor called in the riot team, just in case."
"Oh, no." Joel moaned quietly.
"The chief asked them to all go home. So they stood up and began leaving. They had already packed." Simon felt his smile widen as the detectives looked puzzled. "Their spokeswoman told the chief that since Sandburg worked with the 'nazi cops' they would obey quietly."
"No. Tell me she didn't say that." Rafe moaned, hiding his face in his hands. "I am so dead."
"You better get leash for her, man." Brown whispered. "The chief is not going to forget that crack."
Simon had to chuckle again. "Then they left. Only, when the anthropology students left, so did the photojournalism students and about half of the campus. All the graduate teaching staff, they turned in final grades of 'passing' and left with the under grads." He looked down at the notes he had taken. "According to some rumors that hit the chancellor's office, any under grad who showed that they had withdrawn from the university, was handed a thousand dollars cash so they could get home."
"I'm gonna wring someone's..."
"Hey, guys. What's up?" The cheerful voice of Blair
Sandburg interrupted. As one the entire Major Crimes Department looked
over at him and stared. He looked down at his clothes, decided he
hadn't spilled anything and his pants were zipped. They still stared
at him with what seemed to be disbelief. "What did I do?"
"In this afternoon's news, publisher Sid Grant from New York found the tables turned on him at a student question and answer session. There he was confronted with questions on the ethics of his behavior towards former graduate student, Blair Sandburg. He would not comment on those accusations, the rumor that he has been fired because of it or the sudden public withdrawal of several of the publishing company's most prominent authors." The anchor smiled into the camera, ignoring the fact that the photograph of the auditorium scene showed him shoving his microphone at the hapless publisher.
His co-anchor smiled into the camera. "Rainier University
announced late today that the doors would be temporarily closed due to
a student and teacher walkout. The school's chancellor refused to comment
on the fact that the peaceful student protest turned drastic when the police
were called in for crowd control. A spokesperson for the students
stated that they had no wish to cause a problem for the police and so when
asked to return home, they did. Over half of the students withdrew from
their classes and left, citing difficulties with the administration.
According to their spokesperson, no one is coming back until the administration
learns to live in the real world."
The Protests Day 2
Blair stared at the floor of the office, eyes wide as the story was explained to him. His face went pale as the sit-in was described. The spokeswoman's word brought a choked gasp to his lips. "Please tell me she didn't."
"She did, Sandburg." Rafe's voice was rueful. "I can't believe it but she did."
"Not Fortaleza. To the chief? My mom, maybe." He was astounded. As Blair spoke he suddenly turned towards the grinning captain. "Oh, god. Simon, tell me it was Fortaleza and not Naomi."
"I don't know who it was. The chief didn't say." The big man watched as the observer started to pace. He reflexively picked up the ringing phone. "Banks here... yes, sir. Right away."
The expectant looks on his detective's faces brought a frown to face. "All right, back to work. I have to meet with the chief and the mayor."
Reluctantly the detectives scattered only to be stopped by an officer from the Vice department.
"You have got to see this. It's the 5 O'clock news. Everyone in the precinct is stunned and wants their own copy." She handed Ellison a video cassette. The woman grinned at them and then patted Sandburg's shoulder. "Good going, Sandburg."
"I didn't do anything." He muttered watching her stride gracefully away. As the door closed behind her, he looked up at his partner. "Oh, man. What did they do now?"
"What would you have done, Chief?" Ellison asked. The rest of the division watched quietly, wondering about the question.
"Given the people I think are involved," Blair choked and started to run out the door. "Oh, s**t!"
The red lights bothered her eyes, but she kept working, cropping and laying out photos. Beside her an student was carefully washing the film. Without having to turn and see what he was doing she spoke softly, trying not to startle him. "Give it a little more time, Bobby. It's not finished."
"How... never mind." The young man glanced over at his partner. "How does she do that? It's like she has eyes in the back of her head."
"I've been doing this since I was seven. I know the process backwards and forwards." She smiled, glancing at them. "You'll get that way too."
A phone rang, making everyone jump. She grabbed the handset before it could sound a second time.
"Sandburg and the entire Major Crimes department just ran out of the building." A whispered shy voice spoke into her ear. "The cops were yelling questions at him as he led them out."
"Great work, Angela. You can go home now, thank you." The photographer smiled and hung up the phone. Then she dialed another number quickly. As soon as it was answered she spoke into it. "Phase two begins now."
"Um, ma'am?" Bobby's voice was worried. "Won't Professor Sandburg get upset with us?"
"Maybe. Maybe not." Her reply was enigmatic. "But, we can't let them get away with this."
Blair came to a stop at the edge of the porch. Sure enough, they had. Somehow, the students had slipped past the university's security and wrapped the administration building. In the cool moonlight, saran wrap (TM) glistened. The shiny, translucent materiel surrounded the entire first floor. From the ground up to a height of about seven feet, several colors of the thin wrapping had been layered across the building. All of the door and windows were effectively blocked.
"Well, at least it will be easy to remove." He laughed at the thought of the Dean finding the doors blocked in the morning.
"No, it won't be." Jim's voice made him look up. The older man was pinching his nose. "They used some kind of glue in that mess. It's pretty strong."
"Dial it down, man." He laid his hand on the big man's shoulder,
concentrating on his sentinel.
Rafe and Brown looked at each other, missing the quick frowns from Banks and Conners. The sight of the familiar motion, the oh, so frequently overheard words, the recent rumors and revelations all suddenly clicked into place. Without saying a word to their companions, they stepped back.
"Fraud?" Brown's whisper was soft, barely audible to his partner.
"Not likely, man." Rafe grinned. "But not our secret."
Brown nodded and looked up in time to catch the double stare of two pairs of blue eyes. "I don't know anything. Didn't see it, didn't hear it. Don't care to either."
As the bigger man nodded to them, the smaller man smiled. The partners looked at each other again. Rafe spoke the thoughts they both shared. "I guess this means we're part of the it, too."
"Yeah, man. We're all part of it."
The calm demeanor of the man was so oddly out of place that most of the grad students skirted around him. He carefully read the reports they had handed him, noting their presence and their actions absently. The rapid movements of a newcomer brought his head up, his eyes locking on the rapidly moving figure.
Almost instantly, the figure was intercepted by Fortaleza. She took the stack of computer disks while speaking to him. The young man moved with a rapid, jerky style that told of too little sleep, too much caffeine and too long on his computer. As she listened, she motioned for two of the other grad students to join them. Moments later, the young man was gently escorted away between them.
"They'll make sure he gets real food and some sleep." The accented voice answered his unspoken question. She handed him the diskettes. "Forty seven confirmed with one or two senses who will stand up for Blair. Seven with three senses, one with four."
"No one with all five?" He had to ask, even if he knew the answer.
"None." Her voice was dull. She was frowning as she spoke. "The pre-law and law students all agree. IF the cop really had all five senses, there is a chance that all of his arrests and convictions could be thrown out due to unlawful invasion of privacy. They could claim that Ellison listened in on privileged conversations with their lawyers, anything. And it would be hard to prove otherwise."
"D***." With one word, he expressed their thoughts. "What's next on your agenda?"
She grinned at him. "You really don't want to know."
The dean stared at the newspaper. The headlines screamed at her, "University Dean Condones Confidentiality Breach: Ethics of Breach Considered Irrelevant." The photograph of her standing next to Sid Grant in front of the administration building had been taken with a telephoto lens. The name attributed to it made her pale. He was a very reputable photojournalist. The words had been penned by his partner. Neither had ever worked on anything in the US before. And neither had ever worked on anything with less than international connotations. She read the opening paragraph with dread.
"The dean of a large American university has turned the tables on the long standing rules of subject confidentiality. For years, scientists, researchers, anthropologists, sociologists and others have promised confidentiality in exchange for getting test subjects. Ms. P~ , Dean of Rainier University in Cascade Washington has finally proved what many already knew to be true. There is no such thing as confidentiality within the university confidentiality. "
From there the story stayed carefully on the facts, dragging both her reputation and that of the university through the mud. Every single line was true. She had pushed Sandburg. She had ignored the fact that he had not been the one to turn the dissertation over to Sid Grant. She had ignored the breach of the confidentiality statements when she had helped the publisher corner the anthropologist. Before she got to the conclusion of the article, several long paragraphs later, she knew that the university was in serious trouble. Lawsuits could easily be the least of their problems.
The final paragraphs made her wince. They hinted at a conspiracy between the university and some of the influential members of Cascade's society. A conspiracy to remove troublemakers from their midst in the guise of removing the most successful police pairing in the history of the Cascade PD. It outlined their history of catching every person who committed a crime to which they were assigned, no matter how influential, how rich or how powerful the criminal. Those arrests were named and the names, CEO's, artists, corporate giants, federal agents, wealthy and respected names read like a who's who of Cascade.
Nothing was said to that could be used against either Sandburg or the authors of the article. It just made the reader wonder how much of the furor had been fueled by the young man's critics. It pointed out that no one should have allowed Ellison's name to be released, if he was the real subject of Sandburg's dissertation. Sandburg's denial of the dissertation was concluded to be the only way to protect both the real sentinel and the false one. The reader was left wondering who the real sentinel was, and how on earth he had managed to get one of the best cops in Cascade to protect the researcher.
The dean closed her eyes and sighed. Briefly she wondered how much of the article was true. She carefully picked up her paper and took notes. She could always research the information. And if it was flawed, force a retraction. Somehow, she didn't think she'd find enough evidence to get it.
Jim silently read the paper before handing it over to Blair. He watched the stunned expression on the young man's face and waited. The normally bouncing younger man was perfectly still as he read the long paragraphs and then skimmed the side articles. Finally dark blue eyes looked up to meet his.
"Jim... " He floundered, trying to speak. "I didn't... I mean. I..."
"It's okay, Chief." He cracked a smile at his partner. As the thoughts in his head solidified, the smile became shark-like. "I think the kids are going for the jugular. You taught them well."
"Jim, I didn't teach them to do this. I mean, they reinterpreted everything that happened. Made it look like the dean was out to get me."
"Chief, you were always there for them. Just like you were always there for me. You taught your students more than anthropology." Jim watched as Blair soaked in the words. "Every time you skipped a class for me, they knew about it. Every time you took a risk, were in hurt, they knew. If you missed class and didn't make arrangements, one of your students would call the station to check on you. For every single obfuscation, they knew the reason behind it." Blair's jaw dropped as he listened. "You taught them to believe in friendship. They're just proving that they learned it. And they learned it well."
The Protests Day 3
Dean Edwards looked up at the woman standing quietly before her desk. Green eyes met hers calmly, no sign of tension or turmoil. She looked back down at the paper in her hands.
"You realize that the contract specifies that you will work for Rainier University for five years." She spoke calmly, knowing that she held the upper hand. This was not something she would lose at. Contract negotiations were her forte, not like the student protests she had no idea how to handle. "If you break your contract you will face heavy penalties."
"No, madam. I will not." The accented words were calm, flat and toneless. The young woman stood arrow straight, unyielding. "If you will carefully reread the contract, you'll note the changes my lawyers and I insisted upon before I joined Rainier's staff."
The older woman glared at her opponent before flipping through the contract. She quickly found the highlighted area and froze. Dean Edwards paled as she realized their import.'
"You and your lawyers scoffed at my changes. I insisted that either of us could terminate the contract at any time as long as grades had been turned in for that semester. True, I cannot work at another university for a period of two years. But that is acceptable." Fortaleza smiled, and it was not a nice smile. "The only reason I left the field was because Blair Sandburg vouched for this university, for its adherence to values I consider important. Your actions prove that he was wrong. I will not be teaching again. Not here and not anywhere else. As far as I am concerned, academia is overrated."
She tossed a set of keys onto the desk. The dean didn't move. "What about the seminars, they're already scheduled. And the guests that you arranged?"
"They are all canceled. Your advances have already been returned and we have signatures avowing the return of the funds." Ice coated her softly spoken words. "When I signed that contract, I told you that I always held my debts in highest regard. I owe Blair Sandburg my life, my sanity and the lives of most of my tribe. By hurting him, you hurt my people Dr. Edwards. No group from this university will allowed on our lands, in our villages or among our people. It is finished between us."
The dean turned to look at the Chancellor. Both were pale and shaken. The past three days had been a nightmare for both of them. National newspapers and magazines were hounding the administration for information. The students were leaving in droves. Graduate students were getting offers from other universities, competitive offers. Sponsors, corporate and private were asking hard questions. The government was asking others. The national associations were double checking all of Rainier's research, verifying that no rules had been broken.
"What do we do now?" she asked, wondering if there was a solution to the problem.
"If we ask Sandburg back, they might stop." His voice was broken, ragged.
"But would he come back? And if he did, how much of this can be
fixed?" She replied.
Blair stared at the group, frowning. "Who started this?"
"Um, we all did." Devon answered cheerfully. "Everyone pitched in on the idea."
"Why ruin Rainier? Why wreck Sid's career?" He was trying to understand, but was failing. A simple protest he could understand. But this went way beyond a simple protest. It was an avalanche.
"Because they were in the wrong." The voice came from behind him. He turned and met the cold eyes. "Besides, its fun."
"Don't . . ." he sighed. "I don't want this."
"It's not just about you, Blair." Fortaleza stepped around the controlled figure. "If they thought they could control one of us, then they would try it on another. The university will survive."
"What about the students? Where will they go now? How will they repay their grants?" Blair felt the worry that had been building since he'd heard the first of the news in Simon's office. He began pacing as he spoke, hands moving rapidly. "They dropped out of school, they'll lose their credits, their grants, their fellowships."
"Calmase." Her voice was low pitched, forcing him to lower his own to hear her. "The reason we waited until Monday was so that I could pull in every favor owed me. No one who withdrew as part of the protest will be punished for it. I found grants and fellowships for every one that was lost. Devon helped arrange for other universities to snap up the teaching fellowships. If Rainier doesn't get its act together, everyone is safe at another university. No reprisals, no losses."
"What about you? You can't teach again. You had an exclusivity clause." Blair watched the photographer lean against the wall.
"So? I taught because I thought it would be fun and it was." She smiled. "Now, I'll just go back to taking pictures. I have enough money to live off of for a while. Even here in Cascade."
"What are you doing next?" He asked, knowing he had lost the argument.
"You don't want to know." Devon smiled evilly at him. "And we won't tell you. Go back to the station, Sandburg. You're supposed be studying to be a cop now. Go study."
"Sandburg! My office!" Captain Banks' bellow made everyone look up. Each of the detectives winced as they watched the young man make his way into the lion's den and close the door. Ellison had begun to follow only to freeze as he heard the quiet, "Not you, detective!"
Blair glanced at the office, noting that there was a thick file sitting open on the desk as the captain slowly and gently placed the phone handset on its receiver. "Did you go see your old university buddies this morning?"
"Yes, sir. I did. But they wouldn't talk to me about anything important." He froze as the big man's dark eyes caught his. "What did they do?"
"They didn't tell you what they were planning?"
"No, sir. They told me to leave." He bounced slightly on his toes, thinking furiously. "What did they do, Simon?"
"Over one hundred students showed up and handcuffed themselves to the pillars of the administration building." Simon Banks measured the observer's reaction carefully. When he was certain that the younger man had known nothing about the latest demonstration, he continued. "To keep us from being able to easily remove them, they poured some sort of glue into the mechanisms. Now we have to cut the cuffs off to get them out of there."
"Oh, man." Blair hid a smile with difficulty. He chortled faintly, trying not to laugh.
"The students are being arrested as we speak." That made the other man freeze.
"Oh, no. Fortaleza is she there?" He worried aloud. "What about Devon? Rafe is not going to be happy with this."
"Calm down, Sandburg. Devon is already in custody. Fortaleza would never allow anyone, not even fellow protesters to put cuffs on her." Simon smiled at the relief that crossed Blair's face. "Rafe took her to the airport. She had a flight to Peru to catch."
"Peru? Now?" He was puzzled.
"She's escorting some people to Cascade. For the event scheduled of Friday." Simon watched carefully, waiting.
"What event?" Blair was confused. Why was Simon so certain that he knew more than he did? What had they done this time, and how was it going to effect him? He was getting very tired of other people jumping in on his life.
"I hoped you knew." The police captain sounded worried. "Between the mayor, the chief and the university president, I have a lot of worried people asking me what your friends are doing."
Blair sat in the interrogation room, tapping his fingers impatiently. He wanted Jim to hurry up so he could talk some sense into Devon. Almost as if he'd heard the anthropologist's thoughts, the sentinel escorted the other grad student into the room.
"Hey, man. Long time no see." Devon's big grin was happy. Too happy for Blair's taste.
"What are you doing? Getting yourselves arrested?" He growled at his friend. Suddenly all of his frustrations, all of his pent up anger broke loose. For days Blair had been sublimating his pain at the his mother's actions, his feeling of betrayal at Jim's first reaction, his remorse at giving up his life's dream. And now it all broke loose, aimed at his friend. "This is not going to help. Not me and not you. It's over. Don't you understand? I am a fraud. My research is a fraud. These protests are useless and they are only hurting everyone else. I want them to stop. I want you to get back to your lives. I want to get on with mine. I. DON'T. WANT. THIS."
Devon's face froze. He stared, slightly shocked at the words. Then suddenly they cleared. "Man, she was right. You did blow your stack. Wow."
"What the H*** are you talking about?" A firm hand on his shoulder kept him from leaping at the other man. He could hear Jim's voice urging him to calm down, to take it easy. He turned partially to his partner. "I will not calm down. This is my life everyone is messing with here."
"Connie and the other psych TA's said that you were going to blow your stack soon." Devon's awed voice continued. "I've never seen you blow up before. Impressive."
The hand on his shoulder tightened, becoming painful. Blair bit his lip, trying to calm himself. The silent man behind him wasn't about to let him get away with murder. But for once he actually was contemplating it.
"Sandburg?" Devon's voice had dropped to its awed tone. "We just want you to have a chance. That's all."
"A chance at what, Devon? Becoming even more notorious than I already am?" Blair couldn't believe that the bitter words were his own.
"A chance to choose for yourself." The whisper came from behind him, from Jim. He looked up and stared at the solemn face of his partner, his sentinel. "They want you to make the choice, not me, not you mother or the university. And I for one agree with their goal."
"Oh, god. What have you done?"
The Protests Day 4
Dean Edwards stared at the list on her desk still in mild shock. Outside one could see the students who had returned in time for their exam reviews, walking quietly across the campus. The protesters thronged quietly around the administration building and in the commons. For the most part they were ignored by security. After all, in the four days of turmoil, rumor and confusion, they had done no damage. No physical damage anyway.
Having seen a nearly vacant campus for most of the week, the crowd of students had startled her this morning. She had greeted other stunned officials, none of whom knew exactly how to deal with the situation. They had decided to ignore it and had ordered campus security to be discreet. As a result, the students had remained quiet and polite all day.
She reread the report and shook herself. A computer hacker had made the administration think that droves of students had left when only a few had dropped out of their classes. According to the computer science department, a carefully tailored virus had multiplied the numbers, inflating each dropped student by twenty. When added to the fact that over half of the students had been informed that classes were canceled until this morning, it had appeared as if the school was in serious trouble. The media's response the the apparent problems on campus had only made things worse.
The cover page to the report was a set of smiley faces and the words "now you know how to live through a media circus". The noon news report had gleefully explained the hoax that had been played on the university's administration as well as giving the quiet protesters a full minute's spot. Their new spokesman had simply told the reporters that the students had intended no harm to the university, just a dose of their own medicine. He had then smiled and stated that he would be teaching on the east coast during the fall.
Edwards double checked the list of leaving students. Over one hundred and twenty of the best under graduate students had withdrawn from the university, all had been earmarked as part of the cream of Rainier's crop. Each one had cited irreconcilable differences with the administration. All had requested that their transcripts be forwarded to rival universities. Thirty five graduate students, the best of the teaching fellows, teaching assistants and researchers, had turned in their grades and informed the university that they would not be needing their grants in the fall. She didn't want to think about the full professors who had advised that they were leaving, either at the end of the fall semester or at end of the summer term.
A brisk knock at her door made her look up, puzzled. Not many people would be calling on her today. The chancellor strode in, a wide grin on his face.
"The news today is much better, isn't it?" He smiled happily. The man was a politician more than an academic and didn't understand the consequences of the numbers.
"We lost some of our best - the top anthropology, sociology, "
"Bah, soft sciences. We can more of them. They're a dime a dozen." he barked, still basking in the idea that they had overcome the difficulties they had faced earlier that week.
"Four of our best tenured professors in the department have put in for early retirement. All of the graduate teaching fellows are going to other universities this fall." She wanted to get him to understand, but it was a vain effort. "There will be a big gap in the department. We won't be able to accommodate those who stay here. And that doesn't take into account the investigation by the National Anthropology Association. We're facing censure for naming a confidential research subject."
"It'll all blow over, Edwards." The man huffed. "Besides we didn't reveal any names. Grant did that."
She shook her head at his delusions. It would take time to recover from the united blows of the defections and the suspicions. The loss of research grants in the soft sciences alone was going to hurt as much as the loss of the staff.
"Jim, have you heard from Naomi?" Blair asked curiously. He had noticed that Naomi had whispered some message to his partner just before she had left. Since then, Jim had been very busy. He was always on the phone, responding to confidential e-mail or off doing something without him. In the past three days, he could count the amount of time they had worked together at the station in mere minutes.
"Fortaleza escorted her to a commune in Peru, Chief. They arrived fine." Jim's comment was so offhand that he almost missed it. The sentinel never looked up from the vegetables he was chopping as he spoke.
"She what? Why didn't you tell me?" He paused thoughtfully, a sneaking doubt crossing his mind. "Why did she need an escort?"
"I don't think they wanted you to worry. Simon convinced Naomi that staying in Cascade wasn't too good of an idea right now." The big man spoke calmly, keeping his attention on preparing their dinner. Blair knew he was trying to avoid something.
"And why would Simon want my mother out of the country, Jim?" He let his voice show the other man his determination. Jim's eyes flickered over to meet his and then away again.
"The Chief of Police want' too happy about that 'Nazi-cop' comment and the student protests were doing so well..."
Blair stared at his friend. Jim had just told him that Naomi
had... his voice rose as he spoke. "Mom organized the protests?
And she was the one who... I'm dead. I am so dead when I hit the
"She helped organize them." Pale eyes turned to him and stayed, measuring his reactions as the words were spoken softly. "The guys and I kept an eye on the organizers, made sure they stayed legal."
"You? Why. . . " Blair leaned against the refrigerator, thoughts colliding wildly in his brain.
"Hold it, Chief. All we did was keep the wilder ideas from being implemented. No one wanted to arrest Naomi or Fortaleza." The detective turned back to his work. "Cheshire was another matter entirely."
Blair had to grin at that wry comment. The journalism major had been ecstatic at being arrested. He had been released by the judge with a warning, happily planning to write up his escapade as an article. "I still want them to stop."
"They will, Chief. They don't want to hurt Rainier. They just want Edwards gone. They think she's too much of a politician to be dean of the department. I think they may just get it, too." Jim turned off the burner as he spoke and began dishing up the stir fry. "They wanted Sid Grant to regret his actions and he does. His publishing company lost a lot of hefty contracts and a lot of prestige."
"But what about what I want?" Blair's voice was calm, too calm for the turmoil he felt.
"What do you want, Chief?" Jim turned to face his partner. He was focused on his guide, every sense straining to catch every nuance of the answer.
"I already have what I want, Jim. I'm where I want to be. I didn't have to denounce my work. Or refuse the money." A fierce smile crossed his face. "When has anyone been able to force me to say something I didn't want to?"
Both men stilled as the memories of four years flashed past. Blair had been kidnapped, threatened, beaten, shot and even killed. But no one had ever successfully forced the young man to say what he didn't mean. Even when faced with the serial killer, David Lash, the anthropologist had been himself, refusing to change, refusing to become something he wasn't.
"As long as you're sure, Chief." The relief and understanding in Jim's voice was echoed in his expression. "I don't ever want you to feel forced into this."
"I could have walked away at any time Jim. We both know that."
The sentinel nodded and handed his guide a plate.
Fortaleza dropped her pack on the sofa of the front room. Stacks of papers, file folders and notes were stacked everywhere. A very weary sigh escaped her as she escorted the old man through the room to a bedroom. At her nod, he quietly settled onto the bed and closed his eyes. Closing the door behind her, she slipped back into the main room and pulled out a cellular phone.
"It's Fortaleza. Yes, I found him and convinced him to come. The old one? He's sleeping now. Yes, they got all the notes for me." She tilted her head as she listened. "I'll see you in the morning then."
The Protests Day 5
"Where are we going, Jim?" Blair asked again. When Simon had told them to get moving, he had expected to be told what the rush was. Instead the two men had silently glanced at each other and shrugged. Neither had answered his question. Now, twenty minutes later, they were still ignoring the questions.
This was getting on his nerves. As he drew in a breath to try a different tact, Jim spoke up. "We're almost there, Chief. Just be patient for a few more minutes."
Blair let the breath slip away. He looked around, enjoying the scenery. This was a nice area, close enough to the mountains to be called the foothills. After another mile, Jim pulled the truck into a private driveway.
"This is the..." He let his words trail off as Rafe opened the door for him.
"Hi, you're right on time." Rafe greeted them warmly. "Everyone is getting ready."
"You'll see in a minute, Chief." The sentinel's voice was tense, his jaw muscle working hard. He led the way into the stylish two story house.
Inside the rest of the major crimes unit stood around, trying to be unobtrusive. Blair looked around the large living room, taking in the rich accouterments and the elegant decor. He wondered briefly why had they come the to the police chief's getaway home. It was obvious that there had been no crime, nothing to call the department here...
A door opened and the people entering the room caught his attention. Fortaleza was leading an old, no an ancient man to a seat at the sofa. He wasn't sure who surprised him more, Fortaleza, who was wearing a flowing dress instead of her normal jeans, or the identity of frail looking man. Before he could move towards them, Rafe was at their side, whispering to the woman. She nodded and quickly left the room.
Blair turned to speak to Jim and realized that he was gone. Taggart stood next to him, the change having gone unnoticed as the anthropologist took in his surroundings.
"Joel, what's going on?" He whispered.
The big man grinned. "You'll see, son. You'll see."
He turned and looked at the man. Joel was nearly glowing with ... anticipation. His eyes were lit up and he was beaming proudly down at the younger man. He swallowed and began to ask a question.
"Blue Eyes?" The rough voice startled him and he turned back around. Facing him was someone he hadn't seen for years. Laughing brown eyes met his and the same crooked grin that he'd remembered lit up the other man's face. "I see you remember me. My father's grandfather would like to talk to you, Blue Eyes."
"But... they said you were. . ."
"Gone? Yes, I was." His first documented subject with more than one overdeveloped sense took his arm and led the dazed young man to where the old man and Rafe waited. "Now I'm here."
Blair blinked, looking over at his old friend and subject. The fine lines around his eyes and the tension in him were as much as warning signal as they were on his sentinel. "You're not supposed to be here are you?"
"For you, I am here. I will be gone again soon." He smiled again, white teeth flashing against deeply tanned skin. "For today I am Jaime again. Come, old Paulo wants to talk to you."
Nearly an hour later, the quiet conversations ended as more people entered the room. It was then Blair realized that between his old friend and the detectives of Major Crimes he had been kept to busy to ask the questions or get any answers about their location, the reason for it or Jim's whereabouts.
Dean Edwards crossed the room, striding quickly to anthropologist. She smiled, a sad, shaken smile and refused to meet his eyes. "I find that I must apologize to you. Whatever you decide to do, the university will support you in it. Just call my assistant if you need anything."
Thoroughly cowed, she turned and left. Behind her, a very quiet chancellor stood. Hands firmly in his pockets, face blank, he waited for her. The man refused to look at anyone in the room. He didn't say a word as he silently followed her out the door.
"I have the distinct feeling that I missed something." Blair's
comment brought a predatory smile to several faces, including both his
sentinel and the old man sitting near him.
"Jim, do I get an explanation now?"
"We couldn't let the world think of you as a fraud, Chief." Ellison stood close to Blair as he spoke. "Everyone who you ever worked with, everyone you taught, everyone who was really your friend came up to bat for you. We had research subjects coming forward, people calling the station trying to find you, calling the university wanting to help prove you were telling the truth."
Blair looked around the room. The chief of police had a smile on his face that was echoed by the mayor's. The men from Major Crimes were quietly but steadily watching him, waiting for his reaction.
Fortaleza took up the thread there. "Ellison had already gone to the police chief and the mayor, proving his abilities to get you accepted. But with all the others coming forward we realized that we could save your reputation, protect you from being hounded for 'fraud' for the rest of whatever career you chose."
"The students wanted to do something for you. We needed something to cover what we were doing." The smile that flash across Jim's face was wicked. "The protests made for a good diversion until we were ready. Between my demonstration and those of Paulo and Jaime, the university knows that you and your research are no fraud."
Jaime's voice was quiet with a tinge of regret. "They also know what Ellison risks by becoming known for his abilities. I have spent most of my life hiding from my own government at that of others. If the government had realized that I had all five senses like my great grandfather, they would have kept me in a cage where I could not have escaped."
Blair's eyes widened and he turned to look at the other man. "Five? But I thought you only had . . . That's why you disappeared so suddenly." Bewilderment turned to shock and then to regretful understanding as he remembered how the older man had vanished along with most of his tribe just before the arrival of a group of the local militia. It had been on his first field trip with Dr. Stoddard. "Were my notes the cause of it?"
"No, Blue Eyes," The reluctant grin broadened. "Your notes would have been indecipherable to them. But you were not the first to study me or my tribe for our senses. One of the other researcher groups told the government all about us. They died for their troubles, all of them."
"Oh, man. That is like so not good." Blair caught the rapid looks that everyone shot at one another and at Jim. "Are they still looking for you? How safe is it for you to be here?"
"Safe enough, Chief. Between us we took care of everything." Jim's hand was warm on the smaller man's shoulder, giving him a sense of stability that hadn't been there just a moment earlier.
"That's why none of this goes out of this house." The mayor spoke up. She smiled, it was nearly as dangerous a smile as the one he'd seen on Jim's face earlier. "Cascade needs Jim's abilities to stay secret. Without them, most of the city would be a bloody war zone. Everyone here understands that. We also understand why he needs you as his partner and will do everything possible to help both of you.
"How you want to handle your dissertation, is completely up to you, Mr. Sandburg." She continued, obviously enjoying the fact that she was getting to reveal the final parts of their surprise. "Between the notes gathered by Fortaleza and Ellison, you have enough to publish your dissertation on sentinels. You can do it using the names of two men who are supposedly dead, killed along with their families by a government trying to force them to do its dirty work. If you take that route, the university will bury the dissertation deep in bowels of its artifacts room. Or the university has agreed to accept a dissertation on closed societies with the police department as the main subject. Either way leaves you the option to continue teaching along side working with Ellison."
Blair stared at the mayor and then looked around the room. His friends had pulled off a miracle. "But... what about Jim's identity?"
"I'd have to be one of the unnamed subjects, Chief. At best one of the ones with only a couple of senses working on a sentinel level." Jim's voice rumbled in his ear. He loosened his grip to rub lightly at the tense shoulder. "You don't have to make your decision right now, either. You have some time to think about it."
'This is so great. I can't believe you went to all this trouble." Blair's voice choked off suddenly.
"You gave me my life back. I wanted to give you yours."
Well, I hope you liked it. NO, I will not tell you which dis Blair writes. That's for your imagination and your muses. Thanks for all the encouragement.
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