This is it. Number 100. I did it! It's only the third, and I'm finished. Success. 100 stories on Wolfpup's site in two years. There are three other stories in a different fandom on another site, and one in a zine, so that means that I've averaged one story per week for two years. Wow. I've impressed myself. ;]
Once again, this is using the work of others as its basis. I am still grateful that their owners have seen fit to let us be with the use of their intellectual property. My gratitude goes out to the folks from Pet Fly, who thought up the concept, and to Paramount for funding it as a series (despite network idiots who didn't know a cash cow when they had one... how much have you spent on this obsession, hmmmm?). And, most of all, I'm thankful to Wolfpup for providing a home on the web for all these ramblings. Not to worry, I've still got more stories to go. In fact, the Hunter crossover was in hot contention for this particular spot, but I decided to do this one, first. There's actually another one that's finished, but it won't be able to be posted in time, and really, the original form of this one was finished almost a year ago. I hope you like it, it's somewhat different from what I usually write. I may come back later and add some more to it, some polish and maybe a few more scenes, but for now, well, here it is.
I'd also like to dedicate this to everyone who has ever read one of my stories and written to encourage me. You know who you are. Some of you have become friends (and you know who you are, too), and that's probably the very best thing that's come from this fandom. It truly is about friendship.
This is AU. Set about fifty years from now. Cloning and gene splicing has become commonplace, although most of the gene splicing is done by the government. They've been working on creating the perfect soldier...
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"In ancient tribal cultures, each tribe had what was known as a Sentinel, a man with enhanced senses whose job it was to stand guard for the tribe, keep track of the movement of game and enemies. His helper in this endeavor was generally the Shaman of the tribe, whose job it was to assist the Sentinel in using his gifts. The two were bonded for life, dedicated to the protection of the tribe.
"As various cultures became more 'civilized', the newer, stronger groups would attack their more backward neighbors, and the first thing they would do is destroy the Sentinels and their Guides. Thus was lost the genetic material that made up the original guardians of mankind."
--Excerpt from "Sentinels, the Mythology and Reality" Doctoral Thesis, by Blair Sandburg, June, 2050
Genetically Engineered People (GEP), Inc. was what the sign said. The people who worked there knew better. What they created in their gene-splicing labs weren't people, oh, sure, they looked human, had all human working parts, but they weren't people. Not really. They didn't have any rights. They couldn't do anything but what their owners told them to do, just like clones, only each one was an original. Eventually, they all ended up in some surgical hospital for recycling: spare parts for the real people.
"I thought this one was going to be perfect."
"He was, until this last mission. Something about the isolation set off some sort of dormant, recessive genes. He's effectively useless to us now. It's too bad. He was definitely the best one. Fast, strong, smart, and loyal as a dog. Just about perfect."
"Yeah. The operative word being was."
"So, what do we do with him? The genetics team doesn't want to work on him any more. Say it's too difficult, too costly. They want to start over."
"Forty years down the drain."
"Not really. There are a lot of things we got right with him. We have a number of similar prototypes. It's just that he was, well, he was just so damned loyal..."
"I know. It's what made this one really special. So. What do we do with him? Recycle?"
"No. I was thinking of donating him to this man." He held up an e-mail. It was a poster, seeking any and all assistance for the Cascade, Washington Police Department. They were so close to the Canadian border that it was a prime spot for various felons to set up shop and they desperately needed help in maintaining law and order. "If he doesn't have too many of those blackouts, he should be perfect."
With a little more research, it was decided. The fate of their, to date, best military splice was sealed. He was given his orders and sent on his way.
"The Army is sending one of its splices to us for our use. According to the datapak, he's exceptional. Although, they say he's had problems with some kind of blacking out since he got back from South America. Some kind of mission left him stranded and alone down there for nearly three years. They can't put him in the field, but thought we might be able to use his unique abilities."
"At this point, I'll take any help I can get. So, what's the catch?"
"Well, they signed him over to you, personally."
The tall black man frowned as he chewed on his unlit cigar. "Why?"
"Because of your e-mail poster. He's all yours."
"Wonderful. When's he due in?"
"Well, let me take a look through the file. Maybe there will be some clue as to how we can use a defective splice." Captain Simon Banks muttered. Smiling at the Police Chief, he took the offered bio-file and retreated to his office to do some quick research.
"Dr. Sandburg?" Simon Banks was a number of years out of college. He was uncomfortable in the halls of academia after such a long absence, having gotten his degree by the time he was twenty, going into the military for his required two years of service and coming out an MP and straight into the police department.
"Hi. You must be Captain Banks?" The young man didn't look old enough to have a PHD in one discipline, let alone, two. He barely came up to the Captain's shoulder, had thick, curly, shoulder length, brown hair and wore classic grunge clothing from the last century, very retro, very chic.
"Yes. Thank you for seeing me. Did you get a chance to read the file?"
"As a matter of fact, I did. I can't believe you found my diss on the subject. I mean, it is quite a ways off the beaten path." He smiled up at the extremely tall black man and indicated a chair. Banks sat down.
"Well, one of my men, Detective Rafe, took one of your anthro classes and when we had a meeting on the new acquisition, volunteered the information that you might be able to help us deal with the new splice."
"Well, from what I've read in the file you sent me, I think I just might be able to help you. You can't imagine how exciting it is for me to contemplate finding a real, live Sentinel. I mean, the odds..."
"Well, he is a splice. My guess is, that along with all the dominant genes that they were looking for, they picked up a few extremely recessive genes, as well."
"Well, the file indicates that he was isolated in the South American rain forest for nearly three years. Sole survivor of his unit. Destroying an entire drug operation single-handed. Remarkable. It also indicates that he took up with some of the local aborigines. I'm a little surprised he wanted to come back."
"Well, I did talk to one of his handlers. He said that this particular splice was their favorite because he was so loyal. I guess the loyalty gene is one that's giving them trouble."
"Well, it could be linked to the Sentinel abilities. It would make sense."
"So, are you interested in taking it on?" The captain was careful to keep any hope out of his voice.
The young man looked up at him, an enormous smile gracing his expressive face. "Oh, man. You bet. So, when does he arrive?"
"He's at the local splice shop. I'm going over there to meet him and arrange for his work schedule."
"Cool. Let's go."
The term splice shop was a misnomer. It looked more like a mental institution, than anything else. The residents were kept locked up except when released to go to work. The two men were shown to a conference room, where they waited for the splice to be brought to them.
He stood uncertainly in the doorway. His eyes quickly taking in the two men who were waiting for him. "Captain Banks?" His voice was soft for such a big man. Not as tall as the Captain, but obviously well designed. Physically, he was damned near perfect. An easy six-foot- one, perfectly proportioned and muscled as only the best of the splices could be. Handsome, as well. Older than Banks had expected. The splice had to be pushing forty.
"I'm Banks. You the splice?" He wasn't trying to be cruel, although both men noticed the faint flinch of the muscles around the eyes of the stranger at the term.
"Ellison. My designator is Ellison, James Joseph."
JJ model, E class. Meaning that there were thirty-five others before him. That he was in the fifth group of splices, the thirty-sixth member.
"Ellison." Banks replied, accepting the name. "You know what's going on?"
"Yes, sir. I've been deemed...unreliable." No emotion showing. The nearly perfect automaton.
"Well, not so unreliable that they recycled you." Banks answered.
"Yes, sir." His posture was perfect. Standing at attention, eyes forward.
"Won't you sit down, Mr. Ellison?" The smaller man asked. He watched as the pale blue eyes flickered toward him momentarily.
"Thank you, Sir." He pulled out a chair and sat down, still at attention.
"Tell me about your time in South America." The smaller man asked. His voice was soft, his eyes bright with intelligence and excitement.
"We were sent in to scrub a series of drug labs. They were aware of our arrival and shot down the helicopter in which my team and I were coming. My team and the pilot were killed or terminally injured on impact. I was thrown free. When I regained consciousness, the chopper had burned, killing any possible survivors. I continued my mission. I was found by a local indigenous group who took me in, tended my wounds and taught me their language. When I recovered, I continued my mission. With the aid of the locals. They..." He stopped.
"They what?" The longhaired man asked softly.
"They were quite willing to assist." He didn't add any more. "After thirty-two months, a team was sent in to track the downed chopper and brought me back."
"Didn't you want to stay in the jungle with the tribe that adopted you?"
"I know my duty, sir." Not a single flicker of emotion.
"Tell me about your senses."
"Sir?" A faint line of worry appearing between his eyes.
"Your senses. Tell me about how they've changed."
"I..." He clamped his mouth shut and swallowed hard. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "I seem to have some kind of sensory spikes, where my vision, hearing, all my senses seem to... to..." He stopped, not knowing how to explain it.
"See too far? Smell what no one else can smell? Hear faint sounds that are inaudible to anyone else? Taste minute quantities of things, feel every fiber in your clothing?" The young doctor asked, leaning forward.
The splice looked up, awe the only possible description of his expression. "How?"
"It's one of my fields of study. Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Blair Sandburg. I'm an anthropologist, and a sociologist. I teach at Rainier University. Captain Banks, here, has asked me to see if I can help you. My anthro diss was on Sentinels. Ancient tribal guardians who had enhanced senses. The only problem is, Sentinels had to have a partner, a Guide, who kept them grounded, kept them from zoning out on any one sense."
"I don't understand?"
"He means that your time in isolation brought out these latent, recessive genes. A natural by- product of your splicing."
"I...see." He waited, knowing that there had to be more.
"So, I need to run some tests, see just how sensitive you are. Then, we just may be able to help you deal with your abilities, keep you functional."
Not to mention useful, alive... "What do you want me to do?"
First of all, they checked him out of the splice house for the rest of the day. Captain Banks returned to his office, once he was certain that the splice... Ellison wasn't a danger to the smaller man. He had been a bit reluctant to leave his splice in the care of the academic, but realized rapidly that there seemed to be no danger from the genetically engineered ex-soldier.
"So, Ellison, how many pixels in the newspaper photo?"
"Fourteen thousand, approximately, Sir."
"Very good. Thirteen thousand seven hundred and eighty-four, to be exact." Smiling. This guy was good.
"Sorry. I'll try and be more precise."
"No, no. That's OK, you were close enough. You did fine." He was quick to reassure his subject. "Approximations are fine. I just wanted to know if you could actually see the pixels. I can't unless I use a magnifying glass. You did it from three feet away. That's fine. Don't worry. I'll let you know if you need to be more precise, OK?"
"Uh, look. I have a little trouble with being called 'sir' by people who are older than I am. Is it all right if I call you Jim? You can call me Blair."
"Great. So, let's try something a little more difficult."
Over the next three weeks, Dr. Sandburg ran every test he could think of to determine the parameters of the splice's abilities. He also discovered that the zone-out factor was severe. And that he, himself, was James Ellison's Guide.
"I'm sorry, Captain Banks. I didn't even think about it. Had I any idea that this would happen, I'd have had you provide a candidate to bond him with. He learns really fast, nearly photographic memory, and his intuitive skills are phenomenal. I'd like to try him out in the field."
"Well, I have just the case. At first, it looked like a murder suicide, but the apparent shooter hasn't fired a gun."
"Which makes it murder." He looked up at the captain. "So? Let's get him and try him out."
"There's a smell...uh, kinda perfumy." He closed his eyes, concentrating...
"Jim. Come on back Jim. Easy, man. Breathe for me here, man. Breathe... in... out. That's good."
He opened his eyes. "Lavender. It's lavender oil."
"Good. That's good, Jim." He glanced over at the concerned expression on the captain's face. "Now, what I need you to do, is, can you track the scent?" He smiled when the splice nodded.
"Yes, Sir." He cast around, looking almost like a dog, sniffing things. Finally, he traced the faint odor to the neighbor's house. "Whoever it was came here." He cocked his head to one side. "They're inside."
Banks took over, knocking on the door. Suddenly, the splice lunged at the larger police captain, pushing him out of the way. He had no sooner knocked him to the porch, than a shotgun blast took out the front door at chest level, peppering the two men with debris. Doctor Sandburg ducked off to the side and watched in awe as the splice lunged to his feet and attacked their assailant.
It was over in seconds. The splice simply grabbed the shotgun from their suspect and wrenched it from her hands, spinning and sweeping out one foot to knock her down. By the time he stepped back with the shotgun, the other officers had had a chance to react and swarmed the woman who had nearly taken out their captain.
Banks stood up, shocked and amazed by what had just happened and how close he had come to dying. He looked in awe at his splice. "Good work, Ellison." He shook his head as it took three men to subdue the maniacal woman, "Thanks."
The splice blinked in surprise. Sandburg noticed. "What? No one's ever said 'thank you' before?"
"No, Sir. Not to me." Turning his puzzled blue gaze to the smaller man.
"Well, get used to it." Banks told him.
Over the next six months, the team of Ellison and Sandburg managed to solve more cases, find more evidence, and track more people than the rest of the department, combined. Their reputation had a large contingent of criminals deciding to relocate to less protected climes. Every afternoon, after Dr. Sandburg was finished at the University, he picked up the splice from the institution and headed for the police station. There were a few officers who went out of their way to give them a hard time, but Ellison ignored them, and Sandburg simply dazzled them with his intelligence, getting quite a kick out of using his enormous vocabulary to put them down, without his opponents realizing what had happened. Fortunately, the members of Major Crime, Captain Banks' team, accepted the unusual pair. After all, there was no arguing with success. And any way they could get more bad guys off the street was fine by them.
"Doctor." He smiled at the young man, pleased, once again, that another major bad guy was off the street.
"I want to take him out of the splice house. He doesn't belong there."
"Doesn't... Sandburg, Doctor, he's a splice. Why wouldn't he belong there?"
"Because he's more than just some... genetically engineered clone."
"Look, I know that there's a movement out there to emancipate clones and splices, but until the laws actually..."
"You can emancipate him." The doctor raised his chin, challenging the older man.
"But why would I want to?"
"Because it's the right thing to do. He won't go anywhere. You're paying the splice house a whole lot more than you would pay him as an officer. It's cost effective, it's morally right."
"But not legally required."
"How long has your family been here?"
The tall black man stared at the short, white, anthropologist. "Low blow."
"It's been just under two hundred years since your ancestors were freed in this country. It's the only way I can get him away from the splice house. He's not some... tool, to be taken out and used, abused, and then put back until needed again. He's still a human being." He leaned forward and grasped the arm of the man sitting across the table from him. "Please?"
Simon gazed at the younger man for several minutes, mentally going over the previous six months and how much better things were, what with the combination of Sandburg's fresh perspective and Ellison's exceptional abilities.
"Have you seen him since he got out of the hospital?" Banks finally asked.
"No. I've been busy with finals at the university. Have you?"
"No. Why don't we go over and see what he thinks. He might not want to leave the splice house, you know."
"Yeah. Like a horse running back into a burning barn because they think of that as someplace they've been safe." Sandburg's tone expressed his disdain of the splice house.
They were both familiar with the splice house. They weren't even checked in, any more, when they came in. Making their way down the silent halls towards Jim's quarters, Blair made an observation.
"Have you ever noticed how cold it is in here?" He shivered and drew his coat closer about him.
Simon laughed. "Yeah, it is a little chilly. Did you drive him back here when he was released?"
"Yes, but they had to come and help him in. He still couldn't walk without help. I think he should have been in the hospital longer than three days, Simon."
The captain nodded. "I have to agree. That was a nasty wound," then he shrugged, "But the doctors are supposed to know what they're doing."
They arrived at Jim's room. Punching in the code, Blair opened the door, and recoiled from the coldness and stench that came from within.
"What the...?" Simon Banks pushed through the door and came to a halt, staring at the figure in the bed.
The room couldn't have been more than fifty degrees Fahrenheit. The man on the twin-sized bed was lying face down, the lower, fitted sheet, brought up and wrapped somewhat around the still form. The top sheet was carefully folded to provide the most insulation possible, with four layers of fabric over the feet and the rest carefully tucked around his body, even to covering his head. His arms were tucked close to his body and his hands were under his face providing support, as he had no pillow.
Blair carefully approached, for a moment unsure whether the figure was even alive. Watching closely, he could see the slight movement of breathing. Carefully pulling back the sheet, he realized that the man was totally naked, and that some of the stench they smelled was from the fact that the man had soiled himself.
"Oh, my God..." Simon whispered. "What the hell?"
Blair checked Jim's pulse, finding it slow and thready. "Simon, call an ambulance." He checked the soiled bandage covering the wound on Jim's right thigh, recognizing it for the same one he'd been sent home from the hospital with.
"They haven't changed his dressing and where are his clothes?" He looked around the room, realizing that there was no place for Jim's clothing to be stored. Rising, he gathered the sheets and used them to clean up the unconscious man, then he went into the bathroom... and realized that prisoners in the local jail had better facilities than this.
"There's no hot water, just cold." He growled. Simon followed him into the bathroom. Picking up one of the two small handtowels, he soaked one and wrung it out.
"Ambulance should be here in ten. Let's get him cleaned up as much as we can, Blair."
When the ambulance arrived, they had managed to get him cleaned up. The paramedics did their assessment and quickly started an IV to provide fluids for the dehydrated man. "He's pretty sick." One paramedic said, "That leg is badly infected. Let's transport." They quickly loaded him on a gurney and headed out.
Blair looked around. Meeting Simon's eyes, which showed the same horror and rage as he was feeling, he spoke. "He can't come back here, Simon. You can't make him stay here any more. I have room at my place. He can stay with me. Please, Simon. He... he might die." There was a plaintive plea in his voice.
"You're right. He won't be coming back here, Sandburg. There is no way he will ever come back here."
"Thank you, Simon."
The captain let the staff at the splice house know of his annoyance at the treatment of his property. After threatening legal action, they were more than happy to find Ellison's clothing, particularly after Simon mentioned that his records had maintained each and every bill they had sent him for clothing they had ostensibly bought his splice. They had originally attempted to hand him only the duffel bag Jim had arrived with.
Loading the splice's belongings in the trunk of his sedan, Simon murmured to Blair, "Remind me to file charges and have them investigated for neglect, would you?"
"Oh, I'll be sure to remind you of that. You don't suppose it was deliberate, do you?" Blair lifted his concerned gaze to the older man.
"God, I hope not. If it was... Let's go to the hospital and see how he is, all right?"
"Sounds like a great idea to me."
Upon arrival at the hospital, they were directed to a waiting room, where they were told that a doctor would be in to see them soon. After an hour and a half, Blair couldn't wait any more and went searching for his Sentinel. Simon thought nothing of the smaller man's concern. It was SOP as far as he was concerned, seeing one partner worry about the other. However, knowing and accepting it also made him rise and follow the younger man, just in case.
What they found infuriated them both, yet again. Ellison was still lying in a corridor, unseen by a doctor. The paramedics had listed him as a splice, which meant that a hangnail on a 'real' person would be treated before life-threatening injuries to the splice would be looked at.
Between Dr. Sandburg's verbal fury and threats and Captain Banks' imposing size and threats of legal action, a doctor, or rather, an interne was found to finally treat him.
"He's badly dehydrated." The interne stated, glancing nervously at the two men who insisted on observing.
"No shit." The shorter one declared. "He's got a raging fever, his leg-wound is badly infected, probably the source of the aforementioned fever, and he has hypothermia. Now, I'm not a medical doctor, but even I know that any one of those things is life threatening. If he dies, I'm going to own this hospital and everyone in it, do you understand?"
"Uh, yes, Sir. Um, let me go and get..."
"Use the phone." The tall, imposing black man said, unwilling to allow him to escape.
"Uh, yeah. Phone. Right."
A few minutes later, a doctor arrived, annoyed that his coffee break had been interrupted. "What is it, Davis?" He glanced at the chart, "It's a splice, man. Don't worry about it. Although, with that infection it won't be any use to us for parts. Just...urk!"
Captain Banks couldn't remember the last time he'd felt the urge to kill someone, if he ever had. But this man, this doctor was pushing his button.
"That splice is my best detective. He was here two weeks ago with a gunshot wound to the leg, he was treated and released, even though we all thought he should have been hospitalized longer than three days. He couldn't even stand up without help, but we took him back to the splice house. We went to check on how he was doing a few hours ago and found him unconscious, hypothermic, and with a raging fever. We called the paramedics who brought him here. Now, he's been here for more than two hours and he wasn't even looked at until we came looking for him, and even then they sent us this pup to take care of him. Wisely, he called you. Now, if you don't want the Cascade PD to find another hospital to handle our injuries, I suggest you do your very best to first of all, save him, second, make him very comfortable, third, provide him the best care of any patient you have ever had. Because if you don't, I can guarantee that you have violated your contract with the city and we will find another hospital to give us the care we need." He used every inch of his imposing six-foot-four-inch height to intimidate the smaller doctor. "Do you understand me?"
The doctor was nonplussed. The reason that they got away with minimal treatment of splices was that no one had ever cared enough to demand more. The problem was, if they changed to accommodate this splice, how long would it be before they would have to treat all splices like real people? "I'm sorry, but the hospital's policy is..."
"I called this in as an 'officer down'. You treat him like you do every other cop who comes through here, or I swear that by the time we're through, we'll own this hospital and every one of your contracts. I guarantee that you do not want to work for me, not after this."
The doctor realized that he wasn't going to win this one, and grudgingly capitulated. "Very well. Now, if you gentlemen will wait out in the..."
The doctor looked at the shorter man in surprise. "I beg your pardon?"
"Sure, I'll pardon your begging. After what we've seen so far, there is no way we are going to leave him to your tender mercies without watching your every move." Blair's glare was equal to his much larger companion's, giving the doctor the distinct impression that this man was quite possibly far more dangerous to him than the police captain.
There really was no option, "Very well. You may remain." His pompous tone only serving to make him look foolish to the interne.
They ended up having to go into surgery to repair the damage the infection had done to Jim's leg. The initial incision in his thigh to remove the bullet had festered to the point that the stitches had rotted out. They had to abrade the damaged muscles and clean the pus out clear down to his femur. Then they had to use dissolving stitches to repair the muscle damage and finally finished with a skin graft from his other leg to close the wound.
It took them nearly six hours, but finally, they prepared to put him in a room. A splice room.
Blair was practically growling in his anger. "Look at this," he muttered, glaring around the room. "Those sheets are so threadbare that I'm willing to bet you can read through them. That 'blanket' is a joke. And why is it so damned cold in here?" He shivered and drew his coat closer.
Simon searched and finally found a thermostat, which showed that the temperature was set at fifty-five degrees. Without any concern for hospital policies or conservation, he turned it up to a more comfortable seventy-two degrees.
"Let's see if that helps any."
Realizing that unless one of them were present at all times, Jim wasn't safe here, Simon finally agreed to go, promising to return later to relieve the younger man.
Blair was nearly dozing when an orderly came in to check on the patient. He was surprised to find anyone there. "Excuse me, mon, but what you doin' here?" His soft Caribbean accent showing his confusion.
"Oh, hi. I'm Blair Sandburg. Jim's my..."
"Ah, the owner." The dark skinned man nodded knowingly.
"No. I don't own him. I just work with him. He's my partner."
"We work for the police department. He's a detective and I'm his partner."
"You're a splice, too? You don't look like any splice I ever seen."
Blair laughed at the man's obvious confusion. "I'm sorry. I'm Dr. Blair Sandburg. The Ph.D.s are in Anthropology and Sociology. Jim's the subject of some research I'm doing."
"Oh. A researcher." There was a tone of something akin to dislike in the man's tone.
"Uh, sometimes. So, who are you?" Blair watched as the man checked Jim's vitals and marked his chart. From his dress, Blair could tell that the man was just an orderly and wondered why a resident, or at least an interne, wasn't doing this.
"Mah name is Marc St. Mary." Seeing the questions in the other man's eyes, he explained, "De hospital don' want to spend any more money on splices den dey have to, so I get to take care of dem after they come out of surgery." He was surprised at the way the other man's jaw's clenched with the look of anger. "It de hospital policy, mon. Nothin' personal."
"But it's very personal. Why was the thermostat set at fifty-five?"
"Standard splice settin'." He shrugged. "I think that maybe it's to keep dem cold so dat dey don't have any extra energy to maybe escape."
"Escape?" Blair seemed surprised by the notion.
"Sure. Splices are notoriously unstable. Dey been known to kill dey handlers. De owners say it wit'out provocation, but I has my doubts, you know?" He checked Jim's bandages, gently removing the one over the area they had taken the skin graft from and coating the wound with a bright, almost fluorescent yellow, salve; then he gently rebandaged it. Glancing over at the man who was watching his every move with concern, he added, "Why you tink de splice houses make dem sleep naked an lock dem in all de time?"
"That explains a great deal. Like why Jim was always ready to go when I arrived, and if he wasn't, I'd be detained at the front desk while he was 'found' and brought out. That really sucks, man." The more he was learning about splices and their care, the less he liked it and the more he felt the need to help change things. A slight smile crossed his face as he thought of his mother and how Naomi would be so very thrilled with his desire to fight this particular injustice...even if Jim was a cop.
"Sure. It's also why dey give de splices de old sheets an blankets. It don't matter. Dey only spare parts, so far as dey concerned." There was bitterness in his voice.
"When a splice is sent to be 'recycled'. How is that handled?"
The warm brown eyes of the orderly turned sad. "Dey know, you know? Dey know when dey come here dey gonna die. Dey scared, you know? Dey got no hope. But dey don know how to cry, neither. I don work wit dem. I won't. It too hard, knowin' dat dose poor people gonna die to provide parts for rich folks who gots more money den soul." He shook his head. "Dis one, now. Dey goin' nuts up dere. Dey want him to go away, but dey afraid if he die." He cast a calculating look at he long-haired man sitting beside the bed, "I guess you got sompin to do wit dat?"
"Well, me and Captain Banks." Seeing Marc's curiosity, he continued. "Jim got hurt on the job a couple of weeks ago. He came here with a bullet wound to his leg," he gestured to the wound Marc was now tending, "Three days later, they released him and I took him back to the splice house. I had no idea how they would treat him there, or I would never have taken him back. They put him in his room, took his clothes, turned the thermostat down and left him. From what I can tell, they didn't even feed him. What water he got came from the hole they call a bathroom, and when we found him, he was close to dying. Then, the hospital here, wasn't doing anything for him. We went looking for him when we hadn't heard anything for more than two hours and found him being ignored in a hallway. We went a little nuts and made them take care of him. Simon had to go in to the station and do some stuff, so I'm staying here until he gets back." He looked at the care with which Marc was tending his patient and continued.
"Despite how good you may take care of the splices in your care, we're not going to trust the hospital not to do something to him."
Marc nodded. "Good for you, mon. Dat de best way, you know. Keep watch yourself. Will you and your captain be able to handle it all? It gonna be a while before he be well enough to leave here. You know hospital policy only let splices stay three days?"
"Not this time." Both men looked up at the comment, not having heard the door open.
"Hey, Simon. Everything all right?" Blair asked, yawning. He'd been here fourteen hours and was starting to feel the effects.
"Yeah. The rest of the crew have decided that they want to help. I'll be taking the next six hours, while you go home and get some sleep, then Brown will cover for four, followed by..."
"Me. Finals are over, Simon. I have two weeks free. I plan on staying here with him, at least until he wakes up and we can talk."
"Tomorrow, Sandburg. I need you to go home and get some rest. How do you think he'll feel if he wakes up to find you exhausted and bleary-eyed? We can take care of him for the next twenty-four hours. Let us. After all..."
"Yeah, I know. He does belong to you." There was disgust in his tone. Simon understood that it was directed at the situation, not at him.
"Maybe on paper, but we both know who he's bonded to. I promise, if he wakes up, everyone knows that you're the first one to call, certainly before they call a doctor. Will that satisfy your need to protect him?"
Blair grinned, tiredly. "I guess it will have to. Oh, I'm sorry. Captain Simon Banks, this is Marc St. Mary, he's they guy they stick with taking care of the splices. He informs me that the hospital policy is to only keep splices for three days before releasing them. There is absolutely no way that Jim is going to be ready to leave the hospital for at least a week. Particularly since he's still got a fever and hasn't regained consciousness yet."
"Is that what's got you so concerned?" Simon asked, his own concern furrowing his brow.
"Not really. His vitals are good, his breathing is fine. I think he's just sleeping his way back to health. I know that when I'm sick, all I want to do is sleep. I figure he's probably doing the same thing."
"Or, maybe, he just trying to escape." Marc said softly, as he finished rebandaging the larger wound on Jim's right leg.
"What do you mean?" Simon asked, worriedly.
"Sometimes, splices who get hurt, dey try to stay asleep to escape de pain. If dey been hurtin' long enough, sometimes dey decide not to wake up... ever." He was surprised at their concern.
"Then that's all the more reason I need to be here." Blair looked up at Simon. Seeing his implacable glare, he capitulated. "Fine. I'll go home, shower, get something to eat and then get some sleep. But I'm going to come back first thing in the morning, and you're not going to stop me, Simon."
"I wouldn't think to try, Sandburg. Just try not to hurt any of my people when you come back, understand?"
It was mid-afternoon the following day before Blair woke up. Shocked at the time, he hurried through his morning shower and breakfast. He didn't bother with calling anyone to warn them that he was coming, but simply headed for the hospital, after gathering several things he decided he needed to take with him. Looking around the converted warehouse he called his home, he thought about where and how he could provide for his Sentinel. Simon was right, Jim might legally belong to the captain, but even Simon was aware that Jim and Blair were a bonded team.
Arriving at the hospital, Blair didn't bother to stop off anywhere, heading directly to Jim's room. Opening the door, he was pleased to note that the temperature was only a few degrees cooler than the rest of the hospital. Inside, he found two officers sitting quietly, playing cards. He hadn't actually worked with either of them, and had to struggle to remember their names.
"Hey, Captain Taggart, Detective Connor." He smiled, setting the two duffel bags he was carrying down on the floor by the bed where his Sentinel still slept.
"Dr. Sandburg." The large black captain smiled at him. "Did you get some rest?"
"Oh, yeah. I just woke up about an hour ago. Any sign of waking up?"
"Not yet. The hospital admin tried to turn the thermostat down, but we stopped them."
"Yeah," Megan's soft Australian accent agreed, "I told them that if they touched that control that I'd personally shred them into little pieces and feed them to the crocs." She smiled at the surprised consultant. "Hey, I've been here long enough to understand how valuable he is to us. There's no way I'm going to let some insipid little corporate weenie do anything to hurt one of our own."
"Thanks, Megan, isn't it?" One of the things Jim had teased him about was his inability to avoid flirting with any pretty young woman, and this one was beautiful in a warm, earthy, natural way.
"I'm surprised you know that, Dr. Sandburg." She flirted back.
"It's Blair, and I always learn the names of important people, don't I Joel?" He tore his gaze from the young woman and turned toward the grinning Bomb Squad captain.
"Yeah, you do, Blair," he agreed. "Well, I need to get home. I'll see you all later. Blair, take care of Jim and let me know if you need anything, all right?"
"I will, thanks, Joel." The big man smiled knowingly at Megan as he patted the younger man on the shoulder.
"He's going to be OK, Blair. I think that if you start talking to him, he'll probably wake up just to tell you to shut up and let him sleep."
"Funny, man." Blair grinned back.
When the big man left, Blair turned to check for himself how his partner was doing, ignoring Megan.
"His fever's broken." She informed him. He glanced at her and felt Jim's face, pleased that it had cooled to a normal temperature.
"You're right. Hey, Jim? Jim? It's me, Blair. I need you to come back, now. Can you wake up for me?" He gently patted the unconscious man's face, watching for any sign from his friend.
Megan watched as Blair worked on his partner, trying to waken him. Realizing that he was no longer aware of her presence, she gathered her purse and coat and slipped quietly out.
When Jim showed no signs of wakening, he gave up and sat down to watch and wait. Pulling a chair up close beside the bed, he lifted Jim's right hand, the one without the IV in it, and held it, gently stroking the back of the hand or simply clasping it in both of his.
Warmth. Not the feverish heat that had left him shivering for so long, that had made him use the last of his strength trying to protect himself from the cold by carefully folding his sheets to provide as much protection as he could; this was honest to goodness warmth. The agony of his injured leg was no more than a dull ache of healing muscles. He frowned, feeling a similar ache in his left leg. Curiously, he wondered what was causing it. His right hand was being held in a soft grip as well. Finally, his curiosity overcame his desire to remain in the warm darkness and he opened his eyes.
The lights were subdued and the smells indicated that he was in a hospital. It was too warm for a normal splice room, for which he was grateful. The gentle grip on his hand turned out to be his handler, Dr. Sandburg. He smiled at the idea of his handler's concern. Gently disengaging his hand, he stroked the soft curls that spread across the bed as the younger man slept.
"Hey, Chief?" His voice was barely a harsh whisper, but it was enough to wake his companion.
Lifting his head, Blair met Jim's pale blue eyes with his own, darker blue. "Hey, Jim. Welcome back, man. You had us pretty worried, there, for a while."
Jim's left hand, the one with the IV in it, gently rubbed the fabric covering his body. He'd never felt anything like it before. Raising his head a few inches, he looked at it, puzzled. "What's this?" he asked, plucking at the colorful fabric.
"That's an afghan. It's a crocheted blanket," he explained. Marc had laughed at him when he'd come in the day before and seen the things Blair had brought in. He had a set of knit cotton sheets for the bed, along with a cotton thermal blanket and the crocheted afghan. Despite his amusement, he'd been more than willing to help change the bedding, understanding Blair's desire to provide comfort and warmth for his splice.
Jim's fingers felt below the afghan bypassing the blanket and feeling the soft knit sheets. Still puzzled, he lifted up the covers so he could take a better look. "Soft," he commented, not comprehending.
"Yeah. No bleach, either. That junk they had you sleeping on reeked with it, man. I figured that the smell alone was enough to drive your sinuses crazy. I brought these from home. I thought..." he trailed off, seeing the wonder in Jim's face.
"I... thank you." Jim didn't have any idea what else to say. No one had ever shown him any such consideration before. It had never occurred to him to ever complain about his treatment at the splice house. He was quite familiar with the normal life as a splice. With nothing to compare it to, he had simply accepted it as normal.
Blair smiled, "You're welcome. So, how are you feeling, really?"
"My leg aches, why does the other one hurt, though?"
"They had to take a skin graft to repair the damage from the infection. You were in surgery for almost six hours. That was three days ago." Blair informed him.
"Oh." He was obviously thinking, "Wouldn't it have just been easier to..." he swallowed hard, lifting worried eyes to his handler.
"Simon and I stood over them and made them take proper care of you. They didn't want to do anything." He shook his head, still angry, "You're going to be all right, though. Now."
"Thank you." He couldn't comprehend why his handler or owner should be so concerned with his welfare.
"Why didn't they take better care of you at the splice house, Jim?" Jim just looked at him.
"From what I could tell, when we found you, your dressing hadn't been changed in the two weeks since I dropped you off, and you had a raging fever, you were dehydrated, and hypothermic. It looked as though you had been surviving on the water you got from the bathroom sink. I gotta tell you, man. We were not very happy with them. On top of all that, they tried to just give us the clothes you arrived with and keep all the stuff the department bought you for work. What was with that?"
Jim just looked at him, trying to understand, "I'm sorry. That was my fault. I couldn't get up to go to meals, so..."
"Wait a minute, Jim. Are you trying to take the blame for them not taking care of you? That's bullshit, man. With the money they charge to 'maintain' you, you should be living like a prince, not some animal kept in a cage." Seeing the worry in his Sentinel's eyes, he forced himself to calm down. The injured man hardly needed him to snarl and snap at him when he was already worried about the 'trouble' he was causing.
Taking Jim's right hand in both of his, he gently squeezed, "It's not your fault, Jim." Seeing the doubtful expression on the splice's face, he added, "It. Is. Not. Your. Fault. If anything, it's mine and Captain Banks', for not checking on you. I got side-tracked with finals and he just stayed busy at the station. I'm sorry. You don't deserve to be treated like that."
"Why not?" Ignoring everything else and focusing on the last sentence, he gazed confusedly at his Guide.
"Why not? Because you're a human being, man, not some..."
"Splice? A thing? A possession? Of course I am. I'm a tool you take out of the box to use and when you're through, you put me back. That's how it works, Chief."
Blair gaped. He knew that Jim was only saying what he believed, but still...
"We're going to have to do a little remedial work on your belief system, Jim."
"Why? I'm the one who knows what I am. You seem to be the one having a problem with it." There was nothing antagonistic in his tone, just honest puzzlement.
"We'll talk about this later, Jim. We're going to have a long talk and get some things straight, OK?"
Smiling, Jim shrugged. "Sure, Sir. Whatever you want." But his tone indicated that he was just humoring his handler.
Jim looked up, his expression one of expectancy. Blair, taking his cue from the splice, turned around in time to see the door open and admit Captain Banks.
Seeing that Jim was awake, he smiled. "Hey, it's about time you woke up, Sleeping Beauty." His voice was teasing.
Jim frowned, not understanding.
"Hey, Simon. How're things?" Blair asked, ignoring Jim's confusion.
"Well, it would appear that the bad guys are starting to figure out that Jim's under the weather and are a bit more active that I'd like." Seeing the worry and concern on the injured splice's face he hurried to reassure him, "We're holding our own. But everyone is asking about you, Jim. They miss you."
Jim's expression was doubtful. "Why?"
The question left both men speechless. Blair finally found his voice, "Because, Jim. You're a part of the team. A member of the group, a friend, a..."
"Oh, like a police dog?"
Simon and Blair exchanged hurt and unhappy looks, "No," Simon replied, "A friend, like all the members of the squad are." He had to bite his tongue to keep from asking 'didn't you know that?'
Jim just shook his head, not believing. He'd been a soldier since he was fifteen years old, working covert ops and Ranger missions for over twenty years. He'd never been any more than a splice, a tool for the use of people. He knew his place, even if his owner and handler didn't.
"We'll show you what we're talking about after you're better, Jim. You'll see." Blair gave a warning glare at Simon, who merely nodded and changed the subject.
"So, how are you feeling, Jim? You had us worried for a while, there."
"I'm sorry, Sir. I'll try to do better, next time." Jim broke eye contact, unwilling to see the angry disappointment he expected to see due to his failure.
"Well, with any luck, there won't be a next time, Jim." Simon said, gently. The atmosphere was strained and uncomfortable for all three of them, so Simon quickly made his good-byes and left, with the promise to return the next day.
Jim and Blair ran out of things to say to each other, and Blair encouraged Jim to sleep; with nothing better to do, he complied.
Twice, the hospital administration attempted to discharge the injured splice, stating hospital policy. Blair first countered with the fact that they couldn't possibly discharge someone who was still unconscious from surgery, not to mention suffering from a fever from the bacterial infection. They had no choice but to back down on that one. However, when he awoke, they again attempted to discharge him, and Simon had to forcibly explain that the splice house had been closed down due to improper care of its charges. With no splice house to send him to, they were forced to care for him for at least a few more days. Long enough for Blair to make preparations he needed to.
He looked around, letting his senses provide a security check, sniffing and finding no odors to irritate his sensitive sinuses. Not like the splice house, where everything was doused liberally with chlorine bleach, which not only burned his sinuses, but made his eyes sting and caused him to go to bed every night with a blinding headache. He carried his duffel bag over his shoulder, everything he possessed able to fit into one, solitary bag. He stood at attention, waiting to be told what to do, next.
"So, what do you think, Jim?" The doctor was bouncing on his toes, his heels nervously leaving the floor every second and a half.
"Are you afraid of me?"
"Afraid? No. Just glad to get you out of that place. You did want out, didn't you?"
"Yes. Thank you." He looked around, "It smells nice, Chief."
Blair smiled. Somewhere early in their relationship, the big splice had taken to calling him 'Chief'. He never explained why, only shrugging when asked, but it was a good indicator of his mood. When he was annoyed, worried, or afraid, he would become formal, calling him 'Sir', or 'Doctor'.
"Yeah. I don't use bleach, much. When we do, I'll make sure it's gone by the time we get home. OK?"
He stared at the younger man. "Yes." He couldn't figure out what was going on. Why this man was being so... so kind to him. What could he possibly want that he couldn't take from him, legally? He was perfectly aware that, as a splice, he had no rights as a human being. If this man wanted him to kill himself, he would be required by law to do so. He had a suspicion that the mission to South America had been just such a scenario. He hated feeling helpless and lost.
"Great. Well, follow me and I'll show you to your room." The enthusiastic young man led his new roommate toward the stairs to the third floor.
It was basically a separate apartment. The ceiling was all glass, as was one wall, which opened out on a balcony. There was a mezzanine area, which he could see was a bedroom, the lower level was a living room, with the bathroom directly under the bedroom. The splice looked around. He'd been maintained in barracks smaller than this.
"So, how do you like it?" Blair asked, uncertain.
"It's... big." The tall splice murmured.
"Well, so are you. It's all right, isn't it?"
"It's so... so open."
"I thought you might like the feeling of openness, no walls locking you in."
Their eyes met. The splice was confused. He couldn't read the expression on his mentor's face. "Why?" He asked, not understanding.
"Because you deserve it. You deserve a little freedom. I know you won't hurt me. I've seen how you react when you think someone just tries to hassle me, let alone if you think I'm in danger. I trust you, man."
"What?" Suddenly confused.
"I'm not a man, I'm a splice."
"You are a human being." Blair insisted. "No matter how you came to be, no matter if your genes have been tweaked and spliced and rearranged, you are still a man. One of the finest men I've ever met." He got right up into his larger companion's face to force his point across.
"I'm a splice. A piece of property. Why did you bring me here?"
"Because I want you here."
"Because you deserve better than the splice house, especially after they nearly killed you from neglect. You deserve to have your freedom. You're the best detective anyone has ever seen. You're a human crime lab with organic equipment. You can track almost as well as a bloodhound, you can see as well as an eagle, maybe better. You deserve anything I can get for you."
"Why?" He simply couldn't comprehend...
Blair stepped back in shock. "Because you're the embodiment of my dissertation. I never imagined that I could ever find anyone like you. I'll let you read my diss. Maybe that will help to explain things to you, OK?"
Jim looked at him, torn between hope and fear. "You can't be serious..." he whispered.
"Of course I can." He smiled ruefully, "Look, relax, unpack. Come downstairs when you're ready. Dinner's at seven, and Captain Banks is coming over. If you want me, I'll be in my room, it's at the other end of the hall." He turned and left the confused splice to his own devices.
He hadn't had this much freedom since he was stranded in South America, and he was at a loss for what to do. He'd always had someone to tell him what to do and when to do it. He carried his duffel bag upstairs to his bedroom and looked around. There was another bathroom up here, as well as a huge walk-in closet. He had a television, stereo, and even a VCR, not to mention cable. There was also a state-of-the-art computer system. The bed was king-size, a full seven feet square. Once he had emptied his duffel and put his clothes away, he looked around, wondering what to do. He'd never been allowed to sit on a bed unless he was about to lie down for sleep. He just stood there, wondering what to do...
"Hi, Simon. Welcome to my humble abode." Blair greeted his guest.
"Humble? If this is what you think of as humble, I'd hate to see what you consider pretentious." The big man chuckled.
"Well, originally, it was a warehouse. I just bought it and redesigned it to suit my needs."
"It's beautiful." The police captain admitted. "I'm impressed. You must have inherited a fortune."
"Nope. Made my fortune on my own. I got lucky and made some really good investments."
"I'd like to be half this lucky."
"Hey, I can give you a few tips." Blair grinned, "Well, come on in and I'll give you the tour."
"So, where's the... Ellison?"
"Still in his room. He's a little lost, I guess. Not used to this much space." He glanced up at the captain. "He still doesn't believe that it's possible that I want him to be free."
"Have you talked to him about emancipation?"
"Not yet. I'm still trying to get him to relax and read my diss; I'm hoping that it will help him to understand."
"Do you think he ever will? Understand, that is?"
"I don't know. But I hope so."
Blair showed Simon around, the ground floor he had leased out to shops, which provided a decent income, even without any other work on his part. The rest of the building he had turned into part library, part study, and part museum. The walls held a great many artifacts, as did most of the shelves around the building. Simon was impressed.
"So, where is Jim?" he asked, after politely admiring Blair's collection of Burton monographs.
"Well, dinner's almost ready so why don't we go get him?" Turning, he led the way up the stairs to Jim's quarters. "This was a separate apartment when I first bought the building. I basically lived here while the renovations were going on. It's pretty much the same as when I bought it."
Blair knocked before opening the door to warn the Sentinel. "Jim? Are you... Oh, shit." The young man took one look and realized that his charge had zoned. He dashed up the stairs to the mezzanine bedroom and gently grasped the splice's arms. "Jim? Come on, man. Take a deep breath. Come on, man. Easy, now. Come on back, man. Shh. Easy. Easy." He rubbed his hands up and down the taller man's arms. "Jim? Come on. Take a breath, man. Open your eyes and talk to me, OK?" He moved closer to the larger man and tugged at his arm. "Jim?" He reached up to cup Jim's face and patted the zoned Sentinel's cheeks. "Come back, Jim. Easy." He pulled back as the larger man gasped and opened his eyes. His brow furrowed in confusion, he looked around and staggered as feeling came back and his damaged leg refused to support him. He sagged to the floor, Blair helping him.
"How long?" He asked, his voice a croak.
"Couple of hours, man. I'm sorry. I should have checked on you earlier."
"Not your fault, Jim. Is your leg okay?" He pulled the taller man back to his feet, Simon assisting by taking Jim's other arm. Once certain that Jim was all right, he handed him his cane and asked, "You ready for dinner? It's six-thirty and Simon's here." Jim looked up at the concerned face of his official owner.
"Nothing to be sorry about. What caused you to zone, Jim?" His voice was gentle and concerned.
"I didn't know what to do."
"What?" The two freemen chorused.
Jim shrugged, a bit embarrassed. "I've never had this much space to myself, or anything like this." He waved a hand to indicate all the things in the room.
"You've never watched TV?" The captain asked in shock.
"No, Sir. Or had any kind of electronic equipment like any of this...I'm not even sure I know what it all is, or how to use it, well, except for the computer, that is." He admitted. Knowing that it was the final proof that he wasn't a human, at least, not a real human. Not like these two men.
"Tell you what. Let's go have dinner, and I'll show you how everything works, later, OK?" Blair offered. Jim nodded and, head down, followed the younger man down the stairs, unwilling to make eye contact.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Blair and Simon carrying on a conversation. They tried to get Jim to join in, but his replies to their questions were minimal, at best. Simon gave a knowing look toward Blair, a 'see, I warned you' kind of look. Blair's full lips pressed together in stubborn denial.
"Jim. Relax, man. You're safe, here. Nobody's going to hassle you." He reached over and patted the splice's hand. There was no missing the shiver that rippled through the man's body. He looked up at the two men. His 'handlers'.
"What do you want from me? Why are you doing this?" There was no emotion in his voice, or any expression on his face. Only his eyes showed... something. Something un-named and un- namable.
"Actually, it would be more accurate to ask you what you want from us." Simon opined.
"Sir?" His brow furrowing down in confusion. What he wanted? What kind of sick joke were they pulling on him, anyway?
"I have some forms, here. Do you understand what 'emancipation' means?" Simon began.
"Uh, no, Sir. I've never heard the word." The splice was looking worried, casting his gaze from one man to the other. He didn't get any sense of threat from them, but...
"It means that you would be granted full rights and protection as a normal human. Instead of treating you as property."
"I-I-I don't understand?" He couldn't really be hearing this. It was all together too bizarre.
"It means that we're thinking of giving you your freedom. That means that you can go where you want to, when you want to, do as you damn well please, and only have to answer to the normal laws, just like anyone else. The only catch is, you have to prove that you're a fully functioning human, able to sire children." Banks explained.
"I-I-I..." he shook his head, not understanding.
"The word is freedom, Jim. It means that you would be no different from Simon or me, barring your obviously superior attributes."
"Why?" his voice took on a plaintive air.
"Because Sandburg's right. Unless we emancipate you, the Feds could come at any time and request you back, and if you get hurt, hospitals have the option of treating you, or not, as we've just discovered. If you're free, the Feds have to ask you, just as they would any normal human and the hospitals will have to treat you, without any of the garbage they were trying to pull."
"It would make me normal?" The splice was still unsure.
"What about the child? Who would own it?"
"Well, that would depend."
"On whether you want to raise a child or not. I was thinking of hiring a surrogate. We would have to decide in advance of negotiations, to make sure we protected everyone's interests. But we have time to discuss and decide about that. The question still stands, would you like to be free?" Blair watched the battle going on behind the smooth countenance of his Sentinel.
"What's in it for you?" Jim asked, still looking for the catch.
"Well, for one thing, the knowledge that I've done something right."
"There has to be more." Jim insisted.
"Well, for one thing, it would be a lot cheaper for the city to just pay you as a detective, instead of paying a splice house to house and feed you. And after turning in the splice house for what they did to you, believe me, the city is more than willing. Of course, they want you to go to the academy..."
"I don't understand." Jim repeated, looking from one to the other of his companions.
"Let me explain," Blair began, "I got to thinking of all the things we've done together, the tests you've taken, the work we've done together. If you become an emancipate, that means that you get to have some say in what happens to you. I'm of the opinion that not only would it be more cost effective for the city, it would give me more time to spend with you and help you with your senses. Plus, with the legal requirement that you prove your 'humanity' by producing a child, I'm thinking that maybe your Sentinel genes may be transmittable. Just think, if your children are Sentinels, too... I mean, the possibilities are almost endless!" His excitement was contagious and Jim was beginning to believe.
"Why? I mean, why me?"
"Well, in case you haven't noticed, you happen to be big, strong, solid, smart, quick, everything anyone could want in a cop. You're possibly the most loyal man I've ever met, as well, which is what the Army liked best about you. They can't seem to splice in loyalty." Simon explained.
Blair continued, "Yeah. I suspect that the loyalty part of genetics is strongly linked to your Sentinel abilities. After all, the original...Wait. Read my diss, first. Then we'll talk, OK?"
"Okay." Jim was still uncertain. He was used to there always being something more when people did nice things for you... although, so far, he'd found himself frequently confused by the actions of not only his owner and handler, but the other people he worked with, as well.
"One of the things that freedom means, though," Simon said, his voice serious, "Is that you will have the choice of what to do with your life. If you don't want to stay here, you won't have to. If you don't want to be a cop, you can change jobs... whatever you want. You get to be in charge."
"But, I'm a splice." Splices aren't supposed to be in charge of norms. They aren't real people. Why on earth would they care what I think or feel?
"Don't worry about it, Jim. We'll explain things as we go along. Understand, half of why we want to emancipate you is for your own protection. After what happened at the splice house, we want to protect you from similar abuse, in the future, all right?"
"I don't understand."
Blair and Simon looked at one another, realizing the truth of their splice's statement. Blair looked a question at Simon, who considered and then nodded his agreement.
"Well, in that case, will you trust us to do what's best for you?" Blair asked, his expressive face showing his concern.
"I," Jim looked at the two men. They didn't have to do this. He still didn't understand why, but found himself intrigued with the idea. "All right." He said in a barely audible whisper. From the beginning, this one man had treated him as something of value, not just a tool to be used and discarded. He had long ago started to strive to please the younger man as a reward for the kind treatment he received under his care and tutelage. If Blair thought that this was good for him, then he would do whatever they told him. As for the idea of his ever leaving... not unless they forced him.
"Wait." Simon suddenly said, rising. He leaned down and lifted a folder, filled with documents. "Here." He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, signing the document with a flourish and handing it to Blair to sign, as well. "There." He said as Blair handed him back his pen.
Taking up the document, he offered the piece of paper to Jim. "This makes it official. You're a free man, Jim. If you want to jump up and run off into the darkness, no one can stop you."
Jim delicately took the piece of paper. He turned it so he could read it. It stated that James Joseph Ellison, splice, was hereby emancipated and hereinafter would be due all the rights, responsibilities, and protection under the law as any natural-born human. He was startled to feel tears on his cheeks.
"You don't have to do this." He whispered. Still unbelieving. Animals had more rights than GEPs. According to this document, he was now a full human, no longer a Genetically Engineered Person. No longer a piece of property. All he had left to do was sire a child within the next five years. He lifted his tear-streaked face to his companions. "I-I-I don't want to leave. I want to stay with you." He pleaded, suddenly afraid that this meant that he would be no longer welcome, that he would now have to go out and make his own way in the world, without these two who had been kind to him and helped make him useful once more. He was no longer in danger of recycling... He began to shake as his mind flooded with all the ramifications of his freedom.
"You still work for me, Jim. I don't want you to go anywhere. I want you to stay here. But it's up to you. Your choice." Simon reassured the frightened man. Gently laying a hand on Jim's shoulder, he added, "You're just free to say what you want."
"I still belong to you... both of you." Jim whispered hoarsely, staring at them hopefully.
"Not belong to, Jim. With, perhaps. As friends, instead of owner and handler, OK?" Simon insisted, understanding how this sudden change was frightening the former splice.
Jim's shy smile spread to one of brilliance as he considered what the papers really meant. At the questioning looks on his companion's faces, he tried to explain, "I was always taught that I wasn't a person, that I was a thing, a tool to be used and discarded. You never treated me like that. You treated me just like a real person. And now, you've made me a real person."
"Pinocchio." Simon murmured.
"What?" Jim asked, puzzled.
"I'll find the Disney tape. I think you'll understand, once you've seen it." Blair promised, chuckling.
With a chuckle of his own, Simon added, "Sounds like a plan, to me."
They finished their dinner in almost a party atmosphere. Blair regaled them with tales of some of the expeditions he'd been on, his manner demonstrating why his classes generally had waiting lists. Afterward, they returned to Jim's quarters, where the they showed him how the various equipment worked, ending the evening with Jim sitting on the couch in the great room of his loft, surfing through the channels.
"Don't forget to go to bed some time tonight, Jim." Blair admonished, and then wondered why he bothered.
"Simon?" Blair asked as he walked his guest to the door, "Did dinner seem a little strange to you?"
"You mean, the way he kept sniffing the food and watching us to see what to do?" Simon grinned. "Have you ever seen what they think of as food for splices, Sandburg?"
"Uh, what are you talking about? Food is food, isn't it?" he added the last when he saw the expression on the captain's face.
"Sandburg, Blair..." from his pocket, he took several packages of something, handing them to the smaller man. "This is what they feed splices, Blair."
Blair took the small packets and, pulling out his glasses and donning them, read the labels. "What the hell is this shit?" He broke one open and tasted it, spitting it immediately into his hand with a grimace of disgust at the taste.
"Food cubes, Sandburg. Total nutrition, no taste. I tried one earlier and nearly gagged at the taste. But it's what he's eaten all his life. When you were working with him, how often did you feed him?"
Blair's horrified expression was enough of an answer, "You never thought about it. In his entire life, the only time he's eaten real food, before tonight, was when he was stranded in Peru. Food cubes don't require the use of knives and forks, Doctor, and with all our talk of emancipation and his uncertainty about becoming a 'real' person, you can understand why he'd have been uncomfortable and a little unsure about what we were giving him."
"Oh, man. Oh, man, I hope he liked it." Blair's miserable expression made Simon laugh.
"You know, sometimes, for such a smart man, Doctor Sandburg, you can be a real idiot, you know?" Slipping his overcoat on, he opened the door and walked through, stopping and turning back, "Just take care of him. With his senses, I'd keep the lessons on taste pretty mild, until we find out what he likes, all right?"
"Yeah. Absolutely, man. Absolutely." Blair blushed a bit, to Simon's amusement, but grinned at all the things he was going to enjoy introducing his partner to.
Checking on Jim before going to his own room, Blair shook his head. The ex-splice had fallen asleep on the couch, but when he attempted to slip in and spread an afghan over him, he awoke, sitting up, startled.
"Hey, take it easy, Jim. I didn't mean to disturb you. Although, since you're up, I need you to take your antibiotics. Do you need anything for the pain?"
"No. It just aches a little." He accepted the tablets and the glass of water Blair held out for him, swallowing the pills dry and then drinking the water. Blair accepted the glass and then helped Jim stand up and, carrying the cane, helped him up the stairs to the loft.
"Where do you want me to put the clothes?" Jim asked, looking around the bedroom.
"Anywhere you want, Jim. If you want, you can even sleep in them, but I'd suggest boxers or sweats, instead, since they're more comfortable." Seeing the lost puzzlement on his face, he reminded him, "Jim, you're a real person, now. You don't have to give up your clothes when you go to bed. No one is ever going to hold you prisoner in your own room, ever again. If they try, you have the right to kick them in the ass and throw them down the stairs, understand?"
"Yes. Are you sure?" So many changes, so much to learn. He had to admit, though, that the food was certainly good...
"Positive. Do you even own any pajamas?"
"What's?" Jim looked confused.
"Another new word?"
"Yeah. Look, we'll go shopping in a few days, after your leg is better. Go on to bed, Jim. I'll see you in the morning. Uh, do you drink coffee?" Suddenly remembering that the man had spent his entire life eating horrible smelling and tasting food cubes.
"Coffee?" Jim's face lit up, "Yeah, I like coffee."
"Good. We'll figure out what else you like as we go along, all right?" Jim's smile was all the answer he needed. "Go on to bed. I'll see you in the morning."
"Is it all right if I take a shower?" His tone was hopeful.
"Of course. Any time. Will you need me to change your bandage?"
"No. I have one of those plastic things to protect it. How do you get hot water?" He limped over to the bathroom and was looking curiously at the shower.
"Uh, you turn those two knobs, one's hot water, the other is cold water. You have a thirty- gallon hot water tank that's dedicated to this loft, so you can usually take a pretty long shower. I can remember a few times when I spent half an hour or more in there, when I was tired and needed the shower-massage."
Instead of trying to explain, Blair reached in and turned on the water. Adjusting the temperature to what he considered 'normal', he then showed him how to adjust the showerhead to the various settings. Jim's delighted grin was contagious. "Knock yourself out, man." As he made his way down the stairs, he heard Jim's groan of pleasure as he stepped into the sensuously warm spray.
The water felt so good. He used the soft spray, which rained down on his body, rinsing away the lingering smells from the hospital and the residual sweat from his body. The soap that Blair had provided was unscented and totally organic, forming a soft lather that rinsed away cleanly. He spent the longest time he'd ever spent in a shower, playing with the settings on the showerhead and adjusting the temperature up and down, just because he could. Finally, when his fingers and toes had wrinkled from all the water, he reluctantly turned the shower off and reached for a towel. Instead of standard bath towels, there were enormous bath sheets, thick and luxuriant cotton, heavy and soft, thirsty at wicking the moisture away from his body. Once dry, except for the bit of dampness adhering to his hair, he hung the towel up to dry and proceeded to bed. Even with all the lights out, the light that filtered through the skylight provided enough illumination for him to see clearly. Drawing back the covers, he was excited to find the same kind of sheets Blair had brought to the hospital. Soft, knit cotton jersey. Sliding his body between the sheets, he luxuriated in the soft, warm feeling. The weight of the blankets just added to his feeling of well being. Warmth and comfort. Sighing in pleasure, he closed his eyes, wondering if he would be able to sleep in such opulent quarters.
Blair managed to get to the top of the stairs without waking his new roommate. He smiled broadly at the sight. Jim lay sprawled across the enormous bed, the pillows were scattered around the room, where he'd obviously done a little tossing and turning, especially tossing, Blair stifled his chuckle at the thought. The blankets were, for the most part, also on the floor, but the soft, knit sheet was covering the somnambulant body. Not wanting to startle, him, Blair called softly from the head of the stairs.
"Hey, Jim?" he whispered, "Jim, it's time to wake up, man. Coffee's on..."
Jim's nose twitched at the scent that suddenly reached him. Then, the soft voice of his guide said the magic word, 'coffee'... His eyes fluttered open and he turned his head towards the voice.
"Coffee?" he said, plaintively.
"Coffee. Orange juice, breakfast, Jim." Seeing the intrigued expression on his face, he continued, "New kinds of food, Jim. I was thinking scrambled eggs and toast? How does that sound?"
"Coffee?" Jim's still sleepy voice repeated.
With a laugh, Blair agreed, "Coffee, Jim. Get up, get dressed and meet me down in the kitchen... you do remember where the kitchen is, don't you?"
"Good, then I'll see you in a few minutes." Blair smiled and turned to go down the stairs. He had to stifle the urge to giggle when he heard the sheet thrown back and Jim's bare feet hit the floor with the excited voice murmuring "Coffee," every few seconds.
Coffee. Real coffee. He hadn't been offered coffee since he was in the Army. Of course, he hadn't thought to ask if he could have any, either. It hadn't ever occurred to him. But now... now he was real. A person. Well, he would be, once he sired a child... however that was done...
His nose took in the intriguing scents from the kitchen as he hobbled his way in. He'd smelled this before, but had never tasted it. He watched closely as Blair scooped the pale yellow- white globs of egg. He had to work to keep his excitement at bay, watching what Blair did and mimicking him.
"Now, you might want a little salt and or pepper on your eggs, but taste them first and then decide. If they taste a little flat, then try a little of the salt. The pepper might be a bit too strong, so use it sparingly." Blair sprinkled salt and pepper over his eggs, then passed the shakers to Jim and took a bite of eggs.
It was fun to watch Jim. He had so little experience with the real world. It was a lot like teaching a really talented child, one to whom everything was new and exciting. Jim carefully sniffed his first forkful of eggs, taking the bite in his mouth, he chewed slowly, savoring the flavor.
"It's just plain scrambled eggs, Jim. Nothing else. Honest." Blair reminded him.
"But I've never tasted eggs before. What are they?" Jim replied, lifting the salt shaker and sniffing at it. Deciding he liked the smell, he added just a bit to his eggs, taking another bite and smiling in satisfaction.
"They're... uh... Well, when they're fertilized and incubated, they become chickens. At least this kind do."
Jim stopped eating, his filled fork paused just short of his open mouth, and stared at Blair.
"Hey, welcome to the real world. You ever read the ingredients on those food wafers they used to feed you?"
"Believe me, you do not want to know." Blair shuddered. "They may be totally nutritious, but they really stink and with your taste buds, I'm amazed you could eat them." He wrinkled up his nose at the memory of the cubes.
"So," Jim said, a little hesitantly, "from what you said, these are unfertilized eggs?"
Jim nodded. "What's 'fertilized'?"
Blair stopped eating and stared. Jim had popped a forkful of eggs into his mouth and was obviously enjoying it, but also watching him very closely.
"Uh, Jim? What do you know about biology?" At Jim's puzzled expression, Blair buried his head in his hands and groaned.
When the weekend was over, Blair was wondering about the monster he had created. Not even turning meals into sensory tests seemed to deter Jim from trying new foods, and liking them. Monday morning, after a breakfast of pancakes smothered in syrup, Jim was ready to go, looking forward to going back to work.
"Now, Jim, we're going to have to get you a driver's license, then we'll look for a car for you." Blair said, handing Jim his coat and grabbing his own.
"I have a driver's license, Chief." Jim replied, confused.
"I know, Jim, but it indicates that you're a splice, who belongs to Simon. We need to get your paperwork straightened out and new ID... ID that will show you as a person, not property."
"Oh. I hadn't thought about that. Didn't the captain say something about attending the academy, as well?"
"Yeah. But we need to get the basics out of the way, first. Since Simon's car is bigger, he's supposed to pick us up in..." He was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. "Now. Ready?" He felt a little like a parent, sending off his child for his first day of school.
"Yes," Jim replied, uncertainty showing in his tone.
"Don't worry. We'll be with you every step of the way, man."
With Simon, his registered owner, and Blair, his handler, with him to facilitate the process, it went quite smoothly. No one seemed to care that he was a splice, although one of the female clerks smiled at him rather appraisingly, which when noticed by Blair, nudged Simon and they exchanged sly grins. Jim simply didn't understand and failed to respond to her flirting.
"We're going to have to find him a surrogate that won't mind that he's totally innocent, Sandburg." Simon whispered to the shorter man.
"Well, before that, we're going to have to get him some sex education."
"Let's put it this way, he had to ask what an egg was, and what fertilization is."
"Yeah. After we teach him the basics first, we're going to need to go through the surrogate registry and weed out the ones who aren't genetically compatible with him, then we'll go from there with personal interviews."
It was a long day, but at the end of it, James Joseph Ellison was in possession of interim emancipate documents, showing him to be a functioning member of society. They would have to go through it all again, once he had fulfilled the final requirement.
Two weeks later, once Jim was no longer in need of the cane to get around, Blair came home from the university with several books. Jim was already home, in the kitchen, working on some spaghetti sauce. It was one of the things he seemed to have a knack for cooking.
"Hey, Jim. How was your day?" Blair pulled the stack of books from his backpack, sorting them and spreading them out on the kitchen table.
"Good. You?" Blair wondered when, or even if, Jim would start using more than one-word sentences.
"Fine. Got a minute?"
Turning from the stove, after turning down the flame, he wiped his hands on his apron and came over. Looking curiously at what Blair had set out for him. "Sure. What's up?"
"I need you to take a look at these books. Now, I realize that some of them are designed for really young kids, but I would like you to read them in the order I've set them out. Okay?" Blair watched Jim's expression closely as he looked at the first of the books.
"'Where Babies Come From'?" he looked up, puzzled.
"Yeah, Jim. You're going to need to know this stuff, man. Trust me." Blair was blushing and knew it. "Just do me a favor and read the books, okay?"
"Sure, Chief. Whatever you want." Jim agreed, setting the book back down and returning to his dinner preparations.
After dinner, while Blair cleaned up the kitchen, Jim took the first book into the main living room and settled down to read it. Blair watched surreptitiously, watching as, at first, Jim's curiosity piqued, then turned to embarrassment. He said nothing when the bigger man finished the first book and exchanged it for the second.
The evening passed slowly, as Blair waited for what he felt would be the inevitable questions. After reading six of the books, he finally spoke.
"So, Jim? Any questions?"
"What's love, Chief?"
"Love. All these books talk about love. I understand marriage, that's a binding contract between people in re: sex. But what is love?"
"Uh..." How do you explain an emotion to someone who has never felt them? In whom all emotion had been punished as misbehavior?
"Is it one of those emotions things?" He'd had a lot of explanations that just passed things of as 'it's an emotional thing, don't worry about it'.
"Well, yeah. But it's a really special one. It's..."
"How you feel about Connor?" Just because he didn't understand, didn't mean he wasn't observant.
"Well, yeah. But do you really understand how I feel about her?"
Jim gazed at his friend. "You look forward to every single time you see her. When you're together, you don't think of much of anything else but her. When you're not with her, you think of her, often muttering her name when you see something you think she would like. Oh, and when you see something she would like, you tend to buy it for her, which embarrasses her. When..."
"Hold it. Hold it! That's enough! You've obviously been watching us."
"Hard not to, Chief. Not when you're my partner." Jim grinned, pleased to discover that his observations had been accurate.
"Yeah, well... OK, you're right. I'm in love with her. But do you understand what love is?"
Jim frowned, thinking, "Is there more than one kind of love?"
Blair smiled. "Yeah. There's the love of a parent for a child. When you meet my mom, you'll see that one, there's the love between sexual partners; which, by the way, is what I feel for Megan, but we don't have a sexual relationship, yet. Of course, if I have my way, it will become a relationship that will last the rest of our lives." His smiled broadened. "Then there's the love between friends." He looked at his pupil. Recognizing his feelings for him, "That's sort of the way I feel about you, man. But it's more than that. You're kind of like my brother and my son, at the same time... can you understand that?"
Jim smiled. "Is that the feeling when I worry about you? Want to protect you when we're out in the field and stuff?"
"Yeah, it could be." He smiled at his friend, as he now viewed the former splice. Abruptly, his brow furrowed as he thought of something. "Jim, have you ever been hugged?" Jim's blank stare was enough of an answer. "Okaaaayy." He moved over closer to his friend. Stretching his arms out, he gathered his friend close, giving the man his very first hug.
"This is a hug. It's given to provide comfort and solace, as well as to show love and caring; and sometimes, it's given just because someone needs it."
He closed his eyes to savor the feeling. The warmth of the body holding his. Involuntarily, his arms lifted to return the hug, which made the feeling even stronger, the warmth and comfort that sent shivers through him. When Blair's hands rubbed his back, he didn't think he could bear it, but found that the sensation was one he could easily become addicted to.
Blair wasn't surprised when Jim reciprocated the hug. Despite the big man's strength, he could be the most gentle, kind man, Blair had ever met. He couldn't help the feeling of regret when he finally broke the embrace, drawing away from the former splice, who looked at him with wonder.
Clearing his throat, Blair said, "That's a hug."
"I like hugs."
"Yeah, me, too." Blair admitted. "So, you've got some idea of what's going on here?"
"Yeah. This is the 'biology' stuff you were asking me about."
"Got it in one, Jim."
"So, I guess I'd better finish the rest of these books, then, huh?"
"Yep." Blair grinned as Jim sighed and opened the next one and began reading.
"Oh, and if you're really good, we might even let you watch some instructional videos..."
"OK, we've agreed. We want to keep the kid, and the mother needs to genetically compliment Jim. I'll check your files and set up the parameters for the cross-match." Blair finished.
"What about you? Are you going to produce offspring, as well?" Jim asked, the question directed to both men.
"I have a son. I was married, once. Of course, I don't get to see him, but I did manage to sire a child." Simon explained.
"Jim, we don't have to prove our fertility. Only you do." Blair explained patiently.
"That's not why. What if these, these senses have become dominant? The possibility is there. Where are we going to find good guide material? You're a natural, Chief. I-I-I'd like you to have a child, as well." Jim wheedled, having learned quickly how to manipulate his friends.
"He's got a point, Blair." Simon found himself agreeing.
Sighing, Blair had to admit it. "Yeah. I know. So, we find three surrogates. One for each of us, OK?"
"What about you and Megan, Chief?" Jim asked. Simon laughed.
"He's got you there, Sandburg. Of course, most of the squad are waiting to see which of you asks the other to marry them first."
Blair blushed, "Well..."
"What about you, Captain?" Jim asked, diverting the attention from the embarrassed anthropologist.
"Wait, I've already..."
"No, Simon. Jim's right. Besides, this way, it will be easier to handle, legally and financially. It also takes away the stigma of one of them having to cross with a GEP. It works." Blair insisted. Thus it was decided, while they investigated the genetic matchings for surrogates, Blair and Megan continued their courtship, amid the teasing of the rest of the crew of Major Crime.
Now that Ellison was a 'real' person, he suddenly had to meet the requirements for the department. Even though he'd been a working detective for more than a year, he suddenly found himself having to attend the academy. His first day very nearly was his last.
He sat quietly in the front of the class, off to one side. He made no comments unless spoken to. With the year of training he'd received from Blair with his senses, he was better prepared for the academy. Of course, he was perfectly capable of teaching parts of the curriculum, as well. For the most part, his classmates ignored him, but when it came time for the physical training and self-defense, some of the younger members decided that he was too old to be there.
Unfortunately, the self-defense instructor was among those who erroneously thought the former splice was too old to be attending the academy. And no one had seen fit to inform anyone that Jim's attendance was only a formality.
"You, Ellison. Let's see what you can do." The self-defense instructor called out. Jim rose from his seated position on the floor, the grace of his movements totally lost on the instructor. Once Jim was standing, his weight evenly distributed, his knees slightly flexed, feet at shoulder width apart, the man who was supposed to teach the class self-defense prepared to make an example of the 'too old' guy, making himself look good and the student look like a fool.
"Now, I want you to come at me like you're gonna hit me. Can you do that?"
"Yes, Sir. Are you sure you want me..."
"Just do it, man!" He was prepared and ready, expecting to perform a spectacular throw and knock the wind out of the old guy.
Too bad he didn't let Jim know what was expected of him. He came in low, gauging his opponent and feinting to the right. The instructor fell for it and Jim shifted left and quickly took down his opponent, much to the chagrin of the overbearing man. Jim pulled back and offered his hand to help his opponent up, but was rebuffed.
"Let's try that again." The instructor snarled. They sparred a bit, then Jim took him down again. Still not willing to quit, and furious with the results, he growled and at a moment when Jim had looked away distracted by people entering the gymnasium, attacked.
The class was witness to one of the finest demonstrations of self-defense anyone had ever seen. The academy administrators, who had provided the distraction, watched in awe as the nearly forty-year-old man took on their official self-defense instructor and soundly trounced him.
As he was attacked, his genetic imperative took over, along with more than thirty years of training. With his enhanced senses, he 'felt' the movement of air as the attack came, he 'heard' the light slap of a foot on the mat, and he 'smelled' the anger from his opponent. Without ever turning his head, he stepped aside as he was attacked, at the same time, reaching out to touch his attacker and 'guide' him to his denouement. The academy administrators had to scatter to avoid being knocked down by the screaming, flying body. No one was willing to break his fall and he landed, skidding, face first on the floor.
"Beautiful," the oldest member of the visiting group said as he watched the attacker skid fifteen feet across the polished wooden floor. Turning back, he was surprised to discover that the person standing there with a startled expression on his face wasn't the instructor, but one of the students. Looking back, he recognized the groggy man staggering to his feet.
"Wilson? What on earth are you doing there?" Then he chuckled, "Oh, I see. You brought in a professional to help you demonstrate, eh? Good idea." He turned back to Jim, who had come to attention and awaited whatever they were going to do to him for following instructions.
"So, which service were you borrowed from, young man?"
"Sir?" Jim asked, confused. One of the other administrators suddenly recognized him and began to chuckle.
"John? This isn't a borrowed expert. This is the guy from Major Crime. Ellison, isn't it?"
"Relax, soldier." Jim shifted to parade rest, hands clasped behind his back, eyes straight ahead. "It would appear that no one bothered to tell Mr. Wilson that one of his new students was former military, John."
"Oh, dear. That would be me, I suppose?" The man addressed as John asked. There was a sly grin on his face and there was obviously no love lost between him and Wilson. "I'm terribly sorry, Wilson. Please continue."
"Former military?" Wilson asked, still trying to catch his breath.
"Oh, yes. Rangers, wasn't it?"
"Yes, Sir. As well as covert ops, Sir." Jim admitted, still at parade rest, eyes never moving from their distant focus, which allowed him to see most of the room peripherally, at least, although not anything in clear focus.
"You're a ringer?" Wilson was disgusted.
"No, Sir. I've been enrolled in the academy to complete a requirement from..."
"That's all right, Ellison. We don't need chapter and verse," the man called John cut him off. "As far as anyone here should be concerned, you're just another student and leave it at that."
"Yes, Sir." Jim replied, wondering why they were hiding the fact that he had been a splice.
Of course, with his enhanced hearing, he was able to pick up all kinds of rumors, including a couple that were remarkably near the truth. He was careful not to let on that he heard them, nor did he give anyone any definitive answers to any personal questions. Of course, Wilson, having been terminally embarrassed by his first day faux pas, generally ignored him.
As usual, since there was an odd number of students, Jim wasn't partnered with anyone. He didn't mind, however, as it didn't really matter, as far as he was concerned. He'd been through it all so many times, even having taught on occasion, that he didn't really learn anything in the class. However, he watched as some of the female cadets were set up with the biggest bullies in the class, another of Wilson's antiquated ideas that women and smaller men didn't belong. Realizing that they would never learn in this environment, he approached one of the smaller men after class, choosing one who was talking to one of the put-upon women.
"Excuse me. May I ask you something?"
They looked up at him in surprise. Surreptitiously placing himself between the larger man and the dainty woman, the man replied, "Sure, I guess." Fully expecting some sort of derogatory remark, he was surprised at Jim's question.
"I can't help noticing that Wilson has it in for you and some of the other members of the class. I was wondering if maybe I could help you? Maybe meet somewhere after class for a few hours, two, maybe three times a week?" He glanced around, not wanting to be seen, then continued, "I wouldn't want to meet here, but if I can find someplace, do you think you and anybody else would be interested?"
"What's in it for you?" The petite blond asked.
Jim shrugged, "I just don't like the way he treats people. I know I pissed him off the first day, when I didn't play the game he was planning. Of course, if he'd told me in advance, I might have, but since he didn't..."
"You'd be willing to teach us?" The slight man asked, something hopeful in his eyes. "There are several of us who're going to flunk out if we can't pass this course, even though he doesn't really teach us, just lets the big guys beat up on us."
"Yeah. I've noticed. So, do you want me to try and help you?"
The couple exchanged hopeful looks and turned back to him, "Let us talk to some of the others, okay? Maybe we can set up a class someplace, after classes sometimes."
"Good. Let me know. Here." He handed them a business card. "That's where I can be reached." Seeing their puzzled looks, he explained. "Dr. Sandburg is doing a study, and I'm his primary subject."
Blair was more than willing to provide the space for Jim's self-defense classes. One of the things he'd set up in his home had been a huge room filled with weights and other exercise equipment, along with a sauna and hot tub. There was a good-sized exercise mat, as well, although there was only one shower available.
The first meeting of the after hours class was attended by every, single one of Jim's classmates who had been singled out by Wilson in the so-called self-defense class. With fifteen students, Jim asked Simon to help him teach, and the captain insisted that Blair join them, just to make him feel better about letting the academic work with Jim.
The first thing he taught his students, was how to fall. The forward roll, the over the shoulder roll, and the back roll. He explained how and why to slap the mat when they were thrown, how the slap would help to dissipate some of the force, as well as give them added impetus in regaining their feet. Once he was satisfied with the way they were tumbling, he was ready to start the next lesson. However, he decided that learning to fall was enough for one night. He explained that they would start the actual moves and countermoves the next time they met. Every single man and woman there asked if they could meet again the next night. Looking for permission, he was pleased when Blair answered for him.
"Sure. Same time tomorrow?"
The next night, the entire group met again. After a quick repeat of the previous lesson, it was time to start the more serious training. Jim was gentle, not at all bullying. He would demonstrate a move and a countermove. Then, he would walk each student through the moves, changing their position as needed, explaining why and how to do the move. Soon, they were all having fun, practicing the moves that Jim taught them. Many of the moves Jim taught were specifically designed to counteract the moves that Wilson preferred to teach his bullies. He admonished his class not to use the moves until the final, as there would be impartial judges critiquing and scoring them, then.
For the rest of the run of the Academy, the 'misfits' would meet at least three times a week to learn from Jim. Towards the end of classes, Jim changed tactics, teaching his class how to really protect themselves against assailants. He didn't worry about what kind of self-defense he taught, only that these men and women would be able to protect themselves in real-world situations.
His methods proved themselves when the day of their final came. Wilson's pets, who all expected to mop up the floor with the underdogs, were totally unprepared when their former punching bags suddenly turned the tables on them and left them not only on the floor, but in handcuffs, as well. Wilson glared at Jim, realizing that somehow, the 'old man' had something to do with the debacle. Although his bullies managed to pass the course, they were at the opposite end of the scale from where they thought they would be.
No one was surprised when Jim managed to graduate from the academy at the top of his class... nothing else had ever been contemplated. After graduation, the elderly administrator came over to the Major Crime contingent who were there to cheer on their colleague.
"Chief Hampton, how nice to see you again." Captain Banks was formal with the old man.
"Captain." He looked at Jim, who was surrounded by his friends, all beaming their pride in his accomplishments. John sighed. "Well, I can see that my offer, no matter how good, is going to be refused."
"Sir?" Jim asked, not understanding.
"I was going to ask you if you wanted to come teach at the academy. We've decided that we need a new self-defense instructor. Your classmates, well, many of them, suggested that you would be an excellent addition to our teaching staff.""
"Thank you, Sir, but I think I'll just go back to Major Crime, if that's all right?"
"Of course it is, son. But if you ever tire of the field, you'll always be more than welcome. Perhaps we can convince you to teach an occasional class for civilians at the local university in the evenings?""
"Uh, I'll think about it, Sir." Jim promised. Satisfied, the former Chief of Police smiled and left them to their celebrations.
Having sex was a terrifying proposition, and Jim was terribly shy with her. Fortunately, Blair had made the deal irresistible to the woman, and she could hardly control her excitement at the prospect. Her hands gently stroked his body, she'd listened closely to Blair's suggestions and understood what was needed. He was having a difficult time performing; he was nervous and afraid. Of course, it might have been the need to prove his humanity that was causing the problem. The woman was surprisingly kind and understanding. Kissing him on the cheek, she took her time and for their first meeting, simply wanted to sit with him and talk and touch. Jim was trembling, but remembered how she'd been at the interview and tried to relax.
"What number was that?" Blair asked, wearily. They had been interviewing surrogates for weeks, now, and not one of them seemed suitable.
"That," Simon said, checking his list, "Was number twelve hundred seventy-eight." He yawned, his discouragement more tiring than anything he could think of.
"I liked her."
Simon and Blair opened their weary eyes and stared. Seeing the bemused expression on Jim's face, they sat up.
"You liked her?" Simon asked, wondering what was so different about this one. She seemed to have basically the same answers as every other surrogate they had interviewed.
"What was different about this one, Jim?" Blair asked.
He looked at them, then down at his arm, where she had spontaneously reached out to touch him when he had asked her a question. "She touched me, Chief. She leaned forward to talk to me, and then she touched my arm." Seeing their confusion as they tried to replay the previous interview in their minds, he tried to explain more fully.
"All the others just talked to you, it was like I wasn't even here. Like I didn't exist or wasn't important." Blair and Simon nodded. That had been something they had noticed and discussed. It had caused a great deal of concern.
"Yeah. We noticed. So, what did this one do?" Simon was trying desperately to remember if he'd noticed anything different about the last interviewee.
"Well, she talked to me. Not just to you. And when I asked her a question, she leaned forward and looked me in the eye and then she reached out and touched my arm. The others all seemed to be trying to either ignore me, or distance themselves from me. Like maybe I had something contagious, you know?"
Simon and Blair exchanged hopeful looks. "Sooooo, let me get this straight," Blair began, "You liked her because she didn't ignore you?"
"Not just that, Chief. She reached out and touched me. Not one single other one has even been willing to shake my hand, only yours. She saw me as a person, not some breeding animal that she might get stuck with."
"That's good enough for me," Simon said, looking at Blair.
"Sounds like a winner." He looked down at the woman's name on the list, "Saundra Jacobs. I'll call the lawyer and we'll get a contract drawn up." He looked back up at his companions with a relieved smile. "I guess that we can cancel the rest of these interviews?" The answering smiles settled the question.
Blair had told her that Jim liked physical contact. He explained how he used touch to help Jim with his senses, focusing him and providing a grounding force. She took her time and merely let the frightened ex-splice get used to her presence.
"So, do you like to cuddle?" she asked.
"Cuddle?" Jim cocked his head at the new word. It sounded...interesting.
"Yeah. It sort of starts as a hug and goes on from there."
"I like hugs..."
The woman found him to be a gentle and considerate lover who was more concerned with pleasing her than he was with his own pleasure. Afterwards, he collapsed in exhaustion, curling possessively around her. She awoke to find her client snuggled against her, his face buried between her breasts. She stroked his soft, short hair, shivering when he awoke and pinned her in place with his laser blue eyes. Smiling as he took the initiative, touching and stroking her into a fever pitch, mounting her as she orgasmed. This was no gentle, loving coupling, this was a claiming by an animal of his mate. Biting into her shoulder as he climaxed, drawing blood as he silently screamed his completion...
Since the law required that the splice proving his 'humanity' required that the mating be filmed, Blair and Simon watched the tape. Both men were shocked. Blair looked at his friend and wondered if Sentinels mated for life...
She ached in places she'd never felt before. Relaxing in the Jacuzzi, she thought about the contract she had made. In spite of the wild animal her client had become the second time they made love... love. Odd, how the gentle and retiring splice had so suddenly turned into an almost crazed sexual animal. Of course, it just happened to coincide with her ovulation cycle. They had coupled wildly several times over the six hours of her cycle, and she had the marks to prove it. Ruefully, she gently fingered the bite marks covering her shoulders; more nips, than anything, but they had drawn blood... Not to mention the myriad bruises... And the man was certainly inventive, for someone who had never been with a woman before. Surprising just how gentle he could be, in spite of his frenzy. Even at his worst, he had never really hurt her. She smiled, content.
He watched her, wanting to go to her, but she had fulfilled the contract and was now carrying his child. She would stay with them until the child was born and weaned, a minimum of six months. But he no longer had any right to be near her...no reason to be in her company. She had moved into one of the other apartments that Blair owned in the building, one which provided her with a separate exit, in case she didn't want to have to deal with them. He sighed.
"Do you love her, Jim?" Simon asked his friend.
"I... I'm connected to her, somehow. Bonded? Like I am with Blair." He watched the oblivious woman as she relaxed in the Jacuzzi.
"Yeah, that's something that sounds like love, buddy. Why don't you go and talk to her?" Simon suggested, gently rubbing Jim's shoulders.
"It's not in the contract." He pulled away, turning from the sight of the woman in the other room.
"So? It only means that she can refuse you, now that she's pregnant. It doesn't mean you have to stop. Only that she has the authority over where it goes from here."
"After I went all caveman on her? I bit her, Simon. I-I drew blood, damnit!" The anguish in his eyes telling his captain just how upset he really was.
"So? You certainly aren't the first man to go a little primal during sex. You certainly won't be the last."
"But I'm a splice!" He hissed the words like a curse.
"You. Are. A. Man. Human. How you came to be who and what you are is a product of genetics and upbringing. For a soldier, trained to kill, you are a remarkably gentle man. It's one of your most endearing qualities. Don't sell yourself short. I'd be willing to lay odds that she'd accept you as a permanent part of her life. Hell, she'd be a fool not to. Besides, as required by law, Blair and I watched to make sure it didn't get out of hand. You pleasured her far more than you hurt her. I lost count of the number of times she orgasmed. Hell, one of them lasted a good ten minutes! Go talk to the woman, Ellison. You'll never know unless you do." He turned away, leaving his friend to decide for himself.
"Simon?" The voice was lost, child-like, afraid.
"Yes, Jim?" Turning to look back, seeing his vulnerability and responding to it.
"What about us? Will we still be friends?"
Simon smiled. "We're good, Jim. Blair sent me to tell you to go ahead and ask her." Jim's expression was still unsure. "You really don't mind?"
"Jim, you're a Sentinel, Blair is your Guide. I'm your captain and, I hope, your friend. Saundra is your hired surrogate, if you want to make it more, talk to her." Smiling, now. He turned and left, returning to report to Blair, who was busy making dinner for them all, something exotic and spicy.
"So, how'd it go?" Blair asked, offering up a spoon for his tall friend to taste.
"Good. He's in love. This is great, what is it?"
"I'm not telling until after dinner." Blair smiled, coyly.
"Uh-huh. I don't want to know, huh?" Simon placed the spoon on the rest. "I told him that it was all right to keep her, if he wants to. He's worried that we won't like him any more. I told him that we'd always care about him."
"Do you think he'll ask her to stay?" Blair looked up, his expression one of hope mixed with apprehension.
"Hey, I liked her right from the second interview. So did Jim. And he didn't growl at her until he had already been with her, unlike the other candidates. I think she'll be good for him. As long as she doesn't try and rule him." He turned to check out the other pots and pans on the stove, lifting the lids and sniffing curiously.
Blair reached out with a wooden spoon and smacked the older man's hand. "Keep out of those. Why don't you go watch television, or something?"
With a mock pout, Simon broke into a grin at Blair's expression and turned to go, "Yes, dear," he teased.
Simon just laughed. "So, when is Megan coming over?"
"What makes you think..."
"You're cooking something weird and are being very possessive about it. I know it isn't just for Jim and Saundra, and it certainly isn't for me, that leaves..."
"Megan, yeah, OK. You're right." He glanced mischievously at the taller man, "So, when are you going to find yourself a lady, hmmm?"
"Sandburg!" Banks growled, only to be answered by Blair's laughter.
"Jim? Why don't you join me?" She had seen him, standing there, watching her. Watching as the larger man, Simon, had talked to him.
"Um, are you sure? I mean, me? I-I-I'm sorry about earlier. I-I-I've never... I mean..." He shut his mouth with a snap, the muscles flexing in has jaws giving proof to his distress.
She smiled. "It's all right. To tell you the truth, I rather enjoyed it. Please, come join me. Talk to me. Tell me about yourself." She watched as he reluctantly (it seemed) came in and stripped before climbing into the Jacuzzi with her. It was a big hot-tub, easily large enough for ten. The water hot and steaming, the jets angled for best massage. When he was settled opposite her, she continued.
"So, you're a splice?" She noticed him stiffen at the word, but bravely continued, "What was that like? Growing up?"
"I was raised to know my place." He replied, just a bit coldly. Uncertain as to her motives. "Why did you become a surrogate?"
"Well, I used to work for a cloning agency... Then I found out what happens to a lot of the clones. I couldn't stand the idea of babies being created for anything other than to be loved and treasured by their parents. I needed to change careers and decided to try surrogacy. I've been interviewed a thousand times, but you are the first one I ever felt, well, that it was right. Most of the offers I received were basically people who wanted to clone themselves, to give themselves 'immortality'. The only real immortality we can have is to leave behind a legacy of our actions in the way we raise our children. Do you like being free?"
He smiled, liking her answer. "Yes. I... I was wondering if you might be willing to alter your contract?"
Her heart plummeted. Not knowing that he could hear it pounding away in her chest, she replied, "Why? You don't want our baby?" Already? Just yesterday, he was claiming me like an animal, marking me as his mate, and today he wants me gone? Oh, dear Lord, please, no. He's nothing like I expected. I was expecting a fancy clone, not this shy, caring, considerate man.
"NO!" He dropped his voice from the near squeak of his horror at her misunderstanding. "No. I meant... that-that I want you to stay. To-to be with me. After... after the baby comes. Maybe stay... permanently?" He lifted his warm, expressive blue eyes to the woman who already carried his child, trying to communicate his feelings to her, something he was still learning to do.
All his life, he had been told that he was an object, a tool, a thing. Not human, not animal, not a man... After nearly forty years of indoctrination, he was having difficulty adapting to his new reality. Fortunately, he had had more than a year of being treated as a man instead of a tool, and his friends wondered why he was so devoted to them. They had been the first to be kind to him, except for his time in South America: they had treated him as a special member of the tribe, but he had never forgotten his place, even then. Then, Simon had brought him into his squad and treated him as he did every other member of his team. Oh, sure, he had to prove himself, just as any human did. But with Blair's help, he had adapted. He had pretty good control of his senses, now. His occasional zone-outs notwithstanding. Blair had taught Simon how to bring him out of them. An important ability, as he tended to zone at the most inopportune moments...
She watched him dealing with his memories. She couldn't help but wonder what their child would be like, this, this splice showed more tenderness and concern than any man she had ever met. Oh, she'd had lovers before, but none of them could hold a candle to this splice. In fact, he was far more human and humane, than any man she had ever met. Of course, so were the other two. Two men who wanted to help their friend to become the best he could be. They were so caring, so solicitous of one another. The thought of being accepted as a member of such a group was extremely tempting.
"I-I think I might like that. But we need to get to know each other better, first. Get used to things, you know?" Her breath caught when he smiled. He had to have the most beautiful smile of any man she had ever met.
"All right. Where shall we start?" Jim asked, nearly quivering with anticipation...
Sometimes, things just work out. Jim let himself into his home, the one he shared with his family. For a man who had spent the first thirty-eight years of his life as a government splice, life was good. Looking back on the past five years, he could hardly believe his good fortune. He had gone from being a damaged splice, set for recycling, to a prominent detective in a major police department. He had the best arrest and conviction rate in the entire world. Other departments and agencies came calling, begging for his assistance. He was, however, content with his life. He'd spent twenty-five years going from place to place as a soldier. He was settled, now. Happy with his life. As he dropped his keys in the basket by the door and turned to hang up his coat, he heard the thundering patter of little feet. He turned just in time to catch the first arrival, his eldest son, Simon.
"Hey, how's my boy?" He tossed the four-year-old up and caught him, the boy laughing and squirming in his gentle grasp. He crouched to set the child down, gathering up the younger children to hug. "Hey, where are all the grown-ups? Did you do something with them?" He growled, mock angry. The children just giggled. He heard footsteps on the stairs and looked up. He smiled, "Simon will be in, shortly. He's talking to the gardener." He informed the four adults who stood smiling at him.
Leaving the children to follow him, he made his way to his housemates. Although both his and Simon's mates had come from surrogate lists, they had formed permanent contracts, extending into marriage. Megan had squealed with delight when Blair finally asked her to be his wife four years earlier and had never looked back, finding her life as wife and mother much more satisfying than police work ever had been, although she did teach self-defense at the academy during the afternoons. Even though it was considered acceptable by the standards of the times to contract for a single child, Jim and Simon were very pleased with their mates.
Blair had had the warehouse space reworked, providing three separate apartments for them, but sharing a great room and kitchen. They hadn't gone quite back to the 'barefoot and pregnant' days of the early previous century, but contractually, the two former surrogates understood their purpose. And they had fallen in love with their mates, which was why they stayed. Megan had come from a large family and had always wanted to have several children, so she fit right in. Jim smiled as he kissed his wife. Even after five years, he still had difficulty adapting to all the changes in his life. Each day was an adventure, each touch, every look, an electric stimulus.
"Hey, Jim. How was your day?" Blair asked, smiling.
"Good, considering I had to be in court all day. Good thing you documented everything. I sure get tired of doing the dog and pony show..."
"Pony! Pony!" Childish voices chorused as the seven small children jumped up and down for attention.
"No pony." Jim said sternly, glaring at his two sons and barely walking daughter, as well as Blair's and Simon's four toddlers. Blair's three-year-old fraternal twin son and daughter, and Simon's three-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. The babies were in their cribs. The children settled down, disappointed.
"Anyway, I had to demonstrate the damned senses, again." He sighed, tiredly. "So, how was your day?" He smiled as he kissed his wife. She smiled, slipping her arms around his waist as they discussed their days.
"Oh, well, I tested the kids, today. Simon, Blair and Sandrae are all showing budding Sentinel abilities. Jimmy and Carrie are budding guides, and as for Ellie and Tommy, they are showing some pretty remarkable psychic abilities of their own. It's going to be interesting, watching them all grow up and trying to keep them all functioning."
Simon had come through the door in time to hear Blair's report. "That's good, though, right?" He smiled as he bent to kiss his wife, then scooped up his children for hugs and kisses, as well.
"Oh, yeah. Definitely. They are going to be able to write their own tickets, once they're grown up and trained in their abilities. They're going to be formidable."
"Plans of starting a dynasty here, Chief?" Jim asked, gently herding his extended family towards the dining room, where he could smell something really good, cooking.
"Hey, why not? We've got good genes going. Natural selection, sort of."
"Sandburg, you know good and well that we've been remarkably lucky, so far."
"Well, sort of. I admit that it was the Grace of God, or luck, or fate, or chance, or kismet that brought us together, but the rest is just plain good work. The ladies are content to being relegated to the antiquated notion of child-care providers and mothers. In fact, they all seem happiest when they're pregnant, or am I mistaken?" He cast a speculative glance up at their ladies. Megan swatted him on the arm, hard.
"I rather think that being pregnant sucks, but I love the babies," she teased. "Besides, if you want the most nurturing parent, that would have to be Jim, you know."
"No," Simon interjected, "Your observation is perfectly valid. Saundra and Carla were involved with the cloning business. They got sick from what they saw and wanted to have real babies. For the most part, we're a pretty backwards sort of family, in the fact that we've allowed the mothers to remain with their children. It's more politically correct to farm kids out to professionals to raise."
"I like being able to see them, touch them. Know who they are." Jim murmured, scooping up a child and giving it a tickle.
"Yeah. I kind of like being involved, too. It's a real nice feeling every night when they hug and kiss me goodnight and ask for a story." Blair agreed.
"I like that, too." Simon agreed. Suddenly, he sniffed, "Is that Jambalaya I smell?" He asked excitedly. "What's the occasion?"
"Oh, I suppose it's because it's your birthday." Carla announced.
Childish voices chorused, "Birthday! Birthday!" and danced around the adults.
They turned dinner into a surprise party for their favorite captain, with streamers, gifts and loud, happy children.
On Sunday, Saundra approached Blair and Simon. Jim had gone to the store to get some things that they had 'forgotten' to pick up, so she would have time. She had discussed it with Megan and Carla and knew that she needed to talk to Blair and Simon, as well.
"This is hard, guys. You know I love Jim, and I love having real babies, even when they can hear me breathing from the other end of the house, but I've got a problem. I've tried talking to Jim about it, but you know how hard it is for him to express himself verbally, sometimes."
"What's wrong, Saundra?" Blair knew it must be serious to have Jim gotten out of the house on a pretext as lame as the one they had used.
"Well, first of all, he's a wonderful lover, I'm not complaining about the sex... oh, yes I am. Look, I'm worried about him. Friday, when we went to bed, he did this marathon sex thing he does when he's had the dog and pony show in court. We've got to do something. He reverts back to that splice who always tries so hard to please his masters."
"Have you ever figured out why he does that?"
Saundra looked at her husband's best friends. Biting her lower lip, she nodded. "I got him drunk one night and pumped him for information. When he was eight, one of his handlers abused him. He was taught by that monster that, as a splice, his job was to please his handlers, no matter if it hurt him. I don't know how long it went on, but..."
"Oh, man. That explains a lot." Blair looked at Simon, "I think I need to talk to him. Maybe we can do something."
"I think it might be time to find some way to put an end to the dog and pony show."
"Jim? Saundra talked to us. She's worried about you. Is there anything we can do to help you?"
"Sorry. Court the other day, I guess. All the damned tests, producing the documents proving that I'm an emancipate. I hate it. They still look at me like I'm some kind of machine. I guess I still believe it, sometimes." He hung his head in shame.
"Well, we're going to see if we can do anything about that, okay?"
"OK, Simon." Jim murmured, blushing at the thought that he once again needed their help to function as a normal person.
Sighing, Simon pulled his distressed friend into a hug and whispered, "It's nothing to be ashamed of, Jim. It's going to be all right."
Blair looked at his friends; catching Simon's eye, he could read the story. The court had put Jim through his paces, yet again. No matter how many times he appeared, they always tested his abilities, never accepting him as an expert witness. He had to prove himself time and time again. Straightening up, he decided that it was time to change that.
"OK. So, how do we change the court's mind? Simon? Jim?" Once the decision was made, all that was left was figuring out how to make it work.
Washington D.C. never changes. It will always be hot and humid in the summer and full of politicians. Appearing before Congress was a new experience. Jim was getting tired of the whole thing. Too bad his genetic imperative didn't allow him to just quit. Of course, his friends wouldn't allow it, either. He smiled at the thought of the pep-talk they had given him. He hoped he could sit quietly to answer the questions without laughing.
"So? What happened? Did they believe you? What did they ask? How do you feel?" Blair was bouncing in his excitement. He had testified the day before, and Simon had testified the day before that. Now that Jim had, hopefully, convinced them of his abilities, perhaps they could get Jim credentials that would allow him to stop having to turn his every court appearance into a carnival act.
"They passed the bill. They'll call when they want me to testify before the Senate." He was tired, but pleased. He was grateful that Blair had complained to his Congressman about Jim's problems in court. The woman had been most accommodating, as she had been elected on the platform calling for the emancipation of all clones and splices. Jim was practically the poster-boy for the movement. It didn't hurt that he had an antiquated, 'traditional', family. Perfect for anyone looking for a high-profile example supporting one's beliefs.
"That's great." Blair reached up to give Jim a hug. "Come on, dinner's ready." Simon was smiling as well, grateful that they would soon be back home, where they belonged.
The Senate didn't ask for them to come and testify. The House had so overwhelmingly voted for the special bill, that the Senate (always careful of public opinion; and public opinion was firmly, and vocally, on the side of this particular splice... emancipate) overwhelmingly passed the bill, as well.
The President didn't dare not sign it. Sentiment was so high, that there were whispers of retaliation if she didn't sign it. Retaliation meaning withdrawn support for a number of her agendas.
The envelope came in the mail. It didn't look like anything particularly important, until opened. The card declared the holder, one James Joseph Ellison, Emancipate, to be granted extraordinary powers of observation, to be taken as literal by any court...on Earth. The signatures included the President of North America, the Heads of State for every single government in Europe and Asia, as well as Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the governments of most of the tiny island nations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. There was a holographic image of Jim on the card, as well. Jim could hardly wait for his next court date...
"Detective Ellison, do you honestly expect this jury to simply accept your word that you heard a whispered conversation from one hundred yards away, during a football game?" The defense attorney sneered.
"If it please the court?" The prosecutor stood, requesting to be heard.
"What is it, Ms. Thorensen?" The judge was aware of Jim's new status. He'd been asked to testify and had been pleased to note that not once had Jim failed any test set for him.
"I would like to place before the court this document. It's a special order, signed by the President of the United States of North America, indicating Mr. Ellison's capabilities."
"I object, Your Honor!" The defense attorney exclaimed.
"May I see the document?"
"Of course, Your Honor." The judge looked at the card, slid it into a scanner, which immediately entered it into evidence.
"Objection denied. Members of the Jury, Mr. Ellison has a special order, signed by the President, indicating his capabilities as a Sentinel. The answer to your question, Mr. Thomas, is 'yes'. Detective Ellison did in fact, hear a whispered conversation in a crowded football stadium from a distance of one hundred yards."
"Uh, I'm sorry, Your Honor. It was only about eighty yards." Jim interrupted softly.
"Very well, eighty yards." The judge smiled at the witness, "You may continue your questioning of this witness, counselor..."
"It was wonderful. You should have seen the lawyer's face. It was great." Jim enthused over dinner that night. It was almost a party atmosphere as the entire family gathered together for the meal. It always caused smiles from the other adults as Jim tended to the smallest children. After all, he'd never been loved as a child and he gained his experiences vicariously by interacting with their children. He could frequently be found, sitting on the floor, playing with their children, building castles, battling monsters, marching toy soldiers across the floor. Making up for the childhood he had never had. Blair and Simon encouraged him. Even joining him, on occasion, playing with their children, keeping young by doing so.
Jim turned, curious. Recognizing the elderly man. "What do you want?" He asked. Since the passing of the new emancipation proclamation three years earlier, Jim had never considered the possibility of ever seeing any of his original handlers again. Oh, certainly there had been questions, requests for his return, early in his emancipation, but he had been free to turn them down. To deny his former owners contact with him...and, more importantly, his family. Now, here was one from his nightmares.
"I'm a recruiter, now. Looking for a few good men...or women, as the case might be." His artificial smile still reminded Jim of a rather repulsive troll he had seen in one of the children's storybooks.
"You didn't answer my question. What do you want?" Almost growling. He didn't turn when he felt the gentle touches on his arms and back as his wife and eldest son joined him, with the rest of his adoptive family right behind them. His former handler flinched back, involuntarily. They seemed oblivious as to how intimidating they could be as a group.
"Like I said, I'm a recruiter. I've been in contact with young Simon here. I've got a contract for him." Smiling.
"Excuse us for a moment." Jim turned to his friends and son. Herding them away from his former handler, he hissed, "Sime, what is he talking about? Why didn't I know about this? Do you have any idea who that man is and what he did to me?" The last sentence spoken in a cracking voice. Blair spun to get a better look at the old man, and glared.
"Him? He's the one? When you were eight?" Blair demanded. Simon turned to add his glare at the recruiter.
"What are you talking about, Uncle Blair? He said he used to work with Dad..." He stopped speaking when he saw the expression on his father's face. "Tell me."
Jim stared at his fifteen-year-old son. The boy was tall, almost as tall as his father and still growing. Jim was proud of his eldest son, of all of their children. They were bright, strong, loyal. All the things that the government had tried to create by gene-splicing, they had developed with love and discipline. His eldest son had just gotten his BA degree from college, without any special tutors or devices to help him.
"Sime, please. Just believe us when we tell you that you do not want anything to do with this man." Simon murmured to his namesake. "Please, just trust us on this." Turning pleading eyes on his godson.
"I need to know. How can I make a decision without all the facts?" The young Ellison demanded.
Jim hung his head and replied, so softly that his wife and friends were unable to hear his words. "He raped me when I was eight. Back when I was a splice. Before I became a Sentinel. Before I met Blair and Simon. Before I knew what love and family were." He lifted anguished eyes to his son. "I'll kill him before I'll let him touch you," he vowed.
Sime was shocked. He'd known that his father had been a splice and that his birth had guaranteed his father's humanity, but to discover that his gentle, considerate father had been... by that recruiter?! He looked at his uncles. They knew. Had probably known all along... What wonderful men they were to have taken his father from that to this... He reached out and hugged his father, then pressed a kiss to the cheeks of both Blair and Simon.
"OK. So, what do we do?"
Blair thought a moment and started whispering to his companions.
"So, Mr. Dean, just what was it you wanted from me?" Simon Ellison asked the elderly man seated across from him.
"Well, I'm afraid that we released your father a bit prematurely. When we realized our mistake, the damage was done and your father had been emancipated." This was going to be easy, the boy was innocent and naive. Obviously knew nothing of GEP's work and what he, personally, had done to his father.
"So, what do you want from me?" He was curious.
"Well, run some tests, duplicate your genetics, create more like you, clones, more or less." He deliberately left out the part where the boy would undergo torture to make him strong, deprivation to make him determined, cruelty, because this man enjoyed being cruel...
"What kind of tests? Blair has thousands of pages of documentation on us. Why can't you use his research?"
"Well, he is a little biased, don't you think? Our tests are completely objective," came the smug reply.
"Would these tests include anything... sexual?"
Oh, yes. Definitely. "Of course not."
"Why is your heart pounding so hard? The moment I said 'sexual', your heart started pounding, you're respiration has elevated and you're starting to sweat. Why is that?" Sime shifted back, watching.
"What?" He squeaked in surprise.
"Yeah, Dad told me about how you raped him when he was eight. Now, I know that he was 'just a splice', but an eight-year-old? That's really sick, Mister Dean. In fact..." The young man smiled as he noticed his father and uncles across the room, smiling and giving them the signal. "In fact," the young man stood up and stepped away from the 'recruiter'. "Seeing you again, has brought back a great deal of stress to my father. So, he's filed charges against you for past trauma and mental anguish. I'm sure your lawyers can probably get you off, but not until the whole world hears about how you get your kicks raping little boys. Now that GEPs have rights, how long do you think you're going to live, once you're identified and accused?" The young man smiled as two uniformed police officers stopped at their table. Mr. Dean looked up in surprise.
He was well over sixty years old, closer to seventy. He couldn't believe that they were actually arresting him. For what? Fooling around with a splice nearly fifty years earlier? He complained, long and loud, as they escorted him from the restaurant. He didn't understand why people were glaring at him, it was just a splice, wasn't it? Not a real person? Wasn't it? Wasn't it?
"Thank you, Sime." Blair murmured to his nephew. "Jim really is pretty upset about this. I want to get him home as soon as we can."
"Sure, I understand. I know that GEPs have only been free for the past few years, but I grew up with an emancipate for a father. I've seen him with you and Uncle Simon and the rest of the family, and I know that he's one of the finest men around. Why would anyone want to hurt him on purpose? Particularly... that way?"
Blair looked at the young man. He sadly smiled. "I've asked that question a few times, myself. Your dad is the gentlest, kindest man I've ever met. I can't picture him as a soldier, well, most of the time." He smiled. "When he goes into his 'protector' mode, watch out."
Sime chuckled. "I know. I've seen it a few times. He's pretty special, isn't he?"
"Very special. So are you. So are your sibs."
"So are your kids, as are Uncle Simon's. I just hope I can find someone to love me as much as all of you love us and each other. Or even as much as our moms love you."
Sime hugged the shorter man, smiling at the silver in the brown curls, wondering when they had started growing old? His dad's military cut seemed to lessen the look of his hair loss, and Uncle Simon, well, he had more white than black in his hair, now. A few years earlier, Simon Banks had been appointed Chief of Police, and Jim had become the head of Major Crimes, Simon's former job. Blair had become the tenured head of the Anthropology Department at Rainier University. He laughed, watching his father on the floor with the grandchildren, playing, building castles and telling stories. It was good to be home. It had been nearly ten years since the entire family had been home together at the same time. He was amazed at how little it had all changed.
"Hi, Mom." He murmured to the beautiful old woman who had borne him and his five siblings, kissing her on the cheek. Of his mother and aunts, Saundra was the only one still living. He was amazed at how she, the first of the women in his family, had managed to survive so long. She looked up at him, he had matched his father's height and followed in his footsteps, only in another city. Blair's oldest daughter, and one of Simon's sons, had bonded with him. They still had a way to go, but they were hoping to make a run at their fathers' record. Not surprising, all of the children had bonded into life-partners with other members of the family. The new generation showed even greater promise that the first, as all of the children showed Sentinel abilities, without the debilitating zone-out factor of their progenitor. The family members were in great demand, but with only six teams, they could write their own contracts. The one thing that had definitely not been lost, was the extreme loyalty and protective nature of the Sentinel. In fact, if anything, it was stronger in this new generation. He hopped his Dad lived long enough to see a few more generations grow up. Simon and Jim were planning to retire within the next few years and devote their remaining years to the children. Teaching them the skills that they had embued in their children. Laughter made Sime turn, just in time to see his father engulfed in wiggling, giggling children.
Life had been good. Jim thought. His six children had grown up and moved on, bonding with the children of his former owner and handler, later his friends and adoptive family. Their children had come back to them to help raise and train and, now, their children had returned with yet another generation for him to train. Life was good, indeed. He turned in his bed to look across the room at his two friends, sleeping in their own beds. They had decided to share the one large bedroom after Saundra had died the year before. The last of their wives, originally contracted as a surrogate for one child, she had stayed on to grace him with six. As had Blair's beloved Megan and Simon's surrogate, Carla. After all their years together, the three of them were nearly inseparable. He smiled at the milky blue eyes his guide as he awoke; Blair, somehow knowing he was awake, smiled at him. Simon awoke, as well, and called out a soft 'good morning'. Smiling he thought about how much things had changed since he had first been deemed 'damaged' goods. He'd gone from damaged splice to progenitor of an actual dynasty of Sentinels. He smiled as he thought about it. Life was good. Very good, indeed.
...They didn't wake up this morning. They were found by their housekeeper. I should be sad, but they all three had such happy, contented smiles on their faces. They lived to see six generations of functioning Sentinels... such strong progenitors. All of their descendants look like at least one of them. We've come such a long way from the days of gene-splicing. Oh, sure, we actively seek out compatible mates, but there are a lot more of us, now. Some of us are even finding mates among our distant cousins...I guess their greatest legacy is the world-wide lowering of crime statistics. There isn't one, single, major city anywhere on Earth without a Sentinel. Blair always got such a kick out of that... how the world has come full circle, back to the 'tribe' being protected by a Sentinel.
I'm going to miss them. I just hope that whatever the afterlife has in store will allow them to remain together for eternity. I like that idea. Well, there's going to be an awful big gathering here for the weekend. They are following Blair's beliefs that they must be buried within three days...
It's going to feel so strange, to not have them around for the children. Perhaps Sime and his mates will take over... although, they're all pushing 100 as well. We'll just have to wait and see.
See you in a couple of days.
James Joseph Ellison, IV
Sentinel of Cascade, Washington
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