by Treassa and Terri
Beta read by Izzy and Wolf
Written for PetFly by David L. Newman

Rated PG
internal thought in italics

Act I

He grimaced as he bit his cigar in half. "Damn it to hell," he growled, his eyes drilling a hole into the picture covering the front of the Cascade newspaper. "God damn him!" He pulled the remains of the cigar out of his mouth and threw them to the ground.
"What bee's up your butt, Crilly?" asked the balding man sitting across the table from him.
"This is what's wrong, Butch" the angry man responded, throwing the paper down as he stood up and stormed away to the opposite side of the small shed.

"Who's this?" Butch asked, looking the photo of the man. "Detective James Ellison, Cascade P.D.?"

"The s.o.b. who's responsible for me being stuck in this Godforsaken hellhole." Crilly slammed a fist against the flimsy plywood wall. "I can't believe he was given some stinkin' award for being 'Cop of the Year.'"

"I wouldn't be too bent out of shape about it. He wasn't that good of a cop. You're still walkin' around a free man."

"That was only because Yeager bailed my ass out and got me out of the country after I cut the deal with the Feds." Crilly grabbed the paper and stared at the photo of the cop. "Ellison and that prick partner of his ruined my life. I would've been home free if it hadn't been for them."

"It's over. You're here now and we've got a job to do. Enough talk," Butch ordered. He headed for the door of the shack. "I'll drive, you ride shotgun. Maybe a little target practice will cheer you up."

Butch pushed Crilly out the door and to the bulldozer. He pulled the rifle from the cabin of the vehicle and handed it to the still-furious man. "Here. Let's get goin'."

Crilly frowned at the picture of Ellison for a third and final time before tossing the newspaper to the ground, ignoring it as the pages fluttered in the wind and blew into the jungle.

After positioning himself on top of the bulldozer, he cocked the rifle, ready to shoot any natives who stood in their way. Butch started the engine and they proceeded into the foliage.

After a few minutes, trees were being crushed by the weight of the equipment. He concentrated on the passing jungle, trying to detect any movement from hostiles. Soon, he saw the painted skin of a Chopec aiming an arrow at the vehicle. Imagining it was Ellison, Crilly aimed his weapon and fired, grinning wickedly as he saw the indigene fall to the ground. "Good riddance," he muttered.

He never saw the second native who appeared after the vehicle had passed. The Chopec looked down at his mortally wounded companion, tears coming to his eyes. He looked up at the cause of his friend's death, the large machine disappearing into the undergrowth. He memorized the emblem painted on its side, a huge eye. He would remember it always and there would be justice for the crimes committed.

God, he was tired. He felt like he could barely keep his eyes open. He couldn't wait to get back to the loft and hit the sack. He wouldn’t even have dinner. He'd just jump in the shower and then the sack. He silently cursed the red light stopping his progress. He had to consciously keep his foot on the brake for fear that he would punch the accelerator and run the light.

"All units respond to a silent alarm at Hollander's Department Store." The voice from his police radio startled him, causing his heart to race.

Ellison closed his eyes and dropped his head on the steering wheel. "No," he muttered. Guilt, though, took over, and he reached for his radio. "One-zebra-one, show me responding."

"Ten-Four," the dispatcher replied.

The light turned green just as Jim entered the intersection. He hit his running light and within two minutes was pulling into the parking lot of the store. He parked the Ford in front of the doors and exited the vehicle. He tried the front doors of the store and, not surprisingly, found them unlocked.

He pulled out his gun and stepped into the store quickly, then hid in the shadows so that he would not be the target of an intruder. He concentrated his hearing on the sounds around him. It took only seconds for him to detect the heartbeats. He was relatively certain that three others were inside the store.

He slowly made his way to the perfume counter. Movement caught his eye. "This is the police. Throw your gun on the other side of the counter and put your hands in the air," he ordered sternly.

Before the thief behind the counter could comply, a second burglar from above fired at Jim's location. His quick reflexes took over as he dove for cover. The bullets shattered the perfume displays, causing bottles to explode and spill. The smell from all the different scents being blended together was noxious and almost overwhelming. Jim held back a hacking cough and tried to focus on the new threat. He heard the man's weapon fire until the sound of bullets exploding was replaced with an empty click. He then heard a muttered, "Damn it," from the shooter. The gunman from above was out of bullets.

Feeling more confident, Jim pushed himself from the floor and leaped at the burglar who was still hiding behind the counter. The two struggled briefly and then Jim was able to connect a hard right hook into the man's face. The black-clad criminal collapsed bonelessly to the ground. Jim flipped him over and slapped handcuffs on him.

Jim then made his way around the counter and to the escalator. The second gunman had fired on him from above. He knew the shooter was located somewhere on the second floor.

With his gun drawn, he climbed up the unmoving escalator's steps. He had almost made it to the top when the burglar flew out of his hiding place and slammed into Jim. Jim stumbled down a couple of the stairs, pulling his attacker down with him. The two men fought, their bodies bouncing off the walls lining the escalator, each man struggling for control of Jim's weapon. Jim felt the other man's fingers digging into his wrist, causing his own fingers to go numb. He struggled to keep his grip, but could feel the gun slipping. Mustering all of his remaining strength, he roughly pushed the man against the railing, and was satisfied to hear a grunt from the other man. The burglar lost his grip on Jim's arm, allowing the sentinel to regain control of the weapon. Swinging, he let the gun connect with the man's head, knocking the man out with the butt of his gun. The man collapsed on the stairs. Jim, still breathing heavily from the struggle, removed his belt and fastened the unconscious man's hands behind his back.

Jim let his hearing take over again, trying to detect the location of the third heartbeat. He immediately traced it to the main floor. Turning around, he made his way back down the stairs. "Let's find our other late-night shopper," he muttered. He kept his gun ready.

He made it to the main floor and then saw his target. A shadowy figure had just moved from the front doors to hide behind a tall counter. A hand was extending out beyond the protection of the counter. Jim immediately identified a gun being held, ready to fire upon him. "Freeze police!" Jim yelled, but the other's gun didn't waver.

Instinctively, Jim's finger tightened on his trigger. His enhanced vision was able to track the bullet's path until it impacted a body that had now come out from its hiding place. Jim then focused on his target. "Oh God!" he exclaimed as he realized that the man he had just fired upon was wearing a badge.

Jim broke into a run and knelt next to the injured man. "It's all right. I'm a police officer." Jim recognized the uniform as that belonging to the private security guards used by many of the retailers in the city. The dark man's eyes were wide, his breathing erratic. He tried to push himself upright "No," Jim warned. "Don't, don't move. Just relax." He helped the man lie back down. "I'm so sorry, sir. All I saw was your gun. I thought you were going to fire on me." Jim pulled open the man's shirt and sighed in relief when he realized the man was wearing a Kevlar vest. "Thank God," he murmured. The man felt for the bullet embedded in the vest. "I'm sorry," Jim repeated.

The guard shook his head. "Too close," he whispered. "That was a hell of a shot, though." The man tried to let out a nervous chuckle, but the pain in his chest caused him to cough instead.

"I hope you'll forgive me. I never saw your badge."

"I should have. . .should have been more careful. I saw your truck out front."

"No, it's not your fault," Jim responded quickly. He closed his eyes and shook his head as the shooting replayed in his mind. "I shouldn't have fired. I don't know why I did," he whispered, his gut twisting with guilt. He was supposed to protect and serve both as a police officer and a sentinel. Instead, he had almost taken the life of an innocent. His senses had failed him.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Blair Sandburg let his mind's eye wander through the various images playing in his subconscious mind. The aboriginal music was perfect for reconnecting with the soul.

The sound of the front door slamming open caused Blair to jump. Jim stormed into the room, kicked the door closed and threw his jacket onto the table. "What the hell is that?"

Blair's eyes were wide, clearly caught off guard by his friend's behavior. He answered hesitantly. "It's Australian aboriginal music. It's supposed to get my internal rhythms in harmony. It's a meditation aid, sort of like the outback version of biofeedback." He pushed up from the floor and settled onto the couch.

Jim stomped over to the stereo and turned it off. "Well it's a little annoying."

"Looks like someone could use a good dose of it," Blair muttered. "What's the matter with you?"

Jim stood in front of the large windows overlooking the bay. He was silent for a long moment, then he quietly spoke. "I shot a man today. He was a security guard."

"Oh God!" Blair exclaimed, as he jumped up from the couch. He approached his friend. "Is he okay? How'd it happen? Are you okay?"

Jim seemed to not hear the questions. "He was a security guard. My eyesight kicked in. All I saw was a gun."

"Is he. . .. Is he dead?" Time stood still for Blair while he waited for the answer.

Jim turned to face his friend. "No, no. There've been a couple of break-ins at the mall. He was wearing a vest. He's got a couple of broken ribs, but he's gonna be all right."

"Thank God," Blair sighed, relieved. "How are you doing?"

Jim shook his head and collapsed on to the couch. "I can't get it out of my head."

Blair could see the emotional pain that Jim was feeling. He struggled to find the words that would help his friend. Finally he responded. "It was an honest mistake."

"One that I made because of my senses," Jim replied, rubbing his forehead.

"You can't blame what happened on that," Blair tried to reason.

Jim stood up suddenly and went to the stairs leading to his room. "Blair, I nearly killed an innocent man today. What else should I blame that on?" he growled as he climbed up the stairs, not waiting for an answer.

Sighing, Blair sank to the couch realizing there was no way to console his partner. His sentinel demanded perfection. Failure was not an option. The mistake that had occurred had almost cost a life. This was not something Jim would ever forget.

Jim's sleep had come fitfully at best. At first, he couldn't go to sleep because his mind played the shooting over and over again. Then, when he finally did drop off, the dream world took over. The stifling heat of the jungle surrounded him. The air was heavy with moisture, making breathing difficult. Sweat poured from every part of his body.

Here, he was the hunter. He knew his target without seeing it. He was after the black jaguar. The dark feline was standing in front of him, staring at him, showing no sign of fear or of attack. He raised the rifle that he carried and took aim. Within seconds he had fired and the jaguar had fallen to the ground, lifeless.

Then there was movement in the nearby trees. Incacha, the shaman who had helped Jim with his senses years before, approached the dead jaguar. At the Chopec's side was a wolf, its blue eyes bright with curiosity and concern. Incacha just stood over the feline's still form. The wolf let out a horrific howl and then dropped to the ground next to the jaguar, his head resting on the chest of the cat.

Jim's eyes flew open then squeezed shut from the sunlight streaming in the window. He whispered thanks that it was dawn. The haunting dream replayed in his mind. He had already learned the black jaguar represented him in his sentinel state. He could only guess that the dream was a warning that his senses would bring about death.

The events of the previous night had already proven that to him. If the guard hadn't worn the bulletproof vest, he would have died. Jim's failure to control his senses would have been responsible.

Well, fine, Jim thought to himself. I survived without them before, I can do it again. He tried to remember the time before his senses came back on line. Then, with slight fear, realized he couldn't.

He pushed himself out of bed and went down the stairs to the bathroom. He stood under a hot shower, hoping that the steaming water would wake his tired body. After he had used every drop of hot water in the water heater, he climbed out of the shower and toweled off. He slipped on a pair of sweat pants and stood in front of the mirror. After wiping off the steam so that he could see his reflection, he squirted shaving cream onto his fingers. He frowned and rubbed the white foam with the index finger of his other hand. It wasn't the same. It felt different.

He pulled open the bathroom door. "Hey, Sandburg?" he shouted out. There was no response. Jim's eyes widened when he saw smoke coming from the kitchen. It billowed out of the toaster. "Geez!" he exclaimed as he grabbed a towel, wetted it and then flopped it on top of the toaster. Sparks flew from the unit.

A sound at the door grabbed his attention. Blair walked into the loft, a lightness to his step. He stopped in place as he saw Jim fighting a cloud of smoke. "Whoa! Hey Jim, what's up? Did you burn something?"

"No, Sparky, you did," Jim sharply responded.

Blair rushed into the kitchen and looked at the ruined toaster. "Oh no! I just went down to go get the paper. I'm sorry. I've done it a million times, man," he rationalized as he ran his hand through his hair.

"Well, once you buy a new toaster, don't make it a million and one, all right?" Jim spat, angrily pushing past Blair and moving to the living room.

"Hey, Jim, I said I'm sorry. What's with the attitude?"

Jim sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm just going through some. . .stuff. I didn't even smell it."

"What do you mean you didn't smell it?" Blair approached Jim slowly, seeing a mixture of fear and worry in his friend's eyes. "What's up? You're usually a human smoke alarm."

"Yeah, well, that's not all. I was just about to shave and I had some cream on my fingers. I was going to put it on my face and it just felt. . .." Jim paused for a moment, as if searching for the right words. Then he continued. "It felt totally different, like it wasn't the same."

"The same as what?"

Jim rubbed his forehead as if nursing a headache. "It felt like it used to, before this sentinel stuff."

"You mean, like, it felt normal?" Blair guessed, already worrying at the implications.

"Well, yeah, normal," Jim answered, words quiet.

Jim stepped back and waited for Blair to exit the elevator first. He really had no interest in pursuing the present discussion. However it was clear that Blair was not ready to let the issue drop.

"I'm sure it's possible that with the psychological trauma--I mean, you're subconsciously suppressing your sentinel abilities." Blair's words were steady and professional. Jim knew he was trying not to let the recent events rattle him.

Jim sighed. "Whatever, it's no big deal." He held open the door to Major Crime and allowed Blair to follow him through.

Blair nodded his head and glanced around the room. Jim looked around as well. The room was empty, except for Rhonda, who was dutifully typing at her computer.

Blair continued the discussion. "Yeah, you're right. I mean we've been through two or three of these situations before. We'll get through this one too."

Jim stopped walking and brought Blair to a stop with his hand. "You're missing the bus here, Chief. Maybe this time I don't want to get through it."

Blair's brow furrowed. "What? What are you talking about?"

Before Jim could respond, Rhonda interrupted him. "Jim? Captain's holding on line two."

"Thanks, Rhonda," Jim said, grateful to no longer be discussing his senses. . .or lack there of. . .with Blair. He picked up the receiver on the nearest desk. "Yeah, Simon?" He was silent for a moment. "Where?" More silence. "All right. We'll be there in ten minutes." He hung up. "Don't take your coat off, Chief. We got a body at Bayside Park and the captain's specifically requesting your presence."

"Huh?" Blair queried, eyes wide with confusion. "What'd I do?"

The morning rain had left the air cool and damp. Jim parked the truck in the parking lot, about fifty feet away from the area that had been taped off with yellow crime-scene markers. He and Blair walked through the wet grass towards Simon, who was kneeling next to a covered body. As they approached, Blair continued to argue with a terse whisper. "Come on, Jim, you can't deny that your sentinel abilities gave you an edge."

A flash of anger exploded in Jim's features as he turned on his partner. "Let me tell you something, Chief. I was a good detective before the sentinel thing kicked in. . ."

"I'm not implying you weren't!" Blair countered, clearly taken aback by the detective's ire.

". . .and I'll be a good detective if it never comes back. You savvy?" Jim growled.

Blair shook his head. "I'm sure you will be, but. . .."

Simon approached the two. Jim moved away from Blair, cutting off the argument. "I read through the report from last night, Jim. The guard should be okay. There's probably going to be an IA inquiry, but the guard confirmed your version, so I think it'll be a walk-through." Simon paused for a moment, waiting for a response. All he received was a nod from Jim. Simon continued when it was clear Jim was going to remain silent. "However, I want you to take some downtime this afternoon and talk to the department shrink."

Jim frowned. "That won't be necessary, Simon. I'm okay."

Blair stepped forward. "It's nothing we can't handle, sir."

Simon glared at the smaller man. "Sandburg, just a second. Are you taking classes in psychology now?"

"Well, yeah, I've taken a few," Blair sputtered.

"Well, I've had a few in anatomy, but I don't think you'd want me performing bypass surgery on you, now do you?"

Jim interrupted the two men. "There's no problem, Simon. I'm a hundred percent."

"Yeah, right," Simon replied with doubt. He turned to Blair. "Keep an eye on him, okay?"

"Yes, sir," Blair nodded.

Simon led his detective and observer to the body bag. He pulled down the zipper, exposing the man's lifeless face and upper chest. "Victim's been ID'd as Bud Torin, vice president of Cyclops Oil. Apparently, he was walking his dog. Motive doesn't appear to be robbery. Cash was still in his wallet."

Jim squatted down next to Simon. "What was the cause of death?"

"That's what I wanted you to see. You too, Blair." Simon held up a plastic bag with a dart inside. "Found this in his neck. M.E.'s preliminary report suggests the victim went into almost instant paralysis."

Simon then looked up at Blair. "You recognize it?"

Blair's eyes widened. "Who, me?"

"I'm not looking at any other anthropologist here am I?" Simon barked with a tone he usually reserved for his detectives.

Blair shifted nervously, knowing that he was being put on the spot. "Oh. I guess not," Blair answered. He grabbed the bag and examined the dart. "Well, it looks like it could be from the La Montana region in Peru."

Simon nodded, clearly satisfied at the observer's input. He stood up. "Okay, Jim, you're on the case. And I want you to copy Sandburg on everything."

Blair straightened up, surprise on his face. "Copy Sandburg? What do you mean, like an official assignment?"

Simon nodded impatiently. "Well, that dart would put this into your area of expertise, right?"

"Well, yeah, it would," he answered nervously.

"Great," Simon replied with the single word and then marched off, leaving his two men behind. Blair bounced on his toes with nervous energy.

Ignoring Blair's obvious excitement at being officially included in the case, Jim took the bag from Blair and examined the dart. "It's been quite a while since I've seen one of these," he said quietly.

"Yeah, it looks authentic, but who would use a blowgun in the middle of Cascade?"

Jim shook his head. "You got me, Chief. But you see these marks?"


Jim's brow furrowed in confusion. "This is a Chopec dart. It's from the tribe that took me in."

Blair stared at his partner in shock as Jim turned and walked back to the truck.

Act II