Disclaimer: All characters belong to Pet Fly Productions. Rating: PG-13 (language being a bit colourful at times)
Thanks to Carikube for proofing it. My cat Hobbes says hello. An interesting aside: you may notice my spelling (being Australian my schooling is English based). While spell checking, the computer wanted to change Blair Sandburg to Blabber Sandbag. It also wanted to change Ellison to Elysian - I was tempted because he is truly heavenly.
The young man took in his unfamiliar surroundings. Forest. Somewhere. How did he get here? What time was it? The sun being at its apex told him it was near noon. What day was it? He didnít know. He didnít even recognise the clothing he wore. Blue jeans, pale green shirt and brown hiking boots. He didnít remember them but they must be his, they fit perfectly. He wished he had more of it, though, the air was becoming chilly.
He had blood on his hand. He searched himself for a cut and found the skin on his wrists had been scraped almost raw. He brushed his curly hair behind his ear and looked about the forest floor for a clue as to how he got there. He remembered standing up and brushing himself off. He must have been asleep. Not finding anything to help him he moved off towards higher ground. Maybe he could see something and get his bearings.
As time went on he tried harder to dampen the rising panic he was feeling. He hadnít a clue where he was going or how he had gotten there. He was lucky that it was a fine day, despite the chill setting in. He tried not to think about not knowing his own name. Things would become clear enough when he reached other people. Maybe heíd been in a car accident or something. Although he didnít seem to have a head injury, he wasnít in any pain.
An hour later he stopped and planted himself on a fallen tree. He was thirsty. He pulled his shirt out of his jeans and wiped his face with the bottom of it. He was getting nowhere fast. His ears picked up a sound, a short distance away. Hauling himself to his feet he followed the direction of the voices, by the sounds of it, angry voices.
The young man huddled in the underbrush and watched the drama unfolding outside the cabin he had found. Two men, a tall man with shortly shorn hair and a even taller black man with glasses were arguing. It was becoming quite heated by the looks of it. Each were demanding who the other was. They seemed to have the same problem as he. He settled in and was content to watch for the moment. For all he knew these men had something to do with why he was there.
"Listen, this isnít getting us anywhere," shouted the tall black man, "I have no idea why youíre here! I also donít give a shit why youíre here! I just want to know why Iím here!"
The other man waved him off and turned away to go back into the cabin, obviously not wanting to bother arguing anymore, leaving the other man to swear to himself in frustration. They were both very large and very threatening men and the young man didnít want to approach them just yet. They both also seemed easily angered and the last thing he wanted was the tall man with the buzz cut to turn his anger on him. He was quite happy to glean as much information secretly before attempting to approach anyone.
His concealment became a moot point, however, when the man turned away from the door and seemed to look right at him.
The young man nearly jumped out of his skin when the other shouted to the black man, "Thereís someone in there!" A long finger pointed straight at him.
Leaping to his feet the youth bolted from his hiding place and, in a flurry of undergrowth, he scarpered for all he was worth. He didnít need the pounding feet following him to spur him on. The initial fear produced by being discovered in the first place was enough to lend his feet the velocity needed. He could hear the men behind him curse every now and then as his more nimble, compact body avoided trees and undergrowth that his larger pursuers had to barrel through rather than take the time to dodge around.
At one point the one with the buzz cut got too close and he could practically hear the manís harsh breath in his ears. A quick glance behind him saw long arms reaching to grab him and he slid to a halt and leapt sharply off to the side. The bigger man was caught by surprise and missed him, the evasion tactic having worked. The youthís legs seemed to burn in protest at the maneuver but it had saved him being caught. Legs pumping he launched himself in the new direction.
A few minutes into the chase he began to feel the strain. He was fairly fit but a run along a path and a panic-stricken escape were completely different things. Lungs heaving painfully he threw himself up against a tree and took a moment to try and catch his breath. To his horror the black man appeared from out of the trees some 10 metres to the right of him. The youth put out a hand in impotent warning.
"I didnít....do anything....to you. Why do you....chase me?!"
The man held up a placating hand of his own, "Itís all right, kid. Weíre....not going to hurt you. We just want to....ask some questions." The tall man waved at him breathlessly and sat on the ground, winded.
The young man searched for the other man. Where was he? Panic urged him again and he was off, the resting man calling to him to stop and talk with him. His heart was pumping to the point of deafening him. He didnít want to be caught unawares. Trees inevitably gave way to open ground, which he avoided the thick undergrowth providing a greater degree of difficulty for his larger pursuers. He didnít, however, see the twenty foot drop beyond the treeline he was currently ploughing through.
With a shriek he caught hold of a branch just in time to skid himself to a halt. He looked over the edge to the rocks below. That would have hurt, he thought. His laboured breathing from the chase stung his lungs. He turned to retrace his steps when he saw the man with the buzz cut step out. Rooted to the spot he glanced around himself for a way to get away. He backed away from the threatening figure, despite the drop behind him. The man knew the drop was there and stopped his advance.
"Itís OK, kid. Iím not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you."
"I donít know who I am. How I got here...."
"Neither do we. We can work it out together, kid."
The youth snorted at him, "A likely bloody story. What is this? The Twilight Zone? Anyone who enters this forest immediately loses their identity?" He quickly looked behind him. If he jumped he could probably get some purchase on the rock ledge below and he could....
A sound behind him chilled his heart and he felt a strong arm latch around his throat. All he could let escape was a squeak before his air was cut off. Struggling he kicked the big man sharply in the shin. The hold loosened but not long enough. His captor only grunted and held tighter. The black man appeared.
"Jim! Let him go!"
The man with the death grip looked blankly at the other, "What did you just call me?"
"UmmÖ.Jim. It just kind of came out."
Now I know my name....I think. The one called Jim felt the young man he was holding slump against him, the lack of air making the decision of fighting for him. The other man grabbed his arm and pulled it from the abused throat, "Let him go! Damn you!"
Jim released his prey. The youth slid to the ground coughing but conscious. He rubbed at his throat and knew bruises would show themselves in a few hours. Glaring up at his accoster he managed to talk.
"Whatís your problem, man. I was only watching you because I woke up in the forest about an hour away. I havenít any idea who I am or why Iím here. I thought maybe you were responsible. Looks like Iím right."
"What are you talking about?" Jim demanded.
"Maybe youíre the reason Iím here. I must have got away from you....and hit my head or something. I canít remember. You seemed pretty determined to catch me. Do you know me?"
The one called Jim shook his head, "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to hurt you. Weíre as much in the dark as you. Neither of us can remember a thing. Although," he looked at the taller man, "it now seems my name is Jim."
Helping the young man to his feet he wasnít surprised when he jerked away, "I think we better head back for the cabin. Those thunderheads will be on top of us soon."
The other two looked at the sky. The sun had disappeared behind some very threatening clouds. On the way back to the cabin the young man kept the black man between him and buzz-cut.
Upon entering the cabin the three men searched it for clues. They presumed it had been their cabin, or at least had started off here. The young man found himself feeling a bit more relaxed in their company. He believed them when they told him that they, too, had woken up not knowing who they were or how they gotten there. The youth found a back-pack and rifled through it. Textbooks. Anthropological texts. He also found some scribbled notes for some kind of class taught at a university.
"Either of you a teacher?"
The two men shook their heads. Well, one of them was well educated. He suspected it was him purely because he understood what the first chapter was explaining.
"I guess these must be mine. No ID in it, though."
The bespectacled man held up a wallet he had found in a box in the kitchen pantry, "Well, according to my photo license Iím Simon Banks. Pleased to meet the two of you. How about that, Iím a cop!" He waggled the ID at them both, "Care to explain who you both are? You donít look like cops to me." Then again, he thought, the tall man looked like something out of a CIA lab, he certainly had the hard body of someone in training.
"You canít remember your name, kid?" Jim questioned the young man.
"No, not really. Burton rings a bell. Maybe itís Burton!"
"Thatíll do," Simon smiled at him, "I have no idea how far from civilisation we are. Maybe we should just wait and see if anyone turns up looking for us. I donít relish the idea of setting out in the wrong direction."
"Agreed," Jim searched the pantry for food, "We seem to be well stocked, enough for a few days anyway. This has happened to us for a reason. It may be in our best interest to keep alert. Whoever is responsible may come back and they may not be friendly."
"You sure sound like a cop," mumbled Burton. He liked the name Burton. Had a nice ring to it.
Jim graced him with a scowl, "You got a problem with that, kid?"
Burton waved at him, his nose stuck in the textbook he had found, "No, each to his own."
Simon stood, "I think Iíll check the woodpile. We may be in for some rain. Want to help me, kid?" He thought it would do them both some good to leave the more aggressive man alone for a while.
Burton shut the book, "Sure, man." He followed Simon out, giving Jim a wide berth as he walked past.
Jim shook his head and decided to check the pantry where Simon had solved his ID crisis. He found a leather file wallet and pulled out a photo. It was of himself and Simon. They were obviously friends. The photo had been cut to remove a third person, this personís shoulder was all he could make out. Jim had been standing between Simon and this other man. He also found a holstered gun. This he tucked into the back of his pants. Another ID. His photo but the bottom half had been burned away distorting the encompassing plastic, the name gone. It was a police ID and the photo was of him.
So, Simon and himself were cops. Where did that leave Burton? He was probably someone they had been trailing. He didnít look like a cop. One of the two beds in the cabin had a length of rope on it. This rope had been used to restrain someone recently, traces of blood still on it. Heíd noticed earlier the kid had rope burns on his wrists. He went outside and found the two men stacking wood against the cabin wall.
He pointed at the young man, "You know more than youíre saying, kid."
Burton straightened, "Huh? What are you on, man?" he back-peddled as the bigger man advanced on him. He flattened himself against the rough cabin wall.
Jim reached for him, shrugging off Simon. He dragged the youth back into the cabin and pointed at the ropes on the bed.
"My guess is, youíre a felon. In our custody."
Burton shrugged his arm out of the otherís grip, "Get off me! Youíre mad! What would I be in custody for? Having hair longer than regulation length?"
Jim took a threatening step forward. Simon pulled him back, "Steady on. Manhandle him again and Iíll knock you on your ass. For all I know you could be the felon."
Jim poked the half decimated ID under his nose.
"OK, so youíre a cop, too." Simon said angrily, "Ever heard of cops restraining their charges with rope? I would have thought the budget would extend to handcuffs."
Jim saw the logic of it. He had the grace to give Burton an apologetic look, "Sorry, kid. Iím just not handling this very well. Why the fuck are we here?!"
Burton sat on the other bed. He didnít know the answer. Frankly, this whole deal was getting worse by the moment. He was stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a madman, even if he was a cop. Well, at least Simon seemed to like him. This Jim gave him the willies. The source of his worries announced he was going on a walk and left them. Simon smiled grimly and decided to fix them some food.
Burtonís stomach growled in response and he helped prepare the food. The cop regarded him quietly. The kid seemed genuine and Simon found himself liking him. Simon knew the other manís mood swings were probably due to not having control of his situation. The one named Jim seemed to be the type that rarely relinquished control and not knowing your full identity was obviously enough to freak him out totally.
While wandering on the boundary of the land cleared for the cabin, Jim found the grave. He dug it up. A man, maybe two days dead. He had been shot in the head. Jim uncovered enough of him to check his pockets. A crumpled up note and part of a photo was all he found. Covering up the body again to dissuade scavengers he returned to the cabin to show the others what he had found.
"Iíve found a body buried outside. Shot once through the head, maybe a couple of days ago," he hurried to the pantry and took the leather file to the table.
Laying the photo of him and Simon out he then smoothed the photo he had found on the body. A perfect fit. The third man was the young man sitting opposite him. The other two looked at him.
"Seems weíre all friends," Simon announced.
"Thank God," Burton mumbled, "I donít think I could have you as an enemy," he looked across at Jim.
Jim ducked his head in shame, "Sorry if I hurt you, kid." He could see the bruises forming on the young manís throat even now, as a result of their earlier encounter.
Burton smiled at him, "Itís OK. What do we do now?"
"Food," Simon said. The other two nodded their assent. They were all starved.
After the meal they all sat contented. Burton decided to walk his off to help it settle. Heíd eaten it far to quickly. He took the textbook he had found with him. One of the chapters had been marked with a piece of paper and he though heíd start reading from there. But he also wanted a bit of peace and quiet and some time to himself. He was still struggling to quell his panic at not knowing exactly who he was.
"Donít go too far, kid," warned Jim.
"Yes, Mother," came the smart answer.
Once outside he started to read. The text mentioned an explorer named Richard Burton.
"Oh, crud," he said aloud. This must be where he got his supposed name from. Which probably meant it wasnít his name at all. Heíd tell the other two later. Burton was as good a name as any. He continued in his wanderings, reading as he went.
As time went on he had a nagging at the back of his mind. This text dealt with a theory of Burtonís which disturbed him. Theory he had documented as fact but the introduction at the beginning of the book explained that his theory was generally discounted by the scientific community. Pieces of note paper littered the book, observations in someoneís writing. Taking a pencil from his shirt pocket he wrote next to the writing. They matched. OK, so Iím interested in anthropology. This is my book.
In the text itself he had written in the margin ĎAsk Jí. Ask who? Jim? Sitting on a tree stump he continued to read. It was only when he heard the first cricket that he noticed the failing light. Shit, it was almost nightfall. Standing quickly he scanned the forest around him. He could still make out the trail he had taken and started to retrace his steps back to the cabin. Jim would probably have his hide for being so late. Hang on, why should he care? Iím an adult. I can take care of myself! He suddenly realised, to his embarrassment, that he had said that last sentence aloud.
The sound of a snapping twig alerted him to something to his right. He couldnít make out anything in the increasing darkness but a low growl froze him to the spot. Wolf? Were there wolves here? He bolted, screaming as he went.
He hadnít wandered as far as he had thought for moments later he careered into 6í2" of solid cop.
"Easy, kid. Itís OK, Iíve got you."
Burton nearly collapsed, "Oh, shit, Jim. I think it was a wolf."
The taller man could feel the heart beating far too quickly under his hand, "Calm down, youíll give yourself a coronary at this rate."
Jim steered him back to the cabin and sat him on one of the beds. Burton looked at them guiltily.
"Iím sorry about that. The idea of wolves out there just sent me totally ape-shit."
Simon smiled at the somewhat colourful metaphor.
"I got carried away reading this," he held up the textbook, "Itís seems to be mine. The writing matches. So I must go to Rainier University. Some of the stuff in here is fascinating. Iím studying about Sentinels apparently. Theyíre amazing. If they exist, that is. I seem to think they do. Oh, I donít think Burtonís my real name, either. This textbook is on Richard Burton, the explorer, so I must have got the name from it. Pity, I like the name...." he paused. The other two were looking at him strangely.
Simon couldnít believe he could say that much without taking a breath. Jim was frowning, too.
"Your name is Blair. Not Burton."
"It is? You remember?"
Jim rubbed his eyes, "Iím starting to. I think we may have been given something to cause this. Itís starting to wear off. I can remember coming to the cabin looking for something."
Blair bounced up and down on the bed, "Anything else?" His enthusiasm lapsed as Jim shook his head.
Simonís turn to frown, "Yessss, youíre right. I remember being injected with something. I hate needles!"
Blair stopped bouncing, "This is so unfair! Why canít I remember anything?"
"If we have been given something, you may have been given the same dose as us. We are somewhat bigger than you, Blair. It may take somewhat longer to work its way through your system."
"Great, just great. So, what am I supposed to do? Learn my life all over again?"
Jim patted his shoulder, "Itíll wear off, kid." The smile slipped from his face and he looked at the door. Standing quickly, he didnít have time to warn the others when the cabin door opened.
A young man stepped in, his face clearly showing panic as he saw the three men. Three free men.
Another man stepped through the door, this one much, much larger. He leveled a machine pistol at them. "Blair! Get over here!" the big man shouted.
Blair didnít move. Jim stepped in front of him. "What do you want? Are you the reason weíre here?"
"How did you get free? Whereís Jackson?" the smaller man demanded.
"I havenít a clue who youíre talking about," Jim countered. He was shoved out of the way by the bigger man who walked to the pantry.
He returned to the smaller man with some vials in his hand, "Damn, the other two have been used. Jackson probably thought heíd have some fun while we were gone. Did he give you these?" he demanded of Jim and Simon.
"We donít recall...." Simon backed away as Davis waved the machine pistol in his face.
When enough space was provided, Davis grabbed Blairís arm and pulled him over to them. He gave the machine pistol to his partner and drew a smaller gun from his waistband.
"On the bed, both of you. Hands behind your backs."
Moments later, Jim and Simon were trussed up once again.
Blair shook off the otherís grip, "I donít know you. Why are you doing this?"
"Blair, itís me. Daniel. Iím your brother."
Blair backed away again, "I donít....know...."
"Itís OK. These two are not your friends. They had kidnapped you for ransom. Theyíre corrupt cops, Blair. We came to get you back. They had used a mind altering drug on you. Thatís why you canít remember anything. We left our friend Bobby in charge. You remember Bobby donít you?"
Blair tried hard to remember. He didnít have an inkling who Bobby was. To appease the decidedly strange men he nodded absently.
Daniel smiled and placed an arm around him, "Good, boy. Don't worry Blair weíll have you out of here in the morning."
"Why not tonight?"
"The road is too treacherous in the dark. Weíll be OK," Daniel noticed the bruises on his neck, "Did one of them hurt you, Blair?"
"Uhhh, no, Iím OK. Why didnít you bring help with you?"
"So many questions, little brother. We need to get some rest. Davis, move the rubbish off the bed," he indicated Jim and Simon. He pushed Blair onto the bed. "Sit and rest, little brother."
Daniel knelt close to the bound men, "Hurt him, did you?" He smashed the machine pistol into Jimís jaw. Blair jolted with shock but didnít move. Jim spat blood and glared at the one named Daniel.
"Like a piece of me, cop?" Daniel sneered into his face. Blair scooted to the edge of the bed in anticipation of his brotherís anger.
"Daniel....?" he jumped as Daniel slammed the gun into Jimís side. Blair rushed to stop him, "Please donít, Daniel. Donít hurt him!"
Daniel turned on him, clutching Blairís jaw in a hard grip. They stared at each other intently. Blair couldnít think of a thing to say. The malevolence in the othersí eyes silencing all thoughts of speaking. He swallowed and finally saw something in the otherís eyes.
"Youíre not my brother," Blair whispered, his eyes narrowing.
"What an insult, little brother. To our family, you are." Davis approached them, placing a huge hand on Blairís neck, gently lifting him onto his toes.
"Family?" he squeaked.
"You came to study us, Blair. We accepted you. The Children of the Inner Light welcomed you in spite of your dubious connections. Your affiliations with scum such as these. They thought they could take you back. You were happy with us, little brother."
Blair tried to remove Davisí grip around his throat. Failed. "Shit, youíre a bloody sect."
Davis shook the smaller neck, "Thatís not a very nice thing to say, brother."
Blair twisted in the otherís hold, "Youíre a fucking sect!" he shouted. His last word came out as a shriek as Davis gripped him more tightly.
"Let him go. Heíll come around," said Daniel, "We can him some more mixture when we get home. Blair, in your study of Ďsectsí as you are wont to call them, surely you must have learnt that we donít let go of our acolytes easily. You can have that bed, there. Davis likes to sleep in the car."
Davis patted his cheek and left the cabin. Blair stared after him in horror. He still couldnít remember. He lay on the bed, facing Jim and Simon where they sat against the wall. The storm had finally reached them, thunder seemed to shake the cabin and lightning lit up the interior every now and then.
"No talking now, Blair." Daniel lay down.
Blairís mind raced. At least now he knew who the real enemy were. He looked over at Jim. The big manís eyes glittered in the near dark. Blair remembered what he had read in the textbook. Enhanced hearing. One of these men might be the one he was studying.
"Which one of you is it?" he whispered so softly he could barely hear himself.
Jim straightened out his legs and tapped his heel on the floor twice. Blair watched his eyes.
"OK, itís you then, Jim. What do I do? Theyíll kill you. Iím so sorry I got you both into this mess. I intend to get you out. I still canít remember anything. Should I go for Daniel now?" Silence. "One tap for yes."
He heard Jim tap two times.
"But, Davis is outside."
Jim tapped two times, softly. Again No.
"Should I help you escape? I have a Swiss army knife. Do you want me to get it to you?"
One tap. Great, now the plan. Blair couldnít, for the life of him, think of oneÖ.Bingo.
"Uhhh, Daniel. I need to go, man."
Daniel stirred, "What? Now?"
He heard the other man get up from the bed and walk over to him, "Come on then, brother. Iíll come with you."
Blair stood and walked with Daniel to the door. Jimís foot stuck out, tripping Blair up. He fell to one knee with a curse.
"Shit! That hurt," he grasped his shin. Daniel reached down and hauled him to his feet. He kicked Jim once in the thigh and pushed Blair ahead of him.
Jim now had the knife. He patted Simonís hands and let him feel the cold plastic handle. Simon whispered encouragement as Jim cut at his rope. Minutes later Blair and Daniel returned. Jim had heard them outside. They had woken Davis, who wasnít very pleased. Blair returned to his bed with a mumbled thanks to his Ďbrotherí. Daniel grunted irritably in reply.
Daniel didnít wake in time to feel Jim punch him into unconsciousness. Simon crept out and dished out the same order for Davis. Lighting the hurricane lamp they surveyed their work. The two inner lit children were dead to the world.
"I remember it all now. Youíre my Captain," he said to Simon, "Youíre my partner." Jim looked at Blair, "You are studying Sentinels. Youíre studying me."
"Youíre kidding! Actually, now that you mention it I can sort of remember where we live. We live together!" he looked at Jim, askance, and frowned. "Why do we live together?"
Simon laughed, "Itís OK, Blair. You two are not an item."
"Thank God, weíd have had to learn all that dominant spouse crap again."
Jim smiled at him. He went to the young man and placed an arm about his shoulders and hugged him. It had taken Simon and himself a week to trace him. Luckily Blair had left notes about the sect in his bedroom and Jim had been able to find a member of the Children of the Inner Light attending Blairís university. Their posters had been all over the campus and the phone number for esquires clearly written at the bottom. One well lit child was hauled in for questioning and soon dumped all his fellow children right in it. The cabin was a popular place for recruiting. They had not been pleased when Blair had rejected their offer of enlightenment.
Jim and Simon came upon the cabin, Daniel, Davis, Jackson and a very confused Blair Sandburg. His best friend didnít recognise him and even seemed afraid of him. His only consolation was that Blair was equally afraid of the three men who held him, too. The three sect members had relieved them of their guns and bound them hand and foot while they decided what to do. Blair had become increasingly agitated at the events and had run off. Leaving the cops under the control of Jackson the other two left the mountain and returned to town to confer with their other members.
Jackson had, indeed, decided to have a bit of fun with the drug used on Blair and administered the remaining dosage to Jim and Simon. He had enjoyed watching them grow confused and, eventually, angry and argumentative. At the height of his amusement he had ventured too close to the ex-covert ops man and found himself on the ground with a broken cheekbone. In his pain and fury he took his gun and turned it on Jim but the Sentinel managed to free an arm and wrestle him to the ground. Jackson took a bullet to the head. He explained all this to Blair but the young man still didnít quite remember everything as he told it. It was going to take a bit longer for him to recover, the drug having been given to him over the course of a few days.
Only having rope to secure their prisoners, they loaded Daniel and Davis into Jimís truck, which had been driven back by the sect members that night. Theyíd send someone to dig up Jackson the next day. It took them a few hours to gain Cascade and, once their charges had been handed over, they took Blair to the hospital for a blood screen. The resident told them the results would be available the next day but to take him home. It would likely wear off by morning.
Simon looked at Blair still sitting in the truck, arms crossed against the chill night air. "He going to be all right, Jim?"
Jim looked over at his partner. "Yeah. Weíll go home and Iíll fill him with hot vegetable soup."
Simon chuckled. "I wouldnít mind some of that myself, but Iíll see you tomorrow."
Jim drove his exhausted guide home.
Blair looked into his bowl of soup. He smiled to himself in satisfaction. He remembered his home. He recognised his room. His memory was restored, although the details of the cabin while being inducted into the sect were still hazy. He remembered the University Faculty Board having raised concern about the sect that had taken up residence within their grounds. He had thought to study them quickly before they were removed. Tomorrow he intended to go to the university and give them an excellent reason to request they leave. Existing students would most likely be allowed to stay but warned against attempting to recruit.
He looked at Jim on the other couch who was pretending he wasnít watching Blair. The anthropologist decided he had enough to study for now and smiled into his soup again.
Doesnít take much to please olí Blair, Jim thought. Give him a bowl of hot soup and a warm room to eat it in and heís happy as a pig in mud. The Sentinel lay his head back against the couch and listened to his Guideís strong heart. Blair had the presence of mind to put his bowl on the floor before dozing off and neither woke until dawn.