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Search and Rescue (Round Robin)

by Tate

TateWG@aol.com

Washington State--Cascade Range

March 24, 1997

3:00 p.m.

Blair felt as though they'd been traveling forever. In reality it had only

been a few hours. They'd gone as far as they possibly could in the truck,

driving in the direction of the train line through the mountains, then stopped

to wait for the Lone Gunmen to catch up to them. Mulder was confident his

friends could provide more assistance in finding Jim, given their familiarity

with high-tech equipment. Though Blair recalled their instrumental role in

saving Scully and Skinner from a group of terrorists in D.C., he hated to lose

the time.

They'd already spent more than an hour discussing their options once they

entered the compound. Split up? Stay together? Send a couple people to

scout ahead? The possibilities were seemingly infinite. Amazingly, no one

had even mentioned the idea of them not finding the site. Blair looked over

at the large eagle perched like a pet pigeon on the roof of the cab, knowing

its almost constant presence had everything to do with their collective

certainty. Smiling to himself, he acknowledged the fact that having Mulder's

spirit guide near was comforting. It connected him--it connected all of

them--with some unfathomable, but clearly benevolent force. A power that had

helped Sentinels and Guides throughout the ages.

Blair only wished he was as sure about what would happen once they got in and

found Jim. He appreciated everyone's eagerness to find his Sentinel, but

somehow felt that with so many of them going, they were courting disaster.

Someone would get hurt. He was sure of it. It was an acceptable risk for

him, not really even a choice. He was Jim's Guide; Jim was his best friend.

"You okay, Sandburg?" Simon asked, moving to his side and leaving Mulder,

Scully, and Skinner to their procedural discussion.

"Yeah, I'm fine, sir," Blair replied. "I'm just . . . thinking."

In an uncharacteristic gesture of friendship, Simon leaned against the truck

beside Blair and draped an arm around his shoulders, giving them a gentle

squeeze. He released the anthropology student as quickly as he'd embraced

him, leaving Blair wondering if he'd imagined the touch. Looking up at Simon,

he managed a smile.

"I know how you feel, Sandburg," Simon began. "Scratch that, I don't know

how it feels to be connected to someone like you are to Jim, but I know how I

feel about him. We are going to do everything we possibly can to get him out

of there safe and sound." Simon nodded at the others, crouched a few feet

away near the edge of the scenic overlook. "With a small army plus a little

outside help," the captain said, glancing over at the bird, "How can we go

wrong?"

Blair sighed and reached up to rub a hand over his face. "I just wish we were

there now. I wish we had Jim and were going home to the loft and . . . and .

. ."

That's when it hit him. The first wave. It swept over Blair with tidal

force. His connection to Jim had been dormant most of day, with only hints of

consciousness, voices and sometimes feelings of weakness, but this . . . this

felt like an electric shock. He was on his knees before he knew the jolt for

what it was, Jim's pain.

He felt hands on his shoulders and heard a booming voice. "I need help over

here!"

What could be happening to Jim? What were they doing to him? These questions

barely over road the searing pain in his head. "Jim?" he whispered.

Blair's head thudded back against the truck as he suddenly lost all control

over his motor functions. Still half-conscious, he felt himself supported by

more than one set of hands. But they couldn't strengthen his hold on his own

mind. He felt himself floating away toward another, toward his Sentinel, who

needed him.

****

Washington State

Secret Compound in the Cascade Range

same time

Darkness . . . then light . . . bright, blinding, searing light . . . and

voices . . . speaking one atop another. Jim couldn't understand all that was

being said. He could barely remember who he was and what was happening to

him. They'd taken him, drugged him, and were hurting him. Testing him.

And the pain they offered up--it swept through every nerve, every cell and

fiber of his being. What had they done to him? What were they doing?

Oh, god, Blair. His Guide had come to him, found him, tried to comfort him.

But Jim couldn't offer a coherent thought to his friend. Desperation had

driven Blair's own mind close to his, trying to communicate through the hazy

fog of images and pain. But there were no words to be shared. Words couldn't

communicate the violation, the fear and the feelings of hopelessness Jim had

come to know as his whole world.

And then the blessed darkness came again, dividing Sentinel and Guide, sending

Jim back into a void where the growl of his spirit guide followed.

****

"What happened?" Scully asked, as she helped Simon ease Blair's limp body

down to the ground.

"I don't know," Simon replied. "But it must have something to do with his

connection with Jim."

"This hasn't happened to myself or Scully when the link comes to life," Mulder

protested. "I don't understand."

"It must have something to do with what's happening to Jim now," Scully

suggested, leaning over to examine the young man's unconscious form.

"He's breathing, isn't he?" Simon asked, warily.

Scully looked up from her observations. "He is--his breathing is shallow and

his pulse is a bit rapid, but I don't think he's in any immediate danger."

Scully looked over at Mulder and Skinner then back at Captain Banks. "Is

there something you're not telling us, sir?"

Simon kept one hand curled around Sandburg's forearm as he spoke. "The first

couple of times he linked with Jim, he stopped breathing." Simon shook his

head. "They've never been able to figure out why. I was just . . . I'd hate

to be the one to tell Jim that we lost the kid."

"You won't have to, Simon." The weak voice came from the anthropologist. All

eyes turned toward him as he struggled to sit up.

Banks put a hand behind his back, supporting him. "What happened, Blair?" he

asked.

The young man raked the hair out of his face with one hand and took a deep

breath.

"Jim . . . they're doing something to him or have done something . . . I don't

know, but it's painful." Sandburg's face remained drained of color. "He'd

been out of it, but was suddenly aware. I couldn't communicate with him

though. His pain was all consuming, probably heightened by his senses. Then,

he was out again. I feel only darkness, like before." Blair leaned his head

back against the truck and closed his eyes. "We need to get to him soon."

Mulder placed a comforting hand on Blair's shoulder. "We will, Blair.

Langley, Byers and Frohike will be here in a couple of hours. It won't be

long."

"But night will be falling soon," Simon noted. "How are we going to be able

to get through these mountains in the dark?"

"We can with night-vision goggles," Mulder explained. "I was just telling

Scully and Skinner that the guys have some in their truck, enough for all of

us. They're state of the art. With all the equipment they have, it shouldn't

be much of a problem walking through the night if we have to and even if we

split up they have communication devices we can use."

Banks and Skinner both raised their eyebrows in amazement.

"Maybe we should talk more about our plans now while we have a chance,"

Skinner suggested. "The more we know about everyone's role in this, the

greater our chances for success."

Scully was holding Sandburg's wrist, timing his pulse. Her gaze swept over

the small group. "Maybe we should, but I think Blair needs some rest."

The anthropologist opened his eyes. "I'm fine," he insisted. Trying to prove

he was well enough to take part in their planning, he was about to get up when

he became nauseated.

He pulled his hand away from Scully, using it to cover his mouth and leaned as

far away from anyone as he could. When he started to retch, he scrambled to

his feet using the truck for support. He didn't need to for long; Simon was

right behind him, guiding him to the rear of the vehicle where he promptly

threw up.

"Easy, Blair," Simon comforted. He held onto Blair's shoulders in an effort

to keep the young man from tipping forward in his weakened state. "It's okay.

I've got you."

The anthropologist took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself and

control the nausea. Scully neared, offering him a bottle of water.

Gratefully, Sandburg took it and rinsed his mouth. She turned to Mulder

asking him to retrieve one of the sleeping bags from the truck. He quickly

complied, spreading it on the ground beside the truck.

Once he was sure he wasn't going to be sick again, Blair allowed himself to be

led to the sleeping bag. Lying down, he succumbed to the exhaustion that had

crept up on him following his short contact with his Sentinel.

****

Washington State--Cascade Range

7:30 p.m.

Blair woke with a start. He opened his eyes to semi-darkness and for a

moment, he didn't know where he was. Then it all came flooding back,

eliciting a soft moan. He pushed himself up off the sleeping bag, using his

forearms for support. As his eyes adjusted to the night, he could make out

the rescue party a few feet away illuminated by a few lanterns. It'd grown

since he'd been asleep to include Mulder's associates, the Lone Gunmen.

"The kid's awake," someone observed.

Blair half-grinned. He was twenty-eight and still being called a kid. It was

fitting enough though. At times like these he still really felt like one. He

was the youngest and most inexperienced member of the team, and yet he felt it

was largely his responsibility to free his Sentinel.

His musings were interrupted as two members of the team neared him--Scully and

Frohike. The FBI Agent took his wrist to monitor his pulse again, asking,

"How do you feel, Blair?"

"Better, I think," he answered, succumbing to further examination without a

protest. She was a medical doctor after all.

"Good to see you, kid," Frohike chimed.

Blair looked over at him and couldn't help but smile at the contraption the

older man had on his face. The goggles and attached microphone made him look

like someone out of a James Bond movie. "Nice shades," he commented.

Beneath the high tech equipment, Frohike grinned back. "Should be, these are

top of the line night-vision, communication combos. Can't attempt a break-out

without them."

"Thanks for coming, man," Blair said, turning serious on a dime. As much as

he'd worried earlier about waiting for Mulder's friends, it was clear they

could provide much needed help. That they were so willing to drive cross

country to find Jim was a testament to their reliability and genuine concern.

"Hey, we'll get Jim out of there and away from those bastards." He patted

Blair on the shoulder. "You can count on it."

Blair nodded, accepting Frohike's help as he sat up.

"You really should have something to eat and some water, Blair," Scully

suggested. "Why don't we get you over to the group so you can do that and

join in our discussion?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. I'm kinda hungry," Sandburg replied. He got to his

feet with a little assistance, but was able to walk unaided toward the team a

few feet away. He still felt a little groggy, but he was no longer nauseated.

As he approached the group, he sent a tentative call through the link, but

wasn't surprised when it remained unanswered. Jim was unconscious again.

From what Blair had experienced earlier, he didn't think it was necessarily a

bad thing. If it meant Jim wasn't in pain, then maybe it was better the

Sentinel remained unconscious.

Byers and Langley both acknowledged the younger man's presence, adding their

words of encouragement to Frohike's. "Thanks for coming, guys," Blair

replied, sitting on the ground between Captain Banks and Langley. "I really

appreciate your help. I hope I haven't held us up too long."

"We only got here about twenty minutes ago," Byers said. "We've just been

sharing our 'toys' with the group." He passed a set of goggles to Blair.

Sandburg examined the device, then put it on. His vision was immediately

enhanced. Everything around him suddenly became brighter and clearer. It

reminded him of the time Jim had sent his senses through him, bringing a dark

night into focus. This equipment was going to make their trek through the

mountains possible.

Langley leaned toward him and adjusted his mouthpiece. "How's the volume on

that?" Byers asked through his set.

Blair jumped as the voice came to him from the device on his head in yet

another Sentinel-like moment. "Loud and clear," he replied.

"You can turn it down," Langley explained, showing Sandburg where the volume

control was located.

"Anything else I should know about this gizmo?" Blair asked.

"That's pretty much it, although we've brought some other stuff with us,"

Frohike said, passing a plate of food and some bottled water over to Blair.

"We'll show you after you make nice and eat for us."

Blair grinned. Now he had more than just Simon and Scully looking out for his

welfare. It sent a feeling of warmth through him. These people really cared.

If good thoughts and determination were all it took to get Jim out of this, he

would already be free.

He took the food and Frohike offered, resting the plate in his lap and

balancing the water bottle against his leg. Blair ate as they continued to

discuss their options and planned for the coming hike through the mountains.

****

Washington State

Secret Compound in the Cascade Range

11:00 p.m.

Jim first became aware of his sense of smell as he drifted toward

consciousness. The familiar scent of cigarette smoke sent a pang of dread

through him as he opened his eyes. Turning his head toward the odor, he was

greeted by the sight of his captor and tormentor. As much as he wanted to

leap for the man's throat, his limbs refused to respond. For the first time

he noticed he was strapped down.

A welcome voice entered his head almost immediately. 'Jim, I'm with you,'

Sandburg said. 'We're coming to get you out of there.'

'Okay, Chief. Just listen, this might help. Listen and breathe,' Jim

instructed as he turned his attention back to the man standing in his room.

"Well, Detective, our doctors are very impressed with you. You've held up

well throughout their examination and the procedures." The man removed the

cigarette and expelled more smoke into the small room.

"You bastard," Jim coughed, surprised at the weakness of his own voice.

"I take it you aren't too pleased with this little leave of absence we've

arranged for you. No matter, it had to be done. Just think how much your

contribution will mean to the realm of science, Mr. Ellison."

"What have you done to me?" Jim demanded.

"That's classified. Surely with your background in covert ops you understand

and appreciate the necessity to keep secrets. Without them, the world as we

know it would deteriorate into utter chaos. Order is maintained by people

like us."

"Lies are maintained by people like you," Ellison spat.

The man smiled, his face falling into a pattern of unpleasant lines. He took

another puff of the cigarette, then dropped it. He stepped on it before

returning to the conversation. "I admit we sometimes have to be creative with

the truth, but we do so for the greater good."

Jim looked around him, then down at the restraints that bound his arms and

legs. "This is for the greater good?"

"You must realize, Detective, you are an extremely rare specimen. We couldn't

pass up the opportunity to learn more about you and your abilities. And we

wanted to ensure that your unique genetic enhancements wouldn't end with you."

The man reached into his pocket and withdrew a pack of Morleys. In the

pattern of a chain smoker, he put another cigarette in his mouth and lit it.

"Your line of work can be very dangerous. You could be killed before you

fathered a child. It's a shame you didn't have a child with Carolyn or any

woman after her. It would be such a bonus to be able to observe your

progeny."

Jim couldn't believe what the man was suggesting. And the casual tone of his

words seemed to give their meaning a more frightening twist. "You son-of-a .

. ."

"Now, now, Mr. Ellison, let's not resort to name calling. I'm a reasonable

man. You won't be permanently damaged. We would like to talk to that young

friend of yours . . ." The man paused for a moment, letting his threat sink

in. "The anthropologist who's been studying you, Mr. Sandburg, isn't it?

We've read his research and he could be very helpful. It seems he's been

indispensable to you, working and living with you. He just must have a wealth

of knowledge about Sentinels."

Jim's anger increased with each word. His eyes locked their deadly blue gaze

on the man in front of him. "Leave him out of this," Jim's voice was a

whispered warning.

"And why would I want to do that? Sure, it may take some coaxing to get him

to

tell us anything . . ."

"You touch him and you're dead," Jim promised.

The man laughed. "We can and we will do anything that will give us the

knowledge we need. We can and will do anything that will further our

purpose."

****

Washington State--Cascade Range

same time

The team opted to stay together during their nighttime hike. Mulder took the

lead, keeping his naturally enhanced eyes on the flight path of his spirit

guide. Scully, the Guide to his Sentinel, walked a few paces behind him.

Then, Sandburg and Banks followed by Skinner and the Lone Gunmen.

Their electronic equipment made the journey much easier, though no less

demanding. As suggested they all carried only the essentials in their

backpacks and were wearing dark clothing that would hopefully hide their

progress from any casual observations. Unfortunately, winter was still

hanging on at these high elevations, so they were forced to wear cumbersome

jackets and gloves.

They'd been hiking for about two hours, when Blair suddenly stopped. He

didn't respond to Simon's inquiry. Almost immediately, Simon called a halt.

He walked up to the young man as the others started to gather. Gently, he

took Blair's arm and called him again. Still nothing. Blair's breathing had

become heavy and erratic.

"Come on, kid, what is it?" Simon urged. He released Blair's arm and took

hold of the night-vision glasses and com link, easing them off his face.

Blair's eyes were locked on something only he could see. Their vacant look

scared Simon. It had to be Jim. Their link must have kicked in again.

Scully neared. She reached for Blair's chin, turning his face toward her. "I

know you're with Jim now," she said, echoing Simon's thoughts. "But you need

to be with us, too, Blair. Follow my voice, you can do it. Tell us what's

happening."

Amazingly, Sandburg responded to her. "A man . . . there's a man with him,

telling

him . . . they've done things . . . done things to Jim . . ." It was hard for

Blair to speak. He was really starting to hyperventilate now.

"Take it easy," Scully said. "Take slow deep breaths. Slow, Blair."

"His heart is racing," Mulder commented.

Scully confirmed her Sentinel's observation pressing her fingers against

Blair's neck. "Sandburg," she said, more forcefully. "You have to get this

under control. The best thing you can do for Jim now is to tell us what's

going on."

The anthropologist's eyes finally met hers. He nodded and forced himself to

breathe more slowly, lifting one hand to his mouth. When he could speak

again, he told them everything he'd heard.

"Before he left, he said they were coming to get Jim for another session in

about an hour." The fear in that statement was unmistakable.

****

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