Summary: The newly formed team has their first mission.
Author's Note: Okay, I'm blaming the holidays for me not getting this to you sooner. I had parties here work there family gatherings everywhere. But here it is and I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know please, please, please.
Four Corners Ranch (GST Headquarters)
Chris Larabee watched as his team ran through the training program. He was amazed at the abilities that both Sentinels and Guides had. Their talents, outside of their gifts, were just as impressive. For the last month, every since they had returned from Vin Tanner's village, the team had build the security system, the communication system and completed a dozen other improvements to the ranch. The hundred acre ranch provided the best field for the different types of training required for the team members. The training scenarios had worked to improve and strengthen the unity of the group. Chris called his men in from the training session. In each man's mind came the thought *come in*. Chris watched as his men came from different parts of the area. He grinned at the antics of Buck and JD as an impromptu race commenced while Josiah, Nathan and Vin sauntered back.
"Ha! I blew you away that time, Buck." crowed a breathless JD as he stopped by Chris.
"I just let you win, kid. Have to give you something to build that ego of yours since you aren't the babe magnet like Me." panted Buck as he joined them. Vin, Josiah, and Nathan reached the group a minute later.
"Kind of out of breath there, Bucklin." grinned Vin. "Maybe we should cut back on the training for the older crowd, Chris. Might be too strenuous for them."
"Hey!" sounded twin growls from Josiah and Nathan.
"I'm not so old that I can't take you on, Vin." rumbled Buck as he jumped at the younger man trying to tackle him. Vin just laughed as he easily out maneuvered the other Sentinel. The others looked on in amusement as Buck tried again and again to capture an evasive Vin.
Finally Chris called a halt to the horseplay. "Okay, fellows. Report."
It had become a routine that after each training session each man would give a progress account. They would give a summary of any potential problems that cropped up and make suggestions on possible solutions. The training also helped them adjust and adapt to each other's unique abilities. Before they could start, Chris' cell-phone at his waist rang. Grabbing the instrument, Chris answered, "GST. Yes sir...Yes sir...Right away."
Replacing the phone back at his waist, he looked at his team. "That was the Judge. He wants us to meet him in Denver. Seems we have our first case, boys. Let head on out."
Denver (Police Headquarters)
The six men of the GST team strode into the parking garage of the Police Department. Before the team even entered the block that housed the police building, the Sentinel/Guide detectives, forensic personnel and police officers were in frenzy. Every bonded pair and those not bonded in the city felt the presence of the three Sentinels and two Guides as they set foot in the vicinity. Those that could converged on the parking garage to meet the newcomers. The Police Chief and his captains tried to order the group to go home while Judge Travis looked on uneasily. They were politely told that this was 'clan' business which took precedent over everything else. Sentinels laws and their society overrode any other governing bylaws of ordinary humans when it pertained to Sentinels. Traditions were in place to protect the normal from the enhanced. But when it came to Sentinel/Guide versus their own kind, it was their traditions and laws that governed.
Long ago Sentinels formed clans to survive. A principal Sentinel, who was chosen by either a contest or challenge from other Sentinels, led these Clans. Most outsiders thought that the leaders of the clans were those that emerged out of the challenges as the strongest. Not so. Yes they physically beat their opponents, but the clan pulled down any leader that turned out to be a dictator or evil. Only if the clan was as wicked or despotic as their chief could they rule. These type of clans instigated slavery of normal humans. The Dark Age was when there were more than a dozen tyrannical clans around. It took four hundred years to cleanse the land from the evil of that time. In the history of the Sentinel Clans after the Dark Ages, any bad clans were quickly taken care of by the others.
Sentinels were born with the need to protect and serve others. By the same virtue, Guides protected their bond mates. Clans were territorial and would encompass large areas to include several states. After the viruses, there were few Sentinels with three enhanced senses. Four enhanced Sentinels were very rare and the Fully Enhanced Sentinel (FES) was believed to be gone. The power generated when the GST team entered the city limits awoke the clan to the fact that a Sentinel pack was in town.
Chris and his team entered the parking garage to face thirty Sentinels and Guides. Chris stopped when Buck placed his hand on his shoulder. He was more confused as Vin walked passed to stand in front of the group. *What the?* thought Chris. Buck projected *Sentinel Clan business, don't interfere*. Vin had placed himself in front of what he considered to be his clan. He waited for the other clan leader to make his move.
A man of about thirty-five step forward with his Guide. He stopped when there was five feet between him and Vin. "My name is Terry Cox, leader of the Wolf clan of the Denver Community. Who are you and what do you want?"
Vin studied this man closely. He knew what he had to do and he didn't like it. Vin had a gentle nature. Living with the good people of his tribe had re-enforced his sense of justice. But Vin had also lived mostly in the wilds and knew the reality of nature. Only the strongest survived and ruled. He would have to challenge the leader. As the only FES he would have to dominate or they would never get any respect. There was no question that Vin would win. He was faster and deadlier. Quietly, but forcefully, Vin replied, "Who I am, you will find out. What I want is to challenge you."
*Be still Chris* came Buck's thought. *It has to be this way*.
Terry Cox, a four enhanced Sentinel, was surprised at the manner of the young man before him. He showed every sign of confidence in winning. The older Sentinels with the youth were letting him lead. By the power they felt the clan gleamed that Vin had four enhanced senses like their leader. What Terry didn't realize was that he faced a FES not another Sentinel like himself.
The Sentinels encircled the two combatants as the Guides moved to one side. Chris found himself between Buck and Nathan as Josiah and JD joined the other Guides.
*Don't move Chris no matter what you think may be happening. Vin won't lose.*
*You will explain this later*, Chris growled in his thoughts.
Vin considered his opponent as Terry took off his jacket and shirt. Vin followed suit. They shifted in the circle studying each others moves. Suddenly Terry lunged at Vin who easily moved out of his way. As Vin evaded Terry, he slapped the man on the back hard. In the old ritual, they would have had knives and the man would have been cut on his shoulder. They would have fought until one, bloody and exhausted, was subdued by the strongest. Rarely did these contests end in death. Now the duels were done empty handed unless it was a death challenge.
Terry tried to pounce again on the young man and again Vin twisted away slapping Terry on the head. Vin bounced from one foot to the other, grinning as he waited for the next move. Again and again the clan leader attacked without once touching the challenger. Five minutes then ten minutes passed in this dance. The Sentinels were calling encouragement to their leader as he missed again. Finally, Terry roared in frustration as he leaped one more time at his opponent. Vin decided to bring the confrontation to an end. As Vin easily evaded Terry again, he grabbed him flipping him. Vin quickly pinned him on his stomach to the floor. He forced Terry's head back cupping his hand around his throat. Silence fell as Vin said, "Submit."
Terry's Guide started to step forward, fear rolling off him. The other Guides encircled him to stop his movement. The other Sentinels waited. This was an age old custom. Whoever won was the new leader. Terry felt the power and strength of the Sentinel pinning him. He had miscalculated. He knew that know. This was a much more powerful man. He realized that he was fighting an FES. There was no other way he could have lost. The other Sentinels felt Vin's power and realized what he was. Whispers of FES moved through the crowd. The Guides picked up the thoughts from their bond mates. Wonder filled the watching crowd.
"I submit." croaked the deposed leader. Vin helped Terry up as he released him.
Terry's Guide immediately pushed through the crowd to check his Sentinel. Terry reassured his Guide before turning to Tanner. He immediately fell to his knees, bowing his head. "As before, since the beginning, you are the conqueror. I swear my loyalty and my oath to you as long as you remain worthy. You are my Clan Leader..." here Terry paused looking at Vin, waiting for his name.
"You are my Clan Leader Vin Tanner." Every Sentinel and Guide there including Buck, JD, Nathan and Josiah fell to their knees to repeat the oath. Vin with Chris plus the normal humans were the only ones standing.
Looking at the kneeling crowd and following the ancient ritual, Vin said, "I accept your pledge for as long as I remain worthy. I accept the responsibility of the wolf clan for as long as I live. May the clan always find me worthy." A roar sounded from the clan as they surged to greet their new clan ruler. Each Sentinel introduced themselves and their Guides. As the introductions concluded, Vin turned to his clan to introduce them. When he got to Chris, Vin said, "This here is Chris Larabee, my chief and leader of our team."
Questions from the crowd came, "Your team? Who do you work for? Why is he your leader? FES don't have leaders!"
Vin raised his hand for silence that immediately fell. The Judge spoke up, "Maybe I should answer that Mr. Tanner. With you permission, of course."
As there was only three Federal Judges left, everyone knew who Orrin Travis was. He was respected throughout the communities. Stepping forward until he was standing between Chris and Vin, he replied, "Chief, officers, I know that you have heard about the new law enforcement team that is being formed for our Nation. Most of you have probably applied for the job. I would like to introduce you the Nation's first Genesis Security Troop headed by Chris Larabee."
The Clan shouted and clapped as well as the other officers in the area. Police Chief Stantly came forwarded to greet the new law enforcement group raising his hands for silence. "We would like to welcome you to our fair community. We would also like to reiterate our agreement to cooperative in everyway possible with this new agency. As you know they have full authority from our government to investigate and subdue criminals throughout the land."
Chris looked at the political man before him. The black clad leader stepped forward to speak. The Wolf clan felt power radiate from him. Not the power of a Sentinel but a force to be reckoned with. "I appreciate the cooperation that we will receive from every law agency in our country. Our job is to make sure that everyone in this great nation has protection of their rights and freedoms while justice is distributed to those who break our laws. Be assured we will do our job." As Chris uttered this last statement, the GST team had gathered to stand behind him. Every man there felt the force of the elite men before them. No one doubted what was promised. Travis at this moment knew he had chosen the right man in Chris Larabee.
Chris broke the moment as he faced Judge Travis. "Judge."
"Yes, the Chief's conference room is ready. If you will lead the way Chief Stantly?" gestured the judge.
As the others followed the Police Chief, Vin walked up to the former clan leader and said, "I need to see you after this meeting to discuss clan business. In fact, gather all the clan to meet today in about an hour."
Terry nodded his head, "As you wish, I will get it done. We'll be in the gym waiting for you. Ask anyone and they'll be able to tell you where it is."
Vin grinned as he tapped his right ear then his nose, "No problem. I'll find you."
Soft laughter followed Vin as he hurried to catch up with the others. It was accompanied with a whispered, "I bet you will".
Judge Travis stopped Police Chief Stantly and his Captains at the door of the conference room. "Thank you for allowing us to use your room. I apologize but only you will be allowed in this meeting Chief Stantly." There was grumbling and murmurs as the others turned away. After the door was shut, the team went into action. Josiah, Vin, Chris and Nathan went to work checking the room for electronic bugs while Buck and JD set up the white noise generator that would block other Sentinels from listening in on the meeting. After everything was secure, the men sat down to listen to the Judge as folders were passed out.
Orrin began, "Gentlemen, I have your first case. You know about the outlands we have in this country that are controlled by bandits, extreme radical groups and generally the bad element. In your folder is a map of one such area close to the Denver community southeast of here." He waited as they found the map. "Reports of kidnapping, robbery and murder have been committed by a group called Broken Faith. They are reportedly some extreme religious group. They believe that they are meant to rule the world since the viruses practically destroyed it."
Buck commented, "In other words, they're nuts."
"Dangerous nuts," continued Orrin. "These reports came not from the local law but from various citizen complaints. These complaints found their way to me through different means of communication. One undercover agent was sent in to investigate. Several months passed without any word before another agent was sent to find the first. Three months ago another officer was sent in for the first two. The last agent crawled his way back after being held prisoner for some time. It took him almost three weeks to finally reach us. I wanted you to come into town to interview him so you can get the story first hand. He reports that the other two agents are dead after being tortured then murder."
Chris asked, "Did he witness it?"
Judge Travis shook his head, "No, they were already dead before he was captured. After seeing his wounds...well you need to talk to him. I will take you to see him after the meeting." Turning to the Police Chief, "I'm sorry that you won't be allowed to come with us. This is being done in a classified manner."
"Why? Shouldn't I be informed on all aspects of this case?" questioned Chief Stantly. "How am I to support your team?"
Orrin sighed. How do you explain that your office couldn't be trusted? Before he could answer, Chris spoke up.
"Who all knew about the first undercover agent?"
"The police department here and the local law in that region." replied Travis.
"And the second agent?" queried Chris.
"Just the Denver department." said Travis.
"And the last one?"
"Only myself, Chief Stantly and his Captains."
Chief Stantly looked startled. "Wait just a minute. Your not suggestion that..."
"You have a leak and it goes as high as your Captains. It could even go higher." supplied Josiah.
"Now hold on here. You're implying that I could be an informer. This is an outrage. I won't sit here..." raged Chief Stantly. The anger was rolling of the man as he started to stand. JD moved closer to Buck to connect as Josiah placed his hand on Nathan's shoulder for his Sentinel to boost his shield. Both men shift to place themselves between their Guides and the outraged Police Captain.
"Silence." growled Chris as his cold glare stunned the man before he could rise. "If we even thought that you were involved, you wouldn't be here. Think for a minute. Do your Captains report only to you? Is there some other higher up they talk to?"
"Like the commissioner, perhaps?" suggested Josiah as he felt his Sentinel's calming presents in their bond. "How about your staff? Do any of them have access to this information?" Turning to the Judge, he asked. "How about your office or the other judges? Can we for certainty say that there is no mole there?"
"No," replied the Judge. "That's the reason I called you in. I don't know where the leak is from."
Still disbelieving, Police Chief Stantly inquired, "How do we even know if there is an informer? Maybe this group just got lucky?"
Chief Stantly found himself on the receiving end of incredulous stares. Buck disbelieving voiced, "Three times? Not likely. There has to be a leak somewhere. How safe is this undercover agent right now, Judge?"
"He came straight to me. After seeing to his medical treatment, I placed him in a safe house. Only one other person knows where he is. In fact, that person is staying with him."
Chief Stantly, "You can trust this person?"
"With my life." the judge stated.
"We'll need to employ stealth tactics once we leave here," said Chris. Looking at his team, he continued. "You each know your jobs. Let's do it."
"Chris?" interrupted Vin.
"We have to meet with the Clan before we talk to this officer."
Chris looked at Vin thinking *Why*? Vin thought back *I need to leave a second in command here. If I don't, they'll be calling me everyday to come negotiate minor differences. This way I'll only be called in on major things*.
Vin knew he didn't have to explain to the others, as they knew how clans worked. It was basic instinct for them. Chris though didn't have this knowledge. Vin waited patiently for his answer.
Chris replied, "Okay. Clan first then the undercover agent." Turning to the Chief of Police, he said, "Thank you for use of your conference room, Chief. We'll be in touch with you if we need you. Judge, where can we find you after we take care of this business?"
"I think I'll go with Chief Stantly here to his office."
"Remember not to talk about this case once we leave here." reminded Chris to both men.
Nodding in agreement, the Chief said, "My office is at the end of this hall."
With the end of the meeting, GST started gathering their equipment to leave. It took about five minutes before they headed out. Vin paused outside the conference room to listen. He zeroed in on Sentinel Terry Cox's voice then followed the sound to the police gym.
Vin led the team down to the exercise room in the basement of police headquarters. Inside the room dozens of Sentinels and Guides waited. All talking stopped as Vin walked through the door. Smiling, Vin headed straight toward Terry and his Guide who was still fussing over him.
"Sentinel Leader Tanner, at your request, most of the clan is present. I'm sorry not all are here but there is a huge fire and some of us are attending to that."
"No apologies necessary and the name is Vin." Turning to the rest of the crowd, he waited. Soon a large knot of people had made their way to stand in front of Vin. They immediately knelt and repeated the oath to their new clan leader. Vin repeated his own oath then waited for them to join the others. "The reason I called this meeting is to appoint a second in command."
Murmuring passed through the crowd then quieted as Vin continued. "I know this is uncommon but it is not unheard of. My job with the newly created security team will require me to move around the country besides being out of reach a lot of the times. This second leader will handle the minor and day to day business. But major matters will be brought to a clan meeting that I hope to set up monthly or at least quarterly. Until that meeting, my second will act in my stead. Is there any objection?"
The gathered Sentinels and Guides looked at one another waiting to see if there was. Seeing none, Vin said, "Good. I am appointing Terry Cox as my second for the Wolf clan because his leadership ability has already been proven. Until our first meeting, all matters will be taken to him. Are there any questions?"
"Yes," said a blond haired Sentinel as he stepped forward. "What about you're Guide? I mean no offense in this question, Clan leader. It's just that...well...the zone outs...what if you don't...I'm sorry, just forget it" trailed off the blushing man as he quickly stepped back into the crowd.
The others looked expectantly at Vin waiting for his answer. Vin had gone still at the other man's unfinished question. He knew the concern was not only about his leadership but his age. A Sentinel would over time slowly lose his mind if he didn't find his guide. The black outs followed by senses going crazy would eventually shut him down to avoid the pain. The clan's concern was his age and whether he would find a guide in time. Vin knew well the consequences if his Guide didn't appear. Being that he was a FES, his guide would have to be Fully Bonding Guide (FBG). A FBG could heal others not only his Sentinel and was just as rare as him. He could only say, "I am 19 and still have a little time. Don't worry, I will find my Guide. If not, then the traditions will be followed to find a new leader."
Chris had been having a silent conversation with Buck about the challenge and the present meeting. He had understood the dynamics of top dog but now he was hearing from Buck the results of Vin not finding his Guide in time. He was shocked at the emotion that coursed through him. He heart nearly stopped. In his mind he shouted *NO! I won't let that happen!*. The others heard and winched at the pain filled thought. JD and Josiah stepped closer to their Sentinels. The telepathic call had startled them all including Vin but the empaths were filling the vibrating emotions. Other guides drew closer to their sentinels connecting for support. Every Sentinel jumped into guard mode from the signals they were getting from their mates of a threat. Not knowing what the hazard was, tensions grew.
Vin didn't turn around. He needed to finish clan business first. "Terry. I place the clan into your hands until I return. This meeting is adjourned." Watching the clan leave, Vin thought *Chris, your scaring the others. Tone it down Cowboy.*
Several minutes passed before Chris pushed down his turmoil. In that time, Vin had turned and walked to stand beside his friend. The others gathered around waiting.
"You okay, stud?" asked Buck. "That was a hell of a shout."
"I will be. It's just that information was unexpected. I didn't know I could do that."
"There's not that much research on telepathy. It's a wonder we haven't ran into this situation before during our training program. I suspect we will find a lot more different capabilities as we go along. Remember that there hasn't been a Sentinel pack like this since before the catastrophes and never one headed by a telepath." said Josiah.
"I didn't hurt anyone? Everyone is okay?" inquired a concerned Chris as he searched their faces.
"We're fine, Chris. The only pain we felt was yours." replied Nathan.
Seeing that that was the truth, Chris relaxed. "Well, we better get the Judge and see this officer. Let's get back to work."
*Sure, you're alright?* thought Vin as they walked out of the gym.
*I will be. I will be.*
Safe House somewhere in Denver
The GST team followed Judge Orrin Travis into a small non-descriptive house way outside of Denver confident that they were not followed. Who in their right mind would trail a pack? The Sentinels abilities to track any unusually movements within miles of them would re-enforce their security especially with a fully enhance sentinel.
Travis led them into the house and up the stairs. Giving a coded knock on one of the doors, he waited for the response knock before he opened it. The room turned out to be larger then it appeared on the outside. Inside in one of the corners, stood a hospital bed in a reclining position with a woman beside it who was placing a gun on a nightstand. She had obviously been holding the weapon on the door in case they were unfriendly. Lying in the bed was a man that seemed to be wrapped from head to toe. His bruised face showed lines of fatigue and pain as he watched them come closer to him.
"Gentlemen, meet my wife Evie. Dear, this is the Geneses Security Troop." introduced Travis as he went over to receive a kiss from his wife. Evie Travis was a small attractive woman in her early fifties with gray streaked blond hair. She was a perfect match for her husband who was a few years older. She smiled sweetly as she shook each man's hand when they were introduced except for Buck. He took her hand and kissed the back of it as he made a slight bow.
"Ma'am, your sweet hands shouldn't be holding guns." he said as he winked at her.
Judge Travis arched his left eyebrow as he watched. He couldn't help but smile as his wife said, "I wish someone would have told me that over 30 years ago when I first joined the police force. But then again, I would never have met my husband if they had."
"Evie was assigned to guard me when I was a DA so long ago." supplied Orrin as he grinned at his wife. "I thought the same thing until I saw her take down a two hundred pound attacker all by herself. I decided then and there that I wanted her by me all the time, so I married her."
"Huh, your just lucky I had already made up my mind to guard that body of yours for the rest of my life." teased Evie.
Nathan had moved over to the bed to check on the patient there. Picking up the chart at the end of the bed, he did a quick scan with his earring of the man's heartbeat and breath sounds. He then checked the chart grimacing as he noted the different injuries of the agent. His instinct to help had him handing the chart to his Guide, who had walked behind him, as he went forward to check the man's temperature. Chris with Vin walked to the bottom of the bed as Buck and JD stood back behind them. They all waited for Nathan's report.
As Nathan approached, the man's grey eye's switched back and forth between every man on the team. You could see the distrust while Nathan, Buck and Vin could smell the fear rolling of him. JD and Josiah could feel fear, anxiety and pain. Nathan stopped as the man's heart rate quickened.
Nathan looked at the Judge saying, "Maybe you should introduce us."
Judge Travis quickly informed the man, "This is the team I told you about. They have come to hear your report. Gentlemen, meet Agent Barry Tolton."
As the Judge spoke, little by little the man relaxed. Nathan waited until the Judge finished before saying, "Is it alright if I check you out? I have medical training."
Hesitantly, Barry nodded. Nathan stepped closer as he said, "I'm a Sentinel so I use my sense of touch and sight. I'm going to lightly run my hands over you to check your temperature and the condition of your wounds. I know by your chart the extent of your injuries. I will try to be gentle, okay?"
The man eyes had widened and he relaxed further when Nathan told him he was a Sentinel. Josiah stepped closer to place his hand on his Sentinel to ground him as Nathan said, "This is my Guide. Tell me how you are feeling?"
"Tired and in pain." replied the man quietly as he looked at Josiah. Vin did a quick scan on the patient (not liking what he found) before he turned his focus back on the outside of the apartment. Buck, with JD by his side, had been scanning the surrounding area. Chris had taken the chart to look at when Josiah stepped up to connect to Nathan. Nathan barely controlled his anger when he finished.
As Nathan finished, Chris asked Buck, JD and Vin to find chairs for them. Mrs. Travis said she knew where some were and quickly led them outside. In a few moments each person was seated with Nathan gauging Barry's vitals as Chris spoke, "I know you have already told the Judge your story but we would like you to repeat it to us. Just take your time. We'll stop when you ready."
Over the next hour the man told of how he left to find the other agents. "I went in without going to the local authorities because it was a sure bet that they were crooked. I wasn't even in the town two days before they grabbed me." He went on to tell how they took him blindfolded to a house and locked him in a cage in the basement. They waited a day before they started the torture. As he described the different things they did, Evie Travis began to silently cry on her husband's shoulder. Buck's hands clinched into fist as JD scooted closer to him. Vin's eyes mirrored Chris' as they glared holes into the floor. As the man described how each day brought on a new more painful torment he started to cry, Nathan signaled to Chris they need to stop. Not only did the injured man need a moment but so did the rest of the team. Josiah and JD were getting tired from handling the emotions of everyone in the room.
Chris' temper had flared and kept rising as the man spoke. "Let's rest a moment before you continue. I know I would like something to drink. Mrs. Travis, do we have anything around?" asked Chris as he looked at Buck. *Buck*
*I know, I know. Go get you some coffee. Do I look like a maid to you?* griped Buck in his thoughts. Out loud he said, "Come on JD, let's help the little lady."
Chris looked at Vin thinking, *Vin, go with them and keep Buck out of trouble.*
Vin grinned as he thought *Sure, Cowboy* while he said, "Wait up Buck. Mrs. Travis you mind if we have something to eat?"
As they left the room, the others could hear JD say, "Yeah, I could go for some food myself. You have any donuts, ma'am?"
"I smell a cake, JD. Chocolate cake." they heard Vin say before the door closed.
Nathan sighed. "Those two boys have the biggest sweet tooth around. Leave it to Vin to find the sugar."
Barry had recovered enough with the diversion to ask, "How did he know about the cake? Mrs. Travis baked it two days ago."
Chris replied, "Guess we should have explained a little more. Nathan is not the only Sentinel here. Vin and Buck are Sentinels with JD being Buck's Guide. Vin doesn't have one yet."
Looking at Chris, Barry inquired, "Are you a Sentinel too?"
"No, I just run the team."
Accepting this, the injured man closed his eyes to rest falling instantly asleep. Nathan checked his pulse and temperature again. Nathan thought to Chris, *He's going to have to stop soon.*
Chris nodded his head. Whenever Nathan thought they needed to quit, they would.
It was another hour before they continued with the story. In that time everyone had had something to eat and drink. Mrs. Travis had made sandwiches and coffee. Vin had sniffed out the Chocolate cake that was provided for desert. JD and Vin had finished half the cake between them. Buck had muttered about letting children eat sugar, the energy rush afterwards and how Chris could chase them down. Chris just glared as Josiah chuckled. JD had sat close to Buck while Nathan was close to Josiah. Several times during the meal, Buck and Nathan would lean over to sniff their Guides necks grounding themselves. JD and Josiah would continue eating as they tilted their heads giving their Sentinels access. The first few times were startling to the Travis' but they quickly grew accustom to the necessary ritual. Doing this the Sentinels held off the actual bonding until they could have some privacy.
After finishing eating, everyone gathered around the bed again. Nathan reached over and gently shook Barry Tolton awake. The man slowly became aware of where he was and tried to apologize for falling asleep. But Judge Travis assured the man that it was perfectly alright and he had done nothing wrong. The man continued his report on how for the next week he was tormented until he escaped and made his way back to Judge Travis. He spoke of how he dared not trust anyone so it took him awhile to return. Nathan had asked about his care for his injuries, but Barry replied that he knew some first aid. He did as much as he could and kept moving. He knew it was his only hope.
As he finished, the man caught his breath from a sharp pain. Nathan said, "Better finish up Chris. He is going to need some painkillers and a good rest."
Nodding his understanding, Chris said, "We appreciated you talking to us, Agent Tolton. We have a few questions for you. First, how did you escape?"
Looking at the GST leader, he said, "These people have a slave. It was a boy that couldn't have been more than eleven or twelve if that. Really couldn't tell his age under all that dirt. They used him to clean, cook or whatever little dirty chore. They kept him tied in the basement with me like some animal or pet and would beat him. He helped me at first by getting me water and food when he could without them knowing about it. Then one day after they tied him up and left for the night, he unlocked his chains then unlocked my door. He told me they were planning to kill me the next day. He showed me how to get out of the basement and which way to head once I escaped. I tried to get him to leave with me but he refused. When I tried to force him to go, he kicked me then ran back to his chains and locked himself in again. I pleaded with him some more but he stubbornly kept saying no that he had to stay there. I had no choice but to leave him. I had to come back and warn the Judge before he sent someone else out. God, I've been thinking about him since I left. Someone needs to go stop them and rescue that boy. Please I swore I would return. Please, you have to help." sobbed the man as he broke down.
Whispering soothing words of comfort, Evie Travis stepped forward to try to calm the injured man. The emotions hit both JD and Josiah causing them to seek the shelter of their Sentinels. Nathan, putting his arm around his Guide, said, "I think that's enough for now, Chris."
"Wait just a minute Nathan. I have one more question. I know this is hard Agent Tolton but if the other agents were already gone when you got there, how do you know they're dead?"
Having heard Chris' question, Barry Tolton tried to calm himself down. After a few minutes, he whispered in exhaustion, "It was the boy. He told me. He said he witness their deaths."
Somewhere in the Outlands southeast of Denver
The Rat cringed at the laughter that flowed from the basement below as he stood by the stove cooking dinner. His hands were shaking. He knew it would only get worst as the day progressed. He also knew he was in for a rough spell, for the men just captured and locked below would not satisfy Paul Grant, his owner, or his sons' cruel need for pain. Not for long anyway. He knew what was coming and frantically wished he could help them and himself.
The Rat, as his masters called him, had been a slave every since he could remember. When he was small, his first owners were nice people making sure to care for him like one of their own. He cried when they were force to give him up at the age of ten. A ruthless crime lord had stripped them of everything of value to pay off a gambling debt. He had been part of the price. Things had gotten worse from then on with each new owner. The current one caused his skin to crawl every time he was around. This one enjoyed causing pain. The Rat knew this because he could feel it. His gift, more likely a curse, let him know other's emotions. Sometimes he could sense feelings from those beyond his sight. He didn't know what range was normal for empathic powers.
A feeling of desperate need had been growing for several months now. What he needed he didn't know...it was just like there was an empty hole deep inside of him. That feeling had come back tenfold when the six men were captured and brought into the house. He had been fighting the stirrings of compulsion that flowed and ebbed through him all week. He didn't know what it was but it caused his empathy ability to intensify on those around. He felt as if he was going to go crazy from the emotions swirling and crowding him. Oh Lord he needed to escape! He had wanted to go with the last man he helped to leave. The man had begged and pleaded with him but he knew they both would not have made it. He knew the search would have begun the minute their escape had been discovered. As it was, his owners had wasted value time trying to make him talk. He of course denied any knowledge of how the man had freed himself or how he got out of the house.
The secret of how the man escaped was his to keep and one day soon he would use it. He had planned to use it early but then another prisoner came. By the time he realized that the emotions coming from his owner was the intent to kill the first man, he had barely enough time to raise his shields. The man's death had put him in shock. Not knowing what was wrong, his master had beaten him until he became aware again. It took two weeks before he was strong enough to try to escape. But again, he was stopped as they brought in a second prisoner. This time he was prepared and helped the man leave giving him his supplies he had squirreled away. But the second one was captured again. He could do no more than stand by as they executed the man in front of him in the basement. The emotions of enjoyment coupled with fear and pain had sent him into his corner whimpering and moaning. Luckily, the others thought him a useless coward crying over the dead man leaving him alone. It took all night for him to get control so he would not plunge into a dark abyss of swirling thoughts and feelings.
For a third time, another man delayed him in making his escape. This time though it seemed the plan had worked. His owners had spent a week trying to find the missing prisoner. They had come home empty handed. Again, it was two weeks before his wounds had healed. He was now stashing food and water for his escape again. He knew he needed enough to last for a month and it was slow going in gathering the supplies. Now this happened.
They had marched six men down into the basement under heavy guard. Four of the men were on their feet while two of their companions were carried. Emotions rolled from all of them. He shuddered at the odious feelings of anticipation and lust from his owners. But his need was also growing inside as he stood by the stove to finish cooking.
How was he going to not show what was happening to him? All his life he had to control the feelings and emotions that washed over him. He had mastered his face and reactions to show nothing or only what he wanted them to see. Now this new raw emotion was threatening to expose him for all to see. He felt as if bees were buzzing in his head and ants were crawling all over his body as the necessity to go to the basement grew. As the need to do what he didn't know. He was going crazy that was the only explanation he had.
He suddenly groaned as he felt pain intense pain in his head. Someone below him was hurt. The urge was so great in him to go help the person that he actually went to unlock the chain on his feet that kept him grounded in the kitchen. It was the crashing of the basement door into the wall as the captors came laughing from the basement that had the Rat scurrying back to the stove before he was discovered. Eight men made up the band of ambushers who had went hunting.
"Did you see that?" laughed Art Grant, the youngest son of Paul as he stepped through the door. "Did you see the way those two are holding the others? The way they were hugging each other, bunch of queers! What freaks!"
"Yeah, I don't get it. I thought Sentinels were supposed to be these big strong supermen." commented Mike Grant, Paul's oldest. "If they're so tough, how did we catch them so easily? I mean, what about their super hearing, huh?"
"I don't see what the big deal was, Pa? Sure we had to ruff up two of them more than the others, but it wasn't that hard." said Tommy Grant, the second child.
Andy, the last son of Paul Grant snorted as he walked into the kitchen, "They sure weren't the bad boys we were told. Some new police force there. We totally surprised them. The only ones to get seriously hurt were Pete and Dave. The rest of us got away with some scraps and bruises."
As the eight men crowded into the dinning/kitchen, the Rat could see that two of them were injured. One looked to have a broken arm while the other walked with a serious limp. Both men sat down at the table as Paul Grant ordered, "Art, go get the first aid kit. Tommy help you're brother patch up everyone."
The Rat busily stirred the stew he was cooking as Paul led one of the others into the kitchen. He was sure to keep his head down so that his long hair could cover his face. "Put some water on to boil, Rat. Is dinner almost done?"
The Rat scampered to find a pan to boil water. He kept his eyes downcast as he answered, "Yes sir. It is finished."
Paul yelled, "Andy, you and Mike set the table and come get this food." Turning back to the boy who had just put a pan of water on the stove, he said, "Start fixing something for the prisoners, boy. Those old potatoes and onions ought to be good enough. But first get a bucket of water and some old rags to tend the prisoners with. Mike?"
"Yeah, Pa?" replied Mike as he placed plates on the table before coming into the kitchen.
"Take the Rat down to the basement so he can look after those two that are unconscious. Take your gun and stay with him until he's finished. Make sure those cages are locked again. Don't want another escape." Turning to the one who had followed him, he said, "You go with him Joe."
"Aww, I don't need any help with these wimps, Pa."
Paul growled at this son, "Do as I told you, boy. Don't underestimate this bunch. We're lucky that the long haired one went into some kind of trance. As it was, the blond man nearly tore Pete's arm off when he went near him. These are not like the others, Mike. After Rat has seen to them, come back up and eat. I'll get Tommy and Art to help feed them later."
The Rat put aside what he as doing and shuffled as far as his chain would let him to one of the bottom cupboards. Opening the door, he pulled out several clean rags and tape. Turning back to his master with his eyes downcast, he timidly ask, "May I have some alcohol, sir?"
He got a slap in the face that nearly put him on the floor. Only because he dropped his supplies and caught himself by clutching the countertop he stumbled into, did he stop from hitting the ground. Blood was trickling from the corner of his mouth as the boy stood awaiting more abuse. After striking him, Mike snapped, "Who asked you to speak, Rat?"
"Mike! Stop that! We don't have time for it. Just go get the alcohol from Art and take the boy down."
The Grant clan all looked similar with about the same features and height. Six feet, dirty brown hair, brown mean eyes, and cruel thin lips. Mrs. Grant had died given birth to the youngest. Paul Grant didn't even blink when it happened. As he looked at the cringing child before him, Mike wanted to beat the bastard. His father had yelled at him and it was the Rat's fault. Mike was afraid of his father. All the boys were. They had received they're share of abuse before Paul Grant found other interest. Now the child cowering before him took the brunt of most of the abuse dished out by the sire and his sons. Mike made a note to himself to repay the Rat for this.
"But why do we care? We're going to kill them anyhow." grouched Mike as he backed away for the boy.
"Not yet we ain't. We got some visitors coming in a few days and they want these boys healthy when their questioned. Do you want to explain to the Chief why they can't talk because they're out of their minds from fever?"
Mike blanched at the mention of the Chief. He was not afraid of but two people in his life. One was his father and the other was the Chief. Their headman was not known for having an understanding nature.
Turning to the boy, Mike sneered, "Pick up that stuff and let's go. I don't have all day to wait. Come on Joe."
The Rat picked up the things he had dropped then stood waiting as Mike followed by Joe went into the dinning room to snatch the alcohol from his brother. Both men headed toward the basement door only to be stopped by Paul clearing his throat. "Forgetting something, boys?"
Mike swung back around to see that the boy was just standing in the middle of the kitchen. "Come on Rat! Move it! We don't have all day."
The boy kept his head down as he gentle shuffled his feet causing the shackles on his ankles to jingle. Huffing in frustration, Mike went back to get the key from his father. Bending down, he roughly unlocked the boy's chains then pushed the child in front of him. Mike and Joe grabbed two pistols from the table as they headed down to the prisoners.
Buck Wilmington was furious. Beyond furious. Things had gotten out of hand. First Vin goes into a major zone out. Something had caused him to focus to hard on one of his senses drawing him into a trance where he saw and heard nothing. Then Chris had gone after one of their captors who had slapped Vin to bring him around. This led to one of the goons knocking him out. Vin had chosen that moment to snap out of it. He went after the man who had knocked Chris out. Trouble was that his coordination was slow. He got a bash on the head for his trouble.
Josiah and JD had tried to go to help them only to get pushed, shoved and hit. That got Buck and Nathan's attention, they attacked. They could have taken the jerks, but that wasn't the plan. Josiah had grabbed Nathan in a bear hug to stop his sentinel from killing anyone. Josiah might have been a guide but he was strong enough to slow Nathan down so he could reason with him. JD didn't have that option. It took him throwing his body in front of Buck shouting his name to slow him down enough to listen. His instinct had been to place his Guide out of the way to wreak some havoc. But by that time, they had several guns trained on them effectively stopping their rampage. Now they were in a basement of a very old house locked in cages.
The house was a huge old affair with three levels and a basement. A basement whose floor was made of stone while what looked to be enormous oak beams stretched across the ceiling. Buck could smell the pungency odor of the ancient wood. The east wall where they were located had four cells. The bars ran from the floor into the ceiling above. Three of those cages had two men apiece in them. The first cell was empty and stopped about five feet from the north wall. Along the south wall, the half not occupied with the last cell, were shelves holding different sized chains and ropes.
The west wall also had shelves from top to bottom. These held various bottles, cans, jars of homemade preserves and tools...tools that were nicely out of reach. Halfway along the wall the shelves stopped leaving the rest of the area a cleared space. Buck grimaced in disgust. By the smell (these people didn't seem to clean anything) and the implements scattered about, in this area is where the others were tortured and killed.
Buck turned his attention to the North wall. Here there was a little alcove that held a washer and dryer. The left side had the stairs leading up while the right had another shelf running from top to bottom. This one held old clothes and rags. High barred small windows ran along the south wall. There were three and not even a child could crawl through them to escape much less a grown man.
At least the maniacs had the foresight to place the Sentinel with their respective Guide in the same cage. JD was with Buck, Nathan had Josiah and that left Chris with Vin to share a cell. Buck was holding JD, breathing in his scent to ground him. Nathan was doing the same with Josiah trying to control the urge to pound someone. Both Sentinels were also checking their Guides injuries. As far as Buck could detect, JD only had a few abrasions and bruises. Opening his connection fully with JD, he realized his Guide was struggling internal.
"JD? What's wrong?" questioned Buck as he drew his arms tighter around his shivering friend.
"Cccan't you ffeel it?" stuttered JD as he tried to burrow closer to Buck.
From the other cage, Josiah with a shaking voice answered, "The emotions...the emotions of these...these...it's hard to handle."
Nathan drew his Guide closer to him as he shuttered. "Just draw what you need Josiah. Whatever you need to boost you shield."
Buck told JD to do the same. After a few moments, when his friend had settled a bit, Buck asked, "Nathan? Can you tell if they're still alive?"
Nathan shifted and focused his hearing. Josiah placed his hand on his Sentinel's chest to strengthen the bond giving Nathan more control. In a few seconds, he picked up Chris then Vin's heartbeats. "Yes, I hear them. Heart rate sounds steady. We are going to need to check them more thoroughly, Buck. Wait Chris' rate is picking up. I think he's coming around. Buck, you need to go over and help him. Damn why couldn't we have that cell? It sure would make it simpler if I could reach them."
"I would feel better if you were here too. Let me get JD settled then I'll go help Chris." replied Buck. "JD, how are you doing?"
"I.I've been better. Shields are stronger. Go Go help the others." urged JD as he shifted to get out of Buck's arms. He felt the arms tighten around him then Buck lower his head to scent his guide.
"Just one minute, kiddo. I need just one more minute." Buck rested his head on the shoulder near the hollow of JD's neck. He drew several deep breaths of his guide's scent as their connection flared. He wanted nothing more then to bond but Chris and Vin were hurt. Sighing, he finally released his friend. Shifting his Guide onto the filthy thin blanket that was in their cell, Buck took off his jacket to place on JD. Running his hand once more down his friend's face, Buck got up to check on Vin and Chris.
Buck snaked his hands through the bars to rest on Chris' back. He could feel his friend breathing which reassured him. He trusted Nathan but there was nothing like checking yourself. He ran his hand over the head region to check for breaks.
"Nathan, I don't detect any breaks in the skull. Your right he is coming around. Chris, buddy? Come on, wake up. That's it...open them eyes."
Chris could hear someone calling...calling for him to wake up. He didn't want to. His head hurt too much. He was contemplating going back to the dark place.
"Oh no you don't, hoss. We need you to wake up. Come on, open them eyes." cajoled Buck. When it looked like Chris was going to ignore him, Buck thought *Chris, wake up! Vin needs you. He's hurt.*
Chris' eyes snapped opened. They immediately shut as the light pierce the sensitive organs causing intense pain. He moaned. He heard Buck calling again. He muttered, "Shut up Buck."
"What was that? Shut up? I'll shut up when you get your lazy butt over there and check on Tanner."
Vin! Chris rolled over and pushed himself up on his elbows. Buck reached through the bars to help him completely sit up. Leaning his back against the bars, Chris tried to take stock of his surroundings. He closed his eyes again as he groaned. What had happened?
Buck rubbed Chris' back as he waited for him to catch up to become more aware. A few minutes passed before Chris asked, "Where the hell are we and what happened?"
Chuckling Buck turned to Nathan, "Seems he awake now Nate. What do we do now?"
"Chris, how's your vision?" asked Nathan.
"Blurry, but getting better. What is the condition of everyone else?"
"Well, the rest of us are bruised and banged up a bit. Nothing serious. It's you and Vin that we're worried about. Chris, you need to check on Vin. He needs to be turned on his side in case he starts to throw up so he won't choke to death. I need you also to get him close to Buck so he can check him out."
Chris thought sarcastically *Is that all?* but he opened his eyes. He moved toward the dark lump in front of him. Gently he rolled Vin over onto his back then dragged him closer to Buck. Again Buck reached through the bars to help. Finally they had Vin's limp form on his side while Buck ran his hands over his body scanning his injuries.
"Nate, Vin doesn't seem to have any breaks either though he has a nasty gash. I say he will have one huge headache when he wakes up. Whoa, Chris." Buck grabbed the unsteady man. "Maybe you'd better lay back down."
"Yeah, I think you right." Stretching out beside Vin, Chris asked, "So you want to tell me where we are? I remember going to help Vin but that is all."
Buck explained the events up to being dragged down into the basement. "The only good thing they did was to let us have our guides in the same cell. I'm telling you Chris, I came this close to killing them all. If JD hadn't put himself in my way...well this trip would have been cut short."
"I have to agree with him, Chris." said Nathan. "Josiah grabbed me holding me back. But your plan is working. I heard them upstairs. They think were wimps and freaks."
"Want they be surprised when we bust up their little group here." spoke Buck. "Chris there is a blanket over there in the corner. Better put it over Vin to keep him warm."
"Buck?" called JD.
"Be right there, kid. Nate anything else we can do?" asked Buck as he felt JD's distress.
"Just keeping him warm and trying to wake him up every half hour until he comes too." replied Nathan.
Buck went to his Guide gathering him to him. Chris noticed this and that Nathan hadn't moved from Josiah's side. "Buck? What's wrong? Are JD and Josiah okay?"
Nathan answered, "They're having emotional overload with this group, Chris. Besides our guide's shields were getting low in the first place. Also there is something else going on here that we haven't figured out yet. I'm having an awful time controlling my instinct to protect."
"Me too, Nathan. Me too."
"Let's just stick to the plan. We need to find the leaks and get the leaders." stated Chris. God his head hurt.
"Shush." said Nathan. "Someone is coming."
A little light shone on the steps as the door was opened up above. They could hear several people coming down the stairs. Suddenly light flooded the room as a switch was flipped.
Chris squeezed his eyes shut from the blinding light. He decided to fend unconsciousness. *Guys, I playing possum here. Don't worry. Tell me what's going on.*
Buck reported as he watched three people descend down the stairs. Two of them he recognized as some of the crowd that captured them. The third appeared to be a small boy being roughly pushed toward the cells. *Nate? Could this be the boy that helped Tolton?* asked Chris.
*Sure looks like it. Damn it! Josiah?*
Chris began to worry when he didn't hear anything else. "Nathan?...Buck what's going on?* Chris heard the cell door being open.
"Get in there Rat. Hurry it up, we're hungry." The sounds of shuffling, a whimper then a grunt of pain came from the cell door.
"I told you to get in there!"
What came next sent a chill down his back. A sound began to vibrate real low. The sentinels were growling. They sounded like wolfs getting ready to attack. Chris opened his eyes to look at his friends. Buck and Nathan both had hit their cell doors and were now rattling the bars. The chill ran down him again. Both Guides were on their feet starring at the newcomers. JD and Josiah went and placed their hands on their Sentinel's shoulders talking to them as they glared at the men. If he didn't know better, he would swear that they were controlling Buck and Nathan. He rolled over as he turned his head to see the reaction of their captors. What he saw sent him into a rage. He found himself growling along with his men as he tried to get up. He only made it into a sitting position before the dizziness forced him to stay still. His thought was that they're dead men. He did not realized that he projected the thought out loud until four similar thoughts were sent back echoing *Yes!*
There in the doorway of the opened cell stood two huge men over a small body kneeling on the floor. Chris smirked at the fear he saw on the faces of those bullies. Their eyes were rounded as they stood frozen in place. The boy, for it was a small boy, was cowering as he knelt on the floor where he had been knocked down. How the child held onto the supplies he was carrying was anybody guess? The boy had long dirty brown hair that was covering his features as he kept his head bowed. His thin body was trembling and his hands shaking as he careful placed his bundle on the floor.
Mike Grant and Joe Nestle were frozen in fear. To them, the men looked like they were going to come through the bars. And the growling...never had they heard anything like it. It was enough to freeze their blood. Joe slowly backed out of the doorway. He wanted to run but they say showing fear would cause animals to attack. These men were acting like a pack.
"Mike...slowly back out of there and lock the door."
Mike nodded his agreement. He noticed that one of the injured men was sitting up. He glanced into this face. He gulped. Blazing olive colored eyes watched his every move...eyes that promised retribution. He felt the gun in his hand. He had forgotten about it. Up snapped the weapon which made him feel braver. Turning his fear into anger, he said, "Just try it and I'll blow you away. Get up Rat and get out of here."
The Rat was torn. He was not shaking because of fear. He was trembling in anticipation. He was supposed to be here in this cell. He kept his face hidden behind his hair as he looked at the two men in the cage. The compulsion was so great in him that he slowly stood up to go to the object of his need. It offered peace...a peace that he had never known that he needed. Sanctuary screamed at him. He felt himself roughly grabbed from behind and slung out of the cell then the door slammed and locked. He had fallen to his hands and knees sobbing at the frustration that he felt.
Mike snorted in disgust as he said, "Get on upstairs, you slug. There's nothing to fear now, coward." Turning to the now silent prisoners, "And you. If I had my way, you would all be dead. But it seems you are to be some entertainment for higher ups. It will be a pleasure to see how long you last." grinned Mike evilly.
Turning their backs, the men pushed the sobbing boy up the stairs leaving the light on. Mike knew his brothers would be back to fed the prisoner. Looking at the shaking crying boy, Mike got an idea on how he could get his own back at the Rat. He would teach the boy a lesson for getting him into trouble with his pa. He would teach him good.
Chris heard the door shut. He waited a moment before he went to the bundle that was left behind. He found clean rags, a bucket of water with a cup in it, and a bottle of alcohol. Taking the supplies over to Vin, he turned to his friends wondering what had just happened. As he dipped a rag into the water to clean the gash on Vin head, he asked, "Uh, guys? What just happened?" He was confused. He had never felt anything like that before.
"Good question, hoss. Nathan, you got any ideas?" asked Buck as he turned to JD gathering him in his arms. Lord they needed to bond. He could feel the same growing need in his Guide.
"Josiah, you got any thoughts?" was Nathan's reply as he too turned to his Guide needing the connection.
"I don't know for sure, but it has something to do our desire to protect. I guessing as we're a pack now, we will be acting as one." replied Josiah.
"That well and good for you guys being Sentinels and Guides, but what about me? I felt like I was going to rip they're throats out. The longing...well I've never felt anything like it. Not even when I lost my wife and son." said Chris as he finished wiping the blood off Vin's face. Taking another rag, he opened the alcohol pouring it over the cloth. Gently he started cleaning the wound.
"Maybe it also has something to do with our mind-links." piped up JD.
"JD is probably right. There never has been any extensive information on Sentinel packs. Just that they happen when an injustice has been done. That is what we were formed for in the first place. But we have to remember that there is not any information on packs being linked or led by telepaths. This is new territory. Maybe the intensity came because of the foul treatment of the boy coupled with our bonds." theorized Josiah as he leaned more into Nathan.
"Bonds? But I'm a telepath, Josiah. We don't bond," said Chris as he finished. He took another rag to rap around Vin's head.
"I would say you're bonded to us, Chris. We're all bonded in this pack."
"Yeah, just as our bond to our Sentinel is not only empathic; but we can also physically heal them. Maybe our link to you is not only in the mind but the emotions as well." wondered JD.
"Oh joy...that make's me feel better." snorted Chris as he continued to minister to Vin. Shaking his shoulder, he continued, "So now I'll be feeling Buck's feelings?" Chris thought to Vin *Wake up.*
"Oh Lord, help us." spoke up Nathan. "Chris, let Buck treat your wound now."
"Hey! You should be so lucky." said an indignant Buck.
They all heard a groan from the man on the floor. The others gathered as close as they could, watching as Chris bent over Vin rubbing his back.
Chris encouraged, "Come on Vin. Open them eyes for me. Wake up now."
"Ccchris?" moaned Vin as he opened then quickly closed his eyes.
"Yeah, Cowboy. You gave us quite a scare there. How are you feeling? Want some water?" asked Chris as he dipped it out with the cup.
"Yes." he croaked. The water felt good to his parched mouth. Signaling he had had enough, Vin continued, "Funny. Feel funny. My head hurts but my senses are on high. I can't seem to control them. I don't know what's going on. There's a thumping sound. It's almost drowning out everything else. There's this smell...I'm tired. Think I'll go to sleep now." whispered Vin as he slowly relaxed into a healing sleep.
"Vin. Vin! Nathan?" voiced a worried Chris as he settled the blanket more securely around his sleeping friend.
"Let him sleep, Chris. It's naturally after a head injury. You need to rest to. We'll wake you up." consoled Nathan.
"Oh my sweet Lord!" exclaimed Josiah. "Why didn't I think of it before?"
Chris could detect a certain note of concern in the Guide's voice. Turning his attention to Josiah, he asked, "What? What is it?"
Instead of answering right out, Josiah asked his Sentinel, "Nate, remember when you found me? What happened with you senses? What were you feeling?"
"Senses? They went wide open. Everything was sharper, brighter, and louder. I could even...You don't mean?" gasped Nathan as he looked his attention to Vin.
"I could hear JD's heart beat. I could smell his scent. It reminded me of dark chocolate." mused Buck as he sniffed his Guide neck again.
"What are you all going on about?" shouted a frustrated Chris.
"Vin's Guide is close by Chris. That's the reason Vin zoned like he did. He's hearing his heart beat; he's caught his Guide's scent. His senses are focused on his Guide. Somewhere, maybe even in this house, is his Guide." announced Josiah.
Chris grew cold then furious, "Are you saying that one of these lowlifes is Vin's Guide? I refuse to believe it!"
"We don't have a choice in who is our bond mate, Chris. But you are right. Vin's Guide wouldn't be a lowlife. Maybe someone in this place is not like what we have seen. We don't know how many are in this place." replied Nathan.
"How may heart beats do you hear, Nate?" asked Buck.
Nate focused his hearing, "Ten. I hear ten. Nine on the floor above us and one more up higher. But that's just in the house. Vin's range is far beyond even the strongest one of us. He could be focused on someone a few miles from here."
Chris couldn't believe what he was hearing. Vin's Guide was somewhere nearby. He could be in the house or outside the house. While he wanted his friend to find his soul brother, he didn't want to have to deal with a criminal in their midst. He had to ask the question, "Who controls who in your relationship? Can this person control Vin?"
"It doesn't work like that Chris. It's a mutual bond. Both are their own individuals."
"So you're saying that neither one would control?" queried a worried Chris.
"Yes. Though I've never read anything about what would happen if one was lawful and one was a criminal. I don't know for sure. A lot was lost in the catastrophes." stated Josiah.
"I don't think I like this. I don't think I like this at all." said Chris.
Two hours later, Vin was more alert and sitting up. JD, with Buck nearby, was trying to help Vin with his rampant senses. He helped him to turn them down a little bit; though they, as Vin explained, felt like he was trying to hold back a pack of hounds on the scent with string. JD sat down exhausted. Buck gathered him up taking him to the pallet they had made with the ratted blanket. The connection between them flared as he sat down with his Guide in his arms. Surrounding his friend in his shield, he heard JD say, "Whoever his Guide is will be awful strong. I now know what it is like to ride a tornado, Buck or get caught in a whirl pool."
"You okay, buddy?"
"Will be. Can't do that too often. We'll have to space it out." sighed a weary JD. "Would be easier if Josiah could help but that's not going to happen soon.
"He'll be fine, Buck. It just takes a lot out of him trying to handle an FES. Vin's senses are off his chart." said Nathan.
"Thanks, JD. I owe you kid," said Vin as he lay back down.
"How are your senses doing now Vin?" asked Nathan.
"What you really want to know is how strong am I still locked onto my Guide, right Nate?"
"Yes, I still hear his heart, smell him, feel him. He's just as anxious as I am. He knows I'm here. I don't know how much longer I can hold out."
"What do you mean hold out, Vin?" queried Chris. He was afraid for his friend.
"Either they connect soon or he'll go feral." stated Josiah.
"Feral? What does that mean?"
"He'll become unmanageable. He'll kill those who get between him and his Guide. No matter who. He'll kill the whole lot upstairs to be with his brother. He won't be able to help himself, Chris. And no one will be able to stop him but his Guide." replied Buck.
"What about us? Couldn't we stop him?" questioned Chris.
"No, not even us." said Josiah. "You've got to understand, Chris. He will go into a real blessed protector mode. On some level, he'll know we're his friends and he won't hurt us; unless we try to get between him and his Guide. He'll be following his instinct. It will rule him, not him rule it. It's that way with all of us. Even us Guides."
"Damn it. What don't you have some kind of rule book or something? This is getting complicated."
"Don't worry, cowboy. Just don't get in my way and everything will be okay." chuckled Vin.
Buck suddenly lifted his head up sniffing loudly. Nathan cocked his head to the side listening. Vin sat up at attention.
"I smell food," said Buck.
Nathan looked at the stairs, "They're coming. Sounds like four or five."
"Vin? Vin? Oh, shit." muttered Chris as he tried to shake his friend. He got no response but a blank stare. Hearing the door open, he quickly pushed Vin down onto the blanket, placing himself between the door and Vin.
"He's zoned again, Chris. Between his head wound and the Guide being near, he can't control his focus. He'll be all right. JD can help him after these creeps have left." stated Nathan as he too moved between Josiah and the cell. Buck got in front of JD. They watched the group as they came.
Down the stairs trooped two men followed by the boy and two more men after him. The child carried tin plates and a dipper. No other utensils were present. Two of the men were hauling a large pot of soup between them. All four men carried guns but only two had theirs trained on the caged group.
Mike had talked his three brothers into helping him have a little fun. It didn't take much persuasion as the others were bored. Anything for fun, especially if it involved the Rat. Standing in the middle of the room so they could have a clear shot, Mike and Art aimed their guns at Nathan and Josiah. Tommy and Andy set the pot down. Andy stepped back drawing his gun also aiming at the two men.
Mike ordered, "We've brought you some food. Now here is how it is going to work. You're going to move to the back of the cell and stay there. Tommy is going to open the door and the Rat is going to bring you each a plate of food by setting it in the middle of the cell. Don't do anything stupid and you won't get hurt. You are to stay at the back until we've finished. Got it? Move to the back of the cell now. Go on Tommy open the door. Rat get the food ready."
The Troop looked at each other then moved to the back. Mike said to Chris, "You, move your friend to the back of the cell. I don't care if he's hurt, just move him." He received a green glare as Chris did as he was told. Mike felt that fear again.
Tommy grinned as he placed the key in the lock. He stood to the side so as not to be in the line of fire. Opening the door, he stepped back so the boy could go through. The child was shaking so bad that he spattered the soup as he filled the bowls. He trembled as he hesitantly walked through the door towards the middle and set the bowls down. The whole time he kept his head down so that his hair covered his face. Tommy locked the door after the child left. The same routine was done with Buck and JD.
Now came Chris and Vin's turn. Chris felt the tension in the air increase. He looked at his men noticing that Buck had JD plastered to his back. Josiah was doing the same to Nathan. *What's wrong?* he thought as he turned his attention back to the action in front of his cell.
*They're planning something, Chris. JD can feel the cruel anticipation of these jerks. Be careful.*
Chris shifted closer to Vin ready for anything. He wouldn't let them hurt his injured friend. He'd end this charade before he would let any of his men get hurt. Chris noticed the nasty grins on all the men as they watched the boy. He switched his attention to the child. He was shaking. The boy was literally shaking. The food slopped and splashed on the floor as the boy tried to control himself but he still spilt a lot.
Mike snickered as he nudged his brother beside him. He nodded to the boy saying, "See. Told you."
As for the Rat, he bravely filled the bowls and stepped into the cell. His whole concentration was on not giving into his compulsion. If his master found out, he just knew he would have the same fate as these men or something much worse. Controlling his need took every bit of the focus he had. He didn't see Tommy start swinging the door shut. The clang startled the boy so that he dropped the food. Turning quickly he ran to the door, pleading, "No, please no. Let me out, please."
Laughing, the four bullies taunted the child. "Look at that coward." "You're right were you belong, you rat." Yeah, weasel. Were you belong." "Can you grovel, Rat?"
The boy was losing control and he knew it. He had to get out. He shook the bars pleading as tears run down his face. Seeing the tears caused the others to taunt him more. Mike finally said, "Get on your knees and grovel, Rat. Maybe will let you out."
The Rat felt his discipline breaking. He fell to his knees, "Please, please, please let me out." begged the boy.
"Not good enough, you worthless brat. Pitiful." Standing up, Mike turned to his brothers saying, "Looks like the Rat wants to stay the night. Let's get out of here." Looking back at the tear stained face, Mike said. "We'll let the light stay on. I wonder what they will do too you Rat? Wouldn't want you to miss anything coming your way."
"Ha! They're fags ain't they? Maybe they'll teach the Rat some new tricks?" snickers sounded from Art as he headed up the stairs.
Andy chimed in, "Wonder if we'll here him screaming all the way upstairs?"
Laughing at their own jokes, the brothers headed up the stairs making sure to slam the door as they left.
Stunned, the men at first just stood there. Not believing what was happening. Chris felt his rage rising with each taunt thrown at the scared child. But the men knew not to move or intervene. It would only make it worse on the boy. After the door slammed, they watched as the child moaned a finally no then scooted as close to the far corner of the cell away from them. Chris felt his heart breaking at the pitiful sight. Softly he said, "Hey, we aren't going to hurt you. Don't worry, you'll be safe in here."
The boy seemed to curl further into himself as Chris spoke to him. The man wanted to go comfort the child but the boy was terrified. He didn't want to scare him more. Looking at the others, he said, "What do I do, guys? Hey, guys?"
The others were frozen starring at the quivering boy. Chris called again. The third time Chris called with his mind, *Hey guys! HEY! What's going on?*
Buck finally tore his eyes away from the child. He looked in shock at his friend and leader. "It's him, Chris," whispered Buck. "The boy is Vin's Guide."
Dazed, Chris looked again at the child. "You're kidding, right? He's just a boy, couldn't be more then ten or eleven. How can he be Vin's Guide?"
"He's not kidding, Chris." spoke Nathan.
"We can feel him. He's so strong." offered JD.
"Guides always know other Guides. Just like Sentinels always know when others are in the area." confirmed Josiah in awe. "I have never felt such power."
"Guide?" a whispered question came from the boy. The boy finally looked up. Emerald green eyes peaked out from the brown hair. Expecting to see fear, Chris was surprised to see wise old eyes gazing back at him. "What is a Guide?"
JD stepped forward. "I'm a Guide. We have empathic feelings. That mean we can feel the emotions of those around us. Guides help Sentinels to ground their senses. That's part of what we do."
"Sentinels? What are those?" asked the curious child even though he still crouched in the corner trembling. He was fighting with his whole being not to rush to the man lying at the feet of the black clad man before him.
"Oh, boy." said Nathan as he felt the power rising in the room. "Chris, you're going to need to get away from Vin. Go to the other side of the cell across from the boy. Move it now."
"But why?" asked a confused Chris. He didn't want to leave his injured friend.
"Because, buddy," said Buck as he pushed a swaying JD to sit down. "Those two are fixing to bond and you don't want to get caught in the crossfire. Whoowee! Is it hot in here?"
"Chris," said Josiah as he joined Nathan. "Watch. Not many people have seen the bonding of a FES to an FBG. It's totally more intense then others. In fact, there hasn't been one since the viruses hit. But whatever you feel or see don't interfere. Vin can't be held responsible for his actions. He could perceive you as a threat. Wait until he speaks to you."
"But, he's " Chris eyes went wide as he watched Vin blink then blink again. Quickly he moved away from Vin into the corner.
Vin knew he was here. His Guide was close to him. He blinked his eyes again. Blue eyes snapped to the corner as he heard a moan. His Guide. There was his Guide, his heart beat, his soul brother. Like a panther, Vin smoothly rose to his feet gliding across the floor as he ripped his shirt off. He stopped as he felt and tasted fear. His Guide was afraid of him. This would not do. Stopping in the middle of the cell, the Sentinel sat cross-legged to wait. He started humming as a vibration pulsed in the air between him and the Guide.
The Guide cowered with his eyes closed. Oh, God what was happening!
Suddenly green eyes locked with blue as the boy looked at the man. The heat intensified. The air crackled with it. The Sentinel wanted nothing more then to imprint his Guide and bond with him. But he waited patiently for his Guide to make up his mind. It had to be the Guide's free will even though there was no question about the outcome. The Guide felt the urgency in his soul to meet his Sentinel. Discipline lost out as necessity drove the boy to slowly make his way to the man sitting in the middle of the cell. For both of them, everything else vanished. The other men didn't exist. Only the heartbeat of his Guide and the emotion of his Sentinel matter to the two.
The Sentinel waited as the boy knelt down before him. He waited. The Guide moaned as instinct caused him to lie flat out on his stomach in submission with his face away from his soul brother. Inside the boy was terrified. He didn't know what was happening to him. He felt as if he was being forced to give control of his life to this man. He would forever be a slave. He froze as he felt hands touch his shoulders. He cringed as suddenly his shirt was tugged off. Fire ran down his body from the touch. Fire sang in his blood. Fire that caused him to moan, "Please please!" His Sentinel purred. The fingers were dancing across his body. From his head to his toes the fire ran where the hands touched. He heard the man's rumbling increase as he finished scanning his body.
Vin imprinted every inch of his Guide's skin. Every scar and bruise he felt. His desire to kill, to protect his Guide rose at each mark he encountered. He controlled it. He needed to finish the bonding then he would hunt down those that had hurt his brother. Vin heard a gasp from the corner but he ignored it. He knew it was a friend.
Now the heat was almost painful. The need pulsed strongly in the Guide. He needed to connect. Connect? Oh he wished he knew what to do. His soul was yearning for completion. The hands moved away leaving a feeling of loss. No fair! No fair! Then the hands were back lifting him up from the floor. He found himself kneeling in front of the man. The man slowly raised his hand to lightly stroke the boy's cheek. Tenderly, Vin kept up the motion until his Guide no longer reeked of fear. His eyes scanned the face of his new friend.
The Rat felt his fear leave. A wonderful feeling of peace and safety flowed through his mind. Tilting his head slightly, the boy released his pheromones into the air for his Sentinel. A signal to the Sentinel that the Guide was ready and willing to bond to be one. Vin growled in pleasure as he wrapped his arms around his soul brother listening to his heart beat...a heart beat that was sweet music to his ears. The Guide placed one hand on the neck of his Sentinel and the other on his arm. Slowly the Sentinel bent his head to drink in the scent of his Guide. He drew closer until his lips were almost touching then his tongue darted out to taste his Guide. The burst of energy flared along they're connection. The Guide arched his back at the intense emotions that surged through not only his mind but the body also. His mouth opened gasping in surprise as his hand clenched at his Sentinel. The Sentinel held his Guide up as they rode out the fusion of their souls. The air pulsed with the energy. Sweat ran down their bodies as the heat grew to a crescendo of satisfaction. With the last flare, the connections in mind and body were sealed. All five senses of the Sentinel had imprinted the Guide. The Guide's empathy meshed with his Sentinel. The Guide collapsed into his Sentinel's embrace. Vin purred as he lifted his Guide up. Walking over to the blanket, he laid his precious burden down. Joining him, Vin wrapped his arms around his soul brother drawing him closer. The Guide gave a sigh of contentment.
*Home.* the boy thought to Vin.
*Yes, home.* agreed Vin.
The bonding of Vin and his Guide did not leave the others unaffected. Their Sentinels clutched at Josiah and JD. Chris was stunned and amazed. Never had they felt such power. The bonding of these two had affected them all. Chris felt the heat from the bond then his mind flared. For a moment, he thought he had black out. But no, the two were still kneeling in the middle of the cell. He watched as his friend claimed his Guide. He knew he should be jealous but he felt such joy that tears was streaming down his face. He brushed them away as Vin carried his Guide to the blanket.
"God, what a rush!" exclaimed Buck as he hugged JD tightly.
Chris snorted trying not to laugh. Buck had put it so aptly.
"Shut up, Bucklin." purred Vin as he basked in the feeling of well being. "No snickering, Cowboy."
"Sorry." he snickered. "Can I move know?"
Chris stretched as he stood up. Rustling came from the other cells as they all moved around. Chris looked curiously at the new addition to their family. He watched as Vin was absently stroking the boy's back with a contented smile. As for the boy, he laid relaxed with his eyes closed.
"Buck? Was that like that for you and JD?" inquired Chris.
"Hell No! No where near as intense. They could have been their own power generators." stated Buck. "You Nate?"
"Nope, but then I suspected it wouldn't be. Just didn't figure it being that forceful."
Josiah said, "I think that is why the initial bonding is always done in a sealed chamber with a white noise generator. That's to keep the effect to a minimum. Though I suspect Vin's would have broken through whatever shield was around them. What with him being a more powerful Sentinel."
"It's not always going to be that way when they bond, is it? If it is I can see potential problems when we're on missions." spoke Chris. He had cautiously stepped closer to the newly bonded couple. As he did, he noticed Vin winch in pain. The boy grimaced at the same time feeling his Sentinel's pain.
"Your hurt." the Guide's small voice rasp as he turned in the arms that surrounded him. "Show me," he demanded. He blinked in astonishment then panic hit. He quickly twisted out of the arms around him scrambling away to the cell door. He squatted down placing his arms over his head. Trembling all the while, the boy pleaded, "Sorry, sorry, sorry. Didn't mean it. Won't do it again. Sorry, sorry, sorry."
Chris clinched his hands as a feeling of terror washed over him. Rattled, he looked at the others wondering if they had felt it. All the Sentinels were standing stiffly, heads jerking this way and that way, seeking. JD and Josiah were panting as they clutched the shoulder of their bond mate trying to control the tide of emotion bombarding their shields. Vin was growling lowly, menacingly. And all the while the boy's terror increased fueling the sense of danger. Chris could see that it was a reaction to the emotion that was being projected from the child. Lord what power he had! How to stop it? The more it increased the more the Sentinels and Guides struggled to find the danger. A danger that did not exist yet! He had to try.
Hoping that Vin would listen and not kill him, Chris spoke softly, "Vin."
Head snapped around as blazing blue eyes focused on him. He gulped, oh this was not good. Not good at all. Struggling now with the rising tide of panic from the boy, he continued, "Vin, there's no danger. The boy is terrified. Terrified of you. You have to calm him down. You have to calm him down."
Vin heard what Chris was saying. Closing his eyes, he sent wave after wave of peace and love across their link. Slowly the boy quieted, calming down. Soon, the feeling of panic receded then released everyone. Chris collapsed against the wall as the tight band that had been around his chest eased. Buck and Nathan caught their Guides as their knees gave out. Everyone was out of breath. Vin standing in the center, opened his eyes to look at the child. The boy's brilliant green eyes were peering over lowered arms that were resting on knees. Talking softly, Vin said, "It's alright. No one is going to hurt you. You're safe. Just take it easy."
"Your not angry with me? You're not going to beat me?"
Rage started to boil but Vin pushed it down. He didn't want to frighten the boy any further. The boy's head swung around to stare at Chris as the emotion of rage boiled from.
"Chris!" snapped Vin. "Not now. Tone it down." A few minutes passed as the Telepath controlled himself. Vin was right. Time enough later to take care of those who had hurt the boy.
Focusing on his Guide again, Vin continued, "Now why would I want to hurt you? You were only trying to help me."
"I'm not supposed to talk to anyone like that. Punishment usually follows."
Control, control thought Vin. "It's okay. You did nothing wrong. Guides have a natural instinct to look after their Sentinels."
"I'm a Guide?"
"You're my Guide. My friend, my family. We're all your family now."
Tears formed then spilled down the child's face. "But I don't know how to be a Guide. Are you sure you want me?" he asked as he stood up. Emotions of safety, trust and peace came from the man before him.
"Yep. Definitely." Vin had made his way over to his Guide. He waited for the boy to accept what he was saying before he gently pulled the child to him. Hugging the small body close to him, he opened their link all the way so he would know he spoke the truth. "You're my Guide and no one will hurt you while I'm around. No one."
The boy searched Vin's face for any deception. The feeling of trust flowed from this man from a connection he didn't understand yet. Finding only concern and truth emanating in their bond, he rested his forehead on the Sentinel's chest.
Vin basked in the presence of his soul brother before he said, "Hey! We haven't been introduced. I'm Vin. Vin Tanner. What's your name?'
"They call me the Rat."
Gently lifting the bowed head from his chest, he replied, "Nope, I don't want what they call you. I want what your real name is."
"Ezra. Ezra P. Standish at your service."
Next: Bonded Two