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Simplystars got the epilogue back to me with a speedy quickness, so I'm ready to post!

Fandom: The Sentinel

Title: Some Good, to Someone in the World

Series: Finding Home (AKA The Dreaded Bonding AU)

Length: This part, abour 38,000 words. The trilogy as a whole is 180,817 words, plus DVD extras.

Rating: R for sex, violence, and swearing

Thanks to: Simplystars for beta and cheerleading help, and to all the readers who have stuck with me this far. \o/ Title, as with the other two parts, is from Robert Frost's Death of the Hired Man.

Part three of the Dreaded Bonding AU, which began with They Have To Take You In and continued with You Haven't to Deserve. There are also DVD Extras, How Kas and Angel Met and another DVD extra that will be posted at the end.

Warning for this chapter: harm to animal OC.



After getting up at the crack of dawn and eating a quick breakfast, the four of them boarded a helicopter. Blair was surprised to see that their guards, ever-present since they’d left G-TAC, stayed behind. Jim and Kas were armed to the teeth—Angel would have been, too, except that he’d shoved all of his guns at Kas, saying, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with these,”—and could easily have overpowered the guy flying the chopper.

They didn’t, though. The helicopter was extremely loud, vibrated constantly from the time it left the ground, and smelled vaguely of sweat, motor oil, and something that might have been rotten banana peels. Both Sentinels were obviously miserable—Jim less vocally so than Angel, but it was clear enough if you knew him—and Blair wasn’t too happy, either. It was way too noisy for conversation, which suited Blair just fine, since that meant he could focus all of his attention on trying not to puke.

After four or five interminable hours in the air, they landed. Blair knew they couldn’t possibly be in Peru yet, but at that point, he didn’t care where they were. When he climbed out of the helicopter, he felt like the ground was still moving. Clutching Jim’s arm to steady himself, he looked around. “Where are we?” It was clearly another military base, but he had no idea which one.

“Fort Hood, I think,” Jim said. “Texas.”

“I thought we were going to Peru,” Angel said worriedly. “Did they lie?”

“He’s probably going to tell us,” Jim said, indicating a uniformed man who was approaching them.

Sure enough, the new guy—Jim said he was a lieutenant—told them that they had an hour for lunch, and then they’d be boarding their transport to Peru.

“Oh, God, is it another helicopter?” Blair asked.

The Lieutenant glanced at him. “I believe it’s a Piper Aztec.”

“Okay,” Blair said. “That doesn’t exactly answer my question.”

“It’s a small airplane,” Jim said.

“Oh, good.” Small planes were at least a little more comfortable for long trips than helicopters.

Once they found the cafeteria, Kas didn’t make more than the most halfhearted effort to get Angel to eat; for once, the rest of them had no more interest in food than he did. Blair got himself a Coke, hoping it would settle his stomach, but left it mostly untouched when Jim pointed out that the Piper Aztec wasn’t equipped with a bathroom.

“You might want to take the bottle with you,” Kas suggested. “Just in case.”

Blair winced, but dumped out his Coke into a water fountain and tucked the empty bottle into his duffle. Better to have it and not want it than want it and not have it.

All too soon, they were heading back to the airfield and boarding the small plane. It looked a little newer than the helicopter, and it didn’t smell particularly bad. Definitely an improvement.

Taking off in a small plane was a much more visceral experience than in a large one, but once they were in the air, it was a smooth enough ride. After a while, Jim prodded him into filling the rest of them in on the part of Peru where they were going. Blair had to think hard to remember what he knew about it; he wished there had been an opportunity to do some research.

After talking about the region’s chief exports and natural resources for a while, Blair said, “So it’ll probably be either rain forest or a place where the forest was clear-cut for some kind of industrial purposes. If it’s rain forest, we might run into some of the indigenous population. I know some of the local language—enough to get by—I ought to teach you some common phrases.”

“I do speak Spanish,” Angel pointed out, dryly.

“Right,” Blair nodded, “but the indigenous tribes probably speak Quechua. They might know some Spanish if they have much contact with the more settled population, but if it’s that remote, they might not.”

“Quechua,” Kas said. “I’ve heard of that.”

“It’s the one that’s in crossword puzzles all the time. ‘Peruvian language,’” Angel said. “You know how they like words with Q’s in them.”

Blair started them off with how to say, “Hello,” and “I’m sorry for my mistake,” and then moved on to “This is my Sentinel.

Enqueri,” Jim said, repeating him. “That’s what the locals called me when I was stationed in Peru.”

“Well, that’s why,” Blair said. “It just means, ‘Sentinel.’ Now, you’re going to be tricky,” he said to Angel, “Because their word for ‘doctor’ is the same as their word for ‘shaman,’ which also means ‘Guide.’ They’re not going to know what to make of you.”

“So, a lot like home, then,” Angel said.

“Are their shamans always Guides?” Jim asked suddenly.

Blair blinked. “As far as I know,” he said cautiously. “That’s the usual way it works.”

“When I was down there before, I got to know the holy man of this tribe that was nearby,” Jim explained. “I didn’t know he was a Guide—that must have been why he took an interest in me.”

“Probably,” Blair agreed. “I mean, he probably was. There could be exceptions, but they wouldn’t use the same word for both if they usually had to distinguish between the two roles. Where was your Guide?”

Jim went still for a moment, then said, “Dead. Our chopper crashed, and we lost some men.”

“What about the tribe’s Sentinel?” Blair asked, wondering if he could learn anything about how a tribal Sentinel would relate to another Sentinel turning up unexpectedly in his territory. It was something he had been wondering about not long ago, and if there was a tribe nearby, it might become a pressing concern.

“Also dead,” Jim said. “Shortly before we got there. There was a drug cartel operating in the area…I don’t know many details.”

Blair didn’t press for them. “Huh. Well, not that it’s going to be an issue with any of us, but treating a Guide the way the U.S.—or most of the developed world—would consider normal would be deeply offensive to anybody from a tribal culture.”

“Well, good,” Angel said. “It is offensive.”

“Particularly offensive, I mean,” Blair explained. “Like…spitting on a nun.” Playing the odds, Angel almost had to have been raised Catholic.

Angel almost giggled, glancing slyly over at Kas, who said, “Don’t even think about it.”

“I think I’d have preferred you to any of the ones that taught at my elementary school,” Angel said. “Actually, I know I would have.”

“I would have been very strict,” Kas said.

“Yeah, right.” Angel tucked himself up closer to Kas’s side. Blair had to agree with him, there—Kas was about as strict as a stick of soft butter, at least where Angel was concerned.

“Anyway,” Jim said, “the point is, Guides are very important people in tribal cultures. Right, Chief?”

“Yeah,” Blair agreed. Jim really had been paying attention, all those times he let Blair run his mouth off about his research.

“This guy I knew when I was in Peru before—Incacha was his name—he was the one the chief of the tribe talked to if he needed advice on anything.”

“So, what, the Guides are in charge of the Sentinels?” Angel asked. He didn’t seem particularly disturbed by the prospect.

Jim glanced at Blair, tossing the question back at him. “Not exactly,” Blair said. “They’re both very important. Just different…specialties. The Sentinels are warriors and hunters, the Guides are more involved with the spiritual side of things.”

“Oh,” Angel said. “Like Robert and Jean-Vincent. Our friends from France,” he added at Jim’s questioning look.

“Oh, right,” Jim said. “The ambassadors.”

“That’s really interesting, that they’re ambassadors,” Blair added, “because in a traditional context, relations with other tribes would definitely be in the Guide’s job description. Sentinels are a little too territorial to make good diplomats.”

Kas nodded. “Jean-Vincent is actually the senior Ambassador; Robert just has to take the lead here in the U.S. because of—well, you know. He says at their other postings Robert was basically a glorified bodyguard.”

“I didn’t know that,” Angel said.

Kas shrugged. “Guide stuff.”

After several more hours in the air, they landed at a small airstrip that had been carved out of a valley between two mountains. The plane jolted down the rutted dirt track before finally coming to a stop near a corrugated metal building. Before they could get out of their seats, a jeep came bumping along the runway toward them.

Blair was mildly amused, but not surprised, that Jim held the rest of them back. “I’ll go first.”

But it was their pilot who actually got out of the plane first, and greeted the driver of the jeep. They exchanged salutes, the pilot saying, “They were quiet, Rand—no problems.”

Jim still insisted on being next out of the plane. The jeep driver saluted him, much more crisply than he had the pilot, and said, “Corporal Lenox, sir, reporting to escort you to the base.”

Jim returned the salute. The other two saluted as well, Angel after Kas kicked him in the ankle. Blair waved sheepishly. He’d asked Jim if he ought to join in the saluting thing when everyone else was doing it, but Jim had said absolutely not; civilians didn’t salute.

“Major Ellison, Captain Temas,” Lenox greeted them. The “Captain Temas” was clearly directed to Kas. Angel smirked, but the two of them clearly meant to let his misunderstanding ride for a while. Suited Blair—it would probably be the most entertainment they got for a while.

Jim directed the Corporal to get their bags, doing his best impression of a surly bastard. Blair wasn’t sure that was smart—he could see why Jim wanted to establish himself as the commanding officer, since the exchange between Lenox and the pilot suggested that Lenox knew he was acting as jailor as well as subordinate. But if he was remembering Jim’s lesson on Army ranks correctly, Lenox was also the next man down from the four of them, and he was familiar with the territory and the assignment. He’d make a better friend than an enemy.

#

“Well, this is cozy,” Jim said, dropping his duffle bag on the double bed. This small room, which contained the bed, a rod for hanging clothes, and a small dresser, and had no room for anything else, constituted the commanding officer’s quarters. It was a slightly better option than the barracks, where the three privates shared a room and the corporal had his own cubbyhole. Angel and Kas had their quarters in the medical building, probably not much better.

“I’ve had worse,” Blair said, looking around.

Jim winced, thinking of the room where he’d first found Blair, chained to the wall and bleeding.

Blair said, “Oh. I meant, on digs and stuff. Tents, you know. No indoor plumbing. Sand in your—hair. And other places.” Turning quickly, he started opening the dresser drawers. “Are there any—yeah, here.” He dug out an armful of yellowed netting.

Mosquito net, right. Blair clambered up onto the bed and hung it, Jim helping to arrange it so that the whole bed was enclosed.

“We could have someone rustle up a cot, if you don’t want to share,” Jim said, looking at the one bed.

“And put it where?” Blair asked. “I’m okay if you are.”

Jim nodded. He was too tired to go hunting for furniture, or even order anyone else to do it, after the long day of traveling. When they arrived, the corporal had shown them around the base, what there was of it, and he’d briefly glanced over the men under his command. Corporal Lenox had showed him the duty roster—he had two men on guard duty at night, and one on each shift during the day, which was the best he could do with the men available. Jim had told him to carry on; tomorrow would be soon enough to revise the duty schedule to include them.

Meeting the Cyclops Oil personnel was another thing that he had decided could wait until tomorrow. Lenox explained that the Army personnel usually ate in the oil company’s cafeteria, which had closed for the night. There were a couple of crates of MREs in a storage closet, though, so Jim had grabbed a few of those and passed ‘em out, and the Sentinel-Guide teams had retired to their respective quarters.

Jim had been strangely torn between being glad to finally no longer be sharing close quarters with the other pair and feeling strangely anxious about letting them out of his sight. Finally he’d said, “Come get us if you have any problems.”

Angel had given him a strange look, but Kas just nodded agreement and dragged Angel off toward the low cinderblock building that was his and Angel’s new domain.

He was definitely glad not to be hearing what Angel thought about where they’d be living for the indefinite future.

“Is there someplace around here to take a shower?” Blair asked. “I stink.”

He really did. “There almost has to be,” Jim said.

There were no doors in their room apart from the one that led back out into what would be Jim’s office, so they went back out there and, after a brief detour into a supply closet, found the bathroom. It was tiny and smelled of mildew and rust. Jim generously offered Blair the first shower—at least that way, when it was his turn, the place would smell like Blair and Blair’s shower products instead—and retreated to the bedroom to fix the MREs.

Jim hardly ever bothered using the little chemical heaters that came with MRE’s. In his experience, if he was eating MREs, it was usually at the end of a long day of either training or working, and all he wanted to do was get some nutrition into his body as quickly as possible so he could get some sleep before starting the whole grind over again. But there was no denying that lukewarm freeze-dried food tasted ever-so-slightly better than room-temperature freeze-dried food, and he figured Blair would be in the shower for a while, so he might as well heat them up.

It turned out, though, that Blair wasn’t long at all. Shortly after Jim heard the water turn on, he also heard Blair say, “Oh, shit…great, that’s just what I needed,” and other assorted grumbling. A few minutes later, a towel-wrapped Blair came back into the office. “Did you know there’s no hot water?” he asked accusingly.

“I kind of thought there might not be. We’re lucky to have running water at all.”

“Considering those guys over there are raping the Earth for fossil fuels, you’d think the least they could do is use some of it to run a hot water heater.” He sniffed and looked at the desk, where Jim was fixing the MREs. “What smells like dog food?”

“Dinner. Go put some clothes on.”

“What is it?” Blair asked, ignoring him and coming over to the desk to poke at the MRE pouches.

“One’s--” Jim glanced at the bags. “Beef stew, and the other one’s teriyaki beef.”

“How do you tell the difference?”

“The teriyaki one has rice in it. The other stuff—in the little packets—is usually better than the entrées.” He left Blair examining their dining options and went to take his own shower.

When he got back, Blair—now dressed in boxers and a t-shirt—was sitting in the desk chair eating one of the meals out of the little cardboard tray. “You know, this isn’t too bad if you don’t look at it. I’ve definitely eaten worse. There was this one time, we were staying at a commune outside Taos….”

Jim took a seat on the desk and half-listened as Blair rambled on about a wild-rice and butternut squash soup one of his mother’s fellow hippies had cooked.

“…and we had to eat it, because she was on kitchen duty all week, and she wouldn’t make anything else until it was gone…I think she spent the whole grocery budget on peyote or something. Or paint. I forget. This other kid who was living there and I, we tried to put it out for the coyotes to eat, but even they wouldn’t touch that stuff.” He shook his head. “I mean, it should have been good. Wild rice is good. Butternut squash is good. But this stuff was just revolting. This other time, in college, I made this pot of chili that was supposed to last me until my financial aid came in….”

Still talking, Blair pitched his MRE tray into the trash can and started picking through the packets of snacks and side dishes. Jim finished his own meal and picked out a packet of salted peanuts. Not much that could go wrong with peanuts.

“…crusted to the bottom, I think it would have been all right if I hadn’t stirred it up, you know, so I could just eat the part that wasn’t burned, but I did—man, that stuff was terrible. I tagged along to the dining hall with people and ate on their meal cards as often as I could, but I still had to eat a lot of it…”

Blair was babbling, but that was all right, Jim decided. He babbled when he was nervous, but when he was terrified he either went quiet or got angry. Nervous was okay. They could handle nervous.

“…so anyway, compared to that, I can deal with these.”

Still half-listening to Blair, Jim extended his senses out, familiarizing himself with the normal nighttime sounds of their temporary—he hoped—new home. There was a generator chugging away not far from their building, and another, larger one over on the oil company’s side of the compound. Footsteps on leaf-litter and gravel, the night shift guards walking their rounds. Birds and insects calling from the trees that surrounded the compound. Men’s voices, inside the nearby barracks. He focused on those for a moment, but there was nothing there he had to attend to, just the usual barracks talk about women and weekend passes. Kas, saying, “At least try some of the pound cake, Ang—you always liked that.”

He drew himself back in, focusing on his Guide’s heartbeat. “—do now?”

“Huh?” Jim said stupidly. Blair must have said something that required a real answer, not the absent, “Uh-hms” that Jim had been murmuring every time he paused.

“I said, now that we’re here, what do we do now?”

“Guard the base,” Jim said, wondering if Blair thought they ought to try to escape. “We—the Sentinels, I mean—should probably take the night watch. We can alternate, us one night, Kas and Angel the next.”

“Angel’s going to love that,” Blair noted, but didn’t complain.

“He doesn’t have to like it,” Jim said. He’d have Kas with him; he’d be all right. Jim would explain to them that if anything did happen, Angel’s job was to wake first him, the then rest of the soldiers. If the four of them handled nights, the four enlisted men could divide up days between them. He and Angel could use the days they didn’t have guard duty to do the administrative and medical side of their jobs.

So that was the duty roster sorted out. One less thing to worry about tomorrow. “Once we get settled, we should do some recon, try to figure out if there really is a drug cartel active in the area.” The higher-ups could be lying flat out about that, or exaggerating. It would make a difference, in terms of how careful they had to be. “That’ll probably be us, or maybe me and Kas, if we can get Angel to agree to split up that way.” Personally, Jim would rather face the drug lords than babysit Angel, but that job would play right into Blair’s wheelhouse.

“So what am I supposed to do, besides follow you around on guard duty every other night?” Blair asked.

Jim shrugged. “Keep working on your article. Study the habits of north American oil workers in their natural habitat. I don’t know. I’ll try to find you some duties if you need something to do, Chief, but I don’t think any of us are going to be very busy.”

#

Jim woke already sticky with sweat where Sandburg had been pressed against his side. Sharing the small bed would be perfect if they were in the arctic, or even in the chill of a desert night, but in the hot, humid rain forest, the sleeping arrangements definitely needed work. Maybe they could get some bunks brought in. Or hammocks. Blair seemed like the hammock type.

Rolling away from his hairy hot-water bottle, Jim got up and opened the window, hoping to let in some hint of a cooling breeze. There wasn’t one, but the open window made the sound of chattering monkeys outside loud enough to wake Blair. The Guide untangled himself from the sweaty sheets and came to stand beside Jim. “’time is it?” he asked with a yawn.

“Oh-five-hundred,” Jim said. Suddenly, the monkeys’ chatter was stopped by the crack of a gunshot, followed by a human shout of, “Got the little bastard!”

Blair, a little faster on the uptake than Jim, was out the door and running across the compound, barefoot and in his underwear, leaving Jim no choice but to follow him.

As they got closer to the compound’s chain-link fence, Jim smelled gunpowder and hot blood. The blood didn’t smell quite human, but it was close enough to be disturbing. He heard Blair demand, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” just before he came into sight of the soldier on morning guard duty.

Luckily for him, at least, the soldier noticed his brand-new commanding officer before he had a chance to reply. Ignoring the indignant, half-naked man, Private Solorio straightened up, saluted, and said, “Major Ellison, Sir!”

“Jim, look,” Blair said, pointing at the top of the fence. A small animal, badly injured and bleeding, hung on the wire. “Give me a boost up there—it looks like he’s still alive. Maybe Angel can fix him.” Blair grabbed hold of the fence and stuck one foot in the chain link, as if considering how to climb up it.

“Is that thing rabid?” Jim asked Solorio, thinking there was at least a chance the soldier had a good reason for shooting it.

“Sir?”

“Do you have any reason to believe that the animal is rabid or otherwise a danger to this base?”

“Uh…no, sir.”

“Go get Captain Temas and Lieutenant Temas from their quarters.” It looked like the animal was gut-shot; Jim highly doubted it would survive, even if Angel had happened to be an expert on Peruvian squirrel-things instead of a human doctor, but sending for him would be easier than trying to convince Blair of that. “Dismissed.”

As the soldier ran off toward the medical building, Jim stripped off his t-shirt, handing it to Blair. “Don’t touch that thing with your bare hands. It could still be sick.” He boosted Blair up onto his shoulders and they got the squirrel-thing down.

Getting Blair off his shoulders with both hands full of squirrel-thing proved tricky. Blair had to hand the thing down to him and then scramble off.

The little animal’s heart was still beating, but there was a rattle in its breathing that Jim didn’t like the sound of. “Chief, I don’t think this guy’s going to make it.”

“Let’s go see what Angel says.” Blair started off toward the medical building, leaving Jim once again following in his wake.

#

Kas woke to a sharp rap on the door and Angel clutching him worriedly, saying, “Kas, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know. Let go of me, and I’ll check,” he suggested, prying Angel’s fingers off of his arm. He got out of bed and gathered up some pants on his way to the door, putting them on before he opened the door.

One of the three privates was standing there; Kas hadn’t learned their names yet. “Sir, Major Ellison requests to see you and Lieutenant Temas,” the man said.

Kas was confused for a moment before he remembered that they hadn’t cleared up yet which of them was Captain Temas. “When?”

“I believe immediately, sir.”

Kas blinked. “Is somebody hurt?”

“Not to my knowledge, sir.”

“Okay. We’re, uh, give me a minute to get Angel up.” Kas shut the door.

Angel checked his watch and complained, “What is Jim getting us up in the middle of the night for?”

“I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s important.”

“He better not be making us go running or something,” Angel said.

“I really doubt it.” Kas didn’t think Jim would let being Angel’s commanding officer go to his head. If he did, Kas was going to have to have a serious talk with him.

They threw on some fatigues and went out. “Can you hear where Jim is?” Kas asked, realizing he had forgotten to ask the private where they were supposed to meet Jim.

“Right there,” Angel said, pointing over to the left. Then he said, “Oh, shit,” and broke into a jog.

Following, Kas quickly saw why—Jim had a bloody t-shirt wrapped around his hand. Why had that idiot of a PFC said no one was hurt?

By the time Kas caught up, though, Angel had the t-shirt in his own hands and was examining it. Jim looked fine.

“Oh, fuck, Blair, this looks really bad,” Angel was saying. “I haven’t checked over the clinic yet, but I bet we don’t even have tools small enough. Let’s get him inside, though, and see what we can do.” Angel started back to the clinic.

Following, Kas asked the other two, “What’s going on?”

“Turns out Solorio was livening up his guard duty with some target practice. He shot some kind of—squirrel thing,” Jim explained.

Blair said, “I think it’s a marmoset. Asshole,” he added, clearly meaning Solorio.

Understanding now, Kas hurried to catch up with Angel. Once they were inside the clinic, he left Angel holding their small patient while he searched the cupboards for anything that might be of use.

“Get some saline, and the smallest needle we have,” Angel told him.

“Here’s the saline. These are the only needles in with the IV stuff; let me see if there’s anything else in the closet.”

There wasn’t. Kas returned from the supply cupboard to find Angel bent over an exam table that held the marmoset, trying to find a place to insert the IV. “This won’t work, Kas, this fucking needle’s bigger around than his vein.”

“There isn’t anything else,” Kas said, adjusting the light over the exam table so they had a decent view of the patient. “How bad off is he?”

“Awful. It’s a little hard to tell, but it looks like the bullet went through his large intestine—or maybe that’s the small intestine—and then up through the diaphragm to the lung. Even if we could find a way to intubate him and re-inflate the lung, it’s going to be septic as hell. And he’s going into shock.”

“How long do you think he has?”

“A few minutes, maybe.”

Not long enough to do anything, and too long not to do anything. Kas picked up the little animal and snapped its neck.

Angel looked down sadly at the small corpse. “I think we should bury it,” he said after a moment.

“Yeah,” Kas said. “Come on, Blair will probably want to help.”

They went back outside and explained what had happened to Jim and Blair. As Blair and Angel started to discuss funeral arrangements, Kas saw the man who had woken them that morning approach. Jim, moving so that his body was between the PFC and Blair, signaled for him to approach.

“Private,” he said. “You already indicated that you had no reason to believe the animal was diseased, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir,” the man—Solorio, Kas guessed—said.

“Did you have any reason to believe that the animal was a threat to the security of this base?”

“No, sir.”

“Is this base experiencing a critical food shortage?”

“No, sir,” the private repeated, now sounding thoroughly confused.

“Do you know which of the indigenous animals in this area represent endangered species?”

“They’re all over the place out there,” the man protested, adding belatedly, “sir.”

“Are you able to identify the animal by species?” Jim pressed on.

“No, sir.”

“So you don’t know whether or not the animal is an endangered species.”

“Uh…I guess not, sir.”

“So you shot an animal that was no threat to human health or safety, was not needed for emergency food supplies, and that for all you know could be an endangered species. Is that an accurate summation of the circumstances, Private Solorio?”

Solorio at least had the brains not to argue with an enraged Sentinel, superior officer, in his underpants. “Sir, yes, sir!”

“You’re on guard duty until oh-six-thirty, is that correct, soldier?”

“Yes, sir!”

“When you are relieved, you will report to Lieutenant Temas for instructions as to where you will dig a six-by-six-by-six foot grave for the animal. When you are finished, if Lieutenant Temas has no further use for you, you will be confined to quarters pending disciplinary review. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Dismissed!”

The private saluted sharply, even though Ellison was very much out of uniform, and returned to the perimeter.

“That ought to shake things up around here,” Kas observed, once the private was out of earshot.

Jim nodded. “Not exactly how I planned to start my command here. Chief, are you all right?”

Blair nodded. He seemed pissed off rather than distraught, which was a relief. “Who does he think he is, shooting animals for no reason?”

“He’s a dumb kid who’s stuck in the middle of nowhere with no girls, no video games, and no TV,” Kas said. “I think spending a day digging in this heat will demonstrate that if he’s bored enough to take potshots at the local wildlife, the rest of us will be glad to find something productive for him to do.” Kas wondered how long the four enlisted men had been assigned here. Keeping them from making trouble out of boredom might be the biggest challenge this command had to offer.

Blair nodded, seeming to absorb Kas’s explanation. “I guess. That was a good idea, Jim, making him dig the grave.”

Jim didn’t point out, and Kas didn’t either, that being made to dig a six-foot grave for the butt was a standard punishment for soldiers caught smoking in unauthorized areas. Blair would probably find the parallel disrespectful to their animal friends.

Blair continued, “Maybe while we’re here we can teach those guys to appreciate the indigenous culture and natural beauty of this place, you think? The rain forest is a really fascinating ecosystem.”

“Sure thing, Chief. What do you say we put some clothes on first, though?”

“Oh, yeah….” Blair let himself be led away by Jim, and Kas took his place on the medical clinic stoop next to Angel.

Taking the marmoset’s body out of Angel’s hands, Kas said, “Feel like going back to bed?”

“No, I’m up. Fuck. What a way to start the day.”

“You all right?”

Angel nodded. “I’m kind of sad about the monkey, but it’s not like I knew her personally. Do you think that guy’s going to make trouble for us?” he asked, gesturing off in the direction Solorio had gone.

Kas thought. “I don’t know. Probably not—these kinds of isolated postings, people get into bad habits, sloppy discipline. I don’t think Jim was unreasonably hard on him.” Indicating the monkey, he added, “Let’s see if we can find room for her in the refrigerator until the grave’s ready. If I’m going to be supervising a punishment detail in a half an hour, I want a shower and breakfast first.”

“Oh, yeah,” Angel said, getting up. “You had better keep an eye on that fucking kid—heatstroke, you know. It’s not too bad now, but in a couple of hours it’ll be a scorcher.”

#

Once they were cleaned up and dressed, Blair and Jim headed over toward the Cyclops side of the compound to find the cafeteria they’d been told about the night before. The oil company’s area was bigger than theirs, with newer buildings and more personnel. Blair estimated about two dozen men eating in the cafeteria, plus the three or four local women who were staffing the serving line.

Breakfast was a selection of scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, and cereals. Blair wondered if the cooks ever served the local food for the other meals. Before he could ask, though, Kas and Angel showed up. Angel asked for café con leche, and when the woman offered him a cup of weak American coffee instead, began explaining in Spanish how to make it. Blair shrugged and took his toast and eggs off to the table Jim was heading for. He could ask later.

Apart from their group, there was only one other Army guy in the cafeteria, sitting a table a little apart from the oil company men. He was just leaving, so Jim and Blair took over his table. Kas and Angel joined them a moment later, Kas with a loaded breakfast tray and Angel with two slices of toast.

As they started eating, Blair tried to listen to the conversations going on around him, wondering what the oil company guys made of their arrival, but on the few occasions that he could sort out one voice from the general hum, the words he caught were about drilling, mapping, and other shop talk.

After a few minutes, one of the cooks came over to their table and gave Angel a steaming mug of milky coffee and a plate of sliced papaya. “Gracias, Senora,” he told her, and introduced the rest of them. They learned that her name was Rosa, and she and the other women walked five miles from the local village every day to work in the oil company cafeteria. Since it was nearly dark by the time the cafeteria closed for the night, the oil men drove them back in a jeep. Some of the local young men worked for the oil company too, clearing the ground with machetes so that the oil men could get their machines where they needed to go.

When she and Angel paused, Blair asked if the villagers minded that the oil company was cutting down their rain forest. The woman said no, the jobs they brought paid well, and the oil company foreman didn’t tolerate his men disrespecting the women. It was a good place to work.

“Ask her about the drug cartels,” Jim said, nudging him.

Blair asked.

“Drug lords? No, there is no coca here. The only trouble comes from the natives.”

“Natives? Where are they? Do you know what tribe they are?”

“No. They are around here, somewhere. They don’t live in houses, they aren’t Christians.”

After a few more pleasantries, the woman went back to work. Blair reported back what he’d learned to the non-Spanish-speakers.

“Do you think she’s right, about there not being any drug cartel?” Jim asked.

“She’s lived here all her life,” Blair pointed out. “You’d think she’d know.”

“They could be operating in secret,” Jim answered.

Blair thought it was more likely that the drug cartel had been invented to provide a flimsy excuse for sending them here, but he decided not to press Jim on the point.

“So what’s on the agenda for today?” Kas asked once Angel was settled down and eating. “Besides getting Solorio straightened out?”

“Not much, during the day,” Jim said. “I’ll need to meet with the man in charge of the Cyclops section, and then spend some more time with the men, making my expectations clear. I don’t think you need to come along for that.”

“I checked over the medical files last night,” Angel added. “There are only two open cases, one of the oil workers who’ll be coming in for a wound check and to have stitches taken out the day after tomorrow, and Corporal Lennox has allergies and will come in when he needs more medication. I want to inventory the supplies and equipment today—from what I saw, I think there are some things I’ll need to restock.”

Jim nodded. “I have to look around in my office, too. I’ll give you some requisition forms as soon as I find them.” He cleared his throat. “So, your medical duties aren’t going to take up much of your time?”

Angel shook his head. “Hardly. They had a nurse here before me, and he didn’t have much to do, either. I’m thinking Kas could have handled all four of our jobs single-handed.”

“That’s what I thought,” Jim agreed. “With four of us and only four enlisted, I think we’re going to have to take our turns doing guard duty.”

Angel paused in his contented munching of coffee-dipped toast. “Huh?”

Blair said quickly, “I guess it wouldn’t be fair, for us to just sit around on our asses all the time while everybody else has work to do.” He figured an appeal to fairness would work better on Angel than emphasizing Jim’s authority as commanding officer.

“Yeah,” Kas said. “In a top-heavy rank structure like this, it’ll be better for morale and discipline if the men can see that we’re pulling our own weight.”

Angel sighed. “I guess so. But I get to have Kas with me.”

“Of course,” Jim said. “I was thinking, you and Kas and me and Blair would trade off the night shifts. The other guys can do days. How does that sound?”

“Okay, I guess. It makes sense, we’ll be able to hear if there’s anything happening at night.” He took another bite of now-soggy toast. “Do I have to carry a gun?”

“Rifle,” Kas said. “And I for one would rather you didn’t.”

“It’s not exactly regulation, but having seen you on the range, I think the base would be safer if you were unarmed,” Jim agreed. “I’ll never know how a Sentinel can be as terrible a shot as you are.”

“It’s because he closes his eyes,” Kas explained.

“I’d be better at it if it didn’t make such a loud noise.”

Kas checked his watch as they finished up breakfast. “I’d better go get ready to meet Solorio. Do you know where we can find a plan of the base? I guess I need to look for a spot he can dig without hitting the septic tank or anything.”

Jim nodded. “There has to be one in my office somewhere.”

“You all right going back to our place on your own?” Kas asked Angel.

“I think I can manage.” Blair would have been rolling his eyes at Jim’s over-protectiveness if he’d said that, but Angel seemed serious.

They left the cafeteria and made their way back to the army side of the compound, parting ways with Angel as they neared the medical building. “Is he doing all right?” Jim asked Kas once they were all inside Jim’s office.

“Ang? Yeah, he’s okay. He took the guard duty thing really well; the way you put it to him helped. You too, Blair. And he has a clinic to work in now; that should help. If we can just get him some patients, he should be fairly happy.”

“I don’t know what we can do to arrange that,” Jim pointed out.

“There might be some sick people over at the village,” Kas suggested.

“Our supply requisitions are going to look pretty strange if we try to provide medical care to the village out of an eight-man base,” Jim said.

“Yeah, but what can the army do about it, kidnap us and send us to Peru?” Blair asked rhetorically. “We might as well try to do somebody some good while we’re stuck down here. Anyway, I bet we can obfuscate on the requisition forms. Uh, the clinic roof developed a leak since the nurse left. Right over where you keep the antibiotics and bandages. You need new everything.”

Kas and Jim exchanged an amused glance. “Chief, do you have a hidden past as a Supply sergeant?” Jim asked.

They started looking for a plan of the base, eventually finding one filed under “infrastructure.” It hadn’t been updated since the oil company came, but Kas said that if they stuck to their own side of the compound, it should work for what they had to do.

He and Blair were studying the map, trying to choose a good spot, when Solorio came into the office. “Private Solorio, reporting as ordered, sir!”

Jim somehow managed to make returning his salute look more like he was flipping him off. Blair was impressed. Kas glanced up at him. “Just a minute, Private. What do you think, here?” he asked, pointing at a spot on the map they had already rejected.

Blair played along, and after a few minutes Kas collected Solorio and went off with him to find a shovel.

They puttered around the office for a while, getting their stuff unpacked and figuring out where everything was. There was a telephone on Jim’s desk, but Blair’s hopes of getting in contact with the outside world were dashed when it turned out it was only able to call other phones in the compound. Jim used it to call the Cyclops plant manager and set up an appointment for that afternoon.

#

“The brass must be expecting things to heat up around here, if they sent two Sentinels,” Solorio said, as Kas paced out the area where the man would be digging.

Kas gave him a flat look. They hadn’t sorted out yet what they’d be telling the enlisted personnel about their reasons for being here. The truth was definitely out; even if they hadn’t been ordered not to, Kas didn’t think it would be smart to tell a man they had no reason to think of as a friend that they’d been sent here on a punishment detail of their own, to do work that was every bit as pointless as what Solorio would be spending his morning doing. Finally he settled on, “It’s classified,” which was true, anyway.

Solorio nodded as if he understood. “Yes, sir. Say, are you really a Ranger, sir?” he asked as he started digging.

“They don’t let you wear the patch if you aren’t,” Kas said. Back at Fort McCloud, they had eventually issued him his Ranger tabs after Jim and Angel made a fuss about it.

“Is Ranger training as hard as they say?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I’ve been thinking about applying. I’ve been in the army three years, and I haven’t seen any real action yet. The Army wouldn’t be able to stick me in a dump like this if I was a Ranger, I bet. Uh, no offense, sir.”

“None taken,” Kas told him. The place was a dump. Solorio being stupid enough to wish he was in combat instead was a little bit offensive, but it was no skin off his back. At least Solorio seemed to be taking his punishment detail in good spirits—he seemed like the type who would find a harsh physical punishment something to brag about later. Maybe they ought to have made him dig the grave with a spoon; that would thrill him.

“Which one of the Guides is yours? Not that it looks like there’s much to choose from between the two of the little faggots. You’d think they could do a little better for a Ranger.”

Kas stiffened. It had been a long time since he and Angel had had to deal with attitudes like that. Somehow, it hadn’t gotten any easier.

After a moment, Solorio felt Kas’s gaze on him and stopped digging. “Sir?”

“I’m Captain Temas’s Guide,” Kas told him.

Solorio stared at him like he thought Kas must be having a joke on him. “But….”

“Just a tip,” Kas said, “insulting his Guide is really not a good way to make a favorable impression on a Sentinel.” Not entirely true—there were plenty of Sentinels who would like it just fine—but definitely true in these circumstances. “One of us will be back to check on you later.”

Link to Chapter 2

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
skeptic7
Feb. 21st, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
“Just a tip,” Kas said, “insulting his Guide is really not a good way to make a favorable impression on a Sentinel.” Not entirely true—there were plenty of Sentinels who would like it just fine—but definitely true in these circumstances. “One of us will be back to check on you later.”


I was translating to myself "insulting his Guide is really not a good way to make a favorable impression .... One of us will be back to kill you later" Of course Blair and Angel would be upset at killing the young and mentally disabled.
alex51324
Feb. 23rd, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
Yes, poor Angel was even worried about Solorio getting heat stroke. He's too sweet for the Army. And Blair would probably feel like he had to side with Angel on that one.
askerian
Aug. 6th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
Now, you’re going to be tricky,” he said to Angel, “Because their word for ‘doctor’ is the same as their word for ‘shaman,’ which also means ‘Guide.’ They’re not going to know what to make of you.”
... Shiny.

“Jean-Vincent is actually the senior Ambassador; Robert just has to take the lead here in the U.S. because of—well, you know. He says at their other postings Robert was basically a glorified bodyguard.”
More shiny!

The “Captain Temas” was clearly directed to Kas. Angel smirked, but the two of them clearly meant to let his misunderstanding ride for a while. Suited Blair—it would probably be the most entertainment they got for a while.
Yeah, it would be, huh. *cackles a bit*

Aha, I thought it'd be Cyclops Oil! They bring them down, right? right? D:

Oh joy, more boredom for Blair. Definitely not a good idea. Jim's sense of duty really is through the roof, that he doesn't even question whether they should even bother doing that job seriously.

Jim didn’t point out, and Kas didn’t either, that being made to dig a six-foot grave for the butt was a standard punishment for soldiers caught smoking in unauthorized areas.
Oh, I didn't know that! Interesting. *__*

Poor Jim, hoping there really are drug cartels. XD;;

“Which one of the Guides is yours? Not that it looks like there’s much to choose from between the two of the little faggots. You’d think they could do a little better for a Ranger.”
Woohoo mood whiplash. Methinks this guy needs a little more asskicking education.
percygranger
Aug. 9th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Hi there! I found your story through Askerian's rec. Awesome thus far.
I am having a bit of character whiplash reading this right after Angel and Kas's backstory; he's gotten so much more confident and mature! Angel has his woobie moments, and you can see how he came by them, but I almost feel like going back and rereading their intro to get back on track. Also, I love how matter-of-fact Kas is. His statements are almost always pure fact or direct orders when dealing with woobie!Angel.
alex51324
Aug. 9th, 2011 03:21 am (UTC)
Yes, he has grown lot from the basic training story to the present day! I'm working on the story of when they were at Sentinel School, which is tricky because that's where a lot of the growing-up occurred. Glad you liked the story!
daymarket
Feb. 22nd, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
Ha HA! *fistpump* You tell them, Kas. Solorio's a little snot, ugh. It makes more sense now why Sentinels would be so crappy to their Guides; the way they've been trained doesn't leave much leeway, I suppose. Still loving this story!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )