Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

5-21-02: As I have said before and probably, no, definitely will again, I like beginnings. So I am proud to present another AU story. This time the boys meet in a futuristic setting and under vastly different circumstances.

What would happen to clones if we started to create them? What would happen when we tire of the 'fad'? What would happen to those no longer wanted?

Warning: This mentions rape, but it's only mentioned, no details are described.

Hey I don't own them but my mind is filled with ideas and fantasies on what I'd do with them if I did. Here is another idea bubble for you to enjoy. Thank you to Starfox for a home for these stories and thank you for reading!

SENTI-ONE: Two Parts Of The Whole

by K-Lyn

********************

PART ONE
Satisfying the Need

As expected, the world of 2150 had dramatically advanced in all aspects of existence. Though man had traveled into space and even set up a few satellite homes on Venus and the moon, we had yet to discover any new life forms other than various micro-organisms and assorted bacteria.

Becoming basically disappointed in their search for new lifeforms man dabbled in the creation of clones. Genetically enhanced men and women and their hybrids, Cyborg life forms which were being jointly man and machine. Hence, disruption of the natural order of life became the new frontier.

In time it was determined that genetically enhanced men and woman, though useful in a variety of ways, should be denied long-term existence. No one wanted to deal with the care of a geriatric Cyborg or Clone. Still man is fickle. Soon Cyborgs suffered the demise of a fad, few were being created, few kept and the remaining ones were being slowly phased out. Their human limbs and organs used for humans in need and what remained was discarded.

Clone development soon suffered from the same lack of interest. Beings bred for use, if needed, in a war or for future use with organ donation. Clones could be purchased independently and because there were no laws regarding their health, welfare or maintenance, it didn't matter what the owner used them for. An expensive pet for those with power and money and the need to control the life of a sentient being.

The debate regarding these beings and where they stood in the scheme of things ensued and sides were divided. Many argued against using clones for replacing spare parts since they were living beings created in our image.

Others felt that Clones were better used for scientific use in order to safeguard the preservation of humanity and that this so-called life was considered a soulless replication of a more superior being - man.

The debate continued and mankind had come to the realization that it wasn't easy to assume responsibility for a life form created by its own hand.

Meanwhile, mankind was slowly rediscovering horticulture, remedies for illnesses using natural remedies and reintroducing animals once kept in captivity back into the wild in the hopes that they too would flourish, etc. In short mankind had finally re-discovered that nature was the answer to a long fortuitous future and man wanted to continue to survive.

Furturists needed to work with historians. Together they could create a better world for all.

Electric cars, recycled trash, less synthetics and more organics. Earth was evolving by rediscovering the past and joining with the future. The cycles of the moon and sun had begun to react differently. Stunning and sudden changes occurred in the weather thus creating changes in the growth of man. Time, it seemed, demanded furtherance in evolution.

Biology seemed to be complying as well; the human body was undergoing noticeable alterations. Sentinels, men and women with enhanced sensory awareness, were being born more often. It was currently thought that man was evolving in a way that allowed him to co-exist with the resurgence of nature. Survival of the fittest.

To assist these Sentinels, Guides were also born, the trouble was that, though Sentinels had no choice when it came to their roles in life as sentries due to their enhanced senses, Guides were completely opposite of these demands. They had choices and most were seduced into doing work for corporations where people with their emphatic powers were used to enable businesses to thrive and, in return for use of their gifts, Guides were paid lavishly. Whereas being a Guide to a Sentinel usually meant a less lucrative and a less self-gratifying position in life. The number of men and woman who chose this path diminished each year.

Still the fact remained that Sentinels needed Guides in order to have a healthy existence. Guides were the balance to the incredible gifts given to these men and women at birth and a necessary presence.

Medical science provided sensory dampeners but these only delayed the inevitable. Clone makers reared their heads once more and soon desperate Sentinels purchased non-human Guides. A method most found sickening and disturbing to the movement towards embracing the natural order of things.

Demand for Sentinel counterparts had soon exceeded availability and an answer needed to be found.

Holograms had become a way to solve the problem without incurring unwanted committal. They were easily accessible and available. They were also a way to use the Clones available and avoided the need to create more. Through holograms, one could have problems answered and advise given. A hologramic Guide could be hid, ignored and used when needed. A computer system connected a Sentinel to a database and then with a hologram of his or her choice. It also offered random Guides so that anonymity was preserved for those Sentinels who didn't want to deal with prying eyes.

Ordinarily Guides and Sentinels bonded, slept together to share their gifts while in a passive state and shared a closeness that most normal men considered freakish. So many Sentinels preferred the hologramic choice and, though denied physical presence of an actual Guide, this was a way to avoid the stigma from their peers. Man still struggled with a variety of illogical prejudices and still needed to grow mentally. Some things never changed.

Needless to say SentiOne, The Channel for Sentinels and Guides did extremely well for itself. One screen, a quick hook up to a computer, some randomly placed image reverberators, four small speakers, a hook-up to the phone system and a Sentinel had an instant single dimension Guide. For more money, the visual display could be enhanced in such a way that most customers felt the hologram was so real you could touch it.

No one seemed to care exactly where the Clones for these holograms originated from, no one asked. The problem was solved, why tamper with exactly how.

********************

2150 had indeed brought a great deal of change but men continued to grappled with their own inner demons and lawgivers were still needed to watch over those who sought to harm others for power or greed.

God still wept and man still struggled to be God.

********************

Detective and Sentinel James Ellison entered his somewhat barren loft earlier than normal - for a workday. He had been sent home early. His senses had forced him into yet another zone. Capt. Banks, his superior at the Cascade Police Department, decided that his subordinate needed rest and to reconsider seeking a Guide.

So here he was, home and not happy about it. The tall, muscular man placed his carefully concealed purchases on the dining area table and began working with the contents. Moving purposefully throughout his living area, he attached the necessary wires for his hologram set up. His chiseled features marred with disgust indicating how much he hated relinquishing control but knowing that this would ensure that he was still very much in control of his destiny and his privacy.

The hook up had been completed in thirty minutes. As he sat on his sofa, he slowly and carefully answered the questionnaire on the start-up menu. He absently wondered what a random guide would look like. The detective had seen one once before in the military but never had one of his own.

An image formed at the center of his living area and slowly developed into that of a tall ethnic looking man, "Welcome to SentiOne, The Channel for Sentinels and Guides. My name is Darstrom your hologramic assistant. I can respond to any vocal or typed question - this is an interactive program.

Since you prefer to maintain your privacy, please be aware that the Guide you see one minute could change to another at any given time. If and when you sever the transmission you have, in effect, terminated the connection to the Guide. Again Guides can easily be purchased through the catalog contained with your manual. I highly suggest that you read the manual and view the catalog. They will be invaluable to you as you proceed into the program.

If you have a preference in what you require, we can work with that. If you see a Guide you like and wish to continue with this clone simply, remember the number assigned to the hologram and, if available, the Guide's personal stats will be sent to you by facsimile or messenger depending on how you wish.

Remember that these are guaranteed sentient beings. Clones once left for parts and rescued by the Cyclops Organization. These are Clones left without employment or a home who now benefit from the vast educational instructions and placements offered by this company. We stand behind the quality of our goods."

Ellison sighed, "Great, what happens if the Guides and Sentinels don't like when they - meet?"

The figure on the holodeck nodded in response to the verbal inquiry, "Remember that this is an interactive program. Now, to answer your question, if a Guide is found to be less appealing in person, we have an exchange program. Clones can be resold quite easily and at no undue stress to you. Remember this is a program that values you as a Sentinel and a customer.

Press the blue button to begin the Random Program, the clear button to start the assignment of a Personal Guide or hit exit and the program will stop now and will begin again when you are ready."

Ellison considered the day, the incredible headaches caused by light shining off of reflective surfaces, sounds of the people around him amplified by ten, and odors that seemed to assault him with an almost physical violence. His mind suddenly became lost in thought and his body so exhausted he failed to make a selection and fell asleep instead.

He woke later to the sound of a young male voice. "Mister? Hey, you alright?"

Ellison looked up and blinked. An image stood in front of him. It was of a young male, long curly hair, blue eyes, dressed in a gray T-shirt and baggy gray pants. "Hi, you alright? You didn't zone did you? I could contact the mainframe and get help."

Ellison blinked at the rapid pace speech and the sound of true concern. "No, no kid, I'm fine."

The young man smiled, "Good, I didn't want my first interaction to be a bad one. Bad for the karma you know?"

Ellison looked at the kid as though he were nuts. Who believed in that crap nowadays? He looked at the remote and frowned, "Uh, how do I get another selection?"

The kid looked depressed but responded immediately, "Oh, just press the blue button and you get another guide. Sorry I couldn't help. Goodbye."

Ellison looked at the saddened face and felt strangely guilty for being the one to cause this. This was supposed to be impersonal, "No offense but you're just a child. I need someone with more experience."

The kid nodded, "And you're curious to know why you aren't sleeping when you want and sleep deeply when you shouldn't. No - sleep means your senses...uh... sorry. I was taught to answer queries. Not that you made one." He paused and stood up straighter, "Please press the blue button for your next selection and have a nice day."

The kid seemed to be hearing something, "I did. No... Alright." He looked at Ellison and sighed, "Sir, leaving the system engaged is costing you money and here at SentiOne it is our duty to safeguard you and your finances. Please be aware of the time spent when using the program."

Ellison sighed, "Fine, for now I've decided to work with you."

The kid smiled, "Really? This is soooo cool!" He cleared his throat, "Sorry. I would be pleased to assist you. Please state your question."

Ellison sighed, at least he'd deal with this and never see the kid again, "Fine, lately my senses are operating on higher level. Can't seem to bring them down."

"Might I ask if you have consulted the Burton's Manual for Relaxation Techniques?"

"Did and it reads like an instruction manual for vintage car repair. I had an easier time connecting this Senti stuff and I don't have a lot of time to decipher egg head mumbo jumbo."

The kid nodded, "All right, let's try this. I need for you to relax and close your eyes."

Ellison skeptically looked at the hologram.

"Please, just give it a try."

Ellison closed his eyes, his hearing completely focused on the warm lively voice that seemed to surround him. Automatically he listened past the static from the connection and to the voice that spoke to him. Slowly his body relaxed, his headache receded. Dials, the kid spoke of dials, dials like on the CD-ROM. Left was low, right was high. Slowly Ellison felt better than he had before. He reluctantly opened his eyes when the voice prompted him to do so.

"Better?"

Jim's face was mildly surprised, "Yeah."

The kid bounced on the balls of his feet. "Good. Well, guess you should get some sleep now. I mean if that's what you want. If there are no other problems..."

"Wait, please. I-I, what if I have problems later?"

"No sweat dude, simply search for the Guide type of your choice and ask away. There are plenty of us, just find someone you would like to work with and go to it." The kid hopped, "Oh another call."

Ellison considered the kid wondering if he wanted this hologram again and then figured that all Guides probably studied from the same book. "Very good. Good-night."

"This is Clone 2-19 TG Classification Timer signing off."

Jim smiled in self satisfaction, "Finally a gadget worth the money spent."

********************

The next day, Ellison walked into Major Crimes, relaxed and less stressed. He completed several reports; four interviews with suspects Detectives Rafe and Brown were dealing with and participated in a stakeout.

As he typed up his latest report, Capt. Banks called to him. "Well, I see you spent the time home early altering your disposition."

Ellison looked away, "It helped, sir."

Simon sighed, "So? Did you do it?"

Ellison looked back at the man calmly, "Do what sir?"

"Jim!!!" Banks stood, "Did you get yourself a Guide to test out on the field? I heard SentiOne could lend some clones out. Synthetic temps. Don't like them much myself but..."

"No Guide sir, I just, well, I got me a SentiOne Cable connection."

Banks blinked, "Jim... I ... guess that's terrific. Seems to have helped."

Jim nodded, "Yeah the kid on the program had some good techniques to run me through."

Banks frowned as he spoke, "Well I guess it beats getting some synthetic person to work with you here in the department."

Ellison readily agreed, "And live with me etc. Trust me sir, I am not ready for that."

********************

It had been two days of calm. Two days where Jim had begun to feel 'normal', for a Sentinel of course. Then the detective was sent to stand guard over the artifacts on display at the city museum, which currently displayed ancient pieces of the Golden Peruvian Goddess. The pieces were large and extremely valuable. One piece was a golden bed, which depicted the rise of the ancient people on its headboard. Ellison admired the handiwork and for once smiled at the fact that his eyesight allowed him a close look at the intricate detailing. Security at the Cascade Museum was said to have been infallible. It wasn't. The thieves attempted to come in from the skylight of the large building. Ellison heard them as they were cutting the glass.

Security was ready, four were apprehended but the fifth, while being handcuffed, managed to trigger a silent alarm that had been nearby. Silent to the average person not, however, to a highly sensitive Sentinel. The sound vibrated throughout his skull forcing the detective to clasp his hands around his ears in pain. The suspect, seeing an opening for escape, sprayed Ellison with the latest form of pepper spray and took off.

Again on most people the assault would cause temporary blindness and itchy skin but to a Sentinel, whose guard was down and his senses open to all stimuli, it might well have been battery acid.

The suspect escaped, leaving Jim unconscious from an extremely painful overload.

********************

Simon paced the small area in the hospital room. Ellison needed a Guide and now. The whole concept was strange to a man like Banks. Hell, the whole idea of the physical contact that two initial strangers shared when being bonded was ... Banks didn't want to know more than necessary. Still Jim was a good detective, a valuable asset to the team and what anyone did outside the office, illegal acts excluded, was their own business.

Still the detective could be so infuriatingly pig-headed. Banks looked over at Ellison, who squirmed in pain while waiting for the doctor to tend to him, and sighed, "You're so stubborn you'd kill yourself instead of asking for help."

********************

Two days later Jim returned to his loft with directions from the doctor to rest and recoup. It was difficult to rest when your skin tingled constantly with a burning sensation. It was aggravating so he scratched and tugged the skin. This only made his face look like he had sat too long in the sun and had gotten stung by several mosquitoes in the process.

He gazed at the remote through puffy eyes and after two hours of 'I can handle this myself', he reluctantly turned on the SentiOne Cable connection. Again he pressed the button for a Random Guide Selection and waited. A lovely blond appeared and if Ellison had a less disfiguring problem, he would have spoken to her. He hit - next arrow. A gray haired man appeared and Ellison passed him up - too professorial. A muscular man appeared, military in appearance, again passed up - he didn't need to hear 'buck up soldier' and on and on. It took ten minutes to realize that he was unconsciously searching for the kid from his previous interaction. He had been right the last time. Right?

After searching through the entire selection of Random Guides a message flashed, "Unable to locate the Guide you used before? Remember Random Guides are Clones that work for the SentiOne Channel. They may be out of service, in use, purchased or no longer available. Would you like for our system to locate the last Guide used?'

Ellison frowned, "Purchased? No longer available? What the hell is this? They aren't cars." He clicked the arrow on the yes box and completed the date and time the Random Guide was used.

A mechanical female voice spoke, "Clone 2-19 TG is listed as the last Random Guide previously used by you. I regret to inform you that he is currently out. The clone will be on the system in one hour and ten minutes and is currently slotted for a half hour after that with another SentiOne guest. Do you wish to reserve the clone's assistance after that time? A connection can be set up to alert you of the availability at no extra charge. Please select 'Yes' or 'No'."

Ellison selected 'yes'.

"Clone 2-19 TG will be notified. Please write down this code for further contact. Also, please note that there are several features available that can enable you to continue use of this Guide and avoid further time delay. If interested please return to menu and select section under listing - Reserved Guide or Permanent Guide."

"Hey how about purchase or why don't you just auction them up? Damn." Ellison sighed in frustration. "They are people you know?" The program didn't respond. It had terminated.

An hour and twenty minutes later a low beep emitted from the screen and a tired and bruised young man appeared. Still dressed in a baggy T-shirt and gray slacks. "Oh hey, I never thought it would be you calling." He cleared his throat, "Sorry, Clone 2-19 TG responding. State your question, please." He paused and frowned as he looked at the image fed to him on his side, "Oh man. What happened to your face?"

Ellison blinked as he looked at a bruise that marred the holographic image's face, "What happened to yours?"

The younger man shrugged, "Been popular since we last interacted." He cleared his throat and smiled, "Life as a clone can be - you know. Now, how can I help you?"

Ellison didn't like the avoidance tactic but decided to try again later. He explained the situation, omitting the specifics and waited.

"Alright, your sense of touch was caught off guard when your hearing was thrown out of wack." He paused, "Dude if your senses are this heightened you should really consider getting a real Guide. This synthetic stuff is helpful but you are a person of action. A cop, I'm guessing," He waited but Ellison didn't speak. "Anyway, you need more than to come home and find quick verbal answers."

"I suppose next you'll be telling me you're for sale and you'd be best for me."

The kid looked down. When he looked up his face was devoid of emotion, "Sentinels prefer a Guide with established backgrounds and education. I am a Random Guide, classification: Timer, nothing more. Presently, I am not for sale as a permanent. I have been rejected for that purpose by SentiOne and its board." He took a deep breath and shook his head quietly whispering, "Whatever!" He looked up, "So I am not out to 'toot my own horn' but there are several excellent Guides at this facility and four I would personally recommend for full time employ but that is for you to decide. Now as to your situation." He cleared his throat and his voice was again devoid of emotion, "Go and wash your face. Use a very good non-allergic soap. Then run cool water over it. If this isn't good enough..."

"Wait, look," Ellison sighed, "I am sorry for what I said... look kid, I need to relearn that dial thing you suggested, it helped the other day and I was hoping for you to run me through it again. For the past two days everything was tried. The nurse at the hospital washed my face, we tried the ice but the smell of the chloride in the water was too irritating ..."

"Wait. You can smell the purifiers used for the water? Cool." The kid smiled shyly, "Sorry, it's just you guys are so lucky. To view the world like you do. To be able to see past the one or two shades of gray. To smell life..."

"It's overwhelming and damn annoying."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to make light of your situation. That was rude of me. Please close your eyes." Ellison did. "Now try to relax. Focus on a sound near you."

Minutes later, Ellison felt no more irritation, just a cool sensation from the herbal creme applied hours ago. "Kid, you are a miracle."

The kid smiled, "Will there be anything else sir?"

"Yes. Is it true that you must answer any question I ask?"

"It's your dime, so to speak, but personal matters are answered upon our discrepancy. So, what would you like to know?"

"How did you get bruised?"

"That is personal and you really don't have to concern yourself with that. Like I said it's just a day in the life." The kid sighed as he noted the angry look on the other's face and gave up on avoiding the question, "Fine. My last 'guest' had come to meet me for the purpose of using my services on a one to one basis. Again something the facility tried to discourage. Anyhow, they didn't much like my imperfections during their inspection of me and got a bit hostile. Some Sentinels get agitated if they wait too long for a Guide." He shrugged, "I try to be up front. I am a Timer. This is something I do, you know, for now. I value the need for Sentinels in the world and I completely believe that each one needs a Guide. I wish I were the answer but I have been told by my superiors that human Sentinels are better off with their own kind. I figured it sounded right since they wrote the books on the subject and I was explaining this to the Sentinel when - boom and so that was that."

Ellison frowned, "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." He looked up, "Honest. Now, will there be anything else?"

"Yes. I want you as my Personal Guide."

"I am no longer available as a Personal Guide but am available as a Reserved Guide, sorry. I won't be with SentiOne for much longer and I hate to make false commitments."

Ellison sighed, "So if we do this, you'll be the person I'd be dealing with?"

The kid nodded, "I will be the clone that responds, but should I be handling a call and you need someone right away, SentinOne will get you another. They will then notify me and I will step in the moment I am available."

Fifteen minutes later with charges incurred the kid sighed, "Well as you Reserved Guide you pay one charge a month. I will get a set up at a new hole in the wall. Privacy is very important to SentiOne and this cubicle only offers minimal security." He paused and looked off at something or someone Ellison couldn't see but he could hear, "Tell the dude you make a good bed warmer." The kid blushed, looked away in embarrassment and looked back up at Ellison, "It'll be four hours till I am set up. Will you be alright till then?"

Ellison nodded, "We will talk then. Four hours." The image faded, leaving the detective in deep thought.

He found himself wondering, "Where did the kid live? Who was the creep that had hurt him? Didn't the SentiOne safeguard their employees? How old was this kid? Didn't he eat? He shook himself. This was a hologram, a stranger paid to work with Ellison nothing more. He probably didn't care about those he worked for so why should anyone care?

Still moments later, feeling much better Jim wondered what it would be like to have a Guide in his loft. He walked into this shower and enjoyed the feel of the warm water. Still he wondered about an actual Guide and the bonding process.

********************

"Clone 2-19 TG requesting Reserved Status."

A fat surly looking man walked up to the window that separated the Clone from human workers, "So, someone will be tasting you soon. Good. What's your new address?"

"410 Gateway. I also need the rule book for Personal Guides."

The man smirked, "Pretty boy like you will have this Sentinel stopping by soon." The man pressed a button and the window dissolved. He handed the books to the other "accidentally" dropping two.

The younger man sighed as he gathered the books, "I was told four hours."

"Yep. We want these Sentifreaks to keep coming back for more. He reached out and touched the man's smooth face and pulled him close. "I'll miss you pretty one."

The kid pulled away, "Good night sir." He walked out without looking back.

The man sighed and reached for the phone, "Yeah, it's me. Tolbert. He purchased him for a Reserved Guide. Yeah. I'll send you his address and a photo. Should sell well after you're done with him. I expect payment in exchange... Alright." He smiled as he hung up. Tolbert loved getting money easily.

********************

He arrived at his small cell in time to see the SentiOne Cable and Hologram installers complete their work. Being clones themselves, they were friendlier, "Hey Blair, so you finally became legit."

"Guess, hey how's it going Harve? How's the wife?"

The man smiled, "We're expecting a child in three months, a boy. Government is going to allow me to work on the restructuring project. Sheila can't wait."

Blair smiled, "That is terrific. Well I better get to work, thanks for setting me up."

He walked into his one room and one bath cell and pushed his books into a corner. He looked at the poster of a widow with a great view of the mountains and was thankful that it took up most of the wall. He quickly pinned up his long hair and went to stand in front of the camera.

He waited for the next five minutes, his mind wondering why a cop or military type would want to use him for a Guide. He mentally reminded himself not to tell the dude his address. Blair had heard of some Sentinels who liked to 'play' with clone Guides until they found the one they actually bonded with. Leaving the one left behind damaged or worse.

He was familiar with 'worse' having been raped both physically and mentally but... never again. The light on the camera came on and he took a deep breath.

********************

"Remember that a Reserved Guide is just one of SentiOne's best features. Here you may interact freely. No one will monitor your discussions, time is limitless thanks to our monthly payment plan and should you and the clone desire to meet, it is entirely up to each of you. If you desire to dissolve the interaction with this clone call the number on the back of your remote and in two days the connection will be terminated. Please remember that in an attempt to safeguard both individuals freedom to choose, clones may sever the interaction as well and we are not held responsible for their reasoning. However be assured that they are interviewed as to their reasons with all information kept private. Also remember that SentiOne is here for you ready to provide you with a selection of more clones available to replace the one that is no longer.

Now please proceed and welcome to the world of Reserved Guides - SentiOne the home of interactive Clone Guides for the discreet Sentinel."

Ellison didn't know what to expect. The image he got previously was like that of an old projector, choppy and see through. As the hologram came into view it was as though the kid were physically standing in his loft. The image was clear, not opaque and, though Ellison figured it was transparent, it seemed completely solid.

The image was speaking to someone. His face seemed exhausted. Then the kid was shoved off the viewing area and when he returned to the holodeck he looked even sadder. That was when he looked up and his face altered, he smiled as he reached a button off to the side. Quickly standing and composing his demeanor as he straightened what looked like better fitting clothing.

"Oh hey, sorry about that. Like I said life as a clone. So, am I coming in alright?"

Ellison nodded but wasn't ready for a topic change, "Who was that?"

The kid looked away and then back, "Look, don't concern yourself. I'm fine. Rent's paid thanks to this job and for which I am grateful. Now, I haven't read the entire manual on this Reserved Guide job but like I said before you can contact me at anytime day or night. Oh, I should let you know that I have another job, here, which is also provided by SentiOne and am out from nine till three for the next couple of days. Do you think you'll be needing me then?"

Ellison shook his head; "I'm usually out til odd hours because of my job, so I guess we should play it by ear."

The kid tilted his head, "I-I suppose we should tell each other our names. It would make this less impersonal." He took a deep breath, "Blair Sandburg."

Ellison stood and walked up to the image, "James Ellison. I am a detective for the Cascade P.D."

The kid smiled, "I knew it!" He blushed immediately as Ellison walked around his image. The look in the man's eyes was that of an animal studying its possession. It made Blair shiver and glad he was safe in his small hole in the wall. That was when he noted the look on the Sentinel's face, "Jim, if you touch the image, there will be a small static shock."

Ellison reached out as if to test the veracity of the statement and flinched as his hand came in contact with the image. He spoke in surprise, "It's just that the image is so clear. Like you're here."

Blair turned and faced the man, "It's a single line fed from your place to mine. You've incurred extra charges for the feature and believe me at that cost this picture should offer more than just visual enhancements but such is life."

Ellison nodded. The phone rang and Ellison excused himself. Blair looked at the loft from his side of the hologram. Large, clean, and in typical unbonded Sentinel fashion, sparse. He sighed as he looked at his place, no windows, never a window. His stomach rumbled and he reached out and grabbed an apple from the bookshelf nearby and began eating.

Ellison walked into view, "Well I am needed back at the department. I don't think it will be necessary for you to sit and wait, let's just keep this loose."

Blair nodded, "Fine by me. Oh and Jim, be careful. Please give some more thought about getting a real Guide. This is not a permanent solution and I am a Timer."

Ellison tilted his head, "You'll do. Later."

The image disconnected and left Blair smiling. He might never be a 'real' Guide but he was valued and that made him feel special.

********************

Two hours later

Blair returned to his new apartment with a small bag of groceries and a pair of slacks he had purchased from the Hand-Me-Down Store. He entered the lobby and saw a large gathering of clones staring at the large television. "This is Don Haas reporting on the shoot-out in the warehouse district. Garrett Kincaid and his military group of self proclaimed Patriots of Humanity have tried to bomb Mercy Hospital on 65th Street. A hospital whose facilities service mostly clones. Kincaid's reason? To purify the world of its cloned infestations."

"What seems to be a view from some old war movie has now died down. Several of Kincaid's men have been arrested. The leader himself is still at large. Several police officers have been injured. Stay for further updates."

Blair turned and immediately went to his place. He sat on the bed deep in thought. Was Ellison part of the operation? He reached for the phone but stopped. Who could he call?

********************

Banks looked at his two men. Senior Det. Joel Taggert was badly burned on one side of his face and in severe pain. Even the tranquillizers weren't helping. The man continued to moan in pain.

In the bed across from Taggert was Ellison in a coma. The doctors were aware that he was a Sentinel and had stated that this seemed like a severe mixture of a zone out and shock. Ellison's mind seemed lost elsewhere and that concerned Banks. The doctors had inquired if the detective had a Guide and when informed that he didn't, weren't very encouraging. Sentinels needed Guides especially for moments like this.

Banks was about to leave when a silver card sticking out of Ellison's jacket caught his eye. He pulled it out and shook his head, "I'll be damned, you at least got a temp guide." The card had a phone number and a code. "Time to do a little research."

********************

PART TWO
Necessity borne out of desperation

It had taken longer than Simon had expected. SentiOne guarded its privacy well. Several phone calls later he stood before the SentiOne Clone residential area. A tall lean man walked towards him and nodded, "Captain Banks?"

Banks nodded, "Mr. Kubrick?"

The man nodded.

"I really appreciate this. I didn't know what else to do."

Kubrick nodded, "This is most irregular. However, I have contacted Ms. Barnes and she is in charge of Clone 2-19 TG's area. She will be here momentarily."

Banks took the time to look at the large facility from within its guarded walls. It was a city within a mall-like building. "Are these clones allowed outdoors?"

Kubrick shook his head, "We guarantee their safety, health and the quality of their performance. In order to do so, they are kept in a facility where they can be monitored and maintained. Given everything they need but not allowed beyond the doors where harm might happen. It prevents any unguarded proclivities. We don't allow them to procreate with humans unless authorized."

Banks nodded, "But you do allow their release."

Kubrick nodded, "Yes, if a Sentinel or any person needed to take on a clone, full-time, they purchase their contract. The clones are then released but the individual taking them is given the opportunity to have the clone rendered unable to procreate. Of course the clone is also consulted and often agrees to the process in order to avoid any unforeseen accidents. Those that don't can refuse release and can stay on or be allowed to leave pending their registration as a potential danger. In either case the clones are always given the opportunity to decide their future."

"The customer is also taken into consideration and if the clone refuses to leave, another will be offered to the individual interested in taking on a Guide."

Excuse me Mr. Kubrick," The two were joined by a woman who presently held out her hand, "S - Alex Barnes."

Banks looked at the woman noting her athletic physique and he pale beautiful features. She wore a smile on her face but only, it seemed, because the situation called for it. Elegant but edgy. Kubrick and then he shook the offered hand, "Capt. Banks, Ms. Barnes."

She smiled and turned, a younger man walked up beside her, a clone, his eyes downcast, long brown hair pulled into a tight ponytail. He was younger, much younger than Banks expected and thin, almost gaunt in appearance. "This is the clone that Ellison worked with?"

Barnes nodded, "He is the Sentinel's Reserved Guide." She ignored the clone and spoke as though he weren't there.

Banks noted this but needed answers without going through a middle person, "Did Ellison tell you what he did for a living?"

The kid remained silent and Barnes sighed, "Speak."

The kid looked up hesitantly at the woman and then looked at Capt. Banks. His eyes. Clones were not quickly identified by their outward appearance or even by their internal makeup but when one looked deeply into the eyes of a clone, the newness of the manmade creation could be seen. The eyes sparkled, just a bit more brightly than natural. This clone had eyes that not only shone with newness, his eyes held a myriad of emotions and, if clones had souls this one proved it while projecting an abundance of intelligence and honesty. "He, Ellison, told me he is a detective for the Cascade Police Department, sir."

Bank nodded, "Did he tell you about me?"

"No sir. He didn't seem to want me to know too much about his outside life. He is very private."

Banks nodded, "True, you're very observant. I'm his superior, Capt. Banks."

The kid opened his mouth to speak and again looked hesitantly at Barnes who silenced him with a look. Banks frowned at the continued fear the clone had for the woman, "Might I speak with the young man alone?"

Barnes looked like she was about to argue but Kubrick placed a hand on her shoulder and Barnes remained silent, "There are several soundproof areas over to your left. Call when you are ready to leave."

Banks walked and the kid followed. He opened the door and closed it. "I assume it is private in here?"

The kid nodded, "Yes sir, Mr. Kubrick is honest."

Banks looked at the kid. He never liked clones but this one ..."What is it? You seem like you have a question you wanted to ask."

He nodded, "Was Ellison hurt in the Kincaid attack?"

"Yes. Did you hear about it in the news?"

"Yes." He looked away, "I've never ... I mean, I would like to try to help him but this is all new to me. I've never been outside and never had contact with a human Sentinel without facility supervision and safety nets."

"All we can ask is that you try. Please he needs help." Banks hoped he was doing the right thing.

********************

The ride to the hospital was silent. Banks, being a captain and an expert at watching the actions of others and their behavior noted that Barnes scared the hell out of the kid. The woman seemed cold and very aware of the fear the clone was experiencing. She seemed proud of this fact. The clone, though frightened of the woman beside him, couldn't stop gazing out the car window. He obviously had never seen much of the predominantly human world and appeared very curious.

They arrived at the hospital and entered the floor where Ellison was being treated. The kid seemed even more frightened of the hospital and looked as though he were about to run. Barnes pulled the kid aside, "You do what you are here for. Behave."

"B-but Alex, this is a h-hospital. They hurt my kind here. This isn't safe."

"You knew where we were going and you had better get over it now."

The kid looked down, "Yes ma'am."

Banks walked up and pulled the kid away from the woman. He looked into the large blues eyes and spoke confidently, "I promise, no harm will come to you here."

The kid smiled shyly and nodded, "I need to see him alone."

********************

Blair walked into the room and heard the moans coming from the bed closest to the door. He walked to the bed and noted a large man in pain. He then walked past the man, knowing he wasn't here to help him, but feeling guilty about being indifferent. Instead he walked up to Ellison. "Jim, it's me. Blair Sandburg. Come on man, you need to wake up. You're safe here." Absently, Blair placed his hand over the others and continued speaking.

********************

The mind is a warehouse of memories, images, thoughts and fantasies.

His mind at the moment was lost in a limbless, unfeeling world. Nothing touched him, he touched nothing. He reached out only to find that he had no control over his actions. The world he was in was dark, empty. He fought his frustration and ... his fear.

A voice called out, suddenly filling the vast emptiness with warmth and familiarity. Gradually he felt himself drawn to the sound, then a touch. Warmth now spread throughout his senses and a light shone through his dark world. "Jim?"

Slowly sky blue eyes opened and looked into ocean blue depths, "Hey Jim. Just relax. You're in the hospital. Your friend Capt. Banks is outside."

Ellison wondered if he was dreaming. This was a familiar face but ... who?

"Jim, rest now. You'll feel better in a bit."

The man seemed reluctant to follow the instructions.

"Trust me. You'll feel alright, you're safe now."

Slowly Ellison calmed, trusting the soothing voice and slipping easily into much needed rest.

Blair sighed in relief, "Thank God."

A moan caught the younger man's attention and he looked at the door to make sure no one entered. No one had and Jim was fine, so what would be the harm? He walked to the other occupant in the room and looked at the burned face. Looking at the door again he sighed in frustration. This was so new to him but his duty was to serve his creators. Man created clones.

"I can't just walk away. My duty is to help." He closed his eyes and placed his hands on the shoulder of the other man. "Rest, when you wake the pain will be lessened. The pain is fading at this very moment and by the time you wake the pain will be simply fade away."

The man took a deep breath and sighed. Now completely asleep and pain free.

Blair turned to leave and swayed. He took a deep breath, waited a moment and slowly walked to the door.

Banks watched the kid exit noting his pale face and weakened movements. Barnes walked up, "You weren't supposed to help the other."

The kid moved away, "I will help whomever I wish. It is not your decision."

She grabbed him and he pulled away which made him land on his butt. Banks walked up and shoved Barnes away from the fallen man, "What is your problem lady?" He reached down and pulled the other up.

Barnes met his gaze, "This clone is an empath. He used his powers on the other man without the man's consent."

Banks frowned, "How do you know that? You weren't in the room."

"I am a Sentinel, sir. My responsibilities are to watch over these clones. He entered that man's mind without his consent."

The kid stepped up and met her gaze. His reaction defiant and now seemed to harbor none of the fear he had for the woman earlier. Banks was amazed at the change and stood by, silently watching.

"My duties are to help when I can. I did. My duty is not to ignore a person in pain. That man was suffering. He is resting now."

Barnes grabbed the smaller man and he again pulled away from her grasp, "I do this willingly but push me and I will leave."

Simon noted that the anger seemed to flow from the kid. It was almost tangible and it was time to diffuse the situation. "That's enough. He stays here. I will watch him."

Barnes shook her head, "The Clone goes with me. It is against the rules..."

The kid stepped between the two, "Captain, Det. Ellison will be fine. I have urged him to get a real Guide, that I am just a placebo for the real thing. He didn't like the idea much. Please, try to make him understand how important it is to get a human Guide." He looked at Barnes and then back, "If you need me call Mr. Kubrick. I must go. As for the other man, if I did something he would consider a violation on his privacy, I do apologize."

Simon nodded, "Thank you." He stepped closer to the smaller man and smiled, "Might I ask what your name is?"

Barnes groaned and the kid smiled shyly, "Blair Sandburg, Classification: Timer. Goodbye Capt. Banks."

********************

Ellison woke several hours later and looked over at Taggert. The man was sleeping soundly and seemed completely relaxed.

The detective seemed to remember a voice that had called to him, helped him, but the memory refused to develop. He reached for the controls to his bed and slowly raised it to a sitting position.

The door to his room opened and Banks walked in, "Jim! How're you feeling?"

Ellison nodded, "Ready to get the hell out of here."

"He said you would." Banks looked over at Taggert, "Joel will be here for a while." He looked back at the other man, "The doctor said you will be able to leave when you were awake and checked over one more time. This is, after all, your second life threatening episode in a weeks time."

"Great. Did we arrest any of Kincaid's men?"

Banks nodded, "But as usual the two that we got aren't speaking. Brown and Rafe are on it but it looks hopeless." He paused, "Jim, you could have been killed out there. This is getting way too dangerous. You need to reconsider this Guide situation. If I hadn't contacted SentiOne and gotten that kid down, you would have died."

"What? What kid? How did you find out about ... Wait ... He was here?"

Banks nodded, "The doctors said you were in serious trouble. Nothing these guys tried could bring you out of that trance and your respiration was slowing. I found the card in your coat, which, by the way I am glad you had. So I made some calls and after using some serious persuasive tactics, Sandburg was allowed out and, well, here you are."

Ellison looked away. He didn't need help. He didn't need anyone. He had heard the other man's voice but the memory made him angry. He had no right...

"... she is abusive to the kid. I think she hates him."

"What? Who?"

Banks sighed, "S-Alex Barnes. She's a Sentinel who, well I get the impression that she treats these clones like pets. Some sort of Guide security for the empathic SentiOne Clones. The woman is colder than antifreeze."

"So the kid is her Guide." It shouldn't have mattered. It didn't.

"No Jim, the kid was terrified of the woman. He stood up to her when it counted, made her back off but I get the feeling she is going to make him pay for that."

Ellison frowned and listened to the entire report. The kid was empathic, had come to help and had done a good job. This Barnes' was on some sort of short fuse. She had no right to harm Sandburg.

"Jim, the kid said he told you to reconsider taking on a real Guide. He is right. You need one. Next time.."

"No. I am fine."

The doctor walked in and Banks was asked to step outside. The discussion, however, was far from being over.

********************

Later that evening

Ellison entered his loft and sat down at the couch. His mind filled with conflicting thoughts. He was in control; he didn't need some know-it-all who allowed himself to be pushed around to tell James Ellison, Detective, what to do even if it was a nice thing the kid and Capt. Banks did.

Still.

The loft was quite and cool. No unwanted disturbance. It was all his and his alone. He was content. He was in control and his privacy had to be maintained. He didn't need special treatment or a Guide. He was just fine.

Jim looked at the cable set up and frowned. It was time to set the kid straight. He reached for the SentiOne control and accessed the information area. "Termination of Reserved Guide". He read the information and listened to the instructions. He only had to press the red button.

He considered the decision and ... pressed the blue one instead.

The image of his Reserved Guide formed. The kid was reading and oblivious to the eyes that stared at him. Minutes later he looked up and Ellison saw a new bruise marring the previously damaged side of his face, the kid looked away quickly and adjusted his now loose curly hair in an effort to conceal the angry looking area, "Hey Jim, How are you? I was so worried."

Ellison nodded, "I'm better. You didn't have to come down, it was unnecessary."

The kid noted the anger in the voice and looked down, "I-I didn't mean to ... your captain said it was an emergency." He looked up, "I'm sorry."

Ellison frowned, "Look it isn't that I don't appreciate your help but my situation is a private one. I don't need the whole damn world knowing about my personal life. This is embarrassing enough as it is."

"I said I was sorry. You were in a deep zone and your breathing was slowing down. Your captain said it was urgent. I just wanted to help. You needed to be pulled out of the zone. This wasn't meant to embarrass you."

"Stop. I don't want to have this conversation."

The kid faced him now, anger vibrating in his tone and stance, "You have to talk about this with someone. Ellison, you need a Guide, not a hologramic one, a real one."

Jim shouted back, "And you want to be that, right? Well I don't need some clone to take care of me when he can't even protect himself. If you want to be someone's Guide look elsewhere."

The kid spoke in a low tone, "I am a Timer Clone, Det. Ellison. My purpose is assistance, not sales. I am slated to terminate not long from now." He looked up and Ellison noted that the anger faded, leaving sadness on the face before him. It also gave the Sentinel a better view of the bruise on the side of the kid's face and made him feel anger towards whomever had caused the damage.

"I have overstepped my boundaries. Do as you wish." The image looked away, "This is Clone 2-19 TG requesting assistance in permanent termination of frequency."

"Do both parties wish to terminate frequency?"

"What-Who is this?"

The voice seemed to come from around the room. "This is SentiOne Program 8, Termination of Reserved Hologramic Guide. Do you wish to terminate frequency?"

Ellison looked at the kid who refused to look back, "No, I... Damnit. Stop this. Sandburg ..." Ellison wanted to grab the kid and shake him until his teeth rattled. "Just stop. I don't want this terminated. Just ... end communication for now."

"Pending no response from SentiOne Employee Clone 2-19 TG, Termination of Frequency has been halted. A file has been created and this will be reviewed. Both participants will be asked in two days if the termination is still requested."

Ellison walked up to the image of the Guide and spoke angrily, "Fine."

He waited til the mediator was logged off and spoke softly to the other, "You didn't need to do that."

The kid looked up, his face devoid of emotion. "It is the wish of SentiOne and those of us who are under its employ to ensure the comfort and happiness of the guest. You were not pleased. It was my duty to end this connection."

Ellison waved the diatribe off, "Who hit you?"

"What?"

"WHO. HIT. YOU?"

The kid looked away, "I was disciplined by the Security Sentinel for misbehaving while in the presence of both the Sentinel and a human."

"What? When?"

Sandburg sighed, "I spoke inappropriately in front of your Capt. Banks and I helped the other when I was only told to assist you. S-Barnes did not appreciate the action and reprimanded me."

Ellison stood, "What gives her the right to hurt my Guide."

"She is the resident Sentinel of my section and as such she is entitled to everything a bonded Sentinel should be, within reason."

Ellison smiled, "And you were just enforcing your 'reason'."

The kid smiled shyly, "I do fight back detective, it's just I know when not to push it."

Ellison sighed as he remembered his earlier comment, "I apologize about that crack on your not protecting yourself. It was out of line."

"I - thanks." The kid looked off to the side, "Ellison, can you hold on a sec?" He pressed a button and the sound muted.

"Sure."

Ellison closed his eyes and sighed. Somehow this Clone - kid - Guide had made him get past his anger and replaced it with concern. The visit had been necessary and Sandburg didn't mean any harm only help.

He opened his eyes and pulled back in his seat. "What the hell?"

A tall blond was standing in front of Sandburg. Barnes, Ellison surmised. By her motions and actions she was angry. She pulled out a long metallic stick and struck the unarmed kid several times. Sandburg curled into a corner, trying to shield himself from the onslaught. Witnessing all of this and being unable to stop it from happening caused something in Ellison to snap. "SentiOne, get me a lead rep now!"

"Lead Rep Joe Petroff at your service. How may I help you Mr. Ellison?"

"I am currently connected visually to my Reserved Guide-Blair Sandburg. Can you pick up the feed?"

"One moment. Oh! I am sorry you are witnessing that. I will terminate the feed."

"I don't want the feed terminated, damn it. She, this Barnes woman is hurting my Guide. I want it stopped now."

"Mr. Ellison this is Mr. Kubrick speaking. I assure you that this will be taken care of promptly."

Ellison paced his loft like a caged animal as he spoke into the phone while witnessing the continual abuse of the younger man. "I want this taken care of now. She attacked him without provocation."

"Sentinels are used to keep the clones in line. Perhaps you misunderstand."

Ellison watched now as security pulled the blond away from the kid. Blair was then nudged with another's knee and didn't move.

"I want his address. I want to see him. He needs help."

"Mr. Ellison... detective. I am aware that you feel some obligation to the younger man due to the unwarranted contact you had with him earlier. That feeling should pass. I assure you he will be treated. It is however against our rules to allow further physical contact with our Reserved Clone Guides. We do not want to promote unregulated bonding."

Ellison watched as the woman was forcibly pulled away and as a medical team worked on the injured man. "Unregulated bonding?"

An image formed beside the one of Sandburg. A tall balding man with dark eyes and a relaxed face appeared. "Sorry, thought seeing me would be beneficial. Detective, Clone 2-19 TG or, as you know him, Blair Sandburg, is a Timer Clone. He is a short-term clone and to bond with someone like him without meaning to could prove harmful to you both. That is why he is here. Here he can be a Guide, up until his expiration period."

Ellison watched as they lifted the unconscious body and moved away from the display area. The picture terminated and he was left with the image of Kubrick. "What the hell are you saying? Is he dying?"

"It is explained in your manual. Under - Timer. However, in the simplest of terms, clones like Clone 2-19 TG, sorry, Blair, are similar to, say, batteries. Given so much power and then they stop. It was considered less cruel than say, allowing clones to wander with no purpose. This is the alternative to placing these poor people into geriatric clone cells until they die. No one sees use in an old clone, we have yet to value human geriatrics. This was the scientific way to allow Clones to live a young productive life and expire while not burdening anyone."

"He's just, a kid. He looks to be nineteen or twenty."

Kubrick nodded, "He is twenty-two but has never lived outside of this world so generally speaking, he is a child. His is a life very different from the one you or I live. He knows only this interior world and has lived safely within the shelter we've provided he and those like him." Kubrick paused and listened to someone off to the side. "Det. Ellison? I must go. I must deal with S-Barnes."

"Wait, I read most of your manuals and remembered seeing a section on Contract Buyouts."

Kubrick nodded, "Yes, though I don't recommend it with a Timer but yes, any clone can have his or her contract purchased." He sighed, "Detective, it would be like taking on a child. Clone 2-19 TG and again most clones here at SentiOne have never been outdoors, never faced human prejudices, never eaten unprocessed foods... the list goes on. Of course they adapt but it takes time and patience and, well, you sir are a man who needs a Guide to be on the spot, ready for ..."

Ellison waived him off, "I need answers to questions. He could do that here."

Kubrick sighed, "So could others that are better trained and have a longer lifespan. Surely, ..." The thin man paused and then sighed at the sight of the stern face looking at him, "Very well, I will place his contract on hold for you. However, I suggest you reconsider this idea. Blair will not be informed of your interest. Hope is not something he needs to have taken away from him. I really must go. I will contact you in three days."

The line was terminated, leaving Ellison not knowing how the kid was, what would happen to the blond bitch and wondering if he should reconsider his desire to purchase the kid's contract.

********************

Banks watched as the detective performed his job with his usual flourish but today, something was different. "Ellison, might I see you in my office?"

The man walked in and appeared extremely preoccupied. Banks motioned for him to have a seat and spoke when he was settled. "Alright Jim, spill."

"Sir?"

"Ellison, there are many things that can be said about you. Some good and some, well, not so favorable but never, never have I seen you 'distracted'."

"Distracted sir? I've done the reports and I handled the Georges booking in Vice."

Banks waved his comment off. "All done very well too. Still I notice things." Like the fact that the detective kept looking at the clock - waiting for time to pass. "That is why I am captain. Now spill. You and Carolyn all right? No new developments?"

"Sir, we're divorced, of course there aren't any new developments. Everything is fine."

Banks squinted and pursed his lips, "How about your working with a real Guide? Any news on that?"

Ellison looked away for a second but that was all Banks needed. He had gotten it in two. "You found one. Who is this person? When will you be working with them? Did they train here at the academy?"

Ellison stood and walked to one of the windows that faced out of the building, "You've met him. Blair Sandburg."

"The clone? Jim I know you need a Guide but not a clone. They're just too... no offense but..."

Jim continued to look out the window and slowly told the captain about the other night's events. "There aren't any laws about abuse to these people in SentiOne type atmospheres. It's just wrong."

Banks nodded, "I feel sorry for the kid. God knows we owe him for helping you and Joel who, by the way, hasn't suffered throughout his healing time. He'll be coming in soon but... Jim taking on this clone because you feel you owe him or because you pity him his situation isn't a good enough reason for bringing him here to work with you."

Ellison looked at the captain, "What is with you? He is a living, sentient being."

Banks looked away, "Call it personal preference but I prefer humans to synthetic lifeforms."

"Let me tell you, sir, since you have decided to pry into what I consider none of your business. Let me tell you how many human Guides I have attempted to work with." At Simon's astonished looked Ellison went on, speaking angrily, "I went to Rainier, went to register, did their testing, interviewed with their staff, attempted to work with several of their so called human, educated Guides."

He turned and walked back to the window, "I didn't trust any of them, didn't want to work with them and most importantly, they felt the same way." He turned back, "I'm still on the list but the list is long and ... " He stopped not wanting to go on.

"Jim, he's a Timer."

"You know?"

"The kid was very up-front about his classification. He'll die soon and you'll need to find another..."

"Look, he's, Simon I-I trust him Simon."

********************

In the end the decision was easy. Trust was what it was all about. Pure and simple.

Ellison contacted Kubrick and after several hours, the contract worked over allowing for the fact that this clone was a Timer. Finally, Blair Sandburg was now an employee of James Ellison.

The detective listened to Kubrick as to what to serve the other for meals, prepared a room for him to sleep and in a few hours he'd meet his new Guide on his own home turf.

He walked out of the building and gazed at the newest of manuals given to him on caring for a clone. He looked back inside the building and whispered, "Hope I made the right decision. Tomorrow will definitely be different."

********************

PART THREE
A Match Made - - Somewhere

He woke in the hospital, shaking in complete terror. The door to his room opened and Mr. Kubrick entered. "How are you feeling Clone 2-19 TG?"

He blinked and answered fearfully, "Fine?"

Kubrick paused and smiled, "Easy there young man, Alex is under investigation and you are here simply to ensure your maintenance of your health status."

He looked down and then up, "N-not for parts?"

"No." Kubrick sat in a chair a bit away from the bed and looked at the Clone, "Your SentiOne match was concerned and has requested to see you. We assured him of your health."

"Sorry for the trouble sir. I didn't remember that the cable was connected."

The thin man nodded and then looked at the other intently, "Tell me Clone 2-19 TG, do you like your SentiOne match?"

He hesitated, "I like working with him. Yes."

"This detective has purchased your contract. How do you feel about that?"

The young man was absolutely stunned, "Hhe knows I am a Timer. I've told him to get a human Guide. I can't..."

Kubrick stood, "But you will." He looked at the clone. "He will work with you and when you terminate he will get another, using our assistance of course." He walked to the door. "I will see you in an hour Clone 2-19 TG and remember to always maintain a proper image."

The young man in the bed was confused and frightened. He had always wanted to see the life outside the walls, live free of SentiOne, but now... Ellison didn't deserve a dying Guide. "I won't bond with him. I'll protect him from that." He felt a wave of dizziness and took several deep breaths as he reached for some water and the pills left beside the bed. He popped one in and sighed. The dampeners would prevent any slip-ups with his empathic powers during his weakened state. He silently vowed that he would protect Ellison from bonding with one such as he.

********************

Later the Clone and Kubrick were seated in a small conference area. Kubrick lectured the clone on what to expect outside SentiOne but Blair wondered how a one-hour lecture could prepare anyone for a completely new way of life. The more time passed, the more curious his mind got. Still there was another side to him that was completely terrified of what lie ahead. Here, in this world, he saw clones like himself. Humans were an oddity, like Alex Barnes and Mr. Kubrick but out there, he'd be the oddity. He'd be picked on and hated.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His time would end soon so he decided to explore the world while he was able disregarding the negative aspect. At least see as much as Ellison would allow.

********************

Kubrick gave him a large bottle of Dampeners and two shirts and two slacks. All were tucked away in a beat-up backpack the Clone favored. Blair was now on his way.

The SentiOne driver delivered him to the address Ellison had given. The door opened and Blair stepped out. The driver then escorted Blair to an elevator and then up. The driver was one of the few clones allowed continual outside interaction due to the fact that he had been Neutered and de-sensualized for his and the protection of humans. No unmonitored procreation. Blair sometimes wished he had been Neutered, rendered less threatening. Rape and sex wouldn't even be an issue. He cleared his mind and smiled at the driver. "Thank you Sam."

The other nodded and knocked at the door.

********************

Jim took a deep breath and opened the door. The tall man behind it nodded, "Your SentiOne Clone sir. Please sign here."

The detectivr signed a receipt and looked at the younger man who kept his eyes on the floor. The delivery man retrieved the papers and nodded, "Should you feel the need to resell the contract please call the number at the bottom of this document. Good luck to you both."

Ellison stepped aside, "Hello Sandburg. Please come in."

Blair walked in and waited for further instructions. "Thank you sir. I am ..."

Jim didn't hear the words. It was the voice. It was soft and comforting. It resonated in his very being. Then suddenly he felt himself breathe in the other's scent. New, ageless. Not like your average human. Cleaner, softer.

Next there was touch. A hand on his. Concerned blue eyes staring and then, again, the voice, "Jim? Come on back. Jim?"

Ellison shook his head and yanked his hand away from the other, "What the hell?"

"Easy, it was just a bit of a shock to your senses." The kid moved closer but didn't touch. Afraid the other would not welcome the contact, "You have seen me and become relaxed with my 'virtual presence', so has your mind. Your senses were accustomed to be lax whenever you saw me. Now your mind is catching up with the fact that I am still, at least according to sensory awareness, a stranger and it is categorizing my actual presence."

Ellison had to admit that the answer seemed logical. He looked at the kid and nodded, "Alright." He walked to a doorway underneath some stairs and just beyond the kitchen area, "I've made this room into a bedroom for you. I hope it's alright."

Blair waited for the other to move aside and entered. He placed his backpack on the floor and nodded, "Thank you sir. It is very nice." Hell he had never had an actual room outside of SentiOne. There was a window, a closet and a back door in a corner. Possibly locked, but a door.

Jim cleared his throat and gestured for him to follow. Soon Blair learned where the bathroom was. They were sharing. Most humans didn't want to shower where a clone did let alone share a waste depository. They feared the nearness. Ellison apparently didn't mind. Next was the kitchen. Same for eating. Most humans kept their clones in a separate living area enabling contact to be minimal. Then finally the other's room. Upstairs. That made Blair smile, ever the watchman. Sentinels liked to be stationed in an area that overlooked their surroundings and this was a textbook example.

"Well that's it for now. I will make up rules as we go along. If you need anything or want to discuss anything feel free to speak up." He looked around and tilted his head towards some glass doors beyond the couch area, "There's a balcony out those doors and a place to sit, again feel free to move about."

The Sentinel walked to the kitchen and Sandburg suddenly felt confused. "Sir?"

Ellison sighed, "Look call me Jim. You've done it before and I prefer it. What is it?"

"I-I just wanted to say, thanks for taking me on. I hope I will be of some help."

Ellison nodded and started to prepare lunch for the two of them. As he moved about in the kitchen, he watched the other. Timid but curious, Blair walked towards the books Ellison had on the shelf. He read titles and then walked to the window leading out to the balcony. He stood mesmerized and Ellison wondered what had caught his attention. He cleared his throat, "You hungry, kid?"

Sandburg nodded.

"I was told that you ate differently at SentiOne but could adapt." He pulled out a few boxes, "I got these boxes of protein from your Mr. Kubrick ..."

"Please, what you are having is fine." He hesitated, "I don't want to be a bother. It is I who should be preparing the food. I am here to help."

Ellison marveled at the sound of the other's voice and wondered if it was indeed a clone thing. He shook his head. "Around here we share. I'm fixing up the chow, you clean up and vice versa. No one waits on another. You are not my servant, Sandburg. You are here to answer questions about my senses and help me use them. Understood?"

Blair nodded, "But you still need to consider a human Guide. A Sentinel cannot operate fully without..."

"Stop. I don't want to have this discussion. You're here and for now, that's all I want."

"But..."

"No buts, understood?"

The Clone was timid but not afraid of a man who could strangle him with one hand. "No sir, uh Jim, I don't understand. I am a Timer. I will become useless some time soon. In that time, I could help you locate a Guide, train you to work with he or she..."

Jim shook his head, "Chief, let's just do this my way for now. Now I don't want to discuss this any further."

The kid nodded and went to sit on the couch but stopped, "Will it be alright for me to sit here?"

Ellison sighed, "Do anything, sit anywhere and touch anything you wish. Just stay away from the top room area. Alright?"

Blair nodded and sat on the couch as though it were made of glass.

Jim sighed and continued preparing the meal. He walked to the table and placed the sandwiches down, along with some milk for the younger man and a beer for himself. "Let's eat Chief."

Blair went to sit in the dining area and ate slowly, curious about the contents of the 'sandwich' and then drank the milk, which he was familiar with. "What is it that you are drinking?"

Ellison frowned, "A beer."

"A beer? Oh, alcohol." He looked around and wondered what it would have been like to own a place like this. It was all so nice.

After a few discussions regarding curfew, clean-up and so forth, it became later than both expected. Soon the two were in respective beds and Ellison found himself listening to the sounds of the other. The kid moved slowly, softly and then settled down. He whispered softy, "Good-night Jim."

Ellison froze. How'd he know I was listening? He decided to ignore the questions. Again relaxing and slowly falling asleep. A thrumming sound being the catalyst that drew him into a deep sleep.

********************

Jim woke the next morning and smiled in satisfaction. It was the best he had ever slept. He walked downstairs to take a shower and dress.

As he entered the bathroom he detected a faint odor but chose to ignore it.

Morning ritual completed, he knocked and then entered the other's room. The bed was still made and the kid was nowhere to be seen. "Sandburg?"

Nothing.

Jim searched the loft and then stopped. He heard the sound of someone humming and followed the sound. There was Sandburg, standing out on the balcony, dressed only in a t-shirt and boxers. It was warm but windy and not a healthy thing to be doing. The kid's hair was loose, flowing up and away and his face held a look of contentment and happiness that Ellison had never before seen expressed on another's face. It was calming and wonderful to see and somehow the usually stoic man felt it as well.

"Oh, I-I'm sorry. Did you need me? I-I didn't ..." He brushed past Ellison and quickly ran into his room. Grabbed a pair of sweat slacks and ran back out. "What do you need?"

Ellison shook his head. The kid was so skittish, so afraid of contact. "I just wanted to see if you were hungry and wanted breakfast."

The kid frowned, "No. Thank you. I'll just drink water."

Jim frowned and remembered the smell, "Did you throw up last night?"

Blair looked down, "I'm sorry. I tried to keep it down."

Ellison held up his hand, he didn't want to go over the whole 'Nothing to be sorry for speech'. "I'm going to the station today."

"I'll get dressed and join you."

"No. I want you to stay here. If I need you to answer a question, I'll call."

"But..."

"Sandburg, please."

"No, you need a Guide. What if you get caught in a crossfire or come across potent narcotics, the list goes on. Mr. Kubrick told me it was possible and that this is what I was here for. You are untrained."

Ellison shook his head, "No. I've operated alone until now and I'll be fine."

"Jim a time will come when you can't ignore this. You'll need help."

Ellison walked to the door; "I'll call you then. I should be back by six or so." He walked out.

Blair stared at the door in confusion. "Why'd you buy my contract?"

********************

Banks had to admit it. Ellison seemed better now than ever. He wondered. "Jim? A moment if you will."

Ellison walked in while reading a file, "Simon, this report from Vice needs to be redone. It's a wonder we were able to make the arrest let alone have Bryant tucked away and in Booking."

Banks waved that off, "I'll have a chat with Capt. Lovett. I was just wondering, what happened with the kid?"

Det. Brown walked in interrupting the response, "There's been an explosion at the Granville Station. Kincaid has struck again. Left a message saying there are more on the premises."

It had taken several hours to disarm the explosives and handle civilians. Ellison was exhausted and his eyes were giving him trouble. He had pushed their use repeatedly and now lights seemed too bright, sunglasses weren't helping and his head was giving him trouble. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed the loft.

"Sandburg pick up it's Ellison."

"H-hello? Jim, you alright?"

Ellison sighed, "Wouldn't be calling if I weren't. Look my eyes; I've been using them to locate survivors in a blast here at Granville Station. Now..."

"Now, they are ultra sensitive and you probably even have a headache. Right?"

Ellison again was surprised, "Yes."

"What you need is rest but since I am sure that is out of the question, try closing your eyes. Okay. Now take a slow, deep breath. Imagine all the tension, pain and stress stacked in front of you. Now slowly push it away from you. The further it gets the less pain. Slowly it all slips away. Move it to where you feel comfortable."

"Jim. Jim, how do you feel?"

Ellison was smiling. Something that Simon, who was watching the man from across the street, had never seen before. A real genuine peaceful smile on the face of Mr. I am a Rock.

Jim heard the concerned voice, "Sorry Chief, yeah, I feel much better. Thanks."

"Jim, you're tired, try not to push too much."

"Thanks for the advice. See ya."

Banks walked over, "New girlfriend?"

Ellison was about to speak when his eyes focused on a flashing red light. Suddenly, several red dots of lights flickered on. "Shit, everyone get out. There are more bombs. Pull back. Pull back."

Just as the last officer pulled back, Jim looked back and the building erupted. The flash blinded the man and caused a searing pain to his mental receptors. Thankfully darkness followed quickly.

********************

It had been twelve hours since Blair had spoken with the detective and he was worried. What if he was dead? What if he needed help?

The phone rang and Blair froze.

"Uh, this is Det. Henry Brown, I would like to speak with, well this concerns Ellison. Please, we are using his cell and we know he called this number last. If someone is there, please pick up."

Blair picked up the phone, "This is Blair Sandburg. I-I'm staying with J-Detective Ellison. Is he alright?"

"Mr. Sandburg? Capt. Banks asked me to bring whoever answered down to Mercy Hospital?"

"Okay but I-I don't have the address ..."

"I heard the machine say this was Ellison's phone. Don't worry I know where that is. I will be there in fifteen minutes. Please meet me out front."

Blair hung up and pulled on a long sleeved sweatshirt. He wondered if Ellison would sell his contract after this act against his wishes but, he was a Guide, and temporary or not, he had to help his Sentinel.

********************

Brown pulled up in front of the loft. He didn't know what to expect. Ellison was a glacier when it came to emotions. The man just wasn't friendly or sociable. It was a bit of a surprise to find out the man had once een married. It was not a surprise to also find out he was divorced soon after. Ellison was a good cop and one most admired career wise, just not someone people wanted to befriend.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see that it was some long-haired, thin kid standing in front of Ellison's building. He looked like some lost runaway. "Sandburg?"

The kid nodded and quickly got in, "Is he alright?"

The car pulled away and the siren was turned on, "He's in serious condition. Having trouble with his eyes." He looked at the kid who seemed to grow more concerned and Brown smiled, "Hey, he's alive."

Blair nodded.

They arrived at Mercy and Blair was taken up to the floor Ellison was on. Banks had his back to the man and when he turned and stopped. "Sandburg?"

Brown looked at the smaller man and then at his superior. "You two have met?"

Banks cleared his throat and nodded, "Thanks for coming down. Brown get back to the station and start hounding the lab for the ingredients to these explosives."

Blair thanked Brown for the ride and then turned back to Banks.

"He bought your contract."

Blair didn't respond, it wasn't a question and the tone indicated that the other didn't approve, "May I see him?"

Banks nodded, "Sorry kid I just thought he ... Come this way."

Blair walked into the room. Ellison lay strapped to the hospital bed. Blair hated and feared hospitals but his fear was overshadowed by his concern for the man before him. He looked at Banks who stepped into the hall and called for a doctor. The doctor immediately came into the room, looked at the young man standing near his patient and knew from experience what he was talking to.

"He is suffering from sensory overload. Tried to harm a nurse when she inserted the IV. Strapped him down to prevent trouble. The pain has forced him into shock. We are giving him pain killers but..."

Blair nodded, "He is a Sentinel."

The doctor looked at Banks, "Why didn't you tell me?"

Banks sighed, "He wanted to keep that private."

"The man is my patient and that is information that could be vital to his recovery. Why the hell does some clone know this and not me?"

Blair walked to the bedside, "He is a private person sir and you will please keep your voice down."

Banks watched as the kid looked at the doctor. Watched as the angry physician calmed and then stopped yelling. It was as if the kid willed him to be silent and was obeyed.

"Now, I need a moment alone with your patient. Grab a cup of something warm and drink it. In twenty minutes come back."

The doctor looked at Banks, turned and walked out.

Banks was about to speak but the kid had leaned closer to Ellison. He spoke without looking at the superior, "Captain, I don't use my gifts unless necessary. I promise you, I have never used them to harm anyone." He gazed at the tall dark man and smiled, "Please, sir I need to be with him alone for a moment."

Banks nodded and walked to the door, "I'll be right outside." He found himself wondering if he was doing so because he wanted to or because the other made him leave.

Blair took a deep breath and unbound the unconscious man from the bed. Restraints were not necessary. He carefully climbed into the bed with the taller man and pulled him close. He closed his eyes and spoke softly, "Jim, you're safe. Let's work on your pain... breathe Jim. Slow ..."

Banks fought against his curiosity but lost. Slowly he opened the door. On the bed with Ellison was Sandburg, clutching to the other tightly. His mouth moving, words spoken softly. At the same time, his hands slowly rubbing Ellison's arm. It was a private moment and the intimacy made Simon uncomfortable. Again his mind drifted to the fact that this was no human male, this was a clone, touching, being a bit too intimate with a human. It was unnatural and almost perverse. He closed the door and walked away.

********************

Ellison felt warmth surround his soul with safety. Trust swirled into his mind. The voice that calmed him was near, pulling him towards awareness.

"Just relax Jim. Sleep. Rest. When you wake later, you will feel terrific. Promise."

Ellison was no longer drifting. Now he felt only relaxed and at ease. Sleep came to him easily.

Blair slid away from the arms that surrounded him and slowly stood beside the bed. The feelings of longing and need emanating from Ellison's Sentinel need to bond slowly pulling him back. He heard the door open and almost fell to the floor.

Simon saw the younger man sway and caught him just before he smacked the pavement. "Please Capt. Banks, please get me to another room."

Banks heard the urgency and held the weaker man under his arm while quickly moving him to the Men's Room to sit on the couch there.

"Please just give me a moment. I'm sorry to inconvenience you."

Blair took several breaths and then smiled, "I'm really sorry Captain. My empathic gifts are a bit stressed out, never used them like this before." He took another breath and nodded, "I know how you feel about me sir. I know how you feel about all clones. I don't mean to impose."

Banks looked away wondering if the kid read minds as well.

"I didn't read your mind nor would I ever use my gift on you at least not without your consent or unless you were seriously hurt." He sighed, "I know because it is how I am. I see it in your face, sir. I also know that in order for Det. Ellison to work with you and continue to gain your trust, he needs a Guide who is human."

Banks sighed, "It's nothing personal Sandburg, I ..."

"Please sir, I am a clone. I have no rights or privileges that allow me anger over prejudices or preferences. I am just saying, sir, that I understand the need for Ellison to have a human Guide and why. I need to ask something of you and, I hope, you will grant me your assistance."

"If it helps Ellison and I can, I will. He's one of my best officers and a good friend."

Blair nodded as he pulled out a piece of paper. "I was doing some research on available human Guides. Ellison did go through Rainier but they are overworked and sometimes a bit selective." He handed the paper to the captain.

"His name is Daniel Choi. He was trained in the military and is currently applying to your department as well as several others. He is a Guide, sir. Perhaps you could do something to ensure that Ellison gets him for a partner."

"He won't like this. He'll feel manipulated."

Blair stood, surprisingly once again in control of his body, "He will live to get past his anger and that is all that matters." He sighed, "I don't have long sir and from what I can tell, Ellison is a good man. He is needed by many and his personal hang-ups need to be ignored." The Clone looked away and spoke softly, "Daniel Choi is a bit younger but he walks the walk and talks the talk, so to speak."

Banks looked over the glowing recommendations listed on the paper appreciatively, "He is definitely a good candidate." He looked at the kid and noted that he was even paler. "Do you need to see a doctor?"

Blair shook his head. "No. No, I just want to make sure Ellison will be cared for." He looked at the other man and sighed, "He is going to scream big time. I wasn't supposed to talk about this with anyone but, he trusts you and he needs help sir."

Banks smiled, "You, my boy, are preaching to the choir. Ellison is one stubborn sonofagun."

Blair looked away and then back, "I should get back to his place but I don't have a key."

"I drive you back. Jim gave me a key a while back. He tends to go off at times and wanted someone to look at things."

Blair nodded, "Thank you sir."

********************

A day later, Jim woke, smiling at the content feeling he had. He looked around and frowned, "I'm in the hospital?"

A doctor walked in and smiled, "Ah detective, you look superb. How are you feeling?"

Ellison slid up, "Fine. What happened?"

The doctor looked at the chart, seemed a bit confused and then smiled, "A bit of shock. The explosion seems to have taken you off guard. Got some dust in your eyes but," He stepped closer and checked both eyes with his small light, "All is clear."

The door opened and Banks smiled, "Well it's about time you woke up. The paperwork on this is a mile high."

Jim lay back, "Hey doc anyone ever suffer from recurring shock?"

The doctor smiled at the hopeful look and he shook his head. "No, 'fraid not."

The doctor cautioned Jim on taking it easy for the next few days and the man left after he was satisfied his patient was well on the way to recovery

Jim reached for the phone which was snatched away.

"Jim, we need to talk."

"Let me just make a call and..."

"Fine, call Sandburg and then we'll talk."

Ellison froze as the memory of the past night replayed itself. Banks saw the anger and spoke.

"Don't start, he needed to be here. You needed help." The captain paused as he realized something else. "Somehow the doctor doesn't remember the Sentinel information. Didn't even speak about it just now. Jim this clone is gifted in a very scary way."

Ellison looked away, ignoring the undertone in his superior's voice, "He shouldn't have come."

"He did, so get over it."

Jim got out of the bed and dressed. "I suppose you're going to launch into some speech over my choice in clones."

His superior shook his head, "He is a Timer, nothing to discuss. I do, however, have some news. Starting tomorrow you will be working with a Daniel Choi. He is a Guide as well as a top notch officer." Not to mention it took a great deal of pull to get him into the department.

Ellison looked away, "I told you..."

"And I am telling you, mister, you either work with a Guide or quit my department. Ellison you almost died. You're a good officer but no good to me dead. Having some clone come by only when you've scared the hell out of me is not an option. Now you will work with Choi and you will do so if you want to stay in Major Crimes is that understood?"

"Sir ..."

"No, one reply, 'Yes sir'." He looked away and then back, "I am in charge of fifty men but it seems I am here in the hospital with your sorry ass every other week. You are a good cop but I have others to consider and this has to end now. You will work with a Guide. IS. THAT. UNDERSTOOD?

Ellison nodded, "Tell me, sir, did Sandburg have anything to do with this?"

Banks walked to the door and paused, "He made me rethink some of my prejudice on clones. Now you think on that."

********************

Jim entered his loft and looked for the busy-body. He walked all over the loft including the balcony.

He shouldn't be... it's raining and cold... He walked to the window and there on the cold cement floor was Sandburg. Staring up at the sky and shivering. Ellison took off his coat and went to go retrieve the other.

"No don't."

"You'll catch a cold."

Blair chuckled, "Never had one." He looked at Jim, his face drenched in rainwater. "I don't think cold and wet is my world but... I've never seen or felt rain. Never felt cold." He turned and faced Ellison. His body trembling from the usually unwanted experience. He stood and stepped up to the stern looking man. "I packed my things. I'll just need a moment to get cleaned up."

Jim didn't know why but for the first time he felt terrified at the idea that this Guide was about to leave, "Where are you going?"

The kid looked at him in mild surprise. Others liked hearing a Clone speak of loss, maybe Ellison was one of those, "I know I failed to following your orders and I can't say I regret it. I had to - that is my duty as a, well, as me. I figured you'd want me gone. I am ready to be sold."

Jim felt none of the anger he experienced earlier. Only concern for the trembling figure standing in front of him. He removed his jacket and draped it over the smaller man, "Let's take this discussion inside."

Blair walked inside and stopped, "The floor."

Ellison sighed at the wet footprints that followed behind the two, "Worry about it later. Let's get you into the bathroom and warmed up."

Blair walked into the bathroom and immediately took off his clothes. He turned and looked at Ellison who was looking away out of respect for the other's privacy, "I'll just get you some clean clothing."

He grabbed an old sweatshirt and a pair of shorts from the kid's room and walked back. Sandburg was drying himself off and looked up at the detective who kept looking off in a different direction. Blair paused and then nodded, "Modesty."

Ellison met the other's gaze, "What?"

Blair pulled on the shorts and held the sweatshirt close, "Since the moment of our creation, or I should say mine, I was taught that nothing belongs to me. Not my name, not pride, not loyalty and not my body."

He looked at Ellison and then down at the floor, "I have been beaten and raped. I have been starved and studied. My blood has been taken to help others." He pulled on his sweatshirt and covered what Ellison considered a too thin body and looked up to meet the other's gaze, "Modesty is something I was not allowed to consider and never have."

Jim shook his head, "Why? Why create someone to be treated in this way?"

Blair smiled, "You are man - you are human. It is not my place to question the creators. The answers are for you and your kind to respond to. To me this is life as a clone. It is as expected." Tugging the sweatshirt around him, he waited until Ellison moved from the doorway and then moved into the front room.

"You fear."

Blair stopped, "What?"

"I said you feel fear. You don't want the bad things repeated."

Blair looked down, "That is why they made me a Timer. As time goes on, I begin to question things, react accordingly." He shook his head, "No, I don't want to repeat beatings or ... to be raped - ever again." He shrugged, "At least having a short life span means I won't have long to face this bad stuff." He looked at Ellison and shrugged again. "Should we go sit or did you want to keep talking here?"

Jim shook his head, "Nothing to talk about really. I am not selling your contract and though I am angry about your visit to the hospital, I, well, I do appreciate it."

Blair didn't know what to say.

Ellison smiled at the confused face. "Let's order some Chinese. Vegetables for you, kid."

********************

PART FOUR
Living with the right choices

Jim walked into Major Crimes and looked at his desk and then at Simon's office. There was a young oriental man speaking with his superior and Ellison tossed his jacket on his chair. "Great."

He walked up to the door and knocked.

"Jim, come on in."

Choi looked at the other and smiled, "Det. Ellison. You have quite a reputation. It will be an honor to be your partner."

Honor not extended. The Sentinel forced a smile, kept his true feelings hidden as he shook the other's hand, "Welcome to Major Crimes Det. Choi."

Banks nodded self satisfactorily as the two headed out of the office. This is going to be a success.

********************

He tried. Tried to listen to the other, tried to work with the other but his presence was not welcomed. Danny was a nice enough cop. In fact as a co-worker Ellison liked the guy but as a Guide, he made Ellison feel as though he needed to be on guard.

Maybe that was why, on the third day of the Banks' partnership assignment, Ellison inexplicably had a dinner guest. The first since his ex-wife, Carolyn, invited the in-laws over. That was a year and a half ago. First a roommate of sorts and now a guest for dinner, Ellison mused that he was indeed growing.

Blair was informed of the dinner guest and opted to stay in his room but Jim vetoed the idea. He didn't know why but he wanted the two to meet.

Choi walked into the loft and, like Sandburg, commented on the cleanliness of the place. When Sandburg came to meet him, Choi looked at the other, "A clone? A Timer if I am not mistaken."

Blair nodded shyly, "I don't mean to offend. Ellison enlisted my assistance for a time and now has purchased my contract. I have insisted he not do so but he chose to ignore the suggestion." He held out his hand, "Blair Sandburg designation Clone 2-19 TG."

Choi looked at Ellison, "Why didn't you tell me you had a clone?" He looked at Sandburg and then shook the offered hand, "It is a pleasure to meet you Sandburg."

The meal went by while the two detectives spoke of work and Sandburg silently watched the interaction. Ellison had never seen the kid so silent and wondered what he was thinking. Still something else remained to be seen. What? The older man didn't know.

After dinner the older man cleaned up the table and left the two to enjoy the view on the balcony.

It was a test. Ellison realized but why had he done this, a test of what. To prove what?

********************

Choi looked across the bay, "Never fails to amaze me how a Sentinel can locate and obtain these dwellings always with some sort of fantastic view."

Blair nodded, "They are genetically disposed to locate vantage points. A gift that has its perks."

Choi nodded and looked at the smaller man with a serious gaze. "You hamper my progress by staying here."

Blair looked up, surprised at the quick change in topic, "I have done nothing to indicate the welcoming of a bond. I have only given him answers to questions. Helped when needed. As I said I have not committed any offense."

Choi looked away, his brown eyes looking at the setting sun, his voice uncaring, "How long before you terminate?"

Blair looked at the view and spoke softly, "I've already begun. It will be a week or so, not longer than a month."

Choi nodded, "Will you be leaving?"

"Yes. I have earned a place."

Choi looked at the other. His oriental features making him stereotypically inscrutable, "I can end it for you. I am versed in de-animation tactics."

Blair looked up in shock, "As a Guide, isn't it your belief to preserve life?"

Choi nodded, "All human life. You are not of the tribe. You are a third leg, to be tolerated. No offense, Sandburg, but you are unnecessary."

Blair looked away, "I was taught to preserve all life. Necessary or not." He faced Choi and spoke with undisguised curiosity, "Tell me, if Jim and you were bonded and he were injured, say, his eyesight destroyed or he had lost his hearing, would you abandon him as well?"

"I am a Guide, Blair, if I am not needed here..."

"But a bonded Guide can never just leave. He is yours for life and you his."

Choi nodded, "Still there are ways." He looked at the stunned clone and smiled patronizingly, "I would not abandon him but I would take on another as well as him. I have my life and I have my purpose. He would come to accept this."

Blair looked away. "A Sentinel deserves total commitment, loyalty and honesty. Jim is special. You aren't empathic but surely you can feel it."

Choi sighed, "He is a Sentinel who needs a Guide. I am a Guide. Life is not so simple as your programmers made you think. I will be loyal, honest and committed to him but I am also committed to myself, the people around me and being a Guide."

Blair moved away in shock, "Having been granted the title of a Guide is a great honor but that is not what is important. Being a Guide because you want to, need to, love to is what is important. A Sentinel is given a life that forces him to live outside the norms of his kind and you-you are his bridge. You teach him a new way to exist beyond the life he has grown to know. You grow with him because bonding makes you the other half of his soul." He moved back again, "You can't hold back a part of yourself. You have to give all that you are and more. Surely you are aware of the instinct in Sentinels to protect and keep their Guides as theirs alone. By working with another Sentinel you endanger their trust, and could cause their death."

Choi shook his head. "Myths, superstitions. Ellison is not of the old ways. Knows nothing of instinct or he would have sought out a Guide earlier in his life. He is ashamed of what he is and tries to conceal it." He looked at the clone and spoke with disgust. "You insult me by presuming to know all that is expected of a human Guide. To dare lecture me on how to be what I was born through nature to do."

Blair looked down, "I'm sorry. I forgot myself. A shortcoming of mine which seems to get me in heaps of trouble. Please I meant no disrespect."

Choi sighed, "No taken small one. I am sorry for your plight. You shouldn't have been created in the first place. Again if you should decide to seek a sooner end..."

Blair shook his head and stepped back. "I shall face death as designated."

Ellison walked onto the balcony. "Simon just called. Seems Kincaid's men have decided to take on SentiOne's Rehabilitation School."

Blair looked at the two, "There are children there."

Ellison nodded, "I know Chief. Don't worry we'll do the best we can to stop this idiot."

********************

Blair watched the two leave, his thoughts torn between his fear for Ellison, whose Guide needed to understand the value of a bond and his hope that the few clones in the rehabilitation center would be alright.

He walked to the couch but jerked back in pain. It was as if his body wanted to explode. He took another step and collapsed.

********************

Jim listened to Simon and was ordered to enter the building from a side entrance, which was well hidden by some trees. Choi stood close and ready. Ellison motioned for Choi to walk south, he north. The two returned to the starting point when nothing was found.

"Jim, there is a stairwell down there."

Ellison nodded, "Too easy. The man is smart."

Choi nodded, mentally reviewing the building schematics the two were briefed on earlier. Ellison tilted his head, "There is a back stairwell, through a janitors closet." Choi smiled, at least he uses his senses when necessary.

The two men headed to the indicated area. Both paused as they heard shots being fired. A child screamed.

Ellison went around the corner and came face to face with the end of a rifle. The owner of the gun sneered, "You are easily distracted Det. Ellison."

The detective viewed the familiar past offend coolly, "Hello Connors how have you been?"

The man was unable to answer as he slumped to the floor, rendered unconscious from a hard blow to the left side of his head. Choi remembered that the Janitors closet had two separate doors. He smiled, "Seems distraction is not exclusively our problem."

Ellison nodded, "Around that corner. Brown and Rafe are coming in through the vent."

Soon the detectives neared the hostages. Four men held a dozen clone teens in a circle. Ellison noted that the children seemed unafraid of the rifles. Simply confused. Their eyes bright with innocence and a lack of understanding as to the danger they now faced. "They all look like Blair."

"What?"

Ellison looked at Choi and shook his head, "Nothing."

Just then Brown and Rafe stepped beside the two. Brown tilted his head, "Smoke them?"

Ellison nodded, "Let's go."

Masks in place Ellison didn't expect to suffer from the effects of the tear gas. Choi entered ahead of Ellison oblivious as to when the gas seeped into the small corner of the Sentinel's apparently damaged mask. Det. Ellison was blinded.

Gunfire broke out and one of Kincaid's men approached Ellison from the side.

The detective managed to see the vague outline of his attacker and raised his rifle to defend himself. The weapon was shoved out of the way. It was no good. Through the tears that formed in his eyes, the hampered detective was forced to face his impending death unable to effectively defend himself.

Something flew behind the gunman and just as suddenly he slumped to the floor. Gunfire continued around them and Ellison was pulled into a corner. "Jim, just close your eyes. Ignore the pain. Push the pain as far away as you can. Now breath in the oxygen deeply." <Cough, Cough> The voice continued as the mask was readjusted and the small opening on the side blocked by a tissue.

"Ignore the pain. Focus."

Jim opened his eyes and beside him was Blair. His face uncovered and unprotected. The other swiftly pulled out a new mask from his backpack and used it to replace the one on Ellison. Ten seconds passed and soon the Sentinel had regained his focus. The old mask was then placed onto Sandburg's face.

One gunman passed by, dazed in the smoke filled room and never noticed the two. Ellison, who now faired a great deal better, moved to arrest the man.

Choi who had made two arrests, returned to Ellison and noted that he too had made a successful arrest. "Not bad."

Jim faced the man, "Yeah? Where the hell were you?"

"What do you mean, I was..."

"Not nearby. Not covering my back." Ellison ignored Choi's reaction. He walked back to a darkened corner and helped the smaller man who was seated behind some boxes to stand up. The Sentinel then ushered him outside.

As he checked the kid over he noted that he was paler and seemed even weaker than before. Choi followed wondering just how a sick clone could get past Kincaid and the Police Department without being stopped, "What the hell is he doing here?"

Ellison spun on the other detective while holding the younger man close. His eyes lit with anger and disappointment, "He was covering my back. He knew that the gas mask could be a danger to someone like me. He risked his life for mine, like any good partner and Guide would."

Coughing sounds stopped his tirade and Ellison's attention returned to the kid. "Hey Chief you alright?"

"Jim, please call SentiOne. I-I think it's time."

"For what?"

Blair smiled and patted the man on his chest, "For me to move on." He sighed in exhaustion and spoke softly, "Please Jim, make the call."

********************

PART FIVE
Time's Up

Jim followed the van that was transporting Blair to his deactivation quarters. Banks wanted him to return to the department and file a report; a necessary part of any arrest but the detective ignored the order.

Choi was angered by Ellison's obvious concern for the non-human and finding himself ignored by the detective who treated him as an interloper. No one besides the Sentinel worried more for the younger man except for Taggert who prevented the others from blocking the detective's need to be with the weakened man.

Ellison felt emotions he had heard other bonded Sentinels speak of. He felt the pull on one's soul when you have found what felt like your soul mate. Like a siren song, it was a call that had to be answered. Still he wondered why he felt so strongly when they hadn't bonded. Must hurt like hell when you are bonded.

Jim recalled the discussion that took place out on his balcony between the younger man and Danny Choi. He never heard anyone care about him, a decorated military man and a detective, as deeply as Sandburg did. The words weren't spoken to simply impress, they were words spoken from the heart. Ellison wanted to speak to the kid about those words and wanted to let him know that he no longer wanted to deny what he was. That he could face his fate with the young man to show him how.

Now he knew he had let too much time slip by. Stubbornness and pride had destroyed his only chance to give Blair a goal. To beat the clock. Now, as he followed the gurney into a large garden like area, he felt his heart crumble. Facing death was nothing new to him but to watch one so young and so new to life face death so early, was extremely cruel.

The men who had led the gurney to the atrium walked away and nodded at Ellison in approval. It was considered an honor to have a human and a Sentinel stand guard over a Timer at their designated time of expiration. An honor many refused or didn't care to partake in.

Ellison watched the attendants leave and walked up to the gurney in confusion, "That's it? No medication? Nothing?"

Blair smiled weakly at the man, who preferred action rather than standing by passively, and patted the side of his bed. "Jim, as a Timer, there is no pain, not really. No painkiller can stop what's coming. I'm not afraid. It's my time. I-it wouldn't bother me if you preferred to leave. I don't want to be a burden especially not now."

Jim wanted to scream, the kid was stubborn, pushy, and opinionated but he was also right, honest, loyal and very brave. He fought to keep his emotions at bay, speaking slowly, "Chief can't we stop this? I need you here with me. I don't want you to die."

Blair smiled and looked off at the green plants within the De-animation Area. His voice sounding distant and weaker, "You need a Guide. Choi..."

"Choi isn't the one." He looked at the kid hoping to get him to understand. "You are, Chief. You're my Guide."

Blair shook his head, "No, you are special. I feel this. I know this. You deserve a human Guide..."

"No, I deserve you. The best, the person I know and trust. The person I listen to now and want to forever. Please Chief. Please don't die. Stop this."

Blair felt tears in his eyes. Tears for the man who called him a Guide without prejudice now fell freely. Tears for the man beside him who seemed suddenly fragile and scared. The man who now had tears falling from his eyes and was unaware of their presence. "It'll be alright." He reached up to touch the tears shed by the other and smiled, "Your face is wet."

Ellison wiped away the dampness and shrugged, "Must be a delayed reaction from the gas."

"Must be." His breathing was becoming labored. "Jim? Please go. I don't want you to see this. I want you to remember me - how I was before now. Not like this. Please."

Jim shook his head. "No, I'll stay right here by your side. It's where I belong." He looked deeply into the tired eyes that still held an unrealistic light and felt as though he were loosing the only connection he would ever find in the world around him, "Please Chief. Try to fight this."

Blair heard the desperate sound of the other voice and wished he could do as it instructed. He wondered what it was that stopped a Timer from dying. He had read that it was possible but it seemed strange to wish for. He looked down at his hand tightly clasped and being held by the man beside him. Smiling at the rightness of the moment. He felt whole.

He looked up and smiled even more brightly. Then gradually his body relaxed and his eyes slid shut. His hand released its hold and a sluggish release of breath indicated that he had passed away.

"No. Chief? Please you can't leave." Ellison closed his eyes and pulled the other close, hugging him like a father holding his son. Like one half of a soul clinging to the other half. He whispered softly. "You are my Guide. I know that now. I believe that. Please don't go - I need you."

Danny Choi, who had remained a silent spectator looked at the two men and knew what he had to do. Quietly he stepped behind the two and closed his eyes. His mind using meditative talents to call forth the empathic powers of Sandburg in order to join with the strong emotions emanating from Ellison. The bridge was formed.

Two of a kind - now whole.

********************

PART SIX
The Spirits Meet

The black panther ran through the forest changed visually from one moment to the next, moving past the various animals, past his kind. His focus remaining on the one sound that called to him.

A lithe coyote followed closely for a time but soon realized he was no match for the panther dogged determination or the call that pulled the sleek cat further away. He slowed in defeat.

Still the panther ran, through fields, through snow and slowly deep into a jungle. The call pulling him through time and space. He soon came upon a temple of sorts. Consisting mostly of rock with a small fixture at the top of the several steep steps.

The panther stopped as he noted the small silver wolf pup at the foot of the stairs. The pup yipped in joy at no longer being alone and wandered unsteadily towards the fierce looking black cat.

The panther growled at first and was silenced by the fearless wolf pup as he nipped the feline on the paw. The panther purred as he nudged the little trouble seeker away. The pup shivered and was then carefully pulled close and licked clean by an animal that could kill with the flick of his paw. Satisfied that the pup was now clean and safe the panther curled around the other to keep it warm. Content to be near, desiring only to keep the small one safe.

The pup nudged the other's chin, yipped once and then sighed finally safe and happy.

Suddenly a sound of thunder vibrated the jungle floor. The panther sat up and slowly changed to form the shape of James Ellison. He looked down and noted that he was dressed in army fatigues from a time long gone. The pup whined for the warmth that suddenly disappeared and as the man reached out to offer comfort, it suddenly disappeared.

"What do you seek?" Boomed a voice, which seemed to come from deep within the ground.

Ellison looked up at the altar and was surprised to see a warrior standing there awaiting a response. The Sentinel cleared his throat, "I'm sorry. What?"

"You have come to the jungle where spirits are born, meet and are in time granted slumber in the safety of the light. You followed one whose light will soon join others. You are uninvited. What do you seek?"

Ellison was about to reply when a table with a nude body, that of Blair Sandburg, appeared behind the warrior. Disregarding the stern looking figure, he took a step towards the vulnerable body and stopped when a spear was pressed against his chest. He looked up at the warrior and spoke fiercely, "He is what I seek."

"He has been deemed unworthy by your kind. A man who is not a man by your definition. Forced to suffer the indignation of your kind but not allowed the comfort."

Ellison shook his head, "I was not present during those times but I am here now and want only to protect him. He is too young. It is not his time. He is needed."

"Many such as this one have died on your world. Old and young. Some mere infants. It is a violation on the rules of life." He paused and looked at the unmoving figure behind him and then the other who faced him, "What do you seek?"

"I-I seek my Guide. He is a part of me. I need him. He must not die. I can't allow it."

The warrior smiled patronizingly, "You have no power over death here." He again looked at the still man. "His spirit reaches for you to offer his comfort." He returned his gaze, "He is aware of your pain."

"I need him, please."

"It is said he has no soul."

"He does, he shares mine."

The warrior nodded, "The answer has been true. Protect this gift Sentinel and do not take it likely. For a fool ignores what the Gods have granted."

********************

Ellison woke and slowly loosened his hold on the man in his arms. Hesitantly he listened for the heartbeat, smiling when he heard it thrumming in answer to his wishes. "Chief?"

Exhausted blue eyes opened and looked up meeting the concerned gaze. He shivered and spoke softly. "I'm so cold."

Jim smiled and pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed around the other, "Here you go Chief. Safe and warm."

Blair curled closely to the other, oblivious of the sudden surge of life within him. Instead he felt the fear and concern of the other and forced his tired eyes open again, "Jim? You alright?"

Ellison rocked back and forth while holding on tightly to the only person who could ask that question and make him smile, "Yeah Chief. Much better."

Danny Choi stepped back unnoticed and walked out of the doorway. He looked back once more and understood the meaning of being a Guide. He hoped to make the young Guide, his superior in the meaning of such things, proud of him some day. For now, he smiled at the knowledge of joining two spirits meant as one.

The End For Now!

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