Moment of Impact

(Part Three)

The Personal Journal of Blair Sandburg

September 13, 1994

There is no way that the thirteenth is an unlucky day. I mean, the most amazing, amazing thing happened to me today. I found him. Finally. My God. A Sentinel. A real, honest-to-God, living, breathing throwback to a more primitive breed of man. Not that he particularly liked hearing that. This guy is seriously uptight. A cop, no less. Which figures. And he was an Army Ranger before that. Yeah, he's the real thing, all right. Been protecting the tribe his whole life.

God, I'm so excited. I can't even calm down enough to make this coherent. But no, no. I've got to. I want to record this moment, so I can always look back on it and remember. The day I finally came face to face with my life's work.

I can't believe doing such a small favor like tutoring someone could pay off like this. But, God, has it ever. Last spring, I was helping Jill, that nurse over at the medical center, with some of her classes. I must have mentioned my interest in people with heightened senses, because today, wham! She faxes me over this chart, and suddenly, I'm looking at the holy grail. James Joseph Ellison, modern day Sentinel.

I couldn't let that slip through my fingers, but how to approach him? It was tricky. So I went with-- I guess you could call it obfuscating. I mean, lying is way too harsh a term. I was only trying to help, right? Anyway, I passed myself off as a doctor to get in to see him. I had a little snafu with the nametag, which of course he caught. Sentinel or not, he's definitely a police detective.

Anyway, I bullshitted my way past his cop suspicions and gave him my card. He must have been feeling pretty desperate because a few hours later he showed up at my office. This guy is wound tight. He went off a little when I told him he was a kind of modern day cave man. Threw me up against the wall. Threatened to arrest me for all kinds of shit. He's not exactly what I'd call the trusting type.

I had to get in his face a little, do some threatening of my own. I told him he was never going to find out was happening to him if he pissed me off. More bullshit. But he bought it and let me go. After he calmed back down, I showed him Burton's monograph and filled him in on the whole Sentinel phenomenon. He wasn't too thrilled. Actually, he stormed out of my office. And shit! I'd forgotten to warn him about the zone out factor. So I ran after him.

Thank God I did. He was zoned in the middle of the road. There was a garbage truck coming. And fuck! I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I was running on instinct. 'Cause I ran out into the road and pushed him down and fell on the ground beside him. The fucking garbage truck went right over us. We both could have been ripped down the middle. It seriously sucked.

But not as much as seeing that big ass truck bearing down on Jim. God, he looked so vulnerable, just standing there, staring at God knows what. And afterwards all I could think was: He's a Sentinel. He might be the only one in the world. I can't ever let anything happen to him.

September 15, 1994

This whole thing with Detective Ellison just keeps getting cooler. Guess who's his partner now? Shit! I can't believe my luck. He's going to let me tag along and observe him and write him up in my dissertation. I already started, in fact. Actually, I helped him solve the Switchman case and catch this lunatic who was planting bombs all over Cascade. I don't think it's overstating the facts to say that Jim couldn't have done it without me, at least not in time to save the people on that bus. If I hadn't coached him through using his senses, he wouldn't have found the critical clues, and Veronica Sarris would have blown all those people to kingdom come.

Oh, never mind. It was all Jim and his senses. Who am I kidding? It was amazing to see what he could do with just a little prompting. I can't imagine what kind of crime-solving monster he's going to be when we've had a chance to really work on his control. And he wanted to get rid of it! He's just lucky he found me. Or I found him. We found each other. Whatever.

Now the only challenge is convincing Jim's boss to let me hang around with him on the job. But we can't let the cat out of the bag about his Sentinel abilities. I made up a pretty good story about doing my dissertation on closed societies. Jim doesn't want me to mention the thin blue line angle, but I really think it could work-- Anyway, how tough can this Captain Banks be?


September 29, 1994

Well, I feel like an idiot. A homeless idiot, to boot. But, really, how was I supposed to know there was a drug lab next door to my apartment? I guess I should have figured something was up. I mean, you just don't get that kind of space in Cascade, not even in the warehouse district, for $800 a month.

I managed to salvage enough of my stuff to get by. Luckily, nothing really important was destroyed, and Larry's okay. But, man, was I ever shitting it, wondering where I was going to stay. This is a college town, for God's sake. You just don't find apartments a month into the fall semester. I guess there were some friends at Rainier I could have turned to. But sleeping on someone's couch gets old. And then there's the issue of Larry. Plus, I just didn't feel all that comfortable asking for such a big favor.

Which makes it a really huge mystery why I didn't have any trouble begging Jim to take me in. Geesh, I've only known the guy a matter of weeks. I don't know what gave me the balls. Maybe, it was just too much of a temptation, the idea of living with him, even for just a little while, getting to observe the Sentinel in his natural habitat.

Scratch that. It sounds cold. And it's not the truth, anyway. The truth is weird. The truth is that of all the people I could have asked to stay with I feel the most comfortable with Jim. Even though I've known him the shortest amount of time. And we have next to nothing in common. And he really does seem to believe I dabble in the herbal recreation and he's going to have to bust me someday.

See? I told you it was weird. But it just felt so perfectly natural when he came over that afternoon to bring me the video camera I needed for my project. We sat on the sofa in my warehouse and watched TV and shared popcorn. He was all mellow and even-- gasp!-- made some jokes, like he felt right at home. He didn't even seem to mind Larry.

And then he actually said yes when I asked to stay. I don't know what to make of that. It pretty much defies explanation. He's not exactly what you might call an open book. In fact, he's got this serious hard ass routine going on, like if you do something he doesn't like there's going to be hell to pay. So the last thing you'd expect is that he'd let someone he barely knows into his personal space.

And yet, here I am in his little spare room, settling in. He gave me a week to find another place. That's really generous when you think about it. Not to mention that he's out there in the kitchen whipping up some spaghetti sauce that smells like absolute heaven. He casually let it slide that if I didn't have other plans for dinner there would be enough for two. This guy is such a softie.

God, I should probably have my head examined for even thinking that. He could break me into a million pieces with one of those tree trunks he calls arms. Still, I just don't think he would. That's the thing about him. I don't know if it's because he's a Sentinel or because he's a cop or simply because he's Jim Ellison. But he's honorable in a way that's-- kind of old-fashioned. But good. Really good.

Not that I'm planning on telling him he's old-fashioned. He didn't take the throwback remark too well. And I don't want to push my luck, not when I've got such a good thing going.


January 11, 1995

It's not as if I didn't realize something bad could happen to me while I'm working with Jim. I mean, there was Garret Kincaid on my first day to set the tone. But that was one kind of bad. And Lash was-- Shit. What he did-- That was ugly and twisted and really fucking terrifying. And I can't stop having these nightmares. I can't forget. I won't ever be able to forget, not as long as I live.

I thought I was handling it okay. I really did. I guess I was taking my cues from Jim, and he was being all levelheaded and professional about it. He even told me I'd handled myself well in the situation. And I was pumped to get his approval. So I acted all nonchalant down at the station. You know like: "Oh, yeah, homicidal psychos-- they really are a nuisance, aren't they?"

But then the dreams started. God, it's like I'm back there again, only this time Jim's not coming to get me. Why do I always have to fucking dream about shit that's bothering me? And remember it so damned vividly?

The first night I woke up screaming, Jim seemed pretty mater-of-fact when he came down to check on me. The second night, a little annoyed to be woken up again. But then when it kept happening, he started to get concerned. I feel him watching me whenever I'm down at the station. I've noticed he's been calling me "Chief" more often than "Sandburg." He even said we could talk about it if I needed to. And he hates talking about things.

I can't fucking stand it.

Not that he cares. That's nice. Really. But I feel like such a fucking wuss around him. If this had happened to him, he would have brushed the dirt off his pants and gone on with his life. I know, I know. He's a cop, and I'm not. But I've got my pride, too. And I hate that he knows my pulse spikes like I've just run the freakin' hundred yard dash whenever I get near the bathtub.

I hate that Lash was able to get the jump on me. That I didn't figure out who he was before he came after me at the loft. I hate that I couldn't fight him off. The fucking bastard was shorter than me. Damn near puny. His other victims were a guy in a wheel chair, a stoner and a woman. No wonder they didn't have a chance. But me? Damn it. I really ought to be able to take better care of myself.

I hate it. Hate Lash. Hate that sick fuck. Hate how fucking petrified he made me. Hate what-- I can barely even make myself write about. Hate what he tried to do to me. That chair and the fucking drug. Those chains. That god awful ugly yellow scarf. I really don't care what his mother did to him. And that's not like me. But I can't help it. It's easy to be high-minded when nothing really bad has ever happened to you, when no one has ever tried to hurt you.

God. I'm shaking. My hands are always fucking shaking these days. And I hear Jim lurking around out there again, pretending to clean up the already spotless living room, making himself available, I guess, in case I want to talk.

But I'm not going to talk to him. I can't. When Jim gave me that little speech about keeping the appropriate professional detachment at crime scenes, I knew two things. That I'm probably not ever going to be able to do that. And that there will always be some things I just can't talk to him about.

This is definitely one of them.

I know I'm not the kind of guy Jim feels comfortable with. His kind of guy wouldn't need to talk about what happened. Hell, his kind of guy would never have gotten himself into that kind of situation in the first place. I feel like I'm just barely hanging on to whatever respect Jim has for me. Showing him what a wimp I am-- That's the fastest way to make him want to ditch me.

So I'll just have to deal. I'll have to handle these nightmares alone. Have to figure out a way to get this fucking psychopath out of my head. 'Cause, man, I do not want to be at the mercy of David Lash for the rest of my life, even if it is only in my dreams.


March 27, 1995

When I started this whole thing, the ride along and the dissertation and helping Jim with his senses, I promised him that I would protect his identity. It's my responsibility as a researcher and just the only decent thing to do. I never really thought two things about it.

But Lee Brackett made me think. Made me look at Sentinels from a whole new perspective.

I don't know why it never occurred to me before. It should have. That there are people out there who would just love to use Jim's abilities for any number of hideous purposes if they ever found out about him.

Like Brackett.

I'll never forget, no matter how long I live, the look on Jim's face when we broke into the Air Force facility and saw that plane sitting there on the tarmac. You could just see him calculating how many lives it would cost if all that sophisticated technology fell into the wrong hands.

And I couldn't stop thinking: Man, this is just so fucking wrong! Sentinel are good. Jim's good. His big reason to get up in the morning is to protect people. But Brackett had him in this no-win situation. If Jim helped him steal the plane, people would get hurt. If he didn't, people would get hurt.

It sucked the big one, but somehow we managed to get out of it without any real damage. No bad guys got their hands on any state secrets. No ebola outbreak. Nobody believed Brackett when he spouted off about Jim's senses. Thank God. But I don't want to see Jim faced with shit like that ever again.

Because we might not get lucky the next time.

The next nut job might come after Jim, might think there's some kind of glory in taking out a Sentinel. God. I don't want anything bad to happen to him because he's trying to use his senses to help people. I sure as hell don't want something to happen to him because of me, because someone found out about him through my work. The way Brackett did.

And that was just from some paper I wrote years before I ever even met Jim. God knows what might happen with the diss. I really don't know what I'm going to do about that. I mean, the dissertation will be public, totally out there. And Jim-- God. Jim.

How the hell am I ever going to protect him? Just changing his name-- I don't know. I doubt it's going to keep people from putting two and two together.

I guess I could stop right now. Call off the deal. Find another topic. Smooth it over with my committee somehow. If I really haul ass, I could finish my degree sometime this century. And of course I'd still help Jim whenever he needed.


I couldn't work with him down at the station anymore. I wouldn't have the time, and I don't think Simon would go for it anyway. Somehow my dissertation gives him some way to excuse in his own mind letting a civilian get into all these dangerous situations.

I doubt I could go on living with Jim either. It's like his spare room is part of our deal. What he gives me in return for helping him. But if I moved out, Jim would have to call me if anything was going on with him. And I just don't know if he would, not if he thought he was imposing or taking me away from my work. He's got all this prickly pride. I really think it's only because of our deal that he lets me help him. Because he feels like he can reciprocate.

If it weren't humanly impossible, I'd work on a second diss, a backup, so I could just magically whip it out at the last minute if I ever needed to. But, hell, it's hard enough to do one dissertation.

I'll just have to be prepared for the possibility that I might never be able to turn it in. God, that makes me feel like someone just punched me in the stomach. But I have to be willing to let it go. I have to. It's the only way I can go forward with any kind of good conscience.

I can't talk to Jim about this. He'd just freak. So I'll have to make the promise here. If it ever comes down to it, Jim, it's you, man. Not the diss. I swear to God.

Continued in Part Four.

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