The Healing


by
Joan Z and Neichan



Part Eleven

“XANDER!” Spike and Blair yelled at the same time. The dark haired young man jumped and nearly spilled his cereal.

“What!?” It was a high-pitched yelp. Xander startled and look at the pair. “Geez, scare a guy much?”

Spike was vigorously rubbing Xander’s arm. “You just zoned, Pet.” Spike cupped Xander’s chin and tilted his head up making eye contact and evaluating the level of awareness he saw there. The chocolate colored orbs met his. Xander was all the way back with them, thank the gods.

“No, I didn’t,” Xander said, pushing Spike’s hand away from his chin. “I was just looking at the bubbles in my coffee. I never noticed all the colors they have and the way the light plays on them when I stir….. oh, shit, I just zoned didn’t I?” He looked shocked and then embarrassed, pushing the cup away from himself he made as if to stand. Jim’s big hand stopped him, coming to rest on his shoulder; it felt both firm and caring.

“You’re okay Xanman,” Jim said, reassuringly. “All sentinels will zone at some time. This was just the first time for you.”

“Yeah, but why? I have two guides, I shouldn’t be zoning,” Xander said, hearing the guilt in his own voice. He knew how to guide a sentinel. He thought it would be an easy matter to apply it to himself.

“I have to teach you how to use your dials first,” Blair said. “After that the zone outs will stop as long as you renew your bond.”

“I’m a guide too, Blair, I know the exercises,” Xander protested. “It’s not like all this is new to me.” He felt the flush rising in his cheeks.

“Knowing the exercises and achieving control are two different things,” Blair said. “Besides you can’t be your own guide. Don’t worry. You’ll do fine.”

“It’s going to make it hard to keep it a secret that my sentinel abilities have triggered if I zone out in public.”

“Don’t worry about it, Pet,” Spike said. We’ll stay in until we’re sure you have control. No reason we can’t give you enough time to get the hang of it. You’ve only been a sentinel for a few days.”

Xander buried his head in his hands. “Oh gods, this is hard,” he moaned. When he looked up at Spike his eyes were full of pain. “You know what will happen if the wrong people find out I’ve triggered, they’ll come after me and they’ll kill you or anyone else that gets in their way.”

“That’s not going to happen, Pet,” Spike said with a melancholy smile. His eyes were filled with understanding. He knew what it was like to be persona non grata. Maybe not so much in this life, but in the last one he’d played the role often enough. He’d been hunted, captured and made into a lab rat. He was going to make damn sure that it never happened to Xander. He tried to offer what comfort he could. “You still have your hazard detection and with Jim and I protecting you… We’ll keep you safe; I promise.”

“You’re both police detectives, you shouldn’t have to be distracted from your work to care for me.” Xander pointed out. “What if you get hurt because you’re thinking about me? It will be my fault.”

“A sentinel’s first duty is to protect his guide, always has been,” Jim said. “I don’t want you feeling guilty about any of this. It will keep you from doing what needs to be done.” Jim walked over and took Xander’s chin in his hand and tilted his head up so that he could look into Xander’s eyes. “None of this is your fault. You should have been protected and cherished and you weren’t. You were tortured and used by greedy men who wanted to profit from you. It was wrong for you and it's wrong for our society. We could run, disappear in the jungles of Peru, and if it comes to that, we will, but only as a last resort. For now we are going to fight these new laws, we’re not going to become slaves to our government, so that a few men can have power and wealth at sentinels and guides expense.”

“So, we’re at war with our government,” Xander said quietly, “with an army of eight.” He felt ill, riddled with doubts, and more than a little fear. But under all of that he felt strangely exhilarated, as if he was a part of something important, something that was bigger than all of them. This was larger then individual sentinels and guides and bigger than the pack.

Jim saw the look in Xander’s eyes change from pain and despair to hope and determination and he let go of Xander’s chin. His fingers trailed over the soft skin… “I know,” he said as a diabolical smile lit up his face. “They're hopelessly outnumbered, but that’s their problem.”

Xander wasn’t so sure that their tiny two-pack hive of two sentinels, three guides and three combination sentinel-guides outnumbered their enemies but he could feel Jim’s cold hard rage through his bond and he almost felt sorry for the people trying to enslave sentinels and guides, almost.


~*~*~*~*~


Graham and Peter’s heads popped up from their breakfast and their eyes locked. Their ears would have been erect and quivering if it were at all possible.

“Xander just zoned,” Peter whispered.

Graham pushed his chin forward and nodded. “I know,” he answered. He looked down at his guide who had shifted against his leg.

Riley, who was sitting on the floor at Graham’s feet, being fed his breakfast, squinted up at his sentinel. “How do you know that?”

“We can feel it through our link. You didn’t feel anything?” Graham asked.

“No, nothing. How about you Wesley?” Riley asked.

“Yeah,” Wesley said, “It felt like something was wrong, maybe dangerous.”

“Great,” Riley said, with an edge of anger. “I’m the only one left out of your expanded bond.” He didn’t like being the only one out of the loop.

“It’s because I haven’t claimed you,” Peter said with certainty. Riley gave Peter a wanton gaze.

“Wait a minute,” Graham growled, not liking the look Riley was giving his second. “Cross bonding with Riley was never part of this deal. I’ve only claimed Wesley to keep him safe. Riley’s not in any danger.”

Peter was calm as he spoke to Graham. “I never thought it was, Riley is yours and yours alone, Sentinel. But it seems that we’ve inadvertently started a hive, and it would go far in making our pack stronger…” He shut his mouth with a snap when Graham glared at him.

“Sorry,” Peter said as he went back to eating his breakfast. “Your Guide, your decision.”

Satisfied with Peter’s answer Graham reached down and took a handful of Riley’s hair in his fist and pulled his guide’s head back until he was looking up into his master’s face. “As for you, I better not hear any more complaints about being left out, or wanting to roll onto your back for anyone but me. As punishment, no hot water for a week and that includes coffee and tea as well as showers. You understand me, slave?”

“Yes, Master, thank you Master.”

Graham let go of Riley’s hair. “Go get the lube. The sentinel needs to see me renew my claim on you.”

Peter had no trouble smelling the spurt of heat and pheromones coming off of Riley as the Guide scampered off to obey. Riley wanted this and was excited by it.

Peter glanced over at Wesley. His beautiful Wesley was no longer his alone. Graham had claimed him this morning while Peter held him in his arms. Today Wesley wore Graham’s scent and Graham’s alone and so did Peter. The appropriate papers would be filed, as soon as they got to The Agency, declaring the forming of a new pack and the cross bonding of Wesley. Now Riley would also carry Graham’s scent. Every Sentinel they passed by today would know that a sentinel and two guides now belonged to Captain Miller. They wouldn’t need to read the papers.

When Riley returned the claiming was hard, fast and without any release for the slave guide. It was the first time that Peter and Wesley had witnessed the Master/slave relationship in regards to punishment, but they had promised not to judge Riley so they simply watched without comment. Not that there was much to comment on. Any sentinel would have reclaimed their guide after the look of longing that Riley had given to Peter, but it would have been done in private with only the scent marking declaring the sentinel’s claim. Reclaiming in front of a sentinel who had witnessed a guide’s disobedience was not unheard of but having another guide present was enough off kilter to make Peter want to say something. Of course, he couldn’t, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t known about the Master/slave relationship; and Graham had even indicated that Wesley would be a witness to all of it. They had both come into the pack willingly. Now wasn’t the time to try a renegotiation of terms.

They were a pack now and apparently they had also started a hive, two or more packs that are affiliated and have a bond connection. Peter had expected that his psychic connection to Spike would continue. Somehow he knew it would but he was surprised that the connection had spread to Wesley and Graham. Riley, being left out of the connection could cause some adjustment problems, but their pack bond was new and even Jim resisted letting Spike claim Blair. He knew that in time Graham might relent, but only if Riley were in danger. Graham was the head of their pack, it was his call, and Peter was strangely content with it. It was not something he would have thought possible for himself before his bond with Spike. He just hoped the sentinels at The Agency would be as accepting when they caught Graham’s scent on him.


~*~*~*~*~


Byron Harris looked at the Sentinel and Guide Reports. The number of newly triggered sentinels was stable at three to six per month. The report covered a four state area of Idaho, Oregon, Alaska and Washington. The number rarely fluctuated, except during wartime.

It was the Guide Report that had him concerned. The Guide school at Rainer University trained one third of the guides in the country. The numbers had been steadily declining since world war one. And this month was no exception. The new laws requiring Sentinels to breed their guides would pass by the end of the week, none too soon as far as he was concerned.

He picked up the report of newly bonded Sentinels and guides, but it was a boring list of names he did not recognize. Luck was with Graham’s newly formed pack. The Alpha Prime didn’t notice the name Miller half way down the page. They were safe for now.


~*~*~*~*~


Graham sat behind his desk glaring at Sentinel James Rohgah.

The walk to his office this morning had been relatively uneventful. The sentinels that his new-formed pack passed in the hall did turn and look but with a warning growl from Graham they quickly went about their business. Now this. Sentinel Rohgah was an ambitious man and wanted very much to be promoted to Sentinel Prime. There was however one problem, no one liked him. Graham knew that he was not the kind of sentinel that could command the loyalty of the men that served under him and what he was doing now was a perfect example of why that was. “Request denied,” Graham barked

“Sir,” Rohgah said unwilling to give up. “Sentinel Wall has voluntarily surrendered his Alpha status by allowing another Alpha Sentinel to claim him. I am within my rights to challenge him for his rank.”

“You would be a fool to do so,” Graham said. “And I would be a murderer to let you.”

“Sir,” Rohgah continued, bringing himself to attention, “with all due respect, it’s your scent he carries, I do not believe that you have the right to refuse me, Sir.”

“Are you challenging me now, Rohgah?” Graham growled.

“Sir, that is not my intent, Sir.”

“Give it up, Rohgah,” Graham warned. “Issuing a challenge to Sentinel Wall is not your fast track to a promotion. This type of challenge is one of personal pride, you would have to kill him to win his rank; Peter will not let that happen.”

“Sir, it is my fervent belief that Sentinel Wall no longer deserves his rank. He has surrendered himself and his guide to another sentinel. It is an admission that he cannot protect his guide. A sentinel that cannot protect his guide should not be entrusted with the protection of the public. I therefore wish to serve notice of intent to challenge Sentinel Peter Wall for his rank of Sentinel Prime, Sir.”

Graham sighed. There was no point in arguing with Rohgah. “Make sure your will is in order before you make the challenge and say good-bye to your family.” Graham stood up and offered Rohgah his hand. “I am sorry it had to end this way Sentinel.”

Rohgah looked down at Graham’s hand. “Sir, you are not going to psyche me out by acting as if I have already lost. I won the gold metal in hand to hand combat at the last Sentinel Games.”

Graham dropped his hand, “I’m aware of your abilities, but you still don’t have a snowball’s chance in boiling water to win this challenge. Dismissed.”

A very arrogant Sentinel James Rohgah left the Captain’s office, convinced the captain was running scared. He and Peter had been sparing partners more then once while he was preparing for The Games. He knew he could win, he was a split second faster, bigger and stronger than Wall and he knew Wall’s fighting style; besides, right was on his side.





Part Twelve

“It was a formal challenge issued in front of my men,” Peter said. “I had no choice, I had to accept.”

“I didn’t give my permission for this,” Graham sighed. “Rohgah wouldn’t listen, he’s convinced he’ll win, and he doesn’t care that he will have to kill you to do it.”

“Technically he doesn’t need your permission. Even telling you about it was a courtesy. As far as winning…he doesn’t have a prayer. I was one of his sparing partners while he was preparing for the games. He may have had an even chance before Spike made me his childe, but now…” Peter shook his head, his eyes full of regret. “I know he’s an ass, but that doesn’t help. I’ll have to kill him.”

Wesley went to his sentinel and wrapped his arms around him. “It’s not your fault. It was bound to happen with him, sooner or later. He wants a promotion and he’s unwilling to wait. If it weren’t you he would have challenged some other Sentinel Prime, one that wouldn’t have had a chance against him.”

“Still,” Peter sighed, “Maybe it was a mistake wearing Graham’s scent to the Agency. Maybe we should have kept that part private and just filed the papers.”

“No,” Graham said. “I’m not the type to pussyfoot around. Either they accept us as we truly are or we take the challenges until they do accept us.”

Peter broke away from Wesley’s hug. “We?” Peter said, with a sarcastic laugh. He took a step and leaned forward on the captain’s desk with both hands. “I’m the one that has to kill a fellow sentinel,” he said, his eyes glaring as they locked with Graham’s.

Graham glared back. “You’re a pack member, my second and my guide. What happens to you happens to all of us.”

Wesley stepped over to Peter and began rubbing his arm. “Peter, I think we need to bond. We didn’t do that this morning; I think it could be affecting you. Let me wear your scent; let the other sentinels know that I still belong to you.”

Peter straightened up and turned to his guide. “Oh, my love,” he said, pulling Wesley into a hug. “You didn’t think I gave you up, did you?”

“No,” Wesley said stroking Peter’s face. “It would take more than the fires of hell to make you give me up. We did what needed to be done this morning; it’s been half a day, all the sentinels know that I’ve cross-bonded with Graham. It’s time to let them know I still carry your scent too.”

“Wesley’s right,” Graham said. “Half a day is long enough. You need to let the sentinels know that Wesley is still under your protection. It could quiet some of the rumors that are sure to be spreading.”


~*~*~*~*~


“That was Peter on the phone,” Spike said, as he paced back and forth and ran his fingers through his hair. “He’s been challenged. Both Wesley and Peter wore Graham’s scent to The Agency today. Some asshole said he has given up his Alpha status by letting another Alpha claim him and his guide. He wants Peter stripped of his rank and to take it for his own.”

“Jesus,” Jim said, “That didn’t take long. Did he say who challenged him?”

“James Rohgah,” Spike said.

“Rohgah,” Blair said. “Isn’t that the sentinel that won the gold medal in hand to hand combat in the last Sentinel Games?”

“That’s the one,” Jim said.

Spike walked over to the computer and sat down.

“What are you doing?” Xander asked, as he gave calming strokes to Spike’s arm.

“I’m going to find this guy’s address,” Spike said. “And than go over there and talk some sense into the idiot.”

“No,” Xander said in his strongest Alpha Guide voice. “This is Peter’s fight. I know he’s your childe and I know what that means to you, but he would rather be dead than marked a coward that hides behind his sire’s apron strings.”

“Xan, no one knows about Peter’s and my relationship except the hive members, and it’s not Peter I’m protecting here, it’s Rohgah. He may as well be spitting into a hurricane. It’s murder to let this happen.”

“Xander’s right,” Blair said as he sat down with his back against the door. “You’ll have to go through me to get out of here.”

“Me too,” Xander said as he sat down beside Blair.

Spike looked at Jim. “What about you,” Spike asked. “Are you going to join them on the floor?”

“No,” Jim said. “They can keep you here without me, I’d just be overkill. I’m going to call Graham and find out why he hasn’t put a stop to this.”


~*~*~*~*~


Jim scowled as he hung up the phone. “Graham’s already tried to stop this. He even ordered Rohgah to get his affairs in order and make sure his will is up to date. It seems that Peter was his sparing partner before the games, so he's sure that he can win. Rohgah made the challenge in front of Peter’s men. It’s a matter of sentinel pride now. There's nothing that we can do to stop it.”

Spike sighed. “If anyone finds out about Peter’s new abilities…he’ll be a target too.”

“When the new laws pass,” Jim said, “we’ll all be targets anyway.”


~*~*~*~*~


Jim and Spike walked into The Agency gym where the challenge fight was to take place. Spike had already talked to Peter and warned him to make the fight look “good” so that no one would notice his new abilities. They walked to the center of the gym to take their places around the challenge circle. A very big, young sentinel, wearing an Agency uniform came over to them and addressed Jim. “Sir, this is a challenge fight, sentinel business, you’ll have to ask your guide to leave.”

Jim smiled at the man. “My guide is not present, Sentinel, I know better then to bring him to one of these events.”

“I’m talking about the man standing to your right, sir.”

Jim looked over at Spike who stood with an amused look on his face. Jim scowled and looked back at the young sentinel. “That is Sentinel Spikeman, brother sentinel to Peter Wall. I don’t think you’re going to get him to leave.”

“A bit small for a sentinel isn’t he?” the young man asked.

“Are you calling me a liar?” Jim growled.

“It’s my job to make sure only interested sentinel’s are present,” the young man growled back.

All heads in the gym turned to look at the argument just as Graham entered the gym and hurried over to the group. “What’s going on here, Bob?” Graham asked.

“This sentinel claims that the man to his right is also a sentinel.”

“This is Sentinel James Ellison and his second, Sentinel William Spikeman, both are sentinel brothers of mine and Sentinel Wall’s. They are interested parties and were personally invited here by Sentinel Wall.”

“Yes, sir,” the young man said. He gave Spike a disdainful look before turning and walking away.

“I think this whole thing has everyone on edge,” Graham said. “I’ll have to talk to him about respect for other sentinels tomorrow.”

“It would seem it’s not only Peter they’ve lost respect for,” Jim said. “He didn’t apologize for calling us a liar before leaving.”

“Shit,” Graham muttered under his breath. “Either of you are within your right to challenge him.”

Everyone’s head turned to the sound of Bob’s voice. “It seems Peter picks weaklings and cowards to brother with,” he said in a voice that was purposely modulated louder than needed for a sentinel’s hearing.

“Excuse me,” Spike said. “I think it’s better if I take care of this.” Spike swaggered across the fighting circle, a sign he was willing to make or receive a challenge. Bob was laughing with his friends and didn’t see the predator coming until he stood in front of him. “I believe you owe my first and I an apology,” he said.

“Go away, guide,” Bob said and spat at Spike’s feet.

Spike grabbed the much larger sentinel by the shoulders and dropped to the floor, tossing Bob over him as he dropped. Bob scrambled to his feet but when he got up he found Spike ready and waiting for him.

“Care to make that apology now?” Spike asked.

“Fuck you,” Bob said and charged Spike.

Spike sidestepped at the last moment and tripped Bob and then he quickly stepped on his neck and picked up his arm twisting it into an uncomfortable position.”

“How about now?” Spike asked.

“Go to hell,” Bob said and tried to buck Spike off of him.

Spike pulled on Bob’s shoulder and every sentinel in the gym heard the pop as Bob’s shoulder dislocated. “Been there, done that,” Spike said as he stepped back and waited for the big man to get back to his feet.

When Bob got up he was nauseous and sweaty with pain, he cradled his right arm against his chest. For the first time he looked at Spike, really looked at him, for the first time he saw the predator and he shivered. “I apologize,” he whispered, with his head hung, and then began to stagger from the circle.
Spike blocked his way. “I prefer a formal apology,” he said in a tone that let Bob know the topic was not open for negotiation.

Bob stood up as straight as he could. “I, Sentinel Robert Stevens,” he said, in a loud but obviously pain filled voice, “formally apologize to Sentinel James Ellison and Sentinel William Spikeman for my unfounded accusations as to their character.”

“Apology accepted,” Spike said and then walked back to Jim and Graham.

Graham looked at Spike. “That was damn impressive, you dislocated his arm with no more difficulty then pulling a candle out of a birthday cake.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed in a bitter tone. “It’s always the same, if you aren’t big there’s always some guy that will make the wrong assumption. Just like Sentinel Stevens. Well, they’ll respect us now,” Spike said. “And isn’t that what sentinels are all about, the power to protect our guides and the respect that comes with it?”





Part Thirteen


Congressional Session, Washington D.C.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

"I do." The man standing at the table in front of the elevated bench that held four powerful senators had his hand raised. At a nod from the man swearing him in, he lowered his hand and took his seat. He adjusted his tie, unbuttoned his coat and waited for the first foray. It wasn't long coming.

"Please state your name for the record."

"Dr. Aaron Shamus." He had been a physician here in Washington for the last ten years. Gradually he had become part of the political machine. He had, what he believed to have been, a chance meeting with a certain influential sentinel to thank for it. Alpha Prime Byron Harris, had been sent to feel the doctor out and make sure he was someone the black ops branch of the government could safely bring into their plan to genetically create a super sentinel. The doctor considered Byron Harris to be one of his closest associates.

The senator chosen to lead the questioning cleared his throat before speaking. "Thank you for appearing before us today Dr. Shamus," he said, his face serious, but not unlike a kindly grandfather. The look was one he cultivated.

"You're quite welcome, Senator," the doctor said with a smile.

"You are a medical doctor, is that correct?" the senator asked.

"Yes, Senator, I have worked as a physician for more than thirty years, specializing in guide and sentinel medicine for the last twenty-six of those years."

"And," the senator continued, "You had extensive input with the drafting of this bill?"

"That's correct senator." Dr. Shamus nodded again, his face composed, his voice steady and reassuring, perfect for the televised hearings. No one would be nervous hearing that calming voice, seeing those sincere, caring eyes.


~*~*~*~*~


A few hundred miles away in his living room, Byron Harris smiled. It was all going according to plan.

The interviewing senator spoke again. He was sticking to the script word for word. Byron sipped his whiskey approvingly. He appreciated it when a plan came together like this. Flawlessly.


~*~*~*~*~


"According to the figures you've supplied us with," the senator continued, his eyes pinning those of the physician, "the guide population has been dropping steadily since world war one. Why are we only now addressing the matter?" His gentle sense of outrage was communicated in the tone of his voice, controlled, appropriate and concerned.

"An excellent question," Dr. Shamus responded. "It is a misnomer to say no attempt has been made to turn the guide birthrate around. We had wide-spread sweeping reforms twenty-five years ago. They were aimed at improving the quality of life for guides and hopefully increasing their birth rate." He looked at each of the men seated behind the bench. It took just enough time to increase the tension and anticipation in the room. Every ear was tuned to his next words.

"The reforms were not as successful as hoped," he understated. He didn't want to immediately jump into his proposal, which was as good as passed already. Still they did need the general population behind them if possible. It would smooth the process.

"They failed?" the senator asked, conveying a grandfatherly worry.

"They were successful in improving the quality of life for guides, but the birthrate is still falling, albeit more slowly." Shamus allowed. "We had one success, we did make the lives of all guides better. But we also failed. Half measures will not be effective. It is time we faced reality. We need a new plan."


~*~*~*~*~


Far away, Byron frowned, his hand flexing around his cut crystal tumbler of aged whiskey. He knew that that little statement had strayed from the testimony he had been expected to memorize. It was getting a little too close to making people think of this as government grasping for control over private citizens. It was imperative that that not happen. The common man could not identify his own freedom with that of sentinels and guides. Shamus had to ease off. Get back onto the approved script.


~*~*~*~*~


"And you have a theory on what is causing this declining birthrate?" the senator asked.


~*~*~*~*~


Byron had seen him blink at the additional words. Damn it, Shamus had better not screw this up. Their little group of conspirators dealt harshly with careless men. Bryon Harris glowered at his television set.


~*~*~*~*~


"It's more than a theory, senator. I have compiled extensive interviews with sentinels and guides, as well as statistical findings. Sentinels are the cause of the guide shortage."

There was a pause as the Senator let the shock of the statement sink into the TV audience's consciousness.


~*~*~*~*~


Byron heaved a sigh. "Good. Back on target, you son of a bitch. Now stay there," he muttered. This was not the time for improvisation.


~*~*~*~*~


"Can you be more specific, Dr. Shamus?"

"Yes, the sentinel gene remains dormant during childhood and into the early adult age range. Sentinels typically do not trigger until the age of twenty-five at the youngest, with the vast majority triggering between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-three. That gives sentinels plenty of time to marry and have children.

Guides are not so accommodating. They can be reliably tested for their level of empathy at the onset of puberty, usually eleven for girls and thirteen for boys. Of course, that is too young to bond, but they are sent for training immediately upon graduation from high school so they will be prepared when they are old enough. Guides can successfully and legally bond with a sentinel at the age of twenty-one; any younger and a true bond simply fails until the guide reaches maturity, with the current shortage most male guides are claimed by alpha sentinels as soon as they graduate from guide training at the age of twenty-one. This means that guides do not have the same opportunity to procreate that sentinels do." Dr Shamus paused for a moment, taking a sip from the glass of spring water provided for him. He appeared to be thinking deeply, weighing his words. He raised his eyes once more, as if he'd thought through a difficult problem and come up with the best answer.

"Beta sentinels are the most rapidly growing population where sentinels and guides are considered. Alpha sentinels are as likely as guides to have a lowered reproduction rate. Whether or not they already have children, they simply tend not to go to the trouble of finding a surrogate mother to have another child with. That seriously impacts the birthrate of the Alphas. An Alpha sentinel is quite rightly focused on the relationship he has with his guide, and not the need to have more children. One reason Guides are so diligently tested for is so that we can monitor their population. The guide shortage triggers a sentinel to seek an early bond; it is a Sentinel instinct. That is why we have rouge Alpha
Sentinels attacking high schools and even middle schools to place a claim on a guide. But it has widespread consequences. Even when the guide is twenty-one, the practice takes a large number of guides out of the gene pool."

"Yes, doctor but if my high school biology serves, it is the female that determines the population," the senator remarked. He was glossing over the rest of the doctor's statement, not bringing undue attention to it; he didn't have to. The mention, in passing, of the risk of wide spread sentinel attacks on high schools and middle schools was enough to bring the mundane population in line behind the new laws. All the senator had to do was let it be part of the record.

"That is correct, senator, it is the females that determine the population growth as a whole but the females do not determine the specific genetic markers within that population, that is done by both the males and the females."

"But if female guides are not being claimed by alpha sentinels and passing on their genetic make-up to the next generation why is the birthrate of guides declining?" The senator asked the question Byron was sure many of the viewers were also asking themselves. Here came the answer that their secret group of the government wanted them to have.

"As the guide population drops more sentinels are forced to choose females as guides. The choice of a female guide is not the preferred state for a sentinel, unlike the majority of other males in our society. Sentinels are best served by male guides in bond. It is a matter of physiology that has never been adequately explained by science, but it is irrefutable. In addition to being a second choice as far as sentinel health and function, we can see from the data that Alpha sentinels rarely have children with their guides. Which is a problem.

Moving on to the beta sentinels, a beta sentinel is more likely to have one child or two children at most. A female carrying the guide gene and mated to a sentinel or a mundane has only a one in four chance, per child, of passing on the guide gene. A female guide mated to a male guide has a three out of four chance, per child of passing on the guide gene, but there are few male guides available, Alpha sentinels have claimed them all."

"So what you are saying is that it is possible that we can turn around the guide shortage in one generation?" The senator asked, his tone filled with amazed hope, and fierce if muted triumph.


~*~*~*~*~


The emotion was ideal. The viewers would feel the rush of hope themselves. They would cling to the solution tenaciously, just as the government wanted them to. It was back on script and going well. Byron retrieved his glass and sipped.


~*~*~*~*~


"Yes senator, it is possible with the cooperation of sentinels and their guides. In addition, we can match guides and improve the gene pool, strengthen it."

"Surely you are not proposing that we break the bonds sentinels have with their guides in order to mate them with other guides."


~*~*~*~*~


There was careful outrage there. God, the man should have been an actor, Byron thought. He raised his glass in a salute.

And Shamus's response, his expression was pure artistry.


~*~*~*~*~


"No senator, sentinels need their guides. I am proposing artificial insemination and for those sentinels with female guides we could harvest eggs and use invitro fertilization with surrogate mothers. Of course sentinels would have the option of allowing their female guides to carry children to term themselves. Sentinels will also have the option of bonding into family units with both male and female guides. I believe that most guides, being empathic, will prefer to bond into family units and sentinels will allow it in order to keep their guides happy."


~*~*~*~*~


Byron Harris shuddered. No way he was going to let any male guide into his own house. Personally he would never allow the intensity of his own bond to control him. His female guide's low empathic rating allowed him to maintain his autonomy through their weaker bond, not surrender it. The thought of being an equal partner with a male guide made him nauseous.


~*~*~*~*~


"That make sense, doctor, but there is one thing I don't understand. Your bill also proposes that sentinels be required to donate their sperm. Why is that?"

"The birthrate of Alpha sentinels is also dropping, it is not yet at a crisis level but if we intervene now we can head off a crisis. Alpha sentinels are leaders. Beta's need them to maintain their sentinel abilities. Beta's and Alpha's have a special bond called a brother bond. The brother bond is permanent and unlike the guide bond there is no drive to renew it once it is forged. Beta's, without a brother bond to an alpha sentinel will loose their sentinel abilities within a year of triggering. Their abilities will either slowly fade or suddenly shut off while sleeping, we don't understand why, but the evidence is overwhelming. Since Alpha sentinels prefer male guides the only way to ensure that our society has enough Alpha sentinels in the future is through surrogate mothers who have the best genetic characteristics to combine with the selected male sentinels who are sperm donors."

"And you believe, doctor, that sentinels will simply comply with these laws?"

"I believe that there will be an adjustment period but when the sentinels see the need and logic behind the laws they will comply. We are flexible within the law. We are not forcing them to have children that the state will raise. The children can stay with their guide mothers. But if a sentinel feels strongly that a child will interfere with his bond then the child can be placed for adoption. Sentinels can bond into family groups: packs, prides and hives. Pack bonding is common among sentinels in the military. The family groups would simply be an extension of already documented sentinel behavior.”

“Sentinels are dying from lack of guides,” the doctor continued, “suffering needlessly, and worse some go rogue and attack private citizens. That will only get worse unless we do something about it. All we are asking is that sentinels insure their future generation and the continuation of our culture and society."

"Thank you for your testimony Dr. Shamus, you have apprised us of a crisis that should have been addressed years ago. We must act swiftly if the situation is not to become even more serious," the senator said with a grave smile. "We thank you for your concern and dedication to this problem. You are dismissed. It is now one PM, we will break for lunch and reconvene for a vote in ninety minutes."


~*~*~*~*~


Byron Harris smiled. Done indeed, and well done, too. He felt an itch. Time to spend some time with his Guide. Her mouth and the rest of her body would feel that much sweeter on his cock tonight.





Part Fourteen

Jim, Blair, Spike and Xander sat on the couch listening to the news report. None were happy with what the Washington, D.C., correspondent had to say.

“Can we expect a presidential veto?” the news anchor asked, his concern evident.

The correspondent answered in an appropriately serious tone. “No Bob, I’m afraid not. Even if the president did veto the law, the senate has the votes to override.”

“This law takes away the reproductive rights of both guides and sentinels, Anna,” the anchorman said. “Have there been any rumors of a constitutional challenge or protests being organized?”

“None, Bob,” the correspondent said. “As you know, any citizen with an empathic rating of 4 or above is drafted into the Guide Corps. They are required by law to go to Guide basic training schools. When they turn twenty-one years of age a sentinel has the right to choose from any one of them as his guide. The guide's only right of refusal are due to chronic or terminal illness. It was hoped that the Guide draft would increase the number of guides available for bonding, but the numbers have continued to drop precipitously. We are in a crisis situation; even starting today it will take twenty-two years to stop the decline of available guides. Voluntary reproduction has not worked. I've talked to people on the street and they are in full support of the new laws. Sentinels are an intricate part of our law enforcement and our armed services. Loosing them is unthinkable. It would put our entire nation at risk.”

“Thank you, Anna,” Bob said solemnly, his blue eyes grave.

Blair turned off the TV. It was all so carefully orchestrated. The majority of Americans would believe the lie and support the new laws.

“Are you all right Xander?” Spike asked, his concern filling his voice.

“I’m okay,” Xander said, as he cuddled in even closer to Spike. “It’s not like we didn’t know it was coming.”

Blair moved in closer to Jim “So what do we do now?” Blair asked, as he stroked his sentinel’s chest and laid his riotously curly head on Jim’s shoulder. He felt helpless. What could they do, a small group of grass roots sentinels and guides against a powerful government willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to win the peoples hearts and minds?

“Organize resistance,” Jim said, his certainly was absolute.

“But how much of this is true? Is there really a guide shortage?” Blair asked. “If there isn’t and we can prove it to the public we can convince them they're being used and manipulated and get them behind the resistance.”

“That part is true, the ratio of sentinels to guides has been dropping since we figured out how to trigger sentinels instead of letting nature chose who would trigger and when. Any man who joins the armed service and carries the gene is triggered as soon as he reaches the age of twenty-five; it's a matter of course. More sentinels means more guides are taken out of the general population, less are left to procreate. I haven’t seen statistics but it makes sense that the guide birthrate is dropping. Nature never meant for there to be so many active sentinels.”

“Then how do we form a resistance knowing that, in the future, there will be sentinels without guides?” Xander asked. “Are the people doing this, taking away our right to procreate as we see fit, are they actually right? Are we wrong?” Xander hated the doubt in his own voice.

“The answer isn’t to take away our reproductive rights,” Spike said firmly while running a comforting hand down his guide’s back. “The government needs to stop artificial triggering of sentinels. That will stabilize the population naturally.”

“But they won’t do that,” Blair said. “They're creating an artificial crisis and using it to hide their true agenda of developing a super sentinel and probably a super guide to go with it. They want as large a gene pool as possible to choose from.” He looked around at the men he called family, “and they want to control us.”

“So we have a decision to make,” Jim said. “Will our resistance be public or covert?”

“I don’t think the government will tolerate public resistance,” Blair said. “I think we have to be covert.” It would be a long, difficult battle, but it was the best avenue open to them. They would pretend to comply but resist to the utmost.

“I agree,” Spike said. “Besides, it isn’t only the public laws we’re against; it’s the hidden agenda that's the biggest threat to us. Someday they're going to want to put behavior modification chips in our heads and turn us into their trained monkeys.” To Jim and Blair, Spike’s words sounded like a bitter joke, but Xander knew just how serious Spike was.


~*~*~*~*~


Peter stood frozen, staring at the letter, trying to comprehend the words while Wesley stroked his arm and made soothing sounds. He felt as if he were encased in glass with nothing quite touching his numb skin.

“What is it?” Riley asked, feeling the tension that filled the room. He hurried to Graham’s side.

Graham had his own letter from the agency. “It’s a summons, it says that Wesley is being called to account for being incompetent and gives a date for a hearing.”

“I thought that that was all taken care of with the cross bond,” Riley said. “They can’t strip Wes from both of you can they?” Riley looked as worried as the two sentinels. In the short time they had been a pack he had come to value Wesley’s friendship. Wesley was an alpha guide but he accepted Riley’s need to be subordinate to his sentinel. He never judged Riley’s delight in sinking to his knees or his lack of hesitation when presenting himself for punishment.

“Harris must not realize we’ve cross bonded,” Graham said. “If he knew he would never have risked his charges being overruled.” Graham knew that Harris didn’t have nearly enough juice to publicly override his claim of Peter as his second and his cross-bond with Wesley. Some assistant’s head would surely roll over the oversight; or Harris had friends in high places that were willing to indulge his whims. The last thought made him shiver and he pushed it away. Surely no sentinel would go along with stripping a sentinel from his guide.


“You registered the cross bond, didn’t you?” Peter asked, not able to keep the fear of losing Wesley out of his voice. His fingers tightened on the rolled paper, crumpling it.

“It’s properly registered,” Graham said, “and we have Jim and Spike as witnesses, not to mention all the sentinels at the agency that picked up my scent on Wesley.” Graham looked at the letter with disdain and tossed it on the table and then he walked over and pulled Peter and Wesley into a hug. “There’s no way for the tribunal to keep me from testifying in Wesley’s behalf. And not only do they have to have evidence that Wesley is incompetent, they have to have a mind walker guide that can break a bond with minimal risk of brain damage to the guide.”


~*~*~*~*~


The mind walker scowled at the computer screen. She didn’t like what she read. Both Sentinel Peter Wall and Guide Wesley Price were healthy, and there was another sentinel involved in the bond, Sentinel Captain Graham Miller. Her eyes widened when she read Miller’s sentinel record. He came from a long line of well-respected sentinels and was only one step down from Byron Harris in rank, not a man to be trifled with. This was not looking good.

Always before, when she had been ordered to strip a sentinel of his bond, one of the pair had been very ill, either in a coma or terminal. She would have to refuse to do the sundering, but she knew that that meant punishment. She sighed knowing that whatever they did to her would be far less painful then the consequences of complying with their order. Still, there was always the hope that the tribunal would overrule the Alpha Prime’s accusations and disallow removal of Guide Wesley Price. She decided to see who the Tribunal Judges would be. Her heart started pounding as she read about them and their guides. Like sentinel Harris all three were old school sentinels with long term bonds to guides with an empathic rating lower then 4. According to law they had to have a yearly evaluation of their emotional health. They all had the evaluations on record but they were signed by another sentinel, not by a medical doctor. Not a good sign at all. Her empathic sense told her that Guide Wesley Price was being railroaded. Something was going on and it was something she wanted no part of.

She made a decision. Three years ago a newly promoted General had told her if she ever needed anything to call him. She had never called in that favor but the General had kept in touch over the years; sending her a card every time his phone number changed or he was moved for reassignment. Now he had climbed in rank to a three star general and was assigned to Washington, D.C., as head of the NCSIA, The National Coalition of Sentinel Internal Affairs. She took a deep breath, picked up the phone and dialed.

“General Gibbs’ residence, Guide DiNozzo speaking.” She was startled by the live voice; she had expected she would have to leave a message.

“Hello this is guide 915, may I speak with the General, please.”

“Red?”

“Um, yeah, that’s what the General calls me, Red. May I speak with him?” She was surprised that Tony would remember her after such a long time. But then maybe he was the one that sent out the cards.

“What’s wrong, Red? Are you okay?”

“It’s sentinel business, I need to talk to the General.”

“What’s going on, DiNozzo?” Gibbs said, annoyed at his guide’s delay. “Supper is getting cold.”

“It’s Red, she says she needs to talk to you. I can feel the stress coming out of the phone.”

Jethro gave Tony a light slap on the back of the head. “Then…give me…the phone.”

Tony handed over the phone.

“Gibbs, here.”

“Hello, Sentinel Gibbs.”

“No time for the small talk, Red, get to the point.”

“I’ve been ordered to perform a sundering of a perfectly healthy guide from two perfectly healthy sentinels. The guide is a level 7.8. I'm going to refuse. I think the guide and the sentinels are being set up.”

“You say this guide is bonded to two sentinels?”

“Yes, sir, and they are both registered as alphas.”

“Unusual, and improbable,” Gibbs said, trying to figure out why two sentinels would share a guide. The guide shortage could not be any worse in Cascade then it was in any other part of the country or he would have known about it. “Why the order, did the Alphas try to kill each other over the guide?”

“No, sir, both sentinels want to continue the bond, but the guide has been accused of incompetence by the Alpha Prime. These are Sentinels and Guides with exemplary records, General. I can’t believe that a healthy guide has suddenly become incompetent.”

“I need more than your belief and your empathic sense if I’m to intervene here, Red.”

“The Alpha Prime making the charges has a Guide with a rating under 4 and all three of the tribunal judges have guides with ratings under 4. Two I could see as a co-incidence but four sentinels with low functioning guides on the same case…”

“I don’t believe in co-incidence,” Gibbs said, beginning to see Red’s point. “When was their last medical exam?”

“I don’t know,” Red said. “They've been signed off as emotionally fit by other sentinels, not by a physician.”

“I’m on my way, Red. I owe you another one for this.” Gibbs hung up the phone and called to his guide. “You have twenty minutes to get us packed. We’re going to Cascade.”


~*~*~*~*~


The mind walker looked at the dead phone in her hand and wondered how things had gotten turned around from asking for a favor to doing one. She shrugged and hung up. She had done all that she could and there were other things for her to worry about.

She had already gotten notice that the sundering would be her last act as a healer. She had been transferred to the new “Guide Proliferation Division” of the agency. She was to become a breeder. It made her shudder; not the having babies part, that she would welcome if that had been all there was to it, but she knew it would go further than that. She was a double X guide, a level 9.9 empathic and she saw things that other people couldn’t see. She saw people as they truly were and the people in power lately were not people she would want to raise children. They were hard, cold, and above all else, arrogant in their surety that power made right and any means to an end was a valid lifestyle. She decided to meditate on the matter. She hoped she could get in touch with the sprit guide, Incacha. He had been coming to her a lot lately. He told her she would be re-united with her soul mate, the one that had been taken from her too soon in her last life. She wasn’t sure she could believe that. But she was sure she would not give these arrogant bastards her children to use as guinea pigs. If all else failed she would simply shut down and die. But that was a last resort. Her first choice was to fight. It was fate that landed her in Cascade, the Western US center for guides and sentinels, she was sure of it. If there were a resistance she would sense it and she knew they could use someone of her capabilities.


~*~*~*~*~


Peter, Graham, Wesley and Riley waited in the hallway of The Sentinel Court Building. They had been there less then five minutes when the rest of their hive members arrived.

Peter, unwilling to let go of Wesley, pulled him along with him as he fell into a hug with Spike. “I want to kill them,” Peter whispered into his sire’s ear.

“The tribunal will do the right thing and over rule the Alpha Prime,” Spike said. “I see you’re both wearing Graham’s scent. That’s good. Harris won’t be able to argue that the cross bonding was nothing but paperwork.”

Graham walked over to the group. “They'll be starting in a few minutes, we need to go in and take our seats.”

A guard stopped the group at the courtroom door. “I’m sorry but only the sentinel and guide named in the report and those who may be called as witnesses may enter. If you wish to see the proceedings they will be telecast over The Sentinel/Guide News Network.”

Graham scowled at the guard. “I am Sentinel Graham Miller and this is my second, Sentinel Peter Wall, it is our guide, Wesley Price, that is named in the summons. These are our brothers, Sentinel James Ellison and Sentinel William Spikeman and their guides, Blair and Xander. They may be called as witnesses to Wesley’s competency.”

“All right, you may enter,” the guard said, “but seating is limited and any other witnesses will have to wait in the hallway before being called.”

“That will be fine,” Graham said, knowing that they had no other witnesses.

The courtroom was small and smelled of old wood and polish. A large portion, the two back rows, was taken up with television cameras and their crew. Usually Sentinel Tribunals were kept private; Graham hadn’t expected television cameras, they were a doubled edged sword. Who they would benefit was entirely up to the point of view of the observer and the spin the newscaster would give the proceedings. Graham’s stomach churned. There was do doubt in his mind that the correspondents had been ordered to put Wesley in the worst light possible.

Peter, Graham and Wesley sat at the defendant’s table with Wesley in the middle, the rest of the group sat behind them in the first row.

There was a small flurry of activity as a guide, absent his sentinel, entered the courtroom and walked over to the defendant’s table.

“Hey, Graham,” he said with a broad smile.

“Tony, what are you doing here? Graham asked, confused by the guide’s sudden appearance. “Where’s Gibbs?”

“He’ll be in in a minute,” Tony said, as he entered the first row of seating and sat between Blair and Xander.

“So Graham,” Tony said as he wiggled his eyebrows like Grocho Marx, “Riley wasn’t man enough for you, hummm?”

“All rise,” the bailiff called out before Graham could answer.





Part Fifteen

The three judges entered the courtroom in full dress uniform and took their seats. Sentinel General Robert Eldred, as slim as when he served in the field fifty years ago, sat in the right hand chair. Sentinel General Sebastian Rigby, shorter than the first man, but wider, sat in the left hand chair.

The last of the men who entered sat in the middle chair, indicating he was the highest ranked of the judges though he was ten years younger than Eldred. He was Sentinel General Jethro Gibbs. His uniform jacket sparkled with medals and ribbons for service, valor and honor. A hush fell over the court. Everyone in attendance knew exactly who General Gibbs was.

"You may be seated," the bailiff barked smartly, before taking up his parade rest stance and gazing at the far wall.

General Gibbs gave everyone in the room the benefit of his stern gaze as he waited for them to settle back in their seats, his eye contact transferring from face to face, holding the look for long enough to freeze them where they sat. "Who authorized the TV cameras at the tribunal proceeding?" he asked as his eyes continued to sweep the room. The question was delivered with deceptive quiet.

Tony sat with an amused look on his face. He knew the true feeling behind the General’s question, he waited for the order he knew would follow.

Byron Harris closed his hands into fists so tight that his perfectly manicured fingernails bit into the palms of his hands. Something had gone wrong; he could feel it in his bones. Jethro Gibbs was not one of the sentinels he was told would be a tribunal judge.

The Alpha Prime stood up, willing himself not to show hesitation or fear. He could not afford to appear intimidated. "I authorized them," he said, his voice held a challenge that was not lost on General Gibbs.

Gibbs looked at Harris with disdain, his head tilted very slightly as he examined the man. "And you are?" he asked with chilling indifference.

Harris fixed Gibbs with an equally hard stare. "Sentinel Alpha Prime Byron Mcfae Harris." Harris was used to sentinels backing down when faced with his stare, even sentinels that outranked him, but Gibbs didn't back down. Harris watched as Gibbs’ eyes dilated and the muscles in his face moved, he felt his sphincter contract involuntarily.

Imperceptible to anyone but a sentinel, Gibbs’ disdain deepened as the silent laugh crossed his face. The Alpha Prime's face turned scarlet with rage.

Every guide in the courtroom above a level 6 felt the tension and gave a soft moan; every guide except Tony, who was used to his boss' presence causing stress and distress alike. Tony simply reached forward, and with his bright, indomitable smile, rubbed both Wesley's shoulders as he whispered into his ear. "It's all right, everything is under control." He rubbed over the fine tremor until he felt it fade. The courtroom filled with the sound of soft purring as the Sentinels offered comfort to their guides, Jim and Spike among them. Byron Harris felt his hackles rise. He bit his lip to keep the scathing words inside. Here they were, sentinels, conducting a serious case, and they chose to stroke their whores instead of keeping them decently locked away from such proceedings.

Jethro Gibbs fixed his look at the camera crews. There was a thump as one of the cameramen, focused on a tight close-up of Gibbs' face jumped back and hit the wall. "Turn off the cameras and the sound equipment,” he barked. ”Put on the lens covers and leave the courtroom. I will not have these proceedings turned into a media circus."

The camera crew simply stood frozen in place by Gibbs' stare. "Now!" Gibbs ordered, his voice snapping like a whip around the room. The order startled them into action and he watched in silence as the crews scrambled to comply and hastily leave the courtroom.

"Tony," Gibbs said, his voice returned to its normal tone, "check and make sure everything is turned off. If there is any equipment still running I want it confiscated." Tony stood and strode over to the few remaining men holding recording equipment. They eyed him like a mouse being stalked by a particularly hungry tabby. They rushed to stuff their things into carry bags and leave the courtroom.

Gibbs' attention returned to the Alpha Prime. "You're the sentinel that brought the accusations of Guide Pryce's incompetence before this tribunal. State your case and present your evidence." No nonsense. Gibbs conveyed the threat of dire consequences if his time was being wasted.

Byron Harris cleared his throat and began his prepared speech. "Upon his promotion to Sentinel Prime, Peter Wall was given a long term covert assignment. He failed in every aspect of that assignment. When debriefed on his failure the only conclusion that could be made was that he was continuously distracted from his duties. It is a guide's duty to keep his sentinel in top functioning shape. Wesley Pryce not only failed in his duty, he caused the failure of his sentinel and the failure of the covert operation. This cannot be tolerated. Guide Pryce needs to be replaced and I ask this tribunal for an order of sundering." Byron remained standing, his chin lifted proudly. This was it, his chance to convince them of his case. He was not going to let the cold stare of the General take that chance away from him. His stood his ground with shoulders rock hard and rigid.

"Do you have any hard evidence that Guide Pryce was at fault?" General Eldred asked smoothly. His lined face was intent. Listening to every word spoken. This was the question he was told to ask and he would not divert from the plan, General Gibbs be dammed.

"None that can be presented before the tribunal. The assignment was covert and therefore it cannot become public record." Byron reminded them, pleased at the tingle of satisfaction that filled him. Eldred was keeping to the script, as long as Rigby did the same they could still win this thing and make an example of Guide Pryce.

"A covert assignment,” Gibbs said. “A fact that goes far in preventing Guide Pryce from presenting his own defense. I don't like witch hunts, so you better have something more to convince me of the validity of your case."

And there it was…exactly what he needed to insure that he would win this case. No sentinel would take the word of a guide over an Alpha Prime. "You have my word as Alpha Prime that Guide Wesley Pryce needs to be replaced,” he said with smug assurance. And now for his killing blow. “There is a mind walker with the ability to sunder the bond with minimum risk to Guide Pryce. I wish to call Guide 915 to testify to her abilities." "The short speech was delivered with smug arrogance.

Gibbs smiled; it was a predatory smile that made most of the sentinels in the room shiver. Sentinel Byron Harris smiled back with his own predatory smile. The smell of testosterone in the courtroom became stronger. Harris was sure that Guide 915 was in his pocket; his co-conspirators had assured him that she was owned by The Agency and would do as ordered.

The bailiff called Guide 915. A slim, redheaded woman, approximately 5'6", walked into the courtroom. She was slender, perhaps a bit too thin, and frail looking. Her skin was pale as milk. She walked carefully up to face the judges before she lifted huge green eyes. She stared right back at them, her face serene.

Xander gasped. "That's Willow," he whispered directly into Spike's ear.

Spike looked at Xander, his eyes full of questions.

"Willow, from Sunnydale," Xander whispered when he saw Spike didn't recognize her. "What the hell is she doing here?" His anxiety level rose, a thing Spike couldn't miss.

Spike's eyes flashed yellow as he accessed his Sunnydale past life memories.

The bailiff swore Guide 915 in and she took the stand.

"Please relax, Guide 915," the sentinel Alpha Prime said, silkily. "I will only be asking yes or no questions."

To most people the sentinel's voice sounded calm and reassuring but Red could feel the emotion behind the voice. Sentinel Harris was a viper ready to strike. His anger, arrogance and disdain for her worth as a human being made him blind to his impending court defeat. The guide knew this was one person she would not be able to find any compassion for. She nodded her head.

"Now, Guide, you are registered as a level 9.9 and carry the guide gene on both X chromosomes. Is that correct?

"Yes."

"And you have the ability to break a sentinel/guide bond?"

"Under certain…"

"Guide!" the Alpha Prime interrupted. "This tribunal does not want to waste time with long answers, a simple yes or no is all that is needed. Do you have the ability to break a sentinel/guide bond?"

"Not in…"

"Tribunal," Byron Harris interrupted again. "Please instruct the witness to answer the questions, yes or no."

"You are deliberately asking misleading questions," the redhead said, her voice soothing and utterly reasonable, making Harris sound like a frenzied madman. "I can not answer yes or no and keep my oath of telling the whole truth." She blinked up at him with her incredible eyes.

Sentinel General Robert Eldred spoke. "It is not your place, Guide, to decide if the questions are misleading. You will answer the questions as asked. If the tribunal needs more information we will ask for it."

"Have I been released from my oath of telling the whole truth?" the guide asked.

"Guide," General Gibbs said. "The Alpha Prime has a right to question you as he sees fit. I would hate to hold you in contempt. Please answer the questions as Sentinel Harris has instructed you and trust that this tribunal will ask for any additional information if we feel it is needed."

"Yes General," Red said with a knowing smile directed at Gibbs. When she looked back at the Alpha Prime her smile vanished. “Would you repeat the question please.”

“Do you have the ability to break a sentinel/guide bond?”

“Yes,” she answered in a deadpan voice.

“And you recently preformed a successful sundering of a sentinel with a guide rated 8.1, is that true?”

“Yes.”

“The report states that there was no mental damage to the guide. Is that correct?”

“Yes,”

“Thank you guide, you may step down now,” Byron Harris said, quite pleased with how the proceeding was going.

“Hold,” Gibbs voice broke through the courtroom. “I wish to cross-examine this witness.”

General Rigby spoke up. “I do not see the point in cross-examining this guide. She has already stated she has successfully preformed a sundering on a guide with an 8.1 rating. By law that is all the information we need from her.”

“General Rigby,” Gibbs said. “Are you questioning my right as head of this tribunal to cross-examine a witness?”

The General glared at Gibbs. “Do you doubt the Alpha Prime’s word, General?”

“It’s not the Alpha Prime I’m going to cross examine,” Gibbs said.




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