For a Male Guide - Part One
BEST AU GEN STORY
BEST USE OF SENTINEL AND GUIDE GEN STORY
BEST GEN SERIES
Since the mid-Twentieth Century, Sentinels and Guides had been accepted into Western Culture. They had always been a part of so called Third World or "primitive" (the term being, as so many words are, relative) societies. All Sentinels were male, and always the firstborn sons of mothers who were the sisters or maternal aunts of other Sentinels. If her firstborn, who had to be naturally conceived, was not a Sentinel, then a woman would not give birth to one, and no woman ever gave birth to more than one. Any subsequent children would be girls. No one had ever quite determined why this was.
Almost all Guides were female. They were not genetically determined in bloodlines. Something "triggered," and unbonded Sentinels would be drawn to them, and they would (usually within a year) find a match. The choice could not be coerced, and sometimes a Guide would meet many Sentinels before she found her own. Of course, although all Guides eventually found Sentinels, not all Sentinels found Guides.
Guides usually came "online" between approximately about age twenty two and age thirty five. The strongest Guides were triggered early. Sentinels came online between the ages of twenty and thirty. The younger Sentinels lacked the fifth sense, touch, and usually their other four senses were weaker than the senses of those who came online later. So, older Guides tended to match with younger Sentinels, making for relationships that often seemed to border on the maternal. The stronger (on all levels) Pairs were those who were closer in age.
Exceedingly rare, the strongest Sentinel Pairs would fall in love and become linked Life-Pairs, especially when they were closer in age, and these bonds brought a kind of sixth sense to the relationship. The Life-Pair would be telepathic, although only with one another. As might be expected, these Pairs were highly sought after and could almost name their positions and salaries. Sentinel senses, Guide empathy, and joint telepathy made for a pretty high-powered combination of talents. Mere marriage, and even sex, didnt make a Life-Pair. It required a true love.
Of course, if a Sentinel didnt find a Guide within the first year to fifteen months of coming online, his heightened senses went dormant forever. Also, at the death of his Guide, especially a much older Guide, his senses would permanently shut down. Sentinels would then have to readjust to life without their senses and without their Guides. Many didnt long outlive their Guides, despite usually excellent health and, sometimes, relative youth. "Widowed" Guides almost always followed their Sentinels into the next life, usually within a few months; this was especially true of Guides bonded to full (five sense) Sentinels. Life-bonded Pairs tended to die within hours of one another.
Since female Guides were usually drawn to the social and natural sciences--psychology, sociology, biology, and the like--they were able to work with their Sentinels in the fields of criminology, search & rescue, and medicine. Pairs worked mainly for governmental agencies (usually state or federal). News that a new Pair had formed would bring attention from all over, even internationally. Many pairs had worked for Interpol over the years. Although countries tried very hard to keep their Pairs at home, no Pair was ever successfully barred from moving on. Coercion didnt make for successful Pair action.
Fewer--but still significant--numbers of Pairs were known to work in police and fire stations, especially when the Sentinel or Guide felt a particularly strong attachment to a specific city or area. Yet even these Pairs would volunteer to work cases outside their chosen areas when the need was especially pressing. Pairs would come from around the globe after earthquakes, and other major disasters, to find victims buried in the wreckage of their towns and villages and cities.
Moreover, rarely, extremely rarely, a male Guide would come online. Usually there were only a few dozen in a whole generation the world over. These men were almost always a match for Sentinels in strength and size (Sentinels tended to be relatively tall and muscular), and these Pairs were even more sought after than usual Pairs. Because male Guides could do something female Guides did not, and that was work for the military. Whether it was genetic or cultural or some other factor no one was quite sure, no female Guides ever agreed to work the kinds of situations that male Guides could. The rarest of Guides was the young male Guide. Only a few were known historically, and none had been identified in the Western Hemisphere, except in legends from a few South American tribal cultures. One had lived in Thailand at end of the Nineteenth Century; another was suspected of having been around during the Cold War in the Soviet Union in the region that later became independent as Uzbekistan. Rumor had it that young male Guides had a special talent beyond the usual empathy; they were Guidefinders.
Thus, despite the notorious homophobia of the military, many, both in and out of the military, wondered what would happen if a homosexual Life-Pair could be found and what that kind of bond would allow for in a variety of special operations. Historically, such Pairs had been recorded, but not for several hundred years. The last known Pair had died under what were considered "suspicious" circumstances in Seventeenth Century Brazil. The various branches of the American military kept their options and planning secretive, but lived in a strange kind of hope, while continuing their policies of "Dont Ask; Dont tell" with homosexuality in the rest of the service. In the past, a few high ranking officers (Actually, this was tried once in each branch of the military.) had even tried to order the Pairs in their service to force the bond, as if it was possible to force someone to fall in love; of course, the officers just thought the bond required sex. In each case, the men emphatically refused and shortly thereafter retired their commissions. This type of high-handed tactic, having backfired and lost the military valuable assets, was not tried again. It also didnt help the records of the men who had lost the Pair from service.
Moreover, in one especially notorious case, drugs were employedand failedin an attempt to force a sexual encounter between a male Pair, and now no Pair would ever again work for the Army. A general, later court-martialed and sentenced to a prison term, had tried to force a Sentinel toessentiallyrape his Guide; there would be no forgiveness. Two male Pairs were currently employed by the Air Force, two by the Navy, and one by the Marines. Even the Coast Guard had a Pair, the Guide having just graduated from the Coast Guard Academy when he came online. There were those in the Army who didnt think this was quite right. You think they would have learned the lesson.
Blair Sandburg, seventeen years old and appearing even younger, slightly built, kindly natured, and positively brilliant, had just completed a Masters degree in Anthropology. Hed earned a double Bachelors degree in Psychology and Biology when he was fifteen. His university mentor, Ian Stoddard, who thought of himself as a kind of substitute parent for the orphaned teenager, had thrown him a birthday party-graduation celebration. The young man was touchingly grateful and openly joyful. Hed never make a poker player; every emotion he felt shown from his eyes.
Further, his mentor was beginning to suspect that Blair was about to come online as a Guide. True to his overachieving ways, he was about to come online almost two full years earlier than any other Guide on record, and almost five full years before the majority of younger Guides. If the pattern held true, his Guide powers would be extraordinary. Stoddard was sure he had noted a growing number of clearly unbonded Sentinels (or men he suspected of being Sentinels) wandering about the campus, attracted but not sure quite yet by whom. They tended to focus on women, conditioned as they were to expect female Guides, but Stoddard had noted that all the women being inspected had some close contact with Blair: the department chairs middle-aged secretary, a thirtyish Anthropology professor, an older graduate student in archaeology, and a scattering of others. Atypical student, Blair would definitely be an atypical male Guide.
Stoddard had discussed the situation briefly with his protégé, and he knew that the Blair was a bit disconcerted. His Masters thesis had focused on the history of tribal Sentinels, and he was thus more than aware of the fact that he did not fit the typical male Guide profile. He seemed to be even a bit embarrassed to acknowledge that he really fit the profile of a female Guide in physical stature and areas of study. Stoddard had tried to convince him that this would not matter to his Sentinel, to any Sentinel. Stoddard suspected that what the young man saw as potential weaknesses would prove great strengths; he even began secretly trying to find what information existed concerning Guidefinders. On top of everything else, Stoddard thought Blair would probably have that talent as well.
After the party, which had been held in the courtyard outside the anthropology building, Blair took his birthday presents (all new books he couldnt wait to read) back to his office. He thought about taking them back to his little apartment, but he knew hed never sleep if he did. Campus was quiet as he made his slow way toward his car, humming happily, almost without realizing it. Summer was upon him, and, for the first time in a long time, he hadnt made any definite plans and no one had made any for him. He was officially an emancipated minor, and his life and time were his own. He thought hed spend the summer at the University, thinking about the direction to take for his Doctorate, and maybe meeting with unbonded Sentinels. The later part of the equation was still a bit stunning to him, and he hoped hed have more time to think it over. Maybe it wasnt true (although he just somehow knew that it was).
Suddenly he heard his name called, but, as he started to turn, the world went black. When he awoke, he was in a strange room. His shoes, socks, belt, and jacket were missing, his throat was dry, and his head hurt. He was lying on a narrow cot, covered by a thin blanket. The room was small and otherwise bare, and two doors opened out from it. Cautiously, he staggered to his feet and looked past the door that was slightly ajar. It was a bathroom. Oh, he had to pee.
Staggering still, he made it into the bathroom and used the facilities. By the simple expedient of cupping his hands, he managed to get a long drink of water. Then, gathering what courage he could, he tried the other door. To his great surprise, the door was unlocked. It led to another room surprisingly like the first. There was another small cot and a bathroom. And another door. Which was locked.
Blair had never considered himself a particularly courageous person, and he admitted to himself that he was a badly frightened. Where was he? Why did no one come? He didnt want anyone to come. What would they do with him? Why was he here? His small trust fund didnt seem like enough reason for his abduction, and none of the other reasons that flashed through his mind were at all pleasant. He thought about banging on the locked door and demanding to be let go, but even his naiveté didnt stretch that far. No one who had gone to the trouble to kidnap him would let him go that easily. He could demand food, but he was a bit nauseous. So, he would wait. And hope they didnt make him wait too long, whatever that meant.
In another part of the building, the Armys four newly discovered, unbonded Sentinels had been called in by their commanding officer. Recently they had all been reassigned to this base, leaving a variety of important work unfinished. They instinctively recognized each other for what they were and had formed a loose association. Surprisingly, they also had in common the fact that they were all Sentinels who had come online without knowing that they were from Sentinel bloodlines. For a variety of reasons, none of the four knew his own maternal history. This explained why they were Sentinels in the Army, and the four had discussed the fact that they were almost certainly going to resign when they found their Guides. Once or twice they debated resigning immediately, but they were all settled into careers. Yet, they knew that no female Guide would want her Sentinel in the military, and, in the unlikely event that they found a male Guide, no male Guide would go anywhere near this branch of the military.
Two of the men were young lieutenants, and they had only the first four senses. One had been online for almost three months, the other for only five weeks. A captain and a major with all five senses rounded out the group. The captain had been searching for almost a year; his time was running out. The major had been seeking for about eight months. He was trying to hold onto some hope that his situation would resolve itself in some way satisfactorily whatever that meant. In any case, knowing that approximately twenty percent of Sentinels never found Guides, each man held onto his commission, half-ashamed to stick with the branch that had so wronged their colleague in the not-too-distant past, but generally content with their careers and choices up until now.
The four men, rivals in one sense, brothers-in-arms and sympathetic in another, felt the pull of the Guide as they entered the office of their commanding officer. The commander began to speak almost before the last man came through the door, "Gentlemen, at ease. Weve located a male Guide. Hes waiting to meet with you."
The four men looked at each other in surprise. "Excuse me, Colonel," the Captain spoke up, unable to keep himself from asking the obvious question. "How did you convince a male Guide to come to the Army?"
"Well, we didnt exactly give him a choice," the Colonel started to say. But even before he finished, it had already become apparent even to the youngest and weakest of the four Sentinels that the Guide was in trouble. The words of the Colonel were in one sense unnecessary and, in another, totally beyond belief. The Army had kidnapped a Guide, had again put a Guide in jeopardy, had again tried to coerce a Guide! Army would never ever get a Pair; no Sentinel, even one in a position like their own, would ever again stay in the Army for a day. Clearly, by not immediately resigning, the four had given the Army the motive and opportunity for this outrage. Each of the four men was already mentally handing in a resignation of his commission as they raced down corridors unerringly toward their goal. If only they had suspected, they would never have allowed themselves to be used to hurt a Guide.
A trio of privates stood guard outside the door, which was clearly locked with a pair of deadbolts on the outside. Dismissing the enlisted men without fanfare, the four officers hastened to open the door and charged into the room.
Seeing four large agitated men burst into the room did nothing to calm the imprisoned teenager. Heart racing, he fled back through the open door to the inner cell, winding up with his back to the far wall, staring in panic as the four followed him into the smaller room. "Please, just let me go. I dont know what you want. I wont tell anyone about this. Just, please, please, let me go."
The soft, panicked speech halted all movement by the four Sentinels. They stopped themselves from crowding up to the younger man, boy really, and, without conscious thought, they all sat down on the ground, trying to appear smaller and less threatening to the frightened Guide.
"We wont hurt you," each Sentinel stated, not quite simultaneously. They looked at one another, and then the Captain nodded. He was a psychologist. Hed speak first, to try to ease the situation. The others would speak as they saw the need.
"Im Captain Thomas Pratt. Call me Tom. This is Major James Ellison; he goes by Jim. Those two are Lieutenants JuanJose Gomez and Elmer Washington, JJ and Moe. Will you tell me your name? Do you know where you are?"
"Im Im Blair Sandburg. I dont know where I am, but I know I dont want to be here. Please, I just want to go home." His heartbeat was too fast. It was keeping the Sentinels distressed in turn.
"Well help you. Were sorry this happened to you " Before Pratt could finish, the four Sentinels abruptly stood and faced the open door, placing themselves firmly between their soon-to-be previous Commander and the Guide. Sensing the defensive position, the Guide, Blair, stood a little straighter and made an effort to control his breathing.
"Good, good, youve met," the Colonel blundered on, refusing or unable to recognize that the situation was completely out of his control. He looked at Blair sternly. This was just a long-haired punk kid. Colonels ate hippie punk kids for breakfast. "Young man, I am Colonel Simpson. These are four fine officers, and Im sure youll get along with one of them. I expect you to choose quickly; theres work to do. You dont want to keep me or General Hinojosa waiting. Do you understand me?"
Blair gaped at the man. "W what?"
All four Sentinels also began speaking, talking over each other, "What are you saying? What do you mean? What do you think youre doing? What kind of bullshit is this?" Few lieutenants ever spoke to colonels in that language and tone, and not too many captains or majors either, but this was a special case. Did Simpson know nothing about Sentinels and Guides? Was he insane? Was Hinojosa insane?
Pratt took a moment to compose himself and asked the most serious question, "Colonel, do you know anything about Sentinels or Guides or how they bond to form Pairs?"
"Well, no. But its not like we arent giving him a choice; hes got four Sentinels to pick from, and while hes deciding we can start his training and get him into shape." He eyed the young man thoughtfully, "Someone was supposed to have cut your hair. Ill call someone when I leave here."
A small, pained moan came from Blair as he dropped to his knees and put his face in his hands. This could not be happening. He didnt want to be in the Army. He was a student. He was a lover, not a fighter. He wanted to go home. "No," he mumbled, "No, Im so not a soldier. I dont want a haircut."
"Young man," the colonel snapped angrily, "You will follow ord " He was cut off by the angry roar of four Sentinels.
Pratt, calming himself with an iron will, again took control of the conversation. "Colonel, I need to explain something to you. You cannot coerce a Guide into choosing a Sentinel. It doesnt work that way. Nor can you force a Sentinel to make a Guide do what he or she doesnt want to do. You have no idea what youve done, do you? Colonel, you are going to have to let him go because none of the four of us will let this stand. Youll have to kill all four of us to keep Mr. Sandburg, and that would defeat the purpose."
"Captain, you will not speak to me in that tone. You have your orders. You will "
"No," Gomez, the youngest of the four Sentinels, spoke up. "Colonel, with all due respect, in this you cannot command us. No, I take that back. I dont respect any of this. I am hereby retiring my commission under Sentinel Code 83.B."
Ellison took over, "Colonel, even if you know nothing else, you should be aware that Sentinel and Guide relationships and issues are not under military control. They cannot be. And, in this case, the Army has clearly committed a crime, not only against a civilian, whom the Army has sworn to protect, but against a Guide. How could you possibly think that any Sentinel would go along with this?" He paused. "I am hereby retiring my commission under Sentinel Code 83.B. I am also going to report this matter to the police."
First Pratt and then Washington followed their former comrades-in-arms in repeating their resignation under the Sentinel Code. 83.B was the code for a Sentinel retiring a commission because his Guide refused to consider the military. Its effect was immediate and not to be questioned. Retired Sentinels received a full military pension for three years, if they had been in the military for less than ten years. This allowed them the necessary support while they and their new Guides worked out a long range goal and new employment. Sentinels who had been in the service for ten or more years received their full pension, the same as if they had stayed in for the full twenty year period. Ellison had been in for eleven years, but the others had been in less than ten.
It wasnt until their joint trial for kidnapping that Simpson and Hinojosa made any real effort to examine the widely available information about Guides and Sentinels. Information that would have shown them the colossal mistake they were making.