Disclaimer: I don't own the Magnificent Seven or the Sentinel. No profit has been made and no harm is intended.
Author notes: I would like to thank Caitriona3 for her work as beta, she did a great job and any remaining mistakes are my fault. I also wanted to thank all off the readers who sent feedback way back when this series started out as just one scene. I hope you'll find this latest addition worth the wait.
The Finding Family series includes the following stories:
Finding Family by Debra Noellert
Family and Strangers by Susan M. M.
Family Business by MistyC
Tribal Guardians by Debra Noellert (which you are about to read) Links to the stories by Susan and Misty can be found in my 'Favorite Stories' tab.
They'd been on the road for thirty minutes, another ten would see them arriving at their destination, the Denver federal building. Chris had taken the time thus far to explain bits of the local history and culture while pointing out places of interest as they passed. He figured both the anthropologist and the detective parts of his son would appreciate knowing more about his new surroundings. Chris had already sent an email to Travis to let him know that the ATF Team Leader would be taking half off today as well as the rest of the week for some personal time. It wasn't a request he often made and Travis was happy to grant it. It would just take a couple of hours to finish up some paperwork and make arrangements for the others to cover the investigations that couldn't be left unattended. Then he could show Blair around the Denver office, maybe even take the team out for lunch before spending the rest of the day doing the tourist thing. It didn't really matter to Chris where they went; he just wanted the opportunity to learn more about his son.
There was one aspect of his son that Chris was particularly curious about. He knew what it meant for Blair to be a detective and he had a pretty firm grasp of what being an anthropologist entailed, but Blair's position as Guide, the Guide of the Cascade Sentinel and fellow detective James Ellison, had Chris completely baffled. Blair's offhand comment that Chris was likely Vin's Guide had surprised Chris. Ezra and JD's calm nodding acceptance of Blair's proclamation had actually irritated him; like they'd somehow known that if one of the team was Vin's Guide, it had to be Chris. Not that Chris objected to being Vin's Guide; he just didn't know what being Vin's Guide involved, and Chris had always hated being placed in positions that he didn't fully understand.
"So what exactly makes you think that I'm a Guide?" Chris finally asked.
Blair chuckled. He'd actually been a bit surprised that the question hadn't come up last night when he'd first suggested the possibility to his father. Apparently Chris was the sort to consider new ideas before questioning them. "Besides a gut feeling?" Blair questioned. At Chris' nod he continued, "Truthfully, I've got no idea if being a Guide is genetic the way being a Sentinel is. But if it is I did not inherit my Guide abilities from Naomi. When Jim is having problems with his senses Naomi just makes everything worse; any genetic Guide abilities I have must have come from you. If being a Guide isn't genetic then experience tells me that the most important factor in a Guide is whether their Sentinel trusts them."
Blair shifted in his seat to focus completely on Chris. "Last night you mentioned anam-cara; referring to Vin as your soul-friend. That's the level of trust a Sentinel needs to reach their full potential." Blair paused as he struggled to find the best words. He had to say this just right; had to make certain that his father truly understood. "There are times when Jim stretches out so far with his senses that he's not only tight-rope walking a zone; he's literally relying on me to maintain his sanity. That can't be done on anything less than soul deep trust."
Chris silently digested the information Blair had just shared. Chris admitted he liked the idea that Blair might have inherited this extraordinary ability to Guide a Sentinel from him. However it was both his practical side and his spiritual side that recognized the truth about Blair's words on trust. Since the first time Chris's eyes met Vin's there had been a connection, one so strong that the others on the team sometimes accused them of being able to read each other's minds. They couldn't of course, but there was often an intuitive understanding of what and how the other man was thinking. Barring a few bad experiences (Charlotte and Ella to be specific), soul deep trust had always come surprising easy to Chris and Vin. If that was all Chris needed to be Vin's Guide, then perhaps Ezra and JD were right to think that he fit the bill.
It wasn't long before they were pulling into the parking garage and preparing to enter Chris' work place. "Is there a way you'd prefer me to introduce you around the office?" asked Chris. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable or seem presumptuous." Chris wanted to announce to everyone in the building that this was his son, but decided that fatherly pride needed to take a back seat to Blair's wishes.
Caught off guard by the question, Blair used his time getting out of Chris' truck to formulate an answer. "I appreciate the consideration," Blair began, "but this is your office and you're the one who's going to be stuck answering questions and dealing with the rumor mill after I'm gone. So I guess whatever you think is going to work best for you is fine with me." Blair certainly didn't want to hide their relationship as father and son but neither did he want to force Chris into a situation he wasn't ready for.
"All right then," was Chris's vague reply as he opened the door to the Federal Building's lobby. Heading straight for the security desk, Chris greeted the agent manning the post, "Greg, I'm going to need a visitor's pass for my son, Blair. He's a police detective from Cascade, just in town for a few days and I wanted to give him the grand tour."
Obvious surprise flashed across Greg's face but there was neither hesitation nor questions as he brought up the required forms on his computer. "I'd be happy to arrange that," he answered Chris. "I'm going to need to see your ID for a moment," Greg directed at Blair.
For his part Bair was biting his lip in an attempt to contain the smile that had blossomed upon hearing Chris declare his paternity. It was absurd to be so happy about Chris claiming him but he was. It took a couple of moments for the new pass to be laminated. When Greg set it on the counter Chris was the one to snatch it up and clip it to Blair's shirt pocket with a crooked grin on his face. "Am I missing something," Blair wondered as Chris's impish grin continued.
Meeting Blair's eyes Chris admitted, "I've never done one of these 'Take your child to work' days before."
Blair let the laughter bubble up at Chris's comparison to the annual event that saw parents from all levels of the work force bringing their school children to work to teach them what it was their parents did while they were at school all day. Suddenly Blair had an image of himself at age ten chasing after Chris while asking 1001 questions about what it was like to be an ATF agent. He was starting to like Chris' sense of humor. Waving one hand forward he insisted, "Then lead on Dad, I want to see everything you've got to show me." With that the two made their way to the elevators.
"Break room is over there." Chris motioned to his left before leading Blair into the team's main office area. "In here we have the bull pen with the rest of the team's desks. The empty ones obviously belong to Nathan and Josiah." Chris turned to direct a question at Buck. "Does Josiah have an estimate on when they'll be getting back?"
"Josiah said it would take the rest of the day for him to wrap up the interviews. They figured they'd drive home this evening and be back to work in the morning," answered Buck. Then he reached over to pull several sheets from his printer and added, "Here is the report on the Hillsboro pipe bomb."
"You will find the Hallay expense report," Ezra spoke up, "waiting for you on your desk along with Mr. Tanner's ammunition requisition."
Chris' eyes narrowed in suspicion. His team was never this calmly prepared. Not that they were chronically late, but rushing to finish a report on time wasn't uncommon. Three of his team offering him paperwork before he'd even asked for it was unheard of. "To what do I owe this sudden burst of efficiency?" he wondered aloud.
From the desk beside them JD snorted. "Might have something to do with Vin's threats to maim and kill us if we didn't make it easy for you to leave the office as soon as possible." Vin shot JD a dirty look while Buck swatted him on the back of the head. "Ouch! What? Nobody said it was a secret."
When Chris merely raised an eyebrow in Vin's direction the sharpshooter explained, "Just figured you would want to spend your day with your son, not nagging us to get our paperwork done." Chris tipped his head in a small sign of thanks.
The sound of movement in the hall followed by a rapping knock shifted everyone's attention back to the office entrance. Ryan Kelly, the leader of ATF Team Eight, and one of the few people outside his team that Chris both liked and respected, was leaning through the doorway with just the slightest hint of desperation on his face. "Larabee, please tell me you and your team don't have anything too important going on today."
Buck coughed, JD groaned, Ezra muttered in French and Vin just shook his head. Chris turned back to Blair while duty and loyalty battled to choose the higher priority; time with his son or a coworker in need. Before Chris had a chance to say anything Blair spoke up, "I'm in law enforcement too. I understand how emergencies crop up in the middle of things."
Hearing this Kelly realized, "Crap, you did have other plans." He didn't recognize the thirtyish man speaking to Larabee, but from the reactions of Larabee's team he was someone important. Kelly didn't like putting Larabee on the spot, but when the lives of his people were at risk he wanted the best as their back up and that meant Team Seven.
Chris motioned for Ryan to come all the way into the office. "Tell me what the problem is," he insisted. Chris knew Ryan Kelly to be a rather calm, collected leader; the situation had to be pretty bad for him to be looking this tense.
"You're aware that Agent Stone has spent almost two years slowly infiltrating the Militia for America's Redeeming Salvation aka MARS." At Chris's nod Ryan continued, "Douglas was invited to move to the main compound about three months back by Timothy Miles, their most recent religious leader. During the last few months there's been an upswing in the group's level of paranoia accompanied by several shifts of power. Doug's been able to take advantage of it to work further into the group's hierarchy. He's given us their weapons suppliers, the planned purchase of twenty surface to air missiles, and helped us disrupt their attempts to get dirty bomb materials all while maintaining his cover. The last month and a half has been continuous deep cover with almost no contact though three weeks ago he was able to bring in Kirk Gustin as his cousin. The plan was to arrest the MARS leaders and their suppliers at the proposed SAM missile purchase in four days, but twenty minutes ago we received Doug's distress beacon. We failed to establish contact but did hear from Kirk; he and the Pritchards, one of the families living on the compound, are fleeing on foot out the north end of the valley on Doug's instructions. All he told Kirk was he needed to get the kids out before Timothy Miles started making them all drink the Kool-Aid."
Several of the men in the room shuddered as they recognized the reference to Jim Jones the religious leader that forced his congregation to drink poisoned Kool-Aid in a massive murder-suicide. "Henry Pritchard is also MIA; he was the confidential informant that helped enable Doug to get so far into the group. He's also the only one within the group that knows my agents' true identities."
Ryan paused in his recital to run a hand through his hair. "We were supposed to have Team Six back us, but they're still on the road trying to get back from Missouri, and I don't trust those yahoos on Five not to start a firefight."
Chris felt a smirk cross his lips. "Are you sure you trust my boys not to start a firefight?"
"Better than Terry's team," Kelly replied without hesitation, "and at least your boys know how to get out of a shootout without a huge body count."
Chris could easily understand why Kelly was concerned. With Doug MIA and Kirk trapped on sight with not just civilians but children, it meant that Ryan only had his sniper Brett Jordan and his newest recruit Lydia Jones to call upon. Kelly's smaller team left him more dependent on outside support and the quality of the potential support varied widely.
Chris studied his team for a moment. "Josiah and Nathan are on a separate investigation and I wasn't expecting them back until tomorrow." Letting his eyes settle on Blair the thought crossed Chris's mind that he could possibly have his cake and eat it too. "Have you ever worked a surveillance van?" Chris asked his son.
"Yeah," Blair replied, "I've worked surveillance on several occasions."
Turning back to Kelly, Chris offered, "With Blair seconding JD in the van we'll have Buck free to replace Josiah, but we'll still be down a tactical medic."
"That's better than I've got now," assured Kelly, "Lydia isn't certified as a tactical medic yet but she's been working towards it and can pinch hit as long as the situation doesn't go totally FUBAR."
Chris cut in before Kelly could continue. "You should be aware that Blair is a police detective from Cascade, Washington, not an ATF agent. He also happens to be my son." He kept talking right through Kelly's jaw-dropped shock. "Blair's mom was my high school sweetheart and we just found out about each other yesterday."
Kelly would have loved to be able to take some time to absorb that extraordinary bit of news, but he knew his people would be almost ready to move by now and he needed to focus on the job at hand. "Okay, well I already know how Team Seven operates in the field so all I really need from you is a no bullshit assessment on your field skills," Kelly told Blair.
Blair took a moment to consider which of his skills would be most beneficial to the lead agent. "In addition to having a fair understanding of surveillance equipment, I'm rated as a marksman in firearms and I've successfully negotiated during several hostage situations including two in the last three months. In both cases my partner and I were the first responders and I was able to convince the perpetrators to surrender before there was any loss of life." Letting a small grin escape Blair added, "I'm not a certified negotiator but I've been told I'm good at convincing people to believe what I need them to believe."
Kelly nodded, feeling more at ease now that he had Larabee, most of his team and even Larabee's 'not really a negotiator' son backing him up. "Good to know. Grab your gear. I want us on the road in ten. You'll be further briefed en route." Kelly glanced at his watch before adding, "It's now been twenty-five minutes since we received the distress beacon and it will take us at least eighty minutes to reach the compound, so get moving people."
The response was instantaneous as Vin, Buck and Ezra gathered weapons, JD and Blair packed what equipment they'd need for the van and Chris joined Kelly to collect maps and information on their target destination.