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Moving On
By: Lady Shelley

Rainier isn't as prepared for Y2k as it thought. Spoilers for The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg.

Rated PG       Feb. 1, 2000        85K

Notes: This is for DawnC who wanted a story about Y2k and Blair owies.
Thanks to Toni for patiently replacing all my commas and periods, to my Technical Police Advisor Kelley R., and my husband, Jim, who helped plot this one out with me in an Italian restaurant.
Internal thoughts are in italics.
This is a post TSbBS story and there are some spoilers for the episode.

~~~~~~~~

Monday January 3

"Each department has been asked to send representatives to a seminar on the year changeover," Simon, sitting behind his desk, explained to his best team. Jim Ellison, the official detective, and Blair Sandburg, the official special consultant, both groaned in unison.

Now I remember why I didn't mention this yesterday. There's no way they can wiggle out of it, Simon thought.

"Sir, I thought Cascade handled the change fine. No problems reported," Ellison said. "Why do we need to attend something like this? Can't you send Brown and Rafe instead?"

"Why? Because I'm asking you two to go. Brown and Rafe are still investigating the warehouse arsons and you just wrapped up your latest case. You're going, Detective. Stop complaining about it. Besides, it's at Rainier. Sandburg here can get his feet wet again on campus."

Blair paled slightly and knew Jim would be able to hear his heart speed up at the mention of Rainier. He hadn't been back to the campus since the mess with his dissertation. After he had recanted, Blair had been offered a detective's badge, but had turned that down. He was now a paid consultant to the department and Ellison's official partner.

Simon, noticing a lack of response, turned to Blair and asked, "That isn't going to be a problem is it, Sandburg?"

"Oh. Ahhh. No, Si—Captain. I'd kinda like to see it again," Blair replied. Jim looked at him. "Really, man. It's OK," Blair reassured.

"Good. Glad to hear it. The seminar starts at 10:00 this morning. You two are officially assigned to attend; it should wrap late tonight. Have a good time, gentlemen." Simon ushered them out of his office with what Jim thought was a very smug look on his face.

~~~~~~~~

Your security is an illusion.
The Magician

Chancellor Edwards read the note again, and reached for the phone.

~~~~~~~

After clearing up some paperwork from their last case, Jim and Blair were on their way to Rainier University for the seminar.

Jim glanced over to the man in the passenger seat. "You sure you're OK with this, Chief? Your heart sounded like a trip-hammer in Simon's office."

"Well, it came as a bit of a shock. But, it's not like I could avoid the campus for the rest of my life, man. At least this way, I'm there as a guest and it's not part of an investigation." Blair looked up to see if Ellison was buying what he was selling.

Jim flashed him a that's-no-answer look and continued driving.

"No good?"

Jim shook his head. "Try again, Junior."

"OK. I might be just the tiniest bit nervous about going back. Satisfied? It's been a few months since . . . well, you know. And I'm not sure how it's going to feel being back again."

Jim pulled into the campus parking lot, near the student union. Because the spring session didn't start for another week, finding a place to park was easier than usual. Pulling the truck to a stop, Jim turned. "I realize that, Chief. I just want you to know I'm here, too. We'll face this demon together, all right?"

Blair smiled for the first time since finding out about the seminar and nodded.

~~~~~~~

The Y2k review seminar was being held in the student union auditorium. As Jim and Blair walked in, Jim noticed representatives from other departments from the precinct, as well as the utility company, military, and National Guard. The stone-faced suits at the front of the room were obviously FBI. Ellison had asked once why agents were so stoic. He was told, "Serious investigations always require serious people." This, he felt, proved once and for all the FBI had no sense of humor. With the Bureau in attendance, the prospects of staying awake diminished significantly.

The morning session consisted of an overview of what had happened over the weekend, emphasizing the few computer glitches that were found (and corrected). Some outlying areas had minor power and phone outages, but for the most part, system changeovers went smoothly.

At one o'clock, a break was called for lunch. Ellison and Sandburg headed toward the Union Restaurant. Passing the campus bookstore, Blair glanced in the window.

"That's odd," he said and slowed to look more closely at the books in the window.

Jim walked another few paces before noticing the other had stopped. Coming back to Blair's side, Jim was in time to hear his whispered comment.

"What so odd about a bunch of books in a bookstore window?"

"Hmm? Oh, nothing I guess. It's just that one of those books was for a class I was teaching . . . " Blair let out a barely audible sigh. A hand came to rest on his shoulder and squeezed.

Turning, Blair gave Ellison a smile and continued, "It's just I was the only one teaching this seminar on Southwestern tribes." Blair pointed to one of the books in the front row. "This is the text I used for the class. No one is teaching that seminar this semester, so it's a little odd the school would buy the books."

"Maybe it's one a student returned after the semester ended," Jim said, looking at the cover. "It's in good shape, and the cover picture is eye-catching. Maybe it's there for show."

"Nah, man. Look at it. That's a new book. Never been cracked. And no comments about my students' study skills, man." Blair noted the smirk on his friend's face and punched Jim in the arm.

Jim tried to hide the smile and coughed instead. "Well, it still could be a new book. Maybe they ordered too many last time."

"Maybe. Like I said, it's just odd. It was a small class."

With a shrug, Jim continued on to the restaurant for lunch. Blair took one last look in the window, and then hurried to catch up with his partner.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent trying to keep each other awake during a boring presentation on improving manpower in the event of future disruptions in city services.

~~~~~~

Tuesday, January 4

Suzanne Tamaki added the most recent note to the other two the Chancellor had received. Not again. Why do they always have to be on my campus? With a sigh, she came to a decision, Time to call in the big guns.

"Cascade Police Department. How may I direct your call?"

"Major Crimes. Detective Ellison, please," Tamaki answered.

"One moment, please," the bored voice replied, and she heard the click of the call transferring.

~~~~~~~

Ellison hung up the phone, stood up and reached for their coats. "Come on, Chief. That was Suzanne Tamaki over at Rainier. It seems the Chancellor has been getting some interesting mail."

Blair looked up from the computer where he was putting the finishing touches on his review of yesterday's seminar. "What kind of mail?"

"The kind that needs police involvement. Let's go."

~~~~~

"This is the third letter she's received," Suzanne said as she handed over three brief notes. Ellison read through them quickly and passed them over to Sandburg.

The date is set for my revenge.
The Magician

The wronged shall have justice
The Magician

Blair handed the papers back with a low whistle.

"Has the Chancellor received any threatening phone calls, hang-ups, anything else besides these notes?" Jim asked.

"Not that I know of. She received the first note December 20, the second on December 27, and the last one yesterday." Noticing the look Jim was giving her, Tamaki continued, "I wanted to handle this quietly, Jim. From the tone of the notes and the lack of any other threatening action, I felt this was probably a disgruntled student. Someone I could find and get an explanation from without involving the outside police. After the year the school went through," she glanced toward Blair, who was pointedly looking out a window watching the rain turn to sleet, and continued, "The Chancellor does not want any more embarrassment for the university."

"Which means, Detective, I would like the prime suspect removed from investigating this case," a new voice stated. Entering the security office was Chancellor Edwards. Jim's first instinct was to turn toward the chancellor and let her know exactly who was in charge. Then his hearing picked up the increased heart rate of his partner. Jim looked over at Blair to see the younger man was pale and trying very hard to contain his emotions.

~~~~~~

"Need I remind you, Captain, of the embarrassment the university has suffered at the hands of your department? It is, frankly, quite beyond me why such a person as Blair Sandburg even holds a position with the police force. I do not want him anywhere near this investigation. "

Simon held the phone away from his ear while the chancellor voiced her opinion. The captain had known as soon as Rhonda informed him who his caller was he was in for a battle. Explaining his reasons, the official 'asset to the department' reason not the 'guide to a sentinel reason,' would be pointless he knew.

"From the information I have about the type of person who could be behind a plot against the university, Mr. Sandburg should be your prime suspect, not the lead investigator."

Simon decided he'd had enough. "Ms. Edwards, Mr. Sandburg is not the lead investigator; that would be Detective Ellison. Mr. Sandburg is a special consultant to the department. Detective Ellison is one of my best men, and Mr. Sandburg's knowledge of the university and its' personnel only enhances our chances of finding the suspect. Without embarrassing the university. "

"The university has several powerful benefactors. I'm sure they will be no happier with the way this investigation is being handled through your department. Good day, Captain Banks."

Simon replaced the receiver and standing in the doorway of his office, Simon gestured to the two men at Jim's desk. "You two, in my office."

Closing the door, Simon fiddled with the coffeemaker next to his desk; Ellison and Sandburg occupied the two chairs. "I just had an interesting call from Chancellor Edwards. It seems she doesn't approve of my choice for investigating her case. I'm assuming she will be calling the Chief next." Simon turned back to his men. "It seems she thinks Sandburg should be in lock-up for writing these notes. I informed her I had the best possible people working the case. Please, gentlemen, prove me right."

Taking the lead, Ellison started to explain what they had so far. "We have a list of students with probable cause for taking action against the university. In the last year, six students were expelled from Rainier, and four of those were graduate students."

Blair had been fidgeting in his chair since he sat down. He couldn't take it anymore. "Sir, I need some air. Do you need me for anything the rest of today?"

Simon noted the time and glanced at Jim, who gave him a barely perceptible headshake. "I know this is hard for you, Sandburg. Take the rest of the afternoon. Process or whatever it is you need to do. Tomorrow, I need you back here at one hundred percent. Clear?"

"Yes, Captain," Blair mumbled and retreated to the door. "I'll see you at home, man." Then he was gone.

"Jim, if he can't handle this, I'm going to have to pull you both."

"I'll talk to him, Captain. We'll be fine."

"You better be. Where were we?"

"Expelled grad students. Rainier had four last year, including Blair. The other three were a Bio-Med student accused of selling test answers, a Computer Science student who had various issues with the school, and one we couldn't get program information on. Suzanne thinks it's one of these three. They were all long-time students who lost a great deal when they were asked to leave. We're in the process of getting current information on the whereabouts of each of them now. We should know more tomorrow."

"Well, then. I'd say you two have your work cut out for you. Get on it, Jim. I don't want any more calls from the chancellor threatening to sic the university benefactors on me. I want this solved."

"Yes, sir." Jim left the office and started gathering any information he could find on the current location and activities of his three suspects.

~~~~~~~

Meditation had done wonders for his mood; he no longer felt as if the world were shrinking down on him. He could understand the chancellor's feelings toward him and even understand her suspicions of him. He also knew the chancellor's feelings were hers alone. Suzanne Tamaki had outlined her list of suspects after Edwards had left the office. She had given him a warm smile when she reassured him she didn't think he was their suspect.

Blair had noticed the look Simon and Jim shared in the captain's office. Simon didn't believe Blair had anything to do with the case, either. Jim wouldn't even consider the idea.

Checking the clock, Blair stretched and got up from the living room floor. Putting his candles away, changing the CD in the player, and lighting a fire, he decided to start supper. He would have to convince Jim he'd worked things through and could continue with the case. Years of experience had taught him a well-fed sentinel was easier to deal with, and proceeded to make his world-famous lasagna.

An hour later, Blair heard a key in the lock, "Hey, man, just in time. Give me ten minutes to toast the garlic bread and everything will be set."

Jim came into the kitchen and inhaled the smells of garlic, tomatoes and cheese. He also noted the change in his guide since this afternoon. The tension was gone and Blair's color was better.

Aware of the scrutiny of his sentinel, Blair turned to face the older man. "I'm fine, man, really."

Halfway through supper, Jim quietly asked, "Do you regret it?"

Blair looked up with a puzzled expression.

"Telling the chancellor your thesis was a fraud, leaving the academic world, joining the police."

Blair stopped eating. How could he explain this and make it come out right? They hadn't really talked about the dissertation and Blair's decision to surrender his academic career. But anything he thought to say on the matter came out as fake in his mind. How could he make Jim understand his emotions, when he wasn't entirely sure himself?

"There are times I wish I could still be a teacher, still be part of that world. There are times I wonder if I did the right thing, for both of us. I miss the energy of a campus near midterms or finals. I miss the look on a kid's face when he realizes anthropology is fascinating." Blair could see he wasn't explaining this right. Jim's expression was moving from guilt to hurt.

"Jim, let me finish here. Of course, I miss those things; they were a part of my life for so long, I'd be a fool and a liar if I said I didn't. I'm still a teacher, and I'm still learning things. The energy is still there, only now it's defined in police terms. I like what I'm doing, Jim. I like where I am.

"We would have come to this point sooner or later anyway, you know. Do I regret the circumstances of how we got here? Yes. Do I regret the choices I made? No, Jim I don't."

The rest of the meal was eaten in silence. While Blair was clearing the dishes, Jim came up behind him and gave his shoulder a squeeze. Blair looked up to see a soft, gentle smile on his roommate's face.

~~~~~~~

Wednesday, January 5

Jim was already up and showered when Blair came out of his room.

"Hurry up. I got a call from Suzanne over at the university. It seems the doors to the Bio-Med Lab have been tampered with. None of them will open. She wants us to see if there's anyway to connect it to our letter writer."

"Gimme fifteen minutes, I'll be ready to go," Blair said over his shoulder as he closed the bathroom door.

~~~~~~

"There doesn't seem to be any tampering of the lock mechanism; but when we try to use the cards, nothing happens." Suzanne demonstrated as she spoke. The ID card that doubled as a security clearance, slid into the card reader without incident. However, the door refused to unlock.

"Are you sure this card is keyed for the door?" Jim asked.

"This is my card, Detective. I have clearance for every building on campus. Each card is coded from the security computer in my office. There's no way this card shouldn't work in this lock."

"Did you say computer?" Blair asked. He hadn't said much since arriving on campus and both Ellison and Tamaki turned to him.

"Yes, computer. The key sends the request for entry to the central computer. The computer then checks the ID number to see if the card currently has access to a particular door."

Jim noted Suzanne's use of the word 'currently' and raised an eyebrow. She elaborated, "I can lock people out of a room for particular times, like at night, or make a card expire if it's lost. The cards are set to expire a year after they're issued, but I've only had this one for six months."

"Have you tried to re-key a different card? Maybe there's an defect in this one," Jim suggested.

"It's worth a try, but I've tried one of the professor's cards as well with no luck. I suppose there could be something wrong with this batch of cards. I'll be back in a few minutes," Suzanne said and walked toward the security office.

Ten minutes later, she was back and tried the new card in the lock. The door refused to open.

"OK, I've brought two other cards from different batches, let's see if one of these will work." Tamaki tried both cards in the slide with the same result.

"A Bio-Med student was expelled last year. How was she involved with this facility?" Jim asked

"That would be Maria Thomas. She was a teaching fellow and promising scientist in genetics. We had several reports of irregularities in her classes' test scores and discovered she was selling the answers on the side. She and two of her students were expelled over the incident. Maria said she had nothing to do with selling test answers, but the Board was adamant. As far as I know, she left Washington and went back to Idaho."

"Tell me about this other grad student asked to leave last year," Jim asked.

"Harry McBlink. He was a PhD candidate in computer science and did his Master's work in conjunction with the university security office. Unfortunately, last October we had to ask Harry to leave. After he completed his Master's work, he wanted to market his ideas in the private sector. The university wouldn't allow it, saying he had done the work as part of his graduate program and the results belonged to the school as intellectual property. Mr. McBlink then tried to sue the school, but he lost. We asked him to leave after tracking several incidents of vandalism back to him."

Jim could hear Blair mumbling to himself, working through all of the pieces they had been given so far.

"You guys did update the computers for Y2k, didn't you?" Blair asked.

"We had to. The old systems had been in place for close to twenty years. Why do you ask?"

"This almost sounds like a computer glitch. You said the door security was handled through the central systems, right?"

Suzanne nodded, not sure where this was going.

"Do you have the documentation on the updates you made?"

"I don't, but the Operations Manager should still have everything on file. His office is over in the Admin Building."

~~~~~~

Once in the Operations office, Suzanne asked Dan Moore, the Operations Chief, to bring out the documentation for the updates to the computer systems.

Moore brought a massive book out to the front of the office, dropped it unceremoniously in front of Tamaki, and returned to his own work.

Jim looked at the size of the book and wondered how they were going to find any useful information in the huge tome.

Blair reached for the book and started to flip through the contents. Finding the section he wanted, he started looking through the cryptic code.

"Do you have a computer I can check a few things on? I think I know what's going on, but I need to verify it."

Directing the observer to a nearby workstation, Tamaki stood back as Blair booted up the system.

Twenty minutes later, Blair pushed back from the desk and went to Moore's office. Dan looked suspiciously at the computer screen and then back at the documentation of the corrections made.

"Damn. You're right. I could've sworn we fixed this system." Dan sat down and started to reenter the updated information into the security program.

Jim had a feeling he knew what had happened and Harry McBlink went to the head of his suspects list.

"He changed the computers somehow, didn't he." It was not a question, and Blair simply nodded.

"If he changed one system, couldn't he alter the code for other systems as well? Say the order processing for the campus bookstore?"

"The book!" Blair exclaimed. Jim nodded grimly.

"What book?" Suzanne asked clearly confused by the conversation shift.

"There's a book in the window of the campus bookstore. I used that book for a seminar class on Southwestern tribes. No one but me taught the class, but there is a brand new copy of the book in the window. I'm willing to bet if you check the store, there will be fifteen copies of "To Remember the Past: The Plight of Southwestern Native Tribes."

"Fifteen. Isn't that a little low for a college class, Mr. Sandburg?"

"It was a senior-only special course. The student had to be recommended for the class by another anthro professor. It was the first time the university had tried a class like that," Blair explained. "Anyway, Jim and I saw this book in the window the other day during the Y2k seminar. I'd said at the time it was odd the school would have it. Between the doors and the book, I'd say Harry McBlink is your suspect and he's getting revenge by disrupting your computer systems."

"I think we should move this conversation to my office. The chancellor will want to know about the door locks and your theory, Mr. Sandburg." Matching actions to words, Chief Tamaki started back toward her office.

Blair turned back to Dan Moore. "I suggest you check the code for the order processing program next. "

Dan grimaced. "I'm going to have to call in my techs to start reviewing all of the computer systems. There's no telling how many other programs have been hacked by this guy."

~~~~~~

"So, your theory, Mr. Sandburg, is that we have an ex-computer science major hacking our systems to get revenge for not being allowed to sell university property." Chancellor Edwards did not look convinced.

"Exactly," Blair answered. "He has motive, not being allowed to sell his ideas. He has means, Harry would know how to access the central computer and make the changes, and he had opportunity. Any of those systems could be accessed from off site if the person knew what he was doing."

"I see. And, do you know how he could accomplish such a feat, Mr. Sandburg?"

"A dial-up." Receiving three sets of blank looks from his audience, Blair explained, "Rainier uses a dial-up network for its computer systems. As long as he has a valid login name and password, Harry McBlink can get anywhere in this network he wants."

"You realize, Mr. Sandburg that you've just proven that you are as capable of committing this crime as Mr. McBlink. You conveniently discovered the problem for us fast enough. How do I know the perpetrator isn't you or Ms. Thomas seeing as the Bio-Med Lab was also a target? You have proven to have the same motive, means, and opportunity."

Blair couldn't believe it. She was determined to see him as a suspect even when evidence to the contrary was placed in front of her. He could also see his partner had had enough.

With jaw clenched, it was obvious Jim was controlling his temper, barely. "This is how you know, Ms. Edwards. My partner has moved on. His life is continuing without the university. From what I've been able to discover so far, Ms. Thomas has also moved on. Neither of them is holding a grudge against the university, though I could understand completely if they did. Mr. McBlink, however, may very well still have issues with Rainier and you in particular. He is our most likely suspect at the moment. Let's go, Chief."

Nodding politely to Suzanne, Jim stood and ushered Sandburg out of the security office.

~~~~~~~~

After a brief stop for lunch, the afternoon found both men at their desks diligently filling out the paperwork necessary to get a search warrant for Harry McBlink's apartment.

"You ready there, Chief? Simon wants an update on the case before we head out tonight," Jim asked, standing to head for the captain's office.

"Yeah, man. It's all here. My vote is for letting Simon tell the chancellor what we have. "

Knocking on the captain's door, Jim paused to let Blair catch up before entering.

"Gentlemen. What do we have?" Simon asked.

"Well, Simon, from the evidence we've found in the campus computers this morning, I'd say Harry McBlink is our strongest suspect. He's worked with the school's systems in the past and would have the best chance of getting past the security measures to play his little prank," Jim stated.

"Prank? I don't think sending letters with threatening overtones to the chancellor of a major university and disrupting critical systems is a mere prank, Detective. I'm sure the chancellor and the Board won't see it that way," came the captain's exasperated reply.

"That's true, Simon. However, I think that's exactly what Harry is doing. Let's face it; if he wanted to he could've done a lot more to that computer system than changing bits of code to make the computers read dates wrong," Blair said.

"We're not sure he hasn't, Sandburg. That's only what we've found so far," Simon shot back.

"Exactly, sir. That's what the search warrant is for," Jim said focusing the captain's attention back toward himself. "The errors in the system the tech guys have already found indicate McBlink has very specific documentation of the school's systems. I want to take a look at his apartment and see if we can find anything like the documentation the university has on file for their changes. I'm also interested in looking at his computer, and any media he has lying around whether it's CD ROM or floppies."

"OK, Jim, this sounds under control. The search warrant should be ready to go tomorrow morning. I'll have a couple of patrol cars in the area for back-up."

"I don't think that will be necessary. The guy isn't a hardened criminal; he's mostly a pest for the university. We'll search the place, bring him in for questioning and file charges of terrorism for writing the letters and felony communications harassment. I don't see this guy as a real dangerous type, sir. Chances are the DA will reduce all that down and he'll get probation," Jim said shaking his head.

"Jim, the man wrote threatening letters to Chancellor Edwards. There will be a patrol car in the area. End of discussion. Good night, gents."

~~~~~~~~

Thursday, January 6

Jim's blue and white truck pulled up to a seedy-looking apartment complex. Glancing once again at the address he had on Harry McBlink and looking at the door, Jim shut off the motor and climbed out of the truck. Blair paused to fasten the buttons on his coat before exiting the warm vehicle for the grey, sleeting weather in the street.

"It's on the fourth floor, number 4D," Jim said holding the door open for his shivering partner.

Entering the small cluttered apartment on the fourth floor, the first thing they noticed was how cold the room was. Both men opted to keep their heavy coats on while they searched.

"Sandburg, here's his computer. See if you can find anything on it that's useful. I'll start on the bookshelves."

"If this guy's half as good as we think he is, Jim, there won't be anything on his computer to help us," Blair answered seating himself at the small desk.

"I know, Chief, but better safe than sorry." Jim had made his way through the clutter to the bookshelves. He started listing the items he was interested in and placing them in boxes to be removed.

Both men silently went about his task, the only disruptions being the occasional thump of a book into the box at Jim's feet or the clicking of the computer mouse.

Thirty minutes later, Blair came up with the first good evidence. Finished with the computer, which did not have any useful information he could find, Blair started sorting the papers on the desk.

"Hey, Jim, I think I found something."

Jim came over to inspect the small yellow sticky note. It had a phone number and two series of letters and numbers.

"This is the number to log into the school's main computer. It's the same one I used to log in and record grades. The groups of letters and numbers are a user name and password. This is how he got in."

Jim was looking around the floor at the stacks of books piled around the desk. A large one caught his attention. Unearthing it from the pile, Jim dropped it in Blair's lap.

"Is this what I think it is?"

Blair flipped through a few pages noting the pen scrawls in the margins, "Yep. This is a copy of the book in Dan Moore's office. I'll bet he stole it from one of the Operations techs. How could they not notice one of these things missing?" Blair looked up when he didn't get an answer to see Jim listening to something outside the apartment.

"Jim, what's up?"

Jim listened for a few seconds more, then turned to his partner. "I think we're about to meet Mr. McBlink. I can hear someone coming up the stairs arguing with himself."

"How do you know it's Harry?"

"Because he's debating which systems to disrupt in the school next. Call dispatch and let them know we're going to need that patrol car to transport our troublemaker."

Blair started to dial the precinct on his cell while Jim positioned himself near the door. Ellison could hear the key in the lock while Blair was still on the phone.

Jim knew as soon as the door opened his suspect was going to run. He heard McBlink's heart rate and breathing, while a bit ragged from climbing four flights of stairs, jump at the sight of the two men in his apartment.

"Mr. Harry McBlink? I'm Detective James Ellison from the Cascade PD. We'd like to ask you some questions regarding computer sabotage at Rainier University."

Harry looked the detective in the eye, turned and charged back to the stairway. Instead of heading back down to street level, McBlink headed up to the roof.

"I'm going after him. You head down and inform the patrol unit what's happening," Jim yelled taking the stairs to the roof two at a time.

~~~~~~~

Cautiously opening the door to the roof, Jim was blasted with sleet now mixing with snow. Glancing out, he couldn't see McBlink anywhere and let the door close behind him. The ice was making footing on the roof treacherous, and Jim could hear someone slipping and sliding toward the fire escape. Coming around the corner of a HVAC unit, Jim spotted his quarry.

"Hold it, McBlink. You're wanted for questioning about computer sabotage at Rainier."

McBlink, hearing the shouted order to stop, looked over his shoulder and slipped again. Getting back to his feet, he started down the fire escape, ignoring the detective.

Ellison muttered a few choice curses and followed.

Footing on the metal stairs was no better than the roof, and both men slipped several times. The exit for the fire escape was in an alley behind the apartment complex. McBlink managed to stay far enough ahead of Ellison to reach the bottom and headed back around to the front of the building.

McBlink came around the corner of the building at full speed and crashed into Blair. Jim, just behind, was in time to see his partner hit the ground with a sickening thud and McBlink land on top of him.

The officers in the patrol car grabbed Harry before he could run again and moved him toward the waiting vehicle.

Jim slid to a stop and dropped to his knees next to Blair who wasn't moving. He could tell from Blair's breathing and heart rate he was conscious, but was worried that his friend had not attempted to move off the cold pavement. Jim started running his hands over Blair's arms and legs looking for signs of injury. When he moved to Sandburg's neck and head, Blair gave a low moan and tried to move away.

"Shh, don't try to move, Chief. I need to make sure you're all right."

"Jim?" Blair said opening his eyes slightly, and quickly closing them again.

"Yeah, it's me, buddy. You need to stay awake for me, okay?"

Blair opened his eyes again and Jim could his pupils were slightly mismatched. "Why did you let me fall asleep on the balcony, man? It's cold out here," Blair mumbled. Disregarding the order to stay still, Blair was attempting to sit up.

Jim felt around Sandburg's neck, and finding nothing wrong, decided the warmth of one of the newly arrived police cars was better than having his injured partner freeze on the sidewalk. Ellison helped Sandburg to one of the patrol cars, and had him sit in the warmth of the front seat.

"Wait here for the paramedics, okay, Chief. I'll be right back."

Blair curled up in the seat, and let his head droop.

"Stay awake, Sandburg. No sleeping until the doctor checks you over."

Jim closed the door and went to talk to the officers who arrested McBlink. "Make sure you guys add resisting arrest and injuring an officer to the list of charges on this guy. There are also some boxes up in his apartment that need to be sent to Evidence."

Tuning to the paramedics, Jim directed them back to his partner. Opening the door to the car, Jim heard a groan of protest from the bundle in the front seat. "Jim, close the door, man, it's freezing in here," Blair mumbled louder and pulled his coat tighter around himself.

"Come on, Chief. The paramedics are here to check you out."

Sitting on the edge of the car seat with his legs out the door, Blair quietly answered questions about his name, the date, and where he was. After a few more tests, one of them turned back to Jim. "I'm pretty sure he's got a concussion, and he may have cracked his wrist on the curb. We're going to run him in, just as a precaution."

Jim nodded at the information and waited with the observer while one of the paramedics went back for a gurney.

Catching sight of the returning attendant, Blair tried to get up. Jim pushed him back down. "No arguing, Chief. You're going."

Blair glared at the older man, to no result as he was helped onto the gurney and a thin blanket was tossed over him.

~~~~~~~

Once at the hospital, Blair was placed in one of the trauma rooms in the ER. Jim sat in the chair next to the bed.

Blair was quiet for the most part, occasionally asking questions Jim had answered several times in the past hour.

"Jim, why was I asleep on the balcony?"

"You weren't on the balcony, Chief. You and a suspect collided, and you hit your head on the curb."

"Oh."

The quiet lasted a few minutes then, "Jim, my arm hurts."

"You may have cracked a bone, Chief. Don't move it and you'll be fine."

"Okay."

Jim glanced at his watch for the fifth time in the half hour and had just moved to get up and search for the doctor when the door to the trauma room opened.

"Mr. Sandburg, my name is Doctor Hawkins. Do you know where you are?"

Blair looked around and answered, "Hospital."

"Do you know why you're here today?"

"My head hurts." Doctor Hawkins made a few notes on the chart in his hand. After asking about the day of the week and the date, the doctor asked, "One more question, Mr. Sandburg. What time do you think it is?"

Blair glanced at the clock behind the doctor and said, "Two thirty."

Chuckling, Doctor Hawkins turned to also look at the clock. "Well if you're aware of your surroundings enough to cheat on my little test, I guess you're okay to go home," he replied, jotted the last of the information down, and turned to Jim. "It looks like your friend has a pretty good concussion, but all of his tests come back all right so I don't think he needs to stay overnight. Will someone be with him for the next few days?"

"Yes, I'll keep an eye on him. Just check for the usual, right? Make sure he knows who he is and wake him up every hour or so?"

The doctor nodded and continued, "He's going to have a headache for a few days, so make sure you have Tylenol handy. And I wouldn't be surprised if he has trouble keeping food down, either. Just keep his fluids up and light meals, soup, toast and the like should be safe."

Blair was starting to get annoyed at being talked around and spoke up. "Guys? I'm right here. When can I go home?"

"Well in addition to the concussion, you have a hairline break in one of the bones in your wrist. It's not necessary to cast it, but it does need to be wrapped. Once that's taken care of and you've signed some paperwork, you're free to go."

~~~~~~~

Jim was hanging up the phone as Blair came out of his room dressed in sweats. Jim could see the lines around Blair's eyes and the way he was holding his arm and knew the younger man was in pain. Handing him a glass of water and two pills, Jim seated his partner in the living room and went back to the kitchen.

"It's fine with me if you go back to work, man. I'm feeling a lot better than before."

Jim ignored this and stirred the soup heating on the stove. "Don't worry about it. By the time I'd get to the station, all I'd be able to do is look at the amount of paperwork this case had generated so far and come back home. This way, I save myself the drive and Simon is bringing the urgent stuff over here. "

Blair shrugged and sat on the sofa to channel surf until dinner was ready.

Ten minutes later, Jim was placing soup bowls and spoons on the table. "Come on and try to eat something. Oh, and get the door for Simon on your way past."

Blair stood up and went to the door, not opening it until the captain had a chance to knock.

"You losing your touch, Jim?" Simon asked walking in and setting a stack of file folders on the table by the door.

"Nah, Sandburg just wanted you to win once," Jim said with a grin.

"Speaking of which, you okay, Sandburg?"

"Yeah, man. Just another lump on my head for the cause," Blair answered with a tired smile. Simon noticed Jim did not think the comment funny and decided to let the matter drop.

"Come and eat, Sandburg. If you can keep the soup down, you can try some toast," Jim said, motioning his friend to the table.

Blair sat and started to eat while Jim and Simon moved to the living room.

"I've set up the interview for tomorrow, Jim. The kid waived his right to an attorney. I don't know if it's because he doesn't think we can nail him or if he's just dumb."

"Either way is fine with me. Has anyone informed the chancellor yet we have a suspect incustody, and it's not Sandburg?"

"I called her office this afternoon to let her know. She also informed me the computer techs had found errors in code for the maintenance orders, tuition payment tracking, and class schedules. Luckily, we discovered what he was up to before the semester started. It will be close, but everything should be back to normal when classes resume on Monday. All of this because some kid was mad and reset the systems to misread the date. You can bet the university will be looking into ways to prevent this in the future."

"Did you get the okay to make a copy of the documentation we found in McBlink's apartment? That will probably speed things along, if their tech boys know exactly what he did," Jim said.

"It took some work, but a copy was sent over late this afternoon after everything had been logged. If that's all, gentlemen, I have a date with my son and a basketball court."

At Jim's questioning look Simon explained, "Daryl's roommate at school had a extra pair of tickets for tonight's game." Simon's brilliant smile spoke volumes about how he was thrilled his son would want to include him.

~~~~~~~

Friday, January 7

Jim was seated at the table in the interrogation room as Harry was led in. McBlink glanced from the detective to Sandburg standing behind him as the deputy seated him. Jim hadn't wanted Sandburg to come in, but the observer had insisted, saying he wanted to be there when McBlink explained everything.

Simon was in the observation room with Chancellor Edwards. Banks wanted her there so she would hear what McBlink had to say with her own ears. He was tired of the woman berating him for not arresting Sandburg and didn't want Edwards to think he had put some kind of official spin on McBlink's statement to make Sandburg look good.

Jim opened the folder in front on him and started reading, ignoring Harry entirely. After a few minutes, McBlink began to fidget and Jim noticed the other man's heart rate increase with the passing time. He could also hear the nervous foot tapping and finger drumming of the chancellor behind the mirror. He glanced behind him, directly at the offending noise, until it stopped.

"You've been rather busy, Mr. McBlink," Jim said closing the file. "Would you care to explain yourself?"

"I really don't think I could, Mister Cop. I'm sure anything I tried to explain would be over your head," McBlink said with a snide sniff. He was trying to sound indifferent, but the sentinel could sense how much the act was costing the suspect.

Jim gave a tiny smile and replied, "Try me."

"It's really very simple, Detective. The university and its closed-minded chancellor tried to keep me from making a living from my education. As a result, I decided to prevent them from earning anything either."

"So you decided to sabotage their computer systems?" Blair asked coming up behind Ellison's chair.

McBlink fixed his gaze on Sandburg. "Aren't you the fraud who couldn't hack it in the grad student world?" he asked with a sneer. "Faked your thesis and had the gall to get caught doing it?"

Jim once again turned to the mirror behind him, his eyes an icy blue.

Blair walked around behind McBlink and said low enough that only the suspect, and Jim, could hear, "No. I'm the man who had the integrity to stop the circus before it hurt someone else. Something I'm sure you wouldn't understand." Moving back around to Jim's side, Blair asked louder, "What about the students who were going to be affected by your little prank?"

"What about them? They would complain loudly to the Board and the media and I would still win. The school would be a laughingstock and the chancellor fired for incompetence. I would have my revenge."

"So you admit, for the record, you purposely and maliciously reprogrammed the computer systems at Rainier University to disrupt the smooth operation of the school? Do you also admit to sending threatening letters to the chancellor of said university?" Jim asked with an official air.

"Yeah, man, I do. I can't wait to watch the chaos Monday morning."

Jim shut off the tape and said with false apology, "I'm so sorry to disappoint you, Mr. McBlink. But I'm afraid the university will be just fine come Monday morning. Among the items recovered from your apartment was a copy of the computer documentation with the notes you made of the code that was changed. I've been assured the school will have no problems setting things to rights."

Jim stood as the now confessed hacker was escorted out of the room. He was slow in gathering his files and papers in order to hear the end of the heated conversation he'd been following in the observation room behind him.

~~~~~~~

"I'd like to thank you, Captain, for allowing me to be here," Chancellor Edwards said as McBlink was led into the interrogation room in front of her. Noting Sandburg in the room as well, Edwards turned back to Simon. "Why is he in there?" she asked, beginning to tap a foot impatiently.

Simon silently counted to ten and refrained from answering the question. The chancellor, seeing she would get nowhere, turned back to the interrogation room and began drumming her fingers against her arm. When Jim turned around, she stopped, wondering if it was coincidence.

"Aren't you the fraud who couldn't hack it in the grad student world? Faked your thesis and had the gall to get caught doing it?" McBlink was saying in the next room.

Edwards turned to Simon and said, "You see, Captain Banks, even the criminals know the truth."

When Jim again turned to face her through the mirror, Edwards began to wonder about the timing of the looks seemingly directed toward her personally, and not some nervous tick of the detective's.

Ten minutes later, McBlink had confessed and was being led from the room. Simon turned to the woman next to him and said, "I think that should settle once and for all Mr. Sandburg's innocence in this matter. As I said at the beginning, he is part of my best team, and I trust him. Why do you find that so hard to accept?"

Chancellor Edwards coolly replied, "It's a simple matter of honesty, Captain Banks. Mr. Sandburg lied to his committee and thereby to the school about the existence of this sentinel superman. He tried to swindle the university out of several thousand dollars in grant money. Tell me, Captain, why I should take anything Mr. Sandburg says at face value knowing his past?" Turning to face Banks to continue, Edwards noticed Ellison's frigid glare through the glass. What is he looking at? she thought. He couldn't possibly know what was happening in here.

In the interrogation room, Blair had started to move toward the door until he spotted Jim glaring at the mirror on the back wall. Moving back to the sentinel's side, he laid a hand on Ellison's arm and murmured something. Jim looked over, the glare softening, and finally nodded to whatever question Sandburg had asked. The two left the room.

He heard me! The shock of that thought stopped the woman from saying anything else to the man standing next to her. He heard the entire discussion from the next room. If that's the case . . . Chancellor Edwards paled at the realization of what that meant.

~~~~~~~

"You sure everything's okay, Jim?" Blair asked as the two walked back toward the bullpen. "You looked about ready to spit nails back there."

"I'm fine, Chief. The good chancellor was just having a difficult time letting go of her false impressions about you," Jim said with a smile.

As Jim sat as his desk, he heard the clicking of high heels in the hall. Looking up, he saw the chancellor gaze at first him and then Sandburg in the chair next to him. Jim simply stared back with flat eyes until she turned to leave.

***End***


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