Road Not Travelled

(1) The Road Not Travelled (Sentinel)

By Fidus Amicus
Reviewed by Kathryn A on 13th October 2000 (2)
Tags: Novella

This is an alternative universe story which explores the question of "what if Blair didn't meet Jim in Switchman?". I've read others on this theme, and this one again does what those others have done: declare that the bond between Sentinel and Guide is an instinct that comes into play as soon as they meet. Normally that's not an idea that I go for at all, but this author has done things so well, that I don't care. The opening scene where Blair first sees Jim is simply riveting.
    "Who's that?" Blair asked.
    Peter followed Blair's forefinger and squinted at the man. He removed his pipe and tamped down nonexistent tobacco. "Nobody you'd want to know, Blair, lad."
    Startled, Blair swung his head around to meet Peter's unusually somber eyes. "Why?"
    "He's cursed," Peter finally replied, his voice low as if imparting some horrible knowledge.
    "Cursed?" Blair's gaze drifted back to the stranger in spite of himself.
    "Don't go looking at him, Blair. It's said his eyes are colder than the blackest ocean and can turn a body to stone." Fear flickered in the man's expression.

Blair is drawn to Jim in spite of the warnings, in spite of Jim's own hostility -- and it is something wonderful to see. This is full of Jim angst (and I like Jim angst, I must admit) and is well-written. I look forward to the next story in the series.

Addendum: nominated for favourite alternate universe story 2001 Cascade Times Awards

(2) Paved With Good Intentions (Sentinel)

By Fidus Amicus
Reviewed by Kathryn A on 13th March 2001
Tags: Novelette

This is the next story in the "Road Not Travelled" AU series, and I've been looking forward to it. Again, this author proves that she can write Jim and Blair wonderfully and angstily. I wasn't sure at first if her Simon was in character, but the author managed to retrieve the situation quite nicely. And there was a great bit with Jim and Blair where Blair was lying to save face, and Jim caught him on it.

On the downside, this Jim is more prone to zone-outs and sensory spikes than canon-Jim. We have the fannish cliche that Blair and Jim have to be joined at the hip or Jim can't function. But I can rationalize part of that by saying that Jim got worse than he was in Switchman because Blair wasn't around to teach him how to control it all. Also I felt a bit as if the visions were happening a bit too soon (and why was Blair seeing things, too, huh?) But visions are cool, too, and were decently subtle.

I was a bit thrown by the bit about lie-detectors, because I was thinking of the kind of lie-detector which measures how much someone is sweating (the electrical conductivity of the skin changes when a person sweats more) whereas here the reference was to lie-detectors which measure pulse, which I wasn't familiar with. There are three physiological indicators that someone is lying: (a) they start sweating (b) their heart-rate jumps (c) their pupils dilate. If I recall correctly, in canon, the first time Jim tried lie-detecting, he used all three indicators (or at least, the first two) to tell if the witness was lying. Later it became simpler (or possibly cheaper on the SFX budget) to just use the heart-rate as the lying-test.

Ah, lovely angst -- where Jim feels he doesn't deserve Blair, and Blair isn't sure, doesn't want to admit how drawn he is to Jim, that this could be more than just a temporary arrangement.
    "God, Chief, how can I live like this? I mean, I thought I had gained control and something as simple as a pen clicking throws it all out the window."
    Blair grasped his arms, feeling the rigid muscles beneath the layers of cloth. "You are gaining control, Jim. Remember when we got back to Cascade? You couldn't leave your apartment without zoning. Think how far you've come, Jim."
    "But will it ever be far enough?" Jim asked, his voice husky.
    The student wanted to reassure him and tell him that total control would happen in time, but he would be lying. As he had admitted earlier, he was flying by the seat of his pants -- following some weird intuition to help the sentinel. "I don't know," Blair finally answered honestly, and added with more than a hint of reluctance. "Maybe a sentinel will always need someone to help them with his or her senses."
    Jim rubbed his brow, his expression a study in frustration and despair. "Just because I'm some kind of throwback doesn't mean you or someone else has to be dragged down with me." He spun around. "Come on. We have to get to the station."

Oh, yes, there was a plot here too, just in case I'm giving the impression that it's all just talk and angst. Some parts of it seemed a little improbable, because there was no hint of it before, but it was still fine. And I really liked the development at the end; I'm really looking forward to the next part, seeing how that pans out.

Addendum: nominated for favourite long story in the 2001 Cascade Times Awards.

(3) Blind Intersection (Sentinel)

By Fidus Amicus
Reviewed by Kathryn A on 26th October 2003 (1)
Tags: Novella

This is the third story in the AU series where Jim and Blair meet in a different way. Since it had been a while since the last part, I went and re-read the previous two parts before I read this one. Some things I noticed a bit more than I had before, such as that Our Heroes seem to be seeing the wrong spirit guides! For example, that Blair sees a panther when Jim is in trouble, which doesn't quite seem to fit with the traditional idea of a spirit guide... Also, remember that this series uses an instant-instinct Sentinel-Guide bond and dials with numbers on them; just in case you're not into that level of fanon.

In this story, Jim and Blair get their first case... and it seems to lead them up blind alleys and dead ends. An over-protective Jim adds to Blair's frustration, but little does he know that soon he's going to have a lot more to worry about, and one over-protective Sentinel is his only hope...

This one didn't work quite so well for me as the others. On the one hand, the mystery was nicely set up, and we have a good mix of understanding and misunderstanding between Jim and Blair. However the things that happened when Blair was kidnapped were just too much, like something out of a hurt/comfort novel, not something real. I couldn't believe it.