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"The Secret War" - chapter 8

Sunday February 25, 1996

This is a nightmare. A fucking nightmare. I really thought Dark Quickenings were a myth. Sure, Coltec was acting strange, but sometimes good men go bad. I learned that lesson in the 'Nam when I was 18. Dark Quickenings were just a scary story, like people rising from the dead. Like legends of lightning from a clear sky on the battlefield. Like Methos, the oldest Immortal. I was a fool.

I’ve seen a lot of Quickenings, and that one was different. The fires, Mac’s screams … that lightning reached for MacLeod like it was hungry for him. It was some vision of hell. Afterwards, Mac gave me the slip, and he hasn't done that for years. I finally gave up looking, called in Emily to continue the search, and went back to the bar. Mac was sitting there, drinking, like nothing had happened, but he wouldn’t talk to me. And then he hit a woman.

If Duncan MacLeod has one serious flaw, it’s that he’s too gentle with women, even his enemies. Kristin, Annie; I could make a list. So when I saw him backhand a woman to the ground I knew we were in deep shit.

I stepped in and got punched in the face for my troubles. My staff wanted to get involved. Bad idea. Mac'd just been playing with the woman and me. He's a master of a dozen forms of unarmed combat; if he'd wanted me down, I wouldn't have been standing up again. The glint in his eye said he was willing to step it all the way up. I kept my people back, and he took off.

I tailed MacLeod to the dojo and watched him pick a fight with Richie. I shot him before he could take the kid’s head. I broke my Watcher Oath into little bitty pieces and I’m starting in on the Immortals’ Rules of the Game. I interfered in a Challenge, and I’d do it again. Because that was no Challenge. That was a goddamn slaughter, with Richie as the lamb. Besides, Richie'd saved my life once. Today I just got a chance to return the favor.

I told Richie to get out of there, and then I tied up MacLeod. It wasn't easy. I got a whole new appreciation for the term "dead weight". I hoped maybe coming back, he'd have snapped out of it. I wish.

Mac came roaring back to life. He threatened me, insulted me, did everything but spin his head around and spew pea soup. I had his katana in my hands. But I couldn't do it. I let him go. When he grabbed his katana back and put it to my throat, I reckon that was a near thing. I wasn't scared. I didn't believe he'd do it. Which is pretty goddamn stupid, considering that the only thing stopped him from taking Richie's head was me. What can I say? I'm a little slow sometimes.

Mac just shook his head and stalked out of there. Thank God for Emily. She'd been camped outside the dojo waiting to re-acquire Mac. Emily tracked him to a storage facility, then to the docks. By daybreak, he was gone. Only two ships left port during those 4 hours. MacLeod is either heading to Japan or to France. He's got some history in both places, so it's a toss-up.

The Mac I know would go to France. But this guy … I don't know.

Now, now I'm scared. Mac's out there on the ocean, alone with the monsters in his head. I just don't know if I'm more scared for him, or for the rest of us.



Monday February 26, 1996

I’ve got no idea where to look. The Watchers have heard myths about Dark Quickenings, but there’s not a single documented occurrence. The only thing we are sure of is that Darius went through some kind of "light quickening" back in the day, turned him from a warlord to a saint. But Darius has been dead over two years, and his Chronicles don’t say much about it.

I've left 5 messages with Methos's service in the past 12 hours, and he still hasn't gotten back to me. Is there anyone else who might know anything about it?

Jean-Pierre! He was Darius’s student, and curious as a cat. He's bound to know all about that quickening. I scrabble through my desk drawers and find the letter that arrived from Venezuela last week. I skip down to his number and the name he’s using these days. 011, country code 58, number; there, it’s ringing.

"Bueno."

Was that Jean-Pierre’s voice? Hard to be sure, from just one word. "Hi, could I speak to ‘Miguel Velasquez’, please?"

"Joe! I’m so glad you called, I wasn’t sure…"

"Jean-Pierre." I cut him off. "I need some information, fast." Never thought I’d say that to an Immortal. Maybe it’s some kinda karmic payback for all the times Mac’s come asking me for intel.

"Of course, Joe." I hear him put down the phone and start cajoling some people on his end in Spanish.

"My roommates won’t over-hear, but I can’t vouch for the phone lines, Joe. The young woman who has been Watching over me is most rigorous in the performance of her duties."

I’ll worry about Theresa later. She owes me one, anyway.

"Jean-Pierre, what can you tell me about Darius’s Light Quickening?"

"I have heard several versions of that story, Joe. Do you want to hear the one closest to Darius’s own memory?"

"As close as you can get, Jean-Pierre. I need the truth on this one."

"Very well. Once upon a time there was an Immortal. As a child he was strong as a bear, quick as a fox, and proud as a hawk. He grew to be a great war-leader among his people. His taste for power grew with every victory, and soon men flocked to his standard. With every tribe he conquered his army grew. Men cried that this was Alexander reborn, and the Immortal believed them. He took the name of Darius, the only king powerful enough to challenge Alexander. His armies swept through Central Europe and sacked Rome. The Immortal had vowed to take his men all the way to the Western Sea, and claim all of Europe as his own."

"Darius and his army reached the gates of a small walled city known as Paris. It was a still, gray fall day. A lone Immortal stood before the horde, barring the way. This was an ancient custom, that Immortals should defend their home in single combat. Darius had seen it before, and he hungered for both the Quickening and the worship of his men following this proof of his power before them. He rode to face the old one. He dismounted and challenged. The old one neither moved nor spoke. Darius taunted him, but the Immortal would not respond. Finally, feeling the restlessness of his army behind him, Darius attacked. The Immortal did not defend himself. Darius took the head, and waited for the Quickening."

"There was a blinding light as if the sun himself burned at the gate of the city. The army saw Darius fall to his knees. And Darius saw … everything. He saw the history of the Immortal he had killed. He saw the hearts of the men of his army, hungry for slaughter. He saw the fear of those huddled inside the city, and the love they felt for their protector. He heard the old one’s voice, speaking to him of choices. He saw sunlight glinting on the sea; just a few days march to the west. Darius saw the past, the present, and perhaps even the future in that Quickening. He abandoned his oath and chose a new path."

"A conqueror had fallen to his knees; a healer stood up. Darius sent his men home to their crops and families. When his own Lieutenant would have Challenged him, Darius retreated to Holy Ground and tried to reason with him there, rather than fight. And there he stayed, through flood and flame, bombs and plague."

The story faded away. I cracked my neck. "Jean-Pierre, that is no goddamned help at all."

"What has happened?" Now he sounded worried. And so I told him.

Jean-Pierre listened, with none of the interruptions I had come to expect from him, until near the end. "Joe, why didn't you take his head?"

"What kind of question is that?" I asked, angry.

"A very important one," was his quiet reply.

"I thought … no." I was back in the moment. A jeer distorted MacLeod's face. The stench of my sweat and his fresh blood hung in my nostrils. My friend kissed the blade and dared me to kill him. "I felt that Mac was still in there, that he could be saved."

"Then we will save him, " Jean-Pierre promised.

"How do you know it's even possible?" I had to ask.

"You're a perceptive man, Joe. I trust your instincts. But a Mortal won't be able to save him. If any could, it would have been you. It will take an Immortal."

"He nearly killed Richie." I interrupted.

"It will be dangerous. Duncan is dangerous… He's not coming here, is he?" Jean-Pierre asked, alarmed.

"No chance of that, Jean-Pierre," I reassured him. "He's either headed to Japan or France."

"Good." Jean-Pierre paused for a moment. "Duncan loves to fight. He loves to win. I could see that in a single spar. Only his heart kept from loving to kill. And Immortals are … rewarding, in a way that Mortals are not."

"You talking about the Quickening?"

"Yes." There was a rich silence after that single word.

I could hear there was a whole lot more to it than that, but I was in a hurry. "So, what do we do about Mac?"

"You will need to find an Immortal who can confront him. Someone he respects; a teacher, or an elder." I could get both Mac's teacher and eldest Immortal in the goddamned world.

"Can do. Then what?"

"Then he will need some magic to help release him from the Dark Quickening."

I nearly groaned out loud. This is what you get when you ask a guy who believes in voodoo for help. "Magic? Jean-Pierre, that's not, ah, gonna be easy to come by."

"Joe…" he tsked through the phone at me. "Duncan is possessed by spirits of the evil dead. Were you thinking a cold shower would cleanse him of their influence?"

Great. Now I get to explain to Connor MacLeod and Methos that they need to find Mac and lay some kinda magic spell on him. "I'll see what I can come up with. Anything else that might help?"

"Yes. Pray for him, Joe. As will I."

I left a message on with Methos's service and then sat down at my computer to find Connor MacLeod. Turns out he was on some kind of business trip in Hong Kong. In a way, that was good news. Connor was in the right part of the world to intercept Mac if he ended up in Japan. But how could I get in touch with him?

Connor was going by the name of Russell Nash these days. I called 411 for the number for Nash Antiques in New York. When I rang, a woman picked up.

"Nash Antiques, how may I help you?" Her voice was aged and a bit distracted.

"Is this Rachel Weinstein?" Rachel had been with Connor ever since he rescued her from the Nazis during WWII.

"Yes, who is speaking?"

"My name is Joe Dawson. I'm a friend of Russell's cousin, Duncan MacLeod."

"And how is Duncan?" The friendly words were spoken in a cautious tone.

"Duncan is (possessed, insane, homicidal, and scaring the hell out of me) … in trouble. I really need to speak to Mr. Nash about it."

"I'm sorry, but Mr. Nash isn't available at this time."

"This really is an emergency. Do you have a number where I could reach him?"

The response was icy cold. "I didn't say that he wasn't here, just that he's not available at the moment." Crap, I tipped her off that I know Connor isn't in New York. I'm slipping, and she's about to hang up.

"Wait!" I let the desperation I felt creep into my voice. "Duncan is in terrible danger, and it's the kind of thing that only a kinsman can help with. Could you pass along a message and my phone number? Please."

After a moment, she agreed stiffly.

After facing that lion down, Connor wasn't quite as bad as I'd thought. Seems Mac had mentioned me by name, and Connor was too worried about him to fuck around.

Methos called 4 hours later, just as I was getting ready for bed. He asked me to call him back at a fake number. I got the real number by a simple rotation code we'd worked out before he left. I drove to a new pay phone.

International calls get the funny sounding ring. 2 rings. Three rings. Four. Five. He picked up, sounding rushed. "Joe?"

"Adam." I'd been wanting to talk to Methos for 4 months. And now I had nothing to say.

"Are you sure that it was a Dark Quickening?" Like he wanted me to tell him it was all some big joke.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm sure. You ever seen one before?"

Silence. The moment stretched out, long enough for a seed of hope to sprout. Methos was 5,000 years old. He'd been there, done that, got the toga, right? He would know how to fix this.

A single word, almost too quiet to hear. "No." Hope shriveled in my chest.

"Well, hey, glad we could come up with a little something new for you." I tried a chuckle. Even to my own ears, it came out cracked and grisly.

"Look, like I said in the message, there's a 50-50 chance Mac will be sailing into a French port. Connor MacLeod's covering Japan. I talked to a friend of Darius's about this. He said Mac needed to be confronted by a teacher or an elder, and that it would take magic to cure him. Can you handle that?"

"Of course." Tired but confident.

"How's Alexa?" I asked quickly, before he hung up.

Methos sounded like he was grieving already. "Worse than she was a month ago, better than she'll be in another week. MacLeod's timing is as disastrous as ever."

"Give her a hug for me."

"I will, Joe." And with that his voice switched gears, cool and professional. "I'll be on the coast of France by late Wednesday morning. Call as soon as you get word of his arrival."

I agreed, and he was gone without another word. Adam always did have terrible phone manners.

With the two of them in position, I had nothing to do but wait. And pray. Just in case.

Read chapter 9.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
holde_maid
Jan. 16th, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, my freaking goodness! Great, great plotting, that! Finally it reallly, really totally makes sense that Methos would come to Dunkie's rescue! *does happy dance*
keerawa
Jan. 16th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks much, Holde_Maide, but I'm not sure I can take much credit for the plot of this bit. All of the events are canon. I'm just filling in the motivations.
holde_maid
Jan. 16th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, but that's just it. You did a great bit of tying things together into one smooth string of events, and that's not easy. :-)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )