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"The Secret War" - chapter 3

The following is a partial transcript of a tape found among the personal possessions of James Horton after his death. It includes a speech by Watcher Narath Ung, at a secret meeting that apparently took place in the fall of 1993, following Horton’s execution of the Immortal Darius. This transcript is hereby sealed by order of the Watchers Tribunal on this date of September 25, in the Year of Our Lord 1994.
-Jack Shapiro

Greetings fellow Watchers. Monsieur Horton has spoken passionately about the massacres, torture, rapes, and other atrocities that we have Watched Immortals such as the Kurgan, Blake Wilmington, and Quentin Barnes carry out. All of us are thankful that these evil creatures are longer a threat to humanity. However, the whispers I have heard among you are not about such monsters. I have heard the question, “Why Darius?” My name is Dr. Narath Ung, and I am here tonight to answer that question.

I am considered an expert on the human response to violent trauma. As such, I serve two primary functions within the Watchers. The first is as head of the Committee on Psychological Evaluations for field agents who have witnessed or been victims of extreme violence. We determine who is to be placed back in the field, who is to be given a respite of desk work, and who needs more in-depth psychological evaluation and care at one of our own facilities. Many of you in this room have been returned to the field through my intervention.

I also work in the Research division, studying Immortal responses to pain, violence, loss, and other stressors. For Watchers who have been raised in countries that currently enjoy peace and plenty, this can be difficult to understand. These field agents may not be able to accurately predict and understand their assigned Immortal's reactions. But much of human history, and many places in the world now, are still drenched in violence. And every Immortal’s life is a violent one. I have found that pre-Immortals, allowing for their orphan status and therefore common lack of supportive family structure, show responses to violence no different than mortals from the same culture. Immortals soon after their first death are quite similar. But the older an Immortal is the more divergent their responses become from the human norm. I will focus on these differences, and the danger they pose to the human race, tonight.

It is important to realize that Immortals are all, by definition, survivors. I do not include those who have survived an accident through luck in this category. Instead, I define a survivor as a person who, through their personal characteristics, choices and actions, has stayed alive through an extended period in which death was a constant threat. Even among mortals, survivors are not “nice” people. I was a survivor in Cambodia, as a young man, before the Watchers recruited me. To save my own life, I did a great many things that might horrify you here in this room. And so I speak from personal experience. Survivors follow our captors’ orders to the letter. We hoard our food rather than share it with the sick. We trade our bodies for safety. We eat the corpses of our friends rather than starve. We will not throw ourselves on a grenade, but we might throw someone else onto it. We kill our own wounded rather than let them slow down our retreat. Survivors are what is left after the kind and gentle have been weeded out.

All of you have heard the phrase, “A fate worse than death”? Each man or woman has their own personal code, some price that is too high to pay, some line that they will not cross, even to save their own life. Throughout history, some have died rather than: be raped, be enslaved, deny their God, break an oath, betray a friend, abandon a loved one, leave a man behind, kill an innocent. Mortals have died rather than cross these lines, and so have Immortals. However, none of the Immortals now living among us have made that choice. Think of it – over the course of centuries and millennia of life, all of these dilemmas will arise in the life of an Immortal. And for them to still be alive, they must have chosen to place their own survival above all else, every time. The human mind protects itself, whether Mortal or Immortal. Rather than be ripped apart by the choices we make, a survivor makes excuses, loses empathy, and dehumanizes those we have harmed. “She was just a stupid whore.” “Nits make lice.” “Mortals all die, anyway.” “There can be only one.” Perhaps I am more monk than psychologist to say this, but every time a human chooses self-preservation over compassion, we lose a piece of our soul.

And what of Darius? After 400 years of living as a brutal warlord, he retreated to Holy Ground. But even then, he was still choosing survival. How many times did he choose to stay on Holy Ground, when he could he saved the lives of those he loved? We have documented three incidents, I am sure there were many more. Was that the extent of this “Immortal Saint’s” compassion, his love? He would help others, right up until it might endanger him, and then no more. He had his students risk their lives, taking Challenges meant for him. In the end, when there were just a few Immortals left, would we have seen compassion in his eyes, or battle-lust?

I left the jungles of Cambodia. For those who stayed behind, the Khmer Rouge were eventually defeated. We were able to recover, in peacetime, some of what we lost in our desperate struggle to survive. But for Immortals, there is no peace. No Immortal will ever die of old age, sickness, starvation, or accident. But this is no blessing, because they will all die with a sword at their throat, murdered. All but One.

The time of the Gathering is upon us. The pace of their brutal Game is increasing, and we are running out of time. Those Immortals that put anything above their own survival are dying. Those who choose to survive are becoming less and less human. It is survival of the fittest, but the fittest is not just the strongest and fastest. It is the one who will do anything, absolutely anything, to survive and to win. Kill an enemy? Yes. Burn down a church to flush out the Immortal hiding there? Yes. Shoot your opponent before beheading him? Yes. Kill an innocent mortal? Yes. Betray a friend? Yes. Murder a lover? Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes! The One who wins this Game will be a burned out husk, and I wouldn’t entrust a dog to what is left of that Immortal. Any scrap of power that the Prize may confer over humanity is too much, and there is only one solution.

We could not save the Immortals, even if we wished to. We cannot stop the Game. They will wipe each other out, until only One remains. This we cannot allow. It is easy to kill the monsters, and there are plenty of them out there. But they all need to die. For those that still have some innocence left, some goodness – let it be a mercy killing. We can save them from the most painful choice of all, to kill or be killed by those they love. Do not allow yourself to be moved by pity. We must make the hard choices. We must take on this burden of guilt; become the survivors of this secret war. We must kill them all, before they kill each other, and destroy us in the process.

Read chapter 4.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:19 am (UTC)
*shudders* That's eerily good writing!
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:41 am (UTC)
Ung is a very creepy Muse.
Oct. 26th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
Ooh, wonderful devil's advocate. I've always been of the school that no one is a villain in their own mind; it's nice to see how deftly you've justified killing even Darius, from the Hunters' perspective. Well done.
Oct. 27th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
no one is a villain in their own mind
Absolutely! Dr. Ung is a disturbingly rational character. Thank you for the comment.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )