The Beginning of the End
Laughter permeated the air with the sound of music and gaiety that filled the place. Someone was setting a stride for the dance a bit too fast, but sexual in nature as they passed gawkers and drinkers. Another was holding a glass high up in the air, calling for silence, wanting to propose a toast. "Ladies and gentleman, may I have your attentions, please?"
The dancers came to a slower beat, and the music was turned down for the man standing upon a barstool to raise his glass of cold auburn liquor into the air. Someone told one last joke and laughter followed before the man dressed in blue jeans and a black sweater started to speak. "I want to propose a toast to our wonderful hostess this evening. Where is Elizabeth?" He set his gaze around the dancers who had collected up glasses of beer, brandy, and champagne. Amongst a corner crowd sat a woman with red hair, perched upon a piano bench that the player had vacated for her only moments before. She turned her green eyes towards the group of partygoers, seeing the man upon the stool. He smiled at her, "Elizabeth, thank you for this wonderful party as again you have blessed us with your presence."
She stood, pushing away from the gawkers of her little group and made her way up to the man upon the stool. He helped her up beside him on another swiveling barstool and laughed, slightly drunk from wine. "Thank you again dear Anthony. You bless me with your presence as well." Lizzie pressed her lips up against him in a flurry that made the man go red, and then she toppled off the stool, as was custom of all her parties. Two men in black tuxedoes caught her and took her from the place, out into the cold air of the evening.
"You are making a fool of yourself," one of them was saying. "What would the real Anthony say if he found out you did that?"
The other shook his head quietly; "She always does this. Gets drunk and becomes crazy!"
Lizzie placed her feet on the ground as they dragged her into the van, and stopped them. "Iím not drunk." She stood up and dusted herself off, and baffled the two, just as she did every time. "And for your information Anthony will never find out about this. So end program!"
The scene abruptly disappeared into thin air, leaving only Lizzie standing in the middle of an empty room. "And weíre back to reality," she said to no one in particular. "What a boring place it is too." Elizabeth Teller walked through the empty room, listening to her footsteps upon the floor.
With a sigh, she went and sat down on the only piece of furniture in the room, a chair sitting in front of the flat computer screen against the wall. The view screen was touch capable, no need for a mouse, a keyboard, or even a hard drive because it was all connected to a central processor in the university. Biting on her thumb, she tapped her middle finger against her cheek before reaching out and typing a new command into the computer.
On the screen there was a picture of Anthony, and Lizzie sighed deeply. He was quite a handsome man in his middle twenties. This Anthony was only her program though, simply a holograph in which she tried to sate her love for the real man who was probably sleeping ten feet away. With another tap at the screen, the room changed suddenly, her holographic projectors flaring to life. Lizzie turned, watching as her empty bedroom turned into something that looked a bit more like a real college studentís room. Letting one of her legs flop over the arm of her chair, she leaned back, turning to tap out a new command on the computer screen from time to time.
The color of the sheets would change, then the walls, even lighting would change until Lizzie finally became happy and got up from her chair. She came over to the mirror that hadnít been there five second ago, and picked at her teeth. As a finishing touch, she ran a hand through her rather straight red hair. "Techno," she mumbled to herself. "All they think I am is some computer hacking Techno."
"You could be wrong about that," someone said behind her.
Lizzie turned to look as her instant reflexes shutting down the hologram with a word. "Off!" Fiercely, she turned to look at a man who was standing in her doorway. "How did you get in here? The door was locked." The man extended his hand towards Lizzie to introduce himself, but she refused to touch him. After a moment he shrugged, "My name is Adam Pierson." He grimaced when he noticed that the young woman looked more fearful then relieved to see him. Coughing, he added, "One of your roommates let me in."
"Well," Lizzie started. She gazed at him with her green eyes a moment, unable to figure out what to say. Then she blinked towards her computer, "What do you mean?"
Adam frowned a moment, wondering what her question was about. Then he remembered his comment as he stepped in the door. "Oh yes, I mean, your friend Anthony didnít seem to see you as a Techno. A computer programmer, especially one that is as talented as you, is far from a Techno." He glanced over at the computer screen, but Lizzie jumped over to block his view.
"What about Anthony?" Lizzie asked, turning her back towards the screen and crossing her arms in front of her.
Swallowing, Pierson nodded towards the door that he came in. "Tony speaks very highly of you as someone who might be able to serve our purpose." He placed a hand on the doorknob, "I know youíre not so sure of me, so maybe we should have him explain whatís going on?"
Licking her lips, Lizzie nodded. She first shut down her computer, and then stepped out the door that the stranger had held open for her. The first thing she noticed as she left her room was that Anthony was sitting on the couch. He stood up quickly as the two emerged from the room. "So Mr. Pierson, what do you think?"
"Sheís high spirited, Iíll give you that," Adam murmured, placing himself in a chair nearby. "Though it might be best if you tell her whatís going on since she definitely doesnít trust me." He tapped his fingers on a chair as Tony watched, and added, "Which is a good quality to have now days."
Anthony put a hand on Lizzieís shoulder, and guided her to sit down on the couch next to him. "I know you donít think I listen to you, Elizabeth, but Iíve been interested in your hologram talks. Theyíre intelligent, imaginative, and definitely could be expanded on with the proper equipment." He looked over to Adam; "This gentleman here came to me asking if I knew of someone who could head our hologram division, and the first person I thought of was you."
"Me?" Lizzie squeaked, glancing from Adam back to Tony. "Work at Watcher Corp?"
"Thatís the idea," Pierson responded, bringing out a piece of paper from his coat pocket. "We need someone who can make the most realistic holograms the world has ever seen." He placed the piece of paper down on the small coffee table in front of him, with a pen that he produced a moment later.
Lizzie looked from the paper then over to Tony, "Whatís this all for?"
He shook his head, "No questions asked, Elizabeth. You come in and work for us, get paid for all your living expenses and college courses, and weíll forever be grateful."
"Just sign here and youíll have every piece of computer equipment you could ever need," Pierson added, pushing the paper towards Lizzie.
Visibly, Elizabeth looked like she was either in a nightmare or a dream come true. Biting her lip, she looked over to Tony; "Is there a catch?"
"Nope," her friend responded. "Only that you donít ask questions, and everything is on a need only basis." He glanced over to Pierson, "Of course weíll have a two week period where it will be decided whether youíll become the head of the department or not. But I have complete faith in you."
"Okay," Lizzie responded, picking up the pen, "But I can still decide to back out after those two weeks, right?"
"Of course," Adam responded, "But I doubt youíll want to." He smiled in such a way that Lizzie signed the piece of paper without another word.
Crouched low in her seat, Lizzie tried to get used to the fact that she was riding in a limousine. The inside was huge, probably seating nearly twelve people when it was full, though today there was only two riding in the back. She glanced over to Anthony, who was tapping commands into his flat lap computer. She coughed lightly, and he looked up at her. "Is something wrong?"
"Um," Lizzie started, "No, I guess not. Itís just that, for the last two years you have been picked up in this limo and Iíve never gotten to see the inside of it until now." She glanced out the window, "Itís kind of strange to know Iíll be riding in it everyday that I go to work."
Tony chuckled, "If you pass the two weeks you can have your own limo, or some other car of your liking. I just thought it would be easier since Iíll be showing you around if we arrive together."
Lizzie turned to look at him, "No, actually I like riding in here with you. I just have to get used to it."
"Well," her friend started, glancing out the window as the limousine started to slow down, "I guess youíll have to get used to it later. Weíve arrived." He pointed towards the giant front gates that opened towards Watcher Corp.
Leaning over Tony, Lizzie was in awe as she watched the guards wave their vehicle through the gates. A long rolling drive went through thick woods as they continued towards the company building. Lizzie had read a long time ago that the Watcher Corp was situated in the middle of a three hundred-acre forest, built sometime around the turn of the century. Back then the expanse of forest might not have been so out of place, but a hundred years later, the three hundred-acres were the only trees in the middle of a growing metropolis.
Then, through the trees, the Watcher Corp came into view. The building was made from an expensive Italian marble that had almost a silver sheen to it in the light. The structure looked nothing like early twenty-first century architecture, but closer to an early renaissance design resembling a castle. Lizzieís mouth dropped open when the limousine came to a halt in front of the large stairway leading up to the building. Tony chuckled, and placed a finger under her chin to close her mouth. "Yes, yet another thing youíll have to get used to," he replied before she said anything.
"Iíve seen this place on the view screens, but Iíve never been here before," Lizzie murmured as the limousine driver opened the door to help her out. She stood outside the door as Anthony came up behind her. He nodded to the driver, who closed the door and took the limo away to its parking place.
Tony placed a hand on Lizzieís shoulder and started to guide her up towards the building. "You must remember, Elizabeth, that no one is allowed in the Watcher Corp unless they are an employee. That means whatever you see here must be kept secret, but I trust that wonít be much of a problem for you."
"No," Lizzie said, watching as people dressed up in business suits walked by. Her eyes were wide open as they passed in through the front doors, into the atrium, where small fountains bubbled and birds flickered from one tree to another. The sight was almost overwhelming to Lizzie who had spent ten years of her life only seeing birds in picture books. "This place is amazing," she said to Tony, a bit too loud that someone nearby looked up.
Waving to her, Tony continued to guide the overwhelmed Lizzie towards a set of elevators. "A lot of people spend their breaks and lunches in the atrium. It actually extends to the back of the building, and then splits to be the length of the building as well. Every office has windows that either look out over the atrium or out over the forest." When an elevator opened, Tony and Lizzie entered as he continued to explain. "The west wing, where we are, is the only place that you will be needed. The east wing is high security clearance only, I havenít even been there."
Finally broken from the spell of the overwhelming building, Lizzie gazed at her friend. "I know Iím not supposed to ask, but what is in the east wing?"
"Itís the research department. This side is development. All Iíve heard is that they keep all the original documents from the Watcher Corp there. Mr. Pierson works there, and rarely comes to this side of building." Anthony tugged at his shirt collar, "It was quite a surprise to called upon by someone in research, they donít trust just anyone."
"I kind of got that impression," Lizzie muttered, feeling the elevator come to a stop. The doors on the opposite side that they had entered opened onto a nearly empty floor. The walls were a slivery purple color and the floors were the same silver marble as the rest of the building.
Tony started out down the hall, past the many open doors that lead into empty rooms. "This is going to be the new holographic design center. If everything works out well, youíll be in charge of this entire floor." He waved towards the empty rooms, "Each of these rooms were stripped clean a week ago, originally used to develop the view screens that people watch all over the world."
"Your department, wasnít it?" Lizzie asked as she glanced from room too room. "I know you mentioned that was the reason they call this place the Watcher Corp, since you develop televisions."
"Not televisions anymore, Elizabeth," Anthony corrected. "The view screens I helped to complete are fully interactive with the World Information Network. But now that they are mass-produced on the market, this floor was just waiting for a new technology to come along. Which is where your holographic knowledge comes into play." He paused outside one of the empty rooms, and pointed towards a panel right outside the door. "Each of these rooms is going to be set up with the standard holographic emitter, like this room here. The computer system can be used separately in this room, or can be controlled from the main computer."
Lizzie nodded slowly as she followed Tony towards the end of the hall where the only closed door was. He pushed it open, and allowed the young woman to go in first. "Wow," Lizzie breathed, taking in the rows of flat screens against the walls, and even self-standing units in the center. The room was a clean computer environment; dust free and a soothing light gray color. Every piece of equipment that Lizzie had ever dreamed about was in this room from full three-dimensional scanners to powerful holographic emitters that could fill a single room by themselves.
At the far end of the room, someone coughed. Lizzie and Tony looked up towards a woman who was wearing a long white laboratory coat. Her dark blond hair pulled back into a long ponytail that thumped lightly against the base of her torso as she walked. "You must be Elizabeth," the woman said, as she came towards the two with her hand extended.
Finding her hand firmly shaken, Lizzie nodded, "Yes, but you can call me Lizzie if you like, most everyone does."
The woman nodded, "My name is Richelle Scott, you can call me Ricki if you like. Though only a handful of people call me by that name now." She glanced over to the man standing nearby. "Youíre Tony, right? I know I met you in the atrium a few weeks back, howís it going over here in development?"
Tony coughed, almost as if he remembered something that startled him about this woman. She actually looked younger then he did, younger then Lizzie even. But there was something to her eyes that showed she was much older, and Tony seemed to know it. "Um," he started, "Itís going pretty well. Weíre just trying to find us a head of holograms to get the ball rolling."
"Ah, of course," Richelle nodded, then turned to look at one of the computer screens. "I would have offered to work here myself if it wasnít for my job in research. The Tribune is always so strict when it comes to that kind of thing though. They donít want a researcher getting her hands dirty," she tapped at one of the screens, bringing up some program, and continued. "Though, if you ask me, working with holograms isnít exactly what I call dirty work.
"So," Richelle said abruptly, "What do you have to show me today, Lizzie? I do hope you brought some of your programs with you that we can test in one of our rooms."
Lizzie scrambled in her pockets for the compact disc that she had brought. Richelle looked a bit weary of it at first, as if remembering something, then shook her head. "Um, itís right here, what I was going to show you. Where shall IÖ"
"Follow me," the researcher responded suddenly, leading them back out of the main room into one of the separate testing rooms. "You can program it all from right here, or you can do it inside. Weíll go inside for now, but in the future, youíll be able to find an empty room from the display out here, and program out here as well." Richelle stepped into the room, and the two followed her in, Tony closing the door behind them. "Okay, here you go, letís see what youíve got."
With a deep breath, Lizzie put in her CD-ROM disc, and started to tap away at the computer screen. A moment later, she turned, her finger positioned right over the start button. "Now, this might not be as good as what I can do at home, but youíll get the idea. Normally I use my own emitters that Iíve done some work on to improve. Here goes nothing," she finished, and pressed the button.
The empty room changed suddenly from a quiet empty place, to a noisy and crowded bar. Richelle and Tony were visibly surprised, and each stepped back in wonder. Lizzie bit her lip, going over to a table and lightly touched a glass. Amazingly, it reacted to her touch and rocked slightly. Surprised herself, she picked it up, and handed it to Richelle. "Youíve got some really top of the line equipment here. I didnít think that it would work without my improvements."
"Actually," Tony said as he watched the researcher play with the holographic glass in her hands, "They all have your improvements. You know that week you visited your parents in Belfast? I took one of your emitters and had them copy the changes to use here." He shrugged, "I didnít think you would mind too much."
Lizzie opened her mouth, almost ready to object, but frowned as she watched Richelle take the glass and smash it on the table. The people around the bar turned to look, but then returned to their conversations. Taking a piece of the glass, Richelle ran it across her finger. She tried again when it did not do any damage, but it still did not cut her skin. "I guess it only feels sharp, then?"
"Yes," Lizzie replied. "None of the holograms could actually do any physical changes to a real object." She grimaced then, watching, as Richelle looked almost disappointed. "I hope you werenít wanting more, because it would be almost impossible for anyone to develop dangerous holograms." She twitched at her lie, knowing that what she said wasnít true. But for now, that was all they had to know.
Tony placed a hand on Lizzieís shoulder, "No, what youíve got here is all I think we need."
"Close enough anyway," Richelle mumbled, her eyes distant as she watched the bartender go about his job. "Now, if you would shut this program down, weíll get on with the rest of the tour."
With a single word, Lizzie turned off the hologram, and collected up her disc. Then Richelle left the room, leaving Tony to tag behind with Lizzie. "She didnít seem too pleased," the young woman commented.
"She was very pleased," Tony replied, "At least I think so. Itís just that she has to do a full report and so canít look too excited about it." He ushered Lizzie out into the hallway where the researcher had disappeared. "Anyway, letís not think about it right now, I have more to show you."
Stretched out amongst the trees sat a woman letting the sun hit her pale white skin. She was smiling, her eyes closed to the bright blue sky. It had been a long time since she had stolen away from the dark library, too long in her opinion. This was where she felt most comfortable, and this was the place where all her problems seemed to disappear into the trees. Most of the time she could come here and not have a care in the world, until a prick started at the base of her spine. It continued up her back and then a harsh throbbing resonated in her head, until her eyes popped open. She heard a twig snap nearby, that she hardly had time to scramble from her place in the sun to the underbrush.
"Are you out here, Richelle?" A maleís voice came. He appeared from between two flowering bushes, his eyes scanning the woods. Adam Pierson called again, "Richelle!"
The woman lifted an eyebrow, and peeked out from hiding. "Adam?"
"Good grief girl, do you mean to get yourself caught?" Pierson came over to where she was sitting in the trees, and squatted down. "You know that itís not safe out in the woods."
Richelle frowned, and pushed a hand into him, knocking Adam on his butt. She scrambled past him and stood up in the sunshine. "I couldnít be caught up in that place any longer. This immortal was not meant to live in a library, thank you very much."
Adam stood, brushing off his bottom, and then glancing around wearily. "Give you one taste of outdoor life and you want more." He sighed, glancing up towards the sunshine for a moment, and then back at his companion. "Itís dangerous to be out here. You could get caught."
"No, I donít think so." Richelle said to him, brushing herself off as well. "But Iím willing to take the risk so long as I donít have to go another month without sunshine!" She raised her arms around her like a sun worshipper and smiled brightly. Her once creamy skin was now ghostly pale and her blond hair had gone almost brown. "Maybe you and the others want to stay in that dusty place, but Iíve got toÖ"
Carefully placing a finger on Richelleís lips, Adam shook his head slowly. "I suppose no one is going to come looking here. But I was worried when you didnít show up to the meeting."
"Ugg," Richelle said to the word meeting. Thatís all she did was go to this meeting and that meeting, never having a moment to herself. "All the meetings now days are about whatís been accomplished in the holograms. Iím tired of listening to Miss Teller this and Lizzie that. Sometimes I think the Watchers care more about a profit then they do whatís happening to the Immortals."
Pierson shook his head and slowly sat down onto the grass. He pulled Richelle down with him. "Are you worried about whatís going to happen to us, or is it more that youíre jealous of Lizzie?"
"Iím not jealous," Richelle snapped at him in her defense. "But Iím worried that weíre putting all our hopes on her holograms and not making a plan B." She slumped against him. "You have become so soft in your old age, not worrying nearly as much as you used to when I first met you."
Taking a hand to her face, Adam turned her to look at him. "I have had some softening thanks to someone I know. But I havenít forgotten what weíre here for." He shook his head after a moment, and looked up into the trees. "And I havenít ignored your comments you keep leaving on my computer."
"Is anyone even thinking that this might be a bad idea?" Richelle said, placing a hand on his knee. "Putting all of our hopes on one computer nerdÖ"
Adam shook his head, "The Watchers are counting on her more then I am, you know that. And every free Immortal in this compound knows that we can only rely on ourselves." He sighed, "Weíd better get back inside before someone comes looking for us."
Lizzie rubbed the back of her neck with a hand. Her red hair fell around her shoulders as she stretched, then glanced over her shoulder. There was a man behind her. He had been watching the act, and wasnít afraid of letting her know it. Lizzie blushed, and looked back at her computer screen. "Iíll be with you in just a moment," she said to the man, running a hand through her hair. "I just have to finish up one thing here."
"You donít have to," the man said slowly, "Iíll only be a minute." His fingers played on her shoulder, and Lizzie turned to look at him, startled. "Iím sorry," he said, taking a step back, he shook his head sadly. "Itís just that you remind me a lot of someone I used to know."
"And who was that?" Lizzie asked, her arms folded over her chest. "And who are you?"
The man ran a hand through his hair, caught off guard. "My name is Ryan, I work over in research. The person I used to know doesnít concern you." He looked away a moment, and then sighed, "Iím sorry, but Adam Pierson sent me over here to see if you would join him tonight in the atrium for dinner."
"Tell him Iíd love to," she replied, "As long as you wonít be there."
Ryan shook his head, "No, I wonít be there. And if youíll excuse me, Iíll leave you alone." He turned, mumbling under his breath, and left the computer laboratory. "Oh great, what a wonderful first impression," he told himself. "Well, at least she didnít recognize me and run away."
"Which is quite amazing in itself," Richelle mumbled in a doorway nearby. She came out from the room and fell in step with Ryan on his way to the elevators. "Why were you over here, anyway?"
"It was Methosís idea for me to come over here," Ryan snapped at her. "He wanted to see if she knew anything about our kind at all. If she had, Iím sure she would have recognized me."
Richelle nodded, stepping into an open elevator. "Itís been two weeks already?"
"Yes," Ryan answered. "So I guess sheís going to be around awhile." He chuckled, "And youíre going to have to hold your temper around her."
Rolling her eyes, Richelle pressed a floor button, "She seems to hold every Watcher in the palm of her hand." She squinted at Ryan, "Including you, it looks like."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I saw the way you looked at her. You think sheís cute, donít you?" Richelle laughed when Ryan didnít say anything. "Itís okay you know, itís not like you are married anymore."
Ryan shot her a dark look, frowning at any hint of his wife. "Iíll never love anyone else," he mumbled, and turned his attention from his friend.
"Do you really love me, Ryan?" Sarah asked him as she ran a soft finger along his cheek. The Immortal turned a light shade of pink, just as he had when he was younger. The young woman smiled at him, and took his hand in her own. "Youíve been so preoccupied lately, I never know whether youíre just saying the words or really mean them."
Ryan LaPorte watched his fiancťe for a moment, looking at her lovely blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. "Of course I love you," he responded after a moment. "Itís just that I have been preoccupied. There is so much going on right now, and I donít think it would be safe for us to get married unless some of them get resolved."
"What can you do?" Sarah scoffed. "One Immortal against the world?"
Fearful of her response, Ryan placed a finger lightly on her lips. "I canít stay here and do nothing, Sarah. You should know me by now. Besides, if I do nothing, then what will happen to you?"
Sarahís blue eyes turned away from him and down towards the floor. Then she set a determined expression on her face as she looked back up. "Nothing will happen to me. Iím mortal remember? Besides, only bounty hunters have any use for Immortals right now." She pulled away from him and went over to the plate glass window overlooking the New York skyline. Far below there could have been millions of people looking for Ryan, if only they knew he was there. The reward for him alone was worth a million dollars. Sarah licked her lips, "Imagine what I could do with the money that would come from bounty hunting."
Frowning, Ryan grabbed her shoulders and pulled her from the window. "Do you think Iím so bad to you that you would turn me in for the slaughter? If you do then I must have never known you at all."
A glance towards the window, and Sarah shook her head slowly. "I could never do anything like that to you. Itís just that, look what Iím giving up for you! At least you could pay a little bit of time with me. Marry me, thatís the least you could do."
"I will, as soon asÖ"
"Itís safe," Sarah spit out. "Itís never going to be any safer then now."
Ryan glanced out the window, then looked at the lovely woman standing in front of him. Perhaps she was right, maybe it would only become harder to do. Finally he nodded, "Okay. I will marry you, and weíll do it this evening. I know an Immortal who can do it, if youíre willing."
"Iím willing," Sarah remarked, and turned again to look out over the city below.
After a moment, Ryan LaPorte shook his head slowly, and pressed a button for a new floor. The elevator came to stop just seconds later, and he said never a word to Richelle as he left. She stood there; her arms crossed over her chest, sighing as she watched him disappear as the elevator doors closed. Eyes on the lighted panel above the door, she followed the process of going down past the first floor and into the first sub-basement. At the second basement, the elevator slowed, then opened upon a hall that looked vaguely like a military installation. The walls were solid cement, lit with long incandescent lamps that gave the hallway a dark foreboding look.
With a sigh, Richelle continued through the underground tunnel that led underneath the atrium and into the library in the research section of the building. The elevators on the west wing led into empty halls that would double back underground towards the east wing. Each passageway was an intricate defense against intrusion from outsiders. The passages were a pain to learn, but a necessity since the Watcher Corp started housing illegal Immortals.
Down the hallway, the tunnel led off to the right, and up a stairwell that opened into the main floor of the library itself. Watchers and Immortals alike were paging through the various chronicles, only the Immortals glancing up at her as she came in. Richelle nodded slowly and made a sharp left turn down another hall, and then into a small office, brightly lit with a floodlight. Without making a sound, she plopped into a chair across from the desk that was arranged in the middle of the room.
Anthony glanced up from his paperwork at his guest. "What brings you here today, Miss Scott?"
"Plan B," Richelle responded, tapping her fingers on an armchair.
"Weíre working on it," a voice beside her commented. Surprised, Richelle turned to look at Duncan MacLeod. He was leaning back in his chair, his arms crossed over his muscular chest. The Immortal was over five hundred years now, but looked not over the age of thirty-five. Duncan was always fit, ready for the enemy. Occasionally he looked a bit worn out from all the excitement, and this was one of those days.
"The Watchers never even talk about how the trials are going, and Iím getting anxious." Richelle said in a low, worried tone. "I never hear anything about it anymore, almost like theyíre trying to cover it up." She turned to look at Anthony, "Present company excepted of course, I know you would tell us anything you know."
"My grandfather would have made sure of it," Anthony nodded. "But the trials arenít in the public realm at this point, only those who are involved directly know anything, and they arenít talking."
Duncan nodded, "Iíve got everyone I can helping to crack the Tribune, but they arenít talking. I have a bad feeling about this."
"We all do," Anthony agreed. He shook his head, "If only I could get above the Tribune, to the company head..."
"But he sees no one," Richelle said. "And no one even knows who he is or what he looks like."
MacLeodís expression turned sour. "Iíve been trying to get that information too," he admitted. "But all I get are generic letters and secretaries and security guards." For a moment, the Highlander had a dark expression cloud his face, but then he shook it off, "It seems we have come to a dead end, no better off then if we had been captured with the others."
"No," Richelle corrected. "You know thatís not true, Duncan. We are much better out here then in a maximum-security prison. Iíve heard the stories from Ryan, and I for one rather stay locked up here then there."
Anthony clasped his hands together in front of him. He stared out towards the hall in deep thought, then moaned deeply. "Thereís something I overheard this afternoon," he started, glancing at the two Immortals.
"Go on," Duncan said darkly.
Richelle leaned over and touched Anthonyís shoulder, "What did you hear?"
Anthony nodded slowly, "Iím not even sure if itís true, which is why I havenít mentioned it before." He paused, staring out towards the hallway a moment, then continuing, "I heard something about a military force."
"I knew it," Richelle said, standing up. "No wonder the Watchers are trying so hard to get holograms that can do damage."
Duncan grabbed Richelleís arm, "Sit down." He looked over to Tony, "What else did you hear?"
"Thatís all," the Watcher admitted. "I have a feeling something big is going to go down really soon now, and thatís why the others are pushing for such a large army of holograms." He grimaced, "If my grandfather were here, heíd have known what to do."
"If Joe was still here," Richelle said, "Iím sure we wouldnít have gotten into this mess in the first place." She bit at her thumb. "Youíve got to get teams working on finding out more," she said to Tony and Duncan.
"Right away," Anthony nodded, looking at MacLeod. "But Iíll need your help enlisting a few of our more creative Immortals."
Duncan nodded, "That will be the easy part," he responded, and slipped out into the hall.
Turning to look at Richelle, Anthony frowned; she had disappeared as well. He sighed, and went back to his paperwork. "The hardest part is always seeking the truth," he mumbled finally.
Far in the back corner of the bar there was a woman in a slinky black dress. She sat curled up in one of the booths, sipping a glass of champagne. Her name was Amanda, and she was one of the oldest Immortals still around, and one of the most beautiful. Every man in the place would eye her from time to time, but they knew she was off-limits for any of their kind. So, it was up to looking, but no touching for all but the person she waited for.
She turned to look towards one of the other tables nearby, noticing that Connor MacLeod was sitting quietly alone. Amanda picked up her drink then, and wandered over to the table, giving up on the idea of waiting for her date. He would just have to wait. "Who are you waiting for?" She asked the eldest Highlander.
He turned to look at her slowly, his eyes on his drink for a half a second more, until they fell upon Amanda. She looked almost perky for some reason, a distinct difference from how Connor was feeling at the moment. His shoulders hunched over, one look at Amanda was enough, and he turned back to stare down at the table. "Iím not waiting for anyone," he said shortly.
Amanda frowned, her cute little lips pursed in such a way that half the men in the place wanted to come over and see what was wrong. But they didnít dare to as she sat down next to the brooding Immortal. "Whatís your problem, Connor? All I wanted to know is if I could buy you a drink."
"All I want to be is left alone," Connor replied, downing his shot of whiskey and waving for the waitress to bring another. When the waitress had done so, he looked over his hunched shoulder at Amanda. "What are you still here for?"
"Iím worried about you," Amanda replied after a moment. She clicked into caring mode and brushed a hand over his forehead. Connor quickly swiped it away, and downed another shot. Setting on a determined face, Amanda pulled his next shot to the other side of the table, and threw it back without a second thought. Connor watched her curiously as she coughed once, but then set the shot down without a hesitation. "You will not go drinking away your sorrows in this bar, Connor. Now tell me whatís bugging you."
The Highlander decided at that moment that either he could do as Amanda said or would never be left alone, so he looked at her with his piercing eyes a moment longer. When she didnít even flinch, he sighed, "Iím tired of being locked up here when there are so many others that need to be taken care of. No one is out making sure the streets are safe."
"Oh," Amanda replied after a moment. "I forgot that you are Superman. Leaping Buicks in a single bound, stopping speeding Immortals with your sword, and all that jazz." She laughed at her own joke, kind of disappointed that it hadnít received much of a response from the man next to her. "Look, there are hundreds of people out there searching for those Immortals you feel you have a responsibility for. A lot of them might get killed, sure, but at least it isnít you or me. Those bounty hunters are still out there, searching."
"I did fine before," Connor replied sulking. "I knew I shouldnít have agreed to come hereÖ" he trailed off, his eyes snapping up to glance around the bar as another presence whipped its way through his brain. Amanda turned to look as well, but she was expecting someone, so it didnít effect her as much. When Connorís eyes fell on his kinsman, his head slumped down again.
Duncan came over as Amanda stood, looking at Connor curiously. "Whatís wrong with him?"
"Hero syndrome," Amanda said wittily. "He wants to go conquer the world with his sword and shield, battling againstÖ" she dropped into a deep voice, "The forces of darkness."
The younger Highlander chuckled, and slapped Connor on the back. This was turned back with a stare that could have fried eggs, but Duncan only smiled brighter. "Come now, Connor. Weíll have our time again. Youíll be back swashbuckling in no time." With a hand over his eye, Duncan did his best impersonation of a pirate, "Rrrrr, me matey. And weíll go get us some pirate treasure too."
Amanda laughed in spite of herself, and watched as slowly the corner of Connorís mouth pulled up in a rare smile. Then he laughed his slow, staccato laugh, shaking his head slowly. He stood after a moment, "Pardon me, Red Beard, but I must be off." He wandered out of the bar slightly tipsy.
Still chuckling from how ridiculous he must have looked, Duncan pulled Amanda towards the table she had been sitting only minutes before. They always sat at the same table, so it wasnít hard for him to find. When they got comfortable, Amanda with her legs draped over Duncanís lap, she asked him, "So, whatís the word on the street?"
"We need to do a little breaking and entering," Duncan said almost seductively in her ear. Goosebumps rose over Amandaís body as if he had suggested doing something a little more sexual. When he continued, she almost burst into joy, "And I need you to help me to steal a few pieces of information."
Clapping her hands together with excitement, Amanda kissed Duncan on the cheek. "Oh you sure do know how to drive a woman wild, donít you?" She ran her fingers through his dark hair, and whispered in his ear, "So, where are we going to do the dirty little deed?"
Duncan grinned, whispering back, "Upstairs in the Tribuneís suites."
"No way," Amanda said suddenly, practically falling off the seat onto the floor as she scrambled to stand up. "There is no way in hell that Iím going toÖ" Duncan pulled her back down and placed a hand over her mouth.
Leaning over to her ear again, he continued, "Whatever happened to your sense of adventure?"
"Can you say death sentence?" Amanda hissed back at him. She glanced nervously around the bar, hoping that no one was able to overhear their conversation. She knew the room was probably under surveillance anyway. Calmer this time, she continued. "There is no way to get in there, and I wouldnít even try it because if I did and got caughtÖ Watchers know our one weakness," she finished.
"So will the bounty hunters and the government if they break in here," Duncan countered. "And Iíd rather take my chances with the Watchers." He slowly played a finger over Amandaís cheek, "Just imagine the ultimate break in, even more dangerous and impossible then the maximum security prison."
Amanda looked sentimental, "That was one of my finest feats," she said dreamily. Then she snapped back to the present and said, "But that was hardly impossible. Breaking in upstairs will be impossible, the place is impenetrable, with eye scanners and heat sensors, itís like trying to break into the future."
Curious, Duncan raised an eyebrow, "What are you saying?"
"Iím saying," Amanda said slowly and quietly, "That Iíve tried it before, and itís not going to happen. Not unless I had one of the Tribune members themselves with me."
"We might just be able to do that," Duncan said suddenly, making Amanda turn to look at him incredulously.
Duncan kissed her on the cheek, "You are a genius, you know that. A regular genius. Get one of the Tribune to go with usÖ" He stood up from the table and grabbed Amanda by the wrist. "I canít believe no one thought of that before!" Then he pulled Amanda out of the bar on a mission.
"Woah there," Richelle said as she practically got knocked over by Duncan and Amanda on their way to the elevator. She backed up against the wall, looking carefully to make sure that no one else was going to trample her. When everything was safe, she sighed, and continued on her way down towards the atrium. "Wonder where they were off to in such a hurry," Richelle mumbled to herself.
Turning the corner, the atrium opened out in front of her, Richelle smiled faintly. It was getting late, so most of the song birds had found their homes in the trees, so all that could be heard was the rushing of the fans high above, and the sound of water in the distance. It was peaceful in Watcher Corp, at least for the moment; Richelle mused as she walked along the empty path.
The back wall of the building was glass, opening out to look over the forest. Sometimes at night it looked as if the trees continued outside, and that there wasnít a wall dividing the inside from the outside. It was here that Richelle enjoyed her strolls when she couldnít sneak away. Right along the glass panes, she ran her fingers against the cool smooth surface, walking to find her favorite spot amongst the trees. When the feeling of another Immortal came over her, she stopped, looking for where the other might be. It was probably useless, being wary of others in this place, seeing that no one had tried to kill her for nearly ten years. But as Duncan told her, most likely it was for her own good, just in case.
"Is that you, Ricki?" A voice came through the trees, and recognizing it, Richelle continued on her walk. When she came past one particularly thick area of shrubs, the other Immortal was sitting down in the little grove, wistfully looking out the windows. Ryan looked up at her as she came close. "I thought I might find you here tonight."
"Well, I come here just about every night, so why not?" Richelle responded, coming over to sit next to him. "But itís not every night that I find Iím going to have company. Whatís the occasion?"
Ryan glanced at her a moment, then looked out towards the forest. "Oh, I just thought that Iíd keep you company since Methos is having supper with someone else this evening."
Richelle nodded slowly, "Yeah, I know about it. He wanted to get the remaining paperwork finished for Lizzie to come on full time." She pulled her long braid around her shoulder and started playing with the end. "Itís strictly business, so what would I care?"
"You think itís only for business?" Ryan scoffed. "It didnít look that way when I was watching them laughing over at the restaurant a little while ago." He watched as Richelle gave him a dirty look, and then he shrugged. "You know, itís not like you two are married or anything. Heís free to do whatever he wants."
Lifting an eyebrow, Richelle asked, "So why is it so important that you come over here and tell me all of this?"
"Oh, I just thought youíd be interested that the pixie is stealing your man," Ryan smirked, knowing that was just the thing to get on his friendís nerves. "And that I was thinking that I might take this opportunity toÖ"
"Shh," Richelle hissed at him suddenly. She scrambled into the bushes, dragging Ryan with her. The Immortal started to complain, but Richelle calmed him, "Be quiet, I think I just saw someone outside in the forest."
Ryan frowned, looking hard outside; "I donít see anything."
"Well, I did," his friend countered. For a moment she was silent, searching, then she pointed. "There, over by that small stand of trees. Do you see it?"
This time, Ryan nodded slowly. "I see it," he said regretfully. "It looks like a bounty hunter."
Out through the woods, a man dressed all in black, the sword strapped to his back glinting in the evening light, came slowly towards the building. Richelle and Ryan inched back deeper into the thick shrubs. "What are we going to do?" Richelle whispered to her friend. "I havenít even carried a sword for seven years!"
"Good grief," Ryan scoffed. He brought forth his katana out of thin air, and shook his head, "You should be using this time to practice, and hone your skills for the time when we get back to playing the Game." He waved a hand for her to get behind him. "The double glass should hold him for sometime if he tries blasting through it. But in the meantime, youíve got to get help. Call security, but stay low."
Richelle nodded, "Donít lose your head," she whispered, and left Ryan in the trees. Creeping slowly, Richelle made it out to one of the other paths. Keeping her head low, she glanced back towards the window, the bounty hunter was getting closer now; Richelle could see him in the light of the atrium. Holding her breath, she broke into a run, scrambling through the paths, even as an explosion rocked the building.
A hundred panes of glass shattered instantly, bursting out into the atrium. A foot-long shard flew past Richelle, wedging itself in a tree only six inches away. She swallowed, and ran faster this time, screaming, "Bounty hunter!"
Nearby, the residents of the atrium started to flee; tropical birds burst from the trees as the bounty hunter hailed his entrance with gunfire. Scrambling towards the nearest emergency phone, Richelle pawed at the dial, trying to call security. There was no signal on the phone; even the inside line was dead. Swearing under her breath, she glanced over her shoulder, knowing that she shouldnít have left Ryan alone. He was a trained fighter, but two against one might have been better odds. "No time now," she said to herself, and started running again.
The sudden presence of other Immortals barraged her senses, and Richelle found herself stumbling into MacLeod and Keane. Steven grabbed her by the shoulder as she ran past, stopped her. "What happened? Whatís going on?"
"Bounty hunter," Richelle choked out. "Had a some kind of explosive device." She swallowed her breath, and yelped, "Ryanís there, youíve got to go help him!"
Connor nodded, "Thatís what weíre here for." He and Steven disappeared down the path towards where the bounty hunter continued to chew up the trees with bullets. "Get the others," the eldest Highlander said just before he was completely out of sight.
Richelle nodded weakly. "The others, Iíll get themÖ" she started to run again, but then stopped, heaving for breath. "Man, I am going to have to start working out. Seven years is just too long of a time out." After a moment she had regained her breath, and continued into the main building to find help.
The explosion had rocked the far side of the building, knocking Lizzie out of her chair and onto the floor. Adam Pierson scrambled out of his own chair, and helped her sit up right, his brain yelling at him to be careful. Eyes scanning the restaurant, he watched as the other Immortals around pulled their swords from hiding, and ran from the room towards the commotion outside. Adam glanced around frantically for an alternate exit, pulling Lizzie along as he headed towards the kitchen. "Come on, weíve got to get out of here."
"What happened? What was that?" Lizzie asked in a panic. Her heart was pounding a million miles an hour, and her skin was stark white. She followed Adam out of the restaurant and past startled chefs who were trying to put out a fire that had been started. "Where are we going?" Lizzie continued to ask her questions as Adam lead her out into a back hallway.
"I donít know whatís happening," Adam admitted, "But weíve got to get you out of here." He pulled her past fleeing Immortals and Watchers, some holding weapons as they disappeared through doorways leading to the atrium.
Lizzie nodded to herself, trying not to panic. Maybe something had happened in one of the development rooms. Experiments were known to backfire from time to time, werenít they? Being pulled along by Mr. Pierson so hurriedly, she wondered if it were something so simple. He seemed to want her to get out of the building altogether. Doing so practically got her ran over a few times by people with guns going in the opposite direction they were headed. It startled Lizzie into grabbing Adamís arm with both hands and holding on for dear life.
Soon enough, they had come to a door marked ĎExití and Adam pushed it open into the dark night. He cautiously peered out, and then pulled Lizzie out with him. "Come on," he said, and pulled her out into the forest.
In the distance, there were sounds of more explosions and gunfire, and clinging tightly to Adam, Lizzie felt that it all must have been some grim dream. There was just no way that the peaceful Watcher Corp could become a war zone. But as she turned her head towards the building, she saw smoke and flames, and people running for cover screaming. For some reason though, no one went to their cars to leave, they all ran into the woods and disappeared. Lizzie ducked a tree branch as her guide was leading her the same way as the others.
Suddenly, in the midst of the oaks and maples, a small building appeared. The escapees from the Watcher Corp were entering the building like clowns into a circus car. For some reason, even though the building looked no bigger then an outhouse, people still poured in. Before she knew it, Lizzie was being pushed into the little building and down a winding stairway into the dark. She turned to say something to Adam, but he had disappeared back into the woods. Someone grabbed her shoulder and guided her down into the ground to safety.
Through a winding hall, what seemed like hundreds of people seethed like snakes down towards a center room. When the hall had opened up, Lizzie was shocked at the enormous size of an underground nuclear shelter. Nervous people were all around her, whispering, yelling, wondering what was going on. Lizzie found herself talking with some man nearby, asking him where she was. "You must be new," he replied. "But in case of emergency, this is our shelter." Then he turned, shouting towards a woman nearby, who came and embraced him.
Lizzie bit her lip as she looked around for anyone she knew, and suddenly realized that what Adam was saying earlier must have been true. When she signed on permanently with the Watcher Corp, it was not only a job, it was going to be her life, just as everyone else who was there. Lizzie wondered at that moment whether her signature had been the right choice after all.
Crouched low, holding his sword at the ready, Ryan kept a close watch upon the bounty hunter. The man was only about six-foot, and a hundred and fifty pounds. He had already set one explosion to come into the building, and had tossed a grenade into the recesses of the atrium, causing the inner sets of office windows to shatter and come crashing down. Luckily, the cuts Ryan had received from the first explosion had already healed, and he was ready to take out the hunter when the right moment showed itself.
There were other Immortals nearby, waiting for the right moment to stop the hunter. If they showed themselves right away, he might have been able to radio to someone else on the outside. So far it looked like there was only one of them, but that might change if they found that the Immortals really were there. The bounty hunter had to be taken out in one swift maneuver, without a chance to call for backup.
The security guards were already starting to collect nearby, unloading rounds from their guns towards the hunter. But the man was well armed himself, and fast, able to pick off each of the guards with sniper accuracy. He had yet to run out of ammo, which was disturbing to Ryan who could have sworn he should have reloaded three times by now.
Slowly, Ryan came up behind the hunter, his katana was ready to make one fast pass and cut the intruder into two. Something stopped him though, a feeling that pricked his brain, and he turned to watch as Connor MacLeod and Steven Keane came into sight. Ryan nodded towards them, and each Immortal went off in another direction. They would try to surround him, and take him out when he stopped to reload.
A split second later, the bounty hunter turned, a grin spread on his face. Ryan suddenly realized his mistake of getting so close as he saw that the intruder had heat sensitive goggles on. Swallowing, he dodged behind a tree, as a spray of bullets nearly ripped through him. The bounty hunter finally threw down his automatics, and pulled his sword from his back strap. Breathing hard, Ryan closed his eyes a moment, and then turned to face the hunter.
Laughing suddenly, the hunter threw off his goggles, and came towards Ryan with the ferocity of an Immortal with a vengeance. Raising his katana, Ryan made ready to guard himself from attack, but suddenly the hunterís eyes bulged out from his head, as a bullet ripped through his brain. The bounty hunter toppled to his knees, and then fell to his side, the bullet having gone through one ear and out the other.
A breath passed through Ryanís lips then, realizing that the terror had been brought to justice, and he glanced towards the gunman who had killed the hunter. Ten feet away, Methos relaxed from his firing stance, and came over to Ryan. "Are you okay?"
"Now," Ryan sighed, looking at the dead hunter. He glanced back at Methos, "That was quite a shot there."
Methos nodded, "Lucky shot actually. I havenít used a gun in nine years." His head snapped up after a moment though, as the guards came running over. They surrounded the bounty hunter until Methos pointed out towards the woods. "Better surround the premises, search the woods to see if there are any more with him." The guards nodded and disappeared through the trees. Methos knelt down and started to search through the hunterís possessions, surprised when he didnít find a radio. "Looks like he wasnít in contact with anyone else."
"How the hell did he break through the security?" Connor yelled as he came over. He looked down towards the hunter, frowning, as he didnít recognize that manís face. "Strange, I donít remember seeing his face on the listing of bounty hunters."
Ryan shook his head, "Must be someone new."
"Maybe," Methos said darkly, his eyes squinting into slits as he searched the hunterís wrists. When he found what he was looking for, he lifted the manís hand to show the others. "Watcher," he intoned, standing up. "He looked familiar to me. Heís one of ours."
"But why?" Someone said behind them. The three Immortals turned to watch as Richelle came out of the trees. She glanced down at the man half-disgusted, and then turned to look out the windows. "Why would one of our Watchers risk himself to come in here and destroy half the building?"
The other Immortals didnít have an answer, they just watched as the blood seeped out of the manís head. Finally, Ryan shook his head; "It was almost like this all was just a game to him, the way he laughed as he saw me. Iím telling you it was spooky."
"Not as spooky as that," Connor replied suddenly, pointing down to the dead man. The body was flickering. One moment it looked like a real man, then the next it was clear, until suddenly the body disappeared altogether.
"Hologram," Methos and Richelle said at the same time. They looked at each other, then to where the body was, but there was nothing left of him. "Now that takes the cake," Richelle said suddenly. "Because holograms arenít supposed to be dangerous, are they? Tell me that I was wrong because I could have sworn Lizzie said that it was impossible to make holograms that could kill."
"No, you heard right," Methos said under his breath. "Which means weíve got a serious problem."
Early in the morning, people were taking count of the damages from the night before. Many of the people hadnít received any sleep that night; worried that another intrusion would have taken place at any moment. Employees that had their own homes had been sent there, leaving only the high security clearance personnel to figure out what had happened. All but one knew about the inner workings of the Watcher Corp, and she had been set down in a chair about an hour before, after being rescued from the underground shelter. Someone was with Lizzie at all times, but she did not recognize any of the men and women who had come and gone.
Wringing her hands, she glanced out the office window. Far off down in the atrium, she could see cleaning crews pulling glass fragments from the trees and others capturing the tropical birds into cages. Biting her lip, she turned to watch as the office door opened again, this time revealing Anthony.
Lizzie, relieved to see her friend all right, stood up and came over to embrace him. He took the hug, but then had her sit back down in the chair as he excused the man who was in the room. After the door had closed, he pulled over a chair to sit next to her.
"Elizabeth," he started, holding one of her hands in his own. "There are going to be some other people you donít know asking you questions in a few minutes. Something happened last night that we need to get to the bottom of, and Iím sorry to say that you are one of the suspects."
Swallowing, Lizzie shook her head, "I donít know what youíre talking about." She turned her head towards the window; "I was with Mr. Pierson last night having dinner when I heard an explosion. And then the next time I knew I was being shoved down into this underground shelter with a couple hundred other people. Then hours later we were taken out, and I was led here." She looked back to Anthony; "I donít even know what happened last night."
With a sigh, Tony nodded, "I know you donít. Thereís only one problem though, it was a hologram who did all this. We had witnesses who watched him kill five security guards in only a matter of seconds, and then fall dead when he was shot in the head. It all looked exactly like he was a real human, until he just disappeared in front of everyoneís eyes." He reached into his coat pocket then, and pulled a plastic bag from it. "All was left was this tiny hologram emitter. It must have short circuited when the bullet went through his head."
Lizzie took a hold of the plastic bag, peering at the little object inside. It was only about the size of a half-dollar, and had a good size chunk destroyed off of one side. She was in awe of the handy-work it must have taken to build such a creation, and she made it known to Tony that she could never build it. "Something this small," she paused, handing it back, "Is something beyond my knowledge."
"Well, I believe you," Anthony replied, tucking the bag back into his coat. "But there is only one problem, because you said yourself that holograms couldnít be made to kill people, and this one did." He looked straight into her green eyes, "Isnít that right?"
Slowly, Lizzie shook her head, "I lied," she said after a moment. Then she took a breath, "I was sure that I was the only person who had ever been able to create such a powerful hologram system. And even then it was a mistake on my part that I wasnít able to figure out how to duplicate. Thatís why I said it was impossible, I had only been able to do it once, and since then, itís always failed." She grabbed Tonyís other hand with her own, "Iím sorry I lied Anthony. But youíve got to believe me, I wasnít responsible for any of what happened."
Tony nodded, "I believe you," he said comfortingly. "But from now on youíve got to tell us the truth, okay? When the others come in here, youíve got to tell them everything you know, cooperate completely, all right?"
"Yes, yes of course," Lizzie replied truthfully. She watched as Anthony started to stand, and then held onto his hand. He turned, as she said, "Just one thing before you leave."
"What is it?"
Lizzie glanced towards the windows a moment, then back at him. "Last night, when Mr. Pierson was taking me from the building, I saw people with swords. Why did they have swords, Anthony?"
Anthony looked worried a moment, but then he shook his head, "Because they are Immortals, Elizabeth. I know you didnít believe the rumors on the WIN, but Immortals arenít just conspiracy theories, they are flesh and blood." He squeezed her hand, and then released it. "But it is important that no one else finds out, so donít say a word of this to anyone, okay?"
"Yes, okay," Lizzie replied, and then watched him leave the room, her head spinning from the information he had just given her. "I canít believe it," she said to herself, then her head snapped up. "I wonder if there are aliens too?"
From far below the office, Duncan MacLeod walked along the inner wall of the building. He stayed far enough away from the cleaning crews that still had a major job ahead of them. He had only heard the blast from far inside the development wing, and by the time he and Amanda made it out, the deed had been done. Now, seeing what had happened in the light, he was even surer that the plan in his head would work. Duncan turned down towards the elevators, and took one up to the offices overlooking the atrium, and found he felt another Immortal almost immediately as the doors opened.
Taking out his sword, he slowly walked down the hall, and turned abruptly into an open doorway. His katana hit that of another that was just about as old, and the metal rang. When Duncan found out who it was, he dropped his sword, shaking his head. "Ryan, what are you doing here?"
The younger Immortal dropped his sword, and sighed. "I was about to ask you the same question. But since you asked first, Iíll tell you." He walked over to the windows, where he had been standing, and picked up a pair of discarded binoculars. Once he had handed them to Duncan, he pointed, "Straight across to the offices on the other side they are questioning that new girl."
Duncan raised the binoculars to his eyes, and saw clearly three Watchers, and even one Tribune member, standing around her. One of them looked to be almost yelling, and ever so often, Lizzie would say something in return. Duncan brought the binoculars to look around the rest of the room, and found that Richelle and Methos were standing off in the back corner, watching. MacLeod lowered the binoculars and handed them back to Ryan. "It looks like theyíre vultures just trying to find a good reason to eat her," he said slowly.
"Theyíve been doing that for the last hour," Ryan said, looking at the office through the binoculars now. "Iíve been keeping an eye on them. Methos told me before he and Ricki left for the room that they held her as the number one suspect."
Leaning against the desk in the office, Duncan sighed, "Thatís no good."
Ryan turned, "What do you mean? She wasnít exactly a grade A personality, if you know what I mean. Maybe she was the one who did it."
"No, I donít think it was her," MacLeod said after a moment. "Iím a pretty good judge of character, and she didnít come over to me like someone who was trying to kill us all."
"Maybe she was just testing out her toys," Ryan replied. "Who knows, besides, it wonít harm us any if one more person who knows us is taken out of the equation." He turned to look out the window again, but then stopped. "But for some reason, I believe you Mac, just because Iíve been around too long not to. So, why is she so important?"
Duncan took a breath, "I think she can help us break into the Tribune offices."
"Youíre kidding," Ryan said skeptically. "How?"
"Amanda herself said that the only way we could get in there is if we have one of the Tribune with us," Duncan explained. "So I say, why not?"
LaPorte frowned for a moment, then as he glanced towards the office where Lizzie was he made the connection. "A hologram."
"Exactly," MacLeod agreed. "Miss Teller over there is a clear mind, she doesnít know about the Immortals, at least she didnít when she came here, so I doubt sheíd mind helping us out. As long as we were convincing enough." He watched as the gears started to grind in Ryanís head, then added, "She makes us a hologram, and we find out what the Watchers are hiding. Or the Watchers get rid of her, and weíll have to go back to the drawing board."
Ryan clenched his jaw, glanced towards the far offices, and then nodded, "Weíd better get over there before they decide sheís the one who destroyed their lovely garden."
"Itís just a beginning," Methos said as he walked through the long rows of books. Connor was keeping pace behind the older Immortal, nodding as he did. "Someone sends a warning message, telling us that they know we are in here. Years ago they would have started smaller, but in a company this size, a smaller message might have gotten lost in paper work. Destroying the back wall of our building was just a start."
Connor gritted his teeth, remembering that only forty-two hours before his kinsman had told him the action would be starting up again. "If this was just a warning, then we should be getting ready for full scale warfare," Connor replied. He followed Methos down one row of books, and turned the corner towards the back row of the library. The older Immortal pushed aside one of the bookshelves, and went down into the underground cavern below the library.
"Thatís why," Methos said, turning a moment to make sure that the hidden door had locked, "Amanda and Duncan are breaking into the Tribune offices tonight." He continued down a stairway, into the underground bunker. The whole area had been used one time as a military installation, only being built on by the Watchers some hundred years later.
Now, the hall was wide enough that Connor could fall into step with his comrade. "What are they planning on finding out? That the Watchers have been against us all along?" He hated to even think about it, but Connor had never been very found of the idea of someone keeping an eye on him at all times. It was just plain creepy.
Methos shook his head; "I donít think so. But I think they are biting off more then they can chew." He stopped a second, and so did Connor when they felt other Immortals, but then continued on around the corner into the large meeting room.
A hundred Immortals were situated around the room, sitting behind desks waiting for the speaker to arrive. Methos and Connor took their places in the first row, not speaking as Duncan entered the other side of the room. MacLeod came to sit beside his kinsman, "Have you heard what is going down tonight?"
Connor nodded, then watched as a few more of their kind wandered in. This meeting was for Immortals only, and like all meetings of this nature, it was a high security risk. There were only two mortal members there that evening, Anthony and Lizzie, sitting off to the side, feeling out of place. "I wonder who the speaker is going to be tonight," Tony whispered into Lizzieís ear. She shook her head slowly, not even knowing for sure why she was there. It startled her to think that all the other men and women in this room had lived centuries more then she had. The idea of Immortals still threw her mind into a spin.
Suddenly, the room went silent. All the Immortals turned in union as they felt the last of their freed kind. Anthony and Lizzie turned a moment later to the door, and watched as the Immortal made his way into the room, and up onto the podium. He took his customary seat as Anthony took in a breath. Lizzie frowned, "Who is that?"
Tony leaned over to her, "Matthew Carter, used to be and FBI agent."
"Oh," Lizzie responded, and then was quiet as the Immortal started.
"This meeting is being held under direct request by the Highlander there, to inform everyone what is going to be happening tonight," he paused, nodding to Duncan. "Apparently, he and Amanda are going to break into the Tribune offices in order to find out what the Watchers are keeping from us."
There was a stir of excitement through the crowd, and someone called out, "And just how are you going to do that?"
Duncan stood then, turned to face the others; "With the technology they are so proud of, a hologram."
"If an Immortal canít get in, then how can some hologram?" Someone called out.
Carter raised his hands, "Now hold on there a moment. Weíre all working together here, we donít need any skepticism." He waved that Duncan be seated, and looked over to Anthony and Lizzie. "I know you have all heard about the protťgť in our midst, Miss Teller. She has designed a hologram that I think you all should see." He held out a hand towards Lizzie, who reluctantly stood, and came up to the podium. "Now, why donít you show these folks your little friend?"
Lizzie nodded, and pulled a hologram emitter from her bag. She set it down on the table, and keyed in a few commands to a remote control. Suddenly and brilliantly, a man appeared near her, startling many of the Immortals who had not been able to see the technology at work before. What surprised many, was that he looked exactly like one of the Tribune members, right down to the way he posed himself. For a long moment, the holographic man stood there, and Lizzie glanced over to Carter.
"Thatís find there," the head of the room said, finding the eyes of the hologram on him suddenly. "Why hello there, Mr. Stanton."
"Matthew Carter, I should have known you would be at the bottom of this little meeting," the hologram replied. The sound of his voice spooked one of the Immortals into drawing his sword, thinking at first that it was the real Stanton. But then the hologram flickered, and Lizzie frowned, tapping the controls.
Lizzie moaned as the hologram disappeared completely. "Iím sorry," she apologized, working at getting the hologram back online. It flickered back to life, and Lizzie sighed. "Iím just learning the technology of a portable emitter."
"Sure you are," Stanton said to her, turning and pointing his finger at her. "You were the one, werenít you, who destroyed our building? Mr. Stuart already told us that you admitted lying that a hologram couldnít be dangerous."
"I already told you," Lizzie replied, getting into the act, "That I didnít do it." She came up to him and slapped him on the cheek. The hologram flickered a second and then he drew a gun. "Woah," Lizzie raised her hands up. "I wasnít the one, but I can tell you who did."
The Immortals in the room held their breaths as the drama played out. Stanton frowned deeply, "Who was it?"
"It was him!" Lizzie pointed suddenly at Ryan, and Stantonís gun went off. A bullet hit LaPorte in the arm, and he flinched with pain. Every Immortal around him backed off in terror as Lizzie shut the emitter off. She dashed over to Ryan, checking his arm. The bullet had disappeared with Stanton, and the wound was already healing. Lizzie bit her lip, "Iím sorry to do that."
"I say it was real enough to work," Carter said then, causing Lizzie to turn suddenly and leave Ryan to heal. She made a mental note to make it up to him later, and put her hologram emitter back in her bag. Then she went to sit back down as the speaker continued. "If this works, then we shall hold another meeting like this tomorrow. If it does not," he paused, "Letís just hope it does not fail." He nodded towards the others, and left the meeting room. Slowly the Immortals started to stand and leave.
Sitting quietly, holding her bag tightly to her, Lizzie watched as three Immortals headed over to her. She bit her lip as she noticed one of them was Ryan, a bloodstain still fresh on his shirt. Duncan and Amanda were the other two, to which she handed the mobile emitter. "I got enough of the real thing that I could probably fool his wife," Lizzie explained to them. "Hopefully Iíve toned it down so that heíll cooperate with you both. If not, thereís a button on the side as Iíve shown you that will make him a mindless drone if needs be."
"I think it will work," Amanda said as she pulled the bag strap over her shoulder. She glanced over to Ryan, and pulled Duncan away towards their task.
Lizzie glanced around, feeling slightly awkward at what she had done, and bit her lip again. Finally she glanced up to Ryan, "Look, Iím really sorry about that bullet and all. You were sort of the first person I saw, and I had a feeling you might not take it as personally as any of the others would. Since I didnít know them and all." She stopped, feeling like she said too much, then added, "And I really sort of wanted to see if everything they said about you Immortals was really true. That you heal fast and all, and you were sort of in the front row."
"Always the easy target," Ryan intoned. He chuckled, "Forget about it. Itís not the first time Iíve been shot by someone who was pissed at me. In fact, Iím getting down right used to it." The Immortal shook his head, then let his eyes fall on Lizzie starkly enough that she backed away a step. "But why do you have such a thing out for me anyway? I know I didnít make the best first impression, but that was no reason to send an angry hologram after me."
"Iím sorry," she repeated, "IÖ Oh never mind." Lizzie shook her head and dashed out the nearest door, leaving Ryan standing baffled all alone.
Finally he just shrugged, "Oh well."
It was late at night as Lizzie strolled past the hologram rooms heading out for the evening. She had been given a room in the Watcher Corp, but still she wanted to go home for the night. It felt safer there somehow, especially when she knew that just the night before the Immortals had managed breaking into the Tribune offices. Lizzie knew that if the Watchers ever found out, she would be nailed as an accomplice, and it bugged her. In fact, a lot of things had bugged her since she had found out about the Immortals. It scared her and thrilled her all at once, and the fact that Anthony was in on it even deeper then she was gave her a feeling of security.
She shook her head as she sighed, thinking about Anthony, and then her thoughts turning to Mr. Pierson. He was so handsome and treated her so kindly. It shocked her to know that Ryan was such a good friend to him, and it made her wonder if her first impression of him had been incorrect. He was nice, to a point, though like all the Immortals, Ryan had a bit of mistrust and hidden emotions within him.
Yawning, Lizzie glanced from one computer panel to another as she did her final rounds of the floor for the evening. They should have been all off, and most of them were, except for the largest room that was near the elevators. Frowning, Lizzie went over and tapped a few commands into the panel, trying to figure out why the program was still running. "Why am I always stuck doing this?" She wondered, and pushed the door open.
Walking into the room, suddenly she was transported into her bar. It was the one she had programmed quite a long time ago, only it had been so long that the place was a bit strange to her. There had been changes, Lizzie realized, as she looked at the bartender, who was now an older man with a salt and pepper beard. Before, he had been younger, and looked like an actor who had played in a classic movie called "Cocktail." Frowning, she continued to look around at the changes, seeing less of her holograms and more real people who would glance her way from time to time.
Someone from the bar turned to look at her as she came over, and he smiled as she sat down. "Why hello there, Lizzie."
Lizzie looked at him startled, "Hello Mr. Pierson," she responded. He had never called her by her nickname before. "What is everyone doing here?"
"Call me Adam," he amended, and replied, "Weíre celebrating our victory." Adam took a drink from his beer, and turned on his barstool. "After Mac was successful getting the information we needed, everyone decided it would be best to have sort of a victory party, and a farewell party."
"A farewell?" Lizzie wondered solemnly. She hadnít heard anything about the results of the break in, knowing that she would be told only if it concerned her. Just as all the other Immortals, Lizzie had been told to go about her days without a change in pattern. "What did you find out? I mean, if itís okay to tell me."
Adam nodded, "We found out weíre going to have to get out of here really soon. Thereís a war going outside this very structure." He glanced over to the bartender. "Hey Joe, would you mind giving me another beer here?" The holographic bartender nodded, sliding a bottle down towards Adam. The Immortal caught it in one hand, easily hefted it to his lips in one motion, and set it down on the bar to continue. "The governments want all Immortals in these premises captured. The Watchers want to fight them off with a holographic army. Weíll be caught in the middle unless we get out of here."
"Oh my," Lizzie replied distantly. She looked around the bar. "How soon?" She asked Adam.
"Some of us will be leaving tonight, others in the next few days."
Lizzie bit her lip, "And you?"
With a sigh, the Immortal took another sip of his beer, "When everyone else is out and safe. Including you and Tony there." A slight grin pulled up on his face then as he pointed out Tony near one end of the bar. "Richelle was surprised to find this program the other day, saying it would be perfect to change around a bit to fit our needs this evening," Adam explained, his eyes still on the room. "So she did, and said there was one particular character that she thought was interesting." He glanced over to Lizzie. "The holograph Anthony is very well put together," he said smirking.
Swallowing, Lizzie looked at him a bit embarrassed. "I, well, you knowÖ" she stammered, then swallowed again. "Is that him?"
Adam nodded, "Oh yes, thatís the hologram alright. Anthony went home early tonight to start packing." He grinned, "Why donít you go on over? And while you do, tell Richelle to come over here."
Lizzieís eyes were still on Tony as she nodded slowly. "Okay, alright. Iíll um, tell her. Nice to see you again." She wandered away, weak in the knees, even though she knew that Anthony was her program. After a moment though, a thought came to her that this program was her kingdom. It was her world and she could control it any way she liked. It gave her courage and quickened her stride as she went over to the table that Anthony and Richelle were sitting at.
"So what happened next?" Tony was saying, his head on his hands as he listened to Richelle telling a story. "I mean, did anything happen next?"
Richelle smiled, glancing up at Lizzie, then nodded. "Oh yes, something happened. Methos dropped to his knees, staring up at the other Immortal, his sword nearly twenty feet away. And the other Immortal just looked at him like he was crazy. I mean, the oldest Immortal just sitting there ready for his head to be cut off his shoulders." She raised a hand to Lizzie, "Sit Lizzie, Iím almost finished."
Sitting, Lizzie glanced over to Anthony, sighed, slightly wondering why she wasnít getting any attention from him, and went back to listening to Richelleís story. "Öhe just dropped his sword, then and there, realizing he couldnít kill Methos. It wasnít in him after the fact that Methos had had the chance years earlier and hadnít taken it. So afterwards, they became friends." She looked over to Lizzie then, "Have you met Steven Keane, Lizzie? Heís a really devoted man. Whether itís to his loved ones or for a cause he deems just. Iím telling you heís like Duncan in so many ways itís a pity they still have such a icy relationship."
"No," Lizzie responded, "I donít believe I have met him."
"Well, maybe someday," Richelle replied. "Anyway, you probably want me to leave you two alone," she winked at Anthony, and stood up. "Iíll just be going then."
With a leap in her heart, Lizzie nodded, "Oh yes, Adam wanted to talk to you."
"All right then," Richelle said, then smiled at Lizzie. "Donít wear yourself out dancing with the hologram dear, weíve got a long week ahead of us." Then the Immortal went off to Adam without another word.
Lizzie watched her for a moment, then turned back to look at Anthony. "Iím not sure what to say."
"For once," Anthony replied, taking a sip from his drink. "What do you say we skip the talking part and just go dance like Richelle suggested?" He stood up, and grabbed Lizzieís hand. She blushed, finally convinced that this was her programmed Anthony and not the real thing. It was all going exactly like she had written it.
Whirling across the floor, Lizzie clung tightly to Tony, her heart beating joyfully. It all just felt so comfortable as they danced that Lizzie never wanted to let go of him. Perhaps it was going to be the last time that she would even be able to do so if they were leaving the Watcher Corp within a week. That thought scared her, what would happen to her and the real Tony? Would they join the Immortals, or would they have to strike out on their own?
Anthony must have felt her tense, because he slowed their pace and looked down at her. "Are you all right? You seem worried."
"Iím just worried that this is all a dream," Lizzie responded, right on cue as usual. This time the saying was truer then ever. She was worried that she would wake up in war the next morning. "I think we should go sit down, Iím tired."
The hologram nodded, and they went back towards the table vacated only minutes before. Anthony watched her with his brown eyes, "I wanted to talk to you," he said after a moment. Lizzie spooked, frowning, something clicking in her head. This wasnít part of the program. Perhaps Richelle had changed it more then that, orÖ Before Lizzie could think another thing, Tony had placed his hand upon her cheek. He leaned over, kissing her deeply, turning Lizzie a bright red color.
"I umÖ" she stammered as they broke off. "You arenít a hologram, are you?"
Smiling triumphantly, Anthony shook his head. "Nope. Iím the real thing. Had you fooled though, didnít I?" All Lizzie could do was nod numbly, her heart pounding a million miles an hour and her head screaming inside that her dreams had come true. Tony reached for one of her hands, "I just wanted to tell you that I really love you. I know it might be too late," he paused, glancing around, "Since we might not get out of all this safely, but I wanted you to know how I felt."
"ButÖ Why?" Lizzie finally managed. She had a million other questions, but she couldnít manage any of them at the moment.
"Iím a chicken, Elizabeth. Plain and simple I didnít have the guts to tell you how I felt." He nodded towards Methos and Richelle, "They showed me the program you had made, it kind of gave me the final incentive. I mean, weíve been living together as friends for years now, but I never thought you liked me for anything more. Until I saw how the program ran, and realized that you did." Finally Anthony took a long breath, "What do you say, when we leave this place, letís do it together."
Lizzie nodded slowly, then got faster, "Yes, yes I would like that. But where are we going?"
"I donít know yet," Tony replied, "But it will be an adventure."
"Tell you the truth, Iíve had enough of adventure," Amanda mumbled as she walked down through the atrium with Duncan. "It would just be so much better if we could find ourselves a little tropical island, like in the old days." She slipped her hand around Duncanís arm, "Wouldnít that be nice?" MacLeod was preoccupied. His eyes were darting back and forth as he scanned for danger. A frown creased his face as they walked. Amanda sighed, hoping to cheer him up in any way that she could. "You know, I say we get out of here, we find a nice warm beach program somewhereÖ"
Duncan finally glanced at her and raised an eyebrow. "Are you suggesting we go up to the hologram suites?"
"I was thinking about it," Amanda responded, "We wonít tan, but we could have a little fun in theÖ"
Someone shouted at the other end of the atrium, and it made Duncan and Amanda stop suddenly. They watched the progress of someone running towards them, wondering cautiously whether to draw their swords. As the person came to a halt, trying to catch his breath, Mac leaned over and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Whatís wrong Ryan?"
LaPorte took one large breath, "Call me crazy, but I have a feeling we need to take the next coach out of Dodge." He glanced at Amanda, who was still looking at him slightly startled. Ryan frowned, "Havenít you heard the news? You donít look like you have."
Mac shook his head, "What news?"
"The Calvary has arrived," he started walking towards the elevators as Amanda and Duncan followed him. "Richelle and I were up on the seventh floor on look-out duty. Unless weíre wrong, there is an army of nearly a thousand people outside the gates and three tanks." He was almost trembling with something that Amanda couldnít tell if it was excitement or fear.
"Are you sure?"
Ryan nodded, "Weíve got to get out, and weíve got to do it tonight. Spread the word." He dashed off then, leaving Duncan and Amanda staring at each other in shock.
"We havenít gotten nearly enough people out of here yet," Duncan grumbled. "I told them at the meeting we should have more then a few of us leave every night. Itís going to get us either killed or captured." He frowned, heading off towards the elevators and to the secret passage where the other Immortals were. "They thought weíd have more time. I told themÖ"
"I know you did," Amanda replied, "But we canít dwell on that right now. If Ryanís right then we donít have much time. If we donít get going then there will be even more Immortals trapped by the bounty hunters."
MacLeod nodded, "Looks like your trip to the beach is going to be postponed."
"And for a very long time at that," Amanda replied solemnly as they disappeared into the building to warn the others.
An explosion rocked the building, knocking Richelle to her knees. She collapsed; the binoculars she had been using skittering away on the floor. Heart pounding, she scrambled up to her feet, reaching for the binoculars as yet another blast rattled the building. "What the hell is going on?" She yelled to herself, looking out towards the front gates. There didnít seem to be any movement out there. "How in the world could theyÖ Unless they were coming from the back of the building."
Jumping, she sprinted towards the far end of the seventh floor. Placing the binoculars to her eyes, she scanned the horizon, still nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then another explosion hit the building, and Richelle swore, dashing from the room right into the smoke and debris. Coughing, her eyes half closed, she ran towards the elevators, suddenly feeling another Immortal nearby. Grabbing her sword from hiding, the binoculars long forgotten, she held ready.
"Richelle!" Someone called, coming through the smoke as it started to settle. He skidded to a stop, "There you are," Connor said almost relieved as he grabbed her arm. "The elevators are sealed off, we have to use the emergency shaft," he explained, dragging her along.
"What happened?" Richelle yelled as the building shook yet again. "Iíve been keeping a watch and there hasnít been any change."
Connor looked at her, dismayed. "What do you mean? The military broke through the front gates nearly a half hour ago." He pulled her along faster, and Richelle suddenly realized he had an automatic in his other hand. In fact, Connor himself looked like he had been in battle already by the looks of his bullet-ridden shirt and his dirty face. "When you didnít show up at the meeting point Methos sent me to find you."
"ButÖ" her mind working, Richelle stopped Connor in his tracks.
"What is it?"
Not giving him an explanation, Richelle dragged the older Highlander towards one of the offices. Through the door and towards the window, she practically pushed his nose up against the glass. "What do you see? Do you see any army out there?"
Shocked, Connorís mouth dropped open. Far below there was no army, no tanks, and no people dying. It looked downright peaceful out there. "What does it mean?"
"Weíve been set up," Richelle said. "Connor, the Watcherís havenít been making an army to resist the governments, but to help the hunters capture us."
"Shit," Connor swore, "We donít see anything out there because a hologram is covering it from our eyes. The Watcherís were onto us all along." He tore his eyes from the window, and pulled Richelle from the room. "Weíve got to get to the shaftÖ Damn those Watchers."
"All they needed were my hologram emitters," Lizzie yelled as she was pulled through the long corridors towards the secret tunnels. She was running as fast as Anthony pulled her, and even though out of breath she continued to contemplate what had happened.
Lizzie and Anthony had been in his office the moment the first blasts rocked the building. At that very moment they turned to look out the windows, seeing nothing but sunshine and birds. It was Tony who first thought to pull open the glass and reveal what was actually happening outside. "It was a trap all along," he cursed his colleagues, "And I fell for it!"
Panting, Lizzie fell in step with him, "Itís not your fault, it was mine."
"No," Anthony responded, pushing Lizzie into an open doorway as five Immortals with swords ran past. "I was the one who thought to take your emitter designs and use them here." He placed his hands on her shoulders, and sighed, glancing quickly out the doorway. "If only my grandfather had been here, he would have never fallen for the trap. Iíve got to do something to make up for all of this."
Nodding, Lizzie glanced towards the hallway, and then further into the darkened room. "The Immortals are going to be trapped and we canít do anything about it." She lay her head upon Tonyís shoulder, then picked it up just as quickly. Something was lit near the back of the empty office. It looked like a view screen, and Lizzie started towards it, even as another blast shook the building far above.
"Lizzie, where are you going?" Tony asked, following her, "Weíve got to get out of here."
The young woman pointed towards the glowing screen, "Look at that."
"Yes, someone left their view screen on when they had to evacuate. Come on, we canít just stay here, the building might collapse on us!"
"No," Lizzie snapped at him, "Come here, youíve got to see this." She dashed over to the artificial glow and watched as a three-dimensional Watcher Corp symbol spun around on the screen. It was slightly eerie upon a blue glowing screen, and Lizzie put out a finger to touch it. She had never seen such a screen saver before.
The moment her finger came near the screen, it flickered out, startling Lizzie. She jumped back a step, right into Anthony who held her shoulders. Neither of them could say a word before suddenly a picture of a man appeared on the screen. At first he was as a stone, but slowly he started to move, and leaned towards the screen. "Hello in there? Miss Teller? Mr. Stuart?"
The two friends looked at the rugged old man, then at each other before turning to look at the screen once again. "Yes?" Tony finally responded.
"Thank goodness I found you both," the man said smiling.
Lizzie glanced over to Anthony, but he didnít seem to know the man any better then she did. He looked very old though, probably around a hundred years old or more. It was eerie because he sounded young, and his posture was correct as he leaned back in his chair. Nodding, the man continued, "Itís awfully hard to contact anyone there at the moment."
"I wonder why," Tony said sarcastically. He crossed his arms over his chest. "What do you want old man? Weíre in kind of a hurry."
The man nodded, "Of course. I have heard what is going on there, and I would like to help you both escape alive." His finger seemed to reach up to his screen, and the view screen in the empty office changed to a schematic of the Watcher Corp. For the time, Lizzie and Tony could only hear the manís voice. "If you both continue the way you are going, you will end up right in the war zone. The Immortals might be able to handle it, but you two might not survive. Going this way," a suddenly exit route appeared on the map, "will get you out to a second set of underground tunnels."
Suddenly, the man appeared back on the screen. "If you both get caught, the military will kill you just to find out if you are Immortal or not."
"Why are you doing this?" Anthony asked the man suddenly, glancing slightly at Lizzie.
"Because I knew your grandfather, and he was a great man. Joe Dawson helped me to get to the position I am in now, and for that I am in debt to him and all his children." He paused, "Unfortunately at my age I had no say in what was happening there in the Watcher Corp building. Things got out of hand and I am sorry I could do nothing more to help you. Things will change, but I will need both of you to help me keep the Immortals alive." The old man nodded then, "There shall be someone waiting for you at the end of your journey to bring you here. Good luck." He finished and the screen flickered off.
Lizzie looked at Tony for a moment. The man had his eyes fixed on the screen as if there was something still there. She took a hold of his sleeve, "Anthony, we should go." When he didnít move, she tilted her head around to face him, "Who was that, anyway?"
"That was the head of the Watchers, Elizabeth. Andrew Scott," he paused, looking at Lizzie like he had seen a ghost. "He should have been dead nearly a hundred years ago, heís not immortal or anything. But that was him, I know it. Andrew was brother to Richelle before she found out she was Immortal."
Not quite understanding what she was hearing, Lizzie shook her head slowly. "You mean that some mortal man has lived longer then anyone has deemed possible and is at the top of the Watchers since your grandfatherís time? Trying to help the Immortals?"
Anthony nodded, "And I guess he wants to help us too."
"Well then," Lizzie responded, "Weíd better help him do just that and get out of here." Nodding, Anthony and Lizzie disappeared out of the empty office in a new direction, leaving with only one glance behind.
Running with sword in hand, Ryan skidded to a halt as he reached a turn in the winding hallways. Breathing sharply, he started to turn his head to check if the way was clear, but the sudden feeling of other Immortals barraged his senses, and he held his sword up instead. Footsteps were coming down the corridor as he jumped out with his katana at the ready.
"Whoa there!" Methos jumped back, suddenly realizing he was just inches from losing his head. With a hand to his neck, he shook off the sudden rush of a near-death experience. "I thought we were working together here."
Ryan sighed, "Sorry Methos." He glanced down the hall. "There are other Immortals back there," he continued. "Iíve never seen them before, and they arenít the good guys. Thatís why Iím heading out. Why are you coming this way, anyway?"
Methos looked preoccupied for a moment, then replied, "Iíve been looking for MacLeod and the others. Have you seen them?"
"No, not for a long time."
"Damn," Methos cursed under his breath. "Is there any way they could be back there?"
Shrugging, Ryan looked from hall to hall, "Maybe, I donít know. This place is worse then a fun house, and Iím definitely not having any fun." He shook his head; "Do you want me to come with you to look for them?"
His brown eyes kept alert, Methos frowned, "No, I can find them myself. Go on ahead, help the others down there." Then he pulled his sword from his coat and dashed back the way Ryan had come. He was running at full stride as Ryanís presence faded and other Immortalís could be felt nearby. Methos eyed his sword wearily, "I sure hope I donít have to use you."
Another hallway ended, and he turned the corner, colliding into an open door. Methos took a step back, his head spinning from how fast he had hit a solid object. Suddenly he eyes went crossed and he dropped to the floor like a rock. The person on the other side of the door came around very slowly.
Carter held his sword in front of him as he looked down at the unconscious Methos. "Well, well, well, look what we have here. Methos, the oldest Immortal." He grinned, "I would have thought you to have been the first to leave. But I guess now that you wonít leave at all."
He held up his sword just as Methos regained his consciousness. "Carter, what are you doing?"
The Immortal hesitated for just a second, giving Methos enough time to bring his foot up between Carterís legs in a satisfying crunch. The Immortal doubled over and Methos scrambled to his feet, shoving the other Immortal to fall on his back. Sword at the ready, Methos kept his eye on the Immortal in pain. "What the hell do you think you were doing?"
"Surviving," the Immortal croaked.
"You coward," Methos hissed at him. "Do you think you can just take any Immortalís head that you come across and have enough power to survive? What happened to all that we worked for in peace?"
Carter coughed, "We worked for nothing. Everything we did was in vain. If you would just open your eyes you would see that." He eyed Methosís sword wearily, then hazarded a glance at his own a few feet away. "The Watchers had us trapped the whole time. At least I am going to be able to get out alive because I helped them."
"Youíre a fool," Anthony yelled from down the hall. Lizzie and Tony had slid to stop only seconds before, seeing Methos holding his sword to Carterís neck. He came closer; "Youíll die just like the rest of the Immortals you helped to capture. Donít you understand anything?"
"I understand that youíre going to die just as quickly as the rest of us," Carter snapped back. He looked up at Methos; "None of you understand a thing!" Spitting, he caught Methosís eye. The Immortal flinched and Carter scrambled for his sword.
Nearly missing getting his head cut off; Methos wiped the spit from his eye, and stood wearily against Carter. "This is useless. If we keep up this weíll all die."
"You will die," Carter yelled and lunged for Methos. Suddenly a shot rang through the air, and the Immortal dropped to his knees. He glanced down at his side, seeing the blood pour forth from a gaping bullet hole. Then his eyes rolled over to see his attacker, "You will all die," he said to Anthony as his eyes glazed over.
Methos watched the Immortal fall dead for the moment, and looked up at Tony and Lizzie. "Youíve got to get her out of here," he said about Lizzie. Pointing his sword down the way he had come, he nodded towards the couple. "That way is out, but youíve got to hurry."
Tony nodded, pulling Lizzie past Methos. Lizzie paused only a second, "Thank you," she whispered, and they disappeared down the hall to safety.
"Youíre welcome," Methos responded, then shook his head from the thoughts, glancing at Carter. "If I had more time Iíd put you out of all of our miseries. But I doubt the building would be able to stand the Quickening, itís hardly standing as it is." He jumped past the fallen Immortal and continued on his search.
There were screams coming from inside the buildingís walls. They werenít blood-curdling screams, but something quite different, like those heard from people on a roller coaster. And they kept getting louder as they came closer to the place where Methos first heard them. His run came to a sudden halt as he felt other Immortals, and wondered where they might be. Startled by the screaming, he set his ear up against one of the vents, too late realizing that someone was in that vent, coming at full speed towards him. Someoneís legs hit the vent at full force, knocking it out of the wall. Methos, the vent, and the newly arrived person sprawled out on the floor, trying to collect their wits. "Get off me!" Methos yelled, pushing the whole mess off of him.
"Iím sorry Methos," Richelle apologized, pulling her hair out of her eyes. "It wasnít like I had much of a choice of where I was going to land." She grinned, remembered something, and scrambled away from the vent just as another person came flying out of the vent after her.
Methos was too late in moving, and found yet another Immortal on top of him. The smiling Connor just laughed his staccato laugh and said, "Softer landing then I expected."
The oldest Immortal groaned, shoved the elder Highlander off of him, and got to his feet. "Why in the world were you two in the ventilation shaft?" Methos searched for his sword as Connor and Richelle helped each other up.
"Escape route," Richelle laughed. "Emergency shaft, my ass." She glanced at Connor who started laughing again, and Methos who looked confused. "Never mind, Iíll tell you later."
Connor glanced around, brushing himself off, and setting the vent over to the wall. "Whereís the party?"
"Back that way," Methos nodded. "I came to find you two since you were missing out."
Richelle pulled her sword from some hidden place, "And the others? Are they all there?"
"Lock stock and barrel," the oldest Immortal responded. "Even a couple of traitors."
"I wouldnít doubt it," Richelle said, starting towards the way out. Methos and Connor fell in step next to her. "Of course someone had to be working with the Watchers. Weíve all just fallen into a trap with no way out, and no turning back."
Methos frowned deeply, "Thereís always a way out."
"Not this time," Carter responded. He stood in the open corridor where he had fallen, barring the way out with his sword to someoneís throat. The fiery red hair gave her away even as Lizzie yelped in surprise.
"Heís persistent, Iíll give him that," Methos mumbled, bringing his sword to the ready. "Let her go Carter, you have no quarrel with her."
The Immortal laughed, and squeezed Lizzie closer to him. "Youíre right, I donít. I had one with her little boyfriend though." He pulled Lizzie towards the side of the hall, revealing to the three Immortals a fallen Anthony.
Lizzie choked in fear, "Please donít let him kill me!" She looked to her friends, and to Tony, who was still breathing; though bleeding badly. "Anthony, speak to me." He glanced up to her weakly, but then his head fell back to the floor.
"Not Tony," Richelle whispered, glancing at Methos and then Connor. "Weíve got to do something while heís still alive."
Connor drew his sword as he stepped side by side with Methos. "Let the girl go and you can have the pick of us." The two Immortals, holding their swords next to each other seemed like some picture out of a movie, and must have caused fear in even Carter, who stepped back slightly.
"No, I donít think so. If one of you lose, the other will take my head before I can get away." He started to drag Lizzie back towards the exit. Connor and Methos took steps forward, but Carter drew his sword closer up to the young womanís throat. "No, I donít want either of you coming closer. Stay where you are or I will kill her."
"Donít worry about me," Lizzie started bravely, "Just help Anthony."
"Yes," Carter laughed, "Save the poor little mortal, but donít follow us." He pulled Lizzie down the hallway then, still holding the sword to her throat. Methos and Connor went towards Tony, Richelle coming up behind. They looked wearily at the Watcher, and then to the way Lizzie and Carter had disappeared.
Richelle fell down to her knees beside Tony, opening his shirt to show a foot long gash across his stomach. It was bleeding as she took off her coat to cover the wound. She glanced up at Methos; "Youíve got to go help Lizzie. His wound isnít too deep, he should survive." Tony gasped as the Immortal put pressure on his stomach. "At least I hope so," Richelle finished. "But who knows what heíll do to Lizzie."
Connor nodded to Richelle, "Go with him. I can carry Anthony out of here."
Nodding, Richelle got to her feet, her sword in bloodied hands. "Come on, weíve got to save her. I have a feeling that the future needs her." She took off towards the exit, Methos following after.
Back to back, LaPorte stood with Duncan MacLeod, each holding bloodied a katana in their hands. Jumping forward without a second thought, each would move forward and then back, as they stood ground outside of the exit to the Watcher Corp. When they had come from the building even the safe exit had proved to be as deadly a war zone as the front of the corporation. Someone had told of the hidden exit. Military and bounty hunters swarmed towards the Watcher Corp only to be sliced down by the defending Immortals. There was no where to turn and only one place to stay as they defended the exit where their friends would appear, if they did at all.
Slicing a trigger finger from one of the officers of the bloody war, Ryan jumped back. His sword had been bloodied by slicing through uniformed officers and kamikaze mortals who had gotten into the fray. Mostly he tried not to kill them, but the bodies spread around he and MacLeod were testaments to failed attempts. "I donít think we can stand this much longer Mac. Theyíve got us outnumbered and outgunned." He reached down towards a semi-automatic that had been dropped, checked the magazine and shook his head. "Weíve spent the chips, and they never seem to stop coming."
Duncan shook his head wearily, dodging bullets as they passed much too close. A man who looked much like a bounty hunter with sword in hand came towards him, throwing away his gun for a more thrilling kill. MacLeod had no trouble taking him out, a slice on the arm and the hunter threw down his weapon. The man screamed in agony and disappeared into the woods. "Weíve got to keep the entrance clear until the others come out. If we donít theyíll be like caged birds with no escape."
"Weíre already like that!" Ryan responded, jumping away from Duncan and slicing through two armed men as they came running towards the entrance. He bit his lip as they fell and didnít move again. Though he had pride of his blade, it was nothing compared to the nightmares he knew would come the next time he would sleep. "We canít just stay here. Itís suicide."
Mac jumped out of the way as one kamikaze mortal drove his way past into the building. He grabbed a pistol from one fallen officer and easily took aim at the man who dashed into the Watcher Corp. The kamikaze fell when a bullet hit his leg; he lay screaming for his life. Breathing steadily, Duncan turned to look at Ryan. "Go help Amanda then with the others. Iíll stay here."
"Youíll be overwhelmed. Iím not leaving if you arenít."
Groaning, Duncan wondered at that moment whether all his teaching about loyalty was an asset at the moment or not. He looked at his bloodied sword and shook his head slowly. "Iíve been through wars where Iíve battled a hundred other men, this is nothing but a manslaughter." His head came around just in time to catch an attacker from his behind with one quick cut of the sword, and yelled at Ryan, "Go help the others, they need you more then I do."
Ryan nodded and disappeared into the woods, waving his sword like a strange battle flag. Duncan shook his head slowly, turned to look back to the entrance as he felt other Immortals. Steady he watched them come, Carter, carrying his sword, but not in battle but cowardice as he threatened the young Lizzieís life. Startled at this new turn of events, Duncan dashed forward, but too late as Carter turned to face him.
Lizzie screeched, the sword piercing into her soft throat. She looked nearly ready to pass out, as Carter yelled, "Ah Highlander! We meet again. Stay where you are or the girl gets hurt." He stood triumphant, like a single tree standing amongst hundreds of fallen others.
"Donít you dare!" Someone yelled behind him. Richelle and Methos came running out from behind, surrounding Carter. They held swords ready, though careful as neither of them knew what Carter would do to the young woman. He was trapped, but still had an ace up his sleeve. "If you kill her one of us will kill you."
Laughing, Carter shook his head, "Youíve all had your chances before. But not this time, this time I survive and you all die." He took his sword from Lizzieís neck, throwing her upon the ground as he took off towards the woods. "Itís a trap and none of you know it!" He laughed.
Duncan ran towards the fallen young lady, coming to kneel beside her. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, butÖ" Lizzie glanced up to Methos and Richelle as they came near. "Anthony, will he be okay?"
Methos sighed deeply, but nodded, "Connor will take care of him. Come on, weíve got to get you out of here." He turned to look towards Richelle, but suddenly noticed she had disappeared. His head craned around towards the door as the feeling of Immortality came over the group. Connor walked through the door holding only his sword as Methos ran over. "What happened? Whereís Tony?"
Connor shook his head, "The cut was deeper then Richelle thought."
"No!" Lizzie strained hearing this. She scrambled to her feet as Duncan tried to hold her down. Lizzie scrambled from the young Highlanderís grasp, and he jumped after her as she headed back into the building. Connor and Methos grabbed her before she could step foot back into the Watcher Corp.
"Thereís nothing you can do," Methos silenced her. She tried to tear away from his grasp, then weakly fell into his arms crying. "He was a brave man," the Immortal continued. "And the least you can do for him now is survive to remember him."
Lizzie fell to her knees, "Kill that bastard," she mumbled to Methos. "PleaseÖ"
"I have a feeling someone else is already on her way to do so," Duncan murmured to Methos as they stood next to each other. "Richelle just took off after Carter."
Swallowing, Connor knelt down beside Lizzie, "But sheís never killed another Immortal."
"Itís never too soon to learn," Duncan shook his head, "A hundred years, ten, fiveÖ" He turned to look at Methos, but the oldest Immortal had disappeared as well. The MacLeods breathed deeply, and Duncan bent down to help Connor pick up Lizzie. "Come on, weíve got to get her to safety."
"If anywhere is safe anymore," Connor grumbled, and they pulled the shocked Lizzie into the woods.
Deep in the woods the sounds of gunshots echoed off the ancient oaks and maples. The sound seemed to come from every angle as suddenly another explosion rocked the Watcher Corp nearby. Richelle stumbled through the woods as she heard the sound and turned to see a ball of fire erupt from the building. She closed her eyes a brief second, knowing that place had been her home for the last few years, a place she had helped build. But now it would be torn down in only a manner of hours.
The throbbing in her head of another Immortal was what she turned her attentions to a moment later. Carter wasnít too far ahead. He had the disadvantage of never leaving the building before to venture out into the thick forest that surrounded the compound. Richelle had stolen away many nights and knew the area well as she cut through the brambles with her sword.
Anthony had been cut deeply, and his blood had bubbled out black as she had tended to him. The knowledge ground at her nerves as she searched listened to the guns exploding in the distance. This had been too much; she had lived for a hundred years just surviving as every other Immortal had since they had been revealed to the world. All that she had worked for, every moment of peace had fallen into the echoes of destruction and war. One Immortal could make a difference, and after every second of tolerance had effected Richelle to no ends. It had made her go soft but this time she had to stop Carter before he destroyed anyone else.
He was near, scrambling through the woods, trying perhaps to find his salvation in escaping. "Matthew!" Richelle yelled after him, seeing him in the darkness turning at the sound of her voice. "Yes Matthew, where do you think you are going?"
Carter turned, "What, do you think you could make any difference coming after me?" He laughed, facing her with his sword ready. "Your friends are probably all captured by now."
Richelle came through the trees towards him, "What did they promise you? That you would be the last? Or was it that you would be in charge of the FBI if you helped them destroy us?" She swiped her sword in front of her and cleared the way between them.
The Immortal laughed, "They didnít promise me anything. I chose to help them." His fingers twitched on his sword, "Do you want to try and kill me? Because you can sure try, but I can tell you without a doubt that before the Quickening is ended you shall be dead just as I am."
"It wonít matter," Richelle hissed, "Who ever dies, the other will go moments later, and I will win." She jumped towards him and thrust her sword towards Carter who dodged away. He brought his sword in a semi-circle, but Richelle rolled out of the way and jumped up behind a tree. "Do you really think those friends of yours will let you live? They will kill you as easily as any of us."
The blade of Carterís sword bit into the tree just above Richelleís head as she jumped away. He gritted his teeth as he ran after her through the trees. "You are wrong, they need me."
"Like they need a gun to their heads," Richelle laughed; turning and bringing her sword in a lower cut. The blade connected with Carterís leg and he gasped in pain, limping back. She breathed out deeply as he tried to dodge between the trees. "You laughed in the face of all that we have done to bring peace to our kind. Now what you stood for shall be your down fall."
Carter blocked one of her attacks, their blades connecting in a flash of sparks. "And what do you think that is?"
"The only rule that applies to us," Richelle hissed, jumping towards him, bringing her blade to block a cut to her stomach. With her left hand she brought a stiletto from her belt and thrust it into Carterís throat. He choked, his sword dropped as he gripped for his throat. "There can be only one," she snarled and brought her sword around, severing head from shoulders.
The Immortal fell to the ground in two pieces as Richelle stumbled to her knees with the power of her swing. She gasped, realizing her deed suddenly, and scrambled from the dead body. "No," she whispered, "What have I doneÖ"
Blue and red light came pouring from the fallen body. It twisted in an eerie cascade over the ground in all directions, spreading like fingers of sun extending through the trees. The blue and red twisted up the trees, mingling and lighting up the far branches like Christmas lights. Richelle opened her mouth as she gaped at the display, a silent scream coming from her lips. The light exploded outwards as purple lightning erupted from the trees. The scream took form and echoed through the trees as the lightning throbbed through her body.
Richelle gasped, screamed, scrambled for her life as bolt after bolt hit her heart and soul. It escaped through the trees and formed a hellish nightmare of all the Immortals who had died at the hands of Carter. The purple lightning throbbed her brain and made her eyes glow with pain and pleasure. It mixed through her soul as she fell to the earth, unable to move. The sound of yells and screams came from the woods as the trees went up in flames around her. Blues, reds and oranges lit the surrounding forest as uniformed men burst through the bushes to find the Immortal.
They gaped at the display even as they lowered automatics towards Richelle. She lay sprawled on the ground, staring at the sky filling with smoke. The Quickening had ended, but the lightning in her head would never end as it extended out of her fingertips in one last reverie. The officers fell to the ground as the bolts of lightning disappeared into the woods. Without a word then, they filled in all the spaces around Richelle; their guns aimed and ready if she moved.
"Welcome to the future, gentlemen," Richelle moaned and started to laugh.
Someone was playing an electric guitar in the deep recesses of the maximum-security prison. It echoed through the cells, and throbbed like a headache through the prisonerís heads. Someone moaned and rolled over on the floor, pulling his hands over his ears. Someone else tapped her foot against the floor, recognizing the tune.
Nearby, Methos leaned against the back wall of his cell, frowning as he struggled to hear the chords. "Bloody hell," he murmured, "I canít believe theyíd let him keep his guitar."
"Could be worse," someone in the adjoining cell answered him. "At least he knows how to play."
On the opposite side of Methos someone groaned, "You call that playing?"
"Yes," the person responded. Her hand extended past the bars of her cell into the adjoining cell. "Hey Methos, come here a second."
"Why should I?" The oldest Immortal responded, but he got to his feet and came to sit next to the bars. "What do you want Richelle?"
She laughed, "You remember this song, donít you?"
"Should he?" MacLeod asked from a cell across the hallway. He had opened his eyes at the sound of the guitar and came to sit nearby. He glanced over to the wall near him. "Hey Amanda, is that you tapping?"
"There isnít anything else to do," she murmured. "This isnít exactly my idea of a day at the beach, so why not?" Amanda shook her head and looked across the hallway. "Ryan, what do you find so offensive about this song, anyway?"
The young Immortal groaned, "At least he could play something that is a bit more modern."
"Classics are always good," Connor laughed from near Duncan. "And you canít get any more classic then Ozzy Osborne." He shook his head, "The guy was crazy but he sure knew rock and roll."
Richelle started to laugh and felt as Methos grabbed her hand. "What a proper song too. Road to Nowhere." She started humming as the guitar broke out of the leading chords and into the song. "I was looking back on my lifeÖ"
"And all the things Iíve done to me," Connor joined in. "Iím still looking for the answersÖ"
"Iím still searching for the key," Amanda laughed, "Where is that damn key, anyway?"
The others laughed as Duncan joined the song, "The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me, it just wonít leave me alone."
"I still find it all a mystery," Methos added, "Could it be a dream?"
"The Road to Nowhere leads to me," the five Immortals sang.
Duncan laughed, "Just imagine we all find out we could have put together a band." He shook his head, glancing over at the cell that Ryan sat in, his hands over his ears. "You know what we could have called it, Ryan?" When the Immortal didnít respond, MacLeod answered, "The Immortals. What do you think?"
Ryan chuckled, adding his own voice into the group, "Through all the happiness and sorrow, I guess Iíd do it all again."
"Live for today and not tomorrow," Methos added, "Itís still the road that never ends."
"The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me, it just wonít leave me aloneÖ I still find it all a mystery. Could it be a dream?" Everyone sang, "The Road to NowhereÖ. Leads to me."Written by: Ricki Scott