Title: The Immortal Underground
Author: akire
Email: akire@mailcity.com
Status: Complete/ Unbetaed
Category: Crossover: Highland/The Sentinel/Stargate SG1/Relic
Hunter/Tomb Raider, plus misc others
Spoilers: umm, got a basic grasp of the Highlander universe?  Fine.  Oh
yeah, we’re a Clan Denial fanfic.  In The Sentinel, we pick up after
TSbBS.  Stargate, after The Curse at least.  RH and TR, we’re ripping
characters, not plots.  Honest! 
Disclaimers:  D/P, Pet Fly, MGM/Gekko, whoever owns RH and whoever owns
TR really DO own them.  If you don’t recognize it, its probably mine.
If it’s silly or crazy, definitely is mine.  But if anyone sends the
lawyers after me, I’m sending out the boys with swords ;)  Oh yeah, and
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  If you recognize a
specific fanfic creation, it belongs to its author (when this series is
finished, I may tally them up) Rating: PG, prob.  Hey, I’m not offended
by much, if it should be rated higher, tell me! 
Content Warning: purists beware.  Language may offend some readers. m/m
relationship in the periphery.  I have not seen ‘Finale,’ but I’ve been
told it deals with a similar theme, though in an entirely different
way.  But I started this long before I even heard of that ep. 
Summary: This is an episode in this huge crossover I have banging
around between my ears.  I’ll be writing the ‘what comes before’ when
next I feel the bunnies scrambling over my feet.  But right now, this
particular bunny is demanding my attention.  Immortality is no longer a
secret, and the mob is getting the kindling together folks!  A ragtag
group of old friends get organised….
Dedication:  To Stevo (hey look, kismet!) for friendship above and
beyond the call of duty, and for free loan of the nerf gun and training
sword. ;) 

That’s long enough. On with the show! 


Thrust.  Parry.  Block.  

A strand of curly red hair escaped the tie and stuck itself against the
side of Blair Sandburg’s sweaty face.  Ignoring it, he continued to
dance around the floor of De Salvo’s gym, fighting an opponent only he
could see.

It had been far too long between real workouts.

He adored living in the loft, loved hanging out with his Sentinel, but
every guy needed his space.  That went double when the guy in question
had to practice ever day with three feet of finely honed steel.

Thrust, parry, grunt, retreat.

Of course, matters would be greatly simplified if he could just say it.
Perhaps over breakfast.  "Hey Jim, see those Cubs?  Oh by the way, I’m
a seventeen hundred year old immortal who will be in his mid twenties
until the day you die, unless another immortal comes along and manages
to whack my head off.  Pass the coffee?"

Blair snorted to himself and blocked an imaginary blow.  'Paging Blair
Sandburg to the Funny Farm...'  Jim freaked enough about the shit that
was happening to him.  This would just blow that military mindset clear
into Zone Out Hell.

Hence, the need to make the hour plus drive to Seacouver whenever he
could, to borrow McLeod's gym and the privacy for a decent workout.
What good was a Guide without a head?

Bringing his blade down across the invisible neck of his fictional foe,
Blair stood panting in the dim silence of the gym.  

That – that felt much better.

Heading for the shower, Blair decided he had time to visit Joe's before
heading back to Cascade.  Sometime living out in the Immortal version
of the boondocks got lonely.  Company, the kind of company that buzzed
and carried sharp implements as a matter of course, sounded like a damn
good idea tonight.


The steady beat of the house blues band was momentarily drowned out by
the mental buzz of perhaps half a dozen immortals.  Pausing outside the
door, Blair cleared his mind and tried to identify distinctive notes.  
Ten seconds later, he decided he was looking like an idiot and went
inside.  Reia and Danya, both his elders by a good few millennia, swore
blind they could tell you the identity of certain immortals just by
their buzz.  Blair wasn't 100% sure they weren't just pulling his leg. 
When you got that old, any joke that didn't have you as a punchline was

Inside were a few mortals over by the stage, enjoying the music.
Watchers or not, they were far enough away that any 'shoptalk' wouldn't
be overheard.  Moving with the beat, Blair slid over to the bar,
nodding his greeting to the McLeod's as he approached.

"Duncan, Connor," he greeted the pair as he signaled for a beer.
"Everything good?"

"Aye laddie.  Get everything you needed at the gym?"

"Yeah, thanks."  He took a long draught before turning to lean against
the bar, watching the band.  "I really appreciate this, Duncan.  I just
don't have the space to practice properly back in Cascade."

Connor chuckled.  "Don't worry, lad.  Duncan gives training space to
half the Immortals in Seacouver.  Why not Cascade as well?"

Blair laughed and toasted the air.  "Duncan McLeod, purveyor of fine
Immortal training and practice space to the greater Pacific Seaboard!"

Duncan muttered something in Gaelic that sounded suspiciously
uncomplimentary, and ordered another beer.  Changing the subject, he
asked  "How is that flatmate of yours, anyway?  Still clueless?"

Blair chuckled.  "You've been hanging around Richie too long, Duncan.
Yeah, he's still clueless, and short of me facing a challenge in our
living room, I suspect that's the way its gonna stay."  Feeling
distinctly uncomfortable talking about his 'clueless' sentinel, he
tried changing the conversation.  "So, who's in da house tonight?"

Connor laughed and raised an eyebrow at the sight of an old, little,
redheaded Immortal bastard speaking like a homeboy.  "Well, Richie
himself is out back with the old guy, getting a barrel into the pumps
for Joe."

Blair rolled his eyes.  "Okay, why can I see Adam sculling the contents
before it gets anywhere near a hoseline?"

A cultured English accent from behind the bar answered his rhetorical
question.  "Scull?  Scull beer?  Sacrilege!  Brat, defend my honour!"

A young looking redhead emerged from the backroom after his companion
and headed round to claim a barstool.  "What honour?" he jokingly
retorted.  "I thought you lost that with your guilt somewhere in the
Middle Ages."

As the pair bantered easily, Blair's mind began to wander back to the
Middle Ages.  Where was he then? Oh yeah, that's right, Norway.  Riding
with Lara and Danya and Reia, the first time he had ridden with his old
mentor since he had finished his formal training.  Freezing days and
even worse nights.  Smelly Vikings.  But good beer.  And great parties,
too, once you got the swing of it.  Who would have guessed they'd end
up in some bloody mythological saga?

"...Blair?  Blaer?  Hello!"  Blair snapped back to the present to two
blue eyes and an overlarge nose.  

"Sorry," he stammered.  

"You looked like you were off with the fae!"

"With the Vikings, actually.  Say, have you heard from Reia lately?"

Methos chuckled.  "Reminiscing, hmm?  Reia I saw in Tibet last time I
was there.  She may be back in Paris by now, she could never stay away
from that city for long."  He tilted his head slightly.  "Though I
haven't seen Danya of late, which is strange since those two were
always hanging out together."

"Danya?  Its Daniel Jackson these days.  He's out stuck under some
mountain in Colorado, working."

"Hopefully he's digging straight up.  The Chinese get prissy if you
mess up their ornamental gardens."

Everyone grimaced.  Blair swore the jokes got worse the elder they got.
He hoped someone would do him the courtesy of trying for his head if he
ever got that bad.  "Not that kind of stuck.  Government work, he calls

Richie chuckled and contemplated his dregs.  "Hiding in plain sight.
Good for him."

"Who's this?  Danya.  As long as he stays quiet and in our sights."
Joe hobbled over to their corner of the bar and wiped his cloth
absently across its surface.  "Damn near gave his old Watcher a
coronary when he went under Cheyenne Mountain and didn't come out again
for over a year.  She thought they might have figured out who he was.
If it wasn't for Frasier, we might never have known what happened to
him."  He smiled over at Methos and Blair.  "In case you two haven't
noticed, we like to keep tabs on you old guys.  The paperwork you
generate is bad enough without you going missing."

Blair finished his glass.  "Great.  Now I'm a bureaucratic nightmare as
well.  Can I add that to my resume, Joe?"  He tossed a few notes on the
counter.  "I've got to get going.  Things to do, people to see, secret
lives to lead. Catch y'all later," he drawled as he headed to the door
amid a chorus of goodbyes.  The drive back to Cascade was quick in the
light nighttime traffic.  By the time he'd arrived back at the loft and
said goodnight to his housemate, an idea had formed in his mind.
Taking out his old laptop, he began to type.

Meanwhile, halfway across the continent, the Immortal now known as
Daniel Jackson was hard at work, identifying and classifying artifacts
brought back to him by SG-7.  The task was made incredibly easy in that
he had actually stayed in that part of what was now Mongolia at the
time that artifacts such as these were made and in general use.  He
chuckled internally as he held up a small wrist torque.  He suspected
he had one similar in his stash in the old Vaults under Paris.  

A small chirp from his computer on the other side of the room brought
his awareness back into the current century.  Propelling his chair
across the room, a few keystrokes brought up the new message.  A warm
smile spread across his face as he identified the sender.  His mind
automatically translating the old German as he read, his smile

    Hey old man.
    You haven't ignored me for so long since I fell in that pile of 
    pig muck at that farm when you were going to introduce me to your 
    latest wife.  How are you? Actually, speaking of old friends, I've 
    had an idea.  You, me, the old hippie, her majesty, the Island babe 
    and the Englishman gentle.  Joe's bar.  Next month.  Who knows, we 
    may all run into some old friends there as well.  It's like Cheers 
    for the geriatric set.  You in?
    Ye olde barbarian boy.

Daniel Jackson, the equal in age to any artifact in his office, laughed
out loud.  He hated to think how Blaer would describe him to the others
if he sent them an email too.  Barbarian boy, that would have been true
for maybe the first hundred years of Blaer's life.  Thank every god he
had ever faced that his young friend had grown out of his birthright.
As for the others, well, the old hippie, that would have to be Lara.
The once-Druidess would not take kindly to such a description, which is
probably why Blaer used it.  Her Majesty had to be Reia.  Sydney would
either love the designation 'Island Babe' or smack him around for it.
Or probably both.  Nigel at least would just sniff and nod at the
still-accurate description.

But would he go and meet them?  He'd heard about Joe's Bar, of course,
what Immortal hadn't?  But Cheers for the geriatric set?  Blaer had
taken to the 20th century far too well, obviously.  Pop culture never
was Daniel's strong suit.  Just when you'd gotten a handle on one lot
of the stuff, another lot would come along and supercede it.  And it
was ninety percent crap anyway.  But Blaer had always been like an
over-enthusiastic puppy for things like that.  Sighing, Daniel called
up his schedule.  No missions had been planned yet.  

Fuck it.  He could use a drink among friends, and maybe some sparring.

Bending to his keyboard, he started making plans.


The following morning, Blair rose to the sound of his room mate
starting the shower.

"We have got to fix those pipes, Jim, I swear!" he muttered to
himself as he stumbled, bleary-eyed, out of his bedroom.  Even
muttering, he knew that Jim could hear every word.  "And don't you dare
use all the hotwater either!"

Pouring out a cup of coffee, Blair rubbed his eyes until they were
almost open.  The sight of his laptop on the kitchen table brought back
memories of what he had done before going to bed last night.
Suppressing the urge to chortle evilly, he booted up the machine and
checked his mail.

A few more emails had trickled in overnight.  Included in the stack
were four familiar author lines.  'That was quick,' he thought to
himself as he opened the first message.  It was from Reia, as he might
have suspected.  With one ear tuned to the sounds from the bathroom, he
began to read.

    You always were an evil child.  Of course, We should know.  We only
    take the best as  Our students. ;)  We think We can contrive for 
    our gracious and most regal self to be in the States in the middle 
    of next month.  We think We'd best go see if the passport with our 
    current ID is still valid.  We shall see you at Joe's, where 
    everybody knows your age.  Tata

Chuckling as silently as he could, he hit the delete key and read the
other three messages first.  Lara, he'd managed to catch at her office
for once, and she was promising to do her best to be there.  Sydney and
Nigel would be on a term break, they'd definitely be there.  The fourth
message was from a JACKSON, Daniel.  Opening it, he couldn't help but
laugh out loud.

    Cya there

He heard the bathroom door open and quickly deleted the message.  Trust
the professional linguist (for several lifetimes now) to write the
shortest message.  The other emails included a digest of an
anthropological discussion list, spam and an ident-less email from a
public account.   Seeing that Jim had headed back upstairs, he opened
that last message and read quickly.  The message was from Joe, though
he of course hadn't signed it off.  A forward of an internal Watcher
memo – a missing courier?  Why would Joe be...oh.

    "...there is some speculation that he may have been hunted by a 
    past subject.  Knowledge of the W's may not be widespread, but of 
    those who do, not all feel such love and affection for the group 
    as you lot do ;).  Let us know if you hear anything..."

Reading off the cc list, he identified among others both McLeod's,
Lara, Syd and Nigel, Amanda, Reia, Methos, Richie and Danya's accounts
alongside his own.  Sighing, he deleted the message then emptied the
trash before running a scrambler program Amanda had given him a few
monthes back.  Last thing they needed was someone seeing  that
particular list.  But any futher speculation on the message was halted
by Jim's arrival in the kitchen, looking for breakfast.  Shutting up
the laptop and returning it to his room, he tried to focus on the
coming day's police work.  But he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd
just been handed a clue for something big.

Around the globe, the other recipients felt their own varying sense of
forboding.  But nothing was forthcoming, and as the days stretched into
weeks, the memo slipped from their minds as the demands of living
Immortal in a very mortal world demanded their attention.


"Now Daniel, have fun and try not to find any Goul'd living in jars or
anything, okay?"  Daniel had long ago become accustomed to Jack's
'mother henning' and put up with it with seemingly endless patience.

"I'll try, Jack.  But I've really got to go if I'm going to catch my
flight to Seacouver..."  shifting his carry on bag to his other
shoulder, he was well aware of Jack still at his shoulder.  Finally, he
sighed and turned to his friend and team leader.  "I'll be fine Jack,
really.  I'll be back Sunday night, rested and ready to go."

"And full of anthro-geek speak as well.  You all trained together at
University, right?"  Jack went on another fishing expedition.  When
Daniel had first mentioned his plans, Jack and Sam had been curious to
the point of intrusive.  So little of his previous life as Daniel
Jackson had been carried over into the Stargate Program that any hint
of it caught their fascination.  Daniel had not indulged their
curiousity – it merely opened up a greater possibility for blowing his
current cover.  Whilst he felt he could trust the secret of his
immortality to his team mates IF he was forced to, he wasn't going to
'out' his Immortal friends as well.

He was saved from answering by the arrival of the surface lift.  "Yeah,
listen, I'll see you on Monday.  Have a good weekend, Jack."  The doors
slid shut and Daniel breathed a sigh of relief.  As the lift sped to
the top of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, he ran a mental checklist for
his trip to Seacouver.  Sword, check.  A few changes of clothes,
including his workout gear.  Check.  A duster to hide everything –
check.  Colorado Springs was rather bereft of Immortal company, and
whilst Daniel was grateful for the lack of challenges (or having to
explain away bloody clothes or a Quickening), he did feel a little 'out
of the loop.'  Hell, some days he even drove to work without carrying a
sword, a behaviour which would shock his old friends if they knew of

He sniggered.  Well, Jack had gone to all the trouble of making
him get his firearms license, and he did  carry his pistol off-
base.  May as well use it, even if it wasn't exactly 'kosher' as far as
the Game went.  As for a real sparring session, well, he could barely
remember the last time he'd gone the rounds just for fun.

He should have done this much sooner.


Seacouver Airport was a seething mass of harried humanity as people
sought out their departure gate, or moved into arrivals looking for
loved ones.  Expert travelers Sydney Fox and Nigel Bailey weaved
through the crowds easily, heading for the exit.

"Bloody hell, Syd, is the entire city leaving town for the weekend?"
Nigel muttered as he leapt out of the way of a precariously piled
luggage trolley.

Sydney smiled at her student and teaching assistant.  "They must have
heard we were inbound.  Come on, lets get out of ..."  She trailed off
as the familiar buzz of another Immortal struck them.  As one, they
began looking around, one hand automatically reaching for the hilt of
their concealed weapons, trying to ascertain friend or foe.  A familiar
polished accent preceded the approaching Immortal.

"Hello, strangers."

"Lara!"  Sydney's smiled broadened as she moved to embrace her old
friend, followed by Nigel.  "You made it!"

"Well, the barbarian promised to buy me a drink.  I'm here to see to it
he makes good on his word."

Nigel laughed and picked up the older woman's bag.  "Several times
over, I bet."

"Of course, Nigel.  Come along, I've rented a car to get around town
in.  Have you been to McLeod's new place yet?  Good, you can navigate."

"Got room for one more?"  

Nigel dropped the bags in surprise.  "Danya!  I mean, Daniel.  I didn't
hear you come over."

Daniel shifted his own bag to his other shoulder, his expression
carefully neutral as he answered.  "I'm not surprised, its so noisy in
here I can barely hear myself think!"  He hugged each of the women in

Nigel picked up his bags and shook his head sharply.  "No, I mean I
didn't hear you!" He hissed.

The girls laughed easily and Sydney slipped an arm around Nigel's
shoulders.  "Nige, one thing you'll learn is that the older you get,
the sneakier you become."

Lara fell into step on his other side and relieved him of her bag.
"And he," she said, jerking her chin in his direction, "is
extremely old and extremely sneaky!"

"Thanks, I think," the elder immortal replied dryly.

Nigel was still wrapping his head around the concept.  "But, no..." he
tapped the side of his head with his free hand.

Sighing, Daniel tilted his own head to one side, his eyes becoming
distant and unfocussed.  All at once, the sharp sting of a powerful
Buzz struck all three of them.  "Better, little one?  Okay, now that
that's settled, lets get going.  Blaer owes a few of us a drink!"  

"Plural!" Lara corrected with a smirk.  The quartet struck out through
the crowds for the hire car garage.

Once in the relative privacy of the small little skate of a car, the
four quickly got down to catching up on details of each others recent
lives.  It was a boisterous and merry group that piled out of the car
in front of De Salvo's gym.  Blinking slowly, Daniel smiled.  "Looks
like the rest of the gang's already here.  Let's go join the party."
He set off for the main doors before anyone could question him further.

Inside, Daniel's words proved correct.  Sitting on a weight bench were
Reia and Methos, already trying to top each other's strange stories as
Richie watched on in amused silence.  By the lift doors were the McLeod
pair and Amanda, obviously having just come down from the loft
upstairs.  Daniel had already stepped in to greet Blaer, the two
laughing as they hugged each other.

Ditching their bags by the door, the newly arrived trio stepped in, and
for the next few minutes was a jumble of happy noise as friendships
were renewed and new faces introduced around.  The notion of heading
over to Joe's was hailed with general approval, and after a few good-
natured arguments as to travelling arrangements, the entire crowd was
on its way to Joe's Bar.

The small card sign on the door was their first sign of trouble.

    'Due to unforeseen circumstances, Joe's will not be open to the 
    public this weekend.  Old friends are still welcome.'

"Old friends.  I'm assuming that means us," Methos noted as he pushed
open the scarred wooden door.  The subdued crowd filed inside, noting
instantly the dark and empty stage, the chairs still piled onto their
respective tables.  Noise from the back office grabbed their attention,
and more than one instinctively put a hand to their swords.  But the
noise was just Joe, who had heard them enter.  His face was strained
with worry and tension.

"There you are, I was hoping you guys would drop by."  He nodded to the
visitors from out of town.  "Your Watcher's let me know you were
inbound."  He ran a rough hand across his forehead.

"Whatever's tae matta, Joe?" Duncan asked, his brogue slightly more
pronounced than it had been ten minutes ago.

Pulling a chair off a table and settling into it, he gestured for the
others to do the same.  "This is gonna take a while to go over, but
basically," he sighed again.  "Basically, the shit has hit the fan, and
I'm afraid its gonna be you guys who wear it when it all comes down."

"Joe?  You're freakin' me here, man.  What exactly's going on?"  Blair
perched himself on his chair, hands clasped nervously on his knees.

"You remember me telling you about that Watcher courier who vanished
off the face of the Earth about a month back?  Well, we've found him."

"Why do I have a feeling this story doesn't have a happy Watcher
ending?" Reia asked, her placeless accent dry with sarcasm.

"He sold us out," Joe spat angrily.  "The bastard sold us all out."
Looking around the table at the surprised and concerned faces, he
elaborated.  "He sold the story of Immortality and the Watcher's to
some journalists.  Gave them the info he was couriering as proof.  The
Watcher Council has already...punished him," Joe swallowed convulsively
before continuing.  Watcher punishment usually involved a bullet to the
brain – if you were lucky.  "But the damage has been done.  We have
maybe twenty fours hours grace before Immortality and secret societies
are front page news."

The swearing that followed was profuse and in several languages, most
of them long dead.  It was Methos who dragged them to practicalities.
"Did this guy name name's?  Pass on Watcher files?  Are we going to
have the National Inquirer knocking on our doors with camera's
flashing?"  Beside him, Richie tightened his grip on his lover's hand. 
Older than the written word, Methos had a lot to loose if the secret
got out.  Then again, they all did.

Joe shook his head.  "Would you believe I'm now almost grateful for the
Hunters?  One of the security measures implemented after that fiasco
was that only the Watcher involved and their immediate superior, which
for most of you is me, have access to the individual Watcher files.
This guy was under Research's jurisdiction.  They had no authority to
have those files.  So I'd say that exact identities are safe, at least
for the time being."

Blair shook his head, curls flying.  "But we're talking about
Immortality here.  Its like the Holy Grail for some people – can you
imagine the furor that's gonna come down when news breaks that there
are people around them who never age!"

Amanda groaned and buried her face in her hands.  "Hey Old Man, how's
Bora Bora this time of year?  Quiet?  No daily paper?"

"Not all of us can just up and vanish, Amanda.  I for one can't," Blaer
snapped.  In his mind, he was thinking of Jim.  How could he just leave
his Sentinel without a Guide?  Jim relied on him for his very sanity.

Daniel nodded.  "Neither can I.  I don't suppose we can just wish for
it to blow over.  I mean, what kind of evidence are we talking about

Joe picked up the threads of the narrative again.  "Research is putting
together copies of everything they think was passed on.  But I can tell
you now, it includes footage."

"What kind of footage?  Not a Quickening?  I would have thought that
any electronics would get scrambled if you got close enough to take
good pictures?"

"Yeah, the Quickening scrambled it.  But the fight beforehand
apparently came out wonderfully clear.  Lots of lovely frames of two
guys with great big swords going for it in Paris.  In front of a
school, if you can believe it.  Its night, but you can still make out
the sign."

"Oh, what wonderful PR," Reia rolled her eyes, feeling what she
suspected was her first headache in a very long time.  "The media
hunting dogs are going to have a field day with that." She gestured
with her hands as she quoted a hypothetical headline.  "'Immortal
Savages Fight With Swords on School Property.'  And how long is it
going to take for them to match that footage with whatever damage was
caused by the Quickening?  Journalists may be soulless bastards, but
they're not stupid."

Lara commented softly into the silence.  "Its going to be the
Witchhunts, the Inquisition and the Holocaust all rolled into one for

Nigel shook his head.  "But how will they tell who's who?"

Connor began ticking off identifying marks on his fingers.  "Lets see,
laddie.  Carrying a big sword in this day is going to be a bit of a
giveaway.  I daren't say that if they push on some of our fake ID's,
more than a few would have flaws.  Even if they just cut us and watched
it, they could identify us.  Some of us can control our reactions, but
most can't."  At this he looked over the table at the old and crafty
ones, Methos, Danya and Reia, before flicking his gaze to his kinsman. 
"And I know one or two local police who aren't going to take long to
review old unsolved cases and come up with an answer of Immortal

Amanda asked a question.  "Do they know our weakness?  Are they going
to be setting up guillotines and conducting executions on national
television?  I for one stayed well clear of Paris during the Revolution
for a reason!"

"They...they wouldn't hunt us like that, would they?"  Richie's voice
was quiet and unsure.  He was thinking of his own headhunting days.
Surely some people would like to see him beheaded.  And what about the
Old Timer?  He was Death on a Horse, for crying out loud.  Who wouldn't
want to see the last remaining Horseman of the Apocalypse dead,

"Individuals, probably not.  But if the journalists aren't careful,
they could easily whip up some moral outrage and before you know it,
we've got a mob on our metaphorical doorstep, baying for our heads."

Joe rubbed his hands together nervously.  "Plus, we've got the added
danger to our Watcher's out in the field.  There are some Immortals out
there who would not take kindly to the idea of an international spy
ring following their every move.  We may have a few Watchers coming
under attack from their own subjects.  Plus, there's these."  He
stretched out his arm and displayed his tattooed wrist.  "I think we're
even easier to find than you guys are."

"Lots of problems, but nay solutions" Duncan sighed as he bowed his
head slowly.  "I dinnae suppose you could get us an advanced copy of
that damn report?"

"We've got some of our computer guys on it now.  They're trying to
convince the computers to spit it out for us, and maybe even make it
disappear from the reporter's systems after we've gotten it."  He
exhaled noisily and pushed himself to his feet.  Leaning heavily on his
cane, he began shuffling towards the back office.  "I'm just gonna go
check on the current situation.  Hopefully I'll have good news for all
of us."

"Well," Reia said into the charged silence that followed.  "This

"Majorly," Blair and Richie chorused in unison.  But any humour was
lost in the seriousness of the moment.

"I wonder what's going to happen next?" Lara mused out loud in her
clipped tones.

"I think we're all going to be playing a lot of 'what if' games in the
next few days.  This is going to be huge, and where will we end up
after it..?"

Methos shook his head.  "I have a feeling there isn't going to be an
'end,' as such.  Immortality is now in the public consciousness, and I
fear its there to stay."

"Fuck," Reia commented succinctly.

"Several times over."  All heads turned as Joe returned to the group.
In his hand were several sheaves of paper.  "Bad news guys," he said as
threw the stack down.  "We were too slow.  The story's gone out over
the distribution wire."

As one, the Immortals pounced on the stack of copies and began to read
rapidly.  Their expressions grew hard as they absorbed the words and
their implications.

"And this has gone global?"


Reia threw her copy back at the table.  "Shit fuck damn blast ARRGH!"
She slumped back into her chair and addressed the air a foot in front
of her face.  "We're totally screwed.  Its all there.  We are so

Blair watched his old teacher with bright eyes.  "How'd you live so
long as a pessimist, hujimas?"

"I was never surprised," she replied absently.  Reaching forward again,
she plucked up her copy, eyes already skimming across the opening
paragraph.  "Who were the two fighting in the video, Joe?  Can we warn
the victor?"

"They're both dead now.  The victor lost his next challenge.  Taking
the Quickening of a Headhunter made him too cocky."

"They know about decapitation.  How many idiots do you think will be
running around with axes and whatever's handy, ready to take off the
head of anyone they dislike?"  Nigel pushed his fringe off his face.
In his mind's eye, he could see every lunatic he had ever met, standing
outside his office with a fireaxe and a fanatics gleam in their eye.
He shuddered despite himself.  "Even if they just decide to catch us
and lock us up....well, I know of a few Immortal's I'd rather not have
to share a cell with."

"It might not come to that," Amanda noted hopefully.  "I mean, it is a
fairly fanciful story if you're not in the know.  Maybe most people
will just dismiss it out of hand."

"Its not most people I'm worried about," Daniel noted gloomily.  "You
don't need details, but I've had run-ins with covert ops and shadow
groups before.  Not for Immortality," he hastened to reassure Joe.
"For my other work.   They'd probably see this as something they need
to learn about and master to make a better soldier.  And trust me, you
do NOT want these guys on your tail."  Inwardly, he was wondering how
long he'd have if Maybourne and his associates found out about his
little secret.  Not long, he'd wager.  He was suddenly extremely glad
Jack and Sam and Teal'c had no idea.  He'd hate for his friends to get
caught in the middle of the storm that he sensed was brewing.

Methos rose and stretched, muscles crackling.  "Well, I'm going to have
a beer then I'm going home to bed.  Its not going to do any of us any
good sitting around speculating on worst case scenarios."

"As much as I hate to admit it, the old guy's right," Reia said as she
leant back into her seat.  "I'm sure the tone of the morning news
programs will give us a far better indication.  Lets hope they treat it
like a joke, and leave us alone with the Game."  She lifted her arms
over her head and stretched with feline grace.  "Now, who's couch am I
crashing on tonight?"

Sleeping arrangements were quickly made, but there was no disguising
the undercurrent of nervous tension in the room.  At Joe's suggestion,
they agreed to meet back at the bar first thing in the morning to watch
and discuss whatever the early news bulletins would bring.  Joe himself
was in for a busy night alerting his Watcher's to what was coming.  He
doubted he'd be able to sleep much anyway.

By half past six on Sunday morning, it was clear that sleep had been in
short supply for everyone.  Methos, Richie and Reia were the last to
arrive, bringing with them several loaves of bread and coffee things as
a peace offering.

"We were listening out for a news bulletin, but haven't heard one yet. 
What's on TV?"

"Christian Sunday programming and kids cartoons, so far," Blair
announced as he cycled through the available channels with the remote. 
"Hang on, here we go."  He'd found the 24 hour news channel.

The sporadic conversation stilled as everyone settled around the table,
eyes on the opening sequence to the main morning news bulletin.

    **Today's top news story.  Sensational claims of human Immortality 
    have rocked the world.  Early reports suggest that information 
    regarding a section of humanity that did not age normally was 
    leaked to media outlets by a member of a covert operations group 
    charged with keeping an eye on these allegedly 'deathless' people.  
    At first believed to be a hoax, these claims have supposedly been 
    validated with a range of evidence supplied by the mystery 

The screen flashed from the newsreader to a data screen where the core
details of the news report they had seen last night were digested down
into dot-point form.

    ** According to these initial reports, there may be up to several
    thousand of these so-called 'Immortals' currently existing around 
    the world.  However, the title Immortal may be inaccurate since 
    death can supposedly occur by beheading.  Police in several 
    countries have already indicated the possibility of reopening 
    unsolved case files which involved decapitation of the victim.  
    Information leaked to the press suggests that these Immortals 
    actively seek to decapitate fellow Immortals for unknown reasons.**

Following this grim pronouncement was a clip from the footage of the
Paris battle.  Though the footage was grainy and amateur, especially
compared to the professional studio footage of the newsroom, it was
still easy to make out two Immortals locked a vicious sword battle.  To
the group, well-versed in such battles, it was obvious that the pair
were evenly matched.  The damning voiceovers continued.  

    **This footage, supplied by the informant, shows two of these 
    Immortals engaged in combat in a Parisian schoolyard.  Whilst the 
    footage ends before the conclusion of this encounter, the date stamp 
    on the video coincided with the date of an unexplained explosion in 
    the school area.  There is already speculation that the explosion 
    was used to cover up evidence of a battle.**

"They don't get Quickenings.  Or the Game." Reia noted quietly.

"Would it make a difference?" Richie, sitting next to her, asked.

"Oh yes.  Reason and rationale can go a long way to stemming fears, no
matter how unusual or gruesome that reason may appear.  The way they're
talking, we're made out to be brutal savages who hunt simply because we
can." Methos' calm pronouncement did little to allay the growing fears
of the group.

Richie shifted in his seat uncomfortably, memories of his own days as a
Headhunter still vivid in his mind.  The problem was, there were some
Immortal's who were little more than Quickening junkies, killing
because they could, glorying in the power they inherited.  In some
cases, the news report was absolutely correct.  The news report
continued without mercy.  

    **As more information comes to light, we can begin to uncover the
    fringes of two parallel 'secret societies.'  The Immortals, who 
    seem to be unageing despite having existed for several lifetimes, 
    and who engage one another in combat to the death with weapons such 
    as swords.  The second group, believed to be known as the Watchers, 
    are supposed to exist solely to observe and record the continued 
    existence of these Immortals.**

The newsreaders face was replaced by an excellent facsimile of the
Watcher's logo tattooed on Joe's inner wrist.  

    **Why they have not publicly announced the presence of such a race
    remains a mystery.  More details...**

"Cos we've got more brains than God gave small rocks and journalists!"
Joe muttered angrily at the screen as he snatched the remote off the
bar and thumbed the sound off before throwing it back on the bar with a
loud clatter.

"Well," Lara commented dryly after several tense seconds had passed.
"That could have gone better."

"Much better," Methos agreed.  "I don't know about anyone else, but I
need a beer after that."  He helped himself to the taps in silence, as
everyone sat thinking about what had just happened.

"Reia, you're right," Blair noted finally.

"Yes.  Uh, how?"

"We're well and truly screwed."

The rest of the morning was spent in a kind of dull shock.  A little
after seven, Richie roared off on his motorbike, returning soon after
with a stack of newspapers from around the world.  With little
conversation, the group spread them out across several tables,
translating through gaps in language as they began to get a look at the
global ramifications of such an announcement.

The Parisian papers, of course, took a great interest in the idea of
Immortality.  With such a huge Immortal population, even the best
Watcher efforts couldn't keep all the headless bodies out of police
custody.  The video of the fight shown on news stations around the
world only intensified the Parisian government's determination to solve
the Immortal mystery.

Seacouver journalists had also begun making tentative connections
between Immortal's and the strange goings on of the city.  McLeod, a
survivor of regular challenges, had not always been entirely discreet
when fighting his battles, and with Richie and Methos both semi-
permanent residents, the head(less) count for the city was always going
to be remarkably high.  Statistics for other popular Immortal haunts
reflected their Game-playing populations.

"Its actually quiet interesting," Lara noted as she rubbed the bridge
of her nose tiredly.  "How well Immortality has been kept out of the
public eye before now."  She smiled ruefully at Joe.  "I suppose we
have your lot to thank for that.  We're not always the souls of
discretion once we get going, are we?"

Joe laughed briefly as he stirred sugar into his coffee.  "No, you're
not.  But you keep us busy!"

Blair leant on his elbows, pushing his messy curls out of the way.
"So, where are we at?  More importantly, where is the rest of the

"Still absorbing the whole idea.  Your damn courier's evidence stack is
pretty convincing, reading this lot.  I wouldn't be surprised if people
started accepting at least the possibility of Immortality.  But as yet,
there is no official stand."

Reia nodded, agreeing with Methos' judgement.  "Paris will probably end
up leading the way, at least for the next little while.  Given that any
night of the year will light up with a Quickening, I think people there
will be almost blasé about the whole idea."

"Its official standpoints I'm interested in now," Joe noted.  "Which
way will they go?  Acceptance?  Persecution?  I'm more worried about
how they'll take the whole sword fight thing than anything else at this
stage.   I've no doubt that once people start making opinions about
Immortals, they'll apply them wholesale, not on a case by case basis."

Amanda chuckled.  "Anyone want the job of mortal-Immortal liaison
officer?  The hours are long, the pay sucks and you may very well have
both groups come after your head."

A chorus of 'Pass' echoed around the empty bar.  For several more
minutes, the only noise was the rustle of papers being turned.

Connor stopped and stretched until his joints popped.  "Things are
starting to get repetitive."

Syd nodded.  "All feeding off the same news wire.  Hooray for
globalization."  She glanced at the clock above the bar.  "Nige, what
time's our flight out this afternoon?"

Duncan closed the Japanese paper he was reading.  "You going home?"

She nodded with a self-depreciating smile.  "Got to keep up
appearances.  As far as the world outside that door is concerned, I am
Doctor Sydney Fox, Professor of History, great teacher and occasional
retriever of historical objects of interest.  The less they know of my
sword-wielding hobbies, the better."  Around the room, the other out of
town visitors were nodding in agreement.

Duncan's expression was serious.  "Well, if you ever need to leave, for
whatever reason, feel free to come back up here.  I'll offer whatever
help I can."

"Ditto for me," Reia offered from the other side of the room.  Off her
old students' incredulous expression, she affected being wounded.
"What?  I can be magmanious when I want to be.  Hey Methos," she asked
suddenly.  "Where abouts' is that Monastery you're so fond of?  Would
they be interested in taking in a few guests from time to time if it
gets a bit hot around here?"

Methos considered her for a moment.  "I'd need to speak to the Rinpoche
first.  But I daresay he'd take in the occasional stray for a bit if
there was real need."

Blair gave his first real smile since this whole mess started.  "Are
you guys plotting the beginnings of an Immortal Underground?"

Methos snorted.

"I wouldn't go that far, Bratwurst," Reia said slowly.  "I mean for
starters, Tibet is a small country, we couldn't all just hop on a plane
and head on over.  That would just be corralling ourselves.  But I
wouldn't mind sneaking the occasional body out of the country, be it
America or France or wherever, if there was real mortal danger."  She
mimed a blade chopping down on her neck.  "Something small and
discrete.  No point putting ourselves at risk."

Methos smirked.  "You're revealing your Maquis experience, m'dear."

"So?  The Maquis may have been ill-equipped and on the verge of
starvation most of the time, but we knew how to fight a guerilla war." 
She sniffed, a note of pride creeping into her voice.  "And we were
damned good at smuggling anything into or out of anywhere with minimum
risk and fuss.  It may pay to remember those times."

Joe pulled himself upright.  "Heaven help the rest of us," he exclaimed
dramatically.  "Between you lot you have, what, over 20,000 years worth
of experience in the Game and elsewhere.  If that lot out there," he
jerked his thumb towards the street access "try anything, then it's
their loss.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get back to my
Watcher's.  Why don't you lot head back to the gym and get some
practice in.  No doubt sparring sessions are going to be rare once this
mess gets going."

Taking their leave of the popular Watcher, the ragtag group of
Immortal's made their way back to McLeod's gym to act on Joe's
suggestion before catching their flights back home.  Swords flashed
through the air as everybody released their stress and worry through
the exercise.  They could all taste it in the air.  Everything was
about to change.


Daniel was in a window seat on the packed local flight back to Colorado
Springs.  However, his eyes were closed to the dappled cloud beneath
him.  Travel by air may be a rare event for him for the foreseeable
future.  Only his rather impressive military credentials had stopped
the airport guards from searching him more thoroughly when his sword
had set off the metal detectors.  He didn't dare put it in his luggage
where it might have shown up in x-ray.  Swords had been a prominent
feature of every news report he'd seen since this morning, he wasn't
going to risk being caught with one in a hurry without a damn good lie
on hand.

Around him, he could hear snippets of conversation between passengers. 
Immortality was the topic of the day.  In front of him, two loud women
were engrossed in the topic.

'...but imagine, always looking the same age.  Imagine being eighteen

Danya thought of Richie, eternally nineteen.  Forever being carded in a
bar, an unceasing future of being treated as a teenager.  Danya thanked
whatever Gods he may have once believed in that he, at least, had been
killed in a mature prime which could let him carry off any age between
twenty six and forty.

'...oh yes, and think, no more exercise!  We could have that second
piece of cake, even...'

Of course you could, lady, he thought snippily.  You'd need the energy
to burn when you put in four, six, eight hours a day doing stretches
and strength exercises, moving through extensions, learning different
fighting techniques.  Doing actual battle with actual people.  Carrying
the coffins of friends who didn't practice as much as the other guy.

'...think of all you could do if you were going to live forever!'

Nobody lives forever.  Even Immortals die.  And in the meantime, we
have to watch everyone and everything we know and love grow old,
disappear, leave us, return to dust.  On a dig over a decade ago, he
had found himself back at the site of his pre-Immortal home.   There
was nothing to be seen of the foundations of his village, no remnant of
the people he had grown up loving and admiring and befriending.
Nothing besides him that showed where his killers lived and loved and

The Immortal Curse: outliving everything except memory and death.

He tuned out the loud women and every other conversation in the too-
small aeroplane.  He drifted with memory, recalling the faces of those
who had died and left him, until the pilot announced their descent into
Colorado Springs. 

His grand plan for the remainder of his Sunday was to go home, make a
big pot of coffee and sit on his couch and brood.  He threw those plans
out of the window as soon as he cleared Arrivals.  Jack O'Neill was
leaning casually against a pillar in the back of the Arrival area, his
eyes no doubt automatically scanning the area behind his military
flyboy shades.  Spotting Daniel, his gruff exterior broke into an
honest smile as he moved forwards through the crowds to claim his
wandering archeologist.

When Jack had first returned for him on Abydos, he had be surprised at
how much the Colonel had aged in a year.  Much of it was grief, but
Danya recognised the work of time on that face.  Despite the remarkably
strong bonds of friendship that had always, somehow, existed between
the two different men, he still felt himself subconsciously
disentangling himself from the mortal.  Danya wondered, from behind the
façade of Daniel Jackson, how he would cope when Jack and Sam grew old
and died.  Of course, they would outlive Daniel Jackson – sooner or
later, someone was going to realise that he hadn't aged alongside his
friends.  At that time, Dr Daniel J. was going to suffer an unfortunate

"Daniel!  Good trip?"  Hands coming forward to take that damn carry all
off him.

He smiled.  "It was... interesting."


Blair looked around the crammed conference room with interest.  Almost
lost in the shadow of his partner's bulk, few noticed his curious
expression as he scanned for any clue as to what this hastily called
meeting was about.  He had his own suspicions, but he dared to hope for
some other explanation.

The deputy commissioner turned on the overhead projector.  On the
stained screen, a grainy photocopy of the first Immortality headline

Blair groaned silently.  He should have learnt from his teacher –
always expect the worst and never be disappointed.  But more was to
come.  The deputy Commish and some young scut from the Mayor's office
began their presentation, warning for the need of vigilance, how
'sword-wielding thugs' were not welcome in their city.  Blair tried not
to smile.  How were they to know that there were, in Blair's best
estimates, a grand total of three Immortals in permanent residence in
Cascade?  Just himself, a teacher from the linguistics department at
Rainier who was barely a century old (and who had already expressed an
almost suicidal disdain of the whole Game), and an older monkish
Immortal who liked how the quiet of Cascade let him escape the confines
of Holy Ground occasionally.   Cascade wasn't Paris or Tokyo or
Seacouver.  Quickenings were the exception rather than the rule.  Why
else would he have chosen to settle here despite the ceaseless winter?

But the tone of the presentation was worrying.  Perhaps Lara had been
on the right track.  Blaer had survived the Inquisition, the Witchhunts
and the Holocaust, and all three had started with people who sounded
suspiciously like the pair at the front.

The 'briefing' over, he joined the gaggle of Detectives and uniforms
leaving the cramped and stuffy room.  Deep in thought, he barely noted
that his feet had carried him with the rest of the Major Crimes crew
back to the bullpen.  As the other detectives got to work, his partner
snagged him at his desk.

"Sandburg, what's up?  You've been miles away since you got back last
night, and your heartbeat was all over the place in there."

Blair shrugged off his partners concerns.  Now was certainly not the
time to tell the truth.  "I'm still a bit out of it after the drive
back, and it was really stuffy in there," he dissembled quickly.
Dropping his voice, he continued.  "I'm also really worried by this
whole Immortal thing."

"Why?  Don't tell me you buy this 'guys with swords' thing?"

'More than you'll ever know, big guy!' He thought to himself.  Out
loud, he replied "I just think... it just reminds me too much of the
whole diss thing."  He dropped his head and hoped he looked
sufficiently caught up in past injustices.  It was true that the leak
resonated strongly with the media frenzy following the unexpected
release of his thesis.  But instead of affecting just two people,
Sentinel and Guide, this was going to affect hundreds, including some
of his oldest and closest friends.

"It just sucks bigtime, okay.  But I'll guess it will all fade away as
something else gets their attention."  He tried a weak laugh.
"Journalists.  They're got an attention span like a gerbil!  But enough
about that, has Simon said anything about the Zapella case..?"


In Los Angeles, even the ivy-covered halls of academe were bursting
with speculation regarding Immortality.  Arriving at their chaotic
office space, Syd and Nigel were greeted by the terminally chirpy (and
completely oblivious) pre-Immortal Claudia, bearing a stack of notes
and internal memos.  The egotistical Chair of the History Department
had tagged teamed with the equally opportunistic Vice Chancellor in
their absence to instigate a department wide research project – trying
to locate any mention of Immortality in the texts and evidence of

Retreating to the relative safety of Syd's glassed-in office, Nigel
managed a weak smile as he flicked through the stack of correspondence.
"Good thing Blaer's not in academia anymore.  He may have had to
research his own participation in the Beowulf saga."

Syd managed a distracted smile as she shuffled her own papers.  "Hmm.
Yeah, not to mention the thousands of allusions in religious texts and
chronicles of war.  A Quickening in a battle field is going to make it
into reports of the conflict, no matter which side eventually won."
She set her papers down with a sigh.  "But what do we do?  Play
clueless?  Throw in false leads?"

"How about tell the truth," Nigel countered.  "Who's to know what
identity they've taken on now.  Maybe publicizing the historical
participation of Immortals will highlight the incredible knowledge and
memories you old ones possess."  He grinned as Syd reacted to the
subtle gibe.  "It may even deflect some of the attention away from the
whole swords and duels at ten paces thing."

Sydney shrugged after a moments thought.  "You may be right.  I'm going
to toss an email out to the gang anyway.  Maybe they've got a third
option.  Can you go over the prep for the 202 seminar, please?"

Throwing off a careless salute, Nigel left for his own cluttered desk
as Sydney settled to compose her message.


The rambling Croft estate was draped in morning mist as the Lady of the
house returned from an early jog to clear her head.  Moving through the
entry hall, she shed her running shoes before heading into the cosy
study to check her messages before taking breakfast.  

She had been exchanging emails across the pond with Sydney and Nigel
for the past several days, discussing their current academic
predicament.  Not for the first time, Lara was grateful that her
current persona had nothing to do with universities and their damned
internal politics and frustrating edicts from on high.

A quick check showed no new messages as yet from her American-based
friend.  Moving to the small table set by the bay window for breakfast,
she took a delicate sip of tea as she shook open the Times.

The linen was promptly sprayed with the hot beverage as Lara took in
the banner headline.



"Yes Lara, I just read the headline here as well,"  Reia was pacing as
far as the phone cord would allow her to travel.  

"Well, first they've got to identify us, and that's going to be a long,
slow and laborious task in and of itself....yes, I remember the witch
hunts!  I was burnt at a rather large and toasty stake, if you'd care
to remember...giant marshmallow, har har...yes yes, that whole 'recant
and name your fellow sinners' thing.  I remember the tactic.  Do not go
down easily and do not go down alone, and all that...well, how many
people know who we really are?  Hmm, yes, well...really!  That many?
Well, no, I've never really sat down and counted them off before...
Yes, well, they don't count, they don't know my current name...well,
perhaps....no, I'm not running off to Tibet just yet!  No, not even
Australia.  Too hot, for one thing!  Yes, Lara...okay, well, watch your
neck.  You too.  Bye."

Gently returning the phone to its cradle, Reia folded her arms across
her chest in contemplation as she wandered over to the window.  From
here, she could see the typically busy Parisian street, the shadow of
Notre Dame visible in the drizzle-fogged distance.

Behind her, the phone rang again.

"Bonjour, Sibyl Designs.  Ahh, hey Old Man.  What time is it over
there?"  She consulted her watch, absently sorting out timezones as
Methos continued speaking.  "What was on the 10pm news..? oh yes, Lara
just rang me about that.  The Times apparently has some wonderful
headlines...no, I haven't had a chance to check the local...well,
people keep ringing me up to tell me about it!  Sorry, you're
right...don't let it go to your head, Old Timer, won't happen again!"
She grinned as the Oldest Man cheerfully cussed her out in language
that would make a sailor of any century blush.  "Quite finished?  What?
Well, let Richie take you to bed, and call me in the evening....your
morning.  I should have more details by the time you've had your beauty
sleep...no, I was not going to make a crack...well, okay, I was, but it
was kind of mandatory...all right, goodnight to you too."  She set the
phone down again, thought better of it, and took it off the hook.

Time to brazen the Paris streets in early winter, and to see what shape
disaster was taking this morning.  Honestly, she thought, some years it
didn't pay for an Immortal to regenerate...


Winter deepened, coating entire cities in a thick white crystalline
blanket. Blair watched people in bulky coats slide their way along the
footpath that ran outside the PD.  From his perch next to the window in
the conference room, the few pedestrians visible seemed more like
shivering blobs on spindly legs than anything truly human.
Instinctively, he pulled the outer layer of flannel tighter around his
compact frame.  He'd always fought a loosing battle against the
creeping chill, ever since he was a boy.

The arrival of a pair of suits and the deputy commish dragged his
attention away from his frozen reverie.  Behind them, the partially
open door displayed the drooping attempts at christmas decorations that
lined the corridor.  Blair, whilst usually a fan of any socially
acceptable excuse to kick back and party, was not in a particularly
festive mood.  In the six weeks since the news broke, he had been
existing in a state of nervous anticipation, almost brooding as a sense
of foreboding invaded every part of his being.  Every morning he woke
wondering what news the day would bring.  This morning, something in
his hind brain had been sending signals that today was not going to be
a good day.  He'd therefore spent nearly the entire day burying himself
in a backlog of paperwork, trying to dodge whatever shit was flying his

The ubiquitous overhead was flashed onto the screen:  'Immortal
Identity Tracking.'

He scrunched down further into his seat, trying not to groan out loud. 
For some reason, Cascade's leaders had decided to wage an outright war
against Immortality, using every legal and PR-compatible means at their
disposal.  Which was all very nice, considering the last remaining
Immortal in residence was part of the same police force charged with
tracking Immortal's down.

If it wasn't all so fucking ironic, he would probably cry.

"...to familiarize each officer with the testing protocols, we will
require each of you to undergo the procedure, as administered by your
co-workers.  This will also provide excellent practice for your
colleagues.  We promise it won't hurt a bit, if they do it right.  And
since you'll be returning the favour, consider it an added incentive to
get it right from the start."  The suit laughed weakly at his own joke.
"Any questions?  Very well."  He flicked off the overhead projector.

Blair blinked, but it wasn't in reaction to the flood of light as
someone up the back flicked the fluorescents back on.


Beside him, his partner chuckled, a deep subsonic rumble that was not
so much heard as felt.  "Glad to see you were paying attention, Chief."
A large paw slapped him gently on the shoulder, renewing their physical
contact.  "Come on, lets' get out of here.  Those projectors..." he
shook his head slightly, as if the machines' buzz was still stuck in
his head.

"You okay, Jim?"  A Guide's concern somehow overrode any personal

"Yeah, I'll be fine.  Just give me a minute."

Clucking silently, he nonetheless trailed his partner back to the
Bullpen without another word.  The other detectives had beaten them
back up and were discussing the briefing amongst themselves.

"So when we gonna do this testing thing?"  Henry Brown leant back into
his battered chair, fiddling a pencil idly between his fingers.

"A better question is when have we all got some spare time together?"
His partner Rafe shot back from his perch in front of the desk.

Simon, their immediate superior, confidante and friend, twisted to read
the duty board. "Hmph," he snorted.  "Looks like the only night we're
all off together is tonight.  After that, we've got stakeouts all over
the place with the Zapelli deal."  He turned back to the assembled
detectives.  "Okay, how about Chinese takeout and we can play pins and
needles on each other and keep the big boys happy."  A sarcastic twist
of his mouth betrayed his own thoughts on their latest orders.

"Fine," Jim said as he shuffled some papers on his desk.  "How about
you guys get the takeout and meet back at the loft?"

Joel tossed an eraser at Jim from his desk.  "You just don't want to
drive anywhere in the snow!"

Jim tossed the eraser back.  "Got it in one.  Have you seen my
insurance bill?"

"Point!  Say half six?"

Jim stuffed the last of his paperwork in his out tray.  "Deal.  You
right Chief?"  Blair blinked and realised he'd been standing in a blind
stupor in the centre of the bullpen for the last five minutes.


"Ready.  To.  Go?"

"Oh, yeah man.  Just let me get my stuff."  Blindly shoveling his
things in his backpack, he grabbed his heavy overcoat and wriggled into
it with practiced ease.

Jim just shook his head fondly, well aware of his partner's dislike of
the cold, and herded the preoccupied, redheaded bundle towards the

"You okay, Sandburg?"

Blair jumped, unprepared for how nearby Jim was.  Since arriving home
nearly an hour ago, he had been puttering aimlessly around the loft,
finally settling in to stare out of the large windows on the main
floor.  His head was full of plots and schemes to get out of being
'tested' for Immortality.  He knew, theoretically, that it was possible
for an Immortal to mentally force their natural healing ability to
stall for a short period of time.  It was turning theory into practice
in less than an hour that was proving the problem.  With Jim floating
about the loft, preparing it for guests, he couldn't just lock himself
in the bathroom with a razor and practice, either.  The Sentinels' nose
would sniff out his blood at about the same time that his hearing would
hear the whsk of the blade cutting flesh.  He had no delusions that his
perceived self-mutilation would not put Jim in the most receptive frame
of mind.

Shifting position so his back was to the window, he forced a smile for
his partner.  "Yeah, I'm fine.  Why?"

Jim looked as if he was going to pursue something, but instead he let
whatever it was drop.  "Simon's just on his way up, with Meagan.
They've..." he paused, cocking his head to one side.  "They've hit
Wong's down the road.  That sweet and sour smells great."

Forcing a weak smile, Blair unraveled himself from his blanket cocoon
and padded over to open the door.  "Maybe I should use some for
positive reinforcement when I want to test your senses."

"Might work, Chief."  

Simon and Meagan chose that moment to enter, no longer expressing their
surprise that their hosts had the door open and were waiting for them. 
Instead, he just said "the others are just on their way up.  It was too
cold to wait downstairs."

"Wouldn't want the food to get cold," Meagan added with a cheeky grin
as she began unpacking steaming boxes.

The lift at the end of the hall dinged, heralding the arrival of Joel,
Rafe and Henry.  The seven detectives wasted no time doling out
portions.  Blair toyed with the colourful food in front of him, unable
to eat more than a few bites for the nervous tension that had gripped
his body.  Being discovered as an Immortal generally meant severe
nastiness of a personal nature, one way or another.  The conversation
of the others flowed over him as he mentally ran through a few possible
scenarios of how the next few hours would go.  Damn, but he hated this.

He cleared the dishes quickly, hoping (but realising it was futile)
that Jim had not noticed his lack of appetite.  His stomach lurched
when he saw Simon unpack the testing kit they'd been given earlier in
the day.  In normal circumstances, he'd trust these people with
anything, but these weren't normal circumstances.  There was always
that unknown factor of human reaction to such amazing news.  Added to
that was the fact that they were police officers, and Immortals were
suspect in all but name.  Also, Blair knew that the more people who
knew his secret, the more danger there would be. Guilt by associate was
another real possibility.  So much crap...

So far was he into cataloguing the coming disaster that Jim had to come
over to the sink where he was standing.

"Blair?  You okay man, its your turn?  Meagan's going to be practicing
on you."

Blair tried one last time.  "Geez man, you know I hate the sight of
blood, especially my own.  Hey Meagan, what's say we not and pretend we

Jim herded Blair over to the chair where they had set up.  Meagan
reached out and grabbed his unwilling arm to lead him into the seat.
"Sorry, Sandy, no such luck.  I've read all the instructions, I promise
this won't hurt a bit!"

Blair closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer of strength to gods
he no longer really believed in.  There was always the possibility that
this thing didn't work.  Yeah, right!  He felt the small metal probe
slip under his skin.  A single droplet of blood ran down the outside of
his clenched fist.  He felt the tiny tingle of the Quickening welling
up at the puncture wound, as he heard Meagan whisper.

"Oh my god!"


Dragging Jim out of his zone out had been his first priority.  Once
assured that his Sentinel was operating in the present, he curled
himself up with a blanket on the edge of the sofa and watched with
quiet eyes as the six detectives tried in their own way to comprehend
what they had just witnessed.  Joel was sitting on a kitchen chair,
mouth gaping, shaking his head slowly.  Rafe was standing in front of
the counter, eyes fixed on the telltale probe.  "I don't..." he kept
muttering every few minutes.  Brown was pacing aimlessly around the
loft, a faraway look on his face.  Meagan hadn't moved once she had put
her face against her folded arms.  Simon had perched next to Jim, his
eyes fixed on Blair, his skin reflecting an unhealthy pallor.

It was Jim who spoke first.  "You're one of them."  The quietly
delivered statement cut through Blair's soul like a sword blade.
'Them.'  Like he wasn't even a member of the same species any more.
Blaer shrugged to himself philosophically.  For all he knew, Jim may be

"Yes," he said out loud.  "I'm one of them.  I'm an Immortal."
He rested his cheek against the back of the sofa.  "And now you all
have a choice."  Henri Brown stopped pacing and Meagan lifted her head.
He had their undivided attention.  "You can either drag me down to the
station and make Cascade an Immortal-free zone, or you can...keep this
information to yourselves."

Jim smiled softly, his eyes focussing in on his Guide as if from a
great distance.  "How could we ever turn you in, especially to those
idiots who thought up those."  He waved vaguely towards the kit.  

"Shit, we always knew you were weird, Hairboy, this just proves it!"
Brown flopped onto the sofa and smiled wickedly at Blair.  As one, the
others moved into take places on the couch and floor, instinctively
moving into a tight circle.  Over the initial shock now (though Blair
knew delayed shock would probably strike sooner or later), they were
radiating support as only a tightly intimate circle of friends could.

Simon spoke.  "We won't tell a soul about you, Blair, on one

Blaer's eyes narrowed warily.

"You tell us everything!  No lies, no evasions.  You need to trust us
to keep the secret.  Trust us with all of it."

Blair smiled suddenly, though his eyes were still watchful.  "Whatever
happened to 'I don't want to know,' Simon?"

"I changed my mind.  Captain's prerogative!" He sniffed loftily.

Jim rose slowly and carefully moved until he was sitting next to his
Guide, so close that Blair could feel the warmth of his partner's skin
even through several layers of clothing and blanket.  "I don't know why
you felt you couldn't trust me with this, Blair.  But please.  No more
secrets?"  The lost puppydog look on his partners face, tinged by a
note of something undefinable, lifted the angst from Blair's soul.  In
the past, telling the truth had been a disaster.  But back then, he
hadn't been a Guide, hadn't had friends like these.  A warm smile lit
up his face and he unconsciously burrowed a little towards the source
of warmth and acceptance.

"Okay.  Sorry I didn't spill earlier.  But, well, its kind of a tough
subject to bring up, and then this whole mess began in the papers, and,
well..." he shrugged clumsily under the blanket.

Meagan waved her hand in the air.  "Forget it, Sandy, I think we all
understand that.  Get to the juicy bits."

"Juicy bits?"

"Yeah, like how old are you  really?  Did you live through any
famous events?  Ever since I heard about Immortals, I've wanted to know
what I must be like!"  Her eyes were dancing like a child's on
christmas morning.

"Long stretches of absolute boredom, punctuated by moments of extreme
terror.  To paraphrase."  


"Okay, okay!"  He freed his hands and threw them up in the air.  A
moment's self doubt crossed his mind.  "Are you sure you all want to
hear this?"

"YES!" The group chorused back.  Meagan's rapid-fired questions had
obviously sparked their imaginations.

"Fine.  Short biography to start with?  Okay.  I was found on the
Winter Solstice and raised as the adopted son of the local Chieftain."

"Indian Chief?"

"No," he laughed at the sudden thought of him with head dress and
teepee.  "I grew up within sight of the Ural Mountains."  He pulled his
blanket around him.  "REALLY cold, there."

"But how old are you?" Meagan persisted.

"Old enough."


He sighed and capitulated.  "This June I'll celebrate my seventeen
hundredth birthday."

Stunned silence was broken by Rafe's whisper.  "Wow.  That's...that's a
lot of candles!"  Blair hit him with a cushion.

"You okay, Jim?"  He tapped his partner's arm worriedly.  "Hey, man, I
may be old but I'm still, like, totally possessed by my inner child."

Jim swallowed visibly.  "My question."  He met Blair's eyes and Blair
saw clearly the worry there.  "How many Sentinel's have you worked with

Blair shook his head.  Jim, possessive and protective and...paranoid to
the last.  "None, man.  What you know about me and Burton is completely
accurate.  I found his monograph exactly when I said I did...all that
was the honest truth."  He wriggled a bit to find a more comfortable
way to sit and continued.  "You've got to understand, I've sort of made
it a practice to break up my life into...well, normal lifetimes, I
guess.  There's not a lot of carry over between each identity – there
can't be, lest someone figures it out.  Sentinels are the sole dominion
of Blair Sandburg."  He thumped himself on the chest to emphasis the
point.  "Hell, man, if I'd done this before, do you think I'd run
around as clueless as I am half the time?"

There was a moment's pause as he and Jim exchanged a wealth of
information and a reaffirmation of their commitment with a gaze.  Rafe
once again broke the silence.  "But...what about all the sword fighting
stuff?"  He looked over at his own partner and gave a hollow laugh.
"How badly can these journalists stuff facts up, hey?  Hairboy with a

Blair twisted and freed himself from his blankets.  Padding across the
floor, he disappeared into his room.  Returning a moment later, he
addressed the group once more.  "They're certainly given to hyperbole,
but that's not surprising given how little real data they have.  Here."
A short, broad, heavy looking sword was dropped onto the couch next to
Rafe.  The young detective flinched back, staring at it as if it had
just dropped down from Mars.

"That," Blair continued as he leant against the back of the sofa,
ignoring their stunned expressions, "is what is known in sword-wielding
circles as a Gothic Bastard.  Pretty appropriate for a gothic bastard
to carry, hmm?"  Reaching down, he plucked up the weapon and held it at
arms length, point down.  "I've had it for about 150 years now.  It was
made especially for me, and it shows in the balance and the design of
the hilt."  Stepping back, he gave it an experimental swing.  "It's
saved my life more times than I'd care to admit to in the last one and
a half centuries.  A good sword is worth everything in combat."  With
that, he returned the sword to the plain scabbard he held in his other
hand.  "Luckily, I haven't had much call to use it in the last few

Brown's mouth flapped open and closed a few times, but no sound came
out.  Blair sighed and contemplated the simple and elegant design of
the hilt, afraid to meet their eyes. "Let me save you from asking a few
difficult questions, okay?  Yes, Immortal's do battle with swords in
what is known simply as the Game.  Like many Immortals, I do not play
the Game actively, in that I do not seek out people to fight, but if
they come after me, I can handle myself pretty well.  I've lived a long
time, and I know a few tricks.  But I haven't fought much lately."  He
turned away from Jim and addressed Simon.  "I have to admit, I haven't
known whether to laugh or cry during all those stupid briefings.  You
see, I'm the one of only three resident Immortals in Cascade.  So
really, I've just been hunting myself these last few weeks."  He
fingered the stitching on the scabbard pensively.  "So stupidly
pointless," he murmured to himself.

"You can use that?"

He snorted.  "They didn't call it the dark ages because the light bulb
hadn't been invented yet!  I could swing a sword before I was above
knee high."  Dropping the sheathed sword on the coffee table, he took a
moment to rewrap himself in his blanket.


"Well, I've still got mine."

"But have you beheaded anyone else?"

He shrugged.  Blair the killer was not sitting easily with them.
"Still got mine," he reiterated, hoping they would get the hint.

"Kill or be killed, is that it?"

He worried the satin edge of his blanket with a thumbnail.  "Pretty
much.  Someone I've known for a stupidly long time once described the
Game as Darwinism without genetics.  The strong survive."  He looked up
into the blue eyes of his closest friend.  "I wish to hell it wasn't
like that, but it is.  The best I can do is abstinence and hope for the

Jim was silent for a long moment.  Then his giant hand reached out and
gripped his arm strongly.  "I can't say I like the idea of you going
one on one with that."  He jerked his head towards the sword on the
table.  "But I like to think I know you, your personality.  I know
you'd get no pleasure in playing this Game."

Blair snorted.  "Damn straight!  But it ain't all swords and
challenges.  There's some really cool fringe benefits to living

Meagan took her cue, fidgeting on the floor where she sat.  "Tell us a
story from the past!"

Rafe sat up straight in the parody of a good child.  "Oh yes, please
Uncle Blair!"  he asked in a childish falsetto.

Laughing, Blair rewrapped his blanket and slid to the floor, leaning
against Jim's legs.  "Story, hey?  Okay, here's one.  I once met this
mad Scottish guy called William Wallace..."


Telling a few carefully chosen anecdotes from his past travels took
them till midnight.  By then, the snowfall was heavy enough to make
driving dangerous.  Finding a stack of blankets in the closet, Jim and
Simon went to the basement storage for their camp mattresses, and the
team made up beds to crash on for the rest of the night.  Blair tried
to offer his bed to Meagan, but she insisted she was cosy next to the
fire.  Hence, Blair found himself alone in his bedroom, cut off from
the others by the French doors.  Outside, he could hear quiet whispers
as they discussed the revelations of the night.

He too felt too keyed up to sleep.  Spying the laptop on his cluttered
chest of drawers, he made short work of logging on as he typed up a
short summary of the night's discoveries.  Clicking send, he began
browsing the online news sites for the latest Immortal headlines from
around the world.  A muted chime from his inbox got his attention.

He smiled.  It looked like Daniel was online and ready for a game of
email tag...


Daniel sipped his coffee as he watched Blair's reply download onto his
computer.  The encryption they were using was good, but it chewed
bandwidth like a dog.  He savoured his coffee as the new message opened
in his browser, well aware that coffee probably wasn't the best thing
to be drinking when suffering from terminal gatelag.  Oh well, he had
always enjoyed the brew, and always would.

Setting down his mug, he scrolled down and read Blair's words.

    'I kid you not, D.  They were totally cool.  The sword thing gave 
    them a few moments of shock, but, I dunno, maybe they went into 
    denial about me and sharp objects or something.  But I don't think 
    they'll be running to the nearest Immie-phobe and blabbing all.  In 
    fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they started running a bit of 
    interference if someone gets too close to the truth.  But I think 
    the worst that is going to happen by them now knowing is I'm going 
    to be pestered into taking my own head with requests for stories 
    about where I've been!

    Are you thinking of spilling all?  I remember you discussing it 
    with Her Maj before this whole media thing took off...'

Picking up his cup, he took another slow sip as he composed his
response.  It was true, he had been toying with the idea, simply
because by working at the SGC it was odds on that he was going to get
hurt in such a way as he had to let himself heal no matter who was
watching.  That was still a big concern of his, he added to the email,
but was it sufficient to tell them?  He still had a strong sense of
paranoia that things would not be pleasant if certain parts of the
military found out.

Clicking send, he jumped back over to an archeological discussion site,
enjoying a laugh as clueless scientists tried to figure out some deeper
meaning from the most mundane household implements.  Some days, he
wished he could just tell them and watch as a little figurative
lightbulb went on above their heads.

He was stopped from posting a message by the arrival of another email
from Blaer.

    'This may just be my good mood talking, but I think maybe you
    should just get them alone and tell them!  If they're as good a 
    friend as your descriptions of them suggest, then I think they'll 
    help you out, not sell you out.  And I don't think they'd 
    appreciate finding out after your chest rebuilds itself in front 
    of them when you have a little mishap *eg*  Maybe get that little 
    Watcher of yours in to help? Anyway, I've just been yelled at to 
    shut up that clacking and get some sleep.  No respect for their 
    elders, this lot *chuckle*.  Night D.'

A quick glance at his watch showed that it was no longer late night,
but now early morning.  He contemplated the dregs of his coffee.  He
was too buzzed with caffeine, too whacked with Gate lag and his head
was too full of thoughts of telling the truth for sleep.  Putting down
his coffee, he disappeared into his bedroom, returning minutes later
dressed in trackpants and not much else.  Pushing the couch and table
back against the wall, he checked that the door was locked and the
blinds drawn.  He took down a sword off the wall, and, shaking his arms
and legs to loosen the muscles, he took a position in the centre of the
small circle he had cleared and struck en guarde.  

The sword arced through the air as if it were an extension of his own
body.  Each movement was precisely controlled and cleanly executed.
Letting masks of false personality drop away, he focussed purely on
each move, letting the exercise become a kind of meditation.  By the
time he had finished and returned to the central position, the clock on
the wall had clicked pass three am.  Wiping down and replacing the
ancient blade, he pushed the furniture back from the walls and went to

Tomorrow he'd talk to Janet.  She may have some ideas.


The cold air coming off the water made it clear that winter had not
fully retreated from the Montana wilderness.  Bundling up for warmth,
the five close friends stepped out of the ramshackle wood house and
looked at the roof with some trepidation.

"You want to repair that in a weekend?"

"Sure thing, Carter.  Between the five of us, it should be easy!"

"Famous last words," Sam muttered to Janet with a small grin.

"Come on campers, lets get to work.  Daniel, you and I will get up on
the roof.  You three," he continued, turning to Sam Janet and Teal'c,
"can pass up the casing sheets.  It's the points I want to fix,
otherwise we might get wet in tonight's downpour."  Heading off round
the side, he reappeared with an old but sturdy ladder.  Sam held it
steady whilst Jack preceded Daniel onto the shingled roof.

"Be careful, Daniel!"

Daniel looked down and caught Janet rolling her eyes at Sam's
statement.  It was Jack who should be careful!  But that was the
clandestine purpose of this weekend away.  It was time for them to know
the truth.

The work progressed quickly, the quintet soon finding their rhythm.
Passing up the final sheet to the pair on the roof, Sam and Janet
announced that they were going inside to get started on lunch, as it
was their turn to cook.  As the door slammed shut behind the giggling
pair, Jack shifted position and grabbed a hammer.  

"Daniel, can you hold down the far side?  I need to get this flat."

Shuffling along, his booted foot slipped on a wet shingle.  Flailing
automatically, his hand grasped and slid along the sharp edge of the
sheet, slicing open his hand almost to the bone.  Jack lunged,
desperately trying to grab onto Daniel, but he was already slipping
down the steep roof, gaining speed.  He flew off the edge of the roof
and landed heavily onto the woodblock.  The axe embedded on the old
stump tore roughly through his spine, lungs and heart, killing him
almost instantly.  Jack's scream echoed in his ears as everything faded
to black.

Sam and Janet flew outside to the horrific sight of Daniel's battered
and bloody corpse crumpled on the ground.  Teal'c arrived at the same
time from the other side of the house.  His dark skin paled and for a
minute it was uncertain if the strong warrior was going to pass out at
the sight.  Beside Janet, Sam swayed on her feet and dropped heavily to
her knees.  "Daniel," she breathed.  "Oh my god, DANIEL!!"

Looking behind her, she saw Jack thumping awkwardly down the ladder,
racing to get to Daniel's body.  His face was contorted with soul
rending grief.

A lifetime of training took over.  Grabbing Sam by the arm, she hauled
her back upright and pushed her towards Jack.  "Colonel.  Jack.  I need
you to get Sam inside.  Please."  She began herding the pair towards
the door.  A quick glimpse over her shoulder showed that Teal'c had
dropped to kneel beside Daniel's corpse.  His lips were moving in what
Janet assumed was the Jaffa heretic's equivalent of prayer.  Firmly
pushing Jack and Sam inside and onto the nearest couch, she went
outside and repeated the process with Teal'c.  Normally, she would have
doubted that she could have moved him, but in his grief he accepted her

Moving quickly, she returned to the body. "Damn you, Danya," she
muttered as she rolled up her sleeves and hauled the body roughly off
the axe.  The blade, embedded in his body, was preventing healing.
Pausing only long enough to see the telltale Quickening flashes begin
across the massive wound, she headed back inside to check on her other
patients.  She let herself feel pissed so she wouldn't feel anxious.
That axe had come damn near his damned neck...

"Sam, Jack, Teal'c?  You okay?"

Three sets of eyes turned on her.  "He's DEAD, Janet!"

"Yes, I know.  Could never do anything by halves, had to make a scene! 
I swear, I have half a mind..." her angry mutterings trailed off as she
headed into the kitchen to rescue lunch.  After repairing that much
flesh, she knew he would be hungry.

After banging around in the kitchen for a minute, she returned to where
the three breathing members of SG-1 were huddled together.  Sam was
shaking her head as her eyes followed the petite doctor around the
room.  "Janet, how can...you saw...."  She bit back a sob.

Janet glanced out the window.  He was stirring already.  Damn, that was
quick.  Somedays, when Daniel was wearing that adorable puppy-dog
expression and bouncing around the base, she could forget just how old
and powerful he was.  It was moments like this that she was reminded of
it.  Another minute and he'd be up and about, hopefully ready to
explain to his traumatized friends.

"Doctor Frasier?  Should we not notify General Hammond immediately?"

Janet shook her head.  "Nah, no need.  No, in fact I feel like giving
him a real piece of my mind!"

All three were now staring at her, obviously wondering if the shock
hadn't made her mentally unbalanced.  "Who?  Hammond?"

"I think she means me."  Three stunned faces became impossibly pale as
they swiveled to the doorway.  Sam's bottom lip quivered as she tried
to say his name, but no sound came out.  Daniel, no Danya, Janet
mentally corrected herself, stood in the doorway with a mildly
embarrassed grin.  There was no sign of Doctor Daniel Jackson's
softness anywhere in those eyes.  Instead, the cool hardness of a
survivor of nearly four thousand years of the Game stared out at them. 
He stepped inside, carefully closing the door after him.  "Sorry Janet,
not exactly subtle, I know.  But its not like I planned to take a dive
off the roof onto the chopping block.  Fingering the ruined jacket, he
sighed.  "Damn, I liked this one too..."  He headed into the kitchen as
he stripped off the torn and bloody jacket and shirt.  Running water
could be heard, and Danya returned to the front room, naked to the
waist and wiping off the last of the bloodstains with a tea towel.
There was not a mark anywhere on his chest to betray that less than
five minutes ago he had an axe through his body.

He grinned again and threw the towel onto the breakfast bar.  "Well,
that was a bit melodramatic, huh?"  He flopped into the nearest chair. 
"That was not the way I was planning to do this.  But shit happens, so
I may as well get straight to the point."  Janet moved over to lean
against the wall, in clear view of his face.  Danya was definitely in
control, there was no way Daniel would speak so bluntly.  "I'm
Immortal.  Axes through the back hurt like hell, but it's not permanent
in any way.  See?"  He gestured to his flawless chest.  "I was going to
mention it tonight, because the way my luck has been running, it was
only a matter of time before something happened on a mission.  If we're
under attack, I don't think acting like," he shook his hand vaguely at
the trio.  "Well, like stunned statues is going to be very helpful."
He scratched the newly regenerated skin absently.  "I'm hungry," he
announced suddenly.  "Anyone up for lunch?"  Pushing himself upright,
he wandered towards the kitchen area.

Janet shook her head angrily and intercepted.  "Danya, can we have
Daniel back please?"

His grin was feral.  "Why, my most lovely Janet?"

"Cos he's a damn sight nicer than you are!"

The grin turned into a most annoying smirk.  "Sorry, Janet, Daniel is
unavailable at the moment.  He fell off a roof onto a sharp object and
died.  Please leave a message and he'll get back to you as soon as
possible."  He pushed passed her and went into the kitchen.

On the other side of the room, synapses were starting to fire again.
"Immortal?" Sam squeaked.

She folded her arms and moved to perch on the edge of the coffee table.
"And annoying as hell when he gets like this."  She tried to smile
reassuringly.  "Don't worry, he'll have something to eat, stop feeling
silly about being such a klutz and come back to normal."

"I heard that!"  Danya reemerged, speaking through a mouthful of
sandwich.  "I am not a klutz!  I'm just...lacking in fine motor
control."  He dropped back into his chair.  He peered at his friends
with a measure of concern.  "They're not...going into shock or
anything, are they?  It wasn't that bad, was it?"

Janet mock-glowered.  "Don't make me get that axe!"

He smirked again.  "Been there, done that, bled over the t-shirt."  He
took another bite and swallowed.  "Seriously, guys, I'm okay.  Now's
the time to ask questions.  Everything you ever wanted to know about an
Immie but were afraid to ask, so to speak."

"You're..." Jack started, then stopped, as if unable to finish the
word.  "You're a...a..."

"Fine figure of a man?  A dashing, intelligent gentleman?  An...?"

"Antique pain in the arse?"


It was the Doc's turn to smirk cheekily.

"An Immortal?  Like in the papers?"

"Guilty as charged, Jack."

The three mortal members of SG-1 continued to stare at him some more.
Janet shook her head briskly.

"Bring back Daniel.  I don't think they need to deal with a sarcastic
ROG on top of that little scene out there."

He smiled more honestly this time.  "Fair enough."  He looked up at
Jack through his fringe.  "Sorry about giving you a scare, too, Jack.
I honestly didn't mean to fall."  He swapped a look with Janet.  "I
guess we should have talked about this last night instead of tonight,
hey Janet?"

"You knew?"  Sam's voice wasn't accusing, more bewildered.

Sighing, Janet unbuttoned the cuff of the long sleeved shirt, the kind
she always wore, to reveal the distinctive circle and V tattoo that had
been splashed all over the early news stories.  "I'm his Watcher," she
explained simply.  "It's my job to keep an eye on him."  She jerked her
chin towards where Danya sat finishing his sandwich.  "Though I don't
know who I pissed off to get this job," she added with a dramatic sigh.
A wadded napkin arced through the air and hit her on the shoulder in
response.  Pulling her sleeve back down, she resumed her seat.  "How
about I just start talking whilst his ROGliness over there finds his
manners?  Any questions, just ask.  That okay?"  Nodding, she began to
run through the points that the Watcher/Immortal pair had decided to
reveal earlier in the week – swords, the Game, the limits of
Immortality, the concerns they had over certain government agencies
discovering they actually had an Immortal on the payroll, her role as

"Any questions?" She concluded like a lecturer.

"Yeah, I've got one.  Actually I've got several, but first – ROG?"

Daniel laughed and waded into the conversation for the first time since
Janet started her spiel.  "It's Watcher shorthand."

"A ROG," Janet elaborated.  "Is a Really Old Guy."

Jack grinned, having made some progress to regaining his equilibrium.
"And I thought the Airforce had the patent on cute shorthand."


"So they actually swallowed it?"  Lara ran the tip of her index finger
around the rim of her glass as she pinned Daniel with a gaze.  She was
perched on a stool in Daniel's kitchen, watching him putter around
cooking as he told her what had transpired a week ago.  "No screaming
or trip to the sanitarium required?"

"Yeah.  It was the whole messy accidental death thing that had them,
well, floored."  He waved a wooden spoon around in the air for
emphasis.  "Once they realised I wasn't Dead dead, they took the news
quite well.  Though I should have expected Jack to start punning every
chance he can get."  He sighed at the memory of three days offworld
stuck between Jack's gags and Sam's questions.  He hoped things would
settle down soon.  Otherwise he may have to have an accident cleaning
his sword...say, clean through a certain Colonel... he shook his head
and dismissed that image to the depths again.  Turning off the burner,
he carried the pot over to the counter and began ladling out the messy
noodles.  "I swear, if I get called ROG one more time..."

Lara picked up a fork and twirled the noodles expertly.  "Hey, it could
be worse.  Could be Older That Dirt.  Or questions about dinosaurs,

He flicked a stray strand of cheese at her.  "You've been spending too
much time at Joe's."

She spoke through a gooey mouthful.  "Guilty as charged."

He laughed.  "I hope you don't do that when playing the upper crust
lady of the manor!"  She grinned evilly and just took another bite.

"Well, since you've been bar-hopping, any news?"

She took a sip of her drink, shaking her head.  "SSDD.  Through I spoke
to Reia the other day.  About the same time that you have your little
 accident, actually."  She smirked and he waved her on with a
sigh.  "She says the Parisian authorities are cracking down...on the

Daniel raised an eyebrow, not comprehending.  "You mean?"

Lara nodded.  "She said any violence or anti-Immortal propaganda is
being dealt with most harshly.  The 'live and let live' crew, or
whatever they're called over there, are getting quite vocal.
"Immortal's are People Too" I believe is the slogan they are currently

Daniel nearly spat out his mouthful.  "A Immortal Right to Life league!
Right, I've seen everything, you can take my head now." 

"Is that an offer?" Lara asked coyly, battering her eyelashes.

Daniel just smirked again and licked some cheese off his spoon.  

Shaking her head, Lara stirred her meal idly.  "Better keep it on your
shoulders, I've got more news.  Remember that identity tracking
database project a few countries were petitioning the UN to start up?"

Daniel nodded slowly.  "I know it nearly out-ed Blaer, and that in the
end the UN tossed it as being discriminatory anyway.  I kinda lost
interest after that."

Lara pushed her bowl away from her.  "So did the news outlets, but I
have a few friends in positions of power," she said, mocking her own
upper class cover.  "The UN slapping them down had about all the
dissuasive power of being flogged with a feather."  She took a sip of
her wine.  "There are rumours flying around that if a Watcher would
care to step forward and share whatever he or she knows with some
mysterious group, they would be rewarded most handsomely."

Daniel pushed his own meal away, no longer hungry.  "Like any amount of
cash could help once their Watcher buddies put them six feet under!  Do
you know if anyone's taken them up on the offer yet?"

Lara rolled the winestem between her fingers distractedly.  "Not that
I've heard.  But then again, we didn't know about Headhunters until
Immortal's started dying 'alone.'  I guess this is another case of wait
and see and hope for the best.  To find us, they're going to have to
turn an active Watcher in the field, but I think they're more loyal to
Joe than to any lure these weirdo's could offer. My info also suggests
that they're actually finding a lot of support in certain sections of
the US government...and military.  Looks like you were right on that

Daniel propped his head up with a hand.  "Wonderful!"


Nigel dumped the final load of dusty books onto the table and sneezed. 
Loudly and repeatedly. 

"Little dusty down there Nige?"  Her voice was pure innocence as Sydney
kept her eyes firmly on her notepad.

He sneezed once more, then rubbed his nose fiercely.  "I've seen
mummies in sarcophagi with better housekeeping skills."  Sniffing, he
perched against the desk precariously.  "But that's the last of the
records.  Why did you want them?  You probably know these stories

Syd nodded as she lent back in her chair, twiddling her pen between her
fingers idly.  "I remember the events, or being told first-hand
accounts.  But I don't know all of what has survived in print.  And if
we want a good report for our dear Chair, we're going to need exact
references.  Its no good saying that an Immortal was, say, the
Pimpernel, unless we can find corroborating evidence."  She smiled
wickedly.  "Unless you want to explain to him exactly what you were
doing at the end of the eighteenth century?"

"The Pimpernel is a fictious creation, Syd," Nigel retorted, trying in
vain to deflect the gibe he knew was coming.

"Based on actual events and people.  What was the name of your lady
friend back then?  Orczy, wasn't it?"  She smiled again, a feral,
predators smile.  "Entertained your houseguest with a few tales of you
and your friends' juvenile pranks, did we?"

Nigel tried valiantly to suppress a shudder.  "Hey, how long are you
going to hold that over me?  I was a pre-Immie!  How was I supposed to
know that sticking my head in a guillotine was wrong on so many

She patted his arm gently.  "Don't worry, I'm sure I'll forget in, oh,
another few thousand years or so."

Nigel groaned and dragged a thick tome off the stack.  Wrenching it
open, a cloud of dust flew into his face.  Syd nearly fell of her chair
laughing at his expression.  Neither saw the shadowy figure moving away
from them through the stacks.


The shrill braying of the telephone penetrated the thick fog of Blair's
sleepy mind.  As he peeled back the layers of blanket enough to reveal
his face to the cool night air, the ringing stopped.  Through the
french doors, he could just make out Jim's voice as he answered the
call.  The glowing face of his alarm clocked showed the time—3:03AM.
Sighing at the hour, he rolled onto his back as the doors were slid
back.  "Blair?"  No need to ask if he was awake, Jim already knew.


"Some guy called Joe, says it's urgent—"

At the mention of Joe's name, Blair was flinging off the covers.  There
was no way Joe would ring him directly, especially at this hour, unless
it was extremely important.  Plucking up the handset, he gestured to
his Sentinel to listen in.  "Joe?  What's wrong, man?"

Joe voice was almost cracking with fatigue and strain.  "Its Sydney and
Nigel.  They've been taken into custody.  Someone figured out they were

It only took a few minutes for Joe to relay the skimpy details the
Watchers had managed to obtain.  The pair's Watcher was trying to get
more information without being found out himself.  He was hampered by
the extreme security surrounding the pair.  As the first confirmed
Immortal's to be captured in the US, they were being treated with
utmost caution.

They were arrested carrying their swords.  They had failed the same
test which had revealed Blair to his friends.  It did not look good.

After ensuring Joe had his mobile number for updates, Blaer carefully
hung up the phone, then proceeded to swear for nearly five minutes
solid in every language he had every learnt.  

If Jim wasn't so worried, he'd be impressed.  "What...?"  The rest of
his question was drowned out as the phone started ringing again. Blair
snatched it up.  

"Yes?  Oh, Rei!"  Jim didn't need Sentinel senses to detect the relief
that flooded through his Guide's body.  He wondered who this 'Ray'
person was that could reassure Blair so easily.  "You've heard?"  Jim
tuned into the voice on the other end of the line.  He was surprised
that it was female, with a soft accent he could not immediately place.

'Yes.  The fact that the authorities almost made a beeline to them has
me worried.'

"You think someone sold out?"

'Yes.  But not their Watcher.  Joe has cleared him already.  But I
would most like to meet the person who did betray them.  I'd only need
a moment.'  Jim shivered slightly despite himself.  There was no menace
in that voice, no bravado.  Just calmly stated fact.  The very lack of
emotion took him spinning for a moment back to his Covert Ops days.  He
took an instinctive step towards his Guide as the voice continued.
'But that is a secondary concern to me now.  I'm on my way over.  Clear
your schedule, we'll meet at Joe's.'  It was not a request.  'We may
need to pull a Maquis stunt.'

Blair nodded.  "Understood.  Watch your head."

The voice warmed a fraction.   'You too, Bratwurst.'  There was a
gentle click, and the dial tone.

Jim held back all questions except one.  "When do we leave?"

Blair's head flicked up, his eyes wide.  "We?  Jim, man..."

Jim shook his head slightly.  "Get your stuff together, Chief.  We'll
call Simon from the road.  He's already said we can take the leave if
we need it."

Blair nodded slowly, a soft smile on his lips.  "Thanks man."  He then
ducked into his small room and gathered his things.  Jim returned up
the stairs, one ear on his partner, and began to pack his own bag.  As
he went to collect spare rounds for his weapon, he heard the
distinctive sound of metal sliding on metal from the room below.  The
sword.  Silently, he hoped that Blair wouldn't need it.

Twenty minutes later, they were on the road to Seacouver.


The frosty spring dawn rose over imposing bulk of Cheyenne Mountain,
unknown and unnoticed by those who worked under it.  Two in particular
were completely oblivious, so focussed were they on the task at hand.

"Nothing," the petite brunette said finally, flopping back in her seat.
"There is no mention of their arrest anywhere in the media or in public
record.  Its like its been buried."

Daniel sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose with pinched fingers.
"And I can't break through into classified stuff fast enough."  He span
his chair around gently to face his Watcher.  "If we just had an idea
who was running this show, we'd know where to look."

"Needles in haystacks."

"And my standard approach is to burn down the haystack and scan the
ashes with a metal detector."

Janet paused from rubbing out a crick in her neck.  "And how do you
burn down a haystack you can't even find?"

Before Daniel could snap off a reply, the door to his office flew open
and Jack sauntered in, closely followed by a bleary-eyed Sam, with
Teal'c bringing up the rear.  "Morning kids.  Care to tell me why you
two signed in here at 0230 hours when we don't even have a mission
scheduled today?"

Daniel downed his lukewarm dregs with a savage toss of his head.
"We're trying to ignite an invisible haystack," he snarled with ill-
concealed frustration.

Their three guests just blinked.  Sighing, he gestured for them to
close the door and take a seat.  Rising to refill his mug, he began to
explain.  "At about two this morning, our time, I received a phonecall
from Joe."


"My boss," Janet interjected.  "My other boss," she elaborated,
tapping the location of her tattoo discreetly.  Sam's eyes widened

"Ah.  Okay, bigshot secrets guy.  What'd he have to say after waking
you up?"

"Two old friends of mine have been arrested in Los Angeles."

"Old friends, as in..?"  Jack waved his hand around, already knowing
the answer.

"Old friends, Jack, yes.  The thing is, the agents came straight
to them, administered their confirmation test and whisked them straight
away.  These guys knew who they were, Jack."

"And now we can't find them." Janet added nervously.

Sam shook her sleep-fogged head.  "The agents?"

"The old friends."

"Do they have names, Daniel, or do we just keep speaking in

Daniel snorted at his coffee cup.  "Syd and Nigel.  Both reasonably
young.  Very nice people, not the sort to draw unwanted attention to
themselves.  And if it wasn't for Janet's colleague, we'd never even
know they'd been taken.  Its like they've disappeared off the face of
the planet."  He gently, and with great care, set the cup down on the
bench.  "I don't like this.  I don't like this at all," he muttered as
he walked to the door and slipped outside.  Jack moved as if to follow,
but Janet waved him down.  

"Let him go and cool off for a minute, Jack.  This is hard for him."

Jack cocked his head and advanced on the doctor.  "What?  He's not
worried they'll come after him next?"

Janet shook her head.  "Not really.  No, listen, let me explain a few
things to you while I can.  What do you think is the worst case
scenario for Sydney and Nigel?"

Sam chimed in, more alert now.  "Beheading.  Their captors could take
their heads."

Janet nodded.  "Yes.  But their captors are mortal.  Sydney would have
challenged if they weren't.  So if they're beheaded, it will be without
another Immortal in immediate proximity."

Jack couldn't see where this was leading to.  "Not to sound crass, but

Janet sighed and shifted slightly on her stool.  "When an Immortal is
decapitated, something known as the Quickening is released.  Some call
it their soul, or their life force."  She could see that her audience
were uncomfortable with such a metaphysical notion and moved quickly
on.  "Whatever it is, when it is released, it seeks out and enters the
nearest Immortal.  This is usually the victor of the sword combat, but
not always."

"But if there is no other Immortal nearby, it – what, dissipates?"

Janet nodded slightly.  "Precisely.  It's wasted, to be blunt.  Because
when another Immortal absorbs a Quickening, they, well, they inherit,
for want of a better term, all the knowledge and skills and experience
of the other Immortal.  It makes them stronger, increases their chance
of survival.  But also, something of the defeated lives on through the
victor.  Most times, its unnoticeable, but occasionally a Quickening
can radically change the recipients personality.  But if it dissipates,
then all their knowledge and skill and memory is lost.  It's...I guess
for an Immortal, its like the worst possible thing that could ever
happen.  To live for so long only to be annihilated so completely.
Daniel wouldn't wish that on his worst enemy, let alone Sydney, or

Jack caught the subtle priority.  "What, Janet?  Who's this Sydney

She looked down for a moment before meeting his eye.  "She's his

Sam tilted her head.  "So they're close?"

Janet smiled sadly.  "Sam, Immortal's cannot reproduce, biologically.
So their students are like their children.  Sydney was Daniel's
student.  Nigel is Sydney's student."  She nodded slightly as the
implications became clear to her audience.

"Ah," Jack said.  "Close."

Janet nodded with a tight-lipped and humourless grin.  "Exactly."  The
group lapsed into silence for a long moment.  Jack roused himself and
headed for the telephone on the desk in the corner.

Janet slipped off the lab stool she was perched on.  "Colonel?"

Jack shot her a winning grin.  "Just gonna let Hammond know SG-1 is
taking a few personal days..."  he lifted the handset, but only made it
an inch before another hand covered his and pushed the receiver firmly
back into the cradle.  Jack looked up into Daniel's deep blue eyes.

"Jack."  Daniel's eyes flicked down as his lips twitched up in a weak,
self-conscious smile.  "Janet and I are going.  You're not."

Jack took a step back, giving each man separate personal space.  "And
why not?"

"It's not your concern."  Blue eyes met brown, and Daniel's chin
twitched slightly.  Jack saw at that moment the façade slip, as if a
physical mask had been dropped, and suddenly he was looking into eyes
that had seen more years than Jack knew had ever been.  There was
something else there, something he'd seen before, but never thought
he'd find behind his friend's features.  Daniel looked detached, coolly
calculating, and very, very dangerous.  For one long moment, the two
men stared at each other.  Then Daniel's full mouth quirked again into
a more sarcastic grin, and the mask slammed back into place.  "I'd feel
better if you were here, Jack."  The Colonel heard the subtext loud and
clear – stay put, Jack.   Danya can look after himself, Jack.

Survival smarts honed after years in black ops kicked in.  Jack nodded
and moved back to stand with a bewildered Sam and Teal'c.  "Okay, we'll
stay.  But just say the word..."

"I understand Jack.  Thankyou."  This smile was more honest.  It
touched his eyes, and conveyed a wealth of meaning.  He then turned,
shuffling a stack of papers into an untidy pile.  "But there is one
thing I need..."

Sam beat Jack by a split second.  "Name it."

"Ah, this is all we know about those agents.  But we don't have any
idea as to who they report to, really report to.  I was hoping you
might be able to..."  he trailed off, unsure how to phrase his request.

His teammates understood perfectly.  "I'll have a snoop round, see what
I can find."  Sam took the papers, obviously relieved to have something
constructive to do.  

Janet ducked around a lab bench and scooped up a bag.  "There's an
email address on the last page, you can reach us there.  We've both
managed to clear a three day leave, we'll let you know if we're going
to be any later."

Jack nodded, feeling vaguely uncomfortable.  "Okay.  Keep us appraised.
Let us know what you find out..."

"We will, Colonel," Janet interjected smoothly.  "Come on, we've got to
get to the airport.  It took Joe forever to get a Watcher on duty to
sneak your sword past the metal detectors, the last thing we need to do
is miss the flight."  Janet preceded her subject out the door.  As
Daniel moved past Jack, the officer reached out and snagged his arm.

"Is there any great phrase people tell you guys in times like this?
I'd say break a leg, but you'd probably recover too quickly."

Daniel snorted.  "Try 'watch your neck.'"

Jack nodded solemnly.  "Watch you neck, Daniel."

A small grin, a nod, and he was gone.  Turning back to the other half
of SG-1, Jack clapped his hands together briskly.  "Right, Major.
Let's get them some intel."


Twelve hours after Sydney and Nigel's kidnapping found Joe's bar full,
not of its usual happy patrons, but with a large group of confused,
bewildered and extremely pissed Immortals.  Joe, surveying the group
from behind the bar, was extremely glad that he was on their side.  The
Macleod's and Richie had just finished pushing two large tables
together so they had an area large enough to plot and plan on. Methos,
Lara and Amanda were moving between his office and the front bar,
bringing up his laptop and the stack of materials he had on the snatch.
Janet had already phoned ahead to say that she and her charge were en
route.  He assumed Reia was not too far away either.  Blaer and Jim had
already called in around dawn.  Joe had, of course, seen photos of
Blaer's partner, and read the Immortal's thesis on the man.  It was
still a shock to see this giant step through the back door of the bar
unannounced.  Once he realised that it was friend, not a foe, however,
Joe soon was picking the man's brain, comparing what was known about
the snatch with what Jim knew of military strategy.

The similarities did little to ease Joe's anxiety.  As they uncovered
each tiny tidbit of information, the picture looked more and more like
a military kidnapping.

He was not looking forward to breaking the news to Danya.  He took the
care of his student's so seriously he made Macleod look negligent.

Speak of the devil...the front door swung open to admit Janet and
Danya, both with small bags swung over their shoulders.  Grabbing his
cane, he limped out to greet his colleague.  He then shook Danya's
hand.  Unlike the other Immortal's in the room, he had only met Danya
face-to-face on a handful of occasions, but Joe was not a senior
Watcher in North America without a reason.  After spending half his
life in the Watchers, he had learnt a thing or two about 'reading'
Immortals.  They all seemed to get a similar expression once someone or
something crossed the line.  After that point, you just covered your
own ass and waited for Hell to pass.  "Danya, come in.  We're getting
the data in now."

Danya nodded with studious calm, and moved over to where Methos, Lara
and Amanda were sorting through the last printouts and reports from the
local Watcher.  Joe turned back to his subordinate.  "How are you
holding up, Janet?"

"Oh, okay considering.  I didn't want to say over a phone line, but
Danya got Jack and Sam and Teal'c – do you remember my report on that?
– yes, well they're hacking for information.  They'll email us if we
find anything, but...hang on."

The Watcher's looked on as the assembled group, as one, lifted their
heads like a bloodhound scenting the breeze.  Danya nodded once,
satisfied.  "Just Blaer."

The others returned to their tasks as the door swung open to admit the
physically mismatched Sentinel/Guide pair.  Jim watched his smaller
friend as a look of confusion flitted across the other man's face.
"Relax," Joe told him with a small grin.  "He pinged you before you
even got to the door, Blaer."  Blaer rolled his eyes as his partner
took a turn at looking confused.

"Pinged, Chief?"

"Long story man.  Let's just say they knew I was friend, not foe.  Joe,
man.  Gonna introduce the lovely lady here?"

Janet blushed slightly.  Given his past history with Danya, Janet had
been granted access to sections of Blaer's file.  But knowing someone
was slick and being subjected to their attentions were two very
different things entirely.  "I'm Doctor Janet Fraiser, Danya's
Watcher."  She offered her hand and returned Blaer's gaze, measure for
measure, as they shook in greeting.  She then offered her hand to Jim. 
The larger man's hand was more like a paw as it completely engulfed her
slim, surgeon's hand. 

"Jim Ellison, Cascade PD."  The expression remained neutral but the icy
blue eyes twinkled.  "Mortal.  Pleasure to meet you, maam."

Janet smiled as she stifled a laugh.  "Likewise.  On both counts."
Movement at the table caught her attention.  "Shall we see what we've
got so far?"

Methos was calmly choosing and laying out particular documents and
reports as the others watched in relative silence.  Lara and Daniel
occasionally added their own selections, and Richie stood by his
lover's elbow, pushing the stacks around according to the eldest man's
murmured instructions.  Finally, they were satisfied with the

Surprisingly, it was Richie who briefed the others.  "Here's what we
know for sure.   At approximately quarter past eight last night, their
Watcher observed three men in suits and trenchcoats enter their office
on campus.  As far as he can tell, no challenge was issued by either
party.  Sydney's aide, Claudia, had already gone home for the evening,
and the building was relatively empty.  The leader met Sydney in her
office whilst his two buddies escorted Nigel in from the artifacts
room.  They were handcuffed and tested, then searched.  One of the trio
took possession of their swords, and the other two escorted them down
to a waiting car and driver."  He pushed around a photo the Watcher had
taken on the van used.  A nondescript Escort, with no visible plates or
markings.  "The Watcher tried to pursue, but they lost him."

Joe nodded.  This was old news to him.  "Mikey, the Watcher, said he
thought they were pro's.  It was almost as if they were expecting a
tail, and had contingencies to act accordingly."

"Maybe they did," Amanda murmured.  "They know so much already."

Duncan glowered darkly.  "I dinnae like this at all."

Lara nodded agreement.  "It all stinks of a setup."

"But who's doing the setting up?  And why?" Blaer asked plaintively as
he stared at the photo.

"I may have some ideas about that, Bratwurst."  Blaer span on his toes
at the soft voice from the doorway.  

"Reia!  You made it!"  Jim noted again the relief in his Guide's voice
and keyed up his Sentinel sight to get a better look at the figure
dropping her bag in the shadow of the vestibule.

He had thought he was beginning to getting a handle on Immortals.  The
apparent youth of the group surrounding him had thrown him, but only
for the briefest moment.  The scrap of a girl moving to join them was
no exception.  He pegged her physical age at somewhere in her early
twenties, no more.  Her coppery hair was twisted back into a simple
knot, and several tendrils had already snaked loose to hang against her
neck.    As she pulled off her heavy black duster and tossed it over a
nearby chair, he caught sight of a forest green v-neck sweater and
black shirt over simple black slacks and comfortable boots.  She was
obviously dressed for function over fashion, but still managed to carry
herself with a modicum of youthful style.  If he hadn't already heard
her speak, he would never have associated her with the icy dark voice
he had heard on the telephone only a few hours before.

He tuned back in as he realised that she was appraising him as frankly
as he had her.  Joe was murmuring a few hurried introductions for Janet
and himself.  He nodded as Joe identified him, and was strangely
pleased by the slightest hint of a smile she gave him in return.  She
then turned to face Janet as she was introduced.  

Jim's brow creased slightly.  Janet's heartbeat was racing, and had
been climbing, he realised, ever since this girl had entered the room. 
He refocused his senses on the petite doctor – and realised she was
fighting fear.  He made a mental note to query Blair on it...or maybe
Joe or Janet herself.  Something in him recognised that this perhaps
was a question best kept to mortal ears.  Dialing down his senses, he
returned all his attention to the 'briefing.'

"...snooping, and soon started picking up a pattern.  Tell me, kids,"
she said with a very Immortal smirk.  "Anyone heard of a covert group
known as the Consortium?"  Her words were met with a mass blank stare. 
She nodded.  "Yeah, that's the usual reaction.   Connor, tell me, does
the name 'K-Bureau' ring any bells?"

"Mother of God," the Scot breathed.  "Not those bastards!"

Danya jerked his hand in the air sharply.  "Ah, hello!  Care to fill us
in?"  His eyes made it very clear that head were going to roll unless
he got a straight answer.

Connor picked up the tale.  "I first came across them after the World
War Two."  He shook his head sadly and took a deep breath before
continuing.  "Funded with government money, but it is on a don't-ask,
don't tell basis.  Government and military brass call them in when they
want answers but don't want to get their hands dirty acquiring them."
He looked straight at Danya.  "They're bad news, laddie.  We can't find
Syd and Nigel soon enough."

Danya had heard enough.  Crossing the bar in a few short strides, he
leaned over the counter and plucked up the phone. He punched in a
series of numbers, paused, then entered the password on the touchpad.
Another long pause and he nodded.  "Jack, great, put Sam on....Sam,
listen, we have a name for you.  The Consortium."  He threw a
confirming glance at Reia.  "Known to sometimes operate under the alias
K-Bureau.  Got it?  Listen, once you get everything, head topside and
use a public phone to call my cell with details.  Great, thanks Sam."
He hung up and returned to the group.  "If anyone can find anything for
us, Sam can."

Richie looked around the assembled group.  "What do we do in the

Amanda smirked.  "Supply run.  Everyone make a list of what we might
need, and I can start figuring out where to get it all on short notice.
We'll have to start thinking of things like transport as well."

Methos sighed.  "Guess we better start freeing up some finances.  Adam
Pierson certainly can't afford a jailbreak!"  Lara managed a soft
snort, but nodded her agreement.

Plans were made quickly and the group fractured and headed for the
doors.  Soon, only Danya, Reia, Blaer, Janet, Jim and Joe were left
inside in the bar.

Danya leaned on the table, palms flat, and stared at the photo of the
van.  Reia observed him for a long moment, then craned her neck to put
her face into his line of sight.

"How are you doing, really?" She asked in Greek, well aware of their

"Nervous, scared, angry, worried sick, all of the above," he replied in
Sumarian after a long pause.  "Why them?  Why now?"

"Why are we Immortal?  Why do the healers, artists and scientists among
us loose their heads and the murderers, rapists and megalomaniacs keep
theirs?  Questions with no easy answers, my dear friend.  Its just
life, and all we can do is live it the best we can." She responded in
rapid-fire Latin.

"Life sucks.  And you shouldn't philosophize in America before nine
am." He said in Akkadian with a smile as he pushed off the table.

Blaer cut off her retort.  "Now you guys are just showing off," he told
them in German.

Reia broke into an honest smile and grabbed the younger man in a loose
headlock.  "And you're not?"  She sniffed and continued in English.
"Listen, if we're going to plan this properly, I need something better
than a glass of watery juice in my stomach.  Let's go raid Richie's
place for breakfast."  She turned to the three mortals as she spoke.
"You guys hungry?"

Joe, who had been watching Jim and Janet more than he had been Watching
his charges, shook his head.  "No thanks, I've gotta get back to my
Watchers.  Jim, can I ask you to stick around as well?  I may need your
help,.  I was just a grunt, you know this covert ops stuff."  The big
man nodded, seeing the hidden agenda.

"Sure, Joe.  Nah, Chief," he waved off his partners' half-formed
protest.  "You get some breakfast, since you refuse to eat
Wonderburger.  I'll meet you back here."

Gathering up coats, swords and bags, the Immortal trio were soon
pushing their way against a cold Seacouver wind.  Jim listened to them
until the disappeared around the far corner, then tuned back into his
immediate surrounds.

"You looked like you were filing away question after question earlier. 
Thought you might appreciate a chance to ask it without that lot's
sarcasm getting in the way."  Joe jerked a thumb towards the door.
"And before you start thinking of creative ways to phrase it," he
continued before Jim could speak.  "I think you should know that we
probably had the first copy of Blair's thesis on you."  He shrugged.
"His Watcher intercepted the email.  Naomi never was a technologically
minded girl.  She didn't encrypt it when she sent it, and its common
practise to tap the residential and work lines of our subjects."  He
had the grace to look bashful.  "Sorry 'bout that, but its standard
procedure.  And it did answer a lot of questions.  We were starting to
wonder whether Blaer was fey!"

Jim wondered why he wasn't angrier, but dismissed the thought.  Blair
had explained who Joe was, and who the Watcher's really were on the
pre-dawn road trip here.  Blair was not upset by the thought of someone
following his ever move, and had insisted that Jim shouldn't either.
So Jim returned his focus to his earlier questions.

"Okay," he sighed.  "Janet, I wanted to know why your heart rate went
through the roof when that girl Reia came into the room?"

Joe burst into laughter.  Jim blinked, nonplussed.  That was not the
response he was expecting.

"Sorry, Jim," the senior Watcher said as he regained his composure.
"It's just been a long time since I've ever heard 'Reia' and 'girl' in
the same sentence."  He shifted himself on his seat and explained.
"Lets just say she's one of our old one's and leave it at that, okay." 
He turned his attention to his subordinate.  "Fear- based reaction,
Janet?  Even after all these years of working with Danya?"

She shrugged apologetically.  "Sorry Joe.  Its just I've never actually
met her, face to face, before.  And her file doesn't exactly make for
comfortable night time reading."

Jim's pale eyes narrowed.  "Meaning?"

Janet chewed on her bottom lip pensively.   "My focus as Watcher has
always been the Old Ones, and as such I have slightly greater access
than normal to their files.  Our records of their early lives are,
well, I guess they're reflective of the times they lived in."

Joe tried another tack, seeing that Jim was not really comprehending.
"Let's try this another way, Jim.  I grew up in the fifties.  You and
Janet grew up in the sixties.  Even though that's only a ten year gap,
the morals and codes of behaviour that were instilled in us are
noticeably different.  And sooner or later, I'm sure that some thing
that I was raised to believe as right or true would clash with
something that you were raised to believe as right or true.  Now
imagine that same scenario, but instead of a gap of ten years, it's a
gap of ten centuries."  He smiled as realisation dawned on Jim.  "Life
was very different back then, and she has had to survive not only as a
person, a woman, but also as an Immortal.  She—hell, they're all
survivors.  She can just be a little more ruthless than, say, Blaer,
when it comes applying the concept of survival at any cost."

Janet nodded slowly, an idea forming.  "Hey Joe, how many in that room
has she taught?  Either directly, or through a student?"

Joe shook his head.  "Well, Blaer, definitely.  I think she might have
had a hand in Nigel's training as well, but I'll be damned if I can get
her to admit it.  Why?"

Janet giggled.  "Its just, she's acting like a mother protecting her
cubs!  I just thought of it, but as an analogy, it suits her perfectly.
Ever since this mess started, she's been more acting serious than I
think she's been in the last three centuries combined! I mean, what was
the last 'cause' she volunteered to get involved in, that didn't
involve her protecting her own agenda?  Its maternal instincts, I bet!"

Joe laughed and pushed himself to his feet.  "Just don't let her hear
you say that!"  He gathered up his cane.  "Come on, you two.  I wasn't
kidding when I said we had work to do."  He led the way to his office,
Janet following.

Jim took the rear, mulling over what had been said, and more
importantly, what hadn't been said.  Blaer trusted her, and for that he
would keep his own counsel, for now.  He would ask his questions later.
But that didn't mean he wouldn't stop watching her.


Sam lived up to her reputation as an expert hacker.  Before lunchtime,
Joe's anonymous account began filling with locations, requisition
sheets and summaries of files.  The group regathered around their 'war
table' to digest the new information.

Danya waved a sheet of paper with an address on it. "A warehouse on the
outskirts of Los Angeles, that's a front for this Consortium group.
It's reasonably close to the University, relatively secure and there's
been a flurry of orders to various regional supply depots which end up

Lara nodded.  "Like they're regearing it for a new use."

Methos dropped the photos he was examining.  "Immortal interrogation."

Blaer asked the next question.  "How are we going to do this?"

Reia smirked.


Dusk was falling on the small private runway as the chartered plane
touched down.  Inside, the group was tending to last minute chores.
Janet was at the controls of the plane, secretly pleased with how well
she flew despite not getting regular airtime since she graduated from
officer's training.  Connor, playing navigator, began shutting down
systems as the plane rolled to a stop next to a small tarmac-side
hangar.  In the tiny cabin behind the cockpit Lara, Methos, Reia, and
Danya were going over plans one last time, ensuring there were no
flaws, whilst still giving them room to improvise as the situation

In the cargo area which occupied the rest of the fuselage, Jim, Blaer,
Duncan, Amanda and Richie were preparing to offload their supplies.
Light spilled onto the black ground as the hangar doors were pushed
open and the small but well- trained ground crew emerged with trolley
and trailer to haul the light aircraft into the hangar and away from
prying eyes.  Jim broke the seal on the doors and together with the
Watcher's who Joe had assigned to meet the plane, they swiftly unloaded
their toys.  The Watcher's then melted away into a side office, giving
at least the aura of privacy to the group.

Janet tossed one of the sets of keys her local colleagues had given her
to Jim.  The mortal's would be driving, but would not be going in with
the rest once they got to the warehouse.  Jim would be outside,
monitoring the situation, but it had been decided that neither he nor
Janet would not enter the building themselves – none of them
entertained any doubts that any resistance would shoot first, ask
questions later.  

The equipment Amanda had acquired for them was soon unpacked from the
shipping crates and distributed to either be carried on their persons
or stashed in the two cars that were parked behind the hangar.  The
largest crate held Richie's Kawasaki motorcycle.  The dark race bike
would be small enough, fast enough and (with Richie at the controls)
able to slip in and out far more easily than either the cars or a spy
on foot.  Richie could also use it to distract a tail if they should
gather one on their retreat.

As Richie ran an experienced eye over his machine, checking to ensure
it made the distance safely, Jim and Janet reentered the hangar.  "The
cars are fueled, packed and ready when you are," the Watcher announced
to the group at large.


In reply to Duncan's query, he slung a leg on the saddle and jumped on
the kickstand.  The well-maintained engine roared smoothly into life.
He revved it once, checking the dials, then killed the engine with a
satisfied smile.

"Good.  Any questions?"

"Yeah, what are we waiting for?"

The group split into two and piled into the cars.  In discreet convey,
Jim, Janet and Richie drove off into the night.


Sentinel sight, far more effective than any night vision goggle,
scanned the perimetre and visible yard with methodical patience.
"Triple wire fence...electrified and probably hooked up to a central
observation post.  You can't cut or climb without them knowing about

Amanda leant over and began checked that she had the specialised
equipment from her personal collection.  "So we just have to try
something a little less crude."  She pulled out a pair of jumper cables
and wiggled them meaningfully in front of her face.  "Once we clear the

Jim returned his gaze to the warehouse, aware of his Guide's hand on
his shoulder, grounding him.  "Motion detectors near all entrances.
Floodlights every ten metres.  Can't see or hear and guards or
anything."  His brow creased slightly.  "Sound baffling.  I can't
penetrate any deeper."

"Cool, man, you can dial back down now."  Exhaling slowly, Jim returned
his perception to the cramped confines of the vehicle.  "Don't try to
follow my heartbeat in, man.  You'll loose me once I get behind the
soundproofed walls, and then you'll just zone.  Understand?"  He spoke
the order in his Guide's voice, and Jim had no choice but to nod his
agreement.  He wished he was going in with them, but the group was
large enough as it was, and the Immortal's had a better chance of
making it out alive.  There was only one thing to say.

"Good luck, Chief."

"Thanks man."  Blaer grabbed his sword and slim back pack and joined
the others who were gathered behind an industrial dumpster waiting for
Amanda to give the ready sign.  Jim watched him go, then tuned back in
on Amanda.  The girl was a pro, he realised, as she created a secondary
circuit around the area of fence she was working on.  Once all the
strands had the current diverted around her, it was short work to cut a
person-sized gap in the fence.  A low whistle, and in one's and two's
the Immortal's dashed the ten metres across open road and through the
gap.  Jim dialed down his sight, waiting for the motion sensors to
detect nearly a dozen people moving across the yard.  But nothing
happened.  One by one, the three entries cracked open, and each team
slid inside and away from his senses.

Making sure the door was shut but not locked behind her, Reia thumbed
off the jammer Lara had procured for them and slipped it into a pocket.
As one, the trio of Danya, Blaer and herself slipped down the corridor
and deeper into the facility.  Despite not having worked together as a
team in centuries, they soon found themselves automatically filling
their traditional roles of point, middle and rear guard.  

It only took a minute for it to become clear to them that the warehouse
had been subjected to extensive modifications.  Growling slightly,
Blaer shoved the blueprint back into his pack.  "This is useless.
Someone pick a direction, we'll probably have more luck that way."

Nodding, Danya flicked his gaze down either junction before heading off
down the left-hand corridor.


Duncan, Amanda and Lara had come to a similar conclusion as they moved
deeper into the northern wing of the building.  Lara had taken the
lead, and was treating this like another of her expeditions.  Amanda
followed tightly behind her, scanning each door and junction with a
thief's eye, looking for locks she could crack or security systems they
should avoid.  Duncan had taken up the rearguard, feeling slightly
useless as the two women moved with a professionals' speed and
thoroughness down the corridor.  So far, they had encountered nothing
of interest.  Most of the rooms were empty and cold.  Some where
storerooms for boxes of equipment labeled only with sterile barcodes.
A computer room caused hopes to rise, but the encryption was beyond
their skills.  Cursing silently, Duncan wondered if Methos was nearby.

In fact, Methos, Richie and Connor had already penetrated deeper into
the warehouse.  Whilst not in the same class as Amanda, Richie still
knew how to coerce a lock into opening.  He worked his magic on the
tenth door in this corridor, Methos watching his back.  Connor had
ranged ahead to scope out the vicinity.  Also, if the lovers were
ambushed, they'd have Connor as an ace-in-the-hole and vice versa.

Richie's nimble fingers flew faster than Methos could track. His young
lover's talents continued to amaze him.  "Brat, when this is over,
you're going to teach me how to do that."

Richie smiled but didn't take his eyes off his work.  "Really, Old
Timer?  I thought lock picking would be a natural talent for you."

"The last lock I picked had a keyhole."  He looked on with a satisfied
smirk as the keypad lock yielded with an almost inaudible click.   "I
think I need to update my skills."

Gently, Richie pushed open the door, wary of booby-traps.  He smiled as
Methos whistled out the recall signal he and Connor had agreed on.
"Jackpot."  The trio had located the surveillance control suite.
Wearing a smirk like his lovers, Richie stepped into the room, his eyes
on the equipment laid out before them.  "We've gotta wipe this be-"

The retort of a silenced handgun cut off Richie's sentence.  Even as
Richie fell, Methos stepped into the room, blade flashing.  One long
sweep cut one agent across the chest, the other across the belly.  His
backhand took the latter's head off as if he were Immortal.  The first
agent clutched his bleeding chest protectively.  The cut wasn't deep
enough to be instantly lethal, but he would soon bleed to death.

Death made an appearance.  "Talk.  Or die."  The sword blade rested
against the agents shoulder.  The uniformed man tracked the blade with
his eyes, too terrified to move.

With a jerk, Richie returned to life.  "Man, I hate getting shot."
Pushing himself upright, he retrieved the dropped handgun.  Coolly, he
trained it on his shooter.  "Has he given you the talk or die speech


Connor spared the two corpses a passing glance.  "Did they raise the

"Nope," Methos said with a smirk as his fingers flew over the keyboard.

Richie was standing guard behind the door, the pilfered weapon held
against his chest.  "But they were most helpful with access codes."

"Let's see if we can turn off the locks, and save the Brat's skills for
when we need them."


Danya spun around, weapon drawn, as a series of clicks echoed down
empty corridor.  

"What was that?" Blaer hissed.

Reia walked backwards, her eyes scanning the corridor.  "Just a wild
guess, but I think someone's disabled the electronic locking system."

"One of our guys?"

"Well, its not exactly military procedure to turn off security for the
hell of it."


"Most likely."

Blaer looked thoughtfully at the blank walls.  "Hey D.  These security
systems have sound?"

"Most probably.  Why?"

"Yo!  Methos!  We need a map here.  Turn off the lights in the dead-end
corridors or something, man!"

The three stared nervously at the walls for a long moment.  Blaer
shrugged.  "Okay, maybe not..."

Suddenly, the lights on one of the junctions flicked out.  "Or maybe
yes.  Thanks man!"

The trio headed down the corridor.


Duncan, Lara and Amanda were also following the visual cues Methos was
laying out for them, but with greater caution.  "It could be a trap,"
Amanda whispered vehemently as she edged down the corridor between Lara
and Duncan.

"If it is, it's a different one," Lara noted coolly.

"We'll keep our eyes open," Mac added with a nod, his eyes darting
around, taking in everything.  Any further conversation was cut off as
Lara waved a curt gesture.  Amanda slid behind the other woman to take
up position on the far side of the door.  Drawing her magnums, Lara
nudged into the room, prepared for soldiers or traps.  A moment after
she ducked into the room, Mac and Amanda heard a low whistle.


"Check this out."

Giving the corridor one last cursory sweep, the pair followed Lara


They had found the records room.

Splitting off in three directions, they began exploring down the
corridors.  A lot of the drawers and shelves were empty, and it didn't
take the trio long to find all the relevant files.  "Wonder if they
have backups," Lara wondered aloud as she divided up the data sets and
began cramming them into her pack.

"If they keep them on site, it won't matter," Mac noted bluntly.  "And
if they're kept elsewhere, we'll track them down.  Lets keep moving."


The short flight of steps were narrow and steep.  Danya, Blaer and Reia
went down almost one at a time, wary of being caught in a bunch in such
an awkward place.  "Do we know how many sub-basements this place has?"

"There were none on the plans.  If they dug this out recently, they
can't have gone very deep.  Someone would notice all the dirt coming
out of here."  Blaer cast one last look up the stairs before he jumped
down onto the landing and began following his two elders down the only
corridor "I wish we knew if we were getting closer..."

The trio stopped, first Reia, then Danya and then finally Blaer.  The
latter smiled as he felt the twin buzz wash over him.  "Ask and ye
shall receive."

Danya made a curt gesture with his hand.  "Stay here.  Make sure this
little jailbreak doesn't turn into a public party."  Blaer nodded and
drew his sword.  In such a confined space as the corridor, the sword
was a more efficient weapon than a pistol.

Reia and Danya continued on, following the mental trail until it faded
into background noise.  A huge, solid looking door sealed by swipe card
and optical reader separated them from their goal.

"They'll know someone's here by now," Reia commented sotto voce.

"But how to get them out."  He bent to study the locking mechanism for
a long moment before straightening up to look his old friend in the

They spoke as one.  "Amanda."


The master thief in question paused to ensure that the door to the
records room was securely closed behind her.  "Where to next?"

Lara opened her mouth to answer, but at that moment a buzz entered
their consciousness.  Drawing their weapons as a precaution, they were
relieved when Connor skidded around the corner.  "Great, Amanda, come
on," he snapped out in his familiar brogue.  "We've found them, but we
need you to pick the lock to get them out."  Turning, he began to jog
down the corridor

As one, the trio matched his pace and followed.


It only took a few minutes for Connor and Amanda to join Danya by the
cell door.  Mac and Lara had been posted at the bottom of the stairs as
lookouts.  Blaer was guarding the top of the stairs, and Reia, Methos
and Richie had begun to head out, checking that their escape route was
clear.  The fact that the only two personnel they had seen were the two
Methos had killed in the surveillance room was putting the paranoid
group further on edge.

Amanda set immediately to work, muttering to herself as she began to
assemble her palmtop and scanner device. "Lets see. 32 bit
swipe...Orion optical....piece of cake."  A flurry of commands tapped
into the tiny computer soon yielded a triple beep.  The deep thuds as
the securing bolts slid out of the door followed immediately after.
Amanda shoved her computer in her pocket with a smirk.  "Charlie's
Angels did it the hard way."  The last lock slid clear, and cautiously
Danya pushed open the door.

The rapid burst of machine gun fire ripped cleanly through his chest.
Amanda, standing to one side, managed to spring out of the way with
only a few bullets tearing a large gash in her thigh.  Connor leapt in
the opposite direction, but still took several bullets in the stomach.

The soldier behind the machine gun chuckled as he lowered the weapon
slightly.  Stepping forward, he used the barrel to nudge Danya's
corpse.  "Ain't no Supermen, are they?"

Danya reached up, ripping the weapon out of the grunts' hands even as
executed a horizontal 180 degrees spin, knocking the soldier's legs
cleanly out from under him.  Bringing the pilfered weapon to bear,
Danya got to his knees and then his feet, the weapon steady as his eyes
scanned the anteroom.  The single retort of a hand weapon from behind
him caused him to jump.  Amanda lowered her pistol, nodding as the
soldier's partner crumpled to a heap against the back wall.  "Knew this
was too easy."

Passing the heavy weapon off to Connor, Danya drew his sword and knelt
next to the first man.  Calmly he laid the blade against his throat.
"Let's talk," he told him with a mirthless smile.


Mac arrived, weapon drawn, just as Danya wiped his blade clean on the
corpse's pantleg.  "Problem?"

"Mild disagreement."

"So I see.  Have we got them out yet?"

It was Amanda, working on the far door, who answered.  "Almost.

The door slid open.  Danya sighed.  It could have been much worse.
Sydney and Nigel were lying side by side on medical guernies.  Both
appeared unconscious, but the presence of a buzz indicated that they
were still alive.  Both were hooked up to a huge variety of medical
monitors, cameras and diagnostic equipment.  Twin drips fed clear
liquid into their arms.  Heads were still on shoulders, though.


"Yes.  Connor, get those cameras clear.  I don't want this caught on
film.  Mac, watch the door. Amanda, get those 'trodes off Nigel."
Danya snapped out orders even as his eyes took in all details of the
scene.  "Pull the drips first.  It will be easier to get them out if
they're conscious."

Working off Danya's curt instructions, they soon had the kidnapped pair
cut free of their restraints.  Once the unknown drug was no longer
being pumped into their system, Sydney and Nigel began to revive.
Although groggy and a little disorientated, they were still coherent
enough to answer questions and remember what had happened.

"Danya?" Sydney managed to slur.

"Yeah, Syd, its me.  Whatcha need?"

"Get me out of here."

Danya smiled.  "Gladly."  Looping his arm around her, he bodily lifted
her off the table.  At the other gurney, Connor had helped the
Englishman down and handed him over to his burlier kinsman.  Amanda and
Connor knew better than to try and take the other side of the downed
pair.  Instead, they took point and rearguard, weapons drawn and ready
to go.

The group made it to where Lara had posted herself with minimum fuss.
Movement had helped speed the diffusion of the drug from their blood,
but Sydney and Nigel were still a little groggy.  At least they could
now stand on their own.  Staying close to guide (or catch them if
needed), Danya looked up the stairs.  "Anything from the others?"

Lara shook her head. "No."  Her tone conveyed a wealth of concern to
her friends as she began to quickly ascend, weapons drawn, eyes wary.  
Danya held up Amanda as she went to follow.  Shaking his head, he
silently held up his hand.  Wait.

The half-expected trap was sprung as Lara crested the final steps.
Automatic pistol fire flared from her left.  Lara twisted and flipped,
somehow dodging the hail of bullets to land on her feet, her own
weapons spitting in counterpoint.

The ambush fell silent.  Lara disappeared from view for a moment,
investigating, before returning to view.  "All clear here.  Hurry." 

Needing no further encouragement, the Macleod's charged up the stairs,
followed by Danya and Sydney, Nigel and Amanda.  Lara had already
ranged further down the corridor.

The second ambush had far more firepower than the first.  Lara was
worst hit, followed by Duncan and Connor.  Even Amanda and Nigel, who
were bringing up the rear, felt the bite of half a dozen bullets each. 
But luck was on their side, as it became clear that the shooters had
not been informed as to who or what they were dealing with.  As the
four man squad came out into the open to confirm their 'kills,'  Danya
and Amanda sat up and fired at near point- blank range, economically
felling each soldier with a single shot.  Moments later Connor and
Duncan revived, followed almost immediately by Lara.   Gathering
themselves together with a minimum of fuss, they continued along the

The third ambush party had already been flushed out.  Another team of
four lay cooling on the linoleum floor, blood pooling from head and
chest wounds, one showing the tell-tale gash of having been
disemboweled with a single sword stroke.

"The others must have already come through," Danya noted as he looked
at the tell-tale sword wound.  Those who had come into Immortality
after the widespread adoption of projectile weaponry sometimes forgot
that, in close quarters like corridors, the sword was actually the more
effective weapon.  He began chivvying his old student and their
entourage along past the corpses.

"Aye.  Let's not keep them waiting," Duncan agreed before lengthening
his stride to work with Lara as advanced guard.  Lara gave him a long
sideways look before wordlessly accepting his presence.  She was well-
aware of the younger Macleod's righteous sense of chivalry and his
difficult working relationship with women, especially those he was not
well-acquainted with.

The building which had seemed so empty on their arrival was now
crawling with soldiers.  Danya barely spared a look for each corpse
they passed.  Lara and Macleod looped them around those live patrols
they could avoid, and effectively neutralized those they couldn't.
Amanda and Danya focussed on keeping Syd and Nigel on their feet and
moving, trusting their backs to Connor.

It seemed like forever before they were at the outer doors.  Lara
flicked her head around once before melting back against the inner
wall.  "Dog patrols."  As one, the rescue party looked at Sydney and
Nigel.  They were strengthening by the minute, but the drugs affected
Immortal metabolisms just as badly as mortal ones.  There was no way
the pair could survive a bolt for the fence in their current condition.
"We need a diversion."

Amanda smiled and shuffled positions until she was closest to the door.
Laying flush against the floor, she wiggled until she was just able to
glimpse around into the now floodlit yard.  Angling her palm to the
light, the compact mirror she held caught and reflected the light in a
short pattern.  A single torchbeam, almost invisible in the harsh
lights of the yard, was her response.  Expertly, she flashed out a
second message and watched the reply.  With a satisfied smirk, she
wiggled back and stood.  

Connor looked at her with an almost approving nod. "Semaphore."

Amanda shrugged and slid the mirror back into her pack.  "Hey, you and
Reia weren't the only ones to work with the Maquis, okay."  She looked
at her watch.  "Get ready to run in seven, six, five, four, three, two,
one."  On one, she clapped her hands to her ears.  The others
instinctively followed suit, and not a second to soon as explosives
were detonated in the bowels of the very building they were standing


Amanda grabbed the nearest body and pulled towards the door.  Danya
pushed Sydney out in front of him and drew his own pistol.  As a group
they burst out of their hiding place and made for the fence.  Over the
shouts of the guards and the barking of the dogs, he thought he caught
the sound of a car engine turning over.  But he wrenched his focus back
to his immediate surroundings as the familiar rattle of automatic
weapons fire caught his attention.  The twin bite and tingle of bullets
boring holes into his body, and those same holes repairing almost
instantaneously, let him know without a doubt that they had been
spotted.  The elders had almost formed a hedgehog around their wounded
compatriots, maintaining a near sprint despite half of the circle
running backwards, firing all the while.

Amanda's gambit had only half-worked.  The explosions – he didn't care
now who set the bombs, but he was going to find out later – had
distracted a large proportion of the guards, but not all.  They were
ill-informed, but well- trained.  All his years working under Cheyenne
Mountain should have taught him to expect that much.  As part of the
back arc of the circle, along with Connor and Lara, he saw first the
sudden surge of soldiers as reinforcements arrived.  These ones were
carrying heavy weaponry, and were dressed in the black of Special Ops
rather than the combat fatigues of the enlisted guards they had dealt
with so far.

Beside him he heard Lara mutter 'this is gonna hurt,' then the first of
the large caliber slugs slammed into his stomach.  One hand over the
gaping wound in his belly, he managed to get a single shot off.
Unsurprisingly, it went wild.  Lara took down the shooter and his
buddy, then hissed to him "heal first, shoot later!"  

Danya nodded, but even as Lara was speaking he had felt the bullet
slide out of the wound into his hand.  Ditching it quickly, Danya
raised his weapon again in a two-handed grip and resumed firing, his
wound tender but basically healed.  It had taken about fifteen seconds
from wounding to the first skin layer closing, and he had not stopped
moving back towards the fence at any time.

Lara smirked grimly to herself as she ejected the spent cartridges and
reloaded with practiced speed.  You could almost hear these new
bootjack's going 'what the HELL?'  Sydney and Nigel were both stupidly
young by her standard, and had very few Quickenings under their belts. 
Of course their healing time was only a fraction of someone like
Danya's.  She took advantage of their surprise to squeeze off a few
more shots.

As Duncan and Amanda reached the hole in the fence, the second wave of
explosives was detonated.  At the same instant, an Immortal buzz
touched their senses.  As the flare cleared from their vision, familiar
hands were reaching through to guide them to relative safety.  Sydney
and Nigel went first, then Amanda.  Duncan would have waited to see
everyone out safely, but he was dragged through as the final three laid
down a deafening burst of cover fire.  Then they each bolted through
the gap.

Connor was the last through, and was all but dragged to the first
cover, a large industrial dumpster, by the oldest of their kind.  "Come
on, kiltboy!" Methos groused in his distinctive accent.  "MOVE!"  They
were saved a longer run by the second of their unidentifiable vehicles
screeching to a halt in front of them, Jim Ellison at the wheel, Blaer
Guiding him from the front passenger seat.  With more arse than class,
the four piled into the open doors, pulling them shut even as Jim
accelerated away from the burning building.

Methos immediately swiveled to stare intently out the back window.
"Come on, Brat."  Danya looked between Methos and Blaer.  

"What?  Richie's on the bike, right?"  His head flicked rapidly between
the two Immortal's, waiting for his answer.

Methos replied slowly and quietly.  "He has the detonators for the
final explosives package."

Danya stared at him in mild shock.  "How much did you guys pack in
there?  Enough to level the district?"

It was Connor who answered.  "We saw how much surveillance gear they
had in there, how large their archives were.  Burning it to the ground
was the only way to guarantee its destruction.  And our privacy."

Lara opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by an almost monotone
statement from their driver.  "I can hear the bike.  Its pulling
away...sounds like its heading up parallel, two streets over."

Blaer nodded and moved his hand soothingly up and down his Sentinel's
arm.  "Dial down, Jim.  The explosion is coming.  Dial everything right
down.  Ease off until it's passed."  Jim nodded and tightened his grip
on the steering wheel.  It was then that Danya realised they were
driving in the dark without any headlights.

Any further thought was knocked from his mind as the vehicle was rocked
on its suspension by the huge explosion which leveled the military

Methos almost plastered himself against the window.  "RICHIE!"

In the drivers seat, Jim shook his head to clear out the last of the
tremors.  "Okay, I'm fine."

Blaer nodded, his face still showing his concern.  "Okay, man, okay.
Dial back up.  Feel my hand on your arm and listen for Janet and

Jim nodded slowly.  "I've got the bike."  His brow furrowed slightly.
"Richie's fine.  Hyped, but fine."

"Okay, man," Blaer said as he shot a relieved Methos a small smile.
"And Janet."

"They're about 200 meters ahead, behind a building.  They're pulling

"What are we waiting for then, an engraved invitation?  Let's go." Lara
said as she stretched her booted legs out into the gap between the

The dark vehicle pulled into the night.


"Okay, Sam, thanks."  Janet hung up the phone in Joe's office with a
sigh.  Looking up to the door, she saw her Watcher boss standing there
with a concerned expression in his eyes.  She answered the unasked
question.  "Sam can't find anything.  It's like the entire operation
vanished.  Not that it was exactly operating under a neon sign in the
first place."

Joe tried for upbeat.  "Well, no news is good news, right?"

Janet ran her fingers through her loose hair and then pushed herself
tiredly to her feet.  "Yeah.  We've just got to convince that lot out
there of that."

Out in the main bar, the group was sitting in a loose circle, some
unpacking their kits and returning borrowed equipment, some just
sitting with their heads down.  Exhausted, grimy and still dogged by
continuing fears for their secrecy, the group sitting in the dimly lit
bar was somber to the point of maudlin.  As one, they looked up as Joe
and Janet joined them.

Janet answered the question asked by their expressions.  "Nada.
They've vanished."

"And we still don't know who they really were."  The oldest man's tone
made his words a statement, not a question.

Blaer shoot out his ruffled curls.  "And unless they try again, I don't
think we ever will.  Do they know who we are?"

Daniel shook his head.  "S.O.P for those places is to keep all
surveillance in-house, so noone can intercept transmission."

Connor nodded.  "Thought so.  I think we planted enough explosive to
remove any traces of who came through."

Reia looked at the two escapees.  "Nothing gave them away? No," she
continued on before Sydney could snap off a reply.  "Of course not,
they're pros."  She smiled at Sydney and Nigel apologetically.  The
pair had been answering question after question almost continuously
since the airport.  

Amanda stretched and yawned.  "Stalemate."

Duncan nodded his head in agreement.  "Come on, you two can crash at
the dojo.  Hot showers and comfortable beds."  And, came the unspoken
addition, half a dozen friends around at all times to watch your backs.

Joe nodded from his place over at the bar.  "Go home, all of you.  Get
rid of the evidence and get some rest.  There's nothing more to be done

Shuffling, bone weary, the Immortal hit squad gathered themselves
together and left, for the dojo or for Richie and Methos' apartment, to
clean themselves up, to burn incriminating evidence, to make their toys
of the trade disappear before they returned to their modern lives and
daylight covers.


Reia rolled her eyes as she pulled up a barstool.  "Geez, I've spent so
many mornings in a bar this month, I'm starting to feel like a lush."

Daniel looped an arm around her waist and kissed the back of her neck
fondly.  "Luscious, maybe."  She wiggled playfully out of his grasp.
Laughing at his teacher's antics, Blair snagged seats for his Sentinel
and himself as Daniel pulled up a chair between Reia and Janet.  Around
them, the others pulled in together for a 'debriefing' of sorts.

"So, when's the shit going to hit the fan next?"  Richie got them
straight to the point.

Joe shrugged.  "Your guess is as good as mine.  They've gone
underground, but..." he shrugged again.

Amanda crooned in a sing-song voice.  "They'll be ba-ack."

Daniel sighed and rested his forehead on folded arms.  "Great."

Joe moved them on quickly.  "Back to practicalities.  Sydney, Nigel,
you're moving out?"

Sydney nodded, her eyes still clearly showing the fear she felt for
herself and her student.  "Yeah.  We're raided one of our more eclectic
stashes of fake ID, and we'll be gone by lunchtime."  She caught the
approving, paternal smile of her teacher and blushed slightly.  "We're
going to move about a bit, loose any tails, then take two."

Daniel interjected, his eyes never leaving Sydney's face.  "In other
words Joe, the Watcher's are going to loose track of two Immortal's for
a little while."

Joe nodded.  "Just let me know when you're safe and sound, okay.  I
worry about you lot."

Reia leapt out of her seat and ran around to hug Joe affectionately
around the waist.  "Aww!  Unka Joe!  I didn't know you wubbed us so."
She even put on her more innocent pout, which lasted several seconds
until she collapsed in laughter.

As Joe pushed Reia back towards her seat, Sydney sat forward, nervously
lacing her fingers.  "Actually, there is something I hope one of you
guys can help me out with?"

Daniel leant back in his seat.  "Let me guess.  Dark hair, clueless,
answers to Claudia."  Sydney nodded as Nigel slapped his forehead.

"Damn!  I forgot about her."

Joe's gaze flicked back and forward.  "Hang on, your assistant Claudia?
But she's not Immortal..." he trailed off as realisation sank in.

"Yet," Janet finished succinctly.  "You want her to join you when you
resettle.  Perhaps it might be wiser to hook her up with another future

Sydney shook her head.  "No, Claudia likes us and trusts us.
Besides,..." she trailed off, unsure how to word it.

"We wouldn't inflict Claudia on anyone," Nigel finished with a
sarcastic smirk.

Methos nodded.  "Where is she now?  At the University?  Okay then,
leave it to us to set some plots in motion, so we can move her out when
you're ready.  Let's just hope she doesn't succumb to any nasty
accidents in the meantime."

Duncan looked at the clock on the wall.  "Come on you two.  Let's get
you out to the airport and on your way."  Chair's were pushed back
noisily as awkward farewells were made between rescuers and rescued.
Finally, Sydney and Danya embraced.   "Take care of yourself, 'kay

"Aye aye, boss," she whispered back.  There was so much she wanted to
say, but neither could find the words to express them.  Each
understood, and when they stepped back from the hug, it was with clear
eyes and warm smiles.  Gathering their bags, Nigel and Sydney allowed
Connor, Amanda and Duncan to escort them out to the airport.

The other Immortal's stepped outside to wave them off.  Joe took
advantage of their inattention to talk to Jim.  "Have you given any
thought to what we discussed last night?"

Jim nodded.  "Yeah, I have.  It just still seems weird, y'know.  He's
my Guide, he's closer than blood to me. To...to spy on him?  I don't
know if I could do it."

Joe shook his head hurriedly.  "Not spying.  Recording.  And I
understand you two have a special relationship.  Your current Watcher
hasn't really mentioned it in her reports.  Any little vagaries, she's
managed to rationalize into insignificance.  I think your reports could
survive a little judicial editorial bias.  You'd get to decide what
goes in."  He looked up as the Immortal's began to drift back inside.
"Talk to Janet if you like.  She's in the same situation.  There's no
rush on your decision."

Talk to Janet he did, over lunch whilst they cooked and their Immortal
friend's sparred in the dojo.  He found himself enjoying the
conversation, talking to another mortal easily and without qualms about
a whole range of subjects he normally considered taboo.  By mid-
afternoon, as they bade their own farewells and began the long Sunday
afternoon drive, his mind was weighing up pro's and con's for becoming
Blaer's Watcher.  Getting to read his Chronicle, that was a big pro.
Jim, though he'd never admit it, was dying to know as much about his
Guide as Blair knew about him.  But writing reports on their day-to-day
lives – major con.  Blair had slipped into a doze as they drove on in
silence, but even as they reentered Cascade city proper, Jim still
could not decide.  Pulling up in front of the loft, he shook his head
and smiled.  Joe said there was no rush.  They'd talk about it.  The
smile widened.  Blair always wanted to talk.  And in the meantime, he
had Janet's email address.  The physician-Watcher had proven invaluable
as a source of advice.

A thousand feet in the air and a couple of hundred kilometres to the
east, the Watcher in question was looking out of the small porthole to
the clouds below.  They were maybe twenty minutes from Denver airport –
from there, they were taking ground transport the rest of the way.  She
simply couldn't get a Watcher on duty at the Gate to smuggle Danya's
sword through the metal detectors.  She sighed and looked at her watch

"A watched pot never boils, Janet," a sleepy voice on her left said.

"And a watched clock never ticks, obviously."  She made a show of
shaking the timepiece, and Daniel chuckled quietly.  Daniel had clued
Janet into the fact that her cover had been blow by posting little
homilies to that effect in her charts, on her computer, even on the
steering wheel of her car.  Since then, it had become habit that
whenever they dropped personas and were just Watcher and Immortal,
Janet and Danya -- friends, they'd end up bouncing those same homilies
at each other in friendly competition.

"How long, unless you've permanently damaged that watch?"

She resettled herself in the uncomfortable seat.  "About twenty
minutes, give or take the landing pattern at Denver."

"Could be worse.  Could be flying to New York, or Paris, or London."

Janet smiled and was glad she wasn't Connor, Reia or Lara's Watcher.
Having to do that trip, AND be covert about it.  She shuddered
slightly.  "No thanks."  Beside her, Danya also resettled himself and
slipped into another catnap.  Janet envied him that, she could never
sleep on planes.  She tucked her elbow in as another passenger moved
down the aisle, returning to their seat.  Not really looking, she
caught only a glimpse of their face as they passed.

'Strange,' she thought to herself as she looked at the person's
retreating back for a moment before she opened the in-flight magazine. 
'Déjà vu.'