Lucrezia Noin was not happy
By Chyna Rose
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing. I don’t own Highlander.
Warnings: Playing fast and loose with the cannon; partially AU and ignoring most of Episode Zero
Silence spread out as the implications of what Methos had said sunk in. Methos was immortal. Immortals could feel the presence of other immortals. Methos could feel them. And in addition to that, Methos expected them to be able to feel him. Which meant that, following that line of logic, they were immortal (providing that Methos wasn’t lying). A big if. If Methos wasn’t lying about any of it – which he easily could have. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Methos (and his companion) were older than they looked; they themselves were proof enough of that. And Methos’ insanely (inhumanly) fast healing could be easily mistaken for immortality. But there was no way to tell if anything else he had said was true or not. Certainly the man had no problem lying since his ESUN id had him down as Douglas Nathaniel. How do you fact check something like that?
“I realize that this is a rather shocking revelation for you; no one really expects to live forever, but there is much that we need to teach you if you want to survive your first couple of centuries. And in order to do this I’m going to need to speak with all of you. So if you could please call for your three companions in the other room…”Methos said, breaking the silence.
“And what, makes you think that there even is anyone else in this house besides us?” Zechs asked levelly.
“Because,” Methos replied, “as I said before, Immortals can feel the presence of other Immortals. Granted it takes time and experience to be able to discern more than that there is an Immortal around here somewhere, but both McLeod and myself have enough of both to know that there are a total of nine Immortals in this mansion including ourselves. Now I strongly suggest you call in the others; they have a right to learn what they are.”
“I told you guys.” Duo said, his cheery tone starting to take on a manic edge, “I told you we died in that explosion. But no; immortals only exist in stories, so since we’re still breathing we can’t have died then. There has to be some other, logical explanation. Well guess what.”
“Duo…” Heero said, partly in warning. Now was not a good time to fall apart (not that Duo was normally given to hysterics); they all needed level heads to deal with an already tense situation that had just taken a turn for the more complex and bizarre.
“Be that as it may,” Zechs began, as if Duo hadn’t spoken at all, “even if you are telling the truth your presence here is rather problematic. Immortality aside, we still have to deal with the issue of you being here.”
“I believe that we should hear them out at the very least.” Quatre said as he and Wu Fei entered the room with Trowa, who had quietly slipped out to get them while the others spoke. Trieze, for obvious reasons stayed just out of sight in the other room; close enough to hear what was going on but hidden enough not to be seen as a precaution. It wasn’t ideal as far as Methos was concerned (he could still feel the other Immortal hidden away in that room) but it was probably as good as they were going to get. They mystery Immortal probably could hear what he had to say, and if not, well then one of the others would just have to tell them since he was not going to repeat himself.
“Alright then,” Methos started when it was clear that no one was going to argue with Quatre, “For as long as anyone can figure out, as long as there have been humans Immortals have walked invisibly among them. There are no records of who the first Immortal was, or when they lived; most reliable records about Immortals date back to around the 900s B.C. and the group that became the Watchers Council although there are some mentions and personal accounts from individual Immortals or the mortals they associated with dating back to well before that, but often such accounts are difficult to verify the accuracy of since they tend to speak of the Immortal as some supernatural creature who either came back to life or never aged. It is more than likely that myths such as vampires or elves sprang from mortals running into Immortals although one be can’t completely certain that such creatures might not actually exist. I might not have run into any of them over the course of my long life, but I do know at least one rather powerful witch.”
“Wait. You’re saying that magic actually exists?” Duo asked, his ire at his comrades – momentarily – forgotten.
“Magic – real magic – is as real as you or I although there are few who practice it these days and even fewer who can cast it to any real effect. Over the millennia there have been debates by Immortals and those who know about Immortals, about what roll if any magic plays in the general lives of Immortals. The truth stands that no one really knows where we come from, how we got here, or why we were sent here.”
“Wait.” Duo interrupted, holding up his hand in a stop gesture, “What do you mean where we come from? We’re human – sort of – and while I might’ve never known my mother, I had to had had one otherwise I never would’ve been born.”
“I meant what I said. No one knows where Immortals come from. All of us are foundlings who show up as young children who, if we’re lucky, get adopted into a family.”
The former pilots took their time to adjust to this news. For Heero, Duo, and Trowa it didn’t sound too impossible; none of them had had any traditional family for as long as they could remember, not even some hazy impression of a scent, or a color, or a lullaby that whispered of a mother long gone. But the others had had a family from the word go with no indication of being adopted. That Quatre was not in fact the biological son of Zayeed and Katherine Winner was quite frankly ludicrous. Thanks to advancements in reproductive technology – the invention of the artificial womb in particular –the Winners had no reason to adopt Quatre. Especially since Quatre was the youngest of thirty children, all of whom (it had been believed) had been carried to term in an artificial womb as their mother’s health issues prevented her from carrying them normally. It was a bit more plausible in Wu Fei, Zechs, and Trieze’s cases as Trieze and Wu Fei had been only children while Zechs had a younger sister. But even back in the pre-colony days, it was not entirely unheard of for a couple previously thought to be infertile to naturally conceive and deliver a child after having adopted one.
“How certain are you that immortals cannot be born to a mortal mother?” Quatre asked.
“Extremely certain. There has never been a case where an Immortal or Pre -Immortal has known biological parents.”
“Pre-immortals?” Wu Fei asked, confused.
Methos nodded. “An Immortal’s immortality isn’t active from ‘birth’. We all start out as Pre-Immortals who have the potential to become immortal under the right circumstances. Pre-Immortals age and grow like ordinary mortals until they meet up with a violent death, after which whatever it is that grants us our immortality kicks in and we awaken alive and healed of whatever killed us.”
“Shit! You mean I’m gonna be sixteen forever?” Duo asked.
“If that’s the age you were when you had your first death, then yes.” Methos replied. Duo glowered at the answer. He didn’t relish an eternity of being stuck in high school or being brought up on the threat of truancy charges. It was bad enough he’d had to slip in and out of schools for cover during the war; he was light years ahead of what they could teach him in the subjects that mattered (no one cared what some ancient poet meant when he wrote the poem and lots of people never wrote a story or poem in their lives and turned out just fine).
Quatre, feeling Duo’s aggravation (not that he was looking forward to an eternity of being asked why he wasn’t in school like he was supposed to be), put a calming hand on his shoulder.
“That does not explain why you were both carrying swords.” Wu Fei pointed out, “Surely one who has nothing to fear from being mortally wounded has no reason to be carrying around a weapon.”
“Dying still hurts and I for one would rather avoid it as much as humanly possible, and after a while of carrying a sword there tends to be sentimental value attached to it. But the main reason Immortals carry swords is because of the Gathering.”
“The Gathering?” Trowa asked.
Methos nodded. “There can be only one, and the outcome of the Gathering will determine who that one shall be. No one knows when the Gathering will occur, or even if it will occur at all. We will apparently just know that the time is right and gather together for a battle royale tournament to the death until there is only one last Immortal standing – who by virtue of being that last Immortal will be gifted with the prize; whatever that may be. Until then, you need to be prepared for any challenges that will be issued to you. While the Gathering might not be happening any time soon – if at all – there is no rule against thinning the heard so to speak before it starts. In fact some Immortals believe that it won’t start until there are only a few of us left, so the challenges are essential. There are a few rules regarding these challenges and most everyone adheres to the letter of them if not the spirit. Challenges are one on one to the death with no outside interference. The winner is decided by who still has their head at the end; while our immortality ensures that we will eventually recover from virtually every manner of death, decapitation is the only thing that can kill us in a permanent way. Even if an Immortal were to be spaced, they would still revive upon being brought inside so long as their head remained attached to their body.
“So what’s to stop someone from just shooting you and lopping off your head with a chainsaw?” Duo asked.
“Aside from the fact that no one uses a chainsaw – swords might be the most common weapon among Immortals, but there are some who use things like axes – nothing. There are no enforcers or secret police to make sure that the proper forms are followed and all challenges are fair. Just about the only rule to be regularly adhered to is the prohibition against taking a head on holy ground.”
“What happens if someone takes a head on holy ground?”
“The results are rather explosive. While it is possible to live forever on holy ground, it is generally considered bad form to do so unless it is your calling – and those individuals are few and far between. I’ve only met a handful in my lifetime, mostly in passing. And even then, that might not be enough to save you from a determined enough head hunter.”
“Head hunters?” Wu Fei asked with a frown. Aside from the fact that head hunters sounded rather unpleasant, he greatly disliked the fact that they kept parroting back the man’s words like some sort of demented Greek chorus.
“Head hunters are Immortals who strive to take as many heads as they can; most will use underhanded methods to do so as they are more concerned with taking a head rather than picking a fair fight. Often they will only target Immortals that they know they can win against – such as newly awoken Immortals. The real lowlifes will pull dirty tricks like killing you before beheading you, taking hostages, and attacking the winner right after a challenge while they are still exhausted. The general consensus is that head hunters are Immortals who have become addicted to the power and the high of the quickening, and in the case of those who don’t just go after easy pickings, the thrill of the fight. The quickening,” Methos continued before one of the others could ask. He also shot McLeod a withering ‘not now’ glare. The Horsemen, and his role among them, was a tale for another time – if ever. “as far as we can tell, is what makes us immortal. It is an energy within us that carries all our power, experience, memories, knowledge, and personality. In short, it’s what makes us us. It is also what causes the buzz we feel when around other Immortals and Pre-Immortals although the quickening of Pre-Immortals is so muted that not every Immortal can feel it, and the blue sparks you can sometimes see while an injury is healing. When you take another Immortal’s head, you gain the quickening of every Immortal who’s head they’ve taken. It’s quite a rush and it’s easy to get addicted to the feeling, but like many things in life its fine so long as you don’t let it take over your life. Normally taking a quickening is a natural and relatively safe procedure, but occasionally a quickening won’t settle properly and you’ll find yourself under the influence of what we call a dark quickening. As the name implies, a dark quickening is generally considered a bad thing even if you don’t believe that anything is wrong during one. During a dark quickening, you are not you; you have a harder time resisting your darker impulses, and also see less of a reason why you would need to. Many a good Immortal has gone bad that way, and the standard method of handling them is to put them down like a mad dog. It is possible to pull someone out of that state, but it takes a lot of time and effort that you might not have, is not guaranteed to work, and by the time you do the damage is already done. Most Immortals would rather be killed than to be left to run around in that state.”
“So that explains it…” Duo said mostly to himself. Now that they had this new information, fantastical as it might sound, things from The Incident were starting to make more sense. Well, it was a reasonable explanation anyway – even if it wasn’t all that much better than declaring someone waved a magic wand and it was so.
“Explains what?” Duncan asked, partially oblivious to the look of ‘oh great not this again’ being passed around by the other pilots. Clearly there was an old argument here, and he wasn’t about to go digging (too much anyway; he was a bit of a busy body after all).
“A number of months ago, we were sent on a mission that went south. Badly. Some weird guy with a sword came in after us during a fire fight, shit hit the fan, and freak electrical surge from an unknown source started frying shit. The place went boom big time, and we were the only survivors out of well over a hundred people. Only that’s not the case is it. We didn’t actually survive; we just got better once the dust settled.”
“Duo…” Heero growled in warning. He and the others were not too happy about Duo sharing details of that mission, even if he hadn’t said anything particularly sensitive.
“What?” Duo shot back with a glare of his own. He might be the most outgoing and talkative of the bunch, but he was smart enough not to talk about classified stuff around people who didn’t have the right clearance. And, seeing as it hadn’t been one of those hush-hush super secret blackest of black ops missions, saying ‘there was a mission, we went on it, it went so south that calling it FUBAR was a gross understatement, shit went boom (in a bad way), and lots of people died’ wasn’t actually a breach of confidentiality. Really. They should’ve had more faith in him. He was the king of running his mouth yet managing not to say anything of real importance – without lying mind you – after all, “They asked, I didn’t lie, and no matter how stupid you might think I am, I do know what classified means. And despite what you might think, I actually can keep my fucking mouth shut.”
“Duo!” Quatre admonished this time in reaction to Duo’s language. Duo for his part refused to look abashed or admonished. Turning to their guests, Quatre spoke again, “Please forgive my friend; things are a bit tense at the moment, and we are all a bit on edge.”
“It’s quite all right.” Methos said with a dismissive wave of his hand, interrupting anything else Quatre was going to say. After so many centuries wandering the earth, they could handle a bit of cursing. God knew that they had heard – and said – worse over the course of their lifetimes, “Now if you have any questions…”
“What do we tell the others?” Zechs asked. Dr. Po and Commander Une (not to mention Relena, Dorothy, Noin, the Maganacs, and Quatre’s sister Iria) already knew that something was up with them although they had attributed it to being related to their having been Gundam pilots and whatever training the ‘Mad Five’ had put them through (although that didn’t explain Zechs who had been with OZ, but his lack of aging wasn’t as apparent as the others). If nothing else, they needed to tell Dr. Po – as their doctor – and Commander Une – as their boss and commanding officer – what was going on.
“What, if anything, you tell others is largely up to you. However, I do caution you to be very careful who you tell what; not all people take the revelation of Immortals walking amongst them well. While you won’t really have to worry about being burned at the stake as a witch…”
None of them were a stranger to the atrocities that man visited upon their fellow man. Hell, they had borne first hand witness – on both sides of the issue – to such horrors. It didn’t take much of a stretch for them to imagine a large number of not so nice things that could happen to them if the wrong person discovered that they were not ‘normal’ humans. Things that made being burned alive seem almost pleasant by comparison. Needless to say, none of them were about to tell every random Tom, Dick, and Harry that they met on the street about their new found immortality (much like their respective roles in the war). But it was nice to know that they weren’t going to have to hide this from the people they were closest to.
“Now what?” Trowa asked, voicing the question weighing heavily on everyone’s mind.
“Now, we can do one of two things, which would be entirely up to you. First, you could allow us to stay here for the time being and take you on as our students. As our students, you’ll gain a measure of protection from any headhunters who come after you thinking that as young Immortals, you’d be easy prey, as well as training so that you’ll have a better chance of surviving future challenges. The trade off for this is that there are those who would target you because you are our students in order to get at us, and we will need to meet the seventh member of your group; no matter who they are, they need the same training if they are to survive that first critical decade. Or you could decide not to become our students, let us call for the tow, and we’ll part ways. You’ll be able to keep your secret, and (probably) won’t have to deal with anyone trying to get at us through you, but you’ll be on your own as far as figuring out your own survival.”
“If we agree to be your students – and we haven’t decided on that yet – how long will we be training under you?” Zechs asked.
“Until we feel that you are able to reliably handle yourselves in a challenge when it comes down to it. Depending on how fast you pick up things, how much – if any – sword training you had prior to this, and what your schedules are like – you won’t have to give up your current lives for training, if that’s what you’re worried about – it can take months or years. Although we probably will still keep in touch after that; no doubt you’ll be adopted into ‘Clan McLeod’ whether you like it or not.”
“Can we have some time to think about it?” Quatre asked. They had a lot to think about and Methos’ offer was not something to be taken lightly. The training could be useful, and the older Immortals probably would be able to come up with a way to reintegrate Trieze without causing another war. However, it meant that they would be brining in at least two more people (probably a lot more depending on how big this ‘Clan McLeod’ was and how much information they shared between them) into their little circle of people who knew the truth about their being gundam pilots; it would show up in their training and while Duo was a master of twisting the truth around so that it was just as good as a lie, he still didn’t lie. Not that he would let that little bit of truth slip out carelessly – for someone who practically never shut up, he said little of actual worth (at least as far as certain things went) – but all it would take was one very carefully worded question that he could not squirm out of answering (up to and including throwing out a verbal distraction or blowing something up). Hell, Duo didn’t even have to tell them anything; just because he didn’t lie didn’t mean that he had to answer the question he was asked – even under torture (as many Oz soldiers learned). Questioning an interrogator’s parentage, sexual preferences and practices, anatomical measurements, mental facilities, and fashion sense liberally mixed with travel advice and profanity was a legitimate reply to being asked where the others were after all). They could be smart enough to figure it out for themselves.
“Of course.” Methos replied. It was an entirely reasonable question. These people didn’t know him and Duncan from Adam and had no reason to believe that they weren’t going to just kill them and take their heads the moment they dropped their guard. It was reassuring if somewhat annoying and inconvenient, to know that these men could actually think for themselves and use common sense. That meant that they had a better chance of keeping their heads firmly attached to their shoulders.
“In that case,” Quatre began, “Why don’t one of you take Barton and Maxwell with you to look at the car? They both know a bit about cars/mechanics and might be able to help.”
The implied threat was subtle. Methos – or McLeod – would take two of the agents – who probably did in fact know a thing or two about cars – as well as a possible third (hidden) ‘just in case’ watcher to check out the truth behind that bit of their story. The other would stay in the mansion as basically a hostage. If it turned out that they were lying, or if either of them took the opportunity to turn on the newly discovered Immortals, then both men would promptly be killed (and probably beheaded; just to be on the safe side). This didn’t bother Methos and McLeod (although it did rankle McLeod’s pride a bit since it was a small slight on his honor) since it was a sensible precaution. Trust was all well and good, but being too trusting (or trusting the wrong person) could be fatal. Methos and McLeod knew that they weren’t lying, and that they weren’t going to betray the former gundam pilots, and that was what mattered.