Author: Michael Weyer
Title: Of Immortal Life and Liberty
Copyright: November 2001
JAG owned by CBS
Highlander owned by Rysher Entertainment
X-Files owned by Ten Thirteen Productions
Matthew Connors, Alice Fairchild, Perry Leiter, Valerie Rosthon, Megan Maguire and Bartholomew Hawkthorne are all mine.
A bit of explanation. This uses characters introduced in a story I wrote a few years back called "First Time Out." That was set in a different universe than the Wanderer tales (which hadn't even been started yet) but after careful consideration, I think it could stand as a possible Wanderer tale. So, reading that might be a good intro to some characters here.
Thanks to Steve for letting me do this and to Tim for dialogue help.
For "JAG", up to the two part episode in Australia, only here, Mic didn't ask Mac to marry him.
This story is dedicated to the Men and Women of the United States Armed Forces.
Church Falls, VA
April 29th, 1999
0911 Hours EST
Commander Harmon Rabb used to consider himself a pretty timely guy. When you're in the military, punctuality was key, after all and Harm liked to believe he had it down pretty well. But after she was assigned to the Judge Advocate General, he realized Major Sarah MacKenzie had him beat cold.
"Tell me something, Mac," Harm said as he came into the JAG office, throwing a salute to his partner. "How is it that a person who doesn't even own an alarm clock can never be late?"
"Internal clock and getting to bed early," Mac replied, giving her partner a quick smile. The two were a study in contrast: He was a tall, well-built man with short dark hair and a handsome face, who put a lot of build into his Navy uniform. She could have been a tomboy if not for the incredible beauty of her features, her short brown hair smoothly cut to show them off and not even her crisp Marine uniform could hide the curves of her very-in-shape body. They were a contrast in other ways too, with her love of meat while he was a strict diet freak. Pretty much the one thing they had in common was a dedication to duty, a skill at flying and a brilliant style in court.
"Getting to bed early?" Harm asked, raising an eyebrow. "So, I guess Mic went back to Oz?"
Mac rolled her eyes at the comment about her current boyfriend Mic Brumby, an officer in the Australian navy. "Please. If I wanted prying into my personal affairs, I'd talk to Webb."
"No need to get nasty, Major," Harm replied evenly. "Just making sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," Mac replied, smirking. "How's Renee?"
"Ah," Harm said, flinching a bit. "She had to go back to L.A. suddenly, some big production meeting."
"Oh, it's so tough to have a girlfriend in the Hollywood biz," Mac smirked. "Makes you eager to point out just how inaccurate her compatriots are in showing our work."
Before Harm could reply, Lt. Bud Roberts popped in, his attitude a little more nervous than usual. "Um, Commander, Major? The Admiral wants to see you, something big's come up."
"Thanks, Bud," Harm replied, nodding to his friend as he and Mac headed towards the office. Bud watched them go and shook his head a bit, wondering when those two were ever going to get their acts together. He hoped it'd be soon, if only so Harriet could stop talking about them so much.
Both Harm and Mac had their own thoughts as they headed towards the office at the end of the open room. Harm supposed he shouldn't have been prying so much into Mac's affairs but the fact was he didn't like Mic. It had taken a while for him to figure out what it was. He thought it was the arrogance or the secretive side or the way he kept telling everyone what a great guy he was. But that wasn't it. No, Harm had finally realized the reason he didn't like Mic was very simple.
Because Mac was with him and not with Harm.
In retrospect, Harm supposed he'd fallen in love with Mac the first time he saw her and not just because she looked incredibly like his dead former girlfriend Dianne. No, he loved her strength, her courage and how she held herself together despite problems ranging from a troubled divorce to her alcoholism. He loved her, it was that simple but like an idiot, he'd never told her about it before she hooked up with Mic. It wasn't that Harm didn't like Renee, she was funny, smart, sexy as hell but.....
She wasn't Mac. No one could be. But Harm knew that chance had passed and so he just had to keep quiet, knowing there was no way Mac was going to break up a relationship with a guy who (as much as Harm hated to admit it) was a pretty good match for her. *Dammit.*
Mac glanced at Harm, hoping she hadn't flinched too much when he'd asked about Mic. The fact was, Mic had offered to stay in America for a while but Mac had told him he should go back and make sure he didn't get into trouble. The truth was that Mac had been thinking a lot of just where she and Mic were going and she just didn't know if they could make things work due to a simple fact.
She was in love with Harm.
She had never expected herself to fall in love with him. Hell, after what she went through with the divorce, she hadn't expected to fall in love with anyone. But it had happened. She didn't know exactly when, but she knew she loved him, despite the way he could occasionally drive her crazy. He'd stood by her when she fell off the wagon and had helped her out a few times since. It wasn't that Mic was all that bad, it was that......
He just wasn't Harm. No one could be. But Harm had Renee now, as much as Mac hated it. She made him happy and Mac supposed that was good. She just wished she could be the one happy with him but knew that was never going to happen. *Dammit.*
Those thoughts passed through their heads as they knocked on the office door. "Enter," barked the voice from the other side and Harm opened the door, Mac stepping through with him following. The two stood before the desk and threw a crisp salute at the man behind it.
Admiral A.J. Chegwidden glanced up from the papers on his desk, his balding head actually adding to the aura of power and authority he had as he took in the two military lawyers. "At ease," he said, the two lowering their hands. "Have a seat. A case has just come up that I'm assigning you two to. It's rather touchy on the political side so you'll have to be careful about it."
"What is it, sir?" Harm asked.
Chegwidden passed over two folders, the two opening them up to scan the contents. They saw a photo of a cruiser, the front of it showing signs of some sort of explosion, twisted metal and debris evident. "This is Hastings Bay, base on the Massachusetts coast," Chegwidden said. "That's the *Reliant,* one of the cruisers recently reassigned to the area. An explosion occurred on it last night, they've just sent us the information now."
"Any idea on the cause?" Harm asked, all business as he and Mac perused the report.
"The base's commander, Lt. Admiral Terry Hawkins, has said that from preliminary reports, the cause seems to be human error, involving a young ensign who was supposed to be on the lookout for trouble. He indicates the ensign, who was killed in the explosion, might have set something off in the munitions department and sparked the detonation."
"The base commander is blaming an ensign for the explosion?" Harm asked, sharing a look with Mac.
"That's right," the Admiral nodded. "It seems he was only two months out of Annapolis."
"And the ensign was killed in the blast?" Mac asked, glancing at Harm.
"Yes, he was," Chegwidden nodded.
"Which makes things very cut and dried," Harm nodded.
"Or so it seems," Mac pointed out.
Chegwidden looked from one to the other and frowned. "Commander, Major, is there a point to this?"
"Well, sir," Mac started. "It's just that an accident of some sort that results in the death of a junior officer, who in turn is blamed for the accident by his superior? It's almost like the Commander and I are stuck in a television rerun."
"Thank you for that lovely insight, Major," Chegwidden said impatiently. "Now, this is a very delicate situation as the base is going to be hosting a meeting between U.S. officers and diplomats and representatives from Russia. They're planning to sign a major treaty that will allow Russian ships better freedom near U.S. coastlines and vice versa. It took a lot of work to get that treaty through on both sides so they want to keep the meeting on time."
"When is it?" Mac asked.
"Day after tomorrow," Chegwidden said.
"May Day?" Harm asked.
"Russians like the symbolism of it," Chegwidden shrugged. "That's why I want you two to try and settle this quick and fast. I've already arranged for a car to the airport, I want you both packed and ready to go by 1030 hours. If the report is accurate, then it should be fast. If not, try to keep it from blowing up into a major incident. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Harm and Mac replied, both standing and saluting Chegwidden. They turned to leave, neither having even the slightest clue of just how a simple assignment was going to change their lives forever.
Hastings Bay, MA
1423 Hours EST
Hastings Bay was a small town, a mix of colonial stylings most Massachusetts towns had and the comforts of today, a shopping center near the center of the town, a few convenience stores but otherwise, it was pretty much a quiet town. The naval base was set off from some of the homes that were by the water and was pretty expansive.
One thing the two JAG lawyers shared was that neither believed in wasting time and had only stopped at their hotel long enough to set down their bags before taking their rental car to the base. After making their way past the gate, they were led to the office of the base's commander.
Jr. Admiral Terry Hawkins was an imposing man, standing over six feet tall, filling out his uniform, his short hair graying slightly, his demeanor all business. "Commander, Major," he said, saluting them, the two returning it. "I was surprised to hear the JAG office was sending someone out so fast."
"Well, you do have that big conference coming, sir," Harm said as he and Mac sat down across from him. "We want to try and take care of this quickly."
"Well, it's pretty much open and shut," Hawkins sighed. "It's a damn shame, really. Ensign Masters did have potential. It just seems he was overwhelmed by the assignment."
"Just what was his assignment?" Mac asked. "That wasn't made quite clear."
"He was helping to move some of the munitions from the ship," Hawkins explained. "I wanted to clear out any overly hazardous materials before the conference, just to be safe. We're still going through the wreckage but it does appear that Ensign Masters must have dropped one of the explosive devices, triggering the blast."
"That's pretty detailed information for such a short wait, sir," Harm said, furrowing his brow.
Hawkins fixed a gaze at him. "Is there a problem, Commander."
"Well, sir, I am curious as to how you know it was Masters who dropped the ball, so to speak."
"He was the only one in the area," Hawkins stated. "He was on duty and the last the sentries saw, he was inside the munitions room, taking inventory before I sent some men in to start moving it. The sentries made note of his spot, moved off and about two minutes later, the explosion hit."
"It still seems a bit odd," Mac said. "Why would he have been messing with the explosives like that?"
"Maybe he was counting them, pulled a pin and didn't even realize it," Hawkins said. "Look, Commander, Major, I'm not trying to sound utterly insensitive. I do feel sorry for his family but the fact is that we have a very large event occurring here the day after tomorrow. We can have the damaged area covered up for it but if we're talking a full-scale, ongoing for weeks investigation, I really don't think I can handle that."
"With all due respect, sir," Harm said carefully. "We make our own investigations and we decide at what pace they proceed. If we have to be on that ship looking when the conference is going on, we'll do it, believe me."
Mac watched her partner and felt a little thrill. Damn, Harm could be good bluffing the brass and letting them know he was more interested in getting to the truth than politics. Hawkins looked Harm in the eye for a few moments before looking down. "Sorry, Commander," he said in a softer tone. "I'm under a lot of pressure to get this thing done and done right and then this happens. I am sorry for what happened to the ensign, but getting this handled fast is a concern.
I'm hoping you can help with that."
"Well, sir, if we can see the site of the blast, we can get a good idea of what we're looking at," Mac stated.
"I'm afraid that area is still rather volatile," Hawkins said. "We've still got men in protective suits there, we're not sure if there's still some munitions that could be triggered. Maybe by tomorrow, we'll have it fully contained but for right now, it's too dangerous to enter."
"Well, is there a place we can start, sir?" Harm said, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
"There's the base's chief mechanic," Hawkins said. "Hopefully, he can give you info."
"Hopefully?" Mac frowned. "You don't think he knows anything yet?"
"No, he may know something," Hawkins shrugged. "But it's a question as to how he'll be able to relate that to you."
Harm and Mac exchanged a confused look as Hawkins sat back in his chair and sighed.
Technically, Bartholomew Hawkthorne wasn't military. He had been an engineer for a British ship who was dropped off at the base and had somehow gotten work there. He was good at his job, often called on to help with emergency repairs and leading the work teams on the base. At the moment, he was standing before the *Reliant,* leading the repairs on the ship, taking a break to talk to Harm and Mac.
He appeared to be in his forties, a heavyset man with slicked-back red hair, grease seemingly always covering his face and was wearing an old-fashioned pair of coveralls with a cap. Harm and Mac found it useful to run over his bio and appearance seeing as how they couldn't understand a thing the guy was saying.
"So, I gos through the debris and wreck and weldings and find the boom-boom room," Hawkthorne said in a loud voice that seemed to carry a mix of various accents and dialects into a bizzare mix of extremely broken English. "She be messy and all and no easy picnics to get through, me tell ya. Anywhos, I find that the boom-doom may not boom for reasons you may supposes, ya savvy?"
Harm leaned in to his partner. "Are you getting any of this?"
"Not a damn word," Mac responded.
"The room, she not have the same scruffings and such as from a grenade boom-boom," Hawkthorne went on. "It be not a good matching of ups and all that."
"It's English," Mac muttered. "At least, I'm pretty sure it is."
Harm sighed and shook his head. "Mr. Hawkthorne, is there anything of importance you can tell us?"
Hawkthorne rolled his bushy eyebrows. "Been you not hearing? I be telling ya, the blow-ups dinna appear to be for the grenades, looka like something else went boom, savvy?"
Harm took a moment to take in his words before responding. "Are you trying to tell us that the cause of the explosion wasn't a grenade?"
"Bongo-bingo," Hawkthorne nodded, his mouth grinning wide at them. "I be trying to call that to Hawkins, but he not listening too nearly. Me thinks the talkings, they are distracting him."
"Not like you talking could," Mac muttered. "And I thought second-year exams were unintelligible."
A loud screeching from the ship got Hawkthorne's attention and he turned around to see the crews running around on it. "Hot damns, they be messing up!" He started to run off towards the ship, throwing a last comment back at the two lawyers. "Be trying to get more factuals towards ya, no probby!"
Harm and Mac watched him leave and turned towards each other. "It's times like this," Harm remarked. "When I don't wonder if maybe Bartlett's got a point about military cutbacks."
"I don't like this," Mac muttered, shaking her head as she went over the file, she and Harm walking off the base. "This whole thing just seems too cut and dried, too easy. And Hawkthorne's comments didn't help settle it."
"I'll go with you on the last part," Harm nodded as they neared the gate. "Somehow, though, even this conference doesn't seem enough for Hawkins to instigate such a cover-up."
"He is hiding something, though," Mac stated. "You can tell he knew more than he told us."
"That he did," Harm nodded. "Again, though, I don't see why such a veteran like him would do something like that."
Mac was about to respond when she spotted a man near the front gate of the base, chatting to a guard. "Harm.....Is that who I think it is?"
Harm looked over at the man. He was heavyset, in his late forties, with white hair and a nice suit, which seemed quite out of place in the military setting. It took a moment for the face to connect in Harm's mind and when it did, his eyes widened. "Damn, is that who I think it is?"
"Looks like," Mac nodded as the two walked over towards the man. He looked up at them, revealing a tanned face that had spent quite a few weeks in some sunny spot. "Excuse me," Harm said. "Are you John Yates?"
The man looked at them, a slight smile on his face. "Yes, I am," he said, his eyes twinkling a bit at the recognition. "Have we met."
"No, sir," Harm said. "But we're both fans of your work. I'm Commander Harmon Rabb, this is Major Sarah MacKenzie."
"We're with the Judge Advocate General," Mac explained as she shook Yates' hand.
"Ah, yes," Yates nodded. "JAG. I've done some research on them in the past. What brings you by?"
"A case," Harm answered smoothly. "What about you, what brings you here?"
"Research for my next book," Yates said. "I'm still getting a feel for the way the military has changed in the last few years. Used to be so simple, strict rules between America and the Soviet Union. Now, there's new stuff added every year, makes it hard to keep up."
"Well, I hope you can make it work," Harm said. "I enjoyed 'Cross of the Navy' a lot."
"And I still love reading 'Semper's Fi,'" Mac added. "It's been a while since you did something."
"Well, it does take a while to research these things," Yates shrugged. "But I hope that I can be inspired by current events. The way the world changes always makes for good material."
"Good to hear it," Harm said as he and Mac walked off, the two glancing back at Yates before going on. "Funny," Harm said. "I always told myself that if I ever met him face-to-face, I'd tell him how horrible his last book was."
"Not that bad," Mac said. "It definitely helped balance out my table."
R.J. Murphy's Sports Grill
2136 Hours EST
There was pretty much only one place in the entire town that could balance out the differing diets between the two JAG lawyers and R.J.'s was it. The two had changed to civilian clothes, jeans for both, a short shirt and jacket for Mac and a loose Navy sweatshirt for Harm, and found the diner, located a few blocks from the base. As such, there were quite a few off-duty personnel there, most distracted by the baseball games playing out on the televisions spread out along the bar.
"I don't like this," Harm muttered as he gazed at the table.
"For crying out loud, they didn't have the exact salad dressing you wanted!" Mac shot out as she chewed on her burger.
"No, no, not that," Harm frowned, lifting the file on his table a bit, his half-eaten salad by the side. He took a swig from his soft drink as he read. He didn't drink as much beer as he once did, partly because of it didn't send the right message for his line of work. But the bigger reason lately was that he didn't want to make Mac feel uncomfortable, a tiny touch he hoped helped a bit. "This file just seems off."
"How so?" Mac asked, sipping at her Coke.
"Well, for a guy who just got out of Annapolis, Masters seemed to be doing okay for himself," Harm said. "He had an apartment off base instead of staying at the barracks and the report says it was pretty well stocked. Top of the line entertainment system with plenty of CD's and DVD's, satellite dish and more."
"Not exactly the usual poor life of a lowly ensign," Mac frowned. "Was he from a wealthy family?"
"No," Harm shook his head. "Father was a steel worker, mother a Wal-Mart clerk, somewhat hard upbringing."
"So, how could he get the money to buy all that?" Mac asked.
" I think I may know," a voice suddenly cut into their conversation. The two turned to look at a young man who stood before them. By his demeanor, they could tell he was military, probably Navy, a little under Mac's height, with red hair and a nice, cheerful expression.
"I'm sorry," the man said, giving a salute. "Lt. Billy Andersen, I'm with the supply and accounting branch on the base."
"At ease," Harm said. "What do you want, Lieutenant?"
"Well, sir, ma'am, I heard you had come investigating what happened and I think I may have some information for you," Andersen explained as he sat down at their table, pulling out some sheets of paper.
"Did Admiral Hawkins send you?" Harm asked.
"Actually, sir, no," Andersen admitted, letting out a sheepish smile.
"Then I don't know if it's right for you to share this with us first," Mac said, sharing a look with her partner.
"I realize that, Major," Andersen nodded. "It's just that I was going through records as usual and it's usually SOP to check things out after a death in personnel. I was handling the cyber stuff on Masters when I came across something interesting." He lay out the paper on the free space on the table. "See, these are bank records for Masters, it wasn't too hard to read, actually, maybe he should have hid them better."
"Why would he have hidden them?" Harm asked, looking over the sheets of paper and the data they contained.
Andersen pointed to a line on the paper. "This is about two months before Masters graduated. The guy spent his entire time at Annapolis with barely a thousand to his name. Suddenly, he's gotten a big load of cash dumped into his account, $10,000. He got more with graduation, then when he was assigned to the base. And here, this is only two weeks ago, another dump, almost $20,000."
"That explains the personal stuff," Mac nodded as she took the sheet from Harm to examine. "I don't understand why someone would be paying some fresh-faced swabbie so much cash for no reason."
"Do you know who made the payments?" Harm asked.
"I didn't get that far," Andersen said, shaking his head. "I just printed up the data a few hours ago. I stopped by your motel as soon as I got off-duty, you weren't there so I figured you'd be here."
"And you haven't shown this to Hawkins?" Harm clarified.
"I haven't shared it with anyone, sir," Andersen stated. "I thought since you're the investigating officers, you should be the first to see it."
"Well, keep it under wraps for now," Harm nodded as he picked up the papers, he and Mac starting to make moves to leave. "We may have to call on you to explain this to Hawkins later."
"Certainly, sir," Andersen nodded. "Do you want me to keep checking the files, see who made the deposits?"
"No, I think this will more than do for now," Harm said as he motioned for the check, neither he nor Mac noticing the looks they were getting from a few of the bar's inhabitants.
The drive to the motel from the base area took Harm and Mac past some rather nice forest area, rather quiet at this time of night, Harm driving while Mac used the car's light to look at the records some more. "Well, this would indicate our good Ensign Masters wasn't the spiffy-clean sailor he seemed to be," Mac noted as she flipped through the file.
"But it still leaves us with a big question," Harm pointed out. "Who would pay him so much and for what? This is a lot of money to be handing over to anyone and that last payment indicates it was for something big."
"Well, I think this actually lends more credence to the accident theory," Mac sighed. "I doubt someone was paying Masters almost $50,000 to blow himself to pieces."
Harm's opened his mouth to reply when a flash of light suddenly cut through the car. Harm's eyes blinked instinctively at the sudden light. He somehow knew that it was the lights from another car rushing at him and instinctively turned the wheel to the side. Unfortunately, that left the car a bit more wide open to the van that smashed into it from the side, riding out of a small opening from the woods and pushing the car off the road and down a small hill.
It ended up on its tires, the windshield shattered, dents and smashes covering the surface. Both Harm and Mac had the wind knocked out of them, their seatbelts holding them in as they instinctively glanced up towards the hill. The van had stopped and two men stepped out of it. Each wore black clothing, the glow of the van's headlights outlining them but not showing features. But they did show the silenced pistols in their hands, pointed down at the car. They opened fire, some shots missing. But not all.
Harm's hands went to his seatbelt but before he could even touch it, he felt the sudden impact of bullets in him, two in his chest, another in his stomach. Mac gasped as she felt a fire rip through her right breast and lower abdomen, another in her sternum and still another in her shoulder. Each knew the shots were fatal and each knew it wouldn't be long before death claimed them.
Harm was a bit surprised to see that his life, indeed, was flashing before his eyes as the pain seemed to dull a bit, not a good sign. As the flash ended, he was struck by how the last person he could think of right now was the one who was going through the same thing.
Although it hurt, Harm turned his head to the side to look at Mac. He felt another pain, this from seeing blood trickling from her mouth, ugly red blotches on the front of her shirt. She seemed to sense his stare and looked back at him. Harm took one look at those eyes and knew immediately that there was one thing he had to do before he left this life.
"Sarah," he choked out. "I'm sorry....."
Mac saw the guilt in his eyes and felt horrible that he could blame himself for this. "No....Not....not your fault....."
"Not this...." Harm shook his head. "I...." He swallowed, trying to get enough strength to say what he had to say. "I meant.....I love you, Sarah....I'm sorry I never....I love you....."
Mac felt tears in her eyes and not from the pain. "I love you too, Harm...." she whispered. "I love you....."
Harm managed to get a small smile on his lips before he grimaced in pain. He slammed his head against the car seat as the last wave came over him. He slumped down as a final breath left his mouth. Mac watched him go but didn't feel to bad, knowing she'd be joining him soon enough. With her last ounce of strength, she put her hand into his, then closed her eyes and let the blackness overtake her.
The two men came down the hill, no words spoken. They were quick and clean, reaching in and opening the car doors. They quickly took the records from the floor and then rummaged through the duo's clothing, taking away any ID they might have had. Without a word, they went back to the van, which backed up and drove into the night. Behind it, the bodies of Harmon Rabb Jr. and Sarah MacKenzie sat, their hands still joined, finally together in death.
Hastings Bay Medical Examiner's Lab
April 29, 1999
2256 Hours EST
It had been when he no longer needed nose plugs every time he started his shift that Perry Leiter knew he had been at this job a bit too long. He still needed them depending on the condition of the bodies and how long they had been lying out but he had managed to block out the usual smell of a corpse with surprising ease.
It was silent inside the small lab, per usual for a morgue. There was a chill in the air as Perry walked about, checking the chart with the sheet of paper letting him know what he was in for. He was 36, with short black hair, somewhat handsome but carrying himself with a bearing of inquisitiveness, always seeming curious about life in general. And, in particular, how it ended.
It was generally a given that a medical examiner wasn't as normal as other people might seem. After all, a person who chose to spend his nights cutting up dead bodies wasn't exactly the same as someone who worked in an office. Perry didn't mind his job, after all, someone had to do it and to tell the truth, it was always interesting to see how death affected bodies differently.
He paced about, wearing a lab coat over his jeans and light shirt, pulling on a visor as he got ready to go. He placed a small tape recorder on a table near some of his equipment, pushed down on the record button and began to speak. "April 29, 1999, 10:56 P.M., Medical Examiner Perry Leiter on duty. So, let's see what's on the hit parade this evening, shall we? Wow, only three to play with, guess I'm lucky tonight. Two multiple gunshot wounds and a strangulation.
Perry's light and jovial banter wasn't exactly the delivery one would have expected from a coroner and his superiors had often said he should be a bit more business-like with his reports. However, seeing as how he was the best coroner in the county, they put up with him, figuring a man with his job should be commended for such a good attitude, as long as it didn't take away from his work.
Perry walked over to the two tables in the middle of the lab. It wasn't a large place, Hastings Bay wasn't that big of a town, a dozen slabs set up in case of a disaster, with refrigeration units along one wall. But only three of the tables were filled at that moment. Perry moved to two of them and pulled down the sheets to expose their faces.
He took them in, the handsome and strong man and the young but still strong-looking woman, her face seeming more beautiful as she looked to be asleep. "Damn," Perry muttered. "How come when the good die young, they always have to look so good?"
Rising, he looked over the police report, trying to figure a starting place. "Two Does, no ID or other evidence to indicate their names," he spoke out for the recorder. "Found in a ditch earlier this evening, DOA, multiple gunshot wounds to both." He paused and read a little line at the bottom. "Holding each other's hands. Nice, a couple of sweethearts here."
Reaching down, Leiter pulled the sheet off of the woman's body to reveal herself. He gave it a quick, professional glance. Not bad, nice large chest, great build, observing it with not really a thought at all as how beautiful the woman was, she was just a body now. He frowned suddenly at what he saw. Or rather, didn't see.
He turned and pulled the sheet off of the man's body as well, seeing, or not seeing, the same thing. Sighing, he picked up the recorder and spoke into it. "Okay, someone screwed up here. There is not one sign whatsoever of any bullet wounds so I don't know what happened or who changed corpses on me but this is------"
It was at exactly that moment when Harm's eyes shot open and a huge draw of breath came out as he came back to life. He sat up, his gasps filling the morgue as he tried to bring breath back into his body.
Perry Leiter did what many a person might do if a corpse suddenly came back to life before them: He let out a yell, his arms flaying about, the tape recorder coming loose and smashing against a wall, wrecking the tape. Perry stood, staring in shock as Harm shook his head, trying to get his bearings.
Harm's mind was trying to catch up. He remembered the shots, the pain and all that and passing out too so a hospital was the first thing that popped into his mind. He looked up at Perry and opened his mouth. "Ghac----" He coughed a bit, trying to get his voice working again. "Get Get out of Get out of my room!"
"You're not in a room, you're in a morgue," Perry automatically answered.
"Get out of my morgue!" Harm yelled. He paused as Perry's words sunk in. "Morgue?" he whispered, taking notice of his surroundings for the first time. His eyes fell on the table next to him, widening as he took notice of Mac's body. "Mac? Oh, God, Mac, no."
The table shook suddenly as Mac's body quivered, her mouth opening and taking a huge breath, her eyes shooting wide open and gazing about wildly. She sat up, heaving with breaths, trying to process what had happened to her.
Perry Leiter was used to feeling stopped hearts. He just never counted on his own being one of them as he watched another resurrection before him. "Oh my God," he whispered, his mouth dry as he saw Mac gaze about. She looked to Harm and relief washed over her features. "Harm?" she whispered. "Are we----?"
"I hope so," Harm said. "Because this doesn't look like Heaven and I don't think even we screwed up enough to end up in the other place." He looked to Mac and suddenly felt his arms around her, holding her tight. "Oh, God, Sarah," he whispered. "I thought I'd lost you."
"Lost me?" she whispered back. "What about me losing you?"
"What the FUCK is going on here?!" Perry screamed, getting their attention. "How how did-----What is this? Who the hell are you two?"
"Commander Harmon Rabb, U.S. Navy," Harm automatically replied.
"Major Sarah MacKenzie, U.S. Marine Corps," Mac chimed in.
"Perry Leiter, ME," Perry threw in. "Fine, that's handled, let me repeat. What the FUCK is going on here?!"
"We'll ask the questions, mister," Harm said, feeling his strength return as he faced Perry.
"Since when?" Perry said, rising to the defense despite his shock. "I'm the coroner!"
"We're lawyers," Mac answered.
"DA or defense attorneys?" Perry frowned.
"Military," Harm answered.
Perry rolled his eyes. "Oh, great, now even the Navy's sporting ambulance chasers."
"Hey!" Mac said, insulted.
Perry looked at her. "You're not an ambulance chaser?"
"I'm a Marine!" Mac yelled back.
"A Marine?" Perry groaned. "Great. One, she's a lawyer, two, she's a Marine, three..." he paused to think. "MacKenzie. Great, she's Scottish too. Those Highlanders are nuts!"
"Could be worse," Harm put in. "At least she's not Irish."
"Well, you've got a point," Perry nodded. He suddenly shook his head. "Wait a minute, what am I doing, how the hell can you two be alive?"
"I've got a better question for you," Mac said, trying to get some control of the situation. "How come we're in a morgue, like we're dead?"
"Because five minutes ago, you were."
At Perry's matter-of-fact delivery, both Harm and Mac froze in shock, staring at him. "What?" Mac whispered.
"Dead," Perry calmly replied. "As in deceased. As in passed on. No heartbeat, no pulse, no metabolic process, skin getting cold, the proverbial doornail, D-E-A-D, dead."
The two JAG lawyers continued to stare at him, both remembering what happened. "Those shots," Harm muttered. "Those wounds, they were too big, we couldn't have-----"
"No way," Mac said, shaking her head. "No way we could have survived that."
"And let's not forget that neither of you have a mark on your bodies," Perry threw in.
Harm and Mac looked down at themselves and their unblemished skin. It took a moment for the two to realize that they were both standing naked in the middle of the room and with a combined yelp, raced to wrap themselves in the sheets lying on the slabs. "You couldn't have said anything?" Mac demanded, wrapping the sheet over her body.
"I'm used to naked people," Perry shrugged. "Course, they're usually in worse shape but it's really nothing new with you two."
"I'll save being insulted for later," Harm replied as Perry moved to a nearby locker. Opening it, he began to rummage through the piles of clothing inside, trying to find something that looked like it could fit the two but didn't have a lot of blood on it. "Come on, come on, I know someone's always dumping laundry in here when I'm not around," he muttered.
Harm and Mac were silent, each lost in thought, trying to figure out what had just happened to them. They shared a brief glance, each remembering the last thing they had said to the other and realizing they now had to live with that.
"Okay, here we go," Perry's voice cut through their thoughts, throwing some piles of clothes at them. "I know they're not the best of the bunch, but it's the best I've got," he said as Harm and Mac looked over the mismatched shoes and socks with dubious looks. "Look, just throw them on and fast, I've gotta get you two out of here so we can figure this out."
"Why?" Mac asked as she turned around, trying to pull on her tight jeans while still holding the sheet over her.
"Because either the Second Coming is happening early and not according to scripture or we've got some major weirdness to handle," Perry shot back at her. "So hurry up."
"And I thought my drill sergeant was pushy," Mac muttered as she pulled a blue shirt over her head. She slid on socks and shoes and jumped to the floor. As she looked down, a tag caught her eye, attached to the toe of the other body in the room. "Oh my God," Mac said, stunned.
"What?" Harm asked as he stood up, pulling on a gray sweatshirt to go with his own jeans. He moved to where Mac was, watching as she pulled down the sheet covering the body.
"Aw, God, don't tell me there's going to be a three-peat," Perry groaned. He walked up as Mac and Harm both stared at the body. "What? What is it?"
"Shit," Harm muttered. "Andersen."
Indeed, lying on the table was the young computer officer the two had met only a few hours before, his eyes closed, skin turning white, except for a large red mark around his throat. "You know him?" Perry asked as he came up behind them.
Harm nodded. "We met him tonight. When did this happen?"
"Well, his body came in about the same time as yours," Perry answered, the clinical side of himself taking over. "He was found in his car, cause of death apparently strangulation, no clues or leads so far."
"Dammit," Mac muttered, shaking her head. "I kind of liked him." She straightened as a thought struck her. "Harm, they took him out the same time they tried to kill us."
"Try nothing, lady," Perry threw in.
Harm ignored him as he thought about what Mac was suggesting. "He gave us the info, they killed him and they hit us too. Someone's covering their tracks, he must really have been onto something."
"Excuse me, Tommy and Tuppenance?" Perry broke in.
The two looked at him in confusion. "The main detectives of 'Partners in Crime,'" Perry answered. "Agatha Christie, 1927. Anyway, I suggest we continue this elsewhere? Right now, I think we've got matters that can't wait for later to handle."
The Early Bird Diner
2343 Hours EST
The diner didn't get as many customers as the grill Harm and Mac had been in earlier that night, especially at this time of night. The 24-hour diner was a haven for people on the late shift or getting off of one but was still rather quiet right now, only a few people at the counter and a booth at the end. Another booth near the windows held Perry, who sat opposite Harm and Mac, all three silent as the coffee on the table went untouched.
"This can't be happening," Mac said, running a hand through her hair. "I mean.....we couldn't have actually died."
"Hey, I can't accept it either," Perry said. He had shed his coat and wore a light jacket over his street clothes. "But it's happened."
"Are you sure?" Harm asked for about the fourth time since they had come here from the morgue, which was only a few blocks away. "I mean, are you sure we weren't unconscious or----"
"Rabb, trust me, the cops in this town are not the local yokels you may think they are," Perry broke in. "They don't send me bodies unless they're pretty damn sure the people are dead. I've been around enough morgues to know a corpse when I see one. And buddy, you and your partner here were doing a pretty damn good impression of some less than an hour ago."
"But this can't be possible," Mac said. "People just don't come back from the dead!"
"Preaching to the choir here," Perry said, holding up his hands. "And the fact that you two have done it is scaring the hell out of me."
"Hey, we're the ones who died, pal!" Harm hissed. "How the hell do you think we feel?"
Perry held his gaze and then turned his head down, sighing. "Sorry," he muttered. "It's just....I don't know how to handle this."
"Join the club," Mac sighed. Before she could add anything, she gasped in pain, gripping her head and leaning over the table. At the same instant, Harm also grabbed at his head, letting out a similar cry as a sharp, stinging pain cut through it, a strange buzz filling his entire body, just like Mac at the same moment.
Perry jumped back a bit in his seat as he stared at the two. "What the hell was that?" he demanded.
"I don't know," Harm said, rubbing his temples. He glanced at Mac, who was moving back into an upright seated position. "You felt that too?"
"Hell, yeah," Mac said, her eyes moving towards the entrance to the diner, just as Harm's did. Perry turned to see just what the two were looking at and caught the figure who was staring right back at them.
She appeared to be young, late teens, maybe 17, tops. She wasn't tall but had a trim and fit body, which appeared to be pretty lithe, clad in loose pants and a sweatshirt. She looked like she'd been out for a jog or something else of a physical exercise, her light brown hair done up in a ponytail that drifted past her shoulders. There were two odd things that the three noticed: One was that over her outfit she wore a long coat that seemed out of place even with the cool air. The second was that she bore an amazing resemblance to the original Pink Power Ranger.
The woman stared at the booth for a long moment before starting forward, holding the three's gaze carefully as she walked up, pausing before their table. She looked at Harm and Mac, then at Perry. Without a word, she grabbed Perry's right arm and turned it over, pulling down the arm of his shirt to look at the underside of his wrist. After a quick glance, she pushed the arm away.
Perry looked at her, then at Harm and Mac, who were as baffled as he was by the strange action. "Okay," he said calmly, holding up his other wrist. "You want to go for two out of three?"
The woman ignored him and looked at Harm and Mac. "I'm Alice Fairchild," she said in a strong tone. "And I'm not looking for a fight."
Harm and Mac glanced at each other and back at her. "That's.....that's good to know, thanks," Mac nodded.
Alice looked at them with the same cool stare. "I'm not a hunter."
"I should hope not," Harm said. "You seem a bit young for it."
"And can you even handle a gun?" Mac asked.
Alice glanced at both of them, her brow furrowing as she seemed to be thinking of something. Her eyes widened a bit as thought seemed to strike her. She glanced over both lawyers, as if trying to confirm her suspicions, licking her lips as she leaned in.
"Listen," she said in a soft tone. "Did something happen to you two tonight? Something really, really bad that you shouldn't have lived through but you did and without a mark to show for it?"
Perry stared at the look on Alice's face as Harm and Mac glanced at each other, a look of vindication mixed with a groan. "Terrific," she muttered. She sighed and looked back at them. "Okay, look. I know we've just met but I know someone who can explain what happened to you two. And believe me, it is really, really important that you hear this, we are talking literally life and death. So, drink the coffee, pick yourselves up and get ready for one hell of a shock."
"I think we've worn out our shocks tonight," Harm shook his head.
"Oh, no," Alice broke in. "No, buddy, you're in for more. So get ready for it."
"Get ready for shocks," Perry muttered. "Well, I can tell this is going to be a delightful evening."
Residence of Charles Matthews
April 30, 1999
0013 Hours EST
"I don't like this," Mac muttered as she and Harm followed Alice up the walk to the nice two-story home before them. It had been a short walk to the house, Alice explaining she often took a late night jog before turning in. "Sometimes I have trouble getting to sleep," she'd explained. "It helps if I'm totally exhausted when I go to bed."
"I've heard that theory," Mac had answered. "It's called boot camp."
"Ease up," Harm told his partner. "Look, she seems like a good kid, she's not sending out any bad vibe----" He cut off, yelling as the same strange buzzing feeling hit both him and Mac, Mac's cry joining his as they both rubbed at their heads.
"You were saying about bad vibes?" Perry frowned as the two managed to continue walking to the front door. Alice was ahead of them ringing the doorbell and waiting for the answer.
Harm, Mac and Perry were coming up the walk as the door opened. One look at the occupant and all were tempted to turn right around and walk the other way.
The man on the other side appeared to be in his twenties, of decent height and build with dark hair cut in a military style. He was wearing a pair of slacks and a light shirt, his sharp eyes staring at the newcomers and in his hand was a sharp and well-polished sword, held ready to go into battle.
"Relax, Matt," Alice said. "They're the ones I told you about on the phone."
The man looked them over for a moment and, shaking his head, looked back at Alice. "Are you sure they're new?"
"Pretty sure," Alice said. "I don't think anyone can just fake feeling it the first time like that."
The man looked at her, then back at the group and opened the door. "Come on in," he said. "Name on the mailbox is Charles Matthews, make yourself comfortable."
Still a bit unsure as to just what the hell was going on, Harm, Mac and Perry followed Alice into the house. It was a pretty conservative place, nothing too fancy, an emphasis on wood floor and coverings. They followed Matthews down the hallway, past the kitchen and into the large den.
"Whoa," Perry let out, staring along with the two lawyers at the room before them. It was covered with various pieces of American history, spread out among the walls and shelves. 19th century pistols; a pair of Civil War swords, one for each side; a wall containing guns going from 18th century muskets to a WWII infantry rifle; uniforms from various regiments and eras; and photos abounded of several historical moments from America's past.
"So, you got names?" Matthews asked as he moved to the large oak desk near the back of the room.
"Um, Commander Harmon Rabb, this is Major Sarah MacKenzie," Harm stated.
"We're with the Judge Advocate General," Mac put in.
"Perry Leiter, medical examiner," Perry threw in. In a flash, Matthews was near him, pulling over his wrist to look at it. "What is this, some sort of crazy fraternity?"
"You know, he has a point," Mac announced. "We've been through a lot tonight and I'm not in the mood for any of this secrecy stuff. So tell us what you want to tell us and now."
Matthews moved back to his desk, looking away from them. "What I have to say is for you two only."
"Oh, no, I want in on this," Perry said angrily.
"It really only concerns them," Matthews said, looking at him in a way that was meant to clarify how the subject was closed.
Perry was not to be stopped though. "Look, buddy, I have just seen two people come back from the dead with not a sign of their original wounds on them. I'm not leaving until I get some answers on how that happened so start spilling.
Matthews sighed, obviously not happy about this at all. He paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts, then turned to face the trio, speaking out in a hard tone meant to emphasize every word in a way that let everyone know he was telling the truth. "My real name is Matthew Connors. I was born in Massachusetts in 1750. I died for the first time at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. I'm Immortal. So's Alice. And so, now, are both of you."
Hastings Bay, MA
May 30, 1999
0031 Hours EST
In the year and a half since the night she had first died, Alice Fairchild had been forced to think of a lot of things. How she was going to live forever, how she was going to have to fight to do it and how she was going to maintain her sanity through it all. But never before had Alice ever given thought to just how hard it must have been for Matthew to explain Immortality to her.
Silence was filling the den, a relief after the ten full minutes of yelling from Harm, Mac and Perry as Matthew had tried to tell them what had happened. Alice realized for the first time how bad it must have been for Matthew, seeing as how she'd done the exact same thing and Matthew had been forced to take the same measures to convince her that he had to convince Harm and Mac.
The two sat next to each other on a couch. It was unsure if they had heard a word of Matthew's explanation of Immortality as both were staring down at their arms, trying to understand just what had happened to the massive wounds Matthew had inflicted just moments before. It had been at the height of the argument, the two lawyers refusing to accept Matthew's word. Before they knew it, Matthew had pulled out his sword and cut open Harm's arm, then Mac's, then made them watch the wounds heal, which was enough to shut them up for a bit.
Matthew finally wrapped up his explanation of Immortality and the Game and waited for the two to respond. They didn't, but Perry did.
"I cannot believe this," he muttered, pacing in the den. "I mean, I saw it but I cannot believe it."
"Been there, buddy," Alice nodded. "Been there all the way."
Perry paused and faced Matt. "Let me get this totally straight," he said. "You're telling us that as of now, these two are totally healed, they can die but will come right back to life, they can heal any wound, they can never get sick and they can only die if they're beheaded?"
"Right," Matthew nodded.
"And as Immortals," Perry went on. "They have a duty to duel with other Immortals in something someone with a sick sense of humor named the Game, dueling it out until one is beheaded, at which point, the winner absorbs his or her opponent's life force in what's called the Quickening?"
"Right again," Matthew said.
"So, basically, you four are not going to age physically for the next several centuries and will have to take people's heads to survive while moving around so no one notices you're not aging?"
"Right once more," Matthew replied.
Perry looked at him for a full ten seconds before replying. "Okay, I believe it."
It was hard to tell which pair was more taken aback by that statement, Harm and Mac or Matthew and Alice. "You believe that?!" Mac yelled.
"Oh, come on," Perry said, looking at her. "You just can't make up a story that ridiculous. And it definitely explains what happened to you two tonight."
"My God," Harm whispered. "Do you know what this means?"
"Well, for starters, you won't have to freak out too much if you're caught in a snowstorm or something," Alice put in.
"Actually, from my experiences in Valley Forge and Germany, I've found freezing to death is one of the better ways to go," Matthew said matter-of-factly. "You don't really feel any pain, just a numbness that covers your and it really does feel like going to sleep."
He became aware of three of the four other people in the rooms staring at him in quiet. Mac turned to Alice. "Does he------"
"Talk like that about death?" Alice interrupted. "All the time, girlfriend. Welcome to the pain."
"I need a drink," Mac muttered. "Hell, after what I just heard, I need three or four."
"Lucky you," Alice remarked, missing the look Harm shot at Mac.
"You're underage, kid," Perry remarked. He frowned. "Um, you are underage, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I am," Alice said, turning to Harm and Mac. "And this is what pisses me off the most about being Immortal the way I am. I'm going to be carded for eternity."
"I don't believe this," Mac said. "I can't believe this. How did this happen? What were my parents-------"
"That's something I didn't bring up yet," Matthew sighed. "I hate to break it to you like this but your families aren't your families."
He became aware of Harm and Mac both staring at him in shock. "Immortals are foundlings," Matthew continued. "We're not sure where we came from but the people you thought of as your parents either found you or adopted you but they didn't give birth to you."
Mac stammered a bit before recovering her voice. "I don't......Our families aren't our families? This is unreal, how can I explain this to them, how can I explain it to any children I might have, how can I-----"
"We can't have children," Matthew broke in, to another shocked stare. "All Immortals, male and female, are incapable of having any offspring."
There was a silence before Harm replied. "You're just letting these facts sort of dribble on out, aren't you?"
"Man," Perry muttered. "All this and you didn't even have to get buried in a cursed graveyard to come back!"
Everyone stared at him in confusion.
"'Graveyard Shift,' Stephen King, 1983," Perry shrugged. "Well, it looks like whoever tried to kill you two was wasting his time."
"Kill you?" Matthew frowned. In all the discussion of Immortality, he had neglected to ask just how Harm and Mac had first died. "Who?"
"We're not sure," Mac sighed. "We're investigating an incident at the base------"
"Oh, the explosion?" Matthew asked. "Hawkins is a friend of mine," he explained to their stares.
"Well, we were given some info on the ensign who was killed," Harm said. "But when we were driving back to our hotel, we got hit by a car, then shot."
"Which explains why you're here," Matt remarked to Perry. "So, no ideas on who did it?"
"Not a clue," Harm said. "It's connected to the explosion obviously, but we have no idea who could be behind it."
"All we do know is that they're not afraid to take out some people to cover their tracks," Mac put in. "They killed our informant tonight too and this was only an hour after he first told us about it."
"They've got good response time," Matt remarked.
"Yeah, maybe we should recruit them to be our wingmen next time we fly," Harm said sourly.
"Whoa, you guys are pilots?" Alice smiled. "Cool!"
"I'm not," Mac shook her head. "But he is teaching me."
"Wait a minute, I thought you two were lawyers?" Perry frowned.
"We're both," Harm replied.
"That's the military for you," Perry shook his head. "Always doing more than one duty."
"Damn right," Harm, Mac and Matthew all said.
Alice groaned and put her head in her hands. "Three of them! I didn't know when I was well off!"
"A woman Marine?" Matthew said, raising an eyebrow. "Never met one of those before. Never thought I would, to tell the truth."
"Oh, shit," Harm muttered. Even Immortal, he wouldn't go near any comments about women in the military with Mac, a point proven by the sour look coming onto her face.
"You have a problem with women in the military, Connors?" she said coldly, rising up a bit to face him.
"Oh, God, here we go," Alice groaned.
"Listen, MacKenzie, I've seen war and I've seen death in ways you can't imagine," Matthew said. "I've seen bodies torn apart, men walking with their arms lying on the ground, wounds like you wouldn't believe, blood covering every inch of the bodies. And I have never wanted to see a woman in a position like that. Women were not made for true war."
Seeing the look on Mac's face, Alice quickly stepped in. "It's not his fault, really. It's his upbringing. He was born and raised in the 18th century, this was normal thinking at the time."
Matt sighed. "It's just that women aren't as capable as men in some areas......"
"Need I remind you," Mac interrupted. "That it was a woman who made the flag you've been fighting for the last few centuries?"
<God, I love this woman,> Harm thought fleetingly.
"Point to the jarhead," Alice remarked. As everyone stared at her, she shrugged. "Hey, I have G.I. Joe for a teacher. What do you expect?"
"Okay, listen," Matt said. "I know you may not like this but the fact is, whoever did this to you thinks you're dead. That gives you a major advantage. If we can keep you under wraps for a bit, it may put them off guard and give you a chance to find out what's going on."
"So, what are we supposed to do?" Harm asked.
Matthew took a breath. "You two stay here tonight. I've got extra room. Leiter, you try to cover this up at the morgue."
"Cover it up?" Perry said, raising an eyebrow. "Cover up two missing bodies?"
"Hey, they're unidentified," Matthew shrugged. "I've seen bodies go missing before."
"Yes, well, keep in mind that there aren't a few hundred other corpses to work on," Perry pointed out dryly.
"Use your imagination," Matthew shrugged. He turned to Harm and Mac, ignoring Perry's protest. "Alice can help you get settled, I'll go with Perry and help." He looked at them both and sighed. "Look, I know this is rough. But it will get better, trust me. That's the first lesson, you two have to trust me."
Alice saw the uncertain looks on the faces of the two JAG lawyers and broke in. "You can trust him. I know it's hard but he can help you, like he's helped me."
Harm looked at Mac, who brushed at her hair and nodded slowly. "Okay," Harm said, looking back up at Matt. "We'll stay for now."
"Good," Matthew said. "It may be hard, but try and get some sleep. Tomorrow.... training starts."
"That doesn't sound bad," Mac shrugged. "I've been to boot camp."
Matthew smiled. "Major, I invented boot camp."
Harm and Mac chuckled for a bit before looking back up at the set look on Matthew's face. Mac looked over at Alice. "Is this going to be bad?"
"Let me put it this way," Alice said. "It's going to take a while before it hits you that a healing factor is there no matter how much you hurt."
"At least I don't have to worry about you two using Ranger gimmicks on me," Matthew smiled.
"I swear to God, one more Pink Ranger comment and I'm taking my own head off!" Alice groaned. Laughing, Matthew walked towards the door, motioning for Perry to follow. Perry sighed and stood up, looking to Harm and Mac.
"I'll be back tomorrow," he said gently. "I've gotta see this through, make sure you two are okay."
"Thanks," Harm said with meaning. "That means a lot."
Nodding, Perry began walking after Matthew when Alice spoke up. "You know," the teen said. "I'm surprised you aren't bugging Matt more."
"About what?" Perry frowned.
Alice's eyes glinted a bit as a slight smile came on her face. "Well, you're a medical examiner. I thought you'd be interested in talking for hours on end with someone who knows exactly what it's like to die in various ways and be able to tell about each and every one."
Perry looked at her for a minute before his face brightened and he turned and rushed after Matthew. Alice watched him go and then turned to Harm and Mac, both of whom were grinning. "Let's see, do I feel guilty over that after what he was saying?" Alice remarked, bending her head in thought. "Nope, no, no guilt whatsoever."
"I like this kid already," Mac grinned for the first time since her resurrection.
"How can you stand that guy?" Harm asked, shaking his head as he rose to join Mac.
"Well, he is teaching me to survive and keep my head," Alice pointed out. "That's a big point in his favor."
"I'm serious," Harm said.
"Matt may have his rough spots," Alice admitted. "But he's a good guy, really. He can teach you a lot."
"Such as?" Mac asked.
"Well......" Alice thought. "About fifteen different levels of pain."
"Thank you so much for the reassurance," Mac muttered darkly.
"Hey, you're military lawyers," Alice shrugged. "I figured looking on the bad side of things is normal for you."
"Somehow, I've never looked at anything as bad as this," Harm declared as he and Mac followed Alice upstairs.
"Sorry it's not too classy," Alice said as she led Harm into a small guest room on the top floor, throwing some pillows and sheets onto the bed. It was somewhat cramped, the shelves nearby filled with what appeared to be books and various boxes of antiques Matt had collected over the years. "We don't get a lot of company. Thankfully, that includes the Immortal variety too."
"So, you haven't....." Harm found himself unable to compete the sentence.
"Taken a head?" Alice shook her head. "Nope, gotten lucky so far. Matt's only had three or four duels since I've met him and he's handled them well."
Mac looked her up and down carefully. "You're really as old as you look, aren't you?" she asked.
Alice looked back at her in mild surprise. "What, you thought I was older?"
"Well, I wasn't sure," Mac shrugged. "I mean, Matthew looks like he's in his twenties still so for all I knew you could be a century old. Just how did you...um....how...." Like Harm before, she couldn't quite voice the thought.
"Die?" Alice paused, a look of sad remembrance coming onto her face as she took a breath. "Have either of you heard of Thorn?"
"Yeah," Harm nodded. "That serial killer who was beheaded trying to escape, about a year or so ago. Killed eleven girls."
Alice took a deep breath. "Actually.....he got twelve."
"How do you------" Mac broke off as her eyes went wide. "Oh," she whispered.
Alice turned away, shaking her head as if trying to rid herself of the memory. "Strangulation is not a nice thing, MacKenzie, let me tell you. A garrote wire makes it worse, you really feel it cutting into your throat as you choke to death. Not a nice first death." She coughed a bit and went on. "Well, a friend of Matt's found my body, saw me come back, figured out what it was and took me to see him."
"Wow," Harm muttered. He paused as a thought struck him. "Wait a minute... Thorn was beheaded." He looked up at Alice. "Was he....immortal?"
"Say it with a capital 'I', makes it more dramatic," Alice replied. "And yeah, he was. In fact, he was Matt's original teacher and Matt had to kill him."
"Ouch," Mac said.
"Yeah, took him a while to get over that," Alice sighed. "He's still a bit bitter he never saw it. Guess it explains why he's trying to train me so well. And he'll probably do the same to you."
She finished placing the pillows and blanket on the bed and straightened up. "Okay, you're set for the night," she intoned. "Hope you like the view."
"Actually didn't look that bad," Harm shrugged. "I liked that nice clump of trees on the left as we were coming up the walk. Especially the little arch effect some of the branches had."
Mac stared at him. "You saw that?"
"Yeah," Harm frowned, not understanding why Mac was staring at him like that.
"You saw the trees?" Mac said carefully.
"Yeah, blowing in the wind," Harm nodded. He was taken aback when Mac gripped his arm hard, staring at him.
"You saw the trees?"
"Asked and answered, counselor," Harm smiled.
Mac shook her head. "Harm, you saw the trees *in the dark*!"
Harm frowned for a moment before his eyes went wide as it hit him that his night blindness was suddenly gone. "Wow," he said softly. "You know, I'm starting to warm up to this Immortality thing. You know what this means?"
"What, your being able to see in the dark?" Mac asked. "I can think of a few things...."
"I can get myself a television!" Harm grinned.
Mac rolled his eyes upward. "God, kill me now."
"Too late for that, honey," Alice smiled gently.
Alice's room used to be used by Matthew as a study until she moved in, the desk replaced by a pair of beds, a dresser, some shelves of books and a mirrored closet door. "Who's the other bed for?" Mac asked.
"Every now and then, Matt's friend needs a place to crash if she's too far from her place," Alice replied. "She has.....problems if she's not indoors on time."
"Okay," Mac frowned even though she didn't really understand. "So, no pink in your wardrobe?"
"Okay, bring that up again and I'll kill you," Alice remarked. Mac let out a short laugh before getting a look at Alice's face, which was glaring at her. "MacKenzie," she said tightly. "Quick rule about conversing with another Immortal. When I say I'll kill you, keep in mind that I really can kill you. Several times in fact. And just because it's not permanent doesn't mean it hurts any less."
Mac swallowed and shook her head. "You've been hanging around Connors too long."
"Tell me about it," Alice groaned, pushing a few clothes off the empty bed, pulling the covers down a bit for her. "Not the best again, but it's all we've got," Alice shrugged as she pulled off her coat, hanging it up, opening up the closet door and stepping inside to pick up a few things. "Bathroom's down the hall," she called out. "I gotta take a shower before I hit the hay, you wanna take one?"
"Um, no, no, not now," Mac said softly as she sat down, looking at the floor. Alice stepped away from the closet, pulling on a robe, pausing as she saw Mac's expression. She sighed and padded forward, sitting on the bed across from her. "Listen," she said, getting Mac's attention. "I know what you're going through. All of it. How long you're going to live, how you're going to have to kill to do it, the whole thing. I know it's rough and all but it's going to be okay, trust me."
Mac took a deep breath. "Thanks," she said softly. "That's good to hear. At least I won't have to do it alone."
"Yeah, there's that," Alice smiled. She looked at Mac, the smile getting a little mischievous. "Sooo....What's he like?"
"Who?" Mac frowned.
Alice rolled her eyes. "Hello? Harm! Come on, how is he?"
Mac laughed. "No, no, we're just friends, partners, that's it."
"Oh, please," Alice said. "I go to high school, I know that look you've been giving him and him for you, I'm not that closed off to people! You're in love with him, he's nuts about you, what's the problem?"
"Okay, first off, I highly doubt he's that nuts about me," Mac said even as Harm's last words to her before dying flowed through her mind. "And what makes you think I love him? I don't see-----"
"Oh, please, Sarah," Alice said. "Be honest here! Why are you in denial about loving him?"
"I'm not in denial!" Mac protested. "I'm not! What makes you think I'm in denial?"
"Well, you're denying things, that's a subtle clue," Alice dryly remarked.
Mac sniffed. "You shouldn't be picking up legalese from me that quickly."
"I learn quick," Alice smiled. "Have to in my trade."
"Why?" Mac frowned.
"I'm a gymnast," Alice answered. "Imagine what happens if I fall on my neck during a meet."
"Good point," Mac nodded. Her face saddened a bit as she thought about what Alice was getting at. "Look," she finally said. "If, *if* I really felt that way towards Harm, it's not that easy. We work together, in the military, there are rules and regulations and....."
"Mac, you're not always going to be in the military," Alice pointed out. "You're Immortal now and after a while, people are going to be wondering why you're not aging so you're going to have to move on. And it'll be better if you've got someone with you."
Sighing, she moved forward and put a hand on Mac's knee. "I know I'm younger and I don't have as much experience as you, fine. But it seems to me that if you've got a guy who loves you as much as you love him, then the rules shouldn't stand in the way. You're going to live forever, Mac. I think you should get it off to a good start."
Mac looked at her carefully and let out a small smile. "If you're like this now, I'm going to hate to know you in a couple hundred years."
Alice smiled and stood up, heading towards the door. "Better get some rest," she told Mac. "Matt's going to start you two sort of fast in training."
"Well, at least we don't have to wear spandex," Mac smirked.
Alice rolled her eyes upward. "If it's the last thing I ever do, I'm going to L.A., I am finding that Amy Jo Johnson woman and I am kicking her ass! You have any idea how that bitch has screwed up my life?"
"Hey, look at the bright side," Mac smiled. "You should be able to outlive the memories of the show after a while."
"It just bugs me," Alice muttered as she left. "Why can't I be mistaken for that girl who used to be on 'Felicity' even? That'd be so much better." Still muttering darkly, she left the room, leaving Mac alone to her own thoughts. The same thoughts that Harm was sharing down the hall.
Home of Matthew Connors
April 30, 1999
0938 Hours, EST
The sound of meat sizzling on a grill was evident as Alice stepped into the kitchen. Matt was at the stove, slapping some patties down on the grill, carefully making sure they were cooked right. "Burgers for breakfast?" Alice said. "You're usually a bit more dietary-conscious than this, Matt."
"Well, as you'll recall, for some reason, first death leaves you hungry," Matthew stated. "I figure they might as well get a full meal in before I start them on training."
"Try not to make it too big," Alice smiled. "You don't want them puking all over you when it starts."
"How are they handling it?" Matthew asked as he pushed on the burger more.
"Okay, I guess," Alice shrugged. "It's a lot to take in, they've really been put through the wringer."
"Well, they'd better pull out fast," Matthew said. "They've got a lot to learn fast."
"True," Alice nodded. "But they do need a little time, Matt. It's a lot to handle."
"You handled it well," Matthew pointed out.
"Well, I'm a teenager," Alice shrugged. "We pretty much think we're going to live forever anyway."
As Matthew nodded, the two were stuck by the Buzz, a loud double yell coming from the stairway. Within minutes, both Harm and Mac were coming inside the kitchen, each still in the clothes from the previous day, each rubbing at their heads. "Is it always like that?" Harm asked as he sat down.
"It'll get better, trust me," Matthew said as he picked a plate of buns out of the microwave and started to put the patties inside them. Mac looked over his shoulder, an eyebrow upraised. "Hamburgers for breakfast?" she asked doubtfully.
"You're hungry, aren't you?" Matthew shot out and took satisfaction in the look Harm and Mac gave each other. "Yeah, you do end up with an empty stomach for some reason after a big death. So, eat up."
He put the plate down, Harm backing up a bit. "Um.... you have anything more nutritious?" he asked, sniffing at the burgers.
"Sorry, it's all we've got," Matthew said. "I do have to hit the store soon anyway."
"So, nothing healthier?" Harm frowned.
"Not on hand."
"Hey, these are pretty good," Mac said, taking a bite out of one.
"Sorry," Harm sighed. "I'm not a junk food guy. I don't want the extra calories slowing me down." He was rather taken aback when Alice and Matthew looked at him, then each other, then burst out laughing. "What?"
"He.... He doesn't get it yet, does he?" Alice snorted as she took a bite.
"Get what?" Mac asked, as confused as Harm.
Chuckling, Matthew looked over at the Navy man. "Rabb, your metabolism is now charged on high, a high you couldn't imagine. It'll keep you to roughly the same build you've got now for the rest of your life."
Harm stared at him for a moment before it really sunk in. "Wait a minute," he said carefully. "Are you telling me......"
"You can chow down on the whole plate here and you probably won't gain a pound," Alice smiled.
Harm looked at her, then Matthew, then carefully reached over and picked up a burger. He looked at it carefully, even sniffing it before putting it in her mouth and biting down. Immediately, he closed his eyes, his face carrying sheer joy as he chewed on the burger. "Oh," he muttered through his food. "Oh, God. Oh, this is good, this is so good, keep 'em coming, keep 'em coming!"
"We have a convert," Mac grinned as she brought her own burger back up. She paused before putting it in her mouth and looked at Alice. "You sure I won't gain weight?"
Alice paused to think. "Well, maybe a pound or two every six months or so if you've been on an eating tear. But it burns off quick and you're back to regular size in no time."
"Oh, I am so loving this," Mac grinned as she bit down on her burger.
"And you wonder why I got used to it so fast," Alice grinned at Matthew.
Matthew put the pan in the sink and started to run water as he looked at Harm and Mac, the two eagerly chowing down, Harm discovering just how great ketchup made the burger. "I have to cook extra just to keep her from looking like Kate Moss."
"What do you mean?" Mac asked, shaking her head. "If the weight just goes away-----"
"I'm a gymnast," Alice reminded her.
"And I'm still surprised when she does the crazy stuff during training," Matthew smiled.
"Hey, you got it, flaunt it," Alice grinned.
"She incorporates gymnastics into her martial arts training?" Harm managed to get out between bites.
"If the words Pink Ranger leave your mouth, I will strangle you myself," Alice warned him.
"This is quite easily the weirdest breakfast I've ever had," Mac announced.
"Then you don't get out much," Matthew observed.
The rest of their meal was spent by Harm and Mac sharing a quick history of their lives and careers to Matt, who was impressed to find the two were much more than simple lawyers, they were devoted to their duty.
"Sounds good," Matthew nodded after a few minutes. "Nice to see some people are still willing to do what it takes to serve this country."
"You really love being an American, don't you?" Harm observed.
"How'd you guess?" Matthew asked.
"The red-white-and blue t-shirt was a subtle clue," Harm dryly remarked.
"I helped fight for its independence, Rabb," Matthew answered. "I think I deserve to feel a little proud in it."
"Sounds like blind faith to me," Mac remarked.
"I don't put that faith into the government," Matthew clarified. "But into what this country stands for, I'll give it all the faith I have."
Harm leaned towards Mac. "Why do I feel like I need to take the Pledge of Allegiance when I talk to this guy?"
"I know the feeling," Alice muttered darkly.
There was a banging near the door that startled everyone and a few moments later, Perry walked in. The coroner had switched clothes to a casual long-sleeved shirt and slacks, smiling at the group. "Really should consider locking that door, Connors," Perry remarked. "You're just asking for someone to break in and cut you up."
"Don't give me ideas," Alice remarked with a smile.
Perry looked to Harm and Mac. "You two okay?"
"So far," Mac nodded. "How're you?"
"Ah, took me a while to fix things," Perry shrugged. "Bodies do go missing now and again and since no one knew who you two were, it wasn't too bad to 'vanish' them. Hopefully, no one will poke around too much before I can borrow some cadavers from the medical college and alter them up."
Everyone stared at him.
"Hey, I read a lot of spy novels," Perry smiled. "And I'm a coroner. You'd be amazed how I can fix a body up with no one the wiser."
"I don't know whether to be relieved or worried," Mac muttered.
Perry looked over at Matthew. "By the way, coming up, saw that cool car in the other driveway. Your neighbors have good taste."
Matthew and Alice exchanged a glance, then looked at Perry. "Our neighbors are out of town," Alice stated.
"Then your neighbors' burglars have good taste," Perry said without missing a beat.
Matt and Alice looked at each other again, then stood, moving to a window and glancing at the car in the driveway next door. They looked at each other and sighed.
"Watcher?" Alice asked.
"Watcher," Matthew nodded.
"About damn time," Alice muttered. "I was starting to think you had just made those guys up."
"Maybe we should invite them in?" Matthew said, raising an eyebrow.
"Screw that," Alice shook her head.
Matthew sighed. "Kids today just don't want to get their hands dirty."
"Or get arrested for assault," Alice pointed out.
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Harm frowned.
"Be right back," Matthew stated, moving out the kitchen and out the side door. The others stared in confusion at Alice, who just sipped at her juice without a word. Before anyone could ask anything, there was a banging sound outside, then a yell, with the sounds of outrage following.
The yells got closer until Matthew reentered the kitchen, pushing forward a woman. She was tall, with short light brown hair in a professional cut, wearing a nice pair of dark slacks and a jacket over a brown vest and white shirt, a gold brooch at her neck. She was in her thirties, highly attractive, with piercing blue eyes, trying to shrug off Matthew's grip. "Will you let go already!" she yelled, struggling with little avail.
Matthew looked over at Harm and Mac. "Remember when I told you there was something else about Immortality that could wait until another time?"
"Yeah?" Harm said in confusion.
Matthew gripped the woman's arm, holding it up and pushing down the sleeve to reveal a tattoo on the underside of her wrist. "It's time. Say hello to my Watcher."
"Not just yours," the woman said, yanking herself away finally. "I've also been assigned to Alice ever since she became your student." She sighed. "Were you expecting me to be surprised? Your file says you know about us."
"Excuse me, just who is this woman?" Mac asked.
"Great, I'm breaking my oath after all," the woman muttered before facing Harm and Mac. With a sigh, she spoke up. "My name is Valerie Rosthon. I'm a Watcher."
"What do you watch?" Mac asked. "Birds, planes, talk shows?"
"Okay," Mac nodded. "That would have been my.... two hundred and fourth guess."
"Wait a minute, you know who we are?" Harm said in amazement.
"That we do," Valerie nodded. "We've existed for thousands of years, even we can't really remember how we got started. We watch Immortals, where they go, who they fight, we record but we never interfere."
"You're telling us there are...mortals," It still sounded so strange for Perry to say that. "Who know about Immortals and record them."
"Exactly," Valerie nodded. "There's a Watcher for just about every Immortal alive. In my case, I have to watch two, Matthew and Alice. I've been on him for about eight years now."
"Really?" Matthew said. "I was your first case?"
"Well, no," Valerie admitted. "My first was Javier Maurdei."
Matthew frowned. "I killed him back in December of.... 1990."
"I know," Valerie sighed. "Your old Watcher was transferred right afterwards and since I didn't have an assignment myself, I got put onto you."
"Hope I haven't made it too hard," Matthew smiled.
"Well, you have been quieter the last few years," Valerie nodded. "Thankfully, I didn't have to enlist."
"Enlist?" Harm asked, brow knotted in confusion.
Valerie looked to him. "How the hell else do you expect someone to watch a person who insists on fighting in every war America takes part in? You have any idea just how many Watcher this guy's gone through?"
"That's not very reassuring to us," Harm said, indicating himself and Mac.
"Please," Matthew put in with a smile. "You two are lawyers, right? How much trouble can you be?"
"We've done our best to keep up with Matthew," Valerie went on. "There have been some gaps though."
Matthew seemed surprised by that. "Such as?"
Valerie paused to mentally review the file on the Immortal. "Well, we had a Watcher on him when he decided to take part in a little military action with George Custer. As you can imagine, it took a while before we could get someone else on him after that."
Mac looked at Matthew in disbelief. "You were at Custer's Last Stand?"
"Unfortunately," Matthew said sourly. "You now what I hated the most about fighting Indians? The arrows. The damn heads would always stick in a little even after I yanked most of the shaft out. And you know something? Their aim was a lot worse than the movies let on, resulting in some very uncomfortable hits."
"Well, you were trying to take them from their rightful land and killing thousands of them in the process," Perry said lightly. "So, my sympathies for you are a bit marginal."
"And just so you know," Valerie put in. "You have no right to be bragging about being the only survivor of Little Big Horn."
"Now wait....." Matthew started but was cut off by Alice's exclamation. "I thought everyone died!"
Everyone looked at her, Alice rolling her eyes. "Permanently!"
"It seems there was another Immortal there," Valerie stated. "Innocent bystander, really."
Matthew peered at her carefully. "If you're talking about that nutball Irishman......"
"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time------"
"He was trying to steal Custer's *horse!*" Matthew yelled. "I swear, I ever find that Angus guy again......"
"Shall we move on?" Perry asked.
"Let's," Alice nodded, turning towards Valerie. "You've been watching us all this time and you didn't say anything?"
"Well, that's sort of why we're a secret society, honey," Valerie said patiently. "And unlike most of my colleagues lately, I still believe in maintaining what we were founded to do."
"Playing peeping tom?" Matthew said with just a tad of edge.
Valerie looked to him. "Mr. Connors, we keep the historical records of every Immortal we've ever noticed and recorded. Multiply that by the four thousand years we've been in existence and I'm sure that even a *young* Immortal such as yourself can appreciate the legions of volumes of biographies we have to share with the world if the truth ever comes out."
"Including my own history?" Matthew said, actually sounding interested.
"In intimate detail," Valerie replied. She was taken aback by a snorting from Alice.
"When you say intimate like way, it sounds like you're watching him shower," Alice grinned. Valerie blushed, causing Alice and Perry to both snicker.
"Welcome to our world," Harm and Mac replied at once.
Trying to keep on track, Matthew focused on Valerie. "So, you people really keep track of every single living Immortal?"
"The ones we know about," Valerie shrugged. "Certainly, some will fall through the cracks. These two might have if they hadn't run into you right off."
"Okay, I've been wondering this for the last year," Alice said. "How many of us are there right now? Huh? Five hundred, six hundred, a thousand?"
Valerie let a small smile come onto her face. "At last estimate..... approximately nine thousand, five hundred."
Silence filled the room as the four Immortals stared at her, even Matthew shocked by the number she had just stated. "Nine...." Alice stammered. "Nine THOUSAND?"
"Well, that's not that many," said Perry, who had remained calm during that talk.
"WHAT?!" the Immortals yelled, staring at him.
"Well, if Ms. Rosthon was giving you a global population of Immortals, if you divide the nine thousand five hundred Immortals by the six billion people on Earth, you have one Immortal for every six hundred thousand mortal people. That'd be like..... only five in the entire city of Chicago."
"And of course, you'd know who they are?" Matthew said, looking at Valerie.
"Of course, " she nodded. "But I'm not going to tell you who they are."
"Why not?" Harm asked.
"We're Watchers," Valerie sighed. "We watch and record, we don't do anything to interfere in the Game."
"Little late for that excuse, don't you think?" Matthew said before he could think. The confused glances by Alice, Harm and Mac let him know his slip. "Shit."
"What does that mean?" Alice frowned.
Matthew and Valerie shared a look and rolled their eyes at what they had to explain.
Matthew stopped the VCR and pulled out the tape, turning to the others. Harm, Mac and Alice stared at the blank screen in disbelief, Perry in interest, Valerie rolling her eyes.
"That has got to be the biggest load of bullshit I've ever seen," Alice remarked. "And one of my friends was a fan of the 'Sweet Valley High' series." She stood up and paced about, shaking her head as she looked at Valerie. "A God possess some guy and through him says that Immortals are meant to protect humanity against demons and vampires? And that the Game was all a fraud created by some Immortal centuries back? And that all those Immortals were fighting vampires?"
"Hey, don't look at me," Valerie said, holding up her hands in defense. "I don't buy a word of this bullshit, I never did. I don't care how much the Council spent putting this together or how many are buying into it, I'm third-generation Watcher and I'm not betraying what my family's been holding onto for this shit."
"Tell me about it," Matthew said. "It's why I never told you, Alice. I mean, getting all those Immortals together on the same side is automatic proof it's crap."
Valerie sighed. "Actually, that part is accurate. I've seen some reports, St. Wolf does manage to get twenty or thirty Immortals to help him with some of these jobs of his."
Matthew stared at her in disbelief. "You can't get five Immortals within a square block of each other without swords being swung!" He shook his head. "This guy must have some powers, telepathic Valium or something."
"I don't get this!" Alice said. "They're doing all this just to get the Game to stop? How can people believe this shit?"
"Viedt," Perry remarked.
Everyone looked at him in confusion. "'Watchmen.' Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, DC Comics maxi-series, 1985-86." Off their stares, he rolled his eyes. "Hey, it's practically literature. This hero comes to the conclusion that nuclear war is inevitable so decides to get the nations of the earth to disarm and cooperate by playing the ultimate practical joke and make them believe Earth is about to be invaded by an other-dimensional threat. So, he gets this monster created, puts the brain of a dead psychic inside it, teleports it into the heart of New York, where it explodes and kills or drives insane millions of New Yorkers, convinces the world of the threat, it's peace on Earth and the only ones who know the truth have to keep silent or risk undoing the peace New York died for."
Matthew stared at him. "You're saying you think this is good?" he asked.
"Well, call me crazy, Connors, but keeping you guys from killing each other does seem like a good idea," Perry remarked.
"But it's not what they're there for," Valerie said. "This is a total betrayal of everything we Watchers are trained for and I don't want to be part of it. It's why I'm not going with the party line and why I.... fudge reports a bit to leave out how I haven't told Matthew."
"Let me get this straight," Harm said, he and Mac having remained silent through all this. "For thousands of years, Immortals have spent time fighting each other over a bunch of sci-fi effect lightning bolts that represent life force and can only get them by chopping each other's heads off?"
"And all of a sudden," Harm added. "Some nutjob decides to try to convert all of you, excuse me, *us* Immortals into being some Army of Champions that spend their time fighting vampires and demons?"
"That's right," Valerie nodded. Harm and Mac looked at each other for a moment, then both burst out laughing. "Oh, God, this is too much!" Harm got out between howls of laughter.
Looking a little pissed, Valerie put her hands on her hips, glaring at the two. "You think we're joking?"
"No, no," Mac said, waving one hand at Valerie while wiping her eyes with the other. "I'm sure you think your friends are doing something stupid. It's just that we've been through something like this before."
"You have?" Matthew asked in confusion.
"Last year," Harm started. "We were given the assignment of delivering a pardon to an ex-SEAL who'd been falsely accused of murder. When we got there, all kinds of Hell broke loose."
"Like what?" Alice asked.
"We arrived at Iverson's, that was the guy, hanger," Mac explained. "We found him and his girlfriend sparring with swords. Not practice weapons, but actual swords."
Matthew looked intrigued. "Were they Immortal?"
"How would I know?" Harm shrugged. "One was Frank Iverson, the former SEAL. He owns a freight business now. His partner was Cassandra Hastings."
"The fantasy author?" Perry asked, amazed. "I like her stuff. You know her?"
"We only met a few minutes," Mac stated. "So, I wouldn't say we *knew* her."
Valerie smiled. "You realize that Cassandra is over two thousand years old?"
A collective "WHAT?!" came up as everyone looked at her. Nodding, Valerie went on. "She's Immortal. She's been alive for twenty-seven hundred years."
"Explains how she can write duels so well," Perry muttered. "Say, Connors-----"
"I don't know her so don't bother bugging me about getting advance reader's copies of her books for you."
"Oh, it gets better," Harm said. "When Iverson tried to drive a sword through Fitzpatrick, the lawyer who originally convicted him, he was stopped by a woman who appeared right out of thin air."
"Cassandra?" Valerie asked. As the others stared at her, she explained. "She pretends to be a witch, uses these conjuring tricks, so she could pull it off."
"No, this woman was dressed like some Greek Amazon," Harm explained. "She said her name was Artemis."
"Artemis?" Valerie said in utter disbelief. "The Greek Goddess of the Hunt?"
"That's what she said," Harm nodded. "Makes me wonder what Sarah and I did to start getting cases like those two loonie FBI agents that run the X-Files."
"You don't mean Mulder and Scully," Valerie said. Harm and Mac stared at her, then at the guilty looks on Matthew and Alice's faces.
"How did you----" Mac stopped as her eyes went wide. "Oh, no. No, don't tell me they're------"
"Yep," Valerie nodded.
"Them too?" Harm said in disbelief.
"Yeah, they were investigating the Thorn killing," Matthew stated. "Helped us get to the truth."
"Yeah, Mulder was real eager to be able to interview a murder victim who could talk back," Alice said sourly.
"I can understand that," Perry nodded.
Rolling her eyes, Mac looked to Valerie. "How old are *they?*"
Alice answered before Valerie could. "I think they said they've only been Immortal about three years."
"Roughly," Valerie nodded. "We're still trying to figure out exactly when their wedding was."
"They're married too?" Mac groaned. "God, that explains so much."
Matthew looked to Harm. "Something's bugging me here," he stated. "How'd this Iverson guy get away from a military tribunal? You guys are pretty persistent about that stuff."
"Well, he managed to make everyone think he was dead," Harm answered.
"Ah, pulling an Edmund Dantes," Perry said knowingly. As everyone looked at him, he explained. "'The Count of Monte Cristo,' Alexandre Dumas, 1845. Dantes is unjustly imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, escapes prison by faking his death, sets up a new identity and tries to get revenge and justice on the man who framed him."
Valerie frowned slightly. "You've got way too much free time on your hands."
"Well, until last night, my 'clients' weren't exactly known for conversation," Perry pointed out.
"You like books that much?" Alice said.
"Hey, always loved to read," Perry said. "Got started on Shakespeare back in junior high. I liked 'Shakespeare in Love.'"
Instantly, Matthew's face darkened in a way that made Perry instinctively take a step back. Alice's face fell as she took in his anger. "Oh, no," she moaned. "Oh, no, don't tell me you said it, please don't tell me you said it....."
"What?" Perry asked, confused. "What did I--------"
"THOSE MOTHERFUCKING, COCKSUCKING, PUSSY-HEADED ASSHOLES AND THOSE MISERABLE CUNT-FACED BITCHES ON THE ACADEMY WHO DISGRACED THE NAME OF GODDAMN GOOD MEN FOR THAT FUCKING PIECE OF ARTY SHIT!"
After erupting with that, Matthew stormed out of the room while unleashing a volley of ranting screams that even experienced military people like Harm and Mac had never heard, pounding on a wall as he raved.
"What the hell------" Valerie whispered in shock.
Alice sighed and looked to Harm and Mac. "You two are military. How'd they feel when 'Shakespeare in Love' beat 'Saving Private Ryan' for Best Picture?"
"Pretty damn pissed," Harm answered. "We've got one of the finest war dramas ever and they pick this-------" His eyes went wide as he made the connection. "You mean------"
"Well, let's see," Alice said, looking at the ceiling. "Here we have a man who died three times at Omaha Beach, who saw the movie twelve times at the theater, crying every time, sees it lose the big Oscar to a movie about an English playwright."
"Oh, God," Mac sighed. "How bad was it?"
"I slept with my door locked and my sword in my hands for two weeks after the ceremony," Alice answered.
"This is why I don't own a television," Harm said.
"I thought that was because you couldn't see in the dark."
"That too," he nodded.
The screaming died down, Matthew coming back in, much calmer. "Sorry," he said. "Sore subject."
"Moving on," Harm said. "What about this tape. What do you think?"
Valerie shook her head. "I do admire the technical trickery of whoever put that thing together but come on! Vampires are real?"
She, Harm and Mac all snickered for a few minutes before turning to Alice and Matthew. They became aware of the looks the duo was giving them. "Oh, come on, Connors," Valerie laughed. "You don't believe that crap about this scroll any more than I do! Don't tell me you believe in vampires."
"Well....." Matthew began, trailing off as he looked at Alice, Harm, Mac and Valerie all stopping their laughs as they saw the looks they shared.
"Don't tell me you believe in vampires," Valerie repeated, disbelief now in her tone.
Matthew and Alice shared a look, then looked away. "I've.... met one or two in my time," Matthew stated carefully.
"Yeah, and I met one when I first died," Alice added.
Everyone was staring at them in disbelief. "Wait a minute," Mac said, holding up a hand. "Vampires are REAL?!"
"Sorry to say," Matthew nodded. "That's why I don't believe the video. For one thing, Megan doesn't have those funny ridges over her eyes, even when she loses her temper."
"That happens often?" Harm asked.
"Only when someone tries to kill her clients," Matthew answered.
"Clients?" Valerie said, not believing this.
"Hey, Megan's cool," Alice said defensively. "She owns the best business in town."
"Funeral home?" Harm asked.
"Transylvania antiques?" Mac asked.
"Blood bank?" Valerie asked.
"Goth clothing store?" Perry asked.
Alice smiled. "Teen nightclub."
"Oh, that's just too easy," Valerie remarked.
Harm stared at Alice. "Why do you let her own a club where she could bite teenagers?"
"Because she isn't evil," Matthew stated. "Believe me, she has the soul of a poet."
"How do you know?" Mac asked.
"She's Irish," Alice and Matthew answered at once.
Valerie looked at them and suddenly her jaw dropped. "Hold on," she said. "You don't mean Megan Maguire, do you?"
"That'd be her," Alice grinned.
"But.... but she can't be a vampire!" Valerie yelled. "I've seen her with you two. Okay, so it's always at night and I've never actually seen her eat and she seems to hear something across the room........" Valerie trailed off as the full weight of what she had said hit her.
"Kicking yourself you didn't see it earlier, huh?" Alice remarked.
"So, how'd you meet her?" Mac asked, curious.
"Oh, we ran into each other on a cruise ship," Matthew smiled.
"Where?" Perry asked.
Matthew smiled more. "Let me give you all a hint. It was April 14, 1912."
Except for Alice, everyone was staring at him in disbelief. "You can *not* mean...." Perry started.
Matthew put a finger to his chin in thought. "You know, I was all set to hate the Cameron movie but he really nailed it down, right down to the way it split apart and the band playing."
Mac looked at Alice. "Is he always detailing what's wrong with historical movies?"
"Don't get me started," Alice groaned. "When it's the TNT Memorial Day weekend war movie marathon, I just stay away."
"Tell me something," Harm asked. "What about other Immortals who were on that boat? Did they like it?"
"Okay, leaving the subject now!" Alice announced.
"And when a teenager wants to stay focused, that's a bad sign," Valerie smiled.
Perry shook his head. "You're telling me this woman is an actual vampire? And Irish, too? What, is her coffin green?"
Matthew and Alice both sighed. "Thank God she's in Ireland right now and didn't hear that," Matthew muttered. He looked at Perry and held up a hand, raising a finger for each point. "Okay. This is all crap: Sleeping in coffins, changing into bats or mist or wolves, no reflections." He held up the other hand and made points. "This is what's true: Needs blood, but it can be cow or other animal and worse comes to worse, she doesn't need to kill a human to do it. Can fly, can hypnotize people, enhanced strength, speed, reflexes and senses. Can be driven back by garlic, silver or the cross. Can be killed by exposure to direct sunlight, decapitation and of course, the good old-fashioned wooden stake through the heart."
Everyone exchanged looks before going back to him. "She can fly?" Mac said. "You know how ridiculous that sounds?"
"She can hypnotize people?" Harm asked. "As in, she really can put the Whammy on someone?"
"Well, she doesn't like to call it that," Alice said. "But, yeah, she can do it for pretty much everyone except people who are Resistors, which includes almost all Immortals. Did to me so I could remember what my killer looked like. It was...... odd." She sighed. "Sorry. I guess it's just that there's no one else who'd know what it's like to get the Whammy put on them."
"So, she's in Ireland now?" Mac clarified, trying to get over her nervousness on the subject.
"Yeah, she wants to check out her roots now and again," Alice nodded.
"An Irish vampire," Perry muttered. "Sounds fun."
"She's probably one of a kind," Alice agreed. "I doubt there's anyone in Ireland as wild as she is."
"Okay, that's enough history," Matthew stated. "We've got a big day ahead of training and we need to start now."
"Can I watch?" Valerie said. "I've never actually seen you training."
"Sure," Matthew shrugged. "Just hope you're not adverse to violence."
"I grew up with tales from both sides of the family about people beheading one another. I think I'm ready."
"Think again." Matthew looked at Harm and Mac. "Let's go."
Valerie rolled her eyes. "Great. Like Captain America and the Pink Ranger weren't enough, now I have to watch a couple of rejects from 'A Few Good Men.'"
In the middle of rising, Harm and Mac both froze and stared at Valerie with icy looks. "Don't ever make fun of that movie," Harm bit out.
"Hey, I was------"
"Never," Mac added with ice in her voice.
Valerie sighed and rubbed her face. "I need a new job."
"Want to trade?" Perry asked.
"Worth a shot."
"Okay," Valerie said, looking at the two lawyers. "Are there any other movies I'm not allowed to make fun of?"
"'The Quiet Man,'" Matthew spoke up.
"I second the motion," Harm agreed.
"I'm with you on that," Perry nodded.
"Oh, why not?" Mac asked. "Are you Irish or something?"
"No, I just knew John," Matthew told her.
"John who------" Mac stopped, eyes going as wide as Harm and Perry as they stared at Matthew. "You knew John Wayne?" Harm whispered.
Matthew crossed his arms and appeared to think a bit. "I was a technical advisor on the Flying Tigers, the Flying Leathernecks, Sands of Iwo Jima, my personal favorite....."
"Um, he *died* in that film," Perry pointed out.
"Truly caught my last words like no one else could," Matthew nodded.
The other stared at him, Mac looking to Alice. "Is he serious?"
"Sometime, I find it hard to tell," the teen muttered back.
The gym was set in the basement of Matthew's house, weights and other exercise equipment spread about, a punching bag on one end next to a well-worn dummy with targets on what would have been its nerve spots. Harm and Mac stood in the middle of the matted floor, watching as Matthew looked for something in a closet area nearby. Perry glanced around the walls, his eyes falling on a shelf of medals, the one place Matthew could display them. "Wow," he muttered. "Purple Heart?"
"Which one?" Matthew asked.
"Third from left, top shelf."
"Oh, yeah," Matthew answered as he came out of the closet, a large and long box held in his hands. "I won that in France, 1918."
"The Great War."
"Actually, I've never been in any war that could be termed great," Matthew sighed. "In fact, I can't think of one I could call pretty good." He placed the box down, kneeling next to it to open it.
"What's in there?" Perry asked. "Gwyneth Paltrow's head?"
"I wish," Matthew snorted.
"Not Amy Jo Johnson's by any chance?" Alice asked.
Throwing her a look, Matthew opened the box, the sides swinging open to reveal a set of eight swords, from a U.S. Calvary blade to a Japanese katana. Matthew looked up at Harm and Mac and spoke solemnly. "Choose your weapons."
The two stared at him. "Are you-----" Mac started.
"Totally," Matthew cut her off. "Choose them well, you're going to be using them from now on, you'll train with them, work with them, fight with them. They'll become a part of you, an extension of your being. How you choose will shape your life from now on."
He stepped back and after a pause, Harm and Mac both knelt to look at the box. They each hefted a couple of swords, holding them for balance as they looked them over. Matthew watched with concern, Alice with sympathy, Valerie with clinical recording and Perry in fascination.
Finally, Harm chose a long Spanish blade, designed in the 14th century, the blade broad but sharp. Mac chose a saber, a slight curve to it, the handle easy in her hands. Matthew looked at them both and nodded. "Okay," he nodded. "You sure you've chosen right?"
"Guess so," Harm sighed.
Matthew looked at Mac. "You sure you don't want something else, MacKenzie?
Something better for you?"
Mac stared at him with a dark look. "You know, Connors, it occurs to me that, as a 250-year old Immoral, you have healing abilities that have probably not been tested."
"Meaning?" Matthew frowned.
Mac leaned in and hissed, "Meaning make another crack about women in the military and we'll get to time how long it takes for your balls to heal after I rip them in half."
Alice looked at her, a wide grin on her face. "Can I be you when I grow up?"
Matthew looked at the two and let a slow smile come onto his face. "Okay, you two. Time for your second basic training. And trust me, this ain't gonna be easier than the first."
Home of Matthew Connors
April 30, 1999
1434 Hours, EST
Harm and Mac had both been through training. Hard training, Mac's harder since she was a Marine but the Navy hadn't been easy on Harm either. Both had been through a lot in that training, pushed to the limits of their endurance and beyond and both had survived. After two hours with Matthew Connors, both wished they could go back to a time where they had it so easy.
Matthew had been putting them through what he termed "Swords 101," a crash course on dueling and fighting that was a lot more difficult and painful than the two lawyers had anticipated. Harm was a well-built man who often worked out but Matthew had been kicking his ass hard. Mac wasn't faring much better, her clumsy swings easily blocked by Matthew, who at one point grabbed her wrist and gave it a sharp twist. Mac screamed as she felt her bones break, the sword falling out of her limp hand, Matthew's blade at her neck.
"You need to keep both hands ready," he intoned, seeming to not notice the pain Mac was going through. "You've got two, you have to use them both and be ready to switch if the situation calls for it."
Mac was holding her hand, snarling as she felt the bones knit back together. "Dammit, that hurt!"
Matthew smiled lightly. "Well, you were going on about how women are as capable as men in almost all areas. Consider this a learning experience."
"I want to hit you," Harm groaned from the floor, his broken kneecap snapping back into place as it recovered from Matthew's sharp kick. "But I do sort of respect you a little."
"Man, I need an aspirin just watching this," Perry muttered, shaking his head as he looked at Alice. The teen was wearing a wide smile, eyes twinkling a bit as she saw the two military figures getting their asses kicked. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Hey, I like them," Alice countered. "But I'm just glad it's not me."
"Say, Alice------" Matthew called.
Matthew smiled. "I think I could use a break. Why don't you show these two some basics? Work their stances and positions during a running duel."
Alice broke into a smile as she reached under her coat and pulled out her sword. "How in the hell did you do that?" Perry wondered.
"Yeah, how did you do that?" Mac frowned. Alice and Matt looked at each other and moved up, both going over to where Harm and Mac stood. They leaned in and whispered something Perry and Valerie couldn't hear, then backed away.
Harm and Mac stared at them in amazement, eyes wide. "No way," Mac said.
"Way," Alice beamed.
"Kinky," Mac smiled.
"Do I even want to know?" Perry remarked.
"Probably not," Valerie said, shaking her head. She watched as Alice stepped up, Harm and Mac wearing expression of hope that she wouldn't be as bad as Matthew was. "I need a break."
"Me too," Perry said. He and Valerie turned and began to walk up the stairs to the main floor. As they moved up the stairs, they heard a brief clash of steel on steel, then a snap followed by a yell. "Breaks all around," Perry muttered as the two walked off without a look back.
Valerie rubbed at her head as she and Perry stepped into the kitchen. "Connors has to have something around here to drink," she muttered, opening up the refrigerator.
"A bit early in the day, isn't it?" Perry frowned.
"I meant pop," Valerie answered. "I only have a beer now and then, I don't really care for alcohol."
"Same here," Perry said. "Ironic, considering how many people in my profession have been driven to drink by their work."
"Just how did you start on that anyway?" Valerie asked. "I mean, cutting up dead bodies is not my idea of a viable career choice."
"It's not too bad," Perry shrugged. "It's not like most of us actually choose to be medical examiners. It just sort of happens. What you think will be a simple two-month fill-in becomes your life's work. But you get used to it."
"How?" Valerie frowned.
"I try to think of how I help," Perry shrugged. "Most of the stuff I get is accidents so I can be able to let the authorities know to tell the families their loved ones didn't suffer too much. Even if they did."
"I also think I help in murder investigations. Oh, the cops do the bulk of the work, no doubt about that. But without us to tell them how it happened, when and other little details, it's a lot harder for them. What I do isn't pretty, Valerie. But it's important."
"Funny," Valerie said, finding a can of pop and cracking it open. "That describes my job too."
"Is this your only job? I heard you saying something about Watchers having covers."
"Well, I guess mine won't be as effective now," Valerie sighed. "But.....I work at the high school to be close to them. I work in the library."
Perry raised an eyebrow. "The library?"
"I know, I know," Valerie said, rolling her eyes. "A librarian Watcher with a teenaged female Immortal. You don't see that anywhere else."
Perry watched her sip her pop and leaned back. "Just how did you get into this?"
"Family tradition," Valerie responded. "Grandfather was saved by an Immortal during the war, guy died right in front of him and came back. He was almost ready to be committed for talking about it when the Watchers heard and offered him a job. My mom and dad both met at the Academy, assigned to watch two Immortals who ended up marrying each other and followed their example. So, I grew up with all the stories. Wasn't until I was in my teens that it finally sunk in how they were all true, not just some crazy fantasy thing they had."
"Family of spies," Perry said dryly. "Nice."
Valerie's eyes flashed with anger. "Hey, we're not spies, we're historians. The ultimate historians, I might add. You don't get any closer to history than people who lived through a great part of it." She sniffed. "Of course, now, some assholes have decided to throw this stupid tape into things and ruin it all."
"That's the one good thing about my job," Perry nodded. "Everything's there to see in plain sight. Quite a bit of it actually."
Valerie sipped at her drink and looked at him. "You're sorta weird, you know that? I mean that in a good way."
"Hey, until last night, my cases were pretty normal," Perry stated. "I should tell you about my cousin who works with the CSI unit in Las Vegas, are those some good stories to hear."
Valerie glanced at her watch and started to walk off, soda still in her hand. "I have to go. I need to file a report to the Council about Harm and Mac."
"You're telling people already?" Perry frowned.
"It's the rules," Valerie answered. "I find out about any new Immortals, I send a report on them ASAP to HQ, SOP." Perry stared at her and she rolled her eyes. "You watch Connors for a while, you hear plenty of military lingo to go around."
"True," Perry nodded. "But you just reminded me so much of Robin Williams in 'Good Morning, Vietnam." Off Valerie's stare, he launched into a stream of words. 'Sir, seeing that the former VP is such an important VIP, shouldn't we keep the PC on the q.t. 'cuz if it's leaked to the VC, he could go MIA and they'd all put us on KP.'"
Valerie looked at him for a long moment, sipping at her soda and swallowing it. "That was undoubtedly the worst Robin Williams impression I've ever heard in my life."
Valerie put down her drink and shook her head. "I need to send that report?"
"Need any help?" Perry asked. "I've got some data."
"I think I can give them a description," Valerie said.
"Are your records comprehensive on those?"
"Pretty much," she nodded. Well, just basics, I don't have details on stuff like identifying marks or-------"
"Rabb has a dagger tattoo on his right shoulder, blade pointing down, looks like an Academy thing. MacKenzie has a small dragon on her back, just above the ass, nice tail design."
Perry shrugged at Valerie's stare. "Hey, they were in my morgue, remember? I'm surprised they didn't have more, I've seen military corpses that looked like walking billboards."
"And I thought my job was weird," Valerie muttered.
"At least you don't work the graveyard shift," Perry said and was taken aback when Valerie started laughing. "What?"
Valerie shook her head with a sad smile. "I *wish* there was such a thing as shifts with this job!"
The banging of a door got their attention and they looked up to see Harm and Mac stagger up the stairs into the kitchen, both looking utterly exhausted, swords hanging limply from their hands. "Ouch," Perry remarked. "I've seen corpses that looked better than you two do now."
"We must kill him," Mac groaned. "God, we must kill him!"
Harm rubbed at his still sore back and looked over at Valerie. "Ms. Rosthon, can we ask you something?"
"Don't," Valerie smiled. "Let me guess: 'Valerie, can you, as Matthew's Watcher, delve deep into your experiences and the writings of other Watchers in Connor's Chronicles to give us any pointers as to weak spots in his fighting skills?'" She paused at their shocked looks and the smile grew. "Listen up. He leans to his left a bit too often, he puts too much weight into a right-arced swing, he has a bit of difficulty in dealing with darkened surroundings, he takes a bit too much time setting up a straight-on lunge, his defenses are a little antiqued, he uses the same four main blocking positions......." The litany continued for another twenty seconds before she stopped, the two military lawyers staring at her.
"Okay," Mac started, holding up a hand, index finger extended. "One question------"
"Why would the Watcher with tremendous pride in her Immortal allow the newbies to embarrass him in training?" Valerie smiled. "Here's the answer. One, Alice shouldn't be ribbing you two and grinning while you work your way through your first few days as Immortals. Two, it's payback for a few years ago."
"What did he do to you?" Harm frowned.
Valerie fixed him with a stare, the smile fading in remembrance. "Do you have any idea as to the whacked-out ideas of women's right they have in the Middle East?"
"Oooooh," Mac said in understanding. "You too?"
"And consider I had to track him through burning oil fields!" Valerie said as she walked out. "Knock him dead. I mean that." She left, the three staring at her.
"I'm starting to like her," Mac said. "Maybe we can get her as our Watcher too?"
"Doubt it," Harm remarked. "With our luck, Webb will turn out to be one of those guys."
"Oh, God, don't even joke!" Mac groaned.
"Well, it's my turn to cut out now," Perry said as he turned and started to walk out. "I do need sleep. Hope to see you guys later."
"Thanks for everything, Perry," Harm said, meaning it.
"Hey, I see two corpses rise, I'm in for the whole hog," Perry said. "Trust me, it's a lot more lively a day than I'm used to." He walked out, apparently not noticing the humor in his choice of words.
Mac watched him leave and shook her head, wincing a bit from the pain in the side from where Matthew had nailed it with a hard chop. "I've got dibs on the shower first," she remarked, groaning as she headed up the stairs. "God, this has been such a bad day."
Harm watched her go up, following for a bit as she walked up. "Sarah," he said softly. "I think we need to talk."
"About?" Mac said, even though she knew what he wanted.
"What we said....last night," Harm answered evenly, looking up at her. Mac turned back to look at him as he spoke. "When I saw you on that table.....it hurt, Mac. It really, really hurt. Seeing you dead, not in my life anymore, I just felt....."
"Lost?" Mac asked softly. "You're saying you'd feel lost without me?"
"I don't know about lost," Harm answered. "But I sure would be a lot less eager to be found."
Mac turned away and started to go up the stairs. "There's nothing to talk about Harm. You know that."
"Harm," she bit out, turning back at him. She took a deep breath to steady herself and spoke. "There are rules and regulations. There is Mic and Renee. There's just way too much baggage on our hands for us to just go and do this, we can't just make a clean start."
"We were dead, Mac," Harm replied, not giving an inch. "If that doesn't make a clean slate, I don't know what does."
"It just-----" Mac sighed. "I just don't know if it will work, Harm. I don't."
"Do you love him?"
"Do you love her?"
The silence that covered their exchanged stare was all the answer needed. And that made what they were feeling all the more difficult. Mac turned and walked back up the stairs. "What we said.....died with us. Just let it be, Harm." She walked off, Harm still at the bottom of the stairs, head bowing a bit as he tried to sort through what he was feeling.
"So, which is it?" a voice from behind asked. Harm turned to see Alice standing before him, arms crossed, appraising him.
"Who do you love? Her or this Renee woman?"
"I'm sorry," Harm said, shaking his head. "But this really isn't any of your business."
"Maybe not," Alice shrugged. "But I think it's pretty damn stupid that two people who are so obviously in love with each other can't get through their personal shit so they can admit it."
"Hey, you're right, it's not my business. But if you're going to live forever, Harm, I think you should consider how you're going to be spending it. Seems to me that spending it alone is a pretty sucky way to live."
"You're not me."
"Yeah, I'm not a soldier and thank God for that. Just one thing I want to point out. Barring a massive coincidence that would surpass anything a bad TV show could cook up, this Renee woman is mortal. Which means when she's old and wrinkled, you look exactly the same. You think this Renee woman can handle that? Wouldn't you rather be with someone who'd be going through the exact same thing you are?" Alice became aware of the look Harm was giving her and backed up. "Or, you could just choose whoever you want and leave it at that, okay." She turned and walked off, leaving Harm to start up the stairs, lost in his own thoughts.
Alice walked into the kitchen and saw Matthew inside, staring at her. "You shouldn't be pushing them like that," he said.
"Hey, you're the one who encouraged me to show off my moves!" Alice said defensively.
"I didn't mean that," Matthew said in a cool tone. "I mean pushing them into a relationship."
"Oh, come on!" Alice said, rolling her eyes. "It's so obvious they love each other."
"You think it obvious."
"So obvious it deserves its own show on the WB." Alice paused to think. "Okay, that may be a bit much but you get the point......."
"That doesn't matter," Matthew said. "There are rules, Alice, fraternization in the ranks is frowned upon."
Alice threw her hands up and shook her head. "See, this is why I'm never enlisting. I have no desire to have a bunch of stupid rules get in the way if I ever meet the right guy."
"It's not that simple-----"
"Matt," Alice interrupted. "She loves him. He loves her. Even you can see that. Now, what is more important? Finding absolute, true love with someone who loves you as much and who you can literally spend the rest of your life with or keeping an oath to a flag?"
A long silence filled the kitchen.
The sun was beginning its motions toward setting when Harm had finished dressing after his shower, thankful Perry had brought some new clothes for him and Mac. He sat on his bed, looking off at the wall and trying to figure out just what he was supposed to do now, not just with Mac but for the rest of his now very long life. He winced as he felt the Buzz hit him, rubbing at his temples as he glanced up to see the door open and Mac stick her head in. "Hey," she said softly. "Um, I wanted to ask you something."
"Sure, come on in," Harm said, moving aside as Mac entered the room and sat next to him on the bed. She was wearing a green sweatshirt and jeans, quite similar to Harm's own outfit, red shirt and darker jeans. Her hair was still a little wet, not as professional as it usually was and Harm couldn't help noticing how much more attractive she looked like that.
There was silence before Mac spoke up. "Look, I think there's one thing we can agree on about all of this."
"How scared shitless we are at the thought of living forever?"
"Well, that," Mac nodded. "But also the fact that someone tried-----someone did kill us. And it has something to do with what happened. Personally, I think if someone kills me, I've got some payback to hand out. Plus, Immortal or not, we still have a duty to find out what is going on there. And I'm not letting that go."
"Neither am I," Harm nodded emphatically. "But it's not that easy. We can't just sneak onto a U.S. military base that easily. Maybe we should just wait here for a while."
"Yeah, maybe," Mac nodded. "Waiting might be easier for all of us."
Silence reigned for a while.
Hastings Bay Naval Base
2046 Hours EST
The base was quiet as night fell, only a few guards on patrol, most of the personnel having their duties cut a bit short to prepare for the ceremony the next day. As such, there weren't as many on hand to check the incoming truck more closely and no one to see the two figures dart out of the back of the truck, swiftly hiding behind some container crates.
"Here's irony for you," Harm whispered. "We're both counting on the security of a U.S. base to be inadequate."
"Remind me to file a report later on," Mac replied as the two peered over the crates, looking towards the area where several soldiers were gathering. A large dias was being placed before a battleship, several rows of chairs before it, American and Russian flags set up around the dias. "Okay, we're here," Mac said. "Now what?"
"What do you mean, now what?!" Harm hissed, staring at her. "It was your idea to come here! Didn't you have a plan?"
"Marines don't plan, we improvise," Mac shrugged.
Harm rolled his eyes. "Great. You have any idea what we're looking for?"
"Only that it'd be by the *Reliant*," Mac replied. "Hopefully, there'll be something for us to find there."
"Lead the way, o wise commander," Harm said sarcastically, Mac rolling her eyes at him before they moved off.
The *Reliant* was still pretty much in the same condition as the last time they had seen it. The gaping hole still remained in the side, the tarp doing little to cover it. Yellow tape blocked off the gangplank and immediate area, but otherwise the area was quiet. A bit too quiet for the duo, both feeling some suspicions at how deserted the area was.
"I don't like this," Harm muttered. "I mean, there should at least be a sentry or someone on duty right now, especially so soon after an explosion."
"Unless they were ordered off," Mac muttered, rubbing her chin as she looked at the ship.
"While I hate to admit you're sounding like that Mulder guy, you may have a point," Harm said. "Something smells about all of this and Hawkins just might be in on it."
"Ya be rights, me savvy." Both Harm and Mac involuntarily jumped and let out a short yell as they spun around to see Barthlemow Hawkthorne standing before them. The man looked just as dishelved as they had seen him the day before, wearing the same dirty outfit and even more grease on his face. "What the hell are you doing here?" Mac hissed as she and Harm ducked down with the man.
"I be appraising out the spot," Hawkthorne said in his strange mix of shattered English. "It been not usual for such a place to be closing down fastly. Hawkins be pushing for swifting investigating of boom-boom spot, to swiftly for usual checkings. Closed off spot and shoved away sailors from it, got me suspicions and questions, savvy? So, me come to check out on the slight."
"Okay," Harm said, taking a moment to take in what Hawkthorne had just said. "So, have you seen anything?"
"A fewlings, yeah," Hawkthorne nodded. "Many fellows milling about after hours, many tried to do more on the boat and on the other."
"Other?" Mac frowned. "What other?"
"Other boat by the spot," Hawkthorne nodded, pointing toward the ship with the podium set in front of it. "Manys be milling there. The fellows be in dark garments, talking funnily."
Harm and Mac looked at each other and then back at Hawkthorne. "Oh, this is just too easy," Harm muttered. He sighed and opened his mouth to ask a question when something struck him.
Harm would later wonder if maybe Immortality hadn't given him an instinct when something bad was about to happen, an instinct that caused him to turn just in time for the bullet to rip through his shoulder and not his back. Hissing, Harm dropped down, Mac ducking as well. She reached up and grabbed Hawkthorne, yanking him down too. Sparks flew on the containers as bullets stuck them but no shots could be heard.
"Silencers," Mac muttered, glancing up a bit to peer over the edge. She could see a couple of figures standing on the deck of the *Reliant,* garbed in black, firing pistols at the trio.
Mac glanced at Harm, who was holding his shoulder and wincing a bit. "Are you okay?" she said in a caring tone.
"Yeah," he grunted. "I think it was just a flesh wound." A bullet struck just over his head, causing him to instinctively duck as Hawkthorne cowered on the ground, arms over his head.
"Shit, they've got us pinned. We need to do something."
"I know," Mac nodded, biting her lip. She glanced over at Hawkthorne and saw his tool belt. She and Harm shared a glance and nodded as the thought struck them. They reached in and each yanked out a tool, Mac a wrench, Harm a large hammer. "Okay, listen," Harm said, looking down at Hawkthorne. "Is there a way off the base besides the main gate, somewhere we can get out hopefully without being chased?"
"Um....servicing gate by the back end," Hawkthorne said. "No guards tonight, called off by Hawkins."
"About time that bastard did something good for us," Mac muttered. She looked over at Harm and swallowed. "Okay, we've got maybe one chance and hopefully it'll work. If it doesn't, well......."
There was a lull in shooting and yells could be heard from the deck of the ship between the gunmen. Harm started as he heard the words, staring up in surprise at the ship. "My God," he said in disbelief. "They're speaking Russian!"
"Russian?" Mac asked in the same disbelief. "Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure," Harm nodded.
"Well, at least they make more sense then this guy does," Mac muttered, looking down at the cowering Hawkthorne.
"Oh, why did I ever leave Indiana-land!" the man groaned from his position on the ground.
Harm and Mac both looked at him. "You're from Indiana?" Harm said in disbelief.
"Shooting sure! Born in heart of Indiana-land!"
Exactly how a native-born Indianan could be capable of slaughtering the English language the way this man did was definitely a topic for conversation but at the moment, both Harm and Mac had more pressing issues in mind. They both listened for the sound they had been hoping for.
The sound of the two gunmen coming towards their position.
The two were tense, Mac's fingers clenching on the wrench, Harm on his hammer, both trying to keep their breathing even as they waited. Mac moved a few inches to her right, giving herself a wide arc for a big swing. She watched as one of the gunmen came forward, pistol held straight ahead in his gloved hands, taking careful steps as he moved around the crates.
With a burst of action, Mac leapt to her feet and swung out, the wrench smashing into the man's wrist, the silenced weapon falling from limp hands as he let out a curse. With a long swing, Mac smashed the wrench into the man's jaw, hearing a satisfying crunch of bone as it connected with metal. The other gunman aimed his pistol at Mac, Harm leaping to his feet and throwing out his hand. He was pleasantly surprised when, instead of the simple distraction he had hoped for, the hammer smashed right into the man's forehead, sending him down.
Immediately, the two moved, Hawkthorne leaping to his feet and following them as they ran off. "Okay," Mac called as they ran. "If they come after us, they'll be following me and Harm.
You," she pointed at Hawkthorne. "Go to Matthew------"
"Ahem." Mac looked at Harm in confusion, then realized her mistake. "Go to Charles Matthews' home." She gave Hawkthorne the address as they moved. "Tell him what's happened and that we need help. Got it?"
"You really think Matthew deserves this guy?" Harm asked.
He and Mac looked at each other.
"Okay, never mind."
Home of Matthew Connors
2137 Hours EST
Matthew and Alice sat in the living room, looking at the man pacing excitedly before them. Hawkthorne had burst to their door ten minutes before, babbling about Harm and Mac being in trouble. He had spent the last ten minutes mutilating several sections of the English language in order to tell his story, Matthew and Alice barely able to keep up with his rapid-fire gibberish.
"The Swedish Chef from the Muppets and an adult in a Peanuts cartoon make more sense than this guy," Alice muttered.
"God, and I thought the Marx Brothers were unintelligible," Matthew groaned, rubbing his temples. He'd been on edge since discovering Harm and Mac missing and Alice had to admit to being a bit worried too. Hawkthorne's story about the trio being shot at did little to alleviate their fears, especially considering the teller.
"Hey, I told the story whole!" Hawkthorne yelled, staring at them. "Aren't we gonna be aiding and abetting hereabouts?"
"What the hell is wrong with your speech?" Alice had to ask.
"Listen, Ranger Pink-------"
"Oh, God, even he does it!"
"I be born in Indiana. Me pops, he is going away on business so he takes me with. He takes me to China, he takes me to Japan, he takes me to India, South America, Europe, he so damn busy taking me, he forgots to learn me any English so I'm a song of a gun if I don't pick it up whenever I can. And it be hots, by the way people laugh when they hear me jabber."
"Why can't I have a normal life?" Alice muttered, rubbing her temples. "Just a nice, normal, teenage life, not this. Not this bunch of lunacy."
She looked up to see Matthew standing up and picking up the phone. "What are you doing?"
"I'm calling Hawkins," Matthew replied, dialing a quick number.
"I know the guy, he needs to know what is going on at the base. He'll get to the bottom of this." He listened as the phone rang and a sleepy voice answered. "Hello?"
"Terry? It's Charlie Matthews."
"Matthews? What the hell are you------"
"Listen, something big is happening at your base, Terry. Something I think you need to know about and fast. Something major. Can we talk?"
"Wait a minute, what are-------"
"I've got a mechanic here who can tell about some weird things going on at your base, Terry. I think it's connected to the big conference tomorrow."
"Are you sure about that?"
There was a long silence before Hawkins replied. "Okay, Charlie. Stay where you are, don't talk to anyone, I'll have people come right over."
"Thanks, Terry. I knew I could count on you."
"Don't worry, Matthews. I know just how to deal with the situation."
Hastings Bay Naval Base
2222 Hours EST
There was a cold silence inside the brig, the three figures lost in their own thoughts, the silence broken by a female voice.
"Boy, great idea to call your buddy the commander, Matt. Too bad it never occurred to you that it was just possible that HE WAS IN ON THE WHOLE THING!!!!"
The following chapter is rated NC-17 for explicit sexual content (to which I can hear Tim and Steve yelling "FINALLY!"). Special thanks to Jack Caynon, our resident smut-master (according to Steve <G>) for spicing it up a bit. H/M shippers, this is what you've been waiting for.
Hastings Bay, MA
April 30, 1999
2146 Hours EST
"Are you sure you're okay?" Mac asked for the fifth time since they had entered the woods near the base.
"Yeah," Harm said, rubbing his shoulder. It still amazed him how fast his wound had healed, leaving only the red stain on the sweatshirt as the sole proof of the shooting. He glanced behind him as they walked through the dark paths of the trees. "I hope we’ve lost them."
"We haven't heard anyone else; I'm pretty sure we have," Mac said. She looked all around, seeing nothing but shadowy trees in all directions. "Lost in the woods. Somehow, this just seems perfectly fitting considering our trip so far."
"Come on, we have to keep moving," Harm said. He glanced up at the sky. "Damn. Between the canopy and the clouds, I can't get a fix on the stars. I don’t know if we're going the right way."
"We just have to keep going," Mac said. "Hopefully, we’ll come across some signs of civilization soon." She looked at Harm closely. "You okay?"
"You kidding?" Harm smiled. "I can actually see where the hell I'm going in the dark for a change, not to mention I don't have to lug around a slug in my shoulder. I can definitely get used to this Immortality deal."
"Might come in handy," Mac replied, rubbing her bare arms. "If we don't find some shelter soon, we may know what it's like to freeze to death after all."
Just then a light off to his right caught Harm’s eye. He peered closely at it, his improved eyesight focusing on the bright lights shining in the darkness. "I think we’re in luck," he said, nodding toward the illumination. He and Mac approached it, carefully avoiding branches and outcroppings as they made their way to a small clearing.
In the middle of it was a classic cabin, moderate in size, a few lights blazing from its windows. Harm climbed the cabin’s stoop and knocked on the front door with a series of insistent raps, listening for a reply. He heard nothing in response. He twisted the knob and the door creaked open. Then he pushed his way inside with Mac following closely behind.
The cabin’s interior was nondescript. They found a large room with a small kitchen and bar off to their right. A plush white bearskin rug adorned the floor in front of the fireplace. A deer's head hung above the mantle and there were the usual assortment of landscape paintings and rustic decorations dotting the walls of the rest of the cabin.
"Not bad," Mac said as she did a slow pan of the room. She crossed over to the couch and noted, "A little predictable, like every hunting lodge you've ever seen–but not bad." She glanced over at Harm, who rummaged in a few boxes near the fireplace. "The owner of this place must be well-prepared," the Navy officer said over his shoulder. "We’ve got some logs." He immediately set a few inside the fireplace, plucking a match out of the nearby box.
"Let me check, make sure there's no one in the bathroom or something," Mac said, moving off toward the side rooms. Harm lit the readied log and ignited faster than he expected. He stood up, just as Mac returned. She shook her head and announced, "All clear. No sign of bags or anything. The owners must be away. Maybe a groundskeeper left the door open."
Harm nodded. He went toward the door, brushing past Mac. "I think I saw more logs outside; I'll bring them in to keep the fire going."
Mac watched him leave then slowly turned toward the bar area. She felt her mouth water as several emotions inside her collided again, as they had so often during the last two days. Then she shrugged off her confusion and made her decision. She strode toward the bar, opened a cabinet, and pulled out an item. Then she grabbed another item, slamming both on the countertop. She paused, took a deep breath, then began to.........
"Mac, I'm sorry, I forgot to ask if you saw-------" Harm’s voice trailed off as he paused in the doorway and stared at Mac. She froze. She could feel the numbness in her face and imagined it showed an expression of shamed discovery because she stood there with a bottle of liquor in her hand, ready to pour the amber liquid into a waiting glass.
Before she could even say anything, Harm stormed across the room, yanked the bottle out of Mac's hands, and smashed the glass aside. Outraged, she shrieked at him, but Harm ignored her. He went to the sink and swiftly poured the contents of the bottle down the drain.
"What the hell are you doing?" Mac yelled.
Harm slammed the empty bottle onto the counter and turned to face her. Mac stepped back, stunned by the look in his eyes, anger mixed with compassion and affection. "You took the words right out of my mouth!" he snapped. "Dammit, Mac, what do you think you're doing going back to this?!"
"Hey, I'm Immortal," she shrugged, trying to brush aside his question. "It won't kill me."
"Yes, it will," Harm said, a bit softer now. "Not physically, but spiritually. I've seen you drunk, Mac, and I didn't like it. You're mean when you're drunk and that's not the real you."
"MAYBE IT IS THE REAL ME!" Mac screamed, the anger and fear of the last day finally taking its toll. "I can't take this, Harm...I just can't take this anymore!" She rubbed her head and walked away from him. She crossed into the living room and whirled to face him. "I'm going to live forever, I'm going to have to kill people to do it, my family's not my family------" she paused in the middle of the room. "Well, actually, considering my father, that's not so bad. But now, I can't have kids, I can't have a family, I'm going to be alone for all time------"
"You’re not alone, Sarah," Harm said gently.
Mac snorted. "Please! Mic is not “major commitment guy,” Harm. I realize there's no way in hell he's going to stay with me and grow old with me while I stay young. I won't grow old, I won't die, I won't be able to have a normal life." She turned and faced the roaring fire as tears filled her eyes. "I might as well drown in the bottle because I don't have anything or anyone-------"
Until his strong hand had gripped her shoulder and spun her around, she hadn’t even been aware of his presence behind her. The next thing Mac knew, his lips were pressed hard against hers. As he deepened the kiss, his love swept through their physical connection, nearly overwhelming her. She lost herself in his kiss and returned his passion with her own, wanting him to know she felt exactly the same way.
They remained locked together for nearly a minute before reluctantly coming up for air. Mac panted and peered into his smoky eyes. Harm had a slight smile on his face, and his eyes expressed nothing but pure, unadulterated love. And it was all for her. "You have me, Sarah," Harm said softly.
"Whoa," Mac whispered. "That was----that was------"
"Everything you’ve hoped for?" Harm said more lightly than he felt. In truth, kissing Mac had been a sudden urge that struck him, the sight of her in pain putting all his doubts aside, making him want to try and sooth her suffering.
"And more," Mac said. She looked down, then back up and swallowed. "It's just.....it was me you were kissing, right? Not.....Dianne?"
At the mention of his late former love who bore a striking resemblance to Mac, Harm flinched a bit. Then he answered her. "When I first met you," he said softly, finally able to say what he'd been wanting to say for years. "When I first was attracted to you....I thought that was it, because of how much you looked like her. But the more I got to know you and the closer we became, at work and off-duty....." Harm swallowed again, forcing himself to continue. "The more I realized it wasn't her. It wasn’t Renee. It was you, Sarah. It was always you."
Mac studied Harm’s face for several moments before she licked her lips. The rational part of Harm’s mind reasoned she probably did that because her lips were dry, but the more primitive, sensual part of Harm felt only excitement in seeing her tongue flick across those soft, kissable lips... So engrossed in his passion for her, Harm nearly missed what she was saying. "My....marriage,” she stammered softly, “didn't end well, Harm. Afterwards, I decided to pretty much push men aside altogether, save myself the pain. So when I first started to feel something for you, I tried to ignore them. But they just kept building and building. Mic....He's a good guy but.....he wasn't the One. I was just.....I wasn't using him, really, but I couldn't love him the way he wanted, the way I wanted.....Because of you.”
Then Mac reached up with the fingers of her right hand and gently brushed them against his jaw. He pressed against them like a cat seeking affection. "And when we were dying and I thought it was over,” she whispered, “I decided it didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered except telling you how I felt. And when I came back and saw you there....I was just so happy because I knew I didn't blow it, I still had another chance to tell you. To make it work."
"We can make it work," Harm said, moving a hand to Mac's beloved face and brushing away a tear. "It won't be easy breaking it to Renee and Mic or keeping it quiet from the office but....We can make it work."
"I know," Mac smiled. "I know we can. Together."
Harm looked down. "I guess we should have said this before, way before. But it never seemed right, there are rules and protocols......"
"And we just can't say 'I love you' in the middle of the office," Mac nodded.
"I know," Harm agreed. "But now......" He cupped her chin up and gazed deeply into her lovely eyes. He felt his emotions swell as he lost himself in them willingly. "I love you, Sarah MacKenzie."
Mac's eyes brimmed with tears as she drowned in his eyes. "I love you, Harmon Rabb."
The two looked around the empty cabin, miles away from anyone who could hear and with a grin, threw their heads back and yelled out at the top of their lungs.
"I LOVE YOU!"
Mac then grinned at Harm and ordered, "Kiss me, flyboy."
"You got it, jarhead," Harm replied. His lips worshiped her, the lovers surrendering willingly to their passions, neither noticing as the overhead lighting switched off, leaving only the flames of the fireplace as the cabin’s sole illumination. They were far beyond such mundane concerns; all they cared about was the imminent expression of their love for each other.
As they planted kisses on each other’s faces and lips, they pawed at their partner’s clothing. Mac tugged Harm’s sweatshirt off over his head, shortly followed by his t-shirt. They embraced again and Harm locked his mouth on Mac’s, gently begging entry with his tongue and moaning deep in his chest as it met hers in the timeless dance of love. As they kissed, Mac pulled her arms out of her sleeves. She playfully nipped on his bottom lip, pulled back slightly, then whipped off her sweatshirt, revealing her lightly tanned, beautiful breasts supported by a black bra.
"Australia agreed with you," Harm muttered as he drew one foot out of his boot, then used it to free the other.
"Memories of me on the beach?" Mac smiled knowingly while she took off her own shoes and socks as Harm let his own socks drop to the floor.
"I’ll let you in on a secret," Harm said with a smile. "I knew you weren't really topless." As
Mac stared at him in surprise, he grinned. "Saw the little flash of a bikini strand on you. Plus, I didn't think Brumby cocky enough to let his girlfriend be seen on a topless beach in front of a co-worker."
"So you were pretending all along to be jealous?" Mac said teasingly.
Harm looked at her with longing. "Not really." He drew her in for another kiss, his hands caressing her breasts, rubbing the soft mounds under her lace bra. Mac moaned in delight and closed her eyes. Then she reached down to the front of Harm's jeans, smiling as her soft hand discovered his hard shaft straining against the zipper. "Hmmmm, I'll avoid the obvious gun in your pocket joke," she said with a sigh as she slowly drew down his zipper.
Harm moaned deeply and responded to her sensual touch by kissing the exposed curves of Mac's breasts. Then he shuddered and nearly lost the strength in his legs when she reached inside his jeans and gripped his hard cock. She gave it a little squeeze and caused him to gasp in pleasure. She breathed a little harder as she started to stroke his manhood. He felt a twinge of lust and awe race through him as he realized that she was growing excited by his reaction to her ministrations. Touched by her selfless attentions toward him, Harm reached down and fumbled for the button of her jeans, managing to pop it open and slide the zipper down.
Mac released him and undid the button of his jeans. She then stepped back and allowed her new lover to drag her jeans down, revealing her long, taut legs. Harm stood up and pulled off his own jeans. Now he was garbed only in in a simple pair of boxers. "I wouldn't have expected those," Mac remarked.
"Actually, I'm a briefs man," Harm smiled. "Matt just had these lying around." He stood before her, brushed her hair gently with his fingers and drank in the sight of her glorious face. "Ah, it just sort of hit me," he said sheepishly. "I don't have any-------"
"Harm," Mac said with a roll of her eyes. "We're Immortal, remember? No pregnancy, no disease...?"
"Oh," Harm said with an embarrassed smile. "Well, since that's out of the way......" He wrapped his arms around her and plundered her lips again. His hands drifted down to her the cheeks of her beautiful ass. He clenched them tightly, fingers digging into their silk covering as Mac moaned deep in her throat. Somehow, she had managed to reach a hand around and unsnap the back of her bra, freeing the bounty of her beautiful chest from its restraints.
As his hands moved up to cup the weight of her breasts, she took advantage and gripped Harm's ass. Apparently, she loved the feeling of his tight cheeks in her hands. "God, I'm never mocking your diet and workouts again," she whispered. "They obviously do the job."
"You’re in fine shape yourself, baby," Harm said between kisses planted against the pliant skin of her neck, shoulders, and breasts. He pushed one bra strap aside then hesitated.
Mac realized he was preparing for the big step. Before she could tell him it was all right, he seemed to know it and peeled her lace off to completely expose her firm round breasts. Harm stared unabashedly at them, his wanton gaze letting her know he appreciated their loveliness. Normally, she was concerned that a lover might think they weren’t well proportioned, but the look on his face told her she had no reason to fear anything like that with him. There was nothing shy about the way she proudly reached up and held them out for his attention. In response, he brought both hands up to cradle her hands as she held her breasts for him and lowered his mouth to her right nipple. She felt his warm, moist breath a moment before his lips and teeth gently drew the nipple inside. While he suckled her, the fingers of his right hand caressed the engorged flesh of her other breast. As she squirmed and reveled in his ministrations, Mac felt her nether regions become moist and hot.
She moaned continuously now, barely aware of how she and Harm had fallen to the rug. Now he had dragged his mouth down her body, along her ribcage, over her flat stomach, past her panties, dampened by her desire, to her glorious legs. He reached up, hooked his fingers into the straps of her underwear and with a yank, slid them down her long legs and exposed the thatch of dark brown curls that stood guard outside of her overheated core. Mac chewed on her bottom lip as she felt the dry air collide with the warm moisture seeping out of her. As his nose nuzzled against her inner thigh, she groaned. Although she loved receiving head like the next woman, she needed something more at this moment. She needed to be filled, to feel all of him, to draw him inside her and join their bodies and souls for all time. She gasped and whispered, “Harm, come up here.”
He drew himself up, bringing his face up to her chest. His mouth attacked her perfect breasts once more. He kissed her engorged nipples, then buried his face in her cleavage as one of his hands slid down between her legs, parted the moist folds of her pussy, and caressed the hard nub that was evidence of her need. In response, she hissed in delight and looked down at him, lust in her eyes. "Let me see."
Harm knew what she wanted. He rose enough to let her help him remove his underwear and his cock popped out, hard and ready.
Mac licked her lips and whimpered at the sight of his shaft bobbing before her eyes. She sat up, startling Harm, and pulled his body hard against hers, almost with a growl. She kissed him deeply, tasting him, wanting all of him, then she broke the kiss to whisper in his ear while allowing him to take advantage of the situation by nuzzling her neck. "Please," she whispered. "Please, Harm, I need you."
"We've got all night, Sarah," he whispered back. "We've got all of time."
"I can’t wait any longer, baby,” she moaned. “Now, Harm...please, now!"
They instinctively knew what the other needed and moved to satisfy their soul mate. Harm spread his legs a bit as Mac scooted onto his lap. They paused and looked deep into each other’s eyes for a moment, the flames from the fireplace casting brief glints of light in them, mimicking the burning passion that raged inside the lovers. Mac leaned forward and shifted her hips up and over so his cock pressed against her nether lips. She moaned as Harm's cock bullied its way inside her. She closed her eyes and wiggled her bottom, trying to take his shaft in as deep as possible. Once he was firmly planted inside her, she hooked her legs around his waist and draped her arms around his neck to support herself as she started to work against him.
Harm crossed his legs on the floor and pressed the soles of the feet against the rug
to brace himself. As her inner muscles began to massage his throbbing hardness, he grunted, brought his hands down to cup his woman's buttocks, and squeezed tightly. She hissed in delight and pressed her forehead against his, the sheen of her sweat giving her face a wondrous glow. “You feel so good, honey,” she moaned while her inner flesh squeezed his rod as she continued to rock against him.
He closed his eyes, wanting to drown in her, to surrender completely to her. He felt the tingle at the base of his spine that signaled the immediacy of his orgasm, but he did his best to hold it off, wanting so much to make their first time last as long as possible. As her pussy churned around him, Harm bent over a little and drew one of her nipples between his lips for another round of suckling. As his mouth worked on her, Mac moaned louder. His hands were still locked on her ass, adding his strength to hers as their pelvises were engaged in the timeless dance of love. He had matched her rhythm perfectly, driving his cock into her overheated core, sending them both closer to the precipice. She wrapped her arms around his head, pulling his face closer against her breast, and threw her head back as a small tremor of pleasure crashed through her. "Oh, God," she groaned. "Harm.....I’m so close...it feels like I’m gonna explode, baby...”
"I know....." he gasped, reluctantly dragging his mouth away from her chest to kiss the nape of her straining throat. "Me, too, Sarah! I’m...al...almost there......"
Another wave hit her, a little stronger than the first, and it caused her core to spasm around his invading cock. "Jesus Christ! Oh Harm, do it...do it, baby! Come with me! Please come! I need....I need to let go...."
"Hold it...little longer..." Harm whispered into her ear. "Trust me, Sarah."
"Always....." she breathed back. Her legs tightened around his waist, her body drawing on every ounce of strength she had, trying to make it good as she kept sliding back and forth. For his part, Harm had bitten his lip so hard, it actually bled for a few moments before it had healed. He was close; hell, he'd been close for the last several minutes, but he wanted to make it good for her, so he kept thrusting into her.
After a few more strokes, the tingle at the base of his spine roared up his nervous system into his head, where a sheet of blinding white light exploded behind his eyes. At that moment, Sarah wrapped her arms around Harm’s neck and pulled her breasts hard against his firm, sweat-soaked chest. They both threw their heads back and screamed at the ceiling as Harm fired his seed deep, deep inside her straining, grasping, greedy pussy. When he spasmed a second time and surrender another stream of his essence to her clutching sex, Mac’s eyes popped open as she felt an implosion of pleasure centered in her G-spot. “Fuck!” she shrieked as her pussy gripped his cock like a velvet vise while her fluids washed over his throbbing member. In the meantime, while they were lost in the throes of their climaxes, had either of them kept their eyes open during their lovemaking, they might have noticed how the fire nearby glowed brighter when they had tumbled over the edge.
As the power of their climax began to diminish, Mac leaned back and slumped a little, loosening her grip on Harm's neck. He panted, trying to catch his breath as he drew his hands from her ass and up her supple back. Mac felt strength begin to seep back into her body. Then she stared at Harm with glistening eyes. He reached up to wipe away her tears and hoped his weren't too visible. They drank in each other for several moments, the realization that they were now one truly washing over them for the first time. They had just passed a turning point in their relationship, and had started on a new path fraught with hardship and uncertainty. In that moment, with all those feelings and thoughts playing in their minds, there was only one thing either of them could say.
"I love you."
"I love you."
And as Harm lay back on the carpet, his hands moving up to cradle Sarah's breasts while she used her inner muscles to make his cock erect once more and gently rocked back and forth, both silently agreed that, in the end, that was all that mattered.
Hastings Bay Naval Base
May 1, 1999
0734 Hours EST
Alice tapped the bars of the cell and for the hundredth time, resisted the urge to start singing "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." She glanced over at Hawkthorne, who was sprawled on a cot, snoring loudly, the one time Alice had seen anything come out of his mouth that actually made a lick of sense.
She looked over to where Matthew sat on the other cot, arms folded, staring at the floor. Alice knew that look. It was the same look Matthew had after finding out the murderous truth of his teacher, Thomas Borden, alias Thorn. Alice had gotten to know Matthew pretty well over the last year and had noticed something unique: While Matthew viewed a great many people with suspicion, he was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who served in the military, thinking that they held strongly to the same oaths he did. The problem was, such blind trust often left him open to betrayal, as Hawkins was now proving.
"Any ideas on how we're getting out of this mess?" Alice remarked.
"I'm thinking," Matthew said, biting his lip. "If it was just you and me, I'd try a break when they come for us. Even if we're shot, they'll still have to get rid of us and that'll give us the chance to get away."
"Um, Matt," Alice said calmly. "Call me sentimental and all, but I really have no wish to leave town and take on a new identity this soon."
"I know, neither do I," Matthew nodded. "Besides, it won't solve the problem of just what these guys have planned. I want to find out just why Hawkins is pulling this and who's backing him up. I've got the feeling it's going to be bad and I want to try and stop that if I can."
"Well, sort of hard to do that when we're locked up and they're getting ready for the firing squad," Alice muttered, shaking her head. "Oh, wait, this is the Navy. Do they still make you walk the plank?"
"Relax, we're not going to die," Matthew said, a bit of his old confidence coming back to him.
Alice looked at him carefully. "How can you be sure?"
Matthew looked up, a smile on his face. "I've survived Bunker Hill, Lexington, Valley Forge, Yorktown, New Orleans, both Bull Runs, Shiloh, Antiem, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France, North Africa, Omaha Beach, the Bulge, Berlin, Korea, South 'Nam, Grenada, Panama City, Kuwait, not to mention the 1985-86 season so 'Saturday Night Live.' I can survive what these guys have planned."
Alice rolled her eyes and brushed her hair. "Well, there would be one bright side."
"I wouldn't have to listen to Neil Diamond's 'America' anymore."
"HEY!" Before Matthew could get further in his outrage, the door to the cell area opened, Hawkthorne rousing from his sleep as he looked up to see two men approach. One was Hawkins, now in uniform, giving a glance to the guards who, Matthew couldn't help noticing, happened to be the same soldiers who had come to "escort" him, Alice and Hawkthorne to their "meeting" with the Admiral the night before.
Behind Hawkins was another man, dressed in a well-pressed suit, his face glowering but still maintaining an air of confidence. It took a moment for Matthew to recognize him and another moment for him to recover from the shock of just who was really running things around here.
The author looked over at Matthew and the equally thrown Alice as well as the rising Hawkthorne. He sighed and looked over at Hawkins. "I thought we'd made sure any security holes were plugged when you sent our Russian 'advisors' to take care of those two JAG people."
"Hey, I got them here, didn't I?" Hawkins said impatiently. "And I made sure they didn't tell anyone else what was going on either."
"Wait----wait a minute!" Alice said, gawking at Yates. "*You're* the evil mastermind here?"
"I don't know if I'd go quite that far," Yates sniffed. "But, yes, I suppose I am, with Terry here as my accomplice. I'm sorry you and your friend Matthews had to get mixed up in this, my dear, but you're simple in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"What are you going to do?" Matthew asked calmly, glaring Yates down.
Despite some discomfort at the stare, Yates stood straight and replied. "Let's just say you and your student, as well as Mr. Hawkthorne there, will be at ground zero for a most momentous event."
Yates chuckled. "You expect me to tell you?"
"Why not?" Matthew shrugged. "We're stuck here, I'm willing to bet any soldiers near us are in on whatever you're planning, you're obviously going to make sure none of us get to tell anyone so go ahead. What's the story?"
Matthew was taking a chance here but a good one, he thought. Having read Yates' books (even his horrible last one), he knew Yates often fell back to the old fiction standby of the villain explain his plan to the hero. Matthew was literally betting his life that Yates just wouldn't be able to resist the chance to do the same for real.
It was a good bet. After bending his head to the side and thinking, Yates nodded and let out a smile. "Very well." He glanced at his watch quickly. "In exactly......four hours and sixteen minutes, the treaty signing will begin. In exactly four hours and twenty-five minutes, a major explosion will occur in the engine room of the battleship *Texas.* The explosion will kill everyone at the treaty signing, and, should the munitions dump be hit right, should cause some damage to the base itself."
"The boom-boom......" Hawkthorne muttered, rubbing his chin. His eyes went wide as it hit him. "Yousa! You be the cause for the boom-boom in room!"
"I don't understand a word of your....let's call it 'accent' and be charitable.....Mr. Hawkthrone, but you're correct," Yates nodded. "Ensign Masters was one of our conspirators as he was quite good at wiring back at the academy and could help conceal the exact cause of the explosion. Unfortunately, he must have slipped when carrying over some of the explosives and nearly ruined everything by blowing himself and part of the ship apart." Yates shook his head sourly. "Thank God for politicians wanting to save their image."
"You're going to bomb the treaty ceremony?" Alice said, still getting used to the idea.
"On May Day? Do you have any idea how that's going to look?"
"I do indeed," Yates smiled. "I already have some.....associates in Moscow who, when the news hits, will start making noise about how it was the fault of faulty American technology. That in turn will lead to accusations that some American military officers were deliberately behind it with the belief then forming that it was the Pentagon itself that authorized this so they'll want to pull back any association with American armed forces. I'll have colleagues in Washington who will be making the same accusations against the Russians. With such bad blood, I estimate it won't be long before things get back to the way it was back in the good old days of the mid-1980's."
"You mean when we were one mixed signal away from nuclear war?" Matthew said with sad remembrance. "Always on edge, ready to kill each other at the slightest provocation, each side thinking the other the evil enemy?"
"Precisely," Yates nodded.
"So what do you get out of this?" Alice said, crossing her arms. "Huh? What, Russians wanted some big payday to give them the chance to give communism another try? Some Pentagon whacko wants more funding for his department? Do you just hate the Russians, why are you doing this?"
Yates flicked at his suit absently as he spoke. "I'm doing this, my dear because I haven't seen a book sell more than two million copies since 1990. Do you have any idea how tiresome it gets to portray terrorists and militia groups and third-world countries as the villains? I make one simple comment about how Islam sponsors terrorism and I'm getting my book banned in shops. I need a clear-cut villain again, my dear, I need someone everyone will want to root against and enjoy it, I need Russia to be the big evil again. It's the only way I can get back on the top of the bestsellers list."
There was dead silence as Matthew, Alice and Hawkthorne stared at Yates in absolute and total shock, unwilling to believe his motivation. "Book sales?" Matthew said, stunned. "Book?! Sales?! You're going to kill hundreds of people, risk political upheaval, throw away ten years of progress, put us back on the brink of World War Three, all so you can SELL MORE BOOKS?!"
He threw his hands up and strode about. "Excuse me while I completely give up all hope in the future of the human race! I won't be a minute."
"Hey, we gave peace a chance but it's not working out well," Hawkins put in. "We're weakening our defenses and giving them too much leeway to get the upper hand on us. A return to normal policy is the best way to go."
"Ye be mad," Hawkthorne muttered. "Me thinks you behave bees in bonnett to try a boomer like this!"
"I assure you, Mr. Hawkthorne, I am most assuredly lucid," Yates stated.
Matthew spun around to glare at him. "Killing hundreds of people isn't exactly an example of sanity, pal." He glared over at Hawkins. "Or patriotism so don't even try to paint it like that."
Yates raised an eyebrow. "I'm doing whatever it takes to make money, Mr. Matthews. What could be more American than that?"
Matthew glanced at Hawkins. "How much did it take to make you turn traitor?" he hissed.
Hawkins returned Matthew's gaze. "Matthews, when you get older, you realize just how little you can really do on a retirement and pension plan. I've served this Navy for nearly thirty years and I'm entitled to some ample payment because of it."
"Isn't your pension enough?" Matthew asked.
"Funny thing about the word, 'enough,' Matthews. When it comes to money, no two people have the same definition of it."
"So you're doing this for money?" Alice could understand Matthew's revulsion of Hawkins now, she was feeling the same fury. "Killing hundreds of people, a lot of them your own men and selling out your country, all for a few lousy dollars?"
"Hardly a few," Hawkins said with a slight smile. "Money's a funny thing, you know. When you have a lot of it, it's not important. When you have very little, it absolutely dominates you."
"I have little, it doesn't dominate me."
"It will. Wait until you get older--------Oh, right, you won't. You three are going to be escorted to the *Texas* and strapped right to the bomb. Best way to get rid of all evidence."
Matthew and Alice shared a glance, each thinking the same thing: Being that close to a major explosive device might rip away most anything. Including their heads. And neither wanted to think of how a double Quickening could add to the devastation.
"Think about it this way, Matthews," Yates smiled. "You'll see America return to a time when people actually respected it."
"Oh, you better hope you die, buddy," Alice remarked, raising an eyebrow as Matthew glared at the author.
"Please," Yates snorted. "What possible harm could a high school teacher and his teenage girl student possibly do to stop anyone?"
Even had anyone been paying attention, it was unlikely they would have noticed the small car parked on the street across from the base, where the brig was near one of the gates. It was also likely they wouldn't have noticed the figure in the back seat, crouching, a high-tech long-rang microphone pointed toward the brig, headphones detailing what was going on. It wasn't quite clear, the distance and interference from various sources muffling it but it was enough to get the figure to pack things up and take off driving.
Home of Perry Leiter
0831 Hours EST
The pounding on the apartment door roused Perry from his sleep. He glanced over at the alarm clock, seeing the time and groaned, throwing a pillow over his head as he tried to get back to sleep. He was still recovering from the hours of sleep lost with the whole Harm and Mac situation and he had spent the night reworking two "Does" with wounds to match those of Harm and Mac so he could fill out the false records on their shooting.
The pounding continued and he sat out of bed with a moan, standing up and sliding his feet into a pair of slippers. "If there's not a fire......" he muttered as he pulled a shirt over his head. "If the building is not on fire......" he continued, a little louder as he walked through his modest bachelor's apartment. "No, if *you* are not on fire......" he hissed as the pounding continued.
He opened the door and was taken aback as Valerie burst inside, her loose jacket, light slacks and red shirt a contrast to her more professional demeanor the day before. She didn't appear to have gotten much sleep, her hair hastily combed and not a lot of makeup as she turned to face Perry. "To what do I owe------" he started but was interrupted by her.
"We've got some problems," she said, rummaging through her coat to pull out what appeared to be a small pocket computer, flicking it to a screen. "Matthew and Alice are being held at the Naval Base. It seems the commander, Hawkins is involved in what's been going on. He's working with the author John Yates."
"What?" Perry said, shaking his head, still a bit tired and not getting this. "What are-----"
"From what I could gather, it's something big and bad and it's happening in a few hours," Valerie said, clicking on her PDA. She looked up at Perry and took a breath. "Look. The Watcher rules are that we don't interfere, no matter what. But no matter how much I care for my oath, there's no way I'm going to let some sort of disaster happen when I know about it and have a chance to stop it. But I can't do it alone."
"Okay," Perry said, still not sure what was going on but knowing it was serious. "What do we do, go to the authorities?"
Valerie rolled her eyes. "Hello? The commander's in on it so that takes care of the authorities." She clicked on the PDA, watching the screen shift. "I'm hoping Rabb and MacKenzie can help us out here, contact someone who can get us some help."
"Wait," Perry frowned. "Aren't they with Matt?"
"Nope," Valerie shook her head. "Apparently snuck out in the middle of the night, before Matt and Alice got involved in this."
"So how the hell--------"
Valerie held up her PDA to show a small map that Perry quickly recognized as the Hastings Bay area. In the corner, by the Baymount Forest label, were a pair of tiny blinking red dots. He looked at Valerie in surprise. "You bugged them?"
"Hey, I didn't want to risk losing them if they did something stupid like run off," Valerie explained. "I slipped it into the clothes you got for them, signal's a bit weak but enough for me to home in on." She looked Perry over and raised an eyebrow. "You going to put some clothes on and help me out here or what?"
"All right, all right," Perry said, moving to his bedroom. "Sheesh, and I thought my ex was pushy."
It was Valerie's turn to be surprised. "You were married?" she said, looking around at the apartment, which quite clearly showed no feminine influence to it.
"Divorced five years ago, she moved to San Francisco with my best friend and his two kids, they've had one together since."
"Ouch," Valerie said in sympathy.
"Hey, it wasn't like that," Perry stated. "I'm happy for them, my parents and I were at their wedding."
Valerie stared at him. "Your parents were invited to attend their ex-daughter-in-law's wedding to your best friend?"
"Like I said, it wasn't too bad, we're all still friends, I see them and their kids." He frowned. "Course, I haven't heard from them in a while. I have to see them again soon."
"You're really okay with her?" Valerie said, still taken aback a bit at the idea.
"It wasn't anyone's fault, really," Perry stated. "She just couldn't accept me spending all my nights with a dead body.
Valerie stared at him in silence.
"Okay, that came out differently than I planned it to," Perry said, moving into his bedroom to change.
1002 Hours EST
Harmon Rabb's eyes slowly opened and he took a moment to become appraised of his surroundings before looking about. He was lying on the rug and realized he was being given a very unique choice of what to look at to start his day. On his left, he could see shafts of light flowing through the light crystal arrangement in the windowsill, throwing nice shafts of light in fascinating patterns in a way that just couldn't be recreated. On his right, he could see the naked body of Sarah MacKenzie lying next to him, a smile of satisfaction on her face, her right breast pressed against his chest as she slept.
It wasn't a hard choice to make.
Harm leaned down and kissed her forehead, letting his hand slide down to her smooth ass, caressing the cheek. It was enough to wake Mac up, the Marine letting out a soft, throaty sigh at the touch. "Oh, don't wake me," she whispered, eyes closed. "I love this dream."
"I don't know whether to be upset you think last night was a dream or happy you dream about me," Harm said dryly.
Mac's eyes shot open as he heard his voice, slowly looking up at him. "Oh my God, it actually happened," she said.
"Yeah, it did," Harm smiled. "And you know what? Waking up next to you is my dream come true." He leaned down to kiss her again, Mac smiling through it as she moved up and onto him.
"You never told me about the tattoo," she grinned, remembering the dagger on his back.
"Fraternity induction," he explained. "Yours?"
"On a dare from a friend," Mac answered. "I noticed you liked just where the tail ended..."
"There's a comment about lancing the dragon that I'm above," Harm grinned, loving the feeling of having Mac this close to him.
"Hmmm.....what time is it?" she sighed, glancing at the sunlight.
"Not sure," Harm frowned. "Past 0900, that's for sure."
"Damn, my internal clock is haywire," Mac said. She smiled as she felt at Harm's chest.
"But, I think it was worth it."
"I should hope-------" Before Harm could continue, the door to the cabin burst open and Valerie marched in. "Finally!" she yelled. "We've been wandering the woods for-----" she froze as she took in the two's state of undress and instantly went crimson. "Oh. Sorry."
Harm and Mac immediately rolled aside, each moving to the couch and yanking some pillows off for cover. As Valerie turned away, Perry entered, wearing a pair of faded jeans and sweatshirt. He stopped in the doorway and took in the two. A slow smile came onto his face as he watched them. "Well. This certainly gives new meaning to the term 'debriefing.'"
Both Harm and Mac groaned as they tried to cover themselves. "Oh, come on, that was going to come up sooner or later," Perry smiled as he crossed his arms.
"Do you MIND?!" Mac hissed as he watched them.
"Oh, please," Perry snorted. "You two were in my morgue, remember? It's nothing I haven't seen before!" His chuckling was cut off as the two fixed him with hard glares.
Swallowing, he backed up and turned away.
"Just what are you two doing here?" Mac demanded as she and Harm moved to their clothing. As they got dressed, Valerie quickly shared with them what she'd found out and where Matthew and Alice were.
"Yates?" Mac said in disbelief, yanking on her shirt. "Yates is behind all this? Why in the hell would a fiction writer want to start up the Cold War again?"
"The Almighty," Perry intoned. As all three stared at him, he went on. "Irving Wallace, 1982. A newspaper editor creates major disasters and even plans the assassination of the President, all so he can boost circulation. Stands to reason that having the Cold War start up would be a boon to a spy fiction writer."
"You really need a life, pal," Harm stated as he threw on his shoes, he and Mac rising to move to Perry and Valerie.
"Yeah, well, if we don't move fast, I'm going to have the busiest damn workload I've ever seen," the coroner said as the four moved out.
"How come no one noticed you by the base?" Harm asked Valerie as they exited the cabin.
"I'm a Watcher," Valerie said. "Not being noticed by our assignments is part of the job."
"Then how come we found you five minutes after you showed up by Matt's house?" Mac pointed out.
"You weren't my assignments, so that shouldn't count."
"Wow, missed your calling," Harm remarked. "You've got legalese down pat."
"Let's not be insulting," Valerie remarked with an eye roll.
"Got a cell phone?" Harm asked Valerie as they rushed through the woods.
"In the car, which isn't far off," she answered.
"Good. I know just who to call to get help."
"Well, we already have the Marines," Perry said, hooking a thumb at Mac.
"Hey, this is Navy," Harm said. "We take care of our own black sheep." He glanced at Mac. "And occasionally those of other branches."
Mac whacked him lightly on the arm, causing Valerie to roll her eyes again. "God help whoever has to watch these two," Valerie muttered.
"He'll probably go bald in a month," Perry joked lightly as the four moved off, none of them noticing how the cabin left behind seemed to be shimmering and then fading away. By the time the foursome had entered the main forest, the cabin had vanished into thin air, with no trace of it ever existing.
Church Falls, VA
May 1st, 1999
1020 Hours EST
The phone ringing on his desk cut through the light haze Chegwidden had and posed a welcome reprieve from his endless reports. Reaching over, he picked up the phone and spoke into it. "Hello?"
As the voice on the other end came in, Chegwidden's eyes widened. "Commander, where in the HELL have you and Major MacKenzie been! You are two minutes from being declared AWOL so you------" Chegwidden broke off as Harm's lengthy explanation came through. He broke in every few minutes for a startled "what?" or to ask a quick question but otherwise let Harm tell him what they knew of the planned events in Hastings Bay.
"All right," Chegwidden finally stated. "Commander, you and Major MacKenzie do what you can there, I am calling up the Pentagon now and getting you some help. Just.....try no to do anything crazy first."
Slamming down the phone, Chegwidden rushed over, throwing the door open. "Janson!"
"Sir!" Chegwidden's aide said, rising out of his desk.
"I need an immediate line to the Pentagon, priority one and clear my calendar, this is going to take a while," the admiral barked out. Before he could get further, his phone let out three shrill rings and then went silent. Chegwidden threw his head back to look at it, actually appearing shocked at the sound. He started to move forward, walking over to his desk and waited. The phone rang again, two rings this time before silencing. Janson tried to hide his confusion as Chegwidden simply stood there, staring at the phone as it rang again, the admiral picking it up.
"Chegwidden." There was a long pause as the admiral listened to whoever was on the other end of the line. His eyes shot wide open and for the first time since he'd come to work for him, Janson saw Chegwidden look absolutely flabbergasted. That moment lasted only until he opened his mouth and spoke.
"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!"
Quite wisely, no one at the office gave more than a second glance to the outburst, positive they didn't want to know just what could upset their boss.
Hastings Bay Naval Base
1106 Hours EST
"If you'll just have a seat here," Hawkins stated to Matthew, Alice and Hawkthorne.
Given how the three of them were being held at gunpoint by a pair of soldiers and two Russians in dark clothing, they had little choice but to sit down on the floor of the engine room. They weren't happy about it for two reasons: the grease and grime on the floor and the fact they were seated right before a five-foot cylinder attached to an eight pile of plastic explosives, wires and a large timer making it quite clear what it was supposed to be.
"Now, she's a big boomer, doubting not," Hawkthorne remarked as the trio sat down.
Matthew stared daggers at Hawkins as the admiral motioned to his soldiers. As the Russians held the trio at gunpoint, the two swiftly began to handcuff the three to the railing right by the bomb, making sure the cuffs were on securely and that the rails were strong enough to hold them for the time needed.
As one soldier backed up from Matthew, he was struck by utter hate in the seemingly young man's eyes. Matthew's glare turned toward the flag on the soldier's uniform, then back at him. "You don't deserve to wear that," he said darkly, making it quite clear that if it weren't for the guns and the cuffs, he would be quite likely to kill anyone here with his bare hands.
The soldier swallowed before backing up. Alice pulled against her cuffs, feeling no leeway at all and shook her head. "Somehow, I never figured this as the way I'd go out," she muttered.
"Well, we don't always get what we want," Hawkins said, as if that excused everything. "If I'd gotten the pension I'd wanted, we wouldn't be here."
Matthew shook his head in disgust. "I can't believe you're actually going to do this."
"Kid, peace pretty much sucks," Hawkins said. "There's really no point in being in the military if there's no one to fight. You're not a soldier so you wouldn't understand."
"Oh, wouldn't I?" Hawkins looked at Matthew and was thrown by the sudden edge on the man's face, his eyes suddenly seeming to gain years of experience in seconds. Matthew leaned as far forward as he could with the cuffs behind him and spoke in a flat tone. "I know more about war than you could ever imagine, Hawkins. And one thing I've found out is that when the time comes to actually go into battle, the guys who were asking and demanding for war are usually the ones hiding in the foxholes when the shooting breaks out. You can justify this however you like, it all boils down to the same thing: murder and treason for money, not even a cause, just money. And that is wrong no matter what you say."
Hawkins looked at Matthew for a long moment, unable to suppress a chill going up his spine at the look in the man's eyes. Turning, he quickly began to walk away, the soldiers following, all giving the trio a last glance before exiting the engine room. The shutting of the door echoed in the room as the three looked at each other.
"Shits be our situation, no?"
"You said a mouthful, pal."
"Any ideas, Matt?"
"Me thoughtings Matthews was your name."
"Long story. Damn, these guys did it too well. Even if I broke my wrist, I couldn't slide out of these."
"You'd break your wrist?"
"Would you prefer to wait for the bomb to go off next to us?"
1151 Hours EST
Hawkins glanced at his watch for the fourth time in three minutes and wondered just how much longer this state department blowhard was going to talk. He resisted the urge to openly pick at his dress uniform, instead looking about the dias area.
There were a few other lower level officers there, with Russian counterparts seated on the other side of the platform. There were several men in suits on either side, evenly divided between U.S. and Russian diplomats, flags of both countries set about the dias, the speaker's podium bearing both flags as well. Set before the platform were several rows of chairs, containing people in Russian and American uniforms, as well as many in suits. In all, about two hundred people in all gathered there, including representatives of Russian and American media. The cameras set in the back of the crowd ensured that whatever happened would be captured on tape, just what Yates and Hawkins wanted.
As the U.S. representative droned on about how this treaty would break new ground for relations between the two countries, Hawkins was already planning things out. As soon as the speech was done, the treaty would be signed and a representative of the Russian government would do his own speech. Hawkins had already made sure that he would be called away for an important "in-base" matter and thus be out of range when the explosion took place. As the man supervising everything, he'd make sure the clues were placed to blame this on the Russians and, as soon as Yates made his payoff, he'd take responsibility for the tragedy and resign. Hawkins played down his smile as he began to plan what to do first when he retired.
"How much longer?" Yuri Bekelov said softly, his hard accent adding to his Russian tongue.
"Fifty-eight seconds less than the last time you asked," Gregor Smerkya answered in a tired tone. "Relax, Yuri. Everything's under control. A few more minutes and it's back to the good old days."
With the massive amount of security on the base provided by both sides, it wasn't hard for the two Russian co-conspirators to slip among their home country's detail. The two were hardened veterans of the Afghanistan campaigns, which led to wonderful jobs for the KGB, where their skills at murder and sabotage helped them gain riches most Soviet citizens could only dream of.
However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, both men realized that the KGB's heyday was being seriously threatened. They had aided in the coup attempt in 1991 but, like many, had severely underestimated how strong the anti-Communism feelings were and were swept aside along with the Soviet Union.
They had spent the years since as mercenaries, working odd missions for various terrorist groups and a drug cartel from time to time. However, both wanted a return to the political climate they had grown up in, one where Russia had strength and the ability to intimidate the world.
Yates' plan promised that and they were willing to do whatever it took to bring it to fruitation.
The silver-haired Gregor looked about, the slight scar under his eye a testament to his experience. He watched his longtime friend pace about a bit, his wiry frame and short blond hair not hinting at the murderous experience, he'd long brought about. "Stop doing that, it arouses suspicion," he pointed out. "Chill, as the Americans say."
"I simply want this done and over with as swiftly as possible," Yuri replied. He and Gregor were near the front gates of the base, far from the ship and the planned explosion range.
There were a pair of sentries by the gate itself, with another pair of Russian soldiers in uniform nearby. The duo were dressed in suits, appearing to be simple security, both trying to appear on guard, despite the fact they knew exactly what was going to occur in just a few minutes.
"Just think about it, Yuri," Gregor said in a soft but light tone. "Mother Russia back on her feet, money flowing back to the military, all the old rules and protocols reactivated and the KGB back in business, full-throttle."
Yuri couldn't help but smile at the thought. "Ah, now that does bear thinking of," he smiled. "Don't get me wrong, the money we've gotten in the past is good. But being able to do what we do for a good cause, that will be a life worth living."
"True enough," Gregor smiled. "Not that this job has been so bad. True, that Masters idiot nearly ruined it and killing those two JAG officers might have thrown a hitch into things. But it's worked out well."
"Mostly," Yuri nodded. "And, of course, Josef and Mikhail helped us increase our fee by bungling things last night."
"I know," Gregor said, souring a bit. "Shooting at that Hawkthorne fool and driving him off, after he'd managed to take down both of them. I had such hopes for those two."
"As did I. And their pleading to explain first instead of accepting responsibility, it was so disappointing." Yuri shook his head in disgust. "Where did you put their bodies again?"
"In an empty cabin on the ship. The explosion should take care of them too, it won't be as if there's any shortage of bodies left to choose from."
"True enough," Yuri said. "Just a few more minutes and it'll be time."
Gregor glanced back at the *Texas* and nodded. "I hope our diplomat comrades enjoyed their visit to America. It'll be their last."
"It's necessary," Yuri pointed out. "To put Russia back to superpower status, a few dead weakling peace-lovers is a small price to pay."
Before Gregor could reply, the two both heard the sounds of sirens wailing toward them.
They looked up, as surprised and confused as the soldiers at the gate as a fleet of cars suddenly began to roar up to the gates. Most were unmarked cars with sirens on top, followed by a slew of police cars and a large truck with military markings.
The lead car slowed by the gate as the soldiers moved toward it. One stuck his head in the driver's seat window, demanding ID. After only a few moments, the soldier backed off and waved the car in, the others rushing into the base behind them, two cars and a truck driving towards the *Texas.*
Gregor and Yuri had been in the business long enough to know when something was wrong and each tried to react the best they could to the sudden interruption. Before they could head towards the gate, an unmarked car drove straight for them, barely braking in time, the two Russians instinctively bending forward as they expected to be run over.
The two looked up and their faces went pale and their jaws dropped in shock as Harmon Rabb and Sarah MacKenzie, in uniform, stepped out of the back of the car and moved forward, both with hard smiles on their faces.
One look at the two shocked Russians and Harm and Mac knew they had found the two men who had shot them two days before. Without breaking stride, Harm hauled back and nailed Gregor in the face, slamming him onto the hood of the car. Mac strode forward and lashed out a boot, nailing Yuri between the legs, the man bending over, gasping for breath, allowing Mac to bring her knee up and into his face, sending him down and out for good.
"That was petty, but it felt soooo good," Mac grinned as she watched two FBI agents step out of a nearby car and begin handcuffing the stunned Russians. Harm and Mac were already on the move towards the podium.
The moment he'd heard the sirens, Hawkins was on alert, but not for the reasons some in the crowd might have thought. The admiral instinctively glanced at his watch to try and figure out how much time was left before the bomb went off. Roughly eight until the detonation.
At the large table on the platform, the Russian and U.S. representatives were looking about in confusion, pens still in hands, wondering just what was going on. The crowd was also confused, several rising as the cars suddenly surrounded the area, policemen and men in suits immediately piling out and moving through the crowd. The truck had also parked and uniformed troops stepped out, rifles ready as they moved towards the surprised base guards, barking out orders to lower their weapons.
Hawkins was on his feet, moving to the stairway near the edge of the platform, his face set in anger. "What in the hell is------"
He froze in place as two figures moved up the ramp. "Admiral Hawkins," Harm spoke out in a clear voice. "By authority of the JAG office and rules, you are hereby under arrest for sabotage, kidnaping, attempted murder, murder and treason."
"You-----you're dead," Hawkins whispered. "You can't be-------"
"Our superior has already sent word of your activities to the FBI, it's them checking up on any accomplices you may have here now," Mac threw in. "The troops are to maintain order until this is settled."
"Now that the official shit is taken care of," Harm said, moving forward and grabbing Hawkins by the front of his uniform, pulling him in tight. The admiral grimaced at the look of fury on Harm's face. "Where are they?"
"I.....I don't......." Hawkins stammered, not able to believe that he was being threatened by a man who he thought had been killed two days before.
"Where?" Mac hissed, moving up beside her partner, giving Hawkins her hardest look.
The double stare of venom was enough to get through Hawkins, the admiral stumbling over his words as he spoke. "They.....they.....Engine room... With the bomb." He swallowed and tried to get some of his courage back. "But you won't stop them. There's no way to disarm the device before-------"
"That sounds like resisting arrest, don't you think?" Harm asked Mac.
"I concur, Commander," the Marine nodded. Harm released Hawkins and, in perfect unison with Mac, smashed a fist into the traitorous' officer's face, sending him down to the deck hard. "God, that felt good," Harm muttered, rubbing at his knuckles with a smile.
"Not as good as I'm gonna make you feel tonight," Mac couldn't help adding with a grin.
Grinning back, Harm turned to a suited man rushing up the deck. "Admiral, meet Agent Chambers. Agent Chambers, this man is under arrest, we'd appreciate you holding him."
"Not a problem," the African-American FBI veteran stated, hoisting Hawkins to his feet.
"What about this bomb you told us about? The bomb squad wasn't scrambled as fast as we were when the JAG office gave us the call, no idea when they'll get here."
"We're hoping to find that out," Harm said. "Just evacuate the area fast and see if Hawkins is willing to tell you who else on the base might be helping him."
"Don't worry," Chambers said, increasing his grip on Hawkins shoulder to the point where the admiral winced in pain. "I'm sure we can jog his memory a bit. Good luck."
Turning from the chaos of the bewildered crowd being bustled away by soldiers and FBI agents, the two swiftly moved into the bowels of the ship. "Are you sure we'll know when we're close to the engine room?" Mac called out as the two bustled down some stairs.
"Yep," Harm stated. "Two reasons. First, I'm familiar with the layouts of this type of ship, I've got a good nose for where it'll be set. The second......."
He and Mac stopped and winced as the Buzz struck them. "Oh, yeah," Mac said, rubbing her temples. "That too."
To their relief, the engine room hatch was open, Hawkins no doubt believing no one would be coming down here before the explosion went off. Getting the door open, they moved in to see Matthew, Alice and Perry handcuffed to the bar below the large bomb, the two immediately moving towards them.
"About damn time," Alice said.
"Well, glad to see you two," Matthew stated. "I was just refreshing my escape plan one last time."
Alice glared at him. "Matt, just once could you just admit you had no clue what you were going to do?"
"Never," Matthew said, watching as Harm, holding a hammer he had grabbed from a nearby work station, hauled back and smashed it down on the manacles, freeing Matthew. The Immortal soldier rubbed his wrists as he got loose, Harm quickly freeing Alice. "Where's that son of a bitch right now?" the young woman hissed, fury in her eyes.
"Relax," Mac assured her. "He's in custody now and the place is getting evacuated."
"We'll have to hurry," Harm said, breaking Hawkthorne's cuffs. He dropped the hammer, moving to where the other Immortals stood, sparing a glance at the clock. "Shit, we've got four minutes to get------"
He was interrupted when Hawkthorne moved to the bomb, reaching down to a pocket and pulling out a small tool clip that had been left on him, the guards not seeing much of a threat from the man. "What the hell are you doing?" Harm asked in disbelief.
Hawkthorne moved to the bomb, taking out a small pair of clippers and a tiny scalpel. "I usta work in construction," the man replied in his bizarre language. "I was in boomer biz, I trya disarmament, savvy?"
The others looked at each other with various looks of disbelief. "Are we sure there's no one else who can do this?" Alice asked hopefully.
"Not in this little time," Harm answered, shaking his head.
Alice looked at him, then at Hawkthorne. "Okay, maybe we should go." She turned on her heel and began to move off. She had gotten to the stairs before realizing the others weren't following. She glanced back at them, seeing them move towards Hawkthorne. "Uh, guys?" she asked. "We now want to be blown up?"
"We're not leaving," Matthew said over his shoulder. "He's staying, so are we."
"He's right," Mac nodded. "We've got a duty to try and stop this."
"We've got a duty to stay here and be killed?" Alice said in disbelief. She rolled her eyes. "I was right, jeez, I was right, soldiers are *all* nuts!"
"Damn straight," Matthew, Harm and Mac replied in unison.
John Yates couldn't believe it. If he had put a last-minute twist like this into one of his books, he'd have been laughed out of his editor's office. FBI agents and soldiers were moving the conference attendees to safety, herding the crowd towards the main gates. Yates had already spotted Hawkins and a few others involved with their plot being led off in handcuffs and knew the admiral would be more than willing to finger him to shift some of the blame.
Yates swallowed as he moved back from his watching post in Hawkins' office. He had been planning to be there so he could use his eyewitness reputation to land a few more interviews and increase exposure for the book he had half-written. Now, the plan was falling apart around him and Hawkins, facing the same problem as many a villain in his novels, decided to do what they did: Run like hell.
He bustled out of the office, trying to find a way out of the base without being noticed. Unfortunately, that didn't appear a viable option given how agents and soldiers were everywhere. He moved to the back of the building, his anxiety rising as he tried to figure out a path of escape. However, his first path was blocked by a woman glaring at him.
"You know, I have read about a lot of bastards in my line of work," Valerie said, her arms folded as she glared at Yates. "But do you take the cake, pal."
"You have me at a disadvantage," Yates said, licking his lips carefully as he looked at the woman before him. "I don't even know you."
"No, but I know you," Valerie replied. "And more importantly, I know the people you've been trying to kill and while I wouldn't exactly call them friends, they do mean something to me. Not to mention the fact that you were planning on killing hundreds of people just to increase your sales, that sort of pettiness pisses me off."
Yates looked at her in confusion before his eyes widened. "You found out about this, didn't you?" he said in disbelief.
"Not me alone," Valerie carefully said. "But, yeah, I helped."
"Fine," Yates said, pulling his hand out of his coat and pointing a revolver at the startled Vaerie. "Then I might as well get some satisfaction out of all this."
"Now wait a minute," Valerie said, backing up nervously. "You're already in trouble here, you want to add first-degree murder to things?"
Yates let out a small smile. "Wouldn't be the first time." At Valerie's shocked look, he shrugged. "Come on. How do you think I'm able to write so well on various deaths." He bent his head to the side, the revolver still steady on Valerie. "Let's see......Head? Or chest?"
At the voice behind him, Yates started but before he could turn, a blow struck him from behind, sending him stumbling forward, the gun flying from his hand. He turned in time to see Perry's fist smash into his face, sending him down to the ground, moaning in pain.
"Thanks," Valerie said, letting out a huge breath, realizing how badly she was sweating at the threat just posed to her.
Perry shrugged shyly. "Just saving myself a little extra work late on."
"How caring," Valerie said sardonically. She looked down on the prone Yates and stepped forward, launching a swift, sharp kick into his midsection, causing him to yell in pain. "That's for trying to kill me, asshole!"
"Oh, yeah," Perry said, nailing Perry with a kick of his own. "That's for the twenty bucks I paid for the last piece of shit you wrote!"
"Give me Patricia Cromwell any day," Valerie sighed.
"You read Cromwell?" Perry said in surprise.
"I'm a coroner, she's required reading for us."
The two shared a smile as Yates just groaned.
"Whoopsie?" Alice said in a tense voice. "Whoopsie? Bart, now is not a time for a whoopsie!"
The timer was clicking down to almost a minute as Hawkthorne's hands trembled slightly, the tiny tools working through the wires as he tried to spot the one he wanted. Sweat trickled down his forehead, Mac using his own kerchief to wipe it off. "Thanking you," Hawkthorne muttered as he slowly peeled away the colored coverings of a couple of wires. "Yimmini, this be not funning," the mechanic stated as he examined the device further.
Alice spared another glance at the timer and back at him. "We do still have time-----"
"We're not leaving," Matthew repeated for the fifth time. "Okay, Alice? We're in this until the living end."
"You mean the end of living," Alice shot back. "God, I can't believe I'm going to die like this."
"Look on the bright side," Mac said, fighting back her own nervousness. "It means the end of the Power Ranger jokes."
As Alice had to nod in agreement, Mac's hand brushed against Harm's. Without looking at her, he clenched it, the two holding tight as Hawkthorne slowly placed the clippers around one wire. "Are you sure that's the right one?" Matthew asked, his face and voice showing none of the anxiety he felt inside.
"Yep," Hawkthorne nodded. "Me almost certainly. Near-always the red one with design style here."
"Red?" Alice asked. Her eyes shot as wide as the others as they all came forward, yelling at Hawkthorne to wait-------
Hawkthorne, unheeding, brought the clippers together, severing the wire------
The timer shut off at 24 seconds left.
"There be going," Hawkthorne nodded, smiling as he stood up to face the four, who were all wearing amazed expressions. "What?"
"You said....." Alice said, trying to catch her breath. "You said it was the red wire you were going to cut."
"Yeah, that be one," Hawkthorne nodded, frowning. "What so?"
Mac pointed weakly at the cut wire. "That's blue, not red."
Hawkthorne looked over at the bomb in confusion, then nodded. "Oh, dummy me!" he said, smacking himself on the forehead. "Me forgotting I is color-blind!"
Not one of the Immortals there could think of anything to say to that.
Within half-an-hour, the deck of the *Texas* was bustling with activity, the FBI and military investigators taking charge, several of them needed to take down a statement from Hawkthorne, a task as complex and time-consuming as one might guess.
"Well, thank you both very much," Matthew said sourly, looking at Harm and Mac. "Of course, I'm still pissed you ran off last night."
As Mac rolled her eyes, Harm gave Matthew a steady stare. "News flash, Connors. We're not teenagers, we can pretty much go where we like. And had we not gone out, we would not have found out about all of this, meaning right now, there'd be a field of carnage where we're standing and I think someone who's seen as many of those as he can stand would prefer not seeing another."
"Damn, I love you," Mac couldn't help saying as Matthew quieted under Harm's expression and words.
"Excuse me?" Alice said, her eyes wide as Harm and Mac moved closer a bit. "Did you just say....."
"Say, nothing," Perry said as he and Valerie came up to the duo. "Me and Val caught them this morning in a cabin, having apparently finished some very strenuous off-duty activity."
"What?!" Alice shrieked in shock. "What the hell is the matter with you two?!"
"Wait a minute, you've been pushing both of us to get together!" Mac pointed out.
Alice groaned. "But not like this! I spent the night in a cell with an unintelligible mechanic and a morning handcuffed to a bomb while you two were doing it? And when you're supposed to be on assignment, on duty? Don't you two realize where your priorities are supposed to be? How can you two engage in such unprofessional conduct in the midst of------"
Alice became aware of the smiles on the faces of everyone and realized what she was saying. "Oh, God," she groaned, burying her head in her hands. "Now *I'm* doing it! I'm doomed, I'm doomed!"
Church Falls, VA
May 5th, 1999
0922 Hours EST
Harm couldn't help but smile as he saw Mac enter the main office of JAG. Feeling her presence coming had given him more than a chill up the spine and a buzz in his head, it also made his heart feel light as well. The two exchanged a glance across the room and Mac let a light smile come onto her own lips as she spotted her lover, letting him know she felt exactly the same.
It was their first day back at work since the attempted bombing and the two had been on something of a whirlwind since. After spending the better part of the day answering questions and helping cover a few facts up about themselves, the duo had spent a couple more days with Matthew, taking a further crash course in dueling, enough to get them by.
Matthew hadn't been happy about them cutting it short to go back to work but realized he couldn't talk them out of it and thus the two were back on the job. They had gotten back the day before and had spent the entire day at Mac's apartment, making love with passion, taking only brief breaks to eat and sleep.
Just the memory of how they had been together made Mac weak in the stomach but she held it in, trying to maintain her professional demeanor as she walked across the office toward Harm, who was talking with Bud and his wife, Harriet, both interested in what he had seen. The bombing and its aftermath had been well-reported but they wanted some details.
"So, this guy really thought he was cutting the other wire?" Harriet said in disbelief.
"Should have seen our faces when he told us he was color-blind," Harm smiled.
"And how he couldn't understand why we were so surprised," Mac added as she came up to the group. "Commander, the Admiral wanted to see us both as soon as we were both here."
"Lead the way, Major," Harm said respectfully, giving Bud and Harriet a nod as the two lawyers walked off. As soon as they were out of listening range, Harm whispered to her. "Well, this has been the interesting weekend."
"How so?" Mac replied. "We both died and came back to life, you can eat junk food and see in the dark, I can keep my figure for the rest of eternity and we both finally owed up to how much we love each other?"
"Well, that," Harm allowed. "But also because we finally met a criminal mastermind with a motive we've never seen before." Harm shook his head, still in disbelief. "All that just to see another million books. Unbelievable."
"Actually, I found that the most believable thing I've heard all week," Mac stated. A smile came over her face. "Maybe we can discuss it more later tonight?"
"Sure," Mac whispered back. "We might as well break that in too." She let out a sigh of content. "I have to tell you, it felt so good waking up in bed with you this morning."
"I know," Harm smiled back. "Seeing you in just the sheets was nice. You should have joined the Navy, you look good in white."
"On the job, Commander," Mac reminded him. "We can't make this public."
"I know," Harm nodded. "We just have to try and not drop hints to anyone about us and we'll be okay."
Bud and Harriet watched the two walk off and turned to each other with light smiles. "You know," Bud said. "I really think they truly believe it's not obvious."
"Let's let them have it," Harriet smiled. "After all this time, they deserve to enjoy it without us prying in." Her smile widened. "Well, at least for a while."
Chegwidden carefully glanced over the pile of papers on his desk, not looking up even as Harm and Mac saluted before him. "At ease," he stated. He finished signing one report, then looked up at them. "I've gone over your reports on what happened," he said, motioning at two folders on his desk. "As you've no doubt heard, Hawkins and a half-dozen others have already been charged with various crimes, treason topping the list. Yates is being held in criminal court on conspiracy charges and they're finding all sorts of fun facts in his personal life to add to things."
"So, is the investigation considered closed, sir?" Harm asked.
"By you two it is," Chegwidden stated. "As of now, you two are now witnesses so neither of you will be involved in the prosecution or defense of Hawkins or anyone involved. I'm shifting those as well as follow-up investigations to others in the office." The trace of a smile echoed on Chegwidden's lips. "As you can imagine, no one here is quite willing to take up Hawkins' defense."
"Whoever screwed up last then, sir?" Mac asked.
"Bingo," Chegwidden nodded. "I'll let you two get back to your duties, you've gotten quite the workload piled up over the last few days. Get to that and I'll let you know when the trial begins. Dismissed."
With a nod and a salute, Harm and Mac both left. As soon as the door closed, Chegwidden reached under some folders and pulled out the file he had truly been reading before the two came in.
FROM: Joe Dawson, Head of North American Division
TO: A.J. Chegwidden, U.S. Navy, JAG office (current Watcher status: Inactive)
RE: New assignment
Attached are reports from Valerie Rosthon (Connors, Matthew; Fairchild, Alice) indicating that two newly made Immortals have emerged: Rabb, Harmon and MacKenzie, Sarah. Cross-referencing indicates both work at your JAG division.
Henceforth, your status has been changed to ACTIVE and you are immediately assigned to become Watcher for Rabb and MacKenzie. Rosthon states both know of the Scroll so whether or not you wish to approach them separately is up to you. First reports will be expected within the week.
Chegwidden looked over the personal notes Rosthon had added to the file, particularly the ones on the "personal dealings" Harm and Mac now had. "About damn time you two," Chegwidden stated, glancing at his wrist, the flesh-colored cloth makeup hiding the tattoo underneath. "On both counts."
R.J. Murphy's Sports Grill
Hastings Bay, MA
1127 Hours EST
The lunchtime crowd hadn't kicked in yet, giving Matthew and Alice a chance to get a good table, Alice sipping at her coke while Matthew looked over his paper. "Wow, this is really how I enjoy spending a day off due to a gas leak," Alice said sarcastically. "Waiting at a bar to meet my Watcher."
"Relax," Matthew said, reading the paper. "I just want to make sure Harm and Mac are doing all right."
"You shouldn't worry so much," Alice said. "They can take care of themselves, they proved that."
"They only have a few days of training," Matthew pointed out. "I wanted to give them more."
"Maybe they can find someone in Virginia to teach them," Alice said. "Hey, this Scroll thing may be crap but at least it does cut down on the dangers of the Game, random duels and all."
"True," Matthew had to agree. "I just hope they don't meet anyone else who doesn't believe it anytime soon."
"Ah, like you could have talked them out of it anyway," Alice grinned. "They're too stubborn."
"I can handle stubborn," Matthew answered. "I've handled you for the last year and a half."
"Yeah, but I'm a teenager, I've got an excuse."
The ringing of the bell on the front door got their attention and they looked up to see Valerie and Perry enter the diner, Valerie in a professional suit, Perry in a more casual outfit. The two sat down, Valerie simply looking at the table as Perry grinned at Matthew and Alice. "You guys see the thing on Hawkthorne?"
"What?" Alice asked with a bit of sour in her voice. "He getting still another award for disarming the bomb?"
"Not quite," Perry smiled. "Seems that after his appearances on 'Nightline,' '20/20,' '60 Minutes' and Letterman, there's now a fund going to get him decent English and elocution lessons."
"Glad to see something beneficial came out of all this," Alice smiled as she sipped at her drink. She glanced over to where Valerie sat, still in silence. "What's up? Something wrong with Harm and Mac?"
"No, no, they're fine," Valerie said, shaking her head. "It's just....." She took a deep breath. "I went to the spot where that cabin had been, the one where we found Harm and Mac."
"What happened?" Perry smiled. "The owner didn't appreciate how they messed up the rug?"
Valerie shook her head. "It wasn't there."
Everyone stared at her in confusion. "Wasn't there?" Perry said. "What do you mean? We were there, at that clearing."
Valerie threw her hands up. "There was nothing there, just a clearing, no signs of any cabin at all, no signs that anything had ever been there. I checked with the Hall of Records, they have no record at all of anything ever being there except forest."
Matthew furrowed his brow in confusion. "This makes no sense," he muttered. "How can a cabin just appear out of nowhere and vanish the same way."
"Maybe Cupid made it to get them together," Alice said lightly.
The others gave her dubious stares.
"Hey, it was just an idea!" Alice defended herself.
The Sanctuary of Artemis
The pool in the middle of the temple shimmered at its owner's command, flowing over to the JAG office, focusing on a certain woman. Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Hunt, appraised the dark-haired woman carefully, rubbing her chin in thought.
A flash of light came next to her, heralding the arrival of an incredibly gorgeous and quite voluptuous blonde. "How's it hanging, sis?" Aphrodite, Goddess of Love said as she came up and peered over Artemis' shoulder at the pool.
"What are you doing here?" the other Goddess asked.
"Ah, you go peeking on true lovers, that gets my attention," Aphrodite said, looking at the pool as Harm came up to Mac's desk, the two whispering a few words of affection to each other.
"Not bad, not bad at all. What's your interest?"
"Just checking out a prospect," Artemis said, smiling. "That woman would make a fine Amazon."
"Yeah and I'm sure Robbie could work out a deal so her boyfriend doesn't feel left out," Aphrodite nodded. "Those two are great together, they really love each other."
"I know," Artemis smiled. "That was good work, by the way."
"Hmmmm?" Aphrodite glanced at the Goddess of the Hunt.
"The cabin," Artemis answered. "Popping it up in the middle of nowhere, the fireplace that kept going all night despite neither being in the mood to throw more logs onto it, the rug, oh and putting that liquor bottle there for her to find and set things off, very nice touch, sis."
Aphrodite looked at her sister in utter confusion. "Arty, what are you talking about?"
Artemis' smile vanished at Aphrodite's stare. "Wait. You.....you didn't set them up like that?"
Aphrodite shook her head. "I never saw them before now!"
Artemis was just as confused as the blonde goddess. "But.....if you didn't do that then----"
"Hey, 'Dite ain't the only one who can do matchmaking, honey."
The two goddesses froze in shock at the words coming from behind them. They both slowly turned to stare at the figure who had unexpectedly appeared.
Up until that moment, the leather-clad Artemis and loosely-dressed Aphrodite were pretty much a lock for a tie for the most wildly dressed person in the room. It was a distinction swiftly being challenged.
The man appeared to be in his mid-twenties but the aura of power was far older. He was about five-foot-ten, with a stocky build dressed in a pair of wild red, purple and green striped pants, a checked orange and green shirt, purple loafers, a black and white shirt underneath an orange and pink vest and one of the most garish ties ever designed in history adorning his neck. His hair was dark brown, save for a wild shock of silver above the forehead. His goatee on the other hand was bright red. A long white and red scarf hung around his neck and orange gloves covered his hands. A wide-brimmed panama hat was set on his head, his eyes twinkled behind a pair of wire-framed glasses, his smile stretched from ear to ear and he was leaning on a long cane, the curved handle marked with an intricate series of runes.
"Oh, no," Artemis whispered. "What are *you* doing here?"
"Oh, just dropping off a note," the man replied in a jovial tone. "MacKenzie there is not to be an Amazon. It's a message."
"From who?" Artemis demanded.
The man's eyes briefly glanced upward, then back at her, the smile widening. "Who do you think?"
As Artemis blanched, the man went on. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm passing the same message along to Robbie. Those two are off-limits for the time being."
"Why?" Aphrodite asked in confusion.
"Oh, let's just say.....they're gonna be part of something big. Really big." The man's eyes twinkled as he looked to Artemis. "Oh, by the by, Robbie wanted me to let you both know he's still thinking of getting back at you for trying to set him up in Sunnydale last August."
The two paled at his words. "He....he is?" Artemis said weakly.
"Nah!" The man laughed. "But the looks on your faces were priceless. Toodles." He twirled the cane in his hands, threw one end of the scarf around his neck and walked out, singing loudly. "Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go but you still had the feeling that you wanted to stay, you knew it was right, it wasn't wrong, still you knew it wouldn't be very long......" There was a flash of light and a puff of purple smoke and he was gone.
Artemis and Aphrodite stared at the spot where he had been, then slowly turned to stare at the pool and the images of Harm and Mac, both having the same thought.
"Oh, God help them."