As with any computer game the
last section of the level was expansive and possibly the most
lethal and Craven had out done himself. The room was two stories
high, and the stairs lead to the second floor which surrounded
the outside of this huge room. Richie didn't like the look of
the floor the moment he set eyes on it, because it was variegated,
and in this game two tone meant hidden switches and definite trouble.
He was still more alert than any mortal would have been at this
point, but tiredness was setting in, after all it was nearly three
o'clock in the morning. Since the leg wound he had gathered a
few more abrasions than he would have liked when compensating
for the injury, but the previous obstacles had failed to stop
him and his Immortal body was fixing everything very quickly,
so he ignored them.
The entire top half of the room
was traversed by a crazy maze of climbing frame which stopped
about six feet from the stairs at the other end. There were ropes
up into the structure all along the end where he was standing,
all before the floor became tiles. Several ornate snakes painted
inside the pattern of the surface gave Richie the message, this
wasn't a subtle one.
"Okay lets play Tarzan then,"
he said sarcastically and took the moment to survey the route
up to the cage work.
There were four ropes in all
that would provide a path upwards and so the young Immortal went
to each in turn with the view to inspecting them. His sortie turned
out to be very instructive. He took his time investigating them,
and at each turn he found a nasty surprise and a reason to avoid
the route. One appeared to be an average gym rope, the type all
school pupils had been instructed to climb at some time in their
lives, but it held a viscous secret. Tiny camouflaged razors were
placed at regular intervals, sharp penetrating blades that would
have cut Richie's hands to ribbons the moment he touched them.
It's opposite number oozed clear
oil as soon as the competitor put any weight on it, and so became
more than a little difficult to climb being somewhat slippery.
A third just fell out of the ceiling the moment he pulled on it,
and landed in a heap at his feet, so that left just one route
towards the climbing frame. If the rope had been lighter he would
have picked it up in the hope of finding a use for it later, but
it was too bulky to be of any great value so he left it where
it fell. There was just one thing that bothered him about the
only normal rope left to him, and that was that it led to a platform
right next to a large piece of metal grill work in the main wall,
and that boded very ill for this situation. Darkened openings
were very bad in this arena, and he would be in direct line of
fire if he climbed the particular route to the higher plane.
"It's the only way up,"
Craven whispered to himself as he watched, hunched up over the
control panel, totally absorbed by his opponent's progress, "take
it, there is no other option."
The unbalanced Immortal had slowly
become more involved in the game playing itself out before him,
and he seemed to have forgotten about his other prisoners. The
three mortals sat silently there minds all praying for their friend
it no-longer mattered that he was different to them, he was their
Finally Richie made his move,
but it was not to climb the unadulterated rope, he walked to the
cord covered with oil and with a stubborn determination and a
grip strengthened by sword play he began to ascend. It was very
hard going since he could never let his hands loosen for even
a second, or he began to slip on the surface which was slick with
lubricant, but eventually he reached the top. He himself was slippery
by the time he hauled himself over the edge, and he almost fell,
but strength born of complete stubbornness saved him and he lay
for a moment on the solid surface just trying to convince himself
of what he had just done.
Being covered in friction reducing
fluid was not a great idea considering the task that was before
him, and so Richie removed his completely saturated shirt and
used the ruined garment to wipe his skin as clean as was humanly
possible. With paranoid foresight he didn't discard the filthy
garment, but tied it in a small bundle around his waist, just
in case it would come in handy. There was almost no trace of the
old bullet wounds on his chest now, all that showed were rapidly
fading scars that his body was reabsorbing as the minutes past.
This young Immortal really was a fine specimen and the residue
of oil he could not remove from his torso did nothing but enhance
the fact, something that Beren noticed even if most of her mind
From his new vantage point it
was possible to view the entire room with more ease so Richie
settled down on his haunches to think out the best way across
the new minefield . The climbing frame consisted of metal poles
of various lengths bolted together, and it was spanned at odd
intervals by other surfaces, horizontally and vertically. Some
pieces were wooden like the one on which Richie was sitting, some
were metal grill work, some sheet metal, and yet others were no
more than what appeared to be thin plastic sheeting. There were
narrow beams and wide catwalks, even ropes between wide gaps at
some points, and one by one the young Immortal ruled out particular
routes because of the hazards they obviously provided. His sharp
eyes picked out the flimsy connectors on one of the sheet metal
walkways, and the frayed ropes along another section; anything
near the walls was to be avoided, and under the chandelier like
lighting in the centre of the room was an obvious place for a
trap. He made a conscious decision to stay away from any solid
areas whenever possible because often they were box like structures
which would severely limit his options should they turn out to
have a nastier side to them.
He took about ten minutes in
all to survey everything carefully, and ignoring the catwalk off
his current platform he began to climb the bare metal pipes, very
glad that they were easier than the oiled rope. However, it wasn't
just the walkways Craven had booby trapped, and the first thing
Richie came up against was a totally clear sheet of glass, that
was so skilfully set up that he didn't even suspect that it was
there until he was right up to it. Only as he touched it and looked
down did he see the small electronic device attached to the bottom
of the pane, and instinctively he threw himself backwards, knowing
that the contact had already been made and the trap sprung. As
he half fell half jumped towards another piece of pipe-work the
entire sheet of glass exploded into a thousand razor sharp shards.
Pieces of the clear material went everywhere and only the quick
move saved Richie from serious damage, but even so as he pulled
himself up on the second frame his back displayed large numbers
of small scratches.
These tiny wounds provided the
most visual demonstration of the Immortals healing process as
sparks played across each of the many lacerations, leaving no
trace of the damage to the flesh. For John it was the most peculiar
thing he had ever seen, totally amazing for a physician intimate
with the working of the normal human body.
The twin Immortal decided to
proceed a little more carefully, and with renewed concern he pulled
himself along the single metal bar somewhat slowly. At the end
of this he had no choice but to take a platform since it was that
or drop to the ground, so he pulled himself upright cautiously.
There were wires strung across the walkway at various angles and
each one was attached to small black boxes with blinking red lights
on the top : this was not supposed to be a subtle obstacle. Since
this was the only way forward and going backwards usually resulted
in nastier surprises, the young man proceeded to pick his way
through the viper's nest. He had no idea exactly what the black
cubes would do if their feelers were tweaked, but he determined
that he really didn't wish to find out. It took some interesting
contortions at some points, but Richie's body was young and supple,
and he'd always been good at the hoop and wire game. Eventually,
he reached the other side in one piece.
A small respite seemed in order
after that achievement, so he took a moment to rest his aching
muscles before choosing the continuation of his trip through the
heights. From up here the artistry that had gone into painting
the floor could be truly appreciated, and as he peered down Ryan
could see that everyone of the seven snakes had been created by
the same hand. The ornate serpents were truly beautiful with their
metallic scales and even in his present situation the young Immortal
had to admire them. There had been other artwork along the way,
but nothing had been painted with such passion, and Richie immediately
had the impression that Craven had done this room himself. Something
in the style imitated the Immortal's insanity, the coiled reptiles
spoke of pain and passion that was distinctly Immortal in origin.
The victim of the piece suddenly felt something for his persecutor.
Immortal's didn't just become evil overnight, very few were psychopathic
to begin with: usually something drove them to become the people
they were, and the paintings said a great deal about their creator.
For just a moment Richie allowed himself to see the beautiful
works on the floor and then he wiped them from his mind. Once
upon a time Manheim had probably been a good man but now he was
the enemy, and the younger Immortal banished all else from his
He broke out of his reverie by
preparing to step onto another pair of pipes when something caught
his eye and he turned to see what it was. He saw only a glimpse
of a shape, a half formed image of a person that his brain immediately
discounted as a trick of the light, but it made him change his
route forward. Without really knowing how, he was sure that the
way to go was in the direction where he had seen the vague figure
and he did not pause to question the feeling, it was so complete.
It was almost like a dream really,
as one minute the young Immortal was just standing, staring forward
and then, much to his adversaries fascination, he was moving through
the obstacles at speed. There was no hesitation in his movements,
and very quickly Richie made his way forward through the climbing
frame, at no point coming to any harm. By the time Ryan's feet
touched the empty white floor in front of the stairs, Craven could
not believe what he was seeing; no-one had even crossed the maze
before and not died at least once. However he wasn't the only
one a little bewildered by the younger Immortal's current position,
the captive himself was slightly amazed. The feeling was gone
now, but there had been a definite influence, a sort of guiding
light, for those few minutes Richie had been in the cage work,
and he had no idea what to make of it. He stood at the base of
the stairs for a moment just trying to work it out in his mind
and Manheim left him to it.
Duncan left his two companions
in the car as he walked up to the entrance of Joe's place and
found the door open for him. The club had closed about an hour
previously, but Dawson was waiting for his friend behind the bar.
"What can I do for you,
Highlander?" the middle aged man asked calmly.
On the phone there had been no
explanation of the situation and all the bar owner knew was that
Mac required some help.
"I need some information,"
the Scotsman returned evenly, and it was obvious to both men that
Mac was carrying his sword, "and I think you will be able
to give it to me. Richie's been snatched and I need to know of
any other Immortal's in the area so that I can find him."
The Watcher appeared a little
uncertain, helping Immortals in their own private battles was
not his style, and Duncan rarely asked such questions.
"MacLeod," the grey
haired individual replied cagily, "I am not in the habit
of giving any of you the upper hand in the Gathering."
"Three mortals were taken
as well," Duncan explained earnestly, "and they're not
covered by our rules. Trust me when I say that I know someone
is as good as torturing Richie, and that does not bode well for
They were so different, these
two men, dark and light, Immortal and mortal and yet a common
decency joined them. Those of MacLeod's kind were one thing, but
those of his own were another, and Dawson had never really liked
the non-interference rule anyway. His position shifted that much
closer to the Highlander's.
"I'll have to make enquiries,"
the Watcher said calmly, "but I think we can probably find
the information you need. It may take a while depending on how
long the Immortal you're looking for has been in the city, and
whether their Watcher has caught up with them yet. Is there anything
you can tell me about this Immortal that can narrow the field?"
Chris was not happy sitting in
the car just waiting, in fact he was becoming increasingly agitated
with the whole situation, and it wasn't difficult for his mother
to spot the anxiety. Mortals were a touchy subject with Madelaine
since she had been betrayed by someone she trusted very early
in her Immortal life, and it took a lot for her to place her faith
in anyone, especially one who's career was to spy on her own kind.
She was not happy with the turn of events, but she could see that
her son was even less so, although his distress came from not
being involved more than anything else.
"I'm going in," the
young man said finally and reached for the door handle, "I
want to meet this guy face to face."
It was all the woman could do
to keep up with him, let alone stop him, as he exited the car
very rapidly. That peculiar feeling of being watched had descended
forcefully over Chris again, he felt very close to his twin and
he wanted to do something.
"MacLeod, what aren't you
telling me?" Dawson suddenly as Duncan came to the end of
what he knew about the Immortal Chris had seen.
The mortal was of course an observer,
and the fact that he was not being told the entire story was obvious
"Immortals aren't psychic
so how do you know what's happening to Richie if you don't know
who's taken him?" the Watched enquired in a very straightforward
It was at this moment that the
door swung open and a very familiar silhouette was framed in the
door way by the street light outside, quickly followed by another,
and slowly the two entered. Recognition and then confusion flashed
across Joe's face as he laid eyes on the young man coming towards
him, even as the look in Chris's eyes made the Watcher remember
a time when he and Richie had not been friends. It was quite obvious
to all present that Dawson had no idea that this was not the Immortal
he thought it was standing in front of him, and so Duncan decided
to step in before anyone could embarrass themselves.
"This isn't Richie,"
the Highlander said smoothly as Joe sent him a confused stare,
"everything I have told you is the truth. Joe Dawson meet
Chris Seaton, Richie's twin, and his adoptive mother Madelaine
The Watcher looked stunned, he
was as aware of the connotations of Chris as the Immortals, and
it astounded him, but he was also bemused by how his organisation
could have missed something this big.
"How the hell don't I know
about this," was all Dawson could find to say, and MacLeod
knew exactly how he felt: he'd thought the same thing only a few
"I'm not Immortal yet,"
the young man said in his distinctively peculiar accent, "so
who'd take notice of a normal kid."
It wasn't quite a good enough
explanation, but then again nobody had a better one.
Finally Richie came back to himself
and the way forward resolved itself in his mind: what he saw he
did not like. The stairs rose in a straight line for a few feet
and then turned in a right-angle to complete the means of reaching
the balcony, and the square formed at the change in direction
was deliberately floodlit. If that wasn't enough, the entire staircase
was carpeted which provided any number of ways to hide a switch
or a sensor that he would never be able to see until it was too
late. This final obstacle could turn out to be the most lethal
yet, and the young Immortal knew he couldn't afford to take any
chances. His guiding light was gone, for this hurdle he was on
In the end Ryan decided to circumvent
the problem and leave the impressive flight of steps to themselves
whilst he climbed the outside of the banisters. It was after all
an obvious place for infra-red sensors in a normal house, and
having been a burglar, Richie was very sensitive to these things.
It was not a difficult ascent, and Craven had been less cunning
on this route than the young man had expected, so very quickly
he reached the top. Only at the last minute where the banisters
met the wall did he finally cross to the side most people used
to traverse the vertical distance, and then came the last choice
of level one. There were two doors, one to the left and one to
the right, both of which proclaimed that they were phase two in
large ornate letters. Unfortunately there was absolutely no hint
as to which would lead to the rest of the house and which would
spring a trap, both the doors were exactly the same and Manheim
had not chosen to give the slightest suggestion as to the correct
"Choose, Ryan," Craven's
voice said over the intercom. "Choose and the moment you
open a door I swear two of your companions are safe."
There was nothing for it, Richie
had to determine which route to take, and so finally he wandered
over to the left most door cautiously. Any kind of exit in this
game was a dangerous place, even the ones that led to the right
place, and he took great care to look over every inch of the portal
before he even touched it. Since nothing revealed itself, even
as he brushed his hand over the handle, he decided that he had
to go forward and with a deep breath he pushed the oak divide.
There was no telltale click, no noise at all that would indicate
a trap and so he took his life in his hands and stepped over the
threshold: that was his mistake. Three jets of gas erupted into
life, and too late the young Immortal tried to hold his breath.
The poison was already in his system and quickly the burning in
his lung became a spreading numbness. He fell to the floor gagging,
the tendrils of death ready to shut out the world, and the pain
lasted only a few seconds as the oblivion reached over him and
removed all signs of life.
There was no denying that Dawson
found Chris fascinating, his face was alight with such curiosity
that it was impossible to ignore, but he held back the instinct
to ask questions very well. Chris's demeanour said that he was
not quite sure whether to place his faith in this man, a little
of his mother's unease rubbing off on him, but it was also obvious
that he had no wish to hide either. Give a little, get a little
was a good motto, and if this Watcher wanted the low down of himself
and Richie in return for his own information the twin was quite
happy to give it.
Yet Joe did not request anything
for his help, and he moved off to the phone with only a few words
of greeting and some final checking on the details. It was as
the older man picked up the receiver to call his colleagues that
Chris grabbed at his throat convulsively as the burning agony
of the poison attacking his twin's system mirrored itself in his
own, and he collapsed to his knees choking involuntarily. For
just a moment he was Richie, they were one, and they shared the
pain of dying as if they were the same being. This time the mortal
of the two maintained enough reason for information to pass between
"Manheim," he said
convulsively, "his name is Manheim."
Madelaine moved to comfort her
son, but the incident was over, Richie was dead and this time
Chris coped much better with the loss. His internal balance shifted
back almost immediately, and with his mother's help he regained
his feet to find Dawson staring at him.
"Now you know how we know
what's happening to Richie," the twin said quietly, and sat
down slowly on a bar stool as his legs wobbled slightly.
of Part 8