by Henry Wyckoff

Chapter 7

Chuck's Day on the Town

Chuck was speeding down Speedway, one of the longest roads in town, and one of the most well-travelled. It was also one of the few in the United States with a reversible center lane. The other reversible-lane roads were also in Tucson. During the morning and afternoon, as people went to and from work, no left turns were allowed because the center lane went either east or west. That's why these lanes were called suicide lanes. To make matters more confusing, during the middle of the day, only left turns were permitted -- but only some people remembered that. It might have helped if people paid attention to the signs and noted when they were allowed to use this lane, and in which manner.

Chuck had enough brains to pay attention, but he didn't really care. He was speeding down the center lane, against the flow of traffic, and barely missing head-on collisions as he wove into the lane to the left. He was oblivious to the honks of protests, and the more vocal of the drivers who'd yell polite warnings like, "You're going the wrong way!" and "[censored]." Nobody pulled any guns on him, however, and he was a little disappointed there. He'd hoped that he'd anger some gang member, and that one of the gang kids would try and fill him full of holes. Maybe he'd have better luck on the south side, maybe.

He was now reaching the edge of the University, and he started looking more carefully as he remembered his instructions.

There's a man you have to watch out for, and he lives on the
north side of the University. It shouldn't be far. Try
looking near Park. He's been seen drinking quite heavily at
the watering holes, so much that there's no point to him
denying it. Especially, look for someone who drinks a lot of
single malt scotch, Bacardi 151 with Coke, and Irish
Kegbombs. ...And Chuck? Be very careful! He can outdrink
your ex-wife any day.

Chuck smiled. This mystery man knew how to come up with some strange combinations. A pint of black-and-tan with two shots of Absolut vodka. He shook his head. //I'll have to try that.// It was the drink that made Chuck a lot happier, because he realized that his search had just narrowed down: there weren't too many places were a man like Pancho could go, and even fewer places that were nearby. Chuck knew a lot of the bars by reputation, if not by experience. Bars tolerated only certain kinds of people. Just as gutter-crawlers couldn't go into a posh place like the La Paloma resort, and geeks couldn't expect to make it in a place like the 6th Street Pub when the drinkers frequented, someone like Pancho had only a few places where he'd blend in. As much as he could, anyway.

Chuck had been given an extensive description of Pancho, which was possible because the man could be very open whenever he got his mouth going. He never cared much about secrecy, because he believed that he had nothing to hide. Nothing besides the obvious, anyway, which anybody who mattered didn't really notice. //Immortality. Not for much longer, my friend. I'd be interested to see how long you last after you're tanked on those Irish Kegbombs.//

In a way, Chuck was Death to Immortals. He wasn't a Hunter, but rather a person who did his job so well that immortality of himself or his targets didn't matter. He hadn't even known that his first slain Immortal was one -- decapitation just seemed appropriate at the time. The next two who came after him for revenge kept on coming back after he emptied his clips into them on two separate occasions.

It was then that he realized something odd was going on. A few creative interrogation sessions produced information that would change his life forever. Indirectly too, because it was a month later that he was led to his current employer.

Chuck turned the corner at Speedway and Park, nearly running down a few clueless students who were more intent on socializing in the middle of the street than crossing it. Anywhere on Speedway, that wasn't a smart move on any day, but it was a clearly idiotic one with Chuck coming down the road. He didn't even care that one of the jocks was yelling, "[censored] you!"

The stretch of Park south of Speedway was right at the western edge of the University, and for the next block, student pedestrians dominated traffic. Stop signs were set every thirty feet, and traffic was at a standstill. Pedestrians without any hint of street smarts (in a very literal sense) further slowed traffic because they'd cross the street, oblivious to anything in the real world. A few were just arrogant, and expected the world to stop for them.

Chuck changed all that. Laughing, he gunned his engine and slammed through six stops in a row. Everyone was so shocked that they didn't even know what hit them. About twenty pedestrians were on the asphalt, scattered among the stop signs.

It was ironic that Chuck stopped at a bar that was just around the corner and down a stone's throw. "The British Stone" was its name. A bar and grill, with theoretical emphasis on the latter and a real emphasis on the former. Chuck walked into a small bar with wood colors. He sat at the counter where a young woman noticed his arrival and walked over, a carefree smile on her face. //Ironic how she thinks I'm a normal guy, just like everyone else here.//

"Welcome to the Stone." Her smile was genuine. Maybe they were trying to attract new business. She absently brushed a stubborn strand of soft hair out of her face. It refused to stay in the ponytail. "Care to see a menu?"

"No thanks," he smiled, "I'm here to try an Irish Kegbomb."

She tilted her head, "Do you know what's in one?"

Chuck smiled even wider. //GOT HIM!// "Sure. It's a black-and-tan with two shots of Absolut vodka."

She shook her head. "You know, that guy's put in more money in the last six months than all the Frats do at Rush Week, but I tell you, I worry about him."


"He drinks himself into a stupor!" She shook her head. "But you know that already. Thing is, most people probably don't know how bad he gets." She started pouring the Bass. "Sure, most people know he's had some drinks by the smell of his breath, but he can down enough drinks in an hour to topple most engineers."

Of course he can. He's an Immortal, and his liver is probably coming back to life every five minutes. He shook his head sadly, "That's always the problem with Pancho. He can't do anything in moderation."

She spun around quickly, "Pancho? I was talking about Clovis!" That made Chuck pause. Had he indeed found Pancho under a pseudonym, or had he found someone totally unrelated?

* * * *

The truck came to a stop, and everyone had finished their prayers to their respective deities. Zedar and Janeway merely looked at one another, their hearts still beating at a rapid fire. The Doctor looked unaffected by the Nightman's display of driving skills. The Nightman looked around to make sure that nobody was following them.

"Here it is," smiled the Nightman. "My old watering hole. Good thing some reflexes never die." Janeway looked confused, so he elaborated. "I walked here and back so many times when I was drunk that I navigated by reflex. There are a lot of times when I somehow made it home and didn't remember getting there, but I did."

He tilted his head, "Do you know that after all this time, I can still dream that I'm stumbling my way home? I still remember all the details, even though I still have a hard time remembering some of the stuff I should be remembering."

Janeway shook her head. Her own time had its share of alcoholics, but she hoped that Pancho's experiences were not a common sight in this time. //Have we changed so much, or have we simply moved things around? Swept them under the rug?//

"What is this place?" asked Duncan, looking around. It was a row of stores servicing the University. A drug store, a coffee place, some restaurants, and some new buildings being constructed. Tower Records was going to be having its grand opening in a few more weeks.

"It's my old hangout. The British Stone, where you can load up on a few pints of Guinness and some single malt scotch without getting hurt. By people, that is."

They walked from the parking lot, and entered through the front door. The front patio was enclosed by a green metal-frame fence, and filled with round tables, where the more refined of the University types were sipping fruity beers and munching on expensive sandwiches and pizza. The building had a very woody look to it. The inside was darker brown. Some cigar smoke hung in the air, and the jukebox was blasting some loud music. The Nightman was the only one who could name the band and the song, and he shook his head in disgust. The Bee Gees. //How many centuries, and I can still remember the words?//

The Nightman took the lead, sitting down at the bar, next to an old biker. Not quite a biker -- he seemed too orderly, somehow, as if a proper British officer were playing as a barbarian. A young bartender walked over. "You're back! I was worrying about you!"

He nodded. "So was I." He could play along as well as anyone. He looked at the bartender, remembering her face, but not her name. "Can I get an Irish Kegbomb?"

She shook her head, those strands of hair falling back in her face. "It looks like you have a convert, after all this time." She nodded at the biker. "He's been worried about you."

Faint memories stirred deep in his heart. Or that's what it felt like. Someone crushing his heart, in a nervous-system sort of way. "Chuck," he said softly. "How do you like the Kegbomb?"

Chuck was totally shocked, but he smiled, hiding his true reaction. "Not bad. I'm really shocked." //Not lying there! Wonder how good he really is!// His accent was strong to the point of being over-exaggerated. "You haven't introduced me to your friends."

The Nightman knew that Chuck was the enemy, but he also felt -- rather than remembered -- that Chuck could find out what he needed to know at a greater cost than he'd have to pay just telling the man. The others had found seats next to him, so he pointed, "Doc, Kate, Duncan, and Zed." Duncan and Kate nodded uncertainly, noting that the Nightman was uncharacteristically sociable. Zedar looked at Chuck with a poker face. What he was truly thinking was known only by him.

The Doctor was unreadable in his jovial manner. He held out his hand, "Nice to meet you!"

Chuck automatically shook his hand, and managed to look a bit confused a moment later. //Something is wrong with this picture, Chuck. Can you find the missing elephant?// "Yeah. Sure. A pleasure." He looked back at the Nightman. "Everyone's worried about you. Where were you?"

He nodded, "In a moment." The bartender was ready to gather orders. "Can you get me slow-poured Guinness side-by-side with a straight cup of Glenfiddich?" She nodded and went to work. He looked at his 'friends' and said, "It's on me. Need a menu or a beer list?"

* * * *

Zedar immediately knew that he wouldn't be able to read this script. He also knew that he wouldn't be able to handle any of the beer or liquor here. Belgarath, Beldin, and the twins were always the drinkers. Zedar had always prided himself on his pure lifestyle. //Pure! Look where my pride got me!// Maybe it wasn't just pride. The Prophecies needed a turncoat. If he had chosen not to lie his way into Kal Torak's confidence and steal the Orb himself, someone else would have. Maybe Belgarath. //Wouldn't that be an irony!//

The bartender looked at him, asking a question in gibberish. Cursing himself for letting his mind wander, he translated it into his own language. "What would you like?"

Pulling a suitable accent from the background of her own mind, he spoke in a manner appropriate for his appearance. She saw a travelling man, bathed and clean, but travelling. "I'll have some tea and bread, if that's Ok." He knew that sometimes bartenders got annoyed at those abstaining from drink, but she didn't have a problem.

Now that detail was out of the way, he began to observe the conversation going on between the Nightman and Chuck. Zedar knew Chuck, or at least men like him. Chuck was a remorseless killer, plain and simple. But that wasn't it: Chuck had the orderliness and precision of a craftsman or a priest. Not like some Alorn berserker, who would blindly scream and fumble around, but rather like a cold, exacting... Kal Torak. Though his heart burned in lust for the Orb, even as his eye burned in true flame that would never extinguish, his heart sat cold for all mortal life. In the wars waged to take the Orb from the lands of the west, Kal Torak had coldly let countless masses of his children die at the hands of the Alorns. Chuck would be just as cold and just as exacting. Chuck was a man to be wary of.

* * * *

Jan was left to his own thoughts, staring at the sunset. "David," he whispered, a tear falling from his face to the black, filthy asphalt. Quickly, Jan wiped his face and clamped down on his feelings. //Don't let it show.// But his feelings had to have some outlet. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he hadn't sensed Methos observe him from afar.

David laughed as he opened the letter. "Guess what? They
accepted me!"

"That's wonderful!" Jan pulled David into a big hug,
twirling him around a little bit. "When do you start?"

He shook his head, "Not til next month. The current guy
needs some time to find a new job, and the boss is going to
keep him on for at least a month. Less, if he lands that

"You know, you don't really need to work. I don't need to
work either. I've got enough saved up from the raids to
keep three generations of you living in style!" He was about
ready to laugh, until he saw David's expression.

David shook his head, his good mood spoiled a bit. "The
past is a part of you, but I'd rather you not draw on those
kinds of funds. It's blood money. How many churches were
burned? How many villages destroyed?"

David took it pretty well, as did Jan. They knew it was the
truth. The truth that Jan had been a Viking who had
knowingly and gladly slaughtered countless hundreds in his
career as a raider, and that he had accumulated enough gold,
silver, and other material wealth to buy out several
countries. The truth was that David found the Viking raids as
much of a horrible thing as hit squads slaughtering innocent
peasants. It was the violence that bothered him. Even the
fact that Immortal killed Immortal bothered him. However,
he also understood reality, and that no matter how much he
was sickened by many aspects of reality, he could do nothing
about it. But he could do his part to lessen the impact of
that blood violently spilled. He wouldn't benefit from it.

The job that would lead him to the XTC pusher.

The job that would make him one of the slaughtered.

As much as Jan knew that David would protest, he knew that blood would have to repay blood. When he found out the truth, men would die. They would die most horribly, for he knew how David had died. He'd seen death many times, and never in his life had he seen such a death.

"Are you all right?" The soft voice of the older immortal.

Jan shook his head. "I'll manage."

"I don't think so. Who was he?" Jan turned around, shocked. Methos smiled tiredly, "It's obvious, you know. I wasn't born yesterday."

"What else do you know?"

"Your love died a violent death. Was it an Immortal?"

"I don't know yet. The man who did the dirty deed was mortal enough, but he might have been following the orders of an Immortal. There's a lot more to this, however. Much more."

"XTC... I know..." Methos stared off in the distance, towards the alley. "I know how it is. For what it's worth, I'm sorry he died." He paused a moment, wondering if he really shouldn't ask. "It was XTC, wasn't it?"

Jan nodded, tears streaming down his face. He wiped them away, but they kept on coming, and he couldn't do anything about it. Methos pulled him in for a hug, not caring how things would appear. He was straight as an arrow, but he also had compassion, and knew that it took different forms for different people. "You can't hold it in forever. Let it ride."

Jan couldn't stop himself. He cried for what must have been the first time since David died, and it wasn't enough.

There was someone who was watching, and neither one of them sensed it. Scully had roused herself from her nap and had spent the last five minutes trying to find him, so that they could coordinate their very short-term plans. She'd found Jan a moment after Methos did, but held back, realizing that she might find out more about Jan if she wasn't there. She had, and she felt sick for intruding on what was truly a special part of Jan. Lowering her head, she turned back around and left Jan to his grief.

* * * *

The Pancho of this time truly did go by the name of Clovis d'Auvergne. He could even pull off a convincing French accent if he needed to. At the moment, however, showing off was the last thing on his mind. He was in back of The British Stone, ignoring the feeling that Immortals were nearby.

The pusher was a Hispanic gang kid. Must have been no older than fifteen. A shadow-like mustache grew on his lip, and an old-man's cynicism. "Hey mon," he said in his exaggerated Mexican accent, "XTC is the rage, mon! Just fifty bucks a pop, and you'll be living in haaaayyyven, mon!"

Clovis smiled, " Tell you what... I'll buy you a really good pitcher of beer, or whatever you want to drink, for a sample. I like the sample, and you'll have me coming back for more."

The kid thought about it, "You're high already, mon! I can't go in a bar!"

He laughed, "They'll let you in! Just keep your hat on and pretend you forgot your Driver's License!"

The kid agreed, and they made their way around the front. The feeling of an approaching Immortal grew stronger, until they walked through the front door of the Stone. It was then that Clovis got the shock of his life. It was himself, looking at himself. And Duncan MacLeod.

Chuck, the pusher, and the bartender all dropped their jaws as they looked at two Nightmen: the image of the night after sunset and the night at the touch of sunrise. It was obvious which one Clovis was. He hadn't shaved in a few weeks, and his roguish clothes were even filthier. He hadn't bathed in a few days either, and smelled like cigars and liquor.

"What the hell?" whispered Clovis.

That same thought was echoed by others in the bar as they noticed this event that should not have taken place. The Doctor inwardly cringed as he tried to estimate the kind of temporal damage that this type of meeting could produce. He couldn't come up with a figure.

The future-Pancho stood up, "You're late. Have yourself a Kegbomb."

Clovis recovered pretty quickly. "Sorry. My friend will have whatever he wants."

The bartender knew that no matter how confused she was, it was more important to serve the drinks than to question why. Whenever Clovis came around, she pocketed thirty bucks. The way that he tipped, she'd be making over a hundred when they were through. That didn't mean that she didn't want to know why.

Clovis and the pusher sat down on two empty stools. The pusher ordered a Bud Ice, slipping Clovis a vial of the XTC. That motion was not lost on either Pancho or Chuck. When the Kegbomb came, they saw him covertly slip the vial into the drink.

* * * *

Methos scratched his head. "I need a beer."

Scully nodded. "I'm getting hungry. Let's grab something to eat."

Jan agreed, pulling out a map. "There's The British Stone. It has beer and food, and it's the closest place worth eating at anyway."

"We could go to Jill-in-the-Cubicle," pointed out Scully. The other two shook their heads in disgust. "OK... so it's The British Stone."

* * * *

"And what name do you go by these days?" asked the Nightman, staring ahead at the half-barrel with all the beer taps sticking out of it.

"Clovis d'Auvergne. If we're two of the same person, might as well use different names. No sense swearing 'Jesus Christ!' only to have the Son nodding in your direction, asking, 'Yes?'" He looked at the bartender, "Can I get some 151 and Coke coming my way?" He ignored her look of concern.

The Nightman laughed at that one. "I see you ve been watching Mel Brooks."

"Not much time for movies. I just remember what I like."

"Hmm..." They stared at the beer tap.

Zedar subtly observed the exchange between the Nightman and Clovis . Often, Melcenian and Tolnedran philosophers wondered what would happen if one met oneself. Of course, this led to tangential questions, such as if this were even possible, or what disasters might occur if it took place. Thankfully, the more absurd disasters weren't occurring. No fireballs from the sky or instant death of the universe. Would there be any more subtle disasters, however?

If he didn't know any better, he would swear that it was a great-grandfather talking to his great-grandson, getting ready to lecture him on stupid behavior. The younger one knew what he wanted, even if he didn't know what was best for him, and so he wasn't about to accept the wisdom of the older one for a moment. Zedar smiled, thinking that perhaps this was the one way that time maintained its continuity and resisted change.

Our footsteps appear in the beach sands, but the waves soon
wash them away.

A voice out of his past. The wisdom of a traveller who spoke a baffling philosophy. Zedar closed his eyes, and for a moment, he saw a young and beautiful woman. Her eyes were of cold steel and her face the perfection of wind-smoothed sandstone.

His concentration was broken when he felt Chuck's brief gaze on him. It lasted for perhaps a fraction of a heartbeat, but Zedar knew that this moment was an eternity. Chuck nodded in some kind of acknowledgment.

It was then that a cold certainty gripped Chuck's heart. Chuck was a truly honorable man who was getting to know those he was about to destroy. An honorable killer in the sense that he always looked deep into the eyes of his victims and followed them as they went down. This man was a mortal through and through, without a god or religion. He knew no magic, but he certainly had a strength of spirit that might qualify as magic.

{{Chuck,}} whispered Zedar on a level that none of the others could hear, perhaps not even Chuck. Those who were ignorant might call it magic, telepathy, and so on, but Zedar knew better. It was a trick. A special kind of whispering that just took some practice to develop. {{Chuck. Look at me.}}

Chuck did look briefly. Almost surprised. It was a reflexive turn of the head.

{{Yes, Chuck. Open your eyes.}}

Just as Chuck could look into Zedar's eyes, he could look into Chuck's. All he needed was the space of a heartbeat. A heartbeat that would become eternity...

Chuck opened up his eyes, feeling a bit dazed. For a moment,
he thought he was drinking in a bar, but as it turned out,
it was just a dream. He shook the dirt out of his hair,
groaning in exhaustion. The hot Tibetan sun was threatening
to suck the life right out of him, and he didn t know how
long he had been on the ground, near lifeless.

The holy man sat in a full lotus, only a few feet away. His
face was as placid as a rock mesa, his eyes calm and
relaxed. Unlike the other monks, he wore his robes of a
different color: white. Who knew what that color signified
to the Tibetans, but he was pretty sure to the Chinese or
Japanese (he wasn't sure which), white meant death. It sure
fit this monk. Coldest bastard Chuck ever met in his life,
and he'd been a lot of places and times that didn't
officially exist. The holy man rang a golden bell with a
dorje-handle. The ringing hurt Chuck's ears.

"You have returned," said the holy man in flawless English.
"Your surprise me more and more, American. I did not know
that you are able to step outside of your body."

"What the hell are you talking about?" his dry throat

The holy man shook his head sadly. "Such potential. Such
raw, untapped, undeveloped potential. At least I know why I
picked you to be my personal guardsman."

Chuck got enough strength to stand up, making his way to the
yak, which carried all of his equipment, including his
water. He allowed himself to drink only half a swallow,
fighting every urge that seemed to have more strength than
his willpower. He put the waterskin back, looking back at
the holy man, who shrugged. "What now?"

"There is a man who requires the personal attentions of
death. You will introduce them to one another."

"Who is this man?"

"He looks Chinese, but he is in fact half-Tibetan. A lackey
to Beijing, he does whatever he is told to do. A perfect
administrator. He does not care what he does to anyone,
Tibetan or Chinese. You shall show him that administrators
must be polite to those they serve, or risk the judgment of

"Not a lawyer?"

The holy man smiled a rare smile. "The incarnation is

Chuck shook his head. Not just bad jokes, but bad jokes
requiring a few mental footnotes. This man paid well, but he
was tedious. Whatever. He shivered. "Somebody is watching

The holy man nodded. "An observer from a near time, but he
feels like he comes from far, far away." He smiled with a
touch of a snarl, "I feel the disgusting feel of guilt.
Cold, sweaty skin with the threat of prostrated blubbering
and beseeching." He looked at Chuck. "At a future date, in a
land you know quite well, you will find a man with eyes like
mirrors that are also windows. He is your threat, no matter
who you are paid to kill." The holy man waved his hands
before Chuck could protest his ignorance. "The watcher is
sent away."

Zedar felt a jolt shoot through his body. Chuck looked shocked, as if he had seen a ghost. Then he nodded as he looked out the window. He had seen a ghost, in a way. A ghost that he had been warned about. He wondered why he thought about the Black Monk. Memories didn't come about for the hell of it. They could be warnings, as this one might be.

Chuck scratched his head. "Whatever. I'm not paid to worry
about that nebulous crap. Just give me people to kill."

The holy man shook his head with a smile, "Some would call
your own manner of killing nebulous, for you observe and
slay from a distance without their knowing it, and watch the
bodies die before your very eyes after the fact, when the
unknowing believe that it was at the latter moment you slew

He didn't notice the fact that his hands were tingling, and that his two hands, which rested together on the table, moved apart a few inches without the direction of any level of his nervous system, and without any obvious outside force.

The front doors opened again, and the whole place quieted down, which was pretty hard to notice because of the jukebox still blasting loud enough to shatter internal bones. Everyone at the bar turned and saw an extravagant pimp flanked by five tough-looking bodybuilders wearing Italian suits and fine leather shoes. The pimp was walking pretty arrogantly, but stopped cold in his tracks when he saw Chuck. At first, he was totally startled, but then he slowly smiled. "Chucky boy! I never expected to see you!"

Chuck stood, "What, are you so scared you need hit men just to go out drinking?"

"Why not?" he shrugged. "I'm paying them anyway, and they know how to have a good time, so what's wrong with them drinking with me?"

* * * *

Jan shivered as he approached The British Stone.

"What's wrong?" asked Scully.

"We have some company." Methos looked like he wanted to be elsewhere.

Jan's eyes narrowed as he walked to the front door. Scully made sure she had her gun, even though she had no idea why she did that. Chakotay and Silk looked at one another, gearing for danger.

Sarah might have observed this exchange, but only sighed, "At last, civilization!" The only thoughts in her mind were the pint of ale and the civilized food she'd be eating.

* * * *

"YOU!" boomed a tall Scandinavian wearing a black suit.

* * * *

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