The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Rysher Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Barge On In by Wain
The Physics Lesson by vixen69
That Sinking Feeling by Ghost Cat
MWC: BARGING IN
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a short scene or story that explains, somehow, why the name of Duncan MacLeod's barge appeared to vary between "Nobile" and "Amadeus."
Thanks to Ryodin for the inspiration, and good luck!
MWC: Barge on in
Barge on in. Yes, that's what you humans--mortal and Immortal alike--always expect, but I never do. I insinuated myself into the consciousness of what would become the Western world when I allowed my story to be told to the people of Israel during their exile in Babylon. I told you once, Highlander, that my best trick was convincing the world that I didn't exist. Set, Beelzebub, Lucifer . . . dozens of names for me and yet they do not believe! Barge in and undo all that work? I hardly think so.
But Duncan--you don't mind if I call you Duncan, do you?--the best trick I played on you was taking your barge in preparation for our fight. Stole it right out from under you, and you never knew. I even christened its replacement with an equally pathetic, heroic little name. "Amadeus," "Nobile," you must have believed a word could serve as a talisman against me. Was your home your sanctuary? Did you think you were safe there? Darius knew better. His sanctuary was stronger than yours, yet it was easy for me to strike down even such a powerful warrior so far advanced in the service of my Enemy. Humans are dead boring to manipulate. Some sleight of hand here, a false memory there, a bit of hatred and fear, and a mere mortal takes the head of a priest!
It would have been enough to switch those barges back and forth just to revel in your blind stupidity. But I spirited your home away from you to consume the memories that lay within it, weapons to use against you. The walls and air fairly vibrated with them! I devoured the memory of your beloved, of the student you thought of as a son, and threw them in your face! Did you think it a victory of sorts to resist my offer to make them live again?
I nearly had you, Highlander; I nearly won. You think you have confined me to the noise and chaos of my Kingdom Below, but look at the world around you. Hell is closer than you think, Duncan, and I will meet a new champion in a thousand years. A millennium is a long time for an Immortal, forever to a mortal, but just the blink of an eye for me. And I can wait.
Oh dear--MWC, again.
Posted By: vixen69 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 7 December 2000, at 12:10 a.m.
I considered doing this with footnotes, then decided it was more fun not to explain any of it. See what you think. It's kind of a sequel to the story where Methos and Cassandra end up in *my* world.
The Physics Lesson
“I say, I’m his Watcher and I should know, Methos—the name of the barge is ‘Nobile.’”
“I was just there, Joe, and I turned to wave ‘goodbye’—it happens to be ‘Amadeus’. And since he’s an opera fan…makes more sense, doesn’t it?”
The two squared off, assuming serious argumentative postures. Wagers were possibly in the offing. Hating to see good money thrown about over something this silly, Cassandra spoke up.
“What would you say if I told you—both?”
She received incredulous looks in response to that. Smiling, she crossed her arms. “But I’ve no intention of explaining how unless you both agree to hear me out.”
“I’ll hear you out, but not necessarily believe you…Cassandra,” Methos drawled, accenting her name with a grin. Joe relaxed his posture, and then sat.
“Consider me all ears.”
“You may recall Duncan’s dream—he told everyone about it.”
Methos furrowed his brow, and then smiled—“Fitzcairn—in the role of Clarence, leads MacLeod through an episode of ‘It’s a Horrible Life’, he gets renewed belief in himself…Kronos and I ride again…Richie as Junior Horseman…”
“Do you suppose it was just a dream?” she inquired, knowingly. “Or could it have been more?”
“Wait—you’re not saying that the dream was an actual angelic visitation—from Fitz? I’m willing to suspend my disbelief about a lot of things—but not that,” Joe protested.
Cassandra shook her head. “Methos should know what I’m referring to.” She then gave him a penetrating look, which caught him dumbfounded, until he recalled their own recent adventure in what they agreed (as they rarely ever agreed on anything) on calling, “The Fanverse”.
“Are saying there actually is a parallel dimension in which Duncan MacLeod never existed?” he asked, with some heat. “That’s…”
“Actually, it’s very solid quantum theory. If there’s one or two parallel dimensions…” she began, hoping the other two at the table would catch on. They didn’t, and she sighed. Not everyone naturally intuited higher states of super-awareness, or were comfortable with the implications of the more far-out realms of quantum physics. She realized that it was up to her to fill in the blanks. “There should be more. The universe—rather like ‘Star Trek’ and the books of Robert Heinlein, tends to follow the Everett-Wheeler-Graham model of quantum mechanics.”
“Like ‘Star Trek’…” Joe began.
“What you’re saying is…there’s a universe where the bad guys wear goatees,” Methos postulated. He was obviously reaching.
“And a universe where the women wear goatees. And a universe with no bad guys at all. In addition to a yes and a no—the universe contains a ‘maybe.’” Cassandra paused, academically. They were enthralled, and she wasn’t even using a spell. “You’ve probably heard the phrase—‘anything can happen?’” they nodded. “Well, anything does. And unfortunately, a lot of it happens to Duncan.”
“I think I see,” Methos softly interjected. “It’s like those fanfic possibilities I looked into—they actually happen, but in parallel dimensions?” His eyes drifted off, pondering them. All those…nubile Mary Sues. All that angst. And…well, not so much the slash, particularly not featuring Kronos, but still…
“Exactly. Whatever can be imagined—happens. In some other eigenstate.”
“That still doesn’t explain how the name of the barge changes, though,” Joe pointed out. “Fine—there’s a boat called ‘Nobile’ in one universe—and ‘Amadeus’ in another—why would Methos and I, being in the same universe—both remember it differently?”
“Because Duncan is…contaminated. Thanks to Bell’s Theorem.”
“I think I’ve heard of that one…” Methos said, and proceeded to have a flashback. Berkeley campus, 1972. He was trying out several new things. Some were coeds, some weren’t. Some involved physics classes. Those generally involved the coeds. But something must have stuck. “Any two particles once in contact will continue to influence each other—just like our having been in contact continues to influence us…” he added to Cassandra, shifting gears to the realm of the social, where he was more comfortable. “So MacLeod’s having been in the parallel universe in which he never was born changed the name of the barge?”
“Wait—the name must have changed…at least a year before that,” Joe corrected. “I should have noticed. I can almost recall it…” His face brightened. “Ahriman! That was when it changed. Did he have something to do with it? The reason the barge changed names, the reason he was seeing people as being alive who weren’t?”
Cassandra nodded. “Although not alive in this world—Horton and Kronos were alive in another—actually, several other—universes. Ahriman used that. It’s much easier than raising the dead.”
“But things like that were happening before…weren’t they Cassandra? I can recall, now—things that didn’t quite fit. In the olden days—we’d have said it was Yahi.”
She looked down at that. “Guilty—as charged.”
“I don’t get it,” Joe commented.
“When she hid MacLeod from Kantos—her cabin really did disappear—you took him into another dimension!” Methos snapped. “And if he was ‘contaminated’—it happened then.”
“Possibly,” she answered. She looked down. “You do recall, though, it was the Burning Times. I spent several years, off and on, trying to escape this reality. So, I figured another dimension would have been a perfectly safe place to hide us.”
“I see it now,” Joe then said, his face wistful. “He’s good-looking, smart, wins the fights, gets the women—he’s…a hero?”
Cassandra and Methos both nodded, sadly. “In the full, Joseph Campbell sense of the word, I’m afraid,” Methos added. “And since a large part of fan fiction—what can be thought about—centers around the hero, his potential reality is changing all the time. So any weirdness…happens right in the general vicinity of that barge.”
“So smart,” Cassandra sighed. “And yet, you habitually forget our anniversary, Methos.”
Methos colored, slightly. “And yet, oddly, Richie always remembers. Go figure.” Another thought crossed his mind. “Wait—that Jennifer person—she’s written one of those parallel universes?”
Cassandra nodded. “Two—actually.”
“And I recall being…we’re in a story right now, aren’t we?”
With that, Cassandra shrugged, noncommittally. Unfortunately, they had to be.
MWC: "That sinking feeling"
That Sinking Feeling
It was just another day at the loft; that's what he had told himself when he woke up this morning. It was going to be just an ordinary day; that wasn't too much to ask for, was it? The universe owed him at least a couple of ordinary days after everything he'd been through over the centuries. But of course, the universe didn't care what one person believed they did or did not deserve, even if that person was Duncan MacLeod.
It all started with a phone call; trouble seemed to come so much more abruptly since the invention of the telephone. He told himself he'd just ignore it, but when the ringing showed no signs of stopping he finally answered "MacLeod."
The voice on the other end had a definite Hollywood feel to it, "Mr. MacLeod, this is Bill Panzer, we spoke before..."
Duncan managed to keep his helpless groan off the line; "What do you want Panzer? I already signed that stupid waiver saying you could use my name and my face; only because I never dreamed you'd actually find someone with my face. Are you still annoyed that I insisted the Watchers be involved to keep things from going too far?"
"Oh no, it's not about that. You see, we just moved production back to Paris for the new season-"
Mac tried to brush him off; "Yes, Paris is a lovely city. I could recommend some reasonably priced restaurants if you'd like."
The producer reacted with that Hollywood sixth sense that said when someone was about to hang up; "It's about the barge."
Duncan's voice got that quiet, flat tone that some people mistook for calm. In reality, this was when he was most dangerous. "What about the barge?"
The man spoke up quickly, "Well, you did say that we could use it."
"I said you could use the idea of a barge; I never said you could go anywhere near the Nobile."
"Oh. Then this is going to be a bit more awkward than I expected. You see, um, there was a bit of an accident. You have to understand, we use pyro a lot during production, and I do mean a lot of pyro. That stuff can be unpredictable, especially when you're using it outdoors..."
This time MacLeod's tone was unmistakable; "You used the barge, my barge for a Q scene. Without even trying to get permission. May I remind you that I know several very good lawyers, some of whom have been in practice for a very, very long time? "
Panzer became quite flustered, even over the phone. "This is just what I was trying to avoid by calling you right away. I'm sure we can come to an understanding."
"I'll be there tomorrow. Be ready for me." There was a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained by hanging up on the man, but not nearly enough.
§ § §
Paris: City of Lights, airport of tourists; MacLeod had hardly stepped off the plane before he heard a girlish shriek. He turned around barely in time to avoid being swarmed by a knot of young women. "Adrian!" he heard in several voices; just great, series fans. Someone thrust a scrap of paper at him, three more offered pens. No getting out of it now; he made idle, hopefully harmless, conversation while he tried to remember that actor's scrawl. They had given him something once, almost as joke, if he could only picture it… The girls all watched him with rapt attention, as if a Clan Chief himself had looked down upon them and smiled. He wrote a simple Ad-scribble Paul, with that strong, enthusiastic P, adding a quick "peace" for good measure. He had to repeat the scribble a couple more times before he could get away; in the end one woman pushed a small box into his hands, whispering a fervent "Thank you."
It took a while to find where production was working for the day and the search had done little to improve his mood. When he asked where he could find Bill Panzer, a couple of bored crew pointed the way. One muttered "Over there" was accompanied by a puzzled look and the comment, "I just saw him a minute ago, he was still talking with... you?"
The crewmember's confusion was nothing compared to the actual moment when MacLeod found them. He had seen photographs, watched a couple of episodes out of curiosity, but none of that could prepare him for a live, face to face confrontation. The actor, still in costume, turned to look at the stranger and gave a completely out of character gape. Duncan, despite centuries of experience, had his own moment of shock. There were differences, all right, but they were minor; again, he thought Where did they find this guy?
He still had the gift in his hand; Duncan handed it forward. "This is for you. She said her name was Shawna... or was it Sunshine?"
Adrian took the box without much surprise; "So, how many of them were there?"
"Three or four, I think."
"Only a handful? You were lucky." The actor smiled, the warm, genuine smile of someone not afraid to laugh at himself; "At least when you have people chasing you, you can feel them coming." The smile faded quickly when it wasn't returned, he muttered a quick, "I'll be in the trailer" to his producer and walked off, opening the gift. Duncan could still hear his voice in the distance, "Chocolate; I never should have admitted I like chocolate. If I start gaining weight McAsh is gonna..."
MacLeod turned his attention back to the reason he had come. "I'm here. Let's talk about what happened to my home."
If there was one thing a producer knew, it was how to placate someone. "First thing I want you to know, all your things are safely in storage, we made sure of that before we started."
It would take a lot more than that to soothe this Highland temper; "One more time. Where-- Is-- My-- Barge?"
Mr. Panzer paled for a second; decided the direct approach would work best. "After the explosion it-- Well, basically it... sank."
One word, icy calm: "Sank."
"Umm, yes. But I've had the props master and the location manager working ever since; I think you'll be quite pleased--"
"-- With the results." Fortunately they were already close to the river; the short walk was nonetheless filled with a tense silence. As they approached the water the producer smiled and made a grand gesture. Duncan looked in the indicated direction, saw something very familiar. Familiar, and yet not quite right somehow. The low deck was the same, the wheelhouse; yet there was no sense of welcome in the lowered gangplank, and it just didn't feel like home. He frowned, silently, thinking only That's not mine. Looking again, he noticed the detail that had bothered his subconscious before: "The Amadeus?"
The other man spoke up quickly; "It doesn't have to be the Amadeus, it can be the Nobile; it can be anything you want. It's yours now."
"Don't you know that it's bad luck to change the name of a ship?"
"I'd hardly call one river barge a ship. It doesn't even go anywhere."
"It doesn't matter, it's the principle of the thing." He sighed wearily, "I just hope the writers around here understand me better than you do. Fine, I'll take it; it's good enough for now. But I'm going to have a document drawn up detailing exactly what you can and cannot do. Have I made myself clear?"
"Perfectly clear. Actually, as long as you're here anyway, the writers and I were discussing an Evil Twin episode in the near future and we were wondering--" Duncan glared at him dangerously. "Never mind."
§ § §
Back at the loft, a few weeks later, MacLeod was preparing an early dinner while Methos sprawled on his couch with a beer and the TV remote. His bored channel surfing eventually settled on The Series. "Do you mind?" he asked, "It's one of my guilty pleasures." Mac grunted noncommittally and the program stayed. As the episode began its inevitable combat scene, Duncan was drawn to the screen in spite of himself. Not only was he a pretty good actor, that Paul fellow was damned good with a blade. The combat ended and he suddenly realized where the duel was set; Duncan groaned helplessly.
Misunderstanding the sound of despair completely, Methos nodded. "Yeah, I think they really overdo the Quickenings too, but exactly how do you represent something like that visually anyway? Besides, viewers love F/X." As the first crack of thunder rumbled from the speakers, both Immortals went silent to watch the display. The pyrotechnics settled down, and Methos turned to Duncan with a grin; "All right, now you've got to admit that one looked pretty damned realistic."
"It ought to have been!" Mac growled, snatching the remote and shutting off the set.
"What? What did I say?"