There Can Be Only One… By A Narrow Margin
The Highlander Holy Ground 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. Please accept my apologies for the wandering formatting in this document. This particular Mid-Week Challenge took place at a time when the Forum was “migrating” between various different Forums, hence the different formats.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
The Election by vixen69
Narrow Margin by Ysanne
Exit Poll by Ghost Cat
MID WEEK CHALLENGE: There Can Be Only One....by a narrow margin
Hah! And you were wondering if an Immie would survive if you split him evenly down the middle! What about a country?
In honor of the madness and mayhem that is our United States (hah!) this morning, your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Immies meet at the polls. Write a short scene or story involving an election and HL Immortals. Any character will do, known or unknown to us. They can be either candidates or voters or anything else.
MWC--I've a problem
Posted By: vixen69 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 9 November 2000, at 11:12 p.m.
It's Genevieve. I let her write a few MWC's, and now she thinks it's her job. Go figure. This does have an election in it, and you might recognize the guest star. Here goes:
Looking back, I have to honestly admit that I have done things that I’m not especially proud of. It’s kind of cliché, I guess, but I tend to see even the really awful, stupid things I’ve done as a learning experience. I mean, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’m a terrible, rotten, murdering, amoral, avaricious scumbag—and that would happen to be on a good day. But at least I admit it. That’s one of the reasons I’m probably not cut out for politics. That, and I don’t really care for what it makes me. Worse, for one thing.
See, I’ve always had a competitive streak. Sports, board games, Quizzo, arguments, duels to the death, I always go for the throat. So far, so good. But how important can winning be, after all? Sometimes it is life and death—but sometimes, I get that way over stupid things. Like the sixth grade elections at Franklin Elementary.
Sixth grade—pretty much a bad year for me all around. In fact, I don’t think the year I turned twenty-one, died the first time around, and inadvertently created a weapon of mass destruction even comes close. My parents were going through a rough time, I think having something to do with my grandfather’s trial, so I was sent to live with my paternal grandparents. And since I was no longer living in the same neighborhood (and because my grandmother never really approved of me being in Catholic school to start with), I got sent to Franklin. Meaning I had to be “the new kid”. Worse yet, I had to be the new kid the same year puberty kicked in. Even worse yet, I was the new kid with a jailbird grandfather, a mother drying out, and a father who was certifiable.
Yep, a very bad year. But there were some things that made it tolerable. Some things, in the persona of Mr. Matarazzo.
Mr. Matarazzo was amazing. I might just be saying that because he was my first real crush—sort of setting up the precedent for an interest in older men that has been my curse ever since. But actually, I mean it—he cared. There were two new kids in class that year, and he kind of took both of us under his wing. He said he knew what it was like to be an outsider, himself, sometimes. And he said it like he meant it, too, and wasn’t just saying the kind of things adults say to sound understanding. He took time out to see how the both of us were doing and really helped me to adjust.
The other kid? Well, the other kid, not so much.
I made some friends right off the bat because the other kids thought I was cool. I know how lame that just sounded, so bear with me—I don’t mean, like, “Wow, what a nifty person she is.” I mean—“Wow, what a bad-@ss, I wish I did that.” You could say I acted out a little. A little bit a lot. Okay, I was a terror. And I think it encouraged the others, a little. I can tell a story about the day we made the substitute teacher cry that still brings tears to * my * eyes. But the other kid—he just couldn’t hack it, you know? And seriously, if you can’t hack sixth grade, people catch on to that.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart. No—I mean, he was scary. I know I’m scary, but this kid, was scary. He blew through tests like he’d done the work before a few hundred times. Mr. Matarazzo was a history specialist; he could tell stories about the Civil War that would make you feel like he was there, and the World Wars? Forget about it. But the other new kid? He would ask him these questions…weird questions. Questions the rest of us didn’t even get. It was creepy.
And the way the kid dealt with the rest of us was creepy, too. Most boys that age tell bathroom humor jokes—but his level of humor was a little more…I can’t call it sophisticated. But it reminded me of when my dad and some of his ex-Marine pals would get together. You know—stuff like that. And I particularly didn’t like the way he looked at me, or talked about me.
See, Mother Nature was playing just one in a series of nasty jokes on me. At eleven, I did not look eleven. I tried everything to hide what was going on—sweat clothes. Excuse notes to keep out of gym class. It was gross. I tried to be the world’s biggest tomboy—but once your bra strap gets snapped, sweetie, it’s all over. And I got nothing but grief over it. So, naturally, I had to be antagonistic in return. And the other kid made it so easy. He was a squirt. Blond hair, big blue eyes, nasty mouth—something about him just brought out the worst in me.
Mr. M noticed I was being particularly cruel to him and asked me to be sympathetic, but really, I wasn’t buying any of his line. I mean, he even told me that the kid had been through a lot more than me. Mr. M, obviously, did not know about my family. But I forgave him about that. Having a massive crush made me nothing if not forgiving.
It also made me nothing if not jealous about the way the other kid monopolized his time. Every time I turned around, there he was. And he was…smarmy. Like, this total little suck-up to * my * favorite teacher. It really got on my nerves. So when Mr. M decided to hold class elections for president and I saw that little twerp’s hand go up—mine went up too. And that’s how two new kids ended up on the ballot for sixth grade president.
My grandparents were thrilled with my ambitions. Pops made signs for me in his workshop, and Gran made brownies. If the advertising didn’t get them, outright bribery might. I pressed flesh. Namely, I made one little punk fourth grader lick an actual live bug, which earned me a rather excellent reputation. I mobilized the girls in the class. Obviously, it made more sense to vote for me over the * boy *. The honor of our gender was at stake. And besides, there were four more girls than boys. We had the numbers—we had the power. I figured, the election was mine. I mean, honestly. What did the other kid have?
More and more of Mr. M’s time, I realized. I just barely caught some of their conversations, but I got the weirdest feeling they talked about me sometimes, and I definitely did not like that. I wondered if the weird kid * liked * me or something, which very much creeped me out. But he looked at me, sometimes, like he knew something I didn’t. Like he seriously hated something about me, but…I dunno. It was just weird.
Anyway, the other kid was also taking the elections pretty seriously. He mobilized the boys, telling them that I wasn’t * good * enough to be class president. I wasn’t even pretty. (I’ll have you know I was going through an awkward phase, but not that awkward. Or at least, I don’t think I was that awkward.) And I was a lesbian. And I stuffed my bra. This had an impact on the others. Things rose to a head, so to speak. My straps were tweaked more than once. Brownies would not fix the problems he was causing me. Such problems needed to be redressed.
As I said, Mother Nature was playing a joke on me, second to the one that got played on me by Stanford and Binet when they rigged the tests in my favor, and possibly third to the one played on me by the Game fairies when they—well, made me what I am today. I was…no, forget that. I am not a small-boned girl. I’ve seen other Immortal women—I’m built differently from them. Amanda, Cassandra…they have height. They have…bone structure. I have muscle. I’m…a big gal. And even at eleven…
Well, I had also just had some kind of growth spurt. But anyway, the other kid was, like…you know, the kind of kid who looks ten when he’s eleven. Boys mature a little slower. I was bigger. And I had another nasty advantage—my old man. I mentioned he was certifiable. What I also should mention is, he taught me some fairly advanced hand-to-hand. Can’t say me and Dad never * bonded *.
Long story short, I met the kid in the school yard. He’d been having some kind of conversation with Mr. M ( *my * favorite teacher, mind you), and I waited. It was getting dark, but I figured my grandparents would understand—they were the understanding type. I saw him, but a little late—it was as if he was already looking around for me! I didn’t get it. I was hoping to catch him by surprise, and throw my book bag at him while he wasn’t looking. But he had the jump on me—and something else. He unzipped his duffel bag before I could properly start kicking his head in—and he had a wacko little machete or something.
That weirded me out, but I kicked it out of his hand. No way was I going to let him pull a weapon on me. (I carried Mace, myself, not that I ever considered using that. As my dad would say, “Wimp’s weapon.”) And then I set to work, on his face. I went postal.
He took it well, though. I mean, I wailed the snot out of him, but he kept coming up for more. After all, I had him outclassed, physically—but there was something weird about the way he kept getting up. It was like I was hurting him—but not really hurting him. I must have smacked his nose open twice—but he didn’t even really bleed all that much. I started getting freaked out. I figured I might be beating on his head forever before he just got wise and laid down.
But then something stopped the fight. He turned his head, and his looking around made * me * start looking around. I could see Mr. Matarazzo coming across the school yard, and the weird kid started playing hurt. Realizing I could be seriously in trouble, I booked it out of there. Number one, simple assault is not ladylike. Number two, I figured I probably looked like heck. Number three, I didn’t exactly want to get, like, suspended or expelled or whatever. It would have seriously disqualified me for the election. Not that I didn't think the weird kid would rat on me.
Turns out, he didn’t. But it wasn’t a good thing. No, not at all.
The next day, I came in for school wondering if the weird kid would be in, or if he was too messed up. I had a nice fat lip that lipstick wouldn’t cover up and it hurt when I sat down—my grandparents, it turned out, had a limit to how understanding they were willing to be with me. But the weird kid wasn’t there. Neither, for that matter, was Mr. M.
We got a substitute teacher, but we very nearly behaved ourselves, pretty much sensing something was wrong. Just before class let out, we got an announcement that he was dead. One girl actually screamed. And everyone was just—sad. Like, ruined. I went home, told my Gran and Pops, and then cried for three days. It was so senseless, that we could have a really great teacher like him, and then he was dead. I stayed home that week. They couldn’t even get me out of my room.
When I went back, I figured I would try to work it out with the weird kid. After all, it wasn’t like we were still going to have the stupid election, anyway. But he was gone, and no one really knew why. It was the strangest thing—not like I missed him, or anything.
Anyway, the rest of the year was all substitutes. You’d think there would be some respect for the dead, but you know how things really are. The adults played it off like he died in an accident or something, but there was a rumor that he was found in a dumpster without his head. And that was how it probably really was, not that I really believed it then.
See, at the time, it made no sense, it was just a really awful thing. But now that I’m older, and wiser, and have been dead a few times, it makes a little more sense to me. Why Mr. M was such a good teacher, and why he was so good with history. Why the weird kid was so damn weird.
And even though I’ve given it a whole lot of thought, and tried to see it from all sides, I’m going to tell you the simple truth—I still have no sympathy for that weird kid. And if I was bigger than him before, I’m a lot bigger, now.
And that, as Forrest Gump says, is all I have to say about that.
MWC -- finally!
Posted By: Ysanne
Date: Friday, 10 November 2000, at 4:12 p.m.
“I don’t know, Methos,” the Highlander said dubiously, “it just sounds so….silly.”
“Silly?” repeated Methos in an aggrieved tone, “It’s not silly, MacLeod, it’s tragic!”
“Well, okay, I see your point, of course,” MacLeod said soothingly, “it’s just that I always thought of the origins of The Game as something more – I dunno – meaningful, somehow. But if what you say is true….” His voice trailed off as Methos cut him off with an angry gesture.
“Oh, it’s true, MacLeod. I was there, remember? It had gone on for days, for weeks, for months! The villages were bloated with rumor, the cities engorged with whiny, self-serving, conflicting reports! Even the goatherds had heard about it, and they avoided civilization just to escape the latest go-round of news. It was driving us mad!”
MacLeod eyed his companion with a mixture of suspicion and belief. It was a preposterous story, but he had never seen Methos so agitated, not even during the Horseman debacle. He tugged on the older man’s flapping overcoat and indicated a park bench.
“Let’s sit down, okay? Now calm down and tell me about it from the beginning. I’m listening.”
The ancient Immortal took in a deep breath and let it out slowly through his teeth, then collapsed back against the bench, sprawling to take up most of the room. He cast a glance at the Scot, mollified to see only interest and concern on the handsome face.
“Right. Okay. It all began several thousand years ago – no, I can’t remember the exact year, MacLeod! – with two men vying for the job of what your ancestors might have called a clan leader. In this particular culture the position went to the most influential man, one who could curry favor with the most powerful men in the land. It was usually a fairly tame contest, with bribes exchanged, and maybe a few minor skirmishes by underlings on both sides, at the most an entertaining public screaming match between the contestants. But this time was different. Both men were pretty boring, and their influence was divided fairly evenly among the important men of the area. Therefore, the two contestants kept trying to outdo one another in the amount and nature of the bribes, in the wounds inflicted by their respective supporters, in the volume of the curses screamed at each other in the public areas.”
Here Methos stopped to close his eyes, obviously lost in disturbing memories of times long past. Mac waited patiently, leery to disturb Methos in this testy mood. Finally the old man sighed gustily and opened his eyes, back in the present once more to continue his tale.
“Yes, MacLeod, we were all getting totally sick of the contest, a stupefying combination of dullness, mean-spirited whining, and minor but annoying bloodletting that seemed to permeate every aspect of our lives. It was whispered about, shouted over, and the butt of many a drunken joke, but it would NOT go away. Trade languished, the birthrate dropped, the harvest lay untended, but the miserable contest for clan leader went on and on and on….”
“So what happened?” MacLeod interrupted, having gotten rather sick of this interminable story himself.
Methos glared at him, but answered readily enough.
“The Game happened. One day the populace just…..snapped. The two would-be leaders found themselves set upon and pummeled into submission. Both were armed with swords, then ringed by a furious mob that kept shouting at them to kill each other. I can still hear them screaming,” Methos said hollowly, shuddering, “ ‘There can be only one! There can be only one! There can…’”
“But how did Immortals get involved,” MacLeod demanded, ignoring Methos’ steely stare at being interrupted once more.
“There happened to be a storm coming,” Methos said grumpily, “and the swords were metal, MacLeod, held up high in the middle of a hayfield. What do you imagine happened next? Zap!”
“Fighting for the position of leader, swords, lightning, beheading – it all got mangled together in the retelling over the years, and here we are, all trying to kill one another in a Game that originated in a dispute over a stupid job! It’s the stuff of tragedy, I tell you.”
MacLeod wasn’t quite sure that he believed every word, but he wisely refrained from expressing his opinion out loud.
“Okay, Methos, I get it. Tragic. Quite tragic. Ready for lunch?”
The two men started walking from the park, past a line of citizens waiting to vote in a nearby school.
“Sure, but aren’t the bars closed on Election Day?”
MacLeod chuckled. “That was years ago. Let’s go to Joe’s. Say, who do you think will win this one, Bush or Gore?”
Election MWC "Exit Poll"
INTERIOR, JOE'S BAR, DAY:
It is a quiet afternoon at Joe's bar; the few customers hanging around are listening to the news over the radio. Dawson serves behind the bar, while Methos sips his beer and scowls.
"A recount is still in progress in several Florida counties, and the presidential race is still neck and neck-"
"Shut that off, will you Joe? The last thing I need to hear is the word 'neck' describing a contest, even if it is only a political one."
"What do you mean only a political contest? This is an important event, the choosing of the next leader of our nation! Every man and woman who voted is waiting with bated breath to hear the results."
"Exactly Joe, everyone who voted."
"Are you trying to tell me you didn't vote? You, who were there for the birth of democracy?"
METHOS (sniffs his disdain)
"Democracy, my friend, is no better than any other form of government. That lovely little device, the guillotine, was popularised by people crying Equality, liberty, fraternity! I'd rather wait another few centuries just to make sure this whole thing isn't a fad."
(Off Dawson's look)
"Why should I care who's going to lead this nation for the next four years? A nation I may need to flee at any moment to save my own skin. Even if I do settle down for a while, four years is totally meaningless to me."
"Oh come on, don't give me that whole I'm beyond your petty little lives crap. I don't believe it for a second."
Methos leans forward to emphasise his point, and also to avoid curious ears.
"Fine, exactly who do you expect to participate in this historic event? Adam Pierson, who isn't a citizen of the United States and technically doesn't have a Work Visa? How about Ben Adams, who, based on the last time I upgraded his birth date, is now in his sixties? Or maybe I should just walk up to the voting officers and introduce myself as Methos. No last name thanks. We didn't need them when I was growing up."
"There's something you're not telling me. You wouldn't be getting this defensive otherwise."
"You want to know what put me off politics for good, do you really want to know? It wasn't Brutus, the original backstabber; it wasn't the intrigue that reduced an amazing woman like Cleopatra to suicide; it wasn't even the rise of that little squirt Bonaparte. I'll tell you exactly what happened."
FLASHBACK: June 17, 1972
"The '70's, not exactly my favourite historical period; but I'd seen worse. All in all, ten years I'd rather forget. But here it was, the summer of 1972, and I was keeping low-key as usual; I had just moved into a nice apartment in Washington, D.C. ..."
INTERIOR, THE WATERGATE BUILDING, NIGHT
Methos, currently incarnated as a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, comes home after a long day. The effort of combining research with teaching is more than he bargained for, as it is after midnight. He hasn't been much for keeping up with fashion, and so he's in his trademark cable-knit sweater and jeans rather than any of the clothing horrors popular at the time.
As he juggles books and papers in search of his keys, he hears noise coming from inside his apartment. There is no accompanying Buzz, but he enters cautiously nonetheless.
FB METHOS (Playing the role of the meek victim)
"Who are you? What's going on here?"
Scanning the room quickly, he sees no less than five men, all of them strangers. It's meant to look like robbery, but everything's too slick, too professional. One man pulls him into the room, while another locks the door and stands blocking any escape. The "professor" turns pale and begins to stammer nervously.
FB METHOS (continues)
"I don't have much money. Take whatever you want, just (beat) don't hurt me."
"Oh, we've got more than enough money. As for what we want, well Dick says he wants you. You better come quietly, Prof., because if you don't-well, he didn't say he needed you in one piece."
The "Prof.", seemingly in panic, throws the heavy pile of books into the man's face. Then dropping the college persona altogether, Methos spins around and tackles the man at the door. Rushing out of the room, he sprints down the hall with the "burglars" in pursuit.
"These guys were stubborn, that's for sure. They chased me all over the building before I managed to lock them in one of the offices. I didn't want my name mixed up in any of this, so when I called the police I said the robbery was in the office where I'd left them: something or other National Committee..."
INTERIOR, JOE'S BAR, DAY:
Joe gives Methos an angry, "I've been had" glare.
"You have got to be kidding. Watergate? You're trying to tell me that the whole Watergate scandal had nothing to do with espionage, the Democratic National Committee or cover-ups. That it was all because the President of the United States, the Immortal Richard M. Nixon, wanted your head?"
"Hey, there was a reason they called this guy Tricky Dick."
DAWSON (shakes his head in disbelief)
"Next you're going to tell me that you were Deep Throat!"
METHOS (sheepish smile)
"Well, as a matter of fact..."
INTERIOR, WASHINGTON, D.C. , A DIMLY LIT PARKADE, DAY
Woodward and Bernstein meet up with a shadowy figure; a handful of pages is passed to the journalists.
"Who are you; how do you know all this?"
DEEP THROAT (voice muffled)
"That doesn't matter. What does matter is that it's the truth, and that your going to break this story."
The man waits patiently until he is certain the two reporters are gone, removes his disguise. The mysterious stranger is none other than Methos, who smiles to himself at his own cleverness. His triumph is short lived, though, as he senses a BUZZ.
While he is still searching for the source, he hears a distinctive voice.
"Now why did you have to go and do that?"
He enters calmly and confidently, the man who is either loved or hated, but always recognised. The man currently known as the President of the United States, Richard Nixon. He is alone, the traditional compliment of Secret Service agents is no where in sight.
"You were the one who came looking for me. Although I'd hardly attempted kidnapped fair practice in the Game." (beat) "You know you can't have it both ways, you can't have both political power and power in the Game." (shrugs) "I just decided it would be easier to take you out of politics."
"Well, then maybe I should take you out altogether."
He pulls a broadsword, forcing Methos to draw his own. They circle cautiously, though Methos is obviously on the defensive.
"The broadsword looked strange with the suit and the faint jowls, but I could tell from his stance that he knew how to use it. He might not have fought since he came into office, but then again I couldn't be sure. I, on the other hand, had been out of practice for much longer..."
Combat continues behind the commentary. Blood is split on both sides, and for a moment it looks as if the advantage could go either way. A SHOUT is heard from O/S as agents rush onto the scene. Methos lets himself be distracted and is disarmed, and at the same time one of the bodyguard agents aims and FIRES. Methos goes down.
"They must have been trained for shoot to wound, because I could still hear them talking."
Two bodyguards rush to the President's side, their training is so absolute that neither of them even mentions the swords. Their only concern to remove him from the scene of "danger" even against his own protests.
"We should go, Sir."
"I'm not finished here yet!"
"No Sir, I really think we should go."
INTERIOR, JOE'S BAR, DAY:
"You're trying to tell me you almost killed the President?"
"Are you kidding? He almost killed me! If it hadn't been for that trigger-happy agent, I might not be here in all my glory to tell you this story. I swear, some day I'm going to find that Dick again..."
DAWSON (still unconvinced)
"There's only one problem with that story (beat) Richard Nixon died in 1994."
"Sure he died, of a stroke. A nice clean death, with no messy wounds; a favourite choice among Immortals."
"Five Presidents attended the guy's funeral!"
"Joe, you of all people should know how easy it is to fake a funeral."
Dawson stares at the storyteller for nearly a minute, but he still can't decide if he's been had. Reluctantly he pours the Immortal another beer. He pauses before handing it over-
"Even if I do believe this whole fairy tale, what does that have to do with your complete rejection of the modern electoral system?"
METHOS (grabbing the mug)
"Everything! Joe, I voted for that creep."