Wildfire

Christopher O'Shea

Email me!

"I'll have your head for this MacLeod!", the harsh Belfast accent exclaimed as the broadsword cut angrily through the air seeking Duncan's neck.

He hopped back lightly out of range keeping his katana raised protectively before him. Duncan sighed inwardly. There were times when his natural charm with ladies was a definite asset and he had enjoyed those times.... and there were times when it got him into serious trouble; like now.

"Stand and fight you, you, coward!" The man currently intent on ending his existence, was an old friend, Brendan Shaunessy. But right now his friend's weathered face radiated fury. Shoulder length red hair tied back into a pony tail whipped around his shoulders, keeping rhythm to his movements like an angry snake waiting to strike. Brendan had 'died' a dock worker in his late forties, and now his corded arms gave his broadsword a deadly strength. His deep green eyes were slightly misted over from the effects of that evening's celebrations...

They had spent many a night, carousing through bars until dawn eventually broke, over the centuries. Tonight had been one such night.

Brendan's fiancee, Katherine had finally succeeded in getting her work published on the front page of her paper, and they were going to celebrate, long and hard. She had long raven hair and a mischievous grin that could bring a smile even to Brendan's careworn face.

Duncan had met up with them, after revisiting places from his past and rekindling old memories that history had forgotten.

But, alcohol and, though he would never admit it, insecurity, had clouded Brendan's judgement. He had mistaken MacLeod's natural charm, assisted by a good amount of Guinness, as a serious attempt on the winning the affections of his lover.

"I should have seen this coming," Duncan thought. Somehow the idea to "Just take a shortcut down this alley" after they had taken Katherine home, had seemed far more reasonable at the time. "How much did I have to drink anyway?" He wasn't sure, but the sight of the broadsword cleaving at his head was certainly helping to sober him up.

"Look, it was nothing," Duncan tried to explain

"Nothing! NOTHING!" Fury drove the broadsword once more for Duncan's neck.

Duncan had been momentarily stunned by the sheer force of Brendan's rage and barely brought the katana up. The swords rang out in protest and lightning danced along their blades as ancient energies were unleashed. MacLeod swore softly, this was getting out of control.

The swords spun in arcs, parrying and striking, sparks raining around them as MacLeod back-pedalled defensively. This was serious, he had to end this quickly before someone, especially him, lost their head. Duncan glided back as Brendan raised his sword above his head for a two handed cut.

The sharp retort of a high velocity rifle rang shattered the silence and blood exploded from Brendan's left arm. There was a moment of perfect stillness as time stood still. Then as his reactions took over, Duncan rolled away seeking cover, his body still acting faster than his mind.

Answers could wait, survival was necessary. He heard the crackling of autofire stitching along the ground towards him as he dove over the row of litter bins and then rolled to his left. The line of fire continued along its path ripping through the bins and exploding rubbish into the air, passing through where he had just been.

Under the cover of the raining garbage, MacLeod knew he was safe for a few moments. The bins provided no physical protection, but they prevented his assailant from seeing where to aim. He needed to see what was happening, but to do so would leave him horribly vulnerable. He remembered battling with Xavier, when Horton had cut him down in mid duel. But they were both dead now, slain by his own hand.

What was happening? What should he do? Then he remembered...

The Scottish Highlands on a beautiful spring morning. The scent of fresh heather, the soft burbling of the nearby stream. It had been almost three hundred years ago and yet it was if it were yesterday. Connor's patience was beginning to wear thin.

"Trust me Duncan, there's more to fighting immortals than cutting of their heads. You won't always get to fight outdoors under the gentle sun after a polite challenge. You've got to learn to use all your senses, and that includes your ability to sense immortals."

Duncan looked back at him. He had fought many battles, true they had been in the open and during the day, but still he was a skilled warrior and this was a waste of time.

"Heh, heh, heh," Connor laughed softly. "Trust me old friend, a century or two from now, you'll look back on this and wonder why you ever doubted. Now, defend yourself!" and so saying began raining light blows down at Duncan's waist.

Duncan parried easily, waiting for an opening to appear. Connor's attacks got progressively lower hounding at Duncan's knees.

"If you can't walk you're in deep trouble in a fight" Connor explained when he saw the quizzical look on Duncan's face. Then suddenly, in midstrike he reversed the cut and slashed lightly across Duncan's forehead. The cut was shallow, but blood gushed from it into his eyes.

As he desperately tried to wipe the blinding, stinging mixture of blood and tears from his eyes, the terrible realisation came over him that he had no idea where Connor was. He spun around wildly trying to clear his vision, when he felt his sword knocked from his grasp and the cold edge of Connor's katana rest against his neck.

He was totally unprepared as Connor unceremoniously tipped a bucket of icy water over his head! Still, it helped to clear away the blood and the cut had healed thanks to his immortal abilities. He caught the look in Connor's eye. Yes, he was skilled, but there were things that even Duncan MacLeod didn't know about fighting, yet. "All right Connor," he conceded, dripping water "How do I do this?...."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He used those skills now, quieting his breathing and listening intently.

Brendan was moving away from him, the ephemeral feeling of his presence gradually fading.

Duncan looked around him. A fire escape leading to the roof top of a run-down building hung tantalisingly just beyond his reach, but if he used his katana....

Clothed in black and holding an uzi, the man shuffled softly towards the garbage, looking for Duncan's remains when he heard the screeching of metal against metal. He fired a short burst in the direction of the noise.

Silence.

Cautiously, he moved around the corner and saw the now lowered fire escape. He smiled to himself; his quarry was clever but he had merely delayed his end. Keeping the uzi trained on the top of the fire escape, he moved towards it. A soft thud of steel striking flesh and the gunman collapsed unconscious.

Duncan smiled to himself. Another of Connor's lessons had been in mis-direction. The gunman had walked past him, but his attention had stayed on the fire escape, and so he did not see Duncan crouched in the shadows, and now it was too late. MacLeod had learned to use his sword in many different ways, and the hilt of the katana was very effective for rendering people unconscious he thought with a grin.

Brendan was gone now, Duncan could no longer feel his presence. Quickly he searched the gunmen and wasn't surprised to find the raven tattooed on the inside of his wrist. Rogue watchers again! The only other item of use was the man's cell phone. Duncan pocketed it and vanished into the night.

A slightly bedraggled Katherine answered the door to Duncan an hour later. "Do ye know what time it is?!" she asked, "I have a serious hangover to nurse, you know."

MacLeod smiled winningly,

"Well, if I could just come in and explain?"

Her look told him that had it been anyone else, the answer would have been a very definite and unladylike "No."

"Ok, but this had better be good. Coffee?" she turned and headed back into the warmth of her flat.

Five minutes later, she was on her sofa, a mug of coffee in her hand, knees folded under her, looking expectantly at MacLeod.

He proceeded to talk her through the night's events, pausing while she occasionally cursed under her breath at stubborn fools, insane gunmen and the world at large.

"So what can I do to help?" she asked.

"Well I was hoping your connections at the paper might be able to track down the owner of the mobile phone and where he has been calling recently?" Duncan answered.

"I think so, yes. It'll take a little time, though. Let's see, who's likely to be awake at this time of night?"

It had taken Katherine only a few more hours to locate a supposedly abandoned complex of warehouses and factories that had been receiving calls from the gunman's mobile phone.

So now Duncan sat hunched behind the treeline looking through binoculars at the derelict buildings before slipping through the shadows towards them. Having reached the doors undetected, he carefully examined the padlock and chain that secured them. It was well crafted, but a swift cut with his katana and the chain fell neatly in two.

Checking once more that he hadn't been observed, Duncan entered the building. As he crept stealthily through the corridors, carefully checking the rooms as he passed them, his senses reached outwards.

There! He felt another immortal's presence. Now, to find out where.

He continued further along the corridor, when he heard Brendan's distinctive voice coming from further down.

"Why are you doing this? Who are you anyway?!"

MacLeod smiled as he moved down the corridor, that temper got Brendan into a lot of trouble, but even now he was demanding answers.

"Who am I?" a sharp Cambridge accent answered, dripping with scorn. "I'm your death, you parasite, you aberration of nature! I know what you are and we are going to remove you, all of you from the face of the earth. However, you immortals," he paused at the look of surprise on Brendan's face. "Oh, yes. We know all about you. However, you are remarkably difficult to track down and you never can tell who will become an immortal. So I've devised a neat, effective solution."

Duncan had reached the door and carefully looked through the window set in it. He saw a fully equipped laboratory with Brendan strapped to a chair and two middle aged men in pristine white doctors coats standing over him. A tray of sharp, gleaming surgical instruments lay within their reach.

The blonde man continued his tirade.

Short dark hair, immaculately groomed, set the precedent for this man's attire. A stylish deep blue Armani suit and tie, covered by a white laboratory coat. Duncan could even make out carefully ironed creases in the sleeves.

"A plague, genetically designed to seek out and eradicate immortals, whilst leaving humans unaffected. I shall call it 'Wildfire' as it will purify our race once more. You, my pathetic Gaelic lab rat are going to help us develop it."

Brendan laughed and spat in the doctor's face

"And you think I'll help you. I think you've been taking too many of your own drugs!"

The doctor removed a perfectly folded white silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and calmly wiped away the spittle from his face. "Imbecile, I don't want your assistance. I just want to unlock the secrets within your genes to help me create the plague. Oh, and of course, I'll test it on you. I imagine it will probably take a few years, but what's a few years to you?" Laughing he turned back to a pile of papers stacked on the table.

Anger burned through Duncan. Yet another deranged psychotic seeking to wipe out people because they didn't fit with their narrow, distorted view of how the world should be. Well, this one would be stopped and now. He pushed the door open and pointed the uzi in the doctors' direction.

"Good morning. I'm from the Immortals' Union. I've come to discuss claims from my client of harassment. Do sit down." He gestured to the chairs with the uzi. He smiled charmingly, but the smile didn't reach his eyes; his gaze chilled the two men's souls.

"You," he pointed to the assistant "Cut him loose". The assistant looked nervously at the doctor for approval. MacLeod fired a short burst over along the table next to them.

"That wasn't a request."

Trembling the assistant got up and began to untie Brendan. The doctor was also trembling, but with rage. He grabbed one of the knife-like surgical tools and spun slashing at Brendan. He was fast, but four centuries had honed MacLeod's reflexes to a razor edge. Autofire blossomed from the uzi tearing through the area.

The tables exploded, instruments shattered into fountains of glass, mixing with the blood and gore of both doctors and Brendan. The knife-edged tool buried itself in Brendan's arm, as the three bodies jerked from the bullets in a macabre dance of death. The clip in the uzi emptied and like puppets whose strings have been cut, the three bodies fell lifeless to the ground. Duncan threw the gun away.

He walked over to his friend's body and pulled the knife from his shoulder. Then he sat back and waited.

Pain washed over Brendan, the memory of dying electrifying him and then the realisation that he was alive once more, his neck intact. For now, anyway.

"Glad to see you're back," Duncan quipped. Then a look of concern passed over him. "How do you feel?"

"Terrible, but I'll live," he replied.

"Good. There's one more thing we need to do before we leave...."

Sitting in front of a warm fireplace, a glass of Glenmorangie whiskey within easy reach, MacLeod smiled as he read the paper.

A mysterious fire had swept through a derelict industrial estate yesterday. It had burnt itself out, but had left behind it only charred bricks.

"He got his Wildfire after all," Duncan thought.

END

To the Authors' pages