Unauthorized Access

By Cynthia A Shettle

Copyright April 1999

This story is a work of Highlander fan-fiction, a non-profit, amateur piece done without the permission of Rysher Entertainment. It is in no way intended to infringe upon Rysher's rights to their world or characters. Please notify me before publishing it elsewhere, whether electronically or in print. Updates on my other work are available on my fiction page.

Please note that, while the character of Dice does appear in an episode of Highlander, I drew more from his entry on the Watcher Chronicles CD-ROM when writing this story. Vicki Goodwin, as my beta-reader, has been helpful with her suggestions and I appreciate her quick response time, since I am working under deadline.

Lawrence Dicente, Dice to his friends, was at work at the computer center next door to the Watcher Academy when a message marked as urgent appeared in his mailbox. He didn't recognize the return address. It was probably someone who couldn't figure out the system and thought he deserved instant attention. Dice was pretty sure he knew the names of all the Watchers of high enough rank to get him in trouble for not responding promptly. Being rather busy at the moment, he was tempted to ignore the message until he had time to deal with it, but he clicked on it anyway.

That name was instantly familiar, though Dice hadn't heard from him in over a year. He quickly typed a reply, "Besides you?" and clicked the send button. Dice sat for a minute, staring at the screen and wondering why Paul had suddenly resumed his e-mail and what his warning could mean. But as Dice reached for the mouse to see what information he had on the new account Paul was using, another message appeared in his box. Paul was online right now! Dice opened the message.

This message was unsigned, but the return address was the same. Dice considered carefully. Paul had been quite friendly at first, even suggesting improvements to the system that Dice had found quite useful once he implemented them. Paul had quickly turned shy when Dice suggested meeting in person to hack out the code together and disappeared entirely when a little research turned up the fact that Paul might not be a Watcher.

Nothing Paul had done had seemed hostile, but there were still questions that Dice needed answered. "Who are you?" he typed. While waiting for a reply, Dice called up a program that would trace the location of the mysterious caller. Just before the program would have produced results, Dice received an answer and a disconnect.

The first Watcher to use the database on a regular basis was Dice's mentor, Joe Dawson, but he had never claimed to have written it. No one talked about it much, but there had been a prior, unauthorized version, usually credited to Head Researcher Donald Salzer. That CD had been found by Kalas, the same Immortal who had killed Salzer a few months earlier.

Dice started to type Joe's e-mail address, but hesitated. If there was someone on the system who shouldn't be there, Dice didn't know how much they had access to. That might also be why Paul had decided to admit his identity in the form of a riddle. Paris was close enough to Geneva to be daytime there right now. Dice picked up the phone.

"Le Blues Bar. Joe Dawson speaking."

"Joe? It's Dice. Would you mind telling me who originally designed the Watcher database?"

There was a pause as Dawson considered the request. "Why do you need to know?" he said at last.

Dice hesitated a moment before replying, "I just received e-mail from someone who claimed credit for it. It wasn't from you and it certainly wasn't from Salzer. So who sent it?"

Dawson thought this over. "He couldn't have sent you e-mail because he's not on the system. He hasn't been a Watcher for seven years."

Paul had claimed to be a researcher at one point during their initial conversation and Dawson's statement made this seem more likely than Dice had previously believed. He tried a search in the records for a Watcher researcher with computer skills who had retired in 1996 and knew both Dawson and Salzer.

When the best match appeared on his screen, Dice knew why the mysterious caller had been so reluctant to meet in person. Several months after Adam Pierson had gone AWOL, he had been revealed to be not only an Immortal, but the ever elusive oldest Immortal, Methos. Dazedly, Dice thanked Joe for the information and hung up the phone. He typed a reply, "Can we meet in person? On Holy Ground, if you'd like..."

After he sent the message, Dice ordered the computer to notify him if anyone tried using that account again, but not to do anything else. An attempt to trap Methos might scare him off and it was unlikely to succeed. Better men than Dice had tried and failed. He went back to his work while waiting for the reply.

It was nearly two hours later when Dice's friendly unauthorized user returned. Less than five minutes after that he had an answer.

Was Methos trying to deny that he was an Immortal? Dice reached for the keyboard to type an angry retort, but stopped himself. Methos wasn't playing games. He was pointing out that Holy Ground protected Dice from Methos, not the other way around. Dice apologized, "Sorry. I wasn't thinking. You may pick the place." He sent the message and sat waiting for the response.

Dice looked around the cafe. Being lunch time, it was quite crowded, hardly the place he'd pick for a secret meeting. Still, it was where Methos had told him to go. Of course, that didn't mean that the Immortal intended to show up, but Dice didn't have any better ideas on where to find him. Besides, it had been Methos who had initially approached him, even if it was electronically and under an alias.

He had been waiting almost five minutes when a waiter approached. "You are Dice, yes?"

"Uh... Yeah, that's my nickname."

"I have a message for you." The waiter handed him a sealed envelope labeled, "Dice," and went away again.

Dice opened the envelope, revealing a note that read, "I'm out back." Giving a sigh, Dice shoved note and envelope into his pocket, left the cafe and circled around behind it. At first, there seemed to be no one there, but then a man of unassuming appearance stepped out of hiding. The face was one Dice had seen many times in photographs and on computer screens, most recently a mere three hours ago. If he hadn't recognized him from those, Dice never would have guessed that this man was a myth among Immortals and a legend among Watchers.

Methos looked him over, then nodded as if satisfied. "Come with me." He turned and walked away.

Hurrying after him, Dice asked, "What was that all about?"

Glancing back over his shoulder, Methos replied, "I wanted to make sure you weren't followed."

Dice shuddered at this reminder that, in spite of having been unmasked, Methos was still better at tracking Watchers than they were at tracking him. "I wouldn't try to trap you. You're too smart to get caught."

With an amused smile and a nod of acceptance, Methos resumed walking.

"What should I call you?" Dice asked. "Paul or Adam or..." Dice realized that he didn't know what alias Methos was currently using. He knew the most recent alias the Watchers had, but it seemed likely that Methos had changed it three months ago, when they had most recently lost track of him.

"Whatever you're most comfortable with."

Dice considered this. While he had started to automatically refer to the ancient Immortal by his real name within the privacy of his thoughts, Dice didn't want to call him that out loud. Adam Pierson was only slightly better, as the name had been nearly synonymous with Methos since before Dice had joined the Watchers. "I think I'll go with Paul." It was the name under which Dice had first encountered him, after all.

The man leading the way shrugged, but didn't waver in his path.

Dice sat on the wooden crate Methos offered him, the closest thing to a chair in the abandoned warehouse in which the Immortal had chosen to talk. "So what's this about? Who's on our system?"

Methos shook his head. "I don't know. Probably an Immortal. Possibly a renegade Watcher, though the MO doesn't fit, especially not someone who's still active."

"Slow down," Dice instructed. "What tipped you off?"

"The large number of dead or missing Watchers over the last four months."

"Then your disappearance three months ago wasn't to hide from us, it was to hide from whomever was killing them."

With a sigh, Methos nodded and turned his head. "I'll admit that I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that there are more people currently living who are able to associate my name with my face than there were during the first five thousand years of my life, but I am trying to get back on better terms with the Watchers."

"Which is why you've been hacking into our computer," Dice said sarcastically.

"I like to keep an eye on things. I wasn't hurting anyone." Methos turned back to Dice. "And I seem to have caught on to your little problem before anyone else."

"You still haven't convinced me that there is a problem," Dice countered, shaking his head. "How do you know the disappearances are related? What connects them to the computer database?"

"Because there's a pattern. In every single case, the Watcher's assignment has also turned up dead or gone missing."

"That's not too surprising. All of the cases took place in remote areas. It was days before anyone knew the Watchers were gone, giving the Immortals plenty of time to go somewhere else without being seen."

"But these weren't transients," Methos protested. "They were well settled in their homes and didn't take anything with them when they left. The same is true for their Watchers. I think they're all dead. Whomever killed them must have hidden the bodies."

"An Immortal who knows about us and is killing anyone who witnesses the Quickening," Dice suggested.

"Except that, in those cases in which time and place of death or disappearance has been established, the Watcher invariably died first and someplace else. This person is specifically targeting those Watchers assigned to Immortals he is planning to kill. That means he knows who is Watching whom."

"And you're concerned that this Immortal will go after Dawson and MacLeod?" Dice asked, trying to figure out Methos' motivation in all of this. "Why didn't you go to them with this information?"

"They're unlikely to be in danger. This guy prefers to deal with situations where there aren't other Watchers and Immortals nearby who might accidentally run into him while he's dealing with his targets."

"So why hide from us? You could have simply moved to a city with other Immortals in it if all you wanted was to protect yourself."

"I disappeared right after the third case, the first one in which a body was found. It was too soon then to establish a definite pattern. Besides, I was investigating the scenes of the crimes, looking for clues that might not have made it into the computer records. There are still a lot of Watchers who don't trust me. If I provided evidence that linked me to the incidents in any fashion, even after the fact, one of them might have decided that I was responsible somehow."

"You still haven't explained why you approached me," Dice reminded him.

Methos shrugged. "As the Watcher in charge of the computer system, you seemed the person most likely to be able to help me."

"I can't be that good," Dice protested. "I couldn't catch you."

"You weren't trying to catch me," Methos pointed out. "But you probably don't want to catch him either," the Immortal added thoughtfully.

"Why not? I thought the point of this was..."

"To stop him," Methos interrupted. "Finding out where he is now won't do us any good because we already know that he's not planning to stay there. We need to know where he's going."

Dice considered. "So we identify his account and see which files he looks up and use those to figure out who his next victims will be."

Methos nodded. "Then we can get there before he does."

"You can get there before he does," Dice corrected. "I'm staying here in Geneva."

The ancient Immortal looked around the warehouse as if hoping someone would pop out of a discarded crate and volunteer to go in his stead. No one did. Methos sighed. "That probably makes sense."

"You don't sound very enthusiastic," Dice noted.

"But I'll do it."

"Why? You aren't really the hero type."

"Heroes don't live to see five thousand."

"Exactly my point. So why are you here?"

Methos searched the room again. "Do you know who Jacob Galati was? I think he was a little before your time."

Dice nodded. "He was an Immortal who killed several Watchers. Horton killed his wife and he thought we were all renegades."

The Immortal nodded. "And what happened?"

"The Watchers killed him."

"That's how that particular disaster ended. How did it begin?"

"Was that when Dawson was brought to trial for consorting with Immortals?"

Methos nodded. "The Watchers didn't know who was doing the killing, so they picked a scapegoat."

Dice tried to remember more of the details. "Didn't they find him guilty of treason and schedule an execution, but later reverse the decision?"

"They didn't just schedule an execution, they actually held one. If Galati hadn't interrupted it, Dawson would have died. He very nearly died anyway, from one of Galati's bullets. But it wasn't only Dawson that the Watchers sentenced to death, they wanted to kill MacLeod too." Methos looked at Dice. "So, can you see why I don't want that to happen again, especially now that I'm at the top of their list of Immortals who know about Watchers?"

Dice didn't think that Methos would make a very good scapegoat. There were a lot of people who didn't like him, but even most of them would have trouble believing that Methos would suddenly start killing Watchers for no good reason. After all, there had been plenty of opportunities for Methos to destroy them that he had passed up. There were also very few Watchers willing to risk making Methos their enemy if he wasn't already one. Still, if this was for real, Dice needed Methos' help, so he was reluctant to discredit what Methos claimed was his primary motivation. He nodded. "I should get back to the computer center and get started. When I need to contact you..."

"You haven't deleted my new account yet, have you?" Methos asked.

"I haven't even deleted your old account," Dice admitted.

The Immortal smiled. "Then you know how to contact me."

Methos sat meditating in his hotel room. Once he had calmed and centered himself, he let his mind wander. For some reason, he had decided to go off and challenge an Immortal he knew nothing about, not even his name. That wasn't something sensible Immortals who wanted to live to see six thousand did. Perhaps Methos was hanging out with MacLeod too much and he was starting to rub off. No, MacLeod didn't care about the Watchers as a group, only the individual Watcher who was his friend. He wouldn't hack into the Watchers' computer in order to protect them from an Immortal menace.

Then again, that was more because MacLeod wouldn't realize that the Watchers were in danger at this point than because he was against protecting Watchers. MacLeod would protect just about anybody if he thought they needed it, especially since there were Immortals in danger as well. If Methos explained the situation to him thoroughly, MacLeod probably would go rushing off to save the day, sparing Methos the necessity of doing so himself.

Unfortunately, explaining to MacLeod would have to include mentioning that the Watchers now had a fully operational computer network with their database on it. While MacLeod had a very strong sense of right and wrong, it didn't seem to allow for the possibility that other people's rules might have some merit of their own. If he managed to gain access to the Watcher computer, he'd use the records to locate and read up on evil Immortals who, in MacLeod's opinion, needed to be stopped.

From the Watcher point of view, a good Immortal using Watcher records to hunt evil Immortals was not significantly better than an evil Immortal using Watcher records to hunt easy prey. Both were major violations of the non-interference policy and both resulted in dead Immortals.

Methos' use of the Watcher records to avoid other Immortals, especially potential hostile ones, while still a violation, was a milder offense. No one died, but he couldn't exactly be said to be saving lives because it wasn't necessarily true that someone would have died if they had encountered each other. Unlike most Immortals, Methos had no problem with running away from a fight, even one already in progress. He had probably lost more "death duels" than most Immortals had won, but was still around to talk about them.

So why was Methos now trying to use the Watcher database to hunt down an unknown Immortal? It went against the Watcher rules, his own rules and his common sense. He was getting off on a technicality, Methos reminded himself. This was bending the Watcher rules, rather than breaking them, something perfectly acceptable under his personal code. After all, Methos wasn't reading this guy's file. Even if he had one, Methos wouldn't know which one it was. He was going to use this guy's attempts to access other people's files to hunt him.

As for his common sense, while it warned him against picking unnecessary fights, it also cautioned against ignoring small problems, allowing them to grow into larger ones. The unknown Immortal was killing, on average, two Watchers a month. That was a frightfully fast pace by Methos' standards. He had encountered Watcher-killers in the past for whom two dead Watchers in a decade would be rare. Then again, both the approaching Gathering and the computer age tended to encourage speed and efficiency.

Neither Kalas nor Galati had followed the old patterns either. Both had caused panic among the Watchers being hunted. People who were scared for their lives tended not to worry much about rules or logic. During the crisis with Galati, the Watchers had barely held back from all out war with the Immortals. Since then, they had become larger, more modern, more efficient and, therefore, more dangerous if they ever did decide to take that last step. That was something that Methos could not allow to happen.

Methos turned his thoughts to Dice. Admitting his identity had been a gamble, but it appeared to have paid off. The kid had potential, even aside from the fact that he had managed to accomplish what Adam Pierson had tried to do for the Watchers and failed - bring their technology up to date with modern standards. Initially, that was what had inspired him to write to Dice from Paul Shepard's account. Now it was more than that. Dice had been willing to meet with Methos and help him solve their mutual problem. With any luck, they'd have established a friendship by the time Dice's awe of the ancient Immortal wore off.

However, Methos' interest in making a new friend among the Watchers and Dice's technical expertise were not Methos' only reasons for approaching Dice instead of Dawson. While Dawson was well aware of the fact that the Watchers now had a computer network, he did not know that Methos was on it. He probably didn't want to know either, considering that Dawson hadn't seen fit to mention to Methos that the Watchers were on to him.

The ancient Immortal did understand why Dawson felt a certain obligation to report at least a minimal amount of the information he obtained on Methos, now that the Immortal's secret was out. As a historian himself, Methos thought Dawson wasn't giving the Watchers enough of that information. But, as the subject being discussed, Methos still felt somewhat betrayed by the fact that Dawson hadn't consulted him before telling anyone.

Opening his eyes, Methos stretched out his limbs and went over to the computer. He dialed direct this time, not bothering with the fancy tricks he had used earlier when he was concerned that Dice might try to trace him. For the moment at least, Dice was accepting his presence on the Watcher computer.

Was that the cafe they had started at or the abandoned warehouse Methos had led Dice to afterwards? Probably the later, Methos decided. It was both a better place to talk and harder to figure out, in the unlikely chance that the mysterious hacker was reading their e-mail. "I'll be there," he typed in reply.

"The first thing I did was to check all accounts for anomalies, like the blank assignment histories in both of yours. The other three I turned up were genuine computer errors because I went next door and found the hard copies of their records."

"That doesn't sound very useful," Methos commented.

"I'm not finished yet," Dice admonished. "I didn't think it would work, because I know you've been deleting your record of files accessed, but I generated a list of the eight dead or missing Watchers and their assignments and ran a check to see if anyone had looked at all sixteen of them and I actually got a match, a Watcher named Theodore Williams."

"So our suspect is a Watcher?"

Dice shook his head. "I don't think so. I had brought the other files back to the computer center, so I could make the corrections while I did the search. When I returned them, I took a look at his hard copy and Williams hasn't been heard from in six months."

"Someone killed his Watcher then took over the Watcher's computer account?"

"No. Williams' assignment was still there when his replacement arrived and hasn't left since. It also occurred in a major city. It doesn't fit your pattern at all."

"It wouldn't have to," Methos said thoughtfully. "This would probably be when he discovered the Watchers. What did Williams' most recent Chronicle entries say? Did his assignment run into any other Immortals, particularly ones without Watchers of their own?"

"Unfortunately, several Chronicles were found missing from his house, his most recent one among them."

"This wouldn't happen if everyone filed their reports electronically," Methos complained.

"You sound like me," Dice commented.

Methos smiled. "Not surprising. My first impression of you was that you seemed a lot like Adam Pierson."

Dice looked at him, remembering that Adam Pierson was the actual origin of the computer database. "Did you really want the Watchers to be computerized or did you just think it would make it easier for you to access our records?"

The Immortal considered. "If I was thinking selfishly, I wouldn't have put a picture of myself on every Watcher's computer screen, knowing that I'd never look a day over than when that picture was taken. Even long after I had quit, they'd still have that picture of me if I ever showed up again." Methos looked up. "In spite of what everyone tried to tell me, I knew that the traditional ways of doing things weren't based on a desire for secrecy, but on the fact that the technology didn't exist to do them any other way."

"There's still a lot of resistance to the idea," Dice admitted. "If word of this gets out, those people are going to try to use it as an excuse to dismantle the computer."

"I'll do my best not to give them that excuse," Methos promised. "Has he accessed any other files?"

Dice nodded. "Lots of them, mostly during the two months between the original Watcher's disappearance and the first case we're investigating."

"Any relation between the initial files accessed and the ones eventually picked as victims?"

"The first four pairs of victims all were among the initial files accessed. None of the others match the situation he seems to looking for, so he had to go back and pull them as needed for the remaining four. The last time he was on was three days before the last incident."

"Nothing we can use." Methos sighed. "If he's using a stolen account, he probably doesn't have the skills to hack in on his own. We should be able to get rid of him just by deleting that account."

"That's not necessarily true," Dice countered. "It might be an oversight that nobody updated Williams records and deleted his account, but it could be that he went back in and changed them."

"Wouldn't you have been the one to delete the account?"

"Yes, but I don't specifically remember deleting the other eight either and they aren't there anymore. I do remember there being more than usual though. There also aren't any records of Williams' utilizing his account before his disappearance."

"I guess we should still go with the original plan," Methos reluctantly agreed. "The last killings were nine days ago. He should be due to call again soon. Let me know when he does."

Three days later, whomever was using Williams' account went through the Watcher files again. Dice met with Methos that evening.

"I think these are the people whom he intends to make his next victims." Dice handed Methos two photo quality printouts from the database, one of a Watcher and the other of her Immortal assignment.

Accepting the pages, Methos asked "Would you mind if I checked their files myself?"

Dice hesitated. It was his job to keep Immortals off the Watchers' computer system, not to give them permission to use it. Then again, he wasn't certain he could keep Methos off if he tried. Dice sighed. "If you're going to use our computer, I'd rather know what you're looking at."

Methos realized that Dice wasn't just talking about tonight. He was planning to let Methos keep his account. The Immortal nodded. "I can stop deleting those records." Most of what Methos looked up was simply for curiosity anyway and Methos didn't think that those he did end up utilizing were more than mildly abusive. He stood up to go. "If I fail..."

"You won't," Dice interrupted.

With a small smile of appreciation at Dice's confidence, Methos repeated, "If I fail, you'll have to find another way to stop him, because you may be the only one who knows he's out there."

Dice swallowed and nodded, though he really didn't like the idea.

"And if worse comes to worse and the Watchers find out everything, make sure they know I died trying to save them."


Methos looked at him sternly.

Turning his head, Dice nodded. "I hope it doesn't come to that. But if it does, I'll make sure they know about your sacrifice and hope than an Immortal martyr will enable some of them to see reason."

"Thank you," Methos said, sincerely. "I won't be back in Geneva for a while, but I'll send you e-mail when it's over."

Esmerelda was heading back towards her house. Methos gave a sigh of relief as he dropped the binoculars and ducked behind a tree. Keeping tabs on a Watcher field agent wasn't that easy. It was always much harder to follow someone who had shadowing skills themselves, a fact that Methos appreciated much more when he was the one being tailed. Added to that were the complications that Esmerelda could recognize Methos on sight and was herself following someone who would be able to sense Methos coming if he got too close. It had been almost two days since he had arrived plus another day of travel time to get here. Hopefully, the object of Methos' search would be here soon.

Methos suddenly stiffened, as the familiar tingle in his aura announced the presence of another Immortal. Unless Esmerelda's assignment had suddenly started following her, it seemed like Methos was about to get his wish. Cautiously, he peered around the tree. Esmerelda was still walking down the dirt road. Now he could see a man who looked to be in his early twenties. He had purple hair and was wearing a studded leather jacket, rather unusual for an Immortal. The man was walking quickly towards Esmerelda, though he looked around nervously as he did so.

"Just how old are you?" Methos asked as he stepped out into the road.

The man froze, then slowly turned to face him. "Twenty six," he muttered, staring at Methos' face, a slightly puzzled look on his face. Suddenly, his expression brightened. "I know you. You're Adam Pierson."

"I haven't used that name in seven years." Methos looked the man up and down. "Perhaps you were younger last time we met."

Bristling at the implied insult, the young Immortal replied, "We haven't met. I'm..." He caught himself and glanced at the spot the Watcher had been moments earlier. "No. You've already interrupted my plans, but I won't let you trick me into revealing my identity."

Methos looked in that direction himself. As he had hoped, the Watcher had taken cover upon spotting him and was no longer in sight. "Trick? It's customary for Immortals to introduce themselves."

"A custom you ignore yourself on a regular basis," the man pointed out. "But you can't fool me. I know you're working with them."

"Who?" Methos broadened his search to include the entire empty road and the strands of trees on either side.

"You know. The Watchers."

Laughing out loud, Methos replied, "Wherever you're getting your information, it's out of date. I haven't been a Watcher since I stopped being Adam Pierson."

Apparently not liking being laughed at, the young Immortal decided to end this. He pulled out a gun and shot at Methos. The ancient Immortal tried to dodge, but wasn't fast enough. The bullet struck him and he fell over and lay still.

As the young Immortal walked over to the body, he holstered his gun and drew his sword. "Oldest man in the world?" He snorted. "Oldest pushover in the world is more like it." He kicked at Methos' corpse.

Methos slashed the kid's leg with the knife in his left hand as he rolled out of the way. Limping back a few steps, the young man switched his sword to his off hand and was reaching for his gun again.

"Stop!" Methos had regained his feet and now pointed a pistol of his own at the younger Immortal. "I'm going to give you a choice. Either we both drop the guns and knives and do this the right way, or I'm going to do to you what you tried to do to me."

"It wouldn't be a fair fight," the kid protested, indicating his bleeding leg.

"I'll give you time to heal." The offer wasn't as generous as it sounded. Methos needed time for his own injuries to finish healing. Bullet proof vests were a good deal better than dying, but still far less than perfect. He only hoped that no one noticed that he wasn't bleeding from his gunshot wound or that they assumed the kid had missed. The fact that he was wearing the vest indicated that he had expected to be shot.

All three Watchers who had been found had died from gunshot wounds. The first Immortal had been shot as well as beheaded. The other Immortal hadn't appeared to have been shot, so there was no mention of it in the Watcher files. However, Methos' on site investigation revealed that his clothes had bullet holes in them. None of this was information that Methos ought to have. It had all come from a trail that no one other than Dice and himself knew existed. Esmerelda was, almost certainly, wondering why Methos was picking a fight with a strange Immortal who knew about the Watchers. However, Methos needed to minimize the chance that she might guess at the truth.

When the young Immortal decided that his leg had finished healing, he slowly withdrew the gun from its holster and tossed it aside, transferring his sword back to his right hand. Methos let the knife fall to the ground. The pistol followed as he drew his own sword. The two Immortals approached each other. The bullet proof vest was now a heavy, bulky burden that slowed his movements, but Methos didn't regret wearing it. If he hadn't, the shot probably would have incapacitated him long enough that he'd be minus a head right now. And the handicap shouldn't be enough to shift the combat in the kid's favor.

Based on the information he now had, Methos guessed that the young Immortal had been found and was being trained by Williams' assignment. Once he discovered the Watchers, he had set off on his own, figuring that a gun and the database somehow made him the equal of any Immortal he might meet.

The young Immortal's pathetic skill at fighting seemed to confirm Methos' assessment. It appeared unlikely that he had even come close to finishing his training. "You really should have learned how to use one of those before you started challenging Immortals," Methos taunted.

Angered, the kid struck out randomly, forgetting what little training he did have. Narrowly ducking a blow, Methos realized that he may have made a mistake. The kid was already bad enough that the undisciplined strokes weren't significantly less well aimed, but they were significantly harder to predict. Still, Methos was one of the better fighters on the planet, if not quite in MacLeod's class. While the fight was a lot closer than Methos would have liked, and he was sporting several nicks and cuts by the end of it, it was the younger Immortal's head that rolled.

The Quickening that poured out of the headless corpse and into Methos was much greater than it ought to have been, coming from a twenty six year old Immortal. Then again, as Methos knew, this particular twenty six year old had killed eight Immortals, the oldest of which was nearly one hundred times his age.

When the energy storm had died out, Methos leaned over the body, searching the pockets until he found a wallet. "So who are you?" he muttered, opening it to look at the licence. Not surprisingly, Methos didn't recognize the name. Dropping the wallet, he glanced around, but the Watcher was still hiding. Methos shrugged and headed into town. Since he had been spotted, he ought to come up with a believable excuse for being here. Besides, now that the threat was over, he really ought to allow his own field agent time to catch up to him.

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