As we begin our final chapter, disclaimer time:
Highlander is the property of Rysher. MASH is the property of 20th Century Fox and, to my mind, the actors, writers and directors, who have given us 3 decades of death, sex, and laughter. The human spirit shines through the darkness of war, and not Flagg, nor CSM, nor Godzilla will stand for long against the assembled forces of the 4077th. This bastion of life and sanity is the perfect place for a weary Immortal to find love and pain and feel alive once more. Duncan Macleod is the perfect hero to befriend this group and show them the value of mortality. Stories like this have the "Superboy" flaw. We know Duncan survives, since this is set in 1952. Set in the middle of the show's run, we know that all the medics make it, too. So where's the conflict? Where indeed?........ At the end, I will ask an important question of HL/MASH fans. Now enjoy!
Chapter 7 - The One True Prize
"I will find him! He'll not get away with this!"
Hearing the wall in Radar's office being punched, Hawkeye Pierce emerged from Post-Op.
"Hey, Duncan! Ixnay on the all-way! I got a saintly patient who almost made it into Heaven early! One, he needs rest! Two, that's my favorite punching wall you're punching!"
"You're a surgeon, Ben! Ye should nae be beating walls!"
"Geez, you're upset! The only time you really get an accent is when you're flustered. By the by, Macleod, is your blood going to affect Father Mulcahy? His sermons are long enough without being eternal. Nah, I'm sorry I said that. It's just...who the hell would stab a Priest? And why with your knife?"
"I do not have an accent. It's the lot of ye that does! As to my knife, I will find the murderous scum. Wait-you called me Macleod?"
Pierce then held up a letter. It was addressed to Duncan's kinsman.
"Ye slime! Ben, you read my mail! How could ye?"
"I'm a funny kinda guy, Duncan! When a patient heals up from having his heart torn apart by shrapnel, I want to know why! Also, you could have saved a lot of dancing around by telling me you were related to Connor! How is old mister "Heh. I don't think so!"? "
"You know Connor? You know about our kind?"
"Sure. I mean, it was a loan from the guy that put me through med school! I worked in his antique dishware shop, to work it off. Some jerk named John Koeranthos came around, brandishing a sword that makes yours look like a steak knife! Connor---helped him lose some unsightly neck protrusion, and I kept quiet. He pulled out though, when the Kurgan came around. Said he wasn't ready."
"Small camp, isn't it?"
"Aye, Mockleod! Thot Eet Ees!"
"As far as imitations go, stick to surgery!"
Just then, in walked Margaret Houlihan. She looked nervously at the two men, one who she had admitted feelings for, the other she was only beginning to realize she cared for.
"Ah, Duncan. Good Morning. Pierce-Amscray!"
"Glad to, Major! Just keep Sargeant---Burns here from doing a Dempsey on these walls anymore! Padres need rest, too! Especially their pitching staff-strike that, that was bad."
With Pierce gone, Margaret moved slowly closer to Duncan, whom she kissed lightly on the lips.
"Is that all I get, Major? I'd like a wee dram more of that particular brew!"
"Duncan, I'm going to Tokyo in a few days. I'll be gone two weeks. There's a certain Lieutanant Colonel I've met previously, and I think he may pop the question this time! I just wanted you to know, our time together has been special to me. But now that time is done. I'll be leaving just as soon as Colonel Flagg's investigation into the attack on Father Mulcahy is over."
A thousand comments, insults, and curses raced through Duncan Macleod's mind. He gave voice to not even one of them.
"So long as you are happy, Margaret."
With that, a woman to whom The Highlander had offered to pop the question hugged him and left. An odd calm descended on him, far away from the rage he thought he would feel. Duncan sat at Radar's desk and began another letter to Connor Macleod.
As before in my life, that damned jealous Romany girl spoke true. Margaret has left me, for a man she did not even care enough about to name. If it were Ben I lost to, at least I could feel she was being true to her beautiful heart. But, after a month of trying to break down her walls, I am exhausted. I feel she is worth a hundred times that effort, kinsman. But even an Immortal must see hope. I can get her to come out from her tower, and I can get her to invite me in. But I cannot make her admit the grim Tower is there, or get her to tear it down. Against such an obstacle, I cannot win. It is fast becoming time that "Duncan Burns" went missing, presumed KIA.
It is not merely for my sake that I pull out, though. My presence is not masked by Sidney Freedman's spell, as is that of Radar O'Reilly's. I do not wish my enemies to find the boy while searching for me-he is too great a prize, with his weird abilities. Also of concern is Father Mulcahy. Someone tried to frame me for the attack upon him. While I've sensed no one about, I must think that I have a foe who is willing to strike at the good folk of the 4077th to get at me. Kalas, and about 100 others, spring to mind unbidden.
So it is, Connor, as soon as this Flagg has questioned me, and departs, I shall go soon after. There is nothing for me here, and I may be a danger to my new friends. Your arrangements with Sidney are secure, so I have done what I came to do. I will miss them all, though, and not merely Margaret. I must pay my respects to the Padre, though. I will speak to him under the sanctified code no Priest may speak from, and let him know that I will be all right. May we speak before the Gathering, kinsman.
My debt to you partially paid,
Depositing the letter in Radar's bin, Duncan turned and felt a sharp blow to his head, this was followed by an ether cloth over his mouth, and the feel of a needle in his arm. A sack was placed over him, and his still form joined that of two others in Colonel Flagg's jeep. The forms were those of Major Sidney Freedman and Corporal Walter O'Reilly. The Hunter was trying to take out the entire nest.
Sam Flagg was out of camp before anyone knew the three were gone. When Duncan awoke, he was bound, hands and feet, on an empty stretch of road. Groggily, he heard Sidney Freedman shouting, but he could not make out all the words.
"Dammit, Flagg! Watchers are supposed to stay in the background! Your kind watches mine! Hence the name!"
"Nice try, Sidney, or Siddig! But besides being a commie-symp-wimp, you are a stinking abomination! I'm just takin' out history's trash!"
"It's not just that, is it, Colonel? You serve that twisted little cadre of Hunters, don't you? Flagg, when you had your tattoo altered, did you incant anything?"
"I don't know what your game is, Relic, but let's say there was some mumbo - jumbo about Arman, or somesuch. What of it?"
Sidney's eyes grew wide.
"You poor fool. You've signed your soul over to the Ancient Destroyer! That "Arman or somesuch" is a Babylonian demon. It's called Pa'wreeh, or Ghidrah, or the Devil, but it's still the same evil enemy of life! Didn't you wonder how even you could sink low enough to attack a Priest?"
Flagg just laughed. Those who had recruited him had chosen well, and trained him well. He was a Hunter- a hunter of Immortals. Radar was stirring, but Flagg would be done with them all soon. The Hunters who had helped Flagg kidnap them stood by with machine guns at the ready.
"Boy, they said you'd beg for your pathetic life, and damned if they weren't right! Anything else, like how you know about the Watchers?"
"Just two things : One, you don't want to kill me, here. Too much blood. My magical wards will cause my death-throes to raise up a Golem. You don't want that, trust me. Two, Methos the Immortal told me about you. Simon Magus told me about---your demon. He lost his soul to it, too, shortly after Simon Peter cast him out of Yeshua-Ben-Yossef's early Church. He, too, wore your tattoo. I'll say this : Simon Peter did not greet him at the gates of Heaven."
"Hey, a good Golem, aimed Northward, might be just the shot in the arm ol' Uncle Sam needs! Plus, I didn't attack Mulcahy. It'll be discovered that Macleod was responsible. Before dissapearing, he killed you and O'Reilly! Tch. How tragic! But hey, that Methos bit? Good one, head shrinker! I'll remember that joke."
Duncan finally awoke from his stupor. He had heard nothing of Watchers. He hadn't heard much clearly, at all. Radar, who awoke as Flagg was chopping through a watermelon for practice, heard something in the distance. As Flagg held the sword above Sidney Freedman, all heard the sputtering sound.
"Oh, geez! Not him! It can't be---HIM!"
Just then, a bomb fell near Flagg's jeep, badly injuring the Hunters and sending Flagg flying. Duncan undid his ropes, then Radar and Sidney's. Flagg saw this, but was slow in getting up. Radar was utterly confused, but said one thing before falling back asleep, seemingly at Sidney's direction.
"Of all the luck! Saved by 5 O'Clock Charlie! And it ain't even 3 yet!"
The most luckless, unskilled pilot in the history of air warfare then flew back to North Korean territory, having unknowingly changed the course of Immortal history. Flagg got up, and pulled his pistol, but an enraged Duncan knocked it out of his hand, and into the brush.
"It's not gonna be like that, ye great bully! Fight like a man, if such as ye know how!"
Flagg then pulled a knife-Duncan's knife. Angrier than ever, Macleod took it away from him. He then began to pummel the would-be master spy mercilessly. After 7 punches, the Highlander roundhoused him. Flagg stood for a moment like a cartoon character, then fell.
"Maniac! Ye were not facing a Priest, then!"
Sidney whispered some words in a powerful, booming voice into Flagg's ear. He couldn't tell Duncan this, but both Radar and Flagg had been made to remember the day's events differently. Cassandra had been another of his teachers.
"It's a good thing he wasn't facing a Priest! Father Mulcahy is a former Golden Gloves champ! With you, Duncan, he got off easy!"
A bit more subtly this time, Freedman used his ability-a draining one to employ- to make Duncan forget Flagg's role in the day, except for his usual Inquisiton-like questioning. He would only remember if accosted by another Hunter.
The injured were brought to the 4077th for treatment. One got a treatment he would never forget.
"No, Colonel Flagg. I have not reported you to our superiors. But another attack upon me or harassment of my charges will find you before the Watcher Council! I'd prefer they not know about your Dark Altar-oh, yes, I know. But the Bible tells me the fate of your Fallen Master, so for the sake of our great organization, I'm willing to let you go hunt more Communists. But cross me again, little man, and I will crush you like a sacramental grape! Don't mistake forebearance and mercy for weakness, for you do so not at my peril, but your own."
As the recovering Father Mulcahy walked away to say goodbye to Duncan, he would swear he heard the injured CID man gulp. Francis chastised himself for enjoying that moment as much as he did.
"Well, Mac, it's been fun! Now maybe I can get a date!"
"Who says the ladies wanted you in the first place, Ben! They were just waiting for me to arrive. Now that I'm gone, they might be willing to settle! Take care, my friend."
"Damn shame, losing you, Mac! Kinda made me full circle, about poor Ferdie."
"Some things are stronger than death, Sherman! Friendship is one of them."
"After the war, Sarge, I'll show up to your antique shop, in that Seacouver place."
"You do that, Walter! I think I might have something for you that once belonged to Colonel Blake."
"You sure you want this, Sarge? Your lady friend may have better taste than me!"
"The dress is fine, Max! I'll carefully neglect to mention its previous owner, though."
"Duncan, this is too much! A doll for a kid you don't even know?"
"BJ, children are precious! Treasure yours always. Give her and your sweet Peg my best."
"Help others, as you always have, Duncan! And, uh, watch your head!"
"Er, I will, Father. Glad to see you're recovering! Father Darius will be pleased."
Having said his goodbyes, Duncan left a note in Margaret Houlihan's tent. He had carefully trimmed it of all bitterness, and left only what he had felt for her.
Finding Sidney, who was both his ride out and the arranger of his "transfer", he went to get in the jeep. The nurses stopped him, behind an alcove, though.
"Sorry again about the showers, ladies. I see you're headed there now."
"Yes, Duncan, so are we. We actually like Major Houlihan, but she can be a real jerk. So can you."
"So here's what you missed".
At that, the ladies dropped their robes and saluted Duncan. Quite involuntarily, he saluted them back.
"Hey, Sarge, Major Freedman's waiting and...OHHHH, GEEEEEZ!"
Upon hearing a loud thud, the ladies re-donned their robes, and they and Duncan helped the unconscious Radar O'Reilly to his cot.
"It's no disgrace, lad! I near fainted, myself!"
With all skin shown and blood spilled and wounds healed, Duncan Macleod, Immortal of the Highland Clan Macleod forever departed the 4077th MASH - but not the people. The future held much.
"Oh, Duncan! This dress is lovely! I--kinda thought you'd be upset, after that whole Stone of Scone thing, and try to get even!"
"Perish the thought, Amanda! This dress, from the famous Klinger collection, is just what you deserve! Exactly what you deserve."
"Klinger collection? Never heard of it."
"You've never heard of Max's Of Toledo? And It's famous designer, Jean de Tutel? Oh, Amanda! Everybody, who's ANYBODY...."
"OHHHH! Max's of Toledo! I was there for the Spring show!"
"Bet it was interesting"
AUGUST 22, 1965
THE SAN FRANCISCO HOME OF
PEG AND BJ HUNNICUTT
"May I kiss the Bride?"
"Where do you get off...DUNCAN!?"
"Aye, Mrs. Pierce! It's me! Your new husband Ben remembered your promise, even if you did not!"
"Oh, Duncan! You were right! But whod've thought-me and Hawkeye! But we're so happy!"
"I always knew that, if you two stopped dancing around one another, you'd have to dance together! Congratulations, Margaret!"
"Oh, Duncan...You are so..."
Margaret Houlihan Penobscott Scully Pierce then kissed her one-time love on the cheek, just as her new husband walked in.
"Boy, you leave some people alone, and, before you know it...."
"Connor sends his best, Benjamin. I am so happy for the two of ye."
"I just took your advice, Macleod! Grabbed the brass ring, and got the Prize!"
As the newlyweds left to begin their lives together, Duncan asked Sidney Freedman a question.
"Sidney, why have those two not aged? They're not like us, but--I'd swear they had not a wrinkle or a line, nor signs of surgery!"
"Sorry, Duncan! That's a whole nother' story!"
1977 - At a secret Watcher training center
"So, boy! You got in because of your connections! Well, they won't help you here! Forget all the nice-nice stuff about these monsters. That soft-hearted romantic garbage is for fools! There must never be a Prize! The only good Immortal-is one that just killed another, to save us the trouble! Now, are you with us, or are you gonna worship them like your Brother-In-Law?"
"I'm with you 100%, General Flagg, sir!"
"Good. Good! What was your name again, kid?"
"Horton, General. James Horton."
After the Hunter's oath and incantation, James Horton felt any lingering doubts dissappear. General Flagg would show his pupil the way.
1990 - Father Darius' Church, Paris
"Yes, my son?"
"I am Sean O'Brien. My grandmother's brother was Bishop Francis Mulcahy, once your student. He--told me of you, sir."
"I am sorry to hear Johnny is gone. I must ask you to keep my secret, as did he."
"Oh, no doubt of that, sir. Great-Uncle Francis put the fear of God in this wild boy. He left us late last year. All his old friends attended, including another of your students, a Duncan Noel."
"Ah, yes. Sean, are you here for a reason?"
"Yes, Father. He asked that I give-not mail-this package to you. I must leave, now. It's been an honor, Father Darius."
The 2000+ Priest opened the package from his late student. He thought of potatoes, and smiled. Inside was an ancient book, which told Darius of an organization called the Watchers. In 3 years time, he would send this book in turn to Duncan Macleod. Not long thereafter, James Horton would kill Darius.
Sidney Freedman felt the Presence Of Another. He drew his sword, but hateful young mortals brandishing Uzis rendered that moot. He knew the Immortal who approached him as he was wounded.
"Sorry, St.Cloud! But The Fugitive's been cancelled. Richard Kimble caught up with you, remember? "
Xavier St.Cloud smiled and said nothing as he pulled back his good arm. Before he died, Sidney Freedman heard someone say, "Compliments of General Flagg, Golem-Boy!" Luckily, no Golem appeared.
Within 6 months, both St.Cloud and James Horton were dead at the hands of a vengeful Duncan Macleod.
The Barge Of Duncan Macleod
Fighting off an old enemy and a soul-eating despair, Duncan Macleod now celebrated with his rescued friends.
"To our friend, Duncan, reborn, after too damned long a wait!"
"I'll second that, Joe! This Rotten Old Goat knows how precious friends are! "
"Well, Methos, so do I. But for right now, this little thief is ducking in back to take herself a shower. Those terrorists smelled! Good to have you back, Mac!"
As Amanda ducked away, Macleod and Methos felt the Presence Of Another.
"Oh, please! Not tonight! Macleod, don't you ever run out of vengeance - seekers? You're only 400!"
"Vengeance-seeker? Me? I Don't Think So!"
"Yeah, I was just passing through, and ran into someone who was looking for you. I heard about the boy, Richie Ryan! Sorry, Duncan. But just maybe you'll let this one keep his head!"
"Heyya, Sarge! Long time no see!"
The young Immortal spoke of times past, friends still here, friends gone, and of his reasons for coming.
"So, willya do it? I been around, but I don't know the Game! By the way, didja know that yer friend here is over 5,000!? Wow! That's old!"
"Duncan, I think, that if he can discern my age---then he needs proper training."
"Yeah, and I can tell who's who, too! Only I got no one to show me nothin'! They all just want me for my head! I kinda grown attached to it, don't ya know!"
Duncan considered. A chance to start over. To avoid his mistakes with Richie, where he had made them. To train someone destined to be very powerful indeed.
"Radar-Walter, when did you die?"
"Ah, Hawkeye sent me Seoul to have a good time. I got hurt, and it really messed him up. We fought, but we got to be friends again. Friends'r the Real Prize."
"All right, I'll do it. But no more Walter O'Reilly, kid! How about---Ben Blake?"
"A guy could live with that. I kinda like it, specially with what I found out about the Colonel bein one of me."
"A toast then, to all who have fallen, and all who are left! In the end, there can be only one, but til then, keep the wine flowing!"
Methos raised his glass.
"To your kinsman, Duncan, who seems a hell of a lot more fun than you! To your new protege, who seems to need to be loosened up, himself."
"Thanx, guys, I mean, I got some heads, but those were all jerky Quickenings! I want to know what I can really do!"
Duncan brought out Henry Blake's sword, and gave it to Walter. He looked at it with a sense of wonder.
"It isn't gonna be easy, Radar, but I will teach you! Welcome to the family!"
Just then, out from the shower came a dripping vision.
"Hey, guys, unless you pervs like my Lady Godiva routine, howzabout a robe or towel?"
As Amanda got her robe, she and Duncan helped his unconscious new protege onto the couch.
"Methos, he's well over 60, now! How could he faint like that, over some bare flesh?"
"Well, Connor, you know what they say...There are families....and then there are families!"
Would anyone like post-HL:TS fanfics by yours truly to feature Radar as Duncan's protege?
This is respectfully dedicated to the people on the two NG's that supported this lark.