Chapter One - Appearances

"Sergeant---uh--Knight? Are you sure you wanna bunk in the storeroom? No daylight gets in here, hardly at all. What with you being assigned to night guard and kitchen duty, you'd think you'd want to see the sun sometimes."

Nicholas lightly smiled at O'Reilly's unknowing question.

"Radar, if the truth be known, I hope to one day romp in the South Sea Islands, at noontime, no less. But do you see that happening, anytime soon?"

Radar nodded in agreement.

"You got that right, boy. This war-police action just seems to go on forever. I'm glad I'm getting older, just a little at a time. Every little bit counts. I mean, each day brings us closer to goin' home, right?"

Nick nodded.

"If there is a God, and if he is merciful."

"Oh, there is--an' he is. Father Mulcahy, he told me so. He's a real good guy. You should try and meet him."

"Priests and I--don't get along, Radar. I'll stick with my--Uncle Sherman. Tell me, do you like him?"

Radar's face turned somewhat sad.

"I want to like him--but I feel like I'm not supposed ta. An' don't go askin' me what I mean by that there, cause I don't know either---I think."

"Fair enough. Radar--look into my eyes."

"Well, sure, but what's to see there, Sarg---------?"

Nick had Radar under quickly, and pricked the boy's finger, which he then bandaged. The blood tasted like he thought it would. It tasted of Lightning.

"Away from that boy, NightCrawler, or I will destroy you!"

Sure enough, standing in the doorway was Father Mulcahy, a Crucifix and stake in hand. He made sure to look somewhat away from Nicholas.

"I'm not going to hurt the boy, Priest. Your CO is my friend, and I have made a vow that while here, I will not hunt. I usually don't nowadays, in any event. But put your symbol of office away, where I can't see it."

The Padre lowered, but did not put the Crucifix away entirely.

"Then why, may I ask, were you tasting his blood--albeit a very small sample?"

"Simple--I wanted to know who I was dealing with. You are Radar's Watcher--and he is an unawakened Slayer."

Francis got his first laugh of the night.

"Nicholas, is it? Surely you know that only women can become Slayers? No, I am a Watcher--but my group stresses non-interference with our---Immortal-- charges? Heh. I'll have to send a note to that snooty English fellow that to you Nightkind, a pre-awakened Slayer tastes the same as a pre-Immortal. But, that's no concern of yours, is it? You are of Clan Licinius, which seeks only the hunt and eschews demons and ghouls. For that, the Slayers leave you be--though not Hunters like Edna O'Reilly's cousin. For what its worth, I'm sorry for the dramatic entrance. But that boy is far more than my charge. He is a dear friend."

Nick agreed.

"Kids in wartime have to be strong. Radar seems like a good young man. As a courtesy, Father, I make the same vow to you I did to Sherman--so long as you keep your silence on what I really am."

Mulcahy put the crucifix away. Gingerly, he extended his hand.

"Its a deal."

They shook, and Nick felt his hand start to burn. Mulcahy stared and pulled back.

"What in the name of---Nicholas, I swear that this is not my doing."

Nick was stunned, too.

"No--Francis--its not your fault. You have Holy Water on you, but I can smell that you've not touched it. For what happened to have happened, you'd have to soak in it. Father?"

Mulcahy turned and was lost.

"Yes, My So......."

"Who are you?"

"I---aam of Bajor."

Nick's face turned quizzical.

"Where is Bajor?"

"By the Celestial Temple."

Nick rolled his eyes.

"Oh, that's a help."

Feeling frustrated and embarrassed, Nick released them both minus memories of being hypnotized. As they left, Nick decided he would not abuse his guest status again. But then, he wouldn't really have the chance to.

Elsewhere in the camp, two enemies in a state of detente met and shared state secrets.

"Captain Pierce, if this is some kind of joke, I'm not laughing."

Hawkeye almost doubted himself, and so did not resent Houlihan's skepticism.

"Believe me, Major. Its for real. He asked for a pint of my blood and gave it to some sideshow ghoul who literally slurped it down. Here--here's where it was taken from. Now, do you believe me? Our little investigation can't work without trust. Not if we're gonna nail these people for what they did to Henry."

Margaret reluctantly gave in.

"Truth is, Pierce, I've seen this new man. Pasty, doesn't eat. Very jumpy. Then we know who he really is, don't we?"

Hawkeye shrugged.

"Myself, I was hoping it was just a wild coincidence. But now there's no doubt about it. 'Colonel Sherman T. Potter' is in reality none other than US Grade-A nutburger General Bartford Hamilton Steele--and probably the guy who ordered Henry Blake's death."

"Did he really think he could fool us by feigning a new personality?"

"Absolutely. Its a pity though, Major. I think I kind of liked Potter."

"A sentiment I share as well, Captain."

"Wanna share anything else?"

Margaret said nothing, but took Pierce's arm and twisted it into his back.

"Doctor, this conversation is over."

"That was some of the most beautiful pain I've ever been in. Owwwoooo!!!"

"Down, Boy! Heel!"

Hawkeye got the last word.

"Yes, I Am!"

In Margaret's tent, her lover, Frank Burns, was doing the unthinkable, using her typewriter.

"Dear General Embrey. I am sad to report that the new Commanding Officer is just as undisciplined in his own way as the old. This camp has not become even slightly more military. I ask you to investigate this matter immediately........"

Back | Forward