by Rob Morris
Chapter One - The Consolation Prize
Connor Macleod sang along to the 10-year old words that already seemed older than him. He had no voice for it, but he didn't much care.
"Slow down, you crazy child. You're so ambitious for a juvenille. But then if you're so smart-----"
He stopped, and felt the presence of another.
"---Tell Me Why Are You Still So Afraid?"
From behind a column emerged Doctor Sidney Freedman, a disguised cane in hand. He completed some of Connor's words.
"Too Bad, But Its The Life You Lead...you're so ahead of yourself, that you forgot what you need, though you can see when you're wrong, you know you can't always see when you're right. But you know that when the truth is told--you can get what you want---"
The psychiatrist smiled.
"--Or you can just get old...."
Now, Connor actually smiled.
"Get old? I Don't Think So. How are you Sid?"
Silently invoking Kabbalic protection, the man once known as The Wandering Jew spoke to his friend of three centuries.
"I've been better, Connor. Much better. I've had to care for Hawkeye since Margaret's disappearance. That's always fun."
Though not Immortals of Macleod and Freedman's variety, The Pierces were just as young as the day they left Korea. Margaret's vanishing and Hawkeye's breakdown were both shams, but not even good friends like Connor and Duncan or Hawkeye's step-sister Samantha Stephens knew this. Only the 4077th's senior staff was aware that this was part of a long-term effort to punish Henry Blake's killers.
"Hawkeye was a good kid. He'll get through. If I could get through Rachel..."
Sidney tried to nudge The Highlander back on track.
"Connor, you didn't ask me here to chat about your former stock-boy, did you?"
"Pierce was a damned good stockboy. Good help was hard to find in late 45. All the returning GI's wanted out of menial labor. Ya know, my little girl used to have the biggest crush on Hawk---"
Sidney slammed his cane against the wall, causing Connor to start.
"Don't pull this with me, Macleod. You've been putting off this session since 52'. Duncan said you wanted a meeting. Now, are you here to loosen my head, or am I here to get yours on tighter?"
"yeah. I'm sorry, Sid. I thought that the nightmares would pass, once I----"
"Once you what?"
Connor looked up, eyes on the clouds.
"Two years ago, Long Island. I haven't even told Duncan yet. Though he may have heard, somehow. Sid---I got the bastard."
Freedman's anger dissipated. His eyes grew wide.
"The KURGAN?! Connor, you took The Kurgan? No offense, but are you sure?"
Connor took no offense. His skill aside, it was still an astounding victory over one of the six darkest powers ever to stalk The Earth.
"Yeah. I checked the body, and the head. I sat around prone for a while, waiting to see if maybe he'd faked me out somehow. But he wasn't a trickster. Kurgan is dead, and my teacher and my woman were both avenged."
"Tak Ne--Ramirez--would be very proud of you. I would say this places you very near to The Prize, Connor."
Connor looked at him.
"Nearer than you might think."
Gulping, the psychiatrist, never an active participant in The Game, grabbed and fumbled with his cane. Connor batted it away, quite upset. He raised his voice.
"I SAID I WASN'T HERE FOR YOU!! IF I WERE, I WOULD DECLARE!!"
The cafe' patrons looked over in shock. Sidney moved to calm them. He spoke as Cassandra had taught him.
"You will be calm. There was no yelling."
Drinking almost his whole carafe of orange juice in one swig, Sidney remembered why he didn't use The Voice that often. He felt exhausted.
The Highlander nodded.
"Apology accepted. Heh. I probably could have phrased that better. Sid--I'm going out of my mind. Besting The Kurgan only made it worse. Immediately after I took that scarred pimple off his beefy neck, I had an amazing vision."
"The same one? With the red skies and the flying General?"
"Yes. But only more so, now. Sid--I dreamed that killing Kurgan made me The Last. I took The Prize. I became--Mortal."
Sidney felt definite chills.
"And what then?"
Connor now looked farther away than ever.
"Then--the world went to hell in a handbasket."