To Forge the Future

"... Come my friends,
'Tis not too late, to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrow; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all western stars, until I die."

from Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Prologue

California 14 June, 2023:

Derrick opened his eyes onto blackness… and pulled in a breath unlike any that he could ever before recall. He felt starved for air… as if his lungs held nothing at all. In a blinking moment… it came back to him. He'd died… and now he'd returned… immortal.

In the years since he'd left Ellie in Paris… he'd seldom thought of his own status. Indeed… he'd focused so clearly on living each day as it happened… in experiencing each new event… in learning all he could… that his own status as a possible immortal… reborn into the world… had faded even as the life memories of the immortal Darius had faded.

It had been years since he'd been troubled by memories of things that once were… or voices that commented on the events around him with an old and knowing countenance.

Derrick had signed aboard a cargo ship out of Le Havre back in 2011 and had moved between ships as they'd circled the globe. He'd worked in engine rooms, in radio rooms, even as steward or ship's cook on some ships. He'd been a machinist's mate, a welder, and even a carpenter once. After he'd learned all he could… and seen as much as he could in that lifestyle… he'd moved on to factory work… farm work… in short, anything he could find to do with his hands. For the last few years… he'd worked on an oil drilling platforms in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Rim. In those places he'd worked long hard hours in a rough environment. And he'd watched… and listened… and learned.

The money in that last job had been great… an unexpected bonus! Duncan MacLeod had long ago set up a Swiss bank account for Derrick to deposit his earnings into… or to draw from if the need arose. In truth… Derrick had no idea how much money he had. He'd learned long ago to simply accept his pay… put most of it into the account… give some to people he met who seemed in need, and live frugally on the rest.

A few times a year, he'd mailed postcards to Ellie's postal box in Geneva. He had no idea where she and Methos were likely living… nor had he attempted to find out. Derrick had been focused on living his own life. While he still cared for his "big sister" and her family… Derrick had felt it was time to live his own life… and not be involved with the immortals or their lives. To his knowledge… he'd not seen or talked to another immortal in the intervening twelve years.

But then… it was not immortals that he could sense or identify… it never had been. It was only people who were a threat to him. About them… as always… he had a sense of their aura … a rumble of black shot through sometimes with red. About people despondent and in need… he saw one of gray… and about people filled with the joy of life… a bright white light. The yellowish light about the sick and the dying he could also read… but he'd seldom noticed it except when he'd wandered the back streets of the world's seaports. Such trips had usually depressed him. He'd felt an overwhelming need to somehow ease their pain. But there were so many of them… and he was only one man. He'd had no idea how to begin.

Aboard ship… in the factories, the farms, and on the oil platforms… he'd seen mainly the healthy. While some of them were dangerous… he'd read them and either stayed out of their way… or dealt with them in a manner which had eased the relationship between them. Recently, though, despite his reluctance to do so, he'd decided to check out the interior of the United States. Perhaps in smaller, more rural areas, the concentration of the sick and dying would not be so great. And there were sights of nature that he'd long wanted to see.

He'd purchased the jet cycle when he'd left the last job two months ago in San Diego. It had been one of his few luxuries over the years. Sleek and fast… fuel-efficient… it had offered him an ease of transportation… and a feel of freedom. He could move about where he wished and keep a low profile. Besides which… the jet cycle had a DNA key system. It took his breath, his fingerprint, and his password to start… otherwise… it never would. DNA key systems were the wave of the future the salesman had told him. Anyone attempting to move the jet cycle would also set off a rather loud alarm.

Derrick supposed that was what he heard in the distance. Evidently someone had tried to move it.

Gingerly he reached up and felt the rough surface of the inside of the body bag he was likely in. He sighed… evidently his body had been found. He knew enough to know that he'd have to vanish… but wondered who else was about.

Surprisingly… his memories of the accident and his death were clear in his mind. He'd once heard someone recovering from a bad accident mention that he could not recall it… nor many of the events that led to it… or the early stages of recovery. But Derrick's memory was crystal clear.

Rounding a bend on the mountain road, he'd stopped as he'd seen the semi careen across the lanes… bump the braking van so that it did a one-eighty and crashed into the safety barrier… hanging at a precipitous angle. The semi had roared past him and had launched momentarily into the air before crashing into the ravine. A fireball had erupted into the sky. As the sound of the exploding semi had faded, Derrick had become aware of a woman screaming from the van.

He'd pulled off his helmet, shut the jet cycle off, and then raced up the road toward the van, which was slowly beginning to slide into the ravine.

"Help me!" the woman screamed.

Derrick had managed to yank the driver's door open. She was pregnant; blood-dribbled from a gash on her head… her seatbelt wouldn't unfasten… and she was desperate. Derrick pulled out his switchblade, sliced the seatbelt and had pulled her free.

She turned and reached back… still hysterical. "My baby!"

Derrick had pushed her back toward the road and then had climbed into the van… noting that he'd likely have only seconds before the van broke through the last remaining wire of the barrier and plunged into the ravine. He could hear the baby screaming. Behind the passenger seat he found him… strapped into the child seat… uninjured… but terrified.

Even as he released the straps and pulled the small boy into his arms… Derrick had felt the van slide forward. He'd desperately tossed the boy into his mother's arms and then attempted to leap free himself… He'd actually leaped out… but the van was already on its way down… and he'd plummeted after it… to be caught in the blast of the explosion. He'd felt the heat… he'd felt the sudden lifting and then the swift drop. He'd felt his body slam onto the sand and rock… the explosion of pain… and then nothing.

Straining, he listened to the sounds beyond the small world of darkness he lay in. Besides the piercing thrum of the jet cycle's alarm, he could hear a siren, what sounded like a jet copter making a landing, and distant voices. Possibly no one was close-by.

Derrick fingered the zipper and maneuvered it slowly down. The sounds increased in volume… but so did the feel of fresh night air. He drew in another breath, reveling in it. He pushed the zipper further down and then waited. Finally… when he heard no surprise or comments… Derrick pushed the bag open and sat up.

He saw one yellow slicker-covered patrolman… his back to him… illuminated by the flashing lights of the patrol car on the road above, and the dying flames of the nearby crash. Someone up on the road was shining a search light at the jet copter and at a level area on the road above where it could land.

Rising to his feet… Derrick noted the burned nature of his leathers. It had been bad… but he wasn't surprised. He stepped carefully from the bag and crouched as he backed away from the patrolman. He didn't quite make it.

The man turned, evidently hearing something. His face registered surprise and confusion. Derrick raised a finger to his lips in the international symbol of "Shhhhhh!" Then he turned and disappeared into the darkness of the desert.

Some distance later, he turned back to the road and climbed out of the ravine. He'd followed the sound of the jet cycle's alarm. Peering above the rim of the road… he saw two patrolmen head toward the descending jet copter.

No one else was about.

Attaining the road, Derrick crossed to his cycle, flipped open the keypad, blew into the screen, pressed his left thumbprint against it and then tapped in his security code. The alarm ceased. He climbed on… grabbed his helmet, shoved it onto his head, started the ignition and raced off… back the way he'd come. He supposed there would be questions… and a wild story in the tabloid news about the vanished dead man… but it was the best he could come up with for the moment. He needed a room and a shower… and a place to plan his next move.

-----

"Crash and burn?" the night clerk behind the desk of the cheap motel whistled.

Derrick nodded as he signed in. His wallet was missing… evidently the police had collected that. But… he'd had a back-up identity and cash hidden in his belongings on the jet cycle. Derrick Foster was dead. He signed in as Rick Gray.

Once in the room… he dropped the still-padlocked duffel containing his belongings onto the bed and entered the bathroom, flipping on the light. He got a good look at himself then in the flickering fluorescent glaring on the cheap white tile. The fire had burned half of his beard and long hair from one side of his head. His face was smoke-blackened… but otherwise uninjured. He ran his tongue over his teeth. Apparently he still had all of them. His clothes were charred and in tatters. Surprisingly… he felt fine. He chuckled and shook his head. Of course he was fine… he was immortal.

He started the shower and let the water run until steam filled the small bathroom. Derrick peeled off the remnants of his clothes and dropped them onto the floor… then he entered the shower and let the blessed heat caress him. He grabbed the bar of soap… ripped off the paper and worked up lather. Then he washed away all the remnants of the accident… smoke, blood, and scabs. Beneath it all… he was smooth and whole. He noted only the one thin white scar on his right forearm that had been there for years… where Ellie had sliced his arm open that one time.

Afterwards, he pulled out his shaving kit and a pair of scissors. There was nothing else for it now. Slowly he hacked away at the remaining hair. Soon, only a sandy buzz covered his scalp and chin. He pulled out his old razor and applied some of the soap lather. Then he scraped his chin clean and smooth. The deeply tanned face that looked back at him now had a pale jaw. It would even up soon he hoped. He'd always tanned easily. Derrick was almost surprised at the face that looked back at him… the strong jaw line… the aquiline nose, the high forehead. For a moment he'd had the fleeting sensation that it wasn't his face… but someone else's. That was silly, of course… he was only himself. It had just been years since he'd been without a beard or had bothered to cut his hair short.

Turning out the light… Derrick returned to the main room. He felt around for the Great Sword… still secured in its foam case at the bottom of the duffel. At least that was still safe. He pulled it free of its scabbard and held it before him… Then he began to loosen up with it… using the moves he'd once learned from Methos… and then later the ones he'd learned from a dozen or so martial arts and weapons masters he'd studied with over the years. It had been his one nod to the life he might have to face one day. He'd understood he needed to know how to wield the sword… and to practice. Thankfully… a number of others first aboard the various ships and later on the oil platforms had had similar interests. A few had even had swords. He'd sparred with most of them… easily winning. But then… those matches had been for practice and fun… none had been more than that. And no one had taken them seriously.

His workout finished… Derrick lay the unsheathed sword close to the bed. He supposed he'd have to keep it handy from now on. His workouts would have to be a daily part of his routine now. Sitting on the bed he pulled out the old velvet bag containing the crystal. It lay in his palm as dull as it had for years. He'd wondered if once he became immortal... if he become immortal… it would suddenly light up as it had when he was a child and offer him all the knowledge he'd ever need. It didn't. It was only a hunk of milky quartz. He replaced it in its bag and shoved it back into the duffel.

Derrick flipped the lights off… and stretched onto the bed… roughly pushing the duffel to the floor. He was tired… and he needed to sleep. After all… tomorrow would be the first day of his new life. He had plans to make.

-----

Paris, Watcher Headquarters, one week later:

"Dr. Meyers?"

A soft knock accompanied the voice of Daniel Beale as he waited for acknowledgment. Amy Meyers looked up from her computer console and gestured him to enter. Leaning back in the chair, she reached forward to save the manuscript she was working on. "What's up?"

Daniel held out a fax. "We got a live one," he said with a smile.

Amy accepted the fax film and stared at the reproduced copy of an article from Weekly World News… one of the tabloid newspapers. Christ Returns read the headline. The first paragraph then went on to give the account of several witnesses detailing the sacrifice of a man who had saved a woman and child from death… died… and then rose from the dead… vanishing before a stunned witness. Accompanying the article was a license photo of the bearded young man.

Amy shrugged. "An immortal."

Daniel nodded. "But not one we have in the files. Either he's one we've never known… or he's new."

Amy chuckled. It was an ongoing discussion in Watchers as to whether or not there were or would be any additional immortals. After all… things for them had changed a great deal in the years since Henry Rawlins had inadvertently precipitated a gathering in his attempts to create a new breed of immortal… a breed free of the imperative of the game.

Many of the surviving immortals had banded together in loosely knit communities… or had otherwise withdrawn from mortal society as they'd focused on the knowledge they'd gained… that they were connected to one another on some psychic level. That it was that need to be connected that had been perverted over the millennia into the taking of one another's quickening and power.

Oh… there were certainly still challenges among the immortals. Some had not been impressed by the knowledge… and others had denied the claims of those who'd been involved and survived. For many… the game went on as it always had.

But since that day… and the Watchers had kept very good records… there were fewer and fewer new immortals. All of them had one thing in common. They were born before 1986.

"So this is one we missed a few years ago," Amy said with a shrug, noting that the young man was approximately thirty years of age. "He's likely young… and we didn't pick up on him a few years ago… it happens. Get someone on him." She handed the fax back and returned to her computer… letting her fingers caress the smooth keypad. She noted Daniel had not left.

Quizzically she glanced up at him. "Is there something else?"

Daniel fingered the thin film, thoughtfully licking his lips. "I'm not certain."

Amy leaned back once more. "Look Daniel, he's in America. Make certain Gene Dawkins gets a copy of the fax. I'd say this young immortal will show up again." She waved a dismissal and returned to her writing. As head Methos chronicler… as well as Paris coordinator… she had a lot of work to do.

Daniel nodded and lay the fax film on her desk. "Actually this came from Dawkins' office. I'd say he just wanted to give the rest of us a head's up."

"Then consider it given," Amy said with a smile. She was anxious to return to her manuscript. Daniel took the hint and left.

Amy was deep into the Punic Wars when she heard another knock. Glancing up she grinned to see her husband and fellow Watcher, Burt Meyers. She eagerly saved the manuscript and rose to embrace him. "Welcome home," she murmured as she kissed him. "I missed you."

"How much?" Burt chuckled as he closed her office door behind him and then turned his attention to letting her show him just how much. Moments later he breathed out raggedly. "Wow! And they say marriage and romance are dead," he managed. He glanced around the office wondering if maybe they could attempt something more than some heavy petting and an impassioned kiss.

Amy lightly slapped his face as she pulled loose. "Enough for now!" She winked at him, "I'm taking the afternoon off and we are going home. With luck… we'll have an hour before the twins get home from school."

"What about Joe?" Burt whispered nuzzling her neck from behind as she hurriedly gathered some papers from her desk and stuffed them into her attaché case.

"Somehow I don't think he'll object. In fact… he might even keep the twins occupied for another hour… or maybe two." Amy turned in his embrace, putting her hands about his neck. She winked at him.

"Scandalous," teased Burt as he reluctantly stepped back to let her close up and lock her desk and computer down for the night.

Amy stuck her tongue out and waved it around suggestively. Burt felt like tackling her. It had been a long two weeks overseeing the surveillance training of the latest class of Watchers. He'd missed his wife… and he'd missed their children.

"How are the kids? Anything new?"

Amy grabbed her attaché with one hand and slipped the other arm into one of his as they left. "Oh you know teenagers… Everything is a crisis."