The Physics of Quickenings
by Parda, January 1998
1997: The blues club 'Joe's', Seacouver
The owner and namesake of 'Joe's' (described in a recent article as "the coolest place for the hottest jazz in Seacouver") unlocked the door to the club's back room, which served as both office and storeroom. He walked in slowly and sat down in his custom-made chair with a tired sigh, then leaned over and removed his prostheses.
Normally he took them off only when he was getting ready for bed. However, he'd been on his feet for a long time behind the bar already this morning trying to fix a beer tap, and he still had the rest of the day and a long night ahead of him. He massaged his legs vigorously for a few minutes, then gave his chair a shove and rolled over to the computer.
He turned it on and connected to Watcher Headquarters. Back when he had worked at the antique bookstore, he had thought that being a Watcher of immortals was a night job. Now that he stayed up past two or three every morning in the blues club, it was more of a day job. Either way, he was still working two shifts.
"Let's see what's on the menu today," he said as the downloading began. There were some big files on the way; it would probably take a few minutes. "I'm gonna have to get a faster modem." He rolled over and picked up his guitar, working on some chords for a new song.
"Are you playing music or torturing a cat?" a mocking voice with a vaguely British accent inquired.
Joe didn't need to look up to see who it was. No one else could inspire that particular mixture of amusement and irritation. "Adam!" Joe exclaimed. "When did you get into town?"
"Late last night." Adam Pierson, former Watcher and perennial graduate student, was leaning against the door jamb. His slim figure was clad in black jeans and a slightly shabby sweater, and his hazel eyes quickly surveyed the room for dangers and escape routes. Adam was not merely a graduate student; he was also the world's oldest immortal. Known in the Watcher chronicles as Methos, he was regarded by most as a myth. He had not managed to achieve mythological status by being careless.
The room looked safe, and he marked two easy routes out of it. He sauntered in and walked over to the small refrigerator that perched on top of a filing cabinet. "You got any beer?"
"Yeah, and while you're helping yourself, you could get me one too. If it's not too much trouble."
"No trouble at all," Methos replied. He opened his own beer and took a long swallow, then reached in and pulled out another. "Catch!"
Joe had played football before he had lost his legs in Vietnam, and his reflexes and his eyesight still served him well. Holding the neck of his guitar tightly with his left hand, he shoved his chair backward with his right hand, and then just managed to snag the beer bottle as it flew through the air.
"Nicely done," his friend observed, turning a chair around and straddling the backrest with his legs. He folded his arms on the top of backrest and rested his chin on his hands.
"Thanks," said Joe wryly. Methos was taking another swallow, and his eyes were closed in appreciation. Joe carefully set down his guitar and gave a few discreet shakes to the beer. Methos's eyes were still closed. Perfect. Joe aimed the bottle away from himself, then he popped the lid.
Methos let out a strangled oath as the cold beer sprayed over his head, arms, and chest. Though Joe had studied Latin in high school and at the Watcher Academy, he knew enough of other languages to be able to identify it as some form of Ancient Greek. He was pretty sure the oath meant something along the lines of "Tits of Aphrodite". Methos wiped the foam from his face and shook it off the sleeves of his sweater, then glared at Joe.
Joe regarded his now half-empty beer bottle with a look of wonderment, and then raised innocent eyes to Methos's smoldering ones. "Sorry about that, old friend. It must have gotten shaken up somehow."
"This," Methos enunciated precisely, lifting the damp fabric away from his skin, "is my favorite sweater."
"Yeah? Well, now it will smell like your favorite drink." Joe turned back to the computer screen and allowed himself a small private smirk. It was not often someone bested the old one.
Apparently resigned to sitting in damp clothes and smelling like a brewery (it had happened once or twice before, after all), Methos scooted over next to Joe. "What's happening back at the ranch?" Methos nodded at the screen, where the Watcher logo was prominently displayed.
"Same old, same old. Except - here's a special report. Want to read it?"
"Sure. Print me a copy."
Joe started the printer. While it hummed, he and Methos read the Watcher in-house newspaper on the screen. "You're right, Joe. Same old, same old. 'Watcher given gold pin for 40 years service, guidelines for recruiting new Watchers, tips on urban surveillance.'"
"Here's one," said Joe. "'Avoiding tax difficulties when declaring Watcher income.' I'll have to read that."
"How about this one? 'Sword identification from a distance.' That could be useful too."
"Yeah, well, sometimes there's some good stuff in 'The Chronicle.'" They read some more until the printer finished. Joe handed Methos a copy of the report and settled back with his own. They read the title page.
SPECIAL WATCHER REPORT
TO: All Divisions Heads, for distribution to Watchers
FROM: Division: North America
Region: Watchers-at-large Group, Independent telecommute
Department: Research (Scientific Team) Ref. No. WTR-ST 97-012
QUICKENINGS: WHAT, WHY, WHEN, AND HOW
1) Quickenings: What
1b) The Buzz
2) Quickenings: Why
3) Quickenings: When
4) Quickenings: How
Appendix A - Energy Required To Disassociate Blood
Appendix B - The Energy In A Lightning Bolt
"What's with this 'Watcher-at-large Group, independent telecommute'?" Methos demanded. "Is that new?"
"There was a lot of reorganization after the Jakob Galati incident," said Joe. Galati, an immortal, had learned about the Watchers after a group of renegade Watchers had beheaded his wife Irena. Although the renegades had already been dealt with by the Watcher organization, Galati had decided to take revenge on all the Watchers he could find. He had killed quite a few before the Watchers had stopped him in the only way an immortal could be stopped: decapitation.
"What with computers and modems, it made more sense to organize people by what they did instead of where they lived," Joe added.
"I don't know," Methos said suspiciously. "Sounds like a lot of people sitting around and typing on computers instead of being out in the field. They probably watch a lot of television too. And what's this 'Scientific Team' in Research? We only had historians before."
"Like I said, there was a lot of reorganization. Some of the Watchers recruited recently were engineers, and they wanted to figure things out."
"Spare me," groaned Methos.
"Oh, come on, let's see what they have to say. The title sounds interesting, anyway."
"'Quickenings'," Methos read, "'What, Why, When, And How.' They forgot Where and Who. Didn't these people ever take journalism?"
"They were engineers, I said. Be quiet, I'm reading." Joe turned to the first page of text, and Methos grudgingly followed suit.
1) QUICKENINGS: WHAT
What is the Quickening? The word has been used to refer to the healing properties of Immortals, to the awareness of another Immortal's presence, and to the transfer of power that occurs at a beheading. For the sake of clarity in this report, we will define the terms.
- Healing: Immortal Healing which also prevents aging
- Buzz: an Immortal's awareness of other Immortals
- Quickening: the transfer of power upon the death of an Immortal
Immortals seem to have access to some type of energy. Do they manufacture the Immortal Energy? Do they absorb Immortal Energy from another source? The exact mechanism of how Immortals access this energy is unknown and should be a topic for future study.
In this report we will discuss only the effects of Immortal Energy. Because Healing manifests itself as small electric arcs and Quickenings result in a large release of electrical energy, it is assumed that the Immortal Energy is electrical, or at least partly so.
"So what really keeps you guys going, anyway?" Joe asked.
Methos rolled his eyes. "We're Energizer bunnies with swords."
"Sorry I asked," said Joe.
"So am I."
Healing occurs when an Immortal cell is damaged in any way, including aging or cellular decay during 'death'. Immortal Energy in the form of small electric arcs is used to speed the healing of an injured cell. Immortals heal very quickly, but not instantaneously.
Although Immortals revive after being lethally wounded, wounds caused by foreign objects (knives, arrows, etc.), do not heal completely until the foreign object is removed or expelled from the body. Foreign objects are expelled from Immortals in much the same way that Mortal bodies expel splinters, but much more quickly. If an Immortal wishes to wear an earring, the earring must remain in at all times. Tattoos probably need to be renewed frequently.
It is possible for an Immortal to 'die' while a bullet or other object is being expelled from the body. If the bullet is passing through the heart or another major organ, it could cause 'death'. Immortal Energy closes the wound and prevents any infection.
The Immortal Energy may also stimulate the growth of new cells. Although life develops from one fertilized cell that divides and divides and becomes many different types of cells, these different types of cells are too specialized to make other kinds of cells. Even though every cell contains the genetic blueprint of the entire body, the cells cannot use this information after a certain critical time in fetal development. In Mortals, only skin cells can grow new skin cells and only muscle cells can grow muscle cells.
When a Mortal is severely wounded, then healing is often incomplete. Body parts which have been very badly damaged (i.e., large bullet holes that remove muscle, skin, bone, and nerves, and several centimeters of flesh), heal with gaps. There is loss of muscle and bone tissue, and places where there were not enough cells left to grow more of the proper types of cells.
In Immortals, severe wounds are repaired perfectly. Perhaps Immortal cells can use Immortal Energy to access the genetic blueprint to a greater extent than Mortal cells, allowing some regeneration to occur. However, this regeneration is limited. There are no recorded cases of Immortals regenerating missing body parts.
"What do you think about that, Methos?" asked Joe. "Have you ever heard of an Immortal regenerating lost body parts?"
"Not whole fingers or hands, but it makes sense about the skin and muscle tissue."
"Did your tattoo stay?"
"Even tattoos on mortals fade with time. I had mine renewed every year or so when I was with the Watchers." Methos got another beer, and they went back to the report.
It is noteworthy that scars acquired before First Death remain. While the rest of the body is rejuvenated after the First Death, scar tissue remains, although scars sometimes fade with time. Perhaps the body does not recognize these scars as injuries since the cells have already repaired themselves. It may be possible to remove scars by slicing them off and allowing new skin to grow over the wound.
Since wounds of Immortals heal quickly, later wounds do not have a chance to form scars. (N.B. The throat seems to be an exception to this (Ref. Kalas: C1922-005a). This is probably due to the YAHI effect, and is otherwise unexplainable at this time.)
"What's the YAHI effect?" asked Joe.
"Don't know," said Methos. "I've heard of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle; maybe it's something like that. Probably some engineering or physics term. I hate it when people use acronyms and don't explain them."
The Immortal Energy with its healing properties becomes active only after the First Death. Perhaps the changes that occur at First Death release a chemical or hormone that alters the body chemistry or causes some other mutation. This change allows the Immortal to access Immortal Energy.
We have seen that Immortal Energy is at least partly electrical in nature and enhances the body's ability to heal, even to the point of returning from the dead. Access to the Immortal Energy continues until decapitation. This suggests that access to the Immortal Energy is maintained by something present in the head. Possibilities include:
- hormones from the pituitary gland or other source
- other chemical signals
- brain waves
Again, further study is needed in this area.
1b) The Buzz
In addition to Healing, the Immortal Energy allows Immortals to sense one another's presence at distances of up to 5 - 15 meters. Just as mortals have different hearing and seeing capabilities, the range of the Buzz sense seems to vary slightly with different Immortals.
Normally, the electrical field of a living being surrounds and penetrates them. A Mortal electrical field decreases very quickly with distance from the body, but an Immortal electrical field is enhanced by Immortal Energy. The Immortal electrical field is much stronger and extends farther.
When the electrical field of one Immortal comes into contact with the electrical field of another Immortal, the electrical fields start to interact and interfere with each other, causing a form of static. After a few moments, the electrical fields attune themselves with each other, decreasing the static and eliminating the feeling of the buzz.
Within a certain radius, all Immortals are attuned to the same frequency. Thus, if two Immortals approach a third Immortal, the third Immortal will sense only that at least one of the two approaching is Immortal. This allows an Immortal to 'hide in the shadow' of another Immortal and pretend to be Mortal if he or she wishes.
Immortals cannot sense any differences in the fields of different Immortals. Some Immortals can sense the latent Immortal Energy in the electrical field of a Pre-Immortal, although this sense seems to be erratic.
New Immortals seem to take longer to attune themselves and are more strongly affected by the interference. Different Immortals have different reactions to interference. Headaches, nausea, vertigo, itching, and sneezing (Ref. O'Brady, Kit: C1882-012a) have been reported.
"Somebody sneezes?" Methos asked incredulously.
"Yeah, it's like he's allergic or something."
"Well, it could be worse. There are other bodily functions that might be affected."
Joe started to think about that, but he decided instead to get himself another beer.
The most dramatic effect of the Immortal Energy occurs when an Immortal is beheaded. Upon decapitation, the power of the decapitated Immortal is transferred to the victor and lightning occurs. Since Quickenings are such an important occurrence, they will be discussed more thoroughly in the next three sections.
2) QUICKENINGS: WHY
As discussed above, the Immortal Energy is at least partly electrical. The most obvious and consistent physical manifestation of Quickenings is lightning, along with the attendant consequences of fire, electrical disturbances, scorching, etc. (There have also been occasional reports of levitation and visual and auditory phenomena. However, little accurate description of these phenomena is available, since Watchers are usually somewhat distant from the Quickenings and are unable to distinguish details.)
Natural Lightning is, of course, electrical in nature, and consists of electrons, which are negatively charged particles. It is assumed that the two types of Lightning are identical.
The dead Immortal body is thus a source of electrons, and the living Immortal body attracts them. The living Immortal is positive relative to the dead body at that time.
"So, Adam, would you say you were a positive or a negative influence?" He grinned. "Or maybe AC/DC?"
"Like it says in the report, Joe, I am usually neutral, except when I am negative."
"Couple paragraphs down. Read faster, will you?"
Usually Mortals are not positively or negatively charged relative to their surroundings. Everything contains both positive and negative charges, but they usually cancel each other out:
one negative + one positive = -1 + 1 = 0
Items can sometimes carry an excess of electrons, becoming negatively charged. A common mode of electron transfer is friction, such as the rubbing of shoes on a carpet. The effect, however, is temporary, for as soon as the item comes into contact with an item that is less negative and is a good electrical conductor (e.g., a metal doorknob or a car), the excess electrons are transferred, usually in a tiny bolt of lightning. This is often, though misleadingly, called 'static electricity'.
Living Immortals are also usually electrically neutral in comparison to their surroundings. Otherwise they would be continually getting shocks. However, upon cell rupture due to wounding or death, Immortals access the Immortal Energy. Electrons are released as lightning, and the Immortal becomes negatively charged.
"Oh," said Joe. "Here it is. At least now I know what to call it when I get zapped by a door knob."
When an Immortal is beheaded, the Immortal Energy is disrupted and an enormous voltage difference is created between the dead Immortal and the living Immortal. The Immortal Energy leaves the dead body as lightning and travels to the live Immortal, perhaps partly because the live Immortal is in resonance with the Immortal Energy of the dead Immortal.
When the Immortal receives the Quickening, he or she becomes negatively charged, and also becomes a source of lightning. This is why the lightning bolts seem to bounce back and forth between the Immortals and other objects. In natural lightning they are called return strokes. There may be as many as 5 to 10 return strokes before the voltage difference is equalized.
The victor will need to ground himself (in the electrical sense of the word) and allow the excess electrons to dissipate after the Quickening is over. Holding a metal sword whose tip is in the earth provides an easy path for the electrons to follow.
One of the more curious aspects of a Quickening is the absence of blood. A Mortal who is decapitated will spray blood several feet, due to the large blood vessels in the neck supplying quantities of blood to the brain. However, no blood is found after a Quickening, and swords used to behead Immortals show no traces of blood even under modern forensic examination (Refs. MacLeod, Duncan: C1995-109a, Ryan, Richie: C1994-025a).
"Hey, I never thought about the lack of blood before," Joe said.
"It's not quite true. There is some blood. But it's not nearly as much as you get when you behead a mortal."
Joe decided he really didn't want to think about that either.
It is thought that some of the Immortal Energy may be bound to the blood. The exact mechanism of this is not fully understood, but when the Immortal Energy is disrupted due to decapitation, then the molecular bonds of blood may be disrupted also. If the molecular bonds are disrupted, then blood cells reduce to their basic components of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, iron, and several other elements.
The released hydrogen and oxygen are probably in gaseous form and could account for the mist that is sometimes reported swirling above dead Immortals. Also, levitation could be due to electro-static repulsion. The slight pause that occurs between decapitation and Quickening could be due to the slow breakdown of the blood components.
The energy required to disassociate the blood comes from the Immortal Energy. A rough estimate of the energy required is calculated in Appendix A.
"Should we skip ahead to the Appendix?" asked Methos.
"I don't think so," said Joe. "When I was in school, I didn't pay much attention in chemistry."
"When I was in school, chemistry hadn't been invented yet."
The calculations suggest that it would take on the order of 500 000 kJ to break the molecular bonds of blood.
It would be interesting to measure the total energy and frequency distribution of a Quickening. However, it is unlikely that an Immortal battle will take place in a shielded room with adequate instrumentation.
A rough estimate of the total energy of a Quickening may be made within several orders of magnitude if we calculate the energy in the lightning strikes. The energy present in a single natural lightning stroke is about 5.6 billion joules. The energy in Quickening lightning has never been measured. However, we will assume that a Quickening lightning bolt is less than a natural lightning bolt. (See Appendix B for the calculations.) In a single lightning stroke, it is estimated that the Immortal receives about 180 million Joules of energy.
Joe whistled. "180 million joules. Sure sounds like a lot of energy."
"Feels like it too."
"What the hell is a joule anyway?"
Methos shrugged. "How would I know? Sounds like something Amanda would be interested in."
"Well, you're the research guy. Want to do some research?"
Methos flipped through the dictionary and read, "'Joule: the unit of work or energy in the metric system, being the amount of work done by one newton acting through a distance of one meter.'"
The two stared blankly at each other. "I'm not even going to ask what a newton is," said Joe.
"Just don't turn me into one," said Methos warily.
"Hey, wait a minute. Here it says that a joule is equal to 0.738 foot-pounds."
"Oh, right, and a foot-pound is...," Methos said in exasperation.
"It says, 'the energy needed to lift one pound one foot.' So if I lifted a 50 pound barbell one foot off the floor, then that's 50 foot-pounds."
"And if I lifted the barbell over my head, about 8 feet up, then 8 times 50 is 400, so that's 400 foot-pounds." Methos was pleased. It was almost starting to make sense.
"So 180 million joules is, let's see, about 130 million foot-pounds. So that's like lifting, um, a 16-million-pound barbell over your head."
The two stared at each other again. "That's one heck of a barbell," concluded Joe.
Eighteen million Joules is the energy of a single lightning bolt, but the Quickenings usually last several minutes, with lightning strokes emanating from the dead Immortal about every 10 seconds (averaged over time). Although the lightning seems to occur more frequently, some of the lightning strokes are return strokes.
Assume that in a three minute Quickening there are 18 lightning strokes that emanate from the dead Immortal. Some of these bolts hit the Immortal; some (at least two or three) are used in disassociating the blood cells, and the rest go to demolish cars, break windows, levitate houses, start fires, etc.
Multiply the number of lightning bolts by the energy of each bolt:
18 x 187 500 kJ = 3 375 000 kJ.
So, the total energy of a Quickening is roughly on the order of 3.4 million kilojoules, or 2.5 billion ft-lbs. (It is not known how or if the energy varies with the age of the decapitated Immortal.) The energy delivered to the victor is perhaps 1/3 of that, or 1 million kilojoules. (One million kilojoules is equal to 278 kilowatt-hours.) The energy is delivered over a period of 3 minutes, so the time-averaged power delivered to the victor is:
Power (avg) = Energy / Time
= 1 000 000 kJ / 3 (60 sec)
= 5 500 kilowatts = 7 400 horsepower
"Hey!" said Joe. "My electric bill for this club for a month is about 2500 kilowatt-hours. That means you'd be good for about three or four days worth of electricity. Can I plug you into the wall socket next time you get a Quickening?"
"I think it would blow all your fuses."
Since a lightning bolt delivers its energy in a few seconds, the peak power is actually much greater:
Power (peak) = Energy / Time
= 180 million joules / 5 seconds
= 36 million watts
Some of this power is dissipated as return lightning strokes. Some of the power is channeled into the earth. The amount actually absorbed by the Immortal is unknown.
"I need a break," said Methos. He made his way to the bathroom. Joe stretched and rummaged in the storage cupboard where he kept supplies for the bar. When Methos came back, he brought them each a new beer, and Joe offered him a pretzel. "You're almost out of beer, Joe."
"Well, whadda you know?" said Joe. "You want to keep going on this report?"
Methos started munching on the pretzel. "Sure, what's next?" Joe flipped the page.
3) QUICKENINGS: WHEN
A Quickening takes place only when an Immortal is decapitated. At a Quickening, there are usually only two Immortals present, one victorious, one dead. The Immortal Energy leaves the dead body as lightning and travels to the live Immortal.
If no other Immortal is nearby when an Immortal is decapitated, then the Immortal Energy seems to dissipate more slowly and more diffusely, like the charge leaking out of a battery. When Darius was killed by Mortals (Ref. Darius: C1993-057a), there was no evidence of a Quickening within the church. Also, when Fitzcairn was threatened with beheading by the Watcher Horton, he expressed concern that his Quickening would be wasted because there was no other Immortal nearby (Ref. Fitzcairn, Hugh: C1993-042c).
"You know, I never realized that there was no Quickening for Darius," Joe mused. "I wasn't in France then, and the report didn't really mention it."
"No, the report wasn't very detailed, but I went to the church afterwards and there was no evidence of scorching or anything like that. I wondered why. What's this about Fitzcairn and Horton?"
"After Jakob Galati went on his rampage and killed so many Watchers, somebody who was involved with the renegade Watchers got scared. She came forward and gave us details on everything that Horton was involved in, at least as far as she knew."
"I thought all the renegade Watchers had been found."
Joe grimaced. "So did we. She wasn't actually in Horton's group; she was dating one of his men. That's why we didn't find her when we went through the records of who Horton had recruited or trained."
"Let's just hope that aren't any more nasty surprises waiting out there," Methos said grimly.
It is not known how near Immortals must be each other to receive Quickenings. Duncan MacLeod received the Quickening of Jakob Galati even though MacLeod was in another room (Refs. MacLeod, Duncan: C1996-178a, Galati, Jakob: C1996-027b).
"Good thing you weren't there too, Methos."
"Why do you think I left? I didn't want to get a Quickening in front of all those Watchers."
"What do you think would have happened if you had been there? Who would the Quickening have gone to? You or MacLeod?"
Methos shook his head. "I don't know. When there's a fight, it goes to the beheader, but it's very rare for an immortal to lose his head by some other means. It's even more rare for there to be a lot of immortals hanging around when it happens. We're not a very social bunch, you know."
It is also not absolutely necessary that an Immortal take the head to receive the Quickening. Duncan MacLeod received a Quickening when Alexi Voshin was decapitated by a boat propeller (Refs. Voshin, Alexi: C1992-089a, MacLeod, Duncan: C1992-107b). Jakob received his wife Irena's Quickening even though they had not been fighting and he did not take her head (Refs. Galati, Jakob: C1993-024c, Galati, Irena: C1993-013c). They were also at least 50 meters apart.
Joe said, "Well, Voshin picked a different way to lose his head. The boat propeller on the 'Sea Witch ' was messy."
"Where you there?" Methos asked.
"No, that was before Mac and I were, ah, formally introduced. It would have been awkward for me to get on the boat, and Voshin's Watcher was on the crew. He told me about it afterwards."
If more than one living Immortal is present during a Quickening, all recorded instances show that the lightning is attracted to the Immortal who performed the decapitation. This may be due to two factors.
One factor may be that the energy fields of the two Immortals become attuned to each other during the combat and decapitation. Just as a vibrating tuning fork will cause another tuning fork of the same frequency to vibrate, so the Quickening lightning maybe attracted only to the Immortal who is 'vibrating' at the same frequency.
However, proximity to the dead Immortal may also be a factor. It is not known what might happen if the beheader moved away from the dead body and another Immortal were close by.
Even if Mortals are present, they do not receive Quickenings. This is because they are not attuned to the Immortals. A radio will receive a radio station only if the radio is tuned to the correct frequency. Immortals are on a different 'frequency' than Mortals. Mortals are, however, in danger of being hit by falling objects, electrified, or otherwise injured if they are too close to a Quickening.
The case of Immortals Duncan MacLeod, Zachary Blaine, and Amanda Darieux (Refs. MacLeod, Duncan: C1994-067b, Zachary Blaine: C1994-054a, Amanda Dariuex: C1994-108b) provides an interesting but inconclusive example of the factors of fighting, proximity, and beheading. MacLeod and Blaine were fighting while Amanda watched, then she took Blaine's head and received the Quickening. All three Immortals were already attuned to each other because they were in such close proximity. MacLeod did the fighting, but Amanda took the head and was also closest to the body.
Another unusual case involves four Immortals all fighting at the same time: Duncan MacLeod, Kronos, Silas, and Methos (Refs. MacLeod, Duncan: C1997-215b, Kronos: C1997-011a, Silas: C1997-008b, Methos: C1997-001b). MacLeod and Kronos were fighting, and Silas and Methos were fighting.
Both beheadings took place at the same time, and both Quickenings happened at the same time. Because they were close together, all four Immortals were attuned to each other, and the Quickenings were 'vibrating' at a very similar frequency. Even though the main part of each Quickening went to the beheader, the Quickenings interacted with each other in some fashion. It is not clear if the Quickenings were shared between the two victors.
"How about it, Methos?" Joe asked. "Were they?"
Methos grimaced. "Lightning is lightning; how can you tell where it comes from?"
"Right." Joe wasn't sure if he believed that, but he knew better than to push. "Only one more section to go. Should we?"
"Sure, give me another pretzel."
4) QUICKENINGS: HOW
During a Quickening, a great deal of energy is released. Some of the energy is released into the environment and is used to destroy cars, start fires, etc. Some may be used to disintegrate blood, and the rest goes to the victorious Immortal. While it is not known how much energy stays with the victor, the Quickening is said to transfer the power and sometimes the memories of the dead Immortal.
How do the power and the memories transfer? The Immortal Energy has, in a sense, a specific frequency signature, a specific wave form. While each Immortal has a unique signature, they are all on a similar frequency and can absorb each other's energy patterns.
Living creatures are composed of matter and energy. We can consider the body to be the matter-matrix, and the soul/spirit/personality to be the energy-matrix. When the matter-matrix stops (i.e., the body dies), then the energy-matrix has several options:
1) The energy-matrix dissipates without a matter-matrix to anchor it. (There is no afterlife)
2) The energy-matrix connects to another matter-matrix. (Reincarnation, possession)
3) The energy-matrix maintains its form and wanders about by itself. (Ghosts, spirits)
4) The energy-matrix maintains its form but merges with the energy-matrix of the universe (Communion with the Divine, Heaven)
The energy-matrix can be thought of as a wave packet or a radio signal that carries information. Such electro-magnetic waves can be superimposed on other waves (called multiplexing). They merge yet remain distinct, much as sound waves from different instruments or voices can combine to make harmony.
Since all the energy of a dead Immortal is attracted to the victor due to the voltage difference, the energy-matrix of the dead Immortal becomes anchored to the matter-matrix of the victorious Immortal. It is not quite reincarnation, but multiplexing.
An Immortal receives this energy-matrix during the Quickening, and thus combines the energy-matrix of the dead Immortal with all the other energy-matrices that have been absorbed. The energy-matrices of Immortals with exceptionally strong personalities may persist longer than normal or overwhelm the energy-matrix of a living Immortal (possession or Dark Quickening)
The energy-matrices may be sufficiently disrupted during the transfer so that some of the information contained in them is impossible to decode by the victor. Thus, although the victor receives the energy-matrices and the power, some of the knowledge and information may be lost or inaccessible, and the victor does not have all the memories and capabilities intact.
"Huh. This energy-matrix and matter-matrix stuff is kind of weird. I wonder what does happen when we die," mused Joe.
"I don't plan on finding out any time soon," answered Methos.
The Immortal Energy is at least partly electrical in nature. It is not known how Immortals access this energy, but access occurs only after some change that happens upon First Death. The Immortal Energy can be used to heal wounds, and also stops changes due to aging.
The electrical field of the Immortal Energy allows Immortals to sense each other with the "Buzz". The electrical field attunes itself to other Immortals within a few moments. Immortals cannot distinguish different Immortals' Buzzes.
When an Immortal is decapitated, the energy-matrix goes to the Immortal whose electrical field resonates most strongly with it, either due to proximity or some other effect. Not all knowledge is transferred intact during a Quickening.
This report is preliminary. More studies need to be done, especially in the areas of Immortal biology, and better data gathered before any definitive statements can be made.
Suggestions and comments are welcome; send to the Research Department - ATTN: Scientific Team.
"At least they admit they don't have all the answers," Joe said with a yawn. "After reading that I need a nap." He rolled over to the beaten-up couch in the corner and pulled himself onto it. "Wake me up around six, OK?"
"Sure," said Methos, as he glanced through the appendices. A few paragraphs in, he decided he had better things to do with his time. He stood up and stretched and got the last beer out of the refrigerator. He looked over at Joe, who was already sound asleep on the couch. The computer was up and running, logged into Watcher Headquarters with Joe's password. Methos had never been one to pass up on a good opportunity.
YAHI stands for Yet Another Highlander Inconsistency.
The Highlander Universe and the characters of Joe Dawson and Methos are not my creations. They are the property of Rysher, Gaumont, and Davis/Panzer. They are used without permission, but no copyright infringement is intended.
This story was not written for profit, but to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, and, perhaps, to stimulate your own.
Many thanks to Dianne F. Trautmann, Donna Cromer, and Genevieve Clemens who read the original drafts (several times!), made suggestions, noticed inconsistencies, and corrected mistakes and typos.
Also special thanks to Donna for her suggestion to frame the Watcher report in a story, which made the report much more readable, and to Jen Allen for providing information about Joe Dawson's background.
I would also like to thank Stuart Mitchell, Katri Hakola, Janine Shahinian, and Vi Moreau for reading this and offering their comments.
As always, comments and feedback are welcome and very much appreciated.
For those who are interested, the Appendices are here appended.
APPENDIX A - ENERGY REQUIRED TO DISASSOCIATE BLOOD
Blood is composed of water (55%), red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, plasma, lipids, blood sugars, and various other components.
The molecular bonds most common in blood are Carbon-Hydrogen bonds, Carbon-Carbon bonds, Oxygen-Hydrogen bonds, and Carbon-Oxygen bonds. Since we are interested in only a rough order of magnitude, we will calculate the energy needed to disassociate only these bonds.
To calculate the energy needed to split blood molecules into elements, we need to know how many molecular bonds are present. Again, rough estimates will suffice. The human body contains approximately 6-8 liters of blood. The density of blood is only slightly greater than the density of water, so each liter masses about 1000 grams and the total mass of the blood is ~7000 grams.
Of these 7000 grams, 3850 grams are water, and the remaining 3150 grams are blood components. Though the actual molecular composition of blood is quite complicated, we will estimate that the non-water components of blood by weight to be about 60% carbon, 30% oxygen, 8% hydrogen, and 2% various other elements. The 3150 grams of blood are thus distributed by element in the following manner:
Element | % | Mass | weight | atoms
Carbon | 60% |1890g | 12 mol/g | 158 mol
Oxygen | 30% | 945g | 16 mol/g | 59 mol
Hydrogen | 8% | 252g | 1 mol/g | 252 mol
(A mol is 6.023 x 10^23)
Now that we know how many individual atoms are present, we need to know how strong their bonds are. Again, we will estimate. The bond energies are
Average Single Bond Energies
C-H bond - 414 kJ/mol
C-C bond - 347 kJ/mol
O-H bond - 464 kJ/mol
C-O bond - 351 kJ/mol
(kJ = kilo Joules = 1000 Joules)
They are all of the same order of magnitude, so we will use an average bond energy of 400 kJ/mol. Assume each carbon atom has four bonds.
4 x (158 mols of Carbon) x (400 kJ/mol) = 252 800 kJ
To ensure that we have allowed enough energy to disassociate all the blood, let us round this number up to 500 000 kJ.
APPENDIX B - THE ENERGY IN A LIGHTNING BOLT
In natural lightning, about 156 x 10^18 electrons flow into the ground during a single lightning stroke. Each electron carries a charge of 1.602 x 10^-19 coulombs, so the stroke carries a total charge of 25 coulombs. If the lightning stroke travels 1000 meters from sky to ground, then the voltage of the stroke is
V = k x Charge/distance (where k = Coulomb's constant)
= (9E9 Vm/C) (25 C) / 1000m
= 225 million volts
The energy present in a natural lightning stroke is about 5.6 billion joules. (Energy = volts x coulombs)
The energy in Quickening lightning has never been measured. However, we will make the following assumptions.
1) A Quickening Lightning stroke has only 1/100th the charge of a natural lightning stroke (0.25 coulombs).
2) The Immortal is usually a few meters (about 3) away from the dead body.
Then, in a single lightning stroke, the Immortal receives
V = k x Charge/distance (where k = Coulomb's constant)
= (9E9 Vm/C) (0.25 C) / 3m
= 750 million volts
The energy present in a single Quickening Lightning Bolt is
Energy = volts x coulombs = 187 500 kJ