Title: Welcome to the Game Series: consider this part of the backstory to the "Immortal Underground" arc that takes place after the events in that story, but it's not necessary to have read that first. Author: akire Email: email@example.com Status:C/U Category: Crossover: Highlander/Relic Hunter/[plus a brief dip into my SG:SG1 X] Spoilers: umm, got a basic grasp of the Highlander universe? Fine. Oh yeah, we're a Clan Denial fanfic. Relic Hunter , ripping characters more than plots. Disclaimers: Gekko, D/P and the producers of RH really DO own them. If you don't recognize it, its probably mine. If it's silly or crazy, definitely is mine. But if anyone sends the lawyers after me, I'm sending out the boys with swords ;) Oh yeah, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If you recognize a specific fanfic creation, it belongs to its author (when this series is finished, I may tally them up). Rating: PG, prob. Hey, I'm not offended by much, if it should be rated higher, tell me! Content Warning: purists beware. Language may offend some readers. Summary: Claudia is killed in an accident, and Sydney tells her how she died to make her feel better. On with the show! ~~##~~ The windows of this new office didn't have the same sweeping views of the grounds that her old offices at the old Hall did, but what it lacked in views, it made up for in room. Even with all their boxed clutter, these new digs were still spacious. Smiling, she went to work with a stanley knife, unpacking books and belongings and organising them on shelves and in cupboards. Maybe she could get used to Australia after all. She was certainly coping with the heat better than Nigel and Claudia were, hence her being all alone as the sun set outside the western window. Humming as she worked, she cast her mind back to their escape through the fledgling Immortal underground. Los Angeles to Seacouver to Paris to Singapore and finally Australia. Lara's contacts found her a position in one of the State universities that would allow both her and Nigel to start building a new life under their new aliases: Sydney Chatten and Nathan Nigel. She was grateful now they had those identities squirelled away for a rainy day – it had allowed them to step into their new lives with as little fuss as possible. Those early days had been almost easy, and had allowed her mind to wander. It had wandered straight to her old scatterbrained secretary. Claudia the student, secretary and pre-Immortal -- what would become of her now her teacher-to-be had 'died?' Joe, bless his Watcher tattoo, had come through with a plan. Student exchange. The only catch was that Claudia had to be clued in as to Sydney and Nigel's immortality – how else could they explain how they were alive yet 'dead.' Claudia had been almost blasé about the news, a credit to her laid-back California upbringing. Two months ago, she was trapped and unsure as to whether she'd see the weekend. Life had definitely improved. The intrusion of an Immortal signature penetrated her brain and she straightened and headed back into the main office. She and Nigel were the only two Immortal's on campus, as far as she was aware. It was probably only Nigel, but the last two months had made her nothing if not cautious. The outer doors banged, and a moment later the inner doors crashed open on their hinges. Claudia stood in the centre of the room, puffing and panting, eyes wide with terror. "Sydneeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyy!" She wailed, then passed out cold. ~~##~~ Only a faint glow over the horizon remained when Claudia finally woke again, stretched out on the old but comfortable sofa Sydney had somehow managed to get for her office. "Sydney?" She whimpered. "I'm here, Claudia." As Sydney moved into range, Claudia curled into a fetal position, clutching the back of her head. "Shh, it will pass in a few moments. It's just the Buzz." Sydney perched on the edge of the couch and stroked Claudia's arm until the pain subsided. "Don't worry, the first is always the worst. Here, sit up and drink this." Helping Claudia pull herself upright, she then put a glass of water to the younger girl's lips and watched as she drained the contents. "Better?" Claudia nodded. "Yeah. Umm, Syd? I thought...the Buzz...I'm Immortal, aren't I?" Sydney just nodded. "Welcome to the Game, Claudia. Care to tell me what happened?" To her amazement, the girl blushed. "Its embarrassing," she mumbled to her feet. Sydney smiled at Claudia's reactions. "Go on, tell me. I need to know, at least so we can put it in your Watcher's report." Claudia buried her face in her hands. "Oh man, the Watchers. Can't we just make up something really cool, not that I..." "You what, Claudia?" She coaxed. "I....they had the sprinkler going, and I was really hot, so I decided to cut across the grass, and it was really nice, but..." Sydney untangled the girl's rushed sentence. "But..?" Claudia sighed. "Islippedonthewetgrassandcrackedmyheadononeofthoseconcreteplanterboxes ," she rattled off at extreme speed. Her voice then dropped back to its normal cadence. "You know the ones?" Sydney nodded. She'd sat on the lip of one and had her lunch in the sun just that day. They were big, heavy, concrete boxes, dotted about the courtyard lawn. Claudia continued with another sigh. "I thought I'd just knocked myself out, but as I pushed myself upright, I cut my hand on a piece of glass buried in the lawn. Look!" She thrust the appendage under Sydney's nose. Flawless. Time to get to business. "Did anyone see you?" "Nah, I checked. I felt like such a ditz..." Sydney smiled, but cut off the beginnings of another Claudia-rant. "Okay, well, I'll let the Watcher's know what happened, then a sword and..." "NO!" "No sword? Sorry, I'd like you to stick around a while, Claudia." "No, I'm not talking about swords, though on that, do I have to?" Sydney gave her a look. "O-kay then. No, I meant 'no' to telling the Watcher's. They'd laugh their tattoos off!" "They've heard of worse ways to have a first death, Claudia." "Okay then, how did you first die, Sydney?" Sydney looked at her newest student for a long moment then smiled. Maybe a story would help calm the girl down. "Okay," she said as she settled herself into a more comfortable position. "I was like you, I met my teacher before I 'died.' In fact, how I met him is more interesting than how I died." ~~//~~ Late 1600, settlement on modern Jamaica "I dinnae like the looks of this, Sydney." Matty MacDougal, her father's Scottish-bred first mate, swept the packed auction square with worried eyes. "Relax, Matty," Sydney said, smoothing down the awkward full skirt she wore. "Who would connect such well-bred gentles as us with a band of cutthroat pirates?" Privately, she was pleased with the ruse she had come up with on such short notice. "Besides, my father wants this slave in particular. He even promised to explain why when we return, for once." She cast a sideways glance at her companion. "Stop fiddling with your collar, Matty." "It's tight, miss." Matty gave the stiff garment one last tug before removing his hand under Sydney's quelling gaze. "Next time I promise we'll steal from the washing of someone closer to your size." Offering her hand, she tried to behave ladylike as they threaded their way through the packed square. Ships of a dozen different sizes and styles had arrived in time to buy and sell slaves on one of busiest auction blocks this side of New York. But she had strict orders – there was only one slave she was after, and come hell or high water she was going to have him. Her father had entrusted this mission to her, telling her she was the only one who could go. She wasn't going to disappoint him. Ducking under the lintel, she blinked rapidly as her eyes adjusted from the bright Carribean sunshine to the murky gloom inside the holding pens. Holding her hand up to her nose, she screwed up her face and tried not to breath too deeply. Who would live in a town when there was the fresh breezes and miles of pure ocean to sail? Leaving Matty to dissuade some of the more persistent slavers, she moves cautiously through the maze of passages, cells and pens. Her father's description had been detailed, she just had to find the man who fitted it. A tap on her elbow drew her gaze to where Matty was discreetly gesturing. The crowd of prospective buyers parted and she saw the bluest eyes watching her from under a dirty fringe of dark hair. Nodding her approval to the mate, she moved towards the slave's cell. As they drew up against the bars, the slave trader pushed himself slovenly to his feet. His clothes were dirty and stained, and he smelled strongly of the local moonshine. "Good morning, me lassie," he slurred as he eyed her. "Looking for a slave, are we? Well, I've got some lovely specimens just in...strong, hard workers..." His hands made gestures, his eyes never leaving Sydney's corseted cleavage. "What about this one?" She gestured with her chin. The slave had not moved, but Sydney felt the strength of his regard boring into her. The eyes were intense, intelligent, just like her father had described. He brayed coarsely. "This one? For a lovely lady such as yourself? Nah, me conscious wouldn't leave me be if I left you alone with this animal. All he's good for is hard labour in the mines. They know how to control monsters like him." The slaver poked a stick into the cell, but the slave never flinched. "Killed one of me assistants when they were getting him into manacles, and really hurt two more. Not right in the head, this one. Nah, lady, you'd be too gentle. I have..." Sydney barely had to look at Matty for him to immediately try to force a way out of the human miasma. She spared one last look at the slave. He returned her gaze measure for measure. Yes, this was the one. ~#~ "Next up, a worker suitable for mining and hard labour. This one has spirit, ladies and gentles, so buyer beware!" Sydney watched impassively as her slave was pushed and prodded up onto the block. "But as you can see, he is strong and healthy!" Sydney noticed that the auctioneer didn't come close to this slave – for the prior sales he held up their arms, showed their teeth. But here he kept his distance. Probably a smart move. "What is my opening bid?" The bidding was slow, with few contenders. Word of this one's 'temper' had obviously spread. Soon it was just her and one of the mining foremen. With a small nod to Matty, she upped her bid. "Sir? Answering bid? Can I hear any more?" The other bidder opened his mouth to raise the ante, but the only sound to leave his mouth was an inaudible 'oh.' Behind him, unseen, Matty held the dagger hard against his back. "And sold! To the lovely lady on my left." Nodding regally, she moved towards the pilfered carriage, the slave auctioneer's assistants manhandling her purchase in her wake. ~#~ Whilst Matty drove the horses on the rutted road out of town, Sydney sat in the carriage facing her acquisition, "What is your name, slave?" He eyed her calmly for a moment. "Danya. You're Jack O'Reilly's girl, aren't you?" She tried to control her surprise. "Yes." "I remember you when you were barely a day old. Did he end up naming you after your grandmother or great-grandmother?" "Great," she replied, feeling control of the conversation rapidly slip away. "Sydney." He nodded, sagely. "Better than Mary. Less common." She looked at the slave and shook her head. "I don't know how you know about my father, but you can't have know me as a babe. You and I look about the same age." He smirked, his first true expression. "Don't be so sure." ~#~ Danya remained inscrutable for the entire carriage ride back to the cutter, either ignoring Sydney's questions or answering them with questions of his own. Soon Sydney gave up, exasperated, and they traveled in silence for the rest of the journey. Danya's entire expression changed once he was aboard the Morning Star, however. He breathed deeply as if expelling all the foul air he had been breathing for weeks. Striding across the decks like he owned them, he went straight to Jack O'Reilly, ships captain and the man Sydney called father, and whacked him across the shoulder in greeting. "Took your time with the jailbreak, Jack!" Jack laughed heartily. "I figured I'd leave you some time to figure out your own trick first, old man. Didn't want to get in the way." "Well, at least you sent young Sydney here to smooth the way." He smiled cheerily at Sydney, completely at odds with the silent observer she had just shared a carriage ride with. "So I knew this was your doing." "Father?" Sydney began, now totally confused. "Sydney! Has the old man introduced himself properly yet? This is Danya, he's going to be joining our merry band." Danya cocked his head quizzically. "I am?" "Yes! I could use another literate soul to keep me company, and besides, I should probably add something to your Chronicle before I shuffle off." Danya's "Jack!" was drowned out by Sydney's "Father!" "Now, now. I know I am not meant for a life such as yours, and I am at peace with that. Come, Danya, let me show you around your new home." Jack moved away, chattering happily all the while, leaving a confused Sydney in his wake. Though it did not seem it, she had a strong feeling that that final comment was meant for her, and not their guest. Weeks stretched into months. Danya managed to integrate himself with a measure of success into the daily running of the Morning Glory. For many weeks, Jack and Danya spent many hours each day in Jack's cabin. On her few visits inside, Sydney saw that her father was filling pages and pages of precious parchment with notes of their conversations. More than once, they had pulled into docks where Sydney witnessed her father passing over the stacks to messengers who seemed to be waiting for them. As more pieces of the puzzle appeared, her curiosity grew. But her inquiries would have to wait. She had a pirate vessel to help run, and if they didn't claim booty they couldn't eat, or restock, or live. So she busied herself preparing for, planning and participating in the raids which were their stock in trade. It was in one such raid that she had all her questions answered. The sea was choppy, but that made little difference to the large navy ship as she bore down on the smaller sloop. Jack had wisely chosen to run for the coast, in the hope of loosing the naval vessel amongst the shallow bays and inlets which were characteristic of the islands in this area. However, the winds and tides were against them, and the other vessel was gaining on them. Sydney moved among the crew, rallying flagging spirits and checking to make sure they were ready to receive their guests in a suitably lethal manner. Looking back along the deck, she saw her father's sandy hair at the wheel, Danya's darker head at his side. Angrily, she moved back along the deck to reclaim her rightful place beside her father. As she moved further astern, she saw clearly just how much the naval vessel had gained. They were almost within firing range. Picking up her pace, she snatched up a blunderbuss as she passed. Shouldering past Danya, she leaned over the back rail and gauged distances. "Father!" She called anxiously. "We can't run, we have to fight." He looked at her and nodded. As Matty began shouting orders, she saw him them turn to Danya. A look of understanding passed between them as Danya gently touched her father's shoulder. Then a cannon exploded and her world went straight to hell. In all the years since, she never remembered coherent sequences. In her mind, it was a series of images, sensations. The smell of cannon powder, smoke, fire. The screams as people on both sides died. The heat of the sun and the cool breeze as it stiffened, filling their sails. The burning pain as a gunshot pierced her chest. The worn smoothness of the deck beneath her hands as she lay dying. Her desperation as she tried to see her father one last time – and finding him on the deck beside her, eyes dimming as he died. She tried to reach out for him as he whispered his final words. "Trust...him...love..." ~~//~~ "Great!" Claudia squealed suddenly, shattering Sydney's reverie. "You die cos of some fantastic adventure far from civilization..." "Some islands were extremely civilized, even by today's standards." She replied as she banished the memory of her adopted father's death. "No phones, Sydney. That's my measure of civilization," Claudia rambled on. "Besides, how civilized could they be? Don't you know what those pirate guys did ?! Anyway, why would the Watcher's laugh at you! You have this great story to tell, but what am I going to say. My first death was caused cos my slippy shoes were a little too slippy? Yeah, right, Sydney!" Sydney blinked as Claudia leapt off the couch and began pacing the half-finished room. Maybe telling the story that way wasn't the best idea, she admitted to herself. The buzz of another Immortal intruded on both their thoughts. "Probably just Nigel," Sydney told the jumpy girl as she went out into the main room. Her statement was justified a moment later as Nigel came into the room, arms full of takeaway bags. "Hi Sydney, you...hungry?" The twin nature of the buzz had finally registered on his senses. "Claudia? Umm, how?" Claudia let loose a wail and return to collapse on the couch Sydney relieved a confused Nigel of his bags. "Come on, let's eat and I'll explain." Maybe Nigel could help? ~~##~~ To be continued in 'Watch Your Neck'