Year Of Living Dangerously
by Karen

Candra stood on her balcony surveying the City of Lights, her chin resting in one hand, the other curled around the delicate stem of a wineglass. She sipped the pale white liquid then inhaled the smooth bouquet of the expensive wine. Just like drinking pure silver or perhaps ivory, she fondly thought. She could afford either and the wine to boot. The fortune she'd amassed over the centuries, had more quadrupled. It was a fortune that only a few of the wealthiest billionaires around the world could boast. Candra blew a tendril of blond hair away from her eyes.

"Are you coming? It's an especially fine day out. On a clear day you can see forever."

Candra smiled inwardly at her own turn of phrase. After all, as an External, she'd been granted an extremely long life, witness to her share of history. Having long ago chosen not to join her fellow Externals in their machinations, she'd preferred to play the power broker alone. Under her own rules. With that in mind, Candra pivoted on her heels to face the man emerging from the eighth floor apartment suite.

"Oui, Mademoiselle," Remy LeBeau replied, sauntering out onto the balcony.

"So formal, Remy," Candra lightly teased, ruffling his auburn hair.

"Candra. Cherie. You been kinda distant de last couple of weeks," Remy observed, reaching for the wine bottle half hidden by her pleated skirts.

Remy tried to ignore the unsettling feeling he got any time Candra began treating him like a queen's pampered lap dog. "Care to tell this homme why? Just wonderin' what be up wit' you, is all."

"Remy, I need a favor. I need you to do something for me," Candra began, a sweet, alluring smile on her lips. She let her head droop from the normal regal tilt she adopted, allowing her blond locks to cover her face. It was a girlish habit, one she'd never quite grown out of. She placed her wine glass on the balcony ledge and turned around again.

"Oh?" Remy replied, arching an eyebrow, his interest peaked in spite of himself.

"I wish to discuss a matter of some urgency. Have you ever seen this symbol before?" Candra removed a faded sheet of paper from her pocket, smoothing down the edges to better display the image printed there: a teardrop shape, pointed downwards inside a circle of twelve stones: one of the many symbols for eternity.

"Can't say that I have. What is it?" Remy traced the image with a gloved fingertip. "Looks important."

"It is to me. It belongs to an organization called the Watchers. They have the arrogance to steal something of mine, and I want it back," Candra insisted, tapping his shoulder.

"Watching whom?" Remy sensed Candra's urgency.

"Immortals. I need you to retrieve a book for me," Candra finished.

"Why not just go to a used bookstore?" Remy reasonably suggested.

"Not just any book, my handsome one, my book. Specifically, my chronicle. I don't like anyone knowing more about me than I know about myself. These Watchers will be must be pay for prying into my affairs. Go their to headquarters in France and get it back for me," Candra insisted.

"Sure thing," Remy agreed. "Be in an' out, with no one the wiser"

"Excellent, Remy. Wonderful. Care for some more wine?" Candra coaxed in sweet, syrupy tones.

Accepting the bottle, Remy downed a healthy swallow, wondering as he did so, 'What is so damn important about some mouldy old chronicle?'



Joe Dawson perched on a stool in the dimly lit bar, singing the blues. His eyes closed, he let the melody and the words pour out of him. He didn't want to force it, as he'd tried to do in the past. The best part of blues music was the emotional release it gave him, soothing away the tension of the past several days.

'Never should'a let Methos talk me into putting all the Watcher Chronicles into one Easy-to-access CD-ROM. Technological progress, yeah right! We were just begging someone like Kalas to waltz right in and take it.' Joe thought angrily to himself.

"Come on, baby, do somethin' for me," he whispered to his guitar, fingers running rapidly over the strings.

"If Amanda hadn't helped Kalas escape from prison, if Christine Selzer hadn't gone to that reporter; if Macleod hadn't. If only... If only. A wise man once said that our lives are made up of a hell of a lot of 'if onlys," he grumbled in disgust, lowering the guitar to the floor.

The Watcher assigned to Duncan Macleod, the Highlander, he'd been forced to relocate when the Scottish Immortal had returned to Paris and set up shop in a river barge, of all things. True to his commitment to the Watchers, he'd packed up his bags and hopped on the next plane to Paris.

At that instant the front door banged open. Too tired to care to find who'd come to the bar after closing hours, Dawson didn't bother to glance up.

"Joe, I need a favor," Amanda murmured in her silky, wheedling voice. The one that she knew how to use so effectively.

"Amanda," Dawson greeted.

Amanda dragged a chair form a nearby table, where it'd been stacked, and dragged it over to sit beside him.

"I'd like to help, but I can't," Joe stated, well aware that he'd been through this same scenario with Duncan Macleod, then his student, Richie Ryan, and the woman across from him, more times than he wished to remember. Every time it had come down to an identical song and dance number. He, arguing that for the sake of friendship he wanted to help in any way that he could. On the flip side of the coin, due to his sworn oath as a Watcher; he couldn't interfere. Immortals and Watchers were like oil and vinegar. They didn't mix.

"Come on, Joe," Amanda coaxed. "You always say that," she trailed off.

"What are you doing back here, Amanda? After the incident with Kalas, and the Watcher Chronicles Christine threatened to turn over to that newspaper, I thought you wouldn't dare to show your face in Paris for at least a decade,' Joe half-growled, half-choked out.

"How long can Macleod stay mad at me? Besides he's already forgiven me for breaking Kalas out of jail. It will blow over. It was an honest mistake," Amanda rattled off all in one breath.

"You seem to make a lot of those," Joe irritably muttered, shifting for a more comfortable position on his stool. "How many times do I have to tell you, that I'm a Watcher, I took an oath not to interfere."

"Well, the word on the street is..." Amanda purred.

"Don't keep me in suspense, Amanda. I know you and your tricks too well," Joe interrupted.

"Okay, okay. Here's what I've got, Joe. A few days ago, I get this call from Methos, just like that. He said he'd been digging up documents dating back to the Byzantine Empire. Turns out there are a splinter group of Immortals called the Externals. There actually may be more than one. However, the only one I'm interested in, is a woman named Candra." Amanda rattled off in one breath.

"Methos finally surfaced, huh?" Joe sarcastically muttered.

"Yeah. Big surprise, huh?" she added, but we're getting off the track."

"Externals," Joe echoed, feeling dread roil in his gut.

"Are they like us? Do the same rules apply?"

"The best I can do is say, yes and no. Externals were never an issue that the Watchers concerned themselves with. They may be a completely different race. Or something completely unknown," Joe began explaining, getting into his best lecture mode despite his better judgment.

"Do you have a chronicle on Candra?" Amanda pressed.

"Actually, Yes. Unfortunately it's locked up tighter than gold in Fort Knox at Watcher HQ in France. Even I don't have access to that kind of information," Joe Dawson said.

Dawson stood up with the help of his cane, then shuffled off to stand behind the gleaming bar counter. He paused for a minute, to pull out a sheaf of papers and thumbed thorough them.

"Who does?" Amanda eagerly pressed.

"Jack Shapiro. He's my counterpart in the Watchers organization here in Europe. What's my track record now? How many times have I crossed that invisible line? Joe Dawson, Watcher, friend, confidant. Sometimes even I wonder," Joe muttered shaking his head in mock chagrin.

"Joe," Amanda soothed and lightly kissed him on the check. Then she stood up. "Despite everything's that's happened between us, and everything... I'd like to think we're still friends." With that, Amanda glided swiftly for the door.

"I wouldn't want to lose that friendship," Joe replied, as the door began swinging shut behind her. "Amanda, one more thing..."

Amanda half turned, one hand on the doorknob. "Yes?"

"According to the records we have on Macleod, he encountered another External named Crule circa 1800's on the Barbary Coast. There's a rule you probably haven't heard before: The Other Rule, for lack of a better term. It may prohibit you from directly challenging Candra," Joe warned, as he referred to the papers in front of him.

"I can handle anything she throws at me," Amanda boasted.

"Just keep your head, Amanda," Joe cautioned.

"Thank you, Joe. We'll celebrate when I return." Amanda exited the bar, her confidence growing with every step. Amanda thought, as her slim form was swallowed up by the crowds and the night shadows.


The following evening found Remy LeBeau straddling the trestle of the bridge spanning the Seine. He removed his black boots and set them aside, pausing to reflect on his relationship with Candra. She had never been this agitated over some unknown party probing into her business affairs before. Sure, he knew there were things she kept from him. She had her secrets, but then again, so did he. Candra had been pestering to steal some book for her. She claimed that some clandestine organization several centuries back had gotten hold of details of her past lives and complied it into a chronicle, and now she wanted it back.

Remy pulled out the slip of paper with the Watcher symbol on it. It looked like a watermark for a company's correspondence. Flipping it over, like he would his trademark playing cards, Remy noted there was an address on the back for a chateau in Lyons. Check the place out, find an entry point, and still have time to explore the city, before evening fell, giving him a chance to go for the book.



Remy climbed the conveniently situated ivy clinging to the chateau's walls, finding hand and footholds with ease. Years of experience as a member of the New Orleans Thieves Guild made him constantly aware of his surroundings. His uncanny red on black eyes gave him perfect night vision without the need for equipment other than the tools of his `trade' and the bo-staff he carried. He'd spent the last few hours casing the building, finding vulnerable points that he could exploit to gain entry.

"Mebbe, when I get de book, I not give it to her," Remy muttered, vaulting from the chateau's balcony to a window ledge, and then levering it open enough to allow him to slip inside.

Remy landed on both feet, as silently and smoothly as a cat. He narrowly avoided stepping on a motion-sensitive detector as his feet made contact with the floor. Pivoting on his heels, Remy sped in the direction of the vault containing the Watchers archive. Ordinarily, he'd have been intrigued enough to stay and browse the collection for a while. But he was only here for one volume, Candra's chronicle.

A t'ief who can read, go figure, he thought cynically to himself.

"Wonder how Candra knew where dis place was? Could it be she has someone working inside dere organization. It wouldn't surprise dis homme one bit," Remy muttered under his breath.


Amanda knelt at the base of the hedgerow, along the driveway leading to the Watchers HQ. It was a chateau built around the turn of the 18th century at the confluence of the Rhone and the Seine rivers. Amanda wasn't there to admire architecture, or reflect on the history; however she couldn't help admire the extravagance that had gone into its construction during the Renaissance period.

The last time I was here, I was invited by a French Marquis, when I wore silks instead of basic black, Amanda thought absently.

Amanda lifted a pair of night-vision goggles and peered through them. The scope intensified the existing light instead of relying on a light source of their own. The sensitive device immediately allowed her to 'see' any would-be security devices, motion-detectors, or additional measures. It illuminated her immediate surroundings in a green haze. Like a camera, the device had various magnifications. Amanda had chosen to set it at 100 feet. Conditions for viewing were optimum, moon and starlight, with no haze or fog.

The place didn't appear as heavily guarded as she'd been led to believe. In fact, it looked almost deserted.

"Maybe the really good security systems are all inside," she muttered.

Amanda stuffed the goggles into her backpack and slung it around her left shoulder. From the pack lying at her feet, Amanda hefted her sword, prepared to expect the worst. She stealthily crept along the edge of the driveway towards a low-level window, and pried it open. Her heart pounded for a few seconds as the hilt of her sword caught on metal rod holding the curtains, Amanda engaged in tugging it free; cursed fluidly in several different languages as the edge ripped the curtains.

Once she'd gotten unstuck, she clambered through the window.

Amanda landed on plush Oriental rug with the silence of a cat, then gave her surroundings a 360-degree inspection. She'd landed in an empty foyer.Half expecting some sort of armed resistance, Amanda took up a battle ready stance. Not a soul around. Amanda's shoulders slumped in disappointment. Choosing a direction, Amanda ran down the hallway. "This had better be worth it," she angrily humphed as she threw open doors at random and found only empty rooms.


Meanwhile, Remy, with his back to the wall, cautiously poked his head around the corner of the fourth floor landing. He glanced back in the direction he'd just come from. The telltale sound of booted feet had faded, leaving him alone.

"Beautiful," he muttered, "Dey gonna play hide and seek wi' ol Remy now?"

Just then he smelt the acrid smell of smoke as one his currently unseen pursuers fired off a round from a .38 caliber pistol, leaving a hole in the wall near where his head had been. "Good shootin', if you be aimin' for de wall. I'm getting' a bit tired o' dis, hommes," Remy warned.

Whoever had fired the shot must have heard him, because three men in dark clothing emerged from one of the roms along the landing, guns in hand.

"You've certainly led us a merry chase, but there's nowhere else to run now," he threatened.

"Non. I beg to differ, mes braves," Remy replied, pulling the folds of his duster around himself, and unobtrusively removing a handful of playing cards.

Charging them up with kinetic energy, he let them fly into the group, scattering them like so many dust motes. Seeing that they were down for the count, Remy clambered up onto the banister, and slid all the way down. He landed with a thud, and an irritated growl as his trench coat snagged on the end. Once he had it free, he consulted the mental picture he'd built while running around the place. Orienting his present position with that of the archives, he set off once again.


Inside a soundproof, secured room where all the Chronicles the Watchers had complied over the centuries were stored. Amanda knelt at the base of a glass-enclosed display. Inside was a single volume bound in brown leather, which bore the Watcher's logo on its cover. Amanda's sources had informed her that this was the Chronicle on Candra. Her experienced eye told her that it was a very old text, remarkably well preserved, and very valuable.

"Whoever these Watchers are, they sure went to a lot of trouble maintaining this thing," Amanda said. "Wonder how much I can get for this on the rare antiquities book market? After I get full lowdown on Candra."

Amanda removed a laser-cutter from her bag, one of her many tools as a professional jewel thief. Pressing a button to activate it, she began cutting into the glass case. "Just hope my luck holds out, and this doesn't set off any alarms. If I was the paranoid type, I'd say that this operation has been way too easy," Amanda whispered as she lifted the book from the case. Then she smoothed the cover with her fingers.

"Put the book down and step away from the case," an authoritative male voice ordered.

Amanda spun in surprise. She was confronted by a man dressed in a dark, expensively cut Italian suit. His short-cropped dark hair, a bland nondescript color, framed a pale oval face, with a pair of startling pale blue eyes and an aquiline nose.

He snapped his fingers and half a dozen men in dark clothing arrived, all armed, except for the one who carried a length of rope. "Tie her up, and make sure you take away her sword."

"Who are you?" Amanda breathlessly demanded, hugging the book to her, As the stranger's men approached.

"The name's Shapiro, Jack Shapiro," he responded, pointing a gun at her.

"Ooh, I'm so scared," Amanda wheedled, stalling for time.

Okay, Amanda, there's one of two ways to play this, risk losing your sword and maybe your head in the process, or go along with it. Okay, plan B. Improvise. she thought.

"I may not be able to kill you, but I can slow you down, now do as you're told, and no one will get hurt," Shapiro said, watching as his men shoved her towards a folding metal chair resting near the far wall of the room. "Sit down, we're going to have a little talk," Shapiro invited. He made it sound more like a demand.

"Boys, don't you know this is bad for my circulation?" Amanda said, as Shapiro's henchmen grabbed her wrists, and roughly shoved her down on the metal chair.

The next thing she knew, they'd tied her arms behind her. They wrapped the rest of the rope around her legs, cutting off her circulation. Amanda squirmed, hoping that would loosen it, but, either they'd taken knot-tying lessons from sailors, or they'd done this before, because the she found herself in a very constricted position. Amanda languidly extended one leg in a calculated move to distract them.

"Ignore her," Shapiro absently remarked. "We can do this the hard way, or the easy way. It's up to you, Amanda. Surprised I know who you are? Don't be. As you know, or else you wouldn't be here, the Watchers do their homework. Why did you want that particular volume?"

"Oh come on, what's the big deal? It's only an old book," Amanda tried to downplay her situation. "Would you believe I'm into collecting old manuscripts and books and restoring them for posterity?" Amanda squirmed in the chair, hoping for a more comfortable position.

"Where's your accomplice?" Shapiro asked, not even deigning to reply to Amanda's glib explanation.

"What accomplice?" Amanda asked, puzzled.

"Oh don't give me that," Shapiro snapped, annoyed. "You know to whom I'm referring. If there's one thing I can say for you, Amanda, you certainly have a talent for selecting accomplices for your crime sprees. Or is that, for making enemies, which is nearly as infamous." Shapiro stared intently at her.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Amanda replied, confused. "I came alone."

"Oh really? If it's any consolation, we're having the devil's own luck pinning the young man down. He's currently running around the halls like some ghost. What is he to you? A partner? A friend? A lover?" Shapiro questioned.

"I don't care if you believe me or not. I'm only here for the Chronicle. It's a pretty hot property on the black market." Amanda tried again.


Remy peered through the eye hole and listened to the conversation taking place in the Watcher's Archive, before deciding on his next move.

"A damsel in distress, how could I pass this up?"

With shocking speed, Remy pulled a handful of cards from his coat pocket, then used his mutant power to tap into the potential energy and transmute it into kinetic energy. The effect of the charged up cards, was explosive!


"What the hell is this?" Shapiro asked, bending down to pick up a glowing object that had been thrown through the door "The ace of clubs?"

Seconds later Shapiro dropped the card as it burned his fingers, and the card exploded.

"What's going on here?" Shapiro whirled around to confront Amanda with an accusatory glare.

"Like I should know?" Amanda innocently replied, not wanting to let on that she was just as puzzled about the identity of her mysterious benefactor.

At least he's not an immortal, which is a good thing. If he were I'd have felt the `Buzz' by now. So, is this the 'accomplice' Shapiro was so hot and bothered about? And what's with the exploding playing cards?


Moments later Amanda's

"Bonjour, mes braves. You've been looking for me? Non? I guess you found me," Remy casually remarked, striding into the archive room as the steel-reinforced door exploded from the impact of another charged up playing card.

"Take him!" Shapiro shouted, training his gun and his attention away from Amanda.

The henchmen, who'd been lounging against the far wall at the start of Shapiro's Q & A session with Amanda, purposefully moved into the center of the spacious room, adopting battle ready stances. They pulled guns from their coat pockets and began firing off shots. Remy figured he'd save time by going over them instead of through them, and leapt into the air executing a flip that placed him directly behind Amanda.

Remy knelt next to her and whispered into her ear, "Hold still, dis won't hurt a bit." With that, he lightly inched his finger around the knots in the rope, charging the fibers, and concentrated so that he wouldn't singe her by accident.

Amanda wriggled out of the remaining ropes and dove in, targeting Shapiro, but the coward had already taken his cue and left the room. Typical. she angrily thought.


"Look out!" Amanda shouted, as she felt a bullet graze her left cheek. It didn't draw blood, but it stung like hell.

Remy dodged the bullet, and the ones that followed, even though a few did manage to rip into his trench coat. He picked up the remains of the rope, that had been used to subdue Amanda, and charged it. Remy whirled it around his head a few times before heaving it towards the henchmen. It landed somewhere around their feet, and the resulting explosion caused them to drop their guns and fall over each other.

Remy walked over to them and placed a black booted foot over one man's hand, as he made for his weapon. "No more of dat, mes amies."

"Who are you?" one of the henchman gasped, staring up at the man with the red eyes and torn trench coat.

"Le Diable Blanc, but you can call me Gambit," Remy replied. Been a long time I hear anybody call me by that name. Least not since leaving de Guild Remy absently thought.

Amanda watched him for a moment, wondering absurdly why he had red eyes, and then as sanity returned, scrambled for the chronicle that been left unheeded by the door. She also fretted about the location of her sword.

Amanda gritted her teeth, inching her way along the wall. She snatched up the chronicle. She'd been through far too much this evening to let what she'd come for slip out of her grasp now.

"Looking for dis,"? her mysterious benefactor suddenly asked, holding her sword out to her.

"Uh, yeah thanks," Amanda gasped. "Gambit? What kind of name is that?"

"Now it's time to leave," Remy quipped, not answering her question.

"Do you make a habit of this?" Amanda laughed suddenly.



"Thanks for the save. Nice accent, by the way. Cajun?" Amanda remarked, preparatory to jumping off the rooftop where they'd taken sanctuary in the event anyone decided to come after them.

"Your welcome, cherie," Remy replied, "But mebbe de damsel in distress didn't really need my help, non? " He glanced askance at the sword swinging from her right hand.

"Do you always go around wit' dat sword like it was a fashion accessory? Do you have a name?"

"To answer your last question, it's Amanda. And do you always go around dressed like the lead in a Wagnerian "Ride of the Valkyries meets Space Odyssey?" Amanda fired back, gesturing to Remy's Kevlar body armor.

She couldn't be sure, but in the moonlight his eyes seemed a little eerie, almost red. Amanda had noticed it below during the fighting, but hadn't had time or the inclination to bring it up. "That really isn't the issue? Where's de book?" Remy suddenly demanded.

"That's what you came here for. Well, I have it and I'm keeping it." Amanda defensively replied, folding her arms across her chest. "Besides, what do you want with a moldy old chronicle anyway? You couldn't possibly want it for its historical value."

"Actually, no. You see, to tell de truth, de reason I want it is because I know de person it belongs to," Remy whispered. "You know Candra?" Amanda said, startled at this revelation.

"Unfortunately. Oui."

"If you know her, then won't need the book. I, however, do," Amanda said, cradling the book under one arm, and the other holding her sword. She stuffed the book into the pocket of her jacket and sat down.

"What do you need it for?" Remy asked, puzzled, finding a comfortable spot to sit on the sloped roof of the chateau next to her. "Have you ever heard of something called the Externals," Amanda asked, wondering as she did so, if his knowing Candra was just a ploy to stall for time so he could steal the book back from her.

"Yeah. So. It don't make no difference to me if she be an External. Dey just got longer life-lines, and strange agendas," Remy shrugged. "But how's dat explain you, mademoiselle?" "Okay, granted you know about them, but can you tell him if they really are Immortal?" "Immortal? Don' know fo' sure, but dey could be."

"You've never heard her mention anything about something called the Gathering? Or the Game?" Amanda pressed.

"Game? Gathering? When Candra sent me to retrieve her book from de Watchers, she did mention that dey were a secret society dat's been round for centuries, committed to chronicling lives of Immortals. Don't know if dat's true or not. But it could be. I've been around long enough to realize dat just about anyt'ing is possible. And I've seen some strange stuff in my time. Why not, Immortals?" "Well, I'm not sure if you'll believe this or not, but I'm Immortal," Amanda whispered.

Remy nodded. "Then what's with the sword?"

"You're not gonna protest, or stammer in perplexed astonishment? I know it sounds pretty crazy." Amanda sighed. "From what I can tell, Candra is an Immortal, just not the same kind as me, and others..." Amanda trailed off, wondering just how much she should tell him. "Others?" Remy wondered.

"Some good, some evil, but there are many shades of gray in between as there are layers in an onion. In any case, Immortals have been around for several thousand years. The forces of good always squaring off against the forces of darkness." "And where do you fall on dis... Somewhere in de gray?" Remy guessed.

"The Gathering is here, where we're supposed to fight to the death, until eventually there will be only one left," Amanda replied, ignoring his comment.

"One left? Don't sound like immortality is all its cracked up to be," Remy replied. "Which brings us back to the book." "I have a friend I know I can trust to hold onto the book," Amanda remarked.

"I was supposed to give the book back to Candra," Remy half-heartedly protested.



"Did you retrieve the book, my love?" Candra eagerly asked, her hair flying behind her in her rush to the door.

"Uh, no." Remy replied, knowing Candra was liable to have a temper tantrum when she found out he'd had the book in his hot little hands, and had allowed it to slip away. Might as well stick with the truth, as much I can anyway.

"What! I thought you were a consummate thief! How could you do such a thing! You certainly should never have returned without my book, thief! " Candra hysterically shrieked, her brow wrinkling in frustrated anger, then let loose with a hot pink bolt of psionic energy.

"Ah cherie, you haven't changed a bit, so quick to use your telekinetic powers. Still as temperamental as ever, and even more beautiful," Remy said in flattering, mollifying tones.

"Do not try your Cajun charm, mutant! It does nothing for me!" Candra shrieked, but relented a little bit.

"Maybe not, but there was a time," Remy shrugged.

"That time is long past, thief! You never were very good at commitments, were you, Remy? No loyalty to anyone but yourself," Candra chided, having calmed down over the loss of the Chronicle. "Not so fast, my handsome one. Perhaps an exchange for services rendered, an arrangement could be made. I suppose you left the book right where it was?"

"Got no interest in any your propositions, cherie..." Remy trailed off, ignoring her remark about the chronicle, since Amanda had persuaded him that it would be safer in the hands of someone she felt could be trusted.

"I've finished my work for you, Cherie," Remy defensively replied.

"We'll meet again. In the meantime, I want you to live with the consequences of your actions," Candra warned. "Leave now, before I come to my senses and have you killed."


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