Wired

Leah Rosenthal

Bizarro7@aol.com

Cassandra could see MacLeod's expression of relief halfway down the block. It did not appreciably change by the time he caught up with her, his breath billowing in the cold air of a Parisian January.

"I heard. You're all right?"

She shuddered and turned to continue on her way. "Not quite. But eventually I will be, Duncan."

He walked beside her, stuffing his gloved hands into the pocket of his overcoat. "You don't look well."

"I'm not used to it." She glanced up. "How did you find out?"

MacLeod noticed that her eyes were watering slightly, and she looked distinctly pained. "Joe told me, this morning. They didn't identify your opponent, though. Any idea who he was?"

"No. I had an impression of a very new, very ambitious young Immortal." She shuddered again. "I couldn't convince him to go away."

MacLeod frowned "Was he immune to your Voice?"

Cassandra shook her head and smiled bitterly. "No. He never heard it. I don't believe he ever took the Walkman earphones off, the entire time we fought. He simply appeared in the alleyway, challenged me and attacked." She closed her eyes. "He was still wearing the damned headphones when his head hit the pavement..." She swayed.

MacLeod grabbed her arms, alarmed. "Why don't we grab a table in the cafe across the street and rest a bit? You obviously aren't taking the Quickening well." He glanced left and right to check for traffic and hustled her toward the cafe.

Cassandra shook her head again. "Coffee isn't going to help," she insisted. "Nothing is going to help. I'm in for a rough stretch, and there will be no avoiding it."

"Have you always had a problem after a Quickening?" Duncan solicitously led her to the door of the little shop and took her coat. "Is that why you've avoided taking any heads?"

"I've always avoided killing anyone on principle." She glanced at him ruefully as she took a seat at one of the nearby tables. "In the case of your Horseman friend, I was willing to make a critical exception."

It was MacLeod's turn to flinch. "I know how you feel about it, Cassandra. But I'm still glad you didn't."

She settled her head in her hand. "I'm not up to that particular argument with you just now. And besides, my principles aren't all that are keeping me from the Game...not since the turn of the last Century, anyway."

MacLeod frowned again. "Why is that?"

"It has to do with my psychic abilities. Ever since the 20th Century, any time I was forced to take a Quickening..." she shuddered again in pain. "...interference."

"What? Oh--coffee, please. Plain," MacLeod told the waitress who had stalked up to their table.

"Tea." The waitress left.

MacLeod leaned forward, resting his sweatered arms on the marble surface of the cafe table. "Who's interfering? The rules of the Game..."

"Not that kind of interference. Transmissions. I get signals. At first it was just a few radio signals. The next time, there were hundreds of them, all at once. The time after that, television, microwave broadcasts, wireless telephones, satellite..." She held her head again in obvious pain. "It's deafening. One time, I passed an MRI facility. I thought my head would explode. Until it fades, I could go mad." She whimpered. "My head is full."

MacLeod sat back and whistled. "You've become a victim of technology."

Cassandra sighed. "The only solution is to avoid taking heads." Their beverages arrived and they stirred and drank in silence.

"How long does it usually last?" MacLeod asked, keeping his voice lower than he had before.

Cassandra noticed and smiled wanly. "A week or two. I don't get much sleep..."

MacLeod was shocked. "Would it help if you got away somewhere? We could grab a plane to a remote..."

She stopped him with a hand on his arm. "No, but it's lovely of you to offer. She squeezed her eyes shut against what MacLeod now recognized as another wave of overwhelming input.

"I wish there was something I could do to help. At least let me get you back to your place safely. He hesitated, reaching for his cell phone. "Sorry to add to the noise for a moment. He dialed and spoke into the device. "Methos?"

Cassandra's head came up, a frightening look in her eye. Duncan held up a placating hand. "He gave me a lift over this way. He'll get us home."

"No..."

"It will only be for a short ride. Methos, pick me up at the Cafe Charles on 15 Rue DeLecroix. Right, yellow sign."

"No!"

MacLeod flipped the phone closed and took her hand. "Think of it this way; he'll be your chauffeur. Where are you staying?"

"It's not a short ride at all. I'm out in Avry, beyond Orly Airport."

MacLeod was not to be put off, After some argument, Cassandra relented. Around fifteen minutes later, a black car slid up to the curb, just as some snowflakes started to drift down outside the cafe's front window.

Methos looked suitably surprised and wary at the sight of MacLeod's companion. "I'm not certain if I want my hands on the wheel, if she's coming along," he declared, eyeing the woman as she took the passenger seat. Despite an effort to look coolly scornful and self-possessed, however, his sharp scrutiny caught on that something was amiss. "Where to?"

MacLeod gave him the address from the back seat. "And no bickering, this trip. We're not in the mood."

"Fine, but you're buying the next tank of petrol." Methos shrugged with a sardonic smile and pulled into the street. They drove along in silence for a spell. Every now and again Cassandra would show the effects of her condition, despite her best efforts to look stoic before her nemesis. His eyes cut over whenever she did, but he refrained from comment.

As they pulled onto the A6 out to Orly, Methos reached up for a moment and felt under the sun visor.

Cassandra suddenly sat up, her eyes wide. "What was that?!"

"Huh? What?" Methos asked defensively, jockeying the car into the flow of fast-moving traffic.

"What did you do? What was that?!" She demanded, her voice rising.

"Methos?" MacLeod menaced from the back seat.

"I didn't do a damned thing. I just turned on the box," the older Immortal protested. "I'm not about to add the price of a citation to the cost of this little excursion--"

"Where is it?!" Cassandra clawed frantically at the visor and snatched out a small, flat black box. A series of little lights blinked
on one side. "What is this?!"

"That's a state-of-the-art radar damper, and it cost me a bloody fort--hey, what are you doing with that?"

Cassandra didn't reply. She had slapped the device against her forehead and was sliding gradually down in the passenger seat, her eyes closed, a look of blissful relief coming over her face. "Oh...oh, that's wonderful," she moaned.

Methos alternately gawked at her and watched the road. "Has she finally gone insane?" He asked MacLeod.

The Highlander sighed and shook his head. "How much for the box?"

"What are you talking about? That's mine!"

"How much, Methos?"

The driver muttered a string of curses and spat out a number.

As he pulled out his wallet and dug through, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod shook his head and sighed. "I'm starting to get a clue," he murmured, "why someone thought there could be only one."

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