Disclaimer: Characters are the property of BVE, Village Roadshow, Rysher, and apparently Viacom. Younger PR fans should be advised that Highlander isn't for them. Highlander fans should be advised that it's rerunning on TNN in the afternoons. What is this Archangel thing of which you speak? Sounds like a bad fanfic, we'll pass, thanks.
"Blake? Earth to Blake, aren't we supposed to be practicing here?" Hunter asked.
"You ever seen that guy before?" Blake asked, indicating a motorcyclist.
"No. But did anyone ever explain to him that No Fear is a skateboarding company?" Hunter asked as the rider in question streaked around a curve a little faster than necessary.
The black motorcycle bearing the number 45 leapt into the air, just enough to clear the jump, not an inch to spare, and then landed easily and continued to the end of the track, under a banner reading "Race Saturday".
"He's really good!" Blake exclaimed.
"He's taking stupid chances," Hunter said.
"You're just jealous 'cause he's better than you," Blake said.
"I'm not jealous! And he's not better than me!" Hunter said. "I could out ride that guy any day of the week."
"How about right now?" said a voice from behind him.
Hunter turned to face the black bike and its rider. The rider slipped his helmet off to reveal a face not much older than their own framed with slightly curly hair, a guy that may have made it into adulthood, but not too far. "Richie Redstone," he introduced himself.
"Hunter." Hunter looked at him appraisingly. "Where do you normally ride?" He was painfully aware of the last time he'd had that question asked of him, but in this case, it was just a natural question from one rider to another.
"All over," Richie replied. "I travel a lot, so pretty much wherever I can find a track, I ride. This is your home track, I take it?"
Richie had ducked the question. Much as he and Blake had ducked the question when Dustin had asked it of them a couple months before.
"Pretty much, yeah," Hunter replied. Ignoring the concerned look Blake was shooting his way. "So you up for that race?"
"Didn't I just say I was?" Richie grinned.
"Let's go, then," Hunter said. "You joining me, Blake?"
His brother grinned. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."
The three of them drove down to the start of the track. Without a word, the three started up their engines and were coasting down the track, the outside world forgotten.
The three exchanged leads for the first few minutes, Richie picking up speed in the turns, but the Thunder brothers would take the lead in the straight-aways. Except for some of the jumps.
Then they came to the jump Dustin always referred to as "The Major Thrasher". The ground was uneven along it, which meant that judging the jump was difficult and couldn't be done just by knowing the track.
Knowing this, Blake and Hunter had gotten used to catching a little more air than they thought they needed. Richie, however, had not.
His tire caught on the dirt, yanking the handlebars out of his hands. He tried to overcompensate and ended up landing in the dirt, skidding to a stop. His right leg skidded over a rock, with the bike landing on top of it.
Richie tried to suppress the howl of agony. His leg would heal fast enough, and he didn't want to arouse suspicions by drawing attention to his injuries.
He hoped that Hunter and Blake wouldn't notice that he'd fallen behind. Of course, racers being racers and this being a small local track, there was always the possibility that local racers might be friendly... too friendly.
Soon enough, after he had healed up, the two racers had come back up the course to see what had happened. Hunter, the blond one, ran over first. "Are you okay?"
"I've had better spills," Richie answered. "Let me get my wind back and I'll just take this in for repair. Know any good bike shops?" He hoped if he kept them busy, and kept his leg out of sight, he could change before anybody noticed the blood.
"Storm Chargers, only place to go in this town," Blake, the shorter one, said.
"Our friend Dustin's the mechanic there, he'll take real good care of your bike," Hunter said, frowning.
Richie shifted, trying to keep his bloody jeans leg behind his motorbike. "Thanks."
"Are you *sure* you're OK?" Hunter asked, eyes narrowing. "Let's take a look at that leg."
"No big deal," Richie grinned reassuringly. "Just let me rest a few."
* * *
"Yeah, I can have that done for you in half an hour, dude... I mean, sir," Dustin straightened up from examining the bike.
"I liked it better the first way. Or better yet, call me Richie. Everybody else does," the blond man said. "Mind if I have a seat?" He indicated the seating area beside the cash register.
"As long as you don't mind being subjected to Shane's skating video, it's all good with me, dude," Dustin said, wheeling the bike to the work area.
Blake and Hunter walked in, talking about technical details that would only be of interest to another motorbike enthusiast.
"Man, Redstone, how's your leg?" Blake asked as he noticed the man waiting by the TVs. "That was quite a spill you took."
"Oh, it was a just a scrape, much worse than it looked," Richie replied, glad that he was wearing long jeans.
Hunter frowned. "You sure about that?"
"Yeah. I've been on a bike since I was old enough to ride one," Richie said with cheery confidence. "Like I said earlier, I've had far more dangerous spills than this." He was glad that nobody would link Richard Redstone with dead motorcyclist Richard Ryan.
"I could've sworn I saw blood soaking through your pants," Hunter insisted.
"I burst a couple of capillaries, it's really not a big," Richie replied. He was glad all the hours of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer had helped him keep up with the current slang.
"Excuse me," Hunter said, leaving Blake to talk to Richie.
Hunter slipped behind the counter to the work area, crouched next to Dustin, and whispered, "Does anything seem off to you about that guy?"
Dustin looked up from the bike to stare at him. "No, why?"
"Wait, why am I asking you? You didn't realize there was anything off about me and Blake. Where's Shane when I need him?"
"I kinda think he's trying to show Cam a trick or two," Dustin replied, looking over in his client's direction. "That dude needs to learn a few things. Cam, I mean. Though what did this guy do to his bike?"
Hunter shook his head. "The guy was bleeding onto his jeans," he said.
Dustin swiped another look at Richie. "I think you've spent too much time on the track, man."
"I'm telling you..."
"Which means what, exactly, Dude?" Dustin asked. "If you're afraid he's one of Lothor's goons then pull Blake away from him. Though I'd think he'd be thrashing on us by now--we're the only ones in here."
"Look, Blake's your bro, man. Just because he likes the guy doesn't mean you're gonna lose him." Dustin said.
Hunter stepped back. "Quit trying to channel Tori, it doesn't become you."
"Um, yeah. Well, you can't just morph and zap him for him being a little wacky, so what are you going to do, follow him?"
"You're not serious, dude." At Hunter's glaring look, Dustin added, "You're serious. What's weirding you out so much that you can't leave the poor guy alone? I mean, he busted his bike worse than Tori did mine last time she took it out!"
Hunter shook his head. "Never mind." He rejoined his brother.
"Overprotective much?" Dustin muttered from where he was working on Richie's bike.
"You sure you're not injured?" Hunter asked. He indicated Blake. "Little bro here got into a real bad spill the first race he was in. He was in a cast for weeks!"
"Thanks for mentioning that, Hunter," Blake said. "Just what I wanted my adoring public to know."
"Adoring public? You wish," Hunter said.
"Which part of 'I'm fine' are you having so much trouble with?" Richie asked, his eyes narrowing. This boy was more observant than most, it was really nerve wracking. Especially since Richie had sneaked a peek at Hunter's wrist and confirmed that he didn't have a certain tattoo on it.
"Don't mind Hunter, he was taking in wounded birds when he was ten," Blake said. "Drove everyone nuts. How long are you going to be around?"
"Actually, I'm leaving in the morning. There's a race up in Angel Grove I want to catch," Richie replied.
"I thought the Angel Grove Charity 500 wasn't until next week?" Hunter inquired.
"Yeah, well, I want to get up there sooner to practice," Richie said smoothly. "I mean, this is my first actual race in some time. Most of the time I just ride for the joy of riding."
"Uh, right," Hunter said. "Got lots of sponsors?"
"A few," Richie said. "I'm just riding for the fun of it. Thought I had to get back into racing sometime." He snuck a look at his jeans out of paranoia. "Though I could probably use a hot bath tonight. I'm out of practice." He hoped that by boosting Hunter's ego he'd distract the older boy. "At least I got beaten by one of the best."
"Just don't let Hunter boss you around," Blake said.
"Hey, it's cool," Richie said. "Nice to know the locals care about the people on the track."
"There you are," Tori said, sauntering up to the trio and not so subtly taking Blake's hand.
Blake started, and checked his watch. "Is it time to meet you here all ready? Good thing I was here, I didn't notice the time."
Tori rolled her eyes, but didn't comment.
"Oh, sorry, where are my manners? Tori, this is Richie Redstone, we had a little unofficial race earlier. Richie, this is Tori Hanson, my girlfriend," Blake said, beaming widely at the word "girlfriend".
Hunter smiled in spite of himself. It was good to see Blake so happy for a change.
"Nice to meet you," Richie said.
"Probably very nice, Hunter's been mother henning him," Blake grinned.
"I..." Hunter made a disgruntled noise and retreated to Shane's usual perch by the cash register.
"Mother henning? Hunter?" Tori asked with a brief smile and a lift of her eyebrows.
"Yeah, you know, the thing he insists on doing to me and Cam all the time?" Blake told her.
"Right." Tori was still amused. "Cam says if he doesn't stop doing that, he'll rewire his bike."
"Who's Cam?" Richie asked.
"He's um..." Hunter stammered.
"He's another friend of ours," Tori said.
Richie's eyes widened. So these kids had secrets of their own did they? Hmm.. maybe a taste of his own medicine would get rid of Hunter's curious streak.
"Why isn't he here? Does he go to your school?"
"Not exactly," Blake said. "Cam is... well, his dad knew our parents."
"Yeah," Hunter said, looking gratefully at his brother. "They were real close friends, though not enough that we ever met." It was a lie, as far as he knew. Sensei had never indicated that he'd met their parents.
"Cam is much older than the rest of us," Blake added.
"So, how do the rest of you know him?" Richie asked, trying to seem like he was just bored.
"Well... he coached our team," Tori said. "Extreme sports."
It was a nice recovery, Richie knew, but not quite a good enough one. "Ah."
"Not that all of us are good at each other's sports," Blake said, grinning mischievously. "Ask Tori about the last time she took Dustin's bike out."
"Well, you're supposed to call out to someone you want to ride with. Not chase them and scare them half to death!" Tori snapped.
Hunter let out a small snicker.
At that moment, Kelly walked in, leading an ashen Shane by the shoulders.
"What happened?" Hunter asked, leaping off the counter and helping Kelly steer Shane to a chair.
"Excuse us," Tori said, making a beeline for her friend. She didn't let go of Blake's hand however, and nearly pulled his arm out of his socket in an attempt to reach her friend quickly.
Dustin left the bike long enough to squeeze Shane's shoulder.
"There's been a murder," Kelly explained quietly. "Shane discovered the body."
The other Rangers exchanged worried glances.
"Murder?" Richie asked, standing up and joining the group.
He was extremely pale. "Um... how.... I mean..."
"Cam and I were coming over here, and Cam stopped at an electronics shop," Shane explained. "I thought I saw something in an alley, and I went to check it out." He paled even further. "I just can't describe it."
"What's going on?" asked the aforementioned Cam, shutting the door behind him.
"Murder nearby," Blake said, "I guess a few minutes ago." He directed a questioning glance at Shane, who shook his head.
Kelly patted Shane on the shoulder. "I'm calling the police."
* * *
It was several hours later as the Ninja Rangers and Cam made their way back to Ninja Ops.
"Can someone please explain to me why we're encouraging Hunter's paranoia again?" Cam asked sarcastically.
"Because the last time there was a murder in Blue Bay Harbor was when you were in diapers?" Shane suggested.
"And that Redstone guy knows something," Hunter added. "I'm telling you he looked relieved when he heard it was a strangulation death."
"I think you're wasting energy on something strictly terrestrial in nature," Cam said.
"Dude, would you speak English?" Dustin asked.
"He said it was from Earth, not one of Lothor's aliens," Blake said. "Think the opposite of E.T. the Extraterrestrial."
"Oh," Dustin said as they reached the portal.
As they flashed back into existence again at the other end of the portal, Dustin said, "Hey, the guy was in our presence when the murder was committed! I was looking at his bike for, like, ten minutes before you guys came in. 'Sides, he doesn't seem like a guy who could do anything like that."
"Yeah, well, last time I saw him before we walked into Storm Chargers his jeans were covered in blood. And he was wearing different jeans. And a different jacket - didn't you see the body armor in his jacket?" Hunter was ticking off the points with his fingers. "Doesn't that seem suspicious to anyone?"
"Well, you looked suspicious to him," Blake said. "Or I wouldn't have had to cover for you."
"Hey, you're the one who brought up Cam!" Hunter exclaimed.
"Will you five quit arguing and come talk to Dad so we can all decide this is out of our jurisdiction all ready?" Cam grumbled.
"Dude, nothing is out of our jurisdiction," Shane said. "Besides, I want to find who did this."
"Get an investigator's license," Cam said. "Leave the crime to the police. Your attention should be on Lothor."
"Like yours has been?" Shane asked. "You've been away from Ops more than you've been there nowadays."
"Dad's found some other tasks for me to attend to." Cam glared at Shane again.
"Dude, who's going to call the Zords if you're out hunting herbs?" Shane asked as they reached the doors that marked the entrance to Ops. "Sensei doesn't weigh enough to show up on a bathroom scale, much less punch the command in!"
"Don't worry," Cam said as they lifted the doors. "I've given Dad a remote control."
"Now I *know* the whole remote control thing has gone too far," Hunter said.
* * *
Cam wandered into Ninja Ops with a bowl of cereal the next morning, intending to go over the latest Power Disk schematics over breakfast.
Hunter was perched at the controls, munching a Power Bar. Carefully, as if he knew Cam would have his head on a platter if he got a single crumb on the precious computer.
A juice box sat on the floor.
"Hunter, what are you doing here? Don't you have school?" Cam asked.
"Um, no class until second period," Hunter said quickly.
"Uh-huh," Cam said, clearly not believing him. "What are you doing anyway?"
Hunter indicated the monitor. All it showed was Richie Redstone eating a big stack of pancakes in the restaurant of the Blue Bay Harbor Inn.
"Didn't Dad tell you guys not to worry about that?" Cam asked.
"Yeah," Hunter said. "And so?"
Cam sighed. "Dad said to go on with your lives. The police reports seem to agree with Dustin. The guy was killed while Mr. Redstone was chatting with us. This is not our concern, murder or not."
"Something about him bothers me." Hunter brooded into the screen once more.
"Hunter, go to school." Cam said. "Unless you want to join me on a five mile jog this morning."
"I'm going, I'm going," Hunter sighed.
He grumbled all the way from Ninja Ops to where he'd left his motorbike and cruised towards town.
When he got there, he spotted Richie Redstone coming out of the hotel office and loading up his motorbike. He ducked into a convenient alley and waited for the man to pull out of the parking lot.
Hunter followed at what he hoped was a safe distance.
There seemed to be another guy following Richie about. Probably for the same reasons he was. He hoped Cam bought his lie about not having school for another period.
Redstone seemed perfectly ordinary on the surface. He'd stopped at the bank, visited an antique store and started talking in French to the owner... if Hunter hadn't been convinced there was something strange about the guy, he'd have gone to school.
His morpher beeped as Redstone was walking out of the antique store. Cursing softly, he answered it, knowing that something had to be up.
"This is Hunter."
"I suppose you have a good reason for missing your first period English class and your Social Studies class?" Cam asked. "I can track your morpher, you know. And you're not anywhere near the school. In fact, since you and Dustin have Social Studies together...."
"I'm getting straight 'A's in Social Studies," Hunter protested. "And English."
"That's not the point, Hunter. What are you doing ditching school?"
"Following Richie Redstone," Hunter replied. "And I'm not the only one. Something's definitely up."
"Hunter, it sounds like you're headed straight towards trouble," Cam admonished.
"I can take care of myself," Hunter retorted. Cam was really starting to get on his nerves.
"Should I tell Blake where you are then?" Cam asked.
"Don't even think about it; Hunter out," Hunter barked.
His morpher beeped again, but knowing it was likely Cam calling back, Hunter ignored it.
Redstone came out of the antiques store and took off on his bike.
Hunter followed. He heard his morpher beep again at a red light, but since it was probably still Cam trying to send him back to school, he ignored it.
This time, the man stopped at a mini-mart and appeared to be loading up on junk food.
"Hey, kid, do you have a message for me?"
Hunter nearly jumped out of his skull. The speaker was the other man that had been following Richie all morning.
At Hunter's blank look, he grabbed both of Hunter's wrists.
"What are you doing?" he snapped.
"No tattoo," the man mused.
"Are you kidding? Sensei would kill me!" Hunter snapped.
"You don't know?" the man raised his eyebrows. "That would explain the completely indiscreet red shirt."
"Crimson," Hunter muttered.
"Red, crimson, whatever," the man said, who obviously didn't know the importance about the shades of red. As if Hunter would be caught dead in Shane's color.
"Not if you're me," Hunter said, trying to sound irritated instead of boiling hot angry. "Who are you and what's this stuff about tattoos?"
"Never mind," the man said, turning away.
"Look..." Hunter started.
The man turned back.
"...I have enough weirdness in my life right now." Hunter tried to look as menacing as possible for someone who was about to be collared by his Sensei's son for skipping school.
"Why are you following Ryan anyway?" the man asked.
"Ryan? I thought his name was Richard Redstone?" Hunter asked. "Look, that guy is major weird, he had to have hurt himself seriously at the track yesterday, but he's not even limping and..."
"Come on kid, Richie will be an hour choosing junk food. I'll buy you a cup of coffee." He reassessed Hunter for a minute. "Or should I make that orange juice. Why aren't you in school?"
"Who are you, my father?"
"Nah." The man's face broke out into a brief grin. "But I think you might be interested in what I've got to tell you."
"Like what?" Hunter asked.
"You're observant. You noticed something wrong. I know what it is. You've got a good eye. I like that. So, why don't we just go down and discuss it over a nice cup of soup and satisfy your curiosity? Since you're obviously not heading for your high school at high speed here."
"Maybe it's because I'm home-schooled?" Hunter suggested, hoping that guy hadn't observed Cam having his hissy-snit over the morpher.
"Well, are you coming?"
Hunter thought about it for a moment, remembering his parents', teachers', and senseis' constant warnings about strangers. But this was a public place, and it was restaurant food. And he was a Ranger.
Should be OK as long as he was careful.
They sat in the restaurant. The man ordered soup, Hunter, not really in the mood for lunch, ordered a cinnamon bun.
"My name is Gary Roper, and I'm a Watcher."
Hunter tried not to leap out of his seat. "Um, dude, you're not only whacked, you've got your mythology mixed up, Slayers are supposed to be young girls."
"You watch too much TV. I don't watch someone who kills supernatural beings, I observe supernatural beings," Roper said quietly.
Hunter stared at him incredulously.
"You... watch... supernatural... beings." Hunter enunciated the words slowly, testing the truth of them. The guy seemed perfectly sane.
Hunter couldn't deny that there were things that were strange to the general public that he and the others didn't give a second thought about. And after all, their sensei was currently in the form of a guinea pig. So the supernatural wasn't impossible.
"You telling me Richie Redstone... Ryan... whatever... is some kind of supernatural being?"
"Why is my life turning weird?" Hunter asked the general universe.
"You live in Southern California? Oh, sorry, that was a rhetorical question. Richie Ryan is an immortal. He cannot die unless his head is completely severed from his body. He also has accelerated healing powers, which is why there's no sign of his injury from the track yesterday. He was in a much more severe accident in 1995, in which he died temporarily."
"Yes, he died, but then healed and revived because his head was still attached."
"Oh," Hunter squirmed. How come this guy got to live and his parents had to die? "How... how does someone become an Immortal?"
"We don't know," Roper replied.
"And the Watchers..."
"We observe and record, but don't interfere. We feel humanity should have a record of their lives for after..."
"After what?" Hunter prompted.
"After the end of The Game."
"Game?" Hunter asked.
"The Immortals... there are quite a few of them around, don't look at me like that, are involved in battles to the death. They live for centuries, but one good duel, and... one less Immortal."
"Die how?" Hunter asked. "You mean...." He drew his finger across his neck. "No wonder he was spooked. From what the guy who saw the body told me, the dead guy was in pretty bad shape."
"No, strangled. Which would explain the relief, if Immortals always meet in battles to the death, I wouldn't signs of another Immortal in town either."
"Immortals don't always meet in battle," Roper explained. "Ryan has several Immortal friends, including his teacher, Duncan MacLeod, and Amanda Grayson-- well, friend might be a little strong..."
"Then how do they know if an Immortal is a friend or foe?" Hunter asked.
Hunter shuddered. "And they call it a game? Wait, game, does that mean there will be a winner?"
"Eventually. They say that there can be only one."
Hunter shook his head. "Sounds like a lot of useless destruction to me."
"You live in a town where color-coded superheroes fight giant monsters and tear up portions of the town regularly with giant mecha," Roper pointed out. He looked out the window towards the mini-mart once again. "If there's a reason behind the game, nobody knows. We just know that we have to watch."
Hunter was suddenly reminded of the weight of the morpher on his wrist. "So, why are you telling me all this? So I'll get off Redstone's... Ryan's... case and get back to my studies?"
"Well, that, and... you're a smart kid. Aside from the wardrobe, you blend in and you're observant."
"Your point being?" Hunter asked, taking a sip of water.
"How would you like to become a Watcher?" Roper asked.
Hunter swallowed completely wrong and coughed a few times.
"Not right away, you'd have to finish high school first," Roper said, a little more pointedly than Hunter felt strictly necessary. "Here's my card. I can see Ryan at the check-out now; I have to go. If you're interested, after you graduate use the e-mail address; Richie likes to travel a lot, so that's the most reliable."
Roper picked up the bill, paid at the cashier's desk and walked past the table. "Richie's probably leaving town now, so I suggest you get back to school."
Hunter sighed. There was no reason not to go to school, however, so he stuffed the remains of the bun into his mouth and headed out for his bike.
* * *
Hunter walked into school and stopped by his locker to get his books for fourth period. The bell rang shortly after he got it open.
Then it was slammed shut.
"Hunter where the hell have you been? Tori said you weren't in English, Dustin said you weren't in Social Studies, you weren't in gym, and you weren't answering your morpher either," Blake said. "I freaked. Don't do that to me!"
"Which one of us is supposed to be the big brother again?"
"That big brother bit failed when we joined the Winds," Blake said. "So, what've you been up to that you cut class?"
"Following up an instinct. Found out what was happening with Redstone. That's all." He regarded Blake. "Blake, I needed to know. And now I do. Kinda."
"Kinda?" Blake asked.
Hunter shrugged. "Well, for one, he didn't strangle the guy, for two, I know why he was acting kinda suspicious, and three, I got propositioned."
"Say WHAT?" Blake went from mildly worried to terrified in ten seconds flat. "That Redstone guy? Dude, I think we need to tell Sensei or Cam or a teacher or someone."
"No, it wasn't Redstone. And it wasn't sexual either. Get your mind out of the gutter, bro. I got a job offer."
"Tell you about it... sometime." Hunter said. "Meanwhile, I'd better get through class and my day so I can make sure Cam hasn't completely rewired my powers or something."
Blake shook his head. "And you'd deserve it."
"Yeah." Hunter shook his head. "Look, I've got to get to fourth period. Then I can worry about Cam redesigning my Zord into the Pink TutuZord over lunch."
"Well, we are short a Pink Ranger," Blake quipped.
Hunter lightly smacked Blake in the stomach and then double timed it in the direction of his math class. Shane would be in it, he knew, and there would be questions. But now that Hunter knew that Richie wasn't responsible, just had his own secrets, Hunter could let it go. Let the police handle it.
He was going to have his hands full handling Cam, and probably Sensei would like a word also. He winced. Boy, was he going to have some explaining to do.
Back to Tigger's fic page
Go to Selma's fic page
Feedback -- I'll forward any comments on to Selma (or you can contact her through her page at the link above).