I wrote this a while ago, just now getting around to putting it up. It's not meant to affect anyone's characterization or anything, just an idle thought. Comments are welcome.
“Look, Amy, I’m not trying to say they’re angels,” Joe said, leaning on the bar with a frown, “but you’re starting to sound like someone we both knew. Someone dead.”
“Don’t even start.” The woman seated nearby scowled at him and stirred another packet of sweetener into her tea. She was tallish, slender but broad-shouldered for a female, with dark hair in short waves around her face. In her mid-fifties, she was still very easy to look at, but there was a hard set to her jaw. “I’m not advocating the slaughter of immortals who have done no egregious harm to society. I’m definitely not advocating interfering in their battles. But why are we watching them if not to defend ourselves?”
“Knowledge. That’s not reason enough?” He glanced around. The bar was open, but there were, as yet, no patrons.
“Yes and no.” She shrugged. “I’m not necessarily worried about the Prize handing world domination to the winner on a silver platter, Joe. What I’m saying is no one knows what the cumulative effect of hundreds or thousands of Quickenings may be. You say you know your MacLeod well, and I believe you when you call him a good man. But in a hundred years? In a thousand years? Will he be the same Duncan MacLeod?”
“I have faith in him.” Joe sighed and took a seat. “He’s been Duncan MacLeod since 1592. I don’t see that changing.”
“That’s touching. But he’s not the oldest, by a long shot. And the older they are…” she grimaced and sipped her tea.
Joe half-wished he could introduce her to Methos, who was about as normal as they came these days. He smiled faintly, then sobered, remembering Methos hadn’t always been so unassuming.
“I read a paper,” she said, “about immortal psychology, particularly in the area of dark quickenings.”
“That’s not a phenomenon that’s actually been confirmed,” he said slowly.
“No, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence. And since we can’t know how long the Game will last, or how many immortals will have existed when the end comes, I have to wonder. They’re psychologically tougher than us, don’t you think? They’d have to be. No one survives multiple wars, death and exile and sometimes the most heinous tortures humankind has ever concocted, then gets up and goes on with their lives. It would be normal to be suicidal, or catatonic. There’s evidence of PTSD in immortals, but it’s not well studied, and not as common as one might think it should be.”
“I agree with that. That’s my point. They’re built to last, in more ways than one.”
She shook her head. “No. That’s where we come to the dark quickening phenomenon. Given all that they bear up under, why would a natural function of their species result in a fundamental personality shift? Some sort of abstract archaic evil counter ticks over in their heads? I don’t think so. What are the effects? Heightened aggression, and immediate attempts to slash all social bonds. Bonds they’ve formed with mortals and with other immortals. Family, friends, lovers.”
He stared. “What are you saying?”
“It’s the next logical step in the Game, that’s what I’m saying. You get to a certain point, and something inside tells you you’re not getting any further unless you’re willing to take the head of your teacher, your student, immortals you’ve known and loved. How else would the Prize ever be won? There would always be two or more immortals left, bound by love or respect, and unwilling or unable to kill the others until something, socially or psychologically, snapped.”
“So you think it’s inevitable? That all immortals who survive past a certain point will go crazy?”
“It’s not crazy. It’s a survival instinct.” She drained her teacup. “It may just be a phase in their development. They might go through it and come back out once all the other immortals are dead, although then they’d have to contend with what they’d done as well as the massive increase in power. I don’t think that would be pretty, either.”
“Amy…that’s…” he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it was absurd. It sounded all too plausible. But it was also pure speculation, and he knew where the train of thought she was following inevitably led. As he struggled to come up with an argument, the door to the bar swung open, and a familiar figure entered. He glanced over uncertainly, then relaxed a little. It was Penny Hayes.
“Hey,” he said. “Can I get you something?”
She looked oddly subdued, and he knew exactly why. “Not right now, thanks, Joe.”
She walked past him and leaned in to kiss the woman beside him on the cheek. “Wish you’d called sooner,” she said. “How was your flight, Mom?”