The twenty-first century is glorious. Anyone who says otherwise is a complete idiot.
First off, there are the books. Not his libraries, either. He has three: massive underground complexes that he crams full of every known printed work and one of each new thing that comes out—as long as it’s not complete rubbish. (He keeps Twilight for entertainment value only, something to pull out in two hundred years and laugh at over a beer.) Each library is on a different continent, and as the ice recedes, he’s contemplating a fourth in Antarctica. The centuries, and the loss of the library in Alexandria, made him paranoid. He refuses to lose access to the printed word ever again.
Even two decades ago, if he wanted to read, he carried around a backpack crammed full. He’s a fast reader, after all these years, and can take in a large novel in about an hour. Less, if he’s feeling rushed.
But now. Now! He has a computer the thickness of a legal pad that he can store all three of his physical libraries on. At once. Anything he wants to read is on that beautiful glass screen, and he can acquire public domain works or new items with a couple of clicks.
This could be dangerous. This could bankrupt him. Books have been his worst addiction since Egypt, the bastards.
Music is just as bad. Or just as good.
For the first time in hundreds of years, music is so common that it pours out of speakers on street corners. Buskers are everywhere, still, but so are people who are outdoors playing music for fun. For the joy of creating sound. For the joy of being alive.
Musicians give their music away for free, giving the finger to radio executives who want to keep it close. Now it’s everywhere, and what isn’t given freely is borrowed and digitized and spread, and then there’s no stopping it. He has Zeppelin and Janis, along with Dr. Dre and the Dropkick Murphys and Johnny Cash and Richie Valens and the Stones and Adele. Thanks to self-proclaimed data pirates he has all of Jennifer Nettles’ music, from back before Sugarland’s bland modern Memphis sound (Gods, what happened there? Memphis used to mean blues!) and all of the Jimi Hendrix jam sessions he can handle.
If there is a data whore of this century, Methos is the biggest one, and he has the credit card statements to prove it.
Then there’s the food. Oh, blessed Isis and that gorgeous whore Aphrodite, it’s like being in Rome again. Except instead of having to stay in a hot stone villa, he can be almost anywhere in the world and get a pizza with a Guinness stout. China has Alaskan salmon. New York has torafugu. (Signing the waiver makes him crack up, every time.)
This world has riches that it hasn’t seen in thousands of years, and never before has it been on a truly global scale.
It baffles him when people complain about being poor.
Not that he doesn’t understand—he does, really—but unless you’re in the mountains of Afghanistan or parts (large ones) of Africa, this century isn’t poor at all. He knows poor; he’s lived poor, he’s starved to death any number of times from famine that stretched thousands of miles.
This century is rich, and he’s going to enjoy these riches for as long as he can before it all comes tumbling down. It always does.
Mac calls him a pessimist over drinks that night.
“Duh, hello!” he says, waving both arms. “I’m Andy Piersson, nice to meet you!” He did ditch the “First Man” bit at last; too many people had become aware of the joke. Still likes A names, though.
“You sound like everything can collapse in a moment,” the big Scot says, his smile wide over a glass of wine. Six glasses in. He’s such a happy drinker. “The world’s not that fragile.”
It’s something Duncan MacLeod says, quite often, that makes Methos’s heart ache with the pain of old loss. Mac is one of the best friends he’s ever had, and one of the best men he’s ever known, but the young immortal doesn’t have it in him to greet his first millennium. Duncan MacLeod doesn’t flex enough, doesn’t know how to give enough.
Maybe you do have to be a pessimistic bastard to hit five thousand.
Or is it six? Thanks to the archeological finds of this decade, he’s not really sure anymore. He helped design that harbor they’ve just found in Israel, begun on Alexander’s order, and he could have sworn he was already four thousand years old at the time.
After Alexander died, he made sure the harbor didn’t get finished. He’d liked Alexander, dammit.
He’s still pissed off at Plutarch. Jealous, dried-up old prick.
“What’s that look for?” Mac wants to know, and Methos realizes he’s drifting. Amusingly enough, he’s thinking of Egypt again, and the womanizing priest whose new immortality had been such a strong draw. Well; new to him, anyway. Tak Ne had been around long enough already to piss off the Kurgan.
“Just thinking about Greeks bearing gifts.”
“More wooden horses?”
Methos sighs and remembers his last night with a Macedonian king, a man as bloodthirsty as he was brilliant. “More like shitty wine.”
Duncan likes his antiques license and old swords, and only uses a laptop because he has to, so it’s Joe that he goes to in order to celebrate the benefits of new technology. This no longer means a visit to the bar. The bar was sold to a young immortal who loves beer almost as much as Methos does, since Joe is in a chair all the time now.
It’s an awesome chair that’s fully electronic, with a battery that will last a week without needing a charge, and has a phone built into the control panel. Methos wants one. Joe laughs at him.
“You tryin’ to live your golden senior years through me, old man?”
“No, I just want the chair,” he says, because some days he is an indolent sloth and the thought of going to the fridge without getting up makes him sigh with pleasure.
(He used to live on the tundra, huddled next to a fire made from animal dung and chewing on rotting deer sinew to keep from starving. He’s fucking allowed to be a bit lazy if he wants.)
“Come sit on Santa Joe’s lap, and I’ll give ya a ride,” Joe says with a leer.
“Oh, baby,” he drawls, but he does it anyway.
It’s a nice ride. Joe kicks the chair into high gear and sends them hurtling down the sidewalk in front of his house. People have to dodge to get out of the way.
Joe is laughing and saying it’s the best day he’s had in months.
“We need to get you some nanogenes,” Methos says when they go back to the house. He has nefarious plans to make a dinner that involves steak and beer. Joe’s doctors would never approve. Philistines.
“Totally Star Trek, right?” Joe replies, popping open a beer with hands that are just as strong as ever. He still plays the guitar every chance he gets. Methos recorded a lot of it and sent it out on the ’net to spread and live. Joe Dawson is going to be immortal, one way or another.
“We’re living Star Trek. My computer is made of Star Trek,” he says. “Hewlett-Packard just put a patent on clear interactive touch screens.”
“You mean like those things in Minority Report?”
“Good movie. Shitty execution, though.” But the screens. Those virtual, interactive, clear screens. Methos wants one in the worst way. “If we’re getting that, then bring on the fucking nanogenes.”
Joe smiles, but there’s sadness in it, and recognition is like a punch in the gut. He keeps silent, because he knows to do so, and they talk gadgets and movies and music until Joe falls asleep in his chair sometime after midnight.
The funeral is two weeks later, and he’s the only member of their old quartet that’s not surprised. Amanda spent too much time in the States, and Duncan…
The service is over, and it’s just the three of them standing over the open grave. Joe wanted cremation, but a relative somewhere with money had gotten that overturned, and now there is another body in the soil, taking up space. The people of this century don’t really get what recycling means—or Biblical scripture, for that matter.
“So what are your thoughts about grave robbing?” Methos asks, to break the morose, guilty silence that Duncan can project better than a thousand emo teenagers. “If there’s still enough left of him in a few decades when they perfect nanogenes, we could reconstruct him handily.”
“Methos!” Duncan is appalled, and stares at him with wide, innocent eyes. No one on their way to five hundred has any right to still look so damn naive.
Amanda thinks it’s a great idea. “Those little bug thingies? He could even have both legs back!”
“He could run like a champion. Make us all look bad,” Methos agrees, smiling.
Duncan is still sputtering. “You can’t just do that to someone!”
“Why not?” Methos asks, trying to keep his voice light. “Joe thought it was a great idea.”
The other man is struggling. “It’s not—it’s not appropriate.”
“How would you know what Joe thinks is appropriate and what isn’t? When is the last time you saw Joe?” Methos asks, even though he already knows the answer. Joe told him.
Duncan mutters something, doing the guilty emo thing again. The old heart pain is back, but today, he’s had enough.
Duncan didn’t go see Joe Dawson because Joe, in his electronic chair with his sagging skin and watery eyes, represented Death. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod is terrified of any sort of dying that doesn’t involve swords and lightning.
“And that’s why you’re not going to live to see six hundred!” he yells as he storms off. Too late, he realizes it sounds like a threat.
Amanda finds him when he’s just finished upturning beer number six. Beer and grief are good together. “He’ll come around,” she says, trying to soothe muddied waters.
“No, he won’t,” Methos grumbles back. “He’s an idiot.”
Amanda raises an eyebrow. He’s so glad she went back to black; the white made her look too old, too Rebecca-like. “He’s your friend.”
“Idiots make great friends,” he snaps. She grins at him and orders them both another round.
Later that year, he throws some financial weight around, and gets a CD out on the shelves. The cover is Watcher Blue; he alters the symbol just enough so that the remains of the old Council won’t notice until it’s far too late. The only thing it says is: Joe Dawson – Blues. (Joe would have liked the inherent pun.)
It’s a big hit; internet forums are useful things. Joe’s music is on an independent label that Methos vetted. When it starts eating up the music charts, he goes to New York for the party.
New York is Connor’s stomping ground, and since most immortals know that to visit New York without permission is to lose your head, no one bothers him. Methos gets a pass because he was patron to Tak Ne.
“You’re too old for this party,” he hears towards the end of the evening.
“I’m twenty-three years old and my identification can prove it,” he shoots back.
Connor laughs at him. He’s wearing a suit but no tie, with the collar loose in deference to the heat. Methos hadn’t intended on running into the other MacLeod, but he doesn’t say no to the offer of drinks. He loves listening to Connor talk; of them all, the elder Scot never bothered to fake an accent, and now he bears one of the most unique English-speaking voices in the world.
“My cousin tells me that you two are on the outs,” Connor says, after a third brandy.
Methos is still buzzing on dancing, earlier beer, and drumbeats that had pounded out between sets of Joe’s music. “Jesus, Connor! You make it sound like we’re married, and your cousin wouldn’t know how to lift a shirt even if someone handed him instructions.”
Connor gives voice to his particular, breathy chuckle, a grin on his face. “I haven’t heard it put that way in a few years, now. I am not so good at lifting shirts, either. Now, skirts!”
He smiles. “The kilt is making a comeback, MacLeod. You’ll have the chance to practice.”
Connor’s home possesses every single shiny electrical, technical gadget of the modern age. This is a man who knows how to flex, and it makes him sad and morose all over again.
Connor is sharp-eyed and observant. “You think Duncan the sort to lose his head?”
“No,” Methos says, wishing for more beer. “His skill will keep his head where it belongs. It’s the baggage of old age that I’m worried about.”
“Ah.” Connor gives him a look that reminds him far too much of Tak Ne. “I understand.” He pours them both more brandy. “I’ve almost put down my sword three different times. You?”
“Just the once,” he admits. “A long fucking time ago.” After he’d decided he was sick of Death.
“Aye,” Connor murmurs. “I had to learn it, you know. Maybe you did, too, and you just don’t remember.”
He’s not a stupid man, for all that he’s acted the part often in the past millennia. “You want me to teach your cousin to be a shirt lifter?”
Connor smiles. “If that’s what it takes.”
“You’re an asshole.”
Connor laughs again. “I was well-taught.”
Methos hates Seacouver, so he’s glad that Mac always chooses to do his best moping in Paris. He finds Mac sitting on the roof of the barge. The river is especially ripe today. The locals call it “fresh air.”
Okay, so not everything about this century is awesome. Pollution pisses him off. He has to live on this planet, dammit!
“Your cousin told me that I’m supposed to turn you into a homosexual,” he says in greeting.
It’s worth the spit-take.
“I don’t want a new computer,” Mac is whining two days later. “I have a computer!”
“That thing is an antique,” Methos informs him, pushing Mac into the store.
“It’s six years old!” Mac protests.
“Exactly. Ancient. Old news. Old tech. Outdated piece of shit,” Methos clarifies. “You are going to learn to live in this century and like it, or I will take your cousin’s advice.”
Mac is cowed. The younger of the Scot duo isn’t homophobic, but he is very straight, and the threat works wonders. It’s how Methos gets him to buy an iPad, an iPod, a new laptop, a good start on a music catalogue that’s actually from this century, and a real damn phone. Then it’s off to get Mac’s boat DSL (who the hell still has dial-up?!) and to show him how to link up all of the toys so they can talk to each other.
Duncan’s eyebrows go up and stay up once he realizes that if he upgrades his appliances, his refrigerator will be able to text him grocery lists. Methos loves this option; he hasn’t run out of beer in three years because his refrigerator makes up for the fact that he is a forgetful alcoholic.
It’s two weeks later when Duncan exclaims, “Good God, why in the world did you let me continue to live like it was 1998?”
“I told you the refrigerator was awesome,” Methos says, not bothering to lift his head. Kicking someone whining and screaming into the 21st century is hard work.
“It’s not just the fridge. It’s…” Duncan is waving his hands around like a lunatic when he opens his eyes to look at him. “Did you know they’ve been trying to get me to upgrade to a Droid for three years and I kept turning them down because I was certain that a phone was just a phone?”
Methos just grins. “Welcome to Star Trek, MacLeod.” Maybe his best friend can learn to flex, after all.
He’s also not above resorting to seduction. Amanda has already texted him: “Pics or GTFO.”