Well, I was out of the running for Mid Week Challenges for over a week, working on a big project: a story for a good friend's 40th birthday. When I came back, I discovered that the new MWC was in fact another one of my suggestions. A deceptively simple question: where do the Watchers get all their money? I had already had a couple of ideas when I suggested this theme in the first place, so I charged right in without hesitation. I know some of you won't believe this, but I actually composed this scene in less than 24 hours, and the result is less than 2 pages long. Yes it really is me, I haven't been taken over by aliens!

Hot Item: Bid Now

Deb had fully embraced the technology revolution; when she wasnít composing fiction by keyboard, she relaxed by surfing the Web. Now that she had a reliable income (well, as reliable as it gets for a writer) she found herself more and more attracted to the temptations of e-shopping. "Hey Mac," she called over her shoulder, "youíre into antiques; have you ever tried ebay?"

"I never go near those places; I like to be face-to-face with merchants."

"Never? Itís the modern Market Bazaar."

He snorted, "A little too bizarre and not enough market for my taste. Buyer Beware, and donít forget to count your fingers."

"Sounds like someone had a bad experience," she teased. "You can find some surprising things if you hunt long enough; and the bidding system keeps you from spending more than you expected." She scowled for a moment, "Except for us Northlanders, who have to deal with currency exchange and increased shipping costs. But itís all worth it if you find a treasure."

Deb was silent for quite a while after that, hunting for treasures. Truth be told, she was only browsing today, she really had no intention of bidding unless she happened to find something extraordinary. Under the category of Antiques and Collectibles, she found something that definitely qualified as "extraordinary," though not something she would want to buy.

She stopped dead in her tracks, something she rarely did once she had gotten into a good surfing rhythm. "Um, Duncan," she asked hesitantly, "that whole story about Rebeccaís crystals; was it based in any way in reality?"

"The crystals were real enough, though Iím not too sure about the stories." Mac was vaguely curious as to why sheíd ask that type of question now, but otherwise he wasnít paying too much attention.

Even while she was speaking, she couldnít quite keep her eyes off the screen. "And what exactly did they look like, together?"

"I thought you knew everything there was to know about The Series?" When she was online, Deb often blurred the lines, more so than usual.

"Actually on the series, that was one of the big continuity errors. In the flashbacks it looked like the crystals had been cut from a perfect oval shape, but by the time you get to Methuselahís Gift, it looked like a big jumble, almost like naturally growing quartz. But thatís not what Iím asking. I want to know what the real thing would have looked like." When Mac turned around on the couch to give her a quizzical look, Deb gestured him over to the computer; "Look at this."

It wasnít a very good quality picture, but it was enough to make one thing perfectly clear; "ThatísóI mean, it could be," Duncan couldnít quite make himself say it yet, "what you think it is. But the last people who were supposed to have had the pieces wereÖ"

"The Watchers? That would explain this." She scrolled up from the photograph; "Look at the seller: bluesman. Did Dawson ever mention any financial difficulties lately?"

"This has got to be some kind of a fake, or a coincidence. If it was the real thing, they wouldn't let it get away: anyone who possesses the complete figure was supposed to become invincible."

Deb pointed to something else on the screen; "Oh, that wonít happen. Itís a Dutch auction, theyíre selling the pieces, not the whole thing. Maybe they think itíll be safer if itís spread out all over the place again. Or maybe the Watchers really are running out of money." Not for long though, the bids were already getting quite high; curious, she clicked for the full bidding history; "Oh-oh."

"What do you mean, oh-oh?"

Deb licked her lips nervously; "Well, real or not, thereís a nasty bidding war going onÖ between Lady A and The Last Horseman. Still believe in coincidences?"

Mac threw up his hands in frustration and then began pacing; "Great! This is just great. Iím not surprised about Amanda but why would Methos want it? He canít bring Alexa back, itís too late for that; and itís been centuries since heís had any real thirst for power."

Deb spun her chair around and gave him a significant look; "Not that we know of, but how much do we really know about the Old Guy?" She paused, slowly shook her head. "No, even my wild imagination canít picture something like that. More likely heís a shill for the Watchers, trying to get the price up higher." She chuckled, "Not that those kinds of tactics would work for a Dutch auction." A sudden thought brought a frown; "I wonder if heís still annoyed over that whole Halloween costume incident?"

"It doesnít matter why heís doing it; the question is, what should we do about it?"

"Thereís nothing much we can do about it. Unless," she added with a mischievous grin, "you want to make a bid of your own?"

After looking at some of the other entries, all of them great, I was disappointed to see that I wasn't the first to suggest the E-bay idea. Great minds think alike I guess. Everyone liked my scene though, especially the dialogue. I gave someone (I believe it was MacNair) a horrible case of the giggles with the screen names for the buyers and sellers. I think they were very appropos.

Oh, and as for Savage, my semi-voluntary proofreader? All I got from him was a groan. ;-)

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