The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
The charter jet was sleek and fast, considering the fact that Methos had
a better budget than Sharpe'd had, and that he was aiming for speed rather
The temporary pilot was Methos, who wasn't so behind the times as he might appear to be in some respects. He wasn't an exceptional pilot -- just a functional one -- so he couldn't quite smooth out all the bumps and joggles.
The pilot who was *supposed* to fly the plane had developed an unexpected case of a heart attack. Although it would have been easy enough to find another pilot, that also meant finding another plane -- which would waste precious time -- so Methos bought the plane from the pilot. The pilot was more than happy to make the deal, because he wouldn't be flying for a while anyway, and this was a good way to pay the bills.
As Methos flew the plane for himself, he could find a million other reasons why the pilot was happy to sell it.
Coleen and Richie, the two passengers, sat in the back. Richie was quite nervous, "Are you *sure* you've flown a plane before?"
Methos laughed carelessly, "We've been flying this way for the last few hours -- doesn't that answer the question?"
"It's the 'this way' that concerns me," muttered Richie.
Coleen didn't seem to mind, Richie noticed. She was off in her own world for most of the trip, only responding to direct questions, and not really blending in with Richie and Methos. Methos didn't seem to mind, but it was nagging Richie. She just seemed... off balance? Something like that. He decided to engage in her in some conversation and try to pull her out.
"So," he said, trying the direct method. "Do you want to talk about it?"
She gazed at him, her expression one of irritation, but it softened. "I don't know."
//It must be bad. With most people, it's either yes or no.// "What happened?"
Her head fell into her hands, hair flopping down the sides of her face, "I don't even know where to start..."
Coleen lifted her head, blowing out some steam. She looked as if she were about to say something, then stopped herself. She shook her head.
Richie nodded, "When you're ready to talk, I'm here." He paused for a few moments. "I'm worried about someone too. I had to leave him in Paris because he couldn't come with me. His mind is a bit off-balance."
She looked at him as if he were crazy.
//OK.... I made a bad guess, but at least she's not in her shell.// It was his turn to blow out his breath slowly. "It's Duncan. You remember him, don't you? Well, he was hunting the Invisible Ones with Richard Sharpe. They both got caught, and Sharpe got killed right next to Duncan when they were chained to the wall in a dungeon. Then they tortured Duncan pretty badly... and he wasn't right in the head when we left him. A kinsman and an old friend are watching after him, but still... I don't know..."
Coleen was obviously concerned, but her eyes still had a distant look to them.
Richie shook his head, //OK.... I'm *way* off base! But you can't say I didn't try. Think! Have to say *something*!// "I hope he's doing better..."
* * *
..."You're slow!" barked a medium-height man with a month-old beard on
his face. He was dressed in white, puffy, all-cotton clothes --
immortals had a habit of disdaining synthetic clothing. He wielded a
six-foot long steel blank -- just a plain length of steel purchased from
the hardware store.
His opponent was a little taller, with more muscles, but he looked like he was recovering from an illness. He held the same length of steel blank with obvious exhaustion, breathing heavily. "So are you," returned Duncan MacLeod.
Connor MacLeod smiled, "But I'm still standing -- you won't be in another moment." He attacked one more time, swinging the sword like he would a claymore -- just a little more slowly.
They stood on Duncan's boat, tied to the usual spot along the river. Nobody seemed to notice or care about the rather brutal 'sword' practice. The only ones who did see were the tourists from the other side of the river, but since they thought it was done for their benefit, they didn't think anything of it.
For the last hour, Duncan had responded in a style that was familiar to Connor: every swing would be met by either a right-angle defense or another attack -- simple and predictable movements that resulted in draws... until Duncan began to tire. Duncan was on his last legs now.
Connor came in with yet another swing, and Duncan seemed to change into someone else -- totally different body movements -- in an instant. His fatigue left him, and instead of holding the blank in a sword-fashion, he switched to a two-handed staff grip. Using the blank like a staff, he sank back at an angle, shifting his body out of the way of the swing. He rocked back -- his body might have been away from Connor's but his front foot wasn't -- and slammed the blank into Connor's side.
Connor groaned sharply, dropping to his knees, and dropping the blank on the ground.
Duncan lost his instant energy, sinking to his knees as well.
"That's a new move," panted Connor.
"It's called *ichimonji* by the Togakure Ryu ninja, or at least that was the posture-form."
"I thought you weren't in Japan long enough -- or at the right time -- to meet them. And weren't you protected by a *samurai*?" Connor looked confused.
Duncan looked confused as well, "You're right... I wonder where *that* came from?"
A new voice floated up from the dock -- unseen from their place on the boat, "Perhaps it is because you were *not* there?" The voice had the very distinctive accent of one who is born speaking Sanskrit as a first language.
Connor and Duncan gathered the strength to move to the edge of the boat. When they peered over the side, they saw a thin and frail old man -- a very *old* man -- standing with the help of a cane. His weather-beaten face had a very uplifted expression as he said, "I have travelled from a faraway land. May I ask for your hospitality?"
The two looked at one another, and Duncan nodded, "Yes. Be my guest."
With some help from Connor, who had rushed down to help the man walk up the plank, the old man made it on board. Duncan offered him a lawn chair to sit in, and pulled out two chairs for Connor and himself.
"Thank you so very much," smiled the old man. "In my old age, standing and walking are things that one does only in dire emergencies." He laughed with a stronger voice than his body would suggest that he should have. "But you must wonder why I seek you out... My name is Lenistanadinan --" he said this so rapidly that neither one of them caught the full name, "-- but a man you knew called me Lenny."
"Lenny!" gasped Duncan, turning white. Connor looked at him with curiosity, scratching his head at why that would be significant. "Sharpe told me about you. *What* are you?"
"I think I'm missing something," Connor almost complained. Then he looked at Lenny, and back at Duncan. "Anyone here?"
Duncan came back from his state of shock, "This man met Sharpe somewhere in Pakistan after the Napoleonic wars. That was sometime over a hundred and fifty years ago. And this is the very same Lenny -- and he's not like us."
*That* got Connor's attention, and he stared at the old man with a look of skepticism. The man was old, sure, but he didn't send out the presence that allowed one immortal to identify another. There were no exceptions to the rule, ever.
Duncan would have told him otherwise if he'd known what Connor was thinking. He could remember some few years ago when he encountered then-Interpol Agent Alan Powys, a man he'd seen in Italy in the 1600s, and who didn't send out a presence -- and yet seemed like an immortal in many ways.
Lenny didn't answer the direct question. "I am myself. That is not why I came here..." His voice became sad. "I came because I heard that Sharpe had been slain, and that you were ill..." His eyes sharpened. "I take it that you have recovered?"
"Mostly," Duncan nodded. "I wasn't well for a few days, but that was because I was pumped full of drugs, and even with immortals, it takes time for drugs to wear off." Then he did a double take, "How did you know about that?"
Lenny smiled, "I have eyes and ears in this world. I may live in an isolated mountain range, but did Sharpe tell you that I *always* had my Darjeeling tea? Even then, I was not cut off from the news."
Connor's eyes narrowed, "And what else brought you here?"
Lenny's eyes became unfocused, but his expression alert. "I came because I knew that I would be needed. The Horn has been blown for the first time, and that means that all must be made ready for the war. The event itself may be small, and fought by few, but the ripples caused by the event will spread throughout the whole world."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Perhaps not now, but you will. I came to see the both of you, *and* the one known as Amanda. I will need all three of you. If it would be at all convenient, please bring her up to sit with us. You must all hear what I must say, and I don't like repeating myself."
Duncan got up a little uncertainly, "And anything else?"
"If you would, some Darjeeling tea?" Lenny smiled widely.
* * *
Coleen spoke without any warning. "It's Axer."
"What about him?" asked Richie. //Let's hope I'm doing the right thing...//
"I think he's disappointed in me," she frowned. "I can't help but think I let him down."
Neither one of them noticed Methos' face tighten at that.
Coleen continued, "I know I made some mistakes, and I know there were things I shouldn't have done... But I didn't expect his reaction."
"Like what?" Richie put a hand over hers, a comforting gesture that Coleen didn't appreciate. He pulled it back off.
"Lots of little things, like spiking Bill's coffee with Benedictine and aqua vitae... But I think he's disappointed in me because he's finally learned that I'm a lesbian." She didn't mention the fact that she had also pumped enough drugs into Nat to visibly affect her -- a love potion that she'd shot into Nat's arms many times that night -- and had done it for pay.
Richie sat back, "You mean he's acting like a jerk because of your *sexual preference*?" He shook his head, "I can't believe that! How many years has he taken you under his wing? And *now* he decides that you're immoral?"
//That's not it, and I know it.// "It's not that simple."
Methos' face tightened even more. "It rarely is." Both looked at him, startled, as he continued, "Why don't you fill in the rest of the details? What was the straw that broke the camel's back?"
Coleen almost felt like vomiting from the nerves strangling her guts. //Why the hell did I say anything?// But she couldn't take it back. //Might as well finish it through.// "I also raped a woman."
They flew in silence. Methos was the one to break it, "I think you have quite a story to tell us."
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