The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995


Chapter 17

Heimdall was muttering to himself as he made his way back to the office building. He had tailed someone for a good twenty minutes -- someone that he'd believed was Powys -- and it'd turned out to be a Mormon. //Damn Mormons! What *is* it that draws them to me like iron to a magnet?//

He made his way around the last corner and saw that Axer had made his way to the top, and that Peter was half way up. He was about to climb himself, but moved away from the rope when he saw a garbage truck come down the way. Not wanting to draw attention to himself or the rope, he moved to the other side of the alley, backing up against the brick wall.

That's when he heard it: a shattered window followed by a long scream. Before the truck had reached him, he was able to see that Peter Caine was falling quite rapidly, along with the rope that he was holding. Someone had cut the rope.

He stepped forward reflexively. "No!"

Some god of luck must have been around, because Peter fell right in the center of the load of garbage. The driver had no idea that it had happened, so he didn't even slow down. Caught between choices, Heimdall made an instant decision; he jumped onto the side of the truck and climbed into the garbage, reaching Peter, who was knocked out and sleeping contentedly like a pig in slop.

* * *

Kate had done her share of sneaking around, but only for the purpose of finding food. The fact that they were breaking into the building to observe, and perhaps kill, someone made it fell very different... like a new experience.

Axer had done things like this quite a lot, so he had more of a bored expression on his face with his eyes unfocused.

"Where do we go?" whispered Kate.

"The thirteenth floor."

A slight pause. "There isn't a thirteenth floor."

"There's always a thirteenth floor -- most folks just don't call it that. In this case, there *is* a thirteenth floor that the elevator happens to skip."

"Is there something you're not telling me?"

"I don't know. What am I not telling you?"

They turned the corner of the barren hallway, entering the stairwell and descending. The lights were off, but neither one had any problem. Axer didn't have vampire eyes, but he had developed his other senses well enough that he could negotiate just as well as a vampire.

/P>

* * *

So, Surtur. There you sit, staring at the one object you have left in your life.

A ring. A ring that has tarnished with age, but you do not see the tarnish, because it has developed as you have. Just as we do not notice our own changes with time, you have not noticed the change in your ring.

Who was she? A loved one? A prize? Or have you never made a distinction between love and possession? Did you love the women you took by force, or were they merely items that you took and used? Did you take her from the field as she was going about her daily chores? Did she catch your fancy from afar, and grip your eyes so tightly that you couldn't bear to let her from your very sight? Did you simply ride up and grab her in passing at a full gallop? Or did you kill her family in the process, relishing her screams and cries of loss, knowing that a year from now, she would be kneeling at your feet in devotion?

Or was that not the case? Was she a prize from battle? That reminds me... Did her husband watch before you killed him? Perhaps you put out his eyes and let him remain alive for the rest of his days, whatever they might have been. Perhaps you let him live with his eyes, but not his hands. Perhaps he served you afterwards as a eunuch, or perhaps he served your new wife as such.

How did you lose her? Did you lose her the same way you gained her? I strongly doubt it was old age...

No, I don't judge you. What is... is. There is no right or wrong, only what is, and if that is the case, how can I judge you? The only judgments I can make concern tactics, and I tell the truth when I saw that your tactics are quite sound.

Wallow in your hypocritical pain as a pig wallows in mud. Bathe yourself in rancid anger. Take the pools of vomit from your own soul and wash yourself.

The last thing I can stand is a man of self-pity, but at least you serve me well.

Carry on. You have visitors.

You never saw me.

I was never here.

You can unglaze your eyes now.

* * *

"Wake up."

Peter groaned, rubbing his eyes. "It's not even six yet. Let me sleep."

Heimdall shook him once more, concern in his eyes. "Don't do this to me. You're not safe at home, and it's not even midnight yet."

Peter opened his eyes, sitting up with a sharp jerk. "What the hell?! I should be dead!"

Heimdall laughed, the strain still there, "You can thank your god of luck for that. You fell in the middle of a garbage truck. I had to spend the last few minutes hosing you down -- you smelled bad enough to wake the dead."

He noticed that he was sopping wet, and that he smelled distinctly like flowers. Heimdall looked at him with an apologetic shrug, "The closest place I could find some soap was a health food store. I thought you'd rather smell like chamomile than peaches."

"Hmmph." He slowly stood up. "How long has it been?"

"Since you went for a dive? About an hour. I figured that since Axer and Kate haven't aborted the mission, we should stick around. Have you made a Plan B?"

Peter scratched his chin. "Not for anything like this... I didn't expect that someone would snap the rope -- or even know that it was there. I wasn't expecting it... " He slammed his fist into the wall. "It *has* to be Powys! That bastard sold us up the river! Did you find him?"

"No. It was some Mormon missionary. I let him go."

Peter paced back and forth. "Damn! We can't go up... But maybe we can go down!"

"What do you mean?"

Peter's grin was evil, "We're going through the sewers. Did you bring some extra soap?"

"No. We're not going down there. That's final."

* * *

"How many floors is that?" panted Axer, nearly out of breath.

"This should be fourteen." Kate was smiling at Axer's discomfort.

"Let's stop here. There won't be a thirteenth door."

"How will we get in?"

Axer smiled, "Leave that to me."

They made their way through the locked door. All it took was a sharp yank by Kate, and they were in.

"Let me rest here for a few moments..." Axer sat down against a drywall and closed his eyes.

Kate smiled and explored the floor on her own. If she had stayed a moment longer, she would have seen him twitch violently, and then stop suddenly. She would have heard the muttering in three different languages, none of which she recognized.

He had thought he had conquered the voices within, but once more, the wall was breached...

*

...Axer found himself on one hell of a nightmarescape. All the other times he'd been here, there had always been a dreamlike quality that he could identify. Now, it was in no way dreamlike. All of his senses screamed, 'This is REAL!'

He was in the middle of a place he recognized very well. Dresden. All of the people around him were running around, confused, screaming in fright, crying, and dying. The city erupted in a firestorm so powerful it seemed that bombs were exploding where there were none. Though it was night, the fires were so bright that it might as well have been day.

"Axer!" screamed a voice behind him.

Axer turned and saw a ghost. It was Klaus, a Nazi butcher who delighted in practicing long-lost torture techniques on the Jews. "You monster!" Though half a century had passed, the memories were still strong in his mind -- the slaughter, the destruction, and the alien dissociation with all forms of humanity. Though Axer had seen many wars in his long life, he had never seen anything like this, and it still raised an unmatched anger in his soul.

Klaus looked confused, but Axer didn't give him the time to respond. His hand grabbed at Klaus' windpipe, crushing and separating it from the rest of the throat. "I haven't forgotten your handiwork, you bloody monster! Why wasn't torture enough? You had to play with their very souls!"

Klaus' eyes bulged in confusion. But it left him instantly, when he gave Axer a double slam to the temples with his free hands.

Axer's eyes widened with the sharp spike of pain, and he sank to his knees. When he'd almost recovered, Klaus followed up with a solid knee to the face that sent him flying backwards, hitting the ground...

*

..."What's gotten into you?" Kate demanded, pulling Axer up by the shoulders, slamming him into the wall. Her eyes were furious and full of hurt.

"Kate?" his eyes widened in confusion. "What happened?"

Looking at his expression, she began to understand that he wasn't himself. "You attacked me for no reason, calling me things... things that I'd rather not repeat."

Axer winced in pain as he massaged his temples, "I was in the nightmarescape. It was Dresden, during the firebombing. I found a monster there."

"Are you all right now?"

Axer nodded. "Let's get going."

It was over, but not forgotten. Axer knew what he'd said to Klaus, but he had no idea what he had supposedly said to Kate. He didn't know if he even wanted to know, judging from the hurt he could still see in her eyes.

* * * *


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