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

Chapter 21

Coleen stood in the middle of a large, poorly-lit, empty hall. A tall oak door was set every five feet, and each one was closed. It seemed to have no beginning and no end. There were no torches nor any other form of light, which confused her, because she knew the light had to have some source, but she couldn't find it.

A little more investigation showed that she couldn't find her own shadow.

"Ah, a visitor!" said a very excited voice from not far away.

Startled, Coleen looked up to find a rogue. He was scruffy, starved, bearded, and wore half-tattered clothing. A crude patch covered one eye. In his hand, he carried a battle spear, similar to one she'd seen in a museum. A Roman spear. His smell wasn't pleasant.

"Odin," she whispered.

"Why yeeessss!" He skipped around, giggling madly. "You know my name! The smart little girl gets a kiss for being so smartie!" When he yanked up her head and kissed it -- nearly pulling it off in the process -- she was so shocked and surprised that she couldn't react. He let go, and she fell to the ground.

"You're a nutcase!" she swore.

"NooOOOoooo!" he corrected, opening a door to the left and pulling out a disgustingly fat old man wearing only a beer- stained Iron Maiden shirt, well-worn -- and, ah... used -- underwear, and sandals. His face had a week old beard, his skin was sickly pale, and he had a beer gut that blended well with the can of generic beer he had in his hand. His hair was filthy, graying, and uncombed. He looked quite shocked and stood passively with his mouth open, his eyes wavering in a drunken manner. "*THIS* is a nutcase!" Odin shoved him back through the door and slammed it shut. His eyebrows rose, "Sometimes I scare even myself!"

Coleen had to shake her head clear at that one.

* * *

Amanda was screaming at the sight of her own head held on a silver platter.

The clown was laughing merrily, "Isn't this wonderful! It isn't often you face your own death!" When he saw how Amanda was fixed on that head, he sighed melodramatically, "OK.... I suppose that was out of line... I forgot how selfish you immortals are, always willing to take someone else's head, but never willing to let go of your own." Then his face brightened, "How about this?"

Tears streaming down her face, she saw a tall, squared pillar-frame wrapped by a large, silk tarp. With a wave of his hand, the tarp lifted up into the darkness. Inside of the frame was a guillotine, with a man locked in place, ready to be decapitated. When she saw who it was, she screamed even louder, "DUNCAN!!"

He smiled at her as if nothing was happening, "Hi, Amanda. Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Wh-- Wha--" she couldn't even speak a full word, she was so rattled.

"The clown convinced me that I'm so tired of walking into your traps, I might as well finish it off in one of his." He grabbed the trip cord on his own, and the blade began to descend.

"NOO!!" she howled, running forward, hoping to stop the falling blade -- somehow. Closer and closer she came... Almost there... "I'm there--"

She didn't know how he did it, but the clown somehow got there before she did. She collided full force into him, but he seemed to be unmoveable as a boulder. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and gave her a sound kiss on the lips. Amanda struggled to get away -- the horrible taste of ouzo on his lips giving her the extra incentive.

When she pulled away, the clown was laughing. "You know how I hate to kiss and run, but away I go!" He skipped away into a wall, vanishing as if he walked through an illusion.

Duncan now lay dead, his head resting in a basket, and his mouth forming a silly grin.

"You're *DEAD*!" she howled, running after the clown, never asking why she wasn't receiving a Quickening if Duncan was really there.

* * *

Lenny backed up as Amanda approached him with her sword drawn, a snarl of fury on her face. "Amanda!" he whispered. "What are you doing?!"

"This is for Duncan!" she hissed, swinging at his head. "Oopth!"

Lenny stood above her crumpled form, frowning. "Sorry I had to do that, but I don't heal as easily as you do, and we still have a job to do." He used Amanda's sword to sever her major arm and leg muscles, "That should keep you occupied..."

He moved on, knowing that if she remained in her current mental state, she'd be a serious threat in five minutes at the soonest. He hurried.

Lenny turned the last corner, and behind the panel, he found the Seed, resting on the same white cloth. He sank to his knees in horror, his eyes open wide and his jaw dropped. "No..."

It was pulsing now.

"No time..."

* * *

For a many years, Nat's left knee had given her a little trouble. The trouble was gone. So was that hangnail that she kept on meaning to get out. Come to think of it, so were the seven fillings she had in her back teeth. One by one, they were spit out as her teeth seemed to shift.

She looked in amazement at the seven fillings that she now held in the palm of her hand.

"Feeling pretty good, eh?" asked the patient, his expression sullen. "No more aches and pains?"

"Yes..." She understood all too well the temptation that vampirism had to offer. No pain, no sickness, no scars. But deep down, she knew better. Her eyes met the patient's, and he smiled sadly.

"It gives you a fresh perspective, doesn't it?" he asked. "Your natural inclination is to throw it all away because it's 'wrong'... but then you have Nick and myself to bring you back to earth. Would you willingly throw away your health and immortality if you knew that without it, you can only look forward to seemingly longer years of death and decay?"

Nat couldn't answer. She just looked at her hands, which were bone-white now, and not because of the vampirism.

"My, what happy souls we have here!" said a smug female voice in a French accent. Nat turned around and glared at Janette.

Before she could even say another word, Nat charged at her, "You witch! I'll kill you for this!"

Nat tackled the shocked Janette, and they both slid out of the room on the slick floor.

"I've seen *that* coming for a long time!" said the patient, leaning back against his pillow.

"How can you say that?" asked Nick, his forehead wrinkling.

"Just listening to the way you've been talking about this 'Janette'. You mention the name like a drug -- Dr. Lambert mentions it like the name of a curse. Doesn't take much thought to add up the pieces."

Outside the room, Janette was trapped in a headlock, and Nat was hammering away at her face. Nat was screaming with each punch, "Damn you! [punch] It wasn't [punch] enough [punch] to --"

Just then, a nurse saw what was happening and ran forward, "Hey! What the hell's going on?!"

Nat raised her head, and in her fury didn't realize that her face was now that of a vampire. The nurse recoiled. In that moment of distraction, Janette broke loose and dealt Nat a powerful elbow to the face that sent her flying to the ground.

There were some red bruises on Janette's face that didn't look too nice. "All right, child -- if that's the way you want it, it's fine by me." As Nat got back up, Janette gave her a solid punch to the jaw that nearly twisted her neck around. Nat didn't get up so quickly this time. "Now that you're one of us, you're going to learn to respect your elders." She smiled slowly, "I think this is going to hurt quite a lot."

Nat snarled, "In your dreams." She got back up and pulled out a small gun that almost looked like a decorative cigar lighter.

Janette was smirking, but the nurse ran off in the other direction after her few moments of stunned shock. "Help! Someone has a gun!" Her screams were replaced by Janette's screams as Nat fired the gun.

Janette was leaning against a wall, clutching at her abdomen, which was smoking.

Nat muttered, "I must have loaded the garlic bullets by accident..."

Janette walked towards her, snarling.

* * *

Scully was fighting off the wave of shock as Samantha flicked the whip in the air once more. She had the strongest urge to pull out her gun and shoot Samantha, Halscombe, and Mr. X at the same time. It took a heroic amount of strength to keep her hands away from the gun.

Mr. X no longer looked shocked, but he did have a slight look of disapproval on his face.

Samantha smiled, her tone disappointed, "Why the stern face? Do you want me to make it better?" The whip snapped again, and Mr. X actually flinched.

"What is *he* doing here?" Scully looked over at Halscombe, who was still grimacing in pain.

Samantha smiled wickedly, "Can you believe I found him hitchhiking to D.C.? Hitchhiking?? He must have been in a bad spot because he hopped right in." She laughed, "You should have seen the look on his face when he realized who I was!"

"And who are you?"

Samantha looked at Scully more directly, "Do you really need to ask?"

"I think I do."

For some inexplicable reason, Samantha looked annoyed. "*He* asked me that too." Her smirk returned. "He wondered why I wasn't taking orders anymore."

A few wires connected in Scully's brain, but she needed more to work on. "*Did* you once take orders?"

The annoyance returned, "No. *I* never took orders from any mortal."

"So what happened to the real Samantha?"

She was about to answer, but a gunshot silenced her. A single bullet hole had opened her heart to the air. She tried to mouth a few words, but made no sound.

Scully looked at Mr. X with horror and fury, but he shrugged, "Remember, we came here to kill her, and not hear lies." He walked back down the stairs, leaving Scully with Halscombe and a corpse. Whether he was leaving the house or attending to something else, she didn't know, and she didn't care any more.

Halscombe turned his head towards Scully, still gagged and blindfolded. He was making some sounds, but wasn't too successful and making himself understood.

Scully ripped off the blindfold, but not the gag. His expression was one of both shock and resignation. "It looks like this isn't your day," she muttered. "And I don't think you'll be having any more of 'your' days for a long time."

Whether he would have said something or not, she didn't know. But she left the gag in so that she wouldn't have to find out.

* * * *

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