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

Chapter 24

Inside the Paris museum, Lenny slowly approached the Seed. It pulsed with darkness so intense that Lenny might as well have stared into the sun -- the effect was the same. He could hear whispering... soft whispering.

But his resolve was too much.

"After all these years, I may do my work. I am so glad I'm not too late. Close, but not too late."

Lenny smiled then. His smile was one of relief. The years and the weights lifted from his shoulders. He even stood taller.

His staff was raised high, and he smashed the glass casing around it, turning on the alarm. The next step was to smash the orb.

It was obsidian, but even so, the staff shattered it. From the Seed, something escaped. A small, white mist. It was there, and then it was gone.

"IT IS DONE!" yelled Lenny in a booming voice, standing taller, and his whole body seeming to expand.

* * *

Outside, Mev and Duncan were still squared off in a verbal sense.

A wave of darkness overtook them both for a brief moment, and Mev's eyes flashed. "You fool!" she screamed. "Do you have any idea who you were protecting?"

"Yes!" Duncan snarled back. "Amanda and Lenny. They're destroying the Seed. Maybe this will keep the Invisible Ones back a few steps!"

Mev frowned at that. "So you were kept ignorant." A moment of indecision filled her eyes, and left almost immediately. "If you're that concerned with saving the world, then follow me. I think you're going to be in for the shock of your life!"

Duncan was left standing there for a few moments, confusion on his face. He shook it off and took off after Mev -- he had to run pretty hard, since she was a good sprinter. He caught up with her when she reached the front door. By this time, he'd decided that he wasn't her enemy -- but it was a realization that came after much internal resistance.

The front door swung open without having to be unlocked, and an alarm was sounding quite loudly. However, nobody except for Mev seemed to be answering the call.

Though Duncan was winded, Mev wasn't, and she was able to talk at a normal pace without any difficulty, "Let me guess. Lenny told you that the Seed was a tool of the Invisible Ones, and that it had to be destroyed."

"Yes," panted Duncan.

"You were misinformed. It *was* created by the Invisible Ones, and it *had* influenced the world. But think about it. What does a seed do? Wouldn't destroying it only make it worse?"

"What do you mean?" They nearly slammed into an exhibit as they turned a corner.

"The Seed influenced the mortals of this world, but its influence was minimized by the obsidian shell. Lenny broke the shell and released its contents into the world. He tricked you into helping him so that he could do that."

"You tell me then, what does the Seed do?"

"It spreads madness throughout the world. It's a subtle madness that all can sense, but is immune to all attempts to dispel it."

It sounded almost like what Lenny had said. "That's the Human Condition."

"In a way, but it shouldn't be like what we see everyday."

They reached Amanda, who lay spread-eagled and weaponless on the ground, her limbs sliced to the bone. She was raving, "You bastard! You killed Duncan!"

Duncan sank down next to her, gently grabbing her face and turning towards him. "I'm not dead!" he said, his eyes deep with concern.

Her eyes didn't see him, even though they were pointed straight at him. "Another one!" she screamed. "I'll get you for this!" If the muscles of her arms and legs still weren't sliced, she'd have tried to kill Duncan. But she couldn't.

"Come on!" snarled Mev. "We have to catch him!"

Duncan fought against his urge to say by Amanda's side and his sense of duty. Duty won. He chased after Mev, following her to a large room where a no longer old Lenny was laughing triumphantly, tears of joy streaming down his face.

He was now seven feet tall, had the body of a weight lifter, and spoke with a rumbling bass voice, "I see you are too late, Queen of the Cows!"

Duncan looked at Mev with confusion, and she snapped, "It's an old story!" Mev looked at Lenny, "You know, it's not over yet!"

"Thank you so very much for reminding me," laughed Lenny. "I *do* have some unfinished business!"

Mev had her sword out with her right hand, and used her left hand to pull out a handgun that blasted several holes in Lenny's chest.

He didn't even flop around. He stood there, looking at the holes in his chest with great interest, "I wondered when you'd try that on me again. It seems that you don't learn your lessons." The holes closed up while Duncan and Mev watched with amazement.

"But -- I don't sense you!" stammered Duncan.

"Silly man!" snickered Lenny in good humor. "I am not an immortal! I am an Invisible One!"

Duncan's jaw dropped open.

"You're right about not being immortal," said a raspy, nasal voice from the other side of the room, "but I can see you quite well."

It was Connor MacLeod, wielding an ancient claymore that he must have grabbed on the way here. That baffled Duncan because he hadn't lost his katana. "The Kurgan wasn't much shorter than you, and I made good work of him in the end."

Lenny turned towards Connor, "So the giant-killer is here... Do you honestly think that the Kurgan was a much harder kill than me? Do you think that taking off my head will slay me for good?" He opened up his arms widely, still holding his staff, "Try it!"

"I *won't* try it," Connor stood still, a crooked smile on his face, lazily walking forward and speaking in a slow, careless voice. "You said it all -- you aren't an immortal, so none of the rules apply. There's nothing to say we can't do a three-on-one."

Connor, Duncan, and Mev all grinned at the same time, as the other two instantly understood.

All three surrounded him, while Lenny stood calmly in the center of this closing circle.

* * *

Natalie was a little frightened as she saw the fury in Janette's face, which gave her incentive to empty the rest of the gun full of garlic bullets.

* *

The nurse was screaming about somebody with a gun, and immediately stopped when a scruffy Welshman intercepted her and knocked her out with a single punch to the temple.

"Annoying woman... Stay down..."

The nurse, who now lay crumpled on the tile, her eyes staring aimlessly into space, wasn't about to argue. When she'd fallen, her head had hit the tile too hard, and picked up where the punch left off. She wouldn't be getting up ever again.

Powys walked over to the corner of the hallway. Nat and Janette were fighting not too far away. He watched silently, smiling a little to himself. "Sometimes, I just love my luck."

* *

The holes in Janette's chest were smoking as she stumbled back once more.

Now that the gun was no longer usable, Nat began searching around for another instrument of defense. She found a cross -- quite unintentionally -- hanging the hallway, and nearly jumped back in the other direction. She was totally shocked that she should react this way, but didn't have the time to think about it. Ignoring the pain, she grabbed it and thrust it in Janette's direction.

Nat was shocked to find that her eyes were being crushed as she looked at the cross, and that her hands were smoking. Janette was frozen in place, unable to go forward and unwilling to go back. Her eyes were averted for a few moments at a time, and her hands were clenched claws.

"I'm willing to go down," snarled Nat, stepping forward. "Who do you think is going down first? You? Me? I'll take a chance -- will you?"

Janette was trying to say something, but she couldn't.

* *

Powys muttered to himself. "Good question." He pulled out a coin. "What do you think? Heads, Janette leaves; tails, Nat gives it up; edge, both die?" He flipped the quarter. It landed on tails.

* *

Nat tossed the cross into Janette's arms. They were held in the perfect position, and she was so unsuspecting that the move worked like a charm.

Janette was howling with pain as she realized that she had it in her arms, and for a few moments more as she fumbled with it -- she might as well have been tossing it in her hands, chanting, "Hot potato." More smoke rose from her hands.

Nat knew that she didn't have that long to act. It was an action that was partly calculated, and partly instinctual -- but that wasn't to say that she'd thought about it, because she didn't have the time.

Just as Janette had dropped the cross, she found herself tightly embraced by Nat, who sank her teeth into Janette and began to drink.

* *

Powys looked sharply at his coin. "That's an unexpected development!"

* *

It was so unexpected that Janette stood still in shock. She was prepared for a fight or flight, but not for this. She tried to push Natalie off, but the fangs in the throat made it kind of hard. It meant that she'd be hurting herself too, even as Nat was hurting her right now.

When she tried to push her self away, she found that she had lost enough blood to lose strength. With a mighty heave, she shoved Nat away, nearly stumbling herself. Nat sailed into the opposite wall, and Janette's eyes immediately fell on the cross, which lay propped up against the wall.

Janette flinched, turning away, and found herself in Nat's arms again, her blood being drained once more.

* *

"Kind of too odd for coincidence, isn't it?" Powys had to fight hard to keep from laughing.

* *

Janette slumped against Nat, and was gently lowered to the floor. She wasn't dead, but she *was* so drained that she was close to death. Some blood still trickled out of the holes in her neck.

Nat stepped back as a seemingly-endless train of senses began to assault her. At first, it seemed like she were watching an infinite number of commercials in the space of a second, but then things began to make more sense.

She was sifting through Janette's experiences and thoughts. She saw Nick as a bitter crusader, being brought across by LaCroix at Janette's request. She saw victims -- both willing and unwilling -- be drained. Others, she tasted as Janette did the deed herself.

Moments passed, and the images ceased to assault her. She nodded. Nat stumbled into the room, where Nick stared at her in shock. The patient only smiled.

"Nick," Nat whispered. "Janette is right. I'm sorry."

"What do you mean?" demanded Nick.

Nat leaned forward to kiss Nick on the forehead, like a concerned parent. She next bit into his neck, and began to drink.

"What are you doing?" screamed Nick, trying in vain to resist.

Nat couldn't answer, as she was busy drinking his blood, but the patient was cackling with glee.

Nick's struggles began to cease, and eventually, all he could do was moan drowsily.

"Drink!" said Nat intensely, slashing her wrist open. "Drink!!"

Nick tried to resist, but couldn't. The blood dripped into his mouth, and reflexively, he swallowed. Bit by bit, he swallowed a pint of blood.

* * *

In the hallway, Powys was shaking his head. "I can't believe she'd do that!"

An arrogant voice answered, "You're right. That's why I had to use this." Powys saw the Invisible One, the one with the greased hair. He carried a Black Box. "Do you have any idea how much power I had to use on her?"

Powys snarled, "She was supposed to *choose*!"

"What is choice when we own the board *and* the game?"

A glaive snapped out and decapitated the Invisible One in a smooth, blindingly-fast movement. "You're a spoiled player then!"

Slick-back would be dead for good, though there wouldn't be any Quickening.

Powys looked out the window on impulse. Down below, there were riots in the streets. "That explains a few things..."

He walked down the hall and entered the room where the others were, his glaive still drawn. When Nat saw it, she must have misunderstood his intentions and jumped at him.

Effortlessly, Powys slammed her back with a palm-strike to her chest. "Don't screw around with me -- I've had a bad day!"

Nat's eyes widened with anger as she heard the words 'bad day.' But then, her wits came back. "Powys?"

"Yes!" he snarled, looking at Nick, who still lay in lethargy. "I apologize for this. I never knew it would be like this. You were supposed to choose."

Nat didn't understand the meaning beneath the words. "I'm sorry too." Tears fell down her face, "What have I done?" Her previous action of bringing Nick back across seemed to hit her for the first time.

"You did what you had to do." Powys hugged Natalie, the glaive still in his right hand, letting her cry on his shoulder. He never said a word about the Invisible One who had started this all, and was now dead for his actions. Powys was rattled as well, because he'd done something that he'd never done before. He was afraid that he might do it again, and that was the last thing he wanted.

The patient looked bitterly up at the ceiling. "Bloody bastards!" He opened the drawer that was next to his bed and pulled out some razors. "If they won't do it, then I will!"

He slashed his wrists and throat, grimacing in pain as the slices screamed at him. Nobody noticed as the blood cascaded to the floor from the edge of the bed.

* * * *

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