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

Chapter 28

Heimdall stood outside the base of the building with Peter Caine, Kermit, and a very baffled Captain Reece. He was pensive as he scanned what lay around him -- riots and chaos. Tears openly poured down from his eyes as he pulled a bone horn from his coat.

"What's that?" asked Peter, a little shocked because he hadn't noticed any bulges underneath the coat.

"The Horn. I blew it once. I suppose I'll have to blow it again."

Reece and Peter looked at one another, both shaking their heads in confusion, throwing up their hands. If Kermit hadn't been wearing shades, worry would have been seen in his eyes. If Heimdall had seen Kermit's eyes, he would've wondered why Kermit was worried.

Heimdall lifted up the horn and blew one long note...

* *

...A tribal battle in South Africa became more intense as the single note of a horn was blown. Nobody really noticed it, or the change in the fighting. One enterprising fighter grabbed a gun and began to fire at some unprotected oil tanks. Fire and oil spread along the ground, and to flammable houses. A flick of fire flew over to a pile of grass, which in turn traveled over to a crop field. The corn was soon ablaze.

* *

...In London, a few stray dogs looked up from where they lapped gutter water. They heard the sound, and began to get nervous. A few yelped and started running around frantically. They even forgot about the red, rich water. Downstream, there were piled corpses from the recent riots. Several bombs had exploded, making the place look like it had during the Blitz. In the distance, sounds of fighting could be heard, as well as faint sirens, screaming, and howling.

* *

...Kwai Chang Caine frowned as he heard the horn. He didn't know what it was, but he knew that it had to be something otherworldly, as Bill didn't hear a sound. He looked at the console-clock, and figured that he would be within reach of the Landing within the hour. Caine wasn't a nervous person, but he was really beginning to wish that they'd reach their goal as soon as possible.

* *

...Reece and Peter covered their ears as the blast threatened to knock them out. Kermit stood calmly, wondering why it was that the sound didn't affect him - - or Heimdall.

Heimdall turned around once he'd blown the horn, and nodded when he saw that Peter and Reece had toppled to the ground, groaning and covering their ears, with their eyes closed. When he looked at the unaffected Kermit, he also nodded. "Do you know why?"

Kermit took off his shades, fighting very hard to keep a mask of unconcern and failing. "They never soaked their feet in a pool of cold blood."

Heimdall nodded again. They didn't discuss that subject anymore.

Kermit looked out around the city as well. "So then, what do we do?"

"We?" Heimdall raised his thick eyebrows, a hint of an amused smile on his face.

"I don't think you blew the Horn by chance -- I think you wanted to get rid of some tag-alongs. But I'm not a tag- along. I think you're about to do something, and I'm not going to let you go it alone."

"Why?" his eyes narrowed.

"Why not? I'm bored."

Heimdall shook his head, "You're right. Come on then."

* * *

Powys looked at the three dice resting in his hand. "And thus the dice are cast... but how could I ever have known that the dice were fixed?"

"What was that?" muttered Nat, sitting on a chair with her head in her hands. Her eyes were red with silent tears.

"Nothing. Just talking to myself."

Powys walked over to the patient who now stared at the ceiling with dead eyes. He'd apparently sliced his own wrists and throat. His chart said that he'd been a diabetic with severe medical problems. "What a waste..."

"He wanted to die." Nat didn't sound too sympathetic.

"I wonder why..." he walked back to Nick, who began to breathe more steadily, and return to his regular color. "Natalie? I think that now is a good time to vacate. A nurse lies dead outside, as does a decapitated Invisible One. A nearly-drained vampire lies outside the door, and two newly-formed vampires sit in this room. And a suicide lies on the other side of the room. If you don't clear out now, you'll have to answer many awkward questions."

She looked up at him, "Do I deserve to avoid those questions? Do I deserve to live? Look at what I have done!"

"I have," nodded Powys, "for far longer than you could ever comprehend. I would say that you have done remarkably well. If you want to feel guilty, do it on your own time, because a lot of people are depending on you to pull your own load." He ran his fingers through her hair, his expression sympathetic, "I know you don't want to believe it, but I know how you feel. If you want to talk about it, or just need to someone to listen, then hunt me up."

Nat gulped, nodding eventually. "How are we going to do this?"

Powys laughed, "You forget the vampires' gifts! Just bash out the window, pick up Nick, and fly away. I'll deal with Janette. The patient there is a victim of his own hand, so we don't need to do a thing. It might even throw off any trails, since it *would* be pretty baffling, given everything else."

Nat nodded once more, then shook her head. "I can't fly."

"Then you'll learn on the job. Now go."

What Nat didn't know was that while she kicked out the window -- oh, so easily -- with her foot, Powys was also preparing for their departure in a different way. Without even closing his eyes or appearing to enter a different mental state, he did just that. In his imagination, there was a three-dimensional model of the floor, and in that model, he saw moving figures that looked like blurry humans, talking, moving, and doing their everyday things. Model patients sat in their beds, with various problems. Model doctors and nurses went about, doing their various duties.

In his mind's eye, Powys attached a mental cord to each person -- some at the very roof of the skull, some at the throat, and some in the solar plexus. These mental cords attached instantly. One of the mental models seemed to freak a little, but after a moment, it calmed down.

Nat heard a distinct yelp of shock. "What was that?"

"Something that doesn't concern you."

It wasn't in a rude tone, so Nat took it the right way. "What will you do?"

Before Powys could respond, a nurse entered the room, totally shocked. "What is the meaning of this?" The room looked like a tornado had run through it, but it was the death that shocked her more than anything else.

Powys whispered, "This." He looked at the nurse and spoke louder, more deliberately. His accent seemed to change a little too -- more whispery and slippery. "The meaning of what? Is there anything out of the ordinary?"

The nurse shook her head in confusion. "Who are you?"

"Your friend," smiled Powys, putting a friendly hand on her shoulder. "Look. You know that there's nothing out of the ordinary. If something was out of the ordinary, you'd have to fill out forms... forms..."

Nat stared at Powys and the nurse with shock in her eyes. She *knew* that Powys wasn't a vampire, but here he was, using a vampire trick... Or maybe a different trick with the same results. There *was* something different about it somehow, but she couldn't place her finger on it.

The nurse nodded, muttering, "Don't want to fill out forms..." Then her eyes snapped back up, quite lively, "The detective is doing quite well, and he should be out tonight, once the forms..." She stopped herself, shaking her head, "What am I saying?? He can walk out whenever he wants to."

The nurse walked off, with an innocent expression on her face. When Powys saw Nat's expression, he smiled, "It's just a trick. People do what they want to do, and they don't do what they don't want to do."

"Why do you remind me of someone in Chinatown I met once?"

"Because we share qualities in common? Although I do enjoy talking about that charming man, I think you need to go. I still suggest you take him out the window."

Nat gave Powys a quick hug and a soft kiss on the cheek, which surprised him a great deal. Nat giggled as Powys looked shocked for the first time in what could have been centuries.

"Thank you," was all Nat said as she left.

Powys was now left alone with the patient. Seeing that Janette was still out cold, and that nobody else was around, he acted. "I heard your little speech. It was pretty convincing, but I can look into your soul. The question that you need to ask yourself is if you really want to take on the responsibility. You may have had to deal with some crap that most people haven't had to deal with, but you also had some good hands that most people never get in a lifetime. You blew it all away. Do you want to blow this away as well?"

The dead man said nothing. He was, well... dead. Powys nodded, "Right." Into his coat he reached, pulling out an obsidian knife and orb. "Time for a jump start."

* * *

Janette woke up with a nasty headache. A few more moments, and she knew she was riding in a car. Eventually, her eyes opened, and she found herself strapped -- but not bound -- to the front seat. It was just a safety belt. Even so, she was a little shocked.

"Who are you?" she demanded. "Where are you taking me?"

The driver turned his head towards her and smiled. He looked quite healthy for someone who'd been doing quite poorly not too long ago. "It's time for you to take a ride. Consider yourself lucky -- you get to start fresh. You might not have received even that."

"What do you mean?" she snarled, some arrogance entering her tone.

"You're a meddler, and don't know when to keep your bloody hands off the gears! Or, so I'm told.... And from what I've seen of you, I'm not one to argue. So, we're taking a nice ride to California."

That shocked Janette. "Why?"

The driver smiled, but said nothing.

Janette snarled at him, "You know that I could easily drain your blood and leave!"

"Yes, you could," he smiled once more, "but I don't think you want to." He paused, "You're a Hunter, and I'm giving you the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill your greatest destiny." His expression became serious. "For a long time running, Hunters lost their lore and their mission, gradually becoming the stuff of myths -- vampires, demons..." he chuckled, "and maybe even the tengu. That is, those who weren't ninja using psychological warfare on superstitious samurai."

"I don't know what you mean!" she snapped. But she was intrigued.

"It's quite simple. Hunters are the top of the food chain - - you eat humans. You know that already, but you've been going about it like an animal. On instinct. From now on, you're going to learn to be a professional Hunter and perform essential tasks to benefit the world as a whole. You'll no longer kill just for food -- though, of course, humans are what you'll eat for food. No... you'll kill to eliminate the surplus numbers of mankind, and kill to rid the world of those who would truly tip the scales towards decay."

They were both silent for a moment, and he continued, "If it helps, think of yourself as a pruning shear, which clips off unhealthy branches to create a much healthier tree."

Janette finally spoke her unspoken thoughts, "I notice that you're not a vampire."

"No," he smiled, his teeth all white. Sparkling white. "I'm an angel. The Angel of Death. Mors, if you will." His extended hand wasn't bone, but it was very skeletal.

Janette shook it, feeling a sudden surge of power. There *was* something unusual about him. They were both silent for a little longer. "I thought you were a dying mortal."

"I was," he sighed, "but I was given a jump start, a tune up, and a new job. He understood that I was so intimate with death that I would be the best candidate to bring death, in order to promote a better harmony."

Janette sat back in her seat, //I can't believe I'm having this conversation!// But she had to admit that it somehow seemed fitting -- something that filled in a few empty spaces.

"Wouldn't you have a full job here?" Janette looked at all the corpses from the riots.

"Not necessarily. These mortals kill themselves. We go to bring death behind the walls of Prospero's well-fortified refuge. Only Prospero and his guests remain untouched."

"Oh." It took her a moment to recognize the allusion.

They drove on.

* * * *

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