The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part II -- The Duplicity
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
"What do you mean, I can't get a plane for five hours?" demanded Axer, his voice raising in volume and anger.
"I'm sorry sir," said the insincere, nasal voice on the other end of the phone. "All our flights are booked. If you're that desperate, I suggest you fly with Federal Express -- they have overnight delivery."
Axer slammed the receiver onto the pay phone several times before hanging it up. As Coleen watched him with an uncertain look, he took a deep breath, mumbled something in Welsh, and calmed down like someone flipped a switch. "I guess we have nothing to do but wait."
"Oh," ranted Coleen, pacing back and forth. "This is just great! You drag me down to Toronto, and just when things are getting interesting, you take me to some other boring place! Would you mind explaining what the hell is going on?"
Axer nodded. "I promised to introduce you to the grimmer aspects of immortality... I see an old haunt of mine. I'll tell you over some iced mocha -- my treat."
Coleen scratched her head for a moment at the way it sounded, then shrugged and followed him.
They walked across the street to a rather ancient looking shop called The Pony Espresso. Their motto was: Ride the Wave! A sign on the door said: Don't Forget To Take Your Nerves With You On Your Way Out!
Coleen shook her head sadly. "The place is closed! Couldn't you see that from across the street?"
The shop was dark and empty. The tables were barely visible.
Axer smiled. "You don't know the owner like I do."
A few discreet knocks brought a heavyset old woman over to the door. "My God!" she nearly screamed. "You're back!" A surprised Axer was lifted up off his feet into a smothering bear hug.
A moment later, he mumbled through several pounds of flesh, "Yes, I am. Perhaps you could let me breathe?"
Coleen looked at this whole exchange with a smile.
The old woman, said with a distinct North Carolina accent, "Come in, the both of you -- you look starved!"
The more accurate term, now that Coleen noticed, was lean. They both had the look of weather-beaten travelers. Maybe she'd never really noticed because she had better things to do than look at herself in the mirror, but she suddenly realized what a few years in the Arctic tundra could do to a person.
In Axer, she saw a transformation from a beaten down, bitterly cynical man to a plain, healthy, upbeat cynical man. She wondered what someone else would have seen looking at her.
"I greatly appreciate it, Eunice," said Axer, unconsciously slipping into the same accent. "I'd like you to meet a student of mine, Coleen... Coleen, this is a very old friend, Eunice Carrick."
They both gave him an odd look for two totally separate reasons.
"No, Eunice," he answered the unspoken question. "She's not my child -- I can't have children."
Eunice's hands rose to her face in shock, and her face turned white. "No children? I'm so sorry!"
He grinned lopsidedly, "For some reason, I'm not. How about some of your world-famous iced mocha -- and a good Smoky Mountain breakfast while you're at it?"
Eunice, hobbled off to the espresso machine to work her magic. In the meantime, the two sat at a table in the back.
Axer answered the other unspoken question. "It was a hard time. I helped out a dispossessed clansman -- a relative of Bonnie Prince Charlie -- and he rewarded me by making him a member of his family as they made their fortune in the New World... To me, that meant a lot.
"My secret is passed down from generation to generation -- to the eldest son or daughter of a very direct line. She is the direct descendent of Sean Carrick, the man who I saved during the battle of Culloden."
Coleen saw a familiar expression in his face, as if he were reliving a thousand years in a moment.
"But that is another story for a different time... I have a different one to tell you. It all started here in Toronto, at a bar called Tam O'Shanty's. I was drunk as a lord, and had publicly humiliated someone who was trying to beat his girlfriend's head into grape juice..."
* * *
Mulder and Scully sat on the plane, silent for their own reasons. Mulder, having spent the last night in deep thought, was so exhausted that he didn't feel like speaking to anyone.
Scully was silent because she had no kind words to say. The grief had left her somewhat, and what remained was a bitter hate of everything. She hated everything and everyone she could think of, because her perfect, logical world was being shot down in flames. Those she loved were being killed, and Mulder seemed to be going off the deep end.
She continually asked herself why she was going along with this wild goose chase, and she finally answered herself with a true answer: she couldn't allow Mulder to go off on his own. It wasn't because of some lack of trust or some wild love for Mulder that is accompanied by emotional Italian violin music -- no... it was more of a reflexive, involuntary inability. It was a sensation that she couldn't understand or name.
"Ever been to Toronto before?" asked a voice behind them. Scully turned around and saw the man from the funeral she hadn't recognized. His expression was somewhat whimsical.
"Once. Why do you ask?"
"Because I wanted to make sure it was you. I knew your sister, but I believe I only saw you at a distance." His voice was soft in volume and accent. Oddly familiar yet unplaceable.
"Where did you see me?" she was oddly curious.
"Toronto. Just when you recovered Agent Mulder from the hands of Patrick Morgan and the man Mulder aptly named Cancerman. I'd seen Mulder a bit more, so I *do* know him."
Scully's expression was one of utter shock and surprise. She certainly hadn't expected this.
The soft-spoken man smiled warmly and held out his hand. "Special Agent Alan Powys -- Interpol. I think we need to have a talk."
* * *
Duncan and Richie were talking about mundane matters -- the dojo, mortal friends, the landscape down below. For all of Duncan's years, flying was still a novel experience, and he was thrilled by it. Only one who sees the world spin by quickly can take such simple pleasures.
Richard Sharpe's mind was on other matters. He meditated, mostly, and dreamed on the long flight to Toronto. He thought back to the time where he was travelling through what was then Afghanistan, India, and Tibet. The Napoleonic war had ended, and the death and destruction was so rampant that Sharpe had needed to get away.
Besides, he was officially dead. Francois Frazier, an immortal French-Scotsman, had killed him in one of those duels that stops all other fighting taking place. When Sharpe had died, he managed to get Francois as well, so both had to give up their name, rank, privileges, and medals. Both had become nameless travelers throughout the land, observing what had been hidden before.
Francois had adapted by becoming even more ruthless. He killed every immortal he saw on sight -- or tried to. Sharpe chuckled in his meditative state as he remembered Francois' last duel.
Francois had tracked down Axer Carrick because the man was a notorious drunk, and figured he would be an easy mark...
* * *
...Sharpe followed Francois down the alleyway, but far enough away so as not to call attention to himself. The man was up to something, but Sharpe didn't know what.
The alleyway was dark and full of mist, trash, and stray cats. It was devoid of bums, winos, and such, except for the immortal who approached from the other direction. His presence was so powerful that even Sharpe felt it from where he stood.
"You're a hard man to find," said Francois. "I almost believed that you were dead."
"I like to encourage that belief," slurred Axer, barely able to finish his sentence. He carried a bottle of scotch in his trembling hand.
"You won't need to encourage it anymore." Francois produced a rapier, "Defend yourself." He at least had combat manners, if he had no other kind.
Axer just stood there, and drained the half-full bottle then and there. Francois waited for the man to finish -- maybe something like honoring a last request.
"Where is your sword?"
"I don't need a sword with the likes of you."
Francois thrust for Axer's heart, but in a motion so fast it was almost a blur -- a single motion -- Axer reached inside his trenchcoat, pulled out a glaive-sword (one of those swords that's somewhere between a glaive and a sword), and thrust so that the blade cut the inside of Francois' arm to the bone. The simple guard jolted the forearm back towards the torso -- the hand let go of the rapier -- and Francois' screamed loudly in shock and pain.
A heartbeat after the glaive was drawn, it swung around and cut off the man's head.
The whole exchange took space in two heartbeats. As the Axer absorbed the Quickening, Sharpe thought to himself, "That man is good! I'm afraid to see him sober..."
* * *
...Sharpe thought back to his time in northern Afghanistan, in a range of nameless mountains. He searched for nothing except tranquillity, but found wisdom -- when most who search these mountains for wisdom find tranquillity they don't appreciate, and so discard.
He encountered a mortal monk who looked older than he really was -- probably the climate and the diet. The man's name was too foreign to pronounce, so Sharpe called him Lenny. The monk seemed to like the name, and would always smile at it. Perhaps it meant something in his own language.
At first, Sharpe just nodded and went on his way, but somehow he had been diverted, and then spent the next thirty years there...
* * *
..."Relax!" commanded Lenny. "Your energy flows are locked whenever you tense! How will you ever hope to fight off enemies when your energy is tied in knots?"
Sharpe *was* relaxed, but whenever Lenny raised the issue, he realized that he could relax a little more.
Everything he learned here was new to Sharpe: energy flows, balance, the concept of opposite polarities causing life and death, and all motion, because of their constant struggle.
He was learning some nameless way of life that the monk lived. It involved adopting a simple diet -- it was the lack of meat and beer that he hated the most, following a strict moral code, meditation, learning Sanskrit, and becoming adept at an amazing art that resembled yoga in some ways, and the Oriental manner of fighting in another, but Lenny insisted on using no name on account of the fact that names and systems killed a thing.
"Good. I do not say you've relaxed enough, but even an unmeasurable amount is something."
Lenny had the worn body of an 80 year old, but he had the agility and strength of a man twice his size and a quarter his age. It was uncanny.
"Enough. I can see you cannot relax. Let us go in the sun and drink tea. We might even talk of things."
They moved over to a large boulder and sat down. Lenny started a fire, and some time later, some Darjeeling tea was made -- imported somehow from northern India, at the base of the Himalayas. How it got here was beyond Sharpe -- it just did, and that was enough for him.
"You have come a long way," said Lenny with a faraway tone. "I have seen more progress from you in a day than I see in most students in a year."
That stunned Sharpe. He had been the old man's only student for as long as he knew. "How old are you?"
Lenny laughed. "I should say the same for you. Many years, and you have not aged a day. I almost believed that you were one such as I, testing me. But I came to realize that you are not as I, but a true miracle walking the land."
"What are you, and what do you think I am?"
"You are a human CREATED by the gods to live a long life. I am a human TOUCHED by the gods to live a different one."
That was all the old man said on the matter. The rest of the conversation had to do with fine points of Sanskrit grammar, which came very hard to Sharpe. Even Voltaire seemed preferable to the complex poetry he not only had to memorize, but truly understand...
* * *
Sharpe opened his eyes. The plane had landed in Toronto, and was approaching the entrance gate.
"You two look like newcomers to Toronto," said Sharpe to Duncan and Richie. "Perhaps I can help you find your way around."
"That's nice of you," said Duncan. He personally felt that this subtle language and acting was a bit unnecessary, but he also knew that Sharpe was an efficient man who would do what was necessary to get the job done. If he felt it was necessary, then it wouldn't hurt to play along.
They left the plane in an orderly fashion. Duncan and Richie even looked relaxed, which they probably were. It was Sharpe who was not relaxed. Keeping his eyes forward, he was searching all around for anything that seemed odd somehow.
They entered the terminal and saw a whole mob of people. That was good and bad. Even Sharpe didn't notice the man who perked up as they walked by and kept pace with them.
* * *
Scully and Mulder walked off the plane, along with Alan Powys -- who had introduced himself to Mulder. Mulder knew the name, and eyed the man suspiciously.
"Once we get to a better place," vowed Mulder. "We're going to have a LONG talk."
Powys shook his head. "We won't have the time. Things have already hit critical mass."
"What do you mean?"
"Like you said, this isn't a good place."
Mulder could have had that long talk if he had only been awake on the plane. Scully DID have that talk with him, and looked as if she was going to be sick. Whatever he'd said had seriously affected her, but Mulder was too preoccupied to notice.
They entered the terminal and headed for the exit.
* * *
Nick followed Axer and Coleen as they entered the airport. He was taking a big risk, since sunrise was an hour away, but his instincts came into play and compelled him to follow. He even followed to the coffee place, where he overheard every word of the conversation, and listened in absolute amazement. He had been there with Axer, but was amazed at the richness of Axer's side of the story. There were a lot of details that he had caught, interpretations made, and information long-since known by him that seemed to turn everything around.
The question that raged through Nick's mind was: why did the immortals seem to have this instinctive need to kill one another? Vampires were known to kill one another, but usually for emotional reasons, much as mortals often killed one another.
Axer seemed to believe vampires to be immature brats or melodramatic fools who deserved to be locked forever in some opera house, forced to watch plays based on the very natures that the immortals despised.
Nick thought that this viewpoint was highly conceited and puzzling. He never thought vampires to be petty or melodramatic.
Axer and Patrick Morgan were the only two immortals that Nick had met, but based on what he had seen and the unconscious hints left by Axer, the reasons for this violence had nothing to do with such things as emotion. It was something colder, sharper, and basic.
Coleen appeared to be very subdued and fearful -- whatever Axer had told her had made her age a few years. Gone was the innocence, perhaps for good.
Axer's expression had been one of frustration, because of the hassle in getting a plane, but it suddenly became focused, as if he were trying to listen for something.
"What is it?" asked Coleen.
"Shh!" whispered Axer. "I don't know yet -- but it's several immortals in a group."
Nick felt exhilarated! He would see more immortals. Perhaps he would recognize a few.
* * *
Krycek smiled as he entered the airport. He had it on good authority that Scully and Mulder were on their way here. He was now a free agent, now that Cancerman had betrayed him, and decided to completely free himself of the few souls on earth who could tie him to anything.
Scully's sister had died when he shot her, in the mistaken belief she was Scully. Scully had reason to go after Krycek. Mulder was a more serious threat...
The plan was simple: he would find Mulder and Scully as they were in the airport and kill them. He didn't care if anyone saw him, because they would be too preoccupied with the murder to identify the murderer.
The rent-a-cops were no problem, Krycek knew, because they would probably be more preoccupied with their coffee and doughnuts.
He suddenly felt a sickening buzz. It was a hell of a lot of immortals converging around him at once.
//What the hell is going on?!// he asked himself.
* * *
Alan Powys felt it too, and he smiled. Mulder felt nervous for some reason.
* * *
By some astronomically rare throw of the dice, Duncan, Richie, Sharpe, Powys, Scully, Mulder, Axer, Coleen, Krycek, and Nick converged on the same spot.
The following is a summary of their dialogue in real time as sudden comprehension dawned:
Scully and Mulder: "Krycek!"
Krycek: "You died!!"
Scully and Mulder: "Nick?!"
Coleen, looking at Axer: "Axer?"
Richie, looking at Duncan: "Duncan?"
Although there were several permutations, as everyone got a good look at everyone else, and a few more identifications were made, it didn't take too long to get through this little exchange.
Nick and Powys immediately charged after Krycek, who did a pretty good imitation of a Homer Simpson scream as he turned and ran into the crowd. Mulder chased after them too, and Scully wasn't too far behind.
At that instant, a few dozen men in suits and sunglasses came onto the scene, firing their guns into the crowd, turning a confusing situation into a totally chaotic one.
The remaining immortals looked at one another and chased after Krycek as well -- it seemed they were going in the right
direction: away from the suits with guns.
* * *
LaCroix cradled his head in his hands, trying to keep from laughing hysterically. Scenes like that were so rare.
He had followed Nick, just as Nick had followed Axer and Coleen, and listened to the conversation in the coffee house. LaCroix wasn't amazed, but he was intrigued. Nick had kept his mouth shut about the whole incident -- so what he had heard was news. It certainly filled in a lot of pieces.
Shaking his head, he made ready to fly away, since dawn was coming.
"Excuse me," said a voice from behind him. It was some grimy bum. "Spare a dollar?"
LaCroix smiled. "I can take away your need for money." He made ready to put this man out of his misery.
A wooden spike found itself in LaCroix' heart, seemingly from nowhere. He looked at the man in shock as he sank to his knees, an unimaginable pain flooding his whole being.
"Should have stuck with the dollar," muttered the man, walking off.
LaCroix collapsed. Day was around the corner.
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