The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part II -- The Duplicity
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
LaCroix paced back and forth in the basement, his fingers making intricate patterns, as he thought about the events that had occurred only an hour ago, and of the prisoner he had tied up in a Gordian knot. Nobody was here at the moment, but that could change at any time.
LaCroix had tried to find the closest place of shelter, and it was the basement of some run-down auto-part store. There were enough chains, tape, and rope around to make sure that the prisoner would never escape on his own.
The man was no bum at all, but rather a very intelligent and ruthless assassin who had been instructed to kill him -- LaCroix had deduced that much himself. He had also proven immune to the vampire's hypnosis, which was frustrating.
"You shouldn't glare at me like that," whispered LaCroix. The sunburns had nearly healed, but he still felt cranky. "I could have burned to cinders and dropped you from a great height. At least you're alive. By law, I should kill you anyway."
The man spat. "You kill us without reason. Why justify it?"
LaCroix snapped in irritation. "Men MURDER men! We simply eat and take what we need. Your governments and armies kill and destroy more than we could ever do!"
"Men don't hunt down innocents and kill them for their blood."
"True... Men hunt down innocents so their bodies rot in the sun, their lives a total waste to all. At least the lives we take serve a purpose."
"You're a sadistic bastard!"
"You know... I think I can prove that you're more of a sadistic bastard than I could ever be." He walked over and looked at the< man's palm. The same symbol that Axer had produced from the one who tried to assassinate him was there. The Nordic rune for the letter 't'.
"Yes... I have seen that symbol before. It is the symbol of women-slayers and assassins. It is the symbol of sadistic bastards who would torture before they kill." In all reality, LaCroix was guessing and trying to trick the man into giving up some secrets.
He spoke in a soft whisper. "Your kind is responsible for some of the most horrible deaths in the history of mankind, and what is worse, your evil is institutional. We may walk the earth for countless centuries, but your society produces many more killers than we ever could.
"You are introduced to the mysteries, and told that the evils walking the world must be stamped out. So another generation stalks the world, hunting out an enemy that is not out there... but in here!" He poked the bound man on his chest. The man flinched back a bit. "'Know ye thine worst enemy, and the light from thine own eye will show him to be ye. None other than ye.'"
The man was silent in stubbornness.
* * *
Everyone rested in the Raven. Nobody seemed to be here, but Axer didn't care. On the ride back, everyone was trying to heal or catch their breath.
Now that everyone was lounged back in a chair, sipping some wine or juice, people's brains started to run again.
Powys was watching the news on the TV, seemingly oblivious to everything.
"This morning at the Toronto airport," said the newscaster, "several unidentified men began shooting at the crowds of people who were either trying to get an early start or were arriving after a long night of travel.
"It happened suddenly, and ended nearly as suddenly after about five minutes. The witnesses are still being interviewed for details about the incident, and the police are restricting many of the details from the media because the investigation is still ongoing..."
Mulder wasn't hurt too badly, and was strapping an icepack to Scully's shoulder, which was so bruised the color of the skin was as black as a lump of coal. She seemed to be taking it all right, however, joking that it could have been much worse.
Sharpe was busy drinking a bottle of Bombay gin, and was pretty shocked when Axer refused a share of it.
Richie and Coleen were huddled in a corner, laughing and talking so softly that the others could barely hear what they were talking about. Axer and Duncan would occasionally look in their direction.
Krycek was awake now, and hog-tied in a complex series of pulleys and knots which would choke him the more he struggled. His eyes were bloodshot and puffed out because of his rage just as much as the rope pulling tight against his throat. Occasionally, he would struggle, and grunt in pain -- but he stopped doing even that.
Krycek's foot had healed, but Axer was feeling sadistic enough to attach and tighten a C-clamps on each of his arches -- which was in same area of the foot as the wound. The others objected loudly until he pointed out that an explanation would be forthcoming -- they still objected, but kept quiet about it.
It was Duncan who decided that the time for rest was over -- since his was the wound that had just healed. "It appears we have quite a mystery on our hands. Perhaps someone wouldn't mind providing some answers?... Like who this 'Krycek' is. Why did you want me to kill him, Axer, and who are you?"
Now began the time for tales. First, Axer told the story all over again about the episode in Toronto a few years back. "It all started outside of a bar called Tam O'Shanty's..."
Sharpe's eyes widened in recognition, but he said nothing.
* * *
Cancerman paced back and forth. Everything seemed to be going wrong. The Toronto airport incident was the first that reached his ears this morning, then the slaughtered operatives, and finally the missing assassin -- who was supposed to be the best money could buy.
It was time to call in the big guns. It was a pity Grayson had died in that mysterious accident -- he could kill anyone efficiently.
He picked up the phone and dialed a near-forgotten number. A faint and static-filled voice picked up from the other end.
Cancerman spoke in bad German. ^^The problem has escalated. None of the plans have worked so far, and the problem has reached the public.^^
^^Do they recognize it for what it truly is?^^ The voice spoke with understanding.
^^Not yet, but they're asking the right questions.^^
^^Science fiction writers and detectives are all alike: they ask the right questions but have no clue as to how to find the right answers. We have nothing to fear from them.^^ Pause. ^^We will give you one more chance to succeed. If you do not, then we shall replace you with someone who can.^^
Cancerman began to sweat profusely.
The voice on the other end of the line continued. ^^Tell us what happens next. It is your project.^^
Cancerman began to stammer. ^^We need a single man with lots of experience. A professional. We're dealing with men who can be traced back for decades with certainty, and a few more with some uncertainty. I've also found evidence of real-life vampires.^^
^^You have a slight problem. What should we do?^^
^^We need to fight fire with fire.^^
^^We understand. One of the kind you mention works for us. We predicted your need and sent him early this morning. He should be arriving in Toronto within a few hours.^^
Cancerman began to twitch. It was an even worse sign. His eyes wandered to the gun on his desk, afraid that even that would be ineffective if things got that bad.
* * *
Mulder and Scully added their own parts to the tale, including events that took place outside of Toronto -- their experiences with Cancerman and Krycek that had taken place since Toronto up to the present time. Mulder added his recollection that Cancerman was the same man who had held him in the warehouse.
Scully had a hard time interacting with the immortals who sat around her. Being faced with several individuals who had displayed indisputable evidence of their own immortality -- including Krycek -- was pushing her really fast towards a mental breakdown. It was hard for her to say out loud: there are things in this world that science cannot explain, but are very real.
It was impossible for her to say, even to herself, that immortals walked the world.
Regardless, she kept a poker face and denied that everything that had happened under her very eyes was real. Krycek didn't get shot by Mulder or stabbed in the foot by Duncan. Duncan didn't stab Krycek through the foot. Powys didn't break his back and legs after falling fifty feet.
She chanted it again and again in her mind like a mantra: there is a simple explanation for everything.
Because most in this room were immortals, there was no disbelief among them concerning the reality of the story -- only acceptance of it, and occasional bits of shock here and there. The description of Mulder's torture scene made Duncan's eyes flare open in rage at this mysterious Cancerman.
"But there's more," said Axer. "I vanished from the civilized world for a few years..." He told the same tale he had told to Nick and LaCroix. "The assassin had this on his left palm." He showed Duncan the piece of skin with the tattoo.
Duncan looked at it, remembering everything that Darius had taught to him concerning the hidden meanings behind the runes. Something came to him from the deepest memories in his mind. "Darius told me that this rune symbolized the spear of war. It governed the warrior, the hunter, and the aggressor."
Axer spat at the floor, "Any New Ager could have told us that! What does it MEAN?"
Duncan shook my head, "My best guess is that we have a warrior cult out to get us. The last thing I hoped for was another cult of Hunters."
Axer threw Sharpe's gin bottle on the floor. "Dammit!! That brings us back to square one!"
Richie seemed horrified, "You mean there's another Horton out to kill us?"
"No!" snapped Axer. "It means we have a cult of Morgans or Cancermen with a bad case of religious dogma after us -- at least Cancerman is honest enough about his objectives."
"What are they?" asked Powys, taking his attention from the news for a brief moment.
"How the hell should I know? At least he wasn't blabbing about the Divine Call of Cleansing or anything else like that!"
"So, the question is, what do we do?" asked Duncan. "We have to do something."
"For now, I say the best thing we can do is get some sleep and recharge -- we can worry about what to do in a few hours."
Everyone seemed to agree, until Nick burst through the door, covered in several layers of clothing and radiating smoke. He shut the door and ripped off the clothing, his face still showing the sign of the vampire.
"I don't think I'll be sleeping for a long while," said Mulder, looking intently at Nick.
Nick frowned, and everyone else looked at him in curiosity. Scully was confused. "What do you mean?"
"I didn't tell anyone my theory, but this morning I was given solid evidence two different times. Nick is a vampire."
"WHAT?!" Scully jumped through the roof.
"Calm down, Scully," said Powys. "It's not breakfast yet, and you haven't yet done three impossible things -- let alone believed in them. Besides, I know for a fact that Mulder is right."
"Oh?" asked Nick dangerously.
"Oh, yes," said Powys blithely. "I was there during the Toronto incident, and I tracked you enough to catch the 'odd' skills of yours. Can you explain how a mortal can hover several hundred feet above the ground or tear open a hole in a solid roof in moments? And how do you explain the fact that your skin burns when exposed to sunlight?
"I know the official explanation is that you have some rare medical condition -- I forgot its name -- but those with that condition don't have ignitable skin. Eliminate the impossible, and no matter how improbable, the truth must remain. You are a vampire."
Mulder nearly hopped up and down with joy; Scully glared at Powys.
Nick was totally speechless, but at least he revised his appearance so that he looked normal.
"There, there, old boy," smiled Powys. "Don't feel so embarrassed! You've been pretty tidy compared to Duncan -- he's been ringing cowbells in the very ears of the Hunters for most of his life."
Duncan's head snapped towards Powys, who shrugged helplessly.
* * *
LaCroix still had the magic touch. A mortal lifetime as a butcher and two millennia as an observer of human behavior does wonders for interrogation skills -- even when dealing with Resistors.
The man believed he had kept his silence, but as he debated LaCroix about the 'evil' nature of vampires, he was making unconscious slips of the tongue that any psychoanalyst would certainly catch and pounce on.
All that LaCroix had was an idea of what the man thought and believed in, but that was as valuable as direct information about what this cult was.
"Since you've been so helpful," purred LaCroix, "I'll be merciful. You will be the key to your own survival."
"What do you mean?"
"So inquisitive!" his tone was mocking. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait like the rest of us!"
Within minutes, the prisoner lay flat on the ground, kept in place by various bits of machinery that weighed several hundred pounds at least. LaCroix carried them like they were pumice blocks.
Once the prisoner was immobilized, a rope was looped over some pipe running along the ceiling. One end of the pipe was attached to a sledge hammer that hovered several feet above the prisoner's face -- the other end of the rope was inserted into his mouth.
"Now, bite down!" said LaCroix in a carefree, jovial voice.
The man did bite down, and was barely able to keep a hold of it as the vampire released the rope. The man began to whimper.
"You decide how long you live," smiled LaCroix. "When you want it to end, just open your mouth and scream."
LaCroix left to search for an entrance to the sewers.
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