The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part II -- The Duplicity
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
Sharpe scanned the place, his eyes narrowed and his forehead
wrinkled. "I think we should divide into groups," he finally
Everyone else was huddled around him, out of sight of anyone who might gaze in their direction. Skinner, once he met everyone in the group, became much less aggressive and surprisingly enough became "one of the team". He even started smiling, which spooked out Mulder.
"Here's how it's going to be," continued Sharpe. "There's going to be two teams. Skinner, Mulder, Mulroney, and myself will try the side door and make as much noise as we can.
"Nick, Krycek, Duncan, and Tracy -- you go in through the back and keep quiet. If my plan works, they'll be leaving you alone, so don't attract attention if you can help it. Agreed?"
"Then God give us victory."
* * *
LaCroix and Powys descended onto the roof. Nobody stood guard.
"That was quite an experience, I'll tell you," shuddered Powys.
"Quiet," whispered LaCroix in irritation. "You really do talk too much!"
Powys shrugged helplessly. The two walked, trying to stay on the beams and make as little noise as possible. The roof wasn't flat -- rather, it was sloped with the occasional tower or attic-window that broke the shape. One attic window was open -- the room was empty and full of dust, but neither one of them cared too much at the moment.
On the far end of the room was a door that Powys slowly cracked open. The hallway on the other side was most certainly not abandoned. Real torches were posted on the walls every ten feet, and the occasional Odinsson walked down the hall with a tin-soldier expression.
"Tacky..." muttered LaCroix.
It was Powys who reminded LaCroix to be quiet this time.
He frowned at Powys, then his expression changed. He pointed down the hallway and travelled down it at a fast walk. Powys followed, looking around nervously. LaCroix didn't seem concerned at all -- though he was absolutely noiseless.
They met nobody as they moved at least a hundred feet. LaCroix walked like a driven man, his eyes darting back and forth as if he was trying to peer through the walls, his ears listening for every sound. He stopped at a door and made a stopping motion to Powys.
The door was a normal one, with a normal door-handle and a deadbolt. LaCroix made to punch the door open, but Powys stopped him, shaking his head in disgust. He motioned for LaCroix to turn around.
"What?" demanded LaCroix in a silent whisper.
"Oh, very well!" He turned around until Powys tapped his shoulder. The door was now unlocked, but still shut. It opened silently -- LaCroix noticed a small can of machine oil barely sticking out of Powys' pocket. //This man thinks of everything!// he thought in admiration. //What was he once in life? A thief?//
Inside the room was none other than Scully, strapped down to what looked like an electric chair, and several men in white suits used for environmental cleanup operations. While most of the inside of this building had been made to look mediaeval, this room looked ultramodern, with all kinds of electrical and biophysical engineering equipment. The men behind the plastic film had Japanese faces.
Scully was fully awake and scared out of her wits. The look in her eyes said that she had been drugged -- which didn't make sense because the reason you drug someone is to calm them down. A helmet had been placed on her head, and a long needle inserted into the back of her neck. Whatever was going to happen, it looked like she fully understood the import.
Impulsively LaCroix made a loud entrance, speaking not only to their ears, but to their minds -- this was vampire hypnosis at its rawest, but chanciest, form. It was mind against mind as he said, ^^Stop what you are doing.^^
The scientists might have had sharpened minds, but their wills were weak. They stopped everything and froze like mannequins. Powys freed Scully while LaCroix took a scientist at random and said in a voice so powerful that the man had no choice but to obey;
^^What is your business here?^^
"I am gathering information." The scientist could barely speak English -- just enough to understand the basics and be understood even less.
^^What are you?^^
//Damned literal-minded scientists!// swore LaCroix to himself. ^^What is your organization?^^
"It has no name."
"We don't have time for this!" whispered Powys urgently.
Powys was right, but LaCroix snarled, "Shut up!" He focused on the scientist again. ^^Stop evading me.^^ The man's face began to sweat. ^^Why are you --^^
The man's face became suddenly tense, and he reflexively slapped his belt. A jolt of electricity flooded through him, as it did through all the other scientists. They collapsed like sacks of potatoes, their limbs twitching. Next went the instrumentation, which fried and fizzled. The Pentiums were the last to go -- the hard-drives and backup drives grinding, and the circuitry snapping and fizzing. It was a good thing that Scully had been removed from the chair, because it glowed with millions of volts of electricity, making the sweet smell of ozone.
"My..." said Powys with a tone and accent used by the stereotypical English butler. "How inconvenient."
"It looks like somebody wants to keep a secret." Scully seemed to have gained back her wits. "The cult, the kidnapping, the murders -- it's all a front. All a lie."
* * *
Nick walked in the front and Duncan took the rear -- neither
trusted Krycek, who stayed in the middle. They had easily snuck
in the back door -- the guards were unskilled fanatics who gained
in a lack of pain-sensing nerves where they lost in combative
It seemed almost too easy -- the halls were empty, the torches lit, and the air fresh. //It feels like a trap,// Duncan told himself, but Nick seemed a bit more confident.
Krycek was beside himself with controlled fright. He made one foot walk in front of the other, but with great difficulty. Tracy seemed to be the least worried out of the whole bunch -- but she exercised as much caution as Krycek.
They reached some stairs going down, and two corridors going right and left. Nick stopped, letting everyone else catch up. "What now?" he asked.
Everyone looked at everyone else, until Duncan said, "Down?"
"Why?" whispered Tracy.
"We'll be going down one of those halls on our way out -- we might as well cover as much ground as we can."
Nick nodded and led the way down. The stairs were circular and went down what must have been fifty feet. They led to a large, single room with no doors or halls, also lit by torches. It was almost like a museum, with statues lining the walls, and glass cases spaced every few feet. At the far end of the hall was a cabinet that went from floor to ceiling. Nick and Duncan were too jaded to care, but Tracy's and Krycek's jaws dropped in awe.
"This is incredible!" whispered Tracy, as she inspected the stone statues of Viking-like warriors and women. They had a look of considerable age, judging by the grime in the pores of the stone. She inspected some of the glass cases, and saw that they were full of scrolls, gemstones, Viking weaponry, and assorted artifacts. "This must be worth a fortune!"
"Priceless," agreed Nick. The Viking age had passed long before he'd been born -- if Hadradi could be called the last Viking -- but Nick could tell authenticity when he saw it. His curiosity engaged, Nick walked over to the cabinet, ignoring everything else in the room. The cabinet was thick, oiled oak -- solid and well-cared for. A modern lock kept it shut. He was about to open it by brute force when Duncan stopped him.
"Show you a trick," he smiled, inserting the tip of his katana into the line between the two doors, and prying it open with a quick twist and lever. It didn't make too much noise and preserved the doors. "It keeps them from knowing their stuff was inspected."
Inside the cabinet were items that did fill Nick and Duncan with awe. They weren't just any old collection of weapons -- they had a spirit to them, a 'feeling' that seemed to come from them. It was analogous to the life that an artist feels on viewing a painting -- even if it's someone else's.
They were a spear, axe, hammer, bow, and two swords. They had the same look of age as all the other artifacts in the room, but they didn't look 'old'.
"Take them," said Krycek from behind them.
"What?" Nick was startled -- the man had said barely a sentence from the time of his capture.
"Take the weapons. They must mean something to the Odinssons, and even if they're not important, it might annoy them enough to make a slip."
Nick and Duncan looked at one another. Duncan took the spear, and that 'spirit' felt more intense, like it was actually alive. He twirled it around, and it felt like the *perfect* spear. Every inch felt like it had been made by a master craftsman. The wood was silky-smooth, and the blade had no blemishes, nicks, or other imperfections. He *liked* this piece of work.
Nick took the sword and dropped it in pain, as if he'd grabbed a cactus. "I don't think I'll be able to use these."
"What happened?" asked Duncan.
"The sword is a holy item."
"Try the others."
He did, one by one, and found that the axe was the only item he could use. He tested it, and found that it felt like *his* weapon. The grip fit his hand like a glove, and the balance was wonderful.
Tracy backed off a little -- there was something about the whole thing that was giving her nerves a good shake, but she couldn't quite figure out what it was. Krycek stepped forward, grabbing both the swords. On closer inspection, he saw that they were a pair, made for use by a single man. They were even designed as left- and right-hand blades, with the grips matching each hand perfectly. The blades were single-edged, straight, and simple.
The only weapons left were the hammer and the bow. "Go on, Tracy," said Nick, his voice somewhat dreamy.
"Not me," Tracy shook her head. "Something weird is going on. I think they're doing something to you."
"They're just weapons," Duncan shook his head, but he seemed to be uncharacteristically jovial.
"We have enough of them," smiled Krycek. "Let's get out of here."
The cabinet doors were closed, and they went back up the circular stairs, but Tracy couldn't help but wonder if they should have left this room alone altogether. But they were right -- they were just weapons -- so that made her wonder about their sanity...
* * *
* * *
Sharpe, Mulroney, Skinner, and Mulder entered through a window. There were some guards there, but they were so surprised that they didn't prove to be too much of a problem. Sharpe and Mulroney ended up taking all five of the cultists by themselves, efficiently punching their blades into hearts, brains, and lungs. Skinner and Mulder had killed many men and women in their own careers, but seemed shell-shocked by the whole affair.
It was one thing to contemplate a raid, but another thing to cold-bloodedly kill men in an unauthorized one.
"Mulder!" whispered Sharpe. "Snap to, man!" He shook Mulder's shoulder, and his eyes refocussed.
They made their way down a hallway filled with torches, and began to hear sounds of torment: loud thumps, ripping sounds, screaming, and yelling. Mulder's heart jumped, but then he realized it was a man being tortured.
He moved towards the sound, and Sharpe tried to stop him. "We're not here to right wrongs!"
"Scully may be in there!"
Sharpe considered for a moment and nodded. They moved as a group towards the room and waited for a moment. Mulder was able to faintly hear whispering: "You are an Odinsson. You have been an Odinsson for all your life. We have a rich history and a divine mandate. Don't you want to know what that mandate is?"
"I'm Martin Smith!" screamed the man. "I'm an electrician--" He screamed aloud as another whacking sound was made.
Skinner and Mulder looked at one another. This exchange was very suggestive of something. Sharpe counted on his fingers to three, and Mulroney kicked down the door with two tries. They rushed in with their guns and swords drawn, and found a cultist strapped down on a chair, and several men in white lab coats surrounding him, holding whips, chains, and baseball bats. To Mulder, it was very suggestive of a movie he'd seen once at 2 AM.
"Not now!" yelled an irritated man in white.
"What are you doing here?" demanded another.
Then they noticed an extra little detail, and their faces turned as white as their lab coats.
"You monsters!" yelled Mulroney, uncharacteristically furious. Before anyone could stop him, he started cutting down the men in white, who screamed and ran around the room. If one was watching the scene on a movie, it might have even been hilarious -- but here, nobody was laughing. "I'll kill you for this!"
Sharpe tried to stop him, but was brutally slashed for his trouble. "Stop him!" yelled a severely-wounded Sharpe to Skinner and Mulder, who looked at one another with uncertainty. Skinner shot Mulroney in the stomach, who didn't even notice -- though his whole body was knocked back a foot by the impact.
Before Mulroney could get to the last man, Sharpe tackled the Irishman, putting a knife up to his throat, "Hold still, man! He could give us information!"
"You don't want to know what he'll have to say!" yelled Mulroney, nearly throwing Sharpe off his body.
"You don't know what I know," whispered Sharpe.
Sharpe slammed the hilt of his knife into Mulroney's temple, and he blacked out. Sharpe stood up and walked towards the last living white-coat, and said to him, "The mad Irishman wants to kill you VERY BADLY. Do you want me to let him at you?"
"No!!" the man emphatically shook his head. "I'll tell you anything!" The man was just old enough to grow a beard -- he must have been a whiz at college.
"What are you doing here?"
The young man calmed down enough to sound coherent. "I'm an FBI agent sent to infiltrate the Odinssons. I posed as a psychiatric doctor to gain their trust, and helped 'induct' the new members into the fold."
Skinner was skeptical. "I don't remember seeing you OR hearing about any infiltration."
"Do you know every FBI agent in the country? Do you know EVERY operation going on?" He wasn't ruffled or nervous at all.
Skinner put a gun up to the man's head. "Wrong answer. This IS my official case, and none of us knew about the Odinssons until this evening."
Now the man was getting nervous. "Of course you don't! That's what they call themselves! There's no way you could have known!"
"Then why was there no word passed to us?"
The man began to stutter in fear, and Skinner lowered the gun, shooting the man through both of the feet. "We'll get back to you later." The man fell to the floor, flopping in agony as blood squirted out of his feet.
Mulder looked at Skinner in shock, not a word said, but his expression speaking volumes. For once Mulroney and Sharpe were shocked as well.
"He was a liar," explained Skinner nonchalantly, "and we don't have time for liars."
There was some movement at the door. "Hey! What's going on here?"
Skinner smoothly spun around and put two shots into the hearts of each of the three cultists who'd come to investigate what must have been odd noises. His earlier indecision and unease had left him -- he was playing the game as well as the two immortals now.
Martin Smith, the guy who was being tortured, began to speak, "You guys are FBI?? Thank you!! Thank you!!!" He began to cry uncontrollably, his whole body shaking in relief."
Sharpe had recovered enough to take the lead role once more. He went over to the man and let him out of his restraints. "Are you OK.?" It was an old question, but it worked.
The man nodded. "What are these guys? I'm just some electrician from Detroit."
Mulder was shocked. "Detroit??? They took you from Detroit??? Why not someone from nearby?"
"It would attract too much attention," growled Mulroney. "They take people from all over the world -- Tibet, Columbia... Detroit. They grab as many people as they want, and nobody ever notices. When they do, it's an unsolved case."
Skinner shook his head, "This is getting worse and worse. If Cancerman's behind this I'm killing the bastard myself."
"Skinner!" yelped a shocked Mulder. "You?!"
Skinner nodded, almost embarrassed. "It would be a perfect accident -- something that YOU'VE never considered!"
"We can talk about this later!" snapped Mulroney. He looked at the electrician. "Can you walk?"
"Good. Then get out of here like the Devil's chasing you!"
The man stood with some difficulty, but managed to get moving.
"Deeper in!" said Mulroney, taking the lead.
"What's that?" asked Mulder sharply.
It was the sounds of fighting. "It's time!" barked Sharpe.
Everyone sprinted out of there, with Sharpe in the lead.
* * *
Nick heard the noise first, once they reached the top of the stairs. He tilted his head like a confused dog. "There's fighting going on!"
Tracy was the only one who might have been concerned for the "captured", as the others had called them. The other three smiled broadly and charged towards the sound. Krycek had somehow changed from being an untrusted prisoner to a fellow comrade somewhere along the way -- except in Tracy's eyes. Now, they were three untrustworthy people -- the fact that Nick had changed as well hurt her, but she stayed with them regardless.
* * *
LaCroix, Scully, and Powys were investigating a library. Most of
the books were stolen books from libraries all over the world --
mostly history and mythology books -- but there was one book
resting on an isolated table in the center of the room.
It was an ancient book, with a title written in three languages: Welsh, Latin, and Old Norse. The title said: The Book of Loki. There was no mention of the author.
"Interesting," said LaCroix, scanning the book. "It appears to be a religious text of some sort."
"We don't have time for this," said Scully. "I can hear fighting downstairs -- they need our help!"
"Don't mind them." LaCroix dismissed it all with a negligent wave of his hand. "They can take care of themselves. Axer single-handedly slaughtered my invasion force, so he can take care of these inept cultists."
Scully stared at him in shock, as LaCroix kept reading, oblivious to anything she might be thinking. "This is absolutely incredible! It's not only a religious text -- it's a history! Do you know what's even more fascinating, this is the holy book of the opposition! The Odinssons are opposed to those who follow this book."
Powys sighed. "Nobody follows it nowadays. Loki is the Trickster, and nobody follows him anymore... but one. The book is a war trophy of a religious war that was fought long ago. The Odinssons are the followers of Odin, who vanquished the Vanir, Jotuns, and almost all of the Dwarves. Then came Ragnarok, when the followers double-crossed the other Aesir and cut them down on the field of battle in a foul betrayal. It was Loki who fought against the conspiracy, but the King of the Aesir -- and his victorious followers -- have a way of writing the history books. This is the one true history of a time that all have forgotten or remembered incorrectly."
They both turned around to face him in confusion. "If you look inside the cover, you'll find a single name indented into the wood. Put a piece of paper over it and lightly scrape the side of a pencil over it, and you'll see a single name: RAM. That's my real name."
LaCroix inspected it. "It's true, but you could have peeked at this when we were looking elsewhere!"
Powys recited the Latin portion, "'This is the chapter of Kanut, the descendent of Buri, who came upon the starry glass and the door...' Is that proof enough for you? I could go on if you'd like -- I have every verse memorized in each of the languages -- I couldn't have done that in a moment."
They stared at him with even greater disbelief as he continued. "I am the High Priest of Loki the Trickster. Let me reclaim the last surviving relic of a long-past time, and then we can aid those downstairs. I fear that they won't need assistance in the fighting -- but that which feeds off of it."
"What do you mean?" LaCroix was suspicious.
"The Smoking Mirror -- it is the dark side of the Feathered Serpent, and feeds off the violence of men. It's made out of the stars, and is a dark seed of chaos."
"You're not making any sense," complained Scully.
"That's all right," smiled Powys, becoming his care-free self once more, "I know what I'm talking about! Shall we go?"
* * *
If the fighting was described as a chaotic free-for-all, the
description would be only mildly accurate. To say it was a
brutal war would be slightly better, but not even close to the
true reality. Sharpe's team and Nick's team entered the room
from two different doors, and the blood really started to fly --
up until then, all Axer and the two young ones had done was hold
Though Sharpe's team was efficiently killing cultists, it was Nick's team that was really dropping the bodies -- except for Tracy, who kept at the edge of the crowd, killing only those few who decided that a woman was an easy target.
Nick, Duncan, and Krycek were behaving like true berserkers -- to the full delight of the head priest, who was both surprised and overjoyed at the appearance of the weapons. Their faces were devoid of any rational thought. All they knew was the joy of bloodletting, and they certainly let the blood flow out of the cultists.
Axer and Richie, now that the cavalry had arrived, began to fare a little better. They grabbed weapons off the dead cultists and began clearing a circle of bodies around them. Coleen, who had trained to use a sword for the last two years, found herself holding back and freezing.
She realized that she couldn't kill any of them, even though she had no choice. When she got cut or stabbed, she was glad it was her and not them -- until something snapped. Perhaps it was the realization that it was them or her, and that they'd put themselves in this position. With the flick of a switch, she began to apply her training, which just barely enabled her to keep her own head from flying off her shoulders.
The only thing that changed was her attitude, but it was enough to land blows on the cultists.
Like an invincible tidal wave, they crushed any and all who came across their path. Within only ten minutes, the floor was covered with the blood and bodies of every last cultist -- except for the head priest, who was laughing hysterically. His New Jersey accent had left him, and he now called out triumphantly in Norse.
The three immortals knew only bloodlust, and when they realized that nobody else was attacking them, they searched around for more enemies, and found a small band of people who were beginning to back off uncertainly.
"Duncan?" asked Sharpe. "What's wrong with you?"
Duncan didn't even recognize his own name as the three charged towards the new enemy. Even Nick, the vampire with a conscience, was howling with maddened glee.
The head priest whispered, "The Invisible Ones come!"
"I don't think so," said a voice behind him, speaking in Old Norse.
The priest turned around in shock and found the one face that every Odinsson knew by sight. "Infidel!!!" It was a scream of rage and horror blended into one.
Powys was infuriated at the one and only insult that could ever affect him. Shaking with rage, he backhanded the old man, who fell and hit his head against the altar.
He stared at the orb and dagger, knowing what he had to do.
* * *
The three immortals stopped their advance, shaking their heads in confusion, aghast at all the blood and guts that were splattered all over.
"What the --" Krycek tried to say as he gazed over all the dead bodies.
A loud, triumphant yell in Welsh shook the room, cutting him off in mid-sentence. An energy strongly resembling the Quickening flooded Alan Powys, coming from the orb, the dagger, and the headless priest's body. The lightning came in pulses that slammed into his body again and again, faster and faster, until Powys was literally thrown against the wall. Then it ended.
"It is over," he said in a weak voice. Then he collapsed.
LaCroix and Scully were plastered with shock, neither one of them saying a word or moving a muscle. Their jaws were slightly twitching.
Everyone looked at everyone else.
"Do you think it's really over?" asked Coleen. She looked as if she was going to be sick as Mulroney checked all the bodies, stabbing every single one he could find -- some of them had been spared by Coleen, and they howled in agony.
"Not even close," said Sharpe.
Axer put an arm over Coleen's shoulder. "You did good. There was nothing else for you to do."
The smell of blood and spilled guts pushed her over the edge, and she dropped her sword, crying on his shoulder.
Axer said nothing, except for a soft whisper, "Let it out, girl. There's nothing to be ashamed of."
He could remember the sadness he'd felt after his first battle. Everyone else could remember too, and out of respect left Axer to comfort his student as she lost her innocence
This day was the day she truly died in spirit and was reborn.
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