The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part III -- Frostmelt
by Henry Wyckoff

Chapter 7

"So," said Scully to the analysis team that had been pulled together at the last moment. She figured that if she had to get the job done, she'd need help -- and to hell with Skinner's need for secrecy. "What have you come up with?"

They were in her lab -- all of them organic and analytical chemists from Georgetown -- who had either gone to college with Scully or had met her in some professional capacity through the years. None of them had cheerful faces.

John, an expert in chromatography and mass spectrometer analysis, handed over a tall stack of readouts. "Here's all you have: sweat, body salts, and some traces of fresh, dried blood. If I'm right, you also have a commercial brand of vegetable oil -- I'm not sure if it's Wesson or not. I haven't found a single drug or toxin of ANY kind."

The other tales were similar: no matter what solvent was used on the oily residues from the spear -- oily or aqueous -- no trace of any drug was found.

"Wait a moment!" Scully suddenly thought out loud, "What if the behavioral changes are caused by some synergistic effect, or by the product of a reaction? Have you identified the salts?"

"Not really," admitted John.

"Then get to work. Let me know what you've found."

They all left, leaving her alone in the lab.

A poster hung in the corner of the lab. It was made in the 1950s, and nobody had ever gotten around to removing it in any of the intervening years. Large letters said, "Chemistry is fun."

"Dammit!" Scully threw a jar at the poster.

* * *

"Are you going to drink again?" it was a rhetorical question with a rhetorical tone. Kate looked every bit like the mother Axer never remembered having.

"Yes -- just not that much again."

"What?!" she nearly screeched, but she cut off whatever else she was going to say when his eyes snapped up and bore into her own eyes.

"Why is it such a problem to you? I'm immortal -- drink can't kill me, and I wasn't making a fool out of myself. If I was a mortal OR a fool in public, I can understand -- but you know it's not the case. What's your REAL problem?"

Her eyes fell down to the table, but only for a moment. "I just don't like watching what you're doing to yourself. When I saw your face, it looked like you were dying." Axer snorted. "And you WERE dying -- in here." She poked at his heart. "You tell me -- what's YOUR problem? Why do you *need* to drink?"

He could have made any number of excuses or evasions, but he said, "I like being on the other side."

* * *

It was analysis time. Scully had a stack of papers in front of her -- every single one of the output sheets from the chromatograph, spectrometer, and hydrogen NMR runs. Some marks were made by each of the peaks, identifying which was which, but Scully wanted to double-check and make sure that an all-important detail wasn't missed.

After twelve hours of digging through output papers, she screamed in frustration. "This can't be happening to me!"

The problem was, every single output showed no presence of a drug, no matter what angle she took.

* * *

Mulder was seated across from LaCroix, who was looking uncomfortable and amused at the same time.

"So you're saying that you can't even *touch* a direct ray of sunlight? A single ray of sunlight will burn you to cinders?"

"Yes." LaCroix was tempted to drain the man here and now... but he knew it wouldn't be wise. Besides, the man might be more cooperative once his questions were at least answered -- not that the answers had to be correct.

"And a stake in the heart will kill you as well? I find that interesting. You can be stabbed anywhere else, but not the heart? When I felt your pulse, it wasn't there, so what good would your heart be?"

"I never needed to know the answers. It's enough that I am who I am."

"You mean that you don't want to *know*?"

LaCroix reassessed this irritating gnat. He had a love of pure knowledge that would perhaps place him on par with the philosophers of old. It didn't matter to him whether ideas had an inherent use or not -- which made his mind much more formidable. It was imagination and possibilities which were important, and not usefulness.

"What good would it have done me to know? Does it do you any good to know how your spleen works?"

Mulder wasn't listening -- he was speaking his thoughts aloud while his mind went down a logic chain. "And then there's the blood... What is so *important* about blood? Could it be that there is something beyond chemistry? Could it be that the pagans were on to something when they included blood on their rituals? Or is it a placebo? Could vampires be in tune with something much different -- and simply use blood as a tool or a mood-setter?..."

LaCroix left Mulder to his own thoughts -- he didn't seem to notice the vampire's absence. He shook his head -- in any other circumstance, he would be obliged to kill the man. When it was over, perhaps he'd try to 'convince' him that all this was a dream.

He walked over to the table where the gladius lay. It was untouched since this morning, when Sharpe had presented it to him and pleaded most humbly that he become General Lucius once more. The sword certainly felt right to him... the balance, the raw power of the steel... It was tempting...

"No!" he told himself, forcing his hand to put the sword down, which it eventually did. Too many memories came back -- the marches, the battles, the blood, and the prizes.

//It's too seductive -- the power and the glory. But would these immortals dance to my commands? Do they really *need* a general? And how many of the immortals know what I truly am, or that vampires exist?//

He stared at the dust illuminated by the rays of the sun. Mulder's question came back to him. Why indeed...

* * *

Axer entered the bookstore/coffeehouse. The smell of Kenyan coffee got his immediate attention, but so did the smell of old books. From floor to ceiling, wall to wall, books beckoned him. But it wasn't an old book that grabbed his eyes. It was a relatively new one.

'In Search of Schroedinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality' it was called, written by John Gribben. It showed the outline of a box, with a dead and living cat superimposed. He picked it up and scanned it. The first half of the book was a review of quantum physics written for those without a physics degree -- and the second half was... interesting. It explored the paradoxes and extrapolations that used quantum physics as a base.

He opened it up and read from a random page:

Williamson's world is a world of ghost realities,
where the heroic action takes place, with one of
them collapsing and disappearing when the crucial
decision is made and another of the ghosts is
selected to become concrete reality. Everett's
world is one of many *concrete* realities, where
all the worlds are equally real, and where, alas,
not even heroes can move from one reality to its
neighbor. But Everett's version is science fact,
not science fiction.

He tried another section:

The many-worlds interpretation of quantum
mechanics was almost studiously ignored by the
physics community until DeWitt took up the idea in
the late 1960s, writing about the concept himself
and encouraging his student Neill Graham to
develop an extension of Everett's work as his own
Ph.D. thesis. As DeWitt explained in an article in
Physics Today in 1970, the Everett interpretation
had an immediate appeal when applied to the
paradox of Schroedinger's cat. We no longer have
to worry about the puzzle of a cat that is both
dead and alive, neither alive nor dead. Instead,
we know that in our world the box contains a cat
that is either alive or dead, and that in the
world next door there is an observer who has an
identical box that contains a cat that is either
dead or alive. But if the universe is "constantly
splitting into a stupendous number of branches,"
then "every quantum transition taking place on
every star, in every galaxy, in every remote
corner of the universe is splitting our local
world into myriads of copies of itself."

Axer's head spun. Now he remembered the debate -- it was the idea that stemmed from attempts to interpret the quantum mechanical equations that characterized and predicted the behavior of particles. It was still being debated heavily, but the many-worlds debate was at least able to pass the consistency test -- the only problem was, it was never proven. How can you "prove" the existence of alternate worlds or times?

He grabbed the book and scanned the shelves for anything else that grabbed his attention. He left with 'Schroedinger's Cat', 'Politically Correct Holiday Stories', and 'The CXTFIT Code for Estimating Transport Parameters for Laboratory or Field Tracer Experiments, Version 2.0'.

* * *

Scully's hands were raw from pounding the table. Coffee had lost its effects, and her nerves were on the edge of snapping. The phone rang, jolting her out of her exhaustive state.

"Hello?... No, sir. No progress yet. I'll let you know as soon as I've found something..."

She hung up the phone, shaking her head. It didn't feel good telling Skinner that nothing was found. Not a good feeling at all...

The door opened, and she snapped her head around to see who'd come in. "Mark?" She thought it might be the organic chemistry grad student with another useful idea.

"I'm afraid not," he drawled. The room was somewhat poorly-lit, so all she could see were the shadows accenting his face. He was a drifter who probably hadn't had a bath since the last time it rained. He took a step forward, and she saw several weeks of beard growth, and a patch over his right eye. Fresh red scabs surrounded the patch. "I believe you have something of mine."

"I don't know what you mean."

"Don't grab for the phone -- I took the liberty of cutting the lines AND killing the guards. Nobody will hear you scream."

She stood up and pulled out her gun. "Put your hands --"

"--in the air," he smiled, holding out his arms wide open. "I want to show you something..." He ripped open his shirt, and she saw the criss-crossing of many, many scars of all shapes and sizes -- some new, but most old. "Do you think you can do anything that hasn't been done already? Just give me the spear, and I'll let you live intact. That's all I need."

"Who are you?"

His remaining eye looked deep into hers. "Odin."

For a Norse god, he did a pretty good Christian Slater impression.

* * * *

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