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


Chapter 9


Sharpe drove the diesel heading for the northernmost reaches of Canada. Although time was of the essence, it didn't mean that they had to arrive overnight -- rather, it meant that they had to be there at the right time.

Though he preferred flying, he knew that Kate felt better about surface travel -- and LaCroix was too... dignified to let his fears be known, but they were visible to the trained eye. It was convenient, allowed for more than one exit when "things happened", and minimized the hassles involved with avoiding the sun.

For all appearances, Sharpe was some grimy old trucker from Illinois driving assorted "stuff" to Canada. If anyone from the highway patrol stopped him, his story was that he didn't have a key for the doors, he had no idea what he was carrying, and the truck had passed the weigh station.

In reality, the vampires were in the back with Mulder -- Sharpe shuddered at that, thinking about the poor vampires, feeling guilty about feeling relieved that the fed wasn't up front with him.

Axer was up front with him, listening to some awful racket on his headphones -- he scanned the title on the tape-jacket, and read ... WASP -- The Crimson Idol. Sharpe shook his head in confusion, unable to understand why a man far older than even he was would go for that racket.

Although Axer had the headphones on, he could still hear the music -- and he didn't feel like drowning it out with the truck radio, since all they played around here was that Jump-Off-The-Bridge Country music. That was much worse than heavy metal -- all they sang about were coal miners' daughters losing their husbands, the jumping place, gun racks, and bars. And that *twang* in their voices -- he shuddered.

He tapped Axer, who looked at him. "Hmm?"

"How can you can listen to that noise?"

"If it's noise, it's noise that *I* like. If you're too stuck up, that's not my problem." The response seemed to be very practiced, as if he'd been confronted with this attitude before.

If it had been anyone but Axer -- translated: if Axer couldn't effortlessly mop the floor with his head -- Sharpe would have pulled off the road and given him a good lesson in manners. As it was, he bit the bullet. "I don't like it. Don't you have anything better?"

"I'll *look*..." he rummaged around in a side-pack. "Armored Saint... Deep Purple... Iron Maiden... Icon... Babylon AD. ... Stone Temple Pilots... Vivaldi..."

That shocked Sharpe. "All that noise, and you appreciate Vivaldi?"

Axer snorted, "*You* don't appreciate it. All you *cultured* and *cultivated* snobs do is PRETEND to like *cultured* music, and you don't know a damned thing about it! Take Vivaldi -- only a small range of people truly appreciate him -- the rest use his music as a decoration that they only show to those once-a-year visitors.

"Like this -- the Four Seasons -- if you could truly appreciate it, you wouldn't be shocked that I do."

Sharpe was taken back by this. "I don't like your tone, friend."

Axer laughed. "So your toes have been stepped on, have they? Why don't you look in a mirror, 'friend', and you might find that you should be getting annoyed at yourself a lot more than at me."

"What do you mean?!"

"Every place has its snobs, but by some roll of the dice, I find that most come from the army -- especially those of the English army in the colonies. I assume correctly that you served in India? I *know* I'm right -- the damned arrogance shows on you."

"Arrogant, am I?"

"Let me count the ways..." He silently counted on his fingers.

"If you hate me so much, you can just get out and walk!"

"I rest my case."

"That does it!" He pulled out a gun, "I can't kill you, but I can shut you up for most of the way!"

"What's the matter, too stuck up to take a good look at yourself? You know, you remind me of some fop I worked for..."

*


... "You roguish vulgarian!" gasped Isaac Netwon in total
shock. "Nobody talks to me this way! Do you know who I am?"

"Are you accusing me of being daft, man?" yelled Axer so
loudly, in a bass rumble that rattled the windows. He wore
the clothes of an American, but his accent was that of
someone from the Lowlands -- and surprisingly, his
words were those of an educated Englishman -- however hard
that was to believe. Rumor said that he even spoke Latin
well enough to correct the occasional mistake in the
published works of the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton. "I know
exactly who you are: 'Sir' Isaac Newton -- a snobbish, lazy,
and arrogant intellectual thief -"

"I'll have your head!"

"By whose authority? You may have the ear of Academia in
your pinch, but I have the ear of the Law! All it takes is
one faint whisper, and I can have you clapped in chains,
rotting in a stinking dungeon for the rest of your life.
Your cell mate will be a 'stinking commoner' with an
appetite for the rear ends of privileged, sheltered fops who
were once country bumpkins themselves! -- and their front
ends too, and he'll *make* you love it!"

Newton's face turned white with rage and shock, even through
the excessive powder on his skin. "You-- you--"

"Why the shock and rage? You've been giving it to Leibniz
for so long, don't you think you should be receiving for
once? It's only fair."

Newton was so full of rage that he couldn't even finish his
sentence. He made to slap him with a glove, but his wrist
was stopped with a grip so powerful that it nearly broke.

"I would be more than happy to take up your offer,"
whispered Axer, "but I'm not here to kill you -- just
mediate a dispute... and publicly humiliate you if you keep
on pushing me. The only reason I'm doing this is because I
don't give a damn about either of you, and I'm not looking
for any favors from the winner. If you really did discover
the calculus first, you should have published that very day
-- so you've only yourself to blame..."

* * *


LaCroix was pretending to sleep, but Kate had made the mistake of staying awake to keep Mulder company. The older vampire would have warned her about Mulder, but he needed a good laugh.

Mulder, of course, had mercilessly grilled her with personal questions, *really* personal questions, and baffling thought questions that would have only made sense to LaCroix -- if he even cared. He seemed really obsessed by the mechanisms of vampirism -- how did it work, why did it work, and so on.

Kate's expression became one of utter pain and torment, and she stared into Mulder's eyes. She had seen some of the older ones -- Nick and LaCroix -- use this trick, but she had never tried it before. ^^Haven't you had enough of that line of questioning?^^

Mulder's expression only became more animated, "Oh, no! I have a lot more questions to ask!"

//Damn resistors!// Kate almost felt like obeying one of the few vampire laws: *kill all resistors*, but she decided to leave well enough alone.

Instead, she reached for the intercom and asked Sharpe, "Is it night yet?"

"Yeah. The sun just set."

"Good. I think we need a switch."

The truck pulled off the road, and Kate immediately jumped out the side door. Sharpe left the cab, handing the keys to Kate. "You drive." There was something odd about the expression on his face -- like he'd just been in an argument. Those thin muscles in his jaws were clenching and unclenching, and his fingers were twitching.

She became suspicious, "Is everything all right?"

"It is *now*!"

Her eyes narrowed, she got in the passenger seat -- Axer had moved over to the steering wheel. "What were you two arguing about?"

"Nothing." He put in a tape of Mozart and drove on.

* * *


Scully opened her eyes. The only sight she saw was Skinner's face as he crouched above her, holding an ice-pack to her jaw.

"Mmmh..." Scully tried to speak, but couldn't move her jaw.

"Don't try to speak," he said. "It's a wonder your neck didn't break -- as it is, your jaw broke. The EMTs are on the way."

She grabbed a notepad out of her pocket and wrote, "He stole the spear." Even that was enough to make her shiver with pain. It hurt so bad she didn't even know where the pain was coming from.

He nodded. "I noticed. The police have over three hundred reports of a 'blood-splattered maniac with a spear.' Apparently, he stole a car and caused a lot of accidents on his way to the airport. I'll let you go over the other details later -- right now, they're not important.

"They found the car he used at the airport, and it had his blood all over the seat, but no prints. Nobody by his description was seen *in* the airport, so he might have been throwing us off the track."

"So, what do we do?" she wrote.

Skinner looked up, as if for inspiration. "We'll need to track that man -- at least to find out how he's involved in this, as much as to stop his crime spree." His forehead wrinkled in irritation, "I wish I could make sense out of all this -- Invisible Ones... Odinssons... maniacs with spears..."

"Oh my!" she managed to mutter, smiling despite the pain.

At least he chuckled a little bit. "I think I know who to call."

* * *


Cancerman paced back and forth. //*Somebody* doesn't like me!// he fumed. //Have I done *something* in my past life to account for this?!//

The phone rang, and he dreaded to pick it up, but he did. It was the *voice*. ^^Hello.^^

"How can I help you?"

^^Only you can answer that -- it's *your* project, and your responsibility. Things have gotten much worse, as you well may know. Odin has emerged, and regained his spear -- and is now missing. Frey travels throughout northern Europe, spreading the seeds of war. Heimdall has been spotted in Toronto, and we are afraid of what he may observe. Ullr has yet to arise, but now it's only a matter of time.

^^What is worse, the Rogue leads a team to the place where the Tree-Climbers guard. The time comes close, and you MUST make sure that they don't even observe what takes place. Not even YOU may observe. They are even now on their way. Stop them while you have the capability.

^^But answer one question for us: why have you allowed the weapons to roam free? It was all contained by the Odinssons, until your second failure.^^

Cancerman started to sweat. //My God! They know *everything*!// "We were unable to regain three of the weapons. The FBI grabbed the spear before I could secure it. The twin swords and the axe vanished off the face of the earth. We secured the bow and hammer the very week of the church incident."

^^We know more about this than even you do. The axe was destroyed by Detective Knight. The twin swords were taken by Frey. But you do not answer our question: why have you failed? If we wished to know what happened, we would have asked you that question.^^

"Ahhh..--"

^^We are not inspecting your tonsils. Answer... NOW.^^

* * *


Mr. X was sitting in his run-down apartment, smoking some cheap cigarettes and drinking a bottle of beer -- it was a plain dark bottle with a "generic" label that said only "beer".

The TV had nothing good on -- some ninja movie where everyone wore black, clean, and immaculate polyester clothes. Although the hero was slashing the bad guys right and left, no blood ever spilled or splattered.

Mr. X snorted -- he'd killed enough people to know when Hollywood was *really* trying to cut corners with the budget.

"Oh... poor man," said a young man with an Oxford accent, plopping down on the ragged sofa next to Mr. X. He was a roguish young man with an impudent grin and two bottles of black beer -- he couldn't see the labels. "Are you *that* poor, or are you trying to kill yourself?"

Mr. X stood up, dropping his beer and cigarettes and pulling out his gun.

"Come now, Nameless, you know that guns won't stop me..."

"You're one of *them*!" he backed up a few steps. "I-" he stopped himself.

"-would have known?..." finished Powys, smiling without any humor. "How long have you been leading Mulder on?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Powys shook his head. "Look... we both know that I know what I'm talking about. The only reason I know about you is because I've been following Mulder when he vanishes to do strange business. Eavesdropping is one of my major vices - - you see, I was a thief a *long* time ago, and so I know all the tricks.

"We'll save so much time if you stop lying to me. Now, I haven't come here to ask you silly questions -- they're vitally important, and you'd better start answering. First, why don't you start telling me what you know about this?..."

Mr. X looked at the first of several packets of photos that were handed to him. Some were of a bloody, wounded man with a spear hopping into the cargo hold of a plane. There were shots of various scales -- from wide-angle to face close- ups. He shook his head, "I don't know this man." But he had heard about the man.

"What about the others?"

The second packet of photos were of Scully, during the time when she'd benn abducted and *studied*. He looked up sharply, "What do you know about this? Where did you get them?"

Powys stared at Mr. X. "I don't believe you understand how this works. I ask the questions, and you answer. *You* tell *me* what you know about this."

He sighed deeply, "Her name is Agent Scully, an FBI agent. She's Agent Mulder's partner -- both work on a project called the X-Files. Mulder was getting too close to certain truths that are best left alone, and Scully was chosen as a means to teach Mulder a lesson... and to perform work that had been scheduled anyway."

"Mulder believes that this great 'truth' has to do with aliens, doesn't he?"

He nodded.

"What do *you* believe?..."

He hesitated. "I think that what I believe is irrelevant."

"Then what do you know?"

"You know I'm a dead man if I tell you?"

Powys snorted. "You're pleading your case to the vulture."

"Then it's too late?" his eyes became fearful.

* * * *


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