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

Chapter 18

"Everyone ready?" asked Cancerman as they approached the drop point. The other three nodded. "Then let's go."

Anyone who says that they just *love* skydiving ought to do it in the middle of the winter, over an ice field above the Arctic Circle. The wind was already below freezing, and even with their extra coats and gloves, the air was cold enough to take away all feeling throughout their bodies.

They should also do it while the sun is down, and there isn't a single light on the ground to tell you where you are or how far you are from the ground.

Just when the time came to pull the cords, Powys noticed that Cancerman was waving goodbye at him, a suspicious grin on his face. Of course, given the situation, he could figure out why the guy was grinning. What Cancerman didn't know is that you can't out-trick the Trickster. Powys pretended to pull his cord, and faked a frantic expression as Cancerman waved once more and actually pulled his own cord.

Three parachutes shot out and broke the falls of Skinner, Mr. X, and Powys. Cancerman looked like he was trying to fly and swim at the same time -- even as he slammed into the ice at terminal velocity, his body speared and crushed, he hadn't made up his mind.

A few minutes later, the three survivors descended a little ways away. Skinner looked around once he took off his helmet. "Where's Cancerman?"

"He landed face-first on the ice a few miles east," smirked Powys. "He tried to give me a fake parachute, but I switched it when he wasn't looking. I think you two can breathe a sigh of relief, now that he won't be bothering you anymore."

"But who'll replace him?" Mr. X was concerned. "Cancerman was a sadistic bastard, but at least he's a devil that we know."

Powys nodded. "We'll burn one bridge at a time. Come on -- our time window is quite narrow."

* * *

The council sat in darkness, their heads bowed.

^^He is dead. It is proof that he did not lie. Powys controls chaos with an iron grip.^^

There was total concordance.

^^What are our options? Despite our best efforts, most of the major players approach the Landing.^^

Silence reigned for minutes.

^^What about Mulroney? He can follow orders without a twinge of remorse.^^

^^He also does not like a double-crosser. The Odinssons were too zealous, and killed him in our name -- he will never trust us again.^^

^^Could we regain his trust somehow? Raise his fee?^^

^^He's not stupid, and he doesn't take bribes.^^

^^You can say that, looking at his fees?^^

^^That just happens to be his price. He wouldn't accept a penny more. Could there be any others?^^

Silence reigned.

^^All have been killed. The immortals were slain by other immortals for their own reasons. Perhaps we should create another?^^

^^If Cancerman is dead, can we not revive him?^^

^^No. He is a failure.^^

^^What do we do, then?^^


^^There are natural enemies of the immortals. We have made the mistake of having a single, central manager. Perhaps a modular web of managers will work where a single one

^^But most do not have the proper placements.^^

^^Cancerman will have a successor, just as Deep Throat has a successor. A mortal will fill his political roles rather nicely -- and the occasional one will have the proper connections.^^

^^It is agreed, then?^^

^^For now.^^

^^Good. Then let's get to work.^^

The lights turned on, and a single man stood up. The other figures were dummies, with their heads resting on the table.

* * *

Oiltown was like any other frontier town perpetually on the edge of collapse. The bars were full of drillers who never knew when they would find the last batch of oil, so they drank up any profits they earned. The smell of cheap, stale beer permeated the town even more than the smell of oil and gasoline.

Two pilots sat in one of the bars, sharing a pitcher of Bud Light and scarfing down large steaks.

"So, what brings you up this way? I thought you pretty much stayed in the Atlantic."

"I do, but I got an offer I couldn't refuse. I won't be worrying about how I'll be paying for fuel for a long time."

The other laughed. "I guess I can say the same thing. He even left me some spending money while he's off doing whatever."

They drank some more beer.

* * *

Richie kicked open the door, a Glock in his hand. There was nobody on the ground floor, so he climbed the stairs, finding a large conference room.

The only things in here were a large conference table, a large chandelier, and eleven dummies flopped against the table.

"I've heard of playing house, but this is ridiculous..."
Duncan emerged from another door. "Did you find anything?"

"Nope, Mac. Not a thing -- just these dummies."

* * *

It was a sleepy Irish town, where the only newsworthy events were the occasional bombing and the idiot tourist who'd slammed into Sheamus O'Malley's cow on the road.

A few men sat at the patio of a pub, sipping some town-brewed stout, talking about nothing in particular -- the game, the weather, and the baffling arguments that tourist presented in court ("I *HAD* the right of way!").

Another tourist car sped down the narrow road, and kicked up a bit of gravel that flew into a storefront window, punching a small hole through it.

The angered store owner came out with an oak paddle. "Who threw that rock?"

There were a few punks hanging around, and one of them said in a very disrespectful tone, "I did, old man!"

"Right! It's about time somebody taught you some manners!" The enraged man smacked the punk full in the face with the paddle, knocking him to the ground.

The other punks didn't like that one bit, so they surrounded the man, pulling out knives and chains.

Other folks in the area saw what was occurring and began to slowly approach the scene, pulling out knives and handguns. Some whispered to themselves, "Frey, guide us."

Within a few minutes of the insignificant act of a car kicking up a single piece of gravel, a riot blew up in the sleepy Irish town.

* * *

Scully woke up with a severe headache, her eyes still closed.

"Ahh, you're awake now. I was beginning to worry about you."

"Frohike?" She could recognize his voice anywhere. Opening her eyes, she wished she could close them again, but she couldn't take her eyes off the sight. For those who had never seen him before, he was normally a thin, unkempt, and wrinkled old man who lived in a liquor bottle.

Frohike sat on a tall stool, wearing only a red bow tie and overly-tight red speedos. A half-emptied bottle of cheap vodka rested in his left hand. "I'm ready," he slurred.

Scully threw the covers over her head. //Please tell me this is a nightmare!//

"Don't you want to unwrap your present?"

* * *

"We're here!" whispered Sharpe. "All we have to do is wait at the top of the hill for a few days."

"We'd better start building some igloos," muttered Axer. "I'm not going to wait out here in the open."

Sharpe nodded.

Axer coughed delicately. "I think you're forgetting something?"


"You *DID* remember to bring the saws, didn't you?"

"Don't you have a sword?"

Axer walked off, cursing under his breath. Sharpe smiled viciously. Mulder, however, ruined his joke by producing two hand-saws. Oh well... now Mulder was on his list.

While Axer and Mulder were sawing out blocks for the igloos, the two vampires were making themselves useful by carrying the blocks to the right places and actually building the igloos -- with some help from Axer on occasion.

Sharpe, although he wasn't helping out with the manual labor, made himself useful by keeping an eye out over the ruins.

There were only the faint rock foundations to show that there was ever a settlement here. Some sprigs of well-preserved wood remained to show where the walls had been. The ash at the fire places had long since been washed away, but it was obvious that they were well used.

Sharpe wasn't an archaeologist, but he could tell that this place was designed for comfortable siege living, yet had no obvious shrines or places of worship here. It had seemed to him that if they were guarding some object, it would be for some religious purpose. He had known a Viking in his own time -- or at least a Viking who had lived into his own time, so he had some working familiarity with the Viking mind.

A sound from above diverted his attention -- it was a small plane on fire, crashing to the ground like a comet. The boom was so loud and powerful that it nearly made him jump.

"What the hell was that?" demanded Axer, running over to Sharpe.

"A plane crashed over there." He pointed to a patch of ice about a mile away.

"I'll check it out."

* * *

Nick pulled his head out of the snow, looking around and finding Odin, who sat on an ice block with a care-free expression.

"Well, we're here. Now what?"

"We wait."

"For what?!"

"The key."

There was a rustling sound behind them, and Nick turned to see none other than a clean-shaven Axer with a glaive-sword drawn. "Nick?! What the hell are you doing here??" Then he looked at Odin, who held the very spear that was used back in the Odinssons' church.

"Why hey!" drawled Odin, standing up. "It looks like we're havin' a good ol' get-together!"

Axer looked at Nick, "Where the hell did you pick up this guy?"

Nick shook his head, "It's a long story."

Maybe his gut feeling was just that, but Axer didn't like the feel he got from Odin. He walked up to him. "What part do you play in this?"

Odin did a very good Mickey Rooney impression, "I'm the number one actor... of the world... BANG!" he shot an imaginary bullet into the air.

Nick looked embarrassed. "It could be worse -- much worse!"

* * *

When Axer, Nick, and Odin returned to the camp, the igloos had been set up and some smokeless fires burning. Sharpe took a good look at Odin and Nick, frowning, "Who's the stranger?"

Nick and Axer shook their heads. "A very dangerous lunatic who claims to know something about what's going to happen."

Sharpe was all ears as Odin said, "Yeah -- I know what's gonna happen! Butterflies smokin' cigars!... Dogs playin' poker!... The Libertarians will win the White House!... ABC will be Number 1!..."

Nick looked a bit helpless as he said, "He has his better moments, not that it helps much. You'll just have to be patient."

* * *

Powys, Skinner, and Mr. X had trudged noiselessly across the ice, heading in a straight line for the ruins for the last few hours. It was the bitter cold that had kept them going as much as making every step painful.

When they reached the Landing, Mr. X collapsed to his knees -- immediately standing back up. Skinner only took a deep breath and looked around.

"We got here just in time!" whispered Powys. "Look!"

The fires from a crashed plane had nearly burned out on one side of the valley, and on the other side, a small band of people waited near some igloos. They had done a pretty good job of concealing themselves, but nobody can hide from everyone.

"Did you bring those binoculars?" asked Skinner.

Mr. X, grumbling, dug them out of his packs and handed them to Skinner, who almost immediately sucked in his breath sharply.

"What is it?" asked Powys.

"It's Odin."

"Odin! I wasn't expecting this! I'll have to do some thinking!" He produced a coin and flipped it. "Tails."

Mr. X and Skinner looked at him with an expression of shock.

"Come on -- do you think I'm stupid enough to actually come up with a PLAN? In the meantime, I have something for you." He produced a wooden composite bow, a quiver of arrows, and a war hammer. "Take them."

They were both pretty hesitant.

"Come on, now -- we don't have all day! Do you actually think you'll have enough bullets to drop them all?" Mr. X took the bow and arrows; Skinner took the hammer. Powys smiled, "Good choices -- you both have the instincts."

* * * *

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