The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
Methos was pacing back and forth on the deck of the boat. Duncan and Sharpe had gone out to hunt up some leads on the European base of the Invisible Ones -- the guy with all the dummies was nowhere to be found, and everyone seemed to think that that was a key link to the Invisible Ones, since the Viking had gone on his merry way. And if Powys was to be believed, there wasn't much the Viking could have said.
Richie stepped on deck, standing few feet from Methos. "What's bothering you?"
Methos turned around as if he were startled, "What makes you think I'm bothered?"
"You're only shaking the boat with that pacing."
"Terribly sorry," he smiled weakly. "I'm just thinking about what I've been told. I still don't believe a lot of it, but I'm forcing myself to believe -- it makes life easier if I'm confronted by any of it...
"I'm also thinking of the implications."
Methos smiled tolerantly, "You'll laugh, but I might as well tell you. Norse gods walking the earth... An invisible power within the world governments... Vampires... Immortals... Do you see where this is leading? If all of this is true, then we might be one step closer to learning all the answers that we've all been seeking.
"Where did we come from? Why are we here? Are we the product of some mad mortal experiment, or are we created by the gods? Or are we gods as well who were never recognized as such? Was there a civilization that knew much more and forgot so much -- one that either created us, or a civilization of immortals, one of which we are the remnants? Or is there no reason to it all? There's a lot of possibilities."
Richie shook his head, "I just try to take it one day at a time and don't ask questions..."
"Safe and secure, eh? Just take what you're given? That's one good, fast way to die."
"What do you mean?"
"You'll have to find out on your own. It's not something I can teach or explain to you -- I had to learn that lesson on my own the hard way. So did Duncan and Sharpe -- but they lived in such different times as we that they learned it as mortals."
"What do you mean, different worlds?"
Methos became thoughtful. "I was born so long ago that I don't even remember my life as a mortal -- but I can remember a time when the world was peaceful. There were no full-scale wars, no politics, or any other of the aspects of modern life that you accept without question. Life was as hard back then as it is now for many, but we went about through life knowing that life was good, that we had a purpose in life, and that death was nothing to worry about.
"I never really knew when things changed. I was living through it all, so I didn't have the perspective to identify the crucial events, but it must have been when 'civilization' really started taking root that things changed." He became silent, looking at the night sky, and then at the city.
"What happened?" Richie was entranced.
"We became afraid."
* * *
Duncan and Sharpe walked down the empty street. Both had automatic shotguns with belt-ammo, and their swords worn openly.
The area was a run-down slum, full of the obligatory filth, rot, and refuse from society. They faced what was once a lively factory, but was now a rusted skeleton.
"Are you sure this is the place?" asked Duncan.
"My sources are never wrong," Sharpe tried to assure him, but even his own doubts were evident. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
They each took a deep breath and rushed inside, instantly scanning the darkness for the layout of the place. They saw and heard nothing living, but that didn't mean much. The full moon shone through the roof, which made matters worse, because their vision was dominated by a quality of light and darkness that could only blind them.
They stood still in the shadows, letting their vision slowly adjust, until they could see that this place was truly empty. Duncan looked sternly at Sharpe, who held up his hand warningly. He nodded towards the far end of the factory, where he saw a sliver of strong light at the bottom of a closed door. Duncan saw it and nodded.
Both crept ever so slowly towards the door, and reached it after a few minutes. Sharpe drew out a short metal pen attached to a wire, which he gently touched to the metal door. Both had earphones which they used to listen.
It was a voice speaking in Bayerisch, which neither of them spoke, unfortunately. Based on the pauses, it was evident he was speaking on the phone. They waited until they could hear the click of a phone hanging up.
When they heard no further sounds, they busted through the door, with their shotguns leveled at the only man in there. The room was filled with high-tech computers, a computerized map of the globe, and what looked like a device out of science fiction blended with a chair from the hair-stylist's shop.
"Hello," smiled the old man without any apparent fear. "Have a seat -- the coffee's just about ready."
"The coffee can wait," said Sharpe. Without a word, Duncan kept guard by the now-closed door while Sharpe took a quick survey of the room. "You've quite an interest in the world. Perhaps you'd care to explain what all these red and green dots are?"
"I'd be glad to!" the old man clapped his hands in delight. "So few of the young men take an interest these days. The green dots are where the immortals are, and the red dots are where the vampires are. Take a look at this --" he typed a few keys on his keyboard, and the world map changed into a Paris map. "It even shows precisely where you two are standing, and where Richard and Pierson are!"
Duncan was quite shocked, but Sharpe wasn't. "What's your game?"
"It's no game at all!" the old man was now indignant, switching the screen back to the world map. "I provide an essential service."
"To whom? What is your service?" Sharpe shook the man by the shoulders, but he didn't seem too disturbed, especially when Sharpe was brought to his knees by a sharp blow from behind.
The last sight that Sharpe saw was a very familiar face. He looked like he'd lost a few more marbles since last time. "I'm Martin Smith," he giggled madly. "I'm just an electrician from Detroit!"
His vision faded, and he thought he could hear an anguished scream, "Don't you know anything?! You've destroyed the capacitors again!"
The old man didn't look too disturbed. He stood up and poured himself some coffee, stepping over Sharpe's body. "Hmmm... Taster's Choice...." He stared suggestively at Martin, "You wouldn't care for some... coffee?"
Martin nearly looked sane again with his stare of shock.
* * *
The night was his, just as much as the day was his. Of that there could be no dispute. He laughed at the memories that haunted the lower depths of his mind -- memories that persistently stayed there. Immortals... Vampires... Hah! They would learn who the true master was, soon enough.
He walked down the empty alleyway, the occasional cat crawling out from behind some object, only to look in his eyes and run away so fast that it was a blur. Its howls echoed for only a few seconds before they too faded.
Something touched at the edge of his senses -- faint sounds, and the hint of a bright light. He didn't know what it meant, but his instincts made him run as fast as the wind towards the source.
Time meant nothing. He was at a place and he went to another.
He was at a dead end, the fog and light obscuring his vision -- but he knew what was going on. Three men dressed in black and holding boxes were surrounding a bum, held immobilized by an invisible force. The men in black wore helmets, so the expressions on their faces was not visible -- but they must have been full of a malicious joy.
He knew his expression would be that.
The how and what of this event was irrelevant. Perhaps it was then that he began to value the voice that screamed in the vaults of his lower mind. It showed its value -- in a few moments he mercilessly raped the lower consciousness of its memories and knowledge, leaving it to whimper in those dark corners.
He saw what was happening in a different light now, and could even understand the significance of this event. A low, guttural chuckling escaped from his mouth. It sounded like rough clicking.
He approached them, and one of them noticed him. He screamed something and pointed at him, backing up with jerky steps. The other two turned around and had the same reaction. The force field that surrounded the bum turned off, but the man was so damaged that he collapsed.
He approached the three men, and he felt his progress stopped by the same force field. He smiled as he felt a peculiar sensation in his whole body. It burned, and then it stopped. He smiled again. Movement returned.
The three men started shaking and tapping their boxes in total confusion. Then they stopped -- forever.
When he raised himself back up to his full height, he spun around by instinct. A man stood at the entrance to the alley, holding an open sword. The light and the fog obscured him -- all he saw was the outline of a tall and muscular man.
It called out to him, "Abomination!"
Abomination? What abomination? Where? It looked around, and found only the man. Perhaps that is what it called itself. It didn't feel like a man. It felt powerful... seducingly powerful. ||What are you?||
"I am Heimdall, Friend to Man, and you've just hurt my friends. Prepare to die, demon!" Its voice was slurred, as if it could not speak the language of man.
||Ah! Now I understand!||
A smell assaulted his nostrils, making his movements slower than they should be. Feeling curiosity rise, he drew back and picked up one of the boxes. It had many knobs and switches, and he flipped and twisted them randomly.
A scream rewarded his efforts -- only, he didn't know whether it was Heimdall's, or his own.
* * *
Nick and LaCroix faced Tim, sobbing limply in his chains.
Nick: "All you have to do is tell us the truth. Lying will do you no good."
LaCroix: "But it will do *me* a great deal of good. I think your middle finger is next."
Tim: "Ple- he- hease! I've told you everything I know! Honest!"
LaCroix: "Then tell us again. Why did you try to affect Axer's mind?"
Tim: "Because he was a witness -- we wanted to discredit him!"
LaCroix: "There -- you lied! You told us before that it was because you were ordered to, and you didn't know! I think it's time to go for the next finger!"
Nick: "Think about all you have to gain by telling the truth! You've lost one finger already!"
LaCroix vanished into the shadows, replaced by a shadow wearing an immaculate white coat, holding a scalpel.
Carefully, with the delicacy of an artist painting with single atoms and molecules, he sliced open the finger, pulling away one strand of muscle or nerve at a time. Carefully, carefully he moved and pulled, the screams increasing with intensity the more careful he was.
Nick vomited black blood onto the floor. LaCroix smiled tolerantly.
* * *
Mulder was typing away, while Kermit and Scully had gone for coffee and doughnuts.
"What do *you* know about electrogravity?" Mulder typed.
"Not enough," returned email@example.com. "It's based on a similar principle to electromagnetism, except that the relationship is between gravity and electricity. I know what it does moreso than how it does it."
"What does it do?"
"After the Second World War, the USA government looked into it with the hovercraft projects. It worked, but they found that just like anything else, there are a lot of tricks and traps. Nothing's ever as easy as it looks on the drawing- board.
"There's an old saying that my teacher used to tell me: 'To the theorist, experiment and theory are the same -- to the experimentalist they are NOT!' They learned that out the hard way and apparently scrapped the project. They also learned the economics of this line of research -- it would put so many contract workers out of a job. They NEEDED those contractors to maintain the Military-Industrial Complex.
"Do you know why the Cold War lasted as long as it did? Both the Russians and the USA learned that it was far better to start the Bureaucratic Juggernaut than to pursue efficiency, true progress, and the truth. All three would be a consequence of following that path, and they knew it would throw them out of power."
Mulder sat back in shock.
"Now," continued firstname.lastname@example.org, "what do YOU know?"
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