The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995

Chapter 12

Joe sat down with Mulder, while Bill and Scully showered -- but not together, to Bill's frustration. Mulder was at first a bit nervous about meeting a Watcher for the first time, and Joe's rough personality kept him at a distance, but as they got to know one another, they became friendlier and their conversations smoother. Once the Glenlivet started flowing, they even made some progress.

"Now that you've had a chance to relax," said Mulder, "perhaps you can tell me what *really* brought you over here."

Joe nodded, "I might as well tell you, since Kermit spilled the rest of the beans. Did he tell you what happened only a few minutes before you met him on the police station parking lot?"

"No," Mulder shook his head. "I *did* see a large spot of blood, but I didn't see anything else." He paused for a moment, "It was like walking into a room where you could sense that everybody had suddenly hid what they were doing the moment you walked through the door."

"Well, you sensed right. Only a few minutes before you met Kermit, he witnessed something completely outside of his own experience -- but while he was a Watcher, he developed a reputation of being accurate and precise in his observations, so I have a hard time doubting what he told me."

"What did he see?" Mulder was ablaze with curiosity now, the scotch making his eyes cross a little, giving him the appearance of being slightly insane.

Joe described everything that Kermit had relayed to him -- the two running from the police station, the verbal exchange, the fight, the flying man, and the man who tried to run away.

Mulder listened intently, then his eyes narrowed. "You didn't get a description of these men, did you?"

"I have better than that." He produced several photographs with the tell-tale blurring of hasty shooting and perhaps the sign of being shot with a mini-camera. Mulder looked at them, not expecting to be surprised by what he saw.

The first photo showed Axer running Nick through with his sword, a maniacal look on his face. A few others were close-ups of that.

The next few photos were of a flying man making a landing. The close-ups showed that it was LaCroix. Axer then looked around in confusion, as if he had been lifted from a hypnotism.

LaCroix was then seen turning around and running over to the other side of the street, where a man tried to make a getaway. He dropped a box that produced a lot of sparks, and Axer was seen writing in agony.

Nick took Axer into the air, while LaCroix took the captured man away.

Mulder's head started aching. There was so much he wanted to say, but his training took control. //Trust no one!// He would wait until Scully came back. Instead of talking, he took another drink.

Joe broke the silence, "What do you think?"

"I think I want another round -- when Scully gets back, show her those pictures and tell her the same story you told me. Then we'll talk."

Scully eventually came back, with Bill arriving a few moments later. Mulder gave her a discreet sign of caution, and she folded her fingers in acknowledgment.

Joe did as Mulder had requested and repeated the same story verbatim, showing her the very same pictures. Where Mulder's expression had been slightly poker faced, Scully's was openly disturbed. When Joe and Bill read into that, Mulder wanted to bang his head into the table.

"So you know them?" asked Joe.

"That's Detective Knight," said Scully, "the one being run through with the sword. The one with the sword is an immortal called Axer Carrick. The one who flew in is LaCroix, and I have no idea who it is he's carrying, but if that black box is what I think it is, then this case is involved directly with ours."

Mulder's guts churned -- Kermit might trust these people -- but he didn't. //Trust Scully to blow it!// Joe faced Mulder, his eyes betraying a little anger, "You knew about this."

"Yes," admitted Mulder.

"Perhaps you can explain how it is that human beings can fly like birds without even flapping their arms?"

Mulder didn't mind being confronted for his secrecy, but Joe's rough personality was really getting to him. "You won't believe me."

"Look, Mulder, I believe what's in these photos."

"They're vampires."

Joe sat back in shock with a thoughtful expression, but Bill hit the roof. "This is crazy!"

Scully could identify with Bill, most certainly, so she decided to deal with this situation. "Do you think the photographs are a fake?"

Bill paced back and forth, "Yes!-- No! I don't know -- it's too impossible!"

"As impossible as an immortal?" asked Joe softly.

That stopped Bill cold, and his blood drained, "If vampires are real..."

"Yes," smiled Mulder, "the whole picture changes, doesn't it? The question is, what are you going to do about it?"

That seemed to startle both the Watchers. "What do you mean?"

"It seems you made a special trip out here just because of that. Now that you know that vampires exist, what are you going to do about it? Will you set Watchers to observing vampires now? Will you hunt them like some among you hunted the immortals? Will you ignore it and go back to running your bar?"

It seemed as if Joe had never considered the possibilities or the implications. But now, he did. "I don't know, Mulder. The facts were sitting here before me the whole time, and I never saw it coming. What do you think I should do?"

It was a rhetorical question, but Mulder answered, "I think you should leave them alone."

"What?!" To Bill that was as much of a heresy as suggesting to let the immortals live their lives without observation. "We *have* to Watch them! Think of the opportunities to learn from them!"

"Think of all the opportunities for Watchers to decide for themselves that all the vampires must be destroyed for the good of the world."

Bill's mouth was hanging open in shock, but Joe only shook his head. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, all he had to do was say one word to himself: Hunter. The Hunters, who had dedicated their whole existence to wiping out the immortals because they saw them as some monstrosity.

Mulder was right -- the potential was too high -- but what should they do? Nothing?

"Perhaps you should meet the victims you plan to persecute," smiled Mulder. "It's a lot harder to look a man in the face and *then* stab him in the back -- and it makes the game a lot fairer if they know you plan to videotape every move they make."

Bill managed to look a little embarrassed.

* * *

Duncan stared at his Black Inquisitor, who still covered his face with the black hood. "You'll pay for this!" swore Duncan.

He was rewarded for his rashness with a paper cut across the fingers. For some odd reason, it hurt a great deal more than a major cut. Duncan gasped in pain, and the Inquisitor laughed softly.

"You have not been cooperating with me," said the Inquisitor, so I believe we'll move on to the next stage in our program. He produced a small carrying case, which when opened revealed a display of glass syringes and vials. One vial and a wicked-looking syringe were specifically chosen, and within a moment, the air was being purged from the syringe, along with a little of the substance.

"This is a little something to soften you up," smiled the Inquisitor. Without any preparation, he injected it into Duncan's neck. Duncan gasped in pain, and immediately felt an odd sensation -- lethargy mixed with an odd loss of balance. "You haven't told us what we need to know, so I've given you something *VERY* persuasive."

"But I've told you everything I know!" his cry was that of a frightened man. Gone was the pride and confidence. "Why are you doing this? Why do you hate us?"

The Inquisitor clutched so hard at Duncan's groin that he screamed in agony. "*I* ask the questions!" he roared. "You will *NEVER* AGAIN speak unless spoken to, and NEVER in disrespect!"

The pain seemed to intensify as the moments passed. Every sense was magnified. He could feel the touch of the faintest breeze against his skin, hear the sound of a speck of dust hitting the ground.

He felt the fine needle getting shoved between his right index fingernail and the finger itself. It was slammed in all the way. His howl shattered glass in another room.

"Very good, but you're going to beat that record -- you'll be shattering twenty wine glasses a time by the end of the day."

* * *

Axer's nightmares had left him for the moment, and his mood had certainly improved. He was on the main floor, eating a simple breakfast of sausage and beer.

Kate slowly approached him, but she didn't surprise him as she always did. His mouth was crammed full of sausage at the moment, so he didn't try to say anything until he managed to swallow it. "I thought you were still asleep!"

"I couldn't sleep. I heard everything." She sat down across from him at the table, noting the sudden draining of color in his face. "Why did you ask Nat not to tell me?"

His response was immediate, "Because I didn't want you to know."

"That's the best circular argument I've heard in a long time!" she laughed humorlessly.

"Look -- what good would it have done you knowing about it? *I* didn't even remember it until this last night, when the nightmares came. What good would it have done you to know that I've had a past that I'm not proud of?"

Kate looked away, "To be honest, I don't approve of what you did, but I know you're no longer that man. You changed. But if you won't *tell* me about these things, how can I trust you?"

"So it's trust now, eh? Have I done anything to make you suspect me?"

"Yes. This."

He slammed the table with his hand and walked off, yelling, "Damn it Kate -- you're not being fair!"

She started yelling herself, "What?! I'm not being fair? Perhaps you'd like to explain that!"

"I just did!"

"Funny -- it doesn't seem to be making any sense!"

When he faced her, his eyes were red. "OK -- I'll explain things a little better: I have done NOTHING to betray your trust! Not! a! single! thing!! And I've never considered holding back some unnecessary trivia a breach of trust!"

"Maybe you should have asked me!" She was becoming very angry as well.

Axer's head hung down, but not in shame or sadness. It was more like he was fighting with himself. His voice had returned to a normal volume, but it was strained, "Kate. I'm not proud of the man I was. The younger immortals look up to us like we're some kind of gods, but the fact is that for over a thousand years, I was a horrible man. I did so many things that I'm ashamed of -- how can I tell you about them?" The last was a whisper, "I can't even tell myself."

Understanding finally came, and Kate's eyes softened a little bit -- but only a little bit. "What kind of man were you?"

"A murderer. A torturer. An abuser." It was like he read off a death list.

"We're all human, Axer," she put a hand on his shoulder turning him around until he faced her. "We all make our mistakes. Do you know what Hell is? It's not a place -- it's a state of mind: it's looking at every single deed of your life and not learning from the lessons. It's taking yourself and life too hard. Let it go."

He slammed the wall, "'Let it go.' It's not as easy as you make it sound!"

"Why isn't it easy? All you have to do is start opening up to me."

His face was on the danger of breaking. "I can't." He whispered.

"Then pack your bags and go!" Her voice was firm.

"What?" That got to him, sure enough. His face got even paler, and his voice became weak and shaken. "You can't be serious!"

"I am! If you can't trust me, then I can't trust you! So open up your heart or open the door -- it's your choice."

It appeared as if Axer were going to walk out the door, but he froze as if his muscles were immobilized. In defeat, he looked at her with a broken expression, "What do you want to know?"

It was an honest, genuine expression, but it made Kate realize what she had actually done. //Oh God! I didn't mean for it to go *this* far!//

* * * *

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