The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
Richie drove the car, his eyes narrowed and his breath coming in short hisses. He remained silent, not even talking to Methos as he raced through the streets, barely even stopping for the lights.
Methos, rather than being scared by the wild ride, enjoyed it immensely. He reveled in the near-collisions, the pedestrians yelling at Richie to slow down, and the absent-minded driver who just happened to have good enough reflexes to avoid a major accident. Paris was a place that requires good driving skills -- and this was a good reason why: you might find Richie coming the other way.
"You're coming close to the place," warned Methos. He knew this part of town very well, so Richie didn't snap anything at him -- he wasn't so lost in his rage that he didn't pay attention to good sense. He slowed down and turned at the right place.
"Where is it?" asked Richie curtly. Whatever resemblance he had to the innocent teenager he was only a few nights ago was long gone. He was a maddened time-bomb ready to snap. His reddish hair only accented his anger.
"Turn over there, in the alleyway."
It was an abandoned church -- perhaps built during that era in the earlier part of the century where the fashion in architecture was the 'ugly' look. Looking at all the ruins and condemned buildings around it, it seemed odd to find a church here, even if it was as ill-maintained as the rest of the buildings around it.
Methos got out of the car and looked at it fondly, "I remember that church."
Richie grunted, "If Duncan's there, I won't want to remember it."
Methos shrugged sadly and followed him. Their senses were opened for anything, and the fact that they sensed immortals did not make them feel any better.
Through the vestibule they entered, their swords drawn, and the only things that greeted them were dusty, empty pews. The pulpit was as empty as the air around it; the cross broken and rotted.
Methos sighed sadly as he approached the pulpit and wiped some dust off it. "I guess the German lied to us."
Richie's eyes glinted. "I don't think so. Don't you feel that?"
Richie didn't listen to him as he walked into one of the wings and approached a rotten piece of carpet. He pulled it up easily -- it was a five by five foot square carpet that was cut neatly at the edges. The cuts looked recent.
Underneath the square of carpet lay a solid steel door with three locks at the edge. It was apparently locked, since Methos couldn't even budge it an inch. Richie shook his head sadly and brought out a lock-picking tool kit. Within a minute, all three locks were picked, and the door opened. Stairs led down to darkness. The two looked at one another. Shrugging, Richie went down first.
* * *
Nat was in ecstasy, leaning back as Coleen's kisses moved slowly down from her lips to her cheek, moving ever so slowly down lower. Maybe it was her knowledge of vampires that made her jump in shock when the kisses reached her neck. Coleen realized this and chuckled a little bit.
"See?" smiled Coleen. "I told you that you'd enjoy it. You are, aren't you?"
"Oh, YES!" breathed Nat, shocked at the pleasures she was experiencing.
"Just lie back and let it happen."
Coleen gave Nat another injection.
It started again, and Coleen kept moving lower. Nat was shocked to find that she was undoing the buttons herself, quite hastily, in fact. Her hands gripped Coleen's hair tightly as her body quivered with nervous pleasure.
* * *
Axer put on his soft leather boots, lacing the leggings immaculately. Kate was making the task impossible by distracting him in a rather unfair manner -- which was an understatement.
"Come back to bed!" pouted Kate.
"Do you realize I've spent more time in bed today than I have in years?"
She grabbed his shoulders, succeeding in pulling him back on top of her, "But that's the problem -- you're *never* in bed!"
"What do you mean?" his voice raised a fraction in pitch.
"For a man in retirement, you're an active man!"
"I have to be! Do you realize how easy it is to get cabin fever?"
She sighed, "I know all too well." She pouted once more. "Go on! Get dressed if you want to do that." Then she smiled wickedly, "That means I get to pull those clothes off all over again!"
Axer actually blushed, and Kate was so glad that she forced him to keep that beard off. "So you *do* blush," she teased, "well, it looks like I'll have to give you a *real* reason to blush!"
She didn't reach for his clothes, but what she did was more than enough to *really* give Axer a shock, and that's pretty impressive for someone as old and experienced as Axer. Any immortal who's older than a century -- and not a monk or nun -- has most likely seen and done everything.
As it turned out, Axer *hadn't* seen *everything*. Kate was ever so slowly getting dressed, but the way she did it had Axer breathing heavily and turning white-skinned pretty fast.
"No you don't!" laughed Kate when Axer reached for her. "You're supposed to be getting up out of bed. Remember?" Axer gritted his teeth and watched the show go on.
* * *
Nick's cellular phone rang. Nat had given it to him for Christmas -- she had been so sick and tired of not being able to reach him when she needed to.
"Excuse me," he said to Joe, who nodded. "Hello?"
"Oh Nick!" it was Tracy. "We've been worried about you! Are you sick?"
With a sinking feeling, Nick realized that the day had passed and turned to night. He was supposed to be on duty. "No," he whispered, "I'm right in the middle of something hot. I don't have any time to talk right now." That was mostly the truth, and allowed him to keep from completely lying. He then hung up the phone before Tracy could say another word. What Nick didn't know was that he'd breathed a sigh of relief.
"Your wife?" asked Joe, smiling.
"No. My partner." Nick looked out the now dark window. "Do you mind if we carry this conversation somewhere else?"
Joe shrugged, "It doesn't really matter to me."
Bill was still white-faced, "If you don't mind, I'll stay here."
"Are you sure you're OK?" Joe looked concerned.
"Really!" gasped Bill with clipped breath. "I'll be fine!" But he turned another shade of yellow-green.
Scully and Mulder stood up with difficulty, still ignorant of the fact that they had drunk several cups of masked Benedictine. They knew that they felt sick to their stomachs, and had an odd taste hovering around the gum line, but were still hazy-brained enough to chalk it up to exhaustion. After all, neither of them had had much sleep.
"We'll stop by our hotel room," said Scully. "We both need some sleep."
"OK," nodded Nick. "We'll drop you off."
When they had left, Bill discreetly ran for the restroom and heaved, trying to empty his already empty guts into the toilet. When the only thing that came out was yellow bile, he collapsed on the floor, lying next to the toilet. The need to vomit would only come in a few more minutes, he knew...
* * *
When Mulder and Scully had been dropped off at their hotel, Joe told Nick, "That Coleen of yours is one twisted individual."
"Why do you say that?"
"She spiked enough Benedictine in that coffee to kill a horse. I've run a bar long enough to recognize anything by smell and taste. I didn't say anything, because I thought it was a nice way to get back at Bill -- that perverted boy needed *something* to set him on the right track -- but I thought it was pretty inconsiderate of her to get Mulder and Scully drunk, not considering that Mulder got warmed up on scotch back at the hotel room."
"She did WHAT?" it all sank into Nick.
"Sure, not only that, but she gave Bill an extra shot of Roman aqua vitae with the Benedictine and coffee -- I took a taste of it. You *do* know about aqua vitae, don't you? He drank five cups of coffee before I could stop him."
Nick was shaking his head in shock, "I had no idea that she had it in her. I think I'll have to make Axer have a talk with her!"
They drove in silence for a little while, before Nick spoke again, "I think that you won't be forming any Watcher organizations for my kind."
Joe nodded, "I knew that there was always a possibility, but if I have any say, your folk will be left alone."
"But Bill doesn't feel that way."
"He's a young lad, but he'll learn."
"Not if the Enforcers get to him first. You need to keep a tight leash on the boy."
Joe nodded. "If he makes it to forty, he'll be a legend."
"How old is he now?"
"Do you believe in God?"
"I don't know."
Nick sighed, "Then you'd better get to know him -- it's going to take all your prayers to keep that kid alive if the Enforcers ever get to him."
"They'll have to beat Coleen to the punch."
They got to the police station, and met Tracy, who had actually gotten quite a bit done. On her desk was a pile of reports and notes. She also wasn't too pleased to see him. "Perhaps you'd care to tell me what you've been doing since last night?"
"Like I said," Nick told her, a bit surprised at her uncharacteristic tone, "I found some leads."
"So did I!" snapped Tracy. "They're called witness sightings -- it looks like some of those men with the boxes were found burned to death, along with the body of an old bum. *I* found some witnesses who were able to give me a composite of the guy who was found running away."
Nick saw the sketch, and for some reason, it looked very familiar. Joe gasped when he saw the photo, "I've *seen* that face before, but I can't remember where!" He hit himself in the head with his fist. "Dammit! Why can't I remember?"
Tracy calmed down a bit, and asked, "Who's your friend?"
"Another volunteer. His name is Joe Dawson, and he came all the way from Vancouver to help us out."
"What about the FBI agents?"
"We dropped them off at the hotel," said Nick with a straight face. "They were pretty tired."
She nodded sympathetically, "They must be used to the day shift. Oh well." She looked at Joe with a direct gaze, "How will you be able to help us?"
"I have a lot of useful contacts who can probably help us scare these killers out of the wood work."
Tracy remembered Axer's assessment of what these kind of people were, and her eyes narrowed. "What kind of contacts?"
Joe did his kind-old-uncle expression, "The usual." It didn't work, and he sighed, "You name it, and I'll have it. I know the bums, and I know the senators."
Tracy nodded with a touch of skepticism. "There's a phone and a quiet room you can use. If you need anything, let us know."
Nick was a bit shocked at Tracy's sudden 'take charge' attitude, but he didn't say anything. He wasn't sure yet whether this was a good or bad sign. When Tracy returned from showing Joe to the room, she let some of her irritation surface again.
"You said that you found some things out." Her eyes were sharp as flints.
"You'd better sit down," said Nick, "and I think we'll need a conference room for this one." For some odd reason, he started craving coffee and doughnuts.
When they were in the conference room, Nick sat down with a thump and began to relate all that he had learned in the torture chamber. "I was talking to an informant since last night. He's dead now."
That changed Tracy's mood really fast. "I think you'd better go back to the very beginning."
Nick nodded, and found himself starting with the scene in Reece's office, and telling all of the story -- the scene in Reece's office as he saw it, the fight in the parking lot, LaCroix' arrival, and the capture of Tim.
"And so LaCroix took Tim while I took Axer -- we flew to the Raven, where we questioned Tim. LaCroix immediately took charge. I admit I wanted to scare Tim into talking, but you know LaCroix -- if he decides he's going to do something, nothing can stop him."
Tracy nodded sympathetically, and Nick continued, "After a few attempts at lying, LaCroix managed to convince him not to lie. That's when things started to get really strange.
"He admitted that the black boxes they used were meant to do horrible things -- control people's minds and emotions from a distance, like they tried to do to Axer, hold them immobile in some kind of force field, or completely disintegrate the nervous system."
Tracy was now sitting on the edge of her seat, "What happened next?"
"There wasn't a whole lot he could tell us, but he left a lot of hints. Apparently, he was just a lowly member of this organization, but he knew enough. Whatever this organization is, it's planning to increase its activities very soon."
"Why do you look so disturbed? I mean, even more than I'd expect?"
"They're fanatics, Tracy. They believe that the end of the world has come, and they must prove their worth to Odin by bringing about utter chaos by destruction. And before that happens, they believe they must kill the immortals."
"That doesn't make any sense!"
"You're preaching to the choir."
Tracy raised an eyebrow.
* * *
Mulder and Scully were sharing the same hotel room, but sleeping in separate areas. Scully took the bed, and Mulder took the couch -- they were so accustomed to this arrangement that they felt perfectly comfortable in these situations.
Mulder, however, was tossing and turning in his sleep. Sweat rolled down his face as he twitched, then stopped twitching. He didn't notice the silent figure who crept up, and placed all of his ten fingers on Mulder's forehead.
Scully was snoring in the other room.
Mulder's eyes snapped open, his mouth screaming silently. Halscombe's face was triumphant, his eyes full of mindless glee as he --
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