The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
Halscombe cringed against the corner of the room as Axer
approached with his sword drawn.
"I've wanted to do this for a very long time," whispered Axer. "Now, I don't even have to justify it. You're an immortal. I'm an immortal. There can be only one. I take your Quickening and read every thought, every experience you ever had. Nobody argues or questions, because that's the way it is. All you know is mine for the taking."
"What do you mean?!"
"You mean that all this time you hounded me, you had no idea what I was? Isn't that a little contemptible?"
Halscombe clammed up, so Axer kicked him in the groin -- his body was already crunched against the wall. The only direction his pinned body could move was up... but only a few inches. His face contorted in pain, and then he passed out.
"Bloody sissy!" muttered Axer, sheathing his sword.
* * *
Duncan opened up his eyes, screaming and flailing. Then he
stopped, looking around in confusion. He was in bed at
home, in the boat.
"Damn you!" he screamed, clawing at his head.
Soft hands firmly pulled the claws away from his face. He had actually drawn blood. "It's all right," said the voice, just as soft and firm as the hands.
Duncan turned, and saw a face that he didn't recognize, but felt that he should know. Her face showed true concern. "Tasha?" he asked hopefully.
"No," sighed the woman regretfully; perhaps she was even a little hurt. "It's Amanda. Don't you remember me?"
"Amanda?" The name *was* familiar, but he couldn't connect any memories with the name. "I *should* know you, but I don't."
"Don't worry," she smiled, pushing him back down on the bed. "I'll give you new memories."
Duncan's tensions left him as he thought, //Where's Tasha?//
* * *
Methos and Richie stood at the base of the skyscraper,
looking up along the north side. Fear and excitement raced
through their blood as they grabbed their climbing material:
ropes, gloves, and hooks.
"Are you ready?" asked Methos.
Richie cracked his knuckles, unconsciously imitating a tough-guy pose. "Yeah. Let's do it."
Unseen by the security guards, they prepared to break into one of the most heavily-defended skyscrapers in France by the most unlikely, but not unheard of, method. They reached the side of the building, and touched the walls tentatively, mentally preparing for the long climb upwards. The wind began to blow.
Richie froze. "Methos?"
"Yes?" Methos stopped as well.
"Have you ever done this before?"
"Climbed? Oh yes." His eyes became distant. "I've climbed many a cliff, up and down -- mostly because I had to. I even climbed Everest when I did my travelling." He chuckled, "I guess you could say *I* was the first man to climb it. It was some time around 2000 BC, and the thought of an oxygen tank would have been something beyond unthinkable... From what I remember, I didn't even pass out."
Richie was a little more distracted, so he wasn't as frightened as they climbed and talked. A few minutes passed, and a few feet were climbed when he asked, "How many skyscrapers have you climbed?"
"Yeah. How many? Five? Twenty?"
"None. This is the first time."
Richie looked down at the ground, which was now about thirty feet below, and gulped. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Because you were doing so well," Methos smiled. "Come on, why don't you tell me about your racing?"
And so they climbed, inch by inch, and talked about anything ranging from bikes and racing to women and politics. Richie might have still been afraid, but at least he didn't notice it as much.
* * *
Axer paced back and forth on the main floor, smoking a
Shermans and holding a Guinness in his hand. Kate frowned
at that, but said nothing.
Mulder was looking at Axer with a shocked, but admirable expression, "How long will he be out?"
"Not more than a few minutes," muttered Axer. "I figure we should leave him alone for a little while and let him stew -- but that's the least of my worries... Some things aren't making any sense, like who killed him."
"I agree," nodded Scully, "but we were all in here, and we saw nobody go in or out."
"So it would have to be somebody good...." Axer pulled at the skin of his neck, an uncomfortable expression on his face. "Maybe it'll come to me later."
"I think we're forgetting about a much more important mystery," said Joe, who had just opened the front door and stepped through.
Mulder looked at Joe with curiosity. "What are we forgetting?"
"That we should all be focusing on those men with the black boxes. I did a lot of calling around tonight and got some information. I don't know where they are yet, but I have a lot to tell."
Even Mulder momentarily forgot about Cancerman as everyone gave Joe a seat at one of the tables. He breathed out a heavy sigh and said, "I need a drink. What was that stuff you served us before?" He looked at Coleen with a smile as she turned white with fear, then looked at Axer, who was still deep in thought.
"Axer?" asked Joe, looking at him with a more serious expression.
Axer looked up, still deep in thought, "Yeah. Help yourself." He grabbed a napkin and began writing something down in a hurry.
"So what do you have?" demanded Nick. Even his personal troubles were momentarily forgotten.
Nat, who'd been onsomething of a vacation from her life for the last day or so, became grim-faced as she realized that she'd have to come back to reality eventually.
"Well, I've been able to pull together a database of official witness observations as well as some under the table stories. To begin with, I'll have to say that you were dead right all along, Axer. We're dealing with some science fiction technology here, and nobody knows where it came from.
"But that's the least of our worries. I've been getting some pretty recent reports, and some of it's happening all over the world. This is some of the stuff that's happening here." He read from a police report:
Six men dressed in black clothing, similar in
description to the "Black-Box Killers" were found
slain in a manner suggesting ritual sacrifice.
Their boxes were found smashed beyond repair, and
their right hands were all cut off. The bodies
were killed in a clean manner, but all the signs
point to ritual killings...
Vigilantes are roaming the streets. This is
nothing new. Vigilantism has been in fashion off
and on for the history of mankind, but not this
kind. Bands of men from all walks of life are
beginning to take to the streets with all kinds of
weapons, looking for any trouble. They call
themselves "Tyrsmen" and claim that they are
waiting for signs of the end of the world.
When asked, they claim to look for 'Odinssons,
Jotuns, and Dark Elves.' This might be excused as
mad ravings, except for the fact that some of
these Tyrsmen are respected men in this community
-- doctors, lawyers, policemen, shop owners, and
It makes us ask a question: what is the cause of
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