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

Chapter 26

Axer walked through the hangar-sized laboratory looking at all of the instruments. Most of the stuff he couldn't even recognize. About the best he could say was that a lot of it looked 'neat' and 'pretty'. High-tech physics was a long way from his own brand of science, when it came down to it. Mulroney was still in the process of disposing of Jamie's body. For all the man's past and present, the Irishman seemed shocked at Axer's uncharacteristic behavior. It was almost as if he was truly becoming possessed -- or at least acting in a frighteningly uncharacteristic manner.

"Hmmph," snorted Axer as he ran his hand down a shielded wire. "I wonder..."

His mind went back to the Raven, to a conversation that he'd had with Kate only a few hours back. It was then that the nightmares had plagued him, and Kate had suggested that somehow he'd gained access to all the souls that he had taken when he absorbed their quickening.

"Then why can't I just access the memories like a disk drive?" he muttered, speaking his thoughts aloud. Then a thought hit him like a jolt of electricity. "What if I *could*, but I'm not using the right interface? What if that nightmare-scape was the interface -- something that would allow my 'ego' to access the 'ego' of another..."

He smiled, "It makes perfect sense... There's no possible way I could function and absorb their egos, but I could interact with them directly, like I did with Ingrid..."

Axer closed his eyes and put himself back in that nightmare scape. He was two places at once now: the 'real' world, and a world that was just as real, the only difference being that he was actively constructing everything with his imagination...

...Something took over, making his imagined landscape much more real -- in more senses than one -- and he found himself standing not on a hellish landscape, but in a pleasant meadow that was distinctly Swiss or Austrian, judging by the lay of the land and the colors. An Austrian-style home stood a ways in front of him.

He approached it and entered, amazed at how he could feel everything here, and still feel the real world back at the lab. It was odd how when he walked up a slope, down didn't feel like down.

Inside sat a young man with a thick mustache and cleanly- cut hair. His clothes were casual for the 1880s on the East Coast. He was busy reading a book, and it took Axer a moment to realize it was *his* book -- or at least one of his anyway.

"Guten Tag," said Axer, figuring that since this was an Austrian home, the resident would most likely speak High German, if not Italian or Romansch.

"I speak English well enough," smiled the man. "Have a seat."

Axer thought that wasn't a good idea. "No offense, but this is an interface for me, and I'm afraid I'll do something foolish in the other world if I take this one for granted."

"An intriguing thought. I assume that you are trying to be polite, and refrain from calling that other world the 'real' world. You do not need to be so polite that you cannot use what words you must... I assume then that you are the host? You are the one who took the head of my killer?"

"I have never met you, so I assume that it must be the case -- if it is the case. And you are?..."

"Nikola Tesla," he smiled, holding out a hand.

Axer shook his hand numbly. All the pictures he ever saw of Tesla were of an old man, and not this young man... But the pictures and this man's face showed great similarity, now that he thought about it. "Axer Carrick." Axer walked around a little bit, "I knew that you'd died in mysterious circumstances, but I never knew that you were an immortal." Tesla laughed, "Neither did the world, except for the Spiritualists who believed that I was from Venus. They took my theories and discoveries, and claimed that they were the products of a superior alien being. It frustrated me to no end!" He laughed again, no sign of frustration in his face. Perhaps he might have even missed those moments, after a great deal of time passed.

Tesla walked over to the kitchen, pouring out two cups of tea from a boiling kettle. "I was an immortal, and I think the government knew about it. It was a federal agent who took my head -- or at least he was disguised as one. I suppose that if I had died in mysterious circumstances, that must help explain it... Tell me -- what is the real world like now?"

"It is not a *different* world... just one further along. You haven't been given the blatant credit you deserve, but the history books are beginning to swing to your favor. The children in schools learn about the great Edison, but those adults who have an interest in reading about scientists learn about Tesla.

"Whether you're publicly known for it or not, you may be pleased to know that most of the world -- that I know of -- runs on AC power. You were right, and nobody's disputing that now."

Tesla smiled, "I thank you for your praise, but I sense that you have not just come to talk about science, though I can tell you have an interest there as well. Why have you truly come?"

Axer became grave, "In the real world, I have need of your wisdom, as if it were my own. There is a grave threat to our kind, and perhaps the world, and it involves electrogravity technology, and some sort of technology that drives specialized biochemical reactions from a distance -- reactions that can subtly control behavior or fry out someone's nervous system in a flash.

"If this is the only option, I'll take it -- but I was hoping you could somehow leave this interface and look at the real world with my own senses, and perhaps help me out. I hoped that you might recognize some of this equipment and help me sort it out."

Tesla looked shocked. "Electrogravity? It is possible?"

"We can talk about the theoretical problems as I go along. Would you be willing to help me out?"

He nodded. "Of course. I just have to work on doing as you ask. I did not even know it was possible. All I knew was that this was a dream, and that the dreams changed for no reason."

Axer left the house, entering the pleasant meadow once more, opening his eyes. Nothing had changed, and the time on his watch said 03:12:23. Only ten minutes had passed. Mulroney didn't seem to notice that anything had happened, and had just finished disposing the body and cleaning up all the tracks.

//Tesla?// asked Axer.

"I am here. I can see what you see."

It was odd, as if Tesla were speaking on the left and right side of him simultaneously. It wasn't a voice in his head. //What do you think?//

"Let us observe..."

Mulroney became impatient as Axer appeared to take his sweet time, looking at the many instruments in great detail once more, muttering to himself and tapping things now and then. "Come on!" hissed Mulroney, walking up to him urgently. "We have to get out of here!"

Axer turned around, startled, "But we're so *close*!" His voice was Croatian.

"Close to being caught by the guards!"

* * *

Coleen snuck up behind five security guards silently on her bare feet. Not a sound was made. Then she softly whistled. They turned around, their jaws dropping as they saw Coleen - - her untied hair thrown around her shoulders in long waves, and her blouse ripped open exposing quite a few details that set the guards' blood racing.

Coleen's smile was wide and sharp; her sword was sharp too, but they didn't seem to notice that little detail until her sword started dancing with them, quickly spilling blood and guts. One man lay on his side, hamstrung and gutted, and his still-open eyes stared in Coleen's direction as she wrapped her blouse closed. The buttons were ripped off, so she used her belt to keep it in place Japanese fashion.

Jay came along, muttering, "Teaser..."

Coleen pretended not to hear that.

Kate hovered above, having observed all of what happened, amazed at Coleen's creative way of handling things. In a way, she could see a bit of Axer Carrick in her -- and she wasn't sure if they were the best things that rubbed off on her.

She spied another packet of guardsmen a few hundred feet away, sitting in a guards booth. They were playing cards and eating doughnuts.

* * *

"We can take care of that as it comes," muttered Axer. "If you want to go, then go."

Mulroney was sweating, "You're going to thank me for this later." He tried to sucker punch Axer, and found himself on his knees, trying to pull his stomach back out of his rib- cage. It had happened so fast he didn't even remember an in-between. //He's better than Duncan!//

"Yes... Thank you for such wonderful target practice. Now leave me alone." His voice had returned to normal.

* * *

Methos and Richie snuck past the other guards, finding their way to the elevator. They entered and descended.

"Are you ready?" asked Methos.

"As ready as I'll ever be. What floor are they on?"

"The 13th. What else?"

They got off on the 13th floor, and found that there was no sign of life here. Nothing. No lighting, no ventilation... But everything had the lived-in look, so it was obvious that somebody kept business hours at some point in time during the day or night.

Hallway after hallway, room after room, they came up with nothing -- just empty tables, office supplies, and computers.

Eventually, they came to the last room. It was the executive meeting room. The two looked at one another, nodded, and opened the double doors at once.

On entering the room, both immortals were hit by a presence so strong it nearly made Richie topple to his knees. Methos just felt a slight tingle.

Only one man sat at the conference table, big enough to fit fifty people. He was on the far side, his form mostly in the shadows. "So here it is... the first and the last. How appropriate..."

"Where are the others?" asked Methos calmly, as if he expected this. "I would expect to see the Invisible Ones here. I had very reliable sources -- up till now."

"There are no others. I am the only power. The Invisible Ones do exist, but they don't control the game. I do."

"And who are you?"

The lights flicked on, and Richie gasped, "Jesus!"

The long-haired, bearded man smiled, "Yes?"

Richie became skeptical, "Come on, man -- you do a hell of an impression, but I don't think Jesus' parents were Hispanic!"

Methos nudged Richie, "You're wrong, Richie. That *is* Jesus."

"It can't be."

Jesus shrugged. "That's my name."

"You seem to be doing well," Methos said lazily. "Perhaps you might be in the mood to explain a few things... For instance, who are the Invisible Ones?"

"They're my partners in crime."

"What crime?"

Jesus laughed, leaning back in his chair, "For millennia, we've watched mankind. We've made a nudge now and then, but mostly recorded observations. That in itself is nothing -- until you start asking 'why'."

"This isn't making any sense!" fumed Richie. He scruffed the carpet with his feet -- an odd carpet, with a single strip of yellow across the red plush.

"It makes a great deal of sense," whispered Methos. "The only question that remains is: who are the Invisible Ones?"

Jesus became grave, "Let us both hope you never have to know." He brightened, "But I've planned to spare you of that." He flipped a switch, and a transect of floor -- the same place where that strip of yellow carpet was -- opened up underneath Richie. He fell through, and his screams were cut off by the closing of the trap door. His grin was vicious, "No sense letting the kids getting tangled in our feet."

Methos drew his sword, "I've always wondered... if you take a man's body from his head, piece by piece, do you still get a Quickening?"

Jesus smiled, "Good question. Let's find out!"

Jesus jumped onto the conference table, which was about fifty feet across lengthwise, and about fifteen feet widthwise, and was built so solidly that there would be no chance of it cracking or collapsing. Methos shrugged and jumped on the table as well.

For a few moments, both stood still about twenty feet away from one another, their swords at the ready, their eyes locked but unfocused.

Then, as if a light switch was flipped, they both sprang into action. They charged towards one another.

They reached sword distance. Nerves were stretched. Time played funny tricks. Their hearts beat so strongly they could feel them throughout their whole bodies.

Jesus' sword descended with deadly force and speed towards Methos' head, but as Methos had reached Jesus, he also changed his direction so that he was moving *around* Jesus. At the same time, Methos simply held his sword still, and Jesus neatly severed the inside muscles of both his own forearms using only the force of his own swing. The hands opened of their own accord, and the sword impaled itself into the oak table.

Methos' sword kept moving forward, in harmony with both of their motions, and the tip of the blade reached Jesus' neck. As it moved forward, it cut into the neck, so by the time the sword was fully extended, one side of the neck was cut to the bone.

Now, Methos stepped backwards to the left, putting his muscle into the smooth slice as it cut the other way, from guard to tip.

The head hadn't fallen off, but it was close enough. When Methos swung the sword around and cut off the head, it took no effort at all.

This whole exchange had taken place in the space of about five seconds.

When you know what you're doing, sword fights are just like Russian Roulette with a two-chambered gun -- somebody wins and somebody loses pretty fast if you make the assumption that there's only one bullet loaded.

The force of the Quickening stretched Methos' limbs taut, so when his knees hit the table, his whole body jolted like a spring. When the thick windows burst into fine powder, it could just as well have been Methos' screaming that did it.

* * * *

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