Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995


Chapter 30


Nat and Coleen were standing on the roof, looking over whatever part of the city that wasn't blocked by the buildings. Nat had been strangely pensive the whole time.

"Coleen?" she asked. "What did you inject me with?"

"Inject?" Coleen asked with true innocence.

Nat shook her head, "Don't lie to me. I'm starting to remember things -- the injections... the loss of time... It didn't make sense until Mulder talked to me, and I started to remember." She looked at Coleen with furious eyes. "Why did you do that?"

Coleen knew the game was over. "Janette asked me to. I met her in New York, and when she found out who I was, she asked me to do a little job."

"Which was?..."

"To make sure that you wouldn't have an interest in Nick. She thought you were a bad influence, and when I saw how Nick was treating you, I thought that he was bad for you."

"What are you saying?"

Coleen was honest when she said, "When I came back to town, I thought I was doing it for the money, but when I saw you, I realized that Nick wasn't good enough for you." She blew out her breath when she realized what she said, "I didn't mean it like that! I just couldn't watch Nick treat you like that! You were there for him, and helped him out during all his difficult times, and he was just treating you like a slave... I realized then that you didn't want Nick -- and you didn't know what you did want."

Nat was furious. "So you made my decisions for me? So you thought you'd pump me full of drugs?! What kind of compassion is that?"

Coleen looked away, "I know how it looks, but you weren't giving yourself another chance. You would have stuck where you were until one of you got too cynical to go on or one of you died -- in one way or another. This way, I've given you a choice, even if you don't like it." She looked at Nat very intensely, "What is it going to be?"

Nat didn't answer the question -- she stomped away without saying a word.

Coleen's head hung in her hands as she breathed the cold air. A particular memory surfaced, and it was as if she stood on that nameless patch of tundra once more...

*

..."Emotions may be a fine thing to have when you're watching Bambi," Axer was saying, looking out at the frozen ocean, "but they're a bad thing to have if you're an immortal. It's best to block them all off. Kill them."

"That doesn't make any sense! I'm human -- you are too, and I *know* you have emotions!"

He smiled, "Perhaps I misspoke myself. You're right -- we're human, and we do have emotions, but the question is, are you in control of them or are they in control of you? If your arm gets chopped off, are you going to grovel in your pain and need for 'hugs and kisses' 'til the hurt goes away, or are you going to shrug it off, get up, and finish the fight?" He chuckled humorlessly, "For a long time I hated the British, but one thing I respected was their refusal to bow down to adversity. Their eternal response to disaster was, 'My, how inconvenient!'"

"What do you want me to do?"

"Run a mile out in the ice without any clothes on. Punch a boulder with your bare hands until they're broken slabs of meat. Put yourself through the worst kinds of torture you can, be honest with yourself about what you're feeling, and then keep going. Trust me, it's the only way you can survive."

Axer looked at her directly, "Look at me: I'm a short Welshman, and I've killed Goths and Vikings who towered over me by a foot or two. How? By my *acquired* ability to let my pain pass by -- and maybe that's the key phrase there: 'pass by'. You feel it, and you let it go..."

*

Coleen looked at her hands, "Let it go..." She slammed her fist into the wall, and broke every one of her knuckles. The pain was so intense that tears flowed, but she slammed her other fist into the wall. The pain rose again. Time and time again, she slammed her fists into the wall at full force until she could no longer do it.

Weak, weeping, and paralyzed from the pain, she lay slumped against the wall. "Damn you Axer!" she whispered. "You were wrong -- pain doesn't erase the pain!"

Desperately, she wanted Nat to come back and realize her mistake, and say, "I'm so sorry. I was wrong. I *do* love you after all."

But Nat didn't. Coleen remained alone.

* * *

Powys walked into the Raven -- all smiles. "I hear you had several major breakthroughs!" he said as he helped himself to a pint of ale.

Joe wasn't in a good mood to begin with, and snapped at him, "What made *you* so happy?"

His look was innocent, "Why, it's a wonderful day!" He sipped some of the ale now that the head settled a little.

"And where have you *been* all this time?"

"Here and there," he said evasively. "No place special."

Joe stopped asking questions: he wasn't in the mood to play games.

* * *

LaCroix stared at Halscombe. He no longer needed to 'persuade' Halscombe, because he had begun to volunteer stuff on his own, as if he were dumping baggage from his shoulders.

"There's a lot I don't know about it," admitted Halscombe, "but the word was that --"

* *

"--the Invisible Ones are a society, or some sort of group of people that have been around for at least two millennia," said Methos, translating from the Latin, "and this was in Roman times. "Their purpose -- their open purpose -- was to --"

* *

"--enable human beings to walk the Tree of Life. A few months ago, I didn't know what that meant, but ever since Powys talked to me, I think I do. It means --"

* *

"--that if they followed through with their plan, according to this, any human being would be able to travel to 'the stars', which would most likely be more poetic than literal, and so would mean --"

* *

"--that any human being would be able to travel to any time, any alternate universe, or something along the lines. But who knew why they wanted to --"

* *

"--create such a race? It doesn't say. Could it be that they had a simple scientific curiosity, or did they feel they needed to do this? Who knows --"

* *

"--why. It's so crazy that I can't believe it. Even now, I can't believe it. But *they* do, and that's important."

"But who are they?" asked LaCroix. "What are they?"

* *

"Good question," smiled Methos. "I don't know, but I think we have a clue as to where we need to go."

"Where?" demanded Richie. He was so tired of reading that he needed to kill something.

"It says here that they have remained hidden, but there is one who is said to be a contact -- a means of reaching the Invisible Ones."

"Who?"

* *

"Who else but Odin? But there's nothing you can do now. He's dead."

* * *

In the cold north, the winds blew mercilessly across the landscape. There was no snow here, but lots of ice. It covered a single corpse lying in the middle of ruins.

It was a filthy corpse, but anything but bloated. One eye had been taken out a long time ago, and the second one had been shot out with an arrow.

The corpse twitched, then screamed. It felt hot -- so hot. It pulled the arrow out of its face and waited.

Time passed as it breathed heavily, fingers twitching like fingers at a keyboard.

"Behind closed eyes, realize your sight," whispered a voice from nowhere.

* * *

Axer stood on the Scottish plain, the sky empty and the landscape devoid of all life except for the rolling grasses. She was there, without his even having to call for her, and she looked as if she were expecting him.

"Mother," he said. "We need to speak."

She nodded. "I know. You're beginning to understand."

Axer nodded hesitantly, "I think I am -- but I only have more questions..." It was really hard for him to ask this, "Were you an immortal?"

She laughed long and loud, "What would possess you to ask a question like that?"

His look was grave, "'Possess' is the right word. It suddenly occurred to me that I met Tesla the same way that I met you -- through the nightmare-scape. He was an immortal who passed on to me when I took a quickening. But you were in my mind for as long as I can remember. ...Were you an immortal that I had slain?"

Her look was sad, "I had wanted you to remember -- had *pushed* you to remember, but I was also sad that it had to be. You *must* grow up, but it's sad to see, as it is for any mother."

"What are you getting at?" demanded Axer.

She pointed to a calm pool that was now next to them, "Look into the waters, and remember."

He did so, and he found that he *could* remember. It was in the pool, but it was also in his own mind...

*

He had died in battle. That much was evident. And now, he was no longer dead. He screamed in the pain of dead flesh coming back to life -- nerve by nerve. But even that faded.

"He is a god!" cried the jubilant villagers.

"Me? A god?" he asked incredulously. "It can't be!"

But it was. And in order for the god to rise from the ground, the old one had to be put into the ground. He was led to the sacred grove, where the goddess waited between the three sacred oak trees.

It was the young woman he had known all his life, one he had only known as 'mother'. The villagers were honest enough to say that they'd never known his mother, but she was close enough to his real one.

"Mother, what is happening? Why am I a god, when I thought I was but a man?"

His mother looked at him kindly, "Do not question what is. Accept it. Just as I will accept your next deed." She handed him an axe. "You must lay me down to the earth." In a trance, he accepted the axe. "Now you must take my head."

He never protested, asked why, or hesitated. He took her head, for this must be the way of things. Her head came clean off in one swipe, and the next thing he knew, her soul was released -- for everyone knew the head was the soul-cap, and if the head came off, the soul must release itself from the body.

His vision faded with the sensation that came from the soul-lightning...

*


"I killed you," Axer said numbly. "You were my mother, and I killed you."

She smiled fondly at him, taking him in her arms and kissing his forehead, "It was the way things had to be. And it wasn't that bad -- we still could see one another..."

Axer opened up his eyes in the real world. "I remember now."

* * *

"So," Richie asked, "what do we do? We go up to Canada to find this corpse?"

"That's exactly what we do, but I think we should make a detour by Toronto first."

Richie buried his head in his hands, "Why did I get a feeling you were going to say that?"

* * *

LaCroix was deep in thought, and he came to the conclusion he was searching for. He didn't like it, but he stuck with it.

"You're free to go," he said, releasing the prisoner.

"But they'll kill me!"

LaCroix just looked at him.

* * *

Axer felt a strong presence hit him from within the Raven. "Kate," he nudged her off. "Something's wrong. There's another immortal here."

"Who could it be?" she helped pull him up.

"I don't know, but I aim to find out." They went downstairs, where he saw LaCroix and Halscombe in the main room. Not only were Joe and Kermit here, but so were the two feds and Powys.

Axer drew his glaive, "You're mine!"

"Stop!" commanded LaCroix. "He has a story to tell you all. The same story he just finished telling me."

* * *

Nick lay in his own bed, in his own house, staring at the ceiling. Janette had followed him here, but he would have nothing to do with her.

Everything hurt too much -- Janette leaving him, Nat leaving him, and Janette coming back.

Janette stood a few feet away from his bed, "You can't stare at the ceiling forever."

"No, Janette. I can't take this."

"What is it that you can't take, Nikola? Tell me."

"You left me, and made it clear to LaCroix that I wasn't to follow you, and then you waltz on back, expecting everything to be like nothing ever changed."

"That's not true," she sat on the edge of the bed, "I *don't* want things to be the same. I *want* them to be like things are changed." She stood up sharply, "I don't even know why I'm even talking to you! LaCroix told me that you'd changed, so I thought I would come back to see for myself. But apparently he's wrong."

"LaCroix *knew* where you were?!" He looked at her.

She looked at him as if he were an idiot.

He was silent for a moment, "Why is it that everything I do seems wrong? Why have you never approved of my ambitions, and mocked everything I've believed in? What is it that I'm supposed to do?"

Janette smiled softly, "At least you're asking. That's a perfect way to start."

* * *

Everyone was seated at the main floor, their eyes locked on Halscombe as he finished his story. Rather than clearing minds, all his monologue did was clutter them up with more confusion.

Mulder reacted the worst, "This doesn't help us at all! You know a great deal more than you're telling us, and I *know* how to get it from you, bastard!" He drew his gun.

Axer, who was seated a foot away, smoothly grabbed the gun and unloaded it. "There'll be no killing here today. Sit back down."

Mulder didn't. He paced back and forth, making 'Latin American dictator' gestures. "So where the hell are we? Are we any closer to the truth? Have we actually accomplished anything?"

"I think so," said Axer lazily, counting on his fingers. "One, we've knocked out the black-box killers. Two, we've totally demolished the electrogravity research lab and destroyed all their records. Three, I killed the only one who knew anything real about the research. Four, we have Halscombe, and whether you like it or not, he's helped us eliminate some possibilities.

"But I get your point -- so don't start snapping at me... I'm also pretty sure that even though we've hit a lot of dead-ends, tying up a lot of the loose ends is going to help us out in the long run."

"That may be fine and nice, but what do we do now? We're no closer to the Invisible Ones -- how do you propose to get us any closer to them?"

Axer's ears perked up, "I think that may be the least of our worries for the present. Do you hear that outside?"

There was the faint roar of a million voices coming closer.

* * *

While Methos and Richie were going over the books, the BBC news was on the radio, but neither one paid it any mind.


Today, a horrific riot took place in the middle of
Dublin and Belfast simultaneously. If these riots
took place because of differences between Catholic
and Protestant, or views on England's relationship
with Ireland, it would be understandable -- though
sad.

No, the reason these riots took place have more to
do with the rise of pagan cults across Europe.
One group, calling themselves the Vanir and
claiming to follow the Viking god Frey, clashed
with another cult calling themselves the Cult of
the Wolf -- of Fenris, in fact.

It started off with several hundred people on each
side, armed with not guns and bombs, but rather
swords, axes, and clubs. Nobody know why these
two cults met openly and began to fight, and
nobody knows how the riots grew, including average
people who were not involved with either cult in
any way.

When government troops moved in to quash the
riot, they found themselves overwhelmed, even when
they used tear gas, plastic bullets, and the other
humane tools used to stop riots.

Two years ago, this would have been unheard of,
but now it is a common scene across the globe. In
Dresden, similar riots erupted last week --
thoughts of labor and anti-Semitism problems
absent from all of the rioters' minds.

In Toronto, Canada, an especially violent and
armed cult known as the Tyrssons has been roaming
the streets, actively searching for those whom they call
'Odinssons'. This very day, there was a long and
drawn-out battle between the two cults in the
slums, and in another part of the city, police and
federal agents stormed a warehouse where the
black-box killers were headquartered. More as the
developments are made available...


Neither one paid any attention to the news, but there wasn't much they could have done about it anyway.

The End



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