The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part V -- Riding the Wave
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995



Chapter 6

The camerawoman entered the opulent office -- a high-floor office in the skyscraper part of town. The one on the other side the desk sat on a swivel chair facing the window. The back of the chair was so big that she couldn't see who it was.

Thick, sweet-smelling cigar smoke hovered in the room as the seated one spoke. It was a woman's voice -- a strong, confident voice with an edge to it... an almost metallic tone capable of giving anyone's nerves a rattle without trying. "You are finished?"

"Yes," the camerawoman nodded a bit too nervously. "I sold a tape to each of the stations, and they have everyone convinced that Axer Carrick is a wanted killer. Add that to the fact that he's using illegal firearms, and even his allies in the police and government can't do anything about it."

"Or anything openly, that is..." the seated woman said. She still had her back to the camerawoman.

"I- I have the original tape with me!" she said a little too quickly, as if she were holding a hot potato. She put it on the desk.

There was a moment of hesitation. "Good. Very good. Your contract said that you were to be paid one million American dollars on completion. The contract is completed." She spun around on her chair and faced the camerawoman, who took a step back, blanched. "In fact, I decided that since you did such an excellent job, I'm giving you a bonus. Which would you prefer: gold, silver, or platinum?"

The mercenary within her spoke instantly, "Platinum."

The seated woman nodded and opened one of the desk drawers, "Then platinum it is." She pulled out a briefcase of fine leather -- probably a custom-made one at that. "For now, take your money. You'll get your platinum momentarily -- won't do having you pick it up here, would it?" She opened the briefcase and turned it around.

The camerawoman nodded -- seeing as dragging around a bunch of metal was pretty inconvenient and dangerous, it made good sense. She took the briefcase in a civilized fashion and looked at the money -- making sure not to touch or count it. That could snd the wrong signals, she'd learned. But the smell and look was right. She nodded once more, shutting the case.

She turned around to leave, and when she was half-way to the door, the seated one stopped her, "A moment before you go."

She turned around, "Yes?"

At that instant, her whole conscious mind snapped off. There was no way she could have known that a platinum anvil had fallen on her head.

"You can get your platinum now."

* * *

The plane landed at Toronto without any incidents. Richie was deathly afraid that there might be some grand harmonic conjunction of immortals, like they'd had a while back, but there were no events. Just the usual scene at airports.

"You lead the way," smiled Methos.

Richie's bow was quite exaggerated. "I am but your humble servant." His French accent was quite horrible and grating to the ear. That's why Methos laughed pretty hard at that one.

Methos patted him on the head, "Don't try that on a woman you want to impress and you'll stay a step ahead of the game."

* * *

Reece and Detective Vetter were sitting in the station, recovering after several hours of work in the warehouse -- without any significant leads of the kind they were looking for. At least they'd found enough evidence of smuggling that with the black boxes justified the funds spent on bringing in the shock troops, so Reece was breathing a little easier... but not much.

For a while their minds were coasting in neutral, then they slowly paid attention to the news. The riots were already in full swing -- the only reason that Reece and Vetter weren't being bothered with that problem was because it was Somebody Else's Problem, which is a code word in any bureaucratic system meaning: 'I've had a rough day and I'm exhausted -- let someone else do it!'

The riots were bad enough, but then the videotapes of Axer slaughtering the Odinssons were shown, along with the commentaries. Reece's jaw dropped, "What the hell?!"

Then came the 'police said...' statements.

"Who the *hell* did they talk to?!" screamed Reece, startling everyone who was in the room.

"Captain?" asked Tracy, caught a little off guard by that.

"I smell a political game going on here." This was probably the lengthiest explanation Reece had ever given anyone. "I *checked* on Axer's record, and I *know* he's been clean. It looks like he's made some pretty powerful enemies, and I'm going to find out who!"

His exhaustion gone, Reece made some calls. Most were to the obvious ones -- to his higher-ups -- but one was to a most unlikely individual.

##Hello?##

"Guess who."

##I don't play that game.##

"Don't you remember me? It's Reece, your good old friend from that... how shall we say it?... information gathering trip you did when your two children were in trouble? Not much I could do to help you at the time, but I sure remember how much of an abrasive SOB you were!"

##I don't remember you, but I'll take your word for it.##

"Look. I'm captain here in Toronto, and I need a bit of help. Your two children are unreachable at the moment, and I don't think they'd be able to help me anyway -- but I think you can, since you're doing desk work and going to meetings anyway."

##You don't have to be insulting. What do you want?##

"Someone's playing some dirty tricks -- using the media for some aims that I don't agree with. I was hoping you might be able to help me out."

##What do you want me to do about it?##

"I was hoping you can tell me that..."

* * *

Director Skinner set down the phone with a heavy thunk. For the next ten minutes, his head sunk into his hands, and he didn't move from that position.

This was the last thing he wanted to hear: the news, and then the realization that he'd have to act on it. He wanted to get away from the desk, sure, but not like this.

//Damn kids...//

He dialed a number.

##You've reached the office of ------. Please leave a message.## [Beeeeep!]

"I know you're there, so I thought I'd let you know that you'd better like snow, because the weatherman just called to say we're going to have one mother of a storm. I also figured there would be some hail coming your way."

##That's why I keep my radio on the weather station at all times. Are you staying indoors or not?##

=

* * *

Axer picked himself up from the concrete floor, panting heavily as the dream-memories merged with his waking- memories. This time, he'd had to fight his battle with the bottle all over again, except here he was a diabetic consciously and willingly drinking himself to death. Each drink he took, he toasted the Grim Reaper and the Angel of Scraping Capillaries that would precede him with every drink.

//What the hell does this guy want? It can't be entertainment -- I mean, what fun is it to watch an alcoholic diabetic fight the bottle? It's about the same as watching concrete settle!//

The thoughts left his mind as the scene changed again. The sewers were gone, to be replaced by a dark, abandoned castle. But something was different -- his mind and memories weren't affected this time. He remained himself.

The place could have been a Moorish castle in the southern part of Spain. It sure looked like a few he'd seen while Charlemagne was making a dent in Spain.

A few fires burned here and there, giving the place some hellish feel. The faint howls and barks of scavenging dogs sounded like the cleanup crews on a battle field. He could smell burning wood and burning flesh. As he walked around and explored, he could see that the destruction was not old, but new. This place had recently been sacked, and the last fires were finally burned out. The dogs *were* the cleanup crews, it seemed.

There was some creaking above him, and he looked up to find some beams falling. It was too late to dodge. They hit him quite solidly -- that was the problem with 'good old days' construction. When it was built solidly and 'to last', they had a habit of hurting you good once they did fall apart. Although Axer would be the first to say that the construction was nice when the going was good, if he could see the builders and architects that moment, he would have had a few words of prayer with them.

Maybe it was the fact that several wooden beams had nearly knocked him out and had busted his leg cleanly.

For several long minutes, he waited for his energies to renew and his leg to heal, but nothing happened. Grunting, he managed to roll or throw off most of the wood fall, and only with some more effort got the leg-crushing log off of him -- but even then his leg healed quite slowly. Too slowly.

It was then he felt the presence of another immortal.

It could be only one.

"Greyson."

He was dressed as a Moor, his white features darkened with special dyes and a whole lot of dried mud. He recognized Axer and smiled, "Avergis Sicarius."

The two had met during the days of the Roman Empire, when Axer was known as the most feared assassin in the Mediterranean, having killed several dozen key politicians in the most unlikely situations and circumstances. Back then, several dozen was quite a track record, when a single assassination could shake the world. What made them more significant was that the targets were the lesser known ones who really got things done.

Greyson was working for the Romans at the time as a 'barbarian' mercenary and was ordered to hunt down this Sicarius -- this knife-wielding assassin -- and bring him in alive so that he could show off his prowess on the sand until he tired too much and lost his head.

Their clash in the streets of Rome was the stuff of legends, with neither one the victor. Apparently, this was where that match would finally end.

"We meet again," smiled Greyson, pulling out his very non- Moorish sword. "I've been looking forward to this for a long time."

"So have I." Axer wasn't sardonic in any way. He pulled out his glaive, surprised to find that he was dressed in his leather plate armor. He never was one for using the heavy metal armor that the knights used, but he did make a few practical concessions here and there. He could still have the speed and maneuverability that he wanted with *some* protection.

Axer's leg remained broken. He dragged himself against a flat wall, where he managed to lean up somewhat. "I'm waiting, sword-whore."

Ironically, Greyson saluted, then attacked.

* * *

Kate watched in absolute horror as the fight progressed.

"Isn't it ironic?" smiled the Invisible One, munching merrily from a large bowl of popcorn. "Axer is reliving a victory, and his downfall may arise from the very battle he survived."

"What are you getting at?"

"Watch and see..."

* * *

It wasn't much of a surprise that it was a stalemate. Although Greyson had the advantage of having an unwounded body, it *was* something of a hindrance to keep aiming his line of sight downward. To his credit -- from a certain point of view -- he was used to victims who fought back at eye level.

The fact that Axer had spirit and almost a millennia of experience by now also helped. He conserved his energy, merely keeping the attacks from hitting him, and not bothering to counterstrike unless something was handed to him on a plate.

It was also something of a draw because they had such dissimilar styles that the fight didn't flow -- it was more of a clumsy brawl, or a bad tennis game between beginners.

Just because Axer was holding his own didn't mean that everything was OK. His blood was pumping like crazy -- not only through his heart but also out of the puncture in his leg. The bone *still* wasn't healing, and his current activities weren't helping matters much.

He was always afraid when he fought, but not like this. The adrenaline that gave him energy also gave him a major case of the nerves. The constant loss of blood was weakening him.

He wouldn't be able to hold out much longer.

He didn't hold out much longer.

The sword dropped from his hands, and Axer slumped down against the wall, barely able to move.

Greyson smiled, "You've put up more fight than any I've fought in a long time. But *I* am the master of the game."

He stood to the side of the slumped Axer, his sword moving back in a dramatic wind-up. "There can be only one."

The swing came down.

Axer was in the right place at the right time -- he leaned forward as if he were touching his own toes, and screamed at the tension it put on his leg.

The sword cut through empty air and shattered against the solid stone wall. Good, solid construction had its good uses.

Greyson was a seasoned fighter with good reflexes, so he didn't drop his jaw because Axer hadn't accept the final swing as so many did. But even so, he couldn't help but get stuck through the eye with the knife that Axer pulled from his boot. It was a long Frankish dirk that went all the way into his brain.

Both slumped to the ground, one dead, and the other unconscious from exhaustion. The castle faded, replaced by the sewer.

* * *

Kate looked at the Invisible One, "It looks like you're failing."

"So what if I am?" the Invisible One kept on eating popcorn without concern. "Besides, what makes you say he's winning?"

* * * *


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