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

Chapter 8

Axer pulled himself from the cold, slimy concrete. Again, he emerged from that 'other' place -- the zones, as he called them -- to unfamiliar surroundings. True, sewers have a tendency to look alike, but there were a few minor details that changed from time to time. He could only conclude that he was moving in the real world while he was in the zone.

This time, he stayed put, scratching the shadow on his chin. //There's got to be a better way... I can't go through much more of this.//

Apparently, he didn't have to be moving to enter the zones. A zone came to him.

He was now standing in a cave-mine. He wore the same clothes, but he now had a flashlight in his hand. From what he remembered, it was a rarity to enter a zone with his mind intact. This was another one of those rare times.

The air was wet and stale, the walls hot to the touch.

"My god," his voice echoed endlessly, giving it an almost synthetic cast. "I wonder how deep this is?... Must be deeper than a diamond mine."

The only sign of current activity were the fresh supports and the tracks. But there were no people or machinery.

"What does he want me to do here?"

He got his answer when he felt the earth shift. Then came the groaning of the earth. His heart nearly crushed itself when the tunnel caved in only a few feet away, and the dust that was immediately kicked up blasted into him.

It was the dust that he breathed in that knocked him out just as much as the spray of rocks that did it. To make matters worse, he wasn't crushed by anything truly lethal.

* * *

LaCroix watched all this from the monitor, speaking his thoughts aloud, "I am immortal just as much as Axer, but I never considered this possibility... What would it be like to be trapped forever, immortal, and so deep under the earth that not only would they never hear your screams, but the miners would never dig in your direction?

"What would happen? Would you die just like any other mortal -- the air becoming stale, dust entering your lungs? Would you slowly be covered by the shroud of death, until the blackness comes? Would everything fade to black, or would you dream? Would you dream of those things that you know you could never touch again -- the sun, the sky, and all the things you always took for granted?

"Or would you be truly immortal, and remain conscious? Would you pace back and forth, writing great masterpieces in your head so that you could pass the time? Would you come up with solutions to all the great mysteries?

"Or would you understand the true meaning of infinity -- ever dying in mind and body, but never -- *ever* -- reaching your true goal? And it *would* be your goal, wouldn't it?"

He gazed at the lady resting against him. "Would it be *your* goal?"

She didn't answer his soft question.

He continued, "It would be nice if you could tell me what *you* saw on your way to the other side, and I'm so sorry that you can't."

Her open eyes stared at the screen, but there was no conscious mind recording what they saw.

There was no life to animate the conscious mind that should have been there.

LaCroix daintily wiped off the touch of blood at the corner of his mouth, and looked back at the screen.

* * *

Mulder didn't have the luxury of driving to St. Andrew's, because his rental car had been destroyed by the mobs. He had to run if he was going to get there on time, and at the moment, that was the *last* thing he wanted to do.

When it came down to it, he wasn't *that* drunk, and he had a little time and food to help ease the effects, but it still made him feel on the downside. The fact that he didn't seriously drink that often didn't help matters much either.

//Why did I do that to begin with? I wasn't trying to prove anything to either myself or Heimdall.//

In retrospect, it was completely irrational and uncharacteristic of him.

//So, what could have made me do that?//

It was an unanswerable question, but he would keep it in his mind in case it helped him solve other questions.

Even though he felt horrible -- much worse than that -- he had enough self-discipline to keep running. It came with his upbringing under strict and loveless parents, and it came from his training. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that there was a parallel between a hangover and being shot several times: you feel like hell, and you have to force yourself to keep going.

Time seemed to stretch on forever, and at one moment, he had to stop. His breath tore at his throat, and his guts were threatening to heave, but he forced himself to ignore it all.

//Got to keep on moving...//

Scully followed Mulder from a discreet distance, making sure he could even make it to the church, let alone make it back alive. She did a tally of how much he'd drunk over a half hour, and was absolutely amazed. For someone who didn't drink, he had a hell of a tolerance. She knew that if she'd tried to drink that much, that fast, she'd be under the table.

But then again, he might actually be drunk or hungover -- however his metabolism worked -- but he could be forcing himself to keep going. That wasn't good. She wouldn't put it past him, if it was the case.

When he stopped, dropping to his knees, Scully resisted the urge to go over and help him. She was successful in holding herself back, watching him get to his feet a moment later and take off at a good run.

Three miles so far. He couldn't hold this up for much longer.

Mulder reached the church -- empty as a graveyard -- and nearly kicked open the doors. One man stood in the empty church. It was none other than Mr. X. But he looked different. It wasn't his clothes, or anything else obvious. It was just a feeling that he seemed to radiate.

Mr. X wasn't as nervous as usual, for one thing. It was like he'd got back from some grand vacation. He held a file in his hand -- a thick file folder. "You look like hell, Mulder." Then he sniffed the air. "You managed to surprise me for once. I didn't know you drank the hard stuff."

"I'm in disguise," Mulder attempted humor. His twisting guts ruined that attempt. "What do you have?"

Mr. X looked disturbed, "I hate to sound like your dad, but I think you should watch who you're hanging out with. Powys, for one. Do you have any idea *what* he is or what he's done?"

Mulder shook his head, "You ever talk to any of them? It's like getting blood out of a stone."

"And Powys?"

"Nobody can figure that one out. I can tell you everything he's done and everywhere he's been for the last ten years, but he's got everyone stumped."

Mr. X nodded ruefully, "I figured as much. Take it and leave."

Before Mulder reached the door, Mr. X called out, "I wouldn't be going back the Raven either. If you want to be safe, stay away from there. I mean it."

Mulder left the church, closing the doors behind him. He stuck the folder in the inner pocket of his trenchcoat, and started walking back to the Raven. Warnings wouldn't stop him -- they'd only encourage him, because now he wanted to see what it was he was supposed to be avoiding.

He didn't know why he stopped, but he did. He turned around and saw Scully, walking calmly through a grove of trees. It was almost perfect -- she was out in the open, and he would have never have known if it weren't for some unknown urge of his to turn around. But now he knew.

"I see you, Scully."

She caught up with him, unapologetic for following him. "You still look like hell."

He smiled, "People seem to be saying that a lot lately."

"What did he say?"

"He told me something very important: he's scared to death of something. He also told me to watch out for Powys and not to go back to the Raven."

That shocked Scully. "I know Powys is a little suspicious, but does he have any proof?"

He shook his head, "I suppose the proof is in here." Then he stopped, "I wonder if he told me not to go there because Powys was there when we left?"

"There's only one way to find out."

They started walking back, but moved a little faster. They also saved time by doing a neat little trick: Mulder read, and Scully navigated by giving him a yank on his jacket when he needed to turn. That way, he didn't need to watch where he was going.

"This is really incredible!" whispered Mulder softly. "I don't know where he got the information, but it's incredible!"

"How so?"

Wordlessly, he handed her a black-and-white photo. Its quality said that it was shot with a hidden camera. The photo showed Scully, instruments and tubes sticking into her while she lay on a bed. This wasn't a hospital. Though it was clean, white, and spotless, this room could only be a scientific laboratory.

Several figures stood over her prone form: Halscombe, two men whose faces were covered by surgical masks, and Powys. Further inspection showed that Powys' image came from a mirror, and it was most likely *his* hidden camera that had shot the picture.

Scully looked at Mulder, her eyes widened with confusion. "What can this mean?"

"It means that Powys gets around, and that we have no way of knowing what side he's on. The next time he says that he's been 'out and about', I think we better read between the lines."

* * *

Reece had handcuffed Ms. K-- up in her office, and took her down to his car. The security guards were shocked by this, but didn't offer any resistance as they looked at his badge once more. She didn't throw any protest, choosing to maintain some form of dignity.

That dignity vanished as she later sat in solitary confinement. Officially, she was "cooling off until she could behave in a civilized manner."

Reece seemed to be truly enjoying himself with the whole affair.

"You can't *do* this!" she screamed to deaf ears. "I have *rights*!"

"You have *no* rights," said a harsh voice; the speaker wasn't visible in the total darkness. It was a man's voice, and sounded familiar, but it wasn't Reece's. "An Invisible One has no rights. You might as well drop the act -- it's not becoming of you."

"So you know what I am." Her behavior did a quantum switch. She was once more the calm and collected individual that she was before. "But I don't know what you are."

A flame from a cigarette lighter appeared. She knew that face -- or rather the subtle cues that she could pick up from it. "Surtur."

Surtur exhaled a large cloud of smoke and bowed quite grandly, "Also known as the Mayor of Toronto."

"How did you manage to survive Ragnarok? I understood it was... quite an ending for you."

"How has Odin come back? Or Frey? Or Heimdall? There's a gathering we all have to reach, so it doesn't really matter, does it?"

"No." She smiled. "It appears our plans were not completely for nothing."

He shrugged, "What can anyone say? Plans change with the real world. At least you still have your Odin."

"You know about that?" He couldn't see her blanch.

He laughed, "My lady, there is little that I don't know. You should be doubly impressed because I didn't cheat, like Odin. And I wasn't born with luck, like Loki or his disciple -- who I understand is making life quite difficult for you." He laughed again, "But don't feel *too* bad. I understand he gives everyone a roll of the dice with equal prejudice."

The glow from the cigarette intensified. At least this one wasn't ratty, like Reece's cigar.

* * * *

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