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



Chapter 12

The tall imperial pint glass was ever-so-slowly filled with the Guinness. Inch after inch of the foam crept up the glass until it threatened to overflow. Axer smiled dreamily as he gazed on it like a lost lover. The foam settled a fraction, and he filled it the rest of the way.

About half an hour had passed since the blackboxman had been killed. His body was so horribly burned that everyone decided to just leave him there and hope that the cleanup crews, who hadn't quite combed the whole area yet, would mistake him for another riot-caused death.

It was a crying shame that the man had had to die -- he could have provided such useful information -- but sometimes life just rolls that way.

His pursuit of Halscombe had been fruitless -- for a very embarrassing reason: he'd shot Axer in public, so Axer'd had to play dead until the good Samaritans trying to "save" him were occupied with something else. //Never thought I'd have anything bad to say about Mormons! Why couldn't they just let me die in peace? I guess it would take a riot like that to flush 'em out ... baptism by proxy ... what next?//

And so Axer limped back to the Raven, even bloodier than he had been and cursing in several languages simultaneously. After seeing what he'd been through, Mulder didn't raise a fuss about the issue. He was visibly furious about Halscombe's escape, but he also understood that there's only so much that even an immortal can do.

"I need a drink," Axer had muttered under his breath, and so everyone else had decided it was a good time for a drink.

LaCroix looked a bit startled as he did a quick mental inventory and realized that a significant portion of the vodka and single malt scotch had vanished. //I'm going to have to have a talk with Axer...// But he said nothing as Axer became the bartender, working his own kind of magic as he -- without taking any orders -- poured just what everyone needed.

Axer held up his imperial pint glass, making a heartfelt toast, "Here's to a quiet evening in front of the fire, a warm supper, and no excitement!"

A bit quaint perhaps, but everyone held up their glasses, echoing, "No excitement!"

The hours of exhaustion flowed away from Axer's face with the flowing of the Guinness. His expression was much lighter as he asked, "So tell me, what did I miss?"

The expressions he got said that it was better he not know. //Look like a bunch of spoiled brats getting back from the fields after an honest day's work!//

* * *

Powys was sipping coffee at a New Ager coffee shop and book store. //Hmm... Not bad, but still, nothing like Kenyan coffee.// Looking at him, nobody would know what he'd been through or done for the last few days, let alone the last few weeks. It wasn't that he'd changed clothes or bathed -- he hadn't -- but it was rather some aura that people subconsciously picked up from him that made it seem so.

In the background, a television was on, and the faint sounds of Mystery Science Theater 3000 could be heard. A few bored caffeine addicts were chuckling over the 'Invention Exchange' segment. {"...And this is my idea for a fun evening: get an egg blender, a Superman cape..."}

A man approached Powys' table. It was Peter Caine, Toronto police detective and Powys' former partner, and he was not amused. His eyes were heavy with lack of sleep, and his tense body flopped into the chair with an audible thump. "You're not an easy man to find, Powys."

Powys smiled lightly, "You know my pager number."

The faint sounds of two robots singing in discordant harmony, {"867-5309..."}

Peter growled, "Don't even start! *I* don't think you're pretty, so I'll have no qualms about--"

Powys interrupted, "Why would you want to find me in the first place?"

A human voice, this time came from the TV, {"I don't know... Maybe it's because you're a wanted man?"}

"I want the whole story, and I don't want to hear a single thing about cats! What's your game?" He rubbed his head unconsciously, where there was still a bruise.

Powys smiled ruefully, leaning back in his chair, "It seems everyone wants to know that. Why is it so important to you? Don't you have any ongoing police investigations right now?"

"*This* is my investigation. You'd better start talking or you'll find yourself in a cell."

"You wouldn't know how to handle it."

Peter crossed his arms, "Try me."

The robots and human joined together, {"You can't handle the truth!"}

Powys frowned, as if he reassessed Peter and had found something new and disturbing. "All right. Ask."

"What are you doing here in town?"

"Gambling." After Peter snorted, he elaborated, "Not in that sense. In fact, I just lost at poker, and I wasn't even playing for money..." It looked as if he was at a loss for words, and it took him a few moments to find those words while Peter impatiently waited. "I'm here to set the stage for something really big that's about to happen."

The robots sang again, {"It's the end of the world as we know it..."}

That startled Peter. It rang a bell so deep that a wave rolled through his nerves. Memories flashed through his brain, instants seeming like eons.

*


...Powys looked at Duncan, "And yes, you have seen my face somewhere before. Your eyes and your instinct don't fool you -- Italy, sometime in the early 1640s, when you were traveling through Italy with your friend... Fitzcairn, was it not?"

"But how is it possible?" stammered Duncan. "I don't sense you! Even an immortal who's taken no Quickenings can be sensed!"

"If I can walk silently through a dark house with squeaking boards, does that make me unreal or impossible?..."

"...Then what are you?"

It took a few moments before Powys whispered, "Random access memory. I think you understand. I hope you do..."

*


Peter felt that he was on the edge of something. "Does this have anything to do with random access memory?"

A dark-skinned man sitting on the other end of the coffee shop flipped a newspaper page. He kept his hat on, which did a good job of keeping his face shadowed. But a neatly- trimmed, greying beard was visible. He looked up at the two, too absorbed in their own discussion to see his intense eyes or notice his ears -- straining to hear every word.

Powys drank some more coffee, "So you have a good memory. What would you say random access memory is?"

The TV got turned up. {"Don't we call that *selective* memory?"}

Peter thought for a moment, "It's a computer term -- it means the computer randomly writes and reads memory."

Powys nodded somberly. "That sums up my life rather neatly..." He took another sip of coffee. "...It all started off in Wales. The Vikings had long since established the Danelaw, and even though they hadn't really established a military foothold in the rest of England and Wales, they had in just about every other sense. Even though this was supposedly a Christian nation, the ferocity of the Vikings forced everyone else to look at them, and their gods, in awe. In those days, skepticism was only applied towards suspicious-looking horses being sold at the fair -- and not towards religion.

"I had been around the block for quite a long time -- having lived for about four centuries. I 'd lived before the advent of Christianity, and so it was a special thing for me to see Christianity get a severe blow. History would show that it was a kick in the chin, but I saw it then as a severe blow to the groin. I became a priest of Loki, a Viking god who matched many of my qualities. It didn't matter to me that Loki was the Viking's equivalent of Satan.

"Perhaps it must have been my thirtieth year as a priest of Loki when I woke up in the middle of the night. There was light all around me, and I thought that someone's Quickening was being released. When I realized that I sensed no immortals, I knew it had to be something different -- but just as rare and powerful.

"Before I could even sit up, rough hands took me into the light. Before I reached the source of the light, I passed out.

"Time would play tricks on me after that. All I remember of that time is pain, disorientation, and confusion. The only equivalent I could offer is the sensation caused by being blind-drunk, spun around until you drop, and then getting the direct attention of a torturer while you're on an artificial bronco. Not fun.

"After some time, it ended. I found myself in a deep cave, and as my senses reasserted themselves, I saw that a tall and bony monk stood a few feet away. He spoke not in Welsh, Danish, nor Latin -- but in my native tongue, which had long since died. 'You have returned.'

"'Who are you?' I demanded, reaching for a sword that wasn't there. I discovered that I was completely naked. In those days, peoples' sensibilities were different, so it was more of an annoyance than anything else.

"'I am Om'g'mlgeb Oulieb.' He was laid back and totally emotionless. Even Spock had emotions compared to this man.

"I remembered the torture session as one barely remembers a waking dream, 'What have you done with me?' I think I had some mad plan to wring his neck.

"'I have... altered you. Is it not a fine joke? You, a priest of Loki, to be altered thus?'

"'What do you mean?' Oulieb - the name just came to me - got my attention, and that was enough to hook my curiosity.

"He smiled as me as one would smile at an idiot child, 'We are the Invisible Ones. We wait and watch, and on occasion, we experiment. You are our experiment.'

"He didn't say any more, but he didn't need to. Thoughts were entering my head, and I realized that they weren't just random thoughts. More like visions. But it wasn't some mystical thing -- you have to believe me when I say that I hate New Agers even more than you do, and when they talk about karma, visions, past lives, and all that garbage, it makes me positively sick.

"It might not make any sense to you, but the most accurate thing I can say is that I could see every future possibility in my head as if I was watching it.

"I saw myself attack Oulieb and kill him, do nothing, kill myself, and so on... He smiled, knowing that he and his kind were responsible for this condition. Perhaps he wanted to see what would become of his experiment on its own.

"What Oulieb couldn't have known is that his mistake was in putting a lack of restraints on his experiment. He altered me *too* well. They gave me the potential to see *every* possibility, including the way to escape from their grasp..."

Powys frowned. "I did escape, but only so far. I became a free agent, as much as I can be. But with freedom comes responsibility. Because I can see all the potentials, I have to make sure that those potentials remain unresolved until the right moment."

Peter was rubbing at his eyes. "Have you been hanging out with my father? I don't know how you two do it, but you have a talent for coming up with the most incomprehensible garbage!"

A robot's voice broke in, {"I know, I know! They both grew up reading Michael Moorcock!" "Caine is too old for that..." "DUH!"}

Powys' face lightened, "Good. Well, I told you what you wanted to know, and you can't blame me if it doesn't make any sense!" He got up to leave, but Peter yanked him by the arm, slamming him back into the chair.

{"I didn't know you felt that way about me..."}

"Not yet! Since I can't make any sense out of this, I'll assume you're telling the truth -- but you never explained what you're doing here, now."

"I thought your memory was better than that. Because I'm the one who can see all the possibilities, I'm the only one who can set the stage."

"You're talking in circles..." Before Powys could say anything else Peter continued, "I can ask you more about that when you're in custody. Just tell me what all that has to do with random access memory."

"Isn't it obvious? Shouldn't probability work backwards in time as well as forward?"

Peter wanted so very desperately to pound his head into the table.

Across the room, the dark-skinned man nodded, as if a great deal was making sense. He sipped his coffee.

* * * *


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