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

Note: Chapters 13, 14, and 15 were originally labelled chapters 13A, 13B, and 13C - Tia'RaHu

Chapter 14

LaCroix was on the roof, soaking in the night. He just stood there, existing, letting the cool breeze cool his skin. It was almost Zen-like, being at one with the roof, the wind, and the city. That's why when he felt a human heartbeat, its still faint and ethereal pulse caressing his senses gently, he didn't feel any sensations of shock or disturbance.

Just like with footsteps or body language, he could identify people by their heartbeats. This heartbeat was agitated.

"Lovely night, isn't it, Dr. Lambert?" LaCroix' voice drifted gently through the air.

It was she who was shocked. She must have been so preoccupied with her own problems that she hadn't noticed the shadow standing before her. It was a new moon tonight, so she had *some* excuse, at least.

"Yes," said Natalie warily. She never had trusted LaCroix -- she only treated him with a healthy respect and caution. She knew full well what he was capable of, even in mere irritation.

They both stood silently, looking over the city. Her heartbeat slowed down somewhat, LaCroix noted... more soothed and smooth, like it should be.

"Have you ever pondered the meaning of chaos?" asked LaCroix suddenly.

The question startled her, just as much as its suddenness, but she took it in stride. "Off and on. Why do you ask?" //All right, LaCroix... You don't do or say *anything* without a motive!//

His expression was a slightly amused one. "I was a general as a mortal, but I was also a patrician, and so I learned my Greek philosophy. I learned about order and chaos, about the perfection of the ideal and the irrationality and nonexistence of the physical. Like a man chained in the cave, we were taught to ignore the particular and strive for the general.

"More than two thousand years, and we reached our goal: ideality. We have sciences that explain the overall workings of a biological cell or a falling rock. We have mathematics -- a language describing the movements and shapes of things. We have theories explaining why humans do this or animals do that. Gods are metaphors, and not creators, destroyers, or the beings to keep the world running...

"But is it ideality or a strong control of the particulars?"

Nat wasn't an idiot -- she knew exactly what he was talking about, and so wasn't lost in LaCroix' ramblings. Her only uncertainty was in where he was leading with it. She had to admit to herself, regardless, that it hit home. She had been plaguing herself with introspection -- asking herself why her life had suddenly turned into a maelstrom in which she was descending very rapidly. "What do you think?"

"Chaos is a natural product of order, and order is a natural product of chaos. It only depends on how we look at things, and how closely we look at them. Order and chaos exist everywhere, and we're trained to see one over the other. ...And I think that events that teach us to see both, or the other side, are to be cherished rather than cursed."

Even in the dark, she could see his eyes staring directly into hers. "What do *you* think, Dr. Lambert?"

* * *

The limo stopped in front of the bookstore/coffeehouse; Skinner and Mr. X stepped out. The latter smiled, "They're *both* there. Good."

"I wondered about your sanity for a moment." Skinner's mood was that of obviously faked joviality. "Come on. What are we waiting for?"

//What *am* I waiting for?//

Detective Caine and Powys were still talking, and by the looks of it, Caine's mind, nerves, and patience were being twisted into a Gordian knot.

Mr. X and Skinner looked at one another and nodded. They openly approached the table in a blatant fashion -- the two seated spun their heads around -- Caine's in shock and confusion, and Powys' in reluctant recognition. Powys certainly didn't want to see those two, and it was visible on his face.

"Detective," Powys played host, "meet two acquaintances of mine: Assistant Director Skinner of the FBI, and a mysterious man who doesn't like to give out his name -- so make up your own, since you have to call him *something*." His forced glibness wasn't working.

Caine shook their hands cautiously. "What, if I may ask, brings you to us?"

"Only to him," said Skinner. "We'd like to ask him some questions."

"No," corrected Mr. X, taking a seat. "*Both* of you -- it looks like you're in this too."

Skinner looked surprised, but Mr. X kept his face cool as he said, "I'd say that a police detective who's witnessed many things worthy of being called X-Files, with his blatant reputation, as well as his involvement with an immortal named Jin Ming... would definitely indicate that he's up to his neck in this."

Caine's face turned pasty white.

The two newcomers took seats. Mr. X spoke to Powys, "Perhaps you might care to explain to us what's about to happen. I heard what you told Detective Caine, and while I'll admit it's interesting, it won't cut it. We want *explanations*." He patted his coat, which had a large bulge under it. It was a rather large bulge, but it didn't impress Powys.

Caine looked a little relieved at that. //Maybe I'll get something straight this time!//

Powys leaned back, "What do you want to know?"

Skinner jumped in, "What's this *war* that you're referring to? What purpose is it going to serve?"

"What purpose does any war serve?"

"Wars serve a purpose. For any war, there's an objective, even if it's barbaric. If you know it's going to happen, then you should at least know why."

Powys smiled at that one, looking almost like an old man with his haggard expression. "An intelligent question, and I've been shouting the answer to the world for the last few centuries... Why should I waste my time in telling you yet again?"

"You've given us *mysteries* and *riddles*!" snapped Caine, his hand pounding the table. "You haven't told us anything useful, and certainly not in plain English!"

Powys made a face, "Is it a mystery because of any fault of mine, or could it be a deficiency you have in yourself?"

"Quit avoiding the issue!"

"All right, how about this? This war has to happen for the same reason that any other war has to happen -- and they *must* happen, regardless of what the peace-protesters and vegetarians will tell you. Wars happen because major powers need to settle boundaries, protect themselves from aggressors, grab what they want -- or release hidden tensions underneath the surface. This war might be a bit more bizarre in nature than those you've learned about in your history books, but it's being fought for the same reasons."

"That may be, but you're not telling us a damn thing!"

Powys shook his head sadly, "You're all as dense as bricks!"

Name-calling was something that Skinner just didn't like. "So pretend we're bricks then. Spell things out for us. Please."

He blew out his breath slowly, his cheeks puffed out. "We have several major powers here -- and they have nothing to do with governments. We have the Invisible Ones, the Aesir, the Vanir, the Hunters, and humankind -- all have their agendas, and they're conflicting pretty severely.

"The Invisible Ones, as you all know, want to create a race capable of climbing the Tree. That may be fine and nice, but in order to do that, they have to wipe out the Aesir, Vanir, and Hunters, who threaten their experiment by their very existence.

"The Aesir and Vanir want to live. Mankind wants to be left alone so that it can follow its own path of stupidity. So they have a reason to object to the Invisible Ones' experiment. Nobody's willing to give, and so a war becomes a necessity.

"Then we have our third parties, such as Odin. While he might have been altered by the Invisible Ones, and while he has been pulled back from death by them, his motives remain his own. Who knows what he wants this time, and what he'll do?

"This war, then, will decide the fate of the world. Will the Invisible Ones be permitted to continue their experiment, or will they be forced to stop? Will the Vanir and Aesir be wiped out? Will humankind kill itself and lose by default?..."

"Forgive my ignorance," interrupted Caine, "but I didn't know mankind as a whole was involved in this war. I only heard about it a few days ago."

Powys' expression was one of amusement. "Is that so? Then why were there riots all over the world? Why have the cults been resurrected? Why does Odinsson fight Tyrsson? They might not know what they do as individuals, but humanity has a group mind -- humans are herd animals -- and in that group mind, the war is consciously fought. Play around with that idea, and come back if you have any problems."

* * *

Nick had been awake for a little while now, and so Janette figured that he'd been given more than enough time. He'd followed through the mortal 'motions', preparing to leave for work. The motions might have been empty, but she had to admit to herself that it set him in a certain mood. Vampire he may be, but in his mind, at least, he was mortal -- mortal until he was required to use his vampiric gifts, which he shamelessly used to solve his cases.

//How good of a detective would he be without the vampiric gifts?//

"Nicola..." she said softly, her nerves tensing and untensing in anticipation for what she was about to do. "Nicola. I have a question for you."

"Yes?" He had no idea what she was going to ask him. So innocent. So unprepared...

"If you could become mortal. Completely mortal. Would you really welcome it? Answer me truthfully."

His response was automatic. No thought involved at all. "Of *course* I would? Haven't I told you that before?" No wariness of the eyes. No curiosity as to why Janette would have asked the question to an answer that she already knew.

"What would you say if I offered you the chance to become mortal? Permanently?"

His eyes widened immediately. Shock was in his face. Disbelief. Anger. It took a moment for him to respond, "I'd ask why you never told me about it before, if you do know how. I could understand LaCroix' secrecy, but never yours."

She smiled, "Could it be because you never asked?" Janette would have to admit it was a bit unfair, but she *enjoyed* the expression on his face. A perfect blend of shock and guilt. Of *course* he should feel that way! //You never once asked me *anything*, except for the whereabouts of your suspects!// "Would you ask now?"

His eyes had lost the shocked-expression, but he was still at a loss for words... until she brought out the vial, holding it a foot in front of him.

* * *

The Raven was silent. Or maybe it was just Axer. Even though he had been alone in this room before, it had never seemed empty.

//It must have been Lucius. I must have sensed him... spying on me, perhaps? Does it feel like this because he's gone as well?//

Everyone had left in groups a little while ago. Mulder and Scully had left to check up on some leads. Axer wasn't sure if they were going after Halscombe, or Powys, who he was told had become a much less trustworthy figure while Axer'd been trapped in the tunnels.

Kermit had left, supposedly to get some rest -- but Axer doubted that, because he took the Invisible Ones' technology with him. //Nobody takes his work home with him intending to get a full night of sleep.//

Nat and LaCroix had gone somewhere -- who knew where -- but not together. Nick must have been tied up somewhere else, because he still hadn't shown up here -- perhaps he was with Janette. Who knew...

Kate had gone to their home to check up on things. Axer would have come with her, but he just needed time to settle things out for himself. Time to make sense out of his experience -- he wouldn't call it an ordeal, because he thought that he was on the edge of a valuable lesson...

Joe and Bill had gone their own directions. Joe was flying to Paris, but it didn't look like it was a vacation. Axer had never liked Paris himself, so he never understood why anyone in their right mind would go there... //...but that's Joe's life.// Bill had gone in a different direction. He had been given a new assignment as a Watcher -- the committee had decided that Bill had too much time on his hands, and needed a Watchee to settle him out.

It wasn't like they had much reason to stay anyway. Their reason for coming here was to investigate the nature of those two men Kermit had seen outside the police station -- LaCroix and Nick. Now that they knew about the vampires, and had decided to keep out of it, they had no more reason to stay.

Axer snickered as he remembered the phone call that had come only minutes ago. It was Joe's cellular that'd rung, and he'd looked solemn for a few moments as he listened, then he had handed it to Bill. Bill knew who it must be, and looked apprehensive. He'd nodded for a few moments, as if he wanted to say, "Yeah, yeah... get on with it!"

When they did get on with it, Bill'd nearly hit the roof. "You want me to Watch *COLEEN*?!?!"

Axer had nearly spit out his mouthful of Guinness, trying to hold down the laughter, and failing. It was a camera moment, and he'd sorely regretted not having one. It was the last thing that Bill wanted to do, for good reason, but he'd taken it stoically.

The glass was empty, so he walked over to the bar and refilled it. Normally he felt at least a slight buzz, but he didn't feel anything yet. He *wanted* to be on the other side -- he needed the clarity that only drunkenness could bring.

Five minutes later, he was seated again, drinking his next pint, and relived the last few years in his mind -- and the maelstrom that had erupted only a few months back.

//Where could this all lead?//

Judging by the way things were going, he would find out any moment.

The front door opened, and a head peeked through cautiously. "Is anyone here?"

Axer looked at the man, and found that it was the Invisible One who had died outside of the Raven, when the black box he used exploded on him. He looked like he was fully recovered -- his skin a shade on the pink side. Apparently, Mulroney didn't have a monopoly on rising from the dead without letting his presence be known. That made him wonder a little bit about Mulroney...

"I am," Axer stood cautiously. "What do you want?"

The Invisible One's expression was emotionless, but not dead. It was full of an intellectual-type of awe and curiosity that many a scientist had on occasion. "I just wanted to thank you for such an intriguing experience. I had no idea that human beings could act in such a fashion."

Axer's head tilted a fraction, "I don't understand."

"Do you mind if I take a seat?" asked the Invisible One, not waiting for the answer. He pulled out a chair, and Axer took his own, warily keeping a hand on his knife -- his hidden, and not visible knife. "I spent the last two days openly observing you, especially Dr. Lambert. When I came here, I had no idea the varied reactions I would get with the application of --" He gestured at the black box that wasn't there, and stopped when he realized it wasn't there anymore. A human gesture and a human mistake for such an inhuman character.

Shrugging, he continued, "I created an environment of anger, and was intrigued by what resulted, and how many different reactions there were. I had the full range of responses -- and even no response. If anything, Halscombe seemed to function more normally. Apparently, some mental trauma had made him unresponsive for many hours."

Axer's guts were being churned by his nerves. He wasn't expecting this at all, and nearly doubled up laughing. //An Invisible One so locked up in his intellect that he's lost all sense of strategy! Or is that the case?... Or could this be a meeting of the generals before the war?// On many a battlefield, he had seen such surreal meetings happen before -- a raging battle would shake the countryside for miles around, and then the chess players would meet in the white tent, drinking tea and discussing roses. //Am *I* the chess player?//

"So this was all an experiment to you?" Axer asked -- his thoughts only took up a fraction of a second.

"Oh yes!" the Invisible One's expression became even more lively. "I don't believe I've told you, Mr. Carrick..."

"No, you haven't, Mr....?"

"Oh, I never introduced myself!" He treated it as a major offense as he apologized profusely, "I'm very sorry! I am Youlienou Vasallinie'eleki, at your service."

He held out his hand, and Axer shook it reflexively. A warm skin and inhuman face gave it an eerie feel... sort of like a cold, dead, and perky zombie.

Axer drained his cup, "Say... do you have a taste for Guinness?"

"Guinness? What is that?"

"A drink. Let me get one for you."

"Oh yes, I would like to try that."

Axer took heroic efforts to keep a straight face as he walked over to the bar and fixed a very special drink. //A pity you aren't here right now, Coleen... *This* is how you fix a slip hook, and you would have done well to observe... an imperial pint of stout and Absolut vodka... and many servings of them.//

They sat down and discussed experiments as the night passed them by. Once more, Axer couldn't help but notice how strange it all was, and that he was actually enjoying this.

* * * *

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