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 15

Axer smiled inside, though his outward expression was as neutral as a poker player's. It appeared that for all his inhuman bearing, Youlienou Vasallinie'eleki's body was human enough. The alcohol affected him as severely as it would a child. Since Axer's intention was to get him to talk without inhibition, and not to kill him, he gently curbed Youlienou's intake. He only drank two Keg Bombs, which were equal to 46 ounces of a half-and-half and four double shots of vodka -- enough to make most average drinkers wobble a little, if they weren't massaging their liver on a daily basis.

Even so, there were many questions that the Invisible One wouldn't answer: who or what were the Invisible Ones, for instance. He *did* however, talk about things that most mortals would keep secret at all costs.

"The difference between our development and yours," Youlienou was saying, "was that we *integrated* the human body with our technology. We *incorporated* human insight, reflexes, and agility. Your knowledge relies on the logical and sharp -- we integrated the logical and sharp with the fuzzy and ethereal. That's why when the Ice Age ended, and the mind of humankind began to thaw, we were seen as fantastic. As the mind of humankind began to develop at an exponential rate -- this was by the time of Sumeria -- we became astounded, and left their vision. We didn't know about Yggdrasil at the time, but I believe something was forming in our collective minds."

"When did you learn about Yggdrasil?"

Youlienou nodded, "It was during the Germanic age, before Rome fell. The Germans, Goths, and other tribes had a religion based around a tree. We believed much as your modern anthropologists do, that their tree worship was based on a primitive awe of the oak and pine trees, but as some of us investigated, we learned that somewhere in their primitive minds, they'd glimpsed something that had eluded us. Yggdrasil. The World Tree.

"And so we researched this intriguing concept, and discovered something very odd. It was not on their continent, which amazed us even more. It was an artifact of sorts, a symbolic road that led to insanity. One of our kind glimpsed Yggdrasil and climbed it, believing that it might lead her to the creator of the Tree, and she returned irreparably insane.

"It fascinated us, and we decided that we would create a race capable of climbing Yggdrasil, a race that could explore it for us and bring back information about what we could not hope to touch. For centuries, we debated as to whether we would use the whole human population or a subsample of it, and it was by 1066 AD. that we decided that it was necessary to create specific boundary conditions on the world and humanity."

"The Battle of Hastings." Axer's blood went cold. "The death of Harald Hadradi, and with him the death of the Vikings. The end of the world for the Aesir."

"Very good!" Youlienou looked quite human in his happiness. "You intuition does you well. That's exactly what happened. One of the boundary conditions for our experiment is the condition of the human mind. The experiment must work with an absence of certainty of anything. The Aesir, who took on the role of gods for that race, created a certain certainty in the minds of that region. Ragnarok, as the Norse culture remembered it, really happened. It was quite masterful, in fact. That day, not only did a nation and time-track die, but so did the Aesir religion. Never mind that Christianity replaced it -- that wasn't our concern."

* * *

Surtur walked out of the police station, fuming under his breath. //What am I going to do now?! Golien'an dead...//

He stopped, leaning against a street lamp, resting his aching head against it, staring at the stars, and speaking his thoughts aloud. "What will I do? Where is my shield now? My sword?"

"If you've lost it, then grab another one." The voice spoke in the same language he spoke. Surtur turned around, drawing from an inner pocket his sword. It was a long sword by olden standards, but not modern ones -- the blade was only the length of an arm, but it glowed red. The design was that of a Viking blade.

Surtur stared at the face of none other than Loki. Loki the Trickster. Loki the White. Loki the Aesir-Traitor. "You look the same, Loki."

"And you look shorter." His tone was as glib as usual, that was for certain. But his accent was different as Surtur's own was. "I take it you had a hard night."

"I don't want to talk about it," he muttered, shaking his head, rubbing his face with one hand.

"An Invisible One murdered..." Loki whispered in a haunting voice. "Her heart eaten warm and raw by a vengeful 'experiment'... Her killer hunted by a mortal police officer who is influenced by the Axe... ~~There's something in the air tonight.~~"

Surtur stared intently at Loki. For some reason, though his face was clean-shaven, anyone looking at him would have mentally added whiskers on his face, and changed his hair color from black to red.

At that moment, a siren broke the still of the night. It seemed to come from everywhere, and then stopped. There was nobody around at the moment, and there seemed to be no activity in any of the buildings. No curiosity.

Loki continued, "The Time has come. Heimdall's Horn has just blown once, and the people have ignored its warning. Will you ignore it? What about when the second and third blasts blow?"

Surtur looked very disturbed. "So soon. It's happening so soon..."

"But it must come eventually. You are still chief of the Fire Jotuns -- those who still walk the land. What will you do?"

"What do you mean, 'What will you do?'" His tone was sharply angry -- and a step away from sobbing tears. "It was you Aesir who took the lands that we lived in. It was you who encouraged the Midgarders to invade us, slaughter us -- and justify it by saying, 'That is the Way. The Midgarders will displace the Jotuns, just as the Midgarders will be displaced, and just as the Jotuns displaced.'

"*We displaced nobody!* We are no longer displaced because we have had no land of our own! We walk as ghosts, disguising our true nature because if the mortals themselves won't fear us or kill us, the governments and their scientists will!"

Loki was soft-spoken, "It was not the Aesir -- it was Odin, and he was the Invisible Ones' tool. His knowledge :: his weakness; his quest :: his trap; his insanity :: their creation. You fight the wrong people. It is the Invisible Ones you must fight. If you stop them, you might have a chance to bring your people back into the light -- or at least without fear."

Surtur laughed cynically. Very cynically, as if he was laughing at a fool.

* * *

Nick's hands trembled. //Can it be true?//

He almost dropped it in anticipation.

Janette's breath came in short, shallow bursts as time slowed. Nick's hands trembled even more. He was about to say something, then stopped.

Then he drank it.

Janette sounded sad, her voice somewhat hollow, as she said, "Now you must wait here and fast for a full day and night."

Nick was so full of joy that he wanted to share it with Janette, and felt hurt when she turned her back to him and walked away through the door.

"Janette?" called Nick, but she didn't answer.

The radio clicked on, and LaCroix' voice spoke through it. "Friendship won and lost... How do we gain friends?... How do we lose them? Is it them, or is it us?... How do we gain them back?... *Do we* want to?"

* * *

Youlienou stood up, "It was a pleasure meeting you. And now, I must be off." He spoke with a straight face, "I look forward to slaughtering you on the field of battle. You will be a worthy adversary, and it would be an interesting experience when I observe your true death throes."

"Are you challenging me?"

"Not at all. Are you joining us?"

"Your insane experiment, you mean? No. I can't let you continue."

"Then you're against us. You're a scientist -- surely you understand the need to control an experiment, do you not? One does not challenge a threat to the well-being of an experiment: one seeks to understand the threat, and then eliminate it. If you choose to remain a threat, then you will be eliminated."

It was the sheer coldness of the statement that snapped Axer back into reality. Youlienou had instantly ceased being the absent-minded, socially-inept intellectual; a simple change of perspective turned him into a scientist so detached from everything that he was a monster.

Axer spoke just as coldly, standing up, "Since you have just declared war, I accept your challenge. If you don't lift your drive to wipe out 'the threats to your experiment', then we have no choice but to wipe you off the face of the world. We'll find you where you stand or where you run and kill you. We'll hunt for you when you retreat and hide, and kill you. We'll make sure that the Invisible Ones remain so forever."

"Splendid!" Youlienou clapped his hands with emotionless glee. "The superposition is retained -- we have *all* possibilities covered! I will look forward even more to slaughtering you! Have a good evening!"

//I take that as a: 'Yes, we'll continue our experiment as planned.'// Axer thought sourly.

Youlienou left through the front door.

That was when Axer turned around reflexively. LaCroix and Nat stood in the shadows, silent and blended into the dark. Nat's face was barely visible, but she was disturbed.

"So the war begins," observed LaCroix, stepping into the light, "and *you* are the general. It's a pity that Sharpe asked me, instead of you."

"I'm no general..." muttered Axer, slamming the rest of his drink down.

"As you wish," LaCroix shrugged. "It appears that you want to be alone. I'll leave you with your thoughts -- I have many eager listeners on the radio... listeners who value what I have to say." He vanished in a blur, the front door swinging slightly. "I've given them too many re-runs."

That left him alone with Nat. "Do you believe what the Invisible One said?"

"Certainly. It makes a great deal of sense. To come up with some of their ideas, it would have to take people as detached and crazy as they are. Think about the fact that this man died, and came back to life in good condition -- and he's not an immortal or a vampire. I'm willing to bet that he came back by means of his own science -- a science that as he claimed incorporates the human body with left-brained science. I just have a hard time coming up with an understanding as to why they need to kill the non-mortals off. It's not like we're *that* much of a threat!"

Nat smiled, putting a friendly hand on his shoulder. It was incredible how much tension he had locked up in his shoulders. "You're just not looking at it in the right way. You've lived with yourself for so long that you're not seeing the obvious, as you and Powys have both accused us of doing."

His look was somewhere between anger and shock -- more in the way that an old man looks at a young upstart adolescent than any other. "Go on."

"The past, as I learned in my history book, was a magical place, full of wonder and magic. Everyone understood where they stood, and everything has a purpose. When mortals know of immortals, vampires, magic, bliss, terror, and the whole package... it renews a sense of wonder and hope.

"The more I think about it, the more things are beginning to make sense. They need to create a world mood of chaos, uncertainty, and fear. *Everyone* needs to reinforce that mood, and *that* is why they need to get rid of you. Even though you all keep to yourselves -- mostly -- you give at least a few people hope. Hope spreads like a virus. When you all die out, even the evil ones among you, the world will be a grimmer place." She grimaced, "Even the death of LaCroix would be a blow -- he's an evil, twisted man, but he also turns the world into a magical place."

Axer thought about it for a moment, "You know, you're absolutely right, and I never even thought about it. It's so simple, I can't believe I didn;t think of it myself... but you're right." He stood and walked to the window, "I've got to see Kate. Are you going to stay here?"

Nat shook her head, and left with him.

Axer closed the doors and turned out the lights.

The End

* * * *

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