Imperial Violet

Cover

Imperial Violet

by Khyber

khyber@home.com

CLASSIFICATION: X, UST.

RATING: R-ish for medical ooginess, plenty o’ language and

mature subject matter.

SUMMARY: A fairly routine autopsy by Scully and a fellow pathologist

puts them at risk when they uncover a very nasty surprise. Mulder and

the Gunmen, very concerned for Scully, must try to find out what the

“surprise” is — exactly — and what they can do to counter it.

SPOILERS: This is a “Season Eight” episode; everything up

to “Je Souhaite” is fair game.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: This is for the questions that don’t have

any answers, the midnight glances and the topless dancers…

WEBSITE: This story will initially be available on the

Virtual Season Eight website at http://www.i-made-this.com;

it will also be available after August 15, along with the

rest of my work, at http://www.alanna.net/Khyber.

* * *

District of Columbia Coroner

2:27 p.m., August 4, 2000

The man was tall, broad, with a bit of a belly and styled

grey hair. He moved gracefully, even heavily gowned,

quickly and silently over the floor of the autopsy bay. The

woman was a foot shorter than him, red hair pulled severely

back. She was sudden and precise when she moved, her

actions larger than she was. The third person in the bay

did not move at all, had not moved for some time. Empty

sockets, deeply yellowed cheekbones, teeth grinned up from

a vile greyish-brown morass that surrounded and clung to

the skeleton. Bits of it still hung on in recognisable

patterns, revealing that it had, at some point, been flesh.

They look around it, look over it, probe at it with shining

instruments and blades.

The woman backs away from the table slowly, her eyes

flicking from the table to the older man. He waves towards

the back of the room, behind her. She turns and moves

quickly, pulling open a cabinet under the large steel sink.

Outside, for once in his otherwise generally

undistinguished life, Keith Menzies is on the ball. His

fifteenth day on the job, and something cool finally

happens. The seminar was only a week ago, and he remembers

where everything is.

Keith already has the hall taped off by the time they get

there with the air pump. The tape’s yellow, wider than his

hand, and it says BIOHAZARD.

* * *

Scully voice-over:

“Within days of infection, patients suffer from soaring

temperature and excruciating muscular pain. The throat is

so sore that swallowing anything becomes intolerable. The

connective tissue liquifies. The skin becomes like soft

bread—it can be spread apart with the fingers, blood oozing

out. Victims choke as the sloughed-off surfaces of their

tongues and throats slide into their windpipes. Every body

orifice bleeds. Even the eyeballs fill with blood. Ebola is

the perfect parasite…”

* * *

i m p e r i a l v i o l e t

by Khyber

* * *

6:22 p.m., August 4

Fox Mulder played the tape again.

It was the seventh time, but it was all they were letting

him have. He’d seen her, up and moving, in the theatre

adjacent to the autopsy bay. They’d moved him out then,

pushing him into the hall as they set up some kind of

inflatable plastic airlock around the double doors that

offered entry to both rooms.

BIOHAZARD

Tape stretched across the doors, roll the tape, no one

gets out of here alive.

BIOHAZARD

(click)

“Oh, eew.”

The man’s voice was sophisticated, theatrical, a guy who

tells great dry jokes.

“Oh, my God.”

He heard Scully take a deep breath before she continued.

“Um, do you want to start?”

The man cleared his throat. Ten seconds of silence, a

suggestion of footsteps.

“Dana, will you excuse me for a minute?”

“Sure, go ahead, I’ll do the visual.”

Too cool, too professional. She has everything turned

off, he thought.

“No, I’m just going to swear. Holy fucking sweet shit

popsicle.”

Mulder imagined her eyebrow lifting at that. Through the

tape he could feel the air in the room cleared by the silly

vulgarity of it. The man cleared his throat and continued.

“Okay, better now… uh, victim is identified as Maria

Calias, age 24, this is based on a prior identification,

there are… uh, no, no identification is possible from a

visual exam. Sorry, Dr. Owen Purcell, assistant coroner,

District of Columbia, assisted by Dr. Dana Scully, Federal

Bureau of investigation. Cause of death is listed as a

self-inflicted gunshot wound, it is… I can’t tell from what

I can see right now. Partially …obscured… skeletal remains

appear to be an adult female, indeterminate age, again, no

identifying features. Body is in what may be an unusually

advanced state of decay not consistent with time of death

approximately fifteen days ago and burial eleven days ago.

Body was disinterred late yesterday on order of DC police.

Skeletal remains are surrounded by what may be… yeah, there

appears to be hair and some skin tissue in there… oh,

Christ, give me a minute here.”

Scully murmured something, then coughed once. When she

spoke, taking over from Dr. Purcell, her voice was cold and

slightly shaky.

“There has been extensive necrosis which appears to have

attacked connective tissues, causing what appears to have

been a massive sloughing of soft and muscle tissues, and,

uh, advanced decay as previously observed. Internal organs

appear to have…”

Mulder heard her swallow hard.

“…more or less disintegrated. There is damage to the

detached lower mandible, which is consistent with a high-

velocity projectile. Owen, it’s going to be very difficult

to do the necessary work on this, I don’t think we’re going

to get any reliable samples of anything.”

Clattering sounds, metal on metal. Instruments on a tray.

“I’m going to try to recover the mandible and some, oh,

who the hell am I kidding, Dana, do you see anything that

looks like skin here?”

Scully murmuring something, sounding disappointed. More

clattering.

“Dana, step away from the table, as far as you can.” The

man’s voice is nervous but strong.

“What…?”

“Now. Get over by the cleanup station.”

“Owen, what the hell…”

“Just DO IT!”

He hit rewind. One more time, four minutes of Scully’s

voice.

“Agent Mulder, we’ve got the line established.” His head

jerked up and he started to move. The young man suppressed

a swear as Mulder nearly bowled him over. He hadn’t been

allowed in this far yet. Scully and the other doctor were

in an autopsy theatre attached to the one in which they;d

been working on Maria Calias. The only way in our out was

through the first theatre. Mulder was conscious of the

whirring of huge fans. The glass was obviously to assist in

lectures (or identification of corpses, don’t think that

Mulder) and they had insisted on wiring a handset into the

PA system. (don’t think about why they want that, either…)

Scully is on the other side of the glass. The intercom is

against the wall beside the window, and he walks to the far

end of the glass, as far as the cable will allow, so he can

see her as they speak.

“Scully, are you all right?”

She looks around for some reason.

“For the time being, yes. We’re operating on the

assumption that the anteroom here is clean, so we

established a temporary airlock in order to…”

“Scully.”

“Owen was right, about the haemorrhagic fever, there’s

evidence of unusual bacterial activity as well. We don’t

have the equipment in here to try and isolate a virus, but

the CDC is going to take our smaples when they can

establish a proper…”

Mulder’s heart leapt into his throat. Haemorrhagic fever.

Yellow fever. Dengue fever. Scully’s voice temporarily

faded.

Marburg.

Ebola.

He heard Scully swallow loudly, ready to launch into

another discussion of unusual bacterial activity.

“Scully.”

Goddamn, Mulder, for once in your life that came out

right, he thought. Warm, caring, touching, not at all like

the liquid nitrogen ripping around in his veins.

She exhaled heavily, making the tiny mike buzz.

“Okay, I’m scared.”

She has her forehead pressed against the wall, and her

eyes closed.

“It’s going to be okay, ba-… Scully, it’s going to be okay.”

“If it is a virus of some kind,” she said quietly, “the

chances of our having been infected are pretty small. No

virus should maintain activity under those circumstances.

This is just a very sensible precaution under the

circumstances.”

Scully *never* repeats her big words. Her inner scientist

is on autopilot.

“What do you want for dinner?”

“What?”

She looks up at me through the glass like I’m crazy.

“Yeah. If you don’t put in a takeout order soon, they’re

going to slide hospital food under the door. What do you

want?”

Half a smile.

“You’re crazy, you know that?”

Mission accomplished.

“Come on, hurry up.”

“Mulder, tomorrow I am probably going to be hit with a

megadose of antibiotics and antivirals that will kill

everything in my digestive tract. We’ll probably go with

meal replacements. What? Okay…”

The older man has come up behind her. He has glasses, nice

hair. He gives me a weirdly royal wave, wiggling his

fingers.

“What?”

“Agent Mulder? It’s Mulder, right? This is Owen Purcell,”

he drew out his l’s, “the person who’s trapped in here with

your lovely partner for the night. Dana’s out of her head

with hunger. Her stomach is making terrifying sounds. I

fear for my life. Bring us barbecued ribs, preferably from

Nate’s. With everything, and whatever the cheesecake

special is. I’m guessing she has a weakness for cheesecake.”

“Um, I’ll see what I can do…”

* * *

2:28 a.m., August 5

“My temperature’s still normal,” Owen said, stepping out

of the tiny restroom. They’d been very lucky that the

autopsy theatre had a (very small) change facility

attached. “Urine sample looks normal. Good to see you’re

getting as much sleep as I am.”

“What are you doing up?” Scully asked. It was a silly

question. She had made a brave attempt to sleep on a

stainless steel counter. Owen had been trying it in a chair

with just as much luck as she had. They were stuck until

approximately nine AM, apparently, while everything

necessary to remove Maria Calias from the autopsy theatre

next door was assembled. No one had come out and told them

as much, but Scully knew that since no one had come

marching in to rescue them, that they were heading for a

stint in isolation as well.

“Guy watching.”

Scully snorted good-naturedly. On their line to the

outside, they could talk to any one of a number of

stunningly charisma-free emergency personnel who called her

ma’am.

“Anything to see at two-thirty in the morning?” she asked.

“Really cute brunet crashed on a gurney down the hall

there. Great eyes, nice buns… bad haircut.” Owen seemed

like quite possibly the best brunch companion in the

world—charming, a fount of bizarre trivia, wickedly funny,

and outrageously gay. They bumped into each other over

dead bodies, as Owen put it, two or three times a year.

“I thought I told him to go home.”

“He didn’t listen.”

“He would if I was out there to kick his buns.” Scully

placed her hands on the lab counter and smiled. “He usually

sleeps on the couch.”

Owen walked over to the microscope. He had a few hastily

prepared slides there. Scully didn’t remember him working

on anything, and realised she must have slept at some point.

“You know, I think I may have something here. I don’t know

if it’s good, but it’s something.”

Following the older man, Dana blinked hard, trying to

loosen her contact lenses, and peered into the viewer.

“Is this a bacterial infection? It looks like a bacterial

spore. Or is it some kind of… no, it’s definitely a

bacterium…”

“It’s a bacterium, all right. Not one I recognise, but

that’s not exactly my forte. But look at the structures in

it…”

Dana squinted. There was too much to see, too much

structure to it.

“Help me out here, I know it’s wrong but I don’t know how.”

“I think somebody’s hitching a ride in there. I bet those

structures in there are viral colonies.” He leaned against

the counter. “Evolution is devilishly clever that way. The

problem with all the really good virii, like Marburg or

Ebola, is that they’re too virulent for their own good,

they kill their host so quickly that unless it’s highly

mobile it will infect, at best, its local population. And

they survive very, very poorly outside a host.”

“You think the bacterium is a transit mechanism?”

Owen shrugged.

“It wouldn’t be unheard of. It’s a pretty unlucky

coincidence, though, if that’s a version of Ebola or

something. Actually, my latest theory based on poor Ms.

Calias’ remains is that we might be looking at some sort of

new variation on syphilis.”

“How transmissible would it be?”

Dana congratulated herself on how calm she sounded when

she said that.

“Well, at this point I’d be optimistic for us. That’s a

big bacterium, and it’s a spore so it’s comparatively

dormant and non-permeable. I think under the right

circumstances–close physical contact, large-scale dry

inhalation–it could be pretty transmissible, but not in

this environment. It’s survivable, however, which is the

big thing. Anthrax spores can stay viable for years under

the right conditions. That’s about all I know for the

moment, I’m not inclined to try and incubate any of the

little bastards with the facility we have here. I will

happily leave that to CDC.” He switched off the

microscope’s light. He looked out the glass window again.

“Good partner.”

Scully smiled and let her chin drop to her chest.

“How long?” Owen asked, sitting backwards on the rolling

lab chair.

“Seven years.” The older man began to smile, and she

quickly corrected herself, or corrected him, or simply

corrected. “No, no, not, it’s not like that.”

“Like what?”

“He’s my partner.”

“That’s what *we* say, dear.”

“You know what I mean.”

“What’s the first thing you want to do when you get out of

here?”

“Find out what happened to Maria Calias.”

“You are such a liar.” He chuckled as she began to open

her mouth to protest. “Unless, of course, you mean that

one or both of you prefers the sunny side of the street.”

Scully had to smile. Owen’s persistent good nature was far

more contagious than anything that could hide in a lab.

“Don’t ask yourself why you’re letting me rib you, it’s

three in the morning, a general amnesty is in effect.” Owen

crossed his arms on the back of the chair and rested his

chin on top of them. “Peter and I had eleven years, most of

them good. He was a political animal, worked for one of

those lobby firms, then did some activist work once he

started getting sick. I guess it’s good that he’s gone now,

I don’t think he could stomach campaigning for Al Gore.”

“When did you lose him?”

“Early in ’98. Just after all that ice melted.” He smiled.

“I know what your… your partner is out there thinking right

now. He’s holding every memory he has of you, like a

thousand jewels, and he would trade all of them for one

more.”

“Owen…”

“If you think I’m wrong, correct me.”

Scully sighed, very deeply, her shoulders rising and

falling with a hitch in the end as her breath left her.

“That’s why I’m so damn funny in these situations, after

all. Nobody does gallows humour like AIDS patients. And the

best part of it is, I can steal all their material and they

won’t sue me.”

“Ohhhhh, boy.” Scully slid down into a sitting position on

the floor, drawing her knees up to her chest. Her mouth

twitched, the corners edging down. She couldn’t decide

whether open or closed eyes were better, and they seemed

very inclined to water either way.

“I’m sorry Dana, I plead for three AM amnesty. I stick my

nose in people’s lives. Go ahead. I’m going to bawl myself

in a few seconds.” Owen sighed heavily once. “Don’t worry,

we’re getting out of this, but it’s good to have these

times anyway.”

* * *

8:37 a.m., August 5

They’re on the phone now. They give great phone. No silly

greetings, just resuming an ongoing conversation.

“I’m fine so far,” she says. Naturally, he must have asked

how she was. “Starting to feel a little sick from the

antibiotics. Owen is pretty sure we’re not infected with

anything at this point, though we may have found a serious

public health threat.”

Owen may have overstated his confidence, he thought to

himself, but he did so under the terms of the 3 a.m.

amnesty.

“No, I didn’t get that far into the file. I saw the part

about the tox screen. Was she in Africa recently?”

Ah, they’re onto The Matter At Hand. I’m glad I wasn’t

one of the poor CDC people who had to figure out how to re-

bag poor Ms. Calias last night. They’d have needed a

spatula. My stomach lurches from a combination of memory

and broad-spectrum antibiotics, and I console myself with

the fact that Dana turned a lovely translucent green colour

over the table and she’s actually a pathologist, so I

should be pretty proud of not woofing my cookies.

“Where was the last place she spent any time?”

He says a few words and she chews at her lip. Dead end,

obviously. Mulder nods his head down the hall. When she

speaks again, her voice is quieter.

“Great, I’m going to star in a remake of E.T…” She’s not

smiling, but she’s thinking about it, maybe a little bit. I

walk out of range so I can’t hear them.

* * *

X-Files Office, FBI Headquarters,

11:22 a.m. August 8

Detective Brandy Wiseman saw a tall man standing in front

of a desk in a dimly lit, very strangely decorated office.

Who the hell works in the basement, anyway? He was good-

looking, brunet, tired and harried. His shirt and slacks

were rumpled and his collar was open. His arms were crossed

on his chest, and she sensed that he had just been chewing

his thumbnail when he looked up at her, seeming startled.

He almost lurches towards her as she stands in the doorway.

“Detective, thanks for coming down here on such short

notice. I need to know everything you can tell me about

Maria Calias. You were the one who ordered the autopsy?”

“Agent…. Mulder, right? Brandy Wiseman, DC Police. It’s

not a problem, I’m just really sorry that whatever happened

in the autopsy… happened. If we’d had any idea there was

a public health threat, we never would have ordered the

disinterment.”

“I know, I know. I just need to know everything.” Change

‘harried’ to ‘haunted’, Brandy thought. No ring. He was

either a boyfriend, or one of those investigators who gets

something in his teeth and just can’t let go, even if it’s

not his job.

“Gravestone stuff, she was 24, former airline stewardess,

originally from Miami.” Brandy realised that she wasn’t

going to be invited to sit down, since it wasn’t occurring

to Mulder to do so himself. “We think she might have been a

part-time working girl. We were interested in here because

she’s associated with a guy named Tyrell Robinson. He owns

a couple of clubs in DC and Miami and produces porn flicks.

As one law enforcement official to another, we’re pretty

sure that he’s hooked up some local gang types with one of

his connections in the Miami drug trade, and they’ve

started bringing coke into DC and Baltimore.”

“You said she was a stewardess,” Mulder interjected. “Do

you know if she’d travelled recently?”

“Former stewardess. She was in Miami with Robinson pretty

regularly.”

“Can we bring Robinson in?”

“Good luck. He’s real smart. Even with the coke, he’s not

handling anything himself, he just arranges the meetings

between the guys here and his friends in Miami, and he

gets, I dunno, a fucking consultancy fee or something. He

won’t do us any favours even if we’re jsut asking him about

Calias’ vacations.”

“Did you question him when Calias died?”

Wiseman felt herself almost blushing.

“This is gonna sound so stupid, Agent Mulder. No, we

didn’t. I was… I was on vacation. Violent Crimes was on

the scene, they had a 24 year old club girl who looked like

she’d done a whole bunch of blow and said goodbye cruel

world. It’s not what you’d call immediately suspicious so

they just filed it. I don’t think they even did a real

autopsy, just a tox screen to find out that she was indeed

high as a kite when she pulled the trigger. She’d been in

the ground a week before anyone in Narcotics knew she was

dead. I found out in a frickin’ interoffice email.”

“You think she might have been murdered?”

“I don’t know. To be a hundred percent honest I ordered

the disinterment mostly to make sure, and to let Robinson

know we’re interested in his ass. I was way out on a limb

because the prosecutor’s office has gotten burned on him

once already. We tried running a sting in one of his clubs

eight months ago and it didn’t go… as planned. He had

pretty decent grounds to sue.”

“So you don’t think he’s going to talk to us now.”

Mulder’s voice was hard.

“We know he’s in Miami right now. He scooted the second we

did the disinterment. We’re trying to find him. We’re also

looking for his gang contacts in DC, but guys like that

don’t exactly hang out at precincts.” Wiseman studied the

floor. The carpet was pretty new, considering that the

office was rammed into a corner of the basement. Aw, shit,

she thought. May as well just suck it up and say it.

“Agent Mulder… I’m sorry, this is the way it works

sometimes. All I can say is that it’s damn fucking bad luck

and I am so sorry this is happening to your partner, and it

might not be happening if we’d been on the ball. But we

will do everything, I mean everything, to find out anything

that might help. If there is anything I can do, just let

me know.”

Mulder was looking right past her. She could tell that he

was trying to find a good way to get her to leave, and took

her own initiative to do so.

“How are Dr. Scully and Dr. Purcell?” she asked, stopping

in the doorway.

“They’ve moved them to quarantine at Bethesda Naval

Hospital. We don’t know anything else.”

* * *

Bethesda Naval Hospital – Quarantine Facility

4:58 p.m. August 5

They’ve got her in an isolation room, complete with an

airlock. No VCR, so I brought her books, and a pair of 10-

pound dumbbells. I was immensely reassured by hearing a

doctor explain to an orderly that no, it’s fine to put

things *in*, just make sure nothing gets *out*. It’s like a

fucking zoo. Scully has curtains on her side of the glass.

“Is there anything going on at the office?” she asks. The

sound is unusually good, not metallic. It’s Scully’s voice,

timbre and undertone intact, not Scully-over-wire.

“Nothing urgent.” Leave it to Scully. She’s the girl in

the bubble, and she’s pretending to be professional. “I’m

saving up a nice juicy Wisconsin cattle mutilation, though.”

“For investigation, or for the barbecue?”

“No, seriously, there’s nothing happening. Skinner sends

his love.”

“Really.”

“Well, he said something about getting our money’s worth

on our health insurance. He said it very warmly, though.”

“Mulder, I know, I look like hell. Stop staring. I’m on a

course of antibiotics that are busy killing everything in

my body. I think they’re going to be feeding me pablum and

enzyme pills for dinner.”

“I could sneak in more ribs.”

“I’d end up redecorating the room, from both ends.”

I snort. Scully makes one rude joke every three months,

usually to do with bodily functions. Must be a minor

complex from growing up with brothers.

She handles inactivity well, better than me. It’s the

fact that it’s forced which is driving her nuts, especially

when she feels fine for the time being and the reason she’s

here is to see if she stays that way. It’s a difficult

balancing act between hanging around and driving her nuts,

and taking off and suddenly being stuck with the horrible

feeling that she might be lonely–that is, if Scully ever

admitted that such a feeling existed. The CDC doctors,

probably for some dim, psychologically-motivated reason,

aren’t telling her anything regarding the results of the

tests they’re running on her and Owen. Owen, for his part,

reassured me that there would be a lot more tests happening

if there had been bad news off the early ones.

“Did they tell you anything about Calias?” she asks.

“Just that they checked every hospital in Miami, DC, and

Baltimore, and there weren’t any cases that came even close

to that.”

“Did they check the original autopsy? Where’s the

pathologist who did it? They might have been exposed too.”

Okay, scratch the part about handling inactivity well.

“I already asked. Nobody could give me a straight answer.

They didn’t do much of an autopsy since it looked like an

open-and-shut suicide.”

Scully looks at me pointedly, and very seriously.

“That’s the truth, Scully. I don’t know anything you

don’t.” Her face changed, and she shook her head.

“Sorry, Mulder. I’ve got a little too much time to myself

here. On that note, mind if I go change?” I brought her

clothes, too, jeans and t-shirts and a couple of sweaters.

And, of course, underwear, which I definitely didn’t fondle

as I packed it.

“Sure,” I say. She hangs up and rummages through the

athletic bag, then walks towards the bathroom. As she

glances back at me I make a disappointed face, which gets

an exasperated look. Good enough for now.

* * *

Offices of “The Lone Gunman”

7:21 p.m., August 5

I always expect the place to smell but it doesn’t. The

industrial-size air conditioners take care of that, along

with keeping the servers and routers and niblicks and

portable holes cool. “What’s that?” They’re all looking at

the computer screen, then at me, then at each other, then

back to the screen. Screen, me, each other, screen, and

repeat.

“Scully’s files, Langly responds. “There were some images

attached but we couldn’t reconstruct them.” Byers rolls his

chair forward, looking helpful.

“I’ll tell you right now, we have no idea what exactly the

files say. I’ve got a friend coming over to take a look at

them later tonight.”

I lean out of the orange-tinted light of the room into the

fluorescent-and-blue of the computer bench.

“From Bethesda?” I ask. They call it “Echelon At-Home”.

They tried to explain the joke, but some conspiracies are

too kooky even for me. What it amounts to is that with a

little warning, they can set themselves up to capture every

piece of data that flows into or out of any point on the

internet, and filter it if necessary. I’m still not

entirely sure if that makes me more or less comfortable

than the National Security Agency doing it. You would think

that bureaucracy would make the process inefficient. You

can accuse these guys of a lot of things, including

numerous sins against fashion and interior design, but

inefficiency isn’t one of them.

“Yeah, but you’re going to love this part.” Langly began.

Langly’s cold, except when he’s talking about music.

“Somebody emailed these out of the hospital, encrypted. One

copy went to a DOD firewall server, no idea where it was

going from there. Could be any US military or DOD network

anywhere in the world. The other went to a biotechnology

company in Virginia.”

Mel rolls his chair up then. I think they practice this

shit.

“You’re gonna love this even more,” Mel says with a

pervert’s grin, “the company’s public webpage talks about

doing work on bioherbicides that specifically target drug

crops. Who’s paying the contract? US Army, plus the DEA.”

“Narcs.” Langly grumbled.

“And for the piece de resistance…” Byers this time, they

HAVE to practice this… “they’re a division of Roush.”

My blood’s running cold an average of three times a day

now.

“About all we can get from the files right now is that

they’re relating it to something called ‘Imperial Violet’,

which we can assume is a code name,” Byers said.

That’s another. Mel hands me a printed web page.

“It was mailed to a guy named Glen Roth, looks like

they’ve only got the one facility and he’s there. Here’s

the address.”

Kennock, Virginia. Nothing on the East Coast is that far.

I can be there tonight. I fold it roughly, ramming it into

my jacket pocket. Mel puts a hand on my elbow.

“Whoa, cowboy. What are you going to do when you get there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Business hours or after?” Langly asks. He’s starting to

smile, his teeth glinting blue from the monitors.

“Definitely after.”

Mel gives an evil-goblin chuckle.

“Well, shit, come into the playroom here. The webpage said

it was a GMP facility, right? That means cardlocks…”

* * *

Annapolis, Maryland

11:32 p.m., August 5

“Lisa says this makes it totally awesome.

Chad was pretty convinced of the awesomeness of the entire

situation. Liz had been all over him at the bar, and

flashed him across the hood of his Beetle, as if he needed

any further proof she wasn’t wearing a bra. Hooray for

boobies, man. Nothing but mammaries. She’d pulledoff her

baby-t as soon as they’d gotten in the door of his room,

pushing his head playfully away from her chest as she sat

cross-legged in the middle of the floor. Topless in

cutoffs, man, he loved that. This time he was gonna tongue

her navel ring for sure. It was just too fucking sexy. Liz

dug her compact out of her little purse

“Feeling brave?” Man, she could be bad. He fucking loved

that. She took a little green vial, like some kind of Body

Shop thing, out of her back pocket, and popped the compact

open. From the vial, she dumped a tiny pile of white

powder. Chad laughed

“No waaaaay…

“Oh yeah,” she said. “Wanna play?

“Fuck, yeah…” He pulled his shirt over his head and sat

down across from her. Man, he should have borrowed Mike’s

digital camera tonight, this was getting too awesome

“Oh shit, I don’t have a straw…” she giggled. Chad dug

out his wallet, pulling out a twenty

“Here.

“Shit, it’s, like, retro-80’s night…” she laughed as she

rolled it into a tight tube

“I’m thinking Boogie Nights.” Liz looked up at him and

winked in response as she lifted the little mirror up in

front of her. He nipples were totally hard, poking out at

him. “Aren’t you supposed to make lines?”

“I’m a fucking…” (sniff) “…rebel,” Liz said, blinking

widely.

“Punk fucking rock,” Chad said as she handed him the

compact. What the fuck, man, everybody tries the shit once.

* * *

Bethesda Naval Hospital – Quarantine Facility

12:30 a.m., August 6

Call me baby, Mulder, don’t ever do it where anyone can

hear it. Baby makes me feel like someone I’m not sure I can

be. No one with “Doctor” in front of her name is ever

called baby, maybe I feel like a waitress with a pushup bra

somewhere hot and Southern, San Diego somewhere besides my

high school yearbook, with a muscle car and an ex-husband

who might be out on parole. Small and tight, redhead, fast

and crazy. Baby who slips polaroids of herself naked,

thighs spread and breasts offered, to her boyfriends. Maybe

baby has a man who mows the lawn, maybe has a lawn, knows

how to make a hamburger if the need for one arose,

barbeque, press a cold can of beer to the back of her neck,

to her chest. Keep calling me baby when we’re alone, make

me feel like the bad magic woman in a seventies song, with

sweat and tequila and secrets.

Dana rolled over, deciding the adjectival construction

“hot and bothered” was probably fairly accurate to describe

her current state. Bad, bad thoughts, dangerous thoughts,

sweet on your tongue. Relationships with your partner are

definitely too complicated, things not to be fucked with.

Would it be bad to just fuck him, just once, one lousy

time, could that hurt? And even if it did hurt, a little,

at the beginning, it would only be for a minute or so until

she got used to it…

Her hand dropped off the edge of the mattress and she

couldn’t figure out why. Why is the bed so narrow? The

sheets feel weird, where…

Dana sprung completely awake. Hospital, Bethesda,

isolation. Her breath felt rough and warm in her throat,

and he sinuses felt full. I’m running a fever, she thought.

Not a lot. Three degrees at the most, but still a fever.

The small, subdued light outside the inner door of the

little hospital room clicked on. She didn’t recognise the

nurse, but that wasn’t exactly a surprise. The voice was

female, sounding rather young.

“I noticed you were awake anyway… we can get this part of

the course on time.” The girl did know one thing, Dana

thought, which was not to use the weird glove box by the

bed. It made everything just too bizarre and demeaning. The

small airlock, one door on each side and the size of a

shoebox, hissed. She also didn’t say anything to the

effect of ‘You were humping the mattress anyway, so I

figured I’d interrupt you’, which Dana thought also spoke

well to the young woman’s nascent professionalism.

Dana rolled herself out of bed and strode to the warm pool

of yellowish light. Something felt wrong, she thought,

aside from her skittish sleep. I’m running a fever, she

realised. A hundred degrees at the most, but still a fever.

Jesus, I hope this is secondary. She palmed the two

monstrous yellow tablets, and picked up the small cup of

water. “Thanks.” God, the girl was so young, could she

honestly be a nurse? She looked nineteen, fresh and

ponytailed, but strong, with a worked-out neck above her

greens.

“Have a good night,” the girl said.

The pills caught in her throat, suprisingly powdery. She

looked in the tiny paper cup they had been in. There was a

faint dusting of yellow powder from them.

(Should have thought of that before you swallowed.)

Dana carefully folded and flattened the paper, trapping

the remnant of powder inside. From the small table beside

the bed she picked up an unread paperback that Mulder had

brought her that afternoon, tucking the flattened cup

inside the front cover. No, that might look suspicious. She

inserted it randomly, like a bookmark.

(Great, I may be infected with hyper-Ebola from Mars, and

the only mental states I can summon are non-specifically

horny, and paranoid. What am I, Mulder? Mulder has messed

my mind up. I should call Mulder. Where’s my phone?)

She sat down heavily on the bed. Something felt wrong,

wrong wrong, buzzy like a bee. Rapid and thready, like a…

* * *

Kennock, Virginia 11:54 p.m. August 5

The woods which used to nestle around Kennock had been

recently and ruthlessly paved to make way for an unending

line of Home Depots and Denny’ses. Denn-i.

The “Innovation Place Research Park” was a large trapezoid

of gold-tinted glass and brown stone, a small plot of test

fields stretching north behind it into the darkness.

Probably breeding better tobacco. Mulder tested the double

glass doors at the front of the building, and was surprised

as a security guard met him there.

“Hi, can I help you?”

Might as well go for broke, he thought.

“Yeah… my name’s Glen Roth, I work up in MTI. I’m going

to Toronto tomorrow and I forgot all the stuff for my

laptop.”

Lucky break, he told himself. Glen Roth doesn’t work late

enough for the night guard to know him. The young man

stepped aside, allowing Mulder in.

“I hope you got your access card, because I don’t have any

for up there.”

“No, it’s fine, I’ve got mine. Do I sign in…” No, no, no…

Mulder thought.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. You gonna be long?”

“Shouldn’t be too long.”

“I’ll be over there at the desk, just let me know when

you’re going.”

Mulder jogged up the curved staircase at the side of the

atrium. When he reached the mezzanine that looked out over

the entryway, the guard had gone back to his textbooks. MTI

was on the second floor, according to the Gunmen–in fact,

there it was, a single door decorated with a cut glass

logo. MTI-INTELLIGENE, second line ‘DIVISION OF ROUSH

BIOTECHNOLOGIES’. The main door had no cardlock. He looked

down the branching hallway and saw several more unmarked

doors with readers. Slipping down the hall, Mulder began to

rummage in the laptop case he was carrying, pulling out a

cell-phone-sized console with a broad cable that linked it

to a metal plate about the size of a business card. He laid

it on the floor and pulled the spidery headset out of the

case, plugging it into his cellphone and dialing with one

hand.

“Okay, I’m here,” he said, aligning the tiny mike close to

his mouth.

“You know this bit,” Frohike whispered into his ear.

“Enter, slide, run.”

“Yeah…” Mulder pressed the “enter” key on the console.

There were seven other buttons, none of which had been

explained to him. Who makes this stuff, anyway, he wondered-

-this was not a Gunmen homebuild. He ran the metal card

down the door’s reader.

“What colour you got on the unit?”

“Flashing green… steady green.”

“Okay, that should be it, run it again, don’t close the

door.” Mulder slid the metal card again, and the reader

clicked, its light turning green. He turned the door’s

handle, gathering up the laptop case as it opened.

“I’m in.” He stuffed the unit back in the laptop case,

holding the door open with his foot.

“Look around, is there a console by the door?” Mulder

scanned the wall.

“No, I don’t see anything,” he said, reaching for the

lightswitch panel.

“Suckers. Was there a guard at the door?”

“Downstairs, yeah.”

“Human’s always the weakest link,” said Langly. He

imagined them all sitting there, all with matching

headphones.

“I’m gonna look for Roth’s office, or cube… are you guys

ready over there?”

“Dude, we’re so ready. You know how to say ‘fuck the

pigs’ in Portuguese?”

3ILLO

“I don’t wanna know…” Mulder said, and stuck his head

into the first cube. No obvious names. Married picture,

youngish couple, baby picture. Poster of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Size 4 pink sneakers under the desk. No. Second cube.

Stack of incomprehensible printouts, photocopies of stock

option certificates pinned to the wall. McDonald’s nametag

saying “DONNA”, movie poster for “Elizabeth”. No. Third

cube… nothing, nothing, neat, family picture–Palm trees.

Mom, Dad, son in an Air Force uniform, pretty daughter in

her teens.

Whoa, US Air Force uniform, and the family’s African-

American. Mulder hadn’t seen a black person in upper-middle-

class upwardly-mobile upward-looking Kennock, Virginia

yet. Nothing in the cube except the pic of his family. The

guy’s here temporarily. He pulled out his cell phone and

sat down in what he hoped was Glen Roth’s chair, laying the

laptop case beside him on the desk.

“Talk about weak human links, Langly, Roth is a 50-year

old black man.”

“Maybe the guard saw your soul shining through. You on his

terminal?”

“Yeah, it’s even on.” Mulder clicked on the monitor.

“Shit, it wants a login.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Frohike said. “Does it say

anything on the computer, are there any stickers, plates,

anything?”

“Hang on…. Yeah, geez, right in front of me. There’s a

plate on the computer that says ‘Escher4′.”

“Escher4. I can’t believe these guys,” Frohike snorted.

“Hey, let’s run the Internet and Intranet servers on one

big NT network. Pinheads. Yeah, we’re getting it.”

Mulder heard Langly crow something about “soft and chewy

on the inside.” he looked up from inside the cube. As he

did so, he saw an AMEX bill on the top shelf, with a home

address.

“Okay, what am I supposed to look for again?”

The line rattled and clicked. Mulder was surprised by an

unfamiliar female voice, and his momentary hesitation about

pocketing the credit-card bill slipped away from him.

“Hi. Lab space. Can you see any lab space?”

“Who is this?”

“I’m their doctor.”

“What T-shirt is Langly wearing right now?” Mulder stood

and looked nervously towards the door.

“Rage Against the Machine, Evil Empire. Wow, you’re as

bad as they are.” Good enough, Mulder thought. At the far

end of the room was a glass-fronted door. He saw lockers

inside.

“There’s a change room or something down at one end here.”

Mulder strode quickly down. That door was unlocked. He

flicked on the fluorescent lights. “Yeah, there’s a lab

through here. There’s a cardlock on the door.” His voice

echoed in the small change room.

“What kind of door is it?”

“Into the lab? Looks like a regular door with a big window.”

“What do you smell? Do you hear anything?”

“Nothing, I don’t smell anything, it’s quiet, same as the

office.”

“What’s on the floor?”

“Tiles.”

“Is there the usual grout between them, the rough stuff?”

the female voice asked. Mulder knelt down.

“No… it’s… hang on, this is all one piece, the tiles are

fake.”

“Can you see into the lab?” Mulder noticed a light panel.

He flicked two switches. Lights in the lab came on.

“Yeah. Benches on either side… equipment… there’s a

freezer, some microscopes, some, uh, I don’t know what this

stuff is. Two computer workstations. Wait, there’s another

door on the other side, there’s a room inside the lab.”

“Can you see another cardlock on the door?”

“Yeah, I can’t see into the room, though.”

“If you’re game to go into this first lab, it might help.”

The second card reader yielded as easily as the first one

had. Mulder reminded himself not to leave his Bureau credit

card lying around the Gunmen’s offices. He swapped the card

unit for the digital camera. He took quick snaps of each

side of the lab as he approached the second door.

“This one, this smaller sub-lab, looks secure, there’s

some kind of a lip on the floor, it looks like the door to

a fridge. I hear a whirring, a fan sound.” He peered into

the small window in the door. “There’s a bench in there,

and a freezer. Some more equipment, another workstation.

It’s got a plastic shell on the keyboard.”

“You’re not in there, are you?” The woman’s voice was

urgent.

“No, no, I’m looking through a window.”

“Don’t go in there. Take all the pictures you can. What?

Hang on.” There was a rustling as a headphone was

exchanged, and Langly came back on the line. “Mulder, we

found out where that other email went.”

“Where?”

“Fort Detrick, Maryland. The US Army Medical Research

Institute of Infectious Diseases.”

“Oh, shit.”

* * *

2:42 a.m., August 6

“Scully, it’s me… I’m on the road. No real reason to call,

just kind of hoping… I don’t know, in case you get to a

phone and check your messages. I hope you’re all right.

That sounds so trivial. I need to believe you’re all right,

that you’re… that you’re fine. I’ll come to Bethesda the

second I get back.”

* * *

Bethesda Naval Hospital

10:20 a.m., August 6

“Her temperature is over a hundred and four, and her blood

pressure is very high. Dr. Purcell has the same symptoms

although generally less severe. He’s conscious and mobile

and Dr. Scully isn’t. We’re not certain why.”

They hadn’t let him see her this time. Hadn’t even let him

down the hall. Skinner was here, which was a bad fucking

sign. Mulder didn’t have anything to say to him.

“If it’s any consolation, Fox…”

(I even made my parents call me Mulder)

“…the symptoms aren’t consistent with a bacterial or

viral infection.’ the faceless doctor said in an

infuriatingly helpful, friendly, my name’s John, tone.

‘They’re both on some pretty extreme antibiotic regimens

that aren’t well-documented. This may just be a side effect

of that.”

Mulder found himself walking down the stairs, skipping the

elevator, down and outside.

“Mulder, where are you going?” Skinner’s hand fell on his

shoulder. Mulder jerked it off, quickly, harshly.

“I’m checking something out.”

“Mulder, this is a medical issue. It’s bad goddamn luck.

Leave the investigating to the people who understand it.”

“Yeah, well, it’s gotta come from somewhere.” Skinner

stayed on the landing between the second and third floor,

hands on his hips. Short echoes clattered down the walls.

“Mulder, what if she needs you here…?”

* * *

MTI Bioprocess Limited, Kennock, Virginia 4:38 p.m.,

August 6

“Mr. Roth?” The man had been waiting outside the doors of

the building, sifting through the departing employees. He

spoke from behind Roth, too close to be entirely friendly.

“Yes?”

“Could you come with me, please, I’d like to ask you a few

questions.” Roth looked around the parking lot, not

answering, swallowing tightly. The man behind him moved

even closer, flashed a badge beside Roth’s face.

“Mr. Roth, I mean Right. Now.”

“All right,” Roth whispered. “My car’s this way.” He noted

that the man with the badge was tall, with short hair, grim

and exhausted-looking. “Can I see your ID again, please?”

Mulder held up his badge over the roof of the car. Roth

nodded, and he got into the sedan. Mulder swung into the

passenger seat, closing the door quietly. The black man’s

shoulders sank. “Look, I know right now that you’re not

cleared for this.”

“Dana Scully is my partner,” Mulder said, his voice like

black ice.

“I don’t know how it got deployed. It was an option. An

experimental option. We’ve never produced more than a

hundred grams of spores, to prove it could be done.”

“You mean Imperial Violet.”

“Yeah, that’s what we call it, all right,” Roth said,

folding his dark hands in his lap.

“What is it?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

(click)

“I think you can.” Roth smelled metallic oil, which

reminded him of his trumpet in grade seven rather than any

gun he’d ever held. He felt Mulder’s gun beside his head,

felt its gravitational field.

“She’s going to be all right. I made sure of it.” The pull

was heavier, though he couldn’t see it Roth knew the muzzle

was bigger than his head.

“She’s getting sicker. So’s Dr. Purcell.”

“No, they’re not. It’s the bacteriopha… it’s the cure.

It’s very aggressive. It has to be. Violet works very

quickly.” The gun didn’t move, but Mulder was quiet. Roth

continued. “It… it was an accident. It has to be. We

didn’t deploy it. That’s why I sent them the cure. I don’t

want anyone to die. It’s just research. It’s just an

option.” Roth felt the pull of the gun weakening slightly.

“I’m telling you the truth, man. I’m a scientist. I’m not

going to let any more people die from an experiment.”

Mulder dropped the gun and replaced it in his shoulder

holster in one motion. Roth continued.

“Look. I didn’t tell you this. And you didn’t hold a

fucking gun to my head. It’s in our best interests to not

have had this conversation.”

Mulder nodded and opened the door of the car, preparing to

leave. Roth spoke quickly.

“I need to know something for myself, even though this is

probably not a good question to ask a man with a gun.”

“Yeah?” Mulder stopped with one foot on the pavement.

“Does your partner… does she do any drugs? This is

really important. Between you and me.”

“No.”

Mulder watched Roth’s eyes narrow.

“She’ll be all right, I swear,” the man said.

* * *

7:30 a.m., August 8

Skinner had driven him home sometime the previous evening.

Mulder vaguely remembered being herded out, put in the

passenger seat of his own car. He had constructed a vigil

temple in the waiting lounge, surrounded by empty cola cans

and the scent of his unwashed body. Sheer persistence would

bring Scully, or news of Scully, to him.

In retrospect, considering the force with which he had

bounced one doctor off the wall the previous afternoon, it

was surprising they had allowed him to stay.

Scully’s voice horrified him that morning when he realised

he had answered the phone while still sleeping, taking

seconds for his half-conscious mind to register. If he was

hearing scully, here, something must be terribly,

terribly…

“Scully? You’re… what’s going on…?”

“I’m being released, apparently.” Her voice sounded

perfect, actually, wonderfully, vaguely irritated. He

imagined her looking over her shoulder with faintly

disguised suspicion. “Can you meet me at my apartment?”

“No, no, stay there, I’ll come get you. Are you, are you

okay?” He sat up.

“I’ll tell you about it when you get here.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.

* * *

8:40 a.m., August 8

Mulder pulled out of the maze of Bethesda’s parking lot.

Scully had literally been waiting outside the front door, a

large plastic bag beside her. She allowed him to embrace

her, only wrinkling her nose slightly. He had thrust the

upper half of his body under the shower before leaving his

apartment, but was now closing on four days in the same

pair of pants. Scully looked back, somewhat nervously, as

they pulled away.

“Something really strange is going on here,” she said.

“I know. You first.”

She turned forward again.

“It’s… what day is it, Thursday? Sunday night I was

sick. I don’t know what was wrong. I was running a high

fever and… was getting dissociative. As soon as that

happened, they gave me a dose of something different from

the antibiotics we’d been on, or I’d been on. Then I was

unconscious until yesterday evening. I wake up, they tell

me that I’m fine, I hadn’t been infected with anything, and

my symptoms were an allergic reaction to the antibiotics.”

“And they just released you?”

“This is totally irregular,” she shook her head. “Even if

there’s no sign of infection, with an unknown pathogen they

should be keeping us in isolation for another week at

least.”

“Did they tell you anything about Calias?”

“No. They didn’t even say if they’d determined what the

bacterium that Owen and I found was, or if was a pathogen,

or anything.” Scully worried at the seam on the armrest on

her door.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“I’m fine. Completely fine.” Her mouth tightened in

frustration.

“How’s Owen?”

“I found out they released him yesterday evening. Same

explanation.”

“Can you get a hold of him? The Gunmen have a friend you

both should talk to.”

She nodded. Later. He noticed that she was in similar

shape to him, her hair unwashed, poorly directed. In the

hero-world, if we lived on TV, we would shower togther, he

thought. Her head would fit under my chin as she pressed

her back to my chest and the water beat on our faces, my

arms around her body. Maybe the fact that he couldn’t even

form a single word that would pass his lips in that

situation indicated how far it was from reality. The image,

the feeling, snaked away from him.

“Mulder… when I was unconscious, did they let you see me?”

“No. They wouldn’t let me near the ward.”

“I don’t remember very clearly, but the the staff around

me seemed wrong somehow. They were too young, and they

acted strangely. I think they were probably military.”

* * *

Defense Intelligence Agency – Bolling AFB,

Washington D.C.

10:34 a.m., August 9

DIA headquarters had been built in a very short time,

considered finished, and neglected since. Outside it was

still holding up, an imposing block of silver-grey tiles.

Inside, weird black-and-red wall panels spoke to bad design

ideas of the 70s, and hideous beige carpet whispered three

decades of spilled coffee and half-assed janitorial

efforts.

“Glen, we have this under control. It’s being cleaned up

as we speak. We’ve deployed the bacteriophages to every

reported case or possible case.”

It is an established fact in the US intelligence community

that meeting rooms are small, crammed with mismatched

chairs and unused video equipment bought with year-end

budget surpluses. Light comes from glaring fluorescent

tubes directly overhead, or poorly conceived fixtures on

the walls. White skin turns green, brown skin grey-black.

“What the fuck do you mean, under control? Five. Five

cases of Violet in three separate infections. In DC, for

God’s sake. Is this from Dittrich? How the hell did it get

here?”

Roth is angry, and there is sweat on his forehead. A white

man in a uniform is uncomfortable, trying to calm him.

Another white man, khakis and a denim shirt, does not

respond. He does not know Roth, but called him by his first

name when he entered the room.

“Look, we’re not sure,” Uniform says.

“Where did you deploy it? Why, for Christ’s sake? It was a

goddamn experiment!”

Khakis speaks up.

“Glen, we are not in the policy community. We were asked

for options. We gave them what we had.”

“You bastards. You fucking bastards.”

“Narcofinance is moving up on the list again, Glen,”

Khakis answers, not insulted. “Bin Laden and everybody else

in Afghanistan, the Pakistani nuclear program. They needed

a zero-risk strategy. No American lives, no American arms.”

“Some zero-risk,” Roth says. His anger is dissipating,

scattering across the front of an unstoppable machine.

“We had to test it to make sure that’s what we were

getting,” Uniform looks apologetic as he speaks. “We did a

pilot-scale production run at Dittrich and deployed it in a

remote area of Peru where we had access. I don’t know how

the processed material got here. Dumb luck. We were told

that area was mainly domestic consumption.”

“How many ‘domestics’ did Violet kill in Peru?” Roth asks.

“It was a successful deployment.”

* * *

Dana Scully’s Apartment

9:40 p.m., August 9

“The bodies have already been moved to the CDC in

Atlanta,” Scully said, “but I’ve got copies of most of the

documentation. I’m perfectly willing to take a pass on the

slides if you are.” Mulder nodded assent, and looked over

Scully’s shoulder as she began paging through the folders.

He had explained his limited investigation into the

possible connection to Tyrell Robinson. He had returned to

DC, but Wiseman was having difficulty convincing the

prosecutor’s office to even let her bring him in for

questioning.

“Chad Peters and Elizabeth Langan, both 21, of Annapolis.

They were brought into emergency by Peters’ roommate

yesterday morning. Both were unconscious, suffering from

extremely high fevers… they were both recorded over 107.

The team in the ER reported skin discoloration and

haemorrhaging , and placed them in isolation. Toxicology

screen indicated, besides the presence of a significant

haemorrhagic fever of unknown type and origin, that they’d

both used cocaine within the past two or three days, but

there’s nothing else. They were both dead within six hours.”

“Who were they in contact with?” Mulder asked quietly.

“Peters’ roommate said they’d gone out to a bar on the

night of the 5th and left early, about 1030. They both went

to classes at U of Maryland the next afternoon. I don’t

know who’s acted on that, if anyone has.” Scully shifted in

the chair at her kitchen table, pulling off her glasses and

laying them beside the folder.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine, Mulder,” she said. “Unaccountably fine.” She

turned sideways in the chair, and leaned against the back.

Her shoulder pressed against Mulder’s abdomen, and she

leaned her head sideways to rest against the tip of his

breastbone. “So… Frohike told me you did something very

illegal.”

“Yeah.” She felt his voice vibrate through her, warming

her cheek.

“Did Glen Roth talk to you willingly?”

“No.”

She was silent for ten, fifteen seconds, turning her face

upwards to look at him.

“I don’t know what I’d do either.”

“You did, remember?” Mulder rubbed two fingers across his

hairline. Scully smiled faintly, her head nodding forward.

Ball caps and bandages.

“Yeah, I did.” Her head moved against him, almost

nuzzling, almost intentional. “I was so afraid. Not afraid

of any disease. After they gave me whatever they gave me,

it was so quick. It was like being back in the hallway,

feeling myself slipping away. I was terrified.”

“I know,” he whispered. “God, do I know.” His hand stayed

near her hair, brushing across the top of her ear, staying

there, stroking her absently. “You start wondering, how

often can this kind of thing happen.”

The pause was long, allowing for a mutually agreed change

of mood.

“With this kind of luck, we should start buying lottery

tickets,” Scully said with a sly tinge in her voice.

“They’d probably spontaneously combust.”

“That’s impossible, Mulder.”

Hero-Mulder would kiss you now, he thought, and we would

fade to black. They hung suspended in that moment, unable

to proceed, unable to conclude. She stayed in that

position, never breaking the one-contact rule. If bodies

touched, hands could not, hands could not do what saints

could not do. A suitable amount of time passed, in which

thoughts passed in her mind as they did in his and she

rose, beginning to clear mugs from the table.

* * *

Offices of “The Lone Gunman”

10:45 a.m., August 10

“Make yourselves at home…” Frohike said. He motioned over

to their former electronics lab. The workbenches had been

cleared off, and there was different equipment on them.

Mulder recognised some of it from his recent covert visit

to MTI. “We’re thinking of going into biotechs since the

bottom fell out of dot.coms.”

Scully started. Owen was in the makeshift lab area with a

woman in denim overalls, taking turns over what appeared to

be a small, high-powered microscope.

“Look at the tail structure on that bad boy,” the woman

said, moving away from the eyepiece and allowing the older

man to look.

“Oh, Jesus, that’s Ebola,” Owen said.

“Or something pretty similar,” the woman replied. “It’s a

filovirus, anyway. It’s also pretty dormant-looking, which

is a good sign.”

“I didn’t think rotaviruses formed spores. I didn’t think

ANY virus formed spores.”

“They don’t, normally. It seems to be hitching a ride

inside this bacterium, just like you said…. Oops, sorry,

bein’ rude.” The woman spun around on her chair. She was in

her early thirties, bright-eyed, pretty, with shoulder-

length mauve-coloured hair and a pierced nose. “Hi Dana,

I’m Marie, we were on the phone.” Marie had cheerfully

called Scully at home the previous day and announced that

she needed ‘some of your pee.’ “Come on, doctor talk. I’m

done with your pee.”

Scully was a little taken aback. There was a tiny silver

daisy in Marie’s nose, with a smiling face in its centre.

“Uhh, That’s good to know. Owen, what are you doing here?”

“And babe, you are a very lucky girl. Come look at these.”

Marie tugged her in one direction as Owen eased himself

out of the slightly confined space.

“Fox called me yesterday and put me in touch with Marie.

We’ve been puttering…”

Scully withheld judgement for the moment. She noticed a

rumpled pile of blankets in the corner of the lab area, and

a pile of Tintin books. She had a nasty feeling the expert

consultant slept there.

* * *

Mulder looked back over his shoulder at the makeshift

microbiology lab and its mauve-haired mistress.

“So… where did you guys find her, anyway…?”

“She was on the net, had the right kind of friends. Don’t

ask her too many questions or you’ll just get scared. Her

kung-fu is good, but she left a big bottle of clozapine in

the john.”

Mulder whistled. Clozapine was a powerful drug used to

treat symptoms of schizophrenia.

“Anyway, here’s the deal,” Frohike shrugged. “We rifled

some classified Congressional allocations databases, where

you tend to find code names. Only a few members of Congress

ever really find out what they mean, but the agencies

responsible and the amounts are identified.”

“The Stealth Fighter was in there as Have Blue back in

1979,” Langly offered.

“No Imperial Violet. But… we did see Imperial Purple,

from 1989, and Imperial Indigo, from 1992,” Frohike

continued. “No details, but they were both joint programs

between the DEA and the US Army.”

Langly offered Mulder a printout with the codenames, along

with two dozen others, highlighted in blue marker.

“We weren’t talking a lot of money, either. A couple of

mil, so it obviously wasn’t a missile or aircraft or

anything. Marie said that’d be enough to run a lab-scale

microbiology project.”

“The databases only went up to 1998, so we may just be

missing the most recent development,” Byers said.

“Imperial Violet,”Mulder said.

“Bingo,” Frohike leered.

“Teenagers who are aesthetically pleasing, in other words,

fly…”Langly murmured to no one in particular.

“What?”

“Forget it, Mel,” Langly said.

“Scully and I had a little luck on Glen Roth. He’s former

Army, a microbiologist. He’s published stuff on defence

against biological warfare agents, and he’s got a lot of

connections to Ft. Detrick and the Dugway Proving Ground in

Nevada.”

“Oh, baby,” Langly whistled. “Official testing grounds of

the United States’ biological warfare programs.”

“Yeah, when they weren’t just dumping it on New York or

Atlanta,” Frohike said.

* * *

“I have never seen anything like these little guys, only

heard about them. You see this?” Marie waved Scully close

to the microscope. The woman smelled like cigarette smoke

and sandalwood.

“Is that a bacteriophage?” Scully asked.

“An engineered bacteriophage. It kills the bacteria and

releases an antigen which spurs production of an antibody

unique to Ebola-wanna-be here. Your samples and tests were

full of these little guys. It’s a perfect system, and

somebody built it this way.” Marie sounded as if she was

reciting from a hidden teleprompter.

“Are you sure?”

“In evolutionary terms, it’s counterintuitive, so yeah.

The bacteria/virus combination is actually less

transmissible under most circumstances, but more

pathogenic, than the filovirus or bacteria on its own. And

there’s no reason for the bacteria to be there, except to

give the filovirus a ride. The filovirus will kill the host

long before the bacteria does. That’s pretty much the only

way it could transmit from host to host, is from bacterial

colonies on a corpse. That’s how you picked it up.”

“So it’s a weapon.” Scully said slowly.

“I don’t know… it kills horribly, not efficiently,” Marie

said. “There’s sort of a chicken, egg problem with it. It

can be transmitted from a corpse to a new host, sometimes,

but the initial infection will have to be accomplished

somehow.”

“Some kind of initial attack…” Mulder interjected.

Scully hadn’t seen him joining the discussion.

“Yeah, probably with some sort of aerosol powder or

liquid. Which brings up something else…” Marie shuffled

through a second stack of papers. “If we read the records

from Glen Roth’s computer right, it even has a built-in

weakness. It’s vulnerable to alkalis, a five per cent

bleach solution would kill it in seconds. But, it’s

*incredibly* resistant to acids.”

“So you could pack it in some sort of acidic medium… that

would increase the possibility of it infecting an organism

that was exposed to it,” Scully mused.

“Yah, if it attacks the respiratory or lung tissues.”

“Mulder, if we want to operate on the idea that someone

would spread this deliberately, I think I may have

something here.”

“What ?” he stood very close to her, closer perhaps than

was necessary even in the confined lab space.

“The two college kids in Annapolis. They both had used

cocaine at some point in the past week.”

“Right.”

“The original tox screen, done from the first autopsy on

Maria Calias. She appeared to be a regular user, and had a

high level of cocaine in her bloodstream.”

Mulder nodded. He knew he was supposed to pick up on

something, but wasn’t entirely sure what it was.

“It’s a genetically engineered organism with an extremely

high resistance to acidic environments,” Marie said.

“Powder cocaine is very acidic. It could be packed in

cocaine and survive.”

“And guaranteed infection… respiratory tissues,” Mulder

nodded more deeply.

“I think a ‘war on drugs’ joke would be pretty tasteless

right now,” Frohike said. The Gunmen had gradually followed

Mulder over to the lab area. Byers spoke up.

“Can I speculate for a moment here?” he began. Scully

reflected that no one ever interrupted their right to

speculate, no matter how crazy the results might be.

“Processing cocaine, getting the coca from the plant,

involves acidic processes.”

“Right,” Marie said. Byers continued.

“This may be intended to target the people who produce it,

not the people who use it. If it was dusted or sprayed on

coca plants, the people who farm and process the cocaine

would become ill. Aside from killing them, the

psychological impact would be tremendous.”

Mulder concentrated on a spot on the workbench.

“Scully…” he began, not lifting his eyes. “Roth asked me,

he said it was important, he asked me if you used any

drugs.” Scully showed no reaction. Byers and Frohike’s eyes

met for a moment.

“It kinds of fits the pattern. Typical US establishment

hypocrisy. Target the supply, don’t admit there’s a demand,

” Langly said bitterly. Marie cleared her throat.

“Well, there’s one other thing that’s kinda important.”

She held up the tiny folded pill cup that Dana had hidden

three nights earlier in the isolation unit. “This is how

the bacteriophages were delivered. They’re basically freeze

dried in an inert media. Think Sea Monkeys. When you got

these, you were cured, intentionally, by somebody who knew

exactly what you might have been infected with.”

“Turn it on, turn it off. Make sure the US ‘military

advisors’ have their shots.” Frohike nodded.

“What do we do?” Langly asked.

“Roth said it must be an accident,” Mulder began. “What if

they used it in Colombia or something, tested it, and it’s

found its way up here?”

“If Roth didn’t know how you contracted the disease…”

Marie trailed off.

“Either way, Maria Calias is the first victim.” Scully

said. “If we’re going to act on this theory that cocaine

was the initial infectious mechanism, we can assume her

source goes back to… what was the name, Mulder?”

“Tyrell Robinson. I’d better call Detective Wiseman. I

don’t think we can let him avoid answering questions much

longer…”

* * *

Anacostia Washington, D.C.

11:22 a.m., August 10

“They’re good folks,” the woman said, peeking around him

just above his elbow, her face beside his police shoulder

flash. “Both got jobs, take good care of the kids, not like

some people around here. That’s why I called the police, I

ain’t seen them in three, four days, they ain’t gone to

work, and when I knocked on the door this morning they

didn’t answer.”

“Hopefully they’re just on vacation or something. It’s

good you’re keeping an eye open, though.” The policeman

knocked on the door again, more firmly this time. “Mr.

Willard? Mrs. Willard?” the old black woman at his side

sniffed.

“Well, someone sure has to.”

“Miz Watley, you maybe want to just wait down the steps

there?” He tested the doorknob, finding it unlocked,

cracking the front door open. Something was wrong in there,

his senses helpfully told him, to match the tightening in

his belly. There was a foul, sewer stench, no sound of

television, no radio, no air conditioning. The air that

wafted out of the slightly opened front door was hot. He

peeked in.

“Mrs Willard…? Mr… oh, Jesus…”

He walked quickly down the front steps, manfully holding

his face still and his cornflakes down. He put his hand on

the old woman’s shoulder.

“Miz Watley, please come wait at the car here… I think I

better call an ambulance…”

“Oh, dear…”

* * *

D.C. Metropolitan Police Headquarters \

1:24 p.m., August 10

Tyrell Robinson was a tall, well-built black man, his head

shaved smooth, his suit jacket cut smoother. He’d greeted

Detective Wiseman with a handshake, like he was coming for

lunch, but became steadily more concerned when he saw

Mulder and Scully’s badges. As they steered him towards one

of the questioning areas, he pulled up short and got out

his cell phone.

“Robin, it’s Tyrell, I’m down at Metro and they refuse to

tell me what’s up. I’ll wait here for you, call me if

you’re tied up.” He flipped his tiny phone closed.

“Wiseman, that was Robin Witkowski, you remember Robin? I

thought you would. If you so much as breathe at me the

wrong way, Robin is gonna spend a lot of my money busting

you, and your boss, and your boss’s boss, and by the time

it all rolls downhill, you will be a security guard at a 7-

11. Are we understood?”

“Put it away, Robinson, Shaft busted punks like you,

remember? The Feds are asking you the questions. Not me.”

Robinson held up both his hands and stopped walking just

outside the interrogation room.

“I think maybe I better just wait for Robin. I hope she’s

not playing golf or we could be here a while.”

Mulder looked at the police detective, who began to sigh

with resignation before the FBI agent began to speak.

“Detective Wiseman, maybe… maybe you could wait outside.”

She turned on her heel, cursing over her shoulder.

“Okay, fine, whatever, as long as he fucking co-operates.”

“Is that better?” Scully asked, arching an eyebrow at

Robinson.

“That depends what you want with me,” he answered,

casually seating himself, leaning back in the chair with

his legs crossed. “By the way, I don’t smoke, so I hope

neither of you intends to start.”

“Mr. Robinson,” Scully walked a path just out of

Robinson’s line of sight, her arms crossed in front of her,

forcing the black man to either lose sight of her or turn

his head. He was very cool, concentrating on Mulder instead.

Mulder wondered how serious Scully was. In the summer of

1998, in a carefully ignored interrogation, she had walked

behind a member of Arizona’s Copperhead Militia the same

way. The next thing anyone in the room knew, the chair had

been pulled over backwards, and Scully had the heel of her

shoe planted on the man’s xiphoid process. Where the fuck

is the bomb, asshole, she screamed. She refused to discuss

it later.

“Maria Calias and seven other people in the DC area were

all infected with an extremely severe disease, a form of

haemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola,” she began. “There are

probably more cases we know don’t about yet. It’s

preliminary, but it appears that people are being infected

through cocaine.”

“You’re talking to the wrong guy.” Robinson lost, and

Mulder saw it. He tried, very casually, to look over his

shoulder to find her, and Scully noticed. She glanced at

Mulder, just barely, and he moved directly in front on

Robinson.

“Maria was the first known case,” Mulder said. “I don’t

think we’re talking to the wrong guy. Now, you have

probably not done anything illegal, but we need to find and

isolate the drug shipment that these people have been

infected from.”

“That would imply I had done something illegal.” Robinson

was a smart man, and what would be called a ‘cool customer’

by the cops. But he’d been broken, watching Mulder and

Scully circling him. His voice was slightly higher-pitched

now. Mulder continued.

“Mr. Robinson, there could be lives at stake here.

Depending on how many people have used coke from this

shipment, a lot of lives. It’s possible that someone may

have infected this shipment of drugs intentionally in order

to target users or people who handled the drug.”

“Yeah, I wonder who’d do a thing like that.”

“The FBI is prepared to guarantee you immunity.” Scully’s

eyes narrowed at Mulder.

“Is the FBI prepared to write that down?”

“If you’re prepared to co-operate fully.” Mulder said.

Scully stayed behind Robinson now, not to unnerve him, but

so the man wouldn’t see her reaction to Mulder’s sudden

offer.

“I won’t sign anything without my lawyer.”

“Find your lawyer, we might be short of time.”

As Robinson pulled his cell out, Scully’s rang. She walked

over to the corner of the room, talking quietly.

“Mulder, something’s happening.” Robinson spoke quickly in

the background. Scully slipped out of the room into the

hallway, and Mulder followed her, closing the door behind

him.

“That was Owen. There were four more cases brought into an

emergency clinic in Anacostia,” she said. “A couple were

DOA and two young children with extreme fevers. Fifteen

minutes after the ambulance arrived some kind of military

unit showed up and took custody of the whole clinic.”

“We’ve got it nailed, Scully. Robinson’s gonna talk. We’d

better call Skinner and get a HAZMAT team ready to go with

us.”

Scully looked through the one-way glass into the room.

Robinson knew what it was, of course, and was looking right

back at them as he made his call.

“Mulder, are you entirely comfortable going ahead with

this?” Scully’s mouth was drawn so tightly it almost

disappeared.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“This is pretty thin, Mulder. New pathogens enter the

environment all the time. West Nile in New York last

summer, for example.”

And you hate, hate hate lettings scumbags go, for any

reason, he thought. Something, somewhere, has to stay black

and white, doesn’t it Scully baby.

“Regardless of how Maria Calias may have been infected,

someone knew exactly how to cure you when you were

infected. Someone who works on military biological warfare

programs. What more do you want?”

“I don’t know. I just have some doubts that we’ve followed

proper scientific method in our investigations. I don’t

know how trustworthy we can consider Marie’s conclusions,

and neither Owen nor I are really experts in this kind of

material. I mean, she had academic qualifications, but I’m

not a psychologist and she struck me as…”

Mulder looked pained.

“Scully, don’t do this now. Don’t give me this knee-jerk

over-rationalisation.”

“I’m just suggesting that before we start making immunity

pledges to drug dealers that we might want to consider all

the options.”

“Have we discovered any other options?”

“No, but we’ve been pretty directed so far.” Mulder didn’t

respond. Scully stared at the floor. “I’m only going along

with this because there may be lives at stake and it’s all

we have.”

“You know better, Scully.” Her posture made it clear that

she was not going back into the interrogation room. Mulder

sighed, and went back in, closing the door behind him.

“Robin Witkowski, registered member of the Maryland bar,

will be here in twenty minutes,” Robinson said. He

chuckled. “Yeah, I sure wonder who’d do a thing like that.”

* * *

Robinson had a couple of names, an address, phone numbers.

Wiseman left the room as he talked, swearing a blue streak.

He knew where the cocaine was probably stored, when it had

come into the country, from where, and in what quantity.

Scully was silent in the car as they drove across town,

hooking up partway along the I-95 with three white vans and

two sedans. Skinner was in one of them.

“If you’re going in, I’m going.” Mulder said.

“Mulder, I’m medically and operationally qualified, and in

all likelihood immune to anything that might be in the

house.”

“Fine, you can protect me.”

“Mulder, don’t make this into some kind of macho thing.”

“It’s exactly the opposite, Scully. I spent a couple of

days on the other side of the glass from you and I’m not

doing it again. It scares me too much.”

The house was an unassuming bungalow east of the river, in

a neighbourhood where one would have to exercise a certain

degree of discretion. A Lexus sat in the driveway.

“Gee, that’s not a giveaway at all,” Mulder murmured.

There was no sign that any occupants of the house were

aware of the rapidly deploying police presence. They parked

down the block. Scully inhaled and exhaled deeply once

before she got out of the car, and met his eyes. The

argument was over, temporarily or permanently he wasn’t

certain. There were more important matters at hand.

* * *

Mulder placed a gloved hand on the doorknob, twisting it

once. The door cracked open a notch. Periscopes through

each external window had revealed nothing, nor roused any

response from inside.

Several policemen had, however, noticed the smell.

“Okay, it’s unlocked.” Scully’s voice crackled in his ear,

unnecessary for him, necessary for the response team

audience. As they passed the car in the driveway, she had

noticed it was filmed with a week’s worth of dust. She took

up a position opposite the door as Mulder hoisted the

decontaminant spray unit. He grinned at her through the

transparent mask of the light blue NBC suit as he tested

it, sending a small squirt of chemical-laced water against

the outside wall of the house.

“Wet T-shirt night…?”

She pushed the door with one heavily booted foot. It

swung open slowly, and she looked into the entryway of the

apartment. She held a modified Glock pistol, the trigger

guard vastly enlarged for gloved hands.

“Mulder, take a look at this…”

The walls were streaked with whitish deposits that had

collected along the baseboards and stained the carpet in

dried pools. He saw patterns that looked like something had

drained down from high on the walls.

“What the hell…?”

Scully knelt down, brushing her glove along the baseboard

with one hand as she kept her pistol pointed down the short

hallway with the other.

“Mulder, someone’s been here. Someone sprayed

decontaminant foam all over this room.” She rose, walked

down the entryway. The living room was decorated in water

stains and deposits of dried white foam, scummed over the

leather couch and the big-screen TV. A blue plastic

tarpaulin covered a La-Z-Boy in the far corner of the room.

Something was under the tarp, something that had sloughed a

vile grey-brown pile of itself onto the floor beneath the

chair. It was crusted in the whitish residue that covered

the walls and floor. Mulder lay down the spray unit.

“You want to look?” He peeked down the hallway on the

left, into the bathroom. There was another blue tarp

covering something half in, half out of the bathtub.

“There’s another in here.” Scully saw him wincing inside

his mask, and he abortively reached up to try and run his

hand through his hair.

“There were supposed to be two men in here, right?” Scully

asked the command unit.

“That’s correct,” the voice crackled back.

“We have two bodies, probably several days old… can we

get an evidence team up here immediately?” Scully stood in

the middle of the living room, placing the pistol in the

kangaroo pouch on the front of the suit. “The scene has

been disturbed, and we may want to start considering this a

criminal investigation… danger of contagion is probably

minimal, the scene has already been decontaminated by

unknown parties.”

“Scully, Mulder, it’s me.” Skinner’s voice crackled inside

their suits.

“What is it, sir?” Scully replied.

“I’m pulling you out of there… apparently this stopped

being a DC police or FBI matter about a half an hour ago.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Mulder snarled.

“Mulder, the Army is down here. Please come out before

they come in.”

* * *

FBI Headquarters, Office of Assistant Director Skinner

9:30 a.m., August 21

“We’re here to apologise, officially, to Dr. Scully for

the, uh, inconvenience she suffered as a result of the

accident, and express our thanks to Agent Mulder and Dr

Scully for their excellent work in locating the

contaminated material.”

Mulder looked at Skinner incredulously. The two men who

had introduced themselves as representatives of the

Department of Defense were so colourless as to be almost

translucent. Skinner had what Mulder though of as the shit-

or-go-blind look, a man who knew he couldn’t win no matter

how the situation unfolded.

“When is the inquiry into this matter going to be held?”

Scully said coldly.

“Thanks for asking that, Doctor,” oozed Paleface One. “I’m

very pleased to inform you that the inquiry has been

completed, as of last Friday.”

“Completed,” she said neutrally. Mulder made a strangled

noise.

“Yes, and the inquiry produced no less than one hundred

and twelve recommendations for improvements in handling

protocols for potentially toxic biological materials in US

Army research facilities. As well, new guidelines will be

developed for the use of genetically engineered simulant

organisms.” Paleface One turned to Paleface Two. Scully

later reflected that if she didn’t have the intense urge to

kick them in the groin, she would have not even have been

able to recall what gender they were. Paleface Two looked

at her with Understanding Smile Number Fourteen.

“It’s my duty, in which I take some pride, in to inform

you that the tribunal in charge of the inquiry ruled that

you, Dr. Scully, be provided with monetary compensation in

the amount of one hundred and fourteen thousand dollars, on

various grounds. The ruling on this matter is here, as is

the cheque.” He slid a manila envelope across the front of

Skinner’s desk.

“What’s the finding of the inquiry?” Skinner asked.

“There was an accidental release of a non-lethal organism

designed to simulate possible biological warfare agents

from a US Army research facility. The organism was not

stable, and once removed from the controlled environment,

it mutated into a lethal agent similar to those which it

was designed to simulate. The release was not noted.

Systems failed. Processes that we planned and never tested

failed. Mistakes were made, serious ones. We erred

terribly, and innocent people were harmed. The tribunal’s

findings are completely public.”

Mulder marvelled at how the representative could speak in

the boxes that would be pulled out and highlighted for a

newspaper article.

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” he spat. “Imperial

Violet acted just like you wanted it to.”

“We have no record of a program by that name. The agent

released was a simulant which we refer to as L-142.”

Skinner interrupted Mulder’s followup, staring him down.

“Where are the tribunal’s findings?”

“They’re being delivered to your office this afternoon,”

simpered Paleface Two. “We decided to only send one copy,

as it comprises something in the neighbourhood of six

thousand pages plus another two thousand of annexes. The

executive summary is in your folders there, it basically

reads as I told you, plus some charts, and the compensation

recommendations.”

“What if I want to refuse the compensation?” Scully said

icily.

“It is quite generous, under the circumstances. I don’t

think you want to take us to court for more.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“The inquiry is completed, and has been accepted by DoD.

It won’t be reopened, not even for the FBI.” One paused.

“Unless you have some evidence of criminal wrongdoing.”

“What would you say if I said I’ve spoken to Glen Roth?”

Mulder ventured. “And that I’ve been inside the lab at MTI

Bioprocess?”

“I’m not familiar with either of those…” Two shook its

head at One, who made a shrugging motion.

“We have specimens of a genetically-engineered bacterium

which acts as a host to viral colonies, and a bacteriophage

specifically engineered to destroy it, which match files

recovered from MTI Bioprocess.”

“How did you get access to those files, Agent Mulder?” One

asked, its voice layered with insinuation.

“We’d be very interested to examine those specimens,

actually.” Two feigned interest with almost human facility.

“Are those the mutated strain of L-142? It’s unfortunate

that all stocks of the simulant have been destroyed, it

would have been useful for comparison purposes.”

Mulder snorted and leaned back in his chair, shaking his

head at Skinner. Scully had slipped open the manila

envelope, and was scanning the document detailing what

exactly she was being compensated for.

“This is incorrect. I wasn’t administered these drugs,”

she said. “I had a full blood workup done privately after

my release from Bethesda. None of these were in my system.”

“The records at Bethesda are quite clear,” one of the DoD

representatives replied. “It is… a premier institution.”

Mulder noticed that Scully had left a small white envelope

untouched. “Now. If you don’t mind, we have to be going. If

you have any questions about the tribunal’s findings, when

they arrive, you can contact the Department.”

“I’m sure that’ll be very productive.” Mulder nodded and

smiled.

Ten minutes later, Mulder stalked the limited space

available in the basement office. His hands ran through his

hair, planted themselves on his hips.

“I’m going to try to find Roth. He has to be somewhere.”

The address he’d discovered in the MTI offices, when he

went to visit it, was recently vacated. Very recently.

“I bet you can’t find him.” Scully said, her voice low.

She leaned against the desk, fingering the envelope she had

been given.

“I should take you up on it.” He chuckled, nodding at the

cheque. “You’re buying lunch.”

“I’m not keeping this, Mulder.” She placed it carefully in

their “out” box. “What are you doing now?”

“Cattle mutilation?”

“Not before lunch.”

* * *

Cafe Browse, Alexandria, VA

11:20 a.m., August 26

She’d let Owen talk her into the Belgian waffles with

strawberries, but eventually dug in her heels, insisting on

yogurt instead of whipped cream. She had initially been

looking at mango-berry kascha something-or-other, and Owen

intervened passionately, arguing that Western culinary

traditions did certain things right, and that being allowed

to have dessert for breakfast on occasion was one of them.

“You took the money.”

Her voice was flat, carefully non-accusing, an

observation. Owen examined a piece of blueberry pancake on

his fork, and shrugged.

“I may as well get something out of it. For a few days

there, after the thrill wore off, I was afraid I was going

to get a bullet in the head.”

“Do you believe their explanation?”

Scully realised that came out wrong. Too challenging, too

accusatory. Question the issue, not the person. Owen knew

that she knew, silently accepting her unspoken apology.

“I don’t know. We didn’t have much to work with, you and

Marie and I, did we? And we were… you know, the people

around us, Fox, your friends… they think a certain way.

Maybe we tried too hard to construct what we wanted to see.

Their explanation, the official one, makes sense. Why

manufacture a conspiracy when you can explain everything

away by stupidity? I’m a firm believer in stupidity.”

“You don’t believe that.”

“Does it matter? I’m alive, I paid off my house and I’m

redoing my kitchen. I have dead people to cut open. I

have choir practice. I have other things to do, Dana.”

Owen laid down his fork and knife, looking out over the

railing of the patio. “It suits what I want to believe. If

we saw what we think I saw, I don’t want to know. I don’t

need to know. I see enough things every day that make me

want to stand up and yell and engage in mass defenestration

without worrying about government conspiracies, too.”

Scully looked out into the street as well. A beautiful,

sunny Sunday morning. She tried to avoid squinting in the

light, to take in all of it. On the opposite sidewalk, a

street kid playing guitar laughed as a ponytailed blonde

woman walked past him.

“I can’t, Owen. It’s what I do. Some things… someone…

I’ve learned that I have to believe what I see in front of

me. It’s become the guiding principle of my life. Sometimes

it means accepting things that are brutal, common

knowledge. And sometimes it means things that I can’t even

begin to explain.”

“Take a piece of advice from a chatty, sentimental old

fag?” They looked at each other across the table again.

“Yes.”

Owen picked up his untouched glass of orange juice,

raising it to Scully as if in a toast.

“Every day. It’s all precious. It’s such a cliché but it’s

so true. He was terrible at squeezing orange juice. You’d

get a glass full of seeds. I can’t drink the stuff anymore

because I can’t feel them tapping against my teeth.”

He set the glass down, still untouched.

“Oh, and take the goddamn money.” Owen waved his hand

dismissively. “I can recommend a large number of fine

charities, some of which give very funky gifts. Or buy

yourself a car or something. They’re just going to buy a

bomb with it otherwise.”

Dana Scully walked home around noon, her eyes open to the

sunlight, allowing her mind to wander wherever it chose to

go.

* * *

Epilogue

The Peruvian Air Force, such as it was, had better things

to do that night than intercept the lumbering cargo

aircraft as it droned across the border from Colombia. If

it had come close enough, an observer would see a slightly

darker, familiar star-and-bar against the grey-green

pattern on the wing. In this part of the world, such

markings, and their connotations of manifest destiny,

guaranteed immunity.

Under one wing, between two thundering propellers, a

streamlined tank hung, its underside marked with dozens of

tiny ports. Moonlight gave a faint luminescence to the

yellow powder as it streamed out behind the aircraft,

scattering over the dark hills below.

* * *

April 3, 2000 – July 16, 2000

“They call me Khyber, I’m awriter in black

Put your mouse on the button and send feedback…”

-“Canadian Badass” khyber@home.com

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