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.
* * *
“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
* * *
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.
Tape stretched across the doors, roll the tape, no one
gets out of here alive.
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
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
“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
“Dana, step away from the table, as far as you can.” The
man’s voice is nervous but strong.
“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
“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…”
“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
He heard Scully swallow loudly, ready to launch into
another discussion of unusual bacterial activity.
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
“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
Scully *never* repeats her big words. Her inner scientist
is on autopilot.
“What do you want for dinner?”
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
Half a smile.
“You’re crazy, you know that?”
“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
“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.
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
“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
“It’s a bacterium, all right. Not one I recognise, but
that’s not exactly my forte. But look at the structures in
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?”
“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.
Scully smiled and let her chin drop to her chest.
“How long?” Owen asked, sitting backwards on the rolling
“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.”
“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
“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
“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
* * *
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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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.
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…”
* * *
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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…
“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
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
“Okay, I’m here,” he said, aligning the tiny mike close to
“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
“Suckers. Was there a guard at the door?”
“Human’s always the weakest link,” said Langly. He
imagined them all sitting there, all with matching
“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?”
“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
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
“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,
“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
“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
“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
“What’s on the floor?”
“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
“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
“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.”
“Fort Detrick, Maryland. The US Army Medical Research
Institute of Infectious Diseases.”
* * *
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
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.,
“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.
“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
“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.”
“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.”
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,
“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
“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
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Completely fine.” Her mouth tightened in
“I found out they released him yesterday evening. Same
“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,
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
“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
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
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
“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
“Yeah.” She felt his voice vibrate through her, warming
“Did Glen Roth talk to you willingly?”
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
“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
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
“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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
“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
* * *
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
“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
“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
“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…”
* * *
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“I’m just suggesting that before we start making immunity
pledges to drug dealers that we might want to consider all
“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
“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
“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
“Scully, Mulder, it’s me.” Skinner’s voice crackled inside
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“What if I want to refuse the compensation?” Scully said
“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
“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
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
“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?”
“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.
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
* * *
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,
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” firstname.lastname@example.org