Closed Colony, Special Stock

Cover

Title: Closed Colony, Special Stock

Author: Branwell

Email: combs-bachmann@worldnet.att.net

Rating: PG-13 for mild language, innuendo, disturbing

images and ideas.

Category: X, A, M/S Friendship

Casefile with Mytharc connection

Archiving permission:

This is reserved to IMTP for two weeks after the initial

posting. After that, anyone may archive this. Please keep

my name with it.

Summary: A body is found in a top secret area on an Air

Force Base. No one knows the cause of death, or why the

dead woman was in a secured area. The Air Force officer in

charge makes a last ditch effort to prevent the project

from being closed down. He uses his clout to get the FBI to

send Mulder and Scully to investigate. Scully finds she

knows the right questions to ask–but how?

Author’s notes follow the story.

—————————————————

Prologue:

An Air Force base in Missouri

Monday, Aug. 20, 2001

7:15 a.m.

Around the base this place is getting a bad reputation.

Security finds secret documents scattered on the floor. The

vault door stands open in the morning, after being locked

shut the night before. Badges disappear and reappear

without an explanation.

People talk about it, but no one uses the word “haunted.”

When I pass Jay, Steve, Drew and the colonel at the

coffeepot, they’re debating last night’s game as though

earth’s fate depended on the outcome of the World Series.

Angie fidgets in the cubicle around the corner, looking

like Death with a make-over. She checks her e-mail,

rearranges piles of paper and then sits staring into the

corner of her cube. Spots of blush stand out as bright as

pink bandages on her cheeks.

Pam’s cubicle is empty. The woman hasn’t taken sick leave

in seven years, but she’s been home with a stomach flu for

the last ten days. She’s got five months of sick leave

saved up: I don’t expect we’ll see her for a while.

In the next cubicle, Marge buttons up her cardigan and rubs

her palms together. She gives me a nod, as usual. It’s

placatory, not affectionate. I accept it graciously,

anyway. She turns her back and pretends to be busy

reviewing the papers presented at the Conference on

Technology-Inherent Risks in Genetic Engineering.

I return to the men, who are laughing too loud at old

baseball jokes. When Colonel Robbins breaks away, I follow

him into his office. He looks up and runs a nervous finger

between his collar and Adam’s apple, but he doesn’t speak.

Before now, he always looked like he had a slight sunburn,

even in the winter. In the last two weeks his face has

collapsed into pale furrows. Every day of his 60-plus

years shows.

Helen, the two-letter admin support, leans in through the

open doorway. After a moment’s hesitation, she takes two

steps inside and beckons to someone behind her.

“Colonel Robbins, the special investigative team you

requested is here. Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Agents, this is Colonel Ed Robbins.”

ACT I

7:30 a.m.

The man and woman who follow her in should pose for an FBI

recruiting poster. He’s tall and graceful, with golden skin

that looks almost tan. Even though she’s small, she has a

perfect figure. Daddy calls that type a “pocket Venus.” I’m

not sure if her red hair is natural, but she has the faint

freckles that go with that coloring. Both of them radiate

health and energy.

Hands are shaken all around. Helen can hardly wait to get

back to the safety of her own office. She rocks on those

spike heels like a fir tree in a high wind, always swaying

back toward the door. Robbins releases her with a nod and

muttered “Thanks, Helen.”

I leave when Helen does. I’ve heard Robbin’s story already.

I was there when he made the call to his old buddy Kersh at

FBI headquarters. The colonel always has a buddy who can

fix things.

No matter how hard they try to pretend, nothing’s been the

same since they found the body. There were no signs of

violence, forced entry, or tampering with secret documents.

Just a peaceful corpse that had no right to be inside a Top

Secret vaulted area where a Black Program has been going on

for almost fifty years.

Jay has always been good at acting normal. Maybe it isn’t

an act. Maybe this feels normal to him. I know he put his

daily dollar into the coffee fund at 7 a.m.. He poured his

first cup at 7:30. In another fifteen minutes he’ll pour

his second. Fifteen minutes after that he’ll head for the

men’s room with the sports section.

You’d never guess that two weeks ago he found his dead wife

lying on the floor, not fifteen feet from his desk.

The carpet in these offices is thirty years old. In the

corners I can still see the fleur-de-lis pattern, red on

blue. The rest is a dirty purple blur.

The desks are battered–painted a sloppy, gun-metal gray.

Half the drawers are coming apart, so they can’t be fully

closed or opened. The mismatched chairs are too worn to

have their heights adjusted. Their spring mechanisms

screech like squealing brakes when the sitter moves.

I amuse myself by tipping my chair once in a while. Nobody

knows when the next little squeal will break the quiet.

Marge shakes her head at me.

EOS has been losing budget funds for years now. It’s never

produced anything usable. Normally, Congress would have cut

off its money a long time ago. Colonel Robbins is too good

at working the system. According to the rules, he should

have relocated eleven times in the last thirty-five years.

The brass waived the requirement every time because he

convinced everyone he was indispensable to the project, and

that the project was indispensable to the DOD.

He may not be able to get carpets or furniture, but he’s

kept vault space and his lab animals. Everybody in the

office gets the latest software on their PCs. In the midst

of an institutional melt-down, the colonel still gets

funding.

The Air Force is living on its capital, like the lazy heir

of a rich, old family. The fat budgets of the Cold War

fostered today’s glamorous technology–Stealth, smart

missiles, the Shuttle. There’s nothing like that warming up

over the Bunsen burners in today’s labs.

More than half the civilian employees will reach retirement

age in five years. There aren’t enough lower level people

to replace them. It’s all very well to contract everything

out, but someone has to manage the contracts. Rules for

contracts make political intrigues look like playground

strategies. When the next “incident” breaks out, most of

the people who know how to make things happen will be gone.

Operations, intelligence, logistics, research–it’s the

same everywhere. People are going to be surprised during

the next conflict. It won’t be a happy surprise.

Daddy can go on about this for hours. And he does.

Colonel Robbins doesn’t talk as much, but he knows how to

make things happen. And how to stop things from happening.

He steps out of his office to make an inspirational speech,

and introduce everyone to the FBI agents. I hum the rude

song Jay made up about him.

“There are chickens on his shoulders,

Yeah, chickens on his shoulders.

Chickens make him bolder,

Than he’s any right to be.”

No one calls his eagles “chickens” to his face. People have

been known to slip and use his nickname “The Birdman” in

his presence. He doesn’t react.

Agent Scully cuts in so fast at the end of his compliments

to his “saddened but loyal team,” that it almost sounds

like an interruption.

“We need an office to conduct our interviews.” Her voice is

low, but it carries.

Colonel Robbins pauses before he gives one of his ominously

patient replies. “Of course. We’re going to use Lieutenant

Jackson’s office.”

The lieutenant’s been on TDY to Wiekamp AFB for the last

month. Everyone is green with envy at his perfect alibi.

They seem to forget that there’s no evidence of a crime.

“Thank you. We’ll speak with each of you individually,”

Agent Mulder says. I’ll bet he’s already formulated and

poked holes in a dozen theories behind that blank face.

With his most steely-eyed gaze fixed on Jay, the colonel

speaks up.”Please be frank. It’s the only way to clear our

group’s good name. Will you be starting with Mr. Barnes?”

the colonel asks.

The agents look at each other and then both nod. Are they

telepathic or something?

“No. We’ll speak to him last. We’ll start with Mr.

Kestler,” Agent Mulder answers.

“Fine. Drew, you go first. Do you want to go next, Marge?”

I head for the lieutenant’s office while the colonel is

still trying to take charge of the interviews. Maybe this

time the Birdman’s met his match. These agents act like

their final report hasn’t already been written. We’ll see.

The colonel is terrified that the new base commander will

use the compromised security issue to shut EOS down. He

wants the FBI to find a minor lapse in judgment on

somebody’s part. After a formal reprimand–maybe even a

dismissal–the project can go on as usual. If there’s been

foul play… who knows?

A couple months ago Jay said the Birdman was brooding over

a new proposal. This fuss could keep it from hatching.

Drew has round, wet, black eyes, like those lemurs that

stare worriedly out of “National Geographic.” It’s hard for

him to look dignified.

“Please have a seat, Mr. Kestler.” Agent Mulder takes the

lead, sitting behind the desk while his partner takes the

chair beside Drew. She perches on it at strict attention.

Mulder lounges back in his seat and grins when it screeches

a loud protest.

“What does ‘EOS’ stand for, Mr. Kestler?” Mulder asks.

“Nothing. It’s a random set of letters used to indicate the

group’s hierarchical position and departmental

relationships within the Air Force.” Drew must have seen

that one coming.

“You’ve been on this project for twenty-five years. Can you

give me a brief explanation of its purpose?”

“That information is classified and irrelevant to this

investigation.” Drew’s lips purse up with smugness.

Mulder has almost perfect control. I hardly see any change

in his expression. But his partner intervenes as though

he’d objected.

“He’s right about the classified status, Mulder. Kim gave

us forms to fill out for special clearances. You remember

the paper I had you sign yesterday? They haven’t been

processed yet.”

When he answers, Drew keeps his head down. “They’re about

six months behind on background checks marked ‘urgent.’ The

standard wait is twelve months now.” The big knuckles of

his spatulate fingers seem to fascinate him.

Mulder draws in a big breath and lets it out slowly. “All

right, Mr. Kestler, I think we understand each other. I

need to know your movements during the 24 hours before the

body was found.”

Drew throws back his bony shoulders and puffs out his

narrow chest. “I began that Sunday with a small breakfast

of toast and antioxidant green tea. No coffee. Did you know

that coffee can aggravate inflammation of the gall bladder?

Some times I get this twinge after eating.”

They’d better not let him get started on his twinges.

Agent Mulder gives him a pleasant smile and interrupts.

“Actually my partner here is a…”

At that point, Agent Scully interrupts his interruption.

“Perhaps we can skip to the question of your activities

after five o’clock that afternoon. Surveillance cameras

show Ms. Barnes being waved through the gate at that time.”

Drew opens and closes his mouth a few times, and shakes his

head. Then he plods on.

“I had a meeting of the International Trolley Enthusiasts

Club. We’re planning an excursion to the Baltimore

Streetcar Museum this summer.”

“Are there enough streetcar enthusiasts to form a club in

… let’s see, you live in Warrensburg?” Agent Mulder

asks, flipping through the file in front of him.

“I’m the only member from Warrensburg. I had to drive to

Kansas City. I allowed plenty of time. I got there early–

at six o’clock. I didn’t leave until almost eleven. You can

check with the other members. I know you’re thinking that’s

not healthy, staying so late, with work the next day. I had

to help Stan break down his cutaway of an interurban.”

“We’ll be getting in touch with your club members. What did

you do when you got home?” Agent Scully slips her question

in while Drew takes a breath.

“Brushed my teeth and went straight to bed, of course. I’d

had a shower before I went,” he explains.

Scully’s slightly wrinkled nose makes me think she’s

getting more information than she wants. Drew continues

without prompting.

“I slept until my alarm went off at six. There was a huge

traffic jam at the gate when I got to the base. The guards

were checking everybody’s ID. Usually they wave cars with

stickers on through. So I ended up being late for work! The

first time in twenty-two years. They wouldn’t let me into

the vault anyway. I waited and waited, and finally went

home. Our office was off limits, with guards posted, until

Wednesday.”

“May I see your access card?” Agent Mulder asks.

Drew lifts the cord holding his ID over his head.

“Have you ever loaned it to anybody? You know, maybe they

left theirs at home one day?” Mulder slips the photo card

out of its clear plastic pocket and examines the magnetic

strip on the back.

“Never. That’s against every security regulation. That’s

why we have ‘Turkey’ badges like yours. I mean ‘Temporary’

badges.”

The badges, blazing with big, wattle-red ‘T’s, are clipped

to the agents’ collars. In the vault, an escort is required

for the person with a “Temporary” badge. There’s a young

officer sitting outside the door right now. All he has to

do today is watch Agents Mulder and Scully.

“Have you ever told anyone your PIN?” Agent Scully asks.

“Certainly not! Has someone accused me of a security

breach? Because I’ve never… ” Drew gets hives when he

gets excited or nervous. I see the welts start to rise at

his jawline.

“No, no. We have to ask everyone these questions,” Mulder

soothes him. “How well did you know Rebecca Barnes?”

Drew leans back a little in his chair and I see the marks

fade from his face. “Oh. We always met at the Christmas

party and annual picnic. Chatted about the federal budget

and trollies. She seemed really interested in the history

of electrified rail service.”

“So you liked her?” Agent Mulder asks.

“Sure. Why not? Don’t get me wrong. I only liked her as a

friend. She wasn’t very pretty–kind of pasty and puffy, if

you know what I mean. Not very talkative. Jay or Pete

always monopolized her anyway.”

Not very pretty, huh? As though Drew were next in line to

play James Bond. The agents keep straight faces.

I tune out the rest of the conversation. It’s not going

anywhere.

I take a turn down the narrow passage between cubicles. Jay

is graphing something about percentages of diploid,

triploid and tetraploid cells in the special stock. I’m

watching when he finds the bite-marked pencil in his lap

drawer. He always hated the way I chewed on pens and

pencils. It took me two days get it done, but it was worth

it. Finally I see Jay react to something. He turns

abnormally pale.

When Drew emerges from his interview, I go with Agent

Scully to fetch Steve Sanderson.

As she shows him in, Steve scans the little office as

though he expects to sight a thumbscrew or rack. Steve’s

nose juts out like the beak of an American eagle. Maybe

that’s why his eyes look so keen. It’s an illusion. He sees

what he expects to see, like everybody else.

His meaty hands open and shut rhythmically while he

explains that all Sunday evening he worked on finishing his

basement. If you didn’t know him, you’d picture paneling

going up, maybe a wet bar in the corner, and an exercise

room with carpets and a Nordic track.

Steve is building a bunker to defend when the New World

Order finally moves into the Heartland. Once we went to his

house for dinner, and got the grand tour. He showed us his

gun racks, his grain storage bins, and his still.

“Better than gold,” he grinned, running his hand over the

glass tubing. “When society breaks down, people will trade

anything for alcohol. And I’m ready to defend my property.”

Steve is pushing fifty, but his wife is only twenty. She

must be close to her due date by now. When he talks, she

watches his face as though it’s the last light burning

after Armageddon. I guess she buys into the whole Jewish-

Liberal-Feminazi-Welfare-Queen-Homosexualist-Hollywood-

Peacenik Conspiracy to reduce American men to sniveling

servants of the U.N.

Of course, Steve has unusual access to top secret documents.

That’s what makes him scary. He knows more about the

government than the rest of us, and he wants to live miles

away from everybody else, on a pile of weapons.

“I understand you live quite a distance from the base,”

Agent Scully remarks. She startles her partner by pulling a

folder out from under his nose and over to her place.

“Yes. I have a few acres about sixty miles east. It’s real

quiet.”

“I’m sure it is,” she smiles. “But aren’t you worried about

your wife? She’s alone and unprotected out there. There’s

been a suspicious death right here on base. Or what if she

had a medical emergency?”

“Why should she need… Did the colonel tell you she’s

expecting? We’ve got a local midwife lined up. Not that

it’s any of your business. And Terri knows how to shoot.”

Agent Scully looks across the table at her partner. He

gives a tiny shrug. She asks the next question.

“What happened on Monday?”

“They were putting on a show of heavy security at the

gates. Never mind the miles of unpatrolled fencing around

the base.” Steve snorts with laughter. “Oh well. By the

time I got here, the excitement was over. There was yellow

tape all over the office. Security was giving Jay a hard

time–wouldn’t let him go home until I started threatening

to call the Kansas City TV stations. Wasn’t it bad enough

that he had to be one to find his wife’s body? She was

lying right outside Marge’s cubicle.”

Steve turns halfway around, as though he needs to recheck

that spot for corpses.

If I could remember how Jay reacted, I might know

everything.

Agent Mulder jumps in again. “That puzzles me, Mr.

Sanderson. Why was he at work when his wife hadn’t been

home all night? In his place, I’d have been out looking for

her. Or I’d have reported her missing.”

When he poses the question, Agent Mulder is looking at his

partner instead of at Steve. I notice that neither of them

wears a wedding band.

Steve’s jaw muscles stand out as he thinks about his

answer. “Well, you see… They’d separated. Sort of.

Sometimes she stayed with her dad. So Jay didn’t know she

was missing all night.”

Agent Mulder doesn’t show a reaction, but he speeds up the

pace of the questions. He asks about Steve’s membership in

MUFON. It’s some wacky organization for people who think

they’ve been abducted by aliens.

Mulder and Scully exchange whispers before he leaves the

room with Steve. I’m surprised to see him return with Jay.

I thought they were leaving him until last.

Jay is almost forty. Except for the lieutenants that get

cycled in and out every three years, he’s the baby boy of

the project. He spends an hour and a half at the gym every

other day, to keep his college athlete body. The luck of the

gene pool won him that handsome, durable face, and thick

hair that’s too blonde to show any gray. The charm–I’ve

never known how much of it comes from the heart.

He still looks paler than usual. It doesn’t stop the agents

from putting him through the usual questioning. I have to

sit through another recitation of the story Jay’s been

telling everyone.

“I went to bed early on Sunday. Rebecca was over at her

dad’s. When I got up, and she wasn’t home, I just assumed

her visit lasted so late that she decided to spend the

night. Pete gets lonely since he retired.

“I’m on an early schedule at work. I opened the vault at

7 a.m., like always.”

This is the part where he covers his eyes with one hand.

“She was lying there curled up like she was asleep.” Here

he always looks straightforwardly into someone’s eyes. He

chooses Agent Mulder. “Of course I knew something was very

wrong.”

“What did you do?” Scully prompts.

“I touched her hand. She was… cold. I’d never seen a

dead person before but I knew… I called the base

hospital to get an ambulance. I knew it was too late.”

Mulder takes his turn. “I’ve read the statement you made to

the military police. You said sometimes your wife spent the

night at her father’s. We have a statement from another

source that indicates you and your wife were separated. Is

that true?”

“No. Well, not exactly. We’d been going through a hard

time. Becky could be very… difficult. Her health

problems had… twisted her some way, I think. It was

never clear what was wrong with her, and no one could give

us a prognosis. If she was a little unbalanced, I blame it

on her illness.”

Agent Scully steps up to the plate.

“I’ve read her medical history, Mr. Barnes. Unexplained

inflammation of various joints and organs. Variously

diagnosed as diabetes, vitamin B deficiencies, rheumatoid

arthritis, lupus, IBD, asthma, allergies, appendicitis,

candidiasis syndrome. It looks like she got a new diagnosis

every time she received treatment.”

“It came and went. I could never see a pattern. I couldn’t

blame her for being irritable. For trying to control what

she could.” Jay sounds so understanding.

Mulder’s turn again: “So what happened lately to make

things worse between you?”

“She’d gotten this idea that… God, I don’t want you to

think she was crazy, but she thought that her doctors at

the base were in a conspiracy against her. She thought they

were doing experiments on her connected with MY work!”

Agent Mulder surprises me with his next question. “What do

you think?”

“Of course there’s no connection! We’re studying… Oh,

I know it’s supposed to be secret, but I can tell you the

general gist of it. It’s genetic engineering. Specifically,

how to target genes in selected cells and change the

protein production codes. Theoretically you could change

the cell itself to a different kind of cell by controlling

the kinds of proteins it makes. We’ve gone through a

hundred generations of rats, and made a little progress.

Imagine if you could change a transplanted organ to avoid

the immune rejection response! Or even turn fatty tissue to

liver tissue! But we’re nowhere near ready for human

experimentation.”

Jay puts on his martyr’s look.

“Becky sometimes didn’t have enough to occupy her mind. She

always ended up getting sick and losing jobs. Of course it

would have been foolish to try to have children.

“It seemed like she had nothing to do but get involved in

bizarre theories and grill me and spy on me. It got pretty

hard to live with. Every once in a while she’d have a

tantrum and drive off. She always ended up at her father’s.

She didn’t have anyplace else to go.”

Sad, but true. Jay could always go to Angie’s place. I guess

he’s not going to mention how he’s been carrying on with

that slut for the past three months.

“Is it possible your wife could have been here looking for

evidence of a conspiracy?” Mulder asks.

“I don’t know what to think. Even if she were crazy enough

–I mean, disturbed enough–to try that, she didn’t take my

access card. She didn’t know my password. I can’t explain

how she got here! All I know is it just about killed me to

find poor little Becky like that. After all the times I’d

seen her so sick in the hospital, to find her suddenly dead

when I least expected it!”

This is where Jay will let one manly tear trickle down his

face. I know he can’t feel too bad. When this blows over,

he can have Angie over any time he wants for a quickie.

Mulder looks as though he might leak a tear or two in

sympathy with Jay. His partner narrows her eyes.

“Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Barnes,” Mulder

manages. “I know this has been very difficult for you.”

They shake hands and Jay shuffles out with his head down.

I’m sure his mid-morning granola and yogurt will perk him

up.

“Shall we talk to… ” Mulder begins.

“Let’s get Angie Phillips in here!” Scully snaps.

“Angie Phillips? That doesn’t sound like a random call. Did

I miss something in that interview?”

“I’ll go get her.” Agent Scully answers without answering.

Angie probably lost ten pounds in the last two weeks. Some

people have all the luck. Jay likes them slim and girlish.

Scully shoots a warning glance at her partner and asks the

first question.

“How long have you been intimate with Mr. Barnes?”

Mulder has a good poker face, but his eyes get rounder and

his mouth opens a little.

Angie looks less surprised than Mulder does. Maybe she’s

relieved that everything is out in the open. “We started

seeing each other about three months ago.”

“So it began right after you came onto the project?” Scully

says, without looking up from Angie’s folder.

“Not RIGHT after,” Angie replies. “We worked together a

lot. It was… natural. Jay didn’t hate Rebecca, if

that’s what you’re thinking. He felt sorry for her.”

It’s so pleasant to be pitied. The opportunity to be

pathetic is a great incentive to get up in the morning.

Angie had better be careful. Jay isn’t the only one with a

possible motive here.

Agent Scully pounces. “Did you want Mr. Barnes to divorce

his wife and marry you?”

“Marry me? I… No! We didn’t have any plans… .”

I’m thinking–Come on, Angie. He brought you to our house

for nooners. What was that all about?

Agent Scully’s voice takes on a hard edge. “Come now, Ms.

Phillips. Be honest. You were doing it right in their

marriage bed, weren’t you? ADMIT IT!”

Mulder’s jaw drops like a cartoon of surprise. Angie saves

him from having to speak by answering the question.

“No! We used the bed in the guestroom. We don’t want to get

married. It was just… propinquity. You know?”

“Thank you for your honesty, Ms. Phillips.” Scully smiles

at her, but it isn’t a nice smile. If Scully knows about

propinquity, it doesn’t please her.

They ask her questions about her activities on that Sunday.

Usually her son spends the weekend with his dad. Two weeks

ago the ex had plans, so she had to drive her son to a rock

concert in Kansas City. She’s got her alibi. I half listen

to the details.

I have to admit, I’m convinced. My death had nothing to do

with a crime of passion. It’s just as I thought. From the

beginning it’s been a plot, and everyone is in on it. And

the truth will never be known.

************************

ACT II

Angie leaves and Mulder gives Scully a pained look.

“Scully, what’s going on? If you knew something, you should

have told me. There was no evidence of a relationship

between Jay Barnes and Angie Phillips.”

I’m wondering about that myself. It was great to see Angie

shaken up, but how did Agent Scully know about the affair?

They were pretty careful. They didn’t want Daddy to find

out.

Scully has all the folders pulled over to her side of the

desk. She looks up into her partner’s face with confidence.

“But they are involved, aren’t they?” she responds. “I must

be having a hunch. You have hunches all the time.”

“That’s me, Scully. Not you. Sometimes my unconscious

solves a problem before I’m aware of the process.”

“It’s not always about you, Mulder,” Scully says, directing

a severe look his way.

For a second he gets this sick expression. Then he

registers the little smile she can’t quite suppress. He

gives a grimace that might be taken as a smile.

“Talk to me, Scully,” he bursts out. “What does it feel

like? Can you trace a reasoning process or is it like a

voice in your head? Or just a feeling?”

Her smile disappears and she seems to be looking right at

me. But her eyes aren’t focused. “It’s like a voice from

another room. A door opens or closes and it’s louder or

softer. Or maybe a radio station that fades in the hills

and gets strong again on flat land. It’s coming from

outside of me. Mulder, is that how it was for you?”

Mulder’s nods his head and then shakes it. “It was more

than one voice. There were thousands, as though everyone in

a football stadium was trying to get my attention. There

was no room left for MY thoughts. Are you sure you’re all

right?”

“I’m fine,” she says quickly. “No, really–I’m fine.”

Mulder raises his eyebrows and looks pointedly at the

folder in front of her. “So, who are we interviewing next?”

Scully lifts her arms with bent elbows, and places the tips

of her fingers on her forehead like a stage mindreader.

“Please, I must have silence to concentrate,” she intones.

She’s having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Daddy! I think. Daddy!

Scully’s eyes go wide and she gasps.

“Why ‘Daddy’?” she almost pleads out loud.

For a second Mulder looks scared too. Then he grabs for a

folder. “Her daddy, Scully. Rebecca’s father. Look. He

lives in Knob Noster. In her folder it says he’s a

consultant for HWI.”

“I wonder what ‘HWI’ stands for?” Scully asks, her voice a

little shaky.

“Nothing. It’s just the contractor that Mr. Eberhardt works

through now.”

Marge had sneaked up on us and answered Mulder’s question

from the doorway.

With her jacket on over her sweater she looks as round as

the Buddha. Come to think of it, she’s got the half-witted,

serene look of some mystic.

“I’m Marge Elders,” she explains. “I’m taking the afternoon

off. Do you need to talk to me before I leave?”

“We don’t have to talk now, if you’ll be in tomorrow. But

what were you saying about Mr. Eberhardt?”

Daddy still works on the project. The government offered

big retirement incentives to reduce the payroll. So he

retired. Then the government hired him as a consultant,

through a contractor, for half again what he earned as a

civil service employee. It’s how the government saves

money.

Marge’s face shines with benevolent superiority. “Mr.

Eberhardt still works on EOS, like he has for the last

forty-five years. Now he’s a contractor.”

“Where’s Eberhardt’s folder, Scully?” Mulder interjects.

As Scully fans the folders out, I let myself feel the

misery for a moment. It’s not easy to find out for sure

that everything in your life was false. All the time I

thought I was a person, with the whole world to live in, I

was a lab rat in a maze. Even my own father was just one of

the scientists, running an experiment in our home.

“No, it couldn’t be her father,” Scully protests. Marge and

Mulder look at her and she blinks. “We didn’t get a folder

for him,” she asserts.

Marge folds her lips and her expression loses some

serenity. “Somebody has to solve this. We can’t stand it

much longer.”

“Are you worried about your own safety?” Mulder asks. “Ms.

Barnes’ death may have been due to natural causes. Do you

have any reason to believe that you’re in danger?”

When Marge shakes her head, her cascade of brassy curls

moves with it in a solid mass. “Don’t tell me you don’t

feel it. She’s here. All the time. There must be a secret

that binds her here. You have to expose it and release

her.”

Mulder and Scully look at each other. They’re comical in

their uncertainty. Normal agents would give her a non-

committal answer and assume she’s a nut. But there were the

two of them discussing their experience with mental

telepathy not ten minutes ago.

“Didn’t anyone tell you about the vault door unlocking

itself, and small objects disappearing and then

reappearing?” Marge is definitely showing some temper.

“You mean there’s been poltergeist activity?” Mulder

brightens.

“Nothing spectacular.” Marge laughs a little. “Nothing

flies through the air, or breaks, or catches fire. It’s

impossible to prove, but we all know it’s happening. I know

she’s here. And the cold spots. Haven’t you felt them?”

I move over close to Marge and think about touching the

back of her neck. That’s how it works. I think about it,

and sometimes it happens. Sometimes I’m not strong enough.

Marge gasps and shivers. “I’ve got four more years before I

can retire. They owe me retirement. But I can’t work under

these conditions.”

Who ya’ gonna’ call? I think. Ghostbusters?

Marge recovers and asks, “Why would Pete Eberhardt have

anything to do with it? I mean besides being her father. He

mostly works at home and only puts in a time card for ten

hours a week.”

Scully looks uncertain.

I move away from Marge toward Scully, and consider the

facts. Daddy would have an access card.

Security should be able to tell whose card was used on

Sunday, but the log is kept on tape. The tape is blank, as

though somebody set a magnet on it. Who uses reel-to-reel

tapes anymore? No one but under-funded government systems.

“If he’s on the project, Eberhardt has an access card,”

Scully responds. “We should go talk to him.” She starts

stacking the folders and looks around for her coat before

she remembers that she never took it off.

Marge shrugs and rolls her eyes. When she walks away, that

unfocused, mystical look is back again.

The agents step out of the office. Their escort’s crewcut

head snaps up from “Security Policies and Procedures, pub.

AFSD-3251.” Mulder leads the way with long, effortless

strides. His partner’s short legs have to move more

quickly. The lieutenant hustles after them, juggling books

and briefcase.

It’s only as they’re leaving that I realize this decision

is my doing. I’ve helped them crack the case. Before I can

stop myself, I think–I should go with them.

I can’t believe it when I find myself outside in the gray

October daylight. Doing things by thinking about them is

tricky business. I have to stop and decide. Should I go

with them, away from the base?

I’m scared. What if I blink out of existence when I leave

the place where I died? What if I find out for sure that I

can’t leave this place? Maybe I don’t want to know that I

have to spend eternity in a shabby office with cranky

government workers.

My undisciplined thoughts land me in the back seat of their

car. As we drive off the base, I see that more leaves have

turned in the last two weeks.

This isn’t much different from coming out of the hospital

after a long stay. The rest of the world always moved on,

while I struggled with the basics, like digesting and

excreting. Every time it happened, I felt like I fell

farther behind in some kind of lifetime game.

It’s kind of a relief to know it can’t happen again. But of

course neither can any of the good stuff.

Daddy’s house is only ten minutes away. It’s coming back to

me, how I drove there that Sunday.

***********************************

Knob Noster, Missouri

Noon

“Turn right at that Reddi-mart past the light,” Scully

tells her partner.

“That’s not what the map says,” Mulder objects.

“It’s a shortcut,” she assures him.

His pouty lower lip juts out more, but he takes the right.

Without saying another word, he follows her instructions,

cutting through the parking lot to the alley that runs

behind Daddy’s house. We park on the street that parallels

the alley.

My parents bought this house five years before I was born.

A brick ranch was the most modern thing you could get.

Daddy’s kept it up beautifully. The basketball hoop over

the garage has its annual coat of anti-rust sealant. He

still scrapes and paints the garage every three years, no

matter what.

When I was a little girl, each time he painted, Daddy would

buy me a new bike to hang on the garage wall. We’d give

away the old one, always as good as new. Most of the time I

was getting sick or getting well, so my bikes didn’t get

much wear and tear. The basketball hoop didn’t get much use

either, until I married Jay.

I would have inherited this house, I think, as we troop up

the front walk. I’ll never need a house again. How odd.

While Mulder is knocking, it occurs to me that I might not

need to wait for Daddy to open the door. But really I’m not

in a hurry to see him.

Daddy looks a lot smaller and older than I expected. He’s

got less graying hair combed over his head, and his

shoulders are so stooped.

“Come on in,” he tells Mulder and Scully. “Helen called and

told me you were on your way. I don’t know how I can help.”

He shows them into the living room. It’s so neat and new

looking–the opposite of the vault on base. It could be a

furniture showroom, except for the post-it notes on the

tables and lamps. The agents perch side by side on the pale

blue couch. Mulder looks around, and I see his feet move

restlessly.

Daddy’s got even more notes taped up today than he did on

that Sunday when I last visited. I wonder if there’s one

hidden away somewhere that says ‘Do something about Becky.

She’s getting to be a pain.’ Or maybe ‘Time to sacrifice

the subject and end the experiment.’ Probably not. He’d

throw the note away when the job was done.

“Mr. Eberhardt… ” Mulder begins.

“Can we see your vault access card, sir?” Scully

interrupts.

Daddy frowns in concentration. “Of course,” he says slowly.

“Give me a minute. I don’t use it most days… You asked

me too fast,” he stalls.

He keeps it on the mantle under the jade green vase with

the artificial ferns. Scully looks above the fireplace

and focuses on the vase.

Daddy follows her gaze, and his face brightens. He gets up

deliberately and walks to the fireplace. He’s confident

when he lifts the vase. His shoulders rise when he finds

only a yellow post-it note. He crumples it and drops it

into his pocket.

“I must have lost it,” he informs the agents.

For the past year he’s left his card under that vase, along

with his password written on a post-it note. Now I remember

taking it on that last visit, when he left the room. Why

should I care if he got blamed for the security breach? He

was in it with the others.

Mulder opens his mouth, but Scully jumps in ahead of him.

“I’d like to talk to you about your daughter’s theory that

there was a scientific conspiracy against her.”

Mulder’s face twists as though he’s swallowing a spoonful

of nasty medicine. He stays quiet.

“I know what caused that,” Daddy says calmly.

He’s not happy. He hardly ever is, but he gets so much

satisfaction out of being right, that it’s almost as good.

“It was her brain this time. She was getting sick again,

and her brain was affected,” he goes on. Even if he

believes that, it doesn’t make him innocent.

“Mr. Eberhardt,” Mulder finally gets a word in. “Is there

any other place else you could have left your card?”

Daddy looks as anxious as if he had to remember events from

forty years ago, instead of two weeks. “Maybe the bedroom,”

he offers, with a helpless, palms-up gesture. He starts

down the hall to the bedrooms.

Mulder wanders over to the table where Mom set up a display

of family photographs. There’s nothing more recent than

seven years ago, when she died. Now I wonder if she stayed

here in the house, and watched us afterwards. And if she

did, where is she now? The questions make me nervous. I

decide to pay strict attention to Mulder instead of asking

myself pointless questions.

clip_image002

“She was no Laura, was she, Scully?” Mulder remarks. He

leans over for a closer look at my graduation picture.

Back in the seventies, we only got to pick two out of three

poses. Then our choices were airbrushed until our faces

looked like molded plastic. They could take away flaws.

With my flaws gone, there wasn’t much personality left.

Scully’s silence doesn’t discourage Mulder. He keeps on

talking.

“You know–there was a movie called ‘Laura.’ With Dana

Andrews. He falls in love with the woman whose death he’s

investigating. Everyone he interviews says she was special.

Then he sees her portrait, and on top of everything else,

she was beautiful. There’s a hint of the succubus legend in

the way he… . ”

“Hmmm. Ah. I see,” Scully remains unenthusiastic.

“But she’s not really dead, it turns out… ”

“Rebecca Barnes is really dead, Mulder. I did a second

post-mortem on her body last night.”

I don’t like to think about that. That body was me for

forty years. I still can’t figure out who I am without it.

“Rebecca might have taken the card,” Daddy says from the

hallway. “That Sunday she was here, arguing again.” He

looks sad and tired.

I think he’s sorry he killed me.

“Did you argue often, Mr. Eberhardt?” Scully asks.

“She’d argue. I’d listen.” Daddy sits down in the olive

wing chair with a deep sigh. “Then I’d write her a check.

Usually.”

“You got tired of it, didn’t you?” Scully pushed. “Did you

ever feel like you couldn’t take it anymore? That you had

to make it stop? Temporary insanity…”

Mulder is still standing by the round table. He keeps his

eyes fixed on the picture, as though he doesn’t want to

know what’s happening.

“You don’t have any children, do you, Agent Scully?” Daddy

says.

Mulder’s shoulders twitch at this question. Daddy fills the

silence.

“Do you have any idea of the guilt that goes along with

having a chronically sick child? You’re always asking

yourself questions. Was it in the family? Was it in the

environment? A vitamin deficiency? Power lines? It all

boils down to one question. Was it my fault?”

Scully doesn’t answer, even though I’m thinking as hard as

I can: pity and guilt can turn to resentment and hate! She

stares out the window at dry brown leaves blowing around in

the empty street.

Mulder speaks first. “I’m sorry if my partner seems overly

aggressive. Her first priority is always justice for the

victim.”

“I already have your daughter’s medical records from the

base. There’s nothing about brain involvement.” Scully’s

voice is a little rough, but it smooths out. “Did she

consult any other doctors?”

“Yes. A month ago. She said she was going to find the

truth. She went to a genetics counselor. If she ever found

anything out, she didn’t tell me.”

“Do you have the doctor’s name and address?”

“Of course. She brought the bill to me.” My daddy’s smile

is small, and makes me want to cry.

A sharp crack sounds from the corner of the room where

Mulder stands. He sticks his hands reflexively into his

pockets. We all see the big crack in the glass across

my picture.

“I wasn’t touching it,” Mulder protests hurriedly.

No one is listening.

“Those inspirational books about sick children–Ryan White,

Karen Killilea–they don’t tell the half of it,” Daddy

says. “Nietzsche didn’t raise any children. A lot of times

what doesn’t kill you leaves you useless. You don’t hear

stories like that, because they wouldn’t sell. I’ll get

that address for you.”

It’s a dark day outside. The light in the room is blue-

green, like an aquarium. There’s not a word from the agents

to interfere with the sound of Daddy opening the file

cabinet in his den.

“Here,” he says, returning with a yellow post-it note. “The

doctor’s name is Gina Miller. Her office is in Kansas

City.”

“Thank you for your help, Mr. Eberhardt,” Mulder says as

they exit.

“It was a relief to know her suffering was over. Sometimes

I think the worst part was wondering when the good periods

would end. But I’d give anything to have her back, under

any conditions. It’s not right to outlive your child.”

Daddy, I’m sorry. I wish I could have been different. And

you too. But I love you. Nothing stops that, I guess.

Scully turns back toward Daddy from the front walk. “I

believe someday we’ll be reunited with the people we love,

Mr. Eberhardt. We’ll understand each other then,” she tells

him.

He gives her a tolerant smile. Daddy’s always been a

rationalist. He has to see it to believe it. Won’t he be

surprised someday?

*******************************************

It’s an hour’s drive to Kansas City, and all they do is

argue over expense reports and play Twenty Questions. No

normal person could ever win against them. I’ve never heard

of a flukeman, or ice worm, or Jersey devil, or EBE.

When the land is flat, it seems to roll under a stationary

car. I wonder how it’s working, travelling in a car, when I

don’t really have a body. I intend to stay with Mulder and

Scully, so I do. Very existential.

***********************************

Mid-America Medical Consultants Building

Kansas City, Missouri

6 p.m.

I remember the huge parking garage on Wornall Ave., near

St. Luke’s Hospital. Medical buildings cluster around

hospitals, like animals around a watering hole.

Dr. Miller was the first non-military doctor I ever saw. I

was as scared as though I was doing something criminal. The

doctors at the base told me they were the only ones who

could treat me. They said they had treatments civilian

doctors couldn’t use. That was why they agreed to treat me,

when I wasn’t a military dependent anymore. It was an act

of mercy. There was no telling what would happen if I went

to a doctor who wasn’t familiar with my case.

I shouldn’t have been so scared. Dr. Miller wasn’t going to

treat me. She was going to do a genetics consultation. I

think I was most scared of finding out that the conspiracy

was true. Because then, what would I do?

Office hours ended an hour ago, but the door is unlocked,

the way Dr. Miller promised Scully on the phone. The

generic, orange-cushioned waiting room is empty. There’s no

receptionist at the little window.

“Dr. Miller,” Scully calls out.

I’m amazed when both agents check inside their jackets for

their guns. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the

conspiracy might spread this far.

Then Dr. Miller pops up in the window. Her hair droops

flatly to her shoulders, and her eyes have dark circles.

“You made good time. I thought the traffic would hold you

up longer.”

“Compared to D.C., it isn’t so bad,” Mulder answers with a

smile.

Dr. Miller looks like she tries for a professional finish,

but can’t keep up with all the details. Today one of her

shoes is scuffed, and the hem of her suit hangs down on one

side. The blue earrings don’t quite match the blue flowers

on her blouse.

I liked her a lot when I met her, and I still do.

She scrutinizes the badges Mulder and Scully hold out, as

though she knows what to look for.

“I called the field office about you,” she explains. “There

are legal issues… you know. Then I got out Ms. Barnes’

file. Now I don’t know what to say.”

“Was the file empty?” Mulder asks. He sighs and his

shoulders slump a little.

“No. No, my staff is efficient,” Dr. Miller says. She gives

him a puzzled look. “It’s just that I think there was a

mistake, and I can’t explain it.”

“Maybe we can help. What did you find?” Mulder perks up a

lot at her words.

“Ms. Barnes was going to come in for her follow-up visit

next week. I should have been ready to explain the results

of the work-up. Instead I was going to have to ask her for

more blood samples. The lab messed up the tests, somehow. I

don’t know if their equipment was contaminated, or what,

but her results were impossible to interpret.”

“May I see?” Scully asks.

“Come back here and look,” the doctor invites.

She hits a buzzer below the window, and Mulder opens the

door leading back to the receptionist’s area. Scully and

Mulder stand on each side of Dr. Miller, where she sits at

a desk.

Dr. Miller holds out a paper with markings on it. It looks

like a picture of little bundles, each one tied in the

middle. They’re arranged by size, in groups of three. I

know it’s a picture of chromosomes, but it looks odd.

Scully seems to think so too. It’s her turn to put on the

cartoon surprise look.

“That’s impossible!” she exclaims.

“I know. At first I thought I’d ask for a FISH analysis to

follow up. Then I decided not to waste time and money. It’s

obviously a lab error. They sent me the karotype on tissue

from a fetus with triploidy.”

“There’s never been a documented case of survival past the

first days after birth.”

“Exactly. And there would be gross abnormalities in the

phenotype. Ms. Barnes appeared to be normal.”

“Unless she were a mosaic?” Scully suggests.

“There were multiple samples,” Dr. Miller answers, with a

shake of her head. She holds out another set of pictures.

“Her medical history wasn’t normal,” Mulder remarks.

Dr. Miller holds up a thick bunch of typewritten papers.

“No, it certainly wasn’t. But it didn’t exhibit the effects

associated with triploidy–multiple, lethal abnormalities.

There was no indication of any permanent damage resulting

from her illnesses.”

“What about the surgery she had? Her records from the base

hospital documented an appendectomy, but there was no

mention of the removal of her ovaries,” Scully inquires.

“What? She’d had an oophorectomy?”

The doctor looks as surprised as I feel.

“Yes. I established that when I redid the post-mortem. I

asked her doctor and he just shrugged. Said she must have

had an operation for female troubles somewhere else.”

That miserable liar. He knows I never went to any other

hospital. He told me I’d die if someone else treated me.

Dr. Miller closes her eyes and folds her hands. There isn’t

any noise except for the hum of the office computer.

“Let’s see. She told me she wanted to get pregnant, but was

afraid of passing on abnormalities to her children,” she

says slowly.

A planned pregnancy was just my excuse for having the

genetics consultation. Two years ago my belly hurt so bad.

I’d have agreed to a brain transplant to stop the pain.

When they told me I should have an appendectomy, I didn’t

even read the consent form. They could have told me the

truth. I wasn’t fit to have children anyway. But they lied

to me!

Everyone jumps at the loud crack from the corner of the

room when the water cooler splits in half. Water cascades

to the floor in one huge wave.

“I got glass because of the environment,” Dr. Miller says

with a stunned look.

Scully and Mulder are looking around with wild eyes, as

though they expect something else to happen. Dr. Miller

jumps up and disappears into a back room. She comes back

with a roll of paper towels. She and Scully tear off towels

and stomp them down into the soggy carpet. When they’ve

used up all the towels they stare hopelessly at the dark,

spreading circle of wetness.

Dr. Miller snorts out one loud “Ha!”

“I’ll call facilities,” she says with a weak wave of her

hand. “What a day.”

While she makes the call, Scully joins Mulder. He’s sitting

at the desk, flipping through my medical history. He can’t

possibly be reading that fast, but he stops suddenly and

points at a paragraph.

“Dr. Miller,” he says. “What about this incident in 1984?”

“What incident? Let me look. I don’t remember.” Her shoes

make squishy sounds as she returns to the receptionist’s

desk. After a moment’s reading, she replies, “Yes. That was

unfortunate. But there were no lasting physical sequelae.

Dr. Miller is right. It didn’t amount to much. I’m

surprised it caught Mulder’s attention. He tells Scully the

story.

“Ms. Barnes–she was still Miss Eberhardt at the time–

moved to St. Louis in 1984. She worked at an insurance

agency. One night in November she closed up the office

after dark. Her car quit on her in a bad neighborhood, as

she was driving home. She was mugged for her purse, hit,

and shoved to the ground. The muggers got away. There were

no injuries, except for minor bruises and abrasions.”

I shouldn’t have told Dr. Miller about that. It’s trivial

and pathetic. When I told her my history it sounded so

childish, so stunted. I wanted to explain why I gave up and

went back home. It just makes me look like a quitter. Which

I guess I was.

So why is Mulder so excited about the story?

“Scully, let’s assume, just for a minute, that Ms. Barnes

was right. That she was the victim of an experiment run by

the government. Doesn’t it make sense that they’d do

something to drive her back into a controlled environment

when she tried to leave? And that they killed her when she

started to ask hard questions?”

Dr. Miller tips her head back and looks at Mulder through

the bottom of her glasses. “You’re saying that Ms. Barnes

was an unwilling subject of covert, government-sanctioned

medical experiments. And that she was eliminated by

criminal means when she threatened to blow the whistle?”

Mulder puts on his expressionless expression. “We form many

theories in the course of an investigation,” he soothes.

“I’m sure a scientist like you understands that.”

Scully has a fierce look that contrasts with Mulder’s

abrupt calm. “What about the story her doctor gave me about

‘female problems?’ I need to talk to him.”

Dr. Miller takes off her glasses and closes her eyes again.

She pinches the bridge of her nose. There’s a bustle at the

outside office door, and a paunchy man in a navy coverall

lets himself in.

“I didn’t understand the message. Something about a flood.

Is it a plumbing leak?” he inquires.

They answer “No” in unison, and then everyone goes quiet.

Mulder starts to engineer a quick departure.

“We’ll be on our way, Dr. Miller. Thanks so much for your

help,” Mulder pulls the inner door open for the new

arrival.

“Yes, thanks. We’ll be in touch if we have more questions.”

Scully dashes through the open door, neatly sidestepping

the workman. Her tall partner has to hurry to catch up with

her in the hall.

“We’ve got to get back to the hospital, Mulder,” Scully

tosses over her shoulder as they hustle through the parking

garage.

“Wait a minute. We’re all over the map with these hunches

of yours. Let’s talk about this for a minute.”

“Hunches? Hunches! Look how far we’ve gotten with these

‘hunches’.” Scully takes an indignant stance beside the car

while she waits for him.

“Look, I’m not questioning the value of your…

insights. But let’s stop and think about which lead to

pursue. Why would her doctor tell you anything more now? I

think we should go back to her father and ask about this

mugging.”

Scully has the passenger door open, but she stops before

she climbs in, as though she’s listening for something.

My thoughts refuse to take form.

The agents get in the car at the same time. There’s an

apology in Scully’s voice when she speaks.

“You’re right, Mulder. I need to go back to basics and get

some hard evidence. I’ll take tissue samples from her body

and send them to the FBI lab. Let’s see what another DNA

analysis shows. You can drop me at the hospital and go back

to talk to Mr. Eberhardt.”

Here’s where Scully and I part company. I don’t need it

anymore, but I don’t want to see my body cut up like a

deer. Maybe I can’t get through to Mulder’s mind, but right

now, I’m sticking with him.

“Do you think we can rule out the philandering husband as a

suspect?” Mulder ventures.

If I could laugh, I would. Jay’s never been passionate

about anyone but himself. I’m sure I was an excellent

excuse for him to avoid making commitments to other women.

With me gone, he’s got more freedom, but less cover. Not

enough motive, I’d say.

“I think that’s a dead end,” she answers with a grim smile.

Mulder navigates his way back to the highway without any

directions from Scully. She takes out a tape player and

plugs in headphones. I notice the tape she puts in is

labeled “#X-2546 – PM on Rebecca Barnes.” Probably not

anything I’d want to hear.

I amuse myself by thinking my way to the roof of the car.

When I was alive, I had dreams of flying. Speeding through

the twilight with only the violet sky around me is almost

like that. There’s no wind, or fear of falling. I’m

beginning to understand that I don’t need things like cars,

and I don’t have to pay attention to solid barriers, like

closed doors.

It’s hard to get over the habit of being limited.

It’s frightening to imagine an existence without limits. I

could expand to fill the sky–the universe. And nothing of

me would remain.

************************

ACT III

The Base Hospital

9 p.m.

When we pull up outside the hospital, I don’t know if time

has drifted or whipped by. I didn’t even notice a pause at

the gate.

The sky is already navy blue behind the gray, floodlit

hospital. Scully zips through the automatic doors without a

backwards look. Luckily she doesn’t need my help to slice

up specimens.

Even in the dark, Mulder finds the shortcut to Daddy’s

house. It’s not my doing; he remembers it. There’s a

constant seething in Mulder’s brain. It pushes me back,

like the wind holding a sailboat offshore.

***********************************

Knob Noster

9:30 p.m.

Once upon a time, Daddy would have turned away a late-night

visitor. He needed his evening solitude to get

anesthetized. Instead, he invites Mulder in, and offers him

a whiskey. It’s early yet for Daddy to be that far gone.

The two of them sit in the kitchen in the white glare of

the overhead light.

“No thanks, Mr. Eberhardt,” Mulder says.

Daddy drinks the second shot himself and squints at Mulder

through red-lined eyes.

“My partner and I visited Dr. Miller,” Mulder begins.

“There was no conclusive evidence from DNA tests. But the

doctor realized that there was an unexplained discrepancy

between the medical records and your daughter’s physical

condition. Ms. Barnes had had her ovaries removed, but her

medical history showed only an appendectomy. Can you

explain that?”

Daddy shrugs and makes a sound in his throat, as though

he’s trying to choke something back down. “I haven’t been

able to explain anything in forty years. I just kept on

going because I couldn’t stop. You can’t stop, can you? You

make decisions and you take the consequences. Whose fault

is it if you don’t foresee the problems? It doesn’t matter.

You do the best you can.”

That was always his way. Do your duty and don’t whine. He

focuses suddenly on Mulder’s face.

“I met a Bill Mulder once. He didn’t look much like you. No

relation, I suppose. I was still in the service. We were

both on TDY down at Eglin AFB, for different meetings on

Black Projects.”

Mulder sits still as a rabbit caught on the open lawn. His

thoughts are whirling in a vortex. Daddy doesn’t wait for a

response.

“We had the same chief scientist on our projects. ‘Herr

Doktor Klemper’ we called him, behind his back. Bill and I

met at the hotel bar and decided to check out Dean’s Place

on the island. I wanted to celebrate. Dot had just gotten

pregnant. I was so happy I was buying drinks for everybody.

Bill told me his wife had just given him a son. I don’t

know if he was celebrating, but he sure liked to drink. I

told him–this will make you laugh–‘I don’t care what it

is, just as long as it’s healthy.'”

Mulder doesn’t laugh.

Daddy doesn’t notice. “No matter how drunk I got, I didn’t

tell him how Dot got pregnant. That I’d made a deal with

the devil. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that we were

having a test tube baby.”

“Sir, the first test tube baby wasn’t born until 1978.”

Mulder shapes each word carefully, as though it might break

with rough handling.

“That’s what the history books will always say. Just like

they’ll always say JFK was shot by a lone gunman.”

“Do you know something about the assassination?” Mulder

asks, still in that cautious way.

“I know nothing, but given the nature of the ‘truth’

published about other things, I’ve got my suspicions.”

“What ever happened to Bill Mulder, I wonder?” There’s a

new sadness in Mulder’s tone when he speaks.

“I don’t know. We shared a cab back to the hotel. I barely

remember getting to my room. Didn’t get to breakfast the

next day. Bill didn’t turn up at the hotel bar that night.

I assumed his meetings were over.”

“Did Dr. Klemper arrange for your wife to have an embryo

implanted?” Mulder is regaining some of his usual cool.

Daddy must have heard the change in Mulder’s voice. “You

think I’m too drunk to be discreet, don’t you? I just don’t

care anymore. Dot died after more than thirty years of

worry and trouble. Now Becky’s gone. What more can anyone

do to me?”

“If that’s right, why don’t you tell me what happened?”

It’s funny how good Mulder is with the people he can see.

He watches them, notices all the little tics and blinks. He

takes things in at so many levels, there’s no room for me

to slip in a word or thought.

“It was Colonel Robbins. He was the wonder-boy assistant to

Victor Klemper. ‘Why don’t you take advantage of the

technology we’re developing, Pete?’ he kept saying. I don’t

even remember telling him about our problem. Afterwards he

made the excuse that the technology hadn’t been perfected.

He was always reminding me that we should thank our lucky

stars that he could arrange for Becky to get medical care

at the base.”

I’m rooting for Mulder to tell him about the triploidy, but

he’s not getting it. He goes off on a tangent.

“Mr. Eberhardt, your daughter was attacked in St. Louis in

1984. Did you ever think there was anything unusual about

the incident?”

“It happens to a lot of unwary people,” Daddy snaps at him.

“In fact, I warned her not to move to a big city alone. It

didn’t surprise me when I got the call the day after it

happened. I was just thankful it hadn’t been worse. She

called me at work. Colonel Robbins suggested I take Jay

along with me to pick her up. He’d just started on the

project. I hadn’t even thought about needing someone to

drive Becky’s car back. Her nerves were shot.”

“Sir, did her car start when you got there?”

I don’t listen anymore, because I already know the answer.

I’m preoccupied with thinking up the right punishment for

Colonel Robbins. A cage with cedar shavings, a water dish

and pellets would be too good for him. I picture him

pickling in a formaldehyde bath, like a frog ready for

dissection.

***********************************

The Base Hospital

The morgue

10:30 p.m.

Then the kitchen is gone, and I’m watching Colonel Robbins

watch Scully as she slides a steel drawer shut.

“I just got word that you were here, Agent Scully,” he’s

saying to her. “What authorization do you have for doing a

third post-mortem on Rebecca Barnes?”

“I have the authority you gave us to investigate this case,

sir. I was collecting tissue samples to send to the FBI

lab. We think there may be some abnormality in Ms. Barnes’

karotype.”

“What would it prove if that were true, Agent? It had

nothing to do with the circumstances and cause of her

death?”

“How can we know that, until we find out the nature of the

mutation? Maybe her parents were exposed to radiation, or

some toxin, before her birth. We might learn something new

about prenatal hazards. I believe we should take every

opportunity to advance medical knowledge.”

The Birdman did it, Scully! I think hard. He’s the guilty

person! I concentrate on shaking him, and the colonel

wavers a little in place. I wonder if I could kill someone.

Scully is wrapped in green scrubs that are too big. Even

the goggles look too big, as though she’s a child playing

doctor. She strips off the outer gear and looks over at

Robbins while she washes her hands. “You’re not afraid of

the truth, are you?” she asks him. She folds her arms to

wait for his answer.

Colonel Robbins is chewing on his lower lip. He folds his

own arms and edges around the table toward Scully. She

moves slightly, so the table is still between them.

“You’re a scientist, Agent Scully. Not just a glorified

policewoman.”

“We need trustworthy policewomen. And military personnel,”

she says. I seem to shiver with the chill in her voice,

even though I don’t have a body anymore.

“Of course. But you’re in a position to appreciate things a

layman can’t understand. You can imagine what it would be

like to be on the verge of creating a new species!”

“Please explain what that means,Colonel,” she invites him.

“You know that cells are just factories for making amino

acids,” he charges ahead, ignoring her severe expression.

“It’s our genes that determine what proteins are produced.

Every cell we have has a full set of genes, but most of

them are turned off. Turned off! That was the key. We had

to find the switch for turning genes on and off. And then

we planned to test it by providing a completely different

set of genes. It should have worked like switching a

production line back and forth between producing parts for

jets and parts for trucks.”

“Should have worked,” she echoes, as though the ideas made

sense. “The sequence would have to be perfect, or the

organism would die. The body’s systems would be out of

sync.”

“Yes! You understand. I knew you would.” The Birdman gives

her a complicit smile.

“I’m interested in the switching,” she responds. She

doesn’t return his smile.

“You must have followed the work on weak photon emission

from cellular DNA. It shouldn’t surprise you that the DNA

in cells is also receptive to ultraweak photon influence.

It was just going to be a matter of experimenting until the

right sequence was found.”

“Where did you get the technology? I saw a third set of

chromosomes in Rebecca Barnes’ karotype.”

“That was a serendipitous contribution by Dr. Klemper. A

seminal thinker, Victor Klemper…”

Scully’s face changes suddenly from a non-committal mask to

the picture of disgust and contempt. Her words are dragged

down to a low, rough pitch.

“So. You’re telling me that you’ve experimented on a human.

Without her consent. You made her sick over and over again

with failed attempts to activate a set of non-human genes.

You haven’t published. You haven’t shared your discoveries.

That’s not how true scientists work! You know that what

you’re doing is wrong.”

“Don’t let the personal prevent you from being objective.

We’re on the verge of success. We didn’t get it right

with Barnes, but we learned a lot. And we’ve got a whole

new set of potential test subjects in the freezer here. Her

descendants…”

“Her ova. You took her ova…” Scully starts walking

toward the colonel.

He should be frightened by the look on her face. Instead he

talks on and on, as though she were hanging on his words.

“When the subject got too difficult to manage, we halted

the experiment and euthanized her. It was just a matter of

toggling all the switches off at once…” The Birdman

even turns his back on Scully, as he leads the way to the

locked, stainless steel cabinet in the corner.

My last moment comes back to me then. I have a sudden

vision of the colonel at the end of the narrow corridor

between the cubicles. I’d been searching the file cabinet

in his office. There was a dog-eared file with my name on

it. Seeing the file felt like being backed into that alley

by two men with guns. It was something I’d imagined with a

queasy stomach and pounding heart. When it actually

happened, it didn’t seem real.

I heard a noise outside the room, and looked up. My eyes

skimmed the length of dingy purple carpet, and fixed on

Colonel Robbins. I was too surprised at how perfectly my

nightmare was coming true to feel terror. When I stepped

out of the office, he didn’t look surprised to see me. I

waved the folder at him and spoke the words I’d planned.

“I’m going to expose you all!” Of course I’d visualized a

more public setting, like a press conference.

He pointed something like a flashlight at me, but there was

no beam of light. Then there was nothing at all, until I

woke up somewhere just below the ceiling. Beneath me

security police strode around with grim, self-important

expressions.

In the time it takes me to remember, the Birdman whips

around and catches Scully on the point of her chin with his

fist. Her head snaps back, her eyes roll up, and she

tumbles to the floor, like a block tower with the bottom

block kicked out from under.

“I could tell she didn’t really understand,” Robbins

murmurs to himself.

If I’d stayed alert I could have warned her. I got Scully

into this, and I now I can’t get her out–not alone. But

I’m not giving up. I’ll find some way to get to Mulder.

***********************************

Knob Noster

11:30 p.m.

And I’m suddenly in Daddy’s kitchen, where Mulder is

pouring boiling water over instant coffee.

Scully’s in trouble! Surely my thought must be loud enough

to hear. At the same second the fluorescent light tube

overhead pops and goes out.

“What the hell?” Daddy says.

I can tell he’s not that drunk by the way he jumps out of

his chair. He’s been putting on an act for Mulder.

“What?” Mulder shouts. “What is it? Why aren’t you with

Scully? I can’t hear you.”

She’s in danger! SHE NEEDS YOU. I think and think. The

glass shelf over the sink breaks in two. The potted plants

rush down into the sink and shatter. Little clods of wet,

black dirt go everywhere.

“What are you doing?” Daddy yells at Mulder.

“It’s not me, Mr. Eberhardt.” Mulder lowers his voice, but

he’s panting as though he’s been running. “It’s an entity.”

Mulder hits three buttons on his cell phone, pacing the

floor while it rings and rings.

Then he walks to the corner of the kitchen. Mulder faces

the wall, bows his head and covers his ears. He pays no

attention to Daddy’s exclamations.

Scully! Go to your partner at the hospital! My mind is

screaming the words with all the force of my will.

The blue china cups on hooks under the cupboard fly apart

with loud cracks.

“Get out of my house. Right now.” Daddy grabs at Mulder’s

arm. The agent shakes him off, his back rigid. He moves his

hands to cover his eyes.

I can feel his mind straining, like an engine in overdrive.

I don’t know if he can’t, or won’t, let me in. Then he

whirls around and asks a lunatic question.

“Do you have a basketball?” he asks my furious father. “Any

kind of ball?”

“I want you out of here!” Daddy shouts.

“I’m going. I promise I’m on my way out, but I need a

ball.”

“Jay keeps one in the garage,” Daddy growls. He makes a

wide circle around the pitcher on the counter, as he

crosses the kitchen to the garage door. “Here. Go out this

way,” he calls out a minute later.

In the doorway Mulder catches the basketball he throws.

“Perfect,” Mulder mutters, tossing the big orange ball from

one hand to the other.

Daddy activates the garage door opener. Mulder ducks under

the door before it’s all the way open, and makes a basket

in the hoop over it on his first try.

He looks ridiculous, dribbling the ball and feinting with

it in the dark. His tie and jacket flap in all different

directions.

“Stand under the basket,” he calls out to Daddy.

“What? I don’t feel like playing. That was a long time

ago.”

“Please. Just stand there,” Mulder gasps.

He dribbles up and down the driveway as though the state

championship was riding on it. Pivoting to keep the ball

away from imaginary opponents, he sinks another shot. He

dodges around Daddy to catch the rebound.

Smack. Smack. Smack. The ball hits his hands as hard as it

hits the driveway. Daddy looks preoccupied, instead of

worried about this loony contest. A few dry leaves roll

across the concrete. I see the living room curtains twitch

apart at the Newman’s house. Someone I don’t know opens the

front door across the street.

Mulder is slow compared to the boys I remember from high

school, but he seems to have plenty of stamina. In the

meantime Colonel Robbins could be sliding Scully into a

cold metal drawer right beside me.

Mulder’s shot misses the basket entirely. He ignores the

ball and dashes for his car. “Thanks Mr. Eberhardt,” he

babbles out, as he yanks the door open.

Mulder is crazy, but he’s Scully’s only hope. I keep trying

to get through. There’s a small “pop” from the dome light

as he turns the key in the ignition.

He flinches at the sound, but the plastic cover keeps the

glass inside.

“I heard you,” he says loudly. “Scully is in the hospital

morgue with Robbins. But I can’t hear you now. It’s hard

for me to let you in.”

***********************************

The Base Hospital

11:50 p.m.

He makes the drive in four minutes, running four red lights

on the almost empty streets. He does remember to slow down

before coming in sight of the gates to the base. A bored

young guard waves him through on the strength of his

cardboard visitor’s pass.

At the hospital, his badge is in his hands before he gets

to the emergency room doors.

“Fox Mulder, FBI,” he snaps at the nurse behind the

admitting desk. He doesn’t wait to answer the questions she

shouts after him. I know she can’t leave the desk.

“Do we have an emergency?” she calls. She picks up the

phone with exasperated emphasis.

Mulder is taking the stairs to the basement two at a time.

He picks the right door even though it’s unlabeled. I don’t

know if he’s getting my directions or if he was there with

Scully the night before.

The white glow from the morgue contrasts with the dim

halls. I see Scully crumpled on the floor by the table. The

door to the steel cabinet in the corner is open, and it’s

empty inside. Colonel Robbins is pouring chemicals into

opened waste containers at the other end of the room.

Mulder’s left hand goes to his nose and mouth. He’s got a

gun pointed at the colonel with his right hand.

“Put the bottle down and place your hands against the

wall.” Mulder is almost gagging on the words.

His eyes, and the colonel’s, are streaming with tears.

“You don’t really expect me to watch forty years of work go

for nothing, do you?” the colonel asks. He up-ends a brown

glass bottle over a dirty linen container and then drops it

in. His voice is as reasonable as though he were asking to

someone to wait while he put the finishing touches on a

paint job. “There’ll be time to rescue your partner, if you

don’t worry about me or the evidence,” he goes on. “What

are you waiting for? After the risks I’ve taken, don’t you

believe I’m ready to risk my own death? All I have to do

now, is flip this switch.”

There’s another exit behind Robbins. He might be able to

make it out. I notice he’s got a thermos-like steel

cylinder tucked under one arm. Copper shines out of a long

gash in the cord that runs between the autoclave and the

electrical outlet beside it. The colonel dumps another

bottle of chemicals on the cord. An oxygen tank beside the

outlet has a big red slash through the picture of a flame

on its side. There’s a sinister hiss of gas escaping.

I don’t know what to do. Mulder is struggling to keep his

eyes open. I wish he’d shoot, but even if he hit Robbins,

there’d be time to flip the switch. A shot might even

trigger an explosion. All the evidence would be burned up.

Then there’s a step in the doorway behind Mulder. He moves

sideways and backward, but doesn’t turn his back on

Robbins. A manila folder sails across the room, scattering

papers and pictures as it goes.

“You lying bastard,” Daddy says. He’s got the gun he always

kept in the drawer beside his bed. “Maybe I always knew and

wouldn’t admit it to myself. You shouldn’t have kept the

records in your office.”

For the first time the colonel looks shocked. He clutches

at the steel cylinder with his right hand.

Mulder says, “Cover me,” to Daddy. He doesn’t notice that

Daddy isn’t listening to him. He dashes to the center of

the room. His gun is gone, probably into his pocket,

because he needs both arms to lift Scully.

The colonel should stay quiet, but he can’t. He speaks,

saying all the wrong things. “You don’t understand. It was

an honor to be part of it, Pete. Like the doctor who

infected himself to identify the vector for yellow fever.

She’d suffered enough at the end. It was painless…”

He reaches the switch even after Daddy puts two shots into

his chest.

Daddy careens into Mulder, who’s already in the hall when

flames come roaring across the room. The intense light

sparkles through me, bursting blossoms of orange. For a

moment there’s no separating myself from the golden energy.

Then the door slams shut, and I decide to be on the other

side to find out what’s happening.

The hall is empty except for the smoke. There are bells and

a voice announcing that this is not a drill. Then firemen

come tearing around the corner like invaders from another

planet, inhuman in their breathing equipment and protective

clothing.

Outside, fire trucks are still arriving in a blast of noise

and flashing lights. Dozens of people are running from

place to place. Airmen are transporting patients bundled

onto stretchers to the gymnasium.

There’s a huddle around Daddy, where security police are

putting handcuffs on him. His face barely moves while he

answers questions with “yes,” or “no,” or silence. A medic

is examining Scully’s eyes with a light where she sits on

the back steps of an ambulance. Mulder is talking to her

very fast, while she blinks and frowns. She winces when she

turns her head to see where a blue truck with floodlights

has pulled up. A man, so tall and long-legged he reminds me

of a stick figure, jumps down from the passenger side of

the cab.

It’s General Brandon, the base commander. He prides himself

on his quick grasp of the essentials and refusal to waste

time. Everyone he speaks to points at Mulder and Scully in

answer to his questions. They don’t want to irritate him

with second or third-hand information. But I’ve already

seen how these things go. I ride along with Daddy, instead

of staying to see how the cover-up will be done this time.

************************

EPILOGUE

Outside the Base Commander’s Office

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

10 a.m.

The next day I wait with Mulder while the security police

finish questioning Scully. When she leaves the base

commander’s office, her lips are pressed together so tight

they must be holding back strong words. Mulder pats the

seat of the chair next to him in the waiting room.

Scully sits down with a “hmmph” of disapproval. “They want

us to go now, Mulder,” she says. “They’ve figured

everything out and the services of the FBI are no longer

needed.” A smile as thin as paper stretches her mouth.

“Peter Eberhardt shot his boss and old friend due to the

stress of his daughter’s death, combined with the first

stage of senile dementia. Then he panicked and tried to

cover up his crime by setting a fire. His misinterpretation

of questions put to him by Special Agent Fox Mulder

probably led to his crazed behavior. Mulder’s partner had

her brains scrambled by a blow to the head, making her

testimony unreliable.”

“I know,” he answers. “Can you get in as a doctor to see

Eberhardt at the psychiatric facility? See if he has any

ideas about where we could find evidence?”

“Mr. Eberhardt can’t be seen by anybody but staff with

special clearances. Since he isn’t in his right mind, he

might communicate sensitive information to those with no

need to know.” Scully must be quoting the official Air

Force memo.

“It’s a perfect cover-up. The experiment can go on under

somebody else.” Mulder looks so tragic, I wish I could

cheer him up.

He wouldn’t feel so bad if he understood how the military

works. General Brandon may not want to own up to the

unethical experimentation that went on here, but that

doesn’t mean he wants it to continue. Without Colonel

Robbins to lobby for funds in Washington, there won’t be

any money for EOS. With no budget, EOS will be dissolved,

and the staff will disperse to other projects until they

retire. Some of the findings will go into archives. The

inconvenient ones will disappear.

“Maybe it won’t be that easy, Mulder,” Scully consoles him.

“Barnes’ ova were lost with Colonel Robbins in the fire.

They won’t have ready test subjects. My report will be

strongly worded in condemnation of Robbins’ experiments.”

“A strongly worded report.” As if that would have an

influence. No one will admit it, but there’s a better

deterrent. A haunted project won’t attract or keep workers.

Marge was right about the feeling in the office. I’ll make

it impossible to work anyplace where they try to follow up

these experiments. I’m getting smarter and stronger every

day.

“Mulder. It’s over. There won’t be any more experiments,”

Scully tells him.

“What? How do you know? Did a little birdie tell you?”

Mulder starts teasing.

I disrupt the electrical current through the lamp next to

him and the light flickers. He rises quickly to his feet

and grabs Scully’s hand. She gives him a startled look, but

immediately stands up beside him. Their hands cling

together while Scully makes a quick survey of the room. She

squeezes Mulder’s hand, and then drops it to reach for her

coat.

As they leave the room, Scully looks back over her

shoulder. I feel the goodbye in her thoughts. Her eyes

almost seem to focus on me in the corner of the room next

to the window. Mulder lets her exit, before he pauses at

the door. He says goodbye to the lamp in a soft voice,

while I watch from the opposite end of the room. Mulder

isn’t sensitive, but he means well.

It’s important to mean well. My father is a good example of

why meaning well isn’t enough. A person has to be strong,

and face the truth about herself and other people. And do

something about it.

I’ll be in this place for a while. But I know there’s

something else waiting. I can’t see it yet. There’s a

corner somewhere that I’ll decide to turn one day, and

there will be something new. Or old. And a chance to use

what I’ve learned this time.

Patterns continue, but they change, too. There’s no seeing

the whole thing at once. We only know that everything is

part of the same infinite weave.

——————————————————–

End of “Closed Colony, Special Stock”

Date Posted: 01/19/01

Written especially for: I Made This Productions, Virtual

Season 8 http://www.i-made-this.com

Disclaimer: Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson,

and Ten Thirteen productions created and own the characters

you recognized. My writing is for fun, not profit.

Thanks: I thank IMTP for honoring me by asking for a story,

and for the tremendous amount of hard work put into Virtual

Season 8 by Laurie and her fellow producers, writers, and

artists. I especially thank Deej for the banner and

dustjacket she created for my story. She’s done a wonderful

job of capturing the mood of “Closed Colony,” and created

a beautiful image of our heroes in the process.

I thank bugs for her friendship, and for her beta work on

this story. I also thank her for the beautiful website she

created for my stories. See the URL below.

http://urw.simplenet.com/branwell

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