Ashes to Ashes

cover

Disclaimer: This story is based on

characters created by Chris Carter and Ten-

Thirteen Productions. Characters used

without permission. No copyright

infringement intended.

TITLE: Ashes to Ashes

AUTHORS: Obfusc8er and Jenna

EMAIL: aobfuscata@hotmail.com,

jennasxffic@lycos.com

ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusively on VS11;

others please ask first.

RATING: PG

CLASSIFICATION: X, MT, MSR

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully are participating

in a multi-agency public safety project when

serious threats emerge, both old and new.

AUTHORS’ NOTES: Includes the re-introduction

of Agent Grif Michelin and Carlos, Vickie

Moseley’s creations in Great Balls of Fire,

used here with her permission. You are

encouraged to read her story before this

one. Also contains quotes from Monty Python

and the Holy Grail, written by Chapmen,

Cleese, et al., property of FOX. Rousch

Pharmaceuticals is a fictional entity, also

owned by FOX.

Thank you to Sally and Jamie for the

excellent betas.

We would also like to recognize Vickie for

her indispensable suggestions,

encouragement, and guidance during the

course of the writing of this story.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Key to organization abbreviations used:

CDC – The Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation

FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency

NG – National Guard

SBCCOM – US Army Soldier and Biological

Chemical Command

USAMRIID – United States Army Medical

Research Institute for Infectious Diseases

WHO – World Health Organization

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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***TEASER***

Federal Building Plaza

Indianapolis, Indiana

Pleasant wind coaxed a rippling wave from

the grass and rows of flags adorning

Military Park, oblivious of the bodies

scattered across the plaza. They lay in the

street, on the steps of a nearby news

building, and in front of a quiet formation

of colorful standards representing dozens of

nations. As still as the bodies were, the

vestigial quiet of the scene had long since

fallen to the din of law enforcement

officers, medical personnel, firemen, and

others attempting to organize and deal with

the situation. Survivors called out for

help, some of them screaming in pain, others

babbling incoherently. Countless emergency

vehicle sirens were still converging on the

site, adding to the noise.

Special Agent Dana Scully stood right in the

middle of the chaos. She was carefully

taking note of the activities around her,

but she remained focused on her own current

goal: directing the removal of the bodies.

The two-way radio attached to her jacket

crackled to life, and the weary voice of a

city coroner’s office employee informed her

that 300 body bags were on the way.

“Thank you. When should those be arriving?”

“ETA fifteen minutes.”

“Okay. Please see if any of the outlying

hospitals have more bags to spare and have

them on standby, just in case.”

“Will do.” A click and a second of static

signaled the end of the conversation.

Scully turned to the Indiana State Police

lieutenant standing next to her, politely

waiting until he finished barking a line of

orders into his own walkie-talkie. He

noticed her attention, and looked at her

expectantly.

“Orders, Ma’am?”

“Yes. Have your men set up a perimeter

around the deceased. We want to minimize

unnecessary contact. Guide civilians to

triage, and keep all other emergency

personnel away from the bodies. If anyone

has an issue with that, have their

supervisor contact me.”

“Right away.”

The man moved off to brief a nearby circle

of officers on their new duty. Scully

sighed and rolled her head around in a

counterclockwise circle, stretching tired

neck muscles. She surveyed the mass of

people and equipment before her with

scrutinizing but tired eyes. Men and women

wearing jackets emblazoned with various

initials worked furiously to organize and

coordinate hundreds of disaster victims,

some of whom bore the bright red marks of

casualty. The FEMA representatives remained

at a temporary tent station, where they

consulted with offsite officials in

determining the overall course of action.

Agents of the CDC overlooked the early

diagnosis, quarantine, and treatment efforts

of the Red Cross and local medical

authorities.

State and local police organizations were

just now receiving reinforcements for their

own organizations’ efforts in the form of a

detail from the Indiana National Guard.

Scully’s own agency, the FBI, fought to

preserve the integrity of all available

evidence of possible terrorism at the scene

and pitched in wherever their expertise

could be of aid. The US Army’s biological

and chemical response team, SBCCOM, was also

present at the affair, helping direct and

maintain the overall chain of interagency

command, along with the National Joint

Terrorism Task Force. The thought of the

reams of imminent paperwork to be done made

Scully’s head hurt, on the verge of

bursting. Finally, her two-way radio

crackled to life again, and a deep voice

boomed out of the handset, along with those

of everyone milling around her.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our daily objectives

have been met. Stage four of TOPOFF is

complete. Please report to your field

supervisor for debriefing before departure,

and return to your assigned posts at 0730

hours tomorrow.”

A palpable sense of relief accompanied the

collective sigh heard upon the completion of

the message. The blessing of the Joint

Terrorism Task Force was upon the throng of

laborers. Equipment was already starting to

be packed up for a night’s storage when

Scully began stepping carefully around the

field of “bodies”. She stopped and looked

down, eyebrow raised, when she came to one

still form lying supine on the smooth

concrete incline next to the steps of the

news building. It was a male, covered in

crimson, with feet propped up on the low,

flat finial of the railing and hands clasped

behind its head. The face had relaxed into

an image of eternal peace.

“Mulder, get up.” No response. She leaned

closer and spoke in a louder voice.

“Mulder!”

“Wha?” He jumped, startled awake, and

nearly fell off of the concrete railing.

“It’s over for today. You don’t have to be

dead again until tomorrow morning.”

A sly smile spread across his face, white

teeth showing through the red of fake blood.

“I’m not quite dead, yet,” he protested in

his best lousy British accent. “I think

I’ll go for a walk.”

Scully grinned in spite of the weariness

pulling at her.

“So,” he inquired, sitting up with interest,

“how did the drill go today?”

“Surprisingly well, actually. Now, let’s go

get you cleaned up. You look like death

warmed over.”

*** ACT ONE ***

Holiday Inn Express

Indianapolis, Indiana

It was late when Mulder and Scully arrived

back at the motel, and both were exhausted

from their long day. Wasting no time,

Scully opened her purse, removing the motel

keycard to gain entrance into her spacious

room. She heard the thump of the adjoining

room’s door as it closed. Mulder had been

quiet during the car ride, she mused. Even

for him.

Scully began to organize her paperwork for

the night. The muffled rush of water in the

plumbing system was soon followed by rapping

on the door that separated her room from

his. It was already unlocked.

“Come in,” she called, appreciative of his

politeness, spotty as it was.

“I’m dead tired, Scully,” Mulder proclaimed

as he dragged himself into the room and flopped

face-down onto her queen sized bed. He

reached blindly for the remote control on

the nightstand and pointed it in the general

direction of the television. It blinked to

life. He lifted one arm slightly glancing at

the screen from the gap between his armpit

and the bed. An NCAA playoff game was on,

Scully noticed. Duke versus UConn. Mulder

groaned and lowered his arm. It must not

have been going the way he wanted.

“I’m worn out, too. I’ve been craving a

nice, hot shower.”

Scully rolled her neck around in slow

circles, the tension of the evening

manifesting in audible pops from her spine.

Her muscles ached from standing in high

heels on the hard concrete for most of the

day. She decided that staging a mock

disaster for a terrorism exercise was

definitely strenuous work.

“Mmmph.” Mulder’s deep, rumbling reply

dissipated into the comforter on the bed.

She knew that he must have been truly

exhausted when her mention of a shower did

not provoke some positive lavatory taxis on

his part.

Scully divested herself of her clothing on

the way to the bathroom. Turning on the

spray, she found that the deliciously warm

water sluicing over her tired and aching

muscles was more relaxing than anything that

she had encountered all day. Well, except

for taking quick peeks at her partner. She

had chosen to wear a suit that accented her

best features and caught Mulder glancing at

her on several occasions. Scully had just

smiled at him in response. She knew those

reserved reactions drove him crazy.

Despite the long and tiring conditions of

the day, she decided that she was glad she

had taken on the terrorism readiness

exercise. At first, it had angered her that

A.D. Cassidy had even suggested she and

Mulder go on the assignment. Her inbox was

already overflowing with requisitions forms,

autopsy reports, and case summaries that

needed her review and signature.

However, in reflection, Scully realized that

her no-nonsense attitude had given her the

edge the drill’s organizers were looking

for. She had excelled today, shouting

orders and dealing with demands, and had

everyone around her carrying

out her every directive.

With her shower completed, she donned a set

of pajamas. Scully carefully sat on the soft

bed and leaned against the pillows, trying

not to disturb Mulder’s obvious slumber. She

reached for the file folder on the night

stand and opened the latest notes on their

most recent case.

She smiled slightly as she fingered the

pages of the unfinished portion of Mulder’s

report, recalling how they had gotten into a

small argument about the paranormal aspects

of the case, or more accurately, the lack

thereof. Not an argument. A discussion. She

had not been quite sure what to do with

herself after the case was resolved without

the slightest hint of alien, mutant, or

boogey-man involvement. In the end, she

settled for winning a bet that Mulder’s

venture into internet smut-writing would not

last two weeks. He had taken her to a new,

cozy diner close to her apartment and

laughed over copies of the e-mails he had

received. They both agreed that the place

had a great ambiance and decided to visit

again.

Scully smiled at the memory, stood from the

bed, and quietly fished around in her

briefcase for the requisitions. Sitting at

the motel’s desk, she opened her laptop and

prepared herself for the long evening ahead.

Twenty minutes into typing her report, she

stood to stretch. Her muscles had tightened

again, still tired from the stress of the

day’s drill exercises.

Deep in thought, Scully was startled by a

clap of thunder. She sat down and resumed

her typing on the case file notes, saving

them every few minutes so that they would

not be lost. She had learned her lesson in

Bellefleur years ago. Scully worked as

quickly as possible, oblivious to the snores

arising from her partner. Finally, at about

2 AM, she put the finishing touches on the

last report, saved it, and shut the computer

off. She also unplugged the laptop to

prevent power surge damage.

Scully picked up her terrorism drill

procedure manual and slipped under the

covers of her bed, wishing she had brought a

novel to read, instead. She knew without a

doubt that the manual would lull her to

sleep in record time, though. Mulder did not

budge when she propped up her pillows and

situated herself to read, and she did not

have the heart to disturb his sleep.

She watched him for a few minutes, soaking

up the innocent, child-like expression on

his face. She even found the little puddle

of drool forming on his pillow endearing.

With a sigh, she tore her eyes away from

Mulder and tried to concentrate on the

manual. Her valiant effort to study was

doomed, however. Within a matter of minutes,

true to Midwest form, a loud blast of

thunder shook the room, and lightening

streaked across the night sky. The room was

plunged into darkness.

******

Rousch Pharmaceuticals Research Division

Indianapolis, Indiana

“What do you mean the formula isn’t ready?”

“I’m sorry sir, but we haven’t had the

proper amount of time to prepare it as you

requested.”

“Well, get it finished! We don’t have a lot

of time, and the contract ends this week.

It has to happen before then.”

The man tousled his hair in frustration at

the latest developments.

“Sir, if I may ask. What exactly are you

planning to do with this formula?” the lab

technician asked meekly.

“That is none of your business. Just do

your job as you are told!” The man stormed

out of the conference room, annoyed.

Hans Gregor walked back to his office,

flipped on the computer, and typed in the

password, gaining entry into his e-mail.

Noting there was nothing of importance, he

swiftly scanned over the messages without

opening them. Near the end of the list, a

subject stood out in red bold letters.

Apprehension settled in as small beads of

sweat quickly accumulated on his forehead.

Before opening the e-mail, he looked around

his office to make sure no one was looking.

The message popped up on his monitor with

one click of the mouse.

<Date: Fri, 3 April 2003 06:42:15 EDT)>

<From: gqm@clippe.com>

<Subject: Project>

<To: admin-hg@rouschnet.com>

<I am contacting you to inquire about our

joint venture. I trust all is going

according plan. Contact me *immediately*

if there are *any* delays in the project.

And remember, can get what want mission accomplished. We will make

direct at original safe location

after your directives have been carried

out.>

Carefully, Gregor regarded the e-mail and

pondered his next option. He didn’t know

exactly how he had gotten mixed up with

this, but he certainly knew why. He also

knew that he had to speed up the process,

even if it meant that he had to call on the

external sources he had come to despise.

Griffith Michelin made all men look like

angels, even considering himself in the

equation. He was reluctant to turn to

Michelin. Gregor was not accustomed to

dealing with dregs.

He had been impressed when Michelin managed

to wring an acquittal from what appeared to

be an open-and-shut conviction. However,

even Michelin did not escape the stigma of

the accusations, and he was drummed out of

the Bureau in short order. The whole matter

was distasteful to Gregor. Unseemly.

However, after the careful planning of

Gregor’s concept to test the formula, it was

inevitable that it would fall through

without outside help. Still, he realized he

had no choice but to throw a bone to the old

dog. Gregor gave him a position as a Public

Information Officer for Rousch

Pharmaceuticals in addition to

other…responsibilities. Picking up the

phone, he heard the dial tone, jabbed at the

buttons and waited for Michelin to answer

his cell phone.

“Michelin.”

“It’s me. We’ve got a problem.”

“Just so you know, the word problem does not

exist in my vocabulary, Hans. So what can I

help you with?” he sneered audibly.

“These idiots your guys hired have screwed

up the original samples and are starting the

process over from scratch. There is no way

we’ll be ready for this little shindig we

have planned. Any ideas on how we can speed

this up?”

“Let me think about it and I’ll get back

with you.”

“Just don’t wait…too long.” Before

Gregor could say anything further, Michelin

had disconnected the call.

Gregor slung the phone against the desk.

“Damn, we don’t have time for this!”

Drawing his hands through his thick chestnut

hair, he sighed, pushed away from his desk,

and stood to leave for the evening, unsure

of what would happen if this didn’t pan out

as expected. All he knew was that there was

an equation at work here. He was a part of

that equation, as a representative of

Rousch, as was *Agent* Mulder, and it all

added up to delayed but determined

revenge… This was one project he was

determined to see through to the end.

******

Holiday Inn Express

Indianapolis, Indiana

“Mmmmm…” Scully felt like she was in a

dream world as something soft and fuzzy

moved enticingly across her cheek and kissed

the corner of her mouth. Her eyes forced

themselves open and found Mulder propped up

next to her, eyeing her appreciatively.

“Morning.”

“Morning, sleepyhead. You ready to start

the second day of the drill? Of course, as

you can see I’m ready and ‘dying’ to go.”

He laughed at his own pun, a mischievous glint

in his eyes.

She smiled at his contagious good mood that

had started affecting her before she even

got out of bed.

“Nice way to wake up.” Scully sat up and

stretched. She leaned over and gave Mulder

a quick peck on the cheek before rising from

the bed and padding toward the bathroom.

“Give me 30 minutes and I’ll be ready.”

“Okay, but hurry. We want to eat breakfast

before we go. I heard someone say today’s

operations are going to be much longer than

yesterday’s.”

Mulder heard her groan and smiled to

himself. He walked back into his own room

to get himself ready. He had a tough time

shaking the remnants of sleep from his mind,

so he decided to start easy. Television.

Flipping through the channels, he came

across a local news station, which was

showing excerpts of the success of

yesterday’s drill. The view briefly showed

Scully shouting orders to everyone around

her, and then swept across the disaster area

to reveal bodies strewn all about, being

tended by various medical personnel. The

screen also showed the head of a local

pharmaceutical company’s terrorism

simulation team, his face obscured by a

dozen microphones. He was speaking to the

reporter about yesterday’s events.

Something struck Mulder very odd as he

looked at the man. The voice seemed vaguely

familiar, but Mulder couldn’t place him. He

listened intently as the reporter continued

to talk to the man. Suddenly, reading the

scroll on the bottom of the screen, his

worst fears had come true. The man was none

other than the former Agent Grif Michelin.

Michelin? Mulder could not believe he had

managed to stay out of prison, much less

finagle his way into a high-profile job

already. A position of authority,

nonetheless. Mulder was immediately

suspicious. Michelin could pose a serious

threat to everyone involved with the

project. Mulder cast a reflexive glance

toward the door adjoining Scully’s room. The

sound of the shower would have masked the

familiar voice coming from the television.

Mulder began weighing his options, looking

back and forth between the glowing screen

and the closed door. Scully was under a lot

of pressure, and her role in the terrorism

response team was vital. Mulder did not want

to compound any organizational problems or

be the cause of more weight on her

shoulders. He knew she would not approve of

him rushing in for covert investigation on

his own, but he had met a couple of guys

from the local CDC office who might be

willing help…

*** ACT TWO ***

Greenview Court

Carmel, Indiana

The phone rang, filling the room with its

shrill rhythm. A shaky hand shot out to

answer the call. Bleary eyes opened to see

“4:45 AM” glaring bright blue from the alarm

clock. The disoriented man choked the

receiver with a white-knuckle grip and

simultaneously bumped his half-empty tumbler

of scotch with his elbow. It teetered on

the edge of the mahogany bed stand for a

moment before plummeting to the floor.

Gregor did not appreciate the irony, knowing

that a stain was slowly expanding on his

ivory carpet.

“Hello?” he barked, an edge of irritation in

his tone.

“You really shouldn’t be drinking. Bad for

your liver,” a deep, gruff voice answered.

Gregor’s eyes widened at the cryptic remark.

A chill ran up his spine as he pushed the

covers aside and walked over to the bedroom

window. He carefully parted the curtain,

looking into the dim light of pre-dawn for a

surveillance vehicle.

“Who is this?” Gregor’s voice was much more

tentative.

“A secret admirer.”

Gregor recognized the man, the voice no

longer disguised.

“Michelin, you don’t have time to play

games. The people you contracted have

failed to adhere to the schedule we agreed

upon. Other parties are growing

dissatisfied. This had better be good

news.” Gregor paused, allowing Michelin

time to consider his statement. Their fates

were tied together. If one of them failed,

they would both fry. “Very, very good

news.”

Gregor paced back and forth next to his bed

while awaiting a reply. His right foot felt

a cold squish as it found the wasted scotch.

He stopped and closed his eyes in an attempt

to suppress his anger.

“It’s all taken care of. I found

an…alternate source.” Michelin cleared

his throat, implying that Gregor was better

off not knowing the particulars. “The

solution’s concentration is lower, but the

effectiveness will not be compromised. It

will do its job. Should be ready for you

today, about 1 PM.”

“You’d better be damned sure. And what

about our friend Carlos?”

“I’m taking care of that personally,”

Michelin purred. “I’m going to get some work

out of him first.”

Gregor could almost see the malicious grin

spread across his face.

“You have a lot of work to do. Better get

to it. I expect a report ASAP.”

“Will do, Hans. Nice pajamas, by the way.

Yellow is definitely your color.”

The line clicked before Gregor could

respond. He felt the heat rise in his ears.

He set the handset in its cradle with excess

force. Michelin was becoming a constant

source of frustration…but Gregor would

have to put up with him in order to rid

himself of a larger problem. The

tantalizing promise of revenge sparked his

mind, despite the early hour. He picked up

the tumbler and headed toward the kitchen,

practicing the events to come over and over

in his imagination. The glass was left on

the counter, the carpet stain immediately

forgotten, as Gregor’s attention was

diverted by a brown cardboard box sitting on

the bar table. Its innocuous appearance

contrasted with the fact that it had not

been sitting there the night before.

Gregor opened a cabinet drawer and grabbed a

pair of scissors automatically, never taking

his eyes off of the box. He rushed over to

it like a child hurrying to open birthday

gifts. The package bore no labels, but he

did not need any to know the contents. Tape

split cleanly between steel blades, and

Gregor unfolded the leaves of the box top.

He lifted the upper half of the high-density

Styrofoam packing and removed the

information packet, placing it on the table

for later perusal. He ripped open the

sealed plastic bag with his bare hands,

finally revealing the cargo inside. Gregor

pulled the metal canister from its housing

and cradled it in his hands, his eyes fixed

on the curved, red tongues of the warning

symbol emblazoned on the side. He ran his

thumb over the word printed in bold below

it: “BIOHAZARD”.

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Gregor nearly quivered with anticipation,

only a few hours away from obtaining the

formula, and the canister would be the

vehicle of his justice, his success, and

unrequited love. It was almost too perfect.

The man set his prize on the table and

hurried through his morning routine,

scrubbing himself to immaculate perfection

and donning the suit he had laid out the day

before. He had planned every aspect of this

day and smiled in satisfaction. He placed

the canister in his briefcase and locked it.

Gregor had grabbed his wallet and keys and

started out the door, hand on the light

switch, when he paused. He glanced one last

time at the 4″x6″ framed photograph on the

bookshelf.

On the left side, an angelic smile and

emerald eyes shone brilliantly against ivory

skin. Crimson hair shimmered like strands

of spun lava, even in low winter sunlight,

belying the vibrancy of the woman’s

presence. His heart melted just looking at

her. It seized with anger, however, as his

eyes swept over the jagged white border of

fractured glass to the image on the right

side. Her partner. Even the word raised

his ire. The man was leaning over, saying

something to her as an aside. Something he

did not intend for anyone to hear, no doubt.

A secret.

Gregor’s mouth went dry and his breath

hitched as he looked at the way the man had

invaded her space, brushing against her as

if he owned her. They were never aware that

he was watching them, of course, but the

territoriality was apparent all of the time.

Well, if her partner could not take a hint,

it was his own fault.

Gregor stepped toward the bookshelf and

stared at her for just a moment longer. He

was surprised by the hot track of a tear

sliding down his cheek as he reached out and

touched his fingers longingly against the

glass. His achievements and hard work would

never be quite enough to get her attention.

This time, though, he was going to make his

move. There was no way she could ignore him

now. Gregor turned and left the room, turning

off the foyer light before locking the door.

******

Downtown Canal

Indianapolis, Indiana

The sun’s rays painted broad strokes of pink

and orange in apartment windows, slanting

down ever so gradually, not quite touching

the water. A breeze bent vivid green blades

of new grass in stadium waves. Ducks

floated idly in the narrow channel. Most of

them were still asleep, heads tucked firmly

under wings.

Scully watched the aquatic birds with

curiosity while finishing her breakfast.

They were content to go wherever the water

took them, secure in the knowledge that they

would not wake up somewhere in the middle of

the Atlantic Ocean if they slept too long.

Scully sighed, wishing she had been able to

sleep in, too.

Scully took another bite of her organic

high-fiber bagel, thinking as she chewed.

In some ways, she pondered, she was like one

of these sleeping ducks, only she followed

Mulder. She was content to go wherever he

took her. Well, almost. There was the time

he talked her into accompanying him to the

video store…

She stopped herself from eating more of the

bagel, and looked at it with one eyebrow

raised, wondering what exactly it contained

that had provoked her odd musings. Scully

tore the rest of the bagel into small pieces

and fed it to the group of mallards that had

gathered before her.

Scully was beginning to succumb to murky

thoughts of setting Mulder’s alarm clock to

go off at 4 AM on Sunday in retribution for

his rooster-like tendencies, but the scenery

made her change her mind. With the steep

grassy banks rising on either side of the

water to muffle sound, she could almost

forget that she was in the middle of a city.

After a little deliberation, she decided

that getting up at an obnoxious hour to

accompany Mulder to the downtown canal for

his morning run was not such a bad thing.

At that moment, he emerged from under a

bridge, running along the opposite bank.

It was almost time to leave, so Scully stood

and stretched before heading back toward the

car. The persistent quacking of hungry

mallards pursued her until she followed the

inclined brick path away from the canal.

She waited for her partner at the top of the

bank as he crossed the bridge. His

footfalls pounded across the synthetic

boards in a steady rhythm.

Scully gazed at a small boy and a frail-

looking elderly man wearing a veteran’s cap

on the path below. The boy listened to the

man’s words with wide eyes and then reached

out to press his hand against the engraved

granite face of a large memorial stone.

Below several columns of names, the

inscription across the bottom read “U.S.S.

Indianapolis”. The scene appealed to

Scully’s sense of duty, the solemn pair

reminding her of the reason why she was

there.

“All set.”

Mulder panted slightly, jogging in place and

stretching his arms and torso. He laid his

hand on her shoulder, which got her

attention. She turned to him and pressed

the remote unlock button on the rental car’s

keychain. The car beeped in reply.

“I’m dying to get started,” he said in a

flat tone.

Scully sighed at his droll humor.

“Thanks for accompanying me, though, really.

Had to run. I get restless lying still all

day.”

She raised an eyebrow, wordlessly demanding

an explanation of how playing a corpse in

the staged disaster could possibly be more

difficult than directing the body-recovery

effort. He tried to hide a sheepish look by

wiping the sweat from his face with the edge

of his tee-shirt.

“You know, Scully, it’s hard work!” His

voice rose to mock-whine level. “People

stepping on you all day, dragging you

around, zipping you up in those bags…” He

paused and frowned. “I think I do get

bagged today.”

“Mulder,” she shot him a disapproving look,

“you’re not supposed to discuss that.”

“Sorry. It’s just really unnerving. Even

with the ventilation material and interior

zipper.” He started toward the car, talking

over his shoulder as she followed. “Not to

mention stifling.”

“I suppose it does get pretty warm in there,

but you shouldn’t be in the bag more than a

few minutes. If everything goes well, that

is.” She rolled her eyes, even though he

wasn’t looking.

“Scully, the locals call us ‘Hot Pockets’.”

He said the last two words with exaggerated

distaste as he sat in the passenger’s seat

of the rental.

“Hey, if the bag fits…”

Mulder shut the car door, interrupting her

bad analogy. Scully continued to stare in

the direction of the memorial stone, lost in

contemplation.

“Let’s go. I still have to change into my

blood-soaked clothes,” he called from the

passenger’s side. “By the way, Scully, I

won’t be at the hotel tonight. I signed up

for an overnight emergency security breech

scenario at the local CDC office. I’m going

straight there from the drill this evening.”

She raised an eyebrow at that.

“Oh, really, Mulder? Since when did you

start giving up quality sleeping time to

hang out with a bunch of ge…Nevermind.”

“Ha ha. Anyway, I’ll just head over to the

site in the morning and catch some ‘z’s on

the lawn,” Mulder stated with what he hoped

was just enough sincerity to convince her.

He was not quite sure.

“Okay,” she said dubiously.

She shook her head, clearing some meandering

thoughts, and sat in the car beside Mulder.

“Scully? Something wrong?” His voice was

tinged with concern.

“No.” She paused, reviewing the day’s plans

in her mind. “Why?”

“Oh, no reason. Just morbid curiosity.”

Scully did not have to look at Mulder to

know that there was a smile on his face. She

gave him a swat on the shoulder, started the

car, and headed toward the drill site.

******

Federal Building Plaza

Indianapolis, Indiana

Grif Michelin surveyed the earnest chemical

containment effort in progress with a

mixture of restless boredom and

anticipation. His briefcase sat atop a

chest-high portable cabinet, its handle

still gripped tightly in his left hand. The

metal canister it contained was no longer

empty, and that fact got his adrenaline

pumping.

The army’s Chemical and Biological Rapid

Response team representatives had just sent

samples from the recovered remnants of the

“weapon” to be analyzed. Preliminary in

situ tests had indicated the presence of a

strong acid, so all response personnel were

now wrapped quite warmly in poly-vinyl Level

B Hazmat suits. Everyone except for

Michelin, who sweated bullets inside his

Level A suit.

He had many hours of experience with the

restrictive protective gear and respirators,

but the situation was making him

claustrophobic. It would all be worth it,

though, he mused and smiled to himself.

Everything was going as planned. No one had

questioned his choice of Hazmat suit, even

though it was a bit overboard for the

drill’s circumstances. Certain perks came

with being the representative of a major

pharmaceutical company, and one of them was

opting for the $5,000 model over the $1500

Level B. His neon orange suit was

incredibly gaudy, but it was also a

completely sealed, self-contained

environment. No sense in taking chances, he

had reasoned.

A sudden movement against his waist startled

him. He almost jumped before he realized

that it was merely his pager. So, it was

time. He checked the numerical message

anyway, to confirm the order. The small

digital display read “7734”. Michelin said

nothing, knowing that all voice transmission

via the respirators’ com links were being

recorded. He pulled the briefcase off of the

cabinet and quickly made his way around the

perimeter of the small park, heading toward

the “casualty” preparation area.

A few volunteers and government officials

were already getting organized for the day’s

events. Michelin spotted Mulder sitting in

a makeup artist’s chair. He was having the

finishing touches put on his blood red corn

syrup and glycerine-painted face and body.

It would be the perfect cover, Michelin

mused. He wished he had thought of that

little detail himself.

In less than a minute, Mulder was nearly

unrecognizable. He vacated the chair for

the next casualty in line and headed toward

the large cold drinking water dispenser.

Michelin took three deep breaths and walked

back to the other side of the small park.

He squeezed into the narrow gap between a

mobile generator unit and the satellite

server van.

Louie’s familiar face was visible at the

other end of the van. They met in the

middle of the hidden space. Michelin handed

him the briefcase without a word. His elbow

bumped against a bright yellow cord that ran

from the van into the bundle of cords

supplying the command tent. Nothing seemed

to happen, though, so he turned and strode

back to one of the tent’s computer stations,

logged himself out for the rest of the day,

and hurried to his car. It took all of his

self-control to repress the urge to peel his

tires in the parking lot.

******

Louie shifted nervously inside the stifling

layers of his business suit. He felt too

conspicuous carrying Michelin’s briefcase in

the middle of a growing throng of federal

agents. It was far too late to back out,

though. He traced Michelin’s path across

the park to find Mulder and his other

scheduled contacts.

Mulder proved difficult to recognize. Louie

nearly bumped into him before he figured out

which man covered in fake blood was his

target. Louie put a little distance

between them, trying not to hurry too much.

He leaned against the building, avoiding the

West end of the makeup area, where dozens of

teeming Boy Scouts chattered incessantly.

Louie was becoming irritated with the delay

when he spotted the other contacts.

The two stout men with their own distorting

makeup approached Mulder. The tall one

sporting a goatee shook his hand before

conversing with the agent in a low voice.

Louie heard a few words here and there. It

was enough to discern that they were asking

for Mulder’s help moving a large box of

catering food to the drill site. He

acquiesced. The men continued to talk and

gently guided Mulder between two sandstone

buildings, careful to maintain congenial

body language. Louie was impressed by their

effective efforts.

The men led the apparently unsuspecting

agent into a partially obscured loading dock

alley while Louie stayed behind. Mulder was

preoccupied with helping the first man lift

a large, heavy cardboard box while the other

pulled the security gate shut and locked it.

He paused to nod at Louie before turning his

attention back to Mulder.

The two men at the dock struggled under

their heavy burden. Mulder staggered for a

moment and nearly dropped his end of the

load before regaining balance. He struggled

to keep his momentum, walking backwards

while the shorter man urged him to keep

moving. Mulder did not hear the goateed man

approach. He could not see the leather sap

that appeared from under a loose-fitting

jacket, and he never anticipated the

devastating blow to the base of his neck

that sent him careening to the pavement.

clip_image006

******

“Did anyone ever call Colonel O’Neill?”

“Where are my field reports? I need them on

my desk in five minutes!”

“SBCCOM is having trouble with the satellite

feed. Get one of the NG techs out there to

see what’s wrong.”

Scully rubbed the bridge of her nose with

one hand and squeezed her eyes shut, trying

to block out the cacophony of increasingly

frantic voices around her. She had expected

to supervise the body recovery team again,

but the unexpected addition of a possible

chemical weapon to the scenario set a

different procedure into action. About

halfway through the morning, only the Army’s

chemical response team and the ever-present

“casualties” were allowed in the restricted

zone.

Scully had found herself “facilitating

communications between the command

authorities and local officials”, which

meant that she had the honor of informing

the Indianapolis mayor’s office, the county

coroner, and local hospitals that she was

not sure exactly how much longer the drill

was going to take. She could feel a

migraine looming on the horizon.

“Ma’am? Ma’am?”

Scully pried her eyes open. A CDC employee

was looking at her with a concerned

expression.

“Are you okay?” the woman asked. “You look

like you’re having a tough time. Need some

help?”

Scully tried to give her a reassuring smile.

“No, but thanks, Nickie. I think I just

need to get out of this room for a few

minutes. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Scully checked to make sure she had her

pager in her jacket pocket before heading

for the outdoor break area. Once she was

close to the “Caution” tape, she reflexively

scanned the restricted zone. She observed a

fairly orderly scene of chemical containment

teams picking their way through the “dead”

to evaluate the area. Scully scanned the

ground, but she could not identify Mulder

among the scattered “bodies”.

She sighed, wondering what he was really

planning for that night. She hated to be

untrusting, but she could not shake the

feeling that he was up to no good. However

she might try, she could not convince

herself that he was merely trying to make

himself more helpful for the drill

supervisors. With that thought nagging at

her mind, she reluctantly turned and went

back to work inside the command tent.

******

Mulder winced as he drifted towards

consciousness. His head throbbed

mercilessly, obscuring all other sensations

for some time. After many deep, slow

breaths, he decided to open his eyes. A

bright light became distinguishable between

the slits of his eyelids, causing another

colorful cascade of pain.

His calming breaths turned to rapid panting

when he realized that he was inside some

sort of self-enclosed capsule. Strange

faces obscured by Hazmat hoods and masks

peered in at him through the transparent

lid.

Mulder tried to shove against it, but his

movement was halted by restraints. His

entire body twisted and contorted in an

effort to pull free, but he was held fast.

His heart sped, sending throbbing bolts of

agony through his skull.

He searched the faces above him for answers,

but they offered none. One of the men waved

at him. Very odd, Mulder thought, until he

realized that it was not meant as a

greeting. It was a good-bye. A hissing

sound accompanied an invisible jet of moist

air directed toward his face. It grazed his

skin for about 15 seconds before

terminating. The mist was soon followed by

a jab in the back of Mulder’s neck. The man

who had waved leaned closer. Mulder

recognized the familiar face of Grif

Michelin leering at him from the other side

of the lid. He slipped into darkness before

he had time to process what was happening.

***ACT THREE***

Scully and Mulder stood silently in the

middle of the empty park. A deep sound

grew, rising from the unfamiliar buildings

around them. Scully saw the source of the

noise, now very loud. A great throng of

people were gathering in the park. Many of

them were adorned in ghastly costumes.

Scully felt like she was in a bad zombie

movie. She reached out to Mulder, just to

make sure he was still there.

Soon, she was surrounded by the crowd,

pushing, wanting, demanding her attention.

Mulder was next to her, now holding her

hand. The people pressed closer until she

could no longer move. When she turned to

Mulder, he was gone, and she was left alone,

a large, empty bag now clutched in her hand.

A loud buzzing rang in Scully’s ears,

causing her to jump. She opened her eyes to

darkness, her breath quickened and her heart

racing. Her hands searched cautiously for

the source of the incessant noise. Finally,

she felt the smooth, flat surface with

raised buttons. Her fingers were numb and

stiff. She couldn’t tell which button was

“Alarm Off”, so she just smashed them all.

The buzzing in the room stopped, but the

buzzing in her head continued mercilessly.

Her hand found the switch on her bedside

lamp and turned it. The light assaulted her

eyes. She groaned, her head swimming with

pain and disorientation. She eyed the

bottle of Imitrex on her night stand with

loathing. Not only had she fought her

headache for hours before falling

asleep, but she had been haunted by

nightmarish visions throughout the night.

Most of them had vanished into the recesses

of sleep before she could commit them to

memory, but the last one still bothered her.

The more Scully thought about the dream, the

more apprehensive she became. It didn’t

take an Oxford psychology degree to

translate that message. She rolled her eyes

once for good measure and swung her legs

over the side of the bed. Her clock read

5:30 AM. It was too early to go to the

site, but she decided to get ready, anyway.

She even entertained the idea of going to

the canal while she padded off to the hotel

room’s kitchenette in search of a glass of

soy milk.

Scully passed the television on the way and

decided that it would be a good idea to see

the weather report. Sleep still blurred her

vision, so she fumbled in her first attempt

to turn it on. It glowed to life on the

second try, though. Scully wandered to the

refrigerator, stretching her arms and

yawning before pulling the door open.

As she was grabbing the carton, she heard

the drill being mentioned on a news report.

That got her attention, and she turned to

watch. It was a live ground shot. The

cameras were there too early to capture much

of the activity, but there were already

scenario design techs inspecting the site

and preparing it for the day. After

searching the few faces the camera’s view

for Mulder, she began to pay more attention

to the reporter’s voiceover.

clip_image008

<…rumors circulating regarding the reason

for the location of this operation. When

confronted with these theories, a major

pharmaceutical representative refused to go

on camera, but he released this

statement…>

The screen switched to a text page graphic.

Highlighted contents were read aloud by the

same reporter.

<“There have been no specific threats made

to the City of Indianapolis. However, it is

large enough to be a possible target and

must therefore remain alert and ready to

respond in the event of a threat to the

safety of its citizens. We don’t want to

take any chances.”

The mayor has gone on record in support of

the selection of Indianapolis, saying that

he welcomes the preparedness drill and that

safety is his top priority. However, with

the world’s largest sporting arena next

door, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with

a capacity of over 250,000 people, there is

speculation that there is more to the city’s

selection than we’re being told…>

The visual switched back to the site as the

reporter continued, with a small inset in

the upper right-hand corner. Scully read

the caption “Griffith Michelin, Rousch

Pharmaceuticals Spokesman”, and her heart

immediately sank. Mulder. She was stunned

for a moment. Her eyes flickered back and

forth, focused on nothing, as she surmised

exactly what was happening. Hot blood

rushed to her face. Her fingernails dug

into her palms.

She was being ditched.

It all made perfect sense. She had known

that Mulder’s sudden volunteerism was highly

unusual, but she had never imagined that he

would intentionally mislead her in order to

pursue Michelin.

She pursed her lips, infuriated that he

would do this to her. Not only was it

condescending of him to assume that she

wouldn’t have backed him up, but worst of

all, he had lied to her. She shook from

head to toe, temporarily stifling her anger.

There was important work to be completed,

and unlike her partner, she was actually

going to make sure that it got done.

******

Their arrival at the park was right on

schedule. To Louie’s knowledge, no one knew

Mulder had even been missing. Louie pulled

the van to a stop just out of the sight of

the day’s activities. His pal Carlos was

awake and alert, training a gun at Mulder’s

head when Louie opened the doors to the van.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I told you, I was making sure he didn’t go

anywhere.” Carlos crouched down and jumped

out of the van. Laying Mulder on top of a

body bag, they proceeded to pull him to the

nearest corner of the grassy area, where

most of the “dead victims” were being

staged. Once they were certain no one had

spotted them, they returned to the van with

the bag. Louie waited until Carlos was back

in the driver’s seat before reaching into

his inner jacket pocket. Louie’s lopsided

grin made Carlos squirm uneasily in the

seat. Louie slowly pulled his hand from his

jacket, revealing a large envelope stuffed

with money. He handed the cash to Carlos

through the lowered widow. Louie just could

not follow Michelin’s orders. Good no-

questions-asked lackeys were getting hard to

find.

“Well done, man. Now scram…and don’t let

the boss see you around these here parts

again. Comprehendo?”

The gleam in Carlos’ eye was apparent as he

mentally counted the wad of cash Louie had

passed in his direction.

“Yeah, nice doing buz’ness with ya.”

Louie sighed in relief as Carlos got into

the van and drove out of the park.

******

Two hours into the day, Scully was already

exhausted. The combination of stress and

lack of sleep was brutal. The order that

all field agents wear their Hazmats only

compounded matters. While everyone else had

donned their “prophylactics” with

jocularity, she had been glad that her

respirator might hide the scowl on her face.

Mulder’s deception consumed her thoughts,

and when she went hunting for him at her

first opportunity. She felt a predatory

glide in her step. Other people must have

noticed it, too, because the crowd of

workers seemed to part before her. She

searched the park, finally spotting Mulder’s

long gray training shoes in one corner of

the grassy area. A small spark of relief

lit at the sight of him, but she made quick

work of it. This time, she deserved to be

angry.

Mulder lay on his back, limbs sprawled out,

face turned to one side. He looked all too

comfortable soaking up the sun, Scully

noted. The makeup artist had gone a bit

overboard with the fake blood, but she could

still see the carefree, relaxed expression

on his face.

“Mulder, I saw the news today. Is there

something you’d like to tell me?”

She made no effort to disguise the edge in

her tone, although the suit’s microphone and

speaker made her sound like she was inside a

tin can. She waited expectantly. Mulder

did not move or reply.

“Fine. You stay in character now, but if

you don’t tell me what the Hell you were up

to last night by the time today’s exercise

is over, you are dead meat.”

Still no reply. She shook her head,

suppressing the urge to scream at his

silence, and quickly walked away from him.

Scully pondered the possible motives for his

lie as she crossed the park again, but none

made the act hurt any less. She was again

thankful for the respirator. It concealed

the handful of angry tears that fell from

her eyes.

******

(Two hours later)

The tailgate slammed shut on the back of the

Coroner’s van for another trip to the Marion

county morgue. Scully sighed. Only one

more load to go. Her team had documented

and organized all of the fatalities. They

had sent 58 “casualties” off for staged

autopsies. Although her job was nearly

complete, Scully approached it with

reluctance. Mulder was still lying in the

exact same place, awaiting his turn with the

rest of the last group.

Scully considered herself to be a very

professional person. She was difficult to

fluster. Everyone knew that, even her, but

the insult of Mulder’s deceptive game was a

constant presence in her mind. It grew out

of control, feeding itself, dominating her

mind as she tried to work, and the more she

thought about it, the angrier she got.

While the rest of her team attended to an

elderly woman and a large man nearby, Scully

dragged a body bag next to Mulder. She

avoided looking at him, trying to just do

her job and block out her emotions, but she

could not.

She stared at him and demanded in a lowered

voice, “Exactly how long are you going to

play this out, Mulder? What was so

important that you had to make up a story?

I checked with the personnel director. You

did not sign in for any scenario work last

night. If you’re going to ditch me, fine,

but you could at least give me the dignity

of not lying to me about it beforehand!”

Her tone had started out calm, but she was

talking adamantly by the time she finished.

She could feel her face blush with fury.

Scully waited for Mulder to say something,

but he did not even acknowledge her

presence. She noted with contempt that he

did not move at all. In fact, he was in the

exact same position she saw him in earlier.

“Asleep on the job. Figures.”

She started to unzip the bag in preparation

for Mulder’s transport when a peculiar

feeling gave her pause. Something about

Mulder’s breathing was not quite right. It

sounded like he was congested. Scully was

not sure if the sound was due to her suit’s

communication system, but it made her take a

closer look. That was when she noticed that

a trickle of the thick red liquid covering

his face was actually flowing. Upon closer

examination, the patches of his skin that

showed through were abnormally pale.

Scully’s mind raced as she realized that

something was very, very wrong.

She placed a gloved hand on his right

shoulder and shook him, but he did not

respond. She reached out and felt for

Mulder’s carotid through the thin plastic

layers of her gloves. His pulse was slightly

rapid and weak. Carefully, Scully eased one

of his eyelids open. Only the whites of his

eyes were visible.

Suddenly, Mulder looked at her, his gaze

unfocused, and tried to pull away. Before

Scully could react, Mulder’s body was

wracked with a violent cough, and a few

small droplets of blood sprayed on her

sleeve, contrasting sharply with the bright

yellow material.

Scully was stunned for a minute, unsure of

exactly what was happening. The only thing

she could think of was that her partner

needed help immediately. She stood up and

turned toward the crowd behind her.

“We need the paramedics over here. Now!”

Turning her attention back to Mulder, she

found him nearly bouncing off of the ground

with his coughing. His eyes wandered

aimlessly; his mouth hung open. Scully

knelt beside Mulder, at a loss to help him.

She couldn’t tell how much of the red blood

covering his body was real.

Scully tugged at his shirt until his abdomen

and chest were exposed. His torso was

soaked with beads of sweat and stripes of

red fluid. To Scully’s relief, it appeared

to be flaking off in places, but it was not

rust-colored. It was the drying remnant of

the fake blood. However, when Scully tried

to palpate Mulder’s ribs, she felt feverish

heat radiating from his skin, even through

the plies of her suit. The ribs seemed

intact, but something was still hampering

his breathing. His chest heaved under her

touch as he struggled for air.

Mulder’s head turned slightly. He looked at

her with fear in his eyes and moved his

mouth. She knew he was trying to say

something. His eyes grew wide, and he shot

out a hand, grabbing the sleeve of her suit

with an iron grip. A wave of pain passed

visibly through his body, and when the

trembling subsided, his eyes drifted shut

again. The hand on her arm went limp and

fell to the grass. Scully felt cold,

uncertain of what her partner was going

through.

Paramedics still adorned in yellow Hazmat

gear arrived, immediately pulling her away

from Mulder. She tried to push her way

back, but other people got in her way. They

were the Indiana State Police officers from

her team.

“I need to get to him! He’s seriously ill.”

“Let the paramedics do their jobs, Agent

Scully. Just come over here with us…”

“No!” She had to get to him. Had to. “I’m

his doctor, and I’m going to stay with him!”

Still, they would not let her through. She

shoved one of the men out of the way and

moved to her left so she could at least get

a better view. The medics checked Mulder’s

vitals while the police moved everyone back.

The drill started to fall apart as people

dropped their scenario roles to watch. Their

chatter was restrained to a quiet buzz of

speculation. Various media

representatives tried to move close enough

to get Mulder on camera, but the crowd would

not allow it.

Scully realized that she was holding her

breath waiting for the ambulance to pull up.

It rolled onto the grass and stopped

directly beside Mulder. Scully noted that

he was stirring again. One of the medics

was trying to simultaneously ventilate him

with an Ambu bag and hold him still while a

gurney was brought to his side and lowered.

Just as two men began to lift Mulder onto

the flat mattress, he jerked to a sitting

position. The men set him back down at his

movement. His eyes were squeezed shut, and

he tore the mask from his face. The crowd

of onlookers fell silent. Mulder’s stomach

rippled and his arms quaked as he wrapped

them protectively around himself.

He tried to cough, but he only produced a

wet crackling sound. Scully could not stand

to watch from the sidelines any longer.

Just as she drew close enough to touch him,

one of the paramedics turned and stopped her

with a firm hand wrapped around her upper

arm.

“Let me go. He needs me.”

Scully was not even looking at the medic as

she spoke to him. She was noticing the

sweat collected on Mulder’s brow, the way he

rocked slowly back and forth, his grimace of

pain that was gradually worsening…

The coughing started again. This time, it

was the paramedic on his left who was doused

in bloody droplets. The attack did not stop

there, though. The entire plaza seemed to

still as Mulder’s strangled hacking began to

produce red foam. Scully added his symptoms

together: fever, nausea, difficulty

breathing, abdominal pain, bloody sputum…

There was a silent pause before one of the

medics shook his head and recognized what

had to be done.

“Quarantine protocol! No one enters or

leaves this plaza!”

The orders were relayed to the guards

surrounding the park. National Guard and

police began repositioning barriers and

enforcing the perimeter. Scully moved closer

to Mulder in spite of her shock. She

kneeled and supported his neck. One

paramedic helped her ease him back to the

ground while another continued to ventilate

him. Scully heard bullhorns directing the

drill participants to stay calm and follow

supervisors’ orders. She knew SBCCOM would

prepare for the worst and initiate a multi-

casualty incident response plan. The

problem would be convincing everyone

involved that it was not part of the drill.

Scully began to feel an unfamiliar feeling

creep up inside her. Fear. This was not a

drill, and Mulder’s illness was

terrifyingly real.

Scully’s partner was at least semi-

conscious. She could see a subtle grimace

underneath the clear plastic ventilator

mask. He opened his eyes for a second,

rolled them wildly, and took two deep

breaths. His eyelids fluttered shut again,

and he began unconsciously gasping for air.

The third paramedic immediately joined them

and grabbed his ankles.

“One, two, three.”

They efficiently lifted him onto the gurney,

strapped him down, and loaded him into the

ambulance. Two medics climbed in with the

gurney. The driver took his place at the

front before Scully realized he had moved.

The doors banged shut. Scully did not even

have time to demand to ride with Mulder

before the ambulance left her standing in a

cloud of dust and confusion.

***ACT FOUR***

Scully swallowed a mouthful of water,

downing a large tablet in the process. She

threw the empty plastic cup into a recycling

bin and immediately headed for the door. It

had taken her over an hour to dispose of her

contaminated Hazmat suit, get her

prophylactic dose of Ciprofloxacin, give her

official statement as a witness, and

convince the on-site medical director to

allow her to visit Mulder at the hospital.

A National Guard staff sergeant drove her to

the University Hospital in a Humvee. Any

other day, she would have been amused by the

way the traffic parted like the Red Sea.

However, the lack of information regarding

Mulder’s condition dominated her thoughts.

Five minutes and 26 possible diagnoses

later, she was at the Emergency Room door.

Scully approached the receptionist’s desk,

noting that the ER did not seem to be

especially active.

“I need to know the location of a patient.”

She briefly displayed her badge. “Fox

Mulder. He was brought in about an hour ago.

A containment case.”

The receptionist rattled the keys on her

computer and nodded.

“Mr. Mulder is in Level Three Isolation…”

“I need to get to him,” Scully stated. She

was not emotional. It was just a fact.

“Someone already called ahead for you.”

The receptionist leaned down and reached

into her desk. She produced a security

pass, security mask, and neoprene gloves.

She handed them to Scully, her features

conveying a touch of fear.

Scully thanked the receptionist, clipping

the pass onto her jacket and turning off her

cell phone while reading the hall signs.

Scully immediately found the Isolation

listing and hurried down the hall, her high

heels striking a war beat on the linoleum

floor. She maneuvered among three dozen

visitors, patients, and slow-moving students

before she found the “Isolation Ward” sign.

She pulled the gloves on and slung the mask

strings around her head. Her heart pounded

with anticipation as she made her way to the

isolation rooms. National Guardsmen stood

on either side of an entrance marked

“Restricted” and bustling with nurses and

technicians.

“Bingo,” Scully whispered.

One of the guards approached her

immediately, checked her pass and badge, and

instructed her to gear up with the rest of

the required protective wear inside the

anteroom. She pushed the large gray swivel

door open and grabbed a face shield, Tyvek

apron, and a pair of shoe covers, knowing

that precautionary procedures were being

followed. After donning all of the required

PPEs, Scully peered through the small

windows into Mulder’s room.

The staff was still setting up Mulder’s

room. Scully used every bit of self-

restraint she had to avoid rushing in there.

She did not want to be in the way, so she

stood outside and watched like a hawk,

seeing only the backs of several sets of

scrubs through a small anteroom.

After about ten minutes, the staff dispersed

to other tasks, discarding their

contaminated gear in the anteroom’s large

biological hazard bins, and Scully wasted no

time in taking her place beside Mulder. The

negative-pressure room sucked at her hair

when she opened the door and hurried to his

side. She studied him quietly, processing

the scant clues that lay before her

regarding his illness. He was still under

the influence of an anesthetic, unaware of

the ventilator inflating his congested

lungs.

Scully looked at his chart with trepidation.

He was listed in guarded condition with an

aggressive unidentified respiratory tract

infection, slight dehydration, and a mild

concussion. She winced in sympathy. He was

going to be in for a painful awakening.

Scully hung the chart back on its hook and

went to stand beside Mulder. She wanted to

hold him, but she was almost afraid to touch

him, even with her protective gear. He

looked pale and sunken. The beds of his

nails carried a cyan tinge, and he was

strapped to the bed to prevent him from

removing the vent. Scully felt a sadly

familiar emptiness inside, wondering how

many more times she would stand by his

bedside anxiously awaiting a prognosis from

yet another ER doctor before she heard the

one she most feared.

Her hand hovered over his cheek, but she did

not touch him. Her eyes welled up, but the

tears did not fall. Scully gazed at his

twitching eyelids and listened to his forced

breaths until muffled footsteps alerted her

to the presence of another person in the

room. She turned to see a physician making

his way toward the foot of the bed. He

began furiously scribbling on Mulder’s chart

before he acknowledged her.

“Sorry for the rush, but I’m sure you

understand. I’m Jack Lange,” he introduced

himself, dispensing of the “Doctor” title.

A nod was offered in place of a handshake.

“We are double- and triple-checking our

preliminary findings, but everything we’ve

seen so far is pointing Yersinia pestis.”

He scrawled a signature on the chart and set

it down, meeting Scully’s stunned gaze. She

had to concentrate to follow the doctor’s

words. One word was drowning out everything

else in her mind. Plague.

“Are you absolutely sure?” Scully asked in

disbelief.

“Well, it will take approximately 72 hours

to receive a confirmation. We’ve notified

the State Department of Health, and sputum

samples are already on their way to the CDC

and USAMRIID. Of course, we couldn’t wait

that long to begin treatment. I’ve

consulted with many colleagues on this most

unusual case. The presentation of

hemoptysis and cyanosis were our first

clues, in correlation with the presence of

Gram-negative, bipolar staining bacilli in

his bronchial smears. Adding to that the

results of his chest films,” Lange said as

he pulled an x-ray film from the chart, “we

are convinced that we’re dealing with

pneumonic plague.”

He slid the film into a view panel and

turned on the backlight. Scully was

astounded at what she saw. The area

spanning the ribs, which should have only

hinted at the edges of soft organs, was

dominated by two large white masses with

diffuse borders. They filled the bottom

two-thirds of Mulder’s lungs, showing the

exact positions of the beset lobar organs.

“According to various statements, including

yours, he seemed to be in perfectly good

health yesterday. This sort of fulminant

consolidation of the lungs is highly

indicative of a pneumonic plague infection.

Of course, this diagnosis has very serious

implications. We are administering

streptomycin right now and working on

cultures for further tests.”

“The good news is that Mister Mulder’s

temperature has stabilized, and his

concussion seems to be minor. As for the bad

news… Frankly, right now, it’s a battle

to keep him from drowning. He’s producing

pulmonary drainage as fast as we can clear

it. His kidneys are also cause for concern.

He was already a bit dehydrated, which is

not an uncommon early symptom of pneumonic

plague. With the nephrotoxic propensity of

the antibiotics, he’s in quite a

predicament. The effectiveness of his

treatment should be apparent in the next 24

hours.”

The doctor cast a worried glance at his

patient before looking back at Scully.

“We’re already in contact with the CDC and

WHO, comparing his symptoms and lab values

with known manifestations of natural and

manipulated strains. So far, no one else

from the project site has been reported to

have symptoms. It’s very puzzling.”

“To say the least…” Scully noted while

trying to cope with the frightening turns

her day had taken. “Thank you. Please let

me know as soon as any further details are

known,” Scully said. “I believe you already

have my cell number…”

“Yes. If you’ll excuse me, I have more work

to do.”

Scully watched as Lange exited the room.

She did not envy him. He was young,

probably relatively inexperienced, and he

had suddenly been thrust into the middle of

a situation that could have global

implications. Scully felt reassured that he

was competent, though. It was a small

comfort, but she would take what she could

get. Scully studied Mulder’s slack features

for a few more precious seconds before

heading to the anteroom to discard her

protective gear. She had some phone calls

to make.

******

The shouts of the reporters storming the

Capitol Building steps could be heard for

blocks. “Excuse me, Mr. Michelin. We’d like

to ask a few questions.” Several reporters

shoved microphones in his face as he

descended the steps. The cacophony of

voices blended together to one as each

person shouted out various questions.

“No comment,” Michelin stated, as he pushed

his way through the mob of reporters around

him.

“Sir, the public needs answers. They are

very concerned by this latest news regarding

what was supposed to be a terrorism drill.

Is that all it was?”

“Mr. Michelin, can you tell us about the

rumors of a toxin that was found at the

drill site? How it will affect those who

were participating in the exercise? What

about long-term effects to those people in

the surrounding area?”

“I said *no* comment!” The mob was

disappointed and dissipated as soon as

Michelin’s car pulled away from the curb.

The drive to his gated estate was relatively

peaceful. He made it in just a few short

minutes; however, his peace was short-lived

when he found television crews from CNN,

FOX, NBC and CBS standing at his gate. The

gates swung open and his car pulled into the

long drive and pulled up in front of the

house. Entering the foyer, he dropped his

briefcase and keys down on the table and

yanked at the tie around his neck. Deciding

a much needed drink was in order, he poured

himself a glass of scotch on the rocks, a

habit he had picked up from his new

collaborator.

The phone began its shrill, incessant ring,

and, growing tired of the sound, Michelin

picked it up. “Hello,” he snapped,

irritably.

“Mr. Michelin, this is Anita Drabee, a

reporter from CNN. We’d like to ask you

some questions. Can you tell us if…”

“Go the hell away and leave me alone!” He

slammed the phone back down into its cradle

and threw back a long swig of the scotch,

draining his glass. Michelin was concerned

with how quickly rumors of the toxin had

spread so quickly. He knew this was only the

beginning, and hoped he could withstand the

pressure of the upcoming insight committee

talks at the Capitol Building.

******

The doctor had left hours ago. The soft hum

of monitors could be heard through the

darkened room. Scully sat in the bedside

chair and held Mulder’s limp hand in her

own, absently stroking his knuckles.

Resting her head back against the soft vinyl

leather of the chair, she could feel her

anger rising with each whoosh of the

ventilator that allowed Mulder to cling

fiercely to life. Scully gradually became

oblivious to the coming and going of the

respiratory therapists and nurses caring for

Mulder. After being on a high adrenaline

rush most of the day, the sleep that had

eluded Scully the night before finally

claimed her.

She awoke at around 7:00 the next morning to

the sound of the food carts being rolled

down the hall. She stood, stretching the

stiffness from her body and looked down at

her still unconscious partner. Remembering

her revelation from the night before, she

decided that a visit to Rousch

Pharmaceuticals was in order. Scully knew

that Michelin would have either direct or

indirect access to highly restricted

microbial organisms, and she wanted to know

if anything suspicious had occurred at

Rousch recently. Immediately, a sense of

dread poured over her, and she decided to

confront Michelin. She stared down at

Mulder again and knew she needed to call for

reinforcements.

Lifting the room’s phone handset, she

punched in the number and the call was

answered promptly on the second ring. Her

gloved hand crackled across the connection.

“It’s me, Frohike. Turn off the tape

recorder.”

After a moment of rustling, a voice rang

out. “What can we do for you, Scully?”

She proceeded to explain the recent goings

on with Mulder to Frohike. “I need you guys

to fly out to Indiana and sit with Mulder.

I realize that this request is a bit

unusual, but I don’t want him to be left

alone for a moment. I have some digging to

do. Can you all get out here for a few

days? It shouldn’t take me long.”

“Sure, we’ll call you with all the flight

details, try to hop the next flight out, and

meet you at the airport. And, Scully, don’t

worry. Mulder’s a fighter. He’ll make it

through this.” Frohike’s voice pause for an

uncomfortable few seconds. “He knows you

love him too much to give up on him.”

“Thanks, Frohike, I…yeah. I’ll see you

soon.” Scully replaced the receiver in the

cradle and turned back to Mulder,

whispering, “I promise, I’m going to find

out what caused this and find a way to get

you well. I have to.” The silent tears,

which she had held in check last night,

pooled in the bottom of her lids before

splashing down on her cheeks like a

waterfall. Grasping his fingers, she laid

her hooded head against his hand and fell

asleep again, knowing how crucial the need

for rest was right now. She needed to be

able to concentrate fully. Scully had a

determined purpose ahead.

******

The phone woke Scully a couple of hours

later, and, as promised, Frohike called with

their flight itinerary. They were due to

arrive at 6 PM and would stay with Mulder as

long as Scully needed them there.

Unable to go back to sleep, she aimlessly

paced about Mulder’s hospital room for the

next 20 minutes. Dr. Lange entered the room

and was surprised to find that Scully had

spent the night in the chair by her

partner’s side.

“How’s he doing this morning?” He asked

Scully rhetorically as he placed the

stethoscope against Mulder’s chest,

listening for any wheezes and crackles in

his breathing.

“He seems to be doing a little better. The

nurses here are excellent and have cared for

him wonderfully.” She sighed and stared out

the window as Dr. Lange continued his

examination. He raised his eyebrows as he

straightened up and faced her.

“Well, the congestion does not seem to have

spread. Immunohistochemistry gave me the

results of his blood smears this morning.

They do indicate the presence of bacterial

toxin in his blood, although the level of

toxemia is not as pronounced as one might

expect, given the aggressiveness of this

strain. Hopefully, this pathogen won’t

throw us any more surprises.”

Scully nodded in somber agreement.

“Dr. Lange, I have some errands to run later

tonight, in case you would stop by to check

on my partner again. However, I have

some…colleagues who are coming to sit with

him. I have reason to believe this

infection might have been a deliberate act

against my partner. I have to check out all

of the possibilities.”

Scully smoothed down a small stubborn strand

of hair across Mulder’s forehead which

refused to lie against his forehead. In

spite of her request concerning Mulder’s

progress to Dr. Lange, it was as if she and

Mulder were the only two people in the room.

“I’ll make sure that Mister Mulder’s

visitors are directed through the process of

getting the proper security passes,” Lange

replied. “I would be happy to do that. For

the record, I’m very sorry about what has

happened to your partner. We are going to

do everything we can to help him. You just

hang in there. He needs you.”

Scully stared at Dr. Lange in surprise, and

a tiny grin escaped from his lips.

“Yes, Agent Scully. It’s very obvious how

much you care about your partner. I hope

you find out who did this, for his sake and

everyone’s.” After an awkward moment of

silence between them, he spoke again. “Now,

if you will excuse me, I have some more

patients to see this afternoon. I hope I’ll

see you again soon.” With that, the door

shut behind him and she was alone again.

A few hours later, her stomach started

growling and, she realized that she had not

eaten since yesterday morning. She looked

sadly down at Mulder. “I can’t leave this

room. There’s no one to sit with you.” She

was starting to feel irrationally guilty for

being so famished. Almost immediately, the

door opened and there stood Frohike, Langley

and Byers, all dressed in protective

equipment. Scully had to fight to suppress

laughter at Frohike’s rumpled, oversized

suit.

“The cavalry has arrived.” They each took a

spot around the bed to check out Mulder’s

injuries for themselves.

“How’s he doing?” Byers inquired. “Or maybe

the question I should be asking is how are

*you* doing? You look like you haven’t

slept in days, Dana. When was the last time

you had anything to eat?”

“I’m fine…I just need…I need to go do

some digging now. There is still time to

get where I need to go before it closes for

the day.”

“Anything we can help with, Scully? Langley

here brought the old laptop to keep himself

busy with Dungeons and Dragons.” Frohike

flexed his fingers and rolled his eyes at

Langley.

“Right now, no, but if I come up with

anything on this little visit I’m about to

make, you guys will be the first people I

call.” She gathered her purse and kissed

Mulder through her mask on the forehead.

“I’ll be back soon. I promise. I love

you.”

She nodded at the Gunmen and stepped into

the small prep room to shed her extra

protective layer of clothing. When she was

finished, she walked just around the corner,

leaned back against the wall, and sighed.

Scully regained her composure and took long

purposeful strides toward the front entrance

of the hospital. She was a woman on a

mission, and for Mulder’s sake, she had no

choice but to pursue it.

*******

Federal Building Plaza

Indianapolis, Indiana

The warm breeze drifted through the open

windows of the stale office. Sifting

through the piles of paperwork concerning

the recent “incident” that littered his

desk, Michelin sighed in disgust as he heard

a knock at the door.

“This had better be good,” he mumbled under

his breath. He opened the door and turned

away before noticing who stood before him.

“If you are a reporter, you can just go

away. I have nothing to say to you people.”

“No, I’m definitely not a reporter, but you

might be even less thrilled to see me,”

Scully said in a calm rage. Michelin froze

at the sound of her voice. “What’s the

matter, Michelin? Afraid to turn around and

face me? Have you done something you

shouldn’t have…again?”

“Ah, what a pleasure to see you again,

*Agent* Scully.” He walked back to his

desk, sat in his chair, and turned to face

her, his eyes straight ahead. His emphasis

on her title did not go unnoticed and even

proved to further infuriate her. “So to

what do I owe this visit?” he asked with a

forced smile.

“Come on, Michelin, don’t play the idiot

with me. As a liaison officer of Rousch

Pharmaceuticals, I know you are most

certainly aware of what occurred yesterday,

and as a result, Agent Mulder is currently

in the hospital. I want some damn answers,

and I want them *now*!” Scully said, first

pounding her fist on Michelin’s desk for

emphasis and then scattering his papers onto

the floor with a sweep of her hand. Her

face grew red as she continued to breathe

heavily across his desk.

The door to Michelin’s office opened and his

secretary stood in the doorway, obviously

frightened by the outburst. “Sir, do I need

to call security?”

Michelin answered her without looking in her

direction, never taking his eyes from

Scully’s. “No, Marlene. That won’t be

necessary. Agent Scully is just looking in

the wrong place for some information. I’ve

got everything under control. You can go

back to work.”

As soon as the door closed, Michelin arose

from his chair and walked around to the

front of his desk, standing in front of

Scully.

“Agent Scully, if I have happen across any

answers to yesterday’s dreadful occurrence,

I promise, you will be notified. I’m truly

sorry to hear about Mulder. He was a good

man. I trust you can show yourself out?”

With a wave of his hand, he dismissed her

and again walked behind his desk and began

signing papers. Speechless and shocked at

Michelin’s blatant brush-off, Scully traced

her previous steps back to the door and

seethed all the way to the parking lot,

where her rental car waited for her.

Suddenly, she remembered Michelin’s last

words. He had used past tense when

referring to Mulder. He obviously thought

Mulder was already dead. She pondered for a

short while what he could have possibly

meant by that comment before pulling out

onto the highway and heading toward the

hospital. However, no matter what he had

meant, Scully was absolutely certain that

Michelin had a hand in Mulder’s illness.

She also knew that, if anything happened to

Mulder, she would see Michelin pay.

******

Rousch Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Krycek paused and listened to the wind

whistling through the parking garage. His

narrowed gaze swept over the vast sea of

automobiles and onto the exit door. He

quickly crouched to the ground as he heard

voices approaching. He watched two shadows

as they continued to walk in the direction

of their vehicles, both oblivious of his

presence. Of course, it was the best

possible time to see what Michelin was up to

and to get the antidote…no one but the

inept night guard was around. It couldn’t

be easier he mused. Krycek had made quick

work of the guard at the main door.

Easing the door open and stepping through,

Krycek noticed a shaded light streaming from

the office at the end of the hall. Must be

the slime-ball working late, he thought to

himself. Krycek crouched down and peered

through the glass panels as he watched

Michelin furiously typing away at his

computer and slamming his fingers down on

the keys in apparent anger. After ten more

minutes of that treatment, Michelin stood,

ripped his suit jacket from the chair, and

shoved his arms into the sleeves before

walking toward the door. Krycek scurried

around the corner, watching as Michelin

closed his office door and entered the

waiting elevator.

Once the elevator doors were safely closed,

Krycek waited another five minutes to make

sure Michelin was really gone. He stepped

in front of Michelin’s office door, poised

to pick the lock, and twisted the handle

only to find the door unlocked. Krycek

walked around the corner of the desk and

pulled a blind slat up, watching Michelin

exit the parking garage in his automobile.

After a fruitless search through the entire

office, Krycek sat in the chair and sighed

in disgust. Rubbing his hands over his

face, he noticed a gleam beneath the front

side of the desk. He moved hand under the

shiny object. The tape ripped easily as he

fingered the key with a slight smile.

Krycek was staring thoughtfully at the key

in his hand, wondering what lock it belonged

to, when he noticed the safe in corner of

the room. “Well, let’s see here, Griffie.

What have you been hiding from the

unsuspecting public?” He turned the fit key

in the slot, opening the safe door to reveal

a stack of folded papers. Krycek unfolded

them and began trying to decipher the

scientific notations.

One of the pages contained a list of

virulence factors in one column, and

addition/deletion indictors next to each.

Another paper contained cost projections for

mass-production of an experimental vaccine.

As he shuffled through the small stack, the

next page gave Krycek pause. It contained

specifications of a genetically-engineered

strain of Y. pestis. The data table was

followed by a note indicating something

about induced suppression of lipofusion

abilities.

Even though he was not a scientist, after a

few short minutes, Krycek’s mind reeled at

the possibilities of the scope of this

project. Krycek felt sick at the

implication that Mulder’s illness had been a

product of greed. He wasn’t one to begrudge

anyone a creatively-gained profit, but

Michelin had picked the wrong test subject.

He again flipped through paper after paper

explaining in detail the exact formula

needed for this engineered biotoxin to be

unleashed and the only antidote which would

cure it. The location of the specimens was

listed on the last page. Krycek wiped his

prints from the safe door locked it. He also

wiped his prints from the bottom of the

desk.

Looking around the room to make sure no

stone had been left unturned, he pocketed

the papers, and walked down the hallway to

the other end. Just as the they had

revealed, there was a large steel door with

a number pad. Krycek shuffled through the

pages until he came to the one with the

correct code to the room. He took a latex

glove from his leather jacket pocket and put

it on his hand. He punched in the code, and

all of the indicators lit up green. A small

click could be heard, signaling that the

secure room had been unlatched.

Not bothering to suit up, Krycek felt the

coldness of the refrigerated room seep

through him as he went from one box to the

next, until he came upon one in the back of

the room labeled “7734”. He unlatched the

lid and inside, a glass tube with clear

liquid lay on a bed of velvet cloth. He

smiled as he pictured Michelin’s face when

he realized the antidote and the papers were

gone. Krycek closed the box again, picked

it up, and made his way out of the

refrigerated room…only to find himself

face to face with Michelin.

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

University Hospital

Scully awoke to a rushing sound. After a

few seconds, she figured out that it was not

just her ears ringing. It was the

respiratory therapist’s suction tube

clearing the excretions from Mulder’s lungs.

She groaned and sat up. Her arms were numb

from leaning on the bedrail.

Scully blinked slowly, watching the pink

liquid snake its way into the small

collection tank. Mulder was so pale, he

looked as if his skin had never seen the

sun. Dark circles shadowed his eyes, and

tiny flecks of blood dotted his upper lip

and nostrils. She looked down at Mulder’s

hand. His fingertips still carried a bluish

tinge. Certainly not a promising sign, she

thought. A nurse entered the room, taking

Mulder’s vitals and drawing a blood sample

while the RT packed up his equipment.

“Excuse me. What is the latest on his

condition?” Scully inquired of the nurse.

“The levels of LPS in his blood have

steadily increased in the last few hours,

and his fever has risen to 102.8, as the

antibiotics have started to work. We are

monitoring closely.”

“Thank you,” Scully said quietly. She knew

that Mulder was going the wrong direction.

The very drugs that were killing the

bacteria in his lungs were also causing them

to release even more of their toxic cell

wall components into his system. If he

didn’t start filtering the deadly

lipopolysaccharide out of his blood soon, he

would go into septic shock.

Scully felt herself go numb. It was a very

real possibility that she was not ready to

handle. As she watched, Mulder’s eyelids

fluttered briefly and his lips tightened

around the vent. The actions were barely

discernible, however. Scully had seen his

face twitch or his fingers bend slightly

from time to time, but so far, he was

largely non-responsive.

She did not like sitting idly by, watching

Mulder’s now ghostly form waste away. There

had to be something could do to help him.

She remembered a series of articles in one

of the journals she had reviewed in

preparation for the terrorism drill. It

dealt with emerging vaccines and treatments

for potential bioweapons. Perhaps one of

those articles might provide some feasible

solutions, not only for Mulder, but for

everyone involved. Scully felt a surge of

energy at the thought.

She squeezed his hand and ran her gloved

fingers through his hair.

“I’ll be right back, Mulder. I promise.”

Scully stood and hurried to the anteroom,

shedding her protective gear in record time.

She was fairly well-practiced by now. She

went first to the lobby, where she knew that

the Gunmen were waiting. Langley was the

only one she found, though. He was running

his laptop’s defragmenter program when

Scully approached him.

“What happened to the rest of the crew,

Langley?”

“Oh, they’re out trying to track down some

food.” He closed the laptop and looked up

at her with a very serious expression.

“How’s Mulder?”

Scully took a deep breath.

“He’s…still hanging in there. Look, I

left something at the hotel that I think

might be worthwhile to review. It shouldn’t

take long. Do you mind holding down the

fort here?”

“No problem.”

“Thank you. I’ll be back shortly.”

Langley smiled at her briefly. Scully could

not reciprocate. Instead, she patted him on

the shoulder as she walked by and headed

toward the parking garage.

******

“Going somewhere with that?” Michelin’s

glance at the locked antidote box did not go

unnoticed by Krycek. A loaded gun was

pointed at Krycek’s face with the hammer

cocked.

“Why don’t you just put that down on the

ground, walk out of here calmly, and we’ll

act like nothing ever happened.” Michelin

stated.

Placing the box on the ground away from his

feet, Krycek slowly straightened up and

surprised Michelin by throwing a blow to his

midsection. The gun was knocked away in the

skirmish as they wrestled with each other.

Krycek was knocked off balance, but managed

to recover and grab the gun just inches away

from Michelin’s hand. Standing on his feet,

Krycek kept the gun trained on Michelin as

he retrieved the antidote box. He began

backing out of the room slowly, but Michelin

bolted toward him. A loud vibrating bang

shook the hall as Krycek pulled the trigger,

hitting Michelin square between the eyes.

Michelin’s body slumped over and fell to the

floor, writhing for only a few seconds

before going limp.

Krycek checked Michelin’s pulse, assuring

himself that the man was dead. He pulled

Michelin’s heavy limbs up over his shoulder

and exited toward the parking garage

stairway. He dragged his victim to a van

that he’d planted the day before. Krycek

hefted Michelin’s body into the back of the

vehicle and went back into the building. He

found some bleach in the custodian’s closet

and cleaned up all evidence of the shooting,

taking care not to miss anything. Picking

up the antidote lock box, he walked toward

the van and drove out of the parking garage,

contemplating what his next actions would

be.

******

Undisclosed location

Krycek pulled the van off of the small

county at an unmarked intersection, checking

for onlookers before he followed a dirt path

into a small wood. Gravel crunched under the

tires as the van slowed to a stop, right in

front of a small lake. An empty car was

waiting there for him. Krycek got out of

the van and placed the antidote inside the

car. He then pulled a tank of acetone from

the side panel door. Krycek had been

pleased when he had thought of acetone in

place of gasoline. It would dissolve in the

water, should the van ever be found, though

he didn’t think that was likely.

Krycek set about his task and poured the

acetone in and on the van. He lit a match

and tossed it inside the vehicle. He

immediately ran for cover behind some heavy

brush as high, hot flames erupted within

milliseconds.

After sitting for over an hour, Krycek grew

tired of waiting. He was becoming fidgety

when he observed an explosion. The flames

had finally found the gasoline tank. The

fire flared then slowly burned out.

Donning a pair of heat-insulated gloves, he

reached into the van, placed it in neutral

gear, and braced against the gravel. When

it had gained enough momentum, he backed

away. The van rolled easily down the steep

bank and into deep. Air bubbled up for

several minutes. When they eventually

stopped, Krycek’s thoughts turned to

repairing the damage Michelin had caused.

******

Holiday Inn Express

Indianapolis, Indiana

Krycek left Scully’s room just in time,

slinking around the corner of the entrance,

awaiting her arrival. He smirked as he

heard her mumbling about Michelin and how

sorry he would be if she had anything to do

with it.

Scully slung her keys against the wall of

her motel room in disgust. She had been

contemplating her conversation with Michelin

on the way to the hotel. The more she

thought about it, the more suspicious his

aggressive avoidance tactics seemed.

“The gall of that man, brushing me off like

that! Well, I am damned well going to get

some answers, even if I have to bang heads

all the way up to the president of the

Rousch.” She shut the door and paced angrily

around the room, mulling over her next

course of action. The shrill ring of the

phone interrupted her.

After Krycek was sure she was going to stay

in the room, he slinked his way to the

partially curtained window and stared at her

every movement. Her voice was muffled but

still audible.

“Hello?” she huffed.

“Hi, Frohike. Sorry about that. Yeah, I’m

fine…”

Krycek watched as she picked up a folder

from the dresser.

“So, what’s the latest?” Scully inquired in

a hushed tone. She kept her eyes cast

downward.

“Yes. I was afraid of that…”

A pause.

“They told me his fever was holding steady.

Hematuria? Well, that means his kidneys are

being damaged…” Her voice cracked before

she could finish.

“Yes. I’ll be there as soon as I can.

Should he happen to wake up, I want to be

the first person he sees. Thanks, Frohike.”

The last two words were shaky. Scully hung

up the phone and stood completely still for

a minute. Krycek felt his heart pound at

witnessing this rare moment of her

vulnerability. He began to sweat, feeling

uncomfortable and incredibly lucky at the

same time.

Scully sat on the bed slowly, her absent

gaze focused on nothing. She looked down

toward her shoes, her red-rimmed eyes

pooling deep. An unusual shape caught her

attention from the edge of her field of

vision. A long, slender black object

protruded from underneath her pillow.

Intrigued, she leaned over to pick it up,

noticing a bright yellow sticker that said

“7734 ANTIDOTE” on the front. She went to

her briefcase, pulled out a pair of latex

gloves, and snapped them on.

Uncertain as to the contents of the

container, Scully lifted it carefully onto

the desk. She spotted an envelope taped to

the lid. She suddenly felt uneasy, knowing

that someone had broken into her room.

Abandoning the box, she moved to the window

and pulled the curtains back, staring out

into the fading evening sunlight. Krycek

ducked down as far as he could behind the

bushes in front of the window so she would

not see him.

Shaking her head, Scully turned back toward

the box and opened the envelope, which

contained a key to the box in front of her.

Slowly, she turned the lock and found a

typed note lying on top of a clear liquid-

filled vial which said, “For Mulder.” She

dropped the paper in surprise and picked up

the syringe, staring at it in amazement.

She only hoped she wasn’t too late. She

scrambled out the door, unknowingly striding

past Krycek on her way to her rental car.

He stayed hidden until her car was out of

site. After witnessing the effects of

Mulder’s illness on Scully, Krycek was

tempted to risk his own cover to dig further

into Michelin’s records. However, he could

not afford to. Krycek stood motionless in

the falling darkness. He knew that he had

done all he could for the time being. The

rest was now up to Mulder.

******

Rousch Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Hans Gregor shook his head in disbelief.

Michelin was more conniving than he had

given him credit for. Gregor surveyed the

neat, organized, and notably empty room. It

was suspicious when Michelin did not show up

for his nightly meeting, but now the

evidence of Michelin’s backstabbing was

right in front of him. The deserter. He

was probably in Mexico by now.

Gregor allowed himself a few minutes for

self-pity. He had been a fool to trust

Michelin, he thought. An absolute moron.

Stacks of unfinished government and media

inquiries sat atop the absent man’s desk.

Gregor had first checked on the engineered

antidote for his own peace of mind, finding

only an empty slot where the product of

years of hard work and investment had been

sitting only hours earlier.

He heard that an FBI agent had visited

Michelin earlier. Whatever she said must

have been sufficient to scare him strait

into hiding, Gregor mused, sitting in

Michelin’s vacant chair. He sighed,

reminding himself that all was not lost.

There was more of the antidote at the Kansas

City lab. The project was not

destroyed…it was merely delayed.

It was an extremely costly delay, however.

Gregor picked up Michelin’s desk phone and

punched in the number for the State Police.

The sooner he reported the theft of valuable

research material, the sooner he could

transfer all of the blame to good old

Griffith.

******

Scully rushed into Mulder’s room

breathlessly, her Tyvek apron rustling over

her clothes. The Gunmen were sitting in

three chairs on the far side of the bed, all

propped up against the wall and fast asleep.

Scully shook Byers’ shoulder with a gloved

hand. His startled jump awakened his

comrades immediately.

“Hey, guys. I have some good news! I’ve

found what appears to be the antidote for

Mulder’s infection. They’re running tests

on it right now, to ensure safety, but it

appears to be legitimate. The hospital has

been given permission to administer it.”

“Good deal,” Frohike said, his eyebrows

raised.

“The cure for the common plague,” Langley

intoned.

“Excellent news.” Byers smiled up at her.

“But where exactly did it come from?”

“That’s the big mystery. Someone broke into

my hotel room and left it there.” Scully

looked over at Mulder and back to Byers. “I

brought back the article I told you about.

It lists all of the labs currently doing

research on Class A microbes. One of the

labs, Rousch, was a participant in the

drill.”

“Interesting,” Byers stated. “The doctor

came in here and told us that the strain in

Mulder’s system matched a previously known

form in the WHO database. It was one of the

weaponized strains created by the USSR

during the Cold War. They concluded that a

very sophisticated lab has altered it,

though, made it more aggressive.”

“Well, if that antidote works, then they

also added an Achilles heel.” Scully chewed

on her lower lip, deep in thought.

The anteroom doors swung open, admitting Dr.

Lange. He held a capped syringe. Scully

walked over to Mulder, reflexively taking

his hand in her own. She immediately felt

his fevered heat through her gloves, and she

noticed that his urine collection bag held

conspicuously pink fluid.

“We’re going to give it a try.” Lange

stated. “The solution appears to be

designed to inhibit bacterial outer membrane

fusion with phagocytic endosomes, thus

rendering the bacteria vulnerable to

digestion. If this works, we should

probably see a marked improvement in the

next few hours.”

Scully nodded, noting that Lange had left

the alternative unsaid. But the injection

had to work. It was the last option.

Scully watched with anticipations as he

uncapped the syringe and sank the needle

into Mulder’s IV port. She whispered a

quick prayer as the thick liquid traveled

through the tubing into Mulder’s arm.

******

Scully continued her vigil late into the

night, through yet another shift of nurses

and technicians. She even took her turn

trying to beat Frohike’s top score on

Langley’s game. She failed miserably, but

it kept her awake, at least. She was busy

telling the Gunmen about some of the

peculiar domestic quirks of Mulder’s that

she had only discovered recently, when she

felt his hand jerk beneath hers.

That got her attention, and she turned to

see his eyes fluttering open. This time,

rather than becoming still again, he slowly

rocked his head back and forth. He was

trying to get away from the ventilator. His

fingers continued to twitch as he fought for

consciousness. Scully noted that his skin

was beading with sweat and felt cooler than

it had only a couple of hours ago. She also

glanced at his urine collection bag. The

fluid appeared a normal color, no longer

exhibiting the pink tinge of blood. Mulder’s

hand twitched again.

“Guys, I think he’s trying to come around.”

The Gunmen approached while she pushed the

call button. Mulder rolled his head from

side to side and began to pull at his

restraints. He tried to say something, but

it only came out as a clicking sound around

the ventilator.

“Shhh,” Scully tried to calm him, stroking

the side of his face with her fingertips

through the glove. “Try to relax, Mulder.

Save your strength.”

The Gunmen looked at each other in turn,

amazed at the effect her voice had on

Mulder. His struggles lessened gradually

until he lay still, his expression pinched

into a frown. He tried to cough, but he was

hampered by the vent. The gurgling in his

lungs was audible. Scully squeezed his hand

as a sign of encouragement, and Mulder

attempted to pry his eyes open again. Soon,

his gaze swept the room until he found

Scully. She saw fear there, but not panic.

His expression relaxed when she smiled at

him.

“Welcome back, Mulder,” Frohike offered with

enthusiasm.

Mulder turned his attention toward Frohike’s

voice, and his eyebrows furrowed. Scully

had to suppress a giggle at Mulder’s

confounded reaction to the Gunmen’s

presence. A nurse entered the room then,

covered head to foot with protective wear,

and gasped with pleasant surprise upon

seeing that her patient conscious.

“When did he wake up?” she asked as she

began taking Mulder’s vitals.

“Sleeping Beauty rejoined us just a minute

ago,” Frohike replied, a gleam in his eye.

Langley elbowed him, and Frohike grunted,

shooting him dirty look in retribution.

“Behave, you two,” Scully warned in a

matronly voice.

The nurse removed an aural thermometer from

Mulder’s ear and read the display.

“He’s down to 101 already. Remarkable.”

She paged the doctor on the room phone and

took Mulder’s blood pressure. Lange entered

the room before she was finished. The

Gunmen backed up, making room for the

physician.

“His BP is normal, Doctor Lange.

Temperature is finally decreasing.”

“Thank you. I’ll take it from here.” The

nurse entered her findings on Mulder’s chart

and left the room. Lange smiled upon

discovering that Mulder was watching him, a

hint of suspicion in his eyes. “Just relax,

Mr. Mulder. I’m going to listen to your

lungs.”

He adjusted the earpieces of the room’s

dedicated stethescope and slide the tympanic

piece under the wide neck of his patient’s

hospital gown. Mulder flinched upon contact

of the cold surface with his fevered skin.

Everyone waited quietly while Lange listened

to various points of Mulder’s chest. After

a few moments, he straightened up and

removed the earpieces from his ears,

directing his attention toward Scully.

“Well, it sounds like the congestion in his

lungs may have diminished slightly. It

certainly doesn’t sound any worse. Our

mystery cure seems to be working, although

it won’t remain a mystery for long. We are

working on a detailed analysis right now.”

He addressed the rest of his words to

Mulder.

“You have respiratory therapy scheduled in

just a few minutes, so I’ll be back

afterwards and see how you feel then.

Okay?”

Mulder nodded, indicating that he

understood. Lange gave him one last

reserved but triumphant grin and left the

room. As soon as the door shut behind him,

Mulder began to stare at Scully, patting his

right hand against the mattress. She looked

at him, puzzled at his behavior. Mulder

moaned and guided her gaze down to his hand,

which was now making a side-to-side

scratching motion.

“John, would you hand me that notepad and

pen off of the table? I think he wants to

write something.”

Mulder nodded. Byers retrieved the

materials and handed them to Scully. She

placed the notepad under Mulder’s hand and

carefully positioned the pen in his grip,

wrapping her hands around his to help him

hold the implement. He began to write

slowly. Scully could feel his hand tremble

with the effort. Finally, he stopped, and

she lifted the notepad. The shaky lines

scrawled on the paper were nearly

indecipherable, but once Scully recognized

the “M” at the beginning, she saw the rest

of the word.

“Michelin?” She looked at Mulder

questioningly.

He nodded, a deadly somber look on his face.

Scully immediately grabbed the room phone

and dialed an outside line. After it rang

through, she gave her name and badge number

and asked to speak to the supervising agent

of the FBI task force assigned to

investigate the events surrounding Mulder’s

illness.

“Sir? Yes. This is Agent Dana Scully. I’m

with Agent Mulder. He’s awake now, and he

has identified a party involved in infecting

him with the organism. Griffith Michelin.

He…”

Scully’s left eyebrow ascended her forehead

as she awaited another chance to speak. The

long pause made the Gunmen curious, and they

all leaned forward in hopes of listening in

on the conversation.

“I see. Yes, I understand. I will let you

as soon as any more information becomes

available. Thank you, Sir. Goodbye.”

Scully hung up the phone with a frown on her

face. She glanced down at Mulder and turned

to the Gunmen.

“Michelin was reported missing by his

supervisor at Rousch earlier today. He did

not show up for a meeting. There is no one

at his listed residence, and they said some

items were stolen from his office.”

“Are they suspecting foul play?” Byers

questioned reflexively.

“It doesn’t sound like it, although they are

checking every possibility. Apparently,

various data sheets and reports concerning

the company’s work on a new plague vaccine

were among the items taken. The only

fingerprints they found were Michelin’s.

“Think he’s trying to leave the country?”

Langley asked with disgust.

“That would be my guess. That vaccine could

be a very valuable haggling tool for him

overseas. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

“This sort of thing could create a panic…”

Byers stated absently. “I understand why

they put us under a gag order, but this all

seems too convenient to me.” He lifted

Mulder’s chart from the foot of his bed and

flipped through the pages. “Well, what’s

important is that they find Michelin. He

could still have possession of a Class A

bioweapon, for all anyone knows.”

Scully sighed, feeling overwhelmed by the

compounding circumstances. She noticed that

Mulder’s eyes had drifted shut once again.

The respiratory therapist pushed his suction

equipment through the anteroom door, so

Scully gave Mulder’s hand one last squeeze

before releasing it. She got up and headed

toward the lobby to give the technician more

room, three vinyl-clad Lone Gunmen in tow.

***EPILOGUE***

Scully was sore. Very, very sore. She

opened her eyes to find that she’d fallen

asleep on a row of the hospital lobby

chairs. Langley sat next to her, once again

absorbed in a video game on his laptop. She

could not help but notice that her three

Gunmen had dwindled down to one.

“What time is it?” she asked in a groggy

voice.

“Oh, hey!” he said by way of greeting as he

paused his game. “It’s, uh…9:30 in the

morning.”

“Why didn’t you guys wake me? I certainly

didn’t mean to fall asleep while waiting for

the doctor to come back…”

He grinned at her, causing his black-rimmed

glasses to rise on his face.

“You looked beat Scully. Uh… N-no

offense,” he stuttered when Scully shot him

the eyebrow. “Mulder was sleeping most of

the time, anyway. The nurses say he’s still

improving. The docter even said that he

might get discharged in as few as three

days, if all goes well. I guess they have

to keep him for observation for 72 hours.”

He shrugged.

“Yeah. That’s standard,” Scully stated as

she sat up and yawned, absorbing the good

news. “Any word on Michelin?”

“Nadda. He’s not even on the local news.

According to the public reports, everything

is going just swell.” Sarcasm dripped from

Langley’s voice.

Scully rolled her eyes.

“So, an anonymous person provides a miracle

cure, so no harm, no foul? They must really

not have a clue where to look.” Scully

stood and straightened her suit jacket.

“I’m going to go see Mulder. Care to join

me?”

“Sure.”

Langley turned off his computer and followed

her to the isolation ward. They both suited

up and went in Mulder’s room. Byers and

Frohike were already at Mulder’s side.

Scully took one look at the man in the bed

and turned on Langley. A broad grin lit her

face.

“Why didn’t you tell me he was taken off the

vent?”

“Well… You didn’t ask.” He tried to look

innocent in spite of his surgical mask.

“Mulder, have you those two been keeping you

in line, or is it the other way around?”

Scully leaned over, placed one gloved hand

against the side of his face, and gave him a

kiss on the cheek through her mask.

When she pulled away, some of the weariness

had melted from his features. His pallor

was slowly being replaced by a healthy pink.

“Hey, Scully,” Mulder whispered, his voice

raspy. “I’m a free man now.” He gave her a

weak smile and lifted his hands to

demonstrate. His restraints had been

removed.

“You’re an amazing man, Mulder, and if you

can behave for three more days, we might

even think about busting you out of here.”

Byers got up and stood next to Scully.

“The respiratory therapist said that he’s

doing remarkably well. The bacteria in his

lungs seem to have completely stopped

growing. In fact, they’ve already been able

to suction out the majority of it. They’re

not anticipating any significant amount of

permanent damage.”

Scully surprised Byers by turning and

hugging him. Their Tyvek aprons crinkled

between them. Byers noted Frohike shaking

his head in disapproval. Byers tried to

copy the expression of innocence that

Langley had just used. It did not work that

time, either.

“Thanks, guys,” she said after turning to

face all of them. “Your help has meant a

lot to me. If I can ever repay you…”

“Eh, don’t worry about it, Scully,” Langley

insisted. “I’m just here to make sure that

Mulder doesn’t skip out on his tab. He

still owes me two cheesesteaks for my

playoff brackets.”

Mulder laughed silently in his bed,

simultaneously wincing at the pain in his

tender diaphragm. Scully blanched and shook

her head at Langley’s statement.

“What? Autopsies don’t phase you, but

cheesesteaks *do*?” Langley teased.

“Do you know what is in those things,

Langley…?” Scully asked incredulously.

He stopped to consider his answer.

“Well, no, but…”

Byers stepped in to stop a debate in the

making.

“All this talk of food is making me hungry.

Why don’t we go grab some breakfast?” He

addressed his question to Frohike and

Langley. “Scully, what can we get you?”

“I’ll just take an apple and some coffee.

Thanks.”

“No problem. Anything for our little lady,”

Frohike called on his way out the door.

Scully stuck her tongue out at him, even

though his back was turned. Mulder shook

his bed with laughter.

“You know how to pick ’em, don’t you,

Mulder.”

He nodded in agreement and reached up with

one hand to touch her arm, urging her to sit

down. His expression became more serious.

“Thank you.” His voice was still rough from

the ventilator. “Thanks for being here.”

“Anything for my partner.”

Mulder’s eyes lit up at that statement.

“*Anything*?”

He sounded hopeful. Squeaky, but hopeful.

Scully laughed.

“One thing at a time, Mulder.”

He glanced at the newspaper lying on the

bedside table.

“Any news on Michelin?”

“No. They haven’t turned up any leads yet,”

Scully replied softly.

“He screwed up. Someone gave you that

antidote because he screwed up.” Mulder

looked up at Scully in sudden astonishment.

“Someone who actually didn’t want me dead!

That’s a switch.” He wore a rather smug

expression on his face.

“Well, that makes two of us. You got into

your part way, way too much, Mulder. Please

don’t do that again.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

The corners of his mouth tugged upwards. He

couldn’t resist the urge to do one last

impression, especially since his dry voice

would make it sound more authentic.

“I feel happy! I feel happy!”

Scully rolled her eyes.

******

Rousch Pharmaceuticals

Hans Gregor hung up the phone and leaned

back in his chair, contemplating. The

government seemed to be accepting his

explanation of Michelin’s disappearance, in

light of their lack of evidence to the

contrary. Gregor had no idea how Michelin

had managed to gather all of the information

that was stolen taken without someone

noticing.

Gregor placed his hand on the phone’s

receiver again, unsure of whether or not to

make the next call. He was not longer

particularly concerned with Michelin.

Wherever he was, the copy of the genetic

engineering notes he had was incomplete. He

had taken a preliminary trial copy, not the

blueprint for the final product. Even Agent

Mulder’s survival, although disappointing,

was not the most urgent matter. Gregor had

more pressing issues weighing on his mind.

First and foremost was the government’s

rejection of the plague vaccine, in spite of

the demonstration of the infamous disease as

a viable and real threat. Tens of millions

of dollars and several years had been poured

into its development, and Gregor could not

afford to let that go for naught. His very

livelihood depended on it. The only other

option he could see was to make a profit on

its sister project. His hand flexed and

opened repeatedly over the phone in

apprehension. Finally, he lifted the

receiver and punched in the digits on his

secure line.

“This is Gregor. With Rousch, yes. I’d

like to authorize the auction, $120 million

minimum.” He paused. “I’ll be using the

account already established.” He closed his

eyes and drew a shaky breath. “Thank you.

Just list the item as ‘7734’.”

</i>

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