Down in the Underground

cover

Title: Down in the Underground

Authors: Theresa Jahn (+ Jesse Jahn, creative

consultant)

Email: theresacarol1013@yahoo.com

Summary: Do Mole People actually exist? Mulder

and Scully go to NYC to investigate.

Disclaimer: The X-files, Mulder and Scully

belong to Chris Carter and TenThirteen

Productions. I don’t own them, I’m just using

them for this story.

Archiving: VS11 has exclusive posting rights for

two weeks. After that, archive anywhere. Just

ask me first please. Thanks!

Author’s note: I’ve done a little online

research for this story, but am no means an

expert on MTA tunnels and such. Creative license

was taken to the extreme. I don’t know if these

places actually exist, or the ones that do exist

are being used in such ways. Just go with it!

Thanks: To Jesse for supporting me in my crazy

writing excursions. To Sally for the quick beta.

Also thanks to the ladies at the VS for posting

it. Thanks for the fun!

Feedback: Please, and thank you!

theresacarol1013@yahoo.com

clip_image002

Teaser

Fun House Arcade

Brooklyn, NY

9:45 p.m.

“Attention all patrons, the Fun House will be

closing in fifteen minutes. Please redeem all

tickets at the front desk. Attention all

patrons…”

The voice over the loud speaker could barely be

heard among the beeping and blinking of arcade

video games, the shuddering of pinball machines,

and the crass jokes some teenagers were yelling

at each other so they were sure the cute chicks

by the snack bar could hear them.

In a shadowy corner of the room, near the back

entrance, Sean plunked another quarter into the

machine, hoping his dad wouldn’t come searching

for him yet. Angry words echoed inside his head,

louder than the symphonic music of the arcade,

the memory of his father’s red twisted face

forcing itself before his eyes.

Bright yellow lights began to flash, and again,

he saw the game before him. He grabbed the giant

padded mallet and held it over his head like a

mad woodsman would a hatchet. He listened for

the shifting of gears, the tiny whir that came

just before the first head would pop out of the

empty holes in a field of painted green

tabletop.

A loud buzz sounded and he was whacking. He

whacked at the poor plastic creatures, not

seeing them as moles, but as the heads of his

classmates from school. He beat them with the

mallet like he’d wanted to on the playground,

but could not. He’d been taken away by a

teacher’s aid before he could hardly do any

damage. They’d started it, after all, with their

antics. He was NOT a geek!

Then all the moles’ faces transformed into that

of his father’s. Scornful red cheeks were shiny

on the plastic heads. He hit harder.

Sean was so absorbed in his game that he didn’t

notice all the other lights were going out. One

by one, the games were being shut down, until he

was nearly left in the dimness of the emergency

lights.

“Closin’ up, kid! Wrap it up!” The manager of

the arcade called from the front of the room.

Sean threw the mallet at the game, and it

bounced off the side, dangling by its rubber

cord. He pushed his way violently through the

back door and out into the alley.

It was close to the ocean in this part of

Brooklyn. One would never know it in an alley

like this. Dark, musty wet bricks and the smell

of rotting garbage snaked its way up to Sean’s

nose, blocking out any hint of salty seashore

air. He kicked at a shallow puddle, spraying a

pile of newspapers with droplets.

He didn’t want to go home yet. Out from the

pocket of his oversized hoody sweatshirt, he

pulled out his cell phone, noticing that he

didn’t have any messages. It depressed him a

little to know that his father hadn’t even

bothered to find him after being out way past

curfew. He shoved the phone back into his shirt

and prepared to walk to the nearest subway

station.

He started in one direction, but immediately saw

that it was a dead end. Funny, he’d never

noticed that before. He doubled back to walk in

the opposite direction, toward the mouth of the

alleyway, carefully stepping around stinking

bags of garbage. As he got nearer to the street,

the smell began to increase.

“Man, gotta be some bad-ass garbage from this

place. Somebody probably puked!” He knocked his

foot against a bag accidentally, and noticed

that it was not as soft as the garbage he would

have expected — and it was vaguely shaped like

a person rolled up into the fetal position.

“…or died.”

A chill ran down his spine. The dimness of the

alley light had to be playing tricks on him.

Sean, although he’d never admit it, was also not

quite old enough to feel completely comfortable

out alone at night. His anger earlier seemed to

make him forget that. Intending now to get the

heck out of there, Sean stepped quickly, but

watched the ground more carefully for bags

leaking unsavory liquids that might contaminate

his designer sneakers.

He could see the sidewalk now, even one or two

people pass by the mouth of the alley. But as in

a dream, he felt that his destination was

getting further away as he was fighting to reach

it. His feet stopped moving. He felt dizzy. The

stench of the alley was overpowering. He heard

trickles from sludgy puddles behind him, coming

regularly, as if in footsteps. They got louder

and closer, and the smell nearly knocked him

out. Maybe *he* was the one who was going to

die.

He forced his legs to move — make himself turn

around. The streetlights from the sidewalk

wavered and blurred as he turned, as if he’d

been on one of those Wipe-Out rides over at

Coney Island.

Before he could do or say anything, a clawed

hand swiped up in front of him, and knocked him

backwards, his head hitting the pavement hard. A

small shadow sped away down towards the dead end

of the alley, the sound of rustling plastic

accompanying the sploosh of every wet step, and

disappeared like a rabbit down its hole.

Before he slipped into unconsciousness, Sean’s

last thought was, ‘I can’t believe I was killed

by a garbage bag!’

*****

Act I

April 16, 2004

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

11:23 a.m.

“If it was what you say it was, how did it get

all the way over here?”

The spoon dipped into the onions, sprinkled its

contents over the foot-long, and was followed by

the mustard, then the relish. Masterpiece

completed, the hot dog quickly found its way

into Mulder’s hungry mouth.

“E’en ‘ole puppo cake a fubbay,” her partner

said through the mouthful.

Scully rolled her eyes in disgust. “I’ll wait

until you’re finished.” Then to the hot dog

vendor, “You don’t happen to have any turkey

dogs in there, do you?”

“What do you think I am, lady? The freakin’ Tofu

Palace? I got what I got.”

“Fine. I’ll take a hot pretzel and a diet Coke.”

They walked over to the railing by the East

River, a beautiful view of Manhattan stretched

across the horizon, the choppy waters between

them and the island glistening in the bright

April morning sunshine.

Mulder swallowed the last of his hot dog. “Even

Mole People take the subway, Scully. And there’s

always the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, sewage

systems…”

“Okay, Mulder,” Scully continued as her partner

stole a sip from her can, “even if this so-

called Mole Person took the subway across to

Brooklyn, what was he doing here? Almost all the

abandoned underground stations and tunnels are

in Manhattan.”

“Maybe he’s trying to escape something? Or maybe

he’s trying to adapt? Living underground your

whole life can really put a limit on your

boundaries.”

“You want to know what I think?”

Mulder sighed, anticipating the wrath of

Scully’s logic squashing his theory out of

existence.

“Don’t look at me that way, Mulder. You know I

only want to help solve this too. A boy was

attacked — and he wasn’t the only one. I think

this is a string of random attacks by some of

New York’s poor desperate homeless. One can get

to that point where violence seems like it’s the

only answer.”

“But what about the claw marks, Scully? What

about the reports of animal-like creatures

lurking in the shadows? What about the legends

of these creatures going all the way back to

when the tunnels were first being built during

the Depression?”

Scully broke off a piece of pretzel and gnawed

on it thoughtfully. The wind off the river was

strong, and it blew her hair so that it was

almost horizontal off the back of her head. The

gusts soon subsided, and the strands of copper

settled again to rest just above her shoulders.

“Maybe he *was* desperate,” Mulder commented so

quietly Scully almost didn’t hear him. “Things

have changed a lot in New York lately.”

“What, and he decided to take it out an a kid

playing Whack-A-Mole? Be reasonable, Mulder. The

kid had a cell phone in his sweatshirt, alone in

a dark alley. He was a perfect target.”

“Hey, if someone was going around whacking

little Mulder Voo-Doo dolls, wouldn’t you be

upset?”

“No.”

Mulder stepped back a pace, looking abashed.

“I don’t believe in Voo-Doo,” Scully replied

smugly.

Mulder huffed out a chuckle. “Well, belief or

not, Voodoo still exists, and thousands of its

followers can attest to that.”

“So, these sightings confirm, without hard

evidence, mind you, that Mole People exist.

Because a few people have up-started an old

urban legend, we get to go down into the sewers

and subways of New York City… for what? Mulder

I don’t even know why we’re going on this hunt!”

“Because a boy was attacked. And we have to

prove or disprove that it was the fault of

someone. And that includes Mole People.”

“Well, then, let me grab my mining cap,” she

answered, searching her back molar for a piece

of pretzel crust, which seemed much more of an

appealing excavation.

“Really? You’ll be glad you brought it!” Mulder

exclaimed cheerfully as he dug into his pocket

for another $1.00 for a second hot dog. When she

began to protest even owning such an object, he

brushed her off with a confirming nod.

“Anyway,” he continued, walking toward the red

and blue Hebrew National umbrella, “we’ve got a

date with some experts in about half an hour. We

can catch the train a few blocks over. Just let

me grab one for the ride.”

“Fine.”

Scully followed her partner away from the brick

lined Promenade and into the streets of

Brooklyn, tossing her half-eaten pretzel into an

overflowing decorative metal garbage can. As

they crossed the street, they didn’t notice a

child-sized shape spring quickly from behind the

garbage can and into some nearby bushes, a trail

of kosher salt sprinkled in its wake from the

redhead’s wastefulness of perfectly good food.

*****

Grand Central Terminal

12:20 p.m.

They were to meet the “experts” Mulder had

spoken of down near track 11 on the upper level.

As they emerged from the subway, they were met

by the polished floors and bustling activity of

a recently remodeled Grand Central Station.

Gilded metal grating framed each ticket window,

the celestial green painted ceiling was as big

as the sky, and the Grand Central Market’s

grocery wafted delicious smells through the air,

just as the trains added the subtle smoky odor

of diesel fuel. The click of their shoes on the

shiny floor were lost in the expansive space,

muffled both by the amount of people littering

the concourse as well as the sheer size of the

terminal.

They passed the South entrance to 42nd Street

where a gigantic American flag hung from the

ceiling between the digital train schedules for

the New Haven and Harlem lines. As they neared

the other end of the station, they noticed

several men dressed in camouflage fatigues, guns

strapped to their shoulders, casually leaning

against a wall or an unused ticket window. In

true New York fashion, their presence was for

the most part ignored, but somehow completely

acknowledged by those that passed them by.

Following the numbered portals to each track,

Mulder and Scully walked the long distance to

track 11. They stood by the dark marquis below

the track number, where it would show stops a

train would be making, had it been scheduled for

a departure. No train was here at this time.

No people fitting the description of

‘underground tunnel experts’ were hanging about

either.

“Maybe they’re not meeting us out here. Let’s go

check down on the platform,” Mulder suggested.

The floor was rough concrete here, much more

utilitarian than the showpiece of the Grand

Concourse. The track was empty except for some

puddles and remnants of dusty candy wrappers.

The thundering of heavy trains lumbering into

the station echoed from their left. They were

able to see several tracks over in that

direction between the thick steel supports.

Track 11 seemed to be one of the very last

public platforms on the upper level — or the

very first depending how you looked at it. As

they made their way further down, they could a

see only a few more platforms on their right,

filled with train equipment, orange cones, and

extra newspaper recycling bins that looked more

like cages for wild animals than for paper.

As they walked even further, they began to feel

more alone. Passing the staircase to the North

passageway that exited to street level, the end

of the track became dimmer and the smell of

diesel exhaust was stronger. Not many people

walked this far down the platform.

“I don’t see anyone, Mulder,” Scully commented

impatiently.

Mulder turned in place, searching his

surroundings. He stepped close to the edge of

the platform and looked down each way, hoping to

see something. And he did.

“Look there,” he said, pointing toward the dark

end, even further down than they had come. There

was a yellow painted emergency ladder that led

down to the track-level. On the handles a light,

as if from a moving flashlight, reflected off

the yellow paint. Mulder looked at his partner

in triumph, and began walking quickly toward the

source of light, Scully following close behind,

trying to keep up with him. As they moved

closer, they could hear two male voices —

arguing.

“… can’t take them there. It’s too dangerous.”

“Don’t be such a wuss. I know these tunnels like

that back of my hand.”

“Don’t be so cliche.”

“Greenwich Village know-it-all yuppie fag!”

“Greenwich Village is hardly Up-town, you slimy,

dirty, blue-collar street urchin! Why I ever

decided to team up with such a–”

The ‘slimy street urchin’ noticed them first,

and shone his flashlight over his partner’s

shoulder — straight into Mulder’s eyes. The

other man stopped his insults abruptly and swung

around to glare at their intruders.

‘Greenwich Village yuppie’ hastily pulled out a

clip-on ID tag from behind the lapel of his

leather jacket. He also held a clipboard a

little higher up to his chest, so he was sure

the two people squinting down at him through the

glare of flashlight would see it.

“This is a restricted area,” he began

authoritatively, twitching his mustache, as he

spoke. “You should not be here.”

Mulder shielded the light with one hand, and

with the other pulled out a folded sheet of

paper.

“We’re also here on official business,

gentlemen. My name is Mulder, and this is Dana

Scully.”

“Mulder?” the yuppie exclaimed and immediately

turned to slap the flashlight from his friend’s

grip. Then apologetically, “Did you say Mulder?”

“Yes,” he replied, blinking to expel the dots

floating before his eyes, and proceeded to

unfold the paper. It was an email he had printed

out early this morning before he and Scully had

left. He fought to focus on the small printed

text. “Are you ‘mmwriter@hotmail.com?'”

“I am. Michael Massing — you can call me

Michael. And this is my associate, Joseph

Rihnald. And had you come here a little earlier,

I may have been able to help you out further,

Mr. Mulder, but as it is I have a very tight

schedule.”

“But, you’d specifically said 12:30. It’s only

now 12:45.”

“Exactly so. I must be going.”

“But…”

“I can meet you again at another location

tomorrow… perhaps some of the tunnels further

downtown. I doubt highly that any of this area

will help you in your investigation.”

Here, Scully broke in, “I think you ought to let

us decide the importance of locations for our

investigation. How can you–”

Michael climbed up the emergency ladder and

pushed his way past the two agents. “I’m truly

very sorry,” he pleaded, looking over their

shoulders nervously to the dark tunnel beyond

the edge of the platform. “I can’t help you here

today. Tomorrow, 2 p.m. at the South 4th Street

station.” And he sped off down the platform.

Mulder and Scully stood there dumbfounded,

staring after him. Then they turned to Joseph,

who still stood below on track-level, fumbling

the flashlight into his work belt.

“He’s afraid of this area, you know.”

“But he agreed to meet with us here. I don’t

understand,” Mulder commented, glancing over the

email correspondence, to make sure he hadn’t

misread.

“Yeah. Said he’d meet ya here. Didn’t realize I

was going to lead you into the tunnels.”

“But he’s a tunnel expert, isn’t he?”

Joseph puffed up his cheeks and blew the air out

slowly, weighing his thoughts carefully before

he spoke. “I’m the tunnel expert. He’s the

history buff and the map-reader. Ask him

anything on the transit system, the new, old,

and abandoned stations, how much money was spent

building the tunnels from here to Bowling Green

— but ask him to set foot in any of them

outside of a train car…”

“Chlostrophobic?” Scully offered.

“Nah. Just not a people-person, if ya get me.

Don’t like the homeless.”

“And you?”

“I get by easy enough with ’em. They know me. I

patrol these tunnels a lot. Keep the green

berets outta here, mostly. It was too bad when

they were scanning the place for terrorists two

years back. Flushed the whole town out. MTA lets

me keep track of things now, mostly. The folks

down there don’t trust me as much, though,” he

said, gesturing toward the tunnel behind him.

“The folks down there…?”

“Yeah. So, you two comin’ down here or what? We

don’t want to be hangin’ around during rush

hour. Makes it harder to move around to where we

want to be.”

Mulder, excited to be underway so quickly when

he thought he’d missed his chance with Michael’s

disappearance, stuffed the email back into his

pocket, and stepped down the ladder to meet

their guide.

“Mulder, what are you doing?” Scully reproved.

“What’s it look like, Scully? We need

information on our suspect. What better way than

to question people from the society in which he

lives?”

“I…” Scully searched the empty platform for a

confidant, anyone who would back up her better

sense of judgement. Maybe she would have been

better off racing after Michael, coward though

he was, in a nice quiet, clean library with flat

files of maps and microfiche.

“What have you gotten us into,” she grumbled as

she followed him down the ladder.

“Follow me.” Simply said, Joseph began to lead

the two agents down a boardwalk made of extra

wooden slats between two railway tracks. “You

won’t need your flashlights until we reach the

Waldorf.”

“The Waldorf? Guess the homeless are living in a

higher class style than we thought,” Scully

quipped.

In any case, she felt inside her jacket, and

sighed in relief when she found the pen-sized

metal cylinder that was her pocket-flashlight.

Thank goodness she kept it handy as a general

rule. Mulder glanced over his shoulder at her,

his eyes bright enough with enthusiasm to light

their way into even the deepest cavern. ‘Well,’

she thought, ‘it can’t be any worse than the

Flukeman.’

*****

“Tickets please. Thank You.”

Clicka-clicka. Clicka-clicka.

“Tickets? Thank you. Thank you. Thanks.”

Clicka-clicka. Clicka-clicka.

It was the rhythm of the ticket taker. At each

seat he said the same thing. Each ticket was

punched with a double hole, just to ensure that

it was destroyed enough to be invalid for

another ride. He stuck marker cards into the

little pockets at the back of each seat so he

didn’t forget his place, or charge someone twice

for a fare they’d already paid.

Fourteen years as a Metro North conductor, and

days like this just seemed to never end.

Everything was the same–

The train slowed to a crawl, then halted not

halfway up the tunnel from the platform they’d

just left at Grand Central. It could be

anything; another train that had been delayed

may be up on the track ahead. They could have

had a temporary electrical failure. Everything

normal. Nothing to worry about. They’d be back

running again in a minute or two. Even so, he

thought he’d get over on the 2-way just in case

he was needed.

He made his way to the small control closet at

the end of the car, picked up the receiver, and

hit channel 4. “Everything okay, Jim?”

The receiver beeped, and Jim answered. “Ah, you

know, Leo. ‘Signal problems.'”

Leo chuckled to himself. After all these years,

‘signal problems’ could mean anything too.

“What’s it this time?” he asked.

“Joseph.”

Oh, man. He could only hope there wasn’t some

kind of altercation happening down there. He

closed the door to the control closet so that

the passengers couldn’t hear his conversation.

“How long?”

“Looks like he’s around track 11. Going East, so

it’ll be short. I’ll make the announcement.”

“Roger.”

Leo hung up the receiver and unlatched the

window next to him. He stuck his head out and

peered into the dark tunnel, a hundred service-

lights like stars glimmering down each track. He

saw the distant glow of red signals down several

tracks to the right. Patiently he waited,

scratching the stubble on his chin, listening to

Jim’s garbled voice over the intercom, “Ladies

and gentlemen, we’re experiencing some signal

problems. We should be moving shortly. We’re

sorry for the inconvenience, and we thank you

for your patience.”

Then he saw it: The tiny flicker of a flashlight

— no wait, three flashlights. He had an

entourage with him today, eh? They weren’t

visible for very long, as the supports for the

underground caverns were denser here, like a

deep forest of metal and concrete rafters.

One last flicker of light, and they were out of

sight.

It was a moment longer before the red glow from

the tunnel signals turned to green, one after

the other, until the chain reaction reached his

track. The brakes on the train released with a

hiss and he felt the train slowly beginning to

move forward again. It was over.

Leo didn’t bother closing the window again.

There really wasn’t anything to be worried

about. He left the closet and his speculations

to return to his duties.

Clicka-clicka. Clicka-clicka.

*****

Mulder heard a succession of clicks after Joseph

threw the manual override switch back to its

normal position. The signals to each track

turned green again, their previous state having

allowed the three explorers to cross otherwise

active, and quite dangerous tracks, to reach

their destination. They ducked through little

cutouts in the high, concrete support walls,

stepped over the rails — careful not to touch

any of them, just to be safe — and finally

arrived at the service tracks on the Easternmost

end of the underground world.

“So, Joseph, when you say the ‘Waldorf,’ what do

you mean? Is that a nick-name for the area we’re

going to?” Mulder asked as they turned down a

path that was much like a narrow boardwalk,

littered with old dusty newspapers and obsolete

rusted-out gears.

“No, Mr. Mulder, that’s where we’re going. The

Waldorf Astoria Hotel.”

The two agents glanced at each other. Joseph

peeked back with a wry grin on his face,

enjoying the shock value of his statement. Then

continued.

“Back in the early part of the 20th Century, the

rich had private train cars. Michael could

probably give ya better information than I

could, ya know. But the way it went was, a whole

slew of tracks was built right under the Waldorf

Astoria, so that the rich bitches and their

husbands could go straight to their fancy hotel,

up through an elevator, so they wouldn’t have to

go through the Grand Central mess. Avoid the

‘commoners,’ if ya get me.”

“And now?”

“Those tracks ain’t used for nothin’ anymore.

Just storage. We’ll have to climb through some

of the old cars and around a lot of abandoned

equipment before the town actually starts.

That’s when we’ll really need the flashlights.

We’re almost there.”

“A shanty town?” Scully asked a little uneasily.

“Something like that, Miss Scully. You’ll see.”

The tunnels were becoming darker now, the

emergency lights were fewer and further between.

It wasn’t long before they were pulling out

their flashlights again. They followed Joseph up

and down more service ladders, through old train

cars that had the seats stripped out of them,

windows painted over with graffiti, and over

platforms that had such narrow walkways it

sometimes felt like they were scaling the side

of a mountain.

Mulder held out his hand to help Scully jump

over a small break in the platform, pulling her

close when she almost lost her balance. A few

crumbled pieces of concrete fell from the edge

and tapped their way down six feet to the bare

earth floor, disturbing some small shapes that

scurried away into the darkness. Anxious to

disregard what those small shapes might be,

Scully took the chance to quickly speak with her

partner.

“Mulder, I find it very hard to believe that a

society of homeless has flourished down here.

How could they have escaped unnoticed after 9-

11? The military is rampant throughout the

systems. You saw those men in the Grand

Concourse. They must have had to sweep through

here and get rid of all signs of human

settlement, just to appease the standards of the

War on Terror.”

“I can’t believe you’re standing this close to

me in the pitch blackness and not getting turned

on,” he grumbled into her ear, and pulled her a

little more firmly against him.

“This is NOT the time for romance. Be serious

for minute, please.”

His attempt at distracting her having failed, he

switched gears immediately. “Scully, I don’t

think it’s all that unreasonable. Most New

Yorkers can’t even conceive that something like

this would exist.” They began to move ahead

after Joseph again, so they didn’t lose sight of

his light.

“Why would they fear something they never

thought would have existed in the first place?”

he continued.

“But people like Joseph know about it. Why

wouldn’t the MTA? Why wouldn’t the military?

You’d think they would have been more thorough.”

“They had the quarantine through here about a

month after,” Joseph interrupted in a whisper,

his face lit from beneath like a troop leader

telling a ghost story to his scouts around a

campfire. “You’d never seen the Waldorf so

abandoned. Probably the way everyone thinks it

should have looked anyway. There was nothing. I

don’t even know where they all went. Some of

them still haven’t come back.” He motioned for

them to follow him again, but not before he

added, “You might want to keep your voices down

for a while. We’re here.”

They stepped carefully through another abandoned

train car, this one seemed very old. Had it not

been so rusted through, one would have thought

it was a perfect display for a museum. Small

details, as they passed through the long body,

which was big enough to be considered ample

space for a New York City studio apartment, were

touched with art deco designs. The older

architecture of machinery had always seemed to

carry just that slight bit of extra attention to

beauty, something that was a work of art, as

well as something functional.

Upon emerging, they were presented with a view

of about ten to fifteen avenues, of what were

originally private tracks, all connected by a

common walkway at the end. It looked very much

like the setup of Grand Central Station, but on

a smaller scale, and what were now utilitarian

concrete floors at the end of each track in

Grand Central, here they were of a mosaic tile.

Of course, the tiles were worn down to the point

where the colors were mere shadows of

themselves, and the decades of dust upon them

had condensed into a film of grime. But the

shapes of the tiles were still visible.

Each track was filled with a menagerie of

different cars, styles from several eras, and

all seemed to be occupied. The smell of garbage

fires was apparent, just as a cloud of smoke

filled the vaulted ceilings. Between the

rafters, from the dim glow of the ‘town’ below,

one could just make out some more tile work, but

much of it had fallen from age, leaving large

exposed patches of grout that ate away at

mosaics of checkerboard and fancy raised edge

patterns.

Everything was dirty. As they continued on

toward a particular platform that Joseph had his

sights set for, the smell was beginning to

invade their nostrils — human waste and sweat

and garbage and diesel fuel and rusting metal.

Smells that were so uncommon to the cosmopolitan

city above had remained here in this primitive

society of outcasts. Those that could not

survive against the modern demands of the city

had accepted the life of inconvenience here. To

an outsider it was disgusting, pitiful. To them,

it must have seemed like a safe haven —

something for free, that was the result of being

free: one had to accept it for what it was, and

not expect anything more than what a man or

woman with nothing could contribute to it.

Empty windows to the train car ‘apartments’

revealed piles of cans, magazines, newspapers,

found furniture with torn edges, mattresses on

the floor — some five or six to a car. Attempts

at decoration with old hubcaps and discarded

bedspreads hung from walls and ceilings. Much of

it was clutter, but all of it was theirs.

Eyes followed them the whole way, but none were

adventurous enough to move from their places.

Each sad iris gleamed with possessiveness. They

feared being removed from their homes again,

humble though they were. Nothing could have been

worse for the poor souls behind those eyes.

The last platform was cleaner than the rest.

Cleaner meaning less dust and grime, but not the

absence of it. They walked toward an archway cut

out of a curved wall, which soared as one plane

up toward the ceiling. Inside the arch was a

staircase that led up half a level, wooden and

brass railings polished decades ago were still

shiny, as if preserved from disuse. Tile floors

were complete, and when they emerged from the

stairwell, they entered into a circular lobby,

rotunda above, with an iron wagon-wheel styled

chandelier. A hundred bare bulbs shone down on

them, electricity harsh and too bright for their

eyes, as they had adjusted to the dimness of

being underground.

An elegantly styled wooden bench sat in the

direct center of the floor. Beyond that, on the

opposite end of the space, between two bricked-

up doorways that must have been elevator shafts

at one point — twin rising-sun dials above each

marked off floor numbers above them — was

another staircase leading up. It had been walled

off after the twentieth or so step. Here was a

man sitting upon them, surrounded by several

people, as if subjects to a king. He did not pay

attention to them, but stared directly at his

three new arrivals. He was waiting for them.

“Alright, you two,” Joseph addressed the two

agents. “This is Damien. I had to bring you here

first. If there’s somethin’ goin’ on in

underground NYC, he’ll know about it. If there

was anyone who could be the mayor of a place

like this, well… you talkin’ to anyone, you

talkin’ to him.”

Mulder sensed Scully going rigid beside him. He

wasn’t feeling so free and easy himself. All of

a sudden their guide seemed to have ulterior

motives, and neither she nor he was comfortable

with that. As he scanned their surroundings for

a quick escape, should they need it, Damien was

walking toward them. How much would they be able

to trust this man’s opinion if they’d been led

straight into his lair? But perhaps, Mulder

reasoned to himself, this was the best person in

which to derive such information. A leader was a

leader. Conspiratorial motives weren’t

necessarily a mandatory trait.

Damien wore a tattered wool coat, several

flannel and t-shirts beneath that, jeans and

mismatched sneakers. He could have been as

pitiful-looking as the rest of the homeless

here, but instead he held a command about him.

“You want to know about it? About all of them?”

His eyes were wide and crazy, so that all the

whites could be seen, and he bared his teeth in

a greasy smile. His greatest asset was

intimidation, and he knew how to use it well. He

took fast, long strides up to Joseph, stared him

down so hard that Mulder wouldn’t have been

surprised if he’d shrunken a few inches right

there. Without warning, Damien snapped his wild

gaze at Mulder, and ran to stand before him,

inches away from his face.

Mulder kept his composure, pulled his shoulders

back, and inhaled deeply. That was a mistake. He

eyes nearly watered with the rotten egg smell of

Damien’s breath.

“What do you know?” he asked, trying not to

choke.

The leathery skin of the homeless man’s temples

crinkled, softening the insanity of his eyes for

a split second before he whipped away and began

circling the two agents while telling his tale.

“They exist, you see! *We*,” he gestured with

his arms held dramatically wide to encompass the

expanse of the community, “are the rightful

dwellers here. *I* am the Lord of the

Underworld!”

Scully coughed lightly under her breath. At

least she could maintain her air of skepticism,

even through this.

“Some may call us ‘moles’ because we live

underground. But they are the *real* Mole

People. Oh, yes! Your Mole-boy there, yes-yes I

know all about that, he’s the enemy! Yes. Don’t

believe anything you hear from him. Not from any

of them! They are extinct! They are the ones who

should go. We are here to stay!”

“The one who attacked Sean Colby? What have you

heard? Where has he gone?”

A shooting pain in Mulder’s side was the result

of his partner jabbing him with her elbow. He

was jumping to conclusions, leading the

questions to where he wanted them to go, and she

was determined to call him out on it. But Mulder

continued, caught up in the momentum of this

crazy man, enthralled with his mystery.

“How did you find out this information?”

Damien ran back toward Mulder, and grabbed him

by the lapel of his trench coat. Scully moved

reflexively to grab her Sig, but a hand from

Mulder stilled her defense.

“He’s a bad name for us, you know,” Damien

growled in a low, menacing tone. He switched his

gaze from one of Mulder’s eyes to the other, as

if he could see something in one that he was

afraid to miss in the other. “He’s the last of

his kind, and he’s fighting back! You’ve got to

stop him. We’ve taken over here, and damned if

I’ll let one little mole cretin jeopardize my

empire!”

“What do you mean? Does he, uh… answer to

you?” Mulder asked, careful not to offend.

“Ha! If it were that easy, he’d not be running

around like a mass-murderer. He thinks he can

destroy me. Me!”

Damien let go of Mulder and paced the floor, all

the time muttering. “Should have walled up all

the passages when we’d had the chance. Never

should have requested refuge from them. Never.

Never. Never.”

“Excuse me,” Mulder interrupted. The pacing

continued. “Where is he? And how does attacking

innocent people — innocent people that are not

even homeless…”

“We have a home!” Damien shouted back, his voice

booming off the curved walls of the rotunda,

quaking with the volume of it.

“All right,” Mulder carefully brought his tone

down a few notches, “he attacked those that live

above-ground. What’s he doing out there? Who is

he? Where is he?”

“That,” Damien pointed an angry finger at

Mulder, stopping in his tracks, “is the trick,

now, isn’t it?” He laughed heartily. “He’s a

crafty little devil. They used to be everywhere,

the Mole-People. Disgusting to look at, really.

He knows the tunnels and sewage systems better

than any of us. We found a few secrets when we

had to hide, after the Towers fell. We found

*their* hideouts.”

“They still exist?”

“They were not there any longer. We found the

secret places — found them like caves the

animals had abandoned. You think the majesty of

the Waldorf is something? You haven’t seen the

network that lies beneath us even now. But don’t

ask me to go down there. If it was theirs, it is

putrid! I’m the Lord of the Underworld, not of

hell!”

Pacing back toward his visitors, Damien

scratched at his scrabbly shave, most probably

done with a very old razor. He appraised them

for a long while before continuing, first

studying the two agents, then an intense gaze at

Joseph, a silent statement Joseph knew all too

well it seemed.

“Oh, they exist all right. How much longer,

well… Your Mole-boy may be the test of that.”

He whirled around to return to his subjects at

the opposite end of the lobby. Throwing his hand

up in a gesture of dismissal, he allowed the

echo off the walls do the work of directing his

voice instead of turning around.

“I will keep Joseph informed if I hear anything

of his whereabouts. But you should know,” he

resumed his seat at the top of the walled-off

staircase, “he is a menace, and needs to be

stopped.”

At that point, Joseph placed himself between

Damien’s court and the two agents, and ushered

them out.

On their way back through the dusty tunnels,

away from the Waldorf, Mulder and Scully were

left wondering just what kind of information

they’d been given.

*****

Three pairs of feet walked past the low, rough

alcove that led back toward the main tracks to

Grand Central. From behind tinted plastic

goggles, beady eyes watched small furry shadows

scatter to avoid the larger intruders. What were

they here for? Would they really be coming after

him? He ran a long-clawed finger over the smooth

plastic shape that glowed blue in his pocket.

When the footsteps could no longer be heard, he

dashed off into the darkness, out of sight.

*****

Act 2

Comfort Inn JFK Airport

Queens

5:30 p.m.

The subway ride all the way back to Queens was

filled with silence. Silence, that is, between

Mulder and Scully. Rush hour from Grand Central

back to the hotel in which they were forced to

stay by Accounting was anything but quiet. The

travel expenses were really being scrutinized

lately, and the Bureau accounting department had

them staying closer to the airport, rather than

in the city, because Manhattan hotels were

anything but thrifty.

Scully was lucky to find a seat, and even she

had to squeeze herself between two other

passengers. Mulder was content to stand,

strategically so that he could protect Scully’s

little feet from being trampled, but also

secretly because it allowed him to look out the

window, into the dark tunnels, and imagine that

there might be passageways no one knew of, just

waiting to be explored. Somewhere out there,

their suspect was hiding.

It was this line of thinking that Scully could

decipher by the far-off look in her partner’s

eyes as he savored a bite from the turkey dinner

platter in the hotel restaurant. She’d been

determined to change their diet lately from

pizza and take-out to something a little easier

on the arteries. She’d even limited his gravy

use, which explained the reason he’d gone

through at least four glasses of water already.

“So you’re convinced that Mole-boy is your prime

suspect?”

His eyes cleared from his contemplation and

focused upon her. “Give me a little credit,

Scully. There’s a lot more going on here than a

few random assaults. There’s motive here. Just

have to figure out whose motive.”

“I don’t trust this Damien character one bit.

Gives me the creeps.”

“But there’s no reason yet that we can’t trust

him. I’m taking his statements at face value.”

“They’re not even official statements, Mulder!

We weren’t in an interrogation room. We were on

‘his’ turf, and if we’d made any kind of false

move… I don’t even know what would have

happened. We were being led around like monkeys

on a leash and expected to behave when spoken to

in ‘his majesty’s’ court. I thought we were the

ones looking for evidence, not having it force-

fed to us.”

“You’re right, Scully. But we’ve gotta play a

little Columbo on them. If we accept the bull

they’re feeding us, we’ll get more information

than they realize they’re giving.”

She considered this, sucking on an ice cube, and

shook her head warily. “I don’t know, Mulder.

I’d like to at least explore other avenues.

These people, I don’t know how they know about

you — how many emails they exchanged with you –

– but they’re playing into your fantasy. Are you

sure you’re not trying to look for something

just because you *want* it to be there?”

“Meaning?” he replied shortly.

“Meaning,” Scully continued, coating her voice

with honey, “are you sure you’re not so in love

with the romance of a Mole Society thriving

beneath the streets of New York, that you’re not

missing a more obvious, logical explanation?”

“Are you sure you’re not so unwilling to believe

in something a little fantastic that you’re not

seeing the obvious, even though it may defy

explanation?”

Scully swallowed her ice cube, and smiled at the

naked innocence in her partner’s face. “Touche.”

Mulder grinned widely back at her, and gobbled

up the rest of his meal. Between bites, he

added, “You’ll be proud of me, Scully. Our next

stop is Coney Island Hospital to visit Sean

Colby, our victim.”

“A nice reality-based field trip? And no sewer

rats? Mulder, you shouldn’t have!”

“I know what my lady likes,” he said, winking.

Then, flagged the waiter down for their check.

*****

Coney Island Hospital

6:23 p.m.

“We mainly just want to keep him here for

observation, Dr. Scully. He suffered a pretty

serious concussion and has been having

hallucinations ever since. He we go, room 310.

If you need me again, just stop by the nurse’s

station up the hall there.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

“Uh, doctor, hold on a minute,” Mulder navigated

his way around Scully to catch the doctor before

he had a chance to leave. “Exactly what kind of

hallucinations?”

“Well,” the doctor folded his arms over his

chest and lowered his voice slightly, “since he

was attacked in the dark, it’s mostly at night.

He won’t let us turn the lights off. He says he

sees dogs, or other amorphous small animals with

claws. We assume that it was an animal that had

attacked him, but as of yet, we can’t identify

exactly what it might have been. We assume a

dog, even a cat — it would be the most logical

for the area, but it just doesn’t seem to match

up.”

“Match up with what?”

“With what we extracted from the gashes in his

face.” The doctor pulled a folder from the

inside wall of Sean’s hospital room and handed

it to Scully. “You’re the investigators. I’d

appreciate it if we had some answers for this

poor boy. Then maybe we could combat the

psychological, now that the physical has nearly

healed.”

Scully began leafing through the files while

Mulder continued further into the room to see if

Sean was up for conversation. The boy was in his

early teens, but gray circles around his eyes

from lack of sleep made him look ancient. He

watched Mulder as he pulled up a chair to sit

beside the bed, following his movements one by

one.

“Hi, Sean. My name is Mulder. How you feeling

today?”

The boy shrugged.

“How’d you get those battle scars, buddy?” he

asked, pointing his chin in the general

direction of Sean’s upper left temple and down

the side of his face.

He shrugged again.

“Are you having a hard time trying to remember?”

he asked gently, wary that he might be dragging

out a memory that in all likelihood was the

cause of the boy’s dreadful hallucinations.

The boy’s eyes ceased being wearily observant,

and froze, as if he was envisioning something

terrible, just over Mulder’s right shoulder.

“They’re telling you I’m seeing things, aren’t

they? They think I’m crazy,” Sean said hollowly,

neither to Mulder, nor to Scully who now stood

on the opposite side if the bed.

“What kinds of things are you seeing, Sean?”

“Not what I *am* seeing,” he then focused his

eyes onto Mulder, “what I *did* see. They don’t

believe me. You won’t either.”

“Try me.”

When the boy saw how patiently, and intently

Mulder was willing to listen, he felt a little

more at ease.

“I saw a… creature. An animal. But it had

hands with long claws that hit me. At first I

thought the garbage had come alive, but it ran

away so fast — like a dog or a rabbit, or a…”

“Mulder, take a look at this,” Scully

interrupted, and passed the opened folder over

to him. She pointed at a photograph within the

folder, of the material that had been extracted

from Sean’s wounds. “It did have claws, but this

was no dog.”

Sean became excited and attempted to sit up

straight, but his eyes rolled back from the

dizziness, and he plopped back onto the pillow

supporting him. He took a few deep breaths and a

cup of water offered by Scully, then settled

down enough to speak again.

“You really think I’m right? You know what it

was?” Sean asked, hopeful.

Mulder turned to his partner, searching her face

for an answer.

“I can’t be sure until I make some comparisons,

Mulder. It’s difficult to tell from the photo. I

wonder if they kept a sample or turned it over

to the police?”

Sean plucked at Mulder’s sleeve to get his

attention. Then he pointed over to a small gym

bag on another guest chair. “They gave me a

souvenir,” he said, and cracked as close to a

smile as they’d seen since entering the room.

“Kinda like having my appendix out, but no jar.”

Mulder reached over to the canvas bag, and

sifted through some clean folded clothes and

comic books. There was a plain white paper bag

at the very bottom with Sean’s last name on it.

Mulder pulled it out, and removed the contents.

It was a Ziploc bag, and what was inside looked

like part of a thick yellowish fingernail — too

big to be human, but not the right shape at all

to have been from a dog.

“Sean, do you think we can borrow this?”

“You’ll give it back?”

“Absolutely. This may be your ticket out of

here.”

Sean closed his eyes and sighed deeply, a wash

of solemnity softened his face. “Cool, man. I

just want to go home.”

*****

Comfort Inn JFK Airport

9:33 p.m.

Scully tapped her fingernails on the laminate

table. She’d exhausted all resources on the Net

for information on animal anatomy, from rats to

dogs, and even disfiguring human nail diseases.

She’d been putting it off all evening, but knew

she had to check it out.

Gritting her teeth, she clicked the link for

genus Talpinae on the University of Michigan’s

Animal Diversity web site. She scrolled down the

list, clicking on the first species that

provided picture references. When she saw the

picture at the top of the page, her heart beat a

little slower. It was just her luck. She sat

back in her chair, rubbed her eyes and wondered

if the sneakers she had packed were going to

serve her well enough through another trip

underground. At least she’d be prepared this

time, not like their first experience yesterday.

She picked up the Ziploc bag, fingered the shape

inside through the plastic, and checked it

against the claws of the animal in the jpeg. It

was the closest match she’d found so far.

“You all right, Scully?” Mulder asked from where

he sat on the bed.

“Condylura Cristata.”

“You know, I can take over the research for a

while if you like. You don’t have to curse about

it.”

She swiveled away from the laptop to face him.

“Condylura Cristata. That’s the star-nosed mole,

and the closest match to this,” she explained,

holding up the Ziploc so that he could see it.

Mulder sprang from the bed, snapped his glance

toward the web page, then the specimen his

partner held.

“‘The star-nosed mole is often found in colonies

that live in damp or muddy soil in which a

network of tunnels is constructed,'” he read

aloud. He pressed the Page Down button and

scrolled down. “Look at this, Scully. Unique

appendages, tentacles around the nose, that were

believed to be used as electroreceptors to sense

electric fields of prey.”

He stood up straight, finger to his lips. Then

he pointed toward the folder on the bed, a copy

of Sean’s medical information as well as the

initial police report, which contained a printed

copy of Sean’s initial statements. He thumbed

through them quickly, then pulled out the sheet

he was looking for.

“Sean said that before he was attacked, there

was an incredibly bad smell. What if Mole-boy

and his kind have adapted to use their unique

physiology, what a normal mole like this would

use, into something as a defense mechanism?”

“But this mole uses those appendages to

*identify* prey using receptors, not send out

signals in order to incapacitate it.”

“Yeah, but it sends out signals nonetheless.

Like I said, what if it adapted, learned how to

use that talent further than its natural

capacity. I mean, this isn’t just a mole,

Scully. It’s a mole *person*. If humans have

extra sensory capabilities, why not him? And he

has an advantage over us already, being a hybrid

creature.”

“We don’t know that he has any such appendages,

Mulder. All we have is part of a claw.”

“When did we say we were meeting Michael

tomorrow?”

“2 p.m.”

“Hope you brought your sneakers, Scully. ‘Cause

we’re going in.”

*****

Act 3

South 4th Street Station

April 17, 2 p.m.

“I don’t know, Mulder. Michael seemed to be

pretty quick about suggesting this particular

station yesterday. Who’s to say he’s not going

to lead us into another Damien-trap like Joseph

did?”

“Because Michael likes to research the history

of the tunnels, not explore them. I have a

feeling, if Michael knows what he’s talking

about, that we’ll be able to call the shots

underground.”

“Call the shots? Sounds like we’re going into

Alice’s rabbit hole without a safety rope.”

Mulder sucked in his cheeks, and tried not to

confirm her suspicions. Without uttering a

syllable, Scully already knew that they were.

Michael stood waiting for them at one end of the

platform, shuffling several sheets of paper on

his clipboard, and checking his pockets as if

looking for his keys. The time it took the two

agents to walk the length of the platform to

meet him, he’d repeated this process at least

three more times.

The nervous yuppie noticed them only as they

were five paces away, and smiled timidly,

standing up straighter to hide his excitement.

“Mr. Mulder and Miss Scully. It is good to see

you again. I uh … must apologize for running

out on you yesterday. If it were up to me…”

“Don’t worry Michael. We had quite an

experience, but we’re fine and in one piece

today.”

“So far…” Scully murmured under her breath.

“That’s good to hear.” Michael took a deep

breath and let it out slowly. When he was

finished it seemed that he was much more

relaxed. “Well, you do know that this station is

where we’ve had the most sightings. After this,

some went up as far as 54th street, but most

recent sightings have been downtown and in

Brooklyn. Can’t imagine why they’d be travelling

to Brooklyn.”

“Across a body of water. That’s quite a move

I’ll agree. Any reason you should think there

would be a migration out of the city?”

“I really couldn’t say, Mr. Mulder. But, I have

compiled a good amount of research on this area,

branching out from this station. There are

plenty of places in this general area where an

underground dweller might hide out.”

“Really? And what type of person, would you say,

is the ideal type to be an underground dweller?”

Michael’s eyes bulged ever so slightly. “You

mean… but I had thought that… Aren’t you

here because…”

“Yes, we are here to investigate them,” Mulder

replied, laying a hand onto Michael’s shoulder.

“I just wanted to be sure we were on the same

page.”

“Oh. Good.”

A local train could be heard far down the track.

It wasn’t long before it was racing into the

station, forcing a current of hot tunnel air

past them, and screeching to a halt. The doors

opened with a “bing-bong” and just as quickly,

swallowed up its passengers, and hurried on it’s

way.

The three remained on the platform, watching the

brown G symbol on the back of the subway car get

smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared

in the distance.

“Now that we have some time to ourselves,”

Michael began, “I’ll give you some history on

this station, and why I think Mole-boy may be

using it as a hub.”

He led them to the very end of the station, past

the stairs that led up to street level, the

ticket booths and even the emergency exit. They

walked all the way to the very end, where the

platform ended in a white tiled wall. Here,

Michael stopped, and pointed across the way.

“If you notice, there’s an extra platform on

either side of the station. These are generally

unused, unless there’s congestion or a broken-

down train or what have you. The two center

tracks are really what’s used daily. When the

city was still attempting to build a secondary

railway system, the IND, this station was

intended to be much bigger — a total of 6

tracks was proposed, and had begun construction.

But as you see, that never came to fruition.

Hence, the remaining four tracks. But…”

Michael faced his two companions with a leering

grin, “the other two tracks still exist. They’re

just hidden behind these walls.”

Mulder became excited. “How do we get to them?”

“Uh,” Michael shifted his feet and his face

turned a bright red. “Well, that is, you — you

can’t. They’ve been sealed off. See there?” He

pointed to the platform opposite the track

behind them. “See that railing randomly

sectioning off a section of the platform? It’s

nothing but a slab of concrete. That’s the old

stairway that was meant to go under the tracks

and come up in the center, here, to transfer

trains.”

“Sealed off like a tomb,” Mulder commented

dejectedly. He stared at it hard, wondering if

there was any other way. If Mole-boy could do

it…

“How can he use this place, then?” Mulder asked,

not to anyone in particular.

“Uck! Look at the size of that thing!” Scully

exclaimed.

Just to the left of the railing a huge sewer rat

walked, yes walked, for it was too big to scurry

anywhere like a normal sized rat, sniffing at

one spot or another on the concrete floor. When

it had no reason to explore the area any longer,

it began to make its way toward the edge, ready

to jump. Scully clung to Mulder’s elbow, fearing

that it was attempting to launch it self across

the valley that was the subway tracks. Instead,

it tested the edge with its front paw, then

gingerly, climbed down to the dusty floor below.

It was then that it happened. The rat

disappeared.

“Where did it go?” Scully asked a little too

desperately than she’d hoped.

“It went there! Do you see that seam in the

wall?”

“Mr. Mulder, it’s a rat. A rat can go any number

of places that we could not. I wouldn’t bother

with — what are you doing?!”

“You said this track was rarely used, didn’t

you?”

“Yes, but–”

Before anyone could stop him, Mulder hopped down

off the edge of the platform, and into the

valley between the two platforms. He made a bee-

line for the seam in the wall beside the tracks.

When he got close enough, so that he was

standing beneath the overhang, he looked to his

right and exclaimed, “Well, call me squeaky!”

“Mulder, what are you doing?” Scully yelled,

glancing up and down the track to be absolutely

sure no train was coming. Her ears were tuned

for any remotely train-like sound. “There’s

nothing there! What are you looking at? Muld–”

Mulder took a step forward, and disappeared.

*****

About two hundred feet further down the

platform, a shadowy figure peeked around a

thick, white-tiled pillar. Leathery skin

crinkled to slits around sharp, observant eyes.

It wouldn’t be long now. Not long at all.

*****

Can *NOT* believe I’m doing this! Cannot believe

I’m doing this. Cannot believe I’m doing this.

“I’m doing this.”

Scully jumped down to track level against the

protest of their paranoid, although quite

sensible guide at the moment. It was a little

bit of a further jump for Scully, since she

didn’t have Mulder’s height advantage. She

landed hard, but stabilized quickly. Stepping

carefully over each track, she followed in her

partner’s footsteps, close up to the opposite

platform. When she arrived at the exact same

location, she saw it immediately.

It wasn’t visible at all from where they’d stood

before, just a seam in the concrete. But

standing here, she could see perfectly that it

was an impressive trick of perspective. There

before her was a passage that ran parallel to

the tracks, right beneath the lip of the

platform above. It was only about two feet wide,

but certainly big enough for an average person

to fit through. What seemed like a seam in the

concrete support of the platform was actually

the edge of the entrance. And Michael wouldn’t

see it because it was perpendicular from where

he stood, like a pocket in the wall. Only

standing in this exact spot was it visible.

She removed the pen light from her jacket

pocket, and went in.

Mulder hadn’t gone too far ahead. He was

slightly slumped over, since they were actually

below the platform now. “Scully, there’s an exit

over on that side.”

They both shone their flashlights in the

direction he pointed. As they navigated around

support beams, Scully trained her light on the

floor for other less obvious obstacles —

intending particularly to avoid those that

moved.

They squeezed through what Mulder had identified

as their exit, a portion of the wall that looked

like it was eaten away, re-bar and bricks jagged

on the edges, and came out into a cavern. It was

long and about large enough to contain a set of

tracks, but it was clearly unfinished. Roughly

cut, the bare bedrock of Manhattan was it’s

walls, and the ground was damp and sludgy. They

kept to the edge of the space, where it was

dryer, but this was naked earth down here, and

unpredictable at least.

Their small beams of light caught glimpses of

rock, scattered pieces of metal, and small piles

of wooden beams. They found a set of footprints

going in a general northward direction. It was

an extremely regular path, one that had been

traveled quite often and had worn a groove in

the dirt. Suddenly it ended and their

flashlights lost all detail in the ground…

particularly because it wasn’t there.

“It leads down,” Mulder observed.

“Perfect.”

Carefully, they tested their footing, and found

that the floor of this new passage was solid

enough, though slightly slippery with mud. It

was however shorter, and Mulder was bent over

quite a bit before it opened up to a comfortable

height again. They traveled around corners, and

noticed more exits that branched off the path

they followed, but they decided not to stray for

fear of getting lost.

Soon, it appeared that they could distinguish

more detail in their surroundings. It was

getting brighter. Above them, they noticed a

long network of extension chords linked end to

end. There were hundreds of them. And at each

juncture between the chords, a caged service

light was attached, which made the tunnel glow

dimly with a yellowish light.

“Somebody’s been busy,” Mulder commented.

It was difficult to describe at first, but as

they progressed further, there was evidence of

habitation. The surroundings were not so

unfinished, and they didn’t completely notice

the change until they passed through a sort of

entrance hall.

At first, it looked like stucco, but upon closer

inspection it could be seen that it was

something else entirely. Advertisements

plastered the tunnel walls, but they were

painted over with some sort of whitewash. One

could still make out glimpses of what the

posters used to be, but they were nonetheless

hidden. And what was painted yet on top of the

whitewash base was something they’d never

expected to see.

Primitive drawings, a whole story it seemed,

beginning from the ceiling and cascading down

toward the floor. Shapes of human-like creatures

with long claws and abnormally lengthened noses

filled curved lines that connected like a maze.

It almost looked decorative, but they noticed

the shapes and scenes change continuously

including modern, recognizable shapes like

buildings and cars and trains.

“What do you think this is, Mulder,” Scully

prompted as she ran her fingers over the uneven

surface. “Is this history, or does this still

exist?”

“If this still exists, then we’re on a much more

complicated hunt than we thought.”

The walls ceased being painted after several

meters, and they came upon a cot, somewhat

randomly placed along one side of the tunnel.

Beside it, a box of single gloves, shoes and

hats, newspapers, a radio and any number of

other collected items. Among the folds of a

well-loved bedspread was something that made the

fabric glow a pale blue color. When Mulder

lifted the cloth away, they found that it was a

cell phone.

Picking it up, Mulder read aloud, “Sean.” The

teenager had tagged the back of his cell phone

with his name in a fancy stylized script with

paint marker. “This has got to be our man.”

Scully raised an eyebrow at that.

“You know what I mean. But what is all this?

It’s almost like this is some sort of an

outpost. If he’s the last of his kind, like

Damien suggests, what’s he protecting?”

They decided to explore the space a little more.

On the opposite wall were stacks of newspapers

and magazines that stood taller than Scully. She

picked up one that had fallen to the floor, and

noticed that any pages that contained pictures

of faces had the bottom halves removed.

“Isn’t that strange?” she commented.

“He’s removing the parts of humans that don’t

resemble himself,” Mulder’s psychoanalytical

side explained. “He’s trying to make the world

we live in something that he can be accepted in.

Those drawings on the wall, they must depict at

least his profile, if not more. Our differences

don’t have to be emphasized if he doesn’t have

to look at them.”

Mulder was about to take the magazine from

Scully for closer inspection when he heard a

scratching from somewhere close by.

“Shh. You hear that?”

They stood as still as carved marble, straining

their ears to hear it again. It was faint, but

it was there again, and this time it was

accompanied by a creaking sound. It was almost

too late before they noticed the creaking was

from the shifting weight of paper and the tall

stacks of magazines were leaning forward.

“Look out!”

Mulder was able to leap out of the way in time,

but Scully was not so lucky. At once a pile of

glossy paper tumbled down to bury her. Mulder

scrambled forward to help dig her out when a

shape jumped out at him, like it emerged from

the wall itself, sprang over the pile and sped

down the tunnel.

“Stop!” he called after it.

His partner forgotten, Mulder dashed after the

creature. With each pass beneath another service

light in the long chain of chords, he could

still see it, and follow fairly easily — but it

was fast. As he ran, he vaguely noticed that all

the walls were of intricate brickwork. Mere

animals did not live here. When the passage

curved around and he was met with a choice

between two ways, on faith he took the right.

clip_image003

Mulder jogged a good distance hoping that he was

travelling in the right direction. When he

didn’t see any sign of movement for a while, he

stopped. The air was dense here and he had to

breathe more heavily than when he went out for

his regular runs. When he’d caught his breath,

he suddenly remembered Scully beneath the pile

of magazines.

He immediately turned around and started back,

but was unexpectedly blocked by the very

creature he sought.

It was much shorter than him and wore a dark

green plastic suit that looked like it may have

been constructed with lawn bags. No wonder Sean

had thought he was attacked by garbage. Large

goggles covered its eyes, strapped too tight

because the ears were abnormally small, and its

nose — or in this case, snout — was too big to

be comfortable in the human-constructed piece of

gear.

It was pasty-white and it smelled of mildew and

garbage and something animal-like altogether.

Mulder twitched his nose at the offensive odor,

and noticed that Mole-boy mimicked his gesture.

Only when Mole-boy twitched his snout, it

disturbed some tiny nodules surrounding it, just

on the edges of his cheekbones, and below, above

the upper lip. Mulder thought of Scully’s

description of the animal on the web, and

deduced that these might be evolutionary

modifications to the human-mole hybrid

physiology.

It began to breathe heavily, with an undertone

of a low growl. It was almost like a cat’s

purring, but Mulder recognized it as more of a

defense mechanism and forewarning than any

expression of friendliness. It was a stand off.

Mulder slowly raised his hands in surrender,

trying to show the creature that he meant no

harm. The gravelly breaths slowed, and

eventually ceased altogether so that the two

adversaries stood silent. Drops of water plinked

into puddles. Gasps of air breezed through the

long passageways, whistling like specters.

Mulder was almost sure at some point he could

actually hear his watch ticking, but then the

silence was broken.

“Why have you followed me here,” Mole-boy began.

His voice was like old sandpaper, dry and

powdery from disuse.

“I’m…” Mulder was sure he was here for more

than discovering that Mole People actually

existed. Standing before him was living proof!

He lifted his shoulder in a half-shrug, and felt

the weight of an extra cell phone in his pocket.

He must have shoved it in there before the

chase.

“…I’m here because I have to help protect a

boy. Someone attacked him. I think it was you.”

Mole-boy snuffled his wrist against his snout,

careful to keep claws away from his delicate

skin. “Don’t know what you mean. Don’t know no

boy.” He emphasized ‘boy’ with a sneering tone.

“Then where did you get this?” Mulder reached

for his pocket containing Sean’s cell phone.

The creature twitched at his sudden movement,

but remained to study this stranger’s

possession.

“Found that.”

“I think differently,” Mulder accused.

Mole-boy grunted. “So? Just a thing. What is it

to the ‘boy,’ this thing?”

“You attacked him to get it.”

“Untrue!”

“What *is* the truth?”

The creature jerked his head around, looking in

all corners of the tunnel they stood in. It

seemed like he was afraid to say something, as

if others could hear him.

“Been looking for new home. Was going to meet

someone. An…” he glanced quickly around again,

“… an up-worlder. Like you. Someone above-

ground. Boy attacked me first.”

“He tripped over you,” Mulder informed.

“Never trust up-worlders! Never!” He beat the

palm of his hand against his bald forehead.

“Never.”

Mole-boy slumped to the floor, as if weary from

a long couple of days. He sat with his legs

sprawled forward, and clawed hands between them

on the floor. His head lifted, and Mulder could

see his own reflection distort in the dark

shaded goggles.

“They all must go. We don’t want to leave. Been

here longer. Our land. Our home. Why come to

underground? Why up-worlders want our home?”

Mulder’s shoulders relaxed, less defensive than

before. This creature was not out to harm him

intentionally. He was working in self-defense.

And although he wanted to find the assailant in

the crime, maybe simply leaving Mole-boy alone

would solve any further attacks.

“Look, I’ll leave quietly, and make sure nobody

ever comes down here. Will that help?”

“Why?” Mole-boy asked full of distrust.

“Well, let’s just say I’ve always wanted to meet

you.” Mulder lowered his hands, but held them

palm-up so that Mole-boy was sure he wasn’t

going to try anything as he sidled by. As

careful as he was, the creature still scurried

as close to the wall as possible, giving this

stranger ample room to pass.

As Mulder began the trek back the way he came,

satisfied that all had been solved, he heard the

scratchy voice behind him.

“Wait.”

Mulder turned to listen.

“No up-worlders here anymore? Sure?”

Mulder nodded. “Promise.”

“Even Damien?”

Mulder jerked in surprise. “What about him?” His

stomach was all of a sudden solidifying

uncomfortably.

“Damien takes all our land. This place,” he

gestured upward with his snout, “the only one

left. Please. No Damien. Don’t let him take our

home again. They all tried to hide with us.

After the ‘big boom.’ We got rid of them. They

can’t stay! Don’t want to leave home.”

So that was it. He and Scully *had* been led

into Damien’s lair for a reason. They were meant

to believe that the Mole-People were dangerous –

– a threat to all human life. Mulder was

beginning to see a clear picture now. There was

a feud going on here. He hoped he was making the

right decision.

“I’ll make sure,” he promised.

Mole-boy stood for a moment longer, unmoving.

Hesitantly, then more confidently, he nodded in

acceptance. A warm feeling came over Mulder. He

could save these creatures from extinction. The

tunnel even felt like it was getting warmer and

brighter. He turned to continue back to Scully,

but before he rounded the corner back into the

main tunnel, he stole one last quick glance at

Mole-boy for remembrance sake.

Mole-boy was surrounded by a brighter, pale

yellow glow. Behind him, several timid shadows

emerged from the exits off the tunnel. Beady

eyes shone in the darkness, watching him. Mole-

boy got up from his seated position, and

disappeared into one of the portals. Then the

lights got dimmer again, and they all

disappeared.

“Mulder?” Scully’s voice echoed from a distance.

Mulder followed the sound of his partner’s voice

to find his way back. Strangely, the way back

was much easier than he’d thought. The tunnel

was a straight-away, when he was sure he’d gone

around several corners chasing after the Mole-

boy. When he finally arrived, she’d just

finished digging herself out of the pile. He was

so glad to see her, bursting at the seams with

glee over his encounter.

“Scully! Scully, are you… did you…”

“I’m fine. No, I didn’t see it. And I don’t know

— correction,” she held up one finger, “I don’t

*want* to know.”

“Wow, I think that’s the first time I’ve heard

your stock answer to everything. I assume you

want to get the heck out of here.”

“I’d say that’s a safe assumption,” she said,

rolling her eyes and stretching the aches in her

back. He grabbed her elbow for support and led

her through the long, dark, damp way back.

*****

South 4th Street Station

3:50 p.m.

“Thank God you’re all right! No, no, there’s a

ladder down that way. Why you ever wanted to

jump down there in the first place…”

Mulder and Scully emerged from the darkness to

find Michael pacing up and down the goose-

pimpled yellow edging of the platform. He was

ecstatic to see them safe, and for the most part

unharmed though quite soiled from their

adventure. He pulled them each up to safety, and

when they’d seemed more or less ready, he

swallowed stiffly and asked, “What did you see?”

“They saw that there’s more space being taken up

by those devilish creatures! I knew it was

there! I’ve been searching for it for quite some

time now.”

The three of them whipped around. First, they

saw the tattered mismatched sneakers, then the

long wool coat, and finally those crazy eyes

shining from behind a gleefully crinkled face

emerge from behind a white tiled pillar a few

feet away.

“Preserving the rights of the Homeless again, I

suppose?” Michael spat out, surprising himself

with the forcefulness of his own voice.

“Exactly right! The extermination must continue!

We’re not safe until *they* are all gone! Tell

me, did you kill him right away, or did you hurt

him and watch the slime suffer before he died?”

Damien nearly salivated at the prospect of

seeing such a gruesome act.

“Nothing of the sort. He’s still alive,” Mulder

answered.

“WHAT! You let him — Let me in there! I’ll

destroy them all!”

Mulder moved quickly, and before anyone could

discern what was happening, he had Damien on the

floor with his arms pinned behind his back. With

the click of his handcuffs, Mulder said, “You’re

not going anywhere. And you’re not ever going to

set foot in that tunnel. How does a few nights

in custody sound to you? Should give us enough

time to have that passage walled up nice and

tight.”

“You can’t do that! We have no place else to go.

The number of my subjects is growing larger

every day. There’s no room anymore!”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Really, I am.

Homelessness is not fun. But there are ways,

Damien. We’re going to help your ‘subjects’ see

the light again. They don’t deserve to live

under your reign. And taking from others what

was never yours is wrong.

“People’s sense of recognition gets a little dim

when they’re attacked in a dark alley or subway

station, you know. I can place you at any of

those sightings or assaults, and it wouldn’t be

too far off from the truth. You’ve managed to

falsely accuse all of those underground

dwellers, driven them to the point where they

don’t trust any human anymore. Wiping out a

culture that supposedly doesn’t exist isn’t a

crime that we can lock you up for, but it’s

crime enough.”

“Who all? Culture? Mulder–”

“I’ll explain later. Grab his arm.”

With Scully’s help, Mulder hauled Damien up and

out to the turnstiles of the station, kicking

and screaming. They were met there by several

police officers, who had been called on by a

pedestrian who had witnessed the skirmish a few

minutes ago and reported it to the ticket

vendor.

“Officers,” Mulder addressed the two men in blue

uniform. They apprehended the homeless man, and

scowled at the three others until Mulder and

Scully pulled out their badges. “We found this

one among the inactive South-bound tracks. Put

up quite a fight, but he was nearly the victim

of a cave-in down there. Seems there’s a crawl

space beneath the platform. I suggest you have

Public Works wall it up before there are some

fatalities.”

“Thank you, sir. Uh, would you mind coming in

with us to make a statement?”

Damien growled at that, but hung his head low in

defeat.

Enjoying the sway of his federal status just a

little too much, Mulder smirked at Scully and

said, “Not at all, officers. Not at all.”

*****

Epilogue

MTA Archive Room

MTA Headquarters

April 18, 2004

11:05 a.m.

“Mulder, you’re just not going to find it. We’ve

been here for hours. Would you just let it go?”

“It’s got to be here, Scully. A network of

tunnels that huge could not be completely

uncharted. It’s impossible.”

Michael came over with another stack he’d

retrieved from a flat file, and laid the

blueprints on the light table.

“I’m afraid she may be correct, Mr.– I mean,

Agent Mulder. I know these maps better than

anyone here does. I’ve studied them a hundred

times. What was not charted just did not matter

to the construction of the transit system, nor

the sewage systems of New York. I am sorry.”

“It didn’t matter to them, but that doesn’t mean

they weren’t there.”

“Well, we can’t have a team of archaeologists

come in and study the area, Mulder. New York

City is too heavily constructed to attempt such

a study. And besides,” Scully moved closer to

him and rubbed his back, “do you really want

anyone going down there again?”

He fingered his upper lip in thought, then

flipped the switch to the light table, leaving

them all in semi-darkness. Michael sat across

from them, hovering above a second light table,

watching them for an answer.

“You’re right, Scully. I made a promise. I’m

going to keep it.” He took her hand and squeezed

it tightly. Then he turned to the man across

from them. “Thank you for all your help,

Michael. You’ve been an unexpected ally in all

this.”

“You’re welcome, agents. Do keep in touch. If

there’s anything else I can ever help you with.

Well, you have my e-mail.”

They shook hands firmly, chuckling in

understanding, and the two agents left Michael

among his precious maps and flat files. He

gathered up, organized, and placed all the

blueprints carefully back into their respective

drawers.

Before he turned off the rest of the lights,

Michael pulled out a dark yellow envelope from

beneath all the papers on his clip board. He

sighed heavily, studying the plain unmarked

envelope, thankful that he didn’t have to use

this to deter any further exploration of the

caverns.

He went over to the light tables and switched

one on again. He pulled out two sheets of

acetate material, smoky gray images burned into

them, and laid them out onto the lit surface.

The x-rays were old. He hadn’t really looked at

them in years.

To the left, he placed the first one, a negative

depicting the profile of a deformed skull, the

bridge of the nose protruding further than

normal, making the whole shape of it look

oblong, more animal-like. Teeth were also extra

long, and fewer than what a normal human would

have. To the right, he laid a second negative.

This one showed a normal profile of a skull, all

aspects just as one would have expected.

In the upper right corner of each x-ray, there

was a label identifying the patient to which

they belonged. On both negatives it read,

“Massing, Michael.”

THE END

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s