CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED
Author: VS13 Producers
FEEDBACK: Yes, please.
DISTRIBUTION: This story belongs to Virtual Season 13 for two weeks. After that, it will be OK for archival at Gossamer, Ephemeral, and the like.
RATING: General audience
CATEGORY: XF, Mytharc
KEYWORDS: xf, mytharc
SPOILERS: Virtual Season Mythology
DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the FOX network.
Summary: Mulder and Scully find more than they bargained for when they are loaned out to DEA and AFT for a raid on a quasi-military installation. Files are found. Mulder’s name is on a file — but it’s empty.
“Why are you grinning?” Scully inquired, a smile forming at the corner of her own lips. Mulder, who’d been buried deeply in his own dimension for the last 75 minutes, blinked and glanced out at the solid forest to either side of the rugged “highway.”
The grin deepened.
“Ah, sorry. Guess the situation hardly warrants it, huh?”
“Don’t apologize,” his partner murmured. “I’ll take it where I can get it. But I will admit, you seem oddly content for someone riding into the untamed heart of Oregon militia territory to tangle with a no-doubt heavily-fortified cadre of arms-dealing skinheads who may or may not be plotting the next major CNN news event.”
Mulder’s smile faded somewhat. “I dunno. I guess I’m thinking about the last few months. A significant piece of American history and tradition just vanishes into the Gulf of Mexico like Atlantis into the depths. Whole Pakistani villages wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah under Nature’s intolerant thumb. An avian nightmare of Hitchcockian proportions could well wipe out a couple million dogs, horses, and bipeds, if the mosquitoes don’t get them first. And, of course, you know…”
Scully nodded, her brow arching as she checked out their ATF escort in the rearview mirror. “The coming Apocalypse. Now I understand your sense of mirth and goodwill.”
Mulder barked in self-deprecating laughter. “No. It’s just that despite the danger, the gravity of the circumstances, this is so – human.”
Scully’s hand snaked out, discreetly squeezing Mulder’s thigh below dashboard level. Their relationship was becoming one of the worst kept secrets in the Bureau (though, curiously, it had raised few dust devils in the bureaucracy) but she saw no reason to wash the laundry before the ATF guys. This crew seemed to run on a rich blend of testosterone and adrenalin — a combination that tended to put Scully on guard and bring out the worst in Mulder’s attitude.
That so far Mulder hadn’t risen to the bait — or more accurately, waggled his own brand of verbal bait before these humorless agents — only intensified Scully’s wariness. Since the staggering events of a few months ago in Alamogordo and the even more cataclysmic revelations they had uncovered about her partner, he’d achieved a sort of Zen mellowness. Mulder was no less dedicated to his quest for the Truth, to the Job, but he now seemed to view the bureaucratic banality and infuriating intolerance around him with an amused acceptance. He was Mulder, but Mulder without the edge.
Skinner had picked up on it as well, and under the rationale of thinning Bureau resources, he’d begun peppering their arcane caseload with background checks, white-collar investigations, and homeland security errands. But the deputy director’s hopes of re-igniting Mulder’s fire with a deluge of mundane drudgery soon were dampened — Mulder had attacked the flavorless assignments with the same zeal he applied to exorcising the paranormal.
So Skinner had taken a different tack: Substituting Mulder’s bland diet with some spice. He and Scully had been loaned out to an ATF/DEA team closing in on an arms operation that had taken on a new dimension after a backwoods Northwest militia cell had traded racist anarchy for capitalism. The collection of former skinheads, bikers, and cracker malcontents recently had decided to capitalize their venture with mass production of methamphetamine, America’s rural drug of choice that was rapidly capturing an urban following. The nationwide hijacking of several shipments of anhydrous ammonia — a crop fertilizer and key active ingredient in crystal meth production — had drawn the DEA and the ATF into a turf battle that eventually had deteriorated into an unhappy marriage.
The Caucasian Republic (marketing geniuses these guys weren’t) had kept up its façade of anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, racially invective sociological ranting, and the FBI was brought in to ice the cake with a few hate crime and, if possible, terrorism counts. Mulder and Scully were part of today’s clean-up crew, assigned to stay a discreet distance behind the Boys in Kevlar.
Piece of cake, Mulder had told Skinner with merely a trace of his old irony. Scully glanced at the rearview window, half-expecting to find Fate grinning behind her partner’s headrest.
Memories of Ruby Ridge and Waco and the invisible aura of the media surrounded the compound, and the Boys in Kevlar ran the raid by the book. At 2 a.m. that frosty Oregon morning, the Caucasian Republic had a paramilitary skeleton crew on sentry duty. An extremely well armed skeleton crew, Scully later would recall, amused by the sociopolitical irony of redneck neo-fascists toting Russian Tokarovs. Happily, economic enterprise had somewhat dulled the cell’s resolve to go down in an explosion of libertarian violence, and the Tokarovs clattered to the dirt as feds streamed from the surrounding woods. Scully said a silent prayer of gratitude as she and Mulder squeezed past the assembly of sullen supremacist meth gunrunner/cooks and stoic agents.
“I know my fucking goddamned rights!” a bald man-mountain in Vietnam-era camo shrieked at the assembled federal cadre. “I know my mother-fucking Second Amendment rights! I got permits for all this shit!”
“You got a restaurant license, too, Earl?” the DEA captain smirked. “Cause I smell something cooking.”
Scully was still in the “command center,” as one of the more machismo militiamen had called the ramshackle wood-framed barracks, poring through papers in search of indictable charges or connections up the feeding chain. Her partner had planned to check out the prefab metal building that housed the guns and the meth “kitchen,” but he’d hung out momentarily to see the show. Mulder chuckled as the head goon and the head narc continued to swap badinage somewhere between mediocre Roger Moore and poor Pierce Brosnan, and started across the scrubby compound.
“All clear?” Mulder asked a young DEA recruit at the entrance of a large block building, flashing his Bureau creds. The kid was still pumped from his role in the commando-style raid, sidearm at the ready.
“Yes, sir,” the sentry snapped. “Just steer clear of the lab ’til the hazmat folks have checked it out, OK. Fumes can eff you up something fierce.”
Mulder smiled, tossing off a gentle salute. “Roger.”
“Saw this dude once–” the kid began to recount as the agent disappeared into the building. The ATF and DEA boys had already conducted the first sweep, catching some heavily tattooed chefs in the middle of an early bird batch. Mulder’d read about cops who’d suffered severe respiratory damage during ill-conceived lab searches or evidence collections. Though his colleagues had forced open a couple of casement windows to vent the lab area, he gave it wide berth. Several cases of automatic pistols, “cleverly” concealed in Oregon apple crates, lined one wall.
The plank floor creaked as Mulder crossed toward an old military issue desk on the rear wall, tugging on latex gloves. Halfway across, he halted, then retraced his steps. Mulder heard it again, and looked down at the battered card table where the Nazi wannabes obviously guzzled a lot of Turkey, downed tons of nacho-spiced carbs, and played endless loops of Texas hold ’em. All fanaticism and no play, he mused.
The table sat atop a tattered oval braided rug that looked more at home in a one-star nursing home than in a paramilitary compound. Nuance had never been a strong point for the Treasury gang. Mulder nodded thoughtfully, moved the table aside with a grunt and a shower of Doritos. He kicked the rug into a dusty omelet, revealing a raggedly cut trapdoor that clearly could have used Bob Villa’s expertise. Scully, a small voice inside Mulder’s skull prodded. Call Scully.
He located a crowbar atop the “apple” crates and used it to pry the square out of the floorboards. As the door flung free, Mulder caught a brief flash of three warped wood steps, a dirt covered floor, and a boot print below. Just before the cellar plunged into a black hole with a loud metallic chain pull.
Backup, the warning voice chided. Get Scully. Mulder drew his weapon and the Army-issue mag light he’d brought for the benefit of the troops. He clicked it on, and the boot print was again illuminated. He heard feet scuffle back, away from the light. A single set of feet, he hoped.
“Ho-gan?” Mulder ventured down the hole in his best Werner Klemperer. He hoped whichever modern-day fascist down there was into ’60s sitcoms.
No response. He thought he heard breathing, rough and scared. Speed-dial Scully. Get the kid. Marshall the troops. Mulder dropped into the hole, gasping as his feet hit the hard cracked linoleum tile, his flashlight and gun came up immediately.
The light’s beam pierced the murky darkness that surrounded him. It was cold down here and despite his hefty attire he felt a sudden chill. A soft glow appeared ahead of him, shadows flickering across the walls catching his attention. He felt drawn to it, walking slowing at first his apprehension growing as the shadows continued to evade him. As he grew nearer he could make out human forms in the gray haze ahead, small, perhaps children. “Hey!” he yelled, breaking in to a slow jog as the sound of his voice made the ghostly images run.
“Hey, wait-we’re here to help you!” They continued to scurry away from him, the corridor around him dissolving into the grayed out images of bared and locked doors as he followed them. It reminded him of the gulags in Tunguska. “We’re not here to hurt you…” Mulder continued to plea as he pursued the little group.
Mulder had no idea how far he’d followed them when he came to the end of the dark hallway; the little voice in his head still nagging him that he shouldn’t be here alone. The scuffling sound came again; he spun around the beam of the mag indicating that the corridor turned to the right. He edged his way around the corner, gun ready in anticipation. There at the end of the light’s beam were the children again huddled together as if waiting for him. He started towards them, quickening his pace as the long silent adrenalin in his system suddenly began pumping the nearer he got to the group. This was not what he’d expected to find here. Up ahead the images of the children began to disappear until only one remained.
Mulder slowed his pursuit, lowering his gun. “Please — we…” his thoughts vanishing as his light illuminated the child. It was a young girl with dark braids and a frighteningly recognizable smile. “Samantha?” She turned from him then and headed into the darkness. Mulder had no recourse but to follow her.
Mulder’s mag was the only thing preventing him from being enveloped in total darkness. Dust danced in the murky light from the beam as he scanned his surroundings. Office space of some kind, but what it was doing in the depths of this rat hole was beyond him. He stood his ground in the doorway chilled by a feeling of déjà vu he couldn’t explain. Reaching into his pocket to pull out his radio he froze when something hard and cold made contact with the back of his neck.
“Drop the piece, man,” the voice rasped. Low, rough, but young. Twenties maybe. “Over there, hug the wall.”
“Relax, I come in peace,” Mulder followed his own beam to a incongruous bank of file cabinets. “Klaatu barada nikto, dude.”
The agent felt cold metal against his face as his host poked his shotgun into the back of his head. “Mister, if you had any idea how not funny that was…”
Mulder’s newborn panic gave over to curiosity. Despite his physical response to the famous line, the militiaman’s voice had been plaintive, tinged with pain. Mulder the profiler wasn’t surprised by his recognition of Michael Rennie’s alien catchphrase — a lot of younger militants, school shooters, sociopolitical outcasts were into sci-fi, into apocalypse; an often deadly combo of fantasy and death wish on a cosmic scale.
“How many?” the voice hardened. “C’mon, how many?”
“Thirty, maybe 40,” Mulder said. “There’s going to be a small army down here any second.”
“Let’s hope not.” Now, the gunman’s voice was disturbed and seemingly fatalistic. Mulder knew things were about to go badly if he didn’t talk him down.
“Look, my name’s Fox,” he began. The shotgun pressed deeper.
“Shut up.” Mulder blinked as he heard the rusty ratcheting of a chain and the subterranean chamber was flooded with light. The gun wavered for a second as a rough hand began to pat him down. “FBI, huh?” the voice murmured after retrieving his ID. Silence. “Mulder. Mulder…”
“Let’s go upstairs,” Mulder suggested gently. “You’re outgunned, but we can get you out alive. Maybe even cut a deal. It isn’t worth it, dying for these people.”
Mulder was whipped around, and the breath went out of him as his shoulder blades rammed against the file cabinets. The shotgun barrel found his Adam’s apple. The boy’s face was clean-shaven, as was his scalp. His eyes were crisply gray, intelligent — and anguished. “You think I give a fuck about these scumbags?” he growled. “This place, these people, are evil. I was fucked up, but now I can see. But God brought me here, to find, to find, this.”
“What?” Mulder managed. “What is this place? What’s in these files?”
“C’mon!” the boy backed up and leveled the shotgun. “I know what you came here for, you and the rest of them. You want to hide the Truth. I can’t let you do that. Everybody has to find out what you did to — ”
“To who? To you? What was done to you? Please?”
The gray eyes blazed, then the fire extinguished. “You got no idea why they brought you here, do you?”
“Meth,” Mulder stammered. “Guns. Look…”
“Sean, you gotta know. Satisfied?”
“Sean,” Mulder said firmly. “Did the government do something to you?”
“To all of us,” Sean snapped. “It’s why I hooked up with these assholes. I knew I had to come back, and when they said they were going to tell everybody the truth,” he laughed bitterly, eyes watering. “I was wrong — they could care less about the truth. It’s just hate and the almighty buck. Oh, God, man, why am I bothering? You’re with THEM.”
Mulder stepped forward, heart pounding. “Sean, you may not believe me, but I may understand what happened to you more than you think.”
“Don’t fuck with me!” The boy raged forward, seizing Mulder by the shirtfront with his free hand. He came up nose-to-nose with the agent, and was about to cut loose when his eyes suddenly widened, and his fingers uncurled. Sean backed up, the shotgun now dangling from his hand. “God.”
The way Sean uttered the single word chilled Mulder’s blood — it was as much an invocation as a exclamation. He looked at his hand as if something had possessed it, then back at Mulder. “Who are you, man? What was your name?”
“Fox. Fox Mulder.”
“Mulder,” he whispered. “Oh, God. You’re her…?”
Mulder’s heart stopped momentarily. He stared at the disaffected young militant. “Who?” he asked steadily. “Who are you talking about? Did they do something to her too?”
Sean looked away, pointed beyond Mulder with the shotgun. “It’s all in there, man. Everything.”
Mulder turned anxiously toward the file cabinets, freezing as he spotted a label at eye level. “Berube,” he whispered in disbelief, just before the stock of Sean’s shotgun connected with his skull.
END OF TEASER:
As the dust began to settle, Skinner looked around for his wayward agent. Earl and his band of merry men had been wrapped up and hauled off by the DEA, now it was the ATF’s turn to rummage though the labs and label and pack up the merchandise safely. Through the haze and the constant hum of the agents around him Skinner could hear her voice.
“Mulder? Mulder!” Evidently Scully had had enough of sifting through paperwork and was now as intent on finding her partner as he was. Pushing his way past the DEA captain and winding his way through the corridors of crates he found her conversing frantically with a group of AFT agents. “All I want to know is if you’ve seen Agent Mulder?” The men were looking at her somewhat puzzled. Skinner watched several of them scanning the room with their eyes. “Dammit! He came in with your group. Did you see where he went?” she demanded.
Skinner approached her from behind, reaching out to touch her arm so as not to startle her; he turned her around to face him. “Agent Scully? Where’s Agent Mulder”?
The look she gave him was one of both anger and dread, telling him all he needed to know. Mulder was gone.
What had started out as a search for illegal drugs and firearms had now turned into a search for a missing person. At this point Scully didn’t know whether to be furious with her partner or fearing for his life. She’d managed to get Skinner’s permission to enlist two teams of agents to help her search the buildings. The other team had fanned out to other areas of the compound. “Agent Scully?” Crain, a young DEA agent who had offered his help was just ahead of her motioning her with his light, “There’re footprints down this way.”
She dropped her light to the floor, placing her boot along side the print on the dusty floor. “Someone with big feet,” she said, looking up at Crain. “Come on.”
The prints led them down a hall to where they found the opened trap door. Mulder, Scully thought, only Mulder would find something like this. “Do you think he went down there?” Crain asked her in disbelief.
“I don’t think it, I know it.”
Clambering down the stairs they found themselves in a dark hallway. “Right or left?” the young agent’s light flashed in both directions.
“I’ll take left,” she said, stepping past him and drawing her Sig. Crain hesitated a moment and then reluctantly headed off in the opposite direction.
It was some sort of sub-basement. The hallway she found herself in now was lined with metal doors; rusted piping ran along the ceiling above, the smell of neglect was evident. The floor here was a lighter color making it almost impossible to tell if someone had been down this hall or not. She began trying doors finding most of them locked and wishing for all the world she was five inches taller so she could see through the small wire encased windows.
A flicker of light caught her eye from further down the hall. She turned back to look for Crain but he too was now nowhere in sight. The light flickered again and as she made her way down the hall she found it coming from an open door. Flattening herself against the wall outside the door she peered around the jamb. “Mulder?” He didn’t look up when she spoke. Hunched over a file drawer she watched as he drew out several folders and sat down on the desk behind him to flip through them. “Jesus,” it was barely more than a whisper and several files slipped from his lap when he said it.
“Mulder?” Scully asked, easing herself into the room. “What are you doing down here?” He glanced up at her then, realizing her presence for the first time but saying nothing; returning his gaze to the file on his lap. She watched his hand shake as he paged through whatever he was looking at.
“Mulder, we’ve got agents searching the building for you. You just disappeared from the warehouse.”
“Yeah, I know,” he acknowledged rubbing the lump on the back of his head without looking up.
“You could have compromised your team.” He was ignoring her and she’d just about had enough of it. “What in the hell are you looking at?”
“Dammit Mulder, I can see they are files.” Frustrated, she approached him. “What kind of files?”
“Medical files, I think,” he looked up now, sighing a shaky sigh and handing her the file he’d been holding. She accepted it from him but not before he caught the worried look on his face. Flipping through it, it reminded her of the files they had found in West Virginia all those years ago except that these contained records of genetic testing and DNA sequencing that had been done in the early sixties, years before such things had even been heard of. Something was very out of sync here.
“The name. . . ” Mulder’s broken voice brought her back to the moment.
“The name — on the file, read it.”
She flipped through the file and looked at the name as he climbed down off the desk to pick up the files he’d dropped. “Jeffrey Spender?” He handed her another file. “There’s more names in here you’ll recognize. Blevins for one; and there’s an Andrew Praise — Gibson’s father?” And then there’s this one which seems to be conspicuously lacking in information,” he handed her the file jacket he’d had in his hand.
She turned it around and read the name on the label. “Fox William Mulder,” she looked up to meet his eyes over the empty folder.
“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” he sneered. “I expect some of these others are children of other syndicate members, children of the damned.”
Scully set the file on the desk and picked up several more, flipping through them at random.
“These are some sort of medical files, Mulder. I’d guess records of some sort of testing, that could be what these numbers are — they appear in all the files, it could be a reference to a specific sort of test.”
“What kind of tests?”
“I don’t know, Mulder. That’s going to require a little research.” She set the files down on the desk and looked around at the mess he had already created ransacking the boxes.
“What would they be doing in this warehouse?”
The familiar uneasy feeling he’d had upstairs in the hallway came back. “We need to pack these back up and take them with us, try and break these codes to find out what these tests were. Run background checks on these names, see how many we can identify and if we can find any of them.” Scully saw him shiver. “I think a little research on this building is also in order.”
“You think it was used for something else?”
He turned away, started to put some of the files back into a box. “Yeah — maybe.”
She was afraid to ask but she still needed to know. “Mulder, how did you find these?” He didn’t answer her, shining his flashlight around the room in a blatant attempt to ignore her question. Her light illuminated his face. “How did you find these?”
Squinting into the light he couldn’t see her expression. “I ran into someone. A kid, early 20s. Did he go up the stairs? You would have run right into him.”
“Mulder, no one came up those stairs. And there’s no one down here but you.”
“Then he got out somewhere. There might be tunnels.”
“Did this kid show you these files?”
“No, not him. Someone else.”
He put his hand up to block the light from his eyes. “Saman — a little girl, she looked like my sister.”
“Don’t,” he demanded, hearing the resignation in her voice. “Don’t patronize me and don’t ask me to explain — we’re way past that now. It doesn’t matter HOW I found these – all that matters is that we don’t let them out of our sight. There are answers in here Scully, answers we’ve been looking for for years.”
“Agent Scully!” Crain’s voice from the doorway startled them both preventing her from responding to him. “Agent Scully? Agent Mulder?” The DEA agent seemed none too surprised when he found them both in the empty office. “A.D. Skinner wants you topside ASAP. They need your input on the drugs they’ve confiscated.”
She looked back at Mulder, still frozen in her flashlight beam. “Go, I’ll take care of this,” he said motioning to the stacks of files he emptied from the drawers around them. He looked at Crain, “You wanna give me a hand here.”
The yawn caught her completely by surprise and when she glanced at her watch, she had to do a double take. “Oh my god!” She immediately noticed the smirk of the lab technician standing beside her.
“Look, this is probably past curfew,” Ron Bailey said with an understanding smile. “Why don’t we call it a night and try again tomorrow, Agent Scully. The samples are likely to tell us more after a few hours to ‘cook’ anyway.”
Scully smiled apologetically. “Thanks, Ron. I think you’re right. If you find anything in the morning — ”
“I have your office and cell phone numbers,” he supplied. “Let me put these samples in cold storage and I’ll walk you to your car.”
She graced him with an indulgent look and lifted her jacket to reveal the Sig Sauer holstered at her hip. “I’ll be fine. Thanks anyway.” Deftly avoiding yet another potential ‘care for a cup of coffee/your place or mine?’ confrontation with yet another employee of another alphabet agency, Scully made her way out to the parking lot. It had started to rain, and a cold wind was blowing across the river. Scully shivered as she dug into the pocket of her jacket and extracted her cell phone. Hitting two buttons, she waited for the pick-up. She frowned when the answering machine’s message came on.
“You’ve reached 202-555-4365. The party or parties at this number are not available to answer your call. If you’d like to leave a message, please do so at the tone . . .” She wasn’t thrilled with the mechanical voice Frohike had used for the new machine, but it served its purpose. She waited for the tone.
“Mulder, I doubt you’re in bed so you’re probably in the shower. I’m leaving DEA, I should be home in about 20 minutes. We found something, but we don’t have any answers. I’ll tell you about it when I get home. Warm up the bed for me, it’s cold out here.” She closed down the flip phone and tucked it in her pocket. Locating her car, she got in, started the engine and drove out onto the almost deserted street.
KEY BRIDGE, POTOMAC RIVER
WASHINGTON, D. C.
Washington traffic was always something to depend on, but usually midnight wasn’t that bad. At least not bad enough to stop traffic blocks before the bridge. Scully sighed and flipped on the CD player, her mind flashing back to the raid and the discovery. There was something about that compound they’d found. Beyond the sheer implausibility that it would be hidden in a shipment of street drugs, she couldn’t help but wonder about the files Mulder had uncovered, not to mention the death by cop of one of the smugglers. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing at attention.
Traffic was moving, at least at a snails pace. “Accident,” she muttered to the empty space in the car. She stretched and let her mind wander. Hopefully, Mulder would heed her advice and go to bed. She didn’t want him staying up all night reading files. He certainly didn’t need that, and neither did she. If he tried to fight her on the issue, she’d pull out the big guns — candles and hot oil. If she had her way, his hands would be too slippery to read the files after that.
She was smiling when she reached the Arlington Police officer directing traffic away from the bridge. Curious, she moved the car up and rolled down her window. “Has there been an accident, officer? I’m an FBI agent and a medical doctor. I might be of some assistance.”
She pulled out her identification and showed it to the young man. He tipped his hat in true ‘cop on the beat’ fashion. “No accident, Agent. We got a jumper. I don’t think anyone’s been injured — yet. We got a call into the Georgetown Medical Center, they’re the closest psych unit. Ambulance should be here shortly.”
“A jumper?” she repeated.
“Yeah. Guess the guy doesn’t know if you try to jump in the Potomac, you bounce,” the young cop grinned.
“Mind if I see what I can do?” she asked again.
The young man shrugged. “Knock yourself out. Maybe you can figure out what he’s screamin’ about.” He directed her to the side of the road so that her car wouldn’t block traffic.
As she walked across the bridge pavement she wished for her heavier coat. The wind was a near steady gale and the rain felt like icy little teeth, stinging her face and trickling down the back of her collar. It was in her eyes, making it difficult to see what was ahead of her. She could make out the patrol car, bubble lights still flashing, sitting crossways near the middle of the expansion. She could make out dark figures huddled near the car. She could almost hear the jumper, but the wind was snatching the words away and carrying them toward the tidal basin.
“Mulder, why aren’t you here? You’re the psychologist,” she admonished softly. But then she knew well what he would say in return. “I didn’t go into clinical for a good reason, Scully — I sucked at it.” They’d had the conversation before, many times. Still, she knew that he would be better equipped to deal with a person set on suicide than she was.
One of the huddled forms broke away and trotted toward her. “You the FBI agent?” he asked, his hand still on his shoulder mike.
She nodded. “What can you tell me?” she asked as another gust of wind threatened to knock her over.
“Got a call about 11:50, said there was a guy standing on the bridge rail, yelling at people. Said he was screaming for everyone to get off. We got over here, tried to talk to him but when anyone comes close, he runs along the rail. Slippery as shit up there, we were afraid he’d topple right over into the river. Damnedest thing.”
“What do you mean?” Scully asked, wiping wet hair from her face.
“Well, I’ve been around a couple of jumpers in my day — this is my precinct right at the end of the bridge, but I never saw one who was this loud — or obnoxious! Most of them are quiet, won’t talk to anyone. This guy thinks he’s a prophet or something. Maybe some quack who thinks bridges aren’t safe, but hell if I know why he picked tonight!”
Scully licked her lips out of habit; they were already wet with rain. “Let me get closer. Maybe I can engage him in conversation until the ambulance arrives.”
“We got a boat coming up the river, too, in case he goes in.”
“Good idea,” she agreed.
Fighting the wind, she made her way past the gathered policemen and closer to the figure standing precariously on the cement railing for the bridge. She scrubbed her eyes hard; unsure of what she they were seeing. If she wasn’t positive it was impossible, she could have sworn it was her partner standing there, waving his arms and almost wind milling off the rail. Then there was a break in the wind and she could hear his voice — “Get off of there! Get off! Get off now!”
“Oh God!” Scully gasped and hurried over to the railing. “Mulder! Mulder, get down!”
But he acted as if she wasn’t even there. He was looking straight at her, but not at her. He was looking through her as if in some trance, seeing something she couldn’t see. Her heart stopped.
“Mulder, it’s me. Come down, please,” she said in her most calm, reasonable voice that even she could hear was shaking with terror.
He just kept yelling at invisible people.
“Mulder, please. It’s cold. I want to go home. Please, get down from there,” she pleaded. No response, just continued yelling and waving of arms.
“Mulder! I need you!” she yelled as loud as she could. Her blood turned to ice when even the ace in the deck failed to get through to him. “Oh, god,” she sighed, tears and raindrops threatening her eyesight.
Carefully, she hoisted herself to the railing of the bridge. The cop had been accurate, it was ‘slippery as shit’ up there. She was several feet away from him, inching closer. “Mulder, it’s me. It’s Scully. Mulder, come back to me,” she continued to plead with him frightfully aware that he still wasn’t recognizing her. “Please, come back to me now. Mulder, you know I don’t like heights that much and this one is really bad, so snap out of it, please,” she begged.
In the back of her mind, she could hear the cops yelling at her to get down. She could make out the sounds of the ambulance siren as it pulled up to the parked police car. She could even hear the sounds of the boat engine in the river far below. But her eyes were on her partner, waiting for her chance.
Finally, he turned away from her, yelling at some part of the invisible crowd he must have previously neglected. She took that as her opportunity. She launched herself at him, grabbing him at the waist and twisting so they both fell to the deck of the bridge. His head hit the pavement with a sickening crack and he lay still beneath her.
Cheers went up all around her, but she was too busy screaming for the paramedics to take any bows. Quickly, they checked him over, placing him in a cervical collar and on a backboard before lifting him to the waiting gurney. No one questioned her as she ran behind them toward the ambulance, until one of the cops stopped the EMS attendant from closing the ambulance doors.
“We’ll need a statement, Agent,” he said quickly.
“I’ll be at the hospital. I’ll give it there.”
“You know this joker?” he asked innocently, nodding toward the unconscious man on the gurney.
She choked and coughed, then nodded. “He’s my partner.”
The doors closed, and they were on their way to Georgetown Medical Center.
GEORGETOWN MEDICAL CENTER
Scully paced the small waiting room for the X-Ray department. Mulder hadn’t regained consciousness, and the ER doctor had called for film to check for possible bleeds. As she measured off the 10 by 15 foot room once again, her mind reeling. Mulder’s strange ‘disturbance,’ as she had come to call it in her own mind, had gone on at a pretty manageable level through the summer. Now, it appeared to be rearing its ugly head in a totally new and frightening way. Could the substance they found in the installation contain enough alien material to set him off? But why had it taken so long? He’d been fine for the entire day — tired from the late night raid and long trip back from the west coast, but certainly not ill and not seeing visions.
She knew his head had made contact with the bridge pavement, enough to give her heart a jump when she heard the ‘thump’. Then again, Mulder’s head was the hardest part of his body, all things considered and with an intentional pun. He’d run into enough brick walls to form Kevlar over his duramatter in self-defense. She did not think head trauma alone was keeping him from coming awake.
Just as she was about to turn and make one more stride across the room, she bumped into a taller figure. She looked up, startled by the fact that she hadn’t heard their approach, already mumbling an apology when she saw who it was and forgot to breathe for a second.
“Jason? What are you doing here?” she asked tersely, not really wanting to deal with her former classmate, now a respected neurologist; respected by everyone except, possibly, her partner. But then the implication of his presence hit her. He was a neurologist. “Was there something found in the X-Ray? Is there a bleed?” she asked, biting her lip with nervous energy.
Dr. Leonard smiled patiently. “Not unless the X-Ray department has become precognizant,” he said, his eyes twinkling with false merriment. “I came down as soon as I got the page from the ER. Dr. Manners, who was on call when he was brought in, read that I’d treated Fox and gave me a call. What is it, Dana? More of the same?”
She bristled at his implication. “No, actually, I don’t know what it is, Jason. And until we see the film, I doubt — ”
At that moment, a woman entered from the far end of the room. “Ms. Scully? Mr. Mulder is awake and asking for you,” she said with a smile.
That alone was a pleasant surprise. When Mulder had episodes in the past, he woke up tearing apart the room in an effort to escape his internal monsters. Scully nodded and quickly followed the woman, without taking notice that Leonard was hot on her heels. The scene was very different from the one that had greeted her just months before. The X-Ray tech was smiling at her partner, who was turning the charm on full blast. He was sitting on the gurney, lap covered with one of the protective aprons, feet kicking like a seven year old waiting for his mom to pick him up from school. When he turned at the sound of her footsteps, he flashed her a huge smile.
“Hey, Scully. Don’t tell me — let me guess. I tripped over my shoes. I know you’ve told me a thousand times — ”
“Mulder,” she said, more to stop his incessant chattering than to actually attempt to decide which of the million questions she wanted to ask first.
“Sheri was just telling me that my head is still intact and that there is a brain up there somewhere. But she stopped short of telling me if I have committed the ultimate offense and have to stay the night for observation. Oh.” He stopped abruptly as he saw who was entering the room behind his partner. “What’s he doing here?” Mulder asked with unconcealed contempt.
“Fox, good to see you again, and in such high spirits,” Leonard said with an oily smile.
“Mulder, can you tell me what happened tonight?” Scully asked, pointedly ignoring both her partner and her former classmate. She didn’t have time for pissing contests and she certainly wasn’t going to give them time to get into one.
“Tonight? After we got back to the office and you left for the DEA, I sorted through some more of the files. When it got to be dinnertime, I decided to go home and grab some of that left over spaghetti. I ate in the kitchen, put the plate and glass in the dishwasher and went out to the living room to watch some rugby.” His voice had been confident up to that point, and then a perplexed frown marred his features. “Then, uh, I guess I went to bed.”
“Do you remember going to bed, Mulder? Do you remember going to our room?” Scully asked, sensing that there was more to her partner’s confusion.
“I remember thinking that you would be late,” he said hesitantly. “I think I was going upstairs to read a while. I put on my pajama pants . . .” his voice trailed off. He was silent for a while and then looked her in the eye. “Scully, I went to bed, didn’t I?”
“Mulder, let’s get you settled up in a room — ”
“Why? What happened? Scully, you’re starting to scare me — ”
“Fox, there’s no reason to get upset,” Leonard said loudly, moving toward the door. “Let’s just get you settled and I’m sure we can figure all this out.”
“I am not upset,” Mulder protested angrily. “I just want to know what the hell happened to put me in the hospital!”
Leonard was calling for an orderly while Scully stepped over and took her partner’s hands.
‘Not here, just wait till we’re alone,’ she said with one look. He drew in a deep breath and nodded. That was all it took to convince him to lay back on the gurney.
ONE HOUR LATER
Mulder had gone quietly, leaving Scully to ask any questions about his admission. In essence, he was there under observation, at the advice of the Arlington Police Department. When they finally had him in a private room and the orderlies and nurses had left them alone, his stern glare demanded answers.
Scully sat on the bed and took his hands in hers. “Mulder, what do you remember after you went upstairs and changed into your pajamas tonight?”
He bit his lip and stared out the darkened window. When he turned toward her he was obviously confused. “Nothing, I don’t remember anything. Did I hit my head in the bedroom? Where did you find me?”
She stared down at their joined hands. Finding some strength in his touch, she met his searching gaze. “I found you on the Key Bridge. You were standing on the railing, about to fall into the river. You were screaming at the cars that were passing by.”
He looked at her and a broad smile broke out, but dimmed when she didn’t return it. “Scully, I think I would have remembered that,” he said firmly.
“I’m not sure you were conscious at the time,” she said quietly. “You appeared to be in a trance. You wouldn’t acknowledge me in anyway. I got scared and I tackled you. That’s when you hit your head, on the pavement.”
He was shaking his head all the time she was speaking. “No, that’s impossible. Scully, I never left the house — ”
“Well, you didn’t drive, at least from what the patrolman told me earlier. Your car is still parked by the garage. You must have taken a cab or run to the bridge.”
“Run? What was I wearing?” he demanded.
“Your pajamas pants and a tee shirt,” she said, her sadness plain in her eyes. “Mulder, if this is another one of your visions — ”
He slipped his hands out of hers and leaned back against the raised head of the bed. “No. This is not one of ‘my visions’, Scully. I didn’t have a vision. I remember my visions. I have absolutely no recollection of my dreams after I went to bed tonight.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, her voice cracking. “Mulder, I know I wasn’t very supportive before but — ”
“Scully, you’re my doctor, in addition to a whole hell of a lot else in my life. This is too important to hide from you. I know those visions scared you. Hell, they scared me. But I haven’t had one — ” He stopped and looked away for a moment, then turned to meet her eyes again. “I didn’t have one tonight,” he amended. “I swear.”
“But you had one in the compound. You said you saw Samantha — ”
“I said the girl _looked_ like Sam,” he interjected quickly. “I saw a lot of children, Scully.”
“And yet we found no sign of any of them, Mulder. No foot prints, except one set that probably belonged to your friendly teenage militant who eluded capture.”
“He wasn’t one of them, Scully,” Mulder said fiercely. “He told me he was afraid we’d cover up the truth. He was protecting what was down there — those files.”
“We aren’t talking about those files right now,” she said crossly, folding her arms over her chest. “Mulder, I don’t like this. What happened tonight — I was terrified when I saw you on that bridge railing!”
He reached out and took her hand. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. But you have to know that I didn’t mean to do it. I have no memory of going out there, Scully. None. And that is not like the other times.”
“Maybe it’s a sign that you’re getting worse,” she said softly, the fear in her eyes evident in her voice.
“I don’t think so. I think something else is going on.”
There was a tap at the door that caused them to look that direction. Dr. Leonard was standing with a handful of films. “Dana, if you want to take a look — ”
“I’ll be right back,” she said, kissing Mulder lightly before following Leonard out of the room. She didn’t catch the frown on her partner’s face as he watched them leave together.
Leonard nodded toward an office behind the nurses station. Seeing her no nonsense expression, he threw the film up on the screen, hitting the button to illuminate the surface. “His X-Ray came out clean. No bleed,” he said firmly.
“Thank God,” she whispered. She closed her eyes, sent up a prayer of gratitude and then turned to her friend. “So, we can leave,” she said with a smile.
“Not so fast,” Leonard cautioned. “Dana, Fox had a very serious incident tonight. I think we might want to keep him for a day or so — maybe put him on suicide watch. I don’t like what I’m seeing, the way he’s denying everything that happened tonight.”
“Mulder is NOT suicidal, Jason! If that got back to the bureau, he wouldn’t have a job.”
“Dana, please, you have to look at this through the eyes of a doctor, not his lover.”
“I have been thinking about that,” she said, steeling her eyes at him with the implication.
“I think he was sleep walking.”
Leonard licked his lips. “Sleep walkers don’t usually find themselves on bridges, yelling at people who aren’t there,” he said gently. “Is Fox prone to sleep walking? Has he done this before?”
Scully sighed. “No. I’ve never known him to sleep walk before,” she admitted. “But I think this could be an isolated incident,” she insisted.
“Are you really willing to take that risk, Dana? He could have died tonight on that bridge,” Leonard said solemnly. “I know you would never do anything to endanger him — ”
“So what do you suggest I do, Jason? Handcuff him to the bed?” she snarled.
He smiled at her patiently. “I’m just suggesting that some medication might be in order. Look, there are a number of excellent sleep meds now, many of which are also helpful with anxiety disorders.”
“Mulder is not suffering from anxiety,” she countered.
“Just let me give you a prescription. If he’ll agree to take it I’ll let you take him home under your supervision. Then maybe you both can get some sleep tonight.”
Reluctantly, she accepted the slip of paper and followed Jason back to Mulder’s room.
They found Mulder restlessly flipping through infomercials on the television. He looked in their direction when they entered the room. “These TV hucksters have a captive audience in here, Jason. You really should see about getting some movie stations on this hospital network.” A moment of anxiety passed through him when he got no reply from either of them. Scully came over to the bed and took his hand causing his fear to jump even higher. “So, what, you found my mind has melded with that of a circus entertainer?” Scully couldn’t resist a hesitant grin.
“Your films are fine, Fox,” Leonard said abruptly stepping closer to Dana. “I’d like to keep you for the standard 24 hours but your ‘doctor’ insists she can observe you at home.”
Mulder looked from Leonard to Scully and back, “So, I can leave?”
“Yes, Mulder, but there’s one condition.” Scully let go of his hand and reached into her pocket to hand him the prescription.
“Ativan? That’s a sleeping pill, isn’t it?”
“It’s commonly prescribed for that, yes,” Jason answered. “If you’ll agree to take the medication, I’ll sign your release.”
There was almost a threatening tone to Jason’s statement but it seemed only Mulder caught it. He looked back at Scully. She said nothing but he saw the plea in her eyes. “Fine.”
“I’ll get your papers ready then. Good luck, Dana. If you need anything, just give me a call,” Leonard said, giving her shoulder a squeeze.
Leonard retreated to his office and closed the door. Picking up the phone he dialed the familiar number and was put through to his contact. “Yes, he was admitted here again. No, nothing like before; the police found him trying to jump off a bridge. Dana came in with him — I don’t know for sure. If he were any other patient I’d say he was definitely delusional to the extent of being suicidal. No, she wouldn’t let me. She’s taking him home. I prescribed some sleeping pills for him that should slow him down. I’ll get in touch with her in a few days and let you know.”
1: 46PM NEXT DAY
Mulder rubbed his eyes again as he continued to scroll through the data bases, trying to match names on the files they’d confiscated with those in the archived records. He’d already come up with several all listed in very prominent positions from lawyers to doctors to several local politicians. The Ativan prescribed for him at the hospital was making the process sluggish, gumming up his thought processes not to mention making him wish he hadn’t eaten this morning.
“Mulder?” Skinner had made it all the way to the front of his desk before he’d even noticed him through his drug-induced haze. “What are you doing here?”
Skinner took in his agent’s appearance; he looked remarkably put together despite his late night excursion. But the AD wasn’t fooled; he knew Mulder’s guise was Dana’s doing. One look in the man’s hooded eyes and he knew that was all it was, he winced.
“When I spoke with Scully last night I told her I’d approve some medical leave. Give you some time to get your head on straight.”
“My head is on straight sir, it’s the rest of the world who needs to go on medical leave,” Mulder leaned back in his chair, eyed his boss. “I’m not suicidal, despite what her doctor friend thinks, Scully knows that.”
“She plucked you off the Key Bridge last night,” Skinner’s eyes scanned the office looking for his partner. “How much more of this do you think she can take?”
“I have no recollection of what happened last night,” Mulder replied, sitting up in the chair. “How much more of this do you think I can take! Doctors can’t help me, you both know that. I’m going to have to find my own answers sir, and I think these files are a start,” he stabbed at the boxes of files.
Skinner glanced at the boxes, turned back to his agent. “What do you hope to find?”
“Those files are medical records, they were found in a building now used for a militia warehouse. I don’t think they had any idea they were there. It was just a fluke I found them but I was led to them and this Sean kid who tried to blow my head off knew what they were.” Skinner watched as Mulder worked to organize his thoughts. “I think he knew who I was or recognized me from something which is why my brains aren’t decorating the interior of that compound right now. Look, these — these people are all around my age, they all have birth dates from 1960 thru 1963. Scully’s been working on the compounds we found in the warehouse. I’ve been running some background checks on these names — which by the way is something I learned I could do without thinking,” he picked up the bottle of Ativan and tapped it on the desk. “I can’t help but think there’s a correlation.”
“Between the names and the drugs?”
“Between the names and the tests in these files and the drugs, yes.”
“I’m sorry, am I interrupting something I’m not supposed to?” Scully appeared in the doorway and made her way across the office to set a package of crackers and a can of ginger ale on Mulder’s desk. “It’ll settle your stomach,” she sympathized when he looked at her puzzled.
“I’m not pregnant, Scully.”
“No, you’re just delusional, drink it.”
Skinner looked at them both. Mulder shouldn’t be in the office but he was obviously in very good hands. “All right, but you’re on desk duty until I get some evidence that you won’t try your tight rope walking stunt again. I need your weapon.” He watched as Mulder swiped at his hip and then looked at them both.
“I don’t have it on me,” he blinked slowly. “It’s at home?”
Skinner looked to Scully for confirmation. “Yes.”
“Make sure it stays there.”
OFFICE OF THE LONE GUNMEN
They had reached a sort of compromise. While Scully had headed back to the DEA she’d dropped her loopy partner off with three hopefully capable babysitters. He had made some progress on the files they’d brought back but the location they’d been found in still had him perplexed.
“So you think you’ve been in this warehouse before?” Frohike asked setting another cup of Gunmen’s sludge in front of him.
“I told you — I don’t think it was a warehouse. There were cells in the basement. I can’t imagine what a warehouse would need cells for.” Mulder sipped at the disgusting brew. “This kid, Sean, he looked right at me like I was the Messiah. It was fucking creepy.”
“You said you think you’ve been there before?” Byers was sorting through files on the monitor in front of him.
“I don’t know, maybe. I don’t ever remember going to Oregon as a kid.” Mulder looked down into his cup. “But then there’s a lot of my childhood I don’t remember too clearly as you know.”
The three of them looked at each other. Yeah, they did know. Byers continued to scroll through information on the location of the Caucasian Republic’s compound. “What were the dates on those files?”
“Early sixties, why?” Mulder got up and swayed on his way over to where his friend was sitting. Langly reached out to steady him but got his hand slapped away by his gnome of a friend. “Leave him alone, man,” Frohike hissed at him.
The county records Byers had found his way into indicated that from 1955 through 1963 the Republic’s compound had been the home of the Northwest Institute for Children’s Psychiatric Research. “Test subjects,” Mulder whispered under his breath.
“You don’t remember being there?” Byers asked quietly.
“No! No — I don’t, I — I was in a hospital in Boston after Sam was…” he trailed off, not sure what he remembered anymore. The visions of the children in the corridor filtered through his mind. Something wasn’t right. The damn Ativan was blocking his ability to put things in order. What if nothing he remembered was the truth? “Fuck!” He slammed his hand on the counter and walked away teetering badly enough the Langly finally had to put his hand out to steady his friend. “Easy man, we’ll figure this out.”
Mulder pulled away, “You need to check through those names I gave you. I want to know who they are, what they do and where they live all the way back to the day they were born. I’ve got three here within driving distance that I can talk to,” he was heading for the door but Frohike was right beside him. “You’re not driving anywhere, at least not tonight. I’m taking you home.”
“So, here are the latest test results, Dana,” Ron Bailey handed her the copies, still warm from the printer. “I have to admit, it’s not what I was expecting to see.”
Scully stared at the readings, frowning. “I was. Actually, I’ve seen some of this before. But this is different,” she said absently.
“Dana, I understand the synthetic corticosteroids, but the amino acids? What the hell? I’ve never seen — ”
“This is different,” Scully repeated, mumbling to herself. “This isn’t Purity Control. This is something else, something new, maybe.”
“Purity Control?” Bailey asked. “What is that? Don’t tell me the FBI has a line on a new street drug and didn’t share with your lowly federal colleagues across the river,” he said, folding his arms and leaning against his desk.
“Believe me, Ron, this is not a street drug. Chances are you won’t find samples of it anywhere, not even at the FDA,” she assured him. “Look, I really need to talk to my partner about this. Is this my copy?”
He nodded. “Say, how is he doing — your partner. I heard there was a ruckus on the Key Bridge.”
Scully met his questioning gaze with steely determination. “He’s fine,” she said firmly.
“Must be rough, when the pressure gets to someone you’re close to,” he said with concern.
“If you ever need someone to talk to — ” He reached out and caressed her forearm.
She glared at him, taking his hand off her arm. “I really have to get these results to my partner,” she said through gritted teeth. “Thank you for your help.”
MULDER AND SCULLY’S RESIDENCE
The sme ll of Kung Pao chicken wafted through the foyer as she pulled off her coat and hung it on the coat tree by the door. “There better be some sizzling rice soup to go with that, Mulder, or I won’t be held responsible,” she called as she made her way into the kitchen. Take out boxes were lined up on the counter top and her partner was scooping contents onto two plates.
“Soup container on the left there,” he directed. “And we’re splitting the egg roll. I can’t run on this shit, I’m having enough trouble just walking,” he groused.
“Then maybe you should have considered resting, as you were told to do,” she shot back, picking up the plates and carrying them into the dining room. A glass of iced tea and one of ice water, as well as flatware, were already on the table. “So, what did you discover at the boys?”
“That warehouse wasn’t always a warehouse, Scully,” Mulder said as he cut the egg roll with a knife, not quite equally. She snagged the smaller half and put it on the edge of her plate.
“So what was it before it was a warehouse? And don’t make me guess or I won’t tell you what I found out,” she warned.
“A Children’s Psychiatric Research facility,” he said after a very short pause.
“Psychiatric?” she repeated.
“Yeah. But the Research part is what perked up my ears. And something else. Scully, I think I was there.”
She frowned. “We were both there.”
“No, not a few days ago. Several years ago. When I was a kid.”
“You never told me — ”
“I’m not entirely sure. I just have this feeling. Maybe I wasn’t even physically there, maybe it was something I saw or read. Scully, I don’t remember a lot of what happened when Samantha was abducted, but I also don’t remember a lot of my childhood.”
“Mulder, no one remembers their childhood in detail,” she admonished. “Mom is always mentioning things I did that I don’t remember doing.”
“Scully, I could understand not remembering the time I put Tabasco on the cat’s behind. I’m talking about being in a hospital for weeks, maybe months. I don’t remember it, but I felt like I knew that place. And the feeling has only gotten stronger since we were there.”
“You think you were there, but you don’t know when?” she asked, concern marring her features.
“Maybe. I don’t know. But I do think there’s a connection between those files and that research.”
“What kind of research were they doing?” she asked.
“The guys are tracking that down. On the surface it looks legit — schizophrenia, even some work with autism.”
“Mulder, you aren’t schizophrenic, and you definitely aren’t autistic,” she pointed out.
“Well, I certainly don’t think so, but our cat might have held a differing opinion,” he shot back with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
She chewed a piece of chicken, thinking.
“So, what was your discovery, Scully? I told you mine, now tell me yours.”
“The substance is close to, but not exactly like the compounds found in Purity Control.”
He put his forkful of food back on the plate and stared at her. “You’re sure?”
She shrugged. “Our samples of Purity Control have always disappeared. But I’ve seen it a couple of times now, Mulder. And it always made an impression.”
“So the research could have been — ”
“Mulder, don’t jump to too many conclusions here. Yes, it seems like more than just a coincidence that in a warehouse that used to be a research facility we found files of children born around the same time you were and we also found a shipment of a substance that appears to be similar to Purity Control. But what does that tell us? Why were they moving that shipment? It was found in with common street drugs — cocaine and ecstasy. What did they intend to do with it?”
“I don’t know, Scully. I don’t think the consortium is going into competition with the Columbians, if that’s what you think I’m thinking,” he said as he pushed away from the table.
“Mulder, you haven’t finished your dinner,” she chided.
“Yeah, well, maybe we should alert the FDA that Ativan makes a great diet pill. I’m not hungry,” he said as he headed up the stairs toward the office.
Sighing, she followed him to the bottom of the stairs. “Mulder, what are you going to do up there?” she called after him.
“Maybe I can find out more about those kids, Scully. Hell, if they’re my age, they really aren’t kids anymore,” he amended. “And I’m hoping Frohike will have dug up something on that research facility.”
“Have you taken your nighttime dose yet? You really need to get some rest tonight.”
“I will in a little while. It’s not even 8 o’clock. Even my mom never made me go to bed before 8.”
“Yeah, and look where that got the cat,” she shot back, but let him go. She’d give him a couple of hours and then make him take the pills. Even if he didn’t think he needed the rest, she had every intention of sleeping until morning.
She wasn’t sure if it was the howl of the wind or the emptiness of their bed that woke her up but she was definitely alone. She’d practically had to force him to take the sleeping pills earlier and they were strong enough to have knocked him out for most of the night.
Yet here it was, 3:40 A.M. and he’d not only woken but somehow managed to get out of bed without waking her. She rolled out from under the covers and grabbed her robe. The house was dark. Worry started to etch its way into her mind when she found the second floor empty.
A quick sweep of the first floor and her Mulder radar was in full-blown alert mode. The Nike’s he kept by the back door were gone. He was not in the house.
It took her less than five minutes to throw on enough clothes for the weather. She snagged the keys on the way out and headed for Georgetown University. The gray day had turned into another nasty night. The brisk wind and cold rain pelted her as she jogged the few blocks to the track. When she turned into the field she could hear him even above the weather.
“Get off! You’ve got to get off!”
The sound of banging feet echoed above her as she passed under the bleachers. He was still screaming. “It’s not safe! Get off the bridge! Get off! Get off!” She watched him run the length of the bleachers and then turn and come back towards her. He was still in his pajama bottoms and a thin tee shirt. As he got closer to her she could see he was soaked to the skin, his hair plastered to his head. She headed up the stairs to intercept him.
“Get off the bridge!” he waived at her. “You have to get of the bridge!”
“Mulder! It’s me, Scully!”
He grabbed her shoulders and started to shake her. “Damnit, you have to get off this bridge! Don’t you understand?”
She pawed at his arms. “Mulder it’s me, you’re dreaming!” She continued to try and wrestle herself away from him. “Mulder! Wake up!” He was looking right at her but once again she knew he wasn’t seeing her at all. They staggered in an arm lock, “You have to get off this bridge!”
He pushed at her and she almost went backwards over the riser behind her. “Mulder stop! Stop it!” Finally prying her right arm free she let him have it — a wicked slap to his left cheek that echoed in the park around them. He started to fall away from her, backwards over the riser. She grabbed his arm but not before his weight sent them both down in a tangled heap on the step below. They sat there for a moment panting heavily, trying to access the damage. Mulder’s legs were draped over the riser above them, the rest of him crumpled between that and the one below. Scully had ended up in his lap.
She rolled off him slowly and sat down on the riser. It probably hadn’t been the best solution but her actions had brought him back to her. “Are you okay?” He didn’t move, instead tilting his head back on the riser behind him, the rain pelted his face. “Mulder?”
“I’m just trying to figure out what doesn’t hurt,” he tilted his head back and met her eyes. “I think you should just leave me here. Maybe I’ll wash away with the rain.”
She reached out to touch his pink cheek. “Please don’t talk like that.” She watched his eyelids grow heavy. “We have to find an answer to this Mulder, it can’t go on anymore.”
The tone in her voice broke no argument and besides, he was too loopy to even try and put together a defense. She began to pry his long legs up over the riser in an effort to get him moving. “Come on, let’s get you home before you doze off right here.” She tried to tug on his arm but he made no attempt to get up. The Ativan was still in his system despite his middle of the night adventures.
The jog that had taken her ten minutes before turned into a thirty-minute walk back in the pouring rain with Mulder leaning heavily against her. He seemed to have survived the fall but he was now pretty much dead on his feet from the medication. She knew he’d never make it up the stairs once she’d gotten him home. They staggered together into the living room. Steering him over to the couch he dropped onto it without much effort from her, wet clothes and all. “We don’t have any sleeping bags handy but I think I’ve got something else we can use,” she said, watching him shiver in the dark.
A short time later she’d managed to get them both undressed and wrapped in the down comforter from the guest room. Mulder had some nasty bruises and his cheek was still pink from the right she’d given him. It was a testament to the effect of the drugs that he didn’t respond to her sleeping bag tease. Having Mulder drugged to the gills was not the way she wanted them to spend the rest of their lives. They needed to have a serious talk in the morning.
6:26 PM NEXT DAY
The conversation she’d wanted to have in the morning never materialized. He’d still been pretty groggy when she’d slid out from their down cocoon to head off to the lab. She’d instructed him to stay home, take some Advil if he was hurting and to make sure he took the Ativan. He mumbled some ‘Yes, dear’ in response and had gone back to sleep She now found him in the study in front of his computer, the floor littered with printed sheets. From the doorway she watched as he ground his eyes under his glasses with his fingers, not even knowing she was there. Finally she knocked lightly on the door jam, “Maybe you should have your eyes examined.”
“Are you telling me that from a medical standpoint,” his eyes coming up to meet hers. “Or are you trying to tell me I’m seeing things?” He deadpanned, his voice still scratchy from the night before.
She smiled at his bitter humor and walked into the room. “You’ve been busy today. I thought we agreed you were going to take it easy.”
“Yeah, well that was only until you left.” He bent down to begin scooping up some of the sheets strewn about the floor wincing as he stood up. “The guys have been helping me trace some of the names we found in those medical files,” he put a small stack of papers on the corner of the desk. “I’ve identified ten persons whose bodies were recovered at Ruskin Dam.” He bent over and picked up another set of papers, “And these fourteen bodies were recovered at El Rico.” When he went to put them on the desk with the others Scully intercepted them and began looking through them. He pulled his glasses off then tossed them down. “These people are being drawn to these sites for a reason.”
At least he was being honest with her. “I thought we had established it was the chips that drew those people,” she passed a weary hand across the back of her neck.
“I don’t know. What if there’s another way to tag people, genetically? I think we’ve established that different research programs were going on. Old Smokie told me several years ago that he and his cohorts had given up their children to the aliens as a guarantee while they worked on this project. What if they didn’t give them up to the aliens at all? What if their children WERE the project?”
It wasn’t as outlandish as it sounded. In fact it sounded a hell of a lot more believable than the aliens whisking off with all the kings children. It was good to see him on the hunt but she worried that all this would set him off again. “Have you taken your medication?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest if only to let him know she was not pleased with his behavior. He didn’t answer her. “Mulder, stop acting like a child.”
He didn’t take the bait, “I was a child, Scully. I’ve been in that building before, I’m sure of it now. All those locked rooms you couldn’t gain access to — were where they put us.”
Scully stared at him. “What?”
“After Samantha disappeared, hell, before Samantha. I think we were both there. I’m also beginning to think she didn’t disappear from our home as I’ve always believed,” he turned away from her, walked over to the window and then turned back to face her rubbing his stubbled chin. “I think I disappeared from that facility. All this shit I’ve believed all these years about Sam being abducted was just some cover story they plugged into my head,” he finished by whacking himself on the side of the head.
As if the incidents the previous night or on the Key Bridge hadn’t been enough, now he was beginning to misjudge his actions as a child. Granted there had never been any proof of what he’d always claimed had happened to his sister but now he was coming up with some other just as outlandish story. She reached across the desk and picked up his bottle of medication, uncapped it and tapped a capsule into her palm as she walked around the desk to face him. “What are you saying?”
“The timing fits Scully, we were all test subjects.”
The timing fit all right. He’d been a child who’d experienced a traumatic event at the time. The question was, why was it all coming back to him now? “Mulder please take this,” she extended her hand with the capsule in it. “You promised Jason at the hospital . . .”
Her comment came to an abrupt halt when he slapped her hand away. He bristled at the mention of her friend’s name. “I’m not taking that shit, Scully.” Crossing the room he picked up the opened bottle and pitched it across the room. It ricocheted off the door and out into the hall, the pills cascading about like the sparklers of fireworks.
“I didn’t promise you. You wouldn’t have found me screaming my lungs out at GSU last night if they were helping me Scully.” She watched him stagger a little and then lean his ass on the desk. “It just fogs up my head and I can’t think. Christ, I can hardly keep my eyes open!”
He watched as her eyes filled with tears. “You need help, Mulder. We can’t live like this much longer.”
Wanting badly to comfort her but wanting her to understand him more he turned away. “The only help I need is yours,” he turned back to her then. “I need you to help me with this,” he picked up a set of papers from the desk. “You know we found implants in some of the victims at Ruskin Dam, you were at Ruskin Dam, Scully, and you never could tell me why. But most of the victims didn’t have them and neither did the bodies from El Rico. Something else drew them there. And if I was a part of this project then why wasn’t I drawn there to perish with everyone else? There are others out there. Still living their lives in ignorant bliss of what was done to them. Those are the people we have to find.” He froze for a moment as if something had suddenly dawned on him but he said nothing further.
They stood there in what for all intents and purposes was a stand off. Scully had pretty much reached the end of her rope. These episodes had been going on in one form or another since last year’s encounter with that artifact. Whether Mulder would admit it or not, it was beginning to affect his ability to do his job and it was certainly trying on his health.
He was right in that fact the medication only hindered his performance and it certainly hadn’t prevented him from ending up at Georgetown University’s track. She also knew he wouldn’t admit how much this was eating at him from the inside. She was certain he was just as frightened by his actions as she was.
She walked past him, stooped down to pick up the empty pill bottle and started to scoop up the capsules. She felt him beside her, his hand reaching out to covers hers. “Drugging me into a stupor is not going to help us understand what’s happening to me Scully.” She looked up to find his eyes as wet as her own. “I thought we already agreed on that.”
“You almost got yourself killed the other night, Mulder. What am I supposed to do?”
“What you’ve always done since the day you were assigned to the X-Files,” he used his other hand to caress the hair from her face. “Use your science. Find the answers. There’s got to be something in those medical files or the drugs we found we’re overlooking or haven’t found yet. Let me do the rest. I promise you, I won’t get myself killed in the process.”
He tried a smile but she only bit her lip in return.
OFFICE OF EDWARD J. PARKMAN
ATTORNEY AT LAW
Scully had headed off for the DEA again that morning. She hadn’t bothered to ask him what his plans were for the day, it was as if she knew her concern was a lost cause. He’d let her leave, made himself look somewhat respectable and headed off with the three files of persons he’d identified in the local area.
“Fox Mulder to see Mr. Parkman,” Mulder flashed his badge at the matronly legal assistant manning the front desk. He watched as the woman peered over her glasses and proceeded to rake him from the top of his head to his groin, a pleasant smile curling her much too deep pink lips.
“Just one moment,” she purred, meeting his eyes. “I’ll let him know you’re here.” Five minutes later he was escorted into the man’s office in much the same manner as a lioness showing off her kill.
The image that flashed in his mind, though, was not of the over fifty ‘femme fatale’, but his own diminutive partner and what she would do to him when she figured out where he was. Did it count as a ‘ditch’ when he was simply following up leads that she knew about? A small voice in the back of his head said ‘yes’. Scully, stalking him like a lioness and he an injured gazelle, came close to causing him to break into a cold sweat. He was grateful when the legal assistant returned and rescued him from his own vivid imagination by ushering him into the attorney’s office.
Parkman was two year’s his senior with salt and pepper hair, an Armani suit and designer eyeglasses. He got up to offer Mulder his hand when he entered the office. “Mr. Mulder is it? What can I do for the F.B.I.?”
“Can you verify any of the information in this file?” he said handing Parkman the yellowed file with the Edward John Parkman printed on the label.
Parkman scanned through the documents and looked up somewhat puzzled. “I’m not sure I know what I’m supposed to be looking at. Are you suggesting these records are mine?”
“Your name is Edward John Parkman isn’t it? Your father worked for the State Department back in the 1950’s. Do you remember spending any time at this facility as a child?”
Parkman was clearly upset with the implication of what he was looking at. “Are you asking if I was institutionalized as a child, Agent Mulder? Because if you are, there could be serious ramifications to that suggestion you’d probably rather not pursue.”
Mulder winced. “Actually, although I have no exact memory of it, I believe I was ‘institutionalized’ there as a child. Since your name was also found in the files of that facility I was hoping you could provide some information on what you remember.”
“Let me see if I understand this correctly. You believe you were a patient at this facility at one time only you don’t remember. Therefore, you’re trying to find other patients to help you remember?”
Mulder winced again. “In a nutshell, yeah, I guess that’s it.”
“Well then, I have a suggestion,” Parkman handed the file back to Mulder. “I suggest you get yourself institutionalized again. I’m sorry I can’t help you, I was just on my way out to an appointment.” Parkman began to gather up his things, giving the agent one last look of dismissal.
“Thanks for your help,” Mulder added sarcastically, picking up the file on his way out the door.
His next stop was a packaging company just outside of Reading, Pennsylvania. He’d stopped for more coffee. Scully was going to kill him when she found out he’d taken off on her. He’d given up this tactic long ago and it ate at him now to know he’d pulled this stunt. But on the other hand, this is what he meant when he’d told her to let him do the rest. This is the way they’d worked for years, trusting each other to find the keys to an investigation in the best way they knew how., Scully using her science and he – using whatever means was necessary.
Vince DeLiberto was every part his Italian heritage. He’d been on his way out the door when his secretary had caught him. ‘Vinny’ as the young girl had corrected Mulder now paced the office yelling into his cell phone. “Yeah, I told ya, I’m on the way. We’ll be there in time, I promise. Okay, I’m leavin here in,” he looked over at Mulder with an annoyed look.
“Five minute, tops, ya got it?” He put the phone back in his breast pocket, “You’re a Fed?”
Mulder nodded, putting his hands up in surrender.
“Ya got five minutes.”
Vinny hadn’t been kidding; Mulder had hardly gotten two words out before the man was heading out the door with Mulder in tow as he flipped through the file with VINCENT ANTONIO DELIBERTO printed on it. “No way man, nobody ever put me in no nut house.” He’d handed the file back to Mulder and slammed himself into his black Caddy, starting the engine and pulling away leaving Mulder to turn away from the spray of gravel. He now found himself in the drive of one Renee Markham of Allentown, Pennsylvania. From the information in the file she was born in 1963 in Oxford, England. He glanced up at the house and shuddered at the chill that passed through him. She was now a Professor of English Literature.
The woman that opened the door was slim with dark hair and no trace of an English accent.
He flipped his badge, “Ms. Markham? My name is Fox Mulder,” he continued when she nodded. “I’m with the F.B.I., I was wondering if I could speak with you about an investigation I’m currently working on?”
The woman hesitated a moment, “I’m sorry, what type of investigation? I really don’t have much time.”
He held up the file for her to see, looking her straight in the eye. “It has to do with some research on children that you may have been a part of as a chil –”
He watched her had go up to cover her mouth, “Oh my God, I think I know you,” she opened the storm door with her other hand and let him in.
STATE ROUTE 611
JUST OUTSIDE ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA
It was raining again, bringing the colors of the trees along his route to certain brilliance against the darkness of their wet bark. He had a sudden image of fall on the vineyard; of running in leaves with his sister and the scent in the air as neighbors burned the heaping piles. These were all true memories, weren’t they? It was almost unfathomable not to be able to tell the truth from the lies. Was it too much to ask to have something real to hold on to?
Renee Markham, mild-mannered English professor at Muhlenberg College’s words kept playing over in his head. “I keep dreaming that I have to be somewhere, but I can’t make out where it is; it’s been going on for weeks.” Funny thing was, his other two contacts today had places to go, things to do also. Renee however had been the only one who had vivid memories of her treatments as a child. When she said she was sure she’d remembered something about him, his beautiful eyes, it had sent a chill right though him — that same chilling déjà vu that had wracked him in the warehouse. He hadn’t been in Oregon as a child; he was sure of it, or as sure as he was that his sister had been abducted from their living room right before his eyes.
It was almost dark, Scully would probably be home before he was and would probably have the big guns out. He hadn’t taken any of the Ativan since yesterday but his head still felt groggy. He shouldn’t be behind the wheel of this car; the methodical rhythm of the wipers was doing a good job of putting him to sleep. He reached down to turn the AC on and the classic rock station up sending ‘Smoke on the Water’ blasting through the car’s interior.
Getting caught up in the lyrics, he pounded out the beat on the steering wheel; a move he knew annoyed Scully to no end. Almost as if on cue his cell phone rang. Mulder glanced down at his watch, it was already after 6.
“Mulder,” her voice was ‘Federal Prosecutor,’ just looking for any excuse to rip him a new one.
“Mulder, where are you?”
“You home already? This nine to five routine is getting scary, Scully.” he said, reaching over to turn down the radio to a more acceptable level.
“Okay, I won’t even ask what you mean by that. You still haven’t answered me, where are you?”
Mulder glanced around his now dark surroundings. The only light now coming from the taillights of the car ahead of him, he flipped on the headlights. “I’m — I’m tailing Renee Markham…”
There was silence on the other end of the line. “Who is Renee Markham?” she finally asked with some trepidation.
“One of our kids from the files.”
He heard her blow a heavy breath of exasperation through the phone. “How many did you interview?”
“Two who thought I had a few screws loose, but Renee Markham was a little frightening.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s the only one I spoke to who remembers anything. She knew me, or said she remembered me from her therapy.”
“Mulder, you both would have been children, how could she remember seeing you?”
“Look, she said she did, she remembered my eyes. I believe her, don’t ask me why.”
The thought that someone would remember her partner’s eyes was not so outlandish after all she thought to herself but by his own admission, he’d never been to Oregon for any kind of treatments. “Why are you following her?”
“A hunch — you remember when I used to have those? I don’t know, just a feeling that something’s up. Everyone seemed to be in a big hurry to be somewhere today . . .” he paused.
He would never stop worrying about her; she’d long ago accepted that fact. “You still haven’t answered me, Mulder. Where are you?”
Mulder slowed the car, “I’m — hang on a second, she’s making a turn to the left. We’re on six-eleven, north.”
“Where?” Mulder’s voice was fading.
“PA. Six-eleven, north.”
“You’re in Pennsylvania? Jesus, Mulder.”
“I’m okay, I’ve had a gallon of coffee today and no pills. Did you find anything else?”
“Mulder, I decided to do a little more checking. Given that they could be forged, I still went back and looked at your medical records, all of them. There is no trace of this substance, or anything resembling Purity Control in your blood work, even going back to your admission to Oxford. Mulder, I don’t think you were at that facility. At least I don’t think you received any treatments, if that’s what they were doing with this stuff. Remember the kids who had been treated by Dr. Larson in Wisconsin? They all had traces of the substance in their bloodstream. It would have shown up in you sometime back when you were a kid.”
Mulder listened attentively; pieces of this puzzle were beginning to fall into place. He heard the beep of his phone indicating he had another call; his hotline to the Gunmen.
“Hang on a minute Scully, the guys must have something,” he interrupted glancing at the phone to transfer to the other line. “This better be good, I just cut off at sexy red head.”
“Be still my heart,” Frohike replied. “Hey, where are you? We’ve been monitoring a bunch of chatter on cell lines about something going on in PA. When we traced the lines some of them come up with items on your list.”
“Wait a minute, you mean names on the list. You’re monitoring their calls?”
“Hey, you said find out everything we could — right?”
“Yeah, yeah, so what are you hearing?”
“We’re not sure, something about a bridge near Milford, PA. Everybody seems to be heading there.”
Mulder watched Renee’s car come to a stop and then make a right onto Route 32. As he approached the stop sign his headlights illuminated the sign. Milford 3 miles, “Jesus Christ.”
“Gotta go man,” he said, cutting off Frohike and reconnecting himself with Scully. “Hey, sorry look, something’s come up.”
“Dammit Mulder, don’t do that. What do you mean something’s come up?” He wasn’t making any sense to her and now she had nothing but silence again on the line. “Mulder? What’s going on?”
The small town of Milford seemed to suddenly be the new hot spot. As Mulder followed Renee’s car into town, Route 32 was lined with abandoned cars. People were making their way on down toward the center of town. He could feel the adrenaline rising, that sense of deja vu as he looked into the faces of people he passed. He was supposed to be here too, he could feel it.
“Mulder, answer me. What’s going on?”
He continued to follow Renee until she too pulled off onto a grassy area along the river, the bridge across the Delaware in full view, “God.” That single word sent him into panic mode, “Scully? I gotta go — don’t ask, just listen to me. I know why I’m here, I know what I’ve been screaming about for the last few nights — they’re all here — the names in those files, this is what it’s all about — why I have this gift.” He got out of the car and started to jog after Renee. “It’s a gift Scully, I know that now. These people have all been drawn here by something or for something and I don’t think it’s good — ”
“But Mulder, you weren’t a part of this . . .”
“I’m still connected to it somehow Scully, somehow I’ve known. Remember Delta Glen, Kazakhstan, Skyland Mountain, the dam? You said you believed in me? Then believe in me now, something’s going to happen here — and Scully? Always believe that I love you,” he pocketed the phone without turning if off.
“Mulder!” Scully screamed into the phone. She could tell he was running, heard him asking, no demanding from someone to know why they were there, heard him yelling, asking anyone who would listen why they were all there. She thought back on what they’d talked about, on what he’d said and in frustration she picked up the house phone and called the Gunmen, she didn’t wait for their usual greeting. “Where did you send Mulder?”
“Dammit Frohike, where was he going when you called him! What did you tell him?” She had no patience for this, not anymore.
“I don’t know where he was going but we told him about some cell phone traffic, names on your list, something going down on a bridge near Milford, PA.”
Her memories of Ruskin Dam came back in fury, “Oh god, no.”
“Why are you here?” Mulder ran from face to face, demanding an answer even he didn’t know for sure. He found Renee in the crowd on the bridge, grabbing her and pulling her along with him. “You have to get off here — you all have to get off this bridge!” His voice was already growing hoarse.
“We’re supposed to meet here you asshole!” Vinny’s rough voice rang out over the crowd.
Mulder spun around to face him. “You’re supposed to meet here to die! The files – all your names are in those files — they want you all dead to destroy the evidence! Get off the damn bridge!”
A couple of big men grabbed him by the shoulders, pushed him up against the steel trusses of the bridge. “You’re here too — what are you doing here if you know you’re gonna die?”
Mulder struggled against the two of them. “I’m here because I know what’s going to happen do you! Tell me why you came here? Ask yourself! If you don’t know or can’t explain it, then get off the damn bridge!”
The murmur started in the group around them and began to spread through the crowd. Nobody knew why they were there. Mulder pulled away from the two men when their grip on him began to relax. “Please, listen to me, just get off the bridge.” He grabbed Renee’s hand and started to lead her back in the direction they had come.
“Hey! Look at that light up river!” It looked like a star at first, maybe Venus but through Mulder’s trained eye he could make out the slight shaking, it was a chopper and it was heading right for them. “Run!” he yelled, pulling Renee with him as he made for the end of the bridge. He could hear screaming behind him but he didn’t dare look back, he couldn’t save them all, he knew that. In an instant the entire bridge lit up in a ball of fire, chunks of concrete and steel erupting around them. The flames sucked the oxygen from the air making it hard to breathe, he ran.
It had taken them thirty minutes by air. Skinner had commissioned the chopper at a moment’s notice from her urgent phone call. Scully had her phone pressed to her ear monitoring the events on the bridge through Mulder’s pocketed cell. As they rounded the bend in the river they could see the long line of cars leading to the bridge in the distance. “Gonna be hard to find a place to set this thing down,” the pilot advised them.
“Just get as close as you can,” Skinner answered back just as the sky ahead of them lit up with the huge explosion.
“Mulder! Oh God, no!”
She was fighting the door before the chopper pilot was able to set the bird down in a parking lot almost a half-mile from the bridge. Skinner was already demanding fire and EMS assistance. He had a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Scully, wait!”
The A.D.’s call went unheard as she bolted from the rear seat and ran up the road towards the bridge. He took off after her. People in different states of disarray were milling back towards them. Skinner could hear Scully ahead of him frantically calling her partner’s name.
A block or so further up the road she stopped running, as he got closer he could see her standing in the road, looking at a disheveled figure propped against the side of a blue car.
Even from this distance the older man could see it was Mulder.
The sight of her partner took her breath away. He was leaning against a car, his coat covered with dust, and there was a tear in the right knee of his slacks where he must have fallen on it. Blood trickled from his hairline. A woman with dark hair, about his age was standing next to him, Renee she figured. His eyes met hers and he straightened up. She wanted to run, throw her arms around him and hug him to death but right now despite his welcome sight she was furious. He knew it, too, standing his ground, waiting for her to come to a decision.
As she closed the distance between them he could see she was shaking. Renee stepped away from him, giving his hand a light squeeze before disappearing into the crowd around them. He took a couple shaky steps towards his partner. “I’m sorry,” was all he could think to say, reaching for her when they were finally face to face. “I never want to say goodbye to you like that again, believe me.”
She came and he pulled her into a fierce embrace. “I do believe you Mulder, I do believe you love me,” she whispered into his shoulder.
Skinner found them sometime later, sitting on a bench outside a small coffee shop not far from the bridge, warming their hands on steaming cups of brew. Mulder still looked tattered; he had a bandage pasted just above his forehead. “They’re going to want a statement from you,” he nodded towards Mulder. “They’re probably going to want to know how you knew what was going to happen.”
“Yeah, I figured that,” Mulder replied, glancing down the street, reaching up to scratch at the bandage. “Do I tell them about my precognitive delusions?”
Skinner winced, “Probably not.” He looked back up the street to the collection of emergency vehicles parked at the intersection.
“Do they have a body count yet?”
“Three — local authorities estimated there were probably sixty to seventy people on that bridge with you. They found three bodies in the rubble.” Skinner stepped closer, putting his hand on the agent’s shoulder. “You saved a lot of people, Mulder.”
Never one to accept praise, Mulder turned to his partner again. “Nobody should have died here, sir.”
The high-powered binoculars were shaking in his hands. Or maybe it was just his hands that were shaking. He’d watched the whole event go down from just up river.
“Bring us closer, Lieutenant,” he snapped at the hapless chopper pilot.
“Sir, that would take us within visual range,” the younger man answered with some noticeable trepidation.
“Fuck!” Charlie spit out. “I can’t fucking believe this!”
“Sir, the charges blew, all systems — ”
“Screw the damned systems! They all got off the bridge! I want to know who that was that got them off the bridge!” the now enraged man shouted at the co-pilot. “Get me as close as you can, or I’ll personally have you both up on insubordination, do you hear me?”
“Sir, yes sir,” came the answer in two disgruntled voices. They banked the helicopter and hovered low to the ground, then circled around to use a stand of trees to hide their position. Finally Charlie had a good view of the bridge or what was left of it. He saw a few bodies, too few. Police vehicles were arriving and then he saw her. A red-haired woman walking, no storming toward a man leaning casually on a car, a dark-haired woman beside him.
“Oh, this should be interesting,” Charlie muttered. He watched closely, adjusting the binocs to give him better detail. It was Dana all right, what the hell was she doing here? She was headed right for the man leaning on the car, and from his attire, the same guy they’d seen on the bridge, Mulder. “I should have known,” he murmured to no one in particular.
Charlie swallowed bitter tears as he squared his jaw. “Dana, you and that partner of yours has become a bigger problem than I thought. You made your bed. I’d hoped you’d come to your senses, but you just can’t leave it alone. You have that stupid stubborn streak, just like Bill. And we all know what happened to him.”
The pilot and the co-pilot exchanged shrugs. “Sir, do you want to put down? There’s a clearing — ”
“No, Lieutenant. Head back to base. There are contingency plans to make.”