Tenebrous

 poster

Tenebrous

by Vickie Moseley

Written for the Virtual Season 13.
ARCHIVE: VS 13 exclusive for two weeks, then anywhere
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction although several real places are mentioned. No copyright infringement is intended.
NOTE: If you are anywhere near Landers, CA, visit the Integratron and grab a sound bath. Then write me and tell me how it went.
FEEDBACK: vickiemoseley1978@yahoo.com
SUMMARY: When two kids go missing in the desert night, it sets a course of tragic changes for the X Files Division.

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Outside Landers, California

June 7, 2006

11:54 pm

The Integratron was a massive bubble of a building sitting in

the middle of the Californian desert, just outside Landers.

Started in 1957 by George Van Tassel, a former aircraft

engineer, it took 18 years to complete. Inside, the curved roof

and exposed wood beamed ceiling was supposed to slow down

the aging process through electrostatic frequencies.

The Integratron, for all its attributed value, had fallen into

disrepair after the death of its creator. But others interested in

its unique design and effects bought it and turned it into a

mecca of new age healing. Hundreds of people from

spiritualists to aging rock stars were drawn to the white dome

to experience the ‘acoustically perfect tabernacle and energy

machine’.

But not everyone drawn to the Integratron was looking for a

new lease on life or the perfect rave. Some came to the desert

to reach outward and upward.

Two lone figures sat on a blanket outside the 38-foot dome-

shaped structure. The stars twinkled bright near the waxing

gibbous moon in transit, directly overhead. The light from that

moon cast the dome behind the couple in stark relief, painting

it a shimmering, radiant white. The wind occasionally picked

up crumbs of sand and dust, which kept stinging their eyes as

they searched the horizon.

“Are you sure we’ll see them tonight?” the doe-eyed girl asked

of her male companion. “I mean, how do you know they’ll be

out tonight?”

“It’s a full moon,” he countered, feigning knowledge he didn’t

have.

“No, it’s not. Not yet,” she countered, crossing her arms. “You

just brought me out here because you want to get laid,” she

accused.

“I haven’t touched you!” he retorted. “Here, want some more

wine?” he asked in an artful dodge of her accusation.

“Sure.” They sat and sipped in silent contemplation of the

stars. “What exactly are you hoping we’ll see? What the hell

are these ‘lights’ anyway?”

“UFOs, man. They come here. They’re attracted to this thing.”

He jerked his thumb back over his shoulder toward the white

structure.

“It looks like one of those places where they have telescopes,”

she said skeptically.

“Nah, it’s cool inside. No telescopes, but lots of cool shit. They

have these bowls made out of stone and shit that make these

sound waves — you can take a sound bath.”

“You’re putting me on,” she said with a raised eyebrow.

“No, seriously. My mom said someone at her office came out

here before. She said that shit was better than botox, dude!

Really, it makes you look younger.”

“I don’t need to be younger. I need to be warmer,” she told

him unequivocally.

He turned his head toward her and smiled. “Here, we can

share my jacket,” he offered. He pulled one arm out of the

sleeve and motioned for her to move closer. He tugged the

denim around her shoulder, his arm holding her in place.

“There. Better?”

She nodded, drawing in a deep breath. “It really is pretty with

the stars and the moon. But how long are we going to sit here

— ”

She stopped talking suddenly when a bright star grew larger in

the northwestern sky. It was low to the horizon and seemed to

be moving toward them. “Is that — ”

“Shhhhh,” he cautioned and fumbled around on the blanket.

“Where’s my damned camera?” he growled. Finally grasping

the digital camera, he let go of the girl to bring it up to his eye.

“Oh, wow, this is so cool — ”

As he clicked off shot after shot, the star/craft sped closer and

closer. Suddenly there was a ferocious wind and a tremendous

sound, and the ground around them shook, knocking over the

wine bottle and spilling the remaining drops on the blanket.

Both teens looked up at the craft, now directly overhead,

blocking out the stars and the moon. As they stared at the

underside, a brilliant light erupted from the bottom of the craft,

encasing them in brightness.

In the wink of an eye, the light — and the teens were gone.

Georgetown, District of Columbia

June 9, 2006

His first sensation was the smell of burning wood and burning

flesh. He’d experienced those smells enough times to know

that his next impulse would be paralyzing fear. Fire. Fire in a

house on Cape Cod, his arm burning from the embers. Fire

killing dozens of people on a bridge over Ruskin Dam, searching

through the body bags in anguished terror of finding his one

true friend in the world. Fear. But this wasn’t the same. He

needed to look further. Forcing himself to stand, he looked

around.

A dense fog hung in the air, but after a moment, he recognized

it as smoke. All around him were huts, grass huts with

thatched roofs like he’d seen in the English countryside many

years before during a break from school. Thatched roofs, now

ablaze with flames leaping skyward, orange, red, and yellow

the only color in the grey sky.

As he looked around he saw them. Dark shadows on the

ground that slowly formed into bodies. They were shrouded in

black cloth; some were tied at the neck, across the chest, the

legs. Others appeared to have just rolled out of bed. None of

them moved. Death was as thick as the smoke and hung over

everything.

The wind shifted and ash blew in his eyes. The flames were

closer now, he had to move, but everywhere he looked the

burning huts surrounded him, moving closer to him, cutting off

all means of escape. Bits of burning thatch were swept up in

the maelstrom and landed on his cheek, on the back of his

neck. He brushed them off, but others soon followed.

One hut was untouched by the flames. He ran toward it,

pulling on the wooden door until it came free. He fell into the

darkened room, stumbling over something on the floor just in

front of the entrance. The light from the open door and one

tiny window did little to reveal the contents of the room. He

bent down to try and see what he’d stumbled over.

He knew it was another cloth-shrouded body. He pulled back

the fabric, it stuck to the corpse in places and he grimaced at

his efforts. A foul stench arose and he fought the bile in his

throat. This person had been dead for days. Slowly, the cloth

pulled away and he could just make out the features of the

face. At first all he could see were the black spots, the sunken

eyes with darkened skin all around them. The swollen tongue,

hanging out of the slack jawed mouth, bore the same black

spots and the horrid, putrid smell. His revulsion soon turned to

recognition as he pulled back slightly and looked at the face as

a whole. It wasn’t the face of a stranger — it was his own.

He barely had time to recoil in repulsion when he heard a

popping sound behind him. He turned toward the door and saw

the hut had finally caught fire. The entrance was already

engulfed in flame, the dry thatch and sides going up faster than

he could have imagined. The flames reached out, catching the

cloth of the body laid out before him. Before he could move, as

the paralyzing fear took root in his stomach, the flames licked

at his hands, his legs, his face —

Mulder and Scully’s residence

June 9, 2005

4:25 am

Mulder awoke in a cold sweat, to find he was crouched at the

head of the bed, shaking. It took him many minutes to feel

brave enough to look around him. It was their bedroom.

Scully was curled sleeping next to him, her back to him as she

hugged her pillow.

His heart slowed finally, taking its time. He tried to move and

found all his muscles protesting as the adrenaline diminished

from his system. With some effort, he looked at the clock.

4:25 am.

Feeling a bit stronger, he straightened his legs and sluggishly

got out of bed. By the time he’d finished in the bathroom, he

was moving with more certainty. He grabbed his running

clothes, pulling them on as he walked, found his running shoes

at the bottom of the stairs, and was out the door without a

second thought. In the east, the sky was already starting to

turn a velvet blue.

6:45 am

Scully hit the alarm button sleepily and then rolled over to

touch the sheets next to her. Cold. Just like the last four

mornings. Sighing heavily, she tossed the covers aside and

headed for the bathroom.

Thirty minutes later, she came down the stairs, the smell of

coffee and cinnamon toast wafting through the hallway to the

dining room and kitchen. She bit her lip in frustration, but

forced a smile on her face.

He was sitting at the table, coffee in one hand, folded

Washington Post in the other. He wore the dark charcoal suit

that she’d just retrieved from the cleaners — the one that

brought out the brown and green in his eyes. But she could

see the dark circles around those eyes from ten feet away.

Squaring her shoulders, she walked over and kissed him on the

temple. “You were MIA again,” she teased lightly as she ran

her hand along his shoulder blades and sauntered into the

kitchen. Her mug was sitting next to the coffeemaker; the 12-

cup carafe was over half empty. Another indication of how long

he’d been up. Sighing again, she poured a cup, added the

requisite amount of non-fat creamer and headed back into the

dining room.

“You have to read Ruth Marcus today,” Mulder said casually

over the top of the paper. “The woman should be canonized.”

“I don’t think this Pope is out to make saints of political

pundits, Mulder,” she said, finding the financial pages lying on

the table. She scanned the headlines and moved it aside.

“Same dream?” she asked, sipping her coffee to keep from

staring at him with a worried expression she knew he’d find

offensive.

“Same,” he said, making a great show of refolding the paper.

“Doonesbury is good, too.”

She nodded. For four nights it had been the same dream. He’d

told her about it the first morning — had that only been

Tuesday? From what he told her, she’d surmised that the

dream, or vision, as he preferred, centered on the Black Death

— the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages.

He’d given her sketchy details at best, and she was sure there

was plenty he wasn’t sharing with her.

“So — ”

He laid the paper on the table and folded his hands atop it.

“Scully. Remember our agreement,” he warned.

“Mulder, I know what I promised. And I’m keeping to that

promise. I won’t judge and I won’t try to fix this. But that

doesn’t stop me from worrying about the effect it has on you.

Frankly, you look exhausted. I’m half tempted to call you in

sick and make you stay home and rest.”

“But Mom, I have an algebra test,” he whined sarcastically. He

got up and poured himself more coffee before returning to the

dining room. “Scully, get real. I’m out on medical leave

enough without wasting a perfectly good sick day on a nap!”

She drew in as much air as her lungs could hold. “OK, fine.”

She wanted to say so much more, but knew it would fall on

deaf ears. Or at worst, would start the day with an argument.

He picked up one of the discarded sections of the Post and

handed it to her. “Hey, how about this. Would you care to go

to the symphony with me next Friday?”

She furrowed her brow, but quickly read the page aloud. “The

National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with this

fascinating exploration of his life, music, and legacy featuring

musical excerpts, commentary, and the complete ‘Jupiter’

Symphony.” She looked up, joy and amazement on her face.

“Mulder, I love the Jupiter Symphony.”

He gave her his patented grin. “I know. You love Mozart,

period. I saw that and knew we had to go. I’ll call for tickets

when we get to the office. And I thought we might have dinner

at that Italian place down on Wisconsin afterwards.”

“Paparazzi? I’ve wanted to go there forever!”

“I know. You’re always pointing out their specials on the way

to work,” he returned with a bigger grin.

“Wow, tickets to the symphony, dinner at an upscale

restaurant.” She looked up suddenly. “Mulder, is this a date?”

He seemed taken aback. “Let’s see, we live together, have for

a couple of years now, sleep together every night. No, Scully,

this in no way constitutes ‘a date’. I plan to bring a case file so

we can call it a business meeting and I can take it off my taxes

next April.”

By his thundercloud expression over his flippant words she

could tell he wasn’t taking her question well. “No, that’s not

what I meant at all”, she said quickly. “I just meant — Mulder,

we’ve never had a real ‘date’ before. We’ve gone out to dinner

and gone to movies, but never planned it out a whole week in

advance unless it’s Valentines Day or my birthday. This is so . .

. unexpected. But I have to say that aside from a deep-seated

desire to check your lower back for a removed tail, I am very

pleased. I think this is one of the most romantic things you’ve

ever done.”

She came around to stand next to him and put her arms

around his neck, seductively rubbing his chest under his jacket.

“Sure you don’t want to go back upstairs — we can both call in

with the ‘Friday Flu’.”

He laughed and hugged her arms, tilting his head to kiss her

lightly on the lips. “I would, but my partner is a real dragon

lady. She chews my ass if I blow off work for sex.”

“Poor woman. Maybe she should just get laid,” Scully replied,

nipping his earlobe.

He was laughing hard now. “OK, enough of this. We have to

get to work,” he told her firmly as he stood and his chair

effectively pushed her away. “But we have all day tomorrow

and Sunday to practice up for our date night.”

She watched him as he took both cups into the kitchen, her

hands on her hips. “Mulder, I should tell you now — I never

sleep with a guy on the first date.”

FBI Headquarters,

11:45 am

“Scully, this is the last ream of printer paper,” Mulder informed

her as he loaded the paper tray.

“What are you doing over there? Printing out _War and

Peace_?” she asked. He’d been ‘surfing’ the net all morning

while she put the finishing touches on the expense reports from

their last case. She felt the numbers 1372 were permanently

etched on the backs of her eyelids.

“Just some stuff I found on the internet this morning,” he said

absently. He looked down at his watch. “Hey, lunch time.

Want to hit the Mall, have a hot dog and stare at the tourists?”

She rolled her eyes, but couldn’t hide her smile. “Sure. Just

give me a minute to finish this last report. Then we can drop it

off to Skinner on our way to lunch.”

The Assistant Director was standing in his outer office,

consulting with his administrative assistant when the agents

arrived. “I was about to call and leave a message for you to

come see me after lunch,” he said, ushering the pair into the

interior room of the suite. “I have a new case for you.”

He handed a file folder to Mulder and the two agents sat down

in their usual chairs in front of Skinner’s desk. Scully leaned

over as Mulder held the folder between them.

“Missing persons?” she asked, as Mulder flipped through the

pages.

“The girl is the daughter of Los Angeles city council member —

with close ties to the Attorney General,” Skinner said tersely.

“Oh goodie. So how did we get this little gem?” Mulder asked,

handing the rather thin folder over to his partner.

“Apparently — an eye witness, admittedly almost 10 miles

away, reported . . . ” Skinner flexed his jaw, a sure sign he

wasn’t comfortable with what he was about to say. “Bright

lights in the sky.”

Mulder closed his eyes and leaned his head back, as if exposing

his throat to a guillotine. Scully licked her upper lip and sighed

heavily. After a moment, Mulder straightened up and took the

folder back. He read a little further and his forehead creased

with a frown. “Wait a minute, where was this?”

Skinner thought for a moment. “Southern California, out in the

desert,” he said with a shrug.

“No, not just in the desert. In the desert outside Landers.

They were near the Integratron,” Mulder stated with a knowing

smile.

“The what?” Scully countered. “What is an Integratron? I

never heard of such a thing.”

“And here I thought I’d corrupted you completely, Scully,”

Mulder shot her a grin. “The Integratron is the masterpiece of

a slightly off balanced aircraft engineer, George Van Tassel. He

got the idea — ”

“No, don’t tell me, from an elf that snuck through his window

while he was playing billiards,” Scully parried.

Mulder’s grin broadened and he gave her a brief nod in

acknowledgement of her memory. “Not quite. It was a visitor

from the planet Venus named Solgonda,” he answered. “But I

must say, Scully, I’m impressed.”

Skinner cleared his throat and gave Mulder a disgusted glare.

“And this — Integratron — is significant to the case?”

“Well, just a couple of months ago it was the site for a big UFO

watchers convention. They must have picked it for a reason,”

Mulder observed.

“UFO convention?” Skinner queried.

“Yeah, the Gunmen went out for it. Frohike took one of the

sound baths the place is famous for. C’mon Scully, you have to

admit the little man had a ‘glow’ about him when they came

back.”

“I assumed it was the sun and the tequila,” Scully mused.

“Be that as it may,” Skinner said firmly, “you are to go out to

Landers and work with the LA regional office on this one. I

expect periodic reports on your progress. We need to find out

what happened to those two kids — ET or otherwise. Kim has

your tickets. You leave tonight.”

“Good thing the symphony is next weekend,” Mulder muttered.

“I just hope we’re back in time,” Scully whispered as they

departed the office.

“Oh, we will be. I promise. Nothing could make me miss our

first date,” he assured her, letting his hand rest on the small of

her back as they walked to the elevators.

Act 1

Landers, California

June 10, 2006

10:45 am

If there was one thing Mulder could say for the desert, there

was certainly no need for a flashlight — if the sun was out.

Even his FBI approved Ray Bans were having a hard time

reflecting the glare off the white dome of the Integratron. His

fuzzy feeling could have been attributed to jet lag, they had left

Dulles at a not quite red-eye flight time of 4:30 pm, but they

arrived at LAX just seconds shy of midnight (Eastern Daylight

Time) and that made it over six hours travel time.

At Scully’s worried look and gentle coaxing, he’d swallowed a

bitter tasting sleeping pill when they finally arrived at their

adjoining rooms. He got his revenge when his partner had

been forced to spend ten minutes waking him out of his

drugged slumber. She was right, he had slept a full 5 and one

half hours without a single dream that he could remember. The

down side was he felt like a vampire about to crumble to dust

in the brilliance of the late morning sunshine.

The Supervisory Agent In Charge of the Los Angeles Regional

Office had assigned a young agent just out of Quantico to

accompany them to Landers. The Junior G-Man was complete

with a buzz haircut, grey suit, and his own set of Ray Bans. His

name was Jason Clark, and Mulder was certain he’d lied about

his age on his application. He also suspected the slight

indentations in the young man’s earlobes and eyebrows spoke

to a few pieces of jewelry gathering dust in a drawer

somewhere.

Scully was just a few feet away, inspecting a blanket, all but

buried in the sand, and an empty wine bottle. She picked it up

with latex encased hands, sniffing at the rim. “Not exactly

dealing with a high roller here,” she quipped and dropped the

bottle in an evidence bag.

“You didn’t send an evidence team out here earlier?” Mulder

asked Clark.

The young man looked perplexed. “At first, no, but we did late

last night. I think it was assumed they’d taken off, maybe to

Vegas. The kids weren’t reported as missing until the owners

of the property found their car abandoned on the side of the

road and called the highway patrol. CHP called the boy’s

parents; their name is on the title and registration. When we

figured out it belonged to one of the missing we had our

evidence team go over it, but the only prints found were the

two kids.”

Mulder frowned, thinking hard. Something wasn’t right but the

fog in his mind wouldn’t allow him to see the pieces clearly.

“Mulder, you need to come here and look at this,” Scully called

from a few yards away. She was crouching low and poking at

something on the ground. He was beside her in a few strides,

dropping down next to her.

“What is that?” he asked. Carefully, she picked up the object

by the edges.

“Glass,” she said, handing it over to him. It was oddly shaped,

about 8 inched long and 4 to 5 inches wide at the widest point.

It was irregular and the coloring wasn’t even.

“Lightning?” Mulder asked of her.

“This area sees less than 2 inches of rain a year, Mulder,” she

replied with a shrug. “And there’s more of it, over there. All

lying on top of the sand.”

They exchanged knowing looks, communicating and

remembering at one and the same moment. “You think

something from above did this?” he asked. She shrugged

again. “Collect some of it, let’s have it analyzed,” he

suggested.

Clark, in the meantime, had gone into the building and

returned. “I just called the office. The families haven’t

received any ransom calls or notes.”

“They aren’t likely to get any, if it’s who I think is responsible,”

Mulder said rising and dusting the sand off his hands. “Agent

Clark, if you could take these items back to the office and send

them down to the lab for us we’d appreciate it.”

Clark nodded, happy to be doing something productive rather

than just acting as tour guide. “Sure, no problem.”

As they started back toward the car, Mulder made a left turn

and headed into the Integratron. Scully had to scramble to

follow him. She caught his elbow as he reached the door.

“Mulder, shouldn’t we be going back to LA?” she asked, though

to Mulder’s ears it sounded a lot like one of her ‘commands’.

“I just wanted to check this place out a minute, Scully. The

guys told me all about it one night over cheese steaks,” he

mugged back at her.

The interior was just as Byers had described it. The dome

ceiling was supported by 16 ‘spines’ that made the center look

like a double-legged spider suspended 38 feet above. The

wood had a light stain and there were windows all along the

bottom, giving the interior an airy appearance. The vaulted

room was largely empty, save for a sling-like chair that hung

from the center of the ceiling.

“Tassel built the dome to coordinate with Lakhovsky’s principles

of a multiple wave oscillator. Lakhovsky believed that cells

were living batteries, a positively charged nucleus surrounded

by negatively charged cytoplasm. He further theorized that if

cells were subjected to a range of oscillations, they would

actually regenerate,” Mulder extemporized as they circled the

room.

“We could have used that theory back when we were stuck on

the Ardent,” Scully interjected with a smirk.

“Exactly,” Mulder replied with a grin. “And remember, you

were the one who suggested the meteor that fell was acting as

a giant battery in the ocean, causing our cells to oxidize too

quickly.”

“Even so, Mulder, this is — well, a little far-fetched, don’t you

think?” she retorted.

Mulder stood in one place, slowly turned around and looking

toward the ceiling. “I don’t know, Scully. Maybe if we hadn’t

aged 60 years in a couple of days, I might agree with you.”

“Would you like to give it a try, Agents?” called a woman from

the doorway. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Barb, one

of the owners. I was just talking to Agent Clark and came to

see if there was anything else you needed to look at. Sure

hope you find those kids.”

“So do we, thank you for cooperating with the investigation,”

Scully answered. “But as for trying this out — ”

“I’d love to,” Mulder interrupted before Scully could give a

negative response. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all, it’s what we do. It will take about 30

minutes for a sound bath, if that’s all right with you,” Barb said

amiably, looking from Mulder to Scully. Scully sighed in

annoyance, but finally nodded her acquiescence. Mulder

nodded happily.

“Why don’t I go tell Agent Clark we’re going to be here a little

while longer,” Scully offered with a roll of her eyes but went out

to find the young agent. Mulder followed Barb to a part of the

room that had a table with a number of large white bowls of

different shapes and sizes.

“These are our sound bowls,” Barb explained. “They’re made

from quartz, and we beat Ivory because we’re 99.99 percent

pure,” she added with a smile. “The sound waves are tuned to

the seven chakras and promote relaxation, pain relief — they

cure whatever ails you.”

“Do you have them on a party mix?” Mulder joked, but sat

down in the hanging chair and tried not to get seasick.

“I’ll get them started, you just try to clear your mind.”

The notes started and Mulder closed his eyes. The sound

seemed to wash over him in waves, gentle waves lapping at the

shore. He smiled as he imagined the beaches of his childhood,

running barefoot through the surf, chasing Samantha who

always seemed to be just ahead of him. He focused on his

breathing and found himself losing the fogginess induced by the

drugs from the night before. He felt at peace and drifting on

the waves of sound.

In his mind’s eye, he was driving down a street. It was night,

quiet, just city noises. Odd place to feel relaxed, he thought

momentarily, but soon he was searching and found a single

storefront, solitary on a block. The buildings on either side had

been torn down at some point, made into parking lots. Just the

one storefront remained. The windows and door in the front

had bars, roof to sidewalk, to keep out intruders. The glass of

the windows had been painted black so that no one could see

inside.

Mulder saw himself get out of the car and press his face against

the glass. Where the paint had chipped off, he could see into

the room. He thought he saw a pair of feet, bound — someone

sitting in a chair and tied up.

That was all the encouragement he needed to motion to Scully

to follow him. Scully got out of the car and walked with him

around to the back, where the cinder block structure had a

simple unmarked metal door. Scully leaned against the wall,

acting as lookout as he produced his lock pick and went to work

on the lock. He reached his hand out to grasp and pull the

knob and heard a slight popping sound before the building

erupted in an explosion.

Mulder startled forward and almost fell out of the swing chair,

but he was caught in the ropes. The chair, suspended from so

far above, began swinging wildly. He could hear someone

calling him, but he could still feel the heat of the explosion, the

impact of brick and mortar falling on him. His terror for Scully

was greater than his terror for himself. Even with his eyes

open he could see her body engulfed in flames, hear her

screams ringing in his ears. She was gone, dead, he knew it!

It took several minutes before he felt her hands on either side

of his face, talking to him in tender caresses of words. “Mulder,

come back to me,” she was repeating and his breath filled his

lungs once more where it had long been absent. He opened his

eyes and she gave him a nervous smile.

“No more sound baths,” she told him firmly as she helped him

crawl out of the sky chair. “What happened? You are anything

but relaxed. Did you have another — vision?” Her inflection on

the word underlined her concern.

“Yeah, I think so. It was something,” he whispered. “We have

to get out of here.”

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“Out of the desert?” she asked, helping him to his feet, only to

grab his arm sharply when he swayed and almost went down.

“Out of California. Back to DC. I want you back in DC before

tonight.”

“Mulder, that’s ridiculous! We’re here on a case. I can’t just

run back to DC now.”

He knew he was scaring her, but he had to find a way to keep

her safe. Placating her would raise her suspicions, but it was

all he had. “OK. Sorry. Let’s just get back to the office and

see if they’ve heard from the kidnappers.”

She looked at him crossly. “You don’t think it’s — ”

“Someone very ‘terrestrial’ snatched those kids, Scully,” he

hissed in her ear. “And they are in danger, I know that for a

fact. But we aren’t going to find them out here.”

Federal Office Building

11000 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA

1:45 pm

All the way to the office, Scully kept giving Mulder stern looks.

He knew she wanted to know about the vision but couldn’t ask

in front of Agent Clark. Mulder was just as happy to have Clark

in the car — there was no way he could tell Scully about this

one. As soon as he overcame his disorientation, he knew what

he’d seen. Someone had those kids in that storefront and had

it rigged to blow. But he also felt in his heart that if he called

out the troops, all they would find would be a pile of rubble. He

had to go alone and find that storefront — without Scully. And

at all costs, he had to avoid going in that back door.

They had just arrived at the office when one of the

administrative assistants walked up to Scully. “Agent Scully,

you’re a pathologist, right?” asked the woman cautiously. At

Scully’s affirmative nod, the woman smiled brightly. “Oh,

good! Agent Martinez would like a word with you — in his

office.”

Scully turned so that only Mulder could see and rolled her eyes.

“I have a feeling I’m going to be tied up for a while. What are

you going to do?” she asked.

“I think I’d like to talk to the kids’ parents, take a look around.

Maybe I can get a fix on who they might have fallen in with,

who might want to snatch them.”

“You’re certain this wasn’t . . .” she restated as she let her eyes

drift toward the ceiling.

“As sure as I am of my own name, Scully. Aside from that

glass, which could have gotten there in any number of ways,

and an eye witness account from 10 miles away, all we have to

go on is two missing persons. Missing from a very deserted

location, at night. I just want to find them before any harm

comes to them.”

Scully shrugged and patted his arm. “Well, I’m pretty sure I’m

about to be ‘volunteered’ to do a autopsy here, so when I’m

finished, I’ll catch up with you, OK?”

“I’ll meet you back at the hotel, if not before,” he assured her.

Councilwoman Gainer’s residence

3:15 pm

“She’s a good girl. Usually she gives us no trouble whatsoever.

But since she’s picked up with Mark, well, she did get in rather

late a night or two. Still, I can’t imagine them running off.

Someone took them, Agent Mulder,” Mrs. Gainer said firmly,

fighting the tears choking her voice.

“Mrs. Gainer, is there anyone, anyone at all who might want to

harm you or your husband, even an old score, someone you

might have dealt with when you were Assistant District

Attorney?” Mulder asked gently.

Her head shot up and she bit her lip. “Agent Mulder, I

understand where you’re going with this. But I have wracked

my brain and I can’t come up with anyone who would do this.

Yes, I had my share of cases as ADA, but the criminals I put

away are all accounted for. As for my husband, he’s a

professor of anthropology at UCLA. Jilly has no enemies, only

friends. I’m not being immodest; she doesn’t have a mean

spirited bone in her body. I honestly can’t think of anyone who

would take her from us.” The middle-aged woman brushed a

tear from her cheek. “Besides, wouldn’t we have received a

ransom note or something by now? It’s been over 48 hours.”

Mulder sighed and flipped his notebook closed. “Would you

mind if we had a look at Jill’s room?”

Jill Gainer’s room was just like any other 18 year old college co-

ed’s, filled with certificates and awards from her high school

days as well as boxes yet unpacked from her move back home

for summer break. Mulder looked over the selection of books

on the five shelved bookcase. Nothing unusual, not even

anything about UFOs. After thanking the Gainers, Mulder and

Clark drove to the home of Mark Henry.

The Henry house was a modest home. A decade old minivan

sat in the driveway, but the interior of the home was neat and

clean. Mrs. Henry sat on the worn sofa, a high school yearbook

clutched in her hands, tear stains on her cheeks.

“He’s been working at McDonald’s but he’s started applying to

colleges, you know,” she said with a strained smile. “His

grades weren’t that good, but he wants to get into UCLA

because that’s where Jill is going. If he can’t get in there, he’ll

go to community college and get his grades up. He was just so

busy in high school, he kept down a job — ”

“He didn’t run off with that girl,” Mr. Henry said adamantly. “I

know that’s what the big shot politician is saying happened, but

it didn’t. Mark wasn’t like that! He and Jill were friends, maybe

a little more than friends, but they didn’t run off!”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, Mr. Henry. That’s why we’re

here. And if you can think of anyone who might have a grudge

or something — ”

“I’m not saying he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer, Agent

Mulder. But Mark is a decent kid. This neighborhood — well,

some of the kids are into drugs, gangs. Not Mark. He went to

school, he went to work, he hung out at the mall. Just a

normal kid, you know?” The older man seemed annoyed as he

brushed moisture from his eye. “We just want him home.”

“Do you mind if we take a look around Mark’s room,” Mulder

asked, not wanting to bother the family any longer than

absolutely necessary.

“What are you thinking, Agent Mulder?” Clark asked as he

followed the man around the room. Mulder moved some

clothes off a chair to discover several issues of ‘Blender’

magazine. A couple of posters on the wall were of military jets

and the space shuttle. Nothing jumped out at him or really

drew his attention.

“No enemies, no note, I’d have to say I’m leaning toward

someone snatching those kids whose sole purpose was foul

play, not ransom.”

“Isn’t that pretty rare?” Clark rejoined.

“Rare doesn’t mean it _can’t_ happen, Agent. Just that it

doesn’t happen very often,” Mulder instructed.

“But it also means there should be more kidnappings like this

one, doesn’t it? I mean there should be a pattern or

something?”

“You would think,” Mulder mused, picking up a Dodgers cap

that had fallen to the floor. “Or this could be the first one.”

Clark leaned against the doorway, checking the hall before

speaking. “We aren’t going to find those kids, are we, Agent

Mulder?” he asked.

Mulder was quiet for a moment, considering his answer. “I

want to find them, Agent. I’ll do everything in my power to

find them.”

Clark nodded grimly and led the way out of the room.

Act II

Travelodge – LAX

8:45 pm

Mulder was lying on the bed flipping channels, half a pizza

congealing on the dresser when Scully finally made it to the

room.

“Why is it every time someone finds out I’m a pathologist,

suddenly there’s an autopsy that just has to be performed

immediately?” she whined as she dropped next to him on the

bed, face down.

He smiled at her and shifted around so that he could massage

her shoulders. “Rough day at the office, dear?” he teased

lovingly in her ear.

“Yes,” she said, muffled by the pillow.

“I made dinner. It’s over there,” he encouraged, nodding

toward the pizza box.

“I don’t smell pepperoni,” she complained.

“You don’t smell it because you use that ‘stuff’ on your nose so

you can’t smell the dead bodies. If you look closely, there are

pepperonis on the remaining half of that pizza,” he directed.

She pulled herself up with exaggerated slowness and inspected

the now cold pizza. Grabbing a particularly large slice, she tore

off a hunk and chewed. “Drink?” she mumbled.

He disappeared into the alcove outside the bathroom and

returned with a diet cola, dripping with melted ice. “Red wine

with pizza, right?”

“Of course,” she agreed and popped the top one handed. “Did

you find out anything interesting speaking with the families?”

she asked around bites.

“That these are the two most adorable and loving children in

the world and no one could possibly want to harm them,” he

recited in monotone.

“Even the Councilwoman’s kid? I thought she was a DA before

— ”

“Apparently that angle has been checked out before our arrival.

She said all the criminals she prosecuted have been accounted

for.”

“So we have nothing,” Scully said glumly. “I’m taking a

shower.”

Mulder resumed his channel surfing but his mind was not on

the television. He couldn’t shake the images that kept looping

in his brain. He knew where the kids were. It wasn’t just some

‘hunch’ on his part this time. Just as surely as he’d know

months before when those people had been called to the

Milford Bridge in Pennsylvania.

If only he could figure out _where_ that storefront was.

Deserted storefronts in many areas of LA were a dime a dozen

and it wasn’t exactly prudent on his part to order the Bureau or

the LAPD to go searching them all door to door.

His visions had always been unexpected, brought on suddenly

by either contact with alien artifacts or the more recent ‘sound

bath’ he’d taken at the Integratron. But he’d never forced them

to come. Maybe if he tired he could put himself in a trance . . .

The bathroom door opened and Scully came out wearing just a

towel. He smiled at her. “Wow, the view in this room just got

a whole lot better,” he teased.

“Yeah? You think?” she asked, crawling up on the bed beside

him. Instead of the slow seduction he was expecting — hoping

for — she flopped face down again. “Mulder, I think I’m too old

to travel across the country and then work a full day,” she

admitted with a tired sigh.

He smiled affectionately at her and took up rubbing her

shoulders again. “You stay right there,” he ordered and got off

the bed to rummage in her suitcase for a moment. When he

returned he gently helped her into a pair of royal blue silk

pajamas.

“Are you sure you don’t want to . . .” she started to ask, but a

large yawn that shook her with its force stopped her in the

middle of the question.

“Tomorrow, after you’ve had a good night’s sleep,” he told her,

kissing her nose. He helped her pull back the covers and then

helped her cover back up again. “Get some sleep. I love you,”

he told her.

She lay down on the pillows, closing her eyes with a contented

smile. Suddenly her eyes flew open and she pinned him with

her stare. “Mulder. You aren’t staying awake are you?”

“I just wanted to go over a few things,” he covered, pointing to

the files.

“Look, you didn’t get that much sleep last night and you

definitely aren’t caught up from this past week, either. Why

don’t you take another pill — just so you don’t have another . .

. you know,” she suggested timidly.

He wanted to object but saw the longing and concern in her

eyes. “Where are they?” he asked tiredly.

“Inner pocket of my suitcase,” she told him. She watched him

warily as he pulled the pill bottle out of the bag and extracted

one pill, holding it up for her inspection. At her nod, he walked

over to the sink and drew a glass of water.

He could see her clearly in the mirror. She’d turned her back

and had snuggled down into the covers. It was a simple

motion to grab a tissue, stuff the pill into it and toss it in the

garbage next to the sink. He drank the water and went back to

the bed.

She rolled over when he returned and watched as he slid out of

his pants and dress shirt, leaving just his boxers and tee. She

held out the covers for him. Once he was settled, she put her

head on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his chest.

“G’night, Mulder. Love you,” she mumbled.

He kissed the crown of her head. “I love you, too, Scully.

Always and forever.”

He didn’t have long to wait for her to fall deeply asleep. He felt

horrible as he crawled out of bed to go sit in the chair by the

window. He felt like he was lying to her, palming the pill,

letting her think he was actually going to sleep. But it was for

her own good — and those kids. He knew the vision was a

warning; he couldn’t bring Scully when he went to find those

kids. If anything were to ever happen to her —

She was going to be mad when she figured it out, but he’d

make it up to her. And maybe, once he had the kids back

safely, he’d come back to the motel and apologize in person,

not over the phone as he often did. Didn’t they always say

make-up sex was the best?

He’d gone into trances plenty of times in college and when

working with Dr. Weber. It didn’t take long for him to sink into

the nether world. This time as he found himself driving down

the street he purposely searched the street signs.

He brought himself out of the trance and reached for the phone

book in the desk drawer. Taking it into the bathroom, where

he turned on the light, he found the map of LA and the

surrounding area. He tore the pages out of the book, and

headed out — but not before taking a single sheet of paper

from the guest services folder and scribbling a note.

It wasn’t really ditching if he told her where he was going.

Travelodge

June 11, 2006

12:21 am

She awoke in a cold sweat, panting to get air into her lungs.

Even as she opened her eyes, the nightmare slipped from her

grasp and she was left feeling terrified. When Scully discovered

the other side of the bed empty, her fear became

overwhelming.

“Mulder?” she called out, hoping he was just in the bathroom.

No answer came and she cursed loudly, tossing off the covers

and snapping on the light. The note was standing against the

lamp, right in plain view.

‘Scully

I fully expect an ass chewing, but I had to get those kids. If I

sense trouble, I’ll call out the troops. If you don’t hear from me

— come save my ass. I’m going to an abandoned building in

the 2400 block of Santa Fe, directions on the back.

Hope you aren’t so mad that you won’t go on our date next

Friday.

Love

M’

Anger surged through her as she grabbed for her cell phone.

She punched three buttons and started looking for clothes to

throw on as she listened to the rings. He was smart enough to

pick up on the second ring.

“Mulder,” he said in a hushed voice.

“Where the hell are you and what the fuck do you think you’re

doing?” she growled.

“Scully,” he breathed. “Um, look — ”

“No, Mulder, you look. What were you thinking, ditching me

like this? No,” she stopped him before he could even answer.

“Let me tell you what you were thinking. You were thinking

that you knew from that vision you had this morning exactly

where the kids are and you were going to go in like the Lone

Ranger — ”

“Scully, that’s not fair! I left you a note, damn it,” he hissed.

“Look, this is all fine, but I’m kinda busy right now.”

“Where are you?”

“A warehouse district down by the railroad tracks. Yes, you’re

right, I had a vision today. And it was just like Milford Bridge,

Scully. Remember Milford Bridge? The one where only three

people died instead of dozens? So I’m here now and I think I

need to check this out, don’t you?”

She chewed on her lip. At least she was there to call for help if

he got into trouble. She had half a mind to call 911 from the

motel phone while she kept him on the line on her cell. “What

have you found?”

clip_image005

“Looks like late 70’s urban renewal. It used to be a small

shopping area or something. All the other buildings have been

demolished except one little storefront. There are bars on the

windows and it looks like their painted from the inside — I can’t

see anything. Wait!”

“Mulder?” she asked frantically.

“Scully, I see something. There’s a place where the paint must

have peeled off. I can see movement in there, Scully. I think

it’s the kids.”

“Is there a back door — ”

“No!” he shouted and then lowered his voice. “No, no good.

Can’t go in the back door.”

“Mulder, if you have your lock pick — ”

“Bad idea, Scully. Trust me on this one.”

“OK, then let me call the police. They can get the door open —

“Scully, look, the fewer people around here, the better.

Besides, I found a basement window and the bars are pretty

deteriorated. Let me try something — ”

She waited breathlessly while she heard him grunting and the

sounds of metal scraping. “Scully?” he asked.

“I’m still here, Mulder.”

“OK, I got the bars off and the window opened. I’m going in.”

“Mulder, I’m calling the police now.”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

She picked up the other phone and dialed quickly. When she

had the dispatcher on the line, she turned back to Mulder.

“What’s the address?”

“It’s the 3100 block of S. Santa Fe Avenue in Vernon. It’s

about 15 minutes from our motel,” he told her. She quickly

repeated that information, along with her badge number to the

dispatcher and hung up.

“I see stairs, Scully. I’m going up them.”

“Mulder, please, be careful. The police are on their way. Why

don’t you just wait — ”

“I see the kids, Scully. I see them. They’re both tied up and

they looked drugged, but they’re alive. I’m —

She heard a thud, the sound of a cell phone hitting a hard

surface, followed immediately by a sound that almost burst her

eardrum. The cell phone went dead; the display saying the call

was lost.

She knew what it sounded like — an explosion. But she also

knew that she could be mistaken. She prayed she was

mistaken. For what seemed like an eternity she stood there,

staring at the phone’s display. Then the earth started to rotate

again and she quickly dialed Jason Clark’s cell phone number.

clip_image006

S. Santa Fe Avenue

Vernon, CA

1:33 am

She had finished dressing and was waiting outside when Clark

arrive some 30 minutes after her call. She’d tried Mulder’s

number several times in those minutes, getting the same

recorded voice telling her the cellular customer was not

available. She called the police dispatcher, but was told that

there was no information available from the scene. By the time

Clark pulled up to the curb to let her in the car, she was trying

hard to put a stop to her frantic thoughts.

When they turned the corner to the warehouse district, she

spotted the flashing lights and breathed a sigh of relief. The

police had arrived. Her relief died when she saw the fire trucks

and the rubble that had been an abandoned storefront.

Her heart was in her throat as she raced out of the car, not

even waiting until Clark came to a full stop. A cop grabbed her

arm and she tried to shake him off, but he wouldn’t let her go.

Finally realizing she had her ID, she flashed her badge and was

let loose to run toward the wreckage.

As she got closer, she saw the ambulances. On the ground

near the two vehicles were indistinct shapes, lumpy and slick

looking in the strobing lights. She slowed her pace and her

heart skipped several beats. Someone was tugging on her

sleeve and she turned to find Clark standing next to a soot-

covered fireman.

“This is Agent Scully,” Clark said by way of introduction.

“Agent Scully, this is Chief Ramirez of the LAFD.”

“Agent Clark tells me you’re looking for someone?” Ramirez

queried.

“Yes. My partner and two kidnap victims, did you find my

partner?” she rasped, finding it harder and harder to

concentrate with those black shapes on the ground so near.

“Sorry ma’am, I’m not sure what you’re asking. There was an

explosion. Place went up like a roman candle. We were able to

pull three bodies out the debris — ”

“Three bodies?” she croaked, swaying. Clark grabbed her by

the shoulder, but she shook him off.

“Yeah. They’re over there. Ambulances are here to take them

to the morgue. That fire was hot, identification’s gonna be a

bitch — they’ll have to rely on dental records, more than likely.

Now, what’s this about your partner? Why on earth would he

be here?”

“My partner. My partner and I were investigating a missing

persons case. Two teenagers. He found them. We were on

the phone together, I called the police and directed them to this

address.”

“Well, we didn’t see anybody around here when we got here.

That car was parked over there,” he said, pointing to a car with

a Lariat bumper sticker, sitting just a few yards down the

street. “Sorta surprised it has wheels left in this

neighborhood.”

Scully jogged to the car, only to find it locked. Quickly pawing

through her pockets, she came up with the spare key. The

door opened easily and she swallowed around the boulder in

her throat. She didn’t hear Clark come up until he touched her

arm and she jumped.

“He has to be here. He told me he was coming here,” she

repeated.

A policeman joined Agent Clark and looked sympathetically at

the now distraught woman. “Ma’am, maybe you better take a

look over here,” the cop suggested, motioning toward the

bodies on the pavement.

“Agent Scully,” Clark said compassionately. “Maybe . . . you

have to consider . . .”

She spun on the young man with fire burning deep in her eyes.

“That’s not him. He’s not in one of those bags over there,” she

spat out. “Here, I’ll prove it.”

Anger gave her the strength she needed to storm over to the

body bags and unzip them one by one. The first, from the size

of the body and the hands and feet, was obviously a young

woman or a teen-aged girl. Her heart sank as she closed the

bag again. The second body wasn’t much taller, but the feet

were larger and years of experience told her it was a small man

or a nearly adult male. She was having a hard time getting air

into her lungs. As she pulled back the zipper on the last bag all

background noise around her faded. All she could hear was the

sound of the tag running through the metal teeth. She peeled

open the sides of the bag and stared into the face of her

partner.

“Scully, where were you? I needed you,” Mulder accused.

She stumbled backward several feet in horror. When she could

force herself to look again, the image of her partner’s face had

vanished and in its place was a burned corpse, totally

unrecognizable. She blinked twice and then darkness

swallowed her.

The next few hours were almost lost to her and what she could

recall came to her in flashes of memory. She vaguely

remembered Clark helping her into the passenger seat of his

car but recollected none of the drive to the motel. She recalled

getting in the elevator but had no idea how she managed to

find herself in bed with the sun shining around the drapes

covering the window.

She saw movement in the shadows and raised her head slowly.

Her head hurt terribly and her mouth was unusually dry. The

shadow moved again, silhouetted by the light from the window.

Assuming it was Mulder, she closed her eyes, thinking it had all

been a bad dream.

When she dared to look, the figure came into focus as Clark

stood up from his chair at the table and offered her a cup of

coffee. Her gut twisted as she realized the events of the past

24 hours weren’t a dream — she was living her worst

nightmare.

Clark looked at her sympathetically. “I called Agent Martinez

and he put in a call to Assistant Director Skinner. The DC office

emailed a copy of Agent Mulder’s dental records to the Medical

Examiner here. He’s waiting for you to come to the morgue, if

you’re feeling up to it.”

It all came crashing back — the note, the call, the noise over

the phone, the rubble, the body bag, Mulder accusing her of not

coming to his aid — the burned corpse. She drew in a breath,

and studied the pressed foam coffee cup. “I need to get

dressed,” she said absently running her fingers through her

hair.

“Agent Scully, um, AD Skinner said he’d contact your mother.

He’s on his way out here.”

She nodded and stood up, only to find herself sitting heavily

back on the edge of the bed. The dizziness had come out of

nowhere. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she mused.

She made an effort to rise more slowly and wasn’t bother by it

again.

“Shock, most likely,” Clark offered. “Agent Scully, I haven’t

had a chance to tell you how sorry I am . . . Agent Mulder

seemed like a really — ”

“I’ll be right out,” Scully said abruptly, cutting off the younger

man’s platitudes.

When she came back into the room, Clark was on the phone.

He smiled sadly at her, handing her the coffee, freshened.

“Yes, we’ll be there in about half an hour. Yeah, thanks.” He

placed the receiver back on its cradle. “That was Agent

Martinez. AD Skinner’s plane just touched down and an agent

is meeting him at the gate. He’ll catch up with us at the

morgue.”

“What time is it?” she asked, sipping the coffee. She felt so

fuzzy, she drained the cup only for the desire to have the

caffeine wake her up from the phantasm she was living.

“It’s a quarter to four,” Clark said after checking his watch.

“I was asleep all that time?” she asked, shaking her head to

clear her thoughts.

“It’s been a rough night,” Clark soothed. After an

uncomfortable silence, he jiggled the keys in his pocket. “Are

you ready to go?”

She nodded stiffly and followed him out to his car.

As they made their way through late afternoon rush hour

traffic, Scully stared out the window. A hundred images

tumbled free fall through her mind.

Holding defibrillator paddles in a military hospital in Alaska,

watching his body jump with each application of electrical

current.

Standing windswept in a desert outside Farmington, New

Mexico, screaming his name as she peered into the smoldering

husk of an ancient boxcar.

Walking through the foyer of his old apartment toward a sheet

covered corpse lying on his living room floor.

Arguing with Skinner in the hallway of Northeast Georgetown

Medical Center as Diana Fowley sauntered toward her.

Trembling with the force of unshed tears as a doctor at

Georgetown told her of Mulder’s precarious condition while

Skinner watched her closely and gauged her reaction.

A thought jumped unbidden into her consciousness. She was

supposed to be feeling something — anything. Fear, anger,

soul-wrenching sorrow . . . but there was nothing. A black and

endless void filled her entire being. She looked out the

window, seeing her faint reflection in the glass. That’s exactly

how she felt — a faint, near-invisible reflection of herself.

Experimentally she bit her bottom lip hard, tasting the blood’s

copper tang. Nothing. No pain, no sensation. That should

bother her, she thought. That was wrong. But then, what was

right anymore?

She wanted to feel. She wanted to be angry with him for

leaving their bed and running off again. She wanted to feel

loss, the deep, yearning depravation of losing half her soul.

She wanted to feel sorrow, grief, heartbreak, and lament,

anything but this empty shell of emotions.

She should have gone to him, she thought. But there hadn’t

been time. She’d called the police; they would have been there

before her anyway. But she’d been at the motel, safe, while

Mulder had —

Why wasn’t she screaming, she wondered distantly. Why

wasn’t she tearing her hair out by the roots? It was her own

fault, she mused. She’d held her emotions about her partner

so tightly in check for all those years, only recently allowing

them full reign over her mind and body. This was the price to

be paid — now that she needed them, needed to feel more than

anything else in the world, she couldn’t.

No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t need to feel emotions. She

needed to feel Mulder’s arms around her. She needed to feel

his warm lips pressing a kiss to the crown of her head. She

needed to feel his hand at the small of her back, guiding her,

letting her know that he was always behind her, backing her

up, whatever they faced.

“Agent Scully?” Clark interrupted her thoughts. She realized

the car wasn’t moving. They were in a drive through. Trying

to clear her mind to the present, she accepted the cup of coffee

he was offering her. “I got you blueberry muffin. I realized

you hadn’t had anything to eat in a while.” She looked down

and found a small pastry bag, top folded, sitting in her lap.

“Thank you, Agent Clark,” she mumbled. She put the cup to

her lips and sipped at the hot liquid. Even the bitter coffee

hitting the cut on her bottom lip didn’t give her any sensation.

Numb. She was completely numb.

“Jason,” he said, putting the car in drive and pulling out into

traffic.

“I’m sorry?” she asked, forcing her head to turn and look at the

young man.

“My first name. It’s Jason. I . . . I just thought . . . Agent

Clark sounds so much like a stranger. I just wanted you to

know that you aren’t alone Agent Scully, um, Dana. It will be

all right. My . . . uh, my Dad died a year ago and I remember

my Mom — not that you and Agent Mulder were married or

anything — ”

“How close are we to the morgue?” Scully broke in. He was a

nice young man and she knew she shouldn’t treat him so

coldly, but she couldn’t hear about his memories of his father’s

death. Her mind wouldn’t allow it.

I’m not allowed to feel, but I can’t hear about death either, she

mused. Why? What psychological security system was at work

acting as border patrol on her thoughts? Her id? Her

superego? Mulder would know. Oh, right, she couldn’t ask

Mulder. He wasn’t there to consult on psychological matters

anymore.

“Just around this corner.” He seemed to be considering his

next words. “I can let you out and park the car — but if you’d

rather, I can help you — ”

“That won’t be necessary, Agent, er, Jason. Thank you, you’ve

been very helpful. Just drop me off at the curb. I’ve been here

before.”

“Sure, Agent — Dana. Agent Martinez and AD Skinner are

waiting for you in the lobby. I’ll be in shortly.”

She got out of the car and started toward the entrance. The

door opened before she got there and suddenly Skinner was

walking beside her, his large hand on her shoulder. “Scully,”

he said, watching her, once again gauging her reaction. “Are

you ready for this?” The worry and concern in his voice caused

a shiver down her spine, but she looked up at him placidly.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said woodenly. “Let’s do this.”

She caught the furtive glance Skinner cast toward Agent

Martinez. Martinez looked like he wanted to be anywhere else

in the world at that moment. Awkwardly, he offered Scully his

hand. “I’m very sorry — ”

“Let’s see what we’ve got,” Scully interrupted. She didn’t want

platitudes. She didn’t want sympathy. She wanted to wake

up.

That thought stuck with her as they entered an elevator and

descended two floors. She wanted to wake up. It was all a

dream. She remembered, although vaguely, another dream

she’d had like this. Mulder’s skeleton was laid out on a metal

table near Brown Mountain, North Carolina. A wake was held in

his apartment. Langly was in a tuxedo tee shirt and Frohike

downed a bottle of booze while Byers talked the ‘the party line’

at her. It had been a dream. If that had been a dream,

couldn’t it be possible . . .

She jumped when Skinner’s hand grazed the small of her back,

pushing her out of the elevator car. He started to apologize but

she shook her head — she hadn’t taken offense, she’d just been

startled. There was a long corridor to walk down to the exam

rooms and she felt every step take them farther and farther

away from their destination. You’re going into shock again, a

tiny voice in the back of her mind informed her. Hell of a lot of

good it did her to know that, she couldn’t control it even if she

tried.

The Medical Examiner was standing near the far wall, a light

board next to him. Dental records were displayed, three sets of

negatives displayed in two neat rows. He waited until she was

standing next to him before he began.

“There have been positive identifications on two of the bodies

so far. Councilwoman Gainer was down earlier and identified

the remains of her daughter Jill. Mr. and Mrs. Henry came

down soon after and identified their son, Mark. These x-rays

here,” he pointed to the last set to the right on the top row,

“were provided by the FBI from Agent Mulder’s file.” He

swallowed and pointed to the ones directly below the last set.

“We took these from the third body this morning.”

Scully closed her eyes and brought her hands up to her mouth,

her fingers knotted as if in prayer. Taking in as much air as her

lungs could hold she slowly opened her eyes and inspected the

last two sets of dental records.

There was not even a shadow of doubt. The first set showed

bridgework in the area of the lower front incisors, the result of

being an unexpected and unwarranted participant in a wrestling

match free-for-all six years before. The second set showed the

exact same bridgework and matched up a filling in the right

back molars. He always seemed to chew his gum on the right

side, she noted remotely.

“Would you care to view the remains?” the ME asked quietly.

Skinner sucked in a breath, but remained silent. Scully looked

over at the table in the center of the room. The other two

bodies had already been removed and were on their way to the

funeral homes, she contemplated. That left only the final

‘unidentified’ body.

Each step brought her closer, but at the same time she felt

colder and more distant, as if she were watching herself from

far away. The body was uncovered, she could see where

patches of fabric from the clothing had seared to the desiccated

skin before flash burning, leaving only patterns in the ash. A

partial circle of plastic and metal, fused beyond verification, lay

near the left arm. With great effort she forced her hand out to

pick up the object. Parts of it crumbled with her touch. She

brought closer for inspection. “This is his watch,” she said

dully.

The ME looked to the two men and then back at Scully. “Is that

a positive identification, Agent?” he asked quietly.

She found that spot on her bottom lip again and worried it with

her teeth. Finally, licking lips long gone dry she nodded. “Yes.

This is Fox Mulder,” she said, running her fingertip up the arm,

not disturbing the ash. “I’m sure.”

There was no air in that room, and she started to feel dizzy

again. Strong arms grabbed her shoulders and she found

herself sitting in a hard chair out in the hallway. Skinner was

crouched in front of her, his tormented expression waiting for a

sign that she was back from wherever her psyche had taken

her.

“I need to talk to my mother,” she said softly.

He nodded and handed her his cell phone.

Act III

Margaret Scully’s residence

Baltimore, MD

June 12, 2005

3:15 pm

The two women sat huddled together in the bright sunny

kitchen. Maggie sat with a tissue wadded in her left hand, her

right hand clasped in Tara’s hand, fingers entwined. It had

been a long 24 hours for both of them.

When Dana had called, Maggie had been fixing a late lunch. All

thoughts of food vanished as her daughter told her of the death

of her partner before succumbing to choked sobs. Walter

Skinner had pried the phone from Dana’s fingers and related as

much of the story as he could. Fox had gone on his own to

search for some missing children. There had been an

explosion. Fox and the two kids were dead.

“Could it possibly be a mistake?” Maggie asked fearfully. There

had been other times, too many to count, when Dana had been

led to believe that her partner was gone, only to have him

reappear just a few days later.

“No, Mrs. Scully. The body was badly burned, yes, but Dana

made the identification herself from the dental records. There’s

no mistake this time. I’m very sorry.”

Maggie had placed her next call to Tara and they had cried over

the phone, Tara promising to come over the next day — without

the children.

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Tara said, breaking the silence. “He

called just before they left for California to find out Matty’s

baseball practice schedule. He thought he’d be home in time to

make it this week.”

Maggie got up and patted her daughter-in-law’s shoulder as she

crossed to the stove to refill their coffee cups. “It was nice of

your neighbor to pick up Matty and take Claire for a few hours.”

“I haven’t told them, Mom. I couldn’t. How could I tell Matty

that now his Uncle Mulder — ” The younger woman’s lip

quivered and she bit it sharply. “How can he ever learn to trust

someone again? Trust that they won’t die on him?”

“Tara, neither Bill nor Fox meant to die — ”

“No, Mom, I know they didn’t mean to die. I know they never

meant to leave us. But it hurts so bad, it’s like all I keep

reliving the moment when I first found out about Billy . . .” She

broke down into sobs and Maggie rushed to her side, embracing

her tightly.

“We’ll get through this, sweetheart. And we’ll get Dana

through this. I’m just so worried about her. When this finally

hits, it’s going to hit hard.”

“How is she doing today? I know you talked to her before the

flight this morning. How is she holding up?” Tara asked, firmly

clamping down on her emotions.

“She was — calm. After her call yesterday from the morgue,

when she identified the body and she cried, she’s just been

calm. I talked to Mr. Skinner. He said she eats when food it

given to her, answers when someone speaks directly to her,

but aside from that, she’s like a robot. She slept last night. He

got her to agree to change to a different hotel and he booked

them a suite so he could give her some privacy but still be close

by. Oh, I wish I could have gone out there to be with her,

Tara. I’m afraid it’s the calm before the storm. Dana has

always been so strong; she’s the last one to fall apart, ever.

But this time, when she realizes what’s happened — I don’t

know if she’ll be strong enough to handle it all.”

“Then we’ll have to get her through it. You and Dana and Fox

were there for me — you and I will have to be there for her

now,” the younger woman said with conviction.

The doorbell rang and Maggie closed her eyes in exasperation.

“Want me to get it, Mom. I’ll shoo them away, whoever they

are?” Tara offered.

“No, that’s all right dear. It’s probably just the mailman. I’ll

get it.”

Maggie got up and tiredly walked to the front door. She could

see a silhouette of a man through the curtains of the side

window. Certain it was the mailman, she opened the door.

Recognition was instant and she threw her arms around the

man standing on her porch, hugging him for dear life.

“Mom,” came the startled voice of the visitor. “Mom, are you —

“Charlie! Oh, Charlie, you’ve come at just the right time!”

Maggie told him and broke down into sobs.

Dulles Airport

4:45 pm

It had taken an Act of Congress and all the internet wizardry

his Administrative Assistant Kim had at her disposal, but they

managed to get a direct flight from Los Angeles to Dulles. The

body had been transported on the same plane. Skinner was

not going to take any chances that it might ‘disappear’ in mid

air.

He was at a loss, however, how to bring Scully back. Oh, her

body had sat in the seat directly beside him. She’d appeared to

listen when he spoke to her about contacting the Bureau’s

Personnel Department and getting the ball rolling for a full FBI

funeral with burial in Arlington, if she so desired. She had even

mentioned that she didn’t want the remains buried in

Massachusetts as his father and mother had been. But beyond

a few moments of polite discussion about practical matters,

she’d been detached and silent through the flight.

He didn’t want her to worry about the casket and had assured

her that he had agents coming to accompany it to the funeral

home. She had thanked him and went back to looking out the

window.

Walter Skinner felt the full weight of her silence settle down

upon him. Bitterly, he knew the day had finally arrived. So

many near misses through the past, he’d gotten complacent,

thinking they really could bounce back from anything and

everything thrown at them. So many times in his dealings with

these two agents, he marveled at their capacity to merely exist.

Between them, they had more lives than an army of cats — a

seemingly inexhaustible supply. But in the back of his mind, he

knew that was just wishful thinking and one day he would be

given the task of burying the dead and trying to keep the one

remaining alive.

God, he was tired. Skinner arched his back and heard bones

crack and pop. He’d spent the night in a reclining chair in the

living room area of the Airport Comfort Suites, standing watch.

He didn’t think they would try to kill Scully so soon after killing

Mulder, but he couldn’t afford to be overconfident. So many

factors were at work. It was obvious to Skinner that Mulder

had been murdered, that he’d been lured to that storefront and

trapped inside when the building exploded. But to what

purpose? The powers that constantly threatened the two

agents had more opportunities over the past several years than

he could keep track. This had seemed like a simple kidnapping

case. Had it been staged specifically to eliminate one or both of

his agents?

He knew that at some point he was going to have to answer

that question. But for now, his greatest problem lie in ensuring

the health and safety of the fragile looking woman who had just

left his side to go to the ladies room.

Maggie Scully’s residence

5:00 pm

Maggie couldn’t stop smiling, even though tears were streaming

down her face. Tara hovered nearby, but didn’t seem to want

to sit at the table with them. She was making iced tea and

fixing sandwiches while Charlie talked.

“Anyway, I was assigned to work with the Department of

Defense Counterterrorism Unit in Europe and Northern Africa.

Deep cover, if you can believe that, Mom,” he said with a

boyishly proud smile. “I couldn’t call you, I couldn’t even let

you know through an email or a letter. I was so worried about

you all. And when I got word about Billy — ” His handsome

features grew serious, saddened.

Maggie put her hand over her son’s. “We understand,

sweetheart. I can’t say it didn’t hurt, but I am so proud of you.

Your father would be so proud.”

He looked up at her and smiled his thanks. “I don’t really

understand, though about Dana and her partner. I thought

they just worked together.”

Tara stiffened at the counter, but continued to slice tomatoes

for the sandwiches. Maggie sighed. “They’ve been more than

partners for a very long time,” she said quietly. “They have a

house together. They’ve been living together, well, since

before Bill’s accident.”

“But they aren’t married? Why the hell didn’t the guy marry

her?”

Tara spun on her heel and glared at the man at the table.

“They couldn’t remain partners if they got married,” she said

flatly. She grabbed a nearby kitchen towel and wiped her

hands. “Mom, I’m sorry, but I need to pick up the kids and go

home.”

“You’ll be back for dinner, won’t you?” Maggie asked with

surprise.

Tara looked over at Charlie with an unreadable expression and

then to her mother-in-law. “I’ll see how Claire’s doing. She

was really cranky earlier; I think she might be coming down

with another ear infection. I’ll call you.” She took the two

steps over and leaned down to kiss Maggie on the cheek. “I’ll

call you,” she repeated tenderly. She stood and looked over at

Charlie. “It’s good you’re home, Charles,” she said evenly and

left the room.

Maggie watched the back door swing shut and smiled an

embarrassed smile at her son. “It’s been awfully hard on Tara.

She and Fox had become friends. Fox did so much with Matty,

really stepping in to make sure the boy had a male role model.

And Dana, well, since they can’t have children of their own — ”

“Mom, you don’t have to make excuses for Tara. She’s

probably still mad at me for not coming to Billy’s funeral and

quite frankly I don’t blame her at all. I felt horrible. I wanted

so much to be here, but it was just impossible. I almost quit

my assignment that week, but my superior talked me out of it,”

he said, getting up to bring the sandwiches Tara had made over

to the table. “But I’m here now. What can I do to help?”

Dulles Airport

5:15 pm

Skinner watched the line of women leaving the restroom. It

had been a steady stream of people for the past 10 minutes.

He had almost considered going into the restroom and looking

for Scully, but a plane had arrived and the baggage area had

filled, making it impossible for him to sneak into the ladies

room. He had been forced to wait outside.

Finally, his worry overcame his trepidation about invading her

privacy. He stopped an airline hostess just about to enter the

ladies room and asked her to see if she could locate his missing

agent. He didn’t go into details, in fact, he told a white lie —

that their flight had been called and he was worried that they

would miss it. She smiled at him and promised to give the

message. After a few minutes she returned.

“Sorry, sir, but no one answered when I called for Ms. Scully. I

checked all the stalls and I don’t think she’s in there.”

Skinner’s expression went from bland annoyance to utter

despair in an instant. “Thank you,” he said evenly and started

toward the short-term parking lot entrance. He pulled out his

cell phone and dialed. When the other party answered, he was

curt.

“Is this Frohike? You’ve heard about Mulder? Yes, I intend to

start a full-scale investigation into this explosion. But there’s

something come up that may be more urgent — Scully’s

missing. I can’t be sure where she went, or if it was of her own

volition, but I’m giving you an hour to find her before I call out

the troops. I will not give Margaret Scully more bad news —

understand? Call me back if you hear anything.”

FBI Headquarters

6:30 pm

The parking garage was almost empty, it was easy to find a

place close to the door. She put the car in park and turned off

the engine. Her car. She must have found it in the parking lot

of the airport. She couldn’t remember even getting into it or

driving anywhere. Where was she? She glanced around the

cement walls and toward the entrance. Hoover Building. She’d

come on autopilot.

It hadn’t even occurred to her to go to their duplex, but when

she did think about it, for a brief moment, she knew she

wouldn’t be going there anytime soon. She couldn’t face

walking into their home, seeing his dirty tee shirts in the

laundry hamper, seeing his shaving cream on the vanity next to

her mousse. The very thought of ever entering those rooms

again left her with a feeling of sheer dread. But for some

reason the Hoover wasn’t so hard to face.

Scully got out of the car and walked toward the entrance. The

guard on duty smiled at her and waved her through. He was

new, she remembered. Had only been with the Bureau for

about a month. He probably wouldn’t have heard about

Mulder, news didn’t travel that fast. She was glad he hadn’t

mentioned anything about her partner. She was sick to death

of all the tea and sympathy she’d been getting.

The elevator ride down to the basement was quiet and it

allowed her thoughts to start ganging up on her. Before the

doors opened, she felt a panic grip her; she felt the walls of the

elevator car start to close in. She exited the car quickly and

ran to the door at the far end of the hallway.

The door was locked, as she expected. She pulled out her keys

and unlocked it, turned the knob and stepped inside, flicking on

the light with one fluid motion. Mail was scattered on the floor

where the mailroom clerk had slipped it under the door. She

stooped to gather it up to place it all on the desk.

The top envelope caught her attention. The return address was

the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It was addressed

to Fox Mulder. Dropping the rest of the envelopes, she ripped

open the flap and pulled out two tickets. Mozart. Their date.

His promise.

Without warning, she started to shake. She trembled so hard

she crumbled the tickets in her palm. Angrily, she tossed the

stiff paper to the floor but it didn’t feel like the expense of

energy she needed. She strode the four steps to Mulder’s desk

and swept everything on it to the floor in a loud crash. That

felt a little better, but she was just getting started.

One by one, she cleared the shelves of books and

paraphernalia. A strange feeling overtook her and it was as if

she were watching herself from a great distance. A tiny part of

her mind tried to understand her need for violence, screamed

at her to stop, but she quickly ignored it. His basketball

bounced into a corner so she grabbed it and threw it as hard as

she could at the skylight, frustrated when it bounced back

without the expected satisfying crash of glass. She needed

sound. She needed something to break through the ice that

had engulfed her in the last 18 hours.

Systematically she tore through the office, smashing monitors,

tossing keyboards to the ground and stomping on them, tipping

over chairs, pulling out file drawers and scattering the contents.

As she extracted some of the folders, she tore through them,

ripping the covers and pictures and reports, destroying his work

as efficiently as it had destroyed him. She wanted to destroy

everything; destruction was all she knew. She was panting,

heaving with the effort when she spied something that would

truly give her some satisfaction.

Without a second thought, she pulled back her right fist and

smashed it through the glass door of the case just over her

worktable.

The sound of the tempered glass cracking and finally giving

way, falling to the floor in a sound not unlike ice giving way on

a frozen lake was exactly what she was waiting for.

She pulled her arm back and prepared to take another shot, not

realizing a jagged piece of glass had torn through the skin the

entire length of her forearm. She punched through the second

glass door with her other fist, gleeful at the crystalline sounds

of annihilation. With a perplexed expression she looked down

and saw that she’d managed to slice through a major vein in

one arm, possibly an artery in the other. As blood shot from

her arms with each beat of her heart, her eyes rolled back in

her head and she fell to the ground.

Walter Skinner found her just seconds later, lying in a pool of

blood. Frantically, he wrapped his handkerchief around the

worst of the cuts; the left arm was spurting blood at an

alarming rate. His tie was called into service on the right arm.

Terrified at the paleness of her complexion, he found the phone

lying on the floor and quickly dialed 911.

The ambulance arrived quickly and worked on the pale and

unconscious agent while Skinner stood by, feeling helpless.

How had this happened? He looked around the room at the

total carnage. If there was a single square inch of the room

unscathed, he was hard pressed to see it. As the EMS

attendants were loading Scully on the gurney, a familiar figure

stood in the doorway.

“Walter, my God, what happened down here?” Assistant

Director Jana Cassidy was wide-eyed as she surveyed the

office. She cast a quick look at the agent being wheeled to the

elevator. “Is she badly injured?”

“She’s lost a lot of blood. Both arms.”

“Suicide?” Cassidy asked, shocked.

Skinner glared his reply. “I want an evidence team down here.

We have to find out what happened, who’s responsible for this.”

Cassidy stepped into the room and put her hand on Skinner’s

upper arm. “Walt. I think we both know what happened here.

I heard the news this morning. I’m so sorry. I know Agent

Mulder had worked under you for several years and you were

close.”

Skinner stepped away, trying to distance himself from the

woman. “Jana, we don’t know. We don’t know anything.

Someone might have come in here, was tearing the place apart

looking for something — it’s happened before,” he objected

when she started to interrupt. “Scully must have walked in on

them, surprised them. That’s how she got hurt.”

“Her arms, Walt. Her arms were cut,” Cassidy said sadly. She

looked around the room once more, spying the glass doors to

the cabinet. She walked over and looked closer at the frame.

“Walt, there’s a lot of blood here,” she said, pointing to the red

streaks on the white paint. “I’m sorry, but it’s obvious to me —

“Well, it isn’t obvious to me,” Skinner growled. “I want this

room gone over with a fine toothed comb. I want the security

tapes for the last hour to show who’s been in this basement.”

“If they find out she was alone and did this herself, it will make

it worse for her,” Cassidy warned. “She could lose everything,

Walt. Her field status, her job . . . ”

“She’s already lost everything,” he growled. “Jana, at this

point, I don’t think things could get any worse.”

Georgetown Medical Center

8:15 pm

Maggie Scully was out of the car and running before the

emergency room double doors had fully opened. She skidded

to a stop at the nurses’ desk. “Dana Scully, please. I was

called, I’m her mother, Margaret Scully.”

The nurse looked up at the distraught woman and nodded,

turning her attention to the computer screen. “Yes, Mrs.

Scully. Your daughter’s been taken to the fourth floor. That’s a

restricted floor, I’ll have to call ahead and tell them you’re

coming.”

“Restricted? Why? I don’t understand?”

The nurse looked annoyed but forced a smile. “The fourth floor

is where the psychiatric ward is located. Your daughter is there

for her own protection. I’m sure her doctor will be able to

explain — ”

“Her own protection?” Maggie blurted out. “What are you

talking about? I was told she was brought here unconscious.

What is going on?”

“Mom, calm down,” Charlie said, coming up behind her. “Sorry,

my mother is worried about my sister. Could you tell us the

name of the doctor assigned to her care?”

The nurse smiled at Charlie, giving credence to his charm.

“Certainly, Mr. Scully.” She glanced down at the chart.

“Although this is a little strange. There’s a neurologist listed as

her physician. Dr. Jason Leonard.”

clip_image008

“Thank you,” Charlie said with another winning smile. He then

turned Maggie. “Mom, let’s go up and find Dr. Leonard. We’ll

get to the bottom of this.”

As they rode the elevator to the fourth floor, Maggie bit her lip.

“Leonard, I’ve heard that name before.” She finally looked

over at her son as she remembered. “Wait. Jason Leonard.

He’s an old friend of Dana’s from medical school. He treated

Fox last year when he — ” She let her voice trail off, reminded

of the most recent tragedy. “But why would he be treating

Dana?”

“Maybe Dana asked for him,” Charlie suggested off hand.

“Mom, we won’t know any more until we talk to him. Please,

just try and relax.”

They walked toward the nurses’ desk on the fourth floor,

located outside a set of locked double doors with a keypad

entry system.

“I’m Charles Scully and this is my mother, Margaret Scully.

We’re looking for Dr. Jason Leonard. My sister, Dana Scully is a

patient of his.”

“I want to see my daughter,” Maggie interrupted. “I want to

see Dana now, please.” Tears were dampening her cheeks and

she brushed them aside.

“Of course, Mrs. Scully, Mr. Scully. Dr. Leonard is waiting for

you in observation room three. Just follow this hallway to the

end and make a right. The rooms are numbered.”

“But I want to see Dana,” Maggie insisted.

“Dr. Leonard will have to approve any ‘in room’ visitors, Mrs.

Scully. Why don’t you go down and talk to him.”

“Mom, c’mon. Let’s go find Dr. Leonard,” Charlie urged.

“I don’t understand, Charles. Why would they bring Dana to

the psychiatric ward? It makes no sense,” Maggie uttered as

they turned the corner and Charlie pointed to the door with a

three stenciled on the glass.

“Mom, let’s talk to the doctor.”

They entered a room with a large computer flat panel monitor

sitting on a desk and a dark haired man in a white lab coat

seated in front of it. He turned when he heard the two people

enter the room. Rising, he held out his hand to Maggie.

“Mrs. Scully, hello. You probably don’t remember me, but we

met at Dana’s and my graduation ceremony from medical

school. I’m Jason Leonard.”

Maggie took Leonard’s hand, but couldn’t tear her eyes away

from the screen. It was a black and white security camera’s

view of a room, sparsely furnished with a single cot near one

wall. The walls appeared covered with cloth. There was a lone

figure huddled on a cot, forming herself in a fetal ball. “Who is

that?”

As soon as Maggie asked the question, the person rolled off the

cot onto the floor and flew into a rage, throwing themselves

against the walls. Now Maggie could see that the walls were

actually padded, as was the floor. During one wild run at the

wall, the person faced the camera full on.

“Oh my God!” Maggie exclaimed when she recognized her

daughter on the screen. “What is happening? Why is she

doing that?” she demanded.

clip_image009

“Mrs. Scully, please, let’s sit down. I had hoped that Dana

might have calmed down by now; we’ve given her a fairly

strong sedative. As you can see, she’s very agitated.”

“What are those bandages on her arms?” Charlie asked quietly.

“She tried to commit suicide.” He turned to Maggie. “I’m very

sorry to tell you this, Mrs. Scully, but Dana has experienced a

complete psychotic break.”

Maggie looked at the screen in horror before turning into

Charlie’s waiting arms and collapsing in grief-stricken sobs.

To be continued.

Coming soon . . . Virtual Season 13’s Summer Blockbuster

Movie:

The X-Files — Tintabulation

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