Tintabulation

 

 

Tintabulation

Authors: VS 13 Producers (Donnaj, Martin Ross, Traveler, and Vickie Moseley

Artists: Donnaj, Martin Ross, Truthwebothknow1 (Lisa)

Videographer: XSketch

Rating: Mature Audiences for violence and torture.

Category: Movie

Spoilers: Relies heavily on Televised Seasons 1 – 7 and Virtual Seasons 8 – 13

(read ‘Previously on VS 13

Disclaimer: This is a labor of love. Absolutely no profit is being made. No

copyright infringement intended.

Archive: This production is exclusive to the Virtual Season 13 for two weeks,

then anywhere.

All comments, feedback, etc should be addressed to virtualseasonx@gmail.com

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Teaser

Place: Unknown

Time: 2321 hours

Seventy-nine hours earlier

They were shrouded in black fabric. These men, part of the “Ghosting team”, if not for their mission and the secrecy that surrounded their duties might have looked comical. Dressed head to toe in black, all wearing black ninja-masks to cover their identities and all wearing double-gloved surgical gloves to protect themselves and their detainees from contamination. Team X had just received the fifth and hopefully final ghost detainee to be processed. The white male strapped to a backboard and was semi-conscious; vomit coated his suit and had ruined his tie. One of the team has noticed that the suit was not cheap. It was a quick thought, as this information didn’t matter to the Team’s objective.

The detainee took in the surroundings as much as he could; a dazed and confused expression and the sense of power surrounding this unknown place made his blood turn cold. Finally getting a grip on his senses, he tried to question his captors.

“Look. What’s going on here? Who are you?” He felt his stomach clinch but tried to ignore it. The situation reminded him of another time another place. Working with quick hands, one of the team members hit the detainee cutting off the detainee’s inquiries and making him gasp in pain and surprise. Moving quickly the detainee was removed from the backboard and unceremoniously thrust into a straight back chair, his hands wrenched behind the chair’s back and bound.

“Now what fu–” Adrenaline coursed through his veins, the detainee tried to break free from his captors. Struggling and becoming more lucid and panicked, he was placed in a secure headlock. Stepping forward before the detainee could voice more obscenities, a huge amount of duct tape was placed over the detainee’s mouth and almost covered his nose, causing the man to struggle for breath.

Satisfied, two of the team members held the detainee’s neck and shoulders still while the third member turned and retrieved a pair of shears from the table. Without much care for fashion, the man’s hair is crudely trimmed down to an uneven stubble, his hair falling in great amounts onto the floor. Powerless to move or raise protest, the only sound was from the shear’s scissoring sounds and the man’s muffled cries, his eyes pleading for  explanation.

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Once the team member had finished cutting the detainee’s hair, the man’s muffled cries stopped, his breathing harsh, his chest rising and falling as if he had run a marathon. His panic increased and his heart pounded harder in his chest when he heard the sounds of an electric shaver and jumped involuntarily as his head was now shorn by the quick-handed skill of his captors. The manual of detainee processing stated that prior to interrogation, it was important to keep the detainee in optimum health. According to protocol, skilled medical personnel would identify any health problems present through the administration of frequent, routine, hands-on medical examinations. The identification of skin infections, however, was made increasingly difficult as the quantity of hair increased. Conversely, non-medical detainee staff could more easily identify questions as to an inmate’s possible skin disorder if said inmate was bare faced and with short hair.

Bald now, the detainee was administered several attention grabs, two dozen ‘attention slaps’ and given three hard open handed belly slaps to the stomach which caused pain and triggered an immediate submission response in the detainee.

Finally subdued, the detainee was returned to the gurney where his clothing was cut away using stainless steel trauma shears. Now completely  ude, the attention grabs and slaps were inflicted upon the subject’s body, reinforcing the submission response and leaving his face streaked with tears.

Resurrection Cemetery

Clinton, MD

11:21 am

The black hearse led the single file of cars into the cemetery. It parked along the road in a section of older graves, most of the stones still looking timeless in their settings. A funeral home attendant opened the back door of the limousine directly behind the hearse, helping Margaret and Tara Scully out onto the pavement. Matty and Claire, both wide-eyed and silent, came next, followed by their Uncle Charles.

Six agents, including Walter Skinner, carried the casket, a simple polished cherry box now draped with the stars and stripes, to its final resting place.

Skinner had picked the 4 men and one woman personally, knowing them to be among the handful of agents who respected Fox Mulder and his work. Mel Bocks was one, Kenny Andrews another. Agents Stonecypher and Kinsley both looked grim faced determined, but there were tears on the female agent’s cheeks. Danny from research made the sixth pallbearer as they moved their burden closer to the gravesite.

Skinner looked out over the gathered attendees with an unbearable feeling of dread. He didn’t want to have to face Maggie Scully and any of Dana’s close family. Not while Scully herself sat in a padded room, restrained to her bed, incoherent. She wasn’t injured, aside from the now healing cuts on her arms. Not physically, at least. But emotionally, he was afraid his agent would never come back from this most horrible attack on her psyche.

She should be here, his mind kept repeating. She should be witness to the life and the quest that was Agent Fox Mulder. She would want to stand next to the grave, he could see her composed in her grief, but grieving nonetheless. Mulder deserved to have her here. Scully deserved to be in this place of honor — to be handed the flag now draping the coffin for the service. But she wasn’t here and nothing seemed right or proper because of her absence. Maggie Scully spotted him and waved him over next to her. There were chairs in place for the family and some of the mourners. He was relieved to note that many of the Bureau agents had come to pay their respects, at least in death Mulder held their favor.

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The man to Maggie’s immediate right caught Skinner’s gaze and nodded. Lt. Commander Charles Scully was decked out in his Naval Dress Blues, the epitome of a faithful son and now head of the family. It had been grating on the Assistant Director’s nerves, this man’s sudden appearance at such a tragic moment. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong but continued to push the thought to the back of his mind. Everything seemed out of place since Agent Clark had called him in the middle of the night just days ago. Maggie reached out and took Skinner’s hand for just a quick touch. Their eyes met and he saw her struggling to compose herself. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without him,” she admitted brokenly, barely whispering the words. She glanced over past Charles to where Tara and the children were sitting. Matty sat unnaturally straight and refused to look at the coffin. Little Claire sat on Tara’s lap and clung to her mother fiercely, as if Tara might be taken away, too.

Maggie touched his hand again, lightly. “Will you please say a few words — for Dana. I know she would want you . . . ” Her words trailed off, her second grief coming fast on the heels of her first.

“Of course,” he said, wishing with all his heart he could refuse her.

Place: Unknown

Time: 23:31

Completely nude, the detainee was lifted and placed onto a gurney that had a waterproof pad under the detainee’s buttocks. Rolled to a left side-lying position, the detainee’s right knee was flexed and draped with a cloth, his anus exposed so that the team member in charge of administering the hallucinogenic enema could clearly see. The other members of the team now held the detainee prone and watched the team leader lubricate 2 inches of the rectal tube with water-soluble lubricant. The team leader approached the prone detainee and lifted the patient’s upper buttock to now clearly see the anus. Directing the tube toward the detainee’s umbilicus, the team leader inserted the it slowly and smoothly 3 to 4 inches, and released the clamp flooding the detainee with a rich cocktail of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), kratom extract, indigenous to the rain forests of South East Asia, and the major tranquilizer clozaril.

Place: Resurrection Cemetery

Time: 11:45 am

Father McCue had been pressed into service, leading the assembled mourners in a brief prayer. He looked over at Maggie, who in turn, nodded toward Skinner. The priest smiled warmly at Skinner and motioned him to come to the head of the coffin to deliver the eulogy.

Walter Skinner had always hated public speaking. It had been one of the many reasons he stayed out of the limelight in all his years at the Bureau. However, of all the briefings he’d led, all the panels he’d participated on, nothing had prepared him to speak at the gravesite of a fellow agent and friend. Straightening his suit coat as he walked to the spot near the head of the casket, it felt like time stood still. The cemetery was suddenly silent. He couldn’t hear the birds in the trees or the cars on the road nearby. He couldn’t hear the mourners, although many of the female agents and both Scully women were now openly crying. He shook his head to try and clear his thoughts and suddenly, everything fell back into place, the sounds, the people. Drawing in a breath, he allowed his gaze to fall on the flag-draped casket. He honestly never thought he would see this day. He had watched Fox Mulder cheat death more times than Skinner cared to count. With Dana Scully, it seemed the X Files Division was impervious to death. But now Death had finally won, the price of constantly seeking the Truth had been paid.

“I first met Fox Mulder when he arrived at the Academy, over 15 years ago. I was waiting for my assignment in the DC Bureau and had been tapped to help out with some classes. I was working on the firing range.” Skinner’s lips curled into a grim smile. “Of all the recruits, Fox Mulder couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.” There were appreciative chuckles through the crowd.

“We practiced and practiced that week. Each day Mulder would be the first one on the range and usually the last one to leave. All the other recruits eventually got the hang of the 9 mm and passed their certifications. Mulder, however, was still a long way from hitting the target sheet, much less the designated target areas on the sheet.”

“It was the day before the last day to be certified for his class and I was walking across the complex. I heard someone out on the range. It wasn’t unusual — anyone was allowed range time. But it was getting late, almost a half hour past dark. I went over to see who might be out there.”

“I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what I found. There was Fox Mulder. He had the flood lights on, and he was firing clip after clip. As I stood there, I could see the determination in his stance, in the way he ejected one clip and shoved another into its place. I was a Marine and I can tell you not since my days in boot had a seen a man more set on hitting a target.”

“I was about to go over and try to give him some more pointers when I noticed something. He was hitting the target. Not just the target, he was hitting square on the bull’s-eye. But he kept going. I stood there watching him for at least an hour, clip after clip and it was always the same. He’d found his aim, he was hitting the target — and yet he refused to call it quits.”

“Eventually, he ran out of clips. He was taking off his gear when he turned and saw me standing there. I had to say something. I asked him why he’d wasted all those clips when he was finally hitting the target. He shrugged and told me ‘I got so used to being bad at it, I didn’t want to give up once I got good.’ Skinner smiled at the memory and the crowd again rippled with respectful mirth.

“Fox Mulder never gave up on anything in his life. Not his sister, definitely not his partner, not on finding the Truth. Every day, no matter how few the leads or how cold the trail, he went out and kept searching.”

“We’re here today to honor not just the man, but his quest for the truth. We’re here to honor the partnership he held so sacred. We’re here to remember a man that many reviled in jealousy, some considered insane, but no one dismissed out of hand. If he left us nothing else, he left us an example of how to live, how to love and how to never, ever give up. I’m a better agent for having worked with him and a better man for having known him. There is not a single doubt in my mind — he will be missed.”

Location: Unknown

Time: 23:47

The virtue of delivering drugs by enema was that they bypassed the small intestine’s private line to the liver and offered the blood and brain the full effect of the narcotics in less than half a minute. Any resistance from any ghost detainee after being treated with the standard enema was 100% futile. With satisfaction the team members observed the detainee’s eyes widen and then slowly roll back into his head, the detainee’s respiration evened out. Now the team members rolled the detainee onto his back where he was quickly dressed in adult diapers and clothed in white cotton underwear, t-shirt, drawstring pants and shirt. His feet were placed in cotton tube socks and white deck shoes. The detainee’s wrists were wrapped in cotton gauze and restrained in tight fitting handcuffs. All of team X except for the team leader left the holding room. The team leader than gathered the man’s clothing into a garbage bag. As he was retrieving the clothing that was around the gurney, a wallet fell from the destroyed pair of pants. The team leader indulged himself and flipped open the wallet. Reading the name quickly and then flipping the wallet closed, he placed the  identification back in the black bag, along with his gloves, sealed it and headed toward the incinerator with its contents.

Within seconds the team leader completely forgot the name of the person. As of 0001 hours, he noted on his watch, the subject had entered a class under a residential directive allowing the CIA to capture and hold specific classes of suspects without accounting for them to the public, or revealing the conditions they faced in a prison on foreign soil. Guilty or not he was now heading for Flight N44982, a Private Lear Jet operated by the CIA, heading for a Black Site where he would most likely be interrogated, tortured and hopefully die quickly after the information he held was extracted.

Fox W. Mulder, recently of the FBI, was now officially and unofficially ‘ghosted’.

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Act 1 Scene 1

Weathersbury, Vermont

7:06 p.m.

“The man who arrested you,” Dr. Conrad began carefully, studying his patient’s face.

His eyes flicked down to the open folder in his lap. “Mulder.”

Robbie Briese seemed at that moment to disappear into himself, his eyes retreating to the ornate Kashan rug on the psychotherapist’s floor. In moments of discomfort or silence, “Robbie” often explored the dusty red Persian carpet, seemingly finding some sort of meaning or even solace in its organized chaos of flowers, knots, and amoeba-like patterns. His permanent state of amnesia and the simplicity it had brought to Robbie’s life had opened him to a world of new perception.

“Robbie?” Dr. Conrad murmured gently. “Adam?”

Robbie’s eyes returned to the older man with the mention of the name he had taken years ago, following his rebirth. The first man, the last innocent in a world of pain, his foster “father” had informed him during a lull between the lunch crowd and the late afternoon crush. That innocence had disappeared when that man, Mulder, yielded up a glimpse into Hell itself. Robbie had refused to see his smiling, soft-spoken tormentor, and until now, Dr. Conrad had not spoken his name.

What Robbie had assumed to be an act of compassion in fact was Dr. Conrad’s recognition that he must tread cautiously. Robbie had come to look forward to his long sessions with the patient old European, even if he felt no connection to Conrad’s revelations about Robbie’s abusive parents, dark acts of childhood malevolence, and resurrection on a New York highway. It was almost as if Conrad were some benevolent djinn sharing 1,001 tales over a sea of elaborately woven silk.

“I don’t want to talk about him,” Robbie grunted in a tremulous voice. “Please.”

“Fox Mulder is an FBI agent,” Dr. Conrad continued. “He lives in Washington, enjoys old movies and baseball, and, like you, he is tormented by loss. His sister disappeared when he was but a boy, and this has driven his quest for order and his compassion particularly for the young. Agent Mulder has been very concerned about you. He is just a man — from everything I have been able to gauge, a very decent and gentle man.”

Robbie’s eyes were fevered with terror. “He wants to know what I saw. He murdered John.”

“Your friend was ready to kill Agent Mulder,” Conrad softly reminded him. “Agent Mulder is concerned by your fear of him, afraid that somehow it may reflect on his own emotional state. But he intends you no harm. This I promise. Do you think you could help him?”

“Keep him away from me.”

Conrad nodded. “As you wish. However, we need to deal with your fear, Robbie. We need to banish the monsters, exorcise these demons you associate with Agent Mulder.”

Robbie’s red head began to twitch vigorously from side to side. “No.”

The boy was about to run, Dr. Conrad could see it. Not from the facility, of course — an individual of Robbie’s unique skills had to be contained. Not that he had shown any propensity to use his talents after opening the Pandora’s box in Mulder’s head.

“Adam” had abandoned his zeal to wipe clean the collective conscious of society, and subsequently, his “victims” had regained their memory — including their memory of the fresh-faced boy in the Manhattan deli. He had no past to which to return, no present that would accept him.

No, Dr. Conrad could see Robbie retreat to the comforting den of his clean, simple, uncluttered mind. He had invested weeks just to reach this point —

there was ample time, and ample reward in patience. “Robbie,” he drawled, templing his fingers beneath his chin, “I wonder if it might not help if you were to begin a journal — a private journal of your own thoughts and fears. Begin with Agent Mulder, if you wish. Perhaps if you commit your anxieties to paper, if you can study them in cold black and white, they won’t seem as terrifying.”

Robbie blinked warily at this man he had come to trust. Dr. Conrad reminded him somewhat of his friend Mr. Marxmann — weary of the world’s pain and wise to its evil. As if the two had forged some kind of psychic link. His sole remaining regret about relinquishing his talent had been returning Mr. Marxmann to his painful memories of the Nazi camps.

“Private,” Robbie finally savored. “No one would see them.”

“Not even myself,” Conrad assured him with a fatherly smile. “Staff will be instructed not to so much as touch it, under penalty of unemployment. Perhaps we can find you a lockbox — you would be the sole key holder.”

Robbie relaxed in his chair. Dr. Conrad nodded contentedly.

**

“I would have had him begging to tell us,” Charlie proclaimed, flopping into the chair, vacated moments before by the young amnesiac. “He’d remember things he never knew in the first place.”

Conrad Strughold chuckled sadly. “Always with the sledgehammer approach, yes, my brash young friend?”

Charlie was merely bragging, too cocky to realize the magnitude of his impertinence. Men had died for questioning Strughold’s prerogatives, and those who hadn’t often would ultimately have welcomed death into their parlor. However, these were different days. Reliable colleagues were growing harder to find — or to keep — and those willing to pay the price for the greater good even rarer.

Charlie substituted foolhardiness for courage, acted in his own interests, which fortunately coincided with that greater good.

A blast from the past, young Scully might have called it. Strughold had been notified following Mulder’s trace on the old gypsy’s camp tattoo — staying ahead of the Israelis alone required extensive global networking – and had been amused to learn that his psychic “protégé” had cultivated his own successor. In this case, the sorcerer’s apprentice possessed a wizardry far more potent — and dangerous — than his master’s. To Strughold, Adam’s unique ability amounted to an amusing parlor trick, something of interest perhaps to the preening adolescents in the CIA or the NSA. There was far more at stake for Strughold and his colleagues than some mere reshuffling of geopolitical power.

What captured his attention was the name at the head of the boy’s criminal case file — Fox Mulder. Adam refused to discuss the events leading to his apprehension, and clearly was terrified by the inquisitive Agent Mulder. Given Adam’s reported talent, the implication was obvious. The boy had peered into Pandora’s box.

Strughold had had him transferred to this rural facility in Vermont to unlock what Adam had secured deeply inside his own psyche. The documentation had been flawless, and few questions had been asked — the staff and administration had seemed only too eager to be rid of their haunted, and haunting, young charge.

**

The man in the Sunkist VW van smiled grimly with satisfaction as the red LED bleeped to life. The range was incredible — although dosing the target had been a dicey proposition, involving split-second timing and an encyclopedic knowledge of electronics, he now was ensconced safely in the parking lot of a Brit-themed pub a quarter-mile away. The vehicle’s day-glo gaudiness in fact provided a perfect camouflage — he was one more unreconstructed hippie tripping through the Wal-Mart-free land of maple syrup and organic zealots. Of course, he could easily have terminated the subject. The facility was reasonably fortified, but the kind of system necessary to keep him out would have attracted every hidden federal eye and ear out here in the Vermont wilderness, especially in this post-9/11 world.

If you only knew what wolves were slavering at the threshold, he mused. No, even he had to fly under the radar: For the time, he had to keep his deal with the devils, although he could sense their suspicion each time he entered the room.

And why not, he conceded? Placing himself in the camp of the angels was a precarious proposition, to say the least, especially considering tonight’s task. Killing the boy outright would have been merciful. The man in the van was able to separate the import of his task from the enormity of its cruelty, but he was perhaps an unfeeling man, not an unthinking drone. It was the only way, whichever outcome resulted. The old Nazi was making progress, though not enough for his idiot “protégé” Charlie. Briese was growing to trust Strughold, and it was only a matter of time before the boy opened up about whatever they’d put in Mulder’s head. He’d been told only that it was of “cataclysmic” significance, and Briese would have no idea what to make of it, but for Strughold, it would be a defining piece of the jigsaw.

The old Nazi already possessed the adjoining piece, although he did not realize it. He cranked the heat up a notch and manipulated the keys and toggles of the small device he’d brought for the job. Better living through atrocity, he grinned mirthlessly.

He was convinced that only an outmoded sense of honor had prevented the Japanese from claiming global primacy decades ago — the technology in his hand had been nurtured for nearly a half-century, and was capable of so much more than the most fertile sci-fi hack could imagine. It was a biomedical miracle, but one that would never cure a dying child or mend a diseased mind. It was the stuff of dreams, in the hands of some of the most vile monsters ever to inhabit a paranoiac’s nightmare.

Six days earlier, an orderly in the employ of “Dr. Conrad” had unwittingly delivered a payload of nearly 50,000 nanobots into Robbie Briese’s bloodstream along with the thorazine used to suppress his “powers.” Not that the sedative was necessary — the kid had lost his appetite for mind-gobbling. The nanobots, assembled by yet other machines of confounding complexity, had been built for one simple task: To repair what a catastrophe on a New York interstate and Robbie Briese’s suppressed guilt had torn asunder. Even assuming Briese’s amnesia was psychogenic — produced by the subconscious rather than the grill of a Peterbilt — his associate was confident the nanobots would do their job, repairing pathways and synapses, rebooting circuits the boy’s own pain had shorted out, defragging scraps of memory scattered but not lost. At roughly 0.01 micrometer — half the size of the smallest nanobots known to the outside world — these miraculous machines would be virtually undetectable in any reasonably rigorous medical exam.

Under ordinary circumstances, Robbie Briese, AKA Adam, would have exhibited an earthshaking recovery, would have been restored whole to the world and his family. However, in this case, the cure would kill, or at least chase Mulder’s demons back into a black hole where Strughold would be unable to extricate them. The monster we know often is infinitely more frightening than the lurker in the dark.

Although the boy had attempted to deflect Strughold with small talk and innocuous insights during their last few sessions, his very dissembling revealed his newly rebooted terror. The man in the tangerine van recalled the cautionary wisdom of Pogo Possum, the marsupial philosopher of the cartoon pages who had been a staple of his childhood.

“‘We have seen the enemy, and he is us,'” Alex Krycek murmured.

**

“Leave me alone,” Adam growled, rocking on his bed. He glanced again about the ceiling, searching for the cameras that indeed were not there. Strughold had insisted complete trust was tantamount to extracting the young man’s suppressed intelligence, and the discovery of unnecessary surveillance equipment would destroy that faith.

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Indeed, Adam had come to implicitly trust Strughold, the closest thing to a father figure he’d encountered since that day in the deli with the alien. The alien had murmured and empathized and promised, but in the end had revealed himself. The things he had seen in “Mulder’s” mind were real, somewhere — Adam knew his imagination had fled long ago with his memory. A memory which now had returned to haunt Adam. Initially, he’d rationalized “Robbie” away as some unwelcome, malevolent houseguest, rather than the true psyche of the shell Adam had come to inhabit. Robbie whispered in Adam’s ears, taunted his resistant host with dark notions and fevered dares and invitations.

He’d shared stories of cruelty and violence inflicted by and upon him — them; of the fear he’d — they’d — visited upon Ron and Sharon Briese, his neighbors, his classmates, his teachers.

Before he’d grown content with his life with Max and Betty Stein and the comforting clamor of the deli, Adam had exhaustively researched the topic of amnesia. He was an intelligent young man, and he recognized that, somewhere, he had known another existence. But these stories “Robbie” had spun — they couldn’t conceivably be true. The dark evil Robbie described couldn’t possibly be a part of him.

But, slowly, instinctively, Adam had recognized the ring of truth. Why do you think they didn’t come looking for you? Robbie sneered. Probably afraid you’d come back someday, their bad seed. Now they know, they probably wish that semi had sent you to hell instead of the looney bin. It was a truth too staggering to accept, that this soulless, sadistic thing was…him.

Then it came to Adam in a crushing wave of relief and horror. The alien. He knew its secrets, its plans, its nature, and “Mulder” was aware he knew. It couldn’t afford to raise suspicion by killing or taking him — his human colleagues at the FBI knew what he and Mr. Marxmann had done. Mulder had created Robbie, planted these lies in his head, made him question his sanity and distrust his perceptions. His first thought was to share his insights with Dr. Conrad. Certainly he’d know who to tell, some way to deal with the threat “Mulder” posed. However, Adam was reluctant to expose the kind old man to such danger — Dr. Conrad reminded him in many ways of Mr. Marxmann. And what if the psychiatrist didn’t believe Adam’s theory? What if, instead, Dr. Conrad believed Adam’s story about this psychically invasive alien to be merely a delusion he’d concocted to discount the vicious acts “Robbie” had fabricated? He was a shrink, and Adam had learned from his stints at Bellevue that they tended to think in such twisted ways.

No, drastic action was required here, something dramatic to convince Dr. Conrad of the Truth.

**

Krycek started at the insistent thumping. Depositing the device in the driver’s door pocket, he grinned sheepishly at the pudgy face in the window and feigned a yawn.

“This ain’t a KOA campground, friend,” the middle-aged man stated as the window rolled past his hawk-like nose. Krycek was prepared at any given moment to deal with any impediments to his mission (via the Tokarev tucked into the waistband of his jeans) but the man’s tragic comb-over and the windbreaker hawking The Ale and Steer signaled only a minor annoyance.

“Hey, sorry, man.”

“Yeah, well,” the pub owner grunted eloquently. “This is a private lot, and you don’t look like you got the price of a Pepsi on you. So why don’t you find another place to flop? Maybe Kerrigan’s down the road — it’d serve the son-of- a-bitch right.”

“Ah, yeah, sure,” Krycek mumbled, portraying embarrassment and twisting the key from accessory to ignition. As the pistons popped noisily to life, the owner stepped away, then planted his feet and crossed his arms in an expectant, authoritative gesture. For a spilt second, Krycek considered the Tokarev. He waggled his fingers and smiled weakly as he backed out of the spot and belched black smoke into the street.

Five miles down the highway, Krycek discovered a far more raucous and chaotic setting for his surveillance: A faux-cowboy bar nestled incongruously in a clearing of firs. The lot was largely full, but a Vermont wrangler in an S-10 yanked out of a spot in the fifth row, spitting gravel.

Krycek settled in and retrieved the device. Red flashed through the cab of the van — the second LED flared angrily. There were two possibilities. The first, system failure or malfunction, was not an option, at least according to Krycek’s associates in the Pacific Rim. The nanobots were self-repairing and, when necessary, self-replicating.

The nanobots also were designed to cease function and degrade with the failure of their host. The second alternative. Krycek knew the microscopic machines had done their job. A nanosecond of weariness washed through him. Then he locked the device in the glove compartment, wrenched the VW’s door open, and headed for the noise…

**

Charlie’s moment of petty vindication regarding the cameras was wiped clean as he dashed for Adam’s toilet. Strughold ignored the retching sounds from within the restroom, containing his nearly homicidal fury. “And you are positive this was a self-inflicted act?” he asked the security chief in low tones laden with menace as he glared at Adam.

“Door was locked,” the chief noted as calmly as possible. He, too, had recommended surveillance cameras, but the scary old kraut would scarcely appreciate that nuance.

“We kept him on suicide watch, just as a matter of routine. No belt, no laces, no pipes or rafters, no weight-bearing shelves, nothing sharp.”

Strughold’s glacial eyes met the guard’s. “I’m not interested in procedure. Was this young man murdered?”

“No.” It came out cracked and weak. “Although I have to say, it takes an awful strong desire to off yourself to do it this way.”

“Hmm…” Strughold stared again at the pulped horror that was Adam/Robbie’s head, at the damaged bed frame and the blood-soaked mattress on the floor beside the corpse. Nothing in their last “session” would have indicated Adam capable of repeatedly bashing his skull against the corner of the frame until his diseased brain splattered into gelatinous meat. Strughold’s only guess was that the boy somehow had regained the memory of his sociopathic deeds and had managed to fool him.

Trust had backfired: Adam had chosen death over the potential loss of “Dr. Conrad’s” friendship. Strughold chuckled sadly, despite himself. Had the boy only known what dark deeds his “therapist” perpetrated over the past 60 years. He sobered; his conduit into Mulder’s mind was irrevocably sealed.

A spot of black-and-white in Strughold’s peripheral vision ended his black ruminations. The journal was placed squarely in the center of Adam’s writing desk, as if on exhibit. The book anchored a folded sheet of ruled paper.

Strughold waved the security chief aside as Charlie emerged from the toilet. The younger man glanced at the ceiling tiles as he sidestepped Briese’s shattered shell, halting instantly as a soft, chilling chuckle filled the room.

“Yes, Adam,” Strughold whispered almost warmly as he scanned the brief note his charge had left him. “That’s my boy.” He was smiling as he turned to Charlie. Strughold handed him the note and left the room briskly, journal under his arm.

“Dr. Conrad — I thought you should know what Agent Mulder really is. I put everything in Mulder’s brain into the journal — I hope it helps. You need to tell the government or something, unless they’re in on it with him. Sorry I’m doing things this way, but he’d find me one way or another, sooner or later. If I’m dead, maybe he’ll think he’s in the clear. You have to catch him. Adam”

Charlie grinned. “Don’t worry, you sick little fuck,” he murmured.

Georgetown Memorial Medical Center

the next day

10:00 am

Charlie tried to appear interested as the nurse chatted merrily. It seemed that opening the door to his sister’s room was an occasion to update him on her care and condition — as if he truly gave a tinker’s dam.

“Dr. Leonard thinks this fugue state is merely temporary,” the nurse continued. “Please don’t let her condition stop you or your mother from visiting. She needs all the love she can get right now.”

Charlie shot her a disarming smile. “She’s my big sister. I want her well and out of here as soon as humanly possible.”

The nurse returned his smile with an adoring one of hers. “With family like you, I’m sure that will be quite soon.” The key turned in the lock and the door opened. “I’ll be right at the desk, if you need anything. As you can see, she’s still, uh, restrained — for her own protection, of course,” she added hastily.

“Yes, I understand,” Charlie said mournfully. “I just hope it won’t be necessary that much longer. It’s so painful for my mother to see her like this.”

“Well, if you need anything, just push the call button. Have a nice visit,” the nurse said and left the room, closing the door behind her.

“Dana,” Charlie drawled. “Hey, big Sis. How’re you doin’, huh? Feelin’ a little under the weather? Oh, don’t bother to get up — I can find my own seat,” he said glibly. He grabbed a ladder back chair from the corner of the room and turned it so that he could rest his arms on the back. “So, you’ll never guess where I’ve been,” he prattled. “Remember that plot in Resurrection Cemetery — the one next to Grams and Gramps? Well that’s where Mom dumped your old pal Mulder. Yup, right there with her own mom and dad. Bet Gramps would be rollin’ in his grave if he knew the bastard had been screwin’ you for years without the benefit of marriage. But then, little chance they’ll be meeting up — since I know your boyfriend is probably deep-fried by now,” he chuckled. “Yessirree, it was some funeral. That bald guy — Skinner, your boss? He gave a great eulogy. Of course, everyone tap danced around your whereabouts. Mom is still a little sensitive that one of us ended up in the Looney bin, you know,” he said with casual shrug. “Boy, I wonder if Tara had a thing for Mulder. Maybe they were doing it on the side — when you weren’t watching. Anyway, she did a great job playing the mourner. She was bawling her eyes out. But then I didn’t get a chance to see you bury dear brother Billy, so maybe she gets that way at funerals. Some women are just natural caterwaulers.”

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know we planted him — so I guess that means you’re on your own. C’mon, Sis. Now that he’s gone you have to see some reason. I could get you a great job on the inside, Sis. We could work together. Wouldn’t that be swell?” he sneered. He didn’t wait long for an answer when she continued to stare into space, totally without expression. “No, you’re right. You probably won’t let bygones be bygones. So I guess you’re going to end up here — or someplace like it. Oh, don’t worry. I have every intention of keeping you alive. See, as long as you’re around, Mom won’t be wondering what I’m up to and that gives me the leeway I’ve come to enjoy. Sometimes being the forgotten Scully is a good thing.”

He stood and put the chair back against the wall and then walked over to place his hand on her cheek. “I really am sorry it came to this, Dana. But now that he’s dead — well, it’s for the best.” He patted her cheek twice and then pushed the button on the rail.

“Yes, Mr. Scully?”

“I don’t want to tire my sister. I think I should go and come back tomorrow,” he said quietly. When the nurse came to unlock the door and let him out, he turned to Dana and brushed an imaginary tear from his eye. “Get better, Sis. Please. We need you,” he said, clearing his throat as he bit his lip. The nurse squeezed his shoulder comfortingly.

The sedatives were strong, but not strong enough to protect her from her brother’s taunts. The thought of Charlie at Mulder’s funeral when she was viciously kept at bay hurt her worse than anything he could have said or done. Dana let the fog of drugs surround her and drifted off to sleep. When she opened her eyes, she knew she was dreaming. She was in the old cemetery, dressed in her best black suit. The sun was shining but it held no warmth. Her mother came over, her arms reached out and embraced her, but Scully couldn’t feel the hug. She was back to the numbness she’d felt before she’d gone to the basement.

She didn’t want to look at the grave. She knew the casket was there, she could see it just outside her field of vision. It was too much, too real. She bit her lip to stop the vision, but she couldn’t taste the blood. She choked out a sob.

Before, when he was in danger or injured, she’d been terrified of this day. That fear was a living thing, deep in her soul, threatening to break free, to rip her to shreds. She looked down and saw blood on her fingers. It took her a moment to realize the blood was coming from a tiny cut, caused by a thorn from the white rose she held in her hand. She tore a few of the petals from the flower and dropped to her knees. With tender purpose, she placed the petals on the casket, over the name Fox Mulder.

A hand landed on her shoulder and she looked up. It was Bill, dressed in his dark navy uniform.

“He’s not here,” Bill said before she could speak.

“Bill, what are you talking about? What do you mean?” she begged, hope trying to conquer her fear.

“He’s not with us. He’s not here.”

Her face crumbled as the sobs broke through. “He’s not in hell,” she ground out angrily.

“No, he’s not here,” Bill repeated, pointing to the casket at his feet. “He’s still alive.”

If not for the drugs, she would have jolted awake. As it was, the dream ended and she slept but no longer dreamed.

Act 1 Scene 2 Location Unknown

Time Unknown

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Consciousness returned through a hazy cloud of pain. His whole body ached. He could feel the tenderness in his belly with every breath he took. Mulder closed his eyes as the recollection of the treatment he’d been given earlier came flooding back. The Black Ops soldiers rough treatment and relentless beatings, the feel of cold concrete against his skin. Good Lord, what had he gotten himself into this time? His face felt tight, causing him to reach up and touch the tender flesh around his right eye. Pain shot through his shoulders with the movement. His right eye was swollen nearly shut and he strained with his left eye to view the nylon band that bound his wrist far too tightly. How long had he been bound like this?

He felt sluggish and foggy from being drugged. His ears had that plugged up feeling you get at high altitudes making him feel like he existed in a vacuum. He tried swallowing several times but it had no effect other than to remind him he was extremely thirsty, hunger pains gripped his empty stomach. Where the hell was he?

Flashes of memory of his abduction and brutal treatment suddenly came back to him. He closed his eyes for a moment willing the apprehension that suddenly washed over him to subside. As his awareness became clearer he opened his eyes again to take stock of his surroundings. He was lying on a bed, not much more than a cot actually, with a thin mattress covered in rough hopsack. His hands were bound, though at least this time they were in front of him and his feet were unrestrained. He appeared to be in a cell of some kind. Three walls were whitewashed concrete block, the forth looked like anchor fencing reaching from floor to ceiling with a gated entrance. It felt hotter than hell. A single fluorescent fixture was attached to the ceiling. A commode was the only other furnishing. As thirsty as he was, he was damned if he’d drink from the commode.

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Feeling the need to relieve himself, he struggled to sit up.

The movement brought with it a wave of dizziness and he reached out to his right with his bound hands to steady himself. Nausea soon followed and he fought the urge to retch. Staggering to his feet, the room swam before him. He estimated the commode was about eight feet away. He’d either make it or end up flat on his face.

Using the wall for support, he made his way across the room to the commode, the vertigo becoming more severe as he inched his way along. Barely making it in time to prop himself against the wall and dry heave into it. Sweat beaded his forehead and trickled down his left temple. He reached up to wipe it away and was met with the shock of his bare scalp. More memories flooded back — the Black Ops stripping him naked, shaving his head, the. . . His stomach rolled again, bile rose in his throat and he leaned back over the commode to empty the vile spit into thin air. His body shook with a sudden fear as he stood there propping himself against the wall with his bound hands. How the fuck had he ended up in this situation?

When the urge that had brought him to this side of the room returned, he reached down to free himself and found he’d been handed yet another undignified circumstance; a diaper. “Christ!” he shouted to no one in particular and rolled back against the wall. One way or the other he’d get himself out of this. He’d ended up on the floor, unable to combat the dizziness and nausea while he fought with his clothing with bound hands. He pulled the diaper off with disgust and wadded it into a ball, stuffing it in the corner behind the commode. Exhausted and sweaty, he lay there against the concrete wall. It was eerily quiet; the sound of his own voice had even been foreign to him. He stretched his jaw again, but it did little to alleviate the vacuum in his head. Something warm was trickling down the left side of his throat. That something turned out to be blood, coming from his left ear. He needed medical attention and water. Someone had put him in here; it was about time he found out who it was.

Rolling over on to all fours, he pulled himself back up the wall. The vertigo came back almost instantly and he staggered, leaning his forehead against it for support as he tried to ride it out. A moment of clarity hit him and he did his best to piss into the toilet leaning there against the wall. The small relief was short lived. The dizziness returned with the slightest movement and another painful spasm wracked his body. He gasped for air in the sweltering heat. Breathing hard he propped himself, willing himself to relax.

“Get a hold of yourself, get a hold of yourself,” he whispered to no one. These were torture tactics, tactics he was well aware of as a government official. Someone was trying to break him. The question was why?

Still fighting the dizziness he palmed his way to the anchor fencing and looked through it. The cells or cages extended up both sides of the hall. None of them appeared to be occupied. “Hey!” he yelled. It was a weird felling, not being able to hear ones own voice. “Hey, anybody here? Dammit! Why am I here?” He yanked heavily on the fencing. “I need some help here! Can you fuckin’ bastards get me some water!” Silence. He leaned heavily against the fencing then, the wire pressing into the flesh of his abused arms.

**

“Go tell Mr. Strughold his patient is awake,” the guard said as he watched the video as Mulder staggered his way around. He and several other guards had had a good laugh as they’d watched the prisoner wrestle himself out of the undignified diaper and piss into the toilet. Now he was just making a lot of racket.

There was a muffled banging sound from somewhere. Lights came on overhead in the hallway and Mulder teetered back from the wire. More Black Ops soldiers came into view and he shuddered at the thought of more beatings. Behind the guards strode a heavy set man with graying hair and a thick mustache. Mulder guessed him to be in his seventies. Standing there in the center of the cell, his legs splayed in an effort to prop himself up, Mulder watched as one of the soldiers unlocked the gate allowing the group to enter the cell. Two of the soldiers came to stand on either side of him, one walked around behind him. He wasn’t sure, but the insignias on their uniforms looked vaguely familiar. “So, I finally get to meet you, Mr. Mulder,” the heavyset man said with a thick German accent.

“If you just wanted to meet me you could have called the office. We wouldn’t have had to go through all this,” Mulder couldn’t help but keep the sarcasm out of his voice as he motioned around the cell. “This is no joke Mr. Mulder. You have caused my organization a lot of displeasure recently and I intend to find out why.”

“And what organization is that? This doesn’t appear to be a top notch health club I’m in.”

The guard who had been standing behind him grabbed him roughly by the shoulders. For a moment Mulder welcomed the support until it became clear that his actions were not intended as a gesture of concern. “Your health is the least of my concerns, Mr. Mulder,” the old German assured him. “I believe we can obtain the information we are looking for from you whether you want to cooperate or not.”

It occurred to Mulder then that what these men wanted from him might not be just information. The thought made his stomach roll again and he fought the urge to gag. The German approached him; standing barely inches from him he leaned into his face. “You have some artifacts in your possession that are of value to my party. I want to know where you obtained them and where they are now. It is also my understanding that your exposure to them has affected your brain chemistry,” the German’s tone was icy as his eyes scanned Mulder from head to toe. “You have developed a connection to their originators, an ability, clairvoyance, humans just aren’t capable of.”

They’d given him hell, Mulder thought but his fuzzy brain processed the reference to himself as “human” and thought it odd. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mulder replied, feeling suddenly defiant. “I don’t know who the fuck you are but from the sound of things you’re even crazier than I am . . .”

It was a foolish move on his part. He caught the slight nod from the older man as the soldier behind him yanked him backwards and spun him around to face the wall. One big hand grabbed the back of his skull and thrust him roughly forward and down on his knees. Even with his hands bound in front of him, he was unable to prevent the guard from submerging his head into the toilet. He bucked, trying to find purchase for his hands, gain leverage and force the guard off of him. Unprepared for the assault, he had little breath in his lungs. He closed his eyes and fought the urge to inhale the putrid water mixed with his own urine. As the bubbles left his mouth, his lungs ached for air. He felt lightheaded, certain he was about to drown.

Suddenly he was being pulled from the toilet, pain shot through his chest as he gasped for air. He opened his eyes only to find the rim of the commode coming back at him. His head went under in mid breath, the foul water invading his nostrils and mouth; he gagged instantly forcing the air out of his lungs. He gagged several more times before he was lifted out of the toilet. He spit water and gasped violently for air. His eyes burned. The soldier hauled him up on his feet; another spun him back to face the German forcing him to take several unsteady steps as he fought to suck in air. The cell and everyone in it spun around him, his stomach muscles clenched with pain as he gagged again, forcing more of the putrid water from his stomach. His eyes filled with tears and he closed them for a moment, willing himself to get through this.

Scully was out there somewhere, she’d always found him before.

“Are you ready to tell me what I need to know?” the old German asked as the two soldiers released their grip on him and stepped back. Mulder teetered before the man. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the soldier to his right pull a baton from his belt.

“I don’t know — what you’re ask — ing of me,” Mulder gasped out still trying to catch his breath. He tasted the putrid water and was unable to prevent himself from gagging again.

“You have made a career of interfering with our program,” the German began, stepping forward into Mulder’s space once again. “It has begun to affect our timetable for acquisition. I want to know how you knew about the Milford Bridge incident? What you knew know of our plans in Arizona?” the old German asked with unnerving calm. “You have a connection, a connection to something more powerful than yourself. I think you’ve known that for some time even though you’ve hidden it well. It is that connection we must understand, Mr. Mulder.”

Milford Bridge? For a few moments Mulder had no idea what this man was referring to and then it hit him, the bridge in Pennsylvania, the one he’d been drawn to along with hundreds of others. His foresight had saved almost all of them from certain death. He really didn’t know how he’d come to be there at just the right time but this man was right. There was a connection, between himself, the artifacts, and the Anasazi man, all of it. Something he wasn’t able to understand just yet but knew enough about to try and protect. He’d use a tactic his enemies had always used, deny everything. “Maybe I’m just smarter than you.”

Mulder caught the slight nod from his captor once again and knew he’d just made another mistake. The heavy baton connected with the back of both his knees. “AHHHHHHHH,” he cried as pain shot instantly up and down his legs. He went down in a heap on the concrete floor, desperately throwing his bound hands out in front of him at the last minute to break the fall. He lay there for only a moment, trying once again to catch his breath before he was yanked violently onto his knees. “Who the fuck are you?” he demanded, pulling himself from the guards grasp and looking up at the German. “I’m an American citizen! You can’t do this! I have rights!”

“Dead men have no rights, Mr. Mulder,” the German’s voice was cold. “Your remains were buried in Arlington just yesterday.”

A sudden fear hit him as he realized the meaning of the man’s comment. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You burned to death in a building explosion. Your funeral was befitting anyone who has died in the line of duty,” the old German finished, tossing several glossy eight by ten photographs on the floor in front of Mulder. “You’re a ghost, Mr. Mulder, though I’m sorry we didn’t get you out of there sooner. I’m afraid this dizziness you’re experiencing may be caused by some damage to your inner ear.”

Fuck, he was probably partially deaf. Mulder crawled closer to the photos and sifted through them. The burned out shell of a building, and several photos of burned corpses. His mind scanned the images for a memory. He’d tracked the kids to that warehouse; he’d been talking to Scully on his cell when a shockwave from something had knocked him off his feet. “You killed those kids to get me?” he frowned, his lips curled in disgust.

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“It was the perfect opportunity, Mr. Mulder.”

Shit, he thought as he sifted through the rest of the photos,: a flag draped casket, Skinner, Tara and Mrs. Scully seated next to Charles Scully and Tara’s kids, a smattering of his fellow F.B.I. alumni. They all thought he was dead, very, truly dead. Nobody would be out there looking for him if they all thought he’d been killed.

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Nobody except one.

It occurred to him then that something was missing. He searched the photos again; Scully was nowhere to be found. “Where’s Scully?” Why isn’t she in these photos?” He looked up again. “Answer me, Dammit!. Where is she?” Mulder struggled to his feet, staggering to his left and almost falling again until one of the soldiers mercifully reached out to steady him. He wrenched himself away and staggered towards the German until they were almost face to face. “I want to know what you’ve done with her! I want to know now!”

“Dana Scully is quite safe, Mr. Mulder,” the German’s voice held an edge of satisfaction to it, “In the psychiatric ward at Georgetown Memorial Hospital.”

“You son of a bitch!” Mulder said, lunging at the man without thinking. He got off one blow to the man’s chest with his bound fists before he was wrestled to the ground by the guardsmen. One of the men bound his legs as he struggled. “You can’t do this!” he shouted as he fought them. Blood now seeped from underneath the plastic ties that shackled his wrists. A cloth was placed in his mouth, bile rose in his throat again and he gagged. The four men picked him up, carrying him out of the cell and placing him on a gurney attended by two men in white scrubs. One of them was testing a syringe. Even though he still fought them, it only took a minute for them to secure him on the gurney, rolling him momentarily onto his side while the man with the syringe plunged it into his left hip. “That will only take a few minutes to take effect, Mr. Strughold,” he said.

“It appears, Mr. Mulder, that we will have to obtain the information we require another way,” the German’s voice was the last thing Mulder remembered.

Act 1 Scene 3

Lab

Location Unknown

The steady muffled beep of a heart monitor was somehow calmly reassuring, Mulder thought as consciousness returned and the world materialized around him. Somehow between the time he’d zoned out and now someone had come to his rescue, snatching him from the gates of hell once again.

Hospitals had always been on his list of least favorite places, associating them always with pain, that acrid smell of disinfectant and heartache. Right now, as he fought to open his eyes, he was certain all that would change, especially if Scully was sitting by his bedside.

He’d learned over years of searching for truths that one often didn’t like what they found when they got to the end of their search. This was one of those moments. The sight that greeted him now wasn’t a hospital room, nor was Scully by his bedside. Nobody was. He was alone, shackled by his wrists and ankles to a surgical table. Another restraint crossed his chest and a fourth held his head tight against the table’s unforgiving surface. His lower back ached for support. He’d been stripped to the waist, from his vantage point he could barely see the tabs from the heart monitor stuck to his chest. Other wires tickled his scalp and forehead. At least the dry gag had been removed. Unable to move his head more than a few inches either way, he strained to get a glimpse of his surroundings. At the moment the room was dark. He could make out a large surgical lamp directly above him and cabinets lining three of the four walls. In the shadows he could see other monitors, tanks and equipment you might find in a standard operating room. No, not an operating room he thought, it looked more like your standard morgue. The thought made him shudder involuntarily. He was most certainly alive, wasn’t he? What would he be doing in a morgue, shackled like this? He suddenly understood how a bug felt awaiting dissection. He tugged uselessly at the restraints, the nylon pulling taut against his skin.

The inside of his stomach felt raw from hunger, how long had it been since he’d eaten anything? Laying here flat on his back, the dizziness had subsided. The horrible thirst he’d experienced back in the cell returned. He licked his dry lips and swallowed what little saliva he had. Fear had a way of drying you up. He had a sudden flash of Richard Dreyfus trying to spit into his scuba mask in JAWS, “I ain’t got no spit,” he’d said; frightened by the thought of the monstrous fish that lurked below him. Right now Mulder was ready to admit he knew how he felt.

“The MRI results. . . yesterday . . . negative. . .” Muffled voices, male from the tone, drifted just out of his range. With his damaged hearing, he couldn’t hear more than snippets of conversation. “. . . not looking at anything that can be surgically removed.” Mulder swallowed hard. Cancer Man’s surgeons had already removed ‘something’ from his head. He’d been drugged into oblivion that time too, fighting his way back to consciousness to fix Diana with a look of betrayal.

Footsteps on linoleum, the conversation moved closer. “His EEG and PET scans are remarkable though.”

“But they’re not comparable with those Dr. Leonard obtained last year.”

Dr. Leonard, Mulder thought, Scully’s med school alumni friend. The doctor she’d confided in to treat him last year. He’d had an uneasy feeling about the man from the beginning. It’s why he’d walked out of the hospital against her advice. “Leonard estimated his neural electric output and thought processes at almost 50% above normal human range at the time. Something’s occurred since that time to knock it down to more tolerable levels. He’s obviously been able to manage it.”

“But we’re still looking at activity way beyond normal human parameters. His temporal lobe is lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s just like the boy’s.”

“The scans are similar but there’s something different in this patient.” At this point both men were standing on either side of him. Suddenly the light over Mulder’s head came on. He flinched; his eyes snapping shut as the intensity almost blinded him. Gibson?

“What boy?” Mulder asked through gritted teeth.

“Mr. Mulder,” the man on his right said in a most appreciative tone. His accent was foreign but Mulder couldn’t place it. His black hair and dark skin gave him a Middle Eastern appearance. The stethoscope that hung from around his neck was anything but reassuring. “You’ve come a long way to present us with a very unique opportunity.”

“What boy?” Mulder demanded again pulling fitfully once again on his restraints. “Gibson Praise? Is he here too?”

Ignoring his question, the man on his left reached out to place his hand on Mulder’s arm. He flinched at the contact. “Relax Mr. Mulder. You’ll find this a lot less invasive if you cooperate.”

“I want to know where Gibson is!” The demand was weak even to Mulder’s ears. The muffled beeping of the heart monitor grew more rapid as he became more agitated.

“We’re going to have to sedate him again,” the dark man said looking over at his companion.

“No, we’re not getting the desired results with him sedated,” the man to his left was taller than the other, with a lighter complexion and that same German accent as the man from the cell. He turned away from the table and pulled out a drawer. “Humans normally use a very small percentage of their brain power until faced with an emotionally charged situation. At which point neurons start firing like crazy resulting in enhanced mental clarity. We need to access this enhanced activity if we’re going to get the information Strughold needs. We have to gain access to his higher consciousness.”

Tying the elastic above Mulder’s elbow, he poked at the skin just below it. “He’s extremely dehydrated; I can’t even find a vein.”

Mulder thrashed about, the darker man came around to the other side of the gurney and held his arm fast to the table while he watched the German insert a large bore needle into the already purple flesh of the inside of his elbow. His eyes slammed shut again, he couldn’t help but cry out with the pain.

“This is just saline solution, Mr. Mulder, the German said. “Mr. Strughold would be extremely upset if we let you die from dehydration.”

“You tell that son of a bitch. . .”

The hollow sound of a heavy door, footsteps drawing closer again, “I understand you have some results for me?”

Even through the fog in his head, Mulder recognized the man’s voice from earlier in the cell. The German doctor almost snapped to attention. “Mr. Strughold, Sir.”

So this was Strughold. Controller and head honcho of this God forsaken place. When he spoke everyone listened and obeyed. Somewhere in the back of his mind the name clicked. “He is a man to be feared.” Words written in his mother’s flowing script in a diary he stumbled onto not all that long ago. A warning it now appeared that he would soon understand the meaning of.

“Is Mr. Mulder ready to give up his secrets yet?” he asked coming to stand next to the two men and leaning into Mulder’s space as if to emphasize his dominance, and making sure Mulder could hear. Another man with a terribly disfigured face stood just behind him.

“I don’t have any secrets and even if I did you’re the last person I’d give them to.”

Mulder tried desperately to sneer at the man. His apprehension about Strughold’s intentions was growing by the minute. It was a feeling, hovering just beyond his consciousness as if it had existed within him forever. He met Strughold’s eyes.

They stared at each other; Strughold’s gaze was almost penetrating. In Mulder’s mind the old German’s face began to morph, he didn’t understand it, but recognition began to dawn. Recognition from another time, another place. Strughold sensed it and smiled.

“You know who I am, don’t you? And you know what I want from you,” Strughold’s voice was hushed.

“I know what you are,” Mulder whispered.

“Dr. Rhinehart, you’ve had several days, what did you get from your imaging scans?” Strughold turned away to address the other German.

“Results consistent with Jason Leonard’s,” he answered, stepping away to snap on a light box that hung on the far wall. “As with the boy, the activity in his temporal lobe is excessive to that found normally in the human brain,” Rhinehart continued, sliding the images into the clip on the top of the box. “However this patient is different. The results of these scans suggest some type of neuro networking throughout his brain. This is beyond our technology; Leonard wouldn’t have been able to detect it with the equipment he had.”

“What would be the purpose of this network?” Strughold seemed perplexed as he turned back to Mulder.

“Based on the information you’ve given us about this patient and the results of the EEG they appear to enhance the Beta and Gamma waves in his brain. The frequency ranges we obtained are far above normal levels. The Beta and Gamma waves in the human brain are associated with active concentration, perception and problem solving. Results in the levels we obtained from this patient would allow for even higher mental thought processes. This would explain some of the events you have relayed to me. Why you feel he’s always been a step ahead of you.”

“See, I told you I was just smarter than you.” It slipped out before Mulder could stop himself. Scully always hated when he used a flippant comment to cover his emotions. Right now as he listened to these men talk around him, his heart began to pound faster in apprehension. Krycek had told him some far out tale about just this same thing in a dark hallway of a crummy motel; about something that had been done to him that had gone undetected until now.

“Evidently not smart enough Mr. Mulder,” the Scarred Man commented sarcastically. “Look where you are.”

Mulder didn’t want to look. He closed his eyes and tried to turn away from the conversation.

“You’re saying his mental thought processes have been enhanced in some way, technologically?”

“Yes.”

“Then it is possible this network is the key to the information we desire,” the words rolled off Strughold’s tongue as he reached out to caress Mulder’s scalp.  “I want to know how we gain access to it?”

“I’m not sure we can, Sir. Even if we opened his skull. . .” the dark man answered giving Rhinehart a confused look.

Strughold continued to caress Mulder’s scalp. It was a scare tactic. God, no, Mulder thought to himself. Shame welled within him as tears filled his eyes once again. He closed them tight but not before a tear escaped and rolled slowly down his left cheek. Strughold wiped it away. “I’m not sure you understand my NEED to access it,” Strughold’s voice turned demanding. “For millennia my people have followed men like him. Yours have too but you confuse the search with your quest to understand the divine. The knowledge he possesses, the unspeakable power it would bring forth is beyond the comprehension of even your most gifted scientists. It is the power of creation itself.”

Strughold looked over at the two dumbstruck doctors and then back down at Mulder. He reached out, grabbing the top of Mulder’s skull with one big hand, forcing him to turn his head. “Look at me Mr. Mulder,” he demanded.

Mulder opened his eyes and swallowed hard, his head ached with the intensity with which Strughold held him. It felt as if any moment the man could crush his skull with his bare hand. “You have Gibson too, don’t you?” he choked out. “If you let him go, I’ll help you.”

It was a pathetic attempt on his part and he knew it.

“You are in no position to bargain with me, Mr. Mulder. Not Gibson Praise’ life nor that of anyone else on this planet is worth enough. Gibson, though a unique individual does not possess your ability nor your knowledge. You understand your position and it frightens you doesn’t it? I don’t need your help Mr. Mulder. I WILL GET what I need from you.”

“It is possible that through proper stimulation we can activate this network,” Strughold turned back to the two doctors. “Dr. Kambatta, I require only your assistance to monitor him,” he said, addressing the darker man. Four other men appeared as if from nowhere at the foot of the surgical table, four identical men, clones Mulder realized. Strughold released his grip on Mulder’s skull and turned to them. “Prepare him.”

Act 2 scene 1

Georgetown Medical Center

June 12, 2006

10:15 pm

Melvin Frohike pulled at the collar of his pinstriped three-piece suit with one hand as he pushed the elevator button. The flowers, daisies and babies’ breath, in a plastic vase gave him the appearance of a suitor from days long gone. In reality, he was on a mission, possibly a search and rescue mission. From the minute they had heard of Mulder’s untimely death, the Gunmen were suspicious. Sure, Mulder had done enough fool-hearty stunts in his time to meet his maker a dozen times over. But always, he slipped the noose, ducked the grim reaper. Maybe this time his luck had simply run out. The three compadres would have simply mourned the passing of a dear friend, had not the second ‘mishap’ occurred. There wasn’t a man who’d met her that didn’t think Dana Scully had more balls than they had. More determination, more resilience. The woman had faced all the monsters imaginable and her own impending death and had looked it all square in the eye, ready to spit in it’s face. The woman was titanium in a velvet jacket. When word arrived from Skinner that she’d lost it, the three assumed he meant some poor sap had come a hair’s breath from being ‘Swiss cheesed’ by the fireball agent in a moment of grief- stricken anger.

But the summary of events given to them was far worse. Skinner had gone on to explain that Dana Scully, the strongest woman, hell, person, anyone knew had — in her grief over the death of her partner for life — allegedly attempted suicide after trashing their office. To make an already horrible situation far worse, she had been brought to the hospital and was still under heavy sedation. At that moment, Melvin Frohike knew something was definitely amiss. Langly and Byers tried to make him see reason. Yes, Scully was strong, but who could expect her to take the strain of losing half of herself? Wasn’t it possible that her strength came in part from that very man they now all mourned?

Maybe losing Mulder was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Wasn’t it unreasonable to assume that just because she was strong she was indestructible? All through the discussion, Frohike listened sullenly. Yes, he agreed, it was possible. Yes, she’d been through so much, but always, always, Mulder was there to provide her with back up, comfort — a safe place to let her emotions take the wheel for a while. Now that he was gone — It was so hard to imagine not having Mulder around. Frohike kept hoping it was all a bad dream. It was too much that the ‘rat bastards’ had won the greatest of victories. Not only had the eliminated Mulder, they’d effectively eliminated

Scully at the same time. Who was left to fight the impending crisis? Who would carry the torch now? He almost bumped into a nurse at the desk he was so deep in thought. She turned and smiled at him. “May I help you?”

“I’m here to see Dana Scully,” he said formally, tacking on what he hoped was a charming smile.

The nurse smiled back until she processed the name he’d given. Then the smile grew more businesslike. “I’ll have to check the orders left by her doctor.” She moved around the desk and typed a few keystrokes on the computer. After a minute, she looked up, her expression one of pasted on sympathy. “I’m sorry, Dr. Leonard has restricted all visitors except immediate family.”

“Immediate family?” Frohike repeated, running through a possible list of whom he could reasonably impersonate. “I’m her father’s brother — ”

“Immediate family. Specifically, Ms. Scully’s mother and brother,” the nurse interrupted.

“What about her sister-in-law?” Frohike asked peevishly. “Or her boss?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. uh — ”

“Hornswagle. Gavin Hornswagle,” the little man supplied.

“I’m sorry Mr. . . Hornswagle. But the doctor left very explicit orders. Ms. Scully is at a very tenuous stage of treatment right now and it’s imperative her doctor’s orders be followed to the letter. If you’d like to leave those flowers, I’ll make sure they’re taken to her room — once her doctor approves.”

“He won’t even let her have flowers?” Frohike asked incredulously.

The nurse gave him another tight-lipped smile and plucked the bouquet out of his hands. She then cast her gaze toward the bank of elevators down the hall before turning her glare upon him once again. Taking the hint, Frohike turned on his heel and stormed off toward the car that was just starting to close its doors. Once on the elevator, his mind started to churn. No one was allowed to see Scully? What was up with that? She was being isolated and Frohike had a bad feeling about that. All too soon the doors of the elevator opened at the lobby level. He was thinking so hard he almost missed it. A bulletin board with job openings at the hospital posted. A quick call to Langly and Byers and he made a right turn down a long hallway. There had to be a way to get to Scully — by hook or by crook.

5:35 pm

Melvin Frohike, or as his application read — James Dean III, newest employee of the hospital cafeteria staff, pushed the car onto the service elevator and pushed the button for the fifth floor. Amazing how a few well-placed comments on records from other hospitals employment managed to land him a job serving meals. Sometimes it was all just too easy. Fortunately for him, the nurse who had shooed him away earlier had left work at 3 when the shift changed. The 3 to midnight shift nurses barely gave him a second glance as he pushed the cart carrying meals down the hallway, distributing the trays along the way. Finally he reached the door marked ‘Scully, D.’ One of the nurses saw him try the doorknob and quickly walked over to assist.

“I’ll take that one in,” said the tall brunette as she fumbled with the key to the door.

“Aw, shucks, pretty lady, this tray is heavy. I think they used real stones in the stone soup today,” Frohike crooned, layering on the charisma.

She gave him a raised-eyebrow look, but unlocked the door and held it while he entered with the tray.

It was a very good thing he had gotten the hang of handling the food trays because the sight before him almost caused him to drop the one in his hands to the floor. Some poor creature with drab orange hair falling in clumps around her face sat on the bed. Her arms were tied to the bedrails, but she was sitting up. Her sunken eyes roamed the room, searching for something but seeing nothing. Her forearms were bandaged to her elbows and her lips were chapped and swollen where she kept chewing on them. He winced just looking at her. As he put the tray on the table and adjusted it over the bed, he noticed that she’d have to be released or someone would have to feed her. He looked over at the nurse.

“Can you unfasten her hands, so she can eat?” he asked, trying to sound businesslike when he felt anything but.

“No can do. She’s a suicide. She’d use the sheets to hang herself if we let her up. I’ll get one of the aides to come in and feed her when they get back from dinner break. Shouldn’t be more than 45 minutes.”

“But her dinner will be cold by then,” he objected, schooling his voice and expression so he didn’t sound as pissed off as he felt at the woman’s attitude.

The nurse just snorted. “Like she’ll notice. She’s completely ’round the bend’ if you catch my drift. It’ll be fine.” She motioned for Frohike to come back out of the room, but he stood fast.

“You know, this is my last tray and I’m on dinner break now myself — how about if I feed her?” he offered. He chewed on his own lip, hoping he hadn’t sounded too desperate.

The brunette tilted her head as she considered his suggestion. He smiled at her and looked as non-threatening as possible. Finally she shrugged. “Hey, it’s your dinner hour you’ll be missing. Knock yourself out. I’ll be out at the desk, when you’re ready to leave just hit the call button on the rail there.” She started to close the door, but stopped suddenly. She pointed to a security camera mounted in the corner of the room. “We’ll be able to see anything you do — so don’t try anything . . . lover boy,” she warned.

He swallowed and nodded hurriedly. As the door closed, he let go the breath he’d been holding. He made a quick glance over at the camera — it was just video, he didn’t think it had sound. If he was quiet, he shouldn’t raise any suspicions at the desk.

“Agent Scully? Dana, can you hear me?” he called softly. Now that he was close enough to her, he could hear her mumbling just under her breath. He called to her again. She just stared around the room, not seeing him, and continued to mumble. He leaned in closer to hear her.

“For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living. For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor the kingdom of hell upon the earth. For justice is perpetual and immortal . . .*”

Whatever else she was saying was lost in her mumbling. “Scully,” he tried to catch her attention with a spoonful of applesauce.

“Scully, it’s me, Frohike. Scully, please, look at me,” he pleaded. She did look at him then, but it was only to open her mouth, childlike, waiting for the food as he spooned it to her lips. She licked a bit of the applesauce from her bottom lip and opened her mouth again expectantly.

“Scully, what’s goin’ on here?” he asked, this time spooning up some of the mashed potatoes and gravy. She accepted the food, but didn’t respond to his questions.

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“Scully, I think something very weird is going on here. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. You just hang in there, OK? I’m going to see what I can find out. We’ll get you out of this.”

“Mulder’s not dead,” she said suddenly, her voice dreamlike. “Billy came to me last night and told me he wasn’t there.”

Frohike was so startled he almost dropped the forkful of meatloaf on her lap. “Billy who? Your brother Bill? Your dead brother Bill?”

“He said Mulder wasn’t there. In heaven. I don’t think Mulder would go to hell. I’ve prayed for his soul so many times — he’s the first one on my list for plenary indulgence on All Soul’s Day. If he’s not in hell and he’s not in heaven with Bill, he has to be somewhere here.” She said all this in a singsong voice that sent shivers up Frohike’s spine.

“Just hang on, Scully. We’ll figure all this out. Just hang on,” he begged. They’d made it all the way to the ice cream and Scully seemed calmer than when he’d first walked in the room. “I’ll be back tomorrow, Scully. I’ll be back. I promise.”

June 13, 2006

5:06 pm

After detailing what he’d seen at the hospital, the three conspiracy theorists worked their kung fu ‘magic’ on Scully’s records. It didn’t take them long to discover that Scully was not under the care of a licensed psychiatrist, but was being attended by a neurologist — the same neurologist who had treated Mulder for his recent ‘episodes’ or visions. Only Scully’s insistence that she knew and could vouch for the guy had eased their suspicious of the doctor in question.

After checking bank records, it was revealed that Dr. Jason Leonard made sizable deposits to his Bank of America accounts on the dates just preceding Mulder’s stays in the hospital. There was another deposit, this for $100,000 in a new account set up in his name in the Grand Caymans. No longer alone in his fear that Scully was being held against her will and not for her own good, Frohike was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The service elevator seemed to take forever as he watched the floor indicator lights blink toward the fifth floor. This time Frohike was wired, eyes and ears, to ensure they had evidence — evidence they would need to convince a certain FBI Assistant Director that something was rotten in Georgetown. When the elevator reached number Five, it didn’t stop exactly on the mark. This forced Frohike to get behind the sizable food cart and push it over the quarter- inch gap. After some manhandling and being careful not to jerk the cart too much and spill the numerous cups of hospital coffee and tea, he started down the narrow hallway that led from the service elevator. He glanced in an open doorway into an office and saw two men in a heated discussion.

“Look, Commander Scully, I’ve done all I can. The hospital board is on my ass. You have to take your sister to a more permanent facility. They’re questioning why a neuro patient is being kept on sedatives on the psych ward and they won’t let me keep her here in her present state indefinitely.”

At the name Scully, Frohike pulled up short. Thinking fast, he pressed himself against the wall so as to present a smaller visible target and inched closer to the open door.

“I don’t give a flying fuck what the hospital board wants,” another voice growled. “I’m paying you to keep her here.”

“She’s suicidal. If she’s that much of a problem, we could arrange for her to get out of her restraints. That would solve everyone’s problems,” said the first voice.

Frohike heard a jarring thump against the other side of the wall directly behind him and a pained gasp. “You little fucker, you make sure she stays alive, you hear me! If anything, ANYTHING happens to her, the board will be the least of your problems. I’ll cut you up into little pieces and feed you to the fish off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, you got that?”

Frohike heard another gasp and then a strangled cough. “I understand,” said the first voice. “I’ll look into other facilities. I have a friend who has a clinic in Maine — ”

“Find someplace closer.”

“I’ll see what I can do. For now, should I just continue with the present course of treatment?”

“No. She’s mumbling all kinds of nonsense in there; it’s bothering my mother. Can’t you put her in some kind of coma or something?”

“I suppose that’s possible. It will take some time; I don’t want the nursing staff to start questioning my orders. Give me until tomorrow to see what I can do. I assume there will be a suitable increase in my allotment, since this is outside our agreement?”

“You’re a real humanitarian, aren’t you, Leonard? Yes, a regular Dr. Schweitzer,” the second voice answered with an oily chuckle. “I’ll talk to my associates. You’ll see the increase in the next deposit.”

“Thank you, Commander.”

Frohike realized the meeting was over and needed to get out of the way before being seen. Pushing the cart around the corner and into the busy hospital hallway, he was pulling a tray off the bottom shelf when a man who could have been Scully’s clone strolled past him and entered Scully’s room with his own key. After a few minutes, the man left her room and headed for the visitor’s elevators.

After distributing the trays, and again feeding Scully — a fantasy far better than the present reality — Frohike finished his shift and headed back to the office. It was time to plan Scully’s rescue, but first they had to convince the ‘cavalry’. The recording Dr. Leonard’s meeting with Commander Scully was downloaded to the computer and a call was made to Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

*The Holy Bible, Douay Version (Catholic), Book of Wisdom, 1:13-15

Act 2 Scene 2

Starbucks

Georgetown Galleria

11:12 p.m.

Charlie placed his Grande Ethiopia Sidamo on a corner table away from the late- night crowd of hormonal yuppies, de-pressurizing wage slaves, and fashionably unfashionable college kids.

Charlie was drawn to the very banality of Starbucks — the Kenny G-sus muzak, the hyper-caffeinated animation of the hip patrons, the cordial boredom of the minimalist wage counter staff serving Third World coffee to Type A assholes. The mundo-mundane surroundings recharged his sense of power and magnitude, which always ebbed in the supernoval presence of Strughold and the Frenchman. Charlie sipped his Sidamo contentedly, his nostrils flaring as they took in its earthy essence. His nemesis was vanquished; precious, misguided Dana had been taken down a notch. Poor, late, bull-headed Bill had always been the take-charge guy, the alpha wolf, the erstwhile bully. But Dana, now, her bullying was far more subtle — quietly “rational,” self-righteously “virtuous,” coyly manipulative with her parents.

She’d always had Dad wrapped around her fingers. Bill was Dad’s legacy, Dana his treasure.  He and Melissa had been afterthoughts, superfluous, which had been all right with his crystal-hazing, air-headed sister. But Dad had never grasped Charlie’s cunning intelligent and instinct, his potential for greatness. Dana had  discarded their father’s dream for her to become a badge-carrying bureaucrat, but Dad’s love for her and barely-concealed disdain for him never faded. Now, the tables were turned. The decisions of the planet’s most powerful men turned on his discretion — these coffee-swilling protozoans would blow a circuit if they knew who was sharing their oxygen and what secrets he held. Charlie smiled indulgently at the blathering late-night crowd and flipped open his razor-thin phone.

“Yes?” The voice on the other end was composed, barely expectant.

“Yeah,” Charlie laughed warmly. “Just wanted to let you know I got those packages in the mail.”

“Excellent.” The irony in Strughold’s tone eluded his young protégé. The NSA had developed the security that had gone into securing their line, and such theatrics thus were wholly unnecessary.

“Oh, and hey, that new medication’s working great,” Charlie added, hooking an arm over the back of his chair with artful casualness. “The rash has totally cleared up.”

“I’m pleased, though I might remind you that a rash can resurface easily with inattention. If you recall, our last patient did not fare so well.”

Charlie flushed. More than ever, he wished he’d been allowed to get the truth out of that freak kid his way. “That was hardly my fault. You were the one — “he instinctively choked off the potentially lethal accusation.

“Of course, you are correct,” Strughold murmured. “I ordered the removal of the surveillance cameras, and failed to ensure that compensatory steps were taken to monitor our ‘patient’s condition.”

His implication was clear. “Hey, how could I predict what some whacko kid — some seriously ill patient — would do?”

Strughold was silent for a moment. “Again, you are correct — I am the doctor.  Which is why I have asked Pelzer to conduct a post-mortem on our young friend. His descent into suicidal mania was rather sudden — uncharacteristically sudden. Do you suppose someone intervened in Adam’s treatment?”

Charlie pulled upright, freon pumping through his chest.

“The notion is no doubt ludicrous,” Strughold chuckled dismissively. “The boy was under the tightest security, was he not?”

“Absolutely.” The reply came from Charlie’s compressed trachea. “Nobody could have got to him.”

“I am sure that is true. I nonetheless shall be interested to peruse Pelzer’s report. Good night, Charles.”

The line went dead before a response could travel from Charlie’s brain. He leaned back, heart pounding and something alive and sharp wriggling in his gut.

He fumbled for his Grande. Charlie reviewed the security protocols he’d set up in Vermont. Of course, there had been little reason to believe there would be any real interest in an insane boy with no memory. No one could know — or at least believe — what was inside Briese’s head. And even if someone had, how could they circumvent the kind of security he’d — Coffee sloshed onto the table as it hit him. Krycek. Could he somehow have slipped something into the kid’s scrambled eggs, scrambled Adam’s brains from outside the compound? It sounded like bad science fiction, but as Charlie had learned working with the enigmatic Strughold, brilliant and unscrupulous men could create nearly anything the most imaginative writer could concoct. If Strughold was right, Charlie could not contemplate the consequences. Even if the old man were wrong, it was clear now that his faith in Charlie had been deeply compromised.

Suddenly, the room expanded around him. Couples in love, no doubt pondering — perhaps even snickering over — the barren soul in the corner. Friends chattering about life and its meaning, oblivious to Charlie. He suddenly felt insignificant, ridiculous. “Hey!” Charlie snapped at a passing busboy, raising every eye in the house. “This shit is fucking ice cold!”

Act 2 scene 3

Capitol Mall

Vietnam War Memorial (The Wall)

June 13, 2006

10:15 pm

Walter Skinner nodded to a group of Japanese tourists as they made their way back toward their tour bus. Finally, he was alone with the black granite monolith to the fallen in one of America’s most distressing wars. From the shadows, he could almost hear the dead whispering. But it wasn’t a shadow. It was Melvin Frohike. Frohike stepped forward from his hiding place and nodded to the Assistant Director. “Thanks for comin’, man,” Frohike said, his hands stuffed deep in his pockets.

“You said it was urgent,” Skinner said, foregoing formalities. “What is it you want?”

“Have you seen Scully?” Frohike said, also cutting to the chase. Skinner swallowed and looked off to the dwindling traffic on Independence Avenue. “No one is allowed to see her. Her mother told me — ”

“They have her tied up to her bed, man,” Frohike spit out abruptly. “And she looks like no one has bothered to take care of her personal hygiene since she got in the place.”

“You saw her?” Skinner asked, his voice skeptical.

“When they wouldn’t let me in to see her, I smelled a rat. I took a job in the kitchen — I deliver meals. I’ve seen her twice. I had to feed her dinner both nights — they won’t even let her out of the restraints to eat.”

Skinner licked dry lips and closed his eyes. “How . . . how is she?”

Frohike sought the other man’s eyes and held his gaze. “She’s not real co- herent. I’m pretty sure she’s being drugged.”

“She’s probably on sedatives. She was suicidal — ”

“No, it’s a set up,” Frohike protested.

“You can’t know that,” Skinner countered through gritted teeth.

Frohike pulled out the small digital recorder out of the pocket of his vest. “Oh yes I can,” he said. He handed the recorder and some earplugs over to Skinner with the play button pushed. He watched the Assistant Director as he listened to Dr. Leonard and Charles Scully’s voices tell their version of recent events. It was plain that the doctor and Scully’s brother did not have Dana’s best interest at heart.

“My god, this is — ” Skinner was shocked, pulling the earplug from his ear.

“That’s not all,” Frohike interjected as Skinner handed him the tape player. “Scully told me something last night. She said that Bill, her brother Bill, had come to her in a dream. He told her that Mulder ‘wasn’t there’. Scully took that to mean that Mulder isn’t dead.”

Skinner started shaking his head before Frohike had a chance to finish the sentence. “She identified the body herself. The dental records — ”

“Has the DNA test come back?” Frohike cut him off impatiently. “Dental records can be switched. If they wanted to take Mulder, there are plenty of ways of making it look like we had the right body.”

“Be that as it may,” Skinner said firmly, “what’s most important here is Scully. If what was said on this tape is any indication, she’s going to be moved out of Georgetown soon — very soon. And then we’ll lose all track of her.”

“So, what do we do?” Frohike asked innocently.

Skinner looked away again and chewed on his lip. “I think we need to make sure Scully doesn’t disappear — from us.”

“Well, now that you mention it — you don’t have any plans for the evening, do you, Assistant Director?”

Georgetown Medical Center

June 14, 2006

7:45 am

The bearded orderly walked up to the nurses’ station and smiled professionally. “Hello, I’m here for a patient transport.” He handed over a set of papers and smiled again.

The nurse sitting at the computer terminal took the page and read it, then typed in a few keys on the computer keyboard. “Scully, Dana K., being transported to Rivercrest Village upon orders from Dr. Leonard,” she repeated from the screen.

“Ms. Scully is in room 513.” She stood and looked over the desk down the hall.

“Where’s the gurney?”

“Right here,” said a tall blond man with slicked back hair. He pushed a standard transport gurney into view.

“Well, at least you’ll get her there before breakfast. We’ve had to feed her, doctor’s orders are explicit that she remain sedated and restrained at all times — ” The nurse looked around and leaned in conspiratorially. “Suicide, you know,” she said in a whisper.

“I’ll sit with her in the back, keep an eye on things,” the blond said in a voice that spoke to a businesslike manner.

“Great. To be honest, I can’t wait to get rid of her — her brother gives me the creeps,” the nurse replied. “That’s just between us, of course,” she added hastily.

“Hey, it goes in one ear and out the other,” the bearded man assured her. “The only way to deal with, well, you know — ” He nodded toward Scully’s room with a roll of his eyes.

“Got that right,” the nurse agreed. “I used to work surgical ward, much quieter. But this was the only night shift available and I needed the extra cash.” She opened the door to Scully’s room with her key. “Well, there she is, Sleeping Beauty. I packed her things last vitals check, not that she had much — that bag on the chair. She’s all yours.”

Langly glanced over at Byers as the nurse left them. He started to say something but Byers made a point of looking up at the room’s camera. Langly caught on quickly and got to work, untying Scully’s arms and legs and the two men lifted her effortlessly to the waiting gurney. Byers winced as he helped Langly secure her arms and wrists to the gurney but soon they were on their way.

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They had just reached the elevators when the nurse called out. “Hey, wait a minute!” Byers glanced over to Langly nervously and Langly hit the call button again several times, hoping the elevator doors would open.

“Wait a minute,” the nurse called again and came running toward them. “You forgot to sign this,” she said, holding out the very professional, but entirely fake documents that Byers had presented to her earlier. “Got dot them ‘i’s and cross them ‘t’s, you know,” she said with a playful wink.

“Job’s not finished till the paperwork is done,” Byers said with a weak smile as he jotted a fictitious name on the line. “There you go, oh, and this is your pen, isn’t it, um, Mary?” he asked coyly after a quick glance at her nametag.

Mary smiled sweetly back. “Why yes it is . . . Henry,” she said after a look at his name on the paper. “Ford? Are you any relation to the car people?”

“Distant, distant,” Byers said quickly as they loaded Scully’s gurney on the elevator. “Not close enough to even get a car loan,” he added as the doors shut and the car started its descent to the ambulance bay.

The last ambulance in the line was a little older, but had all the proper registrations. Byers knocked twice in the back and Frohike opened the doors from the inside, helping the other two load the gurney. As the doors slammed, the driver, a seriously looked man in a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap and wire- rimmed glasses, pulled out of the parking spot and headed off down the road.

And all the while, Dana Scully slept, completely unaware.

Act 3

Lab, Location Unknown

Charles Scully stood at the back of the lab. It had taken him over twenty hours to get from D.C. to Cairo where Strughold’s chopper had picked him up and brought him the rest of the way to this secret installation beneath the Abydos desert. Mysteries of the ancient world had been buried here for centuries, how ironic it was that the mysteries of the future were hidden here as well. Despite his fatigue, Charlie felt mildly euphoric. For some time now Mulder had been his archrival. Seeing him here, finally subdued was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning. It had been worth every minute of it.

As he listened to the steady beep of Mulder’s heart on the monitor he realized that in reality he had no ill feelings for the man himself. To an extent he even admired Mulder’s tenacity, character and heart. The problem was he’d become a plague, infecting not only his family, but every aspect of the program Charlie had been employed to protect. Something had to be done about it. “This will inhibit much of his voluntary movement,” Rhinehart was saying as Charlie watched him inject something into Mulder’s IV line. Mulder’s heart rate and respiration slowed but his eyes remained open. From his vantage point Charlie could see the bruises that marred the man’s chest and abdomen. His wrists were raw from fighting the restraints. His often offensive voice had been silenced with a gag. He likened the scene to that of a wild horse that had finally been broken. All the fire had been taken from him.

Kambatta wrapped Mulder’s left arm with a BP cuff and compressed it. “BP 131 over 80, we’re good.”

Strughold was standing at the head of the table shadowed by The Scarred Man and the four technicians. The identical nature of the four men made Charlie pause. “Now Mr. Mulder, we will see what your mind has been hiding from us,” Strughold leaned over Mulder, his tone was almost rhythmic. Charlie stepped closer as he watched Rhinehart open a metallic silver case that one of the clones had placed on the table behind him. Slipping on a pair of heavy synthetic gloves he reached into the box and lifted the contents into the air. Draped across his fingers was a fine silver mesh that almost sparkled in the light from the overhead lamp. One of the technicians stepped forward and quickly released the strap that had held Mulder’s head tightly to the table’s surface. Sliding his hands underneath his head, he gently raised it from the surface while another technician stepped in and began to apply a blue gel to Mulder’s bare scalp. He heard Mulder drawn in a shaky breath and shiver as if the substance was cold to the touch. Rhinehart turned and stepped closer to the table still holding the fine mesh with the greatest of care. Leaning over Mulder he gently laid the mesh against his scalp. With a life of its own the mesh began to move, forming itself tightly against the contours of his skull. Mulder’s eyes flew open wide, he screamed against the gag. Charlie watched as the cords in his neck rose against the strain, his fists curling into tight balls.

“What the hell is this?” Kambatta demanded knowing full well that this was technology far beyond anything he’d seen. The heart monitor began to beep rapidly. “BP’s going up fast!” he warned.

Charlie had never seen anything like it; he stood transfixed at both the amazement and horror of what he was watching. Torture had never bothered him. In some respects he was a hired killer but even this made his stomach uneasy.

Mulder could barely breathe. It had felt like a thousand tiny needles had penetrated through his skull into his brain with a prickling fire. Sweat made his body glisten even though he shivered. At the moment he felt like he would welcome death. The heart monitor beeped faster, surpassing 90 beats per minute.

“Mr. Strughold, this man’s going to go into cardiac arrest,” Kambatta said turning to warn his superior. “It is unfortunate that the human body is even frailer than it appears to be. You’re the physician, stabilize him!”

Rhinehart turned around, grabbed a bottle and syringe from the counter behind him while Kambatta place an oxygen mask over Mulder’s face. Rhinehart drew the syringe almost full before turning to the table and injecting the liquid into the IV line. The monitor continued to beep at an alarming rate. “What is this procedure?” Kambatta questioned looking disgustedly at Strughold.

“With this device we are able to penetrate the visual cortex of the brain,” Strughold answered him. “It enables us to gain access to long term memory. The visual images of a lifetime are stored there. If as you suggest this man’s brain has been technologically enhanced beyond human capability it is obvious that humans were not responsible. I am hoping that by penetrating this man’s psyche we will also be able to tap into that technology.”

“How is that possible? ” Kambatta demanded.

Strughold didn’t answer. The Scarred Man handed him a small hand held device. As the old German’s fingers danced over its keyboard images began to appear in the air above it.

On the table Mulder was beginning to shake visibly, his vitals were still all over the board.  Unable to look anywhere else, Mulder watched as moments of his life literally passed before his eyes over Strughold’s device in vivid holographic images. Childhood memories long forgotten, back to times when his family had been close and whole, fleeting images of hospital stays and medical tests, his mother, crying freely and holding him possessively as they both watched his sister carried from their home by his father. Mulder closed his eyes at the truth of what he was seeing. This wasn’t possible, not by any earthly means. The implications were frightening. Waves of prickling sensations rippled through his head, each one feeling as if it were penetrating deeper into his thoughts. Despite the perspiration that coated his torso, he was freezing as uncontrollable shivers wracked his body. He sucked hard at the oxygen that flowed from the mask. His thoughts turned to Scully, and he longed for her gentle warmth.

Charlie watched the whole scene unfold before him. As Strughold continued his rape of Mulder’s mind, images of Dana began to appear. The vulgarity of it actually began to sicken him. It also began to frighten him. Nothing he knew of current technology suggested anything like this was possible. Something was terribly wrong here. “BP’s 170 over 100, Sir,” Kambatta warned again. “This isn’t good.”

“His consciousness is strong, they’re using his mind to block me,” Strughold said in disgust.

“They?” Charlie asked in disbelief. “What the hell are you talking about?”

The images suddenly disappeared as Strughold’s hand once again passed over the keypad of the device. “Charles, you can be so naïve. You remember of course the story I told you several months ago about the Black Oil virus?”

Charlie’s nod was almost imperceptible but Strughold accepted it and continued.

“Only part of that story was true. The virus was not brought here by some extraterrestrial force as I had told you. It is a part of the evolutional history of this planet and has indeed existed here for millennia. It lies dormant now awaiting another extinction of life when it can once again insert itself. Hitler was fooled into thinking his alliance with his extraterrestrial allies would provide the genetic material he needed to produce his superior race and dominate the world. He had no clue to the power he could have created.” The old German’s voice trailed of as he looked across the table to the four identical technicians standing across from them. He nodded to them.

“What do you mean, insert itself?” Charlie was beginning to find this whole tale more then troubling.

“The ugly truth, Charles, is this,” Strughold continued to speak as one of the technicians produced a smaller metallic box from the same one Rhinehart had extracted the mesh from. “The DNA testing the aliens initiated was designed to detect the virus, not eradicate any resistance to it. The genes for the most part lie dormant in the DNA of every living thing on this planet. Almost every living thing,” he finished looking down at Mulder.

Strughold reached across the table, gripping Mulder’s chin and turning his headslightly, forcing him to make eye contact. “The results of all those decades of testing have finally produced a candidate in which those genes no longer lie dormant. We need only to access them.”

“You talk as if they’re some sort of living thing in and among themselves?”

“Ah, but they are, Charles.”

Drugged and unable to mount any resistance, Mulder could only stare back into Strughold’s eyes. He hated the submissive feeling that was washing over him. He feared his body would betray him and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Everything is in place now. It is time to introduce the Essence into hissystem. His previous exposure to the virus has been activated by the artifacts and enhanced by the neuro technology. Once the Essence becomes the dominant force within his being his own consciousness will no longer be able to shield it.”

“What is this Essence?” Charlie suddenly questioned.

“The virus, Charles,” Strughold answered turning to one of the clones. “Hand me one of the vials.”

Charlie watched one of the four look-alike men handed Strughold a large clear vial with a silver cap. Inside the vial was a black substance, much the consistency of heavy oil. He’d read reports on a similar substance and the lethal consequences of exposure to it but he’d never actually seen it. He watched as Mulder’s eyes widened, his head jerked hard to the right, dislodging the oxygen mask. Whatever this substance was, Charlie was certain Mulder recognized it. The old German accepted the vial. “Charles, Doctors, I suggest you step away from the table. You have no immunity to this substance.”

Strughold held the vial over Mulder’s chest and unscrewed the cap. Despite the drugs Mulder’s body tensed, pulling violently against the binding on his wrists until he drew blood. His muffled cry of “NO!” could be heard even through the gag.

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“What is this?” Charlie asked.

“Oil, Charles, the active virus,” Strughold replied, turning to meet his eyes. “The life blood of this planet. Within its composition lies a life force as old as the universe itself and you fools have burned it for decades as fuel.”

“A life force?”

“Yes,” Strughold looked about the room, catching the eyes of both the doctors and Charlie as well. “An intelligence far greater than either you or I. To understand it, to hold its power within your hand would make you one with your God.”

The three men watched Strughold gently tip the vial, its contents sliding slowly from the container onto Mulder’s bare chest. He began to shake violently with the frigid intensity of the substance. Blood was now flowing freely from both his wrists and the corner of his mouth. Despite the Digoxin that Rhinehart had administered only minutes before, his heart rate and respiration climbed again. As the substance spread across his chest, inching its way up his throat, the horror of the Russian gulag came rushing  back to him, he began to hyperventilate. One of the clones stepped forward to replace the oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. His eyes fixed Charles Scully with a look of desperation as he gasped violently for air. His lungs burned.

“I don’t understand, I thought this substance was lethal,” Charlie was confused by Strughold’s actions. Surely he didn’t want to kill this man.

The slithering oily substance had reached Mulder’s face, sliding beneath the oxygen mask and creeping slowly across his cheeks to his nostrils and eyes. As it entered his mouth and nose it burned with freezing intensity. He cried out through the gag as it penetrated his nasal passages and coated his throat. Finally seeping into his eyes the burning sensation became unbearable. He could now feel it penetrating down though his chest cavity wrapping its icy grip around his heart and lungs, freezing them. Suddenly the alarm blared to life on the heart monitor; Charlie watched as Mulder’s his eyes rolled back his head.

“He’s coding! He’s going into cardiac arrest!” Kambatta shouted stepping forward.

“NO!” Strughold shouted. “Leave him alone!”

Within seconds the alarm stopped. His respiration slowed and the heart monitor returned to a steady 85 beats per minute. Kambatta stepped forward to check his blood pressure and remove the oxygen mask. Pulling a pen light from his pocket he leaned over Mulder and slowly pulled back the lid of his left eye. “Dear God!” he gasped almost jumping back from the table in alarm. Mulder opened both his eyes. Instead of their familiar hazel color, both his eyes now swam with the inky black of night.

Act 4 scene 1

Rockbridge Baths, VA

June 22, 2006

7:30 am

Mulder stood in the doorway of their office, a wistful smile on his face. He was mouthing words, but she couldn’t hear a sound. She walked over and reached out to grasp his shoulder. His arms encircled her waist as he drew her nearer. He laid his head atop hers and then kissed her lovingly on the forehead. Finally, he spoke aloud, one word, full of longing and commitment — “Scully.”

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“Scully? Scully, can you hear me? It’s me, Walter Skinner? Can you hear me?” She blinked lazily and then tried to focus on the face just inches above her. “Scully?”

“Mmm, yeah?” she replied. Her mouth felt like a mud puddle after a sudden downpour, dry dust suddenly turned to mush. She could almost taste an earthworm at the back of her throat and the thought made her gag.

“Frohike, grab the bucket,” she heard Skinner demand and suddenly there was something to vomit into, but there was nothing to come up. After a few more dry heaves, her stomach decided to maintain its current residence and she dropped back to the pillows.

Sights, sounds and smells gradually came to her. She was in a room, shiny wood walls and a ceiling with a fan in the middle. The bed she was on was soft and comfortable, the pillows downy but with an overlying scent of disuse. A window next to the bed looked out on a sylvan landscape that gave way to the towering pines she thought reminded her of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She could smell the pine and the fresh mountain air as it wafted in through the open window, billowing the red- checked curtains.

“Where am I?” she asked, and from the reaction of the man sitting next to her on the bed, she had just given an Academy Award Winning performance.

“You’re in a cabin in the Shenandoah Valley. You’re safe,” Skinner assured her. She put her hand up to her head and looked in dismay at the bandages on her left arm. Worriedly, she inspected the other bandaged arm, too.

“What happened? How did I get here?” she asked, her voice growing stronger, her eyes clearer with each passing moment.

Skinner looked over his shoulder and Scully noticed that he wasn’t alone. The Gunmen were in attendance as well. Frohike stepped forward, stopping at the end of the bed. “You were drugged, Scully,” he said, his face set in barely contained anger.

“For how long? Do we know what they used?” she asked, lying back on the pillows.

This time Byers fielded her inquiry. “As near as we can tell, you’ve been drugged for the last week, since Mulder’s . . . ” The usually taciturn ex-Federal employee chewed on his bottom lip before continuing. “For a while,” he amended. “It appears to have been a psychotropic compound, possibly one of the newer antidepressants. You were given unusually high doses. Aggression is one of the side effects, as well as suicidal thoughts. Once in the hospital, after your, um, episode in the office, they scaled back the psychotropic but layered on a strong sedative. It wasn’t a very beneficial combination,” he concluded.

“How much do you remember?” Skinner asked, his tone thickly laced with worry.

“Everything,” she answered. “But really nothing that makes any sense.” She looked around her again, regaining her bearings. “Mulder,” she said aloud, as if summoning her partner.

“Scully, maybe you need to take a little time today to rest,” Frohike advised, stopping her actions as she attempted to get out of the bed.

“He’s not dead,” she said evenly. “He’s alive. We have to find him.”

All four men exchanged worried glances.

“I’m not hallucinating, I’m not psychotic,” she said flatly.

“You said your brother told you Mulder wasn’t there, in heaven,” Frohike volunteered. “You told me that when you were drugged.”

She nodded and drew in a breath. “Look, I know it sounds crazy,” she said, and chuckled softly at her joke. “He’s alive. I would know if he weren’t.”

“Scully, you identified the body,” Skinner interjected, his expression sorrowful.

“Yes, I did. But I had faulty information,” she said plainly. “Now, unless one of you wants to change the sheets, I suggest you tell me where the nearest bathroom is located.”

Skinner got up and let her sit on the side of the bed. When she stood, her legs would barely hold her. Skinner was immediately on one side, Frohike on the other. After gaining her equilibrium, she nodded to let them know she was steady. “Bathroom’s right through that door,” Frohike directed.

In the bathroom, with the door shut, she had a chance to look at herself in the mirror. Drowned rat. Those were the only words that described her. Slowly she unwound the bandages from her arms and winced. Neat stitches lined both forearms, healing nicely from the looks of them. She closed her eyes for a moment, remembering images from the office. How much damage had she done? Not nearly as much as she could have. But what she did was lose time, time they could have used searching for Mulder.

After attending to pressing business, she opened the door to the medicine cabinet and found sterile gauze and medical tape. She took a moment and applied new bandages.

When she went back to the room she was alone, but a fresh set of clothes were on the bed. Smiling, she changed out of the hospital gown she was wearing. She listened closely and finally heard voices coming from below her. She realized she was in a loft of a cabin. She looked over the rail and saw her four rescuers drinking coffee at a dining room table, set off from a small living room with a fireplace. She went over to the stairs and soon joined them.

“That smells heavenly,” she said, nodding at Skinner’s cup.

Byers shot up as if on a spring to get her a mug of the steaming elixir. “Scully, would you like something to eat?” he offered.

“Yes, thank you, Jon. I’m starving.” Her words caused all four men to break out into bright grins. In minutes a full-scale production was going on in the galley kitchen, each gunman working diligently on his own special recipe. Skinner continued to sit with her at the table.

“I take it I’m ‘missing’,” she said, looking out the windows by the dining area. They appeared to be in the middle of nowhere.

“As far as your family knows, yes,” Skinner admitted. “I’m officially on vacation. I took some time after the funeral.” He wouldn’t raise his eyes from the silk flower centerpiece to look at her. Scully sipped her coffee and nodded. “Logical, given the circumstances. But if you took your leave at the same time I disappeared — ”

“Actually, I didn’t. I’ve spent the last three days in DC. I came down here late last night when Frohike called me to say that you appeared to be coming out of it. You’ve had a pretty rough time.”

“I need you to go to Los Angeles. There has to be some trail they left,” Scully said, ignoring his worried expression and any talk of her recent ordeal. “I can’t go, I’d be spotted immediately. But as soon as you find something, I want a call. I need to find him.”

“I’ll leave after breakfast,” Skinner agreed.

The guys had gone all out and Scully surprised herself with the amount of food she tucked away. Frohike’s huevos rancheros were delightful, as well as Langly’s home fried potatoes and Byers biscuits and gravy. After cleaning up the table and starting the dishwasher, Skinner gathered his things and Scully escorted him out to his car.

“So how was the funeral?” she asked casually.

He immediately looked uncomfortable. “Scully, you don’t want to go into this,” he advised.

“Yes, sir, I do. You and I both know that often times a killer will show up at the funeral, just to get a second chance at the thrill. Tell me about the funeral, sir. Please.”

Skinner’s jaw stiffened and he looked out into the pine trees. “Your mother has a plot for the both of you, did you know that?”

“Yes, at Resurrection Cemetery. My grandparents are buried there.”

“Did . . . does Mulder know?”

It was her turn to look into the pines. “He doesn’t know the particulars. After his mother’s funeral we talked about it and he did say he wanted the two of us buried together. He left the details up to me.”

Skinner nodded, obviously the answer satisfied him. “It was just a little jarring, a Catholic service for Mulder.”

Scully shrugged, but a small upturn of her mouth proved she understood the irony. “We always assumed it would be for both of us. Pre-planning our funeral wasn’t one of those things either of us thought of as a good time, but he insisted we do it for Mom’s sake. So, aside from the actual service, who was there?”

“Your mother, of course. Tara and the children. Oh, your brother Charles.”

At the mention of Charles, Scully jerked. “Charles was there? At the funeral?”

“Yes,” Skinner said, his expression turning to concern and surprise. “I didn’t really think about it. He was there for your mother, and Tara, I’m sure. He and your mother dealt with your hospitalization. Surely you knew that, you said you remember — ”

“The bastard came to see me, but I thought it was a dream,” Scully spat out. “More like a nightmare, really. Well, at least we know which rat is responsible.”

“Scully — ”

“Sir, we don’t have time to get into this right now, but I know that my brother is working for them. I haven’t been able to get solid proof of that, but you know how these things work. I might never get solid proof. But in my heart, I know the truth. My brother is behind Mulder’s faked death and his disappearance. I’m certain of it.”

Skinner shot a glance over to Frohike who kept his face expressionless. Scully caught the exchange.

“You know, don’t you?”

Skinner nodded. “We have evidence this time,” he said. “But you’re out now and we have other things to attend to. Revenge can wait.”

“Until we get Mulder back, yes, it can wait. After that, I make no promises,” she said evenly.

Act 4 scene 2

Skinner left immediately and Scully went back into the cabin. Frohike showed her a family room in the walk out basement that held enough computer equipment to launch the latest NASA shuttle. Together, the gunmen went over everything they’d dug up during her recovery. As the forest around them darkened into a moonless night, Byers spoke up.

“It’s after 11 already. Maybe we should throw together dinner. We haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast and Agent Scully is still recovering.”

“You guys go on up. I want to look some of this over again,” Scully encouraged.

“Hey, we were thinking something simple — I make a mean doctored up frozen pizza,” Langly suggested.

“Sounds wonderful,” she answered, smiling. “And iced tea?”

“Sure,” he affirmed. “We’ll call you when it’s ready.”

Scully leafed through the pages of her medical report that the guys had hacked from the hospital records. Jason Leonard’s name was on all the orders. She shuddered as she thought of her old classmate and the number of times in the recent past she’d left her partner’s care up to this man. He had betrayed them, that much was obvious. But she still wondered how she’d been drugged in the first place. It would have happened in LA, not long after the explosion, but when and who?

A tap at the glass doors leading out to the patio startled her. At first she thought it was a June bug or some other insect attracted to the light. Upon closer in- spection of the world outdoors, her face turned grim. It wasn’t a bug . . . it was a rat. She slid the glass open and stepped out, instinctively searching her back for a weapon she wasn’t carrying. “Krycek, come out of the shadows, you bastard!” she called forcefully.

“Good to see you again, too, Scully,” Alex Krycek greeted her. “Glad you’re back among the sane, relatively speaking, of course.”

“What do you know about that?” she demanded. “Oh, wait, don’t bother. You’ll feed me a line of crap about how you had nothing to do with any of this, right?”

Krycek shook his head in annoyance. “Scully, I always figured you for the brains of the partnership. Stop thinking like Mulder and think with your head. You know I didn’t have anything to do with your recent bout of insanity. You can place the blame for all that right at the feet of your loving brother.”

“I know this already,” she spat out. “I want to know where Mulder is!”

An expression of momentary shock passed quickly over Krycek’s face. “You know he’s alive,” he said with admiration.

“I know a staged murder when I see one,” she replied. “At least when I’m not four sheets to the wind.”

“I need to tell you a little story, but the mosquitoes out here are killing me.”

“No, that would be too much to hope for,” she sneered, but motioned for him to enter the cabin and she closed the door after them. “Now, you have five minutes to tell me who has Mulder and where he is.”

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“Five minutes? You want the TV Guide version?” Krycek snarled. “Let’s start with your loving brother — ”

“Stop calling him that,” Scully snapped.

“OK, Charles then, joined forces long ago with one of the members of the consortium — ”

“All but the one who holds your leash were murdered at El Rico 7 years ago,” she interrupted.

Krycek laughed bitterly. “Just like a wild fire clears out dead wood, Scully. Or maybe a better illustration is the Hydra. They cut off a few heads but more sprang up. Now there is a division between the consortium — a struggle for control between the man you know as Spender and another — his name is Strughold.”

Scully recognized the name immediately from Teena Mulder’s journals. “Strughold escaped El Rico?” she asked.

“He was never there. I would expect he helped plan the whole show.”

“And you’re telling me that Charlie is working with this Strughold?”

“See, I knew there were brains behind that beauty,” Krycek leered.

“And you’re here to tell me this Strughold has Mulder,” she accused with a disbelieving raised eyebrow.

“You really do have Mulder pussy whipped if he put up with you all these years,” Krycek said with an answering roll of his eyes. “Yes, I’m here to tell you that Strughold has Mulder. And to assure you that if you don’t work fast, your boyfriend is toast — for real this time.”

“Prove it,” she demanded.

Krycek smiled prettily. “I thought you’d never ask.” Slipping his one good hand into his pants pocket, he withdrew a CD disk. When she lunged for it anxiously, he pulled it back out of her reach. “Mind you, this is a pirated copy. No special features.”

It had taken several minutes to convince the Lone Gun Men not to beat Krycek senseless and even with the disk in evidence, they had reservations. But being the true friends they were, they took Scully’s word for the man’s actions. Scully schooled her features to bland detachment as she watched the video of her partner’s brutal ‘ghosting’. Aside  rom closing her eyes for a heartbeat longer than necessary once or twice, no one would have guessed the anguish she felt at the scenes playing on the computer in grainy surveillance video black and white.

“How do we know that was really Mulder?” Frohike asked, his arms crossed and disbelief firmly in his features.

“The scars,” Scully said evenly. “One on his shoulder, one on his thigh and the one on his scalp from his surgery a few years back. I saw it as they shaved his head.”

“Where did you get this?” Langly demanded, his face a pale shade of green as the 20 minute long video came to a welcome close.

“Training tape,” Krycek provided with a shrug. “Gotta keep the boys on their toes.”

“Jezus,” Byers muttered, shaking his head. When the monitor went black and resumed the media player icons, all four men looked to the one woman in the room.

“Where was he taken?” she asked, after clearing her throat.

“Egypt,” Krycek said, handing her a piece of paper with coordinates. “Look, Scully, this isn’t just a grab and dash. You’re going to need help and you don’t have a lot of choice in the matter.”

She stared him down. “You’re suggesting that your ‘associate’ wants to help _me_ get Mulder?” she asked coolly.

“Let’s just say he’s never wanted Mulder to fall into the wrong hands. But for what you want, there can’t be any traces back to him.”

She nodded, arms crossed. “What are we talking here? Money, equipment?”

“I have a few connections outside my current employer. I can get you a plane, a pilot, equipment. But it’s gonna take an assful of cash,” Krycek replied, meeting her stare.

“Money’s not a problem,” she said ducking her head to break their locked gaze.

Krycek smiled. “That’s a phrase I never tire of hearing,” he said. “You’re going to need at least a million, with more available at a moment’s notice.”

“Give me till tomorrow night,” she said, avoiding the Gunmen’s stares.

“Always a pleasure doing business with you, Agent Scully. You are by far the better half of the partnership,” Krycek said with an oily smile. “Tomorrow night.” And with that he slipped out of the sliding doors and into the darkness of the surrounding forest.

Act 4 scene 3

Craddock Marine Bank Washington DC

3:45 pm

“Dana, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” John McKinley said with a smile from across his dark cherry desk in the private office. “I was surprised when I got your call, but I have made all the arrangements.” He picked up a briefcase from the credenza behind him and opened it on the desk. “One million dollars. Two million have been moved into a money market account that is accessible from any ATM in the world.” He handed her a debit card and she put it in her purse.

“Thank you, Mr. McKinley, for arranging all of this on such short notice,” Scully said with a relieved sigh.

McKinley smiled. “It’s all a part of the service. I’ve come to expect such urgent requests from your fiancé,” the banker said with a shrug. Scully started to correct the man’s description of what her partner was to her, but remembered back to the last time she’d been in that very bank, and all that had transpired. An image of Mulder wearing a dark brown fedora caused her heart to skip a beat. No, let people think what they wanted to think. It didn’t change what they meant to each other.

“As I remember, the last time Fox withdrew such a large sum, I also had to help him with travel arrangements. Something about Antarctica,” McKinley reminisced. “I must say, the two of you take . . . shall we say ‘unique’ vacations?”

“Yes, yes we do,” Scully said holding back a bitter chuckle. Unique. Not quite the word she would have used, but it seemed to fit, nonetheless. “Well, I really must be going. Thank you again for all your help.” She held out her hand and John shook it firmly.

“I’m your banker, too, Ms. Scully. Fox made that quite clear the last time you were here. The Mulder accounts are in both your names now. Call me anytime you think we can help.”

Act 5

Lab

Unknown Location

Undecipherable images began to appear as Strughold once again activated his device. Mulder was still restrained but Strughold had ordered the oxygen mask and gag removed. He needed information from this man. Sweat still beaded Mulder’s forehead and chest. The inky blackness of his eyes had slowly washed away to reveal their normal color. He stared blankly at the images above him. “BP’s 140 over 90, we’re still a little high,” Kambatta advised with a shaky voice.

Strughold observed the native doctor. Rhinehart had brought him on because of his expertise in cardiology but his nervousness and questionable attitude was beginning to become a hindrance to this procedure. “Dr. Kambatta, I don’t believe we will need your services any longer,” Strughold replied. “Why don’t you escort the good Doctor back to his quarters,” he ordered, turning to look at The Scarred Man.

“Sir?” Kambatta questioned as The Scarred Man stepped forward. “If you don’t keep this patient stabilized he may not live long enough for you to complete your tests…” Before he could finish, The Scarred Man had grabbed him by the bicep and was pulling him towards the door. “I can still be of assistance to you!” Kambatta pleaded.

“Once I obtain the information from this patient, there will be no need to keep him stable,” Strughold then advised the rest of the group as the door to the lab banged shut behind them.

Mulder sucked in a large shaky breath at the same moment, startling them all. “You have neither the means to obtain it nor the intelligence to use it,” he stated, his voice deep and resonating.

Strughold’s eyes widened at the sudden comment from the man on the table. Both Charlie and Rhinehart stepped back cautiously, disturbed by the threatening candor of Mulder’s voice.

The old German tapped more codes into the keypad he held before him. Mulder’s head jerked but he made no sound. More images appeared. Hideous images of inhuman faces that seemed to be crying out in agony hovered before them.

“Dear God, what is that?” Rhinehart asked astonished by what he was witnessing.

“History,” Strughold answered. “The ancient history of this planet, the extinction of an unknown race, advanced far beyond your current standards. Your predecessors, Doctor. Within their history lies the wisdom and power of the universe.”

“Like many others you seek the knowledge for your own gain. That is why it will forever be kept from you,” Mulder spoke again, the deepness of his voice echoing about the room. He inhaled deeply once again his chest expanding against the restraint. “Your dominating nature prevents you from seeing the whole picture,” he continued focusing on Charlie now. “Only when you understand that in unification lies the truth…”

“Oh give it up, Mulder!” Charlie interrupted. His patience with Mulder’s cryptic comments was wearing thin. “I know what you’re trying to do. It’s not going to work this time, nobody will come for you. It’s over, Dana thinks your dead. She identified your body herself. You’re in Africa for God’s sake!”

“Charles,” Strughold warned. “You do not want to agitate him.”

“Why? It’s not like he can do anything about it,” Charlie snapped back. “Why don’t you just get this over with?” he questioned, turning to address Strughold directly. “Mulder’s been a thorn in your side from the beginning. We have Dana put away, now take care of him!”

Charlie’s false bravado was getting the better of him. Truth was, Mulder’s actions were making him nervous. While the younger Scully’d been spouting off to Strughold, Mulder had continued to breathe deeply. Filling his lungs to expand his chest, he pulled tightly against the restraints that held his wrists, the sweat that covered his body now acting to enhance his musculature. Something was happening here, something Charlie sensed that Strughold was also aware of. The snap of metal and the crack of bone made Charlie flinch. “Don’t let him touch you!” Strughold warned, jumping back from the table. Unfortunately for Charlie, his reactions weren’t fast enough.

* “Xaonoano paolisa[i]!” *Translation The words boomed from Mulder as his hand came up to grip the side of Charlie’s face. Charlie felt a sudden jolt pass through him with the contact and gasped. A moment of euphoria overcame him; he met Mulder’s eyes. He felt an understanding dawn between them and then it was gone along with Mulder’s grip. He staggered back and slumped to the floor.

Visions passed through Mulder’s brain with the contact, dancing moments later over the device Strughold still held before him. The explosion in the warehouse; Charlie ordering troops into action to kidnap him as he lay unconscious on the ground, Charlie’s orders for Dana’s disposal, the vision through Charlie’s eyes of Scully throwing herself against a padded wall. An anger he both welcomed and didn’t understand grew within him.

Another snap of metal and Mulder sat up turning his upper torso to face Strughold.

* “Oai ali-i ti-i xai-iaxaisati opa alili sali-iatiolisa opa xaiapaino anoti ialiti, no-oliti-ili opa xaonoano paoti-i-isa anoti saopapali-i-ili opa ti-i sapaili-iti, pai ti-i kaononoanotinoinotisa opa ti-i kali-iatioli oai asati tilio-oiaxa ti-i sao-olisa opa ti-i anokaisatiolisa anoti tilianosanoiti onoli-i tio ti-i io-onokaisati[ii].” * Translation

Charlie gathered himself from the floor and staggered to his feet watching as Strughold stepped back from the table almost as if in fear. What Mulder was saying made no sense.

* “Ti-i pao-oaili opa kali-iati-iono isa inoinoiontili-iti-isatiliosati-ipal, ti-I anokaisatiolisa kanoioa ti-isa, io-o oailili tio![iii]” * Translation Mulder’s voice echoed about the room. In one swift movement Mulder was off the table, his action ripping the IV line from his right arm. Blood trickled freely from the open wound, down his forearm onto his hand. With a bloody hand he yanked off the BP cuff and reached up to pull viciously at the mesh that covered his head.

Charlie winced at the tiny popping sound each contact made as Mulder peeled the mesh from his scalp and tossed it onto the floor where it undulated for a moment and then curled in on itself. He turned to Strughold, fixing him with a penetrating gaze as tiny rivulets of blood began to appear across his scalp.

*”Io-o oaxao sai-ika ti-isa oaoliliti paoli io-oli o-oano liasai ka-ano no-oti sai-i tiati iti isa alili-iati-i tionoiti. ti-i kano-o-oali-itikai io-o xaopai tio ka-aino xaili-i isa no-oti noianoti paoli io-o. ti-I pao-oaili oao-oliti pai opa no-o osai tio io-o. ti-i kaoti-isa, paliokalianonoiti inotio ti-isa palianoiti paliono itisa kali-iati-iono li- iliati-i onoli-i tio itisa paosaiti-iono oaiti-ino ti-i kaosano-osa. Onoli-i ti-i io-onokaisati onoisa oaili-i noianoti tio onoti-ilisatianoti ti-ino. io-o pali-isaonoi tio tioi oaiti a pao- oaili kali-iati-ili tiano io-olisailipa, iti oailili onoli-i ti-isatilioi io-o![iv]” *Translation 

Charlie couldn’t tell if Strughold had any comprehension of what Mulder was saying. At first dazed by the situation, the old German suddenly came to life.

“Sedate him!” he yelled to Rhinehart who had been huddled against the cabinets at the far side of the lab. Mulder turned to Rhinehart, as the German doctor fumbled with a bottle of Haloperidol and a new hypodermic. He watched him draw almost the entire contents from the bottle into the syringe. Mulder advanced on him, shoving the surgical table across the room with incredible force, pinning several of Strughold’s technicians against the far wall before they could jump out of the way. With a full syringe Rhinehart turned towards Mulder and attempted to jab him in the upper arm but Mulder was too fast. Even though the doctor outweighed him Mulder grabbed him by the shoulders, turning him around and thrusting him hard against the nearest wall.

The jolt made Rhinehart drop the syringe. Charlie and one of the technicians scrambled for it as it rolled across the floor. Strughold ran for the door and hit the alarm.

Rhinehart shoved Mulder back, the two men staggered across the lab knocking over several utility carts and sending the silver box Rhinehart had pulled the mesh from crashing to the floor. More of the tiny silver cylinders rolled out across the floor.

“Get back!” Strughold exclaimed.

Rhinehart grappled with Mulder, trying to dislodge the intense grip the man had on him. Another one of Strughold’s technicians was on them. In an instant, Mulder had let go of Rhinehart with one hand and used it to throw the technician cross the room before finally shoving Rhinehart hard against the cabinets behind them, one hand clenched tightly around his throat.

Bent backwards over the counter behind him, Rhinehart continued to struggle with Mulder but before the doctor could free himself Mulder threw his own weight against him, letting go of his throat and grabbing the man’s head with both hands, his fingers splayed out across his scalp from his temples to the crown of his head.

*”Paixaoliti-ti-oliti-ili opa ti -i xai-iaxaisati opa alili![v]” *Translation

The power of Mulder’s voice made everyone freeze momentarily. Rhinehart winced and cried out as Mulder began to apply pressure to both side of his skull.

The technician had come up with the syringe, he skittered across the floor behind Mulder and jabbed it into his right hip, depressing the plunger while Charlie staggered to his feet, standing transfixed as he watched Rhinehart’s body began to shake violently in Mulder’s grasp. Charlie could see Mulder’s muscles straining to apply the pressure  against Rhinehart’s skull; the drug appeared to have no effect. Rhinehart continued to convulse. Blood trickled from his ears, his eyes rolled back and then his body went slack.

Mulder released his grip on Rhinehart; the doctor’s body slid from his hands and slumped to the floor, his eyes blank and dull. “Jesus,” Charlie whispered as Mulder turned to face them the irises of his eyes now a disturbing, deep glowing gold.

* “Io-o li-ialino no-oti-inoia paliono ti-i pa-asati. ti-i xaolilioli opa ka- atiasatiliopaxaika-ali ti-isa-asati-ili oailili noakai iti inopaosasaipali-I paoli ti-i paopaoliati-ionosa tio saolipaipai. li-ipai no-osati paikaino aka-aino oaxaino ti-i io-onokaisati onoisa xa-apai pao-onoti ti-i-ili sao-olisa aka-aino anoti ti-i saiksati ialiti isa paolino aka-aino![vi]” * Translation

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The sound of the alarm blaring outside across the compound finally penetrated the haze in Charlie’s skull. The doors to the lab flew open. Black ops soldiers entered, guns drawn. “NO”! Strughold shouted, stepping between them and Mulder. Mulder was still standing over Rhinehart’s body, his respiration deep and heavy but he made no attempt to move. Charlie watched his face; he almost appeared to be at conflict with himself.

* “Io-o xa-apai i-i-isa paoti io-o tio no-oti sai-i. ti-i pao-oaili opa kali- iati-iono isa alili alio-onoti io-o. xaititi-ino oaiti-ino ti-i noatioliali oliti-ili opa alili ti- inoiasa tiati io-o no-o lionokaili pai-ili inopaolitianoti. oa-asati-iti pai io-oli oa-anoti io-o ali-i ti-isatilioi-inoia tiati oaxaikaxa![vii]” * Translation

“What the hell is he saying?” Charlie demanded.

“It’s the language of the ancients,” the old German replied, turning to face him. “The language we must find a way to understand.” Strughold then turned away from Charlie, taking several steps towards Mulder. “It is you that are the fool. You will soon see I do have the means to obtain the knowledge you’re so vainly trying to protect. Bring the boy in here!”

Mulder stood paralyzed, looking down at his hands, hands he had just used to kill a man in cold blood. What the hell was happening to him? Moments before he’d been lashed prone on a table, starving, dehydrated and in pain. Now he was overcome with a sensation of euphoria. His mind, despite his body’s deplorable condition, was electrified with the energy of the Cosmos. Voices, the spiritual entities of thousands, called out in a language he could barely comprehend, speaking through him of the power  of creation and a code of survival written into the history of the planet.

They were overwhelming and he fought to retain his own consciousness. The door to the lab opened again. Two more black ops soldiers entered followed by the Scarred Man escorting a boy, only he wasn’t a boy, he was a young man whose hands and legs were bound with chains. He had dark hair and a rounded face that looked remarkably familiar to Mulder. When their eyes met, he knew, ‘Gibson?’

“Bring him here!” Strughold ordered, reaching out to grab Gibson by the shoulder and thrust him forward towards Mulder. “You know this boy, you know what he’s capable of. Now that we have awakened the consciousness of the ancients he can obtain their knowledge from your mind!”

* “Xai ka-ano no-oti li-iati a noinoti xai tioisa no-oti onoti-ilisatianoti[viii].” * Translation

Gibson stood transfixed, his eyes large with fear from the sound of the man’s resonating voice. The man before him looked like Mulder, he’d just heard his voice in his head and yet this language he spoke was foreign to him, his physical presence overpowering.

“Tell us what he’s saying!” Strughold ordered.

Gibson looked from Strughold to Mulder, ‘Don’t tell him.’ It was Mulder’s voice again; he heard it in his head.

‘Mulder? What’s happened to you?’

Mulder reached towards Gibson, his palm upturned in an act of supplication, a plea for understanding.

‘I don’t understand it either, but it’s me, Gibson, please don’t be afraid of me, I won’t hurt you.’

‘You won’t but there’s something else here, I can sense it. An alien presence within you, more powerful than the beings I’ve experienced before, I can’t reach it. I don’t understand.’

“You will read his mind!” Charlie stepped forward then, grabbing Gibson by the shoulders, shoving him at Mulder again in frustration.

“Ti-i kaoti-isa ali-i oali-ititi-ino ino ti-i tionopa opa li-ikaolitisa liaiti tio-oano paliono ti-i oli-ikainosa opa kaipaili-isa-ati-iono itisailipa. ti-i ti-inoi opa ti-i pailisati ti-inoi. a xaiapainoli-i oliti-ili ti-iti-ilinoinoiti onoli-i ati ti-i ti-inoi opa kali- iati-iono, anoti saiti paoliti onoli-i paoli ti-i io-onokaisati onoisa io-o oailili no-oti kano-o-oa iti![ix]” *Translation

The words Mulder spoke sounded foreign to the boy but he was able to pick out pieces of it, a “Tomb of Records” from and earlier time in a “land now lost” meant only for a chosen few. But what if the unchosen were to gain access to them? He looked back at his friend. Despite his threatening demeanor, Mulder looked exhausted. He stood before them all supported only by the rigorous position of his legs.

Mulder inhaled deeply, stepping over Rhinehart’s body. He felt suddenly light headed. Whatever was happening to him mentally was having adverse affects on him physically. The huge dose of Haloperidol was making his heart race. He felt flushed; it was hard to catch his breath. He should have been in a barbiturate coma by now, instead he felt enraged by those around him. He looked desperately at Gibson again.

‘I don’t know what I’ve become but I believe what’s in me is a good thing Gibson. Help me.’

‘No, Mulder, it’s not a good thing. You can’t see what it’s doing to you.’

‘It’s a power Gibson, greater than ourselves, I feel it within me.’

‘It’s dangerous, Mulder, it’s not meant for us.’

‘But it is Gibson, these men will use it to harm and that’s not what I feel its true purpose is. We need to understand it ourselves. Please, you know I can’t take much more of this.’

The old German watched as Mulder turned away from Gibson and stepped towards him. * “Io-o oaxao tiliaoa noi o-oti ino ano atiti-inopati tio ka-aino a xai-iaxaili kano-o-oali-itikai, xa-apai ti-ipaiati-iti io-olisailipa ti-isa paoti-i ka-anono-oti saosatiaino noi[x].” * Translation

It was then Gibson understood the power within Mulder also knew their presence was killing him. “Look, can’t you see what you’re doing to him! He won’t be any help to you if you let him die!” Gibson exclaimed.

“Tell me!” Strughold demanded, stepping into the boy’s space. The old German was frantic, obviously underestimating the effect  prolonged exposure to the black oil had on the human body. “You will tell me what you know! I need the information and I need it now!” Strughold grabbed Gibson shaking him violently.

“I — I don’t understand it! I can’t help you!” Gibson shouted back, sensing the man’s desperation, and in an instant sensing something more. He looked at Mulder wide eyed.

‘He’s …’

‘I know.’ Gibson had no trouble picking out Mulder’s voice in the cacophony of voices in his head. He also understood that Mulder was in trouble. His body glistened with sweat, his breathing now labored. Mulder turned to Charlie. * “Xaisatioli-i sapaiakasa tio io-o. io-o oaxao xa-apai paolikaotiti-ino xao-oa tio li-isati-ino oailili noipaili kano-o-oa ti-i noiliakali-i opa ti-i noisati-ili-i. ti-isa isa ti-i oailili opa ti-i xai-iaxaisati opa alili![xi]” *Translation

Somewhere in the message Gibson sensed a finality and yet a clue that the mystery of it all lay within the history of this planet. Whether it was Mulder or the power within him, one of them was willing to take his secrets to the grave.

‘Mulder no! Tell me how to help you!’

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Gibson never got an answer. Mulder lunged at Strughold knocking him back against the wall. Their eyes met and once again Mulder was filled with a moment of recognition; the presences of another who knew of the time before the First Time. Strughold gasped, watching as Mulder’s eyes glowed gold again before him. But then his soldiers were on him, wrestling Mulder away from their superior. Mulder fought back, determined to put an end to the Old German.

*”Paolisa! Paolisa![xii]” *Translation

Despite the strength within him his efforts were now hindered by the pain and swelling that now encompassed his left wrist, his lungs ached for air. Suddenly from somewhere outside the lab a huge rumbling erupted, the shock wave that followed soon after shaking everything around them. As the soldiers wrestled Mulder off Strughold the door burst open again. “Sir! We’re being attacked!” another soldier yelled, stepping through the doorway. One of the technicians filled another syringe and stepped over Mulder who now lay pinned to the floor by several soldiers.

“No, don’t!” Gibson pleaded to no avail as he watched the man plunge the needle into Mulder’s right hip again and pressed the plunger down. Another explosion wracked the facility, alarms continued to blare. The soldiers released their grip as Mulder’s body began to go slack. Gibson watched a satisfying sneer spread across Strughold’s face as they all stood back and watched the amber glow dim in Mulder’s eyes.

“Leave them!” Strughold instructed, gathering himself from the floor. “Report to your defense positions now! We will come back for them later!”

Gibson struggled to kneel down next to Mulder. The chains that bound him were making it hard for him to keep his balance. Reaching across Mulder’s body he pulled hard, rolling his friend over onto his back as Strughold and his men fled the lab. Charlie stopped momentarily as he passed through the door, turning back to catch Gibson’s eye but said nothing and then disappeared down the hallway with the others.

“Mulder?” Gibson questioned, reaching out to touch his friend trying to feel his carotid artery for a pulse. Mulder’s eyes were glassy, the pulse under Gibson’s finger raced. His mind seemed void of thought until it to erupted in an explosion of its own. Mulder began to convulse, his body wracked by terrible tremors. Recognizing it as some sort of seizure Gibson did his best to pull his friend over onto his side as the tremors continued. Still glistening with sweat, Mulder’s body felt chilled to the touch.

He was going into shock.

Act 6

Cairo, Egypt

2:34 p.m.

“There it is,” Langly announced, wheeling around to the rest of the “crew.”

Scully leaned in, studying the high-res aerial image on the Gunman’s screen. A low, flat, sprawling structure loomed across the scrubby desert landscape, flanked by several dozen cars, trucks, and vans. Krycek had invested Mulder’s cash in the “pre-owned” military craft Langly now was piloting and the blissful ignorance of several key Egyptian officials. He’d been largely silent since they’d left Turkey, except for a few highly technical consultations with the Gunmen. Now he stepped out of the shadows of the eerily lit compartment.

“Allied Textiles,” Krycek reported. “Egypt’s fifth largest cotton mill, and a subsidiary of a holding company owned by a shadow corporation recently acquired by Strughold Mining. Plant had a major retooling six months ago, but the company made some rather odd purchases that didn’t have a lot to do with making high-thread count pillowcases. Medical diagnostic equipment, lotta pharmaceuticals the FDA has never heard of. This is it. Hey, Spicoli, you ready to fire up the spy scope?”

Langley turned back to his keyboard, extending a middle finger toward Krycek,and rapped out a series of commands. A monitor to his right flickered on, revealing the skeletal frame of the textile plant filled with dozens of milling spots — the heat signatures of every human currently inhabiting the facility.

“Thar she blows,” Frohike declared, tapping the screen. “That cluster’s the mill–”

The diminutive Gunman’s finger moved upward, ” — and this must be the lab, at the opposite end. Underground — you can see the signatures there are a little fainter.

Those moving ants are Dr. Evil’s minions and that stationary figure. . .”He trailed off, glancing anxiously at Scully. Her fingers moved toward the monitor, then stopped as she frowned. “Who’s this other signature? It’s stationary, too.”

Krycek stared silently at the screen.

Scully turned to him.”What aren’t you telling us?” she demanded.

Krycek smiled mirthlessly. “I told you what you needed to know to get your boyfriend back. We may just have an extra passenger for the trip home.” He nudged Frohike aside and tapped the cluster of mill workers. “Here’s Ground Zero.”

“No.”

He turned to Scully with a sigh.

“We’re not mass murderers,” the agent said tersely.

“We want total chaos,” Krycek frowned. “This is our best bang for your boy- friend’s buck.”

“No.” Scully’s nail clicked on the monitor. “Here — the warehouse. I guarantee you’ll get the chaos you want without the body count. We take out bricks and mortar and inventory, Strughold gets out the spackle and nails. We take out a few dozen Egyptian nationals, we’re on CNN, and every antiterrorist unit on the planet is gunning for us. That’s a lot of bang for our buck?”

Krycek smirked. “You’re the Eagle Scout.” He turned back to the monitor. Scully regarded Krycek silently, then shook her head and retreated to the back of the compartment, where Byers was rapping away on a laptop.

“That was too easy,” she whispered to the bearded former bureaucrat. “Watch him.”

“On it,” Byers murmured, eyes locked on the keyboard.

**

“Lock and load,” Krycek ordered about 10 minutes later.

Langly looked to Scully, who inhaled slowly and nodded. The Gunman cracked his knuckles and attacked the keyboard. A minute later, he turned with a grave expression.

“We’re going down, dudes,” he announced.

**

Charlie’s initial shock at the attack, at Strughold and the Frenchman’s abrupt departure, at the sudden responsibility thrust upon him, segued rapidly into rage at the incompetence of his underlings in allowing the aircraft to crash into the warehouse. Then rage turned into hope. Only Krycek could have mustered this kind of firepower, could have unearthed Mulder’s location, would have mounted this grand a “rescue” operation, Charlie mused as he stood outside the pulverized outer wall, eyeing the  conglomeration of twisted pipes, conduits, tanks, and huge black shards that once had been part of a high-tech military jet. A grand and unsuccessful rescue operation, Charlie realized with a spark of excitement. “Find the body,” he barked at his security force — a team of former CIA, Mossad, and KGB agents, salted with Special Forces pros. “I want a positive identification. Alex Krycek.”

“Could’ve been a military misfire,” a swarthy, uniformed sentry grunted. The Security staff only barely restrained its disdain for their soft, brash young ‘boss’.

“It’s Krycek,” Charlie insisted, stumbling slightly as he strutted out. “Find the body.”

**

By the time Commander Barouk and his men — what passed for the local law — showed up on their doorstep, Charlie had fully recovered his oily composure. Strughold – who had not yet been notified of the incident at the cotton mill — had greased the palms of every police official in the district, and Barouk went through the motions of inspecting the crash scene.

“The military, of course, will rely on my findings,” the preening, mustached policeman announced, marveling at the destruction. “I suggest you and your workers have been the victims of an abortive terrorist raid, an unfortunate miscalculation by fanatical fools. I assume you are well insured?”

“Home office has already been notified,” Charlie smiled, shrugging. The lab was powered by a separate generator, Strughold had instructed him to handle the repairs and the local authorities in a low-key manner, and he’d calmed considerably in preparation for his meeting with the corrupt and obsequious Barouk. “We’d be very grateful if you could help with the military authorities.” Charlie knew Barouk knew well what form that appreciation would take, and that to cover an event of this magnitude would require a far grander gesture of appreciation than the payoff he’d received when Strughold acquired and refitted the ‘mill’.

The policeman beamed. “Please, do not worry. By the way, my cousin Fasid, he is a contractor and builder. He and his workers could make this as new within a few weeks.”

Charlie nodded, forcing congeniality. “I’m certain Mr. Strughold will want to use local labor. Thank you.”

Barouk’s smile brightened. He turned to his men, who were taking turns at a bottle of some amber liquid with Charlie’s security force while Strughold’s men were politely passing around a second bottle Barouk’s men had extended as a gift to their brothers in arms. Barouk might be a bureaucratic buffoon, but his men were largely ex-military or Egyptian Central Security Forces, and they bonded instantly with the thugs and assassins on Strughold’s security staff.

Barouk shouted in Egyptian, and his men mustered reluctantly. Charlie waved regally as the group departed, then turned to his security chief.

“Find the body,” he repeated.

**

The maiden voyage of the RQ-3 DarkStar was on March 29, 1996, but its second flight on April 22, 1996, ended in a crash shortly after takeoff. The Department of Defense terminated DarkStar in January 1999 after determining the craft was neither aerodynamically stable nor cost-effective. However, the RQ-3 DarkStar incorporates stealth technology that makes it difficult to detect. It can take off, arrive at its target, operate sensors, transmit information, return, and land without human intervention. The RQ-3 can send digital information to a satellite while still in flight. Aviation Week & Space Technology reported in April 2003 that a modified RQ-3 was still in development as a “black” project, and alleged that the first such example had been used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The newer models were well beyond Krycek’s — that is, Mulder’s — means. However, the pre-owned DarkStar Alex secured from a former Russian Mafiya lieutenant and arms entrepreneur offered a considerable bang for his — Mulder’s — buck. Sergei would have marveled at Krycek’s blatant abuse of a perfectly functional, gently handled unmanned aerial vehicle, but as the vicious Russian frequently commented, “The customer’s money is always right.”

“We’re in,” Krycek nodded, eyeing the satellite image of the damaged plant that had beamed down to the heavily equipped, artfully battered van.

Scully stood behind his shoulders, arms crossed. “We are? Krycek, I’ve given you a lot of leeway here…”

“You didn’t have a choice,” he countered, eyes on the screen. “You and the Stooges here could never have gotten this far, and, as I promised, no civilian casualties.”

“Civilian?” Frohike squeaked, jumping from his seat at the rear of the imported Econoline. “Just what are you up to, Ratboy?”

Krycek smiled cryptically. “Saving your geek buddy’s ass, Sneezy. Step off.” He snagged the canvas bag he’d had Fed-Exed to Cairo, unzipped it, and withdrew a small, battleship-gray case. Krycek pulled his keys from his khakis and slipped a thin strip of metal into a slot in the case. The top slid away, and he removed a slim device.

“What you got there, dude?” Langly craned, a toy store gleam in his eyes.

“Like I said,” Krycek mumbled, punching buttons. “We’re in. About 300,000 of us.”

“What did you do?” Scully demanded, gripping the monitor console. “Krycek, what did you do?”

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“More bang, Scully. More bang.”

**

Charlie closed his eyes as he sipped a somewhat bitter wine he’d had shipped in from Luxor and pored over every word Strughold and the Frenchman had said before fleeing the scene, leaving him to clean up and prepare Mulder and Gibson for transport. Certainly, they couldn’t hold him responsible for this latest fiasco, or they wouldn’t have relegated this great responsibility to him.

Charlie had never possessed a literary bent, but he had realized early on that both Strughold and the Frenchman valued the deep thoughts and high words of dead men and women. His reading interests were confined largely to his favorite topic: The accumulation of power and riches.

When he first traveled to Strughold’s facility, Charlie had been particularly taken with tales of the Egyptian demigod Sesmu, the deity of wine and winemaking. At the height of the Egyptian empire, red wine was strongly identified with blood, and thus Sesmu was identified as “lord of blood.” Since the ancients viewed wine as a good thing, Sesmu was considered a righteous god, an executioner of the unworthy and slaughterer of souls. Much as Charlie viewed himself. Later, the Egyptians would adapt the winepress for the production of oils and balms, and the fierce and righteous Sesmu came to be associated with beauty and health. Pussy, Charlie had snorted, choosing to discard this bit of mythological chaff.

As he rested on his pillows, soothed by a warm Nile Valley breeze and quaffing the nectar of the desert, he imagined himself a modern-day Sesmu, wringing the secrets of humanity, indeed life itself, from Mulder and Praise, to benefit the righteous few worthy of earthly salvation. His moments of self-doubt at the Starbucks, after the abortive attack, were forgotten; Charlie soon would take his place as one of the demigods of Man’s future.

**

Moshe Tsudik nudged aside another chunk of metal, in search of something, anything organic. The tight-assed little goy was obsessed with finding the likely vaporized remains of this man Krycek for the old Nazi Strughold, and he’d been at it ever since they sent the millworkers home. Moshe had no idea whether Strughold actually was a Nazi, or even political at all. On his infrequent visits, he was oblivious to everyone who wasn’t wearing a lab coat — Israeli, American, Russian, everyone. But he sensed something in the old German’s bearing, in his coldly clinical evaluation of every problem and situation. He actually preferred the inscrutable Kraut to the slick little goniff who’d coming marching in a week ago as if he were the second coming of Khadafi.

“Yo, Hymie.”

Moshe glanced across the wreckage at the massive African-American, who was holding what appeared to be a piece of tail section. Tyler was an ex-Marine who’d been raised in poverty in some urban U.S. ghetto. The first time he spotted Moshe’s yarmulke — admittedly, a somewhat incongruous fixture for an ex-Mossad assassin who’d  killed some two dozen men — he’d dubbed him Hymie after some past slur by the American Jesse Jackson. Tyler was a child, culturally, and so Moshe wasn’t offended. They had become friends — Moshe had even taught him the rudiments of chess and classic literature.

“This is some shit, man,” Tyler breathed. “There’s no body here. Know what I think?”

Moshe smiled dryly. “Tell me, my friend.”

“You know that story you told me while back? ‘Bout that big horse?”

“You will have to help me. . .”

“Man, you know, they snuck those dudes inside the big horse.”

“Ah, yes. The Trojan horse. What are you thinking?”

Tyler crunched through the rubble. “They ain’t no body — been looking for hours, right? Look, I was in the Gulf, I saw something. Wasn’t supposed to. Some guys, CIA or something, they were testing some kinda stealth jet, you know, ‘cept no pilot.”

Moshe was silent, considering. “Wait. Unmanned? A drone?”

“Yeah. What if this wasn’t no accident? What if somebody crashed one of those drone things in here like a, you know, like a Trojan horse? Maybe they want whatever shit’s going on in the lab.”

“But, my friend, there were no Trojan soldiers inside our high-tech horse, no barbarians outside the gate.”

Tyler shook his head incredulously, then broke into a smile. “Shit, man, just love the way you talk. All the same, what we gonna tell Scullllllllll — ”

Moshe looked up sharply and gasped. His colleague had begun to shake uncontrollably, and spittle sprayed from his lips. His face was segmented by pulsing blue veins, and Tyler’s eyes bulged from their sockets.

“They. . .”

Moshe scrambled for his radio. “Please do not speak. I’ll call the lab.”

“It’s . . .inside. . .me,” Tyler choked, staring in horror at the ropy veins on his powerful hands. “The . . . horsssse.”

Moshe’s finger froze on the send button as he heard a juicy ‘pop’ and something small and wet hurtled past his head. He staggered back as he watched blood erupt from the black hole where Tyler’s left eye had been. The huge American dropped to his knees as his palms began to bleed.

Moshe dropped the radio, his own eyes wide. Then, they narrowed as it came to him.

The aircraft, the drone — it was not the Trojan horse.

He winced as knives sliced into his temples. Strughold and Scully had paid well for Commander Barouk’s cooperation, but had underestimated his greed. The bottle his men had so freely shared — had it contained some toxin, some biological agent? Moshe had taken a single slug of the cheap liquor, no doubt enough, he reflected as he glanced down at the backs of his own hands. . .

**

Dr. Kambatta wiped his brow for perhaps the fifth time in three minutes and struggled to focus on Mulder’s erratic brainwaves. As a cardiologist he was at a loss to comprehend the deviations. Once again strapped to the surface of a lab table and pumped full of drugs, EEG leads affixed to his skull, Mulder appeared catatonic — his eyes, though open, were glassy and unfocused, and he seemed unresponsive to any forms of stimulation. Kambatta’s attempts to get vitals on the man had been met with resistance from the young man, Gibson. “You don’t want to touch him,” the boy had warned.

The lab assistant Mr. Scully had called to the floor with him had been gone nearly a half-hour. Scully had babbled about some sort of bio-terrorism attack, about a mounting death count. Kambatta had heard what he thought to be shots about 10 minutes before, but no one would answer his calls. Kambatta had returned to Mulder and the boy not out of scientific dedication, but to divert himself from the apocalyptic events seemingly transpiring beyond the laboratory. However, his diversion had served merely to deepen his sense of foreboding. Despite heavy sedation, Mulder had been babbling softly, speaking in a tongue that Kambatta – a master of five African, three Middle eastern, and three European languages — could not comprehend. He knew something had happened — something disastrous that had left Rhinehart dead, but after the blast, he had been told little.

Mr. Scully’s instructions had been to keep these two alive at any cost. With the exception of some abrasions from the chains, the boy seemed to be unharmed. He refused to leave the man’s side and watched Kambatta warily. However, without physical contact to evaluate Mulder’s condition he could do little but watch as Mulder continued his one-sided conversation.

“What is he saying? Kambatta finally asked.

Gibson looked up as if noticing the doctor for the first time. “I think it’s an ancient dialect, I can only understand a word or two,” he whispered.

“Does he know what he’s talking about?” Kambatta asked, nodding towards Mulder’s prone form.

“I don’t know,” Gibson answered, turning to face the doctor with, his eyes bright with concern. “He knows he’s dying, though. We have to help him.”

Kambatta took a moment to observe the destruction of the lab. Rhinehart’s body had been removed but the evidence of the chaos that had occurred was still very evident.

“What happened here?” he finally asked.

“Reverse evolution, I think,” Gibson replied, looking down at his friend, reaching out once again with his bound hands to comfort him. There was no response from Mulder but as Kambatta watched them Mulder’s monologue became increasingly complex and animated, almost as if he and Gibson were channeling something together. The flickering of the EEG monitor caught their eye, the graphs and arcs that had previously covered it’s surface were gone, in their place undecipherable text had appeared, racing across the screen as Mulder continued to babble. He and the boy starred at each other Only fear of the unknown chaos unfolding outside prevented Kambatta from fleeing the lab.

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The metallic buzz and flashing green light came to Kambatta as a portent of salvation. Even Mr. Scully would be a welcome presence at this point. “Thank goodness you have –” Kambatta stopped, dead. In the lab doorway stood an odd and incongruous quintet: A petite and lovely redhead; an intelligent, clear- eyed young man with neatly trimmed hair and a van dyke; a compact, middle-aged man who might have been a derelict of the streets; a thin, bespectacled colleague with long hair, a black T-shirt, and a sleek device wired to a metallic security card; and a good-looking, rugged younger man whose automatic weapon was trained at his head.

“Gibson,” the redhead gasped, as she stared incredulously at the young man standing next to the native doctor.

“Hey, doc,” the man with the gun smiled crookedly. “Feel like dying in the name of science?”

Kambatta stared into the gun’s sights, then at the unnervingly calm Mulder. The doctor squared his shoulders and addressed his comments to the man with the gun and the redheaded woman. “I believe I will choose not to.”

**

Within a mere hour, Strughold’s facility had turned into some little-known suburb of Hell. Charlie had responded to Tsudik’s incoherent call to find the corridors littered with the barely recognizable corpses of his security crew. Some had seemingly melted within their uniforms. A few had used a bullet to release whatever had possessed them; one man’s fingers were covered with blood and brains, and Charlie realized he had torn his own face away.

He’d ordered Kambatta’s assistant to the floor in a vain effort to diagnose the agent that had ravaged most of his men. The scientist had freaked at the carnage, and refused to touch any of the bodies. Then he’d begun ranting about Pandora’s Box and God and some other crap, and tried to run for it. The crazed scientist made it about 20 feet before Charlie sealed the potential leak with an AK-74.

What had Krycek hoped to achieve? Charlie already had decided that the aircraft that had destroyed Strughold’s warehouse had been a distraction. But a distraction for what? Nothing could have survived the crash, and the site and the facility’s perimeter had been quickly sealed. The only people on the premises after the crash had been. . .

Charlie’s heart nearly stopped. Barouk? That idiot? Had he and his men slipped something into the facility? A vial, a canister? But the policemen hadn’t worn any protection, had hung around for nearly a half-hour, laughing and drinking with his own men.

A blinding flash of clarity pierced Charlie’s growing sense of terror. Two bottles.

Barouk’s men had drunk from one bottle, his own from another. But his guys were pros — most had taken a mere sip, a gesture of diplomacy. Whatever they’d been slipped was potent, and slow-acting — it had been more than an hour since Barouk had departed. And sudden and simultaneously effective in two dozen men of varying metabolism and genetics. No toxin worked that way. It was almost as if something had been abruptly turned on inside them. . . Charlie stumbled to a bench near the lab assistant’s body. About 10 years ago, Spender and some Japanese scientists had gotten all psyched about a possible cure for the oil — nanobots, microscopic machines that theoretically could repair organs or even cells. One of the researchers suggested the next generation might be able to transfer genetic material between chromosomes. But these micro-machines had met their match in the alien virus, and Spender quickly moved on. His shadow, Krycek, had seemed uncharacteristically fascinated in the technology — maybe he’d found a use for it.

Or more than one. Adam — the sudden shift from mindless innocent to violent, self-destructive psychopath. Krycek had gotten to him. And now he’d evened the odds here.

Or so he thought, Charlie nodded grimly, heading for the lab.

**

AK poised, Charlie slashed his card through the reader. He’d rejected a retinal scanner as being too conspicuous to the outsourced wage labor, and now was concerned that decision would prove just one more nail Strughold would pound into his coffin.

“Thank goodness you have come,” Kambatta breathed as Charlie rushed into the lab, his eyes darting. “I have some astounding new findings regarding — My God, Mr. Scully! Are you all right?”

“We’ve had a mishap,” Charlie panted, punching a new set of codes into the security console. “We gotta get these two ready for travel. I assume the chop-per’s still operable.”

“What has happened?”

“All you need to know right now is that we have to get the fuck out of here. God, what do we need to take? You got all the data on these two? Jesus, what am I, shit . . .”

“Mr. Scully,” Kambatta interrupted soothingly. “You must calm down.” The scientist walked quickly to a drug cabinet and located a vial and a needle.

“I don’t need any shit,” Charlie squeaked, running his hand through his hair.

“This is very mild,” Kambatta said, his back to him. He turned around and proffered the needle. “It will relax you enough to focus your thoughts. Please.”

Charlie sighed and ripped his sleeve over his forearm. “Make it quick. Krycek could be here any time.”

Kambatta efficiently injected Charlie, warily eyeing the weapon gripped in his employer’s fingers. “I will take everything needed to keep Mulder and Praise, um, under control.”

“Yeah, whatever, just get your fucking ass moving.”

“Jesus, Scully, you got some shitty management style.”

Charlie whirled as Krycek and his own sister emerged from Kambatta’s adjoining office, the Lone Gunmen in tow. His gun came up quickly, and Krycek laughed. His hand appeared from his jeans, holding a small rectangular object.

“Gotta learn to relate to your people, Chuck. The doc here wasn’t exactly ready to take a bullet for you.”

Charlie turned to Kambatta, who held his eye steadily. “What the fuck did you tell them?”

Kambatta was silent, and the gun wheeled around.

“Whoa, Chuck,” Krycek called. He held the square device up, thumb poised above a large button in the center. “You get a good look at your support staff out there? Doc just gave you a hot shot of the same medicine. Right now, there are a few hundred thousand little bugs crawling in your brain, waiting for marching orders.”

“Put that fucking thing on the table, or you’re dead,” Charlie screamed.

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Krycek’s thumb descended. “Amazing technology, Chuck. Your heart beginning to pound yet. Feel like somebody’s cranking up the thermostat?”

“Turn it off! God, turn it off!!”

Krycek displayed the array of controls on the “remote.” “Only I know the commands. Why don’t you slide the weapon over to Sis, huh? Before your skull splits.”

Charlie’s free hand went to his temple — he could feel it now, a sharp throbbing, and sensation as if something live and warm were slithering through his cerebral cortex.

His chest was expanding, his heart beating a furious tattoo as sweat broke out on his body.

“No!!” he shrieked, dropping the AK with a clatter and kicking it across the tile. Scully fielded it, her arm straightening at her brother. Her face was stone, her eyes chips of mineral fire.

“Hey, Curly — get the kid.” Krycek punched a series of keys, and Charlie staggered back against a lab table.

“Krycek. . .” Langly snapped, heading for Gibson.

“I know — fuck me. Charlie, you take care of Mulder’s restraints.”

“What’re you going to do, kill me?” Charlie croaked. “Sis. . .”

Scully’s nostril’s flared, and she tightened her grip on the automatic weapon.

“You let him loose, or so help me God. . .”

Charlie swallowed, and worked at Mulder’s straps. After being witness to what had transpired here earlier Charlie warily stepped back from the table. Scully thrust the gun into Krycek’s hands and rushed forward, her hand reaching out to carefully remove the electronic leads from Mulder’s head before Gibson could stop her.

“Agent Scully, wait . . .”

Mulder continued to discourse in a tongue she’d never heard. Scully grabbed his face and stared wetly into his eyes.

“Mulder, Mulder. What did they do?” Mulder’s eyes fixed on hers’, benevolent but uncomprehending.

Scully’s eyes appeared crazed as she spun toward Krycek. “Kill him. Blow his fucking brains to hell.”

For once, Krycek was speechless. He appraised Scully anew, then inspected the cowering, disheveled man before them. Charlie’s jaw hung open, his eyes pleading.

“No,” he whispered.

“Now, Krycek. Alex, please.”

Krycek advanced on Charlie, prodding him to his knees with his weapon. Charlie squeezed his eyes shut, then heard a click. His eyes popped open as Krycek secured the other cuff to Charlie’s wrist.

“That should keep you for a while,” Krycek grinned. Scully was stationary, eyes afire. He jerked his head toward the lab door. “C’mon. A hypodermic full of saline nearly made him piss his pants. What the Old Nazi and the Frenchman will do to him is more fitting than anything your bureaucratic mind could cook up.”

Scully turned to Charlie, whose eyes widened in terror. Finally, she exhaled slowly, looked at Krycek, and took Gibson by the arm.  “We need to get them out of here, now!” she ordered, pulling Gibson along with her as she motioned towards Mulder.

“We’ll never get him out of here like this,” Krycek announced, stepping forward to halt their progress by yanking Gibson around to face him. Two swift clicks and the locks that held the young man’s chains dropped away. Scully finished pulling them off as Krycek made for the door.

“Agent Scully, you need to be careful, Mulder’s not. . .” Gibson tried to explain but Byer’s had already hoisted Mulder’s limp body over his right shoulder, he staggered from the weight.

“Move it now!” Krycek ordered.

“Agent Scully, wait, the laptop, we have to take it, it’s Mulder’s proof!” Gibson touched her hand, motioning to the device still blinking on the counter behind them.

Act 7

En route to United States via North Africa

The trip out of the desert had done little to elevate the group’s exhaustion. In less than two days they’d flown half way across the globe, mounted an offensive the likes of which the military could only dream of and secreted themselves and their precious cargo back into friendly territory. As the plane buffeted over the desert sands below them Scully kept a close watch on her partner. With Byers’ help she had done a brief triage assessment of Mulder’s condition. Equipped with an air cast on his left arm, a nasal cannula and IV fluids flowing full bore to both re-hydrate him and hopefully flush the drugs from his system he was oblivious to the turbulence the desert air created. Scully was still a bit in awe of the medical equipment, not to mention the full emergency pharmacy, the plane contained. An electrocardiogram, an automated blood pressure cuff, an IV pump to regulate the fluids and electrolytes going into his veins, the only things missing were a portable X ray machine and a CT scan to show her exactly what was going on in Mulder’s head. His body temperature and blood pressure had been dangerously high when they’d first arrived at the plane, but the fluids and a beta-blocker to relieve the stress on his heart had at least brought the pressure down somewhat. It was all stopgap measures at best, and each passing moment caused her more worry. She wouldn’t rest until they were in a real medical facility and Mulder was being attended to by people who could better diagnose and deal with whatever was affecting him.

Despite her bone deep weariness, she’d been at Mulder’s side the entire time. She now sat next to the gurney in the small rear compartment of the plane gently swabbed his face and chest with a cool cloth; Gibson sat warily by her side. The boy, perhaps ‘young man’ was more appropriate now, had woven a tale that at the moment Scully was finding hard to believe. A story that involved Mulder’s evolution into something more than human, a being that had inhabited this world before recorded history and whose records could be found in a ‘land now lost’.

“He’s referring to Atlantis,” Frohike piped in from behind them.

“Melvin, that’s ridiculous, Atlantis is nothing but a myth,” Scully replied exasperatedly, turning from the observation of her partner to meet his eyes. “No one has ever proven that the continent ever existed, let alone was ever populated. Plato made it all up.”

“Oh ye of little faith. Mulder would believe it. He’s even talking about it – right here. I can’t make sense of any of the text except this,” Frohike tapped at a point on the screen of the laptop they had brought from the lab. “These are coordinates for Wilkes Land, Antarctica. I believe you’ve even been there.”

Scully shuddered at the memory of her and Mulder’s rescue from that frozen wasteland several years ago.

“What does Antarctica have to do with Atlantis?”

“There’s a very popular theory that Antarctica IS Atlantis,” Byers chimed in. “Plato’s story of Atlantis’s destruction could very well be a mythical account of something called ‘crust displacement’, the continual shifting of the earth’s crust.”

“A map of the continent which supposedly originated in Egypt was actually published in 1665,” Frohike added. “The amazing thing about it today is that current geographical maps of the continent of Antarctica are remarkably similar.”

“Mulder knows,” Gibson murmured from beside her.

“What do you mean?” Scully asked, turning back to look at the boy in astonishment. “What does he know?”

“He knows what he’s become, he doesn’t understand it just yet but he told me he felt it was important, that this power he’d been given had a purpose.”

“Power? What kind of power?” All this cryptic mumbo jumbo was beginning to irritate her.

Gibson didn’t have time to answer her. Suddenly the plane hit an air pocket causing them all to grab for something solid to hold on to. Scully’s immediate reaction was to reach out to protect her partner; grabbing his right arm she felt a sudden tingle like an electric shock, lance up her own arm and gasped.

“Agent Scully, don’t touch him!”

Hearing her distress, Gibson reached out to break the contact when Mulder’s eyes snapped open. “I tried to tell you, he’s not only Mulder, he can kill you with his touch!”

“Gibson, let go of me!” Scully demanded, wrenching her arm free from his grip.

“You don’t understand, none of you do! Something exists within him, I can sense it. Agent Scully, I know you denied it before, but you know what I can do.”

“io-o oaxao li-ipaosai tio akakaipati tiati oaxaikaxa io-o ka-ano no-oti paliopai isa ipaiti-inosai opa io-oli liakaka opa oaisationo ino alili ti-inoiasa[xiii]” * Translation

She and Gibson froze at the sound of Mulder’s voice, deep and resonating about the compartment. “Mulder?” Scully asked in disbelief, turning from Gibson to observer her partner rising to a seated position. She stepped towards him, worried by the increases in his vitals she saw on the monitor.

“Mulder, please, you need to rest,” she pleaded, reaching out to him.

“Agent Scully — be careful,” Gibson warned again, remembering the body of Dr. Rhinehart sprawled at Mulder’s feet in the lab. “He killed a man with his bare hands.”

“What?” Scully asked, her eyes going wide when she turned back to Gibson.

Mulder felt light headed as he sat up. He breathed deeply, sucking in the oxygen that flowed through the cannula before pulling if off and tossing it aside. Sitting on the edge of the gurney, he looked down at himself, his left arm was encased in plastic, and IV ran from his right. He ripped out the IV without a flinch, tore off the blood pressure cuff, rendering it useless. The slight weightless feeling he was experiencing led him to believe they were airborne. His eyes scanned his surroundings and came to rest on the one person he knew could help him.

“Hey troops, come look at this . . .” Frohike stopped dead in the doorway to the compartment. He’d been running the text from the laptop through language programs to no avail when suddenly more of the cryptic text had begun to race across the screen. Inside the compartment, Scully and Gibson stood before Mulder.

Frohike watched as his friend examined his body as if it were that of someone else, raising each arm, turning each hand over and flexing his fingers to observe their mechanics. He looked up at the intrusion. Melvin felt Mulder’s piercing gaze fall on him, he met his eyes and shuddered involuntarily at what he saw there.

“ti-isa saialikaxa paoli tilioti io-o ka-alili sasai-inosai li-iatisa io-o aoa- ai paliono onoti-ilisatianoti-inoia io-oli tilioi noatioli-i io-o tio no-oti onoti-ilisatianoti io-oli iksaisati-inosai paika-aosai io-o li-ipaosai tio sai-i ti-i sainopali-isati opa ti- inokasa[xiv]Translation

“Gibson?” Scully inquired. Mulder watched her he spoke etc as Mulder’s eyes fell on her as he spoke in this foreign tongue, the deep resonating tone of his voice was almost frightening. From her vantage point, his gaze from below his brow felt almost evil, the soft amber glow of his irises causing her to pause. Though he made no attempt to move from where he was, she was filled with apprehension, a power was emanating from her partner she could not explain.

“What is he saying?”

“I’m not sure, I can only understand a few words, like ‘truth’ and ‘science’. This is what was happening to him in the lab.”

‘I won’t hurt her Gibson, trust me. You have to explain to her what’s happened to me.’

“Gibson? What is it?” Scully questioned, watching as Gibson turned to her partner with a look of comprehension.

“He wants me to explain what’s happening to him.”

“I thought you couldn’t understand the language? Can you read his mind?”

“Only Mulder’s, when he can force his consciousness through.”

“Hey weasel, let the man through,” Krycek had come down the hallway from the cockpit behind Frohike who still stood transfixed in the doorway.

“Man, you don’t want to go back there,” Melvin wrestled briefly with the one- armed man until Krycek shoved him aside and stepped into the back compartment.

“What the hell. . .” Krycek stopped short at the scene that was currently unfolding before him. Mulder turned at the sound of his voice, his eyes radiating a brilliant gold, freezing Krycek where he stood. Unable to move, he watched Mulder raise his right arm, extending his hand out towards him, fingers splayed. A shock, like that of a strong electric current hit his body, almost immediately knocking him from his feet.

“Get him out of here!” Scully yelled, watching as Frohike and Byer’s scrambled to drag Krycek, who now lay gasping for breath, from the compartment. “Mulder?” Scully’s voice trembled as she questioned the actions of her partner.

This could not be happening.

‘Gibson, I’m sorry, please make her understand that it’s not me. I’m not doing this.’

‘Tell me what I can do?’ Gibson could actually feel the anguish in Mulder’s thoughts. Trapped as he seemed to be in the mind and body of someone else, he was at a loss as to how to help.

“Gibson, if you can communicate with him, you have to make him understand this is dangerous to his health,” Scully was becoming more concerned as Mulder’s vitals continued to become more erratic. Sweat now glistened on his upper body and face. Scully didn’t need the now removed monitors to tell her that her partner was in serious trouble.

‘Gibson, Scully can help me, tell her to work her magic. I’m so close, I just need more time to understand. This knowledge, this power, it’s unimaginable. . .’

Gibson turned away from his friend, troubled by his inability to aid in the conflict he sensed was going on within Mulder’s mind. He knew Scully was deeply concerned for his physical well-being. If Mulder died, it wouldn’t matter who won the war that now raged in his head. “He wants you to help him, whatever you can do to stabilize him. He says he needs to understand — this power. . .”

“I don’t give a damn about what knowledge he thinks. . .”

“io-o paiali ti-i pao-oaili anoti i-iti iti isa pa-aliti opa ipaili-i li- ipaipaolisai alio-onoti io-o kaononoikati-inoia onoi tio ti-i oti-ili ino ano inotili-isasa liopa opa iksaisati-inosai[xv]” Translation

Scully stopped in mid sentence; drawn by the look in Mulder’s eyes, she was unable to turn away, hypnotized by the candor of his voice.

“xaonoano ka-apa-apaili-iti-i-isa ali-i onoli-i xainoti-ili-iti pai ti-i-ili sailipaisaxanoisasa io-o li-ipaosai tio akakano-o-oali-itikai io-oli noi-iti paoli iakaxa oti-ili iti oailili pai io-oli onotioinoia[xvi]Translation

“Agent Scully, Agent Scully!” Gibson was tugging on her arm. The sound of an alarm from one of the monitors finally brought her thoughts back to the present. Mulder’s blood pressure was climbing again, the irregularity of his heart rhythm becoming more pronounced.

“Dammit Mulder!” Scully started to dig through the plane’s stash of pharma- ceuticals, looking for a sedative. The Haloperidol had worked before, but she was hesitant to try and use it again. She found a bottle of Ativan near the bottom and grabbed a syringe. It was milder than the Haloperidol, but she couldn’t afford to knock him into a coma. After she drew up a fairly high dose, she bit her lip and tried to approach her partner.

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‘Don’t let her do this Gibson, I need to stay conscious, it’s the only way.’

“Agent Scully, don’t,” Gibson pulled her hand from the case. “He doesn’t want you to do this.”

Scully watched Gibson’s eyes turn toward her partner. She looked up at Mulder; his eyes were fixed on her. For a moment the amber glow flickered out and the warm hazel returned. Suddenly, he leaned towards her grabbing the sides of her skull with both hands. “NO! Not her!” Gibson yelled, reaching out to try and pull his hands away from her.

‘No!’

It was Mulder’s voice coming through loud and clear. He knew what he was doing. Gibson hesitantly pulled back and watched as Mulder’s fingers at first caressed Scully’s scalp and then gripped both sides of her head. Scully closed her eyes and the syringe fell from nerveless fingers. Gibson trusted his friend, but his fear of what Mulder had become drove him to look for a weapon. He’d kill Mulder before he would let him hurt Scully. He leaned over and drew Scully’s sig from the holster at her back.

Scully noticed the feeling of euphoria that enveloped her. She watched as Mulder’s lips moved, but she could not hear his voice. Instead, she heard the words resonate through her own mind in a voice she didn’t recognize.

“The date is coming when all truths will be revealed. When the minds of the New Ones must become one if they are to understand their place in what is to be.”

‘Scully, it’s me. I need the investigator in you now more than ever. This Tomb of Records he speaks of, he will lead me to it.’

‘Mulder, dear God, what’s happened to you?’

‘Not just God, Scully, THE Gods have everything to do with this Scully. The virus, Strughold. . . he thought exposing me to it would help him gain information, information about a race that once existed here. I was told once that this virus is the original inhabitant of this planet, the predecessors of human life. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. They’ve been here for a long time Sully. The evidence is everywhere. The pyramids at Giza, Teotihuacan, Machu Picchu, Chaco Canyon, even Stonehenge, they’re the fingerprints of the Gods. All the human mysteries on earth, everything you and I have been trying to explain, what if they can all be traced back to one civilization.’

‘Gods? The virus? Mulder, what are you talking about? You – you were exposed to the virus?’

Could that be what was causing his distress? She wanted desperately to touch him but she found she couldn’t move.

‘The form in which human life on this planet originally existed, more human than human, Scully. It’s what I’ve become.’

She didn’t understand this. Mulder’s touch was allowing their thoughts to flow freely between them in silent benediction. The longer they were connected, the stronger his thoughts seemed to become. It was also taxing his body to the limit. ‘Mulder, you’re going to die if I can’t find a way to help you. The human body was not meant to take the stress this is putting on you. It’s not worth it.’

‘Scully, how can you say it’s not worth it! The key to all their ancient knowledge, the secrets of their power, our future is within my grasp.’

‘Whose knowledge Mulder? Why you? Maybe it isn’t meant for us.’

‘I don’t know why, Scully, Maybe it’s just a freak thing. Rube Goldberg – one thing has led to another that’s led to another to bring me to this point. Someplace they never expected, I’ve opened the door to the past, Scully, the proof of our existence, everything we’ve. . .’

‘Mulder, please, please stop! You’re not a god; you’re just a man, a man with a dream. A dream of a better future that we all share. This isn’t meant for you alone. You said it yourself. Our minds must become one to understand. Let me help you, let us help you. Don’t leave me here to figure this out alone. Please!’

The hazel returned to his eyes for a brief moment once again. She saw in them a hope and a final understanding of what she was trying to convey.

I know what this means to you, Mulder, trust me.’

She felt Mulder’s hands begin to tremble. Pulling back as they slid from the side of her face, she could see the tremors wrack his entire body.

“Mulder!” she gasped as his eyes rolled back and he slumped to the floor of the compartment.”Gibson! I need some help!”

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**

Byers looked anxiously at the few remaining leads on the agent’s chest and then back to the heart monitor. “Scully, his heart rate is skyrocketing!”

“He’s seizing,” Frohike pointed out, his voice catching. “What’ll we do?”

“Help me get him on his side. Watch his head; don’t let him bang it on the floor. Damn it, Mulder, why do you do these things?” she ground out in exasperation.

‘Leave me alone, Scully! I’m so close!’

“Agent Scully, I can still hear him!” Gibson shouted out above the shrill siren of the blood pressure monitor. “He says to leave him alone!”

“He’s going to go into cardiac arrest, Gibson,” Scully retorted sternly. “Mulder, I told you already, I will not let you kill yourself over this,” she directed at her partner.

“It’s been three minutes, Scully,” Frohike interjected as he checked his watch.

“Heart rate 100 and rising,” Byers reported grimly.

‘It’s there, right in my grasp . . .’

“xai oaxao ka-ainosa ti-i pao-oaili saxa-alili alisao ka-aino ti-i kano-o-oali- itikai opa ti-i anokai-inotisa. tiati kano-o-oali-itikai oailili sa-apai io-oli oaoliliti. [xvii] ” *Translation

Gibson frowned at the sudden shift in thoughts. Some he could make out as his friend’s, but others he couldn’t understand at all, as if Mulder was thinking in another language. “I see something . . . it’s so foggy . . . can’t make it out . . . just a little closer maybe…if only it were clearer . . .”

The heart monitor set up a steady bleat, the green line going straight across the screen. Scully’s eyes went wild as she sought out the equipment just a few feet away.

“Byers! The defibrillator! Now!”

The bearded man looked in the direction of her stare and saw the small red plastic case with the picture of a beating heart. “Got it!” he crowed and pulled it down to the floor beside Mulder. Mulder continued to jerk spasmodically; Frohike was having a hard time keeping his head from striking the ground. As the monitor continued to shriek, Mulder’s spasms lessened and finally stopped completely.

“Lay him flat,” Scully ordered. Frohike placed Mulder’s head gently on the floor of the plane while Byers straightened the agent’s legs. “OK, Byers, crank it up to 200 joules and get back,” she told him while she placed the paddles just inches above her partner’s exposed chest. Again, Byers did exactly as directed and both men scooted back a few feet. “CLEAR!” Scully shouted, even though it was unnecessary. She applied the paddles and nodded for Byers to hit the button. Mulder’s body jerked off the floor for a second before slamming back down. Scully watched the heart monitor the whole time. There was no change. The green line taunted her.

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“250. CLEAR!” she shouted, barely giving Byers enough time to adjust the machine before hitting the button. Again, the stricken agent’s body jumped off the floor only to slam back down a second later. This time, there was a tiny beat, followed by another and another. Scully sighed heavily. “Let’s get him on the gurney,” she said tiredly.

“Scully, this isn’t right,” Gibson said, biting his lip and staring at Mulder.

“It’s OK, Gibson. We got him back,” Scully assured the young man.

“No. We didn’t. Before I could hear his thoughts, I could hear Mulder. Now, I’m just hearing . . . that other guy.”

“What other guy?” Scully quarreled.

“The guy I can’t understand,” Gibson said lamely. “I can’t understand him, but he’s still in there. I can’t hear Mulder at all.”

Upon closer examination, Scully saw that her partner’s lips were still moving, but now no sound was coming from him. Hesitantly, she raised one closed eyelid, only to find the eerie gold pupils staring back at her.

“Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me?”

Gibson reacted as if shocked. He grabbed his head and winced, turning from his friend. “It’s worse now! You have to make it stop!”

“Gibson” Scully shouted, reaching out to the youth. “Gibson, what’s happening?”

“It’s not me — it’s him! You have to stop this thing from taking over his body!”

Gibson cried out. “His thoughts are all jumbled up! I can’t understand him!”

“His heart rate isn’t steady, Scully, and it’s starting to rise again,” Byers noted.

“Damn, if we had an EEG,” Scully bit out. She stared at the heart monitor for a moment. “I’ve seen this before. His cardiac rhythm — the doctor was worried that his body was wearing out,” she gasped. She stared down at the defib paddles still in her hands. “Byers, set the machine at 100 joules,” she said quietly.

“Scully, his heart is beating,” Frohike reminded her. “I know. It’s not his heart that’s the problem. It’s his brain.”

“Scully, what are you planning?” Byers asked fearfully.

“Electro conductive therapy,” she said, glancing at the two men in turn. She licked her lips and drew in a deep breath. Slowly, she placed the paddles on either side of Mulder’s head, right at the temples. “Clear,” she said firmly and nodded. Byers looked terrified, but he acquiesced to her order. He punched the button on the machine and slammed his eyes shut. Frohike held his breath as Mulder’s head jumped and then landed with a soft thud on the mattress. With exaggerated movements, she lowered the paddles.

Scully looked over at Gibson, anguish in her eyes. Gibson stared hard at Mulder and then shrugged. “I can’t hear anything,” he said quietly.

Scully dropped the paddles and lay her head down on her partner’s chest. It wasn’t a moment before her shoulders started to shake with unrepressed sobs. After several minutes, she raised her head. Wiping her eyes on the back of her hand, she caressed her partner’s forehead. As if it pained her to move, she gently peeled back on eyelid. Only the tiny gold flecks floating in a sea of brown and green shone back at her. His heart rate jumped and then settled at a steady 60 beats a minute. His whole body seemed to relax into the mattress of the gurney, losing the tension it had held since the rescue. This time when she cried, it was in relief.

Act 8

Hulwan, Egypt

12 hours later

“What do you know of apiculture, Charles?” Strughold’s tones were low and soothing, but Charlie nearly soiled himself nonetheless. Following the debacle at the facility, he’d been rushed to what the old man called ‘the test plots’ near Hulwan south of Cairo, and fear had steeped inside his chest as Strughold silently attended to stacks of Langstroth hives ripe with hymenoptera. The Scarred Man, grotesquely elegant in a canvas chair nearby, sipped a thick amber liquid from a tall, thin glass. The Egyptian sky was sapphire, the Nile sparkled in the valley below the fields of rustling grain, and Charlie was waiting for the axe to drop.

“Bees?” Charlie rasped.

Strughold nodded with a slight smile. “Very good, Charles. You see these hives? A miracle of zoological architecture. You see, beekeepers once harvested honey by killing the colonies inhabiting the hives. Then, a countryman of yours, Lorenzo Langstroth, discovered the principles of ‘bee space.’ You are familiar with this principle?”

Charlie shook his head spastically. Strughold’s head jerked toward a nearby greenhouse, and the German hoisted a pair of hives. “Come along.” Charlie looked to the Scarred Man, who imbibed impassively, and hastily trailed Strughold into the glass building.

The interior was filled with the hives. “Bees leave spaces of roughly 0.6 centimeters between wax combs,” Strughold continued. “Langstroth understood this. His hive design made it possible to remove individual frames from a beehive and to harvest honey and wax without destroying the colony.”

For the first time, the old man looked directly into Charlie’s eyes. The younger man struggled to maintain contact. “Marvelous creatures. The bee is a model of order, of regimentation, of discipline. The colony labors single-mindedly for the greater good, and the result is. This is discipline.”

“Look,” Charlie began. Strughold held up a weathered hand.

“You are familiar with Sherlock Holmes, Charles? The famous detective? He, too, studied the colony to better understand the forces that drive Man. You would dowell to emulate our friends here. You have a certain foolish courage, a mindless determination, but you lack the discipline.”

“How could I have predicted what happened?” Charlie protested. “It wasn’t my fault.”

Strughold smiled and patted Charlie’s cheek. “Perhaps, perhaps. A moment, please, while I consult with our friend. I try to reason with him, yes?”

Charlie slumped with relief. “Sure, sure.”

Strughold flipped a switch near the greenhouse door, and a low hum filled the space.

He smiled again, reassuringly, and left his protégé.

Charlie leaned against a table of germinating wheat, his head reeling. Strughold’s sub-arctic rage was legend, but he had yet to read the old Frenchman. What retribution might lie ahead if Strughold had to reason with him.

Charlie felt a sudden tingle on the back of his neck, and reached back to scratch. His finger’s contacted a small, vibrating object, and he yanked his hand away quickly, remembering where he was. He reasoned in his normal linear manner that as this was Africa, these must be African bees. He froze as the insect buzzed past his nose. Killer bees. As Charlie moved cautiously toward the door, the second one lit on his right hand. A third, then a fourth began to hover about his scalp. He opened his mouth to call to Strughold.

No words would come.

**

“Puzzling,” Strughold sighed as he accepted a flute of cassis from the Scarred Man.

“The cruel whims of human genetics. The brother, completely devoid of ethical boundaries and yet wholly devoid of any prudent judgment or foresight. The sister, reasoned, rationale, brilliant, and fearless, and yet cursed with an essential moral fortitude.”

The Scarred Man clucked. “It’s where you and your Teutonic witch doctors erred, in assuming man’s character and weaknesses could be pinned with genetic certainty to a board like dragonflies.”

Strughold chuckled — this parody of the wartime Franco-German enmity had been a recurrent schtick for the pair for decades, ever since Dr. Mengele’s jaded assistant and the French resistance fighter joined to combat a common enemy. “They were fools — small, hate-filled murderers who rationalized their deviance through science. I suppose I was merely lamenting the passing of a generation.”

“The Greatest Generation?” the Scarred Man posed. “Mon bon ami, we have little place to romanticize our actions. That which we have coveted for all these years, we could freely have given to mankind.”

“Ha. Mankind has neither the imagination, the patience, or the prudence to wisely use this gift you would so freely give.” Strughold waved his glass toward the greenhouse. “In there, that is the nature of Man.”

The Scarred Man glanced beyond his friend. The glass was steamed and smudged, but he could discern a shifting, roughly man-shaped swarm of bees. “And when do you plan to intervene, mon ami?”

Strughold glanced at the besieged Charles, shrugged. “It is a valuable lesson for our young associate. A lesson in patience and discipline. If he maintains control, if he waits out his current travails, he will prevail. If he surrenders to his reckless nature, well…This is quite delightful, if a bit cloying. I prefer a reisling, but. . .”

“Mon dieu,” the Scarred Man sighed in mock exasperation. His damaged lips curled with bemusement. “It is not like you to give in to petty retribution.”

“It is not petty,” Strughold protested. “It will make him stronger. Or perhaps kill him.”

The Frenchman suddenly sobered. “Might I remind you, he remains useful in many ways.”

The German barked harshly. “Do not concern yourself. These are stingless European honeybees — I maintain the hives for my breakfast honey and to pollinate the crops. Charles will suffer no more than a traumatic lesson in humility and perhaps the cost of a new pair of trousers. However, I feel he is long past due for reeducation in an environment where he can meditate on his insignificance. Do you agree?”

The Scarred Man nodded silently and savored his cassis. He sipped unruffled as the first muted scream broke the afternoon malaise, followed by an angry, almost metallic hum.

“So predictable,” Strughold lamented.

Epilogue

F.B.I. Headquarters

Two Weeks Later

11 am

Scully sat on the couch in A.D. Skinner’s outer office. He had called the day before to talk with Mulder but the conversation had ended up as only a short communication between the A.D. and herself with his request for her to stop by at her earliest convenience. It wasn’t actually convenient but she needed to know what was behind the urgent request. Skinner’s office door clicked open and he stuck his head out, “Agent Scully, please come in.”

She gathered herself up off the couch and strode purposefully into his office. She was glad to see by the emptiness of the office that this was indeed a private meeting between herself and their superior. The door clicked shut behind her, “Dana, it’s good to see you, please have a seat.” Skinner’s voice sounded upbeat as he walked past her and motioned to her usual chair in front of his desk. As she settled, the empty chair beside her was somewhat discomforting. When she looked up to meet Skinner’s gaze she found he was also looking at Mulder’s empty chair. “How are you doing?” his casual demeanor continued as he broke the silence between them.

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“I’m fine, sir.” The catch phrase came out without much thought. Truth was, she was anything but fine and Skinner knew it. A woman could hide a lot with makeup but one look at her eyes told him everything, he smiled at her anyway.

“That’s good to hear,” his voice now held that edge that told her that even with the air of professionalism she’d dressed herself in this morning, she wasn’t putting anything past him. “I asked you to come in because I’m in receipt of Agent Mulder’s medical report.” he met her eyes again and sighed. “Dana, I don’t know what to say. He wouldn’t talk to me yesterday when I called. I want to hear it from you. How is Mulder doing?”

The purpose of this meeting now became clear. Skinner was their superior but he was also a friend. It wasn’t like Mulder to refuse to talk with him and he wanted to know why. Scully curled her lips inward. The A.D. watched as her eyes surveyed the room as if trying to determine who else might be watching or listening. “He was severely dehydrated when we found him and his weight is down about twelve pounds. He’s only been out of the hospital a week, Sir. It’s going to take him some time to recover,” she confessed, looking down at her hands resting in her lap. “He – um, the damage to his inner ear from the building explosion has left him partially deaf. He has terrible bouts of vertigo, especially when he stands up or tries to walk. Both of which should disappear with time.”

The A.D. said nothing; waiting for her to go on about the more troubling aspects of Mulder’s medical report. The things that had made him cringe when he read them, his imagination supplying the possible reasons for their presence. When she looked up and saw he was expecting her to continue, her lower lip began to tremble and she looked away again, “There was a lot of trauma to his brain, his cardio-vascular and pulmonary systems. He has contusions everywhere and ligature marks on his ankles, wrists and upper arms. There’s a hairline fracture of the scaphoid bone in his left wrist suggesting he’d put up a valiant fight against being restrained. It’s all in the report, Sir.”

At first confused by her superior’s silence, she suddenly realized that this was the first time she had actually spoken to anyone about the trauma her partner had suffered. She realized now what a relief it was to her own psyche and silently thanked the man. “It took three days for the barbiturate cocktail they gave him to leave his system.” She didn’t want to think about the other substance Mulder had told her he’d been exposed to. “And he’s not real happy with the hair cut they gave him.”

Skinner smiled one of those gentle lip-curling smiles meant to comfort her but she saw the hint of humor in it.

“I’ve never known Mulder to be a vain man,” she responded. “And it’s not like it hasn’t already begun to grow back but he still refuses to look at himself in the mirror,” a trace of a smile crossed her lips with that admission.

“I’m so sorry, Scully,” Skinner said. His effort at condolences seemed far too inadequate for the circumstances. “I don’t know what I can do or offer that would make the past few weeks any less traumatic. I’d like to say that the Bureau will make every effort to find those responsible but you and I both know that’s going to be difficult to accomplish.

Scully shook her head sadly, both in agreement of what her superior had just said and because she also knew that once again there would be no justice for this violation against her partner. “Outside of the security tapes the gunmen came up with from before he left the country, there just isn’t any other evidence and I don’t think Mulder remembers much of what happened while he was being held and that’s probably a good thing,” she admitted; once again looking up to meet Skinner’s eyes. Their eyes gaze for a moment and then she looked away again. “I hope to God he never remembers what I did to him. . .”

“Dana.” Skinner got up from behind the desk, came around to sit on the corner of it in front of her. “You saved him, he’ll always remember that.”

She finally turned back to him, her eyes filled with moisture. “Did I? He’s angry, angry at the injustice of it all — what was done, how it was done. That he was set up and those kids had to die in order for these men to accomplish their goal. It’s all out of his control and he’s having a hard time dealing with that. The worst part is, I think he’s angry with me too.”

“Dana, why would he. . .” Before Skinner could complete his thought he was interrupted.

“Dammit! Who are these men,” her voice suddenly turned angry as Skinner found himself the subject of her intense blue eyes. “Who can appropriate these crimes and then just crawl back into the woodwork without any fear of retribution? What gives them the right?” she demanded.

Skinner had his own ideas, but for the moment he chose to blame it on Washington. The answer to that question right now lay in the hands of the current administration. “I’m sure you’re aware that the ‘war on terrorism’ has given that authority to the very people we had thought we’d appointed to prevent it. In some sense this war has become an excuse to take away many of the rights this country was founded on.” He watched as Scully scanned his face for a crack in his demeanor. Finding none, she had obviously accepted his answer. He slid into the chair beside her. “I don’t understand. Why would Mulder be angry with you?”

“Because,” her gaze dropped back to her hands resting in her lap. “I destroyed the connection he thought he had. He thought he had the means to unlocking the secrets of the world and I took it from him. He just wants to know why this keeps happening to him, to the both of us for that matter. He just wants it to stop and I think in the back of his mind he feels that removing him from the equation would accomplish that.” Skinner listened as her voice trailed off at the end. He didn’t like the implication.

“Do you think he’s giving up?” It was a question Skinner didn’t really want the answer to because if Mulder gave up, he knew without a doubt Scully would take up the cause, with or without Mulder’s blessing.

“Gibson told us the dialect Mulder was speaking was ancient, something that dates back before recorded history. Mulder believes it’s Atlantean.” It took a moment for Skinner to realize Scully was still talking. “The continent of Atlantis is a myth, or so we all believed. There’s some conjecture that Antarctica could in fact be Atlantis. You’ve read about the crater in Wilkes Land – Mulder insists it’s the crater the ship embarked from when he rescued me.” A tear escaped her right eye and she angrily swiped at her cheek to remove it.  “Mulder believed he was channeling beings from this ancient civilization, that the ability would allow him to understand the truth behind some of the greatest leaps in human history – the Maya, the Aztecs, the Egyptians, he says they’re all descendents from this Atlantean culture, perhaps an alien culture that came here thousands of years ago. He was convinced he’d become one of them and as such he’d be able to find out what their purpose was. He thinks this Strughold one of them.” It all sounded so absurd, she couldn’t meet Skinner’s eyes.

“Strughold is one of these Atlantean’s also?” Skinner couldn’t believe he’d asked the question. It was obvious by the look Scully was currently giving him, she didn’t believe it either.

“I have no idea, Sir. I don’t know how you’d ever prove it. That’s the whole problem, despite Mulder’s claims of aliens and invasions and secret government conspiracies to cover them up, things he’s always believed, he still can’t produce any valid proof.  None of it makes any sense at this point; they’d lock him away if he ever took his claims public. I only know that I have to find a way to help him.”

Skinner reached to touch her shoulder. “Maybe what’s more important is what do you believe?”

Scully let out a harsh laugh. “I guess that’s always been the question, hasn’t it sir,” she answered looking the A.D. right in the eye. “I believe that whatever Strughold’s doctors did to Mulder, triggered something in that active DNA. Something I wouldn’t have believed possible if I hadn’t seen it myself. I know how badly he wanted us to study it, find the answers together but it was killing him and the doctor in me couldn’t let it go on.”

“What about Gibson? Why wasn’t he affected?”

“As far as we’ve been able to determine, Gibson was born with his abilities. Mulder’s, though similar, have been acquired, or as he prefers to say “turned on” through some sort of stimuli. He and Gibson are enigmas, it’s evident in both their DNA, but throwbacks to early humans, Atlantean? It’s impossible to say. There’s definitely a connection they share, along with this man Strughold who took Mulder. Gibson is terrified of him and I’m certain Mulder knows why.”

“Strughold?” Skinner leaned over to jot the name down on his yellow desk pad.  “Do you want me to see what else I can dig up on him?” he offered, feeling the need to offer to do something. “What about this Dr. Leonard, any news on him?”

“Thank you for offering, Sir,” Scully answered, readjusting herself in the chair. A movement Skinner took as a subtle way of saying it was time for this conversation to come to an end. “Dr. Leonard is no longer on staff at NWG, which is no surprise. As for Strughold, I think that’s something Mulder would want to work on. Something he needs to do, not only for himself but for Gibson. I know he feels indebted to him, Gibson told me so. There’s a connection between them that I just can’t explain.” Skinner frowned in concern but waited for her to continue. “It’s something that’s always made me afraid for them but never of them,” she finally admitted. “Not until now. What I saw in Mulder frightened me and he knows that. He’s afraid he’s lost my trust.”

A lack of trust was something that Skinner had never imagined would come between these two. “Has he?” he asked, genuine concern evident in his tone.

“I keep telling Mulder that it wasn’t him I was afraid of,” she replied shaking her head in disbelief. “It was what or who he had become. He was in my mind, he knows it was a purely selfish act that I did what I did to get him back and I won’t deny it.”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t expect you to,” Skinner replied, reaching over to cover her hands with one of his large ones. Scully appreciated the warmth of the gesture. “I’m going to ask you something that you might have to think about for a while and then I’ll explain why I’m asking it. Where do you two see yourselves going from here?”

Scully’s brow furrowed. “If you mean do we intend to return to work, the answer is yes.” Skinner watched as her face brightened a little, “With Gibson’s help, Mulder should be able to navigate the house in a wheelchair by the end of the week. He’ll need some physical therapy for his wrist and to help him regain his balance. That, you well know he has no patience for. But he realizes he’ll have to pass a physical and be recertified before he can return to work”

“If it weren’t for you I’d expect to see him back in here tomorrow. But that’s not what I was asking you, Dana.”

The implication of what he was actually asking finally sunk in. She knew the fear was still there, lurking in her subconscious. Not of Mulder personally but of what she’d witnessed in him and of what others might want to do with it. Mulder feared it too and she was damned if she’d let him use it as a wedge between them. In sickness and in health and in alien possession if so be it. She looked Skinner straight in the eye. “We’ve gotten through everything else in the past thirteen years, Sir,” she replied with conviction. “We’ll get through this too.”

Skinner hadn’t really expected any other type of answer from her and he nodded his approval. “Now, I’ll explain to you why I asked. I don’t know if Mulder ever shared this with you.” Skinner got up from the chair, walked over to the large window that spanned the exterior wall of his office and turned back to her. “About a year ago he and I had a discussion about revamping the X-Files division. I suggested that as senior agent of the division he take a “supervisory” position. That I could arrange to get a couple more agents down there to help with field investigations,” he searched Scully’s face for understanding. He thought it was there but she made no comment. “I just want you to know, I think that option is still available. It might get him out of harms way. . .”

“Sir.” Scully stood up and walked over to stand in front of Skinner. “I know what you’re trying to do and I appreciate it. Mulder would — well I know what he said about your suggestion the last time,” she watched her boss nod in acknowledgement of Mulder’s rant on the subject at the time. “I can’t speak for him on this now, Sir. These men, my brother included, who violate a person’s human rights for their own gain are always going to be there. It doesn’t make the psychological trauma any easier to deal with but I know Mulder and the best way he’s going to deal with this is to put it behind him. The X-Files are his life’s work, his first love. I can’t deny him those.”

“You’re his first love, Dana.” Skinner reached for her, hoping she’d accept the gesture and enveloping her in a gentle hug when she leaned into him. “You tell him,” he said, stepping back, “that I look in the mirror every day; the shine doesn’t scare me that much.”

**

“Scully,” the trill of her phone sounded the moment she stepped off the elevator and headed for their office. She waited for the caller’s reply as she fumbled with the key.

“Hey Scully, it’s me.” The familiarity of Mulder’s response warmed her to her toes. “You on your way home yet?”

“I — um, I. . .” she stuttered a moment, a fleeting memory freezing her in her tracks as the door snicked open. “I thought I’d stop in the office for a minute.”Flicking on the lights, she scanned the room. Everything in it spoke of Mulder. The thought of having to continue on in this office without his presence was — well, the evidence of what it was like for the most part was still here. Broken computer equipment still sat on his desk, the litter that had once been their files had been dumped unceremoniously into boxes. How would she ever explain this all to him? She was suddenly aware of Mulder’s silence on the line. “I shouldn’t be too long, is everything OK?”

“Yeah, I just decided I really needed to get out of here. I was hoping I could talk you into picking me up.”

For a moment she didn’t know what to say. It was such a complete turn around from his reclusive behavior of late but she was damned if she’d let the opportunity get away from them. They’d have to take the wheelchair, hell, she didn’t care if she had to carry him, and she’d get him out of the house somehow. “Well, yes, of course!” The more she thought about it, the more excited she became, making one quick sweep of the office to take a mental inventory and then heading for the door. “What did you have in mind?”

“I don’t know, maybe a ride, get some dinner someplace.”

The idea that he wanted to get out of the house was one thing, but that he also wanted to put himself in a public surrounding came as a shock. She stopped dead in her tracks. “Mulder? What about your…”

“I’ll wear my victory cap,” he teased.

Scully smiled, it felt good to hear the humor back in his voice. It was also a relief that evidently she wouldn’t have to wait a month or so for his hair to grow out before he’d leave the house. She picked up her pace again, slamming through the door to the parking garage. “I’ll be home in fifteen minutes, Mulder.” Mulder’s smile waned slightly as he put the cordless phone back on its cradle. Drawing in a deep breath, he raised the head of the hospital bed that now took up two-thirds of their living room floor space and angled his body so that he could sit on the edge. It took him almost five minutes to get out of the dratted contraption, but that was seven minutes faster than when Scully first brought him home.

Home. He’d come around in the hospital, Northeast Georgetown — his old stomping grounds. It had felt like home at the time. He could remember bits and pieces of his ordeal. He remembered the explosion — it was hard to forget when he was still experiencing significant hearing loss in his left ear and the damned ringing wouldn’t go away unless he was lying flat on his back. The ear, nose and throat specialist he was seeing had assured him that although the blast had ruptured the membrane of his ear, in time it would recover and he’d have full hearing. But the kindly older man had also warned him it would be several weeks to a couple of months before he was back to normal.

He was a long way from normal. Even after the hospital had assured Scully that the wrist would heal, the ear would recover, they were at a loss to explain his continued weakness. ‘Stress’, they’d finally written down on his release papers. A diagnosis of ‘stress’. Yeah, getting kidnapped, ‘ghosted’, tortured, infected with an alien virus — again — and playing host to a demigod from a lost civilization could stress a guy out, no doubt about it. But he had been so close — so close to figuring out what the demigod was trying to tell him and then Scully had to ruin his chances by — By bringing him back to life. Mulder sighed again and closed his eyes. When he’d come around in the hospital, she’d refused to talk about anything that had happened. Apparently the ‘stress’ was contagious because she’d had a good shot of it, too. Not to mention drugged to the gills and thinking he was dead. What would Mulder have done if the tables had been turned? As much as he hated the thought that all that evidence, all that knowledge slipped through his fingers, he couldn’t blame Scully. He was angry at first, when he realized what had been lost. But when he saw the look in her eyes, the fear, the longing, he knew he was where he belonged. And as if the kid was some sort of consolation prize for losing the secrets of the ancients, they now had Gibson back.

“OK, it’s all set,” Gibson said, smiling as he entered the room. “Bags packed in the back of your car, tank is full.”

“I won’t even ask when you learned to drive,” Mulder said dryly.

“Hey, they have cars in Egypt,” the young man shot back. “And I just heard from the other end. They’re good to go.”

“Thanks for all your help,” Mulder said, clasping Gibson on the shoulder.

“We’re not even close to square yet,” Gibson reminded him. “Want to get in your chair?”

Mulder nodded wearily. A damned wheelchair. It was the only way he could navigate the downstairs of their duplex. He hadn’t even been able to go upstairs since he’d come home from the hospital. He was sick and tired of sponge baths. But, that was part of the ulterior motive for his surprise for Scully. A shower, even one sitting on a chair, was calling his name. Of course, Scully would have to tie plastic around his cast. One of these days he was going to manage to come home _not_ lying on his shield.Just as Gibson helped him settle into the chair, he heard the keys in the front door. Scully breezed in, a smile plastered on her face. They hadn’t had a chance to talk much and she’d acted as if she were afraid to touch him. That was ending as soon as possible, if he had any say in the matter.

“So, what will it be? The B and O canal with a stop at Tony’s later? Pizza with all the trimmings? I’ll even relent and let you have a beer as long as you’re good and let me drive,” she quipped, but her heart still wasn’t in it. She turned to Gibson. “Want to tag along?” she asked innocently.

“Oh, uh, nah. Really. Langly has a new game he’s working on and he wants me to play it tonight, see if I can beat a computer,” Gibson said with an easy smile. He winked over at Mulder, he was only half lying. “You kids go on, don’t worry about me.”

“He got his dorm assignment in the mail today,” Mulder informed Scully. “He’s all set for the fall semester.”

“Well, at least you won’t be far. Georgetown is just around the corner,” Scully reminded him.

“I know, but I don’t want to impose on you guys. You’ve done enough, getting me out of that place. At least they stopped poking around in my brain. But I really would like to get on with my life.”

“I bet,” Scully agreed. “So, it’s just you and me, Mulder. Here, if Gibson will give me a hand we can get you in the car — ”

“Why don’t we use my car out back? It hasn’t been out of the garage in over a month. Besides, the new ramp works pretty well, Mr. Timmons’ contractor did a good job. I’d like to try it out,” Mulder suggested and Gibson had to choke back a grin at his casualness.

“Sure, that’s great. Let me change real quick and we’ll be on our way. I might even let you talk me into anchovies — on your half,” she replied breezily and hurried up the stairs.

“She has no idea,” Gibson advised with a smile as he handed Mulder his baseball cap to hide his just appearing hair. Mulder had not been pleased when he awoke to find that one of the nurses had inadvertently shaved his head again as well as his face.

“But she’s still nervous,” Mulder sighed heavily. “I hate that I make her nervous.”

“Mulder, you don’t make her nervous. Whatever that was that took over your body made her nervous. She was afraid she’d never get you back. And she knows you were mad at her for getting rid of it.”

Mulder chewed on his bottom lip. “I was mad, but I’m always mad when evidence gets away. I never meant for her to think I blamed her.”

“Well, you still have the laptop. That’s a place to start. And as for the two of you getting over this, that is what this weekend is for, isn’t it?” Gibson suggested.

“Hey, _I’m_ supposed to be giving _you_ relationship advice, young man,” Mulder said with mock gruffness. He drew in a deep breath. “I just hope it works.”

Gibson clasped him on the shoulder. “It will. I know it.”

“Precognitive as well as telepathic? Keep this up and I’ll start running more tests on you,” Mulder teased.

Gibson just laughed and was still laughing as Scully bounded down the steps.

“OK, what’s so funny?”

“Gibson was just telling me he’s a White Sox fan,” Mulder covered and Gibson didn’t disagree. “So, we’re off. Lock up when you leave, OK?”

“I will,” the young man agreed. He helped Scully negotiate the ramp and then put the lightweight wheelchair in the trunk for her. He waved them off as she backed into the alley.

“OK, G-man, where to? The Canal, Rock Creek Park, the Zoo?” she asked again.

“Nah, I’m not really in the mood to see anything locked in a cage. Can we just take a drive along the coast?”

“OK, sure,” she said hesitantly. “Ocean City?”

“A little farther north, actually. Scully, could we go to the summerhouse for the night?”

“Mulder,” she said, worrying her lip.”You want to go to Rhode Island? I mean, the summerhouse has been closed up — well for years! And you don’t have your meds . . .”

“Sure I do,” he countered, holding up a seven-day pill case. “We can stay in a hotel if the house is a mess,” he added.

The silence in the car was unnerving. It was bad enough that Mulder’s bad ear was toward Scully, which meant he had to sit angled toward her to hear anything she said. On top of that, it seemed they couldn’t find a topic to talk about. He mourned their loss of contact, and vowed as soon as the car stopped to do something about it.

The traffic was light for a Friday afternoon in mid summer, and the sun was with them for most of the way, the sky clouding a little as they reach the Rhode Island shore. It was a little before 6 when they pulled into the gravel driveway.

“I think we should have made reservations at one of the hotels we passed at the 395 exit, Mulder. Or at least picked up a pizza on the way,” Scully said, going around to pull out the wheelchair.

“Leave it, Scully. I think I can make it in the house without it. Why bother, if we aren’t staying,” he added with a shrug.”OK, lean on me, though. I don’t want you falling.” She hurried to put her arm around his waist. The dizziness hit him hard, but he closed his eyes and tilted his head to a point where it became bearable. He nodded mutely and she held on tighter. He worried that one missed step would bring them both tumbling to the ground, but before he knew it they were at the door.

The minute the key was in the lock, he knew the guys had done their magic. He could smell the dinner he’d ordered and just hoped everything else was in place. Scully, naturally, was a little confused. “Mulder, did you rent the house out for the summer?” she asked, throwing the door open wide and helping him into the little foyer. “Smells like someone’s been cooking in here.”

Mulder positioned himself to lean against one wall while taking her hands in the other. “Scully, close your eyes,” he ordered. “Please,” he added when she frowned in his direction.

“Mulder, if I close my eyes, both of us are going to fall on our asses,” she said, but she let him take her hand. Using walls and furniture, he maneuvered them into the living room and seated them both on the sofa. He almost lost his balance fumbling for the remote on the coffee table, but in a minute, he was ready.

“OK, Scully, open your eyes.”

As she did so, an orchestra suddenly struck up the first movement of Mozart’s celebrated Symphony No. 41, otherwise known as the Jupiter Symphony. With the 50-inch wide screen television and the superior stereo surround sound, they might as well have been sitting in the front row of the Kennedy Center.

“Mulder,” she breathed his name and clutched his hand to her chest. She was blinking back tears but she couldn’t take her eyes off her partner. “Mulder — this is — ” She looked around the room in amazement. It didn’t look like the same summerhouse, the one where he’d once tried to kill himself, where he’d once been possessed and tried to kill her. It had a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new lamps and furniture. Even the fireplace looked different with a new mirror and candles arranged on the mantel. “When did you do all this? For that matter, how? And that TV, Mulder, it’s enormous!”

“Well, as for when, this last week. The how — there are three guys I owe a whole lot to and now I owe them more. And a personal banker who made his retainer this month arranging for the contractors and such. The TV — well, that’s for this,” he said, waving his good hand toward the conductor and the symphony. “There’s dinner in the kitchen,” he told her. Cavetelli agli asparagi for you and mezze maniche alla Napoli for me. It’s not from Paparazzi, but I talked to the owners and they have family who own a  restaurant in New York. That’s where this came from. The guys brought it up earlier and put it in the oven. They might even be hiding in the closet or the loft right now.”

“Mulder — I’m speechless — ”

He leaned over carefully, ever mindful of the dizziness that would creep upon him at a moment’s notice, and cupped her cheek. Slowly, he drew her into a gentle kiss that lingered long enough to cause them both to be breathless. “Good. I like you speechless,” he said, kissing her again. He stopped when he realized she was really crying. “Scully, I didn’t want to make you cry,” he whined, wiping at her cheeks with his thumbs. “This is supposed to make you happy. After everything you’ve been through lately, I wanted to surprise you, to give you something that — ”

“That was taken from us,” she said, completing his thought flawlessly. “Mulder, you dope, these are happy tears,” she sniffed, wiping at her chin where a few tears had escaped his gentle caress. “How? How did you — ”

“As I said, the guys, mostly. Gibson was in on it, too. Between the money you took out to rescue us, and the money to fix this place up — we’ll have to put off retirement for a couple of weeks. I think John McKinley has a crush on you, by the way,” he teased. “When I told him the money was to go toward a surprise for you, he fell all over himself helping to get it all arranged.”

She looked around for the first time and noticed the dramatic change in the little cottage. “You redecorated.”

“Yeah, see I was hoping to turn this into my ‘bachelor pad’. Very Austin Powers, don’t you think?”

She feigned a glower at him. “Bachelor pad?”

“OK, how about a quiet place away from the city where we can regroup. I’ve missed this place, Scully. Yes, it’s fallen on some hard times, but it used to be a very happy place to me. I’d like to get that back — make new memories. If you want to. Otherwise, it will sell faster if it’s not in a complete shambles,” he said casually.

She looked into his eyes, silently reading his real intention. If he wanted to make new memories, maybe recapture some of the good memories of his childhood, she was the last person to try and stop him. “I like the idea of a little getaway.”

He kissed her again. “I promise not to bring other girls up here, Scully,” he said with a wink.

She regally ignored his jibe. “But the symphony performance — is that the one we missed? How on earth — that was just a few weeks ago!”

“Yeah. Seems it’s going to be the next fundraising special on PBS. When Byers explained some of the situation — the parts that wouldn’t cause world panic, they were happy to give him a ‘pre-release’ copy. The condition is that we aren’t supposed to let this DVD get out to anybody,” he said sheepishly. “It’s just for us.”

Her face crumbled as she teared up again.

“Scully, please, stop crying. You’re making me feel like I did something wrong here,” he admonished.

“No, no, it’s not that. It’s just, well, after everything that’s happened . . . Mulder, I thought you were dead! I eventually came to know that was a lie, but for several days, I thought — ” He started to object again, but she held up her hand to stop him. “And then when we finally got everything together and we thought we had you, that . . . thing . . . was inside you and I know you wanted — you wanted to stay that way . . .”

Finally, he was able to break in. “Scully, listen to me. Yes, I was so close to finding answers to where we’re going, what is going to happen to this planet. I wanted to understand the visions I’ve been having. I needed to know what they have been trying to tell me. I was angry that you would break that connection; that you would throw that away. But there was another connection I wasn’t thinking about and it takes priority in my life — it has for a very long time.” He took both her hands in his and kissed her knuckles. “I don’t want to be a demigod if means I lose you in the process.”

She chuckled and it soon turned into a relief-filled giggle. “Mulder, in the right context, that was the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.” She leaned over and kissed him soundly, caressing his cheek as he had done hers just moments before.

“Good. I’m glad. Now, woman, gimme my supper!” he demanded with a wink. “I would serve you dinner, but with my equilibrium, you’d be wearing it.”

“Coming right up,” she said, kissing him again. “Oh, and Mulder . . . I really appreciate the thought and all, but let’s not plan any more dates — ever again?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he replied.

THE END.


[i] Human Fools!

[ii] We are the Highest of All, creators of heaven and earth, molder of human bodies and supplier of the spirit. By the commandments of the Creator we act through the Souls of the Ancestors and transmit only to the New Ones.

[iii] The power of creation is eminently destructive, the Ancestors knew this, you will too!

[iv] You who seek this world for your own race can not see that it is already doomed. The knowledge you hope to gain here is not meant for you. The power would be of no use to you. The codes, programmed into this planet from its creation relate only to its position within the cosmos. Only the New Ones were meant to understand them. You presume to toy with a power greater than yourself, it will only destroy you!

[v] Behold the order of the Highest of All!

[vi] You learn nothing from the past! The horror of catastrophical disaster will make it impossible for the populations to survive. Life must begin again when the New Ones have found their souls again and the sixth Earth is born!

[vii] You have eyes but you do not see. The power of creation is all around you, hidden within the natural order of all things that you no longer feel important. Wasted by your want you are destroying that which was created here to sustain you.

[viii] He can not read a mind he does not understand.

[ix] The codes are written in the Tomb of Records laid down from the origins of civilization itself in a land now lost. From the time of the First Time, a heavenly Order determined only at the time of creation, and set forth only for the New Ones. You will not know it!

[x] You who draw me out in an attempt to gain a higher knowledge have defeated yourself. This body can not sustain me.

[xi] History speaks to you. You who have forgotten how to listen will never know the miracle of the mystery. This is the will of the Highest of All!

[xii] Fools! Fools!

[xiii] You who refuse to accept that which you can not prove is evidence of your lack of wisdom in all things.

[xiv] This search for truth you call science leads you away from understanding your true nature. You do not understand your existence because you refuse to see the simplest of things.

[xv] You fear the power and yet it is part of every life force around you, connecting one to the other in an endless loop of existence.

[xvi] Human capabilities are only hindered by their selfishness. You refuse to acknowledge your need for each other. It will be your undoing.

[xvii] He who gains the power shall also gain the knowledge of the ancients. That knowledge will save your world.

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