Paratio Parasitus

15x05_title

Title: Paratio Parasitus

Author: Starfleetofficer1

Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate an unusual spike in deaths due to a brain-

eating amoeba.

Category: X-file

Rating: PG-13

Two weeks exclusive with VS15.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. I also don’t intend to insult Florida,

the Miami-Dade county, the Everglades National Park office, or anyone else that I

mentioned in this fanfiction.

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LONG PINE KEY CAMPGROUND

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FL

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29th, 2007

1400

“Come on, Willie, wake up. Please, wake up, Willie. Please.” Jed Kirsten hovered

over his son in their tent, wiping his sweat-soaked brow with a dirty hand towel. The

ten-year-old had a high fever, and had been suffering from a headache for the past

three days. It was only after the third day and the fever spike that Jed realized he

had to bring his son to an official campground.

The rifle was hidden inside Jed’s sleeping bag, and Willie lay on top of his own. The

boy was much too hot to cover up, Jed reasoned. He had undressed his son down to

his boxer shorts to make him more comfortable in the 65º weather. The 80%

humidity was what killed it—65 was remarkably chilly for these parts.

Gator hunting had been one of Jed’s favorite activities since he was Willie’s age, and

since Willie’s mother died, it had been a way to escape. So what if it was illegal? He

had lived around the Everglades his entire life and he’d be damned if he let some

stupid rules issued from a fat-ass behind a desk get in the way of his fun. And

lately, the Gators had been spotted later and later in the year, as the temperatures

got hotter.

But during this trip, while they hid from authorities in makeshift chickees and

abandoned ground sites, Willie had taken ill. The headache, the fever, and now

this…his little boy wouldn’t wake up. He lay motionless on the sleeping bag,

oblivious to the mosquitoes, humid, damp, and swampy air, and most of all, his

father’s pleas.

“Please, Willie,” Jed begged, but got no response. “Don’t make me go to the

authorities…don’t make me go to the god-damned park rangers, please, Willie, just

wake up!”

He felt for a pulse, and found that there was none.

“Oh, sweet Jesus, no…” he breathed. He started pounding on Willie’s chest. He

didn’t know CPR, but he knew some kind of compression might get things going

again. Then he’d go to a ranger, he’d go to the police, he’d turn himself into the FBI

if he had to—just as long as Willie woke up. He opened Willie’s mouth and breathed

into it, but nothing happened. He kept pounding on the little boy’s chest until

bruises formed, tears streaming down his cheeks and hitting his son’s uncovered

body. He collapsed onto the ten-year-old, sobbing uncontrollably.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING

WASHINGTON, D.C.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007

0830

“No! I did not order a pizza-pattern 12-foot by 12-foot throw rug! I don’t even have

room for that kind of thing! What do I want you to do with it?” Mulder looked up,

and saw Scully enter the office. “Take it back to whatever dollar store it came from!”

Scully raised an eyebrow, but Mulder didn’t acknowledge her.

“I don’t care if it came from an expensive furniture store—no, I’m not anywhere near

my residence. I’m at work. You do realize you’re calling me at work? No, I know

you have a job to do, and I know it isn’t your fault, but take the damn thing back

and read the name on the order.”

There was a pause, and Mulder moved the phone so the receiver was up against his

neck. “I’m on hold. You didn’t order a pizza pattern throw rug, did you, Scully?”

Scully smirked. “Does it come with the pizza?”

Mulder shook his head. “No, it probably comes with fleas. Yes! Yes, I’m still here,”

he said into the phone. “No, it’s definitely not alright with me if you leave it outside

my door. Read me the name on the order. No—read me the name on the order.

Mm-hmm. See, there’s your problem. My name isn’t Mudler, it’s Mulder. There’s a

Frank Mudler living down the street—you probably got his house number and mine

mixed up.”

Scully’s smirk didn’t go away, much to Mulder’s annoyance.

“Because I get his mail all the time!” Mulder yelled into the phone. “Look, if I get

home, and that thing’s sitting outside my door, I’m gonna lodge a formal complaint

to your manager. Yeah, that’s right. Take it down the street to Frank Mudler.

Thank you. Goodbye.” Mulder flipped his cell phone closed and put it in its holster.

“My God, that took forever.”

“How did they get your phone number?”

“Beats the hell out of me,” he said, shaking his head in disgust. “It’s probably on

some practical joke list. Pizza throw rug. I’ve imagined more attractive things at a

senior center.”

Scully grinned, and said, “Watch it, Mulder, it won’t be long before you’re there.”

“Ouch!” Mulder said, grabbing his chest just over his heart and gasping in mock pain.

He walked over to Scully and pulled her into a sudden, passionate kiss. “Still think

I’m old?” He asked when he was done.

She seemed to be contemplating her response. “Eh…getting there,” she teased.

“You’re so dead,” he said playfully, and she quickly dodged him and went to her

desk.

“Not at work, Mulder,” she warned him.

“We’ve got no case file.”

“We’re still at work.”

“Nowhere to go, nothing to do…” Mulder sat on his desk and twiddled his thumbs.

“C’mon, we could easily shut the door and—”

“Agent Mulder? Agent Scully?” A familiar voice asked.

They both turned instantly, embarrassed to have been caught so completely off

guard. “Yes, Sir,” Mulder asked as Skinner walked in. He was carrying a folder.

“I have a case for you. It’s actually more for Agent Scully.” He handed her the

folder, and she opened it and began looking at pictures. Mulder looked curiously

between his partner and the A.D. “I’m sure you’re aware of the amoeba that feeds

on brain cells.”

“It was discovered in the 1960s. There’ve only been a few cases of deaths due to

the amoeba, but it enters through the nasal cavity and begins feeding on the brain,”

Scully said absently as she looked at the pictures.

Mulder looked like he was about to make a wise-crack about brain-sucking

microscopic parasites, but Skinner stopped him before he could. “There have been

fifteen cases in Florida in the past three weeks. They’re beginning to wonder if

something may have accelerated the amoeba’s growth, to exit the Everglades and

reach the surrounding area. Miami Dade police are especially concerned about the

threat of rioting, once people realize what they may be at risk for. Because of your

medical expertise, Scully, I’m assigning both of you to figure out what’s accelerated

the amoeba’s growth. And Agent Mulder, I’m sure you can find something in the X-

files that may shed some light on this…?”

The agent was slightly confused. “Sir…I have to admit, the brain-eating amoeba

sounds like an X-file, but it’s already been scientifically identified and scientists are

currently looking for a way to kill it. While odd, the amoeba isn’t unexplainable, and

it isn’t an X-file,” Mulder said. “I think it’s better suited for the Centers for Disease

Control.”

“The CDC looked it over and sent it to us…they’re puzzled and apparently too busy,”

Skinner said, obviously annoyed with the CDC’s disposition.

“No…Mulder, I think it is an X-file,” Scully said. She showed him the photographs,

and he shook his head. She realized he still didn’t understand. “Four of the victims

are doctors that treated the first few victims. Another three victims are nurses.

They’re all employees at hospitals in downtown Miami, where the victims were

airlifted for treatment. They were all present when the time of death was called for

the first victims…”

Comprehension washed over Mulder’s face. “It wasn’t contagious before, was it?”

“No, not like this. It’s usually transmitted by water droplets, through the nose.

When you’re underwater, or when you get splashed in the face, you’re at risk for

contracting it. But otherwise, no. I think it’s found a way to transmit itself directly

to another host, using only air as a medium.”

“But doesn’t that imply higher-level reasoning?”

“No, not necessarily. But it does imply natural selection, and definite evolution. We

might not even be looking at the same amoeba.”

Skinner stopped them before they got any further. “So you think you can handle

this?”

“Yes, Sir,” Mulder said, answering for Scully only because he knew her response.

“Good. My…a good friend of mine was one of the victims,” Skinner admitted.

Mulder realized at that point why the A.D. had been acting so nervous, so uneasy

about this case. Now it made sense. “I’m sorry, Sir,” he said.

Skinner nodded, and turned toward the door. “You should get to Florida as soon as

possible,” he said as he left.

Mulder glanced at Scully. “I hear Florida’s nice this time of year.”

Scully almost snorted. “Just the right temperature for brain-eating parasites.”

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LONG PINE KEY NATIONAL PARK OFFICE

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FL

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007

1800

“No, we’ve already been to the Dade County Sheriff’s department, and we’ve seen

the evidence. We just wanted to talk to someone here,” Mulder argued.

“No one’s available,” the rather stout and annoyed park ranger said on his way out

the door.

“We can wait!” Mulder yelled after him, but he was already gone. They were left

alone in the office.

“Aren’t these things supposed to be manned all the time?” Scully asked, looking

around at the empty building.

“Supposed to be,” Mulder agreed, and led the way toward the door. “We’ll come

back. I think we should get back to the sheriff’s office and talk with the detective

again.”

“First we should get dinner. I’m starving.”

“We’ll pick something up on—”

“Mulder,” Scully warned.

“Okay, okay, we’ll find someplace to sit down. I value my life.”

She snorted as they got into their car. They had come all the way out here for

nothing, and there had to be a reason for the park rangers’ stand-offish nature.

“They’re hiding something, Scully,” Mulder said once they were on their way.

“The cat’s already out of the bag on the brain-eating amoebas,” Scully offered.

“No—there’s a reason why the attacks have escalated, and I think they know why.”

“We have no evidence to suggest they had any inclination as to why—”

“Where did he go?”

“Where did who go?”

“The park ranger. When he left the office. Where did he go? He went out the door

and he walked straight toward our car, then made a sharp right and disappeared

behind the office, into the Everglades. He took a flashlight with him, and his rifle,

and that was it. Have any idea what he’s doing out there, Scully?”

“No, but Mulder, we—”

“We need to find out.”

“We just got here!”

“And this might be our only chance.”

“We need protective gear if we’re going in. We’re not dressed properly, we don’t

have a rifle, we have no idea which direction he went, we don’t know this territory,

we have nothing to throw to gators if they happen to smell us, and we haven’t eaten

in seven hours, Mulder. There’s no way we can go into the woods. Mulder, turn the

car around. I’m serious!”

He looked at her. “This is our one chance to figure out what they know. He went

somewhere, Scully. Abandoned his post to get somewhere very quickly.”

“And he’ll probably abandon it again to get somewhere equally as quickly. But we’ll

come back. Prepared. We need a map of the Everglades, possibly a guide, a rifle

and bait for gators, we’ll need the proper equipment and biohazard suits if we end up

wading in water.”

Mulder frowned. “Bio-hazard suits?”

“These amoebas are breathed in. That’s how they get into your system. If you’re

wading in water, and water splashes up your nose, you’re at a greater risk for

infection. I’m not disagreeing that we should figure out what they know—”

“You’re not?” Mulder asked, surprised.

“Well, no, I think—”

“You’re not objecting to us going into the Everglades and wading through muck and

dirt in search of something you don’t think is even there?” Mulder asked skeptically.

“You should know me better than that by now, Mulder. You know I want to figure

out what they’re hiding as much as you do.”

“A minute ago you weren’t convinced they were hiding anything,” Mulder argued, as

he turned the car around and headed back toward the city.

“The more I think about it…Mulder, the results from the lab that we saw in the

sheriff’s department. The detective showed the results to us. The latest victims had

something in common—they had all camped in the campground or treated those who

had. We knew that already. What we didn’t realize is that they probably bought the

water at the National Park office.”

“Scully—really? This is huge. If this thing is transmitted by water, then—”

“I know, and I didn’t get a sample.”

“We have to go back, then,” Mulder insisted.

Scully hesitated for a moment, then said, “Okay. But we still don’t have the

necessary equipment. We go in and get the water, and leave. We’re not going into

the Everglades.”

“Of course not,” he said, but Scully recognized that look in his eye. He had made

some kind of connection, bigger than the one she had made, and they had only been

in Florida for the past eight hours. She couldn’t stop him now. All she could hope to

do was rein him in enough to keep up, so they could solve this together.

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LONG PINE KEY NATIONAL PARK OFFICE

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FL

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007

1830

“Hello? We’re back—we forgot something,” Scully called, as they let themselves in.

The front door was open. “Hello? Is anyone here?” No one answered, and so they

walked over to the cooler where water was being sold.

“What made you remember the water, Scully?” Mulder asked curiously.

“I remember reading the autopsy report on what was in their stomachs, and I knew

they consumed large amounts of water. They were camping. Then I saw the water

while we were just here…” she picked up a bottle. “It’s a great price, and it’s

obviously worth checking out.”

He nodded, and moved away from where she was. He walked behind the desk, and

Scully looked at him disapprovingly. “Mulder, what are you doing?”

“Just checking out a few things…there it is.” He ejected the security tape pulled up a

chair, searching through the shelf of security tapes until he found the ones that

corresponded to the dates that victims checked in. He stuck the first one in the

machine.

“Mulder, if they come back—”

“Watch the door, then, Scully.”

She groaned. She couldn’t believe him. He was doing it again.

“You must not think they’re coming back for a while.”

“It’s a hunch,” he explained.

“And if you’re wrong?”

“Scully,” Mulder said with a smile, “I’m never wrong.”

She rolled her eyes, and walked over to the door. She kept watch, eventually

needing to get a chair and sit down. It had been a long day. No one came for at

least an hour. Mulder had fast-forwarded through three security tapes and was on

his fourth.

“What do you hope to find?” Scully asked.

“Something indicating that these people bought the water, or anything from this

ranger station.”

“Or…?” she continued, knowing from his tone that there was more.

“Or evidence to suggest that the park rangers are going outside with something

unusual.”

“You really think they’re responsible?”

“They know something,” Mulder repeated himself.

Scully was quiet for a few moments. “Have you found anything?” She asked

eventually.

“One park ranger in particular seems to have a ritual of eating his sandwich at

exactly 12:15 every afternoon, and another sneaks a portable TV under the desk at

the beginning of his shift every morning, but nothing other than that.”

She sighed. “Mulder, we need to get back and test this water sample.”

“Hang on, I’ve got a few more of these to go through.”

“What makes you think they’re going to be gone much longer?”

“They’ve been gone for over an hour, Scully. They’re doing something out there,

and we’re going to find out what. As soon as we have the proper gear. In the mean

time, I see no reason why we can’t take advantage of the opportunity—”

He was cut off by Scully’s cell phone ringing. She instantly plucked it out of her

pocket and answered it. “Scully.”

“Agent Scully, this is Detective Harris. We’ve got something at the Sheriff’s office

that you’re gonna want to look at.”

“Alright, we’ll be there as soon as we can. Thanks for letting us know.”

“No problem. See you in a few.”

She didn’t bother to tell Detective Harris that it would be more than ‘a few’ at the

rate they were going. “Come on, Mulder,” she said as she hung up the phone.

“We’ve got to go. They’ve got something at the sheriff’s department that they want

us to see.”

“What is it?”

“I didn’t ask.”

Mulder sighed, and popped the tape out. He put today’s tape back in the machine,

and activated the camera again.

“What’s going to happen when they look at that tape and figure out that we were

trespassing?” Scully asked.

“They won’t look at it. They’re not going to care, Scully. Whatever it is that’s

occupying them, it’s got their complete and undivided attention.”

Scully rolled her eyes, and led the way out the door. They got in their car and drove

off in the dark, neither one of them seeing the park ranger emerge from the woods

with one of his colleagues. They were laboriously carrying a large, mysterious

cooler.

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DADE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

MIAMI, FL

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007

2045

“What’ve you got for us, Detective Harris?” Mulder asked immediately upon meeting

the man in the lobby. He was young, a new homicide detective probably on one of

his first cases. His brown curly hair was cropped relatively short, and he wore a

sweater vest over his Oxford shirt and tie. He was the only one without a uniform

who wore a tie at all.

“One of our officers found traces of fertilizer on one of the victim’s hands.”

“Which victim?” Scully asked as they proceeded through the modern building to their

destination.

“One of the city dwellers. Adam Rozinski. I did a background check on him; he

recently joined a club called The Fraternity…it’s an independent organization

contained to the city. We’re planning to send someone out tomorrow to question

some of the people in this club about his daily routine. He has no family and he’s

unemployed. We have no way of knowing how this guy might have contracted the

amoeba.”

Scully nodded. “We’ll go with your people tomorrow,” she said.

Mulder spoke up. “What do you think the fertilizer will tell us, Detective?”

“We had the compound analyzed, Agent Mulder. It’s a very distinct combination of

chemicals, only found in one brand and only made in one location in Miami.”

“If we go to that location, we might find another amoeba danger spot and that’ll

enable us to bring biohazard teams in,” Scully explained. “As it stands, the only

conceivable explanation for this outbreak is that there are multiple origin points for a

rapidly growing and mutating entity. The amoeba couldn’t spread so fast without

different points of origin. The more of them we have, the better our chances are of

eradicating it.”

Mulder nodded. “Is there a possibility that Rozinski was working on a bomb?

Fertilizer’s a well-known ingredient for home-made bombs. Do you know anything

else about him, Detective?”

“He doesn’t have a record. He was orphaned at age eight. Only child, raised in

foster care, never got a job. Twenty-three years old, declared bankruptcy already

and has been living off of food stamps and welfare until he got involved with the

club. They’ve helped him considerably. Seems like a kid just trying to get by, to

me,” Harris said. “But then, things aren’t often as they seem.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Mulder said with a smile.

“Have you already completed the autopsy, Detective?” Scully asked.

“Our coroner, Alexi, she’s gotten through the preliminary steps. She was about to

make a Y-incision when I left twenty minutes ago. If you want to get down there,

Dr. Scully, I’d recommend you hurry.”

“I’m gonna run ahead, Mulder,” Scully said.

“Go for it. We’ll catch up,” Mulder accepted, and watched as she jogged in the other

direction, toward the elevator. Then he turned to Harris, and continued their brief

journey to a small room with a microscope in the center.

Harris gestured toward the projector on the far end of the room, and Mulder stood

off to the side while the younger man activated the computer. A moment later, they

were staring at a background check on Rozinski. “If you see anything that might

shed some light on how he contracted the amoeba, Agent Mulder, please divulge.

Sheriff Carr is very eager to get to the bottom of this one.”

“I can imagine,” Mulder said absently, looking at the blown-up version of Rozinski’s

record. He scanned the entire thing, looking for something that stood out. Then he

saw it. “This date, November 29th, he was caught trespassing on National Park

property,” Mulder said.

“Yeah…it was just him being stupid. I pulled up the record and it’s the only charge

we have against him. He claims he was going to try to light off some firecrackers.

Or rather, he had lit off some firecrackers. By the time we got there, there weren’t

any left. Stupid kid. Nothing to do.”

“One of the recent outbreaks we have on file as an anomaly is Willie Kirsten, a ten-

year-old boy brought into the hospital by his father, who claims they were illegally

camping—”

“That translates to gator-hunting, Agent Mulder,” the detective interrupted.

“Whatever they were doing, they were doing it on November 29th. Willie’s infection,

we believe, caused four more infections resulting in death. All four were hospital

workers.”

“You think Rozinski might have something to do with that?”

“I think it’s a coincidence we can’t ignore. I want you to cross-check all the other

victims for any connection to other victims, other than treating them. If they were in

the park at the same day, if they were next-door neighbors or worked together—

anything that would put them in close proximity. But I want you to especially pay

attention to cases where one victim was trespassing on property another victim was

occupying right before the outbreak.”

Harris nodded. “Of course,” he said.

“I’ll help you until my partner’s done.”

“Sounds good. Let’s pull up those files and get going.”

A few hours and six pieces of pizza later, Mulder saw Scully walk past their room,

back up, and enter. “Finished assisting with the autopsy,” she announced.

Harris and Mulder were both very attentive.

“Alexi and I both agree without a doubt that the amoeba killed Rozinski. But he

didn’t inhale it. Rozinski not only had traces of fertilizer on his hands and arms, but

his wrists and ankles were irritated and his upper arm had a single injection point.

We believe he was murdered.”

“Damn. They put the amoeba in a vial and injected it into his arm?”

“That’s Dr. Morgan’s conclusion,” Scully said. “And I agree with her. He was tied

down, and killed.”

“Fingerprints, signs of a struggle?” Harris asked.

“No, no fingerprints, but he did have a bruise on his cheek that hadn’t formed yet,

and he took a blow to the head. It’s likely he wasn’t subdued quietly. What did you

two find?”

“Adam Rozinski’s bank account has been bulging in the last few days. He received a

deposit of $50,000 yesterday from an unknown source. Detective Harris is trying to

track it now,” Mulder reported. “And Scully, Rozinski was arrested for trespassing on

National Park grounds on the same day Willie Kirsten was brought into the hospital.

The ICU doctors who attended to him for the last few hours of his life all died within

the same few days, of the amoeba infection.”

“I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on here,” Detective Harris said. “They’ve found

a way to infect people, and Rozinski was so far in debt that he took a bribe to deliver

it.”

“I don’t think it stops with Rozinski,” Mulder said, standing up. “I agree with you

there, Detective.”

“We’ve also got information, Agent Scully, about three other victims who were either

arrested for trespassing in areas where other victims occupied the day they were

brought into the hospital, or inhabited those areas legally. And there’s a very

disturbing commonality.”

“What’s that?” Scully asked.

“They’re all involved in some way with the local club Rozinski recently joined.

They’re not all members—some are contributors, some are in charge of finances, and

some are employees. But they all are somehow affiliated with The Fraternity on 7th

street. In the city.”

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other. “Alright, we’re going to need a warrant,”

Scully said. “And I’d like to question these people as soon as possible. We’ll need

your resources to do that, Detective Harris. There are bound to be a lot of them.”

“We’ll start first thing in the morning,” Harris said. “Can you two be here at 7?”

“We definitely can,” Mulder said with a nod. He walked over to Scully, and she said,

“We’re gonna grab something to eat. We haven’t eaten since the plane ride…if you

can call that food.”

Harris, immediately seeing Mulder’s plight, shifted in front of the pizza box a little

further, just in case Scully saw. “Fair enough. I’ll see you two tomorrow. We made

great progress.”

“We definitely did,” Mulder agreed, and led Scully out the door. A few minutes later,

when they were in their car, Scully spoke.

“You didn’t mention the Forest Rangers’ odd behavior.”

“Not yet,” Mulder said. “There’s something to this club lead, but I don’t think this

stops there. And we don’t have any evidence against the Rangers. After we search

the club I want to go back to that ranger station, Scully. There’s something going on

there.”

“We need to find a connection between the forest rangers and The Fraternity,” Scully

stated. “I have a feeling that will explain a lot.”

“What about the fertilizer? Do you think they’re planning a bomb?”

“If they are, they’re probably releasing the amoeba into the atmosphere while they

do it,” she said.

He started the car and drove toward their motel. “If this is what it looks like, I’m

hoping it’s contained to Miami.”

She nodded solemnly, and looked out the window. “Mulder, there’s a pizza place

right there—why don’t we stop in?”

“Eh, I don’t really feel much like pizza, Scully. Why not go to Wendy’s?”

“Do you see a Wendy’s anywhere?” Scully asked, her tone annoyed. “The pizza place

is right there. Come on, pull over.”

“Hey, look, a Chick-Fil-A,” Mulder said excitedly, and pulled into the parking lot.

“Let’s get some waffle fries and chicken on a bun, Scully.”

“Fine, anything edible,” Scully said, and they both headed into the fast food

restaurant. Neither one of them noticed the forest ranger’s truck that slowed in front

of the store, and then continued past.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

THE FRATERNITY

MIAMI, FL

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2007

1000

Mulder and Scully left the club with Detective Harris and a team of CSI’s,

discouraged. The only thing they had gotten out of their search was a handful of

rude stares, not-so-polite words, and numerous requests to leave.

Mulder had particularly reacted to one man’s words. “This club does nothing but

reach out to young men in need, Agents. What you’ve done here is inflict prejudice

on us. The whole neighborhood will think we’re some kind of illegal group.” Their

intentions had been just, going into the building, but Mulder still felt like dirt after

being on the receiving end of that accusation, and seeing the physical evidence of

who belonged to The Fraternity. Boys ranging from early teenage years to late 20’s,

mostly homeless or runaways, gathered together for prayer, for counseling, for

simple socialization. Not criminals.

Scully was about to say something when a boy, about fourteen years old, ran up to

them. He wasn’t followed. Mulder recognized him from inside the building, and it

was clear that he had left in a hurry and was worried that he might be in trouble for

it.

“FBI dudes! Wait up!” he yelled. His clothes were worn and tattered, his shirt

several sizes too small for him. “Sorry…I gotta tell you something. There’s this

group of dudes that meets every Tuesday night, at 9 pm. They meet in the

basement, and don’t let no one in. Now I don’t know what they’re doing down there,

and I don’t want no one knowin’ I told you nothing…if you get my drift.” He gave

them a meaningful look. “But I got a gut feeling they ain’t up to no good.”

Scully smiled gently at him. “Thank you very much for your information. You’ve

done the right thing.”

The boy simply said, “Gotta split,” and ran back inside the building before he was

missed. Mulder and Scully weren’t quite sure he wasn’t missed in the first place.

“Hope he doesn’t get in trouble with the other guys,” Mulder commented.

“Think he was a runaway?”

“Maybe homeless, maybe a runaway…maybe drugs.” Mulder shook his head. “You

never know.”

Scully nodded. Harris walked over to them after finishing his discussion with one of

the officers. “Kid tell you anything important?”

“We’re going to try to investigate a group that’s held here tonight at 9 pm. We’ll

need audio surveillance,” Mulder told him.

“That I can get you. I think we should try to figure out who’s in it before we start

the surveillance.”

“Agreed. Why don’t you do that, Detective…Scully and I are going to pursue our own

avenue of investigation.”

“Sure,” Harris said, slightly confused. “So we’ll meet up sometime this afternoon?”

“Sometime around 4,” Scully said. It was good to put a time limit on whatever

Mulder had in mind…or they might just end up spending the night in the woods with

brain-sucking amoebas.

“See you then,” Harris said.

They parted, and it was only when they were in the car that Mulder said, “We need

to go back to the ranger station.”

“Mulder, I agree that those rangers were acting odd, but all the evidence points to

this being the work of a group within The Fraternity.”

“It’s not just The Fraternity,” Mulder said. He started the car and pulled away.

“What makes you so sure?”

He didn’t answer. Instead, he popped a sunflower seed in his mouth and focused his

eyes steadily on the road. Scully sighed. It had to be one of his ‘feelings’, but with

no evidence to back them up, she wasn’t sure how much they would get away with.

They had already waltzed into the ranger station and viewed the security tapes

without permission. What did Mulder have in mind now? Audio surveillance on their

houses? Going through their emails? Stalking them on MySpace?

It didn’t take long to get to the ranger station, but when they arrived, they found

that it was completely empty. There were no cars outside, or around back. The

lights were off. It was exceedingly odd.

“They’re supposed to have people manning these posts all the time,” Mulder said,

annoyed, as he strode up to the front door.

“So you’ve said,” his partner answered him. “I never suggested these rangers aren’t

acting odd, and I agree with you that they probably know something, but we just

don’t have any evidence.”

“How’d that water bottle come out?”

“It’s clean,” Scully said, disappointed.

“There goes our water selling theory.”

“What if only some of them are contaminated?” Scully asked, stopping in her tracks.

They hadn’t reached the door yet. “What if they’re only selling one or two

contaminated bottles to the campers? That would explain an increase in infections,

but it would also explain why everyone who walks into the Everglades doesn’t die.”

Mulder nodded, enthusiastic. “We’ll need probable cause to confiscate their water

bottle supply and have it tested.”

“I agree. And whatever we find in this station might just help us get it. Let’s go.”

It was odd that their roles were suddenly reversed, with Scully energetically in front,

eager to find whatever the rangers were hiding.

They walked inside, only slightly surprised that the door wasn’t locked, and found

that it was pitch black inside. Mulder turned on the lights with his sleeve. “Hello?”

the announced. “We’re with the FBI, and we have some questions. Is anyone here?”

No one answered.

Scully had already walked behind the counter, and into the back room, gun drawn.

Mulder followed her after surveying the open space and finding nothing. They saw

quickly that the back room consisted of a couch, a television, a coffee table, and a

door that led to the outside. Mulder opened it, his gun still extended in front of him.

The light from the back room spilled into the small closet they had just discovered,

and they spotted a door that truly led to the outdoors directly in front of them. The

closet was about the size of a broom closet, and was completely empty. “This is

odd,” Scully said.

“It is,” Mulder agreed, but didn’t find anything interesting. Until he looked down.

“Scully, look at this.”

Scully took out her flashlight and pointed it at the floor. A very small handle, made

of wood and hinged with metal, was barely visible between the wooden boards. The

agents stepped out of the small closet and Mulder picked up the handle, heaving the

entire floor of the little room up on hinges, and blocking the exit as he did so. He

exposed a stairwell that went down at least two stories, into a basement of sorts.

“Now I’m pretty sure this isn’t in the building plans,” Mulder said.

They went down the stairs without another word, Mulder first and Scully covering his

back.

Mulder shone his flashlight on the warehouse-sized underground space they viewed

when they reached the bottom of the stairs. There were crates lining the walls,

stacked one on top of the other, as far as they could see. The room was so large

that Mulder’s voice echoed when he said, “How did they build underground in the

Everglades? Isn’t that impossible?”

“It should be,” Scully said. “This entire room might not be dug out…it might have

been inserted. Or it might be a very dangerous room to occupy.”

“Come on, let’s see what’s in these crates.”

She normally would have protested, but she was so damn curious to see what

evidence had eluded them that she didn’t say a word as Mulder grabbed a crowbar

laying nearby and walked up to a crate behind some others. He pried it open and

tossed the crowbar aside, creating a loud, resonating ‘clang’ through the basement.

Scully almost pushed him out of the way to get a look at what was inside. There

were two large water dispensers, the kind one saw at sports games for the players

down by the benches.

“Do you have any way of getting a water sample, Scully?” Mulder asked.

“I left my equipment in the car. I’ll go get it.”

“Hurry up,” he said, and watched her run up the stairs at full speed.

He inspected the dispensers closer when she was gone, leaning in for a good look at

the dispensing mechanism and the sealing on the container. He saw an electronic

mechanism that he couldn’t quite understand, stuck to the container at the bottom.

He wondered if it could be a bomb, but he didn’t see any explosives.

Then something caught his eye. A small red wire running from the crate into the

wall. It was then that he discovered that all the crates were equipped with these

wires, running into the walls of the secret basement room. He was getting a very

bad feeling about this.

The feeling only escalated when Scully didn’t return for another two minutes.

Something was wrong. He held his gun in front of him as he ran up the stairs, but

only got to the top step before his partner came into his field of view. Only she

wasn’t alone. A park ranger was right behind her, shotgun visible and threateningly

held at his side. And her gun in his other hand.

“Thought I told you people no one was available here,” the park ranger growled as

Scully walked in Mulder’s direction.

“The front door was unlocked. We needed answers, and no one wanted to provide

any.”

“So this is what you people do when you need answers? You barge into someone’s

water supply chamber?”

“Water supply?” Scully asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, water supply. And before you jump to any stupid conclusions, hear me out.

This has nothing to do with that damn amoeba. This has to do with the town’s water

supply bein’ in serious danger. We found a way to get the water out of the swamps

and purify it. That down there is a water purification system.”

“So why are you hiding it in a basement?” Mulder challenged.

“Because it’s a nice big space near the Everglades, genius. Now I got a job to do,

and I don’t need two Feds gettin’ in my way. I’d greatly appreciate it if you two left.”

Mulder climbed the final stair as the man lowered his gun, and walked with Scully

toward the door. He took one last look behind him before Scully shoved him gently,

and they walked to their car. Scully picked up her gun from the dirt, noticing that

the park ranger stood outside the station, shotgun at his side, waiting for them to

leave.

“Something else is going on here, Scully, I know there is,” Mulder said once he was

behind the wheel.

Scully didn’t say anything.

He started the car, and pulled out of the station. After several moments of silence,

he looked at her. “You believed him.”

“It’s plausible that they could be circulating a water supply, for a storm or for a

limited population within the city. A water purification system for a community

whose water supply is diminishing every day. The amoeba might be transferred

through something else, and it probably is, considering the water bottle we tested

came out clean.”

“You think they’re totally innocent? That they don’t know what’s going on here?”

She was quiet.

“You have your doubts.”

“I’m doubting his lack of knowledge,” she said. “But I’m not doubting his innocence.

I don’t think they have anything to do with what’s happening.”

He sighed, and she gave him a pained expression. “You can’t be right all the time,

Mulder,” she said.

“But I’m driving,” he responded, and a smile played on his lips.

“You use that too often,” Scully accused.

They drove toward the Sheriff’s Department, ready to report to Detective Harris their

findings…or lack thereof.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

THE FRATERNITY

MIAMI, FL

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2007

2100

Mulder and Scully sat in a van with Detective Harris and an officer from the Dade

County Sheriff’s Department, listening intently to the men who piled into the small

basement room of the building across the street.

“Should we begin?” they heard. It was a shame they didn’t have video feed.

Although they had confirmed the suspects’ identities as they walked into the

building, it would still help to know who said what.

“The new shipment arrived today,” another man said in a thick European accent.

“Then we should begin dispersal as quickly as possible. I got a plan,” a third man

stated, and they heard the ruffling of a piece of paper. Mulder and Scully could

guess it was a map. “This will lead to maximum casualties.”

“We should start this tonight.”

“There aren’t many campers registered tonight. But I’m on shift,” the first man said.

“And so I can let you in the door. My friend is covering for me, but he’ll go do his

thing as soon as I am back.”

“In an hour and a half, we’ll be done here and you’ll be back at your post. That’s

when you let us in,” the third man told him.

“And then we take the containers and begin,” a fourth man chimed in. “We’ll bring

the truck.”

“Are you sure you can gain access to the water treatment plant? It pretty closely

guarded,” the second man told him.

“We can gain access. No problem.”

“Call us if you need to drop any bodies,” the first man said.

“We will,” a fifth man finally spoke.

“Let’s get outta here. It’s not safe to stay here for that long.”

“People are gonna wonder if we don’t stay here a little longer,” the second man

cautioned him.

“Then let’s chill.”

Mulder and Scully looked at each other as the men launched into normal

conversation, and it was Scully who first spoke. “We need a team at the water

treatment plant, and at the ranger station. We need a roster of all the employees of

the ranger station and we need a cross-check with those that attend this club. And

we need to move, people, we only have an hour and a half.”

The detective and officer jumped into action. They dispatched a team to the nearest

water treatment plant, and alerted others to be on guard. They rode to the ranger

station at top speed, and formulated a plan on the way.

They called in for backup, and had the entire place surrounded quickly and silently.

The park ranger inside didn’t know what was going on. Mulder and Scully didn’t

bother going into the station—instead, they hid outside, and waited to catch the men

in the act of loading the containers onto the back of a vehicle.

It seemed like they waited forever. Scully grew tired and leaned against a tree, and

Mulder rubbed her shoulders one by one, briefly, with his gun still in his hand. She

smiled her thanks.

Mulder’s own fatigue was written all over his face. It had been a long couple of days,

and he had obviously been awake thinking about this case. Something still wasn’t

quite right. There was something missing…it fell together too well. It was the classic

domestic terrorist plot, and yet it just…wasn’t right.

Finally, they saw movement. A truck pulled up and one Middle-Eastern man got out

of the driver’s side, and walked into the ranger station in a Park Ranger’s uniform. A

few minutes later, another man left.

Scully called in a trace on his vehicle and license plate, and they stayed put. Only

ten minutes later, another, larger truck pulled up and two men got out. They were

both very large, clearly capable of lifting more than Mulder’s weight. They walked

into the ranger station, and what seemed like an eternity later, walked out carrying a

large crate.

“Move in!” Mulder commanded, and everyone jumped out of their hiding places,

surrounding the men. They put the case down without being asked, and put their

hands up.

“Do not move,” a police officer instructed, even though the men were stationary.

“Get that to the lab,” Scully said. “Test the water samples for the amoeba,” she

commanded the officer who had accompanied them. As the officers handcuffed their

suspected terrorists, one of them looked up at Mulder and said, “I know you.”

Mulder glanced at him, the curiosity on his face so slight that he knew only Scully

picked it up. “What do you mean?” he asked in a harsh tone.

“You’re that profiler,” he said in perfect English. “And you handle freaky cases. I

know you.”

“How is that of any consequence to me?” Mulder asked.

“Oh…I think you’ll find out.”

And as he said it, he glanced at his comrade, handcuffed and on his knees beside

him. They nodded to each other, and bit down on capsules no one had seen they

had. “No!” Mulder screamed simultaneously with Scully, but as the agents rushed

forward to try to wipe the cyanide out of the men’s mouths, they had already been

fatally poisoned.

Foaming at the mouth and collapsed on the ground, their suspects were dead. And

more good news came through a police officer’s radio. “Report of an explosion at the

Euphoria Water Company. All available units, respond.”

Mulder and Scully gave each other pained expressions before breaking into a run for

the nearest available vehicle. “Arrest that park ranger inside,” Scully commanded.

“Seal off this station, keep it guarded and closed off to civilians. Evacuate the

campers and get me that water test,” she ordered.

“Get those bodies to the morgue and hold off on the autopsy until Agent Scully can

get a look at them,” Mulder added as he opened the passenger side door of one of

the Sheriff’s Department vehicles.

“Where are you two going?” Detective Harris demanded. “The officers can handle the

water treatment facility.”

“We need to be there,” was Mulder’s only explanation as he closed his door. Scully

started the car, and they were on their way with the help of the GPS in only a few

seconds.

“They’ve outsmarted us. Anticipated our arrival. They know what we’re up to, they

know what I’m investigating, and they’ve planned for all of it. Including the audio

surveillance,” Mulder said.

“There’s still one consistently unanswered question, Mulder.”

“I thought we had a lot of those.”

She ignored the comment. “Where are they getting the amoeba? How are they

controlling it? How can they guarantee that there will be a sample of that amoeba in

their water supply that they’re dispersing?”

“The answer’s in the Everglades—I’m sure of it.”

“It is an optimal place for the amoeba to spread, I’ll give you that,” Scully started.

“But?”

“But you still don’t have any evidence.”

“That’s what we’re going to the water treatment plant for, Scully.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

clip_image006

EUPHORIA WATER TREATMENT FACILITY

MIAMI, FL

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2007

2250

When Mulder and Scully arrived, they saw only chaos. Employees were huddled near

emergency vehicles, a fire truck was putting out a fire on the fourth floor, and the

entire upper floor of the building looked decimated. They could see inside in several

places, with the assistance of the floodlights the emergency workers had

constructed.

Mulder walked up to the first firefighter he found, and flashed his badge. “What

happened here?” he demanded.

“Explosion on the fourth floor. Damaged the third and fifth, didn’t destroy anything

but a couple of offices, and a supply route.”

“Supply route?”

“Two simultaneous explosions, one on the fourth floor, and one by the water supply

tank. We’ve got no way of knowing what the root of the explosion was until the

Bomb Squad gets here.”

Mulder’s mind zoomed through the possibilities, remembering exactly what those

men had said. The park ranger’s friend, who had covered for him, was going to ‘do

his thing’ when he left. “It was a suicide bomber,” Mulder said, more to Scully than

to the fireman in front of them. “That trace you ordered—it obviously wasn’t fast

enough. The man pulled into here, walked into this building, and blew up himself

and the water supply route simultaneously.”

“But Mulder, why would he do that? He didn’t release anything into the water supply

from inside…do you think?”

“We need those security tapes. And we need them now,” Mulder demanded.

“Well, I’m not the one to talk to. Building security has its hands full. You won’t get

much from them either. Best of luck to you, though.” The man walked away, and

Mulder stormed toward the building.

“Are you in charge?” he demanded. Scully followed closely behind, and matched

Mulder’s intense glance at the security guard coordinating an evacuation.

“Who are you?” The guard asked, clearly annoyed.

The agents quickly flashed their badges. “We need to see your security tapes for

water supply routes, and we need them now. You’ve got a toxic substance in your

water supply and we need to localize it.”

“How the hell can you know that?” The guard asked accusingly.

“Just get us the damn records, or find someone who can,” Scully insisted. “Every

second we wait here, we delay our chances to shut down the water supply.”

“Even if you wanted to shut down the water supply, you’d have to shut down at least

three routes,” a voice said from behind them. They turned to see a man in a suit.

“I’m Peter Grossman, water treatment engineer for this plant,” he introduced.

“You’re from the police department?”

“FBI,” Mulder said. “And you’ve got a toxic substance in one of your supply routes.

We need to shut it down before it gets to people’s houses. How much time do we

have?”

“About five minutes,” he said, and broke into a run, waving to them to follow him.

Out of options, they complied, and ran with the man through the building as the fire

alarm sounded its piercing whine. They ignored the alarm and the late-working

employees making their way out of the building, and went directly to the control

room.

“The best bet is to shut down the East P-16 gridline,” Grossman said, jogging up to

the central computer and sitting down in front of the console. “The explosion was on

the fourth floor, right?”

“Right,” Mulder said.

“And it was right here,” he pointed to a spot on an electronic schematic of the

building displayed on the security screen. “This part of the building is only accessible

through this one route. That’s because of the highly sensitive equipment in that

area. We sealed off the staircase and made it a separate suite. Whoever got in

must have known about that in advance—”

“Just shut down the damn water supply!” Scully ordered.

“Right…” the engineer said, and turned back to his station. “There are three options

that go into this area. All three routes cover about a third of our clients. Shutting

them down isn’t something I have the authority to do, but under the

circumstances…”

“Just do it,” Mulder said impatiently.

The engineer flipped the switch, and the glowing lights in those areas went dead.

“It’s done. Your water supply is now standing—that means it’s not flowing through

its usual pipeline. It’ll have to be re-distributed throughout the grid once it’s

cleaned. Those people, though, don’t have any water.”

“How long before they get their water back?” Scully asked.

“A day, two days?”

Mulder rolled his eyes, and then looked at the engineer sincerely. “Thank you, Mr.

Grossman, you’ve been very helpful.”

“Anything I can do to help you guys out. Let me just log out here…” He turned back

toward the computer, and pressed a few buttons. Mulder and Scully headed toward

the door. “Just wait a minute,” they heard him say, and when they turned around,

he had pulled a gun. They had no time to reach for theirs. “Disarm yourselves.

Now!”

They complied, warily gauging the situation. “So you’re the one who let him in,

Grossman? You’re the one who led him up to that fourth floor, and set the charge

outside?”

“To cut the power to the clean water supply and guarantee contamination,” the

engineer confirmed. “Kick the guns away from you and get away from each other.

That’s it. Good. Now stay there.”

Mulder didn’t know the man enough to judge whether he would really pull that

trigger, but he was awfully calm for an engineer with a gun. He decided to take a

wild guess. “So you believe what they’re doing? You believe this Fraternity group

has the right idea?”

Grossman snorted. “Right, you pegged it.”

Mulder had him right where he wanted him. “So this is for money?”

“What do you think? You think Moe, Larry, and Curly are well-funded over in that

club’s basement?”

Bull’s eye. “You’re doing this for some reason, Peter.”

“Why not for just no reason at all?”

Scully wasn’t sure what Mulder was doing, but she was being quiet and letting him

go at his speed…it was, at least, delaying the crazy man in the room. “Because

people generally don’t do things for ‘no reason at all’.”

“What do you want me to say? My mother never loved me? My father never hugged

me?”

“No, I’d expect a teenage pick-pocket to say that.”

“Then what the hell do you want from me?”

“The truth. Why you’re condemning a third of the city to death. Why you’re helping

a cause you don’t believe in, and stand to get no profit from.”

“Because of people like you, Mr. Mudler.”

“Mulder.”

“Whatever!” The man said, cocking his weapon and pointing it at Mulder’s head.

“People like you who think they’re so god-damned better than everyone else. People

who don’t think people like me are worth anything…people who take us for granted,

and people who go into the evil, brainwashing, child-murdering government that

accepts those people like you and rejects people like me for ‘psychological reasons’.”

Mulder didn’t respond for a moment, sensing that the man was about to continue.

Grossman took a step forward. “Do you know how hard I studied for that entrance

exam? Do you know how badly I wanted to serve my country? Before I found out

what an evil machine it is, disregarding the people who break their backs to hold it

up, while they chase pointless tasks, waste our money, and destroy our foreign

policy!”

Mulder shook his head. “So you’re going to punish a third of Miami for the

government’s mistakes.”

“Yes! Only then can we get you people to listen to us! They don’t give minorities a

chance! They don’t give the poor kids a chance to get up in this world and pull

themselves out of the muck. All they give them is a rejection! And they only pay

attention when something blows up!” He took another step forward, so that the gun

was nearly in Mulder’s face. Then he shifted the gun so that it was pointed directly

at Scully. His face was red, he was sweating bullets, and his eyes darted around,

paranoid. “Do you think for one minute you were hired because you passed a test?

It’s because you were needed to meet a damn diversity quota! They don’t hire

women or minorities because they want to!” He began to laugh. “It’s all some big

damn dinner party. Everyone impressing everyone else. And—”

He didn’t get the opportunity to continue because Mulder disarmed him in one fluid

motion, kicking the gun out of his hand and wrapping his arm behind his back. He

cuffed him last, and ignored the man’s loud protests. “You know what the sad thing

is, Scully?”

Scully raised an eyebrow, waiting for the corny punch-line.

“He never even got to the appetizer.” Mulder shoved Peter toward the door without

another word, but didn’t miss Scully rolling her eyes. He smiled slightly at her as

they walked side-by-side to their car. They shoved the incessantly loquacious

engineer in the back, and locked the doors before they started the car and drove off.

They headed directly for the Miami-Dade PD office.

“Now we get the joy of interrogations,” Scully said, resting her head in her palm, and

her elbow on the windowsill of the passenger’s seat.

“One after the other,” Mulder responded with mock enthusiasm.

The immediate danger seemed to have passed. But there was still a mystery here,

and they both knew it. How did these insane, delusional people get a hold of a

brain-eating amoeba? Hopefully, through the daunting interrogations, they would

find some answers.

And, Scully hoped, not get stuck in the woods overnight.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MIAMI-DADE PD CRIME LAB

MIAMI, FL

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2007

0002

The park ranger was little more than a boy. He was probably nineteen, twenty years

old, of Arab descent, but clearly American, and scared out of his mind in that

interrogation room. He was a tall man, about Mulder’s height, but hadn’t filled out

yet. His park ranger’s uniform hung loosely on him as he sat in the hot seat.

Mulder knew he was their weakest link, the one who would tell them where the

amoebas were coming from. Scully stood by the door, leaning against the wall,

while her partner circled the suspect in the center.

“Treason,” Mulder said. “You’ll be in prison for the rest of your life. Terrorism is just

about the worst thing you can do, politically, right now, Mr. Ibrahim. You’ll get no

sympathy in the American justice system. And you don’t deserve that, do you?”

The park ranger looked up at Mulder, confused.

“You’re what, nineteen years old?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Just got your first job. Didn’t want to go to college. Got roped into doing the wrong

thing with the wrong people. Thought you could be a big shot, and was doing fine

until this entire thing blew up in your face. Help yourself out. Tell me where you got

the amoeba.”

“I…to do so would be betraying The Fraternity.”

“A third of the city could have died,” Mulder said harshly, moving in on his suspect.

“And it would’ve been your fault! You’d receive the death penalty, I guarantee you.

You’d be tried and convicted as a terrorist and a traitor to your country. No one died

because my partner and I got there on time. Don’t think for a minute that your

friends won’t try something again, and this time the FBI may not be there to stop

them. A third of the city. Innocent people, Mr. Ibrahim. Is that what you want?”

“You have no clue what I want.”

“You want a chance. And I can tell you right now, the route you’re going will

obliterate that chance.”

The boy was silent.

“Come on, Jason, you’ve grown up here, you’ve gone to school with the same people

you’re targeting here. Do you really think your high school classmates deserve to

die?”

“Sometimes people have to die for—”

“What about this guy?” Mulder pulled a picture of a boy around Jason’s age out of his

pocket, and put it on the table. “Do you know who this is?”

Jason shook his head.

“This is Tom Haggerty, a former classmate of yours, and one of my boss’s friends.

He died from the amoeba infection, a little more than a week ago. He went to school

with you, Jason. You never saw him before?”

“Maybe…maybe in the hallways.”

“He’s dead because of that amoeba. If you tell me where you got it, we can stop

others from dying. And we’ll mention that you helped us on our report. That’ll help

you when you go to trial, Jason.”

Jason remained silent.

“You remember your friend, Ryan Colgate?” Mulder pulled another picture out of a

file on the desk, and set it in front of Jason. “The man that covered for you during

your shift, while you were in the basement of The Fraternity, and then drove off to

the water treatment plant to commit suicide? He’s dead, Jason. He blew himself up.

But you knew that. Did you also know that it was he and an engineer that worked for

the plant that conspired to infect a third of the water in the city? They would have

killed that many people. Did you think Ryan was capable of that?”

Jason still didn’t say anything.

“I can stop this, Jason. You just need to give me something. Tell me where you

were getting the amoeba.”

The boy was silent for a few more minutes, and Mulder was about to get up and walk

out when he said, “There’s this weird thing…in the Everglades. It’s like quicksand,

but it isn’t…and you put a cooler with some animal brains in it…and then you walk

away, and it crawls in. And then you divide it up between the water coolers, and no

one knows anything. I did it. I took the amoeba from the Everglades and put it in

the water supply. We tested it on a few campers at first, and then the big move was

putting it in the water treatment facility’s supply.” He looked up from his hands, and

into Mulder’s eyes. “Are they going to execute me, Mr. Mulder?”

He was clearly scared, and Scully could see he was very near tears. Mulder decided

to still play the bad cop as he stood up and said, “I’ll see what I can do to prevent

that from happening, Mr. Ibrahim. And we’ll be back.”

Scully was the first to speak as soon as the door shut behind them. “There’s no way

he’s seen the amoeba, Mulder. It’s microscopic!”

“What if it’s not? What if somehow it’s mutated to become large enough for these

people to use for their testing of their biological warfare?”

She shook her head. “It isn’t possible.”

“I think it’s worth checking out.”

“And how would we find out exactly where it is?”

“Go back and ask him,” Mulder said simply. “And when we find it, we’ll call a Hazmat

team and get it out of the Everglades.”

“We’re not going in with anything but a Hazmat suit,” Scully warned him. “And I’m

not spending the night in the Everglades—we won’t see anything, anyway. We’ll go

in the morning.”

Mulder seemed displeased, but he relented. “We need to get this organized,

anyway,” he said.

“I’m going to get down to the autopsy bay to check on those bodies you sent there

earlier this evening.”

He nodded. “Sounds good. I’ll get the Hazmat team organized and get Jason to give

us directions. See if I can convince the Sheriff to release him to come with us.”

“That’s not gonna happen.”

“I can dream.”

She rolled her eyes, and departed. Mulder went to go find the Sheriff. In a few

hours, it would be daylight and they would head into the Everglades.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

LONG PINE KEY CAMPGROUND

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FL

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2007

0630

A Hazmat team led Scully, Mulder, Jason, and half a dozen guards into the

Everglades. They were escorted by the park rangers who warned them of any

dangers they might face as they hiked. And everyone had a Hazmat suit on. They

walked for fifteen minutes before Jason stopped before a pit, and stared at it with a

stunned look on his face. “It’s gone,” he said.

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other. “What do you mean, gone?” Scully asked.

“I mean it isn’t here.”

“Hey! What’s that?” they heard, and saw a member of the Hazmat team take off in

a run. His teammates followed him, and naturally the rest of the party brought up

the rear. Mulder accelerated his running as much as he could with the bulky suit,

trying to get to the front and see whatever the Hazmat man had seen.

Then he spotted it as well, and they all came to a dead stop. “Scully, come here!”

Mulder demanded. His voice had that excited quality to it that told his partner that

he had found something incredible. And when she saw it, she gasped as well.

As large as a building, and right before their eyes, was a greenish-brown blob. It

resembled exactly what they had all identified in elementary school as an amoeba

from their science books, complete with the food and digestive vacuoles, the visible

nucleus, and contractive vacuole, but it was huge.

clip_image008

And now it was stopped in its tracks, as if it were about to go after one of them.

They all had their guns pointed at it the second they realized what it was. But it

didn’t make a move, and it didn’t attempt to eat them. Jason whispered to Scully,

“It never left its hole…”

“It probably knows it’s being threatened,” Scully said quietly, more to Mulder than to

Jason. “The fact that it ran from us suggests it has a survival instinct.”

Mulder didn’t get the chance to reply. The creature before them began dividing.

They saw the vacuoles divide first, and the nucleus became two nuclei, and then the

entire creature divided into two. It continued the process. “My God, this is

macroscopic mitosis,” Scully said, amazed.

Mulder shook his head. “I think we’d better get out of here.”

“I’m with him,” a nearby officer said, and the Hazmat team seemed to agree. They

backed away slowly, just as the two became four, and the four became eight.

As they broke into a run, Mulder heard the distinct sound of a chopper running

overhead. He looked up, and then at the Hazmat team. “Did you guys call for a

chopper?”

The Hazmat leader shook his head. “No, it’s not ours. It’s not yours?”

“No,” Scully said. They had stopped now, near a campground clearing. The mucky

ground beneath their feet made it hard to run, and they had lost sight of the

amoeba. Then they all saw the helicopter lower over the forest, and begin to pour

something all over the Everglades.

“What’s it doing?” Detective Harris demanded. “What’s going on?”

“They’re exterminating it,” Scully said quietly into her microphone. Mulder turned to

her. “They’re eliminating it from the Everglades.”

“Who is ‘they’?” Harris asked, shoving Jason out of his way to confront her.

“Some old friends,” Mulder answered for her, his voice seeping with bitterness. He

pushed the handcuffed nineteen-year-old in front of him, and then led the way

toward the exit of the Everglades. When they were back up on the path he looked

up and saw the helicopter again. “God DAMN it!” he screamed. “They’re destroying

it! All of it!”

“They’ve just exterminated one of the most unique organisms on the planet,

Mulder,” Scully said quietly.

The stress in her voice was evident, and Mulder’s expression betrayed his disgust

and rage. “They’ll stop at nothing. Bastards.” He shoved Jason forward again, and

angrily walked after him.

“No, you’re wrong,” Jason said, and turned around. Mulder was about to spin him

back, and force him to walk, but he interjected. “Whoever ‘they’ are, they just did

everyone a favor. Eliminating the source of all this is the best possible outcome.”

Mulder and Scully didn’t respond to that. They just exited the Everglades.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

MIAMI, FL

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2007

1800

Mulder and Scully sat and awaited their flight in isolated chairs in the corner of their

terminal’s waiting area. It was Scully who spoke first. “I can’t believe they destroyed

it.”

“You confirmed the chemical yourself, Scully. They poured the closest thing we have

to a cure on the entire Everglades area.”

“But something like that…I’d hate to think it was a unique organism.”

“I’d rather not think there might be more of those things out there.”

“Well, of course I don’t want anyone else to die, but the opportunity to study that

thing, Mulder…and they just took it away from us. Not just from us—from the world.

The world will never be able to study that macroscopic amoeba.”

“Don’t be so sure. These X-files tend to propagate. And I’ve got a feeling this

amoeba was more intelligent than people gave it credit for.”

“What makes you say that?”

“A feeling,” he stated.

She sighed. “I think the only thing we can be sure of is that nothing is certain in this

case.”

“One thing is certain, Scully. Someone had plans to use that amoeba for biological

warfare, whether in the military or for organized crime.”

“Just what we needed. A brain-sucking amoeba used for biological warfare, and

domestic terrorism,” Scully said wryly.

“At least The Fraternity doesn’t have to worry about its members declaring war with

a macroscopic unicellular organism anymore,” Mulder said with a slight smile.

They didn’t speak for a moment, but then Scully asked, “There’s another hour until

our flight takes off, Mulder. Let’s go get something to eat.”

“I’m all for that.” They stood up, picked up their bags, and headed for the Pizza Hut

across the terminal. Neither one noticed the tall, mysterious man speaking into his

headset.

“They’re about to depart, in about an hour. We can begin.”

“Excellent,” a deep voice said on the other line. “Meet me at the lab in one hour. We

have a Hazmat suit waiting for you.”

The man tapped his Bluetooth off, and walked out of the terminal.

End

1

Paratio Parasitus by Starfleetofficer1

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