Double Jeopardy

TITLE: Double Jeopardy

AUTHOR: XSketch (XSketch@hotmail.com)

WEBSITE: http://thesketchfiles.bravehost.com

CATEGORY: X, S, MSR, MT

RATING: PG-15 (for strong language)

SUMMARY: 42 years after the first incident a UFO crashes in Pennsylvania, except

this time somebody believes they can hand the craft over to Mulder and Scully.

Could it finally be the proof they’ve been after for 15 years?

SPOILERS: The whole VS universe thus far.

DISCLAIMER: Whilst this story is inspired by an actually documented UFO

encounter and the news of NASA’s recent order to investigate the reports, all

characters and plots are this story are completely fictitious and nothing more

than imaginings of my muse – any similarity to people living or dead or any

events is nothing more than coincidental. The X-Files, Mulder, Scully, CSM and

Deep Throat remain property of Chris Carter and are used here without

permission – I make no money from writing this and no infringement is intended.

ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusive to Virtual Season 15, and then it’s yours as long

as you let me know where and keep my name/all disclaimers attached.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Mucho gracias to my lovely beta Lisa 🙂 Happy holidays

everyone!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

KECKSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

DECEMBER 9th, 1965

6:14 PM

As the wintry Thursday evening drew in and a blanket of clouds tinted with a

myriad of colors unravelled, nine-year-old Josh Kerstein sang along with The

Byrds’ ‘Turn Turn Turn’, which played on the battered wireless that sat beside him

on the large tree bough and watched as his father locked up their barn for the

night. A large smile widened on his face. Despite the freezing temperature

biting at his body, thanks to his mother’s ignored orders to wrap up well, this was

the best time of his life: listening to music and watching his father work.

Randall Kerstein turned, blew into his cupped hands and then rubbed them

together as he looked up toward the heavens, thanking God for another day of

good farming regardless of the weather.

“Pa, we going in now?” the boy called from his perch, switching off the radio.

The wind picked up as Randy glanced at his son, scratched at the stubble on his

left cheek and smiled. “Yep, I do believe it’s that time. Smells like your

mom’s cooking up some of tha–”

Suddenly the ground shook with an inconceivable force, Josh slipped from the

high branch – only just barely managing to grab hold with his right hand before

he fell to the ground like his now-smashed radio.

“Joshua!”

The air around them was sucked into a vacuum, the icy temperature boiled to a

simmer, and as the elder Kerstein struggled to catch his breath and run to his

son’s aid at the same time, a raging fireball larger than the family’s farm shed

hurtled past them at break-neck speed toward the line of trees on the horizon,

where it crashed with a sonic boom.

…Which was enough to send Josh falling from the tree completely.

As his world faded to black, he could just barely make out the voices of his

screaming mother and father rushing towards him, and at least half of the

townsfolk hurrying for the woods.

XxXxXxXxX

NASA HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON D.C

DECEMBER 21st, 2007

“What do they know, anyway? Forty years on and they expect us to do what,

exactly?”

The loud, booming voice echoed down the long hallway as the two men – one

suited and one uniformed – hastily made their way along the black-carpeted

floor..

“Stupid, fucking government trying to get on the good side of crappy, Podunk

townies in time for the next election.”

Administrator Warren Anderson waved the piece of paper that was tightly gripped

in his right hand in the air, wishing he could just burn it and forget that it had

ever existed.

At the end of October, an order had been passed across Anderson’s desk to open

an investigation into sightings of an unidentified flying object by residents of

Kecksburg, Pennsylvania back in 1965. He’d pushed it aside, hoping that it would

be forgotten, but a faceless somebody higher up apparently had other ideas.

He’d received yet another order, clearly stating that if he did not follow it

immediately, it wouldn’t be long before he’d be struggling to find another job and

the thirteenth NASA administrator was being sworn in.

With the Christmas rush just around the corner, and the January shuttle launch in

jeopardy due to numerous technical ‘concerns’, fulfilling somebody’s Twilight

Zone fantasy was far from the top of his ‘To Do’ list. If it was worth threatening

his job over, Anderson had no choice but to obey – no matter how reluctantly.

He stopped, turned to face his second-in-command and thrust the confidential

piece of paper into the shorter man’s hands.

“Deal with it,” Anderson gritted out, shaking his head to accentuate his

dissatisfaction. “As quickly and quietly as possible.”

The neatly uniformed officer glanced at the order in confusion, but then clicked

his heels together, saluted and barked out “Yes, sir,” without question. He was

about to walk away when suddenly a woman in a lab coat quickly approached

from behind them, calling out Anderson’s name.

“Sir, we have a problem,” the scientist panted, taking a deep, cleansing breath

before finishing, “The Kecksburg anomaly…”

“Oh for–… You really do hate me, don’t You?” Warren groaned, exasperated –

turning his gaze to the ceiling for a moment with both hands outstretched in

defeat. “Yes, what about it?” He sighed, looking back at the woman.

She faltered, dissuaded by his apparent temper, and then replied, hesitantly,

“There’s been another one.”

Anderson struggled to categorize his new mood – was there even a category

beyond ‘pissed off to the max’? “When?” he almost whined.

“That…That would be the problem, sir.”

“You mean *that* wasn’t the problem!?”

“The new anomaly crashed in the same woods in Kecksburg two weeks

ago…and…” Dr Catherine Schubert stuttered to a pause, shooting a cursory

glance at the deputy administrator and finishing, “and has now disappeared

from the crash site.”

It was doubtful that anyone within a five mile radius of where they stood didn’t

hear Anderson’s loudly exclaimed “For fuck’s sake!”

XxXxXxXxX

Mulder and Scully’s SUV completed a second circuit of the store’s full car lot as

they struggled to find a free space. Having gone from one exhaustive,

tumultuous case to another within a matter of days in the last month, they hadn’t

had time to even think about Christmas, let alone shop for the occasion. So now,

on the last, Saturday three days before the big day, they’d hoped to make a last-

minute attempt at buying in all of their gifts, decorations and food.

If they could just fight their way through the hordes of weekend shoppers,

carollers, and eager street merchants.

To make things worse, at some point during the busy blur of case files and

hospital visits they’d agreed to have the Scully Clan over for the festivities. Which

the partners would have forgotten about, had it not been for Maggie’s phone call

late last night – as they’d finally, literally, dragged themselves into bed – to check

if she needed to bring anything with her, The agents could live without the lights

and formalities of the season in their own company, but they needed to make this

a special time for Margaret in the wake of yet another death in the family – no

matter how long-overdue they believed that particular comeuppance might have

been .

“Just one more try,” Mulder grumbled, refusing to let the lazy last-minuters that

actually could have been out getting their supplies whilst they’d been putting

their lives on the line, beat him as his sweaty palms clenched a little tighter

around the steering wheel. Dana’s calm streak was far from faultless when it

came to making preparations for family get-togethers, but today she was

relatively relaxed compared to her partner’s frantic disposition.

“Mulder, you said that twenty minutes ago,” she sighed, resting what she hoped

would be a soothing hand on his arm. “Come on, let’s go for coffee, take a

break, and then maybe try another mall.”

He shot a glance in her direction, noted the concern etched in her features, but

then shook his head and returned his attention to the tarmac and gravel. “We

can’t let your mom and Tara down–”

“Mom will just be happy that we’re there, alive and well,” Scully quickly

countered. “One more lap and I think I’m gonna be ill from motion sickness!”

Once again the male agent diverted his gaze to momentarily study his partner.

Scully gave a wry smile and felt a wave of relief as she saw the stubborn

determination that had been creasing his features slowly dissipate.

Suddenly there was the sound of screeching tires, and Dana’s head whipped

round in time to see a red 1997 Ford F-150 braking to a halt half-way out of a

parking spot not far ahead of them.

“Mulder, look out!”

Thanks to lightning-speed reflexes honed over the years at work, Mulder’s foot

slammed on the brake pedal before the whole of her exclamation registered in his

brain, or he’d had chance to turn his own head.

A little surprised by the near-collision, both agents sat still and watched as the

sole occupant of the other vehicle got out the drivers’ side and moved around the

rear bumper to approach them. The man was tall, walked with a limp, and bore a

prominent scar down the right side of his clean-shaven face; there was no sign of

malice in his stance or expression, yet Scully still scrambled for the holstered gun

in the glove compartment nevertheless.

“Hey, sorry about that,” Mulder courteously smiled, winding down his window as

the stranger stopped beside him and bent down to peek into their vehicle.

The other man looked from one agent to the other, shot a shifty glance over his

shoulder to check nobody was watching, and then turned back to lean further in

through their open car window. “You’re M-Mulder and Sc-Scu…Scully, right?” he

stammered.

Memories of an evening almost eleven years ago and a woman claiming to be

Max Fenig’s sister interrupting her birthday celebrations echoed in Scully’s mind

and she sharply sat up straight in her seat, tightening her hold on both Mulder’s

arm and the gun now concealed under her jacket.

“Yes,” Mulder replied skeptically, sensing her unease and feeling his own paranoia

brimming to the surface.

“Who’s asking?”

Yet again the man checked behind him for any onlookers before responding, “M-

my name’s Josh Ke-Kerstein…I h-have a UFO f-f-for you…”

A car horn suddenly blared from behind them and Kerstein quickly raised a hand

to shield his face from view of the other drivers.

“M-meet me in the Starb-b-bucks across t-the street in five minutes i-if you’re

interested…Please, I- d-don’t know h-how much longer I c-c-can hide it from

them,” he implored, with a solemn shake of his head before rushing back to his

own car and vacating the lot.

Finally, a free space!

Mulder bit down on his lip, watching the departing pickup truck as he weighed up

their options. He just wanted to pull into the open lot and do the planned

shopping spree as soon as possible so that they could have a nice, relaxing

evening, but his gut…dammit…His gut instinct was telling him, for some reason,

to find out what the stranger had that was so important.

“Mulder?”

Of course, she knew exactly what he was thinking, and any other time she

probably would have let him, but three days before Christmas Dana hoped that

even Fox Mulder couldn’t be lured by the hint of a case right now.

Without a word, he pulled their Saturn hybrid into the deserted space and slipped

out of the driver’s seat – activating the automatic locking system once his partner

had left the vehicle also, and then pocketing the keys as he walked around the

bonnet to stand beside her.

The driver who’d been impatiently honking his horn behind them, sped off,

shouting expletives at them through the open passenger-side window as he went.

“You go ahead and I’ll catch you up in a couple minutes,” he smiled reassuringly,

leaning in to place a kiss on her cheek.

Scully’s hand quickly raised to intercept him, though.

“Please don’t say you going to give that guy two seconds of your time,” she

exclaimed, pinning him with a scolding stare. When he didn’t try to even lie his

way out, she knew the answer and her frown deepened.

“Mulder, we have to put up with enough crackpots during the year as it is, don’t

you think there might actually be a few extra rolling around at Christmas?”

“You mean besides the one that’s standing in front of you now?” he tried to joke

with a goofy grin.

She let out a despondent sigh, shaking her head. “Well, I guess I can’t argue

with that…”

“C’mon, I’ll just be five minutes. I swear.” He started to bounce excitedly on the

balls of his feet, which usually meant he was about to take flight, no matter how

against the idea she may be. “I don’t know why, but something’s telling me to

find out what this guy’s hiding.”

“The same feeling that got us trapped one Christmas Eve in a house that

*wasn’t* haunted?”

“Sculleeeee…”

“Oh, for God’s sake…” Anybody would have thought he was a small child

begging to see Santa Claus. “Okay. Sure, fine, whatever,” she finally relented.

“But *no* cases until after Mom, Tara and the kids have visited. I can handle an

abbreviated Christmas, but I won’t ruin

it for them.”

With the widest grin imaginable, Mulder swooped in to attempt to kiss her again

and this time she let him, returning the gesture. He turned and started to quickly

wind his way through the parked vehicles, but slowed down when he suddenly

felt her arm slip through and hook onto his own.

“Miss me already?” came his surprised, puzzled retort.

Dana shook her head and smiled enigmatically, “If you think I’m letting you loose

on your own to get up to mischief, you can think again. I know you – I’ll look

away and you’ll wind up in hospital within three seconds with some idiotic injury.”

“And…you think I’m how old?”

“It’s happened. Need I remind you of last year’s drama when you were entrusted

to put up the decorations by yourself? Let’s just find out what this particular

nutjob wants, and if you’re good maybe we’ll go see Santa after we’re done

shopping.”

“Well, alrighty then!”

XxXxXxXxX

They found Kerstein sitting in the farthest corner of the cafe, nervously eyeing

everyone that entered and exited the building as if they were out to get him.

Scully inwardly chuckled at the thought – no wonder Mulder felt so drawn to what

the stranger was supposedly offering: they were probably kindred spirits

separated at birth.

The middle-aged man stood to greet them – shaking each of their hands in turn –

but just as quickly sat down again, as if he’d exposed his location by popping into

view above eye-level. “T-thank you f-f-for coming,” he started with a nod of his

head. “You’ll have to f-forgive my s-speech… I w-w-was in an accident when I

w-was a k-kid. B-b-banged my brain a b-bit.”

Both agents nodded in acceptance of the apology as they seated themselves also.

“How do you know who we are, Mr Kerstein?” Mulder queried, leaning forward

slightly onto his elbows to help allay the older man’s paranoia.

“I read an a-article about y-you both in the P-P-Pennsylania T-Tribune a few y-

years back when you investigated s-some alien abduction c-c-claims…I w-was

gonna contact y-you then to s-share m-m-my story, but I kinda c-chickened o-

out,” Josh explained, looking closely from one agent to the other and back again.

“When the second one c-came, though, I-I knew I h-h-had t-to get to y-you,

before they g-got to me.”

Mulder shifted uncomfortably on his stool. No invisible deity would be able to

protect him from the wrath of Scully if this had been a wasted detour from their

schedule, and despite his refusal to regret the decision he’d made to listen to

Kerstein, he hoped the guy started speaking in plain English soon and spat out

what he wanted them to know. “It’s been a rough few weeks, sir,” he breathed,

wiping a hand across his suddenly-dry mouth, “so please forgive my stupidity

when I ask ‘what are you talking about?'” He felt the sharp pain of Dana’s foot

kicking his right shin, but the relieved glance she shot his way let him know that

she’d almost been bursting to ask the exact same thing.

Kerstein watched the silent exchange between the two agents, but didn’t

comment as he elaborated, “I was b-b-born and br-brought up in K-Kecksburg,

Pennsylvania…L-lived there a-a-all my l-life. B-back in sixty-five a fireball the s-

s-size o-of…” Both of his arms outstretched as wide as they could go in a

grandiose demonstration of the size scale he was struggling to explain with

words. “I-it was almost a-as big as the f-field at Yankee Stadium… A-anyway, it

flew s-straight past our f-farm and c-c-crashed in the woods w-with such a force

t-that it made me fall out of the tree I-I’d b-b-been watching m-my dad from…”

He gulped and his eyes quickly looked down and away as he almost whispered,

“That w-w-was the last time I saw–…. Dad calling m-my name as I-I hit t-t-the

ground was t-the l-last time I heard his v-voice…”

XxXxXxXxX

KECKSBURG, PA

DECEMBER 9th, 1965

6:31 PM

The acrid stench of smoke mixed with something less distinguishable filled the air

as plumes of black reached up for the heavens from the horizon. The fifteen

residents of the town rushing towards the line of trees didn’t seem to care about

that, though – one man even waving his wife off when she ran after him with

a gas mask raised in the air.

Randy Kerstein glanced up at the mob, feeling the tug of curiosity, but then

turned his attention back to the prone body of Josh at his wife’s scream.

“My baby!” Jessica wept, falling to her knees and cradling the boy’s head in her

lap. Her fingers immediately started to comb through his hair, but one hand

sharply pulled away only milliseconds later when her skin came in contact with a

warm, steady flow of blood. “Oh, my God! Randall! He’s bleeding!”

Without hesitation, despite how numb and leaden he suddenly felt, her husband

quickly hauled himself to his feet. “Take care of him. I’m gonna go get Doc

Thruxton,” he instructed, turning to make his way north.

“Randall, wait! Just call the operator for an ambulance!”

He feared for their only child’s life as much as his wife, but she was falling apart,

and he knew that one thing they definitely couldn’t do if they wanted to help

Josh was lose their heads. “Jess…” Turning back, he crouched down beside her

and stared into her watery eyes. There were no words to say that could reassure

either of them, but he soothingly sighed, “That’ll take too long. Look, I’ll go get

Doc from up the street. I’ll be back before you realise I’ve gone, okay?” At

her slightly whimpered nod, he weakly smiled, placed a gentle kiss on her

forehead and then headed back towards the dirt track road.

Where he literally ran into Doctor Herb Thruxton, who was also heading for the

woods.

“Doc! I need–”

Thruxton greeted the other man with a slightly impatient smile, but then grabbed

Kerstein’s arm and pulled him along with him as he refused to divert from his

destination.

The doctor was an oddity in the small God-fearing town, and only had interaction

with the other residents through his work as a result. He was what they hatefully

called a hippie, with long hair and non-conformist clothing, and several of the

more strict busy-bodies of the community had even gone to the AMA with their

wild theories in the hope that they could get his medical license revoked for

possession of marijuana, which had repeatedly been proven as false.

He should have suspected that Kerstein’s greeting was for more than sociable

reasons, then, but he was so intrigued by what might have just crashed to earth,

that his mind was too pre-occupied to process anything else, let alone any logic.

“Yo, Randy! You headed for the crash site as well? Excellent – I’ll walk with you!

So, what do you think it is? A plane or an asteroid?”

“Whuh?” Kerstein, caught off-guard and still trying to regain his bearings, tried

unsuccessfully to pull out of the other man’s grasp as he sputtered out his

nonsensical reply.

“You never know, it might be a sign from God!”

“No, you don’t understand–”

“Looks like the whole town’s going to find out.”

“But, Josh–” Suddenly Randall’s voice died in his throat as he found himself

looking down into the large crater that the fireball had made amongst the trees.

“Holy mother of God…”

An eerie silence filled the air as the seventeen souls stood in awe and fear,

staring uncertainly at the large, dark, acorn-shaped object, which must have

measured at least three meters in diameter at its widest point. Several of the

residents crossed themselves, certain that it was a sign of coming apocalypse,

whilst Mrs. Pitney, the local butcher’s wife, passed out altogether.

“Wow,” Thruxton exhaled, letting go of Kerstein’s arm and slowly, carefully

climbing his way down the crater’s rim with both arms outstretched in front of

him = intoxicated, instead of repelled, by the blue/black putrid clouds of smoke.

At the back of Randall Kerstein’s brain, he knew he should be running back to his

farm and calling the operator, as his wife had initially begged him to do, but

he couldn’t stop staring at the unknown craft and the strange writing engraved

around the base; hypnotized by the ancient pictures as if able to interpret but not

fully process what they were telling him.

The doctor approached ever closer, fingertips literally tingling as his splayed

hands inched nearer to the craft’s metallic surface. The smoke was causing his

eyes to water furiously and his chest to almost seize up from the thick gasses

percolating and suffocating his air passages, yet it was as if there was something

else – a power – taking over his (and everybody else’s, in fact) senses, and he

couldn’t have turned away even if he’d wanted to.

Closer, until he was barely a hair’s breadth away.

Both eyes rolled back into his head and trembling fingers reached to close the

final millimeters.

And a gunshot rang out in the air.

The spell broken, Herb Thruxton fell to the ground like a dead weight, clawing at

his throat and chest in a desperate bid to reclaim cleansing oxygen that his lungs

were long beyond the point of being able to find or use to any effect.

Randy shook his head, unable to dispel the image of the strange lines and

markings that had seemingly burnt themselves onto the back of his eyeballs, and

struggled to remain standing as a wave of dizziness wracked his body. Rubbing

his temples between forefinger and thumb, Randy staggered towards the exit of

the woods, only to find his path blocked by an armed soldier dressed in full

combat gear.

“Stop right there!” the other man ordered, immediately raising his weapon.

At least twenty military personnel swarmed into the clearing, surrounding the

cowering gathering of civilians.

Kerstein would not be deterred, though – he had to get back to his family,

dammit! He’d left them for too long already as it was. “I have to get back,” he

rasped out, still barely able to focus properly.

“Sorry, sir, but you have to stay here. We need to question you about what you

witnessed here today.”

Two men in white, protective body outfits carrying a boxed-in stretcher, bumped

past the farmer and briskly headed to where Thruxton’s body now lay completely

lifeless.

“No!” Randall stumbled, but regained his footing and tried to dodge around the

soldier, only to be pushed back and blocked yet again. “I have to get to my son!”

Despite the headache disorientating him and the armed man forcing him to stand

still, Kerstein had had enough and was ready to do whatever it took to get away

from these woods and back to his injured son’s side. He sucked in a breath,

straightened his back, and stared at the other man for a contemplative moment

before charging ahead as quickly as his still-unsteady legs would allow on the

cold, loose soil.

A struggle ensued as the soldier fought to force Kerstein to the ground, either by

hand or weapon, and the farmer used all the strength he could muster to wrestle

and twist his way out of the other man’s grasp in his bid to make a run for it.

Yet another gunshot rang out.

Except this time it hadn’t been a warning shot into thin air.

Kerstein staggered backwards, wide eyes blinking furiously as he tried to work

out what had happened and then looked down at his blood-drenched hands and

clothes. A guttural groan escaped past his quivering lips as pain worse than

anything he’d ever experienced ripped through his abdomen and he fell to his

knees.

The soldier looked on stoically.

*Pa, we going in now?*

“J–…–osh…”

Several of the townsfolk cried out in horror, but they were quickly hustled away

into an awaiting unmarked truck by half a dozen of the uniformed men whilst the

rest continued to secure the area. Not diverting their attention away from their

own work, the two unknown men in hazmat outfits rushed back past carrying

their own dead body.

As darkness drew in, Kerstein scrabbled at the ground, for the soldiers legs –

anything that could offer help. His weak hands gained no purchase, though, and

he was left to writhe in agony alone. Josh’s last words to him played over and

over in his ears, the strange symbols from the craft flashed behind his eyelids,

but as the pain faded and everything faded to black forever, the last thing

echoing in his mind was the dulcet tone of the song that had been playing on his

son’s wireless before the fireball appeared.

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep

XxXxXxXxX

STARBUCKS CAFE, WASHINGTON, D.C

PRESENT DAY

10:13 AM

“Nobody t-talks of the i-i-incident in town m-much anymore – n-nobody d-dares

to – so I don’t know a-all the details of w-what h-happened,” the grown-up Josh

Kerstein relented, sipping at his newly-received cappuccino and staring

thoughtfully at the mug for a moment. “I o-only know what t-tales they u-u-used

to tell and t-tiny snippets I’ve managed to find on t-the internet, and that

somebody d-d-demanded that a-an investigation be o-opened into it…”

Mulder nodded and glanced at Scully with a raised brow, silently asking ‘Would

you think me crazy if I said I believe this guy?’. When she flashed him a

reassuring smile, he let out a sigh of relief and returned his attention to the older

man. They’d both read in the newspaper about the orders NASA had received,

but hadn’t had the time or energy to give it much thought due to their workload.

“All I d-d-do know for c-certain i-is that two w-weeks ago, very early in t-t-the

morning, something a-almost identical to w-what the reports s-say crashed in a-

almost the e-exact same spot,” Josh finished, looking up and staring at them both

seriously. “I d-don’t t-think anybody knows what h-happened as they were p-

pretty much all in bed…B-but I was up and s-saw it…So I d-dug my pa’s old gas

m-mask out, took the t-truck up t-t-to the woods…and collected it…Hid it in the

family b-barn.” He paused, surveyed their surroundings once again and then

reached inside his coat pocket to pull out a Polaroid, which he handed to the male

agent.

Wondrous silence fell as the two FBI agents stared disbelievingly at the photo of a

large acorn-shaped metallic structure.

“Why…Why would you risk your security – your life – by taking and hiding this?”

Mulder finally asked, needing to cough to clear his suddenly raw throat. He

himself had taken many chances and risks over the years in his search for the

truth which had cost both he and Scully highly, but even he knew that there

would be far too much at stake if he ever did what Kerstein had done by

concealing this supposed UFO from the government. “Surely you realise that

sooner or later they’ll figure out that something did land and then they’ll come

looking.”

Sensing the concern in his voice and instinctively understanding where his

thoughts had wandered to, Dana rested a hand on Mulder’s knee under the table.

“Agent M-Mulder, I have no f-f-family. From that day u-until the day she d-died,

m-m-my mother made it a d-daily c-chore to d-drum it into me that Pa put his

curiosity before the life of his only son – she n-n-never forgave him. I d-don’t

know how he e-ended u-u-up in those woods, and I know I never will, but I

n-never believed her – I guess even something like t-that can’t stop a kid looking

up to his father.”

Once again Scully gave Mulder’s knee a gentle, reassuring squeeze.

“My d-dad died, and if it’s b-b-because of w-whatever they’re t-trying to cover-

up, I need to e-expose it. You were the o-only people I c-c-could come to.”

A solemn, thoughtful pause, and then Mulder rose to his feet. “Would you excuse

us, please, Mr Kerstein, whilst my partner and I speak in private?” he asked,

outstretching an arm to rest a guiding hand on Scully’s back when she stood also.

“O-of course…”

“I know what you’re thinking, Mulder,” Scully started when they were finally out

of earshot, “and despite my logical reservations, any other time I wouldn’t argue

with you, but in three days time we’ve got three expectant bodies going to be

turning up on our front doorstep, and I, for one, am not goin to be the one to

leave them out in the cold. Are you?” That was an unfair low blow, and she

quickly retracted it by adding, “Do you realise how much trouble he can get into?

How much trouble *we* could get into if we’re caught helping him? And what are

we even supposed to do about it?”

Mulder stared at her for a long moment, surprised by her words and question.

“What has it ever been about, Scully?” he queried earnestly, never breaking eye-

contact. “Finding and exposing the truth. If there’s proof–”

“And what if there isn’t? Look” – she reached for his hand and held on to it tightly

– “you know I’ll follow you no matter what – that whatever the risk, every battle

we fight will be together. But I don’t want to put either of us in the firing line for

the sake of one craft that the conspirators will easily deny the existence of and

sweep under the carpet within a matter of hours.” She saw the mixture of

acceptance and denial warring for dominance in his eyes, and realized she was

losing. “I saw that photo too, Mulder, and as a scientist I want the answers as

well, but be honest with me: does that really sound worth it to you? That man

has nothing to lose and retribution to gain, but we–”

“–have to do our jobs.” He’d already made up his mind.

No amount of arguing would change it now. “I get what you’re saying, Scully – I

do,” the tall agent finally sighed, shaking his head slightly. He knew he was

being stubborn, but he felt like he’d passed the point of backing down and his

mind was too set on the idea of finally having something to show for their work in

the paranormal field. “I’m just as tired and cold and ready for some rest as you

are, but this could be the credibility we’re looking for. Surely you, as a

scientist, want some answers to rationalise what that thing might be? All we

have to do is go, take some pictures and surface scrapings and other evidence for

analysis, and then we can be back home by tomorrow afternoon – plenty of time

to do our shopping and relax before the festivities kick in.”

There were those pleading puppy-dog eyes again, and Dana cursed herself for

still not being able to resist their pull after all these years.

“Okay,” she finally relented, closing her eyes in disbelief that she’d let the words

pas her lips. “But if we’re not back in D.C tomorrow, you can explain it all to

Mom.”

“It won’t come to that, I swear.”

They were on the road, headed for Pennsylvania within the hour, following

Kerstein’s pickup in their SUV.

XxXxXxXxX

NASA HEADQUARTERS

12:56 PM

As snow lightly smattered against the window of his office, head administrator of

the organization Warren Anderson disconnected yet another conference call and

shifted in his chair to scratch at the annoying itch just above the center of his left

butt cheek.

Typical that someone would pick that exact moment to knock at his office door

and then enter without verbal admittance.

“What the hell?” Anderson growled, quickly withdrawing his hand out from the

seat of his pants. “D’ you wanna, maybe, try that again and actually wait for me

to say ‘come in’ this time?”

The intruding scientist adjusted her glasses and whispered an apology, but didn’t

seem to be in any rush to do as he’d ordered. Instead, she handed him a file

folder. “My apologies, sir, but this is urgent. We have managed to locate the

second Kecksburg fallen angel, and a team have been sent to investigate.”

Anderson shot out of his leather chair – bloodshot eyes almost popping as they

snapped wide open. “You mean it really does exist?” he almost choked out. Up

until now he’d considered the whole investigation order a waste of the

administration’s time and resources – believing the claims of a crashed UFO just

another in a million made-up sensationalist tales about aliens that appeared in

the tabloids each week. When Dr Schubert gave a subtle nod of her head,

Anderson exhaled a deep breath and looked through the folder she’d given him.

“Do we have any idea what it actually is yet?”

“No, sir. As I said, a team are en route to the site.”

“Good. Good…” He paused, wiped a hand across his mouth. “Let me know

when there’s any more news.”

“Yes, sir.”

With that, Schubert left the office, quietly shutting the door after her.

Warren watched her departure and then picked up his phone, pressing the first

speed dial button on the keypad. He only needed to wait one ring before the

other end of the line picked up. “It’s me,” he simply announced into the receiver.

“We have it.”

“You better, because they’re on their way,” a deep, foreign voice boomed back,

causing the hairs on the back of Anderson’s neck to stand erect, “and we can’t

have them going anywhere near it.”

XxXxXxXxX

“Gonna give me any clues what you got me for Christmas, then, G-man?” Scully

chuckled, shifting into a more comfortable position in her car seat so that she

could stare at her partner.

It had been a relatively quiet, pleasant drive, and 0071w there were only a

handful of miles to go. At one point the car heater had packed in and they’d had

to freeze for at least an hour before it decided to kick in again, but that had

pretty much been the only eventful point in the journey – both too busy

wondering if they would truly be able to expose the truth of a real UFO crashing

to earth, and how much (if at all) it would affect their jobs if they did.

“Something black and sexy,” Mulder smiled enigmatically, keep his eyes on the

road.

“One of your porn videos?” she snorted with a mixture of mock shock and hurt.

“Really, Mulder, you shouldn’t have!”

“Well, you’ve ruined it for yourself – there’s no point you having it now you know

what it is.”

They both laughed companionably as Dana swatted his arm. They were

exhausted and car trips always seemed to have that ability of sapping every last

ounce of energy from their very bones, but this was nice…relaxing.

Kerstein’s truck, a little further on ahead, took the turn off the interstate, and

Mulder did likewise.

“Besides, it’d be no fun if I gave you clues,” he continued, briefly diverting his

eyes away from the road to shoot a wry smile in her direction. “I mean, would

you give me clues about what you’ve bought for me?”

“Who says I’ve gotten you anything?”

The remark definitely made him turn his attention away from the road, and he

glanced at her to see the playful glint in her eye. “You’re an evil woman, Dana

Scully. Does that make me a masochist for loving you?”

“It’s a start,” she replied dryly, shifting even more in her seat. “The only clue I’ll

give is that it’s not black.”

“But ‘sexy’ is still involved?” Damn, why did she have to be this playful when he

was driving and had to keep his attention on something other than her?

She rolled her eyes and both lips thinned into a straight line as she held back a

smile. He was starting to get a little antsy, and if the growing bulge in his pants

was anything to go by, he was one more innuendo away from stopping the car

and having his way with her on the side of the road, so she sobered and nestled

against him – sleepy despite the afternoon hour.

*Now there’s a Christmas package I’ll never tire of unwrapping,* she inwardly

sighed, indulging herself with another glance at his crotch. Whoever said love

couldn’t last forever had definitely never known Mulder.

Their SUV passed the Kecksburg town line half an hour later and pulled in at

Kerstein’s farm five minutes after that, only to be confronted by two men in black

suits and half a dozen military personnel, who were forcing Josh out of his Ford

pickup. Mulder holstered his gun and flicked a quick, wary glance at his partner

before switching off the ignition.

“Get out of the vehicle now!” one of the soldiers ordered, running towards their

car with his weapon aimed and ready should they make a wrong move.

“Nice manners they have around here,” the male agent deadpanned with a raised

brow as he exited the hybrid.

“I’d stop worrying about their manners and start worrying about how to not let

this get out of control,” Dana warned in reply.

They both moved around to stand in front of the vehicle with their hands slightly

raised – the soldier intently tracking their every step as one of his colleagues

came up behind him.

“Wait! Stop!”

Scully diverted her gaze at the sound of Kerstein’s panicked voice to see him

being man-handled into the back of a green jeep. “Where are you taking him?”

“No questions, unless you wanna go along with him,” the first soldier snarled.

Mulder shrugged, “Depends…Do we get free room service?”

Agitated, the soldier sharply raised his weapon and pointed it at the taller man.

“Why I oughta–”

“Well, well, well. I guess I shouldn’t, but I’m actually quite surprised to see you

here. Really, Agent Scully, you need to tighten Fox’s leash a little more.”

The agents felt a chill run down their spines and they straightened up as they

heard the familiar voice and saw a thin trail of smoke escape through the barn’s

entrance. When CGB Spender emerged shortly after, Mulder took an angry step

forward but was instantly pushed back by the uniformed man.

“You son of a bitch,” Mulder heard Scully curse under her breath beside him

before she called out, “Maybe if you didn’t keep giving us the run-around he

wouldn’t need a leash at all.”

Spender beamed and took another drag on his cigarette as he approached. It

had been a while since he’d seen them due to numerous circumstances and the

number of branches that had unexpectedly started to sprout within the

conspirators’ circle, thanks to Strughold’s meddling that he was looking forward

to having a little fun here. “Of course. Besides, I suppose it’s difficult to keep an

eye on him when you’re busy killing your brother. Congratulations on that, by

the way – it was about time Charlie faced a little retribution…”

Mulder had heard enough and lunged at the smoking man. The soldier struck the

agent with his fist, hard, but the FBI agent refused to be deterred and made

another move for the smoker, so this time the commando used the butt of his

rifle, to more effective results.

“Mulder!” Scully dropped to her knees beside her fallen partner and examined his

bleeding lip and nose. He tried to wave her off, but too much movement and

change in expression caused pain to tear across his face so he let her go about

her examination, wondering if there ever would be a Christmas when he wouldn’t

be high on Demerol for a majority of the festive season.

The wind picked up, blasting them all with its icy chill as the smoking man looked

up to the sky. “It’s a shame that you made such a long journey for no reason,”

he idly remarked. “But then, I never would have pegged either of you to aid and

abet a conspirator against the US government to conceal something of national

security.”

“There’s a nice example of hypocritical irony,” Mulder ground out, cupping a hand

over his nose as he shakily raised to his feet with the support of his partner. “We

want to expose it for what it is. You’re the ones that want to hide the truth.”

“And what do you think it is, exactly?” Spender turned his focus on the petite

red-head. “Agent Scully?”

She faltered, and Mulder understood why. Despite all she’d experienced over the

years and what she had seen in Kerstein’s photo, there was no way she would

ever openly call it a UFO until she had collected and examined every piece of

scientific evidence to prove it. And he expected that from her – he wished she

would bend to his way of thinking sometimes, but Scully wouldn’t be Scully unless

she looked for the logical explanation to all his wild theories, and she certainly

wouldn’t be able to keep him as honest and anchored as she always had if she did

things differently.

“Do you think it’s a flying saucer from outer space?”

“I think it’s something important enough for you to hide from us,” she finally

piped up, never letting go of her partner’s arm as she sent a scowling glare in

Spender’s direction. “Something you think is important enough to kill for.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if you were the one behind the cover-up of the original

crash,” Mulder added in agreement.

Spender shook his head and took a slow drag on his Morley before dropping it to

the ground and stubbing it out. “Actually, no I wasn’t. The man you respected

and trusted as your informant many years ago was, though.”

“You’re a liar!” the injured agent exclaimed, making yet another unsuccessful

lunge at the smoking man. Maybe there had been more to Deep Throat than he’d

known, but he wasn’t ready to play Spender’s mind games.

“Perhaps. But is my claim any more believable than some farmer’s ranting about

a downed spacecraft? You believed him enough to make the four-and-a-half hour

drive on the weekend before Christmas, so why won’t you believe me?”

“Because you’re full of shit,” Dana spat out.

The second soldier raised his gun and Mulder moved to protect her, but CSM

waved the military man down with a satisfied smile, pleased that he’d managed

to pull the reaction out of them that he’d been waiting for.

“We all have to abide by a chain of command, Agent Scully. *All* of us. And on

that particular day, the man you called ‘Deep Throat’ drew the short straw.”

Dana’s frown deepened. “So, you admit something did crash here in ’65?”

“I admit nothing,” Spender replied smugly, reaching for yet another cigarette.

“My plausible deniability card hasn’t run out yet.”

“What’s going to happen to Kerstein?” Mulder queried. The pain radiating from

the center of his face was starting to make his eyes water, and he didn’t know

how much longer he could stay conscious if he didn’t get any medical help and

some good meds soon.

“We’re just going to talk to him…smooth out a few facts about what he may or

may not have seen.”

“Deceive, inveigle and obfuscate all over again, you mean.”

“You believe you know all the answers, Fox, but think: what would happen if the

truth about something like this really was exposed? Two reports in exactly the

same place forty-two years apart? There would be mass panic, countries would

go to war for possession of the craft, and worlds would collide. You think people

knowing your truth would make everything flowers and rainbows and peaceful.”

Spender paused and glanced up at the cloudy sky briefly as the sound of spinning

rotor blades neared. “It goes much deeper than that, and if you had to make the

choices I have for this world we would have already been re-colonized by Them

long ago.”

A large, black helicopter cut through the low cloud cover and landed not far from

the barn, which the two men in black were locking up.

“It was here, wasn’t it?” Scully blinked against the updraft of leaves, dirt and hay

as she and her partner watched Spender back away.

The smoking man shrugged dismissively and then, without another word, got into

the chopper, followed by the mysterious suited men.

The first soldier glared at the two agents and took another swing at Mulder that

only hit air before making his way to the parked jeep with his colleague in tow.

Awkward silence fell as the ‘copter and jeep made their speedy retreats…

…And remained for several minutes after.

Scully was the first to move into action, reaching to examine Mulder’s injuries

more closely, but once again he impatiently waved her off and stomped over to

the closed barn doors – un-holstering his gun as he did so.

She watched him, worried about his intentions, and then chased after him when

she saw him raise the weapon and aim it at the padlock between the two large

doors.

“Mulder, no,” she begged, running up behind him and resting a soothing hand

between his shoulder blades.

“Let’s just leave it and go home. There’s nothing more we can do – you heard

him.”

He shook his head and kept the gun steady. “I have to know,” he mumbled,

choking back the blood clogging his airway. “*We* have to know.” He hesitated

and glanced over his shoulder at her longingly. “…Don’t we?” As always he was

putting everything in her hands and waiting for her answer before he took the

final step.

She stared at his face – the closed right eye that was beginning to swell and

bruise, the blood flowing from his purpling nose and lower lip – and gave a slow

but firm nod. “We do,” she almost whispered, letting the palm of her hand warm

his back even through his thick winter jacket.

Two sure shots decimated the padlock, and one kick sent the entrance flying

open…

To reveal nothing more than a few bales of hay.

Exhausted, cold, defeated and in excruciating pain, Mulder lowered the gun to his

side, let it slip from his fingers, and then dropped to his knees. Scully followed

him down and cradled him in her lap as she dialled 911,

“It’s gonna be okay,” she sighed, combing her fingers through his hair as she also

felt the crushing blow of defeat begin to sink in.

They’d come so close to finally holding some credibility for the work they did in

their hands, regardless of her reservations concerning the trip, she had put as

much hope in his belief as she’d once put in the possibility of a scientific

breakthrough with Anson Stokes: The Invisible Man. Maybe the only truth they

would ever be allowed to know was that no matter how much of it there actually

was, they would never be able to hold any proof whatsoever.

“It’s okay…”

XxXxXxXxX

Anderson picked up the phone on the second ring, wiping a sweaty hand down his

pale face. He’d just received word of the missing status of the crashed craft, and

knew his superiors would not be reacting well.

“They got to it first,” the voice at the other end of the call stated without any hint

of a question. “We’ll have to officially call off the investigation into the original

incident.”

“B-but what do we tell them? The public will want answers… Hell, I’d like to

know what the fuck is going on.”

“Tell the truth as far as we know it: nothing was found. Make the shuttle launch

your priority. No one can overpower these men, so we shall have to deal as

usual.”

The administrator hesitated. He’d been handed an order to investigate the 1965

reports, but suddenly it felt as if the recent event was the real one he should’ve

been focusing on and sooner. “You knew about this when you sent me the file,”

he slowly remarked, a little accusatorily. “Why didn’t you tell me about the

second crash earlier?”

“NASA could not know – the courts were after information about the past event,

so that was all you needed to know about. Anything else you had to learn

yourself. We had hoped the farmer would be able to protect it for longer, but

obviously that was not the case. Happy holidays, Anderson.”

The line sharply disconnected and a confused Warren remained standing with the

receiver in his hand for at least three minutes before resting it back in its

cradle. With a deep sigh of frustration he picked up the file from his desk, gave it

one final look over and then dropped it into the waste paper basket beside his

desk.

XxXxXxXxX

DECEMBER 10th, 1965

12:12 AM

“You’re still here, then?”

At the sound of his approaching friend’s voice, the man who would many years

later come to be known as Deep Throat turned and greeted Spender with a nod of

his head. “I hear the negotiations were settled quickly?” he asked, pulling a

lighter from his coat pocket and offering it.

“The most awkward and unpleasant negotiations can sometimes be settled within

minutes, Ronald,” CSM replied prophetically, accepting the item and using it

to light a Morley.

“But they were?”

“Eventually… That’s why I’m here.” Spender paused, exhaled a puff of smoke

and then gestured toward the lights that had suddenly appeared amongst the line

of trees.

Without a word they both made their way to the clearing in the woods where the

downed spacecraft had come to life.

“So, they get the body and the craft, and we get…?”

Deep Throat asked, tightening the tie on his trench coat and watching as the top

half of the acorn-shaped object begun to rotate.

“Peace of mind and the ability to keep the line of communication open with

them.”

It didn’t seem like a fair trade that the Syndicate would normally give in to, but

Deep Throat guessed there must be some kind of reasoning this time and didn’t

push the subject any further.

The whirring noise emanating from the craft gained in volume and the lights

brightened in intensity until the whole thing finally dislodged itself from the frozen

earth. Both men covered their ears and watched as the UFO shot up into space

at break-neck speed, leaving a glowing vaporous trail in its wake across the sky –

never to be seen again.

Or so they hoped.

THE END

1

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