Oh Holy Night

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OH HOLY NIGHT

By: Traveler

Rating: PG13 for language

Summary: Mulder gets some unexpected help in a harrowing situation on this most

special of nights.

Disclaimer: 2 weeks exclusive to VS…

Author’s Notes: I don’t know where I get these story ideas…other than watching too

many movies about the subject from ISLAND IN THE SKY to AIRPLANE, I know very

little about flying a plane. So with the help of a neat worst case scenario archive I

found on the web and some special help from Phoebe this story became possible.

Don’t try this at home.

BUFFALO FIELD OFFICE

CHRISTMAS EVE

“Hey, Scully, it’s me,” Mulder tried to put forward his best “happy voice” but the

news he had to tell his partner wasn’t good.

He’d been in town for the past two days as a favor to his superior, he certainly owed

Skinner enough of them. Frank Bartinelli, the field office’s ASAC, was an old Marine

buddy of the Skinman and desperately needing help on a missing person’s case

involving one of his own agents. The department felt the case could be tied to

several others up and down the east coast also involving law enforcement personnel.

As it turned out, the missing agent, one Terrance Emerick, had gone missing of his

own hand. Using the information gained on the other cases he’d staged his own

disappearance in an attempt to get out of a gambling debt. Case closed.

“Mulder, please tell me you’re getting ready to board a plane,” came his partner’s

reply through his cell.

Mulder looked across the desk at the snow that blew furiously outside the ASAC’s

office window. “I’m ready, my luggage is ready, Frank is ready to take me to the

airport — there’s just one problem.”

“And that would be?” she questioned.

Mulder sighed, “They shut down the airport about half an hour ago, nothing’s going

out of here tonight.”

From the other side of the connection Scully could hear the disappointment in his

voice. They’d both been looking forward to a little holiday downtime. Now it

appeared he was stuck in Buffalo, just a little over 45 minutes away by air. “Oh,

Mulder, what’s going on up there? When I talked to you earlier, you said everything

had been wrapped up.”

“With a big red bow and a Ho, Ho, Ho,” he joked at her unconscious slip. “No,

seriously, Santa’s gonna need Rudolph if he’s gonna deliver any toys up here

tonight. Buffalo is in the throws of what Frank here says is classic lake effect snow

courtesy of Lake Erie. They’re talking 18 to 20 inches by morning. The visibility is

close to zero.” When he got no response from the other end of the line he

continued, “I’m sorry Scully, I know your mom wanted everyone to be together this

year.”

Scully knew what lake effect snow was. The waters of the Great Lakes were one of

the few places on the planet that it occurred. North winds coming across Lake Erie

would pick up moisture and depending on their direction dump it in the form of snow

anywhere from Cleveland to upstate New York. Evidently this time Buffalo was

ground zero. “I could say I should blame Skinner for this one,” came her eventual

reply. “But that wouldn’t be fair would it?”

“No, but don’t think I’ll let him get away without a serious guilt trip.” He looked

around the now empty office wondering where Frank had disappeared to. “Look,

maybe it will let up or if worse comes to worse, I’ll rent a car. It’s only about an 8

hour drive; I could still be there by morning…”

“Mulder, I want you here but I don’t want you driving in a blizzard. We’ll all be here

when you get here. Just be safe, please.”

For a moment he didn’t want to hang up, thinking that they could spend Christmas

Eve together over the phone. “Give my apologies to everyone and I’ll call you if

there’s any change,” he paused before disconnecting, wanting to reassure himself

that he wasn’t in the dog house.

“It’s not your fault, Mulder. Stay warm.”

He stared at the phone for a long moment before pocketing it and then moving to

stand near the window. What he saw outside at the moment put to rest any

assumption that there was any truth to global warming, or at least that’s how it

appeared. What had only started a couple hours ago had turned the world outside

into a white wilderness. Traffic crawled along in the street below him as the wind

swirled the heavy flakes. He reached out and put both palms on the cold glass in

front of him sending a chill all the way to his toes. Shit.

“Get your stuff!” Mulder startled at the sound of Frank’s voice behind him.

“What?” he asked almost in astonishment as he turned around. Frank was standing

in the doorway already in the process of wrapping himself in his overcoat. “Come

on, I got you a flight.”

Mulder hesitated as he glanced outside again, “In this?” he asked, pointing to the

nasty weather just beyond the window’s glass barrier.

“You want to be home for Christmas don’t you?” Frank asked as he tossed the other

agent his coat and finished the thought before Mulder could even acknowledge him.

“Your sleigh’s waiting,” he told him as he turned and headed down the hall.

It took several seconds before the agent moved, grabbing his brief case and the

handle of his rolling garment bag, while in the process of trying to wrangle into his

own coat. Frank was waiting by the elevator and grabbed the bag from him. “Put

that on,” he motioned to the coat that at the moment only covered the agent’s left

shoulder. “I can’t send you back to Scully with pneumonia.”

“Just how are you sending me back to Scully?” Mulder asked as he stepped into the

elevator behind the other agent and pulled on his coat.

“Friend of mine has a small plane. I just promised him some of my Bills seats for

next year to fly you home.”

“In this?” Mulder watched Frank break into a grin.

“Relax,” Frank patted Mulder’s shoulder. “He flies out of a little airport in Collins,

about an hour south of here. He said it’s as clear as a bell down there. You see,

that’s the funny thing about lake effect snow. It can be snowing like hell one minute

and then ten minutes down the road there isn’t a flake in the sky.”

Mulder wasn’t sure he believed the story but if that was the case then rather then tie

up someone else’s holiday he’d just get a car and drive back to D.C. “Frank, it’s

Christmas Eve for God’s sake. I don’t want to ruin someone else’s holiday, just get

me a rental and I’ll drive.”

The elevator doors opened into the parking garage and Frank motioned to the black

Lexus in the first spot as the car answered the remote with a beep. Five minutes

later he was edging the car out onto the crowded street. “Jack’s another Nam buddy

of mine, Mulder. He doesn’t have any family. Fact is I worry about him and you’ll be

keeping him company on an otherwise lonely night.”

It took almost an hour for Frank to fight his way through the weather-snarled Buffalo

traffic, but by the time they were leaving the city limits the snow had already

tapered to light flakes. “See, what’d I tell ya. All depends on which way the wind

blows who gets the snow.”

“I still say I could have rented a car,” Mulder nodded in acknowledgement of the now

clearing skies.

“Yeah, but I feel bad about dragging you out here for what turned out to be nothing

and this way you’ll be walking in the door in a couple hours instead of being behind

the wheel for eight,” Frank told him, fumbling through his coat pockets and pulling

out his cell phone. The other party answered almost immediately. “Hey man,”

Frank replied. “We’re about 30 minutes out, warm that bird up!”

Mulder sat back and watched the dark landscape pass by. Occasionally they would

pass a home brightly lit with Christmas lights. “Have you in the air in 15 minutes,”

the other agent told him as they passed a sign stating they were now in Collins, New

York.

As they passed through the center of town, the Christmas displays reminded Mulder

that he needed to make a call himself. Scully answered on the second ring, she

sounded a little out of breath. “Mulder, why did we buy so much stuff?”

“You okay?” he asked with concern.

“Oh, yes, I’m fine. I’m trying to pack up the car — by myself, thank you”

“Well then pack me some clothes, I’ll meet you at your mom’s,” he answered,

realizing she was just ragging on him. “Rudolph’s warming up his engines and I

should be in around 11.”

“Mulder? I thought Buffalo was shut down, where are you?”

Mulder looked out the window as Frank turned the car onto a side road and past a

sign proclaiming that they had arrived at Gowanda Airport. “Long story, and we’re

both short on time. Frank found me a twin engine sleigh and a little old driver. I’ll

be home for Christmas.”

“Just please tell me you’re not doing something stupid,” she asked knowing her

partner’s propensity of putting himself last.

“No, actually Frank’s preventing me from doing that, fortunately,” he replied as the

senior agent pulled the car up next to a white metal building and killed the engine.

“Well, thank him for me. And Mulder…”

“Yeah.”

“Please, be careful.”

“You know, I’m really trying to be.”

Frank was already pulling his bags from the trunk of the car and handing them off to

another man that Mulder assumed was his pilot friend. He clicked off the phone and

exited the car.

The plane was actually larger then Mulder had pictured. A twin engine Beechcraft

that was a little long on age but looked to be in good condition. The engines

hummed as Frank’s friend loaded his luggage into the cargo section, secured the

door and turned around.

“Mulder, this is Jack Pierce. Jack, this is Fox Mulder, a colleague of Walt Skinner’s,”

the Buffalo SAC made the introductions while Jack lit up a cigarette and then reached

out to shake Mulder’s hand.

“Don’t mind if I catch a quick fix do you?” the pilot asked motioning to the smoke

that luckily curled away from them in the breeze.

The agent motioned his approval and then made a quick assessment of man. Jack

looked worn. He was about Mulder’s height with stringy gray hair that tufted out

from under his Pittsburgh Steelers’ cap. He wore a leather bomber jacket dotted

with patches that had obviously seen better days. His hand when Mulder shook it

was roughly calloused indicating that Jack probably didn’t spend his days behind a

desk like his two war buddies.

Jack took one last drag on the cigarette and then flicked it away. “Well come on,” he

said, patting Mulder’s shoulder. “Let’s get the pretty Fed home to the missus.”

The agent gave the SAC a wary look as Frank and Jack broke into laughter and then

Frank gave his friend a rough hug. “Merry Christmas, man. Safe flight.”

“I’m holdin’ you to those football tickets, you know,” the pilot told his friend stepping

away and then turning to Mulder as he opened the cabin door. “Sit up front,” he

motioned. “Your legs are as long as mine.”

The agent tossed his overcoat onto one of the rear seats and climbed into the co-

pilot’s seat. Within a few minutes they were airborne, banking to the north and then

circling the field and heading southeast.

Mulder watched the earth pass by below them. Flying at a lower altitude the festive

colors of the holiday countryside were wonderfully visible. In a childish way he could

almost imagine it was the view Santa himself would see as he made his mythical

journey across the continent.

Finally the drone of the engines became too monotonous and he turned to study Jack

from the corner of his eye. “You know Skinner from Vietnam too?” he asked

breaking the silence.

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes momentarily and then turned to

Mulder. “Not exactly,” he told the agent, wincing slightly as if he were in pain. “I

was a medivac pilot. He ever tell you the story ’bout leavin’ the country in a body

bag?”

Mulder remember the conversation in his office many years ago when Skinner had

talked him out of leaving the F.B.I., and nodded.

“Damn’dest thing. I’m loading up corpses from this whole platoon and all of a

sudden one of them groans. Nearly shit my pants right then,” he told the agent a

wry grin spreading across his face. “Called over a corpsman and sure enough, the

guy’s not dead. Anyway, my cargo went from being a load of stiffs that night to an

emergency flight to Saigon, with the only two guys we found alive, him and Frank.

They — ah looked me up after the war and we — ah kinda keep in touch.”

“That’s nice, to know that you’re still looking out for each other,” Mulder commented.

“Yeah, but I ain’t got much in common with these guys,” Jack admitted before he

wrapped his left arm around his abdomen. “Jesus,” he winced.

“You alright?” Mulder asked, suddenly concerned by the man’s distress.

“Damned pain in my gut again,” Jack told him fumbling under the seat and producing

a large bottle of Tums.

Mulder watched Jack dump four tablets into his palm and then toss them into his

mouth, chewing them rapidly. He recapped the bottle and dropped it on the floor,

before grabbing a paper cup from the plane’s console and washing the pills down

with its contents. “Lord, wonder how old that stuff was!” He grimaced and then

laughed. Mulder wasn’t so sure it was funny.

They sat in silence again until Mulder heard the radio crackle to life with a course

change that Jack acknowledged. “Sorry, they gotta get those big birds in there first.

Where did you say you were headed, Baltimore?”

“Yeah, hopefully.”

“You wouldn’t think it would be this busy so late on Christmas Eve, would you? Ah,

damn,” he winced again in anguish. “Got so the Tums don’t do me much good

either. We should still get in before midnight,” Jack informed him and then leaned

forward to examine the heavens from the cockpit windshield. “Clear as a bell down

here.”

Mulder followed his gaze to the moonlit sky ahead of them. It really was a pretty

night. It would be a lot prettier once he had his feet back on the ground and in Mrs.

Scully’s living room.

“You’re a vet, you’ve got the medical benefits, ever think about having that pain of

yours checked out?” Mulder didn’t want to sound like he was prying into Jack’s

business but he was looking pretty white to him at the moment.

“Yeah, I’ve thought about it. Afraid they’ll tell me I got cancer, you know what I

mean?” Jack asked, turning to look at Mulder. “And I really don’t want to go through

that hell.”

“Yes, I do know what you mean,” Mulder answered, meeting Jack’s eyes. “It could

also be something else. You look like you’re in a lot of discomfort, that’s got to be

hell too.”

Jack acknowledged Mulder’s comment and then turned back to study his

instruments. The plane buffeted a little as they passed over the eastern Appalachians

and out over the foothills of southeast Pennsylvania. Studying the darkened

countryside below Mulder realized that there was still plenty of open land even on

the crowded east coast.

“Ah, God!” Jack’s shriek of pain startled the agent. Suddenly the plane dipped

sharply to the left. Feeling like he was falling, Mulder’s first instinct was to grab onto

something, like the yoke in front of him. A quick glance to his left revealed that Jack

had let go of the pilot’s yoke and was practically doubled over with pain, causing the

plane to descend. The older man gasped for air. Mulder feared the man was

having a heart attack.

“Jack!” he exclaimed reaching out for the man.

“No!” the pilot gasped, “get us — us level!” he gasped again. “God, can’t breathe —

grab the yoke…” he told Mulder, reaching out a shaky hand to point at the yoke in

front of the agent.

Mulder put both hands on the yoke and looked desperately toward Jack, “What do I

do?”

Jack took a few more rapid breaths and then seemed to relax a little. “Turn easy to

your right and then pull back — slowly.”

Mulder did as Jack asked. He wasn’t sure who was shaking more at the moment,

Jack or himself. The plane rolled slowly back to level. “Pull back a little more,” the

pilot instructed as he watched the altimeter climb back to about thirty eight hundred

feet. “Press that little button on the right there, that’s your autopilot…”

With the plane flying on it’s own for the moment Mulder turned to look at Jack. The

man was as white as a sheet. A thin veil of perspiration covered his face, once again

contorting in pain. “What can I do?” he stammered.

“I — pain in — in my chest…” Jack managed to gasp out.

His actions seeming to confirm what Mulder had already suspected. “You’re not going

to be able to land this thing are you?” he asked absurdly. Jesus, what was he

thinking? The man could die up here.

Jack stared at the agent with glassy eyes, “I ain’t gonna be able — ah…”he gasped

out as pain erupted from his abdomen again up into his chest, taking his breath

away. He reached toward the agent next to him. The last thing he remembered was

grabbing Mulder’s hand and squeezing it hard.

As Jack’s hand when limp in his own, Mulder froze, “No! Come on Jack!” He tried

desperately to rouse the older man. Finding a thready pulse, he was at the moment

relieved that the man hadn’t died but he still could not waken him. “Jack,” he

grabbed the man’s chin, turning his face towards his own. “Jack, come on, man,” he

pleaded.

The pilot’s eyes flickered briefly and then his face scrunched in pain, “Radio…” he

whispered.

“What?” Mulder asked momentarily confused.

“Take — the radio, mayday…” Jack doubled over in pain again, wrapping his arms

around his abdomen and then his body went limp.

“Shit,” Mulder told himself as the realization hit him and he fumbled the headset

from Jack. “This is not happening!”

As Mulder dropped back into his seat he slipped the headset over his head and

adjusted the mike. He pressed the button on the yoke in front of him and began his

distress call, “Mayday! Mayday! This Agent Fox Mulder with the F.B.I.. My badge

number is JTT047101111 Requesting assistance!”

Silence. He pressed the button again, “Mayday! Mayday! Can anybody hear me out

there?”

“Washington Center, can you identify yourself?” came the reply.

“This is Agent Mulder with the F.B.I. I have an emergency situation.”

“Are you the pilot Mr. Mulder?”

“No, no, the pilot’s taken ill,” he told the voice glancing to the side to see that Jack

was still unconscious. “I need some help up here!” Mulder looked out into the dark

night sky beyond the plane’s windshield, at the moment it seemed like he was on the

edge of an abyss.

“Okay, okay. My name is Mark, I’m going to help you,” the flight controller’s steady

voice came back. “I want you to relax and listen to me carefully. Is the plane flying

level?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s on auto pilot,” Mulder answered trying desperately to keep calm

himself.

“Alright, that’s good. Do you have any experience flying a plane Mr. Mulder? I need

you to help me identify your position.”

“Not exactly,” the agent snorted out. “I knew a guy in college, used to take me up

in an old B-25.”

“Lucky you,” Mark replied. “Got a bunch of guys here who would envy you.” The

controller tried to calm the shaken agent. “Now I want you to look for a number on

the control panel, should start with ‘N’…”

“Yeah, call number, hang on.” Mulder started to look around the plane’s instrument

panel when it hit him, the number on the plane’s fuselage, N22364, Scully’s

birthday, he’d noticed it when he and Frank had pulled up at the airport. “N22364,”

he answered.

Mark Newman, one of the many air traffic controllers in busy Washington Center had

been one of the unlucky guys to draw duty Christmas Eve. He studied his screen

until he found the small plane near the PA, Maryland border just outside P-40’s

restricted airspace. Wonderful. P-40 was the no-fly zone around the presidential

retreat, Camp David. Luckily the President wasn’t in residence at the present time.

He needed to keep this guy’s attention on flying the plane, the last thing he needed

on his tail was an F-18.

“Hey, Mark, you still with me?” Mulder’s voice came back in his ear.

“Yes, I’m still with you Mr. Mulder. I have your position. You still okay up there?” he

asked the agent. The small plane was cruising at round 38 hundred feet. There

wasn’t a whole lot of traffic at that low altitude right now. The guy practically had

the sky to himself.

“Oh yeah, feel like Santa Claus dancing across the night sky. You’re gonna get me

down from here aren’t you?” Mulder tried his best to make light of the situation but

in fact he was pretty damn nervous.

“Yes, Santa, I just want you to remain calm and do just what I tell you and we’ll get

you home for Christmas,” the controller told him. “Did you say your first name was

Fox? Can I call you that?”

Mulder wanted to correct him, like he did everyone else but at the moment the idea

seemed moot. “That’s fine,” he acknowledged.

“Can you tell me the condition of the pilot, Fox?” Mark asked him through the

headset.

Mulder looked over at the older man, reaching over to gently touch his neck. Jack

stirred and moaned a little but did not waken. “I don’t know if he had a heart attack

or he’s just got a bad case of indigestion. Pulse is a little thready, he’s fading in and

out,” Mulder confirmed.

“Alright, Fox, your flight plan indicated you were headed into BWI. You and I are

going to make a little course correction in a few minutes that will take you into

Martin State. You’re only about 70 minutes out. You with me?” A quick assessment

of the plane’s location had told him that getting the plane into Hagerstown would

require some tricky maneuvers, best to try for the closest straight in approach.

“I guess so,” Mulder stated after taking a big breath. Making a course correction

meant taking the plane off auto pilot. Evidently Mark wanted him to fly this thing.

Something he was going to have to do sooner or later anyway if he had any chance

of getting down in one piece.

“Good. I want you to look at the instrument panel in front of you. Do you know

what an altimeter is? It should be in the center of the control panel,” Mark told him

with a steady voice.

“Tells me my altitude,” Mulder replied as his eyes came to rest on the panel in front

of him. “Says three, seven, eight, five,” he finally told Mark.

“That’s right, you want to try and maintain that when we do this turn. Do you

understand?” Mark asked him. “I want you to find the airspeed indicator. It should

be on your left. The auto pilot should have your airspeed at about 120 knots. You

want to try and maintain that in the turn also. If you start to slow down use your

throttle, between the seats. Pushing it forward will increase your airspeed and make

the plane ascend. Pulling back will decrease it but it will also cause the plane to

descend. Listen to your engines. You might need to compensate with the yoke. It

works the same way. It’s very sensitive, Fox. Just an easy touch is all you need.

Are you following me?” Mark tried to explain the plane’s controls as best he could

without sounding too condescending.

Mulder glanced around the cockpit trying to familiarize himself with his surroundings.

A small gold plaque on the center of the instrument panel caught his eye. In the dim

light of the cockpit, it was hard to read but by tilting his head a little so the words

caught the light, the sentiment became clear, ‘God is my co-pilot’ was written across

it’s surface in figurative script. The agent studied it for a moment, somewhat

surprised given his first impression of the man beside him. He let out a shaky sigh.

It had been a long time since he’d put any faith in God. Maybe now was a good time

to reconsider. This was going to be the longest hour of his life. “Well, I hope you’re

with me tonight,” he finally said to himself.

A quick look at Jack told him the man was at least still breathing. “Okay, I’m with

you,” he told Mark.

“Your fuel gauges should be on the lower portion of the instrument panel. Just like

your car, you want to be sure you have enough gas to get you where you’re going,”

he told the agent, with a slightly lighter tone.

“Looks like I have a little over half a tank in both,” Mulder replied.

“Alright, here we go, this plane’s going to be a lot easier to fly than that B-25,” the

controller told him.

“I sure hope so,” Mulder acknowledged, remembering the bumpy rides over the

English countryside.

Mark’s supervisor had come to stand behind him in the control center. “First thing I

want you to do is locate the heading. It will be a dial with a little image of a plane in

the center. The nose of that little plane points in the direction your heading. Right

now your heading is about 170 degrees,” he heard Mark tell the agent.

“Okay,” was all Mulder could say.

“Now you need to turn off the auto pilot and then gently turn the yoke to the left so

the plane turns to the left. You want to come to a heading of 120 degrees. Once

you’re at that heading, I want you to descend to thirty five hundred feet. Do you

understand?” Flight conditions in the area of the small plane were almost ideal. As

long as Fox followed his directions this harrowing evening should turn out alright.

This guy had to have someone watching out for him.

Mulder reached out and turned off the autopilot. He flinched when the plane dipped

a little and he gave the yoke a hair touch to keep it at thirty seven hundred feet. “I

guess I’m flyin’ this thing now,” he told Mark. “I think I’m going to be a little busy

for a few minutes, get back to you.”

The agent studied the instrument panel once more, his eyes coming to rest on the

little plaque once again. “You with me?” he asked it and then turned his gaze to the

heading dial and gently turned the yoke to his left. The plane started to bank

immediately, climbing slightly. Mulder watched the compass numbers drop slowly

compensating a little by pulling back on the yoke until his airspeed started to drop.

Nervous sweat started to bead his forehead. His hands were clammy on the yoke.

He pushed forward a touch on the throttle hearing the engine come to life, until

finally the small plane leveled out at the 120 degree heading Mark had told him he

needed to achieve. He could feel himself trembling. He pushed the mic button,

“Okay Mark, I’m at 120 degrees and I haven’t wet my pants. What else did you need

me to do?”

Mark had watched the plane’s tiny image on his radar screen, “Well that’s good Fox,”

Mark joked. “Unfortunately those old Beech’s didn’t come with lavatories.” His

supervisor tapped him on the shoulder. “Get him down,” he told the controller.

“You did that just fine Fox. Now I want you to descend to thirty five hundred feet

and keep that same heading. It will take you right into Martin State,” he told the

agent. He would have a tail wind all the way. “You’re only about 50 minutes out

now. How’s your pilot?”

“He’s still breathing, which I guess is a good sign,” Mulder replied. “You better have

some emergency equipment there to meet us.”

“I already have them on alert; they’ve cleared any other traffic. You have the sky to

yourself, Fox,” Mark told him reassuringly.

The controller watched the image on his screen again as the altitude reading dropped

just below thirty five hundred feet. “You can turn on the autopilot again for a while,

Fox. Catch your breath.” Mark could hear the nervous tone in the agent’s voice

when he spoke. He had to keep him focused.

Mulder reached out and flicked on the autopilot once more, letting the plane fly itself

for a while. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was on his way home but they were still

three thousand feet in the air. That was a long way to fall.

His gaze then drifted out the right window to the starlit night sky. It was a beautiful

night but he suddenly felt very alone. As his eyes came back to rest on the

instrument panel the little gold plaque glimmered in the low light as if trying to tell

him that that wasn’t the case.

He admired Scully’s faith despite the things she had been through in their

partnership. There were times when he had questioned and even condemned her for

it, but in truth he realized it was what had gotten her through some of the most

trying times of her life. She too, over the years had beaten him up over his belief in

the unprovable but he also knew she believed in him. He bit his lower lip. Perhaps

the time had come for him to put a little faith in her beliefs.

“Fox?” Mark’s voice came back into his ear.

“Let me guess, there’s something else you want me to do?” he replied.

“Yes, we’re going to start your descent now so I want you to turn off the autopilot

again and descend to three thousand feet, then turn it back on. You copy?” Mark

asked.

“I copy,” Mulder replied. Hell, he thought to himself, might as well get this over

with. Jack was in no condition to be of any help, the only way they were going to

get down was if he did it himself. Even though his present circumstances were not

his fault, he’d never hear the end of this from his partner. He hoped she had no idea

what was happening. But then on the other hand, he could use a few extra prayers

right now. Once again he reached over and turned off the auto pilot. The small

plane buffeted a little as they hit some air, but he was able to compensate for it and

eased the plane to an altitude of just under three thousand feet before turning the

autopilot back on.

“You’re doing just fine, Fox,” Mark told him. “We’re going to do that one more time

and then I’m going to turn you over to Martin tower. I have a gentleman there

who’s been listening in on our frequency. He’s going to talk you in the rest of the

way. You okay with that?”

Did he have a choice? Mulder just wished he could stop shaking. “I’m okay,” he told

the controller.

“Fox, this is Rich Franklin at Martin tower,” the other man’s voice came through his

headset. “I understand you need a crash course in landing a plane?” Joking with

Mulder, Rich was trying to keep the urgency of the situation at a minimum. The

airport was located in a mostly industrial area just north of Baltimore on Chesapeake

Bay, away from tall buildings and residential neighborhoods. As long as the agent

kept his cool there was a good chance this whole event would end in a good way.

“I hope not,” came Mulder’s reply.

“Rich will get you down in one piece, Fox. Don’t worry,” Mark came back on the

frequency. “I want you to descend to twenty five hundred feet, just like before and

then Rich will take over from there, copy?”

Mulder put the plane through another descent and then leveled it off. His airspeed

had dropped a little to around 110 knots. “My airspeed dropped do I need to

increase it?” he asked. He was actually starting to get the feel of the controls and it

made him relax a little.

“No, you’re going to need to slow down for landing,” Mark replied. “Rich will talk you

through that. You’re going to be fine, Fox. You’ve done a great job so far. You

have a wonderful holiday.”

“I hope so, you have a Merry Christmas too,” Mulder acknowledge back. “And

Mark…”

“Yes, Fox?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re more than welcome, Fox,” Mark replied back. He left his radio on the same

frequency until he heard that Rich was in contact with the F.B.I. agent and then

slipped it off and started to get up.

“He make it?” Steve Tucker, the controller at the next station asked.

“Let you know in about fifteen minutes,” Mark replied as he stepped away.

“Fox, this is Rich,” the Martin State controller came through Mulder’s headset. “I

want to go over some instruction with you before we start your final descent. The

last thing you want to be doing when you’re attempting your landing is trying to talk

to me, you copy?”

“What do you mean ‘attempting’?” Mulder asked. That nervous feeling had returned

as he noticed the landscape below him had changed from rural to a more densely

populated area. If this plane went down with him and Jack in it that was one thing.

The last thing he wanted to do was end up in somebody’s living room.

“Sorry, Fox, poor choice of words,” Rich told him lightly. “You’re on a straight in

approach, just follow my instructions and you’ll do fine.”

“I’m going to remember you said that, Rich,” Mulder replied.

“Okay, now listen carefully,” Rich began. “To begin your descent I want you to pull

back on the throttle. We’re not going to worry about the flaps. We’re just going to

use the throttle to control your airspeed. As the plane slows the nose will drop but

you don’t want it to be more than four inches below the horizon. Now you can’t see

the horizon in the dark so you’re going to have to rely on the instruments. You don’t

want your airspeed to go below 70 knots or you’re going to lose your lift and stall.”

“And drop like a rock…” Mulder finished.

An experienced pilot could probably pull out of a stall, Rich thought to himself. Fox

wouldn’t have much of a chance. “Just watch your airspeed and that won’t happen,”

he told the agent. “And you want to stay on a heading of 120 degrees. Is that

clear?”

“Oh, yeah,” the agent acknowledged. “Throttle back, drop the nose and don’t stall

the plane.”

“It will all make sense when you start to execute,” the controlled told him. “What’s

your airspeed now?”

Mulder looked for the airspeed dial on the instrument panel, “The autopilot is still on,

I’m at about 110 knots.”

“I want you to keep your eyes focused forward. As you get closer to the field you’re

going to see our runway lights, just follow them in. You want to keep the nose

centered on those,” Rich instructed. “You want to be at about 100 feet when you’re

just above the runway. Your airspeed should be just about 70 knots. Are you still

following me?”

“How about I just put this thing down in the bay and then you come fish us out?”

Mulder asked, once again using humor to hide his fear. His heart rate was increasing

by the minute. He took a deep breath.

“Well, if you overshoot the runway, that’s where you’ll end up,” Rich told him. “At

100 feet I want you to pull back all the way on the throttle but don’t let the nose dip

too sharply. You want the rear wheels to touch the ground first. After the nose

wheel touches the ground, use the brakes, those are the upper pedals to slow your

groundspeed until you come to a stop. Don’t worry about where you stop, we’ll

come get you.” Rich checked his radar again. The plane was about fifteen minutes

out, time to get this show on the road. “Okay, Fox. You ready?” he asked the agent.

Mulder hesitated to reply for a moment. Closing his eyes and taking several deep

breaths. When he opened them again he once again sought out the little gold plaque

on the instrument panel. “God, I know we don’t talk, but I’ve got someone very

close who puts a lot of faith in you,” he whispered. “So, if you can hear me now, I

could really use your help here.”

The agent pressed the mic button, “What do I do first?”

“Good,” Rich replied. “First you need to switch off that autopilot. You’re going to fly

the plane from here on. Then I want you to look for a lever near the throttle, looks

like a little wheel. That’s you landing gear. I want you to lower the landing gear.

Now you’re going to feel some drag on the plane that might require you to increase

your airspeed a little. Do you follow me?”

As Mulder switched off the autopilot the little plane rocked slightly, he had to steady

it by turning the yoke slightly. The air was becoming a little more turbulent as he

neared the bay. He found the control for the landing gear and lowered it, feeling the

drag immediately and compensating for it. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as bad as

he thought. He glanced momentarily at Jack and wondered if he could do this with

his eyes closed. At the moment both their lives were in his hands.

“You’re doing fine, Fox. I need you to descend to 2 thousand feet,” Rich’s voice told

him. “Can you see the runway lights yet?”

Mulder peered into the darkness ahead of him. He had already been able to make

out streets and building below him. He was hoping he would see a big sign that said

“LAND HERE” but he hadn’t found it yet. Then on the horizon in front of him in a

dark open area the parallel lights of the landing strip began to become clear. “Yeah,

I got it,” he told Rich.

“You’re almost here then. You don’t need to talk to me from now on. I just want

you to concentrate on what we talked about before. Watch your airspeed and your

altimeter, trust the instruments. We have some light cross winds at the field so it

might be a little bumpy as you come in. Don’t let that frighten you. Orville and

Wilber knew what they were doing,” Rich concluded. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Mulder acknowledged, his voice betraying him by trembling a little.

As the runway lights grew closer, Mulder throttled back again and the plane began

its descent. Watching his airspeed as Rich had instructed he felt the plane rock

slightly again from the crosswinds. He used the yoke to straighten himself out.

He crossed the outer marker for the runway and started to bite his tongue. His

airspeed had now dropped to 90 knots. The plane rocked back and forth, he was

having a hard time getting the feel of the yoke to keep it steady with one hand.

Crossing the end of the runway he throttled back one more time, reducing his

airspeed to 80 knots and dropping the nose. He grabbed the yoke with both hands

and pulled back, the ground was right below him now, passing by at what seemed

like an alarming speed. He was coming in at a slight angle, one wing slightly higher

than the other and tried to steer it back level. Suddenly the right wheel hit the

ground and then he bounced up again. Turning the yoke to the left, trying to

compensate and level himself out both wheels hit the ground hard and then the nose

wheel dropped onto the pavement.

Jostled by the impact, he heard Jack moan beside him. He was on the ground but

moving too fast. Mulder pulled the throttle all the way back but the plane still rolled

along much too fast for his liking. “Brakes! Brakes!” Jack’s yelled from the seat

beside him, reaching out an arm to try and steady himself against the instrument

panel. Mulder looked down trying to find the pedals in the dark cockpit and then

working them as if he were sliding on ice the plane finally came to a stop. He

reached over to kill the engines and then dropped his head. It was over.

Sirens and flashing lights approached from his left. He looked over at Jack who was

resting wearily against the opposite door but appeared to be alright for the moment.

Mulder opened the cockpit door and dropped out onto the tarmac as the first

emergency vehicles pulled up. He doubled over resting his hands on his knees,

trying to catch his breath and steady himself.

“Sir? Sir, are you okay,” the EMT’s voice broke through the momentary haze in his

head and he stood up. Someone wrapped a heavy blanket around his shoulders.

“Yeah, I’m fine. The pilot, he needs your attention,” he told the young man stepping

around the plane to watch as the EMT’s pulled Jack from the plane and began

working on him.

“Agent Mulder?” The familiar voice came from behind him and he turned around.

“Rich Franklin,” the younger man said extending his hand to Mulder. He accepted

the man’s hand and shook it hard. It was a pleasure to see the face the belonged to

that patient voice.

“Hey, thanks, Rich,” Mulder told him pulling him into a gentle manly hug. “Thanks

for getting me back to planet earth.”

“He going to be okay?” Rich asked motioning towards the commotion over Jack.

“I — I don’t know,” Mulder replied as he stepped away from Rich and headed

towards the ambulance. “How is he?” he asked as he approached the vehicle.

One of the EMT’s, a young woman with “Erica” on the front of her jacket stepped

towards him. “We don’t think he’s had a heart attack. We suspect a gall bladder

attack or even a perforated ulcer. We’re getting ready to transport him now,” she

confirmed. “How about you? We can take you along with us.”

“No, I’m okay, just a little shook up,” the agent replied pulling his sleeve back to

check his watch. It was almost ten thirty. “There’s somewhere else I need to be right

now, like home,” he told her glancing around the field as if hoping his car would

mysteriously materialize. He stepped back over to Rich who had been waiting for

word on the pilot. “You don’t know where I can get a car do you?”

“Hey, man,” Rich said, patting Mulder on the arm. “You might have landed that

plane shaking like you are but there’s no way I’m letting you get behind the wheel of

a car. Let me see what I can do.” The controller turned away and headed for the

bank of emergency vehicles that were parked nearby. Mulder pulled the blanket

around himself. He was shaking but he’d thought it was from the cold.

A few moments later Rich returned with a sheriff’s officer. “This is Deputy Wagner,

he’ll take you home Agent Mulder.”

Great, Mulder thought to himself. That’s all he needed was to pull into Mrs. Scully’s

driveway with the emergency lights flashing. He looked at Officer Wagner. “I’d really

appreciate that,” he replied. “I just need a ride to my moth… He almost said

mother-in-law’s before he caught himself. “Actually you can drop me off right here

in Baltimore — but no emergency lights, okay?”

“No problem, Agent Mulder,” the young office acknowledged. “You have anything in

the plane you need to take with you?” he asked as they all turned to watch the

ambulance pull away.

“Get your things,” Rich told him. “We’ll take care of the plane.”

Mulder pulled his bag and coat from the plane. Exchanging his wool coat for the

blanket he slipped it on and slid his hands into his pockets to warm them while the

office put his bag in the trunk of the cruiser. As Wagner slammed the trunk Mulder

turned to Rich. “I don’t know what else to say besides thanks again,” he told the

man reaching out once again to shake his hand. “Do you know how I can get in

touch with Mark,” he asked, remembering the controller at Washington Center who

had answered his Mayday call.

“Talked to him before I came out. Let him know you were on the ground — in one

piece,” he said with a smile. His name’s Mark Newman,” he told Mulder handing him

a slip of paper with a phone number scrawled across it. “Have a Merry Christmas,”

he told the agent.”

“Merry Christmas to you too,” Mulder replied accepting Rich’s handshake once again.

“And leave the flying to the licensed pilots from now on, okay?” Rich joked.

Mulder waved and stepped away, smiling before he climbed into the cruiser’s front

seat. The officer started the car and Mulder took one last look at the Beech before

they pulled away. “Rough night?” the officer asked.

Mulder thought for a moment, maybe landing that plane was the easy part,

explaining it all to Scully was going to be the rough part. “Could be,” he replied.

They drove the thirty minute drive in relative silence. As they pulled into Mrs.

Scully’s drive the radio squawked and Wagner picked it up. Mulder watched him

listen to the voice on the other end. “That’s good to know,” he finally said. “He’s

still with me, I’ll let him know.”

“The pilot’s going to be alright, perforated ulcer, could have bled to death. He was

lucky he had someone with him tonight,” he told Mulder.

Mulder thought about the little gold plaque on the instrument panel for a moment.

“I think maybe we were both lucky we had someone with us tonight,” he replied

turning to the officer. “Thanks for the ride.” Wagner nodded in reply.

Tara was just finishing getting the kids ready for mass when headlights flicked across

the front room window indicating that a car had pulled in the driveway, “Dana, I

think Fox is here,” she called out. Scully had been in the kitchen helping her mom

with preparations for the next day’s Christmas dinner. She smiled at her mother,

“Maybe this is our Christmas miracle,” she joked, wiping her hands and then heading

into the living room. She opened the door before Mulder was even on the first step

of Maggie’s porch. “Mulder?” she asked as she came out to greet him. “We were

just about to leave for Mass, what’s going on?” she asked eyeing the cruiser in the

driveway.

Mulder pulled her into a tight hug. She could actually feel him trembling in her

arms. “I’m just glad to have my two feet on the ground,” he replied and then pulled

back. “You haven’t gone to Mass yet?” he asked.

Scully looked at her partner puzzled, “No, why?” Scully didn’t quite understand her

partner’s behavior but she could tell that something tonight had shaken him badly.

“I figured you’d have some time to relax while we were gone. I need some help with

‘assembly’ after the kids go to bed.”

“I think I’d like to go with you, if you don’t mind,” he searched his partner’s face for

her approval. “There’s someone else I need to thank.”

Realizing that she’d get the whole story when he was ready to tell it, Scully smiled at

him, “I think we’d all like that very much.”

1

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