Category Archives: Season 13

Tintabulation

 

 

Tintabulation

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

Artists: Donnaj, Martin Ross, Truthwebothknow1 (Lisa)

Videographer: XSketch

Rating: Mature Audiences for violence and torture.

Category: Movie

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

(read ‘Previously on VS 13

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

copyright infringement intended.

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

then anywhere.

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

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Teaser

Place: Unknown

Time: 2321 hours

Seventy-nine hours earlier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resurrection Cemetery

Clinton, MD

11:21 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Place: Unknown

Time: 23:31

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

Place: Resurrection Cemetery

Time: 11:45 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location: Unknown

Time: 23:47

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

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

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

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Act 1 Scene 1

Weathersbury, Vermont

7:06 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Keep him away from me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

“Hey, sorry, man.”

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgetown Memorial Medical Center

the next day

10:00 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Mr. Scully?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s not with us. He’s not here.”

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

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

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

Act 1 Scene 2 Location Unknown

Time Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nobody except one.

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

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

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

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

Act 1 Scene 3

Lab

Location Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What boy?” Mulder asked through gritted teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You tell that son of a bitch. . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know what you are,” Mulder whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 scene 1

Georgetown Medical Center

June 12, 2006

10:15 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry, Mr. uh — ”

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

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

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

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

5:35 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 13, 2006

5:06 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Find someplace closer.”

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, Commander.”

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

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

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

Act 2 Scene 2

Starbucks

Georgetown Galleria

11:12 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie pulled upright, freon pumping through his chest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 2 scene 3

Capitol Mall

Vietnam War Memorial (The Wall)

June 13, 2006

10:15 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgetown Medical Center

June 14, 2006

7:45 am

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

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

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

“Where’s the gurney?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 3

Lab, Location Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How is that possible? ” Kambatta demanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah, but they are, Charles.”

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

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

“What is this Essence?” Charlie suddenly questioned.

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

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

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

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“What is this?” Charlie asked.

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

“A life force?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 scene 1

Rockbridge Baths, VA

June 22, 2006

7:30 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All four men exchanged worried glances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did . . . does Mulder know?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Scully — ”

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

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

“You know, don’t you?”

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

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

Act 4 scene 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop calling him that,” Scully snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Prove it,” she demanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 4 scene 3

Craddock Marine Bank Washington DC

3:45 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 5

Lab

Unknown Location

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get back!” Strughold exclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Mulder? What’s happened to you?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘He’s …’

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

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

‘Mulder no! Tell me how to help you!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was going into shock.

Act 6

Cairo, Egypt

2:34 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krycek stared silently at the screen.

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

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

“No.”

He turned to Scully with a sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Find the body,” he repeated.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“More bang, Scully. More bang.”

**

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

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

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

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

**

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

“Yo, Hymie.”

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

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

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

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

“You will have to help me. . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They. . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

“What is he saying? Kambatta finally asked.

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

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

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

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

“What happened here?” he finally asked.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

“What has happened?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kambatta was silent, and the gun wheeled around.

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

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

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

“Turn it off! God, turn it off!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Agent Scully, wait . . .”

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

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

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

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

“No,” he whispered.

“Now, Krycek. Alex, please.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Move it now!” Krycek ordered.

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

Act 7

En route to United States via North Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What does Antarctica have to do with Atlantis?”

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

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

“Mulder knows,” Gibson murmured from beside her.

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

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

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

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

“Agent Scully, don’t touch him!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is he saying?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This could not be happening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘It’s there, right in my grasp . . .’

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

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

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

“Byers! The defibrillator! Now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What other guy?” Scully quarreled.

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

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

“Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act 8

Hulwan, Egypt

12 hours later

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

“Bees?” Charlie rasped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie slumped with relief. “Sure, sure.”

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

He smiled again, reassuringly, and left his protégé.

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

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

No words would come.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So predictable,” Strughold lamented.

Epilogue

F.B.I. Headquarters

Two Weeks Later

11 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I bet,” Scully agreed. “So, it’s just you and me, Mulder. Here, if Gibson will give me a hand we can get you in the car — ”

“Why don’t we use my car out back? It hasn’t been out of the garage in over a month. Besides, the new ramp works pretty well, Mr. Timmons’ contractor did a good job. I’d like to try it out,” Mulder suggested and Gibson had to choke back a grin at his casualness.

“Sure, that’s great. Let me change real quick and we’ll be on our way. I might even let you talk me into anchovies — on your half,” she replied breezily and hurried up the stairs.

“She has no idea,” Gibson advised with a smile as he handed Mulder his baseball cap to hide his just appearing hair. Mulder had not been pleased when he awoke to find that one of the nurses had inadvertently shaved his head again as well as his face.

“But she’s still nervous,” Mulder sighed heavily. “I hate that I make her nervous.”

“Mulder, you don’t make her nervous. Whatever that was that took over your body made her nervous. She was afraid she’d never get you back. And she knows you were mad at her for getting rid of it.”

Mulder chewed on his bottom lip. “I was mad, but I’m always mad when evidence gets away. I never meant for her to think I blamed her.”

“Well, you still have the laptop. That’s a place to start. And as for the two of you getting over this, that is what this weekend is for, isn’t it?” Gibson suggested.

“Hey, _I’m_ supposed to be giving _you_ relationship advice, young man,” Mulder said with mock gruffness. He drew in a deep breath. “I just hope it works.”

Gibson clasped him on the shoulder. “It will. I know it.”

“Precognitive as well as telepathic? Keep this up and I’ll start running more tests on you,” Mulder teased.

Gibson just laughed and was still laughing as Scully bounded down the steps.

“OK, what’s so funny?”

“Gibson was just telling me he’s a White Sox fan,” Mulder covered and Gibson didn’t disagree. “So, we’re off. Lock up when you leave, OK?”

“I will,” the young man agreed. He helped Scully negotiate the ramp and then put the lightweight wheelchair in the trunk for her. He waved them off as she backed into the alley.

“OK, G-man, where to? The Canal, Rock Creek Park, the Zoo?” she asked again.

“Nah, I’m not really in the mood to see anything locked in a cage. Can we just take a drive along the coast?”

“OK, sure,” she said hesitantly. “Ocean City?”

“A little farther north, actually. Scully, could we go to the summerhouse for the night?”

“Mulder,” she said, worrying her lip.”You want to go to Rhode Island? I mean, the summerhouse has been closed up — well for years! And you don’t have your meds . . .”

“Sure I do,” he countered, holding up a seven-day pill case. “We can stay in a hotel if the house is a mess,” he added.

The silence in the car was unnerving. It was bad enough that Mulder’s bad ear was toward Scully, which meant he had to sit angled toward her to hear anything she said. On top of that, it seemed they couldn’t find a topic to talk about. He mourned their loss of contact, and vowed as soon as the car stopped to do something about it.

The traffic was light for a Friday afternoon in mid summer, and the sun was with them for most of the way, the sky clouding a little as they reach the Rhode Island shore. It was a little before 6 when they pulled into the gravel driveway.

“I think we should have made reservations at one of the hotels we passed at the 395 exit, Mulder. Or at least picked up a pizza on the way,” Scully said, going around to pull out the wheelchair.

“Leave it, Scully. I think I can make it in the house without it. Why bother, if we aren’t staying,” he added with a shrug.”OK, lean on me, though. I don’t want you falling.” She hurried to put her arm around his waist. The dizziness hit him hard, but he closed his eyes and tilted his head to a point where it became bearable. He nodded mutely and she held on tighter. He worried that one missed step would bring them both tumbling to the ground, but before he knew it they were at the door.

The minute the key was in the lock, he knew the guys had done their magic. He could smell the dinner he’d ordered and just hoped everything else was in place. Scully, naturally, was a little confused. “Mulder, did you rent the house out for the summer?” she asked, throwing the door open wide and helping him into the little foyer. “Smells like someone’s been cooking in here.”

Mulder positioned himself to lean against one wall while taking her hands in the other. “Scully, close your eyes,” he ordered. “Please,” he added when she frowned in his direction.

“Mulder, if I close my eyes, both of us are going to fall on our asses,” she said, but she let him take her hand. Using walls and furniture, he maneuvered them into the living room and seated them both on the sofa. He almost lost his balance fumbling for the remote on the coffee table, but in a minute, he was ready.

“OK, Scully, open your eyes.”

As she did so, an orchestra suddenly struck up the first movement of Mozart’s celebrated Symphony No. 41, otherwise known as the Jupiter Symphony. With the 50-inch wide screen television and the superior stereo surround sound, they might as well have been sitting in the front row of the Kennedy Center.

“Mulder,” she breathed his name and clutched his hand to her chest. She was blinking back tears but she couldn’t take her eyes off her partner. “Mulder — this is — ” She looked around the room in amazement. It didn’t look like the same summerhouse, the one where he’d once tried to kill himself, where he’d once been possessed and tried to kill her. It had a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new lamps and furniture. Even the fireplace looked different with a new mirror and candles arranged on the mantel. “When did you do all this? For that matter, how? And that TV, Mulder, it’s enormous!”

“Well, as for when, this last week. The how — there are three guys I owe a whole lot to and now I owe them more. And a personal banker who made his retainer this month arranging for the contractors and such. The TV — well, that’s for this,” he said, waving his good hand toward the conductor and the symphony. “There’s dinner in the kitchen,” he told her. Cavetelli agli asparagi for you and mezze maniche alla Napoli for me. It’s not from Paparazzi, but I talked to the owners and they have family who own a  restaurant in New York. That’s where this came from. The guys brought it up earlier and put it in the oven. They might even be hiding in the closet or the loft right now.”

“Mulder — I’m speechless — ”

He leaned over carefully, ever mindful of the dizziness that would creep upon him at a moment’s notice, and cupped her cheek. Slowly, he drew her into a gentle kiss that lingered long enough to cause them both to be breathless. “Good. I like you speechless,” he said, kissing her again. He stopped when he realized she was really crying. “Scully, I didn’t want to make you cry,” he whined, wiping at her cheeks with his thumbs. “This is supposed to make you happy. After everything you’ve been through lately, I wanted to surprise you, to give you something that — ”

“That was taken from us,” she said, completing his thought flawlessly. “Mulder, you dope, these are happy tears,” she sniffed, wiping at her chin where a few tears had escaped his gentle caress. “How? How did you — ”

“As I said, the guys, mostly. Gibson was in on it, too. Between the money you took out to rescue us, and the money to fix this place up — we’ll have to put off retirement for a couple of weeks. I think John McKinley has a crush on you, by the way,” he teased. “When I told him the money was to go toward a surprise for you, he fell all over himself helping to get it all arranged.”

She looked around for the first time and noticed the dramatic change in the little cottage. “You redecorated.”

“Yeah, see I was hoping to turn this into my ‘bachelor pad’. Very Austin Powers, don’t you think?”

She feigned a glower at him. “Bachelor pad?”

“OK, how about a quiet place away from the city where we can regroup. I’ve missed this place, Scully. Yes, it’s fallen on some hard times, but it used to be a very happy place to me. I’d like to get that back — make new memories. If you want to. Otherwise, it will sell faster if it’s not in a complete shambles,” he said casually.

She looked into his eyes, silently reading his real intention. If he wanted to make new memories, maybe recapture some of the good memories of his childhood, she was the last person to try and stop him. “I like the idea of a little getaway.”

He kissed her again. “I promise not to bring other girls up here, Scully,” he said with a wink.

She regally ignored his jibe. “But the symphony performance — is that the one we missed? How on earth — that was just a few weeks ago!”

“Yeah. Seems it’s going to be the next fundraising special on PBS. When Byers explained some of the situation — the parts that wouldn’t cause world panic, they were happy to give him a ‘pre-release’ copy. The condition is that we aren’t supposed to let this DVD get out to anybody,” he said sheepishly. “It’s just for us.”

Her face crumbled as she teared up again.

“Scully, please, stop crying. You’re making me feel like I did something wrong here,” he admonished.

“No, no, it’s not that. It’s just, well, after everything that’s happened . . . Mulder, I thought you were dead! I eventually came to know that was a lie, but for several days, I thought — ” He started to object again, but she held up her hand to stop him. “And then when we finally got everything together and we thought we had you, that . . . thing . . . was inside you and I know you wanted — you wanted to stay that way . . .”

Finally, he was able to break in. “Scully, listen to me. Yes, I was so close to finding answers to where we’re going, what is going to happen to this planet. I wanted to understand the visions I’ve been having. I needed to know what they have been trying to tell me. I was angry that you would break that connection; that you would throw that away. But there was another connection I wasn’t thinking about and it takes priority in my life — it has for a very long time.” He took both her hands in his and kissed her knuckles. “I don’t want to be a demigod if means I lose you in the process.”

She chuckled and it soon turned into a relief-filled giggle. “Mulder, in the right context, that was the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.” She leaned over and kissed him soundly, caressing his cheek as he had done hers just moments before.

“Good. I’m glad. Now, woman, gimme my supper!” he demanded with a wink. “I would serve you dinner, but with my equilibrium, you’d be wearing it.”

“Coming right up,” she said, kissing him again. “Oh, and Mulder . . . I really appreciate the thought and all, but let’s not plan any more dates — ever again?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he replied.

THE END.


[i] Human Fools!

[ii] We are the Highest of All, creators of heaven and earth, molder of human bodies and supplier of the spirit. By the commandments of the Creator we act through the Souls of the Ancestors and transmit only to the New Ones.

[iii] The power of creation is eminently destructive, the Ancestors knew this, you will too!

[iv] You who seek this world for your own race can not see that it is already doomed. The knowledge you hope to gain here is not meant for you. The power would be of no use to you. The codes, programmed into this planet from its creation relate only to its position within the cosmos. Only the New Ones were meant to understand them. You presume to toy with a power greater than yourself, it will only destroy you!

[v] Behold the order of the Highest of All!

[vi] You learn nothing from the past! The horror of catastrophical disaster will make it impossible for the populations to survive. Life must begin again when the New Ones have found their souls again and the sixth Earth is born!

[vii] You have eyes but you do not see. The power of creation is all around you, hidden within the natural order of all things that you no longer feel important. Wasted by your want you are destroying that which was created here to sustain you.

[viii] He can not read a mind he does not understand.

[ix] The codes are written in the Tomb of Records laid down from the origins of civilization itself in a land now lost. From the time of the First Time, a heavenly Order determined only at the time of creation, and set forth only for the New Ones. You will not know it!

[x] You who draw me out in an attempt to gain a higher knowledge have defeated yourself. This body can not sustain me.

[xi] History speaks to you. You who have forgotten how to listen will never know the miracle of the mystery. This is the will of the Highest of All!

[xii] Fools! Fools!

[xiii] You who refuse to accept that which you can not prove is evidence of your lack of wisdom in all things.

[xiv] This search for truth you call science leads you away from understanding your true nature. You do not understand your existence because you refuse to see the simplest of things.

[xv] You fear the power and yet it is part of every life force around you, connecting one to the other in an endless loop of existence.

[xvi] Human capabilities are only hindered by their selfishness. You refuse to acknowledge your need for each other. It will be your undoing.

[xvii] He who gains the power shall also gain the knowledge of the ancients. That knowledge will save your world.

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Tenebrous

 poster

Tenebrous

by Vickie Moseley

Written for the Virtual Season 13.
ARCHIVE: VS 13 exclusive for two weeks, then anywhere
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction although several real places are mentioned. No copyright infringement is intended.
NOTE: If you are anywhere near Landers, CA, visit the Integratron and grab a sound bath. Then write me and tell me how it went.
FEEDBACK: vickiemoseley1978@yahoo.com
SUMMARY: When two kids go missing in the desert night, it sets a course of tragic changes for the X Files Division.

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Outside Landers, California

June 7, 2006

11:54 pm

The Integratron was a massive bubble of a building sitting in

the middle of the Californian desert, just outside Landers.

Started in 1957 by George Van Tassel, a former aircraft

engineer, it took 18 years to complete. Inside, the curved roof

and exposed wood beamed ceiling was supposed to slow down

the aging process through electrostatic frequencies.

The Integratron, for all its attributed value, had fallen into

disrepair after the death of its creator. But others interested in

its unique design and effects bought it and turned it into a

mecca of new age healing. Hundreds of people from

spiritualists to aging rock stars were drawn to the white dome

to experience the ‘acoustically perfect tabernacle and energy

machine’.

But not everyone drawn to the Integratron was looking for a

new lease on life or the perfect rave. Some came to the desert

to reach outward and upward.

Two lone figures sat on a blanket outside the 38-foot dome-

shaped structure. The stars twinkled bright near the waxing

gibbous moon in transit, directly overhead. The light from that

moon cast the dome behind the couple in stark relief, painting

it a shimmering, radiant white. The wind occasionally picked

up crumbs of sand and dust, which kept stinging their eyes as

they searched the horizon.

“Are you sure we’ll see them tonight?” the doe-eyed girl asked

of her male companion. “I mean, how do you know they’ll be

out tonight?”

“It’s a full moon,” he countered, feigning knowledge he didn’t

have.

“No, it’s not. Not yet,” she countered, crossing her arms. “You

just brought me out here because you want to get laid,” she

accused.

“I haven’t touched you!” he retorted. “Here, want some more

wine?” he asked in an artful dodge of her accusation.

“Sure.” They sat and sipped in silent contemplation of the

stars. “What exactly are you hoping we’ll see? What the hell

are these ‘lights’ anyway?”

“UFOs, man. They come here. They’re attracted to this thing.”

He jerked his thumb back over his shoulder toward the white

structure.

“It looks like one of those places where they have telescopes,”

she said skeptically.

“Nah, it’s cool inside. No telescopes, but lots of cool shit. They

have these bowls made out of stone and shit that make these

sound waves — you can take a sound bath.”

“You’re putting me on,” she said with a raised eyebrow.

“No, seriously. My mom said someone at her office came out

here before. She said that shit was better than botox, dude!

Really, it makes you look younger.”

“I don’t need to be younger. I need to be warmer,” she told

him unequivocally.

He turned his head toward her and smiled. “Here, we can

share my jacket,” he offered. He pulled one arm out of the

sleeve and motioned for her to move closer. He tugged the

denim around her shoulder, his arm holding her in place.

“There. Better?”

She nodded, drawing in a deep breath. “It really is pretty with

the stars and the moon. But how long are we going to sit here

— ”

She stopped talking suddenly when a bright star grew larger in

the northwestern sky. It was low to the horizon and seemed to

be moving toward them. “Is that — ”

“Shhhhh,” he cautioned and fumbled around on the blanket.

“Where’s my damned camera?” he growled. Finally grasping

the digital camera, he let go of the girl to bring it up to his eye.

“Oh, wow, this is so cool — ”

As he clicked off shot after shot, the star/craft sped closer and

closer. Suddenly there was a ferocious wind and a tremendous

sound, and the ground around them shook, knocking over the

wine bottle and spilling the remaining drops on the blanket.

Both teens looked up at the craft, now directly overhead,

blocking out the stars and the moon. As they stared at the

underside, a brilliant light erupted from the bottom of the craft,

encasing them in brightness.

In the wink of an eye, the light — and the teens were gone.

Georgetown, District of Columbia

June 9, 2006

His first sensation was the smell of burning wood and burning

flesh. He’d experienced those smells enough times to know

that his next impulse would be paralyzing fear. Fire. Fire in a

house on Cape Cod, his arm burning from the embers. Fire

killing dozens of people on a bridge over Ruskin Dam, searching

through the body bags in anguished terror of finding his one

true friend in the world. Fear. But this wasn’t the same. He

needed to look further. Forcing himself to stand, he looked

around.

A dense fog hung in the air, but after a moment, he recognized

it as smoke. All around him were huts, grass huts with

thatched roofs like he’d seen in the English countryside many

years before during a break from school. Thatched roofs, now

ablaze with flames leaping skyward, orange, red, and yellow

the only color in the grey sky.

As he looked around he saw them. Dark shadows on the

ground that slowly formed into bodies. They were shrouded in

black cloth; some were tied at the neck, across the chest, the

legs. Others appeared to have just rolled out of bed. None of

them moved. Death was as thick as the smoke and hung over

everything.

The wind shifted and ash blew in his eyes. The flames were

closer now, he had to move, but everywhere he looked the

burning huts surrounded him, moving closer to him, cutting off

all means of escape. Bits of burning thatch were swept up in

the maelstrom and landed on his cheek, on the back of his

neck. He brushed them off, but others soon followed.

One hut was untouched by the flames. He ran toward it,

pulling on the wooden door until it came free. He fell into the

darkened room, stumbling over something on the floor just in

front of the entrance. The light from the open door and one

tiny window did little to reveal the contents of the room. He

bent down to try and see what he’d stumbled over.

He knew it was another cloth-shrouded body. He pulled back

the fabric, it stuck to the corpse in places and he grimaced at

his efforts. A foul stench arose and he fought the bile in his

throat. This person had been dead for days. Slowly, the cloth

pulled away and he could just make out the features of the

face. At first all he could see were the black spots, the sunken

eyes with darkened skin all around them. The swollen tongue,

hanging out of the slack jawed mouth, bore the same black

spots and the horrid, putrid smell. His revulsion soon turned to

recognition as he pulled back slightly and looked at the face as

a whole. It wasn’t the face of a stranger — it was his own.

He barely had time to recoil in repulsion when he heard a

popping sound behind him. He turned toward the door and saw

the hut had finally caught fire. The entrance was already

engulfed in flame, the dry thatch and sides going up faster than

he could have imagined. The flames reached out, catching the

cloth of the body laid out before him. Before he could move, as

the paralyzing fear took root in his stomach, the flames licked

at his hands, his legs, his face —

Mulder and Scully’s residence

June 9, 2005

4:25 am

Mulder awoke in a cold sweat, to find he was crouched at the

head of the bed, shaking. It took him many minutes to feel

brave enough to look around him. It was their bedroom.

Scully was curled sleeping next to him, her back to him as she

hugged her pillow.

His heart slowed finally, taking its time. He tried to move and

found all his muscles protesting as the adrenaline diminished

from his system. With some effort, he looked at the clock.

4:25 am.

Feeling a bit stronger, he straightened his legs and sluggishly

got out of bed. By the time he’d finished in the bathroom, he

was moving with more certainty. He grabbed his running

clothes, pulling them on as he walked, found his running shoes

at the bottom of the stairs, and was out the door without a

second thought. In the east, the sky was already starting to

turn a velvet blue.

6:45 am

Scully hit the alarm button sleepily and then rolled over to

touch the sheets next to her. Cold. Just like the last four

mornings. Sighing heavily, she tossed the covers aside and

headed for the bathroom.

Thirty minutes later, she came down the stairs, the smell of

coffee and cinnamon toast wafting through the hallway to the

dining room and kitchen. She bit her lip in frustration, but

forced a smile on her face.

He was sitting at the table, coffee in one hand, folded

Washington Post in the other. He wore the dark charcoal suit

that she’d just retrieved from the cleaners — the one that

brought out the brown and green in his eyes. But she could

see the dark circles around those eyes from ten feet away.

Squaring her shoulders, she walked over and kissed him on the

temple. “You were MIA again,” she teased lightly as she ran

her hand along his shoulder blades and sauntered into the

kitchen. Her mug was sitting next to the coffeemaker; the 12-

cup carafe was over half empty. Another indication of how long

he’d been up. Sighing again, she poured a cup, added the

requisite amount of non-fat creamer and headed back into the

dining room.

“You have to read Ruth Marcus today,” Mulder said casually

over the top of the paper. “The woman should be canonized.”

“I don’t think this Pope is out to make saints of political

pundits, Mulder,” she said, finding the financial pages lying on

the table. She scanned the headlines and moved it aside.

“Same dream?” she asked, sipping her coffee to keep from

staring at him with a worried expression she knew he’d find

offensive.

“Same,” he said, making a great show of refolding the paper.

“Doonesbury is good, too.”

She nodded. For four nights it had been the same dream. He’d

told her about it the first morning — had that only been

Tuesday? From what he told her, she’d surmised that the

dream, or vision, as he preferred, centered on the Black Death

— the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages.

He’d given her sketchy details at best, and she was sure there

was plenty he wasn’t sharing with her.

“So — ”

He laid the paper on the table and folded his hands atop it.

“Scully. Remember our agreement,” he warned.

“Mulder, I know what I promised. And I’m keeping to that

promise. I won’t judge and I won’t try to fix this. But that

doesn’t stop me from worrying about the effect it has on you.

Frankly, you look exhausted. I’m half tempted to call you in

sick and make you stay home and rest.”

“But Mom, I have an algebra test,” he whined sarcastically. He

got up and poured himself more coffee before returning to the

dining room. “Scully, get real. I’m out on medical leave

enough without wasting a perfectly good sick day on a nap!”

She drew in as much air as her lungs could hold. “OK, fine.”

She wanted to say so much more, but knew it would fall on

deaf ears. Or at worst, would start the day with an argument.

He picked up one of the discarded sections of the Post and

handed it to her. “Hey, how about this. Would you care to go

to the symphony with me next Friday?”

She furrowed her brow, but quickly read the page aloud. “The

National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with this

fascinating exploration of his life, music, and legacy featuring

musical excerpts, commentary, and the complete ‘Jupiter’

Symphony.” She looked up, joy and amazement on her face.

“Mulder, I love the Jupiter Symphony.”

He gave her his patented grin. “I know. You love Mozart,

period. I saw that and knew we had to go. I’ll call for tickets

when we get to the office. And I thought we might have dinner

at that Italian place down on Wisconsin afterwards.”

“Paparazzi? I’ve wanted to go there forever!”

“I know. You’re always pointing out their specials on the way

to work,” he returned with a bigger grin.

“Wow, tickets to the symphony, dinner at an upscale

restaurant.” She looked up suddenly. “Mulder, is this a date?”

He seemed taken aback. “Let’s see, we live together, have for

a couple of years now, sleep together every night. No, Scully,

this in no way constitutes ‘a date’. I plan to bring a case file so

we can call it a business meeting and I can take it off my taxes

next April.”

By his thundercloud expression over his flippant words she

could tell he wasn’t taking her question well. “No, that’s not

what I meant at all”, she said quickly. “I just meant — Mulder,

we’ve never had a real ‘date’ before. We’ve gone out to dinner

and gone to movies, but never planned it out a whole week in

advance unless it’s Valentines Day or my birthday. This is so . .

. unexpected. But I have to say that aside from a deep-seated

desire to check your lower back for a removed tail, I am very

pleased. I think this is one of the most romantic things you’ve

ever done.”

She came around to stand next to him and put her arms

around his neck, seductively rubbing his chest under his jacket.

“Sure you don’t want to go back upstairs — we can both call in

with the ‘Friday Flu’.”

He laughed and hugged her arms, tilting his head to kiss her

lightly on the lips. “I would, but my partner is a real dragon

lady. She chews my ass if I blow off work for sex.”

“Poor woman. Maybe she should just get laid,” Scully replied,

nipping his earlobe.

He was laughing hard now. “OK, enough of this. We have to

get to work,” he told her firmly as he stood and his chair

effectively pushed her away. “But we have all day tomorrow

and Sunday to practice up for our date night.”

She watched him as he took both cups into the kitchen, her

hands on her hips. “Mulder, I should tell you now — I never

sleep with a guy on the first date.”

FBI Headquarters,

11:45 am

“Scully, this is the last ream of printer paper,” Mulder informed

her as he loaded the paper tray.

“What are you doing over there? Printing out _War and

Peace_?” she asked. He’d been ‘surfing’ the net all morning

while she put the finishing touches on the expense reports from

their last case. She felt the numbers 1372 were permanently

etched on the backs of her eyelids.

“Just some stuff I found on the internet this morning,” he said

absently. He looked down at his watch. “Hey, lunch time.

Want to hit the Mall, have a hot dog and stare at the tourists?”

She rolled her eyes, but couldn’t hide her smile. “Sure. Just

give me a minute to finish this last report. Then we can drop it

off to Skinner on our way to lunch.”

The Assistant Director was standing in his outer office,

consulting with his administrative assistant when the agents

arrived. “I was about to call and leave a message for you to

come see me after lunch,” he said, ushering the pair into the

interior room of the suite. “I have a new case for you.”

He handed a file folder to Mulder and the two agents sat down

in their usual chairs in front of Skinner’s desk. Scully leaned

over as Mulder held the folder between them.

“Missing persons?” she asked, as Mulder flipped through the

pages.

“The girl is the daughter of Los Angeles city council member —

with close ties to the Attorney General,” Skinner said tersely.

“Oh goodie. So how did we get this little gem?” Mulder asked,

handing the rather thin folder over to his partner.

“Apparently — an eye witness, admittedly almost 10 miles

away, reported . . . ” Skinner flexed his jaw, a sure sign he

wasn’t comfortable with what he was about to say. “Bright

lights in the sky.”

Mulder closed his eyes and leaned his head back, as if exposing

his throat to a guillotine. Scully licked her upper lip and sighed

heavily. After a moment, Mulder straightened up and took the

folder back. He read a little further and his forehead creased

with a frown. “Wait a minute, where was this?”

Skinner thought for a moment. “Southern California, out in the

desert,” he said with a shrug.

“No, not just in the desert. In the desert outside Landers.

They were near the Integratron,” Mulder stated with a knowing

smile.

“The what?” Scully countered. “What is an Integratron? I

never heard of such a thing.”

“And here I thought I’d corrupted you completely, Scully,”

Mulder shot her a grin. “The Integratron is the masterpiece of

a slightly off balanced aircraft engineer, George Van Tassel. He

got the idea — ”

“No, don’t tell me, from an elf that snuck through his window

while he was playing billiards,” Scully parried.

Mulder’s grin broadened and he gave her a brief nod in

acknowledgement of her memory. “Not quite. It was a visitor

from the planet Venus named Solgonda,” he answered. “But I

must say, Scully, I’m impressed.”

Skinner cleared his throat and gave Mulder a disgusted glare.

“And this — Integratron — is significant to the case?”

“Well, just a couple of months ago it was the site for a big UFO

watchers convention. They must have picked it for a reason,”

Mulder observed.

“UFO convention?” Skinner queried.

“Yeah, the Gunmen went out for it. Frohike took one of the

sound baths the place is famous for. C’mon Scully, you have to

admit the little man had a ‘glow’ about him when they came

back.”

“I assumed it was the sun and the tequila,” Scully mused.

“Be that as it may,” Skinner said firmly, “you are to go out to

Landers and work with the LA regional office on this one. I

expect periodic reports on your progress. We need to find out

what happened to those two kids — ET or otherwise. Kim has

your tickets. You leave tonight.”

“Good thing the symphony is next weekend,” Mulder muttered.

“I just hope we’re back in time,” Scully whispered as they

departed the office.

“Oh, we will be. I promise. Nothing could make me miss our

first date,” he assured her, letting his hand rest on the small of

her back as they walked to the elevators.

Act 1

Landers, California

June 10, 2006

10:45 am

If there was one thing Mulder could say for the desert, there

was certainly no need for a flashlight — if the sun was out.

Even his FBI approved Ray Bans were having a hard time

reflecting the glare off the white dome of the Integratron. His

fuzzy feeling could have been attributed to jet lag, they had left

Dulles at a not quite red-eye flight time of 4:30 pm, but they

arrived at LAX just seconds shy of midnight (Eastern Daylight

Time) and that made it over six hours travel time.

At Scully’s worried look and gentle coaxing, he’d swallowed a

bitter tasting sleeping pill when they finally arrived at their

adjoining rooms. He got his revenge when his partner had

been forced to spend ten minutes waking him out of his

drugged slumber. She was right, he had slept a full 5 and one

half hours without a single dream that he could remember. The

down side was he felt like a vampire about to crumble to dust

in the brilliance of the late morning sunshine.

The Supervisory Agent In Charge of the Los Angeles Regional

Office had assigned a young agent just out of Quantico to

accompany them to Landers. The Junior G-Man was complete

with a buzz haircut, grey suit, and his own set of Ray Bans. His

name was Jason Clark, and Mulder was certain he’d lied about

his age on his application. He also suspected the slight

indentations in the young man’s earlobes and eyebrows spoke

to a few pieces of jewelry gathering dust in a drawer

somewhere.

Scully was just a few feet away, inspecting a blanket, all but

buried in the sand, and an empty wine bottle. She picked it up

with latex encased hands, sniffing at the rim. “Not exactly

dealing with a high roller here,” she quipped and dropped the

bottle in an evidence bag.

“You didn’t send an evidence team out here earlier?” Mulder

asked Clark.

The young man looked perplexed. “At first, no, but we did late

last night. I think it was assumed they’d taken off, maybe to

Vegas. The kids weren’t reported as missing until the owners

of the property found their car abandoned on the side of the

road and called the highway patrol. CHP called the boy’s

parents; their name is on the title and registration. When we

figured out it belonged to one of the missing we had our

evidence team go over it, but the only prints found were the

two kids.”

Mulder frowned, thinking hard. Something wasn’t right but the

fog in his mind wouldn’t allow him to see the pieces clearly.

“Mulder, you need to come here and look at this,” Scully called

from a few yards away. She was crouching low and poking at

something on the ground. He was beside her in a few strides,

dropping down next to her.

“What is that?” he asked. Carefully, she picked up the object

by the edges.

“Glass,” she said, handing it over to him. It was oddly shaped,

about 8 inched long and 4 to 5 inches wide at the widest point.

It was irregular and the coloring wasn’t even.

“Lightning?” Mulder asked of her.

“This area sees less than 2 inches of rain a year, Mulder,” she

replied with a shrug. “And there’s more of it, over there. All

lying on top of the sand.”

They exchanged knowing looks, communicating and

remembering at one and the same moment. “You think

something from above did this?” he asked. She shrugged

again. “Collect some of it, let’s have it analyzed,” he

suggested.

Clark, in the meantime, had gone into the building and

returned. “I just called the office. The families haven’t

received any ransom calls or notes.”

“They aren’t likely to get any, if it’s who I think is responsible,”

Mulder said rising and dusting the sand off his hands. “Agent

Clark, if you could take these items back to the office and send

them down to the lab for us we’d appreciate it.”

Clark nodded, happy to be doing something productive rather

than just acting as tour guide. “Sure, no problem.”

As they started back toward the car, Mulder made a left turn

and headed into the Integratron. Scully had to scramble to

follow him. She caught his elbow as he reached the door.

“Mulder, shouldn’t we be going back to LA?” she asked, though

to Mulder’s ears it sounded a lot like one of her ‘commands’.

“I just wanted to check this place out a minute, Scully. The

guys told me all about it one night over cheese steaks,” he

mugged back at her.

The interior was just as Byers had described it. The dome

ceiling was supported by 16 ‘spines’ that made the center look

like a double-legged spider suspended 38 feet above. The

wood had a light stain and there were windows all along the

bottom, giving the interior an airy appearance. The vaulted

room was largely empty, save for a sling-like chair that hung

from the center of the ceiling.

“Tassel built the dome to coordinate with Lakhovsky’s principles

of a multiple wave oscillator. Lakhovsky believed that cells

were living batteries, a positively charged nucleus surrounded

by negatively charged cytoplasm. He further theorized that if

cells were subjected to a range of oscillations, they would

actually regenerate,” Mulder extemporized as they circled the

room.

“We could have used that theory back when we were stuck on

the Ardent,” Scully interjected with a smirk.

“Exactly,” Mulder replied with a grin. “And remember, you

were the one who suggested the meteor that fell was acting as

a giant battery in the ocean, causing our cells to oxidize too

quickly.”

“Even so, Mulder, this is — well, a little far-fetched, don’t you

think?” she retorted.

Mulder stood in one place, slowly turned around and looking

toward the ceiling. “I don’t know, Scully. Maybe if we hadn’t

aged 60 years in a couple of days, I might agree with you.”

“Would you like to give it a try, Agents?” called a woman from

the doorway. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Barb, one

of the owners. I was just talking to Agent Clark and came to

see if there was anything else you needed to look at. Sure

hope you find those kids.”

“So do we, thank you for cooperating with the investigation,”

Scully answered. “But as for trying this out — ”

“I’d love to,” Mulder interrupted before Scully could give a

negative response. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all, it’s what we do. It will take about 30

minutes for a sound bath, if that’s all right with you,” Barb said

amiably, looking from Mulder to Scully. Scully sighed in

annoyance, but finally nodded her acquiescence. Mulder

nodded happily.

“Why don’t I go tell Agent Clark we’re going to be here a little

while longer,” Scully offered with a roll of her eyes but went out

to find the young agent. Mulder followed Barb to a part of the

room that had a table with a number of large white bowls of

different shapes and sizes.

“These are our sound bowls,” Barb explained. “They’re made

from quartz, and we beat Ivory because we’re 99.99 percent

pure,” she added with a smile. “The sound waves are tuned to

the seven chakras and promote relaxation, pain relief — they

cure whatever ails you.”

“Do you have them on a party mix?” Mulder joked, but sat

down in the hanging chair and tried not to get seasick.

“I’ll get them started, you just try to clear your mind.”

The notes started and Mulder closed his eyes. The sound

seemed to wash over him in waves, gentle waves lapping at the

shore. He smiled as he imagined the beaches of his childhood,

running barefoot through the surf, chasing Samantha who

always seemed to be just ahead of him. He focused on his

breathing and found himself losing the fogginess induced by the

drugs from the night before. He felt at peace and drifting on

the waves of sound.

In his mind’s eye, he was driving down a street. It was night,

quiet, just city noises. Odd place to feel relaxed, he thought

momentarily, but soon he was searching and found a single

storefront, solitary on a block. The buildings on either side had

been torn down at some point, made into parking lots. Just the

one storefront remained. The windows and door in the front

had bars, roof to sidewalk, to keep out intruders. The glass of

the windows had been painted black so that no one could see

inside.

Mulder saw himself get out of the car and press his face against

the glass. Where the paint had chipped off, he could see into

the room. He thought he saw a pair of feet, bound — someone

sitting in a chair and tied up.

That was all the encouragement he needed to motion to Scully

to follow him. Scully got out of the car and walked with him

around to the back, where the cinder block structure had a

simple unmarked metal door. Scully leaned against the wall,

acting as lookout as he produced his lock pick and went to work

on the lock. He reached his hand out to grasp and pull the

knob and heard a slight popping sound before the building

erupted in an explosion.

Mulder startled forward and almost fell out of the swing chair,

but he was caught in the ropes. The chair, suspended from so

far above, began swinging wildly. He could hear someone

calling him, but he could still feel the heat of the explosion, the

impact of brick and mortar falling on him. His terror for Scully

was greater than his terror for himself. Even with his eyes

open he could see her body engulfed in flames, hear her

screams ringing in his ears. She was gone, dead, he knew it!

It took several minutes before he felt her hands on either side

of his face, talking to him in tender caresses of words. “Mulder,

come back to me,” she was repeating and his breath filled his

lungs once more where it had long been absent. He opened his

eyes and she gave him a nervous smile.

“No more sound baths,” she told him firmly as she helped him

crawl out of the sky chair. “What happened? You are anything

but relaxed. Did you have another — vision?” Her inflection on

the word underlined her concern.

“Yeah, I think so. It was something,” he whispered. “We have

to get out of here.”

clip_image003

“Out of the desert?” she asked, helping him to his feet, only to

grab his arm sharply when he swayed and almost went down.

“Out of California. Back to DC. I want you back in DC before

tonight.”

“Mulder, that’s ridiculous! We’re here on a case. I can’t just

run back to DC now.”

He knew he was scaring her, but he had to find a way to keep

her safe. Placating her would raise her suspicions, but it was

all he had. “OK. Sorry. Let’s just get back to the office and

see if they’ve heard from the kidnappers.”

She looked at him crossly. “You don’t think it’s — ”

“Someone very ‘terrestrial’ snatched those kids, Scully,” he

hissed in her ear. “And they are in danger, I know that for a

fact. But we aren’t going to find them out here.”

Federal Office Building

11000 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA

1:45 pm

All the way to the office, Scully kept giving Mulder stern looks.

He knew she wanted to know about the vision but couldn’t ask

in front of Agent Clark. Mulder was just as happy to have Clark

in the car — there was no way he could tell Scully about this

one. As soon as he overcame his disorientation, he knew what

he’d seen. Someone had those kids in that storefront and had

it rigged to blow. But he also felt in his heart that if he called

out the troops, all they would find would be a pile of rubble. He

had to go alone and find that storefront — without Scully. And

at all costs, he had to avoid going in that back door.

They had just arrived at the office when one of the

administrative assistants walked up to Scully. “Agent Scully,

you’re a pathologist, right?” asked the woman cautiously. At

Scully’s affirmative nod, the woman smiled brightly. “Oh,

good! Agent Martinez would like a word with you — in his

office.”

Scully turned so that only Mulder could see and rolled her eyes.

“I have a feeling I’m going to be tied up for a while. What are

you going to do?” she asked.

“I think I’d like to talk to the kids’ parents, take a look around.

Maybe I can get a fix on who they might have fallen in with,

who might want to snatch them.”

“You’re certain this wasn’t . . .” she restated as she let her eyes

drift toward the ceiling.

“As sure as I am of my own name, Scully. Aside from that

glass, which could have gotten there in any number of ways,

and an eye witness account from 10 miles away, all we have to

go on is two missing persons. Missing from a very deserted

location, at night. I just want to find them before any harm

comes to them.”

Scully shrugged and patted his arm. “Well, I’m pretty sure I’m

about to be ‘volunteered’ to do a autopsy here, so when I’m

finished, I’ll catch up with you, OK?”

“I’ll meet you back at the hotel, if not before,” he assured her.

Councilwoman Gainer’s residence

3:15 pm

“She’s a good girl. Usually she gives us no trouble whatsoever.

But since she’s picked up with Mark, well, she did get in rather

late a night or two. Still, I can’t imagine them running off.

Someone took them, Agent Mulder,” Mrs. Gainer said firmly,

fighting the tears choking her voice.

“Mrs. Gainer, is there anyone, anyone at all who might want to

harm you or your husband, even an old score, someone you

might have dealt with when you were Assistant District

Attorney?” Mulder asked gently.

Her head shot up and she bit her lip. “Agent Mulder, I

understand where you’re going with this. But I have wracked

my brain and I can’t come up with anyone who would do this.

Yes, I had my share of cases as ADA, but the criminals I put

away are all accounted for. As for my husband, he’s a

professor of anthropology at UCLA. Jilly has no enemies, only

friends. I’m not being immodest; she doesn’t have a mean

spirited bone in her body. I honestly can’t think of anyone who

would take her from us.” The middle-aged woman brushed a

tear from her cheek. “Besides, wouldn’t we have received a

ransom note or something by now? It’s been over 48 hours.”

Mulder sighed and flipped his notebook closed. “Would you

mind if we had a look at Jill’s room?”

Jill Gainer’s room was just like any other 18 year old college co-

ed’s, filled with certificates and awards from her high school

days as well as boxes yet unpacked from her move back home

for summer break. Mulder looked over the selection of books

on the five shelved bookcase. Nothing unusual, not even

anything about UFOs. After thanking the Gainers, Mulder and

Clark drove to the home of Mark Henry.

The Henry house was a modest home. A decade old minivan

sat in the driveway, but the interior of the home was neat and

clean. Mrs. Henry sat on the worn sofa, a high school yearbook

clutched in her hands, tear stains on her cheeks.

“He’s been working at McDonald’s but he’s started applying to

colleges, you know,” she said with a strained smile. “His

grades weren’t that good, but he wants to get into UCLA

because that’s where Jill is going. If he can’t get in there, he’ll

go to community college and get his grades up. He was just so

busy in high school, he kept down a job — ”

“He didn’t run off with that girl,” Mr. Henry said adamantly. “I

know that’s what the big shot politician is saying happened, but

it didn’t. Mark wasn’t like that! He and Jill were friends, maybe

a little more than friends, but they didn’t run off!”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, Mr. Henry. That’s why we’re

here. And if you can think of anyone who might have a grudge

or something — ”

“I’m not saying he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer, Agent

Mulder. But Mark is a decent kid. This neighborhood — well,

some of the kids are into drugs, gangs. Not Mark. He went to

school, he went to work, he hung out at the mall. Just a

normal kid, you know?” The older man seemed annoyed as he

brushed moisture from his eye. “We just want him home.”

“Do you mind if we take a look around Mark’s room,” Mulder

asked, not wanting to bother the family any longer than

absolutely necessary.

“What are you thinking, Agent Mulder?” Clark asked as he

followed the man around the room. Mulder moved some

clothes off a chair to discover several issues of ‘Blender’

magazine. A couple of posters on the wall were of military jets

and the space shuttle. Nothing jumped out at him or really

drew his attention.

“No enemies, no note, I’d have to say I’m leaning toward

someone snatching those kids whose sole purpose was foul

play, not ransom.”

“Isn’t that pretty rare?” Clark rejoined.

“Rare doesn’t mean it _can’t_ happen, Agent. Just that it

doesn’t happen very often,” Mulder instructed.

“But it also means there should be more kidnappings like this

one, doesn’t it? I mean there should be a pattern or

something?”

“You would think,” Mulder mused, picking up a Dodgers cap

that had fallen to the floor. “Or this could be the first one.”

Clark leaned against the doorway, checking the hall before

speaking. “We aren’t going to find those kids, are we, Agent

Mulder?” he asked.

Mulder was quiet for a moment, considering his answer. “I

want to find them, Agent. I’ll do everything in my power to

find them.”

Clark nodded grimly and led the way out of the room.

Act II

Travelodge – LAX

8:45 pm

Mulder was lying on the bed flipping channels, half a pizza

congealing on the dresser when Scully finally made it to the

room.

“Why is it every time someone finds out I’m a pathologist,

suddenly there’s an autopsy that just has to be performed

immediately?” she whined as she dropped next to him on the

bed, face down.

He smiled at her and shifted around so that he could massage

her shoulders. “Rough day at the office, dear?” he teased

lovingly in her ear.

“Yes,” she said, muffled by the pillow.

“I made dinner. It’s over there,” he encouraged, nodding

toward the pizza box.

“I don’t smell pepperoni,” she complained.

“You don’t smell it because you use that ‘stuff’ on your nose so

you can’t smell the dead bodies. If you look closely, there are

pepperonis on the remaining half of that pizza,” he directed.

She pulled herself up with exaggerated slowness and inspected

the now cold pizza. Grabbing a particularly large slice, she tore

off a hunk and chewed. “Drink?” she mumbled.

He disappeared into the alcove outside the bathroom and

returned with a diet cola, dripping with melted ice. “Red wine

with pizza, right?”

“Of course,” she agreed and popped the top one handed. “Did

you find out anything interesting speaking with the families?”

she asked around bites.

“That these are the two most adorable and loving children in

the world and no one could possibly want to harm them,” he

recited in monotone.

“Even the Councilwoman’s kid? I thought she was a DA before

— ”

“Apparently that angle has been checked out before our arrival.

She said all the criminals she prosecuted have been accounted

for.”

“So we have nothing,” Scully said glumly. “I’m taking a

shower.”

Mulder resumed his channel surfing but his mind was not on

the television. He couldn’t shake the images that kept looping

in his brain. He knew where the kids were. It wasn’t just some

‘hunch’ on his part this time. Just as surely as he’d know

months before when those people had been called to the

Milford Bridge in Pennsylvania.

If only he could figure out _where_ that storefront was.

Deserted storefronts in many areas of LA were a dime a dozen

and it wasn’t exactly prudent on his part to order the Bureau or

the LAPD to go searching them all door to door.

His visions had always been unexpected, brought on suddenly

by either contact with alien artifacts or the more recent ‘sound

bath’ he’d taken at the Integratron. But he’d never forced them

to come. Maybe if he tired he could put himself in a trance . . .

The bathroom door opened and Scully came out wearing just a

towel. He smiled at her. “Wow, the view in this room just got

a whole lot better,” he teased.

“Yeah? You think?” she asked, crawling up on the bed beside

him. Instead of the slow seduction he was expecting — hoping

for — she flopped face down again. “Mulder, I think I’m too old

to travel across the country and then work a full day,” she

admitted with a tired sigh.

He smiled affectionately at her and took up rubbing her

shoulders again. “You stay right there,” he ordered and got off

the bed to rummage in her suitcase for a moment. When he

returned he gently helped her into a pair of royal blue silk

pajamas.

“Are you sure you don’t want to . . .” she started to ask, but a

large yawn that shook her with its force stopped her in the

middle of the question.

“Tomorrow, after you’ve had a good night’s sleep,” he told her,

kissing her nose. He helped her pull back the covers and then

helped her cover back up again. “Get some sleep. I love you,”

he told her.

She lay down on the pillows, closing her eyes with a contented

smile. Suddenly her eyes flew open and she pinned him with

her stare. “Mulder. You aren’t staying awake are you?”

“I just wanted to go over a few things,” he covered, pointing to

the files.

“Look, you didn’t get that much sleep last night and you

definitely aren’t caught up from this past week, either. Why

don’t you take another pill — just so you don’t have another . .

. you know,” she suggested timidly.

He wanted to object but saw the longing and concern in her

eyes. “Where are they?” he asked tiredly.

“Inner pocket of my suitcase,” she told him. She watched him

warily as he pulled the pill bottle out of the bag and extracted

one pill, holding it up for her inspection. At her nod, he walked

over to the sink and drew a glass of water.

He could see her clearly in the mirror. She’d turned her back

and had snuggled down into the covers. It was a simple

motion to grab a tissue, stuff the pill into it and toss it in the

garbage next to the sink. He drank the water and went back to

the bed.

She rolled over when he returned and watched as he slid out of

his pants and dress shirt, leaving just his boxers and tee. She

held out the covers for him. Once he was settled, she put her

head on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his chest.

“G’night, Mulder. Love you,” she mumbled.

He kissed the crown of her head. “I love you, too, Scully.

Always and forever.”

He didn’t have long to wait for her to fall deeply asleep. He felt

horrible as he crawled out of bed to go sit in the chair by the

window. He felt like he was lying to her, palming the pill,

letting her think he was actually going to sleep. But it was for

her own good — and those kids. He knew the vision was a

warning; he couldn’t bring Scully when he went to find those

kids. If anything were to ever happen to her —

She was going to be mad when she figured it out, but he’d

make it up to her. And maybe, once he had the kids back

safely, he’d come back to the motel and apologize in person,

not over the phone as he often did. Didn’t they always say

make-up sex was the best?

He’d gone into trances plenty of times in college and when

working with Dr. Weber. It didn’t take long for him to sink into

the nether world. This time as he found himself driving down

the street he purposely searched the street signs.

He brought himself out of the trance and reached for the phone

book in the desk drawer. Taking it into the bathroom, where

he turned on the light, he found the map of LA and the

surrounding area. He tore the pages out of the book, and

headed out — but not before taking a single sheet of paper

from the guest services folder and scribbling a note.

It wasn’t really ditching if he told her where he was going.

Travelodge

June 11, 2006

12:21 am

She awoke in a cold sweat, panting to get air into her lungs.

Even as she opened her eyes, the nightmare slipped from her

grasp and she was left feeling terrified. When Scully discovered

the other side of the bed empty, her fear became

overwhelming.

“Mulder?” she called out, hoping he was just in the bathroom.

No answer came and she cursed loudly, tossing off the covers

and snapping on the light. The note was standing against the

lamp, right in plain view.

‘Scully

I fully expect an ass chewing, but I had to get those kids. If I

sense trouble, I’ll call out the troops. If you don’t hear from me

— come save my ass. I’m going to an abandoned building in

the 2400 block of Santa Fe, directions on the back.

Hope you aren’t so mad that you won’t go on our date next

Friday.

Love

M’

Anger surged through her as she grabbed for her cell phone.

She punched three buttons and started looking for clothes to

throw on as she listened to the rings. He was smart enough to

pick up on the second ring.

“Mulder,” he said in a hushed voice.

“Where the hell are you and what the fuck do you think you’re

doing?” she growled.

“Scully,” he breathed. “Um, look — ”

“No, Mulder, you look. What were you thinking, ditching me

like this? No,” she stopped him before he could even answer.

“Let me tell you what you were thinking. You were thinking

that you knew from that vision you had this morning exactly

where the kids are and you were going to go in like the Lone

Ranger — ”

“Scully, that’s not fair! I left you a note, damn it,” he hissed.

“Look, this is all fine, but I’m kinda busy right now.”

“Where are you?”

“A warehouse district down by the railroad tracks. Yes, you’re

right, I had a vision today. And it was just like Milford Bridge,

Scully. Remember Milford Bridge? The one where only three

people died instead of dozens? So I’m here now and I think I

need to check this out, don’t you?”

She chewed on her lip. At least she was there to call for help if

he got into trouble. She had half a mind to call 911 from the

motel phone while she kept him on the line on her cell. “What

have you found?”

clip_image005

“Looks like late 70’s urban renewal. It used to be a small

shopping area or something. All the other buildings have been

demolished except one little storefront. There are bars on the

windows and it looks like their painted from the inside — I can’t

see anything. Wait!”

“Mulder?” she asked frantically.

“Scully, I see something. There’s a place where the paint must

have peeled off. I can see movement in there, Scully. I think

it’s the kids.”

“Is there a back door — ”

“No!” he shouted and then lowered his voice. “No, no good.

Can’t go in the back door.”

“Mulder, if you have your lock pick — ”

“Bad idea, Scully. Trust me on this one.”

“OK, then let me call the police. They can get the door open —

“Scully, look, the fewer people around here, the better.

Besides, I found a basement window and the bars are pretty

deteriorated. Let me try something — ”

She waited breathlessly while she heard him grunting and the

sounds of metal scraping. “Scully?” he asked.

“I’m still here, Mulder.”

“OK, I got the bars off and the window opened. I’m going in.”

“Mulder, I’m calling the police now.”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

She picked up the other phone and dialed quickly. When she

had the dispatcher on the line, she turned back to Mulder.

“What’s the address?”

“It’s the 3100 block of S. Santa Fe Avenue in Vernon. It’s

about 15 minutes from our motel,” he told her. She quickly

repeated that information, along with her badge number to the

dispatcher and hung up.

“I see stairs, Scully. I’m going up them.”

“Mulder, please, be careful. The police are on their way. Why

don’t you just wait — ”

“I see the kids, Scully. I see them. They’re both tied up and

they looked drugged, but they’re alive. I’m —

She heard a thud, the sound of a cell phone hitting a hard

surface, followed immediately by a sound that almost burst her

eardrum. The cell phone went dead; the display saying the call

was lost.

She knew what it sounded like — an explosion. But she also

knew that she could be mistaken. She prayed she was

mistaken. For what seemed like an eternity she stood there,

staring at the phone’s display. Then the earth started to rotate

again and she quickly dialed Jason Clark’s cell phone number.

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S. Santa Fe Avenue

Vernon, CA

1:33 am

She had finished dressing and was waiting outside when Clark

arrive some 30 minutes after her call. She’d tried Mulder’s

number several times in those minutes, getting the same

recorded voice telling her the cellular customer was not

available. She called the police dispatcher, but was told that

there was no information available from the scene. By the time

Clark pulled up to the curb to let her in the car, she was trying

hard to put a stop to her frantic thoughts.

When they turned the corner to the warehouse district, she

spotted the flashing lights and breathed a sigh of relief. The

police had arrived. Her relief died when she saw the fire trucks

and the rubble that had been an abandoned storefront.

Her heart was in her throat as she raced out of the car, not

even waiting until Clark came to a full stop. A cop grabbed her

arm and she tried to shake him off, but he wouldn’t let her go.

Finally realizing she had her ID, she flashed her badge and was

let loose to run toward the wreckage.

As she got closer, she saw the ambulances. On the ground

near the two vehicles were indistinct shapes, lumpy and slick

looking in the strobing lights. She slowed her pace and her

heart skipped several beats. Someone was tugging on her

sleeve and she turned to find Clark standing next to a soot-

covered fireman.

“This is Agent Scully,” Clark said by way of introduction.

“Agent Scully, this is Chief Ramirez of the LAFD.”

“Agent Clark tells me you’re looking for someone?” Ramirez

queried.

“Yes. My partner and two kidnap victims, did you find my

partner?” she rasped, finding it harder and harder to

concentrate with those black shapes on the ground so near.

“Sorry ma’am, I’m not sure what you’re asking. There was an

explosion. Place went up like a roman candle. We were able to

pull three bodies out the debris — ”

“Three bodies?” she croaked, swaying. Clark grabbed her by

the shoulder, but she shook him off.

“Yeah. They’re over there. Ambulances are here to take them

to the morgue. That fire was hot, identification’s gonna be a

bitch — they’ll have to rely on dental records, more than likely.

Now, what’s this about your partner? Why on earth would he

be here?”

“My partner. My partner and I were investigating a missing

persons case. Two teenagers. He found them. We were on

the phone together, I called the police and directed them to this

address.”

“Well, we didn’t see anybody around here when we got here.

That car was parked over there,” he said, pointing to a car with

a Lariat bumper sticker, sitting just a few yards down the

street. “Sorta surprised it has wheels left in this

neighborhood.”

Scully jogged to the car, only to find it locked. Quickly pawing

through her pockets, she came up with the spare key. The

door opened easily and she swallowed around the boulder in

her throat. She didn’t hear Clark come up until he touched her

arm and she jumped.

“He has to be here. He told me he was coming here,” she

repeated.

A policeman joined Agent Clark and looked sympathetically at

the now distraught woman. “Ma’am, maybe you better take a

look over here,” the cop suggested, motioning toward the

bodies on the pavement.

“Agent Scully,” Clark said compassionately. “Maybe . . . you

have to consider . . .”

She spun on the young man with fire burning deep in her eyes.

“That’s not him. He’s not in one of those bags over there,” she

spat out. “Here, I’ll prove it.”

Anger gave her the strength she needed to storm over to the

body bags and unzip them one by one. The first, from the size

of the body and the hands and feet, was obviously a young

woman or a teen-aged girl. Her heart sank as she closed the

bag again. The second body wasn’t much taller, but the feet

were larger and years of experience told her it was a small man

or a nearly adult male. She was having a hard time getting air

into her lungs. As she pulled back the zipper on the last bag all

background noise around her faded. All she could hear was the

sound of the tag running through the metal teeth. She peeled

open the sides of the bag and stared into the face of her

partner.

“Scully, where were you? I needed you,” Mulder accused.

She stumbled backward several feet in horror. When she could

force herself to look again, the image of her partner’s face had

vanished and in its place was a burned corpse, totally

unrecognizable. She blinked twice and then darkness

swallowed her.

The next few hours were almost lost to her and what she could

recall came to her in flashes of memory. She vaguely

remembered Clark helping her into the passenger seat of his

car but recollected none of the drive to the motel. She recalled

getting in the elevator but had no idea how she managed to

find herself in bed with the sun shining around the drapes

covering the window.

She saw movement in the shadows and raised her head slowly.

Her head hurt terribly and her mouth was unusually dry. The

shadow moved again, silhouetted by the light from the window.

Assuming it was Mulder, she closed her eyes, thinking it had all

been a bad dream.

When she dared to look, the figure came into focus as Clark

stood up from his chair at the table and offered her a cup of

coffee. Her gut twisted as she realized the events of the past

24 hours weren’t a dream — she was living her worst

nightmare.

Clark looked at her sympathetically. “I called Agent Martinez

and he put in a call to Assistant Director Skinner. The DC office

emailed a copy of Agent Mulder’s dental records to the Medical

Examiner here. He’s waiting for you to come to the morgue, if

you’re feeling up to it.”

It all came crashing back — the note, the call, the noise over

the phone, the rubble, the body bag, Mulder accusing her of not

coming to his aid — the burned corpse. She drew in a breath,

and studied the pressed foam coffee cup. “I need to get

dressed,” she said absently running her fingers through her

hair.

“Agent Scully, um, AD Skinner said he’d contact your mother.

He’s on his way out here.”

She nodded and stood up, only to find herself sitting heavily

back on the edge of the bed. The dizziness had come out of

nowhere. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she mused.

She made an effort to rise more slowly and wasn’t bother by it

again.

“Shock, most likely,” Clark offered. “Agent Scully, I haven’t

had a chance to tell you how sorry I am . . . Agent Mulder

seemed like a really — ”

“I’ll be right out,” Scully said abruptly, cutting off the younger

man’s platitudes.

When she came back into the room, Clark was on the phone.

He smiled sadly at her, handing her the coffee, freshened.

“Yes, we’ll be there in about half an hour. Yeah, thanks.” He

placed the receiver back on its cradle. “That was Agent

Martinez. AD Skinner’s plane just touched down and an agent

is meeting him at the gate. He’ll catch up with us at the

morgue.”

“What time is it?” she asked, sipping the coffee. She felt so

fuzzy, she drained the cup only for the desire to have the

caffeine wake her up from the phantasm she was living.

“It’s a quarter to four,” Clark said after checking his watch.

“I was asleep all that time?” she asked, shaking her head to

clear her thoughts.

“It’s been a rough night,” Clark soothed. After an

uncomfortable silence, he jiggled the keys in his pocket. “Are

you ready to go?”

She nodded stiffly and followed him out to his car.

As they made their way through late afternoon rush hour

traffic, Scully stared out the window. A hundred images

tumbled free fall through her mind.

Holding defibrillator paddles in a military hospital in Alaska,

watching his body jump with each application of electrical

current.

Standing windswept in a desert outside Farmington, New

Mexico, screaming his name as she peered into the smoldering

husk of an ancient boxcar.

Walking through the foyer of his old apartment toward a sheet

covered corpse lying on his living room floor.

Arguing with Skinner in the hallway of Northeast Georgetown

Medical Center as Diana Fowley sauntered toward her.

Trembling with the force of unshed tears as a doctor at

Georgetown told her of Mulder’s precarious condition while

Skinner watched her closely and gauged her reaction.

A thought jumped unbidden into her consciousness. She was

supposed to be feeling something — anything. Fear, anger,

soul-wrenching sorrow . . . but there was nothing. A black and

endless void filled her entire being. She looked out the

window, seeing her faint reflection in the glass. That’s exactly

how she felt — a faint, near-invisible reflection of herself.

Experimentally she bit her bottom lip hard, tasting the blood’s

copper tang. Nothing. No pain, no sensation. That should

bother her, she thought. That was wrong. But then, what was

right anymore?

She wanted to feel. She wanted to be angry with him for

leaving their bed and running off again. She wanted to feel

loss, the deep, yearning depravation of losing half her soul.

She wanted to feel sorrow, grief, heartbreak, and lament,

anything but this empty shell of emotions.

She should have gone to him, she thought. But there hadn’t

been time. She’d called the police; they would have been there

before her anyway. But she’d been at the motel, safe, while

Mulder had —

Why wasn’t she screaming, she wondered distantly. Why

wasn’t she tearing her hair out by the roots? It was her own

fault, she mused. She’d held her emotions about her partner

so tightly in check for all those years, only recently allowing

them full reign over her mind and body. This was the price to

be paid — now that she needed them, needed to feel more than

anything else in the world, she couldn’t.

No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t need to feel emotions. She

needed to feel Mulder’s arms around her. She needed to feel

his warm lips pressing a kiss to the crown of her head. She

needed to feel his hand at the small of her back, guiding her,

letting her know that he was always behind her, backing her

up, whatever they faced.

“Agent Scully?” Clark interrupted her thoughts. She realized

the car wasn’t moving. They were in a drive through. Trying

to clear her mind to the present, she accepted the cup of coffee

he was offering her. “I got you blueberry muffin. I realized

you hadn’t had anything to eat in a while.” She looked down

and found a small pastry bag, top folded, sitting in her lap.

“Thank you, Agent Clark,” she mumbled. She put the cup to

her lips and sipped at the hot liquid. Even the bitter coffee

hitting the cut on her bottom lip didn’t give her any sensation.

Numb. She was completely numb.

“Jason,” he said, putting the car in drive and pulling out into

traffic.

“I’m sorry?” she asked, forcing her head to turn and look at the

young man.

“My first name. It’s Jason. I . . . I just thought . . . Agent

Clark sounds so much like a stranger. I just wanted you to

know that you aren’t alone Agent Scully, um, Dana. It will be

all right. My . . . uh, my Dad died a year ago and I remember

my Mom — not that you and Agent Mulder were married or

anything — ”

“How close are we to the morgue?” Scully broke in. He was a

nice young man and she knew she shouldn’t treat him so

coldly, but she couldn’t hear about his memories of his father’s

death. Her mind wouldn’t allow it.

I’m not allowed to feel, but I can’t hear about death either, she

mused. Why? What psychological security system was at work

acting as border patrol on her thoughts? Her id? Her

superego? Mulder would know. Oh, right, she couldn’t ask

Mulder. He wasn’t there to consult on psychological matters

anymore.

“Just around this corner.” He seemed to be considering his

next words. “I can let you out and park the car — but if you’d

rather, I can help you — ”

“That won’t be necessary, Agent, er, Jason. Thank you, you’ve

been very helpful. Just drop me off at the curb. I’ve been here

before.”

“Sure, Agent — Dana. Agent Martinez and AD Skinner are

waiting for you in the lobby. I’ll be in shortly.”

She got out of the car and started toward the entrance. The

door opened before she got there and suddenly Skinner was

walking beside her, his large hand on her shoulder. “Scully,”

he said, watching her, once again gauging her reaction. “Are

you ready for this?” The worry and concern in his voice caused

a shiver down her spine, but she looked up at him placidly.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said woodenly. “Let’s do this.”

She caught the furtive glance Skinner cast toward Agent

Martinez. Martinez looked like he wanted to be anywhere else

in the world at that moment. Awkwardly, he offered Scully his

hand. “I’m very sorry — ”

“Let’s see what we’ve got,” Scully interrupted. She didn’t want

platitudes. She didn’t want sympathy. She wanted to wake

up.

That thought stuck with her as they entered an elevator and

descended two floors. She wanted to wake up. It was all a

dream. She remembered, although vaguely, another dream

she’d had like this. Mulder’s skeleton was laid out on a metal

table near Brown Mountain, North Carolina. A wake was held in

his apartment. Langly was in a tuxedo tee shirt and Frohike

downed a bottle of booze while Byers talked the ‘the party line’

at her. It had been a dream. If that had been a dream,

couldn’t it be possible . . .

She jumped when Skinner’s hand grazed the small of her back,

pushing her out of the elevator car. He started to apologize but

she shook her head — she hadn’t taken offense, she’d just been

startled. There was a long corridor to walk down to the exam

rooms and she felt every step take them farther and farther

away from their destination. You’re going into shock again, a

tiny voice in the back of her mind informed her. Hell of a lot of

good it did her to know that, she couldn’t control it even if she

tried.

The Medical Examiner was standing near the far wall, a light

board next to him. Dental records were displayed, three sets of

negatives displayed in two neat rows. He waited until she was

standing next to him before he began.

“There have been positive identifications on two of the bodies

so far. Councilwoman Gainer was down earlier and identified

the remains of her daughter Jill. Mr. and Mrs. Henry came

down soon after and identified their son, Mark. These x-rays

here,” he pointed to the last set to the right on the top row,

“were provided by the FBI from Agent Mulder’s file.” He

swallowed and pointed to the ones directly below the last set.

“We took these from the third body this morning.”

Scully closed her eyes and brought her hands up to her mouth,

her fingers knotted as if in prayer. Taking in as much air as her

lungs could hold she slowly opened her eyes and inspected the

last two sets of dental records.

There was not even a shadow of doubt. The first set showed

bridgework in the area of the lower front incisors, the result of

being an unexpected and unwarranted participant in a wrestling

match free-for-all six years before. The second set showed the

exact same bridgework and matched up a filling in the right

back molars. He always seemed to chew his gum on the right

side, she noted remotely.

“Would you care to view the remains?” the ME asked quietly.

Skinner sucked in a breath, but remained silent. Scully looked

over at the table in the center of the room. The other two

bodies had already been removed and were on their way to the

funeral homes, she contemplated. That left only the final

‘unidentified’ body.

Each step brought her closer, but at the same time she felt

colder and more distant, as if she were watching herself from

far away. The body was uncovered, she could see where

patches of fabric from the clothing had seared to the desiccated

skin before flash burning, leaving only patterns in the ash. A

partial circle of plastic and metal, fused beyond verification, lay

near the left arm. With great effort she forced her hand out to

pick up the object. Parts of it crumbled with her touch. She

brought closer for inspection. “This is his watch,” she said

dully.

The ME looked to the two men and then back at Scully. “Is that

a positive identification, Agent?” he asked quietly.

She found that spot on her bottom lip again and worried it with

her teeth. Finally, licking lips long gone dry she nodded. “Yes.

This is Fox Mulder,” she said, running her fingertip up the arm,

not disturbing the ash. “I’m sure.”

There was no air in that room, and she started to feel dizzy

again. Strong arms grabbed her shoulders and she found

herself sitting in a hard chair out in the hallway. Skinner was

crouched in front of her, his tormented expression waiting for a

sign that she was back from wherever her psyche had taken

her.

“I need to talk to my mother,” she said softly.

He nodded and handed her his cell phone.

Act III

Margaret Scully’s residence

Baltimore, MD

June 12, 2005

3:15 pm

The two women sat huddled together in the bright sunny

kitchen. Maggie sat with a tissue wadded in her left hand, her

right hand clasped in Tara’s hand, fingers entwined. It had

been a long 24 hours for both of them.

When Dana had called, Maggie had been fixing a late lunch. All

thoughts of food vanished as her daughter told her of the death

of her partner before succumbing to choked sobs. Walter

Skinner had pried the phone from Dana’s fingers and related as

much of the story as he could. Fox had gone on his own to

search for some missing children. There had been an

explosion. Fox and the two kids were dead.

“Could it possibly be a mistake?” Maggie asked fearfully. There

had been other times, too many to count, when Dana had been

led to believe that her partner was gone, only to have him

reappear just a few days later.

“No, Mrs. Scully. The body was badly burned, yes, but Dana

made the identification herself from the dental records. There’s

no mistake this time. I’m very sorry.”

Maggie had placed her next call to Tara and they had cried over

the phone, Tara promising to come over the next day — without

the children.

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Tara said, breaking the silence. “He

called just before they left for California to find out Matty’s

baseball practice schedule. He thought he’d be home in time to

make it this week.”

Maggie got up and patted her daughter-in-law’s shoulder as she

crossed to the stove to refill their coffee cups. “It was nice of

your neighbor to pick up Matty and take Claire for a few hours.”

“I haven’t told them, Mom. I couldn’t. How could I tell Matty

that now his Uncle Mulder — ” The younger woman’s lip

quivered and she bit it sharply. “How can he ever learn to trust

someone again? Trust that they won’t die on him?”

“Tara, neither Bill nor Fox meant to die — ”

“No, Mom, I know they didn’t mean to die. I know they never

meant to leave us. But it hurts so bad, it’s like all I keep

reliving the moment when I first found out about Billy . . .” She

broke down into sobs and Maggie rushed to her side, embracing

her tightly.

“We’ll get through this, sweetheart. And we’ll get Dana

through this. I’m just so worried about her. When this finally

hits, it’s going to hit hard.”

“How is she doing today? I know you talked to her before the

flight this morning. How is she holding up?” Tara asked, firmly

clamping down on her emotions.

“She was — calm. After her call yesterday from the morgue,

when she identified the body and she cried, she’s just been

calm. I talked to Mr. Skinner. He said she eats when food it

given to her, answers when someone speaks directly to her,

but aside from that, she’s like a robot. She slept last night. He

got her to agree to change to a different hotel and he booked

them a suite so he could give her some privacy but still be close

by. Oh, I wish I could have gone out there to be with her,

Tara. I’m afraid it’s the calm before the storm. Dana has

always been so strong; she’s the last one to fall apart, ever.

But this time, when she realizes what’s happened — I don’t

know if she’ll be strong enough to handle it all.”

“Then we’ll have to get her through it. You and Dana and Fox

were there for me — you and I will have to be there for her

now,” the younger woman said with conviction.

The doorbell rang and Maggie closed her eyes in exasperation.

“Want me to get it, Mom. I’ll shoo them away, whoever they

are?” Tara offered.

“No, that’s all right dear. It’s probably just the mailman. I’ll

get it.”

Maggie got up and tiredly walked to the front door. She could

see a silhouette of a man through the curtains of the side

window. Certain it was the mailman, she opened the door.

Recognition was instant and she threw her arms around the

man standing on her porch, hugging him for dear life.

“Mom,” came the startled voice of the visitor. “Mom, are you —

“Charlie! Oh, Charlie, you’ve come at just the right time!”

Maggie told him and broke down into sobs.

Dulles Airport

4:45 pm

It had taken an Act of Congress and all the internet wizardry

his Administrative Assistant Kim had at her disposal, but they

managed to get a direct flight from Los Angeles to Dulles. The

body had been transported on the same plane. Skinner was

not going to take any chances that it might ‘disappear’ in mid

air.

He was at a loss, however, how to bring Scully back. Oh, her

body had sat in the seat directly beside him. She’d appeared to

listen when he spoke to her about contacting the Bureau’s

Personnel Department and getting the ball rolling for a full FBI

funeral with burial in Arlington, if she so desired. She had even

mentioned that she didn’t want the remains buried in

Massachusetts as his father and mother had been. But beyond

a few moments of polite discussion about practical matters,

she’d been detached and silent through the flight.

He didn’t want her to worry about the casket and had assured

her that he had agents coming to accompany it to the funeral

home. She had thanked him and went back to looking out the

window.

Walter Skinner felt the full weight of her silence settle down

upon him. Bitterly, he knew the day had finally arrived. So

many near misses through the past, he’d gotten complacent,

thinking they really could bounce back from anything and

everything thrown at them. So many times in his dealings with

these two agents, he marveled at their capacity to merely exist.

Between them, they had more lives than an army of cats — a

seemingly inexhaustible supply. But in the back of his mind, he

knew that was just wishful thinking and one day he would be

given the task of burying the dead and trying to keep the one

remaining alive.

God, he was tired. Skinner arched his back and heard bones

crack and pop. He’d spent the night in a reclining chair in the

living room area of the Airport Comfort Suites, standing watch.

He didn’t think they would try to kill Scully so soon after killing

Mulder, but he couldn’t afford to be overconfident. So many

factors were at work. It was obvious to Skinner that Mulder

had been murdered, that he’d been lured to that storefront and

trapped inside when the building exploded. But to what

purpose? The powers that constantly threatened the two

agents had more opportunities over the past several years than

he could keep track. This had seemed like a simple kidnapping

case. Had it been staged specifically to eliminate one or both of

his agents?

He knew that at some point he was going to have to answer

that question. But for now, his greatest problem lie in ensuring

the health and safety of the fragile looking woman who had just

left his side to go to the ladies room.

Maggie Scully’s residence

5:00 pm

Maggie couldn’t stop smiling, even though tears were streaming

down her face. Tara hovered nearby, but didn’t seem to want

to sit at the table with them. She was making iced tea and

fixing sandwiches while Charlie talked.

“Anyway, I was assigned to work with the Department of

Defense Counterterrorism Unit in Europe and Northern Africa.

Deep cover, if you can believe that, Mom,” he said with a

boyishly proud smile. “I couldn’t call you, I couldn’t even let

you know through an email or a letter. I was so worried about

you all. And when I got word about Billy — ” His handsome

features grew serious, saddened.

Maggie put her hand over her son’s. “We understand,

sweetheart. I can’t say it didn’t hurt, but I am so proud of you.

Your father would be so proud.”

He looked up at her and smiled his thanks. “I don’t really

understand, though about Dana and her partner. I thought

they just worked together.”

Tara stiffened at the counter, but continued to slice tomatoes

for the sandwiches. Maggie sighed. “They’ve been more than

partners for a very long time,” she said quietly. “They have a

house together. They’ve been living together, well, since

before Bill’s accident.”

“But they aren’t married? Why the hell didn’t the guy marry

her?”

Tara spun on her heel and glared at the man at the table.

“They couldn’t remain partners if they got married,” she said

flatly. She grabbed a nearby kitchen towel and wiped her

hands. “Mom, I’m sorry, but I need to pick up the kids and go

home.”

“You’ll be back for dinner, won’t you?” Maggie asked with

surprise.

Tara looked over at Charlie with an unreadable expression and

then to her mother-in-law. “I’ll see how Claire’s doing. She

was really cranky earlier; I think she might be coming down

with another ear infection. I’ll call you.” She took the two

steps over and leaned down to kiss Maggie on the cheek. “I’ll

call you,” she repeated tenderly. She stood and looked over at

Charlie. “It’s good you’re home, Charles,” she said evenly and

left the room.

Maggie watched the back door swing shut and smiled an

embarrassed smile at her son. “It’s been awfully hard on Tara.

She and Fox had become friends. Fox did so much with Matty,

really stepping in to make sure the boy had a male role model.

And Dana, well, since they can’t have children of their own — ”

“Mom, you don’t have to make excuses for Tara. She’s

probably still mad at me for not coming to Billy’s funeral and

quite frankly I don’t blame her at all. I felt horrible. I wanted

so much to be here, but it was just impossible. I almost quit

my assignment that week, but my superior talked me out of it,”

he said, getting up to bring the sandwiches Tara had made over

to the table. “But I’m here now. What can I do to help?”

Dulles Airport

5:15 pm

Skinner watched the line of women leaving the restroom. It

had been a steady stream of people for the past 10 minutes.

He had almost considered going into the restroom and looking

for Scully, but a plane had arrived and the baggage area had

filled, making it impossible for him to sneak into the ladies

room. He had been forced to wait outside.

Finally, his worry overcame his trepidation about invading her

privacy. He stopped an airline hostess just about to enter the

ladies room and asked her to see if she could locate his missing

agent. He didn’t go into details, in fact, he told a white lie —

that their flight had been called and he was worried that they

would miss it. She smiled at him and promised to give the

message. After a few minutes she returned.

“Sorry, sir, but no one answered when I called for Ms. Scully. I

checked all the stalls and I don’t think she’s in there.”

Skinner’s expression went from bland annoyance to utter

despair in an instant. “Thank you,” he said evenly and started

toward the short-term parking lot entrance. He pulled out his

cell phone and dialed. When the other party answered, he was

curt.

“Is this Frohike? You’ve heard about Mulder? Yes, I intend to

start a full-scale investigation into this explosion. But there’s

something come up that may be more urgent — Scully’s

missing. I can’t be sure where she went, or if it was of her own

volition, but I’m giving you an hour to find her before I call out

the troops. I will not give Margaret Scully more bad news —

understand? Call me back if you hear anything.”

FBI Headquarters

6:30 pm

The parking garage was almost empty, it was easy to find a

place close to the door. She put the car in park and turned off

the engine. Her car. She must have found it in the parking lot

of the airport. She couldn’t remember even getting into it or

driving anywhere. Where was she? She glanced around the

cement walls and toward the entrance. Hoover Building. She’d

come on autopilot.

It hadn’t even occurred to her to go to their duplex, but when

she did think about it, for a brief moment, she knew she

wouldn’t be going there anytime soon. She couldn’t face

walking into their home, seeing his dirty tee shirts in the

laundry hamper, seeing his shaving cream on the vanity next to

her mousse. The very thought of ever entering those rooms

again left her with a feeling of sheer dread. But for some

reason the Hoover wasn’t so hard to face.

Scully got out of the car and walked toward the entrance. The

guard on duty smiled at her and waved her through. He was

new, she remembered. Had only been with the Bureau for

about a month. He probably wouldn’t have heard about

Mulder, news didn’t travel that fast. She was glad he hadn’t

mentioned anything about her partner. She was sick to death

of all the tea and sympathy she’d been getting.

The elevator ride down to the basement was quiet and it

allowed her thoughts to start ganging up on her. Before the

doors opened, she felt a panic grip her; she felt the walls of the

elevator car start to close in. She exited the car quickly and

ran to the door at the far end of the hallway.

The door was locked, as she expected. She pulled out her keys

and unlocked it, turned the knob and stepped inside, flicking on

the light with one fluid motion. Mail was scattered on the floor

where the mailroom clerk had slipped it under the door. She

stooped to gather it up to place it all on the desk.

The top envelope caught her attention. The return address was

the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It was addressed

to Fox Mulder. Dropping the rest of the envelopes, she ripped

open the flap and pulled out two tickets. Mozart. Their date.

His promise.

Without warning, she started to shake. She trembled so hard

she crumbled the tickets in her palm. Angrily, she tossed the

stiff paper to the floor but it didn’t feel like the expense of

energy she needed. She strode the four steps to Mulder’s desk

and swept everything on it to the floor in a loud crash. That

felt a little better, but she was just getting started.

One by one, she cleared the shelves of books and

paraphernalia. A strange feeling overtook her and it was as if

she were watching herself from a great distance. A tiny part of

her mind tried to understand her need for violence, screamed

at her to stop, but she quickly ignored it. His basketball

bounced into a corner so she grabbed it and threw it as hard as

she could at the skylight, frustrated when it bounced back

without the expected satisfying crash of glass. She needed

sound. She needed something to break through the ice that

had engulfed her in the last 18 hours.

Systematically she tore through the office, smashing monitors,

tossing keyboards to the ground and stomping on them, tipping

over chairs, pulling out file drawers and scattering the contents.

As she extracted some of the folders, she tore through them,

ripping the covers and pictures and reports, destroying his work

as efficiently as it had destroyed him. She wanted to destroy

everything; destruction was all she knew. She was panting,

heaving with the effort when she spied something that would

truly give her some satisfaction.

Without a second thought, she pulled back her right fist and

smashed it through the glass door of the case just over her

worktable.

The sound of the tempered glass cracking and finally giving

way, falling to the floor in a sound not unlike ice giving way on

a frozen lake was exactly what she was waiting for.

She pulled her arm back and prepared to take another shot, not

realizing a jagged piece of glass had torn through the skin the

entire length of her forearm. She punched through the second

glass door with her other fist, gleeful at the crystalline sounds

of annihilation. With a perplexed expression she looked down

and saw that she’d managed to slice through a major vein in

one arm, possibly an artery in the other. As blood shot from

her arms with each beat of her heart, her eyes rolled back in

her head and she fell to the ground.

Walter Skinner found her just seconds later, lying in a pool of

blood. Frantically, he wrapped his handkerchief around the

worst of the cuts; the left arm was spurting blood at an

alarming rate. His tie was called into service on the right arm.

Terrified at the paleness of her complexion, he found the phone

lying on the floor and quickly dialed 911.

The ambulance arrived quickly and worked on the pale and

unconscious agent while Skinner stood by, feeling helpless.

How had this happened? He looked around the room at the

total carnage. If there was a single square inch of the room

unscathed, he was hard pressed to see it. As the EMS

attendants were loading Scully on the gurney, a familiar figure

stood in the doorway.

“Walter, my God, what happened down here?” Assistant

Director Jana Cassidy was wide-eyed as she surveyed the

office. She cast a quick look at the agent being wheeled to the

elevator. “Is she badly injured?”

“She’s lost a lot of blood. Both arms.”

“Suicide?” Cassidy asked, shocked.

Skinner glared his reply. “I want an evidence team down here.

We have to find out what happened, who’s responsible for this.”

Cassidy stepped into the room and put her hand on Skinner’s

upper arm. “Walt. I think we both know what happened here.

I heard the news this morning. I’m so sorry. I know Agent

Mulder had worked under you for several years and you were

close.”

Skinner stepped away, trying to distance himself from the

woman. “Jana, we don’t know. We don’t know anything.

Someone might have come in here, was tearing the place apart

looking for something — it’s happened before,” he objected

when she started to interrupt. “Scully must have walked in on

them, surprised them. That’s how she got hurt.”

“Her arms, Walt. Her arms were cut,” Cassidy said sadly. She

looked around the room once more, spying the glass doors to

the cabinet. She walked over and looked closer at the frame.

“Walt, there’s a lot of blood here,” she said, pointing to the red

streaks on the white paint. “I’m sorry, but it’s obvious to me —

“Well, it isn’t obvious to me,” Skinner growled. “I want this

room gone over with a fine toothed comb. I want the security

tapes for the last hour to show who’s been in this basement.”

“If they find out she was alone and did this herself, it will make

it worse for her,” Cassidy warned. “She could lose everything,

Walt. Her field status, her job . . . ”

“She’s already lost everything,” he growled. “Jana, at this

point, I don’t think things could get any worse.”

Georgetown Medical Center

8:15 pm

Maggie Scully was out of the car and running before the

emergency room double doors had fully opened. She skidded

to a stop at the nurses’ desk. “Dana Scully, please. I was

called, I’m her mother, Margaret Scully.”

The nurse looked up at the distraught woman and nodded,

turning her attention to the computer screen. “Yes, Mrs.

Scully. Your daughter’s been taken to the fourth floor. That’s a

restricted floor, I’ll have to call ahead and tell them you’re

coming.”

“Restricted? Why? I don’t understand?”

The nurse looked annoyed but forced a smile. “The fourth floor

is where the psychiatric ward is located. Your daughter is there

for her own protection. I’m sure her doctor will be able to

explain — ”

“Her own protection?” Maggie blurted out. “What are you

talking about? I was told she was brought here unconscious.

What is going on?”

“Mom, calm down,” Charlie said, coming up behind her. “Sorry,

my mother is worried about my sister. Could you tell us the

name of the doctor assigned to her care?”

The nurse smiled at Charlie, giving credence to his charm.

“Certainly, Mr. Scully.” She glanced down at the chart.

“Although this is a little strange. There’s a neurologist listed as

her physician. Dr. Jason Leonard.”

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“Thank you,” Charlie said with another winning smile. He then

turned Maggie. “Mom, let’s go up and find Dr. Leonard. We’ll

get to the bottom of this.”

As they rode the elevator to the fourth floor, Maggie bit her lip.

“Leonard, I’ve heard that name before.” She finally looked

over at her son as she remembered. “Wait. Jason Leonard.

He’s an old friend of Dana’s from medical school. He treated

Fox last year when he — ” She let her voice trail off, reminded

of the most recent tragedy. “But why would he be treating

Dana?”

“Maybe Dana asked for him,” Charlie suggested off hand.

“Mom, we won’t know any more until we talk to him. Please,

just try and relax.”

They walked toward the nurses’ desk on the fourth floor,

located outside a set of locked double doors with a keypad

entry system.

“I’m Charles Scully and this is my mother, Margaret Scully.

We’re looking for Dr. Jason Leonard. My sister, Dana Scully is a

patient of his.”

“I want to see my daughter,” Maggie interrupted. “I want to

see Dana now, please.” Tears were dampening her cheeks and

she brushed them aside.

“Of course, Mrs. Scully, Mr. Scully. Dr. Leonard is waiting for

you in observation room three. Just follow this hallway to the

end and make a right. The rooms are numbered.”

“But I want to see Dana,” Maggie insisted.

“Dr. Leonard will have to approve any ‘in room’ visitors, Mrs.

Scully. Why don’t you go down and talk to him.”

“Mom, c’mon. Let’s go find Dr. Leonard,” Charlie urged.

“I don’t understand, Charles. Why would they bring Dana to

the psychiatric ward? It makes no sense,” Maggie uttered as

they turned the corner and Charlie pointed to the door with a

three stenciled on the glass.

“Mom, let’s talk to the doctor.”

They entered a room with a large computer flat panel monitor

sitting on a desk and a dark haired man in a white lab coat

seated in front of it. He turned when he heard the two people

enter the room. Rising, he held out his hand to Maggie.

“Mrs. Scully, hello. You probably don’t remember me, but we

met at Dana’s and my graduation ceremony from medical

school. I’m Jason Leonard.”

Maggie took Leonard’s hand, but couldn’t tear her eyes away

from the screen. It was a black and white security camera’s

view of a room, sparsely furnished with a single cot near one

wall. The walls appeared covered with cloth. There was a lone

figure huddled on a cot, forming herself in a fetal ball. “Who is

that?”

As soon as Maggie asked the question, the person rolled off the

cot onto the floor and flew into a rage, throwing themselves

against the walls. Now Maggie could see that the walls were

actually padded, as was the floor. During one wild run at the

wall, the person faced the camera full on.

“Oh my God!” Maggie exclaimed when she recognized her

daughter on the screen. “What is happening? Why is she

doing that?” she demanded.

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“Mrs. Scully, please, let’s sit down. I had hoped that Dana

might have calmed down by now; we’ve given her a fairly

strong sedative. As you can see, she’s very agitated.”

“What are those bandages on her arms?” Charlie asked quietly.

“She tried to commit suicide.” He turned to Maggie. “I’m very

sorry to tell you this, Mrs. Scully, but Dana has experienced a

complete psychotic break.”

Maggie looked at the screen in horror before turning into

Charlie’s waiting arms and collapsing in grief-stricken sobs.

To be continued.

Coming soon . . . Virtual Season 13’s Summer Blockbuster

Movie:

The X-Files — Tintabulation

Faces of Freedom

FACES OF FREEDOM

By Traveler

Written for Virtual Season 13 Memorial Day Special. This story follows the events of

the VS universe.

Rated: PG13 for a few bad words

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully and the characters of The X-Files are used without

permission but always with love.

Summary: A little moment of remembrance we often overlook.

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“Here, this spot is fine,” Mulder deposited the cooler and two folding chairs on the

lawn at Maggie’s announcement. They had parked in the shopping plaza and walked

down to the lawn in front of the high school. The parade didn’t start for another

hour yet and that was a good thing because it would probably take that long for Tara

to haul the stroller out of the van, set it up, get Claire settled into it and walk down

here. He knew Scully was back there somewhere with Matthew. He opened the

chairs and motioned for Maggie to sit down.

“Have a seat Fox, it’s going to be a long day,” Maggie said, patting the arm of the

other lawn chair.

Accepting her invitation, Mulder eased himself into the chair, gripping the arms of

the chair he leaned his head back, letting the late morning sunshine warm his face.

The Baltimore area had bypassed spring this year. Even at eleven in the morning he

could already tell it was going to be another hot day. The polo shirt he’d put on that

morning was sticking to his back already and a bead of sweat trickled down his left

temple. After a moment he felt Maggie’s hand come to rest on top of his right hand.

He opened his eyes and turned to face her.

“I never a get a moment alone with you like this to thank you, Fox…”

He looked at her somewhat confused, “For what?”

“For all you do for us. This is Memorial Day. I want you to know I’m grateful.”

Mulder pulled his hand out from underneath hers, winced a little and looked back up

the street hoping to catch a glimpse of Scully. As matriarch of the Scully clan,

Maggie by all intents and purposes should hate him for what his involvement with

her daughter had brought to the Scully family. That she not only accepted him as a

faux son-in-law but actually felt compelled to thank him made him somewhat

uncomfortable. How does one respond to something like that? He turned back to

face her with a somewhat puzzled look on his face, “Memorial Day is a day for

remembering those who died in service to our country, Maggie. I don’t …”

“For remembering what they’ve done for us,” she replied touching his arm again.

“Perhaps something we should have done when they were still alive.”

He swallowed hard at her sweet words, and reached over to put his left hand on top

of hers in a comforting gesture, “You’re welcome,” was all he could say when he met

her eyes.

Suddenly two sticky hands wrapped themselves around his face, knocking his

sunglasses askew, “Guess who?” a voice giggled behind him. He let go of Maggie’s

hand and reached behind him.

“Must be – Spider Man Junior!” Mulder exclaimed, reaching under Mattie’s T-shirt to

tickle him, making him squeal with delight.

Scully opened the chair she’d been carrying for Tara and then sat on top of the

cooler next to Mulder.

“Aunt Dana, if you sit on that how we gonna get the food?”

“Matthew, we just got here!” Tara admonished him as she came up behind him with

Claire in the stroller.

“He’s a guy, Tara; we’re always hungry for something.”

“Yes, you are,” Scully met his eyes and smiled when he waggled his eyebrows at her.

Climbing off the cooler she opened it and proceeded to pass out sandwiches.

Matthew reached in and pulled out two juice boxes and handed one to Tara for his

sister. Mulder grabbed the can of ice tea Scully offered him momentarily

contemplating whether to drink it or pour if over his head. “Ah, nothing like tea and

turkey by the side of the road.”

“Do I detect an air of annoyance at this family outing Mulder?” Scully sat back down

and proceeded to unwrap her own sandwich.

“What?” When he looked at her over his can of tea he could see she hadn’t thought

his comment was too amusing. “No, not at all, it’s just been a long time since I

experienced this side of suburbia.”

After a quick lunch Mulder and Matthew had retired to the lawn in front of the school

for a game of catch while they waited for the parade. Scully had taken the chair

Mulder had vacated and the gals passed the time planning out the rest of the day.

There would be a trip to the cemetery and then home for a cookout where Mulder

would be asked to test his barbequing skills.

The boys came back from their game as a sizeable crowd was now gathering along

both sides of the street. Mulder understood now why Tara had insisted they leave

early and picnic. Memorial Day’s three day weekend had become the “unofficial”

beginning of the summer season and everyone came out to celebrate especially on a

beautiful day like today.

“You want the chair back?” Scully asked him, taking in his sweaty appearance.

“No, I need to cool off,” he said flapping his now untucked shirt at her. “But I will

take another tea, if you’ve got one.”

Mulder chugged another tea and wondered how many of the people that now lined

the street really knew why there was a Memorial Day or what exactly they were here

to commemorate. The kids came out to have fun and that was fine but in the back

of his mind he couldn’t help but wonder about the adults and teens who all seemed

more interested in cell phone conversations than what was currently going on.

“You gonna help me catch candy?” Matthew turned to ask him, looking up the street

to see if the parade had started yet. The sound of a police siren sounded off in the

distance and Matthew jumped up and down.

“Candy? Is that why you’re here Matthew?”

Matthew turned to look at Mulder like he’d just asked the dumbest question. “I’m

here to remember the soldiers.”

Looking past Scully, Mulder caught Tara’s attention and then turned back to

Matthew, pulling his baseball cap down over his eyes, “So, am I buddy.”

“Hey! I can’t see when you do that!”

“I know, and then I can get all the candy!” Mulder teased.

As the sounds of the parade drew closer people began to crowd the street. Moving

their chairs closer or sitting on the curb. Those who had come late pushed in closer

for a better view. Scully pulled the cooler over in front of her and told Matthew to

climb on it so he could see. Mulder picked up Claire and swung her up onto his

shoulders gripping her knees so she wouldn’t fall. “Guess you’re on candy duty now,

babe,” he poked Scully and smiled at her when she turned around.

The parade’s color guard followed the lead police car with each branch of the service

represented. Mulder scanned the crowd. Very few of those seated stood as the flag

passed by and fewer still removed their caps or placed their hand on their heart. It

seemed like it was only the elderly who now remembered the proper etiquette for

observance of the nation’s flag. He guessed it only happened at sporting events

because people were reminded to do so. Maggie stood as the flag came by followed

by Tara and Dana. He heard her whisper in Matthew’s ear to remove his cap.

Mulder smiled at Tara when she watched her son return a salute to several retired

military personnel seated across the street from them. Bill had taught his son well.

The first band was the Drum and Bugle Corps from the Naval Academy at Annapolis,

they’d been playing a series of patriotic music as they approached and were now

playing American the Beautiful. When Maggie began to sing along with some of the

adults in the crowd the rest of the family joined in. Scully turned to Mulder, “You’re

not singing, Mulder.”

“I don’t want to scare everybody, Scully.”

Pursing her lips, she looked up at Claire who had covered her ears and then turned

back to watch the Corps end the song with flourish of drums.

The parade lasted almost an hour. Every department of the military had been

represented as well as just about every local baton corps and little league team.

Classic cars had been filled with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and politicians who

had rained candy on the crowd in hopes of securing votes. The city had polished up

all their machinery and rolled it out so the tax payers could see that their dollars

were going to good use; further evidence to Mulder that local parades hadn’t

changed much in his lifetime.

The final band in the parade was the local high school’s marching band. They had

been playing military songs along the route and as if on cue struck up the Navy’s

fight song when they passed in front of their little group. He watched Maggie’s eyes

fill with unshed tears.

Somewhere along the way someone had handed the kids small American flags. They

both waved them frantically at a color guard of mounted police that brought up the

rear of the parade. Maggie leaned over Matthew, “You can put that on your Daddy’s

grave when we go to the cemetery.”

As Scully helped Claire down from Mulder’s shoulders Tara and Maggie started to

pack up for the walk back to the van. She watched him bend over and grip his

knees, stretching his back. “She’s getting too big for you to do that, Mulder.”

“Either that or I’m getting too old,” he turned to look up and her with a sheepish look

as she rubbed his back and then he straightened up.

“Now everyone runs home to barbeque,” Mulder commented, taking Scully’s hand as

they began the walk back to the parking lot. Maggie and Matthew walked on ahead

with Tara.

“What is with you today?”

Mulder caught the annoyance in her voice, “Nothing,” he answered trying to find

words that would placate her as his eyes scanned the dissipating parade crown. “I’m

no different from anybody else here Scully, it’s the apathetic attitude of the nation

these days. Most of these people didn’t come here to commemorate those that have

died defending our freedom. You saw what I did, a lot of blood’s been spilled for that

flag and people can’t even get up off their ass to show their appreciation. Most of

them only came here to watch Billy march in the parade,” he winced at the

realization of what he’d just said. “That didn’t come out right, did it?”

Scully shook her head but didn’t comment.

“The Memorial Day holiday dates back to May 30th, 1868 when flowers were placed

on the graves of all Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

It wasn’t until World War I that the day was changed from honoring not only Civil

War dead but all those who had died in any war. Of course now it’s become part of a

three day weekend kick off the summer celebration thanks to that National Holiday

Act. A lot of people feel that doing that has distracted from the spirit and meaning of

the day. I gotta say I agree with them.”

“I thought I read somewhere where the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been trying

to introduce a bill to have it changed back to May 30th.”

“I think they’ve been trying to do that for sometime. Maybe it would change the

rather nonchalant way the public observes the holiday.”

“Did you know that you’re supposed to fly the flag at half staff until noon and then

full staff from noon to sunset today? Matthew caught me on that this morning when

he was helping me put up your Mom’s flag. Of course we’ll have to wait until we get

home to take care of that. Your brother taught him well, Scully.”

“He had a good teacher too, Mulder.”

Mulder had seen many photos of Captain Scully over the years but because of his

sudden death back when he was first partnered with Scully, Mulder had never had

the pleasure of meeting the man. He’d often wondered over the years of his

relationship with Scully what the Captain would have thought of him. “I’m sorry I

never got to meet your father, Scully.”

His comment momentarily brought back that fateful night and Scully looked up

ahead to her mother. How many years had her mother spent raising four children on

her own while her father spent a lifetime serving his country? They never had gotten

to spend his retirement years with each other. “He was a very proud man, Mulder.”

“Maybe the wives of servicemen need a memorial too,” Mulder acknowledged, almost

as if reading her thoughts.

Scully wasn’t sure what had brought on the sudden air of patriotism that surrounded

her partner. Normally he was more inclined to voice his opinions on the ineptitude of

the present administration than anything else. She turned to comment and then

suddenly realized he was no longer walking beside her. Turning around she found he

had stopped a few yards back. Maggie and Tara had already reached the van and

were in the process of loading the kids into it. “Mulder?”

“You know what your mom said to me?” he asked walking up to her. “She thanked

me, said she was grateful for everything I’ve done for her family. What the hell does

she have to thank me for? How was I supposed to respond to that?”

Scully’s brow furrowed. She knew Mulder had comfortably accepted his place in the

Scully family but she also knew that he still had doubts about his own self worth. It

troubled her to see him question his value in society. “I don’t think she expected

you to say anything Mulder. She knows what this life you’ve chosen has cost you.

That you continue to pursue it because you know it’s the honorable and moral thing

to do just like the other men who have served this country.” She reached out to

clasp his hand, “But she also wanted you to know that we’re all grateful for the little

things you do, for what you do for the women in your life,” a gentle smile graced her

lips. “And for being there for the kids; your time is more valuable to them than

anything. And because we all know that you do them because they are things you

want to do, not because you feel they’re something you think you owe this family.”

She searched his eyes, hoping to find he accepted the gratitude. “I’m sorry you

never got to meet Dad, too. He was a good judge of character and he would have

seen right through that cool exterior of yours to the man you really are. You’re a

good person, Mulder. When will you accept that about yourself?”

He stood there for a moment, slowly closing his eyes to think. Good person or not,

he did owe this family. When he opened them again Scully had already turned away

and was heading for the van.

Forty-five minutes later Mulder brought Tara’s mini-van to a stop off to the side of

the drive the wound through Hopewell Cemetery. He sat for a few minutes while the

gals got the kids out and Tara opened the back hatch to take out the flowers they

had brought for Bill’s grave. She gathered the large bouquet of red roses in her

arms and took Claire’s hand, heading up the slope to the grave site. Maggie took

Matthew’s hand and followed her pausing for a moment as Mulder got out of the van.

She waited as he walked around the back to where Scully stood waiting for him.

“Scully,” Mulder tilted his head asking for a moment alone.

Scully looked towards her mom who still waited at the base of the hill with Matthew,

“I’ll be right there, Mom.” She watched her mom turn and head up the hill with

Matthew and then turned to Mulder who stood with his hands in his pockets.

“What is it, Mulder?”

“I’m – gonna go for a walk,” his voice was soft, his eyes asking for gentle

understanding. “This is a family moment, Scully.”

“Mulder, you are a part of…”

“I know, I know, I…” Taking his hands from his pockets he placed them gently on

Scully’s shoulders. “You and your Mom and Tara need a moment for this and I need

to go make peace with something myself. Can you understand that?”

She didn’t really understand what he was referring too but on the other hand she

couldn’t refuse him either. “All right,” she replied, meeting his eyes, “We’ll just meet

you back here at the van, okay?”

He smiled and placed a chaste kiss on her lips, “Love you.”

When Scully had started up the hill to join her family Mulder turned away and

headed up the cemetery drive. Hopewell was an older cemetery and the lawn was

dotted with small American flags that had been placed on servicemen’s graves. It

made him glad that some cemeteries and groups still took time to do that. He didn’t

know where he was walking; he just knew he needed to assemble the thoughts that

were rambling about in his head.

Something about the day had triggered a multitude of emotions within him. His

mother, his father, his sister, Scully’s father, her sister, her brother; their lives

hadn’t been lost on any historic battlefield like many of the men and women who had

been laid to rest here. Their lives had been lost for a freedom most of the world had

no idea that were in jeopardy of losing.

He fought the urge to run, it was always his way of putting the pieces together and

clearing his head. Sooner or later this battle for freedom would boil down to the

survival of the fittest. Trouble was that in today’s world most people were so

consumed by fighting for their own survival, whether it was physically or financially

that trying to get them to see the scope of the conflict to come was almost

incomprehensible.

His biggest question was how he fit into it all He was no military strategist. Fact

was the military, or part of it, was very likely involved in the whole conspiracy on a

global scale. The men and women who lay here had known what they were fighting

for; they believed in the cause and were willing to give their lives for it. He’d long

ago accepted that fate of himself but how do you convince a world? How do you get

a world to believe in a threat you have no proof exists?

Before he knew it, his leisure stroll had turned into a brisk walk and he found himself

back at Tara’s van without the answers he had gone looking for. The family was still

up at the grave, Maggie had her arm around Tara and Scully stood holding Claire and

Matthew’s hands. Mulder turned and walked slowly to the other side of the drive

where a large oak offered him some cooling shade, “And in the end, Mulder, if you

can’t convince them, then everything these men and women who have come before

you have fought for is lost,” he whispered to himself.

Up on the hill Scully leaned over her brother’s children and whispered to them, “Why

don’t you put your flags on the grave with the flowers,” Claire let go of her hand and

gently bent down to stick her little flag in the ground next to the headstone.

Matthew remained at her side, “Matthew?”

“I want to give mine to Uncle Mulder,” he answered looking up at her. She glanced

over at her mom and sister who had heard Matthew’s request. At their quiet smiles

of acceptance she turned back to Matthew, “I think he would appreciate that,

Matthew.”

Mulder stood by the side of the drive for several minutes. The warm breeze rustled

the leaves over his head and ruffled his hair. He took a moment to hand comb it

before sliding his hands back into his pockets and walking out on to the lawn. He

silently counted the flags that fluttered in the warm breeze. Too many lives he

thought to himself, too many lives lost for a cause many people today take for

granted.

“Dammit, Dad,” he looked up then, through the stately old trees that dotted the

cemetery into the sky as if expecting his own father to hear him. “What was the

purpose of it all? I don’t understand it! It would have been nice if you’d given me a

fucking clue!” He heaved a big sigh at his own frustration, “Nothing I do, none of the

pain or the blood gets me any closer to making any sense of it. I just want to know

that I’m doing the right thing!” It suddenly dawned on him that Scully had asked

him that very same question oh so many years ago; he’d had no answer for her then

either. “What the hell am I here for? What did you die for Dad? If I die, what will I

have died for? I just want to know that it’s worth the fight.”

Suddenly realizing he’d been talking aloud he glanced down and gasped. His eyes

scanned the scene around him in amazement. Across the cemetery lawn before him

stood shadows; ghostly images of men and women dressed in military attire from

the Civil War to the present. Their faces took his breath away and he staggered

back at their presence. He blinked, hoping to quell the images but when he opened

his eyes again three more and materialized before him.

His father, flanked by Scully’s father and brother stood before him. “Dad?” Mulder

choked out.

Bill Mulder took a step towards his son, “I died for you Fox, they’ve all died for you.”

his father said, glancing behind him at all the faces that stood witness. “You already

understand the greater purpose, son. It all comes down to one word, as it has in

every generation – freedom.” Mulder swallowed hard, his father’s voice momentarily

chilling him. “And if you die, it will be for the freedom of those who come after you,

it’s that simple. You’ve already realized this on your own; it’s why you do it.

Nothing in the world is more valuable.”

Someone was trying to pull his right hand from his pocket, he jerked and then

glanced down to see Matthew standing next to him holding the little flag he’d

received at the parade, “Here, this is for you,” he offered, handing Mulder the flag.

Mulder took the flag from Matthew’s outstretched hand and glanced around. The

images that had been there only moments before were now gone and Matthew gave

no indication that he’d seen them. He stooped down to meet Matthew’s intense blue

eyes, “I thought this was for your Dad, why are you giving it to me?”

“Because,” Matthew said, meeting his eyes. “You’re fighting for our freedom too.”

Mulder swallowed. Yes, he was, and even though he may someday just be a number

on a casualty list like so many that came before him. He now understood that his

efforts would not have been in vain. Matthew and Claire were proof of that. He

reached for Matthew, wrapping his arms around him in a gentle hug and blinked

back the water that had filled his eyes, “Thank you,” he whispered as Matthew

returned his hug.

Behind them on the drive, Scully stood next to Maggie and her sister-in-law and

witnessed the exchange with pride.

When Mulder stood up, Matthew wrapped his arm around his legs. He reached down

and ruffled the boy’s sandy red hair as they both looked out across the lawn of little

flags in silent memory.

AUTHORS: NOTES: Thanks to my buddy Chris for the title to this piece and to Vickie

for always being there to beta my creativity. And most importantly, take a moment

to thank a serviceman this Memorial Day.

1

Daybreak

TITLE: Daybreak

AUTHOR: Erin M. Blair

E-MAIL: eblair@sonic.net / erinmblair@gmail.com

FEEDBACK: Yes, please.

DISTRIBUTION: VS13 exclusively for two weeks; OK

to Gossamer and Ephemeral thereafter.

RATING: PG

CATEGORIES: SRA — Story, Romance, Angst.

KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance.

SPOILERS: Up to Je Souhaite; VS11 Displacement

DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter.

SUMMARY: Mulder reflects about plans for Memorial Day

with Scully.

NOTES: This story is written especially for Virtual Season’s Memorial Day Challenge.

I would like to dedicate this story to my friends at MR, especially Lisa, Vickie, Nubie,

Sally, and XSketch. Special thanks to Lisa for beta reading my story.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + +

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Daybreak

Written by: Erin M. Blair

The sun was beginning to shine.

Mulder pulled back the curtains to see the sunrise. He could not believe that

he stayed here all night working on the backlog of case reports that needed

to be written.

He’d promised Scully that he would help her prepare for the Memorial Day

holiday at her mother’s house. He was going to barbecue hot dogs. Scully

bought three packages of hotdogs, that way, she gets to have her preferred

brand: Nathan’s Hotdogs. They tried other brands before until this one became

THE BRAND FROM HEAVEN!

Scully walked in. “Mulder, did you stay here all night?” She paused while she

sat down on her chair. “Do you know what today is?”

Mulder nodded. “Yes, you’ve told me about it several times. I volunteered for

barbecue duty, remember.”

“Memorial Day.”

“First, we have to go to Arlington to visit your Dad’s and Bill’s graves. I

know you would like to put flowers on their graves there,” Mulder said. He

stood up and walked toward Scully to fold her into his arms. “I know how much

they meant the world to you.”

“I know,” Scully murmured wistfully. “Do you want to visit your family’s

graves? I know you weren’t on speaking terms with your parents. After we

found out about Samantha…”

“Scully, thanks for the suggestion. Even though you’re not my wife, I

consider you as my family.”

“Are you finished writing the reports?”

Mulder nodded. “All done.” He turned towards his desk and grabbed the case

reports off his desk. “We’ll take these off to Skinner and then I’ll take you

for breakfast. You didn’t eat, did you?”

“Nope. I only had a bagel because I knew you’d be here. I had the same

thought about a decent breakfast as you did.”

Mulder placed his hand on Scully’s lower back. “Let’s get out of here,

Scully.”

*~*~*

The End

1

Courting Shakespeare

COURTING SHAKESPEARE

A joint production by AnubisKV5 and Foxglove

Disclaimer: Any recognizable character belongs to CC, 1013 and Fox. All are used

without permission and no profit will be made.

Author Notes: This piece of fiction is dedicated with thanks to AnubisKV5,

because without her support, the wonderful suggestions and excellent beta, it

probably never would have seen the light of day.

Feedback greatly appreciated.

AnubisKV5: AnubisKV5@cs.com

Foxglove: pjoz@hotmail.com

Special Note: At the time we were writing this, Anubis was watching the NBA

Playoffs and in reality, the Detroit Pistons and the Miami Heat played Monday

night (Miami Winning – yay!!).

But since we had written the majority of the story and were very close to the

deadline, we decided to use a little ‘artistic licence’ and use the Playoffs our way.

The Dallas Mavericks played the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night with the Suns

winning (boo!! — Since Foxglove resides in Australia and Anubis is in Texas, you

can guess whose opinion was the “boo!”. However, Anubis would have been much

happier had the Dallas Stars not bombed out in the first round of the Stanley Cup

Playoffs. Still, there’s always next year….)

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Chapter One

The artificial whiteness of the weather person’s teeth as they flashed smile after

ingratiating smile towards the camera, frayed Fox Mulder’s nerves to the breaking

point. “Get on with it already.” He growled as they struck up another inane and

unnecessary conversation with the news announcer. Impatiently, he shifted

position again on the couch, slinging his arm along the back and propping both

feet onto the coffee table, carefully avoiding the large bowl of buttered popcorn

and a sweaty bottle of Shiner Bock, two essential components for every red-

blooded American male intending to spend the entire afternoon being a couch

potato and catching up on their favourite sport.

Finally, the camera swung around to the announcer, whom, with a well-rehearsed

shuffle of papers, presented an equally vacuous expression to their unseen and

long-suffering audience.

His patience sorely tried, Mulder gritted his teeth as they began to read out a list

of community announcements. He let fly an off-color remark directed at the

stations’ programming manager and began tapping his fingers in increasing

irritation.

At long last the news broadcast ended and the familiar TNT logo for the NBA

Round Three Playoffs game took its place. A voiceover announced the teams who

were playing and sighing happily, Mulder reached forward, grabbed the bowl of

popcorn and balancing it precariously on his lap, he took a large handful.

“There better not be any popcorn left in between the cushions when you’re done.”

Full of playful admonition, the voice was close to his ear.

Mulder tipped his head up to see a pair of shining blue eyes looking down at him.

“Would I do that?” He asked seriously.

“Have you ever looked under those cushions?” Scully leaned over the back of the

couch and wrapped her arms around her partner’s neck. “I’m sure some of the

stuff I’ve found under there could be classified as an X-File all of its own.” She

pressed her lips against his temple. “Game started yet?”

“Almost.” Mulder ran his fingers down Scully’s arm. “You sure you don’t want me

to come with you?”

“You’re welcome of course, but you know we’re just giving the church a cleaning

don’t you.” Scully wrinkled her nose. “I would have begged off except for having

to drive Mom.”

“Your Mom never ceases to amaze me, you’d think seeing as she’s got a fractured

wrist, she would have given it up this time.”

“I think Mom sees it as an opportunity to play supervisor.” Scully grinned. “I’ve

already told her she’s not climbing any more ladders.”

“And you honestly think she’ll listen to you?” Mulder was skeptical.

“Probably not, but at least I can keep an eye on her this way.” Scully shook her

keys as she wove her fingers through Mulder’s thick hair. “I’d better get going;

want me to bring dinner home?”

“Sure, what do you feel like?”

“Pizza’s fine by me.” She smiled at her partner’s suddenly worried expression. “I

promise, only half vegetarian.”

“Good.” He nodded his concentration pulled back towards the television screen

just as “The Star Spangled Banner” the National Anthem began, announcing the

beginning of the game between the Detroit Pistons and the Miami Heat. Mulder

just loved watching Shaquille O’Neal hit the court.

Whichever team won the Eastern Division would play the winner of the Western

Division for the NBA Championship – and that was also currently being decided in

the Best of 7 Games between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

Scully shook her head in amusement, issuing a final warning as she pulled the

door open. “And remember what I said about the popcorn.”

Mulder was barely aware of her by this time. As she shut and locked the door

behind her, she suspected that if Old Smokey showed up in a N.Y Knicks uniform,

a basketball in one hand, a burning Morley hanging from his lip, sporting a pink

ballerina tutu and floppy clown shoes and sat down next to Mulder, he’d be so

engrossed in the game, he would probably just offer CSM the bowl of popcorn

and a cold one.

Scully snorted at the image and was on her way.

Chapter Two

“Jeez, I could have done better than that! What a crock!” Mulder shook his head

in disappointed exasperation at the mediocre performance on the screen and

slumped back onto the couch holding his unopened bottle of beer.

A commercial break interrupted the game and tipping his head back against the

couch, Mulder closed his eyes. “Would have been more entertaining cleaning the

church.” He complained, imagining throwing dirty crumpled paper towels into the

wastebasket and mentally shouting “nothin’ but net.”

Blindly he reached out for the bowl of popcorn, his fingers caught the edge and

knocked it sideways spilling several kernels down between the cushions.

Grumbling in annoyance, he placed the bowl on the table and pulled the cushions

onto the floor.

Mulder collected the loose pieces and took the handful into the kitchen; coming

back into the living room, his eyes were drawn to the image of an overly-excited

sportscaster on the screen.

The announcement of a special All Star Game on the Memorial Day weekend in

D.C. between some of the best current and former players in the Western and

Eastern Conferences teams in the NBA had him in seventh heaven.

Mulder’s immediate compulsion was to head straight to the computer to see what

seats were available.

The television burbled softly away in the background, but Mulder’s interest was

elsewhere.

Chapter Three

After purchasing the tickets, the price of which he had at first hesitated over until

he realised that a large percentage of the fee was to be given to various

Americans Veterans’ charities; he had decided to check his email.

One particularly vague message from the Gunmen had sent him in search of

another site, which had in turn caught his attention.

He didn’t hear Scully’s key in the door and was unaware of anything until she

softly called his name causing him to jerk around in surprise. “God, you startled

me.”

“Something’s caught your interest.” Scully commented peering over his shoulder

at the screen.

“Some information the guys sent me; don’t think it’s going to lead anywhere.” He

caught Scully’s hands in his as he swivelled back and forth in the seat. “You’re

back early aren’t you?”

“Mulder, its after six.”

“Really? Did you bring dinner?” Mulder sniffed the air theatrically.

Scully mouth twitched in exasperation. “My afternoon was wonderful, thanks for

asking, Mulder. I’m sure that I heard everything that there is to know about the

precious grandchildren of every committee member and how special and talented

they are and this one is going to be a doctor and that one is destined to be a

lawyer.” She dropped her shoulders in weariness.

“Parents who want their kids to be lawyers should be imprisoned for life for ‘cruel

and unusual punishment’. It should be a Federal crime.” Mulder deadpanned.

Scully snorted at his remark.

Mulder laughed with her, noticed that she looked tired and pulled her onto his lap

pressing a kiss into her hair. “My poor Scully, was it really that bad?”

“Not once I escaped.” She giggled.

“What do you mean?”

“I volunteered for the job that no one ever wants to do.”

Mulder screwed up his nose. “Do I want to know?”

“It’s amazing just how long it can take to clean one rest room.” She raised both

eyebrows. “Especially when there is a comfortable couch in there and plenty of

peace and quiet.”

“You shirker.” Mulder exclaimed in mock horror. “Leaving those poor women to

do all the hard work while you lazed about in comfort!”

“Honestly, if I had to listen to much more of their bragging I was going to pull my

badges and read them all their Miranda rights.”

“What about your Mom, didn’t she wonder where you’d gotten to?”

A blush crept over Scully’s cheeks, tingeing them a pretty shade of pink. “Ah, no,

she actually joined me.”

Mulder’s low rumbling laugh filled the room as he tightened his grip around the

slender body in his arms. “Oh, I like you sneaky Scully women.”

Shrugging her shoulders, Scully leaned back against the solid chest behind her.

“My Mom’s opinion was that she knows that she already has the cutest and

smartest grandchildren and doesn’t need to prove it to anyone.”

Mulder chuckled. “So tell me, what’s the gossip?”

“Gossip!” Scully turned and looked her partner in the eye. “That makes me sound

like one of the ‘Blue Rinse Group’, I’ll have you know mister, that my Mother and

I spent quite an agreeable time talking about all sorts of things, Tara and the

children, you…”

“Me?”

“Yes Mulder, you.”

“Good or bad?”

“Hmm, let me see.” Scully pondered for a moment watching as Mulder’s

expression turned from one of surprise and began to border on apprehension.

“Don’t worry, it’s all good. Mom actually wanted to know if we’d be out of town

this weekend.”

“We’re not going anywhere.” Mulder hurriedly asserted.

She raised her eyebrows at his decisiveness. “That’s what I told her, so she

wanted to know if we were going to the D.C. Memorial Day parade, because she

wanted to take Tara, Matthew and Claire.”

“I hadn’t thought about it one way or another, I assumed your Mom would be

having a barbecue like she always does.”

“No, this year she said there’s so many community events going on, she wants to

spoil the kids a bit.”

“Sounds fine by me.” Mulder agreed. “We’ve got the three days off.”

“Speaking of community events.” Scully let a small smile lighten her face.

“There’s one that I want to attend, but you need tickets.” Almost as an

afterthought she added. “But they’re free.”

“That sounds doable.” Mulder turned the chair so they were facing the computer,

bringing both arms around her sides; he placed his fingers on the keyboard.

“Let me up so you can see.” Scully protested.

“Why, are you uncomfortable?” Mulder breathed into her neck, making her shiver.

“No.”

“Well neither am I; okay, what’s this thing you want to see, Scully?”

“It’s a production of ‘Pericles’…”

The name pricked Mulder’s memory but he typed it into the search engine

nevertheless.

“…by the Shakespeare Theatre Company.”

Mulder’s fingers stilled. “Scullee…”

Twisting from her position in his lap, she looked him in the eye and turned the

same tone of voice back on him. “Mulder….”

“Shakespeare?” He asked plaintively.

“Yes Shakespeare.”

Mulder heaved a tortured sigh and continued the search. After several minutes he

found a site with information on the program; from there he followed the links in

order to book seats.

And that’s where he discovered the problem.

Chapter Four

“No tickets available for this performance, or this one, and again.” Mulder rubbed

his cheek against Scully’s shoulder privately hoping the trend would continue.

“Wait Mulder, here.” Scully pointed to the screen. “On Monday night.”

Screwing his eyes shut, Mulder cringed mentally. Monday night, didn’t it just

figure? The same night as the game that he had tickets for, tickets that he had

probably paid far too much money for but all the same, how was he going to

explain this one?

“Monday night.” He reminded her. “It’ll probably be a late one, don’t forget we’ve

got work the next day.”

He had sounded far too happy about this, even to his own ears, and Scully shot

up from his lap with a sudden move. Leaning against the desk, she folded her

arms and stared at him. “Mulder?”

“Um, yeah?” He swallowed.

“What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“Since when are you worried about something like that?” Scully’s eyes narrowed.

“Have you got something planned with the guys for that night?”

“No, not at all.” Mulder defended himself refusing to look her in the eye, Scully

would see right through him if he did.

“Then why all the sudden concern about how late it’s going to be?”

“I was just thinking that with the parade during the day and then going out at

night it was going to be very tiring.” Mulder endeavored to keep his explanation

believable.

“Your thoughtfulness is touching.” Scully replied wryly. “But I’m sure we’ll

manage.”

“We?”

“I’d really like to see this performance Mulder.” She reached out and placed a

small hand on his cheek, rubbing her thumb back and forth over his lips.

Mulder sighed and closed his eyes. The look in her eyes. The touch of her hand.

How on earth could he refuse this woman anything at all?

The simple answer was, he couldn’t.

So as usual where Scully was concerned, he surrendered.

“Okay, let’s see what we can find.” Moving the chair closer to the desk, Mulder

set about ordering tickets. “Seats fifty-six and seven in row C.” He announced

after a few minutes.

Scully’s beaming smile and shining eyes took away any reservations over whether

he was doing a good thing. The kiss he received pushed all thoughts of that

wonderfully anticipated basketball game out of his mind immediately.

Chapter Five.

“Mulder, we’re going to be late.” Scully called back towards the bedroom.

“Don’t worry, everything’s under control.” Mulder sauntered out into the living

room.

Scully eyed him appreciatively; the jeans were a perfect fit, the geometric

patterned shirt unbuttoned over a snow-white tee shirt, well worn sneakers and

finger combed hair all added up to the ideal and quite gorgeous package. “And

they say women take forever to get ready.”

“Hey, I have to make the right impression on my best girl.” He declared.

Scully smiled in delight. “Mulder, you should know by now that you don’t have to

dress to please me. I’m happy however you’re dressed…or undressed for that

matter.” She reached up and threaded her fingers through his hair.

“Um, actually Scully.” Mulder hedged, his panic expression clearly pasted on his

face. “I was talking about Claire.”

His comment rendered her speechless until she saw the glint of amusement in his

eyes. She smacked his arm playfully and leaned in close. “You know as long as

she sees you, I don’t think Claire cares how you’re dressed either.”

Mulder’s hands wrapped themselves around his partner’s waist. A low voice

smooth and sultry sounded against her ear. “Remind me later tonight that you

don’t care how–or if–I’m dressed, I could do with some appreciation.”

Scully felt a shiver all the way up her spine at his words. “It’s a date mister.” She

replied huskily.

They stood in each other’s embrace for another minute exchanging sweet kisses

before Scully moved away. “Come on, we’ll never get a parking spot if we don’t

get moving.”

“Hey I told you, everything’s under control.” He took her hand. “I’m dropping

you, your Mom, Tara and the kids off on Constitution Avenue, it’s not too far a

walk to get to the main centre of the parade route from there. I’ll go and park the

car at the Hoover and catch up with you.”

“Got it all figured out haven’t you?”

“Someone’s gotta be organized.” He boasted.

As Mulder locked the door, Scully turned on the step below him. “There’ll be

thousands and thousands of people there, if you can’t find us, give me a call.”

Mulder put a hand to his back pocket, then to his shirt. “Um, just a minute, forgot

my phone.”

He disappeared back inside leaving Scully chuckling in amusement. “Sure Mulder,

someone’s gotta be organized.”

Chapter Six

Crowds of pedestrians all heading in one direction lined the pavement as Mulder

pulled into a “No Parking” zone. Everyone exited the car quickly, Tara efficiently

strapping Claire into her stroller and Maggie taking Matthew by the hand.

Scully pressed a kiss to her partner’s cheek before scooting out and joining her

family. She bent down and looked through the window. “We’re going to try and

get positions on the curb side, so keep an eye out.”

Mulder nodded in agreement before pulling back into traffic and driving away.

The parade was due to start at nine a.m., and Maggie and Tara both had the

belief that the children would not have the patience to wait for any length of time,

therefore it was a fairly long walk until they managed to find a location where the

children would have an unimpeded view.

They found the perfect place on Constitution, across from the Air & Space

Museum.

Before too long the crowd had grown around them and anticipation was building

up. Scully seated on the edge of the curb next to Matthew glanced at her watch,

if the parade had started on schedule, the military flag bearers and drum corps

should be coming into view any minute. As soon as the thought had entered her

mind, her ears picked up the faint strains of drums and music in the distance.

First however, she looked skyward at the approaching sound of the U.S. Air Force

Jet Fly Over.

The adults in the crowd quieted somewhat when one of the outside jets peeled

away into the “Missing Man” formation, recognizing the aerial salute to all soldiers

who died in the service of their country.

A minute or so later the crowd began to get visibly excited and Matthew, wearing

his little sailor suit and hat, turned to Scully. “Where’s Uncle Mulder?”

“He’ll be here soon, he had to go quite a long way to park the car.”

Some people dressed patriotically in red, white and blue came into sight and as

they neared, Scully noted they were handing out small versions of the American

flag. Both children received one and began waving them enthusiastically.

The flag bearers came into view, including representatives of the United States

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Each was

uncompromisingly correct, holding the flags bearing the emblem for the branch of

the service in front of them. The representative carrying the American Flag

consisting of seven red and six white stripes and fifty white stars in a rectangular

field of navy blue, held the national symbol higher than the rest in the traditional

military manner.

Everyone stood to honour them and held their right hands over their hearts in

salute to the Flag; while current military members and veterans saluted the Flag

they had served.

Scully glanced down beside her and smiled, noticing how young Matthew had

obviously been correctly taught to salute the nation’s flag. Claire was

enthusiastically waving her flag and shrieking in glee at all the colourful sights.

The military drum and fife corps directly behind them was playing John Phillip

Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” While a very long time and well-known

patriotic song, it had been selected as the Official March of America after the

tragic events of September 11, 2001, in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and New

York City.

After the flag bearers and the drum and fife corps passed, came the lead

convertible vehicle, its passengers, the Grand Marshall the actor Gary Sinise, the

Mayor of D.C. and the ex-astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn, waving at the

cheering crowd.

Following slowly behind was a line of vintage cars, each one adorned with a sign

proclaiming which organization they represented.

Matthew climbed excitedly to his feet as a bright red fire truck drove up the

street, its lights flashing. Scully scrambled up next to him just as a large warm

hand came down upon her shoulder. Mulder edged in beside her. “Did I miss

much?”

“You missed the flags and the “Stars and Stripes”, John Glenn was in the lead

vehicle and that sexy actor Gary Sinise, but other than that, nope, the Mayor and

a few old cars.”

“Well I’m sure the Mayor will forgive me for not waving at him this year.” He

grinned. “And Sinise isn’t exactly my type.” He nudged her and winked.

The line up of participants continued, including Reserve Units of the Armed

Forces, marching bands from high schools and universities around the country,

Boy Scout troops, elementary school children, floats covered in red, white and

blue streamers, specially made floats representing various national emblems,

including a very impressive bald eagle made solely from flowers including

thousands of carnations and military vehicles with proud troops marching

alongside.

Several vintage cars drove through, carrying tiny, elderly women, their hair held

back by red bandannas tied on top and their long sleeved white shirts rolled up

above their elbows. All were waving proudly at the crowds. The sign on the car

read “Rosie the Riveter” and “We Can Do It!” The woman on the sign was wearing

the same bandanna, rolling up the sleeve on her raised bent arm.

This brought a smile to Mulder’s face, remembering one of his next door

neighbors on The Vineyard who he’d only ever known as Mrs. Patrick. She had

been a “Rosie” — one of those select few women who had been small enough to

crawl into the wings of the various planes and rivet the bolts together. Mrs.

Patrick — all 4’11” of her, had become something of a second mother to a lonely

boy after his sister had disappeared. She often had snacks waiting for him and in

return, he’d cut her grass or do other odd jobs just to get a hug and a kiss on the

cheek from her.

A twinge hit Mulder’s heart when he remembered learning of her death while he

was away at Oxford.

Mulder glanced down at Scully’s diminutive form, smiling faintly as he realized

she could have qualified as a “Rosie.” However, he wasn’t quite stupid enough to

point that out to her.

In the middle of the parade there was another Fly Over by vintage World War II

aircraft. Scully nudged Mulder pointed skyward and identified each craft.

“The lead is a P-51 Mustang fighter…the one on the left is a Navy F4F Wildcat…the

one on the right is a F6F Hellcat…the one behind is a F4U Corsair.”

“Ooh.” Mulder leaned into her ear. “I think I just got turned on.”

Scully grinned but elbowed him anyway. “Shut up Mulder, there are little ears

here.”

Mulder just waggled his eyebrows suggestively at her.

Behind those fighters came larger planes. “Those Mulder are the Bombers. The

first one is the B-24 Liberator…the next is the B-25 Mitchell…”

The roar of large engines overhead nearly drowned her out, but she yelled over

the din, “And that one is the infamous B-17, the Flying Fortress!”

They watched as it flew away. “The Fortress was the largest bomber ever built. It

had a top speed of 295 miles per hour Mulder.” Scully watched the plane

disappear into the distance. “It was the only four-engine bomber, carried a

bombload of 17,600 lbs and carried twelve .50 caliber machine guns. They could

fly for incredible distances and at very high altitudes.

Mulder just stared at her. “How do you know all of this?”

She glanced at him, a tear in her eye. “I listened to my Dad when he talked and

even though he was Navy and the Navy had their own aircraft, he was a student

of World war II planes.”

Mulder smiled and hugged her. “I’m glad you had your Ahab Scully. He and your

Mom made you the woman I love.”

Scully smiled shyly and stole a brief kiss as another loud but talented band

marched up the avenue.

Of course no parade would be complete without Members of Congress and the

House of Representatives gladhanding the crowd and waving to have their faces

seen. Scully could almost hear Mulder’s eyes rolling at these displays.

Local businesses and industries were well-represented, brightly coloured helium

balloons of all shapes and sizes including an impressive one of “Uncle Sam”, an

old yet easily recognized American symbol, festooned most of the entrants and

the crowd waved and cheered as each one passed.

Mulder leaned over and conferred with Tara and Maggie and after a quick

conversation, Claire was unstrapped from her stroller and hoisted up onto

Mulder’s shoulders. She clutched her flag in one hand and buried the other deep

into his hair eliciting a good-natured cringe.

Occasionally, Claire whacked her flag on Mulder’s head in her excitement and he

cast a baleful glance at Scully, who was trying very hard not to laugh at him.

Both Tara and Maggie had obviously been watching too and were having a hard

time keeping straight faces

The music from the bands as they passed was loud and cheerful and each was

barely out of earshot before another one took its place.

Veterans from far too many wars past who were able to march did so, while aged

and infirm Veterans were spirited along the parade route in convertibles, on horse

drawn ceremonial carriages and even on antique artillery.

As the sound of horses’ hooves grew louder, unable to control her excitement,

Claire squealed in delight and jiggled up and down on Mulder’s shoulder’s, when a

line of mounted troops came into view.

Then came a sight that brought tears to Scully’s eyes and as she looked over at

her Mom and sister-in-law she found them equally affected.

Marching down the street, their officers’ dark navy jackets, perfect white hats,

flashy buttons, epaulettes, rank insignias and brilliant white trousers standing out

came the U.S Navy Honour Guard fronted by Navy Flags and carrying their

parade rifles. Behind them in a long procession, came rows of white uniformed

seamen. She felt fingertips brush hers and turned her head to see Mulder offering

a warm smile. She grasped his hand firmly and leaned in to his comforting

embrace.

“Fair winds and following seas, Ahab,” Scully whispered, then glanced over to see

her Mother mouthing the same words with tears in her eyes. Scully turned teary

eyes up to Mulder’s and squeezed his hand tighter.

Finally, over two and a half hours later, the procession began to come to an end.

Police squad cars and motorcycle officers, their lights flashing, drove slowly down

the street behind the last marchers, followed up by mounted police. Mulder lifted

Claire from his shoulders and deposited her back into the stroller.

Before Mulder could straighten up, Claire grabbed him by the ears, held on tight

and planted a sloppy, wet kiss on his face. Mulder’s eyes went wide and Scully

tried not to laugh.

“Love oo, Unka Mudder.” Claire told him with a huge drooling smile.

Mulder glanced at all the Scully women, recovered, kissed the little girl on the

cheek and patted her soft hair. “I love you too, Claire sweetie.”

Tara thanked and hugged him profusely as she strapped her daughter in securely.

Matthew pulled away from Scully’s grip and knelt down next to his sister.

“Didja see the fire engines and the guns and the big planes, Claire?” He asked

excitedly.

Claire waved her flag in his face. “Horsies!” She crowed in elation, pointing at the

receding mounted police and excitedly bouncing up and down in her stroller.

All three Scully women laughed quietly at her giddiness and waited for the crowds

to thin before they started back to the car.

“Why don’t you all wait here, I’ll go and get the car and pick you up.” Mulder

suggested.

Scully looked around aware of all the barricades still in place. “Mulder in case you

didn’t notice, you can’t drive through here right now.”

Mulder patted his hip pocket where he kept his badge. “That’s why they put the

‘I’ in the ‘FBI’ Scully. For ‘Ingenuity’.”

“Mulder.” She frowned. “You wouldn’t abuse the authority of your badge…just for

a parade would you?”

Mulder stood tall, thrust his chest out dramatically, looked comically offended and

told her. “I am an officer of the law, a federal officer at that. I have sworn to

serve and protect and that includes protecting the fairer sex.”

Scully’s eyes narrowed dangerously at that remark but Mulder held a hand up

before she could say anything.

“Come on Scully, we all know you could kick my ass all the way up Constitution

Avenue and back without breaking a sweat.” He leaned over and quickly kissed

her. “But what good is that badge if I can’t take a couple of very tired kids and

two very tired Moms out of here. I can sneak one by to pick up some really tired

kids, can’t I? Pleeeasse, Scully?”

He indicated the kids, not to mention Tara and Maggie Scully, who both looked

worn out. Claire had actually zonked out and was asleep in her stroller, her flag

still held tightly in her little fist.

“Well.” She reached up and kissed him softly. “Okay. Only this once.” Then she

leaned close to his ear and whispered. “But if Skinner finds out, I don’t know you.

Just remember to hurry, I have plans of appreciation for that very fine ass this

evening.”

Mulder’s smile widened, he returned her kiss and with a pronouncement of, “Be

right back, Ladies.” He started off.

“And what a very fine ass it is indeed.” Maggie remarked, shocking her daughter

silly.

Scully spun to stare at her Mom, her eyes widened and when Tara and her Mom

started laughing, she realized that they’d heard the entire conversation. “Mom!”

“I’m a mother Dana, I’m not dead.” Maggie responded with a sly smile.

Blushing furiously, Scully leaned over to Matthew. “Hey Matty! What about that

Happy Meal we promised you?”

“Yes!!” Matthew responded with a shriek, which woke up his little sister, as Scully

knew it would, distracting the two other Scully women with her cries.

Feeling only slightly guilty, Scully sat down on the curb, took a swig from her

water bottle and watched Mulder’s backside. She grinned in a slightly wicked way,

certain he was sashaying his hips provocatively just for her.

She refused to look at her Mom to see if she was watching the same sight

because … because, if she was, well … it was just … never mind. Scully

shivered.

Chapter Seven.

The age-old cry of “Stop Thief!” cut through the post parade excitement, Mulder’s

head swivelled, automatically seeking out the cause of the distressed shriek. Just

as he turned, a lithe figure sprinted through the Scullys’ small group catching

Maggie a glancing blow as he dashed past.

The surprised look on the bystanders’ faces, Maggie’s muted cry of alarm from

across the street and Scully’s breathless exclamation, all registered in Mulder’s

mind in the same instant as he took off after the young mugger. The kid was a

good twenty feet in front of him and all he could see was the faded denim jacket

as he weaved in and out the crowd. Mulder’s feet pounded the pavement,

gradually narrowing the distance between his quarry and himself.

Somewhere during the chase, he began to give thanks to whatever force it was

that had compelled him to take up running in the first place. Because this kid,

while he didn’t have the build of an athlete, sure had the speed of one.

Eventually however, longer legs and sheer determination won out and Mulder was

close enough to reach out and snag the back of the kid’s jacket. His fingers

clenched in the collar and he jerked his arm backwards, stopping the boy’s

headlong rush.

The sudden shift in gravity caused the boy to stumble back against Mulder’s

larger body, somehow their feet became entangled with each other’s and both

lost their footing, falling towards the pavement in a twisted jumble of limbs.

Mulder’s left hand was still gripping the kid’s collar as they fell and he felt his

right elbow take the full brunt of their combined weight as they hit the concrete.

Pain ricocheted from the joint up to his shoulder and streaked down to each

individual fingertip, causing him to clamp his lips down on an agonized cry.

“Shit man, let go o’ me.” The disgruntled voice broke through the fog creeping up

around Mulder’s awareness and he realised that his quarry was struggling to get

to his feet.

“Just keep still.” Mulder ground out the words through tightly clenched teeth.

“What d’you think you are, a cop or somethin’?”

“Close enough.”

A crowd of curious gawkers had gathered around them, although none bothered

to offer any assistance. Mulder climbed awkwardly to his feet, his one good hand

still tightly gripping the boy’s jacket and hauled the miscreant up with him. He

held his injured appendage close to his body; the waves of pain making him feel

decidedly ill.

The bulk of a uniformed police officer pushed through the inquisitive horde

silencing the buzz of voices and took in the sight before him. “One of you boys

want to tell me what the hell’s going on here?” He demanded.

Mulder shook the kid standing in front of him. “Federal Agent Fox Mulder, Officer.

I believe this offender is in possession of property that does not belong to him.”

“That right kid?” The cop eyed the miscreant in Mulder’s grip standing dejectedly

before him.

“I aint saying nothin’.” Came the mumbled reply.

The cop’s eyebrows rose in a near perfect imitation of Scully’s, or so Mulder

thought. “That so?” He enquired. “What’s this then?” He pulled at the item hidden

beneath the scruffy denim jacket.

“It’s mine.” The boy’s answer was surly.

“So, you won’t have a problem with me having a look then, will you?” He held out

an expectant hand and sullenly the boy handed over the small but heavy

handbag.

Again the cop’s eyebrows rose. “You making a fashion statement kid?” He

rummaged through the contents, pulling out a small purse and examining it.

Looking up, he observed the boy for several seconds. “Well, I’ll grant you that

your mother may have had a weird sense of humour and saddled you with a

name like Ethel Louise, but I’m not gonna believe that you are anywhere near

eighty-six years old.”

As the cop reached out towards him, the boy took a step back, colliding with

Mulder and jarring his injured arm.

A pain-filled hiss escaped his lips and his vision was spotted with sparkling lights.

His knees threatening to fold underneath him, Mulder let go of the boy’s collar

and clamped his good hand around his upper right arm.

The murmuring crowd parted again and a familiar and extremely welcome voice

called his name. “Mulder?”

Scully took in the sight before her, her eyes instantly cataloging details and

assessing the situation. Noting the fine sheen of perspiration coating her partner’s

face she eased in beside him and gently gripped his left arm guiding him back a

few steps until his knees hit the seat of a park bench. “Mulder, sit down.”

“I’m okay Scully.” He panted.

“You are most definitely not okay, now sit.”

Complying with her instruction, Mulder eased himself down onto the hard wooden

seat, he tipped his head back and closed his eyes, breathing harshly.

“Let me see.” Small gentle hands worked at his tightly clenched fingers, pulling

them away.

“Ma’am?” The questioning voice of the officer drew her attention momentarily

away from her partner.

She looked up into blue-grey eyes. “Yes, Officer…?

“Czerniejewski, Ma’am.”

Scully blinked at the tangle of consonants that flowed from the man’s lips and

received an answering smile. “It’s okay, I get that a lot.” He tipped his head in

Mulder’s direction. “You know this man?”

“Yes, I’m his partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. We’re FBI agents. I’m also a

medical doctor.” She pulled her badge from her jeans pocket and showed it to the

officer. He nodded after inspecting it and Scully returning it to her pocket.

“I’m going to need a statement from him, Agent.”

“I’ll make sure of it as soon as he’s had some medical attention.”

“It’s okay Scully, I can do it now.” Mulder struggled to sit up, wincing slightly. He

addressed the officer, the convoluted surname no impediment.

Recalling the facts with a clarity made easy by his eidetic memory, Mulder ended

his statement with a small shrug, causing a grimace to cross his face.

“C’mon Mulder, let me look.”

“I just wrenched it when I fell Scully, that’s all.”

“It looks like a lot more than a wrench Mulder.” She ran her fingers down his arm

and took hold of his wrist.

Officer Czerniejewski broke into her concentration. “Uh, Agent Scully, if I need

any more information, where can I get in contact with both of you?”

Her attention firmly fixed on her partner, Scully answered briefly. “Headquarters,

the switchboard will put you through.”

Nodding, the officer eyed the two agents for another few moments before

tightening his grip on one of the boy’s now handcuffed arms. Before leaving, he

ordered the now diminished crowd to be on their way.

“Okay Mulder, I want you to straighten your arm out to your side.”

Teeth gritted, he did as she requested but only managed to partially unbend his

arm before he gasped. “No, hurts.”

“Mm hmm, all right, try this.” She took his clenched fist in her hand. “Open your

hand and turn your palm so that it faces the ground.”

Mulder was able to accomplish that small movement but not without pain. “Good,

now turn it the other way and face the sky.” Again, he complied, but his

breathing echoed the discomfort he was feeling.

Mulder eyed his partner’s beautiful face, brows drawn together in concentration

as her fingers gently palpated his limb. “So, I just wrenched it huh?”

Scully looked up and shook her head. “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news

Mulder, but you’ve done a whole lot more than just wrench it. In fact, I think I’d

be correct in saying that you’ve fractured it.”

The word “fracture” sank into Mulder’s brain bringing with it terms like “sick

leave” and “desk duty”. Hopefully he’s escape “hospitalisation” and “operation”

being added as well.

His heart sank and he shook his head. “No, I’m sure it’s just a wrench, see…it’s

feeling better already.” Slowly he clenched his fist again and began to straighten

his elbow, a few seconds into the exercise his face paled and he dropped his head

forward. “Oh shit, shit, damn.”

“Hold still.” Scully instructed firmly, taking his injured limb and supporting it.

“Mulder, you’ve got three major nerves running through your elbow joint, you

keep moving suddenly like that and you’ll be in a world of pain.”

“It can’t be broken Scully, I’ve got tickets…” He stopped suddenly as her eyes

narrowed. “I mean we’ve got tickets for your show tonight.”

“It’s not important Mulder, however you are and we need to get you to the

hospital for x-rays.”

“But what about your Mom and Tara and the kids?” He nodded at the

aforementioned group standing worriedly by.

“My Mom managed to corral four kids by herself for years Mulder, I’m sure she

and Tara will be able to manage two between them.”

“But, the car…”

Scully placed a finger against his lips effectively cutting off his protest. “Don’t

worry, everything is under control.” She echoed his words from earlier in the day.

A wry smile graced Mulder’s face. “Yeah but have you got your phone?”

Chapter Eight.

“Boy, you sure did a number on this didn’t you?” The doctor hadn’t introduced

himself but Mulder noted the name of Lacey on his I.D. tag. Strong fingers

probed his injury, hurting a little more than Scully’s had. “What were you doing,

playing basketball?”

“I wish.” Mulder murmured in a heartfelt tone still sweating and panting with the

pain.

“Ah, a fellow bb fan.” He smiled and the skin at the corner of his eyes crinkled.

“Reason I asked is, this sort of injury is fairly common with that sport.” He

continued his examination. “So what did you do?”

“Fell.”

“I gathered that, what were you doing when you fell?”

“Apprehending a bag snatcher.”

Lacey’s eyes travelled from Mulder’s elbow to his face. “You a cop?”

“FBI.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think you guys did stuff like that.”

Mulder sighed. “Still law enforcement, a crime is a crime.”

“That’s true, okay, I’m going to send you down to x-ray and then we’ll have a

better idea of how much damage you’ve done.”

“How long will it take to heal?”

“Without the x-rays, I can’t give you a definite time frame, but I’d say you’ll be

looking at being in a cast for at least six weeks.”

“Shit.” Mulder sighed despondently. Desk duty. Crappy, hellacious, mind boring,

ass numbing desk duty. And after that, physical therapy hell. He groaned.

“Look at the bright side, you can take it easy, catch up on all the games on TV.”

He made a few notations on Mulder’s chart. “Like the one on tonight, man I would

have killed for tickets to that game.”

“Yeah I can’t go either.”

“Missed out too did you, I was working when they announced it, otherwise I

would have been straight on the telephone to grab some.” Lacey told him.

“No, I’ve got tickets, I just can’t go.” Mulder twisted his left arm around behind

his back and dug his wallet out of his jeans pocket.

Flipping it open clumsily, he pulled the two tickets that he’d been carrying around

with him ever since they had arrived mid-week. “Here.” He thrust them out at the

man. “Someone may as well get some use out of them.”

Eagerly Lacey reached out to take the tickets printed with the NBA logo but

halted his hand in mid move. “No, I can’t.”

“Hey it’s not a bribe.” Mulder told him. “I’m the agent, you’re the doctor. Other

way round, it would be.”

Lacey still hesitated.

“Well they’re going to be wasted then.” Mulder shrugged, then winced at the

movement.

Tentatively, Lacey took the tickets, and then examining them closely looked up at

Mulder in delight. “You have got to be kidding me, these are great. Courtside

seats!” Trying unsuccessfully to wipe the grin off his face, he asked. “Why can’t

you use them?”

“I have other…ah, commitments.”

“And you can’t get out of them?”

The door opened behind Lacey and Scully poked her head around the side. “You

still here Mulder?” She entered the room and walked over to where Mulder sat on

the edge of the bed. “Hi, Dana Scully. I’m Agent Mulder’s partner.” She offered

her hand to Lacey.

“Mark Lacey.” He smiled in return, swapping the tickets to his left hand and

gripping hers firmly. “Are you partner partners or just partners?”

Scully smiled at his odd question. “Both.” She turned to Mulder. “I thought you’d

be down in x-ray by now.”

“He’s just about to go, Mr. Mulder and I were discussing basketball.”

“A kindred spirit, I take it.”

“Yeah.” Lacey’s eyes were drawn again to the two tickets in his hand. “I don’t

know how to thank you.”

Mulder broke in hurriedly. “That’s fine, I just hope the tip is a good one.”

Scully was bewildered. “Tip, what are you talking about?”

“Basketball Scully, I was just giving the doc my opinion on who I think is gonna

win.”

Her sharp eyes caught sight of the slips of colourfully printed cardboard in Lacey’s

hand. “What’re those?”

“Tickets to the game tonight.”

Mulder spoke up. “Doctor Lacey was just telling me he’s going to the game that’s

on tonight.”

Lacey frowned before he read the warning in Mulder’s eyes. “Yeah, I was just

bragging a bit.” He admitted sheepishly.

“Uh huh.” She looked from man to man searching each face for any sign of

falsehood.

“Well, I’ll go round up an orderly and I’ll see you back here in a while, okay, Mr.

Mulder.”

“Yeah, just do me a favour and drop the Mr. part, would you?”

“I can do that.” Lacey answered as he stepped through the door.

Scully planted her hands on her hips and faced her partner. “Anything you want

to tell me Mulder?”

“Apart from my arm is killing me and I could do with some really good painkillers,

no I don’t think so.”

Just at that particularly fortuitous moment an orderly appeared pushing a

wheelchair.

“Mulder, I’ll follow you shortly, I just want to call Mom and let her know how you

are.”

“Okay, tell her I’m sorry for upsetting her plans.” He tossed her an apologetic grin

as he settled into the wheelchair.

As soon as Mulder was out of sight, Scully left in search of his doctor, finding him

at the desk filling in paperwork, she approached him. “Dr. Lacey, I wonder if I

might have a moment of your time.”

“Sure.” He flipped the chart shut and met her eyes expectantly. “What can I do

for you?”

“Those tickets you have, did Agent Mulder give them to you?”

“Ah well, you see…”

“Doctor, I’m not angry, in fact I’m probably feeling a little feeling guilty if

anything.”

“I don’t understand.”

“From what I have gathered, Agent Mulder had tickets for this game tonight,

however I more or less demanded that we go and see a production of

Shakespeare. He never told me about the game or that he had plans, he just

went along with mine.” She twisted her lips in chagrin. “Did he say anything to

you?”

“No, not really, I asked him why he couldn’t go and he just said he had other

commitments. When I enquired why he couldn’t get out of them, he sort of just

shrugged the question off, didn’t reply. That’s when you arrived.”

“Okay, thanks Doctor Lacey.” She made to leave but turned back again. “Um,

would you mind not saying anything about this to Mulder.”

Lacey frowned. “If you want my opinion, which you probably don’t, but I’ll tell you

anyway, you two seem to keep too many secrets from each other.”

Scully’s expression softened. “Not any more.”

Chapter Nine.

“You certainly made an impression Mulder, the handbag belonged to a Mrs. Ethel

Parker, who just happens to be a war widow and she had her husband’s war

medals in it. They were priceless to her. Mr. Parker had apparently been in the

Army Air Force in the infantry and had acquired the Medal of Honor, the

Distinguished Service Medal, two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross,

and, posthumously, the World War II Victory Medal,” Scully recited from memory,

impressed.”

Tiredly, Mulder flexed his white powder-coated fingers as he slumped back into

the comfort of the couch. ” The only impression I’ll be making for a while will be

the dint in the furniture.”

“Don’t put yourself down, Mulder,” Scully told him. “You did good. Mrs. Parker

was very sweet and wanted to thank you herself, but her son needed to take her

home.”

He listened to her but glumly observed the cast encasing his arm from fingertips

to just below his shoulder. “How’m I supposed to do anything like this?”

“We’ll just have to be imaginative.” Scully purred in his ear as she snuggled up

against his good side.

“If that was an invitation, I’m sorry to say I’ve got far too many meds swimming

around my bloodstream to take you up on it.”

“Not an invitation, just a promise.”

“Oh, okay.” He shrugged. He peered at his watch. “We’ll have to get ready soon.”

“What for?”

“We’re still going to the performance Scully, you’ll just have to drive.”

“Mulder, we are not going anywhere.”

“Yes we are.”

“Mulder, listen to reason, your body has had a major shock today, you need to

stay home and…”

“And do what, sit down? I can do that if we go out, too.”

“I was going to say relax, there’ll be crowd of people there Mulder, your arm

could get bumped.”

Mulder gave her a loopy smile. “You can be my bouncer.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Scully sighed. “Mulder, in all good conscience I can’t let you do this.”

Mulder struggled upright. “You can’t let me…Scully, last time I looked in the

mirror, I was an emancipated adult.”

“Who has a complete fracture of the elbow.”

“And who can sit on his butt at a performance of Shakespeare just as well as he

can sit on his butt at home.” He pushed his bottom lip out into a pout. “Scully,

you know how much you wanted to see this, it’s the only night we could get

tickets. Don’t make me go alone.”

His last words prompted a small snort of laughter and Scully shook her head. “I

know, you know.”

“Huh?”

“About your tickets.”

“Uh…my tickets?”

“Yes, the ones you gave to Dr. Lacey.”

“Oh, those tickets, well they weren’t really…”

“Don’t tell me they weren’t yours Mulder, like those videos that weren’t yours all

those years; don’t lie to me.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you, Scully.” He frowned.

“You were just going to say they weren’t your tickets.”

“Don’t put words in my mouth.” He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her

forehead. “I was going to say they weren’t of any use to me because I had

something else to do.” He took her hand in his. “Come on, you’re going to have

to help me get dressed.”

“It’ll be my pleasure.”

Chapter Ten.

The star-littered sky provided a perfect backdrop for their surroundings; trees

strung with a myriad of fairy lights encircled the amphitheatre where the

performance was presented. The warm early summer night was filled with the

scents of nature and Scully sighed in absolute pleasure as her eyes followed the

story unfolding on the stage.

She glanced to her side and smiled. Mulder was fully enjoying himself as well; his

injured arm fastened securely to his side, he was relaxed in his seat, a small dose

of painkillers in his system and with his eyes shut.

Fortunately for him, whoever held tickets for the next couple of seats never

showed, so he had plenty of room to slouch and he was taking full advantage of it

Scully leaned over and tapped his arm, “What’s the score?” She whispered.

Pulling the bud of the earphone loose, he opened one eye.

“Scully 2, Mulder 0.” He answered.

Scully laughed wondering if he was still truly loopy from the “good stuff.”

She leaned close to him, blew in his ear, which elicited a delicious shiver, then

whispered. “When you’re feeling better, mister, you are gonna get sooo lucky!”

Mulder’s eyes blinked open wide and a leer appeared on his lips as he stared back

at her. “Can’t wait, gorgeous. Can’t wait.”

With that, he put the earphone bud back in and leaned back, squirming to get

comfortable. Scully watched him happily.

She couldn’t wait to tell him about the next few days she’d asked off, which

Skinner had approved for both of them.

They’d be going to Miami in a couple of days to watch the Heat play the Detroit

Pistons in the final round of the NBA playoffs. Better yet, she’d managed to do it

all and get courtside seats without Mulder knowing.

In reality, it hadn’t been that difficult because he’d been knocked out from the

painkillers.

Mulder was going to be in basketball heaven. Even though it wasn’t his beloved

New York Knicks, the fact that she’d arranged for Mulder to meet “The Shack” —

Shaquille O’Neal — and get an autographed basketball. It would be like manna to

a starving man.

Scully’s slightly wicked grin returned.

Oh yeah, Mulder would be her very, very happy G-Man.

She knew that her thanks would be given to her in the privacy of their bedroom,

only minutes after he found out. She knew his cumbersome cast wouldn’t stop

him.

After all, as Mulder had told her earlier that day, that’s why they put the “I” – for

“Ingenuity” –in FBI.

The End.

NOTES AND DEDICATIONS FROM ANUBIS:

Apologies For The Length, But Please Bear With Me…

I’d like to dedicate my part of this story to FOXGLOVE, who originally asked me to

beta, and then asked for research help on Memorial Day traditions and history in

America. As I am known as a “Virtual Font of Useless Information” by personal

friends, and having an extreme interest in both Texas and U.S. History, I was

glad to help. Having been to D.C. on many occasions, visited The Wall, the Tomb

of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery and so many Civil War battlefields,

and having attended Memorial Day parades and ceremonies hither and yon,

Foxglove ended up using some of my suggestions. She eventually offered to give

me co-author credit. Thank you, dear Foxglove; was a joy. I’m glad to know an

Australian who appreciates a United States holiday. I will always know of and

remember ANZAC day in return. Thank you, Foxglove You are my Sister Down

Under.

Because this story (my part anyway) was completed on Memorial Day (May 29th,

2006), I have other dedications as well specific to that holiday:

To my late FATHER, who proudly served his country in the United States Army Air

Force in World War II. He served double-duty as both a talented airplane

mechanic (everything from bombers to fighters to anything that flew) and as a

weapons instructor. He was an Expert Marksman with a handgun (revolver and

automatic) and all sorts of long arms (rifles — bolt action and automatic). He

worked on all the planes mentioned in the parade, along with many more, and

taught me all about them. He was awarded the following medals: The

Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Service

Ribbon, the Weapons Qualification Badge, the Marksmanship Badge, the

Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge, the Distinguished Rifleman Badge, the Expert

Infantryman Badge and, at the end of the War, the World War II Victory Medal.

He was honorably discharged at the end of the War. I hope you’re enjoying

Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band’s music in person as much as you did

while in the AAF and after the War. Thank you for being the loving, caring but

strict when necessary kind of father that you were. I miss you terribly, Daddy.

Nothing can stop the Army Air Force.

To my sister AJ, who was a police officer and who died in a violent, unexplainable

car accident very early on a Friday morning in March, 1984. Although homicide

was suspected (and still is), it was never solved. Even though she was not on

duty at the time of her death, she was given a full honors police funeral with

police escort, lead by her boyfriend who was a motorcycle cop. AJ, you were a

pain in the a** to me, sis (and I know I was just as big of one to you), but I’d

take ALL those pains to have you back. I miss you and I miss your clear-as-a-

bell gorgeous soprano voice. Oh, thanks for the tip on that horrible Frankenstein

B-movie. I did watch it — and a few days later you were gone. I love you.

To my “cousin” BILL, who served in the U.S. Navy on both the U.S.S. Forestall

and the U.S.S. Enterprise between Korea and Vietnam. He came home safely

and was honorably discharged after 6 years in the service. Be safe piloting that

plane of yours, wherever you fly these days. Remember, that’s my much-loved

cousin you’re ferrying about up there! By marrying her, you became my cousin,

too. Fair winds and following seas. I love you, Bill.

To my late cousin SAM, who served in the U.S. Army at the very beginning of

Vietnam, though he was stationed primarily in Germany. He was honorably

discharged and returned home after four years in the service. Thanks for the

bullwhip, Sammy; you taught me how to use it well. <g> You are missed

terribly. An Army of One.

To Mrs. Patrick, who was a REAL person in my life, my next door neighbor when I

was growing up in Dallas and who, at a whopping 4’11” had been a “Rosie” in

World War II at Love Field where my Father was stationed and where they met.

Through her, my Father met her husband and they and my parents moved to the

same street in Dallas after the War. She passed away some years ago. Her

husband is still living, with one of his children, north of Dallas. I love you both.

To my ancestors, JAMES and JOSHUA (on my Dad’s side), blood brothers who

fought in the Civil War (1861-1865) in the United States. Joshua joined the

Confederate Army and James joined the Union. Joshua was shunned by the

family for his enlistment as a Confederate. In a cruel twist of fate, Joshua and

James ended up at Shiloh at the same time, meeting on the battlefield, face to

face, and James ended up killing his younger brother Joshua in hand-to-hand

combat with a bayonet (neither had had time to reload their rifles and therefore

were reduced to bayonets). James was then shunned by the family for killing the

enemy, his brother. It was a no-win situation. I’ve been to Shiloh and seen

where Joshua died. I don’t know how or where James died as he was made an

outcast. Both were lost. I hope you are both now at peace.

To my two dear friends DCA and KRS who were lost in WTC I and WTC II,

respectively, on that fateful day, September 11, 2001, and who were never

found, I miss you both. Your senses of humor were deadpan and lethal, your

talents unique and your friendship irreplaceable. Since we all knew each other, I

hope you’re together having a good time and talking about old days in fandom —

perhaps having a discussion with The Great Bird of the Galaxy. You are also not

forgotten.

To DAVID EARL BROACH, a personal friend from my young-to-teen years in

Dallas where he and I were both born and raised. We were great friends. David’s

tour of duty in Vietnam began on June 24, 1969. He was Regular Army SP4 – E4 –

4th Infantry Division, Ranger Airborne, which was one of the most dangerous

outfits of which to be a member. David — or as his buddies in ‘Nam called him —

“Dallas” (because they already had a “Tex” in their ranks) came home on leave to

Dallas in July of 1970. I saw him at church, and all of us — especially the girls —

had a great time hugging such a gorgeous male soldier in full uniform. Boy, did

he enjoy the attention! He was truly “GQ handsome.” Admittedly, most of the

girls had a crush on him, along with him being a good friend to so many. My

friend Karen and I were especially good friends with David, even though he was 4

years older than we were. Shortly thereafter, David returned to Vietnam for his

next tour (for which he “re-upped” <re-enlisted>). He didn’t have to, and it

wasn’t a requirement. Six months was considered a complete tour of duty in a

very difficult and unpopular war at home. When he returned to ‘Nam, he was

made Point man of his four man unit, which was part of the LRP (Long Range

Patrol). On August 3, 1970, he and his buddies were on LRP in the Phu Yen

Province of South Vietnam. Unfortunately, being man on Point, he stepped on

and triggered a ground mine and, in his position, David took the full brunt of the

blast and was killed in action, instantly. He was only a few weeks shy of his 20th

birthday. He was returned to us in Dallas, to his parents and his sisters David

was given full military honors and funeral, and the huge church was packed. My

friend Karen stood side by side with me in the choir loft that day, holding hands

and crying our eyes out, because, at David’s parents’ request, the Youth Choir

had been asked to sing. Karen and myself, my late sister and one of my cousins

were members of that choir, as David had been before he felt the calling to join

the Army. I *still* don’t know how we did it, but somehow, that huge choir did

our best performance ever. The main song I remember singing was a special

arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” David was a Texas son who

was taken far too soon — and he will never be forgotten. One of his sisters had a

son whom she named “Earl David.” His other sister named her son “David Earl.”

And his niece named her son “David Thomas.” I’d been looking for years for

David’s parents, and through a stroke of luck, fate, God’s grace, or a combination

of them all, I found one of his Army buddies on Memorial Day this year. We’ve

shared our remembrances of David, or as his buddy called him, “Dallas” and I’m

pleased that I was able to bring a little bit of happiness to one ex-soldier who

came home but who still feels guilty for having left his friends behind 36 years

ago. I also talked to David’s parents in the first time in decades. It was

wonderful because they remembered me, my sister, my parents and my friend

Karen and her sister and parents. And now Karen knows, too.

To quote your Ranger buddy’s email to me today, David:

“The ties after 36 years have never been broken & the tears seem to have cut

lines in the face that they flow down. At sometime in the future the one that

came home forever will leave this place & finally be returned to his friend that

gave his all to come home.”

As I told David’s buddy today — he came home for a REASON. I’m glad his name

is NOT on The Wall. If he hadn’t come home, his children and grandchildren

wouldn’t be here, and he would not be here to give David’s parents friendship and

some peace and closure. He’s no less of a hero because he came back and David

didn’t.

Be at Peace, David. You ARE remembered.

War is hell. Whoever said that didn’t say enough. But what else CAN you say?

Except — THANK YOU — to every man and woman, whether military or civilian,

who fought for the United States of America, for our rights and freedoms — and

for having the courage to do so. To all police, firefighters and every other service

organizations who work to keep us safe, thank you.

Thank you to everyone in Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington D.C. who,

on September 11, 2001, risked their lives — and of whom many were lost — in

trying to save all the innocents who died in those horrific acts of murder in that

field in Pennsylvania, the WTC in NYC and the Pentagon in D.C.

Thank you to all of the United States’ Allies. Your own popularity with your

citizens have suffered because of your alliance with my country of birth,

regardless of which war or act of terrorism.

Last but not least — to XFQBB — you know why — and to your late Daddy who

proudly served in the U.S. Navy overseas in World War II, who was honorably

discharged and who came back home to your family. May he also rest in peace.

(I’ve been told that at my age it’s “childish” to still call my father “Daddy,” but

that’s how I knew him, all my life, that’s what I called him when he took his last

breath, and I will never think of him any other way. The name was bestowed

upon him with love from me and my sister as young children, and is still meant

with deep love and devotion. If you, as the reader, do not care for it, that’s your

opinion and you are entitled to it. I know many other adult women who call their

fathers “Daddy” as well. Their fathers will always be “Daddy” in their hearts,

too.)

24

Z1372

13x13_banner

Z1372

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Casefile/profiler/crossover

Rating: PG-13 for language, violence, mild sexual innuendo

Spoilers: Kaddish, VS12/13 various, CSI, Without a Trace, Cold Case

Summary: Mulder and Scully embark on a cross-country trek to thwart a kidnapper and memory

thief who may be connected to an old adversary.

Disclaimer: To Chris Carter and Jerry Bruckheimer, here’s the mega-crossover that never

happened, all in fond fun and with respect to the enforcement agencies and producers involved.

E-mail: fwidsvnt@ilfb.org

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Hotel Manhattan Continentale

New York, N.Y.

10:17 a.m.

“In the end, the essential question is not, ‘Are we playing God?’ Without wishing to debate

theology or the theoretical hand of God in the human genome – and, please, believe me, I don’t —”

A titter arose from the 150-some scientists assembled in the Versailles Salon, and Cedric Morsberg

slipped silently from his seat on the aisle near the back. The ongoing scrap between God and

Science had been escalating since Dolly the Sheep started making the tabloids, and Morsberg had

heard it all, even from the likes of the artfully tattered, pampered kids on the sidewalk outside the

hotel, chanting and screaming and, periodically, invoking the name and outrage of a deity to which

most of them likely did not subscribe.

“—I must argue that the quintessential question is whether we are acting with humanity. Are we

indeed acting as stewards of all over which we have been given dominion? Are we embracing that

which will serve our planets in the millennia ahead, or that which ultimately will spell our

downfall?”

Easing the ballroom doors quietly closed behind him, Cedric Morsberg sighed with amusement.

The Canadian geneticist had contemplated blowing off the initial breakout sessions for a peek

about Manhattan, perhaps a famous New Yawk bagel at the deli he’d spotted a few blocks down.

Morsberg was no hayseed down from the University of Guelph-Ontario to gawp at the New York

skyline – he’d lectured and consulted in the world’s major genetics hubs, and the Science Prize

he’d collected in Stockholm held an honored spot on a shelf above his cluttered desk. But this

incredibly was his first visit to the Big Apple, and he felt a certain tinge of adrenalin.

No, he’d attended Jason Kirschner’s bioethics session purely out of academic curiosity and, he was

forced to concede, a highly non-academic sense of amusement. The conservatives somehow

believed Man capable of usurping the dominion of a purportedly all-knowing, omnipotent God.

The liberals, to whom rational, existential fact was purportedly the only God, disregarded the most

essential mechanics of biology and the growing hunger of the planet –- a hunger that, unchecked by

technology, would consume Earth’s resources.

Morsberg himself had tweaked a few genes to increase phosphorous uptake in swine – a

development that could significantly reduce phosphate levels in manure and thus harmful runoff

from livestock farms. That angle had only peripherally interested the Toronto metro reporter who’d

visited his lab, instantly dubbed UG-213 the “Greenpig,” and conducted his own clumsy print

forum on bioethics. His stomach rumbled with acid and Starbucks, and Morsberg wished he’d

opted for the bagel.

Morsberg headed around the corner toward the Grand Ballroom, groaning as he spotted the “Out of

Order” placard on the men’s room lavatory. An old Latino man pressing the hotel’s initials into the

white sand of a now purely ornamental ashtray looked up.

“There’s another one, sir, one floor up,” the man smiled, head slightly bowed.

“Thank you,” Morsberg nodded congenially, and he cut across to the escalator. The mezzanine

floor was deserted this morning, reserved for afternoon business sessions by some insurance

organization. The geneticist was reminded of The Shining – not the book but the Nicholson film.

Morsberg had been taken with the chilling image of the twin girls haunting the Overlook’s

corridors – twins, the abilities they purported to possess, frequently elicited wariness, and he

suspected that fear played into societal perceptions of cloning. Not a paper there, but interesting

chat for the lab lunchroom nonetheless.

The men’s lavatory was encased in marble, lined in deep teak, cold despite the five-star hotel’s

meticulous control of its environment. He peeked under the nearly floor-length stall doors – the

place was his – and Morsberg entered the first cubicle. As he settled in, the scientist pulled the

conference program from the pocket of his hanging blazer. Mostly crop and biomedical sessions

for the next few hours, but a promising breakout on prion manipulation in cattle at one.

Morsberg replaced the agenda, and glanced at the wall to either side of him. Even in this pricey

Manhattan hostelry, the human instinct toward ego and identification prevailed. Morsberg’s

adolescent grandson of late had taken an interest in U.S. rap music, and his grandfather the

academician in turn had developed a fascination with the monomania of the “gangsta” community

and the culture of graffiti – “tagging,” as his grandson had patiently explained.

Here was a mix of the hackneyed and pathetic. Obscene verse prepossessed with excrement and

sex; hastily and deeply carved monograms; alternately misogynistic or homophobic observations

about unknown third persons. And the American classics – “Here I sit, all broken-hearted…”

Morsberg chuckled, his laughter ricocheting off the wood and marble. Then he spotted the partial

inscription, obscured by his blazer but directly in front of his face. He moved the jacket’s tail aside

and frowned. It was a number, carved with neat, thick block letters into the door. The number was

preceded by the letter Z – too obviously hand wrought to be some kind of serial number, but too

precisely produced and unadorned to be a personal tag.

The number disappeared momentarily as the lights flickered over Morsberg’s stall. Then the room

plunged into darkness. He glanced up curiously. Had some custodian assumed the room was

uninhabited?

“Pardon me,” Morsberg called. “Someone in here.” He blinked as the room again filled with

blinding light.

Then he heard the whispered giggling, low and, to his ears, conspiratorial…

The Java-nese Embassy

Washington, D.C.

1:32 p.m.

Three weeks later

Scully scanned the interior of the faux deco coffee shop, filled to the pine walls with congressional

aides, interns, students, lobbyists, and visiting taxpayers. It was a pleasant day in the Capitol, the

caseload was light, so she’d done the quarter-mile from the Hoover on foot.

Malone was seated to the rear, back against the wall, a folded Post in one hand and a Supragrande

in the other. As he spotted Scully, he flashed a tight smile and stowed the paper.

“OPEC just dropped their per-barrel price again,” the square-jawed agent rumbled, toasting with

his foam cup. “So, once again, it’s gonna cost more to get wired up than fueled up. Agent Scully.”

She pulled up a chair. “Agent Malone.”

“Not gonna have something? I mean, it’s on me. Well, the Bureau.”

“No thanks.”

Jack Malone worked Missing Persons out of the New York office. Mulder and Scully had worked a

task force with him about a year back – good outcome, but Malone and Mulder had developed a

predictable “rapport.” Malone was a dedicated agent, but his workaholic nature and – if the Bureau

grapevine were correct – a questionable relationship with an underling had cost him his family.

Scully had no real professional beef with the man, but his exclusive invitation had spurred her

defensive instincts toward Mulder.

“How’s your partner?” Malone asked, sipping his Supragrande.

“He’s fine,” Scully drawled. “What can I do for you, Agent?”

“OK,” Malone shrugged. “Got something that might appeal to him, but I thought I might run it past

you first. We didn’t exactly click on the Jensen case, case you didn’t notice.”

“I noticed. What’s up, Agent Malone? Is this case of yours supposed to appeal to Agent Mulder’s

profiling skills, or…”

Malone suddenly smirked, boyishly. “Or, I hate to say.”

Scully’s brow tweaked. The New Yorker shrugged.

“Perhaps I will have that coffee,” Scully said.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington

2:43 p.m.

“Cedric Morsberg,” Scully began. “Canadian molecular biologist, reported missing while attending

an academic conference in New York three weeks ago. His colleagues saw him abruptly leave in

the middle of a seminar about mid-morning, and that was the last anyone saw of him. He was

scheduled to deliver a banquet address that evening, and when he failed to show, the conference

organizers called NYPD Missing Person, who called in the FBI two days later.”

Mulder’s chair squeaked as he leaned back and propped his shoes on the desk top between a plaster

cast of a large, three-toed foot and a stack of Polaroids that portrayed a smiling couple flanked by

translucent, eyeless apparitions. “So far, Scully, it’s a three on the Snore-o-Meter — somewhere

between Sen. Lieberman’s ‘Joe-mentum’ speech and Wheel of Fortune visits Fort Lauderdale.”

“Agent Malone and his team failed to unearth any leads, and the press speculated Morsberg had

become a victim of street violence, never mind that he went missing in a busy section of Manhattan

in broad daylight,” Scully continued, unfazed. “The trail went cold for a week or so, until a witness

in Las Vegas recognized Dr. Morsberg from a CNN report, after the good doctor tried to panhandle

him. The locals pulled him in, only to find Morsberg had no memory of the last week-and-a-half or

even his own identity.”

Mulder’s chair snapped back into place. “Total amnesia?”

“Rarer than you might think. Psychogenic amnesia – the loss of the ability to remember one’s self –

is common in pop culture, in the movies, but scientists have never been able to confirm that it’s a

real phenomenon.” Scully perched on the edge of the desk. “If I had to guess, I’d say Dr.

Morsberg’s in a fugue state. The Merck Manual defines disassociative fugue as ‘one or more

episodes of amnesia in which the inability to recall some or all of one’s past and either the loss of

one’s identity or the formation of a new identity occur with sudden, unexpected, purposeful travel

away from home.’ Dr. Morsberg’s journey from Manhattan to Las Vegas certainly was sudden and

unexpected. The question is, was it purposeful?”

“That’s the question Malone wants us to answer?” Mulder smiled. “I didn’t get the impression he

held much regard for my particular criminological approach. What aren’t you telling me, Scully?”

His partner pulled a sheaf of folders from the bag at her feet. “After the Las Vegas P.D. identified

Dr. Morsberg, one of Agent Malone’s squad checked for cases that might have a similar ‘M.O.’ –

victims abducted, transported great distances, and released unharmed with no ransom demands or

apparent motive.”

“Could you narrow that down?”

Scully didn’t smile. “There’ve been at least four such cases over the last three years, Mulder. The

victims were found scattered across the U.S., but each disappeared in New York, seemingly

without a trace.”

Mulder straightened, frowning.

“And each victim,” Scully added, significantly, “had suffered nearly complete and to date

irreversible amnesia.”

Mulder was silent for a moment. “Pack your bags, Scully – I’m willing to indulge Malone. But let

me warn you: I’m not going anywhere near Kenny G or Sinbad.”

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Forensics Lab

10:23 a.m.

To Scully’s chagrin, Mulder had discovered a kindred spirit.

“Holy Lepidoptera, Batman,” the agent murmured as his childlike eyes scanned the dimly lit

interior of Gil Grissom’s office. Chemically interred insects stared with lifeless, compound eyes

from nearly every corner. “I didn’t realize you were THE Gilbert Grissom. Loved your piece on

blowfly development in the July Entomologica.”

The bespectacled, bearded chief investigator for the Las Vegas Crime Lab dipped his head

modestly. “I enjoyed equally your article on crypto-invertebratology in last month’s Fortean Times.

I understand we have a mutual acquaintance? Bambi Berenbaum?”

Scully chortled.

“Ah, yeah,” Mulder mumbled with a dreamy grin. “She helped me on a case a while back,

involving some anomalous cockroach behavior. Dr. Berenbaum has an exceptional…mind.”

“Ah, yes,” Grissom smiled back, cryptically. “Supple logic, a firm grasp of insectile psychology.”

“Not to mention her tightly disciplined sense of—”

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“Before you boys start discussing Dr. Berenbaum’s thoracic exoskeleton, could we return to the

case at hand?” Scully sighed.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, your victim, Dr. Morsberg, has no knowledge of how he arrived on the

Strip,” Grissom shifted without missing a beat. “No sign of physical trauma or drug presence that

might account for his apparent fugue state. However, Dr. Morsberg’s clothing provides us a few

clues. The heels of his shoes exhibited slight but recent wear, as if he had been dragged for a short

distance. And we found some salt-like residue on his suit similar to highway de-icer. Which,

considering it’s June, should make it reasonably easy to trace–”

“Brine,” a self-assured voice announced. Mulder and Scully turned to face an arrogantly bored

young man in a lab coat with an expression, and Grissom’s brow rose in anticipation. “Hodges to

the rescue again. Your John Doe was swimming with the fishes – or at least, hanging with them.”

Grissom waited calmly. The lab technician coughed.

“Your compound is a brine – salt, sugar, and some assorted spices. I’m guessing it was used to cure

smoked fish — I also found some omega-3 fatty acids common in tuna and salmon, thus verifying

my brilliant conclusions. I’m screening the DNA right now, but my guess is Nameless Guy is the

victim of some kind of schmear campaign.” The bored technician smirked, awaiting a reaction.

“Get it? Smoked salmon, lox, schmear campaign?” Hodges rolled his eyes. “And they say Vegas

audiences are the best in the world.”

“See if you can pin down the specific brining compound – assuming we’re talking a commercial

food company, it should be easy enough to trace,” Grissom replied cheerfully. “Thank you,

Hodges.” The young man blinked and stumbled back into the corridor, and Grissom turned back to

his visitors.

“Occam’s Razor,” Scully murmured. “The simplest, most logical alternative: Morsberg was

mugged in Manhattan, dragged into some kind of food service or catering truck – probably at the

Hotel Continentale –- transported a few thousand miles, and unceremoniously dumped on the Strip.

The question is, why?”

“Witness?” Grissom ventured. “Maybe he saw something, maybe at the hotel?”

“The biotechnology conference pretty much consumed the hotel facilities, but they’d also booked a

one-day annual meeting of East Coast insurance claims adjustors,” Mulder reported. “The claims

guys all checked out, and there were no red flags in the guest register – geneticists, insurance

geeks, and Iowans in town to see The Producers. Besides, if Morsberg had witnessed a crime or

some uptown indiscretion, why not eliminate him altogether? Why ship him cross-country?”

Grissom considered, his eyes obscured by the glare of his desk lamp. “What if the amnesia came

first? Morsberg suffers some sort of physical trauma we haven’t yet been able to detect, or maybe

he sees something that induces an emotional trauma, thus the fugue. He wanders onto the hotel

loading dock and into a seafood delivery truck, collapses, and is locked inside. Except…”

“Except the driver surely would have unloaded some cargo somewhere between here and New

York,” Mulder concluded. “Unless our driver is near-sighted, or Dr. Morsberg has fins and a bad

case of wall-eye, it’d be kind of hard to miss an unconscious researcher in amongst the lox and crab

legs. I’d say that, for whatever reason, Dr. Morsberg was deliberately hijacked.”

Grissom lips twitched into a Cheshire smile. “Fish AND foul.”

Las Vegas Police Department – Detectives Division

12:46 p.m.

Despite his disheveled white mane and the deep creases surrounding his eyes, Cedric Morsberg

looked like a child lost at a mall, periodically looking to Lt. Jim Brass for answers to Mulder and

Scully’s questions. Brass, a middle-aged, dry-humored cop, smiled encouragingly but largely kept

his peace.

“I’m sorry,” Morsberg said again, meekly, as he glanced at the agents across the interview table. “I

simply have no idea about anything you’re telling me. Cedric? What an awful name, eh?”

“Not so awful,” Brass commiserated, turning to Mulder with a mischevious glint. “Right, Fox?”

“Dr. Morsberg,” Mulder continued, undaunted by the detective’s not atypical reaction to the

presence of feds in his chicken coop, “just what do you remember?”

Morsberg’s liver-spotted head drooped and shook from side to side. “I’m sorry.”

“Been like that since we found him,” Brass related. “Don’t know how you’re going to squeeze this

turnip dry. No offense, Dr. Morsberg.”

The scientist smiled for the first time. “Actually, I like turnips. Isn’t it odd I’d recall that, of all

things?”

Mulder turned to Scully. “You think I could penetrate his fugue?”

Scully frowned for a second, and her lips parted with realization. “You know how I feel about

voodoo psychology, but I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained…”

“Hey, guys,” Brass interrupted. “This supposed to be some kind of mind-reading act? Cause I’m no

Kreskin.”

“Different schtick, Lieutenant,” Mulder informed the cop. “Tonight’s headliner is the Amazing

Fox, hypnotist extraordinaire.”

“Great,” Brass sighed, pushing his chair back. “I prefer my magic acts with tigers, but it’s your

show, I guess.”

“Just remember,” Mulder warned. “What happens in Las Vegas under hypnosis stays in—“

The interview room door cut his admonition short.

**

“Dr. Morsberg,” Mulder prompted. “Do you need to use the men’s room? I think you do.”

Morsberg, who had sat docilely in his chair, hands folded in his lap, grimaced slightly. He nodded.

“Yes. I need to find the lavatory.”

Brass grinned. Grissom watched the performance, rapt. It had been a guess on Mulder’s part – a

boring seminar on bioethics, coffee consumed by the gallon to keep the conference’s assembled

scientists on task.

“This is the first time you’ve ever been here,” Mulder reminded the semi-conscious man, who now

was restless with imagined discomfort. “You must ask where the men’s room – the lavatory – is.

You’ve left the ballroom – you’re in the hallway. You need to go, badly. You must find someone to

help you.”

“Everyone’s inside, listening to the man. There is no one in the hall. I’ve found the lavatory, but I

can’t use it. The sign says it is out of order.”

Mulder waited patiently – he didn’t want to influence Morsberg’s memories – whichever ones

might remain. The amnesiac suddenly perked.

“There he is. A man in a white jacket. He’s older; he’s doing something with a trash can – no, an

ashtray. He sees I’m looking at the lavatory sign.” Morsberg smiled in relief. “There is another one,

upstairs. Thank you. Yes, this one is open, though I’m a bit anxious. This floor seems deserted. But

I need to relieve myself, and surely no one would try anything in broad daylight in such a nice

place.”

“Was there anyone in the lavatory?” Mulder inquired, gently.

“No, I am alone. I go into one of the stalls and sit.”

“Should I get a stenographer in here?” Brass chortled. Mulder glanced sharply at the detective, who

locked his lips with an imaginary key.

Morsberg’s forehead wrinkled.

“Doctor?” Mulder asked. “Do you hear something, see something?”

“The number on the door. It’s right before my eyes, as if it were meant for me to see.”

Mulder turned to Scully, who goaded him to return to his questioning.

“Can you see the number now?” he prodded. “You’re at a blackboard. Here’s some chalk. Could

you please write the number on the board for me?”

Morsberg nodded. His arm floated upward, and with clean, brisk classroom strokes, he inscribed a

series of numbers. The arm fell back into his lap.

“Would you read the number to me, sir?”

“Zed. One, three, seven, two.”

“Zed?” Brass mumbled.

“Dr. Morsberg was born in Kensington, England,” Scully supplied. “Zed means Z.”

“Yes,” Morsberg nodded, his eyes still shut. “Zed-1-3-7-2. What does this mean?”

“You got me, Doc,” Brass sighed. The cop jumped as Morsberg tensed, his chair rattling.

“Doctor?” Mulder whispered.

“I can see nothing,” he rasped fearfully. “The lights have gone out.” He winced, shielded his

unseeing eyes. “What is this? Why are they laughing? WHY ARE THEY LAUGHING?”

The Imperial Casino

Las Vegas, Nevada

6:12 p.m.

“Z1372,” Mulder repeated for the thirteenth time over the din of slots and partying, as a thick prime

rib was deposited before him. “Doesn’t sound like a phone number.”

Grissom shook his head, sipping his Pepsi. “Doesn’t correspond to any New York exchanges. The

same for Motor Vehicles, at least in New York and surrounding states – it’s not a local plate

number. Meanwhile, a colleague of mine, Lt. Taylor with New York CSI, is checking out the

mezzanine restroom Morsberg supposedly used. Though I’m sure the room has been cleaned

dozens of times since Morsberg’s disappearance, maybe that number’s still on the stall door.”

“If it ever was,” Scully cautioned. “The number could just be a piece of disjointed memory bobbing

to the surface. I’m more interested in how Dr. Morsberg’s memory loss may have been induced.

The CAT-scan shows no apparent insult to the brain, and he’s suffered no cranial injury.”

“Induced?” Grissom back-tracked. “Do you believe someone somehow erased his memory?”

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. Up in the room, they’d decided to bring their

criminologist/host into their confidence.

“We’ve found a series of similar incidents going back at least three years,” Mulder said, carving

into his meat. “Four victims besides Morsberg, apparently kidnapped in the New York area,

eventually found unharmed except for a complete loss of both short- and long-term memory. To

this day, none have recovered their memory.”

“Serial what, abductions?” Grissom murmured, disturbed. “What about the victims? Any pattern

there?”

“The first victim, Jeffrey Turealt, 41, was an employee with the New York State Department of

Corrections. A clerk at Riker’s Island. Turealt went into the city to take care of some personal

business but never came home to Staten Island that night. Wife and two kids, an essentially

anonymous job processing paperwork on prisoners, and no real interests outside the Yankees. He

was busted three months later in Nogales, N.M., dumpster-diving for lunch. Turealt had no

memory of how he’d gotten there.

“Dorothy Banbridge, 54, the second victim, worked for the New York Department of Motor

Vehicles. A faceless bureaucratic functionary, like Turealt – administered driver’s exams all day,

lived alone with two cats. Took her lunch break one day and never came back. She turned up

bussing tables at a diner in Miami – she’d been there two months.”

Grissom’s brow furrowed. “So we have three employees of the state, or the province, if you count

Dr. Morsberg. The University of Guelph is a nationally-funded university, and Morsberg’s genetics

work was conducted under a Ministry of Agriculture grant. Perhaps we’re looking at some lone

wolf anti-government extremist, a supremely disgruntled taxpayer with roots in both the U.S. and

Canada.”

“That hadn’t occurred to me,” Mulder drawled. “Unfortunately, Victim No. 3 blows that theory out

of the water. Ray Herrera, 26, researcher with Droxell-Melchin Pharmaceuticals. Disappeared one

night after work – said he was going drinking with some friends, but the friends never materialized.

Wherever he actually went, Herrera wound up in Mesa, Ariz., rounded up in an INS raid of a

construction site. But the agents involved were curious about his grasp of U.S. slang, Droxell-

Melchin had done some federal work on military bioweapons antidotes, and luckily, Herrerra’s

prints were on file. But, once again, Herrerra had no memory of his identity or how he’d arrived in

Arizona.”

“A compassionate kidnaper,” Grissom mused.

Scully replaced her arugula-filled fork. “How so?”

“Las Vegas, Mesa, Miami, New Mexico? Our kidnaper – or kidnapers – didn’t leave our victims to

languish in the wilds of Alaska or Wisconsin. He, she, or they didn’t want their prey to suffer, at

least in any immediate physical sense.”

“Humane brain thieves,” Mulder mused.

Grissom’s face grew meditative. “‘Cruelty must be whitewashed by a moral excuse, and a pretense

of reluctance.’”

Residence of Jeffrey Turealt

Staten Island, N.Y.

10:03 a.m.

“Jeff, baby, these are the FBI people I told you about,” Gwen Turealt said softly. Jeffrey Turealt

looked up disinterestedly from the couch, his remote hand silencing Judge Judy. “You talk to them,

and I’ll make you some more coffee, OK?”

Mrs. Turealt appeared some 30 pounds lighter and 20 years older than the photo of the couple

Mulder and Scully had been provided. As Scully inspected the dull-eyed man on the couch wearing

the New York Corrections Department sweatshirts and baggy jeans, she understood what had

added years and subtracted pounds from his wife.

“You know,” he said mildly. “I’m not gonna be able to tell you any more about what happened to

me any more I could the cops. Hope you had other business in town today.”

The agents settled into armchairs flanking the couch. Dust motes floated in the sun admitted by the

Turealts’ thick curtains, and Judge Judy mutely waggled a finger at a fish-faced man and an over-

made-up young woman.

“How are you, Mr. Turealt?” Mulder inquired. “Has anything come back to you?”

He shook his head, staring at Judy’s wrathful face. “Not a thing. I know she’s disappointed. She’s

always pushing scrapbooks and crap in my face, trying to get me to remember. Even had some of

the guys I used to work with out — kinda rough characters, you know?” Turealt sighed. “Sorry —

guess this ain’t easy on her, either. She seems like a nice enough lady. And I ought to get a job,

‘cept every time I try, they treat me like a retard or something. Tell you the truth, I guess I’d just as

soon be left alone, you know? Please don’t tell her that — I don’t want to hurt her any more.”

Mulder rose. “Sure, Mr. Turealt. Good luck.”

Turealt nodded absently, raised an arm, and Judge Judy’s tirade filled the room. In the adjoining

kitchen, Mrs. Turealt was turned toward the refrigerator, her back twitching with silent sobs. Scully

placed a tentative hand on her shoulder, and the thin woman turned with red eyes and an apologetic

smile.

“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Turealt whispered. “Most days, I can keep it together. It’s just, if you’d known

him, before, well, he was just a very dynamic man. Dynamic but sweet — he’d give you the shirt.

Now he just watches the soaps and Matlock and buys lottery tickets with whatever money I give

him.” She tapped a row of Big Ball Pick Five tickets clamped magnetically to the Amana.

“Sometimes, I wonder if he isn’t hoping to hit the big lotto just so he can get away from me.”

“Have you looked in any memory enhancement therapies?” Scully asked. “I know a researcher at

Johns Hopkins…”

“We’ve tried, agent,” she sighed. “He won’t go any more. Says it’s a lost cause.”

Mulder had strayed from the conversation to scan the tickets on the fridge. “Scully,” he murmured

suddenly. “Take a look at this. Mrs. Turealt, does your husband always play the same numbers?”

“I never noticed.”

Scully’s eyes moved from one ticket to the next. “26-3-1-7-2. 3172. Morsberg’s number.”

“It’s been planted subconsciously in Turealt’s mind. Except he can’t play a Z, so he converted it to

its alphanumerical equivalent.”

A ghostly smile crossed Mrs. Turealt’s lips. “He always was good with numbers.”

Palmetto Cabanas Apartment

Miami, Florida

2:30 p.m.

Dorothy Banbridge also had experienced a significant loss of weight.

“Fifty pounds, kids,” the former DMV clerk announced, pirouetting for her visitors. “Lost my

memory, lost my hips. I took one look at my lard-assed, nicotine-stained self, and wondered how

the hell somebody had done this to me. That’s how I think about that pinch-faced, tight-assed old

bitch — somebody else.”

Mulder scanned the studio apartment, which was carpeted in canvas tarps and newspaper. A dozen

faceless figures stood sentry over the virtually unfurnished space – hand-fashioned golem

seemingly created in Dorothy’s mentally sterile image. Each bore a UPC-style bar code on its

forearm.

“I have to say you’ve got an astonishing attitude toward your predicament,” he said. “Most people

who’ve had a lifetime of memories, experiences wiped away would be devastated.”

Dorothy grinned. “After my daughter came to take me home, I took a good look at old ‘Dot’s life.

Smelly cats and flavorless TV dinners. She spent her days making poor schmucks jump through

hoops. My Aunt Virginia, an equal dried-up husk, left me a sizeable wad that I’d put into tech

stocks when they were worth something, and I caught the first plane back here. I think Linda was

relieved her sour old lady was gone. She actually came down here to visit last month – never did

that when I lived in the city.”

“And these,” Scully gestured toward the figures, “are yours’?”

“Just started making them one day – almost like I had to – and the girl downstairs got her gallery

owner friend to look at them.” Dorothy’s laugh itself was girlish. “Turns out my little ‘misfortune’

made for a good ‘back story.’ I’ve sold 15 so far – ‘freshly mindless creativity,’ my artsy friend

says.”

“Mrs. Banbridge.” Mulder turned serious. “Have you ever recovered any memory of your

kidnapper?”

She shrugged. “Wish I could. He – sorry, he or she — saved me.” She inspected her golem. “You

find him, tell him I’ll cut him in.”

**

“You ever wish you could get a clean start?” Mulder posed as they left Dorothy to her new life. “A

second chance?”

Scully smiled as the Florida sun outside the apartment building caressed her face. “I don’t know,

Mulder. I guess I feel I’ve done all right with the first one. Maybe the road not taken leads to a

dead end. How about you? Any regrets?”

“Not getting the TiVO thing,” he concluded. “I tried to watch Lost the other night and was totally

effed up. Seriously, look at Ms. Banbridge up there – nothing to regret, nothing but future.”

“And Jeffrey Turealt? A shell without substance, without mission, living with a stranger he once

loved? I’ll take my past, Mulder – without it, I wouldn’t have my future. Our future.”

“There’s that. Hold on — either I’m stroking out, or my phone’s vibrating.” Mulder extracted his

cell. “FBI’s Most Unwanted. . .Yeah. . .Really?. . .Where? No, I think it’s a good shot. . .We’ll be

there.”

Mulder turned to Scully. “Grissom was able to track the brining compound to Marine Gourmet, a

seafood supplier out of Massachusetts. They ship product to 36 states, including New York,

Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. Marine Gourmet had three drivers in New York City the day

Morsberg disappeared. Only two have been with the company for more than two years, and one

only works the Eastern Seaboard. John Barry. Been trucking for 10 years, but the Mass State Police

haven’t found anything prior to that. Barry’s probably an alias.”

“So, have they rounded him up?” Scully asked.

“They didn’t want to spook him, so the plan is to intercept him on the road. He’s expected to hit

into the Indianapolis area tomorrow, and his coworkers say he always haunts the same truck stop.”

Scully sighed, staring longingly at the ocean a few blocks away. “Suddenly, I see chicken fried

steak in my future.”

City Market

Amarillo, Texas

3 p.m.

“Kee-rist,” Aaron Jostens snarled as mole sauce formed a new pattern on his latest power tie. He

had a two o’clock with one of the senior partners, and his only option would be to run to Dillard’s

and put out 30 or 40 bucks for a new Italian silk noose. Or send Renee out for one, except that was

probably viewed as outside the little airhead’s job description. She couldn’t book a conference

room to save her vacuous life, but, Jesus, she and every secretary and paralegal at Greene, Jakes,

Petrie knew their effing rights.

“Nice move, dude,” Danny Kenner, fellow associate, chortled. He’d suggested Thai instead of the

mob scene at the city market, and he considered his coworker’s mishap karma crapping down his

shirtfront. The firm seemed to nurture adversarial relationships, and Aaron merely scowled as he

considered possible payback for his smarmy young colleague (that Aaron was no slouch in the

smarminess department either was of no consequence).

“I don’t know why I ever left D.C. for this godforsaken outpost,” Aaron grumbled, signaling the

counter guy for some water. Or 7-Up – it was 7-Up you used to get stains out, right, or was it

Mountain Dew?

Danny sipped his horchata musingly. “Thought it was cause your neo-con boss got his ass kicked

last fall.”

“What, you the big liberal now, just cause you drive a Prius? I bailed weeks before election – I

knew he was toast in the district after what he said about the wetba—”

“Hey. Dude.” Danny glanced nervously at the Latino vendors and customers peppered throughout

the open-air collection of tables and booths, produce and knick-knacks. The only second language

spoken at Greene, Jakes was a dead one, and it was used largely to keep clients off-balance.

“I’m very hungry.”

Aaron and Danny hunched instinctively over the remnants of their food, ignoring the voice behind

their shoulders.

“Excuse me, gentlemen?”

“Kee-rist,” Aaron repeated.

“Look, bud,” Danny sighed, turning to the crusty middle-aged man in the torn suit jacket. “Tapped

out, comprende?”

“I’m hungry,” the man repeated, as if the young attorney had failed to understand his need.

“Sorry, dude. Betcha those guys over there’ll help you. Criminal law firm – big bucks.”

“It’s been days,” the man persisted.

Danny’s eyes frosted. “Fuck off, dude, or I’ll call the policia. Que pasa?”

Aaron swiveled around. “Jesus, big liberal. Here, man, here’s five bucks – just move it along,

oka—”

Aaron’s jaw locked in mid-phrase. “Kee-rist, man. What are you doing here? What the hell

happened to you, sir?”

“Who is he?” Danny demanded.

“Yeah,” the “homeless” man asked eagerly. “Who am I?”

“Aw, jeez,” Aaron breathed. “Everybody’s been looking for you, sir. We better call 911, Dan — I

wonder if he’s been drugged. Sir, you’ve got no idea how you got here?”

The man, unshaven, his mane of silver hair gone yellow, shrugged, then dug into his ripped pants

pocket. He thrust a used popsicle wrapper at the young lawyers. “I think maybe this might be

where I live. I don’t have any street, though, sorry.”

Aaron squinted at the five digits scrawled onto the wrapper. “2-3-1-7-2. Dan, man, is that a 2 or a

Z?”

Hoosier Heaven Truck Oasis

Indianapolis, Indiana

11:34 a.m.

“Breaker, breaker,” Mulder murmured into the wire with which he and the rest of the state-federal

team had been equipped. “You got any fix on the Fishman’s 20?”

“That’s a big negatory,” the Indiana State Police captain responded in a low baritone. “And, Agent,

you don’t knock off the C.W. McCall shit, I’ll come in there and break something else. You copy?”

“That’s a big 10-, I copy. Out.” Mulder caught his partner’s disapproving eye. “There’s one

grumpy smokie. By the way, you haven’t touched your ham steak. I don’t suppose…”

Scully shoved her plate across the formica. She stared glumly at the collection of truckers, tourists,

and old-timers feasting on breading and gravy throughout the huge, glaringly lit dining area. Travis

Tritt crooned for the lunch crowd. A biker studying the buffet was with the Indianapolis district

field office; an attractive young couple sipping coffee had been summoned from ISP highway duty

for the stakeout. Assorted law enforcement officers were occupying semi cabs at the periphery of

the parking lot.

“What if he decides on a Thickburger today?” Scully posed. “What if he breaks an axle?”

“Problem with you,” Mulder offered through a mouthful of cured hog, “is you see the glass as half

empty. Which reminds me, I need some more Dew. Where’s that waitress?”

Mulder and Scully’s earpieces buzzed. “Table Five, our man just pulled into the lot,” the ISP

captain announced. “Think he’s heading your way.”

They’d decided to grab Barry as far from his truck cab — and any secreted weapons — as possible.

As the tall, leathery driver ambled into the dining room in T-shirt and jeans, Mulder saw no

obvious sign of a weapon. He nodded to the woman behind the register — an undercover ISP

investigator — and she picked up the phone next to a bowl of Starlight mints.

Barry took a booth at the counter, which was reserved for truckers, and briefly perused the menu

specials. A too-blonde girl in a too-tight uniform giggled as she poured his coffee. Barry gave his

order, and did not watch as the girl strutted off.

“Will the operator of a Peterbilt license number 12 V234 please report to the Service Desk at the

rear of the shop?” a disembodied voice droned over the lunch crowd. “That’s a Peterbilt license 12

V234.”

Barry called something to the waitress, who shrugged. He slowly climbed off his stool and started

toward the truck supply/food shop adjoining the restaurant.

“Wait ‘til he’s past the audiobooks rack,” Mulder advised Scully. He looked to the biker and the

caffeinated couple, who visually followed Barry toward the store.

Then Barry stopped.

“What the–” Mulder muttered.

The trucker turned slightly, scanned the dining room, and pivoted.

“Shit,” Mulder informed the team. “He’s onto us. Coming your way, Captain.”

The biker, the couple, and the agents bee-lined for the door as soon as Barry was outside. Three

truck cabs swung open, and Barry bolted, not for his truck, but toward a neighboring shopping

plaza. Mulder and Scully peeled off in pursuit.

Barry dodged pedestrians as he passed a video store, a Hallmark outlet, a baseball card shop, and

an H&R Block franchise. He then abruptly disappeared behind a rack of flowers on the sidewalk

before the anchoring Marsh supermarket.

“Great,” Scully puffed as she and her partner picked up their speed.

As they entered, Mulder nearly tripped on one of a few dozen bags of chips that had spilled from a

display near the entrance. A portly security guard was sprawled among the splattered snacks, and

wide-eyed patrons and checkers were frozen in fear, staring toward the aisles of food and sundries.

“He got my gun,” the guard wheezed. Scully noted a red patch spreading midway down his

uniform short sleeve, and rushed to his aid.

“Bread aisle,” a nose-ringed cashier yelled at Mulder’s back as he rushed past.

“Barry! FBI!” he shouted as he spotted the trucker preparing to round the turn past the generic

hamburger buns. John Barry slid, then spun, gun in both hands TV-style. Mulder walked slowly

toward him, his own weapon leveled.

“Mr. Barry,” the agent said calmly. “You haven’t killed anyone yet, and I’m sure an attorney could

establish reasonable doubt about your ‘hurting’ those people.”

“Wasn’t out to hurt anybody,” Barry growled, eyes wild and darting. “Just wanted people to get it,

you know, just get it.”

Mulder moved past the bagels. “Get what, Mr. Barry? The depersonalization of society? The

faceless cruelty of the bureaucracy, of corporate America?”

Barry laughed harshly. “Boy, you must have a couple of degrees after your name. No, ‘Agent,’

nothing fancy. Just remember, we may be nobody, but there’s a shitload of us.”

clip_image006

The hammer of the security guard’s gun clicked, and Mulder smelled fear and yeast. And cordite,

as an explosion sounded behind him and a hole blossomed in Barry’s forehead. The trucker, a

stunned look in his eyes, dropped to the linoleum, and Mulder’s gun hand dropped to his side.

The “biker” edged past the agent and knelt beside John Barry. He checked his vitals, looked up at

Mulder, and nodded.

Mulder nodded back, robotically.

Indiana State Police — Indianapolis Post

Indianapolis

2:10 p.m.

“He was one angry muthah truckah,” the ISP technician declared, shoving her rimless glasses onto

her forehead and pushing back from the now-open Powerbook they’d uncovered in John Barry’s

sleeper cab.

Like many confident and inexperienced felons — especially loners — he hadn’t bothered with

passwords. On the other hand, the state police cyber-specialist so far had found no mention of

Barry’s apparent victims or any plans to abduct them.

“Checked his e-mail last couple months — man should keep his folders cleaner,” the technician

tsked as Mulder and Scully bent toward the laptop screen. “He’s a worldly man, in his own way. Ze

da Silva from Sao Paolo, Ashok Kumar from Bombay, an HMayer from Vienna. All a bunch of

philosophical yada yada about alienation and how the world doesn’t care about the faceless

thousands.”

“Thousands,” Scully frowned. “Not millions? They can’t be talking about the poor or the

malnourished. Maybe some specific population? A regional culture on the brink of destruction? A

group suffering from some orphan disease the pharmaceutical companies won’t address? Mulder,

Herrera.”

Mulder shook his head. “Herrera’s research was in cholesterol reduction. My guess is these people

share a common affliction or social stigma. There’s a self-pitying note here along with the activist

outrage.”

“Well,” the technician sighed. “Unfortunately, he’s better at web maintenance — his history and

cache are clean as my Aunt Mavis’ house. Can’t tell you what trips his trigger.” She stopped with a

grimace, and patted Mulder’s arm. “Sorry, baby, bad choice of words.”

Indy Motor Plaza Motel

Indianapolis, Indiana

11:54 p.m.

“Our victims all were literally robbed of their memories, transported great distances, dropped off

far from their lives but left physically unharmed.” Mulder’s voice broke the long post-coital

silence. “It seems to be some kind of statement on the kidnapper’s part. He steals their identity,

makes them anonymous, removes them from their personal reality. Payback of some kind?

Revenge?”

Scully gently removed his cupped hand from her breast and turned to face him. “But he or she has

no desire to kill them. Wouldn’t that be far more satisfying revenge?”

“Maybe he or they consider robbing their victims of their lives, their memories to be a far more

lasting ‘lesson.’ Dropping them in warm, sunny climes may have been no act of compassion.

Maybe they simply want their victims healthy enough to live with their affliction.”

“But why these victims, in particular? Turealt was no hard-nosed prison bull, and although I’ve

wanted to throttle the clerks at the DMV from time to time, Banbridge certainly led an innocuous

life. Herrera was helping fight heart disease, and Morsberg was working to improve the

environment. Although I suppose the anti-biotech community might have felt otherwise…”

Mulder propped himself on his elbow. “I think we are talking about an activist conspiracy, but

nothing so sociopolitical. I thought the name John Barry seemed familiar, so I Googled it. I don’t

think our trucker friend is trying to conceal his past. I think he has none.”

He paused to let it sink in, and sink in it did. Scully looked up, eyes wide. “An amnesiac? Barry’s

an amnesiac himself?”

“‘John Barry’ is one of dozens of versions of ‘John Doe’ that have been adopted around the world.

Those e-mail addresses on his laptop? Ze da Silva is a Brazilian version of John Doe, Ashok

Kumar an Indian variation. Richard Roe is a legal term for an anonymous plaintiff. And I’m

guessing HMayer is Hans Mayer, an Austrian variation. I cross-referenced the names of Barry’s

pen pals on Google and found they were all members of an amnesiacs discussion forum called

fugue@nowhere. It’s sort of a support group-slash-bitchfest-slash-advocacy site for victims of all

forms of amnesia and memory loss. More social and educational resources for ‘New Lifers’ – that’s

what they call themselves; more funding for ‘incidental memory loss – they’re kind of bitter about

all the research money that goes to Alzheimers and not to amnesia victims.”

“How bitter?” Scully demanded.

Mulder shrugged. “About like any other survivors group – some are like Banbridge, liberated by

their amnesia to pursue new interests and lives. Some are relentlessly angry about the loss of their

childhood, their feelings for their families and loves, their treatment as mental invalids.”

“And where does our friend Barry fit into that spectrum?”

“In the deep end of the pool. He’s the semi-literate voice of empowerment: Free yourselves, let the

world know of our trials and our triumphs. It’s like those crazed La Leche League women who go

from maternity ward to maternity ward ripping the bottles from patients’ hands. Barely constrained

fury channeled into delusions of grandeur. He fits the profile, at least as the transporter.”

“You think these people, these ‘New Lifers,’ have formed some kind of radical cell?” Scully

breathed. “You think there may be other victims, all over the globe?”

“I don’t think so, even though I’ve got Frohike and the boys searching global missing persons and

hospital databases. The victims were all taken in New York – wouldn’t you assume Barry would

spread his crimes out across his routes, reduce the risk of detection? If he wanted to make a social

statement, he had a whole country to do it in. Besides, we’ve found no rational, physical reason for

what’s happening to these victims.”

Scully smirked. “You’ve got a one-track mind. However, at this point, I’m inclined to agree with

you. You believe Barry’s accomplice is, what, psychic, telekinetic?”

“I believe he’s almost certainly a fellow amnesiac – he and Barry hooked up somehow, maybe in

the New Lifer discussion forums, maybe some other way. The accomplice is based in New York,

likely land-locked there. In Barry, he found not only a kindred spirit, but a conduit to the rest of the

country. I think Barry was carrying out his will.”

“You think Barry was under his psychic control?”

“No. They were probably just two people with a common bond.”

Scully nodded. “Speaking of common bonds, I assume from the way you’re rubbing my ass, you’re

in the mood for some more nocturnal bonding.” She yawned. “Sorry, Mulder, but our little truck

stop gunfight has taken it out of me, and the combination of drunken revelry and diesel exhaust

outside isn’t making my hormones sizzle. Knock yourself out, but leave me out of it.”

“Could you at least roll over into a more accessible mode? Last month’s team-building exercise

clearly had no impact on you.”

Scully flopped onto her side, bunching her pillow under her head. “’Night, Mulder.”

“Buzz killer,” her partner mumbled, reaching for the remote. Mulder briefly considered the pay

adult block, sighed, and surfed upward past Letterman, Leno, and Frasier. The current HBO

offering was Pride and Prejudice (Mulder shuddered), and so he settled on CNN. A familiar head

floated in an inset above the handsome blonde anchor.

“…A nationwide manhunt launched four weeks ago ended with a bizarre turn today in Amarillo,

Texas, when missing Illinois Congressman Victor Mowery was found wandering a city market in a

dazed, reportedly disoriented state. Doctors at Houston’s St. Lucas Memorial Hospital, where the

three-term lawmaker was taken, are stating only that Mowery may be suffering some form of

advanced memory loss.”

Mulder’s hand again connected with Scully’s bare rump. “No means no, Mulder,” she mumbled.

“Wake up, Scully. Now.” His partner awoke immediately at the urgency of his tone. He directed

her to the screen, where a less disoriented Rep. Mowery was pumping farmers’ hands in some 2004

video.

“Mowery, a staunch conservative and strongly pro-Bush voice on Capitol Hill, recently split from

the White House over the Dubai/port controversy and the immigration issue, calling for a new

nationwide ID and immigrant registry program to, quote, ‘draw the line on unsecured entry at our

national borders.’ Mowery had been visiting New York to address a National Rifle Association

conference when he vanished seemingly without a trace four weeks ago…”

Mulder tensed, his profiler’s instinct sounding an alert. If this was what it seemed to be, Barry and

his accomplice had picked up their pace. Two victims within roughly a week. Barry’s partner likely

was growing impatient, more empowered, and even without his victim transport mechanism, he or

she may already be pinpointing new victims.

In addition, Rep. Mowery had been a high-risk grab. Morsberg had some notoriety within the

scientific and academic community, but the congressman’s abduction indicated the memory thief

was growing bolder, more oblivious to exposure.

On the other hand, Mowery’s visibility also offered a potential break in the case. How had this

high-powered politician come into the predator’s orbit. How had Mowery evaded what certainly

must have been a constant swarm of aides, cronies, and media types around him. And why

Mowery?

By now, the blonde anchor was chatting split-screen with a rumpled, bearded man surrounded by

book-lined shelves. A second, bow-tied young man listened impatiently, waiting to pay his two

cents.

“Well, while I don’t mean to seem insensitive to the congressman or his family, who I’m sure must

be deeply gratified at this point, there is a certain irony to Mowery turning up within a relative

stone’s throw of the border, stripped of his identity,” the bearded man smiled slightly, and Mulder

thought he detected a glint of satisfaction. “Mowery’s extremist response to the immigration issue

is the first step to an Orwellian society of nameless, bar-coded drones. IDing U.S. citizens like

cattle? Why not simply brand them, tattoo them?”

“C’mon, Carl,” the bow-tied man breathed in exasperation. “You and your pals trivialize the

Holocaust and its victims with this constant Nazi name-calling, not to seem insensitive. This man

may have suffered permanent mental injury, and all you can do, frankly, is make political hay—”

“That’s it,” Mulder gasped, fumbling for the remote.

Hotel Manhattan Continentale

New York

11:32 a.m.

“This isn’t some sleazy nooner between a horny securities broker and a fifty-buck hooker,” Malone

growled. “I can have your records subpoenaed in about a New York minute – highly appropriate,

don’t you think? Maybe shut things down here for a couple days while we stumble around looking

for clues. If your regard for your guests’ privacy really means that much right now. You want, we

can all go downtown and you can tell me why you sat on information that could have saved the

FBI a few thousand man-hours and the congressman’s family a lot of needless anxiety.”

Malone had all but demanded to be in on the interview at the hotel once Scully had sold him on

Mowery’s connection to their case. The agent had been New York liaison on the investigation into

the congressman’s disappearance. The New Yorker had been coolly civil toward Mulder, cognizant

that he’d invited him to a party Mulder now seemed to be hosting.

Mulder himself regretted opening the door to Malone, who’d immediately assumed the role of Bad

Cop without consulting his teammates. Especially as Mulder had divined how – and why –

Mowery had slipped under his entourage’s radar at the Waldorf East five blocks away.

Kurt Engler, supervising manager of the Continentale, gulped like a fish trapped in his sterile third

floor, glassed-in office. “Look. You have to understand, Agent Malone – when men like

Congressman Mowery need to relieve the pressures of the day, as it were, we are acutely aware of

the potential for a media shit storm, if you’ll pardon me.”

Malone smiled coldly. “First thing you’ve said today doesn’t sound like a shit storm, if you’ll

pardon me. You wanna get me all the records you got on the good congressman, round up any of

the night shift might have been working his floor, maybe see if your house cop knows the working

girl who filibustered the congressman’s brains out?”

Engler practically upended his lush leather chair. “We’re at your complete disposal, Agent

Malone.”

“I’m delighted,” the Irishman grunted as the manager scrambled out of his office. Malone turned to

Mulder and Scully. “Sorry, but I’ve got a degree in New York bullshit. Now, you say you’ve got

some kind of connection between Mowery and Morsberg?”

“And the rest of our ‘vics,’” Mulder said with an antagonistically serene smile. “You read those

files I FAXed over last night?”

Malone nodded. “Briefly. I think it’s a stretch. But it’s your party, I guess.”

“Let’s start with the first hypothetical victim, Jeffrey Turealt. An employee of the New York penal

system. In Records, as it turns out. Next was Dorothy Banbridge, a driver’s license clerk. What

would you say Turealt and Banbridge have in common?”

Malone smirked — a nearly imperceptible reaction. “Cattle herders. People processors.”

“Exactly. Turealt’s ‘clients’ are no longer people, just numbers. Banbridge’s job is plugging people

into a huge bureaucratic system. Now, with Ray Herrera, it becomes a little more convoluted.”

“Herrera. He was the drug guy, right?”

“The pharmaceutical researcher,” Scully nodded. “Specifically, Herrera conducted clinical trials for

experimental cholesterol-reducing drugs. You know how a blind trial works, Agent Malone?”

“You dose half the guinea pigs, feed the other half sugar pills,” Malone sighed impatiently. “So.”

“To avoid any risk of bias or false conclusions in testing, the volunteer test subjects remain

anonymous to each other and the research team. They’re assigned identifying case numbers.”

The lines in Malone’s inscrutable face deepened, and the office was smothered in silence. “I think I

see where you’re heading with this,” he finally murmured. “Congressman Mowery was touting this

national ID system, right? Assigning everybody a number?”

“And takin’ ‘way their names,” Mulder sang, echoing Johnny Mathis’ classic theme to Secret

Agent.

Malone looked to Scully, who stared ahead stolidly. He sighed and turned back to Mulder. “OK, so

our kidnapper, kidnappers, whatever, they’re stealing the identity of people who ‘steal’ other

people’s identities. Is that it?”

“John Barry was an apparent amnesiac who had become bitter about his memory loss. My guess is,

these victims represented the theft of individuality, of identity. They were the enemy.”

“Ah huh. And where does Morsberg come into this? He was a harmless egghead, probably never

ventured out of his lab before.”

“A world-renowned geneticist,” Mulder corrected. “The creator of the Green Pig, a cleaner, leaner

genetically engineered swine aimed at rocking the agricultural world. Morsberg maintained a small

herd of Green Pigs – a herd of genetically identical cloned pigs. Morsberg was at the vanguard of a

Brave New World, where, in the view of some unhappy citizens, humanity soon may lose its own

identity through cloning and genetic selection.”

“Whoa,” Malone interrupted. “You paint a pretty wild scenario, Agent Mulder. First of all, how did

our perp even hone in on Turealt, Banbridge, or Herrera. Not exactly high-profile celebs, are they?

What’s your connection there?”

Mulder smiled calmly, unruffled by Malone’s skepticism. “As soon as Mr. Engler changes his

trousers and gets that information you so politely requested, I hope to find out.”

**

As he was brought before the trio of agents, Anthony Ruggiero looked as if he might himself

appreciate a change of uniform. After checking the IDs of the entire floor staff for the day Cedric

Morsberg had disappeared, Mulder had selected the handsome, impeccably groomed young

bellman, then kept him waiting under Malone’s severe glower.

“Ah, there she is,” Mulder finally piped up. Anthony followed Mulder’s stare down the ballroom

corridor, his eyes narrowing as he spotted the darkly beautiful, strongly built young housekeeper.

“Agent Scully, you want to talk to Ms. Bunuelo? Agent Malone and I want to ask Anthony here a

few questions. Take Mr. Engler with you, in case you need any more personnel data.”

Scully nodded curtly, and she and the manager moved to intercept the girl.

“So, Anthony,” Mulder grinned. “You been working here long?”

Ruggiero’s eyes were fixed on Elena Bunuelo and, Mulder could see, Bunuelo’s were fixed on the

bellman. “Ah, yeah, about three years. It’s a pretty sweet gig – great tips.”

“I bet it’s pretty sweet,” Mulder agreed, jerking his head toward Bunuelo. “Staff all pretty

friendly?”

Ruggiero blinked. “Ah, I don’t know what you mean. We get along OK.”

“You get along better with some than with others, Tony?” Malone asked bluntly. “You’re a good-

looking guy, a veritable prince among the old guys and toads around here.”

“Well,” Anthony grinned despite himself.

“How would you like to keep this sweet gig, Tony?” Malone asked. In a nanosecond, he had

transformed from One of the Guys into The Man, and Anthony again tensed. “The morning that

guy disappeared, you know, the scientist, you and Ms. Bunuelo were on duty together. He

remembers somebody coming into the mezzanine john while he was trying to take a crap. The

lights went out, he called out, the lights went back on, and he heard some giggling. Now, I took a

piss a few minutes ago, and I noticed the light panel in there’s pretty well concealed. Staff-only

access, right? You and Ms. Bunuelo take a little coffee break, decide to grab a little mid-morning

delight? Cause I noticed you both got a couple black marks in your personnel files.”

“Hey,” Anthony said through his teeth. It was clear to Mulder the anxious young man was not

outraged at Malone’s challenge to his fair damsel’s honor. “Look, man, they get a good week’s

work outta both of us, and we weren’t hurtin’ anybody, you know? That mezzanine bathroom’s

usually vacant weekday mornings – the meeting people use the ones on this floor. C’mon, guys,

you gotta tell Engler about this?” The young man smiled sheepishly. “I mean, c’mon, look at her.

You was both young once, right? Hey, I didn’t mean that the way it sound—”

“Anthony,” Mulder said, sternly. “You’re going to pull something useful if you don’t chill. I don’t

see any reason for Agent Malone or I to tell your supervisor anything. But you did withhold

important information in a federal case. The Canadian authorities are very interested in what

happened to Dr. Morsberg, as well as the FBI.”

“OK, OK, we was in there, in the john. That guy, old guy, right? He was in the second stall, yelled

out when we hit the lights. It was pretty funny in a way, you know, but we didn’t want to get

canned, so we got the fuck outta there. I hung around here, waited for the guy to come out. Wanted

to see if he was gonna report us. But he made a bee-line for the street, and me and Elena, we went

back to work. The mood was pretty well fucked-up, you know?”

“That’s amore,” Malone observed.

“Thanks, Anthony,” Mulder smiled. “That’s very helpful. Just one more thing.”

“Anything, man.” Anthony looked like he’d received a gubernatorial reprieve.

“The custodian on this floor that morning, Mr. Perez.”

“Yeah, Juan. Nice enough old guy. Too bad he left – he was only here a couple weeks.”

Mulder already had noted that the old man who’d directed Cedric Morsberg to the mezzanine

restroom had failed to appear for work two days after the NYPD had interviewed him. The

assumption had been that Juan Perez was one green card short and the sudden police presence at

the hotel had spooked him. Working on a hunch, Mulder had Googled Juan Perez and John Barry

to find the two names had a common origin with Hans Mayer, Richard Roe, and John Doe.

“Funny old dude, though,” Anthony laughed. “Very old school, you know. Real polite, called me

Mr. Ruggiero like I was the mayor or something. Not real chatty, though, and he’d wear his

uniform home – most of us like to change the end of the day, but he never even came into the staff

locker room.”

“Anybody on staff particularly friendly with Mr. Perez?” Malone asked.

“Naw, not really. Everybody liked him OK, except Rashim.”

“Rashim?”

“Yeah, he works day shift, too. He and Juan had a little tiff one day – one of the guests, some

numb-nuts, dropped his Rolex in the lobby john, and Juan and Rashim went in for the rescue

operation. Rashim says Juan suddenly pulled rank, which he didn’t have anyway, cause Rashim’s

been here two years now. Juan wouldn’t reach into the crapper, which shoulda been no big deal for

him cause he was up to his mustache in terlets every day, was a whiz when it came to plumbing.

Told Rashim he needed to fish the thing out, got real insistent about it. Which Rashim made into

some big racial thing, you know? Which was bullshit, cause he was always askin’ about Mrs.

Cleveland’s grandkids.”

Anthony snapped his fingers. “An’ you know what? I don’t think Juan was real crazy about the

cops, neither. He’d always kinda hang back whenever security was on the floor, and one time,

when Tiny – he’s one of the security guys – was trying to get some from one of the working girls

he’d caught hustling in the lobby bar, Juan called him some name under his breath. Geez, what was

it. Yeah, mah-gear-doh or somethin’, which must be Spanish for lowlife perv, huh?”

“Thanks, Mr. Ruggiero,” Malone said dismissively. “That oughtta be about it for now.”

Anthony sagged with relief. “Yeah, sure. Anything to help.” He glanced anxiously at Elena

Bunuelo, flanked by Scully and Engler. “And you guys won’t…”

“Bye, Anthony,” Mulder said. “You have a nice day now.”

The bellman barked sourly. “Yeah. It’s off to a freakin’ great start.”

**

“What are we doing here?” Malone sighed as Mulder studied the infamous mezzanine stall. “I

usually prefer to come alone, and without the female company, nothing personal, Agent Scully.”

“Besides, Mulder, the stall door’s been taken to the CSI lab,” Scully noted, perched on the edge of

the sink. “They haven’t been able to bring out any trace of the number Morsberg claims to have

seen. Certainly, any other possible trace evidence was collected weeks ago.”

Mulder peered into the blue sanitized water below, as if seeking a vision. “I just thought it might be

useful to revisit the crime scene, get some sense of what Morsberg might have seen, what our

kidnaper might have been thinking. That’s what I get the big profiler bucks for, you know. Oh,

shit.”

“Brilliant discovery,” Malone muttered. “I coulda told you that.”

“No,” Mulder sulked. “I dropped my pen. The good one, Scully – the ten-year one from the

Bureau.”

Scully frowned. “Why in the world did you bring that along?”

“Jesus, and I just bought this suit. I don’t want to get it wet…”

She sighed and crossed the tile. “Good thing we didn’t need to wipe your backside, too, Mulder.

Step aside, G-Man.”

Malone sighed again. “Christ. I’ll get it, OK? Wouldn’t want the king of the profilers to get Tidy

Bowl on his off-the-rack special.” The missing persons specialist removed his jacket, hooked it on

the next stall door, and rolled up his right sleeve. Mulder patted Malone on the shoulder as he

began to kneel.

“That won’t be necessary, Agent Malone,” Mulder informed him, displaying his Bureau-supplied

Bic Ultra-Fine. “See that, Scully?”

“What?” Malone snapped, snatching his jacket from the adjoining stall.

“I have to concur with Agent Malone, Mulder,” Scully said. “What?”

“I’ve got your number,” Mulder sang. “Just what you’re loo-king for!”

“He starts doing show tunes,” Malone warned Scully, “and I shoot him.”

The National Library of the Holocaust

New York

2:13 p.m.

“You’re a little out of my cultural context here,” Kenneth Ungar told Mulder, folding his hands

over his stomach as he leaned back among the volumes of Judaica, under a grainy, blown-up photo

of the liberation of Auschwitz. Scully could scarcely tear her eyes away from the horror of the

camp’s cadaverish inmates, blinking into the light of a new day they thought they might never see.

Ungar had provided some valuable insights into Jewish folklore during an investigation involving

the Hassidim years ago. He had leapt at the opportunity to again assist the agent, who had what he

considered a Talmudic sense of logic and justice.

“I know,” Mulder said. “But I need to know about tattoos.”

Ungar adjusted the embroidered yarmulke resting on the back of his bare scalp, smiling grimly.

“The camp tattoos. The ultimate dehumanization, objectification. Well, as you may or may not

know, the SS sorted its prisoners into two groups: those immediately killed in the gas chambers,

and those to be put to work in the forced labor camps. After their heads were shaved and their

personal possessions removed, the surviving prisoners were officially ‘registered.’

“Beginning in 1941, this registration consisted of a tattoo placed on the left breast of the prisoner.

Later, the Nazis placed the tattoo on the inner forearm.”

Scully exhaled. Now, she understood Mulder’s restroom demonstration. “Perez” had not wanted to

reveal his tattoo, his disfigurement, to his coworker.

“Jewish prisoners weren’t the only ones marked — all prisoners other than ethnic Germans and

police prisoners were tattooed.” Ungar glanced silently out a side window for a moment, as if

reflecting on the incomprehensibility of it all. “Most people believe all Holocaust prisoners were

given tattoos, but after 1941, only the prisoners of Auschwitz were branded this way.”

Mulder leaned forward. “And there was a system, a code, to the registration process. Right?”

“Yes – the monsters were nothing if not efficient. The numbering scheme was divided into what

was called the ‘regular series,’ with each group of prisoners eventually branded with a different

identifying prefix. Jews eventually were tattoed with the letters A or B. The AU series indicated

Soviet prisoners of war. The identification EH denoted trouble prisoners, those who refused to

work in the camps or acted up and who were sent for ‘re-education,’ or erziehungshaftlinge.”

“And the letter Z,” Mulder inquired.

“Ah, yes, the Ziguener – next to the Jews, perhaps the most despised of the Nazis’ ‘enemies.’”

Ungar turned to Scully. “The Ziguener were the gypsies, the Romany peoples that roamed Eastern

Europe, Asia, even the British Isles. Many of the rom were rounded up with the Poles, and they

were given their own ‘special’ brand – the letter Z.”

Scully looked to Mulder, who nodded slowly as if a theory had been confirmed.

“One other thing,” Ungar added. “Women were registered under a separate system than their

husbands and brothers. Anyone bearing a Z series tattoo was a male prisoner.”

Mulder leaned forward. “Ken, could we trace one of these tattoos? How hard would that be?”

“My God,” Ungar murmured. “I don’t know, Fox. There are some detailed records – ‘death books’

– for the Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Gross Rosen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen camps –

maintained in Arolsen, Germany. But those documents have been released gradually over the years,

and some of the information is sketchy. I don’t know how quickly you could turn around an

individual request with the International Tracing Service.” The scholar paused. “This survivor, this

Gypsy – what has he done?”

“If we’re right, what was done to him,” Mulder said. “More than 60 years after his imprisonment,

he’s taking his revenge on those who in his mind are robbing us of our identity and individuality.

Somehow, he’s stealing their memories, their lives, just as the victims of the Holocaust were

stripped of their identities, their families, their dignity. Just as the victims of the SS were loaded

into boxcars and shipped off to the camps, he’s dislocating his victims.”

Ungar closed his eyes and scratched his temple. “It never ends, the cycle of devastation and tragedy

those madmen set in motion. Victims become predators.” His eyes opened. “I’ll see if I can help

you get the wheels rolling with the ITS – I have connections there who owe me.”

“Thanks, Ken.” Mulder rose. “Just one last thing. You told me you knew a little Polish, right?”

“They suffered in the camps with us – the language of persecution has become universal to me.”

“Magerdo. That mean anything?”

Ungar laughed darkly. “Magerd’o. It’s Polish Rom. It means stained, unclean. Unfortunately, my

friend, the language of loathing and self-loathing also is universal.”

**

They’d discovered their special connection, their shared fate, about four years ago, when the boy

paid one of his nearly daily visits. He’d been working on the U-joint beneath the sink, and,

forgetfully – the mind slips with advanced age – he answered the boy’s familiar call in his

undershirt, what the young animals called a wife-beater. The punks – he’d been guilty of many sins

– too many to count, when the time came – but he had never raised his hand to a woman.

The simple and curious boy had asked about the tattoo. Years ago, he’d thought of removing it – it

threatened the new life he’d brought to this new land nearly 50 years ago. But aside from some of

the sly old ways he had inherited from his now extinct kumpa’nia – according to some educational

TV show he’d watched one night, more than a half-million Roma were slaughtered in Hitler’s

purge – the faded blue Z was the last remnant of his proud Rom heritage.

After a moment of panic, he realized his days in this world were few and that he could live perhaps

a few years longer through this friendly and inquisitive young man. He told him the story – well,

most of it – and to his initial dismay, the boy wept. He was touched by his young friend’s

sensitivity, so rare in the children today, and was astonished to discover their common bond.

The boy himself had had his identity ripped away – no less traumatically, but with no possibility of

ever retrieving it. A car crash, the doctors had theorized after repairing the boy’s extensive injuries.

Months in Bellevue – surely a foretaste of hell – failed to restore the boy’s memory or surface any

parent or sibling. An act of kindness, or what had appeared to be, had supplied him a home, bread

on the table, honest work, a family of sorts. But what had been taken – by God, an 18-wheeler,

whatever cruel force out there – could not be returned, and the boy felt an instant kinship with the

old gypsy.

The boy began to return in the evenings, and they had long talks – about the outrages of everyday

life, about the way of the modern world, about the storm troopers of the SS who marched in jack

boots and the modern-day Nazis who trod the Earth in Florscheims and Thom McAns, stealing the

dignity and identity of all around them.

At the same time, he began to see what was in the boy – his gift. The boy would talk of the people

who had crossed his threshold each day, revealing details they could not possibly have offered up

consciously. While his slate was clean – or perhaps because of it — he seemed to absorb bits of

memory, harmless pieces of information, from those he’d encountered.

One day, he’d ventured out into the wild streets, visited the boy, watched him toil, watched him

relate easily and cheerfully with those around him. Then, as he watched them leave, one by one,

with frowns of confusion, absent retrieval of coats and cases nearly forgotten, it hit him. And he

knew it was baxt – fate, karma.

He, too, had been a talented boy, as his captors had discovered. He knew things, he caused mischief

in the camp, he traveled occasionally beyond the barbed fences of his Hell. The guards grew wary

of the young Rom whose parents and uncles and aunts had been shot before his terrified eyes, and

he nearly met his fate in the ovens.

However, word had spread, and, one day, he was whisked from the camp to what had been a

sanitarium near Dusseldorf prior to the madness of the Reich. A barrage of questions, tests, curious

examinations followed, all performed by an educated young man only a few years his senior.

Strughold had a deceptively calm and disarming manner, speaking in low tones, proffering small

treats and privileges when the questions became intense or the tests arduous.

Most of the tests involved identifying shapes printed on cards sealed inside thick envelopes,

attempting to describe people and places in other rooms within the hospital, making Strughold and

his silent “assistants” see things that did not exist to the human eye. Strughold was very interested

in his family’s history – especially in the “gypsy tricks” of his grandparents and parents. The

German talked of curses and science in the same breath, as if he shared the Romany understanding

that both were woven into the same fabric of this world.

When the bombs fell and the soldiers came to end the tests, he never learned of Strughold’s fate.

He traveled to America – the clan was dead or scattered, the opportunities reportedly rich across the

sea – and assumed a new name, a new faith, and a new life in New York. It had admittedly been a

fairly satisfying new life – he had applied his energy at first toward the larceny of his tribe and then

toward hard, diligent work.

And now, as the last of his tragic, triumphant, twisted life drew to a close, karma, baxt had

delivered a chance at immortality, a chance to right an insane world, literally to his doorstep.

Stein’s Uptown Deli

4:14 p.m.

“All right,” Scully said, fanning her matzo ball soup. “We’re looking for an at-least 80-year-old

gypsy who in all likelihood assumed a new identity when he came to the U.S. The horrors of the

concentration camps weren’t fully known to Americans until well after the war ended, so I doubt

any Ellis Island records would especially mention the Z series tattoo. As a gypsy–”

“Romany,” Mulder corrected through a mouthful of his mountainous corned beef sandwich.

“Gypsy’s actually a derogatory term. And given the prevailing attitude toward the Rom on both

sides of the ocean at that time, my guess is you’re right about his concealing his identity. Too bad

the hotel doesn’t issue photo IDs – would’ve made things a lot simpler. Ah, well – maybe Malone’s

sketch guy can be of some help.”

After interviewing a half-dozen employees who’d worked closely with “Perez” (“Racist old spic,”

Rashim had recalled), Mulder had suddenly announced a time out. The neighborhood around the

Continentale had largely given way to high-rise condos, and Stein’s was one of the last family-

owned, non-organic, non-fusion, non-dietarily correct restaurants within blocks. The small crowd

of senior early-birders and schmoozers was beginning to swell as the first wave of 8-to-4ers

clocked out.

Scully glumly sipped at her chicken broth. “So this is all about revenge, retribution? After more

than 60 years, Mulder?”

“Something tripped our man’s trigger, and I have a half-assed guess what it might be. Profiling

101, Scully: Look at the first victim.”

“Turealt. The prison clerk? You think our man served some time at Riker’s.”

Mulder shook his head. “Like a lot of families fragmented by Hitler’s purge, our guy’s tribe, clan,

whatever, may have filtered into the U.S. gradually, over the years. Maybe our undercover Rom

kept track of some of his ‘family,’ and maybe some of his family pursued the ways we associate

with his culture. I asked Malone to check any prison deaths involving Rom convicts over the last

five or six years. That could have been the catalyst – a beloved family member killed in

confinement, under the watch of a government the Rom have never trusted. From there, he became

a man on a mission.”

“This assumes Tureault was the first victim,” Scully noted. “If our man…”

Mulder looked up as his partner trailed off with a polite smile. A tall redheaded young man hefted a

pitcher of water.

“You guys need a fill-up?” he asked, grinning amiably. The voice was flavored with corn more

than corned beef – perhaps one more small-town boy who’d sought the bright lights of Broadway.

“Sure,” Mulder murmured. As the waiter replenished his water, the agent frowned and glanced at

the menu board behind the counter. “Hey, you guys serve breakfast?”

The boy nodded eagerly. “Mr. Stein makes the best corned beef hash in town. Got lox and bagels,

cheese omelet. No bacon or nothing – we’re kosher – but we get a pretty good crowd.”

“Can I ask your name?”

The grin vanished momentarily, then returned. “I’m Adam.”

Mulder reached into his jacket and pulled out the photo Malone had supplied. “Adam, could you

tell me if you’ve ever seen this man before?”

The young man squinted at Cedric Morsberg’s portrait. “He looks awful familiar. You think he was

in here at breakfast time?”

“Maybe,” Mulder suggested. “This man left the Continentale kind of suddenly about three weeks

ago, in the middle of a convention. It was mid-morning – maybe he stepped out for some of that

corned beef hash or a bagel.”

“Gee, like I said, we get a pretty big crowd in the mornings. I just can’t remember.”

“No. 12!” a gruff voice called as a platter rang on the stainless steel cafeteria counter. A stout man

with a florid expression arched his thick brows. “Hey, Adam, pastrami won’t slice itself, you

know?”

The waiter beamed sheepishly at Mulder and Scully. “Gotta go. Coming, Mr. Stein!”

“I suppose it’s possible,” Scully considered as Adam retreated. “I know those seminars are pretty

deadly if you don’t take an occasional break.” She picked up her spoon, then placed it back on the

table. “Mulder. Smoked salmon. Lox. Maybe Barry wasn’t delivering seafood to the Continentale.

Could he have targeted Morsberg here, maybe overpowered him outside?”

Mulder leaned back, his corned beef forgotten. “Turealt was running errands in Manhattan.

Banbridge disappeared during her lunch break, and I remember seeing a DMV branch a few blocks

away. If Congressman Mowery wanted a little nosh after his, well, big nosh, he wouldn’t have

wanted to be seen at the Continentale, would he? I think you’re right, Scully – this may be where

Barry hunted his prey.”

“Not to take away from my being right for a change, but what is Barry’s connection to our

mysterious Rom? There were three victims – at least – before our suspect went to work at the

Continentale, presumably to target Mowery and Mosberg. Did Barry join forces with the Unknown

Gypsy at some point along the way? Except you connected Turealt to the Rom, not Barry, didn’t

you?”

“Eat your soup, Scully,” Mulder ordered.

**

He waited by the door after buzzing his young friend up. As he grew older, he economized on

activity as much as on groceries. He pulled open the door as he heard the sneakered feet pad down

the hall.

The boy proffered the parcel, and Marxmann accepted it, placing it on an end table. He gestured

toward an overstuffed chair where a glass of iced tea awaited.

“I can’t stay today,” the young man said politely. “I just wanted to tell you something.”

An instinctive alarm went off in the old Rom’s head. “Sit. Talk to me.”

His guest remained standing. “I just wanted to let you know how much your friendship’s meant to

me over the years. It’s really helped me feel like I haven’t been, you know, alone.”

“I’ve enjoyed your companionship, as well,” he replied with an uncertain smile. “What, are you

going somewhere? I thought we had important work to do.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” the boy assured him. “But I think your work is done.”

He staggered slightly, bumping into his chair. “What do you mean? They need to know.”

“The stories you’ve told me. The pain you’ve gone through. It’s enough. I’ll carry on. I promise.”

“Wait, just wait. Let me get you some tea, and we can talk about it.” He turned toward the kitchen.

Suddenly, he felt the warmth of his friend’s hand on his sloped shoulder, and realization sank in.

“No,” he whispered.

“Yes,” a loving voice responded, and the pain disappeared.

**

“May have your guy,” Malone said as he intercepted his colleagues in the Continentale’s lobby. “I

thought about Ruggiero’s comment about ‘Perez’ being a whiz at toilets, and I called the district

Plumbers and Steamfitters’ pension department. A few of the old-timers are still around, and they

recalled a guy from around this neighborhood who retired maybe 20 years ago. Claus Marxmann —

came to New York after WWII, apprenticed for a few years and put out his own shingle. Kicker is,

our witness remembers a tattoo on Marxmann’s arm. Never knew what it meant, never asked.”

“Probably never really wanted to know,” Mulder guessed. “I don’t suppose this guy would know if

it was a Z series tattoo?”

Malone arched an eyebrow.

“You have an address?” Scully sighed.

**

After working the call button for several minutes, the agents flashed a warrant at the building super

and ascended the stairs toward Claus Marxmann’s second floor apartment.

“Can’t understand it,” the super grunted. “Old Claus hardly ever goes out. Jesus, hope he ain’t

kicked. Takes a tankerful of chlorine and ammonia to get the death smell out, especially if they let

loose when they go. You know? Well, here we are.”

Malone tried an initial courtesy knock. To his surprise, the door quickly swung open, and a bleary-

eyed old man stared out at the quartet in the corridor. “Hello?”

“Claus Marxmann?” Mulder asked.

The old man, wrapped in an oversized cardigan and corduroys, nodded and smiled contritely. “I

don’t know where he is. Is this his home?’

Scully nudged Mulder aside and looked into the man’s face. “What is your name, sir?”

“My,” he sighed. “I don’t believe I know.”

Scully looked to Mulder. “May we come in, please?”

“I suppose so,” he said politely with a European accent, stepping aside. Scully took his arm and led

him to a couch. The room was tidy and spare — the furnishings were nice, evidence of a reasonably

prosperous life, but the walls were bare. Malone headed down a hall beyond the living room.

“Sir,” Mulder spoke. “May I see your arm, please. Your right arm?”

“My arm.” The man seemed amused by the request. “Well, certainly.” He rolled up his cardigan

sleeve, then the sleeve of his chambray work shirt. Faded blue ink appeared in the form of a Z.

“What do you remember, sir?” Mulder asked.

Marxmann leaned back against the cushion and studied the plaster ceiling. “Well, now. I had my

lunch. Then you and your friends came to call. That’s it, I suppose.”

Mulder nodded and rose. He found the kitchen and rooted in a garbage can under the sink. The sole

content was a crumpled brown bag, which Mulder carefully poked open. The smell of vinegar and

garlic wafted up from a smaller wax paper bag.

“Scully,” he breathed, mind whirling. “You and Malone take care of Mr. Marxmann. I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going?”

“Gotta see a man about a kosher dill,” Mulder informed her as the apartment door closed.

**

Like the old movie cliché, it was quiet. Too quiet. Mulder knew something was wrong as he

entered Stein’s Uptown Deli and the tinkling bell was all he heard.

A dozen heads turned from the scattered tables, from the front counter. Their faces bore identical

expressions of blank semi-interest. Their eyes were wide, unfocused, and vaguely frightened.

Mulder recognized one of the deli’s odd inhabitants. He wore a stained white apron and blinked

vacantly.

“What’s your name, sir?” Mulder ventured, his throat dry and tight.

Stein stared at Mulder for a full five seconds, then glanced at a ticket in his hand. “Number 23?”

The agent’s heart began to pound even as the irony hit home. He turned to a young blonde in

leotards and a Knicks cap. “What’s your name?”

The blonde opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

“Anybody,” Mulder called out. “Tell me your name. Anything.”

The customers mutely regarded each other and Mulder. “Sorry,” an obese old man whispered.

Mulder rushed to the glass door, searched for a lock, then shoved a table in front of it. Treat it like a

disease, he told himself – isolate and quarantine, then call Scully and 911.

“Adam!” he shouted. “Adam! You have to stop this. These people, they’re innocent.”

“I’m not trying to hurt them.” The redheaded boy stepped from behind the counter, patting Stein on

the arm. “I’ve freed them.

“Freed?” Mulder laughed despite himself.

“They’re free of all the pain and guilt their memories bring them every day,” Adam “Stein”

explained calmly. “Every terrible, shameful thing they’ve done, everything that’s been done to

them.”

“Like you freed Mr. Marxmann?” Mulder inquired, perching on the edge of a table to put the boy at

ease. His hand nonetheless hovered near his holster. “You wanted him to forget, to be able to

forget, what the Nazis did to him and his family. That’s what you two wanted to do, wasn’t it?

Punish those who reduce human beings to numbers, to casefiles, who would erase man’s

individuality.”

“That’s what he wanted, Mr. Marxmann,” Adam murmured, regretfully. “I think John just wanted

to make some kind of point. He was always awful pissed off. Oh. I’m sorry, sir.”

Mulder suppressed a smile at the absurdity of the memory thief’s apology. “But you needed him –

you and Mr. Marxmann.”

“John was our regular fish guy, and we’d talk a lot while I was helping him unload the truck,”

Adam said. “One day, it just kind of spilled out that I was an amnesiac. He said not to let it get me

down, that it meant I was free from all the hang-ups the world piles on us in the form of memories.

That’s from the website he was going to start. Anyway, he told me not to tell anybody, but he’d had

total memory loss, too, years ago. See, he couldn’t get a CDL – trucker’s license – if they knew he

was a New Lifer.” Adam shook his head sadly. “It isn’t like he can’t learn to drive, right?”

“Right. So you two got to be buddies. Who said whose memories you were supposed to wipe out?”

Adam looked hurt. “That’s kind of a cold way to put it. But I guess you aren’t wrong. I started

telling Mr. Marxmann about the people who’d come in each day. Folks like to talk to me, and I just

seem to know about them, you know, mentally. Mr. Marxmann said Mr. Turealt made a living

taking away people’s names, sticking them in boxes like the Nazis stuck him in that concentration

camp.”

So it had started as a personal vendetta for “Marxmann.” “And Dorothy Banbridge, people were

just pictures on a driver’s license to her.”

“They couldn’t help it,” Adam noted. “It’s what’s happened to us, to society. We didn’t hate ‘em or

anything. Well, maybe John did, a little. Especially that congressman guy. John called him the New

Age Hitler and the scientist guy, Morsberg, Dr. Mengele Jr. Didn’t know who that was until I

Googled him at the library. Actually, the guy seemed kinda nice.”

“Adam,” Mulder interrupted, gently. “Barry’s gone now.”

The boy’s face drained. “John? No. God. What happened.”

The agent had decided on a shock approach. “He tried to kill us, my partner and I.”

“And you killed him,” Adam mumbled incredulously. “You going to kill me?”

The last was a challenge rather than a concern. “No, Adam. But you know this has to end. That’s

why you freed Mr. Marxmann.”

“I freed Mr. Marxmann because of his pain, but also because he was wrong. So was John. This

isn’t about getting even. This is about fixing things. Things have gotten too fu–, sorry, too screwed

up because of our memories. People can’t forget about what’s been done to them, forget about their

prejudices. History just reminds us who we hate and why. Look at these people – free of their pain,

free of what they’re supposed to think, what they’re supposed to feel. We want to help people

forget.”

Mulder was silent for a moment. “We, Adam?”

Adam smiled — to Mulder, like some fresh-faced icon of a mad religion. “I’m not special, Mr….

Gee, sir, I don’t know you’re name.”

“Fox.”

“Weird. No, I’m not special or anything, Fox. I’ve got a talent, I guess – maybe ‘cause I’ve got

such a big hole in my memory, I take in other folks’ memories like a sponge. But it’s something I

can teach other people like me to do. I taught John. It just takes practice and concentration.”

Mulder’s hand twitched near his gun, and his eyes darted at the dehumanized shells around him.

“How many others have you taught, Adam?”

“None yet – that’s what John’s website’s for. We’re going to help train New Lifers to give New

Life to others.” Adam frowned. “Guess I’ll have to learn a little web authoring, now that John’s

gone.”

“I’m sorry, Adam,” Mulder said, getting to his feet and fishing for his cell phone. “You’re going to

have to come along with me, OK?”

Adam stared at the agent for a moment and moved forward. “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?

It’s like John said – you’re afraid of us. You shouldn’t be, really.”

“Adam, move back,” Mulder said, punching Scully’s pre-programmed number, pushing his jacket

back to reveal his weapon.

“You’ve probably killed a lot of people, haven’t you?” Adam asked softly. His eyes filled with

sympathy. “You’ve seen a lot of dead people, a lot of evil things, haven’t you? The memories,

they’ve just got to eat at your soul.”

“Adam, don’t.” The gun came out, but it hung at Mulder’s side as Adam’s inquiry seemingly

summoned thoughts of Samantha, of Mom, of the trail of death and tragedy that had dogged his

search for The Truth. The ghosts lingered perpetually at the threshold of Mulder’s conscious.

“Let me help you, Fox,” Adam smiled, his eyes filling even as Mulder’s blurred. As the boy

reached for Mulder, the gun came up…

**

“Hard to picture this guy masterminding a game of canasta, much less a cross-country crime

spree.” Malone shook his head as he regarded “Marxmann,” who now was being escorted from the

apartment by a crew from Bellevue. He looked all of his eighty-plus years, and looked

bewilderedly from one paramedic to another. “Guy was a plumber, you say?”

Scully glanced up from the couch. Mulder’s abrupt departure had concerned her. “We’re hoping

Interpol can help expedite the search for this man’s real identity. You saw that tattoo on his arm?”

“Holocaust survivor,” Malone grunted. “We had a case. So I guess this is it, huh? Barry’s dead,

Marxmann’s a vegetable. We ever gonna know how they pulled it off, what they did to the

congressman, those others?”

We may know, but you’ll believe what you will, Scully reflected. “Those mementoes we found in

the bedroom – Herrera’s watch, Mowery’s Capitol ID, and the rest – could provide a lead. Maybe

we’ll find some latents. Marxmann almost had to have had an accomplice beyond Barry.”

Malone was about to respond when Scully’s cell phone sounded. She whipped it open. “Scully.

Hello?” She consulted the number on the small display screen. “Mulder?”

“…Let me help you, Fox…” The voice was faint, but familiar.

“What?” Malone asked. Scully hushed him.

“…get rid of all that pain, all those memories…” Where had she heard that voice? Young,

solicitous, sympathetic…

Even Malone heard the screams that erupted suddenly over the line, and Scully suddenly

remembered.

**

The first thing they spotted were the faces in the window of Stein’s Uptown Deli – staring, empty

faces, similar to the countenances in the photo Scully had seen at the Holocaust library.

clip_image008

“What the–?” Malone murmured, sidearm primed. A crowd was forming behind the blockade the

NYPD had set up several storefronts away, but the agents had specifically requested no sirens or

flashers. He’d been prepared for a by-the-books hostage situation, but the people at the window

appeared merely lost, out of focus. “Hey, Scully, what the hell are you doing?”

Scully had rushed the deli entrance, disregarding the potential risks. The door was unlocked, and to

Malone’s astonishment, no gunfire greeted her.

He was seated at the table nearest the counter, his gun on the formica before him, his cell phone

broken on the tile floor. He looked up blankly as Scully slowly advanced.

“Mulder?” she asked, yanking a chair over to her partner.

He blinked. “What?”

Scully struggled to breathe. “Oh, Jesus, Mulder.”

Mulder sighed. “He’s back there, Scully,” he said, wearily, waving toward the counter. Scully

slumped in relief.

“What happened, Mulder?” she asked, squeezing his hand. Malone hefted his weapon and edged

around the deli counter.

“Shit, Mulder, what did you do?” the older agent drawled. Scully stared briefly into Mulder’s eyes,

then joined Malone.

He was in the corner, curled into a fetal crouch. Adam’s eyes were wide and filled with horror, his

lips quivering, his red hair sharply contrasted against his ghastly white pallor.

“Just keep him away,” the boy rasped, hugging the wall. “Fucking keep him away from me.”

Scully stared questioningly over the counter. Mulder’s face was buried in his hand. She left the

traumatized boy to Malone.

Mulder looked up as she approached.

“He got into my head,” he said, almost inaudibly.

“How did you–?”

Mulder closed his eyes. “He found something.”

Staten Island, New York

5:17 a.m.

Gwen Turealt started at the rustling in the guest room next door. She glanced blearily at the digital

readout on the bedside clock.

Jeff had moved into the room next door shortly after his return from the hospital — it was too

uncomfortable, somehow unseemingly for them to share a bed. Jeff normally slept like the dead,

with no memories to generate the fodder of nightmares, and she climbed out of bed to check on

him.

Her husband stood by his rumpled bed, fully dressed in the Corrections Department uniform she

had been unable to throw away. Jeff smirked as he spotted her.

“I come home wasted last night?” he asked. “Sorry. You go back to bed — I’ll get the coffee on.”

What the fuck?, Jeff thought as his now-slender wife threw her arms about his neck.

Miami, Florida

8 a.m.

Dorothy Banbridge’s fingers froze as they shaped the cheekbones of her latest golem. She’d had an

order for five more, and the apartment resembled a cocktail party in Rod Serling Land.

Had I cleaned the litter boxes?, she thought.

You have no cats, she responded.

“Oh, shit,” the artist murmured, returning to her work.

Philadelphia Police Homicide Division

Philadelphia, Pa.

Three weeks later

In May 1999, Philadelphia Homicide Det. Will Jeffries placed a standard cardboard document box

on a metal shelf in a basement room of the PPD’s police headquarters. The box was inscribed

respectfully but simply with the name Briese and the legend 5-17-99, the date Robbie Briese

effectively was laid to rest.

No one ever determined who had slit Robert Arnold Briese’s throat and left him buried shallowly

in a thicket on the city’s outskirts. Truth to tell, despite the headlines that had followed the teen’s

disappearance and subsequent discovery, the case quickly went cold.

It took an exhaustive, nationwide search of national medical and dental databases to thaw out the

Briese case. In the end, a very unique crown led FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully

to Philadelphia. Robbie Briese’s medical records then led the agents and the PPD’s Cold Case

Squad to Ron and Sharon Briese.

Robbie had sustained a few major injuries in the collision outside Brooklyn. The pickup driver with

whom he had hitchhiked had been killed instantly, and the teen awoke in post-op with no memory

and no identity. An AP story syndicated across the U.S. failed to yield the boy’s ostensibly frantic

parents, but a Manhattan delicatessen owner reading of Robbie’s potentially indefinite confinement

in the Bellevue psych ward offered him a job, an apartment above his restaurant, and a seat at his

family table. Max and Betty Stein looked to the Book of Genesis for a name for this fresh-faced,

memory-less, sinless “new” man.

“You definitively identified that body as your son’s,” Jeffries said gently from his perch on the

interview table. Sharon’s fingers were wrapped tightly around her husband’s, and the large cop

noticed Ron’s knuckles turn white under her sudden pressure. “That wasn’t your son; that wasn’t

Robbie, was it?”

“We were confused,” Ron managed. “We were grief-stricken.”

“Too grief-stricken to notice the body in the woods didn’t have a missing fingertip on the right

hand?” Jeffries prodded. “I would think you’d have looked for any indication that your son might

not be dead.”

“How did he lose that fingertip, Mr. Briese?” Det. Lilly Rush asked. The insurance agent glanced

sharply up at the blonde cop.

“He was playing with my power tools one day,” Ron rasped. “You know eight-year-olds.”

“Robbie was quite an active boy, wasn’t he?” Jeffries smiled serenely. That was when he was most

dangerous. “The doctors in New York found at least a dozen old injuries – broken bones, a cracked

vertebra, joint trauma.”

“You said he was in an accident,” Sharon protested.

“These injuries dated back to early childhood,” Lilly reported. “A behavior problem, your son?”

“He was always a handful,” his mother murmured.

“Sharon,” Ron cautioned.

“They said it was a ‘learning disability,’” she continued, her voice rising. “He was wrong, just

wrong, from the beginning. The way he tormented his classmates, the way he looked at us. Take

your hands off me, Ronald.”

Ron Briese withdrew his hand and stared at his wife in abject misery. “I think we’ll want to get an

attorney now.”

“I wonder whether it was the accident, the abuse, or just something in his genetic makeup,” Scully

pondered on the other side of the two-way glass. “No wonder he wanted to forget, to remake

himself into Adam.”

“They were both victims,” Mulder muttered. “Marxmann left his identity in a black hole in

Germany, Adam – Robbie – on a New York highway. But they couldn’t leave their horrors behind.

Whatever they lost, that stayed with them.”

Mulder had tried to see Adam at Bellevue, but the mere mention of the agent’s name had sent him

into a catatonic state. Scully knew Mulder now was thinking not about the darkness within the

Holocaust survivor or the abused boy, but about the secret place in his own head where

otherwordly horrors might lurk.

She wanted to reassure Mulder, let him know that whatever had been buried within him wasn’t an

intrinsic, organic piece of Mulder, that together they’d root it out and destroy it, wipe it from

memory and make new memories.

“Let’s go home, Mulder,” Scully said.

end

Shooting Hoops

TITLE: Shooting Hoops

AUTHORS: XSketch and Sally Bahnsen

EMAIL: XSketch@hotmail.com, salbahnsen@optusnet.com.au

CATEGORY: MSR, MT, A

RATING: PG-13…..maybe a little more for violence and language

SUMMARY: One crazed fan, one ignorant athlete, one game and two FBI agents do

not mix. Could this night *really* get any worse? Hell yes!

FEEDBACK: Even fanfic writers need nutrition! Why not feed two today? You know

you want to… <g>

DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully are our slaves to be emotionally or physically

tortured whenever we wish. Huh? Oh, apparently there’s new rules: some guy

called CC and a big ol’ corporation called Fox own ’em 😦 Just as well we get no

monetary benefit out of this then, isn’t it? LOL

ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusive to VS13

AUTHORS NOTES: Written with love for the VS13’s Spring Sports Special. We should

also note that we took some artistic license and swapped round the venue for the

last basketball game of the series because it was more fun to have it at The Garden,

so please don’t come chasing after us with pointy items unless it’s to poke us into

writing more 😉

DEDICATION: (Sally) This story is dedicated to the gals at MR. But especially the

nubester, for being a worthy opponent and for making me smile everyday.

(Sketch) For Nubsie, all at MR, and my writing buddy on this, Sal – this has been an

awesome writing experience, thank you sooo much 🙂 Also a nod to Kathy Bates,

whose portrayal of Annie Wilkes in the film version of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ creeps

the living hell out of me more than Donnie Pfaster, even to this day! And, lastly, Mr

P.

====================================================

clip_image001

The ball bounced – one, two, three – against the shiny wooden

boards. One foot fell gracefully in front of the other before both

legs coiled and then propelled the body they were attached to into

the air. Hundreds of flashbulbs flickered to life for a hundredth of

a second, but the ball’s aim remained on target as a long, muscular

arm launched it ever forward.

The LED clock on the scoreboard counted down another second.

2.

The whole crowd of spectators snatched in a breath; waiting,

anticipating.

Yet somewhere above and beyond the crowd, perched precariously on a

metal rafter as far from where the light reached as possible, a very

unimpressed soul shook her head, wiped away the beads of sweat

blurring her vision, and then lowered it back to stare through the

scope. A black barrel sliced through the shadows as she sought out

her prey once more, and–

1.

With purpose, the basketball left the palm’s cradle, and spun through

four revolutions until it hit the metal hoop it had been heading

towards, where it then hesitantly teetered for an instant – chance,

air current, weight, Newton’s theory of Gravity and one hundred other

factors congregating to decide the orb’s fate, whilst Todd Hooper

(who had put it into play) landed back on his feet and prayed for

this game-winning two-pointer.

The shadow-shrouded figure didn’t care either way, though. For

years, up until just a few days ago, the result scores of her

favorite sporting team’s games had meant everything – the world – to

her, but then the final straws of patience, loyalty and tolerance had

snapped, and now the only thing that did matter was taking down

Hooper for being such an ignorant, arrogant pig.

One lousy autograph! That was all the lonely stranger had asked for

in her dozens of letters to the star athlete, and yet no reply had

come. So, it was time for the good ol’ logic to kick in: if one

devoted fan wasn’t allowed to have the simplest of things like a

signature scrawled no-matter-how-quickly on any item at hand, why

should anyone else have the chance?

0.

A finger rested against the trigger and started to apply pressure.

The orange Spalding was finally given its decision and fell through

the hoop.

Spectators went wild as the horn to mark the end of the game blew.

Crosshairs remained fixed on Hooper’s head, and the assassin was just

about to pull the trigger completely back, when suddenly a blinding

flood of camera flashes illuminated the whole arena and members of

the audience swarmed onto the court.

One more attempt to find and shoot down the player, but the chance

had come and gone within the blink of an eye.

There was no time to regret or linger, though – the assault rifle had

to be packed away and an escape needed to be carried out before the

janitors and security did a sweep of the place. For now, the only

consolation to take away was the fact that there would always be

another chance…

And, with a small smirk, the figure already decided upon when that

next time should be – in one week, during the team’s game against the

New York Knicks.

Now, that would really get some attention.

*****************

Two cups of coffee in a cardboard tray and a box of Krispy Kreme

donuts were balanced precariously in Scully’s left hand while her

briefcase hung like a lead weight from her right. She kicked twice at

the door with her right foot before it swung open wide enough for her

to squeeze through.

Mulder sat with his feet propped on his desk, his tie loosely knotted

and the top button of his shirt undone. It was barely 11 am, yet he

looked as if he’d put in a full 8 hours. There was even the beginning

of a 5 o’clock shadow darkening his jaw line. The handset of his

phone was pressed between his ear and shoulder, both hands busy

twirling a freshly sharpened pencil. He smiled when Scully entered

the office, dropped the pencil and made a half-hearted effort at

shuffling files to make space for the coffee and donuts.

Scully caught the tail end of Mulder’s conversation as she plunked

her Krispy Kreme bounty and coffee tray on the desk.

Mulder nodded his thanks at Scully and spoke into the handset. “Okay,

yeah. Tonight? You can? Here? Yeah, yeah, that’ll be fine. Okay,

thanks. No, really. I owe you one– No, make that a hundred! Yeah,

you too. Bye.”

Scully nearly jumped out of her skin when Mulder slapped his desk and

let out a very uncharacteristic ‘yee hah’! When he stood and did

what Scully could only describe as a happy dance, she was seriously

considering calling 911. Instead she stood very still and raised her

left eyebrow as both crossed over her chest.

“Is everything okay, Mulder?”

He came around to the front of his desk, placed his hands on Scully’s

shoulders and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on her forehead. “You are

not going to believe what just happened!”

“Try me.” Her eyebrow remained embedded in her hairline, and it was

taking every ounce of self-restraint not to reach up and check his

pupils for evidence of a head injury.

Mulder released her shoulders and did a quick foxtrot kind of pace

around the office, before coming to a halt in the middle of the

room. In a very ‘Adam West’ sort of way, he then pointed his finger

at the ceiling while turning to face Scully and announced, “Have I

got a surprise for you?!”

“Hmmm.”

Pausing only long enough to check his watch, he raced back to the

working side of his desk and this time enthusiastically gathered his

strewn files into a neat pile. “We’ve gotta get this report written

for Skinner. I wanna be out of here by 2 o’clock.”

“Mulder, will you stop, and just tell me what the hell is going on?”

“I’m taking you out tonight, Scully. The tickets are being FedExxed

to the Hoover Building even as we speak, and I think you’ll be pretty

pleased when you see where we’re going to be seated.”

Scully felt herself relax and a warm, gooey feeling pooled in the pit

of her stomach. Mulder was going to surprise her with a romantic

night out. He’d organized tickets. Great seats, he’d said. She

imagined all kinds of scenarios. Andrew Lloyd Webber had top

billing, or could it be the Kirov Ballet? Had she hinted to Mulder

that she would love to see their performance of William Forsyth’s

masterworks?

“Come on Scully, quit daydreaming, we’ve got work to do.” She glared

at her partner for interrupting her visionary splendor and watched as

he took a long swig of his coffee around a huge mouthful of glazed

cream-filled donut – a little dollop of custardy cream clinging to

the corner of his mouth. For one mad second Scully wanted to leap

across the room and lick it off… But then she came to her senses,

straightened her hair, and wiped two sweaty palms along the side of

her skirt. Taking a delicate sip of her own coffee, she gave herself

a mental slap, metaphorically rolled up her sleeves and seated

herself behind her desk to write her own report. The quicker the

paperwork was done, the quicker they could leave the office and the

quicker her fantasizing would become a reality.

*****************

MULDER/SCULLY RESIDENCE

3:12 PM

Scully sunk down in the warm tub of water, bubbles fizzing and

popping around her ears. She felt wonderful. Mulder had picked up the

FedEx envelope from the front desk of the FBI building around 1:30pm,

still refusing to tell her exactly where they were going, only that

she would get the surprise of her life.

She still couldn’t believe that Mulder had organized this himself. Oh

god! What was she going to wear? If she didn’t know where they were

going, how would she know how to dress?

“Scully?” Mulder rapped lightly on the door and opened it just wide

enough to peek in. “Are you nearly done? We need to think about

leaving – I want to beat the crowd so we can get something to eat.”

He was taking her to dinner, too? Oh, Mulder. She smiled

indulgently. “Okay, I won’t be long.”

Five minutes later, Scully was shaved in all the right places, blow-

dried, talcum-powdered, moisturized, and deodorized. Dressed in only

her underwear and bathrobe she was applying the finishing touches to

her make up when Mulder again rapped on the bathroom door, this time

a little more forcefully. He opened the door and came in, clearly

agitated. “Um, Scully, we really need to get on the road.”

Scully tucked her mascara back in its cover and reached for her

lipstick. “You know, Mulder, you better tell me where we’re going or

I’m not going to know what to wear.”

“Dress warm. I’d suggest jeans, sweater and probably some kind of

jacket.”

Scully stared at Mulder’s reflection in the mirror. “Jeans? But…”

But Mulder wasn’t listening. He was eyeing his watch as if he could

control the time by mind power alone.

His earlier happy dance in the office had definitely morphed into the

dance of the impatient. “Scully? Will you be much longer? Tip off’s

at 7:30 and I really want to grab a bite to eat before the start.”

Scully abandoned her lipstick and turned slowly to face her partner.

“‘Tip off’?”

“Yeah, the game starts at 7:30.”

“What game?” She took a step towards him.

Mulder sighed and grinned. “Okay, I guess I’m going to have to tell

you. I really wanted this to be a surprise, but…I have got

corporate seats for the Knicks versus Nets game. We will be

practically court-side where we can get up close and personal with

all the action. Scully you’ll be able to smell the sweat!” Mulder’s

smile was so wide she was worried he’d rupture a cheek muscle.

Meanwhile, she could feel her own face contorting into a deep frown –

the earlier warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach quickly turning into a

solid lump of ice.

She had to swallow twice before she could bring herself to speak.

“We’re…we’re going to a basketball game?”

“Scully, not just any basketball game. The *Knicks* versus The Nets

game. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get tickets for this

game?”

Actually, no, she didn’t. It wasn’t something she thought about on a

regular basis. In fact, truth be told, it wasn’t something she had

ever thought about at all, in her whole life. She had reservations

about baseball, but at least she liked it – understood it… But

Basketball? It was like another language that she had no interest in

learning whatsoever.

Scully took a long look at her partner, tamped down her rising fury

and considered the way he was practically bouncing off the bathroom

walls with unbridled enthusiasm. He was genuinely pleased with

himself, and just as genuinely expected her to share his excitement.

There was an empty, hollow feeling in her gut, her eyes stung with

disappointment, and when she swallowed she noticed a nasty lump

hovering at the back of her throat, but she was not going to let

Mulder see how stupid she felt. So, in a quiet voice, she said, “I

better finish getting ready or we’ll be late,” and then turned back

to the mirror to pick up her lipstick.

Mulder came up behind her, wrapped both arms around her and squeezed

her in a big bear hug. “This is going to be great, Scully. It’s a

once in a lifetime opportunity.” Scully noticed his broad grin had

settled into a wistful smile. He was already at the game, imagining

the plays in his head. He gave her one last squeeze, a gentle kiss to

the crown of her head, studied his watch one more time then

announced, “I’ll go bring the car around while you get dressed.” His

exit reminded Scully of a big Afghan pup, bouncing on all fours.

The surprise of her life, she reflected dubiously. Yeah, he was right

about that.

Scully sighed. God, she loved that man, but sometimes he just really

pissed her off!

*****************

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

APRIL 19th, 2006

6:48 PM

Like a vulture patiently waiting for its next meal to drop dead on

the ground below it, the slim, solitary figure dressed all in black

rested against one of the room supports high up in the eaves of the

stadium and intently watched the deluge of sports fans (most adorned

in their extortionately expensive yet tacky team paraphernalia) pour

in and fill the seats.

Tonight was the night.

Tonight *had* to be the night: it was the last game of the series for

both teams (neither of which had a chance of going through to the

playoffs whatever the outcome of this match-up anyway), and Hooper

had been allowed to live a week too long – there could be no re-

planning and waiting for the next season.

No, tonight.

Definitely tonight, no matter what it took or who she needed to take

out to get to that conceited, obnoxious, ignorant, self-centered

bastard who didn’t even care about the people that essentially paid

his wages enough to give one measly autograph.

The figure reached for the long black duffel bag and pulled it closer

to comfort herself.

‘He’ll learn. They all will.’

*****************

“I still say it wasn’t right to do that! What if Skinner finds out

you’ve been recklessly waving your ID credentials around just to get

special treatment?”

“Scully, if I hadn’t we’d still be stuck at the damn turnpike!”

“Yes, but I don’t think a du–…a basketball game constitutes as a

‘federal emergency’.”

As he handed over their tickets and they finally filed into the arena

at twenty-past-seven, Mulder shot his partner an unappreciative

glance, and Dana felt the last glimmer of hope she’d been clinging to

that this was just a bad joke fade away – taking with it any argument

she may have had left within her.

‘Dumb, pointless basketball game…’

His features quickly melted into a smile as he looked toward the

court, and before she could say anything more there was the familiar

feel of his hand pressing against her back. “Come on, Scully, let’s

go find our seats.”

Shuffling forward – moved by the force of his hand as opposed to her

own will – Scully blinked several times. “But we haven’t eaten since

this morning!”

“We’ll just have to grab a ‘dog or something during the half-time

period,” he dismissed, never faltering in his progression toward the

courtside. “If you hadn’t spent so long in the bathroom or the

traffic hadn’t been so clogged we woulda gotten here in time to get

something more an–…” He trailed off, looked down at their ticket

stubs and then at the seating either side of them, mumbling,

“…section 27, row c, seats– Aha! Here we are! Isn’t this great?”

His words ran over and over in Scully’s head as he directed her to

their seats. She appreciated that this meant a lot to him, and was

even pleased to see that joyous, excited, relaxed aura surrounding

him, despite the cost of her own boredom and disappointment (for

God’s sake, she loved him – of course she wanted to see him happy!),

but if he ignored her or made one more snide crack, she would not be

held responsible for any physical damage she would be driven to incur

upon him.

Let down, starved, and out of place… Scully highly doubted this

night could possibly get any worse.

*****************

The game started on time without a hitch, and everything seemed to be

going smoothly.

Except, for one embittered soul, the plan was going far from well.

The center, Todd Hooper, hadn’t started the game – wasn’t even on the

substitutes’ bench.

High above the court, the crazed fan gripped frantically at the black

gun bag beside her on the framework. This couldn’t be happening…

Dammit, she deserved her revenge!

Tears of anger and hurt welled in her eyes as she prepared to stand

and leave. But then she faltered – actually looked back down at the

court to reconsider any further course of action, as if intuition was

telling her there was still hope…that vengeance could still be won.

So, she stayed.

And the decision paid off: not one minute after she retuned to her

place, a whistle was blown and her prey entered the arena – waving

self-righteously at the cheering crowd.

*****************

Scully let out a deep sigh as her stomach loudly begged for some –

*any* – form of sustenance, and glanced down at her watch for the

hundredth time since the game had started, briefly lifting it to her

ear to check it hadn’t stopped.

The minute hand was mocking her, she just knew it. She suspected

that whoever had gotten them the tickets (more than likely Danny) was

off somewhere having a good laugh at her expense too.

“Come on!” Mulder suddenly called out as his beloved team advanced

towards the opponents’ hoop.

She studied his face as he watched the game – followed the line of

his unshaven jaw as it constantly moved, like the ocean – and

literally felt her mouth watering at the thought of how tasty he

always looked…

…which, in turn, had her thinking of food again, and set her

stomach off once more with its desperate gurgling and growling.

Maybe if she weren’t so bored, she’d be able to distract her hunger,

but the game was far from entertaining or remotely interesting, and

the only thing she could think about was how lovely it would have

been if he’d just been thoughtful enough to take her out to that show

or that restaurant…anywhere but here!

Another deep sigh as she sat back and distractedly lifted her chin up

to look at the roof structure.

And that’s when she saw it. Out of the corner of her eye and for no

more than a second, but there nevertheless, and something about it

niggled at her senses: a figure, dimly highlighted by the lighting

rig below where it stood, crouching down until the blinding glare

from the lamps made it impossible to see.

“Mulder,” Scully started, never lowering her gaze as she tapped his

arm. “Mulder, there’s someone up on the roof supports.” He didn’t

respond, so she tried again. “Mulder!”

“What?” He was clearly desperate to turn his attention back to the

game, but, bless him, at least he looked genuinely concerned.

“What’s wrong?”

“I saw someone above the court.”

Mulder shrugged, briefly glancing back at the gameplay before looking

at his partner again. “It’s probably just security…The place is

swarming with them.”

She shook her head, dismissing the comment. “It wasn’t–”

The short, sharp whistle blow cut her off, and before she knew what

was happening, the whole stadium was ringing with the sound of

applause and cheers, and Mulder was on his feet joining in as if she

wasn’t even there.

That was the last straw, and Dana quickly moved out into the aisle to

report what she’d seen to one of the arena police as a throbbing

headache begun to build behind her eyes. She thought she heard his

voice calling after her, but the noise from the spectators washed it

out, and she was past the point of caring enough to return to her

seat.

Although she couldn’t turn fast enough on her heels when a gunshot

ripped through the air and panic ensued.

Ducking for cover and reaching instinctively for weapon that wasn’t

there, Mulder turned and looked for his partner – only just

realizing she was no longer at his side. “Scully?” A quick glance

at the rafters and he leapt back to his feet, desperately searching

for her amongst the fleeing crowd. “Scully?”

“Mulder! Over here.”

She forced herself upstream against the surging mob, inching her way

back towards her seat, but for every foot of progress she made, the

panicked spectators forced her further away from her goal.

“Mulder!”

Mulder caught a glimpse of red hair crushed between a sea of people.

“Scully!”

“Mulder, he’s in the rafters.”

“Call for back up. I’m going up there.”

“No wait, Mu–”

But Scully was pushed backwards and her last glimpse of Mulder was of

him scrambling over rows of seats heading towards the back of the

stadium.

“Dammit!”

*****************

Mulder leapt across the seats, taking the rows two at a time. Most of

the spectators had made a beeline for the nearest exits leaving seats

empty and a relatively easy path to navigate.

Nervous glances towards the roof produced no sign of the shooter, and

he wondered anxiously if maybe the gunman was lining up for another

shot.

By the time he made it to the top of the stadium Mulder was wiping

sweat from his eyes and gasping for breath. The ladder reaching up to

the roof supports was in the western corner against the back wall.

Using the seats as cover, Mulder crept between the rows, searching

the eaves above for the shooter and wishing he had his weapon.

“Hold it! Don’t move. I’m armed and I will shoot.” The orders were

issued with authority from somewhere behind Mulder, but there was no

mistaking the underlying fear in their delivery. Mulder couldn’t see

who was speaking to him and he wondered briefly if he’d found the

shooter, or more to the point, if the shooter had found him?

*****************

The rush of people forcing Scully toward the exit never seemed to

end, and it was by pure luck that she somehow managed to shoulder her

way through the flow and out into a clearing at the side without

being knocked over. She glanced back in the direction of the court,

wishing she could see what Mulder was doing, but then ‘Agent’ mode

kicked in, and Dana quickly reached for her phone as she ran in

search of the security office.

“This is Special Agent Dana Scully of the FBI – I need immediate

police back-up at Madison Square Garden…We’ve got shots fired by a

sniper!”

By the time she’d confirmed the location, any other pertinent

information and hung up, she was opening the door to the security

supervisor’s office.

“Hey! What the hell d’ you think you’re doin’?” a large man

exclaimed, standing up from behind his desk and moving around to bar

Scully’s entrance.

“I’m a federal agent–”

“I don’t care – you can’t just burst in here like you own the damn

place!”

It wasn’t something she enjoyed at any particular time, but now was

really pushing her tolerance for dealing with a complete asshole.

“You’ve got a sniper out there who may have shot someone – or even

still may if you don’t do something – and you’re worried about the

protocol of your office?” She barked, forcing her way past the taller

figure and then sharply turning to face him. “Why aren’t you out

there doing anything?”

As if it answered all her questions, the guard unsnapped a two-way

radio from his belt and waved it in front of her face. “You think I

haven’t a clue what’s goin’ on? We’ve got venue staff struggling to

calm thousands of panicking spectators down and I got a team sweeping

that arena tryin’ to determine where the shot came from.”

“I know where the shot came from.” If she wasn’t so worried about

what Mulder was doing, Dana wondered if she would have just left this

jerk in the dark and taken control of everything herself, but lives

were at stake and they needed all the help they could get.

What was that she’d thought about the night not getting any worse?

The uniformed man straightened at the new tidbit of information –

chewed at the inside of his mouth as he sized the red-haired woman

up. She knew where the shot came from? Was it just pure coincidence

that an FBI agent was at the stadium on the night of an attack and,

furthermore, could pinpoint the origin of the shot, or was there

something else going on here?

He frowned, and inconspicuously rested a hand atop his holstered

pistol. “Who’d you say you are again?”

Scully noticed the uncertain, protective stance and gave an

understanding nod of her head as she slowly reached for her ID…only

to remember it was in her jacket pocket, which she’d taken off and

draped over the back of her seat once they’d settled down.

*Shit*

***************

Mulder raised his arms above his head, not willing to identify

himself until he knew who he was dealing with.

“Okay, turn around nice and slow, keep your hands where I can see

them.”

He did as he was told, turning in a slow arc until he was facing the

man issuing the orders.

A security guard.

Mulder’s knees trembled with relief and he let out a slow breath.

“I’m a fed –”

“Shut up! I’m doing the talking. Now, what the hell are you doing

hiding out up here?”

Mulder kept his voice nice and steady. “My name is Fox Mulder. I’m a

federal agent. My ID is in my pocket.”

“Oh sure, we get a sniper and there just happens to be a federal

agent watching the game.” The man licked his lips, adjusted his

stance. “Okay, come over here; keep it slow, one step at a time.”

“Contrary to popular belief, occasionally we do get to experience

life outside of the Bureau.” Mulder informed the guard as he edged

his way towards the man. “I’m *not* the shooter and every second you

waste talking to me is giving him more of a chance to get away.”

Mulder ran his tongue over his lips, his mouth dry but his brow wet

with nervous perspiration. “I’m going to reach into my back pocket

and get my ID.”

The security guard, a tall man who looked to be in his late fifties

shuffled his feet and corrected the grip on his weapon. “Don’t try

anything silly, son.”

“Believe me,” Mulder insisted, “I have no intention of trying

anything.” Mulder pulled out his ID, held it up for inspection and

then tossed it at the man’s feet. The security guard picked it up,

keeping his weapon trained on Mulder’s chest. He studied the ID and

scrutinized Mulder’s face, waiting for what seemed like an eternity

before finally loosening his grip on the gun and lowering it to its

holster.

Mulder relaxed visibly, and easily caught his ID when it was tossed

back at him.

“What are we dealing with?” The man moved to stand beside Mulder.

Pointing towards the roof beams, Mulder shared what he knew. “I’m

going up there to check it out, my partner’s down there somewhere

hopefully organizing back up. You need to let the police know what

we’ve got and I want you to keep everyone not involved in law

enforcement away from here. Okay?”

The uniformed man nodded and gave Mulder a dubious look. “Should you

be doing this alone?”

“Probably not, but I’m off duty,” Mulder called over his shoulder as

he ran towards the ladder.

***************

“My name is Special Agent Dana Scully,” she hesitated, inwardly

cursing herself for not thinking to snag her coat as she’d stormed

off. “My badge is in the arena with my belongings – I was here just

watching the game and happened to look up and see someone in the

rafters shortly before the shot. Wh–”

“Sir, this is Virgil up on deck 6,” the radio crackled to life,

cutting Scully short. “Just encountered a Fox Mulder from the FBI –

he says the shooter’s up top.”

‘Please don’t play Superhero, Mulder,’ she prayed, lowering her head

as her eyes briefly slipped shut.

“Two feds?” the security supervisor coughed, “Isn’t this just my

lucky night?” He paused and then spoke into the walkie-talkie,

“What’s going on up there?”

There was a silent pause – only broken by the faint crackle over the

speaker – and then “Crazy bastard’s gone up to talk the perp down.”

She wasn’t surprised, but Scully still felt something heavy settle

within her stomach as her head snapped up – the image of him climbing

up the rows of seats as the distance between them had increased

playing over and over in her mind. She opened her mouth to say

something, but another voice was talking over the radio before she

had chance.

“Mack reporting in.”

This appeared to be what the supervisor had been waiting for as his

features lit up and he quickly asked, “Go ahead, Mack.”

“The players are all accounted for and uninjured, but we got an

injured civilian.”

“I’m a medical doctor,” Scully suddenly announced, wishing that one

fact could solve everything. “Look, Officer–?”

“Gene Wilkes – Captain Gene Wilkes,” the broad figure introduced –

shoulders relaxing fractionally. “Agent…Scully? I’m sure you’re

just trying to help, but we got a medical team that’s equipped to

deal with any emergency an–”

“And they may be lucky to get in there at all with their first aid

kits!” she exclaimed. “Look, that’s my partner in there going after

that sniper and there’s an injured person I might be able to help –

at least until the first-aid team or EMTs do arrive. Yes, I’m trying

to help, but this is my job too – even when I’m off the clock – and

I’m not about to back down from that. I just need to get back in

that arena.”

Wilkes considered what she’d said, but knew that without any time to

waste on arguing, all he could do was agree and help in whatever way

he could. “I’ll help you get through the crowd,” he finally

acquiesced, re-holstering his radio and moving aside so that Scully

could leave the room first.

***************

“Oh god, oh god.” What had she done? There were people everywhere,

running, screaming and she couldn’t even tell whether she’d hit her

target. To top it all, her shoulder ached from the recoil – she

hadn’t expected that. All she wanted to do was make that uppity

bastard pay. And had she? Oh shit, there were no more chances and

they’d put her in jail and then what? Run. She had to get away or the

place would be swarming with cops and they’d catch her and she’d be

locked up. Hands trembling, sweaty inside her leather gloves, she

slung the rifle over her shoulder and crawled along the scaffolding.

Shit, what was that? There was someone coming up the ladder. She

shuffled backwards until she was up against a railing, cornered. Oh,

god, who was it? The cops? She pulled her rifle from her shoulder and

took up aim. She wasn’t going to jail, no way. Whoever it was had

better keep their distance.

***************

Mulder peeked over the top of the ladder. The ceiling was a maze of

scaffold-like beams and rafters. He looked left and right and saw

nothing but rows and rows of latticed steelwork disappearing into

gloomy darkness. Carefully, he pulled himself up, the skin on the

back of his neck prickling in anticipation of a bullet taking him out.

Nothing happened.

Mulder climbed a little further so that he was perched on all fours

along a narrow platform. The roof rafters branched off on either side

of him and stretched out into gloomy darkness in front. There were

huge spot lights a few feet below the small platform, anchored in

place with thick rope. Electric cables were threaded along the beams,

coiled on the ground at regular intervals. Warily, he crawled along

the scaffolding straight out in front, painfully aware that one wrong

move could send him hurtling to the ground.

“And just where the hell do you think you’re going?” A loud ‘click-

click’ informed Mulder a weapon had just been cocked at about the

same time as his mind processed that the voice he was hearing

belonged to a woman.

In the shadow to his left, he was just able to make out a small

figure crouched in the corner. As his eyesight grew accustomed to the

semi-darkness there was no doubt that this was the shooter. The woman

was dressed all in black, her gloved hands wrapped tightly around the

barrel of a telescopic rifle.

“What are you doing up here?”

There was an edge to her voice, desperate.

“Would you believe I’ve come to check out a report of bats in the

belfry?”

“Don’t give me that shit. What the hell are you doing here!?” The

woman handled her weapon nervously.

“Why do you think I’m up here?” Mulder asked in that smooth-as-

chocolate voice, hoping to draw the woman out.

“I think you’re about to meet your maker, that’s what I think.” The

woman stood up, the rifle an ugly extension of her arms as she raised

it to her shoulder.

“WAIT! Wait.” Mulder cautiously moved from all fours to a kneeling

position, holding one hand up in a defensive gesture.

The woman took aim, “What have I got to wait for? The cops’ll be here

any minute and then I’ll be behind bars.”

“No one knows you’re up here. There’s just you and me.” Mulder tried

to get a look at what was happening below him, but the angle was

wrong to get a good view. From where the shooter was, she could

probably see the whole stadium. “Why don’t you tell me your name?”

“Why would I want to do that?” Her finger twitched against the

trigger.

“Because you look like you need someone to talk to. You look like you

could use a friend.”

“It’s no good. I’m going to jail.” Mulder thought he could detect a

slight shift in the shooter’s mood. “I killed him.”

“Tell me your name.” Mulder insisted quietly.

“Laura,” she answered, just as quietly.

“Laura, my name’s Mulder.” But the woman wasn’t listening to him. She

was staring off to a place that existed only in her head.

“I shot him.”

“Who, Laura? Who did you shoot?” Despite hearing the sound of the

gunshot, Mulder had no idea whether she’d actually hit anyone.

“Todd Hooper.” She practically spat the name. Then more quietly,

almost like a whiney child. “I only wanted his autograph. He couldn’t

even stop for 10 seconds and scribble his name on a photo.” Her voice

grew angrier, “He’s an arrogant bastard!”

Mulder started to rise to his feet, still holding his hands out

defensively.

“Laura, we don’t know that you actually hit anyone. If you missed

then there’s no harm done.” He was all the way up now.

“I’ve gone to every game. He was my hero. All I wanted was a little

signature.”

“Laura?” Mulder took a step towards her.

“He just brushed me off, didn’t even look at me.”

“Laura, why don’t you give me the gun?” Inching closer.

“What?” She seemed to see Mulder for the first time since he stood

up. “What are you doing? No! Get away from me!”

“Laura, take it easy. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Get back!”

“Don’t make this end badly. If you give me the gun now, nobody else

needs to get hurt.”

“You’re a cop!” Laura raised the gun. “You’re not going to take me! I

WON’T GO TO JAIL!”

The woman was almost hysterical. Mulder needed to calm her down

before the situation got out of control.

“No one wants to put you in jail.”

“Bullshit! Get away from me.” She took a step backwards, stumbled

slightly and in an attempt to right herself her finger squeezed

around the trigger.

Mulder saw the flash of gunfire just before he felt the bullet enter

his left leg above the knee. One millisecond later his brain

registered the pain. Instinct made him clutch at his wounded leg, the

sudden movement throwing him off balance. With sheer terror, he

realized that he was toppling sideways with nothing to break his

fall. Desperately, he fought to find something to hang onto but his

hands, slick with his own blood were unable to find purchase on the

metal railing and he slid over the edge of the roof beam hurtling

towards the ground.

In the space of a second, Mulder discovered it was true what people

said about your life flashing before your eyes when facing death. And

just when he’d resigned himself to the fact that he’d never see

Scully again, never have the chance to say goodbye and tell her how

much he loved her, his descent came to an abrupt halt.

He felt something wrap tight around his left ankle and his knee

cracked in protest as it took the full strain of his weight. It was

then Mulder realized that he was dangling in mid air.

The bullet wound burned in his thigh, his knee and hip screamed with

the sudden wrench of his broken fall and his ankle felt as if

something were trying to cut right through the bone, but God-dammit

it, he was alive.

**************

Despite the unwavering bedlam as everyone fought to evacuate the

building as quickly as possible – cries and screams and yells

probably audible within a twenty mile radius of the building – moving

against the crowd certainly proved to be easier with the broad figure

of Wilkes leading the way, and it wasn’t long before Scully was back

inside the arena. She looked up at where she’d spotted the shooter

as she moved toward the injured spectator, but the bright floods

blocked her vision so for now she would just have to draw comfort

from the idea that Mulder knew (in his own strange way) what he was

doing.

“This is Katie,” Officer Mack started as Scully crouched down in

front of the seated ten-year-old girl and pulled back the bundle of

tissues that had been pressed against her bleeding left arm. “She

and her mom were watching the game – her dad had just disappeared to

use the john…”

“Does her dad know?” the female agent queried, carefully inspecting

the wound.

“We put a message out over the PA system, but he’s not shown up yet.”

“Judging by the crowds out there, he’ll be lucky to get in at all…”

Dana remarked, distractedly. She paused and smiled reassuringly at

the girl, who was braving it enough to not cry. “You’re gonna be

okay, Katie,” she nodded before turning her attention back to the

security guard. “Where’s her mother then?”

“We took her aside just to help calm her down – she was getting

hysterical, and we didn’t want her scaring the kid anymore.”

“You didn’t wanna scare her but took her mom away?”

“Is it serious?” Wilkes quickly cut in, bending over to glance at the

wound also.

Scully shook her head, replacing the wad of tissues and standing up

before reaching once more for her cellphone. “The bullet’s just

nicked the skin…She’ll need stitches, but nothing serious.” She

stepped away and looked once more up at the lighting rig well above

where she stood as her fingers tapped out 911 on the keypad.

The sound of a woman’s voice shouting filtered through the air, but

the echo made it impossible to locate, so she assumed it was the

girl’s irate mother and lifted the phone to her ear.

“911 – how–”

*BANG*

Everyone ducked down and several guns were instinctively drawn…

But Scully stood frozen and aghast as she saw first the gun flare,

and then – shortly after – Mulder’s form come into view…falling

towards her…

He was falling from the ceiling!

“*Nooooo!*”

*****************

From his precarious position, Mulder could see the whole stadium.

There was an unearthly silence as he hung suspended above the seats,

swinging idly in a tight circle. He thought he saw a flash of red

hair below him. No, it couldn’t be. But then he saw it again.

“Scull-eee!” His voice was raspy, strained. Could she even hear him?

The look of shock on her face mirrored the fear he knew was etched on

his own. He may have been spared the finality of hitting the ground,

but how long would the cable be able to hold him?

Blood flowed freely from the wound in his leg, dripping on his face,

and splattering to the floor below. Adding insult to injury, he felt

his cell phone slip from his pocket and plunge towards the ground.

And then the cable shifted, just an inch or two, but Mulder’s body

jerked downwards with the sudden movement.

His head throbbed and his vision blurred as gravity forced too much

blood to his brain.

How the hell was he going to get out of this one?

*****************

Scully’s phone slipped from her grasp and landed on the polished

floor just as Mulder’s fell from his upside-down pocket and smashed

alongside it.

She went to run forward in a desperate attempt to try to catch him or

at least break the fall, but as quickly as his descent began, it came

to an abrupt stop, and she was left blinking with confusion as he

seemingly floated in mid air (the pain and terror carved in his

features visible even from this far below him).

“Mulder?”

One of the lights in the rig blew, sending sparks flying everywhere,

and a horrid creaking scratched at her senses.

“He’s snagged on a cable!” a voice suddenly exclaimed from somewhere

behind her.

*****************

The throbbing pain in his leg, loss of blood and his good friend:

shock, all combined to send his heart rate skyrocketing and his head

spinning. The roaring in his ears told him it would only be a matter

of time before he would pass out. The only saving grace was that he’d

be spared the agony of being awake when he finally plummeted to an

almost certain death below.

Mulder caught another glimpse of Scully standing beside a small child

with a crowd of security guards gathered around her. She was staring

at him, at first with uncertainty, then she seemed to come to a

decision and with a new kind of fear in his heart, he understood what

she was planning to do.

He shook his head ‘no’ at her. If she tried to help him she risked

being taken down when the rig gave way. He mouthed the words ‘I’m

sorry’, and ‘I love you’ just before she took off in much the same

way he had done what must have been only 10 or 15 minutes ago.

‘Oh god’ he prayed, ‘please let me go before she gets to the top.’

And with that last thought, his vision faded to black and the noise

of screams and yelling grew more distant as he slipped into

unconsciousness.

*****************

Scully held her breath, her heart hammering against her chest at a

million miles an hour, as she saw the cable cradling his foot slacken

even further. It wouldn’t be long before the whole lighting rig

crashed down to the court’s surface with him.

She had to rescue him. There had to be a way.

Mulder shook his head as if begging her not to try to help. Scully

knew he wouldn’t want her up there risking her own life, but she’d be

dammed if she was just going to stand by and watch him fall to his

death.

When he mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you’, Dana knew she couldn’t

wait any longer.

“I need some guards to come up there with me, someone to get the

tallest ladder this place has…and will somebody *please* call for

EMTs!” she barked out orders, rushing in the direction she’d seen

Mulder take not ten minutes earlier and refusing to pause long enough

to see if anyone was obeying or following her.

*****************

The first thing Scully encountered when she finally made it to the

top of the stadium was another security guard, his panicked

expression telling her he’d been witness to Mulder’s fall.

A few seconds later, two more security staff joined her at the base

of the ladder.

“We’ve got to go up. He needs help.” Scully stated the obvious, but

by doing so it at least made her feel as if she was doing *something*.

The first guy moved to the side, but caught her arm as she went to

climb the ladder. “The shooter’s still up there and since your

partner fell, there’s no guarantee that structure is still stable.”

It was logic she would have used in any other situation, and dammit

she was trying to stay as calm as humanly possible (had to, in fact,

congratulate herself for actually pausing long enough to listen to

these people who didn’t value Mulder’s life anywhere near as much as

she did), but the longer they stood here debating the ‘right’ thing

to do, the shorter her partner’s chances of getting out of this alive

became.

And she wasn’t going to let him fall.

“Whether anybody goes up there or not, that whole rig is gonna go,”

she snapped, tightly gripping onto one of the ladder’s rungs with her

right hand to both support her shaken, terrified frame, and make the

point very clear that there would be no stopping her.

“And the shooter?” Wilkes suddenly quizzed as he approached the small

gathering. “You wanna get yourself shot, too? Or maybe someone

else?”

This was ridiculous – there was no time for this! – and with one last

shake of her head as she glanced up at where Mulder hung, Dana

started her ascent up the ladder; shaking, sweaty palms making it

difficult to retain hold of the rungs.

At the base of the ladder, Wilkes shook his head in disgust and then

quickly snatched up his radio. “Maintenance? Anyone from

maintenance there?” There was no reply, so he tried again to no

avail. “God damn…” Wiping a hand across his dry mouth, he glanced

up at the dangling figure raining blood upon the court and then at

the three guards gathered beside him. “Virgil, you go up there with

her – make sure you keep me informed on *everything* that’s going on,

no matter how insignificant it may seem.”

“Yes, sir!” the tall, gray-haired guard affirmed with a nod of his

head.

The supervisor smiled his appreciation at the older man before

barking into the radio once more, “Mack? Where’s that medical team?”

“They’re on their way, captain.”

“What about the emergency services?”

“The same, except there’s traffic all the way back to the Hudson so

they may be another ten minutes. Hope you didn’t have any bets on

this game, sir.”

“Under the circumstances I’ll pretend you just didn’t say that,”

Wilkes coughed. Clipping the two-way back on his belt, he started

making his way back down the seating blocks. “You two,” he called

over his shoulder before he got too far out of earshot, “with me – we

gotta go get that scissor lift and move some people so that we can

get it in here!”

*****************

There was a metallic groaning noise and some movement as Scully

pulled herself up onto the beam and took stock of her surroundings.

The first thing her gaze fell on was the cowering, whimpering woman

huddled at the far end of the walkway – a bolt-action rifle discarded

and balancing hazardously on the strut five feet away.

“I–…He–…I didn’t mean–…*Make it stop*!”

Scully considered her options, decided the sniper was subdued enough

to not be a further threat, and then carefully inched toward where

her partner hung.

“Mulder? Mulder, it’s me – can you hear me?” she called, leaning

over the edge. From this angle, she couldn’t see his face or exactly

where the bullet had hit him, but she could see the pool of blood on

the floor below and, added to his non-existent reply, it was enough

for her to fear the worst. “We’re gonna get you out of this, so

don’t worry. Just…Just hang in there, partner, okay?” She hated

the pun, but hoped he could draw some strength from the hint of humor.

He still didn’t respond, but the framework let out an even louder

protest as Dan Virgil appeared at the top of the access ladder.

“His foot’s tangled in the cable,” she announced, never taking her

eyes off the black length saving her partner’s life but feeling her

fear rack up another notch as it dropped from the bar a fraction.

“But he hasn’t got long.” Quickly, her gaze lifted to fix on the

sniper.

“They’re getting the personnel lift in – it won’t reach high enough,

but they’ll have a much better chance of safely catching him when he

goes,” the security officer replied. He put a foot up on the rafter,

but when it shifted and let out a screech, he quickly reversed the

move and sighed when silence fell once more.

“What’s your name?” Scully ground out, trying to remain as composed

as possible but knowing she was failing miserably. “Why did you do

it?”

Laura shook her head and continued to babble nonsensically to herself

as she rocked back and forth.

“*Who are you*?”

“…–uleeee…”

Faint and barely there but there nevertheless; Scully’s head snapped

around at the sound of Mulder’s whimper of her name and she quickly

shifted to lean as far over the edge of the beam as possible.

“I’m here,” Dana gently assured, outstretching a hand to tenderly

brush against his shin – unaware that the movement would send yet

another surge of pain wracking through his leg and body. He

instantly hissed and shuddered in response, and she quickly pulled

the offending hand away. “Oh, Mulder…Why is it only you that can

get into these messes, and so frequently, too?”

This time his only reply was a low groan.

“Can you tell me where it hurts? Where did you get hit?”

“Hurtsss…wooo-zy…ti-tired-”

“No, don’t close your eyes…You know the drill by now: you have to

stay awake!”

“… sssss…heav–…head…”

“No!” She sat up, feeling even more helpless than she had before as

she looked out at the arena. He was going to fall and she couldn’t

stop it, just as she hadn’t been able to stop them from coming to the

game in the first place, or hadn’t been able to stop him from running

after the homicidal bitch that now cowered like a big baby in the

corner and…

…And she had to stop thinking like this. Mulder was counting on

her to save him and arrest the perp. He was counting on her to remain

rational and take charge. Basically, he was counting on her, and

blame or negativity wouldn’t get them anywhere.

“Virgil, we’ve got the lift,” the security supervisor’s voice

suddenly came over the walkie-talkie. “We should be there in three

minutes.”

As if sensing its chance to take them all down with it was slipping

away, the rig creaked, groaned, shuddered, and then dropped several

inches. Another light exploded in a shower of sparks and Mulder’s

unconscious body swung limply back and forth like a pendulum – the

momentum causing the cable to tighten impossibly further around his

ankle.

“Sir, we…we don’t have three minutes,” Virgil managed to rasp out

into the radio as he clung for dear life at the ladder.

The tears had been welling up, unshed in the face of professionalism,

but now there was no holding them back as Scully desperately reached

over to grab onto Mulder’s left foot with both hands and pulled as

hard as she possibly could. As expected, his weight was too much to

lift, but she wouldn’t give up – *couldn’t* give up…

“Help me…please…Please, God, no…” Her head lowered as the sobs

flooded from the depths of her being and trembling hands continued to

scrabble at his leg. “Please…”

Her last word was as quiet as possible, but Virgil had heard enough,

and decided there was only one chance left. As carefully as

possible, he clambered onto the beam too and smoothly moved up next

to the female agent, outstretching his own hands to tug at Mulder’s

leg also.

Suddenly from the other side of the court, there was a motorized

sound, and both the security guard and Scully lifted their heads to

see the large vehicle with the powered platform on the back drive

into the stadium until it was just below them.

“Lock it down!” Wilkes’s voice could be heard commanding as his two

colleagues rushed to either side of the vehicle.

“See? It’s gonna be okay,” Virgil smiled at Scully, pretending to

ignore the increasing groan emanating from each end of the strut.

“He’ll be safely on the ground again in no time.” There was a

whirring noise from below, and when he looked again, the platform was

beginning its steady but slow climb upwards.

Very slow climb.

…Maybe too slow…

“It’s not gonna hold any longer!” he called out.

Wilkes shook his head with non-acceptance at the obvious. With the

platform half-way as high it could go, he refused to believe they

would lose this one now.

With a deafening crash, the rig dropped a further ten inches. Scully

grabbed for Mulder instead of the beam and almost threw herself off,

whilst Virgil reached in his pocket and withdrew a knife.

And all the while this was happening, the sniper responsible for

everything continued to cry to herself.

All three men on the platform raised their arms in the air as the

platform reached its peak.

“Cut it, Dan!” one of them called.

Virgil nodded and lowered his knife to the cable.

Dana heard the words and saw the action, but nothing registered until

Mulder’s body started free-falling again.

“*No*!”

The awaiting guards were able to slow his descent, but the agent’s

weight slipped through their fingers and dropped onto the blue

platform with a muffled clang. The fact he was safe just a matter

of feet and not meters below, though, sent a wave of relief beyond

anything imaginable sweeping through Scully’s body…until the beam

buckled again.

“Jump!” Virgil ordered, grabbing Scully’s arm.

“What about her?” – pointing toward the huddled figure.

“I’ll get her – just go!”

Even more structural groaning, and she obeyed, easily dropping the

ten feet to crouch down beside Mulder’s motionless form without a

backwards glance.

“Lady, this is gonna fall in a minute, so why don’t you just come

here?” the guard started, standing up and taking a step toward the

sniper.

“I’m not going to jail!”

“No – you’re gonna end up dead if you stay up here, so…” Another

step, more weight placed where it wasn’t sturdy, and the rig had had

enough – without warning the whole thing broke away from its supports

and tumbled toward the floor. Virgil instinctively grabbed out for

the first thing he could, and the next thing he knew he was being

helped over the bar and onto the now-crowded platform.

But the last thing heard from Laura was an ear-piercing scream, cut

off by the almighty crash of metal smashing into the stadium floor.

It all became too overwhelming, and before she even had chance to

examine her partner’s injuries, Scully passed out.

*****************

MULDER/SCULLY RESIDENCE

3 DAYS LATER

8PM

Mulder leaned back on the couch, his left leg stretched out in front

of him and propped up on several pillows. It still throbbed

mercilessly and every four hours on the dot, Scully would arrive with

his painkillers and stand over him while he took them. Not that he

needed any encouragement – the pain was sufficient enough that he

didn’t feel in the least bit inclined to argue.

Not only had he suffered the bullet wound, but his knee and ankle had

also taken a battering when they had taken the full brunt of his

weight after he fell. Torn ligaments in both joints only added to his

woes…not to mention the bruised ribs and grazed shoulder courtesy

of his rescue drop.

For the last three days Scully hadn’t left his side. She hovered

protectively over him in the hospital, checking and double-checking

whenever a member of the medical staff came in to take his vitals or

administer medication. By the time he’d been released she had just

about pissed off every staff member she had come in contact with. In

fact, when Scully had wheeled him towards the exit earlier that day,

he could have sworn he’d heard a not-so-subtle cheer go up.

“Mulder, here.” Scully pulled him back from his reverie, thrusting

more pain meds and a glass of water towards him. “It’s time.”

He swallowed the pills, drank all of the water and shifted uneasily

on the couch. At the moment his leg wasn’t too bad, all things

considered, but every time he moved, or breathed deeply or god

forbid, coughed, his ribs screamed bloody murder at him.

“How are you feeling?” She sat on the arm of the couch, staring into

his eyes in a way that Mulder doubted very much meant that he was

going to get lucky that night. He saw concern, and in an odd sort of

way: fear, distance. ‘His’ Scully had almost completely disappeared

behind an aloof curtain of professionalism, and despite her constant

close proximity, Mulder felt as if she were miles away in every other

respect.

When he woke up in the hospital, he was sure he’d be in for an

earful. Usually she would kick his ass from here to kingdom come for

being so reckless; running off again and putting himself in danger.

But she hadn’t said a thing, just looked at him with something he

couldn’t quite wrap his mind around. She’d been walking on eggshells

now for three days, treating him like he might disintegrate into a

million pieces if she so much as looked at him sideways.

Scully continued to watch him, her face too pale and her eyes haunted

as if she were seeing something unbearable over and over in her

mind. She was really starting to scare him.

“Scully?”

She stared right through him.

“Scully!”

She snapped back to the present with a soft gasp, and an almost

imperceptible shake of her head.

Mulder reached out and took her hand and made space for her beside

him on the couch. “C’mere.” He pulled her gently down.

“No, Mulder, your injuries. . . ”

“I’m fine.” He offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile and,

mustering all his strength, stretched his arm out along the back of

the couch, inviting her in. She slipped into the warm cocoon of his

body, careful of his ribs and shoulder. Mulder refused to accept her

distance and scooped her closer, clenching his jaw against the pain

in his side.

Gently, he rubbed her arm, long soothing strokes from elbow to

shoulder until he felt her begin to relax under his touch.

“Scully, are you all right?” He felt her stiffen, and she snapped her

head around to look at him, her expression making him wonder if he’d

just sprouted another head.

“Why would you ask me that?” She frowned, her tone defensive.

“I don’t know, you just–…you haven’t been yourself. Scully, you’d

tell me if there was something wrong, wouldn’t you?”

“Something wrong.” She repeated under her breath. And then she puffed

a soft snort. “Something wrong.” Her gaze turned inward and she was

lost in space again.

“Scully?” She came back to herself almost immediately, turned back

to look at Mulder and seemed as if she was about to say something.

But instead, she covered her mouth with her hand and ran from the

living room.

A few seconds later Mulder heard the bathroom door close and the

sound of painful heaving coming from down the hall.

“Oh shit!” What the hell was going on with her? Mulder eased his

leg off the couch, his movements slow and awkward and riddled with

pain. He scooted forward and grabbed his crutches from the floor

beside the couch. Again those damn ribs begged him not to move but

this time he just ignored them.

“Don’t get off that couch, Mulder.” Scully was in the doorway, her

face pale and the hair around her face wet.

“Jeezus, Scully, what happened? Are you okay?”

“No. No, I’m not.” The words hung like ice in the room.

Slowly, Mulder sat back, keeping his leg straight out in front of him

and one arm wrapped around his middle. The pain in his side was like

a knife in his ribs.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong, Scully?” Despite the burning

in his side, he felt a cold shiver run down his spine, a heavy lump

in his stomach. She was frightening him. Had that damn cancer come

back?

“What would be the point, Mulder?” She’d taken to pacing now. Her

arms wrapped tightly around her chest.

“Wha–…what do you mean?”

“Because we’ve had this conversation a thousand times before, and not

one of those times has it ever made any difference! Have you ever

taken any notice?” She stopped, sucked in her bottom lip and

chewed. In exasperation, she dropped her hands to her sides and

sighed. “Just what would be the point?” This was more to herself

rather than Mulder.

Suddenly, it was starting to dawn on him. This was the ass-kicking

he’d been waiting for. No problem, he knew he probably deserved it.

All he had to do was sit there and ride out the storm.

“Scully, I’m sorry. I know you were scared when I fell – shit, *I*

was scared! I–”

“No more, Mulder.” She looked at him with an expression that chilled

the blood in his veins.

“No more what?” he asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.

“I can’t take it any more. The other night, when you were

dangling…” She shook her head, her body trembling slightly.

“…bleeding, and the roof was falling and I had no idea…I didn’t…

I– ” She sucked back a sob, raising a trembling hand to her face to

cover her mouth. But another sob broke free, louder, filled with

hurt, confusion, and it was the worst sound Mulder had ever heard in

his life.

“Scully, come here.” He shuffled to the edge of the couch. Scully

didn’t move, she’d turned her back on him and he watched in horror as

her shoulders shook with all the pain and fear and stress of what

she’d been holding back since the other night.

“Scully, please.” His own voice was quaking. “Please, babe, come

here.”

She turned to face him, her bottom lip still trembling, her sobbing a

painful sound that caught in her throat and Mulder felt his world

start to crumble. God, what had he done to her?

He pushed himself up, every muscle in his body protesting, but none

of his injuries hurting as much as the ache in his chest. He took one

limping step towards her, his abused leg screaming at him to stop and

for a moment his vision grayed and his stomach rose and he had to

grab onto the wall for support.

“Mulder! What are you doing?” He felt Scully grab his arm and wrap

it over her shoulder, carefully guiding him back to the safety of the

couch. She eased him down, lifted his leg and propped it back on the

pillows. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

He couldn’t remember, his head was still woozy and he wasn’t too sure

about the stability of his stomach, either. If he could just rest and

get his breath, let his head clear.

“Mulder? Can you hear me?”

“I’m okay, I’m alright.”

Mulder felt the couch dip, and Scully’s warmth pressing against his

side. For once his ribs didn’t complain.

He looked up at Scully. “What…what did you mean…you can’t…take

any more?”

She closed her eyes, effectively shutting him out again.

“Scully? What are you — ”

“I don’t *know*.” She shook her head. “I don’t know, Mulder. It’s

just…I can’t watch you die again. For all intents and purposes you

should be dead. You have no right to be here, laying on the couch,

talking to me.” Then, very quietly, “I thought I’d lost you.” Her

words were trembling and she shuddered against him.

“You’re going to leave me.” He knew it. Somehow, all along, he knew

it would happen.

But Scully stared at him wide-eyed with shock, her head shaking.

“No. No, never Mulder. God, why would you even think such a thing?”

“But…what else is there? You love your job, you can’t quit the

FBI.”

“I love *you*.”

It was Mulder’s turn to shudder. Memories of hurtling toward the

ground had snapped him out of sleep and kept him awake without fail

over the last few nights, and that was scary enough, but…What if it

had been Scully up there, dangling from the cable only seconds away

from death – her blood decorating the basketball court? How would he

be reacting right now? The words ‘strait’ and ‘jacket’ crossed his

mind.

He reached up and cupped her cheek. They hadn’t spoken of Laura or

passed comment when they’d seen the news reports on the television at

the hospital, but none of that mattered. What did, however, was that

he’d rushed off without her watching his back or a second thought and

put his life dangerously on the line yet again with almost fatal

consequences. He needed to apologise for putting her through that

helpless nightmare. “I’m sorry, Scully. I’m sorry for what you went

through.”

She took his hand and stilled the gentle caresses on her cheek. “I

know you are.”

After a few moments of silent contemplation, Mulder said, “What are

we going to do?”

Scully shrugged. “I don’t really think there’s an answer. I…I guess

I was…I’m…. I’m maybe…suffering some kind of delayed shock.”

She squeezed his hand. “I was so certain that I wouldn’t be able to

save you in time.”

“But you did, Scully.”

“Mmmm.” She smiled at him and after a few moments added. “You really

thought a basketball game was going to be the surprise of my life?”

“Hey, I dare you to tell me you weren’t surprised.” He teased,

relieved that Scully’s mood had lightened a little.

“Well, next time you want to surprise me, how about you make it

something a little more sedate.” She traced a lazy circle on the palm

of his hand. “Did I ever mention the Kirov Ballet are performing at

the Kennedy Center?”

“Ballet–” He was mid protest when he remembered her sobs, the look

of utter devastation on her face. With a brighter tone to his voice,

he said “The Ballet sounds like a great idea, Scully.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep – it’s not nice.”

“Seriously, if that’s what you want, then we’ll go.”

She frowned and pulled away fractionally. He actually sounded…

genuine? “Really? You – Fox William Mulder – would go to the ballet

with me?” She reached up and felt his forehead. “You don’t seem to

be running a fever…Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m sure.” And with that he pulled Scully down so she was

laying along the length of the couch, cradled in his arms, and

despite the throbbing in his ribs and leg, for just a moment, he

didn’t think life could get any better than this.

“Hey, Scully?”

“Mm hmm?”

“Do they sell hot dogs at the Ballet?”

“Oh, Mulder!”

==========

THE END