Contrappunto: The First Voice by Sarah Bradbury
Title: Contrappunto: The First Voice
Author: Sarah Bradbury
Category: ScullySlash, of course, plus (bonus) an actual X-file!
Disclaimer: Alex, mine; Mulder, Scully, not. CC, 1013, blah, blah, blah.
Spoilers: Minor, except for a specific reference to Duane Barry (and who hasn't seen that by now??) and that I see Scully in the suit she's wearing in the movie!
Cross-Posting and Archiving: Anywhere you see fit. Go wild! (just keep my name and email address on it somewhere). I'll post to AXFC myself.
Summary: Scully and Mulder go to Cincinnati to investigate people in inexplicable comas. Are the comas a result of alien abductions? And who is this striking woman doctor that is overseeing their care?
Thursday, February 5, 1998, 4:10 p.m.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
"Oh come on Scully, it'll be fun."
"Mulder, going to Cincinnati on a wild goose chase is not my idea of fun. Plus, how many times have I ended up covered with some indescribable green goo when you told me it'd be fun??" Scully sat back in her chair, planning to hold firm this time.
"Ooo, Scully, you know what green goo does to me..." Mulder walked around the table and put the file down in front of his partner. "Besides, how can you turn this one down? It's right up your alley."
"Rampant road rage is right up my alley? Is that why you always want to drive?" Scully raised one eyebrow at him and resolved to really be strong this time. "Besides, I was thinking of taking off a little early tomorrow and going down to Ocean City for the weekend."
"The beach? In February?" Mulder looked a little perplexed, but continued to spread the contents of the file out in front of her.
"El nino--remember? It's 75 degrees outside." Scully reminded him while she tried to avert her eyes from the reports he was unfurling. "An old friend of my brother Bill has a house on the edge of Ocean City and he's having a 40th anniversary party for his parents. And since Bill couldn't go, I got the official Scully family invite."
"You'd rather go hang out at the beach in February with a bunch of senior citizens than go look at some very interesting medical anomalies that just happen to be in Cincinnati??" he asked incredulously.
Scully sighed. She shook her head a little and looked down at the files in front of her. She tried to let her eyes slide over the text without actually reading them. She knew that it would be so easy to let herself get caught. Mulder sensed a chink in her armor and moved in for the kill. He began to summarize the file for her.
"There has been a cluster of cases of unexplained rage in Cincinnati during the last month," he began.
"Maybe they just discovered that they live in Cincinnati--that would explain the rage," she muttered under her breath. She studied the detritus of their investigations on the wall, resolutely ignoring the files in front of her.
"I'll ignore that--I hear Cincinnati is a very nice place to live. Plus, they have the oldest professional baseball team," he said, the teasing glitter in his eyes belying his patronizing tone of voice. Scully just rolled her eyes. "Anyway, by all accounts, these were perfectly normal people, with no history of antisocial behavior. And they all apparently just went off. Five, two men and three women, were involved in road rage incidents. There were no casualties in any of the incidents, but all five were apprehended shortly afterwards and all claimed no memory of the incidents."
"Of course they claim no memory. Who says, voluntarily, 'yes I was a total jerk!'?" She forced herself to think about what she could wear to the beach.
Mulder ignored her and continued. "It has been suggested that these are not isolated incidents, but they are the ones who happened to get caught. There is anecdotal evidence of other incidents, but the people weren't caught. It is also unusual that over half of the cases involve women. You know how rare it is for women to be arrested for that kind of behavior. In addition, there has been a 20% increase in assault cases, both domestic and otherwise." Mulder looked at his partner expectantly.
"And..." Scully prompted him, even though she knew full well that she didn't really want to hear the answer to her implied query.
"And seven of those people arrested for assault claimed no knowledge of the incidents," he proclaimed proudly, as if that answered all of her questions.
Scully looked at her partner incredulously. What straws was he grasping at this time? What was he not telling her? "Mulder," she began slowly. "There is no reason to think that a slight increase in a particular type of crime, no matter how egregious, is indicative of any deeper meaning. They are just statistical outliers. A blip."
"A blip, Scully?"
"A bleeping blip, Mulder," she pronounced with finality.
"But, Scully, all 12 people, along with 7 others are now in comas at the University of Cincinnati Hospital. Comas, with no apparent medical cause." He grinned at her. He knew that he had pulled her in despite her determination.
Scully's brow furrowed as she finally looked down at the reports in earnest. She read the files quickly, intrigued despite herself. She loved a good medical mystery. It was what got her into forensic pathology in the first place. When she was finished with the file, she looked up at Mulder. "So, do you have a theory?" she asked.
"If I tell you my theory, you won't want to go with me, so I'll just keep it to myself until I have you safely on the plane. Come on, our plane leaves in an hour and a half. There's just enough time to swing by your apartment and pick up a bag." He grabbed his coat and briefcase and walked out the door. Scully got her own coat and briefcase and followed him. She caught up to him at the elevator.
"You got the tickets before you even told me about the case, didn't you?" She shook her head at him as they got on the elevator. Mulder just smiled at her and pressed the button for the ground floor.
Friday, February 6, 1998, 7:45 a.m.
University of Cincinnati Hospital
"I'm sorry, but this floor is restricted. Visiting hours for immediate family only are from 9-10 a.m.." Mulder flashed his badge as he and Scully stepped around the stern nurse blocking their way. They kept walking down the sterile, antiseptic-smelling hall, ignoring the sputtering behind them.
"Scully, why do they call it Visiting Hour_s_, when there's only one of them?"
"Mulder," she said, ignoring his irrelevant comment, "you know they're going to kick us out if you antagonize them."
"Scully, they're going to kick us out no matter what we do. I thought we might be able to get some information first with a sneak attack. In here." He pointed to a door with a large red "Restricted" sign on it. She followed him through the door. Both FBI agents were surprised by the sight that met them on the other side of the door. The room was large, but it was almost completely filled with beds, giving it a tight, cramped feel. Scully quickly counted about 30 patients. Each of the patients was completely immobile and hooked up to an elaborate bank of recording devices. Except for the electronic sounds coming from the machinery, the room was unsettlingly tranquil.
"Mulder," Scully whispered. "No one keeps patients in open wards like this anymore. And it looks like they are all hooked up to continuous EEG monitors, as well as having their normal vital signs monitored." Scully walked over to the nearest patient and looked at the readouts on the monitors. "There isn't anything unusual about their vitals, but these EEGs look really odd. They all have prominent slow-wave theta rhythms, which isn't unusual in patients in comas, but there's something odd about them. I'm not quite sure what it is."
"It's about 2Hz off from a normal theta rhythm and the periodicity is inconsistent." The two FBI agents whipped around and stared at the tall blond woman in scrubs who stood behind them. "And who the hell are you and what are you doing in my ward?"
Scully pulled out her badge. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully and this is my partner, Fox Mulder." Mulder flashed his badge at the doctor, who took it from him before he could put it away. She inspected it carefully before handing it back to him. And then she scrutinized him for a long moment before she turned to Scully.
"You clearly have some medical training, Agent Scully." It was not a question.
"Agent Scully is a physician," Mulder said to the doctor's back. Scully nodded. She felt naked in the heat of the doctor's intense gaze. She wasn't sure what to say to this woman. She felt the need to step backwards, if only to put some distance between herself and those eyes. Those eyes that gave only a glimpse of the pure steely power within. Scully knew that they had to be honest with this woman. She would give them nothing if she sensed bullshit.
"We're here investigating a series of unexplained incidents of violence and rage, perpetrated by your patients," Scully explained.
"Who called you in?" the doctor asked, her piercing green eyes never leaving Scully's.
"Ahh," Scully equivocated. "We weren't exactly called in."
"We're more here in an unofficial capacity," Mulder ventured. He had moved so that he was no longer behind the doctor, who had still not released Scully from her studious gaze. The doctor pulled a small flashlight from her pocket.
"Look at this," she motioned the two agents over to one of the patients. She shined the light in one of his eyes. Scully leaned over and looked into the patient's eye.
"There's a pupillary response," Scully noted. She opened the other eye. "This pupil is constricted as well, so the consensual reflex is normal."
"It's the same in all 29 patients. They also have normal cold caloric responses." Scully suddenly became aware that the doctor's left arm was pressed up against her as they leaned over the patient together. She looked up. The doctor was looking down at the patient. Her eyes were no longer made of stone or steel or some other inanimate material; they were warm and filled with concern. Scully didn't know what to make of this woman.
"What does all this mean, Scully?" Mulder interrupted her thoughts.
Scully turned and looked at him. "Well, technically speaking, Mulder, these people are not in comas. They are basically... asleep."
"Asleep, but totally unresponsive. And with that unusual theta rhythm." The doctor regarded the two agents thoughtfully. Her expression had lost its earlier hostility, but it was still impenetrable.
Scully forced herself to speak, despite her suddenly dry throat. "Do you have any ideas, Dr. ...." She paused, as she didn't know the doctor's name.
"Cauldwell. Alex Cauldwell. And no, I have no idea. Do you?" Mulder began to respond, but Scully interrupted him.
"Dr. Cauldwell, it would be better if we could go somewhere private and talk about this. If you have some time." Scully looked questioningly at the doctor. She felt an unfamiliar feeling of anticipation. She wanted this woman to have time to meet with them again. And although she justified it to herself by thinking that Dr. Cauldwell might be able to help them with this case, she realized at some level that this was insincere. *I'm not quite ready to let her go yet.* Scully was somewhat perplexed by this thought, but she didn't really pay much attention to it. She was used to ignoring her feelings.
"I have patients all morning, but I might be able to get away for lunch. However, I won't know until around 11."
"You can call me on my cell phone when you know." Scully handed Dr. Cauldwell her card. "I know you can't let us see the patient's medical records, but do you at least have a list of their names? And I thought there were only 19 of them."
"There were only 19 yesterday morning," the doctor nodded. "We've had 10 more admits since then. That's why they're in this ward room, so we can monitor them all at once. It's actually an old quarantine ward."
"Is that why there's a restricted sign on the door?" Mulder asked.
"Perhaps that's something we should talk about at lunch." The doctor gave Mulder an inscrutable look. "I'll have the nurse print out a list of the patient's names and addresses. I'm afraid that, officially..." she paused meaningfully, "I can't give you any more information."
The FBI agents got the list from the nurse's station, while trying to avoid the sputtering nurse from earlier that morning and headed off to the elevator. Alex Cauldwell watched them leave. She wasn't quite sure what she would tell them at lunch. Not that she questioned where her loyalties lay, but she wasn't sure what the right course of action would be. Plus she was intrigued by the intense blue eyes of Agent Scully. *What lies behind those oh-so-serious eyes?* she wondered.
"Mulder, let's go to the cafeteria and get some coffee and plan our attack," Scully said as they got onto the elevator. When they finally found the cafeteria and sat down with their coffees, Mulder pulled out his PalmPilot and Scully pulled out a little black notebook. "Mulder, that is so geeky."
"Didn't you hear? Geeky is cool now." Scully just rolled her eyes.
"There are a few things I'd like to look up in the medical school library here," Scully said, getting down to business.
"I'm going to get a city map, figure out where all these people live and then I think I'll go over to the main university campus and see if I can find someone who can tell me about the area," Mulder continued.
"I'd also like to know more about Dr. Cauldwell," Scully mused. "I think I'll have a check run on her."
"Yeah, she's tough as nails. I wouldn't want to mess with her. She reminds me of an elementary school teacher of mine." Mulder shivered.
"Was that the one who paddled you in the fourth grade and you've been fantasizing about it ever since?" Scully smirked at her partner.
"Well I was a very bad boy, ...and she was a very stern teacher." He paused and leered at Scully. "And she was almost a