Skinner watched the fear in Scully's face go up a notch as she found his gun aimed squarely at her head. He'd never shoot her--but if she didn't know that, he might be able to get her to listen to him before whoever was standing outside chose to barge in and turn the tables once again.
"Drop your weapon!" he barked harshly, rising to his feet, watching as Scully did the same, her grip tightening on her weapon. "Put it down, Scully!"
She shook her head slightly, determination in her eyes. "No way."
Skinner brandished his own pistol a bit more obviously. "I said, put it down!"
"And I said NO!" Scully risked a glance at the door, where the shadows still lurked. "You're setting me up," she accused, her voice low and menacing.
"I'm trying to help you!" Skinner knew it was useless at this point, but he had to try to reason with her. Once again, he was losing control of the situation.
"Then put down your weapon and sit down."
Skinner gritted his teeth. "Not a chance."
"You said you weren't here to kill me Skinner, now prove it!"
"I didn't come here to have a gun shoved in my face, either."
Her tirade was interrupted as the door finally crashed open, and Skinner suddenly realized why this scene was so familiar, so disturbing...
Mulder stood before him, gun trained on his chest. It was just the same as the dream he'd had last night. With one notable exception--Scully was still alive.
"Drop your weapon!" Mulder cried out, his voice strangely husky. "I said drop--"
"Back off!" Skinner yelled, his aim vacillating between his two agents.
"Put it down!" Mulder continued relentlessly.
Skinner looked at the younger man, still shocked by his appearance. Not that Mulder looked hurt, or sick... In fact, he looked damn good for a dead man. "What the hell is this? What are you pulling here?"
Skinner noticed that Scully seemed as surprised as he was, as Mulder glanced toward where she stood.
"Are you okay, Scully?"
"Yeah," she replied, dazed.
"Get his gun," Mulder ordered. Scully dutifully stuck her left hand out toward Skinner, her right one still training her weapon on him. But there was no way Skinner was giving it up. Not even if that dream...
"Give her the gun," Mulder directed him, his voice more deadly than Skinner had ever heard before. The younger man shouted suddenly, and Skinner knew he'd shoot him if he didn't give in. "Give it to her!"
"All right," Skinner said immediately, pointing his gun at the ceiling as he uncocked it. Scully took it from him quietly, tucking it into the hem of her pants.
"Now I want an explanation," Mulder demanded, uncocking his own gun and turning toward Scully.
"I was warned that somebody would kill me," she said, an icy glare to her superior. "Someone I trusted."
Skinner locked eyes with her for a long moment. Someone she trusted...
Well, maybe he could regain that trust. He shifted his gaze to Mulder, whose gun sat ready by his side, his eyes full of the kind of betrayal that Skinner would never have thought to see directed at himself.
"I'm going to reach into my pocket and end this charade, all right?" His own anger grew as Mulder nodded coolly, and he was almost gratified to see the younger man's determination slip as he drew out the tape.
"I presume you both know what this is?" Skinner asked, sensing that he'd finally begun to recapture some control in this mad situation. "Now I want an explanation."
Mulder's voice was pure venom. "Your cigarette-smoking friend killed my father for that tape, and then he killed me."
"What are you talking about?"
"I was a dead man," Mulder asserted, a look in his eyes that reminded Skinner of himself when he'd woken up in that Saigon hospital twenty years ago. "Now I'm back."
"What is on this tape?"
"Defense Department documents that weren't supposed to exist. The truth about our government's involvement in a global conspiracy of silence about the existence of extraterrestrial life."
"Give me the tape," Scully said quietly, her gun still firmly trained on him.
"Huh-uh," Skinner replied stoutly. "This tape stays with me."
Mulder cocked his gun again, its muzzle a meager few feet from Skinner's face. "Give her the tape."
"If what you say is true, if the information on this tape is valuable enough to kill for, then it's the only leverage we have to bring these men to justice." Skinner cursed himself for the weakness of his voice, his posture... And he cursed Mulder for the sarcasm in the younger man's eyes when he'd heard the word "we."
"It's not going to do us any good if it falls back into their hands!"
Mulder stood silently for a moment, watching him. With an almost trusting look in his eyes, the agent lowered his gun again. "Then you'd better make sure it doesn't... Come on, Scully," he said after a moment.
"Where?" Scully sounded nearly as relieved as Skinner felt, as she slipped her gun back into its holster.
"There're truths out there that aren't on that tape."
Scully nodded after a moment, her eyes still distrustful as she dropped Skinner's gun on the table before him, and followed her partner out.
* * *
Scully just stared at Mulder as he waited for the elevator. He was alive! She wasn't sure if that surprised her more because she'd thought it wasn't true, or because she'd known it was.
"Mulder," she said quietly after a moment, a relieved smile gracing her lips. "I--"
"Scully, whatever you're going to say--"
"I went to your father's funeral," she broke in suddenly, needing--somehow--to let him know that she hadn't given up on him. "I told your mother that you were going to be okay."
Mulder smiled calmly. "How did you know?"
"I just knew," she all but whispered as they stepped into the waiting elevator.
Mulder was silent a long moment. Finally, he turned to her, watching her as she stood, her head down.
"She was at my father's house," he said quietly.
Scully just nodded.
"I tried to get her to help me find out why they killed him."
"And did she?"
Mulder leaned against the wall as the elevator came to a stop. "No..." He considered his mother's reactions again, her fear when he'd asked her to remember. "She couldn't help me," he said sadly, as he pushed himself away from the wall, guiding Scully out of the car with a gentle hand to her back.
"We need to go and see somebody who can."
* * *
Margaret Scully ran through the halls, heedless of the people she almost shoved out of her way. All the nurse had said when she called the house was that Maggie's daughter had been involved in a shooting, that she was in emergency surgery...
So soon after Fox's death, Maggie was certain that Dana's injuries were a direct result of whatever had caused that initial tragedy.
She just prayed that there wouldn't be another funeral to be planned...
Bursting into the emergency area, she grabbed on to the first doctor she saw. "Um, my daughter was brought in... I'm trying to find her."
The desperation in her voice must have been enough to convince him to handle her carefully. "All right, what's her name?"
"Scully," Maggie replied, her voice trembling. "Dana Scully."
The doctor turned in surprise. "Melissa Scully?"
"No..." Maggie whispered, as her heart sank. "That's her sister."
"Well, we just had a Melissa Scully in surgery with a cranial gunshot wound."
Maggie shook her head in horror. "No..." she whispered, tears already forming. Somehow, as much as she loved her baby girl... She'd always known this was a possibility for her... But Missy?
"Come on, Mrs. Scully," the doctor said, taking her arm gently. "I'll take you to her room."
* * *
Maggie's hand went up to her face as she saw her daughter lying there. Oh, God... God, no... Not her, not now... please.
"Missy?" she called weakly. "It's Mom."
The doctor came up behind her quietly, his voice low and reassuring. "We took drastic measures, due to the nature of the head wound," he explained. "We've induced coma to try to relieve the trauma on the brain."
"Is she going to be okay?" Maggie asked in a tiny voice.
"We're doing everything we can right now," he replied, wishing, as he always did, that he could give her something more hopeful. "We're monitoring her around the clock..." He dropped off, as Mrs. Scully's eyes drifted sadly back toward her daughter. "Nurse? Why don't we get Mrs. Scully a comfortable chair?"
Unfortunately, he had a feeling she'd be there for a long, long time.
* * *
Mulder smiled a little meanly as he and Scully mounted the stairs that led to the Lone Gunmen's office. Scully smirked back, glad to see the mischief in his eyes--glad to see anything... She still couldn't quite believe that he was back.
"Just don't give Frohike a heart attack, Mulder," she joked quietly. "I'd hate to have to do CPR on him."
Mulder chuckled at that, and it surprised her. He seemed so at ease, now. He'd been so peaceful since he'd... returned. She just hoped this newfound peace would carry him through whatever truths they might uncover here.
She stood back and watched as he rang the bell the Gunmen had installed, noticing that Mulder had chosen to stand just out of the line of sight of the surveillance camera mounted above the door. She herself stood directly in its path.
Langley opened the door, his long, blonde hair as disheveled as usual, a gentle smile on his face. That smile quickly turned to slack-jawed awe as Mulder breezed briskly past him.
"Hey guys," Mulder said, sounding amazingly normal to Scully, who could tell that he was moments away from dissolving into laughter. "Listen, Scully and I have a couple of..." He dropped off almost comically, as he looked at Langley and Byers' faces. "What?" he asked, a smile finally breaking out.
Byers was, perhaps for the first time since Scully had known him, entirely speechless, staring at this born-again agent in much the same way she had only an hour ago. Langley, on the other hand, gave a strange little shout, enveloping Mulder in a bear hug.
"Man," he demanded happily as he let Mulder go. "What the hell happened to you?"
"It's a long story," Mulder assured him, still watching the frozen Byers out of the corner of his eye. "Think he's still breathing?" he asked Langley in a whisper. "Scully said she wouldn't help resuscitate Frohike, but I'd bet she wouldn't mind with Byers."
Scully threw her partner a dirty look, but Byers chose that moment to snap out of it, reaching for the phone with a smile on his face. "I've got to call Frohike," he said suddenly.
* * *
Frohike stepped out of his car, willing his heart to stop beating so fast. A shooting at Scully's place... A thirty-something-year-old woman taken by ambulance to DC Gen--with a gunshot wound to the head.
They'd finally done it, his panicked mind told him. They'd finally taken Mulder out--and decided that, with him gone, Scully was of no use either.
Frohike was often made fun of for his disshelved appearance. With a well-dressed associate like Byers, he often looked more like a bum than anything else. But what people didn't see was the benefit of that. Nobody wanted to acknowledge a bum... They spent a lot of energy pretending that bums didn't exist, in fact. And that selective blindness let him get into so many places unnoticed...
It took him about fifteen seconds to get hold of the chart marked "Scully," and he nearly fainted with relief when he saw that the chart said "Melissa," not "Dana"--
He closed his eyes as he realized that this was the same Melissa Scully who had sat at Dana's bedside throughout her long recovery after her abduction...
Scully's big sister.
With a tragic sigh, the little man headed back to his car, feeling that irritating tingling at his hip that told him he'd received a message on his beeper. He lifted it up as he started his old clunker, looking at the readout on his pager in disgust.
Those goddamned beeper companies were never going to figure out how to get their precious "new technology" to translate the voice messages people gave! This one said "Frohicky--Moldors here. Buyers."
Hell, Byers could have said "moldy ears," and the beeper would have mangled that just as expertly. He sighed again, debating whether he should try to find Scully first, or go back to the office and see what the hell Byers had been trying to say. Scully was probably on her way down to the hospital right now to see her sister, anyway. And that garbage of a message might have had something to do with Mulder's death...
He put the car in gear, fighting the clutch, and took off back toward the office.
* * *
It took a few minutes for the Gunmen to calm down, and Scully could see Mulder's jaw clenching and unclenching... A small part of her worked up to hoping that he didn't break any teeth.
"Guys," she said finally, cutting across the men's excited voices. "We came here for a little information."
"A guy who comes back from the dead doesn't need information from guys like us," Langly replied with a laugh. One look at Scully's face convinced him to change his mind. "Whatta ya got, Mulder?"
"A picture," Mulder answered, taking the photograph out as he threw his partner a grateful look. "It was taken when my father was working for the state department." He laid the photo out on a nearby table, as the Gunmen and Scully gathered around.
"That's my father on the left there," he said, pointing to a younger, healthier, happier version of the man. What had Bill Mulder been through that had aged him so much in the last twenty years? What kinds of secrets had he been privy to?
Byers scanned the photo carefully, his voice taking on a vague, far-off sound. "This was taken when?"
"Amazing," the dapper man said finally, pushing away from the table. "Langly, take a look."
"Do you recognize any of those men?" Scully asked.
Byers gave that secret smile that had always irritated her. He knew more than he was likely to say... And his flare for the dramatic rivaled even Mulder's.
"Are you familiar with a post-World War II project known as 'Operation Paper Clip'?"
Mulder nodded. "Our deal with the devil. The US government provided safe haven for certain Nazi war criminals in exchange for their scientific knowledge."
"I know this man," Langly broke in, as Byers seemed to be about to continue. "Victor Klemperer."
"The man standing next to your father is one of those criminals," Byers explained. "Though not the most famous of the bunch. Werner von Braun, designer of the V-2 rockets that leveled London, may be the most notorious, but Victor Klemperer certainly takes the prize for the most... evil... Nazi to escape the Nuremberg trials."
"What did he do?" Scully was almost afraid to know. What was the man doing with Mulder's father?
"Experimented on the Jews." She marveled at Langly's nonchalant attitude as he listed Klemperer's crimes. "Drowned them, suffocated them, put them in pressure chambers. All in the name of science."
"Together with von Braun, Klemperer helped us win the space race," Byers continued for his fellow gunman. "Using his scientific data on the effects of high altitude flying, we were able to put astronauts on the moon before the Soviets."
"One giant step for mankind..."
Scully stood silent as Langly made his fatalistic statement. She didn't want to ask the question, but it was already hanging in the air. "What would he be doing in a photo with your father?"
"I don't know," Mulder whispered. Scully could almost see the weight bearing down on her partner again, as he looked up at Byers questioningly. "Do you recognize anybody else from the photograph?"
Langly perused it once more. "No."
"Operation Paper Clip was supposed to have been scrapped in the fifties," Byers said quietly. "But if this photo is from 1973..."
Frohike sighed as he climbed the stairs toward the office. He was going to have to go and see Dana. He wasn't sure she could handle another blow so soon after losing Mulder...
With a heavy heart, he reached for his keys, unlocked the perpetually-locked door--
And came face to face with a man he'd been sure he'd never see again.
"Unbelievable!" he breathed, striding across the room to wrap his arms around Mulder. "We thought you were history!"
"You're going to have to wait a little longer for my video collection, Frohike," Mulder joked easily as the short man released him.
"Where were you?" Langly asked, as Frohike seemed suddenly to realize that there were others in the room. "Been looking all over."
That was when the little man focused on Scully. God... He didn't want to be the one to have to tell her this...
"I was down at DC General. I was scanning the police frequencies when I heard the report of a shooting." He took off his hat, watched Scully stand up straighter in alarm. "Agent Scully..." he began tentatively.
"What?" she asked, jumping into the nervous silence, an edge of fear to her voice. "What is it?"
"Your sister's in critical condition."
Too many things fell into place for Scully then... The old man's words... "They'll kill you in your home, or in the garage"... It wasn't Skinner he'd been warning her about...
And she'd left Melissa to walk right into it.
Mulder glanced shortly at the others as Scully took off at a run, heading for the back stairs. "Scully?"
She didn't hear him--didn't want to hear him--and it took him a full flight of stairs to catch up to her. "Scully, wait!"
"I have to go there, Mulder!" He could see the tears already forming, see her impulse to hit him, knock him down, do anything she could to get to that hospital.
"You can't go," he said fervently.
"That bullet was meant for me!"
Mulder watched her carefully, keeping eye contact as much as he could. He had to get her to understand. "If they're trying to kill you, that's the first place they'll look."
She broke their eye contact with a tortured sigh. "Those bastards!" How could they do that? How could they take Melissa! Like they'd taken so much else from her...
"I'm going to call someone I think can help," Mulder told her quietly, his mind ranging back to his own... death... in the New Mexico desert. "The only thing that you can do for her now is to try to crucify them."
Scully looked up at him, tears finally starting to find their way down her cheeks. Why had she been so ready to run from her house? Why hadn't she seen that they could get to her--to her family--whenever they chose?
Why hadn't she listened...?
* * *
New York City
"This is a serious mistake," the man said, his slow Italian voice full of recrimination. "An innocent woman has been shot."
The other man blew smoke out calmly. Since when had that butcher cared about a few innocent civilians? Certainly not during the war...
"Can it be traced?" This, from one of the two US senators who graced this little club; senators who always found their way back into office, regardless of the crimes they'd perpetrated in their youth.
The other senator turned, anger in his voice. "This is your man."
The cigarette-smoker almost smiled as he corrected himself. No, not anger... fear.
"There was a mistake," he replied calmly, taking another drag off of his ever-present cigarette. "It will be rectified."
The smoker turned toward the vicious little outbreak--toward the only man in this consortium he had ever been truly afraid of.
"By whom will this be 'rectified'?" The old Englishman asked coldly. "By your ridiculously ineffective assassins?"
"These men are professionals--"
"This is not a profession for men who make mistakes," the Englishman barged in. "My God!" he whispered. "You presume to make us believe you can simply 'fix it' with enough bullets?"
"No..." The cigarette smoker fell silent, as he sensed the tide turning against him.
"This woman, Scully," the Englishman continued. "You know she believes her partner is still alive?"
The other man bristled at that--more because Scully could be right than out of anger. "Mulder is dead," he proclaimed, sounding as if he was certain. "I took care of it myself."
"And the computer tape containing the stolen files you tell us was recovered?" The smoker shifted uneasily, tried to hide it as the Englishman continued. "You can show it to us?"
"I wasn't aware that my honesty was in question," the smoker said quietly, hoping to turn the tables. He tried to stab the Englishman with a dangerous stare, but missed the mark. "Or doubt."
"You have the tape?" The Italian was always a dangerous player. The smoker was going to have to be careful.
"Of course I have it," he replied, trying to meet threat with threat.
"I think I'd like to see it," said one of the senators in a deadly-quiet voice.
"So would I," his counterpart replied.
The cigarette smoking man rose, feigning calm for all he was worth as he ground out his cigarette in the nearby ashtray. "I have vouchsafed it for reasons of security," he declared, trying to sound as if that would have been the sanest thing in the world. "I'll have it here for you tomorrow. At which time, this whole matter will be cleared up."
He took his time sauntering out of the room, hoping that, in the action, the others would see confidence and surety.
But he was far from sure of himself. Scully didn't have the tape... Mulder was probably dead--no! Mulder was dead--and he'd never have been so accommodating as to carry that secret to his grave...
They didn't have the tape, he mused blackly, as he stepped into his car in the downstairs garage.
And if they didn't have it... Who did?
* * *
Walter Skinner sat silent in his office, turning the tape over and over in his hands. Mulder and Scully had disappeared for now, but what would happen when they returned? That cigarette-smoking bastard and his friends would make sure that his agents didn't live to see another day--and not even Mulder could come back from the dead twice...
But if Mulder and Scully had something--something important--to hold over the 'consortium's' head, maybe, just maybe...
He slipped the tape back into his jacket, and took a deep breath as he picked up the phone.
Time to raise the stakes...
* * *
Scully pulled herself out of the car by sheer willpower, as they arrived at the secluded little estate. "Living very well at the expense of the American taxpayer," Langly had said. Living well was right.
Victor Klemperer’s 'modest' estate consisted of a large, probably five bedroom, house, and two roomy, expensive-looking greenhouses. With a nod to her, Mulder made a decision to start with the nearest greenhouse.
And Scully simply followed. She didn't feel terribly capable of anything else right now. Mulder had managed to talk her out of leaving for the hospital immediately, but the "someone" he'd said he thought could help turned out to be the old Indian they'd met in New Mexico. What Albert Hosteen was supposed to do to help save her sister's life...
God, Missy, she thought sadly, as they reached the door of the greenhouse. I'm so sorry. If I'd just thought before I ran out of there, intent on saving my own skin...
If I'd just thought...
She sped up to catch her partner as he approached an old man, placidly working with his orchids. Something snapped. How could this man possibly be standing here, in his cushy greenhouse, playing with a bunch of flowers when her sister was dying... Dying from a bullet that this man's friends had set in motion...
"Victor Klemperer?" Mulder was asking quietly.
"Yes?" the old man replied, turning from the hybrid he was nursing.
"My name is Fox Mulder," Mulder continued, gesturing to Scully calmly as she fumed. "This is Dana Scully."
"Your name is Mulder?"
"Yes," Mulder answered cautiously. "I think you knew my father."
"What is this about?" Klemperer was getting nervous. Maybe, Scully thought coldly, maybe he knew that he might finally be close to getting what he deserved.
"When you came to this country," Mulder began, "you did some work for our government."
"I am an old man, now," Klemperer cut in, irritated. "History bores me."
"Because it escaped you?" Scully asked snidely. "Or because you escaped it?"
Klemperer drew himself up proudly. "Freud, Salk, Crick, Watson... These will be the names we celebrate at the end of the millennium. Great scientists... And Klemperer?" he asked sadly, his shoulders dropping. "He will be remembered only as a butcher."
"History may be the only justice you'll ever have," Scully remarked.
"Do you know my work?" Klemperer demanded defensively. "Do you know what we accomplished?"
Scully wasn't giving up, regardless of the look her partner was giving her. "As a Nazi, or for the blood money we paid you?"
"We were young men caught in a fervor!" he declared. "But our experiments changed the world."
She nodded coldly. "For a lot of innocent Jews."
Klemperer’s face reddened. "Progress demands sacrifice, and I..." he slumped, defeated. "I have confronted my demons... And soon I will die, too."
"Like my father?" Mulder demanded suddenly. "They killed him, and I believe you know why."
"I believe they would kill anyone if it is in the best interest of the work."
Scully could see Mulder's anger rising, his frustration and indignation matching her own. "What is the work that my father was involved in?"
"I have no answers for you," Klemperer replied tiredly.
"You knew him! Was he a murderer too?" Mulder all but threw the photo at the old man, who looked at it too briefly.
"There are some things you don't have to know."
"No, I need to know!" Mulder cried angrily. "I need to know the truth!" He stepped forward, his voice lower, as he found an opening in Klemperer’s indifference. "Isn't that what you want?" he asked quietly. "For the truth to be known?"
Klemperer locked eyes with him for a moment, and Scully could sense the energy shooting back and forth between the two men. Klemperer did want the truth to be known--at least his version of it.
"Do you know the formula of Napier's Constant?" the old man asked conversationally.
"Yes," Scully answered immediately. "Why?"
Klemperer handed Mulder the picture, a strange, tragic look in his eyes. "This picture was taken at the Strughold Mining Company in West Virginia, and that is all I will tell you." He sighed as he moved to turn back to his flowers. "The rest, you can find out for yourself."
Mulder stared at the old man before nodding to himself. "Come on, Scully."
But Scully stood for a moment, locking eyes with this sad old man... He still seemed to believe that what he had done was in mankind's best interests. And, in a way... it was. He had helped to land men on the moon, had helped to advance the airplane industry...
As he smiled kindly at her, looking for all the world like a gentle grandfather, Scully shuddered inwardly, turning and heading for the door, where her partner was waiting.
Was that what all personal crusades were about? she wondered as they headed for the car. Justifying your actions by convincing yourself that it was for the greater good? Kill a few Jews, destroy a few countries... leave your own sister to die in your place...?
All for the sake of the truth?
"Scully?" Mulder reached out, placing a hand on her arm as she slumped down in the car. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she lied dully not meeting his eyes. All she could think of was the things that she'd lost in the last three years--the things she might still lose...
All for the sake of the truth...
* * *
Victor Klemperer stood silent, watching the two young agents leave. So young. So sure of themselves... He had been like that once. Sure that his cause was just--that, in his lab, he could change the world.
But had he? Certainly there were greater things in the world now because of him--men had gone to the moon, there were planes, planes so fast that they made von Richtoff look like a crop duster...
And there were hundreds of thousands of dead innocents. Hundreds of thousands... millions...
His mind conjured up the defiance, the anger, on that young woman's face. A face that had seen too much, that would see more before it had a chance to rest. And suddenly, his demons, those he'd told her had been faced, were back, lurking at the edges of his conscience, berating him for his crimes.
With a deep breath, General Victor Klemperer reached for the phone, summoning the courage that he'd always thought he'd had as a young man working for the good of humanity... and the death of its innocence.
New York City
The faint chirruping of a cellular phone was the only sound heard in the posh old men's club. A young, unobtrusive man walked to the desk, softly connecting the call.
He'd never heard the voice on the line before, but only a few had the number, fewer still knew the old man's name. He walked to a chair by the fireplace, handing down the receiver. "It's for you, sir."
The tidy, proper old man took the phone, watching as the young pawn walked quietly to the other side of the room. "Yes?"
"It's Klemperer." Victor sounded cold, resigned.
"Victor?" the old man said, sounding artificially glad to hear from his old friend, while he felt all other eyes in the room dart toward him nervously.
"How are you, old friend?" Victor asked, his voice that smooth, dangerous tone that the old man had heard too often in his youth. "It's been far too many years."
"What is it, Victor?" Now, he was the man in power. He couldn't be held to the fear that Klemperer had raised in him as a young soldier, sworn to do the Queen's duty--even at the price of his soul. He wanted this conversation over with, quickly.
"Oh," Victor continued smoothly. "I was just paid a visit by the son of one of our old colleagues."
The man's blood ran cold. "What did you tell him, Victor?"
Victor sighed, and his voice grew hard. "I told him that you were the most venal man I had ever met," he announced boldly. "Beyond that, I told him nothing."
The old man heard the connection cut off, as surely as he heard Victor Klemperer’s death knell. He spoke into the quiet, commanding the attention of everyone in the room.
"Mulder is alive."
The Italian looked at him a beat, blinked, in that slow, methodical way of his, and reached toward the fireplace, placing his teacup carefully on the mantle. "Then I think it's time we call our friends, who will handle this matter more satisfactorily."
The old man sat silent, as plans raged around him, wondering how soon Victor Klemperer would finally see the justice he deserved.
* * *
Margaret Scully sat quietly at the foot of her daughter's bed, a magazine flipping listlessly between her hands. She looked up again, watching the machines that kept Missy alive...
Wondering when they would become silent, leaving Missy as they had her baby sister, almost two years ago, now. Leaving her to the silence of death.
Margaret prayed, reopening the line to God that she'd never completely closed in the last 36 hours. Please, God... You brought my other baby back once... Please don't take her sister... please...
The prayer made her think of Dana, made her wonder, again, where her daughter could be. Since Fox had died, so much had fallen apart. It was almost like, in a strange way, that young man had been the glue, keeping the world from flying apart, destroyed by its own chaos.
She smiled to herself, briefly. Fox Mulder had only been one man. And one man simply could not change the universe...
She looked toward the door, startled, as a tall man in a conservative suit walked past again. He didn't seem to have any set schedule for his ramblings, and Margaret wondered whether he was just not so good at his job, or whether the FBI had wanted him to appear not to be a guard. She was glad they'd sent someone, but it was strange that he never came in to speak to her. Strange that he'd never come in to tell her how Dana was doing...
A young nurse walked in as the man walked past. Her hand was on her hip, and she looked slightly irate. "Are you expecting a visitor?"
Margaret's face brightened. "Oh, is it Dana? Is Dana here?"
The young lady sighed impatiently. "No, it's a man. He said he was asked to come here." Her body went slightly rigid, as a tall Native American walked past her and into the room.
"My name is Albert Hosteen," he announced quietly. "I was asked to come here and help with your daughter."
Margaret pushed aside the blanket that had hung on her knees. "There must be some mistake."
"Is your daughter the FBI woman?"
Margaret started at that, rising out of the chair, suddenly nervous.
"Dana?" The FBI woman... such a strange name for her.
"Yes," Albert said, his face somehow conveying her daughter's sorrow. "She's very sorry she can't come here to comfort you."
"Do you know where she is?" Margaret asked tensely. "Is she okay?"
Albert's face split in a kind grin. "Yes, I believe so." He placed his bag carefully on the table by the door, walking over to the bed and reaching for Melissa's hand with infinite tenderness. Margaret wondered how he'd known to come, wondered why Dana would have sent him.
Albert's eyes came up, surprised. "She is weak."
"She's getting better," Margaret protested, willing herself to believe the words. "She has the best doctors, they're watching her around the clock."
The old Indian seemed to know something that Margaret couldn't, and she shivered at the thought.
"If it's alright," he asked softly. "I'd like to pray over her here."
Prayer? It was all that Margaret had for her daughter, all she could do for her now... But why had Dana sent this man to pray for Missy?
Margaret nodded dully, giving him the permission, and giving him a sad, grateful smile.
As he stood over her daughter, she returned to her chair, adding her own prayers to his quiet mutterings...
* * *
Strughold Mining Company
Scully again summoned up the strength to leave the car, bracing herself for the truths--and lies--that they might find here in the West Virginian landscape.
The old mining company looked like a ruined palace, built into the hill that protected it. Somehow, images of the Dali Lama's palace in Tibet came to her. Like that ruined symbol of faith, this old building held truths that she suspected the world was not ready to know.
She followed Mulder mutely, as he pushed open a door that looked as if it had not been opened in years, stumbled past the debris and refuse on the floor, and headed for the stairs, his eyes alert for the possibility that Klemperer had given them something more than a wild goose to chase.
"What do you think your father might have been doing here?" she asked quietly.
"I don't know," Mulder replied, distracted by his search. "But he never came home wearing a miner's cap.
Five stories up, Scully turned, expecting to find another abandoned level...
And came upon the truth.
"Mulder, take a look at this..."
He strode past her, leaving her staring at a row of all-too-modern computer-lock doors. This was why Klemperer had given them the formula. "What do you think?" she asked in a whisper.
"I'd like to try door number one, Monty," he breathed in response, sensing her walking past him as he punched the code quietly into the door's lock.
"I'm trying 27828," he said finally. "It's not working."
"It's not working here either," Scully replied, disappointed.
"Are you sure that's the right number?"
"Positive," she said, heading for another of the row of doors, as Mulder walked past her. "Napier's Constant is the basis of all natural logarithms."
"Well, I think, with a crow bar and a small nuclear device, I might be able to get through one of these things."
Scully almost smiled. Levity in the face of disaster. That was her Mulder--
The panel before her flashed green, as she heard a faint click from the massive steel door. "Mulder..."
He ran toward her, and she stopped him as he grabbed hold of the handle. "No wait, hang on a second." She looked up at him, seeing the tension in his face. "Whatever we find here... I don't think you've had time to process everything that you've been through."
His face screwed into a pale imitation of that peaceful smile he'd given her last night at his apartment. "I'm okay, Scully."
"You weren't even able to go to your father's funeral," she persisted, watching his face fall a bit at that. "And if something in here were to cast doubt on the kind of man he was..." She trailed off, indecisive. "I just know how it would effect me."
Mulder's smile grew genuine... He knew what she was trying to say...
But his hand still turned the knob, leading them into the darkness.
* * *
Skinner looked up, confident, as his office door opened.
"You wanted to see me?" The old man asked, fiddling with a cigarette in feigned nonchalance.
"Yes," Skinner replied coolly, dropping his pen on the blotter before him. "I did."
Skinner stood, walking toward the old man. "I may have located the tape that you're looking for."
The man's facade slipped slightly. "You may have located it?"
"Yes," Skinner replied blandly. "So there's a great chance that it may fall into the hands of people who may use it for purposes not your own."
He watched the old man process that, watched with satisfaction as a fine sheen of sweat broke out on his face. "You want to work a deal?" the man asked, his voice a little shrill. "Is that what this is? Let me tell you something--I don't work deals!"
Skinner stayed absolutely calm. "I just thought you should know of certain potentialities."
"Do you have the tape?"
"As I said," Skinner replied, ice in his tone. "I may have located it."
"Do you have the damn tape!"
Skinner fought the smirk that threatened to break over him. It felt so good to have these guys over the barrel for once. "I'll know more when we next meet." He turned away slightly. Conversation over.
"I do not negotiate," the old man ranted, fear plain in his voice. "Do you understand?"
Skinner couldn't help it. He just couldn't. With a reasonable cock of his head, and a fake look of understanding, he murmured, "Yes, sir."
"I don't think you do," the old man whispered angrily. "I don't think you understand at all."
Skinner felt himself flush in anger. "No, I'm quite aware of your policies in those regards."
The old man finally got control of himself, standing back slightly, straightening up. It was a pose that Skinner had seen himself make a thousand times--regaining control. He shivered at the similarity.
"Then I hope your next course of action will be more cautious," the old man warned. "And informed."
He brought a cigarette to his mouth, lighting it contemptuously, and strode out, leaving Skinner with smoke in his office, and a very bad taste in his mouth.
* * *
Scully ran her flashlight over row after row of filing cabinets.
"Mulder, look at this. It looks like they're storing records."
She walked to the nearest cabinet, opening a drawer at random, and rifling through its contents.
"Medical files, by the look of it... They've got names... alphabetized..."
She continued looking through the cabinet, as Mulder walked away a bit, locating the light switch.
What he saw took his breath away, as he looked off down the tunnel, seeing cabinet, after cabinet, after cabinet.
"Lots of files," he breathed after a moment.
"Lots and lots of files," Scully returned in an equal whisper.
He headed back toward her. "What's in these files?"
"Standard medical forms," she replied, tearing her eyes away from the enormity of the filing system. "There's a birth certificate... smallpox vaccination certificate..." She fingered a bulky little box, wrapped in plastic. "And then there's this."
"What is this?" Mulder asked, almost afraid to touch it.
"It's an old tissue collection cassette," she replied quietly, still staring down at the old, cellulose box. "The new ones are plastic."
Mulder's mind began piecing it all together, and the picture he was getting nauseated him. "Do all these files contain the same materials?"
"Yes," she breathed back. "Exactly."
"What year was this person born?"
"1955," she replied, not hearing the sickness in his voice. "All of these files are from 1955."
"What year were you born?"
She turned to him, puzzled. "1964. Why?"
The frightened certainty on Mulder's face gave her pause, as he whispered determinedly, "Let's go find 1964."
"You're looking for a file on me?" she asked, dumbfounded, as he ran before her, pulling open a filing cabinet and fingering through the contents. Her blood ran cold as he grabbed a manila folder from the masses.
"Dana Katherine Scully," he intoned carefully.
"What?" She watched in shock as he flipped through the file, her hand shooting out to stop him as he came upon a flat, yellow cassette. "That's a recent tissue sample..." She looked at the file again, a chill running down her spine. "What the hell is going on here, Mulder?"
Mulder's heart would not stop racing, as he turned from his partner's file, searching for the filing cabinet whose contents he knew could change his life. "I don't know, Scully."
He found it. 1965: L through Q... He pulled out the file folder with trembling hands.
"That's your sister's file!" Scully exclaimed quietly.
"Yeah..." He could only concentrate on the file now, flipping through all the pages that chronicled his sister's brief life with her family.
"What are you looking for?" Scully asked after a moment, barely noticing as he flipped back a modern tissue collection cassette, flash-reading the form below it.
"I don't know," he replied dully, his mind rolling to a halt as he really looked at the folder's tag. "Hey, look at this, Scully," he all but whispered, his fingers carefully pulling at the tab, revealing another beneath it.
Mulder, Fox William. 10/13/1961...
"This file was originally mine."
Scully pulled her eyes away from the older tab, locking them on to Mulder's frightened hazel ones. "I... I don't understand, Wha--"
The lights chose that moment to blink out, and the two partners flicked on their flashlights, shining them at each other in surprise. Mulder's eyes became set and hard, as he turned from her. "Wait here, Scully."
"Mulder!" she called after him, standing beside the cabinet, trying to shine her light at his retreating form. "Where are you going?"
* * *
He burst out of the metal door, stunned to see a light building in the distance, beyond the dirty panes of glass that fronted the mining facility... The military? Helicopters? How had they known he and Scully would be here? Had Klemperer told them? It was all a set-up from the beginning, then... Klemperer had sent them out into the middle of nowhere...
His heart stopped as the lights grew brighter, reminding him--suddenly and painfully--of that night twenty years ago...
It was them!
As the lights approached, he ran up two flights to a side door, stepping out into the West Virginian night and straining his eyes toward the sky. The first lights were blue, and that strange form of yellow that he had called red all his life... He could almost see it! The edges were just defined--square, blunt... Just as he'd remembered them. That stabbing spear of white light came next, blinding him temporarily, as the... thing... travelled directly overhead... Then, a faint view of its tail end, glowing blue and yellow in the night...
He stood frozen for a moment, his mind in neutral, before the all-too-familiar sound of cars approaching tore him from his reverie... The black-clad men that exploded from the vehicles sent him tearing back into the building, frantic to get to Scully before something could happen to her.
* * *
Scully closed the cabinet, walking slowly down the row, glancing at the labels before her... 1960, L-R... 1959, Q-T...
Q through T... Missy.
She braced herself, ready to open the cabinet, ready to find that crushing file that would prove that they had always had something on her family... They had always been--
A strange, scraping noise pulled her away, as she flashed her light into the surrounding darkness. The sudden movement frightened her, and she dropped her flashlight, holding up her hands in defense as a hundred small bodies rushed past her in the night...
With a deep breath to steady herself, Scully grabbed her flashlight and ran after the retreating forms...
* * *
Mulder dropped to his knees behind a row of ancient equipment, taking a deep breath as he heard the sounds of men and gunfire... He looked longingly at the slightly open door beyond, hoped they hadn't gotten in there yet, hoped Scully was safe...
With a short, powerful breath, he sprinted for the door, slamming it behind him as he heard it lock...
He ran madly toward the tunnel where he'd left her, breathing hard now, but unable to stop the frantic beating of his heart.
The sound he heard was like music. "Mulder?"
"SCULLY!" He saw a flashlight beam in the darkness ahead of him, and sprinted all the faster, ignoring his protesting lungs.
"Mulder, I'm down here!" He saw the flashlight begin to bounce as she ran toward him.
"You okay, Scully?" he called out as they neared each other.
"I heard gunshots." Somehow, her voice sounded a little shaky. As he approached her, he looked her over carefully. She seemed all right, but there was a slightly wild look in her eyes.
"I've been looking for you."
She looked him over, as well, finding him equally shaken. "What happened to you?"
"We've got a small army outside," he replied, finally catching his breath. "I think they've got us trapped."
Scully shook her head. "I think there's a way out, down here."
* * *
"Hang on a sec, Scully," Mulder gasped, leaning heavily against a tree as his partner slowed and moved back toward him.
"You okay?" she asked quietly. It was dark... Maybe he'd been shot--a flesh wound--and with all the adrenaline and running...
He smiled, teeth flashing in the night. "Coming back from the dead sure leaves you in bad shape," he joked lightly, puffing as he tried to get enough air into his lungs.
Scully nodded, listening carefully as Mulder tried to catch his breath.
"I don't think they saw us," she said, sliding quietly down the side of a tree across the path from him. "We can probably stop for a few minutes."
Mulder slid down to the forest floor as well. "How did you know about that side door?"
Scully was quiet for a long minute. "There were... people... in those tunnels," she stated finally.
"They ran past me... I followed them, and they ran out the door..."
"Why didn't they stop you?" he asked, perplexed. "If they're working for the project..."
Scully's voice was tired and shaken. "I think they were the project, Mulder," she stated quietly.
It was another few minutes before she heard Mulder's breath slow to something approximating normal. She stood, stretching already tight muscles as she rose. "Come on," she whispered quietly. "We need to talk to Skinner--someplace safe."
"Where?" he asked, rising, feeling as if he couldn't possibly run another step.
"I know a place," she replied. "Just off the Interstate... In the middle of nowhere."
* * *
Skinner pulled up before the weary old truck stop, watching the cars and people around him warily. He couldn't even trust that a stranger was just a stranger anymore, he thought dismally. With a sigh, he pulled himself out of the sedan, wrapping his too-frayed confidence around him. Best to get this all over with as soon as possible--before someone else got killed.
Mulder and Scully looked up at him, distrustful, as he walked in. Still looking around for the spies that he'd begun to feel were in every corner, Skinner approached, keeping his voice low.
"This place isn't even on the map," he noted quietly. "How did you get here?"
You'd be surprised what isn't on the map in this country," Mulder stated, his voice betraying an exhaustion that went far beyond the physical. "And what our government will do to keep it that way."
Mulder dropped his head slightly, and Skinner felt for him. The man had seen too much--lost too much--in the last few weeks. Skinner wondered idly how Mulder ever managed to go on after these frightening "revelations" he seemed always to uncover.
"Last night, we were chased by some kind of hit squad, driving what looked a lot like CIA fleet sedans."
Skinner watched him for a moment, his gaze sliding inevitably to Scully, who sat, shell-shocked, beside her partner. "Well," Skinner began carefully, already anticipating Mulder's reaction to his plan. "I may be able to negotiate a deal that will guarantee your safety."
"What kind of a deal?" Scully asked warily.
"I'll turn over the digital tape," he replied, watching as Mulder's jaw tightened. "In return for your reinstatement."
"No, Sir," Mulder replied, quietly adamant. "I need that tape. I need those files."
"I'm talking about a way to save your lives--"
"And I'm talking about an elaborate conspiracy against the American public," Mulder countered angrily. "Do you know what we found last night?"
Skinner took a deep, frustrated breath, braced himself. "What?"
Surprisingly, it was Scully that answered, her voice hollow with fatigue and disbelief. "An extremely elaborate filing system of medical records."
"Locked in a mountain vault," Mulder added.
"For the purpose of...?" Skinner led.
Mulder didn't seem to have the energy to shrug. "I don't know. But the answer has got to be on that tape--in those files."
"Is that answer worth your lives?" Skinner asked angrily.
Mulder shook his head determinedly. "It's obviously worth killing us for."
Skinner sighed. "In your wildest dreams, what do you possibly hope to find, Agent Mulder?"
"Why they killed my father," the younger man stated quietly. "And what happened to my sister..." He darted a sad look at his partner as he said the last. "And what they did to Agent Scully."
Scully tensed at that, the fear in her eyes almost palpable. "I think we should let him make the deal, Mulder," she whispered, hurrying on as Mulder flashed her a look of betrayal. "Look... Those answers mean nothing if we're going to be hunted down like animals. We are operating so far outside the law right now we've... we've given up on the very notion of justice." She was almost pleading now. "We've turned ourselves into outsiders--we have lost our access, and our protection."
Mulder pulled angrily at the hair at his neck, and fixed her with an icy glare. "What makes you think there's any such thing as justice, Scully?"
She just stared, incredulous. "Then what good are those answers to anyone but you, Mulder?"
His gaze hardened. "What we found last night--"
"I want exactly what you want," she cut him off angrily, tears creeping into her voice. "But I need to see my sister."
Mulder watched her for a long moment, as she struggled to hold herself together. Her eyes widened painfully for a moment, before her armor dropped back into place.
Scully's partner turned a tired eye to his superior. "I suppose you already tried to make a backup of the tape?"
Skinner nodded dejectedly. "Whoever downloaded those files put a copy-protector on them... I couldn't get a hard copy to print, either."
"What makes you think they'll even honor this deal?" Mulder grated.
Skinner's eyes stayed on Scully. "Because if they don't, I'll go State's evidence and testify." His eyes hardened defiantly. "Or they'll have to kill me, too."
Mulder nodded. His choices were simple: Keep the tape, and ensure that he and Scully would never lead normal lives again--however long their lives might last, or turn it over to the syndicate, and ensure that he would, once again, let the truth slip from his fingers... Again, Samantha and her fate would be worlds away...
That was really no choice at all. He thought of Melissa Scully, lying in that hospital, her mother--as worried about her missing daughter as she was about her dying one... Scully losing her family, her life... All because, as an outlaw from these people, to contact her mother would be to put the older woman's life in danger, too...
He looked at his shaken partner, her eyes still red from unshed tears, and knew he couldn't make this decision... Knew he would be asking her to do the impossible to make it for him...
In the end, he folded. "It's up to you, Scully..."
Scully watched her partner leave, damning him for making her make this choice... Skinner waited patiently, watching her. How much more of this could she take? he wondered. When would it finally become too much for a woman who had seen Hell too many times in the past three years?
She straightened slightly, turning toward him. "Can you convince them to make this deal?"
"They don't have a choice, Agent Scully," he returned quietly. "If what Mulder thinks is actually on this tape, they'd be destroyed by even a portion of it getting out."
She nodded absently, looking out the front window to where her partner stood, head down, by the porch. He'd said that he needed that tape... But what good would it do him if he never lived to know the answers that it held?
His obsession would kill him this time, if she didn't make the right choice. Keep the tape, he was as good as dead--give it up, and he would probably let his frustration consume him...
In the end, Scully could only choose for herself. "I want you to make the deal," she said quietly, raising her eyes to lock with Skinner's. "But Mulder has to agree to let you hand over the tape."
Skinner nodded, watching her, waiting for her to fly apart. "Okay... I'll contact them tonight." He rose to leave, but Scully's quiet voice stopped him.
"Sir?" She took a shaky breath, and her eyes fell again to study the worn tablecloth. "I'd... appreciate it if you'd go to see my mother..." He nodded. "She's got enough to..." She took a moment as her voice broke. "She's got enough to worry about, without worrying about me, as well."
"I'll talk to her, Agent Scully," Skinner assured her. He held out a hand, feeling her lean on him far more than she should have had to as she gained her feet. "First, I'm going to make sure that you and Agent Mulder can get back to D.C. safely."
* * *
Mulder beat himself up as he waited for Scully and Skinner to complete their business. He couldn't believe that he'd been so weak! To leave Scully with that choice was like-- He froze.
It was like asking your wife to choose her favorite child...
His train of thought was interrupted as Scully and Skinner walked quietly out of the truck stop. Skinner went directly to his car, with only a brief nod to his agent, but Scully stopped beside her partner, waiting for him to lock on to her eyes. When he did, she spoke in a soft, exhausted voice.
"I told Skinner to make the deal," she said, a trace of apology in her tone. "But not to hand over the tape until you agree to it."
Mulder nodded quietly. "I'm sorry about your sister, Scully."
Scully mustered a weak grin. "I just need to know if she's going to be okay."
Without another word, she stepped over to Skinner's sedan, sliding silently into the back seat, as Mulder walked around to the passenger's side. As they headed back toward the capital, Mulder turned to his superior. "Where are we going?"
"I've had teams on both of your apartments for the past three days," Skinner said quietly. "They're as safe as they can be, given the circumstances. Just go home and sit tight," he told them, his tone brooking no argument. "I'll call you after we've made the deal."
* * *
D.C. General Hospital
Albert Hosteen glanced over at the woman sleeping in the chair at the end of the bed. Margaret Scully had shown great strength in the last few days...
He just hoped she had enough strength to get through the rest of this.
Melissa was dying. No matter what the doctors did, no matter how he appealed to the spirits to save her life... He remembered the day his father had taught him of the bitter lesson of survival: "In order for one thing to be saved, another must often be sacrificed."
He was afraid that this was one of those cases. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder had angered the powers-that-be, and, by all rights, they should already have been dead. But something was working for them... The Spirit of Truth knew that their search had to succeed, eventually...
But this woman, for whom Albert had been praying non-stop for three days, was likely to be one of the innocents to pay the price for that search...
Albert looked up, startled, as a tall bald man entered the room, his eyes immediately going to the young woman in the bed. "I'm here to see Melissa Scully," the man announced quietly.
Margaret Scully woke quickly, folding the magazine that sat unattended in her lap, as she looked up at the man.
He took a badge from his pocket. "My name is Walter Skinner," he said, turning to the older woman. "I'm the Assistant Director at the FBI." He looked again at the machines and tubes that encased an innocent young woman, and, when he spoke, his compassion was obvious.
"I'm very sorry about your daughter..." He sighed silently. "Dana asked me to come here and deliver a message."
Margaret straightened in her chair. "You've been in contact with her?" she demanded.
The small woman stood up, a glint in her eyes and a set to her jaw that reminded Skinner instantly, jarringly, of the woman's younger daughter.
Margaret's voice was cold. "Well I want to know where she is, and if she's okay."
"She's okay," Skinner assured her quickly. "She's in a very serious situation which prevents her from being here."
Margaret fumed. "What kind of situation?"
"One that we hope to reverse, so that Dana can come back to work."
Mrs. Scully took a deep breath and tried to keep from screaming. Dana's sister was here lying in this hospital room, and all the FBI was concerned about was getting its agent back to work! Margaret was beginning to wish that Bill had actually convinced Dana not to enter the Bureau while he'd had the chance. None of this would ever have happened if it hadn't been for the vaunted FBI!
At that moment, the man that Margaret had assumed to be FBI walked quietly past the door. Skinner looked out at him suspiciously, and Albert Hosteen nodded.
"That man you just saw? He's been very curious about this room."
Skinner turned to face the old man, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. "Who are you?"
"My name is Albert Hosteen," the old man said quietly. "I was asked to come here."
Skinner nodded decisively. "All right, Albert. Do not leave this room, do you understand?"
Walter Skinner stepped quietly into the stairwell, listening carefully for any sounds of movement. With a set jaw, he headed up to the next landing...
And all the while, Alex Krycek watched silently...
* * *
Dana Scully shrugged into her clothes tiredly. The bright yellow of her sweater seemed to be mocking her, but she was too exhausted to try to find something else. These were comfort clothes--the kind of outfit she wore when she went out to eat with Missy and Mo--
No, she told herself sharply, resisting the impulse to call the hospital. No, just wait... Just wait...
Her message light was blinking. She hadn't checked them when she got home... Last night? The night before? ...Whenever... Her hands started to shake, as she realized that there was probably a message from Missy there...
"Dana, this is your sister." She could hear the words, the worried tone of voice, though she hadn't even started the machine going. "Dr. Pomerantz called... He said you left the session early... Are you okay, Dana?" Scully started to cry as the imaginary message ran through her mind. "Call me, okay? I'm really worried about you..."
She sank down into her sofa, tears running down her face as she made no effort to clear them away. She needed this. She needed to cry, here, alone in her apartment. She couldn't afford to do it anywhere else...
She wanted to see Missy--to tell her she was sorry for leaving her alone, leaving her to face the men who should have killed her...
Scully jumped when her cellular phone rang, and barely managed to pull herself together as she connected the call.
"Scully," she announced, praying that it would be Skinner, that he would tell her he had already made the deal... Her first move would be to head for the hospital.
"Scully, it's me." Mulder's voice sounded just as tired as her own, but Scully refused to allow herself to worry about him. There was a long list of people that she didn't want to talk to just now...
And Mulder was right up at the top of it.
"I'm on my way over," he said, the sounds of late-afternoon traffic backing up his claim.
"Where are we going?" She didn't bother to argue. She didn't have the energy.
"To see Victor Klemperer," he replied, the very name sending a shiver of anger down Scully's spine.
"Why?" she asked angrily.
"He knows the answers that are on that tape, Scully."
"Please, Scully," he broke in, his voice exhausted and frightened. "I need you to come with me."
He needed her! God, he needed so many things... What about what she needed?
She sighed, bowing to the inevitable. She had to admit, she wanted the answers, too. What she didn't want was to see Victor Klemperer’s self-righteous glare, as he again told her partner all the lies that Mulder needed to continue his own demented delusions. "Okay. I'll come."
* * *
Alex Krycek kept a tight grip on his nervousness. He knew himself... He was a snitch, a spy, a mole... He was not a killer of innocent women. His mind flashed back to the blank face of Melissa Scully, as she lay, bleeding out her life's blood, on the hardwood floor of her sister's apartment. It hadn't mattered that he hadn't pulled the trigger himself. He was as responsible for her injuries as the shooter was.
He'd gone too far, now. He'd become what he'd always feared he would. His hand still rang from the vicious beating he'd given Walter Skinner--a man who, for all that he was on the other side of the playing field, Krycek had always admired. Skinner was a man who stuck to his principles...
Alex would have liked to have had some principles...
"I could use a beer."
The voice jarred him from his thoughts, and he glanced in the rear view mirror of the parked car, as Luis Cardinal shifted a little nervously.
Luis's accented voice came again. "Do you want anything?"
"No," Alex replied coldly.
"Are you sure?"
Krycek gave a heavy sigh. "Yeah," he replied irritably.
Luis stepped out of the back seat, closing the door firmly behind him, and Krycek was left with his thoughts once again.
Why had they been allowed to survive this long, he wondered. Melissa Scully's shooting, the assault on Skinner... It was all too... traceable. He knew now that he'd have to guard against his superiors as much as he would his enemies.
His eyes shifted listlessly toward the clock, wondering what was taking his associates so long. What he saw there froze his heart--
The clock was blinking.
It hadn't been blinking before. It must have started when... When Luis got out of the car!
He chanced a look at the convenience store behind him, watching Luis and the other man watching him. Shit! This was a countdown! That cigarette-smoking bastard had decided to eliminate the weak link.
And right now, the weak link was him.
He was out of the car and running before he even realized what he was doing, and he never felt it as the shock wave from the explosion lifted him by the seat of his pants and threw him to the ground.
Alex Krycek dusted himself off angrily, and ran.
And somewhere in the back of his mind, he began to plot his revenge...
* * *
Mulder headed toward the far end of the greenhouse, watching for the greying head of the man who was the only one left who might give him answers. "Mr. Klemperer?"
He turned back around, at a loss, and saw a tall, thin, distinguished old man approaching his partner.
"Hello, again, young lady," the cultured old man said. Mulder saw a ripple of tension run up Scully's back.
"Where's Victor Klemperer?" she demanded coldly.
"Oh..." the old man sighed. "Poor Klemperer. They found him yesterday, here, among his flowers. Apparently his heart had given out."
It was a bad excuse, and Mulder sensed that the man could not have cared less if they had believed him. "You killed him, didn't you?" he grated angrily.
The old man didn't deny it, and Mulder found himself pulling out the photo that had led him here. "You're one of the men in this photo. You knew my father."
"Yes," the man replied, his voice taking on the tone of reminiscence. "Since we were young men."
"You were involved in this 'project'. You know why the medical data was being collected."
"Yes, I do, indeed." He seemed totally unphazed by Mulder's accusations, and Scully felt her stomach drop. The man's eyes didn't even hold the self-righteousness of Victor Klemperer’s... This man knew what he'd done was wrong--and he continued to do it anyway.
"In 1947," the old man continued, "a spacecraft was reportedly recovered in New Mexico. No doubt you know of this, and of the reported recovery of a body at the site." He watched Mulder carefully, and Scully felt her blood pressure rising. "These incidents coincided with, not only the end of World War II, but an ignominious project which brought Nazi scientists and war criminals to this country to exploit their knowledge."
"Operation Paper Clip," Scully stated quietly, trying desperately to keep control of the situation. This man was going to play Mulder like a piano. And Mulder, in his state of mind, would produce just the music this old bastard wanted.
"Ah, you know of it already." There was something in his eyes that told Scully that, short of killing him on the spot, there was nothing she'd be able to do to keep him out of this game.
"And you must also know the work of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi Angel of Death."
She nodded. "Mengele thought he could produce a Super Race through genetic engineering."
The old man nodded. "As did many of his colleagues at the Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene."
"Like Victor Klemperer," Scully finished for him.
"Poor Victor," the man said again, his eyes locking on Mulder's face. Scully could feel it beginning. "He loved his orchids. Did you know that he was able to create some of the most beautiful hybrids?"
Scully could see Mulder's mind begin to put the pieces together--but they were the wrong pieces! He was going to swallow this whole damn story, hook, line, and sinker--
"Klemperer was trying to create an alien-human hybrid," Mulder said quietly, his gaze dropping to his partner's face in awe. "That's what I saw in the boxcar--he was using human test subjects."
"Mulder, wait--" Scully began desperately.
Mulder looked up angrily at the man standing silently before him. "My father was involved in this?"
Scully tried to pull Mulder's focus away from the old man. "The technology wasn't there, Mulder," she pled quietly. "DNA wasn't even identified until 1944. This is all a lie!"
"When your father realized what the data was being used for, he objected strenuously."
No, no, no! Scully debated just yanking Mulder out of here right now, but he was hooked.
"He collected those files?" Mulder asked incredulously.
The old man was merciless in his persistence. "With the threat of nuclear holocaust in the 1950s, the government instructed men like your father to gather genetic data on the general population... For the purposes of post-apocalyptic identification."
"The vaccination records," Mulder intoned dully. "They took tissue from everyone who received a smallpox vaccination." The look of terrified belief in his eyes was enough to make Scully want to cry.
And still, the old man continued. "Hundreds of millions of Americans."
"So that Victor Klemperer had access to a DNA database of nearly everyone who was born after 1950!"
Scully's anger flared at the horrified revelation in her partner's voice. "Mulder," she grated. "This man is telling you everything that you want to hear--but it is all a fabrication! It is pure science-fiction!"
The old man held Mulder's eyes, like a snake mesmerizing the mouse. "Why would I lie to you?"
"Like you said before," Scully turned on him harshly. "To protect yourself--and the continuation of the Nazi agenda--human tests!"
"Why was your file there, Scully?" Mulder asked pleadingly.
"I don't know."
He leaned into her, obsessed now with this latest theory. "There were current records on file."
"But records of what, Mulder?" she shouted, exasperated.
"Of abductions! Of abductees!"
Scully stared at him for a moment, resisting the urge to hit him. How dare he try to throw this back onto what had happened to her when she was missing! He'd gone too far this time, jumping right into that damn briar patch--
And there was no way she was following him in!
Mulder watched his partner as she turned tail and ran, and he damned himself a little for his vehemence. But she just couldn't believe what he knew was true! He turned back to the old man, still waiting quietly for him.
"They took my sister," Mulder said--a statement, not a question. "Why?"
"They took her as insurance, because your father threatened to expose the project."
"Why her?" Mulder croaked sadly. "Why not me?"
The old man cocked his head reasonably. "That's not for me to say. But... Your life is in danger now, too. You also threaten to expose the project. You've become your father."
The statement hit Mulder like a ton of bricks, and he stood there, speechless, as the old man turned to go. Finally, he called out, stopping him.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"It's what you want to know, isn't it?" the old man asked.
"Is there more?" Mulder pleaded quietly.
The look on the old man's face was enough to crush Mulder's heart.
"More than you'll ever know."
Mulder expected Scully to be at the car, waiting for him...
Her purse and jacket were gone. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised. He should never have said those things to her. The nerve was raw, and he'd rubbed at it...
Again, he'd asked Scully to do the impossible--
The thought brought him back to his musings on a truck stop porch. His father... How had he made the choice between his children? Why had it been Samantha?
Mulder looked up at the darkening sky, and came to a decision. He'd try Scully on her cellular on his way up to Connecticut and tell her he was sorry for what he'd said. But right now, he had to talk to his mother.
* * *
New York City, NY
The young man picked up the phone, silencing the only sound in the quiet men's club. "Yes?" This voice, he recognized. "Yes, he's just arrived..." He strode across the room toward an old man with a cigarette in his hand. "You have a call, sir."
"Thank you," the old man murmured as he took the cordless phone from him.
Alex Krycek bristled at the sound of his voice.
"I'm alive," he grated harshly. "Isn't that a surprise?"
Apparently, it was, as he heard the old man's fear--covered by a well-practiced veneer of culture. "Yes! Good, good...good. Um, where are you?"
Krycek sneered inwardly as he pictured the old man sweating, surrounded by his best-kept enemies. "Somewhere where you will never find me, you double-crossing son of a bitch!"
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure of this," Alex whispered. "If I so much as feel your presence... I'm going to make you a very, very famous man. You understand?"
The old man must be soaked in sweat by now, Alex thought. "Yes, thank you. I'm going to report that to the group."
Alex slammed down the phone. Sure, he was going to "report" that! He'd be better off writing his own obituary if he did.
"Bus number six-five-oh-three to Boston is now boarding at Gate 14."
Krycek looked up at the clock. By tomorrow morning, he'd be in Maine. He had friends there that would hide him, until he could figure out how to get out of the country without that cigarette-smoking bastard finding out where he'd gone.
Maybe East Asia, he thought... Lots of people... A sea of humanity...
The perfect place to hide.
* * *
"I've just received confirmation that the digital tape containing the stolen files was destroyed in a car bomb explosion, which killed Agent Scully's would-be assassin."
The old man knew he sounded convincing--and he was telling the truth, in a way. If Krycek had the tape, then it was as good as destroyed. The second they found the little rat, he'd be dead, and the old man would have the pleasure of burning that tape himself.
"What about Agents Mulder and Scully?" the Italian asked, coming to stand just a little too close to the old man.
"I have a meeting with the FBI," he answered smoothly, taking a drag on his cigarette. "They want to make a deal."
"For what?" the Italian demanded, suddenly wary.
"For nothing," he replied. He was in control again. He'd squash Skinner flat, and then, finally, get rid of the Mulder problem, once and for all. "There'll be no deal. There's no deal to make."
* * *
Mulder slid his key into the lock, pushed the door open silently. He tried to shut out all the memories that this house conjured up, by he couldn't. He remembered the nights he'd come downstairs to find his mom curled up on the couch, crying for her missing daughter.
When the two of them had moved here from Chilmark, after the divorce, Fox had been so sure that things would get better. She wouldn't have to look at the living room, or the television, or the bookshelves... She'd bought them all new furniture here, and Fox had been glad... She wouldn't have to see those daily reminders of her missing daughter--
And neither would he.
He tiptoed upstairs, listening for the telltale mutterings of his mother as she slept. He remembered those midnight soliloquies vividly. Arguing with no one, crying for a ghost... But tonight, the house was silent.
Her car was here... Maybe she had gone to stay with a friend. Maybe...
No. There she was, as he opened her bedroom door, sleeping peacefully, for once. He sat carefully on the edge of the bed, feeling her wake up beside him.
"Yeah," he muttered quietly.
She took hold of his arm as he turned on the light. "What time is it?"
He looked at the clock. "It's after two."
"Well, did you drive up here? Why didn't you call?"
"I needed to see you in person. I needed to ask you something." He could see the fear growing in her eyes. "I need to ask you about something that happened a long time ago."
"Oh, Fox!" she cried irritably, pulling herself into a seated position against the headboard. "I don't remember anything! I told you before!"
Mulder closed off his instinct to comfort her. He'd spent years ignoring the issue--trying to keep her protected...
"Mom, listen to me," he started quietly. "When Samantha-- ...Before she was gone, did Dad ever ask you if you had a favorite? Did he ever ask you that?"
Her eyes went wide and frightened. "Fox, please--"
"I need to know!" He demanded, grabbing her face roughly, heedless of the terror that invoked, and staring into her eyes. "Did he make you make a choice?"
"No," she whispered finally, dissolving slowly into tears. "No, I couldn't choose. It was your father's choice." Her eyes became steel. "And I hated him for it! Even in his grave, I hate him still!"
She collapsed against him, and Mulder just held her, running a soothing hand through her hair, as he had through so many nights when she woke, terror-stricken, from her nightmares.
He knew why she had them now, wondered how she'd lived so many years with the knowledge of her husband's choice.
"Shhh," he cooed gently. "It's okay, Mom... It's all right..."
Why Samantha? Mulder's mind cried out, in the voice of a frightened little twelve-year-old. Why her?
Why her, and not me?
* * *
The old man walked calmly into Walter Skinner's office, on top of the world. He stared at the younger man for a moment, noticing--without pity--the new-formed bruises on his broad face, before lighting up a cigarette and taking a relaxed, centering drag.
"Now... You wanted to see me?"
Skinner stood, walking stiffly across the room toward him, and the old man could see that he wanted to make this bluff count. Unfortunately for the Assistant Director, the old man already knew what kind of hand he was holding.
"I have the tape you're looking for."
"Really?" the old man replied pleasantly. Skinner was a good bluffer. He at least looked like he was holding all the cards.
Skinner nodded shortly. "I'm willing to hand it over, or destroy it, in exchange for Mulder and Scully's safety--and their reinstatement here."
"What did I tell you, Mr. Skinner?" the old man stated smugly. "I don't negotiate--especially with punks like you who think they can bluff me."
"Bluff you?" Skinner asked, his jaw tightening visibly.
"You haven't got any tape," he replied, watching in satisfaction as Skinner slumped. "You haven't got any deal. You can't play poker if you're not holding any cards..." He puffed away contently on his cigarette, thinking aloud.
"Have you ever wondered what it would be like to die in a plane crash?" he asked Skinner, conversationally. "Or of botulism? Even a heart attack's not uncommon for a man your age." He smiled cruelly. "You think I'm bluffing?"
Skinner stood frozen before him, his jaw grinding overtime. The old man took one last, long drag on his cigarette, and turned to leave.
"I'm not finished yet!" Skinner hissed viciously, heading for the outside door, as the old man turned back to him in surprise.
"Albert?" Skinner called. A tall, broad man walked in--an Indian.
"What is this?" the old man asked angrily, as this man 'Albert' and Skinner stood before him.
Skinner stepped up, his angry visage inches from the smoking man's own, and grated coldly. "This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass!"
"No, you listen to me, you son of a bitch!" Skinner rasped. "This man's name is Albert Hosteen. You should remember that--because if Agents Mulder and Scully come down with so much as a case of the flu, Albert is prepared to recite, chapter and verse, file for file, everything on your precious tape."
The smoking man smiled coldly. "Nice try, Skinner--"
"Now, I'm sure you're thinking that Albert is an old man, and there might be plenty of ways that you can kill him, too," Skinner broke in, effectively reading the smoker's mind. "Which is why, in the ancient oral tradition of his people, he's told twenty other men the information on those files." Skinner stepped back slightly, his face relaxing. "So, unless you kill every Navaho living in four states, that information is available with a simple phone call." The Assistant Director smiled his own cruel smile. "Welcome to the wonderful world of high-technology."
The smoker watched that face, looking for signs of weakness--looking for any clue that Skinner might not be telling the truth.
"You're bluffing," he finally croaked out, knowing that it wasn't true.
Skinner just smiled again--coldly.
* * *
Mulder made his way up to the ICU, glad to be able to walk in freedom through the huge hospital.
Skinner had made the deal--without even the benefit of the merchandise in question. He and Scully had been reinstated, all charges--trumped-up and otherwise--against them had been dropped. Up until an hour ago, he'd been feeling pretty good...
Until he got Skinner's second call.
"Agent Mulder? This is AD Skinner." He had sounded tired, and perhaps just a bit shaken. "I went to the hospital, to discuss Agent Scully's plans for returning to work. I figured she'd want some time off to spend with her mother and sister..."
Mulder's heart had sunk at that moment. "What happened?"
Skinner's sigh had said it all--his words were just more pain to pile on top. "Melissa Scully died in surgery a couple of hours ago..."
His superior had sighed again. "She's adamant about going back to work as soon as possible... Agent Mulder, I'd like you to talk to her. I don't think, given her recent loss, that she should be thinking about going out in the field right now."
Mulder smiled grimly as he reached the fifth floor landing in the stairwell. Skinner hadn't even thought to give him time off after what he'd been through. But the old man knew that Mulder's work was his life. He'd go crazy if he had to take downtime, so Skinner had simply never suggested it.
She still had her mom to deal with, her brothers... She needed to take some time--real time--to try to sort all of this out. She'd been living on a wire since he himself had disappeared in New Mexico, and Mulder was afraid that the wire was going to break before long.
No one tried to stop him as he strode through the doors to ICU. He wondered why they wouldn't. Maybe the scenes he'd made when Scully was here last year had left a lasting impression...
More likely, however, was that Skinner had called, and told the shift nurse he was coming...
He all but slid to a halt outside the hospital room door, hoping to find someone who might tell him where he'd find Scully and her mother. He was surprised to find Scully, sitting alone in the dark, her shoulders slumped with a defeat and weariness he'd never seen in her before. He walked in slowly.
Scully heard him coming, and looked up at him, giving him a dejected smile.
"It happened three hours ago," she explained, her voice as dead as her red-rimmed eyes. "She went into surgery... The, uh... the damage to her brain was worse than they'd hoped... Her blood pressure started to rise and she just... slipped away."
Mulder crouched next to her silently, letting her talk. She turned to him and he resisted the urge to envelop her in a hug. She needed his ear now, not his comfort.
"She died for me," Scully continued, her voice finally dropping from its frightening monotone as her eyes filled with unshed tears. "And I tried to tell her I was sorry, but I don't think she'll ever really know."
"She knows," Mulder assured her. "Melissa knows."
Scully sniffled, and her eyes, as she turned toward him, held a frightening emptiness. "You were right," she whispered. "There is no justice."
"I don't think this is about justice, Scully."
"Then what is it about?" she asked, despairingly.
"I think it's about something we have no personal choice in," he explained carefully. "I think it's about fate."
Scully just stared for a moment, the coldness of her eyes giving way to a strange despair, which gradually gave way to the resignation that Mulder had seen for twenty-three years--every time he looked in the mirror.
That resignation broke Mulder's heart. He'd never imagined having to watch someone go through this--certainly never Scully. It killed a part of you, left you not-quite-whole... And there was no way to fill that void. You could only ignore it, or forget about it... He wanted Scully never to have that void at all.
"Skinner told me that he talked to you," Mulder said after a moment, his own voice now thick with tears. "And that you were insistent about coming back to work... Now if Melissa's death--"
Scully shook her head sadly. "I need something to put my back up against," she whispered.
"I feel the same way," Mulder replied. "We've both lost so much..." He saw the compassion welling in Scully's eyes, and hurried on. This wasn't the time for her to be worrying about him--that wasn't any way to fill the void. He knew--he'd tried it. "But I believe that what we're looking for is in the X-Files," he whispered fervently. "I'm more certain than ever that the truth is in there."
Scully locked eyes with him, and he saw her start to push the void aside... He wondered what she would do to forget about it, but he didn't have to wait for long, as she set her jaw determinedly and stated quietly, "I've heard the truth, Mulder... Now what I want are the answers."
He nodded, offering her a slight smile. She returned it, and he knew, suddenly, that the time for talk was over. She needed take the time to forget, to find something to--if not fill the void, at least patch it over.
He slid an arm around her, as she sighed tiredly and let her head fall comfortably into the crook of his shoulder.
"Shhh..." He whispered, as had with his mother only hours ago. "I'm sorry, Scully..."
He felt, rather than heard, the low chuckle she let out at that, as she looped an arm up to hold his neck, comforting him as much as he did her. It was the right thing to do. They were partners.
And whatever the Truth might have in store for them, they
would face it together...
* * *