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The MCU Files

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FBI/SSR S.H.I.E.L.D. File X-32557038

 

This is a transcript of a statement given by a witness who shall remain nameless for their own protection. Currently, this is the only record available of this phenomenon. This file will only be made available only to the highest authorities in the FBI and agents of Level 7 or higher clearance within the SSR/S.H.I.E.L.D. There is currently no evidence to either confirm, or deny the statement given by this individual. If any questions arise, they may be directed to the offices of J. Edgar Hoover or Margaret Carter. Do not attempt to interview any of the individuals mentioned in the file or any of their associates. If this file is released to the public, given to the press, or discussed with individuals without proper clearance either in part or in its entirety, the individual who released it will be held indefinitely without trial, legal council, or chance for parole. 

 

The transcription is as follows:

 

 

 

It was about midday on- I think, October 20 th . What year? 1961. I was undercover. We know the Russians have a program of some sort running over there, or at least we did. I’m fluent, you see, so I was really one of the only choices who could’ve- … Why was I there that day? I’d finally gotten the clearance I was looking for and got called in by Vasily Karpov. Aleksander Lukin was also in attendance. We were in Ukraine. I had no idea what he wanted me for, but when Karpov called, you came running, or you paid for it, so I came. We took an elevator down below Kiev and arrived into this massive underground network that I strongly believe ran and still runs under the entire city, or at least most of it. He took both of us to this room that had more technicians than I’ve ever seen in one place before, and this chair, this horrific looking chair with this contraption that was shaped like some sort of helmet on arms above it. There were wires that ran over the walls and across the floor, and all of them were hooked into that helmet. 

 

Karpov starting talking about the various programs that were using that technology. And the things he said. I have a high enough clearance to be aware of MK-ULTRA and all the other things that the West has been doing. But he was talking about complete and total control of a person. Of any person. Not just people brainwashed from childhood, but any person at all; regardless of their strength of will or spirit, their identity, or what they stood for. He must’ve wanted to make an impression. I’ll admit, I didn’t believe it. I knew my work was dangerous, but I didn’t think anything like that was possible, even with knowing about the Tesseract and the Roswell Incident.

 

Either way, the person he brought in. The man he brought in. I don’t even know if I could’ve called him a man anymore. He acted more like those machines in those dime pulp novels about science fiction. If it hadn’t been for his eyes, it would’ve been easier to believe that’s what he was. This is going to sound like I belong in Letchworth or Bellevue, but I swear, I’m still sane. The man they brought in was Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes. The Howling Commando. Don’t look at me like that! I saw more than enough of his face when I was a kid to recognize him, even with how emaciated he was. He was incredibly malnourished. He was practically skin, bones, and connective tissue and almost nothing else. Karpov was talking about punishment for some infraction or other and Lukin just looked really fascinated by some chart a technician had handed him.

 

Anyway, they threw him in the chair, and proceeded to…proceeded to…I don’t know what to call it.  I’ve heard of Electroshock Therapy in the asylums, but this seemed like they were trying to electrocute him. He was screaming around this rubber guard they put in his mouth, and he couldn’t even move properly with how badly they’d starved him. I didn’t even mention how his entire body was bent to the left. Why? Didn’t I remember to mention? No, I guess I…He had a metal arm. His left arm was completely gone, and in its place was this silver looking monstrosity that had a red star on the shoulder. It was probably a Soviet marker, or something like that. It was obviously heavy, with how bent over he was. While they were doing whatever it was that damned chair was made for, Karpov started reading these words. The only ones I can really remember are “longing, one,” and “freight car” and then it was like he really was one of those machines. The look on Karpov’s face. The man is sick. Lukin is the same.

 

That’s who the Russians have been using. I’m more certain of it than I’ve been of anything else in my entire career. That’s their spook. That’s the man they’ve sent after all those people that’ve gotten killed in the union and over here. I know we pretend that- I know it’s just a story. But, after what I’ve seen. Listen to me, you have to believe me! The Winter Soldier isn’t a myth, or a legend, or anything else like that. He’s real, and he’s James Barnes, he’s someone who looks a lot like him, or the Syndicate has gotten a lot further with their cloning program than they were ever supposed to. I wish I could’ve helped him, or saved him, or done anything at all, but I don’t think there was anyone in there to help or save anymore. I think whatever or whoever that was died as soon as the Russians got a hold of him, and he’s just a revenant now.

 

This is the last mission I’m ever going to take. I’m going to ground after this. Leave my name out of the record and bury me under paperwork. Maybe I’ll be able to live for a few more good years before I get found by someone I don’t want to see.

 

 

As there is no proper resolution to this case or the relevant mission, it is to be qualified as unsolved and left to the U-class files. The individual whose statement is held within is to be erased from all relevant files, government services, and identifying registrations. Given the content of their testimony, it is impossible to say what truly happened in that station under Kiev on October 20 th , 1961. Further inquiry is to be made into the Syndicate cloning program in order to ascertain whether or not one of their specimens would be viable for such activities.

 

January 18 th , 1991 Addendum: File X-32557038 is now classified under the X Files due to the unusual and unnatural nature of the testimony given. X-32557038 is still considered highly classified. If any questions arise about the contents within or the reason for reclassification, questions may be directed to the offices of Alexander Pierce or Remus Strauss. All aforementioned consequences for sharing the contents of X-32557038 with any individuals without sufficient clearance still apply. If Alexander Pierce and/or Remus Strauss cannot be reached or are not available, questions may be directed to C.G.B. Spender.

Chapter Text

The woman walked through the Hoover building with a determined stride. Her power suit was neatly pressed; her red hair immaculate. Though she projected cool, collected confidence, an undercurrent of nerves flowed in the back of her head. Sharp blue eyes tracked everything as she searched for the office number the receptionist had given her. She hadn’t been told why she’d gotten called in from Quantico, only that she had to come as soon as possible. That wasn’t something anyone really wanted to hear. At least, not without a reason that didn’t involve the words “fired”, “jail”, or “administrative leave”.

 

She knocked on the door and a man’s voice called for her to come in. Three men were in the small office. One, sat behind the desk, was a gray haired, middle aged man who was sat behind a desk with a small mountain of files and paperwork on it. The second was wizened and wrinkled, but she had to suppress the shiver that wanted to go down her spine when he stared at her. The third, who looked a lot like the first, sat right next to the desk and stared at her as she walked in. 

 

“Agent Scully, thanks for coming on such short notice. Please,” the man behind the desk gestured towards the lone chair in front of the desk. As she sat, the second man moved to lean against the filing cabinets nearest to the desk, lit cigarette in hand. 

 

“We see you’ve been with us for just over two years,” said the first man.

 

“Yes sir,” she kept a professional tone.

 

“You went to medical school, but chose not to practice. How did you come to work for the FBI?”

 

She paused, careful, before she gave an answer. “Well, sir. I was recruited out of medical school. My parents saw it as an act of rebellion, but I saw the FBI as a place I could distinguish myself.”

 

“Are you familiar with an agent named Fox Mulder,” the third man asked as he shifted in his chair.

 

“Yes I am.”

 

“How so?”

 

“By reputation. He’s an Oxford educated psychologist who wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult that helped catch Monty Props in 2003. Generally thought of as the best analyst in the violent crimes section. He had ah, nickname in the academy,” she glanced over at the smoking man, a nervous blush on her face “Spooky Mulder.”

 

The first flipped through some of the papers in the file, and she focused back on him. “What I’ll also tell you is that Agent Mulder has developed a consuming devotion to an unassigned project outside the Bureau mainstream. Are you familiar with the so called X Files?”

 

“I believe they have to do with unexplained phenomena, unusual incidents, or mutant related crimes that we handled with or instead of S.H.I.E.L.D.” The room seemed like it was filling with smoke from the smoking man’s cigarette.

 

“More or less. The reason you’re here, Agent Scully, is that we want you to assist Agent Mulder with the X files. You will write field notes, as well as your scientific observations on the validity of the work. Barring, of course, any files to do with S.H.I.E.L.D. or...mutant interference” As he spoke, she breathed deep and squared her shoulders. That was not what she’d expected to hear when she’d come in that morning. Everyone had heard whispers about mutants and the-to put it politely-unusual nature of what little was known about the work S.H.I.E.L.D. did. It’d been a major stir when Charles Xavier had established his school in Westchester. There were still agents assigned to guard the place. She looked up at the smoking man and tried to read him before she looked back to the first man.

 

“Am I to understand that you want me to debunk the X files, sir?” Most of them had nothing to do with mutants anyway. S.H.I.E.L.D. handled most mutant related issues and crimes. He looked at her with intense eyes as he answered.

 

“Agent Scully, I’m sure you’ll give a proper scientific analysis. You’ll want to contact Agent Mulder shortly. We’ll be looking forward to seeing your reports.”

 

She knew a dismissal when she heard one.

 

As she walked towards the elevator, she couldn’t help but remember the rumors she’d heard about Mulder. Mutterings about conspiracy theories and an affinity for stalking S.H.I.E.L.D. cases that were released or leaked; whispers about an unnatural talent for reading people. The words “Unregistered Freak” had been thrown around by some of the more unsavory types. That he worked in the basement of the building hadn’t helped matters at all. What most talked about was the alien thing.

 

When the elevator doors opened to the basement, the sight that greeted her was the height of barely controlled chaos. Pipes ran everywhere along the walls and ceiling. Shelves full of cardboard boxes stuffed to the brim with as many files as they could hold covered the pieces of wall left open by the pipes. Doors led into various offices and the hallway twisted around them like the building itself was trying to hide its secrets away from the world.

 

Scully made sure to read the plaques outside the doors on the way down. The basement’s chaos felt different from the tightly controlled type of chaos that reigned on the floors above. At the very end of the hall, before it opened into another dark passageway covered in pipes, was the door she wanted to find. It was time. She knocked and from the other side of the doo, a sarcastic voice called.

 

“Sorry, nobody here but the FBI’s most unwanted.”

 

As she walked in, she was greeted by the sight of a man bent over a bunch of photos on top of an old x-ray viewing box. She stepped in and there it all was. Filing cabinets, a desk covered in paperwork, files, books, and do-dads of some description or other. Shelves filled with books, more shelves and filing cabinets filled with hundreds upon hundreds of files. A cork board in the back behind the desk covered in paper and pictures next to a poster with a picture of a UFO on it emblazoned with the words ‘I Want to Believe’. The shelves went back through the entire space and made it feel either claustrophobic, or maybe cozy; she wasn’t sure which then.

As soon as she got close to his chair, he turned around and looked up at her. His hazel eyes felt like they dug into her soul the second he made eye contact. She was being tested. She put on her best professional smile and walked forward to offer and handshake.

 

“Agent Mulder, I’m Agent Scully. I’ve been assigned to work with you.” He took the hand she offered and shook, but the sensation from before turned completely claustrophobic as soon as they made contact.

 

“Oh, isn’t it nice to be suddenly so highly regarded?” His voice was sharp with sarcasm, and the claustrophobic sense deepened. “So who did you tick off to get stuck with this assignment, Scully?” He smacked a picture back down as he looked right back at her again. She straightened herself and settled into her “difficult people” mode. This too, would pass. 

 

“Actually, I’m looking forward to working with you,” she admitted with a tilt of her head. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

 

“Oh really? I was under the impression,” his eyes went hard, “that you were sent to spy on me.” His lips were pursed and he looked at her as if he dared her. Well, she had no problems making her position clear there. She looked him right in the eye and started in.

 

“If you have any doubt about my qualifications or credentials, I’m su-”

 

“You’re a medical doctor, you, teach at the academy, you did your undergraduate degree in physics,” with that he pulled off his glasses and pulled a file out from under a stack on the desk he’d been working on and opened it to look at “Einstein’s Twin Paradox, A New Interpretation. Dana Scully’s senior thesis. Now that’s a credential, rewriting Einstein.” He turned and threw it back on the desk. Her face was carefully crafted into quite an impressive unimpressed stare.

 

“Did you bother to read it?”

 

“I did, I liked it,” his voice sounded genuine as he placed a box full of slides on a projector. “It’s just that, in my line of work, the laws of physics rarely seem to apply.” The claustrophobic sensation went away like a bubble popping as he passed her for the light switch. She glared flatly after him and resisted the urge to roll her eyes as he flipped off the lights and walked back over to the projector.

 

“Maybe I can get your medical opinion on this, though. A woman in Oregon, 21 years old. Autopsy shows no cause of death. Nothing.” A picture of a very dead brunette woman was projected on the wall. The next picture turned over and what looked like irritated mosquito bites or burns were displayed on her back. “There are these two distinct marks on her lower back. Doctor Scully, can you I.D. these marks?” His voice was back to that sarcastic, suspicious tone from before.

 

Scully was drawn in by the marks, though. She walked forward and gave the picture a careful exam.

 

“Needle punctures maybe. Bites,” she turned back to look at him. “Electrocution of some kind.” He turned the slide again to a picture of a chemical formula.

 

“This is the substance found in the surrounding tissue. Ever seen it?” He sounded far more genuine that time. She paused and looked over the makeup. It was totally unfamiliar.

 

“It’s organic. Is it some sort of synthetic protein?”

 

“Beats me! I’ve never seen it before either!” He looked delighted. “But here it is again in Sturgess, South Dakota; and again in Shamrock, Texas.” His face had gone dark again.

 

“Do you have a theory?” She asked.

 

“I have plenty of theories. Maybe you can explain why the Bureau just ignores these as unexplainable when S.H.I.E.L.D. leaves them to us.” He stood across from her at the wall. Another test. “Do you believe in aliens, Doctor Scully?”

 

“That they exist? In another galaxy, maybe. But on Earth? As a scientist, I have to say no. There’s no support for that within what we currently know.”

 

“Even with the experiments Erik Selvig and Jane Foster are running right now?”

 

“Those are purely theoretical. The fact is, that there’s not even a possibility for interstellar flight right now, much less intergalactic.”

 

“Did you know that this Oregon woman was the fourth out her graduating class to die under mysterious circumstances? When science and convention don’t have answers, couldn’t we finally turn to the fantastic for a solution?”

 

“The girl obviously died of something. If it was natural, maybe something was missed in the postmortem. If she was murdered, it’s possible there was a sloppy investigation. What I find fantastic is the idea that there are any answers beyond the realm of science. We may not know the reason yet, but it is absolutely possible to quantify it, or reason it out within the scientific realm. The answers are there, you just have to know where to look.”

 

“And that’s why they put the ‘I’ in FBI. I’ll see you tomorrow Scully. Bright and early, to leave for the very plausible state of Oregon.”

 

She smiled as she left. She’d passed, she was sure of it.

 

 

***

 

 

It was a very early morning. After a night of careful (read: frenzied) packing, Dana was not enthused about the security. She was even less enthused about the looks the TSA agents gave her after they saw the case files in her carry-on. The joys of a violent crime assignment. She checked her emails on her phone and swept the seats at the gate for Mulder, who’d gotten pulled aside for a random check. Said random check may or may not have had to do with how manic he’d looked. The case files in his carry-on probably hadn’t helped either. After another fifteen minutes of checking emails and replying to road trip pictures her sister had sent, Mulder finally reappeared. 

 

“Starktech?” He was chipper for someone who’d gotten accused of being a serial killer.

 

“Less expensive than Apple.”

 

“True, but you know what they say about Stark Industries’ Weapons R&D.”

 

“That they have more military contracts than any other weapons developer in the country?” Mulder shook his head and laughed.

 

“Word is, Mr. Stark himself doesn’t really control where those weapons of his wind up. Just how well they work.” He said.

 

“If he’s not controlling that, then who does?”

 

“Now that’s the real question.”

 

Dana resisted the urge to sigh and joined the queue to board. It was too early for conspiracy theories.

 

One slightly delayed takeoff later, and Dana had spread out the case file on the table in front of her. The case was interesting enough. Four people, all from the class of 2005, murdered in the last four years. All of them were born, raised, and had lived in the same small town. Only the autopsy on the most recent victim had notes about the mysterious marks. She pored over the notes taken in the file, the pictures, and the newspaper clippings that had been stuffed alongside them. 

 

Dana was startled by the announcement for the final descent. Her stomach jumped into her throat when suddenly, the plane dropped. Screams came from around the plane as it shook. Another dip and then the plane twisted to the side. The overhead compartments dumped their contents and Dana had to hold down the papers to keep them from flying to the other side of the plane. Her heart beat against her chest and she crammed her eyes closed and focused on her breathing. After a few more terrifying seconds, the plane was righted. People started to chat again and Mulder rolled over to look at her while he raised his seat back. His earbuds were still in his ears.

 

“This must be the place,” he said, mirth in the tiny smirk on his face. She gave him a half hearted glare and gathered the files together. It was time to work.

 

Once they hit Bellefleur, she confronted him about the elephant in the file.

 

“You didn’t mention this case has already been investigated. Twice,” she said.

 

“Yeah. S.H.I.E.L.D. had it first and said it was ‘not strange enough’ after sending a few of their people out here. So they passed it off to us. Our boys came out here, spent a week, enjoyed the local salmon which, with a little lemon twist is just to die for, if you’ll pardon the expression. And without explanation, they were called back in, the case was reclassified and buried in the X files. Until I dug it up last week.” He popped sunflower seeds as he spoke.

 

“And you found something they didn’t?”

 

 He hummed, shelling another sunflower seed.

 

“The autopsy reports on the first three victims show no unidentified marks or tissue samples. But those reports were signed by a different medical examiner than the one for the latest victim,” she said.

 

An impressed smile came over his face and he glanced over at her, sunflower seed in teeth.

 

“That’s pretty good Scully.”

 

“Better than you expected, or better than you hoped?”

 

“Well, I’ll let you know when we get past the easy part. First we’ve got to do a little grave digging. I’ve arranged to have one of the bodies exhumed so we can see if their results match the girl’s.”

 

“Is the ME dirty?”

 

“We won’t know that until we redo the autopsy You’re not squeamish about that sort of thing, are you?”

 

Dana thought back to the cadaver lab and body farm.

 

“Not really. Never exhumed anyone before, though.”

 

Not even a second after last word was out of her mouth, the radio turned on and started cycling through frequencies all by itself. Mulder ducked and started to scan the sky as if he was looking for something. The static got louder and louder and Dana winced, hands clasped over her ears like vices.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

Mulder stayed silent and pulled over before he got out of the car and started to root around in the back. Dana looked on, eyebrows climbing, as he pulled out a can of red spray paint and marked an X in the road where the radio had started to go haywire.

 

“What’s that for?” She paced him back to the front of the car. He gave her a smile, a strange light in his eyes.

 

“Nothing important. C’mon, we’ll be late for the party.”


 

***

 

They arrived to the sight of a fight brewing between the gravedigger, the detective, and a man with a teenage girl next to him. Both Mulder and Scully jetted out of the car as soon as it was parked and ran up the hill. Mulder dug his badge out from his jacket pocket.

 

“I’m Agent Mulder and this is Agent Scully. What’s going on here?”

 

“You can’t dig this body up! That’s what’s going on here,” the man with the teenage girl shouted.

 

“Slow down; who are you, exactly?”

 

“I’m Dr. Nemman, and you can’t do this!”

 

“Dr. Nemman, the coroner?” Scully asked as she dug for the exhumation order.

 

“That’s right. I already did the autopsy. There’s nothing to find! You need a court order to do this anyway!”

 

Scully gave him the paper to examine and walked to the edge of the grave, Mulder close behind. A tearing noise startled them both and they looked at the ties just to see the last one give way. They dove out of the way of the casket as it tumbled down the hill at breakneck speed. Men raced after it as it hit a gravestone halfway down the hill and exploded open with an earsplitting crack. Dana was up and after it in an instant with Mulder just behind. When they got to it, they stood still. Both of their faces were slack with shock. The men around them were as silent as the graves they were surrounded by.

 

The body inside wasn’t human looking. Not even a little bit. It was short and small, surrounded by its own decay. The head was what was really extraordinary. It was flat and rectangular with deep eye sockets and a box like protrusion that looked like a muzzle or a mouth. A huge cavity yawned above the muzzle in a strange echo of a human nasal cavity. Dana leaned forward and swept over the body. She cycled through every defect, mutation, and illness she knew off the top of her head. None of them fit with what she was seeing. She heard Mulder call for them to get the body to the morgue in the background, but she couldn’t look away.

 

Once they finally got to the morgue (which was almost another near-disaster involving a bad body bag and a thrown out back) Mulder ran around the corpse and snapped photos, practically radiating chaos as Dana documented everything on the recorder.

 

“Do you know what this means Scully? How amazing this is? It’s almost too big to comprehend!” He snapped another picture.

 

“Subject is 156 centimeters in length, weighing 52 pounds in extremis. Corpse is in advanced stages of decay and desiccation. Distinguishing features include large ocular cavities, oblate cranium. These indicate the subject is not human.” Mulder’s camera flashed in her eyes. Again.

 

“Could you please point that flash away from me?”

 

“If it’s not human, what is it?”

 

Dana had to admit, privately, that she was at a bit of a loss. Not that she would’ve ever said that.

 

“It’s mammalian. Best guess, probably a chimpanzee, or a similar animal. Possibly an orangutan.”

 

“Buried in Ray Soames’ grave? Come on, why would someone do that? I want tissue samples and x-rays, blood typing, toxicology, and a full genetic work up. What we can’t get done here, we’ll order to go.”

 

“Are you serious? Do you honestly think that this is some kind of extraterrestrial? If that were true, why would S.H.I.E.L.D. leave a first contact case to us? Wouldn’t that fall right into their purview? This is somebody’s sick joke.“ Her stomach twisted at the memory of some of the rumors about what went on at S.H.I.E.L.D. behind closed doors.

 

“We can do those x-rays here. Is there any reason we can’t do them right now?” For the first time he looked completely genuine. His eyes were wide and he kept eye contact until she looked down at the body again. When she looked back up, she felt her resistance dissolve. 

 

“I’m not crazy, Scully.” He almost sounded sad. “I have the same doubts you do. “

 

She looked at him a minute longer before she caved. It may provide insight, and Dana was ever a doctor. The nagging thought that the x-ray would be a waste of time melted as soon as the pictures showed on the system. A metal object was shoved far into the nasal cavity. She almost had to pry Mulder out of the way to extract and clean it. She ordered the rest of the tests he’d asked for and grabbed the jar with the metal thing in it.

 

When they got back to the motel, she pulled up the Gifted and Mutant Index and scrolled through it with the results of the preliminary tests next to her. She still had a dim sort of hope that she’d find a record of a similarly mutated being of some sort on it. None of the domestics on the list fit, though, and to her frustration, the FBI didn’t have access to the whole thing. Anything international required a verified NSA, CIA, Interpol, or S.H.I.E.L.D. badge number to access. There were some mutations that had strange effects on the body, but nothing like that.

 

The metal tag was even more of a mystery. It didn’t look like any metal she’d ever seen before; and it was covered in tiny little valleys and ridges. Some of them were so small, they couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. She stared at it through the glass of the jar. It was oblong, with a tiny indent into a ball shape on both ends. She turned it around and tried to see if any of the pattern would make sense, but nothing came to mind.

 

A knock at the door startled her out of her reverie.

 

“Who is it?”

 

“Jon Favreau.”

 

She smiled and went to open the door. Outside, Mulder stood. He still radiated energy and almost seemed like he was vibrating with it. He gave her a smile.

 

“I’m way too wired. I’m going for a run, wanna come?”

 

“Pass.” All she wanted was to finish her write up and go to bed.

 

“Did you figure out what the little thing up Ray Soames’ nose is yet?” He bounced from foot to foot.

 

“No,” she yawned. “And I’m not losing any sleep over it. Good night.” She closed the door and wandered back over to her laptop. She called up the x-ray that showed the tag and studied it. She still couldn’t figure out why S.H.I.E.L.D. had left this kind of case without checking the bodies. Or if they had, why they would’ve let the FBI bury it when that was their jurisdiction. Either way, a talk with Soames’ doctor was in order.



***

 

The next morning, as they left for the hospital to talk to the doctor, Mulder stopped in his tracks. He tilted his head and started to search the parking lot. Dana opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but got caught up by the same claustrophobic sensation as the day they’d met as soon as his eyes hit her. It was only for a second, but he kept looking. She looked around, but didn’t see anything.

 

“What’s wrong?” She asked as he turned full circle.

 

“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Probably nothing,” he said, his voice distant. He snapped out of it, and the moment seemed to pop like a bubble. The same as the first time. “Let’s get going, huh?”


***

 

The hospital was a brickwork and white windowed affair. It was decent sized with a large yard for recreation. Doctor Werber met them out front and led them through the yard as they started to talk.

 

“So, you were Ray Soames’ doctor, right?” Mulder began.

 

“Ray Soames was a patient of mine, yes. I treated him for just over a year for clinical schizophrenia. He had an inability to grasp reality. He seemed to suffer from some kind of post traumatic stress.”

 

“Is that something you’ve seen before?”

 

“I’ve treated similar cases.”

 

“Were any of them Ray Soames’ classmates?” Scully asked.

 

Werber’s jaw tightened. “Yes.”

 

“We’re trying to connect these deaths. Did you treat any of them with hypnosis?” Mulder asked.

 

Werber scoffed. “No, I did not.”

 

“Are you treating any of them now?” Scully asked.

 

“Currently? Yes. I’m treating Billy Miles and Peggy O’Dell. Both have been long term, live-in patients.”

 

“They’re here at this hospital?”

 

“Yes, going on four years now.”

 

“Would it be possible for us to talk to them.”

 

Werber stopped across from them, stress lines on his face. “Well, that might be a little difficult.”

 

He led them inside. Through a maze of hallways and doors to various wards he led them to a bed. A young man lay in it, eyes cracked open.

 

“Billy’s experiencing what we call a waking coma. Functionally, his brain waves are flat, and he’s persistently vegetative.”

 

“How did it happen?” Scully asked as they crossed the room to the bed. A girl in a wheelchair next to the bed stared up at them as they drew close.

 

“Both he and Peggy were in a car accident on State Road. Peggy?”

 

The girl looked up from the book she’d been reading from. 

 

“We have some visitors. Do you want to talk with them for a moment?”

 

“Billy wants me to read now.” Her voice was insistent.

 

She went back to her book and started to read aloud again in a mumbling voice. Mulder crossed over and bent down in front of her.

 

“Does he like it when you read to him?” His voice was soft and he made sure to look her in the eye.

 

She gave a small nod and seemed to relax, just a little bit. “Yes,” she said. “He needs me close.”

 

He stood up and walked away. “Doctor, would it be possible to do a cursory medical exam on Peggy?”

 

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, she slammed her fists on the chair and pushed over a table that was nearby. She wheeled herself forward and Dana rushed in to try and help the nurse, but stopped dead. Her nose had just started bleeding. There wasn’t any reason for it that Dana could see. And the reaction to just the mention of the possibility of an exam had unsettled her. She hadn’t seen someone react so violently to just a hint of something like that since her internship. Peggy screamed and fell through Dr. Werber and the nurse’s hands to the floor, screaming on the floor. Mulder rushed over and there, on her lower back, was the damning evidence.There were two irritated red dots on her lower back, plain as could be.

 

Dana sped out of the hospital as soon as Peggy was back in her chair. She couldn’t believe what she’d just seen. Mulder hadn’t even been surprised and with the strangeness of the autopsy, how weird the case was, and the ever-present shadow of the FBI and S.H.I.E.L.D., it was all too much. She heard Mulder’s footsteps chase after her and she kept on until she was at the doors to the hospital. As soon as she hit fresh air, she couldn’t hold her words back anymore.

 

“What’s going on here? How did you know she would have those marks on her back?”

 

“I don’t know, lucky guess?” Mulder was infuriatingly calm in the face of the most recent development. That was it.

 

“Cut the crap, Mulder. What is going on here? What do you know about those marks? What are they?”

 

“Why, so you can put it all in your little report?” he spat back. “I don’t think you’re ready for what I think.”

 

She glared up at him. “I’m here to solve this case, Mulder, and I want the truth!”

 

“The truth? I think those kids have been abducted.”

 

“By who?” She said, holding back the anger that had started building like embers.

 

“By what.”

 

She scoffed and shook her head. This was the most far- fetched conversation she’d had in a while. “You don’t really believe that.”

 

“Do you have a better explanation?” His face was etched with lines that hadn’t been there before.

 

“I’ll buy that girl is suffering from some kind of psychosis. Whether it’s from chemical agents, trauma, or those marks, I can’t say. But there’s nothing to support them flying around in flying saucer, Mulder! It’s crazy!” The embers burst into flames that could no longer be held back.

 

“Nothing to support that. Nothing scientific, you mean.” He looked tired. He looked like he’d aged years while she hadn’t been looking.

 

“There has got to be an explanation.” She couldn’t find the reason, and she felt the straws giving any hint at a rational explanation she’d managed to grasp slipping through her fingertips in this descent into madness. “You’ve got four victims. All of them died in or near the woods. They found Karen Swenson’s body in the forest, in her pajamas, ten miles from her house! How did she get there? What were they doing out there to begin with?” The flames and embers died as she reached the end of her questions. His face was a wall, bone deep exhaustion hidden away again. He almost looked contrite. If she hadn’t seen what she’d seen, she might’ve been fooled.


“I don’t know. That’s what we’ve got to find out. If we really want to know, we have to go to the woods and see what’s out there.” 

 

She looked down and sighed. He was right.

 

“Okay. Let’s go.”


***

 

The woods were snarled and dark. They had to move slow, flashlights eaten by the darkness. They separated at a small clearing and moved into the ring of trees. Dana watched the floor as the walked and then stopped. In the middle of a patch of normal forest floor was a patch of brown, ash-like dirt or powder. She put her flashlight down, took out a sample bag, and slipped some of it in.

 

Some mechanical noise startled her and she picked her flashlight up again. She moved as fast as she could towards the noise, gun drawn.

 

“Mulder,” she called.

 

She pressed on, eyes not able to see anywhere near enough in the gloom of the night. But once she reached the base of a small hill, that quickly changed. A painfully bright light flooded the top of the hill. Evergreen saplings cast strange shadows as they danced in the halo. A man’s shape was cast in shadow in front of the light and Scully swallowed her beating heart back into her chest.

 

“Mulder,” she tried again. “Mulder, is that you?”

 

The man suddenly pulled up a gun and advanced on her. Her gun was up in a heartbeat.

 

“Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI, drop your weapon,” her voice was as assertive and even as she could get it.

 

“I’m with the county sheriff’s department. You’re trespassing on private property here.”

 

“We are conducting an investigation here,” as she spoke, she heard Mulder jog up from behind her.

 

“You two need to get in your car and leave now, or I’ll have to arrest you. I don’t care who you are,” the sheriff’s voice went harder than it had been before and he shifted. 

 

“Hold on, this is a crime scene,” Mulder’s voice had the exact same tone. 

 

“Did you hear what I said? You’re on private property without legal permission. Now get in your car, and leave!”

 

They both hesitated a moment, claustrophobic sensation creeping back up Dana’s spine. Then, they lowered their weapons and did as he said. If feet were dragged, well, no one had to know.



***


“Do you think he might’ve been there because of this stuff,” Dana asked after a few minutes of driving. She pulled out the baggie with the ashy substance in it.

 

“Was that a campfire,” Mulder asked.

 

“It was all over the ground. Something’s going on here. Some kind of sacrifice, maybe.”

 

Mulder pulled out a compass and she paused. The needle wouldn’t stop turning. He got jittery and seemed to be checking a hundred things at once. Dana went from curious to concerned in a snap.

 

“Are you okay, Mulder?”

 

He checked the sky again before he started. “Yeah, I’m just. Um…”

 

“What’re you looking for.”

 

Blinding white.

 

Flashes like too close lightening.

 

Noise rushed loud, too loud in her ears.

 

Then, it was over. The car coughed, sputtered, and died and they just sat there for a spilt second, rain still dumping over the car. Mulder turned the key. Nothing. 

 

“What happened?”

 

“We lost power. Dead!” He checked his watch. “We lost nine minutes!” He almost glowed. He got out of the car, not bothered by the rain in the slightest and she chased after him.

 

“We lost what?!”

 

“Nine minutes! It was 9:03 just before the flash, and it just turned 9:13 right now!” He almost ran forward and crowed. “Look! Look! Oh, yes!”

 

There, on the road, was the red x he’d made on the road the day before. Innocent as could be.

 

“Abductees, people who’ve reported UFO sightings, they report unexplained time loss!”

 

She turned right back around for the car. “Come on,” she said as she went.

 

“Gone! Just like that!” He looked far too happy about it. Her head span a little.

 

“Time can’t just disappear! Not without some kind of gravitational anomaly or something like that!”

 

The car started out of the blue and Mulder’s eyes were alight as he bounded back to it. “Not in this zip code.”

 

As soon as he was back in the car, he pulled out a burner phone and started to type away at it. The whole drive back he kept glancing at it as if he expected it to go off at any second. Dana, for her part, was also on her phone. To be fair, she was on her phone to see if she could get a preview of the reports from the lab. That would’ve been a lot easier if Bellefleur had anything that amounted to good cell reception. 

 

Unfortunately, the monsoon-like rain hadn’t let up in the slightest, so they both got re-soaked as they ran to their rooms. As soon as she’d changed, Dana went straight back to her laptop to check the results. She hadn’t expected much, but the lab had rushed it and gotten the toxicology done at least. There wasn’t anything interesting outside of the synthetic protein, but that was even weirder than the whole case had been anyway. Karen Swenson’s toxicology report hadn’t shown anything either. Dana had privately wanted to get another screen done just in case something had been botched. But as she looked through the list of reports, negative after negative stared at her. Still, she wouldn’t know anywhere near the amount she wanted to until the blood typing, genome sequencing, and mutation testing had been run.

 

As she was about to continue her search for a logical reason for Ray Soames’ appearance, the power cut out. She sighed and looked at the battery percentage, which prompted an even heavier sigh. She wasn’t going to get much else done that night. So she grabbed her towel and pajamas and trudged to the bathroom. Everything seemed fine as she started the water and got ready to soak in the warmth, but then, a chill ran down her spine. Her fingers brushed over two small dots on the small of her back. She turned and craned her neck to try and see them, but the dim light of her phone didn’t show anything. 

 

Stomach in her throat, she threw on her robe over her underwear and raced over to Mulder’s room, not even concerned about the rain. She pounded on the door, heartbeat in her ears. He answered and his eyes softened.

 

“What’s up?” His entire demeanor was a lot softer than it’d been since she’d met him.

 

“I need you to look at something.”

 

As soon as he stepped aside for her, she went in and took off her robe. He ran his phone’s light down her back and she felt his fingers brush over the spots.

 

“They’re just mosquito bites,” he said.

 

“Really?” She tasted metal in her mouth as the crash from adrenaline set in.

 

“Yeah, I got bitten up out there too.” His voice was amused and the light was back in his eyes.

 

She turned around and hugged him before he could back away. To her surprise, he let her without a word about it.



***


“My parents both have the gene. It’s not active in her, but my dad’s is. They thought my sister might’ve had it active. Just because of how mutation tracks. I was twelve when it happened, she was eight. She just disappeared out of her bed one night. Just gone. Vanished. No note, no phone calls, no camera footage, no evidence of any kind.” He talked slowly, as if the words cost him everything to say. Maybe they did.

 

“And you never found her?” Dana dimly noted that voice was gentler than it had been in any conversation they’d ever had. He winced for a split second before the wall was back in front of his eyes.

 

“It tore the family apart. No one would talk about it. There was nothing concrete to confront, nothing to offer any hope.” His face was toward her, but he kept his eyes cast downwards, like what he said was too much if he could see her.

 

“What did you do?”

 

“Eventually, I went off to school in England. There were fewer questions about potential mutation. After I was done, I got recruited by the bureau. By then, it’d been long enough that they didn’t bother to check for a mutation as long as there weren’t any obvious signs. It seems I had a natural aptitude for applying behavioral models to criminal cases.” His voice went a bit strange at the last sentence, his eyes cast even further downward to the dim murk that ruled the floor he sat on. 

 

“After some relatively high profile success, I had enough freedom to pursue my interests,  and that’s when I found the X files. I was going to leave for S.H.I.E.L.D. before I found them. I don’t think it was an accident. Not when I look at the timing of it. S.H.I.E.L.D. is in the dark a lot, but they’re where most of those cases go. At first, they looked like the garbage dump of whatever S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t deem important enough to waste resources on and the FBI considered too fantastical to even think about investigating. But I was fascinated! I read all the cases I could get my hands on and dug into every public S.H.I.E.L.D. file I could find. Hundreds of them! I read everything I could about the paranormal, aliens, para-science, mutants, inhumans, the gifted, the super-soldier serum; I read it all,” he opened his mouth to continue, but stopped cold. Dana leaned forward.

 

“What?”

 

“There are classified files from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the government that I’ve been trying to access, but someone’s been blocking me from getting to it. Even contacts I have that can usually get me restricted files can’t get to the ones I’ve been trying to get at.”

 

“Who? I don’t understand,” she sat up.

 

“People at a higher level of power in both places. The only reason I’ve been allowed to continue is because I’ve made connections in S.H.I.E.L.D. and Congress. “

 

“What’re they afraid of? That you’ll leak the information?”

 

“You’re part of the agenda. You know that.” His eyes bored into hers through the gloom of the power outage. The claustrophobic sensation was back in spades.

 

“I’m not part of any agenda. You’ve got to trust me. I’m here to solve this. Just like you,” her voice was firm, and she drew up her knees. The sheets pooled in her lap as she moved. His eyes drilled deeper and he moved closer. The less space between them, the more the claustrophobic, crawling sensation pressed against her senses.

 

“I’m telling you this, because you need to know, because of what you’ve seen . In my research, I went to Charles Xavier, who brought me back through memories I’d repressed. I remembered a bright light outside and a presence in the room that I couldn’t-. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t help even when she called for me. Listen to me, Scully! This thing exists!”

 

“But how do you kn-”

 

“S.H.I.E.L.D. and the government know it exists! The SSR before them knew it existed! That’s why they call the things they find 084s; because nobody would think to question a boring number like they would ‘object of unknown origin’. I have to know what they’re protecting! Nothing else matters to me, and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to it with no one to hold the red tape in front of me.” He stared into her eyes and she realized she couldn’t draw back. The walls seemed closer than they ever had and she felt like something was crawling up her spine.

 

The bubble popped when his phone rang and startled them both. He paused for a moment and shivered before he answered. 

 

“Hello? What?! Who is this?” He put down his phone, faced shocked. “That was some woman. She just said Peggy O’Dell was dead.”


***


Lights flashed on the emergency vehicles and cops and sheriffs alike swarmed the area. Mulder and Scully walked over to the giant eighteen wheeler where the driver stood, face pale and shell shocked.

 

“She just ran out in front of me!” He looked like he was a breath away from throwing up or passing out. Dana edged closer, just in case.

 

“She was running?! On foot?!” Mulder pressed.

 

Paramedics came over and led the man away as they pulled a shock blanket around him. Dana went over to the body while Mulder went with the guy to ask him some more specific questions. She had been covered with a sheet and Dana paused for a second to prepare before she lifted it off to examine her. At first, nothing stuck out amongst the sea of medical equipment and trauma. Then, she saw it. Peggy’s watch had stopped. The hands were at the same time as the time she and Mulder had lost as they’d been on the road back to the motel.

 

She jogged back over to tell Mulder, but before she could he started beelining for the car.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“Someone trashed the lab and stole the body. We’re going back to the motel.”

 

The drive back was tense. It got worse once they got back and Dana’s phone went off, the chime an inappropriate level of bright, given the circumstances. Trouble came again when she checked. She read it again to make sure she’d read it right. Then she read it again, and again. Finally, she admitted that her eyes hadn’t played tricks on her.

 

“Both labs lost all of the test samples, results, and photos. There’s nothing left, even on their backup systems.”

 

They were both stock-still after she finished for a second. Then, in unison, they scrambled for her laptop. They crowded through the door at the same time and Mulder jittered the entire wait for her laptop to boot and her to sign in. There was nothing left. All of the pictures and results, all of her reports, every single scrap of evidence, down to the tiniest detail had been stripped off her laptop. 

 

“Shit! I knew we shouldn’t have left those alone! I knew it!” Mulder yelled, pacing around the room. 

 

Dana dug through her backup drive, but everything from the case was gone from there too. She sat back. Behind the anger at losing all of the things they’d found, she felt violated. She still felt as though someone uninvited was in her room. Even if they were long since gone.

 

A knock came on the door. Dana went over and looked outside the peephole. There was the girl who’d been with Dr. Nemman the day they’d arrived. She opened the door and the girl pleaded to her.

 

“My name is Theresa Nemman. You’ve got to help me!”

 

Mulder came over and pulled Dana aside.

 

“Come on in,” he said. 

 

He opened the door a little wider and Theresa sped in in a blur. Her spine crumpled as soon as she sat down in the chair across from Dana’s open laptop. Dana closed it and sat in one smooth motion. Mulder, last over after he closed the door, was relegated to the bed. 

 

“This is how it happens,” Theresa said, eyes wet. “I don’t know how I get there. I just find myself out in the woods!” Her voice shook.

 

“How long has it been happening?’ Mulder was back under the veneer of professionalism.

 

“Ever since we graduated. It happened to my friends too. That’s why you need to protect me! I’m scared- I’m scared I might…I might die. Like Peggy did tonight.” Tears welled as she spoke. Her eyes darted back and forth between them. They barely stayed on either of them for more than a few seconds at a time. As soon as she finished she looked down at her hands as they twisted in her lap.

 

“Your father’s the medical examiner. You were the one on the phone. You told me she’d been killed.” She nodded, eyes still on her hands. Dana watched her for a few seconds.

 

“Theresa, your father knows about this doesn’t he? About what happens.” She asked as gently as she could.

 

“Yes. He said never to tell anyone about it. Any of it.”

 

“Why?” Mulder asked.

 

“He thinks that’ll protect me. He thinks he can protect me. But I don’t think he can .”

 

“Do you have the marks, Theresa?” At that question, she deflated and her eyes went back to her hands.

 

“Yes. I’m going to die. I’m going to be next, aren’t I?”

 

Dana made eye contact and tried to make sure the determination could be seen on her face “No. You’re not going to die.”

 

Theresa’s nose started to gush blood and she gasped. She tried to stem it, but there was already blood on her clothes and more covered her fingers. Dana grabbed tissues from the nightstand and put Theresa’s head into the proper position to try and stop the nosebleed.

 

Another knock came from the door and as soon as Mulder opened it a tiny crack, two men pushed it all the way open and forced their way past him. Dr. Nemman was in the lead and reached towards her as he came.

 

“Let’s go home, Theresa,” he said. He near pushed Dana aside and sat next to Theresa, another tissue in hand. “Come on honey. Come on; let’s go home.”

 

“I don’t think she wants to,” said Mulder.”

 

“I don’t care what you think!” Nemman snapped back, eyes on his daughter. “She’s a sick girl.”

 

The detective chose that moment to speak. “Your father wants to take you home. He’ll get you all cleaned up.”

 

“I’ll take you back to where you’re safe , Theresa. Detective Miles and I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”

 

“You’re Billy Miles’ father?”

 

“That’s right, and you stay away from my boy.”

 

The two stormed out with Theresa in tow and drove away like the devil.

 

“You gotta love this place! It’s like a grounded helicarrier,” Mulder said.

 

“They know who’s responsible for the murders, Mulder,” Dana said eyebrows and lips pinched.

 

“They know something.” 

 

“Dr. Nemman’s been hiding medical evidence! He lied on the autopsy reports, and now we find out about the detective. Who else would have a reason to trash the lab and wipe the reports?” 

 

“Why would they do that? What would they want with the corpse?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Makes you wonder what’s in those other two graves,” he said, an increasingly familiar razor sharp glint in his eyes.

 

A few texts later he looked up. “Caretaker says both graves are empty. I think I know who did it. I think I know who killed Karen Swenson and the others.”

 

“Detective Miles?”

 

“Detective Miles’ son.”

 

“Billy Miles. The one in the vegetative state. A boy in a hospital who’s been in a coma and hasn’t even twitched a muscle in the past four years?”

 

“Peggy O’Dell was bound to a wheelchair! It’s a little late for her mutation to suddenly emerge and I don’t think she would’ve been the first choice for a super-soldier serum experiment. But she ran in front of that truck anyway. Look, I’m not making this up. It all fits the profile of alien abduction!”

 

“This fits a profile ?!” Scully was incredulous. Again.

 

Yes ! Peggy O’Dell was killed around 9:00, right around the same time we lost nine minutes on the highway. Something happened in those nine minutes. I think time, as we know it, stopped, and something or someone took control over it.”

 

For once as he bored into her eyes with his, that claustrophobic sensation wasn’t there. His face dropped into a resigned expression.

 

“You think I’m crazy,” he said. The same lines appeared around his eyes.

 

He turned his back to her and started to pace towards the door. He turned back just before he reached it, but Dana almost didn’t notice. She’d had an epiphany. Her brain fired away like a gatling gun and her body swam with excitement.

 

“Peggy O’Dell’s watch stopped just after nine. I made a note of it in the report.”

 

He was right in front of her again.

 

“That’s the reason they come to the forest, because something in it controls them and summons them there. The marks must be from some kind of test that’s being done on them. Maybe it triggers a different kind of mutant gene, and that explains Ray Soames’ body!”

 

“And the force summoned Theresa Nemman to the forest tonight,” Dana continued.

 

“Yes! But Billy Miles took her there, summoned by some kind of alien presence there.”

 

Dana started to laugh. It was so insane, so beyond anything she’d even thought to consider that she felt drunk with it. Mulder laughed with her, his face all lit up again.

 

“Come on,” he said as soon as they’d both calmed down.” Let’s get out of here.”

 

“Where’re we going?”

 

“We’re going to pay Billy Miles a visit.”

 

***

 

In the car Dana thought through the insanity of the last three days. Her mind clicked over it all and she hit on the same thing. She looked over at Mulder who was jittery with excitement and energy. It was like a space heater that poured any unmasked emotion off of him. All the evidence pointed one way. After all that’d been said, she almost didn’t want to ask. Still, as she thought about the crawling, claustrophobic sensation, she had to. It wasn’t something she wanted to ask about, especially with how awful people could be to enhanced people and mutants.

 

“Mulder?” She pushed it out before she could second guess her way out of it.

 

He hummed and glanced over at her. As soon as he saw her, a coat of nerves settled on his face.

 

“You said they thought your sister might have an active enhanced mutation gene.”

 

His face pinched, but he gave a single nod. Not a single sound left his mouth.

 

“Do you have one too? Did they pass it on to you?”

 

His shoulders hunched. He looked over at her and there was real fear in his eyes. He looked back at the road. He didn’t say anything for so long she thought he wasn’t going to say anything else. Just as thought about whether to ignore it or ask again, he started to speak.

 

“You can’t tell anyone,” he said. He looked her dead in the eye. The marrow deep fear ran over him and he was so tense, Dana had the stray thought that if she touched him, he might shatter.

 

“I’m only telling you because you deserve to know. After what I’ve already told you I- you need to know. I can’t really turn it off. I can focus it on specific people or use it to look for people. But I haven’t been able to turn it off since I turned eleven.”

 

“What is it Mulder?” Her voice was a whisper, afraid to shatter the moment.

 

“I can read people. I can’t hear thoughts or see what people are thinking, but I can feel their emotions, their intentions, their desires. If I focus on it the way I’m supposed to, I can predict what they’ll do. If I really focus on it; if I use it right I can tell people what they’ll do before they even know it. I know if they’re going to be an ally, or if they’ll stab me in the back. And-,” he stopped dead and looked at her, remorse in every nook and cranny of his face that she could see.

 

“I read you. Every time we’ve argued and the first time we met. I was reading you. I’m sorry. I can’t- I know that’s not enough, but I really am sorry. I swear, I’ll never read you again without asking. I try not to actively read anyone I’m friends with unless they ask me to.”

 

It all clicked. The claustrophobia, the snakes on her back, the soul deep bore hole he drilled when they’d argued. Dana’s temper flared and she opened her mouth to tear him a new one, but then she stopped. More clicked away. She thought about everything he’d said, everything he was surrounded by all the time. The flames banked to embers and she took a few minutes more of the tense silence between them. The air was so thick it could’ve stopped a bullet. He didn’t say anything as she ran over it all in her head. She snuck a glance and he looked ready for her to boot him out of the car. She sighed.

 

“That’s not okay. I understand why you did it, but you need to know that I’m not okay with that. I won’t out you, and I won’t leave; even though I’m mad enough to kick you out of this car while it’s moving. But just know, if you ever do that to me without asking, on purpose, again; I’m going to punch you. And I will leave.”

 

He nodded and kept his eyes on the road. The thickness of the air slowly dissipated and she started to relax. She wouldn’t be not-mad for a little while. But if she could deal with everything else that’d been thrown at her, she could deal with this too. As long as he kept to his own head, she wouldn’t have to find a way to hide a body.

 

“How does it work?” She asked. Her question surprised her when it slipped out.

 

He glanced at her, an eyebrow raised. “What do you mean?”

 

“Do you feel everyone’s emotions? How do you know what their intentions are? What does it feel like?”

 

He stared at the road for a little before he answered. “With emotions, it’s sort of like I feel them through a latex glove or something. Like one of those heavy duty ones you use for medical stuff, you know? My own are right there inside the glove with me, though. Sometimes unfortunately. With the other two, I don’t know how I know. When I read a person; it’s just there. I know it like I know my own name or that the sky is blue. I don’t know how else to explain it, other than I just know.”

 

“Why didn’t you register?”

 

“It was just after that huge mutant massacre, you know? When I emerged, my parents were so scared that they just kept me hidden. There weren’t any laws that said you had to be tested, and my mutation didn’t change how I looked. Then I got older, and it was just my secret. I didn’t not want to tell anyone. Not at first, anyway. But you know how the FBI is about enhanced people,” he spat out the name like a slur. “After a few weeks, I wasn’t going to tell anyone about that. What people in there say never lines up with what they want with you. Anyway, I saw how it was for the people who were registered. I had enough to deal with. I didn’t need some jackass digging into my file and blasting what I could do to the whole Bureau. Besides, it’s not really noticeable unless I pay attention to it.”

 

 

***


“We could stand here ’till the second coming waiting for Billy to get out of bed. It ain’t gonna happen. He blinks , and I know about it,” the nurse said as she readied an IV bag for Billy.

 

“Did you notice anything unusual when you changed his bedpan last night?” Mulder asked. She blinked at him before she continued.

 

“Do you remember where you were at around nine last night?” Mulder kept on. 

 

“Mmm. Probably watching TV,” 

 

Dana went to the end of the bed on a hunch.

 

“Do you remember what you were watching?” 

 

“You know, I don’t really remember what I watched.” 

 

Dana pulled up the covers. Billy’s feet were filthy with the same ash she carried in the baggy in her pocket.

 

“What is she looking for?”

 

“Mulder, take a look at this,” Dana ignored the nurse.

 

He peered at Billy’s feet.

 

“Do you remember who was taking care of Peggy O’Dell last night?” He asked.

 

“Not me. It’s not my unit, not my aisle,” she said with a little laugh.

 

“I do have a job to do. What’s she doing now.” The nurse peered at Dana as she scraped some of the ash into another baggy she’d prepared. 

 

“Thank you for your time, ma’am,” Mulder said.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Have a good day.”

 

They both left the ward, elbow to elbow.

 

“I don’t believe this! That kid might’ve killed Peggy O’Dell! This is crazy!”

 

“Scully!”

 

“He was in the woods.”

 

“Are you sure? It’s the same stuff?”

 

“This is the same stuff!”

 

“Maybe we should take it and run a test-”

 

“We lost the original sample in the fire. What else could it be,” she exclaimed.

 

“All right, but I want you to understand what you’re saying.”

 

“You said it yourself!”

 

“Yeah, but you have to write it in your report.”

 

That brought her to a screeching halt.

 

“You’re right. We’ll take another sample and run a test for comparison before we do anything.”

 

 

 ***


“The detective’s here,” Dana said as they pulled up.

 

They both went to inspect his truck, but a scream echoed through the darkened woods.

 

They ran towards it. Wet branches smacked her in the face and she fell behind, Mulder’s back disappearing ahead. She looked around a tiny opening, paused for just a second. Pain cracked through her skull and she crumpled to the forest floor. She managed to crack her eyes open, and Detective Miles towered above her, rifle in hand.

 

“We tried to warn you. You wouldn’t listen. I told you to stay out of this.”

 

He darted away.

 

Dana fought through the dizziness and forced herself to all fours. More screams came from deeper in the forest. She bit her lips and forced herself onto her feet. As soon as she was up, pain radiated from the goose-egg that formed on her forehead. She clutched it as she stumbled towards where she thought the screams had came from.

 

A gunshot splintered through the forest and she shifted towards it. She tried to run, but her legs wouldn’t move right.  She was below a little rise again when an unearthly light shone through the trees. Wind pushed against her hard enough to make her eyes water. She stared, enraptured, until the light disappeared as suddenly as it’d appeared.

 

She started to head towards where she thought she remembered the gunshot came from, when she heard it.

 

“Scully!” Mulder trampled through the woods at top speed towards her. She ran for him and met him in the middle.

 

“Mulder, what happened? There was a light!”

 

“It was incredible.” He looked like he’d had a religious experience. As far as he went, she guessed he had.

 

 

  ***


Mulder wound up telling her how Billy had carried Theresa to the light. How the detective had shot at him. How the light had flared and then Theresa and Billy had woken up as if nothing had ever been wrong in the first place. Afterwards, he never told her how he’d managed to get an appointment with Dr. Xavier. He also never told her how he’d managed to get a thumb drive of the session that he hid with all the other evidence he’d squirreled away from prying eyes.

 

She saw what Dr. Xavier had allowed them to have when she went in for the review of her field report. The man at the desk was…not happy, to say the least.

 

“What we just watched. What you wrote in your field reports. The scientific basis just seems wholly unsupportable. You’re aware of that, right?”

 

She steeled herself. They’d pry her integrity from her cold, dead hands.

 

“My reports are personal and subjective. I don’t think I’ve gone so far as to draw conclusions from what I’ve seen.”

 

“Or haven’t seen, if your report reads correctly,” the other man said facetiously. “Did you, or did you not, experience this time loss?”

 

“I can’t give substantial evidence that I did, no.”

 

“What can you substantiate, Agent Scully? I see nothing that justifies the legitimacy of these investigations,” the man at the desk said.

 

“There were crimes committed.”

 

“Yes, but how do you prosecute a case like this? With testimony given under the influence of a telepathic mutant from a boy who claims aliens gave him orders through an implant. In his nose . You have no physical evidence.”

 

She pulled the implant from Ray Soames’ corpse and the baggie of scrapings from Billy Miles’ feet from her case and handed them to the man at the desk.

 

“This is the object Billy Miles described as a communication device. I removed it from the body we exhumed and kept it in my pocket. It was the only piece of evidence that wasn’t stolen or irretrievably erased. I ran a lab test on it. The material couldn’t be identified.”

 

The silence was deafening.

 

“Agent Mulder. What does he believe,” the man at the desk asked. She sighed a little before she answered.

 

“Agent Mulder believes that we are not alone.”

 

“Thank you. That’ll be all, Agent Scully.”

 

She still knew a dismissal when she heard one.

 

That would’ve been all, but as she left the cigarette man brushed past her. Against her better judgement, she turned and watched him go into the division chief’s office that she’d just left.


  ***


The numbers on her phone just kept turning, but Dana couldn’t sleep. The things she’d seen played out in 4K behind her eyes. The things Mulder had told her echoed in her ears whenever the pictures went away. Her ringtone was almost a blessing, and she answered before it was even a quarter through its first loop.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Scully, it’s me. I can’t sleep. I called the DA’s office in Raymond County, but they didn’t have a case file on Billy Miles. The paperwork is gone. We need to talk, Scully.”

 

She paused, memories of an unmarked van and military men dressed in S.H.I.E.L.D. tac gear outside the Hoover building floated behind her eyes again.

 

“Yes. Tomorrow.” She hung up after a few beats of silence and kept her vigil with her clock, the numbers glaring through the dark into the backs of her eyes.