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Chapter Text

When Castiel woke up, he was disoriented, but he immediately recognized his surroundings. A void of nothingness. There was darkness all around him, and all he could see around him as he slowly got to his feet was an endless vacuum. 

"Cas," Jack's voice echoed across the void, and Castiel wasn't sure he'd heard it at first. But his son called out to him again, and this time, a lone figure appeared in the distance. Castiel stumbled towards it, memory beginning to permeate within him, propelling him on. 

This was the empty. Castiel knew he was dead; he knew Jack was dead. That must also mean that Sam and Dean were dead too. In heaven, he hoped, reunited with their parents and happy. Finally, at peace. Castiel dwelled on that thought as he realized what that must mean for the world. The world that Chuck- God, his father- had so cruelly destroyed. 

If it was all over, then why was he awake? Castiel didn't know why he had awakened from the empty once again, but he'd figure that out later. He hurried to Jack and pulled the Nephilim into his arms, happy to put his arms around the boy he considered his son. They stayed like that for a few precious moments before Castiel pulled away to look at him. 

"Jack," he said softly as he looked over the Nephilim's features. "Your soul?"

"I got it restored," Jack explained before another figure appeared before them. Castiel recognized her right away and sighed. 

"Billie," he said as Death approached, a grim look on her face. "Why am I awake? Why are either of us awake?"

"Because you and the Winchesters interfered with the fabric of time again," Billie replied, a hint of annoyance in her voice. "And because this time your interference isn't just contained to your universe."

"I don't understand," Castiel felt confused. "It was God who-"

"Yeah, I know," Billie cut him off. "But we can't have him destroying the fabric of all time just because you pissed him off. He's gone too far this time and now it's all a mess. Everything."

"I don’t understand, what’s a mess?" Castiel was still confused. He knew that Chuck had destroyed the world, and he remembered Chuck mentioning that he had created many other universes, but he didn't understand how he and the Winchesters could possibly affect any of them.

"I'm sending the two of you back to the mess you created, along with Sam and Dean." Billie said. "But I think you’ll find that you'll wish you stayed here. You see, Chuck wasn’t lying when he said he created many different universes, well now they’re all intersecting with one another and the result is just nothing but chaos. Monsters that belong in one world, people who should have died in other worlds, it's just..." Billie trailed off, shaking her head in utter disbelief at her own words. 

"What are we supposed to do in that world?" Castiel asked as he waited patiently for Billie to speak again. "It’s not like we have the ability to put things back together again."

"No, Humpty Dumpty, you can’t," Billie said sarcastically, “but you helped make it now you get to live in it. And, just as a favor, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a loan.” 

"A loan?" Castiel exchanged glances with Jack. He didn't like the sound of that, and he was sure whatever he agreed to now was going to hurt him later. 

"Three souls from the empty and three from heaven… what’s left of it anyway. Any human, demon or angel that you want. I'll send them with you, but I'll be wanting them back at some point."

Castiel swallowed. There were plenty of angels he'd love to see again and he knew Sam and Dean had lost some close friends over the years. They had carried the grief and guilt over their deaths with them through the years. As he thought through all the people he’d lost, his mind finally did settle on six.

"I agree," Castiel said, and before the words left his mouth, Billie snapped her fingers and Castiel suddenly found himself in the dirt. The air around him was hot and thick with the smell of smoke. As he looked around, the sight around him chilled him. 

All around him was the sight of destruction and death. He stood on the broken, charred sidewalk of a burnt-out city- or what was left of one. The metal frames of collapsed skyscrapers, the piles of rubble, and the uprooted streets told the grim story of annihilation on a devastating scale. 

"Castiel?" A feminine voice caught his attention, and as the angel turned, he found Jack standing next to him, examining the six forms that stood before them. Hannah, Meg, Crowley, Jo Harvelle, Eileen Leahy, and Charlie Bradbury.

Chapter Text

Middle Earth, Lake-town


The world around them was on fire. As Kili gazed around at the destruction with horror, he winced in sympathy as Smaug flew by and demolished a house with his massive tail, spilling people into the icy lake. 


Kili was afraid. The breath froze in his throat as he felt the heat of the flames around him. The world was aglow with dragon fire. He clung to the boat, trying to row despite the stiff pain still in his leg.


And then Kili swallowed as the dragon turned and barreled right for them. "Look out! Everyone duck!" Tauriel exclaimed as everyone managed to duck just in time as the dragon swooped in close to them, so close that Kili could feel the wind created by Smaug's massive body propelling through the sky. But as he turned towards the rear of their tiny boat, Kili's heart skipped a beat as Fili caught the side of Smaug's tail in the head and toppled backward into the icy waters of the lake.


"Fili! no!" Kili scrambled for the rear of the boat, nearly jumping off right after his brother. But Bofur and Oin hurried to grasp him before he dove off the boat. "Let me go! FILI!!!" He fought and flailed about, trying to go after his brother, but the two dwarves held him back. He turned back towards Tauriel, who kept rowing the boat through the town.


"Please, Tauriel, please! turn around, we have to go back!" he demanded, his heart pounding as he focused on the elf woman who stood at the bow of the small ship, steering it through the water. She stayed behind for him. There was something between them, Surely she'd understand.


But to his dismay, she shook her head. "We can't. We have to get these children to safety. I'm sorry, Kili."


Kili gazed towards Bard's children, Sigrid and Tilda huddled together near the center of the boat, crying and shaking in fear. Tauriel was right, and he knew it, but he couldn't just leave his brother. He gazed behind him, scanning the surface of the water desperately for Fili. There was no sign of him, and they were speeding away by the speed and strength of elf driven power.


He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to meet Bofur in the eyes. "She's right, Lad." The older dwarf explained. "We can go look for him once we get Bard's children to safety."


Kili glanced at Bofur incredulously. He felt as though someone was squeezing his insides, tears sprung to his eyes, and he crumpled into the boat, covering his face with his hands. He could feel the boat jolt as Tauriel maneuvered it through the debris, taking it further and further away. He couldn't let this happen. He couldn't leave Fili to die.


By now, the boat was far from the spot where Fili had disappeared. Kili glanced up at the chaos around him. Tears ran down his face, and he no longer felt that instinct for survival. He made the decision and quickly. Taking Bofur and Oin by surprise, he stood up, scrambled towards the back, and dove off the boat into the icy water. He could hear the others calling for him, but their cries were drowned out as he hit the water and went under. I'm coming Fee!



Fili felt the blow of Smaug's tail and the sting of cold water almost simultaneously. The blow to the head plunged him into the lake. He struggled to stay afloat in the chaos, but his head pulsated with pain so intense, it blurred his vision, and cold assaulted his body like a thousand tiny needles drilling into his flesh.


He managed to break the surface, desperate hands managing to latch onto something substantial. Chaos still erupted all around him. A flurry of ice, fire, screams, fear, and death surrounded him as the people of Lake-town scrambled to escape the dragon's onslaught.


The boat was gone. Fili hoped they had made it to safety, and he hoped Kili was alright. He shivered as the ice-cold water clung into his very bones. He needed to get out of this water. But much of the town was on fire. Foolish humans , he thought. To build a town made of wood on a lake, right before the feet of a fire-breathing dragon.


He watched as Smaug flew far overhead, heading after a boat of fleeing humans, enjoying the bloodbath he was creating. Fili felt nothing but contempt for him, and he felt consumed with guilt over his company's having caused this. He thought of Thorin, wondered if the rest of the company was still alive. If the dragon had broken through, he doubted they were. This quest had been doomed to failure from the beginning. They had been fools to think they had any hope of reclaiming Erebor and now their fool's errand had led to their deaths and the deaths of hundreds of innocent Lakes people. Fili realized that perhaps, himself, Kili, Oin, and Bofur might be the only survivors of the doomed company.


There was no time for regrets right now. As Fili clung to the overturned boat he'd managed to grab hold of, he knew that the cold itself was his greatest enemy at the moment. Ice floated around him, and snow fell readily. Fili shivered fiercely as he searched for any structure the dragon could have left standing. As cold as he was, the dragon fire almost felt welcoming. He swam through the water, limbs going numb. Debris and bodies floated among the ice around him as he maneuvered through the ruined town.


He finally found a cluster of buildings that had managed to escape the dragon's wrath- at least for now. He swam for the closest one. It wouldn't protect him for long, he knew, but maybe in the short term. With his vision blurred, and blood leaking into his eyes, it was hard to see. His head felt like it would crack open, and he clung to consciousness. Finally, with his last ounce of strength, he managed to pull himself up onto the wooden structure and out of the water. He crawled into the house, where he promptly collapsed, giving in to the darkness.



Kili coughed as he swam through the frozen lake. He'd taken in a little lake water after being swept under by a rain of debris. The dragon was gone now, seemed to be preoccupied with something up in the bell tower. At least he was leaving the rest of the town alone for now.


"Fili!" Kili's voice was raw from having called out his brother's name over and over. He searched every inch of debris he came across as he swam frantically. Pure adrenaline had kept him from feeling much of the icy lake, but he knew that wouldn't last long. He needed to find his brother.


Kili had seen plenty of bodies. Some floated by in the lake with him; others lay in the debris. He saw arms and legs sticking out of the remains of collapsed buildings. The ash of fires hung in the air, mixing with falling snowflakes. Every time he saw a body, he froze. He pictured finding his brother, his body broken, among the debris. No, he had to be alive. Kili didn't even want to contemplate the alternative. Because if Fili wasn't alive, he didn't see how he'd be alive much longer either.


As he swam, he noticed a crop of buildings floating in the lake. He almost swam past them, but something told him to take a closer look. It was as if some instinct was drawing his attention. Eagerly, he swam for the buildings, seeing their burned-out rooftops as he neared. They were tall lake houses, about three of them, all partially intact. They had somehow managed to survive the main onslaught of the dragon, although they all had varying degrees of damage, and they were among the few buildings in Lake-town that were not on fire.


As he neared, something caught his eye. Something was lying in the doorway of the house in the center. It just looked like a lump, but somehow, Kili knew better. "Fili!" he exclaimed as he swam frantically, hoisting himself out of the water and onto the small wooden platform which supported the houses. The houses swayed in the water with his weight as he crawled out.


Fili lay in the doorway, unmoving. Kili was relieved to see him, but that relief faded away as he came upon his brother and found the bloody gash on the side of his face. And how still he was. In this cold, Fili should be shivering. Kili held his breath as he rolled his brother onto his back.


"No," Kili gasped, putting a finger to the blonde dwarf's neck. "Please wake up." He felt the very faint thumb of a pulse and let out a breath. His brother was alive, but barely. Kili didn't know how severe that head wound was, but he knew it was the cold itself that was killing his brother, and could very well kill him soon.


"It's okay brother," Kili murmured, "I'm going to take care of you." He staggered to his feet and grabbed hold of Fili's shoulder and gently dragged him further into the house as he gazed around at his surroundings. The roof of the house was gone, exposing them to the chilly night sky, and the windows were all broken, glass littered the wooden floorboards. The furniture had been tossed about and lay in piles of debris around the room.


As Kili gazed around, looking for anything he could use as a blanket to warm his brother, he was suddenly overcome with a wave of dizziness. Blinking, he swayed on his feet, "no," he murmured, not understanding what was happening. All he knew was that he had to stay awake. But no matter how hard he struggled, no matter how hard he fought it, the darkness threatened to overtake him. The last thing he did before the shadow of darkness finally fell over him was reach for Fili.


Chapter Text

Captain Jean-Luc Picard hadn’t thought of himself as a captain for a very long time. Three years. Had it been that long already? He’d lost track of the days and barely noticed the passage of weeks, months, years.


As he gazed around the cavern at the small fires and the figures huddled around them in the shadows of the dim light, he wondered if any of them realized how long they’d been living that way. 


This cavern was long, and it had taken them a few months to map it all out, but once they had, it became their new home. It was safe. It masked their life signs from scanners, and it protected them from the borg.


Unfortunately, the cave had minimal resources, and they needed to brave going to the surface to hunt, scavenge for supplies, and meet with other encampments, and whenever they did, they risked certain death. Or worse. 


There was any number of ways someone could die on the surface. Though the Dominion had moved on after devastating Earth three years ago, they had a well-established outpost on neighboring Alpha Centauri and Jem’Heddar warships were known to pass through the system or to use the surface as a training ground. They could detect the life signs of foraging parties. 


And there was always the borg. What the Dominion didn’t destroy, the bord swept through two years after and picked off what was left. They too had moved on having left humanity a shell of what it was before, but drones still roamed the surface, always assimilating and always a threat.


“Captain,” Picard didn’t hear her voice right away, but a more gentle “Jean-Luc,” caught his attention and had him turning to greet Doctor Beverly Crusher. His love, his soulmate, the one person that made all of this bearable. 


“We’re getting low on medical supplies again,” Dr. Crusher informed him. “When is Will supposed to be back?”


“He’ll be back in a few days,” Picard responded. “How are we doing on food?’


“Down to rations again,” Beverly’s voice was grim. Picard was used to eating cave insects and even bats by now, but after three years even they were growing scarce.


“Do what you can,” Picard replied. What else could he tell her? They were responsible for a small colony of civilians. They depended on Picard and what was left of his crew for their survival. They were what was left of Earth’s population. Men, women, children, none of them had ever gone to Starfleet academy, none of them had the long years of experience that they had.


At least Picard and the crew of the Enterprise weren’t alone. They’d been joined by what was left of the crew of the USS Defiant a year into the invasion of the Dominion, and more recently, the USS Voyager had returned home to the alpha quadrant after seven years int he delta quadrant- only to discover that they would have been better off staying away. After all, who would want to come back to this?


But Picard’s crew wasn’t complete either. He thought about Data and Geordi all the time and hoped they were alive, but after three years, he had begun to lose hope. After the final assault, when they’d been forced to abandon the Enterprise, Data and Geordi had last been seen helping a group of civilians into the last of the escape pods. Now they were lost. Dead or alive, no one knew.


Of course, there were the other losses too. Worf, Captain Sisko, Chief O’Brien, Tuvok, Harry Kim, The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and countless other friends and family. It was the unknown that was the worst part of it all. Maybe if they had all died, their loss would be easier to accept. But in this state of affairs, they might as well be dead. Because no former federation planet and no ally would dare try to approach Earth. No one would want to anyway, what was the point? There was nothing here but death and misery.


“Jean-Luc?” Beverly’s voice brought Picard out of his thoughts, and he turned to her. She gazed up at him, her eyes full of concern. “When was the last time you slept?”


“Not now, Beverly,” he said. “I’ll feel better when Will and the others return, and everyone is safe.”


Of course, Picard thought that whenever anyone left the safety of the cave. Picard imagined their steps. Outside the cave, through the valley, up and over the mountains, and down into the ruins of the city. It was a long road; it took days. But it was worth it because the ruins of the city still provided a great deal of scavenging to be had. After three years of neglect, power sources had failed, and buildings had collapsed, but raw materials were abundant, and animals and plants had already begun colonizing the empty buildings. Beyond the city, the forests provided even more materials. The woods had just started to recover after the Dominion devastated them.


“Captain Picard,” Picard turned to see Captain Janeway and Kira Nerys approach. Their faces told him they had more news for them.


“Yes, what is it?” he asked. Kira and Janeway were his counterparts. Janeway was a fellow captain, trained by Starfleet and honed by her seven years in the delta quadrant, and Kira had been the leader of the Bajoran resistance against the Dominion in the early years of the war. 


“We’ve been getting some strange readings from the surface,” Janeway began. “Tom and B’Elanna aren’t sure what they mean, but there are tachyons and temporal anomalies we aren’t sure where they are coming from.”


“Dax suggested the same thing,” Kira said. “She’s working with Tom and B’Elanna on this.”


“What do you think they mean?” Picard asked, exchanging glances with Dr. Crusher as they listened to the report. “What sort of temporal anomalies?”


“Well if I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were the result of some experiments with the timeline,” Janeway explained, the scientist in her trying to mull about her own theories. “Or some sort of dimensional experiments.”


Picard frowned. He knew that the Dominion sometimes used Earth as a training ground for their soldiers, but he didn’t pin them as the time to be concerned with the fabric of time. He wasn’t sure what these readings meant.


“We should keep monitoring them for now,” Picard suggested with a shrug. “If we have to, we’ll send someone to investigate. Maybe we can talk to Odo about it when they get back.”


Janeway and Kira both nodded and turned to return to their duties. Taking care of the refugees was always the number one priority, but as Starfleet officers, scientific curiosity was still present, especially since there was always a hope that someday they could find a way to rid the quadrant of the Dominion and the borg and then, perhaps things could be as they were.


Picard knew that was a fool’s hope. Nothing would ever really be the same again. The federation was gone. Even the Klingons and the Romulans had been brought to their knees. In fact, Kira and Janeway had brought refugees with them. Bajorans, Romulans, Ferengi, Vulcans, Klingons, even a few Cardassians. All of them had been refugees, and now they were little more than immigrants living in a world not their own. Their own homeworlds had been devastated or occupied by Dominion forces just as Earth had been and their people were scattered in the wind.


So here Picard was, living with Dr. Crusher, Deanna Troi, Will Riker, Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay, Tom Paris, B’Elanna Torres, Kira Nerys, Jadzia Dax, Julian Bashir, Odo, and a whole host of lost, desperate, defenseless refugees. In this cave on Earth that was now their home.

Chapter Text

As Willow gazed around at the destruction, she knew that Buffy felt guilty for all of this. She held the gas mask to her face as she scrounged around for anything they could use for resources. 

“Here,” Buffy’s voice came from behind her. “Will, there’s some wood here we could use.” Willow couldn’t miss the solemness in Buffy’s voice as she scavenged through the rubble. She moved to her friend’s side and began to collect the wood. 

“This was my fault,” Buffy said solemnly. “I let my guard down. I let this happen.” Willow sighed. She didn’t know what to say at the moment. After all, it had all been said already. They’d been living in this post-apocalyptic ruin for months now, and they’d lost so much.

“Don’t,” she said after a moment as she knelt to gather the wood. “It happened, and we can’t change it now. We owe it to everyone…” Willow swallowed as she remembered the faces of those they’d lost, each one causing a wound she knew would never heal. Xander, Dawn, Faith, Kennedy… so many others. 

Despite Willow’s pleas, Buffy continued as they walked through the rubble. “I thought I didn’t have to carry this burden alone anymore,” she said. “I thought I could rely on the idea that I wasn’t the only slayer anymore. I wasn’t the only one who could fight this. But it wasn’t true, and now they are all gone.”

“Buffy, stop!” Willow urged again, turning to look at her friend more directly. “Just stop. Wallowing in this guilt isn’t going to bring them back. Nothing will. This is our reality now, and we have to learn to deal with it.”

Willow didn’t mean to sound harsh, but they’d been through so much, and she was tired of having to relive the past. She was tired of having to go over every little mistake that led up to this, tired of recalling faces of her loved ones. She was just tired.

They continued their resource gathering in silence. Willow wondered why they even bothered — bothered to try to survive when this was what they had to wake up to every morning. A desolate world overrun by creatures that Buffy couldn’t kill. This was their world now. This was their kingdom.

It hadn’t been so long ago when they all thought they had one. The First had been defeated, and the Hellmouth had been closed once and for all. It was over. The giant crater that was once their home town was a reminder of what they thought was their final assault.

But they soon discovered that while Sunnydale was destroyed, a second assault reared up a hundred miles away. Then another and another. Soon, there were Hellmouths were opening up all over the country, and the new slayers that Willow had helped activate were overwhelmed.

“Hey,” a masculine voice from behind her had Willow whirling, dropping the pile of wood she’d collected as she geared up to fight. She let out a breath in relief when she found Angel approaching.

“Sorry,” he said as he bent to help pick up the fallen wood. 

“You shouldn’t do that,” Buffy scoffed. “We thought you were a vamp, and Mr. Pointy is feeling a little trigger happy these days.” To illustrate her words, Buffy held up her trusty wooden vampire stake.

“I am a vampire,” Angel reminded her. “So watch where you point that thing.” Angel’s tone was light-hearted, and he backed it off with a small smirk, but Buffy said nothing, just put the stake away and shrugged, dropping her gaze.

Willow still had to get used to seeing Angel out and about when it was mid-day, but it was perhaps the only side effect of living in this post-nuclear wasteland. The skies were always overcast and dark. Willow didn’t remember the last time she’d seen the sun, and it gave Angel the ability to walk around in daylight.

“We should probably head back up to the mountains,” Angel suggested as Buffy and Willow grazed through the debris, both holding their gas masks. “Willow’s anti-radiation spell isn’t going to last much longer.”

Willow was more than eager to get back up to their mountain home, even if it meant a grueling seven-day journey by foot, and even if home was a cave deep cave high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Willow wished that they had been able to take Angel’s car, otherwise dubbed the Angel mobile for this trip, but the old 1967 Plymouth GTX had seen better days and needed repairs, so they’d been forced to leave it at the base of the mountains and walk the rest of the way. Willow hoped that Angel had managed to find an auto shop to raid during this mission.

“Alright, let’s get going,” Buffy said, her flat tone indicating a lack of interest as she hoisted her duffle back up onto her shoulder and started to head for the highway. “If we hurry, we can make it to the Grapevines by nightfall, and I don’t know, maybe Angel could catch us a deer or something. Preferably not a radioactive one.” 

The radiation wasn’t so harmful here, most of it had been spread south by the winds, and that alone was the reason for these long term scavenger missions. They were able to stay here a little longer, and the urban area still provided a lot of opportunities to look for supplies. 

These missions weren’t needed all the time; after all, the forests were still pristine, and Willow had learned to gather herbs for her spells. And it had taken them a little time to learn since none of them had more than a bit of survival skill experience at hand, but they had learned how to be resourceful. 

Of course, the threat was always in what you might encounter on a trip like this. Vampires and demons weren’t the only hazards. Other people became just as much of a threat. People often waited to rob whatever supplies you’d managed to acquire, rather than risk going into the radiation zone themselves. That was where Willow’s skills as a witch came in handy. She’d managed to rig them up a nice radiation repellent spell that allowed them to roam the wasteland for days without feeling the dangerous effects of radiation, and going into the massive urban center provided a wealth of supplies that others couldn’t quite get to.

The trio gathered the last of the supplies and began to make their way out of the war-torn wasteland that was once Los Angeles.

Chapter Text

Mulder walked into the FBI building, feeling refreshed and ready to dive into his work. He and Scully had been a romantic couple for a month now, ever since New Years. When Scully walked into his office seven years ago, Mulder had thought that she had been sent to spy on him. But he quickly learned to trust her. As FBI agents, they had been through their share of life-threatening situations, and like any law enforcement partnership, they had become very close as a result of these run-ins with danger. Mulder trusted Scully with his life, and she trusted him with hers.

But there was always more than that. Mulder had come to depend on Scully for his very soul. She was his rock, the only person he could ever trust. Through the years, his endless obsession with his work in the paranormal had cost them both dearly. There was no way he could ever repay Scully for standing by him through thick and thin. Her constant skepticism and denial of the things they’d both seen could be frustrating at times, but Mulder relied on her to keep him from falling too deep and letting the darkness consume him entirely. 

This morning, he had woken up next to her, as he had all week. It was a Sunday, and she complained about having to go to work, but they were working on a critical case involving possible alien sightings in California. They planned to leave for the golden state tomorrow, and Mulder had insisted that they had needed to evaluate some evidence he had waiting for them in his basement office in the FBI building. Scully mentioned that she had a meeting at the US capitol this morning but would join him in his office later. So, they had parted ways, and he had driven the distance to the FBI headquarters building and headed to his office in the basement. The building was empty, as it was Sunday, and he was the only one planning to work. So he thought. When he got into the building, he found Skinner standing in front of the main entrance, waiting for him.

 “I thought we were the only ones with no life today,” Mulder said as he and Skinner stood in front of the window, enjoying the morning sun beaming through the window.

“We?” Skinner asked, glancing around. Walter Skinner was the only other person besides Scully that Mulder felt close too. He was Mulder and Scully’s boss, and he had saved their lives on countless occasions and had become somewhat of a father figure to both of them.

“Scully will be here in a few minutes; she had to run down to the capitol building to look something up. Is there something I can help you with, Sir?”

“There is, Agent. I thought we-“ Skinner was cut off when a bright flash cut in through the upper window above Mulder’s desk. Mulder and Skinner both threw themselves to the ground. The flash lasted only a few seconds, and Mulder stood up to gaze with horror as a huge mushroom cloud rose over the buildings. A nuclear explosion.

“Oh shit! Get down!” Skinner demanded. They had mere seconds to dive under some desks as a loud boom roared around him. Mulder felt his ears pop painfully as the glass around them shattered, and strong winds rushed through the building blowing everything in sight…

Moments later, it was quiet. Mulder rose from his shelter and looked around. The structure around them had partially collapsed, and it was no longer possible to see outside. Skinner walked over to him. “It looked like it came from somewhere behind the capitol building,” he said.

“Oh, no!” Mulder exclaimed, and a wave of horror caused him to surge to his feet, “Scully!”

“Mulder don’t try to go out there,” Skinner warned. “There is radiation, thermal heat, and flying debris.”

“I know what a nuclear weapon does,” Mulder snapped. But he didn’t care about his own safety right now. He had only one concern. “I have to find her,” Mulder insisted as he was already heading for a gap in the rubble. The thought of a giant mushroom cloud and the hell that could be going on above him did not affect him. His mind was wholly occupied with the need to find Scully.

“If she was at the capitol, there is no way she could have survived!” Skinner shouted as Mulder hurried up the stairs. Mulder stopped for a second and tried to calm himself. He was terrified of that possibility. “I won’t accept that,” he said. “You should get into the basement. If the building collapses, the flooring should hold, and the basement is resistant against fallout. I’ll be back with her, or I won’t be back at all.”

Mulder ran out into the street and was horror-struck by what he saw. It was as if he had just walked into hell. The sky was black. All around him were piles of rubble where buildings had stood. Mulder could see the enormous mushroom-shaped cloud rising about a mile away at the capitol building. The air was hot, and particles and debris rained down on him like snow. Mulder used the bottom of his trench coat as shielding from the radioactive particles raining down on him. The world around him had been transformed into something straight out of a nightmare. 

Mulder broke into a run through the streets. He called out her name over and over, and as he did, he began to see people all around him, moving past him on their way toward safety. Many ran in panic, and it became hard to steer through the crowds. On the ground, there were many bodies, and Mulder glanced at each one of them, afraid to discover her among them. He pressed onwards, and suddenly his skin was on fire. He looked to see blisters forming on hands, and the pain and heat became intense. He felt the intense pressure around him.

As Mulder moved through the crowds, he could see the stream of people becoming scarce and their injuries more intense. When he first stepped out of the FBI building, he saw many with cuts and terrible wounds inflicted upon them by flying debris. There was a man with a shard of glass in his eye and a woman lying dead on the floor, having been impaled by a flag pole. But now, the injuries were much more horrendous. People with third-degree thermal radiation burns all over their bodies lumbered passed him, many barely alive and more like zombies. There was a man whose entire body was blackened and a woman whose intestines were hanging out of her body.

It was 20 minutes later, and Mulder continued to call out for Scully, and his desperation was the only thing that fueled him forward, as the hot fiery hell around him was agonizing. Then, he was confronted with a sickening sight. The US capitol building was gone. All that stood in its place was blackened Earth. The mushroom cloud loomed menacingly from where the capital once stood. The structures of downtown Washington DC would have blocked his view of it… if they were still there. From where he now stood, not one building stood between him and the center of the blast, more than a mile away.

Then, another sight made his heart jump into his throat. It was Scully’s car, barely recognizable in a twisted metal heap in front of a pile of debris. It was blackened, and as he neared it, he found her trench coat, the one she had been wearing this morning when she left, flapping about in the wind, pinned by the car. Mulder hurried over and retrieved the coat and immediately felt the tears well up in his eyes. He was just about to give in and let the heat and radiation take him when he heard her voice. 

“Mulder!” he turned and almost doubled over at the sight of her as she emerged from the lumbering crowds and billowing dust clouds. She lumbered toward him, and he could see horrible third-degree burns on her face and hands. Her black business suit was covered in dust and debris and was torn. Mulder rushed toward her, and just as he reached her, her knees buckled up under her, and she collapsed into his arms.

“It’s so hot…so hot,” she said weakly as Mulder lay her onto the road and used her trench coat to cover her head and hands, shielding her from further injuries. “It’s okay, I have you,” he said as he lifted her into his arms and started back towards the FBI building…



It must have been at least three days later when Mulder, Skinner, and a large group of Washington refugees found themselves wandering along the highway, passing homes and small towns along the way. No one talked about what had happened; no one could wrap their minds around it just yet.

Their pace had been plodding. Mulder felt nauseous as he pushed the small farmer’s wagon he’d found along the way. Scully lay inside, covered in blankets and bandages. He knew they both could have gotten a hefty dose of radiation, and many people who had started with them had already died along the way. 

The stream of refugees along just about every high way was almost constant. They clogged the streets as they made their way towards the many stations set up out of the nuclear fallout zone. Mulder hadn’t heard much about the condition of DC once he’d left it, or the shape of the US government, for now, he figured everyone was still trying to get a clear idea of where to go from here. All he did know is that most of congress and the presidential cabinet had been wiped out in one fell swoop. As he walked, he had passed many military vehicles as they patrolled the highways, monitoring the refugees. He suspected that the military had been quick to step in and impose martial law on the region, but he could only imagine what was happening in the rest of the country as news of the calamity had reached all corners of the globe by now.

“We should be in Winchester, Virginia, by sunset,” Skinner mumbled as he walked alongside them. “There’s a medical center set up to help the refugees, and it’s far enough away from any possible fallout, we can stay there for a while.”

Mulder pursed his lips in contemplation. If Scully were well, she would have been at that medical center, ready and eager to help. But now, she was among the ones who needed help.

“Who do you think, did it?” Mulder had been contemplating that question for days. Who did this? How did it happen? Who was to blame? Mulder’s mind had immediately gone to the Smoking man and the syndicate as having some involvement, but it was too soon to tell for sure. And although they had all been behind some pretty big conspiracies, this seemed a little extreme even for them.

“I don’t know,” Skinner responded. “I think it’s too early for those kinds of rumors. And before you say it, what possible reason would any of those bastards have to destroy their own country?”

“I don’t know,” Mulder admitted. “But they’re my number one suspects. And I swear if they’re behind it, they are going to pay.” he’d managed to expose the deepest conspiracies behind the syndicate and their cover-up of alien activity on Earth, and they had been more or less defeated, or so he had thought. 

“Let’s just get these people to safety,” Skinner suggested. “We can worry about what comes next after that.” Mulder was forced to concur with that suggestion.