----------- 5 -----------
Back to the present,
He tells the story,
“In a way she made sense, and in a way she didn’t,” Fox tells me, softly. “See, there was a part of both of us—a part of our commitment to each other as partners and as people--- that was always very similar in context. And that was the certainty that one of us could die at any given moment---and that neither of us wanted to be the one who was left behind. I would have died for her---she would have died for me. It was an unspoken agreement and I knew that she would have willingly sacrificed herself for me---if that was what it took, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I think that she was mad at me for taking that choice away from her. For thinking in those same lines as she-----for understanding that I would have died trying to keep her alive. I know that wasn’t what she wanted, either, but I didn’t care. Both of us were fighting for the right to throw ourselves on the proverbial grenade, but neither one of us really wanted to win.”
He stops and cracks his knuckles, yawning like he hasn’t slept in weeks. His eyes have the dullness of weary men, the listlessness of those who have wandered for so long that they can sleep no longer. Sometimes, I wonder if he does----sleep, that is. I wonder if he lies down to rest his head, or if he just stays up all night to torture himself because she’s not lying there with him. Does he see her----that night, those horrors, every time he closes his eyes?
It’s something I can’t even begin to fathom.
“But then, thank god, she fell asleep and didn’t wake up till we saw the guys again, awhile later when we were all tired and at a standstill. She didn’t remember any of what she had said, and I certainly didn’t remind her. And by then, we had found this guy who the gunmen called, ‘the brain,’ and as it turned out,” Fox pauses to expel a short chuckle, then continues, “his real name was Josh.” He laughs again, and I try my best to smile, to make as if I find this amusing as well. I still don’t understand a lot of it, and come to think of it, I don’t understand a lot of HIM, period, but I can pretend with the best of them.
“He was one paranoid asshole,” Fox muses, his eyes taking on that far away quality again. “And I thought I was going to have to break him in half, but at least he knew what he was talking about. He explained to us how he got his hands on the information he had, and I filled in the blanks. It was exhausting and tedious, but it got us somewhere, at least—even if Scully just lied there tossing and turning, her fever getting higher. And to add insult to injury, this guy—the ‘brain,’ Josh or whatever----he threatened to blow Scully’s head off the second he spotted her. He thought she was going to infect us and kill us all, and to be honest, I think I was a little afraid of that too. But he wanted me to leave Scully behind—something I was NEVER going to do, and if it wasn’t for his sister, the doctor… Well, let’s just say there would have been a shoot out if she hadn’t jumped in to mediate.” He sighs, then goes on, “Anyway, an agreement was reached, and he would let his sister—Kylee--- help us an long as I ‘swore to keep my sick and probably contagious partner the hell away from everyone because he didn’t want to die.’…Like I said, he was an asshole, but thank god for him at that moment…”
Later that night,
Five and a half years ago
Inside the tunnel under the city
“---kill you, if you so much as THINK of-----“
“----infected, and I’m not gonna die because your wife----“
Langly, Byers and Frohike stood at the ready, hands raised, palms out to try and mediate an increasingly dangerous situation. On the one hand, they had Fox Mulder, who was tired, angry, and would willingly die for his partner before he let any harm come to her. And on the other hand, they had Josh ‘the brain’ Eckerly, a paranoid thirty-something computer hacker, who wielded a sawed off shot gun and the frightening theory that Scully had been infected with a virus that would kill them all within hours.
Mulder refuted, and Josh insisted. Mulder yelled, and Josh pointed a gun at his head. Mulder refused to back down, and Josh threatened to pull the trigger. It was a precarious catch 22, and the guys knew that both sides would willingly kill each other before they would shake hands and make nice. It was sad, but it was true.
“Look,” Byers tried, slowly. “Let’s just calm down and---“
“Shut up,” Mulder ordered, angrily.
“Yeah, shut up,” Josh agreed, just as angrily.
Byers sighed. At least they agreed on one thing, he thought.
So he shut up and let them argue—maybe because he thought they’d wear themselves out, or maybe because he thought they’d realize that they were all on the same side. But whatever the reason, there was really little else for any of them to do at that point. What else was there for him to say? It was either be slaughtered by Mulder or be shot by Eckerly, and neither option was particularly appealing.
“---stupid asshole! You are going to get us all killed-----“
“----Me?! YOU are going to get us all killed with that gun pointed----“
Witheringly, Byers, Langly and Frohike turned to stare at Josh’s only companion---his younger sister, Kylee---while the echoes of Josh and Mulder’s angry, equally passionate claims rung louder and louder inside their impromptu meeting area. She merely closed her eyes---as if trying to ward off the battering anger----and Frohike looked from Byers to Langly nervously. Josh paused to take a breath and Mulder held onto Scully tighter. He glared at the object of his rage and leaned back into the dusty, spider webbed booth. Then they both opened their mouths at the same time and started yelling again---their arguments bouncing off the unstable walls of an abandoned boxcar situated in the middle of an underground railway system.
“You are one crazy son of a bitch!” Josh yelled. “She’s been tainted with that goddamn virus, half dead with fever, and you think I’m going to sit here and let her get us all killed?!”
Mulder shook his head and growled back, “how many times do I have to tell you?! She is NOT infected with some disease—she’s been drugged! YOU are the crazy son of a bitch if you think I’m going to let you kill her when there’s no reason----“
It was a soprano like voice that came from behind them, and all the men turned their heads to regard the diminuitive looking woman who was coming to her wits end . She was a soft blond haired, blue eyed, innocent looking thing, covered in dust and soot, and tired as hell---not to mention pissed beyond belief.
“Damn it Josh,” she admonished, angrily, “I can’t take anymore of your screaming! Leave Agent Mulder alone for christ sakes! If he says that Agent Scully isn’t infected with the black oil virus then I believe him.”
“NO!” she yelled, angrily. “Don’t ‘But Kylee ANYTHING!’ I don’t CARE. We both know that you’re not going to kill either of them, so why don’t you act like a fucking grownup and just put the gun down before someone gets hurt! That woman needs medical attention and I am a doctor who can prescribe it. So while I TRY to help her, why don’t you explain what it is that you think we need to do---rather than standing here screaming your stupid head off like a goddamned ten year old!”
Mulder swiftly shut his mouth and stared at the frazzled woman he now knew as ‘Kylee’ in respect, not to mention shock. Where had she come from, he wondered. He hadn’t even noticed her when he had walked in here with Scully, but now he was more grateful than surprised. If she was really a doctor, like she claimed, then there was more hope for Scully than he could give her, and praise the heavens for it. Right now, he would sell his soul for an Orthodontist if it meant that the person had more medical training than he did.
He stared at the small woman hopefully, and she stared back, tipping her head in a makeshift cordial fashion.
Josh sighed and put down the gun, defeated. “Meet my sister,” he muttered, lowly.
About 15-20 minutes later
Still in the abandoned boxcar underneath the city
Langly rubbed the back of his head and cracked his neck, lounging against the crumpled booth of their huddled ‘warroom.’ As far as any of them could tell, they were safe here for the time being, and now they needed answers more than anything else. They needed to know what had happened, to understand where they could go from here. It wasn’t going to be easy, though, and it certainly wasn’t going to be pretty.
“How did you find out about all this,” the blond haired gunmen asked Josh, and Josh leaned back and sighed.
“I hacked into the DOD database,” he answered, warily. “I had been fooling around one night and I broke into the mainframe. From there, I checked into military defense files---thought maybe I’d find something on the air strike---you know---national security shit that they don’t want us to know about. But instead of that, I stumbled across a list of cities. On one side, they had the major US cities: LA, Chicago, DC, and New York. And on the other side, there were major cities throughout the world: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Moscow, London. Next to each city was a date and a red dot. Today’s date was positioned next to every major US city. The international cities were dated about ten months from now.”
Langly nodded and leaned back, watching Josh intently.
“And that tipped you off?” Frohike asked, watching Kylee tending to Scully out of the corner of his eye.
Josh shook his head. “No,” he said, “It wasn’t that, exactly, but more the idea that this list was encrypted in five different ways and scrambled on eleven different bandwidths. It was the fact that it was just a listing of cities, far as I could tell, and it was attached to another encrypted file that read, ‘evacuation, project plan being implemented, precautionary measures to proceed carefully.’ Then, when I tried to read the file attached---the one that described this ‘project,’ my computer when haywire and shut down.”
The gunmen all nodded in agreement, murmuring to each other in confirmation, and Mulder rolled his eyes from his spot beside them on the mildewy floor. It wasn’t THAT fascinating, he thought, annoyed. It wasn’t like this ‘brain’ person had discovered the fountain of youth, he had just been in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. It was common---boring. Old, to an extend. It was just the same old hacking tale that anyone and their grandmother could have guessed, and frankly, Mulder wasn’t interested how Josh had gotten this far. He didn’t care about the where’s or why’s. All he cared about was getting out alive with Scully, and Scully was still tossing and turning, sick with fever.
Mulder gritted his teeth and balled his fists in frustration, watching Kylee attend to Scully on the other side of the room. It felt like the other side of the country to him, and he squeezed his fists even tighter. That had been the deal they had all decided on---Scully got to live, but only if she lived as far from the healthy as Josh felt suited him. Kylee could attend to her needs, but only if the both of them remained on the opposite side of the boxcar----away from everyone as far as they could get. And Mulder----as Josh had snidely declared---was to stay away from Scully for as long as he deemed necessary. ---Otherwise, Josh would not hesitate to put a bullet first in Scully’s head—and then in Mulder’s. It had taken all of Mulder’s strength of mind---and a look at the size of Josh’s shot gun--- to even comply with the demands. But Scully’s safety mattered more to him than his proximity to her, and so he had agreed.
Silently, though, he cursed himself for having lost his gun in the mob above them.
Scully groaned again, tossing onto her left side, and Kylee raised another washcloth to her forehead. Earlier, the woman had given Scully some form of tylenol to try and lower her fever, but from where Mulder stood, he couldn’t figure out if it was working, yet. She had also tried to get Scully to drink some water, to rehydrate herself, but Mulder couldn’t tell if that had worked, either. The light was still dimmed and convoluted where he sat, casting shadows upon the floor and walls, and he couldn’t get a good look at Scully’s face. It was starting to drive Mulder crazy that he couldn’t make out Scully’s face. He needed to see her, to be near her, he thought, anxiously. He needed to know what was going on. This guessing game that his mind was starting to play with his heart was doing him no good at all. He felt trapped.
“So I followed this agent back to her house,” Mulder managed to catch, his brain wandering slowly back towards the conversation. “And I had a buddy of mine from AT&T trace her number. The next day---I asked him if he could tap her phone. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would get, but wasn’t expecting what I heard.”
Mulder sighed and leaned back on his haunches, pressing his head tiredly on his palm. “So what did you hear?” he asked, dully.
Josh turned and shot him a contemptuous look, but continued, “I heard her talking to some man—an older guy, I think. He told her to leave the city before the colonists came, and by colonists, I’m assuming he meant those bastards with the blow torches.” Josh paused and ran a hand through his thinning, black hair. He adjusted his thick rimmed glasses and went on, “Anyhow, the guy was fairly adamant. He told her that there would be a war---that if both sides came, the colonization would cancel itself out due to some warring faction going on---but that lives would be lost in the process. And this guy was precise, exact----he was someone who must have seen death everyday to not care one way or the other. But he cared about her—I think---- he kept insisting that she leave, and he asked her if plans for the procedure to be implemented had been set into motion…”
At the word ‘procedure,’ Mulder sat up straighter and stared hard at Josh, suddenly very interested. “What procedure?” he asked, hotly.
Josh shrugged. “Beats me,” he replied, leaning back into the booth. “All I know is that it was to be performed before the colonization started---something about fertilization methods derived from research on transgenic oil. He said the word merchandise a few times, if that means anything, and he talked about gestation periods using previously inactive ova. He mentioned something about how it could revolutionize their resistance----create immunity.”
Mulder glanced at the gunmen briefly, his heart beating wildly, his eyes boring into Josh the ‘brain’s’ with barely controlled nervousness. The wheels in his head began to turn, and he pushed up and away from the ground, remembering snippets of conversations and cases from forever ago—and not so forever ago---all coming back to him. His father had mentioned “merchandise” to him, once, and then the word had turned up beside Scully’s name on a digital tape. Everything that had ever happened to him, he thought anxiously, everything since 1993, it always went back to her. They always took her because of him. Anytime there was a procedure to be done or a life to be risked, they took her away to injure him and suppress his work. They had used her as their guinea pig consistently, year after year, over and over, ever since they had been partnered, and now she was sick again. Last time she had been sick it was because of them, and now she was sick again. Damn it, he thought, angrily. After all they had been through, after all the pain she’d suffered, why did it always have to be her life they tampered with?
“They took Scully,” Mulder said suddenly, angered and pacing back and forth. “They took her once and then they did it again, goddamn it! They KNEW! They KNEW this was going to happen, and so they took her to be tested upon in hopes that it could save them. They knew this war was coming and they didn’t try to stop it. They gave no warning. They let all those people die, and they took Scully to use as a lab rat! My god, what if they…” Mulder stopped pacing for a moment and ran a shaky hand through his hair.
Byers watched him uncomfortably, and Langly and Frohike nodded in agreement. It made sense, they realized---in a sick sort of way.
“I TOLD you she was infected!” Josh exclaimed, rising out of the booth in anger. “I KNEW it! She was injected with whatever those bees were carrying and now we’re all going----“
“SHE’S NOT INFECTED WITH ANYTHING!” Mulder bellowed, rage coursing through his veins and blood, his hands slamming fist first onto the table. “That’s exactly my fucking point! She’s not dying, she’s not sick, she’s not mutating, and she’s NOT going to kill us all!”
Mulder resumed his pacing and glanced back at his partner who had, once again, been victmized at his expense----used as a means to serve an end, and this time---he was afraid the results would have repercussions greater than either of them could fathom.
“Fertilization,” Mulder muttered to himself, turning to make a third trip in front of the booth. “Fertilization… why would they…” then he stopped and opened his mouth in shock.
“What is it, Mulder?” Langly asked, nervously.
Mulder merely stared at him in dull recognition, before calling to Kylee from across the boxcar.
“Kylee!” He yelled, waving an arm, “I need to ask you something!”
Kylee paused in mid step and turned on her leather worn heels, traversing the length of the boxcar quickly. She shoved a blond, dirty hair out of her eyes with a soiled, slender hand, and watched Mulder questioningly. “Yeah?” she asked.
Mulder swallowed. “Tell me something,” he managed, hoarsely, remembering Scully’s run in with a needle only a few days before. “Why would a woman normally get injected with estrogen excellerant, if she were a healthy, unencumbered person?”
Kylee stared at him and frowned at the request, as if completely puzzled he would ask it. Her brow furrowed and she took a breath, starting, “Well, normally, women who experience complications while trying to conceive may get injections of estrogen to try and induce ovulation. Some that go through in-vitro fertilization get hormone injections to smooth along a pregnancy. Women who otherwise couldn’t produce the proper hormones for gestation get them to ensure-----“
Mulder closed his eyes and nodded at her, waving an impatient hand.
“Right, right…But you’re saying that it usually has to do with pregnancy,” he interrupted, anxiously. “In normal cases, that is. Correct?”
Kylee watched him and shrugged, noncomittally. “Well… yes, in normal cases----“
Mulder nodded and questioned, “What if the woman was otherwise infertile?”
Kylee frowned, then asked, “you mean, if an infertile woman was implanted with another woman’s ova?”
Mulder nodded. “Something like that,” he answered, vaguely.
Frohike’s legs tapped nervously under the booth and suddenly he leapt up, nearly banging his head into the wall as he demanded, “just what are you saying here, Mulder?”
Mulder silently regarded the little man and resumed his seventh trip in front of the decaying boxcar booth. He knew that Frohike only had Scully’s best interests at heart, but this was hard to explain to himself—let alone to anyone else. How the heck could he rationalize this and pretend that it was alright? How would he explain it to Scully----forgetting about Frohike, Byers, Langly, and anyone else who enquired about it?
Langly turned his head to acknowledge Frohike and murmured in agreement.
“Yeah,” he concurred, softly. “Just what are you getting at, man?”
Mulder closed his eyes in resignation and sighed, turning to face the whole group. Oh god, he thought, miserably. Oh god…
“I’m saying…” he paused and took a deep breath. “I’m saying that I think I’m starting to understand happened---to a general degree.”
Then Mulder turned to Kylee and shifted his weight, glancing nervously between her and the moldy cracks in the decrepit walls. “While we were on a case the other day,” he explained, turning his head again, “Scully was stuck in the ankle by someone wielding a nasty needle full of hormones. I’m assuming that it was someone who PLANNED to take her the next day—someone who knew how to use her and how to find her--- someone who decided to borrow her body for their agenda—to…to carry out an experiment they hoped would yield a cure…”
Mulder’s jaw clenched and his head shook, disgusted. “Those RAT BASTARDS! That’s what they’re trying to do!”
Kylee threw her arms up and watched Mulder pace, exasperated. “Speak English, Mulder!” she ordered, annoyed. “You’re losing me, here. Who borrowed Scully’s body---and why?”
Undaunting, they all stared at him with rapt attention.
Mulder shook his head and stared over at Scully, his heart beating fast. “A government with an agenda---the men who couldn’t stop the war they started….” he managed, taking slow measured breaths as he watched her. “But that’s just it. I don’t think Scully’s sick at all. I think she’s having a reaction to a procedure that was done on her. Something that was orchestrated in order to try and generate an immunity. A different kind of immunity to whatever it is those alien factions were planning.”
Langly’s eyebrow rose and he looked at Mulder with trepidation, not wanting to ask the question he knew one of them was bound to ask anyway. For a moment, the word seemed to hang on an edge---noone speaking, noone daring even to breathe.
Finally, Byers broke the silence. “What kind of immunity?” he managed, softly.
Mulder gulped, nervously. “The kind that takes nine months to gestate,” he replied, hoarsely.