Part 2 of the Hunter series
by Jennifer Lawson
Special Notice to all Xenites: This is a notice to all Xenites out there who don't particularly like surprises. Chapter One of Part II is the beginning of a cross over with other characters from different shows. Chapter One, 90 pages worth of work, is strictly an "X-Files" story, continuing from where "The Hunter" last left off. I sincerely hope that this doesn't turn anyone away from continuing to read "The Hunter". I've noticed that many Xena fans are also X-Files fans, so this may not be a problem at all for many people. But for those of you who are not X-Files fans, I've added many things that will keep the Xena reader interested.
I played on the names of different actors from the show that you will easily recognize, and I've thrown in famous Xena quotes here and there throughout Chapter One, so keep a look out for them.
Disclaimer: Characters from "The X-Files" (Mulder, Scully, Spender, Kersh, Skinner, Krycek, CSM, Byers, Langly, Frohike and anyone else I may have forgotten about) all belong to Twentieth Century Fox, the Fox Network, TenThirteen Productions and most importantly, Chris Carter. Characters from "Xena Warrior Princess" and "Hercules The Legendary Journeys" belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All original characters in this chapter, and in future chapters, belong to me. Oh, and any slight similarity or feel of "The Blair Witch Project" at the beginning of the story is purely coincidental...or is it?
Content: There's not as much violence in this one as there is language. Don't ask me why, but I really cussed up a storm in this one...or, at least, the characters did. I would give it a mild "R" rating for language, but no "F" words.
Spoiler Warning: We know where the Xena story is placed in relation to the show, now for the X-Files: Chapter One takes place between "Tithonus" and "Two Fathers"/"One Son". Various X-files episodes are dealt with throughout Chapter One, in whole or in part. They are listed in order as they originally aired: "Duane Barry", "Ascension", "One Breath", "Colony", "End Game", "Piper Maru", "Apocrypha", "Talitha Cumi", "Herrenvolk", "Tunguska", "Terma", "Redux I&II", "Christmas Carol", "Emily", "Patient X", "The Red & The Black", "The End", "The Beginning". If it seems like a lot, it probably is, but all of these episodes deal with the ongoing conspiracy that is related to the show. Just don't let it frighten you away.
Acknowledgements: Once again, I must thank my sister, Sam, for all her editing work. I also want to thank all of those who have e-mailed me about Part I of "The Hunter". I really appreciate all the great responses I got. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you like Part II so far. And to all Xenites: Don't worry, Xena and Gabrielle are coming back in Chapter Two.
PART II: Filed Under X For … Xena
<for the time and location, I used a font entitled "mcgarey">
Saturday, February 6, 1999
Keating Air Force Base
Lake Keating, New York
Three booted pairs of feet crunched through the dew covered ground. It was a cold, pitch-black night, with no moon. To seventeen-year-old Ted Ramsey, it was perfect. Behind his wire-rimmed glasses, his excited green eyes searched the dark woods, along with his Maglight flashlight, for a good place to make camp. Ted glanced back at the two foot-shufflers behind him and said in between sucking a hard candy in his mouth, "Come on, you couple of dopes. Move those feet. We’re wasting prime time hours here."
Only a couple of feet behind him trudged his two high school friends, Michael Hurt and Lucy Lawson. They both wore long, sour faces. Looking at each other, they conveyed their annoyance with their eyes. Forcing himself to seem in a joking mood, Michael responded, "Maybe if you’d lay off those sugar-rush-induced Jolly Ranchers for a while you wouldn’t walk so fast. Then, we could keep up."
"He’s not on a sugar-rush," Lucy said with a chuckle. "He’s got UFO fever. What he needs is something to cure him of it."
"HA!" Ted scoffed. "I can’t think of a thing that could cure me of this." To indicate what he described as "this," Ted held his arms out wide to take in their entire environment. His eyes were wide with the excitement and adrenaline running through his veins.
Though Ted was Michael and Lucy’s good friend, they knew he had his eccentric side. They didn’t mind it much, but at times it could get a little out of hand; like now, for instance. Ted was a UFO and conspiracy fanatic. He watched anything that came on TV about it. If he couldn’t watch it on TV, he’d read about it in books and magazines (he actually subscribed to a newsletter that was put out by a group called The Lone Gunmen; they specialized in spreading conspiracy theories on everything from the assassination of JFK, to giving tips on how to avoid being tracked by secret government agents, whom they claim can track you by using your credit cards, your money, even going as far as medically tagging you). When Ted wasn’t doing that, he was busy surfing the web and maintaining his own very detailed conspiracy web site on the Internet.
So, when stories and rumors began to spread about UFO sightings around Keating Air Force Base, it was no big surprise to Michael and Lucy when, about a week ago, Ted suggested staking the air base out. At first, it sounded exciting and a lot of fun. They’d planned on making a camping trip of it. They would bring tents, sleeping bags, some food and maybe some beer that Mike thought he could sneak out of his dad’s basement refrigerator. But, that was before the murders started.
Well, Michael and Lucy called them murders. Ted had another phrase for it: "abduction." In the span of five days, just before their planned "stake-out" was to take place, two people went missing at Keating. According to what they had read in the newspaper, both were employees of Keating AFB. One was a young female medic, Daniella McCormak, who was reported abducted right out of her car as she was getting off work after a late night shift. The other was a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ private named Dean Gormel, who disappeared during a routine training mission on the base. No bodies were ever found and according to state and military police, the incidents were not related. Nevertheless, from that moment on, Michael and Lucy were no longer excited about the "stake-out."
Ted, on the other hand, had grown more excited by the idea. When news of the disappearances came out, he was absolutely positive those two people were abducted, especially considering the recent UFO sightings in the area and all. What else could it be? Definitely not a couple of murders. No bodies had even been found. That was the first clue. The only bad thing was that there had been no witnesses to their abduction to make his theory more solid, but that didn’t matter. That was why he was here tonight—to get the proof he needed. He was armed with high-powered binoculars, a compact and portable telescope and his fancy, five hundred-dollar SLR camera. At his urging, he’d asked Lucy to bring along her Panasonic palm-corder. It would be a sin if they didn’t come away with some kind of footage tonight.
Looking off to his right, Ted could finally start to make out the faint lights of the AFB, about ten miles away. Turning to the right towards the lights, Ted waved Michael and Lucy to follow. "This way, you guys. We only have a few more miles to go and then we can set up camp." He turned back to Lucy and asked, "Do you have your camcorder ready to go?"
"Yeah," she responded, raising the camcorder to her eye.
"Get a shot of the lights at the Base," Ted said, pointing behind him. He spit his piece of candy to the ground, just before Lucy began to record.
Lucy aimed the camcorder at the distant lights with Ted in the foreground. Shining his flashlight on Ted’s upper torso, Michael covered up a snicker at Ted’s serious "TV anchorman" expression. He couldn’t wait to see the reaction of friends at school when they saw this videotape. Clearing his throat, Michael said, "Action."
Looking into the lens of the camcorder, Ted began. "Here we are at Keating Air Force Base on an early Saturday morning, February 6th, 1999, the location of Lake Keating’s recent sightings of unidentified flying objects, or what some might refer to as alien spacecrafts. We’re here tonight in the hopes of catching one of these objects on film. Perhaps tonight, we can answer the question… ‘Are we alone in the universe?’" He waved to the camcorder to follow. "Come with us as we get a closer look at Keating Air Force Base."
Pausing the tape, Lucy set her camcorder down, placed her hands on her hips and looked at Ted like a domineering mother. "Are you sure this is a good idea? I don’t think we should get too close to the base."
"Lucy’s right," agreed Michael. "Why don’t we just set up camp right here?" When Michael set his backpack down on the ground, Lucy followed suit.
"What?" asked Ted, watching them set their backpacks down with dismay. "Are you crazy, dude? You can’t see anything from here. I mean, if a UFO came sweeping down over the base, man, all we would see are trees. We need some open space, otherwise, we ain’t gonna get a good shot," he finished, pointing at Lucy’s camcorder.
"What makes you think we’re going to see anything anyway, Ted? This is a military base. If we see anything, we might see a fighter jet."
"Or a helicopter," Lucy chimed in. "Come on, Ted. Get real."
"Dudes, have you ever heard of Roswell?" Ted asked in annoyance.
"Yeah, yeah," Lucy said, waving a dismissing hand at Ted. "That story about the UFO crashing in New Mexico. I saw something about it on Unsolved Mysteries once. What about it?"
"Well, when that thing crashed, pieces of it were thrown all over the place, man. According to the sources, those pieces of the UFO were shipped to different military bases in the U.S. This just happens to be one of those bases."
That’s just what Michael was thinking, as he crossed his arms across his chest and stared at Ted nonchalantly. This base ‘just happened’ to be one of those with pieces of a UFO…I ‘just happened’ to be there when these bright lights suddenly appeared in the sky… If all UFO sightings or occurrences were as coincidental as most people seemed to make them out to be, everybody would be seeing UFOs. "And your point is…?"
Ted rolled his eyes and pursed his lips. "Man, if you two don’t believe, why’d you even bother comin’?"
"To watch you make a fool out of yourself."
"Oh, ha-ha," he said, feigning laughter.
"Well, we can’t help it," Michael said with a laugh. "You put on a good show."
"All that is besides the point anyway," Lucy interjected. These two were missing the point entirely and she was going to make sure they knew it. "I don’t think we should be out here. Not after those people disappeared. It sounded fun at first, but now I think this is just plain dangerous. Besides, my mother would bust a gut if she found out I came out here with you guys."
‘That same old argument again?’ Ted thought, his face wrinkled up in annoyance. Lucy was a great friend of his, but she sure could whine. "Oh, come off it, Lucy. Get a grip. Nobody’s gonna kidnap you and your mother ain’t gonna find out. Those people didn’t just disappear, anyway. They were abducted."
"By what?" she asked, not liking his belittling attitude. "Little green men from outer space?"
"How many times do I have to tell you they’re not green?!"
Michael laughed at their banter. They’d had this conversation a million times before, but it never failed to make him laugh. He bent down and began unpacking his tent heedless of Ted’s insistence that they camp elsewhere.
When Ted saw him unpacking, he sighed heavily and shook his head. He just as soon give up on it, he thought. They weren’t going to listen to him anyway. "Okay. Fine. You two want to stay here? Go ahead." He set down his own tent on the ground by Michael’s. "While you guys set up the tents, I’ll go scout us out a good spot to surveil the base. I’ll come back when I get everything set up. All right?"
Michael looked up him with a smile and said, "Works for me."
"Me, too," added Lucy.
"That figures," said Ted with an irritated glance in her direction. "Be back in twenty." With that, Ted clodded off in the direction of the AFB, leaving Michael and Lucy alone in the woods.
Michael started on the first tent, while Lucy turned on several lanterns to light the area. "Do you want to start a fire?" she asked. "It’ll give us more light."
"No, not yet," Michael responded. He indicated with a nod of his head the direction Ted had just left in. "We’ll probably be out there most of the night waiting for Ted’s alien invasion."
Lucy sighed in frustration as she set the lamps up around the camp. "You know, he really pisses me off. I could be at home right now watching a La Femme Nikita marathon, instead of coming out here like some kind of crackpot looking for a close encounter."
"What would Ted do without friends like us?" he asked Lucy, sarcastically speculative.
Lucy didn’t have to speculate, sarcastically or otherwise. She could read Ted like an open book. "Play with himself. He wouldn’t be able to convince anyone else to come out here with him, that’s for sure." The speculation came when she thought about her own relationship with him. "I guess we’re just a couple of suckers, huh?"
Michael laughed. "No. We’re just…" Then, Michael suddenly went quiet. His eyes grew wide as he looked at Lucy, then he turned and stared off into the dark woods. Automatically, Lucy grabbed her camcorder and started recording. Couldn’t miss out on any action. There was no telling what she could be about to record.
"What is it?" she asked in a whisper.
"Shh," he said, placing a finger across his lips and getting to his feet. "I think I heard something."
Lucy rose to her feet with him. "Maybe it was just Ted."
"No, no. It came from the other direction." He pointed into the woods, where the darkness was complete. "Over there."
"What did you hear?" she asked, raising the camcorder to her eye and pointing it in the direction Michael indicated.
His voice was barely a whisper when he said, "I don’t know."
Lucy stared off into the darkness, looking for some sign of any life out there, but there was nothing to hear or see besides the rustling of bushes and trees in the soft breeze. Then, she suddenly remembered the disappearances. In her mind, they weren’t alien abductions. Someone, probably a serial killer, was kidnapping people and killing them. He probably kept them alive for days and tortured them in unspeakable ways. As her mind rambled wildly, her own thoughts scaring her, she began to think: ‘Maybe someone is silently watching us, his dark eyes staring at us with the bloodlust of a serial killer. Just waiting for the right moment to…’
"BAH!!!!" Michael screamed, turning quickly and tightly grabbing Lucy’s shoulders.
Lucy screamed bloody murder, nearly dropping her camcorder. Then she realized that Michael had been pulling her leg the whole time, trying to scare her to death. Still a little frightened, she cussed at him and punched him hard on the arm, as her camcorder still recorded..
"Oww!" Laughing, Michael grabbed his arm and rubbed the spot where she’d punched him.
"That was not funny, Michael!" she hollered, pointing a stern finger of warning at him.
"Yes, it was," he said, continuing to laugh.
Michael’s laughter was unfortunately a contagious one and it wasn’t long before Lucy was forced into a smile, then into a laugh herself. She swatted at him one more time, but he jerked away from her.
With a mocking voice, he teased her. "That was not funny, Michael!"
This time Lucy went to kick him and her foot landed painfully on his rear. "A-ha! Gotcha!"
"Yeah right! Lucky strike, warrior babe!"
"You wish! I nailed you fair and square!"
"You promise?!" he questioned her jokingly, a glint in his eye.
With her hands on her hips, Lucy tried to forced a smile onto her face, but it just came out looking like she was in pain, which only made Michael laugh harder. "You’ll never be that lucky." Michael’s wounded, but jovial expression brought the smile back to her face, but the smile slowly slipped from her face when she caught a glimpse of something moving in the woods behind Michael. It was in the basic direction from which they’d come. She gasped and her eyes grew as wide as saucers. Instinctively, she raised her camcorder to eye-level and pointed behind Michael. "Did you see that?"
Michael shook his head at Lucy, thinking she was trying to pull the same joke on him. "Oh, no you don’t. Those kind of jokes don’t work on me."
"No, Michael. I’m serious. I saw something…someone moving in the woods behind you."
Michael chuckled and shook his head. "You’re not very good at this, you know."
Lucy lowered the camcorder momentarily to look Michael in the eye with a serious glare. "I’m not playing around here, Michael! I’m telling you I saw something!"
Still not sure if he could trust his friend, Michael turned around to search the woods behind him. He picked up his flashlight, set the beam on high and let the light search the woods for him. He saw nothing. Turning to face Lucy, the camcorder back at her eye, he gave the camera a sympathetic smile and patted Lucy on the shoulder. "Good try, Lucy. Maybe you’ll get a B minus for the effort, though."
Lucy opened her mouth to reply in anger, when a loud rustling sound came from the woods behind Michael once again. Lucy hadn’t seen it, since, at the time, her attention was focused on Michael, but she was sure the camera had caught it. This time, they both hushed at the sound and looked out at the dark woods with wide eyes. Now, the only sound was the whirring of the camcorder as it recorded.
"See, I told you," she whispered to Michael.
Michael played the flashlight’s beam into the woods again, but he still saw nothing. Then, it suddenly hit him. When he had tricked Lucy a few minutes ago, she had quickly chimed in: "Maybe it was Ted." It was a rational way of dealing with her fear, but Michael wondered. Could it possibly be Ted? Was he trying to scare them just to get back at them for teasing him about his UFO interest? "I’ll bet you anything that’s Ted out there. He’s just trying to get us back for messing with him earlier."
"I don’t think so."
"Well, I do." Michael raised his voice and shouted into the woods. "Hey, Ted! Come on out, man. We know it’s you." There was no reply to Michael’s shout, but he expected as much. "Come on, you freak! You aren’t scaring us if that’s what you think."
Lucy didn’t know about that. She was pretty damn scared, only because something told her that wasn’t Ted out there. It was someone else. Then, Michael did something that terrified her. He looked at her with an angry expression, but on the outer edges of that anger, Lucy saw fear. She could tell he was scared and his best response was anger. "That stupid asswad," he said to Lucy. "I’m sure he’s just having a ball out there. I’m going in there and ring his neck."
Lucy could see his anger through the lens of the camcorder. Suddenly fearful, Lucy lowered the camcorder, grabbed Michael’s arm and held him back. "No! Don’t go in there. Are you crazy?"
"Lucy, it’s just Ted jerking us around. You stay here, I’ll bring him back in a few minutes and we can both spend some quality time pummeling the shit out of him."
Lucy became so afraid, tears had begun to form in her eyes. She didn’t know how, but knew this was not a good idea. "Michael, I really don’t think that’s Ted out there. Don’t leave me here."
"Don’t be such a chicken, Lucy," he said, shrugging out of her grip. "Whatever happened with all those Karate lessons you were taking? If a bad guy comes, just hi-ya him to death. I’ll be back in a few minutes." He turned from Lucy and walked into the dark woods with his flashlight leading the way.
"Michael!" Lucy called out to him in a harsh whisper, afraid to raise her voice lest someone else hear her. "Michael, you jerk!" But, he didn’t turn back. Lucy did the only thing left for her to do: record. She raised the camcorder once again, though this time her grip wasn’t as steady as before, and recorded Michael as he continued into the woods until the only thing left of him that she could see was the light from his flashlight.
After about a minute, there was a loud crashing sound, making Lucy jump in fear. Lucy watched the beam of the flashlight flail about madly in the darkness. Then, it suddenly fell to the ground. The prickly hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as a coldness washed over her body. Something told her she should just run, but she couldn’t move from where she stood. So, in her fear, she continued to record. In the sudden silence, Lucy called out: "Michael?" When no response came, she called again: "Michael!" The flashlight blinked twice and Lucy’s heart rate skyrocketed when she realized someone’s legs passing through the beam caused it. Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open and then suddenly the flashlight went out.
Horrified, Lucy didn’t know what she should do. Should she run? Run where, though? She couldn’t go back to the car. Not only was it too far away, but she would have to run straight ahead, right at the stranger in the dark woods. Should she go and find Ted? For all she knew, something may have happened to Ted as well. Either that, or this was just a big joke that Ted and Michael were playing on her.
"Okay, you guys," she said in a quivering voice full of fear. "This isn’t funny anymore." There was no response. Lucy’s face crumbled as she began to weep in fear.
There was only dead silence except for the sound of the wind in the trees and the crickets. She heard nothing until…it was a scratchy sound, like the prattling of an animal. Maybe it was Michael, hurt and needing her help. Then she heard the soft whispered laugh. It was low and menacing. Lucy felt her body go cold all over.
Instinctively, fear overtook her and she began to run. She chose the route that offered the most safety—to Ted, towards the AFB. With the camcorder in one hand and her flashlight in the other, Lucy ran for her life towards the lights of the AFB. She didn’t take the time to look behind her to see if anyone was following, because it was too dark and she wouldn’t have seen anything anyway. Up ahead, Lucy could see that she was about to reach the edge of the woods which opened up onto a grassy field that extended six more long miles to the Air Force Base’s gates. She felt if she could just make it past that point she would be okay, she would make it.
But, just inches away from the edge, a shape jumped out at her. Lucy screamed in terror and tried to backtrack to get away from this person, but before she knew it, rough hands gripped her and held her in her place. She screamed even more, dropping her camcorder and flashlight to fight off her attacker. But, it was no use. His hand covered her mouth in a fierce grip. Terror engulfed Lucy, realizing that what she feared the most had come true. There were no aliens abducting people here. She chanced a look behind her, craning her neck as much as she was allowed to and saw what she had envisioned: dark eyes staring at her with the bloodlust of a serial killer.
2 Miles from Keating AFB
Through the sights of his high-powered binoculars, Ted saw the AFB with perfect clarity. Things were relatively quiet this early in the morning, but it was easy to make out the armed guards that stood at perfect attention on the watchtowers and marched along near the electric wire fences. He’d been here many times before to stake the place out, but never had he seen such an armored presence. It must have been in response to the spaceships that had been hovering around the area, but he at least expected to see military aircraft take off to police the skies. There was no activity of the sort this night.
Putting down his binoculars, Ted raised his camera, zoomed in and took a shot of some of the armed guards. He would keep it for his scrapbook and maybe post it on his web site. Perhaps, some of his contacts would find it interesting. He kept in contact with several people across the United States. They were a small group that called themselves the "watchdogs." They kept tabs on the growing UFO conspiracy. A chosen few, like himself, were given designated areas, like military bases or UFO hot spots, to keep a close watch on. For these people, no names or ages were given out. They were to remain anonymous (Ted sometimes wondered who had the sacred job of staking out Area 51). No one, not even his family, knew about his role with the "watchdogs."
Since the recent sightings at Keating, though, he’d been in touch with a man who claimed to work for the federal government, working to expose the truth about what his employer was hiding from the American public. The man never gave Ted his name and Ted wasn’t even sure if the man was telling the truth or not, but he’d kept in contact with him anyway at the behest of other members of the "watchdogs." He told him only what the "watchdogs" allowed him to and any information he got from this mystery man was given directly to the other "watchdogs." The man had only contacted him a couple of times, but the few times that he had it was in response to what had been going on around Keating lately—the UFO sightings and the disappearances. Seemed as if he couldn’t get much information from the AFB or the local PD, so he turned to a conspiracy groupie.
Speaking of groupies, Ted looked down at his watch and was surprised to see the time was 1:20 a.m. He’d left Michael and Lucy about forty minutes ago saying he would be back in twenty. By now, they’d probably thought he’d gotten abducted as well. Things were all set up here, so Ted got to his feet and headed back towards the camp sight, making sure to bring his binoculars and camera.
About twenty minutes later, Ted’s flashlight shined on the wood’s edge where it would only take him a couple of more minutes to make it back to camp. There was a strange light up ahead at the edge of the woods that caught Ted’s attention. Not paying it much mind, he continued his leisurely stroll, until he was close enough to see what it was. Ted came to a dead stop, his stomach giving a bit of a lurch, when he saw Lucy’s camcorder and lighted flashlight on the ground. He knew it was her flashlight, because they had all purchased Maglight flashlights—Ted had gotten the black one, Michael the red one, and Lucy had gotten the new purple colored one. Purple was her favorite color.
Bending down, Ted picked both items up and noticed that the camcorder was in the middle of recording. He shut the camcorder off, thinking about saving the life of the battery, then shined his light around looking for Lucy.
"Lucy!" he called. "You out here?" No response. "Michael?" Again, no response. It was strange, and Ted could feel a twinge of concern eating at the back of his mind, but he pushed it out. Perhaps they had decided to join him, gotten spooked by something and in their haste, had left behind the equipment. ‘That would be just about their speed’, he thought. So, without a second thought, Ted headed back for camp with the thought in his mind that he would see them in a few minutes fixing up the tents and hiding behind sheepish smiles.
Ted made it back to the camp in just a couple of minutes, just as he had figured he would. He could see the lights through the spaces between the trees. He walked into the light with a grin. "Okay, you guys. Joke’s…" There was just one problem…Michael and Lucy were no longer there. "…over."
Three lanterns encircled the camp, giving the area some light so Ted could easily see that not one of the tents had been put up. The contents of Michael’s tent bag had been emptied onto the ground, but that was it.
"Hey, you guys! What the hell’s going on around here?" Once again, no response. That was when things started to click in Ted’s head: the missing people, the abandoned camcorder…left recording…and flashlight…left on…both left haphazardly on the ground, Michael and Lucy apparently no where to be found. Had it happened again? Only this time to his friends? Something was very wrong here. He knew this was no joke. Michael and Lucy did not know their way around these woods as he did. Not enough to play a joke like this on him. He knew he had to get out of there, but he at least knew enough to take what evidence he had with him. Namely, Lucy’s camcorder.
Sudden fear coursed through Ted’s body and in an instant he was running. He didn’t allow himself to think what may have happened to them, whether it was alien abduction or murder. He just ran.
Earlier, Near Keating AFB
Two bright beams of light slowly sifted through the darkness of the woods, piercing into the heavy mist that was beginning to form on the forest floor. The lights moved softly over the bark of the trees, beaming between trees and catching the frightened, reflective eyes of a stray animal that quickly darted back into the darkness. As the lights turned, they glinted momentarily off something metallic. They then came to a stop, hovering above a short gravel road. Just as mysteriously as they appeared, the lights mysteriously blinked out and slowly faded away…
…as the car keys left the ignition switch.
Sitting in the driver’s seat was a tall, lanky man with short, neatly trimmed brown hair. His hazel eyes stared out at the small, white, four-door Ford that his headlights had glinted off of with curiosity. Who else is stupid enough to be out here at this time of night?, the lanky man thought. Leaning over, he reached into his glove compartment and pulled out a flashlight. Along with the flashlight, he grabbed a folded wallet, a cellular phone and a handgun. Getting out of the car, he stuck the gun into the back of his jeans, then placed the cell-phone in the right pocket of his windbreaker, next to his car keys. One last thing, he thought. Opening his folded wallet, he checked to make sure everything was in order.
Inside the wallet was a medal badge with the letters F, B and I stamped in an arc across the top of the badge. Above it was a picture ID along with a name that read: Special Agent Fox W. Mulder. Snapping the wallet closed, Fox Mulder slipped it into the back pocket of his jeans. Didn’t want to get caught without that; not this close to a military base.
Bringing up the flashlight, Agent Mulder shined it onto the white Ford, wondering who it belonged to and what they were doing out here. Hoping to check the glove compartment for registration, Mulder walked over and tried the door, but found that it was locked. Walking around to the back of the car, Mulder was tempted to call his friend Danny for a license check. At this time of night, Danny was probably in bed fast asleep like most of the normal people. Anyway, who needed a background check with a bumper sticker like that.
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At least, now he knew what the owner of the white Ford was here for…the same thing he was: hoping for that one chance to catch a glimpse of an unidentified flying object. That was the accepted term. In actuality, anything could be termed that if you didn’t know exactly what it was. What Mulder was really hoping for was that one chance to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft of an alien from another world.
Mulder wondered about this person, about his or her reasons for being here. Were they similar to his own or were they just fascinated about the possibility of life on other planets and that these beings would come to earth to examine us? Mulder’s own reasons for being here were rooted in something that happened to him when he was twelve years old. He and his eight-year-old sister, Samantha, had been left alone one evening while their mother and father had gone to visit a neighbor. What happened that evening was not something that Mulder had readily remembered. It had taken many years before Mulder was able to remember the events of that night, and even then, he’d needed to go under hypnosis to remember it all. It wasn’t until early adulthood, when Mulder was a fresh agent with the FBI, that he finally remembered his sister had been abducted from their home by what he believed to be aliens. He remembered that the house shook as if in an earthquake—an uncommon occurrence in Maryland. He remembered the bright orange lights that streamed in through the windows and the feeling of a strange presence in the room. His sister had disappeared that night and he’d never seen her again.
The events of that night had shaped his life in ways that Mulder could never fathom. When his sister disappeared, it tore his family apart. His mother and father had divorced and as a young boy, Fox drew in on himself. Growing up, he’d left the U.S. to gain an Oxford education in England, where his fascination and belief in all things occult began to take root. Graduating at the top of his class, Mulder headed back to the U.S. and was soon recruited into the Bureau Academy in Quantico, Virginia where he also completed with high marks. At the Academy, Mulder was noticed for his unorthodox approach to criminal investigation and procedure, and his affinity for the paranormal earned him the nickname "Spooky" from his Academy classmates.
Once out of the Academy, Mulder joined the Violent Crimes division under Special Agent Reggie Purdue and specialized in Behavioral Science, developing profiles of wanted murder suspects to assist in capturing them. Two of his most notable cases where the capture and conviction of John Barnet, a serial murderer/bank robber, and serial killer Monty Props. And then it happened. One day he simply stumbled across a mass of old cases, all filed under X. These cases had been deemed unsolved or unexplained. Mulder had gone through them like a hungry lion, realizing that ninety percent of the cases had, in some way or another, a paranormal background. So, in 1991, Mulder put in a requisition with Section Chief Blevins to be assigned to the X-file cases. To his surprise, his request was granted. He’d assumed it had something to do with his excellent track record as an agent, but a year later, Blevins assigned Mulder a partner. Mulder had been incensed, accusing them of sending someone in to spy on him and his work. Though he made his objections well known, Mulder’s new partner appeared for duty on the scheduled date. A skeptic from the word go, Special Agent Dana Scully, made sure she kept Agent Mulder on his toes. She was at odds on literally every idea or theory of Mulder’s from the very beginning. At times, he wanted to strangle her, but now Mulder couldn’t even imagine working the X-files without her. She was his best and perhaps his only friend. He trusted Agent Scully with his life.
Mulder began to wish that Scully were there with him, if not for anything than just to have someone to talk to. Though he’d never admit it to her, he loved those boring, all-night stakeouts with her where they would talk almost endlessly about each other’s strange quirks and how much they irritated each other. Mulder smiled, thinking back to those times, and turned to the trunk of his car to pull out a small backpack. He’d decided to bring along a few things on his little surveillance trip. Unzipping the pack, he double checked the contents to make sure that his binoculars, camera and light snack, consisting of a couple of ham sandwiches, were all still there, then slung the pack on his back. Shining his flashlight into the dark, dense foliage of the woods, Mulder began a steady walk to his destination.
A couple of days ago, Mulder had decided to take one of the vacations he had coming to him this year. Actually, forced is more the term, since Scully had demanded he take the week off, as if all the menial cases they’d been assigned to was really hard work. Ever since he and Scully had been kicked off the X-file cases and forced to work under the direction of Assistant Director Alvin Kersh, they’d been stuck working cases that no experienced field agent would kiss ass for. They sat behind a desk, on the phone for hours at a time, asking survey questions to people all over the United States. And even when they were allowed to do foot work, it was no more than to sniff out crap in some farmer’s backyard in the hopes of finding someone with his own homemade bomb shop. This wasn’t what Mulder had spent years in the FBI for. He had devoted most of his life to working on the X-files, giving up any chance of a normal life—a wife, kids, a well-paying job and a beautiful house to live in, surrounded by a white picket fence. That’s the normal life many American’s dream of having. Of course, with it comes bickering and fighting with the wife, screaming kids who grow up to be spiteful teenagers who’d just as soon kill you as look at you, a job where you are overworked and under appreciated and a beautiful house with a mortgage that might leave you bankrupt and homeless in a matter of years, surrounded by a picket fence you have to repaint year after year. For a second, Mulder wondered if he had it bad after all.
Needless to say, Mulder followed Doc Scully’s order and went on a vacation. He’d tried to argue, but arguing with Scully always seemed to be a losing battle. Besides, the things going on in Lake Keating had been drawing his attention for days now. So, Scully’s proposal came at an opportune time. He knew Keating AFB to be rumored as one of the sites where pieces of the Roswell, New Mexico UFO had been brought, and when the sightings started here he had been instantly intrigued. Being hopelessly backlogged with boring surveys had kept Mulder from going to check it out sooner. Now that he was on vacation, he didn’t have to answer to anybody, especially that tight ass Kersh. Crushing dead leaves underfoot, Mulder continued to his destination, his flashlight leading the way.
All was silent except for the croaking of frogs, the songs of the crickets and the sound of the wind in the trees. Checking his watch, Mulder noted that it was 1:21 a.m. Now bored with his own thoughts, the loneliness returned to him and he began to think about Scully again, wishing he had her to talk to. Without a second thought, Mulder pulled the cell phone from his jacket pocket and began dialing.
A hand groped in the darkness, searching for the source of the sound. Ring! At first, the hand only found air, then it struck the nightstand with a muffled curse. Ring! Crawling along the top of the night stand like a hungry spider, the hand made its way to the alarm clock and began to beat on it senselessly…Ring!…until it realized the alarm clock wasn’t making a sound. There was another curse laded over with a heavy sigh and a protesting groan. The hand found the offending noisemaker and grabbed it from where it lay. Ri—
The hand brought the receiver of the phone to a very sleepy, but annoyed face. Mulder’s most trusted partner, his one and only friend said, "What the hell do you want, Mulder?! It’s one o’clock in the morning!"
Mulder, still walking along in the dark woods, was surprised by the quick response. "Hey, that was pretty good! Should I start calling you Madam Scully? How’d you know it was me?"
"No one else calls me in the middle of the night, but you, Mulder," she said with a growl.
"That would be a good reason. You weren’t sleeping, were you?"
Scully rolled her eyes. How many times had he come banging on her door in the middle of the night, or, like tonight, called her in the middle of the night? And never once did she ever hear an apology or a "Sorry I woke you, Scully, but…" Exasperated, she replied sarcastically, "No, no. What makes you think I would be sleeping? There’s so many other things I can do at one o’clock in the morning."
"Oh, yeah?" he asked, jokingly curious. "Like what kind of things?"
Scully raised an eyebrow in the dark, wondering at what Mulder was insinuating. She knew he was only joking, but at one o’clock in the morning, Scully wasn’t much for jokes. She just wanted to get back to sleep, but Mulder was interfering with that. She wished he would just get to the point and get it over with. She opened her mouth to ask: "Mulder, what do you want?", when she heard a loud sound over the phone and the sound of Mulder’s voice crying out. Instantly, she was awake, sitting in an upright position on the bed, her eyes wide with concern. "Mulder!"
"Yeah. I’m okay."
"I tripped over a piece of wood. Damn thing!" Mulder kicked at the piece of wood that had tripped him.
When Mulder called, Scully had assumed he was at home, sitting on his couch, flipping channels on the TV with nothing better to do but disturb her sleep. Now, all of a sudden, he’s tripping over pieces of wood? She was very suspicious. Mulder was supposed to be on vacation, which meant he was supposed to be at home taking it easy. She remembered him telling her about that air force base and those UFO sightings. Scully wondered… "Mulder, where are you?" she asked suspiciously.
"Uh," he responded sheepishly. "I’m walking in the woods."
"Just some woods. I’m taking a leisurely stroll, getting some fresh air—"
"Right. Mulder, you better not be at that air force base."
"And if I am?" he challenged.
She tried to respond to that question, but nothing reasonable would come out. She started about three words she could never finish, sounding like a broken record. With an exasperated sigh, Scully flopped back on the bed. "And just what is it you are attempting to do over there?"
"I’m just checking things out, seeing what all the hype is about."
"Hype? What hype? A couple of people have gone missing near an area where there have been unsubstantiated UFO sightings. Where’s the connection?"
Mulder softly chuckled into the phone and shook his head. "When did you graduate from the Academy, Scully?"
"What do you mean ‘where’s the connection’? The connection is so obvious it’s mind-numbing."
"Mulder, you know that’s not what I mean. I know exactly where you’re going with this one. So two people have gone missing at an Air Force Base. So, there are UFO sightings at this very same Air Force Base. It doesn’t mean that the two are related."
"Your deductive reasoning pays off once again, Scully. You’re right, the two may not be related. That’s what I’m here for, to see if there is any relationship between the two incidents." His face crinkled up in a frown when he finally caught on to something she’d said. "And what’s with this ‘unsubstantiated sightings’ crap? I have several substantiated sightings."
"From who?" Scully asked, though she had a good guess what the answer would be. "That weirdo you’ve been emailing? What does he know?"
Mulder was suddenly on the defense. "He’s been keeping a close watch on the goings on around here. Ufologene’s the eyes and ears of the UFO societies in this area." When there was only silence on the other end, Mulder was curious. "Scully?"
Scully’s brow furrowed questioningly. "What did you call him?"
"Ufologene," Mulder told her as if it were the most normal thing in the world. "It’s his internet name."
Scully was silent for a moment trying to comprehend the reasons behind Mulder’s every strange whim. No sane, rational person would even talk to someone who called themselves Ufologene. "Be glad I’m learning of this name now, because if you had told me before you left, I would have locked you in your apartment."
Mulder laughed off her threat. "I agree the name is ridiculous…"
"That’s an understatement."
"…but he knows what he’s talking about, Scully. There are some very interesting things going on here that’s worth looking into."
Scully sighed irritably. She had worked so hard to get Mulder to finally take a vacation and now he was squandering it. She didn’t think she would ever understand this blinding drive of his. There was a hint of a whining tone to her voice when she said, "But, Mulder, you are supposed to be on vacation."
"That’s right. That’s why I’m out here."
"No," she responded in an authoritative voice. "A vacation is where you relax, take it easy, maybe take in a movie or two, go fishing…"
"That’s exactly what I’m doing, Scully. I’m on a big fishing trip. In fact, in case anyone should ask, tell them I’ve gone fishing."
"I’m not going to lie for you, Mulder."
"It’s not lying, Scully, it’s simply a slight rephrasing of the truth."
"Uh-huh. So, how long is this ‘fishing trip’ going to take you?"
"Don’t know yet. It all depends on how everything pans out. You know, if you get bored pushing pencils and answering phones, you could join me out here."
"No, thank you. There’s a whole stack of brand new pencils on my desk just waiting to be pushed." Scully had expected to hear muffled laughter, but there was only silence on the other end of the phone. "Mulder? You still there?"
The darkness of the woods was all encompassing and Mulder’s flashlight barely penetrated through it. He’d heard Scully’s questions, but for a moment was hesitant to answer. Off in the distance, he could hear a loud noise. It was coming closer.
As the sound drew closer, Mulder could tell that it was the sound of someone running through the thick bushes. The only thing was that he could not tell from which direction it was coming. The sound echoed around him, causing Mulder to turn and flash his light in all directions. His mind turned back to the white Ford with the alien bumper sticker on the back and wondered if what he was hearing was possibly the owner of the vehicle. The thought didn’t calm him any, though. It crossed his mind that he was about to be attacked. It was all a set up to draw him out this way, hunt him down and kill him. They’d wanted him dead for a long time. Now that he was out of the X-files, they could safely dispose of him without any repercussions.
Scully could tell from the sound of Mulder’s heavy breathing, that something was not right. "Mulder, what’s going on?" she asked, her voice much more forceful this time.
"Someone’s coming," was his only answer.
"Who?" she asked, worried.
Mulder was tempted to answer that question with a biting remark, but he wasn’t given the chance. He had just focused on the direction of the sound and was about to turn towards it, when something slammed into him from behind. Mulder fell to the ground, his backpack, flashlight and cell phone skittering off into the darkness.
Scully heard a short scuffle after her last question and then the phone went dead. For a second, she froze, hoping against hope that she would hear Mulder’s voice once more cursing an errant branch. But, his voice never returned. The thought of any more sleep was forever banished for the rest of the night. Scully was instantly out of the bed, desperately trying to dial Mulder’s cell phone number with a shaky hand. As she punched in the last number with her thumb, she placed the receiver to her ear and listened to four incessant rings in a row without any answer. Then an electronic voice spoke into her ear, startling her. "The cellular number you are trying to reach is temporarily out of service. Please hang up and try again." Nervously, Scully tried again, but only got the same response. Cursing, Scully tried to think about what she should do, running a hand through her disheveled hair.
Then, it came to her. She would contact local authorities and have them check the area out.
… wait …
Where did Mulder say he was? He told her, didn’t he? She knew he was in upstate New York, but for the life of her, she could not remember the name of the city. It was Something Lake or Lake Something, she just couldn’t remember which. Mulder could be in danger. He could be dying. In a last ditch effort, Scully did the only thing she could do at that moment. She called FBI headquarters.
The only thing that didn’t go skittering when Mulder hit the ground was his gun. The person who had attacked him was up in seconds and Mulder imagined a man in military fatigues standing over him with a gun pointed to his head, ready to blow a hole there with a single shot. In reaction to his own imaginative mind, Mulder drew his gun and pointed it at the person who attacked him. Mulder could see his flashlight out of the corner of his eye, but it was pointing in the opposite direction. That made it very hard for him to see the person standing before him. One thing he could see, was that this person had no gun and, from what Mulder could tell, he was not wearing military fatigues. As his mind registered these images in only a couple of seconds, the figure turned to run.
"Freeze! Federal Agent!"
The figure froze in his tracks and turned back hesitantly. Raising his hands, the figure cried, "Ah!! D-don’t! Don’t shoot! Don’t kill me!"
The person’s voice sounded nothing like that of trained military personnel. It sounded for all the world like a frightened teenager. Mulder didn’t intend to take any chances, though. Regaining his feet, he slowly inched over towards his flashlight, keeping the gun trained on the person before him. His eyes shifting between the figure and his flashlight, Mulder said, "No one’s gonna kill you. Just don’t move." Mulder picked up his flashlight and shined it at the person. His suspicions were confirmed, it was only a kid … and a frightened one at that. "What’s your name, kid?"
His hands still raised into the air, he answered, "No way, man. You better show me some ID first or I’m outta here."
Frightened, but smart, Mulder thought. Mulder shoved the flashlight under his arm while he fished the wallet out of his back pocket, all the while keeping the gun firmly pointed at him. He wasn’t putting the gun down until he was sure things were safe. Mulder tossed the wallet to the kid, who brought his hands down from the air to catch it. The kid looked at Mulder suspiciously, closely eyeing his gun, then opened the wallet. He studied the ID, under the light of Mulder’s flashlight, as if he were studying for his senior year final exam, scared to death he wasn’t going to graduate and have to stay in that hell hole for one more year.
Sensing the kid wasn’t going to be much of a threat, Mulder lowered his gun, then stuck his hand out to get his wallet back. "I know I look hot in that picture, kid, but don’t drool on it, okay?"
The kid tossed the wallet back to Mulder,
then asked nervously, "You’re with the FBI?"
"Yeah," Mulder said, pocketing the wallet. "You know my name, now what’s yours?"
The kid was at first hesitant, but then he quickly responded, "Ted. Ted Ramsey. You’ve gotta help me, man. I came out here with two of my friends and they’re just gone."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean they’re gone, man! One minute they were there, the next…I don’t know, man. They just up and disappeared like those other two people!" Ted was beginning to get hysterical with fear. He didn’t want to say what he thought had actually happened to them, that aliens had abducted them. All he’d need right now was for some dumb FBI agent to think he was a nut case.
"All right! All right! Calm down." Mulder returned his gun to the back of his pants. He didn’t know exactly what had transpired here before he’d shown up, so he would need to question Ted. The first thing he needed to know was about the white Ford. Was it Ted’s or could it be that of a possible perpetrator? Mulder pointed back in the direction he’d come from and asked, "Is that your car out there with the alien bumper sticker?"
There was a quiver in Ted’s voice when he said, "Yeah, that’s mine."
Looking at the frightened kid, Mulder asked, "You said you were with two other people?" Ted nodded nervously. "What’s their names?"
"Michael and Lucy. We all go to school together."
"What the hell are you three doing out here anyway this close to an air force base?" Mulder hadn’t intended to come out sounding so…parental, but the kid had frayed his nerves.
Though the fear is still there, Ted is angry. "Aw, come on, man! Don’t start with that third degree shit! You ain’t my mother! What the hell are you doing out here, huh?!"
"Hey!" yelled Mulder and popped the kid lightly on the side of the head. "Remember who’s got the gun. Now, shut up and answer my question, ya' punk ass."
Though he was still angry, Ted figured he’d better shut up while he was at it. This would probably end up being more serious than he’d allowed himself to consider. If Michael and Lucy weren’t found, this would all end up on his head. Then everything would be blown wide open, namely his work with the "watchdogs." "We came to spy on the base, what with all those UFO sightings going on recently. I wanted to see if I could catch something on video or on camera. Michael and Lucy didn’t really want to come after they’d heard about those other disappearances, but … we planned it all a whole week in advance, so I kinda' talked’em into coming anyway …"
"So, you came to shoot some video and what happened?"
"Our camp site is a good five to six miles away from the base, so while Michael and Lucy stayed to set up camp, I went ahead to scout out a good spot to surveil. That was the last time I saw them. On my way back, I found Lucy’s camcorder and flashlight." Ted’s voice began to shake with the vivid memory that was still so fresh in his mind. "They were just lying on the ground, man. The camcorder was still recording and the flashlight was on."
"Do you still have the camcorder?"
"Yeah." Ted pointed at the ground left. "It fell when we ran into each other. Anyway, when I went back to the camp, I couldn’t find them. I know they couldn’t have been trying to play a trick on me, because they don’t know their way around these woods. Only I do. I come here a lot, so I know these woods like the back of my hand."
Mulder wondered about this kid as he searched for the camcorder with his flashlight. His was the car with the alien bumper sticker and, according to him, he frequented this area. The fact that he was watching this area piqued Mulder’s interest in him. Was that the hobby of most teenage kids? Besides myself, Mulder thought. No, he didn’t think so. Most teenage boys were into cars, girls and getting laid as much as possible. Mulder picked up the camcorder off the ground. It was slightly damaged from the fall, but the tape inside looked fine. "What about Lucy’s flashlight?" Mulder was flashing his light around when he caught a glint. "Is that it there?"
"No, that’s mine. I left Lucy’s back at the camp." Ted shook his head sadly and covered his face with his hand. Fear for Michael and Lucy, and now guilt at having left them behind, coursed through him. He began to shake, fighting back tears that wanted to come out.
Noticing his reaction, Mulder asked, "You okay?" These kind of delicate situations were never his strong suit. Scully was better at that than he was, which made him wish she was here all the more.
"I’m scared, man. What if we don’t find them?"
"We’ll find them, okay. Let’s start looking. Take me back to the camp site." At first, Ted seemed unwilling to move. So, Mulder took hold of his arm and said to him, "Come on, Ted. If something has happened to them, your friends are going to need you to be strong, so we can find them."
Ted nodded reluctantly, sniffed and turned to wipe his face out of Mulder’s view. He didn’t want to go back there, but he had no choice. "It’s this way," he told Mulder and began to lead the way back.
A while later, Mulder entered the campsite with Ted. The first thing he noticed were the three lighted lanterns set in a triangular fashion on the ground and the backpacks strewn around. Ted had told him that Michael and Lucy stayed behind to set up the tents. They obviously didn’t get to finish. One of the tent bags had been opened and its contents taken out. The other two were still tied closed with a pull string.
Ted pointed to the opened bag on the ground at his feet. "That was Michael’s."
"Were these lamps set up when you went to the air force base?" Mulder asked the boy, who hadn’t yet calmed as they walked back to the campsite. In fact, he was starting to become jumpy and nervous, seeming to question everything Mulder said or asked. Was that a guilty conscience talking or someone worried he might appear guilty?
"No," Ted responded curiously.
Mulder nodded, but didn’t respond to Ted’s quizzical expression. If the opened bag was Michael’s, that meant he was getting ready to set up the first tent while Lucy set up the lamps around the camp. Looking down at the ground and trying to avoid looking at Ted’s curiously worried expression, Mulder said, "Show me where you found the camcorder."
Ted again led the way through to a small dirt path. Mulder let his flashlight play along the ground as he walked. He noticed a footprint embedded into the dirt. As they continued along, he saw another and another. He flashed the light farther ahead on the dirt path and saw even more. He realized then, that they may be treading upon evidence. Mulder excitedly pushed Ted to the side of the dirt path. "Whoa, whoa! Move out of the way."
"What?! What is it?"
Mulder pointed at the footprints on the ground. "Look at the tracks."
Ted looked down and saw them for the first time. He saw his own tracks from where he had come and gone down the pathway, but he also saw smaller tracks that were deeper into the dirt. Along with the smaller tracks, was a set of larger tracks.
Mulder looked over at Ted and noticed the camera around his neck. He had his own in the backpack slung across his back, but Ted’s was easier to get to. So, he reached over and grabbed at Ted’s camera. "That thing got a flash on it?"
Ted instinctively retreated, not allowing the agent to touch his camera. This camera was his eyes and ears to the "watchdogs" and he allowed no one to touch it but him. "Hey! This camera costs five hundred dollars, man, and I’ve got some important pictures in here. What do you want with it?"
Mulder looked at Ted curiously, but his reply is calm. "I want to get some shots of the tracks in the dirt before they get destroyed, Ted. Your friends are missing and you’re worried about a camera and some pictures?" Mulder could tell that the reality of the situation had not yet sunk into Ted’s mind. Ted looked at him for some time, before he reluctantly took the camera from around his neck and handed it to Mulder. "Thank you." Mulder took a couple of shots, then moved Ted forward. "Stay to the edge," he told him as they walked along. Mulder took new shots every couple of feet. He wanted a clear record of what he was seeing here.
Though Ted was a very smart kid, the fear and unreality of the situation had clouded his normally clear thinking. He understood the importance of taking pictures of the footprints, but what he couldn’t see was what Mulder saw. "What’s with the footprints, man?"
Mulder paused in his picture taking to look at Ted and point down the pathway to the edge the field. "You said you found the camcorder at the edge of the woods, right?"
"That mean’s one of these tracks belongs to your friend, Lucy." Mulder saw the color of Ted face turn a shade whiter. It looked like reality was starting to sink in. "One of them is yours, right?"
Ted slowly nodded his head. "Yeah," he said, pointing to the ground at a particular design. "That’s mine."
"Look at your tracks in relation to hers. You see anything different?"
"Hers are in deeper than mine."
"That’s right." Mulder made sure he was looking directly into Ted’s eyes so that he knew he was catching on. From what Mulder was seeing one the ground next to his feet, something serious had happened here and Ted needed to understand that more was at stake here than a five hundred dollar camera. "Her foot hit the ground harder than yours. You were walking, that’s why your impression is so shallow. Lucy’s impression is deep. That means she was running."
Ted could almost feel his heart stop. "From who?"
"That’s the question. There’s a third
print here. It’s larger than both you and Lucy’s tracks."
He looked up Mulder hopefully and said, "Maybe it was Michael."
"I don’t think so," Mulder said with a shake of his head. "You and Michael were about the same age, right?" Ted nodded. "Does he have a larger shoe size than you?"
Ted remembered that time in Gym, when he and Michael had accidentally grabbed the wrong tennis shoes and hadn’t even realized it until they had both gone home for the night. They had the exact same shoe size. Ted looked at Mulder sadly and shook his head.
"Then, that means there was a fourth person out here tonight." When he said that, Mulder watched Ted’s face go even whiter.
Ted had been almost hoping that all that had happened to them was that they had gotten "abducted", but now it was obvious that things were a lot more sinister than he had originally thought. He swore under his breath nervously and ran shaky fingers though his short brown hair.
Mulder’s light shined on something a few feet ahead. He followed it and found the dirt at this spot had been spread around. There was a mass of full and partial prints, some of it obscured by the grass of the field they were now near to. The prints belonged to Lucy and the mysterious fourth person. One print was slapped right on top of this spot. It was Ted’s.
"What happened here?" Ted asked, beginning to understand more of what he was seeing.
Kneeling next to the mass of prints, Mulder told him, "There was a struggle." He could see the larger prints were near to the grass, while the smaller prints, Lucy’s prints, were the ones that were mostly partial. Whoever the fourth prints belonged to had grabbed Lucy at this spot. She dropped her camcorder and flashlight near the grass. The partial prints showed her struggle to get away. Not only that, but it showed the fact that this fourth person was almost lifting her off the ground, since the only prints of her shoes at this spot were of the balls of her feet. That would also imply that the fourth person was tall. How tall would depend upon how tall Lucy was.
Mulder took a few extra shots, then stood up and looked at Ted’s pale face. His eyes, though, were not fixed upon the prints as Mulder’s had been. They were looking over Mulder’s shoulder. Mulder turned and followed his gaze to see the bright lights of Keating AFB, one of the bases rumored to hold pieces of a downed spacecraft. Mulder had dreams of places like that; army personnel and men in lab coats, the blurred shape of a circular craft sifting through the folds of a heavy plastic curtain. The dreams were scary, but exciting.
Out of his imaginings, Mulder heard Ted say, "I should have known something was wrong around here, what with all that military presence. It’s the most I’ve seen here in years."
That’s when it suddenly hit Mulder … Ted was his email contact Ufologene. He thought better of bringing up the subject now with the disappearance of his friends, so he would save it for later. But, his statement had Mulder thinking. An increase in military security usually meant that something was up, especially at a military base. They were worried about something. Mulder wondered if it was just happenstance that these things—the disappearances, the UFO sightings and the up in security—were all happening in or near Keating air force base. Scully would almost positively say ‘Yes.’ Mulder, on the other hand, was not so sure.
"Hey," said Ted. "Can I go get my stuff over there?" He pointed towards the base. "I left my telescope and stuff over by the base, man."
Mulder couldn’t understand why Ted was showing more concern for his possessions than he was for his friends. Perhaps, reality hadn’t sunk in as fully as he had suspected. Unfortunately for Ted, his possessions were now about to turn into evidence. "That’s not going to be possible, Ted."
"How come, man?"
Mulder looked at Ted with a sober, but serious expression. "We’re not allowed to disturb evidence at a crime scene. I’m sorry, Ted, but that’s just what this has become."
Though Ted tried to form words with his mouth, nothing would come out. He could only stare at Mulder in shock. He’d come here with his friends hoping for that one chance to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft of an alien from another world. He was not only walking away empty handed, but without his friends, and a faith in the unseen shattered beyond repair.
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