part 2

PART II: Filed Under X For … Xena

By Jennifer Lawson

See part one for all disclaimers.

Lake Keating, New York

February 6, 1999

8:11 a.m.

Agent Scully’s foot pressed harder on the gas, accelerating to 80 on a 65 mile per hour highway, as her hands rubbed the leather-coated steering wheel anxiously. She had switched on the light-blue rental car’s radio and tuned it to a classical music station hoping it would calm her nerves some. Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping. Early that same morning, when her cell phone connection with Mulder had been mysteriously broken, terror had raced through her heart. Her mind had begun to conjure up all sorts of things. Now, though, her feelings were very different. As her restless hands indicated, she was very anxious to get to her destination—the woods behind Keating AFB. Her pursed lips told of another feeling—anger. No longer were there any feelings of fear for Mulder, for she knew he was quite well.

After she had been disconnected with Mulder, Scully’s first instinct had been to call the local authorities in Lake Keating, only at the time, she couldn’t recall that name. Knowing the FBI was the only available resource left to her, Scully called headquarters and started an intensive search for Mulder. They could track him down by the plane ticket he purchased, then from his plane ticket to his rental car and from his rental car to the hotel he was staying at. Then, they could send out a bulletin to the police to be on the lookout for a rental car, license number XWP 307, registered under the name Fox Mulder. It wasn’t long before they’d found him, however, in excellent condition, since Mulder had contacted them first. Scully had been desperate to keep this under wraps and away from the ears of Assistant Director Kersh, but Mulder had made that impossible.

Why didn’t I just stay in Medical School?, Dana Katherine Scully asked herself. She could have. She had a very promising career in medicine going, when she was tempted away from it by the FBI’s academy in Quantico, Virginia. Having previously graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Physics, the Bureau recruited her right out of Medical school. It was the one thing in her life her father, a Navy General, had never approved of. Though Dana loved her father more than life (they adopted pet names for each other; Dana calling her father Captain Ahab and he, in return, nicknaming her Starbuck, due to their mutual love of the book "Moby Dick"), she decided to pursue a career in law enforcement by joining the Bureau. She continued her study in medicine, though, as well as teaching forensic medicine at the Academy from 1990 to 1992. Then, in 1992 her entire life changed—she joined the X-files unit. She had been assigned there by Section Chief Blevins to monitor the activities of, or as Scully saw it, to ‘debunk the work of’ Agent Mulder, such as his interest in the occult and paranormal. Scully knew she was in for a wild ride, but never imagined how wild it would be. Mulder has taken her down paths she’d never been down and stretched her own Christian-based beliefs to their limits. However, Scully has tried to remain grounded, although her heels have risen off the floor once or twice during some of their cases. She has stuck to her utter belief in science and in God, her own beliefs sparring with Mulder’s case after case. In fact, Scully’s scientific background has served as a counterpoint to Mulder’s beliefs, which are often based on his own intuition or emotional ties. Her medical background has served their investigations as well, since on a number of occasions she has conducted many on-site autopsies. Scully wondered if this would be another one of those wild rides. What or who would they encounter this time?

Probably nothing and nobody, she thought, answering her own question, for Scully had orders to return Agent Mulder back to Bureau headquarters ASAP. A.D. Kersh had gotten wind of the whole situation rather early, because Mulder had not only called in the local PD to the site, but also local FBI. Scully had been called into A.D. Kersh’s office and grilled as soon as word had come to him of Mulder’s involvement in the case. Scully had tried to stand up for Mulder, stating that his involvement was purely coincidental, but it was more than obvious that Kersh wanted to hear nothing of what she had to say. He had been so angry his glasses had started to fog up. So, Scully had simply pursed her lips in silence and reluctantly listened to what the Director had to say.

Kersh had sat behind his desk like an angry god, ready to step on the head of the offending redheaded creature before him who had dared to speak. "All I know, Agent Scully, is that Agent Mulder is supposed to be on vacation, not heading up an investigation in anyone’s disappearance. If he wants to come back to work, he can do it here." His four fingers had tapped at his desk rhythmically and all Scully could do was stare at them and feel the tension pulling at the strands of her sanity, making her want to scream, ‘Would you stop that incessant tapping before I rip that sadistic look off your face!!’ With contempt dripping from his lips, Kersh continued, "At your earliest possible convenience, Agent Scully, you will go all the way up to Lake Keating and bring our dear Agent Mulder all the way back here so that I can have a nice long chat with him. Is this in any way unclear?"

"No, sir," she had replied through tight lips and immediately left the room.

So, suffice it to say that Scully was in a really pissed off mood when she arrived at the sight. There was a short dirt road leading off of the main highway that lead her straight to a mass of police and other parked cars. As her car came to a stop beside a New York state patrol car, Scully reached over to switch the radio off. She halted when the calm voice of the DJ came through the speakers: "We have some late breaking news here in Lake Keating. According to a local source of WKLK, two more people have disappeared from our ‘renowned’ Keating Air Force Base." Scully noticed the tone of his voice and wondered at his sarcasm. "And according to our source the two missing are reported to be teenagers. Lake Keating police have not released a statement yet, nor have they released the names of the two alleged teenagers. For more updates on the current situation, tune in to WKLK—your station for up to the minute news and great classical music."

Finally switching off the radio, Scully pulled the key from the ignition and got out of the car, taking in the commotion around her with the observant eyes of a scientist. A small crowd had gathered behind a bright yellow tape that read: POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS. A couple of uniformed officers were stationed to keep the peace and to keep people from crossing the yellow line into the crime scene. As she crossed to the yellow tape, Scully noticed three people, a man and two women, talking with two officers, who were taking notes in their little notepads. The man looked serious, his arm around one of the women, whose face was buried in a bundle of tissues. The other woman looked drawn in, detached and barely paying much attention to what the two officers were saying. ‘The parents’, Scully thought. She couldn’t take her eyes off the latter woman, who looked lost in her own fears. Having been a parent (for an oh so fleeting moment), she could sympathize with this woman. Even though she had not known her daughter, Emily, for very long, she knew what it was like to feel fear at the thought of never seeing that person again. Just then, the woman looked up at her as she passed by, a haunted expression on her face that caused the hair on the back of Scully’s neck to stand on end. She seemed to be questioning her with her eyes, wanting Scully to tell her where her child was, as if she had the answers the woman was looking for.

Tearing her eyes away from the woman, who had left a twinge of uneasy guilt in her heart, Scully shuffled through a couple of people to the two officers that were standing guard at the yellow tape. Reaching into the inside pocket of her overcoat, Scully produced her badge, easily ceasing the objection on the edge of the officer’s lips. "Special Agent Dana Scully. I’m with the FBI."

Without a word, the officer lifted the tape and allowed Scully to pass through. "Just follow the tape to the site."

She noticed that more yellow tape had been tied off to the front bumper of a police car that led into the woods, wrapping around tree after tree. She thanked the officers and headed off into the woods, her feet crunching through the dead, dried leaves that littered the ground. As she walked, she wondered about what Mulder had gotten himself into now. Being under a kind of probation and under the strict watch of A.D. Kersh, Scully couldn’t understand why Mulder continued to defy the commands of his superiors. With his every move, he stretched Kersh’s patience to the limit. She didn’t know all the particulars that had involved him in this case, but she did know that, once again, Mulder had gone too far. Calling in the police and feds on missing persons was one thing, but hanging around and involving yourself in an investigation you have no business being a part of was another. If she and Mulder were still investigating X-files, they might have been called here to assist in this investigation. It had the earmarks of a classic X-file case. However, they had been reassigned and were no longer allowed to investigate X-files. The events that led up to their reassignment were strange indeed, as were many of the X-file cases. Scully thought it odd that their downfall should all have started with a boy named Gibson Praise.

Gibson was like no other child that Scully had ever encountered. She had to admit he was even more amazing than Emily, who was a miracle of existence in her own right. A man had attempted to kill Gibson; a man who was now dead, killed by the same men who had ordered him to kill. During their investigation into the assassin’s motive for trying to kill Gibson, they discovered a few extraordinary things about the boy. When the attempt was made on the boy’s life, he had been in the middle of a live chess game with a "grand master" chess player from Russia. The Russian chess player had actually taken the bullet meant for Gibson and it was mistakenly believed at first that the Russian was the killer’s target. However, when the video of the incident was reviewed, it clearly showed Gibson, who’s back was to the killer, push back from the table a couple of inches just seconds before the shot was fired. This meant that the bullet that buried itself into the Russian’s heart was actually meant to bury itself into the back of Gibson’s head. This raised an interesting question: How did Gibson know? Mulder came to the conclusion that Gibson had read the killer’s mind and knew exactly when to move out of the way.

Though Scully had been immediately skeptical of this idea, she went with Mulder’s assumption and ran a series of tests on Gibson. The first in the series were simple tests, run by an old friend of Mulder’s named Diana Fowley, who, according to Mulder, was with him the day he’d found the X-file cases. She had popped up out of the blue and suddenly became involved in the investigation. Diana ran tests that evaluated his clairvoyant abilities. Scully, on the other hand, chose a more scientific approach. She ran neurological tests of Gibson that mapped his brain functions using a very high resolution EEG ("Electroencephalogram/Electroencephalography"—A painless procedure for recording electrical impulses of the brain. A variety of patterns normally produced by nerve cells are altered in recognizable ways by abnormal conditions. Electroencephalography is done by placing metal plates called electrodes on the head. The electrodes are attached to a recording device that reproduces the activity graphically. The recording is called an electroencephalogram). The tests revealed something very peculiar in an area of the brain called the temporal lobe. Neurophysicists are only now beginning to understand this area of the brain and are calling it "the god-module." To Scully’s amazement, she found that all of Gibson’s brain processes were showing extraordinary activity in that particular part of his brain. That was absolutely unheard of. No other human on earth, that she knew, was capable of accessing that part of their brain. It was an impossibility for it to ever have happened, and yet this boy somehow had this ability. These findings had nearly dropped Mulder to the ground. Could it be that someone wanted Gibson dead because of this ability? Mulder had summed it up this way, saying everything Scully had wanted to say, but never finding the right words to express it: "This kid may be the key, not just to all human potential, but to all spiritual, unexplained, paranormal phenomenon. The key to everything in the X-files." The boy was "quantifiable proof" of everything that she and Mulder had investigated in the X-files. And who else knew it better than his would-be assassin did.

On this basis, Mulder risked everything; he risked the X-files, his life’s work, to give this killer immunity in exchange for the information he held about Gibson Praise. That had been the end of the X-files for both Mulder and Scully. "Quantifying the spiritual," as Diana had put it, had been their downfall. The Attorney General had gone ballistic at the notion of freeing a killer just to give credence to all things unexplained and paranormal. And in the end, the killer had himself been killed—shot down in his own cell. When it was all over, Mulder had told Scully that he believed it had all been part of a plan to shut them down. She, at first, didn’t want to think so conspiratorially about the events that had transpired, but when she had left Mulder for the evening and had gone home to be alone with her thoughts, it all began to seem so contrived. It was as if they used Gibson, an innocent in the whole game, to get at them. She felt sorry for the boy and wondered often about him since he disappeared.

Lost in her thoughts, Scully didn’t pay much attention to the ground at her feet. So, when she tripped on something lying on the ground, she let out a small gasp. Turning back, she saw something black protruding out of the mass of dead leaves. Curious, but afraid that it might be some overlooked piece of evidence, Scully removed a glove from her overcoat pocket. With delicate fingers, she lifted up some of the leaves that covered the object and realized without too much surprise that it was only Mulder’s cell phone. She picked it up and examined it, noticing the cracked plastic casing and the deep scratches. At least he has something of a good excuse for not calling me back immediately, she thought. With her lips pursed once again in annoyance, she pocketed the damaged cell phone and continued on toward the site.

When Scully finally arrived at the scene, once again having to show her badge to officers outside the perimeter, she noticed that the officers and forensic teams were just wrapping up their investigations. Looking off to her right, she saw the majority of them were focusing their attention on a dirt trail that led away from the clearing.

"Scully." Upon hearing Mulder’s voice, she turned back to her left and saw Mulder walking towards her. He wore the look of a man who hadn’t slept a wink, still in the clothes he undoubtedly was wearing the night before—T-shirt, blue jeans and a windbreaker. He was unshaven, his hair was a tousled mess and on his lips was a tired smile. "You’re late," he said.

Scully returned with a tight-lipped smile, looked hard at him from under hooded eyes and reached into her pocket to present him with his cell phone. She held the phone by the antenna between her thumb and forefinger as if it were some diseased creature she was trying to keep as far away from her as she could. "Through no fault of my own. Maybe if you had hung on to this, I would have gotten here sooner."

Mulder’s smile widened as he approached, noticing the cell phone in her hand. "You found it! I’ve been looking everywhere…" Mulder’s smile faded when Scully handed him the phone and he noticed the damage to it. "…for it. Great. It must’ve hit a tree when that kid knocked me down."

"What kid?" she asked curiously.

Mulder opened his mouth to answer, but the words never left his mouth. Instead, someone else spoke up.

"Our possible suspect."

Scully turned in surprise at the voice and noticed a tall man walking toward them. The man, who Scully assessed to be between 35 to 40 years of age, was dressed in a dark gray suit and tie. He ran his fingers through wavy black hair and gave Scully a handsome smile.

Indicating the man approaching them, Mulder said, "Scully, this is Detective Steinman." Mulder placed a friendly hand on the detective’s shoulder. "We grew up together back in Maryland—through elementary to high school. I haven’t seen him in years and suddenly he shows up here."

Scully smiled graciously at him and extended her hand in greeting. "It’s nice to meet you, detective."

Detective Steinman took her outstretched hand and shook it. "It’s David." And he added with a smirk, "And don’t let him fool you. We weren’t that close."

Mulder chuckled at David’s joke, then threw in a joke of his own. "No, no, never that close. We were only a menace to every teacher in school." Mulder and David laugh.

"I can imagine," said Scully, smiling soberly. She hoped she didn’t sound too crude in her responses, but her frustration had yet to subside. The fact that Mulder was over here, seeming to be having the time of his life while Kersh grilled her into the ground, only resulted in irking her even more.

Steinman smiled and said, "Unlike Fox, I have grown out of that phase in my life and have learned a bit of the social skills that he seems to have forgotten. Like completing an introduction." David ended the last sentence with a curious look at Mulder.

"Sorry about that," Mulder said. "David, this is Dana Scully, my partner at the FBI for…" Mulder looked over at Scully questioningly. "…what is it?…six years now?"

"About that, yeah," she said, nodding in agreement.

"And it is equally as nice to meet you, Dana Scully," Steinman said, then turned to Mulder and asked, "How do you do it, Fox? I never could understand. Even in high school, he always ended up with the pretty girls."

With a slight blush and a quick raise of her eyebrows in acknowledgment, Scully lowered her head and smiled uncomfortably, but she wasn’t very amused. She never felt comfortable with that kind of attention, even when she was a young girl. Clearing her throat, she hurried to change the track of the conversation. "So, what exactly happened out here?" That did the trick, because both men’s attitudes changed from playful to all business in seconds.

"Well, apparently we have two missing kids on our hands." David pointed in the direction of the AFB. "Three of them came out here to spy on the air force base several miles that way. They got separated and two disappeared."

"Any trace of them?"

"Barely," Steinman responded gravely. "They didn’t leave much behind besides their gear and some tracks in the ground, so we don’t have much to go on."

"The only solid lead we have so far is a camcorder left at the scene," Mulder told her.

"Was there anything on it?" she asked.

"We’re not sure yet."

"It’s being analyzed by our crime lab specialist as we speak," said Steinman. "We should hear something from them soon."

"You said something about a possible suspect," Scully inquired.

"Uh…yeah, possible," came Steinman’s hesitant reply. "His name’s Ted Ramsey. He’s a schoolmate of the two missing kids, Michael Hurt and Lucy Lawson."

Looking unhappily at his battered cell phone, Mulder explained, "He’s the reason my cell phone got damaged. He ran right into me and knocked me on my ass. He claimed that while his friends stayed here and set up camp, he went to scout out a good surveillance area. When he returned to camp about an hour later, they were gone. He found Lucy’s camcorder and flashlight, both left on, at the edge of that dirt pathway."

Scully turned to glance at the pathway, then turned back to Mulder. "Where is he now?"

Detective Steinman crossed his arms across his chest and said, "We’re only holding him right now for questioning. That may change, though."

Scully glanced over at Mulder and could see he was uncomfortable with the conversation and that he was straining to hold his tongue. From her experience with Mulder, she could tell he did not share the detective’s sentiment. "So, you think he may be responsible for the other two’s disappearance."

Steinman glanced at Mulder hesitantly. "There’s a high possibility, but we haven’t reached a definitive conclusion yet. We just don’t have enough to go on."

"Once we get a look at that video from Lucy’s camera, I believe we’ll find out what happened here," said Mulder confidently.

Scully began to tell Mulder that she didn’t think he would get the chance, when Steinman interrupted her with, "You’re not still clinging to the idea that this had something to do with aliens, are you, Fox?" Scully looked at Mulder with the same questions in her eyes. Was he thinking that these disappearances were the work of aliens? And that these people were "abductees"?

With his hands on his hips, Mulder breathed heavily though his nose in exasperation. "All I’m saying is that it may be a distinct possibility." He looked at Scully, knowing and seeing the disbelief in her eyes. Mulder already knew that David was against the idea, since he had disagreed with Mulder’s form of speculation before. He often wondered why it was so hard for some people to open their minds and believe, whereas someone like him believed so easily, so implicitly. Where was that fine line drawn in a person to make him believe one way or another? "Right now, no one knows exactly what happened here," Mulder continued. "Not even Ted."

"So far, Ted doesn’t know anything." Steinman responded as if he were trying to correct Mulder. "We don’t know that to be true, but I sure as hell am not going to try to shift the blame to aliens for Christ’s sake!" he said with a playful chuckle. Seeing Mulder’s reaction to his blatant disregard of his feelings and beliefs, Steinman placed a friendly hand on Mulder’s shoulder and gave him a warm smile. "You haven’t changed one inch, have you? When are you going to come back down to Earth with the rest of us?"

"Why?" Mulder asked in his usual deadpan manner. "I see things much more clearly from up here." Steinman could only stare at Mulder quietly for several seconds, while Scully hid a smile by letting her hair fall into her face. She began to wonder when Mulder would break the silence, but only seconds later he smiled at Steinman as if it were all a joke. Steinman smiled back and laughed softly to himself, satisfied that his old school chum hadn’t gone completely insane.

Becoming serious once more, Mulder persisted, "I just don’t think that the recent "unidentified flying object" sightings and the four disappearances happening right here on a military base are mere coincidences."

"And you think this video tape will prove that these kids were abducted?" Steinman asked disbelievingly.

"I have no idea what we are going to see on the tape, David. I do believe it will prove that Ted had nothing to do with it."

"Well, I guess the sooner we see the tape, the better."

It seemed like the perfect time to cut in and ruin Mulder’s fun, so Scully did. "Unfortunately, gentlemen, that’s where we run into a small problem." Both men look at her curiously. Scully shuffled nervously under their intense glares. She knew eventually that she would have to spell this all out to Mulder and she knew he would not like it. In fact, if he didn’t get extremely pissed off, she would be surprised.

"What are you talking about?" Mulder asked, a frown of concern on his face.

"I didn’t come here to help you in the investigation of this case, Mulder," Scully told him through tight lips, her hands clasped before her uncomfortably. "I was sent here by Assistant Director Kersh to bring you back to Washington for a meeting with him."

Mulder’s frown deepened. "You’ve gotta be kidding me. For what?!"

"He got wind of your little fishing trip."

"But I’m on vacation."

"According to Kersh…not anymore. He doesn’t want you on this investigation, Mulder. He wants you back in Washington."

Mulder exhaled heavily and shook his head. "When?"

"As soon as possible. Now, in fact."

"That’s just great." Mulder turned to Steinman with a sorry expression. "Sorry, David. Seems I’m not going to be able to stay after all."

"Guy sounds like a tight ass," he said, his expression sympathetic. "What’s his problem?"


Scully glanced at the detective and gave him a simple answer hoping to quickly end the conversation. "Agent Mulder and I are under censure." Scully turned back to Mulder, laid a hand on his arm and said, "We should go, Mulder. We have a plane to catch in two hours. I’m supposed to have you in Kersh’s office as soon as we return."

Mulder was angry, but he knew better than to put up a fight. His real fight, his real struggle was getting himself and Scully back on the X-files. Acting like a jerk just to prove a point was not going to get him there. It would only push him farther away. So, Mulder nodded to Scully, conveying feelings through his eyes and expressions that only she could read. Scully nodded in return, sensing his choice to comply to Kersh’s wishes when what he really wanted was to ignore him, stay in Lake Keating and, in effect, dare Kersh to do anything about it. "All right," Mulder said. Turning back to Steinman, he shook his hand. "Do me a favor, will you?"


"Keep me updated. You got my number."

"I’ll go you one better," Steinman dared. "What’s that guy’s name again?"

"Kersh, Alvin Kersh. Why?"

"I’ll see to it he gets you back out here."

Mulder laughed and gave Steinman a "yeah right" look, thinking he was telling the world’s largest joke. "Didn’t know you had that kind of influence."

"Funny, but I’m serious," he said with a smirk. "Trust me."

"Okaaaaay," Mulder said sarcastically.

Scully looked at Steinman strangely, but chose to ignore him. "Come on, Mulder."

"Coming." Mulder followed Scully shaking his head and chuckling softly to himself. He turned back to wave a hand at Steinman. "Later." Steinman waved back, then returned to his officers and the investigation. As Mulder and Scully trudged though the dead leaves, following the yellow tape back to the car, Mulder said, "Can you believe that guy?"

"He’s your friend…not mine," Scully replied with a completely bored expression.

Scully’s sober mood was beginning to sour Mulder’s. Last night he had been wishing he had her to talk to. This morning, he wished she’d stayed home.


FBI Headquarters

Washington, DC

February 6, 1999

11:31 a.m.

Tapping his fingers on the arm of the couch did nothing to still Mulder’s nerves. Sensing eyes on him, Mulder looked up from his seat at Kersh’s blonde secretary. The look in her eyes was almost accusatory as she stared blandly at him. It was as if, with her eyes, she was saying: ‘Now you’re in trouble.’ Mulder gave her a dry smile, one devoid of any emotion and turned away from her. With a smirk, she returned to the work at her desk. Hoping for some kind of backup, Mulder turned to Scully, but the expression on her face was no better. Her eyes told him something she wasn’t going to say out loud: ‘I told you so’, and without a word she turned away from him.

Mulder suddenly felt boxed in, as if the entire world were getting ready to crash in on him. He had to get out of this room before he began to scream. And it wouldn’t look too good for Special Agent Fox "Spooky" Mulder to lose his cool. Quickly, he rose from his seat and headed for the door. He knew Scully was looking at him curiously and wondering just where in hell he thought he was going, but he ignored her. He didn’t care. He was walking out, his hand was on the doorknob, the door was opening…

…and as the Fates would have it, someone was standing right in his way.

"Agent Mulder."

Mulder felt his stomach turn. It wasn’t just any someone. It was Agent Jeffrey Spender, the man who had ceremoniously taken over the X-files unit. From Mulder’s point of view, he literally snatched it out from under them. He was taking Mulder’s life work and basically flushing it down the toilet, because Spender was even worse of a skeptic than Scully was. He not only didn’t believe in the paranormal or in the occult, he didn’t even like to talk about it, let alone have to hear about it. The only thing that kept Mulder from strangling Spender, was knowing that he wasn’t the only person left to tend to the X-files. The powers that be had paired him with someone that Mulder trusted, someone that had as much interest in the X-files as Mulder himself did: Diana Fowley.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Diana who was standing before him. In the few seconds that Mulder stood there, staring at this backstabbing bastard, his mind began to go into rewind. It went back several months ago when Mulder had lost faith in everything he believed in. Back to the day he first met a woman named Cassandra Spender…Agent Spender’s mother. She claimed to be a multiple abductee, which Spender vehemently denied, even though as a child he had undergone hypnosis to verify his mother’s claims. He’d confessed this to Scully, showing her a video of one of the hypnosis sessions he’d taken. In these sessions, he told of incidents where not only his mother, but he himself was abducted. It was these very incidents that shaped the beliefs he now held. What he told Scully was that his mother was not well…mentally and that he didn’t want Mulder to have anything to do with her, afraid that he would fill his mother’s mind with what he called "alien mumbo-jumbo". But what Spender didn’t realize was that, at the time, Mulder’s faith had been shattered. His belief in alien life had faltered and was just barely hanging on. Mulder hadn’t believed Cassandra any more than her own son did. There was one person who did believe her, though. Strangely enough, it was Scully.

Agent Spender looked at Mulder as if there were something wrong with him. "Are you going to let me in, Agent Mulder, or are you going to stand there and stare at me?"

"Actually, I was thinking about shutting the door. What do you want?" he asked, continuing to stand there and bar Spender’s entry.

"I have a meeting with Assistant Director Kersh."

"That can’t be," Mulder said, looking at Spender curiously. "We’ve been called to a meeting with Kersh."

"I don’t know what to tell you, Mulder," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "I’m just following orders." The obvious implication ate at Mulder’s ego, but he choked back any remarks. He would save them for later when they weren’t in the office. Mulder stepped back and held open the door for Spender, deciding to turn the other check and be generous for a change. Surprised by Mulder apparent change of heart, Spender stepped over the threshold with a nod and said, "Thank you."

Aw, the heck with other cheek! Mulder’s right foot slid silently across the carpet and directly in Spender’s path. Spender turned slightly and nodded at Scully in greeting. "Agent Sc—" he began, then without warning Spender tripped over something in the middle of the floor. Nearly going down, he turned quickly to see what it was. All he saw was Mulder, still standing there holding the door open with a big smile on his face. Spender eyed him suspiciously.

With mock concern on his face, Mulder closed the door. "Watch your step there, Spender. Got a lot of snags in these carpets."

Resting her elbow on the arm of the couch, Scully hid her attempt to stop laughing behind a curved finger. She couldn’t believe what Mulder had just done. She watched as Spender opened his mouth to say something when the blonde secretary’s phone suddenly rang. That halted any retaliation that Spender had planned. Blondie picked up the ringing phone and spoke in silent tones to the person on the other end. After a few seconds, she replaced the receiver on its cradle and looked up at the three Agents. "Assistant Director Kersh will see you now."

"See who?" Scully asked.

"All three of you," she said as if Scully was the biggest idiot she’d laid eyes on in years.

Scully turned a surprised glance at Mulder, but only saw the same expression of surprise on his face. Why would Kersh want to see Spender at the same time? What did he have to do with this? Those were questions best saved for later, as Spender turned and headed for Kersh’s office after giving the both of them a withering look.

Assistant Director Kersh was seated behind his desk when the three of them entered the room. He was as Scully had last seen him, poised behind his desk like an angry god, his face expressionless save for the latent anger that seethed behind his eyes. He extended a hand to indicate the chairs facing his desk. "Have a seat Agents."

The three agents did as they were told and took the three chairs. Mulder seated himself in the middle chair, while Scully sat to the right of him and Spender sat to the left. Mulder’s toes tapped lightly in his shoes, just barely enough not to show through. Sure it was nervousness, but he couldn’t help it. He could chase down genetic mutants, government assassins, alien beings from other worlds and not show even a hint of fear (except for the moments when his cell phone would ring and jar him back into reality), but he couldn’t sit still under the piercing glare of Assistant Director Kersh. He wondered if that made any sense psychologically. Maybe not. Then again, maybe it did. Mulder knew that all it would take for him to be completely kicked out of the FBI was a simple signature on a piece of paper.

Kersh stared at Mulder like he was a bug ready to be squished as he began the meeting. "Agent Mulder, could you please explain to me what you were doing six miles from an air force base in Lake Keating, New York at one o’clock in the morning?"

Did he dare use the "fishing trip" explanation? Mulder took a deep breath and said, "I was on vacation, sir, following up a lead from a confidential source on an alleged UFO sighting in that area."

"Is that an official FBI investigation, Agent Mulder?"

"No, sir, it was personal research while I was on vacation."

Kersh’s brow creased and his lips pressed together tighter in anger. "I see. Would you repeat for me exactly what you were instructed to do by Assistant Director Maslin at your last hearing?"

Mulder met Kersh’s eyes, but was hesitant to answer. He knew where Kersh was going with this, but he had no intentions of playing right into his hands. With an almost bored expression, he responded, "This isn’t an X-file."

Anger now burned in Kersh’s eyes. "Agent Mulder, you are seriously trying my patience," he spoke harshly. "I don’t care what you think it is. Now, repeat to me exactly the instructions given to you by A.D. Maslin." Though Kersh was steaming, Mulder was on the verge of telling him where he could go and stick those instructions. So, to keep from saying anything he might regret, Mulder kept his mouth shut.

Scully decided to step in when she saw that Mulder was obviously going to force the issue. "Sir, if I may…"

"No, Agent Scully, you may not," was Kersh’s immediate reply. The look he gave her was one of contempt. "Was I directing any questions to you?"

"No, sir," Scully answered, offended, but not surprised by Kersh’s attitude.

"That’s what I thought." Kersh turned his attention once again to Mulder. "Now, Agent Mulder, do I have to ask you a third time?"

The comeback was so easy. It was there, right on the tip of his tongue. Should he say it? Mulder decided to take the chance. "Well, they say three time’s the charm."

The anger seemed to drain from Kersh’s face, as if he had been waiting for some kind of smart-aleck reply on Mulder’s part. He’d seen that calm, ‘I-can-take-anything-you-throw-at-me’ look on Kersh’s face before. It meant he was no longer playing games and one more word would mean Mulder’s undoing. "They also say three strikes and you’re out. You’re on number two." Then, Kersh went silent. He stared Mulder down like a cat about to attack a cornered rat.

But, Mulder could tell he was waiting, waiting for the answer to his question. And by the calm and patient look on his face, he could probably wait all day until Mulder finally snapped under the pressure. To his right, he could feel Scully’s insistent eyes on him as well, begging him to just get this over with. His ego told him ‘don’t back down, don’t let this guy hold you under his thumb.’ But, rationale and fear, not of Kersh, but of threatening his chances to ever get back on the X-files, smothered the voice of his ego. With an emotionless voice, Mulder finally decided to answer. "We are to cease all material association with the X-files."

"And?" Kersh prompted.

"And failure to do so could mean our immediate dismissal."

"That’s very good, Agent Mulder. I’m surprised you remember it so well."

"I have a photographic memory. I don’t have much of a choice."

"Really?" he asked, but there was no sincerity behind the question. "Then apparently, you decided to take it upon yourself to totally disregard your orders."

Mulder’s fingers on the armrests were griping so tightly in anger they were turning white, but he forced himself to keep calm. "With all do respect, sir, what I do on my off hours is my own personal business and you have no right to regulate what I do during those hours."

"Wrong, Agent Mulder. As an employee and a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation everything you do, whether you’re working or not, reflects upon this institution. So, when you are ordered to cease all material association with the X-files, that means all things that have any relation or connection to the X-file cases. That now falls under Agent Spender’s jurisdiction, not yours."

"So, basically, what you’re saying is if I wanted to go out a rent a copy of Independence Day, I’ve got to run it by you first," Mulder spat out, unable to keep the contempt he felt for this man from reaching his lips. Scully hung her head, embarrassed and increasingly annoyed by Mulder’s attitude. Was he ever going to learn that you get nowhere by being an asshole?

Kersh gave no reaction to Mulder’s sarcastic comment except for the fact that it only fueled his fire. "If you continue to force me to take it to the extent, sure. Is there anything else you’d like to add to this meeting, Agent Mulder?"

Many things came to mind that Mulder would have loved to lay on the table, but now was neither the time nor the place. For the many times Mulder had sat here on the other side of Kersh’s desk with egg on his face, he knew that it would not be long before Kersh was wearing his own egg. So, Mulder kept a straight face and told Kersh what he wanted to hear. "No, nothing that would do me any good."

"Nothing you’ve said here today has done you any good." When he saw that Mulder no longer had any smart comebacks, he continued. "Now that the lecture’s over, let’s get down to business. I received a phone call just a couple of minutes ago from A.D. Urbane at the New York field office regarding the disappearance of two teenagers in Lake Keating. According to A.D. Urbane, you were there during their disappearance, Agent Mulder, is this correct?"

Mulder was tempted to ask him where he got that ‘during their disappearance’ crap. Was that a setup or what? If Mulder answered that question in the positive, it would sound like he had been involved in the whole scenario. He wasn’t about to fall into any holes for Kersh. "Not exactly," he told the Assistant Director. "I ran into Ted Ramsey, a friend of the other two kids. He told me about their disappearance."

"And what makes you think this was any disappearance at all? Perhaps it was some sick prank played by all three kids."

Now, he was going to question his judgment. How nice. "I noticed signs of a struggle down a narrow dirt path that leads to the air force base. By the tracks in the dirt, it looked to me as if Lucy, one of the two that’s missing, was being chased by a fourth person."

"A fourth person?" Spender spoke up for the first time, looking at Mulder curiously.

"Yes," he responded reluctantly to Spender, the continued his retelling of the events to Kersh. "This fourth person’s tracks matched none of the tracks we found around the campsite or down that dirt path."

"And this is the evidence you went on to call in the cavalry?" Kersh asked.

"It’s not the only reason," Mulder responded to Kersh’s accusation. "Ted told me about how he found Lucy’s camcorder and flashlight at the edge of the dirt path, which is where I found the most concentration of tracks and what looked like a struggle between Lucy and this mysterious fourth person. Considering the other strange disappearances that had happened around Keating Air Force Base, I thought the sooner I got some people out there, the sooner we’d find them."

"The other disappearances happened on the base, not outside the base. I don’t see where they’re related."

"Aside from the fact that all four people just seemed to have disappeared into thin air as if they’d been plucked from the ground, no, I don’t see where they’re related either."

"’Plucked from the ground’, Agent Mulder?" Spender asked incredulously. "I thought you said this wasn’t an X-file."

"In the case of Lucy Lawson and Michael Hurt, it isn’t…at least not yet. In the first two disappearances, there was no evidence at all to go by. Here we have evidence of a fourth person in the area besides the three kids who thought they were alone. I’m thinking more along the lines of foul play, not abduction."

Another question came at Mulder. This time it was from Kersh. "’At least not yet’? What exactly does that mean?"

"There are still some things left unexplained—like where did Lucy and Michael go? We were able to track their footprints up to a certain point, but they suddenly disappear. There are no drag marks, no nothing to indicate what may have happened next. And the fourth person’s tracks also disappear at the same spot that Lucy’s does. Then, there’s the up in security at the air force base." Mulder notices how the three of them look at him curiously, waiting to hear his explanation for security at an AFB, something that seemed rather commonplace to them. "Ted actually noticed it before I did. He is a member of an internet-based group called the watchdogs. They police UFO hot spots, gathering evidence of our government’s involvement or knowledge of the visitation of our planet by alien beings. Ted was assigned to police Keating. He’s there every weekend, watching what goes on, taking pictures, video and basically surveilling the base for any kind of activity."

"I hope someone has informed him that his actions are illegal," Spender added indignantly.

There was anger in Mulder’s eyes when he remembered what the Lake Keating Police Department and the military had done to the kid. "Don’t worry, Spender, they have. His parents’ home was ransacked by the military in their search for anything that could jeopardize ‘national security’. All of Ted’s work and some of his personal belongings were confiscated…and his parents were left to clean up the mess they’d left in their wake. But, anyway…Ted noticed that Keating’s security was ten times what it normally was."

Kersh took a deep breath after listening to Mulder oration and sat back in his soft leather chair, lacing his fingers across his chest. There was an edge to his voice when he finally said, "I would like a full report on this matter from both you and Agent Scully before you leave."

Both Mulder and Scully’s ears perk up at Kersh’s last three words. Could he possibly mean what they thought he meant? "Before we leave, sir?" Scully asked uncertainly.

"Yes," he replied reluctantly. "A.D. Urbane called requesting Agent Mulder’s presence during this investigation. He claimed the detectives on the case could use Mulder’s expertise, although I strongly advised him against the idea. So, against my better judgment, I’m going to grant you this one chance to prove me wrong, Agent Mulder. I will allow you and Agent Scully to continue your investigation at Lake Keating."

Not believing what she was hearing, Scully looked to Mulder to see his reaction. If he had been a rocket, he would have been out of his chair and gone in seconds. Though on the outside, he appeared calm, Scully knew him all too well not to be able to see the excitement coursing through him. He knew this was as close to an X-file as he was going to get and there was no way he was going to pass up this opportunity. Apparently, Mulder’s friend had come through for him.

"I just have a few ground rules to set," Kersh said, a sly gleam in his eye replacing the edge that had been in his voice. Mulder’s face fell. ‘Here it comes,’ he thought. "I’m going to be keeping a close eye on you two. I want this to be a clean investigation…by the books. I do not want to hear of any references to UFOs or alien abduction, no unorthodox investigating or anything that I might deem questionable. Is this clear?"

Scully glanced quickly at Mulder when she could tell that he was reluctant to answer. So, she answered for him. "Yes, sir."

Confused, Spender said, "Excuse me, sir. I’d like to know the reason for my presence at this meeting."

"In accordance with Assistant Director Skinner and as a member of the X-files unit, I am also assigning you to this case, Agent Spender."

"What?" Mulder asked, none too happy about the idea.

Spender was not happy either. "For what reason, sir?"

Kersh indicated with a nod of his head and said, "Well, Agent Mulder said himself that there was a possibility this could become an X-file case…"

"No, sir, that is not what I said."

Kersh ignored Mulder and continued to speak to Spender. "In the off chance that this does turn out to be one, it will be your responsibility to handle the case from then on out."

Mulder sat forward in his chair, his anger blazing at Kersh. "That isn’t what this is about and you know it!" he shouted, his anger causing him to speak out of term.

"I’m not particularly interested in what you think this is about, Agent Mulder," Kersh said calmly.

Scully understood what Mulder was getting at and she didn’t appreciate what Kersh was doing either. "Sir, Agent Mulder and I are perfectly capable of handling this case on our own. We don’t need a baby-sitter."

"On the contrary, Agent Scully, from what I’ve seen of your performance under my direction, the two of you do need a baby-sitter. That is why Agent Spender is being assigned to this case with you."

Spender squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. For once, he actually agreed with Mulder and Scully. He didn’t want to work with them either. "I’m sorry, sir, but I feel I need to protest this assignment. This would be a waste of my time considering the amount of work I have with the X-file cases."

Mulder looked at Spender in annoyance, his brows furrowed. "What work? You don’t do anything, besides undermine everything I’ve worked for."

It was on the tip of Spender’s tongue to say something ugly and mean spirited to Mulder, but he couldn’t get it out. All he could do was look at Mulder angrily, let him see his displeasure, but the words he wanted just wouldn’t form themselves in his mouth. Why was it that there was always somebody like Mulder who seemed to best you at everything? He felt like the nerdy school kid the bully was always picking on.

"Hold your tongue, Agent Mulder," Kersh sternly warned.

And if Mulder was the school bully, Kersh was the teacher who backed Spender up. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ Spender thought. ‘Mulder will get what’s coming to him…real soon. It was promised.’

"Agent Spender," said Kersh, catching Spender’s attention away from his musings. "If you feel you need to protest, do so. But don’t do it on my time. Take it to your A.D."

Spender seceded reluctantly. "Yes, sir."

Kersh tapped his fingers on his desk and looked at the three of them in turn. "I can tell quite easily that none of you like the idea, but that isn’t my problem. Perhaps if you had stayed home on your vacation, Agent Mulder, you might actually be having a pleasant time right now. However, you got yourself involved with this mess, so now you have to deal with it. Any questions?" He paused a moment, waiting for any responses, but none came. All he got were sour faces and loathing glances. "Good. I want your reports before you leave and…have fun in Lake Keating. You’re dismissed."

Kersh watched the three Agents as they left the room. He almost wished he could go with them, to be a fly on the wall just so he could watch their interactions. It might be funny, if he could crack a smile. The sound of another door opening drew his attention away from the door the agents had just exited. Turning to the door behind him, he saw without much surprise the man who walked slowly into the room. He didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, as Kersh watched him methodically raise a cigarette to his mouth and light it. The man puffed several times on the cigarette and blew out an arc of smoke that filtered through Kersh’s office. Kersh rose from his seat and faced the smoking man. "Are you sure this was a good idea?" he asked.

The smoking man puffed once again and exhaled before answering. "Of course. Jeffrey will keep a close eye on them. He may not like the idea, but he’ll do his job."

The three agents exited Kersh’s secretary’s office and faced each other in the busy hallway. For a moment, neither of them could say anything. They stood at opposite ends of a spectrum that could tear the fabric of this world apart. They considered each other enemies and it felt odd standing together in a circle as partners. Scully wondered how this new partnership was going to work out. "Well, I guess we’d better get to work before we have to head back to New York," she said to the two of them.

Mulder nodded, briefly glancing at Spender before turning to leave. The last thing he wanted to do was talk to the bastard, but it didn’t seem he was going to get out of it. "Agent Mulder," Spender called and Mulder turned back to him. "Since we’re being forced to work together, I’d like to have a little background information on this case before we go. Something a little more in depth than what you related to A.D. Kersh."

Just the sound of Spender’s voice irked Mulder beyond words. That he now had to consider him a partner made his stomach turn. This man had taken everything from him. Why should he trust or even like him? Mulder smiled dryly and said, "Sure, Agent Spender." With sarcasm dripping from his words, he gripped Spender’s forearms in a "friendly" gesture. "I just need one little bitty favor first. If you don’t mind, that is."

"Sure," Spender replied, looking at Mulder strangely.

"Be a good boy and get our plane tickets, huh? I sure would appreciate it." Mulder patted Spender on the cheek, giving him that same dry smile devoid of feeling. He turned to Scully. "Come on, Scully. Let’s get those reports done." Mulder waved to Spender and said, "See you later, Jeffrey."

With a scowl, Spender stared after Mulder and Scully thinking of all the things he could have said in response to Mulder’s ridiculous behavior. Perhaps he could have said something like: "Get your own tickets, you dipwad!" or "Get your slimy hands off me, you alien lover!" Shaking his head irritably, Spender turned and left. ‘Have to get those plane tickets,’ he thought.

Lake Keating, New York

February 6, 1999

1:39 p.m.

The trip back to Lake Keating had been relatively quiet. Neither of them knew quite what to say to each other. Mulder and Scully conversed silently with each other now and then, with Spender throwing in the odd comment or two. But, for the most part, Spender kept quiet, sitting in the back seat of their new rental car with nothing else to do but stare out the window and watch the scenery race by.

It was in this very uncomfortable situation that Scully found herself, trying to keep thoughts of Spender out of her mind. She was thinking back again like she had early that morning; thinking about Spender and about the first time she’d met his mother, Cassandra. Though Spender hadn’t wanted her or Mulder talking to his mother, Scully had been unable to comply with his wishes. For some reason, which she still had no answers to, she had been inexplicably drawn to Cassandra. Scully thought it had something to do with the fact that they had both been through the same thing, but, at times, she wondered if it wasn’t something more.

Some years back, Scully had been abducted. A deranged ex-FBI agent named Duane Barry, who claimed to be a multiple alien-abductee, had kidnapped her and taken her to a place called Skyland Mountain where she mysteriously disappeared. The events that transpired during the time that she had been gone left her with nothing but holes in her memory. Only bits and pieces remained, and Scully shunned any attempts at dredging those memories up. Though she refused to admit it, it terrified her. She didn’t want to remember what happened. The effects were enough.

It wasn’t long after this incident that Scully discovered a metal implant in the back of her neck. She had it surgically removed and to her surprise an analysis revealed that this metal implant was actually a computer chip that monitored brain memory and function. She hadn’t known it then, but removing that chip was the worst thing she could have done.

During a separate investigation, Scully encountered a group of women who all had the same device implanted into the back of their neck and then removed. They claimed that they all had been abducted and subjected to unidentified medical and biological experiments. Several of them also claimed to have remembered seeing Scully during some of their abductions. The shock and fear of all that information being shoved at her so quickly had forced her to leave. No longer had she wanted to hear what they had to say, because her memories had begun to resurface. But Scully had forced them back down, deep into the abyss of her subconscious, and left, but not before the women told her how several of them in their group were dying of cancer.

When Scully had first learned of Cassandra, she found that Cassandra also had this same metal device implanted in the back of her neck and that she had been abducted from Skyland Mountain exactly as Scully had been. Going against Jeffrey’s wishes, Scully went to see Cassandra, telling herself that she was going merely to tell her of the effects of removing the implant from her body. Scully had felt those effects first hand, when she was diagnosed with an inoperable form of cancer—a nasopharyngeal brain tumor. Being a doctor herself, it was no surprise to her when her doctors informed her that her prognosis was extremely poor. By some miracle, though, her cancer has since gone into remission. Unfortunately, the others had not been as lucky as she had. All the women in the group she had met died of cancer because of removing the implant. She didn’t want Cassandra to suffer the same fate. But that wasn’t the only reason Scully had wanted to go see her. On a subconscious level, she wanted to know what had happened to herself that night on Skyland Mountain. She wanted answers, and in some way, she had hoped that Cassandra could give them to her.

Scully remembered walking into Cassandra’s room at the hospital where she had checked herself in. She had been crippled and bound to a wheelchair. Cassandra was friendly, had a pleasant smile and looked for all the world like the classic ‘50s television mom. Scully could see her now, in her mind, turning her wheelchair from the window, from where she had been staring up at the stars, and saying:

"Do I know you?" Cassandra Spender asked with a smile. "Of course, I do."

Uncomfortably, Scully entered the hospital room and closed the door, the fleeting memory of that group of women, all dead and gone now, asking her a similar question. "I don’t think so," Scully responded uneasily.

With the same smile and a look of remembrance, as if searching her memory, Cassandra said, "No, no, I’m sure of it. Are you a doctor?"

Scully stood facing her, her coat draped over folded arms. "Uh, yes, but not a practicing one."

"No?" she asked, her expression curious now.

"My name is Dana Scully and, uh, I’d like to ask you some questions."

"Questions about what?"

Scully looked around for a place to sit. Noticing a chair near the side of Cassandra’s bed, she motioned to it for permission to sit. "May I?" Cassandra readily nodded. Feeling uncomfortable and out of place, Scully quickly took the seat by the bed, pulling it closer to where Cassandra sat. "Um, I think you should know that I, uh, I learned about you from your son."

Cassandra’s expression changed at the mention of Agent Spender. "Jeffrey," was all she said. She spoke his name with a mixture of sadness and compassion. It was obvious she loved her son, but his disbelief in her was troubling.

"Yes," Scully responded sympathetically, seeing the look on Cassandra’s face. "I’m an FBI Agent and he asked that I protect against your story getting out."


A small smile slid briefly across Scully’s face as she said, "I guess I’m betraying that by coming here, but um…but I don’t…" The right words at the moment seemed to escape her and she paused for a second. "I’m here for more personal reasons actually." The look on Cassandra’s face changed once again as if she knew what Scully was going to say to her. Scully knew the look on her face and it scared her. She’d seen these kinds of expressions before, like the expectancy in Cassandra’s eyes and how she restlessly rubbed the palms of her hands on the armrests of her wheelchair. There was a kind of excitement in those cheerful eyes. "I took the liberty of reading your medical file…" Scully began nervously.

"You’re feeling it, too, aren’t you?" Cassandra broke in. Her hands left the armrests for the first time and reached out to Scully sitting across from her. Her fingers laced behind Scully’s neck and rested directly on top of the small scar where the implant had been removed. "Here," Cassandra said as she stared into Scully’s eyes. Scully could feel the hairs prick up on the back of her neck and the goose flesh rising on her arms. Then Cassandra began to tell her things about herself that she couldn’t even relate to her own mother. "You wake up at night, knowing you need to be somewhere, but you don’t know where it is. Like you forgot an appointment you didn’t know you had."

Something in the back of her mind told her to explore this, to find out more about it. But she pushed it back, like she did all those thoughts. "That’s not why I’m here," Scully responded with a quivering voice.

"Oh," Cassandra said, her face dropping.

"I’m here because I, uh…" Scully could tell her voice was breaking and she felt like she wanted to cry. This woman had so upset her rational thinking, had broken through her barriers and exposed a secret part of herself that she didn’t like showing to anyone. "…because I wanted to tell you that you should not remove the thing that you have in your neck. Not without possible consequences…um…I became very ill…"

Cassandra smiled once again, her thoughts on a reality unknown to Scully. "I’d never dream of removing it. I want to go…wherever it is. Oh, they have so much to teach us. You being a doctor would want to know they are great healers. Maybe that’s why you were chosen."

As she stared at the road ahead, Scully remembered thinking that she had never thought of her experience that way—as being chosen. But, Cassandra had been right about her, even if Scully couldn’t bring herself to believe the things she was telling her. She had felt that need to be somewhere. She had been called, as Cassandra would put it, called to a place where strange things had happened. But again, she couldn’t recall the events. The last time she saw Cassandra was when she had gone back with Mulder to see her.

She and Mulder had been involved in a bizarre investigation. Large groups of people coming together to meet in en masse at a central location, were all being burned to death, as if in a mass suicide. There had been once such incident in Kazakhstan, Russia and then one right in their own backyard. And in Scully’s case, that phrase was nearly a literal one, for the one they were investigating had happened right at the exact spot that she had been abducted—Skyland Mountain. It was frighteningly too close to home for her. The clincher had been that all of those burn victims had been alien abductees, each of them the proud, or not so proud, owner of their own neck implant.

Cassandra had called on them to stop what was happening. She told them that these groupings were not ending the way they were supposed to. Those people were not supposed to die. Scully remembered her tearful plea: "It’s not supposed to be happening. Not like this. You have to do something about it. You have to stop it." But Cassandra couldn’t tell them how they were to stop these deaths from occurring. There was nothing they could do for her, especially since Spender realized that Scully had betrayed him and no longer allowed either of them to contact his mother again. Scully had gone home dejected and worried about Cassandra. ‘Would she be next?’ she’d thought, as she had drifted off to sleep that night.

The next day, the question she’d asked herself seemed to be answered when Cassandra disappeared from her hospital room. Scully remembered thinking, and even mentioning to Mulder, that perhaps they shouldn’t have been so quick to rule out what Cassandra had to say. That’s when the sensation returned. It was a sudden, intense feeling that she had to be somewhere. It was at that moment that her memory started to become fuzzy. There were bits and pieces that she remembered now…like seeing Cassandra. She was on a bridge…it was dark…many other people around…and something happened, something strange. She’d gone under hypnosis to recall those events, but she wasn’t sure if what she’d seen happen in her mind was actually what happened. Those memories, just like the memories of her abduction, frightened her. So, she shoved them to the back of her mind. What was clear, though, was the fact that after feeling those strange sensations she awoke to find herself in a hospital room with slight 1st degree burns and scorching on her hands and face.

Pulling her from her musings was Mulder’s voice. She turned from staring blankly out the window when Mulder stated with a straight face, "Almost there boys and girls." Scully was jolted back into the present as Mulder drove down the very dirt road she’d driven down that morning. She noticed curiously that there were twice as many cars parked than there had been earlier. Among them, some emergency rescue vehicles and a waiting ambulance. Unbuckling her seat belt as Mulder parked the rental car, Scully theorized that they must have begun searching the woods for the two missing kids.

Spender got out of the car and stood to face Mulder on the opposite side of the hood. "Where exactly are we?"

Getting out of the car on Spender’s side, Scully looked at him curiously. Was he serious?

"Well, I don’t know, Spender," said Mulder as he got out of the car. "We are investigating the disappearance of two kids who went missing out in the middle of the woods…maybe we’re at the scene of the crime." Mulder closed the car door, giving Spender one last glare before leading them into the woods, following the trail left by the yellow police tape.

Spender slammed the door to the car and followed Mulder. "There’s no need to be patronizing, Mulder. A simple answer would have sufficed."

"You’re an FBI agent, Spender. You’re supposed to make use of your powers of deduction by trying to be more observant." Mulder turned back momentarily to stare at Spender and say, "Or didn’t you take that class at the Academy?"

Though Mulder’s insults were beginning to get the better of him, Spender held a straight face. "You know, Mulder, you’re ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude and your cute little anecdotes are not going to win any prizes with me. All it would take is a simple phone call to get you thrown off this case, and don’t think for a minute that I wouldn’t do it."

"Well, you go right ahead there, little Jeffrey." Mulder dug in his pocket and pulled out some change. Grabbing a quarter and dime, he handed them to Spender. "Here’s thirty-five cents. Go tell the principal what a bad boy I’ve been."

Scully watched as the two men stared each other down, ready to begin a battle of wits, or in their case, a battle of insults. Did she really have to put up with this the entire time? ‘I don’t think so,’ she said to herself. Folding her arms across her chest, Scully gave them both the look of an angry schoolteacher going to fuss the two troublemakers in class. "Okay, stop it! If I have to put up with this from the both of you the entire time, I’m going to leave. And then we’ll see how far you two get on your own while you fight like a couple of school children." She watched as the two of them eyed each other and herself sheepishly, half expecting one of them to shout out: "Well, he started it!!" "Now, Mulder would you just tell him what it is that he wants to hear, so that we can move on and get this over with, please."

Hesitant, Mulder stared at Scully as if he was waiting for her to change her mind, but her stern face remained. "Okay, fine, whatever."

"Thank you." Scully turned from them, her face creased into an irritated frown, and continued down the trail away from them. As they continued into the woods, Mulder gave Spender the entire story, but his story telling left something to be desired. Though he had agreed to comply with Scully’s wishes, his attitude hadn’t changed any. Scully knew he didn’t like the idea of being forced to work with Spender. Spender was basically "the enemy" in Mulder’s book, and being Mulder’s partner, it was hard for Scully not to see him that way as well. Scully shook her head, pondering over a question that had plagued her mind all morning: ‘How different would things be if I had never answered the phone last night?’ She could actually be enjoying herself right now.

Mulder had called his old school buddy, Detective Steinman, just before they left for the airport. He had quickly updated Mulder on the situation, letting him know that the boy, Ted Ramsey, had been undergoing questioning by the police and the feds all morning. They had also begun a search, with assistance being offered by Keating Air Force Base, of the two missing kids, Lucy and Michael. The last Mulder heard they still had not found them, but Steinman asked them to hurry back to assist in the search. "We can use all the extra eyes we can get," Steinman had told him.

Mulder led them through the narrow dirt pathway where he and Ted had first seen the embedded footprints in the dirt. Now, they were gone, having been covered up by all the other traffic in the area. Mulder almost felt guilty for walking so calmly and so complaisantly across the exact place where a young girl had been kidnapped…or abducted. "So there, you’re up to date now," he said to Spender. "Anything else you want to know?" Mulder finished up his long-winded explanation just as they got into the thick of the search. They entered into the wide-open field and saw hundreds of people about. In among them were local citizens, military personnel, police officers and rescue officials. Off in the distance, they could hear two words being repeated: "Lucy! Michael!"

"Yeah, when do we get started trying to find those kids?" was Spenders response to Mulder’s question. There was a sudden spark in Spender’s eyes that Mulder noticed with some surprise. Mulder often though of him as two-dimensional as the smoking man (the one person on earth that Mulder despised the most), with one agenda, one purpose—to keep Mulder out of the X-files for good. Suddenly, there was a different side here that Mulder had never seen before.

"Well, it’s about time you get here." Steinman approached them from out of a group of police officers. "Didn’t I tell you I would get you back on the case?" He proffered his hand to Mulder and he shook it.

"How did you do it?" Mulder asked with a laugh.

"Let’s just say Urbane and I are real close, okay?" They laughed together, then Steinman turned to Scully. "Agent Scully, nice to see you again."

She gave him a small smile and said, "You too, Detective."

Steinman looked over to Spender with an outstretched hand in his direction. "And who’s your friend?"

Spender readily took Steinman’s hand. "I don’t know if they would call me friend, Detective, but my name is Jeffrey Spender, Special Agent with the FBI. I’ve been assigned this case along with Agents Mulder and Scully."

"Oh, well, it’s nice to meet you, Agent Spender," he said, curious as to the agent’s strange reply. "I’m Detective David Steinman."

Mulder patted Spender on the arm, pretending as if they were the best of friends. "Watch out for Jeffrey, David, he hasn’t taken his Midol today."

Steinman laughed, always one to get a kick out of Mulder’s jokes. When he could see that Spender wasn’t particularly amused, nor Scully, his laughing died down. "Oh, that Mulder, he’s…quite a joker." They all smiled uneasily, nodding as if agreeing with Steinman.

Spender smiled brightly as an excellent reply came to mind. "Yes, Detective, he was quite the joke of the Academy, as well."

Chuckling softly to play along, Steinman glanced at Mulder to gauge his reaction. There was a stiff smile on his face, but no telltale emotion in his eyes. But, if he had begun to understand Mulder as well as he thought he had, some form of revenge was formulating itself in Mulder’s mind. It was fortunate for himself that he was not standing in Agent Spender’s shoes at the moment. Wiping the smile off his face and clearing his throat, Steinman continued, "All right then. Why don’t I get the three of you up to date?"

With a wave of her hand, Scully said, "Oh, there’s no need. Mulder has done an excellent job of updating Agent Spender and I, and it’s obvious that you haven’t located the two kids yet. So, if you’ve called us out here to help you in your search and rescue efforts, just point us in the right direction, Detective, and we’ll get right to work."

Steinman looked at Scully for several seconds, sensing her mood and her hurry to get things over with. "Oookaaayyy, sounds good. I just have one stipulation, though."

They all look at him curiously, wondering what the stipulation will be. Scully is the only one to venture forth with a question. "What’s that?"

"When this day is over, I am taking the three of you out to dinner and cheering you up. Look at these sour faces!"

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, and Mulder grinned, used to Steinman’s terminally good mood. "All right, you’re on." Mulder stuck both thumbs behind him to Spender and Scully. "But, I’ll bet you fifty bucks wild horses couldn’t pull those expressions off their faces."

"It’s a bet. Now, come on. Let’s put you three to work. That is what you came all the way out here for, right?"

"Absolutely," Spender immediately responded. The spark that Mulder had seen minutes ago had returned to his eyes and Spender left them all in his dust as he headed into the woods to join the other members of the search.


Mulder stopped in the middle of the woods to check his watch, watching the seconds tick by until it read three o’clock. As the rest of the searchers continued deeper into the woods, Mulder exhaled, placed his hands on his hips and watched everyone else move past him. There was a crunching of leaves behind him and he turned to see Scully making her way to him. "What’s up?" she asked.

"Nothing. I just know we’re not going to find those kids."

Coming up along side, she faced him and looked at him with concern. "You shouldn’t think so negatively, Mulder. Not when lives are at stake. These kids’ parents—"

"No, that’s not what I mean. I don’t think we’re going to find them here. They’re somewhere else."

"What makes you say that?"

"I don’t know. It’s just a feeling I have. Don’t ask me why."

"Well, if they’re not out here, where else do you think we should look?"

"The one place everyone is ignoring…or choosing to ignore, considering the military’s assistance."

"Keating Air Force Base?" Mulder’s only reply to Scully’s question was a knowing glance in her direction, which meant she’d hit the nail on the head. "What makes you think they’d be there?"

Mulder shrugged his shoulders. "It’s a damn good place to start."

Scully intended to question to Mulder further, wanting to pry more answers from him. He could be so unnecessarily mysterious at times. He had to have some other reason for wanting to check out the Air Force Base other than the fact that he ‘just had a feeling’. It probably had something to do with the UFO sightings and his belief that the disappearances on the base were linked to Michael and Lucy’s disappearance. This, in Mulder’s defense, made the idea plausible, even if she didn’t believe it was possible. However, the questions that lay at the tip of her tongue were silenced by something she glimpsed out of the corner of her eye over Mulder’s shoulder. "Did you see that?"

Mulder turned to follow the direction of Scully’s gaze. "See what?"

"Over there," she pointed over his shoulder. "I thought I saw someone."

Mulder looked in the direction she pointed and saw nothing but dead leaves blowing about in the cold breeze. "I don’t see—" Then, in the distance, Mulder spotted someone, a man, coming out from behind a big tree.

"Who is that?" she asked, suddenly very curious. The strange man was quite a distance away, but Mulder could still tell that he was wearing jeans, a heavy coat and a baseball cap. The man had a familiar gait that Mulder noticed almost immediately. Could it be who he thought it was?

"He’s probably a local, involved in the search," was Scully's answer.

Once the man moved completely out from behind the tree, he stopped and stared pointedly at them. No, not at them, Mulder realized. The man was staring at him. He held out a hand to Scully that told her to stay where she was. "Stay here."

"Wait. Where are you going?"

"To talk to that man. Stay here." Mulder turned from her and began to walk toward the strange man, a man who, if he was correct, was no stranger at all.

Scully called after him as he left. "Mulder—"

"Scully, I need you to keep an eye on Spender," Mulder said, turning back momentarily. "Stall him if he tries to follow me."

Scully was worried because she didn’t know what was going on, and annoyed that Mulder wouldn’t tell her. "Mulder, I don’t understand. What’s going on?"

"I’ll explain it to you when I get back," was his only answer.

Scully huffed in irritation, but stayed where she was as Mulder walked away from her. She knew better than to continue arguing, but Mulder was right. It only took a couple of seconds before Spender knew something was up. She saw him detach himself from the group of searchers and come up to her on her right. She glanced once more in Mulder’s direction, wanting to follow, but instead she turned and walked to intercept Spender.

It had only been a couple of years ago, but to Mulder, it seemed like ages. He and Scully had been separated, forced to work on different projects, the x-files shut down. Walter Skinner, his assistant director at the time, had informed him he was getting a new partner. Alex Krycek was his name. A young, "green" agent, fresh out of the Academy…or so it seemed at the time. Mulder had automatically gotten the sense about him that he was an inexperienced eager beaver, too excited about his first case. So, Mulder had given him the run-around and ditched him the first chance he got. It hadn’t taken Krycek very long to track him down though.

As Mulder remembered it, he was just coming out of an office building after questioning a few employees and noticed that his cab was gone. The next thing he new, a car door was slamming and Krycek was stomping toward him on the concrete sidewalk:
"I paid off your cab," he said, the agitation in his voice painfully apparent. "Hey, I don’t appreciate being ditched like someone’s bad date!"

Not wanting to hear his griping, Mulder walked away from him, deciding to take Krycek’s requisitioned FBI car right out from under his nose. "I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings," he responded blandly.

But, Krycek followed him, demanding to be heard. "Where do you get off copping this attitude?! I mean, you don’t know the first thing about me!"

Mulder kept his pace up and only briefly glanced at Krycek. "Exactly."

Krycek stopped and said, "You know, back at the Academy, some of the guys used to make fun of you."

That statement stopped Mulder in his tracks. If there was one thing he couldn’t stand, it was being reminded of his Academy nickname—Spooky. But, Mulder pretended to act as if it didn’t affect him. "Oh, stop it, or you’re going to hurt my feelings."

Krycek continued as though Mulder had never interrupted him in the middle of his statement. "But there were some of us who followed your work, believed what you were doing, because we knew there was more out there than they were telling us."

Mulder realized now what Krycek had been trying to do—to get on his good side, to make Mulder think that he was just like him and believed the things he did. After such a long time with a partner who disbelieved nearly everything he said, Krycek was a sudden, but welcome change. Mulder had actually begun to trust Krycek. Perhaps not as implicitly as he trusted Scully, but a sense of trust had started to grow. It was around the time Scully had been abducted, that he began to mistrust Krycek. Mulder didn’t realize until it was too late that Krycek had been working against him the entire time. He had been, and still was, working with the very men who organized Scully’s abduction. Duane Barry, the crazed ex-FBI agent who’d taken her from her home, had simply been a convenient patsy. The last person to be seen with Barry before he asphyxiated was Krycek. The most damning evidence of his involvement in Scully’s abduction was the presence of a particular brand of cigarette found in the ashtray of Krycek’s car—the Morely brand. Krycek didn’t smoke. Mulder knew only one person who smoked that brand, the man he believed to be most directly responsible for Scully’s abduction. He had no name that Mulder recognized, so he often referred to him as Cancer Man or the Cigarette-Smoking Man. That was when Mulder realized Krycek had been not a "green" agent, but a double agent.

From that moment on, Krycek had become a thorn in Mulder’s side more times than he’d like to remember. Not only had he been involved in an attack on Assistant Director Skinner, but he was also suspected to be involved in the murders of Scully’s sister Melissa and even Mulder’s father. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Mulder finally crossed the distance to see Krycek standing at the base of the tree, looking like the smug and self-important rat that he was. Mulder stopped six feet away from him. "Krycek," he said in a flat tone of voice that showed his indifference at Krycek’s presence.

"Mulder," Krycek responded similarly. "Fancy meeting you here."

"I doubt that it’s a coincidence. What do you want, Krycek?"

"Want? I want the same thing you do—to find those kids."

Mulder gave a breath of laughter and said, "Yeah, right. I’m sure you’re real concerned about their safety. Why don’t you tell me what you’re really here for?"

"I’m here looking just like you."

"For what? Your other arm?"

Krycek flinched ever so briefly, showing particular attention to the prosthesis on his former left arm. The events that led up the unfortunate loss of that left arm were strange indeed, involving a diplomatic pouch, an excruciatingly long trip to the former Soviet Union, a Soviet hit man and the introduction of a thick black substance known as "the black oil". But, that was another story for another time. "I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor," Krycek said, smiling blandly.

"And you haven’t gotten any cuter." He impatiently watched as Krycek smirked at Mulder’s comment like two old friends talking about the old times. It made him want to retch. "Quit jerking my chain, Krycek. What do you want? I hope you’re not going to tell me you came all the way over here just to shoot the breeze with me, because I don’t buy it."

"No." He shook his head with the same smirk on his face. "I have information for you."

"Information," Mulder spoke the word with disinterest. "About what?"

"About the case you’re working on. I think there’s a few things you should know."

"After all the lies you’ve spewed in my face, you expect me to believe anything you have to say?"

"I didn’t lie to you about the rebel, did I?" he asked. The look on his face was a confident one. Whether Mulder believed anything he had to say or not, he knew Mulder would listen.

Even though Mulder wished that he could ignore Krycek’s every word, he couldn’t argue on that point. Krycek hadn’t lied. In fact, he’d spoken the most words of truth that Mulder had ever heard come from his mouth. The rebel he spoke of was one of a group of alien resistance fighters responsible for the mass burning deaths of the purported alien abductees. Through this help of Krycek’s, Mulder learned that these people were not supposed to be "called" (through the homing devices implanted into the back of their necks) to these places only to die a horrible death. There was another plan for them—a plan the rebels wanted to destroy by killed them. It had happened late one night when Mulder arrived home. Krycek had pulled a sneak attack on him in his own apartment:

Just walking into his apartment, Mulder noticed a square piece of paper on the floor and he bent over to look at it. It read: "Things are looking up." That’s when he realized he should have looked up. Krycek attacked him from behind, knocked him to the floor and was pointing a gun at him before he could even react. Breathing heavily from the attack, Krycek pointed a gun in Mulder’s face. "You must be losing it, Mulder. I can beat you with one hand."

"Isn’t that how you like to beat yourself?" Mulder asked suddenly, forcing a joke into the tense situation. Even then, Mulder had not been very surprised to see Krycek, nor afraid of him. Krycek’s face crinkled up in annoyance as he crouched over Mulder and clicked back the hammer on the gun. Mulder had never seen him so frantic, so on edge and his response was immediate. "If those are my last words, I can do better."

"I’m not here to kill you, Mulder. I’m here to help you."

"Hey, thanks," he said sarcastically.

"You know, if it wasn’t at my best interest, I would just as soon squeeze this trigger."

Mulder began to feel actual trepidation. Krycek was serious and if he had decided to squeeze the trigger, Mulder had no way of defending himself. It was then that he realized he was only seconds away from death. His voice slightly quivering, Mulder tried to maintain a sense of calm. "Well, what’s stopping you?"

Krycek bent closer, the gun inching closer to Mulder’s face. Whispering harshly, he warned, "Here this, Agent Mulder. Listen very carefully, because what I’m telling you is deadly serious. There is a war raging…and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur. I’m talking planned invasion…the colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race." Mulder laughed at Krycek, a wheezing, desperate laughter that he didn’t like the sound of.

At that time, Mulder had felt his laughter justified. He hadn’t believed Krycek and not just because Mulder knew him to be a liar. Fox "Spooky" Mulder, the man who professed belief in all things paranormal and extraterrestrial, had suddenly stopped believing in those things. He had been shown things that he now realized were lies—lies used to mislead him, to push him away from discovering the truth. Although he sometimes chose to deny it, Krycek was the one to pull him from that slump.

Still laughing, Mulder said, "I thought you were serious."

Just to show him that he was serious, Krycek moved the gun from hovering in front of Mulder’s face to pointing directly at his heart. Mulder could still remember the feel of the muzzle boring into his chest. For several terrifying seconds, Mulder actually thought Krycek would pull the trigger, but instead, he continued to ramble. "Kazakhstan, Skyland Mountain, the site in Pennsylvania—they’re all alien lighthouses where the colonization will begin, but where now a battle is being waged, a struggle for heaven and earth. Where there is one law: fight or die. And one rule: resist or serve."

He knew Krycek was referring to the mass burning deaths that were purported to be suicides. One had occurred in Kazakhstan, Russia, the other on Skyland Mountain, where Scully had disappeared from about a year earlier and then in Pennsylvania, the last mass burn site where Scully had nearly been killed. But, could he believe what Krycek was saying about ‘alien lighthouses’ and ‘colonization’? He wasn’t sure. So, Mulder rolled his eyes up at Krycek as if he were a crazy man ranting off insanities. "Serve who?" he asked.

"Not who…what," Krycek said through clenched teeth.

Mulder sighed heavily and would have shook his head, but he wasn’t in a good position for it. "Krycek, you’re a murderer, a liar and a coward. Just because you stick a gun in my chest, I’m supposed to believe you’re my friend?"

Krycek smiled almost sadly at him, and then his face turned menacing again. Still breathing heavily, although Mulder now believed it was from fear, Krycek said, "Get up." With Krycek’s gun still pointing in his general direction, Mulder slowly sat up. He wondered where Krycek was leading with all this and when it would it end. "I was sent by a man," Krycek continued, "…a man who knows, as I do, that resistance is in our grasp…and in yours. The mass incinerations were strikes by an alien rebellion to upset plans for occupation. Now, one of these rebels is being held captive. And if he dies…so does the resistance."

Krycek was silent, as if waiting for some response on Mulder’s part, but Mulder had nothing to say. A part of him wanted to believe, but the new part of him, the one that thought it had seen proof of the military’s exploitation of man to make them believe in the lie of alien life, told him that Krycek was crazy. However, what Mulder couldn’t reconcile was the look of utter desperation in Krycek’s eyes. He was terrified for his life and he had probably taken a large chance at coming to Mulder with this information. His desperation was even more apparent when Krycek suddenly leaned forward and kissed Mulder on the cheek. He then uncocked the gun and let it land in Mulder’s lap. Mulder wasn’t sure what the meaning was behind the kiss, but he knew what Krycek was saying with the gun almost as if he’d read his mind: "It’s up to you." He watched Krycek regain his feet and leave, mumbling something in Russian that Mulder had yet to figure out. He placed his finger on the trigger and was tempted to aim and fire… but somehow he couldn’t.

Mulder had watched him leave and hadn’t seen him again until today. Krycek had left him thinking about destiny and fate. What he had once thought was lost to him, the beliefs he so dearly treasured, had begun to resurface in his consciousness. He’d found himself thinking that perhaps what Krycek had told him was true. His belief in that was strengthened by what was written on the other side of that square piece of paper: "Weikamp Air Force Base." It was the location of the rebel being held captive. There had been only one way for Mulder to find out if Krycek had been telling the truth and that was to go there. Unfortunately, that was where Mulder’s memories failed him. He remembered going to the base with Scully to find the rebel and set him free…but something happened. He remembered jumping a military truck that he believed held the rebel, but that was it. The next thing he knew, he was being accosted by military personnel and he and Scully were hauled off base. Now, he stood before Krycek once again, trying to find a way to answer his question without giving into it.

"You found him, right where I said he’d be," Krycek said confidently.


He looked incredulously at Mulder, his confidence wavering. "No? Funny, that’s not how I remember it."

"I wish I could remember it. I went to the base, Krycek, but I don’t remember what happened."

Krycek looked surprised for only half a second. It seemed as if he might actually be about to tell him something. Instead, he remained quiet, much to Mulder’s annoyance. "So, you’re going to clam up and not tell me anything, is that it? That’s just like you. But, it doesn’t really matter to me what happened. I know you didn’t lie about that only because you were trying to save your own sorry ass."

"Maybe," he said, nodding in agreement. "But in the process I saved 5 billion other lives."

"That doesn’t make you a saint, Krycek, just a selfish bastard." Mulder actually felt sorry for him. Could he really be that self-deluded?

"Fine, then," he replied, curtly. "I don’t need you to believe me, Mulder. I just need you to hear me."

Mulder shook his head and turned from Krycek, saying, "I don’t even have to do that."

"We’re searching for the same thing, Mulder," Krycek called, raising his voice to reach Mulder as he walked away. "Only you don’t realize it yet. Go to the air force base, talk to people."

Mulder half turned back to Krycek. This time all joking was put aside. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Unlike the others, I’m not willing to sit passively by and let the shit hit the fan. I’ve gone as far as I can without getting caught. Now, I’m handing it off to you. You do what you want with the information, Mulder. Follow it…don’t follow it…it’s your decision. Just know that something is happening here and it has to be dealt with before it gets way out of hand."

Mulder stared at him for several seconds. The last time he’d seen Krycek, the desperation was so clear on his face that Mulder was compelled to believe him. Now, Mulder couldn’t determine what his motives actually were. Before, Krycek had led him to the truth. Where could he be leading him now? Though curious, Mulder’s tone remained sarcastic as he said, "Well, thanks for the info, Krycek. I know right where to shove it." Without another word, Mulder turned from Krycek and walked away. He wasn’t quite sure what reaction he would get from Krycek, but he wasn’t about to look back and find out. The sound of footsteps sloshing away from him through dead leaves told him all needed to know. Krycek would disappear as easily and as quickly as he had appeared. Mulder could only hope he didn’t have to look upon his rat-like face again.

Sitting sideways in the front seat of the rental car, the door open, sifting his good dress shoes through the dirt on the road, Mulder thought about Krycek and about what he said. He told himself what he had once told Krycek, that Krycek was a ‘murderer, a liar and a coward.’ How could he trust him? And even if he could, Krycek had only given him that information to help himself, not Mulder’s investigation. For all he knew, he could be playing right into Krycek’s hands and the hands of the men he worked for. Was he willing to take that risk?

Then again, Krycek’s words had intrigued him. He couldn’t get them out of his mind. "…we’re searching for the same thing, only you don’t realize it yet…something is happening here…it has to be dealt with before it gets way out of hand." It itched at the back of his mind, tantalized his senses. He wanted to go to the air base. He couldn’t deny it. Of course, he already had the idea in mind, but Krycek only strengthened his resolve. There was just one problem, he didn’t know how he was going to pull it off. For one, the military was trying to put up a good front by offering assistance, trying to dispel any ideas that these disappearances could be in any way linked back to them. Number two, he and Scully were under Spender’s watchful eye. Anything they did or said was probably going right back to Kersh, and if Mulder had things figured right as he thought he did, old smoky, as well. Spender would likely throw a fit if Mulder informed him they were going to investigate the base. Number three, Scully would absolutely abhor the idea…unless, of course, he could convince her that it was the right thing to do. This was not going to be an easy task.

The group of searchers finally began to return to their parked vehicles. The day was wearing down to late afternoon and it seemed they were calling off the search. Apparently, they didn’t hold out much hope of finding the kids. He could hear some of them talking as they passed by, whispering amongst each other that "those kids are long gone"..."we’re not going to find them." Then the parents of the missing kids passed him, looking sad and scared for their children. He could see that there wasn’t much hope left in their eyes either. ‘If only I had gotten there sooner,’ he thought.

"Mulder." At the sound of the voice, Mulder looked up to see Scully standing over him. He gave her a small smile. She knew that smile. It was his thoughtful smile, the one that told her his mind was working and didn’t have time for pleasantries. Kneeling down in front of him, she asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I’m fine."

"When I couldn’t find you, I got worried. What happened?"

"It was Krycek, Scully."

Her eyes widen in disbelief. "Krycek? What could he want?" Mulder was poised to answer, when he looked up over Scully’s head to see Spender’s reprimanding face.

"So, who was that you were talking to, Mulder?" Spender asked suspiciously.

"An old friend."

"Really? You seem to have a lot of those lately."

"Yeah," he responded, nodding. "They’re coming out of the woodwork. Funny, I haven’t seen O.J. yet."

Detective Steinman entered the small group with a smile, friendly patting Spender on the back, who was glaring oddly at Mulder. "We lost you back there, Mulder. What’s up?"

"Oh, I had to take a break. My feet are killing me." His joke was lost on all except for Steinman, who laughed heartily. Mulder chose the moment David was in a good mood to question him about the base. He rose from the driver’s seat and asked, "So, David, let me ask you a question."


"Have you or any of your officers questioned anyone at the base about the disappearances that took place over there?"

"It’s not as if we didn’t try, because, believe me, I did. But they kept giving us the run-around and telling us it was an internal matter that didn’t involve the police. They’re cooperating a bit more with these two recent disappearances, but not so much that we can talk to anybody."

"What kind of reaction do you think we’d get if we, the FBI, tried to question them?" Steinman started to laugh, his expression telling Mulder that he didn’t think they would get very far. But, he didn’t get very far with an answer either, because, just as Mulder expected, Spender stepped up and offered his two cents.

"Whoa! Wait a minute, here!" Spender shouted, stepping up to Mulder with a stern expression. "We are not here to investigate what happened at the base. We are here to investigate the disappearance of Michael Hurt and Lucy Lawson. To start questioning people at the base would be a waste of our time."

"A waste of our time?" Mulder asked Spender as if he were insane. "The disappearances started on the base. If we can gain some insight into what happened with those people, we might be able to understand what happened to Lucy and Michael."

"Well, I can sure tell you what didn’t happen to them. They didn’t get taken up into the air by a bright beam of light. They weren’t abducted, as you so nicely put it, and taken to the Mother ship. I can promise you, Mulder, that didn’t happen. A more plausible, more likely scenario is that Ted Ramsey had something to do with their disappearance."

Shuffling her feet in the dirt, Scully spoke up cautiously. "I hate to say it, Mulder, but I think he’s right."

"Thanks a lot, Scully," Mulder griped.

"I’m not siding with anyone, I’m just saying that we need to look for other answers here. I think trying to question officials at Keating would be a waste of time, because they aren’t going to take the time to hear your questions in the first place. It’s like David said, they deal with their own matters internally."

"She’s right, you know," Steinman backed her up. "You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip."

"And thanks for the cliché, Dave. That really helps out my case."

Scully stood at the edge of the three-man circle and said, "What I think we need to take into consideration are the facts at hand: Ted was the last person to see them alive."

"And all he has is a story to tell," Spender added disdainfully.

"He has no evidence to back up his claim, Mulder."

Mulder shook his head and looked at the three of them in disbelief. "And yet you three stand here and claim that he had something to do with their disappearance? You have no evidence to back up your claims either."

"Not necessarily," Steinman threw in frankly.

"What do you mean?" Mulder asked, quickly becoming worried.

Steinman shook his head and chuckled. "How quickly we forget about the camcorder tape. I’ve seen it already, Mulder, and you’re not going to like what you see."

An uneasy feeling seemed to envelop Mulder as he stared at his friend David. Somehow, all the odds seemed to be playing against him. But he knew Ted was innocent. The idea played at the back of his mind. If there was only some way, some evidence that could give them credence to check out the base. Of course, if the video was as revealing as David insinuated, what would his next course be? There was something more going on here in the city of Lake Keating than just the disappearance of two high school kids. Krycek had convinced him of that. The question was: what?


Lake Keating Police Department

4:55 p.m.

"I’ve told you guys what happened a million times already, man! How many different ways do want to hear it?"" Ted sat slumped in his chair inside the interrogation room. He was even more scared and nervous than when Mulder had seen him last. His hair was a wild mess from the number of times he’d nervously ran his fingers through his hair. He was shaking almost uncontrollably, the quivering in his words unmistakable.

"I only want to hear it the right way, Ted," Steinman said.

Ted pointed at him angrily. "Oh, no, I know what you want to hear, but I’m not gonna give it to you. I didn’t do anything wrong!"

Mulder pulled up a chair at the table and sat next to Ted. Whether David realized it or not, he was goading the kid into an angry confrontation. Mulder got the sense that David knew what he was doing. Ever since they’d gotten back, David had been acting strange about this case. Mulder knew he believed the kid was guilty, but his actions here were uncalled for. Placing a comforting hand on Ted’s shoulder, Mulder said to him, "Nobody’s saying you did anything wrong, Ted. Just tell us what happened one more time, and I promise…" Mulder looked to Steinman to convey the message to him as well. "…I promise no one will ask you that question again."

Ted looked at Mulder questioningly, not sure if he could trust him. This guy had asked him to trust him before and what did he get out of the deal? Not only did he lose all respect with the "watchdogs," but they also dropped him so quick his head was still spinning. Though it was now common knowledge to his family, his schoolmates and the rest of town about his association with the "watchdogs," the group no longer acknowledged his very existence, let alone having ever known him. Ted felt sure that even as he sat here talking to the Feds, the group had already chosen a new anonymous contact to keep watch on Keating Air Force Base. "I told you already, man, when I left they were there, when I came back they were gone. There’s only so many ways you can say the same damn thing."

Standing in the corner of the room, Spender asked, "So, you’re saying they didn’t get abducted by aliens?"

"I already said I don’t know what happened to them!"

"But, aren’t you a member of some kind of UFO conspiracy group?" Ted squirmed in his chair, but didn’t answer. "As a matter of fact, the very reason you and your friends went camping in the woods was to try and spot UFOs over the air base, isn’t that true? Why don’t you just tell us the truth, Ted? You concocted this story about UFOs to cover up what you did to your two best friends."

Ted sat forward in his chair and screamed at Spender, "NO!"

"Spender, you want to calm down?" Mulder asked him. "This is real life, not Perry Mason."

Spender placed his hands on his hips and pursed his lips at Mulder. "Well, you go ahead, Ted. Tell us what really happened that night?"

Ted recited the entire scenario again, just as he had told it to Mulder last night. What Scully noticed right off was how much his story hadn’t differed, even after hearing it originally from Mulder’s lips. She still didn’t know what to think. It was either artfully contrived or told from a truly horrifying experience. He never mentioned any involvement by aliens, except for the fact that he believed it might have been a possibility. It made her worry, because she could see he was drawing Mulder in with his every word. As smart as he was, Mulder was so susceptible to lies and disillusionment. And then, when someone like Krycek stepped in, it mixed up the whole mess. There was no telling where this would lead now, and Mulder had yet to tell her what their conversation had been about.

When Ted was finished with his story, Steinman only nodded and then left the room momentarily. When he came back, he was rolling a TV/VCR cart into the room. "W-what’s all that for, man?" Ted asked nervously, pointing at the cart. "We gonna watch Brisco County, Jr. or something?"

"No," Steinman told him. "But we are going to watch this video of Lucy’s to make sure your story checks out."

Ted shook his head furiously, his eyes large. "I can’t—I can’t watch that, man. You can’t do this!" Mulder watched Ted’s reaction and saw fear, but he knew the others only watched his reaction with suspicious eyes. They assumed he was reacting with a guilty conscience or with fear of being caught. They couldn’t see the real terror in his eyes. The fear of watching his friends being murdered.

Steinman pressed the play button on the VCR and stepped back to make sure that Ted had a good view. The VCR whirred to life and a picture popped up on the TV screen. It was blurry at first with a lot of movement, then the picture came into focus and centered on Ted and another boy that could only be Michael. It wasn’t long before they figured out that the one behind the camera was Lucy.

The first few scenes were of the three of them readying for their camping trip, which no one paid much attention to except for Ted. Mulder could see that he was remembering and most likely regretting that he had even planned that trip in the first place. Then the scene suddenly switched to the three of them in the woods at the dead of night. They watched Ted give a news anchorman’s performance in front of the camera, informing his intended audience that they would soon see evidence of the existence of UFOs.

The next few scenes left to the camcorder were what really interested the group. Each pair of eyes in the room were riveted to the TV screen as Lucy searched the woods with her camcorder, saying, "I saw something…someone moving in the woods behind you." It wasn’t long before Michael, angry because he assumed it was Ted out there trying to give them a fright, walked into the woods to find out what exactly was going on. Lucy begged him not to go, pleaded with him, but, in the end, he ignored her. The fear in Lucy’s voice was easily recognizable and Mulder could see how much it was tormenting Ted. He kept his arms up in front of his face, his elbows propped on top the table, his fingers laced, half blocking and half seeing the television screen. He wanted to see, but was terrified to at the same time.

They watched Michael disappear from view of the camcorder, into the darkness of the woods. The only thing viewable was the faint glowing of his flashlight. There was a loud sound in the distance and Lucy jumped, causing the camcorder’s view to joggle a bit. When the view cleared, they could see Michael’s flashlight flailing about in the darkness. It then fell to the ground. As Lucy’s voice is heard calling Michael’s name, Spender turned to the other investigators and asked, "What just happened?"

"Someone just attacked him," Mulder responded. Mulder could hear Ted next to him whispering under his breath, "Oh, man."

The flashlight goes out after two blinks and they can hear Lucy’s raspy, terrified breathing. In astonishment and with a bit of fear of her own, Scully said softly, "That was a person. Someone passed through the beam."

"Okay, you guys. This isn’t funny anymore," came Lucy’s shaky reply. When she got no answer, she began to cry. Ted squirmed in his seat again and this time Mulder thought he heard a sniffle. He mumbled something under his breath, but Mulder’s attention was drawn back to the television when Lucy’s crying suddenly dried up. She stayed silent for several seconds as if listening, then she broke into a run. She no longer carried her camera at her face, but ran with it at her side, so the video showed nothing but the fast moving ground at her running feet. Her breathing was quick and harried as Mulder watched her make the very footprints into the ground that he had inspected just the night before. He knew it wouldn’t be too much longer before her attacker came. When he heard Lucy’s scream, he knew that moment was now upon them, a moment they were forced to watch. The camcorder’s view suddenly became chaotic until it landed on the ground.

At first, they could see nothing. Then the lens focused and soon they could clearly make out two pairs of feet shuffling in the dirt. The smaller pair, Lucy’s, was partially raised from the ground as Mulder had theorized. The other pair was larger just as Mulder had seen on the ground, wearing brown lace up shoes with a dark pair of pants. Mulder pulled his chair back and peeked at Ted’s shoes. They were simple white tennis shoes. He looked at David, but he remained confident, watching the video with half a smile to his face. He was waiting for his vindication to come, but Mulder didn’t know how that was going to happen with the evidence right here under this table that Ted was innocent. Yet, David’s confident half smile stayed where it was.

As the camera continued to record, Lucy’s feet no longer moved. She had ceased to fight her attacker. He then proceeded to let her lifeless body drop to the ground in one heap. Ted flinched and quickly covered his face. This time Mulder could actually hear him crying. The mysterious person stood over her for a second or two, then turned its attention to the camera that lay on the ground a couple of yards away. This was the moment of truth. Would they see her attacker?

The feet stopped directly in front of the camera. A hand moved in front of the lens, and for a moment, Mulder thought the person was turning the camcorder off. But, instead, the view returned and the camcorder panned up and shined on a face. It blurred for a moment, refocusing, but the blurred image was all Mulder needed to see. His face dropped and he could almost feel the feeling bleeding away from his extremities.

Steinman’s face brightened at Mulder’s reaction, though it was a controlled brightening for he didn’t want to seem heartless. Scully looked perplexed. She shook her head, her expression unreadable. Spender seemed vindicated in his own right, but there was no smile on his face. He simply nodded as if he knew it all along. However, the one who seemed most shocked was Ted himself, because as the camera focused itself, it was his own face he saw staring back at him.

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