by Jennifer Lawson
PART II: Filed Under X For … Xena
Please see part one for all disclaimers.
His feet echoed down the long hallway as he paced back and forth, looking through Ted’s arrest report and thinking. Could it be that Mulder’s faith had been misplaced? It was as clear as day on the video. Ted was the one who had attacked Lucy. But there was so much that didn’t match, Ted’s shoes for one. Those were not the shoes that Mulder had seen him in last night. He was wearing the exact same tennis shoes that he was wearing in the interrogation room. How could that have been him in the video?
Another thing that didn’t add up was Ted’s shoe size compared to the ones found on the dirt trail following Lucy’s. The video was damning, though. It was enough to dismiss all that evidence as inadmissible. That was why Steinman had remained so confident as the tape played on. Mulder remembered Steinman’s statement to Ted as he paused the video on Ted’s looming face:
"So, what have you got to say for yourself now?" Ted had never responded, the complete shock of seeing his face on the TV screen had frozen him in his seat.
Spender had looked at Mulder, contempt in his voice and on his face, and said, "Well, it would seem the case is open and shut. We came all the way up here for nothing, Mulder."
Scully, who’d kept quiet the whole time, had finally spoke up herself, but her words had been none the less comforting to Mulder or to the boy. "It would seem so."
Ignoring them, Mulder inquired after Ted to see if he was okay, but his only response was that he’d wanted to go back to his cell. Steinman had quickly complied to his request by offering to assist him back to his cell, giving Mulder a smug smile on his way out the door with Ted. He seemed too overly confidently that he’d found his murderer although no actual bodies had ever been found. Stopping Steinman just before he left, Mulder had asked, "David, do you think I can get a copy of that tape?"
David had responded hesitantly, but answered in a very jovial, "Yeah, not a problem." His concern had shown itself when he asked, "Why?"
"I’d just like the chance to examine it on my own, if you don’t mind," Mulder had told him, skeptical of the video he had just seen and now skeptical of the man he had once called a friend. Steinman had nodded in agreement, but said nothing else. Once he had taken the boy away, Mulder had been confronted with two pairs of eyes staring back at him as if expecting some kind of admission on his part. Suddenly, it seemed he was the one being interrogated, but before he’d had the chance to make any arguments on Ted’s behalf, his cell phone rang.
"Excuse me," he told Scully and Spender. Pulling the cell phone from his jacket pocket, he pressed a button and put the phone to his ear. "Mulder."
On the other line, a strange voice responded. "Hello. This is Agent Mulder?"
"Yes," he responded annoyingly. "How can I help you?"
"I work at Keating Air Force Base and I think I might have some information to help your case about those missing kids."
Mulder glanced cautiously up at the two agents in the room with him who were staring at him curiously. "Okay, sure. Can you hold on a second?"
Mulder covered the mouthpiece with his hand and looked at the others, chuckled softly and said, "Can you believe this? My phone bill is overdue. I’ve gotta catch this call, you guys. I’ll be right back." Mulder backed out of the room knowing he had two very curious, not to mention very suspicious eyes staring at his back. When he left the room he walked down the hallway a ways so as not to be overheard. "Who gave you this number?" he asked the man when he finally got back on the phone.
"Some guy gave it to me. I don’t know his name. He just said I should call you."
Mulder immediately though Krycek, then asked, "Well, what kind of information do you think you have?"
The man on the other end of the line sounded nervous, his voice shaky. "Just meet me at the Bar & Grill downtown at eight. I’ll tell what I need to tell you then, not over the phone."
"Fine. Bar & Grill at eight. I’ll be there."
He’d only been off the phone with whoever that guy was for about ten minutes. Since then, Scully and Spender had come out of the interrogation room with Steinman following not long after. Scully had gone to seek the ladies room while Steinman showed Spender where the vending machines were. When he thought about going to see the man at the Bar & Grill, he knew he was going to have to come up with some inventive way of ditching Spender for the night. What he had planned for this evening would definitely be classified as unorthodox investigating.
Speaking of unorthodox investigating, Mulder reached once more for his cell phone, punched in a couple of numbers and waited for the dial tone to turn into a familiar voice. A nasal-sounding, conspiratorial voice answered with two quick words: "Lone Gunmen."
"Langly, it’s Mulder."
"Oh, hey, Mulder. Hold up, I’ll put you on speaker." There was a click and it now sounded like he was talking to them through a megaphone.
"Hey there, Mulder," came another voice over the line. Mulder easily recognized the voice as Frohike, the shaveless wonder. "What’s cookin’ in Lake Keating?"
"How do you know where I am?" Mulder asked suspiciously. "I hope you guys haven’t gotten one of those hi-tech caller ID devices?"
"No," came the third voice that Mulder quickly assessed was Byers. "Word has filtered down from our sources about your investigation into one of the most largest UFO hot spots in the United States."
"In less than one day?"
"What can we say, Mulder?" exclaimed Frohike. "We’re damn good!"
Langly, Frohike and Byers were three high-tech geniuses with odd personalities and eccentricities to match who called themselves "The Lone Gunmen." Strange guys, but they made good friends and sometimes they made good accomplices too. "Actually, I’m not here investigating UFOs. I’m investigating a couple of disappearances."
"Right," Langly answered. "Two base personnel and two kids. Word on the street is that their friend did it."
"But we’re sure you have another theory," Byers added.
"That’s the thing," said Mulder regretfully. "My theory has just been squashed like a cockroach. One of the two kids left a camcorder recording behind of her abduction which seriously implicates Ted." Mulder flipped through Ted’s report. "A conspiracy junkie part of an internet group called the ‘watchdogs’ who just happens to receive a monthly subscription to The Lone Gunmen."
"Yeah, we know him," said Frohike. "He’s been a long time subscriber. Faithful as a puppy dog."
"Yeah, well, now the puppy’s in the pound."
"What do you have on him?" asked Byers.
"He’s in the video, clear as day, attacking the girl."
"Bummer," said Langly. "You think he did it?"
"That’s why I called up you guys. I want you to take a look at the tape and analyze it for me."
"Sure, when can you get here?"
"Actually, I was wondering if you guys might be interested in an all expense paid trip to the beautiful city of Lake Keating, New York."
"Sounds like a blast!" said Frohike excitedly. "I’ll bring my swimming trunks."
"Not a good idea, Frohike," Mulder responded warily. "It’s cold and we don’t want you revealing more of yourself than we’re prepared to see. Just bring your gear and some good dark clothes. I’ve got a little undercover work for you three."
"Oooh, the danger!" said Frohike sarcastically.
"The power!" Langly added, copying Frohike.
Byers jumped in with, "The passion! Sounds like an excellent Danielle Steele novel." In the small pause that followed this rather unusual comment on Byers part, Mulder could actually see Langly and Frohike chancing curious glances in Byers direction. Byers continued hesitantly, "Not that I read those kinds of novels."
Mulder stifled a laugh and said, "If you’re expecting passion in this story, Byers, it’ll be between Langly and Frohike."
"Hey, I just ate, man!" shouted Langly.
"Do you really want to hear us barf up lunch over the phone?" asked Frohike in agreement with Langly. His tone suddenly changed to slyly seductive when he said, "Besides, if there’s going to be passion, you’ll see it when the lovely Agent Scully’s eyes meet mine."
Mulder knew Frohike held a flame for Scully and he couldn’t blame him. Scully was beautiful… when she wasn’t in a bad mood anyway…but Frohike had a snowball’s chance in hell with Scully. "Don’t hold your breath, Frohike. The last time I checked you were no Adonis."
"So says you," he responded. "You should try asking that question of Agent Scully?"
"Can’t, she’s in the bathroom."
"Okay, Frohike, stop." Frohike was amusing past a certain point. When he started to belittle Scully, he drew the line. "I’ll get your plane tickets, just get yourselves over here as soon as possible." Mulder hung up the phone just as Scully was walking out of the ladies room.
"Who were you on the phone with?" she asked, adjusting her jacket back in place.
"The Three Wise Men," he answered, but looked over her shoulder as he saw Spender coming down the hallway.
Scully looked at Mulder curiously, wondering who he was talking about. "Huh?"
Mulder ignored her question like he usually did and said, "Hey, Scully, think real quick of a way we can ditch Spender for the night." Her curious look at Mulder became even more curious. She wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but she had a feeling it was going to have something to do with his phone conversations. She turned from Mulder, her mind actually processing different ideas on how to get rid of Spender, but before she could come to any decision he was upon them, a wrapped sandwich in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other. All the ideas that had passed through her mind quickly disappeared at the site of him.
"So, is there any reason why we can’t hop the next flight back to Washington?" Spender asked expectantly as he approached.
"Now, why would I want to do that?" Mulder asked in a purposefully sarcastically annoying tone.
Spender looked at Mulder incredulously for the second time that day. "The case is closed, Mulder. We found our killer, or should I say, the LKPD found the killer without, I might add, any assistance from us. Let’s go home."
Her mind fostering an idea, Scully cautiously began with, "You know, you could go ahead of us, if you want. I—"
"And leave the two of you here alone? I don’t think so."
Sidling up to Scully suggestively, Mulder asked, "Why? What kind of stuff you think we’re gonna do?"
Scully moved away from Mulder’s closeness as if she were afraid he might actually do something. One of her many thought-of ideas came to the fore and she used it quickly. "Actually, I have some relatives here in town and I thought I would go and visit some of them. I don’t see where you need to hang around for that."
"Unless you consider that unorthodox investigating, too," Mulder said.
"And you’re bringing Mulder with you to visit these ‘relatives’?" Spender asked with an obvious distrust of Scully’s motives.
"Well…uh…yeah…" she stammered, worried her lie might be getting out of hand.
Mulder wrapped his arm around Scully and held her close to him with a smirk in Spender’s direction. "We’re real close. Her family is my family and vice versa. You get the drift."
Spender didn’t believe a word. "Really?"
"We could almost be siblings," Scully said with a stiff smile.
"Or lovers," Mulder added slyly.
Scully gave an audible gulp that immediately caught Spender’s attention and he looked at her questioningly. She smiled the biggest innocent smile she could and nodded as if in agreement with Mulder. "Oh boy, my big brother."
"Right." They were such obvious liars, it was pathetic and Scully was the worst of the two. "Here’s the deal. You go visit your relatives, but we leave first thing in the morning. Okay?" He had no intention of telling them, but Spender already had it planned to keep watch on them during their little outing. They nodded and smiled their sarcastic little annoying smiles that irked Spender to no end. Just once, he wished he could get up the nerve to punch Mulder in the face. He’d probably walk away with a hurt hand, but his ego would sure be satiated. Just when Spender was feeling in control, though, Mulder landed one in his lap that he just couldn’t handle.
Leaning forward to stare at the food in his hands, Mulder said, "So what’cha got there, Jeffrey? Got a sody pop?"
He stood stone still for several seconds, his eyes glaring at Mulder, but it was Scully’s snort of laughter that she was desperately trying to hold back that broke his stillness. "That’s it! You know, I don’t have to take this from you two. I’m just as good an agent as you are, probably even better and I deserve some respect! I don’t deserve to be laughed at behind my back every time I turn around."
Scully immediately returned to her reserved self, looking ashamed from having laughed at him. She expected Mulder’s attitude not to change one iota, but surprisingly he looked at Spender seriously, his demeanor suddenly taking a sullen turn. "Now you know what it feels like." Mulder walked up to him, his eyes glaring back into his, then walked passed him, saying, "Have yourself a nice night, Spender."
Scully followed after Mulder, hanging her head down low as she passed Spender, feeling his eyes on her like hot pokers. ‘He’ll get over it,’ she told herself, even as she cursed Mulder for his callousness. She didn’t quite know what Mulder had planned for this evening that he’d wanted so much to get rid of Spender, but as far as she could tell, he had succeeded in his task. Spender would now be out of their hair for the rest of the night. Jerking a thumb behind her as Spender grew small in the distance, Scully asked, "What was all that about?"
"Tell you all about it in the car," Mulder said without looking at her.
They met up with Steinman on their way out the building. He greeted them with a smile and handed Mulder a package. "Your copy. We’d already made several, so I figured what’s one more, huh?" Mulder nodded less enthusiastically than Steinman would have liked him to as he took the package from his hand.
"So, as long as I’m handing this over to you for free, you could at least tell me what you want it for? What do you think you’re going to see in there? A UFO? Aliens? Come on, Mulder, spit it out. You gotta tell me." Mulder could hear the nervousness in Steinman’s voice that he tried to cover up with laughter. He was worried that Mulder saw something he didn’t, that perhaps he would ruin the already huge case he was building up on the kid. It was good politics to solve a case that was fast becoming a media circus. In fact, as Mulder had repacked his suitcase to travel back here to Lake Keating, he remembered seeing a lengthy news report on the subject on CNN. Of course, at the time, he had been more interested in hearing if they would mention his name as the first official on the scene.
Mulder looked down at the package, then back up at Steinman, as if deciding if he should tell him something real important. "I just want to make sure if what I saw was really what I saw." Mulder watched Steinman’s jaw unhinge ever so slightly. He left Steinman hanging, giving him an answer and yet not giving him any answer at all. Aside from hunting down aliens, mutants and other unholy creatures, Mulder enjoyed that part of his job the most—sticking it to the ones who had thought they’d stuck it to him. "Thanks for the tape, Steinman." He took Scully by the arm and began to lead her out.
"Sure, no problem," came Steinman’s worry-free reply. "Hey, what about dinner?"
"Guess we’re going to have to take a rain check on that one. Later."
As they walked outside into the dwindling sunlight, Steinman watched them leave, all expression dropping from his face. ‘Things were coming along quite nicely,’ he thought.
Bar & Grill
Scully traced her finger along the grain of the wood table they were seated at as they waited for Mulder’s mystery caller to show his face. He had told her all about him and his suspicion that Krycek was the one who had cued the kid to call Mulder up as they jumped into the car earlier that afternoon, leaving Spender to find a ride of his own. Mulder hadn’t go into much detail about his conversation with Krycek, beyond the fact Krycek was acting as if he wanted to help them in their investigation.
Scully did not understand the point of going to see this person, whether Krycek had led the mystery caller to Mulder or not. Their answer to the mystery of Michael and Lucy’s disappearance lay in what they’d seen on Lucy’s video. Ted was the culprit. Even as they sat there waiting on this person to arrive, she was sure that Steinman was sending Ted through another bout of rigorous questioning to determine where he’d hid their bodies. The case was closed, as Spender had put it, and Scully didn’t see the point, nor could she calculate Mulder’s motives, in continuing this investigation. However, when she tried to question him about that or on what theories were floating through his head, the only answers she got were vague ones. It was on the order of "I haven’t figured that out yet" or something like that. Whatever his explanation, it never failed to irritate her beyond description.
And then, when Mulder informed her that he was flying Byers, Langly and Frohike up to Lake Keating to examine the video tape, she just about hit the roof. The whole matter was over and done with as far as she was concerned and it no longer needed their attention. But, of course, Mulder was going to overdo it to death, nit-pick every small detail and dig up some unearthly explanation as to why Ted wasn’t responsible for the kids’ disappearances. Then, in all likelihood, this case was going to take them to God only knew where, where they would be doing God only knew what.
It wasn’t a surprise to her to feel a twinge of latent fear hanging to the edge of her gut, as the waitress placed a hot plate in front of her piled high with french fries and one huge slab of a well cooked steak. Her lip curled in quiet disgust, her appetite suddenly gone. She wondered why she had even ordered it.
"Mmmm…appetizing," Mulder said to her. Across from her, Mulder had a grilled boneless chicken breast with a bare baked potato. Take that back…an extremely bare potato. That spud had nothing on it. How could he eat it like that? "You gonna butter that?" she asked him. In truth, Scully guessed her mood had chosen her meal.
Mulder shook his head at her question. "Cholesterol…you know."
She looked up from her food long enough to give him a ‘yeah, right’ look. "Pass me the salt and the ketchup."
Picking up both and handing them to her, Mulder asked in jest, mirroring her question, "You gonna eat that?"
"Shut up. I’m hungry." With her steak knife, Scully stabbed at the piece of meat she’d cut from the steak and shoveled the unappetizing rubber-textured food into her mouth.
"Yeah, I can see that," Mulder said, making a face.
Scully lifted up her steak knife threateningly. "Be careful, Mulder. I’m in a bad mood."
Mulder started laughing just as someone walked up to their table. He looked up to see a young man, probably in his early twenties with dark hair, staring at him through worried dark-brown eyes. "Are you Agent Mulder?" the man asked.
"Yeah. Have a seat," he said, indicating the chair on the edge of the table. After the young man sat down, Mulder asked, "What’s your name?"
He was at first hesitant to speak his name, but it wasn’t long before the words tumbled from his lips. "Uh…Campbell…Private Brian Campbell."
"Well, Private Brian Campbell, this is Agent Scully, my partner." Campbell looked in her direction nervously and nodded. Scully smiled softly in return. "Hope you don’t mind that I brought someone else along?" Mulder asked. He hadn’t mentioned Scully to the private on the phone and Mulder was concerned that he might decide to keep quiet because of the unexpected company. Instead, the private responded, "Uh…no," and shook his head.
Mulder could tell that the Private wasn’t sure how he should proceed. He saw in Private Campbell what he’d first seen in Krycek the moment he’d met him. He was ‘green’, new to his job and even more new to divulging information to the FBI, which in the army’s mind didn’t even rank with them. "Want something to eat?"
"No, sir. I’m fine, thank you."
Scully gave Mulder a sideways glance that told him she was tired of him trying to play word games with the kid. So, she plowed ahead and started to ask the questions before Mulder decided to hand feed him. "So, what kind of information do you have about this case that we don’t already know, Private Campbell?"
Campbell could already sense the hostility in Scully, and Mulder saw the reaction on his face. He was beginning to tense up. Mulder was worried he might decide to clam up. "Uhm…" Campbell began.
"Just start from the beginning," Mulder said calmly.
Campbell nodded. "It started about a week and a half ago…"
"We were told the disappearances started only five days ago," Scully said, sitting in the chair with her arms crossed, her lips pursed and a skeptical eyebrow raised.
"The disappearances, yeah, but the stuff that led up to them started a week and half ago."
"What ‘stuff’?" Mulder asked.
The private’s nervousness became more pronounced as he began to squirm in his chair. Exhaling heavily, he said, "It’s top secret. I could get in serious trouble for even thinking about this…but I haven’t been able to get it out of mind since the beginning." Campbell looked about the restaurant warily, but continued. "It was the twenty-seventh of January—my first watch on the grounds overlooking the field. I hadn’t been on the base no more than six months. I wanted to look good, you know. I’d worked double hard to get the position….."
His hands were freezing in the cold air, so Campbell rubbed them together to keep them warm. He was actually glad for the cold air, for it would keep him awake. He didn’t want to fall asleep on his first night watch. Wouldn’t look too good to the lieutenants and generals above him who handed out his assignments. If wanted to get anywhere in the air force, he wouldn’t do it by falling asleep.
So, at the first hint that something might’ve been wrong, he was immediately on his toes. But it wasn’t some sudden occurrence or loud noise that caught his attention, it was more of…
Scully’s brow furrowed in confusion, but Mulder was the one to voice the question. "A feeling? What do you mean?"
"You know, how you get that feeling that something just isn’t right. It sort of sits there in the pit of your stomach and rolls around like a coiled snake."
"A coiled snake," said Scully, remaining aloof.
"And then what happened?"
"Well, that’s when I saw it….."
As the uneasy feeling coiled its way through his stomach, Campbell’s hand went to the pistol he had strapped to his belt. He couldn’t fathom why he felt such a sudden sense of unease. Perhaps it was just the stress he was under with this being his first real job after mess hall duty. Somehow, though, he could feel that something wasn’t right. A cool, stiff breeze blew through the open grounds. The prickly hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and a shiver ran up his back.
The breeze suddenly changed to a rushing wind directly from behind him. When he turned, a bright, white light that immediately caused him to raise his arms to his face to shield his eyes blinded him. Apart from the initial shock, the light was harmless and Campbell ventured a brave look into the light, which seemed to have appeared from nothing and now glowed before him like a star from the heavens.
"What I saw next floored me."
The light flickered and from the center of it a shape emerged…the shape of a man. From that moment, Campbell’s sense of reality changed. He never felt his jaw drop or his knees hit the ground. Instead, it felt like the world gave way beneath him and he fell through a hole in the ground so big it was able to swallow him in one gulp.
"The next thing I knew I was in the infirmary. I went through two days of intense interrogation by my superior officers. They wanted to know what happened, what I saw, screaming about a breach in security and that a Level 10 containment installation had been compromised."
When he finished, Scully sat back in her chair, her arms still crossed and her lips still pursed and glared upon Mulder until she was sure he could sense her eyes upon him. After hearing this story, she was way beyond the point of skepticism. This was about as ridiculous as the story of Lord Kinboat! Right now she could be stretched out on her lumpy hotel room bed, flipping channels and maybe catching an excellent rerun of "Homicide: Life on the Street". Instead, she was sitting here watching Mulder give credence to some idiot’s religious vision.
Where Scully heard insanities, Mulder’s mind picked out the fragments of Campbell’s story that, even though unreal, were based on reality or what was reality in his mind. Whether Scully wanted to believe the private or not, Mulder knew it was possible to sense danger, to be able to predict when or if something, whether good or bad, was going to happen. Even she had experienced it a time or two, though he wasn’t sure she’d ever admit to it. And despite Campbell’s fanciful story, there was still the matter of the breach in security at the AFB. Krycek hadn’t sent the kid to him to tell him a good story. There was something to this and he was surprised Scully didn’t see it. "What was in this containment installation that was breached?" Mulder asked.
The private shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. "I don’t know. It’s top secret. You have to have a Level 10 clearance to even get in there. Right now, I don’t even have a Level 1."
"And this is what preceded the disappearances?"
"Yes, sir. It wasn’t but three days later that Private Gormel disappeared. We were on a routine training mission right outside the base…out in the woods. Dean was my friend. We met at Keating…we bunked together. We were paired on this training mission…and…somehow, we got separated. Don’t ask me why, but I got the same feeling like that night…that same sense that something wasn’t right. I never saw Dean again after that."
"What about the other one? McCormak?"
Campbell shook his head. "I didn’t know her. I wasn’t on base at the time."
"Did you ever see that light again?"
"So just what do you think it was that you saw?" Scully asked, her voice laced with skepticism.
Campbell carefully glanced at the female agent who seemed poised to jump from her chair and attack him if he didn't answer just the way she wanted him to. "I don’t know, ma’am. I wish I could say." Trying to ignore the anxiety the harsh look on the agent’s face was causing him, Campbell looked her pointedly in the eyes. "I do know that you are after the wrong person. It wasn’t that kid, I’m telling you. He just got stuck in it…like I did. I will say this, though. Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t nothing good. There was a feeling pure evil coming from that light. I don’t know about everyone else there, but I’ve been scared to even be at that base since. I still get that feeling every now and then…like somebody’s watching me."
Scully’s skeptically hardened face hadn’t changed, but Mulder was like putty in the private’s hands. He’d forgotten about his chicken and baked potato and now fed upon Campbell’s words. It wasn’t until the kid had left and Mulder had started to quietly play with his food, that Scully chose to speak. "You bought every word that came out of his mouth, didn’t you?"
He didn’t answer her question. Instead, he answered with a question of his own. "Why do you have to see everything so black and white, Scully? Can’t you just accept for once that someone could be telling you the truth?"
"You expect me to believe that story? Mulder, it’s fantasy. What do you want to bet he wasn’t high on marijuana or cocaine, or at the very least had been drinking? Okay, maybe I could see the security breach; sure, maybe that happened. It’s possible. But the bright, white, evil light? Come on. It sounds more like some kind of religious vision instead of a possible alien encounter." She grabbed her napkin, wiped her lip and stood up.
Mulder followed suit, but didn’t back down from the argument. "The two go hand in hand, you know. There are some Ufologists out there who believed that Ezekiel’s ‘religious vision’ was actually an alien encounter."
She stopped him right there with a show of her palm. "Oh, don’t get me started on that! The day I believe Ezekiel saw a UFO, will be the day I sign up with MUFON." She threw her tip down on the table and irritably walked away from Mulder, who couldn’t help the touch of a smile that came to his lips.
Mulder paid for the meal they’d barely touched, added his own tip and followed Scully to the exit. She handed him his overcoat without even looking at him. Just as she was about to walk out the door, the cold air streaming into the restaurant, she turned back at Mulder’s bidding. "Hey, Scully," he called.
Annoyance was as clear on her face as if it would have been stamped right across her forehead.
"What?" she asked.
"So, when do you want me to get that MUFON application for you?" he asked with a cheerfully arrogant smile. If Scully’s eyes had been thunderbolts, Mulder would have been toast. She turned from him and walked to the car without another word.
As they sped from the parking lot of the Bar & Grill, they paid no attention to the dark and silent car that was parked in the shadows. Spender watched their car speed by, many thoughts speeding through his head. He didn’t know the man they’d dined with, but his demeanor, style of dress and short-cropped hair led him to believe that he was military. He wondered what the odds were that the man was from Keating Air Force Base.
They pulled into the parking lot next to their adjoining rooms just a couple of minutes after nine. As he pulled the key from the ignition, Mulder noticed with relief that the light was on in Spender’s upstairs motel room. There was a flickering of light that told him the TV was playing. ‘Good,’ Mulder thought. Spender had kept himself busy enough so Mulder wouldn’t be bothered with having to come up with ingenious ways of keeping him busy and out of their hair.
Mulder made sure to grab the video tape as he got out of the car, looking around curiously for any signs that his three invited guests had arrived. He saw nothing and wondered if they caught their flight. His eyes settled on Scully just in time to catch her stifling a yawn. It suddenly hit him why she’d been in such a raunchy mood all day. She had to be exhausted. "Tired?" he asked, assuming he was being thoughtful, caring…but the expression that came his way was so charged with spite and malice that Mulder wished he’d kept his mouth shut.
Scully looked at Mulder with angry, tired and droopy eyes. Her speech was slurry from lack of sleep, but the slur couldn’t hide the sharp edge her tone held. "Yes. As a matter of fact, I am. I’ve been awake since one o’clock this morning because of you, Mulder. I was chewed out by Assistant Director Kersh because of you. I’ve spent a total of nearly three hours on a plane going back and forth between here and Washington because of you. I’ve had to put up with you and Spender fighting with each other all day long because of you. And now, I have an upset stomach because of eating that steak and those french fries—"
"Now, I had nothing to do with that—", Mulder said in a joking manner, trying to elicit a smile from her. The joke didn’t work.
"Yes, you did. If you hadn’t insisted that we go to that place to talk to that…that guy with the vision, I wouldn’t have been forced to eat that food. I was hungry, Mulder. I was starving. I hadn’t eaten anything today…because of you."
"…because of me," he completed synonymously with Scully. "Yeah, I know." Looking at her blandly, Mulder asked, "Is there anything today that I did right?"
"Yes," she said with determination. "You’re agreeing right here and now that we go home tomorrow."
"Yes, you are. Spender already has our tickets. We’re packing up our things in the morning and we’re getting out of here."
"This case is over, Mulder. Campbell gave you absolutely nothing to go on. You know that and I know that. Let’s just drop it."
Mulder held up the tape at eye-level. "You’re forgetting about the tape. I haven’t had the chance to look at it yet."
"Mulder, you did! You saw exactly the same thing I saw. Ted’s face looming in the camera after he murdered that girl."
"Did you see the shoes, Scully? The shoes on the person in the video did not match the shoes that Ted was wearing. The very same shoes, I might add, that he was wearing when I ran into him in the woods."
"So his shoes were different. So what? He could easily have switched shoes to make it look like someone else did it. This was obviously a very well executed plan, something he’d planned probably days in advance. The only thing he didn’t count on was you showing up."
"Well, if he did do it, what’s Krycek’s interest in all this?"
"How would I know?" she questioned, shrugging her shoulders. "You haven’t even told me what went on with you two."
"He was basically trying to point me in the direction of the air force base," he told her with an exasperated sigh. "Why? I don’t know. But, that’s why he sent Campbell looking for me. There’s something here, Scully, something more than these disappearances and I think Krycek knows it. I have no idea why he would come to me. He’s certainly got more contacts that I do, more pull, but he said something about having gone as far as he could without getting caught." He shook his head in confusion, making it obvious that he didn’t quite trust what he was telling Scully because he couldn’t trust Krycek. "I don’t know. I know I’m probably placing too much trust in Krycek’s words, but…I have to follow this, Scully. Don’t you understand?"
She shook her head remorsefully. "No, I don’t understand. Mulder, he murdered your father. He was an accomplice to Melissa’s murder. How dare you trust anything that comes from his mouth?" She knew her question sounded accusatory, but she couldn’t help the sudden emotion that welled up in her. Krycek had caused so much pain in both of their lives that even the thought of following a case on his whims made her ill. "He’s lied to you before, what makes you think he wouldn’t lie to you now? He’ll stab you in the back, Mulder, when the chance presents itself. He’s done it before, he’ll do it again."
Although his mind thought of many good objections to what she said, Mulder couldn’t argue her point. He didn’t really want to believe Krycek, and he told himself that under any normal situation, he wouldn’t believe him, but this was different somehow. Even if Krycek was still lying, Mulder knew one thing to be true. So, he returned to his original argument and decided to stick with it. "It doesn’t really matter what Krycek did or will do. What matters is that Ted didn’t do what he’s accused of. That boy is innocent, Scully."
Scully sighed irritably. Sleep was creeping up on her faster that she thought it would. She closed her eyes, lowered her head and ran her fingers through her hair. Having pushed her hair out of her face, she looked Mulder squarely in the eyes and tried to maintain a sense of detachment from this case…and from Mulder’s feelings. "I’m tired, Mulder. I’m going to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow morning on the way to the airport. Good night." She turned away from him, trying to ignore his next sigh of exasperation. She knew he wanted to stay, but this wasn’t even their case to begin with. In addition, LKPD had basically caught their suspect. There were just a few loose ends to tie up before they officially charged Ted with anything. They needed only to find the bodies, and from what she could tell, they were confident that Ted would soon spill the beans on that one. As she opened the door to her motel room, she could almost sense the bed beckoning her. How good it would be to go home.
‘How could she turn her back on that kid?’ Mulder thought. He was innocent. Why was it that no one could see that but him? He shook his head sadly, watching Scully disappear behind the door. There was so much more left to learn about this case. He didn’t feel that Campbell’s story was founded on nothing. There had to be something to it, even if it didn’t happen exactly as he said. And there was still the matter of the tape. If Ted was innocent, there had to be some explanation for his face being in the video; something the Lone Gunmen could whittle out through their fancy, high-tech devices. Mulder crossed his fingers and hoped that something would come of this. He didn’t have much time. If he didn’t come up with something to hold Scully and Spender here in Lake Keating, he would be forced to return with them back to Washington. Kersh would never let him investigate this on his own.
With a renewed source of energy, Mulder headed for his motel room with the important videotape in hand. Entering his dark room, he was momentarily surprised by the presence of three men…until he realized who they were. The smell of pepperoni pizza filled the room and a short, balding man with glasses walked up to him with a half-eaten slice. Mulder noticed a dribbling of cheese and grease at the corner of the man’s stubbly bearded mouth as the man said, "Ah, the X-man hath returneth."
Indicating on his own face where the cheese was, Mulder said, "Frohike, you might want to wipe your mouth there."
Acting with sudden concern for his appearance, Melvin Frohike wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, placing particular attention to that corner with the cheese and grease. Mulder’s face crinkled up in a look of disgust that he hoped didn’t display itself too much. "Want a slice?" Frohike asked, proffering his own.
"No thanks. Just had chicken."
Frohike’s own face crinkles up in disgust. "Ugh. You a vegetarian or something?"
Mulder looked at Frohike cautiously for a moment, not sure if he was joking or being serious. So, he decided just to play along. "Yeah, Frohike, I’m a vegetarian."
Behind Frohike stood Ringo Langly, smiling broadly behind his plastic, black-rimmed glasses. He was a computer tech genius who, in Mulder’s mind, looked like an extremely nerdy version of Garth from the Saturday Night Live comedy skit "Wayne’s World." His long, blonde, hippie hair just sort of hung there in the unbrushed style of the ‘90s. He wore blue jeans and a black T-shirt that read in bright, bold lettering: "Go home. There are thousands more like me."
"That’s a scary thought, Langly," Mulder said, pointing to the T-shirt.
Langly smirked and nodded as if he agreed. "’Bout time you got here. What took you so long? We been here for hours."
In between bites of pizza, Frohike added, "Yeah, some prick in a suit started asking us all sorts of questions: ‘Who are you? What’cha doin’ here?’ Crap like that."
"He said he was a federal agent," said John Byers, coming out from behind the two men. Compared to the other two, Byers stuck out like a sore thumb. He was neat, clean-cut with short brown hair and a beard. He wore a very business-like brown suit. He looked like your average businessman, who had a wife and family to go home to every night. Instead, he lived with Langly and Frohike, and together they became what they liked to call The Lone Gunmen. Conspiracy junkies, much like Ted Ramsey, they dig up and investigate everything from the assassination of JFK to the mysteries of cattle mutilations, and print their findings in a conspiracy newsletter to feed the conspiratorial thoughts that swim around in the heads of other people like themselves. Mulder almost had to laugh at the comical picture they presented. They were like the Marx Brothers; he just had trouble figuring out which one was Groucho.
"That would be Agent Spender," Mulder told them, answering their suspicions with an irritating reminder of the day that he had to spend with him. "He was assigned to the case as our little watchdoggie. Did he try to stop you from coming in?"
"Yeah," Langly replied with a nod. "Until Frohike and I threatened to bum rush him. He took off real quick and locked himself in his room after that. We ain’t seen him since." Langly and Frohike laughed at the memory and gave each other hi-fives, congratulating themselves on a job well done.
All self-adulation aside, Frohike began looking behind Mulder, hoping someone would soon follow him in. "Uh, where’s Agent Scully?"
Remembering how angry she was, Mulder was almost tempted not to say anything. "Right now, she’s probably—" He was going to finish up by saying ‘getting ready for bed’ when he heard the sound of her shower in the next room through the thin walls. When he didn’t readily finish his sentence, Frohike decided to complete it for him.
"…taking her clothes off as we speak?" he asked expectantly, his eyebrows raised.
Mulder gave him a stern look of warning and said, "You know, Frohike, your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble."
"Oh, you think you can take me?" he asked cockily, but his joking attitude told Mulder that he wasn’t serious.
"I wouldn’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends," Mulder responded in kind, to which Langly and Byers began to laugh. "Besides, one of these days you are going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and that person is not going to find your…" How should he put it? "…wit very amusing."
Frohike gave Mulder a ‘yeah right’ look and turned from him as Byers stepped up, showing more interest in what was in Mulder’s hand. "Is that the tape you’re wanting us to take a look at?" Byers asked.
"Yeah." Mulder handed the tape to Byers who studied it carefully with his eyes as if he could see what was on it just by looking at it. "We brought along a few things to assist us in analyzing this video," Byers informed Mulder. "I hope you don’t mind."
Turning his attention to the center wall across from the bed, Mulder noticed how they had basically taken over the room. They had unpacked all their expensive equipment and laid it about his room. The TV was connected to a VCR that was in turn connected to a laptop computer and several other devices that Mulder had yet to figure out. "No, I guess I don’t."
Byers handed the video to Langly, who popped it into the VCR. "What exactly is on this video tape?" Byers asked Mulder.
"Yeah, you said something about that Ted kid attacking the girl on the tape," added Langly, looking up at Mulder from his seat in front of the laptop. "Sounds pretty cut and dry to me. What do you want us to look at?"
Mulder pulled up a chair next to Langly, while Frohike and Byers leaned over to watch. "Mainly the last few frames of the sequence. You don’t see his face until after he attacks the girl. I want to view it in extremely slow motion, frame by frame. Can you do that?"
"Does Big foot exist? Sure I can do that." Langly began to fast-forward the tape through the first scenes. "Where do you want me to stop?"
"I’ll let you know."
"So what are we seeing here?" asked Byers.
"These are the three kids." Mulder’s finger pointed to them on the television screen each individually as the scene race by. Mulder saw their mouths moving quickly without any sound, their smiles fleeting as the seconds flew by on the VCR. He wondered if that was how their lives ended. "Lucy Lawson, Michael Hurt, and who the police consider their murderer, Ted Ramsey," Mulder continued. "They went on a camping trip to try to film UFO occurrences at Keating Air Force Base."
"Cool," Frohike said. "Did they get anything?"
Mulder tried to ignore Frohike’s nonchalant attitude even thought it grated at his consciousness like nails across a chalkboard. "No. Whatever was out there got them." Then he went on to finally answer Byers’ question. "What we’re fast forwarding through here is their preparations and filming of the air base itself."
"So, the police think that Ted lured them out there to murder them?" Byers asked.
"Yeah," Mulder nodded. "I guess it’s a likely scenario considering all the recent high school killings, but I don’t believe that’s what happened. Ted was a member of that group I told you about, ‘the watchdogs’. He was there simply to do surveillance for them. I guess he figured he’d bring his friends along, have some fun and a couple of beers while he was at it. Now, that’s all turned against him and people see him as some eccentric who was a part of a cult, like the Trench coat Mafia. I feel sorry for the kid. His best friends are probably dead and he’s being blamed for their murders." He turned his eyes back to the TV and saw that they were coming up to the stopping point. "Okay, stop right there."
Langly did as he was told and let the video begin to play. Mulder stopped it right at the point where Lucy heard the first real sound of someone else out in the woods. From there, he allowed the tape to play until the very end where Ted’s face looms in the camera. Mulder remembered that Steinman had left the tape to pause on Ted’s face the last time he saw the video. He hadn’t had the chance to see what happened after that.
He watched with an eerie sensation coursing up his spine as Ted grinned into the camera. It brought back the memory of what Private Campbell had said: "There was a feeling pure evil coming from that light." Looking at Ted’s face on the TV screen, Mulder saw in that grin what Campbell had felt—evil. Then, just as his face pulled away from the lens, there was a blip in the screen that lasted half a second. Mulder wasn’t sure if the others caught it, but he sure did. They watched the brown lace up shoes walk over to Lucy’s body and the person bend down to pick her up, then the picture turned fuzzy for a good minute. When the picture returned, both Ted and Lucy were gone. "That was pretty freaky," Frohike said, his eyes glued to the screen.
"You can say that again," Langly added.
"What the hell just happened?" asked Byers
"That’s what I’d like to know," Mulder answered. "Did you see the blip in the video while his face was on the screen?"
"I saw that, but I’m talking about the static. One minute they’re there, the next they’re gone. What the hell was that?"
"Let’s go back to the blip and see if we can see anything."
"Feed those scenes through to the computer," Byers told Langly. "Let’s see if we can extrapolate a much finer image there."
"I’m on it," Langly griped. "What do I look like, dead weight?" It took Langly several minutes to feed those images into his laptop, but in just a short while the exact footage they’d watched on the television was now playing through the laptop’s flat monitor. Langly moved the track ball built into the laptop computer, adjusted a few settings and paused the image on Ted’s face just as Detective Steinman had earlier that afternoon. "You want a certain rate of speed?" Langly asked Mulder, his eyes to the screen.
"Go at one-one hundredths of a second," Byers threw in when Mulder didn’t answer.
"That slow?" Langly complained.
"You wanna be here ‘till the break of dawn?" agreed Frohike.
"Just do it," Byers said, ignoring their complaints.
Mulder hoped they knew what they were doing. Of course, he hadn’t known a time when they didn’t. Sure they argued amongst each other a lot, had their own strange eccentricities and really annoyed him at times, but they were smarter than most of the seasoned FBI agents he knew. They had pulled him out of several scrapes and were a wealth of knowledge and information during his work with the X-files. There were many times when their technical and computer knowledge were what had helped him to solve a case…or at least come close to solving the case. Perhaps their help with this case will be what tips the scales.
Though he didn’t like the idea, Langly did as he was told. The scene slowly rolled by at one-one hundredths of a second, but it was just slow enough for Mulder to see what he was hoping he would see. Ted’s evil grin filled the screen for what seemed a lifetime, each man in the room as silent as one at a funeral. As Ted’s face began to move from the screen, Mulder could feel his stomach tighten as the moment approached. As he watched, his eyes riveted to Ted’s face, something about him began to change. The light of the camcorder illuminated the color of Ted’s green eyes. As they watched this second stretched to its limits, Ted’s eyes change to a light blue. Then, his facial features began to change. All four men dropped open their mouths as they watched Ted’s face literally transform before their eyes. The face was more elongated; the nose was sharper, more pointed; there was facial hair. Ted was old enough to grow facial hair, but Mulder could tell by his fair skin and fine hair that he wouldn’t grow any more than peach fuzz. Hell, he probably didn’t even have chest hair. The face they were seeing now had a very healthy mustache or beard. It was hard to be exactly sure which with the quality of the image.
When they could no longer make out Ted’s face in the image, Mulder had Langly stop the motion. For a moment, no one spoke. It was as if some deep revelation had been explained in that one instant and it required all to think on it. For Langly, Byers and Frohike the revelation came with more questions.
His eyes wide, Byers crossed himself and said, "Holy Mary, mother of God."
"Jesus Christ," Langly mumbled.
"Holy shit!" exclaimed Frohike, his jaw unhinged.
For Mulder, the revelation was no revelation at all. He knew what he was seeing. It was so obvious, it was sickening. He just didn’t understand why he hadn’t seen it before. Intentionally mirroring the words Langly spoke only a couple of minutes before, Mulder said, "You can say that again."
Scully dropped the wet towel onto the floor by the bathtub and walked to the overly large mirror above the sink to brush out the kinks in her hair. Grabbing a bottle of mousse, she squirted the white foam into her cupped hand and was just about to apply it to her head when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Leaning forward, she saw the heavy bags under her eyes, the creasing frown lines at the corners of her mouth and…oh, was that a gray hair?! She experienced a small panic attack until she realized it was just a touch of mousse at the root by her forehead. With a sigh of relief, she patted her heart to calm its frantic beating. ‘Don’t be so paranoid, Dana,’ she told herself. ‘Mulder is not going to make you old before your time.’
Once the mousse was thoroughly applied and all the kinks were brushed out, Scully slowly made her way in her pajamas and bare feet to the comfortable bed, where the covers were already turned down and the pillows were fluffed just right. These amenities called to her like a lover. She slowly slipped between the sheets, wrapping herself up in its warmth, closed her eyes and smiled softly with the immense pleasures of sleep. Lazily, she reached for the lamp switch and…
Knock, knock, knock.
Scully froze, her stomach cramping at the thought of Mulder standing outside her door with that tape in his hand, saying, "Scully, you’re not going to believe what’s on this tape." ‘Ignore it,’ she told herself. ‘It’ll go away. It’s just your imagination.’
Knock, knock, knock.
The frown lines she had been so worried about just a few minutes ago returned. And just when she had finally started to feel calm and relaxed, all the stresses of the day came rushing back at her like a gut punch. The muscles in her neck and shoulders tensed up, bringing on the beginnings of a terrible headache. What had she done wrong? What horrible deed had she committed to deserve this torture? Could God be punishing her for judging Ted so quickly? "Judge not, lest you be judged," she heard in her head.
Knock, knock, knock.
Throwing back the warm covers, Scully got up and walked to the door, the frown so deeply etched across her face it looked as if she would break into tears. Instead, she kept her cool, standing up on the tip of her toes and looking through the peephole to see just who was bothering her now. ‘I swear to God, if it’s Mulder…’
Whatever threat had begun to form itself in her thoughts quickly died with the sight of four warped, yet annoyingly familiar faces. She saw Mulder’s pathetically smiling face ringed by three other pathetically smiling faces. They all seemed extremely eager to come in. Somehow, she had forgotten all about the fact that those three were coming. Placing her feet back flat against the floor, Scully almost sobbed at the injustice of it all. She was being robbed of her sleep again…and her peace. It was so unfair.
Slowly, and without much enthusiasm, Scully unlocked the dead bolt on the motel room door. She opened the door just a crack, the only amount allowed by the chain, and stared at the four men with an angry frown. Frohike gave Scully a big smile and waved at her with an open palm. "Good evening, Agent Scully. Nice night, huh?"
Mulder could see she was in no mood to play around. By the way she was dressed, he could tell she had just been about to hit the hay. There were dark rings under her tired eyes and her hair was still damp from her shower. He decided that Frohike had best keep his mouth closed unless he wanted to spend the rest of the night in a pine box. How often Frohike forgot that Scully carried a piece. So, to silence the man who was standing just behind his right shoulder, Mulder popped him on the forehead with the video tape without even looking back to make sure he’d made contact. A smacking sound and Frohike’s whispered curse, which he ignored, were all he needed. Now, he focused his attention on Scully, who was losing patience with each passing second. "Uh, Scully, I realize you were just about to get some sleep, but…I know you’re real tired and all…"
"Just spit it out, Mulder."
Holding the videotape up for her to see, Mulder said, "Scully, you’re not going to believe what’s on this tape."
Her first inclination was to scream and slam the door, for her most horrible imaginings had come true. She could suddenly feel her headache pounding in her head with the force of a sledgehammer. But, she kept calm and responded to Mulder’s statement with the most truthful of answers. "You’re right, Mulder. I probably won’t, but I’m sure you’re going to force me into watching it anyway, right?"
In answer, all Mulder could do was smile sheepishly. Of course, she was right. There was no way he was going to allow her to leave tomorrow knowing what he now knew.
Back in Mulder’s motel room, they played back the computer-recorded images to a tired and non-enthused Agent Scully. As Mulder sat on the edge of his bed watching Scully, he thought about all the implications this brought forth. There was so much he’d learned since he first began investigating the X-file cases, and yet there was so much he still didn’t know. The information had come to him in bits and pieces. First, there were abductions, just as in this case. He learned from them, learned the intricacies in what was involved, how people were taken and what was done to them. Though he always believed that the government was somehow involved in these abductions, either directly or indirectly, what he considered evidence to support that fact began to pile up before his eyes. The government was more than involved; they were neck-deep in it. Things were happening around him that most people, like his skeptical partner, would consider ridiculous, but, to Mulder, it was an earth-shattering truth. He heard Krycek’s voice in his head again: "I’m talking planned invasion. The colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race."
This was the truth he was faced with. It was why his sister was taken so many years ago. She was one of the few chosen, not just by the extraterrestrials, but by her own parents to pave the way for the coming of a new species to Earth. As he came to learn, the cataloguing and record keeping of individual human DNA, taken during small pox vaccinations, was only part of a large plan held by secret men in the government to create a human/alien hybrid. He’d seen the attempt at making these hybrids, whose blood was so toxic, it could kill. Then there was the substance furtively known as ‘the black oil’, a contagion used by the alien race to propagate their own species. It could be transmitted in various forms, not just from black oil, but also through the venom of a bee sting. It had taken several years, but Mulder finally understood its purpose. It was, in essence, the life force of the alien creatures whose intent it was to take over this planet. In some instances, Mulder has seen it use a human host as a medium to get from one place to another, but it’s most basic function was to infect it’s human host and grow until it was able to completely disgorge itself from the host’s body. From that point on, he didn’t know its function or mission. But, he knew there were those who were immune to the effects of ‘the black oil’—the human/alien hybrids, cloned from human ova and alien biomaterial, who replicated themselves through cloning operations to continue the work of colonization.
There was one man, a large hulking man who seemed to police them and their cloning operations, and who Mulder often thought of as a ‘bounty hunter’. Mulder believed him to be not a human or a hybrid, but an actual alien. He wasn’t sure how, but this man, or alien, was capable of disguising himself by completely changing his physical features. He’d once disguised himself as Mulder to gain Scully’s trust, but in the end, she’d seen through his disguise. Mulder even witnessed this ability of his once. That was why, as they all sat through the morphing of Ted’s face into the face of another, Mulder believed what they were seeing was not some deranged kid on a murder spree, but the "face" of an alien being…someone not of this world.
Mulder and his three conspiratorial companions watched Scully’s reaction to what she was seeing slowly play on the laptop’s monitor. She looked bored at first, until Ted’s face was no longer Ted’s face. Then her expression changed from a deep, confused frown to wide, bulging eyes. Her mouth dropped open, just as theirs had. No one said anything, though. Langly let the sequence play out at normal speed until no one was in the camera’s view. When she didn’t readily say anything, Mulder asked, "So, what do you think? Still think it was Ted?"
"Mulder, I—" was the only response she could muster, since she didn’t know exactly what to say. What she just saw was beyond scientific reason. Although, in her mind, she could recall an event where she had stood face to face with a man she thought was Mulder, but then who suddenly became someone else. It was as if her mind had been playing tricks on her, and that was exactly how she felt now. There had to be some reasonable explanation. "The—there has to have been someone else there," she reasoned even though she remained completely baffled. "He must have had an accomplice."
"Oh, come on, Scully," Mulder complained, getting up from his seat on the bed and walking over to her. "You saw the same thing each one of us has seen. There was no one else in the camera’s lens but that person and Lucy. Stop hiding behind rationality, Scully, and look around you. There are more things out there than scientific explanations."
She looked at him sternly for a moment, then said, "I don’t need a lecture, Mulder…just some honest to God answers for a change."
"You don’t want to hear what he thinks is going on," Frohike said, chuckling.
"Well, what do you think is going on, Frohike?" Mulder asked him just to see if he could come up with a better answer.
"Don’t ask me. This whole thing is freaky."
"What is going on, Mulder?" asked Scully impatiently.
Mulder looked at her and told her what he believed with a straight face. "I believe that what is going on here, is more far reaching that just the abduction of two kids. It has deeper implications, which is evidenced by Krycek’s apparent involvement. What we’re seeing in that video tape isn’t Ted…and it isn’t human."
"So, what you’re trying to tell me is that all along we’ve been after an alien?" she asked skeptically, her expression the same as when she spoke to Private Campbell.
"That would seem to be the case." He looked into her face and saw more than skepticism. He saw total disbelief in her eyes. She thought he was crazy. If he didn’t convince her, this was all over. "Do you remember Jeremiah Smith?"
"Yeah, the man who supposedly healed all those people who were gunned down at the fast food restaurant. What about him?"
"Not ‘supposedly’, he did heal them. Do you remember the man who was after him, hunting him down?" Scully nodded in answer to his question. She easily remembered the big man who’d held her at gunpoint on two separate occasions. "Neither one of them are human, Scully," Mulder continued. "They’re alien, and both of them had the unique ability of being able to change their physical appearance in the blink of an eye; just like that person we saw on the video."
While Scully tried analyzing these irrational thoughts inside her completely rational mind, Byers walked up to her, almost obscuring the view of the monitor. "I know I can’t corroborate Agent Mulder’s account of things, but I can say this: we’ve analyzed this video, we’ve reviewed it over and over because we knew better than to come to you without something to back up our claims, and from what we’ve been able to determine there is no glitch, there has been no tampering. What you’ve seen, Agent Scully, is very real."
Staring past Byers’ shoulder, Scully stared at the face that grinned back at her. There was an evil in those eyes that caused her to feel cold all over, even in the bathrobe that she wore. Something in those eyes told her that she was mostly definitely looking at their abductor, but she questioned whether it was wise to pursue this any longer. Mulder might believe, and he may have even managed to halfway convince her, but everyone else would believe he was crazy. Ted would be considered just as guilty then as he was being considered now. "I don’t know what you think this is going to accomplish, Mulder. Do you really think Steinman and the police will believe that story?"
"I don’t need them to believe me, Scully. I’m going to prove Ted innocent by finding those kids and the two missing officers."
"And just how do you expect to do that?"
Mulder looked at her with eyes of determination that she’d seen before. It meant that he was up to something. He was formulating some plan in his head that would include all of them to the very end. She could tell by the way that he looked each of them in the eye as if awaiting a silent acceptance. "We’re going to go where it all began—to Keating Air Force Base."
Sunday, February 7, 1999
Keating Air Force Base
Nearly twenty-four hours had passed since Mulder first parked a rental car down this small dirt path. The first time he was here, he had been hoping to catch a glimpse of a UFO. Instead, he’d glimpsed into the beginnings of a mystery…a mystery he hoped he could solve tonight.
Getting out of the driver’s side of the car, he assisted the Lone Gunmen, who were all dressed in classic "espionage black," in getting their equipment out of the trunk. Scully slowly made her way to the back of the car. She too had dressed in a black outfit, per Mulder’s request, but had kept it a professional outfit. She refused to wear the insane outfits that Byers, Langly and Frohike had donned. They looked like they were trying to pull off a bad imitation of Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible". As they unloaded all their gear from the back of the car, Scully crossed her arms and only watched. She still did not like this idea. She thought it was rash and dangerous, not to mention stupid. The fact that she felt forced into it irked her even more.
"Okay, what’s the game plan?" Mulder asked the Lone Gunmen.
"The game plan is: we get you in, you get what you need and you get out. We won’t be much good to you out here." Langly slammed the trunk down, stood center of the rear of the car and rolled a blueprint across the hood of the trunk. In response, four penlights popped up out of nowhere, shining down small pinpoints of light on his work. "This is a blueprint of the interior of the installation." Mulder was on the verge of asking him where and how they got a hold of something like that when Langly responded to his question before he even had a chance to ask it. "Don’t ask us where we got it."
Scully raised an eyebrow at Mulder, who stared back at her on the other side of the car with a similar expression. There was a tap at her shoulder and she turned to see Frohike standing behind her with a plastic card held out to her. She noticed Byers handing a card just like hers to Mulder. "What are these for?"
"It certainly not an American Express card. Although, we can make those, too," Frohike added with a smile.
"You should be able to access all high security clearance areas on the base with these cards," Byers informed them.
"Should?" asked Mulder, concerned.
"Well, unfortunately, we haven’t had the luxury to test them as we would like to. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be one hundred percent successful, but…"
"In other words, if it don’t work, you’re screwed," Frohike explained.
"Sounds like shopping at K-Mart," Scully said.
They turned back to the blueprint as Langly began to talk them through the route they should take through the base. He grilled them on proper base procedure, giving them a small lecture as to what they should expect, especially when they reach the front gate. However, it wasn’t as if Mulder and Scully hadn’t been through that before. On at least three separate occasions, they’d talked their way onto a military base of some kind and had managed to get in, but on only one of those times did they need the help of the Lone Gunmen. At any other time, Mulder felt sure he would have been able to get himself on the base with no problem, but with all the media hype surrounding this case, he was sure security on the base had been stepped up. With the apparent breach that Private Campbell had spoken of, the base was probably crawling with soldiers, making the ability of getting onto that base without some kind of help nearly impossible.
"Now, we don’t exactly know where these kids are," said Langly, "even if they are on the base, but I’ll be able to guide you through the base to some of the high security areas."
"And how do you plan to do that?" questioned Mulder.
"With these." Byers walked up to them with wire kits in his hands. "Two devices. One is a virtually invisible mike/earphone set that fits comfortably in your ear. No one will be able to see it unless they are looking for it."
"Yeah, I’ve used one of those before." Mulder thought back to the Duane Barry incident and remembered that he’d worn a similar device when Barry had taken several people hostage at a travel agency. Mulder had traded himself for one of the hostages for the chance to talk to Barry about his abduction experiences and to talk him into releasing his hostages. The memory actually brought back terrible images of Scully’s own abduction and his feelings of guilt for not having been there for her when she needed him. He mentally shook those thoughts and feelings off, saving them for when he had time for them. "You know, I believe those are standard government issue. Where’d you get that?" The three men only stared at him. "Oh yeah, ‘don’t ask’, right?" There was no response even to that question, but the eyes said it all. "Second device?"
"The second one is another virtually invisible device that we will use to track you." Byers placed a small, flat, metal instrument to Mulder’s tie like a tie pin. Frohike produced another one for Scully, though hers had a more elaborate design, and pinned it to the lapel of her jacket.
As Frohike was pinning the device to her jacket, Scully asked, "How are you supposed to track us with these?"
Byers picked up a leather bag with a strap and placed it on top of the trunk. He unzipped the top of the carry bag to show them a small three-inch television monitor. He flipped a switch, raised an antenna attached to the television and suddenly two dots appeared on the screen along with a detailed street map showing exactly where the five of them were standing. "We’ll be able to view your every move through this screen; from the moment you enter the base, to the moment you leave. Not only is it your guide to the base, but the best safety measure we can offer on such short notice."
"Anything else we should know?" Mulder asked.
"Yeah, watch each other’s asses," Langly threw in.
"Not a problem," Mulder responded with a nod…and a peculiar glance in Scully’s direction.
Mulder’s face was much too serious for Scully and she could see the corners of his mouth desperate to curve into a smile. She knew there was a sly comment on the edge of his tongue and, in her mood this evening, she didn’t want to hear it. "Shut up, Mulder."
He laughed silently as Byers and Frohike suited them up with their mikes. They spent several more minutes testing to make sure that everything was working properly. "What kind of range do these pins get?" Mulder asked.
"At least ten miles," was Langly’s response.
"Good, that’s about how far away we’ll be."
"Moment of truth, guys," Frohike said excitedly, rubbing his palms together. "Ready for some action?"
"Well, we aren’t here to try on party hats, are we?" Scully asked flatly. "The sooner I get some sleep, the better. So let’s get this over with." She wasted no time walking to the car and getting into the passenger side. In this mood, she usually preferred to drive, because Mulder’s driving drove her batty. But she was willing to forego that necessity tonight and let Mulder be the one asking for permission to enter the base.
Mulder headed toward the car behind Scully, but stopped and turned back to the three men. "Where will you three be?"
Langly pointed in the direction of the yellow tape leading off into the woods. "We’ve decided that we’ll wait at the edge of the field with a clear view of the base. Besides, we’ll get better reception there. No interference."
"Just make sure you guys are waiting at the edge of the highway when we come for you. Otherwise, you’ll get left behind…especially if we’re in a hurry." With that, Mulder got in the car and started the engine.
In a couple of seconds, the only thing the Lone Gunmen could see of the car was the diminishing red taillights. As they stood in the darkness of the encroaching woods, Frohike shook his head. "You know, he can be a real prick sometimes."
"That’s for sure," agreed Langly. "After all we’ve done for him, he’d leave us behind?"
"Talk about gratitude. Not even a thank you. Can you believe that?"
"Come on, you guys," moaned Byers. "We don’t have all night. We need to be at that clearing before they get onto the base." He turned, shined his flashlight at the yellow tape and began to head in that direction. Langly and Frohike followed, but continued their griping behind him.
"That’s lame, man," Langly persisted, ignoring Byers completely. "And that Scully; she sure was perky tonight!"
"’Perky’?" squawked Frohike in response. "When’s the last time you saw her perky? You’d probably have to force a fifth of Jack down her throat just to get a smile."
Byers shook his head in exasperation and hoped that, as the night progressed, things would get better. He wasn’t known for his premonitions, but somehow he had a strong feeling that things would only get worse.
Parked in a darkened area of the highway, Spender sat with the car running idly and the lights off. When he’d left his apartment earlier that evening, he’d left his television on with the volume low so as not to disturb any of his neighbors, and followed Mulder and Scully to the Bar & Grill. He’d never re-entered his room, but stayed parked across the street from the motel, waiting to see if they would leave again. And, just as he assumed, it wasn’t long before they were back on the road.
They never noticed him following two cars behind them all the way back to Keating Air Force Base. He knew it was only a matter of time before Mulder did something radical and, as he’d seen before, Scully followed him to his inevitable end like she always did. He often wondered when she was going to wise up and realize that Mulder was ruining her brilliant career. Mulder’s career was already in the toilet, but if Kersh found out that she followed Mulder like a sheep into whatever it was that Mulder had planned, he would push her farther down on the totem pole than she already was, if he didn’t push her out altogether.
When he noticed their car pulling back out onto the highway, he let them drive ahead for several yards before beginning to follow. There was barely any traffic on the highway this late and if he wasn’t careful, they’d be sure to spot him. He wasn’t quite sure why they’d stopped at this spot again. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t been there enough today. What did Mulder have up his sleeve? And did it have anything to do with those three goons outside of Mulder’s room this afternoon? He didn’t know who they were, but he was sure they figured in somehow.
To Spender’s surprise, Mulder turned onto the dark road that led to the base. Not wanting to seem suspicious by stopping along the road behind him, Spender kept going. He would double back when he knew the coast was clear. He tapped at the steering wheel with uncertainty, curious as to just what Mulder thought he was doing. He didn’t really think he could get onto that base, did he? Of course, Mulder was brash enough to think he probably could. The question was, why? Mulder had questioned that air base private for a reason, but what was it?
Spender turned the car around in the middle of the road when he was sure there was no traffic coming, and headed back the way he had come. He parked not far off from the road that led to the base, where the lights were shining brightly off in the distance. He sat and stared for several minutes when the ringing of his cell phone jolted him back into reality. Pulling the cell phone from his inside jacket pocket, Spender answered, "This is Agent Spender. How can I help you?"
A woman on the other line replied, "Hello, Agent Spender. This is Officer Rachel O’Conner with the Lake Keating Police Department. I’m trying to locate Agent Mulder. Would you know how I could get in touch with him? I’m not able to reach him by the cell phone number I was given."
"I’m sorry, Officer O’Conner, but Agent Mulder is currently unavailable," Spender said, his eyes on their diminishing taillights in the far distance. "Is there something I could help you with?"
"Well, this is sort of bad news. I would prefer to tell him personally, but perhaps you could relay the message to him for me."
"Of course, I can. What’s happened?" he asked, his brow furrowed in curiosity.
"It’s Detective Steinman. He was found…dead…in his apartment early this evening."
Spender sat forward in the car seat, genuinely surprised by the news. "Dead? How?"
"We’re not quite sure yet. The cause of death is still undetermined. There are some inconsistencies…" She trailed off, either not able to elaborate or unwilling.
"What kind of inconsistencies?" Spender prodded.
Officer O’Conner seemed hesitant to respond, but eventually the words came. "There have been some unusual findings in his autopsy that was performed about an hour ago." She hesitated again. "The time of death is recorded at somewhere between six to eight hours ago."
"That can’t be. That means he would have already been dead this afternoon, and that’s impossible, because saw I him this afternoon. So did Agents Mulder and Scully."
"I realize that. Several officers saw him this afternoon, including myself. Therein lies our inconsistency. The doctor that performed the autopsy remains confident of his results, but we’ve asked him to re-autopsy the detective’s body and double-check his findings. This is, however, the reason I’ve been looking for Agent Mulder. I’m curious to know when he last saw Detective Steinman, so that we can at least set a timeline of his whereabouts."
"Well, I can’t speak for Agent Mulder, but the last time I saw Steinman was around four this evening at the precinct."
"I saw him as late as six, but I was told that he may have had plans to dine with Agent Mulder and his partner tonight."
"One thing I can vouch for is that he most definitely did not dine with Agent Mulder. Mulder already had other plans."
"I see. Well, I thank you for your help, Agent Spender, and as soon as you hear from Agent Mulder, be sure to have him call me."
"Of course, that’s not a problem. Agent Mulder and I have a lot to talk about, it would seem." Spender hung up with Officer O’Conner and returned the phone to his jacket pocket. O’Conner had been right about one thing, there were some glaring inconsistencies…and most of them had to do with Mulder. Perhaps Mulder knew of Steinman’s death and considered it all a part of this case with it’s own set of inconsistencies. Spender doubted it, though. It seemed to him that they were keeping Steinman’s death hush-hush for now, because he’d heard nothing about it on the radio news.
Like the rest of this case, Steinman’s death was strange. Spender had seen him only this evening. There was no way his time of death could be at the time the doctor had stated. That would place it somewhere between twelve and two o’clock that afternoon. It was impossible. Unfortunately, investigating Steinman’s death was not on his high list of priorities right now. However, investigating Mulder and Scully was.
‘Well, it’s about time,’ he thought. ‘Took them long enough.’ Interesting—the lengths the man he came to know as Mulder would go to find truths. Even more interesting was how his partner followed like the obedient dog. They were akin to his original quarry, such similarities in their personalities it was almost startling.
Thus, his need for caution. They were intelligent and he knew better now not to underestimate them, especially the one named Mulder. Mulder’s mind was powerful. The sensations that came from Mulder hit him like waves on the ocean. Mulder’s thoughts were strong, exhibiting a force that was hard to comprehend. Of course, Mulder’s mind was not as powerful or as strong as his was. Mulder would never achieve what he was capable of, but Mulder had an indomitable strength of mind and will that far surpassed any he had ever encountered…except for Xena. In that, they were almost the same. As well, they also shared a single weakness. For Xena, it had been Gabrielle. For Mulder, it was his sister, Samantha. So strange for them to be so alike.
They were close now. He could feel them coming closer and could sense the apprehension they both held. The woman named Scully did not want to be there. She was worried and her heart rate was increasing, but she followed her partner blindly into whatever fate had been chosen for her. Mulder was worried, too, but his will drove him to this destination. He sensed in Mulder a feeling of excitement…of adventure…of danger. It was his high, so to speak, to walk headlong in the face of danger and death to seek his answers. Scully was, unknowingly, picking up on the sensations that Mulder sent out and that same feeling of excitement was flowing through her veins.
Gaelen smiled in the darkness as he waited for them, for he knew they would follow him to their eventual doom.
Sunday, February 7, 1999
Keating Air Force Base
The bright lights they saw in the distance grew before them slowly as they crossed the miles over the dark concrete road that led to the base. The silence between them made all the other sounds seem more pronounced. Scully could almost picture the sight of headlights racing in their direction to cut them off before they could even reach the base, but the vision never manifested itself. Nevertheless, her nerves remained as jittery as they did before.
Though he refused to allow it to show on his face, Mulder was a bundle of nerves, as well. His palms perspired has he gripped the steering wheel and his stomach was wound so tightly, it felt like a fork twisting in spaghetti. Only in this case, the fork was twisting in his intestines. He glanced over at Scully to see her sitting there in silence, staring out the window with that sad, pouty-faced look. He wanted to ask her if she was all right, but it was probably best if he just keep his mouth shut, considering the response he got last time to a similar question. He glanced at her one more time, but her expression remained the same.
"Is there something you want, Mulder?" she suddenly asked.
Surprised by her question, Mulder muttered, "Huh?"
"You keep looking at me," she accused, turning to glance at him.
"I wasn’t looking at you."
"Yes, you were," she countered.
"Okay, fine, so I was looking at you. Actually, I was looking at that pout and wondering what it was all about."
"’Pout?’" she asked, insulted by the mere mention of the word. He might as well have told her to stop acting like a baby.
"Yeah, ‘pout’. Look, I realize you haven’t gotten enough sleep and I sympathize with you, but this is important. Four lives are at stake here, not to mention Ted’s."
"First of all, I don’t pout. Second, I’ve basically given up on sleep. It’s to the point now where I’m not even tired any more. Actually, I’m quite alert. Third, I realize that this is important and that lives are at stake. You don’t have to keep reminding me of it as if I couldn’t give a shit."
"I knew I should have kept my mouth shut," he said under his breath.
"I do care, Mulder. I have a little more heart than you give me credit for."
"That’s not what I meant, Scully, and you know that."
"You know, that’s not even the point, Mulder," she declared angrily. "That’s not what I’m angry about. You talk about these lives that are at stake and about Ted being innocent, but that’s not what you’re really after is it?"
Mulder glanced between her and the road, curious as to her meaning. "What are you saying?"
"I’m saying, Mulder, that these kids lives are not what’s really important to you right now."
Mulder became the angry one. "I can’t believe you’re saying that, Scully. How could you say something like that?"
"I don’t mean that you don’t care what happens to those kids, because I know you do. But that’s not what you’re after. You are putting your life and your career at stake to go to this base…to find him… the man we saw in the video. He’s what you’re really after." She waited for Mulder to say something, but all he could do was look at her with an angry frown. "Tell me I’m wrong."
Mulder stared straight ahead, the base looming before him as they approached the gate. He couldn’t answer Scully. She was more than just right, she’d hit the nail on the head and Mulder only realized the truth when she brought it to his attention. He was one of the Bureau’s top criminal profilers, understanding the mind of a murderer sometimes even more than the murderer did, but couldn’t see the truth about himself unless it was shoved in his face. His hands gripped the steering wheel, which was already slick with his sweat, tighter than they had before. How could it be that Scully knew him better than he knew his own self?
"I’m not blaming you, Mulder. And I’m not trying to lecture you. I understand why you do what you do to find the answers you seek, because of what they mean to you. I’ve come to terms with that side of you. I—I guess the question is…have you? Are you comfortable with the life you’ve created for yourself? Or has it become a farce? Is your life just an invisible will that drives you toward an inevitable, destructive end?"
He was silent for a moment longer, seriously pondering her questions. He just wished he knew the words to give answers to those questions. Thinking on it, he realized there were no clear answers to those questions. How do you quantify the life you’ve lived? What is it supposed to measure up to? By most standards, Mulder’s life would be considered strange. But, what’s normal? Was the life of anyone else any more strange or normal than his own? Answering both Scully’s and his own questions, Mulder replied, "I guess we’ll find out."
There was a slight ringing in his left ear. Scully reacted to it, too. They looked at each other and realized the same thing: the Lone Gunmen were online. They were both glad that they had waited until now to show up.
At the edge of the clearing, on the exact same spot Lucy was abducted from, Langly, Byers and Frohike were sitting on foldable camping chairs, their gear and equipment spread out around them. Langly sat with the monitor in his lap, while Frohike and Byers typed onto laptop computers. Each of them were wearing headphones with a microphone attached, looking like telemarketing employees. The offset was their location and dress. When their eyes weren’t glued to the work before them, they were glancing up nervously at the base about ten miles away from them.
"Hey, you guys, can you hear me?" Langly asked into the microphone.
"Yeah, we hear you just fine," Mulder answered. Though it was strange to be talking to Langly as if he were right inside his ear, it didn’t really faze Mulder much. The strange sensation wasn’t new to him. Scully, on the other hand, wasn’t adjusting as well as Mulder. He remembered back to when he’d first worn a device like this. The agent who had wired him up said that the device could play havoc with his equilibrium at first, and that it took a moment to get used to.
Langly’s voice continued to speak into his earpiece. "Okay, we’re picking you up just fine on the monitor here. You shouldn’t be too far from the base now. Just a few last minute details: you work with base security and you’re hear to meet with General H. Leick on securing the base’s computers from possible hackers…like us."
Frohike spoke up next. Mulder could hear him typing over the speaker. "Speaking of hacking, we’re right in the middle of hacking into the base’s network to show that you are expected, so the prick at the booth won’t give you any trouble."
"How long will that take?" Mulder asked. "We’re almost there."
"Not too much longer."
"As a backup, in case the cards fail us, I’m hacking in to see if I can control your access to certain areas," added Byers. "It’s highly doubtful that I can, but I’m going to give it a shot."
"Okay, guys, let’s maintain radio silence until they’ve entered the base," commanded Langly.
The moment of truth had finally arrived as Mulder pulled up near the gate of Keating Air Force Base. A soldier walked out of the booth on their left and headed toward them. Mulder noticed him giving a concerned glance at his watch. In a nervous reaction, Mulder glanced at his own watch even thought he already knew the time. Looking up, his eyes met with Scully’s. For a moment, all pretenses of calm were dropped and he could see the nervousness on her face. Then her eyes left his to look over his shoulder. Mulder turned instinctively just as the soldier began rapping on the window.
"Can I help you?" the soldier asked while Mulder rolled down the window.
"Uh, yes, we’re here to meet with General…" In a moment of sheer panic, the name of the General completely slipped Mulder’s mind. "…uh…"
So Scully leaned over and spoke to the soldier. "We’re here to meet with General Leick. We’ve been working with base security since last week’s incident." The soldier nodded, understanding her implication clearly, but she could tell he was not yet convinced.
"What’s with the late hour?" he asked.
"Good question," Mulder said, feeling the need to redeem himself after bumbling up in the beginning. "We’d like to ask the General that ourselves. We were sound asleep when we got an urgent phone call to come to the base."
"Uh-huh. Can I see your identification, please?"
"Certainly." Mulder pulled the card from his jacket pocket while Scully took her card out from the purse she decided to carry along to look less conspicuous. She didn’t usually carry a purse to investigations. Mulder handed the cards to the soldier who looked them over carefully.
"Samson Raimi and Roberta Tapert?" he asked with a curious frown.
Scully smiled and nodded, masking the complete disgust she felt by hearing those names. She’d glanced once at the name she was given, but hadn’t paid much attention to it until she heard it spoken aloud.
"That’s us," Mulder replied with a smile.
The soldier nodded, but continued to look at them skeptically. "All right. I just need to verify your ID and your appointment with the General. I’ll be right back."
After the soldier left, Mulder spoke softly pretending to speak to Scully while he spoke to the Lone Gunmen. "Samson and Roberta?"
"Whose sick joke was this?" Scully added.
"You two should be happy with those name," Langly told them. "Frohike was originally thinking Samson and Delilah." They can hear Frohike chuckling in the background.
"Frohike, when we get back, I’m going to kick your ass."
"You mean it?" he joked. "Boy, I can’t wait."
"As soon as she’s finished kicking your ass, I’m going to kick your ass," Mulder said.
"Mulder, you couldn’t kick Ghandi’s ass."
"No, but I could kick yours."
Byers broke up the useless banter by saying, "We assumed that would be your response, Agent Scully, that’s why I changed it from Delilah to Roberta. Roberta was my grandmother’s name."
"That makes me feel so much better," came Scully’s sarcastic reply.
The soldier returned, handed them back their cards, then a clipboard and a pen. "Just sign here, please."
They quickly signed the entry forms, writing differently to mask their handwriting. Then the soldier pointed past the gate to the building ahead of them. "Park in the green zone straight ahead and proceed to the main building. You’ll be directed from there."
Mulder nodded. "Thank you." The knot in his stomach finally released its hold on him and he exhaled in relief. They were over the first hurdle. There were many more left to go, but at least they were in. When the gate opened, Mulder did as the soldier directed him. He was sure the soldier would be watching to make sure they proceeded directly to the green zone, then to the main building. Any deviation and the soldier was sure to sound an alarm.
A short while later, they entered the main building. Langly watched on the monitor as the two dots stopped not far from the entrance. The blueprints he had shown to Mulder and Scully on the trunk of the car had been downloaded into the street-mapping program he’d created. It gave him the ability to be able to see and to guide them through the installation. By what he was hearing over his headset, they were talking to another soldier at the front desk, who gave them directions to the General’s office and a pass to wear on their lapels. Once again, their dots began to move.
Langly turned to the other two. "They’re in." His companions merely nodded in acknowledgment.
Mulder and Scully left the front desk and continued down a long corridor toward the General’s office, but that wasn’t where they wanted to go. In fact, they weren’t even sure in which direction they should go. Langly, Byers and Frohike were running this show, so they waited for their cue. The only problem was, for such a late hour, there were plenty soldiers running these corridors.
"Okay, you guys," Langly began. "The General’s office is not where you want to go. You’ll be walking right into the lion’s den. So, take a left at the next corridor and keep going until I tell you to stop." The two agents traversed though the corridors of the base for what seemed like hours, but what only ended up being about twenty minutes. They turned corner after corner, checking room after room, most of which were locked, but came up with nothing. Every turn was a dead end and every room was empty.
Scully stopped in a deserted corridor and turned to Mulder with worry etched across her face. "Mulder, this is getting ridiculous. We’re wasting our time. There’s nothing here."
Mulder sighed in exasperation. He hated it, but he had to agree with Scully. There seemed to be nothing to this place. Desperate as he was to find something, Mulder had even stopped a soldier or two, pretending to have lost his way, and questioned him about the additional buildings on the base. According to the soldier, the only additional buildings were hangers, storage bunkers and the rooming barracks. Scully was right, this was getting ridiculous. Mulder whispered to the Lone Gunmen, "You sure you guys know what the hell you’re doing. It seems like we’ve been going in circles. What the hell’s going on?"
The guys looked at each other nervously. They weren’t sure how to answer Mulder’s question. "We researched this base as much as we could, Mulder," Byers said in defense. "We’re giving you everything we can."
Langly spoke up confidently, "These blueprints are the most recent on file. I don’t think there have been any changes to the buildings."
"Uh…" Mulder muttered, thinking. "Okay, what about the bunkers and the barracks?"
"They’re just bunkers and barracks, Mulder," Frohike told him. "Try again."
"Hold on a second," Byers interjected.
"You better make it a quick second. We don’t have all night to prowl around in here." They could hear the sound of paper rustling and the three of them conferring with each other. Mulder wondered what they were up to.
Byers had unrolled the actual blueprint onto his lap. While Frohike stood overhead with a flashlight, Byers and Langly studied the blueprint compared to the monitor’s view. At first glance, it seemed to be similar. Pointing at a section on the blueprint, Byers asked, "Okay, this is where they are, right?"
"Yeah, that’s them," answered Langly. "They’re standing next to a conference room."
Mulder could feel the knot returning to his stomach. He was getting too nervous standing here in one place. Someone was bound to get suspicious and report them. Down the hall, Mulder spotted movement. A door was opening. Instinct told him to move, so he grabbed Scully’s hand and turned down another corridor.
Glancing at his monitor, Langly noticed that the agents were on the move. "Hey, hey, where you guys going?"
"Mulder, what’s wrong?" she asked as she trotted along at Mulder’s long-legged stride. She could see the nervousness on his face and it worried her.
"I don’t know. This doesn’t feel right."
"What do you mean?"
Mulder stopped down another deserted, dark corridor and looked around. He didn’t understand what he was feeling either. At first, it was just a case of nerves, but now it was more. His paranoia was increasing. How could he explain to Scully that he felt a presence near them? It was the strangest feeling, but he sensed someone watching them. He shook his head, his eyes searching the darkness. "I—I feel…something…" And then it dawned on him, almost as if an explosion had gone off in his head. He looked at Scully suddenly, his eyes wide. "He’s here, Scully."
Scully’s heart rate jumped and she looked worriedly at Mulder. "Who’s here?"
"The man in the video. He’s here in the building…" And then he added, almost as an afterthought, "…and so are the kids."
"Mulder, you’re scaring me."
"That would be because I’m very scared," he told her seriously.
"How do you know? How do you know he’s here?"
"I just know."
The Gunmen had been listening in on this conversation in reserved silence. They didn’t know what to make of it, but the hairs on the back of each of their necks were standing on end. Langly spoke hesitantly. "Uh…you guys, look around you…where are you located?"
Scully did a quick search and noticed a door marked INFIRMARY. "We’re just outside the Infirmary." A sudden thought occurred to her. Perhaps the kids were in there. Not under lock and key, not under any security clearance, just under the care of trained military doctors.
"All right, that’s where I thought you were. Don’t bug out on us like that again, unless you want us to lose you." He paused for a moment for a response, but there was none. "Okay, we’ve located something else. If you go straight ahead down that corridor, then take another left, you should come across a set of elevators. They’re written into the plans here, but I haven’t the slightest idea where they go."
Scully ignored him. Mulder might be listening, but her eyes were on the Infirmary door. There was a small glass window in the center of the door, but Scully still had to get on her toes to look though it. The room was empty, save for one covered body on a slab. Her curiosity got the better of her. She had to know who it was. Turning, she slapped Mulder on the arm. He turned from watching the dark corridors around them just as she was opening the door to the Infirmary and going in.
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