Subject: Memory's subversion by Barbara Barnett 1/3
Date: Sat, 17 Jan 1998
Memory's subversion (1/3)
Classification: SA(borderline MSR--mostly DAL--definetly nothing mushy)
Rating: PG-13 for high-end angst
Spoilers: nothing obvious; references to past episodes, but they're not specified, so you can't be spoiled.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, never were. No profit intended or desired
Archive: anywhere, just drop me a line and give me credit, thanks.
Spoilers: Everything through season 5 thus far
Summary: With the AG's office taking over the prosecution of the conspiracy in light of Mulder's uncovering the consortium's activities, Mulder resigns from the FBI to accept a professorship in Criminal Psych at American University. On the eve of his farewell party, the consortium has other plans.
NOTE: This is Always, recently posted. I condensed it into three parts for easier reading, and gave it a more appropriate title.
Feedback to Barbara Barnett at Barbara462@aol.com
It had always been the watchword insofar as keeping Mulder relatively harmless to the cause. "Keep your friends close; but keep your enemies closer." It had been a good rule. Special Agent Fox Mulder had always been a thorn in the side of the consortium, but not as dangerous as private citizen Fox Mulder could be. And so Mulder had always been aforded a certain amount of leeway in his professional activities. And in return Mulder had been constrained by the confidentiality and protocol required of FBI agents.
And then he found the long-lost Samantha; found her to be not an abductee, or hostage of the forces against whom Mulder fought, but a loving daughter of the now-apparently deceased cigarette smoking man without a name. And the words with which Michael Kritschgau poisoned Mulder's relentless drive to find the EBE's who inhabit the earth ate away at Mulder's spirit.
Dana Scully was the first to learn of Mulder's decision to leave the FBI and teach criminal psychology at American University in DC. It had been a difficult decision; yet, in the end, it was the best decision for them both.
He had uncovered the tip of a huge conspiracy of phamaceutical companies, lobbying entities and government officials. The justice department was having a field day as the conspiracy unfolded more and more layers in every goverment agency within the executive branch and within the halls of the Capital Hill. The truth was finally begining to be revealed--at least one aspect of it--and the chase would now be for the young and eager lawyers of the DOJ.
There were other truths; painful truths. And Mulder's testimony, journals and opinions would continue to help dismantle the project. But unbeknownst to Mulder, to the DOJ, and all but a few of those in the upper eschelons of the consortium heirarchy were the hidden layers of true agenda. And ultimately those were the truths they feared exposed by private citizen Mulder.
A small party at a chic Vietnamese restaurant in Georgetown. A way to say good luck and farewell to a colleague who often scared them with equal portions of recklessness and brilliance. Farewell, but not goodbye. Mulder was staying in town, keeping his apartment on Hegel Street in Alexandria and would remain a consultant to the FBI's Violent Crimes Unit.
The party had been organized by Skinner and, at Mulder's own request, included only a small handfull of agents and support staff. It was a nice sendoff, replete with gag gifts for "Professor" Mulder. The evening ended around 11 PM with handshakes all around. Suddenly only Mulder and Scully were left at the large round table. There was an awkward silence between them. Mulder broke the silence, a wan smile appearing on his face.
"So, Scully, at last you get rid of me. So, it's back to Quantico for you, promotion to section chief and all, huh?"
She nodded. "I think they're closing the place up, Mulder. I get these subtle hints about wanting us to vacate the premises. Look, I haven't given you my gift and..."
"Scully! You don't hafta," Mulder protested, holding his hand up.
Scully sighed. "No, I didn't bring it with me. I left it at home. I...I didn't want you to open it in front of the leering hordes." She smiled.
Mulder raised his eyebrows in a mock leer. "Oh? Do tell, Agent Scully. And how do I get said gift that you dared not bring out into the public domain?"
"Well, I guess you'll just have to come up to my place and retreieve it." Her own eyebrows arched in return.
"You tryin' to proposition me? Because it sure sounds that way to me." Scully let out a breath in mock exasperation.
"No, Mulder, I'm not. So, are you coming over, or not?"
"First do something for me, Scully." Suddenly Mulder's voice became once again serious. "Help me flout the proper FBI regulations one last time. Dance with me."
Scully smiled. "What, here? They're closing place. Besides there's no music."
"Not here. There's a bar next door. Or if not there, at your place. Now that would be a really flagrant violaton. Consorting with my female partner in her very own abode. Just go with it, Scully, hmmm?"
She couldn't resist the earnest gaze with which he pinned her. Not knowing how serious he was really being, she went with it. "Ok, Mulder. Sure, I'll dance with you. I've even got a bottle of Moet Chandon in the fridge. 'Till midnight you're still special agent Fox Mulder. After that, all bets are off. But, yes, I'll help you break one final rule. But we'd better hurry. It's 11:15."
The twinkle in his eye was unmistakable.
It was a good vintage Moet. A Christmas gift from Charlie. A ridiculously expensive gift from the bother who was always at sea, off doing his navy thing.
"So, Scully, where's this gift you couldn't bring to party?" Mulder had seated himself on her couch as Scully went for the Champagne and glasses.
"Patience is a virture, Mulder, haven't you learned that yet," Scully called out from the kitchen. "Here," she said handing the bottle to Mulder along with a dish towel as she joined him in the living room. "I'm terrible at opening these. I hope you're better." Mulder took the bottle, opening it carefully.
A small box appeared on the coffee table as Mulder was distracted with the champage bottle. Mulder and Scully both gazed at it a moment. She'd never given him a gift. Not really. Mulder's hands trembled as picked up the small box. Needing to lighten the moment, he tried humor. "Alien implant?" Despite the attempt, his eyes were serious, his demeanor emotional. He opened the box carefully. A wristwatch. A Rolex. "Scully, I...you didn't need..." He was speechless.
"Read the inscription." She averted her eyes, playing with the still empty champagne glass in her lap.
"To M-My partner, my friend. Always remember I'm here for you. Always, as you are for me. Love forever, S."
When Mulder looked up, his eyes were luminous with emotion. Scully was still looking at the champagne glass. Mulder leaned over, placing his long index finger under her chin, lifting her eyes to meet his. "Always." It was all he was able to say aloud, leaving the rest of his words for his soul to say to hers through his eyes. "Dance with me, Scully," he whispered, his voice broken. He took her hands, gently pulling her to stand with him.
"What about the champagne?"
"No, I want to be completely sober for this. I've waited too long. The Moet won't lose it's bubbles that quickly."
"Don't you hear it, Scully? I do. Just go with it." He smiled wanly, his eyes sparkling with a combination of tears and mirth.
She placed a hand gently on his shoulder. "So, what are we dancing to?"
"James Taylor. 'You've got a friend.'"
"Sounds right to me."
"Dance with me Scully." He drew her to his chest, holding her, moving slowly to music in his heart, his head. "Oh God, Scully, I'm going to miss you. Miss seeing you every day. MOre than anything else, that." Scully's grandfather clock struck midnight. Mulder drew back a bit from Scully. "There's one more thing I've wanted to do for a long time, Scully." He didn't need to articulate it. Suddenly the air was electric and Mulder and Scully felt suspended in time, in a world consisting of only the two of them. It was the last thing Mulder remembered before the world turned dark around him.
A bare bulb. It was the first thing that came into focus as Mulder opened his eyes. He blinked, now noticing the pounding in his head and how the light created hot pain behind his eyes. He was on the floor of a small cell with no windows, barred or otherwise opening either to the outside or to the corridor.
Mulder's mind cleared slowly. Scully. My God, Scully. He shouted her name, pounding his fists on the door. He was certain no one could hear him, yet despite the increased throbbing in his head he continued to shout her name and pound the door. Finally, he sank back down to the floor, burying his head on his drawn-up knees. "Scully." A desperate whisper emerged involuntarily from his throat.
In an office down the hall, sat three men. All had patiently awaited Mulder's return to consciousness in the office, not speaking, simple waiting. Finally a well-manicured man spoke. "I think our friend is back among the living, gentlemen. Shall we have him brought in?"
Two other men, who had been conveniently standing just outside the door awaiting this moment, were summoned to bring the prisoner to the office. Mulder just stared in wonder at the two flunkies as they escorted him down the hall and led him to a chair in the office where the elders awaited his arrival.
"Ah, Mr...er Professor Mulder. So nice of you to join us."
"Where's Scully?" Mulder knew these men. Knew them only too well.
"Dr. Scully was not brought here. She is likely...let's see..." The well- manicured man with the English accent examined his wristwatch. "Why, she's likely to be teaching her class at Quantico just now. I assure you, she hasn't been harmed. Won't be harmed. Unless, that is...well, you understand, I'm sure. In any event, the operative issue is that *you're* here. And, I'm certain you must be wondering why."
"I'm listening." Mulder's tone was beligerent.
"Well, you see, we simply can't have you running around anymore, particularly as a free agent. You've caused us quite a bit of damage, and you've upset a great many people, including many in the government. So, we need to assure you no longer cause us any harm; and at the same time, perhaps do us a bit of good. So you might say we've borrowed you for a while."
"What do you want?"
"We have what we want. You."
"We need to perform a few minor procedures, but they will take a bit of time. So, for the next several weeks, you will be our guest."
Mulder continued to glare. "I'm sure you've managed somehow to provide for my absence in DC?"
The three men smiled. "Of course. By now you know we're nothing if not thorough. You won't be missed. In fact, as we speak, you're packing for a short vacation. By the way, sorry to have interrupted your tete-a-tete with Dr. Scully, but I'm sure you understand, we wanted no delay. It would, perhaps have been more convenient had you returned directly to your apartment alone...but."
Mulder spoke from behind clenched teeth. "Have you harmed her? I swear, if you've harmed her I'll..."
A second elder, who had been watching with interest, spoke now. "Mr. Mulder." His voice was a monotone, robotic, almost. "You don't seem to understand that there is nothing you can do at this point. You have our assurance that Miss Scully has not been harmed, and will not be harmed. You and she were drugged with a very harmless, very undetectable gas. There are no lasting effects. You have been here three days. However, the dose administered at Miss Scully's apartment lasted only hours."
The door opened suddenly. A woman entered. "We are ready for him now."
"Fine. Mr. Mulder, you will now be taken to your cottage. This is a lovely compound. Please make use of all the facilities. They are all at your disposal. Your cottage is equipped with all the comforts of home, perhaps nicer than your home. Televison, radio, clothing, all the creature comforts." He paused, smiling, looking directly at the woman. "All the creature comforts," he repeated. "Well, Mr. Mulder, if you've any complaints about the accomodations or service, keep them to yourself," he chuckled. "Enjoy your stay."
A knock at the door. "Mulder, it's me. Mulder?" No answer. She glanced at her watch. Mulder's flight wasn't until 10. It was only 7:30. They had arranged a week ago that she would drive him to the airport. Had he forgotten? She sighed, smiling as she fidgeted for the apartment key. "The quintessential absent-minded professor," she mused to herself.
She entered as Mulder appeared from the bathroom. He seemed surprised. "Scully, you're s'posed to feed the fish *after* I leave, remember?"
"You forgot? Scully's limo service to take you to National, remember?"
Mulder looked puzzled for an instant. "Right. Gee, Scully, I arranged for a limo. Sorry." The sheepish grin did nothing to erase the crease that appeared above the bridge of Scully's nose. She breathed out, a sigh of resignation.
"Mulder, I took the morning off to drive you...never mind." She looked away, disappointed.
She reflected momentarily on the last three days, since Mulder's farewell party. She was foggy on the events that occurred between the end of the party and the next morning. She had awoken on her living room floor with a hangover, the likes of which she'd not encountered since med school. The empty bottle of Moet Chandon champagne had rested nearby with two used champagne flutes. She remembered Mulder opening his gift. He'd put it on his wrist, vowing wryly never to take it off again. A deflection, she knew of his true feelings. She had touched him with the gift. Deeply. She'd known he'd have been as touched with a Dick Tracy watch, but a Rolex had a forever-ness to it that went along with the eternal bond whe knew they shared. Always.
She recalled something about she and Mulder dancing...and then. But Mulder hadn't spoken of the evening at all. She'd hoped to broach the topic on the way to the airport. And now that appeared unlikely. She wanted to know what had happened. Her deepest fear was that they'd *done the deed* and that it was no good. And that's why Mulder wasn't talking; why she had felt so lousy the next morning, not to mention why she was alone, and why she'd repressed the event so completely. She needed to talk to Mulder about this. She didn't want a unsatisfactory sexual experience...a mistake, perhaps to fracture what they *did* have.
On the other hand, Mulder had been...well....Mulder the last three days. Only calmer, happier, an air of relief had seemed to surround him. She'd attributed it to the upcoming vacation, backpacking, alone, in the Presidential Mountain range of Northern New Hampshire. No phones, no people...not at this time of year. He hadn't even told anyone but her. She'd attributed his new mood to finally bidding farewell to the FBI, leaving the hurtful monicker of Spooky far behind--outside the ivy covered walls of American University.
His dark intensity had been replaced by a mirthful twinkle in his eye. It was pleasant, but not altogether the Mulder she knew. But she could get used to it. She smiled to herself, watching Mulder complete his packing.
She noticed his hiking boots sitting in the hall closet. "Forgetting something?" She shook her head, smiling, waving the huge, heavy boots from their laces. Mulder looked puzzled for an instant.
"Right. Ooops. Honestly, Mulder." She frowned. "You sure you won't take your cell phone? what if you...?" Without looking at her, Mulder held up his cell phone, waving it high in the air.
"Don't leave home without it, Scully. Look, Scully, my limo will be here in about 10 minutes." He glanced at his wristwatch. "Look, I'll call you from New Hampshire. That way you'll know I've arrived safe and sound. Look, Scully, I know you worry about me. That this thing with the consortium isn't over yet. I'm not being reckless, I just need to make this transition. I thought a week in the backwoods by myself would be a nice chance to do that. Of course, if you're not doing anything...." He stopped, smiling at her. "By the way, Scully," he said pointing at the watch. "Great watch. Thanks, again."
That was the moment she knew. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
"OK, Mulder. I know when I'm not wanted. Just take care of yourself, ok?" Scully wracked her brain to come up with (and quickly) a question, a piece of trivia, anything...something that only she and Mulder would know. Her suspicions were aroused. The watch on Mulder's wrist was *not* the right watch. Mulder had placed his old watch, the Swiss Army watch for which he'd just gotten a new band, carefully in the gift box after affixing the Rolex to his wrist. The same Swiss watch that was now on Mulder's left wrist.
Of course there were reasons for him not to be wearing the watch, the watch he'd vowed (however jokingly) never to remove. The Rolex hadn't been a dress watch, and with all the gadgetry in it, would have been perfect for Mulder's little backwoods expidition. She fought the thought that this could be a little brush off for an ill advised evening spent in her company. She blanched as she stared at him. The thought then came to her that even that would be preferable to the darker notion she couldn't seem to shake.
So, was this really Mulder? She suddenly realized that four years ago, the idea that this *wasn't* Mulder would have been ridiculous. But she'd seen enough of the consortium's games (and mutants with conveniently flexible skin) to question just who this was standing in front of her.
If this man was connected to the consortium as she now suspected, he'd have been well versed in Mulder's life, his cases. But there had to be something--a detail only the real Mulder would know about her, about them. But it had to be approached ingenuously, she could not afford to tip her hand. She'd remembered her last encounter with a green-blooded Mulder look alike, several years earlier. She had no desire for a repeat performance.
"I'm leavin', Mulder. Oh. By the way, my brother Bill is going hunting in New Hampshire next week. He said he enjoyed your last pickup basketball game. You know over Christmas at his house? Anyway, he said that now, since the baby is couple months old and he's acutally getting a little sleep, he might actually be able to beat you. So, here's the number of the hotel he'll be staying at. She scribbled some numbers on the note pad on Mulder's desk."
"Ok, great, Scully. I'll be sure to do that." He paused. "The baby....Matthew, isn't it? How's he doing?" Scully's eyes widened. She was impressed at the amount of homework this imposter must have done.
"He's great," she managed to choke out.
"Well, I'm looking forward to beating the socks off of Bill again. He also owes me a steak dinner from last time." Mulder grinned.
Scully smiled. "One little step too far," she thought. And now she knew. "Have a good trip, Mulder, don't forget to call." And she slipped quickly out the door, nearly running to her car. But she was certain he must be watching out the window. She forced her heart to slow and her pace to modulate. Scully got in her car, drove around the corner. She dialed Skinner's number and waited.
"Sir, I think there's a problem." Scully had a gift for understatement.
"A problem? Of what nature?"
"Sir, I just left Agen...I just left Mulder's apartment. I was supposed to drive him to the airport. You know he's going on a camping trip for a couple of weeks?" Get to the point, Scully, she kept telling herself. "Well, there's someone in Mulder's apartment who looks like Mulder, but I don't think it's him."
"What? Just how much did you have to drink after the rest of us left you and Mulder judiciously alone?" Judiciously alone? Don't go there. Not now.
"Sir, I think..." She paused, realizing just at that moment how Mulder must have felt so very many times talking to Skinner...and to herself. "Sir, I've seen this before. Once case connected to our friends at Roush. The other...you remember? Eddie vanBlunhdt? Anyway, I think this is the former rather than the latter. But in any event, it's not Mulder."
"Are you sure?" The AD put much faith in the credibility of Dana Scully.
"It's enough that I strongly suspect. But I'm almost postive. The question is why. Sir, something happened last night that is just coming into focus...that I think is connected to Mulder's disappearance."
"Sir, Mulder and I went back to my apartment after the party. I had forgotten to bring my gift for him, and I thought he could use it on his trip, so I wanted to make sure...."
"Scully, you don't have to explain the circumstances of your being together last night. You're both consenting adults." Skinner had to smile at Scully's need to rationalize this.
"Anyway, sir, we were going to have a glass of wine, and then it all went black. When I woke up it was morning, the bottle was empty, the glasses were used and Mulder was gone."
Skinner was tempted to ask if she was fully clothed.
"You had nothing to drink?"
"Not that I'm aware of."
"And this is what you're basing you contention on? Scully, I think there are other, more likely explanations for this..."
"Sir, if it was only that...Sir, I suggested he get together with my brother Bill while he's in New England, that they have a rematch of a friendly basketball game they had back in San Diego over Christmas."
"So? What are you getting at, Scully?"
"Sir, my brother hates Mulder. Mulder knows this and, although he'd like to be on friendly terms with him, Mulder avoids Bill like the plague...They never played basketball in San Diego, they never would have."
"So how did Mulder respond to this suggestion?"
"The real Mulder would have either thought it a bad joke or would have been terribly hurt. Like I said, Mulder knows how Bill feels about him. The Mulder I talked to in his apartment thought it was a great idea and can't wait to take Bill up on the steak dinner he owed Mulder from the last time they played....which, I know never occurred."
"And, as far as you know, Mulder and Bill haven't let bygones be bygones...you know for your sake?"
"I highly doubt it, sir. Just yesterday Bill called to congratulate me on finally getting rid of the millstone round my neck. The 'sorry sonofabitch', as Bill called him that has ruined my professional, family and personal life. No, sir, I don't think there was any reconciliation there."
"Ok, you've aroused my suspicions now as well. I'll send backup. Let's bring him in."
"No, I think that would be a mistake. If he is who I think, we won't be able to keep him. He's very dangerous. If we injure him and he bleeds, he'll be even more dangerous. Mulder has been nearly killed twice by this man."
"Then what do you suggest Agent Scully?"
"We need to follow him, closely. I think, no, I know Mulder is in some kind of trouble. This man is the only key."
"You think Mulder's been kidnapped?"
"Yes, sir, I suspect so. There's more. This man can change his appearance at will. So he may not look like Mulder for long if we pursue. For now, I think he's going to play at being Fox Mulder. He'll get on the plane, go to Manchester, New Hampshire. But then, I think he'll disappear. It's from there we'll need to follow him--follow his vehicle, however he travels. Follow his clothing, his car...but not be distracted if he appears to be someone else."
"Scully, this all sounds pretty wild. YOU sound like Mulder. And I thought I was through with this. Hang on Scully, I'll call you back, I'll send a surveillance team to relieve you then I want you to come into the office to coordinate this. I have a hell of a lot of questions. This still makes no sense in light of a lot of things. But for now I'll go on your instincts. At least to get the surveillance started. As soon as your relieved meet me in my office."
The well manicured man was correct. The cottage had all the amenities. King size bed, jaccuzi bathtub, large screen TV; computer. Very nice, indeed. Mulder glanced around, examining objects, feeling a bit like lab rat examining his cage for the first time. And perhaps that was, ultimately, the point.
Mulder yawned, the effects of the drugs not completely worn off. His head felt heavy, but it no longer hurt. A phone. A phone? No that would be too perfect. Of course there would be only inside lines. But, curiosity and training compelled him to try.
"Operator. May I help you, Dr. Mulder?"
"I don't suppose I can get an outside line on this, hmmm?"
"Just dial 9, sir."
"What area code am I in? I need to know if I'm making a local call."
"703, sir, Northern Virginia." Mulder was puzzled. But now he was intrigued. His hand shook as he picked up the phone, dialing Scully's home phone number.
"The number you have reached is not in service at this time, please check the num..." Mulder hung up the phone, redialling just to be certain. Same result. Same recording. He hung on the line, knowing that an operator would pick up.
"Operator." A different voice, Mulder noted. An "outside" operator. He hoped.
"Yes, please, I'm trying to dial a number..." The pain in his head reasserted itself so suddenly, it sent him reeling onto the bed. He tried talking. His voice was gone. His tongue fellt like a lead weight in his mouth.
The door opened. Mulder had dropped the receiver, falling back onto the bed, his breathing labored. The blond woman looked at her colleague. She spoke in a tone falsley seductive and conspiratorial "Let's get started, shall we?" The other woman, slim with angular features and long dark crimped hair, Samantha Mulder, nodded slowly, uncertainly.
"I don't know if I can do this to him."
"It's for the best. For all of us. Including him. If it's too hard, I can take over. It's what *I'm* here for Samantha. After this is all over, he can be happy. Don't you want that? For him to be happy? After a life of pain and saddness. As I said, it's for the best."
"Why do I need to be involved?"
The blond sighed condescendingly. "I thought you were informed about this. We need your image. Your *live* image, or the memories won't take properly. There will be some doubt otherwise, gnawing at him, bothering him. No one wants that. Including you, especially you."
"And my mother?"
"It was her idea. To involve you. To make it more real. She felt...she feels the same as we all do. It's the necessary final step. We need him on our side, and without doubts. He needs to understand who his real friends are ----and who his real enemies are. We're just helping that process along. We need his mind. His keen insight. Better for us than against us, no?"
Samantha looked at her brother. He seemed to be in such pain. "Can he hear us?" "No. We've induced a sort of suspended state for him. He's not really asleep or even unconcious. He's just somewhere else. Can't talk. Can't hear. Just there. For the kind of invasive procedure we need to perform, this type of anesthesia is the one that offers the least chance of side effects."
"Why now? When he's left the FBI. Can he really be so much of a threat?"
"Oh, he's the greater threat now. He would have been better of to leave well enough alone. Go on believing what he believed. Little Green Men. That was his part. But of, course that always was his problem. Never leave well enough alone. He always needed to question, put his beliefs on trial, put himself on trial. I guess it's part of his gift, his mind, his genius. But he'll still have that. We just need to do a little repair, a little retrofitting."
"What about his Scully? Won't she notice any changes?"
Sam's companion grinned an evil grin. "Ah, my dear, that's the beauty of it. She'll never be able to get close enough to him to find out. The new and improved Mulder will never allow it. Didn't you know? Scully was working with Blevins? All this time and he didn't know it. But we'll help him put those pieces together. That's why it's going to takes several sessions. Slow, believable, puzzle solving. Very real. At least for Fox."
End part 1
Memory's subversion (3/) by Barbara Barnett
The woman's gloating suddenly caused a pain in Samantha's midsection. Normally, she tolerated the gloating, ego and snide remarks. But something about this just seemed wrong. She barely knew her brother. She understood how misguided he'd been about the benevolent nature of the project and looked forward to sharing with him the great discoveries they'd made, the strides in genetic engineering. All the good they would do with the incredible find they'd made some years earlier with the contents of the Tunguska rock. She just had to make him believe. But somehow she also knew that her brother's happiness was somehow tied up in the petite redheaded friend he called Scully. Samantha didn't even know her first name. She wanted Fox to be happy. Like she was. Husband, children, excellent income, beautiful home.
He had spoken little of her in the two times they'd spoken since being reuntited in autumn. But she knew when her name came up, her brother's eyes sparkled, embuing them with an inner light. She did not really like this option. But she knew it was the only logical choice they had.
The blond picked up the phone.
"Operator. What can I help you with Dr. Mulder?"
"This is Marita Covurrubias. I need a gurney and two men. Cottage 42. He's ready."
To Mulder, the room resembled a dentist's office. Memories of Dr. Goldstein bombarded his senses. He shuddered at the vividness of the memory. He was alone again in the room. The world was silent, but he was able to see. He *had* seen. Samantha. Oh God, why hadn't he realized it. Raised by cigarette man, how else could she have turned out. And Marita. Of course, now that made a certain amount of sense. He'd known his informants had always been on the periphery of the consortium upper eschelons--but Marita had always seemed more suspect than most.
He had tried to cry out . He had wanted to struggle. But he had found himself unable to move. Paralyzed. Something in the phone receiver? A delayed effect of the drugs he'd been pumped with? It didn't matter. Now, anyway. He felt his mind drift ailessly from one image to the other; one thought to the other. Also and effect of the drugs? Focus, dammit. He closed his eyes tightly against the drift. He tried willing himself to focus.
He could not feel the restraints he knew had strapped him to the table. God, how he hated restraints. He continued his battle for focus. His brain felt sluggish. It was so hard. He was tired. His eyes rested on his left arm, travelling down to his wrist. Scully. The thought of Scully hit him with an intensity he thought impossible. Another vivid image to bombard his senses. He fought the maintain the image. Scully. Suddenly, he was consumed by an overwhelming fear of what had happened to her. His captors had assured him that she was fine, safe and free. Dammit, he thought, why couldn't he move. Frustration built within, threatening implosion.
Mulder tried to remeber details of their last evening. The promise that it held. Gone. Perhaps forever. His mind tried wandering off pondering the hoplessness of chances missed and irretreivable. No! He needed to concentrate now, think of a plan, anything but this waiting. He wondered suddenly, as thoughts seemed to whiz fleetingly through his mind, if Scully knew or realized what had happened. Think, dammit, he willed himself. He remembered now. She was supposed to drive him to the airport. See him off on his trip. He wondered how much of his plans were known to the consortium. Would "whoever" or "whatever" they put in his place (as he surmised they must have done) have known about Scully driving him to the airport? How could he? And, if not, would it even be enough to arouse her suspicions if he didn't know? Probably not. For a man with a nearly photographic memory, he could be very absent minded sometimes, he mused to himself. His eyes settled once again on the Rolex. How much would that have set her back--and with all those gadgets. His mind flashed irrationally to a string of unrelated images of Scully's reprimands, incredulous stares, angry glares. They flashed fleetingly and wildly through his head. Would she even care? The thoughught seeped in from nowhere amid the ceasless chastisements. What if the *other* Mulder was a better version. New and improved, he mused. Not prone to wild speculation, frightening leaps of logic and eternal self-absorption? Would she even want to suspect.
His eyes welled in frustration, as he plummeted into an abyss of sadness. A freefall into an overwhelming sense of melancholy threatned to take his breath away. He fought against this with all his soul. The watch. Something about the watch. Look at it. He caught his breath and focussed his eyes back on his left wrist.
He thought about the inscription. She thought he'd been kidding when he'd said he'd never take the watch off again. He wasn't. Not really. The gift had moved him more than anything given to him by anyone else. Always. It seemed to describe their relationship in--in some surreal sense. Always. They'd known each other just over five years, but it had been a lifetime of caring, worrying, protecting, discovering. A life mostly of pain, hurt and disaster. But *always* she'd stood by his side, and he hers. He remembered his statment before the FBI assembly, the first of many: this one naming Blevins as the Roush mole. "Agent Scully was assigned to the X-files to debunk my work. That she did not follow her orders to destroy me is a testament to her integrity as a scientist, an investigator and a human being."
She'd lied for him, she'd protected him above and beyond the call of a partner. She'd comforted him when he was he inhabited one of his frequent blue moods, tolerated his bad jokes. Man, she was tenacious. But, yes, always she was there. He closed his eyes, hoping that this, whatever was going to happen, happened soon. He only prayed that whatever happened to him, Scully would be kept safe from harm. That being as they had him, they would end their torture of Dana Scully.
He repeated, in his head, the inscription on the back of the watch. Memorized and repeated it over and over. A mantra, chanted in silent prayer along with her name. Hoping that that was enough to get him through this. And the wait was abruptly ended as Dr. Daniel Goldstein entered the room. As Goldstein slipped an electronic, opaque mask on Mulder's imobile face, and the world went black as well as silent, Mulder's last thoughts were of Scully and the words on the back of his Rolex.
Washington, DC Skinner's office
Scully had answered the white speaker phone as the designated line flashed. "Go."
"This is agent Mansfield, Agent Scully. Mulder has just left his apartment and entered a black stretch Fleetwood with a livery license plate. The number is J47325. We are following at this time. Is there anything else to do now?"
"Roger, Agent Mansfield. Just follow for now. Did you note what he was wearing?"
"Yes, Agent Scully. Short black leather jacket, light blue jeans, white leather running shoes with green stripe...couldn't get the brand, though. Henley shirt, khaki green. Oval wirerimmed sunglasses. He had a suitcase...a brown tweed, which he threw in the trunk of the Fleetwood and a duffle bag, also placed in the trunk. If I may ask, Agent Scully, why are we pursuing Fox Mulder?"
"We believe Mulder may be in some danger. He's been acting strangely, and may have been..." Shit, Scully thought, how the Hell do I explain this...."He may have been drugged. 'Do not, I repeat, do not approach him or confront him. We believe he is unarmed, but extremely dangerous if he's under the influence of a drug. Just follow. And, by the way, thanks for the great description and licence number. And, as you've been told, if he emerges, we need a location---and a description--of anyone wearing any, I repeat, any of these clothing items, even if it's just the shoes. Even if it does not appear to be Mulder. You got that?"
"What? Did old Spooky acquire an ability to change his appearance at will?" Scully could hear laughter in the car. Scully blanched, forcing back her anger. "You need to know nothing else for your assignment." Click.
Scully looked up to find Skinner staring at her. She blushed and cleared her throat. "I didn't feel I wanted to explain that this Mulder lookalike was...well...whatever."
"I'm still not convinced that you're not taking us on wild goose chase. You have to admit, Mulder *does* have the unique ability to act strangely at times. He could have been pulling your leg with his characteristicly deadpan brand of humor with his assurances to call your brother. And the watch thing. Scully, maybe he didn't want to chance breaking the watch you gave him. It was new. Maybe it wasn't the appropriate watch to take wilderness backpacking..."
"Sir, it was a Rolex like yours. It had every gadget but a cell phone built in to it. Nothing would have been *more* appropriate. It's why I bought it for him; gave it to him before his trip. He knew that."
"You gave him a Rolex?" Skinner smiled, shaking his head, a bit envious of the expensive gift. Now he knew why she'd *forgotten* to bring it to the party. The rumor mill would have gone berserk with speculation as to why someone would give a partner such a gift, even as a farewell.
Scully looked away briefly before pinning Skinner with a glare that said "not now" and "don't even ask."
Skinner blew out a breath beore going on. "OK. Assuming for the moment you're right. So what do we know for certain. Does this Mulder suspect anything?"
"I don't think so. No."
"So let's find out if Mulder got on his flight. Do you have his itinerary?" Why would she have that, he wondered to himself. But he had to ask. Scully pulled out a travel agency itinerary copy.
"Flight 59, American Airlines. National to Manchester. Departure 9:30 AM." She glanced at her watch. "It's 10:40 now, sir. I highly doubt, since we've just talked to Agent Mansfield, that Mulder was on that flight, but I'll check."
"While you do that, I'm going to get some coffee. Want some?"
"Lightener only. Sir? Thanks."
Skinner nodded slightly, exiting the office. Skinner had noticed that behind the calm demeanor of Dana Scully lay a terror that played out franticly in her eyes and in her almost-imperceptibly trembling lower lip. He wondered how much longer she would hang on to that iron clad control.
Scully hung up the phone. Fox William Mulder had been listed on the passenger manifest, having checked in at 8:47 AM, and assigned seat 14A. More evidence that whoever, if indeed anyone, had gotten onto that plane could not have been the 6'1, long legged Mulder. He'd never accept a window seat except over the bulkhead. He needed the legroom. Scully had been privy to enough arguments with airline personnel at check in counters to know this with absolute certainty. Just to be even more certain she had asked if the flight was full. The ailine representative had responded that the flight was only half full. Now, on Fridays, she had gone on. That was a different story, with all the skiiers. It was more than Scully needed to know. She politely thanked the agent and hung up. Skinner had still not returned.
Scully propped her elbows on the desk, grinding her eyes into the heels of her hands. When she raised her head, she noticed her palms were moist with tears. "Don't lose it, Scully," she admonished herself. "Not now."
Her mind flashed to an image of Mulder, pale--almost blue with hypothermia. Lying still in an Alaskan, airforce ER. It was the one time when she truly didn't know if he would survive. She couldn't remember another time when she'd felt so helpless. Even when she'd thought him dead. At least it was resolution of a kind. She wasn't filled with the kind of helplessness she now felt. That now consumed her. She couldn't let it consume her. Not now. She tried relentlessly to draw upon her reserve of strength. She drew a deep breath, focussing on action. A plan. A place to start.
Skinner entered his office. "So? Is Mulder winging his way to Mount Washington as we speak?"
"The passenger log indicates that he checked in at 8:47. Which certainly does not jibe with Mansfield's timeline for Mulder's movements. According to Mansfield's timeline, Mulder was still in his apartment at 8:47."
"So how could he have checked in?"
"Someone wanted to make it look like he got on that plane. But they made a mistake. Another mistake."
"According to the log, Mulder was given a window seat in a half-empty plane."
She arched her eyebrows, helping the AD to his own conclusion.
"So Mulder wouldn't sit in a window seat, or any seat with no legroom unless it was unavoidable. Is that what you're saying?"
"Yes, sir. I've travelled enough with him to know, without any doubt that he'd never accept a seat assignment like that. I know that that alone isn't enough to suspect kidnapping, but based on everything else, and the fact that Mulder is a federal witness with extremely damaging testimony to some very rutheless and very wealth, high placed people...."
She didn't have to finish. "Alright, Scully, you've convinced me. Let's get full bureau resources for this one. I'll notify the director. Scully, let us take it from here. Go home. Better yet, go to your mother's house. But I'm giving you an assignment. I know you need to be *doing* something. I want you to think of anything that might help us locate where they've taken Mulder. And I want you to think of anything that might help us hold this imposter we're following if we should need to take him in."
Scully began to protest. Skinner held up a hand. "Scully we're going to continue following this limo. According to the DMV," Skinner was holding up a fax just received, "it's registered to Genpac Limited. I think Genpac is a political action committee set up by several genetic engineering companies. I was reading something about them somewhere the other day. Maybe the limo will lead us to Mulder, if they still don't suspect we're onto them. But I want you to find out all you can about Genpac. Cruise the internet. But I want you at home."
Again Scully began to protest. "For two reasons," continued Skinner. "First, I think you're too personally involved with this. I know...It's pretty obvious that you and Mulder are extremely close. It really doesn't matter to me if you're lovers or just best buddies. But I can see you're on the verge here. You need to decompress. At home, you won't feel the need to be so controlled. And you can still do the investigation justice from there. Just bring your laptop, files, whatever you need. Keep you cell phone handy."
"And the second reason?" Her eyebrows were arched menacingly at Skinner. She felt she was being dismissed.
"I don't want you in the field on this. It's too obvious. If he, or *they* spot you, it could trip our hand to them. Also, if they've taken Mulder, they could be after you as well. Probably are, in fact, and I think you know that. I want you out of harm's way. I can't afford to run two kidnap investigations at the same time." Skinner smiled briefly, the gruff demeanor momentarily disappearing into something warmer.
"Look, Scully. I can't pretend to know how you feel right now. But it can't be very good. That much I can see. We will find him. Mulder has 9 lives, it seems. He always seems to bounce back. Lands on his feet like a cat, you know?"
Scully nodded, her control begining to crack again. She couldn't find her voice to respond. "Go home Scully. To your mom's." Skinner's voice was gentle, paternal. "Should we let Mulder's mother know?"
Now that's the 64,000 dollar question, thought Scully. "No, sir. I don't think so. Not yet. I'll call her if..."
"OK, I'm going to leave that one up to you. Your decision if and when to phone her. Now go."
Scully floated wraithlike through the FBI bullpen and down the stair toward the basement. She noticed nothing, felt nothing, a numbness settling about her. She reached their office, entering and locking the door behind her. She collapsed to the floor in sobs, knees drawn up, head buried in her arms.
"Always, Scully, always, always..." Mulder murmurred the words over and over again, his tether to reality, fragile, fraying. The images came hard and fast, Scully looming toward him, glaring. A shot. "Why me, Scully? Krychek's the one." A memory. Anger, hot. More images. Were they the same images? Mulder had no time to reflect as Scully ripped through the vestiges of his sanity. New images. Scully and cancer man. Scully and Blevins. Meetings. Discussions coming in rapid fire. "You shot me. Why me Scully? Get that gun off me, Scully." It was getting harder to fight. Was he screaming? Whose screams were those? "Scully, you're the only one I...You may not be who you are..." Faster images, now overlapping, sounds distorted. Make it stop. Please, Scully, your're hurting me. Stop. Please stop.
Mulder's mantra lost its urgency as the images and sounds overwhelmed his quiet murmurrings. He tried struggling physically, forgetting the drug- induced paralysis, finding only frutstration and anger build inside. His breathing became labored with this interior struggle. And it was over. The images slowed, the voices quieted to leave only the heavy gasps for air. A gurney removed Mulder back to his cottage. Treatment one had been completed. Goldstein typed his report into his computer.
"The patient appeared to have tolerated this level of treatment well. Heart rate and blood pressure all returned to normal levels within three minutes. Eyes remained dilated, skin flushed and. Patient appeared to have some trouble breathing, perhaps due to the treatment. It also appears that we were correct in administering to him the spinal anesthesia to render him temporarily paralyzed. From the attained pulse rate alone, it was obvious that he was struggling vigorously against the treatment for the first 10 minutes. Had he not been rended into such a state, he may have either done himself or others in the room bodily harm. The need for these anesthetic measures may become less necessary after several more treatments, as he adjusts to his new reality and history. Next treatment will commence day after tomorrow, to allow his mind to adjust to these new facts and memories." Goldstein saved the file, rubbing his eyes as he closed the cover of the notebook computer.
Dana Scully's apartment
Dana Scully was on autopilot. She entered her apartment, uncharacteristicly throwing her coat carelessly on the arm chair, dropping her keys and briefcase on her desk. Her eyes wandered around the apartment, recalling their last evening together. She could almost feel his arms around her, so gentle, so warm. She closed her eyes, trying to retain the warmth a moment longer. He was gone. Replaced by...she couldn't even think it, much less say it. Mulder would have figured him to be bounty hunter he'd told her about. The one sent to kill Jeremiah Smith; the one who nearly killed her; nearly killed Mulder. Scully shivered, a chill snaking up her back.
Scully glanced at her answering machine. Two messages. "Hi, Dee. It's mom. Call when you can. Bye." The second called didn't leave a message. Always curious, she punched *69 to automatically redial the last call made into the phone.
"You cannot use this service to reach this number." A recording. Probably a salesman. A payphone. Something. Scully shrugged, not really thinking. She picked up the phone to call her mother, immediatly placing the reciever back in the cradle. She didn't want to talk to anyone now. She just wanted to feel numb. Scully sat tensly on her couch, unmoving. "Mulder, where are you?"
The ringing of Scully's cell phone startled her. Part of her expected it to be Mulder. The real Mulder-- and that she had been imagining it all. That he had reached the summit of Mount Washington and was calling her to share the spirituality of experiencing 85 mile-an-hour winds from New England's highest point, some 6,000 feet above sea level--just about right for Mulder. Scully sighed as she fished around in her coat for the phone, closing her eyes in silent prayer that if it was Mulder, that she'd have the insight to *know*.
"Scully." Scully waited. A voice began after a long pause. The woman's voice caught Scully unexpectedly.
"Meet me...alone..." there was a lot of static on the line. Cell phone? "...old airplaines.." more static "..space museum....hour....now...alone, please." There was so much static. But that last part almost sounded like a plea. But it was hard to tell.
"Please. There's a lot of static. Can you repeat?" But the phone had already gone dead. Either hung up or the connection lost. Scully grimaced, frustrated. But it was enough. Scully had no idea who the called might be. She'd been on too short a time to have the call traced, and it was probably untraceable, anyway. She knew she was making a leap to think the call had anything to do with Mulder. After all, officially, he wasn't even missing. The call could have a connection to any one of the cases she and Mulder had been invovled with. But all of their pending cases had been disposed of --one way or another. No open cases. No, she reasoned. It had to do with Mulder's "disappearence."
Scully began to dial Skinner. No, Skinner would never let her go. Certainly not alone. And what if...what if this was their only chance to find him. What if the fake Mulder led those following him on a wild goose chase, never getting them even close. "Tell him, Dana," she reprimanded herself. "No, can't do that Dana." Mom. She had to tell someone; arrange for some kind of backup.
"Listen, mom," Scully interrupted. "I need you to do something for me. I'm meeting someone at the air and space museum in about an hour. I will call you back on my cell phone in an hour and a half. Exactly. If I don't make that call, I need you to call someone for me, OK?"
"Dee, you're scaring me. What's going on?"
"Look, I can't tell you much. It will probably be fine. No, I'm sure it will be. Someone just wants to ask me some...ask me about Mulder. Sounds important..." at least that's no lie, thought Dana. "Look, mom. I'm supposed to meet AD Skinner in two hours," she lied. "I can't seem to get ahold of him now, and I wont be able to excuse myself from the meeting if I'm delayed..." her lie was disolving and she realized she was begining to sound desperate, so she trailed off, not completing the fabrication. "Mom, anyway, please. If I don't call you in an hour and a half, call Mr. Skinner and tell him where I am and to meet me there. Tell him to bring his friends. But give him that exact message, OK?"
"I don't like the way this sounds, Dee. Are you sure you're OK? Do you want me to come with you? Is this business? I thought you were taking yourself out of the field and back to teaching and consulting at Quantico."
"Mom, listen. I'm in a hurry. I've got to go. Hour and a half. Actually, hour and 28 minutes." Scully gave Maggie Skinner's number and hung up the phone. She had to hurry in the traffic to make it downtown in time.
Somewhere in Northern Virginia
Mulder awoke to find himself once again able to move. It almost took him by surprise. His head felt sluggish and he generally felt like shit. He glanced at himself in the mirror. His eyes looked dark and wild, pupils dilated. Dark circles seemed tatooed beneath his eyes, despite the fact that he'd slept more than been awake since his captivity.
He staggered back to the bed, the telephone once again catching his eye. "Been there, done that," he mused. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." God, why was he so tired. He looked at his watch to note the time. He was surprised they'd let him keep it. He'd figured out they were playing some games with his brain. Drugs, electrical stimulation, but to what end, Mulder did not know for certain. He felt the same, so if they were trying the old brain drain memory swipe thing, it wasn't working. His mind worked a bit at the why's, but he gave up distracted by his exhaustion. He couldn't seem to concentrate. Was that the game? Turn him into a mindless...but why? There were better ways to get at his credibility as a witness. No the concentration problem had to do with the drugs. He knew that. Had to be. He looked at his Rolex. Ah Scully. What a gift. He smiled, remembering taking her in his arms. Not out of comfort, not to protect but to...A sudden, jarring image hit Mulder with a supersonic force. The sound of an semi-automatic discharging. He scuttled to the floor thinking it real. But he was alone.
Mulder was panting. The image of the weapon connected itself with Scully from the far reaches of his mind. His hand found his left shoulder, as he felt a sharp pain. The pain of a gunshot wound. And then it was gone along with the image. Mulder stared ahead, afraid to move. Suddenly not sure of the reality in which he now found himself. He raked his hair back from his forehead, sweat dripping into his eyes. Still panting his arose from his position on the floor, shakily using the nightstand for support. Paper. He needed paper. He needed to make notes. Document what was happening while he was still lucid. With startling clarity he'd figured out the game, needing desperately to beat it before it was too late.
Air and Space Museum The Smithsonian Institute Washington, DC
Scully saw her first. Her stomach knotted as if she were free falling in an elevator.
"I know you. You're Samantha Mulder, aren't you." It was a statement. Scully had many things she wanted to say to this woman. None of them flattering. Things about loyalty and family and a brother who'd given up his life in a search for her because he'd believed she'd been abducted. Scully felt a rage building she knew she needed to control. NOW.
"Yes, Agent Scully. I need to speak with you."
"About?" Scully's eyebrow arched meanacingly.
"You may not be aware that my brother has been ab...taken to a place. Taken against his will by some people I work with." Now that explains a lot of things, thought Scully. She works for *them*, hmmm.
"What do you mean, Miss...."
"Samantha, please. Look, I'm not going to explain why I do what I do. I believe what I'm doing is right. That what I'm involved with is right."
Scully was struck speechless. "Go on."
"I'm not, however, comfortable with the reasons for which he was taken. I was led to believe that his treatments would alleviate some of his...that he would become an ally. But I did not want them to..." Her voice was cracking. So, she does have some feelings, thought Scully snidely. She'd wondered if Mulder had inherited all of the family compassion and feeling. Certainly there'd been little enough of it to inherit. "I want Fox to be happy. Like I am. But they're doing the one thing to him that would actually prevent that. They are.." She was having difficulty articulating her thoughts. "Are you familiar with brainwashing?"
"Some of my colleagues have taken the art of mind manipulation to a new plane. By use of electrical stimulation of the brain, coupled with visual and aural bombardment, light and sound, they can alter memories. Distort what is stored in the long term memory. In other words, create a virtual reality that is real."
end part 2
Memory's Subversion 3/3 Ratings, etc. in part 1
Scully listened Samantha, stunned. Her own memory flashed on Dr. Goldstein and what he'd driven the Cassandras to. What he'd almost driven Mulder to....
"Mulder has been through this treatment before."
"This is a more intense version of that procedure. You're talking about what happened in Rhode Island last year?" Samantha was calmer, now that Scully seemed to begin to understand the situation.
"So, why come to me? Did you finally develop a conscience. You were'nt aware of what these *colleagues* of yours had already done to Mulder, and to myself. They've already driven him to the brink of suicide. Twice."
"Until October, I'd no idea that my brother was even alive. And, as I said, in general we do *good* work in our project. The nature of it requires certain extraordinary security. It's something I've just never questioned, Agent Scully."
"As I recall," started Scully. Shit. She didn't want to get into this. Not now. She sighed deeply. "As I recall," she began again. "You flat out rejected Mulder. Cruelly. You refused to listen to him. And I can verify. That man. Your father. He was in the room with me when the FBI assigned me to destroy your brother. He knew he was alive at least as far back as 1993, and I can only assume, much longer ago than that."
"Look, Agent Scully. I'm trying to help. Don't push me away. You need me. So does Fox. I may have been followed, though I doubt it. I'm pretty much a mainstreamer at Roush. But even so...All I can tell you...all I'm willing to tell you is this: At 2AM tomorrow morning I will bring him to the Skyland Mountain off ramp. You will not see me again. Just be there." Samantha's eyes were cold.
"I don't understand, Samantha. Is Mulder all right? Should I bring..." Scully stopped herself from thinking aloud to this woman. "Fine. I'll be there." Scully walked off, dialling her mother's number as she walked.
"Hi mom. I'm fine. Yes, no need to call Skinner." Scully hung up, her mind racing. Oh, God, she prayed, please let him be alright. Scully got into her car, distracted, brain working with every worst scenario available to her mind, and headed toward the Hoover building.
Mulder was frantic. He finally understood the game. They had certainly played it before. But that knowlege did little to defuse the certainty with which he knew he could not beat it. The drugs were being used to dull his senses. He could fight them awhile by identifying and focusing on a focal point, narrowing all of his concentration upon it. He'd done that earlier by focusing all his thoughts on Scully and the inscription on the back of the Rolex. But it had only worked until Dr. Goldstein intervened with his little show.
He knew. He speculated that his captors intended to play with his memory or state of mind and that accomplished, he would, perhaps, lack the ability to separate real memories from those suggested or implanted by Goldstein and Company. He also had grasped that this mind manipulation somehow involved Scully.
The flashback, which still had him trembling with its force, had consumed him with a powerful awareness of Scully's presence. But her presence in that moment had terrified him, if only for a moment. And that's when he knew. The moment it passed. Mulder's expert knowledge of the human mind and how it functioned allowed him to piece together at least the outlines--a profile--of the game. He knew his time was limited before their plan was fully implemented. And he knew he needed to find a way. He needed to somehow create a marked trail that would help lead him back to himself. Notes.
But his captors had provided him with no paper; no writing instruments. Just the computer that stared at him from the desk. Mulder assumed that access to the computer was not secure and that anything he wrote would be monitored and used.
Mulder paced, no longer feeling the drug- or treatment-induced sluggishness. He was feeling clear and awake for the first time since his captivity. As he paced he felt himself begin to burn with excess energy, building as along with his frustration as he searched the room for something, anything, to write with.
Maybe a run. He needed one. Badly. They had told him he had complete run of the grounds. He was not confined to the cottage, he suddenly remembered. He had to run. To think. He grinned, peering into the neatly arranged chifarobe. They had remembered everything, including running gear.
J. Edgar Hoover Building Walter Skinner's office 2 PM
"It was her, Sir, I'm certain of it."
The rest of the assembled team had retreated from the AD's office. They had their assignment. Skyland Mountain offramp. Samantha had told Scully the location, but not the direction from which she would be coming. They, therefore, needed to cover both directions on the Blue Ridge Parkway. And they would be ready. For anything. Skinner had assembled two complete teams to cover the offramps. SWAT, medical evac for Mulder should it be necessary: the works. The strategy was to secure Mulder's safety and bring Samantha in with him.
Skinner knew that this wasn't part of Samantha's plan. But they needed her. She had implicated herself in the conspiracy, which despite the efforts of the AG's office and FBI was still apparently operating unabated. Samantha needed to be brought in for questioning.
"Sir, if Samantha suspects we're trying to bring her in, she may flee before freeing Mulder. Then we may never get him back." Scully looked exhausted.
"According to what you told me she did not tell you to come alone, as she had for your meeting at the Smithsonian, right?"
"So, you bring back up. She never told you where or how she would drop Mulder at the offramp. She obviously wants him freed, you are just assuring that it happens safely."
"With a SWAT team?" Scully glared at the AD. Her eyes showed a desperate fear of losing the opportunity to get Mulder back in one piece. "If she suspect...what if she holds Mulder hostage?"
"Do you really think she might do that? It *is* her brother. She's trying to help him, you said."
"But if she feels threatened..."
"Scully, whatever you might think, the risk is calculated. What if she doesn't come alone? What if she's followed? We'd be protecting them both to have adequate backup. Look, Scully, try to get some rest. We have about 8 hours until we scramble. Go home. See you back here at 22:00 hours. Go."
Scully was dismissed with a wave of the AD's hand. She retreated to solitude of the basement. For the first time in many, many hours, Scully was alone with her thoughts. She needed to review the plan, be ready to brief the medical team and other agents. She found herself, however, unable to concentrate. Mulder invaded her senses as her eyes wandered over to the large poster that Mulder had left her as a memento. "I want to believe."
Scully smiled remembering their first case together. An autopsy bay. "Scully, I'm not crazy. I have the same doubts as you..." She'd never considered it before, but in his own way, Mulder was every bit the skeptic she was. He had always been open to possibilies, no matter how "out there" they seemed. But he demanded proof before he would take his personal beliefs and into the public domain. As fervently as he believed, he knew that to convince, the evidence needed to be compelling. And when the truth came to him, sending his world and personal beliefs crashing around him, he was the first to admit he might have been wrong.
Another person might have gone off the edge. But Mulder was strong. She prayed that his strength did not fail him now, wherever he was. Scully sqeezed shut her eyes, trying at once to erase the headache now permanently embedded behind them, and to will her thoughts and own reserve of strength to Mulder. It was ridiculous, she knew. But now was not the time to dismiss any possibility, however remote. She knew their bond was strong, almost spiritual; and that they had thus communicated on other occasions, in dreams, visions.
She conjured Mulder's image in her mind, trying to draw strength in return from him. Her strongest images brought Mulder to her to comfort and hold, permitting her the momentary weakness of tears. His arms had provided her a shield at those times, a castle fortress, strong and secure, protecting her from the horrors outside. A hospital corridor, where he had doubtless been keeping vigil all night, waiting for her to emerge from Penny Northern's death bed; her own death bed, where Mulder, despite living his own nightmare at the time, came to her to talk pleasantries and to warm her with gentle, chaste kisses to the hand and cheek; another hospital, another deathbed. Emily. How he had reached out to her then. It had been a bad time. And something inside her refused to let him in. But she'd been angry. So angry. At herself, at him, at the world in general for allowing the cruelties of life to affect the innocent.
She imagined Mulder sitting in the assembly room, the day he'd implicated Blevins. She had not been there, and wished with all her soul that she'd had more than prayers to offer him then. She could picture him, surrounded by the enemy. Questions rapid fire. She hadn't known at the time how he'd gone into that meeting having not slept at all the night before, having grieved at her bedside in the dark. Alone, so terribly alone. She hadn't known of his encounter with Samantha then. But now she could picture him, facing them down. Strong despite his fear; controlled despite his grief; confident, despite the fact his world had crumbled beneath his feet.
She gently fingered her cross, offering a prayer to let him be safe; to let her find him whole and unharmed. Please, God, do this for me. This one thing is all I ask. A tear fell gracefully onto her index finger as it held the cross. She had not realized she had been crying. She glanced at the digital clock on the desk. 10 PM. Time to go. Eight hours had passed in the blinking of an eye.
The run had been good. Mulder was exhausted. But it was a physical exhaustion. And it felt good. He eyed the jaccuzzi in the corner of his room. When in Rome...he mused. The issue was still how to leave the breadcumbs. And perhaps the answer would come relaxing in the tub.
The flashback hit him as he entered the water. He nearly slipped, catching the rim of the tub for balance as the images surrounded him. Each image, distorted, intimidating ripped through his mind. Scully's weapon was leveled at his heart; her words angry berating. Mulder's eyes widened in terror, groping for his own weapon that was inexplicably missing from his side. "No. Scully. Please. I'm on your side." His own words. She laughed at him for his naievte, his willingness to believe in what he knew was the truth. She was screaming at him. No, that's not right. Scully wouldn't scream. But she was screaming
at him. No, that's not right. Scully wouldn't scream. But she was screaming nonetheless. "Stop. Oh God, Scully, please stop." Mulder covered his ears, clamping shut his eyes. The sounds and images only intensified mercilessly.
A sound. A door opening. The sound was coming from far away.
"Fox!" An apparition. Samantha? The images stopped as the barrage had been broken by the sound of her voice.
Mulder was shaking violently as Samantha handed him the terrycloth robe. She helped him from the tub, drawing a large comforter around him. Instinctively, protectively, he flinched at the the contact. "Fox. Can you hear me?" It was a statement. A plea.
He reached out for her, his eyes unfocussed. "Samantha."
"Fox, we have to go. You need to get dressed." He was still elsewhere. Samantha was shocked at the state she found him in. Something was wrong here. And she now was absolutely certain that this was the right thing to do--the project be damned.
The episode ended and Mulder began to regain himself. This time it had been more intense and longer lasting. He was fatigued and unsteady. HIs progress slow. "Samantha," he said flatly. He rubbed his eyes vigorously, trying to bring the room into sharper view.
"Fox. We need to leave. Now."
"What. More treatements from good old Dr. Whatsisname? I think I'll pass for now. Gotta love it though." Mulder smiled bitterly. Better than LSD. Mulder rose, too quickly. A wave of nausea and dizziness forced him back onto the bed.
"Fox. We have no time. I contacted your partner. Dana Scully?" Mulder froze momentarily, a chill snaking up his back.
"Yes. And we've got to go. I'm taking you to her. But we have to leave now. Do you understand? Can you stand?"
"She shot me. Did you know that?" He slipped off to somewhere else again.
"FOX. You have to listen to me. You've begun to undergo a procedure. You've only had one treatment. It's similar to the treatments you had in Rhode Island last year." Mulder was trying to focus on her words. It was so hard. He was so tired. He wondered what time it was. Ah, the Rolex. Mulder smiled, closing his eyes. The sweetness of that moment poured through him like an exquisite balm on his soul. "Always." He mouthed the words, saying them only to himself. A path. Something about a path.
Samantha was shaking his shoulders now, terrified. He hadn't heard anything she'd said. "Please, Fox. I'm going to take you to your Scully. Hurry and get dressed before I'm spotted here. The monitors are down for maintenance..." Her voice was panicky, frenzied almost. She needed to make him understand. She couldn't wait for him to come back on his own.
"They're manipulating my memories, aren't they Samantha?" The question, direct and clear was almost jarring. For a moment she hadn't realized that it was Mulder who had asked the question. He was back. Completely.
"Did you hear any of what I said?"
"All of it."
"Fox, we have about 5 minutes more to get you out of here."
"This is who I am, Fox. And, I'm reasonably happy with that. We do good work at Roush and I'm a part of that. Please try to accept that. I would like it more than you know if you would choose to be with us. But only voluntarily. But I accept that it's not a likely scenario. So it is. We really need to go. Now," she reapeated.
Mulder retreated to the bathroom and dressed. They travelled in silence for some time.
"Fox, you need to know. About the treatments. As I said, you only had one. But you've had other similar procedures. I cannot tell you what the effects of this treatment will be. I don't know if these episodes will continue, or for how long. Or if they will intensify. This is something you need to tell your friend. I know that the intention was to make you hate her. To push her away and to make you believe she was your enemy. I know they can do this. I know they can take someone you love and make you believe them to be a hated opponent in your mind. I only hope, Fox...I only hope the damage done to you isn't too severe and that it's temporary. But I can't tell you for certain."
Mulder stared straight out the winshield, wondering for the thousandth time why he'd wasted half his adult life searching for a sister that was really... He sighed deeply, looking at the stars. Scully. The thought of her brought to him a sense of vague anxiety. He tried to shake it off. Needed to shake it off. Mulder saw a tourist sign out the corner of his eye. "Skyland Mountain. Ascend to the Stars." The anxiety about Scully was replaced by a deep sorrow. A remembrance of a time three years past. And he knew he'd found the path, the trail marker he would need to survive and stay whole. There was no memory more powerful than the memory of Scully abuducted and taken to that very place. Not seen again for weeks; only to be returned in a coma.
Scully an enemy? He was certain that him mind would try, and desperately to suggest just that. For how long? Who knew? He focussed on that time, not so long ago. A terrible memory. An important reminder of the part Scully played in his life-then, and now. Mulder's eyes drifted shut as a shudder went through his body. The worst time in his adult life. A time he'd rather forget, but couldn't. A lifeline. A trail marker back. A trigger, like the Rolex.
"Goodbye, Fox. You need to wait here. I told her 2 AM. It's now 1:00. I think we won't be seeing each other again. I hope, in some way, this atones for all the years..." Mulder was already out the car. Samantha waited a moment. She closed her eyes, blinking back tears, saddened for the broken lives that progress sometimes demanded; wishing the price had not included her own brother. She drove home in silence.
Mulder sat in a grassy depression, back against the cement piling of the highway bridge. He waited.
The sky was pockmarked with stars under the indigo sky. Mulder looked skyward, noticing Orion's belt; his sword. The world was silent under its power, leaving Mulder to ponder the events of the last several days. What day was it? He wondered. He glanced at his watch instinctively to determine the date; the length of his captivity. It had stopped. Mulder's brow furrowed; he was puzzled that his new watch, his Rolex had stopped. His eyes fluttered shut as he considered the possible explanations, connected facts he knew were connected with "alien abductions" like time loss. Had been exposed to an energy source in captivity to have caused his watch to stop running?
He removed the watch from his wrist, running his thumb over the insrciption Scully had written on the back. He sought out the delicate engraving as if it was Braille to a blind man. In a way, it was. It was balm to a withthered soul; a gentle touch to his troubled brow. It had been, during his captivity a blazed trail home when he had become lost in a surreal, treatment-induced nightmare. Scully. He sighed, becoming tired of waiting. He rose, pacing the embankment. And then he saw her. Scully.
Mulder's eyes went wide as she also saw him and began waving at him. "Mulder!" She began shouting. "He's down here!" An overwhelming sense of anxiety consumed Mulder. Panic gripped his chest, taking away his breath momentarily. He looked up, seeing Scully advancing toward him. Claxon horns went off in Mulder's head. Like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car he ran, bolting quickly down the embankement, back to safety of the highway underpass. He stopped there, bending over, hands on his thighs, panting. He sat on the cement curb, shaking with an inexplicable fear. No, not inexplicable. Scully. Mulder brain went into overdrive. Images once again bombarded his senses. He knew she wanted him dead or discredited. No, not Scully. Never her.
"Mulder? Are you..." Scully, also out of breath entered the man-made, cave- like underpass. She stopped before him, going to crouch beside him. She reached out to touch his arm a gentle caress. Mulder flinched away, scuttling further into the underpass. He was breathing rapidly; a frightened animal.
Scully turned white. Oh, God, Mulder what have they done to you. Think! What had Samantha said. Something about drugs, treatments...like in Rhode Island. Who was he seeing, she wondered, as he gazed at her with terror in his wild eyes. Scully heard voices of team members approach. She stood, leaving Mulder for the moment. As she backed away, she saw him visibly relax a bit.
Skinner stood in the ditch outside the underpass, looking questioningly at Scully.
"Is he in there?"
"Is he alright?"
"No. Physically, I think he's OK. But, as I told you, they gave him some kind of treatments and drugs that might have affected him. He might still be under those effects. I think, sir, maybe you should continue searching this side of the highway for Samantha, in case she's still nearby. I think it might be better if I stayed with Mulder. I have my car. I'll see that he gets checked out at the nearest hospital and the gets safely home. Make sure the evac unit stays around until I confirm that Mulder is physically unharmed."
"Scully....what about backup for you?"
"You said yourself that Mulder may not ... well, may not be himself..."
"I doubt he's a danger to me, sir. Besides the evac guys will be here."
Skinner turned away. "Let's go!" he shouted. "We need to sweep this side of the highway. Mulder's in there. Scully will stay with him and evac with him to the hospital."
Scully turned her attention back to the underpass. She wanted to approach Mulder slowly, make sure he couldn't take any move as a threat. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she saw him. He was sitting back against the underpass wall, knees drawn up. His eyes glittered in the darkness, he was whispering, almost chanting, to himself. As she approached, she saw that he didn't see her, didn't acknowledge his presence. Then she saw. He was holding the Rolex, his thumb caressing its back--the inscription. Scully sucked in a breath. She'd never seen Mulder in this state, and it terrified her.
"Mulder?" He voice was small, gentle, nonthreatening. He looked up at her, his eyes sad, wet. Imploring forgiveness. For what, she wondered?
"Scully." A statement uttered in a hushed, ragged voice. A voice washed in emotion. "Scully, I... I don't...I..."
She fell at his side, her arms going around him protectively. "Ssh. We need to get you checked out. Are you OK?"
"No. I don't think so. I'm...I think I'm OK physically. But they..I don't know what they did to me, Scully. Something...I don't know if...I can't know what's real. There are times...when..." He was groping for words, reasons, explanations that weren't there.
Scully caressed his forehead, then his cheek. "Let's get you out of here. You've earned yourself a trip to the ER, Professor Mulder."
Scully rose, extending her hand to Mulder. She slipped her arm about his waist, partially for support and partially to let him know she was real and there for him. They emerged slowly into the harsh lights cast by the evac unit.
Scully sent the unit away, assuring them that she would take him to the ER herself, given there were not sign of physical injury.
"Scully, I...When I saw you...when I first saw you tonight, I...I don't know...I thought you were here to..."
"Let's get you checked out. Then we can talk."
"Scully." Mulder felt compelled to continue despite his fogginess. "I only know that this," he said, showing her the Rolex. "That this, somehow, saved my life. Don't ask me to explain how, at least not now." Mulder sighed, smiling wanly, feeling the exhaustion of his ordeal with the impact of a Mac truck.
He turned to Scully, pausing to look deeply into her eyes, his gaze intense. "Thank you Scully. For being there. For being here." He embraced her to his chest, placing a chaste kiss on the top of her head. "I missed you, Scully. You don't know how much."
Scully looked up at him quizically, causing Mulder to grin, despite his sad eyes. He bent his head, kissing her gently, sweetly on the forehead and then on the lips. His eyes and hers were luminous, glittering with tears of relief, of release.
"Scully," he said finally. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that."
It wasn't over. Not by a long shot. Mulder worried, wondering how long the effects of his captivity would last. He prayed that they were not permanent. But even if they were. They would find a way. The way. Together.
Hope you enjoyed. Sequel?????