Author: CeilidhO

Summary: What if Scully had accepted the transfer to Salt Lake City? Three years later, she and her new partner are assigned to a bizarre string of kidnappings, with terrifying and dangerous results. (Prequel to "Disciple")

Disclaimer: I own nothing, Chris Carter owns everything. (Except the characters I invent.) We all know the drill. Please don't sue me.

Little A/N:  For some reason won't separate out the 'scene' breaks (the extra spaces between different scenes).  So, as odd as it looks, I've put little *s at the scene breaks so they're more evident.  I hate the way it looks, so sorry.

* * *

For a moment, Scully was speechless.  "Taking requests?" she managed to get out.

"I know, I know, it sounds crazy…" Dan began.

"No, no, it makes perfect sense," she said, excitement filling her.  She tossed back her covers, and slid out of her bed, her feet hitting the floor in a cold slap.  "So the first few days, and the last few, it's all him, but the others…"

"It's someone else's.  Or many people's, actually."

Scully moved into her kitchen, and began to heat the kettle.  "But how's he getting in touch with his… clients?"

"The internet, that's my best guess.  You can pretty much find anything there."

"My god."

Dan sighed. "Yeah, I know.  I haven't been able to think of how to track him down, but we'll work on it.  Together."

Scully smiled to herself, and laughed slightly.  "Yes, Dan.  I'll see you tomorrow, or Monday."

"Bye, Dana."

The kettle let out an ear-splitting shriek, and Scully jumped.  Touching a hand to her chest, she crossed over to it, and began to make a cup of tea.  Suddenly her hand shook, and water splashed all over the counter, the individual droplets steaming on the linoleum surface.  Her heart pounded inside her, slamming convulsively against her ribs, as quickly as a drum roll.

Taking requests…

She concentrated very hard on breathing, and slowly brought her fear under control, slowing her heart and the race of her thoughts.  As her hands unclenched, Scully dipped the teabag and sat in her armchair, waiting for first light.

*         *         *

As the moon rose over the desert, the battered face of a woman turned towards it like a plant seeking light and life, her eyes closed in fear or unconsciousness.  The silver streamed through a narrow casement window, touching the rough cement walls of the cellar and painting a strip across the floor.  The woman gleamed at its center.

In the corner that the moonlight cannot reach, a tiny red dot appeared suddenly, and a low whine of machinery crept through the room.  The woman began to stir.

A voice hissed: "Number three-dash-nine-dash-eight, you're up.  I'm ready, so's she."  The woman moaned, straining against the ropes that bound her wrists and ankles.  The hand on the machine tightened in anticipation, the moonlight just touching his broad knuckles.  "Let's get this show on the road."

As he moved across the floor, the machine whined again, and the moonlight glinted of the camera's lens.

*         *         *

On Monday morning, Scully found Dan in the main office, surrounded by rows of desks and the busy hum of computers and conversation.  He was hovering over an intense looking man, who was pounding away on a keyboard with his nose a half-inch from the monitor screen.

"Dana," Dan said pleasantly.  "Good morning.  I'd like you to meet Agent Cook, the only techie agent I could find so early in the morning."  The man flailed a hand at her in greeting, and then rapidly entered a long string of computer code.  Scully felt her mouth twitch.  Finally, Cook sat back with a loud sigh.

"It's useless, Morris," he huffed.  "There're just so many sexual sites on the internet.  It's impossible to check out all of them, even if we narrow it down to violent sites, and even with the preliminary program I've been working on."

"How long would it take you?" Dan asked, forehead creased. 

Cook let out a gusty breath and raised his eyebrows.  "If I worked sixteen hours a day without resting or eating?  Let's see: five-hundred-…"

Dan held up a hand to stop him.  " I get the idea, Cook.  Thanks anyway."

The other man shrugged.  "Don't take it so hard, Morris.  No one is that good with computers."

Scully rubbed her temple, and then interjected gently.  "Actually, I might know someone who can.  Three someones, as a matter of fact."

*         *         *

The satellite connection cleared with a light fizz of static, and Scully found herself staring into three faces she never thought to see again.

"Hello…" she attempted, but Frohike cut her off.

"Well, well, the vaunted Agent Dana Scully.  You finally condescended to contact us after three long years of silence.  No goodbye, no word, and no warning.  Just Mulder stumbling in here drunk as an Irish barfly, and not moving an inch from our couch for a week!  Just-!"

"Frohike," Byers admonished gently.  "She couldn't know about that, and we shouldn't bring him up."

"She'd've known if she'd called, wouldn't she," snapped Langly.  "What can we do for your royal highness?  Is this line secure?"

Scully smiled.  "I confirmed that it was."

"Hmm…" The blond muttered, glancing at her suspiciously.  "How do we know that you haven't been corrupted by your renewed affiliation with the government?"

Scully wondered what Mulder would have said to that.  Then she had it; she held up her hand and twisted her fingers into a salute.  "Scout's honor," she declared.  Frohike stuck his face up to the camera, peering at her and then at Dan, his thick glasses glinting blue in the monitor's glow.

"She's telling the truth," he said.  "Turn off the tapes."  A flurry of clicking and motion ensued, and Scully was left feeling slightly bemused, her usual condition when facing the Gunmen.  Behind her, Dan was speechless.

Byers appeared again, his face slightly warped by the camera.  "So, Agent Scully, what can we help you with."

"Well," she said.  "There's a rape case that I'm currently assigned to, and through field research, interviews and psychological assessment, we- Agent Morris and I- have determined that the rapist is in actuality taking requests via the internet, profiting from acting out what his 'clients' can only fantasize about."

"That's sick," exclaimed Frohike.  "And believe me, I know twisted."

Langly nodded.  "He knows twisted."  Frohike scowled, then reached up and knocked off the other man's glasses.  Langly dove for the floor.  Byers furrowed his brow.

"Incongruous sexual behavior?"

Scully nodded.  "Extremely.  What we're looking for is websites or chat rooms that cater to violent, extremely deviant sexuality; rape, power games, torture, confinement…"

Frohike butted his head into view.  "Scully, you just named half the sites out there.  It'd be like asking us to find a website with 'the' in it.  Good luck."

Byers nodded.  "We'll never be able to narrow it down enough."  His soft eyes were worried, and Langly harrumphed his agreement in the background.  Scully raised her eyebrows.

"Our Bureau guy told us the same thing.  I just came to you because I thought you were better, that's all.  If you're not…"

Langly scowled at her, blinking through his glasses.  "That's a low blow, Agent Scully.  Unfortunately for me, it's working.  Frohike, we've still got the Comb 2012, right?" 

The smaller man disappeared under the desk for a moment, and then there was a muffled curse and the desk shook.  Frohike emerged a second later, rubbing his head and holding a small black box.  "Jesus, Scully," he moaned.  "This had better be worth it.  I ruined my hair."

Scully ducked her mouth under her hand, wiping away her grin. "It's worth it, Frohike," she managed when she recovered.  "Believe me."

Byers smiled at her weakly, and Langly turned the box over critically.  After a second, he turned back to the camera.  "This baby let's us search any ISP fourteen times faster than anyone else.  It can also search for up to six keywords in conjunction, making it vastly more accurate than the leading legit device."

"I didn't hear that," Scully heard Dan mutter.  Langly glared and continued.  "You just e-mail over your keyword sets, Scully, and we'll search for as long as it takes."  He returned to the computer fiddling with the small box and muttering under his breath about amateur techie cops.  Frohike stared at Scully a moment, then sighed:

"Still as hot as ever."  Shaking his head, he moved out of the view of the camera.  Only Byers remained, studying her wistfully.

"Well, we'll be in contact with you as soon as we find anything, Agent Scully."  He smiled faintly, crinkled brown eyes still concerned.  "We miss you," he murmured unexpectedly.  "And so does he."  His tone sharpened again.  "Until next time.  Good luck meanwhile."  And suddenly the screen was black.

Scully drew in a deep, shaky breath, and turned to face Dan.  "The Lone Gunmen," she said, eyes stinging.  Dan laughed and shook his head.

"What extraordinary people," he chuckled gently, and they left the room.

*         *         *

          The door opens before her with a moan of hinges.  Her keys echo against the metal tumbler of the lock as she slides them out and back into her hand.  Their coppery tang feels dirty on her sweating palm. 

She flips the plastic switch on the wall, and the empty apartment is pooled in faint overhead light.  It sits on the boxes knifed open in the corner, collects on the styrofoam peanuts scattered on the worn hardwood, on the futon by the window, on the phone tethered to the wall by its grey cord, an island in the sea of emptiness. 

The cold ache fills her.

She moves about the apartment, trying to distract herself, but it's too late now.  She's thought of him.  Everything hurts now: the light, the air, the noise of her footfalls.  Her clothes are sheer agony where they brush her skin.  They burn with cold, and her skin rises and chafes.  Despair makes her frantically restless.

A board creaks against her foot, and the sound is unbearable because he is not there to hear it.  The kettle boils on the hotplate, and it seems impossible that water should still be allowed to boil when he is not there.  Her mind plummets until the very fact that she is alive seems horribly injust.  Her breaths scorch her throat and collapse her lungs.

Her hands pressed against her ears, she drops to her knees, and a sob rips from her throat, long and low and breaking her heart.

*         *         *

Later that night, Scully sat in her kitchen, nursing a cup of tea and studying a manila case file.  She rubbed her eyes, and it seemed almost bloody photographs laid out before her oozed their blood onto the clean table.  Scully shook her head to clear her vision, and the pictures returned to their glossy paper home. 

"I'm overtired," she murmured to herself.  "Imagining things.  I need to get out."  She stood up and collected the photos, gathering the papers and sliding them back into the folder.  She strode to the door and grabbed her keys, letting herself out onto the street.

The night was clear and hot, a faint breeze drifting off the mountains and into the city.  It brushed her cheek as Scully surveyed the street, deciding finally to head for a bar she knew, just around the corner. 

The moon was high and bright, lighting the streets with a silvery brilliance.  The sky was soft and dark, a few strong stars cutting through the light pollution that turned the domed sky into an unbroken ceiling above her head.  The streetlights made orange puddles on the sidewalk, and the August drought had baked the gutters dry.  Scully held almost disconnected as she walked, idly observing the beauty of the night.

She reached the bar in less than five minutes, and as she stepped inside a wave of noise and smell broke over her.  The people stood in clumps around the room, and high above her their was a cloud of smoke that hugged the ceiling.  Scully felt her heart lift at the familiar scene, and the turned as she recognized a voice, clear and strident over the hum of sound.

"So I said, get your hands off my water cooler, bitch.  And she was all, excuse me that's my water cooler, and I said, I think you'll find that…"

"It's got my lipstick all over it." Scully finished for her.  The woman jumped up, beaming.

"Oh my god, Dana!  Where have you been?  I've been trying to call you since Thursday!"

Scully grinned.  "On a case, but I'm home for the weekend.  Why were you calling me?"

"To invite you here, of course.  I've got the most gorgeous friend I want you to meet."

Scully groaned.  "Oh, Joanne, I don't think so.  I hate being set up."

"It's not a set-up, is it?" Joanne responded brightly.  "You arrived on your own.  C'mon, let's go."  She turned away from the man she'd been talking to without a word of explanation, and pulled Scully toward the seating at the back.  Grouped around a table in the quieter area was a motley assortment of people, most of whom Scully knew.  Joanne grabbed a drink of the table, and shushed the group.  "Y'all remember Dana," she said, only slightly slurring the words. 

"Of course we do, Jo, you drunk tart," said another woman, Mary.  "Where you been, darling?"

Scully smiled.  "On assignment, near Delta."

Joanne frowned.  "I have to introduce you," she declared.  "Dana Scully, FBI, meet Robert Abrams, corporate monkey."  The table howled with laughter.  Scully spotted the man at the center of it all, a handsome blond man blushing to the roots of his hair.

"I'm not entirely a corporate monkey," he said sheepishly.  "I do have a corner office."  The table exploded again, and then someone moved over to fit Scully in next to Robert Abrams.  She smiled apologetically, and he gave her a sweet half smile.  "So, you're an FBI agent?" he asked.  She nodded.


"Corporate butt monkey, pretty much."  She smiled.  "Where're you from?"

"All over, originally.  Navy brat.  But, uh, Washington DC most recently.  You?"

"Park City.  Utah born and raised.  I'm good-old southwestern boy." 

Scully laughed, and he said:  "Call me Rob."  He awkwardly reached out his hand. She took it.  It was warm and dry.

"Dana," she responded, and they fell into an easy conversation, passing the night in a haze of drinks and conversation.  Scully fell into her bed at three-thirty in the morning, thoroughly tired and completely happy.

*         *         *

The next morning, Scully was reading the paper in her living room when the phone rang suddenly.  She sprang up, pushing her glasses up her nose, and grabbed the phone.

"Hello," she breathed. 

"Agent Scully?  It's John Byers."

"Byers, hi.  Did you find something?"

"Turn on your computer."

Her mouth turned to ice, and she crossed the floor to the computer, starting it with a whir and hum of machinery.  To silence from the other end of the phone line, Scully watched the screen change colors, and the icons appear like blemishes on the desktop.  She started the internet, and it flashed to the home page.

"What to I do now?" she asked apprehensively. 

"Type in ''."  The man's voice was flat.  Before Scully's horrified eyes, there rose on the desktop an enormous portrait of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and after him a succession of mug shots and crime scene photos from a range of different killers.  Byers spoke into her ear.  "Go to the left-hand menu, and click on 'Free-Range'.  After that, click 'Dorian Grey', on the right side this time."  Scully followed his instructions, the websites' content indecipherable to her.  She supposed that was the point, to guard against casual viewers.

"What's next, Byers?"

"After that, click on 'Steak Sauce: Spicy'.  It might take a while to find."  Scully found it after a few moments of frantically scanning the page.  "Finally, click 'Roundup'.  That'll take you right there."

And to Scully's immediate and gut-wrenching horror, the first thing she saw was an immense photo of a frightened woman, bound with rope at the wrists and ankles. 

It was Jolene.

-         -         -         -         -         -         -         -         -         -         -         -         -         -

A Very Important A/N:  I'm thinking of putting this story on hiatus, because I just can't seem to get it right.  Very sad.

However, there are a couple of other options, and I'd like to know what you lovely reader/ reviewer people think.  1) The story goes on hiatus while I get it together and give into the other niggling plot bunnies.  2) If you guys like it how it is, I'll just carry on like I have been.  Or… 3) I redo the story from the beginning with alternating POV chapters, ie. Prologue: Scully in Utah, Prologue: Mulder in DC, Ch. 1: Scully in Utah, Ch. 1: Mulder, etc.  There would be two separate storylines, one for each of them.  My only hesitation with that is that "Disciple" was entirely Scully POV, and it might feel kind of odd.

Anyway, this is the big time where I really need to know what you think.  So, especially this time, please review.

                                                              Thanks, ~ Ceilidh