Title: The Answer Is Out There
*NOTE* This cross-over takes place shortly after the X-Files movie...meaning that the X-Files have been reopened, but in this reality, Mulder and Scully still report to AD Skinner (and as it is a Matrix cross-over, I may change things as I will...after all, it's not even real...)
"This is it?" Mulder looked down at the thin file in his hands. It had to be a joke. He hadn't ever seen a file this depleted. The FBI might be behind on some of the latest information, but it never skimped on paperwork. From behind his desk, Assistant Director Skinner sighed and crossed his arms.
"You have your assignment, Agent Mulder. I expect you to dedicate all the effort that is required to solve this case."
"May I ask why we are being assigned this particular case, sir? This is not an X-File." Mulder picked at the sticker on the folder that gave the case number. On the side index tab, the label had a name, which in no way told him anything about the meager contents inside.
"Agent Mulder, I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but I'm going to remind you that you have stepped on plenty of toes since you first started working on the X-Files. Currently, you are assigned to that area on a hope and a prayer, nothing more. This case could change that." Skinner tapped his pen on the desk while Mulder opened the file. Inside, there were color copies of photos and copies of records with certain sections blacked out. Basically, it was a detailed list of the crimes and behaviors attributed to the focus of the study. There wasn't anything special about the file, so far as he could tell.
Yet Skinner seemed adamant. Behind his forced mask of stern authority, Skinner's eyes betrayed everything. This was a blessing in disguise, and he wasn't hiding that fact from Mulder. Somehow, the subject of this case was an even bigger pain to the men upstairs than he was. 'This could really help then,' Mulder thought it over.
"May I ask where this file originated, sir? I would like to know how it pertains to my specific areas of expertise." Skinner was visibly relieved as he sensed that Mulder would not refuse this case.
"Agent Mulder, I'll have you know that file came to me directly from the director. Off the record, I can tell you it may have originated from NSA offices."
"Why would the National Security Agency send the FBI anything?"
"As the director explained it to me, the NSA is looking for the best profiler we have to give them an insight into this man's crimes. You are the best, and you have some experience with this man's particular crimes. They are of an unusual nature. Who else would I send it to?" Mulder nodded as Skinner waved him off. As he left the Assistant Director's office, he read the name on the file.
Anderson, Thomas A.
"Unauthorized access violations in three major United States' computer systems, illegal reproduction of official documents, tampering with sensitive national and state records, and then there's one charge of income tax evasion. Interesting list, Mulder. This man is accused of cyber-terrorism, and then, out of nowhere, the government throws in tax evasion."
"It worked on Al Capone, remember? Maybe they just wanted to be sure that if the other stuff didn't stick that they at least had him on the taxes. Why wait, am I right?" He smiled over at his partner. Despite the flexibility that Dana Scully had acquired over the years, she still sneered at what she considered a bullshit assignment. Not liking or believing in Mulder's bizarre theories was not enough for her to dismiss her work on the X-Files. Ridicule and danger had dogged their every step as it was, and the last thing she needed or wanted was a case that patronized the revelations that she and Mulder had uncovered over the years.
This was a clear case of a 'pat-on-the-head' assignment. There could be no other reason that the NSA, if, as Skinner had implied in his talk to Mulder, if the NSA were indeed involved, would send the case file to the FBI. Some unspoken rule existed in the government's law-enforcement bureaus. One agency never shared information with another, not unless it was deemed necessary, and to be so noted, it would have to be approved by the highest authority of the agency sharing the information. The NSA never shared with the CIA; the DEA only cooperated with the FBI to the point of using the FBI crime laboratory. Each agency had its own councils, lawyers, agents, and secretaries. Even the lowest level employees did not converse with one another. As far as she knew, they didn't even have lunch in the same restaurants, let alone pass along sensitive information.
So, the voluntary sharing of information raised more than one alarm in Scully's mind. Mulder had accepted the assignment with his usual resistance, but something had convinced him to pick up the case. Instead of reading his psychological profile on their subject, she preferred to hear him talk about the case while on the road. Currently, they were stuck in traffic, heading from O'Hare International to downtown Chicago. The hour plus they had spent meant there could only be an hour more, but that would still be plenty of time to garner the details.
"Okay, so this guy is some hacker punk. This doesn't fall under our jurisdiction, Mulder. There isn't much here to suggest this guy is anything more than a disgruntled postal worker with too much time on his hands. Why did you actually let Skinner talk you into this?" A whimsical smile twitched on her partner's lips. This was a sure sign he intended to tell her exactly why he had accepted the case.
"Okay, so I confess already!" Mulder threw his hands up, earning him a smirk from Scully. "I had Frohike do some research on the side before I made the decision on this." Scully groaned. If Frohike knew about the case then so did the other self-titled "Lone Gunmen". It just made it worse that Frohike was most involved as he had a crush on her. Mulder laughed at her reaction.
"So, was it Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster?"
"Hey, be fair, after all, Frohike found enough to interest me. So, are you dying to hear what he found?"
"No, but as the traffic won't allow me to escape that particular madman's theories, go ahead." Mulder smiled and continued.
"Frohike has a friend who says he's heard of this guy. He uses an alias that is actually mentioned in our report. That surprised the hell out of me when I saw how thin it was." Scully ran her thumb along the edges of the pages and nodded. This file had to be the thinnest she had ever seen as well.
"I read that. He uses the pseudonym 'Neo' right? That's who is actually credited with these crimes. This Thomas Anderson is only connected to that alias, and it's not even proved in this file that they are one and the same."
"Well, I figure that's because several lines have been blacked out." Reaching over, Mulder flipped open the file to tap the black lines on their copy. "Whoever passed this to us blacked out some lines for a reason and then gave us a crappy copy."
"So, for the Three Stooges' theories to work, I have to assume that Anderson is Neo?"
"Right." Rolling her eyes, Scully nodded and waited for him to finish the story. "So, Frohike had a contact of his check up on Neo's activities. The guy couldn't find a trace. Not a thing. If this Neo guy was ever inside any of the agencies listed on that rap sheet, there's no trace of him."
"He covered his tracks. Wouldn't you if you were a terrorist, Mulder? I don't see what that proves."
"Think about it, Scully. If there is no record of this guy ever breaking into protected files, then how come we're here on our way to track him down? If he's so good, how come there is a record of his crimes?"
"Like I said, he covered his actions well, that's all." Another sigh struck her then. This type of obsessive behavior was so typical of her partner. It might take ten more times with her explaining the same things over and over before he considered her point.
"Okay, I'll buy that. So, he was never there then?" Scully nodded slowly, but her head stopped moving as Mulder's point hit her. "I see you get my drift."
"Oh my God, Mulder, if this guy hid what his crimes, if he covered himself that well, how does the government have a file on him?"
"That's why we're on our way to Chicago...to find out."
"Mr. Prescott? Agents Mulder and Scully. We're with the FBI. We're here to talk to you about your tenant in room 101?" The balding man standing in the doorway to the Superintendent's office lit a cigarette and took a long drag before he answered them.
"Look, I already told you people I don't care what my tenants do on their own time, just so long as it don't do nothing to the room." Scully looked at Mulder helplessly, but his attention was focused on Prescott.
"I'm sorry, did you say you had spoken to us before?" A clear look of disgust crossed the other man's face.
"Not to you, no, but to the other guys." Rabid excitement radiated from Mulder in a recognizable reaction, one that Scully had seen countless times before, usually right before her partner jumped at one of his conspiracy theories. She knew she would have to intercede before Mulder could either scare or offend the Super.
"Excuse me, sir, but could you be more specific? Did you get a name or, perhaps, the agency they represented?"
"No, ma'am, I didn't get any agency names, but I guess they were FBI."
"You guess?" Mulder's voice rose sharply enough to tear Prescott's ogling gaze away from Scully.
"No offence, but you guys all look alike. I see you two show up, you say you're FBI, and you look just like those guys. So, I figure they were FBI too. You know, they wore suits, kinda like yours, uh, Agent..."
"Mulder." His excitement was only growing. The instinct that had told him to stick with this case was twitching again. This case, like so many other official X-Files, was supporting his theories and revealing more hidden layers to the shadowy sub-government he knew existed. He had to fight the urge to shout with joy and satisfaction. Scully, on the other hand, groaned inwardly at the thought of yet another case leading back to the great brick wall that hid their enemy. For once, she would have loved to have a normal, old-fashioned monster or serial killer.
"Mr. Prescott, would you be willing to come down to the local office and talk to a sketch artist?" Prescott shrugged, apparently indifferent, but Scully could detect a hint of agreement in the motion.
"Sure, but they were only here for a short time. They came tearing up the hallway after the guy, didn't say much, and I never saw them come back down. I could really only tell you about the one guy that asked me to 'stand aside' like I was some yokel. He asked me a few questions while his partners tore ass up the stairs."
"Did you get his name?"
"Uh, Smithe? No, I'm sorry, it was, uh...Smith. That's it. Agent Smith."
End of Chapter 1