TITLE: Mobius
AUTHOR: L.A. Ward
EMAIL ADDRESS:
URL: www.hometown.aol.com/laward/eclectic.html
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Sure, just let me know.
SPOILER WARNING: Anything through Season 7
including Requiem
RATING: PG-13 (for language)
CLASSIFICATION: X/MSR/A

X-file casefile with Mytharc
MSR
Scully Angst/Mulder Angst

SUMMARY: While investigating the disappearance of
a physicist, Scully finds someone she didn't
expect--Mulder.

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never mine. Wish they were,
but they belong to Chris. Have no money so don't
bother to sue.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I cannot say enough nice things for
the wonderful people who undertook the task of beta
reading. Thanks to all of them, but special thanks to
Shari, Rosemary, and Fran.



****************************************************
"All we communicate to others is an orientation
towards what is secret. . ."
Gaston Bachelard
The Poetics of Space
****************************************************

PROLOGUE


Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Washington, D.C.
4:15 am

The dark was comforting. It was uniform, unchanging and
peaceful with only the dull murmur of sound somewhere in
the distance. No one sound was distinct. They all rolled
together in a low, muted hum--white noise in a black
room--and she listened to it intently as if by listening
hard enough she could immerse herself in it.

Someone shoved open the door and light blinded her.

"Doctor!" the nurse said. "We need you."

Grabbing her lab coat, she followed the nurse from the
on-call room into the green tiled hallway. "What have
we got?" she asked as a paramedic crashed through the
E.R.'s double doors leading a gurney.

"Male. Mid to late thirties," the medic answered. "B.P.
ninety over sixty. Pulse one-ten and irregular. Appears
to be in psychogenic shock."

"Transportation time?" she asked as they entered the
trauma room.

"Twenty minutes. Four liters oxygen. One I.V.
normal saline."

She nodded and crossed to the other side of the gurney
ready to transfer the patient to the examining table.
"On my count. One, two, now." After the transfer she
took out a penlight and shone it into the man's eyes.

"Pupils sluggish." She glanced at the nurse and
instructed, "We need a chem 20. Type and cross. Two
units."

"He's tachy," an intern called.

She nodded and looked at the cardiac monitor
registering a pulse rate of 120 and rising.
A heart couldn't sustain that rhythm long
without failing. She called for digoxin even
as the monitor hit 130 then 135. Her gut
clenched when his pulse spiked to 150.

"Is he going to crash?" the intern asked.

Before she could answer the patient flatlined.
Frown lines creased her brow as the high pitched
whine filled the room. She hated that sound. She
hated to admit defeat, and when she looked into her
patient's face she refused to accept it.

"Crash cart," she called.

She grabbed the defibrillator paddles and rubbed
conductive fluid over them. "Charge. 200 joules."

Everyone stepped back. She shocked the patient. He
arched from the bed and her eyes rose to look at the
monitor. Grimacing she ordered, "300. And . .
.clear!" Again the man arched from the bed.

The intern shook his head.

"Charge 360," she ordered and laid the paddles against
the unknown man's bare skin. Again electricity rushed
violently through him, but this time it was different.
His heart took on a normal rhythm. She nodded and
systematically began looking for any sign of
injury. There was nothing obvious.

The patient suddenly, miraculously became conscious. He
grabbed her arm and looked her straight in the eyes. Her
breath caught. It was as if all motion in the room
receded to some silent distance, and her entire being
focused on this one glance. She read recognition in his
hazel eyes.

"Scully," he whispered, then lost his battle for
consciousness.











***************************************************
"God does not play dice." - Albert Einstein

"But all evidence indicates that God is an inveterate
gambler, and he throws the dice on every possible
occasion."
Stephen Hawking, "Black Holes and Baby Universes"
****************************************************

CHAPTER ONE

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
9:12am

Special Agent Dana Scully parked the gray rental car in
the administrative parking lot of Clark Hall. She felt
tired and cranky after yet another sleepless night, and
if she was honest she also felt somewhat resentful of
this assignment.

Yesterday she had sat in Mulder's office reviewing old
case files--and she still thought of it as Mulder's
office. Others had begun calling it hers, but not
Scully. She had been on the verge of completing a stack
of papers nearly as tall as herself when a stranger
coughed to catch her attention.

After nearly eight years of working in the basement,
building maintenance had arrived to install her name on
the office door. She had scowled, then waved the man
away, saying that she was busy and didn't want to be
disturbed. The truth was she didn't want anything in
the office disturbed. Something, even if it was just
this dingy, cluttered room, had to remain the same.

"Are you sure?" he asked in a quiet southern drawl.
"Don't know when I'll be by here again.

"I'm sure," she said firmly. "The door stays the way it
is."

Scully's actions had obviously been reported to Skinner
because an hour later he stood almost, but not quite,
hidden beyond the doorway. She could see him shifting
awkwardly from foot to foot looking reluctant to be
there. Scully had become used to that look. Lately every
person had it before crossing the threshold. She could
almost hear them debate, "Should I offer condolences? Or
behave as if nothing has happened?"

Of course, Skinner's choices were more limited. He
couldn't behave as if nothing had happened. He knew the
truth--or most of it anyway--and perhaps because of that
he was more awkward than anyone else. Scully saw the
moment of decision cross his face and straighten his
spine before he manufactured a businesslike attitude
and approached her. He walked briskly into the room
and placed a file on the desk.

"An X-File?" she asked.

"Not exactly."

Scully lifted her eyes and gave him a calm, questioning
stare. Seconds ticked by then Skinner explained, "It's
a missing person."

"Then why bring it to me?"

"Open the file."

She glanced down at the pages contained inside the
manila folder. A name jumped out at her. She lifted a
surprised gaze. "Steven Doerstling?"

Skinner nodded. "He disappeared Tuesday, but the local
authorities have kept this below the media radar."

Steven Doerstling was a brilliant mathematician and
physicist whose name was frequently used in the same
breath as Einstein's. Always brilliant, after a spinal
injury in his teens left him a quadriplegic, he had
turned his focus inward and in the last thirty years
had produced breathtakingly inspired leaps in
theoretical physics. His disappearance would spark
a media feeding frenzy.

"He's famous," Scully said, "but what does this have
to do with me?"

"His research is funded by the U.S. Government through
the National Science Foundation."

"So strings were pulled and the case was brought to the
FBI," she concluded.

"Yes, strings were pulled."

"This isn't an X-File." And the implication hung in the
air that she was still committed to the X-Files. She
was more committed than ever. As long as Mulder was
missing she would follow any thread for even the most
tenuous link to him. As if to prove that fact, she had
spent the last month in a futile search of Bellefleur,
Oregon--the place where she had first come to trust
Mulder and where ultimately she had lost him. In the
end all she found was the orange X he had painted on the
road nearly eight years earlier.

Slowly Scully realized the office had been quiet for
too long. Skinner stood staring at the poster behind
the desk. "I Want to Believe" hung over her head, and
she knew they were both aware of the irony in the words.
She had never wanted to believe. She resisted at
every turn and used science as a shield.

"I realize that technically this isn't an X-File,"
Skinner told her. "But there's no agent as suited to
this case as you. There aren't many of us with degrees
in physics."

She should have known this was an offer she wasn't
allowed to refuse when he had arrived in the basement
instead of summoning her to his office as protocol
demanded. Seeing no alternative, Scully had accepted
the assignment and boarded a plane bound for Ithaca,
New York at eight a.m. this morning.

Even as she drove through the picturesque city Scully
was aware of the underlying reason she had been given
the assignment. Skinner had thought, "Take her out of
the basement. Give her something to do other than
bury herself in silence and memories." He was being
thoughtful, kind, solicitous...and she hated it.

She wasn't some porcelain doll that had been broken
then pieced together. She wasn't on the verge of
falling apart. Scully was a professional, a doctor,
and an agent who knew how to keep the unbearable at
a distance. Brick by emotional brick she built a wall
between her functional state and her dysfunctional
baggage. Of course by now the wall approached the size
of the Hoover Dam, but Scully would deal with that
later. The point Scully kept stressing was that she
was in control. She could handle herself. There
was no reason for Skinner to look concerned. She
was fine. She was just fine.

Once she found a parking space, Scully glanced out
the car window. Unlike most of Cornell which tended
toward Gothic Revival architecture, this building was
stark and dated, looking like some uninspired
regurgitation of textbook Modernism. She stepped out
of the car then stopped to fight a sudden wave of
nausea. Laying her hand on the hood, she took a deep
breath and waited for the world to stop spinning.
When it did, Scully continued forward as if nothing
had happened.

X X X

Mike Stilgoe sat playing air guitar in his five by eight
foot office on the third floor of Clark Hall--though
calling it an office seemed like absurd exaggeration. It
was a closet with a desk. With his eyes closed he
belted out the lyrics, "Black hole sun won't you come
and wash away the rain--"

He stopped abruptly and reached to turn down the volume.
Shit, someone was in the hall. He hurriedly exited the
program. All he needed was Professor Blackwood on his
ass about using department computers to download MP3s.
"File Transfer Error!" popped up on screen. Well, of
course there was an error. He was trying to exit for
Christ's sake. The computer locked. Damn. It crashed.
Shit. And whoever it was out in the hall was closer. He
could hear. . .

He closed his eyes and called himself an idiot. That
wasn't Professor Blackwood out there. It was a woman
and from the staccato clicks of her heels against the
linoleum he'd guess it was a woman on a mission.

Leaning back, Stilgoe opened the door a crack and
revised his opinion. Make that a very striking woman
on a mission. She was dressed almost completely in
black which around here usually meant a chain smoking
art student spouting existentialist bullshit, but this
one was dressed way too formally for that. And she
didn't look like an escapee from the architecture
department either. Stilgoe frowned. She was too old
to be a student, and too businesslike to be a
professor. Maybe administration, but he doubted it.
She looked out of place. Around here, her crisply
tailored appearance was almost exotic.

She saw him, and as purposefully as she had searched the
hall she now walked toward him. "Excuse me," she said in
a low, mellifluous voice that suddenly made him glad
that he was stuck logging statistics on a Saturday
morning. "Would you know where I might find Professor
Blackwood?"

"In his office?"

She shook her head. "I knocked. There was no answer."

"Must be out with CLEO then."

"Is there a way that I could reach them?"

Stilgoe frowned. "Them?" Enlightenment dawned. "Oh,
you mean Professor Blackwood and CLEO. CLEO isn't a
person, Ms...?"

"Scully." She produced a badge. "I'm with the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. I was hoping to speak with
Professor Blackwood about a current case."

"Doerstling's disappearance, I bet." At her mildly
surprised look he explained, "Nothing escapes the
physics department grapevine."

Scully nodded. "You were saying about Professor
Blackwood?"

"Oh yeah, well, CLEO isn't a person. CLEO is part of
the CESR--that's the Cornell Electron Storage Ring."

"He would be there now?"

"Well if he isn't in his office going over the results
of last week's test, he'll be down there preparing for
Monday's."

"How would I find my way there?" she asked.

Belatedly he jumped to his feet and extended his hand.
"Oh, um, I'm Mike Stilgoe. I'm a grad student and sort
of Professor Blackwood's assistant. If you want, I'll
take you down there."

"Thank you."

That's all she said. He shook his head. A beautiful
woman who didn't talk much. When did creatures like
that start to exist? As Mike gathered his books he
glanced over his shoulder. "So what's it like being
an FBI agent?"

"Interesting," Scully answered in a way that made him
think a million words could have been said but hadn't.
She was a sphinx. Beautiful, enigmatic, and remote.

X X X

Scully waited patiently for the grad student to shove
his books into his backpack. He was a gangly kid with
a two day growth of beard and a bad hair day. She
remembered the type from her own days in the physics
department, but that had been a lifetime ago. Idly
she wondered if he thought her answers had been abrupt.
If he did, he was probably right. But how could she
describe her work when she couldn't make sense of it
herself?

At some mysterious, indefinable point the X-Files had
ceased to be a job and had become her life. If Scully
walked away from the FBI tomorrow, the X-Files would
still consume her. There was no escape. There was
nothing else. Everything Scully had ever loved or
believed had been stripped from her with agonizing
precision, and yet...And yet everything that gave her
life meaning was also bound to this search for answers,
for truth...for Mulder. All Scully knew was she couldn't
stop. She couldn't rest, and there was nowhere to go
but forward because looking back wasn't an option.

They stepped into the hall and Stilgoe locked his
office door. Scully asked, "Has the physics department
grapevine said anything about Dr. Doerstling's
disappearance?"

He shrugged, "Oh it's said a lot, but not anything
that means much. I mean there's been a lot of
speculation. How exactly does a guy who has almost no
use of his arms and requires a constant caregiver just
disappear without a trace? It's creepy, you know. It's
not like he would go anywhere else. This is where his
work is, and his work is all he has."

Scully empathized. "Did anything unusual happen the
night he disappeared?"

"No, not really. Well, there was this party. The
results of Tuesday's test came back and there was some
bitching b quark data."

Scully searched through her somewhat dim memory of her
time as a physics undergrad for some reference to what
Stilgoe was talking about. A vague answer surfaced, and
it struck Scully that if you asked what the universe
was made of, your answer would depend on who you asked.
If she asked Mulder, no doubt he would recite a list of
creation myths as long as her arm. If you asked a
biologist, there would be talk of cells, and a chemist
would begin a discussion of molecules and atoms.
However, theoretical physicists looked for something
more fundamental. Their grail was the indivisible
building block of all things. Atoms had once been
considered these structures, then protons, neutrons,
and electrons. Now, like peeling away the layers
of an onion, they had discovered something more
elusive--quarks.

The problem with quarks was that though it was theorized
that absolutely everything was made of them, they
couldn't be seen. Studying them was a bit like looking
at a murder scene and theorizing who the killer had
been. You couldn't see him, only the evidence he left
behind.

They stepped into the elevator and Scully imagined the
discussion she would have had if Mulder had been there.

"So these scientists, these men of logic, believe in
something they can't prove exists." Mulder would have
been gleeful at the contradiction.

"Don't equate quantum physics with Mexican goat
suckers."

His hazel eyes would have filled with a teasing light.
"I wouldn't dare. They've been 'theorizing' goat
suckers long before anyone thought up a quark."

"It's not the same thing."

"Why?"

"Because goat suckers don't exist."

"But these little whatchamacalits that no one can see
do? Why is that, Dr. Scully?"

"Because their existence can be predicted by
mathematical equations--"

Mulder would interrupt, "Math? You mean a system
created by man to explain to themselves observable
and non-observable phenomena? Sounds a lot like the
reason ancient Egyptians invented Isis, Osiris, and
Horus. That was their way to find order in the
universe just as modern scientists point to
invisible strings--"

"Mathematics is not the same thing as a dog headed
pseudo-god."

"You didn't meet my ninth grade geometry teacher."

Scully heard the dinging sound signaling the elevator's
arrival at the first floor, and she became aware of the
physics student watching her with a little too much
interest. Was her distraction obvious? Something
about his expression made her think so, and Scully
worried that her inner turmoil was so close to the
surface that even a stranger could see it. She
schooled her features into an impassive mask. Her
sadness and her memories were her own. They
were private.

As they exited Clark Hall Stilgoe explained that the
CESR/CLEO was located fifteen meters below the alumni
field. It was a rather unglamorous concrete tunnel
filled with magnets. Billions of electrons and their
exact opposite--positrons--were circulated in the tunnel
at something close to the speed of light in the hopes
that a few of them would collide and annihilate each
other. If they were lucky, they would catch evidence
that a b quark existed. Of course usually nothing much
happened, and even when it did, you couldn't see the b
quark you produced. In the end the best you could do was
study the aftermath of their decay in CLEO.

They entered the control booth. "Dr. Blackwood,"
Stilgoe said grabbing the older man's attention. "This
is Agent Scully with the FBI. She's here to investigate
Doerstling's disappearance."

Dr. Arnold Blackwood was in his late fifties with
grayish blonde hair in a surprisingly long, bowl-like
cut. He was rather beige in appearance. Not just
because of the hair, but the skin, and the sort of
colorless off-white shirt he wore with wrinkled khaki
trousers.

"Have you found anything?" he asked in a somewhat
impatient tone.

"Not yet. I was hoping I could see Dr. Doerstling's
office," Scully answered. "I understand that was the
last place he was seen."

Blackwood took off his glasses and cleaned them on his
shirt. "It was?"

Scully frowned. "According to the police report, Dr.
Doerstling's assistant Lauren Rice left him in his
office when she left for dinner. When she returned,
he was gone."

"Saw Lauren this morning," Stilgoe added. "She's really
blown away by this. Blames herself."

Blackwood shook his head, and Scully detected a note of
aggravation in his voice. "If Doerstling disappeared
it's because he wanted to."

"I would think his physical limitations would make that
difficult," Scully pointed out.

The professor sniffed. "Don't bet on it. In someone
else--hell, in anyone else--what happened to Doerstling
as a kid would have been a tragedy."

"But not in his case?"

Somewhat defiantly Blackwood said, "It was a gift."

Scully eyes widened then narrowed as a frown creased
her forehead.

He began shuffling through papers as he explained,
"I've known Steven since we were both freshmen in
college. He was only fifteen years old. He was an
intellectual prodigy but in every other way he was
just a reckless kid." Blackwood pushed the papers
aside and looked up at Scully. "Before the accident
I don't think Steven ever sat still for five minutes
straight, but paralysis didn't give him a choice. He
couldn't use his body so he had to use his mind." The
professor removed his glasses and cleaned them on his
shirt. "Steven had an extraordinary mind."

She caught the fact that he referred to Doerstling in
the past tense but didn't press the issue as yet. "So
you think whatever happened to the doctor was by his own
design?"

Blackwood laughed but it was a hollow, tinny sound. "For
Doerstling everything was by design. The whole fucking
universe was built to exact proportions."

"I've read a little of his work," Scully told him.

Blackwood looked surprised and perhaps even a little
displeased. "Hardly normal reading material for an FBI
agent. I'd think you'd stick to Clancy novels."

"What was the doctor working on before he disappeared?"

"You really want to know?"

Scully took a deep breath and reminded herself that
saying what was on the tip of her tongue wasn't an
option. Being cranky with someone other than Mulder
usually didn't take her far. Come to think of it, it
didn't accomplish much with Mulder so she resorted to
simply looking at the man with silent expectation. That
usually met with some results.

Blackwood crossed his arms. "How much do you know about
M theory? Kaluza-Klein theory? Calabi-Yau space?"

"Very little, I'm afraid."

"That's what I thought. Agent Scully, I'm a busy man.
I don't have time to teach remedial physics." He tossed
Stilgoe a set of keys. "Explain to her what she wants to
know and let her into Doerstling's office. I've got
work to do."

As Blackwood walked away, Scully followed Stilgoe up the
stairs into blinding white sunlight. Shading her eyes
with one hand she asked, "What was Dr. Doerstling's
current project?"

Stilgoe glanced away quickly. "He was sort of 'out
there' if you know what I mean."

She arched a brow, "'Out there?' Could you be more
specific?"

After all 'out there' could mean anything from seeing
shadow conspiracies to anticipating an alien invasion,
finding a five hundred year old genie with a sick sense
of humor, or chasing a Mexican goat sucker across
southern California. Scully needed specifics.

"Ever heard of the anthropic principle?"

She cocked her head to one side. "Isn't it the
cosmological equivalent of 'if a tree falls in the
forest...?'"

Stilgoe laughed. "Yeah. Sort of. Basically it says the
universe looks the way that it does, because if it
didn't we wouldn't be here to see it."

"I suppose that makes sense. We evolved under a
specific set of conditions so we're intrinsically
linked to those conditions."

"But you see Doerstling isn't interested in our
evolution. He's interested in the evolution of the
universe. Think about it. If the big bang was an
accident, then any set of parameters could happen--most
of which wouldn't produce life. Hell, they couldn't
produce anything, not stars, planets, or even atoms.
So why did this particular bang produce all those
things in abundance?"

Scully frowned and thought about that. Her first
thought was to remember Colleen Azar saying, "There
is a greater intelligence in all things." But what
Scully said aloud was, "So Doerstling postulated that
the universe we know is the result of an unimaginable
game of trial and error?"

"The exact opposite, actually. Maybe what we think of
as 'the' universe is just one of many. A string of them
all tied together. Each almost, but not exactly,
identical to the ones tied to it."

Lines creased her brow, "Given the sheer number of
possible results from a big bang, how could different
universes be nearly identical?"

"Here we are," Stilgoe announced as he unlocked the door
to Doerstling's office. She looked back at the grad
student, wanting to pursue the line of their
conversation, but that could wait.

The office wasn't all that different from any number of
faculty offices she had seen before. It was small, had
only one window and was cluttered with papers and books.
The police had already dusted the room for prints and
had found few matches. The only two matches they did
find were physics students who had been arrested for
drunk and disorderly conduct during their freshman year.
Hardly a surprising event on a college campus.

Scully walked into the room and wished she had some of
Mulder's eerie intuition, some way to look at her
surroundings and formulate answers out of thin air. She
wasn't that lucky. Instead she plodded along looking
for evidence and clues that could lead her to a rational
answer.

She paused and looked at a pair of greenish tinted
etchings hung over the desk. Scully vaguely recognized
the prints as being by Escher. Both were plays on
perspective and dimension showing stairs that ascended
and descended at the same improbable time. One print
showed stairs and arches turning back on themselves.
Not one world, but many intersecting and interacting.
Each had a different orientation. They were disparate
realms existing in the same plane. After her discussion
with Stilgoe, Scully could see why Doerstling had chosen
these prints. And suddenly she was assailed by the
memory of Albert Hosteen standing in her apartment
saying, "There are more worlds than the one you can
hold in your hand."















***************************************************
Is everything determined? The answer is yes, it is.
But it might as well not be, because we can never
know what is determined.
Stephen Hawking
"Black Holes and Baby Universes"
***************************************************


CHAPTER TWO

Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Washington, D.C.
10:12 am

Dr. Dana Waterston stared at the C.T. scan on her
computer in a state of shock. What was in front of
her was impossible. It made no sense. It was beyond
belief. It had been beyond belief from the moment the
paramedics had rolled a stranger into the E.R., and
he had known her.

Normally, Dana didn't work in the E.R. She had been a
last minute fill-in. It had been pure chance that she
was on-call last night. So how had he known her?

Dana couldn't ask. The man had lapsed into a catatonic
state, his single moment of lucidity spent gazing at
her. As a doctor Dana had looked into the eyes of a
thousand patients and seen pain or need or gratitude,
but when this man looked at her it was different. He
saw her. He saw into her. It was as if he had reached
through all of her defenses and touched something
inside of her that she had forgotten existed.

"Dana?"

She turned and saw her husband Daniel at her office
door.

"You haven't slept," Daniel observed. "You haven't
left the hospital in days. People are talking."

"I don't care what people say."

He clenched his jaw. "You should care."

"Appearances don't matter, Daniel."

He gently touched her cheek. "No, SHE doesn't matter."

Dana stepped back and massaged her neck with her left
hand. "Is that what you said to Barbara about me?"

"No. Never. I left her for you. You know that."

Yes, Dana did know that, and looking back perhaps that
was why she had stayed with Daniel for as long as she
had. Dana wasn't particularly good at facing up to
mistakes, and Daniel had been a mistake.

As a third year med student Dana had been fascinated
as she watched Daniel save a patient. He had held
the power of life and death in his hands and hadn't
appeared overwhelmed by the consequences of his every
word or action. He had acted coolly and with great
precision. Daniel was in control, and Dana had envied
him.

When she had met him again as an intern, Dana had been
surprised by his interest in her. She had also been
reluctant to become involved. It wasn't professional
to have a personal relationship with the chief resident,
and yet on some level the forbidden nature of the
relationship had been its most potent lure. The night
her first patient had died, Daniel had been there to
pick up the pieces and offer temptation, and Dana had
surrendered and crossed the line. When Daniel had
announced that he was leaving his wife, Dana had been
stunned. And when that abandoned wife had committed
suicide, mixed in with Dana's darkly confused emotions
had been the single selfish thought, "Now I'm stuck."

A woman's despair and death could not be over nothing,
certainly not anything as petty as a man's ego or a
younger woman's confusion. It had to be love or fate.
Something--anything--of real importance. Surely for
Dana to make this kind of mistake, to have caused this
much havoc in this many people's lives Daniel had to
be more than forbidden fruit. She had to love
him . . . didn't she?

Looking back Dana could see that when she had decided
on a course of action, or the penance or duty or
whatever she had believed her choice to be, she had
locked away some part of herself. Her idealism and
faith had been casualties of an indiscretion that
had not only altered her life but her self perception.

She became Mrs. Daniel Waterston wearing a beige linen
suit in a courthouse wedding performed by a bored
bureaucrat anxious to beat Friday afternoon traffic.
That summer Daniel had accepted a position in the
cardiology department of Georgetown Memorial Hospital
where ultimately he was appointed chief. They had left
behind the city of his first wife's death and the laser
like glares of his bitterly resentful college age
daughter.

"She doesn't need me," Daniel had once told Dana.
"She doesn't want me."

Dana didn't believe it, but she didn't say that out
loud, just as she didn't explain the way she resented
having to pick up her own career and move simply
because Daniel had accepted a position in Virginia.
The move hadn't damaged her career as much as Dana
had feared or as much as she secretly believed she
deserved. Her path had simply changed, and she had
earned a residency in the neurology department then
specialized in neurobiology.

Earlier this week Dana had discovered Daniel having an
affair with a young, rather brilliant intern. What had
shocked Dana wasn't that Daniel was having an affair.
Somewhere inside she admitted to herself that she had
always expected that. What had shocked her to the
core--had horrified her in fact--was that she didn't
care. It didn't touch her. She wasn't in denial. It
simply didn't matter. If Dana was brutally honest she
had to admit that when she discovered the truth her
primary emotion had been relief.

A nurse knocked politely on the door. "Doctor,
someone is here about the John Doe."

Dana nodded. Daniel caught her arm. "We need to
talk."

"Not now. I have to see to a patient." Leaving
her office Dana walked down the hall to the
waiting room of the M.I.C.U.

The nurse handed her the patient's chart. "They've
identified him as Fox Mulder. He's an agent with
the FBI."

Dana arched a surprised brow then thanked the nurse.
She turned and entered the waiting room. Two men
faced her. The younger man was bald with glasses
and dressed as a bureaucrat but there was something
about the set of his jaw and his muscular build that
defied that simple description. The other man was
older with a lined, weathered face. He didn't
acknowledge her but stared out the window.

She introduced herself to the younger man, "I'm Dr.
Waterston."

He shook her hand. "Skinner." He didn't introduce
the man who stood in the shadows. "How is Agent
Mulder?"

She answered directly, "I'm afraid Mr. Mulder is
gravely ill."

"What's wrong with him? I asked the nurse but she
didn't seem to know."

Dana grimaced. "It's difficult to say exactly what
is wrong with Mr. Mulder. I know of no precedent
for this case."

The older man glanced at her as if she had suddenly
caught his interest. Her gaze met his levelly and
didn't waver. It felt like a contest of wills and
Dana wasn't sure why she felt so determined not lose.
Finally, the older man walked toward her.

"What exactly is the nature of the problem that you
have no precedent for?" he asked.

"I've run C.T. scans and high resolution EEGs to map
the neuroelectrical outputs of his brain," Dana
explained. "There is extreme hyperactivity localized
in a specific area of his temporal lobe. It's a
peculiar area of the brain that we are just now
beginning to map and understand. Neurophysicists
have begun calling it the 'god module.'"

Something flickered in the older man's eyes and for
a moment Dana thought she saw a look of satisfaction
cross his face.

She frowned. "This hyperactivity won't allow his
brain to rest. It disrupts R.E.M. sleep. If he
weren't catatonic he would be on the verge of a
psychotic break."

"Mulder has gone insane?" Skinner looked aghast.

"No. But his brain can't sustain this level of
activity. The more active this area becomes, the
more the other functions of the brain are shutting
down. To put it bluntly, Mr. Mulder is so alive that
it's killing him."

Skinner grimaced. "Can we see him?"

"Visitation is limited to immediate family only."

"Mulder has no family."

Sadness pierced her. "I suppose there's no reason
you can't see him. However, he may not know you're
there."

The older man's eyes never left her face, "Just show
us the way, doctor."

When they entered the room, Skinner looked surprised.
"His eyes are open."

"That's not unusual in some catatonic states," Dana
explained as she crossed the room.

X X X

The world was dark but he was filled with blinding
white pain. A deafening, roaring wave of sound
enveloped him, drowning him. He couldn't even hear
himself scream. . . and he was screaming. He was
calling for help that never came. His only response
was the shouts and whispers of a thousand indistinct,
indistinguishable, and irrelevant voices.

However, beneath the uniform roar and separate from
the melded screams were two distinct voices. They
filtered into his mind and into his consciousness.
In some ways they were a comfort. He was not alone
in this hell, this world of sound and despair. He
was adrift but not completely lost, because there
were still those who could reach him. Even here.
Even now.

The first voice separated from the crowd hissed like
a snake--low, dark, malevolent and in some horrifying
way, omnipresent. The second was softer. Clear and
calm. The eye of the hurricane. He clung to her as
the single safe harbor in a mental storm. Within her
he felt uncertainty but strength. Confusion but clear
direction. And overriding everything was compassion
and concern.

Mulder fell into her like immersing himself in warm
water, letting her wash away the dark night terrors
and hold him in an unending embrace. Here was
sanctuary. Peace.

Somewhere in the distance Mulder thought he heard
Skinner ask, "What can you do for Mulder?"

The other voice--the softer voice--answered,
"I've arranged for a PET scan."

"PET?"

"Positron Emission Tomography. It maps brain cell
function."

"And this will help him?"

"No, but it may help us understand what's happening
to him." Her voice receded as Mulder became aware of
the Smoking Man now standing at his bedside.

"I know you can hear me." The Smoking Man's
thoughts echoed in Mulder's head.

Mulder wanted to turn away from the old man's dark
thoughts. He wanted to lose himself in the gentle
female presence that whispered to him softly. But
there was no way to turn off the voices, and there
was no way to turn away from the malevolence of this
one.

"We are reaching the crucial moment," CSM silently
told him. "We are close to the ultimate destination.
Are you curious to know what it is? Ah, you moved.
You are not as lost to us as the doctor believes."

Doctor? What doctor? Mulder wondered.

CSM came closer. "Should I take this moment to
explain all? Like some villain in a 'B' movie,
should I explain why you are doomed to this fate and
what the ultimate goal truly is? That would be a kind
thing to do would it not? That would be compassion.
If you are to be a martyr to a cause, you should at
least know why."

Mulder was cold now. He had been pulled from his
sanctuary into brutal, frigid isolation. He was
alone. Bereft.

"I am not kind," the voice hissed then went away.

Mercifully the softer presence returned. She was
bothered by the Smoking Man's silence, because
although Mulder had heard the bastard's every word,
not one of them had been said aloud. Now frustration
bubbled inside her because she thought something was
happening that she didn't understand. She hated that.
Intellectual curiosity was a passion for her. Mulder
could feel it push her, prod her, urging her into
action even as another part of herself fought to
keep it within acceptable boundaries.

Mulder didn't know why this woman's thoughts and
feelings were so clear to him. He couldn't explain the
link they shared that made her stand in stark relief
to chaos inside him. But now he knew that he was
wrong to consider her a peaceful sanctuary. As Mulder
touched her mind he saw that beneath her calm fa├žade
was a raging sea of emotion. She simply kept it under
control by sheer force of will.

She started to move. In a few moments she would leave,
and he would alone in the abyss of his own private
hell. "Don't go," Mulder thought with such intensity that
he almost believed he had said it out loud. He saw her
eyes widen and her lips part with a surprised gasp.

"Stay," he silently called through the cacophony of
voices echoing in his head.

She gripped his hand with surprising strength and gave
a small, almost embarrassed laugh. "I can't leave this
room," she murmured to herself. "I've left my husband
of nearly ten years without a backward glance, but I
can't leave this room. Why is that?"

Mulder was shocked. Had she heard him? Could he reach
her the same way that she reached him?

"Rest," she said softly. "I'll stay. For some reason I
need to."

And surrounded by her warmth and compassion he could
rest. His demons withdrew to a bearable distance, and
in that moment he loved her. More than life, more than
breath, more than sanity--he loved her.












**************************************************
"The universe seems. . .to have been determined
and ordered in accordance with number, by the
forethought and the mind of the creator of all
things; for the pattern was fixed, like a
preliminary sketch, by the domination of number
preexistent in the mind of the world-creating God.
Nicomachus of Gerasa
Arithmetic 1, 6 (ca A.D. 100)
***************************************************

CHAPTER THREE

Ithaca, New York
8:13pm

Scully pushed open the door to the pub. The hardwood
floors shook with the low thrum of the music playing
beneath the happy chatter of students. A male student
signaled the bartender for another beer, and a young
woman approached the stage to flirt with the band's
lead guitarist.

Scully frowned and became acutely aware of her isolation.
She was an island of stillness in the midst of motion.
She didn't belong here. This wasn't her world, and
no one here shared hers.

She rubbed her neck and wished she could return to her
motel room. She felt exhausted after spending the day
with the local police searching Cascadilla Gorge. Despite
the fact that she had never had much hope of finding
Doerstling's remains, Scully had agreed to the search
because it was logical to investigate areas where a body
might be dumped. Scully sighed and reminded herself to
be grateful she had spent the day hiking instead of
plumbing the frigid depths of Cayuga Lake.

At sunset she had returned to her car to find a message
blinking on her cell phone. After reviewing it Scully
dumped her blue FBI windbreaker in the back seat and
walked to the pub.

"Hey, Agent Scully!" Mike Stilgoe called from across the
room. "Out here!"

She made her way through the crowd and out to a patio
that overlooked the waterfall cascades of Beebe Lake. It
was an attractive view at twilight.

"I said I'd track Lauren down," he told her as he led
Scully to a table at the far corner of the patio where a
young, thin blonde sat. "Lauren," he introduced, "this
is Agent Scully."

Strands escaped the clip Lauren Rice used to pull her
hair away from her narrow face. There was an unhappy
cast to her features as she stared into a glass of white
wine.

"Ms. Rice," Scully began as she took a seat opposite the
younger woman. "I'm glad you agreed to speak with me."

Lauren shrugged. "No reason not to, but I have to tell
you I don't think I'll be much help."

"Agent Scully," Mike interrupted. "Would you like a
drink? I'm heading to the bar."

"Water would be nice."

"That's all?"

"Yes."

He arched a brow but said good naturedly, "Okay. I'll
be back in a minute."

Scully watched Lauren nervously tug her hair behind
her ear, then fidget silently. Scully asked, "Ms. Rice,
can you give me any idea of Dr. Doerstling's state of
mind before he disappeared? I understand from Mr.
Stilgoe that some promising data had been collected that
day."

Lauren rubbed her finger around the rim of her glass.
"He usually didn't pay attention to test data. He was
more interested in theory than research."

"He didn't care if his work was proven?"

"Most of his stuff can't be proven," Lauren explained.
"There can be circumstantial evidence, but there's no
way to see or test most of his theories. It's beyond
our technology."

"That must be frustrating." Scully knew it was
maddening to be a scientist and have the answers you
sought always beyond your reach. "You said that Dr.
Doerstling usually didn't pay attention to test data,
was that day different?"

Lauren lifted troubled gray eyes. "I think he's dead."

"Why?"

Lauren shrugged. "He was an unhappy man. In the
department you run across people who can't imagine
life outside of physics. That wasn't Doerstling.
The first time I met him, he showed me clippings
about the people who tried to climb Everest. You
know, the ones who got trapped in the blizzard. He
wanted to do that sort of thing. Push the limits.
Live on the edge. He didn't want to be trapped
in a chair."

Scully nodded thoughtfully. "Was he depressed?"

"I'm not a doctor or anything," Lauren told her.
"But I kind of think he was bi-polar. He could be
really up sometimes. He would go for days working
on some equation that no one else could possibly
understand, and he would be so wrapped up in it
that it was like the rest of the world didn't
matter. Then there were the down times. Those
could get bad. Really bad."

"Was he suicidal?"

Lauren bit her lip then nodded. "Yeah. Sometimes
he was suicidal."

"Is there a way that Dr. Doerstling could have
left his office without your knowing?"

"I've thought about that," she answered. "Truth
is, I'm not sure. I guess so. I mean, his chair
was electric and he had ways of controlling it.
There were these sensor things--" She stopped and
waved her hand in the air as if saying that there
was no point in going into detail. "He couldn't
go far though. Not without help."

"Do you think he had help?"

"I can't imagine who."

Scully leaned forward. "Is there anyone who would
want to hurt the doctor?"

Lauren looked shocked. "No!"

"Okay," Scully said softly, then more deliberately,
"Is there anyone who might have helped him--"

Lauren stopped her. "If you're thinking some Kavorkian
euthanasia thing, no way. I mean the doctor might be
depressed from time to time, but he was amazing. He
wasn't just brilliant. He was a genius--a bona fide,
make your head spin genius. No way would anyone help
him cut his career short. He can't be replaced."

Lauren climbed to her feet. "Look, like I said, I
don't think I can help you. I don't know anything.
One minute he was there and the next he was gone. I
can't...I don't...I...I'm sorry." She left Scully
sitting alone at the table.

Scully turned and looked at the water rushing down the
cascades. One minute he was there, and the next he was
gone. It was that simple and that devastating. She
shivered and suddenly felt cold.

"Lauren take off?" Stilgoe asked as he handed Scully
her water.

"She told me what she could."

Stilgoe turned in the direction of the door as if it
was still possible to watch Lauren Rice's exit. "She's
taking this hard. She puts on this act like she's
okay--like she's got everything under control--but
it's just an act."

Scully's gaze fell to the floor away. He could just
as easily be describing her. Then again, she and
Lauren Rice lived in a similar limbo. They weren't
allowed the luxury of grief.

Scully flinched. It felt alien to think of grief as a
luxury, especially when she remembered the pain of
losing her father and her sister. Grief was a soul deep
ache, but in some ways it was easier than unexplained
loss.

Death had finality. Scully didn't wonder if her
father or Melissa was in pain. She didn't wake up
in the dead of night afraid that they needed her. They
were gone, and she could grieve. She could allow
memories to comfort her. But memories were things of
the past. Uncertainty was always in the present, and
Scully didn't know what had happened to Mulder. She
didn't know what might be happening to him now.

Melissa and her father didn't need her, but what if
Mulder did? What if every moment she wasn't searching
for him, she was failing him? It was that thought that
drove Scully through sleepless nights. It wouldn't
allow her rest. Every tick of the clock might be
the moment that changed the course of her life
because it might decide whether Mulder lived at all.

Scully rested her hand on the patio's handrail and
watched water crash against the rocks below. Inside
the bar the band sang, "Out of sorrow entire worlds
have been built. Out of longing great wonders have
been willed."

If only longing could produce miracles. If it could,
she wouldn't be sitting here alone.

Vaguely, Scully noticed Mike Stilgoe watching her and
had to admit to herself that technically she wasn't
alone. It only felt that way.

Aware that the silence had grown awkward, Scully said
briskly, "Yesterday you mentioned Doerstling's research.
I did a little reading on his theory of multiple
universes."

"Oh yeah." Stilgoe nodded. "Doerstling may not have
been the first to come up with the idea, but his take on
it was certainly unique."

"You mean his theory that if the circumstances for one
'big bang' occurred then it's likely to have happened
more than once?"

"Yeah. Really, why couldn't it? Why couldn't it happen
a lot?"

Scully mused, "Didn't Andre Linde write a paper on
multiple inflationary expansions?"

"That was sort of Doerstling's jumping off point,"
Stilgoe explained. "If Linde was right, there could
be a whole maze of universes tied together."

"That still doesn't explain why Doerstling would
believe those universes would be nearly identical."

"I can't explain it very well. I don't know that anyone
but Doerstling really could, but it has something to do
with the fact that universes may be tied together...
related. The 'big bang' came from the inflationary
expansion of a singularity. That singularity could be
anything from a black hole to a quark. What if the quark
that sparked a bang came from our universe? The next
universe would share the properties of this one. Or to
be even weirder, what if we're the second universe?
What if we're the millionth universe? What if there are
billions of them linked together like chain mail?"

Stilgoe crossed his arms and leaned forward against the
table. "He had this theory that if one universe sprang
from another for generation after generation, then maybe
it's not just humans who evolve but the entire cosmos.
That would mean that somewhere out there could be a
universe or even many universes so tied to ours that
they're almost identical."

X X X

Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Washington, D.C.
10:18 pm

Dr. Dana Waterston stood at the nurses' station of the
M.I.C.U. looking at a stack of phone messages left by
her husband. She really had no desire to answer them.
Then out of the corner of her eye she saw movement.
"Hey," she called. "What are you doing?"

The man hit the pad on the wall that opened the
automated egress doors.

"Stop," Dana ordered as she hurried down the hall. "Who
are you? What were you doing in that room?"

The man never looked back but walked steadily away from
her. She had the urge to run after him but he had
already reached the emergency stair. Dana glanced toward
the nurses' station. "Call security," she demanded. But
when she reached the stairwell, Dana knew that it was
too late. The man had disappeared. "Damn," she muttered
under her breath.

She asked the nurse, "Who let that man in here? The
I.C.U. has restricted access."

"No one," the nurse answered. "Honest."

Dana frowned. It was entirely likely the nurse was
belatedly covering up a mistake, but it was also
possible the mystery man had entered the I.C.U.
through the back emergency stair. The stair was a
security nightmare, but it couldn't be removed. Dana
knew that because the facility's administrator had
once introduced her to the hospital's architect. The
architect had explained that several years ago a hospital
expansion had taken out a stairwell at the other end of
the corridor. Because that stairwell had been removed,
fire codes demanded that this one stay even though it
violated the spirit of the I.C.U.'s restricted access
policy.

When Dana entered Fox Mulder's room, she glanced at the
EEG monitor and gasped. She reached for Mulder's
hand and took his pulse as she studied the EEG. It
had changed. The hyperactivity remained, but somehow
he had entered R.E.M. sleep. He dreamed.

X X X

Mulder had seen the boy before. He had dreamed
this dream before. . .at least Mulder thought it
was a dream. It had to be a dream. This couldn't be
real. . .could it?

The boy played in the sand on the beach. Once the
child had approached Mulder and said, "The child is
the father of the man." Mulder had thought the
statement to be about as profound as your average
fortune cookie, but if that was true, why did it
continue to haunt him? He kept thinking that if
he understood it, he would understand all things.

Of course it wasn't that easy. Nothing was ever
that easy. How could he discover some deeply
hidden message in a child's words when he couldn't
discover whether this place, this beach, was even
real? This was probably nothing more than a drug
induced dream.

The child was angry with him. The boy looked at
Mulder with an expression of disappointment and
disgust. "You were supposed to help me," he said
petulantly, then threw a handful of sand at Mulder
and ran away.

That was when Mulder sensed her. She wasn't far
away--ten maybe twenty yards down the beach--and yet
she felt impossibly distant. She felt beyond his
reach. But she was there, and he knew her. He
could almost call her by name. . .except he couldn't.
It was the sensation of knowing something, but feeling
it slip beyond your grasp. Her name was on the tip of
his tongue and yet for the life of him, he could not
produce it.

She didn't look at him. She simply stared at the
out at the horizon. She was searching. He knew it.
He could sense it. She was searching for something or
someone out there. He called to her but somehow his
words were drowned by the sound of the surf. He started
forward. He had to reach her. He had to go to her side.
He had to take her hand so that they could turn to
search the horizon together. He had to.













****************************************************
"We shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed."
I Corinthians 15:51
****************************************************

CHAPTER FOUR

Grayhaven Inn
Ithaca, New York
11:15pm

Scully was exhausted when she entered her motel room.
Her back hurt. Her feet hurt. And, if asked to state
her general condition, Scully would have to say
miserable. To top everything off, she didn't have a
clue how Doerstling had disappeared.

Scully thought about simply collapsing in bed and going
to sleep but, as tired as she was, she couldn't
contemplate sleep without first finding her toothbrush.

The phone rang.

"Scully," she answered out of habit.

"Agent Scully, this is Mike Stilgoe. I...uh...I'm
sorry to be calling you this late, but after you left
the pub I came back to Clark Hall."

"Has something happened?"

"No. Nothing's happened. Actually, this place is
pretty dead, but I was reviewing last Tuesday's CLEO
data and ran across something I thought you might like
to know." She could hear him shuffling papers in the
background. "There was an unscheduled test the night
of Doerstling's disappearance."

"What time?"

"Oh, um..." Again Scully heard him shuffling papers.
"Looks like sometime just before nine."

"Do you know who ran the test?"

"No. There's no official record. I only noticed that
there were results that didn't fit with the rest of
the data. It wasn't on my earlier readout so I did
some cross checking. This was something different."

"Any idea what?"

"No. But I can check first thing in the morning if you
want."

She glanced at the red digital readout on the clock.
"Would eight be too early?"

"Usually," he admitted. "But with Blackwood scheduling a
test first thing tomorrow that shouldn't be a problem."

Scully thanked him for calling then reached for the
remote control to turn on the TV. As she stood Scully
noticed the flickering images on screen. Some cable
channel was replaying the movie "Gattaca." Not a bad
movie, she thought as she fished her toothbrush out of
her suitcase. Glancing up Scully saw Ethan Hawke
challenge his on-screen brother to a swimming
endurance contest. Men, she thought as she rolled
her eyes. How did a suicidal race prove manhood?

In the bathroom Scully washed away any traces of
make-up left after a day of trampling through the
woods. When she entered the bedroom patting her
face dry, she noticed that the movie had reached
its climax. Ethan Hawke's character had finally
achieved his life's ambition of boarding a rocket
bound for the moon Titan.

Scully's brow creased as she considered the story.
She remembered once telling Mulder that she believed
in fate. Actually what she had said was that a
person's character determined their fate. However,
in Gattaca a person was not judged by their character
but by their genetic potential.

Hawke played the hero, a man who exceeded expectations
and proved that a man's soul was more than the sum of
his parts. On the other hand Jude Law played a man of
unlimited potential. Nothing was deemed beyond his
grasp. Law could do or become anything. However, without
boundaries he was doomed to failure. No one could be
everything, and faced with that knowledge, Law's
character had self-destructed. When an accident
robbed him of the use of his legs he saw no purpose
in living, and as Hawke triumphantly blasted into
space, Law climbed into an incinerator and committed
suicide.

Scully gasped.

She dropped her towel and blinked. She thought about
her line of reasoning, about the parallels between Law's
character and Dr. Doerstling. It seemed like such a
Mulder-like quantum leap of logic, but somehow the
theory forming in her head just felt. . .right.

Grabbing her wind breaker, Scully headed to the door
then down the steps to her rental car. She had to
look at CLEO. Stilgoe had said there was a test
scheduled for first thing in the morning, and another
test could destroy any evidence that might be inside
the CESR. She had to look at it tonight.

Traffic was light as Scully drove to the Alumni Field
which was now deserted and pitch dark. There were
lights in the distance but not enough to penetrate
the inky blackness here. After finding her flashlight,
Scully stepped out of the car then flipped the switch
so that a single beam of white light cut the darkness.

The flashlight showed her the path to the door of the
Electron Storage Ring. Too late Scully realized that
she should have called Stilgoe so that he could let
her into the facility. It was probably locked. But
when she tried the door Scully was surprised to find
that it was open.

Feeling clumsily along the wall she searched for the
light switch but one wasn't there. Finally pointing
her flashlight's narrow beam into the darkness, Scully
cautiously made her way down the stairs. When she
reached the bottom Scully thought about going to the
control room, but having seen it the other day she
decided there was little evidence to be found there.
Instead she turned to enter the curving, bunkerlike
corridor of the CESR itself.

The ceiling was low and curved like the walls of a
tunnel. There were surface mounted lights running
along a track overhead but she had no idea where the
switch for those lights might be. Next to the lights
ran a bundled black cable, and along the wall was a
bulky contraption made of metal. This structure didn't
reflect the elegant aesthetics of sci-fi movies but the
clumsy, inexact mechanics of experimental research.

As her flashlight moved along the wall highlighting
a red painted horizontal track with heavy blue supports,
Scully noticed that fire extinguishers were located
every few yards. To her right stood another awkward
structure, but she couldn't make out what it was and
had no idea what it did.

Then she heard something.

Scully stopped and strained to listen for any movement
or sound, but the silence was oppressive. Flashing a
beam of light behind her she searched the darkness, but
the curvature of the tunnel made it impossible to see
more than a few yards. Scully switched off her
flashlight and waited...but no sound. Nothing. Seconds
ticked by before Scully decided she must have imagined
it and turned on her flashlight.

She walked down the hallway. The sound of her
footsteps echoed around her. To her right Scully
noticed a stencil on the wall announcing,
"Synchronotron" then further down the line she found
the words, "West Transfer." Apart from the stencils,
her surroundings remained unchanged. The red painted
structure still stood to her left as a bulky mechanical
device ran down the wall on her right. She stopped
when she found a large, stainless steel structure
labeled "CHESS West."

Again Scully heard something. Movement. Her light
arced in the darkness as she turned only to find
nothing changed. She heard it again. Her wobbly
light darted from side to side. Now the sound was
constant . . . and it was close. It was a small,
desperate, scratching sound.

Without warning the overhead lights blinded Scully
as they flooded the tunnel. She squinted against
the glare but just as suddenly as they had come on,
they were gone. Then a strobe light flashed causing
an eerie, disconnected effect that made her flashlight
useless. A deafening horn blasted and echoed down the
concrete tunnel. Scully could no longer hear the
scratching, but she didn't think it had stopped.

She pushed beyond the CHESS West and came to CLEO.
When Scully placed her hand on it she could feel
vibration. The scratching came from inside CLEO.

Laying her flashlight on the floor Scully felt for the
latch. There was no longer a scratching sound. Now she
heard moaning. Someone was trapped inside.

Sirens blared. Once. Twice. Three times. Then a low
hum began to rise as if some huge electrical device was
charging. Scully felt the hairs on her arm stand on end.
That couldn't be a good sign. She found CLEO's latch
next to an orange fluorescent "Danger" sign. Ignoring
the warning, she turned the lever.

Somewhere there was a loud click and the electrical hum
changed to an ear splitting whine.

She pulled the lever. The iron door was heavy. It
almost didn't move. Using all of her weight Scully
pulled harder. Slowly the hatch opened and she
reached blindly into the darkness. She felt flesh.

Pulling back Scully retrieved her flashlight and shone
it into the drift chamber just as the sirens stopped.
The strobe light stopped. It was still and dark and
quiet.

Scully's breathing quickened. Instinctual fear raced
down her spine but she ignored it to look inside the
chamber.

Terrified brown eyes stared back at her.

"Dr. Doerstling!"

"Pull me out," he demanded. "Now!"

A loud, ominous sound echoed down the corridor and the
high pitched whine returned. Only now it became
steadily louder until it reached an excruciating pitch.
Sound vibrated through her.

"We're going to die," Doerstling announced.

"We aren't going to die," Scully countered as she
strained to pull him from the chamber.

"The hell we aren't. Can't you hear it?"

"I can hear it."

"We're going to die!"

"No." Using her body as leverage Scully pulled harder.
She was determined dislodge him.

Then she saw it. At first it was a vague, bluish-purple
light, but it grew steadily brighter as it moved
ceaselessly forward. It became a menacing glare that
blinded her.

Scully flinched and closed her eyes, but the white hot
light pierced her eyelids and seared her brain. Sound
and light exploded around her as her skin sizzled in
effervescent agony.

He's right, Scully thought numbly. We're going to die.

Light rushed through her.

It was mind blowing. Mind altering. Unimaginable.

Pain and power rolled together in a devastating,
omnipresent wave that crushed her. . .and became her.

Scully clutched her abdomen and a single thought
pierced her confusion. "My baby."

Then energy exploded out of her, taking her breath and
strength with it. Scully fell to the floor. It was
everywhere. It was everything...and she was nothing.

Darkness fell.

X X X

Something happened. Something shifted. Mulder felt it.
He couldn't explain it, but he knew it.

The woman on the beach turned and saw him, and he was
captured by a pair of shadowed blue eyes.

"Mulder." It was just his name, but somehow she infused
it with meaning.

She knew him. She had called to him, and suddenly Mulder
found an answer. "Scully." He knew her name as well
as he knew his own.

Scully blinked. "What is this place?"

"I was hoping that you would know."

"A dream?"

Mulder shook his head. "No. If I was dreaming there
would be more hot babes in bikinis--not that you aren't
a hot babe, but you aren't exactly wearing a thong...are
you? Scully, does the G-woman own a G-string?"

Scully arched a brow and gave him a supremely feminine
stare that said she had heard every word he had said,
but was doing him a favor by ignoring it.

"So much for that theory," he drawled.

A thought or emotion darkened her eyes, and Scully
turned away from him to stand at the water's edge.
The silence bothered Mulder, and he approached her.
He touched her shoulder.

"Mulder, this has to be MY dream," Scully said softly.

But that couldn't be true. He had been here before
her. Mulder asked, "Why do you believe it's your dream?
Is it impossible that this is real?"

"Yes. It's impossible for many reasons, none of
them good." Unshed tears filled her eyes.

Mulder drew her to him, enveloping her in his
embrace. Scully felt so small that he was surprised
by the strength of her arms as they wrapped around him.

"It's okay, Scully." Mulder had no idea where those
words came from and was not at all sure he believed
them, but still he reassured, "Everything will be
okay."

A single tear dampened her lashes, but Scully gave a
small, enigmatic smile. It transformed her face,
and Mulder couldn't breathe. He touched her. He
had to. It was a compulsion he couldn't resist
as his fingertips gently grazed her temple then
followed the curve of her cheek. Scully's lips
trembled as his thumb traced the curve of her mouth.

She framed his face between her hands and rose to
kiss him even as Mulder lowered his mouth toward hers.
Five inches separated them, then three, then only
two. She was a breath away. . .and then she
was gone. As quickly as Scully had appeared, she
was gone.

"Scully!" he called but his voice was drowned by the
sound of the ocean.

X X X

Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Washington, D.C.
6:50am

Scully gasped, dragging air into her oxygen deprived
lungs. She reeled with confusion and blinked at the
brightness of the room.

"Doctor, are you alright?"

Scully turned and looked at the nurse then glanced over
her shoulder to find the doctor the nurse spoke to.

Then she saw... "Mulder?"

In disbelief Scully approached him. Shock and confusion
ricocheted through her. How was this possible? What
was going on? But every question was second to the fact
that Mulder was here. He was alive.

Scully laid her hand across his brow. A hidden ache
eased inside her as she felt the moist heat of his
skin, the scrape of his stubble against her palm,
and witnessed the even rise and fall of his breathing.

An astonished smile curved her mouth.

"You're back," Scully said in a low, choked voice and
combed her fingers through his crisp hair. "You
came back."

"Dana?"

Scully looked to the doorway in disbelief. "Daniel?
What are you doing here?"

Daniel crossed his arms and looked impatient. "Since
you haven't answered any of about two dozen messages
and haven't left the M.I.C.U. in two days, I decided
it was time for the mountain to come to Muhammad."

Messages? M.I.C.U.? What sort of bizarre dream or
delusion was this? The last thing Scully remembered
was being caught in an electron accelerator with Dr.
Steven Doerstling. Scully frowned. No, that wasn't
true. She remembered something else. She remembered
standing on a beach with Mulder. He had called her
name and touched her. For one timeless moment they
had stood together, and Mulder had reassured her
that everything would be okay.

Now Scully looked at Mulder's pale, tortured features
and wondered what was real and what wasn't. Which
memory was true and which was only a dream born of
too many sleepless nights and too much desperation?

"I don't understand," Scully murmured.

Daniel's face set in angry lines. "What's there to
understand? I'm your husband and I want to talk to
you."

Her jaw fell. "Husband?"

"Don't tell me you've already filed for divorce. You
haven't left the hospital since you walked out."

"Walked out? What are you talking about? I walked out
ten years ago."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"It doesn't mean--"

Daniel interrupted. "Dana, please, give me a chance."
His voice became soft and cajoling. "Have you filed
for a divorce?"

"No!" Scully looked around her in confusion.
"No...I...why would I file for a divorce?"

"Dr. Waterston," the nurse said.

Scully waited for Daniel to answer her.

The nurse tugged at Scully's sleeve and repeated, "Dr.
Waterston."

With a sudden sense of understanding Scully looked down
at her hands and saw a gold wedding ring: SHE was the
Dr. Waterston that the nurse addressed.

The nurse finished, "There's someone wanting to speak
with you about Mr. Mulder."

Scully heard the nurse but couldn't move. Her mind
was spinning. What the hell was going on?