I am listing these three stories in 'The Never-Ending Battle' first, as they are the seminal pieces needed to understand the cycle. Stories after these three will be listed in chronological order. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy this AU look at our favorite medics.
Through Early Morning Fog I See
by Rob Morris
Agent Mulder walked into the Augusta, Maine seafood restaurant. It was a wide-rowed diner-style place, which meant that anyone looking to silence him had a good chance of getting to him, but an equally good chance of being detected. By the standards of his chaotic life, that, then, was safety. In any event, it was a slow time of day, and Mulder could pick the seat he wanted-a corner booth backed by a brick wall. If one of the many interested parties wanted him here, they'd have to make it obvious-which meant, of course, they wouldn't do it there at all. He had left his name with the greeter; now all there was to do was wait. He wished Scully were there, instead of following up her part of the Immunita investigation in Seoul, South Korea. As he saw a man pushing 70 enter the restaurant, and then look over at him, he knew his wait was over. He sat down at Mulder's booth.
"Mulder, right. The FBI guy?"
"That's me. Are you the individual that called me, requesting a meeting?"
The man analyzed the obvious statement.
"Well, I'm either that, or Daffy Duck. You decide, Agent. Max said you were a straight shooter, but he didn't say you had no sense of humor."
Mulder sighed. Old Max, as he was called, had been head of maintenance when Mulder was at the FBI Academy. It was only out of affection for him that Mulder came to this place.
"Sir, I don't have a lot of time. People are dying so that someone can find out how to cure other people. You've alleged that the US Army bombed a South Korean Village in 1951, and that long-term medical problems resulted for both villagers and GI's stationed nearby. You also state that you suspect early bio-weapons testing is the reason, and that your 1st commanding officer was killed to keep him silent. Is that correct, Doctor?"
The man sighed.
"I just want to know that we weren't hurting people we were trying to help-that we weren't part of this whole, sick thing. You understand?"
Mulder smiled, just a little.
"Better than you know, sir. But I might like to have your name. Not for listing, but so I don't feel so blind in this circumstance."
"Well, having been blind, myself, once, I can tell you it's no fun. My name is Ben, Agent Mulder. Ben Pierce. But back then, I went by the nickname Hawkeye."
"So, if they had you cornered, how did Stars & Stripes get to publish the Army's role in the bombing?" Mulder was relaxed, now. As relaxed as he ever got. Talking with Hawkeye Pierce helped him, and not just with this piece of the great puzzle he had put his life and his sanity on the line for. The talks gave him perspective. Maybe, he thought, if Yesterday wasn't so innocent, maybe today wasn't so riddled with sin, after all. Though he would never go so far as to actually say that. Hawkeye finally responded, in a voice that still sounded remarkably like the cocky young man in the old documentaries Mulder now recalled seeing.
"Well, Agent Mulder-Fox, I know,-at that particular moment, Frank Burns and Hot Lips walk in, carrying proof of the whole spiel to replace our missing proof, thinking they're going to be heroes. The General is quite ticked---"
Pierce was now almost laughing at his own narrative.
"---And Trapper and I end up smooching them both."
Mulder was chuckling mildly, too, but was checking the hastily-prepared 4077th dossier he had brought with him.
"Hot Lips-Hot Lips-ah, Colonel Houlihan's unwanted nickname during that period. You eventually dropped that, didn't you?"
Pierce now looked wistful.
"It was another dumb joke in an endless series of dumb jokes, when it came to Margaret and me. She still got the last laugh, though. Not a day goes by, I don't see her face."
Mulder wanted to stay on target, but needed to be gentle, here.
"You loved her very much, didn't you, Doctor?"
Hawkeye cocked an eyebrow.
"Well, it's kind of an unavoidable hazard there, Fox. She was my wife for 20 years. All the time we spent dancing round one another-all the time she spent working her way up to Lt. Colonel. Me, with my big mouth on war, re-upping to be with her in Vietnam. Then-..."
Mulder completed his thought for him.
"The Ultimate Insult."
Hawkeye's head shifted furtively.
"Yes, you could call it that. And-you should. Insult. Injury. Criminal also comes to mind."
Mulder was sympathetic, but only to a degree.
"Hawkeye, it's always been a man's army. What they did to her was low, but unsurprising, given the times."
Hawkeye now had a direct frown, but it wasn't directed at Fox Mulder.
"One thing those times weren't, pal, was given."
He breathed in, the injustice of it all requiring an effort from his aging but fit frame just to talk about it.
"I mean, we get there, its 66', before Tet, before My Lai, when all that seemed like nothing more than Korea on the Mekong. The doctors are all kids, they lack the ability to know when to drink and when NOT to drink, and casualties are dizzying. The place was a meat grinder. It was as though any pretense of caring about the soldiers was gone-kaput, fini, dadadadae-That's All Folks. Gaining a new appreciation for Henry and Sherman, God rest their souls, I start running the place. I figure, soon the new head guy will arrive, right? Six months later, we're still waiting. They don't have anyone technically in charge, they don't even call it a MASH, just some doublespeak euphemism. Too many damned words for other words. Always has been. Makes me wish the thesaurus had died with the other dinosaurs."
Mulder was enjoying this, despite the time he was wasting. Still, he would have to nudge Hawkeye back on track soon. Perhaps Pierce sensed this, and drew his tale towards a close.
"Sorry. 40 years on, and still the angry Mohican. Finally, someone arrives. Margaret, whose nurses would never dare get out of line, is, of course, appointed head nurse, and finally promoted to full colonel. I mean, right? She's only qualified from head to scrumptious toe. But that happens second. First, the new guy takes over." Hawkeye turned his towards himself, as though showing something off. "Meet the new guy. Colonel Benjamin Franklin Pierce. Promoted two seconds-on paper-before Margaret. Make no mistake, Fox. She may have married a Pierce, but she was all Houlihan. That means military. That means she worked off the cutest butt there ever was for over 20 years to be one of the few women at that time to be a full colonel. Me-I should have been a Captain again, maybe a Major. Who knows maybe LC, on the outside. But because of macho stupidity, a real Patriot is outdone by her goofball hubby, a guy Tail-Gunner Joe and the boys at HUAC would have loved to have barbecued slowly over a razored pit. I outranked Margaret. "
Mulder knew he had to find something of use, soon, or gently ditch this fascinating older gentleman. But now was not that time.
"How-did she take it?"
Hawkeye started to calm down.
"She?-Oh, well, fine. Of course, it was another six weeks before she spoke to me again, on anything but business. She just walked into my tent, sobbed, *It's Not Fair.* and collapsed in my arms, sobbing like a baby. We made love that night-I shouldn't talk about that, I know, but, she felt angry with me and angry with herself for being angry with me and it made things-memorable. When we came out the next day, everyone applauded."
"Memorable and quite vocal, it would seem. Listen, Hawkeye, its been great, but…"
Pierce stopped him, bid him sit down.
"No, no. I got way off track, and you need to justify coming all this way. Tally-ho, Fox."
MASH 4077th-KTO-January 27, 1952 - A Thousand Years Ago
"Damn. Damn. DAAAAMMN."
Hawkeye Pierce was livid with rage. Not his sarcastic, put-on, need-to-get-a-job-done rage, but the real red thing. The man who had built the 4077th was gone. Dead. Killed, not in action, but on his way home. Senseless death took on a whole new dictionary.
"McIntyre, get him calmed down. Now. That's an order, Mister. Please, Trapper? I think he might hit me."
Trapper looked over disgustedly at his new commanding officer. God had a twisted sense of humor, on occasion, thought Trapper John McIntyre.
"Have a heart, Burns. We're all emotionally tapped out. A good man is gone for no reason anybody can figure, and Hawk's just takin' it worse than some. And you two stay away from Radar for a while. The kid's inconsolable. It was calming him down made Hawkeye this way."
Frank Burns straightened himself out, his composure coming and going as often as his marriage vows. He wasn't a bad man, just a very nervous one. Oft times, that nervousness came out as haughty arrogant indifference. This was one of those times.
"First off, Commander, that's Captain Burns to you."
Margaret, by his side as always, elbowed him in it.
"Ow, pussycat. Why'd you..."
She whispered to him.
"Ohhhh...Um.. First off, like before, but I'm the Commander, you're the Captain."
Trapper was still not impressed.
"Are you sure, Margaret?"
Frank opened his mouth, but it was Hot Lips who spoke.
"We're sure, Captain. We all miss Henry Blake the man, I know I kissed him, when I learned he was gone."
Margaret realized her mistake, remembering Henry's last-minute smacker, but trudged on. Frank gave her a quizzical look, but then, he was always doing that. Flustered, she continued.
"My point is, the man was good, but the Commander was deplorable. I think, in this time of tragedy, we need to fully support our commanding officer, right, Major?"
"Oh, absolutely, Major. I support you…your notion, 145%."
By this time, Hawkeye had stopped yelling. They all noticed a cleared compound. In it were themselves, and the odd young man who'd given Radar the tragic news.
He looked like a coiled spring, or cobra, if the light was correct. He just stood there, watching, as he had for hours. Pierce shrugged.
"What're you still doing here? Surely the pale horse pony express has other rounds to make?"
The young man never answered a question directly.
"Pity about Colonel Blake, isn't it? They just bombed his plane right out of the sky."
The coldness in his voice made everyone want to walk away. Who could discuss death so matter-of-factly? Trapper pointed.
"Why don't you run along for Grim Reaper training, kid? You bother us."
Even Margaret and Frank wanted him out. There was a feeling of hope snuffed out that permeated the otherwise innocuous young man, and Trapper's urging to leave was shared by all. But still he didn't respond directly to them.
"Planes get bombed, people get drunk and call it bombed, people get sick, say they feel like they've been bombed, sometimes-"
A cold as ice chuckle followed.
"Even whole villages get bombed. Maybe, just maybe, if people didn't talk so much about it, they could get on with their lives, go home and call it a night."
Hawkeye moved forward.
"Are you talking about that village our guys accidentally bombed? Because there are people still getting sick there, and what I want..."
The young iceman quickly cut Hawkeye off.
"What you want is irrelevant, Captain. By the way-you're talking about it. No points. Sorry. Majors?"
Frank spoke for them, for once.
"If our top brass want this thing hush-hushed, then I see no reason not to give them all our sweat, blood, and fears."
Margaret did not agree.
"Surely, if people are getting ill, the Army wants to..."
Just as briskly, Houlihan was shushed by a man who could have been Radar's evil non-identical twin.
"What the Army wants, is irrelevant, Major-and guess what-you're talking about it. Sorry-no points."
"You Twerp, this isn't a quiz show."
The man cupped her face in his hand, and caressed her cheek. Margaret was revolted.
"No, no, it's not a quiz show, Major. But there are prizes. Don't you agree, Captain McIntyre?"
Trapper shifted uncomfortably.
"I got nothin to say to you".
The young man nodded at Trapper, then at Frank. He then looked at Hawkeye and Margaret, shaking his index figure back and forth in a shaming motion.
As he got back in his jeep to leave, Hawkeye grabbed the man--kid-really.
"Boy, you're just a junior Colonel Flagg, aren't you, tough-guy?"
Calmly as ever, the code-talking officer pushed Hawkeye off him. With Pierce on the ground, in pain, he leaned over him, grasping him by the hair.
"Don't touch me Pierce. I know exactly where you've been. As for Flagg, consider this: If you were head of the AMA, and you didn't want people to take you doctors seriously, you'd appoint someone like Burns as your spokesperson, am I right?"
Hawkeye said Yes, and for once Frank abided the disparaging of his surgical abilities without comment.
"Well, why do you think we have Colonel Flagg? If everyone thinks that Government Intelligence is an oxymoron, it serves our purposes nicely. A strutting poltroon like Sam Flagg is a godsend. If we hadn't found him, we'dve had to invent him. And that's always too much work. Major Burns, I think Captain Pierce could use two weeks R+R in Tokyo. What do you say...Sir? A little time to forget about Poor Henry Blake? He didn't get the points, either. Always talking, even in the hospital. Ooops, I forgot. No survivors. All dead on impact. I got to keep my facts straight."
Burns acquiesced, and the cold young man left as quickly and as quietly as Colonel Flagg always claimed he could.
In the present, Hawkeye Pierce concluded his narrative to Fox Mulder.
"So this guy goes. I get sent to Tokyo, where I do the geisha circuit. I really do forget, while I'm there. But not totally. I owed Henry that much."
Mulder had heard quite a bit of trivia, but nothing to keep him there. He awaited the chance to excuse himself again.
"When you got back, Doctor McIntyre had left. Gotten sent home."
Pierce nodded, and took a swig of wine. His throat was dry, and he needed to calm his nerves. To this day, he wanted to go back and wring that punk's neck.
"It was odd. Trapper and I had arrived together, wined together, dined together, rampaged together, crusaded together, and nursed together. Other guys-like BJ Hunnicutt-had families, too, but Trap gets sent home, right before I come back. Like - he was trying to avoid me. When Frank leaves, he's promoted. Army thinking aside, it just didn't make sense. I'm not just olive-drab with envy here. That man barely deserved a medical license, let alone half-a-bird on his collar."
Pierce stopped, caught his breath again, then continued. Mulder slowly sipped from the bottom of his club soda. Now was the time to go.
"But here's the kicker, Fox. Years on, on the day that Margaret and I became Colonels, there's that punk again. Says in a snide voice, *I Guess You both finally got the Points.* "
Mulder was now gulping the last of his soda.
"He hadn't changed, much. He just looked more dangerous than ever. Well, that, and he had apparently taken up chain-smoking. Had a cigarette in his mouth the whole time."
At that, a stunned Mulder spit his remaining drink all over Pierce. As Hawkeye wiped himself off, he quipped.
"Well, Fox, if you don't like the Club Soda, you should've said something. Waitress. Some Grape Nehi...and an umbrella."
Mulder knew he was going to be there a while longer.
THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH KOREA
"Rosie could speak better English, but Rosie not care to. English young, clumsy language. Not like Korean. People always making English up as they go. Korean language have rules, order. That very important. For example, Rosie's granddaughter get her tush pinched by men who come here after stock market. She no mind, Rosie no mind. But one of them put his hand under her schoolgirl skirt - he not use that hand for weeks. If you not say what they grab, they grab all. Pretty soon you like Rosie's mother, child by Japanese soldiers. Village throw us out. Build first bar just to live. GI's not care who Rosie father is. Rosie not care either. "
The 92-year-old founder of a chain of rough-and-tumble bars where Korean businessmen unwound then stopped, caught her breath, and gathered herself.
"For you, Agent Scully, though, I will speak as I am able to. Its just that when you are old and rich, you can speak any way you damn well please. Now, you wanted to know about Immunita? I only know what everyone knows."
Dana Scully was taking copious notes.
"Mrs. Rosie, Immunita is some sort of quasi-governmental project working towards the goal of meta - immunity. Meta-Immunity is a non-word coined for an effort to have the human body fight off diseases itself, without the use of antibiotics that were quickly being outpaced by viral evolution. The goal, like many others, is laudable. The means stink to high heaven. Immunita's beneficiaries have immune systems so pro-active, they seek out, by means of some kind of microscopic spores, the diseases of others."
The results were not pleasant, as Scully related.
"One maternity ward in East St. Louis was wiped out to every mother, child, father, and member of the medical staff. One mother had been treated with the mega-doses of genetically altered Echinacea, goldenseal, and an unguessable RNA/DNA combination in capsule form. Her body had treated her child as an invading parasite. Her husband, who had apparently *invaded* her during her pregnancy, died dehydrating. Her own heart gave up from the strain-but her immune system kept right on till all *parasites* in the surrounding area were destroyed."
Dana tried to figure out a way to say the next part without sounding accusatory.
"You've said that you were witness to the remote genesis of Immunita, back during the hot phase of the Korean War, when you ran your 1st establishment across from the 4077th MASH. Were patients at this MASH subjected to its early efforts?"
Rosie merely shrugged.
"Patients, Doctors, Nurses. Hah-nurses. That why they allow the men to look at them while they shower. These were wild ladies, but they liked their privacy. When problems from sickness show up, you never see it yourself. So they allow the men in camp to cut a small hole, to peep in on them while they in there. Men get what they want, ladies know they're not sick."
Scully was more than a little disturbed by this.
"So they allowed their privacy to be destroyed under the old, *Boys Will Be Boys* Rule? Did the commanding officer tolerate this?"
Rosie shook her head.
"You're not listening, Agent Scully. Heat from shower make marks appear. Marks mean disease starting. Only someone drooling over you would notice them soon enough. Besides, Colonel Blake didn't know, and neither did Colonel Potter. Neither did Hawkeye or the other doctors, or Major Houlihan-she was the head nurse. It was so funny. She would sew up tent-flap, convinced Hawkeye or Trapper did it. Her own nurses rip threads right out, and take a look at enlisted men. It was a trade-off, and not a bad one, either. Everybody sees something they like, and most everybody stays alive. Enlisted men and nurses knew, command didn't. That was the way things went, back then."
Scully still had her doubts.
"Rosie, you've said that you and other local Koreans knew about the experiments, and that the lower ranking people at the 4077th knew as well, to the point of putting together an almost pagan ritual to nip the ill effects in their early stages. Why would you all have that kind of information but not immediate higher-ups?"
Rosie smiled, the smile of a teacher amused by a 1st grader's spelling efforts.
"Because, Dana Scully, none of us mattered. Hawkeye could undo the whole thing, in a heartbeat. Major Houlihan would just punch her way through. Colonel Potter call a few old friends and have it all kiboshed. But what was Rosie gonna do? Or Zale? Or Kellye? Nothing, that's what. There's two types of people who not involved in a secret that you let know-One is someone who won't believe they have eyes, and then go looking for proof that they don't-the other is someone you don't care if they know. For example, Scully know, but they not care about him-and he tell Major Houlihan nothing, when they together-say-Jack Scully related to you?"
"My uncle. For a time, Margaret Houlihan was my aunt, although they were divorced before I was born. She and her new husband Ben Pierce got along with Uncle Jack, despite everything, before his strokes. I saw them occasionally, before and after they served in Vietnam. I doubt they remember me."
Dana suddenly felt anew the grief she had felt as a child when Uncle Jack took inexplicably ill. But in the here and now, something else odd was occurring.
Rosie sat as though she was a deer caught in the headlights, then burst out in uncontrollable laughter.
"Ben Pierce - Major Houlihan married to Hawkeye? BWAAAA - HAHHAAAA. Those two almost kill each other, then they playing house.? HOOOOH OOH AAHAA."
Scully feared the old woman was going to have a heart attack. A concerned friend came out, probably her accountant. This new woman had a lovely mix of Mid-East and Korean in her face. Her most prominent feature, though, was her prominent nose. While aquiline, and graceful, it was definitely there. It made her smile at Rosie seem all the more friendly, somehow.
"Geez, Rosie, you gave me quite a scare."
Rosie related why she was laughing.
"We never told you? Aww, that's the last time I leave anything like that to Dad. Those bowling alleys eat up all his time nowadays. Look, Rosie. Susie, she's asleep now. The pain in her leg was killing her. I'll bring her to the clinic tomorrow. Poor kid. She's got more steel in her than one of Uncle Sherman's war patients."
"Rosie sobered up. "Great - grand daughter, the one you give tape to, is very sick, Agent Scully. Watching those Immortal people make her feel like she will live forever."
As Rosie left, she shot off,
"Su-Na will not live forever. But I want you to promise Rosie, you tell those science-fellas she does matter."
"Of course she does. And they will pay for this atrocity."
Rosie just shook her head, feeling quite defeated.
"People like that, they never pay. When I come back, Rosie tell you about Colonel Blake and the meteors. Very Important."
As Rosie went to check on her great-granddaughter, Scully felt her hand being shook by the accountant.
"Pleased to meetcha. Maxine Ishikawa, Rosie's accountant. My Dad, Max Klinger, knows your partner, Spooky Mulder. Boy, my kids used to love it when Dad brought him over. *Spooky, tell me a story.* That was before me and the hubby relocated here, though, to help out Rosie, of course."
Scully had heard Mulder mention a friend he called Old Max.
"Fox tolerates that nickname, at best. But you all called him that?"
Maxine pulled back, folded her arms and smiled that disarming smile once again.
"You mean to say, he never told you this story? Huh? We women talk too much, but a man won't talk if he's on fire. Ok, here goes. Your partner's a new cadet at the FBI Academy. He's smart as a whip, but is always looking into weird stuff. Traipses around, reams of paper always in hand. Scares the living heck out of the other cadets. Finally, they ask my Dad to talk to him. Max Klinger can talk to any-body. They chat, and my Dad likes what he hears. The others ask *Old Max* what he thinks, and you know what he says?"
Dana liked hearing about a younger, more awkward Mulder, even if he hadn't really changed one bit.
"No, I don't. What did your dad say?"
Motioning in an apparent imitation of her father's body language, Maxine told.
"He says, *Well, ya know, that is one nice, sweet kid. Willing to listen. But boy, talk about Spooky.* And the name stuck".
Scully felt a rush of deja vu. Why did a MASH Unit half-a-world and half-a-century away seem to have so much bearing on the X-Files? More than that, it seemed to tie somehow into Mulder's view of a grander conspiracy. But these elements were all random, beyond the control of the dark forces of misinformation leading her partner around by the nose - weren't they? Whatever the case, Rosie's words earlier about people with eyes who used them to prove that eyes didn't exist stung her. Was she the disabler? Meant to debunk some vital piece of information Mulder needed merely because her beliefs were not his? Suddenly, she felt as if she could see into the shower where the filthy people who had made Fox Mulder who he was tried in vain to cleanse themselves of the residue from rubber alien suits and plaster from movie sets. In that shower, she saw herself, washing away proof that meant she was wrong about the Big Picture.
Dana Scully didn't mind serving as Mulder's counterbalance. But seeing herself as his neutralizer made her not like what she saw through the hole in the shower tent. She wasn't there to buttress his alien-based theories. Scully had as much as told him that. But all the coincidences surrounding the 4077th made her understand Mulder a bit better. It was hard not to see an unseen hand. Perhaps, she thought, for her it was too easy not to see it, just as it was a knee-jerk reaction for Mulder to always see it. She completed this thought as Rosie returned. Now, she wanted to know all about Henry Blake and the meteors, even if that did make her seem Spooky.
While Rosie attended to her sick great-granddaughter, Dana Scully received further background from Maxine Klinger Ishikawa.
"Rosie and her brood are family. Toshi - that's the hubby - well, his great-grandfather was the SOB who got Rosie's Mom pregnant. He was never worth anything, to either family. Especially his Korean family. After he passed in 1980, Toshi's Mom insisted that the two families meet, to heal old wounds. The upshot is that Toshi is sent to the U.S. to attend a business school near my home. He stays with us, since Pop and Rosie know each other from the 4077th. Well, we meet, fall in love, and get married. Of course, since, at the time, I'm preggers out my ears, my Dad nearly kills him. But we get married, have a few more, etc."
Dana checked her notes.
"I take it that it was during the etc. that your family met Fox Mulder."
"My mom-Soon-Lee-she adores Spooky. He boarded with us, in Toshi's old room. He was always willing to help around the house, and was never late with any bill. I sometimes got the feeling that Fox's folks were a trifle distant with him, after what happened to his sister. I know that Mom had a crush on him. Totally innocent, though. Pop thought it was cute, so far as it went. You see, to Mom, any secret-police-type like you FBI people who cared about and respected others were aces. I hear the ROK's guys were rough numbers, back when."
"Has Mulder ever discussed what happened to his sister with your family?"
By this, of course, Scully meant, what Fox Mulder believed happened to Samantha that night long ago.
"Oh, you mean, the Aliens? Sure. I mean, he was there. Wouldn't he know what occurred? Truth be known, at times I felt like a substitute Samantha. More truth be known, I....kinda felt like my Mom did, not so sister-like. But his lady is the Truth, and the little witch isn't sharing. That, and me and my Mom each being married to terrific guys kinda nipped things in the bud. Now, if Toshi and Pop had just been bums...."
"Actually, if Mulder has a lady, it's his quest for what he believes to be the truth. That aside, have your children been ill like Rosie's family?"
"I've never been sick-ever. My kids neither. My big brother Wally-er, Walter Sherman Klinger-he's always been sick, on and off. Nothing big, it's just like he's got no resistance. And they tested for normal immune problems, so that ain't it. Rosie's brood has a 60% stillborn rate. Except for poor Su-Na, all the rest are in perfect shape. Kind of like..."
Dana completed her grim thought.
Rosie then returned, and bid Maxine check on Su-Na while she and Scully talked.
"Now, Agent Scully, I tell you of how Colonel Blake build the 4077th, my bar, a company clerk, and a furnace he only use once. Also, we speak on how he took the meteors from the sky and made a deal with the devil. 4077th always unique place. Father's work camp right where Colonel Blake and company lay foundation. One camp for death, one for life. One camp kill Americans, Chinese, and Koreans, one help everyone regardless. Rosie does not need to tell you which one she liked better. My father spared his cruelty to no one."
Scully stopped Rosie, there.
"If your father ran one of those death-march camps, whose purpose it was to work POW's to death, then why wasn't he prosecuted for war crimes? There's no mention of the 4077th being on such a site, that I've seen."
Once again, Rosie shook her head at what she perceived as Scully's naiveté.
"My father make my mother believe he love her. How hard you think it is for slippery number like him to make deal with occupying American forces, who want insider's knowledge of area? They ship him back to Japan. Toshi's family's problem, not ours anymore. I love my great-nephew, but if father was in Korea too much longer, he would get my mother pregnant again. She would have been dead at 39, rather than fifteen years back. So Toshi's grandmother get hit, instead of my mother. Both good, gracious women. Strong. Deserve much better."
Dana was constantly struck by the way Rosie both shrugged off her early life and yet was haunted by it. At least Rosie's harsh life had no mysteries. Aliens or no, something had happened to Samantha Mulder that would haunt her partner forever-with no real answers. She then remembered her host's mentioning something.
"Rosie, what about the meteors and Colonel Blake? For that matter, what did your father know that spared him war crime charges?"
Rosie gathered herself. These were all things she knew, but the telling was not easy.
"If you think the two are connected, Agent Scully, you are correct. In exchange for information about the Meteor Valley, or Sky-Stone Valley as my grandparents called it, certain people cut my father a good deal that not only kept him out of war trials, but kept social workers from answering his Japanese family's calls of abuse. Always very thorough, my father. Damned thorough."
Dana was getting a bit edgy, now. Any talk of the meteors and what Scully suspected about them was being sidetracked by Rosie's feelings about her father.
"Forgive me, Rosie. But what does Sky-Stone Valley have to do with the 4077th-or Colonel Henry Blake?"
Rosie looked both annoyed and apologetic.
"If Rosie take time to get to point, you can be pretty sure that I have a point to make. Washington, D.C. built on swamp, go on to do great things. Henry Blake built the 4077th MASH in the Valley Of The Sky-Stones. The O.R. built on spot where most of them hit. Father used the meteors to terrorize locals. Told about stones to American men with dead, cold eyes. Those men create Immunita. Colonel Blake deal with them, to save camp. Almost doom camp in process. Probably doomed himself."
Rosie could see from Scully's eyes that not all of this was meshing for her.
"I'll explain by way of a couple of stories, Agent Scully. To take you forward, Rosie will have to take you back a ways."
THE SECOND WORLD WAR, KOREA, AUGUST 1943. EXACTLY SEVEN YEARS BEFORE THE FOUNDING OF THE 4077TH MASH
Girl was not her name. But it may as well have been for all the Japanese soldiers cared. She was in an odd position in life. The soldiers treated her with contempt; but other Koreans were beneath contempt, in their eyes. They were not half-Japanese, as she was. To most Koreans, though, she was less than nothing. A thing built by the invading forces that had toppled their princes.
But she wasn't at the camp that day for any of them. She was there for her father. There were times she wanted his approval so badly she could taste it. Other times, she wanted to rip out his heart. Today, though, she was to meet someone. And to see something important.
"Girl, this is my son. If you were not half-beast, he would be your brother. Understand, he owes you nothing. If he wants, I will give you to him, to be his first. Do you understand?"
Taking care not to meet her father's gaze, the girl nodded yes. At least this boy bathed. None of the other soldiers did. Besides, she could see, from the terror in his eyes, that he really was her brother. It wasn't just a trick.
As her father left them, she prepared for the worst. She hoped it wasn't really his first time-men were always so clumsy, then. What he said, though, surprised her as she began to undress.
"I think it inappropriate that a sister should undress in front of her brother. I am nothing like him; unless you want this, or if he will beat you, then my sister is my sister, nothing else. He will believe whatever I tell him."
The boy, Yoshiro, was sweet and tender to her. In the weeks that followed, they were siblings, and nothing more. Yoshi was delighted to have an older sister. They would kiss goodbye full on the lips, each day, to satisfy their father's twisted desire. He could believe what he wanted about what else might happen. Neither of them cared much for the thug that dishonored their mothers. Even the other soldiers found the extremes of his racial views repugnant. The head of the guards was actually relieved when he discovered the children were simply playing together. But nothing could erase the terror all held the Commander in; Whatever fun the girl and her brother had together would be tempered still by that first day.
"Do you approve of the halfling, my son?"
The boy regarded his sister. She pretended to be upset, as he had told her to.
"Fortunately, Father, she has some quality blood in her. But we will have to see if she meets my standards. Perhaps, by the time I am done here, there will be more meat on her."
Later on, the boy wasted valuable play time apologizing for his remarks. But fate had a sense of humor and justice. Public bluster aside, the Commander did not have the son he wanted. His son would have simply picked the girl up and carried her off. But he said nothing. He had control, and more importantly, the appearance of control. After this, he would have even more.
"Bring forward the prisoners."
At his bidding, a mixed bag of Chinese and American POW's was brought out, and told to crack some rocks, with pick-axes. As they had done this many times before, they simply broke the rocks, with no prompting. Then, the horror came..
A sickly looking greenish gas came out from the rocks. Reactions varied. Some men literally shriveled up and died. Some actually hacked up internal organs. Skin began to flow like water off of others. Some few-very few-simply continued to break the rocks, rather than be summarily shot. Of a field of forty, three were left when it was done. When a second pile of the odd rocks was brought out and broken, two of those survivors were gone. Of the groups that came and went only three Americans and three Chinese survived. There was no rhyme nor reason. They simply did. Further, from then on, they had no dysentery, nor even a cold or rash. The Commander had his terror, and then some.
Before he left, Yoshi met one of his sister's friends. She was actually delighted at a soldier who asked, and did not simply take, so his first time was with her. The tales he told, though, were of his sister. This was at her insistence, so that their father would think his son like him. He didn't give her what he told the other soldiers he did; But he did give her something.
"It's a doll. Oh, Yoshi. Her red hair is so beautiful. Like a rose."
Since he was out of sight of the others, he kissed her on the cheek.
"My sister is beautiful. So is Lo, but I cannot see her again. Tell her she will always have a place in my heart. But hide the doll, or Father will smash it. I know you're a little old for it, at 23, but let nothing happen to our little Rosie."
Back in the present, both Dana and Rosie were close to tears.
"So that's how you became Rosie to any Westerners?"
"Yes. It would remind me of a brother so wonderfully different from his father. He was in Tokyo, in December of 1954, when the Catastrophe struck. Hawkeye saved his life, then. If the 4077th had not held its reunion, there, my brother would have died under that creature's great feet, like so many others in Tokyo."
"Rosie, if your brother had not been so kind, would your father have actually forced you to commit incest?"
Rosie had often considered this question. The answer was grim.
"In a heartbeat. To his mind, my mother was from a different species. Nazi liaison his teacher, way back when. Tell him certain people aren't people. My mother not human, then, his son has no sister. No sister, no incest. No wrong. As I say, my father was slippery type. Only his rules matter. Not anyone else's. Not even God's."
Scully felt disgusted. She had encountered worse things, even worse forms of incest. But this wasn't some sobbing girl she had to comfort long enough to testify. This was Rosie, one of the funny people from the stories she would hear as a little girl, from her Uncle Jack. She knew it was becoming more and more difficult to stay on track. That meant it was more important to do so than ever.
"Then as now, Brother is family. Just like Maxine is family. Just like you and your partner are family, Scully. Not merely to each other. But to the family of 4077th."
Scully nervously changed the subject back, remembering recent reductions in the Scully and Mulder clans.
"Rosie, let's just clear some things up. Those gaseous rocks-meteors?"
"Your true age 79-not 89, like our records say?"
"I lie about age to get business license. Older person shown more respect, once."
Scully was forming ideas about the meteors, but first decided to listen to Rosie's story of the first two months of the MASH 4077th.
July 24, 1950-KTO-Site of Construction-MASH 4077th
"On this, 19 July, 2450, we dedicate this Corner Store....."
Henry Blake stopped, and stared at the sheet he had been given to read. He looked over at one of the assembled soldiers. The one that was sweating grenades.
"Private O'Reilly. Front and Center."
The nervous young man did as he was bid.
"O' Reilly. Did I or did I not tell you to have my dedication speech at the ready when we were ready to make this camp ready.?"
"I-I wasn't ready, sir."
Lieutenant Colonel Blake rubbed his head. Besides O'Reilly's complete incompetence, the army hat he was wearing was itchy and uncomfortable. He wished he was back home, with his trademark fishing cap. But this was the military. Things had to be different. They were piecing back together the men who were holding back the fall of civilization. Order and discipline were needed. In another life, the man now called Henry Braymore Blake served a man named Arthur as his First Knight. In a top-down structure, the efforts of the merest squire counted as much as those of a king. That was something O'Reilly, the worst company clerk on Earth, didn't seem to appreciate.
"You lose all the mail. You make using the phone seem like -I don't know- Hand-to-hand combat. Three of out the seven surgeons we need to run this place are somewhere in Europe, because you filled out 'E' instead of 'As" for continent of destination on the request order."
Walter Eugene O'Reilly, PFC for no good reason Henry Blake could discern, then almost fumbled and dropped a clipboard. He couldn't even get dropping things right.
"According to this schedule, Sir, Doctors Burns, McIntyre, and Pierce will be here in six hours. I try to clean up my mistakes, Colonel."
"One-Private, lose that tone of voice. This place is gonna have to be tight as a drum to survive this police action. Two - The wounded will be here in eight hours, O'Reilly. That's cutting it awful close, wouldn't you say? Three - Of course you learn from your mistakes, soldier. And you are among the most learned I have ever met-not to my pleasure, mind you."
Trying hard not to cry, O'Reilly ran back to resume duties that were certain to make him cry.
"Y'all were a little hard on him, weren't you Colonel? O'Reilly's just like any horse, gotta be broken in a little."
Henry was not in the mood for backtalk from sympwimp draftee doctors like Duke Forrest.
"Captain, when I want your opinion on running this camp, I'll have you arrested for insubordination, and interrogate you for it."
Three goofball surgeons. They were another headache the Commander of the near-frontline experimental unit, Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Number 4077, did not need.
There was Duke Forrest, who whined continually about missing his family. Henry missed his, too, but he didn't let it interfere with his duties. The Australian, as called himself Ugly John, with an almost incomprehensibly thick accent. Damn the UN and its rules, Henry thought. *We shouldn't even be in there*. Finally, possibly the only Negro Surgeon in Korea, Doctor Gerald Jones. Henry considered himself quite the tolerator, but this man insisted on being called "SpearChucker". It was a name he had been (partially) smeared with at Med School, and which he now wore as a kind of angry badge of honor. A childish way, Henry thought, of saying, 'I'll call myself a name before you can'. Jones never bothered telling the uptight CO that it had also been given him for his prowess on the football field.
Of the new three, Burns had experience in the Indiana National Guard. Pierce and McIntyre had graduated near the top of their classes. From these three he expected respect for his authority, discipline, and order. They would keep the other three in line, surely. He had enough trouble keeping the men in line. The women-the nurses-were wilder than fratboys. This was evidenced by the nurse dancing nude on top of his jeep for quarters. He would need a female ramrod to keep them in line. Then, the nurses would try to end-run her to him-but to no avail-he would back her up one hundred percent of the time.
When this woman, Major Margaret Houlihan, first showed up along with the new chaplain, she seemed as befuddled as O'Reilly, though. Assured she would have Colonel Blake's full backing, the dancing nurse was clothed, and the mixed showers closed. He wondered if she had Blake's inherent discipline, to keep on top of those women-so to speak.
The chaplain was a round-collar, an Irishman named Francis Mulcahy. He had a less than auspicious beginning, as the Nude Dancing Nurse, ordered by Houlihan to get off the jeep, jumped off and fell into the lap of the Catholic Priest who was still sitting in the Jeep. Trying to stop herself from falling further, she had wrapped her fumbling arms around his neck, then excused herself to get dressed. 30 minutes later, when he emerged from his state of shock, Father Mulcahy's first words at the 4077th were notable.
"She is--A Most---Jocular- young lady, isn't she?"
As the first three surgeons, fitted with special protective work gloves, helped the corpsmen clear away the meteorites that the area was lousy with, a Korean woman of indeterminate age asked Henry a question for the seventh time, and she got her seventh answer.
"No, lady. You are not setting up your speakeasy anywhere near this camp. I'm gonna try to keep it dry here for long as possible- maybe forever."
Rosie, thinking the man was crazy, resolved to ask him again when the wounded came. Until then, she would watch and wait.
"These rocks could stand to lay off the bacon n' beans, for a spell. Whoa. Never smelled anything like that. And that was only a small crack."
"A shaman lives in New South Wales asked me to puff somethin' from his pipe, once. It didn't have half the kick that this junk did."
"Some of the folks from the Klan once tried to shove my pretty face into something that still smelled better than what those rocks have going on. And I liked them better than I do this Blake character. I mean, didn't he and Frau Eva shoot each other back in Berlin?"
Henry had other concerns than the complaints of his surgeons. Supplies necessary to the survival of soldiers wounded in General MacArthur's push to the Chinese border had not yet arrived. He thought he knew who to blame there, as well.
"O'Reilly, it's bad enough you seem to want to do my military career in. But, when you screw up supplies that are VITAL to the survival of your fellow servicemen, I have to wonder if you weren't sent by the other side for sabotage."
Private O'Reilly wasn't much on bucking authority, especially when most of his ground was so shaky. But here he felt solid, and acted like it. Blake had crossed the line once too often.
"Now, just you listen up, sir. I may be a boob, but I don't stare at boobs like the other guys. Instead of watchin' that lady's keister, I've been workin' mine off. Forgive my tone, an' my language, but those supply requisitions were done one hundred percent co-rrect. I ain't done much else right, but I done those. I know how important they are. I didn't get any sleep til I checked em' all over FIVE times. We sent em', and ICOR got em'. The only thing we ain't got is the supplies. But for once, Colonel, it ain't me."
If it weren't for Henry's pride, the boy's impassioned defense would have gotten something other than *We'll See* as a response.
As Blake discovered, O'Reilly was correct, and he had done his job. Fact was, for the previous hour, since standing up for himself, Private O'Reilly had nailed down the missing surgeons, who were now arrived and prepping for the deluge. So Blake had those odd rocks moved, he had a company clerk growing in confidence and competence, and he had a full staff. But where, he wondered, were those supplies? He listened as O'Reilly spoke to another clerk.
"Leodegrance? Your folks ACTUALLY saddled ya with somethin' like that?"
He held the phone away.
"And I thought Walter Eugene was bad."
He picked it up again.
"Well, lemme try and help ya out, pal....howzabout, from now on, you're....Sparky. Oh, you, like that, huh? The other name'll be between just you an' me, all right, Sparky....Sparky?"
In the compound, new and *old* surgeons got to know one another. Thinking they could see clearly, they didn't notice the fog gathering. This place would be nothing like any of them expected.
Dana Scully could tell that Rosie was not pausing merely for dramatic effect. The narrative was exhausting her. It was exhausting Scully, merely by listening.
"Rosie, if you need to rest, we can come back to this later."
Rosie smiled. This young woman was acting more like family all the time.
"No, Scully. I have plenty enough time to rest, soon."
If the elements of Rosie's story were not so damned vital to uncovering Immunita's origins, Scully would have asked what she meant by *rest soon.* But they were, and she couldn't.
"Before Rosie get back to story of 4077th beginning, I must ask you something. I ask before, but I ask again - why do you believe Rosie? You seem like doubtful kind of person, but you not challenge anything I have to say."
Dana paused, hoping her answer would be more complete this time.
"An FBI agent is trained to not only hear what a person says, but the way they say it, how they carry themselves. Your tenor with me is very matter-of-fact, no embellishments. Your body language indicates to me that telling this story is both a strain and a release for you. Where you don't know, you don't say. Add to that, while everything you've told me could be explained away....To do so I would have to have no eyes."
"Good. I do not like being humored, or tolerated. You have done neither. You have just listened to me. You will listen, now, as Rosie tells how best laid plans of Henry Blake lead to 72 straight hours of pure hell for his camp. And you know, Scully, who waits at the center of Hell, wanting to make deal."
JUST-COMPLETED SITE OF MASH, 4077TH, KTO, JULY 25TH, 1950, 0130 HOURS
Except for the missing supplies, the camp was at the ready for the delayed throng of wounded that would be arriving within the wee morning hours. While obeying Blake's strict prohibition orders, the surgeons took turns talking and getting to know one another. They didn't know each other. As it would turn out, they didn't know themselves or their limits very well. That would change. They would change.
"Well, since I've never really left Maine, except for my residency, I'll follow your lead, Major Burns. After all, you've worked in Indianapolis and Dayton. Big cities like that."
"I'll help where I can, Captain, but - to be honest - my cutting skills are just not what they should be."
"You'll do fine, Major. You're probably the best surgeon here. Me, I just want to keep myself from straying. Those are some fine looking nurses, and they seem pretty willing, but this is one Trapper who just wants to catch a ride home by Christmas, like General MacArthur promised. I love my wife, and I'm not gonna be like some guys, who use this kinda thing as an excuse to jump on everything in sight."
"Christmas, Macintyre.? The General is gonna have us home for Thanksgiving. By Christmas, HE'LL be feasting on Peking Duck-In Peking, no less."
"I don't know about that, Doctor Jones. Back in Fort Wayne, I knew some John Birch types. That kind of jingoistic talk could cause a Third World War we'd be years recovering from. I say, have him reunify this Peninunsla, then the Republican nod in 52'. Of course, that'd put him up against a man like Truman, but that'd only mean America would have two strong candidates to choose from for once."
"Are you a liberal, Major? Back in CrabApple Cove, I have to say we didn't have much use for them-except as kindling on lobster night."
"It's Oz for me, and some bare beauties on beaches full of brew. I say, even in case of disaster, I'll be seeing said bare beauties in February. I'll unwrap them as me Valentine's Day Gift."
"Well, Mrs. Forrest's little boy isn't feeling so hot, right now. But a visit real soon with Mrs. Forrest's beautiful daughter-in-law will fix that up real quick. Plus, I hear tell she's got some great...kids. God, I miss them. I don't think I'm ever going to see them again."
"My Dad would've called you a worrymonger, Duke. Of course, Daniel Webster Pierce tends to call everyone that, at some point. MY point is, this is the Army. You know, the people that saved the world and stopped the bad guy, five years back? This is all part of a plan. They know what they're doing. They have to. They're the Army."
"What Pierce said is kinda obvious, but I'm glad he said it. The McIntyres came to America to take in the good. It's our patriotic duty to give some back. Those soldiers are gonna want to get patched up and sent back to the fight, ASAP. What they won't want is some sob-sisters holding their hands."
"Yeah, Trapper, but so we want to end up like Patton? Striking a shell-shocked soldier? I heard that war can get pretty rough, especially at the front. My uncle Martin once told me that the foxholes offer no protection sometimes."
"Listen, Burns. The Army will protect its soldiers when it can. On the odd occasion it can't, that's what we're here for. What's great for me, is that here, we're all Americans. I'm not black, you're not white. We're all part of the Red, White, and Blue."
Doctor Jones' commentary was hardly the last word in a dreamlike conversation that, later on, none of them would remember having. But Rosie, who had caught an earful of it, moved on, passing the Nurses' Quarters as she went.
"It was just a little dancing. God, that Blake's such a stickler. Listen, Major, the Doctors may not know what's coming, but the Nurses and the corpsmen do. When those wounded come, we won't be ready. We can't be ready. I strip down, do a little dance, everyone has maybe the last good laugh they'll have--ever. I know that the Chaplain will never forget me."
"You'll be the angel in his visitations, for awhile, that's for certain. Listen, Cunningham, I've been known to dance a little Gypsy Rose myself, with even less than you had on. But while I sympathize, he is the CO."
Charlotte Cunnigham nodded, but then realized something Margaret Houlihan had said.
"Less than me? How is that possible?"
Margaret pulled at her ears.
"Earrings, kiddo. If this was a contest, you may as well have been covered from head to toe. Details, Chuckie. Details. Without paying attention to little things, you become like one of those stuffy old nurses we used to make fun of. 'Big Picture' my behind."
Charlotte "Chuckie" Cunningham smiled at her old friend.
"So, Maggie-Pie, is there anyone you've seen that you'll be doing a dance for? Head-Nurse gets first dibs."
"Oh, I don't know. That hayseed from Maine looks good. Sweet, but dumb."
The two women laughed, and then spoke, in unison.
"Sweet But Dumb--That's How They Should Come."
Laughing with them were Chuckie's friends, Julia Winslow and Benita Martin, who were both impressed by the new Head Nurse's decision to bunk with her staff, instead of seeking her own tent. Margaret Houlihan was determined to avoid the distance she sensed between her beloved father and his soldiers, that she observed when he made Major. No, she and the nurses would get on fine. Let Blake find his ramrod somewhere else.
"I've called us to order at 0400 hours because that is the way each and every day will begin, whether we have wounded, or not. You will all show up, in uniform, cleaned, and ready to begin your day. A salute is expected, and you will address me as Colonel Blake. Lieutenant Colonel is a title. Colonel is a fact of your life. I do not foresee any need to relax this discipline-ever. If any object, let me remind you that this is the United States Army. We may be fighting for democracy, but that concept does not exist here. I am the head and center of all your lives. I want it said, in months to come, that the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 4077th is, what it is, purely because of Henry Blake's leadership. Nonsense will not be tolerated. Competence and drive will be rewarded, though."
He pointed to O'Reilly.
"This young man has improved so much, because of my firm hand, in the last 12 hours alone, that I am giving him a field promotion to Corporal, to encourage both him and yourselves. A hand, then, for Corporal Walter Eugene O'Reilly, of Des Moines, Iowa."
Blake found O'Reilly's real home town unpronounceable. Besides, it wasn't the point. O'Reilly didn't have the promotion coming, but a carrot-and-stick approach sometimes required giving up a piece of carrot, to keep things moving. O'Reilly then spoke.
"Actually, Colonel Blake, sir, it's Ottumwa, Iowa. Er--we all kinda don't really care for Des Moines-it's a long story, not anybody's fault-er, ah...."
"I usually don't like the name my birth-parents gave me when they had me born, so usually I like to be called what my pals called me. They called me Radar, cause I could always tell things were gonna happen before they did, kinda like.....choppers and ambulances. A load of em."
All stared at the young man.
"Uh, Radar? Hawkeye Pierce, here. Um, look kid. There's the direction everything supposed to come from. Now, I look over there and I see noth.....My God. There aren't that many ambulances in the whole world."
Blake looked out, with his binoculars.
"There are...quite a few of them, aren't there? All right, company dismissed. Seek your posts in an orderly fashion. If we do this carefully, it can be done. If this can be done, it can be done right."
For one of three times during the entire Korean War, the 4077th broke an orderly assembly in an orderly fashion. Despite the lack of supplies, Lieutenant Colonel Blake felt in charge and fully in control of the entire world's destiny. In months to come, Henry Blake would wonder where this man went.
"My Auntie Margaret actually bragged of nude dancing? Everything she ever told me about her life then suggested she was at least a public exemplar."
"Rosie not know what to tell you, Scully. Except to bring point home again. What happen when those first wounded arrive change some. Others become more like themselves than ever."
MASH, 4077th, KTO, JULY 25, 1950, 2300 HOURS, IT HAS BEGUN....
"Colonel Blake? Some of these soldiers are the enemy. What I am supposed to do?"
"You take our boys, first, Pierce, then the allies, then any hostiles. That's-oh, geez- he's hurt bad-he's not gonna make--Pierce, belay that. He's just a kid. Take him first."
Hawkeye Pierce couldn't believe the order he had just received. But he operated on the young enemy soldier, and was glad he did. The American was ashamed for aiding and comforting. The Doctor was ashamed for even thinking of classifying a sick person the way he had originally intended to. In this, his nineteenth straight hour on the operating room floor, The Doctor decided he couldn't be an American without keeping to all his oaths, loyalty and Hippocratic and any others he couldn't think of right now. Hawkeye felt like this place was trying to beat him into submission, and he wouldn't have that-ever. He resolved a new oath that would carry him through the next three years of his life.
"Superman wouldn't let this place win. Neither will I. Death, to me, you're nothing but a big, bald Lex Luthor. And Luthor always loses to Superman. Oh, and by the way, you're also a complete bastard."
Hearing the surgeon talk to himself, the attending nurse, Head Nurse Margaret Houlihan, found herself in an odd position. She found his resolve-not to mention the man himself-attractive. But it was a wild kind of strength, one that might easily hurt her.
She had already been hurt enough, in the last nineteen hours. The nurses were no longer her friends. They weren't pulling their weight. They weren't doing their duty. They were covering for each other's unscheduled breaks-coffee and otherwise. When their attitude had forced Margaret to pull rank, Charlotte Cunnigham had as much as told her that maybe it was a good idea if she seek the private quarters Blake offered her.
Her friends had hurt her, by abusing her kindness. She came to the grim realization that a distance was required, in a war zone. That distance would be necessary to do her job. But it would also leave her terribly, terribly alone. Could Hawkeye Pierce be the one to make the long nights go faster? She listened as he spoke again.
"I'm sorry if I'm ranting, Major. But I'm not gonna let this hell-hole kill me. It will make me nuts, though. I know its gonna make me nuts. I mean, where are our supplies? This isn't surgery. We're not surgeons. We're a bunch of Swedish chefs, taking ground meat and turning it into meatballs."
Margaret made a disastrous move to calm Pierce, before Colonel Blake could hear what he was saying, and maybe have him leave the OR. Her effort was to help him, first and foremost. But it was also her duty. In the hellish hours since the quiet camp fell apart forever, Doctor Pierce had proven to be their fastest, most skilled, and most tireless cutter.
While McIntyre sweated to keep up, and Burns grew paler and paler from the effort, and the other four looked dead on their feet, Pierce seemed to glow. It was like Life itself had taken up residence in him, to rebut the Grim Reaper's arguments personally. There were moments when Margaret wondered if she really wasn't looking at Superman. There were brief moments when she felt like grabbing a phone booth to find out if she was.
But words chosen in exhaustion have a hit-or-miss quality to them. Both Hawkeye and Margaret would need fifteen years to come back to this point in their lives. As Monsignor Francis Mulcahy said that day in 1965 : "Dearly Beloved...It's about bloody time these two woke up."
At this time, though, they began a long sleep apart.
"Captain Pierce, I'm certain the Army will get us our supplies. They know what they're doing. I'm certain there's a good reason for the delay."
Margaret wasn't convinced of her own words. The Army she knew would have had those supplies at the ready when Blake came over the hill one week back. She didn't expect such incompetence that bordered on indifference to the wounded. But she also didn't expect the visceral reaction of Hawkeye Pierce, to her simple statement.
"I may have believed that line of horse manure going in here, Major, but not anymore. We've lost twenty percent of the wounded, all because simple things like Sulfa, Penicillin, and bandages were too much for HQ to part with. Those dead bodies tell me all I need to know. The top brass does not give a damn about the fighting man in this war. Maybe any war."
"First off, Captain, this is a police action, not a war. Secondly, how dare you, a draftee, mock men who have voluntarily devoted their entire lives to this nation's defense? Why, I'd say it borders on treason."
This was going very wrong, for both of them. But larger than average egos, tremendous pride and twin explosive tempers would, in their own way, set the course for the rest of their lives. Their argument had made them feel all the worse for their initial attraction. So they fed it back into the anger. In years to come, they would openly wonder if they missed their chance for children in that one bitter moment.
"Listen up, Madame Nixon. Don't you dare equate questioning this insanity with some kind of commie witch-hunt. You want commies? We're piecing one together right now who looks like he should be home wondering if the new cheerleader will let him past second base."
"There is a time and a place for that kind of gutter talk, Captain, and guess what? This sure as hell isn't it. You want to save lives, then think more of them and less of your libido."
"Waitaminute. I never mentioned my libido. Or is it you, Major, who wants to see what my libido can do? Say, the stock area, in twenty minutes? Lord knows, its EMPTY enough. We'll have enough space to see whether or not you can do something with that cute behind of yours besides talk through it."
Predictably, Margaret slapped him for that comment. She was disgusted, and Pierce actually looked hurt at this. A moment of *Why are we doing this* passed quickly as Margaret fled the room, attempting to hide her tears. The altercation had not gone unnoticed by the rest of the O.R. staff. Colonel Blake made that much clear.
"Pierce, take it outside, if you're gonna act that way."
Hawkeye stood dazed and exhausted, for a moment. He was between wanting to slap Margaret Houlihan around and wanting to grab her, and a chopper, and flying till they crashed on some Pacific Island. He needed something to do to stay alive. It was as simple as that. If Blake wouldn't let him operate, then.
"What If I go outside..."
"That's kind of what I ordered you to do, Pierce."
"What If I go outside, and prep the patients, ya know, maybe prioritize them by how badly they're wounded? That'd stretch the supplies some."
Blake was stunned.
"We call that triage, Pierce. You didn't invent it. But if that's how you wanna help, we could all use the respite from your balloon juice."
"I promise to be...polite, from here, on in, Colonel."
A nurse, one of about six that seemed to be named Baker, stopped Pierce on his way out.
"Not too polite, I hope. I'll meet you in that storage area, in forty minutes, and you better NOT be a gentleman."
Hawkeye Pierce found so aggressive a woman attractive, but the thought of sex distracting him from surgery was something that Doctor Pierce felt strongly against. His response to Baker surprised him, though.
"I'll be there with bells on."
He was, too.
The succeeding hours had each surgeon *taking a break* by handling the prioritizing of patients. Pierce actually seemed to prefer the OR, and that was where he was needed. The medically-based prioritizing went against some regs, but it kept better with the camp's basic mission. Problem was, Colonel Blake was having a harder and harder time figuring out what the hell that mission was. They did stretch supplies, but that couldn't last. What's more, over the next sixteen hours, he would hear his own name more times than he had after his kids had learned to talk.
"Colonel Blake. Some of these patients ...Don't care for their choice of surgeon. Must be my oily skin."
"They're patients, Captain Jones. They don't choose that kind of thing. If they don't like it, then sedate them big time."
"Colonel Blake. When do they expect the wounded to stop coming?"
"How the hell should I know, McIntyre?"
"Colonel Blake. We don't get those supplies soon, these lads'll be Down Under quicker than me on VK Day."
"Listen, Doctor St. John, Radar has been calling everywhere. They're not to be found."
Henry wasn't sure what the Aussie surgeon's last name was. But he'd be damned before he'd call someone *Ugly John* out loud. The only one not asking for direction was the one who didn't need any-Hawkeye Pierce. To him, the OR was a caged grudge-match between two unyielding rivals. Frank Burns, on the other hand, did not seem to be taking it all in stride.
"Colonel. Captain Pierce has excused himself-with a nurse in tow-every six hours. This is disgracefully unmilitary. Not to mention his shabby treatment of poor Major Houlihan."
Margaret, who had not forgotten the souring of her feelings towards Hawkeye Pierce, smiled at Burns.
"Why, thank you, Major. But as to Captain Pierce, well, let's just say that perhaps some people don't belong in the United States Military.
Margaret was hoping to get Pierce's goat with that statement. But she would be a long time in doing that. All Hawkeye could say, in response, was one thing.
"Hot Lips, when you're right, you're right."
It was a nickname that Margaret would never quite live down, this despite the fact that her and Hawkeye's first real kiss was over two years in the future.
Radar walked into the OR, was ordered to put on a mask, and yelled,
This was the straw that broke his back. His next statement veered away from the discipline he had hoped to achieve.
"Listen Up, People. From now on, all medical and nursing staff will call me Henry. If I hear Colonel Blake too many more times, I think I'm gonna explode. Now, what is it, Radar?"
"Well, uh-Sir. The Supplies Are Here."
A sincere and resounding cheer was heard throughout the OR.
"Then bring them in, Corporal."
"Uh, no can do Colonel Bla-Sir."
"And exactly why are you refusing to obey my order, Private?"
"I'm not, Sir. But the guy outside with the trucks says he's only gonna wanna deal with you."
"What the hell? Pierce, close for me."
As Henry walked outside, he wondered what kind of maniac would hold up vital supplies at an army hospital literally overflowing with wounded. He was about to find out. The exhausted medics were in their thirty-sixth hour. They didn't know it, but another thirty-three would see the wounded finally abate. They were dead in the middle of their own private hell. Like any other middle of any other hell, there waited the devil.
Henry saw the devil, standing, waiting for him. He was a dead ringer for a man Henry Blake would never truly meet, but he was not Sherman T. Potter. The slightly crazy-looking man was not a Colonel, but a General. General Bartford Hamilton Steele the Third, to be exact.
"General, sir, if I may ask what the hold-up is all-about? My people want these supplies and..."
"What you want is not relevant, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake. And, no you may not ask. No points, Blake."
Henry was very confused.
"Sir, this isn't a game."
Steele was unmoved.
"No, Colonel, this isn't a game, but there are prizes. Although, in my favorite game, I play a wide-eyed lunatic who pounces upon unsuspecting units. I'll have to show you sometime. The kids love it. Specially Bart the Fourth. Heh, My Little Iceman."
Neither Henry's confusion nor his anxiety were showing any signs of clearing up.
"Sir, what Prizes? I have a hospital to run."
Steele was still moving slowly on any straight answers.
"Boy, you must be quite dense. To run a hospital you need....SUPPLIES. You and me, we can have a supplies party."
Henry was sickened by the thought, but said it out loud, anyway.
"In exchange for what, General?"
"Oh, just those foul-smelling rocks your boys picked up. The former owner of this site says they have a mean kick to em'."
"Former owner? General, this was the site of one of the nastier Japanese POW camps."
Steele's eyes were turning as cold as his name. On a man who wore a friendly facade, it looked twice as evil.
"For the supplies, Blake, the following is true: There never was any such camp on this site. Also, no strange rocks were found here-ever. Thirdly, if I show up, to have a chat, you've never seen me before. You play along, and this patchwork factory of yours will have supplies even under the worst of conditions, for many months to come. Otherwise, things can get a mite dry. Agreed, Colonel?"
There were men dying in the next building. His surgeons and nurses were killing themselves to keep those dying men alive.
The psychotic little man was suddenly all gregarious again.
"GOOOOD. Pleasure doing business with you, Blake. A real pleasure to meet you. Hope you remember my name."
As the supply trucks were unloaded at incredible speeds, Henry Blake found a motor pool rag and wiped off the hand that Steele had shook. He saw that the rag had plenty of grease on it, and now so did he. Making sure the General was out of earshot, he made one last comment before heading back towards OR.
"Your name isn't what's puzzling me, pal."
With the arrival of their supplies and then some, the next thirty hours were made to fly by. Unlike the first forty-two or so, they had the physical means to get through. Since Post-Op was not yet set up, the patients were slowly evaced out. The loss of twelve percent of those patients to the ride forever altered how patients were evaced from the 4077th. There were a lot of forevers that day.
Still trying to drink in that a respected general from a respected family would hold the lives of fighting men hostage to a bunch of rocks, Henry noticed the compound. Quiet. Quiet, and clear, except for the fact that the nude nurse had become the nude nurses, joined by the nude medics and nude corpsmen.
Two of them were surgeons Duke Forrest and Trapper John McIntyre, each handling a couple of women at the same time. Each of whom had declared their love and fidelity for their wives, prior to the onslaught. Henry couldn't remember his own wife's name, at that point, so he wouldn't blame those men. There was a literal orgy going on in his compound, but he couldn't care less. He grabbed one-the first dancer, Charlotte Cunnigham, and brought her to his tent. For the first time, she felt awkward about her state of undress.
"Army regs say I can't do this. Well, Nurse Cunnigham, I'm not ordering you to do a damned thing. Nothing's gonna happen to your career, or anything else, if you walk out. But I need someone here with me. I once knew a man named Arthur. I thought I could be as good a war commander as him. But I'm no CO. I'm just an old man, asking a young woman to make him feel like he isn't fifteen-hundred years old. You don't even have to do anything. Just please don't leave me alone."
Henry Blake was sobbing his brains out. With a compassion born as much from a nurse's instinct as sexual desire, Charlotte began to kiss Henry Blake. Contrary to myths abounding at the time, Lorraine Blake slept peacefully through the night. Henry had broken his vows to her with a woman he had met when she wasn't wearing a stitch. But Henry was raw himself. Colonel Blake never did return. The 4077th was the circus it was, people said, because of Henry Blake's lack of leadership. Later, anyone who said that in the presence of Sherman T. Potter caught an earful. The man who looked like Bartford Hamilton Steele and who filled Henry Blake's shoes knew what the man went through. Or, he thought he did.
Margaret Houlihan never had a chance to apologize for the back and forth between her and Pierce in the OR. The sight of a shattered, lonely Frank Burns caught her eye. Like Carlye Walton before her, she chose a needy man over a man who seemed to need no one. She would always like Frank Burns. But she would still secretly view her choice as cowardice. Hawkeye felt the same way about himself. But they weren't cowards. They had merely begun their fifteen - year - long dance.
At relating that, Rosie went up to check on her great-granddaughter, a girl so spry, you would never believe she had bone and marrow problems. But she had both. After five minutes downstairs, Dana Scully and Maxine Klinger Ishikawa heard the scream.
As they ran up, the tape Scully had obtained was playing. In it, the Immortal Hero, realizing he had been tricked into killing his protégé, begged someone to kill him. He was weeping, and sobbing. Neither Rosie nor Su-Na were doing anything. Rosie had come upstairs, and upon finding her great-granddaughter was definitely not immortal, fell and joined her. A heart heavy from burying too many of her children had finally given out. Broken on the floor was a red-haired porcelain doll, the symbol of love from a brother who refused to be a barbarian towards his own sister. Maxine was beyond consoling. Scully helped her downstairs, and agreed to make the arrangements, despite her caseload. Maxine and her husband, both shattered, tried to let Scully out of her promise, but she refused. She said just two words on the subject.
Half a world away, as Hawkeye Pierce finished a gin-and-tonic, unaware that the friend who had served him so many gin-and-tonics was gone, Fox Mulder was asking him another in a spiraling, ever more intricate series of questions.
"All I'm saying, Hawkeye, is that there is no record of Doctors Jones, Forrest, or St. John ever serving at the 4077th."
"All I'm saying, Fox, is that, given the kind of world you run around in, you think there's not a reason for all that?"
"There are always reasons, Hawkeye."
"Yeah, there are always reasons. But I'd rather crawl inside a refrigerator than tell you the reasons for that."
"But, Doctor, you will tell me?"
"Yeah, kid. But this isn't pretty."
"I'm sorta used to not pretty, Doctor."
"Then get sorta used to industrial ugly, Mulder."
Mulder had heard worse. But what followed from Hawkeye Pierce came damned close to the worst. But before Hawkeye could relate the lives of three doctors who, according to Mulder's records, never served at the 4077th, the young FBI agent received a call from his partner. The news was not good.
"Well, I'm sorry Scully. Max has always spoken well of her. No, I suppose it is good that it happened quickly. But for her to find...I've done more than contact one of them...Hawkeye Pierce is right here in front of me...Ok, I'll ask."
Mulder indicated to Pierce that his partner wished to speak with him. Pierce hesitated, then acquiesced, like a man who had received many phone calls he didn't care for. Fox Mulder understood this look.
"Yes, Agent Scully, I...Rosie? Oh, God, No… The little girl? I was there, helped her mother to...I'm sorry, it's just, when it comes to Death, I've always been a sore loser...Not that I've always been the greatest winner...What do you mean you remember....SCILLY?.. Hold on, honey, Uncle Benny just has to do something, kiddo."
Pierce looked at Mulder a bit askance. He then reached into his coat's pocket, and pulled out a resealable bag. Inside it were tongue depressors. He wrote the word "Rosie" upon one, then broke it gently, almost tenderly in two. Mulder did not question the odd ritual. Hawkeye, on the other hand, questioned him.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me that your partner was Jack Scully's niece? Your records do indicate he was Margaret's ex, don't they?"
Scully's uncle had died after a long series of strokes not long after her sister had been murdered. Mulder had never met him, and Dana had only mentioned him in passing. But there it was, under 4077th and associated personnel. Jack Scully, formerly married to Margaret Houlihan, later Margaret Pierce. Known relatives : Dana ( Niece ), Special Agent with the Federal Bureau Of Investigation. Mulder knew about small worlds. He was beginning to wonder, though, if the X-Files itself wouldn't turn out to be a scam Pierce and his cohorts thought up to impress some prospective nurses. Pierce resumed talking to Scully. Mulder would have to be careful of reminding her about the childhood nickname, *Scilly* Scully.
"Of course I remember you. You were always the brightest thing...I'm sorry, Dana. It's just that I'm glad news like this is being delivered by family. No, I was just about to get to that, when you called. No, just like everything else, there's a reason for those guys not being...No, Dana, I'm sorry. No, you heard correctly. My wife disappeared ten years ago."
It was the first time Mulder heard Hawkeye say it out loud. Even to utter her name was painful for Hawkeye. A police investigation had cleared the aging surgeon of even any potential wrongdoing. Mulder had seen *grinners* before. Men who essentially dared you to prove that they had done away with their wives, smiling all the while. Pierce did not fit any known profile of a man capable of this act. That didn't disprove anything, and there were reports of loud arguments before Margaret's vanishing. But with those two, loud arguments were invariably followed by deafening silence---punctuated by the sound of a headboard about to bust on through the bedroom wall. A young married couple nearby had once complained of the noise. For all that, one fact remained : In September of 1988, Retired Army Colonel Margaret Houlihan Pierce simply up and vanished. Either she had left her husband for some reason-or she had been made to leave.
"Well, Dana, you just get used to dealing with it...No, that doesn't mean it gets any...San Francisco?...Oh, her brother's buried there...Trapper?...still head of surgery, out there, last I checked...No, we don't speak much...Whatever it is, it's his problem, I...Beej and Peg live in Montana, now...No, the part without the Fruitcakes.. I visit them once a year...No, I can't say where she is.. Seems we have a mutual fiend..."
Hawkeye then related the painful day Henry Blake died, and the 4077th's grim visitor. Hawkeye did not like what Dana had to say about that man.
"Kiddo, I don't care how old the guy is SUPPOSED to be. I know who showed up that day. Fox and I discussed...No, no, I don't think he was leading me into his way of thinking ...Well, if you disagree with him that much, then why are you his part...Don't tell me it's none of my business. If you're going to tell me I didn't see who I...Don't...Don't cry, Scilly. Your Uncle Ben is sorry...I know you are, honey...Well, that's your choice...of course I've looked for your Aunt Margaret.. No, someone else played with me, there...Only everyday of my life, Dana. If she's alive, she'll find me, when she's good and ready, hopefully that's soon...Who? OH. Well, sure.... Hhhey. How's the beautiful schnozz on Earth? Jeez, I am so sorry about Rosie...Well, sure, but I wanna talk some when we can."
Hawkeye was a bit calmer, now.
"Hey, Mulder, a party to speak with you."
Mulder picked up the cell-phone.
"MAXINE.? Oh, no. Oh, well it's good to hear your voice, too. Did Toshi dump you yet? Smart man, that Toshi. If he ever dumbs up, or if your dad decides on a trophy wife--what do you mean, No Chance? Hey, I've got a standing offer of mad, passionate love from Soon-Lee I'm not going to let pass...So she's 63? I have recent photos of her.. some quite explicit, ...hey I'm FBI. ...Wally any better?...No, Rosie loved her brother, and San Francisico's where he's buried...Non-Terrestrial DNA? Meteors?...Hey, Scully, why?...Yes, I believe we will talk later about procedure for evidence..."
On the other end, Scully snuck Mulder a quick message.
"Fox, Uncle Benny is lying. He knew I was FBI. I even wrote him about you. These people are up to something."
With the other party having hung up, Mulder did the same. He was annoyed by the fact of Hawkeye Pierce laughing at him.
"Just what is so funny?"
"You. You go from talking like a Klinger to your usual self in 3.5 seconds. It's just funny is all."
Mulder thought about his method of speech, talking to Maxine. The times he spent in the chaotic Klinger household were some of the happiest in his life. Max and Soon-Lee, whom he really did have a crush on, were his parents who had no secrets. Maxine was Samantha who didn't go away. Wally-Walter Sherman Cy Young Klinger-was a brother who had more problems than him, health-wise. Toshi was his clumsy brother-in-law, and those beautiful, always-healthy kids were his nieces and nephews. *Spooky, tell me a story* rang in his ears. He remembered Toshi saying a lot of the same things. With all of them, there were no taboo subjects-sex included. When the kids were awake, the MASH stories were about silly people ending up naked. When they were asleep, the stories were about silly people acting on their nakedness.
"Hawkeye, with them, I am a Klinger."
THE KLINGER HOUSEHOLD, During Mulder's Academy Days
Fox couldn't stop apologizing. It was making Max's head spin.
"Spooky, it's all right. Soon-Lee never locks the door when she showers. That's just her all over-lemme rephrase that. Er, taken altogether...No, that's not gonna do it..The bottom line..No, you saw that, and the front page--so did she, for that matter. Look, you're forgiven. Besides, she's pushing 55, like I am 60. We're not spring chickens. How much could it mean to a young guy like you?"
"How much did it mean, Mulder?"
Hawkeye was trying not to be judgmental. But it sounded like something more went on than the old no-towel walk-in.
"30 minutes. Except for a few fumbling times, as a teenager...my first time."
Hawkeye looked over. He decided he wanted to hear more.
"Don't get carried away-so to speak-but, Fox, Soon-Lee? She was twice your age, married to the man who let you stay in his house. A man who....had a one night stand of his own, didn't he?"
Fox was desperate to get back to the missing doctors, but this had eaten at him for some time.
"She was--is-- very attractive, Hawkeye. Never more so than when she surprised me in the shower. I suddenly had no self-control. But that wasn't the worst of it."
"Ok, what was?"
"I was an approved affair."
"You mean, Max knew...."
"Knew, and set it up. Same with Soon-Lee and Max's fling. They needed to see if they were still attractive to others. They'd never done that kind of thing. I think that was the only time. All I knew, was, she didn't look 55-she looked-dreamy."
Hawkeye was not entirely thrown. Mulder's tale wasn't lurid, but it did lack one important element.
"Dreamy, you say? Protected dreamy, or unprotected dreamy? Because, unprotected dreamy can become nightmarish, menopause or no."
"That's how I figured out the plan, and eventually cornered them on it. She had me ---protected---pretty quickly--with Max's favorite brand. To think, they apologized to me."
Hawkeye was relieved.
"I'm just glad you're all right-all of you. I may tell a lot of jokes about sex, but lacking protection can be fatal."
Mulder wondered if the dance Pierce had spoken of between himself and Margaret had taken this long to complete.
"Are you about to tell me something, or is this a Public Service Announcement?"
Mulder realized what he had just said, and knew Pierce was getting to him.
"Brace yourself, kid. This little jaunt is about to go R. And not just for sex. We got through two major traumas that 1st two and a half months. One was that first two and a half months. The other....was really bad."
Concurrent with the account offered Scully by the late Rosie, Hawkeye Pierce had told Fox Mulder of that first OR session, minus the role of General Steele. They had all been so tired. What happened then exhausted their bodies. What came next emptied their souls.
MASH 4077TH, KTO, Friday, October 13, 1950, 1313 hours
Certain familiar patterns had begun to manifest. Corpsmen hung out by the nurses shower, and nurses hung out by the corpsmen's shower. Margaret Houlihan was receiving promises of commitment from a man whom she knew wasn't going to keep them. But she needed to be needed, and Frank Burns needed her. Between the four of them, Trapper John McIntyre, "Ugly" St. John Black, Duke Forrest, and SpearChucker Jones had landed almost every woman in the area. This was a feat accomplished by Hawkeye Pierce in and of himself. To Pierce, though, it was the one woman he didn't have that ate at him. Little did he realize how much it ate at her, as well.
Radar O'Reilly was getting to be quite the scam artist. When drinking with the guys, he told stories of phony female conquests while drinking from cups filled with disguised Grape Nehi. He decided to be someone not himself around other people. That would change. What would not change is his growing proficiency at a job he seemed born to do. The guiding hand of Henry Blake didn't hurt, either.
Blake could have used a guiding hand. Colonel Blake never returned. Only Henry was there, and he was still angered by the bizarre actions of the General. Confused, he allowed an atmosphere of sex and drinking that prevailed until the wounded arrived. And they always would arrive. Each week, he would find a young lady who reminded him of Lorraine. Just enough companionship to see him through, nothing more. Henry didn't like it wild. For some people, though, wild was the only way to go-no matter the risks.
One of the people who liked it wild was Charlotte *Chuckie* Cunningham. A once devout woman who loved ministering to the sick, her first times dealing with the blood those sick folk had all over them had gone badly. While in Army Nurse training, and with her friend Margaret Houlihan watching, she disgustedly stripped off her blood-soaked clothes and ran around starkers.
To her surprise, she was less tense around others, and they her, after the show. When appropriate, she just up and did it for fun. She never told anyone that it was actually a relief for her not to wear clothes with blood on them. To them, she was a *good sport*, whatever that really meant. None of them mattered, though. Only Margaret. She was determined to get her friend back. Chuckie entered the head nurse's tent, remembering with sorrow her stupid suggestion, during that first OR.
"Margaret, we need to talk."
"So talk, Lieutenant, but it's Major Houlihan."
"Will the Major accept a two-month belated apology?"
"Certainly, although it's the wounded you need to apologize to, not me."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means, Cunnningham, that your attitude stinks. You and all the other nurses."
"Define stinks, Major."
"Stinks means putting your open legs and open blouses before the fighting man's open wounds. Don't tell me that wasn't the case--I was there."
"Yea, you were there. Playing with Captain Pierce in a 5th Grade *I'll punch his arm to see if he likes me* game. Nobody was at their best in that hell, Major."
"Captain Pierce is a cheek-grabbing degenerate. I-could-never-care for a man like him. And I do agree, Lieutenant, neither you nor the others were ANYWHERE near your best."
"Don't twist my words. Y'know, I was going to try and get my friend back. I was going to invite her and that cheek-grabbing degenerate who you don't care about, supposedly, to one wild time in the Swamp. But I can see my friend is gone. Maybe I pushed her away, or maybe she ran away scared. But she's not here now. Sorry to bother you, MA'AM."
"I was your friend. But you used me, turned on me like vipers the first time I pulled rank. I was your pal till I had to be your Head Nurse. So no wild times or any other times with you ingrates. I have someone for me. A good, decent, respectful man."
Margaret had stood firm up to this point. But what Chuckie said next made her stop dead in her tracks.
"Margaret, he's a married man."
Houlihan knew this. Knew that the other woman never did well, on any level. But until someone else said it, she had allowed herself comforting illusions about Frank Burns' ultimate intentions towards her. He wasn't a bad man. But he also wasn't going to follow through on any promises of a long-term relationship that didn't have Margaret skulking in the shadows and hanging up on Louise Burns.
"Yes, he is."
At that, a friendship was reborn. Chuckie embraced a lightly crying Margaret, and they talked as friends and sisters do. Margaret asked about what the *Wild Time* entailed.
"Well, Maggie-Pie, it entails...our tails."
It was difficult to embarrass Margaret Houlihan. Shocking her was actually quite easy. But to succeed in making her face as beet-red as it was at Chuckie's suggestion was a rare feat.
"Chuckie, fun is fun. But that's pushing things-literally. There's no more inherently dangerous way of going about matters. I mean, a whole host of health risks, it'll be...."
"It'll be fun, Major. Risky fun like this girl needs, like each of those three doctors needs. Jones, Ugly, and Forrest look like they're falling apart. For Duke, it'll be his last waltz in wartime. Devotion to his wife like that makes me, Bennie Martin, and Julia Winslow feel all the more special, risks or no. Now, howzabout you and Pierce, just to make it an even four couples?"
"I can't. Blake is letting your three risk-takers out of it, but the rest of the senior staff has to attend a meeting. All of a sudden, he decides he wants to act like a Commander."
In the nineties, the advice Margaret next gave her friend about frivolous intimacy would either have been second nature or background noise. In wartime 1950, it was completely unheeded.
In the CO's office, a 3-hour film called *3 Hours In The Life Of A Military Staff* included footage of a military staff watching a movie. It seemed the night would never end. But it did. Hawkeye, exhausted, rented a farmer's hut to be alone and sleep in quiet. After a long, circuitous journey, Major Burns joined Major Houlihan in her tent. Trapper was quite happy in the company of a nurse, one of about four named Abel. They all slept soundly.
In the Swamp, fully shaded and lights out, a wild time was had by all. In a way, this wild time would last the rest of their lives. Then, in the morning, came the screams. All pointed at the Toledo native, though he was at that time still dressed like a man.
"What's wrong with him?"
"Yeah. I tried to make a date with him for tonight, but he brushed me off."
"Didn't you hear?"
"Klinger was the first one to go into the Swamp, this morning. He saw firsthand--what was left of them."
At that reminder, Nurse Kellye Nakahara ran and threw up for the fifth time that morning. Zale didn't blame her, or Klinger, for feeling like that. Even the toast he had was hard to hold in light of what he and Klinger had been forced to watch those spy-guys clean up. He hadn't thought there was that much bleach in the whole of Asia. But it was necessary. Klinger, upon seeing all this, had been heard to mutter to himself.
"They were still together. He was behind her...THEY WERE ALL STILL SMILING. Dried up like rotten vegetables. I'll do what I have to, but they're not keepin' me here."
At first, no one really noticed Max Klinger's quest, inspired partly by this horror. Then, six weeks later, a UFO worthy of Mulder and Scully was seen over the 4077th. It resembled a big red bird with fuzzy pink feet. A legend had begun. But neither Max nor anyone else told of the horror. Mulder would hear it not from his father, but from Pierce, in 1998. There was a reason for this. Another familiar face in Mulder's long story cropped up, over a decade before Fox's birth.
"By Direct Executive Order, based upon the National Security Act , the following is the truth : Doctors Jones, Black, and Forrest and Nurses Cunningham, Winslow, and Martin never served in this or any unit in the Korean Theatre of Operations. They were captured and killed by enemy forces upon their arrival, BEFORE any assignment. Their remains were never found. Secondly, the Doctors in question, since they were never here, never handled hazardous material during their non-stay. Next, no one participated in an illegal game, clearly against army regulations, of sexual horseplay last night. This was broken up before it happened. Again, those people who weren't here were certainly not a part of such shenanigans. Lastly, no bodies on the verge of liquification were found in the Doctors' quarters early this morning. The tent and material were burned for lice infestation, nothing more. Failure to keep with this version of events will be read as willful treason in wartime. You are to maintain your silence in perpetuity. Vigilance will be maintained, and violators will not have time to regret their lapse."
With those words, the well-kept, meticulously manicured man left the 4077th and was not seen there again. A week and a half later, the understaffed 4077th and the rest of the UN forces in Korea would face the introduction of One-Half Million Chinese into the conflict, which now had no end in sight. In more ways than one, it was a whole new war.
"For those of us who were tired of the Old War. The way I see it, Mulder, those rocks had some kind of bacteria, and when poor Duke, Spear, and Ugly were going at it with Chuckie, Bennie, and Julie, it just had a good place to hide. Now, those creeps saw that some of us had survived, and....Mulder? Fox?"
Hawkeye saw his young friend making a mad dash for the restroom, covering his mouth as he went. Pierce couldn't blame him.
"Sorry, kid. But sometimes when you think you've seen and heard it all, fate has you running for cover."
In the restroom, Mulder was angry with himself. Angry for being aroused by the story, angry for not being ready for its ending. Six people, trying to hold back the night through simple pleasure, eaten, by that selfsame night.
Making him angrier was the presence in all these stories of key players. People who weren't there, but were. People too young to be there, there anyway. None of these people gave a damn about anything but their precious hybrids. So why make super-immune humans? He needed time to make it click. Time he wasn't sure he had.
Waiting for Mulder, Pierce spotted someone. For reasons he hadn't yet told Mulder, Hawkeye was not what his age would make him seem. He would tell the young agent, but for now was glad he hadn't. He was now certain they were being watched.
"Well, I must be Kimble and Fox must be Girard, cause outside is everyone's favorite One-Armed Man."
Having dealt with the sudden wave of nausea caused by Hawkeye's story of sex and death at the early 4077th, Mulder sat back down at the table. He saw that Pierce had written him a note.
*Fox - We're being watched.*
Mulder scribbled his reply, adding out loud:
"Look, Hawkeye, I didn't agree to pay for all your drinks. Try this figure, see what you think."
He pushed the paper back to Pierce.
*Unsurprising. Give me a description. Don't look around.*
Hawkeye looked at the paper. He started to write something, saying:
"So, this is where that 'Budget Surplus' comes from. You feds are gypping your informants. Well, Uncle Sam Cheapskate, try this."
*Well, I'd call him Lefty, but the arm's on the other foot.*
At that, Mulder's face turned red. He crumpled the piece of paper, and threw it on the floor. The thought that the little weasel would dare show his face anywhere near Mulder without an Army to back him up was a bad button to have pushed. He started to get up, but Hawkeye stopped him.
"Fox, it's alright. I'll pay for the entire meal. There's no need to go storming outside. Besides, I haven't finished my story yet."
"Hawkeye, you don't understand. He killed my..."
"Mulder, sit. He's killed a lot of people. Being a killer, that's what he tends to do. We go out now, it's on his terms. We finish talking, and I can at least give us an edge."
Fox Mulder sat, but felt completely clueless as to what kind of edge Hawkeye Pierce might have over a killer like Alex Krychek. But he first listened to Hawkeye complete his narrative about the death and erasures of Ugly St. John Black, Spearchucker Jones, and Duke Forrest, not to mention their lovely companions-one of whom was Margaret's dear friend. Remembering that Margaret Houlihan-Pierce's disappearance, Mulder wondered if Krychek had been busy destroying the Pierce family, as well.
"I'll tell you about Wonder Boy later. His whole family's a trip. But the day we were all told to forget, we forgot. I mean *Willful Treason In Wartime*, right? Didn't take a genius to do the math. So we all became who we were, only moreso. Much moreso. Henry gave up trying to do anything more than keeping the place away from meltdown. Not that anyone, even Sherman, could have really done any better. In a time of propaganda bombs, psychotic Cowboys, and delusional snipers, I think Captain America would've moved to a loft and become a free-lance artist. It was funny. Later on, when Potter came, he quietly but firmly told Flagg to shut the hell up about Henry's flaws. CO wasn't an easy job. Not for them, or for me."
Waiting for Krychek to strike was not doing Mulder's queasy stomach any good. He saw in Hawkeye's face that he felt the same. But Pierce was right. Letting the little psychotic dictate their movements was dangerous.
"Trapper and I react in the only way we knew how - nursinizing and drinking. Sounds crude, but, trust me when I say, these ladies knew how to say no. My ego has the bruises to prove it. Of course, there was one thing no one ever did again-and I mean ever."
Mulder felt re-engaged, briefly.
"That's for the best, Hawkeye. That position is probably the most dangerous form of unprotected intimacy. Even before HIV, there were a ton of health risks, particularly when done as a kind of ritualized game."
Pierce nodded in grim acquiescence, but then shot off,
"A good VD film would have sufficed, there. I mean, a REALLY good VD film. I wouldn't settle for anything less."
"Hawkeye, there aren't any REALLY good VD films. Not since, *You Would Die Too, If It Happened To You* I mean, when that bobbysoxer was standing by the wall, and her fella walks up....Er, so how did this shift in truth affect your relationship with Margaret?"
"My...Margaret was torn up inside. Chuckie had been the only nurse willing to speak with her. But Chuckie never served there, so she pulled into herself, and Frank kind of skulked in afterward. Pity about Frank."
"Is he gone?"
"No. Mysteriously, he still has a practice, in a town called Elk Ridge, Indiana. He's older than me, hands shake worse than ever, but nobody takes his license. His grandson is too well-connected for that. Whatever problems I had with Frank are multiplied a thousandfold in his little Alex."
Hawkeye didn't need to say anything more about Burns' grandson-for now. Mulder had often absently wondered what kind of apple tree Krychek had fallen from. Now he knew.
"No, the pity was that all that denial wiped out the decent man who was trying to get out from under a rotten childhood and lousy marriage. Frank used to drink with us, talk somewhat amiably with us, pull practical jokes on us. It wasn't paradise, but he was one of us-almost. But SpearChucker and he had somewhat similar notions on taxes and MacArthur-go figure. Losing the one person who seemed to believe certain things as he did was a terrific blow-one of the few he didn't deserve."
Mulder's thoughts were still on Burns' lurking grandson, killer of so many, including Mulder's father. Hawkeye was trying to defend Frank Burns, albeit in a limited way. Fox decided to test that defense's credibility.
"Wasn't Major Burns a racist? Everything I read says that he had some decidedly Neolithic ideas on the subject of non-WASPS."
"Frank may have said that stuff, but I don't think he believed it. The man was a walking, open, mental wound that never had a chance to heal. Lashing out like that was just his way of pushing people far enough away so that they couldn't hurt him like he'd been hurt already. By dying like that, Spearchucker ran out on Frank."
Mulder saw the caricature surgeon with new eyes. "So, since the only possible friend he had in any way, shape or form was one he was ordered to forget, Major Burns forgot---"
Hawkeye completed his thought.
"Poor Frank forgot his humanity. We only saw it again on rare occasions. I'd like to think he got it back, someday, but I dunno, Fox. Decency's not included in your stateside orders."
Just then, the owner of the restaurant came over to and sat down with Pierce and Mulder. Time would be hard-pressed to diminish the regal bearing of Doctor Charles Emerson Winchester III.
"Pierce, in case those eyes of yours hadn't noticed, Burns' little burnt offering is wandering around outside. Hello, Fox. I'm terribly sorry I couldn't attend your father's funeral. Honoria's granddaughter graduated med school the same day."
"Doctor Winchester, you own this place?"
Now, Mulder was becoming suspicious of his hosts. Too many coincidences already. But the presence of his father's old friend, Charles, whose 4077th connection he had never actively known of till today, as owner of their meeting place, started to tip things in an uncomfortable direction.
"One of many investments, Fox, m'boy. Pierce, about Krychek....?"
"We're on him, Charles. And no more references to Frank, please. Having a grandkid like that is hardly his fault."
"Then you've confirmed the presence of our Nicotine-ridden acquaintance in the delinquency of said minor?"
"Oh, he's the one who gave our young Alex that neat little package for me. But I've always known that."
"Hawkeye? What package? A bomb?"
"Of sorts, Fox. It had an effect on our deceptively agile Mohican. Fortunately, Sydney Freedman was able to help him, much as he helped you."
For once Pierce asked the questions.
"You met Sydney, Fox? When?"
Mulder blinked once, then spoke.
"Doctor Winchester and his family are friends of my family-old friends. I fell apart after Samantha's abduction. What Dr. Freedman did, in the way of post-hypnotic suggestion, saved my life. Until my parents' silence on the subject let up enough to have me see a therapist, he, at Charles' behest, told me to do something else when anxiety about my sister hit home."
Both former surgeons were familiar with the suggestions, which Sydney had called *Meatball Psychiatry.*
Pierce's face showed its concern.
"So, what did Sydney do?"
"He told me to read up on the subject that was causing me so much terror. By understanding it, I might conquer it. And I will, too. Where is Sydney?"
Sadly, Pierce held up his bag of tongue depressors. Winchester nodded.
"Our wanderer will tarry no more. Courtesy of a bigoted thug named James Horton. Not every conspiracy makes its way before you, my young friend."
Dana Scully, exhausted from making funeral arrangements, awoke in the back of a car. Maxine resumed an earlier argument.
"Dana, I think Spooky's a great man. His IQ's only two points below mine, and he has a better cognitive grasp on matters. You shouldn't go holding things back from him. Its not right."
"I think he is great, Maxine. But what happened to his sister has crippled his reason on matters like this apparently non-terrestrial bacteria."
"Look, Dana, I'm sorry, but, to me, Fox is family. Family that I didn't make sick."
"I know how you and your parents feel, Maxine. But family...that you didn't make sick.? Your brother, Wally...Immunita?"
Maxine was upset, but with herself.
"Right before they kicked this whole *Genetic Acceleration* bushwa right between its viruses, and told these jerks where they could stuff their whole *wheat from chaff* ideas about immunity...the people involved got to my Dad. They pumped him full of a new version of the virus. Made him healthier, and smarter. Did the same for my Mom and me, cause I was conceived after it all started. But our pro-active immune systems...."
Dana finished for her.
"Dana, I am faster than you might think. I don't look 42, and my folks don't look 60ish. But my brother...he's only got six months, maybe."
Scully embraced Maxine.
"Oh, you poor kid."
Maxine was older than Dana, and smarter. But she was out of her depth when it came to a planted doctor at Pershing VA Hospital in River Bend, Missouri, that had decided to play God with her family's genes.
Maxine embraced Dana so hard that she cut off her air.
"There were two other people they played with, Scully. They really changed. But they're not important right now. Now, we gotta get, you, and the evidence, to San Fran. Trapper'll know what to do from there."
Dana hadn't seen any evidence, so far. Without air, Dana soon didn't see anything.
An hour later, a dying but extremely powerful man with a filthy social habit smiled as he received the call stating that the car carrying Dana Scully had been destroyed. They only awaited DNA and other kill confirmation.
On the former site of the 4077th, laborers paid in cash raised something up out of the ground. After it was perused and one item removed, the buried item was placed back in, looking as though it had never been disturbed. The person holding the item then waited for their ride.
"Gentlemen. With me are sharpshooters of no mean skill. Doctor Winchester can remain. But Mulder and the man who had such great fun at my grandfather's expense are coming with us. Frank Burns may be a dolt, but he deserved a lot better."
Mulder wanted to shout something. But Pierce beat him to it.
"Krychek, I should kill you for what you did."
Fox Mulder once again wondered what had been in the package. He kept wondering as he was led from the restaurant with Hawkeye.
In the car, with Krychek's man driving, he asked outright about Alex Krychek's delivery to Hawkeye Pierce.
Crabapple Cove, January 1989
"Hi. You Doctor Pierce?"
"That's me. Hey,aren't you Frank's grandson? We met when he brought the bunch of you back in February of 83' to the reunion. You must be near 20, now."
"Yes, Doctor. I'm Alex Krychek. Look, somebody agreed to sponsor me to the FBI academy if I just dropped this off and relayed a message."
Since it was a kid he sort of knew, Pierce's guard was down. This was a pity. The contents wholly enraged him.
"WHO SENT THIS?."
"A friend. One who wants to know who might've kidnapped your bed-hopping slut of a wife, mister Practical-joker. Now, what about it Pierce? Just tell him what you know, and the two people who did more to destroy my Grandfather's self-esteem than any others can rut their golden years away. Where is your wife, Pierce? If the faction we represent doesn't have her, than another Immunita-base has to. Who has contacted you in the last 4 months?"
This was one cocky young punk Pierce was ready for. Picking him up, he literally tossed Alex Krychek into his driveway.
"One- It wasn't ever that way with Frank. Two - He has more class than you and your friend could ever hope to, and Three - I don't know where Margaret is. You think I take orders from people like you? If they told me not to talk about it, guess what, pal? I'd talk. So no one's said a word. Four - Don't come near me again without ten kinds of back-up."
Chuckling in the field in which they had taken their captives, Krychek shrugged.
"Hey, this enough back-up for you, Pierce?"
Pierce ignored Alex's barb in favor of Fox's repeated question.
"So what was in the package?"
Still laughing, Krychek shot in, "Oh, just some chicken."
Hawkeye wasn't laughing.
"It was a chicken, alright. One that had been carefully smothered. Nice effort, Alex."
"Oh, it was no effort, Pierce. Freedman always took extensive notes. Then, and during the six months you spent in the bughouse after our talk. No luck on finding that backstabbing witch, I take it."
"My WIFE is still missing, yes."
"Well, we have you, now, Hawkeye. Whoever has dear Hot Lips should be willing to barter for her, once they find out. After all, Immunita is secondary only to the Bigger Task. And whoever has the Pierces controls Immunita. Who knows? Maybe I'll even have a chance to meet up with my former employer on more equal footing."
Since Hawkeye did not evince surprise at Krychek's words, Mulder's feelings of having been brought in under false pretenses only magnified. Eventually, the car stopped and they got out. By now, Charles Winchester had called the police, even knowing the untouchable nature of the abductors.
"Now, Pierce. If you contacted Mulder, you must have a clue as to your --wife's-- location. Your life for it. Quite simple."
The irony of Krychek being Burns' grandson did not escape Mulder, who decided to test his seemingly poor position-not to mention his luck.
"Tell, me, Krychek, how does a patriot like your grandfather like having a Russian-double-agent in the family.?"
It all happened in a blur. An angry Krychek ordered a bazooka-holding soldier to actually shoot Mulder. But somehow, Hawkeye put himself directly in front of the shell.. Mulder had never seen anybody move that fast-not even the damned hybrids. The explosion rocked Mulder's form and sent the older man flying over the nearby ridge, fully aflame. There was the sound of a secondary explosion, as well.
Through pained and blurry vision, Fox saw Krychek and his men withdraw amid worried shouts of *Resource Destroyed.*. The last thing Mulder felt before falling unconscious, he was certain for the last time, was himself struggling to check out the distant place where Hawkeye had fallen. Whatever value he had to the many Immunita factions, it ceased upon his death. Then Fox Mulder fell into pained oblivion.
The world was a confusing blur of contradictory signals, motions made as much to distract as to inform. But that was par for the course in the life of FBI surgeon Benjamin Franklin *Hawkeye* Mulder. There were people feeding him misinformation as the Truth, and the Truth layered in a fine chocolate pudding with a decidedly deadly whipped cream. Either that, or he was hungry.
He was studying the nurses' shower tape for the five-hundredth time, certain that the moles on Lt. Dish's inner thigh formed a message that would lead to the true fate of Adam's Rib. Alternately, she was just good to look at.
Out walked his skeptical partner, Dana *Hot Lips* Scully. She had gotten the nickname from the virus she had once been infected with that made it really hard for her to get a date. The men in question had all died happy, though, so no charges were pressed.
After her, as always, was their sidekick, Fox O'Reilly. A bunch of his rabbits had disappeared, leading him to join their quest. They hadn't the heart to tell him that Assistant Director Burns had a rabid appetite for hasenpfeffer.
"Mulder?. Turn off that filth. We've got to go."
"Oh, golly gosh gee whiz willikers, Sir. She's right and all. Lookit what personnel is waiting outside for us, in the out of doors."
Hawkeye Mulder looked. Sitting mockingly in his red, white, and blue car, was the most dangerous, yet strangely ineffectual, man, on the face of the Earth. In each hand, as always, was Old Glory.
"My God. it's Flagg-Waving Man. I'll bet he knows about the great tragedies of the sixties. Why Lost In Space was cancelled, why Secret Captive only had 17 episodes, and why Paul Henning felt the need to make Petticoat Junction, when Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies were more than adequate."
"You're being absurd, Mulder. The first one was cancelled for ratings, Patrick McGoohan made all the Secret Captive episodes he wanted, and Henning just miscalculated on Petticoat. Besides, wasn't it you who staked out that water tower in the opening credits? 'Surveillance', my butt. Granted, Bobbie Jo didn't mind, but we all know how SHE slept around."
"Me, I kinda always liked the little dog, running after the train. Shutting up, Sirs. Say, he's gettin' away."
Hot Lips Scully just folded her arms and scowled.
"May I suggest we get after him?"
Hawkeye Mulder smiled playfully.
"Hey, Dana, I have some suggestions. They involve you and me in that alien saucer we recovered."
"That saucer was a prop, and as for your suggestions, FILE THEM."
Fox O'Reilly looked over at his mentor as they went out to the Jeep.
"I think yer wearin' her down, Sir."
As they all climbed in the Jeep, they saw Flagg-Waving Man's mocking face at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, because of an oversight that Scully now pointed out, they weren't going to be joining him.
"Mulder. I can't believe you forgot to fill the tank."
"Not to worry, Dana. As long as you keep blowing hot air, we'll have plenty of gas."
"Hey, hey. Will you two sirs stop arguing? We gotta go find out the Truth about what happened ta Hawkeye's sister."
Hawkeye Mulder shook his head.
"I don't have a sister, Fox. You do."
"Ya see what a good job they done? They took your sister an' gave her to me, and then they took her again. Boy, those creepy guys. Hey, why don't we just run after Flagg-Waving Man?"
Scully turned to Fox O'Reilly, and smiled.
"Because Hawkeye doesn't want you to find out the Truth, Fox."
Suddenly, peering in the window, was Flagg-Waving Man. Only he was now older, and different, and smoking a cigarette.
"Hawkeye set you up, Fox. He only pretended not to know anything about Immunita. He's in it up to his eyeballs. He brought you in as a feint. Pierce and his wife ARE Immunita."
"You'll kinda forgive, me, Mr. Evil Secret Spy, sir, if I don't believe nothin' you got to tell me."
"Who are you kidding? You're his puppet. You jump to his tune in everything you say and do, Fox. Hawkeye knew this, and used that to get what he wanted."
"Hey, Hawkeye? Tell em' that isn't true. Tell em....Oh, geez. It is, isn't it? You set me up. All those coincidences were to draw me in, weren't they, Pierce?"
Hawkeye stood silent. Suddenly the very odd amalgamated world dropped away, leaving them as themselves and alone.
"Yes, Fox, I needed you. What's going on here is not your big conspiracy. But it is close. For now, forget about me, though. Think. Why would people who want or stand to benefit from the colonization of human-alien hybrids also want super-immune humans?"
"First, what do you and Margaret..."
"Kid, you're lucid dreaming, right now. Even highly intelligent people have a hard time achieving this. Ask me when you're awake. Don't waste this opportunity."
"Alright. They want to control Immunita to winnow out humanity for their hybrid friends-wait, I can't ask Hawkeye anything, he's dead. Had me following his damned stories. Treated me like a dupe, treated me like a servant, or a...."
"SLAVE. SLAVES!! They needed…"
On a couch inside a house, Fox Mulder sat bolt upright, shaking off the slumber, and the dream. He absently noticed that his shrapnel wound had been expertly tended to, almost as though by microsurgery. Ignoring everything else, he grabbed an available pen and paper and began to write as he spoke out loud.
"All right. When they take over, there are still going to be some things they need done that they won't want to do themselves. They'll need workers, ones with strong backs. But how to find out who's the best suited? Winnowing. No sense having good slaves wiped out by plague. Strong, able, but controllable by superior technology. Now, why would everyone on their side be squabbling over this? They seem to be of one mind otherwise. Whatever their other agendas. But here, they talk about bases, indicating disunity. Why cooperate in the first instance, but not in the second?"
As Mulder looked at the pad he was writing on, he noticed the address imprinted upon it. A voice then shattered his reverie. The voice of a very dead man.
"Well, my best guess is, whoever owns the means to make the potential slaves can eke out a better deal from the Cthulu Cotillion. Give themselves one step up as they all jockey for position. But I'm not FBI, so I dunno."
Fox Mulder somehow knew that the early thirtyish looking man in front of him was not a clone, an offspring, a shapeshifter, or possessed by an internal creature. Despite seeing him die, the FBI Special Agent knew exactly who he was speaking to. Not a dream, or a ghost, or an Immortal of the kinds he had encountered, the man holding a large, steaming tray of breakfast food, was, despite all evidence and common sense, exactly who he appeared to be. Without a gray hair or wrinkle, the identity of his rescuer was obvious.
Having washed off the gray hair dye and makeup he used in public for the most part, the ever-surprising Hawkeye Pierce put down the tray and checked Mulder's wound. Pierce himself showed no signs of wounds or scarring. His face showed no signs of plastic surgery.
"Ummm, Fox? If I told you about a planet called Krypton, would you believe....no, I didn't think you would, somehow."
"Your credibility is kind of shot with me, Pierce. You-you're a hybrid."
Pierce shook his head.
"It isn't like that. Look, I'm different, now, yeah. But I'm completely human. Just, well, let's just say, when they give you a flu shot, check first to be sure what you're getting."
Mulder was ready to bolt this seeming diversion once and for all.
"Hawkeye, if you don't tell me the entire, verifiable truth, here and now, I'm gone. You pretended to want me here to find out about Henry Blake's death. Now, I'm finding things out that are shaking up my whole world. I go in thinking to continue my investigation into Immunita, but instead I find out that your M*A*S*H* unit and the X-Files are practically joined at the hip."
"Look, Fox, don't blame me. Your world invaded mine, first, pal. I can't give you the full truth, now. But after tomorrow, you'll know something just as valuable. Yes, I took you in, but it was to protect this little world of ours and someone I care about more than my own stupid life. That flu shot I mentioned? There was one other recipient, and the effects were the same. But I have to play interference against Nick O'Tine and Krychek and the rest till I can get her back. It's gonna be soon, but I have to keep making them think I'm only looking. I'm sorry, really. But for her, I'd do anything. And to stop Immunita, I'd do absolutely anything. This little gift of theirs comes with a rather bloody pricetag. Do you have any clue how many people had to die so we could live well past our time?"
"I....have to talk to Scully. I'm sick of people keeping things from me. As soon as I'm done, though, Hawkeye, you and me, we're having this out."
Just then, the house-phone rang. Hawkeye bid Mulder pick it up.
"Hello? Pierce Residence, this is...Max.? Yeah, it's Spooky. How's...Oh,no. Max, I...Is Soon-Lee all right? No, of course...MAX. That's a helluva joke to make about your own wife-oh, she's the one who made it...Soon-Lee? Oh, God. I know he was, but you can't tell me it's better off...I love you, too. Both you guys. You're-you're my heart. Oh, alright I'll tell him...Goodbye, Max---Pop."
Putting down the phone, Mulder walked over and socked Hawkeye in the jaw. Pierce didn't even flinch, but Fox did rub his sore hand.
"You sonova---Wally Klinger is dead. A guy I regarded as a brother was blown up in Korea. You sacrificed him. They said it was part of your plan. Why, Hawkeye.? DAMN YOU, PIERCE, I ASKED WHY."
Hawkeye flinched now. He wasn't proud of his actions.
"Wally wanted to leave with a bang. His health problems were getting worse, so he dressed up as Scilly-I mean Dana, and drove her car. We knew they'd move against her. He wanted to pay the good folks at Immunita back, for his immune problems. More on that, later. The point is, Dana, the evidence Henry had stashed, and -something else- very important are out of Korea. Dana should be in San Francisco by now, with Trapper."
"Colonel Blake had evidence?"
"He gave it to Sydney, who passed it back to us. We hid it, before we left in 53', where they wouldn't be able to search us, if it came to that. Documents, early tests of some of that junk---names, including our ace in the hole. Best of all, a sealed sample of the rocks that killed Spear, Ugly, and Duke. Trapper'll have to re-do some of those tests, but he's good for that, and what he can't do, Scilly can."
"I thought you and Trapper weren't getting along. Another scam. Wait, how can you be so sure that we're not bugged, or, that your ride got Scully and--that special someone--to their destination?"
Hawkeye smiled a cat-canary special.
"Let's just say that this is one person you can always depend on. Plus, he's good with a sword, nowadays. Which beats the hell out of a teddy bear."
Several hours prior
As Dana regained consciousness, she saw who was driving her. It was another old family friend, the man who had spent ten years taking care of Uncle Jack, before he died. But then, there was no sweeter person in the entire world. The sword he had in back with her, though, looked like it could cleave someone's head off. This was needed, because the old family friend was an Immortal. But Dana didn't know that. All she noticed was that it was the only sword she knew of with a small teddy bear engraving.
"You okay back there, Dana? I can stop if you're not. Okay, that is."
"I'm fine, Uncle Walter. But who's that with you?"
The person in front with Walter O'Reilly merely turned around and looked at a stunned Dana Scully, who knew that face as well as she knew Walter's. Better.
"Good to see you---Scilly."
Fox Mulder was not happy with Hawkeye Pierce. Since first meeting with him a scant forty-eight hours ago, he had been lied to repeatedly. Certain people he expected this from; but he had let his guard down around the M*A*S*H* surgeon, the way he did for no one but Scully, Max, and Soon-Lee. He now thought he was a fool to trust the Klingers, as well.
Soon-Lee had seduced him, some time back. In some odd game of re-affirmation, Max had allowed this, so that the older couple would know they were still attractive to one another. But that was hardly the worst of it. They had brought him into their home, made him a Klinger. He had a new sister, and an older brother who needed attention because of his many health problems. He had a family that- he thought - didn't have any secrets from him.
But those good people had ruthlessly sacrificed their own son to Pierce's Immunita-based agenda. Walter Sherman Cy Young Klinger, *Wally*, had died in Korea so that Scully could be smuggled out, along with evidence whose purpose Mulder still wasn't clear on. The only thing he was clear on was that he was tired of Krycheks, and Shadowy Men, and worrying about the loyalties of U.N. workers. For his world to continue, someone somewhere had to be exactly what they seemed. Even his world-view needed a balance, and he was finding none.
"Fox, if you'll just let me explain..."
"Explain about what, Hawkeye? About Tuttle? About the Boot? About how many nurses you nailed, before settling down? About why I should trust my partner's life to Walter O'Reilly, a man who would do anything you to tell him to? Oh, I've got it. Why don't you explain to me how you coached the Klingers into PRETENDING they gave a damn about me?"
Mulder never saw the blow coming. It was only the back of Pierce's hand, but he would swear it almost had a sonic boom effect. He was suddenly reminded of why else he didn't trust Pierce. Hawkeye, and the apparently missing Margaret, were the primary beneficiaries of Immunita's true goal : the development of hyper-perfect humanity, to serve as slaves to the alien-human hybrids that were the future inheritors of Earth. Unless Mulder and Scully could stop them.
"Look, Mulder. Max and Soon-Lee love you. Both of them. Wally and Maxine love you. Those kids of Toshi and Maxine's? Every time they've been over, they ask if Uncle Spooky's here, too. So, whatever you think of me, don't think it of them. If I hear you disparage those two again, I'll make you and Alex Krychek a matched set. GOT IT?"
"I..got it. But understand, Hawkeye. You told me you wanted Henry Blake's killers. But you know who probably did it. You included in your narratives the presence of the most dangerous individual I've ever met, a person sure to push my buttons. You played on my feelings of loss for my sister, while apparently knowing all along where your wife was. I've found out that, for all intents, and purposes, you and your friends may as well have delivered Dana and myself. Finally, I see you as you really are. You're still 30, Pierce. You can move like the wind, you're strong as an ox, and I find out that you and your *missing* wife are Immunita. You two are what they wanted. You are their goal. What deal did you make, Hawkeye, for this gift? For cellular godhood?"
Pierce saw that the chronologically younger man was somewhat calmer, and helped him up. He chose his words carefully. The Truth, Now, he told himself. But how to deliver it?
"First, I'm sorry I slapped you. But you had it coming, with that crack about the Klingers. Next, Margaret and I didn't make any deals. This was done TO us, without our consent. Also we aren't their goal. We two are kind of a missed throw. The Project overdid us. I'll explain that, but not right now."
"No more delays, Hawkeye. I mean it."
Pierce still didn't care for Mulder's tone, but understood his anger. It had once been his own.
"Short version : With Margaret and me, they created versions of their would-be-slaves who were faster, stronger, and smarter than the *people* they were supposed to be serving. No point in that, huh? It was Max's family they were successful with. They've tried on numerous occasions to kidnap Maxine's lovely little hellions, but the kids are too smart for em', and they always summer here. I don't need much in the way of food or sleep anymore, which is a blessing when you're dealing with teenagers. They wouldn't dare mess with me. Not here."
"That's all well and good, Hawkeye, but Krychek threatened your life, despite needing you alive. Although, he does have an irrational streak. But as to the kids, whether it's aliens or not, these characters have some allies, or operatives, who are awfully good at abduction."
"Irrational? Alex? Every joke I made about his grandfather's personality is true of him. That kid is messed up from before the word go. Frank is actually the only decent influence in his whole sorry life. I know about the aliens, Fox, but remember, these people are trying to develop a means of barter with those alien hybrid whatevers. Wouldn't make sense to call them in and hand over control, would it?"
"I suppose. But how did they get to you and Margaret, going that far back?"
"Well, one, they killed a lot of other people, no big surprise for stonehearts like them. You see, the history of Immunita is kind of the history of the dance."
"What dance? Hawkeye, please, no more codes, or romantic storytelling to glad-hand me. I think I deserve a bit more, by this point, don't you?"
"Sorry, Fox. *The Dance* is just a term coined by a mutual friend of myself and Margaret's, a medic by the name of Duncan Macleod."
Mulder's eyes shifted at that name, telling Pierce all he needed to know.
"Yes, old Duncan does get around. Anyhoo, he was the first person to outright tell me and Margaret that we were ducking our true feelings for one another. He said we were dancing around each other too much to realize we were crazy for us. We laughed him off at the time, but, considering it took us fifteen years to walk down the aisle, the guy knew whereof he spoke."
"His kind--of person--usually does. Tell me about your Dance, Hawkeye."
Feeling very much like a little girl, safe in the company of family that would never harm or violate her, Dana Scully now sat in the front seat of Walter O'Reilly's car.
Radar's hair was dyed white, but that was the only concession he made to the public. His immortality was not like Hawkeye or Margaret had, nor was he as quick or as strong. But his trademark senses had only expanded upon his first death in 1952. This helped him to evade others of his kind, to avoid the deadly Game that ended when there was only one left. But he could also avoid the scrutiny of mortals, and come upon them unawares. This served him well as he drove Dana Scully and their mysterious passenger to the private Korean airport, then, upon arriving in Seacouver, drove them down to San Francisco to meet with Trapper. It also served him well in other, even grimmer circumstances.
"Walter, where is our---passenger?"
Radar smiled. Dana was right not to use the passenger's name, even though they had both checked for bugs.
"I wouldn't worry yourself about her, Dana. I seen her put men through glass windows with one punch, and that's before the junk kicked in. Boy, your spy-friends are sure creeple people. I heard about your sister, but I was still takin' care o' your Uncle Jack when it happened."
Dana fondly remembered Jack Scully, and then reached over and kissed *Uncle* Walter on the cheek.
"Hey, what's that for? Not that I mind, ya know."
"You spent ten years of your life taking care of a man you hardly knew, all on the say-so of Uncle Ben-I mean, Hawkeye. Walter--I don't live in a straightforward world anymore. So, I have to ask you..."
"Was there somethin' more to it? Sure thing. Sorry, Scilly, but there's been somethin' more to everything since that first O.R., and when they killed Colonel Blake, they went and made it personal."
"Oh, I understand."
Actually, she didn't. But her intuition told her to trust Walter, so she obeyed it.
"Speed up the car. We're being followed. Walter. Are you listening? There's a blur behind us, gaining rapidly."
"Ah, don't worry none. She's just bringin' the food."
At that, the back door opened, and their passenger re-entered.
"Sorry I'm late. I could only get non-carbonated soft drinks, for obvious reasons. Scilly, you were always kraut and relish, right? I got you those cheese fries you always liked, kiddo."
Someone had just entered their car, moving at a little under seventy miles per hour, as though it were parked or in traffic. This did not seem to disturb Walter, who chomped merrily away on his chili cheese dog. Scully, however, was so thrown off by this that she didn't notice the welcome signs to San Francisco, nor their entry to a hospital parking lot.
An older man---a truly older man--stood in the window, and received a hug from their passenger. He kind of looked to Scully like the older Cartwright brother, from Bonanza. Of course he was not. The man in front of them was the soon-to-be retired head of that hospital.
"Now look, it's all going to plan. You run off to Vegas, where BJ and Peg will meet you. Once I have the final analysis, we'll give it to Radar. He'll meet you in St. Louis. Then, off to the Swamp."
"You'll meet me in St. Louis? Where?"
Chuckling, Radar hummed/sang.
"I'll meet cha at the fair. Now can the jokes and run off--Ma'am."
Giving Radar, Scully, and their old friend a brief hug, the passenger literally did run off, dodging traffic like it wasn't even there.
Scully stared in complete disbelief. This did, however, explain why she was never able to sneak cookies at her Uncle and Aunt's house, as a child-she never stood a chance.
"Look at her go. My God."
John Francis Xavier McIntyre, aka *Trapper John*, just shook his head.
"Close, but not quite. Although, with her and Hawkeye's egos, they might tend to think they were gods. Eh, Radar?"
"I wouldn't know about no gods, Trapper. My head comes off, I die just like anybody else-cept for the fireworks."
A female doctor, looking to be a youngish 45, ran up and hugged Radar.
"Walter. How're ya doin? Is this Dana Scully? Oh, boy. You were just a baby back at Hawkeye and Margaret's wedding. Oh, duh-Sorry. I screw up like that sometimes. So, you divorcing bum. Introduce me, or I'll tell Dad you're ignoring me again."
"He was already angry enough that I went and married ya to begin with. Dana, this is my ex-wife, though things went good when we broke up, on accounta I can't have no children. Doctor Erin O'Reilly, chief chest-cracker here, under Trapper."
Dana was a little thrown off.
"You married a man who you once ran up to and called 'Daddy'?"
Erin Hunnicutt O'Reilly just shrugged.
"Um--Trapper? Gonzo's ready for the tests."
It's so hard on him, being just a lab man. But since the strokes---Radar, you get in there and help him. You're mostly immune, right?"
"Yeah, but I'm still gonna be careful with that stuff. When Klinger screamed that morning, I was the one ran over to the Swamp. I saw them, too. That's somethin' ya can't forget. Not ever."
Radar knew Gonzo Gates, from the reunion that the 4077th alumni had on February 28, 1983. His career had ground to a halt, after a series of unexplainable strokes. The connection was not lost on Dana. She was beginning to see a pattern. Trapper and Erin then turned to her, with the evidence valise in tow.
"Dana, I know you and your partner haven't been played straight with. Maxine phoned me and asked me to apologize for knocking you out. She's got her hands full, planning Rosie and Wally's funerals. Did Radar tell you, about Wally Klinger?"
When Dana had awoken in her car in a different dress, she had suspected something was up. Pressed, Radar had revealed how the sickly first child of Max and Soon-Lee Klinger had dressed as her and died in her place when she was targeted. For Radar, it was doubly hard, since Walter Sherman Cy Young Klinger was his godson and namesake.
"Hubby tells me you're a pathologist?"
"Yes, of sorts. You need help with the analysis?"
"Yes, but something more. We know how they got to Hawkeye, Margaret, and Max. But the entire camp's lineage is replete with health problems. Not just the GWS or Agent Orange type, either. My family's been all right, but none of Dish's kids survived childhood, all three Baker cousins were gone early, William Bubba Rizzo has had early chronic heart problems, and poor Igor lost his mind, all for reasons that seem to indicate a non-native environmental factor. In short, Scully, we need to know their delivery system, or else no one's going to believe us. Our evidence will have no more effect than the depth charges they tried to use on Godzilla, back in 54' ".
Dana thought. The story of the 4077th's 1st disastrous reunion in doomed Tokyo, in December of 54', had always been a favorite of hers. One of the scariest parts when they had mined Tokyo Bay, in an unsuccessful effort to kill the creature. The thought of a government, mining its own harbor, its own people, for any reason was....the answer.
"Your Minefields. I've read how they used to be set off by any number of conditions. Is that so, Trapper?"
"Pretty much. Hell, we used to refer to the mine field as being a kind of reliable ....delivery boy. Damn. Those things never kept the enemy back, but they sure made our lives miserable. I didn't know they were trying to kill us, back when they were trying to kill us."
As Trapper, Erin, and Scully headed inside, they were all angry. Dana stopped, and looked around. These unseen forces were holding a more and more solid hand, of late. Upset that they were again messing with her family, she sighed audibly.
"How do we make these people go away? I'll even let Mulder be right on every last detail, if they'll just go away."
Trapper shook his head.
"It took us forty-five years, Miss Scully. But we're almost there, I promise. Too many names on those lousy tongue depressors. We'll get them."
Despite the release, Dana knew those grim forces would not be impressed by a speech. Defeating them would take hard, real-world work. But if destroying Immunita would hurt them, then she was all for it. Immunita's sponsors, though, still had teeth, and they would use them. She went inside to help with the analysis of Gonzo Gates' tests.
Leaving CrabApple Cove in Hawkeye's station wagon, Mulder heard the first words of the story he had been awaiting. Pierce was still quite vague about other things, though.
"We're headed South. Max contacted a friend of yours-a real friend. We'll meet him in Atlantic City, then catch the Cape May ferry to Virginia. You drive for a while, I'll play lookout. Don't worry-I can tell if we've been bugged. I keep magnets scattered all over the car. Plays havoc with their stuff. All, right. It all started during that 1st OR. Henry didn't know we were watching..."
July 27, 1950
Despite himself, Hawkeye decided to walk up to the still-upset Major Houlihan and apologize. Her reaction was warm and understanding of the circumstances.
"Go to hell."
"Hell's already here, Major. I said something crude, but you took an honest question and turned into a loyalty test."
"Right on both counts, Captain. It's clear we don't get along, so why don't we just steer...what's Colonel Blake doing?"
Pierce looked over, and saw Henry Blake standing dumbfounded, as a person who appeared to be a General had him cornered.
"How's your hearing, Major?"
"Decent. But you have a stethoscope."
"Oh, yeah. Here, lets grab an ear."
Since Pierce had always had a bit of the ringleader in him, Margaret went along without knowing exactly why. With one ear of the scope in each of them, they heard the General's unbelievable conversation with a shaken Colonel Blake.
"Did--I just hear what I thought? Did that brass just threaten the lives of all those soldiers--over some rocks?"
"This isn't possible. Even the CIA wouldn't---"
"CIA? Who said anything about the CIA?"
"That man is General Bartford Hamilton Steele. He and his family practically formed the Pacific Theatre OSS, which became the CIA. My God, what can we do? This level of unashamed corruption may be unassailable."
The thought of deep, highly-placed corruption in the Army she had devoted her life to hurt Major Houlihan at her core. It had her near panic. But not Pierce, whose opinion of the Army had never been quite as sky-high. While not panicked, though, he did feel thrown.
"Up til now, I thought the one good thing about the Army was that it beat up on guys like that General. Oh, well, naiveté lost. Back to the Operating Room."
"Whaaat? But what about this--travesty?"
"Later. The supplies are being unloaded, and we have patients-lots of them. Umm--act like you and I are still pistols at ten paces, too."
"Captain, you kept your head when I began to lose mine. Even for appearances, I can't stay mad with that in mind."
"Major. Of course you can."
Ten seconds later, Margaret kneed Hawkeye in the groin.
In the present, Mulder asked Pierce; "What precisely did you do to get her that upset?"
"I pinched her butt… both cheeks."
"Hardly PC. But her kneeing you? That's a bit extreme."
"Did I mention I reached under her surgical gown to do this?"
"You're lucky to be alive, Hawkeye."
"Luckier than you know, Fox. A lot luckier."
"So, from the very start, you knew something was wrong."
"Yeah. Margaret and I would sometimes fake an argument to compare notes. Not that most of them were fake, but they made for good cover."
Mulder had to concede the future couple's cleverness. Odds are, even someone watching them wouldn't pay attention when real disagreements flared so regularly.
November 29, 1950
Margaret Houlihan was just leaving the shower. Outside, standing far enough away to show that he wasn't peeping, was Hawkeye Pierce.
"Major, Charlotte Cunningham."
"Captain, Duke Forrest."
"Captain, when Frank falls asleep."
Later, under guise of a failed practical joke and the threat of a report, they would talk of what they had found out about the grim October just past.
"My reporter friend? The one---I lost? He didn't just happen here. They took those rocks and set up, about ten miles from here. They've set up an apothecary of horrors, to hear him tell it. And no, I don't think whoever-it-is killed him. But, I'm keeping an open mind-God help me."
"I told a baloney story about losing my Father to anyone who would listen. I then wrote to him---he told me not to cross Steele--or his son."
"Not until we see that place. With everyone getting the flu, that won't be soon."
Just then, in 1998, Fox Mulder brought the car to a screeching halt.
"You expect me to believe you and Margaret had your own search for the truth going almost 50 years ago? I told you to stop playing me, Hawkeye."
"I'm not. I mean, it wasn't as sophisticated as yours, but we had people we could talk to, though only once, mind you."
"Why only once?"
"Well, some of them turned up dead. Others, well, let's just say we were fearful of misinformation. After all, even in desperation, you don't trust Cigarette Man anymore, am I right?"
Mulder pulled forward with a surge, telling Hawkeye he had again displayed his talent at saying just the right thing.
"Let's say I accept your version of events, Hawkeye. But if you and Margaret were working together to find out about the fate of those meteors, then why all the trouble between you? An act?"
"Ahhh, he hath ears, but does not listen. No Sherlock, it wasn't an act. She legit tried to get Henry busted, and Trapper and I legit tried to bed every willing female and drink every drink in the KTO. None of us succeeded, mind you, but we all did what we could. No, the investigation was just neutral territory. We had dead, erased friends to avenge. There were no showers, no reports, and no insults then. Fun was fun, business - the wounded - was business, and the Truth, as they say was out there. But the Truth invaded our fun and our business."
"So, Doctor, what did X-Files KTO find out next?"
December 4, 1950
Half the staff was down with the flu. But Hawkeye Pierce's pants were all the way down, with Margaret Houlihan having to give him an injection of an experimental flu shot. Adding to her discomfort, Radar walked in and walked out, thinking something was going on between them.
"Owwww. Ohh, Major. Again."
"You piece of---pull those pants up. And DO NOT turn around. You don't impress me, Pierce."
"Well, if you're not going to let me turn around, then how am I supposed to impress you? Er, Major? You're kind of supposed to say something, like, *Yeah, Pierce, but I don't have my microscope handy*.....Margaret?"
Pierce quickly redressed. Margaret was silent, staring at the packing for the experimental flu vaccine.
"My God. They've killed us."
"What, they've killed us? Major, what are you...THEM? They sent this?"
Hawkeye stared at the packaging. It was labeled: MEDICAL UNIT 3966 : PANACEA VACCINE : IMMUNITA 01.
"Great. Just great. The 3966th. Our friends down the road. Well, take heart, Major. I may have laughed about you seeing my rump roast, but that means I'll go quicker. Maybe we can pump yours out of your arm, though, before anything sets in."
"No, Doctor. You'll have to amputate - I don't want to end up - like them."
"Look, we do have patients. Let's treat them, but keep an eye out--what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Your fantasy, Doctor. I'm disrobing, so that I can be checked for signs of contagion. Maybe you better bring O'Reilly in. He's still coherent enough to see."
Pierce stopped her unbuttoning in its tracks.
"Ohhhh, no you don't. Not without a pool of chocolate pudding. Major, an exam won't reveal anything. Remember, everyone had themselves checked out before Party Night. Besides, it's too cold."
Margaret was grateful, but shaken.
"What do we do? I say we drive down there and--no, scratch that--I'm not dying there. Alright, Captain. Let's see if anything happens. I'm glad you overcame your libido, this once."
"Major, you'd be surprised at what possible imminent death can accomplish. The perfect thing for those couples who have enough children. The Grim Reaper helps chase those reproductive thoughts right out."
"You're babbling, Doctor."
"Damned right, Major."
"So, when me, her, and Klinger were returning from that frontline unit, we stopped by Immunita, and got a list. Max just babbled up a storm while we filched a rather nasty document. Of all the people they'd fed that space-junk to, we were it. People dropping like flies for any number of *official reasons.* Anywhere from two to twenty thousand."
"And these paranoid conspirators didn't try to stop you?"
"Oh, they did try. They surrounded us with well-trained soldiers with seemingly infinite ammo-clips."
Mulder stopped the car.
"Would they be like the soldiers who currently have us surrounded?"
"Pretty much. Fox?"
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all. Scully and I have been through this cliché enough times."
The men outside were used to their orders being obeyed. Their guns made sure of that. But this time, Mulder actually waved at them, playfully. He was sure someone familiar was just over the ridge, but he didn't care.
The soldiers were expertly trained, and fanatic about their missions of suppression. While not killing them, Hawkeye Pierce went through them like a hot knife through butter. They brought lead, when what they needed was Kryptonite.
As Pierce got back in the car, having outpaced and overpowered the small army, Mulder couldn't resist yelling back, to them, and whoever was their sponsor.
"Now remember, fellas--none of this EVER happened!"
Pierce smiled, before resuming his story. It seemed like Fox Mulder was finally getting the hang of all this.
"Jeepers, Mr. Kent, whatever did you do then?"
"As far as comedy goes, stick to the paranormal."
"You forget, Hawkeye, I've heard your jokes. They bear investigation. Question?"
"Maybe later. Question is, have you heard of a meteor strike in Siberia, in 1908?"
"Sure. Leveled a forest, right?"
"Yes. The meteors there contained an actual living extraterrestrial. Did yours?"
"Funny you should mention that. No, they didn't. They only contained the base material, which ended up giving Immunita an edge over its leash-holders. Remember, SpearChucker and the others weren't possessed - just gone. We only managed to get out with the one document, but we peeked at quite a few. What's odd, is, Henry's marching orders came down not too long thereafter. I have to wonder if we didn't put things in motion. Henry nearly hit the roof when he found out where we'd been, but backed us up, particularly after he told us about what he'd given Sydney. But back to the subject. Maybe the two sets of meteors are still connected. Maybe this stuff was the Siberialien's luggage. Radar seems to think our rocks have a connection to his big green pal from Tokyo-way. Who knows?"
Mulder chuckled at the word *Siberialien*, but realized that Pierce was correct. Without a hostile, parasitic entity contained within the meteors, Immunita's mad scientists would have a field day. Questions remained, though.
"When did you and Margaret first notice the effects? And, if you were overly enhanced, why did they still want you? Krychek - I concede the source - called you two the keys to Immunita."
"We were noticing the quicker healing and greater endurance as time went by. The *Kick* as we like to call it, didn't come around until after we left Korea. I first REALLY felt it during Godzilla's attack on Tokyo, in 54'. Margaret and I were on fire. Trapper and BJ tried to get us to take blood tests. But we got those later, at a secure location."
"Where, might I ask?"
"That's--kind of classified, Fox. As in none of the people involved have even been born yet. Suffice it to say that we found out what we needed to. We were still human, but had been 'bumped up the long ladder', supposedly more evolved. The doctor who did the testing had the same thing happen to him as a child. I could out-think those soldiers by almost two hundred movements, while Margaret could have done it by about five hundred. She can break through brick walls, while I can go through a steel one. I can personally outpace most jets. Margaret can beat bolts of lightning to their target. Together, we could upend Godzilla, and shake off the radiation poisoning. The blood you saw from Krychek's bazooka shell was the equivalent of a finger scrape, for me. As to why they want us, well----.
Pierce then made a sound like a small buzzsaw. Mulder got the message- vivisection, to see where to alter the treatment on the only people to survive Immunita's wretched flu *vaccine.*
"Now, Fox, we fast-forward through the whys and wherefores of two kids named Hawkeye and Hot Lips, who, as they were getting older, discovered that - they weren't. Mind you, there are two significant drawbacks to all this. One, we have to live with what it cost other people for us to have all this, not to mention who it came from. We were so damned lucky, but it's sometimes hard to feel that way, with this high a price tag."
"What's the second drawback?"
"Well, you see, we end up spending a small fortune on gray hair dye and headboards."
Having been set up once again, Mulder groaned.
"We're almost at the Atlantic City exit, Hawkeye. Cut to the chase."
January 12, 1951
Trapper analyzed the preserved month-old vaccine with great interest. But Hawkeye's tale held still greater interest for him. Considering his own efforts at winning Hot Lips' attentions, McIntyre had a great interest.
"So she stared and stared at your bare derriere'? Hawkeye, move in. The fact that she even allowed you to do this means the woman wants more than Frank 'N' Beans."
"Trap, it was a joke, and she went along with it, to shut me up--end of story. I mean, do you throw a lighted match into a gasoline can? Me and Hot Lips? Hah. Frank will leave his wife before that happens. Now, about this stuff..."
"Oh, it's contaminated, all right. I have never, ever seen anything remotely like it. Hawk - this stuff is dangerous. Who else took it, sides' you and Houlihan?"
"Nobody else, here. She took hers in the arm, so maybe the effects will take longer. Did you compare it with -- ya know?"
Even Trapper didn't like to say it out loud. Hawkeye almost couldn't think about it. *It* was a fingernail recovered from one of their lost friends, the ones they were ordered never to speak of again.
"I more than compared it. It's a lock. This junk and that junk are the same junk. Keep an eye on your health, Hawk. And- as to Hot Lips--think about it. I know I will."
"I will think about it. I promise. On the day that she has HER trousers down in front of me, receiving a shot, letting me take a gander at her cheeks, I'll propose. I promise.....Trapper, stop thinking about it and get back to your work."
May 15th, 1951
"Major, did you check the lab results?"
"Captain, they are appropriately checked-and, God help me, falsified."
"Margaret, I realize this doesn't sit well with you. But somewhere in the Army, someone, maybe that so-called 'Crazy General', is directing all this. Now, Trapper tells me there's a positive match to the remains, and that junk. So, this village didn't just get bombed."
"I'd like to think it's merely a few rogues, but it's more, isn't it?"
Hawkeye Pierce would willingly pull any number of low jokes on Margaret Houlihan. But he didn't like shattering her faith.
"Don't give up hope. Or Crosby. All we know is that the 3966th- Immunita - definitely had a hand in that shelling. Those faceless nothings over there have been swarming all over those poor fools."
"It's hard for me to think straight on this, Captain. When should we think about talking to Colonel Blake?"
"Now. Before his lunch wears off."
Blake was warm, helpful and supportive of the odd ambitions of his senior staff.
"The two of you? Amateur FBI? Pierce, you, I expect this tom-foolery from, but Major, I really expected better."
"Colonel Blake, this enterprise is the one thing that Captain Pierce and I agree on. That alone should tell you how serious we are."
"Henry, people are dying because of that pharmacy from hell. If Hot---If Major Houlihan and I are really working together, do the math, Einstein."
"I can't. You two never add up. You might shack up, but add up? That's a big Noper."
"Henry, we are trying to nail down some slippery characters. She's here without Frank, me without Trapper. No back-up. And, for the Major's dignity, no shack-up till the war has come to a complete halt. Which what we've got here just might do."
"All right Pierce, Major. Here's how it goes. Pierce, I'm ordering a new round of physicals for the nurses. COMPLETE physicals, and you alone have the workload. You'll need to take extensive X-rays. Some ladies may be waiting for hours, as they were born. Major Houlihan, you have a month's R+R in Tokyo, where you will stay with a three-star General and his wife who recently lost their daughter. They like innovative young people. They like to help them along--in life."
Both sat and stared at Henry. Pierce was livid.
"Henry, that's a beautiful fantasy, but I don't think some cheesy--well, not cheesy-- bribe is going to---COMPLETE physicals?"
"Nothing's too good for our nurses. Be very thorough, Pierce. Take a month, if needed. They can just report back."
"Aaaah, Stuff It. With my luck, Five O'Clock Charlie will pick that day to actually hit the target. Besides, I like my physicals to be administered one at a time. Major, are you as upset as I am?"
"Three--Stars? Like to help people? Lieutenant Colonel people? Ummm, NO. Certainly not. Pierce is right, Colonel. How dare you try to bribe -three stars- bribe us into silence?"
"Here's news for you engineers. I wasn't serious. But the people we're going up against are. You don't know what-oh, hell, you do know what they're capable of. All I'm saying is, be careful. Give me copies of what you have, and I'll give them to---" Henry then wrote 'HEAD SHRINKER' on a blank tablet.
"So Dr. Freedman had the evidence, then you, then him ---then who? Who's had it all these years?"
"It's not who, Fox, but what. Until three days ago, we had it buried where they would never look, for all the junk that was in it."
Mulder made an insightful guess.
"You crazy---What makes you think they wouldn't look in the Time Capsule?"
"Because, for years, we handed around an empty valise. They just assumed we kept it here, with us, because they were always trying to grab it."
Mulder wondered just how capable of subterfuge his new friend was. He still had no real clue. He would know soon, and enjoy every minute of it.
November 23, 1963
It was that horrible Friday between the death of a President and the death of the man who, it was believed, had pulled the trigger.
But to Hawkeye Pierce, none of that mattered. Margaret Scully had called him, after a silence of years. She needed his help. Jack had taken ill, and Winchester said that Pierce was needed. He liked Charles, and Jack. But for Margaret, he would do anything. Even risk being hurt again.
In 1959, a tearful Margaret had left him at the altar. Comforted by wedding guest Jack Scully, she had married him within a month thereafter. Within one year, the once and future couple had stopped speaking altogether. Pierce realized fully the irony of his wanting to commit to her, but her getting cold feet. As he entered Boston General, she was waiting for him---as were a thousand knots.
"How is he?"
"It was a stroke, Hawkeye."
"How? The guy's as healthy as a horse."
"It's me. Charles says I'm killing him."
"I trust Charles, of course. But what does he mean?"
"The vaccine, Pierce. The same one that makes us-what we are. My--our---immune systems are so incredibly active, that anyone were near for too long is attacked by antibodies. Charles says that they caused Jack's circulatory system to weaken. We--have to divorce. It's for his own good. I've killed him."
"Wait. What about Frank and Penobscott? And how come we went years near patients without infecting a single one?"
"Charles called in...our consultant friend. The one who lives near the…Bay-Shore?"
"So what did future-boy say?"
As Margaret relayed what she knew, the clear implication to Pierce was that he and Margaret could be together, but not with anyone else.
"C'mon, Margaret. It's not your fault."
"Like hell, it's not. I married Jack strictly so could avoid marrying the man I love. Hawkeye? Let's end this dance. If you'll have me, if you still love me, then will you marry me?"
Pierce felt simultaneously like he was both embracing fate and defying it. But he knew what his answer had to be.
"Yes. Hell, yes."
They embraced, and kissed deeply. Margaret had waited to say those words, and Hawkeye had waited to hear them. But first and foremost, they would help Jack Scully, an unwitting victim of their avoidance dance. But on August 22, 1965, what was either the inevitable or the ridiculous finally became the real.
"So, we made sure there was always someone we could trust to give poor Jack full care. Even tapped Radar, for a decade. Poor bastard. We owed him big. A lug, but always a gentleman. He even brought his niece over, in the summer, at CrabApple Cove. Nice kid. So when do you two stop dancing?"
In the convention parking lot, Mulder saw Frohike of The Lone Gunmen waving in the distance, and realized that's who they were there to meet. But he bristled at Pierce's question.
"Hawkeye, Dana and I don't dance. It's not like it was with you and Margaret."
"If you say so, Fox. Hey, Frohike."
"Well, if it isn't . Doc, good news. The LG's are gonna netcast the event at five tomorrow. The big goons won't know what byte bit em'. Mulder, this guy was you before you were."
As Frohike got in to the back seat, Mulder was still on the last page.
"Really. We don't dance."
"Uh, guys...Dana's not here, is she?"
"No, pal. But we'll all be there for the event."
"Could someone tell the poor FBI man just what event you're talking about?"
Hawkeye smiled at both younger men.
"Why, payback, of course. I hear she's a difficult, demanding date. Always wants steak, lobster and champagne. But she always makes it worth it."
Walter walked in. Scully could see what had happened in the eternally young man's face. Trapper was next, with a look as though he was girding himself for a body blow. Erin Hunnicutt O'Reilly Gates, though, sat unsuspecting. She only smiled at the entrance of her ex-husband into Trapper's office, with the final analysis of the Immunita evidence that had been, in part, hidden in the Korean Time Capsule. Having dealt with death and having dealt death to others, Walter knew the best thing to do was be quick and brutal. Given the choice, though, he'd rather fight the Kurgan than say what he had to say.
"Guys. Its Gonzo. Multiple concurrent organ failures. He's in quarantine, pending mandatory cremation. Erin, honey, I'm sorry. If I coulda given him some of what I have, I would. You gotta know that."
The sobbing widow embraced her former husband, who was also a friend to her parents and late husband, not to mention her boss, Doctor McIntyre.
"Just get it and her to the Swamp, Walter. You keep your head, and we'll all make them pay."
Walter shook hands with Trapper, then hugged Scully and kissed his ex-wife again, before departing for his rendezvous in St. Louis, where his second cousin was now Chief Of Police. From there, East to the Swamp.
"Remember, 4:30 tomorrow, guys."
Scully asked two questions, after Walter left.
"If Gonzo is gone, then who pays? Sorry, Erin. And what happens tomorrow?"
Erin was still upset. Tonight, she would choose to stay at Trapper's house. This decision would have consequences that BJ and Trapper would have words about---again. For now, Trapper John spoke for both of them.
"Well, Dana, Gonzo's original series of strokes were induced. Someone gave him, after a stabbing incident, some blood with our mystery junk in it. Blood they knew would vastly weaken his circulatory system. A reminder for me to keep my mouth shut, on certain matters. It made him bitter enough to drive off his first wife, but never Erin."
"How on Earth could they predict its effects that precisely?"
"Because it was from a man who had already experienced the same effects."
Dana took in Trapper's words, then, grimly, said two words of her own.
Special Agent Dana Scully decided that she was getting tired of connections, and coincidences, and grim similar fates. She now couldn't wait to see what her extended family was going to do when they reached *The Swamp.*
The next morning, the three left on a flight East. In Denver, Erin Hunnicutt's parents did the same, all to meet up at The Klinger household, situated near the *Swamp.* Doctor Winchester was already there, having brushed off Alex Krychek's attempt at interrogation twenty-four hours back. When one's family ran two sets of Watchers, one tended to have connections, and Charles had plenty of those.
Out from Saint Louis, Walter O'Reilly drove a decoy car in circles, while a brilliant blur speeded toward the Swamp, evidence sealed and protected, ready to be used to fulfill the 4077th alumni's agenda. On the car ferry that sails from Cape May, New Jersey, Lone Gunman Frohike spoke with Mulder about Hawkeye's discrepancy concerning Cigarette Man's age. He was succinct.
"I know what my bio of him said, Fox. But the bastard's slippery. Doc Pierce's version of events seems to jibe with new evidence we've found. But with that sleaze, who the hell knows? I sure don't."
That and that alone, seemed to be the one unchanging aspect of Mulder's life. With Cigarette Man, you simply never knew anything for certain.
The ferry completed its journey, and they were back on the road. By twelve the next day, they were nearing the 'Swamp'. Pierce gracefully answered Frohike's awkward questions.
"Well, Frohike, all I'm saying is that whoever-it-was should never have posted this on the net; Trapper and I pulled the shower down as a practical joke, only. You really shouldn't ask a man to sign an essentially nude picture of his own wife--that part's just for future reference."
Margaret would have killed him.
Hawkeye signed anyway, earning Frohike's eternal gratitude, but not his balance.
"She's-she's Dana's Aunt, isn't she?"
Mulder and Pierce looked at each other and rolled their eyes at the obvious meaning in Frohike's question. Then Mulder realized their very familiar location.
"Hawkeye, this is the *Swamp*?"
"Well, technically speaking, it was built on a swamp. Plus, some of the stuff that comes out of here makes you wonder if they drained it yet."
Mulder realized how turned around he was not to grasp that they were entering Washington, D.C., the nation's capital. Now, all the players were in place, and Mulder and Scully would find out if the 4077th really had what it took to bring down the Consortium. So far, they had stymied all of Hawkeye's requests for investigation of those early deaths. Mulder wondered what was different, now.
Radar met them at 4:30, near a privately built memorial to veterans like Henry Blake, who died after their war was over. It was secluded, almost inviting someone to come after them. Mulder nodded at Pierce.
"Pity your second CO isn't here, Hawkeye."
Pierce grinned at this, but said nothing on the fate of Sherman Potter. All the MASH surviving senior staff were there, with the exception of the still missing Margaret Pierce---and one other. Then again, he always had been the odd one out.
Elk Ridge, Indiana
Frank Burns had raised his grandson himself. He loved Alex Krychek with a fierce devotion. The young man was Burns' pride and joy. While thinking these thoughts, Frank heard a knock at the door---and he prayed to God Almighty that it was anyone except his grandson. Alex scared him.
Checking the window, he saw that it was not Alex, but rather Tom Beckett from down the road. Tom Beckett, whose brother Sam his grandson had tried very hard to kill in Frank's own house.
Tom Beckett didn't like Frank. That much was made clear in his voice.
"Hey, Tom. Anyone in the family sick?"
The former Navy Seal frowned.
"Frank, you know that if they were, I wouldn't bring them here."
"I said I was sorry."
Frank knew why Tom was angry with him. His sister Katie had taken a fall, and needed a few stitches. By the time Frank Burns was done with her, though, she needed to be rushed to the hospital, with massive infections. Tom's family had not been happy about this. Especially not his brother, Sam. The bigger problem -Frank's grandson Alex had been lying in wait for him. Frank had never really asked how they all kept out of jail, after that. Alex Krychek himself was the direct result of questions Frank Burns didn't ask. He was, it should be noted, quite good at not asking questions.
"Margaret, we were ordered not to say anything. Now I hear you and Pierce are bothering those nice people at the 3966th. I mean, if they want to build a better world on everyone else's backs, who are we to tell them no?"
"I thought maybe we were the American people, Frank."
"Weeeelll, if you're gonna go and bring THAT up....."
"Hey-hey, Louise. Your dragon-slayer is home from Tokyo. Boy, what a great time we all had. Well, 'cept for Godzilla stomping on everything. But you can't let a little thing like that ruin an otherwise mediocre reunion."
Louise Burns didn't even turn her head.
"I know you saw her, Frank. That's why we have a couch, and that's why you're using it tonight."
In Tokyo, Frank and Margaret had barely said ten words to each other, and Frank knew this.
Frank's daughter was marrying Antony Krychek. It was a shotgun wedding, but the young man seemed anxious to pay for his mistake, and Frank was anxious to make him pay. Burns spoke to daughter Elisa before the ceremony.
"Father, what if I told you I don't want to marry Antony?"
"Oh, but kitten, it's all paid for."
"What if I didn't want to have the baby?"
"Don't be silly, lumpkins. Who else would have it?"
'What if I said that on that night I got pregnant, it wasn't really my choice to be with Antony?"
"Well, maybe not, but it's not like he forced himself on you."
Fighting back tears, Elisa said, "Dad?"
Not connecting the dots at all, Frank said, "Yes, baby-bear?"
"Could you send Mrs. Hunnicutt in?"
"Where is Mrs. Burns, Doctor?"
"Oh, well, you see, we ran into a spot of trouble in our marriage, so we entered the care of the Reverend Martin, who acted as our marriage counselor. That's where she is right now. I hear her and the Reverend are quite happy. IIIII'm not doing so well, myself."
"Be that as it may, we're here to talk about young Alex. Given his mother's disappearance and his father's fugitive status, coupled with your ex-wife's total lack of desire to have anything to do with the child, the county has seen fit to award him to the best available blood relative."
"Why aren't I getting him?"
The social worker just stared.
"Doctor Burns, I meant you."
"Oh. Whod've Thought?"
"You do understand the problems associated with raising a sexually abused child, Doctor?"
"Oh, I'm not taking any damaged goods. Just my Alex."
"Doctor, let me be succinct. Antony Krychek was a repeat sexual offender. Why your daughter married him, knowing this, is beyond me. But the boy has definitely been..."
As the social worker continued talking, part of Frank's mind realized the depth of his failure to Elisa. He swore he would not fail Alex, too. Sadly, this same part had once vowed to divorce Louise and marry Margaret.
"Alex, were you fighting again?"
"No, gramps. I was destroying people who got in my way."
"So long as you weren't fighting."
"That witch broke my hand."
"Alexxxx, grabbing Mrs. Pierce like that was not a good idea. I mean, you nearly ruined the whole reunion."
"So I grabbed her. I was just feeling what every other man in the room once did."
"Nerts To You."
"Um, do you have to smoke?"
"Yes, I do. Now out with it Burns. I have a busy schedule. Word is, Dear Margaret has vanished."
"I appreciate my promotions and all, but I think you're a bad influence on my grandson."
"Bad Influence? Doctor, do you want him to end up like you--or me?"
Frank stood up, defiantly.
"Now that's hardly a fair question."
Alex Krychek was drunk. He sat in his grandfather's living room, and sang song parodies.
"Granpa, just killed a man; Put my gun up to his head; Pulled my trigger now he's dead.; BIll Mulder's life was almost done; But I still went and shot him anyway.."
As Alex's song continued, Frank rolled his eyes.
"I used to like that song. Even if it was written by a fruit."
"Hey, Granpa. Tell me again about how everyone made a fool of you at the 4077th."
"Oh, no. I'm pretty much over that, Alex."
Frank heard a gun click.
"I'm here, Frank, because they've reached what they call *The Swamp*. That is all."
Frank breathed a sigh of relief as Tom Beckett left, and also in knowing it would all soon be over. The odd man out had an even odder grandson. Frank wondered if he would ever be the hero of his early daydreams. He didn't like the answers he found.
In the foreground was Mulder's constant nemesis, known by his favorite habit. In the background were lots of trained killers, all cocking their guns in seclusion. Things looked bad for the heroes.
"Well, all are assembled. Now where's the evidence, Pierce? Going to Skinner with it?"
Hawkeye Pierce shocked Cigarette Man by smiling directly back at him, with an even cockier smile. Hawkeye had some choice words for this would-be secret master of the Earth.
"You've Lost, Pal. You see, its 5:00, and this time, you're out of points."
Mulder and Scully exchanged a look which contained heavy doses of prayer that Hawkeye wasn't just bluffing.
While *Cigarette Man* laughed heartily at Pierce's boast of having beaten him, the snipers he had surrounding the area were at the ready. They were some of them mercs, others ideologues in the Consortium's cause, others merely soldiers who were reprimanded for liking killing a little too much. They were perfectly ready to pepper the secluded memorial area with enough firepower to kill even Hawkeye--debatably.
But they were tragically unready for an Iowan Immortal who wanted revenge for the death of the man who was like his own father. Radar O'Reilly was not a killer. But these people weren't killing anyone else, especially not his family. Quickly and silently, he dispatched twenty-five armed killers who thought they were large and in charge. The diminutive Immortal proved them wrong. He went to scan for more before rejoining his friends---for the unmasking.
"I'll tell you what, Pierce. You failed to get to Skinner. Just give me the evidence on Immunita, and I'll even help you find your wife. We may have a lead on her whereabouts - or we may not. Your choice. Maybe you can sulk in Hunnicutt's sub-basement and pine for her, like you do every six months. We do have the odd person in Montana, you know."
BJ was livid. He was no militia type. But folks up there did not, as a rule, care for the federal government. This was guy was the Federales Cubed.
"You Slime. So you know about the sub-basement. Ah, but do you know about the Sub-Sub Basement?"
"Spare me the jokes, Doctor. That's always been Pierce's supposed forte'. Yours is...."
BJ reached slowly into his pocket, pulling out an AM Radio. This had been mostly his plan, and he would be allowed to play it out at its finish.
"This is the way your world ends, pal. Not with a bang of a gun, but the bang of a gavel. You see, my strength is not verbal jokes, like Hawkeye. Trapper and I both share a love of--practical jokes."
The news broadcast on the small radio was coming straight from the nearby halls of Congress. The voice was recognizable as Senator Matheson, an ally of Mulder's. Cigarette Man-smiled.
"Matheson won't be able to use a courier, boys and girls. He'll need one of the senior staff to back it up, and you're all here. We did take these 'Immunita' hearings into account, you know."
Matheson's voice continued:
"Madame, this evidence is quite startling. If Immunita's goal is the production of superhumans and not Immune enhancement, then Congressional and Executive guidelines regarding DNA research have almost certainly been violated, and I will ask Attorney General Reno to appoint a task force, immediately. Seconded by our own investigation, which, thanks to you, has now taken on unbelievable dimensions. I am told that certain parties have downloaded your evidence onto the World-Wide-Web. For security reasons, I wish you had not, but can understand your reasoning in this. These appear to be dangerous folk, even back to the KTO. Do you have anything else you wish to say?"
A woman's voice now came through. Most hearts rejoiced at hearing it. For different reasons, CSM and Hawkeye's hearts nearly burst free of their moorings.
"Nothing much, Senator. Just that I could not have gotten here, today, to do this without the love and support of many people. Chief among them are my niece, FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, her partner, Fox Mulder, and my big stupid lug of a husband, retired Colonel Benjamin Franklin Pierce, who should be nearby, helping an old acquaintance get the points."
With that, the testimony of the no-longer-missing Colonel Margaret Houlihan Pierce came to an end. CSM began to shout into a cell-phone. He was now barely in control of his own bodily functions. He had been played, as had all the interested parties. For ten years, the only one who had possession of Margaret--was Margaret.
"SUPPRESS THE PARK. SUPPRESS THE WHOLE DAMNED CAPITOL BUILDING. RESPOND. RESPOND."
From the shadows emerged Radar, sadly wiping off his Confederate sword.
"If I were you, pal, I wouldn't be countin' on those bums fer nothin'."
A blur then streaked through the park, knocking Cigarette Man down as it did. With gray hair dye not yet washed out, Margaret Pierce was kissing her husband like he'd rarely been kissed before. Angrily, the stunned spy pulled his gun and picked a target-Dana Scully. He fired, and would have hit her. But Margaret raced forward and merely caught the bullet, and tossed it through his shoulder. In agony, he asked :
"Is there any way this day could get any worse?"
Two things happened to make that so. One, a message appeared on his beeper, likely from his well-manicured superior.
*IMMUNITA - PROTECT THE LARGER INTEREST. SUPPRESS ALL RESOURCES WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE. PROJECT TERMINATED - PROTECT LARGER CONCERNS AND HIGHER-PLACED PERSONNEL.*
Next, Hawkeye said a name. Again, the man's heart nearly stopped.
"Bartford Hamilton Steele--The Fourth."
Mulder had never expected to hear anyone put a likely name to his enemy. Nor did he expect the look on the man's face.
"To think, I never really knew what the whiter shade of pale looked like till now."
"Shut Up, Mulder. I'm not through, here. Remember, if anything happens to me, I guarantee you will never find out what became of Samantha."
The master manipulator was trying to regain his footing. But the people of the 4077th had long since waxed the dance floor. Worse, he now had a name - Bartford Hamilton Steele the Fourth, son of the *Flipping General*, founder of Immunita and 'Heroes America'. Mulder wondered if even this was his real name, but he did know that his foe must have had use for it. The living puzzle was cringing, or felt a need to feign cringing. Either way, it was a first for both FBI agents. Fox saw Margaret kiss Dana on the cheek, then walk over to 'Steele' and pick him up. The former nurse lifted him into the air - with one hand. As he sweated, she lightly caressed his cheek, then slapped him.
"First things first, scuzball. That was for me. Second, how DARE you try to shoot my niece?. You're no danger to anyone without this Freudian substitute. You're a fraud. You never killed anyone. Henry was shot down by enemy fire."
Steele seemed to regain his composure. As Margaret dropped him, she seemed to be wandering into his territory. Emphasis on 'seemed.'
"Nice try, Mrs. Pierce. But a little lame. Got those recorders going? Hidden camcorders? None of it matters. My people will have it all neutralized in some fashion, quicker than even you can blink. Ok, here's the summation to your little lives : In January, 1952, I placed an extra duffel bag aboard the plane set to transport Henry Blake home. That bag contained a bomb. We made sure that his body was decapitated, the one sure way to kill his kind--heh, heh--sorry, O'Reilly."
"Feel sorry for yourself, jerk. Remember, I'm always gonna be twenty."
Mortality was much on Steele's mind of late, so Walter's counter-punch had its desired effect. Still, he tried again to recover. He had an ace-in-the-hole, to remind them who was boss. Unfortunately for him, they already knew that, and it wasn't Steele.
"What about the other death you tried to investigate, Pierce? The other friend of yours who died, back then? There was no bomb, that time. I shoved him out of the helicopter, myself. Listen up, Mulder. Find out how these amateurs are in over their heads."
Hawkeye looked over at Fox.
"Fox, this is it. I'm about to show you something you've always known, but never really allowed to sink in, concerning this guy and his ilk. This one lesson will make all the lies I told you worth it. I'm still not proud of all that, but now you'll see why it all was necessary. Dana, honey, you pay attention, too. This one kind of kicks both ways. Okay, Steele, tell your story, but leave out the sheep and wolves business, and the part about how people like you and people like me are really no different. Just the facts, scam."
"You're a funny guy, Pierce. But you won't think it's so funny, now. Yes, I killed the other one, too. He begged for his life, but I still pushed him out. I KILLED JONATHAN TUTTLE!!!!"
The crew didn't think Steele's claim was funny, at all. They thought it was out-and-out hilarious. Holding back laughter, Dana walked over to Fox, also chuckling under his hand. Trapper and Charles found themselves sitting back-to-back, howling.
"Fox, it's true. HE-hehaaha. He did kill Tuttle. And I'm Samantha. Hi Brother."
Mulder embraced Scully.
Margaret looked upset.
"Dana, I thought I was Samantha."
Now Soon-Lee spoke.
"Margaret, you were Samantha LAST year. Now I'm Samantha."
Maxine Ishikawa looked mock-angry at her mother.
"MA. I'm Samantha. Besides, how can you be, since you and Fox..."
"Don't correct your mother, Maxine. As to me and Fox, that just keeps it in the family. We have a very open family. Open to what, though, I'm never quite sure."
As the man possibly known as Bartford Hamilton Steele the 4th looked on in utter confusion, every woman and every man -Fox included- claimed to be Mulder's missing sister. It was a savage joke, but Fox Mulder knew it was not at his expense. He actually felt a guilty joy at being able to laugh about it. It helped him to remember the good times before that night. BJ, crafter of the scenario, informed Steele of his faux pas.
"Here's the long and short of it, you meatball. Margaret left Hawkeye to gather evidence where she could. We all pretended to be upset, screaming when you would make your little phone calls. The Pierces would meet in my sub-sub basement -remember that?- once every six months. Once she had some solid stuff here, we went for Korea, to get to the Time Capsule. But we needed a little diversion before the hearings."
BJ pointed to Mulder and Scully, then Max Klinger took over.
"Meet a little diversion. Dana, the Pierces' cute little niece, now not so little, and my boy Spooky. Since you bums offed his Dad, I guess he sort of is my boy, and I'm glad to have him. Not so glad as the missus, but that's another story. I know from talking to him that you guys follow everything he does. So, we mask what we're doing, and for once, you creeps are jumping at shadows. You follow him so much, it was an easy out. But there are two last things."
At that, Max, Soon-Lee and Maxine punched Steele in the stomach. That hurt him. But if one of the Pierces had done it, they would have snapped him in two. The Klingers enhancements were not as radical. Max spoke again.
"That was for my son, Wally, and everybody else you played God with. The second thing is, you can't possibly have killed Captain Tuttle. Nobody could have. Spooky, ya wanna tell him why?"
Max briefly hugged his 'son', and then Mulder delivered the coup de grace. Steele looked up, the plaintive look of road kill. He was stepped on.
"You see, Tuttle was the kind of man you and your friends would appreciate. He was all made up. Hawkeye and Trapper constructed him out of whole cloth. You just boasted about killing a man who never even existed. I'm talking real non-existence here, as in never was. Not erased, or reassigned. I mean he only existed on paper. Congrats, killer. You've spilled some ink again."
Hawkeye had done as he had promised. The lesson to Mulder was simply that some people need the appearance of control even more than they need the control. For all the real danger Steele and company represented, they were still innate phonies at heart, even to the point of claiming credit for eliminating an imaginary man. This lesson would stay with Fox.
The humiliated, injured master spy then tried to get out of there. But Frohike blocked him.
"Out of my way, freak."
But with Margaret and Hawkeye now holding him, Steele was forced to listen to what the Lone Gunman had to say.
"Ahem. I didn't kill nobody, sir. I'm jest a patsy. Yessir, I been set up. God, I have always wanted to do that."
With thoughts of having to explain the loss of Immunita to his superiors shaking him still further, the man possibly named Bartford Hamilton Steele the Fourth left. Mulder and Scully would meet him again, but he would leave the 4077th and their families alone-for good. To do otherwise would mean revealing how he- how they all had been played for fools by a bunch of medics from the Korean War. They would have enough trouble wiping out Immunita's various bases, to protect their own sorry hides.
"So, Fox? Scratch one conspiracy. Sorry we can't help you with the big one, but Margaret and I might be able to help elsewhere."
"No, I think you've done enough, Hawkeye. Your lesson was one I needed badly. He seems so convincing, at times, I forget I'm dealing with inherent liars. I can't promise I'll change my methods, but I might shift them around a bit, find other means of accessing what I need."
Now, Dana spoke.
"It's odd, but I have to wonder, after all this, if Mulder's vision of things is as blurry as I thought. The only promise I offer is to be a little more open to it - if the evidence is there. So, are you two off to look for America?"
Hawkeye and Margaret looked at one another, then at Fox. They both smiled, and Margaret spoke.
"No, Dana. We're going to be looking for Samantha. We owe Fox that much, and we just realized how much children really mean. You see, Hawkeye and I were together one month ago, and...the tests are positive."
The tragedy was wiped away. For one, brief, shining moment life - albeit life extended into infinity - had won out. All faces lit up. Hawkeye and Margaret's children would be born into a world where those who wished to enslave them--were history. Mulder smiled, brightest of all, for he felt that, if anyone could find Samantha, it was his new friends, the Pierces. For all the pain, Mulder and Scully had found out in a definitive way that their foes could be beaten, their power broken. It didn't guarantee victory--only made it possible. In years to come, this would prove critical. In time, they would mourn for Wally, Gonzo, and all the others. But for now, Hawkeye had the last word.
"To Henry Blake: We finally got them, Henry. We finally made the bastards pay. Yeah, they're only walking with a limp. They're not on their knees. But we've got two good kids on our side, and I know those slimeballs days are numbered. Rest in peace, Henry. This time for sure."
All seconded Hawkeye's heartfelt words.
In the meantime, Maxine Ishikawa's kids heard from their favorite storyteller, Uncle Spooky.
"Once upon a time, there were some good people who set out to save the world from evil. And that's exactly what they did--with a little help from their friends."
It was early summer, so the sun did not go down til late in the Memorial Park. Each fallen member of the 4077th was toasted, even those who had been 'erased'. Their families could be told the truth at long last. In the news on BJ's pocket radio, there was talk of the explosive Immunita investigation, and how some rather cold scientists who used to work the talk-show circuit on behalf of 'misunderstood' Immunita were suddenly nowhere to be found. Other news spoke of a vague bomb threat to a federal building in Dallas, and the mysterious figure behind the recent genocidal rampages that plagued the world- a man known only as Khan. But for now, aunt and niece spoke.
"Oh, Dana. Jack would be so proud. Look at you. Do you forgive us? We really couldn't have done it without you."
"Auntie Margaret, don't you dare ask me to forgive you. I mean, you crazy people almost single-handedly brought down the second tier of perhaps the most vast conspiracy of all time. I'm amazed. By the way, Auntie---do earrings count?"
"DANA. You can't ask me---oh, what the hell? They sure didn't count in that picture your little friend asked me to sign."
Dana thought for a second, then pulled her gun.
Max stopped her.
"He's not here, kiddo. Said something about renting a hotel room. I'll tell ya, someone like that could out-spooky Fox."
Dana hugged Max.
"Thank you for being there for him. You and Soon-Lee."
"We all love Spooky, Dana. I really like having him, myself."
There was an undertone to Soon-Lee's words that Scully decided not to pursue.
Radar had something to say.
"Time for me to go, guys. When ya receive the telegram, informing you and all, don't panic. I'll be in Paris with Duncan, if he'll train me."
In four months, a telegram would inform them all of Walter Eugene O'Reilly's passing. In Seacouver, though, was a young man who looked just like him-Benjamin T. Blake, student to one Duncan Macleod.
Playfully, Hawkeye and Margaret looked at one another and nearly flew off to be together in CrabApple Cove. Mulder would phone them later, to thank them again. But he would wait seventy-two hours or so--and maybe buy them a new headboard, while he was at it. Maxine's youngest spoke up.
"Granpa? Those two could be at it for a year. Where we sposed' to spend the summer?"
As Dana said hello to BJ, Peg, and Charles, Erin tried to figure out how to deal with her dad, while Trapper sat and realized for the first time that Gonzo Gates was really dead. Fox sat with his alternate family and mourned for Wally, and Rosie's clan, grief subsuming the awkwardness he felt around Soon-Lee. But Mulder was used to feeling awkward around his own mother, after all. The evening ended with Trapper and BJ giving little details about their scam at Steele's expense. They all departed, but the future held much.
December 31, 2000
For the Consortium, all was dust. All the people who would never talk were talking. All the documents that would never turn up were turning up. The hybrids were gone, the unintended result of an Immunita-created reagent. Their possibly-alien sponsors had flown into the sun. Scully and Mulder, damn them, had found the Truth.
It was all Pierce's fault, Steele thought, as he lay on the operating table. He and his band of misfits had shown Fox the way. After Dallas and Antarctica, Mulder had persevered. After he and Scully had lost everything and been put on the run, Mulder persevered. After Steele played the Samantha card and 'revealed' himself to be an ally to the X-Files, Mulder persevered. When the sham was exposed and the false Samantha revealed-again- Mulder persevered. Mulder stopped coming to him, demanding information. His buttons became harder to push. When the Pierces finally kept their promise, Mulder woke up. Marita and all the other hidden allies were being arrested right and left.
When Skinner slapped the cuffs on Steele's well - manicured superior, it was over. Steele killed FBI Director Skinner, of course, to retaliate, but it was a hollow victory. Krychek's KGB-remnant cells fared no better, which is why the injured pair headed out together, seeking the safe-house that was Frank Burns' Elk Ridge, Indiana home. Burns would call the hospital, and there Steele would contact people still in his thrall. If he moved quickly enough, he still had resources. It wasn't all over, not by a longshot.
Burns was odd as always. Upon his arrival. Krychek wasn't moving anymore, so Frank took Steele into his office, put him on the table, and then pulled the protection windows down. He only said a few sentences.
"You know, Bart, for all his flaws, I loved my grandson. And, for all his weakness, I liked Henry Blake. I think I liked them all."
"Just call the hospital, Burns. NOW."
Burns just laughed his odd little laugh, and left. As Frank watched the New Year begin, and with it a new Millennium, Bartford Hamilton Steele the Fourth died. With him died the best coherent liaison in the so-called 'Octopus' - the greatest conspiracy in the history of mankind. Finding Steele gone, Frank Burns felt he had no choice.
"Wow. A mysterious death. Seems to me that requires a FULL autopsy. Gotta cover the points. Hmmph. For such a smart guy, Steele, you never did get around to asking a simple little question--"Who was their inside man? Who was telling them my movements? Frank Burns? HAH. Couldn't be him, right?"
The next morning, Tom Beckett found that Doctor Burns had died of natural causes in the night. Having finished off the Consortium, Francis Marion Burns died as the hero he always hoped he could be. Death, like life, has its ironies.
Before attending to his guest, Assistant Director Mulder called his boss.
"Look, Scully, all I'm saying is, Bin Laden had researched Djinns in the late 90's. A Djinn would explain why he keeps slipping away. Okay, okay. No, she's fine. She asked for you. Very well, Madame Director. I'll say hello to her and your uncle."
Putting the cell-phone away, Fox shook Hawkeye's hand.
"How's Blake doing? She flying yet?"
"Don't. Margaret and I are having enough trouble dealing with the fact that she was born like us. A toddler that can lift tonnage is hard to keep tabs on. But Blake's being good, now that she's learned she's going to be a big sister. If it's a boy--we'll call him Sherman."
Hawkeye's look turned somber.
"How's Dana's baby?"
Mulder did not look at all somber. In fact he smiled.
"Dana doesn't have a baby."
Pierce shook his head.
"But I heard.. the grapevine..Huh? Well, uh..how's that new fella, Daggett--Tagett, was it?"
Mulder smiled ever wider.
"Never met the man."
Tension between the two, Pierce wondered?
"I heard a story about this hybrid Amazon-type and you people. Was she any real trouble?"
Mulder poured the pair some ice water.
"Elephant, officer? What elephant?"
Hawkeye was now correctly sensing a trend.
"What about you-know-who being your real father? That hadda hurt."
Mulder was now almost chuckling openly.
"My father was Bill Mulder. My mother hated Bart Steele because she hated Bart Steele."
Pierce finally gave in.
"Has this humble sawbones-and a lot of other people-been the victims of a misinformation campaign, Mister Assistant Director? What about the invasion of 2012?"
Mulder pulled out a book on Mayan mythology. He opened it to a certain page.
"2012 is the year the ancient Mayans believe the sun will burn out. It seemed like a good year to die. Gave us a date to plant that already had resonance."
Hawkeye began smiling.
"Tuttle would be impressed, sir. When did you start doing all this?"
Mulder sat down.
"After we left all of you four years back, we got caught up in the investigation of the Dallas Federal Building bombing. One of our superiors tried to frame me for the deaths of three people in all that. Scully found proof this very proper woman was in the pocket of the wrong people. After all that, we had enough control over the senior staff to make our real enemies think that we were hopelessly confused idiots, forever diverted from our main goal. We let the stories keep circulating, just to draw out anyone else who was in on it. The new agents, the new shadow figures, the new-new hybrids--all part of Dana's idea to turn the maze around on them."
Hawkeye was laughing, though lightly, so as not to wake a certain sleeper up.
"You scammed them. I mean, you two really got them good. Hell, you got us all."
"We learned from the best. Now we have a free hand to get the Bureau up to speed to go after the real conspirators. I'm not letting last September go. Neither is she."
Hawkeye of course understood that sentiment.
"Listen, I gotta go. But Margaret will burst out laughing when I tell her. Are you all right, Fox?"
Mulder looked at the back bedroom in his still-new house.
"I am now. Because you and Margaret kept your promise. I love you for that."
Hawkeye was gone as quickly as he came, and so Mulder went to check on that bedroom's occupant. How would she handle him as a parent figure, as her memory returned? She would eventually want to know about how she had been cloned, impersonated, used as a bargaining chip, and how the Mulders had just about given her up for dead, despite evidence to the contrary. Yet for there and then, Fox just looked in upon the little girl, and felt his life was complete for the first time in decades. The 4077th and its staff had acted to save one more very precious life, thumbing their nose at perhaps the ultimate authority. The house that Henry Blake built had taken in and healed one last refugee. Mulder smiled at the truth that lay before him.
"Sweet dreams, Samantha."
This Story Is Dedicated To The Memories of Maclean Stevenson and Larry Linville. Losing you in real life was just as hard as losing you on-screen. You have fans who conspired to love you, and in that, there is no mystery.