"Well, I certainly didn't think we'd be visiting the Dallas airport again so soon," Scully mused as they walked out of Rapid City Regional towards the rental car lot. She secretly hated when they had to fly; she much preferred cases within driving distance of D.C. She'd take being stuck two feet from Mulder in a car for twelve hours over being stuck on a plane in seats that were less than three feet wide between Mulder and a smelly stranger for eight hours any day.
"Yeah, and I can't believe there weren't any direct flights from D.C. to Rapid City." Mulder supposed he shouldn't really be surprised. After all, how many people wanted to travel to South Dakota? The trip, including the stop in Dallas, had taken them eight hours, and owing to the time difference they had touched down in Rapid City at 1:30 p.m., Mountain Standard Time.
"So, what's the game plan, Mulder?" Scully asked as she climbed into the passenger seat of their rented sedan. "There aren't any bodies for me to autopsy, we have no physical evidence except for the satellite readings and images, and according to Frohike, the local authorities haven't reported anything out of the ordinary in the area." She pulled the map of western South Dakota that they had bought at the rental car counter out of her pocket and flipped it open, trying to locate the tiny town of Univille.
Sliding his seat back to accommodate his long legs, Mulder shrugged. "I guess we should go talk to the good people of Univille. This mysterious warehouse is only seven miles outside city limits, and you know how small town folks like to talk. I bet they have some idea of what's been going on down there. Once we've got a better handle on what it is we might be dealing with, we'll go out to the warehouse and check it out." He adjusted the rearview mirror and then turned the key in the ignition, the engine roaring to life after a few sputters.
Scully had finally located their destination on her map after scanning it for a few minutes. Jesus, Univille really is tiny, she thought with a sigh. She wished that they could take a case in a bigger city, for once. Maybe somewhere with more than one motel and a decent Italian place, even… A girl could dream, she supposed.
"Alright, Mulder, you want to get on I-90 eastbound towards Sioux Falls…"
Leena's Bed and Breakfast
Univille, South Dakota
Pete, Claudia, Helena, and Myka had gotten back to Leena's around 8:30 that morning, all of them exhausted and starving. Artie stayed behind at the Warehouse, assumedly to make sure they hadn't ripped a hole in the space/time continuum or something with their little trip to the past.
Leena whipped up a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast that they all gobbled down eagerly, after which they'd all gone back to their individual rooms for much-needed naps. Pete woke up around twelve and knocked on Claudia's door.
"Hey Claud, wake up!" He knew she probably wouldn't take kindly to being woken up after only three hours of sleep, but he had the perfect way to ease her ire and coax her from her slumber. Video games.
"Ugh, Pete, what do you want?" came her blurry reply through the door.
"Come downstairs and play Left4Dead with me! I wanna kill some zombies!" Pete called through the door. He figured if Artie had inadvertently given them the day off, there was no better way to spend it than shooting zombies and running for his life. Virtually, of course.
Throwing back her comforter, Claudia swung her legs over the side of the bed and stretched, barely stifling a yawn.
"Alright, just gimme a couple minutes and I'll be down." She figured getting up now to play video games with Pete was better than sleeping all day and then being wide awake at 2 a.m.
Around two-thirty Myka headed down stairs, her hair still mussed from her pillows. She had been woken up by shouts of "Don't startle the Witch!" and "Smoker! Get him! Kill the bastard!" and blasts of automatic gunfire. While the gunfire from the television had startled her a bit, she relaxed as soon as she realized it was Pete and Claudia's video game and not an actual firefight going on downstairs.
"Hey, guys. Has Artie come back from the Warehouse yet?" Myka asked, standing in the living room, surveying the scene before her. Pete and Claudia were sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning forward with their elbows on their knees and Xbox controllers in their hands. She looked at the screen and shuddered. She really hated zombies, and the creepy music and dark, often eerily empty scenery of the game didn't help.
"Ah… no, he, um, he called a little while ago… said he was working on fixing the… power grid, or something…" Pete trailed off as he killed a huge, disgusting looking zombie that was making gross squishing noises from 50 yards with a head shot from his sniper rifle. It exploded in a shower of blood.
"Aw, dude, that was frakkin' awesome!" Claud dropped her controller and turned to Pete to give him a high five.
Myka rolled her eyes. She walked into the dining room and found Leena sitting at the table, engrossed in a book.
"Hey, Leena. Have you seen Helena? Is she still sleeping?" Myka asked. She sat down in the chair across from Leena, put her elbows on the table, and began fiddling with a pen that had been left carelessly behind.
Lifting her head from her book with a kind look in her eyes, Leena answered, "She came down a few hours ago and made herself a cup of tea. She must've taken it back up to her room. I don't think she was able to fall asleep this morning."
"Oh… okay. Thanks." Myka got up from the table, unconsciously sticking the pen she was still holding behind her ear. She paused and stood in front of the table for a few seconds.
"Do you… do you think she'd like another cup of tea? Hers is probably cold, if she hasn't finished it already."
Leena smiled to herself, and Myka would've caught the expression, but she was looking in the direction of the kitchen, apparently trying to decide if she would dare try her hand at making a cup of tea that could live up to H.G. Wells' delicate palate.
"I'm sure she'd appreciate that, Myka. Do you want me to make it? I know how to fix it the way she likes it," Leena offered with a smile, setting down her book and walking over to the stove.
"Um, yeah, that would be great. Thanks," Myka responded. Feeling suddenly nervous about bringing Helena a cup of tea, and absolutely stupid for feeling nervous about bringing Helena a cup of tea, Myka flopped back down in her chair to wait for the water Leena had put on the stove to boil.
She grabbed the pen she'd stuck behind her ear and started playing with it again, taking the cap on and off, on and off, and then spinning the pen between her fingers. She tried to puzzle out why she was feeling so jumpy around the dark haired inventor lately, but came up with nothing besides a lingering sense of hero-worship. And even that must've faded by now, so she really wasn't left with any other reason she could think of.
Myka was so lost in her own thoughts that it took her a few seconds to notice when Leena walked back over to her carrying a little tray with the cup of tea and a few scones.
Handing a somewhat startled Myka the tray, Leena arched her eyebrow and smirked a little.
"You should be careful, Myka," Leena warned her. "H.G. seems like a good guy, but her aura is cloudy. I can't get a good read on her. Just… watch yourself, okay?"
Myka stood up and nodded. She gave Leena a small smile as she turned away from the contemplative look on Leena's face and headed towards the stairs. She mounted them slowly, balancing the tray carefully in order not to spill any of Helena's tea. Everything smelled and looked delicious, thanks to the proprietress of the B&B. Myka hoped that Helena didn't ask how she'd learned to make tea this way; she didn't want her to think she went through the extra trouble of asking Leena to fix it for her.
When she got to Helena's door, she had to precariously balance the tray on her left hand to free her right in order to knock. As soon as she raised her fist to the door, however, the tray wobbled slightly and one of the scones slid off the side of its plate and fell to the floor.
"Ah, shit!" Myka cursed.
"Myka? Is that you? What's the matter?" Helena called from inside her room. When she didn't hear a response, Helena got up from her desk, walked to the door, and swung it open.
"Myka?" When she didn't spot the agent right in front of her door, she glanced to her left, and then to her right, where she glimpsed Myka's lithe form squatting on the floor around the corner from Helena's room. She appeared to be picking something up from off the floor and trying to brush it off, all while balancing a tray in one hand.
"…Myka?" Helena asked again, louder this time, as she walked out of her room towards the other woman.
Myka jumped at hearing Helena call her name, falling backwards and tipping the tea and scones-laden tray over into her lap.
"Ow! Shit! Damnit!" Myka yelled, crawling around on the floor, scrambling to right the tray and pick up the scones and teacup and clean herself up before Helena saw what a mess she was.
"Oh, dear, Myka, let me help you with that!" Helena exclaimed after she saw the spill she had caused by startling the younger agent.
"Oh, no, Helena, it's fine, I was just… uh, bringing you a cup of tea, and I kind of got a little clumsy…" Myka stuttered, righting the teacup on the tray.
Helena knelt down next to Myka and began picking up crumbs off the carpet and dropping them into the now empty teacup.
"Let me help, please. It's the least I can do, considering you're only in this mess because you were sweet enough to bring me a cup of tea. Therefore, I insist." Helena's hair swung down over her face
"Don't be ridiculous," Myka practically scoffed. "I just thought, after Artie was so mean to you… and after we'd stayed up all night, that you'd maybe like some…" Myka turned her head away from Helena to hide the slight blush she knew was creeping up over her cheeks and continued to pick up the remnants of the scones off the floor.
"Oh, darling," Helena gently wrapped her fingers around Myka's wrist, stilling her cleaning and causing her to look up at the inventor through her eyelashes. "Please, don't trouble yourself on my account. I shall just have to get used to Artie, just as he will have to get used to my presence as a Warehouse agent. You needn't feel as if you must comfort me." Myka glanced down, a blush again creeping up her neck to reach her face. "But the sentiment is much appreciated, all the same," Helena smiled, then looked down, only just realizing she had been holding Myka's wrist throughout her little speech.
Helena quickly pulled her hand away, but from the mixture of confusion, hope, and embarrassment on Myka's face, it was clear that she'd noticed Helena's lingering touch. Helena stood up, then, awkwardly brushing invisible crumbs off of her pants. She leant down to pick the tray up off the floor and cleared her throat.
"Come, let's bring this mess downstairs to the kitchen, shall we?" Helena turned and began to walk towards the staircase, but she hesitated and turned back around when she didn't hear Myka's footsteps behind her. Myka was still crouched on the floor, looking at her wrist a bit uncertainly.
"Myka? Are you coming?" Helena asked, puzzled at why Myka was dawdling.
"What?" Myka said, shaking herself and standing up. Helena raised her eyebrow at Myka and repeated her query.
"Oh, yeah…" Myka mumbled, trailing off and stepping in front of Helena to walk down the staircase, leaving Helena to trail behind her, wondering what exactly was going on with the curly-haired woman.
Univille, South Dakota
It had taken Mulder and Scully an hour and a half to reach their destination. The drive from the airport to Univille was only supposed to take an hour, but Mulder had, at one point, refused to listen to Scully's insistence that he turn left off of I-90 and instead turned right. When he finally conceded that Scully's map-reading had, in fact, been accurate, they had already driven 20 miles in the opposite direction, and were forced to make a U-turn across the grass median of the small, winding state road.
Instead of gloating over being right and scoffing at Mulder's stubbornness, Scully just smirked quietly to herself while she gazed out the window. Their trip had taken them through dry, open ground filled with sparse underbrush and ragged looking scrub grass, and Scully briefly wondered who would want to live in such a desolate place.
Mulder and Scully were usually content to bask in the comfortable silences that settled between them on trips like these, with Mulder occasionally peppering the quiet with random historical or paranormal facts about the towns they passed. But Scully's thoughts, lately, couldn't help but constantly turn to Emily, the daughter she had only just discovered and then just as suddenly lost. She still had the picture she had taken from the Sims' house. She had tucked it away in her overnight bag, little Emily grinning widely at the camera behind her third birthday cake, surrounded by balloons. Looking at the photo brought forth a feeling that Scully supposed was akin to being stabbed in the chest, and Emily's uncanny resemblance to her sister, Melissa, just twisted the knife in that much deeper.
She couldn't take the picture out now; her overnight bag was in the trunk, and anyway, Mulder didn't need to know she carried it with her everywhere. She hated when he looked at her with his sad brown eyes, as though she were something fragile that would shatter with a careless touch or gust of wind.
But enough of that, now; they were on a case and she needed to focus. Scully forced herself to register the scenery outside her window and realized they were nearing their destination. She resolutely flicked open the map, and prepared to direct Mulder to the next turn.
When they finally pulled into town, they stopped at what appeared to be the only gas station and Scully asked the attendant where they could stay while Mulder perused their scant selection of sunflower seeds.
As Scully had suspected, there was only one motel, an old, battered Holiday Inn that had obviously seen better days, just like all the other motels they'd ever stayed in. The attendant had also mentioned a Bed and Breakfast on the outskirts of town called Leena's, and Mulder had jumped at the idea of home cooked meals and clean sheets, but when Scully not so gently reminded him of their expense reports and the last time Skinner had found out they splurged on a nicer hotel, he reluctantly agreed to Holiday Inn. That had not been a pretty discussion. Mulder had been worried about Skinner's blood pressure.
While Scully spoke with the clerk and checked them in to their adjoining rooms, Mulder rifled through the brochure stand on the counter. Mount Rushmore, Black Hills Caverns, Hot Springs, Mammoth Site…
"Hey Scully, wanna go see some mammoths while we're here?" Mulder waved the brochure at her. "You know, there are theories that the mammoths were killed off by meteors containing extraterrestrial materials, which then caused the Ice Age." He looked at her, hope shining in his eyes.
Scully really hated to tell him no when he looked so excited like that. But they were here on a case, not on vacation.
"Mulder, did you forget about your mysterious warehouse already?" she asked, turning to him with her eyebrow raised.
"No, it's just-"
"Do you mean the IRS warehouse off Route 12?" the clerk interjected. He had been casually eavesdropping on their conversation.
Mulder and Scully glanced quickly at each other before turning to the clerk.
"IRS warehouse?" Scully inquired, trying to keep her tone neutral. They hadn't found any information at all regarding the huge structure situated in what was practically the middle of nowhere. No building plans, no property titles, no deeds to the land. Officially, that warehouse didn't even exist. There was no way it could be owned by the government.
"Yeah, they store old tax returns and stuff in there, I guess. It seems pretty boring. The people who work there are kinda weird, though." The attendant leaned comfortably against the counter as if preparing for a long, in depth analysis of exactly why the supposed IRS employees were "weird."
Scully had been looking forward to going to their rooms to freshen up before questioning the locals, but Mulder's interest had been piqued by the attendant's description and she knew the look on his face meant he was going to find out more now.
Shifting forward to rest his elbows on the counter, Mulder asked, "What do you mean by 'weird,' exactly?"
"For one thing, they hardly ever come into town, and when they do, they usually only stop by the ice cream place on the corner of Main, or the hardware store on Sycamore. They never talk to anybody, either, 'cept when they have to. It's this old, grumpy looking guy with huge eyebrows, a tall skinny chick with crazy hair, a real buff dude who looks like he's ex-military, and a punk-looking kid who's always got a crazy new hair color. They don't exactly strike me as your typical government employees. And they all live over at Leena's." Finishing quicker than Scully had feared and Mulder had hoped, the clerk looked very pleased with his summary of the warehouse and its staff.
Mulder shot Scully a look that clearly said, See? I told you we should've stayed at the Bed and Breakfast.
She rolled her eyes in response. "Have you ever been to this IRS warehouse?" Scully asked, turning her head back to the clerk, searching for anything that would give them any kind of clue as to what was going on out there.
"Nah, never had a reason to," the attendant said with a shrug. "Come to think of it, I don't know anybody who's been down there. Guess not too many people are interested in old taxes."
"Yeah, I guess not," Mulder remarked as lightly as he could.
"Anyway, your rooms are numbers 106 and 107, straight out the door and to your left. Hope you enjoy your stay, folks," the clerk handed them their keys. "Just press '0' on your room phone if you need anything from the office."
"Thanks buddy, will do," Mulder gave the clerk a little wave as he followed Scully out the door and to their rooms.