Chapter 19: The Great Unknown
March 14, 1998
3:00 a.m. The Condo
Her sob woke him with a jerk. Mulder pushed onto his side, hit the lamp toggle switch, and looked around. Scully was still curled up, *Asleep?* a few feet away on the bed.
He whispered, “Sally?”
Then, getting no response, “Scully?”
Her eyes opened, and her shoulders were shaking. When she turned toward him, he could see her cheeks, wet with tears, her eyes still unfocused.
He slid his arm under, her, and pulled her into his arms. “Tell me.”
Her breath was still hitching, and she closed her eyes.
He said, quietly, “Bad dream.”
She nodded. “Babies. I couldn’t save them... First they turned into plastic, and then they were dark, with teeth. I had one in my arms, one perfect child, and was running... I couldn’t find you. They were chasing me, but I knew they were dead, and I don’t think I can sleep again for a week.”
He shuddered, then tightened his arms around her, rocked a little. “Just a dream. You’re processing. It’s so much...”
She shivered. “I would find one, and know it was mine, and it would look normal, like a baby, and then it would go still...and I’d touch it and feel that skin, waxy plastic, no warmth. Then the plastic would change, and the baby would- Oh god. At the end, they were going to catch me, and I looked down at the baby in my arms, and I wanted to protect him so much, and there was just nothing I could do...”
Suddenly she sat up. “Plastic. Transformation. I’ve got to look at the notes.”
He watched, bemused, as she scrambled out of bed, and grabbed the fanny sack off of the doorknob. She pulled out the message pad, shoved a memory card in, and started tapping her way through file directories. “Joe said something yesterday. And Krycek said... Mulder, could that stuff really be sentient? The oil?”
He was watching her, but it took a minute for him to register that she’d actually asked him a question. He smiled. “You know, watching you solve a problem, naked, is really turning me on.”
“What was the question, Dr. Harrod, ma’am?” he teased.
“I asked if that oil really could be sentient. We found structures that looked just complex enough.. Joe suggested that if they had any sort of communication capabilities between themselves, they might act together as a sort of parallel processing system.”
He smiled. “I love it when you talk dirty to me. Do it more.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well?”
“You tell me,” he answered.
“What if it could ... I think the stuff they’re using for building blocks... it’s related to the black oil we saw. Somehow. I don’t know. But if the stuff in the vials... it might help. I need to learn about the other stuff the doctor sent along. What did he call them? Molecular probes?”
Mulder winced. “Can’t we call them nanobots or nanites or something? Molecular probes sounds so retro.”
She laughed. “How about nanoids?”
“Sure. Anyway. You’ve got nanoids. What do they do? What are they for?”
“Well, in this case, I think they’re simple nanoscopic machines designed to manipulate proteins. They were probably designed, if the stuff we’re looking at is any example, for DNA and cellular manipulation. What I’ve read so far, just skimming, says that you can only program them for a maximum of four states. Roughly, up, down, left and right. Each is arbitrary. Up might be “turn on.” Down might be “turn off.” Left might be, “Cut”, and Right might be “Insert”. It’s better than transistors, which only have off or on, but it’s still pretty simple. But because you can program them to attach to very specific proteins, and they are hopefully only active in the way you want them to be, you could program them, inject them, they’d attach to protein structures, and then if you can communicate with them, you can tell them to cut, insert, or whatever you want done there. In twenty years, we might see something like this used for gene therapy in the mainstream, to insert missing genes, remove extra copies of genes that are causing problems, that sort of thing. But the protein structure we’re looking at, we suspect it’s really biologically active, probably toxic without some buffering, and I’d worry about causing a toxic reaction just chopping it up. We need to find a way to neutralize and remove it completely.” She smiled. “The amount of iron in the sample alone could cause problems if it gets into the system. And maybe if we can figure out what makes the so-called vaccine work, we can apply that to reducing the toxicity of protein removal. ”
“Isn’t that like chelation?”
She cocked her head. “Usually you chelate proteins to metals to remove the metals. Oh! Maybe we need to do that the other way around? That’s what we need. A super alien virus nanoid, chelator.” She tapped the screen, eyes flicking rapidly as she read the short lines. “If I can just figure out...”
He grinned. “Come here, Scully.”
She glanced up at him. “Mulder, not now, I’m having a breakthrough.”
He pulled the gadget out of her hands. “Sweet Dana, we have to be up to get ready for the foster care training in,” he looked past her, “Two hours. Two and a half if we commit the sin of sloth and hit the snooze button.”
She smiled. “I see. You’re just taking care of my immortal soul.”
“Always. The nanoprobes will still be there.” Mulder tugged her hand gently. “Come back to bed?”
She sighed. “I see. You don’t want to protect my immortal soul, you just want to get me into bed.”
He shrugged and smirked. “Why choose?”
Laughing, she let him pull her back into bed.
He lay there, after she’d fallen asleep, still remembering her description of her dream. *Lost babies, devouring.* He shuddered a little, then remembered the body-feel of a warm baby sleeping and relaxed on his shoulder. The memory carried him back into sleep.
The alarm went off way too soon. Scully leaned on Mulder, picked up the clock and glared at it. He ran a sleepy hand down to her ass. “I had another thought, Scully. Instead of sloth, how about lust?”
She laughed. “You married me. No sin. But also no time. I have to deal with my hair and that place is what, 45 minutes away?’
He shook his head. “On a Saturday morning? This early? 25, tops.”
She smiled. “Well then. That’s a whole ‘nother 20 minutes.”
He looked down. “Damn. I think I might have a problem with that. The ghost is ready, but the meat is soft. Tell me, Scully, why is it that we get to have all this sex now that I’m 38, instead of, oh, 22?”
She chuckled. “I’m sure you’ll recover soon enough.”
He frowned. “I know, but they’re coming today. And I’m not sure how Mr. Spooky is going to feel about performing in front of cameras.”
She sputtered. “You don’t call it... Mulder, please tell me you don’t call it that.” *I’ll never be able to look at it again without giggling.*
“No, not really. But it made you laugh. Even so, the idea of Krycek watching?” He shuddered.
She looked at him slyly. “Really? You actually have a problem with video? That seems.... almost hypocritical.”
“ I don’t care so much about the video. It’s the people watching the video that... just... It’s almost worse thinking that it might be someone who actually knows us.” Then he looked at her. “Don’t you have a problem with it?”
She shrugged. “It’s just skin, motion, bodily fluids.”
“ My darling doctor, I’m hurt. Just?” He shifted off his back, onto his side, to look at her. “I thought it was, you know, a religious experience.”
She laughed. “To us. But to someone watching? Skin, motion, bodily fluids.”
He mumbled something under his breath.
“Louder, for the whole class?” said Scully.
He cleared his throat. “I was going to say that you might be able to have that kind of clinical detachment, watching two people have sex, but that I considered it extremely unlikely that a man would view it the same way.”
She raised an eyebrow, then said, “Funny, you weren’t mumbling that long.”
“Let’s just say that I doubt that Krycek would have quite that level of detachment. Watching you in bed is amazing.” Mulder said.
“I think, given that you are a profiler, you sometimes really misread people.” She rolled out of bed, and walked into the bathroom, leaving him to try to figure out what the hell that meant.
10:30 a.m. Crystal City, VA
Skinner was still asleep when the cell phone shrilled next to his pillow. He was sitting, phone to his ear, glasses on, in seconds. “Talk.”
“Hey, man. Just wanted to pass on a message.”
Skinner sighed. “Pass away.” *Keep it cryptic, Walter. I can’t imagine they’re not bugging this place too.*
“ Test results confirm ID. Our girl is who she says she is. Mr. Hale says to tell her the following, ‘I love her, and I miss her, and I hope she’s doing well, and I will see her when the dust settles.’ Oh, and I wanted to say thank you for the presents, I think they’ll be handy. I know I feel better knowing that if something tries to control my brain, my friends can fix it.”
“He saw his boy. I’m told the kid is cute and happy, and they’re taking a class today to be able to bring him home sooner than later. Be good to have a kid around. I miss having my glasses pulled.” Frohike sounded almost misty.
Skinner nodded, then remembered to say, “Good. Tell them we’ve got on-site daycare.”
Frohike laughed. “You really think they’re coming back?”
“A man can hope, can’t he? You boys take care of yourselves. Keeping busy?” Skinner asked.
“We all got jobs. Ralph’s still wearing a suit. Jim’s being Dilbert. I’m going to be gardening, and You-Can-Call-Me-Al is going to be sitting shiva with the security system. It’s all good. We’re settled in. I’m thinking about getting a cat.” answered Frohike.
“I always pegged you for a dog man.” Skinner said, bemused.
“No place to run.”
“You need me to work on that for you?” Skinner asked.
“Problem is, that when it all comes down, we’re going to have ten pretty girls and no place to go. Thinking about talking to the women in comfortable shoes about it.” Frohike answered.
“Want me to take it on?”
“Actually? Yeah. Y’know, talk to Swift. Tell her they need to set up a reunion of their book club.” Frohike hesitated. “Can you find out how easy it would be to get more of that present you sent?”
“I’ll try. Might be better for your guy to do it. You know, she made me cookies.” Skinner said.
Frohike sighed. “Oh, man, I’m jealous. Tell her to send me some.”
“Dream on. Keep me informed.” Skinner responded.
“Will do. Talk to you later, man.” The line went dead.
Skinner stared at the phone. “About damn time.”
He heard a different ringing. Frowning, he walked over to the chair, pulled his phone out of the pocket of his jacket, and answered it. “Skinner.”
“Sir. Jeffrey Spender here.”
“Where the hell are you?” Skinner sat down on the chair.
Spender sounded different. “I’m in San Diego, sir. With Mrs. Mulder.”
*Sonofabitch.* “Are you now? And are you where I think you are?”
“Yes, sir. It felt... wrong... to not tell her. She asked me to come with her.” The words were almost apologetic, but Spender’s tone was not.
“Have you learned anything new? Renewed any other family contacts?” Skinner asked.
“Well, my father is here. But I haven’t seen him. Sis locked him in his room a couple days ago and hasn’t talked to him yet.”
*She what? Nice to know someone can make that man do something. * “Wise move.” Skinner paused, considered, then said, “I need you to do something for me.”
“Stay there. Visit your family for a while, if they’ll have you. I’ll make sure it doesn’t affect you here. I also want you to talk to him. Find out what he knows. And where he stands. If you need a hotel, let me know if you need help with the tab.”
“Sir, we’d like to get a hold of Agent Mulder. She wants to talk to him.” Spender said.
Skinner sighed. “I have a message for her. He says, ‘I love her, and I miss her, and I hope she’s doing well, and I will see her when the dust settles.’”
Spender said, “I think she’s got some urgent news for him. Something he told her before we got here. About something he’d done, that affects Mulder. It’s imperative that we talk to him soon.”
Skinner frowned. “I’ll do what I can, but they’re in a sensitive position right now. Not easy to reach.”
“This is important. It’s something he needs to know. Oh, Teena says I should ask if he’s really married? I told her I didn’t think so, but Sis seemed to think otherwise, and said it was something you told her.”
Skinner swore under his breath. “She is correct. It is a recent development.”
Spender laughed. “Should I assume that he married Agent Scully? I didn’t give credit to those rumors before...”
Skinner said, “Safe assumption, and you weren’t wrong before, as far as I know. Apparently things, ah, changed. There was a mitigating circumstance.”
“She’s pregnant?” Spender asked.
“What? No, um, I don’t think she can. It’s more complicated than that.” Skinner scrambled to think of a way he could explain the situation, gave up, and finally said, “They’ll have to tell you in person. I’ll do what I can, but it may be weeks.”
“I understand sir. Just please... it is important. Lives may depend on it.” Spender said.
*Lives always depend on it, Spender.* “ My thoughts are with you all. Let me know if you need anything. I’ll do what I can here. Take care of them,” Skinner said.
“Will do. Thank you, sir.” Spender hung up.
Skinner smiled as he put his regular cell down. *Something to do.*
He decided to wait until he was somewhere more private than his home to call Frohike back.
7:40 a.m. Santa Bernardo
Spender put the phone down, and looked at Teena and Mandy, sitting at the kitchen table. “He doesn’t know if he can get a hold of Mulder. But yes, apparently he and Scully just got married, very recently. And he couldn’t explain the hurry. But she’s not pregnant. And he wants me to stay. Until he tells me to come home. I can get a hotel room, if you want, Mandy.” He sat down, and poured himself a glass of orange juice from the pitcher on the table.
She smiled. “No need. We might put a bunk bed up in the play room, for the little ones, for the time being. Mom? Are you staying?”
Teena blinked. “I’m still digesting the news that my son just got married. And to Dana? That... I don’t know whether to be happy for him or angry that he didn’t see fit to tell me.”
“I think they’re in the middle of something. Something big, if he can’t come see Mandy. I can’t imagine, with as hard as he’s been looking, and for as long, that he wouldn’t just drop everything.” Spender sat down. “He wants me to talk to my father. Find out where he stands.”
Mandy’s eyes widened. “Right at the moment, he stands right there.” She looked past Spender, at the door to the kitchen, where her father leaned against the sill, oxygen canister in hand. “Dad, you said you’d stay in your room.”
He shrugged. “So many familiar voices. Am I to understand that Dana Scully is my new daughter-in-law? How lovely. I like her.”
Teena shot him a dirty look. “If he knew you were here, I think he’d put a bullet in your head himself. I recommend against calling Dana your daughter-in-law to his face.”
“My dear, he has had every opportunity to cause me harm. If he was going to kill me, he would have done it already.” C.G. B. Spender walked over to the table, and sat down across from Teena. “If you don’t mind waiting a few minutes, I could make some French toast. I believe my daughter keeps maple syrup in the fridge. And we have fresh fruit. An advantage of living in this part of the country.”
“Gary, you expect me to trust you not to poison me?” Teena said.
“Why, Teena, you used to love my French toast.” He poured himself a glass of juice. “Have your tastes changed so much?”
She leaned forward. “You kept her from me. You knew how much it hurt me, and you kept her away from me. I missed her growing up. Getting married. Having babies. I could have died never seeing her again. And now you want me to forgive you and have a nice breakfast?”
He looked down. “Do you know what happened to the people who refused? Do you know what they lost? And she is here. She is alive. You are alive, because of me. Fox is alive. Your ex-husband would still be alive if he hadn’t gotten stupid. You have grandchildren who would not exist if I had not done exactly what I did. I’m sorry it hurt you, but I think the alternative would have been worse, and not just for our insular little clan.”
“You could have brought her back. Cassandra came back. Others came back. She came back and you kept her from me. Can you give me a single reason that I should forgive you that?” Teena asked.
He sighed. “Do you have any idea how many times she was taken between 1973 and 1979? It wasn’t over. It didn’t start to begin to be over until 1980, and by that time, she had no idea you were still alive. By that time, it had become clear that young Fox was going to walk down a path that would serve the cause, but only if she was not returned. And she was not the only person I had to be concerned about. Young Joel had no one but her. And they were very close. He stopped her from committing suicide once. When she ran away, he went with her. I am not without compassion. Do you think your husband would have welcomed her back, calling me 'Dad' and with a live-in boyfriend with no family? I made a judgment call. You can have the breakfast without forgiving me.”
“Dad, you had no right to make that call for me, or for my family. I should have had a choice. If not as a teen, then when I reached adulthood. When I had children. When I started to remember.” Mandy put her elbows on the table, and rested her head in her hands. “Or were you afraid that I wouldn’t love you anymore?”
He frowned. “It was never the right time. I told him you were alive. I hoped that would be enough.”
Jeffrey said, “And my mother. Where is she now? She’s gone again. Dozens of people died, but she vanished. Where is she?”
“Your mother is gone again? I’m sorry to hear that. Who died?”
“A group of people, abductees according to Mulder, went to a bridge to wait for aliens to come. The report was that men with no faces showed up and burned most of the people there alive. But my mother, it is said, went up on a beam of light, into a ship. Can you explain that to me?” Jeffry frowned.
His father looked at Teen Mulder, and at his daughter. “Where are the children?”
Mandy got up, and walked out of the room. A moment later, she came back. “Lisa’s still asleep. Kit wants to know when breakfast is. Joel has Carl in the back room, playing.”
He sighed. “Jeffrey, the short answer is that I do not know where your mother is, and I have nothing to do with her recent disappearance. I will answer your question in more depth, but not here, not now. Will Fox be joining us at some point? I would prefer to tell it only once more. Right now, I would like to make French toast for my grandchildren.”
Jeffrey looked at Mandy and Teena. “He’s not available right now. I believe he is on his honeymoon.”
“Fox Mulder, without a cell phone? I’ll believe that when I see it.” He stood up, turned to support himself on the counter behind him, and then wheeled his oxygen canister into the kitchen. He pulled a glass bowl out of the upper cupboard, and set it on the counter near the fridge. “Surely there is some way to reach him.”
“I’ve already tried to get a message to him. I am not close to him. I didn’t even meet him until this year,” Jeffrey said.
The elder Spender pulled a cutting board out from underneath the counter, and set out a bread knife. Then he turned, and brought eggs and milk out of the fridge. “What I have to say will not bring your mother back faster. It can wait until he is here.”
“ She’s my mother. Why does he have to be here?”
“Because it concerns him, and his partner. She was taken too. And the answer to what happened to your mother is much the same. I will not tell it twice.” He pulled a loaf of Challah out of the bread box, and started slicing it thickly. “Now, would any of you like some of this? Or should I just make it for Joel and the children?”
“Why should Fox Mulder trust you for a minute? As far as he knows, he puts himself in danger being anywhere near you.” Jeffrey frowned.
“I have lost my influence. The men who used to fear me tried to kill me. I am in danger if I step forward. Most of my work has been fruitless. I have nothing to gain from lying, and everything to gain from explaining why what I did was necessary. Besides. I know things he needs to know. Now, do you want French toast with your answers? Or just the bitter taste of rage at a sick old man?” He started slicing the bread.
Spender shook his head, sighed, then said, “Do you have strawberries?”
Mandy nodded. “Strawberries, mango, and I think we still have some apple butter. I would like a slice, Dad.”
“Teena?” he asked, knife poised.
She shook her head. “I can’t eat. Especially not that.”
Jeffrey looked at her. “Can I make you something?”
She shook her head. “I might get something later. Right now I think I would do something undignified if I tried to eat.”
Jeffrey leaned over and said under his breath, “Take the French toast. It makes a good missile.”
She laughed, and shook her head. “No thank you. But coffee would be nice if you have it, Samantha.”
Mandy stood up, and went into the kitchen to grind coffee, while her father cracked eggs.
7:50 a.m. The Condo
Langly resisted the temptation to wave at Mulder and Scully as they left the condo, mostly because as his hand started to move, Krycek grabbed his forearm in a death grip.
“Don’t be stupidly obvious,” Krycek said. “It’s daylight.”
“I know. It just feels weird. We know they’re there. They know we’re here. I feel like Elmer Fudd. ‘Be vewwy vewwy Quiet. I’m hunting my fwiends.’” Langly waited until the Honda was out of sight, then pulled the trunk release as he climbed out of the car.
be our neighbors, by the way. We get to set up across the street.
When I called Jerry last night to let him know we’d found his guy
and that we’d have an opportunity today to wire the place, he said
the project has one of the condos, has had since the last time
someone in this neighborhood got one of their ‘subjects’. I think
Caledron uses it when he’s working at the university. Although I
don’t know if those guys sleep.” Krycek leaned on the car.
Langly strapped on a tool belt, and they hauled the box of gadgets out of the trunk.
When they got to the front door, Krycek laughed. “They left it unlocked.”
“Hi, Mister Government Men. Please bug my house now.” Langly said. He followed Krycek in, and set the box on the counter.
Krycek started laying the devices out systematically.
“So, do you know what these all do?” Langly asked.
“Cameras. Microphones. Motion detectors. That looks like a broadcast unit... want to see if you can rig an override?” Krycek pointed at a black plastic box.
“What are you thinking?” Langly asked.
“There are two in the box. If we set one up here, and one up at our station, and insert a bit of a delay...”
“Then we have a chance to filter if they slip?” said Langly.
Krycek answered, “Better, we have a chance to override with video of our own, and then we have a chance to talk if need be.”
Langly pulled a tangle of wires out of his pocket. “Can the box communicate both ways?”
“Yes, to allow camera control for the movables.” Krycek pointed to one cluster of cameras.
“So let me see. You’ve got tinies. And movables. And what are those?”
“Sweet. We going to have some left over?” Langly looked overly eager.
Krycek shook his head. “Even if we did, they number the cameras. They’d want to know where the other ones were.”
“So where do we put ‘em?” Langly asked.
8:00 a.m. National City
They pulled into the parking lot and saw several other couples heading toward the front door. A thin man in a button down shirt but no tie held the door open.
Mulder whispered to Scully, “It feels like we should all have pillows or something.”
“ It’s not a lamaze class, Martin.” She almost tripped over his name, and caught herself just in time. *I almost regret letting the cover down last night.* Then she thought about hearing him say her name, and flushed. *Worth it.*
He was saying something. “It servers the same purpose, Sally.”
She suppressed a chuckle. She’d heard the same hitch when he got to her name. She reached over and found his hand, as they followed a frumpy woman in glasses back to a classroom, along with a group of other people.
The group was interesting. One other straight African-American couple in their thirties, the woman in a twin set and slacks, shoulder length straightened brown hair, her husband in a polo shirt and khakis. A lesbian couple in their forties--one medium height, one short, both with short hair, jeans and Birkenstocks--held hands as they walked down the hall. Two men, apparently a couple, in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts, both startlingly good-looking. A single white woman in her forties, graying, overweight, wearing a shapeless batiked rayon dress and thong sandals. One younger couple, late twenties, the man red-faced, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, the woman thin, with a dark tan and bleached hair, tank top and shorts, giggling at something her husband said. A Mennonite couple in their forties, the man with suspenders and a short-sleeved button-down work shirt, and the woman in a navy blue dress, mesh cap on her head and sneakers on her feet.
They all sat down around a large table, and the frumpy woman walked up to the board and wrote, “Basics of Foster Parenting.” Then she turned around. “I’m Tricia Winters. Can we start by going around the table and introducing ourselves? How about you start? Something about who you are and why you’re here.” She pointed at Scully.
She jumped a little, unnerved by being called first. “Oh, um, hi. I’m Sally, and this is my husband, Martin. I’m a doctor, and he’s a professor up at the university. We’re from Canada.” She shot Mulder a slightly desperate look.
He smiled, and said, “We’re thinking about adopting, but really, we just want to help out. We’re both working part time, so we’ve got a lot of time for a child. I’ve been doing some research with local foster families, and the best part has been the kids.” Scully sighed in relief when he was finished.
The black man next to her said, “I’m Jermain, and this is my wife, Tasha. Her sister’s children are going to be placed, and we would like to keep them with family.”
Tasha said, “I’m a nurse, and he’s a lawyer. And I love my nephews. I really just want to give them stability. Her younger requires a lot of medical care, and their mom just can’t handle it.”
Trica Winters said, “Thank you. You?” She pointed at the Mennonite couple.
He sat up straight and said slowly, “We feel called. I’m Jakob Penner, and this is my wife, Marika. I make furniture. She tends the house.”
Marika smiled, but said nothing.
Next to him, the shorter of the two lesbians smiled, and said, “I’m Ange, and I teach ASL at SDCC.”
Her partner said, “I’m Monica, and I teach music at a local elementary school. We decided that rather than go through fertility treatments, we’d rather help children who were already here. We might adopt down the road, but right now we just want to help the kids that need it most. We’re hoping to work with school-aged kids, possibly sibling groups.”
The woman next to them said, “I’m Addie. I’ll be taking in my niece's child when she gives birth, she’s a meth addict, and her mom already has three of her kids and can’t take more.”
The younger couple looked at each other. The woman said, “I’m Kelly, and this is Beau, and we tried to have kids, but can’t. So I want to get a little girl.” Beau said nothing.
One of the remaining men looked at his partner then said, “I’m Kevin, and this is Johan. We’re both writers. And we love kids.”
Johan had a slight accent, and said, “We’re thinking about taking in teenagers.”
Tricia smiled and opened a folder. She passed a stack of packets around, and then said, “Let’s start at the top. Who are the children who need foster care?”
Mulder managed to keep himself from saying, “Rejects from government experiments.” Barely.
1:00 p.m. Washington D.C., Swift’s home
Skinner found he was looking forward to visiting Swift again. He climbed the steps to her little house feeling downright happy. She met him at the door, and said, “Let’s go for a walk, sir.”
He frowned. “Everything okay?”
She nodded, but didn’t smile. “I just need some air.” She glanced over her shoulder. Her grey hair was done up in a neat bun, and she was dressed in a cotton dress with tiny flowers all over it. She took her apron off, and hung it inside the door. She was small, and had seemed when he first met her to be easygoing and grandmotherly. Now, she just looked tense.
He tried to look past, but didn’t see anything but hallway.
She took his elbow, and he was surprised how firmly she led him down the steps. She said nothing until they were a full block away, where she pulled out a bus pass, and he scrambled for change as she stepped onto the first bus that showed up. As the bus pulled away, he noticed a man in a suit talking into his hand.
She led him back to the back of the bus, and he sat down next to her in the narrow seats. He leaned over and asked quietly, “Did they manage to see what you sent? Or where?”
She shook her head. “When I got back from the main FedEx office, I found one of these.”
She handed him a small bundle of wires and microchips. “When I got back, my hairs were moved from the door, and this was inside the telephone. You saw that man.”
“I just have one message for you. My contact says that the Ladies Historical Society should plan a reunion.”
She nodded. “I’m not going back to my house, regardless. You didn’t bring your car, did you?”
He shook his head. “I’m not sure how they managed to follow me, but they always do.”
She held out her hand. “Give me your cell phone.”
He handed it to her. She pulled a multitool out of her purse, deftly wedged the phone open, and pointed at a little knot of circuitry. She used the tool to wedge that bundle up and out of the phone. That was when he noticed that she seemed completely unaffected by the bouncing of the bus, her hands were perfectly steady as she separated components.
She pointed. “Those two wires are how it charges this,” she said, and pointed at a disk, “and this is how it broadcasts.” She pointed at a black plastic line extending down the length of the inside of the phone.
Then she snipped the two wires and pulled the bundle out. Then she opened her substantial purse, and pointed at some duct tape. “Give me a square of that.”
He pulled a square off, and she flipped the scissors of her multitool open to put a snip in the edge of the tape. He tore it off, and she stuck the tiny transmitter to the tape. Then she slid the whole business under the seat in front of her, and stuck it to the seat bottom.
He looked at her. “How do you know it wasn’t recording?”
She smiled. “Not enough wires. And the jobber in the middle, I’ve used them myself. It’s a little GPS transmitter.”
He suppressed a laugh as she briskly closed the tool, peered into the phone, and then carefully stuck the thing back together. “Not positive it’s okay now, but let’s test the theory.” She reached over, and pulled the stop cable. A bell dinged. The next stop was a mall. They got off the bus, and then immediately got on the bus behind it, a different route.
A thought occurred to him. “How long do you think that think keeps a charge?”
She shrugged. “How often do you have to charge your phone?”
He said, “Usually I do it every night. But it will often stay charged about, oh, 48 hours? Not as long as it used to.”
She smiled. “Well, then, that’s probably how long. The connection to the battery was primitive, really. Your phone was just as likely to draw from that battery as it was to draw from the phone’s. Why?”
He smiled. “Because I took it with me on a trip recently. I don’t remember exactly when it died, but it was certainly dead by the time we got where we were going. And I didn’t charge it until I was at the airport, coming back.”
She nodded. Then pulled the stop cable, and they got off the bus again, a terrible neighborhood, but Swift seemed unconcerned as she led him to a tattoo parlor. Once they were inside, a skinny inked man in a muscle shirt smiled warmly and said, “Sissy! What can I do you for?”
She grinned. “Jimmy-boy, I need a private place to talk, and a phone that doesn’t trace easily. Got something for me?”
He looked pointedly at Skinner. “You bringin’ a Fed here? And you want to use the special phone?”
Skinner sighed. “I’m avoiding the government men myself right now. Can you help the lady?”
Jimmy looked interested. “Oh really. Now that’s a piece of action I just might want to...”
Swift cut him off. “Have absolutely nothing to do with, because otherwise a bunch of us grannies will show up and kick your ass.”
He sighed. “Come on.”
He led them up a narrow staircase into a grungy hallway, and opened a door. “Bud. Help Sissy out here. Don’t mind the Fed, she’s vouching for him.” He held the door open, and they walked into a slightly decrepit but exceptionally clean room with a surgical table and what looked like the counter from a doctor’s office. An enormous man, almost every inch of visible skin covered with tattoos, touched the frame of his wire rim glasses and smiled. “Sissy! You finally going to let me ink you?”
She laughed. “In your dreams, Bud. Got a private phone we can use?”
Skinner noticed then that Bud’s glasses were affixed to his face via a piercing through the bridge of his nose. He looked at it, curious. “Nice glasses.”
The guy smiled. “More comfortable. Standard glasses tickle, and make my ears hurt. I can sleep in these.”
Skinner managed not to laugh at the idea of a man who’d spend days of his life under a tattoo needle getting a piercing to reduce discomfort. He followed Bud into the next room, where he pulled a phone over and put it on a little folding table. “Have at, Sissy. I’ll be downstairs. This room is soundproof when both doors are closed, and the phone, well, I’m not going to tell you how we do the phone, but if someone can trace it, well, more power to ‘em.”
She smiled, reached up, and patted his shoulder. “You’re a good boy, Bud. Let me know if you need me to do any more jobs for you.”
He bent over and kissed her on her cheek. “Sure ‘nuff, Grandma.”
Skinner watched the man leave, then asked, “Grandma?”
She shrugged. “They all call me that. Who do you want to call first?”
He thought for a moment. “You know the Gunmen?”
She smiled. “Muggy and his boys? I taught Muggy everything he knows. Well, everything he knew up to about 1987, then I supplied him for a while when the new stuff was coming out.”
“Well, I need to call him. Then I think you call her White Owl?”
“Gwynne? Figures. You want privacy?” She smiled.
He nodded. “What you don’t know, they can’t beat out of you.” Then he pulled both his cell phones out of his pocket, and handed them to her. She took them, then looked thoughtful, and said, “Give me your shoes, glasses, wallet, and belt. Just in case. I’ll bring ‘em back when you’re done.”
He didn’t even question, just pulled the items off, stacked them, and handed them over. Then he said, “Wait... I need the numbers off the phones.”
She rolled her eyes, set the stack down, and pulled a piece of paper out of her purse, then scribbled on it. “Don’t be silly.” She handed him the phone numbers, and took the stuff with her out of the room.
Frohike didn’t bother with greetings, just said, “Sissy?” in a puzzled tone of voice.
Skinner answered, “No, but I”m with her. We’re using a phone she says is untraceable, because her house got bugged and we were followed. Locator beacon in my normal cell, but we think it was inactive by the time we got where we were going.”
“Shit. Okay, so what do you need, besides, you know, a new cell phone?” Frohike asked.
“Well, here’s the interesting bit of news. Jeffrey Spender decided to go talk to Mulder’s mom. He called from San Diego this morning, wanting to get a hold of Mulder. Says it’s urgent, possibly life and death.” Skinner’s tone did not imply that he shared that sense of urgency. “Apparently Spender’s father is there, staying with ‘Mandy’ and her family. And so now, the whole big happy family is there, near San Diego, and he says it’s vital that they see Mulder soon.”
“Wow. Um. Well, today they’re at a class until six or so. And I’m guessing Scully will want to go to church tomorrow... His mom’s not Catholic, but Episcopalian... It might be close enough... Krycek managed to weasel his way into the whole babysitting gig for the Project, so if he can manage to “lose” them for a few hours.. it might work. He and Langly are still over there, tweaking the install on the monitors. I could send Byers over now with the message. I don’t suppose Spender said what was so all-fired important?”
“Of course not. Let me give you Samantha Mulder’s address and cell, so that you don’t have to go through me to deal with this.” Skinner pulled the little card out of his coat pocket, and read the information to Frohike.
“Great, man. I think I’ll see if he’ll give me any info, and then see if we can get them in touch with Mulder if it’s important enough. Although, to be honest, it just feels wrong NOT to let him see his sister now, after so long. Anything else?”
Skinner thought for a moment. “Swift says she’s not going home. I’m about to call Gwynne and tell her to put the call out. How much should I tell her?”
“All of it. I’ve been putting off sending up the full report, but you should tell her everything you can, if you have the time.” Frohike sounded almost relieved.
“Are you glad to not have to tell her the bad bits yourself?” Skinner asked.
“Oh hell yeah. Thank you for doing it. I’ll talk to you soon.” Frohike hung up.
Skinner thumbed the receiver, and then rotary dialed Gwynne’s number.
Gwynne answered, “Sissy?”
Skinner chuckled. “No, it’s me, Walter Skinner. Sissy’s helping me. We needed a secure line.”
“Her specialty. How is she?” asked Gwynne.
“Well, but bugged and bugging out. Apparently someone followed me to her last time, and she’s getting out of dodge rather than going back.” Skinner answered.
“Damn. Well, she’ll be fine. Tell her to go ahead and use the card. What’s up?”
“Well, several things. First, Frohike asked that I tell you to tell your book club it’s time for a reunion,” Skinner started. He could almost hear her eyebrows go up on the other side of the phone.
“He says there will be ten pretty girls with no place to go. And if he’s talking about what I think he’s talking about, most of them are pregnant. None of them speak English, and none of them have papers,” he said.
“Not a problem. The babies might be... do they all belong to Dana?” she asked.
Skinner blinked. “Oh. You don’t know yet. Apparently they’re not just hers. They belong to both of them. They managed to nab some of the relevant material when Mulder was in custody a few years back. But the ten... no, not theirs.”
Gwynne didn’t answer for a while. “That... well, it simplifies things, doesn’t it?”
“In some ways, yes. In any event, the two that are pregnant with their babies are not included in that ten. I think they’ll keep those girls with them if the girls are willing,” Skinner said.
“Wise. Are the girls from Central America?” she asked.
Skinner frowned. “I assumed Mexico. But it could be anywhere south of the border.”
Gwynne smiled. “That makes deciding where to send them a bit easier. I’ll talk to Frohike about that myself when I get there.”
“Good enough. Ready for the bad news?” he asked.
“Never, but tell me anyway.”
“Krycek helped us get a lot of information. Too much, in some ways.” He hesitated.
“How many were lost?” she asked.
“Pardon?” he said, surprised.
“Emily can’t have been the only one they were making sick. I knew when they were heading down that there would be some we couldn’t save.” Gwynne sounded tired.
“Twenty eight babies have been born. Fifteen of them died at birth. Another twelve died in their first three years.” He stopped.
“And one is alive. How bad off is he?” she asked.
“Actually, he’s not sick at all. Apparently someone decided that a healthy child would be better leverage, and we think that the man you know as Gary Spender had treatments stopped early enough that the boy didn’t get sick at all. Mulder’s already seen him. They’re taking a class so they can take him on as a foster child sooner than later.”
Gwynne sighed. “I don’t trust the man’s motives, but maybe he did something right in this case. Never tell them, but in some ways it is better to have one healthy child than several sick ones. It could be much, much worse. So how did Fox react to that child?”
Skinner chuckled. “Langly says he’s head over heels. Complete with daydreaming and heavy sighs.”
“ Oh my. Makes me wish I’d put Dana on that one too. She needs that as much as he does. Maybe more. So that means one baby and two potential babies for them. Heh. That could change their lives for a long time. Sounds like Krycek has been useful, if they’re doing that well already. I’d expected it to take longer. Married last weekend, and already they’ve got a baby and two on the way.”
Skinner chuckled. “There’s more news. We found Samantha.”
“WHAT?” she almost shrieked.
“She’s alive and living half an hour north of San Diego, using a different name. No coincidence, I suspect. I believe that her father had that part of the project there to make visits convenient,” Skinner said.
“He would. How is she?” Gwynne’s voice shook.
“ Well. In fact, better than I ever hoped. She’s married. Three kids.” Skinner smiled. *Good news.*
“Three.. and married. She was abducted. Do any of the abductees come back fertile?” Gwynne asked.
“ Her father may have had access to whatever was taken. I don’t know how much he told her.” Skinner said.
“That’s just amazing. Do you know anything about her family? Her life?”
“Let’s see.. I think the eldest is 14, Lisa. Then Kit is almost six. And the youngest, Carl, is two. She said that Joel, her husband, is well, and they’ve been together for years. She was raised in California with Jeffrey Spender, by her father. Oh, and we do have genetic confirmation of both her parentage and her identity. Apparently Gary Spender was father to both Mulder children.” Skinner tried to remember any other details.
“He did tend to flirt like crazy with anyone who would hold still long enough. And Bill was gone a lot. There were rumors, but not about the kids. I don’t suppose anything knows anything about my son,” Gwynne said.
Skinner sighed. “What is his name?”
She didn’t say anything right away. Then she whispered, “Noel Thorne. I was once Genevieve Thorne. Jessie was Angelica. We haven’t used those names since the day Frank died. It always felt too dangerous. Please be very careful about where you use them.”
“Do the boys know what his name is?” Skinner asked.
“Muggy knows. No one else. I told him so that if he.. if Mulder... He watched the lists, looked at pictures, every MUfoN group, every chance we could get he would look for him. But it’s been almost 25 years. He didn’t look quite like either of us, more of a blend of the two of us. And he was changing so fast when he was taken. He and Jessie were both blond as babies, and Jessie’s hair is so dark now. I don’t know if I would recognize him if I did see him. But Alex seemed to think he might have been taken to California...”
Skinner said, “I’ll see what I can find out. We’re making excellent progress, I think. I hate to say it, but Krycek has been instrumental. He can walk up to the dragon and have a chat with it, to the point where he’s the one behind the security camera, and Langly is apparently playing MIB as his henchman.”
“I don’t like the sound of that. Ringo is such a lamb. Damned good on the computers, but lord... that boy? Walking in and staying cool? I almost wish you hadn’t told me.” She sighed. “I know that it’s probably necessary, but I’ll feel better when my boys are the hell out of there. It’s the 14th now? Sarah and I will be able to get away for spring break on Friday afternoon. I’ll have Muggy let you know when we get there.”
“And your reunion?” he asked.
“I’m not sure it’s going to be what you and Muggy expect. But it will be that week. Let Sissy know that she can spread the word as she comes. Anything else?”
He answered, “No, I don’t think so. I’ll talk to you later, I’m sure. Thank you for your help.”
“Thank you for yours. I don’t quite know what to think, but I’ve got more hope than I’ve had in a long, long time. Good luck.” She cut the connection.
He sat for a few minutes, and then padded out in his stocking feet to find Swift.
10:30 a.m. The Condo
Langly was standing on a ladder, working on detaching the globe from a light fixture in the bedroom, when his phone rang. It took everything he had not to fall off the ladder, and he barely kept his grip on the globe. He unscrewed the last knob, and lowered the globe gently, then climbed down the ladder.
The ringing had stopped by the time he had a hand free. He looked at the number, sighed, and hit the call button.
“Finally,” said Frohike.
“‘Sup?” asked Langly.
Frohike sighed. “Complication. Miss M wants to see our boy ASAP. His bro says it’s urgent. Life, death, that sort of thing. Would you talk to Al and find out if it’s doable?”
Langly sighed. “Yeah. Think we can swing something. Any thoughts?”
Frohike said, “Church? They’re not Catholic.”
“Yeah maybe. Let me talk to the A-man. You got an addy for us?”
Frohike smiled. “Sure do. Let me know when you want it.”
“Not now, man. I almost broke something when you called. Wish you could see this stuff, it’s the shit.” Langly looked at the glass globe. “I mean, really. The shit. Flexies, tinies, the whole works. I’m wiring the bedroom now.”
“That’s the shit I’d pay to see.” Frohike said.
“Don’t be rude, man. Talk to you later.”
“Later.” Frohike disconnected.
Langly left the phone on the bed to go find Krycek.
6:15 p.m. I-805, northbound
Scully looked over at Mulder. “So, what do you think?”
He shrugged. “I think that there are a lot of people who do shitty things to their kids.”
“It’s starting to feel like this might happen.” She dropped a hand off the steering wheel to take his. “I can’t quite get my mind around it.”
He squeezed her hand. “I wish you could see him. It feels... not just plausible, but necessary. I can’t get my mind around not bringing that child home.”
They were quiet for a few minute as she exited the highway and made the short turns into the cul de sac. She frowned. “Is that...”
“Yeah. Can’t be good.” He stared at the black sedan at the end of the street, visible in a street light.
She stopped the car briefly, and pulled the curare spray out of her fanny sack. He pulled out the pen gun. Then she pulled forward into the parking space in front of their condo.
They approached the door warily. *How do you stay casual when you don’t know if your cover is blown or not?* she thought.
Mulder pushed the front door open, and then sighed with relief. “It’s you.” He turned the lights on.
Langly looked up at him from the couch. “We’ve got a little bit of a complication. Al?”
A disembodied voice sounded. “What’s up, Ralph?”
“They’re here. You want to come join the conversation?” Langly asked.
“Let me turn it all off.” Krycek said.
Scully and Mulder sat down on the sectional.
A few minutes later, the front door opened. “We weren’t planning on seeing you,” Krycek said. “But your sister threw a monkey wrench into the works, according to the grapevine.”
“My sister.” Mulder said.
Langly nodded. “According to Frohike, Skinner says that Spender says that Samantha needs to talk to you ASAP. Life and death. She knows something, apparently.”
Scully frowned. “I thought we agreed it was too risky right now.”
Krycek nodded. “It would be, except that I told Jerry I’d tail you tomorrow. So, tail you I will. But you’re just going to church. And I’m not going to have video for them. I’ll just file a report, and lie through my teeth. If after church you meet up with a cousin, then that’s fine, I just report that you met with family to go have brunch.”
“She wants to see me?” said Mulder.
Langly smiled. “Apparently there’s something of a family reunion going on. I think all of your immediate relatives are within a half hour of here.”
Scully’s eyes widened. “All?”
Krycek nodded. “Crotchety old bastard included. And his mother. And brother. Nice, huh?”
“Tipping that bastard to our presence now seems like a colossally bad idea,” said Mulder. “Then again, I suppose I could take the plastic gun. You guys willing to clean up after it?”
Krycek and Langly looked at each other. Langly said, “If it comes to that. But apparently your brother was adamant that Skinner contact you now. Said there was something you needed to know about. And Spender has an idea you’re undercover.”
“St. Williams up on 56 is about halfway to her place,” said Langly.
Krycek continued. “Her husband will meet you there and drive you to wherever he’s taking you. He’s the only adult in that group the boys in black won’t recognize. I’m going to watch your car for a couple hours.”
Mulder felt his throat go dry. “I’m going to see her.”
Scully wrapped her arm over his and took his hand. “Tomorrow. And your mother is already there.”
His breathing was ragged. “Samantha. Scully, Samantha.”
“You’ll see her soon.” She said.
His shoulders started to shake. Scully looked over at Krycek. “Is there anything else you need to share?”
Krycek shook his head. “If there is, I can tell you tomorrow. Cameras will be on tonight. Mass is at 9. He’s been told to look for a small woman with long red curls, and a tall, dark-haired man with a trim beard. Go to the candles after mass, and light one together. I’ll send Langly in just before mass and hang a change of clothes for you in the coat area, in this bag.” He held up an inexpensive garment bag, navy blue. “After you make contact with him, go change in the restroom, lose the glasses and contacts, change your hair, Scully, and Mulder, lose whatever that thing is in your mouth. Do not tell any of them your undercover names. It’s not enough, but it’s something. Langly will swipe your clothes back and put them in your car while you are gone.”
Scully looked at him. “Why. Why are you doing this?”
“Because we need to know what he knows. What she knows. He knows more about this mess than almost anyone. And if he can be persuaded to share... It’s worth the risk. Besides. There’s always a chance that Mulder will shoot him, and that’s not a problem either.” Krycek smiled, and Scully shivered a little.
She looked at Mulder. “Can you give us some time before you turn the cameras back on?”
Krycek shrugged. “I’ll turn them back on at 7. We’ll be recording you tonight.”
Langly said, “Oh, let me show you where the cameras are.”
Mulder blinked, and then said, “Don’t. I don’t want to know.”
Langly shrugged. “Well, here’s the thing. If you go into the kitchen, open the fridge, close it, then open the cupboard right next to it, in that order and only that order, we’ll get a signal. We’ll set the relay broadcast for the camera in the bedroom to a recorded loop. If you immediately open the next cupboard over, we’ll put the whole house on tape, and one of us will come over. We’ll be able to give you about ninety minutes. In the bedroom, there will be a red light on when we’re overriding the camera. If that light is not on, assume all systems are on and functioning.”
Scully stared at him. “You’re giving us privacy. I didn’t expect-”
Langly shrugged. “You can’t use it every day. And we need a full night of recording tonight. But we’ll be across the street. We can be here in two minutes if you need us.” He stood up.
Scully stood, and gave him a quick hug. “Thank you.”
Langly looked utterly surprised. “You guys just be careful.”
She frowned for a moment, and then looked at Krycek. “What you’re doing... We’ll try to find the answers.” She looked down. “Thank you for finding a way.”
Krycek turned away. “We need the answers. You can get them. I couldn’t.”
He walked to the door. “Good luck tomorrow.”
Langly followed him, then paused at the door. “By the way, Krycek made something while we were waiting for you. I’m not sure what he calls it, but it’s pretty tasty. It’s in the fridge.”
Scully frowned, cocked her head in bemusement, and then nodded. When the door closed, she looked at Mulder. He looked dazed. “I’m going to see her, Scully. Tomorrow.”
She knelt down next to him on the couch, and put her arm around his shoulders. He turned toward her and started to cry.
~Continue to Chapter 20