Entrance of the Gladiators
March 2, 1998
8:40 am Headquarters of the Lone Gunmen
“Mulder! Are you crazy?” Langly asked, gesturing sharply with his thumb in the general direction of Skinner. “Bringing him here?”
“I trust him,” Mulder said quietly, “and we need his help on this one.”
The three Lone Gunmen raised their eyebrows in unison.
“All right, Mulder, how big is it?” Frohike settled himself on a stool in front of one of the many computers in the room. His feet dangled off the stool, almost but not quite reaching the floor.
Mulder looked at Scully.
“I...” She looked down at her hands.
Byers looked at her sharply. “You’re going under, aren’t you?”
She gave a short, affirmative jerk of her head.
Assistant Director Skinner straightened himself up into his most military stance.
“Would someone please enlighten me? I’m getting tired of half sentences. I know that you,” he gestured to the three Gunmen, “are Mulder’s ‘unofficial sources’ more times than not. And I gather that you two,” gesturing to Mulder and Scully, “are not going on vacation, but undercover. What I need to know is why, how long, and what makes this something that we couldn’t have discussed in the comfort of my office.” He looked pointedly around the cluttered office, the cheap furniture, the expensive computer equipment, the dark, dingy space.
Mulder straightened. “As you are aware from my case reports, Agent Scully discovered her daughter several weeks ago, in San Diego. A daughter that had her genes, but a 70 year old surrogate mother, and two dead adoptive parents. In my efforts to assist Agent Scully in finding a treatment for her daughter, I found evidence that there were more of Agent Scully’s biological offspring out there. We also discovered that a number of children born around the time of Emily Sims’ birth were created under suspiciously similar circumstances. I also found evidence that more children are being produced, even ‘manufactured,’ and we need to find out where, why, and who is raising them. Going undercover is the logical next step, given the nature of this case.”
“Agent Mulder, how exactly do you propose to ‘go undercover’?” Skinner looked weary, but it was unclear as to whether it was due to the notion of manufactured children or simply the realization that he was going to be up to his ears with this, whatever this turned out to be. “That gives me background information, yes, but tells me nothing about how you plan to pull this off.”
Scully began speaking. “Sir, what we intend to do, obviously, is pose as a couple interested in adopting. We have leads to other adoptive parents that we can follow. After that...” She began listing the steps she and Mulder would follow, ticking them off on her fingers as she spoke. “One, move into the neighborhood, two, make friends with the adoptive families and try to gain their confidence, which will helpfully follow to...whatever source they used. Once we identify the source, we’ll figure out a way to get them to approach us. I imagine that we’ll have to drop hints within the circle of our...new friends...that we’re desperate for a child. I’m hoping that if we connect with the adoptive parents, they’ll share their stories with us if we tell our “story” right. The important thing is to make them come to us. If we look too hard, we’ll spook them and they’ll vanish into the woodwork.”
Skinner mulled this over from where he stood, resting against a rusted metal filing cabinet. “I can see that working, but how do you plan to find these ‘manufactured’ children?”
“That’s where we come in,” Frohike interjected, somewhat smugly. “We have already identified the names of the birth mothers. We have managed to-” He glanced at his fellow editors, cleared his throat and then continued. “-access the records in the relevant adoption databases. We simply need to use the same process to identify the other families. It shouldn’t pose much of a problem.”
“Your identities need to be changed,” said Langly. “You need to totally change your appearance. You need a completely new identity, with paper trail. Driver’s licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards with matching credit history, job history, school transcripts, the works. Probably more than one if you want to get from Washington to your destination without leaving an obvious trail.”
Byers walked over to a computer and sat down in front of it. “And you’ll need support. Technology. Information. Money. Contacts-” He trailed off at the look on Skinner’s face. “Mr. Skinner, may I ask what the matter is?”
The AD spoke to Mulder and Scully instead. “Is this a request for a fully FBI backed operation? Because you know as well as I do that the people I have to answer to-” He was cut off by Mulder.
“No, sir. We know anything that goes across your desk gets seen by the very people we’re trying to uncover. This has to be unofficial. However, we may at some point need your ‘official’ assistance.”
Skinner removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Okay. I can free up some equipment for you, set up some emergency resources, but I don’t think there’s much more than that I can do without risking your exposure. How do you propose to disappear without raising suspicions?”
Mulder stared at Skinner. “Well, I do have a fair amount of vacation time built up. Agent Scully is long overdue for a paid medical leave, followed by a personal leave.”
Skinner snorted. “All right, Mulder, I’ll start the paper trail.”
Frohike jumped in. “And we will finish it. By the end of your investigation, you and Agent Scully will have spent money everywhere but San Diego.”
Scully shuddered at the thought. “Frohike,” her voice was low and slightly threatening.
He laughed. “Agent Scully, we take pride in our work. Your expenditures will be consistent with a weary agent taking a low-key, low-profile vacation on the oh-so-exotic eastern seaboard. It will be much more fun making Mulder’s paper trail.”
Scully raised her eyebrow and chuckled. “I bet.”
Skinner stood up and put his glasses back on. “Lets get on this. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
“Now, come on, guys, we need a professional to do your disguises.” Byers was frantically trying to get Mulder and Scully to agree with him on the subject. “You can’t do it yourselves, and we certainly aren’t going to give you guys a makeover.”
“No, I can do Scully, and she can do me.” *That sounded all wrong.* “It’s simple. Then we don’t have to involve any outsiders.”
Scully groaned at this; she hadn’t thought about Mulder doing her hair until now. “Don’t listen to him, guys.”
“Thank you, Dana.” Byers gave Mulder a Look. “I’ll get the phone book.” He dug around in a mound of what could only be described as a Leaning Tower of Pizza boxes, old magazines, and discarded newspaper until he found the phone book.
“Well, before we resort to the...ah...” She gulped, looking around guiltily, wondering if the private vanity she had for her hair was as evident as it felt. “The Yellow Pages...do you know anyone who does hair and/or gives makeovers?”
“I do.” The Assistant Director spoke up. Everyone looked at him in surprise.
“You have a hairdresser?” Frohike was the first to voice his shock. Mulder turned around and tried to quash the grin that threatened, vaguely jealous that Frohike could get away with a question like that. And that Frohike had beaten him to the punch.
“No, I don’t have a hairdresser,” said Skinner with some annoyance. “There is a very good hairdresser who owes me a favor or two. He also did my wife’s hair.”
“Yeah, but will he be willing to come here now?” asked Langly. “It would be stupid to go into a public place as one person and leave as another. There are spies everywhere.”
Mulder groaned inwardly. He knew what was coming next. The c word. “Because, you know, it’s a conspiracy.” Langly continued, then grinned.
Right on the mark again. Mulder mentally chalked up another point for himself, and then spoke. “Look, Junior G-man, I know we’re all just dying to hear about this latest cover-up, but we’ve got to get working.”
Skinner said through clenched teeth, “I said he owes me a favor. He’ll come.”
Langly seemed unaware of how close he’d come to having his head snapped off as he responded, “So contact this guy and let’s get going.”
Skinner gave Langly a long look, then shrugged. “I’ll get him now.” He pulled his coat back on and started for the door.
“But don’t you need to call him or something? We’ve got the most secure lines in the state. Untappable. Why...” Frohike began rambling on about something or other, though no one was paying attention.
“No, I know exactly where he is.” He gestured at the Gunmen. “You three would appreciate the technology behind the ankle bracelet he wears.” Skinner paused and smiled. “He’s a fine example of rehabilitation at its best. He discovered he liked hairdressing much better than his previous profession after our first, um, meeting. I send him his best customers. And besides, he’s convinced he’s been abducted by aliens who torture him by depiliating his scalp while he sleeps. He’ll be happy to help. I’ll be back.” Skinner left without another word.
The Lone Gunmen sat with their jaws dropped in unison. After the door closed, Frohike shook himself. “He’s good!”
“So, I guess we just wait,” said Scully.
“No, we need a makeup artist,” interjected Mulder. “This hairdresser isn’t going to do both.”
“Right,” said Byers, flipping through the Yellow Pages until he came to “Makeup.”
Frohike swatted the book out of his hands. “Stop that. I think I have someone closer to home who can help us.”
Langly blanched. “You’re not thinking of...”
Byers stopped him. “He’s right, Ringo. Best to keep it in the family.”
The door opened with a buzz, and Skinner came in, followed by an enormous black man carrying a huge basket of supplies. The man seemed to overflow the office with his muscles alone. He made even Skinner look scrawny. His eyes lit on Scully, and she backed away, slightly intimidated.
“This is Joe. Joe, you’ll understand if I don’t introduce everyone.”
“Y-you’re a hairdresser?” Frohike squeaked.
“Yeah. What about it?”
His voice was a deep, bass rumble; when he spoke, it sounded like a cement truck downshifting. “Gonna need extensions,” he said, rubbing a huge paw across his stubbled chin. “Don’t want to change the color...it’s a mighty purty red.” He talked while moving chairs and tables over around the only sink in the room, forming a makeshift salon in a matter of seconds.
“What did you arrest him for?” Mulder hissed at his boss.
“Armed robbery,” Skinner replied.
“How do you do, ma’am?”
“I’m all right,” she said warily.
“Please sit down.” His gentle manners somehow surprised her.
She walked over and sat down gingerly, unnerved by all the eyes staring at her. “What are you all looking at? Go hack the Pentagon or something!”
The Gunmen, Mulder, and Skinner all murmured their apologies. The boys each sat down at a computer terminal. Mulder staked out a strategic spot where he could see all three screens, and Skinner sat down at a ancient 286 and began playing solitaire.
Joe began picking up sections of Scully’s hair. “Ma’am? Do you know the name of the color you used on this?”
Scully spun on him, cold fury etched across her features. “I do not,” she said slowly, clearly enunciating each word, “Dye. My. Hair.” She sniffed, twisting back around to face the Gunmen, Skinner and Mulder. “I’ve been sick recently.”
The huge man looked completely cowed, much to Skinner’s amusement.
“Sorry Ma’am. In that case, we’ll start with a protein pack so the new hair will hold better.” His voice softened, and then he ventured, “Are you better now?”
The hard scowl on her face melted into a gentle smile. “Yeah, I’m better.”
He picked up a box and started to sort through it. Mumbling to himself, he began to hold different hair pieces up to her hair, seeking the perfect match. After ten minutes of painstaking choices, he held up two long, red lengths of hair. One was curly, the other straight.
“Which would you prefer, Ma’am?”
She looked at the two lengths and sighed. “Better go with the curly.” *Haven’t had curls since I was in college. Pain in the ass, but they make me look more different than just long hair would.* She remembered one undergrad splurge, a spiral perm and bunny tail bangs, the height of style...
The huge man nodded solemnly in agreement. “Glad we’re not trying to change the color, seeing as it’s natural and all. It’s just about impossible to get red hair to change color without turning green. And it is an awfully purty red.” He put the straight hank of hair back in the basket and began to lay out the curly hair in sections.
“This is going to take a while, Ma’am. You might want to get something to read.”
Scully reached over and grabbed the top magazine from a teetering stack on the table next to her. Opening the six-month-old copy of “The Lone Gunmen,” she began skimming an article claiming that President Clinton’s recent weight loss could be directly linked to the increase in global methane levels.
Scully frowned. The Cow Fart Diet?
Skinner swore at the ancient computer system, turned it off without bothering to exit the program, and threw his coat on.
“I’ve got some errands to run. I’ll be back shortly.”
Skinner returned just as the Gunmen reached a lull, waiting for their first efforts at the computers to bear fruit. He walked through the door with a large box in his hands. A bead of sweat on his scalp and the strain he struggled not to show indicated that the box was heavy, very heavy indeed. Mulder quickly cleared a spot for it on a table, tossing the papers which had covered it into a pile behind him.
Frohike objected. “Hey, Mulder, we don’t come over to your office and mess it up. So don’t mess ours up.”
Mulder’s Cheshire-cat grin danced across his face. “Do you want to see what toys he’s brought for you to play with, or what?”
“I still don’t see why you have to trash our office.”
Scully snorted at the idea that moving one large pile of junk from a table and setting it on another large pile of junk could be construed as “messing up” an office which was so far from clean that it couldn’t even get “clean” on radar.
Mulder just smiled and ignored him.
Skinner opened the box and drew out several pieces of odd-looking, ominous equipment. The three conspiracy theorists were all over them in a heartbeat, picking them up, turning them over in gentle, experienced fingers, dragging an illuminated magnifying glass over for a more thorough examination.
Christmas morning at the office, Mulder thought with a smile. “What is it?” he asked over the commotion.
“Ways to change your fingerprints, and some other things we use for undercover investigations,” replied Skinner.
“Such as?” prompted Scully
“New dental records, medical files, things you’ll have to have in San Diego.”
“Uh,” Frohike announced. “I’m sure that new paper dental records were all the rage when you were chasing Huey Long, but those things are computerized now. Dental teleradiology and all that. ‘Sides...We’ve got plans for those teeth.”
Skinner’s jaw flexed and Scully could almost feel her own teeth aching in pain as she watched her boss try and restrain the urge to twist the little toad’s head off like a dandelion. “Fine,” Skinner growled. “You just make sure you do a good job, or when I prosecute you for hacking into all these systems, I’ll make sure Joe’s old cell mate is your new cell mate.” Skinner stabbed Frohike in the chest with a single finger, almost sending the tiny hacker over on his ass. “What was his name again?” Skinner asked Joe.
“Mother,” Joe replied, grinning widely.
“W-what is that short for?” Frohike asked.
“Big Bad Mean Motherfucker,” Joe said, grinning even wider.
Suddenly he looked abashed. “Sorry ma’am.”
Frohike looked as if he was going to faint.
Scully grinned and laughed silently.
“Ma’am...you have to stop moving your head.”
Whatever Joe was doing was elaborate and took several hours to complete. It involved several pieces of equipment that baffled even the technophile Gunmen, and something about it smelled nasty.
Scully was unfazed by it all, and slowly read through the last six issues of “The Magic Bullet,” snorting from time to time as she absorbed the various theories. Bovine muscle tissue being injected into Texas high-school football players.
At one point Mulder raised the question of what their undercover names should be. Frohike had a ready answer.
“Martin and Sally. It will be easier for you to get used to, and any slips won’t be as noticeable as if you were, oh, Wendy and Peter.”
The other Gunmen nodded and Scully shrugged. Mulder sighed, and agreed.
“Martin and Sally it is.”
When Scully’s hair was finished, Joe brushed it out and sprayed it with water, combing it until it curled evenly. When this was over, he reached over and lifted the magazine out of her hands, replacing it with a mirror. “Ma’am, you’re done.”
Scully stood up, holding the mirror out to try to see the results, which just wouldn’t fit in the small frame. Frohike whistled appreciatively. The hair matched her color exactly, but fell in slightly damp curls down to her waist. She turned and tried to look over her shoulder at the ends, then reached around from underneath and smiled when her fingers found they could touch the ends easily. She put both hands under her hair and lifted the bulk of it over one shoulder to see the ends reaching well down her front, running her fingers with delight around the riotous curls.
“I feel like Sleeping Beauty, or Rapunzel,” she said. “Thanks, Joe, you did a wonderful job.”
“Wouldn’t look half so good if you weren’t so pretty, Ma’am.” He called across the room to Mulder. “All right. Your turn.” Mulder looked up from his terminal and moaned, but got up and moved into the chair.
“You’re not going to give me hair like hers, are you?”
Joe chuckled, a deep rumble, and began to shampoo Mulder’s head. “You’re not pretty enough to pull it off, mister.”
“Mmmm...” Mulder purred as Joe massaged his scalp. “Hey Scully, will you rub my head when we have to touch this up?”
“You could get lucky.” She moved over to the chair he’d previously occupied and settled in to see what the boys had come up with.
Something began to beep. Frohike looked up at a previously unnoticed monitor, and said, pressing a button, “It’s about time!”
Scully peered up to see the fuzzy outline of a large, middle-aged woman. A buzz sounded momentarily as she passed out of view of the camera.
At that moment, the door swung open, and a gigantic lady came in, bogged down with bags and boxes and cases. She dropped them in the middle of the floor.
“MELVIN RICHARD FROHIKE!” The woman blustering into the office was as loud as she was big. “What have you gotten yourself into this time?”
Frohike scurried forward to pick up the bags, but was engulfed in the woman’s embrace. “It’s not me,” he muttered, his voice muffled by her ample bosom.
Still pinning the small man under one arm, she whistled as she saw Skinner. “Don’t tell me you want me to cover that gorgeous head with hair!”
Skinner turned an odd shade of greenish-mauve as Mulder burst out laughing and Scully hid a smile.
“I hope you don’t want me to cut those curls, lady.” Scully was so entranced by the woman’s hair—a huge beehive dyed a very fake shade of platinum blond—and the utterly cowed expression on Frohike’s face, that it took her a while to notice that she was being spoken to.
Ignoring Scully’s slack-jawed stare, the woman scanned the room. When her eyes came to rest on Joe, she bellowed, “What are you doing here?” When the woman’s words filtered through Scully’s amazement, she started.
“What does it look like I’m doing, ma’am?” Joe replied calmly as he wet Mulder’s hair in the sink, preparing for the shampoo.
“His hair, but why? Stop following me around! You always have the same appointments as me. Why?” Her face flushed red with anger.
“You, you KNOW him?” Scully’s shock was evident.
“Of course I know him,” the woman proclaimed. “In his own odd way, he’s rather famous. The only armed robber in history to give the bank tellers HAIR advice during the damn robbery!”
Joe smiled shyly and said to Scully, “You’d be surprised how many women don’t take care of their hair.”
“Bah!” the woman said, waving a dismissive hand at Joe. “Ever since he got out, he’s been the FBI’s number one undercover hairstylist. And he follows me; goes to almost every appointment I have.”
Mulder had an equally shocked expression on his face. “Melvin RICHARD?”
Frohike gave him as threatening a look as he could muster from under the arm pinning him. “Don’t...”
But Mulder couldn’t stop. “Dickie Frohike?”
“Maybe it’s a conspiracy,” offered Langly, still hunched over the computer screen.
“You better believe it’s a conspiracy, Ringo-boy.” The woman looked pointedly at Joe.
“Dickie?” repeated Mulder from under the tap. He spit the shampoo that had invaded his mouth noisily into the sink.
Joe attached a small hose to the faucet and began to rinse Mulder. “I suppose that you’re just jealous that you don’t get called out for the more exciting cases.” He paused, and regarded the woman innocently. “And I hardly could have followed you here. I’ve been here for hours.”
“I will just ignore you, since you persist on following me,” stated Beehive Woman with a flourish, disregarding the valid point that Joe had arrived hours ahead of her. She turned to Scully, who was standing in front of her, apparently still in shock. “Oh, yes, my darling, your disguise.” She eyeballed the petite woman in front of her. “I think maybe colored contacts, pluck those eyebrows, and definitely lose the natural makeup. You need to go for the subtle colored tones.”
Scully backed up a step. “Who are you?”
Frohike mumbled something, muffled by the arm.
The woman released him from her embrace. “Melvin, you haven’t introduced me to your friends yet!”
Frohike looked extremely contrite as he muttered, “Mulder, Scully, Skinner...meet Dorothy Frohike.”
They blinked in unison.
Frohike’s mom smiled a frighteningly toothy grin. “Yep, I’m his mom. Call me Dot.”
Scully closed her mouth with an audible snap. Frohike’s mother?! Somehow, she’d always assumed that he’d been...hatched, or something.
Scully tried to reconcile the connections. Mulder, the Gunmen, Frohike, Skinner, Joe, Frohike’s mother. *Small world,* Scully thought.
Scully’s face wore an expression of astonishment which had seemingly taken up permanent residence. She did not resist when Dot Frohike led her over to a high stool, but had to be nudged to climb onto it. Somewhere in this process her jaw had dropped again, apparently.
“Hey Scully! Better shut your mouth or flies will come in.”
She shot Langly a glare that sent him scurrying back to his computer, but did close her mouth again.
“Now, darlin,’ let’s see what ol’ Ma Frohike has in her bag of tricks.” The beehive swooped and dove and soared as its owner investigated first a box, then a basket, then a bag. Scully watched the motion, fascinated. She almost reached out a hand to touch the hair, wondering if it was as stiff as it looked. *Stiff enough to deflect small caliber bullets,* Scully thought. *Probably exactly what it’s intended to do. She is Frohike’s mother...*
Gradually a quantity of pots and brushes and blocks of flesh colored putty-like substance were perched on the piles of papers and books that surrounded Scully’s seat.
Then Scully found Dot Frohike’s face within inches of her own. She noted with clinical detachment that although there was a grotesque quantity of makeup covering the woman’s face, it had been applied with enough skill that although she just knew the eyelashes were fake and the skin coated with enough foundation to waterproof a canoe, she couldn’t see where the foundation stopped and skin began, and the eyelashes seemed to be growing out of her eyelids.
Leave it to Frohike’s mother to grow two-inch long eyelashes.
She briefly flashed to an image of a fruit fly with legs growing out of its eyes and shuddered.
Suddenly she was aware that the glowing fluorescent pink mouth was speaking to her.
“I said, do you have any allergies to cosmetics?”
Scully shook herself slightly, and her brain kicked back into gear.
“I don’t usually use foundation, just powder, because the liquid stuff makes me break out. Other than that, nope.”
Mrs. Frohike’s eyebrows had been transplanted upward, apparently, but still had enough flexibility that one of them managed to defy gravity even more as she answered skeptically, “Makes you break out, or you can’t find a color that matches you, or you don’t know how to apply it correctly?”
Scully looked kind of sheepish.
*She looks completely cowed,* thought Skinner with amusement.
“Actually...I think that all three of those are probably accurate. I can’t find a color that matches my skin, it always goes clumpy or splotchy, and then I break out.” She smiled wryly. “I gave up on foundation years ago; please don’t tell me I have to wear it now.”
Dorothy Frohike gave her a long look, then smiled broadly. “Well, I don’t know. This your normal face?”
Scully was nonplussed. “Uh...This is what I normally wear, except on special occasions.”
“Okay, doll.” Dot handed Scully a bottle of cleanser and a quantity of thick tissues. “Go over to that sink over there and wash it all off. I have to see your face naked to know how much we’ll have to do to make you look like someone else.”
She gestured to Skinner, who was the only other person in the room who didn’t seem actively involved in work. “You, there. Go see if you can scrounge up a t-shirt for the lovely lady to wear. Don’t want to get goop on her lovely blouse.”
A few minutes later, Scully was back on the stool. Without mascara, her eyelashes had faded to light brownish red with very pale tips. Without powder, her skin sported quite a few more freckles than anyone had previously given her credit for. And her lips seemed significantly smaller. With the long curls pulled back into a ponytail, and her suit replaced by a well-worn heavy-metal t-shirt of Langly’s, she looked like a teenager.
A self-conscious teenager.
“I feel naked,” she muttered under her breath to Frohike’s mom.
“Hey Scully, you look different already,” Mulder said with a lecherous grin. Langly eyed her appraisingly. “Frohike, man...I think I see what you mean. She looks damn good in my t-shirt.”
Frohike whistled. “She can have one of mine-”
“Well Missy,” Scully flinched at the endearment, but the woman continued without noticing, “Looks like we don’t have to do as much to you after all. I think we will keep the more natural look. Didn’t realize how much of those big eyes and lips came from a bottle.”
Scully glared at her. “So what are you going to do, make me face the world with a naked face on a daily basis for eight weeks?”
Dot Frohike laughed. “Not at all. We’ll just go with a more muted color palette. Barely there mascara. Silvery plum lipstick instead of that tonsil-hockey red you’ve grown so attached to.” She continued, ignoring the indignant sputters from the redhead in front of her and the stifled coughs from the peanut gallery. “The biggest changes will come from your eyes, and from your attitude.”
The last sentence jarred Scully out of her indignation. She tilted her head with a confused look. “Eyes and attitude?”
“You see,” Mrs. Frohike explained, “You are a very confident woman, and your looks draw people in like a magnet. Those big blue eyes of yours and those kiss-me red lips are trademark. They’re also ridiculously easy to change.” She shuffled through a small case, and withdrew a smaller box. “Brown eyes. Disposable lenses. You’ll wear them for a week, throw ‘em out, and put in a new pair. That way you run less risk of being caught with blue eyes. These are ultra-thin, and if you have regular contacts, you can actually wear them over the tint-lenses, though it will be easier on you if you replace your prescription with a tinted prescription ASAP.” She pulled out some non-prescription glasses. “These will help too.”
She pulled a tube of lipstick, a small vial of something clear, and a colored lip pencil out of a different case. “I’ll show you how to do your lips to play down the pout. Don’t think you want to permanently remove it, so we’ll paint it away.”
“Now, we will have reduced two of your most powerful visual attractors. You still want to be able to draw people in, so you’re going to have to do an attitude adjustment. I’m betting you have a gorgeous smile no matter what color your lips are, and I’m also betting you don’t let people see it much.”
In the background several male jaws dropped, impressed at how neatly Frohike’s mother had nailed Scully.
Scully looked down, with an embarrassed half-smile playing across her mouth.
Mrs. Frohike reached out, and with a surprisingly gentle touch, lifted Scully’s chin up. Their eyes met, and Scully grinned.
“See, you look like a totally different woman, and you don’t even have the contacts in yet.”
A surprisingly short time later, a transformed Scully stood in front of the group for evaluation.
Her whole face seemed different, which was remarkable considering the only makeup they had used (and Scully herself had been the one to apply everything, at Dot’s insistence) had been a touch of mascara, a subtle blush, and a light plum-colored lipstick. Her eyes seemed softer and smaller, the few freckles on her nose had given her a slightly saucy look, and her lips were no longer begging to be kissed. They still looked like they could easily be kissed but had better things to do, like smile. Her whole body had shifted a little somewhere in the process, so that the woman standing in front of them looked more like Dana Scully’s cousin than like Dana Scully herself. Mrs. Frohike had braided the long curls to keep them out of the way, leaving wisps around the face that were decidedly untidy. The effect was very different from Scully’s normal low maintenance, highly professional short hairstyle.
Mulder stared at her in shock.
The strange woman in front of him...laughed. “Mulder, quit staring at me.”
This brought him back quickly. “Okay. You’re still you, but you’re not...you.”
“Any other distinguishing marks?” Skinner asked, studying Dot’s handiwork. Scully suddenly paled, glancing at Mulder. He shrugged as if to say, “Up to you.”
She gulped. “Ah...yes. There’s a...er...a tattoo.”
Three male heads slowly rose from the keyboards they’d been pounding and swiveled to face her.
“Ta-” Langly started.
“Too?” Frohike finished.
Scully blushed furiously. “Yes, a tattoo.” She smiled saucily at Frohike. “Didn’t know about that, did you?”
All three of the Gunmen spoke at once.
“Where is it?” “What is it?” “When did you get it-”
“Enough!” Scully said. “John, is there a more private place Dot and I can go? It’s kind of in a...personal place.”
Frohike’s eyebrows waggled. “Oh, this is gonna be good!” he said.
The icy gaze that Scully turned on him could have frozen lava. Mulder thought he could almost hear Frohike’s pupils constricting in fear. The hacker quickly turned his head back to the keyboard and resumed typing.
Dot led Scully into the rather large rest room and shut the door behind them. “My son,” she said, “has a crush on you.”
“That’s sweet,” she said carefully.
Dot waved it away. “He’s a frog. But, the thing of it is, he’ll take care of you. He’s not much to look at, and some of his cookies are still soft in the center if you know what I mean...but if you need something, you can count on him.”
Scully flushed, knowing that the woman was right.
“So,” Dot said, clapping her hands. “What do we have? A rose, maybe? Over the breast? A butterfly on your butt?”
Scully grinned. “Nothing so simple.” Quickly shedding her jacket, Scully turned around, tugged the blouse out of her waistband and bent over, showing Dot the small of her back.
“Hmm...too fresh for a henna wipe. I could put a small patch of latex there, blend it in, kind of like a movie prosthetic. The good part is that you’re so pale that I won’t have to worry about blending into a tan line.” She paused. “The bad part is that it’ll have to be changed about once a week, and you have to be careful in the shower not to dislodge the glue.”
“Changed?” Scully squeaked.
“Yes. Well, not changed. I suppose that taking extra prosthetics with you...wherever it is you’re going...would cause a problem. So the one you have will have to be cleaned and reapplied.”
“Can I do it myself?” Scully asked.
Dot shook her head. “How close are you and your partner?” she asked.
Scully studied her own face in the mirror. “Close enough,” she muttered. “Do it.”
“Actually, we ought to call him in here so he can learn the process.”
Scully blushed, and then cringed as Mrs. Frohike bellowed out for “Mister Mulder.”
Mister Mulder entered the room cautiously.
“Mulder...you’re going to have to learn how to change this for me.”
He raised his eyebrows, started to make a comment, caught the look on her face, and thought the better of it. He settled in behind Mrs. Frohike to watch. *This is an academic exercise, Mulder. You have to do this to maintain the cover story. It doesn’t matter that it’s your partner’s naked, tattooed back you’re going to be...Academic exercise. Yeah. Sure.*
Whistling as she worked, Dot bent and began by swabbing the small of Scully’s back with a disposable alcohol wipe, removing the body’s natural oils so the adhesive would hold.
The latex was in place quickly, and Dot used what looked like foundation to blend the edges in seamlessly.
“Feel the patch, Mister Mulder...Feels just like skin, can’t tell where it ends and the real stuff begins.” Mrs. Frohike grabbed Mulder’s hand and touched his fingers to the patch. Scully didn’t seem to notice.
“Yeah. Just like real skin.” Mulder muttered, and gulped.
He withdrew his hand. “So how do I take it off?”
Dot grinned evilly. “You’ll have to check it each night. If an edge is starting to show, or it becomes obvious, use a bit of rubbing alcohol. Rub the edge up with your fingers, use some cotton with alcohol to dissolve the glue, use it to clean the patch, too, and then re-apply it.”
Mulder bit his lip. “Uh...okay.”
*Let me get this straight,* he thought. *I have to physically inspect my partner’s naked back nightly, all while possibly under continuous video and/or audio surveillance, which means that it will have to look natural, as if a husband is running a hand over his wife’s body.*
He chewed his lip. *I can do that.*
“Uh...I have a question,” he said softly. Scully could tell by his tone that it was a legitimate question. “Assuming that we’ll be under surveillance during our...mission, how would you suggest that I change this without being observed?”
Dot thought about this a minute, tapping a fingernail against her teeth.
“Two choices,” she finally said. “One, you’ll have to learn how to change it in the dark. That should fool the cameras. Second, in the shower.”
“The-” Scully started.
“Shower?” Mulder finished, his voice sounding suddenly hoarse.
“Yeah; hot shower, get the steam going nice and fluffy; that should fog the lens enough, right? Then, just make sure to wipe the area dry before you re-apply. That should cover it. It’s either that, or do it in a dark closet at midnight.”
Mulder thought he detected an evil little twinkle in Dot’s eye, but dismissed her intent look as professional dedication.
The Gunmen had hacked into computer systems that even Skinner had never heard of, creating two new people... “Canadian?” he asked.
Byers nodded. “Necessary, for reasons they’ll understand later. There’s a joint savings account here, but I didn’t want to do much more than that, I’d prefer to avoid attention. You can only fiddle with money so much before someone catches your trail.”
Scully looked at the amount in the account and whistled. When he also brought out a sheaf of hundreds and a sheaf of twenties, all old bills, to divide between the two of them, she looked almost afraid.
Langly smiled at her unasked question. “It’s all legitimate money, Agent Scully. Or at least,” he amended, “It’s not stolen, if that’s what your wondering. Us conspiracy nuts are notorious for socking it away in untraceable places. Consider it a gift from the Lone Gunmen Charitable Foundation.”
Mulder chuckled. “Is that a 501C3 nonprofit? Or a church?”
Skinner rolled his eyes. “Whatever it is, I don’t want to know.”
Mulder ran his fingers through his still-damp hair as he looked in the small mirror. “Is this enough of a change?”
His hair, always a medium to darkish brown, looked like it had obtained its own personal cloud to shadow it.
It was different, but the face underneath was still familiar. Stubbled, but familiar. He ran his hand across his chin. “Do you do shaves, too?”
Joe laughed in a low rumble. “Yeah, I do, but we’re not going to shave all that off, are we?” His voice raised just enough to carry to Dot Frohike.
The large woman walked over, and studied Mulder’s face.
“Nope, can’t shave all that off. Your chin is too distinctive. And that lip-” She raised her eyebrows suggestively and batted her eyelashes almost audibly.
Mulder’s eyes widened in fear at the innuendo.
“I can’t grow a full beard in a week.”
Joe chuckled. “No one’s askin’ you to, mister. I was thinking one of those Sean Connery goatee things.”
Scully overheard this, and called out, “Oh, Martin, dear, I just love Sean Connery.”
Dot looked at Joe and sighed. “I’ll let you do the basic shape. It’s not much to work with. I’ve got some tricks in my bag that will make it look like more than it is.”
Joe nodded, surprised at her cooperation. He pulled a small device out of his basket, and pulled a comb off of it. Plugging it in, he flipped a switch and it started buzzing menacingly. “Hold still Mister, I don’t want to slip.”
The clippers actually felt fairly good against his skin, Mulder noted.
Joe shaved his cheeks, leaving a line of stubble along the jawline and around the mouth. His short strokes with the electric clippers were as precise as an artist’s brush.
When he’d finished with the clippers, he pulled out a safety razor and handed it to Mulder with a small can of gel. “Normally I do this for my clients, but we need to know you can maintain this without someone holding your hand.”
Mulder shaved over the stubble-free areas, working hard to avoid the places the stubble had been left. He rinsed the foam from his face and studied the end results.
“Pretty pathetic...” *Or, psychotic,* Mulder thought. *I look like a terrorist in a Grade-Z thriller.*
Dot laughed. “Yeah, it is pathetic, Mr. Mulder. But I can help. This is a stop-gap measure, but should help long enough for you to fill in the real thing.” She elbowed Joe out of the way and held up a small tube.
“Miss Scully, I want you to do this.”
Scully looked at the tube closely and laughed. “I presume I’m not going to use that on his eyes?”
Ma Frohike rolled her eyes. “With lashes like God never gave a girl, I think that mascara on them would be a bit excessive, don’t you? But it will definitely bulk up the beard nicely.”
Scully pulled the wand out of the tube and rested the heel of her hand on Mulder’s cheekbone. Her first attempt left a black smear along his jawline and made him wince. “Damn. Strange angle. Sit up Mulder...”
“Martin,” he mumbled, sitting up as she licked a Kleenex and wiped the mascara smear off his face. “Fer god’s sake, Scully.” He looked exactly like a kid whose mom has decided to wash his face with spit and a napkin.
“Sally,” she muttered, swiveling his chair around so that he faced perpendicular to her. “Hold still.”
She pulled a stool up next to his, and perched on the edge of it as she leaned close to his cheek. She rested one forearm across his shoulders, leaning a bit over his shoulder as she brought her face close to his jawline. This time she did not rest her hand on his cheek, but instead rested her other forearm up his chest, leaving her hand free to apply the mascara to his stubble with tiny strokes.
“This is good stuff!” she commented to Frohike’s mom. “No clumping. Is it waterproof?”
“I have a question,” Mulder said, using the same tone of voice he had in the bathroom. “Until my—whatever this is—grows in more fully, how is Scul...Sally going to reapply this?”
“Same place as for the tattoo, Martin,” Scully said. “Only this we’ll do after the shower when the lenses are still fogged.” She tapped the mascara bottle. “Waterproof.”
Skinner winced at the word ‘shower.’ Frohike placed both hands on the table beside the keyboard and started taking deep, even breaths. Without looking at her son, Dot handed him an empty paper bag. “Here,” she said, “use this.” Byers and Langly just exchanged a glance of raised eyebrows.
“It’s an extender/thickener formula too. Gotta love modern cosmetic technology.” Dot flapped her own physics defying lashes.
“Smells nasty,” Mulder commented as she applied it under his nose. “How long do I have to use this stuff?”
“Until your own beard grows in sufficiently.” Scully swiveled him around and struggled for a moment to bring her dominant hand into a favorable position.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Scully! We can’t wrestle here.”
She swatted him. “Hold still, Martin, or I’ll put you in a half Nelson.”
She found a good angle, which involved turning his head and leaning across his chest, and finished applying the mascara.
“There you go!” she said, leaning back to survey her handiwork. “Not bad.”
He looked. Not bad. But not good, either. “I still look like me. Professor me, but still me.”
Dot pulled a pair of black-rimmed glasses out of a bag, and another small box of contact lenses. “Try these.”
He glared at her. “Contacts and glasses? That’s not fair!”
“Well, Mister Kent, You’re going to have to hide your x-ray vision somehow.” That from Langly.
Scully glared at him. “If he’s Clark Kent, then I’m Lois Lane, and she always annoyed me.”
“I hate these things-” Mulder griped as he put in the contacts.
The glasses went on next.
Scully laughed. “You look like an English professor.”
“How ‘bout some extracurricular activities?” He leered at her.
She raised her eyebrow at him wordlessly and handed him the mirror.
“I still almost look like me.”
Dot Frohike scrutinized him. “It’s the damn lip. Hang on. Melvin, have you boys got a burner down here?”
“For CD’s?” Byers asked in confusion.
“No, for boiling water.”
Mulder blanched, wondering what boiling water had to do with his lip.
“We’ve got a microwave.”
She pulled out some plastic strips. Pulling down a coffee mug, she filled it with water and put it in the microwave.
When it beeped, she pulled out the water, and dropped several chucks of the plastic strips into it. They softened instantly, and she picked them up with a pair of tweezers. As soon as it had cooled enough for her to touch, she wadded the plastic into a ball, and carried it over to Mulder.
“Open your mouth.”
Looking completely terrified, he complied.
She tucked the warm ball behind his lip, and pushed on it from the outside, flattening it against his gums.
“There you go.”
He looked in the mirror. The difference was subtle, but combined with the other changes, he suddenly didn’t look like Fox Mulder. That distinctive lip was still there, but his chin looked stronger, the pout less pronounced. It would be enough.
The boys were meanwhile examining the plastic Dot had used. “What is this stuff?” Frohike asked, fascinated.
“Friendly Plastic,” Dot answered absently. “Makes great vampire teeth.”
Scully shuddered at the mention of vampire teeth.
Mulder ran his tongue around the plastic experimentally. It was hard now, but form fit to his gumline, not so bulky as to interfere with talking or eating, but bulky enough to change his face.
His voice sounded strange, almost muffled.
“It’ll take you a while to get used to it. I suggest you talk as much as you can for the next few days to teach your mouth how to work around it,” Dot said.
Langly picked up a stray scrap and started experimenting with it, dipping it in the boiling water and then molding it into shapes.
“Hey, guys! This stuff is too kewl! How much does it cost?”
Mrs. Frohike shrugged. “Dunno. It’s cheap. Maybe fifty cents a strip.”
Three sets of eyebrows raised.
Langly took a tiny device off a counter, looked at it thoughtfully, then proceeded to bury it halfway in plastic.
“Too kewl. Hey Mulder, give me that thing from your lip.”
A few minutes later the device was embedded smoothly in the form fitted lump Dot had made, with two small smooth strips of metal showing, flush against the plastic.
“Okay. You can have it back now. This is your key to some very helpful people. I was going to put it in a pen, but this will be more secure. When you meet our contacts, they will ask you for your ID. That is your ID.”
Mulder looked at it thoughtfully, returned it to his mouth, and asked, “So we have contacts. How many people are getting involved with this?”
“We’ve got a couple of very trusted friends in San Diego, and in Victoria, you’ll be meeting White Owl. She’ll help you make your background and cover rock solid. She knows who you really are, and probably knows better than you do yourselves who you are becoming. You need ‘references.’ In San Diego, we have several contacts who have helped us arrange your employment. They don’t know who you really are, just that you need their help working undercover against the black ops. You probably won’t meet more than one of those contacts, but they will be there to provide corroborating stories if need be.”
Mulder frowned. “I don’t like this. The more people who are involved-”
Scully interrupted him. “Guys, is it really necessary to have them involved? Can we do this with less?”
Frohike looked at them solemnly. “I understand your concerns. But no. We barely have a chance of doing this now.”
Skinner stood up abruptly. “I’m trying to figure out why you guys are putting so much money and time into this...fact-finding mission.”
Byers smiled tightly. “Mr. Skinner, I should think you of all people would understand the answer to that. This goes beyond Mulder and Scully. If they find the answers they’re seeking about Agent Scully’s offspring, they will, we believe, have found the answers to the greater questions our organization is dedicated to answering. Aside from the fact that Mulder is our friend and someone we trust, and aside from our shared anger at the things that have been done to him and to Agent Scully, they search for the truth. If you didn’t understand that, you wouldn’t be here.”
Skinner acknowledged this with a nod.
Frohike added, “Besides, this is too much fun.”
Skinner stood up and pulled one of the more scary-looking devices out of his box.
“My turn now,” he said with a grin that could have been called either purposeful or evil. Mulder wasn’t quite sure which.
*I’m going with purposeful,* Mulder decided.
Skinner concentrated as he worked, holding Mulder’s left wrist in his right one, the syringe held steady as he advanced it just under the surface of Mulder’s skin. He’d already finished with Scully. The entire process was time-consuming and demanded the utmost concentration.
“Hold still,” Skinner warned. “I don’t want to infiltrate the finger any more than I have to. You’ll end up looking like Donald Duck.” Mulder winced as the needle pinched his left index finger. He looked toward Scully, expecting her to say something, anything really. Even “Quit being such a baby, Mulder,” would have been fine, but she was staring at her own hands, lost in thought somewhere.
“Just a little more,” Skinner said softly. The tiny injections of silicon would last a few weeks, hopefully ong enough for the planned mission. The injections would raise and change the shape of the loops and swirls of Mulder and Scully’s fingers, just enough to throw any attempt at matching the prints off.
“All finished.” Mulder started rubbing his hands together. They felt weird, as though they weren’t even his own. Probably still numb.
His tongue slid over the two new pieces of metal Byers had inserted in his mouth. They felt like new fillings, almost.
The small radio transceiver was a one-way, one-time only device. Back during the Cold War, the CIA and DIA and the other collection of TLA (Three-Letter Agencies) had hidden a potassium cyanide capsule under a crown that could be removed by pushing the tongue against it. Langly had improved on that concept; if Mulder or Scully broke the special crown on the left teeth, a signal strong enough to be picked up by a satellite would transmit for 24 hours. Using GPS cross-references, the Gunmen would be able to pinpoint Mulder or Scully’s position within five feet anywhere on the planet.
The one on the right was a tiny microphone, powered by the motion of the mouth moving, with just enough gain to reach another gadget the boys had come up with.
“Okay. Here’s the basics. You’ll have about a week to work out the nitty gritty details, but we’ve got the basic cover in place.” Byers paused.
Langly continued. “Mulder, you’re Martin Harrod. You have a MSW and a doctorate in sociology, and are currently on sabbatical from a teaching position at the University of Victoria, at the School of Social Work in their graduate department. You are pursuing field research with the Department of Children’s Services in San Diego, in conjunction with USCD, on a part-time basis.”
Frohike gestured at Scully, “Agent Scully, you are Sally Harrod, a physician with a background in pathology who has elected to go back into general practice on a part-time basis to reduce exposure to teratogenic substances and reduce work related stress. You will also be under the aegis of USCD, it’s the only way we can get your medical license transferred over simply. They’ve got too many file cabinet systems in use still, we can’t get in that way. But we can get you a special teaching license if you are ‘foreign trained’, and it’s much easier to fake the Canadian license in this case.
Scully sucked in her breath, impressed at the detail.
Frohike continued, “You will have a part-time position at a very busy university clinic, filling in for a doctor on maternity leave. Given the type of practice it is, the patients tend to see new doctors with every visit, and the doctors and staff are used to seeing new faces on a regular basis. You should have no problem fitting in, and the schedule you will contract for will leave you plenty of time to go hunting for clues.”
Skinner leaned forward, “You said they have a week to hammer out the nitty gritty...why a week?”
Dot Frohike snapped, “Mister Mulder’s beard has to have some time to grow. He’s got the wrong sort of face to pull off a fake. Even a good fake. That mascara is a stopgap measure and won’t hold up once they aren’t traveling.”
Mulder cringed at her words as Byers supplied the other answer to Skinner’s question. “The first step will be for them to fly to Victoria, play tourist for couple days, gain at least a passing familiarity with the city. It’s a popular town, and chances are that they will run into people who’ve been there-”
Frohike finished the sentence. “And it would look very strange for them to have no knowledge of the local tourist traps, the college campus, etc. Ideally we’d give them a couple of weeks, but it’s not possible.”
Skinner nodded. “And then?”
Langly grinned. “Then they hop the ferry, buy a car, and take a drive.”
Mulder grinned at Scully, “Guess we’ll be visiting the plausible state again...”
She chuckled, then asked, “So how long a drive is it from Victoria to San Diego?”
Byers fingers flew over the keyboard and touch pad, as he pulled up information from the Internet.
“The ferry ride will be a couple hours. The drive itself is oh, 20 hours if you don’t stop. You should have about five days to make the trip, so if you want, you could drive down the coast instead.” He paused as several web pages opened simultaneously. “There are thousands of small hotels, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts along the way. I understand the Pacific Northwest is actually pleasant this time of year along the coast, if you don’t mind rain. I’m sure White Owl will have some recommendations for you.”
Langly explained, “The idea is for you to leave a nice trail down the coast as Martin and Sally. You won’t have to worry about surveillance until you actually get to San Diego, but it would be wise to get into the roles as quickly as possible. We’ve set up ID’s for Marsden and Salome Kingston for the plane tickets out to the coast. But as soon as you get out there, you’re Martin and Sally.”
Frohike took up seamlessly where Langly left off. “You are going to have to be Martin and Sally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for somewhere between 3 weeks and several months. We suspect, given the level of technology we’ve seen in the past, that as soon as you are in contact with any of the adoptive parents, you will be under electronic surveillance. You’ll have to deal with nosy neighbors from the minute you move in. In fact, we’re arranging for a moving truck to arrive around the same time you do, to make it more realistic.”
Skinner interjected, “I know that you two are very capable of finding bugs and cameras, but Sally and Martin wouldn’t be. So you’ll need to leave their equipment in place. You two haven’t had the official undercover seminar through the Bureau yet, but it looks like this will have to be a crash course.”
The Lone Gunmen nodded in unison.
Scully sighed. “So we simply assume we’re being watched, and pretend that we haven’t a clue.”
Frohike leered at her. “Good thing you don’t sleep in the nude.”
She opened her mouth to ask how he knew that, then shut it again, realizing that she really didn’t want to know.
Then she grinned mischievously. “I don’t, but maybe Sally does.”
Mulder paled visibly.
Frohike shook his head in disbelief. “This I want to see.”
Then he realized what he’d said, and blushed.
Mulder flipped through the file of information on his new identity.
“Not enough,” he muttered.
“What?” Byers asked.
“Sorry to do this, but we need at least six or seven other cover identities. Just driver’s licenses or other valid photo IDs. We’re going to have to present a different one every time we check in at an airport. The new anti-terrorism policies are designed to stop the kind of plane-hopping I’m sure you have planned for us.”
Frohike and Langly exchanged a glance. “He’s goooood,” they said in unison, and turned to begin working.
To Skinner, Mulder said, “So do we have any backup, any outside help? You mentioned contacts....”
The Lone Gunmen looked at each other, then at Skinner.
“Any contact with my office will be an instant ticket back to DC. The San Diego Field Office will not be made aware of your presence, nor will local law enforcement. I assume you will reserve playing this card for a life-or-death emergency or a blown cover.”
Langly nodded. “Contact with us should be extremely limited. We will be monitoring your bank account, and you’ll have a few gadgets here and there, but nothing extreme. We’ve got some dummy e-mail accounts set up for emergencies, but we’re going to assume anything coming out of your computer is being monitored.”
“Here,” Byers said, lifting a small square device out of a foam-lined case. “This is a 3Com Palm Pilot. It’s a small Personal Digital Assistant with handwriting recognition. It’s coupled with a microminiature cellular modem with frequency-hopping ability. The idea is, if you get into a world of shit, you just write “Help!” or something like that and hit “transmit.” Since it’s a scrambled frequency, you should have at least two or three uses before whoever is watching you figures it out. For emergencies only. Though it does have a nice day-planner function for everyday use, which will give you a good excuse to keep it with you at all times.” He handed the device to Mulder, who took it with a wide-eyed expression on his face.
“For you,” Frohike nodded at Scully with a grin, “We have something a little more powerful, but a little less “secure,” as you’ll be using it more often. He pulled out a black case the size of a paperback book.
“This is a MP21K. You can do everything from writing checks to updating your website. It can talk to a PC, a Mac, printers, or...Martin’s Palm Pilot. Runs about 35 hours on a couple of double A’s, and in the case is a solar battery recharger.”
She took the cool black case from him, surprisingly heavy for something so small, but surprisingly small for something so powerful. She flipped open the case. “There’s no keyboard. It’s all screen-”
Byers laughed. “It recognizes handwriting very well, script or print, but it also has a mini-keyboard on-screen. The cool thing about this one is that you can take it through airport security and other x-ray systems without it getting wiped. Reduces the amount of interaction you’ll have with security guards, and makes you more invisible.” He held up a small collection of technical documentation and memory cards. “I’ll just put these in your luggage. Oh. Speaking of luggage, leave those bags you packed here. We know they have tracers embedded in them, and we’re sending them on a trip. You will use carry-ons we provide.”
“This,” Frohike said, holding what appeared to be a Mont Blanc pen, “holds two .22 rimfire cartridges. As the saying goes, point and click. If you depress the pocket clip twice, like double-clicking a mouse, the first shot is fired. Twist the end of the cap to reload for the second shot.”
Langly held up what appeared to be two small pieces of oddly-shaped wax. “These will fit in your ears. They’re radios, two-way, extremely high frequency. Unless they’re looking for something on this band, they’ll be undetectable. I wouldn’t use them every day, but if you know you’re going to be separated, they’ll be helpful. They work in conjunction with your, uh, dental work.”
“Agent Scully,” Byers said, reaching for another item, “this is for you.” He held up a small nylon fanny-pack. “On the outside,” he said, joking, “it looks like a perfectly normal activity pack. However...on the inside...” He showed them both how the front ripped away from Velcro mounts to reveal a hidden compartment. Nestled in the compartment was something that looked almost, but not quite like a pistol.
“This is a high-impact polymer four-shot pistol. It fires .45ACP cartridges, and has an effective range of about ten feet.” He removed the pistol and showed Scully how it operated. “It’s only good for those four shots. Everything inside is plastic, so the internal chamber pressure will eventually melt the internals. But, as a last ditch weapon, it’s quite effective.”
Scully nodded, turning the pistol over in her hands.
“There’s no safety,” Byers continued. “It’s pull, draw and fire. I would recommend carrying the ammunition in your checked luggage until you arrive in San Diego, or using on of your transient ID’s to purchase it in California.”
“California,” Langly reminded him...”No checked luggage.”
Scully nodded again. “What else?”
Byers grinned. “A woman after my own heart. This,” he said, moving to the front compartment, “is a little interesting.” He did something with his fingers and then pulled what looked like a plastic picnic knife from inside. “This is also plastic.”
“Plastic?” Mulder asked dubiously.
Langly reached for a piece of paper and held it up. With two fingers, Byers drew the knife down the paper. It split evenly with almost no pressure from Byers’ hand. “It’s sharper than metal, holds an edge longer, and if you have to...er, employ it in a terminal fashion, you don’t run the risk of snapping the blade off on a rib.”
Scully blanched at the image John’s words created. “I see,” she said.
Mulder piped up, “Does that come with a spoon and fork set?”
“That will pass through airport security. And the last item,” Byers said, ignoring Mulder while reaching into the pouch again. He removed what appeared to be a small bottle of breath spray. “CN gas. A friend of ours who used to work at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds came up with this. Normal CN gas works on the tear ducts or the soft mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat. This stuff actually works on the central nervous system.”
“What does it do?” Mulder asked.
“It’s actually a aerosol version of Curare,” Byers explained, and then hastily added, “severely diluted, of course. Spray this in someone’s face, and they’ll be paralyzed for about a minute or two. Not enough to kill them, but enough for them to stop where they stand and collapse like a boneless chicken.”
Byers saw the disbelief written across Scully’s face. Without a word he pivoted and sprayed Frohike’s face. The little man blinked once, managed to get “W-wha?” out of his mouth, and promptly collapsed on the floor in a heap.
“Not bad,” Skinner observed. “Why did you wait so long to demonstrate that?”
“He hates it when Byers does that,” Langly said.
“Wish I’d had that twenty years ago,” Dot mumbled.
Mulder and Scully both hid smiles behind their hands.
Two minutes later, the little hacker twitched and opened his eyes. “What the hell?” he croaked.
“You fainted,” Byers said seriously.
“I gotta see a doctor about that,” Frohike mumbled, climbing back to his feet. “Fifth time this month.”
Scully took the pack and strapped it on. “Nice,” she said. “Very nice, John. Thank you.”
“Oh, wait, a few more things. These are built into the pack itself.” He took it back from her and pointed out the molded plastic buckle. “There’s a small recessed button on the back of this. Press it once, and Mulder will hear an alarm in his ear piece. He’ll know that it’s you, and it rings for six minutes. Along the beltline here...” Byers grunted and separated the nylon material, showing a hidden trench, “is this.”
He slid out what appeared to be a long, slim wire. It glinted in the dim light of the Gunmen’s lair. “Garrote,” he pronounced. “The wire has small pieces of glass embedded in it. The inside of the belt is lined with Kevlar, so it won’t cut the pack apart. Slip this around someone’s neck, pull...and well, you get the idea.”
Scully gulped, put her hand to her throat, and nodded.
Langly nabbed the pack from Byers, “One last cool feature...”
He unzipped the underneath of the pouch and pulled out several straps. Clipping them up to the belt, he grinned. “Also doubles as a baby carrier. The waist belt becomes a shoulder strap....”
Scully blinked. “Buh...wha....”
Byers laughed at her confusion. “I got the basic pack from my sister. Thought the whole idea of a mighty-morphin’ fanny pack was just too cool, so I started from hers and worked in our...uh...adjustments...from there. Thing was called a Cubby Carry. Dunno what you’d call it now. Left the original features in place; who knows when you have to carry a kid around?”
Skinner cringed. “So this pack of highly illegal death also doubles as a BABY carrier? Do you guys just make these things for fun? What’s next? The car seat car bomb? The diaper bag automatic machine gun?”
Frohike blinked. “Hey...that’s not a bad idea....”
Mulder chuckled, then said, “If this is your idea of ‘a few gadgets,’ I would hate to think what ‘a lot of gadgets’ would be.... Anything else besides the wicked gadgets?”
Byers smiled, “It’s not all wicked gadgets...We do have some contacts in Victoria and San Diego who will provide ‘corroborating’ stories. In fact, you’ll be staying with one of those contacts tonight.”
“Oh yeah,” Langly grinned, “Martin and Sally will set up their own web page when they get settled in. You know, one of those perky web-dust bunny-fluff pages about your romantic trip down the coast, your charming new home, and ongoing ‘news’ about your quest to find parenthood.”
Skinner made a strange choking noise. Mulder looked vaguely ill.
Scully suppressed a smile and said calmly, “I suppose that’s my job...
Frohike gestured at the small computer in her hands. “You’ll be able to update your web page from that if you need to, as well as phone home for help. In fact, we’ll be following your progress via your web page, so please update frequently...”
“Oh, one more thing...” Byers pulled a couple of small jewelry boxes out of his pocket and placed one in each agent’s hand with a glint of mischief in his eyes.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Langly waved a vague benediction over them with a shark-like leer.
Scully opened the box and looked at the diamond-encrusted platinum band. She inhaled sharply. “It’s beautiful.” She turned the ring over in her hands.
She looked up and saw Mulder grinning at her. “So, Sally, am I supposed to kiss the bride now?”
“No, no, no, snookie-wookie”—she gagged at him as he continued—”it’s Martin. You’ll blow our cover calling me Mulder.” He took her ring and slipped it on her finger. It fit exactly.
“Fine.” But Martin turned out to be a hard name to yell while trying to be convincingly angry. She stuttered as she said it, and finally gave up. Point taken. His light tone aside, the message was clear. And suddenly, with a heavy, solid band around her finger, and a heavy mass of hair curling down her back, she realized that the abstract “Martin and Sally” were going to have to be very real to her for the foreseeable future.
She opened Mulder’s jewelry box and took out the shiny ring. She slipped it on his finger and stood on her tiptoes, as if to whisper something in his ear. Instead, she gave him a small peck on the cheek.
To her surprise, he blushed. “Uh, we’ll have to work on that.”
Scully’s eyes gleamed mischievously. “You got it, Snookie-wookums. Though if you’re growing a beard, you can forget any lip lock practice sessions.”
“At least until it grows in.”
Frohike turned from his PC with a sigh. “OK, I’m just about finished. Gotta love E-tickets.”
“E-What?” Scully asked.
“E-tickets. Newest thing in air travel. See, the airlines used to mail tickets out, right? UPS, FedEx, Airborne, whatever. But they were constantly getting lost or stolen. So now they have E-Tickets, or electronic tickets. All ya gotta do is show ID at the gate, and they give you the ticket.”
“Why didn’t I know about these already?”
Mulder piped up. “The Bureau hasn’t figured out how to process the paperwork for them yet. It’s too simple.”
Frohike continued. “You’re booked under seven different names. We’re generating seven different driver’s licenses, all good enough to get you on the plane. Don’t use ‘em if you get pulled over, though. Aside from the Marsden and Salome ID’s and the Martin and Sally ID’s...they’ll fail an NCIC check. Oh...Mark and Sarah Hunt have some extra paperwork for customs. Proof of Canadian citizenship.” Martin and Sally have that, you’ll pick up visas for work in the US from our contact in Victoria.
“Pictures?” Mulder asked.
“We’re getting to that,” Frohike said. He draped one of the bulletin boards with a red cloth, and pulled a large, oddly shaped camera out from under a desk. Setting it on a tripod, he gestured for Mulder to stand in front of the board. He turned several bright lights on Mulder, making him squint. “Hold still right there. Good. Tip your chin up. Look into the camera.” He stood on tiptoes behind the camera, then looked. “STOP it, Mulder...Geez.”
Mulder uncrossed his eyes and pulled his tongue back in. A moment later an unusually large Polaroid sheet was developing on the counter with eight identical shots.
“Just like the real thing,” Langly quipped, looking at the less than beautiful pose. “Looks just like a real “bad driver’s license” photo.
Byers chuckled. “You’d think G-man here at least could take a pretty license photo.”
Frohike turned to Scully. “Your turn.” He adjusted the tripod downward and slid another sheet of film into the camera.
She stood quietly in front of the board, adjusting her stance as requested.
“Okay now...Smile!” Mulder held two fingers over Frohike’s head, and she grinned broadly.
When the sheet came into focus, she sighed. “At least I’m not screaming.”
Frohike picked it up, whistled, and passed it around by the edges.
“Hey, Mulder...Your partner is more photogenic than you are!” Langly passed the picture to him.
He raised his eyebrow and passed it back. “So how do you guys duplicate the security features on the cards?”
Frohike chuckled as he worked. “That’s our secret,” he winked, looking pointedly at Skinner, who had been listening closely.
A short time later, Frohike handed a pile of cards to each of the agents.
Mulder began scanning through them.
“Charles Jones?” he said, laughing. “Too cool, Frohike.”
Scully glanced at her partner, not getting it.
“Chuck Jones. He was the animator that created Marvin the-”
“Martian,” she finished, nodding. “Got it.”
“Just gotta remember which is which.”
Frohike smiled. “That was the easy part. Just notice the home states. Whatever state your next destination is in, that’s the license to use. That way, you’re always returning home, and the chances of a gate agent noticing anything wrong with them diminishes.”
Scully and Mulder exchanged a glance. They turned to Frohike and in unison said, “You’re gooooooood.”
The little man flushed unexpectedly at the praise.
His mother guffawed and pronounced, “Like mother, like son.”
Mulder pulled Frohike to the side as they were leaving. “Listen, we appreciate all your help in this,” he pulled a key out of his pocket. “You guys have free access.”
“Is that what I think it is?” Frohike asked.
“Yep, the key to my video cabinet.”
“Mr. Mulder! Are you corrupting my son?” Dot Frohike’s voice boomed across the room.
“Thanks Mulder,” Frohike smiled devilishly. “But I already had a copy.”
Mulder gave mother and son one frightened look and fled after Scully and Skinner.
Continue to Chapter 2
"Entrance of the Gladiators" from from wurlitzer-rolls.com