Chapter 28: Calling All Angels
then it's one foot then the other as
you step out onto the road
how much weight? how much weight?
then it's how long? and how far?
and how many times before it's too late?
March 30, 1998
3:30 a.m. Teen Mothers’ Home
Krycek walked through the double doors and down the hall to the office. The place was silent like death. He found Garrett Spender in the dark monitor room, watching the sole lit screen, smoking a cigarette.
“Thought you quit that,” he said, pulling up an office chair and sitting down.
“You’ve got what you want, Alex. Why are you here?” The smoking man took a long drag, and then exhaled slowly.
Krycek put his feet up on the desk. “There’s something you haven’t told us yet.”
The smoking man tapped ashes into a coffee cup, and then said, “If you know, then why do you need to ask?”
“I know generalities. I need specifics. Where are the rest of her eggs? His sperm?”
The man took another long drag, then let the smoke trail out of his mouth. “Are you really that noble now?”
“Someone has to be. Do you not care that we’ve made more progress working with them in the past month than you made in the fifty years prior?”
“You made progress. But it was built on the back of our fifty years. Don’t you ever forget it.” Garrett stubbed out his cigarette half-smoked.
“Tell me.” Krycek said, spinning the chair to face him. “You know it has to be done. They’re on the verge of reversing the hybridization process. If they’re distracted by more quests to undo the evil we’ve done them... it does not serve.”
Garrett Spender stared at Krycek for a long time. “My grandchildren are far from me. My children revile me. I’ve been given back my health for a short reprieve, but my happiness has gone in the same moment. Tell me why I should be grateful?”
“Because you have a chance for redemption. That’s why they call them the good guys. Because they still have the capacity to work for the greater good. Do you?”
“Do you?” Garrett spat back.
Krycek closed his eyes. “What I am does not change. But why I do the things I do.... that is where my redemption lies. Now, old man, give me what I need before I have to beat it out of you. And then go home to your family.”
Garrett Spender stood up, pulled a CD out of his pocket, and dropped it in Krycek’s lap, then walked out.
Krycek took a moment to walk through the place. Empty. No girls, no guards, no men watching the monitors. His phone rang, and he answered it. “It’s clear,” he said. “They’re out.”
“Good. Because they’re sending in a cleanup squad. It might be good if you destroyed the computers before they got there. Buy your people some more time.” His contact hung up.
Krycek walked back to the office, debated, then broke open the computer cases with a fire ax, taking out the hard drives the hard way, taking the pieces of drive with him when he left.
Then he drove to Calderon’s lab to deal with the evidence there.
8:30 p.m. (ab)Normal Heights
Skinner was getting antsy. The boys had been checking in regularly every two hours, and they were half an hour late. He called Frohike, but got no answer. Another call rang in as his thumb hung up. He answered.
Flo asked, “Have you heard from our boy?”
Skinner frowned. “No... news on your end?”
“We had to bug out an hour and a half ago. One of the girls is dead, and your man Krycek, we’re not sure what happened to him, but he stayed behind with the rebels.” She sounded rough and shaken.
“Dead... who?” Skinner asked. “Rebels... I need more.”
“One of the girls carrying one of your friends’ babies was arguing, and she ran out to the front. The next thing I knew, Maria was running back screaming about them setting Lucita on fire. We got everyone else out. A few minutes later, Sally came flying back asking for protein drinks, and then a few minutes later she came running and told us to go now. She’s an utter wreck about Lucita and the baby, but we’re sending her and Maria and the boy across the border. They’ll be in Oaxaca in two days.”
“The rebels showed up, burned one person and stopped?” he asked.
There was a moment of hushed mumbling on the line. “I’m going to give the phone to Joe. I think he can explain.”
Joe said, “The boy stopped the rebels. Managed to channel through what his mother was saying, and they changed her, made her able to hear us. Alex... asked to be changed too and went with them. We fled because we could feel the enemy coming.”
“Changed her?”Skinner asked. “Changed her how?”
“They forced her brain to grow a new structure and activated the genes to generate a neuropeptide of sorts. The combination renders her conversantly telepathic.”
Skinner digested this. Then he said, “I can’t reach Frohike or the others. No one is answering when I call.”
“When I’m done seeing them to the border, I’d like to work with you to find out what happened.” Joe said.
“I’m leaving now to go to their last stop and see if I can find out what happened,” Skinner said.
“Let me know. I’ll keep this cell handy.” Joe hung up.
Skinner put his head in his hands and shook his head. *Why can’t it just be simple for once? We were almost done... and now I have to tell him that another child has died, two more innocents gone.*
Sarah was staring at him. “What?”
He managed to tell her without crying, but it was a close thing.
9:00 p.m. Chula Vista
They were hurrying. The baby was already in the car when Skinner pulled up, and they watched him come up the drive with a look of alarm. He pulled out his badge and flashed it and said, “I’m looking for Mr. Martin Harrod. He was supposed to be here, have you seen him?”
The woman frowned and nodded at his badge. “If you have that, you should know where he is.”
Skinner frowned. “I’m a friend of Mr. Harrod’s. He was supposed to call me when he was done giving your child the...treatment.”
She scowled. “Then you don’t know.”
He shook his head and resisted lashing out in frustration. “I know what the treatment was, and I’m hoping it went well. But I need to know where my people are.”
The woman and man looked at each other. “They left at 6:30 with the detective. The doctor handed me this...” she said, holding up a controller unit, “And told me to press the button when the bag was empty, then pull the needle out and put pressure on his arm. We did it. But we haven’t seen them in two and a half hours. They weren’t happy to be going, I can tell you. We’re leaving now. They told us to leave. All of us. Will we be able to come back?”
Skinner shrugged. “I couldn’t tell you. Call Flo in a few days and ask her.”
The man nodded. “Good luck finding your friends. If they did what they said they did.... I know how many of the kids have died.”
The woman pressed the controller into Skinner’s hand, and said, “Take this. We don’t need it anymore.”
Skinner nodded, then left.
Ultimately, he had to start at the beginning of the long list of police stations in the area. The one that served Chula Vista was a bust, the receptionist barely tolerating the question. He worked north and south. A good half the stations just said, “We have no one in custody by that name,” and did not stay on the phone long enough for him to ask about people not in custody.
Sarah helped with the phone calls, but she didn’t have any luck either. He called looking for “Martin Harrod,” and she called looking for “Jessie Eglantine,” but neither of them got even a hint of a nibble.
No arrests. He supposed that was positive on one level, but given that there was a good chance that they were sitting in an interrogation room somewhere unbooked, or worse, that a Syndicate operative posing as a police officer had taken them into custody and disappeared them...
Why a police officer? It was either related to Krycek’s actions at the hospital, or was connected to the disappearances that had happened, or the deaths... He picked up the phone to call Flo.
Joe answered before the first ring had ended, with an amused, “I was about to call you.”
“I actually need to talk to Flo...”
Joe’s voice was apologetic. “We just parted ways. She’s heading back to help with the girls.”
“And you’ve got her phone.” Skinner hung his head down in utter frustration.
“I’m sorry... Where can I meet you? Maybe I can help?” Joe said.
Skinner let out a heavy sigh. “I’m at the Gunmen’s office, with Sarah. We’ve called every police station in three counties, no luck. It’s like they’ve vanished off the face of the planet. We’re going to try hospitals next.”
Joe said, “I think I’m just a few blocks from there. I’ll see you in a few. Oh, and try calling Carol.”
“I don’t have her number,” Skinner said.
Joe gave it to him, and then hung up.
Carol answered quickly. Skinner asked, “Have you people had any contact with police officers in the past few weeks?”
Carol frowned. “Flo has... A detective, she said.”
“Any idea which detective?” Skinner asked. “Which police force?”
“San Diego, I think. Special violent crimes task force, she said. He was looking into the recent deaths. Why?” He could hear fear in her voice.
“Because five of my people have vanished into thin air, *Six if you count Krycek, but probably not for this.* and none of the police stations have been forthcoming with information, even though a detective walked up to one of the houses and took my people away in cop cars.”
“Kresge, I think.”
Skinner blinked. “I know of the man. Thank you.”
9:30 p.m. Tijuana
Scully, Joshua and Maria walked across the long bridge into the trappiest of tourist traps. It was dark, but that didn’t stop small children from trying to sell them chiclets, until Maria snapped at them in Spanish. One little boy flipped them off, and a little girl actually kicked Scully in the shins. Scully kept a hand on her gun, hidden by a clever flap on the vest-like front of the backpack straps. Shrill music and a bustle of people surrounded them as they worked their way through the bordertown, to a large parking lot. An old, old woman hobbled up to them, squinted at them, and then said, “You come with me. We have car for you.”
Scully followed, and the woman led them to a minivan, late model, with a carseat already installed, the back of the van packed with luggage, pieces of colorful plastic peaking out here and there. The driver was a woman in her sixties, small, dark skin, iron-grey hair, who leaned across the car, popped the passenger side door open and said, “I’m Wren. Load your little boy in, and I’ll take you to the airport.”
Scully swallowed hard, and said, “But my husband...”
Wren smiled sympathetically and said, “Can’t do anything about it right now dear. We need to get you where you’re going, and we have a plane ready. We’ll get your husband as soon as we can, and bring him to you. Don’t worry.”
Scully shook her head. “You don’t understand. What kind of plane is it?”
Wren said, “Small plane, seats six.”
“Is it going all the way to Oaxaca?” Scully asked.
“Just Mexico City. A couple hours. We’ll have someone waiting there to take you to the train station.” Wren looked back. “As soon as you’re all in, we’ll go.”
Maria said, “I need to get in touch with my grandmother.”
“You can call from the airport. But quickly.”
Five minutes later, they pulled in to the parking lot in front of a small airfield past the main airport. A man in a golf cart met them in the parking lot, loaded the luggage on, and led them slowly out to the plane waiting for them. When they got up to the plane, another man was installing the carseat in one of the seats.
Maria said, “My phone call?”
The man on the golf cart beckoned to her. She said, “I don’t have money...” but he took out a cell phone and said, “Use this.”
She frowned. “To call Guatemala?”
He shrugged. She took the phone, and dialed.
Scully watched her as she spoke quickly in Spanish, and then waited and then said to Scully, “They’re going to get her. She does not have her own phone.”
Then, “Abuela? Es Maria.”
Scully could hear the shriek ten feet away. Then a rapid back and forth of Spanish. A pause, and Maria covered the phone. “She wants me to come home. Mama is there.”
“Where is home?” Scully asked.
“For me? California. For Mama and Abuela? A tiny little village a ways south of the Mexican border. There is one road, but it washes out most years. I have been there twice.”
“Do you know how far it is from Mexico City or Oaxaca?” Scully asked.
Maria shook her head, and then said something into the phone. A moment later she said, “Fourteen hours to the nearest city by bus, maybe more. Another three on very bad roads by chicken bus. Plus about an hour walk up to Abuela’s on the road.”
“I don’t know...” Scully said.
“It would be very, very safe,” Maria said. “Once we were there. The roads, not so much. But we would not be found.”
Scully closed her eyes. “I want to be found, by my husband.”
“He will find us in Oaxaca, yes?”Maria said, her accent thickening slightly. Then she spoke into the phone, listened, then spoke again.
“Abuela says I should come now, no matter what. My mother is very thin, she says, and worries constantly. I asked if they gave her the money, and she did not know what I was talking about.” The distress on her face was plain.
“Let’s get to Oaxaca, and then decide,” Scully said. “Tell your Abuela that we have money for her. I don’t suppose she can come to us?”
“Crossing the border... I don’t think she would do that. She does not like leaving her home. Going to the nearest town is an event for her, my mother always said. It is lucky that they have a neighbor with a phone at all. Many villages do not have a telephone.”
Scully felt torn as they climbed up into the airplane. *How can I keep this girl from her family one more minute? How can I let her out of my sight? How can I not wait for Mulder where he knows I will be? Yet waiting keeps her from her family...* Her brain circled the conundrum until she fell asleep in the surprisingly comfortable seat.
11:30 p.m. Police Headquarters
Skinner was one slim nerve from throwing a chair across the lobby. The night clerk was apologetic. “I’m sorry, sir, there’s nothing I can do. I can’t release them without Detective Kresge’s permission, and he’s clocked out.”
Waving his badge had done nothing. Short of calling in the wrath of God and exposing Mulder’s whereabouts in the noisiest possible way, the solution, so gently explained to him, was to go get some rest and come back in the morning. The detective would be in at 8, sometimes earlier, and he was sorry, but no, he wouldn’t call him at home. Even a request to talk with them was denied, “Unless you’re their lawyer, sir?”
Sarah, standing next to him, started to cry. The clerk looked deeply uncomfortable, and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. Your sister is perfectly safe here. They’re not under arrest at this point.”
“Then they’re free to leave,” Skinner said.
“You’ll have to take that up with Detective Kresge,” the clerk said.
They left, finally, Skinner muttering about illegal detainment.
Sarah said, as they got into the car, “You know, the good news is that we know where they are, and they’re very, very hard to find.”
Skinner muttered something unintelligible, and drove them back to the Gunmen’s place.
March 31, 1998
3:00 a.m. Mexico City
They ended up with delays on both ends, but the three of them slept through the entire flight. Scully stirred when they hit the ground. When the plane came to a full stop, the pilot came back and said in excellent but strongly accented English, “The train does not leave until 7 p.m. A friend will take you to her house to sleep more until then.”
The friend turned out to be a good-looking older man with dark hair and pale skin with no accent at all. He said, “I’m Angelo,” and helped them load everything onto another golf cart. They followed him to a van, and Scully wrestled with the car seat while Maria held Joshua, sleeping soundly on her shoulder.
The seat wiggled a little, but Scully stared at it and finally said, “Screw it” and put Joshua in anyway. She realized as they drove away from the airport that she’d managed to tune out the warmsafepulse of the baby Maria carried *my baby*, though Joshua’s sound sleep felt more contagious than it had any right to be.
She wondered about her son’s adamant choice of name, and wondered if when he was awake, he could answer the question if she asked it in the right way. *Why Joshua?*
An image dropped fully formed into her head, as solid as her own memories, of a face looming close, saying, When you are mine, I’ll call you Joshua, love. Mama loves her boy.
She blinked. Was it his first foster mother? Had he come to her with a name already, had she known he would likely be available, and thought Joshua every time she said “Tyler”?
Did he grieve her still? Clearly the child had known love, and young. I am not your first mother, little boy, but I will be your forever mother, baby love.
He stirred a little in his seat. She reached over and touched the palm of his hand, and he grasped her finger tightly, without waking up.
7:00 a.m. Police Headquarters
Mulder dragged himself awake, rising consciousness bringing equal awareness of stiffness. He opened his eyes, and saw the guys sleeping on floor and benches in the holding cell. He blinked, and looked over where Jessie sat awake, looking surprisingly relaxed.
When she saw him looking at her, she smiled. “We’re leaving,” she said. “In about ten minutes. I told him not to wake you up.”
“How?” he managed to ask.
“Your friend. Apparently he showed up at six and started annoying people until they finally called Kresge.” She smiled. “So we’re free to go as soon as he gets back here.”
“No more interrogation?” he asked.
“Nope. Apparently Mr. Skinner had some choice words for him about detaining us illegally overnight without a phone call. So we’re going to go out and chat with him, all together, for a few minutes, and then we will go.”
He smiled. “That’s... Do we know anything else?”
“Nothing I could get third hand.” She shrugged. “I’m sure we’ll have our update soon. Apparently my baby sister used some mighty big crocodile tears.”
The guys were stretching and sitting up. A minute later, Kresge came in with a guard, opened the cell, and led them to a conference room. “Sit down,” he said gruffly. “I’m being told you are acting under this man’s authority, although his superiors seem to think he’s on vacation. So here’s the deal. I want the whole truth. I want every bit of it. In exchange, I will let you go. Because I need to know what the hell it is that I’m stumbling into.”
“If you try to get convictions, nasty men in black suits will show up and either shoot you or spout the national security line,” Langly said.
“Let’s just say I’m curious,” Kresge said.
“The good news,” Mulder said, “Is that the guilty parties, for the most part, are no longer a going concern. This part of the project has been stopped. The children have been stabilized, cured. There should be no more deaths, and the kidnapped girls who were being forced to bear babies have been freed.”
“And the bad news?” Kresge asked.
“The bad news is that you will not get to explain this to anyone,” Skinner said. “because they’ll call you crazy, among other things.”
“You wouldn’t believe the shit I got after that whole Emily Sims mess,” Kresge said.
Mulder laughed. “Actually...”
Skinner said, “Listen to the man. He makes my life a living hell on a regular basis, but he has this nasty habit of being right. And it turns out that where aliens are concerned, he’s more than right.”
“Aliens. Like, chest-bursting, bumpy-foreheaded, razor teethed, big-eyed aliens?” Kresge asked. “Or do they take over people’s bodies and eat us?”
“Kind of hard to have all of that in one alien, isn’t it?” Langly asked.
“How the hell would I know?” Kresge said. “You people are the alien experts. So I take it the aliens are bad guys.”
“Several types of alien, and yes, most of them are.” Mulder said. “And yes, our government has been complicit. The children were attempts at hybridization. We reversed that. The fact that we can reverse it, that we now have a weapon against them, one that works, it means we’ve made a huge stride forward. Your suspects are gone, but they were not human. The man who hit your guard is, as far as I know, gone. Is the man all right?”
Kresge nodded. “They sent him home and when I called this morning, he had a headache but nothing worse.”
“Good,” Mulder said. “I was worried.”
“Do you have proof of all this?” Kresge said.
Langly said, “We have a lot of files that we downloaded from their systems, which make really interesting reading but are probably not particularly verifiable for court purposes. Helped us find a lot of things though. Like their son. And the pregnant girls. We do have the substances we made to treat the kids.”
“And Joe,” Skinner said.
“Joe?” Kresge echoed.
“Our bona fide good guy alien.” Mulder said. “You can’t have him.”
Kresge closed his eyes and frowned. “You people are giving me a headache. Is there anything left to do in this matter?”
Mulder looked at the rest of them. “Actually, um... not really. You might go make sure those nurses aren’t reporting for duty anymore, but I think the Crawford clones took care of that.”
“You might let Floria know that you’re wrapping up your investigation,” Mulder said.
“What the fuck am I supposed to tell my superiors?” Kresge asked.
Mulder shrugged. “Tell them that the suspects have vanished, presumed dead. That the children are no longer showing signs of illness, and that they have no legal parents to find. That the purported source of the mysterious abandoned babies has been cleaned out. Oh, if you really need something to do, try an audit on the cryo facilities at UCSD, Thornton. Might be interesting. But not, probably, worth wasting taxpayer dollars on.”
Kresge put his head on the table and said through clenched teeth. “Go. And please, next time? Give me something to sink my teeth into. Wouldn’t mind a heads up from the FBI, the next time you’re working in my neck of the woods. Oh, and say hi to your pretty partner for me.”
“Wife, Kresge,” Mulder said. “My wife.”
Jeremiah was in the car, and they waited for someone to bring the impounded van out front. He said to Mulder, “If you would ride with me in the car? We have a lot to talk about.”
“How is she doing?” Mulder asked. Skinner climbed in and started driving back to the Gunmen’s place.
Jeremiah frowned. “It’s a long story. The short is that she’s okay.”
“Tyler? The girls?” Mulder asked.
Jeremiah looked down and pressed his lips together. Mulder said, “What...”
“Tyler is fine, although he insists on Joshua. Maria is well. Lucita... There was an incident.”
“What happened?” Mulder asked.
“Rebels. She tried to leave and walked into one... he... she didn’t survive.” The grief in Jeremiah’s voice was profound.
“They found you... what happened after?” Mulder asked.
“Your son stopped them. It was... the power of his mental voice... The rebels do not hear, normally. In that sort of situation they simply do not bother with the normal hearing mechanism. It shocked them when a human child could communicate with them. One of them saw the changes in his brain, and... Your wife was holding Tyler... Joshua. And the rebel forced a change in her brain.”
“A change...” Mulder frowned. “So that she could communicate?”
Jeremiah nodded. “It was masterfully done. It would not have occurred to me to try... I don’t think I could have done it that well. When it was finished, she could talk to them. It all happened before they knew I was there. Which is probably better, I believe they would have killed me on sight otherwise. When Krycek learned what had happened... apparently his primary goal, this whole time, was to find and meet the rebels. He figured you were all walking directly into a confrontation, and he was right. He insisted they change him. I helped. Dana helped, although I’m not sure she realizes that she did more than feed him protein and calcium at an opportune moment. Her understanding of the human body is exquisite, and helped immensely. By the time we were done, his arm was regrown. And your wife... something passed between them. A forgiveness.”
“She forgave him?” Mulder asked. “That, somehow doesn’t...”
“Do not underestimate the power of mind-to-mind communication. It is challenging, even with experience, to lie that way. For someone just awakened? Which they both were? I doubt either was capable. Your wife was overwhelmed when I left her, but functioning.”
Mulder gave a short laugh. “Of course she was functioning. The day Dana Scully stops functioning is the day hell freezes over. Where is she?”
Joe sighed. “Mexico City, I believe. With Joshua and Maria.”
Mulder stared. “How the hell did she get there so fast?”
Skinner said, “Apparently they chartered a small plane. But we’re going to drive.”
“How long does it take to drive to Mexico City?” Mulder asked.
“Well, we actually need to get to Oaxaca,” Skinner said. “And that’s longer. We should be there in about four days, since we are going to stop at night.”
“We?” Mulder asked.
“I’m going with you until you’re where you need to be. I’ll fly back when you’re settled. And Joe here is going to come with us, since the children are all doing well and for the most part, beyond our reach.”
He parked on the street, and the van pulled in behind them.
Krycek was waiting for them inside the Gunmen’s place, and he wasn’t alone.
8:00 a.m. Mexico City
Scully started reaching for the cell phone before she had her eyes open. She realized, as she rolled, that there was a small warm body pressed close up against her back. By the time she had the phone in hand and was starting to dial, Joshua was sitting up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, and sending squishy thoughts her way. A double beep told her she had no service, and she swore softly, frowned, and put the phone down. “C’mere, baby boy,” she said, out loud, and swung her feet over the side of the bed.
They were in an airy room with brightly colored stucco walls and a tile floor. The bed was low to the ground, just big enough for the two of them. Maria was in a bed on the opposite side of the room, just starting to stir. Scully found the pile of their luggage and smiled to see the diaper bag she was so used to. Joshua flashed an image of a little boy peeing. She stared at him, and then looked around. A door...she opened it, and then went back to get him. “You want to try?” she asked.
She pulled the snaps on his shirt open, pulled the diaper off, and balanced him on the toilet seat, supporting most of his weight, then flashed to him the feeling of constricting muscles to make the urine flow. When he actually did, she blinked. *It shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose, but it does... And why can’t I even think of him as Tyler now?*
Again, a flash of the image and sound of a woman speaking, and thinking Joshua. She asked him out loud, “Is that what your first mama called you in her head?”
He nodded, then she felt a small wave of sadness from him. She wiped him, then picked him up off the toilet and gave him a hug, thinking, *Oh sweet baby to have lost so much. Mama is here. You can be Joshua now.*
She felt a physical and mental hug at the same time, and smiled.
She went back to the bed with the diaper bag, found a diaper and clothing, and got him dressed. Maria was sitting up, and Scully said, “Will you hold onto him for a moment? I need to see if I can make another phone call from the house line.”
Maria nodded and held her arms out to take him.
The night before, Scully had barely noticed the house as they were coming in, so tired, in the dark. When someone had pointed a bed out to her, she’d just set Joshua down and crawled in after him. Now, she took in her surroundings. The house was up on a hill, she could see out a window easily to the terra cotta tile rooftops and cream stucco of the houses below. Plants sat in the window, a wicker chair. She padded barefoot across the tiles to an archway, down a tiny hall and through another archway into a kitchen, where a woman was cooking. She said, hesitantly, “Hello?”
The woman turned, smiled, and said, “Soy Elana Reyes. Hola!”
Scully said, apologetically, “No hablo espanol.”
“Sorry,” Elana said. “My English is rusty. Can I help you?”
“I was wondering if I might use your phone, mine isn’t working,” Scully said, holding up the offending cell.
“You need Gwynne? Or someone else?”
“Gwynne would be fine,” Scully said. “I need to find out when my husband will be getting to Oaxaca.”
Elana smiled. “That, I know. Calls flying like a flock of jays. He will be there maybe Sunday? Unfortunately the plane we were able to find is not okay to go back, but is not a hardship for adult men to drive the way it would be for pregnant girl or mother with toddler.”
Scully said, “Do you think it would be possible for us to get to Guatemala and then go to Oaxaca?
Elana blinked. “Where in Guatemala?”
“A very small town... let me check.” Scully stepped back to ask Maria the question.
“Xepatatenango. Most people call it Xepa, but it’s closest to Uaxactun, I think it says on the map,” Maria said.
“Xepatatenango...” Scully asked.
“Xepata, then tenango just means the place it is.” Maria explained.
“Yes. Like Washington.” Maria held out Joshua. “The baby inside says I must use the toilet now, but I’ll take him in minute.”
Scully laughed, and took Joshua into the other room.
“Nearest is Uaxactun. The village is Xepatenango, but she did not think it would be on the map,” Scully told Elana.
“Let me look at the book...” Elana walked across the kitchen to a bookshelf, pulled down an atlas, and set it on the high butcher block counter in the middle of the room. “Closest airport, Flores.. Maybe you can get a flight there if you’re willing to pay through the nose for it. Maybe even go back to Oaxaca instead of here, although you’ll probably end up going through here anyway.”
“If I’m willing to pay through the nose for it?”
“Then you’d probably fly out this afternoon, get to your destination tomorrow morning when there’s a bus, be there, travel back... it’s Tuesday, say you’re there Wednesday and Thursday and part of Friday, you could be in Oaxaca... let me look on my computer. Oh, and set him there in the high chair. I keep it for my grandchildren.”
She pulled two swinging slatted doors open, and pulled a sliding desk out of a little closet while Scully put Joshua in the chair. Then she said, while booting up the computer, “He can have some beans and rice from the stove. You make an egg if you want.”
Her English may have been rusty, but her typing was not. A few minutes later, she said, “Three thousand United States dollars would get you to Uaxactun. Getting to the little place, that you would have to make happen there.”
Scully came over and looked. “If I handed you the money in cash, could you order the tickets?”
“You want back on Saturday at night? All of you?” Elana asked.
Maria came into the room and sniffed appreciatively. “That smells like my mama’s food,” she said.
“Would you like to go see your mama?” Scully asked.
A look of shock crossed Maria’s face. “You have to go to Oaxaca, to see your husband.”
“He won’t be there until Sunday,” Scully said. “I thought we might make a side trip to see your family.”
“How can you do this? It is so very far away,” Maria said.
Scully smiled. “Money. We can fly from here. We’ll be there tomorrow and have a few days.”
“A few days...” Maria sounded wistful.
“I’m sorry it can’t be more,” Scully said, “But it’s more than I thought we’d have...”
Maria nodded. “I... I haven’t seen her in almost three years. I miss her so much.”
“We’re buying the tickets now, if you want,” Scully said.
“Oh yes, please.” Maria sat down heavily on one of the woven chairs.
Scully went back to the other room and got the fanny sack from next to her bed. She opened it, and pulled open the hardest to find internal pocket, and slid out a roll of bills. She opened it. $100 bills, fifty of them in a thick roll. She pulled off thirty, counted it twice, then tucked the rest away.
She walked back into the kitchen, and handed the money to Elana, who raised an eyebrow and then said, “You know, if you want, I can ask Gwynne to reimburse.”
Maria stared at the stack. “That is more money than I’ve seen in one place in my life.”
Scully looked at Maria, and then nodded to Elana. “Do that. I think I have another use for this.”
Elana gave a funny little smile. “Break three of those into twenties, and break another one into fives and ones. You’ll need them for bribes. But do it at the airport, before you get on the plane, not sooner. You do not want anyone here knowing you have that much money.”
“Is there a way to ship most of our stuff to Oaxaca directly?” Scully asked. “I would like to travel as light as I can. Do you think we can buy bottled water at the other end, for Joshua?”
Elana and Maria both nodded. “Especially in tourist places. Those bills you have will buy whatever you need,” Elana said.
9:00 a.m. (ab)Normal Heights
The argument had already been going on for an hour. Krycek had dropped the bombshell of two more projects, and Mulder sat staring at a table while Krycek and Skinner went toe to toe over who was going to go where, and do what.
His friend actually had a face, and had apparently bothered to grow eardrums and vocal cords just for them. He said, pausing frequently to stare at Krycek and cock his head, “How soon were you going to end up where you are wanting to go?”
Skinner sat down and said, “I think we would arrive late Saturday. Sunday possibly. Four, five days.”
“Then there is no choice. We will take care of business. Then I will take you where you need to go.”
The room got very quiet. “How?” Langly asked, finally.
Krycek snapped, “In his flying sushi plate.”
Skinner stared at him. “In his what?”
“It’s not a flying saucer. Looks like a light-up metal sushi plate. In any event. Fast, effective transportation.” Krycek smiled. “We’ve got friends in high places now.”
“You’re telling me we’re going to zip up to the bad guys in a flying saucer—or god help me, sushi plate—walk in, make hay, and then zip away?” Mulder said.
“Basically,” Krycek answered.
“Cool,” five voices said at once.
Joe was staring at the rebel. Suddenly both of them transformed into bounty hunter shapes. “This will help the deception.”
Frohike shivered and said, “Creepy.”
“We need to go now,” Krycek said. “Before the ripples from the implosion at headquarters make those sites go poof.”
Langly asked, “So, what are we going to call your new friend, anyway?”
The friend said, “I believe you should call me, ‘Mike’. Isn’t that correct, Alex?”
“We’re not all going,” Mulder said. “Jessie and Sarah don’t need to be on this. They don’t have the training.”
Krycek said to him, “You, me, Skinner. Our two friends. Langly.”
Frohike frowned, and Sarah started to protest, but Jessie put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder and whispered, “You may be a good hacker, but you are not black ops.”
“And Ringo is?” Sarah said incredulously.
“Actually,” Krycek said, “Langly has proven himself to be able to handle himself in this kind of operation. And you... there are years of fighting left. Learn to fire a gun while running, and you’ll have leg up on him next time.”
She frowned. “We’re just supposed to what, sit here?”
Frohike walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “We’re sitting this one out, kiddo. I think that Byers and I will accompany the two of you back to Victoria. We’ve got precious cargo to get under ice.”
She looked upset, but subsided.
“How trackable is your craft?” Mulder asked Mike.
“Our enemy has almost as hard a time seeing us as your military does. If we do not linger, it should not be an issue.”
“What, do you whistle and it comes?” Langly asked.
“Are you ready for me to do that?” Mike asked.
They looked at each other. “We haven’t slept much in days, we’re filthy, um...” Langly said.
Joe smiled. “Shower. The other we can take care of.”
The showers took a while. Longer because Mulder took the time to shave and let Sarah bleach his hair blonde. When she was done, Frohike picked up the phone and called Dot, who came over and insisted on doing a tint and condition. It was almost three when they were finally ready to go. Krycek threatened to leave without him, but a call to his contact and the information that the infighting had come to a stop with the discovery of the complete evaporation of the San Diego project.
2:00 p.m. 30,000 feet over southern Mexico
Joshua stood in the seat next to the window and stared at the ground, and Scully felt him probing at her to draw out the answers to questions he didn’t quite know how to ask. It trickled out of her in a string of images and words. high,very high in the airflyingplane high, tiny treesnotsmall just far
Maria sat on the aisle, head tipped back, hand across her abdomen. She cocked her head and then reached over to grab Scully’s hand and place it on her belly.
Scully sat back and looked at her curiously, then gasped a little as she felt a tiny fluttering pass her hand. Maria pressed her hand more firmly, and she felt a tiny little thud, and then felt a feather-light curiosity in the ever-present sensation she’d learned to filter out. She closed her eyes and thought, hi baby. Then she listened, the way she’d listened when Jeremiah and the rebels had worked on Krycek, feeling the connections and cells and structures until they formed an image in her mind. She felt Joshua noticing, sliding over from the window along the seat back to press his hands on her and she felt him listening, too.
She blinked, opening her eyes. “I think... I’m not sure, but I think it’s a little girl.”
Maria smiled wryly. “How would you know that?”
“I can feel... I can see her in my mind’s eye. It was stronger when Joshua helped, but I traced the outlines of her, and it was suddenly very obvious...”
feel the little sliver of flesh that will one day be her womb, trace the horns out to tiny ovaries already forming eggs, see the outline of an almost 23 week fetus, toes, fingers, eyes pressed closed, umbilical cord twisting into a lush placenta, floating and warm and safe. Obvious. Feel how close she was to human, how far from ready to be born
Joshua climbed onto her lap and turned to look at Maria’s belly. “Baba,” he said, in an explanatory tone of voice, and Maria laughed.
They changed planes in Guatemala City, and arrived in Flores in the early evening. Scully got a recommendation for a resort hotel nearby, called, and the hotel sent over a shuttle. It was not until after dinner in the hotel restaurant, after putting Joshua to sleep in the middle of the big hotel bed, that Scully, sitting on the balcony looking out over the lake and the palm trees, let missing Mulder flow over her like a river. *I want you here with me, enjoying the warm breeze.*
4:00 p.m. Pine Valley
They drove out of town, parked, climbed a hill, and waited for dark. As soon as the sun slipped below the horizon, a light appeared, zipped close, and then settled, hovering above them. Mulder looked up and grinned. *Scully, why do you always miss the spaceships?* Langly was grinning too, and Skinner had a look of bemusement on his face, which, if Mulder had been able to take his eyes off of the ship long enough to actually see it, would have drawn an “I told you so.”
Then there was a shimmering brightness, and they were onboard. Mulder stared around, drinking in every detail. Langly asked, “How long will it take to get there? When will we leave?”
Joe said, with a little amusement, “We’ve already left. We’ll be there inside an hour.”
“Is there someplace to sit?” Skinner asked. “Where are we in the ship?”
“Cargo hold,” Joe answered. “And there’s a nice floor.”
“Can we see the rest of the ship?” Mulder asked.
“No,” Mike said, flat and final.
Mulder sighed a little and ran his hands along the wall. Langly said, “You’re petting it.”
Mulder pointed at the wall insistently and said, “Spaceship. Real. Here. Oh, Scully is never going to believe this...”
Joe smiled. “Perhaps she will see it when we drop you off. I understand she will be in Oaxaca this evening?”
Skinner said, “Um... actually...”
Mulder frowned. “What?”
“She heard we were driving and not going to be there until Sunday, and when I called Gwynne to check in, she said that Scully and Maria were heading to Guatemala to see Maria’s family. They won’t be back until Saturday.” Skinner smiled apologetically. “They were already on the plane by the time I talked to Gwynne.”
Mulder pulled out his cell phone and Skinner shook his head. “Do you know how unlikely it is that they will actually have reception wherever they are?”
Mulder stared at him with a little bit of desperation in his eyes. “But.. spaceship.”
Krycek said, “Down boy. Let’s talk about the op. I would like to go in with Langly first, evaluate, get whatever information we can, then let you guys do a tight retrieval. If we try to shut it down entirely, we’re going to call way too much attention. I’d prefer that we just get in, get what we need, get out.”
“What if we find more gametes? Or embryos?” Langly asked. “We don’t have the what-with to transport them...”
Mike said, “We do.”
It was about forty five minutes, and getting off the ship proved as simple as getting on. Joe (who looked like a bounty hunter,) Langly, and Krycek went down first. Twenty minutes later, Mike got the listening look, and Mulder asked, “How far can you do that?”
Mike looked at him and said, “Far enough.”
A moment later they were standing on the ground of the parking lot, in the dark. Krycek appeared at the door of a low structure, and said, “This way.”
They passed a guard and walked into an elevator, and then down. No people, Mulder noticed. Not one after the guard. Krycek led them to a heavy metal door, and showed them in. It reminded Mulder most of the mine they’d found, filled with row after row of filing cabinets. Only the cabinets were freezer drawers, dripping vapor when opened. Inside one, two neat little packages. His and hers.
Mike reached in and picked up the cases with his bare hand, and tucked them inside his jacket. Mulder looked at him, and he said, “I can control my body temperature in that region to a degree. It will be enough until we are at the ship.”
They met Langly and Joe by the door to the outside, and walked out into a beam of light.
Mike did not appear with them in the cargo hold until a few minutes later. Mulder asked, “So what were they doing?”
Langly said, “I’m not sure. I got a ton of data, but I just grabbed and ran. I didn’t try to sort it out. But I can tell you that I don’t like the filenames. I think it’s either some sort of human bomb or human weapon, but I’m not sure what that even means.”
Jeremiah, for his features had sagged back into age, said, “Mike’s people will come back once we’ve analyzed the data, and take care of it.”
The next stop was a cornfield, and Krycek led them to a tiny square building next to a pair of white glowing domes that looked like nothing more than a pair of giant breasts. The room proved an entry to an elevator shaft, an open cage-style mining elevator that plunged them down into darkness. A low humming filled the air, and Mulder shivered, wondering if drone ghosts of his sister and brother-in-law’s worked the surface during the day, silent and immune.
He wondered if this batch might be tended by small redhaired children, lanky boys... He decided that whatever Langly found about this place, he didn’t want to know. Another freezer, three packages this time, and he thought about not telling Scully there might be more possible children to stare them in the face.
He was bemused when the next stop was Vancouver Island, where Mike handed a strange, organic capsule to Langly, and sent him down with Joe to secure the samples in the batcave.
“Now what?” he asked, when Langly returned.
“We have the name of their destination,” Langly said. “But we need sleep. Twelve hours of it, because whatever they did to us to make us not fall down comatose, it’s wearing off. And there’s no hotel where they’re going.”
“I want Scully to see this,” Mulder said.
“Mike won’t fly during the day,” Joe said. “It’s not safe.”
“Where’s the closest hotel to where we’re going?” Mulder asked.
“You don’t understand,” Langly said. “Gwynne says they’re likely to spend hours on a chicken bus tomorrow, then they have to hike the last mile of it through jungle. There are not hotels near where they’re going.”
Mulder frowned. “Then where is she staying tonight?”
“Dude, it’s almost midnight. She flew into Flores, so near there, but come morning, around the time we’re going to be crashing, she’s going to be getting up and catching the chicken bus into bumfuck nowhere. Can we even set down in a city, Joe?” Langly asked.
“We can get you close. But it would be safest to take you back to your van in California, let you sleep in California, and then take you directly tomorrow night,” Joe said.
Mulder felt like flinging himself to the ground and kicking his feet, but he managed to refrain, and resigned himself to another day without Scully. *I want you. I want you to see this, to know it for the crazy reality that it is, and then I want to bury myself in you and not come out for a lifetime.*
to Chapter 29