Title: Christmas Eve
Author: Flyerfly
Category: MOTW, MSR/UST
Rating: R
Spoilers: Everything pre-Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati, but not post-Millenium
Summary: Mulder and Scully stumble across a couple of old... err...young friends from their first year working together on the X-Files.
Disclaimer: You know the drill.

917 Eden's Crossing
Elkton, Maryland
November 29, 1999
2:53 A.M.

The rubber wheels of the black sedan crunched softly as the car made its way precariously up the gravel drive. Thick raindrops thumped heavily on the roof and the swirling, gyring clouds were only illuminated by the occasional flash of lightning dancing fretfully through the inky night sky.

Maneuvering the van to a stealthy halt, she paused to glance at herself in the rearview, summoning the courage to face the task at hand. Pulling the mirror towards her body, she took in her appearance. She was ordinary-looking by most standards, the kind of person that you would bypass on the street. Unnoticeable. Uninteresting. It suited her profession nicely. Her thin, weary face was worn with the years - years of strain, years of worry, years of neglect, years of running. Constantly running. Running from the bastards that were the cause of all this, the men who created her, the men who would destroy her if given the chance. A steely glint of indignation flickered in her remarkable brown eyes. Her resolve had returned. If this is what it took to subvert their damn project, then she was ready.

Placing a stray wisp of her shoulder-length raven hair behind her ear, she pulled the black hood over her head, threw the bag sitting on the passenger's seat over her shoulder, and stepped into the waterlogged night. Walking slowly up the path, the dilapidated one-story came into view with the frequent flashes of thunderous light. The peeling paint and the abundance of overgrowth gave proof that the homeowners had been obviously derelict in managing the estate. Stepping cautiously up to the front door, she slowly tried the rusty brass knob. Locked. She lowered the bag and pulled out a compact. Opening it with delicate fingers, she held the mirror up to the dust-encrusted window and gazed through. The door was reinforced with steel.

"Damn it," she sighed breathlessly, "It can never be easy."

Abandoning hope for a quick entry, she closed the compact, replaced it in her bag, and began walking around the perimeter. Upon casing the house completely, she had still not found an open window or any point of entry. She began walking a second time around, this time stopping to inspect each window carefully. After two no-gos, she finally came upon one with an old hinge that had rusted over, leaving a small crack between the window and the frame. She pulled at it, praying that it stayed silent so that she could finish her job. She worked furiously, but skillfully, for fifteen minutes and finally pried open a hole large enough through which to fit her slender body. Slipping silently through the window, she landed softly on the padded carpet and once again opened her bag. Grasping it by a gold-encrusted hilt, she pulled out a two-inch knife. It glistened white and sickly with the frequent lightening. She gripped it tightly and proceeded down the hall.

She opened the first door and peered in. There was no one there. She opened a second, and a third. Still no one. Finally, she came to the door at the end of the hall. She gripped the handle and pushed it open. Shoving the door wide, she could see them there, two lumps in the bed, as inseparable as the first day they had been brought together. She advanced slowly, deliberately, as if convincing herself that there was still time enough to turn around and never come back. It would be hard to kill them. They were a part of her, after all. Not just a part, but all of her. They were her. She stood over the bed, staring at them for what seemed an interminable period of time. They looked so much like her, a little younger, but her nonetheless. Their features still retained their childlike innocence, unworn and unwrinkled by the harshness of the world. She had once looked innocent, too, she thought to herself as she raised the knife over the sleeping girl, but that time had long passed.

"Goodbye," she said softly, placing her left hand over the right, "I'm sorry."

"So am I."

The voice came from behind her, stopping her downward motion in mid-air. She spun around and came face-to-face with her younger self, one of the two that she had thought was lying in that very bed, one that was now holding a loaded pistol.

"You shouldn't have come back," the girl told her, "This time we're not going to be able to let you go."

She turned back and looked at the lone girl in the bed. She had thrown off the covers, revealing a pillow that had been put there in place of her sister. Eve 8 smiled and looked into her eyes, engineered and unmistakable, just like her own.

"How did you know that I was coming?" she asked.

"We just knew," the girl answered, sitting up in her bed.

"We just knew," her sister echoed, pulling back the trigger.

The last thing Eve 8 remembered before the night turned black were four eyes just like her own and the distant rumbling of the thunderous storm, a silent spectator to the ghosts that had gone before and would go after.

Quantico Medical Facility
December 17, 1999
1:12 A.M.

Scully rubbed her groggy eyes as she stepped into the blinding light of the quiet building. She could hear the click-clack of her heels as she proceeded down the long corridor, advancing toward the lone, unlocked door at the end of the hall. As she progressed, she could hear the familiar sounds of the shuffling of files and the creaking of the refrigeration door as it was pulled open. As she crossed the threshold, the tall frame of her partner came into view. His appearance was much less disheveled than hers, his thick, brown hair smoothed behind his ears, and his impeccable suit fit tightly and unwrinkled over the contours of his body. He had been bending over a body that was lying heavily over the examination table, but he glanced up at her as she entered the room.

"Morning, Scully," he said, running his eyes over the length of her unkempt demeanor, "Jesus, what, did you just roll out of bed or something?"

"Yes, Mulder," she replied, smoothing her hair and jacket down, "morning. Very early morning, in fact. You know, some of us do sleep. Some of us have amazing, wonderful dreams, dreams of puppy dogs and wild daisies. I was one of those people, Mulder." She checked her watch,

"That is, I was one of those people until approximately thirty-seven minutes and forty-five seconds ago."

"Dreaming?" Mulder asked, a twinkle in his eye,

"Dreaming of who? Were you dreaming of me again, Scully?"

She shot him a look that could have frozen water.

"I said I had a dream, Mulder, not a nightmare." The sardonic smile never left his face.

"You know, Scully," he told her, "you can hide behind your coquettish verbal lashings, but I know what you're really thinking."

She folded her arms neatly across her chest and arched her eyebrow resolutely.

"Can you tell what I'm thinking right now?" The smile faded quickly from his lips.

"Yeah, yeah I think I can," he answered, "And doesn't that constitute cruel and unusual punishment in most of the contiguous forty-eight states?"

"Mulder," she sighed heavily, advancing toward the examination table, "the body, remember? What was so important that you needed to drag me out here in the middle of the night?"

"Observe," he began grandly, waving his arm over the entire length of the corpse that was covered head-to-toe in a white linen, "Jane Doe, found two days ago by a woman and her boyfriend strolling on a romantic, starry night in Elkton, Maryland."

His smile returned as Scully plucked up Jane Doe's chart from the end of the table.

"Apparently, they were looking for someplace to consummate their relationship when they came across an abandoned home that had been boarded up. They entered through the front door, which, though reinforced with steel had, luckily for them, been unlocked. As they proceeded down the hall, they came into contact with a stench that the boyfriend could only describe as 'rotting meat.' Investigating, they came upon our own Miss Doe lying facedown on the floor, a single bullet to the back of the neck, extremely precise work. There was hardly any blood even found on the scene."

"I don't understand, Mulder," Scully interjected, holding up the chart that she had been scanning with a physician's eye, "This looks like an openand -shut case of homicide. The coroner has already identified the cause of death. If there is no need to perform an autopsy, then why did you drag me out of bed at this god-forsaken hour?"

"This is why," he said, grabbing the sheet and pulling it quickly from Jane Doe's head, "Anyone we know?"

"Oh my God," Scully said, placing a hand over her nose and mouth, as if to ward the contagious disease of death, "It's Eve."

Mulder's eyes began to water as the sepulchral stench invaded his nostrils.

"Yeah, but which one?"

"Well, that's obvious isn't it?" Scully responded, replacing the chart gently at the end of the table.

"Apparently not," Mulder answered, placing a hand to his hip, "Why don't you share with the rest of the class?"

"If I remember correctly," Scully began, "approximately six years ago, we visited Eve 6, a genetic by-product of the Litchfield experiments. During our visit, she informed us that only two Eves had survived besides herself, Eve 7 and Eve 8. Eve 7, a.k.a. Dr. Sally Kindrick, was killed by Eve 9 and Eve 10, two clones with murderous tendencies generated from her experimental dappling in eugenics. Assuming Eves 6, 9, and 10 are still safely locked away at the Whiting Institute for the Criminally Insane, that only leaves the possibility of Eve 8, who was never captured."

"Yeah, Scully," Mulder replied, "but how do we know that for sure? All we have is the word of a crazy person, and, I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to take that at face value."

"Why not?" Scully asked him, "I have ever since I joined the X-Files."

Mulder rolled his eyes as Scully sent him a smile worthy of forgiveness.

"What are you looking for, Mulder, proof?" She chuckled to herself, "If there's one thing I learned from working with you, it's that proof isn't a prerequisite when your files are in the basement."

"Anyway," Scully continued, biting her lip thoughtfully as she attempted to recall a quote hidden away in the deepest recesses of her mind, "What was it that Sherlock Holmes used to say? If you eliminate the impossible, whatever's left, however improbable, must be the truth. I think that's the case here. I think you're looking to make this homicide more difficult than it really is."

"That may be so," he replied, a hint of irritation evident in his usual monotone, "but elimination of the improbable aside, that still doesn't explain the dead woman lying on this table, now does it?"

Scully sighed loudly, then conceded, "Okay, how would you like to proceed?"

"I think it's time we visited our favorite little eyeball-biting mental patient," he said, walking towards the door. He turned and faced her,

"What do you say, Scully? You up for a little crazy?"

"Why not?" she replied, heading for the elevator, "I'll request the car."

Whiting Institute for the Criminally Insane December 18, 1999
8:18 A.M.

"We'll be right outside if you need us."

Mulder and Scully thanked the balding guard with the horn-rimmed glasses for his assistance and placed their panic buzzers securely in their pockets. Then, lifting the asylum-appointed flashlights to chest level, they shone the two beacons into the windowless abyss. The two lights fell dimly upon the shell of a woman, the dark, soulless shadow that genetic circumstance had deposited there cruelly and without remorse. Eve 6 was bound in chains and was crouching in the corner. She lifted her arms and threw them over her brilliant, squinting eyes, a futile protection from the harsh light.

"Who's there?" her voice cracked as she choked out the words. Her crooked, yellow teeth were strangely illuminated in the midst of the darkness.

"What do you want?"

"Agents Mulder and Scully," Scully answered, peering into the cold, black cell, "Do you remember us? We came to visit you once before."

Eve 6 placed her arms back on her knees.

"Oh, I have so many visitors," she replied, shaking her head solemnly, "So many, indeed. Well, not so much visitors as doctors. All kinds, you know, physicians, psychiatrists. It seems as though everyone likes to get in their pokes and prods."

Her eyes flashed quickly with rage, but then regained their normal appearance just as suddenly.

"It does get lonely here," she continued, "very lonely. True visitors are so rare. No, I'm sure I would have remembered if you had been here before." She glanced at Mulder, a sickly, yellow grin cascading over her mouth. "Especially you," she said, "I'm sure I would have remembered you. Why don't you come over here and unlock these chains? I promise I won't bite."

"No thanks," Mulder replied, "I like my eyes where they are."

She giggled at the prospect of ripping into the slimy, wet flesh.

"We did come to see you before, Eve," he continued, "about six years ago. We came to ask you about Eve 7, Sally Kindrick?"

"Ah, yes, Sally," Eve 6 shook her head in affirmation, "Sally knew what was wrong with us, the Eves and Adams. Sally wanted to save us."

Mulder nodded.

"That's right," he said, "Sally wanted to save you. But she died six years ago."

Eve 6 glanced at the floor.

"Yes," she said slowly, shaking her head with what appeared to Mulder to be some form of restrained glee, "She did die, didn't she?" She chuckled softly as she looked longingly at his beautiful hazel eyes. "That's hard to say, isn't it? Did die, didn't she...did die didn't she...," her voice took on a sing-song quality as she laughed even harder. "Ah, well," she sighed, "and then there were four."

Mulder shook his head.

"Three," he stated, matter-of-factly.

The Cheshire-cat grin fell from the face of Eve 6.

"Three?" she repeated, "Who did they kill now?"

"Who did who kill now?" Scully asked.

Eve 6 smiled at her.

"Oh, no," she said, "I asked you first."

"Fine," Scully responded shortly, a touch of ire obvious in her tone, "Another Eve was found dead in an abandoned home two days ago. It appeared as though she had been there for quite sometime, maybe two to three weeks. We are presently operating under the assumption that it is the body of Eve 8, that is, if what you told us seven years ago was true - that yourself, Eve 7, and Eve 8 were the last remaining products of the Litchfield Project, Miss Kindrick's creations not included."

"Oh, I'm sure that what I told you was the truth. Unlike Eves 9 and 10, it was not within the genetic programming of us early Eves to lie. Sally modified that tendency when she altered the girls. Sally liked to think that we Eves were capable of free will."

Eve 6 let out a bitter laugh.

"No, I'm sure that it was Eve 8. It looks like I am the only original left. Who knows? Maybe one day, they'll put me on display at Smithsonian. 'Come, everybody, come see the genetic lab rat that saved humankind from extermination.' Of course, I'll be dead by then..." her voice trailed off.

"It's nice to see that when the scientists enhanced your chromosomes, they didn't skimp on the super humor gene," Mulder said drily.

"Eve," Scully interjected, "how can we be sure that what you are saying is the truth? I mean, if you were capable of lying, then you would have been lying when you said that you weren't able to."

Eve 6 raised her left eyebrow slightly as a confused expression clouded her face, one that Mulder's face shared as well.

"What I mean to say is we need proof, Eve. How can we get it?"

Eve 6 shook her head.

"You're a little skeptical, aren't you?" she asked,

"Well, no matter. If you don't believe me, you could always check the mark."

"What mark?"

Eve 6, still sitting on her haunches, turned around, not an easy task with the weight of the chains bearing down upon her. Pulling her hands, which were bound at the wrist, behind her head, she lifted her greasy, black hair. There, shining in the light of the flashlights, were six bumps on the back of her neck.

"We all have them," she said, "It was a form of identification initiated when Eves 7 and 8 attempted an escape by fooling the guards into believing that all of us were present when one had fled on foot. We Eves are all very intelligent, you know."

Mulder nodded his head in affirmation as he recalled his near-fatal poisoning at the hands of twin nine year olds.

"Yes, Eve, we know. You are all extremely intelligent, and I'm betting you're smart enough to tell us everything you know about the death of Eve, anything you've heard around the ward, even if you think it's not important."

"I haven't heard anything," Eve 6 answered shortly, the anger returning steadily to her voice, "they would never tell us anything, just in case one of us managed to actually escape this hell hole. They thought it was much tidier that way."

Her eyes flashed quickly as she raised her cuffed hands to her forehead, drawing a free wisp of hair behind her ear. By the time she lowered them down again, her temper had cooled and a wide, toothy smile had appeared on her face.

"I guess they were right, though," Eve 6 said, chuckling to herself, "if you're here asking questions about someone that everyone knows as Jane Doe, then I guess the Litchfield Experiments have remained a secret, though I have to say, I am a little shocked. Our little girls were ever so smart. I was sure that they would have let the whole world know by now."

"What do you mean, Eve?" Scully asked, "are you talking about Eves 8 and 9? How could they manage to expose the Experiments while confined in this place?"

"I think I know," Mulder responded softly. He had turned around and was now facing the line of cell blocks on the other side of the hall, the cell blocks that had been reserved for two little girls who had each been accused of
exsanguinating their daddies.

"What is it, Mulder?"

Scully turned around and glanced at the adjoining cells. The signs of the occupants were both still there, one reading "Eve 9" and the other, "Eve 10." Her eyes fell slowly from the signs to the rooms, drifting slowly over one cell and then the other. They were cold, dank, and very much empty.

"The girls," Scully began, "they're..."

"...they're gone, Scully," Mulder finished acidly, "Eve 8 and Eve 9 have escaped."

8:32 A.M.

"They escaped? Two little, weak, unarmed girls bypassed your burly gun-toting security? What did they do? Kick them in the shins?"

Mulder's face flushed red with ire as he threw his hands onto his hips. The guard that he was interrogating looked none the better. His hands were folded tersely across his chest and beads of perspiration flowed freely down his brow.

"I'm not sure, sir," the guard answered quickly, "I've only been here a year. Those cells have been empty since I arrived."

"Really?" Mulder asked, his eyebrow arching with a fury reminiscent of his partner's, "You expect me to believe that you've never chatted about the escape of two deranged teenaged girls over a stop at the company water cooler?"

The guard shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of defeat.

"I don't know, sir. I mean, sure, I've heard some rumors, but I don't really know what happened, for sure, you know?"

Mulder growled under his breath and began circling the room.

"Mulder," Scully said serenely, "calm down. Why don't you go get a drink of water or something?" Then, turning to the guard, she asked, "Do you know anything at all about this case, sir? When did the escape happen, for instance, and why weren't we notified?"

"Like I said before," he answered, "I'm just not sure. Anyway, I don't think we're supposed to talk about this much. You know, doctor-patient confidentiality."

Mulder stopped pacing long enough to yell, "You're not a doctor!" and then resumed his skulking about the room.

"Well," Scully said, turning from Mulder back to the red-faced man with the squinched-up face, "is there someone we can talk to who was here when they escaped, the person who was heading the ward?"

"Sure," he responded, eyeing Mulder warily, "you'll want to talk to Dr. Veckman. He's been here for years. I'm sure he can tell you everything you want to know."

The guard picked up the phone, dialed Veckman's extension, and apprised him of the situation. Then, after hanging up, he pointed the agents in the direction of the doctor's office. As Mulder and Scully advanced toward the end of the hall, they could still hear Eve 6's girlish giggling reverberating off the cinder-blocked walls.

8:35 A.M.

"Agents Mulder, Scully, please sit down."

Veckman motioned to the two leather-cushioned chairs facing the back of the room, then took his own seat behind his large, oaken desk.

"With all due respect, Dr. Veckman," Mulder began, "I don't think I could bear the pain of sitting down right now. I'm afraid this place has given me a rather severe case of constipation."

Veckman leaned back in his recliner, crossed his legs, and folded his hands across his lap.

"Have you ever considered changing careers, Agent Mulder?" Veckman said dryly, "I think the soaps would suit you well. Your quiet charm, your overtly dramatic demeanor. I think you could really give Susan Lucci a run for the Emmys."

"It would not be a good idea to insult me right now, doctor," Mulder replied, slowly taking his seat, "especially since I have reason to believe that you have played a role in a larger conspiracy, not only to hide the existence of the Eve clones, but also to cover up the disappearance of Eves 9 and 10."

"Mulder," Scully cautioned.

"No, Scully," he continued, "I want to know the truth. What were you hoping to do, doctor, cover up their little secret for them?"

"And who are they, Agent Mulder?" Dr.
Veckman asked, leaning forward in his seat, his hands now sitting atop of the desk, "And what is this agenda that I am accused of taking part in?"

"They, Dr. Veckman, are the men with no names, the men who operate at the highest levels of our government, contributors to the conspiracy of silence to hide the truth from the American public."

Veckman sighed deeply.

"Oh, great," he said, "A conspiracy theorist. This ought to be good. And what exactly is the truth, Agent Mulder?"

"Why don't we talk about the lie, instead, doctor, the lie that you're perpetuating? You know, it goes a little something like this. Government pays the head of a psych ward boku bucks to hide away their little secret, genetic clones engineered in an effort to create super-humans capable of surviving the incoming invasion. But then something goes wrong. Two Eves escape, and then another two. The government gets angry and threatens to expose the good doctor if he does not comply with their request, to risk the lives of innocent civilians by hiding the escape of the clones from the public simply so that their secret would remain a secret."

Dr. Veckman chuckled softly to himself.

"You know, we have a special name for people like you in here, Agent Mulder. We call them schizophrenic."

"And I have a special name for people like you, Dr. Veckman. Governmental puss-"

"Mulder," Scully admonished, spitting the words through clenched teeth, "enough!" Then, regaining her composure, she placed her hand pleadingly over his forearm and leaned over to him, whispering in his ear, "You've got to calm down, we'll never get the answers we're searching for if you keep antagonizing him."

Mulder shot the doctor a look of pure irritation, but he folded his hands and shut his mouth. Leaning back in his chair, he drew his right leg over his left, and allowed Scully to conduct the remainder of the interrogation.

"So, doctor," she began, turning to once again face the man behind the desk, "I'm sure you're aware that we have some questions regarding the disappearance of Eves 9 and 10."

"Yes, Agent Scully," Veckman replied, "I am quite aware, and I would be more than happy to provide you with any answers that I may have."

"Right," Mulder scoffed under his breath, but a warning in the form of Scully's arched eyebrow quickly silenced him.

"As I was saying," she continued, "we would be extremely grateful if you could tell us anything at all remotely regarding the disappearance of the girls, how long ago they escaped, where they were last seen, the treatment they were under."

"I'm afraid that I cannot divulge any particulars of their treatment," Dr. Veckman told her, "you know, doctor-patient confidentiality."

"Yes, we do know," Mulder stated in his matterof -fact monotone, "we were given the same runaround bullshit once already this morning, and I have to tell you, from this view, it appears extremely convenient."

Veckman resisted the urge to ask if viewing anything at all was possible with such an abnormally large nose blocking the way.

"Dr. Veckman," Scully interjected, as if anticipating the retort, "in addition to being a federal agent, I am also a medical doctor, and I can assure that anything you tell us will be held in the strictest confidence."

"Well, that's very comforting Dr. Scully," he responded, "but I'm afraid that it would be unethical for me to get into any great detail regarding the mental treatment that the girls were under in my care."

Scully now shared the same irksome expression as Mulder.

"What I can tell you," he continued, "is that Eve 9 and Eve 10 were being treated by me since the time of their capture in 1993."

"Treated for what, exactly?" Scully asked.

"The onset of psychosis would be my guess," Mulder interrupted, "A symptom that appeared much more quickly in Eves 9 and 10 than that of any of the other Eves. The extra five chromosomes present in the Eves' genome generated superior intelligence and enhanced strength but left in its wake the emergence of increased psychosis, as well. Eve 7 attempted to alleviate this problem when she created the new clones, but all of her trials only had the effect of bringing about the unwanted symptom in a more timely manner."

Veckman shot Mulder a quizzical look, one tinged with something remotely resembling a sort of quasi-professional respect.

"Very good, Agent Mulder," Veckman answered, "taken a few psychology courses in your time, have you?"

"A few," he replied acidly.

Nodding his head, Veckman continued, "I'm afraid I'm not aware of this extra chromosome of which you speak, Agent Mulder, but you are correct in your assertion that both girls were suffering from severe psychosis, also associated with a pronounced paranoia of all persons. Approaching the girls was extremely difficult. The first time we attempted to hold sessions in my office, the Eves tried to strangle the orderlies with their own hair. They wouldn't stop screaming that the nurses were trying to kill them until they were heavily sedated. Needless to say, since that time, we've held all sessions at their cells."

"What was their demeanor during these sessions?" Scully asked, pulling a loose strand of her newly shortened red-orange hair behind her ear, "Were they complacent?"

"Once again, Agent," he replied, "I'm afraid I cannot say explicitly what was discussed. However, I can tell you that they responded well, and even seemed to be making progress. That is, until their escape." He waved his hand indifferently.

"Which brings me to my next question, doctor," Scully began, "We were told that it has been at least a year since Eve 9 and Eve 10 ran away."

"That is a statement, Agent Scully, not a question."

Scully turned her deadly eyebrow against the doctor, her usual warm and sparkling blue eyes now containing a steely resolve that Mulder had previously witnessed on many occasions.

"Dr. Veckman," she said slowly, attempting to resist the urge to jump over the desk knock the grin right off his face, "why were we not consulted when the girls escaped? With our knowledge of their history and our position at the Bureau, we could have possibly aided in their recapture."

The smile fell from his lips, just as effectively as if Scully had attacked him. The false pleasantries were now over.

"With all due respect, Agent Scully," Veckman said, "the escape of two young patients from a mental facility does not fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government. Whatever the hospital decides is the best course of action is the route that we follow."

With one grandiose motion, he stood up from his chair.

"Now if you'll excuse me," he continued, gesturing widely to door, "I have many patients, numerous appointments, and I'm already late for a meeting with the board of directors."

Mulder and Scully stood from their seats, as well.

"Thank you, doctor, for your extremely useful assistance," Mulder sneered, "With a professional like you guiding the therapy of our little mental patients, I'm sure they'll peaceful, law-abiding citizens in no time...that is, if we can ever catch them again."

"Good-day, Agent Mulder. It was a pleasure, Agent Scully."

Scully turned her back on his arrogant smile and interlocked her arm with Mulder's.

"Come on," she whispered to him, "let's go. There's nothing more to be learned from here."

As they tossed their visitors I.D.'s on the security table, Scully nudged her partner playfully in the ribs.

"You know," she said, "if you're not careful, you're going to end up in one of these places."

Mulder laughed as he held the front door for her.

"Only if you'll be my nurse, Scully," he answered, "You know, I always thought you'd look really cute in one of those white Ratchett get-ups, especially when it's time for the mandatory spongebath..."

Their conversation thankfully dwindled from earshot as they exited the facility. Dr. Veckman watched their car drive into the blossoming daylight, then turned and re-entered his office. He had hardly seated himself before they appeared through the door to the adjoining room and took their seats where their captors had been sitting moments before.

"What did you tell them?" Eve 9 asked.

"Nothing, hunny," he answered, his eyes alighting with the pride present of a father for his children, "Absolutely nothing."

"What did they want?" Eve 10 questioned.

"They wanted to know about you," he told them, "about your escape. Of course, I denied all knowledge."

He rose once again from his chair, walked around to face them, and leaned lazily against his desk.

"I told you girls only to use that card key for emergencies," he berated them, wagging a finger in their direction, "It's dangerous coming to see me so often. What happens if you're spotted? The others will get suspicious. I might not be able to free you again."

"We're careful," Eve 9 said.

"We have advanced intelligence," Eve 10 added, "It is a statistical anomaly that we could be captured by the average man that guards these walls."

"You were captured once before," Veckman reminded them.

"It's not the same thing," Eve 9 answered, "Mulder has a greater than average intelligence."

"Besides," the teenaged Eve 10 continued, "we were young then, and that is not a mistake that we will make twice."

A smile appeared quickly on Veckman's face.

"I can never stay mad at you girls," he said, drawing them both into a large bear-hug. Then, he stepped back and gazed deeply into their eyes, remarkable brown eyes that he, too, bore.

"But promise me that you'll both be careful."

"We promise," Eve 9 told him.

"We promise," Eve 10 echoed.

"Thank you," he responded gratefully, and hugged them once more. Veckman could not see the girls' faces behind his back, eyes dancing with mischief and lips smiling with dangerous intent.

"Thank you," he whispered again, "Thank you."

North on Interstate 95
11:21 A.M.

"What now?"

"Hmm...what's that?" Mulder was stirred from his deep contemplation. He and Scully had been driving in silence since their departure from the Whiting Institute. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence, the quiet that had accompanied their first outings when Scully had been assigned to the X-Files six years prior. It was the mutual silence that sprung forth from two seasoned agents examining every crevice, every angle in their minds to make sense, each in their own way, of an illogical situation.

"Where do we go now?" Scully repeated, "The good doctor was less than forthcoming. I'd venture to say that we know little more than when we first arrived."

Mulder turned his head slowly towards her.

"Well, that's a little cynical, Scully. I know that I know more than when I started."

"Mulder," said Scully, pointing towards the windshield, "the road."

"Oh, right." He faced the highway, narrowly avoiding careening with a silver Honda that had slammed on the brakes.

"The road," he replied sheepishly, gesturing with his head towards the crowded interstate in front of him.

Scully placed her knuckles against her temples, leaned against the passenger side door, and smiled out of the corner of her cheek. Gazing out the window, she watched as the familiar exit towards D.C. came closer, and closer...and then it was gone. Scully turned once more and faced Mulder.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"To the scene of the crime," he answered, "to Elkton, Maryland."

917 Eden's Crossing
Elkton, Maryland
12:46 P.M.

The gravel drive crunched softly as Mulder directed the car to a haphazard stop.

"That's right," he said into his cell phone, speaking loudly and clearly through the crackling interference, "I need everything you can get your little hands, anything at all relating to the Whiting Institute or Dr. Michael A. Veckman." He turned off the ignition and placed the keys in his pocket.

"You...ot..it...," came the excited response, "Of...ourse...it will...ut...into my D&D time... night was...ournament of...ampions round and I'm...efending my...itle. Maybe I'll get...ers to do it."

"Whatever," Mulder replied, "Just get it done."

He turned his cell off, placed it in his coat, and looked over at Scully.

"We're here," he told her, "Let's go, G-woman."

Scully unfastened her seatbelt, unlocked the door, and stepped quickly from her seat, anxious to stretch her stiff legs after the arduous journey. As she closed the door, she felt something cold and wet envelope her feet. She glanced down, searching for the source of the sensation. She had stepped from the car directly into a puddle, and was now soaked up to her ankles in the residual rain water.

"Oh, great," she sighed to herself, placing her hands on her hips, "this is perfect, simply perfect."

She turned towards Mulder, but he was already sloshing his way through the muddy clearing up to the front of the house. Scully pulled the neck of her long, black coat closer to her chilled body and followed in pursuit. The harsh, cold wind blew her hair in every direction and cut through her, straight to the marrow. By the time she rejoined Mulder on the front step, he had already broken down the faded, yellow police tape and had cracked the door.

Mulder pushed the door back wide, revealing for the first time the less than comforting conditions inside. Though it was day, no light could penetrate the house's interior. Darkness inexorably infiltrated every nook as transitory shadows danced to a demon's song that human ears could not perceive. The stacks of dust were rivaled only by the numerous cobwebs that clung to each corner. The yellowed walls were chipped and peeling and the furniture looked at least twenty years old.

"Homey, isn't it?" Mulder asked, grabbing his flashlight and proceeding down a corridor. Scully did not reply, but simply flicked on her flashlight and advanced towards the opposite hall. She scanned every section of the dilapidated kitchen, checking the trashcan and drawers for anything that might shed light on the events that had transpired. Upon finding nothing, she doubled back to look for Mulder. When she found him, he was crouched down on the floor in a bedroom at the end of the hall, sitting on his haunches. The beam from the flashlight was illuminating something he was inspecting in his hand.

"Did you find anything?" he preempted her.

"Nothing," she answered, "What's that?"

"Syringe," he responded, standing up to face her, "Just say no, Scully."

Scully pulled on a latex glove that she had stored in her pocket and took the needle from his hand. Holding it up to the flashlight, she examined the syringe.

"Looks like they didn't use all of it," she said, gently rocking the thin layer of translucent liquid back and forth "I'll take it to the lab and get it analyzed."

"Good," Mulder said, "I'll drop you off. There's something I need to take care of."

The Magic Bullet
Takoma Falls, VA
5:14 P.M.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming. Keep your pants on."

Frohike swore loudly at the person knocking at the steel-plated front door as he picked up his glasses from atop a computer monitor and placed them behind his ears. Glancing briefly at a nearby screen to see who had awakened him from his predinner catnap, Frohike continued on toward the door and unlatched the eleven locks that guarded the entrance to the Lone Gunmen's Lair. Frohike pulled the door back a sliver, revealing the face of Mulder.

"Somebody order a callboy?" Frohike asked, glancing behind him as Byers and Langly entered the room.

"Not this week," Langly replied in his nasal falsetto. Then he turned towards Mulder. "We got the low down on that Veckman guy for you," he said, "I don't know what's all involved in the case you're cooking up, but the dude has a pretty interesting past."

Mulder took a seat at Frohike's desk.

"Interesting how?" he asked.

"Interesting as in terms of his educational and vocational choices," Byers informed him.

"Yeah," Frohike interjected, casting Mulder a disapproving look for stealing his spot, and then taking Langly's instead, "the guy has certifications out the ying-yang."

"Two degrees, to be precise," Byers continued, "Veckman completed his undergraduate as Valedictorian of the class of 1944 at Princeton University before matriculating at Yale, where he earned his first Ph.D in the field of Psychology. He had a small, private practice for three years, before he decided to return to his studies and pursue a career in the biological sciences. After four years at Brown, Veckman had obtained his second Ph.D for Genetics."

"Mr. Wonderful, huh?" Mulder asked, "The record seems a little too spotless for me."

"Well, here's where it gets interesting," Byers said.

"His life story is an open book for a few more years," Langly continued, "He publishes some findings in a couple of major scientific journals and regularly attends conferences, not just as a visitor, but as the guest speaker of honor. Then one day, at a national conference in 1957, he doesn't show up. Just disappears, like his entire history is erased. That is, until he shows up as a psychiatrist at the Whiting Institute for the Criminally Insane in 1978."

"Were you able to find any records of his time spent there?" Mulder asked.

"Well," Frohike answered, "Since you have the good fortune of knowing me, and since I am able to do the kung fu that I do so well..."

"...It was my kung fu you credit-stealing balding monkey," Langly interrupted angrily.

"Guys, please, we all did our share," Byers interjected, hoping to pacify matters.

"Whatever," Frohike continued, "Anyway, we were able to hack into the crazy house's database. Lucky for us, the good doctors wanted to put up the appearance of having entered the 20th century. All the files are computerized. Hold on to your cajones, Mulder. This is where the meatballs really hit the frying pan."

"Let me guess," Mulder said, "Veckman was part of a project, the Litchfield Experiments, initiated at the end of the Cold War with the purpose of generating a race of
genetically enhanced superhumans."

The Gunmen's mouths dropped wide open as they looked uncertainly at one another.

"How did you know?" Byers finally managed to ask.

"Long story," Mulder answered simply.

"Well," Frohike huffed, angry at having his thunder stolen right out from under him, "I guess you won't be needing us after all." He folded his arms and turned to face the opposite wall.

"Aw, c'mon, Hickey," Mulder said playfully, putting his hand on Frohike's shoulder, "you know you're my big man, my go-to-guy. Why don't you tell me what you found?"

"Say it," Frohike said, still sulking.

Mulder leaned close to his ear so Byers and Langly couldn't hear, "Your kung fu's the best."

"And don't you forget it," Frohike said, turning back to face his partners, "Let's get back to it." He rubbed his hands together and as Mulder turned around, he muttered under his breath, "Punkass."

"As you may or may not know," he began, glancing over at Mulder, "I mean, who the hell knows what you know, since you seem to know it all anyway..."

"Melvin," Mulder cautioned, halting the little man's foray into a disparaging harangue.

"Um, right. As I was saying, at the time when Dr. Veckman went underground in 1957, his records show that he was just beginning his involvement with the Litchfield Project."

"He was with the Project since '57?" Mulder asked.

"Oh, looks like we stumbled upon a fact the almighty Mulder wasn't aware of," Frohike replied, a wide grin erupting over his face. Mulder, usually quick with the comeback, let his middle finger do the talking.

The smile fell from his face and was quickly replaced by a frown. "Hey, man," Frohike said, "that hurts."

Mulder responded with an apologetic shrug of his shoulders and Byers continued in his stead.

"In 1957, Veckman replaced Dr. Gerhard Strauss as the leading genetic engineer on the Project. This was due, I might add, to Dr. Strauss' mysterious 'disappearance' following a certain dissatisfaction with the way the Project was being handled and his related threat to go to the press in a very, very public manner. Veckman analyzed the problems that were discovered in the first set of geneticallyaltered clones, a group of males known
collectively as the Adams. It seems the Adams were prone to psychosis and had all committed suicide by the time they were twenty."

"It runs in the family," Mulder said, seating himself and placing his folded hands over his mouth.

"Yes," Byers continued, "well, at any rate, Veckman attempted to correct this problem in the second group of experiments, genetic clones of his dead wife, known as the Eves. Eight Eves were created in all. Five of them followed in the footsteps of their brethren. The sixth Eve would have done the same, if Veckman hadn't ordered her detainment at Whiting. Eves 7 and 8 fared better. According to Veckman's files, he treated them both with an experimental serum that seemed to work wonders. Both girls exhibited a superior intelligence but did not show the detrimental signs of homicide and insanity to which the others were prone. In 1978, he requested a transfer from the lab to the Institute so that he could monitor the Eves' outcome. In 1979, Eve 7 escaped, followed a decade later by Eve 8. There was a suspicion that someone on the inside facilitated their escape, since they disappeared with great ease, even for two geniuses, but Veckman was cleared of any wrong doing. In 1993, Eve 7 was killed and two new Eves, created by Eve 7, were captured and institutionalized for their murder by two agents from the FBI."

The Gunmen looked at each other as realization simultaneously hit them. They turned their gaze to Mulder, who merely nodded his head in response.

"Since that time," Byers continued, "the doctor reports that Eve 6's condition has deteriorated, but, with the same treatment given to Eves 7 and 8, he has improved the stability of Eves 9 and 10."

"Or, at least, that's what he claims," Langly interjected.

"I guess we'll soon find out," Mulder replied.

Frohike arched an eyebrow from behind his thick glasses. "What are you talking about, Mulder?" he asked.

"That report doesn't tell you everything, boys," he informed them, "It seems the doctor neglected to mention the fact that Eves 9 and 10 are currently AWOL as well. Pretty interesting coincidence, wouldn't you say? He shows up at Whiting and four of his patients are able to escape?" He stood up quickly form his chair. "I need you to scan unsolved cases for me. Look for anything you can. Weird murders. Traces of strange toxins. The sighting of a pair of teenaged twins around suspicious areas. I'll send you a picture of the girls from a file I salvaged from the fire a couple of years ago." He headed towards the door.

"What are you going to do?" Langly asked.

Mulder turned briefly to face them. "I'm going to put the I back in FBI," he said, and without another word, turned and walked out of the room.

"Punkass," Frohike whispered to himself, and took his seat in front of his console.

Veckman Residence
Richmond, VA
December 19, 1999
11:45 A.M.

Mulder plucked a sunflower seed from the bag and absentmindedly popped one into his mouth. Gnashing the casing soundly with his teeth, he spit out the cracked shell and invited the salty texture to creep slowly around his mouth. Drawing a pair of binoculars over his eyes, he watched as Veckman placed the phone back in the receiver and proceeded out of sight into the next room. Rubbing his hands together to keep them warm in the midst of the intense cold penetrating the car, he sighed to himself and watched as his hot, cloudy breath formed circles in midair.

"Think warm thoughts," he told himself, "warm thoughts. Okay. Here goes." He closed his eyes and tried to imagine. "Sun...beach...palms ...water lapping gently over the sand...half naked Pamela Anderson running in slow motion..."

His next sordid visions were cut short by the ring of his cell phone. He picked it up from his pocket and placed it against his ear.

"Mulder."

"Mulder, it's me." Scully's voice sounded strangely excited from the other end.

"Scully," he answered, as a new vision danced through his mind, "how nice of you to join us. I believe you know Pam?"

"Pam?" she asked, bearing a quizzical expression that her partner could almost see through the telephone, "Mulder, what are you talking about?"

"Nothing," he replied, "Never mind. What's up?"

"Well," she hesitated briefly as she attempted to compute the beginning of their discussion, "I analyzed the sample that we found in Maryland, and I have to tell you, Mulder, it's like nothing I've ever seen before."

Mulder shifted the phone to his shoulder and once again peered through the binoculars. "What is it?" he asked.

"The majority of it is some sort of unclassified cyclic organic compound," Scully explained, "We extracted it and put it through both a mass and UV spec. It's composed of several carboxylic and phosphoric agents. I think the electron transferring capabilities inherent in those agents allow the compound to function as a kind of synthetic ATP molecule, a man-made super energy source."

"Fascinating, Scully," Mulder said blandly.

"Isn't it?" she replied, "I mean, who knows what sort of medical ramifications a compound like this could have in the future. It's been hypothesized that..."

"Scully?" Mulder interjected.

"Yes, Mulder?"

"I sort of missed everything after 'Mulder, it's me. Could you break it down for me in, you know, English?"

Scully sighed loudly, notably irritated at the fact that she had to explain something that was so easy to comprehend.

"Like I said before," she repeated, "most of the sample is an organic compound that has these sort of built-in energy intermediaries. They're known in the chemical world as electron transport molecules and they function by either donating or taking energy that is necessary for the carrying out of chemical reactions."

"So why would the Eves be injecting themselves with that sort of compound?" Mulder asked, throwing a few more seeds into his mouth.

"As I also said before," Scully continued, "the same sort of electron transport elements are found in ATP molecules, the body's equivalent to an electric factory. ATP is found in nearly every living thing, down to the tiniest single-celled organism. It's a powerhouse that exists with one purpose: to drive chemical reactions."

"So the reason that the Eves have this compound is?" Mulder watched as Veckman reentered the room upstairs, flicked off the light, and grabbed something shiny off of the bedside table.

"Well, if what Eve 6 said is correct, that the clones all have five extra chromosomes, it might be difficult for the body to manage all the cellular processes necessary to keep itself stabilized. That is, if the body is used to carrying out the DNA replication and transcription of 46 chromosomes, but instead has to suddenly compensate for ten extra...well, if there was not enough energy to complete these processes, the result could have disastrous, debilitating consequences on the subject."

"So what you're saying," Mulder said, "is that somebody created this compound to, what? Provide the extra energy needed to complete the processes of those extra ten chromosomes?"

Scully shrugged, not sure if she even believed what she was saying. "That explanation would coincide with the other compounds present in the syringe," she told him.

Mulder raised an eyebrow as Veckman appeared at the front door and stepped into the brisk wind. He locked the door and advanced quickly to the black sedan waiting patiently on the drive. "What other compounds?" Mulder asked.

Scully checked the file she was holding in her hand. "Cholesterol, nitrogenous bases, inorganic phosphate, organic sugars."

"What would all that be used for?"

"Cholesterol is present at great quantities in the cellular membrane," Scully answered, "It's used as a strengthening tool."

"And the others?"

"The others constitute roughly the components of DNA, itself," she replied.

"So if the DNA processes aren't functioning correctly in the Eves," Mulder reasoned, "then it might be necessary to supplement those processes with their rough ingredients if it was desired to perfect the process that caused the other Eves to eventually disintegrate to mental debilitation."

"Theoretically," Scully responded, "but the socalled ingredients that I just described are
relatively large macromolecules. I don't know that they could be so easily injected into the bloodstream, cholesterol in particular."

"But theoretically," he pressed, "it's possible."

"Well, anything's possible in theory, Mulder," she replied, throwing a stray wisp of cleanly cut hair behind her hair, "That's why it's known as theory."

"Scully, if there was a place where this kind of scientific technology could be created, where would it be?"

"I'd have to look into Mulder," she told him, "but I'd have to say one of the most prestigious molecular biology units in the nation."

"Do me a favor, Scully," he asked, more of an order than a request, "Find that facility and its connection to Veckman."

"Mulder," she sighed, "do you know what day it is?"

"Sunday?" he asked.

"No, Mulder."

"Yes it is," he responded slyly, the faintest hint of a smile creeping onto his face, "that's what my watch says and Mr. Rolex doesn't lie."

"Well...yes," she fluttered, frustrated at the progression of their dialogue, "and you know, you've already made me miss Mass this morning."

"Don't worry, Scully," he replied, "God and I have a direct line. He told me that you're excused for the day...so long as you're bending to my every whim."

"Mulder," she spit angrily through the phone, "there is nothing that you could ever say to get me to do any kind of bending, period."

"Stop it, Scully. That's sexual harassment, and I don't have to take it."

"Like I was saying," she continued, "today is December 19th. There is less than a week until Christmas and I still don't have all my shopping done. I should be hitting the malls, not scrounging for some hidden connection between a doctor and a syringe."

"Scully, just do this for me and I'll get you the best present ever," he coddled.

She thought it over and then replied, "Okay, just this once. But it better be something good. Not another 'Super Plays of the Super Bowl'."

"'Superstars of the Super Bowl'," he corrected, "and it does my heart good to see that you've cherished it so fondly."

"Mulder," she began, but he interrupted her abruptly as Veckman started his car and drove away.

"Sorry, Scully," he said, "gotta go." He hung up without another word, started the engine, and followed at a secure distance.

"Jackass," Scully muttered, and threw her cell in her pocket.

University of Virginia
Microbiology Division
4:28 P.M.

"Ah, Agent Scully, yes? I'm so glad that you could make it."

Scully placed her soggy black umbrella in a trashcan by the door as a young man of average height rose to greet her. His face seemed to Scully a strange, but pleasing, mixture of boyish features and swarthy, roguish handsomeness. His jet-black hair provided the perfect contrast to his piercing blue eyes, which were framed by thin wire-framed glasses. The smile that emerged on his perfectly-formed mouth caused a similar grin to appear on her face as she shook his hand.

"Dr. Sutherman?" Scully questioned, as the man nodded in affirmation.

"You look as though you were expecting someone else," he said pleasantly, chuckling as though he were accustomed to such a reaction.

"Not someone else, someone older," she acknowledged, blushing slightly as she lowered her eyes to the floor.

"If truth be told," he replied, "I was expecting a fifty year old man with a pot-belly, gray-hair, and a penchant for exotic ties. Shows you what happens when you make assumptions based upon surnames and professions." He motioned for her to follow him out of the unkempt lab and into his meticulously neat office.

"Yes, well," Scully continued, taking a seat in front of his desk, "at any rate, it's an honor to meet you. I read your paper on the use of hematopoietic stem cells against activated oncogenes. It was quite groundbreaking research."

"You read that?" he asked, a bemused expression on his face, "Is a session in molecular biology now a prerequisite at Quantico?"

Scully smiled. "No," she explained, "I'm a scientist."

"Biologist?"

She shook her head. "Physicist. I'm a medical doctor, actually, but I always found molecular particularly interesting. I like to keep myself apprised of new findings."

He nodded his head approvingly. "So what brings you to my door, Dr. Scully? You obviously do not need to be guided by hand in order to examine new discoveries."

"Didn't the secretary inform you of the reason for my visit?"

"No," he responded, "All I was told was that you needed to correspond with me regarding some case you were on. I wasn't given the specifics."

"Then let me bring you up to speed," Scully began, "My partner and I are currently investigating a case based upon genetic tampering. We believe that the culprits are engaging in illegal cloning activity, experimentation conducted in an attempt to generate a more perfect specimen."

"A woman of your scientific background, Agent Scully, is probably aware that that is precisely what genetic research centers around, generating a more perfect specimen. In fact, most genetic research is conducted to better humankind, specifically. Since you read my paper, I'm sure you know that stem cell research is devoted to the prospect of alleviating the most debilitating of genetic and human-caused catastrophes, diseased organs, paralysis, things of that nature."

"Yes, Dr. Sutherman," she answered, "I am aware. But what if the scientists were not simply attempting to perfect the health of a certain person, but all people, instead?"

Sutherman furrowed his eyebrows. "I'm not quite sure I follow what it is you are saying," he told her.

Scully sighed, hoping not to lose her scientific respectability in the face of such an accomplished peer.

"I mean," she said, "what if eugenic
experimentation was being conducted in the hopes of creating better humans?"

"I wouldn't be surprised if it were," he answered, drawing in a breath and folding his hands neatly on his desk.

"You...wouldn't?" The words came out slowly as Scully registered her surprise.

"No, I wouldn't," Sutherman repeated, "Cloning experimentation has been carried out readily within the past decade, successfully within the past two years. The birth of Dolly in '97 triggered, in my opinion, a fascination in the scientific psyche. It seems now that everyone in the research community is attempting to get a piece of the pie, to use the cloning technology that is now available to turn a pretty profit by preying on the fears of the nation: people with dilapidating illnesses, parents who so long for a glimpse of their deceased child that they would allow a copy of that child to be produced. It seems that nothing is no longer sacred."

A look of extreme distaste clouded Scully's face. "But don't you find that...sick?"

"I do, indeed, Agent Scully," Sutherman confided, "Sick and also dangerous. And I'll tell you why. The clone that we know as Dolly the sheep was classified as successful, the reason for that being that Dolly was born healthy with all chromosomes intact. However, the successful Dolly was engineered only after the degradation of 276 other embryos. That is to say that it took 277 attempts until the process actually worked correctly. And that's just with a sheep. Think about what would happen if the same experiment was conducted on the more complex human, Agent Scully. Who knows what the product would be like? There could be physical disfigurement or mental dilapidation. And that's not even taking into consideration the ethical standpoints." Sutherman sighed deeply. "But with the lack of current legislation, geneticists are taking it to the limit, pushing the boundaries. Until Congress chooses to act, I fear that sheep will be only the beginning."

Sutherman paused from his diatribe to consult the wooden cherry clock on his desk.

"Now, Agent Scully," he said, rising to his feet, "I'll have to beg your forgiveness, but I must ask your leave. I have an interdepartmental meeting in ten minutes, and have yet to grab something to eat." He motioned towards the door.

"There is actually one last thing I need to ask you before I go, doctor," Scully answered, making no movement to get up from her seat. Sutherman reseated himself with an air of intense patience and asked her to continue.

"My partner and I are currently in the midst of a murder investigation. The victim was killed several weeks ago by a gunshot wound to the neck. At the crime scene, we found a syringe that contained several chemical components, one of which was a synthetic organic compound exhibiting unique properties." Scully reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out the lab results she had received earlier that day, handing them to Sutherman. His eyes widened as he skimmed through the papers.

"You say that this was found in a syringe?" he asked.

"That's right," Scully responded, nodding her head.

"Well," Sutherman said, "if the components listed here were, indeed, in the syringe, then perhaps the murderer might have killed her by lethal injection. Certainly, injecting cholesterol directly into the bloodstream can cause death. These
macromolecules are simply too big to dissolve into the veins."

The glanced up briefly and noticed an odd expression quickly creep onto his interviewer's face. However, it faded just as quickly, and the doctor thought little of it.

"That might be a possibility," Scully answered, "except that the bullet wound in the victim's head was a pretty clear indication of death."

"Oh, right." The doctor nodded his head and handed her back the results.

"Besides," she continued, "I have reason to believe that this particular chemical cocktail didn't so much hinder the victim. Rather, I believe it helped."

"In what way?" Sutherman asked.

"It's not important now," she replied, "What is important is that when I consulted the leading authority at Quantico concerning places capable of producing the synthetic compound you just saw on that report, I was told that this was the only lab that would be able to handle such a task."

A supremely unexpressive look of contemplation fell on Sutherman's face.

"What precisely are you asking me now, Agent Scully?" he questioned, "Whether I know of any involvement of my lab in the production of this chemical that was found in a syringe at a crime scene?"

"Do you?"

"Absolutely not," he replied.

"And if anyone in this lab could produce such a compound, it would be you, wouldn't it? Don't you also have a background in organic chemistry?"

"Yes," he said, "I do. And I am not too modest to say that if anyone could produce this compound, it would probably be none other than myself. However, I can assure you that I have much more important matters on my plate than synthesizing some chemical which the body produces in immense stores on its own. Now if you don't mind..." the tone was more insistent this time and a note of finality hung in the air as he once again rose from his chair, "I must be getting to that meeting." He handed her a card. "If you have any more questions, please, don't hesitate to call."

"Thank you for your time," Scully replied, rising from her seat and advancing towards the door. Upon reaching the threshold, she stopped and turned around, glancing at him a final time. "By the way, doctor," she asked innocently, "how did you know that the victim was a woman?"

Sutherman's face still bore the stoic look from their earlier confrontation. "You must have mentioned it," he replied simply.

"Huh," Scully said, "you're probably right." And with that, she turned back towards the door, grabbed her umbrella, and departed from the room.

Sutherman watched her leave and a scowl erupted ever-so-slightly on his face. He walked back into his office, and turned to close the door. Thunder rumbled softly in the night. When he turned back towards his desk, they were standing in front of the back door. A terrible mixture of innocence and intent glistened on their faces, illuminated by the stormy lightening.

"Girls," he said, jumping at the sound of a loud thunderclap, "you startled me."

"You made a mistake," the one on the left said.

"You made a mistake," the one on the right repeated, in exactly the same sing-song voice.

"It's okay," he told them, taking a seat in the chair where Agent Scully had just been seated, "she doesn't suspect anything."

"She knows," the left one said, advancing towards Sutherman on one side of the chair, "It's obvious."

"She'll be coming back with a warrant any day now," the right one finished for her, walking around towards his right side.

Even after all this time, it was still amazing to Sutherman. He knew that they were two separate physical people, and yet, it was like they were of one mind, one omniscient entity that could pervade his mind and see into his deepest thoughts.

"She doesn't know," he repeated firmly, "and even if she did, there's no way that she could ever link either of you or Veckman to this facility. The compound is hidden away safely. She'll never find it."

"We found it," the one on the left said, pulling a vial from behind her back and holding it up to the light.

"It was easy," the one on the right added.

The two girls were now standing directly next to him. He wasn't exactly sure why, but their proximity made him a little uneasy.

"How...how did you find it?" he stuttered.

The girls looked at each other and smiled broadly.

"We're geniuses," they said together, as if the truth in this statement was not merely obvious, but self-explanatory.

"You made a mistake," the one on the left repeated, "and now that we know the location of your entire store of serum..."

"...you're expendable," the girl on the right finished. She pulled a syringe from behind her back and flicked it malevolently. A burst of liquid issued forth from the needle. They were both laughing as the one on the right plunged the needle deep into Sutherman's arm. It was as if he could actually feel the serum coursing through his veins. As he lapsed into convulsions, he whispered the word that they had been asked on several previous occasions.

"Why?"

"We don't know," the one on the left said.

"You tell us," the one on the right said, "you made us."

"You made us," the one on the left finished.

The darkness took him over as thunder rumbled violently through the sky.

5:13 P.M.

Scully opened her umbrella against the darkening heavens. Wondering silently if the rain would ever cease, she advanced toward her car and pulled the keys from her pocket. She was still fumbling with them when a hand reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder. The keys slipped from her hand as a ripple of fear swept through her stomach. Grabbing for her gun, she turned around to face her attacker.

"Hey, watch that thing! You're going to put someone's eye out!"

Scully put the safety on and pulled the gun back so that it faced the sky. "Jesus, Mulder!" she cried, placing it safely behind her back, "You scared the hell out of me!" She brushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear and bent down to pick up the dropped keys, but was preempted by Mulder who already had them in his hands.

"Thank you," Scully said as he placed them back in her palm, "but, Mulder, what are you doing here? I didn't tell you where I was going."

"I followed Veckman," he told her, taking the umbrella from her hand as she renewed her attempt to find the correct key.

"He's here?"

She turned her attention from the keyring to Mulder's eyes. They were filled with the excitement that always appeared when the investigation began to get interesting.

Mulder nodded. "He pulled in the back about two minutes ago. I was following him when I saw you." A grin spread across his face. "Imagine my surprise."

Her response was interrupted by the sound of tires screeching on the wet pavement. The agents attempted to shield their eyes from the glare of the blinding headlights barreling down upon them. Scully turned her head as the light became unbearable but Mulder was able to just make out the shadowy figures in the car.

"He has them, Scully," he yelled as the car drove off into the night, "He has them."

"Has who, Mulder?" she asked.

"Eves 9 and 10."

A look of horror came over her face as comprehension dawned. She threw the keys back into his hands as she bolted back towards the front door. Mulder followed her lead up the stairs, through the corridor, and back into the lab where she had just departed only moments before. She was the first to enter Sutherman's office and the first to see his lifeless body sprawled in the chair facing his desk.

"Jesus, Scully," Mulder said softly, "what the hell did you do to him?"

5:52 P.M.

"I can't believe he's gone. He was just sitting here a half hour ago."

Scully's body sunk heavily into the plush leather chair that was situated behind the desk of the now former Dr. Sutherman. She threw her elbows on her legs and shielded her face with her hands.

"What do we do now?"

Mulder pulled up a chair next to her and took a seat. He handed her one of coffees he had bought at the local Wawa after placing a call to the police.

"Now we find Veckman," he answered,
"Veckman and those psychotic demon twins. I've already put out an A.P.B. on the license and make of the car."

He gave his partner a long and penetrating gaze as she thankfully took the Styrofoam cup from his hand.

"Scully," he asked, furrowing his brows as she took a careful sip, "what's wrong?"

"What's wrong," she responded, slamming her cup on the desk, "is that I should have trusted my instincts. If I had only listened to myself, I would have hauled his ass straight downtown. At least he would have been safe in protective custody."

"It's not your fault, Scully," Mulder told her, "You can't dance with the devil and expect not to get burned."

"I know that inside, Mulder," she answered slowly, "but I can't help feeling that I played a role in this." She averted her eyes as she absentmindedly waved her hand in the direction of Sutherman's chalk outline.

"I think you're upset because you liked him," Mulder said quietly.

"Of course I liked him," Scully responded, "He was young, amiable, and extremely intelligent. Did you know that he discovered that
hematopoietic stem cells could possibly be used to circumvent cancerous cell lines?"

She suddenly looked extremely excited, almost giddy. Mulder, on the other hand, seemed less than enthusiastic.

"Yeah, well, whatever. Anyway, you don't need to feel responsibility for something you have no control over. It was Sutherman's connection to Veckman that got him killed, not your inability to stop it." He patted her shoulder comfortingly and then began to look through the room.

"Hey, Scully," he called out after a couple of minutes, "Come here a second." Scully stood up, took a few sips from her coffee, and walked over to where he was standing.

"I don't think the Children of the Corn were making some random hit," he told her.

"Of course they weren't. You, yourself, said you followed Veckman here. He had to have been meeting with Sutherman."

"I know," Mulder replied, "but they didn't kill him for pure sport. They had a better motivation. Look here." He pointed into a safe that he had been rummaging through. Glancing inside, Scully noted the presence of a stack of computer cds, all neatly labeled and color coordinated, corresponding with a key taped to the inside of the safe door. All of the cds were accounted for, with one notable exception. In the space where the cd labeled 'Litchfield Project: Structures and Mechanisms' should have been standing tall, a gaping hole was all that remained.

The Magic Bullet
Takoma Falls, VA
10:28 P.M.

"Thirty-six gigs, five-thousand megs RAM. This baby is state of the art!"

Langly's nostrils flared excitedly as he turned the pc over and over in his hands. His blue eyes doubled in size behind his large, black, square frames.

"You can tell that just by looking?" Mulder asked, pulling off his soggy jacket and throwing it haphazardly onto a side table stacked with old editions of 'The Lone Gunmen.'

"Of course," he replied, plugging the computer into an already overloaded surge protector and booting it up, "I get a weekly subscription to 'Hardware Now'. It has all the latest, up-to-date innovations in the computing world. Oh, yeah. Listen to that baby purr."

Frohike turned his attention from the box filled with the cds that Mulder had dumped in his lap to his blond-headed friend. "Man, you've really got to get laid."

Langly took his hands off the keyboard only long enough to give Frohike the finger, to which Byers announced his disapproval.

Mulder placed his hands on the top of Langly's fold-out chair and leaned over him. "C'mon, now," he admonished them, "play nice. I need you to tell me everything you can about this system's hard drive."

"What specifically are you looking for, Mulder?" Byers asked.

"There were some files on this computer that were transferred to a cd," Mulder explained, gesturing towards the collection now in Frohike's possession, "Scully looked for them at the crime scene, but she thinks that they were deleted."

"Ah, the luscious Agent Scully," Frohike interrupted, licking his lips ever-so-subtly, "And where is our little crimson vixen now?"

"I took her home, Frohike. It's been a long day."

"Put her to bed, did you?" he asked, arching his eyebrows.

Mulder turned to him and threw him an angry glare. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"C'mon, Mulder," he said, drawing out each word slowly with staccato-like precision, "you can tell us. We're your friends. I mean, you expect us to believe that after seven years together there's never been any..."

"Any what?" Mulder hissed through his teeth.

"Any desire to take separate cars," Byers finished, throwing Frohike a warning glare, "I mean, separate cars would certainly cut down on all that in between time, leave you more time for investigation and all of that." He laughed nervously.

Mulder was about to explain how they did, in fact, take separate cars and then went back to the Bureau to reevaluate the case, and how the long hours of research had made Scully so tired that she didn't feel comfortable being on the road, so there was no other recourse except to drive her home, but he decided that that was all unnecessary information. Instead, he asked Langly about the possibilities of finding the deleted files.

"Normally it'd be easier than Jenna Jameson on a hot summer day. These systems usually hide backup files away in the DOS dat
construct."

"Usually?" Mulder asked, evidently becoming increasingly irritated.

"Sorry, man," Langly said, shrugging his spindly shoulders, "No dice. The entire operating system has been completely worked over. Somebody didn't want you to see something you shouldn't be seeing."

"Damn it!" Mulder said, slamming his fists down on Langly's chair.

"Ow, man!" he cried, somewhat offended, "That hurt!"

"Langly," Mulder continued, "I need to know where the Eves are heading. They've already killed twice since their escape. Who knows what they're capable of next? We need to find them before they disappear. I mean, who the hell knows where they could be by now?"

"I do," Frohike answered.

"What?"

"I know where they're heading," Frohike repeated, "Pennsylvania."

"How the hell do you know that?" Langly demanded.

"Yeah, Frohike," Byers added, shooting his friend a quizzical look, "I didn't see anything out of the ordinary when Langly scanned the hard drive."

"You know the funny thing about computer geeks, Mulder?" he asked, turning to face the lanky agent.

"What's that?"

"All the hacking skills of the great Thinker himself won't get you shit in the pot if you don't know how to read." He held up the back of one of the cd cases for everyone to see.

Mulder took it in his hands and read the sticker aloud: "If found, please return to..."

Dr. Lamniture Residence
198 David's Crossing
Lansing, PA
December 20, 1999
8:42 P.M.

"Yeah. Okay. Thanks."

Mulder clicked off his cell and stored it in his pocket.

"The boys said that Lamniture is an associate of Veckman's," he told Scully, who had just returned from circling the house, "apparently some kind of prodigy in the field of genetics. According to the records that the guys hacked, Lamniture got paid to do some sort of
consultation for Veckman." He glanced up at her, his hazel eyes unusually dark and pensive, "Two guesses what the topic of conversation centered around."

She put her hands to her hips, her professional, yet feminine suit conforming tightly to her more shapely curves. "You think he's connected to the Litchfield Experiments?" she asked.

"Let's just say that I find it to be quite a coincidence that the good doctor receives a hefty government pension each year though he's a little lacking in military service."

Scully raised her eyebrows and then turned her attention to the sweeping three-story mansion behind her.

"He hides it well," she scoffed under her breath, and turned back to face Mulder, "So what's the plan?"

"The plan is we go in there and get him out before Eves 9 and 10 get to him first." Mulder pulled the gun from his hip and advanced toward the front door. Scully followed suit. As they neared the front porch, the sound of a loud thud greeted them. Scully glanced at Mulder, who nodded his head in response, motioning for her to take the back. He watched as her red head bobbed out of sight, then steadied himself as he prepared to enter the darkened house. With his right hand on his Glock, he tried the knob with his left hand, which, to his surprise, was unlocked. He traversed the threshold with the caution of a seasoned officer. He entered the main hall and noted the pair of swirling staircases on either side, flanked by numerous golden ornaments. The beautiful wooden floor was carpeted only by a single, elaborate Oriental rug, and a large mirror at the summit of the steps reflected the silvery moonlight.

Mulder checked the foyer and the adjoining rooms. Seeing no one, he backtracked and advanced up one of the two marble staircases. The steps emptied into a lavishly-decorated hall which contained at least ten doors on either side. Mulder continued down the hall, not stopping to check any of the doors, and finally found himself facing a set of great oaken double doors. Pulling the doors wide, he entered a magnificent solarium, complete with makeshift pools and flourishing foliage. The great glass walls that contained the room were so spotless that Mulder felt sure he could see for miles in every direction.

He was glancing at the goldfish swimming carelessly in an ornate pond when a sudden blur of black caught his eye. Someone was watching him. Moving quickly down the center row, Mulder advanced towards the place where he had seen the person standing. No one was there. He stood still for a minute, deciding exactly which path to take. As he was about to advance, the sound of a bullet echoed throughout the house.

"Scully!" Mulder whispered out loud. He retraced his steps, back by the pool, out through the oak doors, and down through the hall. As he ran, he could see the rough outline of someone standing by the stairs, hands leaning calmly on the banister. His first thought was that it was Scully, but as he progressed, he could see this person was a little taller and a little lankier than his partner. As he neared, the person came into focus. Her black hair was untidy and her clothes, rumpled. She turned around to face him. The light reflected off the mirror and illuminated her eyes, giving them an eerie, psychotic quality.

"Don't move," Mulder cautioned, aiming his gun directly at her forehead, "You may be a superhuman, but even you can't dodge a bullet."

For a second, Eve's face appeared serene, even unaware that a gun was pointed at her head. Then, slowly, the thinnest of smiles began to curl upon her lips. She chuckled softly to herself, her eyes askance, skipping this way and that.

"What's so God-damned funny?" he asked, his head shaking with rage.

"It's just that," she replied, halting her response every now and again between bursts of laughter, "I was just thinking the same thing about you."

"Yeah," Mulder said, "well I guess it takes one to know one." He grabbed for his cuffs. "Put your hands behind your head and turn around slowly."

Eve didn't move. Her face still bore the toothy smile.

"I said put your hands behind your head."

As she shook her head 'no,' she pointed a long, bony finger to the wooden floor. His eyes were drawn to the moonlit shadows. Where there had been two previously, a third was now situated. From the corner of his eye, he could see the glint of steel reflected in the mirror.

"Don't move, Agent Mulder," he heard the same cold voice speak from behind him as he felt the circular metal dig uncomfortably into his back.

Mulder snarled his lip as his brilliant eyes flashed in disgust. He mentally kicked himself for being so careless as he slowly raised his hands, gun and all, towards the heavens. Eve 9 giggled girlishly as she stepped forward from the banister and grabbed the government-issued Glock directly from Mulder's right hand.

"Where's Dr. Lamniture?" he asked precariously, stalling for time as he quickly attempted to formulate a plan.

"I don't think it very prudent for you to be asking the questions right now, Agent Mulder," Eve 10 informed him, as she maliciously jabbed the gun into his back.

"No, no," Eve 9 interjected, stepping back from Mulder with his own weapon pointed against him, "not prudent at all. Especially with two guns pointed directly at you." Her yellowed teeth glistened in the moonlight as she smirked at her sister-in-arms. "I mean, we are homicidal maniacs, after all. Isn't that right, Agent Mulder? Isn't that the psychological profile that you keep in your government records?"

"Well," Mulder replied, "you know what they say. If the strait-jacket fits..."

"Very funny," Eve 10 said dryly, giving his spine another jab.

"Move," Eve 9 ordered, motioning down the steps with the gun.

They descended the stairs one by one, an unholy procession lit, not by the luminescence of some sanctified candle but by the sepulchral gleam of the silvery moon. By the time they reached the base, Mulder could see that there was someone else standing in the shadows. As he approached, he could see the face illuminated by the light of the moon.

"Good evening, Agent Mulder," Dr. Veckman said, "so nice to see you again."

"It's a pity that I can't say the same," Mulder responded, his face curling up in distaste, "Where's Lamniture, Veckman?"

Veckman removed the black gloves from his hands and placed them neatly in his jacket pockets. As the pockets ruffled with his movement, a small red smear became visible to the left of his tie. "I'm afraid he's indisposed at the moment," Veckman said sneeringly, "It was quite tragic. Slashed his wrists. But he did leave a note. Something about not being able to take the pressure. His professional life was destroying his marriage. Terrible, really."

"Slashed?" Mulder said softly, as he processed the fact that he had heard gunshots only moments before.

"That's right, Agent Mulder," Veckman replied, nodding his head as a sinister grin appeared on his face, "I do hope that you're not under the misapprehension that that pretty little partner of yours is going to be of any help. I wouldn't want to instill you with any false hope."

Mulder lunged at him, his anger overriding the comprehension that two guns were pointed directly at him. Mulder had just grabbed the collar of his shirt when he felt four strong arms grab him from behind. He attempted to shake himself from their grasp, but it was to no avail.

"If anything happened to her," he screamed, "I will kill you, you God-damned son of a bitch!"

Veckman smoothed his shirt and straightened his jacket.

"Is that a threat, Agent Mulder?" he asked calmly.

"That's a promise, you motherfucking piece of shit."

"You better take a rest Agent Mulder," Veckman announced unexpectedly, readjusting his tie and giving a nod to the girls, "Tomorrow's going to be a long day."

Mulder saw red as he felt something hard and painful come down upon the top of his head. Then there was nothing but the smile on Veckman's lips and the suffocating screen of darkness.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Philadelphia, PA
December 21, 1999
4:52 A.M.

Skinner gave the double doors leading to the emergency room a healthy push and strode quickly towards the front desk. His long, black coat was trailing in midair behind him as he pulled his identification wallet from his front pocket. He held it up to the pudgy, red-headed receptionist's eyelevel, saying aloud as she read, "Assistant Director Skinner, FBI. One of my agents was brought in here late last night."

"Ah, yes," she replied, giving him her best winning smile, "Ms. Scolly, isn't it?"

"It's Scully," he replied, ignoring her attempts at unwelcome seduction, "Special Agent Dana Scully. Could you please show me to her room?"

"Of course," the receptionist replied, flashing another great grin, "right away. Consider me at your disposal."

"Disposal being the operative word," Skinner muttered to himself, as he followed her penguinlike waddle down a long corridor and into the Intensive Care unit. When they finally arrived, she stopped and turned to face him.

"She only got out of surgery a few hours ago, the poor dear. She might still be a little groggy."

Skinner glanced through the small, wired window at the burst of fiery hair emanating from beneath the white sheets. Then, he turned back towards the receptionist.

"Don't hesitate to let me know if you need anything," she said, and with that, she proceeded back towards the main floor. Skinner took one last long look through the door, then turned the knob and walked in.

"Scully?" he asked, coming to a halt directly beside her, "Scully, can you hear me?" She stirred a little, but did not respond.

"Scully," he tried again, placing her hand in his, "can you hear me? I need you to wake up. I need your help." Scully's tiny framed stirred again, but this time, her eyes flashed open, too, slowly, groggily, at first, but then steady against the brightness of the room.

"Sir?" she asked. Her voice sounded confused, distant, and very, very tired. She tried to raise herself into a seated position, but let out a moan of pain as her right hand cradled the left of her stomach.

"No, don't try to sit up," Skinner cautioned, stopping her movement and placing her softly back on the bed.

"What happened?" she asked, feeling through the thin hospital gown to the stitched gash below.

"The officer who called the Bureau said that you were found shot in the home of murdered physician. Apparently, the neighbors reported hearing several gunshots last night, and they called the police, lucky for you." He gave her a stern, paternal look of mixed concern and aggravation. "When are you and Mulder going to start being more careful? You're going to get yourself killed one of these days."

"Mulder," Scully repeated, "where is he? I need to talk to him." She once again tried to sit up.

"Calm down, Scully," he said, "Take it easy."

"Where is he sir?" she asked again, "I need to see him right away."

"He's not here, Scully," Skinner told her, "I think something is wrong. He wasn't at the house when the police got there, and I know he wouldn't have left you."

"They've taken him," she said, realization dawning like the flick of a switch, "They need him."

"Who needs him for what?" Skinner asked, "What's going on?"

"Sir," she replied, "I need to get out of here. They've taken him, and I know where they're going."

2 Gemini Ln.
Bethseda, MD
7:28 A.M.

"Ah, he's waking up."

Mulder forced his eyes open, straining hard against the dull throbbing above his nose and below his forehead. At first, he thought that his eyes were still closed, the darkness was so strong all around him. Soon, however, he began to realize that the darkness wasn't in his head, but in the room. As he struggled to sit up, he felt a sudden burst of pain in the back of his head. He tried to reach back to feel out the cause, but he soon discovered that his arms were bound behind his back. Nevertheless, without even placing a hand on his head, he was fairly sure that a long gash was now residing there.

"Uh, uh, uh," he heard one of the Eves say, her breath hot and sticky on the back of his neck, "Now that's not a very good idea." She kicked him in the stomach so that the lack of air forced him to roll on his back, struggling for breath. She straddled herself on his waist and folded her arms over his chest, resting her chin on her hands. "You wouldn't want to go hurting yourself, now, Agent Mulder," she continued, "You could strain a muscle or dislocate your shoulder. And we wouldn't want that. We need you nice and healthy for tonight's little adventure."

"Going on a treasure hunt, are we?" Mulder asked slowly between gasps of breath.

"Precisely," said the other Eve. Her voice originated from somewhere behind him. His eyes were finally beginning to adjust to the darkness and for the first time, he was able to make out the dark curtains that were covering the tinted windows of the warehouse. "We will be going on a treasure hunt tonight, Agent Mulder, and you will be the map, our guide to the greatest treasure in the world."

"You want me to help you find a way to deflower Britney Spears? If I had known how to do that, believe you me, it would have been done a long time ago."

"Funny," the first Eve said, sitting up roughly. She made sure to give Mulder one last hard shove in the gut before she stood. "No, Agent Mulder. You're going to help us acquire a certain little disk whose contents hold the greatest weapon imaginable: information."

"Information," Mulder chuckled softly to himself as he repeated the word, "Oh, I see. You're going to use me to, what? Help you uncover the government's dirty little secrets? Well, here's a little information that I can give you, free of charge. There are some secrets that I don't have access to. And you know what? Those are usually the secrets that you want to get."

"Oh, but you have access to these secrets, Agent Mulder," the second Eve said, "or rather, we have access to these secrets, with a little help from your FBI badge."

"It seems the good doctors Lamniture and Sutherman were having second thoughts about providing us with the results of their research," Eve 10 informed him, "even after the tidy sum that our father, Dr. Veckman, had the
government pay in order to facilitate their cooperation."

Mulder glanced up at Veckman. "You got the government to fund the genetic research of two scientists whose information you were going to use to turn traitor and improve the health of these clones whose lives they helped create?"

Veckman nodded and shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm impressed."

"Imagine our surprise when the traitors doublecrossed us," Eve 10 continued, "and went to the government. They gave them everything they had, everything they found, all of it. Years of research, wasted." An angry gleam flashed across her eyes. "That is, it would have been wasted, stored away in a government facility. Until tonight. And that's where you come in."

"Assuming I could even get in," Mulder said, "why would I ever help you?"

"Didn't we tell you, Agent Mulder?" Eve 9 asked.

"This disk is very special," Eve 10 said, "It contains all sorts of information, all the work that Lamniture and Sutherman did throughout their lives. Cures for multiple diseases, AIDS, cancer."

"And this interests me how?" Mulder asked.

"It also has information regarding human experimentation and attempted alien hybridization," Eve 10 replied acidly, "If in the right hands, it could aid in the creation of a vaccine, a vaccine against the very virus I believe that you, yourself, were exposed to three years ago, the same virus that nearly transformed your partner into an alien incubator last year."

"And your hands are the right ones? Why would I ever help you, especially after what you did to Scully?"

"Agent Scully is currently resting comfortably in a hospital bed," Veckman responded, "but she might not be comfortable for long. Do you know how often terrible accidents occur in hospitals? How often an excess dosage of morphine is administered accidentally? It's so easy you know, as a doctor, to just slip it right into the I.V.."

"Are you threatening her?" Mulder asked.

"Yes, I am," Veckman replied, "And I'm threatening you, too. If you do not help us, Agent Scully will die. And then so will you." He turned on his heels and walked quickly from the room.

Eve 9 bent down and gave Mulder a peck on the cheek as she followed Veckman and Eve 10 out of the warehouse, leaving him alone, in the dark, to contemplate his decision.

Gregor Mendel Laboratory for Scientific Advancement
Washington, D.C.
23rd and Pennsylvania Ave.
December 22, 1999
1:29 A.M.

"The morning shift comes on in exactly one minute. Get ready to go."

Eve 9 through placed her inky-black hair back neatly in a ponytail and slipped into a pristine white lab coat. After buttoning it, she attached the fake identification to her pocket and viewed herself in the mirror.

"Perfect," Eve 10 said, nodding approvingly.

"One of the benefits of being a clone," Eve 9 answered, "Ready-made disguise."

Eve 10 smiled widely. "You ready for this?" she asked.

"I'm not the one you should worry about," Eve 9 replied, turning behind her to glance at the now unbound Mulder in the backseat.

"Oh, we don't have to worry about that, do we, Agent Mulder?" Veckman locked his eyes onto Mulder's. "Agent Mulder will not even be considering causing any trouble for us, will you, Agent Mulder? Or else..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Or else-" Mulder drew his hand horizontally against his throat and made a choking noise.

"So glad you decided to cooperate with us, Agent Mulder," Eve 9 said, opening the sliding car door and stepping out onto the paved road.

"It's the thrill of my life," Mulder said under his breath, as he followed Eve 9 and Veckman towards the front gate. The small party came to a stop in front of a glass-paneled cubby where a well-built and well-armed guard was now standing.

"Special Agent Fox Mulder with the Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said, holding up his identification for the guard's perusal, "Escorting doctors Sally Kindrick and Veckman."

The guard raised an eyebrow, a shadow of suspicion obvious in the corners of his eyes. He picked up the clipboard in front of him and gazed through the names. "I don't have you in my records, Agent Mulder, and I was not informed otherwise of your arrival."

"Last minute project," Mulder explained, "We need a DNA test on a suspect run right away. If we don't get the results in by 10:30 tomorrow, a serial murderer could walk. You wouldn't want that on your conscience now, would you?"

"Of course not," the guard answered defensively, "but your name isn't on the list. Besides, don't you normally run those tests over at Quantico?"

"Usually," Mulder replied, "But they had to close their labs down. There was a spill earlier this morning."

The guard still seemed unconvinced.

"Listen," Mulder said, "why don't you just run my badge number so that we can get in there and do what we get paid to do."

The guard was willing to do at least that much. He picked up the phone and dialed. After getting authorization, he handed Mulder back his badge and apologized briefly for giving him a hard time.

"No problem," Mulder answered as the alarm buzzed softly and the door slid back, permitting their entry.

The trio entered the eerily vacant building, their footsteps reverberating off the freshly painted walls. They proceeded first down a long, pristine hallway, then turned down another when Veckman indicated that they do so. As they continued, Mulder glanced up at the sound of a tiny machine turning. It was a camera. The hall was lined with them. As quickly and inconspicuously as possible, he looked up, straight into the lens. He wanted to make sure that Big Brother would get a good glimpse of his face. If Scully was, as Veckman had said, still alive, he was sure that she would have every available agent searching for his whereabouts. As he turned his attention once more in front of him, Eve turned and eyed him suspiciously.

"What were you doing?" she asked.

"Nothing," Mulder answered, "Just wondering if you were sure that we're going the right way."

"I visited this facility briefly in my early years when I was working for the government," Veckman said, "They keep all of their dirtier little secrets in the next hall over."

"How do you know that they didn't change everything around?" Mulder asked.

Veckman stopped in his tracks and glanced at Mulder with a look of amusement in his eyes. "It's a governmental facility, Agent Mulder," he said, "Any information that I want from those who work within it can be gained. You just have to know who's the right person to buy."

With that, they journeyed on, turning down a final hall that seemed oddly darker than those previously visited. After bypassing a couple of doors, Veckman came to a stop.

"This is it," he said, he eyes widening with excitement. He punched a couple of numbers into the lock by the door and watched as the green light lit. "We're in." He pushed the door wide and they entered a room filled with filing cabinets stacked to the ceiling. Veckman led them straight down the center aisle where an immense vault, like those found within a bank, slowly came into focus.

"It's in there," Veckman babbled excitedly, "just through this door."

"Wow," Mulder said unenthusiastically, "they hide their secrets so well." He looked over at Veckman who was wringing his fingers with delight. "What now?" he asked.

"Now you open that door, Agent Mulder."

"Sorry," he responded, "I'm afraid I left my heat vision in my other jacket this morning."

"You stupid son of a bitch," Veckman said, "Haven't you noticed that everything in this building is computerized? All you have to do is type your badge number in to that computer console. It's all the authorization you need."

Mulder gave him a look that could kill. Muttering under his breath, he walked towards his computer and put his badge number into keyboard. After a few seconds, the sound of a pressure lock being thrown back could be heard and the heavy, leaden door began creaking slowly back into the wall. Filing cabinets lined the walls of this room, too, but in the center of the room, sitting securely on what looked like an ancient Greek pillar, was a solitary cd jewel case.

"This is it," Veckman said, picking up the case and holding it delicately between his fingers, "We finally have it."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, a large, red light began flashing at the back of the room as an alarm beeped loudly in unison.

"You idiot!" Eve 9 screamed, "You tripped an alarm!"

"I...I'm sorry," Veckman stammered, "I didn't mean to..."

As Mulder smirked haughtily in the background, the door leading to the main room began to roll back into place, attempting to seal the robbers in with their shortly held goods.

"Come on!" Eve called to the two men, as she began running quickly out of the room. Mulder was about "accidentally" seal himself in the room when Veckman reminded him what would happen to his partner if he did not follow. Mulder grudgingly followed the pair, who ran back through the first room and out into the hall. The sound of footsteps could be heard advancing from the direction in which they entered.

"There's a back way out," Veckman said, "Follow me." He took off running in the opposite direction and led the group through a cascade of winding hallways and staircases. When they finally turned the last knob to the last of many doors that had come through, they were pleased to find that their exit was hidden well by ornate bushes and tree growth. In addition, the clouds that had been looming in the sky all day had covered the bright, beaming moon, leaving in their wake only a completely blackened night sky. Climbing onto a tree that was placed in a fortuitous position, the three jumped over the tall perimeter fence and fell hard onto the ground. Sitting calmly in front of them was Veckman's black sedan.

Opening the door to the front seat, Veckman asked Eve 10, "How did you know to meet us back here."

"I just knew," she answered, tossing Eve 9 a strange look of unilateral knowledge.

They drove in silence for what seemed like hours. Eve 10 stared blankly out the window,
concentrating on nothing but the road as she directed the car out of D.C., and then through a series of darkened country roads. Veckman brushed his fingers almost lovingly against the cover of the jewel case while Eve 9 gazed unabashedly in Mulder's direction, who was obviously deep in thought.

"What are you thinking?" she asked finally, bringing an end to the overbearing silence.

"I'm thinking..." he began, but his voice trailed quickly off.

After another hour or so, Eve 10 finally brought the car to a stop. "Everyone out," she ordered.

As Mulder slid the door back and stepped from the sedan, he looked uneasily about his surroundings. They were standing by a dilapidated shack that was cornered on all sides by an abundance of pines. Towards the back of the house, a canyon stood silhouetted against the moon, which had once again arisen from behind the overcast night. It was Veckman, however, who voiced his concern.

"Girls, what are we doing here? I thought we were going to head north? Why did we stop?"

"We needed to get rid of some unnecessary baggage," Eve 10 said, glancing in Mulder's direction.

"That's right," Eve 9 said, giggling excitedly as she pulled a gun from behind her back, "We've been meaning to do this for a long time." She raised the gun at Mulder's chest, who eyed her with trepidation.

"Wait," he began, stalling for time while he thought of an escape, "you don't want to..." But he never got a chance to finish his sentence. Eve 9 turned the gun from Mulder's chest to Veckman's and fired. He gazed at her for a second,
uncomprehending. As he began to process what had just transpired, he reached his hands to the wound and drew them back. He stared first at the blood on his palms, then turned his wide-eyed attention to the girls he had perceived as daughters. "Why?" he asked, as his legs gave out beneath him and he fell to the ground.

The twin faces of Eve 9 and 10 appeared over him. In the hand of Eve 9 was the gun, still puffing out thin but steady vapors of smoke.

"You tell us," Eve 9 said.

"You made us," Eve 10 said, taking the gun from the hand of her genetic sister and firing a final bullet into the brain of their former guardian. She turned next to Mulder, who had planned on making a mad dash to the car, but decided he needed to formulate a new plan once he realized the keys were no longer in the ignition.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked, still hoping to buy some time.

"I thought you would understand, Agent Mulder," Eve 10 said, aiming the gun once again in his direction.

"Especially after what they did to your sister," Eve 9 added.

"Samantha?" he asked, suddenly losing interest in planning any escape, "What has all of this got to do with Samantha? What do you know about what they did to her?"

"Samantha?" Eve 9 repeated. She let out a great bellow of laughter that echoed across the mountains and down through the ravine below. She glanced at Eve 10 as she wiped a tear from her eye. "Who said anything about Samantha?"

"You were," Mulder said, advancing towards the pair even though a bullet was pointed directly at his heart, "You said that I should understand why you were doing this because of my sister." By this time, he was so close that, if he had taken one step closer, he would have felt the cold metal of the gun against his body.

"We weren't talking about Samantha," Eve 10 said, "We were talking about the other one..." Her words were cut short as a bullet rang out through the night.

Eve 9 looked about wildly through the forest as Eve 10 fell to the ground. For the first time, they both looked terrified. Mulder pulled Eve 9 down to forest floor as the last signs of life drained from Eve 10's eyes. Mulder checked her pulse. She was gone. He dragged Eve 9 on his hands and his knees to the back of the car, hoping to gain shelter from their unseen assailant. When they arrived at the back, a car drove up the road towards them. The headlights were so bright that he could only make out the silhouette of the person driving. Shading his eyes, he could feel his body grow tense as he asked "Who's there?"

A tall, built man stepped from the car, the headlights still on. "It's Skinner, Mulder."

"Skinner?" Mulder repeated, relieved at once. He reminded himself to thank Scully the next time he saw her. "How did you know I was out here?" he asked.

"I suggest we save the explanations for another time, Mulder. Now get your ass in the car."

Mulder dragged Eve 9 to the waiting car and threw her in the back seat. He locked the doors as he took his place on the passenger's side. When they were driving safely down the road, he turned back to face Eve 9.

"What did she mean, 'the other one'?" he asked, "Who was she talking about?"

"The other one of what, Mulder?" Skinner questioned, but Mulder ignored him.

"What did she mean, Eve? Who was she talking about?"

As Eve 9 squirmed uncomfortably, the glass in the rear driver's side window burst into a million shards. Eve 9 fell over in her seat as blood began to ooze from her temple. Skinner brought the car to a stop as he turned back to see what had happened. As Mulder broke into chorus of four-letter words, he could feel a tightness enveloping his whole body. It was as if the very blood in his veins was choking him to death. In the rearview mirror, he could see the familiar blue as the veins in his head began to rise. He could also make out the shadowy figure of a man walking towards the car. Skinner knew who it was before he even saw his face.

"Krycek!" Mulder said. He was now out of the car and lunged for his once-time partner. "I'm going to kill you, you motherfucking son of a bitch!"

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Mulder," he replied, brandishing the weapon proudly that had just caused the Eves to meet their demise, "I wouldn't mind putting a couple of bullets in your head."

"That's funny," Mulder replied, "I seem to remember that the last time I saw you, you couldn't keep your hands, oh, I'm sorry, your hand off me."

"The game's different now, Mulder," Krycek told him, "now that the Syndicate went back to Hell in the flames they came from. I don't need you to avert the apocalypse anymore, Mulder, because it's coming no matter what. It doesn't matter what either of us do. It's coming one way or another. All I can to do is try to prepare myself, and maybe make a little money along the way." He opened the door and searched Eve 9's pockets. He pulled out the jewel case and waved it in front of Mulder's face. "I got what I came for," he said, and he disappeared into the misty road in front of them.

Mulder leaned back into the car. "Give me your gun, Skinner," he said, but Skinner didn't respond. He only placed his hand around his throat as he felt the air rush back into his lungs.

"Give me your gun, Skinner," Mulder said again, this time more insistently.

"Just let him go," Skinner said.

"Let him go?" Mulder said, "He just committed two murders, not to mention the theft of government property, and you want me to let him go? No way. I'm going after him."

Mulder started to run after Krycek, but he stopped when Skinner pulled up alongside him.

"Get in the car, Agent Mulder," Skinner said.

Mulder looked off into the distance where Krycek had disappeared.

"Get in the car," Skinner said again, "That's an order." Mulder reclaimed his seat and glanced one last time at the dead girl in the back.

"Don't worry," Skinner said, "One day, that piece of shit is going to catch a bullet right in the head."

American Airlines Flight 917C
Somewhere over the Atlantic
10:29A.M.

Krycek closed the door to the bathroom and walked back to his seat. On the way, he bumped into a large, heavyset man with a mustache who was walking towards the rear of the plane with his head facing down towards the aisle.

"Excuse me," said the man softly, who was dressed all in black.

Krycek took his seat, stared for a few moments at the back of the seat in front of him, then turned quickly towards the back to see where the man in black had gone. There was no sight of the man.

"Probably just had to take a piss," Krycek told himself as he leaned back in the seat and tried to shake off his suspicion. Sometimes it was hard to be suspicious of everybody all the time, but in his line of work, a lack of suspicion was synonymous with death. Still, he was sure that he hadn't been followed. And besides, before tonight, no one had seen him for almost a year. He had even heard rumors of his own death while he was hiding out in Russia.

"But you're not dead," he told himself, "after all this time, you're still alive." He reached into his right pocket and felt the cold, smooth texture of the cd case residing there. After patting it securely, he closed his eyes and tried to get some rest.

"Excuse me, sir, but do you have a light?"

"What?" Krycek was startled into consciousness as he looked for the source of the question. The moustache man was sitting in the seat directly opposite his on the other side of the aisle.

"I asked if you had a light," he repeated.

"There's no smoking on this flight," Krycek replied.

"Oh, no?" the man asked, standing up and taking the aisle seat directly next to Krycek, "Well, my momma used to tell me that it's always a good idea to be prepared, you know, in case of emergencies."

"What are you," Krycek asked, obviously annoyed at having his space intruded upon, "some kind of boyscout?"

"Oh, no, no, no," the man answered, chuckling to himself, not a boyscout. He drew a cigarette and a lighter from his pocket, "But from what I hear, neither are you." He lit the cigarette and took a long puff from it.

The truth dawned on Krycek as he watched the man play with his lighter.

"That's right, Mr. Krycek," he said, "We know all about you." The moustache man lifted the top to the lighter a final time, revealing a tiny spear-like device inside. "Capped off with poison," the moustache man said, "Make it look like you died of a heart attack. I wouldn't go trying to do anything stupid."

As Krycek tried to come up with a way to free himself from his capturer, the moustache man leaned back in his chair. He smiled as the pilot's voice came over the loudspeaker, "Hello, folks. This is your captain speaking. I'm afraid we're going to have to make a quick layover in London."

London International Airport
London, England
11:02 A.M.

The moustache man led Krycek off the plane and directed him to a long black limo that was waiting at the terminal gate. As they came to a stop, the back tinted window rolled slowly downward.

"You," Krycek said, "I had hoped you were dead by now, you god-damned son of a bitch."

The Cigarette Smoking Man, looking white and frail, drew a cigarette up to the newly surgically installed hole in his windpipe and took a long draft. He blew the smoke back out the window before he spoke.

"I'm sure you did, Alex," he said, his voice scarred to match his body, "Now, down to business. I hear that you've recently acquired something of mine, a certain disk?"

"You looking to buy it, old man?" Krycek asked.

"Oh, Alex," the Cancer Man said, amusedly drawing his face into a sinister grin, "you always did have a hand for the comedy." He laughed at his own joke, his yellowed teeth cracking through his rough lips. "No, no," he continued, "you have stolen something that belongs to me, and I would like it back. Now."

The moustache man reached into Krycek's right pocket and pulled out the disk. He handed it to the Cigarette Smoking Man through the open window.

"Ah, yes," the Cancer Man said, "this is more like it."

"What do you want me to do with him, sir?" the moustache man asked, pointing to Krycek.

"Let's send him to someplace where he can get a lot of thinking done," the Cancer Man said, "Someplace where he can contemplate what a bad thing he has done." He paused for only a moment before the grin reappeared on his face. "I hear Tunisia is nice this time of year."

The moustache man laughed as the Cigarette Smoking Man rolled up his window and the limo drove off. Krycek struggled as the tens of armed guards that had suddenly appeared carried him off to military truck waiting in the wings.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Philadelphia, PA
December 24, 1999
1:29 P.M.

"You really don't have to do this, Mulder. I mean, I appreciate your being here, but I'm sure there are much more enjoyable things that you could be doing on Christmas Eve."

"Of course there are," Mulder answered, smiling as he looked down at her from behind the wheelchair.

"Mulder!" she scolded, turning sharply to look at him before the throbbing pain in her torso reminded her that she shouldn't have done that.

"But this if fun, too," Mulder continued, chuckling as he pushed the button for the elevator. "What better way to spend the holiday season than by checking my ailing partner out of the hospital?"

"Not getting shot could be a better way," Scully replied sullenly.

"Hey, Scully," Mulder said, as the elevator chimed and the doors opened, "I just thought of something. This is two Christmases in a row that you've gotten shot, now. That must be some kind of record or something." He turned the wheelchair around and pulled her backwards into the elevator.

"That's not funny, Mulder," she said, "Besides, you shot me first."

"Uh uh," he replied, "you shot me first." He glanced around at the questioning faces of the nurses, doctors, patients, and visitors standing beside him. "We didn't really shoot each other," he tried to explain, "It was ghosts that took on our form so that they could carry out the yearly tradition of having star-crossed lovers shoot each other in their home." He saw some of the occupants' eyebrows raise. "We're just partners," he said.

Scully hid her face from him as she felt her cheeks grow hot. "Maybe we should continue this conversation at another time, Mulder," she said.

The elevator thankfully came to a stop and the doors opened. "This looks like our stop," he said, wheeling Scully out without even stopping to check the floor number. After he had guided her halfway down the hallway, he asked, "So, how did you know where the Eves would be heading?"

"While I was searching Lamniture's house," she said, "I found a desk filled with his writings. He kept a journal in which he spoke of his research and his guilt with which the way his findings were being used. He had written about how he had turned over a disk to the government, filled with everything he had found throughout the years. He said that if he were found dead, that it was likely that the data was not safe, that someone should protect it to see that it did not fall into the wrong hands. He wrote the name of the facility where the disk was stored. As soon as I woke up, I sent Skinner there to wait for you. He was staking out the place when you arrived, and recognized Veckman's car from the description I gave him. From then on, he followed you, and you know the rest."

"Yeah." Mulder lapsed into his own thoughts and he considered what the Eves had told him. Who was this other person that they were talking about? Why had Krycek killed them? Had it been simply to get the disk, or was he trying to protect something? And why had Skinner let him go? It would have been so easy just to fire a bullet into his head. Whatever the reason, Mulder was sure that there was something greater to it, something more then what Skinner was letting on.

"Mulder?" Scully asked.

"Yeah?"

"We should have turned down that last hall."

"Oh, right." Mulder turned the wheelchair around and steered her down the hall, past the information desk and out through the revolving doors. Scully started to shiver as soon as they made it outside. Mulder took of his jacket and put it on her shoulders as they began walking to his rental car. For the first time since the beginning of the case, the sky appeared pristine and white, though the sun was hidden by the presence of thick clouds. As Mulder stopped to open the passenger door for her, Scully tapped him on the shoulder and pointed up.

"Mulder, look."

Large, soft flakes were falling from the sky. Mulder took in her face as the flakes collected in her short, fiery red hair. "Looks like it might be a white Christmas after all," he said.

"Looks like," she answered, still staring up towards the heavens above. She looked down at him and smiled. "Merry Chistmas, Mulder," she said.

"Merry Christmas, Scully."

The End

If you want to read up on Mulder's "other sister," check out the Starkweather series by Scully3776, and SpookyKat here.


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