Title: The Firebirds III
Author: Alien Girl
http://TheShrineOfTheFirebirds.homestead.com (no "www" needed)
Rating: PG-13...some violent stuff
Classification: Post-season 8, Adventure, colonization, etc. :)
Disclaimer: i*6f Y##o/u caaaaaa---!n R+ea::2d TH@*$iS, ~y\/ou(( M_u==s77T R$!?EALLLLLL}{()Y ^w"'a[[n*T 2to222 %k%n^o?!#w THA($$)t *I^ Do}n{':'t O*__w!n &the,,>m! Ar+-+-e"]n'998t Y#@oUU e(&68nlIGH-<>tE~`ne~d!!! (But Yallus, Trump, Slander, Havenamy, Tho and any other aliens, ships, and suchforth that you don't already know of are mine! ;))
Archive: AAAAALL of everywhere! Spread the word, I say! :) Just please inform me first!

Summary: The final story of "The Firebirds" trilogy. Mulder, Scully and their child, along with the rest of the world, are plunged into the chaos that strikes when the Argothians invade...

Author's Notes: This is it! The last part of this trilogy, woohoo!! Obviously, you have to read the first two to understand what's going on here. I hope you like this one a lot a lot a lot... ;) Also, a very special thanks to Riva for setting me right when I screw up, and Katie for beta-reading! Also thanks to Franzi for translating the story into German for me...you go, girl! ;) So enough jabberjaw...(weird cartoon...)

On with the show!

(P.S. Sorry about that disclaimer :))


Yallus walked down the silver hallway slowly, soaking in all of the magnificent architecture that stretched over her. The hallway's floor, walls and ceiling were all made of a silver-like material...crunptium, perhaps. The hall was lined with silver statues of many different races...all of them extinct. That was the only monument they would ever get; a silver statue in this hallway commemorating their termination.

At the end of the hallway were two large doors that opened up into the ULR conference room. She could faintly hear a long, loud argument going on within. There were two guards at the door. At first Yallus couldn't tell what they were, but as she got closer she saw that they were Mychinans. She figured she could get past them if she chose her words carefully.

Above the door was an engraving of the seal of the Universal League of Races. It was circular, and showed a picture of a generic being holding two objects: the ice crystal, which symbolized the peace of the five sectors, and the ball of dark matter, which symbolized war. Around the edges of the seal were the three branches of the ULR: intelligence, strength and diversity. Written under the picture was the code of the ULR:

"To acknowledge the intelligence, strength and diversity of the races of the five sectors,
And to defend them against the tyranny of the powerful."

Yallus ran those words over in her mind, considering their meaning. They certainly were a lot more weighty after all she had experienced.

She made her way up to the guards, and stopped as one of them ordered her to "Halt!"

"The 2,017th gathering of the representatives of the ULR is currently in session," The Mychinan barked in its electronic voice. "You are not authorized to enter. State your name, race, and your business here." The Mychinan raised its weapon to demonstrate that its business was to guard the meeting.

Yallus looked down at the part-living, part-machine Mychinans. "My name is Yallus Tallo, and I am a Thybiran. I must, without any delay, be allowed into the meeting...I have vital information!"

The Mychinan guard checked his memory tapes. "There is no Thybiran representative present in the meeting right now. Are you the Thybiran representative?"

(They need to update their memory tapes, considering my race is now extinct...) Yallus thought with a sad sigh. She answered, "Yes."

The Mychinans may have been ignorant, but they weren't stupid. "We see. Are you familiar with Reviran culture and their position as founders of this organization?"

"I am."

This was the opportunity the Mychinan needed to test Yallus. "Recite the firebird protection prayer, then."

Yallus was at first afraid that she wouldn't remember the prayer from when she heard it long ago, but her adrenaline got her memory going and she spit it out.

"Matter, space, energy,
Find shelter under your wings.
Protect us from the black disease,
Protect those who serve you."

The Mychinan guard nodded, clearly impressed, but he wasn't through with her yet. "Now recite it in the Shyppi language."

"Materia, capacitas, acrimonia,
Reperire ara subtus tibis alas.
Adsum egos ab niger morbus,
Adsum aliquis facerie servire tibi."

Now Yallus could hardly believe she had just said that. She had thought that she had completely forgotten how to speak Shyppi, and what she could remember certainly wouldn't be an entire prayer. Yet apparently, she had just said it, and she thanked her lucky stars that those words had come out of her mouth.

That was enough for the Mychinan. "You may enter, Yallus Tallo."

Yallus nodded, and marched past them, her heart racing. She pushed aside the enormous doors, having to put all of her weight against them to move them at all. When she did, she walked straight into the conference room.

She stopped in the middle of the conference room, staring with wide eyes at the place she was in. She had seen the ULR conference room before, but only when they broadcast certain meetings on the public televids and tesservids. The room was basically divided into three sections - one for each of the political parties. Each section had a large number of booths where representatives of each race sat. Each race had as many representatives as they had sexes. Most races had two sexes; male and female. Some were asexual and were only amale, while some were three sexes: remale, female and demale. Along with the booths there were large pools of water, which were used by races that wanted to participate in the gatherings but couldn't leave the water.

At the front of the room was the stand-platform where the Revirans resided over the meeting. The Revirans were smooth, attractive beings that floated above the ground. They also often wore, long, flowing capes. The Revirans were the ones that had created the ULR in the first place, and the ones that ruled over its gatherings. Yallus couldn't help but look at the Revirans in an entirely different light...especially with what she knew now. The Revirans had also heard the firebird legend, but their reaction was much different than that of the Argothians...they *worshipped* the firebirds as powerful deities. On the Reviran homeworld, Shipwora, there were thousands of temples and monuments erected to the firebirds, and piles of doctrine were written for them, not to mention hundreds of prayers and offerings given to them every day. Before Yallus had had vague ideas of the beings the Revirans worshipped, but now that she had met them and known them, she couldn't help but smile. She knew that the Revirans' worship of the firebirds would be her best chance to get what she wanted.

It was the rest of the ULR she would have trouble with. The ULR had been created in an effort to unite all of the intelligent races of the five sectors against the Argothians and their plans to control the universe. However, the organization ended up simply separating them more. The ULR divided itself into three political parties. The largest group, the dextri, consisted of races that thought they needed to fight and beat back the Argothian threat with military force right now. In contrast, the eastim believed that the races should submit to Argothian control for the time being, and then try and counterattack when the time was right. The final group, the ambix, did not necessarily agree with either the eastim or dextri, and generally had a variety of ideas that didn't help anything. These political parties were constantly fighting and creating tension between the races, and as a result prevented anything from getting done.

Now Yallus was standing in the middle of this age-old conference room filled with its booths, banners and echoing silver, with the faces of almost 160 different races staring directly at her. There had been some sort of argument going on, but everyone had been shocked into complete silence at her entrance. Nothing like that had ever happened before.

Yallus swallowed nervously.

The high priestess of the Revirans, Havenamy Bluemind, broke the silence by standing up and addressing Yallus. "Who are you?! State your name and race immediately!" Her words echoed in the chamber, hitting the auto-translator embedded in the ceiling. The device worked similar to a translo, except that it could broadcast translations out in every races' language. Each booth also had a small buzzer that each representative used if they wanted to speak, but lately those buzzers were being used less and less often.

Yallus cleared her throat and spoke loudly. "My name is Yallus Tallo, and I am Thybiran! I have come here to give you all important information..."

The room began to buzz with conversation. The Eggbiran representative stood up and shouted to Yallus, "The Thybiran race is extinct! The Argothians completely destroyed them...we would know, my race neighbored the Thybiran homeworld."

This caused even more tension. The Reviran, Havenamy, spoke again. "The Thybirans are extinct, they say! Are you not what you seem then? Are you a Postis-goman playing tricks on us...or a disguised Argothian?!"

The conference room exploded into uproar. Everyone began shouting, and several representatives drew their weapons, ready to attack if they needed to.

Yallus had to shout above the other voices, and slowly everyone quieted as they heard her saying something. "I am *not* a ghost, or a disguised Argothian! I am Yallus Tallo, the very last of the Thybiran race!" She reached into one of the pouches on her belt, and pulled out the syringe containing the blood she had received. "I have here *proof* of the existence of the legendary firebirds!"

Now *that* started the biggest commotion of all. Every single representative began yelling at once, many of them standing up in their seats to broadcast their points even more.

"You liar! Everyone knows the firebirds are just a legend!"

"What on Pavell is that Yallus talking about..."

"What is she holding? It could be a weapon..."

"The firebirds don't exist!"

"Well, they could, you never know..."

"What kind of crazy fools are you Anhalans?! I thought everyone knew the firebirds are just tall tales to make you think crooked..."

"This is just insane! What an unlikely story!"

The Revirans punched on their buzzer, which sounded differently from all the others, and signaled the representatives to be quiet and listen. Another Reviran high priestess, Teebish, faced Yallus with wide eyes. "All of the representatives will not say a word unless they follow the proper procedure of speaking. And, I will not fail to remind you, this organization was founded on the belief that the firebirds existed." Teebish looked inquiringly at Yallus. "You...you say you have proof of their existence. What is this proof?"

"I have been with them!" Yallus exclaimed proudly. "I have talked with them, listened to them, and have seen their homeworld. The blue firebird is a male named Fox Mulder, and his mate, the red firebird, is Dana Scully. They have a child, a daughter, named Hope! She is our hope as well as theirs, and this..." Yallus held the syringe high. "THIS is her blood. I have in my hands the magic blood of the Child of the Fire...our weapon against the Argothians!"

The commotion started again, even louder than before. Some races were still arguing that the firebirds did not exist, while others were very excited about this new information and wanted to know more.

"I'm telling you, the firebirds are nothing more than a legend!"

"But look at what she has! She says she has the blood of the Child of the Fire!"

"Whoever heard of blood being red?"

"Test it! Test the blood with Argothian blood and we'll see how magic it is!"

"Yes, test it, test it, test it!"

The Reviran buzzer went off again, but its effect on the yelling was beginning to wear. After it was quiet again, Havenamy spoke. "You have told us the firebirds' names. What is their race, and their homeworld? How intelligent are they? What is their relation with other races they know of?"

"The firebirds are of the Human race, and their homeworld is Earth. They are very intelligent, but are ignorant of other life in the universe."

More talking broke out. "Human? What sort of race is that?!"

"We have no record of their race or homeworld!"

"Are they from an uncharted sector?"

"Idiot Durpilans! Everyone knows there are only five sectors!"

"You Chownans are the real idiots! It's common knowledge that there are more sectors out there...we just haven't been able to explore them because of the great ice wall."

"They are NOT from an unknown sector!" Yallus was getting somewhat tired of these constant interruptions. "From what I can tell, they are somewhere on the edge of the 5th sector. But it does not matter what sector they are in, the point is that they exist! And we must send all of the military strength we have to their homeworld, for I fear the Argothians will come soon to destroy the Child of the Fire!"

Before the talking could begin again, one of the representatives actually remembered to use their buzzer, and was therefore given the right to speak. The representative was an eastim, and was Thumpan. He cleared his throat and glared at all of the other races. "I am Storvbot Bost Vorlitt, chief executive of the Thumpan homeworld, Illfill. And I must say I am disgusted at your lack of intelligence! Any sensible race will realize that the firebirds are nothing more than a legend, a nice story to prevent weak creatures from losing all hope. You say they are real! What proof do you have of their existence? You say they are a race that we have never heard of before. Why not? If they live in the five sectors, we should have at least categorized them. And then you say you have the blood of the Child of the Fire...you could be holding Styggol-bush juice for all we know!" He snorted at Yallus. "So, I'm telling you all as intelligent beings...stop this foolishness. The firebirds will never be anything more than a story!"

"If you don't believe me, then test this sample and find out!" Yallus challenged. "I saw the symbol upon their hands, how can I doubt what I have seen? Haven't the Miman or Bleebeean representatives told you about how one of their own was with me and the blue firebird? The four of us together escaped from an Argothian doctoral transport!"

Everyone turned to the two races Yallus had mentioned. The Miman representative looked somewhat nervous, and then stood and spoke. "I am Impli, chancellor of the country Shavell on the Miman homeworld of Rodcuva. We have heard reports of one of our own, Slander, who claims to have seen living Thybirans and the blue firebird."

The high priestess Havenamy nodded. "Do the Bleebeeans confirm this story as well?"

The Bleebeean representative, Wra, flashed a message that said "Yes."

At that moment, a loud and repeated buzzing came from one of the booths in the dextri. Everyone instantly knew who it was...the Chippans. They looked somewhat reptilian, with huge nostrils, thick tusks and large brows. They were unquestionably the rudest and crudest creatures in the five sectors...but they were also unquestionably the best pilots and sharpshooters the universe would ever see. As soon as he was done buzzing a million times, the representative stood and exclaimed, "Yeah, I wanna say...."

"Don't forget the rules of speaking!" Teebish warned. "State your name, race and..."

"But you already *know* who I am!" the Chippan complained. "I've only *told* you enough times to make an Urpsinan dizzy!"

"Follow the procedure PLEASE."

"Uugh..." The Chippan groaned, and then tried to make his introduction more exciting. "I am Trump, captain of the Chippan strikers of Felkar!" He exclaimed. "And I say we head on over to that Earth-planet-place, find us some Argothians and KICK SOME ARGOTHIAN ASS!!!"

A few cheers went up from a few of the representatives in the dextri section, while all of the eastim grumbled and grunted their disapproval. Havenamy sighed wearily at Trump, and said, "Thank you for making your point so blunt, captain, but from now on will you *please* exercise some more manners when making a statement?"

"Very well, yer honor," Trump answered with a sarcastic grin. "May we PLEASE head on over to that Earth-planet-place, find us some Argothians and kick some Argothian ass?"

The other Chippan representative, a female named Moonshock, laughed uproariously at Trump's comeback and they exchanged gestures of triumph that only Chippans understood.

Yallus had to grin at the two Chippans...although they were a little excessive, they were also smart enough not to fool around with political correctness and always came straight to the point. If there was one thing all Chippans loved to do, it was fight. Yallus figured they could probably be a valuable asset should things go the way she wanted them to.

And Yallus's luck was turning for the better. Another dextri representative, the Cosolans, rang their buzzer for attention. The Cosolans were one of three races known as the Tri-Co race. The other two were the Colunans and Costelans. Although these three were categorized as three different races, they behaved as one tri-sexual race. They were all very intelligent and respected by members from all the political parties.

The Cosolan gazed carefully out at the representatives in the conference room as soon it got their attention. "I am Travlang, representative of the demale Cosolans of the moon Solis. All of the representatives of the Tri-Co race have been listening and watching the events that have been taking place, and we have all come to the same conclusion.

"It seems that we have credible evidence that suggests the firebirds exist. We have testimonies from three different races saying they have seen the blue firebird, and this creature who claims to have seen all three. She also has this blood sample, which we can test to see if it is the Child of the Fire's magic blood. If these tests prove Yallus Tallo is telling the truth, then the firebirds are living beings. And therefore, we must send all of our power with all our speed to the firebirds' homeworld to assist them in destroying the Argothians."

A muttering circulated throughout the ranks of the representatives. The Tri-Co race was very respected, and for them to support Yallus's story meant there had to be something going on here. A representative of the eastim, the Hixan female, buzzed and stated her opinion. "I am Progli, queen of the Hixan females, and I propose we vote on the issue to determine what course of action should be taken."

"Do the other political parties agree to this proposal?" Havenamy asked the representatives.

A general signal of heads, hands and body parts came from the races, and they all said "yes."

"Very well." Havenamy switched on the voting tesservid on her stand, which received signals from all the other booths. "All those in favor of testing the blood sample presented by Yallus Tallo; and, if proven to be what it was called, then send military assistance to the firebirds' people, indicate so on your voting panel. All those not in favor, also indicate so on your voting panel."

The conference room was suddenly quiet, and Yallus found the silence to be almost frightening compared to the constant noise before. All of the representatives were carefully considering their options, and talked very quietly with their partners before voting. After a long and tense silence, Havenamy looked up from the voting tesservid where she watched the votes come in. "All of the votes have been placed. And the results are...72% of the representatives vote in favor of the proposal, and 28% vote against it. We shall test this sample given to us. If it is found to be the blood of the Child of the Fire, we shall..." Havenamy stopped. It was clear she was beginning to get choked up over what this could mean for her and her race. "We shall join the firebirds in combat against the Argothians."

Talking went up again among the representatives, most of them happy with the decision and a few grumbling loudly about it. Yallus just stood there, in the middle of the commotion, and a huge smile spread across her face. She had done it...she had seen the firebirds living and breathing, and she had spread this information to those who needed it. She had gotten the help she wanted. (Mission accomplished, firebirds.)

"Thank you, Stan. I'm Chuck Dreyson, and we're back with an update on the event that is rocking the world and everyone in it, the UFO Crisis. We will continue to have 24-hour nonstop coverage of the event, so don't expect to be returning to your "regularly scheduled program" anytime soon.

"It has been exactly seven days since the sudden and unexpected appearance of over 50 of these black, circular, green- lighted alien craft." He pointed to the bold image behind him. "They all appeared at once, and are at this moment positioned somewhere in the lower atmosphere at various spots around the globe, generally around the more populated areas. There have been only one or two of these UFOs reported far out at sea.

"So far, these alien ships have done little more than sit there. We have had no record of these beings or any of their machines coming down, except for a few incidents where small ball shaped objects have dropped from the ships to the ground. These, too, do not appear to be doing anything.

"Governments all over the world have been fiercely debating over what to do about the alien craft. Although many nations, including our own, want to attack the ships with all of the military force we can muster, the general consensus has been that we should not make the first move. Analysts are suggesting that if we don't threaten them, perhaps they won't threaten us. Of course, most people here are hoping for the best but are expecting the worst.

"And this just in...other global news, which may or may not be related to the alien UFOs, has just reached the press. In several cities, both large and small, an unknown sickness has suddenly sprouted up in men, women, children and adults alike. The symptoms include overheating, dizziness, fatigue, and severe abdominal pain. As of yet, no one has died from this disease, but doctors and health experts are unfortunately predicting that the unknown disease will soon prove to be lethal. Hospitals are rapidly filling up with infected patients, and even worse, doctors that have worked on them have been getting sick as well. As of yet, there is no known cure for this disease, and no knowledge of where it came from or how it is spread.

"Needless to say, reaction to this epidemic and the appearance of the extraterrestrial craft has soared tensions between people of all classes and nationalities. A few groups of people do not believe they are aliens at all, but instead are weapons of mass destruction created by Russia or China or even ourselves. Leaders from every country on the globe promise that the ships are nowhere close to technology they might be hiding. Many people are eager to welcome the aliens, while others are eager to send them on their way. We have here sociologist Marcos Jimstall, who will offer his opinion of the effect of the aliens' appearance on human thought and perception..."

"Anybody want some Krispy Kreme?"

"Shut up, Frohike! We're trying to watch this!"

"Suit yourself," He mumbled, and bit into a glazed donut.

The TV rattled on endlessly, and almost all of the group was watching with somber intensity. Frohike had gone to the Krispy Kreme store for some food, but food was about the last thing on everyone's minds right now.

It had been about three months since Mulder, Scully, Skinner and Doggett had lost their jobs, and Yallus had left Earth in the refueled sky attack gunner. Life had been nothing less than chaotic for them, as they had spent most of their time in the laboratory trying to make a synthetic copy of Hope's blood. That had been somewhat difficult, considering it had been next to impossible to find a biochemist who was willing to take on such a strange request. Finally, they had found a rebel biochemist named Joyce Flyer, who agreed to recreate Hope's blood synthetically. She did not necessarily believe all of their story, but the symbols on Mulder and Scully and Hope's hands and the translos Yallus had left were enough to intrigue her.

Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully had somewhat been a pair of nervous wrecks, since they knew the Argothians could appear at any moment to try and kill their child. They were eager to get the copy of Hope's blood produced as quickly as possible, but production had been somewhat slower than expected.

It was about one month ago that the entire group had decided to go into hiding. They obviously did not want to be conspicuous when the Argothians arrived, not to mention that the FBI was more than a little suspicious of their dealings with biotechnology. They had discovered a fairly-sized, unused bungalow and bomb shelter on the outskirts of some small Washington D.C. suburb, and had chosen this place for their hiding spot. They had the TV, radio and the ability to get food from the nearby store, but their quarters were fairly cramped. They did not want to take the time to move in beds for eight grown people, so they were reduced to sleeping bags on the concrete floor. Hope was the only lucky one, since she had a playpen to sleep in.

And since the Argothians had appeared, things had gone from bad to worse. Mulder and Scully had absolutely refused to move from the underground bomb shelter. The Lone Gunmen had been the only ones adventurous enough to leave the bungalow complex at all. In the distance, they could see one of the Argothian ships hovering close to Washington D.C.

Right now, all the group was centered on the TV, their only source to the outside world. Maggie was watching only with halfway fascination; she was more concerned with the safety of those she loved than these alien craft. Byers was also watching in silence except for the occasional words to Langly and Frohike, who were up and attending to other things. Skinner and Doggett were watching in a somewhat like-minded manner. They both now realized how it would have been pointless to stay in their former jobs, how this was so much bigger. Doggett especially was hit hard with the impact of this, and he had lately been spending time alone thinking to himself. Every once in awhile both Skinner and Doggett would glance over to Mulder, Scully and Hope.

Mulder just stared at the TV blankly, looking as if he were watching with complete uninterest. In fact, a million thoughts were going through is head at once. He felt his insides shiver every time they showed the Argothian ships...he remembered all too well what went on inside those mysterious black hulls. He was afraid, so afraid that should he step outside for a minute he would be sucked back up into that hot, sticky green light, and then his hell would begin all over again...

However, he had even more to worry about now than just himself. Although Scully and Hope were lucky enough to have avoided what he previously went through, they were probably in more danger than he was.

Scully was watching Hope instead of the TV, and pretended to be ignoring what was going on. But she was listening to every word that was said, and was thinking over them carefully. She was holding Hope, who was now nine months old, and was learning more every day. Hope gazed at the pictured on the screen, pointed her tiny finger at them and sounded "Ah-ba-ba-ba!"

"Yes Hope," Scully gave her daughter a small smile. "You want the alien ships to go bye-bye."

Hope grinned at getting a reaction out of this noise she had made. She put her fist in her mouth and sounded "Ah-ba-ba-ba!" through her fingers.

"No, you don't go bye-bye, Hope," Scully warned. "The alien ships do."

"Ah-ba-ba-ba! Ah-ba-ba-ba!" Hope pointed to everything she could, eager to finally assign a name to the things that surrounded her.

As the sociologist on the TV began to rattle on about things that weren't really important, Doggett turned down the volume and looked towards Mulder and Scully. "You do know what this means, don't you?"

There was a long silence. "Yes," Mulder finally answered.

"People are getting sick."

"I thought they said no one had died yet," Byers butted in.

"They will be soon," Mulder sighed. "This is just the first stage. After this the victim goes unconscious, and then..." He paused. "The product breaks out. Spreading it to whoever else is nearby."

"I don't understand. I thought you said they were up there in their ships. How are they the 'product' of being sick, or whatever it is?" Doggett found it extremely odd that he was arguing about the forms of aliens like this. Then again, nothing made sense nowadays.

"It's a mutated form of themselves," Mulder explained. "Not nearly as intelligent, but physically much more powerful. What the original Syndicate was led to believe was a form of enslavement. In fact, this is a method of annihilation."

"You know what you'll have to do..." Skinner looked at them solemnly. "You have to contact the CDC. Tell them that you have the cure to this disease, and a weapon against the aliens."

Scully looked at Hope, then looked at the floor, and swallowed. "If we do that, it'll expose who we are and what we can do," She said in an anxious voice.

"That's going to have to happen eventually," Scully heard Mulder say in a tired voice. She could tell that he was trying to be strong and accepting of their position as "saviors of the world." But he was still just as worried as she was. They had already told the group how they thought Krycek was alive and how he could possibly be the dragon, and Maggie reaffirmed the story when she mentioned that they had not found a body in Scully's apartment. Although they had this knowledge, there was nothing they could do about it. Nothing except watch, and wait, and hope for the best. Right now, however, they had a more immediate threat to deal with.

"We should leave now," Skinner said the words Mulder and Scully dreaded to hear. "If what we know is true, then people are going to start dying any time now. And once they do, everyone will know that the aliens are what's causing this disease, and the entire world will be in a panic."

"The entire world already *is* in a panic," Doggett corrected. "This will just make it worse."

Scully understood. She nodded heavily, and picked up Hope. "Ah-ba-ba-ba!" Hope stated proudly.

"I'm glad *you're* confident about this," Scully sighed to her daughter. "We're going to go out now, and see some new people. These people want your help. But it's going to be very dangerous. Are you sure you want to go?"

"Ah-ba-ba-ba! Ah-ba-ba-ba!" Hope bounced excitedly in Scully's arms.

"We're going, then," Scully said decisively, and headed for the stairs. Everyone else just stood and stared, more than a little surprised at her sudden change in attitude. She turned around and gave them a quarter of a grin. "Hurry up, before I change my mind."

Mulder, Skinner and Doggett followed her up the stairs, while the others chose to stay behind and hold the fort. Mulder smiled inwardly as he watched Scully tread courageously up the stairs with a nine-month-old baby in her arms. (That woman never fails to amaze me.)

Somehow, when Mulder stepped outside the bungalow, he half- expected to be met with a desolate wasteland, the ruins of a city destroyed by fire and disease and black oil. But everything looked exactly the same as when they first went into hiding in the bungalow. All the buildings in the distance were still standing, and he even saw some cars driving down the street. The only thing that was different was the Argothian ship hanging over the city like some plague in the wind. Mulder and Scully tried hard not to look at it as they traveled from the bungalow to the Gunmen's van, their main source of transportation. They all climbed into the van, with Skinner driving, and headed off down the back road until they would meet up with the highway.

"You'd better call Joyce," Skinner told Mulder. "Tell her she needs to meet us at the front of the CDC headquarters building with all the stuff she's got on the cure. We're going to be there in a few hours."

Mulder pulled out his cell phone and started to make the call. As Mulder was talking to their hired biochemist, Scully turned towards Skinner. "The last we heard from her, the cure wasn't ready yet. There were still a few components that needed to added so that the cure would work for any person no matter what their blood type."

"That may be true, but we're going to have to report our findings to the CDC right now if we're going to save any lives. They will have teams of scientists and chemists who will finish what we have started, and be able to mass-produce and administer the cure."

Scully went back to Hope, satisfied with that answer. For a while, there was only the sound of Mulder talking on the phone to Joyce, and the hum of the tires on pavement. Then Doggett quickly reached forward and turned on the radio. It was as if he couldn't stand to not know what was going on, even for a minute or two.

"...Reports are coming in by the minute as hospitals all over the country announce the first fatalities of the unknown epidemic. The first instance came from a patient waiting to be let into a hospital in Antonio, Texas. 43-year-old Drake Passist collapsed outside the hospital door, only to have a large, black, alien-like creature emerge from his abdomen. This creature then attacked all of the people standing nearby, killing eight and injuring 15 more. Policemen and soldiers were sent in to kill the alien creature, and four men were severely wounded before the creature was finally shot to death.

"Hospitals all over the country have exploded into panic at this recent news. New patients are being refused admittance and infected doctors have been kicked out..."

"Oh God!..." Scully said in a frightened voice. "It couldn't have happened *that* fast!"

"...Some groups are demanding the government to force hospitals to allow patients inside. The government has not responded to this demand yet. As bizarre as this death is, doctors fear the hundreds of other citizens in the country with the same affliction will suffer a similar fate..."

"I don't believe it!" Scully continued to try and drown out the radio with her desperate protests. "That's much faster than how it happened before! I thought the incubation period was 72 hours before it..."

"Who knows what they did to speed things up," Skinner said with a shake of his head. "But you know that they're going to be moving things along faster now. Now that they know...who you are."

Scully held Hope tighter at the reminder. Mulder finished his call, and just as he was about to speak, he noticed the stiff silence and the droning radio. "Something bad happened, didn't it?"

"We don't have any time," Skinner informed him. "They're moving the invasion along too fast, and we can't keep up."

Mulder said nothing. He saw Scully sitting quietly with Hope in her arms, and he drew them both closer. He felt Scully release a heavy sigh as he pressed her forehead into his shoulder. She was tired, and so was he. Tired of having to run and dodge and run again every second, tired of being responsible for everything that happened to this world, tired of being the heroes. All they wanted was a home and Hope and each other...but, as was usually the case, they were denied what they wanted.

The van met with the highway and merged with the other cars, all of them looking with dread at the black disc in the sky.

Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Doggett and Hope marched up the steps of the CDC headquarters building, looking up to where Joyce Flyer was waiting for them. She appeared very agitated, but they couldn't tell whether it was because she had been called out on such late notice or because she was worried about what was being said on the news. She motioned for them to come towards her faster, and they hurried up the steps as quickly as they could.

She greeted them with a worried smile and large bag on her shoulder. "I brought everything we've done on it so far. It's basically ready, except for a few components here and there. But after I heard that report on the news, believe me, I doubled my speed," She said breathlessly.

Mulder nodded to her, looking around the outside of the building they were in front ot. He had never been to the CDC headquarters before, although he had had many entanglements with their agents. "Do you think they're going to appreciate our charging in here claiming we have the answer to life, the universe and everything?" He said.

"Most likely not, but that's the least of our worries," Joyce turned towards the door. "I know a secretary who works here, so I'll do most of the talking."

They all followed her and stepped inside the building. In the headquarters there was total chaos. Phones were ringing off the hook, and doctors and agents were darting back and forth across the hallways spilling stacks of papers as they went. The CDC had been on top of the "mysterious epidemic" ever since it had appeared, but so far all of their attempts to find a cause or solution to the problem had been fruitless. More and more reports and pleads for immediate action were coming in by the minute.

A doctor noticed Mulder's group of six as they entered the building. He groaned and started towards them, looking like a complete nervous wreck. He waved them away with an annoyed look. "This is not a hospital, people. You'll have to go elsewhere if you want someone to look at you. Trust me, we're working as fast as we can to try and fix this thing..."

"None of us are sick," Joyce interrupted the doctor. "We're here because we have the cure to your 'mysterious epidemic'."

The doctor was about to speak again, but stopped at the mention of the word "cure." His skepticism remained strong, however, as he looked over their ragged and weary company. "Who are you?" He asked slowly.

"Most of us are former FBI," Skinner told him. "Three special agents and one assistant director. Joyce Flyer here is a biochemist."

The doctor wondered what the FBI would know about a cure, and why, if they did know, they had not mentioned it before. "What is this 'cure' you say you have? Where did you get it?"

"Our daughter," Scully presented Hope forward, "is immune to the disease. Immune because she can potentially kill the disease."

*This* certainly surprised the doctor. He stared at Hope's curious face with bewilderment for a moment, and then cleared his throat. "Umm...I suggest that you talk to Dr. Florsten, who is in charge of research on this new disease. You will, of course, have to prove that your claims are right..."

"As long as you have the substance that causes the sickness, we can," Mulder offered, eager to get going as quickly as possible. "Take us to this Dr. Florsten."

The doctor nodded, and they followed him down the hall. Other doctors and agents would give them confused glanced as they passed by, but otherwise they were too busy to pay much attention to them. They would through a maze of tables, desks, halls, rooms and stairways until they finally stopped outside a large section with the sign "RESEARCH" above it. The doctor led them through the doors and went ahead to introduce them.

Both Mulder and Scully felt more than just a little bit nervous doing this. They were not entirely sure that they could trust these people, but they knew they would have to do so anyway, because they didn't know of any quicker way that they could "spread the blood of the Child of the Fire."

After a minute, the doctor they had first talked to brought up another man, whom they assumed to be Dr. Florsten. He looked over them with an air of confusion and contempt...all of them smelled slightly of old basement. "Who are you people? What are you talking about when you say you have a cure?"

"Listen, do you have a sample of a black, oil-like substance that was found where one of the victims died?" Mulder ignored the doctor's question and instead launched into his own.

The doctor silently expressed his astonishment at Mulder's request, and then finally answered, "I...I don't think so. If there has been anything like that, we haven't received a sample yet. We just got word of the first fatalities, and the only thing we can work with so far is infected blood."

Mulder turned to Joyce and whispered to her, "Do you suppose it will work on infected blood as well as the virus itself?"

"I think so. I'm not entirely sure, but I think so," She whispered back.

Mulder then turned back to Dr. Florsten, who was not looking happy with the secretiveness of this proposal. "Give us an infected blood sample and a clean syringe and we'll show you a cure."

The materials were brought in reluctantly, but promptly. They set up a strong microscope with a few drops of infected blood and presented the syringe to their group. "What is this for?" the doctor asked quizzically.

Hope answered his question with a loud crying. She noticed the syringe, and remembered what happened every time one of those came near. Scully tried to soothe the wailing Hope, but with no success. "Hurry up and do it...she knows it's coming," Scully sighed.

Joyce took the syringe and carefully pressed it into Hope's arm. She screamed louder as the needle poked her skin, but soon Joyce had a sufficient sample of blood and it was all over. Meanwhile, the doctors were watching with complete confusion.

Joyce then presented the blood-filled syringe back to them. "Take this and put some of it on the infected blood. Tell us what you see." Doctor Florsten did as instructed, although his skepticism shone through his face brilliantly.

There was a long silence as the doctor placed Hope's blood on the infected blood and watched whatever activity there was in the microscope. They all saw his eyes widen and his body tense slowly. After awhile, he looked up from the microscope, his jaw agape. His gaze was drawn directly to Hope, who was now sniffling and hugging her mother for comfort. "Who else has this ability?" The doctor finally asked.

"No one else. She is the only one."

"I've *never* seen anything like this before..." He continued, his voice filled with amazement. "Her blood can not only defend itself against the virus, but it *attacks* it as well. The infected blood is no longer infected."

Mulder nodded. "That is your cure. That is what you need to give to every person in this world...because that's how far the disease will spread. If you don't give it to everyone, then millions of lives could be lost."

The doctor was even more amazed at the extremity of this request. He worked his mouth a little before stating, "I'm not sure how you expect us to do what you're asking..."

This was Joyce's cue. "For the part month we have been developing a synthetic copy of the baby's blood. Former Agents Mulder and Scully contacted me first and requested that I do it for them." She began to pull materials and compound samples out of her bag and place them on the table for display. "It's almost done, except for a few things that I can fill you in on. You'll need to get to work right away to produce lots of it."

"'Produce lots of it' doesn't describe it adequately! You're asking us to make this synthetic material for every person on the earth...you're asking us to make nearly *7,000 liquid tons* and then distribute it!"

"Better get to work, then."

The doctor was shaking his head slowly, not believing this was happening to him. At that moment, Mulder decided it was time to set out the situation clearly and bluntly. "Look, Dr. Florsten...this is not negotiable. This virus you have been hearing about is alien in origin, and it is always fatal. It is made to create lots of pain and to spread quickly. What we have shown you is the *only* way we can stop it. If you do not act fast, this thing will spread until there will be no one left to give the cure to. Now, I understand perfectly that you may have trouble communicating and working with other nations on giving this thing out, but if there's any time we're going to have to set our differences aside and work together, it's now.

"You can make this cure any way you like, just so long as you do *exactly* what Joyce tells you. However, I do have some rules regarding how the cure will be distributed, and those rules revolve around the fact that EVERYONE will get the cure. No one will be denied it because of race, religion, age, sex, appearance, criminal record or amount of wealth. The same goes for waiting for the cure...no one will be made to "stand last in line" because of the things I mentioned before, either. Also, no one should have to pay to get the cure, either. If I find out that anyone is forcing people to pay, or there is bribing or cheating or any other type of dishonesty going on when this is being passed out..."

The doctor gulped nervously. "You realize, Mr. Mulder, that there's not going to be preventing many violations of your rules with the scope of which you want to do this..."

"Do your best," Mulder replied. "This is something this world has never encountered before. If we're ever going to get through it, we're going to have to stop being selfish humans." Even as Mulder was saying the words, he knew his wishes would never come completely true. Even an alien invasion couldn't stop humans from being humans.

"We...we'll get started right away," Doctor Florsten glanced at the materials on the table. He sighed, and smiled hopefully at this strange company that had magically appeared before him. "I'm still not entirely sure who you guys are, but I have to say right now that you're the most miraculous things I've ever experienced."

"Well, you're the first to think so," Doggett sighed.

"Will you stay to help us develop this thing further? Perhaps be part of our announcement of our findings?"

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances, and they could instantly tell what the other was thinking. "Joyce will stay and help you...I'm afraid we can't be around much longer."

"You're leaving? But..."

"We've given you what you need," Mulder assured him. "But I'm afraid it's up to you to do the hard part."

With those parting words, Mulder, Scully, Hope, Skinner and Doggett left the CDC research center and its doctors with the cure that could save the world.

Hope was busy exploring the floor extensively, happily investigating any object or new space of ground that she came across. It seemed like she was always hovering above the ground, watching all the interesting sights, smells and sounds fly below her without a second thought. Now at last, she was free to crawl along the concrete floor, and she launched herself into a crawling spree with a giggle of delight.

When suddenly, her exploration was cut short by a pair of familiar hands grasping her and lifting her from the ground. Hope whimpered in dismay and saw her mother staring down at her contentedly as she was firmly placed within her arms. Hope gazed down at the ground with sadness and began to cry.

"Oh, Hope, what's the matter?" Scully felt her own spirits sink as she watched Hope burst into tears. "Don't cry, baby, it'll be alright..."

Hope certainly didn't agree. She thumped her fist against Scully's chest and uttered a few sounds that were her only means of talking. Scully still didn't understand, and Hope wailed louder that she was not able to get her point across.

"Mulder!" Scully yelled tiredly into the other room. "Could you get her a bottle? I think she's hungry."

Mulder came in from the bomb shelter living room and saw Scully trying to calm Hope. "Didn't you just feed her an hour ago?"

"Yes, but she won't stop crying, and her diaper's not dirty..."

Mulder looked at Hope's face carefully, and for just a moment, he seemed to know what she was thinking. "She probably just wants to get down and crawl around. You know, not have somebody be holding her all the time."

Scully frowned. This bomb shelter concrete floor was not exactly the cleanest thing in the world. "She'll get dirty, Mulder," Scully mumbled her excuse.

"That's typically what kids do," Mulder gave her a smile. "Honestly, Scully. You *never* let go of that baby for even a minute. Don't your arms ever get tired from holding her all the time? If you keep this up she'll never learn to walk."

Scully opened her mouth to speak, and then clapped it shut again. She realized exactly what she had been doing with Hope, and she swallowed down a lump of frustration and regret in her throat. She was so busy worrying about what might happen to the baby that she never let Hope discover anything for herself. Slowly, reluctantly, Scully placed Hope back on the floor. She immediately stopped crying and began to explore again, a smile lighting up her face.

Scully felt her shoulders sloop, as if they were just realizing the exhaustion they were supposed to be experiencing. Mulder came up to Scully, and she felt him wrap his arms around her waist. "You need to settle down, just a little bit, you know," He said to her softly.

Scully laughed somewhat. "Believe me, Mulder, it's more than a little difficult to 'settle down' in times like this..."

"I think it's dangerous times that you need to 'settle down' the most, otherwise you can't think straight."

"As if thinking straight is going to help us now..."

Mulder thought for a moment. "I guess you're right about that."

He turned so that he faced Scully, and she marveled at looking into his eyes. How long had it been since he returned? Four months? It had seemed to fly by so quickly, and a million different events had been packed into such a short amount of time. For some reason, she was still getting used to waking up every day and seeing Mulder's face; he had been gone for so long. But he had easily fallen back into her company, although she figured he should have a harder time than she did. She was not sure why she still sometimes felt that way...she was just glad that it was slowly wearing away as the days passed by.

Mulder gave her a kiss on the forehead, and she accepted it gratefully. "You want to go back in and watch the news? I've been much happier with it lately."

"That's all we ever do now is watch the news."

"Hey, if you want to go up and know what's happening first- hand, suit yourself."

She saw Mulder's point. She gave a kiss back to him and went to retrieve Hope. "Scully...about Hope..." Mulder warned her.

"She can crawl around in the living room," Scully reassured him.

Scully picked up Hope, and the three of them went back into the living room, where everyone was gathered around the all- powerful television. Scully set Hope down before the baby could begin complaining again.

"...And here we are in the fourth day of what is now being called the 'ultimate vaccination' run." The news announcer motioned to the video scene behind him. "Since the announcement of the discovery of the cure for the alien virus, millions of booths have sprouted up all over the country to administer the drug to the public. CDC officials and health experts guarantee that the drug is 100% effective against the virus..."

"I wish they would stop calling it a drug..." Scully frowned.

"...not go to a doctor's office, and free of charge. Those producing and distributing the drug are even being penalized if they demand payment. All health officials strongly encourage, bordering on demand that all citizens report to a station immediately so that they can receive their vaccination. If you do not, chances are increased almost 95% that you will be infected with the alien virus that has been plaguing this planet.

"Speaking of the rest of the world, almost all of the other world nations have begun producing and distributing the drug to their own citizens. Some third-world countries have been behind schedule and have not yet begun distributing the cure, and some countries have even refused to administer it, causing mass migrations of people seeking a place where they can receive vaccinations. Many problems have also broken out between warring ethnic groups such as Israel, India and South Africa, as some groups of people are being refused treatment.

"However, it can now be seen that all of this hard work and cooperation is beginning to pay off. The number of people becoming infected, which had been quadrupling daily since the disease first appeared, has leveled off and is now even beginning to drop. Despite the first-come, first-serve rule that has been established at these stations, people that have already been infected with the virus are given first priority over those that are still healthy. So far, almost 800,00 people have lost their lives to the alien epidemic. However, with the new miracle cure being freely given to every citizen of this lowly planet, we can say that we as a global nation have hope once again."

Doggett looked from the TV down to Hope, who was still exploring the ground. He gave the baby a relieved smile. "Well, Hope, you saved the day for us all! How do you feel?"

Hope heard Doggett's voice and gave him a funny look. "Thhh-buh!" She answered, scrunching up her face.

"Terrible?" Doggett continued to joke. "But all those people are so happy now because of you!"

Hope didn't seem to care. She was obviously too young to understand, to realize the implications of her mere existence. Mulder watched her react to Doggett's reactions, and he wondered what she would be like when she was older. What if, somehow or other, the world eventually found out where their miracle cure had come from? How would Hope grow up with everyone telling her that she saved human life? would she bask in the glory of her accomplishments, or would she try and distance herself from her constant attention? Mulder hoped more than anything that when she was older, she would still have good character...he hoped that this immense responsibility would not ruin her kindness, or morality, or just the joy of being herself.

Frohike gave Mulder and Scully his own grateful smile. "Looks like you guys actually did it. You saved the world with nothing but a baby."

"I hate to ruin your happiness, Frohike, but it's nowhere near the end yet. If I know the Argothians like I wish I didn't, they're not going to stop at being confronted with a cure."

Mulder's pessimistic attitude was not exactly what everybody wanted to hear. Doggett looked at Hope, and then at the floor. "So...what do we do about it?"

"There is nothing we can do about it right now, except be glad that we have the upper hand and that we can take a breather. As long as we can hold them back with the cure, we have a good chance of winning."

Of course, people wanted more than just "a good chance of winning." They wanted to be certain of victory. Since they had first delivered the cure to the CDC, the entire group had been hopeful that it would chase away the Argothians completely. But the ships continued to hang there threateningly, watching with scorn as their plans were slowly unraveled before them. It was yet to be seen exactly what kind of retaliation the Argothians had in mind for them.

Maggie interrupted the conversation by calling out, "It's time for dinner!" The group stopped whatever they were doing and went up the stairs to the bungalow, which served as their dining room kitchen and some of their bedrooms. Scully picked up Hope along the way, hoping that she would actually eat her dinner this time. She was trying to get Hope to eat on a regular schedule, and Hope was slowly getting used to the idea, although obviously still having some complaints with it.

For a long time, the only thing the group would have to eat was cold cereal in the morning and take-out pizza, chinese, Taco Bell and other fast food for lunch and dinner. Finally, Maggie had gotten completely sick of it and decided that she would fix meals for everybody if she had to spend all her time cooking. These meals became a significant improvement from their fast-food runs, and they actually enjoyed sitting down and eating as a break from their stressful existences. Mulder often joked about how they had all become a giant family, although the others were quick to remind him that he, Scully and Hope were the only real family there.

Which had recently led Mulder to the realization that they were technically not a real family yet. He and Scully weren't married. Obviously, the current circumstances had them completely occupied and with no time to think about anything else, especially talks of marriage. Even when he had been living with Scully in the cabin in Vermont for a week they hadn't mentioned it. Mulder wondered if they were ever going to get around to it, should this nightmare of a life ever come to an end. Or if, perhaps, not being married made their relationship flow all the easier. Maybe it was this suspension inbetween one thing and another that *was* their marriage. Mulder was not entirely sure, and he certainly wasn't daring enough to ask Scully what she felt about it.

As they all sat down around the dinner table, Maggie presented a large pot of homemade soup before them with a smile. "Help yourselves to it. I know we usually do something that involves more than one dish, but I thought it might be nice to do something different for a change."

Nobody had any problems with that. the soup was passed around, and as bowls were filled, Maggie did her daily inspection of people's individual and collective moods. "I can't tell if all of you are smiling or frowning," Maggie inquired. "What has been happening?"

"The news has been good so far," Skinner explained. "The cure has been working, and it looks the virus may have stopped spreading altogether."

"It's just that Mulder here says the aliens aren't going to be bothered by the cure," Langly complained.

"I didn't say they wouldn't be bothered! I said they wouldn't *stop* at being confronted with a cure. Trust me, what we've done to them do far has done a lot more than just "bother" them."

"Well, as long as it's somehow hurting them, I think we should be happy about it," Maggie stated simply and sensibly.

Nobody could argue with that point. For a while, there was no more conversation as the group was content to eat up Maggie's soup, and think carefully about all that had been going on. They all spent a lot more time thinking nowadays.

When suddenly, the phone rang.

Everyone looked up in surprise. The phone was rarely used except if somebody was out in town or they were talking to Joyce. Frohike swallowed his soup and said, "Wow...I never thought the telemarketers would find us here."

Mulder decided to get in anyway. He recognized Joyce's voice instantly as she said, "Hello? Mulder?"

"Yeah, I'm here."

"Good. I was wondering if perhaps you and Scully and you lovely daughter would like to come out from your little hole and visit one of the vaccination stations. There's one close to where you are, I think on the corner of Chesire and Kensington..."

"Hold on a minute!" Mulder interrupted her. "What do you mean, visit a vaccination station? What for?"

"Just to see how things are going! Don't you want to see first hand what your child has done for everyone? I think it would be good for you to come and visit a station; you don't have to make a grand announcement about your presence. You can just come and watch on the sidelines."

"I wasn't planning on making any grand announcements," Mulder said, more than a little surprised. "I didn't really want to go out at all..."

"Now honestly, Mulder, I don't want to hear any more of that from you!" Joyce sounded like some scolding aunt. "I've hardly seen you or Scully since you decided to stay in that bungalow. You're going to meet me on the corner of Chesire and Kensington tomorrow at noon whether or not you like it. I insist you be there."

"Ummm..." Mulder racked his brain for a suitable excuse as why not to go, but he couldn't think of one. "Okay. Sure, fine, whatever."

He could practically hear Joyce smile triumphantly on the other end. "Good! I'll see you tomorrow." He heard the phone click as she hung up.

"What was that about?" Scully asked as Mulder replaced the phone.

"Apparently Joyce wants us to come visit a vaccination station tomorrow."

Scully's eyebrows raised. "And what did you say?"

"What could I say? I had to tell her yes."

Scully's shoulders drooped slightly. "Mulder, she and you and I know that it's nowhere near safe for us to be out there where...they can find us..."

"Come on, Scully, we might as well. The Argothians could just sit there for a very long time...who knows how long we may be forced to stay down here? I think it'll be okay to take at least one or two chances."

Scully thought for a moment, looking carefully at Mulder and the others around the table. She sighed and made her decision. "Alright, we'll go...but Hope is going to stay here."

The afternoon son beat down on the earth unmercifully, making Mulder *very* glad that they had just got there. He and Scully and Joyce were standing outside of what used to be a pet store, and what had now been transformed into a refreshment building where people could buy drinks and sandwiches. Mulder and Scully had just arrived, and were gazing slightly awestruck at the sight before them.

"Well? What do you think?" Joyce inquired of them.

Neither of them answered for a minute. The "booth" was a long line of about 20 tables, with three to four attendants sitting at each table. Behind the attendants were piles and piles of large boxes, each of them containing some 500-odd disposable syringes. It was easier to use disposable syringes rather than wash and reuse them every time. Each syringe contained a small amount of the cure. Along with these syringes were boxes and boxes of cotton balls and disinfectant.

A large canopy had been spread over the tables, boxes and part of the line of people. The canopy was little more than a blue tarp that cracked in the wind and seemed to trap the heat underneath it as opposed to keep it out. Above the tarp was an enormous printed sign that read:


And then beneath the large sign were some more, smaller signs that were each positioned above a group of tables. There was a sign for O+, O-, A, B, and AB types. On the end, there was another sign that read, "IF YOU DO NOT KNOW YOUR BLOOD TYPE, COME TO THIS TABLE."

But the most amazing spectacle was the gathering of people that had come to receive the cure. The line stretched back several blocks down the street, and an enormous mass of people surrounded the tables. People stood in long lines, holding fast food bags and pillows to sleep on while they waited. There were adults talking and reading magazines, old people constantly drinking water to keep themselves hydrated, restless kids and teenagers listening to music and playing Game Boy, and babies crying under the heat and stillness.

The only problem with this arrangement was that families were often split up according to their blood type. Sometimes mothers would have to go through the line twice to get vaccinations for themselves and their children. In order to keep the line moving as quickly as possible, the procedure was sped up enormously. A few drops of disinfectant on the cotton ball, and few swabs on the arm, a fast jab with the needle, a band-aid stuck on, throw away the syringe, and the person could go. Drop, swab, jab, stick, you're done. Drop, swab, jab, stick, you're done. Drop, swab, jab, stick, you're done. To Mulder, it almost seemed like he was watching the holocaust going on. The huge lines of world-weary people, the breaking up of families and the ultra-fast injections...the ironic thing was that this was being done to save lives instead of destroy them.

It took awhile for Mulder to realize that Joyce was still expecting an answer from them. "I, umm...it looks very efficient," He finally stuttered.

"It's supposed to be. You have to be efficient when giving an injected cure to 7 billion people in as short a time as possible. Factories have gone into wartime production, only instead of producing guns and tanks were producing cotton balls, syringes and the cure. You can imagine these thousands of vats normally being used to make beer or soda instead being used to create a biosynthetic cure..."

Mulder shook his head. "No, actually, I can't."

"And just think, this all came from just a few drops of blood from your daughter. Nobody knows it, but it's your little Hope that's giving them security."

Scully looked down at the ground, suddenly feeling unhappy. Mulder could tell what it was...she felt nervous and naked without Hope in her arms. This was the first time since they had been attacked that Scully had not had Hope with her for a long time. She certainly had not wanted to bring Hope out into the dangerous open, but at the same time did not want to leave her side. Persistent coaxing from the others that they would watch Hope so carefully it would annoy her to death finally persuaded Scully to give in. Hope had, of course, started crying when her parents left, but Scully had just tried to block out the sound and rush out the door.

"Hey, have you guys had lunch yet?" Joyce suddenly interrupted Scully's sad mood. They both shook their heads no. "Well, I'll go get us some sandwiches here. Don't go anywhere, and I'll be right back." With that, the biochemist disappeared into the refreshment shop.

Mulder and Scully were just slightly relieved that she was gone. Although she had been a tremendous help to them, she did have a tendency to talk too much. Mulder put his arm around Scully's shoulder, and they watched the vaccinations going on with mixed emotions.

At that moment, a middle-aged man grumbling to himself and shuffling past them spotted them and gave them a look. "Hey, you!" The man called to them suddenly. "Aren't you going to stand in line?"

Mulder stuttered before answering, startled at the sudden question. "We, uhhh...already got vaccinated."

The man mumbled something under his breath and then snorted, "A whole lotta crap, if you ask me. They yell at us every five minutes on the TV and radio to go and get fixed so an alien won't kill us, so then I stand in line for who-knows-how-long and then they jab a needle in you and say you're fine. How is some needle jab supposed to stop a bunch of aliens?! My brother, he says he refuses to vaccinated...says it's all part of some plot or something. I'm starting to half-believe him."

With that simple complaint, the man left them and walked off in a huff. Mulder glared after him and hissed under his breath, "Well, let's see how appreciative *I'll* be when *your* daughter saves the world!!"

"Mulder..." Scully calmed him with her voice. "Don't get angry about that...you have to realize that we're probably the only ones that know where this comes from."

"I know," Mulder sighed, "It just...makes me angry that not everyone is accepting this. I mean, you can't get a better deal than..."

"Perhaps not," Scully gave Mulder a strange look. "But there are people that value their beliefs over their lives."

That shut Mulder up. He knew that both he and Scully had been in that situation all too often. Heck, if they were in the situation these people were in right now, they would probably refuse vaccinations, too.

Just then, Mulder thought he heard a strange sound reverberating through the sky and against the ground. It sounded almost like hundreds of swarms of bees droning, or electricity zooming through a generator. He wasn't quite sure, and he didn't know where it was coming from. "Hey, Scully, do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"I thought I heard this humming sound..."

"Wait, I hear it now," Scully said suddenly as the hum became louder.

Apparently, Mulder and Scully were not the only ones that had picked up this strange noise. People in the line were beginning to look up from what they were doing, as if curious and confused. The sound continued to grow louder and louder, now operating on several different pitches at once and seeming to come from a certain direction.....

The humming roar tore the sky in two as some mass of black objects flew by, faster than anything they had ever seen before. As the black objects zoomed over the vaccination station, the tarp and one of the sections of tables suddenly burst into a ball of green flames.

Chaos ripped itself from the throats of the masses. People began running, shrieking, crying out for friends and family as they struggled to escape the fire and the dark roaring in the sky. They ran every way they could, trampling others in their way, their frightened screams nearly drowning out the humming roar. Those who were supposed to calm and organize the masses joined in the panic and thought only of escaping whatever had attacked them.

"What was THAT?!" Scully cried out suddenly, grabbing onto Mulder for security.

Mulder did not answer her. He just watched as the roaring objects turned around, and went again to fly over the vaccination station. As they turned, Mulder could instantly tell what they were...five Argothian sky attack gunners.

Mulder felt himself suddenly become nauseated, and he had to breathe in quickly and deeply to prevent himself from becoming sick. He remembered flying in one of those...and he also remembered the power that had been released with he had used their cannons. And now that power was being released upon *them!*

"SCULLY, RUN!!!" Mulder roared, pushing Scully and himself away from the tables and the screaming masses. The two launched themselves into a desperate sprint, fear tethering their pounding hearts together. The sky attack gunners came for another pass, bolts of light shooting left and right at the unarmed citizens below. The bolts burnt the tables to black splinters, and incinerated the boxes full of the cure. People running away suddenly would disappear in a flash of light and flames, and all that would be left was a burnt crater in the street. The Argothians had finally discovered the source of their problems, and were now fighting back.

Mulder and Scully instantly became lost in the chaos. Mulder held onto Scully's wrist so tightly she was certain he could tear it off, but she didn't care as long as they stayed together. They did not scream or shout like everyone else, but the looks that passed between their eyes loudly proclaimed that they were far more frightened than all of the masses put together. Mulder was just trying to decide if they should hide in a building or keep running, when another bolt struck the laundromat next to them, setting the building ablaze. He decided it was better to be a moving target.

The sky attack gunners, having completely finished off the booth and the station's supply of the cure, began to swoop low and pick off the screaming people. Mulder and Scully did not turn around to watch, but they knew what was happening...they knew that no amount of their daughter's blood could save people from the destruction of sheer firepower.

But they weren't nearly as concerned for others as they were concerned for their own lives right now. Scully yet out a startled scream as a blast came from right behind them, its roar heightened by the wails of those caught in the fire. Then the sky attack gunner sailed right over their heads, revealing its black, metallic hull to them. Another blast, and those right in front of them were hit hard. Mulder and Scully were thrown backwards as the green fire hit the ground and the screams hissed into snapping fire. Scully felt her body shiver despite the heat; shiver with the terrible massacre taking place all around her. Mulder gripped her shoulders as if he were drowning and pulled her out of the main mass of people. Burnt craters were appearing on all sides, and were beginning to pepper nearby buildings. There was nowhere for anyone to run or hide as the attack gunners spread out, continuing their rampage and destruction.

"COME ON, LET'S GET BACK TO THE STATION!" Mulder cried over the chaos to Scully. "NOBODY WILL BE THERE!"

Scully did not really hear him, but when Mulder turned about-face and went against the crowd, she followed him anyway. People were pushing them on all sides, knocking their bodies left and right as if they were caught in whitewater rapids. For a moment, they couldn't see anything except people's frightened faces, and it took all the strength they had just to hold on to each other. Finally, however, they broke free of the thick herd of bodies and scrambled into the ruined courtyard where the vaccination station had been just moments ago.

Scully let out a half-sob as they finally got a good look at what had happened. The entire station had been reduced to a pile of splinters and crisp plastic, and the horrid stench of incinerated bodies poisoned the air. The ground was black and rocky, torn up by the intense laser blasts. Mulder and Scully stood in the middle of the wreckage, covered over with dirt and smoke and debris and blood. Mulder held up a stumbling Scully as they watched the fighter ships chase away the people like a hunter shooting away at a flock of baby pheasants.

"M-Mulder...wha...how did they..." Scully cried, gasping for breath and coughing.

"The cure was hurting them...so they started doing the next best thing," Mulder said through his teeth, coldly. "Only we can't fight this."

"We have to get out of here..." Scully stumbled backwards over some charred skeleton. "We have to tell the others..."

"If they haven't already found out..." Mulder gulped. He felt a mixture of terror and hatred brewing inside him...terrified because of the familiarity of this, of the immense power the Argothians had had to cause terrible pain. He had tried so hard to forget it, yet it had come back to him tenfold. With this fear came his heated anger, anger that they had come back and that there were so many other innocents who were suffering now. His desire to fight arose in him, and the desire to do to them what they had done to him and Scully. His anger and fiery temper boiled up from his stomach and out with his voice, "YOU DAMN MURDERERS! I'LL KILL YOU FOR THIS!!!"

It seemed as if one of the attack gunners heard his challenge. One of the fighter ships suddenly stopped chasing the masses and turned around to face *them.* The pilot caught sight of the two lonely figures in the middle of the wreckage, and raced towards them, cannons loaded.

"Mulder...MULDER RUN!!" Scully exclaimed aloud, her eyes wide and her limbs taunt. They both turned around and began to sprint over the black rubble, bodies shuddering with adrenaline.

The sounds of laser blasts began to echo all around them, hitting them from behind, then left, then right, getting closer all the time. They could practically feel the ship's engine roaring in their hair, the cannons locking in on their forms. Another blast, and the ground disappeared under their feat as they ran, the flames licking their shoes.

Then Mulder tripped on a corpse and tumbled onto his back in the dirt.

Scully seemed to automatically follow him down, and landed next to him, clutching at his chest. For a split second, both of them looked up after they fell and saw the Argothian sky attack gunner looking straight at them. They could see the energy building up inside the cannons, about to hit them point blank. Mulder could just imagine the look on the Argothian pilot's face as he blasted away these two lower life forms...he could almost imagine his guard at the controls, happy to finally get revenge for the injuries he had suffered. Mulder just held Scully to him, feeling the cry of terror trying to push itself out of her chest, and prayed that Hope could forgive them for leaving her so soon...

They both heard the sound of the bolts leaving the cannons, and Mulder let out a cry as something sharp and hot scratched at his chest. Hot blood tricked down his skin as he felt something else blast his hair back. The he felt heat searing his back and neck, and he wondered how he could still fell pain if he was dead...


Scully's voice brought his eyes open in an instant. She was still there, still in one piece, dirty and scarred as she was. But she was there, and so was he, and Mulder realized that the only thing that had hurt him was the piece of metal that had struck his chest. For a moment, he thought that both he and Scully were ghosts, and that any moment they would discover their charred remains in a crater...

When Scully yanked Mulder around suddenly. Mulder let out something between a gasp of surprise and a whoop when he saw what Scully had seen...the Argothian sky attack gunner had crashed into the ground behind them, and they could barely see its metallic frame crumpling away in the midst of howling flames.

"Wha...happ...." Mulder tried to stutter, completely shocked at the sight. A sound like a jet plane a few inches above their heads caused them to look up just in time to see something zoom past them.

They looked up in amazement at the scene before them. Zipping all across the sky were small fighter ships. They weren't Argothian sky attack gunners, but they weren't fighter jets from this planet, either. They were ships Mulder had never seen before, with two small, curved wings, a long nose, two engines and practically no body. They were not all a uniform color, but were instead painted different shades and were even decorated somewhat. There were about 20 of these alien ships surrounding the skies...and they were shooting at the Argothian sky attack gunners.

It took awhile for both Mulder and Scully to realize what was happening, but once they did they both felt a cool streak of surprise and joy brush smiles onto their faces. They stood, and staggered away from the crashed attack gunner, watching the dogfight above them. The new fighters were practically flying circles around the attack gunners, using flying maneuvers that Mulder didn't think were physically possible. The Argothians were trying in vain to shoot back at the ships attacking them, but the other ships were too quick and agile to be caught. One by one, all of the sky attack gunners were shot out of the sky and sent to earth in a blaze of smoke. The people did not bother to notice this new development in their favor, and they continued to run away.

Mulder and Scully exchanged looks of happy confusion. They had no idea who exactly was flying these strange ships, but they were excited just because they were alive and that the the attack gunners had been shot down. Mulder pulled himself closer to Scully and put his hand on her face, as if checking to make sure she was as alive as he thought she was. She just grinned back at him.

The fighter ships, having destroyed all of the Argothian pack, began to regroup and circled low where Mulder and Scully were standing, as if performing multiple victory laps. Through the front shields of the ships, Mulder could faintly see the pilots within...they certainly weren't human or Argothian. They were moving too fast for him to really get a good look at them. But as one ship passed by, the pilot waved to them, and Mulder instantly recognized the creature inside. He broke into an overjoyed smile and held Scully to him with excitement.

[Ha-haaaaa!] Yallus Tallo exclaimed to Mulder and Scully on the ground outside. [I'm back, firebirds, I'm back!!]

Quickly, and in a rather unorganized matter, the 20- something alien ships landed in the black courtyard, steam and smoke hissing from their exhausts as their engines shut off. They landed all around Mulder and Scully, humming with victorious power, displaying their designs proudly. After they had all landed, there was a moment of silence, during which Mulder and Scully looked around nervously, not sure of what was going to happen next.

Then there was a little pop-hiss as one of the front shields of the ships opened up. As soon as the door was opened, a burly, reptilian-like creature leaped out with excitement. The thing had greenish flesh, like it was sick, but it certainly seemed to have a lot of energy. It whooped loudly in a sharp, gruff tongue, and began chattering excitedly to no one in particular. Mulder and Scully stared at it with wide eyes, trying to figure out if they should be running away in terror or joining in its victory dance.

Scully whispered to Mulder, "Do you know who that thing is?"

"I don't even know *what* that thing is," Mulder shook his head.

The reptile-creature finally spotted them, and cried out, CHURRBIM TRIGIM GIF GIF ROBISI CHUM MARF!

Then, all of the shields of the fighters opened, and more of the same type of creature emerged from their cockpits. They varied in skin color, height, weight, hair color and clothing, but other than that they looked fairly similar. They talked and whooped back and forth to each other in their own language, and kept exchanging loud and obnoxious laughs.

Now even Mulder was beginning to get a little bit nervous, and he hoped that he and Scully were as safe as he assumed they would be. The reptile-creatures were beginning to surround them, staring at the two humans curiously and exchanging comments and snickers. Mulder couldn't help but noticing that each one was carrying at least two weapons on them, usually more. They first creature they had seen, whom they assumed was the leader, gave a gruff shout and suddenly drew his pistol-like weapon.

"Uhhhh...Mulder...." Scully said quietly, looking at Mulder for answers.


Mulder felt his entire body relax as he saw a tall, red- feathered figure making her way through the shorter reptiles. Yallus came up to them with a huge grin on her face, screeching her gratitude that she had finally found them again.

Only neither of them could understand her. Yallus just kept talking to them as if they were old friends who didn't need to greet each other, while Mulder just stared blankly at her. After a while, Yallus finally realized that they were not responding to what she was saying, so she stopped.

Mulder pointed to his ear to demonstrate that his translo was missing. Yallus understood, and dug around inside one of her pouches. She pulled out another handful of translos...apparently she had restocked while she had been away. Mulder and Scully both took one, and it took awhile for Scully to remember how to put hers in, but Mulder helped her.

The moment both of them had their translos in, Yallus launched into her excited chattering again. [Firebirds! I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see you again...so much has happened to me! And it seems a lot has happened to you, too...]

"You could say that..." Mulder half-laughed, casting a glance at the black and burnt street around them. "I think it's safe to say that you saved our lives."

[Naw, we weren't savin' any lives...we were puttin' them out of their misery!] The head reptilian creature yelled excitedly. [Any pilots who flies as horribly as those scumtails do *want* to die!]

The other reptiles laughed at the joke, and began adding in comments of their own. [Argothians fly so horrible, they make Sluboans look like good pilots!]

[They fly so horrible they could think they were doing loops and still be on the ground!]

[They fly so horrible their mommas punish them for it!]

[Hey, how many Argothians does it take to fly a ship? Two...one to get the ship off the ground and the other to crash it!]

Amidst the laughter and snorting, Mulder pulled Yallus aside and said, "Could you please explain to me *what* exactly these things are what they are doing here?!"

Yallus grinned at Mulder. [I'm sorry I didn't introduce them earlier...I'm afraid we're all caught up in the excitement of things. You see, this is the help I promised you...this is the Chippan striker fleet. Chippans are a little rough, and they may enjoy killing things a little too much, but they're the best pilots and sharpshooters in the five sectors. They can fly and fight like you'd never believe...and best of all, they *hate* Argothians.]

[Damn straight!] The head Chippan cussed loudly, straightening his vest with a half-smile. [Scum of the universe, I say. They violate The Code, and have fun doin' it, too. I say any creature that wants to take away the right to breathe and the right to fly ought to have those rights taken from himself.]

[Firebirds...] Yallus waved her hand at the Chippan. [Meet Trump, Captain of the Chippan strikers.]

Trump just nodded, not exactly sure what gesture of greeting was appropriate for these creatures. [And who, or what, are these things you had us save? All the other ones ran away.]

Before Mulder could explain, Yallus quickly exclaimed, [They're the firebirds! The ones who are going to save the universe!]

(It certainly couldn't have been put more bluntly...) Mulder thought, biting his lip.

One of the Chippans did a quick headcount. [I thought there were three.]

For the first time, Yallus realized exactly who was missing from the trio. [Where is Hope?] She cried, suddenly becoming worried.

"She's...back home with the others," Scully said nervously. She didn't like being reminded about Hope not being in her arms, but now she was more than eternally thankful that she had not brought the baby here.

[So you're the firebirds, huh? You're the ones this entire universe has been in a hissy fit over?] Trump said, eyeing them carefully. He grinned, and laughed, [Ha-haw, those Revirans are gonna get a kick outta you, they are! I can't wait to see the looks on their faces!]

"Waitaminute..." Mulder said with a lump in his throat. "Revirans? You mean there are *more* aliens...err, no, I mean, other races coming, too?"

[Mulder, what makes you think that this is the only bunch of help that decided to show up? You may not know it, but there are thousands of packs of fighter ships heading out all over your homeworld right now. When I said I would get help, I meant I would get you *help.* And it seems like you needed it, too...some other packs of fighters were calling me about how your own fighters were battling the Argothians and were losing miserably. Most of the fighters that have come here are Chippans, but there are many other races coming, too.]

Mulder and Scully looked at each other, trying to soak in so much information at once. "So what...the Revirans are more fighters?" Mulder said questioningly.

At this comment, all the Chippans began laughing uproariously, causing Mulder and Scully to shy away from them. Through snorts of laughter, Trump exclaimed, [The Revirans? Fighters? Why, if any one of them so much as used a gun it would be news to the universe! They hate fighting...which of course means they don't like us...but they do know how to commit themselves to something, I can tell you that!]

At that moment, a strange sound came from somewhere over their heads. All of them looked up, and saw yet *another* ship hovering in the air. This one looked too big and slow to be a fighter, and it wasn't an Argothian ship, either. It was shaped like a half-circle, almost like an orange slice, and was a gray- blue color. Lights flashed from its rim as the ship began to slowly descend towards earth.

[Oh,] Yallus said, sounding pleased. [That would be them now.]

"They're coming *here* right now?!" Mulder yelped. "Yallus...don't you think you should be taking a few more precautions in inviting every race in the universe to my planet for some big party?!"

Yallus gave Mulder a look. [Really, Mulder, I'm surprised at you! I went to a lot of trouble to get all this here and to help *you.* It's not as if other races besides your own is a big mystery to your people anymore. I thought you would be happy to see me.]

"I *am* happy to see you!" Mulder assured the Thybiran. "We both can't tell you how happy we are to see you! It's just that all this a very big jump from where we were just a little while ago."

[Well, better get used to the idea, because it's going to get bigger. We have a lot to do, and we have to do it fast.]

"We've already started it," Scully told them, deciding that she wanted to say something. "We've been passing out the cure for the last four days or so."

[As is evidenced by the Argothians attacking you. What you now have to do is keep giving out the blood of the Child of the Fire, and in the meanwhile fight off the firepower the Argothians have. The more creatures become immune to the Argothian life- force, the more they will rely on their firepower. And that's where our help comes in.]

As Yallus finished speaking, the slice-shaped ship finally touched down in the open spot in the courtyard. The Chippans were not exactly the best at landing their strikers. and took up more room than they should have. Mulder, Scully, Yallus and the Chippan army watched quietly as the ship hissed and then killed its engine.

The side door of the ship opened slowly, and Yallus began to walk towards it to greet the beings inside. Mulder and Scully just stood there, wondering what sort of creatures were coming now...

When suddenly a streak of light zoomed out of the open door, heading straight for Mulder and Scully. Scully let out a cry as Mulder pulled her down reflexively, barely giving room for the light to pass over their heads. When Mulder finally realized what was happening, he broke into an enormous grin.

"Tho!" He cried as the little light-ball whizzed around his head. "Tho, I never thought I'd see you again!"

Tho stopped in front of Mulder, and flashed a message in bright purple. Whatever she said, Mulder could tell that she was very happy while saying it.

[Blue firebird! You're here!] Another voice called suddenly. Mulder recognized that voice as well, and smiled again as a rodent-like creature stepped out of the ship.

"Slander!" Mulder exclaimed as the Miman came towards him, grinning from ears to ears. "What are all of you doing here?!"

In just a moment, Mulder found himself surrounded by the three friends he had first met when he had escaped from the Argothian ship. Scully felt a little excluded from this reunion, but she understood that this was something that was important to Mulder.

[When we heard about the ULR gathering to to fight the Argothians on your homeworld, and that Yallus was part of the team going there, we knew we just had to come and see you!] Slander answered Mulder's question. [You wouldn't believe how big of a deal it was...there were announcements sent out to all the armies of the ULR homeworlds, and there was a big mass of volunteers who signed up to come help fight...and they're all here now!]

"Well, it certainly makes us feel good to know that there are lots of people out there who support us..." Mulder said, slightly amazed.

Just then, Tho began trying to talk to Scully, and began flashing messages in her face. Scully blinked and moved away, not sure what this thing was trying to do to her...

Slander caught sight of Tho's flashing, and therefore caught sight of Scully. He blinked in surprise and muttered an apology to himself that he had not noticed her before. [Who are you?] He inquired.

[She's the red firebird, the mother of the Child of the Fire!] Yallus leaped in before Scully could speak. Seeing Scully's slightly irritated look, Yallus quickly added, [And her name is Dana Scully.]

[A pleasure to meet you,] Slander said in his typical Miman politeness. [I've heard a lot about you.]

Scully blushed just slightly, and Mulder gave her a lopsided grin. Slander cast a look at the two of them, and then darted away, saying, [I should go get the Revirans now, They've been going nuts ever since Yallus showed up at that ULR meeting and said that the firebirds were real.]

Before Mulder or Scully could protest, Slander darted back to the gray half-circle ship. There were a few moments of no movement, during which Mulder, Scully, Yallus and Tho watched the ship expectantly, and the Chippans shuffled around restlessly. They didn't like standing still for too long.

Finally, Slander exited the ship again, with some new kind of race following him outside. They were all a humanoid shape, about the same size as humans too, except they had various shades of blue skin and they hovered over the ground. They had very small noses and mouths, and hands that were somewhat webbed. They also had different colors of smooth, almost metallic hair, and they wore nothing but long, flowing, colorful capes. Mulder and Scully watched carefully as these entities nervously ventured out of their ship and into this brave new world. They seemed to be just slightly afraid of everything, and at the same time possessing great potential.

Nobody said anything as the Revirans came up to the other group. Being surrounded by multiple alien races was not exactly what Mulder or Scully found comfortable, and they exchanged undetermined glances.

Yallus suddenly appeared beside them, and gave them an encouraging look. [Show them that you are the firebirds.]

Mulder understood what she meant. He and Scully reached their hands towards each other, and touched palms. Instantly, the firebird symbol on their hands flared up to its original brilliance. It happened every time they touched hands, and they had become so used to it happening that they hardly noticed the symbols anymore. Now, however, they were both reminded of the significance of the mark they bore. Nervously, they both showed their symbols to the Revirans, one in red and the other in blue.

And the Revirans reacted to this like Mulder and Scully would never have believed. A large cry went up from the group of them, although they weren't sure if it was a cry of joy, fear, embarrassment, or all of them at once. Then all of them bowed low to Mulder and Scully, facing the ground. The Reviran in the front, whom Mulder assumed to be the leader, cried out, [Please forgive us, lords, for not realizing your presence immediately!]

A general muttering came from the group, as if they were all quietly praying to themselves. Mulder and Scully just stared at the Revirans, and then at each other. Yallus came in closer to Mulder and Scully, and whispered, [You have to understand something about the Revirans...they've heard the firebird legend, too, only they regard it as a world religion, and they *worship* you. There are piles of doctrine on the legend, and hundreds of temples on their homeworld...it's amazing, really. They're the ones that started the ULR, and they did so because of you.] Mulder just gave Yallus an astonished look.

The leader spoke again, sounding as if she were near tears. [In our haste to organize ourselves and arrive at your homeworld, we have neglected to bring you a suitable offering! We are shamed! We beg your forgiveness, O saviors of allkind!]

Mulder felt he should say something back, but he just stuttered uncertaingly. (What do you say when you have a whole race of aliens worshipping you?!) he thought to himself. He stole a glance at Scully and could tell that she was even more stressed about this situation than he was. Somehow, Mulder didn't want to exactly explain to these creatures that he was just a normal, mortal human being that most people didn't like anyway, and not some amazing deity. He didn't want to crush their faith when they had obviously put so much time and effort into it as to include bowing and offerings. Just he and Scully's existence was the main basis of religion for these creatures. At the same time, however, Mulder couldn't help but feel a sense of empowerment...it was something of an ego-boost to know that there was an entire race that worshipped you. He wished that he could give some sort of supernatural presentation to them, but he figured the symbol on his hand was the best he could do.

A look from Yallus brought him back to reality, and he saw that the Revirans were still bowed before them. Mulder wasn't sure whether they were expecting an answer or not, so he just said, "Ummm...don't worry about it."

[We are eternally thankful for your forgiveness, great blue firebird! We know we do not deserve it!]

Then there was silence as the Revirans remained in a bowing position. From behind, the Chippans began to comment and snicker to each other. Mulder could tell that they were at least trying to be respectful, otherwise they would have all burst out laughing.

"You can stand up, you know," Mulder told the Revirans.

[You would permit us to look upon your faces?]

"Sure, why not."

Slowly, hesitantly, the Revirans brought themselves up from the ground. They still weren't sure if they were worthy enough to "look upon their faces," and they were halfway looking at them and halfway looking at the ground. "What are some of your names?" Scully finally ventured to say.

The leader swallowed before answering and drew in several more Revirans next to her. [I am Havenamy, high priestess of the nation of Ideelos. These are all my friends and peers, Teebish, Annehais, Dierin, Audomti, Leharsin, and Shelmar. They are also priestesses, and are all very learned in doctrine and worship. We pray that you approve of the time we have spent dedicated to you...]

Mulder gave Scully a half-smile, as if to say, 'Are you enjoying this as much as I am?' Scully just half-smiled back. There was another long silence...it seemed as if the Revirans' every word was based on what the firebirds said. "So...you guys want to help us fight the Argothians?"

[Oh, we will serve in you in any and every way you desire!] Havenamy said quickly. [We have brought all of the troops we could muster. But I am afraid that our personal military strength is not nearly enough to fight the war we are facing. Which is where we enlisted the help you see before you now.]

[Speaking of helping, I don't think that just standing around chit-chatting away is going to help matters much,] Trump said impatiently. [When are more of those damn Argothians going to show up so we can kick their...]

[Be patient, you guys,] Yallus interrupted him. [You're not the only ones here that want to fight them. But they're gone for now, and it's time for us to take a breather. Next time we fight them again, we'll be completely prepared.]

[What are we going to do in the meanwhile?]

[Actually...] Yallus gave Mulder and Scully a hopeful look. [I was hoping the firebirds would take us to see Hope? I am the only one that has seen her, and I know everyone here is dying to meet her as well.]

Everyone, even Mulder, looked to Scully for an answer. It just seemed to be the general agreement that Scully was in charge of what Hope did or didn't do. Scully gulped down a nervous lump, unsure if she wanted all the universe crowding into the bungalow to see her nine-month-old baby. She had been frightened enough with just Yallus there, but now there were many more aliens, including the bad-mouthing, gun-toting Chippans. Even the fact that half of the people here had just saved their lives and the other half were worshipping her couldn't change the fact that they were not human. And Scully definitely had a deep-seeded prejudice against non-humans.

"Alright..." Scully finally sighed. "Yallus and Mulder's other two friends can come and see her. And the priestess, um...Reivran, Havenamy, can come too." She looked at the Chippan captain somewhat apologetically before adding, "But none of your people can come. I'm...sorry."

Trump just shrugged. [Hey, do what you want, lady. It's your baby.]

Scully was slightly glad that the Chippans weren't offended by her rejection of them. Most of the Revirans seemed a little sad that they were not getting to see Hope, but they passed it off on their common idea that they were "not worthy."

Although Mulder wouldn't have minded a larger group of the races getting to admire his daughter, he was fine with Scully's decision. Looking around at the Chippan strikers that covered the courtyard, he said, "I guess the only question now is how do we get back home."

[Simple, we'll take the Reviran transport,] Yallus said. [The fighters can only fit one person.]

"W-waitaminute..." Scully interjected suddenly. "Take the transport? You mean the ship? You mean we have to ride back in their ship?" She got a look from everyone that seemed to say a collective 'yes.' "I...I don't know if I'm comfortable with that..." She finally admitted. Scully looked to Mulder for support, but she didn't get any. He had spent over a year on Argothian ships in space, and so he certainly wasn't going to be afraid of being on a Reviran ship that wasn't even leaving the planet.

"Don't worry about it, Scully," He assured her. "It wouldn't take very long for us to get back to the bungalow. It beats walking...plus we wouldn't be left exposed to more of those Argothian fighters if they showed up again."

*That* was enough to convince Scully. She nodded in agreement, and gave Yallus a look of approval. The Thybiran smiled and said, [Then let's go! I just can't wait for this!]

The Chippans took this to mean it was time for them to leave as well. [Alright, strikers!] Trump called out to his race. [We're heading back to the rendezvous point! Stay in peaceflight formation, but keep your eyes peeled for any more attack gunners!] As the Chippans started to disperse to their separate aircraft, Trump turned back to Yallus. [We'll leave your striker here. Meet us at the rendezvous whenever you're ready.]

Yallus nodded, and saluted the captain. Trump saluted back and then headed for his own striker. As Mulder trailed the captain to his ship, he noticed that the sides were decorated with flames, and a bird-like image was also painted amidst the flames. He had a feeling that those decorations had been added very recently. One by one, the engines on the strikers started up, billowing out bluish gas everywhere. Then the ships rose into the air, and Mulder couldn't help but marvel at the technology that enabled these machines to skip and land from earth to space without wasting any machinery and in practically no time at all. Eventually, all of the strikers had taken off and disappeared to some unknown rendezvous.

And now it was time for Mulder and Scully to board their own ride home. The Reviran slice-shaped transport certainly seemed more comfortable than the rough-and-tumble strikers, but it was still somewhat foreboding. Mulder held onto Scully's hand to tell her that he would stay beside her no matter what.

Yallus and Slander began to eagerly urge Mulder and Scully to get on the transport, for while they just wanted to go back to the bungalow, the other two wanted to share their stories. The Revirans instantly made a path to the ship for the firebirds, wishing for all the worlds that they could roll out the proverbial red carpet. As they passed, the Revirans all bowed to them, like a ripple making its way across the surface of the water.

Then, they reached the entrance of the transport, and stepped inside. The interior was very nicely furnished, even more so than the sky attack gunner had been. There was little furniture, since the Revirans floated and did not really need to sit. There was also a very large glass window in the front and back that gave the occupants a clear view of everything outside. As soon as all of the Revirans and other races were inside, the ramp door shut behind them. Scully cringed a little at being inside this alien craft, and tightened her grip on Mulder's hand.

[If it would not be too much trouble, firebirds,] Audomti requested very carefully, [We need some assistance in navigating our way back to your palace.]

"Um, we don't have a palace," Mulder said with a small laugh. "But we can show you how to get back to the bungalow..."

[Do as you wish.] Audomti bowed again.

Mulder led Scully with him up to the cockpit, and the three other non-Revirans followed them. There were a few pilot Revirans at the controls, awaiting the firebirds to give them directions. "Just go in that general direction," Mulder pointed out the cockpit windshield. "And just keep going that way until I tell you to do otherwise."

Instantly, the ship began humming as its engines started up, and the scenery outside lowered slightly as the craft first began to hover above the ground. Scully did not take her eyes off of Mulder's face as the Reviran transport continued to rise into the air, finding security in Mulder's confidence. The Revirans were very busy floating back and forth, making sure the instruments and the ship itself were running as smoothly as possible, so as to impress the great firebirds with their technology as well as their dedication. As far as Mulder and Scully were concerned, a ship that was easily able to take off and hover over the ground was impressive enough.

As they flew along, Mulder and Scully stared quietly at the burnt wreckage below them from their arial view. Although they had been better able to see the Argothians' destruction on the ground, they were now able to see the magnitude of the destruction. Everywhere there were rows of buildings and streets black and crisp from laser blasts. They couldn't see any people below, and Mulder wondered where they all had gone. Thinking of the other masses there suddenly reminded him of Joyce, and he hoped that she had gotten out alright. Fire trucks and ambulances were finally beginning to arrive on the scene, but they couldn't go very far over the damaged roads. Mulder didn't even want to know how many casualties had resulted from this surprise attack. Just seeing the greenish fire crackling within the remains of buildings was making his stomach turn. "We should have been prepared for this..." He finally muttered.

Scully saw what Mulder was referring to. "Mulder, there was no way we could have seen this coming..."

"It doesn't matter!" Mulder insisted. "We knew what the Argothians were capable of! We've been able to produce and administer the cure, why couldn't we have a created a military defense as well? This could have been prevented..."

[No offense to your race, Mulder,] Yallus said, [but even if you had had your fighters ready to battle the Argothians this would have happened. Your military forces are in no way equipped to fight the Argothians and have a chance of winning. I told you about how when we were coming down here there were other packs of Chippans reporting to us on counterstrikes your race was making. For one thing, your ships don't have energy bolts, and there's no way your puny explosive bolts are going to penetrate Argothian hulls. Secondly, Argothians have shields as well as weapons, and you don't have any shields at all. What kind of intelligent races doesn't include *shields* in the design of their ships?!]

[Thybiran, you will *not* insult the race of the firebirds in that way!] The Reviran Teebish said angrily. [Is that any way you show your appreciation for your saviors?!]

Yallus looked like she was about to deliver a sharp comment back, when Mulder quickly butted in, "Don't worry about it, we're not insulted. We know our military is not very advanced. As long as we have you here to help us fight the Argothians, it's okay."

Both races backed off from each other. Mulder felt another surge of his "divine power" in that he was able to dictate how these creatures behaved towards one another. Yallus shrugged off Teebish and then turned her attention to Mulder privately. [Sorry about that, Mulder. It's somewhat strange for me trying to treat you like my friend and equal when I am surrounded by others who consider themselves inferior to you. I wish that I could just sit down and talk to you, and we could exchange stories. I know that Slander and Tho especially have wanted to spend time with you, and the red firebird as well.]

"Don't worry, Yallus..." Mulder gave the Thybiran a grin. "I'm sure that once this is all over we'll have plenty of time to catch up on things. I have a feeling that when you help us beat the Argothians that my people will be more...accepting of other races."

"'*When* we beat the Argothians...' you sure sound confident," Scully scoffed.

"Hey look, I think I see the bungalow now," Mulder pointed out the windshield. "See? I told you it would be a short trip."

Scully saw the lonely bungalow as well. However, the moment she saw it, she instantly got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Even from up high she could tell that something was missing...

"Where's the Gunmen's van?"

"What do you mean?" Mulder looked down below to where Scully's gaze lay.

"The van is gone," She repeated.

"Well...maybe one of the Gunmen took the van out to get groceries."

Scully said nothing. The Reviran transport positioned itself above the bungalow's area, and then began to descend. An uneasy silence sneaked up on everyone in the ship, as if some odor was wafting up from the concrete walls below. Yallus wanted to create some form of conversation with Mulder and Scully, but she saw the way they were staring outside and she shut her beak.

Slowly and smoothly, the transport descended until it touched down on earth. As soon as the ramp door slid open, Mulder and Scully rushed out and towards their home, eager to be reunited with their friends. Yallus, Slander, Tho and Havenamy followed close behind them, while the rest of the Revirans stayed behind with the transport.

At first, the two firebirds ran quickly towards the bungalow, but the closer they got, the more they slowed down. Scully stopped in front of the door first, and sucked in her breath.

The front door of the bungalow, which was a solid metal door, had been ripped open and was hanging by its top hinges. The glass window in the door was smashed as well. Mulder and Scully exchanged looks, and then together slowly walked through the entrance. Mulder could feel that Scully's hand had become cold, and he swallowed down a lump in his throat. After they stepped inside the bungalow, they saw only barely recognizable shapes in the dark. Mulder felt someone breathing on his shoulder, and he turned around and saw Yallus staring into the room. He felt somewhat easier knowing they had more backup should whatever have caused this still be in here...

The thought caused him to quickly reach over and flick on the light. As soon as the room was illuminated, Scully let out a gasp of horror.

The entire bungalow had been trashed completely, as if two wild animals had fought in it. There was a chair broken into sticks, shards of smashed tableware on the floor, and torn carpet in several places. The walls were the thing that captured Mulder and Scully's attention the most...they were peppered with a few bullet holes, and there was fresh blood splattered on the concrete and staining the carpet.

Scully took in a shuddering breath before whispering, "What happened?...."

Mulder didn't dare to answer. The trash-covered room seemed to spin and blur in his vision, and he couldn't stand to look at anything. A breath of cold wind stirred the papers on the floor, seeming to echo with horrific events that couldn't have taken place that long ago. "Skinner!" Mulder called out, his voice cracking on the stale, blood-scented air. "Is anybody?..."

Both Mulder and Scully jumped where they were standing as a faint thump came from below. They instantly turned their gaze to the stairs that led underground. A small trail of blood marked the path down into the dark concrete hole. In a flash, they both thundered down the stairs, faintly hearing Yallus and the others struggling to follow them. Both of them knew what the other was thinking, what the other was dreading more than anything else...

As they reached the bottom of the stairs, the thump came yet again, jump-starting their hearts. They could faintly see a figure moving around in the dark, as if limping. The figure heard Mulder and Scully come down, and stopped moving.

Mulder immediately reached over and turned on the light. Both he and Scully stopped breathing as they saw what lay before them now. The bomb shelter was an even bigger wreck than the bungalow...almost all the furniture had been knocked over or smashed, and the floor was smeared with blood stains. For the first time, Mulder noticed something else...wide holes in the concrete, fizzing and smoking as if they had been burned off. Puddles of greenish film sat on the fringes of these holes...a sight that was all too familiar for both Mulder and Scully.

But the thing that gave this scene the finishing touch of destruction was Doggett. He was trying to lift himself up by a table, but each time he tried he would fall back down again, causing the thumping they had heard. He gritted his teeth and grabbed at his left leg...which had been horrifically mangled. His leg was covered with deep wounds, which were seeping blood all over the floor. His other leg wasn't as bloody, but they could tell just by looking at it that it had been twisted out of its socket. Doggett seemed to be just coming to, and he touched the bruises and cuts on his face, chest and legs with shock and confusion.

"DOGGETT!" Mulder cried aloud, and he and Scully rushed to help the wounded ex-agent. Doggett moaned loudly, his face scrunched with pain. He blinked at Mulder and Scully, as if at first not realizing who they were. "M-Mulder?..."

"Shh, lay down, and tell us what happened," Mulder said in a voice that quivered.

Doggett was still in shock. He tried to answer Mulder's question, but it came out mostly as mumbling. "Frohike's innuh kitchen...wh...w...where's Maggie?...He w...was gunna...where is sh-she, make sure she's...okay....."

Scully suddenly felt her heart stop, and she leapt up, drawing in each breath as if it would somehow allow her to use her dry voice. She stumbled doggedly over the mess of the living room, heading for the bedroom. The doorway seemed to stretch away from her, but she reached it anyway, gasping incomprehensible words as she did. She threw herself inside, and stopped. She wanted to scream, but the sound froze in her throat along with the rest of her body.

She saw two things in the bedroom. The first one was her mother's body, sprawled out at the bottom of Hope's crib. The second one was that the crib was empty.

Mulder sat on his knees by Doggett's side, breathing slowly, staring at the wall with heavy eyes. Doggett was still trying to talk to him, and Yallus was saying something as well, but all of these sounds became silence in his ears. The only thing he could hear was Scully in the bedroom...he could sense her falling to her mother's side the same way he was beside Doggett. He could sense her breathing turning into sobs that wet her lips and dried her throat, he could sense the tears beginning to squeeze out of her eyes. When she began to speak, Mulder forced himself up, his legs feeling exhausted, and ran to the bedroom.

Scully was sitting on the hard concrete floor, cradling her mother's head in her arms, shaking all over with thick sobs. "Please, mom...you have to tell me where Hope is...you have to get up and tell me where Hope is! Don't do this to me..."

She was stopped by her own tears, which spilled down her face and choked her voice. Scully knew, with some terrible certainty, why her mother would not answer...but she blatantly refused the coldness she felt in her hands. This couldn't happen to her, this couldn't have happened to Maggie...

Mulder walked to Scully until he couldn't support his own weight, and collapsed by her side. He saw the way Maggie had spread her arms across the crib...he saw the dark fingerprints on her neck. Then he couldn't stand to look anymore, and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the moisture that was rising to his own eyelids. He couldn't cry with Scully, as badly as he wanted to, he needed to be strong for her...

"Mulder..." Scully finally choked. "Hope is gone..."

Mulder said nothing.

"Mom won't tell me where she is..."

He still said nothing.

"Dammit, Mulder, don't be strong!" Scully suddenly cried, clutching her mother's body with grief and ferocity. "CRY! I don't want to see you be strong! MY MOTHER IS DEAD AND MY BABY IS GONE, I WANT TO SEE YOU CRY!"

Mulder could not have complied to her wishes more readily. He broke down on the spot, although his tears felt numb and slow. He felt Scully put her forehead on his shoulder, and wet his shirt with her tears. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry...I'm sorry..." She whispered to him, unable to remember the rest of her apology.

Mulder tried to speak, tried to answer her, but his heart was too busy making statements through his tears to use his voice. (Why? Why, of all the people in the world, did this have to happen to Maggie?)

A feeling of heat caused Mulder to open his eyes, and try and wipe the tears from them. He saw Tho, hovering in the air near them. She had turned a dull gray color and was flickering very slowly, as if it were the only way an energy-ball could cry. He also saw Yallus, standing in the doorway, her shoulder-feathers drooping as a reaction to her shock and sadness. Just one look at the bedroom and Mulder and Scully told her what had happened.

[Um....] The Thybiran paused, afraid she would seem insensitive to the firebirds' mourning, when in fact she was just the opposite. [Doggett is beginning to come to more. He's asking for you, and he wants to know if...Maggie's alright.....]

At this, Scully just began to cry harder, and continued to cradle her mother's head. Mulder, however, wiped the tears from his eyes and slowly stood. His grief was beginning to boil and froth into guilt, and then anger...he wanted to find out what had happened, and who had done this. He wanted to know so that he could find them and cause them the pain that they had caused him and Scully tenfold...so he could get them back and make them wish they had never existed. (Whoever did this will pay, and pay dearly...)

Doggett was carefully sitting up in a chair that had survived the attack. He needed to go to a hospital immediately if he wanted to walk again soon, since it seemed that both his legs were broken. Doggett seemed *very* happy to see Mulder...he had been surrounded by strange alien beings for this past time, and Yallus had been the only one he had recognized. Frohike, who had been lying unconscious in the kitchen, had been dragged into the living room, and the others were still trying to revive him. From the large, ugly bruise on his temple, it seemed that someone had thrown something like a rock at his head.

"Mulder!..." Doggett gasped, trying to sit himself up more. "Where is Maggie? Is she alright?"

Mulder's building anger suddenly regressed back into his earlier sadness. He stared at the floor, and swallowed down more grief. "She's dead. And Hope is gone."

Doggett soaked in the news with tight nerves, and gritted his teeth as if Mulder's words had caused him physical pain. He shook his head very slowly, and groaned, "No....no, uuuugh, I should've stopped him, I knew I shoulda..."

"Stop who?" Mulder's blood shot up from cold to boiling. "Who did this?"

"We were...I think...watching TV. They were talking about alien ships coming down, shooting at people...we were worried, and were going to call you. And then...I dunno...Skinner suddenly collapsed! It looked like...something in his blood, or under his skin, but he couldn't speak...he could barely breathe. But Byers and Langly took him to the hospital right away. It couldn't have been five minutes after they left that *we* were attacked...me and Frohike tried to fight him off, while Maggie went to guard the baby..."

"Who? Fight who off?" Mulder demanded.

"I...I'm not sure who...a man, a young man, with fairly dark skin and dark hair...he kept talking in this other language...I dunno, I think it was Russian."

Mulder sucked in his breath and clenched his fists. He knew exactly who Doggett was talking about...someone who could incapacitate Skinner by remote, who spoke Russian and would be after their baby...


Mulder felt his body quiver as if from an electric chill at saying the name aloud. They should have known, should have known that Krycek...the dragon...was coming after Hope sooner or later. (We never should have left the bungalow...we never should have left Hope...if Scully and I had been here we could have stopped him...and saved Maggie.....)

The guilt poured over him slowly and coldly, but it still seemed to evaporate away when heated under the anger he felt towards Krycek. (To think that, right before I was abducted, he came to me and was talking to me like an informant, or even a friend...only to do this now. We never should have trusted him, we should have caught him while we had the chance and never let any of this happen...)

Doggett wet his lips and interrupted Mulder's thoughts. "We should have been able to take him, the three of us together...but he was fighting like a madman! Ripped the door open, started thundering down the stairs, when Frohike and I met up with him. He hit Frohike in the head with something, I dunno what, and literally *threw* him into the kitchen. Then I remember...trying to shoot him, he knocked my gun away, I yelled at Maggie to protect the baby...and he...pulled out a knife, I tried to get it from him, but he grabbed my leg and it hurt so much I couldn't stand up. He did something else...I'm not sure...I don't really remember anything else."

Yallus looked towards the bedroom, her eyes sad. [She died trying to protect Hope.]

Doggett squeezed his eyes shut again and mumbled quiet curses to himself. Havenamy was also reciting some unknown Reviran prayer, staring silently at the floor under Mulder's feet as if she expected him to answer it for her.

Then Scully entered the room. She looked pale, dry, and weak in the stomach. She stared at everyone in the living room as if they were shadows that would disappear as soon as the lights grew dim. She was deep in grief, and id not seem as if she would be surfacing any time soon. She had lost her mother and her daughter all in one stroke of violence...she could barely comprehend that she was still alive and breathing. She saw Mulder as her only source of comfort, of refuge from this terror that had swallowed her, but the light in his eyes that had always comforted her before was now dim.

"What did Doggett say?" She finally asked in a voice that seemed to heavy to carry itself.

Mulder left the others and came to Scully, knowing that he was going to have to support her emotionally and physically for what he was going to tell her next. He dreaded her reaction, but she had to know just as much as he did.

"It...it was Krycek."

Scully's grief suddenly escalated into a terror that was written all over her face, as if someone had poured ice water over her heart when it was already cold. Her lips trembled as she struggled to speak, and she wondered if she was the only one that understood what this meant...

"Mulder...he's going to kill her!"

Mulder gripped Scully's shoulders, refusing to hear those words come out of her mouth. "No, he won't, we'll find him and stop him before he can even touch her..."

"It's no good, it's no good, he will have already killed her!" Scully broke into choking sobs. "We know who he is, and what he wants, he's going to kill Hope..." Scully could not continue, and she buried her face into Mulder's chest with grief that had just been doubled. Mulder wrapped his arms around her and pressed his tear-streaked face into her hair. "Mulder...I don't know how I'm going to live without her...I don't know how I'll be able to get through this without Hope..."

Mulder suddenly felt his body grow hard and his nerves become tight. He mind instantly settled with resolve, and he felt his blood fill with a determination that he had never felt before. He pulled Scully away from him and saw her pale, tear-stained face, and knew that she didn't deserve this torture. "We ARE going to to find her, Scully," He said solidly. "He's *not* going to kill her because we're going to stop him before he does." Scully just stared at him, somewhat amazed at his determination. "Do you understand me?" He said, almost shaking her. She nodded slowly, gulping down the rest of her sobs.

"Alright!" Mulder turned so that he faced everyone, automatically assuming the leader position. "The first thing we have to do is to get Doggett and Frohike to a hospital. Then we're going to figure out where Krycek might have gone, and we're going to search him out. I'll call for an ambulance. Yallus, Slander, Tho, Havenamy...when the ambulance gets here you'd better make yourselves scarce. I don't think the doctors would be that warm to other races just yet."

While Mulder went for the phone, there was an unusual silence suspended in the room. Scully cast a glance at Mulder, and then the others, before sitting herself down in another in-tact chair. Mulder's fierce determination had numbed her grief and left her somewhat bewildered. She wanted more than anything to believe Mulder, to think that they would find their baby alive and safe. But a choking feeling in her chest and her mother's body in the other room made her feel otherwise. She did *not* want to find her daughter dead...she would rather never see Hope again and partially believe that she was alive than discover her innocent daughter's dead body. She sensed that this feeling had an odd familiarity to it...it was the same way she had felt when Mulder had been abducted.

After awhile, Scully became aware of another presence close to her. She looked up and saw Havenamy staring at her intently. As soon as the Reviran priestess caught Scully's eyes, she quickly looked away and bowed. [Forgive me, firebird, I...]

"Please don't do that," Scully sighed. "You don't need to bow to me or anything. I'm not a god, I'm just...a person."

There was a pause. [You are quite different from the way I envisioned you,] Havenamy admitted.

"It's strange...that most of this world hardly knows who I am, hardly likes me, even. Okay, it doesn't like me at all. Yet off on some distant planets, *everyone* knows me and *everyone* likes me."

[As we suspected. Those that are greatest are always scorned by those closest to their home.]

"Exactly how much of my life do you know?"

[Only what the legend tells us.]

Scully was beginning to hate the legend. She stared at the red symbol on her hand with contempt. She could have a had a full and happy life, a life with Mulder and their daughter and no one else, if Mulder had not touched her hand and caused the emblem to appear. And now it had brought her to this place...this place with her friends severely injured, her daughter gone, her mother dead, her confidence shattered, the world in flames. This legend was a curse to her and Mulder.

She remembered, for a moment, something Cancer Man had told them when he had suddenly appeared and explained to them how Hope had been conceived... "Follow the legend...after all, it ends in your favor."

(This doesn't feel like "our favor" at all,) Scully thought bitterly. (More like it ends in our demise.)

But the words continued to pester Scully with their hopeful prophecy. (The Child of the Fire kills the dragon? But how? When she is just a helpless baby and the dragon is stronger than a normal human...how is that possible? And then the Argothians retreat in defeat...with the way they attacked us earlier, how is that possible, either?)

Scully glanced back up at the quiet Havenamy. Here she was hating and questioning this legend that had thrust her upwards into the fire, and here was this race that lived by it. In this strange creature's smile she saw a constant, unwavering support for her and her baby. She saw it in the Chippans' loud and rough excitement, in Yallus's steadfast friendship, in Doggett's war wounds and unlimited loyalty, in her mother's martyrdom in protecting Hope, in the lives that her friends and family had left behind to devote themselves to this crazy crusade. Most of all, she felt it in Mulder's arms, and saw it in his eyes. And she couldn't help but wake up every day and say a prayer of thanks that Mulder was here beside her and that she shared her child with him.

(Perhaps...perhaps this legend is not a complete curse on us all.)

Scully's thoughts were broken by Mulder's voice cutting into the thick silence. "I've called the hospital, and they're sending an ambulance, although right now they've overflowing with people injured in the attack. Doggett, I'm afraid you and Frohike might get second priority next to a lot of others that may be worse off."

"Oh, I'll be fine..." Doggett groaned, pretending not to notice the pain in his two broken legs. "Just a flesh wound, and Frohike's just got a bump on his head; we could come with you soon..."

[Look, I'm not sure what your race calls "a flesh wound" or "a bump on the head," but I typically call your injuries "one broken leg and one dislocated leg plus more" and "a concussion, possibly a cracked skull,"] Slander told Doggett. [Mulder is right...you both need hospitalization for awhile.]

Doggett was about to protest again, but decided to keep his mouth shut. It was difficult to argue with the logic of a large, hammerhead rodent-alien.

"Alright...Scully, I suggest that you stay here with Doggett and Frohike. The rest of us will go up...I'll wait for the ambulance, and Yallus and Havenamy have to move the Reviran ship out of sight. As soon as Doggett and Frohike are okay, we'll be joining the others. Langly and Byers will already be at the hospital when Doggett and Frohike get there."

"Mulder...what about..." Scully cast a backwards glance towards the living room.

Mulder's voice slowed. "I told them about that. We'll arrange what needs to be done afterwards. Right now...we have to find Hope."

Scully sat on a couch-like structure that was cushioned with material that felt like velvet corduroy. She hugged herself coldly, and stared out the window a the empty road that stretched out by her. She could see her reflection in the glass-like barrier, colored fire from the setting sun. The Dana Scully that looked back at her through that wall of fire seemed a miserable being. She was pale in the face, with bags under her eyes. She wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to heat her frozen skin, but her hands were just as cold as the rest of her.

They were aboard the Reviran transport vehicle, which had been moved somewhere farther down the empty road where people couldn't see it easily, although it was pretty conspicuous. Ever since the ambulance arrived, Scully had passed the time with an outer indifference. She had watched with dry eyes as doctors bundled up Doggett and Frohike, and then taken her mother away. Tears had exploded into being when she first discovered the tragedy, and the fallout was closing her throat and making her feel sick. The doctors didn't bother to ask what had happened to the small party in the bungalow...they were too wrapped up in the chaos of the times to try and make sense of anything anymore. They had also not bothered to tell them about the kidnapped Hope...this was a situation which they now needed to handle alone.

(And here we are, ready to fight but knowing that it's probably too late,) Scully thought with a sigh. She did not want to react to anything, she just wanted to line out her grief that was frozen in suspended animation. As she watched the sun set, she had to marvel at the unbelievable events of the day. (First we're attacked by Argothians and are almost blown away, then we're saved by even *more* aliens, only they're on our side and even worship us, and then we get home and find my mother dead, my daughter kidnapped and everyone else severely injured.) She almost laughed. (This definitely ranks up there as one of the crappiest days of my life.)

She heard Mulder's voice bouncing around the strange metal walls, and she turned her head towards him. She was amazed at the way Mulder was able to charge forward even after all that had happened...while she was being small, cold and silent, he was alive with angry energy. He had been talking to himself for awhile now, and his voice became louder as his frustration grew.

"I just...wish he would have left us a clue!" Mulder groaned, pacing back and forth with nervous Revirans surrounding him on all sides. None of them had ever expected their beloved firebirds to behave like this...to get angry, or afraid, or to mourn. They were supposed to be the saviors of the universe, the ones that provided strength for the weak.

"He couldn't have gone far..." Mulder continued to muse. "Even if he had a car, he couldn't be out of the state by now. I don't know if he could have hidden in one of the ruined buildings back at the wrecked vaccination station...he obviously couldn't have taken her anyplace public if he had been wounded somewhat, which he may have been..."

[Do you know of a hideout he has? Some place that he calls home?] Yallus asked after awhile.

Mulder thought for a moment, but then shook his head. "We never knew much about him...he was very elusive, and you could never tell what his agenda was. At first we thought that Cancer Man could be the dragon, but he proved us wrong. If only I knew..."

[Dragon...] Havenamy said with contempt. [The worst part of the legend, many think. If only we could have had a protection amulet for the Child of the Fire...]

"Think!" Mulder said between his teeth. "This has to make sense somehow! Where does a dragon live?"

There was a long silence. Then Mulder and Scully locked eyes, and stared at each other with realization...they both had the answer.

"In a cave."

Hope closed her eyes and screamed, screamed for all she was worth. She was cold, and she ached all over, and when she opened her eyes she saw nothing but darkness. She could hear her own cries coming back to her from over her head as if someone else was crying the same as she. All she could think about was that she was completely alone, in this cold harshness, and she wanted it to be light, and warm, and have her parents hold her. This coldness, this feeling of abandonment and anger...it felt like a punishment. She wondered what she had done to deserve a punishment. All she knew about them was that they happened when her mother was angry and wouldn't hold her and comfort her. She wished they would forgive her and come back, for she wanted to escape this harsh cold roughness against her skin and clothes.

She did not know how long she had been laying here, in this dirty darkness, crying loudly and listening to frightening sounds answer her back. She had cried so much she felt she would stop breathing...she had always been attended to whenever she cried, but now the more she cried the worse it seemed to get. She only vaguely remembered being awakened by a feeling of immense pain, and horrible noises all around her, before it became dark again and she felt the sensation of falling for a long time, surrounded by some dark, rough material. Then she woke up again here, wherever here was.

Hope's sorrow soared as she suddenly got a vague idea that this new place and new feelings were permanent...that she would never see her parents again, because they had become so angry at her that they had left her forever. She screamed even louder, and began to crawl, crawl to where she didn't know, just anywhere but here. Perhaps she could find her parents again, and if she cried enough and clung to them enough they would forgive her and invite her back into their loving embrace. She hoped that she could find them...but she did not crawl far before she felt pain on her hands and knees once again. She continued to scream and tried to wipe a tear out of her eye, but she only managed to dirty her cheek with something blackish on her fist.

"SHUT UP!!!"

The command echoed over her head again, and her little heart leaped with terror. She screamed all the louder at this...she hated that voice, the one that shouted angry words to her in the dark, that would shift in and out of the light from time to time. It was the only other living thing she had seen since she last fell asleep, and she feared it and hated it. She had never experienced this hateful feeling before...it made her feel bad, like she was doing something wrong and would be punished again. The only thing she knew was this thing was not like the other beings of warmth that she knew and loved...it wanted to hurt her, to strip her of her love and comfort and security and even more. She wished that this was all just a bad dream, and that the horrible loud thing and the cold darkness and the pain the ground caused would evaporate into nothing the moment she woke up, and she would be back in her mother's grip and her father's warmth.

But if this was a nightmare, it was the longest and more hurtful nightmare she could ever remember experiencing. So she screamed, and gulped down air to scream again, in a vain hope of escaping the darkness.

"I said SHUT UP!" The voice growled again. "I'm so sick and tired of listening to you, why can't you just die already?!!"

Hope just screamed more.

Krycek cursed to her quietly. He resumed his pacing, and kicked rocks that were in his path. His head throbbed and his side ached, and no amount of medicine would make the pain go away. (Stupid S.O.B. agent-thing...I'll kill him if I ever seen him again, idiot thing shooting at me...) He wondered if he could even recognize that gray-haired man in the bungalow if he saw him again...his memory was beginning to phase out on him. He hardly remembered anything from before They had picked him up and operated on him. It was just one of the many prices he had to pay for still being alive...that, and having constant headaches, and chest pains, and bursts of energy that could potentially cripple him.

There was one thing he did remember, though...that the baby he brought to this place was his enemy, and it needed to be destroyed. It was a danger to his survival, for it threatened the survival of the fittest. (It can't be allowed to do this...to halt the natural course of things, to let the weak survive and the strong die. If it lives, it'll mess up everything! Why won't people realize that, how did everyone start thinking backwards?!)

(And yet here you are, standing here, hating it, and not doing anything about it,) Another voice in his head hissed at him. (What kind of man are you, to be afraid of a child?! There's nobody here, it's helpless, kill it now! The knife, you can use the knife, or find a gun! Drown it, throw it off a cliff, hell, you can pick up a rock and throw it and it'll be done!)

He felt a growl rise up in his throat, and he automatically reached down and picked up a large rock. Catching the Child of the Fire in his eye, he hurled it forcefully in her direction. It missed, intentionally, and made a shotgun sound as it hit a few inches from her head. Hoped moved away from the crack she heard and wailed miserably.

"Will you just shut up?!" Krycek yelled at her again, considering picking up another rock and trying again. "You have no right to be sad. Pretty little child, perfect little child, everybody loves her, when you're nothing more than a wretched little MONSTER!" He stood up and came closer to her. "Look what you did to me! I'm not human, I'm not alien, I'm some big dark THING that people hate and shoot at! You turned me into this...this *nightmare*, and I hate this world and I hate their world and I hate myself and I HATE YOU. I HOPE I KILL YOU VERY SLOWLY AND VERY PAINFULLY SO YOU KNOW JUST HOW HORRIBLE LIFE IS, YOU LITTLE WITCH, LITTLE RAT!!!"

Hope just screamed.

Krycek suddenly felt as if he was experiencing a panic attack...the little baby on the ground before him had understood his threats, and was going to kill him for it! He knew that she certainly could, now that he had been given Their blood. (Idiot Argothians! How could they have been so stupid?! Making me like Them has made me the very opposite of what They wanted me to be!)

Now he stood right over Hope, glaring down at her with contempt and fear. "You may think you're the hero, an you can bring me down, but not if I kill you first! And I will do it, I will, I will, I will!!"

Her crying just seemed to be snickering at him, "So why don't you?"

"Because you're a baby and the only think left of me that isn't Argothian says no no no!" He answered, raking his fingers through his oily hair and down his face. "A baby won't hurt you, why kill it?! But you will hurt me, you monster, so grow up so I can kill you!!"

Krycek roared as something flashed in his eyes white and piercing, and he shut them in pain. The light seemed to heat up his brain and make his headache return fivefold. Then there were sounds...feet on rock, voices, clicks and screeches.

Mulder, Scully, Yallus, Slander, Tho and Havenamy all stopped at once as Hope's crying reverberated around the cave walls, and their flashlights caught the movement of something close to her. By scanning geological maps that they had managed to scrounge up, they had located an area close to the coast dotted with dozens of caves and fairly far away from civilization, and they determined that that was where Krycek had gone. Getting there had been far too slow for anyone's liking, and by now it was almost an evening...a full say since Hope had been kidnapped.

And for Mulder and Scully, 24 hours of hell just ended here. They had been tirelessly searching the depths of these cliff caves for the past four hours, facing the changes of a rockslide, or other geological obstacle, or finding their daughter dead among the rocks. They were worn and weary, covered in dirt and sand, wanting to rest but unwilling to stop for even a minute if they were this close.

And then Hope's crying could be heard echoing with loneliness throughout the caverns. The sound had sent them into a near frenzy, dashing through caves that leaped like fireflies and hearts to match their jumping. They listened for the crying, trying to determine where it was coming from, and growing more frightened by the minute. Every dead end broke down their shield of faith even more, and they had started to wonder if the crying was simply their imaginations manifesting themselves in the echoes of any normal cave. Until now.

The cave suddenly became completely silent. Even Hope, sensing the bond suddenly strengthened between herself and her parents, stopped wailing and looked towards them with thankful eyes. Krycek stood over her, paralyzed with something between fear, shock and hatred. Mulder and Scully faced him, even more afraid than he was, and not daring to move. Their non-human friends stood behind them, feeling more anger than anything else, and ready to fight as soon as they were permitted.

As they stood there, staring each other down, a radical transformation seemed to overcome Mulder. He felt the blood in his toes begin to itch with hot fire, and it boiled all the way up to his face. He could feel the same sensations filling Scully's body beside him. He felt as if they were bolts of light thrust into the black metal he had touched so long ago...legends become flesh and blood, now acting out what had been prophesied eons ago in unknown worlds. The sensation affected his body, his perception, and the words that came out of his mouth.

"Dragon...this is your end...give us back the Child of the Fire, and perhaps you will live and defy what is known to happen."

Krycek spoke in a voice to match Mulder's...only it was obvious that he also spoke like a madman, or a monster. He was not the same person they had known for so long. "This is my destiny and yours, firebirds! She will die, and I will not let you stop me! If you try, I'll kill you all!"

"You can't kill us..." Scully said as she and Mulder began to walk forward slowly at the same time. "We're immune to your poisons. And so is she. But you're not immune to us."

"Don't think I can't hurt you, or the Child of the Fire!" Krycek threatened, drawing his knife. Mulder and Scully stopped momentarily. "Faithful steel tastes just as sweet as any poison! At least it'll be a better death then what you did to me, red one!"

"You did it to yourself. You died when I shot you, you bastard, and now you're just madness in a shell! Give me my child back!!"

"You want your little terror? Then come and get her...and tell her to shut the hell up!" Krycek finished his challenge with a spit, which landed disgustingly on Hope's hand.

The dragon was not even aware that the blue one had moved until he felt his skull hit the ground behind him. He was dazed, but only momentarily, and punched upwards at the angry eyes of the firebird. There was a grunt as the blue one stumbled backwards, he kicked, and moved aside as the red one thrust forward to attack. The Child of the Fire, sensing the danger that had seized the cave by the throat, began to scream again.

The fight ranged all over, making its way from one end of the room to the other, traveling up and down rock piles, illuminated eerily buy Tho's brilliant body in the distance. The dragon was outnumbered, but he fought back with superhuman strength, and was able to keep one down while fighting off the other. The blue one was everywhere on him, intending to match him scar for scar on his face and all over his body, the constant reminders of the hell he had endured for over a year. He imagined the man before him as the chair, the torture chair that he needed to smash into a million pieces, and the faces of Argothians that sneered at him as they cut him open. Now the bonds on his wrists were broken, and he sent his fists crashing into the dragon's jaw with the ferocity of the wild bird he had become. He flew at the dragon as if on wings, wings ablaze with blue fire.

The red one matched the other in strength and ferocity muscle for muscle, bone for bone. She well remembered the constant pains this monster of a man had caused her...her sister's death, her mother's death, Mulder's abduction, and her daughter's kidnapping. She could not imagine feeling more hatred than she did now...this desire to kill, to do what he had been doing to her all her life. She felt her limbs become light with energy and yet weighed down with hate as she struggled to grab at the dragon and throw him down, dash his body against the rocks. It would never make up for what he did to her.

The fight was given terrible music with the Child's crying. The others could have moved in and possibly picked her up, but they were too mesmerized by the fight and its possible outcome to even move. They knew that they were watching the legend in action, and they couldn't tear their eyes away from the scene.

The dragon waved his knife dangerously in the blue one's face, skipping over rocks with a dirty grin. "Hit me again and I'll slit your throat, firebird!"

The firebird ignored the warning and charged, planting his fist in the dragon's neck. Then he stumbled backwards as he felt immense pain in his shoulder...and turned in amazement to see the knife's hilt protruding from his shoulder. From the side, the red one cried out in fear. "Let's see you try and fly now, firebird!" The dragon hissed dangerously.

He reached and pulled the knife out of his shoulder, feeling hot blood stain his shirt crimson. He hardly even felt the sound...the only thing he heard was the Child's crying, and that hurt as if someone had stabbed his heart. He flipped the knife around and lunged it at the dragon, intending to do more than a simple flesh wound. He missed, and dropped the knife, but felt instead a large, heavy object catch him upside the skull and send him spinning towards earth.

The red firebird watched her partner go down and charged at the dragon for all she was worth, releasing some unidentifiable cry from her throat. She shoved him hard in the side, sending him over a pile of rock and face first onto the ground.

There was a slight pause as the two firebirds regained themselves, shaking off bloody dust. Then the dragon began to stand again, although shakily, and growled with hatred. He had cut himself on the sharp rock, and his face and chest where now covered with green-blooded cuts. His voice became gravely and low as he hissed, "Your daughter will suffer greatly for this."

Breaking his frozen state, he whirled and snatched Hope in a burst of speed. The firebirds froze, eyes fixed upon their daughter hovering in the air, and the bloodied knife beneath her. She wriggled and cried, recognizing the fear in her parent's eyes. The dragon smiled through wounded pants, and held the knife closer. "Not so energetic when your precious baby's in danger, are ya?" He snarled menacingly. "You take one more step towards me and I'll cut her open!"

The blue one would not be intimidated by threats. "You are a coward to threaten us this way. You will put her down and fight *us*, not her!" He moved forward.

"YOU MOVED!" The cry came from the dragon, and then the knife flashed in his hand. Hope screamed...a miserable, painful scream of more than just a frightened child. She screamed at the long, clean gash on her ankle and the blood that dripped from it between her toes.

The red one screamed too, but it was more like a harsh sob that ended in a whimper. She lurched forward as if someone had squeezed her heart to burst, and her face instantly whitened.

"I'm not afraid to kill her!" The dragon yelled. To prove his point, he flashed the knife across her again, and a second gash appeared on the other ankle. Hope's screams doubled, and Scully choked on her breath again. Tears sprung up and caused small mudslides down her face.

Mulder's voice was small and shaky, revealing the terror that was beginning to spread inside him. "No...stop that....."

"What'll it be next, firebirds?!" Krycek laughed, his eyes ablaze. "The chest, the wrists, the neck?!! Wanna see what your scars look like on a baby, blue firebird?!"

Mulder snapped. Without a word, he rushed at Krycek, and felt Scully come onto his side, caught in his attack. The knife was flashing scarlet in the light, moving towards the baby's throat, when Mulder slammed his side into Krycek's stomach. At the same time, Scully grabbed Hope out of her captor's grasp, and clasped the child into her embrace with a cry of sorrow. She stumbled backwards as Hope's shrill cries pierced her ears and her blood stained her shirt.

Mulder's charge threw Krycek to the ground, but as soon as the crack of bone against stone was heard, the dragon was up and with both hands on Mulder's neck. Mulder fell back and felt the breath leave his lungs. He tried to gasp out a warning as Krycek preparing to bring the knife down on Scully's head.

Scully turned, her fiery hair caught in the dirtiness of her face, her eyes burning with hot light, her hands covered in the blood of the screaming child in her arms. She thrust her hands towards the oncoming Krycek, trying to shield her daughter from more searing pain. As she pushed him back, she touched the green- blood cuts on Krycek's shoulder and chest.

Krycek stopped in his tracks as if a chain had snared his throat, and the knife slipped from his shaking hands. He groaned aloud as the blood from the Child of the Fire mixed with his own blood. The crimson blood attacked the green acid with a visible intensity, and a smokish substance hissed from the wounds. Krycek toppled to his knees, and then his side, moaning and clutching his chest. He could feel the baby's pure blood boiling away his Argothian blood, stripping away the itchy-wet feeling of life from him. He tried to cry out, but his words blurred into painful grunts and groans.

Mulder got up, breathing heavily, and automatically moved towards Scully as they watched the scene before them. Krycek wriggled on the ground like a dying fish, pleading for help with wordless moans. Finally, his moving slowed to stillness, and the moan in his throat went cold. The strange and chaotic atmosphere seemed to leave the cave as Krycek died upon the rock.

Mulder closed his eyes to the dead body before him, and concentrated only on the sounds around him...his own desperate gasping, Scully's sobs, and Hope's painful screaming. They seemed quiet in his mind after the whirlwind of emotions just moments before. He was just glad that he had the chance to stop, and breathe...


"I know..."

"No, Mulder, look!"

Mulder forced his eyes open and turned to Scully, not wanting to see her or Hope after what had just happened. But he saw Scully holding Hope in her arms, wide-eyed, not with fear but with amazement. The deep wounds on her ankles were beginning to close. The crimson blood suddenly became brown as if it had instantly been scabbed over, and then the baby's soft flesh began to repair itself. Hope continued to cry as strong as ever, but it was no longer because of her wounds.

Mulder crept close to their daughter, completely shocked at this unexpected occurrence. "How...how did she...?"

"I don't know," Scully shook her head in amazement. Even as the wounds continued to heal themselves, Scully realized that she was holding her child away from her, and she quickly embraced her again. "Oh baby...it'll be okay now, you're safe again..."

Mulder wrapped his arm around Scully as she began to weep, whether from exhaustion or shock or relief none of them knew. He gave one last glance of contempt at the dead Krycek before turning them around and starting back to the entrance of the cave.

Scully stared down through tears at Hope, who was now whimpering quietly, eternally thankful to be reunited with her parents. Scully looked at the healed ankles, trying to figure them out, when she was reminded of more vague information mentioned to them: "...She had abilities that you aren't even aware of yet."

(She can kill Argothians *and* she can heal herself? What if she has even more abilities...ones which we aren't aware of or haven't developed yet? Just how far does this Child of the Fire image go?)

[Firebirds!] Yallus called as they came forward. [Are you...]

"We're alright," Mulder sighed, pretending not to notice the wound in his shoulder. "Which is more than I can say for the dragon."

The moment Hope came into view, Havenamy bowed low. [Great Child of the Fire...you have defeated the dragon, and deserve the praise of every creature in the universe. I represent thousands of your followers, and we all give you our most sincere devotion. I pray that you accept out offering of prayer.]

Hope just whimpered and gave an odd look to the Reviran. "She likes it," Scully answered for her.

"I feel like it's ended now...we've gotten through the climax. The dragon is dead, and the legend is over," Mulder stated.

[Oh, it's far from over,] Yallus warned. [The dragon is no longer a threat, but the Argothians are still here and they have a chance of winning this war without him.]

"We can beat them! As long as we can keep giving out the vaccinations and fighting them off with the Chippans, we *can* stop them."

[Then we'd best get moving...Trump is waiting to meet up back at the rendezvous point. Apparently, there are new developments on the battlefield.]

Mulder and Scully exchanged weary glances. They wanted to stop and rest, recover from the emotional avalanche they had just been though. They wanted to spend time with their rescued daughter, and comfort her with their quiet security. But as fate would have it, they were doomed to constant action, to moving from one threat to another and then back again. "Fine...we'll go," Scully sighed.

[What about...him?] Slander nodded his head in Krycek's direction.

"Leave him," Mulder said bitterly. "This is the fate he deserves...the one he chose for himself. Later we'll come back and seal up the cave entrance."

Nobody argued with that decision. Slowly, as if not wanting to disturb the scent of death that hung in the cave, the firebirds and their friends stepped out into the fading sunlight.

Skinner watched Hope's curious face with a broad smile, and then looked up to where Mulder and Scully were standing over her. "I can't tell you how happy I am to see her alive and well...and how thankful I am to hear the news you've brought."

"We're probably the ones who should be happy to see you alive and well, after what nearly happened to you." Mulder smiled.

The group had amassed once again, and was this time larger than ever. They were all gathered in an abandoned warehouse close to the Chippan striker fleet. Chippans were everywhere in the warehouse, making loud jokes, trading interesting and useless objects, and shooting at rats that dared to show their faces. They were extraordinarily bored, and wanting to go back out and fight Argothians.

The Revirans were also there bu they hung close to the firebirds instead of being spread out. Mulder, Scully and Hope and their closest friends always seemed to be in the middle of this self-forming circle.

Skinner, Doggett and Frohike had finally been released from the hospital. Without Krycek controlling the nanobots inside Skinner's blood, the former assistant director was soon able to heal and be back on his feet. Doggett was on crutches and was constantly sore, but he refused to stay in the hospital any longer than was absolutely necessary. All of Mulder and Scully's human friends were eventually introduced to their non-human ones, and although there was some friction, they basically accepted each other.

"Well, I got pretty scared as they were loading me into the van..." Skinner nodded towards Langly and Byers. "I knew what was happening to me, and who was doing it. And with what you told me earlier, I knew why it was happening. I just wish I had been able to warn everyone before..." He stopped, and looked at the floor.

"It's nobody's fault," Scully said with a deep breath. She knew that she needed to say this, no matter how much she may still be hurting. "It's nobody's fault but his own. And he can't hurt us anymore."

"We just need to know what's going on now," Mulder said.

"We've been watching the news 24/7 while we were in the hospital," Doggett told them. "There's been continued attacks from those small Argothian fighters, and there's also definitely been a military resistance. At first our fighters thought that your friends here were also attacking them, and tried to shoot them, but they've also contacted the military and are trying to communicate with them."

[*Trying* being the operative word,] Trump grumbled. [I can't tell you how much easier translos make life! Blackwing has been radioing me with her attempts to communicate with your army, and they won't even give her some paper to draw a picture! And Spuckler can't even pronounce your leader's name!]

"Umm...why do the Chippans have such odd names?" Mulder whispered to Yallus. "I mean...Trump? Blackwing? Spuckler?!"

[Fly names,] Yallus whispered back. [Once Chippans get their first ship they chose a new name for themselves...usually some personality quirk.]

[That's not the worst of it,] Another Chippan spoke up. [We can fight off sky attack gunners, no problem. But they're starting to bring out the warships.]

"Whatever they are, they don't sound good," Mulder said cooly.

[Big ships, like their doctoral transports, only they're meant for attacking rather than abducting. Very slow, can't maneuver if their life depended on it, but they pack a punch and have great shields.]

[The good news is that they're the Argothians' last line of defense,] Yallus explained. [Their plague is a lost cause because of the Child of the Fire's blood, and they're no match against the Chippan fighters. If we can knock out their big ships, they'll either retreat, surrender or keep fighting until they're obliterated. It's completely against all Argothian logic to surrender, and I've never known Argothians to retreat before, so we have to kill them all!]

"So what's the bad news?"

[the bad news is that their warships are very hard to destroy. Basically it would take a very strong and very fast attack involving practically the entire fleet. It would be very dangerous, but we *could* pull it off.]

"Then we'd have to get started right away, wouldn't we?" Skinner butted in. "Before they decide to attack us first. And if I know the United States military, we shouldn't wait around for them to figure out we're trying to help."

[We're ready to go,] Trump announced. [We're just waiting for you to give us the okay. As soon as you say so, we're radioing the other fleets on your homeworld to begin their own attacks.]

Mulder blinked with surprise when he realized that the Chippans were looking at him and Scully. "Wait...you mean us? We don't know anything about fighter fleets or how to organize attacks. You could have just started the attack without us."

[Well, since you *are* the firebirds, we figured that all major decisions should go through you first. Plus, we reserved a striker or two for you if you want to join us...]

"NO," Mulder said decisively. "None of us can fly a fighter plane, no matter what kind it is. We can help, but only if it involves doing something on the ground."

[Very well, then...you'll miss all the action, but I would recommend that you stay safely out of the range of falling ships.]

Mulder and Scully didn't like the sound of that. They had Hope with them this time, and they certainly didn't want to be outrunning any more alien ships with a baby to carry. Mulder cleared his throat and said, "Okay...let's go now."

The Chippan strikers were all ready to go and waiting for their owners. The Chippan pilots left the warehouse whooping excited war cries, and went to their respective fighters. Trump went to his own striker, painted over with fire and the image of a bird, and quickly switched on his radio console. [Hey, Tuggles! Spread the word to all the other fleets...we're going right now! Set up mass formations, go for the warships! You know what to do.]

Mulder and Scully and the rest stepped out of the warehouse as well, blinking in the midday sunlight. In the sky far above them, they could see the big, black Argothian ships sitting like forming rainclouds. After some time, Mulder and Scully had grown used to seeing these ships in the sky and sometimes even forgot what they really were. They seemed to be a distant threat, some dangerous thing far away from them, instead of something immediate and deadly. However, they both knew these appearances to be deceiving, and they knew that they could never truly be safe until these ships and their inhabitants were destroyed.

"I just hope these guys know what they're doing..." Mulder heard Doggett say from behind him. It was obvious he was still not on the friendliest of terms with the Chippans.

"I figure they know more about what they're doing than we do," Mulder replied. "We do need their help if we're ever going to beat the Argothians."

[Well, wish me luck! We're all going to need it,] Another familiar voice came from behind. Mulder turned and saw that Yallus was also getting herself ready, heading out with the other Chippans.

"Wait! You're going up there too?" Mulder asked, surprised.

[Of course! You think I'm just going to sit around when I can be giving those Argothians a taste of Yallus Tallo? Slander wants to go too, only he doesn't know how to fly a striker.]

"Well...you be careful," Mulder warned. "I want to see you come back down safely."

[Oh, I'll come back down, no worries there. You take care, firebirds!]

"We will!"

The Thybiran gave them a final smile and trotted towards her own striker, which was painted brilliant red with a black streak down the middle. Pretty soon all of the Chippans had strapped themselves into their personal vehicles, and the only ones left outside were Mulder, Scully and the rest, along with Trump. He gave Mulder a thump to get his attention, and the nodded in the direction of another striker without a pilot. [You can still be of a help to us...just listen in on what's going on with the intercom from this extra striker. You can also talk back to us and give us some pointers. Since you'll be on the ground, you can better see the "big picture."]

"I'm not sure how much of a help we'll be, but we'll try," Scully said, hugging Hope closer to her.

[See ya on the other side of victory!] Trump said, and sprinted for his own striker.

As soon as the captain had strapped into his own striker, all of the fighter crafts started their engines, filling the entire area with a blast of uncomfortable heat. Then all the ships hovered over the ground, being propelled upwards by some unknown force. Mulder and Scully watched in awe as the entire fleet, which contained nearly 30 fighters, all rose into the sky at once. It was a very impressive sight; almost as much as the black discs that challenged them.

As the strikers began to go in a definite direction, keeping in formation, Mulder headed for the extra striker so he could listen in on what was going on. The entire group followed him, and the couldn't help feeling for an instant that he was the head of some large flock, excepting Scully and Hope. He was not entirely sure how to operate the alien controls of the striker, but after some fiddling around he finally found the intercom console and switched it on.

Almost instantly, the console picked up sounds of Chippans talking, their voices barely distinguishable from one another. Mulder, Scully and the others listened to the intercom intensely, as if they were listening to war news on the radio, and at the same time kept their eyes glued to the ships in the sky.

[Maverick, Gungod, Spuckler, Firestar, Floggins, take yourselves to the moonrise side of that thing!] Trump announced, his voice charged with fighting energy. [Blackwing, Trooper, Suncrusher, Blueblaze, Twinkles, you take moonset! The rest of us will tackle the nose. That includes you, Thybiran!]

[I'm on it!] Yallus replied.

Those below watched in amazement as the fighter ships met the Argothian warship high in the air. Mulder automatically reached for Scully's hand, and she met his halfway, wanting his security as much as he wanted hers. They felt the symbols on their hands flare into brilliance when they touched palms, and the Revirans sucked in exhilarated breaths. They all knew that there was nothing they could do now except watch...and hope.

The Argothians were ready for the oncoming Chippans. From somewhere within the black complex of metal that served as the ship's hull there emerged lightning-fast bolts of green energy. The strikers swerved just in time.

[Hey look, the 'Gothies are saying hello!]

[Let's not be impolite, then...]

The strikers returned fire. White bolts came from their own cannons, but the firepower was simply absorbed into the Argothians' special shield.

[Alright, looks like they've put up curtains around the deal! rise-leader, set-leader, when I say, dispatch some snark- claws,] Trump said.

The strikers came in as close to the warship as they could before swerving away at the last minute, and then coming around to pass again. This time, three of the strikers (including Trump's) shot out different-looking bombs with very long, sharp wings. One of these bombs was intercepted by a green blast, and it exploded in midair. However, the other two made it to the ship, and exploded as the sharp wings of the bombs pierced the Argothian energy shield. The result was two large holes in the shield, which the Chippans could shoot at. And shoot at it they did.

[Ha-haw, I love snark-claws!]

[I suppose the Argothians don't want to hear the "hole" story!]

[Hurry, go, hit the open spots!]

The battle instantly became a world of chaos in the sky. Strikers were everywhere, zipping back and forth across the black metal menace, dodging green bolts, although not always successfully. Some of the Argothians' defensive firepower was hitting the ground below, setting abandoned buildings ablaze and causing the watchers below to jump in their skins.

[Watchit, waaatchit, that thing almost took out your setwing!]

[Ha! Did you see that?!]

[Take out that one cannon, the one near the bottom!]

[Yallus, careful, you were getting real close!]

[I'll get as close as I want! I'm here to show them that they'll *never* destroy the Thybiran race!]

Suddenly, one of the green bolts finally found its target, and struck one of the fighter ships. Part of the striker exploded, and the others watched in horror as the rest came tumbling to earth like a falling star. The striker landed not very far from the observers, and burst into flame again the moment it touched ground.

[What happened? Who'd we lose?!]

[They got Trooper! Those thriscrap Gothies killed Trooper!]

[Ship for a ship, fellas, let's see how *they* like it!]

The fighters almost became lost within the smoke that began to emerge from the explosions - the only thing definite was the frantic voices of the pilots on the intercom, shouting commands and warnings to each other. Nobody on the ground said anything, but they could all see the anxiety in the others' faces. Mulder did not take his eyes off of the red striker with the black streak...he knew his friend was up there, battling those which she despised most, those which had taken everything she had known and loved. He watched her, although his eyes felt weak with worry...

[More snark-claws! Aim for the cannons, we need some more openings...]

[Little Noise! We lost Little Noise!]

[Ha, I got that one!]

[Somebody has to eventually find the engines, we need to bring them down...]

[I got hit--]

[Spuckler, you okay?!]

[My risewing got clipped, but I think I'll manage.]

Yallus was getting more than a little reckless. She dove in close to the Argothian warship, her fingers clenched around the controls, her feathers damp with sweat. [I'm going in for their shield generator!] She announced. [Somebody cover me, and give me a snark-claw!]

One of the strikers reluctantly zoomed in alongside Yallus as she came in over the top, dodging Argothian gunfire left and right. She did not have the reflexes of her experienced Chippan cohorts, and was having a little more trouble keeping steady than they did.

A blast came towards her, and Yallus dodged, accidentally allowing the bolt to take out one wing of her tagalong pilot. [I'm out, I need to land!] The pilot exclaimed.

[Give me the snark-claw!] Yallus replied, deep into her frenzy.

[I can't, I'll destabilize...]

[I need it now!]

The retreating pilot managed to shoot out the sharp-winged bomb before spinning towards earth. The striker crashing into the second story of a building and then skidded the rest of the way down, but the Chippan pilot looked to have survived.

The snark-claw bomb split the energy shield close to the spot that Yallus wanted. She kept her vision tight on the black machinery that was causing this troublesome shield. She could feel the eyes of everyone there on her...the Chippans swarming all over the warship, the Argothians within, and the Revirans and Humans on the ground. [ARGOTHIANS, YOU ARE NO MATCH AGAINST THE FIREBIRDS AND THEIR LEGIONS! I AM YALLUS TALLO, AND I WILL DO TO YOU WHAT YOU DID TO US ALL!!!] She roared to the universe, and squeezed down on the trigger.

Her white bolts left the cannons and shot towards the warship with the force of her challenging words. The Thybiran was on target - the bolts hit the ship's shield generator, and instantly knocked out the only barrier between the Argothians and the Chippans' ferocity.

At the same time, however, the Argothian defensive cannons were on target as well. Even as the shields died, the green bolts struck Yallus's striker, and part of the ship burst into flames.


Mulder cried out to the sky as he watched her ship spin to the harsh ground, a trail of red smoke marking her descent. His breath clogged in his throat, and he felt Scully's body beside him tense with horror. His cry hung in the sticky air until the ship reached the ground, and more fire and smoke rose up.

"Come on!" Mulder was suddenly energized, and he leaped away from the striker, his heart thundering with grief and dread. He ran in the direction of Yallus's crash, trying hard to contain his frightened knowledge to "mere possibility." Slander and Tho instantly followed him, their faces as worried as his. Scully started to follow but then stayed back. She stared up at the crimson sky and pressed Hope's face to her chest with cold hands.

Mulder sprinted across the empty street on exhausted limbs, already fearing that it was too late, that his running to Yallus's aid was in vain. He could hear Slander trying to keep up behind him, and felt the heat of Tho beside him. He kept his gaze on the column of smoke that marked her fall, and darted through empty buildings' hallways, his mind racing...(They couldn't have gotten her...not her, too...)

Then they reached it. The striker was lying in blackish pieces all over the street, flames cracking at the metal that had been shattered. Mulder felt his stomach turn as he saw a broken wing lying far away, and the ship's nose rocking in the wind a fair distance from the rest...and then the cockpit.

Mulder hesitated before rushing up to the broken and burnt piece of machinery. He could faintly see the Thybiran behind the shattered glass...looking black, and wet, and not moving.

"YALLUS!" The name came out of Mulder's throat like a choke, small and desperate. He felt his lips tremble with something that wasn't crying, but was more a reaction to physical pain. He saw the black, wet mass of feathers stir, and Mulder instantly scrambled to the cockpit, ignoring the pain of the heated metal. He carefully swung the cockpit door open...only to find Yallus looking at him with moisture in her aquamarine eyes, her chest heaving painfully with each breath.

"Yallus..." Mulder breathed with something between relief and sorrow. He couldn't stand to see his friend looking like this, burnt and bloodied and dying before him, yet he couldn't tear his eyes away. "Y-you'll be alright...we'll get you to a hospital, somewhere, and you'll be okay again....."

The Thybiran cracked a smile to him somehow. Her voice was light and hollow, as if her voice were fading along with the rest of her life. [I...I...I d-don't think-k s-s-so, blue fireb-bird.]

Tho had turned a dark blue gray, and flashed a message that Mulder knew he could understand...one of sorrow, of denial of what was happening, of hope that somehow things would turn out okay. Mulder's throat closed, refusing to let out the words that he wanted to say...

[I-I k-k-kept my p-promise to you-u, bl-blue firebird...] She whispered hoarsely. [I c-came back-k dow-own.]


The smile faded as her eyes finally closed. Mulder held his breath until her own chest ceased to move, and the cockpit became silent with the feel of lifelessness. The blue firebird's head sank as he watched the very last of the Thybiran race join her predecors, and end their legacy at last. He wanted to cry, to mourn the passing of his faithful friend, but he felt no tears wet his skin. It was hard, despite all he had understood and done, to mourn for someone who was not human.

He expected to feel the usual anger towards the Argothians for shooting down Yallus, but instead he just felt an immense sadness. It made him sick in his heart to have another casualty of this hated war, to lose another friend to these monsters' hunger for power. He couldn't cry, couldn't yell, couldn't cause pain to others...all he could do was ache inside.

[Look!] Slander's voice suddenly broke his somber trance. [The warships!]

Mulder lifted his gaze to the heavens with dry, weary eyes. He saw the Chippan strikers still swarming around the warship...but something was different. The warship was moving away, getting smaller as it went faster, being peppered by explosions all over. It took Mulder a minute to realize what was happening...the Argothians were retreating!

[They did it...] Slander said in a breathless voice. [Those Chippans did it! The Argothians are leaving!]

Mulder said nothing. He just watched the black ships grow smaller as they lifted away from the danger, the counterattack...away from him, and Scully, and Hope, and those who lived to fight on. He watched them leave, and felt the relief mix with the sorrow, filling his mouth with a bittersweet taste. (We did it. We sacrificed...and we won.)

He watched the Argothians leave and felt the hot wind blow the scent of burnt metal through his hair.

The evening was cool and pleasant, with faint wisps of something barbecuing catching a ride on the breeze. Mulder felt the grass on his palms, pressing imprints of their blades on his skin. But the grass was nonexistent compared to the feeling of Scully's head on his shoulder, her hair gently brushing his lower lip. He also felt the weight of the sleeping child in his arms, and was very content with the feeling. He loved being able to hold his daughter, to know that a miracle could be tangible and able to be held; the miracle of her existence, and that she was still alive for them to cherish. The burden of always holding the growing baby was finally lifted from Scully, and she let the exhaustion drain out of her weary muscles.

"Want to spend the night out here?" Her voice came, softly as her calm.


There was a pause.

"I like the new apartment," Scully added. "But it's still almost as crowded as the bungalow. Besides...I love the fact that we're able to see all the stars."

Mulder looked up at the stars with this statement. They were brilliant against the velvet indigo of the sky, burning with the fires of those who had died...and those who were still living. "Yes...it has been awhile since we've been able to see the stars."

Scully glanced up at Mulder's face, lost deep in the realms of his thoughts. "You're afraid They'll come back."

"Oh, They will," Mulder said with tired certainty. "They may have lost now...but They'll come back, and with more weapons, more ships, more destruction..."

Scully pulled herself up so that her face was next to his, and their lips were just inches apart. She ran her fingers through Hope's dark hair, fueling her contentment with the feel of their sleeping daughter. "They're gone now...all of Them. There's not a single Argothian left on this planet. Even if they do come back, we still have this world, and all the worlds beyond...and ourselves."

Mulder brought his gaze from the stars to Scully's face. He felt his own expression rise into a smile...he couldn't help but smile when looking into Scully's hopeful eyes; seeing all the universe concentrate itself into her simple blue irises.

"I'd like to go back to that cabin again..." He finally said. "And stay there for a really long time. When things become quieter...then we'll stay up all night and just look at stars."

"We'll stay up all night, but we won't be looking at stars," She grinned.

"Not even if I tell you which ones have planets with intelligent life?" He joked back.

"You and I both know that things won't become any quieter around here for an extremely long time..." She said with a sigh. "This world is going to go through a radical transformation. We're part of a universal community now...we are open to endless possibilities and problems. Our government, our economy, our technology, our lifestyles, our perceptions of life and God and the universe will undergo extreme revision. And like it or not, we're right in the middle of it...being the ones with a child whose blood saved mankind, the main communication link between the Human race and all other races, and being the object of worship of the Revirans."

"Saturday it is, then," Mulder said with warmth in his voice. "We'll leave for the cabin on Saturday."

Scully just shook her head slowly, and continued to run her hands through Hope's hair. She knew her daughter would never grow up "normal," but she also know that she would grow up with family and friends that loved her immensely, and would support her through whatever trials she would face.

Their attention was caught by a glowing object moving across the grass in their direction, moving as a living being. "Hey, Tho!" Mulder called cheerfully as the Bleebeean came up to them, illuminating their faces with pale purple light. She brightened and flashed some message to them.

"Do you know what she said?" Scully asked.

Mulder shook his head. "I decided I'm going to try and learn the light language...Havenamy told me that she was appalled that Humans didn't know it."

Tho moved away from them and then turned around again, indicating that she wanted them to follow her. After a moment, both Mulder and Scully carefully stood. Hope moved in Mulder's arms and yawned.

"I suppose this is Doggett's way of telling us we need to come down and participate in the festivities..." Scully said, following Hope's example with her own yawn. "Guess we should give in."

"Oh, I'm fine with a celebration barbecue with people that worship me any day," Mulder replied with a wink.

Together, the three firebirds started down towards the glowing lights of the celebration in the city, reveling in the comfort of their own warm wings.

The End

Holy cow...it's the end! The very end of this trilogy! I have had so much fun doing this you have no idea...but I'm also glad that it's finally over! FEEDBACK PLEASE!!!! Tell me what you thought! Loved it, hated it, want to show it to your friends, want to show it to the bottom of your birdcage?? Any and all feedback is much appreciated, although flames will be sent far far away to somewhere where flames are appreciated (wherever that may be....) Thank you all for the wonderful support!!!! :):):)

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