Title: One Thought
(18 months earlier)
El Rico Airbase
I had wrapped the alien fetus in newspaper before stuffing it into my backpack. The truth was that the thing scared the fuck out of me. I didn't want it defrosting on my watch, couldn't risk anyone, of any species, getting pissed off at me this late in the game.
I slung my pack over my shoulder and bolted out of that place - the faceless rebels would be right behind me and we were all screwed - deal off and no survivors if they got the little frozen freak show before I did.
I had the company car's speedometer 50 miles over the limit until I reached the hangar doors at El Rico. If the cops had tried to stop me, I fully intended to mow them down with the arsenal piled in the backseat. But no problems - maybe there was something in the air that smelled like the end of the world. No one gave a shit about my car speeding to the airbase hangar.
Spender took the fetus as soon as I got there. It looked like he hadn't bothered to let long lost Jeffrey in on the big exodus from earth. I shrugged it off. That was his business.
The hangar was damn cold and the looks I was getting from my fellow space-bound passengers equally icy. Diana made it a point to avoid eye contact - to let me know she was avoiding eye contact. staring me down, then turning away as if she didn't recognize me. I guess she wanted it obvious that she considered herself far above the assignments we'd shared in Europe, especially those parts where we'd fucked. She was part of the elite inner circle now, one of the nameless, and she expected me to act accordingly. Bitch.
Cassandra Spender got wheeled into the mess. I guess we were all ready to go -- me, and a bunch of people who would just as soon kill me or let me die. I have to admit it: eternity was already looking a little tarnished before Mulder and Scully showed up.
Skinner was behind them, his head shiny, sweat dripping down the sides of his face. Mulder nodded at Diana and got the privilege of a return nod. Mulder was about to charge in my direction. I have no idea what he might have said to me -- maybe he just wanted to hit me one last time before his Close Encounters wet dream was realized. God forbid I should hit him back and scratch that priceless alien-enhanced head of his.
How the hell had they gotten him here? Maybe Diana deserved her haughty stance near the old boys.
Mulder didn't quite make it into my face though. A small hand had his arm, stopped him in his tracks.
Scully wasn't staying.
"This isn't right Mulder." Her voice was breathy and low and absolutely certain.
"It's the only way to survive," Mulder told her and he sounded primed for a fight. Before anyone could blink he had his gun out and trained on his partner. "You're not going anywhere."
All conversation stopped and Diana joined Mulder behind the barrel of his gun. "Agent Scully, what's the problem?" she said in her newly awarded voice of authority. See, this was why it took someone like Diana, someone willing to do whatever it took to work her way into this hangar, so damn long to get out of those vague European assignments - she just can't objectively judge her own success and failure. I think Diana expected to gun down Scully for being a party pooper or some such shit. Which was all wrong, of course.
"He won't shoot her," I said calmly. And that was the truth, even if Scully and I were the only ones who believed it.
"Put down the gun, Mulder!" and Skinner had his out, too. This was getting interesting.
I know the bluebloods had to be wondering who the hell had invited these three to their salvation. Someone behind me actually gasped, and it was all I could do not to turn and stare. Give me a break! Was anyone in this room innocent of spilling blood or letting it be spilled for them?
"Mulder," Scully put her hand on the gun. Scully looked unafraid. Her pale skin was nearly glowing in that gray-lit cavernous room. I remember realizing then that there was one innocent person - someone who wouldn't climb over a corpse just to save herself. Outside, a powerful wind rattled the entire building but the low tones of her voice were plain.
"You go on," Scully said. "You need to see your sister and you need to see the truth."
Watching her give up this escape I'd prized so highly for so long - I felt something. It affected me - that's all I can say.
Diana looked relieved when Mulder lowered the gun and hung his head to put his gun back in its holster. He started crying. Of course. Pussy.
I remember thinking - I give him a year, maybe two, without her.
Then Skinner had her by the lapels.
"Scully, you'll die. They're all going to die." But even Skinner knew he stood less chance than Mulder of swaying Scully's opinion.
"I want to do what's right," she told him.
Mulder dragged her into a bear hug. He was sobbing out loud, by then -- very pathetic. Probably Skinner was crying too. Little did the bald bastard know that there was no chance in hell his name had made the guest list for this cruise. Looks like he could have used some of Scully's heroism that night. What a shame.
The hangar doors opened and light spilled into the room. If Scully was going to leave then it was time to go. Mulder gripped her hard.
I pried them apart. "Come with me," I said and I actually pulled her from her trench coat because Mulder had it like a vise.
Don't even ask me what I was thinking - I'd take it back if I could.
I nodded Mulder towards the light. "There they are," I told him.
Oh, he looked - of course he fucking looked. I mean, here they were -- the answers, the truth, the missing sister! Hell, Scully would keep just a little longer.
Mulder turned and I took Scully into my jacket, dragged her out of the hangar and out of the light and into the darkness on the other side. And this is the part that continues to fuck with me. Why? What the fuck did Scully do to me?
Because it was her. She fucking blinded me with her fucking Idealism Spell.
I gave up certain survival with the cowards and traitors in that hangar. That hangar was where I belonged!
Maybe Mulder regrets that moment - turning to the light of the ship and away from her -- just as I regret not doing the same. But this is how we wound up: Me, with all the hell of catastrophe, plague and invasion, fighting beside this woman I believe in -- the only thing I've ever believed in, but who hates my guts, and Mulder…
Well, I have no idea where he ended up.
My mother made a batch of stick figure dolls out of twigs and strips of cloth for the two of us to give away. The first group of children came by at dusk. The last group would probably pass before the stars came out. That was when the war and all its fireworks would take over as the night's entertainment.
We were all so desperate to act normal - Halloween, whatever it meant before, was a human celebration, and taking part seemed interwoven with survival and every act of defiance against the Grays. It meant that we were still here.
The adults in camp scrounged for something to give away. For costumes, the children turned their clothes inside out, wore them backwards, switched with friends. "Trick or Treat!" they whispered outside our little shack. We were close enough to a warfront for silence to be mandatory until complete darkness. Whispering would be allowed this one evening.
I let my mother give out the dolls. The children cradled them in their palms, "Thank you," whispered solemnly in return. It wasn't food but it was the best that mom and I had to give.
The couple living in the tent beside us was giving out goldfish crackers. They'd let Mom have one. Me, they didn't like very much.
"Trick or Treat!"
Mom held the twig dolls rolled in the hem of her shirt. I tried not to notice how thin she was, how the bones of her spine were a knotty rope beneath the fabric. One little dark head poked around our cardboard door. "Doctor?" I tried not to know their names and never gave mine while we were in a camp, but I think I melted a little at the boy's almond eyes and his plump lower lip.
"It's me, Adam Treemont. You set my arm two days ago?" He held up the newspaper and glue cast I had made him. He hadn't cried at all and I bet it hurt like hell when I had to press my fingers into his arm to feel for the break. Tough kid.
"I remember" As usual, my voice was far too flat for my mother and she shot me a pained look over her shoulder, One that said, Why can't you be nice to them? I ignored her.
Adam dragged a tall girl into our shack. They were both red cheeked and panting from the cold. "This is my cousin. She just came through."
"Just came through" meant that before she could enter the camp, the girl had been cut and bled to prove she was human. It was usually a slice down one arm for the blood and one on the back of the neck for the chip, both cuts ideally made quickly and with a clean razor blade. But no such luck for Adam's cousin. Her arm had two jagged wounds that looked like they were made by a saw and on the back of her neck was a crooked smile cut some 5 inches across.
"Who did this to you?"
It came out shrill and she looked back, afraid, and tried to pull her arm from my grasp. The children at the door scattered.
"Dana!" my mother gasped.
"Look at this!" I twisted the girl's ragged arm to show my mother and the girl whimpered.
"Sorry Doctor Lady! Sorry!" The girl was pleading and pulling her arm from me. Adam had his hands over my mine. "Doctor! Please, just forget it okay? Okay?"
I let her go. "Sorry," just as flat as before but without the answering criticizing look from Mom. Both she and the girl were trembling I noticed. When did I become such a bully, such a bitch? I used to believe in this. I sighed.
"I'll get you something for that," I told her, and I went behind the curtain where my mother and I slept, where I kept all my instruments and medicines and the gun I hadn't used since that night I shot the train carrying Cassandra and the horrible fate of this world.
"You're a lucky girl, I actually have clean bandages on hand." We boiled cloth in a tea made form onions to kill bacteria and help prevent infection. After the cloth was all gone as wrapping on their heads and arms and legs and stuffed into tooth sockets and padded over swollen eyes, my mother sometimes let camp children and women dip their hands in the pot. It made me sick to watch children clamor for the pungent stuff like they had for candy or soda in the days before the war with the Grays.
If I wasn't treating patients I just kept to myself.
"What's your name?" I asked Adam's cousin.
She whispered Cindy or Linda or Sandra. I didn't ask her to repeat it. I squeezed the onion tea over her wounds and wrapped her arm tight. Once it was clean, the neck wound didn't look so bad. "Why don't the two of you go next door and see if they have any goldfish crackers left." Ahh, that perked them up.
"The man you came with gave us these," said Adam and he held out a little matchbox car and what looked like a diamond engagement ring.
"Really?" I smirked. The boy flicked his eyes at my half-smile with interest. I guess he thought he was on to something that might make me happy - pay me for my trouble.
"He had a bunch of things - toys and rings and a harmonica."
No, I couldn't really smile for Adam, although I appreciated the attempt he made. God, he really did remind me of-
- well, the eyes and the lower lip and the general dark haired lankiness reminded me of-
He just looked a lot like… him.
"You better get going."
My mother said something nice and showed them out. I went back behind the curtain and flopped onto the mattress we shared. She enjoyed the banter, the attempt at normality but I was just too exhausted. My stomach rumbled. I closed my eyes.
So, Krycek was giving children trinkets from his little tent guarding us? Probably the things he found using a metal detector the last camp had paid us with. I had started to tell them to forget it; we didn't need anything metal, we needed food. But Krycek never turns down a payment of any kind. Fine. Let him lug it through the apocalypse with him. Whatever.
Children whispered at the door again and I could hear my mother scooping up the dolls but I stayed on the mattress with my eyes shut. So much for Halloween. At least this year I wasn't in a muddy trench waiting to be killed, listening to a recording of Diana Fowley's voice telling me "The aliens mean us no harm. they want peace, just as we do" The idiots poking their heads out in hope were killed immediately of course. You'd be amazed how long a simple trick like that worked - people want to believe.
Maybe I dozed off because the trick or treaters were gone. The cracks in the roof showed the sky glowing red and orange with explosions I pulled the curtain aside to find that my mother had left the shack. Great, just great.
I opened the door. Krycek was huddled in conversation with some other men. No sign of Mom. I hung by the door and waited for Krycek to finish. This camp had wanted my services and I suppose the men respected that my mother and I were with a man, but you just can't be too careful. Better not to draw attention to myself, not to get anyone started thinking of me as anything other than 'The Doctor'.
The men stayed their distance and Krycek strode back over to me. The cold didn't bother him as much as it bothered me. I rubbed my hands together and breathed into them for warmth. He hadn't even zipped his battered black leather jacket.
"Where's my mother?" I asked him.
"She said she wanted to go for a walk since the silence is lifted for the night." The aliens had some kind of weaponry that sought targets by the variance in naturally occurring sounds. A waterfall crashing against rocks or a thunderstorm might make a nearby human voice imperceptible to a human ear, but the aliens could zero in on what didn't belong, no matter how loud the surrounding natural noise. The weapons were specific and deadly - the Grays wanted the planet mostly untouched and the people eradicated.
"Do they want you to fight?" Sometimes this was part of the deal. Krycek would have to join with the other men in camp to sabotage alien outpost machinery or shoot missiles.
"No, they want you, actually."
I raised an eyebrow. After over a year together I wasn't too worried about what that might mean. "For what?"
"Hey, it's some equipment they have. I told them you were a scientist and used to be FBI. He grinned at me. The rat.
"What the fuck did you do that for?" There was no FBI any more, but there were plenty of people ready to blame them and the CIA and DOD for the shit we all lived in now. Military was the only large organized presence still functioning in the world - rag tag, scattered, doomed to failure.
"Scully, just do it. Okay?" He leaned in on me. That had been bothering me lately - Krycek always hovering and leaning breathing into my hair, whispering in my ear.
"Why should I?"
"Because - " the flash of his white teeth again "-I think they found a message from Mulder."
Okay so I'd done more than kick up dirt in search of Halloween treats. I'd snooped around, wanted to see what was here. That was the great thing about the metal detector; it was maybe the perfect alibi in this fucked up world we were all dying in. Someone comes by - hey you, what the hell are you doing over there? - I give him a handful of buttons or a broken army knife or a piece of jewelry and he lets me go on my way. I mean I wasn't taking food and the thing just lit up instead of beeping, so it was all good. Scully just wasn't one for seeing the potential in things.
I'd gotten us in this camp because it was close to a front and it was poor, dirty and over-crowded. And the crime was supposed to bad here - lots of murders, lately. Lots of suspicion that the camp had been infiltrated by shape-shifters, too, so lots of cutting and bleeding. I was desperate because the good camps were doing her no good. Scully was losing her faith.
We were losing. Well, that was to be expected. We were going to lose, we were always going to lose, but it hadn't mattered all that much. I mean, I was doing what was right. I was following someone I could trust to lead me towards this… rightness… this… moral ground that I had never stood on before. Laugh all you want; I had found atonement.
And now the bitch was going to fuck the whole thing up! She'd lost whatever made her give up life at El Rico, whatever had dragged me like a damn apostle behind her.
I guess I pictured her as the last human on earth - the Grays circling in on her like a pack of wolves, her saint-like death. She made me believe and I wanted - no, I needed - that belief back. I was going to die clean.
Camp Four was going to be just the shit hole to perk up my floundering messiah. The place had one hell of a stealth operation going on against the Grays. They had stolen all kinds of shit - tanks, instruments that they couldn't work, and weapons.
I'd used Scully's history on the X-Files to get us a pass to see the crap and hoped that she might at least know how to turn something on - impress the camp honchos a little. She and Mulder must have seen at least some of the Gray's hardware in action.
They'd gotten their hands on some of the noise busters - those things that can pick up a baby's cry in a hailstorm and blast the thing from its mother's arms. They had even identified an alien base that they could hear with the thing but - you guessed it - the mother-fucking Grays don't make a peep. Occasionally they picked up really distant sounding human voices but they were snatches of conversation - nothing. I could listen if I wanted. Yeah. Sure. Why not? I thought I might look around for stuff to steal while I did.
The thing is like a VR suit with these clamp on armbands and silver mittens, no thumb. Then the helmet clamps on behind your ears. These giant smoked bulbs lower over where a gray would have eyes - "don't even bother looking in those - we can't adapt them to humans" - fine by me, right? We were in the same bunker the camp hid most of it's food stores and I was trying to make out what they had in the pilfered clone tanks - popcorn? Rice? Was there any chance I could get in here alone?
Then I heard the stuff they had been listening to - recorded silence - like a blank tape or an empty record and then a muffled word or two… "about"? or maybe "again"? And then more silence… then the word "please" definitely "please" louder and some kind of moaning or singing…
Okay so I'm thinking about how they'd blindfolded me on the way down here but I'd counted the steps, the turns, hell they didn't know who they were dealing with -- I would need something to carry the rice in if I stole it out of the tank…
And then I heard it
- just a little more clear than the other crap -
"To thee old cause! Thou peerless passionate, good cause,
Son of a bitch!
It was Fox Mulder quoting from Leaves of Grass. That poor, pathetic piece of shit. If that was him, begging, moaning, "please" - and I could see it now - I had one guess what he was longing for, what he wanted.
"Gentlemen," I announced, and what a joke because we were all filthy, hungry, and longing to kill, "I think I can help you work this thing." I yanked my hand from the listening contraption, gestured at the stock piles of alien bounty. "Help you work all this shit and even get you inside that base"
I had them.
"The doctor I'm with?" Some of them nodded. "She used to be a scientist with the FBI, was trained with listening equipment, high tech stuff. She was one of the ones who tried to stop the invasion."
"No one tried to stop it," someone said from the dirty little crowd of men.
"Some did - this doctor did. She can help." We needed to get a message to that base, let Mulder know that Scully was here.
Then start making our demands.
"Electronic Voice Phenomenon," I whispered to Krycek once our hoods were off and we stood in the bunker.
"What the fuck is that?" he shot back. One of Camp Four's finest came forward and ended any chance of private conversation with Krycek.
"He says you might know how to work some of this." I was ushered to a long row of items they had removed from various raids on alien outposts.
I didn't feel like explaining EVP to Krycek - one of the less interesting cases the X-File division never solved. "'Spirits in the room caught on tape' is gist of it." Alien invasion had made me a believer in all Mulder's theories, even the ones where I once thought it was perfectly clear I had proved him wrong.
But Electronic Voice Phenomenon would mean Mulder was dead
I strolled the line of objects. The big finale to this display was going to be the listening weapon.
I shook my head. Whatever Krycek had planned here wasn't going to work. Mulder wasn't at that base; he couldn't be. Not after all this time, not so close. I lifted the silver wand and gave it to the man behind me. "This will kill the shape shifters - plunge it in the back of their necks." The gruff flannelled men circling me seemed impressed. "You must be very precise." That advice hadn't worked for me. I shrugged and silently wished them luck.
I swore I was going to fucking kill that bitch. Then she picked up the shape shifter weapon and made the needle pop out. Damn, that was slick. Totally won them over.
Of course Scully won't work some kind of bullshit on the stuff she doesn't recognize. Would it kill her to just grab something and pretend that it emits poison Gray killing gas or phones up the rebel aliens, or helps you shit out the alien embryo? But no, Scully's completely legit, doesn't lie, doesn't even stretch the truth. God damn, if she wasn't my ticket to the big El Rico airbase hangar of the afterlife I would seriously fucking kill her.
So after the alien equipment dim sum party, we got rounded back to the silver helmet of the listening weapon. They snapped all the shit on her.
The smoked bulbs lowered down, only they lowered way down, like they were suddenly automated. The guy fitting her up said so too. "I think this thing is working better."
Scully gasped and straightened up like she could really see something.
"What did you do to it?"
All the Camp Four tough guys were jostling the technician. "I don't know! I don't think I did anything to it!"
"Well you must have done something because you made it work," I told him, but I didn't really think that was it.
Scully had the chip.
She kept this slice in her skin just below it and mostly no one checked to make another slice. She was the doctor and they were busy making whatever deal with us - board and food for doctoring and maybe fighting, and she was already cut, so…
"I see the base," she said.
We all shut up.
"Tanks." She was whispering like we were outside and it was daylight. "Grays….it's a big base" Her voice is all screwy, hoarse and cracking. "There isn't much noise but I can hear some of the people from El Rico…"
"What's she talking about?" someone grabbed me by my prosthetic arm.
"I don't know," I said, yanked my arm free.
Scully was crying, tears dripping down from under the silver mask and onto her jean jacket. "I see Mulder," she said.
"Who the fuck is Mulder?" someone grumbled behind me.
Scully sniffed, started to laugh… "and I think he sees me."
It wasn't the right word - he wasn't seeing me but, I think, feeling me. I remembered the balled light that I had somehow known was him - his presence. He seemed aware of me watching him in that same way. He had been waiting for me, eyes closed, kneeling in darkness, waiting for me to see him. When the helmet came off I was still reeling from what I had experienced. It had been like moving around inside the base and not just watching it or listening in.
"Does this mean they see us as well as hear us?" a man said over my head but not to me. Already someone else was pulling the weapon from my hands and arms and putting it on.
"Well you have the weapon trained on the base, don't you?" I asked him. All the men looked down at me. "I don't think that they see us until after they pinpoint our location by sound." I wiped at my tears with the palm of my hand, tried to be as matter of fact about that as possible.
"It isn't working again." The newly suited up man said.
"I think my partner influenced it somehow," I said but I was suddenly very aware of the chip. Mulder seemed like he was waiting for me to find him using the helmet, but not like he was powering it or controlling it.
"Your partner?" That voice sounded like he had found new lynching material.
"She was an FBI agent, I told you, her FBI partner was kidnapped by the aliens," Krycek was going to try and spin this and I needed to let him, trust him. This was his talent after all and my mother and I had lived by it for all these months since the invasion.
"The Grays don't kidnap, they kill," the lyncher talking again.
"This FBI agent was special. His family let the government experiment on him - he can talk to them," Krycek was waiting between the information he gave them to see how they swallowed it.
"Then he's a traitor," someone growled.
"No, he isn't a traitor," I said. "What my friend says is true. The Grays wanted to see how his brain worked. They wanted what to take away our successes at understanding them and they have him there now - watching him, studying him."
Krycek looked at me with astonishment but thank God the Camp Four men didn't notice. They were actually considering all that I had said. So I lied a little? Krycek lies all the time and I don't get all wiggy over it.
"Johanssen, Vaughn!" it came as a tinny, echoing page in the concrete bunker. "Get up here! There's been another one!"
There was a scramble to the north end of the room where a metal door led to a dark stairway to the camp grounds. It seemed that Krycek and I weren't going to be blindfolded on the way out. "Another what?" I asked the sweating bearded man trudging the stairs beside me.
"Jack the Ripper," he grunted.
Krycek breathing in my ear again, "They've been having murders here - nasty ones."
"This is a great place you picked, Krycek."
He passed me on the stairs, watching me until a missile flair lit all of us in gold and he found whatever he was looking for in my face. "I think it is," he said thoughtful. God, I think he was about to touch me, stroke his one living hand down my cheek. But the shock on my face must have scared him off. I got the bright grin instead. "Yeah, definitely a great place," he said before loping away in his casual, shit eating way. His good hand was in a pocket and his face tilted upward toward the exploding sky, he looked like it was the most pleasant evening he could imagine to be out for a stroll. I shook my head and started back towards the shack.
I hoped my mother was back because I really wanted to apologize to her - what had gotten into me these months? I felt my old certainty again. There was hope - I would die if I had to but I would have hope.
In the shack my mother was pacing. "Dana!" she pulled me close to her, pulled my face into her collarbone the way she had when I was younger. "Dana, something evil is in this camp. We need to leave here."
I pulled away, "What are you talking about?" I wasn't going to leave now.
"A murderer - killing women - children." She was hoarse but still shrill. Her walk tonight. Oh God. Jack the Ripper.
"Mom, one of the camp leaders said something about murders happening here. You have to be careful." I could leave the theatrical tag that the bearded man on the stairs had offered until daylight.
Her hands were like ice holding my cheeks. "I've felt It, Dana, when we first came here and tonight on my walk… places the temperature drops, the sadness… women were killed here." She let go of my cheeks and covered her eyes. Her rosary was looped around her wrist into a tight bracelet. "I can feel these things, Dana. I try not to, just like you, but I can…" her voice broke and she was crying. "It's such a terrible gift God's given us."
"Let's get you in bed, Mom." She had been through so much, crossing the country with me and a man I wouldn't let her speak to. I had acted so terrible tonight after she worked to make the little dolls. All she wanted was a little happiness, a little normality. I led her to the mattress and tucked our clothes and coats over her. We had one wool blanket and I folded it double and put that on her to. I doubted I would sleep tonight.
"I'm right here Mom."
"Alex isn't a bad man, is he?"
I stiffened. I hadn't told her, of course, about Krycek and his part in Melissa's death. I couldn't tell her that it made my stomach roll to think of her making conversation with Krycek, to think of the secret I was keeping from her.
"It's better if you just let me talk to him. Stay away from him, Mom, trust me." Her eyes were closed and she was drifting off. She looked so old to me right then, the weight loss and the constant exposure to weather and grief had left her face wrinkled and scarred.
I brought my knees to my chin and watched her sleep, listened to the sky crackle overhead, flexed my toes inside my boots to keep them warm. One thought, under my breast, beat time with my heart.
He's alive. He's alive. He's alive. He's alive…