Untitled 2012 fic

by Scifinerdgrl

Feedback: scifinerdgrl@hotmail.com or scifinerdgrl@yahoo.com

flames: whocareswhatyouthink@biteme.com

Here's my entry in NeoX's challenge. I'm not sure where this is headed but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time.

**

Captain's Log, November 22, 2012 ("Earth" date)

As we approach our destination I can't help but reflect on the gravity of what we are about to do. History will recall that we liberated planet RXQ-4367.3, and my name will be on schoolchildren's lips for centuries, but too many will be forgotten. The tireless workers who tended to this finicky craft. The cook who has managed to vary our menus even as our rations are dwindling. The linguists who have intercepted and decoded the planet's languages and then taught them to the rest of us and gave us human names. And then there are the geneticists, who have been ensuring that some of the population will survive if we inadvertently bring disease with us.

Yes, it has been a massive effort. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

************

"Sir?" a timid voice at the doorway asked. "May I have a moment?"

The captain turned off his log then swiveled to face his chief navigator. "What? Is something wrong?"

"Sir I believe we have been discovered." The navigator, Kwilljurn-Ra-Okwelljin, recently re-named Phillip by the chief linguist, trembled slightly under the scrutiny of his superior. "We have intercepted a message addressed to us."

"Hmph!" Captain Lincoln (a.k.a. Bwrillith-Na-Crovellith) narrowed his large black eyes, his leathery gray skin crinkling at the corners. He'd noticed these crinkles, what humans called "laugh lines." They seemed to multiply every time someone reported their supposed discovery. And now that their destination was in sight, these reports came more and more frequently. The crew was jumpy. He couldn't blame them. He was getting a little jumpy too.

"This time I think it's real, Sir," Phillip croaked.

The captain rose from his chair and stretched his long, sinewy limbs. "Okay," he sighed. "Show me what you have."

*********************

The captain leaned over the console, his tiny lips silently mouthing the words as his large black eyes moved back and forth over the unfamiliar language. "What is this? Can someone explain?"

The linguist, who had named himself Noah Webster, pointed a long bony finger at the screen. "This is the sender's name. And this..." He moved the finger across the line of cryptic text. "Is his message. He's using a phonetic spelling favored by the younger members of the species."

"It's a child?" the captain mused. He squinted at the screen again, and read aloud: "i no u r there. how r u? wen u get 2 erth plz come 2 my house. i want 2 sho u smthg"

"This must be a hoax," the captain muttered. "We've seen this kind of thing before."

"Yes," the navigator said. "But this time the message was broadcast on a transmitter aimed directly for our coordinates."

Everyone on the bridge glanced anxiously at their commander, who had pursed his rosebud lips and begun stroking his pointy chin. Though a veteran of many battles and quick on his feet, he always preferred to think through a situation before making the first move. The Na tribe was known for its thoughtfulness.

"Sir?" prodded the navigator.

"I think we should answer," the captain said after another long moment. "Call Noah. We need a translator."

****************************

"William?" Mrs. Van de Kamp called from the foot of the stairs. "Coming to dinner?"

"In a minute, Mom," the boy hunched over a computer keyboard called out. Then, to himself, he muttered, "a Centauri minute."

eyeinsky: how did you find us?

William stroked his chin, pondering how to answer this question. As sure as he'd been that there was someone out there, he hadn't ever given a thought about what to do after making first contact. He'd been studying the sky for three years now, ever since his parents had given him a telescope for his eighth birthday. He'd felt it in his bones. He didn't know why. But he felt sure they were out there.

"Will-yam!" a baritone voice boomed from the first floor.

With a sigh William typed "bbs - rents" then went to the doorway, letting his eyes pause on the poster above his bed before he flipped the light switch. Light from the streetlamps below streamed upward onto the words, "I want to believe." He congratulated himself on proving himself right, then went to join his parents.

***********************

"Rents?" Captain Lincoln asked.

Noah shrugged his narrow shoulders. "I don't think he's talking about money."

Lincoln walked around to the starchart console then clasped his hands behind his back. "Only one more month. It's too late to turn back but not too late to review our strategy."

Phillip, still staring at his navigation console, looked up in horror. His upbringing in the Na clan made him almost phobic about changes in plans, especially military plans. Their course, charted several generations ago, had never wavered. But as navigator he had no way of knowing that their strategy had changed. Several times. "It is too late," he protested.

But Lincoln seemed not to hear him. "I think the time may have come to reanimate our guest."

"I'll call the doctors," Noah offered.

"Of course you will," Phillip sneered. "You hope he knows what 'rents' means."

Lincoln shrugged. "We traded a day's rations for him. It's time we found out what he knows."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Doctors Watson and Crick leaned over their patient, trying to detemine the best procedure. Their protocols called for one IV in the left arm and one in the other, but this patient was an amputee. Crick looked up at the captain, who was scowling.

"Well? What's taking so long?" Lincoln demanded.

"This arm is fake," Crick announced. "We need to find a new vein."

Lincoln moved around the patient, studying his features carefully. "I've never seen one this close before. Are their veins like ours?"

Watson turned the good arm over, showing the dark blue lines against the light blue skin. "Similar. See? This one's where the drip will go, and the other arm is where we put the..."

Before Watson could finish, Lincoln had picked up the mutilated arm. "This wasn't the cause of his death. It healed."

"Yes, and there was a prosthesis. They don't know how to clone yet," Crick offered. "The question now is, which vein? Our protocols never took this into account."

Lincoln put his hands behind his back and circled the table one more time before making his pronouncement. "Start the reanimation process in the good arm. Then once the blood starts to flow you'll know where the injection goes in the other one."

Crick looked to Watson for guidance, and Watson took his cue, speaking for his colleague. "But how will we know?"

"I've trusted you with my life all these years. I think I can trust you with his." Lincoln's leathery lips rounded to an encouraging smile. "And after all, he's already dead. What harm could you do?"

*****************

"Earth to William!" Mr. Van De Kamp waved a hand in front of his dreamy boy's face.

"Wha?" William snapped to, then realized his fork was still poised midway to his mouth. "Oh yeah, sorry." He shoved the cold mashed potatoes into his mouth then scooped up another bite.

His mother, always a little too solicitous, reached over and smoothed his auburn hair. "Something on your mind?"

William shook off his mother's hand and looked to his father for support. But his father was looking at him with the same concern. He sighed and put down his fork. "You wouldn't understand."

"Try us," his father said gently.

"Do you believe in extra-terrestrials?" he probed, looking from one parent to the other. "Intelligent beings from another planet?"

"Well, um..." Mrs. Van De Kamp put her hands in her lap and kneaded them as she thought. "There *could* be life on other planets.... I suppose..."

But Mr. Van De Kamp was not as cooperative. "No, William, there are no extra-terrestrials. The only alien who ever came to Earth sacrificed his life to save us all. And the only extra-terrestrial intelligence is the one great intelligence that sent Him."

"If you count the angels..." Mrs. Van de Kamp offered.

"Mary, don't humor him," her husband scolded. Then he turned his attention to his son. "William, we're going to have to take away that telescope if you..."

"NO!" William stood up, his hands balled into tight fists. "I need it!"

"Sit down, boy," his father ordered.

Mrs. Van de Kamp tugged on William's sleeve, gently urging him downward. "William," she whispered, then more urgently she repeated, "William...."

But William was not to be deterred so easily. "They're out there. I *know* it!"

"Haven't you seen for yourself now that there's nothing out there in space but, well.... space?" Mr. Van de Kamp's face was starting to redden, though he kept his voice under tight control. "It's why we bought that telescope for you in the first place. We thought you'd forgotten about..."

"They're out there. I know it," William pouted. "See? I knew you wouldn't understand."

When he picked up his fork his mother placed a hand over his. "Try us, sweetie."

He looked at his father, who was sullenly studying the interaction between them. William had often felt that he was the prize in a tug-of-war between them, especially when he talked about his weird ideas. When he looked at his mother's face, soft and compassionate in direct proportion to the sternness of his father's, he sighed. "I've been watching the Hermes asteroid. It passes by Earth every 777 days. And every time it passes, there's unusual satellite interference, but there's no reason for it. The asteroid doesn't pass close enough to Earth to disrupt satellite communications. So then I started monitoring other asteroid passes, and the same thing happens, at the same frequencies. Do you know what that means?"

***************************

"777 days?" Mr. Van de Kamp stroked his chin, his eyes slightly crossed. William knew that look. It meant his father was searching his mental file for the appropriate Bible verse.

"No, honey, what does it mean?" his mother asked.

"It means some intelligence is taking advantage of asteroids to do something, I don't know what, with our satellites. When all the astronomers are distracted, they can do whatever they want." William sat back, satisfied that he'd proved to his parents he wasn't just dreaming. "I'm sure it's some intelligence."

"Some intelligence on Earth, dear," Mrs. Van de Kamp said. She took so much comfort in her theory that she didn't notice the chill her next sentence sent through the room. "Honey," she said to her husband. "Maybe we should contact Homeland Security."

*******************

"Everybody's in bed, waiting for Daddy to say goodnight," Monica Reyes-Doggett said as she put an arm around her husband's shoulders.

John Doggett stared at his computer, barely registering his wife's presence. "I wonder..." he said to himself.

"Wonder what?" Monica began kneading his tight shoulders, as she often did when he was pondering a difficult case. "I thought you had enough evidence..."

"Huh?" John looked up. "Oh, Mon... No, it's not that." He smiled, a little embarrassed. "Something new..."

Monica leaned over his shoulder. "An e-mail?" It was a long e-mail, but buried deep in the third paragraph one thing stood out. "About the X-Files?"

"I think you should read this," John said, standing up. "I'll go check on the kids."

Now Monica was the one focused on the computer screen, barely registering her husband's perfunctory kiss on her cheek as he left her to read his message.

"Dear Mr Doggett

"I no u dont wrk 4 the FBI nemore but I have a ? 4 u. Do u believe in aliens? I do. I have been IMing with one. They are coming here to earth. If u dont believe me, I have proof. I am good with computers. I found your e-mail addy didnt I? Don't call me. My dad thinks I'm going to hell for believeing this and he wont let me talk to u.

"Heres the other reason I no there are aliens. I think I am one. I'm adopted and I think Im part alien. Im not kidding. I can make things move with just my mind and theres a funny bump on the back of my neck. My mom says its a bone spur but I no its my alien part.

"I no u used to work on the X-Files. I tried to find the other ppl who worked there but I could only find u. Can u help me find the other ppl who worked there? Fox Mulder and Dana Scully? I think they might no my real parents. I need to find them soon. The aliens will be here in a month.

"Please dont think I am crazy. My skool conselor gave me a crazy test and I passed. I just need to see some X-Files proof cuz I no Im right. I looked all thru the FBI files and I couldn't find them. I think som1 destroyed them.

Sincerely,

William Van de Kamp"

***************

CHAPTER THREE

The one-armed human came around slowly, as the veins in both arms readily accepted the fluids pumped in by Doctors Watson and Crick. Lincoln stood nearby, mulling over the questions he would ask. The bounty hunter promised this was a prime catch, as humans went. As the man's breathing deepened, Lincoln whispered, "He won't get sick here, will he?"

"No," Crick answered. "We've given him a broad-spectrum anti-viral just in case."

"Good. How long until he can speak?" Lincoln demanded, his brow crinkling in thought.

Crick shrugged. "We've never animated this species before."

"Well then, I'll wait." Lincoln stood to one side as Watson put on soothing music over the speakers, and soon he found himself swaying to the reassuring click-clacking of a lullaby-like rhythm. Soon he was clucking his tongue in syncopated rhythms, just as a child would.

Watson took note and smirked, then nodded to Crick, who smirked back. They softly clucked along with their commander as their patient regained his color.

And an odd color it was. Watson surreptitiously checked the monitors that tracked his temperature, heartrate, and brain activity. "He should be conscious, now, Commander," he announced officiously.

Lincoln stopped his musical activities and leaned over their patient's face. "How can you tell?" he asked. "He seems asleep to me."

While Lincoln turned his head in curious angles trying to discern clues from the man's face, Watson took a long needle and jabbed it in the patient's neck. "This should do the trick."

The patient started shuddering, straining against the metal clamps holding his legs and good arm. The stump waved about, pulling its IV loose and coming within inches of whacking Lincoln in the face. The captain pulled back, shouting, "What's happening?"

"I don't know!" Watson took in the lights and read-outs on the monitors then croaked, "Crick! Get the anti-virals, and the human blood sample!"

Crick obeyed, holding out a syringe of yellow fluid and a vial filled with red. "What are you going to do with them?"

Watson didn't answer. By now he was busy drawing a blood sample from the patient, holding the syringe against the man's arm as it spasmed against the restraints. After capping the sample, he grabbed the anti-viral from Crick. "Here!" he ordered. "Compare these samples. See if he really is human."

Their captain heaved a disappointed sigh. What had the bounty hunter sold them?

********************

Audrey Doggett kept an ear out for her daddy's heavy footsteps. Having a regular bedtime routine had made things easier on everyone, but she still couldn't help being nervous. What if he came early to tuck her in?

ear2hevn: u still there?

puppygrl: sory dads coming soon

ear2hevn: eyeinsky IMd me bak!

puppygrl: reely?

ear2hevn: i dint anser yet

puppygrl: what will u tell him?

ear2hevn: my adress :-) want me 2 giv him urs?

"Audrey! what are you doing out of bed?"

"Daddy!" Audrey punched the power button on her monitor then swung around in her seat. "I was just..."

He crossed to her child-sized desk in a few swift steps. "How did you get through the block?" When she didn't answer, he punched the power button and read the end of her instant message conversation. "And who is 'ear2hevn?' I didn't clear him. Did your mother?"

Chastened, Audrey shook her head and squeezed back against her chair. If her father had been paying attention he would have noticed that her lower lip was quivering. But he wasn't paying attention. He was reading her computer screen.

"Audrey, are you going to tell me what you were doing?" Daddy could be very stern, especially when Audrey broke the rules, but she'd never seen him this angry. She gave a slight sniffle but otherwise didn't move a muscle. "And who is this ear2hevn?"

"A boy," she timidly offered.

"A boy from your school?"

Audrey shook her head.

"How old is he?"

Audrey shrugged. "He's in middle school. I don't really know him."

Now Daddy was livid. "Are you crazy? Sending messages to a big kid you don't even know? How do you know he's even a kid? He asked you for your address!!!"

Daddy's voice echoed in the tiny bedroom, making Audrey wish she could run away. Instead, she leapt from her seat and jumped into her bed. Pulling the covers to her chin, she whispered, "I'm sorry, Daddy."

"You're SORRY?" he shouted. "Do you have any idea what happens to little girls who go online with strangers who want their address? How do you know he's what he says?"

Daddy's Little Girl had never seen him so angry. She gathered the edges of her comforter in her fists then brought them up under her chin. With wide eyes she watched as he came near then hovered over her, seeing the veins in his neck for the first time in her young life. "Daddy..." she whimpered.

Her mother's voice rang out from the doorway. "John! Can I talk to you in the hall?"

"Monica! Do you know what she's been doing?"

"I don't care, John. Do you know what you're doing?" Monica said through gritted teeth. She nodded toward the hall with such force that it whipped her long locks against the open door.

Once they were in the hall together, Monica pushed John up against the wall. "How dare you talk to her like that! She's your daughter!"

"Monica! Listen!" he gasped. "She's been sending computer messages to some boy she doesn't know. He asked for her address!"

Mommy appeared at the doorway. "Audrey Rose!" Monica said sternly. "Is there something you want to tell us?"

"William's not bad, Mommy. He's my friend."

*****************

After a second injection of anti-virals, the patient's seizures seemed to have ended. But the regrowth of his severed arm gave Watson, Crick, and Lincoln pause.

"He's from Planet K-2682? How can that be?" Watson said, as much to himself as to the others.

Lincoln leaned over the man's face, poring over his features. "I don't see it. He doesn't look like one at all."

"A hybrid?" Crick suggested.

Watson shrugged. "Our scientists hybridized a few hundred of them without any reactions like this. He *can't* be one of our hybrids."

"I meant one of *their* hybrids," Crick added. "Couldn't they be doing the same thing?"

"Our intel doesn't say anything about other hybrids." Lincoln stroked his chin and began pacing the room. Although his mind was racing through a thousand possibilities, his pacing was slow and deliberate. And the more troubled he became, the slower the pace.

After watching their commander for a few moments, Watson took a syringe from his supply tray and filled it. "I'm ready if you want me to finish waking him up."

"Hmmm?" Lincoln came out of his reverie to look over at the figure once again. He lifted the now-completely formed arm and hand, then let it drop. "Secure this. Then we'll call Noah."

A few minutes later, Noah Webster stood between Crick and Lincoln, looking down on the patient's face as Watson injected the final syringe. "He looks human to me," Webster said.

"I know." Lincoln pursed his rosebud lips then looked down at the newly-regrown arm. "That's what scares me."

*****************

ear2hevn: r u ther?

ear2hevn: hello?

ear2hevn: times up for eyeinsky I wont send ur addy ok?

ear2hevn: hello?

puppygrl: whats ur addy?

ear2hevn: y?

puppygrl: i want 2 send u smthing

ear2hevn: what?

puppygrl: pictures of me

ear2hevn: send them here

puppygrl: its my class picture

puppygrl: hello?

puppygrl: its not scanned

ear2hevn: who is this?

Monica sighed and swiveled in the little chair. "Audrey, I need you to do this for me."

Audrey looked toward the master bedroom, where her Daddy was on the phone. "Who's Daddy talking to?"

"Someone who can tell us who your 'William' really is," Monica said sternly. "Now get over here and help us keep him online." Monica patted her knee, inviting the girl to sit in her lap.

"I can't, Mommy," Audrey whimpered.

"Well, why not?" Monica demanded, more exasperated than angry.

Audrey pulled the covers close up under her chin and pouted, but Mommy wasn't buying it. She met her mother's glare then finally confessed, "I wet the bed."

***********************

CHAPTER FOUR

The human lurched against his restraints one last time, then his eyes popped open. He squinted against the dim light and cleared his throat. "What?" he gurgled. He was about to say more when he saw Watson, a syringe in his hand, hovering over the side where his arm had just regrown.

Lincoln moved to Watson's side. "What is your name?"

The patient's eyes widened in fright as he looked from side to side. "No arm no test!" he cried out.

The small group exchanged glances. "Test?" Lincoln asked. "What test?"

"What's that?" the patient asked, eyeing the syringe.

"It depends on whether you are truly human or not." Watson smiled and tapped the syringe. "If you're human, it's a life-saving anti-viral."

"And if you're not..." Crick drew a finger across his neck in imitation of the actors in the B-movies he'd secretly uploaded to the medical computer.

"Wait!" Lincoln put out his hand, gently nudging the vial away from the patient. "What test?"

"There's a test, that needs two arms... I don't know what it tests... honest!"

Lincoln noted the patient's somewhat color ebbing to a pallid white then nodded questioningly to Watson. Watson shrugged, then Lincoln, determining for himself that the patient was exhibiting a fear response, nodded toward the door. "I'll call you if I need you," he said to the doctors.

"And me?" Noah asked.

The translator's color had darkened, indicating a fear response, but Lincoln decided to keep him there. Misinterpretation now could mean the end of the mission, and perhaps the end of life on the cloudy green planet.

*********************

William logged off from his instant messenger, then logged on under a new name. Eyeinsky had disappeared right on schedule, and his source in Washington had been compromised. He hoped his back-up ID was still safe. It was his only hope.

He clicked on his contact's back-up ID then posted a message: r u ok? rents bust u? b4 i come to dc i have 2 no if u r ok. i have a contact name for the spook chasers. john doggett in falls church. no where that is?"

He heard the third stair riser creaking under his mother's weight. He smirked every time he heard it. His father never figured out why it kept creaking despited repeated repairs. With a glance at his favorite poster, he hit "send" then jumped into bed.

"William? Are you still awake?" his mother whispered after opening the door a few inches.

"Yeah, Mom," he answered. "Come on in."

She sat on his bed, then smoothed his russet hair. "I know you really believe in..." She glanced at the poster then corrected, "want to believe in UFOs and space aliens and all, but it's not Christian, honey."

"They say Christ will come back someday, to judge us all. But they didn't say *how* he'd come back, or where he's been all this time," William pointed out. "Maybe this space craft..."

"

William!" she said, more of a hush than an admonition. "Jesus is *not* a space alien!"

"But what if he's a passenger? What if he saved them the way he saved us? What if..."

"Stop that!" She gave his chest a punishing yet gentle slap. "And don't ever say anything like that to your father!"

"It's okay, mom." William put a hand over hers. "I was just kidding you."

"Oh you!" She gave a sigh of relief then bent to kiss his forehead. "Sometimes I think you were sent here to test us!"

She switched off his light, then whispered from the doorway, "And get some sleep tonight. I don't want to hear about you falling asleep in math class again!"

"Okay, Mom," William promised. He wouldn't fall asleep in math class tomorrow. He had too many calculations to do, and he needed the cover.

******************************

"Experiment..." Lincoln muttered. "What kind of experiment would need two arms?"

Watson and Crick exchanged glances. "Reanimation requires two arms," Watson offered.

If Lincoln had had eyebrows, one would have arched. "Indeed." He studied the patient's eyes, then nodded to Watson. "You checked, right?"

Watson nodded. "No trace of it."

"What about his DNA?"

Watson checked the display on the panel where Crick had put the test vials. "Analysis is incomplete, but he appears to be human."

"But look at this..." Crick pointed to a sequence, tapping the read-out to zoom in until the double helix showed only a few twists. "This segment here... it's the sequence common to most species in this galaxy, including our own. It's traceable back to the Originators who seeded the galaxy sixty-five million years ago."

"And it's supposed to be inactive," Watson finished. "Only in the patient's case..."

"But what does that mean, that it's active?" Lincoln's hairless brow knotted over his diminuitive nose. "He's been altered?"

"Hey!" the patient shouted. He rattled his manacles for emphasis. "How do you guys know English?"

***

Audrey couldn't sleep that night. Neither could Daddy. She knew because she'd hoped to be able to use his computer to log on to her back-up ID, and she'd been listening for his footsteps on the way to bed. He never went. Under the guise of needing a drink of water, she got out of bed and listened at the top of the stairs. She could hear a little mumbling then Daddy's angry voice saying "Who the hell is this guy?"

She checked on Mommy, who seemed to be sleeping deeply, then went to Jack's room. She tip-toed to his bed, put her hand over his mouth, then whispered, "Jack! Wake up!"

Jack, all of six years old but every bit as bright as his older sister, woke with a start.

"Daddy's trying to find ear2hevn! We have to warn him!"

"I heard," Jack rolled his eyes. "So whaddaya want me to do?"

"I need your computer. Daddy took mine downstairs." Audrey grabbed the thin boy with the deep-set eyes that looked almost too much like Mommy's right now then pulled him toward his computer.

"Alternate log on ID I suppose?" Jack yawned as the machine powered up. "Ya know, if he caught you under one ID..."

"I stayed on too long. He saw me! But he doesn't know we've figured out how to get around the block." When the computer was ready, she reached over William's shoulder and typed the code to get online, then logged in to her instant messenger.

The words, "OFFLINE MESSAGE," sent only a few hours earlier, flashed on the screen.

The two children gasped when they read the message. "Daddy?" Audrey said finally. "He's connected with the X-Files?" Audrey hesitated, unsure whether to warn ear2hevn or Daddy. She decided on ear2hevn. "OMG!!!! He's my daddy! And he's trying to track you down! He's mad that you asked for my addy."

"Daddy's a spook chaser?" Jack whispered.

"Guess so," Audrey nodded. "Those back-up files ear2hevn found ended two years before that office closed down. That must be when..."

"Mommy was too?" Jack gasped.

Daddy's heavy footsteps, now made louder by the silence of the night, echoed on the stairs. On impulse, Audrey typed their address and phone number then hit 'send.'

"Audrey!" Jack scolded. But it was too late. She hit the power button then shoved him toward his bed.

He had just struck a believable sleeping pose when Daddy came through the doorway.

**

CHAPTER FIVE

"We ask the questions," Lincoln said, his voice syrupy in the manner he'd practiced for just such an occasion. "Our first question: What is your name?"

"What will you do if I don't answer?"

Lincoln smiled at the patient's answer. It may have been a hopelessly doomed act of defiance, but he appreciated it nonetheless. He liked having a worthy adversary. "That's a question," he pointed out.

"So it is." The patient's lips slammed shut, curling inward to emphasize the point.

"I am Captain Lincoln," the captain volunteered. "Not my real name of course. You would not be able to pronounce it. And my colleagues here are Doctors Watson and Crick."

The patient rolled his eyes. "Where did you get these names?"

Noah Webster coughed an almost human-sounding *ahem.*

"And our linguist and chief translator, Noah Webster here," Lincoln gestured with one arm. "Is the one responsible for helping us select names."

"Dos vedanya," the patient nodded to Webster. "Tovarich."

"Tovarich," Webster nodded. "That's Russian. Did you think I wouldn't recognize it?"

"But he spoke to us in English," Lincoln narrowed his large black eyes, studying the patient's features. "Are you an American?"

"Depends on whether you like Americans or not," the patient said.

"We like all humans," Lincoln said with an encouraging smile.

The patient rattled his manacles. "Then do you mind removing these?"

"Like and trust are two different things," Lincoln said. "You can earn our trust by answering our questions." He ushered the others toward the doorway, within arms' reach of a weapons cache, then approached the patient. "Every time you give me an answer, I unlock one. Deal?"

"Like I can negotiate," the patient snorted.

"First question: What is your name."

The patient looked into Lincoln's eyes and without blinking, said "Fox Mulder."

**

William handed his note to the airline clerk, who read it then dabbed at her eyes and said, "I'm so sorry about your parents. Why isn't someone with you?"

"She had another kid to help," William explained. "She said her caseload was too big, whatever that is."

"Yes, of course," the clerk nodded. "I've heard about..." She flipped through the parts of William's ticket then slipped in a boarding pass. "Ever fly on an airplane before, Bobby?"

"No, ma'am," William said, shaking his head to make his reddish chestnut locks catch the glint of the sun streaming through the window. He flashed a smile, then asked, "I can't wait!"

"Well that's good. And after you survived that horrible fire that killed your parents, I'd say you were born under a lucky star! The flight should be just fine."

Pulling a cell phone from his back pack, he explained, "I promised gran I'd call her when I got to the airport." After finding a secluded part of the waiting area, he dialed the number puppygrrl had given him.

"Monica Reyes," the voice on the other end answered.

Reyes? William checked the number, then remembered that Audrey's mom was Mexican. "Can I talk to Audrey?" If his calculations were correct, she should be home from school any moment. "It's her friend Bobby."

"She can't talk to you, Bobby. She's grounded."

**

It had been a tense day already, with both children home from school and police watching the house. Monica hung up the phone and relayed Bobby's message to Audrey. "He says Plan B is on."

John was already on the phone, tracing the origin of the call. As he waited for a response, he glowered at Audrey. "Mind telling us what Plan B is young lady?"

The lower-lip tremble seemed not to be working today. Defeated, Audrey admitted, "Plan B is for him to come here, to our house."

"Who? Bobby?" Monica asked, her brow furrowing in confusion.

Audrey rolled her eyes and looked to her father, who would certainly have figured out that "Bobby" was not a real name. But Daddy's look frightened her. Daddy was white as a ghost, his mouth hanging open. Daddy was scared. Daddy was never scared.

"Well?" Mommy insisted.

"Not Bobby. William. And eyeinsky. He's coming too." Audrey grabbed the sides of her seat and pushed her tiny body against the back of the dining room chair. "They're not bad, Mommy."

Mommy and Daddy exchanged very serious glances, then Daddy heard a voice on his phone. He thanked the person on the other end then hung up. "They found the node. It came from an airport."

"He's on his way!" Audrey clapped excitedly.

**

CHAPTER SIX

Lincoln nodded to Webster, who took his cue and left. "If we find out you're lying to us..."

The patient snorted. "You'll what? Kill me?"

"We can make you wish you were dead," Watson sneered from his position near the door.

"Watson!" Lincoln warned. "We're better than that!"

"Then maybe you'll keep your word and unlock one of these," the patient said, rattling his shackles.

Lincoln unlocked the shackle holding one ankle, giving the patient no real freedom as there was another one just below the knee. But as an act of good faith it served its purpose.

Webster returned with something that resembled an octagonal hand-held mirror, then handed it to Lincoln. Lincoln read the contents then turned it toward the patient. "Read it for me. Your written language is even stranger than your spoken one."

The patient read:

Fox Mulder: He died too soon

The Lone Gunmen mourn the death of Fox Mulder, a close friend and ally. An FBI agent whose search for his missing sister led him to a government conspiracy of unprecedented and intergalactic proportions, he was buried today after a memorial attended by a few close friends. Prior to the discovery of his battered and mutilated body, he was last seen several months ago at a gathering of UFO abductees. All the abductees have been reported missing. It is the opinion of these reporters that the U.S. Government knows what happened to all these people, and is most likely in collusion with an alien race that has the morality of a rabid dog. Fox's handsome face was scarred in several places, evidence of some form of torture, and his chest cavity had been opened for experimentation. This is nothing less than human vivisection. Worse than Mengele's "experiments." We call upon all freedom-loving people to take up Fox's cause. He was our "voice in the wilderness." Now that he's gone it's up to the rest of us.

When the patient was finished, Lincoln smiled. "It appears we're on the same side."

"I'm not on anybody's side," the patient hissed. "I don't even know who you are!"

**

"We are your liberators," Lincoln announced proudly.

"Liberators?" the patient snorted. "Why do liberators shackle people."

"It was for your own protection, I assure you. The process of reanimation is always unpredictable, and we'd never brought one of your kind back to life before."

The reality of the patient's situation seemed to have suddenly sunk in. "How long have I been dead?"

Lincoln consulted the obituary. "Let's see... eleven years. Almost twelve."

"Whoa..." The patient closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Sensing an opportunity, Lincoln placed a hand on his shoulder. "We have extensive records. Is there anyone you would like us to check on?"

"Yes," the patient answered without hesitation. "Dana Katherine Scully. ...and her baby."

**

"Jack, go to your room and wait. I'll be up later to explain." As Mommy held his shoulders, gazing into his cinnamon-brown eyes, Jack couldn't help grimacing. "No, you're not being punished. We just need to talk to Audrey for a bit," Mommy added. She kissed his forehead, then watched him as he left the room.

It would be up to him now. Audrey was older and more experienced, but Jack was a quick study. Once in his room he logged on to his computer, bypassing its parental controls and even their own ISP, then went to their group's website. His fingers were trembling as he searched the names of members online. When he found the one he was hoping for, he typed "Plan B. What's plan B?"

After what seemed like an eternity, his messenger window opened. "What happened to puppygrrl?"

"Caught," was all Jack could think of to say, but it seemed to be enough.

"Plan B is for them to come to us. We don't go to them. Are you ready?"

Jack wasn't sure. He typed, "*shrugs*"

"No matter. We still have time. Just don't get caught."

"What about eyeinsky?" Jack knew eyeinsky was important, but he wasn't sure why.

"Leave it to me. Just don't get caught. I'll be in touch."

The window closed, without Jack closing it. He sighed then turned off the computer. Someone else must be taking his sister's place, he guessed. Otherwise, why not tell him more? He flopped onto the bed, fighting off jealous tears. Why couldn't he have been the firstborn? The sound of Daddy's voice yelling at his firstborn made him regret his jealousy. Well, he thought, putting his headphone on then turning his radio to the frequency of the secret transmitter in the dining room. I can still help, no matter what Morelyman thinks.

**

"We're checking on your..." Lincoln paused, searching his memory for the right word. "Sweetheart?" he guessed. "And the baby. That will take longer. Seems he was adopted."

The patient's face remained impassive as he heard this last piece of news, but Lincoln wasn't concerned. He'd gotten what he wanted: a bargaining chip and an edge over their reluctant informant. He sat on a stool next to the patient's table, and cast what he hoped would appear to be a kindly smile in his direction. "Shall we resume our discussion?"

"You mean interrogation," the patient corrected.

"An exchange which will result in mutual respect and trust," Lincoln said. "What is the word for that?"

"There is no word for it when one of the people is tied up."

Lincoln smirked in appreciation for the patient's defiance. "We'll have answers for you soon. That should convince you. But first... What do you know about human DNA?"

"Not a lot," the patient sneered. Then, when Lincoln pursed his lips in preparation for a new question, the patient rattled his manacles. "That was an answer. Do we still have a deal?"

"But..." Lincoln started to object.

"Hey, a deal's a deal. It's not my fault you asked a stupid question."

Lincoln chuckled. "Fair's fair." He unlocked the restraint holding down his elbow, which gave the patient almost no added mobility, with the wrist still shackled. "I should be more specific. Why does your DNA have alien characteristics?"

"I don't know. The best I can tell you is that I've been exposed to contaminents, and not just as the subject of experiments."

The patient stopped talking, but Lincoln held back from unlocking a manacle. He was starting to get a feel for this species' emotions, or at least this specimen's, and he sensed there was more to the patient's answer. More that the patient needed to tell.

The patient rewarded his instinct by added, "Black oil. It's probably the black oil."

Lincoln could hear Watson and Crick's gasps from the hallway, and realized they'd been eavesdropping. "Shut the door!" he shouted. He unlocked one of the patient's ankles, giving him an opportunity to kick him if he chose. He didn't.

"And where was this black oil?" he asked, dangling the key from his bony forefinger.

The patient seemed not to be fooled by this act of nonchalance. The eavesdroppers' gasps had given him hope. "Russia, Texas, maybe other places. It's all over," he answered, feigning the same nonchalance that Lincoln had affected. "Why? Have you seen this stuff before?"

Lincoln reached for his intercom button. "Einstein, check the chemical analyses of the planet's oil reserves. Cross-check with the results from Planet Alpha-E-916."

"What?" the voice on the other end yelped.

"You heard me," Lincoln said, then closed the connection.

**

As his plane approached National Airport, William pressed his face against the window. The man in the next seat leaned over and pointed out landmarks. "That tall skinny thing is the Washington Monument, and the round building is the Jefferson Memorial. When we bank to approach the airport, you might get a glimpse of the Pentagon on the other side."

But William wasn't paying attention. He was trying to pick out the Hoover Building.

In the concourse, a solicitous agent stuck to him, keeping him from making that all-important phone call, until he finally said, "Gran told me to call her after I get on the Metro. Can you walk me to the station?"

"Won't someone be meeting you?" the woman whined.

William was glad it was all a ruse. If he really had been orphaned he would have kicked the woman in the shins. He hated pity. "Gran can't get around too good," he explained, inwardly grimacing for the next wave of gushing emotion. "She's in a wheelchair."

"Awwww."

The woman remained fixed in her place, making William anxious to get going. "Which way to the Metro?"

He let the solicitous woman lead him by the hand to the train station, which he found rather unimpressive compared to the huge airport.

Once onboard the Blue Line train, he reprogrammed his phone, assuming a random number within a pre-established set of codes, then dialed "Gran."

"Doggett residence," a gruff voice answered.

"Is Audrey there?" William said, keeping his voice light and untroubled.

There was a long silence at the other end. Too long. Then the train went underground and he lost his signal. Had they been tracing the call? He got off the train at the next stop, which was the Pentagon. Standing on the platform, seeing uniformed men and women pass by him without taking notice, he relaxed again and hopped aboard the Yellow Line train, which would take him to downtown Washington and the Hoover Building.

**

"Well?" Ddaddy seemed desperate as he watched the face of the police department's electronics expert.

"Cell phone," the man grumbled, listening more to the voice on the other end of his phone than to Daddy. "The number's phony. It's registered to a stolen phone in the Czech Republic. And the node...."

As the man waited for his answer, he glanced at Mommy, which seemed to make Daddy even more anxious. For hours now, Audrey had been sulking on the sofa, mentally willing this man and his friends away, but she had been unsuccessful. His friends had finally stopped trying to get answers from her, but Daddy didn't tell them to go away. And except for two bathroom breaks supervised by Mommy, Audrey hadn't been allowed to do anything but sulk and listen to condescending questions.

Finally the man hung up the phone and pointed to the map which Daddy had spread out on the table. "The node is here, near the airport."

Audrey leapt to her feet and ran to see where the man was pointing to. The adults seemed not to care that she was looking on as they discussed the possibilities. He could be calling from a plane on the tarmac, from inside the airport, from a cab, from the Metro. Audrey bit her lip to keep from yelling out, but inwardly she was jumping for joy. He was here!

Suddenly they heard a loud crash upstairs, followed by Jack's distinctive little-boy wail. Audrey watched as the adults dashed up the stairs, Mommy in the lead. And when the last of them had turned the corner, she grabbed Mommy's purse and ran out the back door.

**

CHAPTER SEVEN

"We've been able to verify only a little of your story, Mister Mulder." This time two armed guards flanked Lincoln. "Yes, you did work for the FBI. Yes, you did make an unauthorized trip to Russia, but..."

"My work was top secret!" the patient shouted. "Of course you couldn't verify it!"

"You worked for a unit called the X-Files? Such a unit never existed," Lincoln said, disappointment in his voice.

"What about Scully? She could verify it all!" he yelled.

"She died. Three years ago," Lincoln said, the sympathy in his voice genuine. "I'm sorry."

"She's dead? Scully's dead?" The patient blinked back tears. "How?"

"No records of that, I'm afraid. No records of the baby after the adoption, either." Lincoln sat by as the patient absorbed the news.

"I could help you find him," the patient said finally.

You? Help us?" Lincoln was now genuinely puzzled. By now he'd concluded that the bounty hunter's price for this specimen was due to the patient's altered DNA. But perhaps it was the man's "top secret" investigations that made him valuable. "Why would we waant to find him?"

"Because he's the key. It's in his DNA."

"His DNA?" Lincoln repeated. "He's your son, isn't he?"

The patient nodded.

"Then his DNA is diluted. Yours is much more valuable to us."

"His mother was abducted and subjected to genetic alteration as well." The patient's face was now contorted in desperation.

"The same thing happened to her? She was exposed to the black oil?" Lincoln scratched his chin. The child would indeed be valuable.

"No, not the same DNA. Something with a chip planted in her..."

A chip? This changed everything. "Watson," he barked. "Check your records. See if we altered a Dana Scully."

When Lincoln turned his attention back to the patient, he saw a smug grin spreading across his face. "Don't I deserve a little something for this information? If you can't unlock these, can I at least have a cheeseburger?"

Lincoln decided he liked the patient after all. "Crick, see if we have something the patient can eat. And put cheese on it."

"You have cheese?"

The patient's surprise amused Lincoln. "All mammalian species have cheese. Your species is amazingly ignorant considering the number of species that have visited you."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that. We have more secrets than you know."

"Your governments are, yes," Lincoln said as he reached into a cupboard and brought out a container with freeze-dried rations. "But we're not concerned. It's your people that interest us."

**

Audrey's plan worked like a charm. The cab driver believed her breathless story of abduction and escape, and as William had predicted, the immigrant didn't recognize the details of the old Elizabeth Smart story. He deposited her at the front of the Hoover building without asking for a fare, then sped off. William was right about that, too. The driver didn't seem to want to attract the FBI's attention.

With the driver gone, Audrey was now free to seek out the designated meeting place. The streets didn't look anything like she'd expected from the map. For the first time she hesitated. What if she got lost? What if she found the place and William wasn't there? Or worse yet, what if Daddy was right about him?

The loud ring of Mommy's cell phone interrupted her thoughts. With shaking hands, she fished it out of the purse then checked the number. Azerbaijan country code. It was William.

"William!" Audrey squealed. "Where are you?"

"Audrey?" William answered cautiously. "Is that you?"

William's high-pitched voice reassured her that at least one of Daddy's doubts was groundless. William was indeed a child. With her fears set aside, her enthusiasm came back to the fore. "Yeah! I got away and I took my Mom's phone!"

"I'm at the meeting place. Using a computer."

"I'll be right there!" Audrey ended the call then check her directions. Five minutes later she was at the public library, hugging her "brother" under the watchful eye of a kindly librarian. Daddy would be proud. She'd picked the place, and it was indeed safe.

"I can't believe you really did it!" she whispered.

"Me neither!" William pointed to his computer screen, where Audrey could Jack's e-mail. "And I can't believe that diversion worked!"

Audrey rolled her eyes. "I can. My parents are *so* stupid!"

William snickered. "Mine too."

**

After moving the patient to more accommodating guest quarters, though still under the watchful eyes of armed guards and surveillance systems, Lincoln busied himself learning all he could about the FBI, Fox Mulder, and Dana Scully. Mulder's existence was indisputable but very little information had survived the 2009 Infosweep. Dana Scully was a different matter. She'd disappeared just before the Infosweep but her body had reappeared shortly afterward. From the description, he deduced it had experienced the same torture that Mulder's body had.

He leaned back in his seat, stared into the ceiling, and pondered this information. If he could find this body and reanimate it...

"Sir? Lincoln snapped to attention at the sound of his head cultural delegate's voice. Margaret Mead's soothing voice and delicately crinkled brow never failed to get his attention, something the rest of the crew had noticed, but only a few dared to mention.

"The patient is sleeping. I think the reanimation stimulants are having a rebound effect." Mead took a seat across from Lincoln's desk then gave him a cautious smile. "He wasn't in any condition to answer questions, but I think he's going to come around."

"That's why I asked you to check on him," Lincoln smiled back. "If anyone can get through to him, you can."

Mead blushed, a bluish tinge creeping upward from her throat until her gray-green skin almost glowed. "I've been waiting for years for such an opportunity. Thank you."

"I may need your help with something else, too." He turned his computer screen to face her. "This conversation, with this child. What do you make of it?"

As she squinted to read the strange language, Lincoln noted the fine lines around her eyes, which made them seem even more feminine. He wondered whether he would be able to control his urges toward her after they'd begun their liberation agenda. After all, they'd be living on the planet for decades before returning with provisions and refugees. The humans did seem to believe in monogamy. Perhaps if they showed they were similar to humans in this respect they would have an easier time convincing refugees to come with them.

"I think I'd like to ask him a few questions," Mead answered after reading the instant messages. "He seems eager to talk."

**

Jack's tears were more real than he'd intended. Hefting the old-fashioned computer monitor from the desk had put him off-balance, causing the business-end of it to crash onto his foot before shattering on the hardwood floor. His relief at seeing Mommy rush into the room was also very real.

She scooped him into her strong arms and asked, "What happened, honey?"

Over her shoulder he could see Daddy and the men from downstairs, their guns drawn, mounting the stairs.

"What happened?" Daddy demanded, looking from the smashed computer monitor to Jack's tear-stained face.

Jack gasped for breath and gulped as one of the men searched the room. "The computer!" he gasped. "If made a spark, then it just flew off the desk!"

Mommy set him down on his sore foot, then grabbed his shoulders and said gently, "Tell us again. Exactly what you saw."

"Don't humor him, Monica," Daddy scolded. He bored his light blue eyes into his son then asked, "Jack, what really happened?"

Jack couldn't help it. He smirked. He instantly knew that he'd given himself away and inwardly chided himself for not being the practiced liar that Audrey was. Maybe Morleyman was right about him after all.

"Jack," Mommy warned in a slow in a low, serious voice. "Did you do this yourself?"

It wasn't worth trying to lie. He'd only smirk again. So Jack nodded contritely.

Daddy's hand flew around over the remains of the monitor. "Look at this mess!" he yelled. "Why would you do something like that?"

Jack shrugged, hoping that he was buying Audrey enough time. One of the men standing near the door caught his eye, making Jack grin sheepishly. Daddy's gaze moved toward the man, who said, "If everything's okay here..."

"Yeah, go on," Daddy said. Then he turned his attention to Jack and asked, "Well?"

"I don't know," Jack whined. "I was moving it, and it was heavier or something, then it fell and landed on my foot." He thrust out his foot, which Mommy dutifully grabbed. "It really hurts!"

Within a few seconds Mommy had pulled off the shoe and sock to reveal a very fresh, very painful-looking bruise. Jack looked up at Daddy's face, expecting to see some sympathy. Instead, he saw Daddy eyeing the headphones he'd left on his bed. As Mommy soothed his sore foot, Daddy picked up the headphones. Jack could see by the expression on his face that Daddy could hear the men who had gone back downstairs.

"It's just a bruise, honey," Mommy said soothingly. "And don't worry about your monitor. You can use Audrey's..."

"Monica," Daddy started to say, but the rumble of footsteps racing up the stairs interrupted him.

"She's gone," the man announced. "The girl's gone."

**

CHAPTER EIGHT

"We have another opportunity in a few minutes," William whispered. "Then we can talk to eyeinsky again!"

"Did you tell Morleyman?" Audrey asked, keeping an eye on the librarian.

William shook his head. "I don't think Morleyman is everything he says he is."

Audrey felt as if she'd just taken a punch to the gut. "What? How can you say that?"

"Look at this e-mail I got." William clicked on a message then gave Audrey time to read it, but she didn't need much. At least Morleyman was right about Audrey's intelligence, he mused.

She looked up to see his appreciative grin. "I don't get it. Why would he give us passwords for the Hoover Building then tell us not to go there?"

"That's what I mean. Either he's sharing his account with someone, or he's manipulating us," William suggested.

"Well, we *shouldn't* go there," Audrey said. "I mean, we're just kids."

"But kids have a *better* chance of getting in there!" William said excitedly. "They would never suspect us!"

Audrey backed away from her eager co-conspirator. That wasn't the plan. He wanted to meet her dad, didn't he?

William seemed not to notice Audrey's hesitancy. He clicked on the messenger program, bypassing the blocks on downloading programs, then whispered, "Go distract the librarian. Tell her you need books or something."

Dutifully, Audrey kept the librarian's back to William as she asked for books for her "little brother." But it was William she was thinking of when she decided on the picture book, "Are you my mother?"

**

Daddy's breathing was ragged as he looked around the room, looking for something but not knowing what it was. Jack cursed himself inwardly for leaving the headphones out where Daddy could find them. It was awfully hard to keep a secret from Daddy.

"You were helping her?" Daddy yelled when he'd given up looking at other targets and settled on the object of his anger: Jack.

Jack opened his mouth to answer, but before he could, Daddy dropped to his knees and grabbed Jack's shoulders. "Do you realize what you've done?" he yelled. When Jack didn't answer, he shook him by the shoulders then raised his voice another notch. "Where did she go?"

With tears gathering quickly in his eyes, Jack whispered, "I don't know."

"What?!?" Daddy yelled, squeezing Jack's shoulders.

"Daddy..." Jack whined.

Mommy slapped Daddy's arms away from Jack then pulled Jack backward, supporting him against her strong stance. "John," she warned in a low voice.

Daddy looked from one to the other then shook his head in disgust. "Monica," he started, but seeing the resolve in her face thought better of it. Grinding his teeth for a moment, he stared at Jack, who stared back but didn't know what to do. "You don't know?" Daddy repeated.

Jack shook his head.

"Well that's just great." He grabbed Jack's computer, ripped the cords from the back, and as he approached the door turned to Mommy and said, "Keep him outta my sight!" They heard a few of his heavy footsteps then he paused to add, "Better yet, take him to an orphanage!"

"He didn't mean that, honey," Mommy said, rubbing Jack's sore shoulders. "He's just angry."

"Are you angry too, Mommy?" Jack sniffled.

Mommy took Jack's hand to lead him downstairs then said, "Oh yeah. I'm angry with both of you."

**

Mead and Lincoln found their guest lying on his bed, one hand behind his head, the other one in the air overhead. He seemed not to hear them enter, as he examined his regrown appendage carefully, but without looking at them, he said, "Is this a variation of bad cop/ good cop? Bad room/ Good room?"

Lincoln pullsed a chair to the head of the bed then sat down. "You're our guest. I meant it when I said that holding you down was for your protection. Now that your condition has stabilized..."

"Feeling better?" Mead asked.

"Yeah, well... it beats being dead," the patient said, still examing his arm. "How do you know I'm not dangerous?"

"Your species relies on firearms to inflict injury," Mead answered.

Lincoln added, "But you generally need cause before firing."

The patient sat up then examined his examiners. "Can we get to the questions, please?" He swung his legs over the side of the bed and after taking a moment to savor the sensation of balancing himself equally with both hands, the patient looked up. "That *is* why you're here, isn't it? To get more information?"

"We reanimated you because we've been in contact with one of your species." Lincoln shook off Mead's hand then leaned forward. "We need your help."

"Why should I help you?"

"Because helping you helps your people," Mead said. She pulled a chair to the far end of the bed, giving Lincoln his own zone for the interrogation.

Lincoln watched the patient's reaction to her comment, knowing that she would be doing the same when he had the patient's attention. "Your species is known for its altruism as well as its violence."

Mead added, "You've been the subject of much study amongst our anthropologists as we prepared for your liberation."

"About this liberation," the patient held onto the edges of the bed, betraying a vulnerability his face didn't show. Lincoln decided that Mead's advice to watch the patient more carefully might serve him well. The patient continued, "Just who are you liberating us from?"

"Not who," Lincoln smiled. "What."

**

CHAPTER NINE

William closed the windows on the computer then picked up the books. "Let's go," he whispered.

"Go where?" Audrey wasn't sure she liked the excitement flashing in his eyes, but she knew she was going to go with him. It was like they were meant to be together.

"Where do you think?" William grinned mischievously then grabbed her hand. A moment later the two breathless children were facing the front door to the FBI's headquarters. "Tell them you're taking your mommy's purse to her. Tell them she's an agent."

Audrey glanced at the purse that hung heavily from her shoulder. "Think they'll believe me?"

"Who wouldn't believe such a sweet face?" William said. "And besides, I'll back you up. I'm your older brother, remember?"

The guard smiled down on the two children, commented on his own kids as if they cared, then let them through without even putting their bags through the X-ray machine. They rode the elevator up two storeys in case anyone was paying attention, then made a dash for the nearby emergency stairs and headed downward. "It was in the basement," William explained.

"I know," Audrey said, rolling her eyes. But she didn't know what to expect once she got there. It was brighter and less dusty than she'd expected, not like the basement at home at all. And from the few comments her parents had made, she'd expect it to be much, much worse than this.

William took her hand in his and counted their paces. "It should be right... about... here," he announced.

"The office?" Audrey pulled back as William punched a code in a security pad next to a narrow door.

"No, the computer closet. All the computer wire for the building..." He swung the door open, revealing bundles of cable, all leading into metal boxes attached to the wall. It was a small room, really a closet, with just enough room for the two children. "Shut the door!" William whispered, then opened his laptop.

By the light of his laptop, William pulled out one cable after the other then plugged them into his laptop, until he found the one he wanted. "Got it!"

Audrey didn't understand any of what flashed onto the screen, except that it was something they weren't supposed to see. "Are you sure...?" she said, but he was too engrossed to hear her.

"Done!" William said, slamming his laptop shut. "Let's go!" William said, grabbing her hand.

**

Despite being a "big boy" since his sixth birthday, Jack allowed Mommy to carry him down the stairs, but when she set him down on the sofa where Audrey had been confined to earlier, he withered under her scolding stare. "Are you angry, Mommy?"

"Oh yeah," Mommy answered. "Don't think you won't be punished."

She moved to where Daddy and the Falls Church police were huddled over his computer, hooking it up to Audrey's monitor. Mommy whispered to one of the men, who then joined Jack on the sofa.

Jack kept his eyes riveted on the action in the dining room, hoping for at least a glance from Daddy. But Daddy was looking only at the monitor. "There it is!" Daddy said, sounding as if he'd seen something horrible. "A shadow drive, just like hers." At that point Daddy should have looked at Jack, at least given him the kind of punishing glance that Mommy had given him, but Daddy never looked at him. It was if he really did want Jack to go to an orphanage.

"You and your sister are in big trouble," the officer at the opposite end of the sofa said. It wasn't an angry-sounding statement, just a statement.

"I know," Jack said, rolling his eyes.

The man turned sideways until he was facing the boy, his arm across the back of the sofa and one leg curled in front of him. "No, I don't think you do," he said knowingly.

"What do you mean?" Jack wasn't sure he trusted this man's too-friendly demeanor, but he was intrigued.

"Hacking for one thing," the man said. Jack just stared blankly at the man, who then added, "It's a crime, Jack. When adults do it they go to jail."

"Jail?" Jack repeated, looking over at his parents. It looked like they were reading his IMs. "What about kids?"

The officer leaned backward and adopted an even more casual pose. "Dunno. Depends on the kid. Juvenile facility, foster home, house arrest..." He gave a casual shrug then added, "I never arrest children. We'll have to call the kids' cops."

Now more than ever Jack missed Audrey. She could have told him if there was such a thing as kids' cops. He'd never heard of it, but then he'd never been in trouble, either.

"Of course," the man drawled. "If you cooperate they'll go easy on you. You might get off with probation."

Jack wasn't sure what that meant, but it sounded better than jail or a foster home. "What about Audrey?"

The man nodded significantly. "Well, Audrey... We'd have to find her first, wouldn't we? She can't cooperate with us if we can't find her, now can she?"

Before the man could say more, Jack was on his feet and at his parents' side. He tugged on Mommy's sleeve and in a timid voice said, "Mommy?"

"Jack!" Mommy said, casting the same glare he'd seen before. "I thought I told you to..."

"I want to copter-ate."

**

"Okay... liberation from what?" the patient conceded.

Lincoln moved a chair to face the patient squarely, and Mead pulled a chair close to his. "We first became aware of your species many years ago, when most of your planet was at war," Lincoln said.

"Let me guess -- World War Two?" the patient snorted. "You can go back home. We've learned our lesson since then."

"No, I don't think you have," Lincoln chided. "The Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East..."

"Your point?"

"We've come here to fix the cause," Lincoln beamed.

The patient now rolled his eyes and would have gotten up if Mead hadn't placed a calming hand on his. "Those wars all had different causes!"

"Different places, people, times, but one cause. The same cause."

"Oh I get it," the patient relaxed into a pseudo-casual pose. "You're going to give me a lecture?"

"Us and them, group against group. You're all capable of coming to rational decisions yet you continually resort to violence." Lincoln smiled then gave a slight, smug, nod. "We've come to liberate you from that tendency."

The patient broke into a guffaw. "I've been kidnapped by hippies!"

**

CHAPTER TEN

Audrey started back the way they'd come, but William grabbed her sleeve and dragged her the other way. He opened an emergency exit with a forged passcard, and they entered a long tunnel that was only sparsely lit with bare flourescent bulbs. Audrey felt then heard the rumble of a subway car above them. "William, We're not in the Hoover Building anymore. Where are we going?"

"I found out where the X-Files are, Audrey!" William kept up his pace even though he was breathless with anticipation. "They're under the White House!"

"What?" Audrey yelped. She glanced around, but found nothing to confirm William's announcement.

He nodded. "They're all there, even the ones that were supposed to have been burnedin a fire. They go all the way back to 1947!"

"Wow," Audrey whispered.

"Roswell," William nodded emphatically. "I think those aliens were my grandparents." He stopped walking then leaned against the tunnel wall. "I have these powers, and I'm too smart. But I *look* normal. I think my other grandparents were human."

A chill went through Audrey's spine. She'd heard about people like this. Daddy sometimes made fun of them, and Mommy pitied them. But they both told her and Jack to avoid them. Crazy people. People with weird ideas. In the dim light William's blue eyes seemed to glow with excitement. Crazy excitement.

"I need to find my mom, Audrey," William said. "I think she may have given me up because I looked too normal. She's probably like me. And maybe I have brothers and sisters too. I need to tell them I'm just like they are!"

Audrey tried to take her eyes off of his, but she couldn't. Their crazy enthusiasm for his quest was somehow infectious, even if she did find his theory ridiculous. She wished her Daddy were here to sweep her into his strong arms and take her back home, but she was here alone with this crazy kid. She hoped she could handle it. She couldn't go back.

**

"Oh *now* you want to *copter-ate,*" Daddy sneered. But Mommy silenced him with an elbow to the ribs.

She squatted to Jack's level and looked squarely into his eyes. "Jack, tell us where Audrey went."

As Jack looked into Mommy's face he felt an overwhelming urge to leap into her arms, but he knew he had to be strong. He looked over his shoulder at the officer on the sofa and the man nodded his encouragement. Yes, this was the right thing to do, he decided.

When he didn't answer right away, Mommy put her hands on his shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze. "Please, Jack."

Emboldened by Mommy's touch and the officer's encouragement, he answered, "William was a-posed to come here. He wanted to meet Daddy."

"Me? Why?" Daddy's forehead crinkled into the series of lines that Jack well knew, then they disappeared as Daddy worked out an answer. "Wait... William? Someone named William sent me an e-mail..."

As Daddy logged onto his e-mail account, Jack explained, "He wants to find his real parents. He thinks he was an X-File."

Mommy and Daddy exchanged worried glances. Jack wasn't supposed to know about the X-Files.

"Jack, that's classified," Mommy said. She nodded to the officers, who quickly left the little family alone in the dining room. "Where did you hear about the X-Files?"

"From Audrey," he said. "And William."

Daddy joined Mommy in looking into Jack's eyes at his own level. "Jack, this is very important. Tell us everything you know about William."

"Us and them, group against group. You're all capable of coming to rational decisions yet you continually resort to violence." Lincoln smiled then gave a slight, smug, nod. "We've come to liberate you from that tendency."

The patient broke into a guffaw. "I've been kidnapped by hippies!"

*******************

"Hippies?" Lincoln sneered. "I think I've proved my point."

"And what point is that?" The patient seemed emboldened by Lincoln's reaction. He crossed his arms and looked into the big, black eyes. He didn't know why, but Lincoln squirmed under the scrutiny. He should have had the upper hand. What was happening to him?

Ever the sensitive, Mead stepped in to explain. "On your planet, there are certain diseases, diseases that sometimes run in families. They affect the mind, the imagination, and..."

"Mental illness?" the patient's voice crackled in delight. "You've come to rescue us from mental illness?"

Lincoln noted Mead's composure and congratulated himself on choosing her for this assignment. He sat back, comfortable again now that the patient's beady eyes were looking in another direction, and listened to Mead's soothing voice.

"For thousands of your years, your species has been mined for its excellent DNA. Your ability to adapt to different climates, the way you can solve problems, your language ability... You're simply amazing," she gushed. "But the species who have come here to take your genes have left some of their own behind, a kind of genetic pollution."

The patient nodded, listening intently to what Lincoln expected would be the more surprising news for him. It was as if he already knew of alien visitations to his planet. "So you are the reason for all mental illness?" he asked, more out of curiosity than the justifiable anger Lincoln had long harbored on this species' behalf.

"Defective specimens!" Lincoln shouted, no longer able to contain himself. "Badly bred hybrids, left behind. Bred and interbred, wreaking havoc over societies all over your planet!" He pounded his fist on the nearest thing he could reach, which happened to be a table between himself and his resident anthropologist. She reached for his hand, putting her own over his in an expression of sympathy. "I'm sorry," he said, quickly withdrawing his hand and trying to regain his composure. "It's just that you were such innocents. You didn't deserve this!"

Mead picked up her hand with some embarrassment, then continued, "By inter-galactic treaty, none of this should have happened. Mining your DNA without your permission went on under the nose of corrupt administrators for generations, until a more enlightened group took over the inter-galactic treaty organization. We represent this new, modern, movement."

"How many of us are defective?" The patient was now leaning forward, eager for more information. "Are you going to kidnap us one by one and bring us to this ship?"

"Goodness no!" Mead laughed. "We're much more efficient than that!"

**

CHAPTER ELEVEN

"The White House," Audrey whispered. "We can't go there, William, no matter what you think you'll find!"

She tried to turn back, but William pulled her along. "It's not far now. If my map is right..."

They came to a dead end, a large anteroom with metal plates bolted to each of its three walls. "Watch this!" William said with a prideful grin. He stared at the metal plate in front of them, his lips twitching with prodigious effort, and soon the metal began to shake. A popping sound echoed in the room as the bolts pulled back, and with them the plate. As it rattled between the loosened bolts and the wall behind it, the plate made a deafening roar. Audrey covered her ears and screamed, "William! Stop it!"

But William only concentrated harder, until finally he gave one last grunt then shouted "Take cover!" Audrey ran for the corner, followed by William. He pinned her tiny body against the wall, his own deflecting some of the bolts as they popped out, followed by the plate, which flew against his back then dropped to the floor.

"You did that?" Audrey said with awe as William helped her step over the plate.

"Hmmm-mmm," William nodded.

He looked tired now, not so crazy, but the sight before them seemed to energize him.

********************

"William's special," Jack explained. "He moves things with his mind. And he's smart. REALLY smart. Like too smart to be a kid, but I know he's a real kid."

"Where does he live?" the officer who had been sitting with him on the sofa asked.

"Somewhere out West," Jack said with a shrug. "In a small town with mountains all around."

"Well *that* narrows it down," one of the other officers sneered.

"I don't know!" Jack pouted. "I'm only the back-up contact, in case something happens to Audrey. Morelyman has all the answers!" He looked pleadingly to his parents, hoping that they would give him credit for copter-ating as much as he could.

Mommy got the message. "We can take it for here," she said. "We'll let you know if he tells us anything useful."

The officers seemed reluctant to leave, but Daddy's authoritative nod toward the door gave them the signal. As they were closing the door behind them, Daddy squatted to be on eye-level with the six-year-old, then gave his arm an encouraging squeeze. "It's okay, Jack. Just tell us whatever you know. About William, about Morleyman, about all of it."

**

"So you're going to cure our mental illnesses?" the patient said with some skepticism. "What does that have to do with war?"

Mead explained, "Years ago, when we first detected nuclear explosions, we sent a delegation to analyze the situation and make first contact."

"But they were fired on, and they decided to self-destruct rather than make first contact. It's in our procedures. If we meet with resistance, we are to send word then let the species believe that their defenses are adequate." Lincoln stopped there, unwilling to reveal more about their policies than the patient needed to know.

"Our geneticists investigated and found that genetic pollution had continued despite the ban instituted centuries ago." Mead stood up and began pacing, making Lincoln's eyes follow her instead of focusing on the patient as he'd intended. Her passion for redressing these wrongs was the equal to his own, and he loved to see his own opinions mirrored by this calmly persuasive woman.

"We sent geneticists to sample the other populations," he offered, but quickly deferred to Mead's storytelling prowess for the rest.

"It was worse than we expected. Every continent, every cultre. Alien DNA was rampant everywhere, causing mental illness, violence, and war all over your world."

"And here I'd thought we got our violent tendencies from baboons," the patient snorted. But despite his bravura, Lincoln thought he detected a cagey deception. How much did the patient already know?

But Mead seemed not to notice and waved off the patient's remark. "They've been infected, too." Her upper lip curled as she thought of the violations that Lincoln knew irked her even more than the tampering with the human DNA. "But we've already developed colonies of re-engineered replacements."

"Replacements?" the patient howled. The word seemed to have significance for him. Lincoln searched his memory for any authorized replacement programs for humans and found none. This could be a problem.

He smiled as he watched Mead continue without acknowledging the response. "We expected all the large primates to be extinct by now, and I must say we're pleased to find there are some left."

"But only a few," Lincoln snorted despite his resolution to remain quiet. As passionate as Mead was about cultural and genetic pollution, Lincoln was passionate about extinction.

Mead didn't let Lincoln's remark faze her. "We plan to re-home these replacements as soon as your species has been straightened out."

The patient's face reddened noticeably at the last statement. "But what if we don't *want* to be straightened out?"

**

To Be Continued

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