window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-61462110-1');
Title: A World to Save
Author: geb
Feedback: Please do.
Archive: Gossamer. Everybody else please ask first. Thanks.
Rating: R for language and other "adult situations"
Category: MSR of a sort; major Scully angst; story set in the future
Spoilers: Not really. But it would help if you've seen "Momento Mori" and have a pretty good grip on the mytharch up through Season 5. Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, Skinner, The Lone Gunmen, and the X-Files belong toChris Carter, 1013 Productions and the Fox Network. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made from this. Joyce Sun is an independent entity unto herself and a force to be reckoned with. Any copyright infringement or resemblance to any Joyce Suns, living, dead or floating about in cyberspace, is of a purely X-Files-type coincidence.

Summary: "Mulder told me that the Torah says if you kill one person, you kill a whole world because you have also killed that person's children and his children's children and so on. And, if you save one person, you save a whole world. I have only been trying to keep my child alive. I have only been trying to save a world."

Thanks to Joyce and GeekyGirl for beta reading and editorial imput. Thanks to my husband, David, for not caring that, again, I forgot to cook dinner.

Mulder: You're trying to save them.
Crawford: They're our mothers.
-- from "Momento Mori"

My son's father sits without looking up, without moving, at the foot of my bed.

A thin brown cat slips around his feet in a worried dance, crying up at him.

And I am yelling at him. I am screaming fourteen years' worth of fury and frustration and betrayal.

My son's father doesn't answer. He sits with his elbows on his knees, hands hanging still and useless. He watches the cat dance endless figure eights around his ankles, hobbling him with the symbol of infinity.

I wake. No scream, no start, not even a gasp. I am beyond those kinds of reactions to the unreal by now. And it was not real. It could never be real in that way. In reality, there would be more gray in his hair, and more flesh of the soft, hanging kind that has given up the fight against gravity. There would be a bit of a belly, even on him. There would be jowls.

Or, more likely, there would just be dust. Dust and a few of the more durable bones: the head of a femur, a globe of cranium, the rounded shelf of pelvis.

I remember the feel of that hip curved in my hand, under my lips, pressing and moving against the inside of my thigh. I remember how he would jerk and curl in on himself if I ran my fingertips too lightly or unexpectedly across the front of his hip, just where leg met body in a long, sloping line to his groin. It was the only place he was ticklish.

"That's the one place on the human body you can touch the soul," I told him in an uncharacteristic moment of romanticism. It wasn't really me talking anyway. I was quoting something a high school boyfriend had told me. A boy rather short on brains and subtlety when it came to trying to get me to put my hand down his pants.

He gave me one of his ruthless half-grins and pushed my hand over into crinkled hair and thickening flesh. "You want soul baby, *this* is soul." It was supposed to be funny. At the time, I thought it was.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Enough, Dana. Enough of that.

That's not the way it was.

But the frustration of the dream hangs on like nausea, and so I try to swallow it down.

I stare at the pale rose ceiling, peels of paint hanging down like a sloughing skin. I remember when my son was born how I fretted about paint, about the mind-dulling capabilities of its sweet, leaded dust. How could I know how lucky I was then, to be able to worry about something as innocuous as motes and chips?

Now I have a lot more to worry about than destruction by paint. He is, afterall, his father's son. And his mother's. At least the son of who she used to be.

Just stop it, Dana. I force myself to sit up. I have been doing this too much lately. Thinking.

It's raining a hard, cold spring rain. It's been raining for two days now.

The plumbing is probably fucked again. The pipes are always getting washed away in the rain, backed up, drowned out. It was a mistake They made. They only cloned the intelligent ones. And then the rich ones, once it became clear the way things were going. Either way, They cloned snobs. Replicas that believed Themselves incapable of mucking about in sewers.

They should have thought better about it. Planned better. Then there wouldn't be this lack of plumbers.

Among other things.

But, I guess whatever They thought They were doing it never occurred to Them that it would lead to this: having to shit in a communal hole in the ground every time it rained.

But maybe it's not this way everywhere. Maybe it's just this way here, on this mountain top in what used to be called West Virginia. They still call it Bethany, just as it was called back when it was a college. Biblical. A resting place, although I don't remember who rested there, or why. I don't remember a lot of things.

Some of this forgetfulness is intentional.

The kids call it "The Motherland", with a roll of their eyes. It's a literal name, but also somewhat of a joke. "Mother" used to be slang for something big, something serious. "That was one mother of a storm," people would say. So, it also meant something threatening, like an ugly, screaming, overweight woman in a shapeless flowered housedress: a mother of a certain sort.

It was also a euphemism for motherfucker.

Some of us are those kind of mothers. Either one. Or both. Given the options available to us.

We're also neither. We are a rarefied group. We're the intelligent ones who aren't much use with PVC pipe. One might think of us as the Chosen Ones. The new Eves. The mothers of Them. And so They care for us here. They protect us. Our somewhat children.

And we are also the mothers of the sons and the daughters that should never have been. We are the mothers of the miracles that cannot be explained. This makes us saints of a kind too, to have produced miracles. So, I think that, even after all this time, They are a little bit afraid of us and our unfathomable offspring.

There are limits to Their respect, to the amount of piety that They are willing to accord their mothers and half-siblings. We have to behave ourselves. Play by the rules that we didn't have any hand in writing or we may be Punished.

There's only so much They are willing to buy into the remnants of what was. We might be Their mothers, but They are, afterall, In Charge.

I think.

I spend the rest of the day in the make-shift lab behind the Infirmary. It's my Rest Day, but I've done everything that needed doing and I can only lounge for so long. At my age you begin to get restless, you begin to suspect that ahead there's going to be a long time for lying still, so you'd might as well move it while you still can.

Besides we've got to get these follow-up specimens on last summer's malaria outbreak sent down to Health Maintenance. Or maybe it's sent up to HM. I'm not sure where it is. A long ways off, though.

Medico Crawford and I work in counterpoint. I read the control number and name off the vial and he finds it on the list, reads it back to me, checks it off.

There used to be bar-codes and scanners to do this kind of thing, lab techs, computers. They like to keep us busy though. They've read too much Calvinist literature. They've taken too much Protestant thinking to heart. The multiculturalists were right when they warned that all that emphasis on WASP ideology would result in no good.

A vial slips from my hand and shatters on the floor, blood spilling like a wound. Medico Crawford doesn't miss a beat. "M140404001229. Scully, G," he recites as if in repetition, although I hadn't read out the label yet. He lifts his head from the checklist and fixes me with one of his looks: eyes expressionless, corners of his mouth pulled back as if he's holding something thin and unpleasant under his tongue.

I lift my chin. "I'll get another sample tonight." Another guerrilla battle in the war over my son's blood, his chromosomes, everything that makes him precious. Tonight I will bleed myself into a needle for him just as I have many times before. Another sip of me poured into glass for Them.

Of course I'm not fooling anybody. They know my blood from his. It doesn't matter. They probably have him in the million other ways that I could never control: a loose hair, a dirty tissue of snot, the thin bit of skin They took away from him when we arrived here. This isn't a war really, it's an indulgence.

My dream put me in an ugly mood. I want to push it. I want somebody to fight with. Fingering through the remaining vials to be counted, I pull a second one up, holding it between thumb and forefinger like a stinky fish by the tip of its tail. Expressionlessly, staring straight at Medico, I let go. The vial explodes on the floor like a little bomb, glass shrapnel and blood spraying out in a perfect halo from ground zero.

Medico doesn't even blink. "F140404000214. Sun, J."

Finding a replacement sample for her blood is harder. I've used the cat before. As a result it tends to get very skittery and uncooperative whenever I pull out a hypodermic. Maybe it'll bring me a useful offering instead: a chipmunk, a bird, a baby rabbit. Once upon a time it would have bothered me to drain another living creature of all its blood. Now, it's us or them. The animals I mean. I think the animals have always thought of it that way. It's less clear with The Colonists or with Them.

I don't use my blood for Joyce. That's where I draw the line. She's not my daughter. I can't bleed for all of them.

Medico sighs deeply and waits. We've been together for ten years, this Medico and I. We let each other get away with a lot. We have an understanding, but it's not affection.

I go get a mop. I always clean up after my tantrums.

Back at the dormitory, I see that the perimeter fence has managed to contain my son for yet another day. His books and jacket are dumped on the chair just inside the door, in my room. Apparently, it's too far for him to walk the twelve feet across the suite to his room and unburden himself there. This both annoys me and makes my heart ache.

I resist the urge to pick up after him. Instead, I hang my slicker and lab coat, properly, on the hooks screwed into the wall behind the door.

I pull the syringes out of the coat pocket and take them over to my desk. I used to wait until after he'd gone to bed to do this. Now, I know for sure that he won't be back until five minutes before the dinner bell rings, so I have time. You could set a clock to my son's absences these days. He's at that age where it's imperative to keep Mom exposure to an absolute minimum.

As I go about the mechanics of drawing down my own blood, I notice my hands.

They have become my mother's hands: hash-marked with wrinkles and scars, the skin sinking down between the bones, veins standing up in relief.

Homesickness starts to rain down through me, puddling cold in my stomach. I miss my mother.

I want her here with me.

When was the last time I saw her? Picking him up after work. She told me about their day: a trip to the playground, grocery shopping, mac and cheese for lunch. I don't really remember this conversation exactly. I just know that's the kinds of things we talked about then. I can't remember what she looked like that day, or any other day for that matter. Not exactly. You can't memorize the face of a living person the way you do facts in a book. Faces are too changeable.

I probably kissed her on the cheek that day because I always did. I probably held him on my hip and made him kiss her too. I probably said, 'good-bye'.

Although I didn't really mean it at the time. Not the way it turned out, anyway.

I'm having trouble today. Some days I have a bad time.

Joyce comes in while I'm sitting at my desk, slowly rocking the vial of myself back and forth in my hands, mixing in the anti-coagulant. I don't hear her knock, although I know she must have. The door isn't locked. They took the locks away a long time ago, not long after we first arrived here. There had been too many incidents behind those locked doors: suicides, infanticides, love--female to female because there were no men around and we needed comfort.

"Hey, Ma Scully. Is Gabe around?"

Instinctively, I close my hand up around the vial, try to hide it. I blink innocently at her. "No...No, I don't know where he is."

Peering out from under her long bangs, her eyes pick me up and take me straight. She looks strangely tired. There are dark circles under her eyes. "The cat?"

Joyce knows what's going on. Years ago she caught me one night, a needle in the jugular of a mangled squirrel the cat had delivered for sacrifice. The cat looked on in self-satisfied triumph, it's paw lightly holding down the squirrel's quivering tail. Joyce came over and helped me hold the thing still until it died.

"It's okay," she'd pardoned me. How old was she then? Eleven, I think.

My armor is old, worn as smooth and hard as a cowry shell. Joyce is still building hers, piecemeal, glueing it together using the pebbles of her experience. Sometimes the chinks fall out and I see something. She is soft inside, a little girl who lets me read her fantasy stories. Something is wrong lately and I'm worried about her.

I'm about to ask when she shrugs, "Doesn't matter." She means the cat, the blood sample. She gives me one her wry grins, a half a smile. Something she learned from my son. Something he inherited from his father. "Spaghetti for dinner." Secretly, like kids making mud pies, we've concocted a variety of witch's brew blood substitutes.

I nod, give her a little bit of a smile.

"Maybe mushrooms in the sauce," she says, backing out the door. "I wonder what They'll make of that?" She puts on her Crawford face. "'Sister F00214 J. Sun appears to be developing a substantial fungus infiltration.'" She is a vicious mimic. I can't help but smile for real this time, but she is already gone, heading down the hall, yelling at the top of her lungs: "Gabe! Gabriel Scully! Get home right now and kiss your mother! You ungrateful bastard!"

Huh. It seems my son has been talking about his father again.

I remember They brought us here in the autumn that he turned five. But he was two the last time I saw my mother, so there were three years somewhere in between. It's hard to recall. They took those years away from me.

What I remember is this:

Hiding in dark cellars and secret rooms with Guardian Crawford's face always hanging near us like a lantern.

Pressing my hand over his frightened, wailing mouth until he nearly suffocated. So that we wouldn't be found out.

Carrying him on my hip through a snow and mud field strewn with bodies. His dark green eyes staring and staring.

Holding his fevered, shivering body against mine, under my clothes, while he coughed and coughed, struggling for each breath.

I killed a man. With a knife. I don't remember why.

So, you see, coming here was partially a relief.

It's half an hour into dinnertime and my son isn't back yet. I'm not worried, but I need to find him. Any absences from dinner will be noted.

My son thinks he lives a whole secret life outside of me. He thinks I don't know about what he and Joyce do in the pine grove by the amphitheater, about the picture of his father he keeps in a drawer, about his various sorties outside the perimeter fence. His rashness and his secrecy are hauntingly familiar to me. I wonder if somehow I raised him this way, so that I wouldn't forget what it was like.

The flashing yellow light of the maintenance truck parked outside gives his current secret away. It draws him the way a flashing light in the sky attracted his father. Only now the aliens are the familiar and it is Men that are the object of curiosity, and fear.

I head for the basement, where a Maintenance Simpson, the latest release of useless manual work clones, will no doubt be watching some old drunk that They dug up out of the hills bang away at the pipes.

Sure enough, I follow the string of expletives through a maze of dark rooms and walkways to the source, or at least the back end of it. And the back end of my son. The two of them are head down in a hole in the concrete.

I can see Gabe's shoulders working underneath his T-shirt, as if he's trying to turn a large wheel. Something clanks.

"Fuck!" His voice echoes. Watery, exasperated.

"Goddamsonofabitch." His companion agrees. "Shit."

Male bonding. This is not allowed. This goes way beyond faking a blood sample. This is heresy. This is treacherous.

I wonder where the Maintenance Simpson has gone.


They freeze. Then, they scramble like a comedy pair in an old silent movie.

They use each other to crawl to a stand.

"Hey, Mom." He gives me that wide-eyed grin. Playing innocent, but also letting me know that he's only playing. It's my choice to call in the game.

His companion shuffles, doesn't look up. He knows the rules. He can't look at me. "Mother," he mutters in greeting, although he must be at least twenty years older than me. This is a new Plumber. They must have finally given up on Shaky Pete.

"Where's your Simpson?" I ask the Plumber.

"A new one," my son answers for him. "Joyce took him to find the master shut off."

I sigh. This is a game. Joyce is forever leading new Simpsons on wild goose chases all over campus. Simpsons are hopelessly stupid, with a jacked-up testosterone level trapped inside a eunich's body. The blind gullibility of freshly rendered Simpsons to young female guile is local legend. And Joyce is the primary storykeeper of that particular genre of lore.

There is no master shut off.

I feel the Plumber looking at me. I have become much more conscious to the visual touches of Men than I used to be. They are so rare now, and so infinitely more violating.

I catch his eye. I could turn him in for this. I could have him Punished for his transgressions. For looking at me. For talking to my son. He knows that.

Instead, my stomach tightens as if punched, as if suddenly sick. I would know that eye, both of those brown, lewd fish eyes anywhere. Even after all this time and his thin, white-haired, old man disguise I recognize the look of that perverted little homunculus.

Mulder used to refer to him as a plumber, but I always thought he was being euphemistic.

We all have our dreams of rescue: husbands, lovers, brothers finding us, sneaking in somehow, saving us. It just figures that when rescue actually shows up, it would be in the guise of Melvin Frohike, probably seventy years old at this point, stinking of moonshine, dressed in a blue jumpsuit and carrying a pipe wrench nearly as long as he is.

The Gunmen disappeared early on. They saw what was coming. They read the writing on the pc screen.

He came by one night and told me while I nursed the baby. He watched with his usual look of bewildered fascination and terror, as if that happily grunting bit of flesh attached to my breast was a giant tick rather than his son. I was never sure which he preferred.

"The Gunmen are gone. They've abandoned the War Room."


He hesitated. Then, he shook his head. "I don't know," he lied. There was really quite a lot that he knew and didn't tell me.

As soon as that impossible pregnancy was confirmed, I'd transferred back to Quantico. Then, there'd been six weeks of bed rest to assure that the baby went to term, followed by the hormonal fog of motherhood...We didn't travel in the same circles anymore. And just because I'd given birth to his offspring didn't mean he was going to start telling me everything he knew.

"Where did they go?"

"They didn't tell me."

I wasn't angry. I really just didn't care anymore. There, in my arms, was something decidedly solid, something tangible and reliable, to care about.

I held the baby against my shoulder, pushed the pillow off my lap with an elbow. I sat there, my breasts naked and swollen with milk. I rubbed my cheek gently against that soft baby head, breathing in his perfect baby smell. I stared into the gloomy corner where his father sat, outside the ring of the warm yellow lamplight that bathed the two of us.

He got up and moved slowly towards us, head and shoulders bowed like a supplicant. He knelt down on the floor in front of me, his eyes dark and begging. He wrapped his long arms around my waist, laid his head in my lap.

I slid my fingers into his hair. I found two gray ones and rubbed them thoughtfully.

"I miss you," he sighed.

Gabriel kicked him in the head.

I could be wrong about rescue. I probably am. Frohike's just another piece of flotsam washed up onto this mountaintop by the flood of this unending war.

There was no promise in his glance, no guile. Lying there with his head down a hole next to my son's he was not whispering elaborate plans into another eager, impressionable ear. He is nothing to me anymore. I am nothing to him.

This is what I tell myself.

So then why did he say, "I may be an old man, Mother, but I know still my way around all the old pipelines"? Was he trying to tell me something? Did he know exactly whose son it was that he stood next to?

Gabe and Joyce follow me out of the basement, silent. I know they're making faces at each other, though, talking with their eyes. I wonder if he puts his hand at the small of her back as they climb the stairs together. They think I'm mad at them. They don't know how afraid I am. That Frohike is here. That there may be a way out after all.

I want to scream and scream.

Mulder, my son's father, kept his apartment. There was no marriage, no attempt to make me an honest woman. What could have been more honest than the way we arranged things? Neither of us were into keeping up the appearance of a happy family.

He always needed a way out, an escape. It was inevitable that he would take it to its extreme. He vanished one night, without warning, without leaving a clue in his trashed apartment.

There was no body, and there was no blood. And, so, I can still allow myself to think of his disappearance as something he did to me, to us. He ran out on us. It justifies my anger at him. It's better than the alternative, which is also a possibility.

He was officially listed as "Missing". There were such lists by then, compiled by humanitarian groups. He wasn't the only one, by far.

There were protests, silent vigils because already it was too dangerous to talk about it. I saw them on my way to work: parents, spouses, siblings standing mute, holding the photograph of a vanished loved one against their chests.

Groups stood outside the Capitol Building, the White House, the Pentagon.

There were marches on the Georgetown campus until the police, or something like the police, took away the student leaders. There were appeals to the United Nations. They wanted somebody, anybody, to do something.

It wasn't clear yet that there was nothing to be done. We didn't know yet that we were a Colony. And it hadn't occurred to anybody that pleading for decency and humanity assumes that the ones being pled to have some.

"I'm worried about Joyce," Joyce's mother, Helen, tells us confindentially.

It's a cool day today, but at least the sun's out.

We're walking back up the hill to the dormintory, slowly, arms all linked like a daisy chain. Helen pauses to rest, so we all stop. Helen, Joyce and I.

"She spends too much playing with that Scully boy."

Helen was once a mathematics professor at MIT.

"Oh, Helen," Joyce says, "He seems like a top-notch boy to me." All conversations with Helen are conducted in the stilted dialog of a 1950's family

television show. Leave it to Beaver. Patty Duke.

"He's a little too smart for his own good. Although he is always very polite."

My son as Eddie Haskell. Helen does not recognize me as Gabe's mother, or Joyce as her daughter. Most often in Helen's mind, Joyce is always eight years old and the lithe, dark-eyed sixteen-year-old beside her and I are her "women friends." Sometimes, though, she's completely lucid.

"They spend too much time together and I'm not quite sure what to do about it."

We start to walk again, Joyce and I matching our steps to the painful hobble of Helen's partially amputated feet. Twice Helen tried to escape with Joyce.

Twice she was caught and Punished. Now she's made an escape that They can't bring her back from.

"I'm sure they're just good friends, Helen." Joyce tells her carefully.


"Well, they grow up so fast these days. Next thing I know they will be older and then it won't be just playmates anymore. I worry."

I can feel Joyce tense on the other side of her mother. I feel her glance sideways at me, behind Helen's head.

"It's such a struggle to get her to wear a dress," Helen sighs.

"Run away with me." He asked me this just once. His head rested on my chest, his body curled up against mine, our legs tangled. His breath smelled of mint toothpaste. It wasn't too long after we'd been let go by the Bureau.

They made Skinner do it. Even though he wasn't my ASAC anymore, they made him do it. I had to drive all the way in from Quantico to get canned.

Skinner looked more stuffed into his shirt than usual. More mechanical. He sat stiffly, as if it hurt to move. He kept closing his eyes. He seemed unsteady. The two Bureau Clones behind him watched intently.

I'd never seen Bureau Clones before-they didn't go through Quantico-but Mulder told me about them. Soon after I left, one had been assigned to the X-Files.

It didn't matter. Mulder's important files were already safe somewhere else. He never had kept them at work.

Mulder called the clone BuClown and ruthlessly practiced a partnership based largely on misinformation, procrastination, and obfuscation. He was good at it. He'd learned from some of the best.

The Bureau Clones' suits must have been part of the cloning process-part alien in material. They were a deep, shadowless black without obvious weave or seam.

Their shiny black hair and metallic grey eyes accessorized the look perfectly.

They made our attempts to look intimidating with wool suits and sunglasses amateurish by comparison.

One Bureau Clone had a hand on Skinner's shoulder.

Mulder glared at them and, right on cue, opened his mouth to argue.

"Please." Skinner sighed, shutting his eyes again. "Please, just go. Go now."

He stood up slowly, an effort that made his clenched jaw tremble. The Clone gripped his elbow. "Agent Mulder, it's best for us all if you don't argue.

Just go. Please."

We heard later that Skinner's body turned up on an eddy curve in the Potomac.

It was a spot everybody had started calling 'The Beach'. A lot of bodies were turning up there.

"Where would we go?" I asked Mulder the night he wanted to run away.

"I don't know...where all the other crazies go. Idaho? Michigan?"

"You're serious."

"Mexico, maybe."

I ran my fingernails in a thoughtful circle along the wing of his shoulder blade. I'd gotten another job easily, at Georgetown, teaching pathology.

"What about our son? And I can't just leave my mother. I can't just disappear."

He shifted, crawled on top of me, between my legs. He held my head between his hands, gazed at me sadly. "Do you have any idea how important you are?"

I slid my legs up along his, wrapped them around his hips. I arched into him, opened my mouth against his neck. He shifted, responded. It was so easy to distract him.

He never once told me he loved me.

Frohike fades and vanishes again, like a dream. It's possible that I've imagined him. The weather turns warmer and drier. I stop on my way down the hill to the Infirmary to pick daffodils.

It was before I knew I was pregnant. I lay on his couch. The room was rich with its dark colors glowing in morning sunlight like thick, syrupy liquids: caramel, treacle, molasses, maple. I felt suffused with this liquid light, languid, sweet. He sat on the floor by my head. We were both naked. He was gravelling along, badly, to some Van Morrison song. "Tupalo Honey", maybe. Making up the words he didn't know. His capacity for silliness surprised me. As did mine.

As he sang, he idly ran the blossom of a daffodil up and down my body, soft and tickling as moth wings, cool as milk. I closed my eyes and listened to the laughter in his voice. That rare joy. I couldn't help smiling.

I can handle this memory today. I hold it on my tongue and savor it like a lemon drop, clear, golden. It tastes bittersweet and potent.

We have a new Mother. I take the daffodils to her.

Her name is Kathy. She sits in a standard issue rocking chair in her infirmary room, holding her toddler son in her arms. Neither reacts much to my entrance, not verbally anyway, although their eyes watch my every move. They are both still out of it: exhausted, traumatized, drugged, brainwashed.

I'm not very good with new Mothers. I never know exactly what to say and so everything I say seems wrong. The daffodils, for instance, now seem like a mistake. They are too cheerful, too welcoming. The last thing I want to do is give her the idea that I approve of this place, that I think it's a good idea that she's here.

I take the extra chair across the room and place it in front of her. I sit down and lean in, just enough so that she can't avoid me, but not so close that I'm invading her space. Her son sucks on his thumb and twists his other hand again and again through his hair. Auto-comforting responses to stress.

They both watch me suspiciously.

"My name is Dana Scully. I'm a doctor. You met me yesterday. Do you remember?"

Her nod is barely perceptible. But, these are good responses: that she acknowledges and remembers me.

She remembers her name and her son's name and that he is her son. She remembers her childhood. She probably remembers some things up until the day They took her. They destroy our memories on purpose. To make the transition easier, so They say. It also happens to mean that new Mothers can't tell us anything about what's going on Outside.

Her memories will come back slowly, eventually, piecemeal and incomplete.

Dreamlike. She may think that memories are just imagination and that dreams are real, but eventually she will learn to live with it. My daffodil morning, for example. I know that once upon a time he was real and that we were lovers and that he brought me flowers and that he sang even worse than I do. I remember the colors of his apartment in the sunlight. The rest is pure conjecture.

Joyce's mother is not the only one of us who walks along this thread of madness.

I continue slowly and carefully, speaking in simple tangibles. "The same thing that happened to you happened to me. I know that you're confused right now, and scared. You will be all right. Your son will be all right. They will protect you here. There is food and medicine and clean water here. This is not part of the Colony and there are no Colonists here. There are other women like us here, and we have children like your son."

"We're safe here?"

"Relatively." The sorting of those sorts of details can come later. I start to glove up, set out clean bandages and anti-biotic salve.

A vague smile trembles at the corner of her mouth. "We're in heaven then."

I stop and stare at her. "No!" My voice is sharper than I intended. She blinks at me, as if waking up. "No. You and your son are alive. And you are here. In this place with the rest of us." Her face and eyes go slack again.

I wait, letting myself calm a little. Giving her time. "I need to check your...I need to change both of your bandages."

No response.

"Does it hurt?" I ask her.

Her eyes slide sideways to stare past my left ear. I carefully, slowly, lift her bathrobe off her shoulder, exposing a large white bandage just below the right clavicle. I hate this.

I pull away tape and gauze. The skin underneath is still red, angry.

Eventually, it will heal to a raised scar. A brand.

Kathy suddenly stirs, reaches forward tentatively. She's staring at me again, urgent, questioning. Her fingers brush across my shirt, slide to the buttons and begin to slip them free. I close my eyes and wait, still, head bowed. I don't try to stop her, although, should a Crawford or a Service Jones walk in, we could be Punished.

She pushes the shirt open, off my right shoulder. The pads of her fingers are soft and warm against my skin. It's been so long since anybody has touched me in any intimate way. I feel this touch go all through my body and I can barely breathe, even though what's going on is not sexual. There's no erotic intention whatsoever in what she's doing.

Her fingers find and read, over and over again, the Braille of the scar on my shoulder. Equivalent to hers, and to her son's, and my son's...

It's an ankh. The ancient Egyptian symbol of enduring life. Regeneration.

And a number.

Life goes on forever here. They're counting on it.

"Is he here?"

I'm putting things away, getting ready to leave Kathy and her son to rest. My shirt is properly buttoned again. I'm not quite sure what she's asking.

"Yes. My son is here with me. He's sixteen now."

"No. your husband here?" Her eyes plead.

I glance away from her desperation and down at her son, who stares and stares, his hand twisting and twisting. "I don't have a husband. I never did."

It's an answer that They would give: literal and deliberately ignorant of nuance, without feeling. I know what she's really asking. I force myself to look at her and I try again. "My son's father...we weren't married. And, no, he's not here. There are no Men here."

Her lips tremble slightly. "Is he dead?"

Does she mean Mulder, or the father of her own child? "I don't know." I am completely, brutally, honest on both counts.

"This isn't heaven, is it?"

"No. No it isn't."

Kathy's passivity follows me, clings to me like a mood that can't be shaken. I want to slap her slack, hopeless face.

When we first arrived here I was sick with pneumonia and dysentery. When I finally managed to crawl free of the fevers and delirium, Guardian Crawford brought my son to me. I held my boy close and ran my hands all over his small body, checking to make sure that everything was all right. He was a relatively healthy kid, active and strong, despite all our hardships. I found the healing laser cut below his clavicle, a bone that suddenly seemed as delicate as a sparrow's. And for the first time, I felt my own mark burn and itch.

They had claimed ownership of us, branded us like livestock, marked us like just so much merchandise. Our protectors. My somewhat children. His half-siblings.

I flew into a rage more violent and blinding than anything I have ever experienced. By the time I ended up on the floor, bleeding from ripped IV's, my hospital gown twisted up around my waist, crushed under a pile of Crawfords and Joneses, Guardian's elbow was shattered. I managed to kick out the knee of another. My son howled right along with me and yanked furiously on the long hair of the Service Jones as she tried to hold him out of the fray.

Later, once I could understand it, I found that They'd given me a name that day in the strange clicking language that They shared with The Colonists.

"Tl!ck'ha". Fierce.

"Your son is very close to Sister Joyce," Medico Crawford notes conversationally as we check in supplies from the latest convoy.

Medico and I never have conversations.

I try not to react. Glancing at him from the corner of my eye I see him studiously lining up bottles of chloroquin in the pharmacy cabinet, labels squared, each bottle exactly one-eighth of an inch from the next. Medico is obsessive-compulsive.

"Mmm." I go back to counting bee sting anti-venom. I feel as if every hair on my body is standing up.

"They're birthmates," he observes.

This is what They call the children born on the same day to different mothers.

It's quite common with us, as if whoever was in charge of handing out these miracles couldn't be bothered to parse them out randomly. I never bothered to consider the medical explanation behind this. I've seen too many inexplicable things to bother.

I don't honor this comment with a response. Medico knows damn well when they were born.

"They're growing up."

"They're children," I say carefully to my hands, swallowing hard. "Still."

Medico excuses himself. One of the Administration Crawfords is behind the isolating glass, waving a hand at us. Paper cut. I'm stuck in here until Medico can clean up any spilled green.

In the winter after his father disappeared, I heard the echoes of bombings report down the river channels. Holding him on my hip, I joined our neighbors on the lawn of our building and watched the destruction of DC by The Colonists.

"Mama," he said, pointing at the flashing explosions with his whole hand. He smiled into my face. "Mama...Boom!...Boom!" A louder explosion, closer, caused his body to jump in my arms. He covered his ears, elbows straight out, and grinned, looking up as a squadron of the airships I'd spent most of my FBI career looking for raced silently over. "Daddy," he said decisively, as if expecting his father to parachute from one of the craft, as if it were his father's usual mode of entrance. As if his father hadn't been missing for three months.

We holed up in the basement of our building while the world exploded and then crumbled around us. I couldn't get to my mother's. I realized I hadn't heard from either of my brothers in weeks. During the day, I did what I could for the

wounded. At night, I watched over my son, falling asleep sitting up with his father's heavy Sig Sauer pressed against my cheek.

Skinner found me during a hailstorm of shrapnel. Skinner. Wrapped up in marine-issue, barking at me. I stared at him, open-mouthed.

"Agent Scully, we have to go. Now."

That's when I saw the Crawford behind him. I pointed the Sig. "Back off!"

Skinner ignored the gun, bent down and put his face next to mine, hissing in my ear. "Put it down, Scully. He's not the one you need to fight. The Colonists are looking for you. We need to go."

This Skinner could be a Clone. He could be a Shifter. Skinner was dead. But then again, I never saw the body.

My son was crying. Clinging to my leg. He was running a fever.

"Let's go, Dana." Skinner's eyes dug into mine. There was a long scar down the side of his face.

"They're going to drop anthrax," the Crawford said. "They may have already done so." There was no reason to doubt him. For the past few years there had been sudden, inexplicable plagues sweeping the globe: virulent strains of typhus and cholera. A return of smallpox. Encephalitis and malaria. There was the black cancer. "We have medicine," the Crawford nodded his chin at my child.

"Now. Scully. Please." Skinner squeezed my arm. Strong. Insistent.

I gathered my son up in my arms and wrapped his father's parka around both of us. It still smelled of him.

"Mulder?" I shouted to Skinner, stumbling out of the rubble after him.

He shook his head. I'm not sure he heard me.

That's a lie. I made that up. I don't know if The Colonists really bombed DC. Mulder's Sig Sauer disappeared when he did. Skinner never rose from the dead like Lazarus. I don't know how my son and I ended up here, with Them. I don't remember. There must have been a good reason, though, for me to have agreed to come with Them. To stay here. In Bethany. Right?

My father told me that Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce finally surrendered so that he might go look for his children, that they might not all be dead in the snow.

Mulder told me that the Torah says if you kill one person, you kill a whole world because you have also killed that person's children and his children's children and so on. And, if you save one person, you save a whole world.

I have only been trying to keep my child alive. I have only been trying to save a world.

My son nearly died of malaria last summer. I sat on the bed with his head in my lap, pushing back his sweaty hair as he shivered and shivered. He curled up in a ball and shook. "I'm okay, Mom. I'm okay. I'm okay." He held my hand. I rocked a little. We had not touched each other so in a very long time. Wasn't I just the tiniest bit grateful, then, to be able to have him like that just once more?

I wake from this rememberance to noises from the next room. Sudden stumbling, frantic feet. A scrape of the desk chair. Something metallic bangs lightly.

A flutter of paper. Retching.

My son is sick and a deep panic forces me out of bed and into my bathrobe before I even open my eyes.

Today, though, something is different. I hear my son's voice, speaking low, over the gagging. I open his door.

It's Joyce who's sick, kneeling on the floor amidst the papers hastily emptied from the garbage can. She sits back unsteadily on her heels and leans into my son. She's wearing one of his old shirts. That's all.

And I realize in a flash that's so white hot I feel cold inside. I know what Helen and Medico were telling me. What my son's avoidance meant. Why Joyce has those tell-tale dark circles under her eyes that some women get. Why she appears so tired lately. I remember feeling that way. At first.

They both look at me with an amount of terror that is no where near adequate as far as I'm concerned. Although their dread is misplaced. They think I'm the one to be afraid of. "Oh crikey," Joyce groans. "We're fucked."

She's not kidding. We certainly are.

They cannot replicate Themselves. They are hybrids, mules, and, by definition and biology, sterile. Plus, they need to breed variety. Otherwise, They are forever stuck with backed-up toilets and useless Simpsons, obsessive-compulsive Crawfords, automaton Joneses. The mix isn't right yet.

I sit at my desk in the Infirmary and watch as the wind throws the night rain against the window. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. So much has changed.

We have travelled so far from the world into which my son was born. And here I am, faced with a problem that faced so many other parents back then: a teenage pregnancy.

And his father isn't here. Mulder isn't here. Again.

And I am old. I am fifty years old.

They will not let it happen. They want Joyce for Themselves, to create another Mother for the next generation. And They need my son, too, because They will always need to create more human females. They need human sperm for that.

I find I'm not angry with Them. It's just biology, Their urge to procreate, replicate, regenerate. In the end, no matter how They twist it, Nature still works and They are as helpless to it as we are.

But now, They come up against my nature. For fourteen years it has been in the interest of my nature to stay here and make sure that my son grew to adulthood. He is an adult now, much as I hate to admit it. The proof is growing in Joyce's womb. And now there is another child that I must protect, a world I must save. And so, I put on my coat and walk out into the rain.

Instead of heading for the dormatory, though, I walk around to the back of the building. I find a long, heavy limb blown from one of the trees and drag it along behind me down into the woods behind the Maintainance Shed. There are exposed water pipes here.

I move a big, heavy rock over beside a pipe and then shove one end of the wood under a worn joint in the metal, between rock and water. Give me a lever and I can move the world. I lean my weight against the other end of the limb and jounce. I feel the pipe begin to lift and give, slowly.

It will burst, eventually. And, I'll have to call in a Plumber. One that knows all the old pipelines.


Author's notes: Bethany, West Virginia and Bethany College are real. My alma mater. Check it out at

I know this reads like THE START OF SOMETHING, but, it's not. At the moment I have no intentions of going on with this story, although one never knows.

Read More Like This Write One Like This
Post-Col Childhoods
Non-Canon Kids
Any Other Name Grandpa Mulder and Grandma Scully
Into a World Like This Challenge
2012 & 2012 Revisited Challenges William's 13th Birthday Challenge
Labor Day Labor Challenge
A Day at Grandma and Grandpa's Challenge
Return to The Nursery Files home