Title: To The Finish
Caveats: This is my first fanfic. If I screw up, it's my fault. Errors in characterization are probably caused by my writing large chunks of this around 2:00 AM. Also, I am not a psychotherapist. The story takes place a bit later than "Calusari," but makes hash out of the conspiracy plotline initiated in "F. Emasculata," so it isn't exactly fitted to the "real" timeline.
Copyright notice: Characters of Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and other previously-appearing X-Files characters are property of Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and Fox Broadcasting. No copyright infringe- ment intended, nor will I get any money from this. Olsen, O'Connell, and Imreh are my personal creations.
On with the story!
ELK CITY, OKLAHOMA
Special Agent Judith O'Connell sighed and unlocked her car door. *How is it*, she thought, *that two rookies can botch up so badly in two days what I've been trying to make foolproof for two months? Surveillance isn't supposed to be that hard.* She got into her car, slid the key into the ignition, and sighed again, brushing her long auburn hair out of the way as she did so. *Damn.* O'Connell adjusted her rearview mirror and started the engine. She pulled her seatbelt on absentmindedly and placed her hand on the shift lever, unknowingly digging dents into the vinyl. *Drive to airport. Fly back to San Fran-*
O'Connell yanked her cel phone out of her pocket and flipped it open. "O'Connell here." A few seconds later, she had to fight hard to resist the urge to punt the phone to Utah. "As soon as I can, sir. Good bye." She slammed the phone onto the dashboard. *They're really lucky I find Ok- lahoma a nice state to work in. Well, I was headed that way anyway...*
She pulled out of the motel parking lot, turning on the radio as she did so. *Hmm.*
"In the white room, with black curtains..."
She never noticed the lights behind her.
EDMOND, OKLAHOMA FEBRUARY 4, 1995 2:03 AM
O'Connell punched the gas pump's controls for $10 worth of regular and flipped up the handle to start the pump. She heard the gas cap roll off the trunk and onto the ground. *Drat.*
As she bent down for the cap, she felt two rather disconcerting things.
The first was the hand that suddenly planted itself on her butt.
The second was the knife blade at her throat.
"Nice and easy now," said the voice at her right ear. She felt a push on her rear toward the car. Her eyes flicked back and forth and she noticed a pair of legs to her right, in addition to the two boots that flanked her own shoes. She heard the gas line being replaced, and the sound of someone walking to the other side of her car.
"Get in," ordered the nearby voice. "Do it now."
"I guess I will."
FBI HEADQUARTERS, J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING WASHINGTON, D.C. 12:00 PM APRIL 13, 1995
Scully stumbled into Mulder's basement office, trying to balance her briefcase, an enormous stack of legal pads, and a brown bag lunch.
"Not traveling light, are we?" Mulder asked.
"Have to restock a few things," she replied. Scully tottered to her desk and tried to put everything down neatly, failing utterly in the attempt. The legal pads fell and bounced across the floor, her briefcase knocked half of the stationery off her desk, and Scully herself had to dive for the bag as it did a triple flyaway in Mulder's direction.
"Nice catch, Scully," Mulder deadpanned. "Ever consider trying out for the Redskins?"
Scully resisted the urge to throw her lunch at Mulder, but her planned retort was cut off by a knock at the door. "Mulder?" called a voice.
The two agents looked up to see a man in typical Bureau garb standing at the door. Mulder immediately smiled at the man, a handsome example of humanity a bit taller than Mulder's six-one, bearing similar dark brown hair in a slightly more orderly form than Mulder's, and possessing a facial structure not unlike Fox's. There was infinitely more joy in the man's face, though, even when it was obscured by some other emotion, as it was then.
The man grinned. "Hey, Mulder, long time no see."
"Yeah." Mulder took the hand Pete offered him and shook it warmly.
The two both appeared to reminisce for a moment, then Scully cleared her throat.
"Oh, um, Pete, this is Special Agent Dana Scully..." Mulder suddenly appeared embarrassed at his lack of manners.
"I've heard a lot about you," Pete declared, nodding his head slightly at Scully, spawning a smile from her and an enormous look of relief on Mulder's face. They shook hands.
"And Scully, this is Special Agent Peter Olsen. We knew each other at the Academy. He's a nice, straightforward, boring guy."
"That was before we shared a stint with the rubber room crowd," Pete reminded him. He grinned even more broadly.
"So, Pete, what brings you to the mad, bad side of the FBI?" Mulder asked, motioning Pete to a chair opposite his. "San Francisco too boring for you?"
Olsen's expression dimmed. "Had to clear up a few things, *in person*, with the paper-pushers upstairs, went to a little conference, and, um, it's Judith."
"Judith?" Mulder repeated. Scully could see Mulder's brows knit.
"What's the problem?"
"You probably heard about the rape *attempt* on her a couple months ago..."
"Her response was ruled self-defense, though-"
"A good thing, considering she shattered the jaw of one goon and ten-ringed the other one from a distance of three feet. Yeah, the legal ends of that cleared up."
"So what's the problem?"
"She's been, well, *moody* lately."
"Judith? Moody? *Lately*?"
Olsen mouthed "Look who's talking" to Scully. "She isn't, er... *right*. I don't know, she's become pretty depressed, even for her normal attitude. I made her see our shrink, but that didn't really do much. I thought maybe you could talk to her."
"I could try," Mulder said. "Don't know how much I could do."
Pete nodded, then noticed Scully again. Dana appeared a bit confused by the unreferenced conversation the two men were having. "Damn!
Sorry, Da-, er, Agent Scully, um..."
Mulder got to bail out Olsen this time. "Judith O'Connell is Pete's old partner, and, I might add, his lifelong huggable buddy-" he winked- "and she's a terrific agent. Otherwise, their relationship is more boring than ours. She's also, I'd have to say, *fire*."
"Isn't Phoebe *fire*?" Scully asked.
Olsen prevented Mulder from defending his old love life by laughing lightly at that moment. "We've known each other since we were kids. She was always proving herself smarter than I was, but she's just...born cynical, I guess. And she has wild mood swings. Granted, her psych evaluations are fine, but she's pretty mercurial." He picked absentmindedly at a couple of stray sunflower seeds on Mulder's desk. "So, Mulder, want to help?"
"I suppose. She's in D.C., I assume?"
"She came with me for this little trip. I was hoping to take her to the
Kennedy Center for her birthday."
"Darn. I was hoping we could run another travel request past Skinner..."
"Mulder..." Scully began.
Olsen nodded at Mulder. "Thanks, Mulder, I owe you one." He began to get up.
Mulder placed a hand on Olsen's shoulder. "Wait a second, Pete. There's something you're not telling us."
"Perceptive as always, Mulder." Olsen sighed. "I wasn't sure if I should even bring this up...I could be wrong, but..." He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a manila envelope. "From the crime scene two months ago. Look in the upper right-hand corner of the first shot. I'd heard a couple of rumors, and I thought you might know, damn, something..."
Mulder took the envelope and pulled out the first photo. "Okay..."
The photo showed one of O'Connell's assailants, obviously dead with two large holes in his chest. A very large hunting knife dangled from the dead man's fingertips. And in the corner of the photo, near the knife... A small pool of green fluid flecked with white foam. It was all too familiar.
"Scully...get your coat."
FBI HEADQUARTERS, J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING WASHINGTON, D.C. 12:05 PM APRIL 13, 1995
"Go *where*, Mulder?"
Mulder paused for the briefest of moments, looked at Scully, then resumed the collection of their trench coats, making sure that he didn't accidentally put on Scully's.
Scully continued, determined to get through the single-mindedness that always overcame her partner at the slightest suggestion of alien activity. "We can't just rush off to Skinner and drop this in his lap, if that's what you're thinking. And I'm not going to let you leave without thinking this through first."
Olsen, concern lacing his tone, added his weight to Scully's argument. "She's right, Mulder. For all I know, that stuff could be anti-freeze. That's what the local cops said in their report on the crime scene."
Mulder stopped, and looked squarely into Olsen's eyes. "How much do you know about all this?"
"There have been...*rumors* about some strange doings in your neck of the woods, a little sojourn in Alaska, and the fact that your partner vanished for some length of time. Much as you or anyone else might want to keep this secret, word gets out. As for the green stuff, whatever it is about it that you're not telling me about it, I thought that you might know...'Spooky.'" He stopped. "Sorry." Mulder's eyes narrowed. "First of all, Pete, it's not my decision what's kept secret. Second...be careful what you think."
A few floors up, John Romanovitch was shuffling a few papers into a pair of security briefcases when there was a light knock on his door. He slapped the cases shut and yelled "come in" in the direction of the door.
A tall woman with a braid of long blonde hair and sparkling green eyes entered, carrying a brace of interoffice mail envelopes. Romanovitch allowed himself to savor her slim figure as she closed the door before turning to the subject of her visit. "What is it?"
"Papers for you, sir." The woman extended the envelopes in her right hand. Romanovitch half-stood and reached out for them-
-A long, thin blade appeared in the woman's left hand. She whipped her arm up and plunged the length of her weapon into Romanovitch's chest, puncturing his heart and aorta in a single stroke.
With a deft motion, she expanded the wound by three inches and shoved the gasping man back into his seat, all with the same arm. Romanovitch was thoroughly dead before he hit the cushions.
Ignoring the spatter of blood on the desk and the growing pool around Romanovitch's body, the woman moved behind his desk and inspected the briefcases. She flicked the blood droplets from her weapon and flicked a switch on its contoured handle. The blade began to hum with ultrasonic vibrations, its edges blurring slightly. She slid the knife into the top of the cases and pulled them open like sardine cans. Reaching into the cases, the woman pulled out the papers Romanovitch had put in them and tucked them under her arm. After a moment of thought, she put one of the sheets back in the case and then left the office.
Skinner regarded the three agents which had unceremoniously barged into his office with thinly veiled disdain. "You want me to reopen Agent O'Connell's case because you don't think two ex-cons tried to rape her, but two extraterrestrials did?" He looked at Olsen and Scully. "Did you two get up on the wrong side of Mulder's bed this morning?"
Olsen grinned wolfishly. "Much as the thought might appeal to us, no, sir." Hearing this, Mulder finally smiled, while Scully blushed; Skinner turned a deeper shade of red. "Your stale wit aside, my answer is still no-"
The four of them all jumped at the sound of a terrified woman running down the hallway screaming. Mulder made it out of the office first and caught up with the woman a few seconds later. "Slow down! Take it easy! What is it?" he asked the woman, who was now sobbing. He wrapped his arms around her and lowered his voice. "It's all right...what's going on?"
"D-dead man! Somebody's dead in t-there! I was b-bringing in some papers and..." She broke into tears.
Mulder let another staffer console the woman, then followed the others down the hall into the cluster of offices the secretary had pointed out. It didn't take them long to discover what she had been screaming about.
"Seal off this area *now*!" Skinner barked. "Lock down the building! And get a crime scene unit in here." Someone scurried off to relay his commands, but Skinner departed a moment later to clear the gathering crowd of onlookers.
Mulder and Scully had already moved over to the body, Scully looking over Romanovitch while Mulder inspected the surroundings. Scully felt that her compulsory examination of the dead man's pulse was unnecessary-a large quantity of his blood had already poured out onto the floor.
"Look at this," Mulder said, indicating the gutted briefcases. The edges of the cuts in them appeared to have melted a bit where there should have only been rough cuts in the metal. "This was no Ginsu knife," Mulder muttered. He bent down to look into the opening. "There's a sheet of paper in here." He didn't touch it so as not to disturb the evidence chain, but poked at the briefcase carefully.
Olsen was still standing by the door. "Uh, I think I better go find Judith." Shaking his head and speaking quietly to himself, he left the agents alone.
"No signs of a struggle," Scully observed. "From the look on Mister Romanovitch's face, it appears that he wasn't expecting this."
"Most people don't expect to be knifed in the chest," Mulder replied. He resumed his search of the rest of the room, and came up dry. "Not much here," he said.
"I have to agree," Scully replied.
Just then the crime scene unit arrived-an FBI unit from the forensics lab, not the Washington police-and began their meticulous inspection of everything in the room. Mulder and Scully retreated to the sidelines as they went over everything that they had already searched.
The head of the crime scene unit approached the duo, looking much like a doctor who had to report unsuccessful surgery. "I don't think we're going to get much out of this other than prints," he admitted. "We couldn't find anything else of immediate interest in the search, though I thought you might want to have a look at this," he said as he passed the sheet of paper, now encased in an evidence bag, to Mulder.
Mulder read several columns of text. "Bureau requisition log, pretty standard...except that the requests are all code-worded..."
He addressed the CSU leader a moment later. "We need a copy of that thing," he said, pointing at the sheet.
"It'll get to you, don't worry."
In the meantime, Olsen returned, obviously disappointed about something. "I can't find Judith anywhere," he told them. "Where the hell could she be?" Letting out a breath, he indicated the other office staff. "The only person they saw going into the room was a blonde woman, about five-ten, blue-suit type. Someone's trying to get a composite made right now."
"Maybe we won't have to," Scully said. She pointed at a security camera panning back and forth in the hallway.
The agents silently stared at the grainy image being displayed on the monitor. Several people passed by Romanovitch's office, but only one person, a blonde woman in a dark dress and jacket, actually went inside. A few minutes later, Romanovitch left the office, and nothing else out of the ordinary occurred until the secretary went inside-and left screaming down the hall. Even after that, though, no one else entered the office except Mulder and the others, and they had seen all the subsequent events with their own eyes.
The security guard stared in disbelief at the video. "If no one but that lady went in, and we saw the dead guy leaving, what happened to the woman?"
Mulder and Scully shared a look.
"Can you track Romanovitch's movements?" Scully asked.
"Sure." The guard typed a few commands into his keyboard. "Here we go."
"Romanovitch" had walked out of the office, down the hall, and to the elevators. They lost him for a few minutes in the elevator, but soon picked him up again the lobby. He left the building about ten seconds before Skinner called the lockdown.
Everyone watched that last image with a frustrated expression.
Scully looked at the monitors again. "We followed Romanovitch-or whoever that is-out of the building, let's see if we can backtrack that woman." The guard complied, and they soon discovered that the woman had come from a restroom on the third floor not long before the murder. No one else had used that particular restroom since, and the only person to have used it earlier in the day was-
"Judith." Olsen stared at the image on the screen with a slight look of disbelief on his face. "She's the only one who's been in there the whole day." He commandeered the video controls for a moment, split-screening the images of the woman and Judith, then blowing both up and putting them side-by-side.
"Same clothes, same packet of envelopes," Scully observed.
"I know," Olsen told her. "What the hell..." His hands clenched. "I don't suppose there's a possibility that Judith's still in the bathroom?" he wondered, knowing that it was a silly idea.
"So, who has to go to the bathroom?" Mulder asked.
The three of them made a very quick and very pointless visit to the restroom in question. Olsen, Scully noticed, was far less composed than he had been earlier. "Agent Olsen? Are you all right?"
"Fine, Scully," he lied. "What can I say? It looks like my partner has finally flipped out. What can you do about a missing lunatic FBI agent?" He turned and walked away.
"Not a good sign," Mulder conceded.
Not long after they had finished in the restroom, Skinner called the agents to his office, which, they noticed, had suddenly gained the odor of cigarette smoke. Skinner did not appear very happy. *Oh, let me guess...* Mulder thought.
"I can't allow you to investigate this matter," Skinner declared.
"Sir, at this point, we barely know what the matter *is*," Mulder replied. "We came in here initially to discuss Agent O'Connell. The murder of Romanovitch-unusual circumstances included-was not what we planned to become involved in."
"And you won't," Skinner confirmed. "You are not to become further involved with the case-"
"Don't give me that," Mulder interrupted. "At what point will you finally decide that you make your own decisions, and *he* doesn't?" Mulder finished by pointing at the smoldering Morley in Skinner's ashtray.
Skinner was very obviously about to lose it completely with Mulder, but he clamped his hands to his desk and held himself down. "Agent Mulder, I will not allow you to make casual remarks about what I have to do in my position-" he held up his hand to forestall any comment- "and if you do again, I will be forced to take more extreme measures against you. As it is, I am assigning you, Agent Scully, and Agent Olsen to look into the apparent disappearance of Special Agent Judith O'Connell. Good luck." He dropped a paper-clipped sheaf of documents on his desk and half-turned his chair away from the agents.
With Mulder still fuming, Scully picked up the papers. On top was a copy of the sheet of paper in Romanovitch's briefcase. "Come on, Mulder, let's go."
Mulder slowly flipped through the reports as they made their way down to his office. First came the Romanovitch paper. "Some names, some addresses. Orders for...*something* went to each one, but no description of *what*. Interesting."
Scully folded her arms across her chest. "But Mulder, the fact that the murderer left this sheet behind implies that she didn't find it useful...everything else in those two briefcases was taken out, or so it seems."
"Maybe." Mulder flipped back and forth through the rest of Skinner's "contribution."
"Though right now I'm a bit more concerned about Pete. He may seem like a quiet guy, but that's just because he holds it all in. He's not taking this well."
"How could anyone?" Scully looked up at her partner's face for a moment. His lips tightened into a thin line.
"Scully, there is one possibility here..."
"I was wondering when you would get to that," Scully said with
a wan smile. "You think that...bounty hunter came back?"
"We've got all the signs right here," Mulder pointed out. "Judith O'Connell-or who we *think* is Judith O'Connell-was the last person the killer saw. And she never got out of the bathroom. O'Connell could have been...*replaced* at any point in the last two months." He felt somewhat uncomfortable speaking about it. "What could he want now?" Scully queried. "Killing random FBI staffers doesn't make sense."
"What if Romanovitch wasn't that random?"
"Now you also think that *he* has, er, *had* something to do with EBE experiments?"
"You never can tell."
Olsen was standing by Mulder's office door when Mulder and Scully came down the hallway. "Heard we've got a new assignment," he remarked.
"Just Skinner's way of getting us out of his hair," Mulder explained, knowing just how bad a joke he had just made.
"Well, I took the liberty of getting a little local help." Olsen nodded to someone behind him. "Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, this is Agent Cristina Imreh. Judith took her under her wing some time ago, and she's a pretty good all-around agent. Since *I* don't have a partner anymore..."
Imreh stepped out from behind Olsen. She was a good nine inches shorter than he was, but her compact, wiry build indicated that she was quite capable of taking care of herself. Her dark hair was styled like Scully's, framing brown eyes and a wide mouth that seemed to indicate a good sense of humor. "Good morning," she said, shaking Scully's hand and nodding.
Mulder shook Imreh's hand next. "<Incintat de cunostinta,>" he said smoothly. [I wish ASCII had better accent marks-SL] Imreh's eyes widened slightly. "And I'm pleased to meet you as well, Agent Mulder."
Mulder mumbled "I've been brushing up on my Romanian" to an incredulous Scully. "Well, now that we're all through with introductions..." He opened the door to his office and led the others inside. "We found an FBI materials requisition form in Romanovitch's office. It's got some names on it, maybe we should check them out." Olsen, who had been sinking down into a chair, stopped in mid-motion. "Whoa, Mulder, we're supposed to be looking for my partner here."
Mulder swallowed and glanced at Scully for support. She nodded back. *Pete's been open to extreme possibilities before, so why can't you just _tell_ him this now?* He looked back at Olsen, and saw the emotional conflict that was raging inside him. *He cares about Judith the same way I'd care about Scully. And he doesn't want to think about what might be happening to his partner, even though he can't doubt the facts.*
"Pete, have you ever considered that Judith and the killer are
one and the same?"
Olsen's eyes narrowed. "That's crazy, Mulder."
"What about the evidence, the video?"
"I...dammit!" Olsen shook his head and covered his face with his hands.
Mulder closed his eyes and felt the pain all over again. "Pete, there's something you should know."
BETHEL LABORATORIES ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 12:30 AM APRIL 14, 1995
Doctor Ellen Lang yawned and stretched. *It's getting late.* She let her medium-length black hair down, and inspected the report that she had just finished. *I think they'll be able to wait until morning for this.* Setting aside her notes, she got up to lock up the lab. Someone had been standing in the lab the whole time. Lang yelped and backpedaled as a figure detached itself from a long shadow on the wall and came towards her. The low light cast highlights off the woman's auburn hair but left the rest of her face in shadow. "Doctor Lang," she spoke.
"Y-yes?" Lang answered as she slowly crept toward an alarm panel on the wall. The shadowed woman brought up her left arm, transfixing Lang's head on the sights of the gun in her hand. Firelight burned sinister outlines on her face as she pulled the trigger twice.
FBI HEADQUARTERS, J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING WASHINGTON, D.C. 1:00 AM APRIL 14, 1995
The events of the previous day had been rather hard on the agents. Mulder had slowly and somewhat painfully recounted his encounter with the bounty hunter and the clone he believed was his sister-he had told very few people about this, beyond those who had been there, like Skinner and Scully.
Olsen had listened attentively to Mulder's tale, but it was only the fact that there was no other reasonable explanation as to how Judith could have completely vanished that allowed him to accept it. He also was having some trouble dealing with the loss; O'Connell was almost a sister to him-a real sister. Olsen did have two biological sisters, but there was a seven-year interval between him and each of the other two which prevented them from interacting on a similar level. Judith, his next-door neighbor since he had been five, had been his natural companion.
Another blow to Olsen's psyche had come from the crime scene report and autopsy on Romanovitch. There were no mysteries as to the cause of Romanovitch's death and the crime scene had offered little evidence-except that fingerprints on the briefcases were matched with O'Connell's.
In the end, Olsen had gone back to his hotel. Under Mulder's urging, Imreh had gone along to make sure Pete didn't do anything "crazy and stupid." Mulder did not believe that his otherwise welladjusted and rational friend would actually do anything to hurt himself, but he had never seen Olsen that distressed before.
Mulder gratefully accepted the cup of coffee that Scully gave him. "Damn, what a day."
"You okay?" Scully asked.
"Yeah. Didn't think I'd be telling my story again so soon."
"It's good that you told it, though. Olsen needs your support." *And it doesn't do you any good to hold it in.*
"I'm worried about him, Scully. He's always had so much control of himself-but he was always hiding his emotions, trying to put them out of his mind like Mister Spock or something. Always was really calm, took a lot to set him off-but when he got angry..."
"Not quite like you, 'hair trigger' Mulder?"
Mulder smirked. "Olsen was always the brake...He kept O'Connell from killing everyone who touched her, and, well, he kept me from doing the same when I got mad. I missed him..." *Until I met you, that is...* His hazel eyes met Scully's for a moment, then he looked away. "Um, I was thinking we could get an early start tomorrow..."
"Sounds good," Scully agreed. "Walk you to your car?"
"That's supposed to be my question," Mulder replied. "Sure."
He got up, switched off the lights, and locked the door behind them.
Scully got a couple of steps ahead of him before she noticed that he hadn't moved yet. "Coming?"
"Sure." *I'm so lucky to have you, Scully.*
Mulder walked into his office to find Scully already there.
"Well, good morning," he greeted her. "You're up early." Scully immediately waved him over. "Mulder, listen to this." An all-news radio channel was just beginning its fifteen-minute recap of the headlines. "Area police remain baffled by a series of murders that took place overnight," said the announcer at his usual clipped tempo. "Six deaths in Arlington, Fairfax, Silver Spring, and Washington have been determined to be foul play, but the police have not yet established any suspects or motives yet in the killings. The first victim, identified as Doctor Ellen Lang of Arlington-"
"Lang?" Mulder echoed. He grabbed the requisitions log from his desk. "She's right here!"
"What about the other victims?" Scully asked. They listened to the rest of the blurb, but four of the other victims were not mentioned pending next-of-kin notification, while the last was not on the list.
"This can't be coincidental," Mulder declared, poking at Lang's name on the list.
"Believe it or not, I agree with you," Scully said. "I take it we're going to go-"
"Yes," Mulder confirmed. "Come on, let's get a car."
"Shouldn't we tell-"
"Come on, what are we waiting for?" asked a new voice at the door. Olsen and Imreh were standing there. Olsen waved a piece of paper at Mulder-the list. "Xerox. Gotta love 'em."
Mulder drove past the Bethel Labs sign and pulled the car up as close to the police lines as he could.
"So, Mulder, have you decided how we're just going to casually stroll into some donut-chomping police detective's jurisdiction?"
Olsen was displaying some rare sarcasm this morning, Mulder thought. "Tell the truth," he replied. And then he winked.
Detective Navar was surprised to see the four conservativelydressed men and women get out of the car. "Hey, haven't you guys already had your fun?" he yelled at them as they approached. Mulder gave him a quizzical look, then flashed his badge, in sync with the others. "Agent Mulder, FBI. Have you found anything yet?"
Navar bristled a bit. "And to what do I owe the honor of having four G-men here?"
"We think this murder may be related to the killing of an FBI staffer yesterday afternoon."
Navar did not seem impressed. "Heard about that. Got anything to back this up?"
Mulder handed Navar one of the now-ubiquitous copies of the req. list, this one with Lang's name prominently highlighted. "Okay," Navar conceded. "Come on in."
As they walked past the police line, Scully gave Mulder a light jab in the side with her elbow. "Now how often has that worked?"
The crime scene had already been thoroughly worked over by the police, which was somewhat discouraging for the agents, who had been hoping to see the place unadulterated. "Don't know what else you're going to find here, folks," Navar remarked. "But go ahead, knock yourselves out."
*What a happy camper,* Mulder thought.
"Have you established any particulars yet?" Imreh asked.
"The esteemed Doctor Lang was killed by two shots to the head from a range of less than six feet. We did not find any brass. That about says it all for the forensic evidence-it ain't here."
"I saw some security cameras on the way in," Olsen pointed out, almost stumbling on the words as he said them. "Have the tapes been reviewed yet?"
"Been there, done that," Navar declared. "Nobody entered this
lab from about two hours before the estimated time of the shooting
to the time Lang's body was found."
*But again, there are no cameras with direct line-of-sight to the murder scene,* Scully thought. She opened her mouth to ask another question, but Navar cut her off.
"In case you're wondering, yes, we interviewed anyone who was here at the time and no, they didn't see anything. Now, if you'll excuse me..." Navar turned on his heel and stalked out.
"That guy needs a vacation," Mulder quipped.
"Come on," Scully urged. "Maybe our 'esteemed colleagues' forgot something."
"Like the burrs up his ass?" Olsen offered.
"Boy, we *are* a bit testy today, aren't we?" Mulder remarked.
"It's a phase."
Scully and Imreh had bypassed the banter and switched on Lang's computer. *Boys...* they thought simultaneously. Scully typed in "dir" at the prompt and waited. Nothing happened. "Well, here's something," Imreh said over her shoulder. "Mulder..." Scully began, "I think someone beat *all* of us here."
Imreh took a turn pecking at the keyboard, looked at the monitor, and shook her head. "Nope."
"It seems Doctor Lang's hard drive has been erased," Scully reported.
Imreh pulled the desk drawers open and looked inside. "Is it just me, or is the desk pretty empty?" They glanced over; she was right-there was nothing in Lang's desk.
Mulder walked over to Scully's side while Olsen inspected the area around the desk. "You'd think that she would have some floppies, too." His fingers traced a roughly rectangular dust-free area on the table. "The disks were *here*. Someone was here."
"I think we can narrow down that particular 'someone' pretty easily," Mulder declared. "Just what was Doctor Lang working on, anyway?"
Scully thumbed through the notes she had taken on the drive down to the lab during a quick conversation with the police. *Oh my.* "Uh, Mulder, Bethel is a genetics lab..." Even without looklooking at him, she knew that those words had piqued his interest.
"Maybe we should look around a little harder," Mulder proposed.
"Anything specific?" Imreh asked with a hint of youthful eagerness in her voice.
"It might be right under your nose, it might not be. Look for anything that you can't readily explain."
They began to search the rest of the lab area for exploitable clues: Scully searching the desk, Olsen a reagent shelf, Mulder looking over some medical hardware, and Imreh looking through some of Lang's other logs and reference books.
Olsen was reaching up for a bottle he thought was a little unusual when he slipped and smacked his hands on the shelf. Every chemical bottle jumped, but only one-containing boiling chipsactually fell off the shelf, hitting the floor with a crash. "Oops." Olsen looked around for something to sweep up the fragments with. "I-hey, what's this?" He pulled a folded sheet of paper out of the mess of chips. A set of chemical formulae was written on it. "Can any of you make sense of this?"
Scully took one look at the slip and her eyes widened. "Mulder...Look at this." She pointed at the top entry on the slip. "It's Purity Control, Mulder."
BETHEL LABORATORIES ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 9:08 AM APRIL 14, 1995
Mulder stood there for a moment, his mind slowly turning the facts over and over.
"Purity Control?" Imreh inquired.
"Alien DNA...derived from the original sample," Mulder explained. He stared her in the face. "Too many people have already died over this."
Imreh bit her lip.
"Mulder," Scully said. "Tell me what you're thinking."
Mulder was going to tell her that he was still thinking when his phone rang. He pulled it out and hit a button. "Mulder... okay..." He grabbed a pencil from Lang's desktop and a piece of paper. "Go ahead...okay...got it...yeah...okay...wait, say that again?" He nearly broke the pencil point pressing down on the paper. "Run a quick check for me, will you, and get back to me? Check for Project Blue Book in his record-I need to be sure. Okay. Thanks." He put the phone away.
"Hmm?" everyone seemed to be asking him.
"Names of the other victims. I'm not sure who all of the others are, but the last was Colonel Howard Winters-and I'm pretty sure he was involved with Project Blue Book back in the Sixties."
"Project Blue Book?" Imreh asked. "Wasn't that the study-"
"On UFOs, yes," Mulder confirmed. "So far that makes two."
"Two *what*, Mulder?"
"Two people with at least some involvement with government work with extraterrestrials," Mulder said. He paused for a second, then nodded toward the doors. "Come on."
"If my theory is correct, there's not much more we can do here." Mulder strode out, and after a moment, the others followed. As they got back in their car, Scully finally got a chance to ask Mulder what his theory was.
"The last time the bounty hunter was here," Mulder began, "he was killing anyone involved in that human-alien clone hybrid experiment." He started the car and reversed it rather harshly. "The Samantha clone-damn-the Samantha clone said that the aliens did not want their genetic pool adulterated by ours, so they sent the hunter down to kill all of them." He noticed that Olsen and Imreh, sitting in back, appeared to be grasping his line of thought. Good. "Maybe he's come back to finish the job-by killing everyone on *our* side who's performing these experiments."
"That's pretty solid, Mulder," Scully conceded. "But there's one thing you're ignoring-someone else got here before the police did and cleaned out all the files in Lang's lab. I'd suggest that our friends in high places-"
"-Are suppressing evidence? Scully, you know they've been
doing that for years now."
"No, I think maybe they're doing the killing themselves. It's certainly not...unfounded."
"I'll check," Mulder assured her.
A quick survey of the other crime scenes confirmed several suspicions. First, the murderer (or murderers) had been very neat in their work; very little forensic evidence was left behind, even in the case of the doctor whose car had been blown up and with Winters, who had been decapitated in his dining room.
Secondly, it confirmed that all of the victims had either been medical professionals or working for the government. That lent some credence to both Mulder and Scully's theories, but there were still some kinks to be worked out. Mulder resolved to deal with that later.
There was little that could be done immediately in any case. None of the victims, obviously, had been carrying "I Work With EBEs" cards with them. Up until their demises, no one could possibly have known that they had any involvement in clandestine government activity. If the team had any way of knowing which people out there to protect, they would have acted, but now they were reduced to sitting on their hands and waiting. This did not suit any of them at all.
Scully looked up from her umpteenth computer search through Lang's financial records and rubbed her eyes. "This isn't getting anywhere," she told no one in particular.
"This time even *I* have to agree," Mulder said.
"What? You're going to give up on this so soon?" Olsen asked incredulously.
"Agent Olsen, you have to admit that at this point, we have absolutely nothing to go on," Scully countered. "In the past few hours, even using a couple of huge Bureau databases, we haven't found anything that could provide a concrete link between all the victims, or could tell us who is the next target."
"Except Romanovitch's req. sheet," Olsen reminded her.
Scully realized something. "That's the *only* clue we've had linking any of this together-in all the other murders, the killer was *incredibly* cautious about leaving evidence. Not knowing anything else, I think he *wanted* us to find that."
Pete opened his mouth, then closed it.
"Makes sense," Mulder concurred. "This guy has a certain... *interest* in my particular case."
"Well, that's terrific," Olsen shot back. "Doesn't do a damn bit of good for us, though."
Mulder had been concerned about Olsen's miserable attitude earlier; now he was simply incensed with it. "So what do you want us to do, Pete?"
A quiet throat-clearing interrupted the growing argument.
Imreh folded her hands in her lap and leaned forward a bit, looking at the two sparring agents with a small, sheepish smile on her face. "Um, how about we go to dinner? We've been working pretty hard, and that seems like a good idea. Might clear up our minds a bit."
Olsen and Mulder both stopped and looked at the young agent.
Scully smiled from her desk.
"Uh...that's a pretty good idea, actually. So, shall we?"
Imreh mentally shouted in triumph.
After another minor dispute, they ended up eating in the restaurant at Olsen's hotel. Fortunately it was quite good. Imreh, trying to steer the conversation away from the current investigation, had managed to shepherd the discussion through the weather, Romanian food, and the NBA playoffs before she finally slipped up. It was, unfortunately, impossible to discuss Mulder and Olsen's experiences at the FBI Academy without bringing up O'Connell. Olsen had slowly withdrawn from the conversation at that point, followed by Mulder. Scully and Imreh had about themselves for a little while, but in the end, they were all sitting at the table staring at their as-yetto-be-cleared dessert plates.
"Well, that was fun," Olsen mumbled. Then he belched. "Um,
Mulder smiled. "Unfortunately, I'm forced to leave all of you on that note, but I have to go..." He slowly levered himself from the table. *Damn, Mulder, that was a lot of food.*
Mulder's standing up was the cue for all the rest of them. Olsen reached for the check and the little pile of bills on top of it. "A fourway split...how communal." He nodded to Mulder and headed off for the register.
"Um, I'm going to freshen up," Imreh said, and slipped away. Scully and Mulder regarded each other silently for a moment, a question obvious on Scully's face.
"'Unofficial channels,'" Mulder confirmed.
"Don't lose your temper," Scully advised him. "And have a good time. See you in the morning," she said with a smile. "Thanks," Mulder said, and walked away.
Scully ran into Olsen on his way out. "Pretty good hotel," he told her. "I should come here more often...in better circumstances."
The look in his eyes said it all. "You really...care for her, don't you?" Scully asked, afraid to use another vastly different verb.
"Much as the Bureau discourages it, when you've been that close to someone...She's too much a part of my life for me to lose her like this," Olsen lamented.
Scully was silent. When she had lost her father, she had finally accepted the loss with the knowledge that he had gone on to a better existence, wherever he was. Mulder and Olsen, though... Scully knew that she could never really understand what they were going through. *Even worse than the knowing is the _not_ knowing.*
"Have faith," she offered simply.
Their thoughts were interrupted by a few simple notes on a piano. They traced the sound to a baby grand sitting in a corner of the lobby. Imreh had thrown back the corner of the quilted dust cover and had begun to play.
The quiet, simple tune of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" slowly built from the piano. Imreh noticed the two agents behind her out of the corner of her eye and kept playing. *This is for you as much as it's for them. What a crazy world.*
Olsen blinked a few times, then reached a hand up to his eyes.
"It's all right," Scully reassured him.
Olsen emitted a small cry of frustration at not being able to hold back his tears. Despite being a head taller, he reached out to Scully, who hesitated at first and then allowed Olsen to cry on her shoulder, enfolding him in a hug.
*Even the ones with the stiffest exterior have to let go,* she thought. Then she realized that she had been thinking of Mulder.
RFK STADIUM 10:13 PM
Mulder quietly snapped his fingers a couple of times and checked his watch. *Come on, show up.* "Agent Mulder."
*I wish he would stop doing that.* Mulder turned around and registered the dark, bearded, and unsmiling face of Mr. X. "Nice of you to come," he spoke.
"I'd much rather *not* be here," Mr. X replied. "What do you want?"
"I don't have time for games, Agent Mulder," Mr. X rumbled. However, he made no attempt to leave. "But in regards to your current investigation...all I can say is that this is not a force any of us can control."
"He's back, isn't he?" Mulder demanded.
"Agent Mulder, I do not keep track of everything that the cosmos may choose to deposit on this planet. Suffice it to say that as much as you want the truth out, there are many, many people who would prefer it kept secret. Some do not-" he looked at the sky"share the same 'world view' that we do."
"But you won't tell me who I should try to protect?"
"I can't do that, Agent Mulder."
"Can't? Or *won't*? Afraid I'm going to crash your parties if you tell me?"
"I can't help you, Agent Mulder," Mr. X said with finality.
"Every time I try to find the truth, someone takes it away," Mulder bit off.
"Death is an inevitable process, Agent Mulder. Those people would have died anyway, sooner or later," Mr. X said. "This business is not kind to its participants." He turned to leave. "I will not contact you again until this matter is resolved."
STONEBROOK APARTMENTS ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA 12:02 AM APRIL 15, 1995
"You are sure you want to do this?" Imreh asked Olsen.
"Yeah," Olsen replied. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes."
Olsen stepped out of the car and started walking up the slope to Judith's apartment, her home-away-from-home when she was in Washington.. He passed two townhouse blocks on the way up. "You just *had* to rent the highest house on the hill, didn't you, Jude," he muttered.
At the top of the hill, he fished her keys out of his pocket and stared at the Judith's living space. Though she was hardly ever there for longer than two weeks at a time, it was fastidiously kept. He still remembered the time she had made him help her with spring cleaning on the first day of an East Coast vacation. He moved to insert the keys in the lock...
Her door was open.
Olsen stared in disbelief at the inch-wide gap between O'Connell's door and the doorframe, then put the keys away. He briefly considered calling Imreh for backup, then threw caution to the wind and burst into the apartment, gun drawn.
A woman was crouched next to the living-room TV, working on something that was laid out on the floor. Hearing Olsen's loud entry, she slowly began to turn around.
"Keep your hands up!" Olsen shouted at her.
"Now, Pete, let's not get ahead of ourselves here," the woman replied calmly. She quarter-turned to the left, allowing Olsen to see her profile.
"It's me, Pete," the woman replied. "I'm back."
Olsen's gun wavered not in the slightest. "Let's just say I have some reasons not to trust you right now, Jude. Put your hands up."
Judith raised her hands above her head. "Pete, please trust me."
"Dammit, Judith, I'd like to right now..."
"This might take some explanation," O'Connell began.
"Try me," Olsen shot back, though his voice had lost some of its earlier edge.
"I...aghh!" Judith gasped, clutched her side, and sank down to her knees. "Pete," she choked. "Help...me..."
Olsen kept the gun on O'Connell as she fell to the floor, but it seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. *Oh, hell.* He moved forward to help her, gun hand dropping-O'Connell suddenly rose to a sitting position, and a pistol materialized in her hand as if conjured. "Sentimental fool," she said as she fired.
Olsen realized at the last second how stupid he had been, and accepted it. *Sentimental fool*.
The bullet slammed into Olsen's left side, whipping him around and dumping him onto the floor. O'Connell, on her way out, paused to look at his unconscious form. "Nothing personal," she explained.
Outside, in the car, Imreh heard the distant echo of a gunshot.
APARTMENT 42 12:23 AM APRIL 15, 1995
Mulder had just popped the tape in his VCR and was preparing to push "Play" when the phone rang. *Well, so much for _that_ idea...* He picked up the phone. "Mulder."
"Sir..." began the voice on the other end, a bit shakily, "Agent Olsen's been shot. We've just gotten to the hospital."
"Imreh?" Mulder abandoned thoughts of what was in the VCR and reached for his coat. "Where?"
"He was taken to George Washington University Hospital. He's not...not doing too good."
Mulder's jaw clenched. "I'll be right there."
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL WASHINGTON, D.C. 12:48 AM
Mulder made it to the hospital in record time and slammed into Imreh in the emergency-room waiting area. "How is he?"
"They've taken him into surgery," Imreh said, trying to inject some strength into her voice. "Lung is collapsed, and the bullet grazed some other organs."
"What happened?" Scully's voice, as she ran into the room.
"Pete...he went up to O'Connell's apartment, said he wanted to check on her things like they were going to...I stayed in the car. A minute later...I heard a shot. Ran up...to the apartment-found him. Dammit, I should have gone with him!"
Mulder gripped Imreh's shoulders. "Can't change that now. Did you see who did it?"
"No...must have gone before I got there."
"Okay. Take it easy, Cristina. For now, all we can do is wait."
Mulder led Imreh to a chair, and Scully followed. Imreh hung on to Scully and buried her face in Scully's shoulder. Mulder paced back and forth angrily.
A police detective, several officers, and Assistant Director Skinner arrived about two minutes later.
"News travels fast," Mulder said quietly.
"What the hell is going on?" Skinner asked.
"Agent Olsen got shot in Agent O'Connell's apartment," Mulder offered. "That's all anyone knows."
The detective looked over at Imreh, who was regaining her composure. "She called in?"
"Yes," Imreh replied.
"I'll need a statement from you."
*Great,* Mulder thought. "What we really need is Pete."
After Imreh had repeated her short story to the detective, Skinner talked to all of them. "Agent Mulder, how did this investigation expand to involve physical danger to your fellow agents?"
Mulder, who was still angry at Skinner, nearly launched himself at his boss, until he saw Scully shaking her head behind him. "Sir, as of this moment we have no idea if this shooting is in any way related to our case." His look of pain, though, made Skinner doubt that he actually believed what he was saying. In the end, they all kept a quiet vigil together.
One hundred minutes later, a surgeon walked into the waiting area. He had stripped off his greens, but a couple spots of blood flecked the mask he had hanging from his neck. "Good news," he announced.
"How is he?" Imreh asked.
"Agent, um, Olsen is recovering now from surgery. We successfully reinflated the lung and patched the remaining internal damage-not as bad as we'd initially thought, just not very neat. We have the bullet, but it mashed itself pretty badly against his rib on the way out. Only problem was the blood loss, but we got him a few units. He should be able to talk in a couple more hoursI won't even try to get him up until then, so forget about it."
"Doc-" Skinner began.
"Hey, he's *my* patient too," the surgeon shot back. "Not yet."
"Doctor?" Imreh said. "Thank you."
The woman stood quietly under the light, holding onto the safety railing that separated her from the street five stories below and watching the traffic moving below her. Occasionally a car would enter or exit the parking garage she was standing on. She took a look at the package by her feet. *Where is she?*
The sound of footsteps behind her made her turn. "You're late," the woman admonished.
"It is such a fine evening," the other woman said. "Did you bring it?"
"Yes," the first woman replied, nudging the package. "What about your end?"
"I made no promises," said the other woman, and stepped into the light.
"What? Who are you?" the first woman demanded, whipping out a revolver-
-The second woman caught the gun in her hand and began to twist it away, but the first woman fired first. The shot blew a clean hole in the second woman's abdomen, but she did not appear affected in the slightest other than to take a step back from the inertia.
The first woman's eyes widened, then slammed shut as her body was wracked by intense pain. She dropped the gun and staggered backwards, hands clawing at her face.
The second woman looked at the hole in her clothing and the green fluid seeping out from it, then at the first woman, who was now leaning against the railing. Her lip twisted into a sneer as she punched the other woman in the face.
Screaming, the first woman toppled over the railing and fell to the ground below.
The second woman dusted off her hands, made sure that her wound was beginning to heal itself, and proceeded down to street level, where she examined the body that was splattered onto the sidewalk.
Dropping a small box onto the body, she muttered to herself, "I hate spies."
"Who?" asked the detective.
"Judith. My old partner," Olsen repeated.
Mulder looked from Olsen to the detective to Skinner and back.
*Some people just don't know what they're getting into,* Mulder thought.
Skinner reached over and tapped the detective's shoulder.
"May I have a word with you, sir, now?"
"I'm trying to con-"
"Conduct an investigation, yes," Skinner finished. "Let's just say the Bureau wants to take care of its own right now." He gave the detective the no-nonsense look that usually failed to work on Mulder.
"Um...okay," the detective said, looking around him at the room full of FBI agents that were all staring at him. He got up to leave. "I'll be back," he declared rather weakly.
Olsen smiled from his bed. "Thanks, Director," he whispered. Skinner made one of his rare smiles at Olsen. "Take it easy for now." He took a look to make sure the door had closed behind the detective, then swept the four agents with his gaze. "I don't know how you muscled your way into the murder investigation of almost every local PD, but you did a good job. What do you know?"
Mulder was amazed at Skinner's ability to have a change of heart so quickly, but accepted it as a good sign. He told him what little they knew.
Skinner, though, already knew the punchline. "But since you don't know who's working for our friends in the government, you can't predict the next target."
"That about says it, sir."
Skinner took off his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose. "Agent Mulder, I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned one person yet-the one person that *might* be the most help to you."
Mulder almost said that he had already seen Mr. X, then sat there feeling stupid. "But I don't smoke."
Mulder , Scully, Imreh, and Skinner headed outside to get their respective cars back. As they turned onto the street, they saw police strobes and lights gathered in front of a nearby parking garage.
"Wonder what that's about," Scully said.
"Maybe we should try to find out," Mulder suggested.
When they got there, the victim's body was already being loaded into an ambulance. Scully looked at the chalk outline and then up towards the top of the garage. "Suicide?" she proposed. "I'm not placing any bets," Mulder said as they walked around the ambulance.
Surprisingly enough, they ran into Navar again. "I hope you guys aren't following me," he said.
"There have been quite a few murders lately," Mulder remarked.
"Tell me about it." Navar shook his head derisively. "Well, I guess you'll just be getting in my way if I don't show you, so I will."
He led them up to the top floor of the garage and pointed out a spot on the edge. "Looks like our victim took a dive from right there," he explained. "However, from the parts of her body that remained intact after she went splat, there appears to have been a struggle." He watched them watch him for a few seconds. "Come on, I know you're just dying to look, so go look."
They crossed the small area blocked off by police tape and started by examining the railing and low concrete parapet. Their quick look at the area revealed little.
Scully stepped on something slippery and looked down.
*What?* "Detective, did your men notice this?" she asked, indicating a few drops of green fluid on the concrete.
Navar looked at the drops, then looked at Scully with a much less kind expression. "So?" He ignored the others, who had also come over to look. "Antifreeze."
Scully wondered if she had a flair for the dramatic, then took off her shoe and waved it at him. The sole was already beginning to smoke. "I don't think so."
Skinner walked up to Navar and inflicted the evil eye on him. "Now, detective, why don't you cut the crap and tell us what else you might have found?"
Back on the ground, Navar grudgingly opened his briefcase.
"This is the only piece of evidence we have," he said, pulling out a bag and waving it at them.
Mulder took the bag and inspected its contents. "I think we have a new reason to visit our smoker friend," he said. The bag held a carton of Morleys-Cancerman's favorite brand.
900 WEST GEORGIA STREET WASHINGTON, D.C. 9:00 AM
Scully doubted the effectiveness of confronting Cancerman on only two hours of sleep total over the past evening, but Mulder had been insistent. Now their car sat quietly idling on the curb in front of Cancerman's rather ordinary home.
"...So the pack of Morleys has to be a deliberate clue," Mulder explained for about the third time. "The hunter was too neat in all the other killings to leave such an obvious thing behind."
"And the req. sheet in Romanovitch's office was just something to tip us off with?" Scully asked.
"Good, Mulder," Scully smiled. "You're thinking rationally."
"Thanks, Professor." Mulder turned off the engine and un-
locked his door. "Bring your gas mask."
Both agents were a little surprised when Cancerman himself opened his door, dressed in a white t-shirt covered by an unbuttoned blue dress shirt and smelling his usual tobacco finest. He looked left and right past them before speaking. "Well, look who we have here," he said in his usual half-contemptuous tone. "So, to what do I owe this visit?"
"There's a good chance that someone's going to try to kill you," Mulder said. "And this time they probably won't stop to chat." Cancerman did not miss the reference. "A pity. It would have been interesting for you to show a little backbone. This might actually be a bit of a challenge."
Only Scully's grip on his arm prevented Mulder from trying to kill Cancerman right there. "I assume you've known about this for some time," Mulder said. "I guess we'll just be going, then."
"Someone's always watching, Agent Mulder," Cancerman called out after them as they walked back to their car.
"Now what was the point of that?" Scully asked as they drove off.
"I wanted to see what he knew," Mulder replied.
"Oh, and you're suddenly telepathic now?"
"Only on weekends. Did you see his eyes? He was looking for someone, or something. He's probably known since Romanovitch died that something was coming his way. He's probably being watched."
"By who? The government, or the bounty hunter?"
"I have the feeling this evening's going to be a lot of fun. I just hope Cancerman's watchers don't decide to take out two birds with one stone. Watch your butt, Mulder."
"What about yours?"
"Don't test me, Mulder."
FBI HEADQUARTERS, J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING WASHINGTON, D.C. 3:00 PM APRIL 15, 1995
"Scully and I get the first shift, then you switch with Scully at 10:00, then Scully switches with me around 4:00. How's that sound?"
Imreh folded her arms across her chest. "Agent Mulder, we have no evidence to lead us to believe that the bounty hunter will try to kill...er, 'Cancerman' tonight."
Mulder glanced from Imreh to Scully. "Have you been training her in your spare time, Scully?"
"No, must be a natural reaction to you, Mulder," Scully retorted. "She's right, Mulder, we don't *know* that someone will try to kill Cancerman tonight." *Can't we actually find out his name? I am really getting annoyed calling him "Cancerman."*
"We were actually tipped off to the impending murder of Lang the night before," Mulder pointed out. "This is the same pattern."
*You have to admit that he's got you there,* Scully conceded.
"But the hunter isn't a serial killer that you can profile."
"Are you saying that I should go rent _The Empire Strikes Back_ and watch the Boba Fett scenes over and over?" Mulder asked. "Come on, Scully."
*Had to make sure that you were thinking things through,* Scully thought. "Maybe we can brush up on that after this is over."
"...With the possibility of strong rain or a thunderstorm," the radio voice trailed off, just before Mulder shut off the radio. "It's getting dark," Scully noted.
"Time for the vampires to come out," Mulder replied. He looked back at the house and grinned.
"You'd just love to drive a stake into his heart, wouldn't you?" Scully asked.
Mulder shook his head. "No. Much as he's a lying bastard, he knows more about what's going on than almost everyone else. We can't let him die...yet."
"Mulder, you're sounding like a bad movie."
"I try," Mulder replied. He looked back at Cancerman's house.
*The truth comes back to haunt me again. If I let you die, all of the things locked in that head of yours will never see the light of day. And I need to know.* He shifted his eyes over to Scully, sitting quietly next to him. *And yet, after what you did to Scully...I'd have pulled that trigger a thousand times.* He felt the gun, comfortably nestled at his right side. *But now I have to protect you. And in doing so, probably will kill one of my only links to my sister. And in circles we go...*
"Nothing, Scully, just thinking out loud...So, you never did answer this last night-what *did* you do after those guys stole all your clothes?"
"Nothing compared to what I'm going to do to you after this, Mulder," Scully shot back with a nasty look in her eyes.
Imreh pulled her car up behind Mulder's. Leaving the engine running, she walked up to Scully' side of the car. "My turn," she said with a bit of perkiness in her voice.
"Scully, were you ever *perky*?"
"You're lucky I'm going, Mulder." Scully opened the door and got out. As Imreh stepped into the car, she touched her shoulder to get her attention. "Watch out...he bites," she told her younger counterpart.
"I do *not* bite...most of the time," Mulder said reassuringly. Imreh smiled. "Uh, Agent Scully, one more thing...Pete asked to see you as soon as you were off watch."
"Okay," Scully said. "I'll go."
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL 10:27 PM
Scully felt pretty silly sneaking past the duty nurse, but she felt that Olsen's current emotional state required attention. Mulder might have had the more impressive degree in psychology, but he was being blinded by his long association with Olsen-and Scully had not told him of Olsen's "breakdown" the previous evening. Crying was normally a good sign that a person was working through the process of mourning, but Scully wanted to make sure that he was all right-she had heard of Mulder's behavior during her disappearance, and had no desire to see it repeated.
Olsen lay in bed staring at the TV, which was off. "Hello, Agent Scully."
"Please call me Dana."
"'And some call me...Pete, the Enchanter,'" Olsen said.
"Okay, scrap the Monty Python. Dana, truth be told, I miss Judith pretty badly right now."
"We were concerned for your well-being," Scully confirmed. "I don't think you've had a chance to read my personnel file," Olsen said. "There was one time I thought Judith had died in a plane crash up in Wyoming. Missing for a week. She turned up in a little cave with a broken leg, but that was one of the worst weeks of my life...it was like losing a family member. I had to go through some therapy after that," he admitted. "But this...this is different. That time there was a wreck and bodies and the real possibility that she was dead...now she's just...*gone*. I think I know what Mulder must be going through."
"It wasn't your fault, Pete." The reflexive answer that she had given Mulder once.
"Dana, believe me when I say I've heard that before...and you're probably right."
Scully's mind scrambled over that sentence.
"I'll be all right," Olsen reassured her. "You can have someone look me over later. I just want you to...stay here with me for a little while."
Scully nodded. [Edit out the last half of this scene?]
"And there's something I have to tell you. It's about you and Mulder."
Scully's jaw dropped a bit. "Um..."
Olsen nodded. "Professional relationships are hard to work with sometimes-look at me! But you two remind me so much of how Judith and I were once.
"We had a hard time acknowledging that we still liked each other when we became partners," Olsen began. We had *almost* done something we both decided we would regret a few weeks before we learned of our assignments. We put that aside, for someday. Still, it took us that long to acknowledge that...this'll probably leave a big mess in my record...er, that we really did love each other. We couldn't just let that remain unspoken, we had to say it, to accept it.
"And that's what you and Mulder need to do."
Scully sat there, staring at Olsen, for a very long time.
"I see something," Imreh said.
"Where?" Mulder asked.
"Eleven o'clock, on that roof over there," Imreh pointed out. "That guy? Oh, I'm pretty sure he's one of the *other* guys watching Cancerman."
"Oh. Oops. Must be getting a little paranoid."
Mulder smiled at her. "Don't worry, I'm sure the evening's going to pick up soon."
12:15 AM APRIL 16, 1995
Scully opened the outside door to her apartment. She had not envisioned having the tables turned on her, of Olsen doing a little psychoanalysis of his own, but she couldn't really deal with it at that time. She needed to catch up on at least a few hours' worth of sleep before relieving Mulder. She had considered just driving up to them and parking there to wait out the evening, but she realized that even if she did so she needed to change into something a little more comfortable than the suit she was still wearing, and work out some of the kinks with a shower.
Unlocking her door, she took a step into her darkened apartment. *Hey, didn't I leave a light-*
Something large and heavy collided with the back of her head, plunging her into complete darkness.
"Hey, was that thunder?" Imreh asked.
"Maybe; it's looking kinda nasty up there, but there are still
some breaks in the cloud cover," Mulder commented.
Suddenly, all the lights on the street went out. Far off, Mulder saw a manhole cover fall back down onto the street with a loud clang and immediately knew what happened. Someone had blown the transformer in the utility trunk under the street. "It's starting," he told Imreh. "Let's go."
No one noticed a second thunderclap a moment later.
Mulder and Imreh ran up to Cancerman's front door and were surprised to find it unlocked; Imreh covered Mulder as he burst in and then followed at a more sedate pace, locking the door behind her.
"Where is he?" she asked, switching on a Mag Light.
"Right here," said a voice. Cancerman stepped out of the shadows carrying a flashlight. "Agent Mulder, what a nice surprise to find you here actually here to *preserve* my personal safety." He began to walk upstairs, forcing the agents to follow suit.
"You seem rather calm about all this," Imreh remarked.
"As I have said, the entire area is being watched. You two could not have made it from your car to my door if I hadn't allowed it." He walked into his bedroom and picked up a carton of Morleys and a cigarette lighter. "In a few minutes, your friend will come up here, and will be killed by any one of the four snipers watching this house." He put a cigarette in his mouth and opened his ZippoSomething crashed through the window. Mulder grabbed Cancerman and threw him out of the way; Imreh dropped to the floor and drew her gun.
A flash of lightning illuminated the object that had come through the window. Imreh, who was less than a yard from it, struggled not to be sick.
It was a human head.
"Somehow I don't think your security arrangements are working out the way they intended to," Mulder yelled at Cancerman as above them the sky seemed to open up and a deluge of rain began to fall.
"Possible," Cancerman replied. He gestured toward the door.
"Lead the way, Boy Scout."
Mulder suppressed a retort and drew his gun. "Hurry up." He pulled out his own small flashlight and flicked it on. As they entered the hallway, they could hear someone on the stairs. "Mulder!" a voice cried out.
"Scully? Is that you?" Mulder pointed his gun down the staircase and aimed the light down there as well.
"It's me, Mulder! There's someone on the roof!" Scully was almost at the top of the stairs, her pistol in hand. Her left hand...
Mulder pointed his pistol directly at her head. "Hold it! Drop the gun!"
Faster than anyone Mulder had ever seen, "Scully" launched herself at him. Mulder almost fired, but realized that if he did they would all be exposed to the retrovirus in Scully's blood. At the last second, he swung his gun up, connecting with some part of the fake Scully and sending their weapons flying. Imreh nearly blew Mulder's head off but eased her finger from the trigger at the last possible moment.
"Uhnnn!" Mulder and Scully slammed into the hardwood floor with considerable force. Stars burst before Mulder's eyes, but he retained enough sense to yell one final command at Imreh. "Get out!" Imreh shoved Cancerman ahead of her and started running down the hallway.
Neither Mulder or the bounty hunter moved for a second, both stunned from the multiple impacts. Finally the bounty hunter peeled herself off of Mulder and got to her feet. Her gun was nowhere to be found, and she found that her knife was also missing. "Damn you, Mulder." She started off after Cancerman. Mulder slowly rose to his knees behind her.
Cancerman led Imreh to another short staircase that led up to the attic. Imreh bodily smashed the ceiling panel leading to the attic open and then pulled Cancerman up with her. He wasn't saying much; apparently the thought of death by the hand of someone he couldn't taunt first scared him.
Imreh spotted a window off to one side of the uncluttered attic and pulled it open. "Come on." She helped Cancerman onto the slick surface of the roof and then followed him out.
A moment later the bounty hunter-now back in the form of O'Connell-poked her head through the opening in the attic floor. The rest of her body followed suit with one smooth pull from her strong arms. She ran toward the window
-And was knocked to the floor by Mulder. "I don't give up that easily," he said.
Scully moaned as she regained consciousness. *Get up,* a small part of her mind told her. *You've got to get up.* The rest of her, though, was still begging to return to the blissful oblivion of unconsciousness. Fighting that urge, she latched onto the only clear sensation she had at the time.
Pain. It seemed like her whole body had been run through a Cuisinart. Scully found herself gritting her teeth as she felt a massive bolt of agony shooting through her head. She traced the sensation to the bump at the back of her skull, a bump she could feel throbbing with her pulse as it rested against the floor.
*Mulder.* Somehow, she knew that he was in trouble. *I've got to get out of here.*
"Just take it easy there for a second."
Scully realized that she must have spoken aloud-and then she realized that that hadn't been her voice. On impulse, she slammed her fist toward the voice and was rewarded with a loud "Oof!" Light spun and flickered through the dark room. Scully realized that whoever was in there with her had brought a flashlight. She scrambled up-ignoring the torrent of new pain stirred up by the sudden movement-and grabbed the light. Clutching it in both hands, she shined it in the face of the other person in the room.
"Oh my God."
900 WEST GEORGIA STREET WASHINGTON, D.C. 12:50 AM APRIL 16, 1995
Mulder stepped forward, feinted to the right, and then swung a kick solidly at O'Connell's midsection. She failed to block the blow in time and crashed against the window sill.
Mulder tried not to waste time and hurled himself at her again, but this time O'Connell was ready, blocking his blow with her arm, stepping into him, and heaving him toward the window.
Mulder collided with the sill and fell out halfway. Winded, he only barely turned around in time to absorb the impact of O'Conell's punch, which toppled him out of the window-
-But not without grabbing a fistful of O'Connell's shirt first and pulling her out as well. Her weight prevented him from sailing tothe ground below, and he managed to get a solid grip on the roof. "You weren't happy with our last fight, were you?" he shouted at her over the rain as he got up on his hands and knees on the slick roof, gasping for breath and feeling like his back had been beaten with a large hammer.
O'Connell carefully swung her body around to face him. "Mulder, there *is* more than one of us out there." She shook her head. "My associate told me a lot about you." She took a small step in his direction, forcing him to go higher up on the roof.
"He said you would be very interested to know about the
whereabouts of your sister," O'Connell responded. "I would be
lying if I told you that I could help you there."
"Oh, it's not something in the bounty hunter hint book?"
"If there was one," O'Connell shot back. She crept toward Mulder. "But I would not taunt you with such information. My task here is simply business only. I chose someone who had a good chance of getting close to your bureaucracy without being noticed, and I chose O'Connell. No personal grudges to deal with, just business."
"Oh?" Mulder took a deep breath and flung himself at O'Con-
nell. He slipped on the roof at the last moment, falling forwards and under her, instead of down on top of her as he'd hoped. O'Connell crashed down onto him, and then they were spinning and rolling-Mulder felt open air at his back as part of him left the roof. Before the rest of him could follow, though, something heavy pinned him down and an arm reached out to grab his shirt. Mulder cried out in pain as he was hauled back up regardless of the way his body felt or was positioned at the time. The hand on his shirt maneuvered its way up to a tight grip on his throat, and O'Connell pulled his face to within inches of hers. "Impressive. But futile."
Imreh herded Cancerman toward the car, trying to keep aware of him and her surroundings at the same time. She didn't know how well Mulder was doing up on the roof, and wondered where Scully was, but she couldn't ignore his instructions-Cancerman, for all the things he had done, still had a story to tell, and questions to answer. He could not be allowed to die.
As they reached the car's side, a man popped out from around a tree less than three feet away, a gun appearing and tracking toward her head. Reflexively, Imreh shoved Cancerman out of the way as the man pulled the trigger. She twisted frantically to the side, bringing her P228 to bear-
-The man's shot whizzed by her right ear, only millimeters from her head, the noise and heat of the blast stunning at such close range. Imreh pulled the trigger as she fell across Cancerman, watched the shot burst cleanly through the man's chest, sprawling him to the pavement-
-And then there were armed men with guns all around her. One of these men pulled Cancerman off the ground while another roughly disarmed Imreh and yanked her to her feet. Casting a quick glance around, she saw three MIBs in addition to the one she had killed. She kept staring at him even as Cancerman forced her chin up to face his.
"Oh, don't worry. He was always a little...trigger happy, and look where it got him." He made a knowing nod in her direction.
"But I couldn't care less." He got in the car as the men loosened their formation around her. "Agent Imreh, there will always be someone watching and in control. And even if I had died, there's always someone to take my place. Remember that."
Imreh could not get his predatory grin out of her mind as he drove off.
"My associate told me a little about you, Agent Mulder. He considered you a very tenacious, if genetically inferior, opponent. I thought I could maintain a more professional demeanor than my pre- decessor and not involve you in my task, but I found that I had to leave a clue for you to follow, to increase the challenge." She tightened her grip on Mulder's throat. "Unfortunately, you have proven less than satisfactory."
Mulder's expression became sarcastic despite his rather precarious position. "Then don't you think you should be getting rid of me now and going after Cancerman?"
"Your 'Cancerman' won't get very far, don't worry, and he is but a small icicle in your proverbial iceberg. I needed him more as a lure for you. A good lure he was, correct? But you are right, I be- lieve that it is time for me to be rid of you, Agent Mulder." The pseudo-Judith shifted her weight and pulled Mulder's torso up with his tie. "If the fall doesn't kill you now, I will be back." She sat up, ready to toss Mulder off the roof, and he knew that he couldn't do anything about it, he could barely move, there was no one to help-
-A shot, but from where? Mulder sensed the impact staggering the assassin and her body pitching forward, but he was still falling and it didn't matter-
-A second shot, an instant after the first. Mulder felt O'Connell's muscles slacken, her grip loosening as she uttered a brief cry - and he felt the open air beneath him as he fell-
Mulder's yelp, and that of the person who caught his left leg as it cleared the rooftop. The arrested inertia snapped Mulder's head up and shot stars through his vision, but he saw the assassin plunging onwards toward the ground-
-And Judith O'Connell holding tightly onto his leg. He nearly
shook himself loose, visions of a roomful of Samanthas in his head,
but a familiar voice pierced the fog in his brain.
It was Scully, carefully moving down the slope of the roof to help O'Connell pull him back up. "Mulder, it's really her. Look."
O'Connell's tongue brushed her lower lip, and Mulder saw a nasty cut on it, still oozing blood. Red, human blood.
"I'm not getting enough sleep," he quipped. Then he passed out.
Mulder opened his eyes to find two blurry images of Dana Scully waving in front of him. He blinked a few times, shook his head, and Scully started to look like her normal self again. "I've felt better," he said.
The four of them-Mulder, Scully, Imreh, and O'Connell-were huddled under Cancerman's porch, light from their flashlights cast- ing sharp shadows over them.
"He thinks *he* feels bad," O'Connell said. "Agent Scully, remind me never to wake you up again," Judith said, lightly prod- ding at the gash on her lip.
"Sorry," Scully offered. "Mulder, are you all right?"
"Nothing a good chiropractor couldn't set right in a few days," he replied, staring up at her pretty face. "Anyway, I like it here." Scully helped him into a sitting position. "Well, thanks for not getting killed on me."
O'Connell looked at the body of her double, about fifteen feet away and now rapidly transforming into a shapeless puddle of green goo in the hard rain. "That was a tough shot," she muttered to herself. "Two in the base of the skull while diving down a rain- slicked thirty-degree slope in the dark. Good shot, kid."
Mulder and Scully looked at her incredulously.
O'Connell willingly submitted to a long series of tests to con- firm that she was, in fact, a human. Mulder and Scully were both treated for their injuries, and now the entire group was sitting in Olsen's hospital room.
Olsen, who appeared a lot better, lightly brushed O'Connell's cheek. "Let's say we open up a nice quiet bed and breakfast some- were, huh?"
"And miss all the fun?"
Mulder finally got around to asking some questions about
O'Connell's experience. "What happened to you?"
O'Connell shook her head. "The last Earthly experience I remember was starting my car for Edmond February 1st. Then, boom, I'm in a white room with black curtains-I'm not kidding. Then, well, I'm not sure...I don't remember." She looked at the floor.
"It's okay," Mulder said. "Did you see anyone else at any time?"
O'Connell seemed to be straining to give him a good ans- wer. "I'm sorry, Mulder, I don't remember much of anything." She closed her eyes and held her head in her hands. "What the hell hap- pened to me up there?"
Olsen would have comforted her, but he was still more or less immobile. Mulder put a hand around her shoulders. "We'll help you remember."
"Thanks," O'Connell sniffed.
Scully scratched at the bandage on the back of her head. "But how did you know to find us?"
O'Connell picked her head up and looked at Scully. "All I re- member before basically ending up on your doorstep is a set of im- ages. You. Good ol' Mulder there. Me. Someone else that looked like me, but wasn't. I *knew* I had to help you. And I just *knew* I had to aim for the base of the skull."
Imreh frowned. "But who would send you back with, with in- structions that go completely against what their normal course of action is? That tell you to go back and *kill* another alien?" O'Connell looked up at the ceiling. "I don't know. I guess there are rebels up there, too."
_________________________ALL DONE! BYE BYE!_________________________
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| \__ _ _ _ _ ...An X-File |
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