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My Funny Valentine
RATING - PG, nothing you wouldn't see in Highlander or XF, most violence occurs offstage
CATEGORY - C(rossover)
SPOILERS - Tons up to Chinga(XF)
KEYWORDS - X-files/Highlander crossover, Mulder/Scully UST
The agents find out about Scully's condition while investigating an X-file.
The standard spiel... None of these characters belong to me. I'm only borrowing them for a short while. All characters referred to herein, except for the ones I made up, belong to CC, or 1013, or Fox, whoever owns them.
I told ya there'd be another one. So here it is. And it's longer than I expected it would be. And the ones out there who actually suspected or correctly guessed what the previous one was crossed over with, (I'm sure there were at least one or two), congratulations! You don't really have to read the previous one (FP1: The Awakening) to get this one, but it's pretty short, and stuff from it does get referred to in here. Don't worry, the important stuff is recapped in a couple of sentences. If you can't find it at atxc or Gossamer, I'd be happy to send it to you. Just send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although I've listed Chinga in the spoilers section, this story actually takes place the week after the Kitsunegari case, which I'm assuming was wrapped up the Friday before it aired. There really aren't any spoilers beyond that. The only reference to a teeny weeny line from Chinga is in the endnotes.
Also, like I mentioned in FP1, there's definite UST in here, so you noromos have been warned. This one doesn't have any explicit romance in it, but shippers, rest assured, the next few will eventually. And any Highlander fans beware. There are no Highlander characters in here. There will probably be some in my next stories, however. And in case you have no idea who or what Highlander refers to, don't worry. Anything you need to know is explained in the story. And if it still seems confusing, just stick with the series and find out along with the agents in the next installment.
For the dedication, I guess I should thank my sister, who was kind enough to nag me to 'get this thing finished already'. Not like I listened to her. I took my own sweet time getting this done, which accounts for the time between the story chronology and the date of posting.
Finally, we come to the feedback request section. Need I say more? I'm sure there's not a single author out there who doesn't appreciate it. So, sit back, relax, enjoy the read, then drop me a line at email@example.com to tell me how much you a)enjoyed it, b)thought it was nice, c)hated it, d)misc. comments, or my personal favorite e)loved it to death and want to beg me to write more :) Hey, if immortality is possible, then anything is.
J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, Basement
Tuesday, January 13, 1998
Special Agent Dana Scully entered the basement office to find it empty. She went to her chair and started up her laptop, preparing to finish some paperwork. The agents had just finished a difficult case the week before, one which still preyed heavily on both their minds.
Waiting for the computer to finish booting up, she got herself some coffee as she reflected on the events that had led Mulder and her to the warehouse last Friday night. She thought about the first time they had encountered Robert Patrick Modell, or Pusher, as he liked to call himself. She still had nightmares about the events in the hospital. Mulder sitting at the table across from Modell, the gun lying between them... Mulder picking up the gun to point it at his own head, and pulling the trigger... then turning the gun to point at her. She closed her eyes, thinking about the pain she had seen in his eyes as he cursed Modell, the helplessness, the desperation. She had felt her heart go out to him.
She remembered what she had told Mulder as they stood in Modell's hospital room after that case, "I say we don't let him take up another minute of our time." How ironic that those events had been repeated almost exactly the week before. Once again, Mulder had been put in the same position, only this time by Modell's twin sister. Once again, he had been forced to point a gun at her, only to be narrowly saved from making another terrible mistake. If I had been even a moment slower... She shuddered, thinking not about what would have happened to her, but what would have happened to Mulder after being forced to shoot her. She was saved from following that particular train of thought by the sound of her partner opening the door.
"Hey Scully, great morning to begin another new case, isn't it?" he asked, walking up to the desk and smiling down at her.
"What do you mean, Mulder? We still haven't finished the paperwork from the last one." She looked up to see a frown pass across his face at her mention of the Modell case.
"Well, we'd better get done with it fast. Skinner wants us to get cracking on this one before the day is over." He handed her the file he had been given and sat down to finish his part of the paperwork. She gave the file a cursory glance, a child kidnapping case, before setting it aside, turning to finish the rest of the reports on her computer.
Mulder finished filling out the expense reports and other forms, and turned to get started on the official report he would submit to Skinner. He thought of the Assistant Director actually getting through one of his infamous reports without pulling out any of his hair... well, what he had left, anyway... and couldn't help the quick grin that flashed across his face. Unlike many of their other cases, Scully and he had actually managed to bring this one to a satisfactory conclusion, satisfactory in the eyes of AD Skinner, that is.
He looked up at Scully, meticulously typing away at her laptop. The sequence of events that had led to the conclusion of the case flashed across his mind, and the grin quickly disappeared. He remembered his words to Skinner after being congratulated on solving the case, "How come I feel like I lost?" He thought about what he could have meant by those words. At first, he had no idea why he'd said them at all. After all, the AD had been right. He had correctly pieced together the evidence and stopped Modell's sister before she killed anyone else. He had assumed, initially, that he was just upset because he had not figured out the connection sooner.
But, as he went over the events in the warehouse, he realized that he knew exactly what he'd meant. He'd thought he had finally buried the memories of the hospital room the first time they had encountered Modell. Looking up from the dying woman behind him to the face of his partner, he realized that he couldn't have been more wrong. He knew that he only had to wait for nightfall before the nightmares began anew. Once again he'd pointed a gun at Dana Scully, ready to pull the trigger. Only this time, he wasn't wishing, praying, desperately trying to fight to stop himself. He didn't see Scully in front of him. All he saw was the image of the woman who had made his beloved Dana shoot herself. He wanted nothing more than to pull the trigger and put her out of his misery.
He still couldn't understand how he'd managed to hold off firing his gun that long. Once again, it had been Scully's quick action that had saved her life, and him from a fate worse than death. He knew what would have happened if he had given in and pulled the trigger, just as he knew that first time with Modell. He would have fallen over the edge he was constantly treading, plunging into the abyss without hope of escape. He knew he would have gone mad, and he knew without a doubt that the next case that involved any kind of danger would probably be his last. He would stop caring, make mistakes, and willingly put his life in jeopardy. He doubted he would have survived the month.
After all that he and Scully had been through, he realized that he still couldn't protect her from everything. He couldn't shield her from the ugly realities that his work on the X-files exposed them to. He couldn't... He sighed and opened the top drawer on his desk, pulling out the folder he had hidden underneath the bags of sunflower seeds. He looked through the papers he had placed in there after the first time they'd caught Modell. He quietly read the first sheet to himself, Transfer order for Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully. He couldn't bring himself to submit them the first time. He had promised himself then that he would be more careful in the future. He had thought that he simply couldn't let go of the one person whom he could implicitly trust with his life, and more important, his heart. He now knew how wrong he'd been, how selfish. Thinking back to all the losses his partner had suffered because of him... her sister, her career, and now almost her life, he knew what he had to do. He would submit the orders by the end of the week. This next case would be their last one. For now, he pushed the thoughts of once again being alone in his basement office out of his mind. He put the folder back into the drawer and turned back to the report. He didn't allow himself to feel the mind-numbing sadness that threatened to overwhelm him. After all, he told himself, he was finally doing the right thing.
"Hey Scully, you done yet? I finally finished my report."
"Yeah, I just finished the last page on mine too. I swear, Mulder, if I have to fill out another expense report, it will be too soon."
He smiled in acknowledgement as she turned to pick up the case file he had brought in that morning. Mulder rose and walked around the desk to look at the file over Scully's shoulder.
There he goes again, invading my personal space without a second's thought, Scully sighed, trying to focus her attention back onto the file. She couldn't help the little shiver that ran down her spine every time he got close to her. She seemed to have almost a sixth sense about him whenever he was around, ever since that day in her hospital room when she had been informed about her miraculous recovery. It was uncanny, almost psychic. If I actually believed such things,' she thought ruefully.
Pushing these thoughts aside, she remarked, "This looks like a child kidnapping case. Why was it assigned to the X-files section?"
"Keep reading, Scully. There seem to be two things these children have in common. It says here that all the children were either adopted or were in foster care when they were taken. Also, in each case, the children seem to wind up dead under rather unusual circumstances within a week of the abduction."
"Mulder...," she began, continuing to read. "This doesn't make much sense. First, why kidnap only adopted or foster children. They don't even seem to be from the same orphanage. Second, it says here that all the children were found decapitated. That's not just unusual... it's downright bizarre. Surely there are easier, and less gruesome, ways to kill someone."
Mulder stood up, thinking. "I don't know, Scully." He picked up the written reports from the file. "According to these, the killer seems to be slowly working his way up the east coast. He seems to be picking three children in each state each year. The last three victims were found in Virginia on January 21st, same as the preceding years. Looks like his next three are going to be pretty close to home, and soon."
"Not to sound callous, but I think I could use a little home court advantage after the last case."
"Why, Scully, I didn't know you were into sports metaphors," Mulder said with a silly grin on his face.
"After that Superstars of the Superbowl tape, I think I'm entitled to a few," Scully shot back, smiling herself. "But, seriously, these photos of the victims seem to suggest a very sharp weapon. Notice the clean break between the third and fourth vertebrae. I would say the blade would have to be pretty long too, something like a machete, or an ax maybe."
"How about a sword?" Mulder asked, looking through the reports while Scully went over the autopsy reports. Seeing her quizzical expression at the apparent non sequitur, he explained, "In a couple of cases, the police report finding decapitated adults as well in the vicinity of the children, along with bloody swords. The blood on the swords does not match any of the victims. Maybe it came from the killer."
"What are you saying, Mulder? That the adults were engaged in a sword fight with the killer? That's preposterous. This is the 20th century. Nobody fights with swords anymore."
"There's more, Scully. In each state, the children were found in abandoned warehouses or buildings. Also, the police reports mention syringes with traces of deadly, fast-acting poisons dumped in the trash close by."
"But, if the killer used poison to kill his victims, why bother with the decapitations at all? Wouldn't the poison be enough? Besides, the medical reports don't mention any needle marks on any of the victims, or any toxins in their blood."
"I don't know how to explain the poison yet. But the decapitation and use of swords sounds like some sort of ritual killing. The report also says that these buildings seem to have sustained some sort of electrical damage, as if they were all struck by lightning. All the windows in the area where the bodies were found were shattered. Most of the electrical fixtures were either shorted or blown out. But the damage seems to have been pretty localized around the bodies."
"Yeah, the autopsy reports mention the electrical activity too. The electrical discharges seem to have caused some damage to the bodies themselves, specifically around the neck area. Hmmm...," she paused. "It almost seems as if the areas of decapitation were the focal points of the disturbances." She looked further down the page. "This is strange. According to this, there were no burn marks found on any other parts of the victims' bodies. Other than the neck area, the bodies don't seem to have been affected at all. In fact, if anything, they seem to be in excellent condition. Even after a week in the morgue, there is hardly any decomposition in any of them."
"This case seems to get stranger line by line," Mulder muttered.
"This from you, Mulder? I'm surprised."
"It's just that there seem to be several parts to the story that just don't seem to fit. The apparently unused poison, the slow decomposition of the bodies, and mainly this electrical disturbance."
Scully looked up to see Mulder lost in thought. "What is it?"
"Probably nothing. I seem to remember reading something about decapitations and lightning storms somewhere." Mulder handed the file to Scully and walked over to the cabinets containing previous unsolved X-files.
Scully was looking through the reports Mulder had been reading from when she jerked her hand away, cursing slightly. She looked at her finger to see a little spot of blood welling up on the tip from a shallow cut.
"Problem, Scully?" Mulder looked up from the files he was going through.
"No, just a paper-cut." She sucked on the finger, reaching for the Band-Aids she always kept in her bag. I know I have some in here. Finally finding what she was looking for, she was startled by a tingling feeling in her finger. Pulling the finger down, she was about to tear open the Band-Aid when she realized she couldn't find the cut anywhere. She rubbed her finger with her thumb. Funny, it doesn't even sting anymore. She absently put the unused Band-Aid back in her bag, looking up to see Mulder heading back with several case files in his hands.
"I think I found what I was looking for. There are reports here dating back to the late 1800s, even before the FBI. They mention similar events, although only with adults. In all these cases, the bodies had been decapitated. Most of the bodies were found with swords in the vicinity. And, get this, Scully," Mulder said, with a pause to make it slightly more dramatic, "witnesses report lightning storms in the area, even on clear sunny days. The areas around the victims exhibited burns or damage consistent with an electrical discharge, all with varying degrees of intensity. In some cases, the electricity was intense enough to fuse sand into glass. There is even a case from about three years ago where the decapitation took place atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. All the victims also exhibited tissue damage similar to those mentioned in our report."
"Sounds like the work of copycat killers. No one person could live that long. Besides," she said, looking through the files Mulder was holding, "it seems that several of these killings occurred concurrently around the world. No one can be in two places at the same time."
"I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the long-lived person theory. Remember the Tooms case," Mulder said, thinking back to the liver-eating contortionist, who had apparently hibernated his way through at least a century of life. "But I agree that this seems to be the work of a group of people. Not only because of the concurrent killings, but also because, from what I can make out from these reports, it seems that the number of average decapitations worldwide per year, especially those fitting similar circumstances, is slowly growing. If this were the work of one person, he would have to kill almost every day."
"But this is the first time that the victims involved are almost exclusively children," Scully mentioned. A part of her mind shuddered at the thought of the kind of psychosis that would cause a person to slaughter innocent children like this.
Mulder nodded. "Maybe our killer has broken away from the club," he smirked, trying to get rid of the ugly picture forming in his mind, "you know, gone rogue."
Scully rolled her eyes, nonetheless glad for the reprieve. "Although these other killings may have been caused by multiple killers, it certainly seems that our case only involves one killer. For one thing, the blood on the swords found with the adult victims match, so you were right about that. Also, the MO for each state seems to be the same... kidnap three children, not necessarily at the same time, hold them in the same place together, and then kill them. We have about a week or so before the pattern repeats. But I still don't know what to make of this electrical activity."
"Neither do I. But, if I had to make a guess as to the killer's motivation, it looks almost like some sort of revenge or retribution deal. Serial killers don't usually target children... not enough of a challenge. He might have lost his own children in a similar manner, in an accident, maybe, or even a kidnapping." He paused, turning this possibility over in his mind. "Anyway, I'm going to run another background check on the children, see if I can find some connection through the natural parents. I'm also going to see if the adult victims had anything in common."
"Ok Mulder. I still want to study these autopsy reports to see if I can explain the bodies' strange properties."
"Okay, I'll see you later." Mulder left with copies of the victims' names to the records department, leaving Scully behind to look over the papers.
Scully was standing next to the door when she felt the tingling sensation again. On a hunch, she reached out to open the door. Mulder stood on the other side holding a stack of papers. He looked at her, surprised.
"How did you know I was there?"
Scully just shrugged, smiling mysteriously, heading back to her chair. The truth was, she didn't know how to explain it herself. And she was not going to give Mulder the satisfaction of seeing her at a loss to explain a feeling that she had acted upon on impulse.
Mulder shook his head, walked around the desk and sat down himself. He placed the papers he was carrying on the desk before looking up. "So, find anything interesting in the autopsy reports?"
"Just a little bit more than what we already knew. You remember I mentioned that the bodies seemed to be in an unusually preserved condition?"
"Well, not only were the bodies well preserved, they were perfect in every way." At Mulder's questioning look, she continued, "What I mean is, there was not a single scar or other mark on any of the bodies, no vaccinations, no inoculations, nothing. Even on the inside, the victims' organs look like they came from a newborn baby, not adolescent children, and definitely not adults. There are no signs of any of the wear and tear in the organs normally associated with age. Simply put, Mulder, nobody is that healthy, nobody."
"What are you suggesting, Scully, that someone doctored the organs to make them look better than they really were?"
She shook her head. "I don't see how, since there were no incision marks anywhere on the bodies before the autopsies were performed."
Mulder looked away, seemingly lost in thought. "Could they be clones? If they were newly created, then that may account for the apparent newness of the organs. Besides, remember the bounty hunter and the other clones we ran into? The only way to kill them was to use that ice-pick device to sever their vertebra."
"No, I already thought of that. First, these children have red blood, not green like the bounty hunter or the cloned Samantha."
Scully immediately wished she had mentioned someone else, maybe Jeremiah Smith, or the Gregors, anybody instead of Mulder's sister. She glanced up at him. His eyes had taken on a hooded expression at that last remark. She thought back to the bridge that fateful night, and Mulder preparing to exchange the woman he thought was his sister in return for her safety. He had not known that she was also a clone until later, when her body had washed ashore. She still could not believe that he had given up the one goal he had been pursuing his whole adult life in order to save her. Even after the clandestine meeting in that bar with the person that Cancerman had claimed was his sister, he still got that haunted look whenever he thought about her.
"Second," she continued, looking back down to her reports, "the bodies didn't dissolve like the others did. Third, the only thing I can find different about these bodies, other than the condition of the organs, is an unusually active circulatory and immune system. Even now, weeks after their deaths, the bodies still fight any foreign agent introduced into their bloodstream. Also, their cells and damaged tissues are being regenerated and replaced at an astonishing rate."
"Doesn't cell division and replacement usually stop a few hours after a person dies?" Mulder inquired, his eyes brightening. This was actually starting to sound interesting.
"In any normal human being, I would say yes. In these bodies, the process does seem to be slowing down, just not as fast. In short, the bodies are definitely decomposing, only much slower than normal."
"I wonder how these differences would manifest themselves visibly?" Mulder stood up and started to pace, a sure sign that he had something on his mind. He could feel parts of the puzzle trying to fit themselves into the picture he was forming.
Scully's eyes followed him as he walked across the small office. "I assume you have some sort of theory about that."
"You bet I do. Think about it, Scully. What happens when we get hurt, when we wound ourselves? Loss of blood, damage to tissue and muscle. From what you are describing, it sounds as if these people possessed some form of accelerated healing ability. They were probably more resistant to infections and diseases as well, from what you said about their immune systems. Anyway, it explains how the organs could look new even in adults. If any wear and tear, as you put it, took place, it would simply get replaced by new cells before the damage compounded itself, like in a normal human being." He suddenly stopped pacing to look at her. He had that look in his eyes that meant he was about to take one of his infamous leaps of faith. "I wonder how much damage their bodies could heal?"
"Don't even go there, Mulder," she warned, trying to discourage him from following his crazy theory any further. "I agree that it sounds interesting. But, I don't think the healing effects would manifest themselves on a visible level. I seriously doubt that the kind of regeneration you are suggesting could even be possible." She paused, looking down at her watch. It had stopped again. She sighed. Another watch bites the dust. At this rate, I'm going through new watches faster than Mulder goes through guns and cell phones. She recalled only too well her partner's propensity for repeatedly losing his Bureau issues, and smiled to herself. Shaking her head, she glanced at the clock on the wall. Hoping to break her partner's train of thought, she said aloud, "Mulder, it's already past five. I think I'm going to take off. I'll see you tomorrow."
Mulder looked at his watch. "Hey Scully, how about we continue this over dinner? I'm really interested in discussing this regeneration thing some more," he said.
"Mulder...," she began.
"Please, Scully... I'll even buy." He smiled at her with a pleading look in his eyes.
Scully sighed, knowing she had lost even before she had begun to protest. "You are really getting into this instant healing nonsense, aren't you?"
Mulder turned up the charm, congratulating himself. Aloud he said, "Yeah! Lord knows that's the one part of this case that's actually interesting. How's Chinese sound to you?"
"No way, Mulder. I had Chinese yesterday. Today, I promised myself a home cooked meal, and that's what I'm going to get. If you want dinner, you had better be ready to help me out in the kitchen."
"Whatever you say, ma'am. You know I'm a sucker for a free meal any day." He started gathering the reports he had brought with him. A few minutes later, he blurted, "I'll see you at six. I have some errands to run first. Bye." Mulder was out the door before Scully could even look up.
Damn, he knows exactly how to get his way, Scully thought, looking up just in time to see the door close. She wondered exactly when she had become such a pushover when it came to Mulder. She could protest it all she wanted, but, one thought about him, and it seemed as if she would follow him to the ends of the earth. Hell, she already had once, trying to save him from that bounty hunter in Alaska. She shook her head, shutting down her laptop and getting her own things in order.
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Now why did I have to make that stupid remark about errands. Mulder shook his head as he finished shaving. I should just have gone to her place directly from work. Now, I actually have to make an effort to look presentable.
Yeah, right. You know why, Agent Mulder, said the little voice at the back of his mind, the one he managed to keep buried most of the time.
Oh, shut up! It's nothing like that, and you know it, he shot back at his reflection in the mirror. It can never be.
Just keep saying that, Mulder. Maybe, one day, you might even believe it.
He sighed, going to his closet.
Dana Scully's Apartment
Dana Scully removed the fifth blouse she had tried on, frustrated. What am I doing this for? It's only Mulder. She looked at herself in the mirror.
Yeah, right. It's only Mulder, her reflection seemed to say.
She had finally settled on a green silk blouse with jeans when she heard the knock. She walked out of her bedroom to open the door just as her clock chimed the hour.
She immediately saw the reason he had run out on his errand, and smiled to herself. She didn't get to see her partner in jeans often. It suited him. "Hey Mulder," she greeted him, "nice timing." Nice timing? Nice line, Dana, she mentally kicked herself.
Mulder smiled. "Hey Scully, looking great, as always." He moved past her to enter the apartment, missing the slight color that rose on her cheeks. He turned to face her, holding out a package. "I brought some wine. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all, Mulder. That would be perfect." She took the wine from him, motioning him to the couch where she had spread the various reports from their latest assignment. "I'll be right back. Make yourself comfortable."
Mulder sat down, looking through the medical reports to see if they would support his theory in the slightest. Not like I would understand anything in here anyway. That's Scully's department, he sighed, putting them back. He looked up to see her coming out of the kitchen with two glasses of wine.
Scully handed a glass to Mulder and took a seat next to him on the couch. "So, what did you find out from your background check on the victim's natural parents?" she asked, hoping to forestall any discussion he might want to have about the victim's miraculous healing powers.
"There aren't any." Mulder knew exactly what she was doing. But he also knew that they would end up discussing his theory before the night was over. So he let her continue her current train of thought for now as he leaned back and sipped the wine.
"Everybody has natural parents, Mulder," she said dryly. "It's something of a prerequisite, in case you hadn't noticed."
"That's not what I meant," he replied with a wry grin. "It's just that there are no natural parents listed for any of the children. Every single one of them were foundlings, abandoned at birth. There are no records of their births or any mention of who might have given birth to them anywhere. And here's another interesting tidbit. The adults that were found decapitated... they were the legal guardians of a couple of the children. And they were the only ones that did not file a kidnapping report when their children were taken."
"So they may have been trying to protect their children from the killer. Maybe they thought they could handle the kidnapper themselves." She got up to return her empty glass to the kitchen.
"Or, maybe, they knew the kidnapper," Mulder said, getting up to follow her. He set down his glass on the counter as Scully headed to her fridge to get out some vegetables.
"Here Mulder, make yourself useful and peel these for me," she said, pointing him towards the potatoes. She turned to pick up some lettuce and tomatoes and set them up on the cutting board.
Mulder picked up a potato and the peeler. Starting on his assignment, he asked, "So do you think that the abnormally active regeneration powers could account for the unusually healthy organs?"
Scully let out a sigh, looking up at him. She knew he would bring up the subject eventually. "I suppose it's possible. But, I know what you're thinking. At this moment, you are picturing mutants regenerating lost body parts like they were lizards, aren't you?" At his look of denial, she pushed, "Don't you dare deny it, Mulder."
Mulder gave up, a sheepish grin spreading across his face. "You know me too well, Scully." He added in a conspiratorial whisper, "Soon I won't be able to keep any secrets from you."
"Don't try to sweet-talk me, Mulder. I know how that mind of yours works. And before you ask again, the answer is no." She looked up from the tomatoes. "The evidence from the autopsies just does not support the level of recuperative powers you're suggesting."
"But...," Mulder began when he heard his partner's sudden intake of breath. He saw Scully drop the knife and clutch her palm in pain. He saw the trickle of blood dripping down onto the tomatoes. He quickly moved to her side. "Let me see, Dana." He reached for her hand.
"It's nothing, Mulder. Just a slight cut." She held out her palm for him to see.
He held her hand, looking at the small gash on her palm. "Let me get some bandages. Bathroom cupboard right?" he asked, concerned.
"Mulder, I'll be okay. It's not exactly life threaten..." She broke off at the incredulous look on his face. Following his gaze, she was shocked to see an arc of electricity flit across the cut on her palm. As she watched, the severed skin seemed to knit itself together. A few seconds later, there was no sign of the gash anymore. She looked up at her partner, her eyes widening.
"What the hell was that?" Mulder seemed visibly shaken.
Scully rubbed her palm, trying to make sure she wasn't imagining it. "You saw it too? I thought, maybe the wine..." she ventured weakly. She knew, even as she said it, how ridiculous it sounded.
"Both of us? And, I've barely had a sip from mine," Mulder shook his head, holding up his glass. "Besides," Mulder pointed to the drops of blood on the counter. "how do you explain this?" He leaned back against the counter. "Boy, talk about accelerated healing. What does the doctor think of my theory now?"
"I think we need to try another test before we jump to any conclusions."
"Exactly what did you have in mind?" Mulder asked, not sure he liked the tone of her voice. He felt queasy at the idea of inflicting any kind of injury on Scully just to prove a point.
"Relax, Mulder. I'm not going to stab myself in the heart or anything. Just a small incision ought to do it." "Don't worry," she added at the look of discomfort on his face, "I've done this plenty of times. I'm the doctor, remember."
"Me and my big mouth." He still looked a bit unsure.
She ran to the bathroom cabinet where she kept her medical kit. Rummaging through it, she found the small scalpel she was looking for. Heading back to the kitchen, she stood next to Mulder and held her hand over the sink. Biting her lip, she made a small cut across her fingertip. She wiped away the blood that welled up from the incision. Holding up her finger to the light, both of them looked at the cut closely. Sure enough, the cut healed again right before their eyes.
"Well, I think we can safely rule out static electricity and hallucinations," Mulder remarked, trying to sound nonchalant, but not succeeding too well.
"I think an impromptu visit to the FBI labs is in order. I want to run some blood tests," she said, trying to hide her nervousness behind a guise of professional curiosity.
FBI Forensics Labs
The whole building seemed quiet, this late in the day. The agents managed to sneak into the forensics labs without running into anyone working late.
By unspoken agreement, both had decided to keep the new discovery to themselves, at least for now. Mulder sat and watched as Scully, in her clinically detached mode, prepared to draw some blood. When she automatically reached for the alcohol swab, Mulder couldn't resist a small chuckle. Scully glanced at him, looked at the swab and smiled herself. She dabbed at her arm anyway. Looking up at him, she said, "Standard procedure, Mulder." She carefully drew some blood, took the samples and headed towards the analysis equipment, leaving Mulder behind with his thoughts.
An hour later, Mulder was shaken from his reverie by Scully's voice. She plopped herself into the seat next to his.
"Well, its definite." She sounded tired, but matter of fact. "The T cell count in my blood is off the scale. Also each blood cell seems to have swollen to almost double the size of normal human cells. The blood samples show the same heightened cell replacement as the medical reports from our case."
Mulder winced at her emphasis on human. But, he thought, at least she doesn't sound too disturbed by this. Then he glanced at her eyes. He wasn't sure what he saw there for a moment. But, then it hit him. It was the same look she had had in her eyes when she had told him about the cancer. At that time, the fear and sorrow had been unmistakable in her voice.
She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. Her voice suddenly dropped to a scared whisper. "What now, Mulder? What have they done to me this time?"
Mulder heart broke at the sound of her voice. He felt as helpless as the time when he had seen her cancer x-rays. He reached out to pull her into his arms. "Don't worry, Dana." He tried to sound soothing, but he couldn't keep the slowly rising anger completely out of his voice. She has been through so much. She doesn't deserve this. Couldn't the bastards finally leave her alone? Aloud he continued, "We'll find a way to explain this." Mulder turned her to face him. He tried to sound flippant for her sake, "Hey, maybe this 'fast healing' thing isn't such a bad deal. Now, I don't have to worry about you getting hurt anymore."
She gave him a small smile. Reaching up to wipe her moist eyes, she shot back at him, "Does that mean you won't ditch me anymore to run off on your wild adventures when you get an anonymous call or a mysterious tip from an informant?"
That sounded more like the Dana Scully he knew. He hated to see her hurting. Relieved, he grinned, "You'll use any advantage you can get, won't you?"
"Don't try to change the subject, Mulder," she warned.
"Okay," he held up his hands in defeat. "I'll definitely give it a try. But no promises."
She punched him in the arm. "You're hopeless, Mulder," she said, a mischievous glint in her eye. Getting up, she added, "I want to go to the hospital and check my records from around the time my cancer was apparently cured. That may well have been a side effect of this condition."
Trinity Hospital, Dr. Zuckerman's office
Dr. Zuckerman looked at the two agents sitting in front of him. "Yes, I think I can look up those records for you. But," he turned to Scully, "if I may, why this sudden interest in your blood-work. I thought we had given you a clean bill of health." He paused, a thought occurring to him. "There haven't been anymore problems, have there?"
"Oh no, doctor, not at all," Scully hastened to assure him. "I was just curious about my medical condition before and after the cancer went into remission."
"You realize that this isn't exactly standard procedure, Agent Scully."
"I realize that, doctor. But...," she hesitated, unsure of how much to reveal. The agents looked at each other. "We think that my condition could be similar to a victim's in the case we are currently working on." She didn't mention which condition she was talking about, letting the doctor draw his own conclusions.
"Very well. I'll go get the reports and paperwork right away."
"Nicely handled, Agent Scully," Mulder remarked, grinning, as soon as Zuckerman left the office.
"Why, thank you, Agent Mulder."
Zuckerman returned in a few minutes and handed them a folder. "I've made copies of all the relevant information you asked for. Hope this helps."
"Thank you, Dr. Zuckerman. We're sure it will." With that the agents got up to leave.
Mulder's car, en route to Georgetown, DC
The silence was starting to get to her. Scully turned the reports over and over in her hand. "Mulder..."
"Mm-hmm," Mulder responded, his eyes on the road.
"I need to know...," Scully began. But she didn't know quite how to finish her sentence.
"I know, Scully," Mulder said reassuringly, "We both need to know."
After a few moments' silence, she started again, "Do you think we'll find what we're looking for in these reports?"
"I don't know, but I think it's a start. Maybe..."
"I don't know how much more of this I can take, Mulder," she interrupted him. "Every time I feel like my life is getting back on track, something happens to ruin it. First, the abduction, then my sister, the cancer, and now this." She paused, letting it sink in.
"I'm so sorry, Scully." His voice carried all the guilt and sorrow he felt. "It's all my fault. I should never have involved you in my obsession with the X-files. None of this would ever have happened, if only I'd been more careful..." His voice faded as he thought about the transfer orders lying in his desk. Any doubts he'd had before about turning the papers in were rapidly vanishing.
"Stop it, Mulder, just stop blaming yourself. None of this was your fault. Joining the FBI was my choice, just as staying and working with you was. You couldn't have done a thing to change that."
"It's just...," he began as he turned to face her, "Scully, what's the weather like outside?"
Startled and slightly hurt at the abrupt change in subject, she looked up at the sky through the windshield. "Looks like a nice, clear night. Why?"
Mulder slowed and pulled over to the curb. He pointed past her. "Because I think we just got the first break in our case. Scully, look out your window and tell me what you see."
"Mulder, that's..." she began, turning her head in the direction he pointed to. Lightning was the first thought that flashed through her mind, before the rational, logical part of her mind took control. "It's probably just a broken power line, Mulder."
"Broken power line, my ass. That's lightning, Scully," he yelled, getting out of the car, his hand reaching for his gun. "Electricity from power cables doesn't reach up to the sky, or bounce around like that."
Scully followed him as he ran across the adjacent parking lot past the three cars parked there to the maze of buildings beyond it. When they reached the area where they had seen the fireworks, the apparent lightning storm had disappeared, as abruptly as it had begun. There was no evidence of any activity. The agents looked around at the scene. The electricity had created a burn pattern in the grass approximately fifty meters wide. Where the circle of destruction brushed up against the side of the closest building, the windows on that wall were shattered, the glass strewn on the grass.
"Mulder...," she whispered, pointing to the center of the blackened circle. Mulder followed her gaze to the body that lay in the grass. His gaze traveled past the body to the object lying a few feet away. He could feel the hairs on his neck prickling from the recent electrical discharge. His stomach churned as he realized what she was pointing to. Scully moved over to the body and leaned in to take a closer look. Looking from the body to the severed head lying past it, she murmured, "Looks like a clean break. Almost exactly like the ones in the photos." She looked up at Mulder.
Suddenly Mulder saw his partner gasp and fall to her knees. Her gun fell out of her hands as she clutched her head tightly, her face tightened in a grimace of pain. He ran to her side and kneeled beside her. "What's wrong, Scully. Are you hurt?" he asked, panic-stricken.
Trying to get the chaotic emotions running through her head under control, she managed to gasp, "It feels like there's someone watching us, watching me..." She stood up, reaching for her gun. Suddenly her eyes cleared. She swung the gun up and around, yelling, "Over there."
Mulder looked in the direction she pointed just as they both heard footsteps running away. He immediately pulled his own gun up. They could barely make out the outline of a shadowy figure running to one of the cars in the lot. He seemed to be carrying something slung over his shoulder, a squirming something. The same thought coursed through both the agent's minds, a child. They glanced at each other for a fraction of a second, then took off after the figure. Before they had made it ten feet, they heard the sounds of a car starting up and moving off in a squeal of tires. Seeing that they would never make it in time, they stopped. Silently cursing, they returned to the headless body.
"How'd you know he was there, Scully? You knew before we heard the footsteps." Mulder looked at his partner, concerned over her earlier gasp of pain.
"I don't know, Mulder. I probably just heard something you missed," she said, trying to sound certain. She tried to remember what it had felt like. The sensation had almost seemed familiar. Then it hit her. It had felt like the tingling sensation she always got around Mulder, only a thousand times stronger. Looking at him, she could tell he was still concerned about her sudden collapse. Falling back on her trademark, "I'm fine, Mulder," she turned to get a better look at the body, trying to put the disturbing thoughts that were running through her mind behind her. She heard Mulder sigh and pull out his cellular to phone in the incident and request an ambulance.
"The suspect was in a gray Toyota Corolla, heading north...," Mulder was saying as Scully noticed something lying next to the victim. She silently called his attention to the sword the victim clutched tightly in his hand. Mulder nodded as he continued his conversation on the phone. She then went through his pockets to see if she could find any identification on him. She pulled out his wallet.
"Jason Rogers, age 37, lives in Annapolis," she said as Mulder finished his call.
"Looks like the next round has already started."
J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, Basement
Wednesday, January 14, 1998
Scully walked into their office to find Mulder poring over several reports strewn across his desk. How he manages to find anything in all that clutter, I'll never know, she thought, sitting down, a small smile flitting across her face. When he looked up, she said, "I just finished the autopsy on our latest victim. Well, what I could get done anyway." At his questioning look, she continued, "His body shows the same strange characteristics as the others. In fact, the abnormalities are even more pronounced in this case, probably because he died so recently. Hell, I haven't been able to keep an incision open for more than a few minutes before it starts to heal again. I finally settled for drawing blood to do most of the tests. Any invasive tests will have to wait for the body to 'cool' down, for lack of a better term."
"It's that strong, even after death?" Mulder was surprised. At her nod, he continued, "Now, I'm starting to get worried. If the body's response is this strong now, it must have taken quite a while for the children's bodies to decompose enough to allow a normal autopsy. I wonder how long they were dead before their bodies were found. We may be under a tighter time constraint than we first thought." He sighed. "Well, here's what we have on our latest victim so far." He passed her one of the reports he had been going over. "Jason Edward Rogers, age 37, wife, Mary Elizabeth Rogers. They have one son, Charles David, adopted." Scully's eyebrows rose at his emphasis on adopted. "But I can't get over how clean Rogers' background is. He has no arrests, no criminal record, no violations, nothing."
"Oh come on, Mulder. Surely you aren't condemning the man for being a good citizen."
"But, not even a parking ticket, Scully? No one's that good," he said, cynically. Scully rolled her eyes. "Besides," he continued, more seriously, "that's not all. His birth records indicate that he was born at St. Mary's Hospital in Chicago. But, look at this." Mulder passed another piece of paper to Scully. "This is a death certificate for one Jason Edward Rogers, dated two days later. Both his parents appear to have been killed in a freak car accident a few years after he was born. No other known relatives. Sounds a little too convenient, if you ask me."
"You think this is a false identity?" Scully asked. "Maybe, he was in a witness protection program."
"Nope, already checked that. There is simply no physical record of our Mr. Rogers anywhere before 1989, just a nice clean paper trail that no one seems to have followed up on. All I could find out for sure is that, in 1989, Rogers married his wife and they moved to Maryland. They adopted their son in 1992. Before that, nothing. I don't remember if I mentioned this before. But, when I ran a check on the other decapitated adults, they all seemed to have the same doctored records. I thought it was strange that none of these people could be traced back accurately past more than a decade or so at the most."
"I think a visit to Mrs. Rogers is in order."
Mulder nodded and stood up.
The Rogers residence, Annapolis, MD
Mulder knocked on the door and waited. A moment later, the door opened to reveal a woman in her thirties. She pushed her long brown hair out of her eyes. Mulder noticed that they seemed red and puffy from crying.
"Mrs. Mary Rogers?"
She nodded, a questioning look in her eyes.
"My name is Fox Mulder," he said, pulling out his badge. "I work for the FBI. This is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. Could we come in?"
She pulled the door back further and wordlessly walked in. She led the way to the living room and motioned the agents to the couch. "What is this about? Did you find Charles?" The words came tumbling out.
Mulder gritted his teeth, knowing what he was about to say would not be easy for the poor woman. "We're very sorry about your loss, Mrs. Rogers. We realize this must be a very traumatic time for you." He paused for a moment before continuing, "But we need to ask you a few questions. We need all the help we can get to find your son."
"What do you want to know?" she asked hoarsely.
"When we found your husband's body last night..." He heard a choked gasp, but continued. "we also saw someone running away with what looked like a child over his shoulder. Unfortunately, he got away before we could get a good look at him."
"Could you tell us exactly what happened last night, Mrs. Rogers," Scully continued where Mulder left off. "Do you have any idea why your husband and son were out so late last night?"
The sobbing woman took a few moments to gather her thoughts. "We had just come back from the movies. Charles was supposed to be in his room. As we entered, we heard the sound of glass breaking upstairs. When we ran up to his room, the room was empty. We heard a car start up outside. Jason told me to stay put and not do anything. Then he rushed out of the house. I suppose he went to follow whoever took Charles." She had a pained expression on her face. "I didn't hear from him again until the hospital called me to identify the body."
"Did you see the man who took your son?" asked Mulder. He was surprised by the fleeting look of hatred on her face before the mask of pain and anguish slammed back into place.
"No," she replied quietly, "I didn't."
She looked down at her hands while answering. Both agents noticed her wringing her hands, and were trying to decide what angle to pursue next, when suddenly she looked up again, a decisive look on her face.
"I don't think I can handle this. If you don't have anymore questions, I'd really like to be alone now."
Neither agent could think of a suitable way to pursue the issue, and decided to leave for now. They stood up to leave. Mrs. Rogers walked past them towards the door to let them out.
As soon as they got into their car, Mulder turned to his partner. "So, what was that all about? I got the distinct impression she didn't tell us everything," he said, as she started the car.
"Same here. She kept wringing her hands when you talked about the kidnapper, as if she was uncomfortable with that line of questioning. And another thing keeps bothering me. Why didn't she call the police, or 911, or somebody? Not many people can just sit around doing nothing while their son is being kidnapped. I think she may have seen the man who took her son." She paused, frowning. "But, that doesn't make sense. Why would she want to protect him? What could she possibly have to hide?"
"I don't know, but it certainly matches the earlier patterns. None of the parents who were also found decapitated ever reported their children missing. Also, did you notice her expression when I asked her if she'd seen his face? I think you're right. She did see him. What's more, I think she also recognized him. Maybe that's why she didn't report it. She may have thought her husband could handle whoever it was." He reached into his coat to take out his pen and a small notebook, and proceeded to sketch something on it.
"What's that you're drawing?" Scully asked, sparing a quick glance at the notebook. "Looks like a Mercedes Benz symbol."
"It's a tattoo. I saw it on Mrs. Rogers left inner wrist. She kept trying to cover it with her other hand all the time we were there."
"Hmmm..." Scully said, thinking about the sketch, "I don't recognize it. But then, many people have tattoos. It may not mean anything."
"It just seems unusual. Almost like a symbol more than a picture, don't you think? I'll do some checking when we get back to the office to see if I can dig up anything about it," he said, raising his hand to brace himself as Scully made a sharp turn. "Slow down, Scully. That's the third turn you've made in as many minutes. Where are we headed off to in such a hurry, anyway?"
"I think there's a car following us. A dark blue sedan about three cars behind us. He's followed us through all three turns."
Mulder turned around to look back. Spotting the sedan his partner mentioned, he said, "That car seems familiar somehow. I'm going to call this in. I want to talk to whoever is in that car." He reached for his cell phone and called for some backup.
Within minutes, he heard the wails of police sirens behind him. Scully stopped the car and they both stepped out. They saw the sedan a few hundred meters behind them, surrounded by two black and whites. Walking towards the car, Mulder suddenly realized where he had seen it earlier. He remembered it being parked in the lot last night when he and his partner were running towards the lightning storm. He cursed himself for not realizing it sooner. When the ambulance had pulled up to remove the body, there had been only one car in the lot, Rogers'. The two other cars had been missing. He had totally ignored it then, his thoughts too clouded by the events at the time. Now he realized that whoever was in the sedan had probably witnessed the events the night before. He had obviously followed the car the kidnapper had driven off in. Hell, he probably even knows where the boy was taken. Thinking this, he picked up his pace, causing Scully to run to catch up.
When they reached the cars, they saw a man being held by two policemen. He glared at the men holding him, and then at the two federal agents as they approached. "You can't arrest me. I haven't done anything," he sputtered.
"On the contrary," Mulder interrupted his tirade, "you are under arrest for suspicion of complicity in a kidnapping. Book him, officer." As the suspect was read his rights and handcuffed, Scully nudged her partner. She directed his attention to the man's hands, specifically to his left wrist. Mulder noticed the same tattoo he'd seen earlier on Mrs. Rogers. "Well, at least we know now that the tattoo isn't just a random symbol."
"Yes, Dr. Warren, the fax is just coming in. Thank you very much for the information. I'm glad I caught you before you left. That's another favor I owe you." Mulder paused, listening to the voice on the other end of the phone. He chuckled, "Just add it to my tab. I'll talk to you later, sir. Goodnight." He turned to his partner. "Tracking down that symbol took forever. That was my anthropology professor from Oxford, Dr. Victor Warren. Let's see what information he could provide us." He picked up the sheets from the fax machine and walked over to Scully.
"Anthropology, Mulder? What possible connection could a tattoo have to the study of ancient cultures?"
"I've looked everywhere else, Scully. The FBI database, CIA, Interpol. No one knows what this symbol could mean. It doesn't represent any club or any kind of organization either in the US or elsewhere. I figured if there is no current record of this Mercedes Benz thing, as you put it, there may be some mention of it in historical records somewhere. It was a long shot, I admit, but I think it paid off." He placed the fax sheets in front of her on the desk and leaned down to read them. "Looks like there's only a few scattered reports of it though, even in historical records, but some of these references date back almost 1200 years."
"It says here that this symbol represented an ancient group of record keepers. Apparently, they kept accounts of historical events throughout most of recorded history. It's amazing that any single organization has survived as long as these reports seem to indicate."
"Hmmm...," Mulder shrugged. "For any group of people to survive that long, it would take some pretty strong ideology or belief to foster that kind of unity. In most cases of long lived cults and sects, the main unifying factor is religion. But, in this case, these records seem to indicate membership across the world, spanning various religions. I wonder what kept this group together for so long."
"Well, it says here...," Scully said, pulling out a couple of sheets from the rest, "that these people recorded the activities of certain individuals specifically, rather than historical events in general. This is strange...," she paused, rereading the paragraph to make sure she'd read it right. "Some of the individuals whose activities were recorded seem to appear in different time periods. Apparently, these Watchers, as they call themselves, observed the activities of purported immortals. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. No one can live that long."
"Didn't we have this same conversation yesterday?" Mulder asked, referring to their argument about the strange decomposition properties of the victims' bodies. He stood up and began to pace, an idea forming in his mind. "You remember the autopsy reports that mentioned accelerated healing, right? Well, maybe the healing effects go so far as to slow down the aging process, or stop it altogether. After all, aging is simply continuous wear and tear until the body can't take anymore and results in death." His voice dropped to an awed whisper. "With healing at the level we've been seeing in these victims, maybe they've managed to actually beat death at its own game." He turned to look at his partner, his eyes flashing.
"I'll believe that when I see some proof of it," she said, dismissing that particular line of conjecture. "Meanwhile, there don't seem to be any concrete records of these 'Watchers' in the past 300 years. Why do you suppose that would be? You think they've run out of immortals to watch."
"Maybe they've simply become better at hiding themselves. Or, maybe they've had to. Such stories could easily be attributed to legends and magic in those times. Today, such activities would come under intense scrutiny. Maybe hiding their existence is the only way to protect themselves and their immortals from public exposure."
"Mulder, if these people were truly immortal, how could they be killed?" She paused, a questioning look in her eye. "You do agree that these victims are dead, don't you?"
"Yeah, they're definitely dead. Of that, there's no doubt. And that part, I can't explain. Maybe the neck area where they were beheaded was their Achilles' heel of sorts. You know, their one vulnerable spot, that sort of thing. Every unstoppable, all powerful force in most legends has some sort of vulnerability, some weakness to be exploited. It's almost required to maintain the balance of things."
"Don't go all mystical on me, Mulder. I'm sure there's some scientific explanation for this. But for now, what say we go grill a Watcher?"
"Ooh! I love it when you talk dirty, Scully," Mulder replied with an affected leer.
They rose and headed to the interrogation chambers where their most recent lead was being held.
FBI Interrogation Chambers
"His name is Samuel McGuire." Scully held up the paperwork on their suspect. "It doesn't list any permanent address here. But he works for some research firm based in France, in one of their American branches. Apparently, his work forces him to move around a lot. Look at this," she pointed out a section of the information to her partner. "He entered the US and landed in Florida about a week before the first round of killings took place. Since then he's been placed in approximately the same general areas in each state where the kidnappings took place. Hotel rooms, credit card purchases, all in the same vicinity as the decapitations." She turned to look at Mulder. He was watching the suspect sitting alone in the small room beyond the one way mirror. "What do you think, Mulder? Do you think he was an accomplice? Or was he just watching our kidnapper?"
"Something tells me he wasn't responsible for the kidnappings. But, I'd bet a month's salary he knows something about the children's whereabouts." He turned to face Scully. "I wonder what his reaction would be if we confronted him with the information we got from Dr. Warren."
"They'd probably lock us up in the loony bin if they found out," she responded realistically. "Even if there were a grain of truth in those records, all he has to do is deny it. We don't have any proof to back up those claims."
"We'll see." With that, Mulder pushed open the door and walked in. With a sigh, Scully followed him into the room and sat down to face their suspect.
His attitude had not changed in the few hours since they'd last seen him. He continued to glare at the agents. "You know you can't hold me here indefinitely," he snarled. "You don't have any proof that I had anything to do with those kidnappings you told me about. You have to let me go."
"You don't seem to understand the situation here, Mr. McGuire. A young boy has been kidnapped. The crime seems to be following a pattern similar to several others in states all along the east coast. If this pattern continues to hold, we can expect the child to be dead within the week at the most. As for proof of your collaboration in the crime, I never mentioned any kidnappings other than the most recent one before now. Yet you seem to already know about the other cases. Would you care to explain how you came by this knowledge?" McGuire visibly paled at this. "Besides," Mulder continued, "I saw your car in the parking lot yesterday night when we found the body of the boy's father. I don't think we will have any problems convincing a court of law of your involvement in the murder or the kidnapping." Mulder didn't think the man could pale any more. He was wrong... McGuire now looked positively sick. "So, if you have any information to give us concerning the whereabouts of this kidnapper, we strongly suggest you cooperate. Things may go easier for you if you do."
"I don't have anything to say to you," he managed to croak out. "I'm not saying anything more until I see my lawyer."
Mulder sighed. "Have it your way, Mr. McGuire. But, don't expect this thing to simply blow over. Withholding information in a federal investigation is a felony. Even if you were only a bystander during these kidnappings, it is your responsibility to come forward with the information. Watchers shouldn't just passively observe. Don't you have a conscience?" Mulder watched McGuire's face closely as he put just the slightest emphasis on Watchers. He wasn't disappointed at the startled reaction. At that moment, they heard somebody knock on the door. Turning around, they saw a fellow agent beckoning them outside.
"I don't know what kind of connections this guy has," said the agent as soon as they closed the door behind them. "But, he's being protected from the very top. I just got off the phone from Skinner. McGuire's lawyer is on his way here. We've got to release him. We don't have any choice in the matter, Agent Mulder."
Nodding his head in defeat, Mulder turned to go back into the room.
"What are you going to do, Mulder?"
"He's already getting off scot-free. I don't think there's any harm in pushing a few buttons before we let him leave. Just play along, Scully." With that, he reached for the handle to push the door open.
"We just got a call saying your lawyer will be here in a few minutes," Mulder remarked, sitting back down. "Until then, would you mind answering a few questions to satisfy my curiosity?"
McGuire looked suspiciously at Mulder, wondering where this was leading. He wasn't sure about this fed. Did he know, could he possibly suspect? Nah, it was probably just a coincidence. However, his next words completely blew this theory out of the water.
"That's an interesting tattoo on your hand. How long have you been assigned to watch this kidnapper, Mr. McGuire?"
If the question caught McGuire by surprise, it caused no less a reaction in Scully. She placed a hand on her partner's arm. "Mulder...," her voice held a hint of warning.
He looked at her, silently asking her to allow him this. He had to know. He blinked a sign of gratitude when she backed off. He turned back to face McGuire. The man looked absolutely speechless. Mulder decided to continue his attack. "Was Mrs. Rogers assigned to her husband? Did he know? Answer me, Mr. McGuire."
The last statement seemed to shake the suspect out of his shock. He looked down his hands, a sullen expression on his face. He refused to say another word.
Mulder sighed, realizing that they wouldn't get any information out of him. Motioning to Scully to follow him, he got up to leave.
Closing the door behind him a little harder than he intended to, he muttered, "Our one sure lead, and we have to let him go." He turned to the agent standing next to him. "I want to place a tail on him. I want to know every move he makes. You got that?" He turned on his heel, and stalked out, followed by Scully.
"What now, Mulder?" Scully asked as they headed back to their basement office.
"Now, Scully, we wait." He stopped suddenly. "I'm starved. How about we grab a bite to eat. I want to go over those records we got last night from Dr. Zuckerman. With all that's been going on, we completely pushed your condition onto the backburner. I won't feel comfortable until I know you aren't in any danger from this." He started walking again, this time headed towards the nearest exit.
Scully stared at his back, then hurried to catch up to his long strides. Despite the casual way he'd broached the subject, she'd noticed the concern lacing his voice. 'Even with a juicy X-file to investigate, he still finds the time to worry about me.' The thought brought tears to her eyes, tears which she fought to keep hidden. That's what I love... I mean, like about him. I hope he never changes. She constantly surprised herself with the intensity of emotion he managed to evoke within her.
Sally's delicatessen, private booth
After they finished ordering, Scully took out the reports she'd wrangled out of the hospital the night before. She slowly started flipping through them, her frown deepening. A few minutes later, their order arrived, and she put the reports aside.
They ate in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, each unwilling to discuss the fears that rose unbidden in their minds. Mulder kept picturing a future without Scully by his side. Come next week, the transfer orders will be handed in. I don't know how I'll manage without you, Scully. I just don't know.
Scully mentally winced trying to tally the losses she'd faced since being assigned to the X-files. She prayed fervently that the next loss would not include Mulder. She shuddered at the prospect of a life without Mulder. Exactly when did he become such an integral part of my life, anyway. It's not like we're in a relationship or anything. We're just partners, and best friends, right? she asked herself. Right, her rational mind answered promptly. Then why do I feel so lost without him by my side? For once her cool, logical, scientific persona was strangely silent.
She pushed the rest of her salad aside, noticing that her partner did the same with his food. "I lost my appetite."
"Same here," he said. "So, find anything interesting in those reports, Scully?" he asked, trying to shake the depressive mood he seemed to be falling into.
His partner nodded, glad to be thinking about something else. "You could say that. If you remember, I was told about my cancer being in remission on the night of October 15th." She paused, pulling out the sheet that lay on top of the stack of papers. "These are the results from the blood samples and x-rays dated before that day. The x-rays clearly show a cancerous mass, and the blood samples seem normal in every way, well, for a cancer-ridden patient, anyway." She handed the report to Mulder and turned back to pull another sheet out of the stack. "Now, these are from blood and x-rays taken on the 15th. There is no sign of any tumor at all in the x-rays. When they first said that the cancer was in remission, I'd assumed that the tumor had just grown smaller. But apparently, it had completely disappeared. I've never heard of cancer disappearing that fast in all my years in medicine."
"And the blood-work?" Mulder asked, looking through the sheets she handed him.
"The ones from the 15th show the same abnormalities as the victims' blood. This just confirms what I found at the FBI labs yesterday. The same heightened T cell count, the enlarged red blood cell size. Neither in itself is strange in the case of recently recovered patients, so the reports didn't raise any suspicions at the time. But, normally, such abnormalities disappear within a week or so. In my case, it hasn't. It doesn't mention the increased cell replacement rate, but I suppose it could easily be overlooked if you weren't specifically looking for it like I was. But it does note the increased amount of sodium and several electrolytic substances in my blood. The highest concentration seemed to be near the place where we put the chip back in. The doctor in charge didn't have an explanation for this, but he obviously considered it non-life threatening."
"Heightened sodium and electrolyte levels, huh?" Mulder appeared lost in thought. "Aren't they good conductors of electricity? And you mentioned that they appeared to be concentrated in the neck area. Same vulnerable spot in the victims, and our mythical immortals. Quite a coincidence, wouldn't you say, Dr. Scully?"
"Now what are you suggesting, Mulder? That I'm immortal? I don't feel any different. Besides, like I said, I'll believe that when I see proof."
"First of all, you suggested it, not me. Although, it would certainly explain Mr. Bruckman's strange prediction." He briefly thought about how the strange psychic's prediction about his own death would come to pass. Auto-erotic asphyxiation, indeed! "Second, it's going to be impossible to get proof. I don't think you would take kindly to being killed just to prove a point. And if you even consider it," he added with a smile, "I'll have you locked up in chains."
"Relax, Mulder, I'm not that crazy." She looked at him with a mischievous smile spreading across her face. "At least, not yet. Lord knows, working with you, I don't know how I've managed to stay sane so far."
Before her partner could supply a witty rejoinder to her remark, they were both startled by the shrill noise of her cell phone going off. "Scully..." She listened to the voice on the other end for a few moments, punctuating the conversation with the occasional "uh-huh." She clicked her phone off with a final "Thanks, I'll tell him," and turned to Mulder. "Well, that was Agent Walters down at headquarters. Our Mr. McGuire is now officially a free man. They've put a tail on him, as you requested."
"Good. Where is he now?"
"Mulder," she said in an exasperated tone, "it's been less than an hour since we last saw him. At least, give the man a chance to get out of the parking lot first." She paused. "You know, that was pretty risky, mentioning the information from that fax. You may have scared him off."
"At least I didn't mention anything about immortals."
"Thank God for small favors," Scully responded sarcastically.
"Ha ha! Anyway, I think our Mr. McGuire has a conscience, if not a whole lot of common sense or tracking skills. I'll give you ten to one odds, he'll go to see Mary Rogers within the next couple of days."
"It's a bet. My guess is he'll get on the next flight out of DC. You probably spooked him with your questions. Even if there's the smallest possibility of your theory being true, which I doubt, he might just hand over his assignment to somebody else."
"Something tells me these assignments are more personal than that. I don't think he'll give his up so easily. Are you done?," he asked. At her answering nod, he got up, placing a couple of bills on the table to take care of the check.
J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building
Mulder had been quiet on the way back to work. He was still deep in thought as the agents reentered the building. He noticed the line of people getting prepped by the guide before leaving on a tour of one of DC's hot tourist spots. As he watched them walk single file through the metal detectors, his thoughts flew back to the days during his so-called death in New Mexico. It had been at this same security checkpoint that Scully had first discovered the chip implanted in her neck. That was when she had not yet been cleared for active duty after being suspended. On a hunch, he stopped and turned towards the fast disappearing line, pulling Scully along with him.
"I want to try something, Scully. I'd rather explain afterwards. Just trust me on this. Could you give me your gun and walk through the metal detectors?" Seeing her bewildered look, he added, "C'mon Scully, think of it as a favor."
"If this is another of your practical jokes, Mulder, I'm warning you. I don't take kindly to embarrassment."
"Aww, Scully. Where's the trust?"
She rolled her eyes. "Okay, Mulder, I'll humor you. But you have to promise to tell me what this is about."
"Scout's honor, cross my heart and hope to die."
"Mulder, you were never in the Boy Scouts." She shook her head as they headed towards the detectors. Reaching it, she handed her gun to her partner and stepped through. Hearing the beeping sound, she stepped back and removed her cross and keys. Placing them in the tray, she stepped forward once again. The guard handed her back her things once she was through. She saw her partner going around the detectors to the other side. He had a stunned look on his face as he handed her gun back to her. "Okay, Mulder, spill it. What was that all about? You look like you've just seen a ghost."
He was still staring at the detectors. "I was half expecting this, but still..." He tore his eyes away to look down at his partner. "Do you remember, during New Mexico, you were forced to take time off?"
She nodded, painfully recalling the circumstances behind the forced leave, but still not quite sure where this was headed. "Yeah, I had to wear that stupid visitor's pass and go through these detectors every time. It was so annoying. But what's that got to do with..."
"Scully, the chip..." He was so excited, it was all he could do to keep from shouting. "It set off the alarm that time," he hissed. He saw understanding slowly creep into his partner's eyes. "When I heard the beep the first time, I was sure I was wrong. But, when you stepped through again, ..."
"... the alarm didn't go off," she finished in a whisper.
He mutely nodded.
An unmarked building at the outskirts of the city
"Just where do you guys come up with this stuff?" Mulder looked around the dimly lit room. The dingy atmosphere attempted to hide the complex and advanced machinery carelessly strewn around the room, but wasn't doing too good a job with it. "X-ray machine, EKG sensor..." His eyes came to rest on one of the machines in the far corner. He squinted harder, a look of incredulity passing across his face. "A dialysis machine?" He shook his head.
The agents had gone to the Lone Gunmen for help when they'd realized the implications of the metal detector. When asked for any medical equipment they might have access to, they had brought the partners here. From the outside, it looked like any other building in the area, quiet and unassuming. No one could have possibly guessed what lay inside. The Gunmen had led the two through the building into the basement. Behind a steel reinforced door at the back was the room they found themselves in at the moment. Around them lay various pieces of equipment. Some looked like medical machinery. Others resembled computers, but seemed more advanced than any either of them had seen before. As for the rest, they didn't even bother trying to guess at their function.
"Don't ask, don't tell, Mulder. Besides, you really don't want to know." Byers turned to face Scully. "So, what exactly do you want our equipment for?"
"We want to run a full physical. But I wanted it to be done discreetly. I didn't want this going through any official channels."
"Well, we aim to please. You should find everything you need in here. And don't worry, there won't be any record of this after you're done," said Langly. "So who's the lucky patient? Some new case you two are working on?"
"Actually, the patient is me. And I'm not sure if this has anything to do with our current case or not."
At her statement, Frohike jumped forward and came to her side. "Are you okay, Agent Scully? The cancer...?" He left the sentence unfinished, a questioning look in his eye.
"No, Frohike, it hasn't come back. But thanks for asking." She looked at Mulder, wondering how much to tell them. She wanted to keep this unexpected turn of events quiet, at least for now. His neutral expression gave her his answer. Your call, Scully, he said silently. She nodded, blinking back her thanks for not saying anything. She turned back to the trio. "I just wanted to check for any residual effects of putting the chip back in. I didn't want the powers that be to get wind of anything I found out. So I didn't want to go to a hospital."
The Gunmen nodded, realizing that that would be the best explanation either agent would give them at this time. If it was necessary, they knew that the partners wouldn't hesitate to tell them the whole story. But for now, they were satisfied with her explanation.
They let the matter drop, much to Scully's relief. She followed Byers as he led her around the room, showing her all the equipment that lay there. "I expect you already know how to use most of these. Well, the medical ones anyway. If you need any help, we'll be just outside." The three men turned and moved towards the door. Before he left, Frohike turned around, and in a quiet voice, whispered, "Good luck, Agent Scully. I hope you find what you're looking for. Or not, as the case may be." He turned back and left, closing the door behind him.
Scully moved to the x-ray machine. "So, have you ever used one of these before, Mulder?" Seeing him shake his head, she said, "Well, I'll need some help with this, so now's as good a time as any to learn." She beckoned him over to the controls while she adjusted the machine. "Come here. See this button?" she asked, pointing to one of the myriad of switches and buttons adorning the control panel. "I want you to watch this monitor here, and as soon as it says it's ready, push the button. Is that clear?" At his nod, she turned around and went to stand in front of the machine.
When the machine finished printing out the x-ray, she took it out and looked at it. She felt her partner walk over and look at it over her shoulder.
"You know what, Scully?" Mulder quipped. "Maybe we should put in a requisition order for our own x-ray machine. Between us, we seem to use the damn thing more than the entire department combined." To himself he thought, T minus 3... 2... 1, liftoff! He was not disappointed. As he watched her eyebrows climb up her forehead, he smiled to himself.
"Can the humor, Mulder. It's not funny," she said sharply, turning around to face him. But the slight curl at the edge of her lips belied her serious tone.
Mulder was surprised at the look in her eyes. If he could pin it down to one emotion, it would have been... relief? "What does the x-ray say?" he asked, curious to see what could cause such a reaction.
"The chip's still there, Mulder, though I can't feel the incision from the surgery anymore." She paused as Mulder walked around her. He pushed aside her hair to examine her neck. She looked up as he turned to face her. At his nod of confirmation, she continued, "Although, the chip seems much smaller, which is probably why the detector didn't pick it up." She pointed out the chip on the x-rays she had taken.
"It does seem smaller." He squinted at the picture. "It was small enough before. Now, I can hardly see it. Can we get a closer look at it, magnify it somehow?"
Scully nodded and motioned him over to one of the tables. She placed the x-ray under a magnifier and showed him the enlarged picture on the attached monitor. Playing with the controls, she focused on the area where the chip had been implanted. Both were shocked at what they saw. The chip was definitely smaller.
Mulder remembered looking at it under a magnifying glass at the offices of the Lone Gunmen when he'd first discovered it. Then, it had looked like a small disc with an impossible amount of circuitry on it. Now, it looked like nothing more than a piece of dull metal. Gone were the complex etchings that had once marked its surface.
"It looks corroded, like it's being dissolved," remarked Scully.
Her partner nodded. "Do you think this could be caused by a hyperactive immune system?"
"I've never heard of an immune system acting this aggressively before. Technically speaking, this is what white blood cells normally do, but this is the first time I've seen it on this large a scale."
"Now, finally, are you convinced about my crazy accelerated healing theory?"
"Much as I hate to admit it, Mulder, it looks like you may be right. Although, I still have a hard time swallowing the story about alleged immortality."
"Damn, where's my tape recorder when I need it?" Mulder made a show of feeling his pockets. "I'm missing the rarest event in history. Dr. Dana Katherine Scully, avowed skeptic, has finally acknowledged that one of my theories could be true." He paused, a twinkling look in his eye. "Are you sure you're the real Dana Scully, and not a nefarious clone?" He waggled his eyebrows at her.
"Quite sure, Mulder," she replied, trying to suppress her smile.
"So, what do you want to do next?"
"I want to try the electromyogragh next. It measures electrical potential in muscles and tissues. There is usually some small amount of electrical activity in all muscles. But, with the lightning we've seen and the heightened presence of electrical conductors in my blood, I want to make sure that my muscles and tissues aren't being adversely affected."
"Okay, just show me how to use it."
She shook her head. "No. This one I can manage myself. I just need to put these sensors on. Stomach, arms, legs, one on my back, and one on my neck should do it." She removed her jacket and proceeded to attach the sensors. As she was reaching behind her to affix the last one, it slipped out of her hand.
Mulder leaned down to pick up the sensor. "Here, let me..." He pulled up her shirt slightly and proceeded to place the pad on her back.
Scully felt a slight shiver when Mulder pressed the device against her back. Relax, she chided herself, it's only Mulder, only Mulder... She chanted the mantra over and over as she tried to keep the decidedly unpartnerlike thoughts running through her head under control. Suddenly she stiffened. His fingers were grazing her lower back, below where he'd placed the sensor. Ohmigod! What's he doing? She heard him chuckle softly.
"Something funny, Mulder?" she managed to croak out.
"You remember that tattoo you got once?"
"Uh-huh," she nodded, not wanting to remember the circumstances under which she'd gotten it. God, what had she been thinking? Anger at her partner, and at her life in general, had caused her to vent her frustrations in a very unprofessional manner. She'd gotten drunk, gotten a tattoo, and almost slept with a complete stranger, all in one night. What a mistake that would have been, she thought wryly. My boyfriend, the lunatic. She had been shocked at Ed's mental state the next day. And the tattoo itself, an ugly reminder in a place where she needed two mirrors just to look at it without wrenching her neck. Shaking her head, she pushed the unpleasant memories away, trying to pay attention to what Mulder was saying.
"How much did you like it?"
"I didn't, Mulder. I still don't know why I got it in the first place. Why'd you ask?"
"That's good. That you didn't like it, I mean. Well, at least you don't have to worry about getting it removed." He stood up to face her. "It's gone."
"Gone? What do you mean, gone?"
"Accelerated healing, remember. I doubt a tattoo would remain on you for more than a day. It would heal too quickly."
"Hmmm." That was all she said aloud. Inside, she heaved a sigh of relief. That's one reminder I could do without. "Well, let's get on with the myograph. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes. See these displays here," she said, pointing out the dials to her partner. "They show the amount of electrical activity that the sensors detect." She paused to turn on the device. Turning back to the dials, she saw the needles climb past the normal threshold levels for most humans, and into the edges of the scale. "Oh my god!" She stared incredulously at the readout and then at her partner. Seeing the confused look on his face, she pointed out the display to him. "You see this point here. That's the normal electrical threshold for most people. My readings seem to be off the scale. This machine wasn't meant to read electrical activity that high." She quietly unhooked the sensor pads from her body.
Mulder looked around the room until his eyes lit upon a very familiar instrument. An electrical energy monitor, of a type he was intimately acquainted with. It looked like a gun with a readout window that showed the amount of ambient electrical activity in the area where the nozzle was pointed. He'd used it extensively at sites of reported UFO sightings, since such incidents were often linked to heightened levels of radiation and electrical potential in the immediate area. He nudged Scully as she put the sensors back next to the myograph, and pointed out the device to her. "Maybe the solution is to use an instrument designed for levels that high." He walked over and picked it up. Making sure it was calibrated right, he walked back and pointed the device at his partner.
"Are you sure you know how to use that thing, Mulder."
"Yeah," he nodded, trying to discern all the dials and controls in the dim light. "I've been to enough UFO sightings to know how. You should know, Scully," he said, looking up at her, a sly grin on his face. "You've only been to, what, a gazillion of them with me?"
"Uh-huh, so what should I do, genius?" she quipped.
"That I can't help you with. I usually aim this thing at inanimate objects lying around, the ground, trees, rocks, that sort of thing. I'm not sure what to base the readings off of or compare them against."
She shook her head. Typical Mulder, leave it to him to figure out the impossible, and leave it to me to supply all the niggling details. "Maybe what we need is a control. Why don't you show me how to use the thing, and I'll test it on you first."
"Okay." He walked up to her and showed her the various switches and settings to get an accurate reading. Then he walked back to face her. "Just point that thing at me and note the readings at various places. Then we'll compare them against your readings at the same spots."
She nodded and proceeded to quickly jot down some readings on the pad lying next to her on the table. When she was finished, she handed both the pad and the device to her partner.
He set about repeating the same experiment, starting at her legs. As he progressed up her body, he repeatedly checked the readings against the ones on the pad. As he neared her neck area, he paused and looked at the readings again to make sure he was reading it right. Finally he put down the sensor and handed the pad to Scully. "Every single reading is near the top of the scale, except the ones near the neck area. There they just jump off the screen." At her incredulous stare, he said, "I know, that's impossibly high for a human. I'm just telling you what I saw, Scully. I rechecked every reading twice." Here he paused, an idea forming in his mind. "You know, this could explain the lightning phenomenon we keep hearing about in connection with these immortals. The electrical readings are highly concentrated around the neck area. Maybe severing the vertebrae around that area releases the enormous potential buildup within the body, resulting in a quick, but massive electrical discharge."
As she pondered the implications of the recent discovery, a thought flashed across her mind. "One thing's bothering me about all this, Mulder..."
"Only one thing, Scully?" he interrupted her, smirking.
"It's a figure of speech, Mulder," she chastised him. "Now, I know for a fact that genetic engineering has been around less than a century. Yet, the records we got from your professor at Oxford indicated that these so called immortals have been around for centuries," she said lightly, belying the seriousness of the situation. "So how do you explain this incongruity?"
"I'm not suggesting that the immortals are part of any genetic engineering experiments. For all I know, they may fit some ecological niche in evolution. Or, they may be the result of non-human, that is, alien experimentation. In fact, it may even be that your condition may not be due to the results of your abduction, but rather something you come by naturally anyway."
"Mulder," she interrupted him. "I don't fit the pattern we've been seeing among the victims. Not the ones in our case, and definitely not the ones in those other X-files. First of all, I don't run around with a sword chopping people's heads off." Her partner couldn't help a small chuckle at that. They both tried to picture the diminutive redhead, brandishing a sword, dueling with an opponent. The thought made them both smile. "I don't have a false identity nor am I a foundling or a child. I know for a fact that I was not adopted. All the tests I've gone through recently would have shown any discrepancies between my DNA and my family's."
"... or maybe," he continued his earlier thoughts, as if she'd never interrupted, "during your abduction, the Consortium actually managed to genetically replicate in you the conditions inherent in a previously secretive, but naturally occurring race of immortals. Besides, the false identities were probably the results of outgrowing previous ones. I mean, such long-lived people would have to hide the fact that they weren't getting any older. New identities would probably be a must. But," he paused slightly, shaking his head before continuing, "at this point, Scully, any conclusion we reach is pure speculation. We need more information than what we have right now." He paused to pull out his cell phone. "And I know just the source for what we're looking for. Our friendly neighborhood Watcher, Sam McGuire. I'm going to call and find out exactly where he is. Maybe we can get some information from him if we convince him we'll keep it off the records."
Before he could hit the speed dial to contact Headquarters, however, the phone rang. He turned it on and held it to his ear. He listened intently for a few minutes. Finally he said, "Thanks we'll be right there." and hung up. Turning to his partner, he said, "Looks like you owe me, Scully. That was one of the tails we put on McGuire. Our man's just stopped over at the Rogers' place. And, I doubt he's making a social call."
Mulder's car, en route to the Rogers' residence
Mulder peered at the sky through the windshield as he drove. "What time is it, Scully? I want to make it to the Rogers' before dark."
Scully looked at her watch. Whoops, forgot to get the spare. Oh, well. "Sorry Mulder, watch's busted." She looked over at the clock on the dash. It read 3:20 in blinking digits. She sighed and looked at her partner's watch, trying to read it's face upside down as he drove. "It's 6:20 Mulder. By the way, when are you going to get around to setting the time on the clock." She pushed the unmarked buttons next to it, trying to set it herself. A few seconds later, she gave up in disgust. The display either speeded up when she pushed one button, or blinked back to 12:00 when she touched another.
He smiled. "Forget it, Scully. I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to set that thing. I have yet to figure out the exact function of the buttons." He saw her rifling through the glove compartment. "It's not even listed in the manual. Believe me, I've looked." He heard her closing the door with a curse.
"Are you sure it's not an X-file, Mulder?" she joked.
"I'm not certain, Scully. But, I'll be sure to have it checked out the next time I go to the mechanic's" he joked back. "So what happened to your watch?"
"I don't know. Lately, every watch I get seems to quit working after a few days. All except the one you gave me last Christmas." It had been a gag gift, but she cherished it nonetheless, and was glad it still worked.
"The one with the Marvin the Martian on it?" When she nodded, he said thoughtfully, "It could have something to do with the increased levels of electrical activity in your body. The one I gave you was the windup kind. No electrical parts. You remember Willis' watch, right?"
Her thoughts flew back to the moments after the Lazarus case, as they'd dubbed it. She had been cleaning out Jack Willis' desk, and came across the watch she'd given him on his 35th birthday. It had stopped due to a supposed surge of electrical activity in his body after his near death experience as explained by the professor in Maryland they'd consulted. She frowned as her thoughts settled on something disturbing.
"Mulder..." she said uncertainly. "I remember asking Dr. Zuckerman why he so suddenly had the blood-work and x-rays done, especially so late at night." She looked up to see Mulder turning from the road to spare her a questioning glance, wondering where this was headed. "He joked about it, saying it was a false alarm. He'd responded to a code blue from my room at around 8:30 in the evening."
"Code blue? Isn't that..." he froze as he realized the implications of the alarm.
"Yeah!" she answered weakly. "It means that the heart monitor stopped reading a heartbeat. But he said that when he finally reached my room, the monitor showed a steady rhythm. He ordered the workup done just to be on the safe side, but he thought that it had been just a momentary power surge or something in the alarm system. Now, I'm not so sure."
"What do you mean, not sure?"
"Well, it's just that, maybe this increased electrical activity in my body is the result of a near death experience or whatever. Maybe this immortality thing has to be jumpstarted or something. I know I didn't have these accelerated healing powers before that night. I mean, I wouldn't have had cancer if I did, right?" She felt like she was blabbering, but she needed Mulder to say something, anything, to back up or deny what she was saying. At the moment, she wasn't sure what she wanted his response to be. She looked down at her hands clasped together tightly in her lap.
He reached over and placed a hand over hers reassuringly. "I suppose that makes sense, well, as much sense as any of this does, at any rate. It might well be that the chip was required to make some sort of connection happen at the moment of death to jumpstart your condition. When you had it taken out, it could no longer control the changes your body was going through, possibly causing the cancer. Putting the chip back probably saved your life. Just in time too, I might add. That's one thing I owe Cancerman." He paused, shaking his head. "Hunh! Never thought I'd ever owe that bastard anything," he muttered under his breath. "And now that your body no longer needs the chip, it's slowly being disposed of."
Scully looked at him, a silent thank you in her eyes for his unspoken reassurance. She forced a small smile on her face. They rode the rest of the way in silence.
As they approached the Rogers' residence, Mulder followed the directions given to him by Agent Walters. They quickly spotted the FBI vehicle parked about a block from the Rogers' house. Parking beside them, the agents got out and walked over.
"Well, any new developments?" asked Mulder, looking in the driver's window.
"Nah! We followed him here about 45 minutes ago. He's been in there ever since," said one of the seated agents, pointing to the house they were keeping under surveillance. "And, it looked like our boy's packing some heat. We saw a holster when he walked up to the door."
Mulder nodded, looking up over the car at his partner. The stakes just got higher. Looking back down, he said, "Thanks, guys. We'll take over from here."
"Your call, Agent Mulder," said the driver, starting up the car. "Have fun." As the car drove off, the agents turned and walked back to their own car, preparing to wait.
Not ten minutes later, they spotted the porch light turn on. The door opened to reveal McGuire storming out, heading towards his car. He was followed by a very distraught Mary Rogers. Although the agents were parked too far away to hear what she was saying, she appeared to be trying to hold McGuire back, pleading with him to stay. He shook off her hand and got in his car. Within moments, the car shot out of the driveway. Mary Rogers turned towards her house, not seeing the blue Taurus that took off after her recent visitor.
Mulder didn't have any problem keeping their target in sight. The streets were deserted at this time of night, especially since McGuire seemed to be headed away from the city. Soon they entered an area where there were several old houses. Most of them looked like they were about to fall apart. It looked like many of them had been demolished, and, judging from the various signs posted around the place, several others were scheduled to be knocked down in the next few days.
Mulder followed McGuire as he headed towards one of the houses at the far end of the street. He parked a couple of buildings away, hiding his car in the shadow of one of the buildings. He watched McGuire park as well and walk stealthily toward a two story bungalow. The place had almost no windows on the ground floor, but the floor above sported huge french style windows. They watched McGuire cautiously negotiate his way past a wrought iron fence that completely surrounded the house. He looked around nervously before pushing open the door and entering.
The agents took this as their cue, and climbed out themselves. They quickly headed over to the house, following in McGuire's tracks. As they pushed open the door, both agents took out their guns, prepared for anything. They were greeted with an ominous silence as they looked around the empty room. They found themselves in the living room, and looking past the door on the far corner, they could see what appeared to be the kitchen. To their left, they saw a flight of stairs leading upstairs. Mulder pointed forward and then to himself. Then he pointed to Scully and gestured toward the stairs. At her nod of assent, he headed forward, pausing just for a moment to see his partner quietly making her way upstairs.
He reached the door at the other end of the room and pushed it open all the way. Bringing his gun up, he entered into the empty kitchen. It looked deserted, just like the outer room, as if no one had been here for a while. He looked beyond the island towards the adjoining rooms, and prepared to head towards them when he was startled by a noise upstairs. His eyes widened... the thud had sounded like a body falling. He turned around and ran for the stairs.
Looking at her partner heading towards the kitchen, Dana Scully turned to the stairs and headed upstairs. She found herself in a dark hallway, with two doors on either side. All but the one on the far end were closed. The last one was slightly ajar, and she could see a sliver of light around the door frame. She headed towards it, gun held at the ready.
Suddenly, she sank to the floor, trapped in agony. The strange emotions running through her head were almost more than she could bear. Just like last night, she remembered, gasping. But this time, she wasn't as affected as before. Maybe I'm getting used to it, she thought, picking herself off the floor. In fact, after the initial shock, all she felt was a faint buzzing sensation that seemed to pull her towards the far door. She walked up to it and pushed it open slightly. Her eyes widened at the scene that was revealed. She saw a small boy lying against the wall... Charles Rogers, she realized. She saw a small hypodermic needle filled with some liquid lying next to the body. Looking beyond the unconscious boy, she saw two men standing in front of the floor to ceiling picture window. She recognized McGuire even though he was facing away from her. She couldn't see the man he was looking at, though. Hidden by McGuire's body, all she could see was his blond hair. McGuire was holding a semi-automatic in his hand, but he was pointing it lazily at the ceiling.
Pushing the door open a little further, Scully stepped into the room. Getting a better look at the situation, she almost gagged in horror. McGuire wasn't just pointing the gun around... he was flailing, his knees bent, his arms thrown back. The reason for this was immediately obvious. Scully watched in morbid fascination as the hidden man slowly withdrew the three feet of shiny metal poking out of McGuire's back. It was covered in a sheen of red blood. As he completely pulled it out, she saw the shorter man's body fall to the floor with a heavy thud. She looked up from the dead body and heard the blond stranger murmur one word, "Pathetic..." As he wiped the blade of his sword with a handkerchief, he looked up at her. The madness in his eyes chilled her to the bone.
She pointed her gun at him. "Freeze, Federal Agent," she yelled. "Put down the weapon and step away from the body." She was amazed at his apparent equanimity at the deed he'd just committed.
He smiled at her, holding his hands out in a quiet bow. "Jonathan Summers, at your service, milady. And you may consider yourself challenged." With that he straightened, bringing his sword up into a dueling position. "En garde."
"I said, put the sword down and step back... NOW!!!" Scully took a step forward.
"That would hardly be sporting, now, would it? You're almost as bad as he is. At least he's not one of us. What's your excuse?" He sighed, "Well, if that's the way you want it..." He slightly lowered his sword.
Scully heaved a sigh of relief at his gesture and shot a quick glance down at McGuire's body. She saw Summers move out of the corner of her eye. When she looked back at him, she saw the tip of his sword pointed at her chest. At that moment, Dana Scully knew she had made a terrible mistake. Before she could pull the trigger on her gun, she heard two things. As she felt the pain blossoming from her stomach, she heard Mulder yell her name from behind her, and heard his gun going off at the same time. A part of her knew she was dying as she fell backwards to the floor. Meanwhile another part of her, the clinical, detached investigator, took stock of the events unfolding around her. Mulder emptying his gun into the body in front of her... Summers jerking back with each shot until he fell against the picture window and lay still... Mulder rushing towards her and falling to the floor. Setting his gun aside, he put his hands together over her wound, frantically trying to staunch the flow of blood pouring out of her abdomen. The doctor in her knew it was already too late. She heard him crying out, begging her to hold on. She felt tears running down her face as she realized she was dying. And she'd never gotten to tell him... She choked, feeling the shadows closing in. It was so unfair. Mulder's image swam before her eyes, becoming blurry at the edges. Slowly, the whole world became dark and she closed her eyes.
NO! It can't be. Not Scully... not my Dana! Mulder sat beside his partner and watched her eyes glaze over and finally close. He felt her wrist for any sign of a pulse, but found none. "Wake up, Scully. Don't do this to me." He yelled, "Don't leave me, please!!" He placed his mouth over hers and pumped a lungful of air into it. Even as he reached back to her chest, performing CPR, he knew it was too late. Tears fell down his cheeks as he let out a choked sob. He pulled her into a sitting position and held her against him, cradling her head against his shoulder. He rocked back and forth, stroking her hair, his world crashing around him. For the next few minutes, there was no sound in the room except the quiet, soul-wrenching sobs of a broken man.
He felt alone. He felt lost. He couldn't bear the deafening silence in the room, which was why he was startled at what he heard and felt next. He heard a gasp and a rustling sound behind him. At the same time, he felt the limp body in his hands jerk. He heard his dead partner take in a sudden breath of air and felt her hands move. He was almost deafened by the roar of her gun going off next to his ear. Turning his head he saw Summers falling backwards, his sword in his hand. He stumbled back and fell against the window, crashed through it and fell out. All this rushed through Mulder's head, but he couldn't bring himself to care. All he could think of was the sudden jerk he'd felt in his arms. He grabbed Scully's shoulders and pulled away to look at her. His eyes widened as tears fell freely. She's alive, he wanted to shout, My Dana's alive!
"Scully?," he began cautiously. He waited as she began coughing. She looked at him, her eyes betraying her confusion. Suddenly, he felt the hairs at his neck bristling. Before he could utter another word, he felt as if he had been kicked. He flew across the room, crashed into the wall next to the door, and slid to the ground beside the boy, dazed. Shaking his head to clear it, he gingerly felt the back of his scalp. He winced and pulled his hand back to see the small red stains on his fingers. He looked up at the sudden flash of light to see... for a moment, his mind refused to acknowledge what his eyes perceived.
He gulped, unable to comprehend the sight he saw before him. He saw Dana Scully, floating, at least a foot above the ground, her eyes squeezed shut, her mouth gaping open in a silent scream, her head thrown back as if in ecstasy, writhing, ensconced in a cocoon of electricity... no, lightning, his muddled mind revised. He jumped as a tendril of energy shot toward him, shocking him. He quickly pulled the boy up and moved as far from the window as possible. Satisfied that the electricity couldn't reach the far corner, he lay the boy on the ground after making sure he was still alive. He turned to rush back to Scully, but every attempt at getting closer than a few yards was met with failure. He couldn't get past the impenetrable wall of energy surrounding her. Every time he got close, he was simply thrown back painfully. He finally gave up, settling instead for calling out her name, watching her seemingly absorb blast after blast of energy, twitching, writhing, jerking spasmodically with each jolt. He saw her hair, flame red, form a halo around her head. Looking beyond her, he was surprised to see the source of the electricity. He hadn't known what could possibly cause something like this. But he was nonetheless amazed that the cloud of lightning seemed to be coming from the ground just outside the window. Squinting against the glare, he could just make out the arcs as they shot up, not down, outside the window, and curved into the room to hit Scully.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, although he knew it had only been a few minutes, he saw the electrical activity lessen and slowly die away. He watched as the body, that had only moments before been thrashing around in midair, slowly sank back down to the floor. He immediately rushed to her side, and put his hands around her face. He breathed out a sigh of relief as she suddenly opened her eyes. "Scully?" he began again, not sure what had just happened. Her eyes told him that she knew as little as he did. He didn't know quite how to proceed, so he simply looked down at her bloodstained blouse. Lifting it slightly, he saw the unmarked skin underneath. He lightly traced the area where he knew the sword had entered her body. Of course, he chided himself, the accelerated healing. Why didn't I think of it sooner? Probably because you were too busy thinking that you had lost the love of your life, he answered himself. Whoa, where'd that come from?
Scully gasped as she felt Mulder's fingers on her stomach. She didn't think she could feel anything after the onslaught she had just been through. It had been... she didn't quite have the words to express it. It had been pure agony, but the height of ecstasy at the same time. She had felt and seen and heard and sensed things she knew she'd never experienced herself. They felt like memories, only not hers, but rather a stranger's that had been foisted upon her.
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the more immediate sensations she felt as she saw her partner stroke her stomach. She let out a moan, grinning to herself as she saw Mulder look up suddenly with a guilty look in his eyes. She tried calling his name, but all that came out was a croak. She stopped, taking a couple of breaths to clear her throat. She tried again, "Mulder..." It came out as a hoarse whisper, but it was enough. She could see the question in his eyes, and she could imagine his reaction to the "I'm fine" that was on the tip of her tongue. She bit it back, feeling that this time he was not going to accept the remark as lightly as he usually did. Instead she said, "Help me up, Mulder. I'm feeling somewhat woozy."
"Now there's an understatement if I've ever heard one," he chuckled as he gave her a hand, pulling her up. His hand immediately went to the small of her back, steadying her as she swayed slightly. "Whoa there, Scully! Easy. You just had a bad jolt."
"God Mulder!" she groaned at his inadvertent pun. She saw his face suddenly light up with a smile as he realized what he'd said. Just as quickly as it had appeared, however, the smile vanished, replaced with a look of concern.
"I'll be okay, Mulder. I'm not hurt, just shaken up. What exactly happened, anyway?" She felt her stomach, just like Mulder had. Even seeing and feeling the proof in front of her, she found it hard to believe. She'd been literally skewered by Summers. It was a miracle that she was still alive. But a recovery this complete... it amazed her, even scared her a little.
"I was wondering if you could tell me. I walked in just as that man stabbed you. I emptied my gun into him and he fell. I tried to give you CPR, but it was too late. There was so much blood everywhere." His voice cracked as he whispered, "I couldn't feel a pulse. You were dead, Scully."
She could see the pain in his eyes as he said the last part. She'd thought she'd lost him too. She remembered how she had felt... there had been so much to do, so much left unsaid. She wondered if he could possibly have felt the same thing? Now it looked as if they'd been given a second chance. She gave a silent thanks as she placed a hand on his arm, squeezing it to comfort him.
"I remember everything going dark. The next thing I knew, you were holding me. You didn't see Summers..." At his blank look, she said, "the man you shot, I saw him blink awake and walk towards us. He was holding his sword up, ready to kill you. I shot him. He stumbled back and fell out the window. Mulder, I doubt he survived the fall."
"You never know, Scully." Mulder looked thoughtful. "If he's got the same accelerated healing as you do, he may still be alive. When I was thrown back, I saw you enclosed in a corona of lightning. It looked like the arcs of electricity were coming from somewhere outside and just striking you. In fact, your body seemed to simply absorb it all. When I tried to get to you, I kept getting thrown back. Painfully too, I might add." He winced as he felt the slight burn marks on his face and hands where he'd been shocked. "Are you sure you're okay, Scully? It looked like the amount of electricity you absorbed could easily light up this house for days."
"That may be exactly what happened, Mulder. One of the shots may have hit some electrical wiring and shorted it. The increased electrical activity in my body may have simply made it act like a conductor."
Mulder walked over to the window and looked out. "Somehow, I don't think so." Pointing to the prone body at the other end of the room, he said, "Why don't you check on the boy while I go out and have a look around?" He handed her his cell. "Here. I don't think yours is going to be working anytime soon." He walked out, leaving Scully to look after Charles Rogers.
He walked out the front door and around the house to the back. The sight that greeted him made him back up and bring a hand up to his mouth. He tried valiantly to fight the urge to scatter his meager lunch all over the walkway between the house and the surrounding fence. He hadn't had a clear view from upstairs. Now he wished he'd stayed up there. He saw the man he'd shot lying on the fence in front of him. Well, more like hanging, he amended. The body was suspended a couple of feet above the ground, one of the metal spikes from the fence jutting through his neck. Mulder was amazed that the head hadn't been ripped off completely. Looking closer, he realized that the head was hanging on to the body by only a thin strip of skin and cartilage. The spike had gone completely through the vertebral column. He noticed that the neck region itself seemed to be slightly charred, just as a fresh bout of nausea claimed him. He quickly turned away from the sight and headed back into the house.
"How's the boy?" he asked as he reentered the room.
"I'm not sure, Mulder. He seems to be unconscious, probably from the shock of the ordeal. He also seems to be suffering from a slight concussion. I think McGuire interrupted Summers just as he was about to inject the boy," she replied, pointing out the full syringe lying on the ground. She handed him back his phone. "I called the paramedics, so they should be here shortly. Did you find Summers?"
"Yeah! I found him all right. I don't think it was an electrical short, Scully. I didn't find any electrical breakers or fuse boxes anywhere along the wall outside, nor do I see any exposed electrical wiring in here," he said, looking around the room. Turning back to face her, he continued solemnly, "Summers is dead, nearly decapitated. His neck fell right on one the spikes on the fence. I think the lightning came from his body." He looked at her, waiting for the inevitable skeptical retort. He was surprised at the thoughtful look in her eyes.
"I have a theory about that, Mulder," she said, looking back at him. She smiled as she saw him do a double take. He quickly recovered, however, pinning her with a questioning look. "You know how memories and experiences are stored as electrical impulses in the brain, right?" When he nodded, she continued, "I think that the lightning you saw was Summers' memories, his experiences, his essence or whatever you want to call it."
"What?" Mulder stared at her as if she'd gone stark raving mad. He was the one who came up with the outlandish theories, not her. He couldn't believe the ever rational Scully waxing philosophical now. "And what do you base this theory on, if I may ask?"
"On what I feel," she said, pointing to her heart, "in here," and to the side of her head, "and in here. I can feel him in my head, Mulder... almost as if I were looking into his mind. It's just vague impressions, but I can recall several memories that I know aren't mine. Some of these memories go back almost a couple of centuries." She looked at Mulder in wonder. "I have impressions of his life, places he'd been to, people he'd met, events he'd seen. They're all in there." She paused, her eyes widening, "Oh my god, Mulder... I know why he did it," she whispered, a look of horror on her face. "He saw his own children," she said, her face grimacing at the thought, "three of them, slaughtered in front of his eyes by another immortal. I think it drove him over the edge. In his own twisted way, I think he was trying to protect the children he kidnapped. That's why he used the poison... to make them immortal, so that they couldn't be killed. But, when they became immortal themselves, he couldn't bear the thought that one day they might kill too. So, in a fit of rage, he killed them as well."
She saw her partner's hands enveloping hers. He pulled her close to him and put his arms around her. She felt the tears brimming in her eyes. "The poor man was delusional. No parent should have to go through what he witnessed. I'm not condoning what he did, Mulder. But at least I can sympathize with him now." Pulling herself together, she backed away, returning his comforting embrace with a quick squeeze on his arms.
At that moment, they heard the sirens outside. A few minutes later, the agents watched as the paramedics placed Charles Rogers and the bodies of Samuel McGuire and Jonathan Summers in the ambulance and rushed away to the hospital.
Fairfax Hospital, Recovery room
Wednesday, January 15, 1998
As they walked into the room, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were greeted with a sight that they didn't often get to see in most of their cases. Before them lay the results of a case successfully completed, if not completely solved. They saw Charles lying in the lone bed, asleep. His mother sat beside him holding his hand. She lightly stroked his face, brushing his hair up his forehead. She had a peaceful look on her face.
When she heard the agents walking in, she looked up. Meeting their eyes, she managed a small smile. Checking to make sure her son was still sleeping, she got up and motioned them outside. She softly closed the door and turned to them. "I can't thank you enough for bringing my son back to me. I already lost Jason. I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost him too."
"We're very sorry about your husband, Mrs. Rogers. How is your son doing now?"
"He's not unconscious anymore, just sleeping. He woke up a couple of times, so the doctors said he should be able to go home in a few days."
Both agents nodded at this information. They looked at each other, Might as well get started. Scully looked at Mary Rogers and began, "Mrs. Rogers, do you feel up to answering a few questions?"
A look of apprehension flitted across her face, but disappeared as quickly as it appeared. "I think so," she said.
Mulder motioned them towards one of the nearby lounges and began the questioning. "Can you tell us what happened last night, Mrs. Rogers? We were on our way to question Samuel McGuire when we heard he was at your house. We followed him to the place where we found your son. Unfortunately we were too late to save him. Now, we're not sure how he's involved in the kidnappings, although I have a couple of ideas. Can you tell us how you knew him?"
A look of indecision passed over her eyes as she thought about the question. Finally, she sighed, "He was a good man. He didn't deserve to die like that." She added cautiously, "We knew each other through our work. Both of us did research for an international firm." The agents waited, but she wouldn't volunteer any more information than that.
"The Watchers?" Mulder looked carefully at her face as he asked the question. He was not surprised to see the same reaction he had seen the day before in McGuire. He saw her eyes widen as she looked at him.
"... did I know? Both of you have the same tattoo," he said, pointing to her wrist. "We thought it was unusual and had it checked out. It took a while, even with our considerable resources, to track down it's significance."
"I don't think..." she began, her face already starting to close down.
Before they could completely lose her, Mulder pleaded, "Please Mrs. Rogers, we need to know. Would it help if we said we'll keep this conversation completely off the record?"
"Why do you want to know so desperately, Agent Mulder? Personal gratification?" She glared at him. "Is that the FBI's job nowadays?" she asked bitterly. "I would advise you to leave the matter alone. There are certain things people were not meant to find out." Her voice dropped to a sad whisper, "Let it be, Agent Mulder." She got up abruptly and headed back to her son's room.
Mulder stared at the retreating woman, stunned at her sudden outburst. He turned to look at his partner. She seemed as shocked as he was. "I don't think we're going to get any more information out of her unless we bring up your condition, Scully. Obviously this immortality thing is important enough to her for her to brave the wrath of the FBI. It's your call. What do you want to do?"
Scully took a deep breath and stood up. She placed a hand on Mulder's shoulder and looked down at him. "I don't know if I want to find out, Mulder. I'm tired of this and I just want to let it be, for now at least. Let's just go. She'll still be around if I change my mind later."
Mulder nodded, getting up to follow her out of the hospital. He would let it go for now, but both of them knew it was only a matter of time before the subject came up again. Mulder resolved to continue searching for any information he could find. But for now, he was content in the knowledge that his partner was still alive. He forced himself to think of the one good thing that came of this whole situation. He thought of the transfer papers still lying in his desk, and resolved to throw them out as soon as they reached the office. At least he wouldn't have to worry about Scully's safety anymore. He wasn't going to be any less overprotective, of course, but he wouldn't have the cold fear gnawing at the pit of his stomach anymore every time they entered a dangerous situation. He gave a silent prayer of thanks as they reached the exit. His Scully was still alive, and, for the moment, that was all that mattered. Together, they walked out as the new day dawned around them.
Counting all my oh, so numerous posts, this will be my what?... umm... third one?
I mentioned a little spoiler from Chinga earlier. How many people noticed that line about the statistics of decapitation involving convertibles? I had just finished writing down the ideas for this story when that aired. And boy was I taken aback. It fit so... deliciously... with this universe. Just my take on why my story could actually fit in the X-files universe even after the events above take place.
BTW, I also assumed Scully lived in Georgetown, not Annapolis. But it doesn't really make a difference.
Ok. Now for a little background on my motivation. I loved the few and rare Highlander/XF crossovers out there. But I could never get enough of them. It always seemed as if there was more of the story to tell. Plus the most interesting ones either seemed to not give the topic the attention I thought it deserved, or were not yet completed. So I decided to rattle off one of my own. And this was the result.
As for where I plan on taking this series... There are not going to be all that many immortal beheadings in here. Seeing Highlander somehow gives one the impression that MacLeod does nothing but chop heads, one every couple of weeks. No, I wanted to see how being an immortal might affect the day to day lives and cases M & S get involved in. I have some ideas for a couple of humor pieces, some with a little angst, even a couple of mytharc ones, something for everyone (every shipper anyway).
Finally, a note about the facts. I kept my trusty US roadmap atlas and Webster's dictionary by my side while writing this. These and a couple of internet sites form the sum total of my information sources. So I apologize for any inaccuracies in my descriptions of locations, medical info, whatever. I tried to look up most of the stuff whenever possible. But... if my 9th grade biology tells my muse that immortality is possible, who am I to argue?
Futures Past Chronology:
|01 - The Awakening||(Oct 1997)|
|02 - The Light of Day||(Jan 1998)|
|Futures Past 01:
|Home||Futures Past 03:
My Funny Valentine