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Futures Past 09: From the Ashes - Part 4

by Arvy

Futures Past 08:
Sweet Dreams...
Home Futures Past 10:
Tchaikovsky Unbound

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

RATING - PG
CATEGORY - C(rossover), R(omance)
SPOILERS - The End(XF), Sub Rosa(TNG)
KEYWORDS - X-files/Highlander/Forever Knight/Star Trek: TNG crossover, Mulder/Scully Romance

SUMMARY

Seven missing children, an untested partner, and a threat millennia in the making... will this be the key to the agents' quest? Meanwhile, the future faces a similar threat that only they can defeat.

DISCLAIMER/Notes

See Part One


Sickbay
USS Enterprise-D
Monday, April 12, 2371
0311 hours

Mulder came awake to the dimmed lights of a quiet Sickbay. Groggily, he lifted his head from the desk, looking over to see Crusher slumped just as awkwardly in her own chair. He winced at the crick she would have when she woke up. Slowly, he got up and walked over, giving her a nudge.

She awoke with a start, looking around in sleepy confusion. Her eyes finally settled on the tall figure standing next to her. "Agent Mulder?" she whispered, her drowsiness making her voice scratchy. "I fell asleep?"

"Why don't you go lie down, Beverly?" he said with a soft smile. "You're going to have a sore neck otherwise."

"I should be monitoring the...," Crusher immediately protested, albeit half-heartedly.

"Nothing's changed, Beverly," he interrupted her, shaking his head as he glanced at the readouts next to the desk. While he couldn't actually decipher any of them, he'd stared at them long enough before nodding off himself that he was sure of that.

"Mmm...," she murmured, rubbing her closed eyes. "Maybe just for a little while," she reluctantly agreed, running her fingers through her hair as she got up and headed for the small bed in the back of her office. She might be giving in to her body's need for rest, but she'd be damned if she was going to leave her patients sleeping on the medical biobeds while she rested in her own bed.

Mulder watched her departing form, and whispered almost inaudibly, "Sweet dreams, princess." He saw her disappear into her office, then walked over to the replicator. "Computer, coffee." It was a foregone conclusion that he wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon, tired though he was. He took the steaming cup that appeared and turned around, almost jumping in surprise at the soft chuckle.

He couldn't believe he'd been so tired that he'd missed the dark form sitting in the corner. She'd obviously not left either. He'd actually gotten used to her presence, the tingling feeling relegated to the back of his consciousness.

"Acting the night owl, Guinan?" he quipped gruffly as he made his way back to his chair. When she didn't reply, his eyes narrowed. "What?" he asked, sitting down.

The dark woman shrugged. "Oh, nothing...," she trailed off, glancing meaningfully towards Crusher's office and back to him, a hairless brow rising in silent question.

Mulder followed her gaze, then looked back at her. He took a deep sip of the hot liquid, then sighed. "You know, she used to call me Uncle Fox," he said almost wistfully. "Has it really been 36 years?"

"Hmmm...," she replied, silently staring back at him.

"You think I'm being stupid, don't you?"

"I didn't say a word." She raised her hands in self-defense.

"Oh, come on, Guinan. You're an El-Aurian. I used to be in the head-shrinking business too, remember. I know the drill."

"The drill?" Guinan shook her head, as if puzzled at the reference.

"Yeah, you know, you listen, and say uh-huh every few seconds, and I spill my life story to you."

"Uh-huh," she supplied helpfully.

He snorted, shaking his head as he lifted the cup to his lips again.

"Okay, I'm sorry. You're right. I should've known better."

"Good, cause I like my head just as big as it is now."

They both chuckled tiredly at the joke.

"Wow, I must be out of it," Mulder said finally. "That actually sounded funny."

"Mulder, the jokes aside," she said softly, her expression sobering, "they are mortal. We aren't."

"And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges, eh, Guinan?" Mulder whispered back.

"It's what we are, Mulder," Guinan replied sadly.

"And you know what the ironic part of all this is?" Mulder chuckled almost bitterly, as if he hadn't even heard her. "I'm wishing I could understand what it is to be mortal, but at the same time, I'm praying with every fiber of my being that her immortality pulls her through this... this hell." There was no need for him to say who she was; his unconscious glance at the prone form of his wife lying on the biobed was enough.

She couldn't really come up with anything to say to that. After all, how often had she herself thought about it? How often had she found herself cursing the passage of time that inescapably stole away her mortal friends? She sometimes wondered at the logic of a universe that would create both types of beings. Were immortals even meant to have mortal relationships at all?

She thought back to her past acquaintances with other mortals, like Picard and Beverly, and how some of those relationships had been among the most rewarding of her life. She wouldn't willingly give those up for anything. But it didn't make it hurt any less. She sighed in understanding of Mulder's comments.

The two commiserated quietly in mutual sympathy for a few minutes before Guinan decided to break the silence, and change the topic while she was at it. It was starting to get a bit morbid for her tastes. "So, Uncle Fox, was it?"

Mulder looked up at her, smiling faintly. He wasn't unaware of what she was trying to do. But he decided to let it go, not particularly feeling up to drowning in his sorrows just yet.

"I thought you hated that name," Guinan said, remembering his words when he'd first introduced himself. "Call me Mulder," he'd said when she'd first met him.

"What can I say?" Mulder shrugged. "I seem to have a soft spot for little redheads."

Guinan simply shook her head in amusement.

"Fox and Dana Howard," Mulder added, remembering.

"A kept man, eh, Mulder," she ribbed him gently.

Mulder glared at her, although his eyes twinkled. "Well its better than what we decided on for our current incarnation." Seeing her questioning look, he elaborated, "Denise Kelly and Felix Leiter. I'm not sure what we were thinking at the time."

Scully's chosen pseudonym sounded normal, but his rang a bell as she recognized the reference. "How'd you come up with those anyway?" she asked, curious now.

"You know, that's actually an interesting story." He settled back in his chair as let his mind wander through the memories. "We were on one of the planets close to the Cardassian border. This was before the treaty was signed, back when Jellico was just beginning his negotiations with them. Even then, tensions were starting to run just a bit too high for our tastes. We hadn't been there long enough to get attached to the place, so we decided it was for the best just to leave."

Mulder paused to take a sip of the now lukewarm coffee. "We'd barely cleared the system when this enormous Cardassian Galor Class cruiser appeared out of nowhere and decided to use our shuttle for target practice." He shrugged. "Of course, Scully had different ideas."

Guinan grinned. Dana had never been one to take any crap from anyone. She could well imagine the fiery redhead's attitude upon being fired at. She nodded in understanding.

"So, naturally, she decided to do something about it. The next thing the Gul on the cruiser knew, he was talking to a member of the Cardassian Central Command."

"No," Guinan chuckled in disbelief.

"You'd better believe it," Mulder replied, chuckling himself. "She had the computer alter her outgoing vidimage, and voilą!" He snapped his fingers. "Instant Cardassian Legate! The Gul just about peed in his pants. Imagine his shock at having fired upon a superior officer out enjoying a quiet shuttle ride." He could laugh now at the memory. "Scully tore him more new orifices than I could even count. Thank god for none too bright Guls. The shuttle wasn't exactly Federation issue, but anyone with even an ounce of smarts could tell it wasn't Cardassian either."

"So...?" Guinan prodded.

"So," Mulder continued, "while the idiot was busy making his profuse apologies and preparing his ship for a surprise inspection, we high-tailed it out of there."

Guinan pressed a palm against her mouth as she laughed. "Only you two...," she managed, shaking her head in mirth.

"Yeah well," Mulder grinned. "So anyway, I told her she was a regular Grace Kelly. You remember the actress right?"

Guinan nodded, recalling her addiction to the old 2D films back during her stay on Earth.

"And she said, 'I'm not Grace Kelly. I'm her talented younger sister, Denise Kelly.'" He waited for the significance of the name to hit her.

Guinan appeared puzzled for a second before she realized it. "Ah, of course," she nodded. "Dana Scully, Denise Kelly."

Mulder shrugged. "Cute, huh? So I told her, if she was going to do movie references, I was too. Hence, Felix Leiter."

"You always did like the Bond movies."

"His character was always so underappreciated," Mulder sighed.

"Like you I suppose," Guinan commented dryly.

Mulder shrugged his shoulders in silence, a grin tugging at his lips.

Guinan shook her head exasperatedly, then brought her fingers to her lips to stifle a yawn.

The gesture didn't go unnoticed. "Go to bed, Guinan."

"Mulder..."

"Go," he urged, waving his hand. "I'll be fine here."

She sighed, slowly getting to her feet. "Try to get some sleep yourself, Mulder," she told him softly, placing a hand on his shoulder as she walked up to him. They locked eyes for a moment, then she squeezed his shoulder in comfort before going out the Sickbay doors.

Behind her, the seated figure watched the doors slide shut, leaving him shrouded in the darkness. He leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes as he thought about his recent visitor, and how they'd first met. Anything to occupy his mind so he wouldn't have to think about the unconscious figure in the room next door.


Underwater Research Facility
East Pacific Rise, Pacific Ocean
Friday, December 11, 1998
3:41 PM

Anyway they looked at it, it would take at least two trips to get everyone down to the level where they'd entered the facility. With that in mind, Mulder suggested taking the children and one of the adults down first.

He carefully lifted two of the children, resting each one against one of his shoulders. Colton and the technician mirrored his action, leaving Scully and the researcher to carry the remaining child and Lynn respectively. Slowly, they made their way down the levels back to the submersible.

Again, they were careful not to run into any station personnel as they walked through the corridors and down the ladders. The ladder chutes were especially tricky carrying their precious cargo, forcing them to take it slowly and carefully.

According to the researcher, the base was currently at a lower level of activity than usual. Besides which, the lab housing the abductees was but one of five scattered about the base. Still, while they were lucky enough not to run into any enemies, the agents nevertheless heaved a breath of relief when they finally made it down the last ladder. They walked past the two bound security guards and into the corridor leading to the room with the moon pool.

Coming to a halt next to the sub, Mulder gently laid the two children on the ground. He turned to Colton, reaching over to help him do the same. "You want to check out the sub?"

Colton nodded, quickly climbing up the small part of the sub that was above the water. He pulled back on the hatch, and with a glance toward the X-files agents, jumped in.

He climbed back out a few minutes later, jumping off the sub to land beside the others.

"Well?" Mulder asked.

Colton shrugged. "It looks fine. All the systems check out. Our boy here must've been doing a tune-up or something when we... umm... crashed the party. Unfortunately, there's only enough room for the children in there, and maybe three or four adults. But even that will be a pretty tight fit."

"That's okay," Mulder replied. "You take Lynn and the others in this one. Scully and I'll follow you in ours."

"Are you sure?" Colton asked. "You've never driven one of these things before," he cautioned.

"Don't worry. I saw you bring it down here. Going back up will be a piece of cake."

Colton grunted. "I sure hope so. With that baffle they've got set up around here, you can't even call me for help."

"I know," Mulder sighed. He turned to look at Scully. "Well, what say we get these people seated?" At her nod, he gathered up the two he'd brought down, moving carefully up the side of the sub.

Within a few minutes, they had all eight of them inside the vessel. They placed them in the back to make room for the others they had yet to bring down.

When they were done, they turned and started to head back. They'd barely taken a step, however, when they realized something. They looked at each other.

Finally Scully sighed. "I'll stay with them. You two hurry back." She moved to seat herself on the piece of equipment behind which they'd hidden their suits earlier. She saw Mulder look back at her just before he disappeared down the corridor, and smiled softly at him. "Be careful," she silently mouthed.

Mulder grinned in reply, winking as he followed the others back to the upper lab. When they reached it, Mulder noticed the computer on one of the desks inside. He paused, a thought slowly forming as he considered his options. He turned to Colton.

"You think you and MacDuff will be able to get these two down yourself? I want to look through that computer to see if I can find anything useful."

Colton looked from Mulder to the two doors behind which the last two people lay. Turning back to the agent, he nodded. "No problem."

Motioning the whammied technician to follow him, he walked up to the table Nick lay on. He hoisted him up onto his shoulder, then walked over to the other room. When the other man had done the same with the dark-skinned woman, he walked back out into the main lab. He saw Mulder seated at the computer talking with the researcher. "Good luck, Mulder. Get down to the sub as soon as you're done."

"Thanks," Mulder replied. "Will do."

With that, Colton hurried out, anxious to get back to the lower levels and get out of the facility.


Mulder stared in excitement as screen after screen of information came up on the monitor. This was everything he could have hoped for and more. It was all there for the taking.

He saw files detailing exact locations of the other bee farms, with more accurate maps than the one he'd managed to steal from the one they had raided earlier. There were also lists of experiments that the consortium had performed or funded over the years. Some of the entries went back more than a half century.

He sucked in a breath as he realized the possibilities. With this kind of information, he and Scully could do considerable damage to the consortium. No longer would they be the invulnerable power they'd been thus far, not with this kind of evidence against them. Finally, after all these years of searching, he had at his fingertips tangible proof to get back at the bastards who'd taken so much from him and Scully.

Mulder sighed, looking at the researcher at his side. The man had proven quite helpful in navigating through the computer. Now all that remained was to transfer the contents of the machine to the disk that the man helpfully provided. That done, Mulder was about to get up when he heard the voices.

Both men looked up, and saw the two men standing at the doorway, their eyes locked on the agent and the researcher. For a moment, neither pair moved, each trying to figure out what to do. The newcomers recovered moments before Mulder did. Quickly taking in the empty tables and the open doors farther back, they turned and ran back out. Mulder was immediately on their tail when he saw one of them hit a button on his way out.

Immediately, a series of whoops and alarms started ringing as a siren sounded. Mulder looked up, trying to trace the source of the noise as he cursed silently. He just knew his luck would run out sometime. They hadn't yet run into many of the other base personnel. It only followed that this was inevitable. But it still didn't make him curse any less.

He'd barely gotten past the outer door when the bullet streaked past him. The next one grazed him, and the one after that embedded itself in his arm before he jumped back into the safety of the room.

He looked behind him, about to tell the researcher to hide when he noticed that the bullets had already claimed one victim. The man lay on the ground, clutching his stomach as the dark red fluid slowly leaked out. Mulder could already tell that the man had no chance. From the amount of blood, it looked as if one of the bullets had nicked a major blood vessel. He sighed, watching helplessly as the life drained out of the man. Turning away from the lifeless body, he settled down to what had essentially become a waiting game.


With a soft thud, Colton jumped off the ladder. He looked up to see the tech's face peeking over the edge of the shaft above him.

"Okay, pass them down to me," he told the man. "Slowly."

He held up his hands, grabbing onto the limp bodies as they were handed down. He set down the woman, then hoisted Nick back up. A moment's wait for the tech to do the same, then the two of them started back on their way.

They were in the middle of a short corridor, about a level or so above their final destination when suddenly, all hell seemed to break loose.

The deafening siren sounded seemingly from every direction. Colton's eyes widened. "Damn!" he muttered softly. He knew it had been going too smoothly. And now the other shoe had finally dropped. He heard the footsteps behind him pause, and turned to check on the other man's progress.

Behind him, the tech stood still, a confused look on his face.

"Come on," Colton prodded him, a note of urgency creeping into his voice. The sooner they got the two abductees back to the sub, the better he would feel.

The man took a hesitant step forward at the command.

"What's wrong with you?" Colton hissed impatiently. "We really need to get going. C'mon."

Another step, and then the tech seemed to stumble. Cursing, Colton lowered Nick, laying him against the wall before walking over to the other man. He reached out to firmly grasp the man's arm.

When the tech turned his head to meet his eyes, Colton knew something was wrong. He had noticed the glazed look in the man's eyes ever since Mulder's interrogation. At the time, he'd wondered if Mulder had somehow drugged him. Now it looked as if whatever spell the man had been under had finally worn off.

He let go of the arm, his hand going to his waist. His fingers closed around the grip of his stolen weapon. But with his head turned slightly away, he didn't notice the hardening of the technician's features as he came out of his stupor. He also never saw the fist before it crashed into the side of his face. With a soft groan, Colton slid to the ground.


Mulder had managed to take out a couple of the security guards as they attempted to sneak into the lab. Now he'd taken their guns, and barricaded himself inside the lab. And until something happened to change it, they were effectively at a standoff. He couldn't move fast enough in the confined space outside to take out more than a few of his opponents before they managed to pump enough bullets in him to stop him. He was hardly invulnerable, and beyond a certain limit, even his body would shut down, succumbing to the many pieces of metal tearing into him.

He was, however, starting to get a bit concerned at the water that had started to spray from one of the pipes along the walls. Apparently, one of the bullets had managed to crack it along a seam. The agent glanced down at the guns in his hand. They had obviously been designed to cause as little damage as possible, keeping in mind the precariousness of the deep-sea environment. He cringed as he thought of what would happen should one of the bullets manage to breach the outer hull. He shook his head, trying to erase the uncomfortable image.

Looking back up, he tilted his head to the side as he concentrated on the sounds from outside the lab. He'd been hearing sporadic conversations, voices and occasionally the crackle of a radio. But it had been quiet for a few minutes now, and Mulder was starting to get worried. He'd already placed the disk into a watertight compartment inside his jumpsuit, and he patted it now to reassure himself of its safety. He'd just made his decision to make a run for it when he felt the deck shudder under his feet.

He jumped in surprise, looking around as he tried to figure out what he'd just felt. Moments later, another shudder almost threw him to his feet as the floor lurched beneath him.

Suddenly, he heard a series of muffled explosions above him. His head jerked back as he looked up at the ceiling, his eyes darting nervously as his thoughts raced. The video images of the exterior of the facility ran through his mind as he tried to figure out what was above him. He knew he was somewhere a couple of levels above the module where they'd initially entered the base. From what he remembered, the module he was in would be one of those that stood separate from the central cluster, where the living quarters were, according to the researcher. Above him, he remembered a few more modules, which he assumed contained the other labs the researcher had mentioned.

He froze as he thought about the topmost modules. Suddenly, Colton's words came back to him. His face drained of color as he realized what the explosions had been. The escape modules! And the only reason to launch them would be if the facility itself were in imminent danger of a breach. Either one of the bullets had indeed done the damage he'd been hoping against, or... or they'd realized that the facility had been compromised and had set off some kind of self-destruct mechanism to prevent the agents' escape.

The next explosion caused the computer to tumble off the desk. With a colorful array of sparks, the monitor screen winked out. Mulder looked from the machine to the door. With his face set, he threw open the door and made his way outside. As he'd expected, the corridor outside was empty. Grimly, he made his way back down.


Scully looked up from where she was sitting, seeing moving shadows at the end of the corridor. "Mulder?" she called out, then realized that she didn't feel his presence. "Colton, is that you?" she repeated, standing up. Hearing nothing, she walked forward a few steps, then glanced back at the sub.

She'd heard the sirens earlier, but had resisted the temptation to leave the children alone to check it out. She still didn't want to leave the sub unattended, but she was starting to get a bad feeling about whoever was out there. Her hand slipped to her waist, closing around the gun as she made her decision. She silently pulled it out as she made her way down the corridor. The door on the other end was open a few inches. She stood with one hand against it, then took a breath as she pushed it open. Her hand immediately moved to brace the weapon as she pointed it into the room.

She heard a sound above her, and looked up just in time to see a pair of legs disappearing up the ladder shaft. She cursed, scanning the room from left to right before moving inside. She noted the discarded cables where they had bound the security guards. Coupled with the sirens from earlier, and considering that neither Mulder nor Colton had returned yet, she felt a faintly sick feeling well up within her stomach. Something had definitely gone wrong.

She quickly climbed up the ladder, following the ones who'd left moments before. And almost fell off when the entire station shuddered around her. Her eyes widened as she sped up her pace.


She found Colton lying in a pool of water in the middle of the corridor. The remaining two abductees lay beside him, seemingly unharmed. She looked around, but could see no sign of either Mulder or the two consortium agents he'd recruited. She frowned, trying to figure out where the water was coming from. It looked as if a pipe had burst somewhere farther on, judging from the continuous flow down the corridor. She splashed water as she fell to her knees beside the unconscious agent, gently patting his cheek.

"Colton, come on," she gently prodded. "It's time to wake up. C'mon."

"A few more minutes," Colton mumbled finally. He tried to snuggle back into his bed, but it had suddenly become hard, and very wet. The increased shaking finally broke through his drowsiness, and he slowly opened his eyes.

Concerned blue eyes stared back at him as he tried to get up. He fell back with a cry of pain as his hands moved up to clutch his head.

"Careful," Scully admonished, moving her hands under his shoulders to support him. "You have a bruised cheek and a bump on your head." She moved closer, opening first one eyelid, then the other. She nodded in relief. "The good news is, you aren't concussed, but that bump is probably not very comfortable."

"I don't need a medical degree to figure that out," Colton muttered as he made his way to his feet. He moaned, swaying precariously as he put out a hand to steady himself.

"Whoa," Scully cautioned him. "Not so fast."

"Oh, god," Colton groaned. "What hit me?"

"I don't know," Scully replied, looking around nervously. "Where's Mulder?"

Colton winced as his last few minutes of memory returned. "He's still up there in the lab. He said something about getting more information out of the computer in there. That technician was helping me get these two down when we heard the sirens." A hand went up to lightly trace the bump near his hairline. "Suddenly he went nuts and knocked me out." He winced as his fingers hit tender flesh. "What's going on here, Scully? I thought he was on our side." He moved, splashing water. "And what's with all the water?"

Scully sighed. The sirens had probably disrupted Mulder's implanted suggestions. Loud sounds had been known to do that. And he'd obviously taken the opportunity to free the security guards as well. She shook her head. Well, there was nothing they could do about it now. "I guess he changed his mind," she shrugged. "As for the water, I have no idea. Maybe a pipe burst or something. That may be what the sirens were for. Are you okay to go on?" She saw him nod. "Good, then help me lift up our mystery woman. We're only one module up from the sub, so we shouldn't have too much of a problem."

"Knock on wood," Colton muttered as he helped her, then followed after her with Nick. They came to the ladder shaft, and found water already pouring down it. Meanwhile, the structure continued to shudder and shake around them. The water also made the ladder rungs especially slippery, making it seem to take almost an eternity to get the unconscious couple down.

Finally, they were at the sub. Scully quickly hurried inside, heaving a breath of relief to see the children as she'd left them. She'd almost been afraid of what might have happened in her absence. She jumped back out, standing next to the hatch as Colton brought his friend up. Together, they moved him, then the woman into the sub.

Colton had been right earlier. Once all the ten abductees had been secured, there was barely enough room for him to sit down himself. He jumped in, then looked up to see Scully standing at the hatch, holding it ready to close.

"What about you?" he asked softly.

"We'll be alright," she assured him. "As soon as you leave, we'll swim back to our sub and follow you."

"I still don't feel right leaving you two..."

"You just worry about getting them back safely," Scully cut him off, nodding towards his passengers. "We'll be right behind you. I promise." She saw Colton sigh as he sat down at the controls. "Good luck, Colton," she said softly, then swung the hatch shut and secured it.

A few minutes later, she watched it slowly sink. She looked down, seeing its dark form move away from under her, the top of the vessel clearing the underside of the module as Colton headed out.

Another shudder made her look back to the corridor. "Where are you, Mulder?" she whispered worriedly. She darted a glance at the remaining suits, then started running towards the corridor.

She'd closed the door behind her when she and Colton had come through it earlier. When she pulled it open now, she was shocked at the amount of water that rushed out. It was almost up to her waist now on the other side. She quickly pushed through the water, pulling the door closed behind her. A sudden shudder, combined with the creaking of metal above her gave her a moment's pause. Resolutely, she slogged through, cold hands brushing aside wet strands of hair as she made her way to the ladder. The water pouring down the shaft made it difficult to climb, but a few minutes later she found herself in the module directly above.

She was almost at the place where she'd found Colton when she made out a form running towards her. The figure resolved into Mulder's familiar features as it came closer. She was about to smile when she saw his expression, one of fear and shock.

She was about to ask him what the matter was when she saw the reason for it. Behind him, a wall of water rushed towards them. Her eyes widened in fear as she turned and started running back, Mulder at her heels.

They reached the ladder to the storage room, and literally dropped down it. Behind them, they could hear the roar of the water as it rushed at them. And above the sound of the water, they could make out the groaning of the superstructure as it shuddered under the incredible pressures at this depth.

By now the water level in the room had risen to Mulder's neck, leaving Scully to tread water in order to remain afloat. They made their way past floating debris and crates to the door, and got it open. The stagnant water suddenly found an escape outlet, and rushed out into the corridor in torrents, carrying along with it two extremely cold and wet FBI agents. They slid along the floor as the water shot out over and around them.

Mulder jumped to his feet, pushing his way back through the rushing water to the door. Even with his enhanced strength, it took considerable effort to get the door shut. He quickly locked it, and seeing it start to bulge outward, he placed his back against it to shore it up.

"Scully," he called out, "go and put on your suit." He saw her hesitate. "NOW!" he shouted.

"What about you?" she shot back, yelling to be heard above the roar of the water in the room beyond.

"I'll be fine, but this door is going to give any second now," he shouted back. "Scully, go, please," he pleaded, his eyes meeting hers, begging her to listen to him.

She looked at him for a long moment, then nodded in resignation. Turning, she ran to the moon pool. Retrieving her suit, she quickly started getting into it.

In the corridor, Mulder felt the deck move beneath him again. But, unlike earlier, the movement wasn't confined to just the floor under him. The entire module seemed to be tilting. His eyes widened as he realized that the entire facility itself must have come unanchored from the cliff face. If the room at the end tilted enough, he wouldn't have to worry about holding this door closed. The water would rush in through the pool itself.

He heard a whistling sound next to his ear, and moved his head just in time as a bolt shot out of the door hinge, a stream of pressurized water following it. A few seconds later, the rest of the bolts followed. Now the only thing keeping the door closed was his body. And even that didn't look like it was going to be enough.

The tilt of the deck was making it impossible to keep his balance on solid ground. And he couldn't use his flying powers to keep himself steady, because then he had nothing solid to push against. He felt the door move forward slightly, water escaping around its sides before he managed to push it back, sealing the hole again.

Another surge, and this time the door shot out completely, throwing him forward. Behind him, the rest of the doorway gave out as well, causing a wall of water to shoot out. Ahead, he could already see the corridor walls buckling from torsional stresses the facility had never been designed for. He jumped to his feet and ran down the corridor, the water already at his heels. Halfway down, with the water licking at his shoes, he jumped, flying the rest of the way.

By the time he emerged into the room at the end, the module had tilted enough that the water was fast overflowing the edges of the pool. And behind him, the corridor had already broken in half under the shear stresses, leaving it open to the outside water. He caught a momentary glimpse of the yawning hole before turning his attention forward again. He knew he had no time to get into his suit. He saw Scully look up to see him flying towards her, his eyes meeting hers in a moment of silence. She hadn't yet gotten her helmet on when he grabbed her.

"No time," was all he had time to shout before he lifted her and dove into the moon pool. Above him, the water completely flooded the room, crushing the module walls.

They flew through the water, moving to the side, just as the rest of the facility tore out of the cliff face. They hovered there, the two of them watching in the dim light as what was left of the structure slowly rolled down the incline. Once the debris was past, he followed, watching helplessly as it crashed into their only means of escape. The structure landed squarely on the submersible, crushing it instantly before continuing its descent down the side of the cliff.

Scully gasped as she felt the sudden chill of the water. As they'd moved away from the vent powering the facility, the temperature had rapidly dropped until it was near freezing. She gripped Mulder's arm to get his attention. Seeing his eyes turn from the sub to look into hers, she pointed up, barely able to keep her teeth from chattering in the increasing cold. She saw his eyes follow her gesture, then return to look at her. In the darkness, she barely saw him nod.

As they rose, her body jerked, her lungs on fire as they clamored for air that was simply unavailable. She had managed to get a breath of air before being dragged underwater, but most of that had been lost with her body's instinctual reaction to the icy water. She quickly reached the limits of her lungs. A few seconds later, she ran out of air, and with a few more panicked jerks, she drowned.


S.S. Meercat, Bridge
5:45 PM

"Hey Frohike, check this out," the blond man called out, pushing up his glasses as he peered at the sonar display. On the screen, multicolored blobs floated against a green background as the sonar pulses swept the waters beneath them.

"What? You find something?" the short, balding man asked, munching on a sandwich as he walked over.

"Yeah, something's coming out of the dead zone," the taller man replied. "I'm not sure what it is yet."

Raising his voice, Frohike shouted, "Hey, Byers! Get over here. Langly's found something." He turned back to the screen, wiping off his fingers to trace the various points of color on it. "What the hell is going on down there?"

"Whatever it is, it looks like one hell of a party," Langly replied. "Hey Byers," he greeted the third Gunman, "take a look. What do you make of this?"

"It looks like two submersibles," Byers said after staring at the display for a few seconds. "Wait, this one here looks bigger." He noticed several small dots moving towards it. "What are all those little objects?" He looked up at his friends. "Did all of them come out of the baffle?"

"The smaller one did," Langly replied. "Ditto on the small dots. The other one just came in from outside sonar range, and the small dots headed for it almost immediately."

"You think they know the guys are down there?" Frohike asked, worried at the possibility.

"Guys, I don't think the sub from below is ours. I think..." Langly quickly turned and checked his suspicions against a sheet of paper beside the console. "Damn, that sub that's coming up from inside the baffle definitely isn't ours. According to this spec sheet, it's half again as big as ours."

"It's one of theirs?" Byers asked, puzzled. "Where're our guys?"

Langly simply shrugged, not knowing what to tell him. Frohike's sudden shout drew his attention back to the display.

"Oh god! They just fired!" Frohike shouted.

"What!? Who!?" Byers asked, trying to get a look at the screen from around the other two. A small red dot streaked from one point of color to the other, narrowly missing the smaller vessel.

"The ones who came from outside. They're firing on the smaller sub," Frohike replied.

"I thought that wasn't our guys. Are they firing on their own people?"

Langly frowned at the display in confusion. His face cleared as a thought occurred to him. "Unless... it's our guys in that sub. We knew they couldn't fit everyone in our sub. Maybe they... I don't know... borrowed a bigger one."

"Oh shit," Frohike exclaimed. "And they must have figured it out too. Oh man, what are we going to do? Can we talk to them yet?"

"No, they're still too deep. Radio will never reach that far down," Byers replied, shaking his head.

"Guys... umm... I think we have bigger worries than that," Langly replied, tapping his friend's shoulders to get their attention. The other two followed his gaze, their jaws dropping in surprise at the sight. Outside the bridge windows, the hull of a Ticonderoga class battle cruiser loomed above them, standing close enough that the top of the hull was outside their field of vision.

It was so quiet in the small bridge, the sudden crackle of the radio almost caused their hearts to lurch. Byers placed a hand over his speeding heart while Langly clicked on the unit.

"This is the U.S.S. Eagle hailing the vessel off our port bow. Please respond. We repeat, this is the U.S.S. Eagle..."

"This is the S.S. Meercat," Langly replied, looking to his friends for advice on what to say. They simply shrugged, putting the ball back in his court. "Can we help you?" he asked.

"This is Commander Paul Riker. Please state your purpose for being in these waters."

The Gunmen looked at each other nervously. "These are international waters, Eagle," Langly finally replied. "Our business is none of your concern."

"Actually," the voice replied, "we're authorized to inspect any vessel we suspect of harboring ill will toward the sovereignty of the United States. We repeat, please state your reason for being in these waters."

"Are they allowed to do that?" Frohike hissed.

"I don't know," Byers replied. "I'm no expert on naval law."

"Well, what do you want me to tell them?" Langly asked, his eyes falling on the sonar screen again. Another torpedo narrowly missed the sub as it rapidly ascended to their position. "They must be seeing this on their screens too. I think they're wondering what's going on down there as much as we are."

"But which side are they on?" Frohike wondered. "They're the military, and we all know what that means."

"Not all of them work for Them, you know," Byers countered.

"So? You think we should ask them for help?" He turned to Langly. "Are the subs close enough for radio contact yet?"

"No," Langly shook his head. "Not for a little while yet."

"S.S. Meercat, prepare to be boarded."

"Oh, man," Langly moaned. "What are we going to do?"

Meanwhile, Byers had been wondering why the name of the cruiser seemed so familiar. When it hit him, he couldn't help the smile that grew on his face.

"What are you smiling about, you narc? They're gonna board us," Frohike muttered.

"Give me the mike, Langly." Seeing the blond man hesitate, he prodded, "Come on. I have an idea." Taking the mike from the reluctant Gunman, he thumbed the transmit switch. "This is the S.S. Meercat. Could I speak to your captain?"

"Now, why would you want to do that?" came the reply.

"Please," Byers said. "It's important."

"I don't think so, Meercat. Prepare to be boarded."

"Wait," Byers shouted. "Tell your captain his sister's in the sub that's being fired on."

There was a moment of utter silence as his friends stared at him, wondering if he'd gone off the deep end. Slowly, their expressions cleared as they caught on to Byers' idea.

"Please repeat that, Meercat. Did you say the captain's sister is on..."

"This is Captain William Scully," a new voice interrupted. "Who am I talking to? How do you know my sister?"

"Captain, my name is John Byers. I'm a friend of Agent Scully's."

"Oh? And why would you say she's down there in that sub? And why is it being fired upon?"

"Um, Captain? Do you remember asking her to look into that sub about a week ago? The one carrying the coffin shaped object?"

There was a pause as the person on the other end considered the question. "I'm listening," came the noncommittal reply.

"Well, it turns out that tied into a case she was working on. You mentioned in your message a sonar screen that disrupted your scans. There's an underwater base hidden behind the screen. Agent Scully went down there to find out what's going on."

"And why are they firing on that sub?" he repeated.

Byers looked at Frohike and Langly, trying to decide how much to reveal. They'd been given a reprieve, but he didn't want to reveal more than was necessary to a military person, no matter who his sister was.

Unfortunately, he could tell that the voice on the other end was starting to sound skeptical. He sighed. "Because she might have found something down there that her enemies don't want her to find."

"And that would be...?"

"I'm not at liberty to say, Captain. Now unless you intend to help, in a few minutes it really won't matter anymore. The sub she's on doesn't look like it's going to dodge too many more of those torpedoes."

The voice on the radio paused again. The Gunmen stared at each other, wondering what was going through Bill Scully's mind.

Langly glanced back at the sonar to check on the sub's ascent progress. When he saw the bright dot streak from their position, headed directly for the bigger sub, he almost yelled in surprise.

"Did what I think happened just happen?" Byers asked quietly.

"The Eagle's firing on the sub," Frohike shouted. "Yesss!!!" he raised his hand to give Langly a high five.

Byers watched the sub start to move away, and silently heaved a breath of relief. "Thanks for the assistance, Eagle."

"You'd better be right about this, Meercat," came the terse reply. "Please keep this channel open when you contact the sub." The threat should they do otherwise was almost implicit in the order.

"Will do, Eagle," Byers answered back.

"Byers," Frohike whispered. "The sub should be in radio range in another five minutes."

Byers nodded in acknowledgement.

"This is Colton calling the Meercat. Come in, Meercat," the radio came to life almost on cue. "I repeat, this is Tom Colton."

"This is Byers, Agent Colton. Are you all right?"

"Yeah," came the weary reply. "I'm fine. Prepare the decompression chamber. We should surface in another 15 minutes."

"Roger that," Byers replied.

"And who sent that rocket after that blasted sub that was firing on us?"

"Umm... we have a little company up here."

"This is the captain of the U.S.S. Eagle," the new voice broke in on the conversation. "Is Dana Scully on board?"

"Uh, no, she's not," Colton replied, puzzled why a naval captain would be interested in them. If they hadn't just saved him and his passengers, he would be inclined to distrust them based on what Mulder and Scully had told him about the military's collusion with the consortium.

"I was told she would be," the voice said, a threatening note creeping into it. "What's going on here, Meercat?"

"It's okay, Colton," Byers hastened to assure him. "This is Captain William Scully, Agent Scully's brother."

"Oh," Colton replied, considering the new information. "Well, we didn't have enough space in here. She should be right behind me, coming up in our sub any minute now. I can't really tell with the limited sonar I have in here."

"Nothing's showing up on our screens, Meercat," Scully said testily. "I'm starting to get a bit impatient."

"Damn, I knew I shouldn't have left them. I knew something would happen. Meercat, are you sure you're not picking up anything?" Colton asked as he maneuvered his sub to dock within the moon pool on the Gunmen's boat. He heard movement outside as Frohike and Langly went about securing the sub and attaching the short crawlway to the nearby decompression chamber.

"I'm sorry, Agent Colton," Byers said softly. "There's nothing down there."

"Damn!" Colton cursed. "Let me get these people off, then I'm going back down. Colton out." He stood up to release the hatch, then started unloading the passengers one after the other. He carried each one to the small chamber, laying them side by side on the floor. Once he had all the children and the three adults in the chamber, he returned to the sub. "Okay, guys, prepare for..."

"Hang on, I'm getting something...," Byers interrupted.

"We're picking it up as well, Meercat. Something's coming up."

"It looks too small to be the sub, though. Maybe it's just a fish," Byers ventured.

"Fish don't rise that fast, or travel straight up. Hang on, it's coming up off your starboard bow. It should reach the surface in a couple of minutes."

Byers hurried out to the deck, staring at the water. On the neighboring cruiser, he could make out several forms leaning over the railing, searching the water themselves.

"Over there," he heard someone from the Eagle shout. And just a few feet away from the Meercat, a dark form rose to the surface.

With a gasp, Mulder broke the surface, almost flying out of the water. He fell back in with a splash, his arms tight around a limp form that Byers could barely make out as Agent Scully. Her face had a pale bluish complexion that caused his breath to hitch. He quickly tossed over a life ring, wondering if they had come up all the way from one and a half miles down. How had they even survived?

He waited for Mulder to weakly place his arm through the ring, then started pulling. He was dimly aware of Frohike and Langly come up beside him, helping him pull the agents onto the deck.

On closer inspection, he could see streaks of blood on their faces, where capillaries close to the skin had burst from the rapid decompression. And even more troubling was the fact that Scully wasn't breathing. Her skin felt clammy and ice-cold to the touch.

"You've killed her, you son of a bitch," a shout came from beside him. He looked up to see a tall red-haired man grasp Mulder's jumpsuit by its collar, pulling him up to glare into his face.

Mulder weakly grasped the offending hands. "Nice to see you too, Bill," he softly whispered, then dissolved into a series of coughs. "Decompr...," he managed to add before blacking out, his head hanging back limply from the other man's grip.

"Umm... Captain Scully," Byers ventured, not too sure about earning the tall man's ire. "John Byers," he introduced himself. "Can you help me get these two to the decompression chamber?"

Bill Scully reluctantly nodded, lifting his sister and hurriedly following the Gunmen. They had Mulder in a fireman's carry as they ran down to the sub.

Colton had already made room inside the chamber and within moments, the other two agents were placed inside. Colton immediately went to work on Scully, removing her suit to administer CPR. From outside, Captain Scully and the Gunmen watched helplessly, unable to get inside to do anything.

They held their breaths as Colton continuously alternated between chest compressions and mouth to mouth. The bloody streaks on Scully's face dried and cracked as he worked.

Next to Colton, they watched as Mulder suddenly gasped, his eyes fluttering open to take in his new surroundings. "What...," they heard him mutter before he caught sight of Colton and Scully.

Forcing joints stiff from the rapid pressure changes, Mulder worked pained muscles to crawl over to his partner. He took over the mouth to mouth, whispering softly to her as he worked. "C'mon, Scully. I know you liked the Abyss, but this is getting a bit ridiculous," he muttered, remembering a similar scene in the movie. Beside him, Colton quietly continued the compressions.

Another five of those, followed by a breath. "Wake up, Scully. You still have to chew me out for dragging you out here, remember?" he said.

They continued for a few more minutes before Colton gave up. He sat back on his knees, his head hanging in defeat. He looked up at the small window set into the door, his eyes meeting the hopeful faces outside. Sadly, he shook his head. It had been too long, he knew. He didn't even want to think about how far they must have come. Had they really just swum up all the way from the facility? His mind refused to even consider the possibility.

Outside, the four men stepped back, looking at each other in disbelief. It couldn't be, could it? None of them wanted to believe it. Bill turned, a cry of anguish escaping his lips as he slumped against the door of the chamber. He stared off into the distance, his mind reeling as the reality of the situation finally hit him. He'd lost another sister. First Missy, and now Dana. He closed his eyes to staunch the tears that threatened to fall.

Colton turned to see Mulder still breathing for the obviously dead woman. He reached out, placing a hand on the other man's arm. "Mulder...," he said softly.

"Damn it, Colton. She's not dead," he hissed, brushing the man's arm off. He took over Colton's position as well, alternating the compressions with the breathing. When she continued to be unresponsive, he increased the force of the compressions until he was almost pounding on her chest. "Come on, Scully. Wake up, dammit! Please!" he shouted, almost begging her to respond.

When he felt the faint tingling, he stopped so abruptly that he almost fell over. He moved up, patting her cheek. "Scully?" he whispered. "That's it, Scully. You can do it. Come on, wake up," he encouraged her.

Colton watched, wide-eyed, almost certain that Mulder had lost it. When he saw the prone woman gasp, though, he felt like he was sharing Mulder's delusions as well. He saw her come to, heaving in a gasping breath as her eyes opened. He quickly helped Mulder turn her to the side, letting her get rid of the water in her system in a series of coughs.

Outside, the four men watched, shocked, as Scully literally seemed to come back to life. Bill Scully weakly sank to his knees, muttering a fervent, "Thank god!"

She slowly regained consciousness, her eyes catching the concerned hazel orbs looking back at her. "Hey, G'man," she whispered hoarsely, looking at Mulder. "Looks like we made it, huh?"

"You got that right, G'woman. I swear, after this we're going on a long vacation," he whispered back, his hand clutching hers, bringing it up to gently kiss the back of her hand.

Colton looked at the two of them, almost oblivious to anything else, and wondered if the rumors going around the Bureau had any truth to them after all.


Sickbay
USS Enterprise-D
Monday, April 12, 2371
0743 hours

"How is she?"

Crusher glanced up from her examination of the unconscious woman to see the figure leaning against the doorway. She noticed the rings around his eyes, attesting to his lack of rest.

"Did you get any sleep at all last night?"

Mulder shrugged. "A couple of hours, I guess. I'll be fine." He nodded towards his wife. "What about her?"

Crusher sighed, turning back to her tricorder. "There's been no change as far as I can tell. All my readings tell me she's dead. But you see this...," she said, pointing to one of the display screens on the wall next to her. She pressed a couple of buttons, shifting the image. "These spikes here indicate very low level neural activity. It's not unusual to find similar residual activity in deceased patients."

"But...," Mulder prodded, knowing there was something more.

"But, it only occurs in recently deceased patients. This shows activity all night long. I don't know exactly what it means, except that there's still something going on in her body. Not enough to qualify her as being alive," she said, "but I'm not sure I'd classify her as completely dead either."

Mulder silently nodded, thinking over the information. Not a ringing endorsement about Scully's recovery, but it was something, he supposed. He moved to her side, reaching for a limp hand, gently caressing it. He looked up at Crusher. "Thank you, Beverly, for everything," he said softly.

Crusher nodded in mute understanding. "It'll work out, Agent Mulder."

He smiled. "I could say the same to you," he replied softly, not hearing her suddenly catch her breath at his words. He remembered the looks she and Picard had shared the day before. There was something there, he'd realized, but couldn't quite tell how deep the feelings ran. "Beverly, about the captain...," he began.

"If it's all the same to you," Crusher interrupted, her voice icy. She snapped the tricorder shut as she moved past him. "I'd rather not talk about it."

Mulder sighed, following her into the outer office. He could sense the fear and anger just beneath her words. She didn't show it, but he could tell she was scared. And it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in his head. "How often have you had to do this, Beverly?" he asked softly.

"Excuse me?" Crusher snapped, her eyes narrowing. She desperately wanted him to drop the subject. She was having a hard enough time trying not to think about the latest addition to the stasis chambers without Mulder trying to remind her about it.

"How often have you had to stand by his bedside while he was injured or ill?" he asked her.

"You don't underst..."

"It's scary, isn't it?" It wasn't a question. He saw her eyes meet his, a hint of tears shining as she looked at him wordlessly. "I know I've stood by Scully's bedside more times than I'd like before our condition manifested itself, waiting for her to recover. And lord only knows how often she's done the same for me." His voice dropped. "You see, I do understand."

The harsh look softened, almost as if a wall had crumbled. She sank into her chair, her fingers clutching the tricorder in a death grip. Closing her eyes, she softly replied, "Except in my case, I can't do anything about it."

"Can't you? Are you willing to live your life like this just to be safe? A friend of mine once said that it's better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all."

"I don't think..."

"Have you?" he asked. "Really thought about it, I mean."

She simply looked at him. What could she say to that? Yes, she'd thought about it? A day didn't go by that she didn't. But, after Jack...

"He's not Jack Crusher," Mulder said quietly, almost as if he could read her mind. When her eyes widened in shock at his guess, he smiled sadly. "Scully and I, we try to keep track of some of her descendants," he said by way of explanation. "Well, the favorite ones anyway," he amended after a moment's thought.

"I wish you hadn't cut yourself off from us," Crusher whispered, wondering how their presence in her life might have affected her.

"You don't know how often we considered getting involved in your life. Or the lives of some of your more distant cousins. But we did that before..." He trailed off, turning inward as a memory flashed across his face.

"Something happened?" Crusher realized.

Mulder swallowed, nodding faintly. "Our work... put them in danger. We tried to protect them, we tried to hide them, but..." He shut his eyes at the painful memory. "After that, we swore..." He shook his head.

"How lonely you must get...," Crusher whispered, unable to imagine not letting anyone get close. Sure they had each other, but no close friends? She then remembered her own situation, one eerily similar, but in reverse, and shook her head. "We really are family, aren't we?" she said, the both of them chuckling at the irony.

When the Sickbay doors swished open, he kept his eyes locked on Crusher's. "We don't have a choice, Beverly. But you do," he said softly. "Think about what I said."

Crusher simply nodded in silence, turning to greet their visitor.

"Guinan," Mulder nodded at her.

"How is she?" the woman asked, echoing Mulder's question from earlier.

"About the same," Crusher replied tiredly. "We won't know anything more until her condition changes. I really hope something happens soon. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up." She placed the palms of her hands against bloodshot eyes, taking the opportunity to close them for a few moments.

Both immortals could clearly see the exhaustion in her features. She might have gotten more rest than Mulder the night before. But the days of caring for the large number of patients, the pressure of needing to find a cure before any more died while she watched helplessly, were starting to take their toll. No mortal, or immortal for that matter, could be expected to last long under such conditions. It was a testament to Crusher's strength and determination that she hadn't broken down yet.

"Beverly..." Guinan said. "Can you do anything right now?"

"Right now? Right now, I can do nothing but wait," Crusher replied bitterly, feeling the frustration at having her hands tied.

"In that case, why don't you get some more rest," Guinan suggested softly. "Let the problem work on itself for a while."

"I wish I could, Guinan," Crusher said, considering the idea before shaking her head. "But I can't. My place is here."

The doctor's mood was obviously infectious. Guinan could see a similar tired look on Mulder's face, the two of them seated across from each other with identical slumps to their shoulders. Thoughts raced across her head as she searched for a solution.

On a hunch, she decided to try something. "I guess it was a stroke of good luck that she wasn't already immune like you and me, huh?" she asked Mulder.

"Not luck."

If it hadn't been so quiet in Sickbay, the soft reply would probably not have been heard at all.

"What was that?" Guinan asked, happy at even the small response.

"I said, it wasn't luck." Mulder looked up, grateful at the opportunity to think about something else for a bit. "It was her decision. She was never actually ever directly exposed to the virus, like I was. The one time she was, on Arvada, there were so few supplies to go around, she chose to remain unvaccinated so we would have that one extra dose for someone else. That she escaped contracting the virus... now that was luck, I suppose."

"I remember the day it started," Crusher said, her thoughts turning inward as she tried to recall the days following the onset of the Arvada disaster. "It was my birthday," she said, "and it was one of my worst. Mother was one of the first ones to be infected."

"I remember you kept squirming in my hands until you wriggled free," Mulder recalled. "You saw the oil before any of us could stop you. You should've never had to see that," he said shaking his head.

"When I saw my mother collapse, I knew something was horribly wrong. And I just had to see..." Crusher said, painful memories floating to the surface.

Guinan took one look at their features, and wondered if she'd simply replaced one pain for another. Her gaze traveled down to see Mulder's hand slide across to gently squeeze Crusher's, and smiled in relief. Sharing the pain, on the other hand, did wonders to lessen one's own grief. She found a chair and settled herself into it. "You know, you never did say why you and Dana wound up on Arvada in the first place."

"It was pretty similar to our current situation, I guess." Mulder shrugged. "Something was going to happen on Arvada, we knew that much from our contacts within Starfleet. So we decided to check it out. Lucky for us, we had... family there." He smiled at Crusher at his last words.

Crusher returned the smile, but she was still disconcerted to hear of Starfleet, an institution she trusted, having anything to do with such bioengineered warfare. The very thought sickened the doctor in her.

"How is Starfleet involved in all this?" Guinan asked, curious herself.

"Well, you see that's the thing." He sighed, remembering the long years spent working against those who worked in the shadows. "They aren't really Starfleet in the strict sense. These people have existed in one form or the other since long before I was even born. They developed the original virus, and its cure. They were also partly responsible for the genetic supermen who precipitated the Eugenics Wars."

He paused, looking from one woman to the other. "With the end of the post-atomic horror, they found that they might not be able to survive in the new government that was being formed. So when the founders of the Federation were charting the Constitution, they wrote themselves in to protect themselves."

"But how?" Crusher asked, puzzled.

"How well do you know your Federation history? Remember how extrajudicial responsibilities are delegated according to Article VII?"

Crusher frowned, trying to recall history classes she'd taken at the Academy, and long since relegated to the dim recesses of her memory. "The Article on the Executive Powers of the Federation? Wasn't there something in Section 27 somewhere about discretionary subcommittees adjunct to the Federation Council?"

"Pretty good," Mulder nodded, impressed. "But it was actually Section 31," he corrected her. "It covers subcommittees like Starfleet Intelligence, several of the lesser known response teams for Federation covert operations, and... it provides a loophole for one particular group to carry out activities without any oversight committee to answer to."

"That's impossible," Crusher scoffed. "Every part of the bureaucracy has some sort of oversight. It's one of the bedrock principles that the Federation was founded on. No part of the government has that kind of autonomy."

"Except these people." Mulder shook his head. "Ever hear of the Tal Shiar? Or the Obsidian Order?"

The ultra-secret elite intelligence agencies of the Romulan Empire and the Cardassians? Who in Starfleet hadn't heard of them? There wasn't even any proof that they really existed, just rumors. And had it not been for Deanna's run-in with the Romulan agency a couple of years earlier, Crusher would probably still be thinking of them as simply that... rumors.

When the two women nodded dumbly, Mulder added, "Is it so hard to believe that the Federation has something similar?"

"I don't believe it...," Crusher whispered, shocked at the revelation. Her brows furrowed in thought. "But if they now work for the Federation, why would they be doing this? They're using these biological agents against Federation citizens."

Mulder shrugged. "Both the Arvada disaster and this one were tests, we think."

"Dana mentioned that," Crusher informed him. "But we aren't at war with any silicon based lifeforms. And what about Arvada?"

"We don't need to be at war," Mulder explained. "They believe in being prepared for anything. This is simply another weapon in their arsenal. As for Arvada, I think that's when this virus came into their possession again."

"Again?" Guinan asked, puzzled.

Mulder nodded. "After the post-atomic horror, their influence was greatly weakened. They almost disappeared, and most of their technology and weapons were lost or destroyed. I imagine they rediscovered the virus somehow, and wanted to test its viability. Arvada was simply... convenient."

"So many people died...," Crusher breathed, aghast. "Do you have any proof?" she asked Mulder.

"If we did, do you think this would have happened?" Mulder asked sadly, gesturing towards the biobed in the other room. "We can't even find out who these people are. We knew about Belisarius only because by chance we stumbled onto a transmission they made. And even then we didn't know exactly what was about to happen."

"And so...?" Crusher asked, her anger rising. "They just go free? To do as they please, without having to answer to anybody?"

Mulder silently shrugged. What could he say to that? The answer was obvious. He saw Crusher's anger simply deflate when she realized it. "Doesn't mean we're going to stop trying though."

The three lapsed into silence for a few moments. Finally Crusher sighed. "Thank you, Agent Mulder. That means a lot. Once Jean-Luc finds out about this, I have no doubt he'll do everything in his power to..." She trailed off when she saw Mulder shake his head.

"You don't understand, Beverly. He won't find anything. He's tried before..."

"What do you mean? You can't believe he knew anything about this and did nothing!" Crusher snapped, incredulous. She couldn't believe Jean-Luc would keep quiet if he did know something.

"About the group? I have no doubt he suspects something. You remember the conspiracy that your friend Keel stumbled on? It cost him his life, Beverly, and the lives of everyone on board his ship."

"Walker..." Crusher's eyes closed in pain, remembering the memorial service where she'd had to say goodbye to a close childhood friend. "This group... they were responsible for that too?" How ironic, she mused, that he and his sisters had survived the Arvada disaster with her, only for him to fall prey to another of this group's machinations.

Mulder nodded. "They were looking for a means to control the upper echelons of Starfleet. The aliens were the perfect solution. Just intelligent enough to make everyone think they were an independent threat, but ultimately under the control of the group. I think Picard suspected that the aliens infiltrating Starfleet wasn't an isolated incident. I know for a fact that he tried to follow up on it. But there simply wasn't anything for him to find; they're simply too good to leave any traces that could lead back to them. He finally just... gave up."

"I don't know what to say...," Crusher breathed. "At least before, I didn't know. But to know and not be able to do anything..."

"I know," Mulder sighed in sympathy. "I've been there."

"I still have nightmares about Arvada," Crusher said softly. "Not too often, but occasionally, in my dreams, I'll see all those we couldn't save. To think it was on the whim of some sentient being..."

Guinan simply sat there in shock at what she'd been told. She had initially broached the topic as a means of getting their minds off the pain of the current situation. And instead, she and Beverly had wound up learning things she couldn't help wishing she hadn't. That there were beings out there who could even consider doing something like this... she shook her head, unable to imagine anyone so heartless.

"I remember your grandmother and Scully scouring the colony for resources to replicate the vaccine we had. But the colonists just depended so little on technology, they couldn't make the vaccine in quantity fast enough. If it hadn't been for your grandmother's knowledge of the local flora, we wouldn't have been able to synthesize a natural substitute for the compound. And even then, there were so many we just couldn't get to in time." Mulder shook his head at the painful memory.

Crusher blinked, trying to remember herself. She'd been so young at the time, the memories were more of a child's emotion than clear pictures. She remembered being scared at the situation, lost without her mother or grandmother to comfort her. She'd drawn what little reassurance her uncle had to offer, but it had still been no substitute for her immediate family. She smiled as a memory surfaced. "Didn't you..." She frowned, trying to remember. "We played kadis-kot together, didn't we?"

Mulder nodded, sharing the smile. "I had to keep you busy somehow. You were simply too inquisitive for your own good. Scully and Felisa locked themselves away to try and make more of the vaccine. With the meager resources they had available, the process took days. You had already been inoculated, and you and I were left to watch and wait. You were so frustrated at not being able to do anything. I understood, but I just couldn't figure out what to do about it." He chuckled. "I would take my eyes off you for a second, and you'd dash off, trying to find your mother and your nana." He shook his head.

"But you managed," Crusher said softly. "I guess I was a handful, huh?" she smirked, feeling better at reliving some of the happier moments.

"I'll say."

"Oh my god!" Crusher exclaimed in wonder as another memory revealed itself. The heartache of their previous discussion lessened every minute as she concentrated on the more pleasant parts of her childhood on Arvada. "You were the Magician, weren't you?"

"Guilty," Mulder replied, chagrined that she'd remembered that.

"Magician?" Guinan asked, puzzled at the reference. Her face stretched into a smile as the conversation slowly took a turn for the better.

"Oh yeah," Crusher enthused, turning to look at the dark woman. "He was the greatest Magician in all the kingdom. He could change his shape, and breathe fire, and fly and everything. One moment he was an ordinary human being..."

"Hey," Mulder interrupted. "I was hardly ordinary," he said as if hurt. But his twinkling eyes gave him away.

"Sorry, an extraordinary human being," Crusher amended with a smile. "And the next, he was a fire-breathing dragon, or a fearsome ogre, or a wizard who could do all sorts of neat magic. And I was the princess, of course."

"Of course," Guinan concurred, going along with the story.

"And I could always get him to return to his normal shape by calling out his name. Uncle Fox..."

"I didn't think you still remembered that," Mulder said softly.

Crusher chuckled. "Are you kidding? Those were some of my most favorite stories." She paused. "Come to think of it, Wesley's too, for so many years. He'd pester me for an original Uncle Fox bedtime story every night before nodding off."

"What can I say? My legacy lives on," Mulder retorted dryly. But his voice betrayed just that little hint of pride.

Crusher was about to reply when the sudden beeping from the adjoining room caught their attention. Crusher's eyes locked with Mulder's as the significance of the sound hit them simultaneously. As one, they rose and hurried into the other room.


Absolute darkness!

She looked around, trying to find any means of escape, any path that might lead somewhere... else. Anywhere other than this emptiness, this nothingness.

But she didn't even know if she was simply blind, or if there really was nothing there. She looked down, but couldn't make out her hands in front of her face. She couldn't even feel her face when she commanded her hands to reach up and touch it.

Where was she? What was this place? She didn't know, she realized, and the thought panicked her. She didn't even know if she'd been here the entire time or if anything other than this place even existed.

She thought she remembered images, sounds, smells from another... life? another time? She didn't know. She shook her head, or at least she thought she did. She couldn't even be sure of that.

Around her, the cloying darkness swirled, caressing her. She flinched every time it came close. She couldn't quite explain how it could come closer if there was nothing other than... it... in this place. But it did. It came to her, enticing in its allure, begging her time and again to cease resisting and give in.

She refused, trying to hold on to the last memory she was sure of... or at least she thought she was sure of. Someone... a man, she thought... smiling at her... tall, with a gentle twinkle in his hazel eyes. He reached for her; she could almost see the hand extending in her direction, at least in her mind. And she so desperately wanted to reach out and grab it, to pull herself towards him.

With him was safety, she knew. With him, she was protected. With him, she was loved. The knowledge wasn't simply something she knew, or thought was true. It was woven into her very self, every fiber of what was left of her being averring it to be true.

The darkness would not win, she was sure of that.

After all, she had promised herself that.

She had promised him that.


"What's happening?" Mulder nearly shouted as Crusher rushed about the room, his voice suddenly loud as the alarms turned off.

Crusher ignored him as she stopped in front of one of the diagnostic panels, the tricorder in her hand beeping madly as she ran the sensing device above Scully's head. She kept glancing from the instrument in her hand to the readouts on several of the wall and bed mounted displays.

Mulder saw information stream across the wall display, but couldn't make out its significance. He turned back to fix a pleading glance at the doctor, but she simply continued her actions. Behind him, Guinan stepped into the room, placing a gentle hand on his shoulders.

"Let her work, Mulder," she told him softly.

Mulder's shoulders dropped in defeat as he realized she was right. If he couldn't help, he'd only be in the way. Nodding, he waited quietly.

A few minutes later, she sighed, snapping the tricorder shut as she looked up at him. She met the pained hazel eyes, and saw the need in them. Not simply a need to know what had transpired, she realized, but also the need to be reassured.

She shook her head. "Nothing's wrong with her. She's doing almost exactly as she was when I last checked on her."

"But the alarms..."

"I said almost exactly. You remember the neural activity I was pointing out earlier?" When she saw him nod in recognition, she went on, "Well, it spiked. Again. Only this time, it exceeded a threshold limit before dying back down."

"And that activated the alarm?"

Crusher nodded. "Activity like this just doesn't spike that high. At least not from such low levels, under normal circumstances. For it to get that far up the scale, it would mean she'd come alive for a nanosecond. That tells me her body's definitely fighting it. But it dropped back down almost immediately, so..." She trailed off, uncertain how to proceed.

"So...," Mulder prodded

"So...," she repeated, then paused again. "I just don't know," she said finally, shaking her head in frustration. "I'm so sorry," she apologized softly, not knowing what else to say.

"Then we'll wait," Mulder replied with determination. "As long as we have to." He moved towards the bed. "Beverly?" he asked softly. "I'd like to be with her for a while." He stopped next to the bed, his hand reaching down to grasp his wife's.

Crusher looked at him for a second, then nodded.

Mulder barely noticed her and Guinan leave, his attention completely focused on the woman lying unconscious in front of him. He gently sat on the bed next to her, enfolding her hand in both of his.

"You're going to wake up, you hear me, Scully?" he whispered to her. "I just know what you'd say to that, you know?" he chuckled softly. "You'd ask me how I could be so sure of that, wouldn't you? Well let me tell you something. I don't just believe that. I know so. You are a part of me Scully. Every day, I look at you, and I see something I've been blessed with. I know you'll shout at me for saying this, but you don't know how many times I've thanked that God you believe in for making you a part of my life. Lord knows, you could have done so much better than this sorry excuse for an immortal. I love you so much, Scully. So very much..."

He closed his eyes tight, a lone tear escaping nevertheless, streaking down his face to splash on the back of his hand. He stared at the slightly red-tinged droplet, then raised his hand to bring hers close to his mouth. "Come back to me, Scully," he softly pleaded. "Please." He placed an almost desperate kiss on her knuckles.

When he felt the faint tingle run down his spine, he almost dropped her hand. It wasn't more than a mere flicker, but he knew what he'd felt. He shut out the faint voices of Crusher and Guinan talking in the other room, and simply stared at the impassive face for a long moment, his eyes widening in realization. Slowly, a soft smile stretched his lips as he squeezed her hand tighter.


"Please..."

The whisper echoed in the darkness. She was sure that if she had a head, it would have jerked up in surprise.

"Mulder," the cry escaped her... lips? almost involuntarily. Mulder... yes! That was his name. She grabbed onto that knowledge, desperate for anything that could tell her who she was. Tell her what she was. And what had happened to her. And most important of all, how she could return to the man... to Mulder.

She closed her eyes, feeling the warmth that pervaded her body at the mere mention of the name. Who was he, she wondered, that he could cause such a reaction merely by thinking about him? She loved him, she realized. It wasn't something she had just decided, nor was it something she simply believed. It just was. A fact.

"You hear that," she shouted at the darkness. "I love him!" she declared with all her will, defying its power over her. "I love Fox Mulder! I, Dana Scully, love Fox Mulder!"

Yes! She was Dana Scully. She knew it to be true.

And the knowledge brought with it others.

The feel of a particular pair of lips against hers as hazel eyes locked with hers.

The sensation of his touch against her body stirring through her consciousness, his imaginary fingers tracing a fiery path across her equally imagined body as she remembered.

The joy of joining with him as they became one, each one a half of the other, both combining to fulfill each other, to complete each other.

Around her, the darkness screamed in its agony, in anger, in fury as, tether by tether, it lost first one, then another anchor into this woman's soul.

Dana Scully smiled in triumph as the first patch of white appeared amid the darkness.


"I felt that." It was a whisper. "I felt that!" The second time, it was a shout that quickly brought the two women from the other room running in.

"Mulder?" Guinan softly said as Crusher did a quick run-through of the equipment surrounding the unconscious woman. When Guinan met her eyes, she simply shook her head. Nothing.

"Come on, Scully," Mulder excitedly whispered. "I felt you that time. I felt you. Come back to me, Scully."

The two women just stared silently at him, both at a loss for an explanation.


The white canvas spread, fighting the darkness as it slowly filled with images. The memories came, a deluge that threatened to overwhelm her as she remembered.

Their first meeting, so long ago...

"Agent Mulder? I'm Dana Scully. I've been assigned to work with you."

"Oh, isn't it nice to suddenly be so highly regarded. So who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?"

One of their first cases together...

"Do you think I'm spooky?"

A dark car, a mumbled confession...

"I wouldn't put myself on the line for anybody but you."

A stark realization...

"I had the strength of your beliefs."

... one that had saved her more times than she could count...

... was saving her even now.

She felt him, next to her, holding her, calling her.

"I'm coming, Mulder," she shouted to him. "Wait for me..."


"Always...," he whispered. "Forever."

Crusher blinked at Mulder, hearing him say the words for seemingly no reason. Her attention was drawn away when she heard Guinan gasp behind her. Almost simultaneously, the alarms went off again.

The grip on Mulder's hand tightened as the tingling sensation increased, becoming stronger. Both immortals knew what that meant. And going by the readings she was getting, so did Crusher.

A soft gasp, and her eyes opened. "You waited...," she whispered wondrously, her voice hoarse with emotion.

"I always will," he replied, his voice equally low. He bit his lip, leaning forward to place a kiss on her forehead, another on her eyes, and one on her lips. "I love you so much, Scully," he whispered, his lips brushing hers as he spoke.

Her lips parted in a faint smile. "I love you, Mulder."

"Agent Mulder...," Crusher hesitantly called. "I need..."

The couple stared at each other for a long moment, silently acknowledging their love for each other. Finally they separated, her hand still firmly held in his. He looked up at Crusher, both of them sharing a wide grin. "She's all yours, Beverly." When an auburn eyebrow rose at the clutched hands, he chuckled, "Well, mostly all yours."

Crusher merely shook her head, and got to work.


S.S. Meercat, Decompression Chamber
Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean
Saturday, December 12, 1998
05:34 AM

There was hardly any movement as the dark woman opened her eyes. Large, expressive orbs glanced around the room, taking in the dozing forms of the children lying next to her and the four adults just beyond.

"You're safe," the voice came from just behind her.

Startled, she turned to the source, noticing the tall man standing next to her.

He moved towards her, going into a crouch until his head was level with hers. When she flinched at the movement, he immediately moved back a step, raising his hands in a placating gesture. "Hey, careful. You're going to be all right," he whispered in a soothing voice, trying to reassure her. An image of her lying on the laboratory table flashed across his mind, along with the memory of the color of the blood in the IV next to her. "Do you understand me?" he asked.

She slowly nodded. "Where...?" she croaked, her voice hoarse.

"Here...," the man offered her a cup. "Drink this." Seeing her hesitate, he added, "It's only water. It'll help."

She slowly brought the cup to her lips, taking a few moments to drain it. "Thanks," she finally said, looking back to meet the hazel eyes.

"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI. My partners and I," he said, nodding towards the sleeping adults, "we found you in the facility..." He stared at her questioningly. "Do you remember any of that?"

She shook her head. "Not too clearly. I was going home..." She frowned, obviously trying to remember. "I was... I think I was stung by some insect, and..." She shook her head. "I must have had an allergic reaction. I think I must've fainted. Next thing I know, I'm in some sort of lab. Someone there injected me with something. I remember an IV with this dark liquid..." Her eyes widened as the memory returned. She darted a wide-eyed look at her arm where the needle had been. "What were they doing to me?" she asked, horrified.

"The same thing they were doing to these children and a couple of the adults over there," he replied, gesturing towards them. "They were conducting tests on a biological weapon. Where did you say you lived?"

"Umm... I have a cabin in the Catskills."

Mulder closed his eyes, recalling the map of the bee-farms. He nodded, remembering the dot in Southern New York State. She was simply another casualty in the consortium's plans. Although he wasn't too sure he'd consider her innocent. He looked at her, trying to decide how to bring up the topic. Finally, he decided on the direct approach.

"My partner, the one with the red hair, both of us are immortal." Best to get that out of the way first, he realized. In the close confines of the chamber, he knew she'd have a hard time pinpointing the buzz to its owner. "Relax," he reassured her when he saw the panicked look on her face. "We wouldn't have gone to the trouble of administering an anti-viral agent if all we were looking for was your head." He saw her calm somewhat. "You never did mention your name."

"Guinan."

He considered her reply for a moment. "So... where are you from, Guinan? Originally, I mean." When he saw her raise her brow, he suddenly realized something that had been bothering him. She had no eyebrows! He blinked in surprise. Seeing her puzzled expression, he explained, "When we were at the lab, my partner and I noticed the other IV. The one carrying your blood." He saw the realization dawn on her face. Again, an expression of fear crossed her face. He quickly held up a hand to calm her. "Don't worry, we won't hurt you. I was just... curious."

The woman simply stared back at him impassively. Mulder sighed, rising to his feet. "Get some rest, Guinan." He looked up at the sound of approaching footsteps outside the chamber, and made his way to the door. Looking through the observation window, he saw Bill Scully and another officer escorting a uniformed woman into the small airlock outside their room. He looked at the two officers and the woman quizzically.

"How's Dana?" Bill asked gruffly, trying to get a better look inside the small room.

The man's attitude still grated on Mulder. But he realized that Scully's brother was making an effort. The least he could do was return the gesture. He obligingly moved aside. "She's fine. We finally got her to get some rest."

"Good," Bill muttered, still not meeting his eyes. "She seemed to have the situation in hand yesterday, but we figured she might need some relief."

"We?" Mulder noticed the other man punching a few controls. The gauges indicated that the airlock was slowly starting to pressurize.

Bill nodded. "This is my first officer, Commander Paul Riker," he said, pointing to the man next to him, who nodded silently. "We asked Lt. Zane here to join you. She has medical training, so she might be able to help."

One eyebrow rose as Mulder looked at the woman. That, and you'd have someone from your boat to keep an eye on us, eh, Bill? What's the matter, don't trust me? He smirked, keeping the thought to himself, instead nodding a greeting when he met the woman's eyes. "Mulder," he introduced himself.

"Lt. Xara Zane," she reciprocated, smiling. "I should be able to get inside in an hour or so."

"Good, I'm sure Scully could use the help," he replied, stifling a yawn. "I guess I'm more tired than I realized." He looked up at the two officers. "Thanks," he said tersely. To the woman, he simply said, "I'll see you in an hour." With that, he moved to the back of the chamber and sat himself down.

From across the room, the dark-skinned woman silently watched, and waited.


07:27 AM

She awoke to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Reluctantly, she opened one eye. The other shortly followed at the sight of the steaming cup in front of her face. Slowly, the sleep drained from her eyes as she looked up from the cup to the face of the person that held it.

An attractive brunette looked back at her with a smile. "Coffee, Agent Scully?"

"Mmmm...," Scully moaned, one hand gratefully accepting the offer, the other reaching up to rub her neck in an attempt to massage away the knot that seemed to have settled there. She took a deep sip, the strong liquid quickly bringing her the rest of the way to consciousness.

She enclosed the cup in both hands, letting the warmth flood through her body. Fully awake now, she looked at the woman, finding her features strangely familiar. "Thank you," she told her, noting the uniform and the stripes on her arm. "Lieutenant...?"

"Zane," the woman replied. "Xara Zane. But," she said, her voice dropping as she looked around furtively, "I prefer Xaz, to tell you the truth. Unless of course, the brass is around." She winked, a smile forming on her lips.

"Then, I'm Dana." Scully extended a hand as she reintroduced herself. "Have you been here long?" she asked, curious, as she shook the woman's hand. The officer hadn't been there when she'd fallen asleep the night before.

"I'm trained in field medicine. Your brother asked me to help with the... others." She glanced at the nine bodies lying beside the still sleeping Mulder and Colton. "I relieved your partner a couple hours ago." She took a sip from her own cup, letting out a sigh as the coffee went down. "Oh, I needed that."

Scully glanced at her watch, noting the time. "Not a morning person, Lieutenant?" she asked, an eyebrow rising in amusement.

"Oh, heavens no," the woman replied, sitting back. "I'm purely right-brained. No getting up before noon for me."

"And you're in the navy?"

The woman smiled faintly, shrugging. "This isn't permanent. I go where I'm needed. I'm here to..." She frowned as she considered her words. "... observe, I guess. To get insight."

"Insight?"

"Into life."

"Ah," Scully nodded at the information, not quite sure what to make of it. She looked to the side, noting the other occupants of the chamber. They would all be sharing the room for at least the next week as they slowly decompressed.

She recalled the events of the night before as she quietly sipped her coffee. Once she'd recovered from the effects of their enforced one and a half mile swim, she'd administered the samples of the vaccine she'd prepared earlier. It had taken till nearly midnight before the last traces of the virus were gone from the bodies.

Towards the end, she'd felt the exhaustion seeping into her joints. Looking at the other two agents, she could see a similar tiredness on their faces as they helped her with the others. Mulder hid it better, but she could tell that both were ready to drop at any moment. And her brother's incessant questions from outside the chamber every few minutes certainly hadn't helped. She silently smirked at the memory of Colton politely telling the captain of the Eagle to piss off for a while, which he'd grudgingly done after a few minutes, realizing how tired they really were.

Still, she'd been reluctant to leave her patients' side. Even after seeing the cleared eyes on all those they'd rescued, she'd finally gone to sleep only after Mulder and Colton had volunteered to stay awake for another few hours and keep watch, promising to wake her up in case something went wrong.

"Thanks for coming," Scully said finally, adding a silent thanks to her brother as well. "The guys needed the rest."

"No problem," Xaz replied, finishing her coffee. She stood and held out her hand for Scully's empty cup. "So are they going to be all right?"

"Mmhmmm," Scully nodded, handing it over. "I'm not sure how much you've been told..."

"Just that they were sick, and that you'd been treating them." She moved to the back of the chamber to rinse the cups and put them up.

"That sounds about right. They were free of any illness last night. They're just sleeping now, so they'll probably be up and about soon."

"Sounds good to know. Do you need me to do anything?"

"Just keep an eye on them," Scully said. "Make sure their temperature doesn't rise above 99 degrees and their eyes remain clear. I don't expect any problems though."

The officer nodded in reply, moving to check on the patients, while Scully stretched in her seat. It was going to be a long week, she thought, her eyes falling on their one unknown quantity. Based on her brother's message... Had it been only six days since then? It certainly seemed much longer. She shook her head to clear it. Based on her brother's message, it was possible that the dark woman was the one he'd seen them transferring to the facility.

But she still had no idea who she was. She'd asked Mulder the night before, but he'd told her that he didn't remember any mention of her in the computer files he'd copied. The Gunmen had confirmed the absence of any identifying data on her when they'd examined the disk Mulder had managed to bring back. The only thing they knew was that the woman bled purple, a fact both she and Mulder had decided to keep to themselves for the moment. It was entirely possible that the researcher had been right, that the odd color of the blood had simply been a reaction to the overdose of the virus. The only other possibility, she didn't even want to consider. It simply went against too many of her ingrained beliefs.

Glancing around, she saw everyone else still sleeping. She sighed as she leaned back to wait for them to wake up. It was definitely going to be a long week, she decided.


Friday, December 18, 1998
05:49 PM

It was barely six, but the sky was already darkening as they headed for port. Silhouetted against the twilight, two figures leaned against the railing, quietly enjoying the evening breeze. The shorter of the two moved to the side, the last rays of the sun catching on red-gold hair as she leaned into the taller figure of the man.

"Cold?" he asked gently, placing an arm around her, pulling her close.

"Not really," she murmured, a soft smile on her face. "But don't let go. It feels good." She felt more than heard the chuckle in the body pressed against hers. He moved so that she was completely inside his embrace. She looked up, following his gaze into the dusky horizon.

"We should be reaching San Diego in a few hours," he commented. He lowered his head, turning to the side to rub his cheek against her hair.

"Mmm...," she absently replied, enjoying the attention as she burrowed closer into the warmth of his body.

"You still have a week to shop."

"Shop?"

"It'll be Christmas next Friday, Scully," he gently reminded her. He felt her breath catch at his words.

"It shouldn't take more than a couple of days to return the children to their parents," she said finally.

He nodded into her hair, leaning further to nuzzle her neck.

"Mmm... Mulder...," she moaned. "Are you trying to distract me?"

"Is it working?" he asked.

She could hear the smile in his voice. "Maybe," she replied softly.

"Good," he whispered, continuing his attentions. "I want you to forget everything that's happened these past couple of weeks." His lips continued to suckle and caress her neck, causing her to arch into his touch. "Just concentrate on what you're feeling, right here, at this moment."

"No... problem....," she breathed, her breath catching at his actions.

"Do you feel all your cares just... floating away, Scully?" he asked, his voice rough with need.

She shivered at the sensual edge in his tone. A sigh escaped her lips as she remembered where they were. She was enjoying this, but they both knew that anything more would have to wait until they got back home. She took a deep breath, her hands reaching up to cup the side of his head. She turned, blue locking with hazel as she looked into his eyes, seeing the smoky desire within. She swallowed, feeling the same burning desire coursing through her body.

"Oh, Mulder..."

He finally broke the gaze, looking up and out into the waters. "I know," he sighed. "I love you, Scully."

She placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. With a reluctant sigh, she took a step back, moving out of his embrace. She could feel the pull, still. It beckoned, a fiery thing that she could see him trying to control as well. Finally, the desire ebbed without quite dying away, the flaming threads thinning to a tenuous strand connecting them both.

Trying to get their minds off each other, Scully brought up a question they'd been putting off almost all week. "What are we going to do about our mystery woman?"

"Guinan?"

"If that was her real name." Scully hadn't really had an opportunity to speak to the woman. Mulder had told her about their brief conversation that first day. But neither agent had expected what had happened that night.

They'd woken the next morning to find themselves one person short. With two other immortals in the small room, neither agent had really noticed the departure of the third. And since they'd been convinced that the abductees had returned to normal after a day of observation, there had really been no need to keep an active watch. So none of them had noticed the woman's escape in the middle of the night, leaving everyone except the immortals to wonder how she could have possibly survived the obviously rapid decompression.

When the Gunmen had confirmed the missing life raft, Mulder couldn't help kicking himself for not anticipating it. He knew that the only reason he and Scully remained in the chamber was to avoid having to answer further unwanted questions. They'd had a hard enough time explaining away their earlier swim; he doubted that their weak story about their submersible having problems on the way up had satisfied anyone. Why hadn't he realized that the woman would be under no such qualms? Mentioning that they were government agents probably hadn't helped gain her trust either, considering she thought that it was the government who'd taken her in the first place. Finally, he'd just had to accept that he might have let another possible piece of evidence about aliens simply slip through his grasp.

"Maybe we'll run into her again someday," Mulder said, running through the rest of the week's events in his mind. They had finally finished the decompression cycle a couple of hours earlier. The Eagle had left soon after, once Lt. Zane was able to return to duty.

"Maybe," Scully replied absently.

"Scully?" Mulder asked softly, noting her distracted answer.

"We have the locations of the other farms, Mulder. And everything else on that disk." She looked up to meet his eyes. "But will it be enough? Will it ever be enough?"

"This time, I really think so, Scully. I think..." He took a breath as he considered his words. "It's the beginning of their end, Scully. I'm sure of it."

"I hope so, Mulder." She turned away from him, moving back into the confines of the boat. She felt him following behind her, and reached back a hand to grasp his. Feeling him squeeze back for a moment before releasing it, she smiled faintly. "I really hope so...," she whispered.


Sickbay
USS Enterprise-D
Monday, April 12, 2371
2108 hours

The screen cast a pale glow on his face as he entered the final key stroke.

"Authorization confirmed," the computer's mechanical voice responded. "Deleting specified records."

The man turned from the console to stare at the person standing next to him. "It's done," he said tersely, not needing to elaborate.

The other simply nodded in acknowledgement. He watched as the last line of information disappeared off the screen. With that, there was no record that either the man or his wife had ever even been on the Enterprise. The captain's log would include a commendation for the chief medical officer, praising her diligent efforts in single-handedly coming up with a cure for the unexpected outbreak of an unknown biological agent.

"It still goes against everything I believe. If it hadn't been for you and Dr. Kelly..."

"Trust me, Captain," the seated man replied, "it's for the best. Better that they assume that Beverly simply stumbled onto the cure. They can fight proven threats, but there's little they can do about random chance. As long as they believe Beverly acted on her own in coming up with the cure, they won't get suspicious." He rose from his chair, heading in the direction of the CMO's office.

Picard sighed, conceding the truth in his words as he followed behind. "I'm still concerned about something Dr. Crusher and Dr. Kelly told me."

"Oh?"

"The cure only works on the virus when inside a carbon-based host."

Mulder froze, his eyes widening at the captain's words. Scully had neglected to mention that part earlier. "Damn! That would mean... Naraht?"

"Don't worry. We're keeping him under strict quarantine until we can drop him off at Janus VI," Picard reassured him. "But considering what you've told me about this group of yours, I have to admit I'm more than a little worried. There are several silicon-based life-forms within the Federation. If they should decide to use the virus against one of them..."

"... there won't be anything we can do about it," Mulder completed the thought, sighing at the realization.

Picard mutely nodded, tugging on his shirt nervously. "The Hortas we beamed aboard from Belisarius were long dead by the time we got to them."

"Meaning they can't be studied to figure out the effects of the virus on their physiology," Mulder concluded. He knew that by now, any traces of the virus within their bodies would have long since disappeared. "I really hope they're satisfied with this test and decide against any more."

"Somehow, I doubt that will be the case, Agent Mulder," Picard said dryly. "It's never that easy."

"I know. But what else can we do?" Mulder asked, raising his hands helplessly. "At least, in our case, we had the formula for the original vaccine. There was a possibility of arriving at a cure given enough time." He looked up to see Crusher and Scully walking towards him.

They'd obviously overheard him. "There is one possibility," Scully said, looking at the other three. "They engineered this virus, which means it's highly likely they also developed a cure alongside it. Or at the very least, a vaccine against it."

"It's possible," Picard nodded thoughtfully. "I'll see what I can find out."

"Be careful, Captain. These men are not to be taken lightly," Mulder cautioned him.

Picard's jaw tightened, acknowledging the warning. "I'll bear that in mind. Meanwhile," he turned to Crusher, "what's the status on the cure?"

"Based on our initial tests and your reaction to the cure, we've finished refining and replicating enough for the rest of the infected crew. Dana was just helping me get the senior staff out of stasis to administer it. They should be waking up any minute now."

Picard nodded, remembering waking up from the darkness a few hours earlier to find the two doctors staring at him. Crusher had had a wide smile on her face as she'd welcomed him back to the land of the living. Now he was looking forward to getting the rest of his crew back on their feet and this entire incident behind him.

"I guess that means we'll be taking our leave. The fewer people who see us, the fewer awkward questions there'll be," Mulder said. He turned to Scully, raising his eyebrow in question.

She looked away from him for a moment, her eyes coming to rest on Crusher. She sighed, then nodded silently.

The gesture hadn't gone unnoticed though. "You could stay for a while," Crusher suggested softly. "I'm sure we could find some way to explain..."

"You don't know how tempting that sounds, Beverly," Scully said. "But Mulder's right. It's not a good idea."

"I don't want to lose you two again," Crusher said quietly. "I just found you."

"You won't," Scully promised her. "If you ever need to reach us, the Foundation usually knows our whereabouts. We'll stay in touch."

Crusher let out a deep breath, nodding as she smiled faintly. She moved forward, her arms going around her aunt. "Thanks, Auntie Day," she whispered, reverting to the long-unused appellation, "for everything."

"Anytime, Beverly," Scully whispered back, returning the hug. They separated, smiles on both their faces.

Crusher turned to Mulder next. "Agent Mulder...," she began, then changed her mind. "Uncle Fox..." She shook her head, smiling. "Damn, that sounded strange, but thank you. I'll miss you both."

Mulder chuckled. "Right back at you, princess. Be safe, okay? And remember what I told you earlier."

Crusher stared at him silently for a moment, then nodded. "I'll try," she said softly.

Scully looked at him, puzzled. She was about ask what he meant when she felt the tingling sensation. She looked towards the door as Guinan entered.

"The captain informed me that you were leaving."

Scully nodded.

"I hope you weren't going to leave without saying goodbye," she gently chided them.

"Unlike some other people, Guinan, we've got better manners," Mulder snorted.

"You're never going to forgive me for running out on you two, are you?" she smiled, shaking her head. She noticed the puzzled looks on Picard and Crusher. "I mentioned that they rescued me from one of the initial tests, right?"

When they nodded, Mulder continued, "What she didn't tell you was that she snuck out in the middle of the night without so much as a thank you or goodbye." The comment earned a round of chuckles from the audience.

"What could I do?" Guinan raised her hands defensively. "They suspected that I wasn't completely... human. Their society wasn't even close to ready for any kind of First Contact yet." She shrugged. "I did what I thought was best."

"Is that when you left your observation on Earth to return home?" Picard asked. He knew she'd been on Earth as early as the nineteenth century, but he hadn't known when she'd left.

She nodded. "With all that had happened, I just needed to get away. I had been feeling homesick for a while, and that seemed as good a time as any. Besides," she asked disarmingly as she turned to Mulder, "I did finally give you an explanation, didn't I?"

"Yeah, a couple of hundred years later," he muttered sarcastically. However, the small smile tugging at his lips gave him away.

Guinan simply shook her head. "It was good to see you again, Mulder, Dana. Take care, both of you," she said, giving each of them a hug. "And good luck," she added.

"Good bye, Guinan," Scully replied, returning the embrace.

"And thank you," Mulder added, earning him a faint smile from the dark woman.

With that final round of good-byes, the two immortals transported to their vessel.


Private Vessel Eagle

"You know, their first officer looked somewhat familiar," Scully mused as they made their way to the cockpit. "Riker... I think an ancestor of his used to serve under my brother."

"Mmmm...," Mulder nodded absently, taking his place at the conn. He quickly entered the control sequence to fire up the engines and get them moving.

"So," Scully asked, settling into her seat. "Where to?"

When Mulder didn't reply for a few seconds, she thought he hadn't heard her. She saw him simply sitting there, staring at the stars that appeared outside the forward screens as they cleared the shuttlebay. She was about to repeat herself, when he suddenly sighed.

"It'll never end, will it, Scully?"

The unexpected comment drew a raised eyebrow from her.

"You know," he continued, "Picard was right. We can't just hope that they'll never actually put this virus to use."

"But, like I said before, short of getting them to hand over a cure, I don't see how..." She trailed off at the look on her husband's face. "Mulder...?"

He turned towards her, an innocent eyebrow rising in question.

Her eyes narrowed. "I've been married to you too long for that routine to work anymore, Mulder," she chided him. "You have an idea. So spill!"

Mulder chuckled, shaking his head. "You're right. The only way to get a cure is to go after the source."

"But how?" Scully asked, shaking her head. "We don't have any idea who these people are, much less where we can find them."

"That's true," Mulder mused, rubbing his chin. "But, we do know someone who might lead us to them. I was thinking about Byers' first message, the one that brought us out here."

Scully looked puzzled for a second. Her expression cleared as she realized who Mulder was referring to. "You mean, Paris?"

Mulder nodded, a smug smile on his face.

"But we'd never get close enough to him, Mulder. He's an Admiral..."

"Ah," Mulder raised a finger, "but he's not the only Paris around, is he? I'm actually a bit curious about what his son has to do with any of this."

"His son?"

"Mmhmm... Buckle up, Scully," he said, turning back to the console to enter the new heading. "We're going to Deep Space Nine."

Scully watched as the stars moved, smearing into lines as space warped around them. "Mulder...," she protested, "it'll take us more than a week to get there."

"Uh-huh," he nodded.

She sighed. "And what's so important at DS9, Mulder?"

"Voyager, of course."

The End


End Notes

Yess!!! It's finally over. After slaving on this for nearly... what is it now? 8 months!? Jeez. I never thought this thing would end. Anyway, it's done, and boy, is it ever long. Let me know if any of you actually got through the whole thing in one sitting ;)

So, now you know what that last line is going to lead to, right? And yes, I've already started the plans for the next one. Hopefully, it won't take nearly as long as this one did. I expect it'll be much shorter as well.

Let's see, what else? Okay, you've now met Lynn. I know a couple of you wondered who she was from 'Sweet Dreams...' I have no idea why I thought of marrying her off to Colton, but that's what Xaz told me had to happen. So, there you have it. And no, she's definitely not immortal, nor is she going to become a vampire, as a few of you asked. Anyway, I briefly toyed with the idea of making Skinner their Watcher, but considering that most of the time, he has no clue what the dynamic duo is up to, a new, more active partner seemed a better choice.

BTW, what did you think of Xaz's cameo? She insisted ;) I wonder if that makes her a Mary Sue. Hmm...

Now, I'm sure y'all just loved it when I said that Mulder had been on the Enterprise the year before, huh? I know, another loose end. What can I say? I just hope I don't loose track of all the other loose ends I've created ;) Anyway, the story after next, or maybe the one after that should resolve a couple of these points.

As for the arc about the Preserver race, it's still continuing. I have a vague idea of where it's leading, and I think it'll actually end up having an impact on one of the later stories in the series. I'm trying to tie it into the fact that there are immortals among other species as well, with different ideas about what the Game's all about. For now, just think of the arcs as introductions to each story.

And finally, I know more than a few people have been waiting for this installment for a while now, including my editor/beta-reader ;), and you all have my undying gratitude for your patience. Hopefully, I'll have more time to devote to the series, now that school is finally winding down. Meanwhile, let me know what you thought of the story. Send any and all feedback to unmai@bigfoot.com. Until then...

Futures Past Chronology:

01 - The Awakening(Oct 1997)
02 - The Light of Day(Jan 1998)
03 - My Funny Valentine(Feb 1998)
04 - Crossover(Feb 1998)
05 - Flying Lessons(Feb 1998)
06 - Hazel + Gold = Green(Mar 1998)
07 - Phoenix(May 1998)
08 - Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This(Dec 2010, Sep 2374)
09 - From the Ashes(Dec 1998, Mar 2371)

Futures Past 08:
Sweet Dreams...
Home Futures Past 10:
Tchaikovsky Unbound