Futures Past 09: From the Ashes


None of these characters belong to me, and like so many 
worthy people before me, I'm only borrowing them for a short 
while. All characters referred to herein belong to CC, or 1013, 
or Fox, or Rysher, or Paramount, or Pocket Books, whoever owns 
the rights to them.

Author's Notes

Now that I've satisfied my yen to write a Voyager piece, I'm 
going to go back to the present. Sort of. Since this is also a 
Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover, I'm going to be jumping 
back and forth between the timelines, and hopefully the story 
will parallel somewhat.

As I've said previously, this series veers off from X-files 
canon immediately after season 5, and before the movie. Timeline 
wise, the current events in this story are set sometime during 
what would be the sixth season of the X-files, around Dec 1998. 
The future events are set about three months after All Good 
Things (TNG finale), between the DS9 episode, The Search, where 
the identity of the Founders is revealed, and Voyager's first 
episode, Caretaker.

Finally, this extra long piece of work, which also took 
close to forever to get done (Xaz needed extra coffee near the 
end;) is dedicated to all you great fans who kept writing me 
while I stumbled through the story. Your subtle ;} nudges were 
just the incentive I needed to get this done already. So here's 
to y'all. I hope you enjoy this.

As always, any missing parts can be found at my website at 
http://www.bigfoot.com/~unmai or at gossamer or seventh-dimension 
once they update. Send feedback to unmai@bigfoot.com, let me know 
what you thought. Meanwhile, l'histoire awaits...


Futures Past 09:
From the Ashes
by Arvy 

The Milky Way
The Archean Eon
Approx. 4 billion years ago

They had many names.

Future generations of space explorers would call them the 
Preservers. Several races had synonymous descriptions for them, 
including such appellations as the Wise ones, the First Ones, 

They were explorers, charting and colonizing a major portion 
of what would one day be known as the Milky Way galaxy. They were 
scientists, capable of the most astounding achievements, 
inventing ways and means to bend the laws of space and time to 
suit their purposes. They were architects, the worlds they 
occupied sporting beauteous monuments, a testament to their 
prowess, causing all who looked upon them to exclaim at the 
wondrous sight they beheld. They were artists, and artisans, 
their work praised and revered by their people throughout the 
known galaxy.

They were dying.

And there were no other races, no other beings to share in 
their wondrous achievements. No others to learn from them, to 
teach them. No others who might know, who might understand them. 

No one who might remember them after they were gone.

The project was launched with the utmost haste. Once they 
realized what was happening to them, not that they fully 
understood the final ramifications of the changes, they wasted no 
time in putting together the most massive preservation effort in 
their lonely history. Countless solar systems were seeded with 
their DNA, with the basic molecules that defined their very 
existence. And within these molecules, these protein chains, they 
encoded a message. For their children. A message for their 
progeny, so they might one day come together, traversing the 
reaches of space to solve the puzzle. A message of peace and 
goodwill, in the hope that one day they might know, might 
remember their common genetic ancestry.

Then they changed.

And waited.


This particular solar system was not unlike countless 
others. The explorers had found among the planets the requisite 
gas giant, the frozen iceball, the blazing furnace of molten rock 
orbiting too near the system's sun. But, unlike most systems, 
there was not just one but two planets capable of supporting 

Had they more time, they might have delved deeper into the 
planets' ecology, might have more precisely determined the long 
term effects of their actions. The third planet posed no problem. 
Their seeds took root, combining readily with the already forming 
carbon based biological matrix. On the fourth planet, however, 
their actions caused something they had not expected, hadn't 

The existing biological matrix on the planet was silicon 
based, not carbon. With the addition of carbon based DNA into the 
matrix, the resulting lifeforms were a unique combination of the 
two. Composites, ones that evolved with characteristics of both, 
yet neither. There were the requisite lifeforms, the single 
celled organisms, the bacteria, the viruses, the most simple ones 
that formed first.

Evolution continued, but something happened as the first 
multicellular organisms came into being. A cosmic phenomenon not 
uncommon, as stellar phenomena went. Something similar would 
happen to the third planet in the far future, although not with 
such terrible severity, or with such widespread devastation.

The comet slammed into the fourth planet with enough force 
to completely destroy any chance for the existing lifeforms to 
evolve any further. Entire oceans vanished, the biosphere 
irrevocably shattered. The cloud of ash and red dust hung over 
the planet for millennia. The only living things that survived 
the disaster, the emergent multicellular life, a hardy virus that 
had somehow evolved to survive even such harsh conditions, lay 
dormant within several pieces of rock that were thrown clear of 
the planet's gravity due to the collision.


Tunguska Region, Siberia, Earth
Tuesday, June 30, 1908
6:53 AM

The wind died down.

The entire tundra woodland froze, almost as if its denizens 
knew what was about to occur. Even the flow of the Lower Tunguska 
river seemed unnaturally still. The herd of reindeer moved back 
from the water, pushing among themselves, moving restlessly, 
almost as if they were being stalked by an unseen predator. They 
could feel the change in the air, but their limited intelligence 
couldn't ascribe a cause to the sensations. Their instincts 
warned them to run, but their senses couldn't provide a direction 
to run towards or away from.

When it finally came, the fireball created shock waves that 
could be felt more than 400 miles away. The explosion caused 
thermal currents that set entire tracts of woodland afire. The 
resulting mushroom cloud and 'black rain' that followed inflicted 
an undiagnosable disease on several reindeer herds in proximity 
to the area. Of the herd directly below the explosion, however, 
and of much of the indigenous animal and plant life, there was no 
sign after the event, so severe was the destruction.

The remoteness of the area caused it to remain unencroached 
upon for another 19 years. When Russian scientists finally 
mounted an expedition to visit the slowly recovering region, they 
did not find any meteorite fragments; none had survived the 
terrific explosion of the meteor crash. What they also did not 
find were the newly awakened lifeforms that had seeped into the 

They had already claimed several herds of reindeer and 
various other fauna during the initial incident. However, the 
dearth of new life to infect soon killed off the few organisms 
that remained above ground. The only remaining ones, those that 
had successfully buried themselves into the rock, waited 
patiently. After all, they had already done so for millennia. 
What was another half century.


Tunguska gulag, Siberia
Thursday, May 31, 1979
7:03 AM

The light fell across his face, rousing him from the slight 
stupor. He didn't dare allow himself any deeper rest. He had 
heard the screams, every night since he'd been brought here. He 
had tried to shut them out the first few times, but they were 
slowly driving him insane. He had come to ignore them, had come 
to care less and less about his fellow prisoners. He simply 
prayed he would not be next.

He had the singular honor of being one of the first 
prisoners to be interned in the gulag since it had been 
constructed almost two years ago. Piotr Vorshin, tried, 
convicted, and exiled to this wasteland for crimes against the 
people, pushed the stringy blond hair out of his eyes as he got 
up to get ready for the daily tasks. First would come the 
cockroach infested breakfast, although it would be a miracle if 
he was able to keep any of it down. Then, the march along with 
the other prisoners to the quarry, where they were to dig up more 
of the black rock.

He did not know what it was, although he knew it was 
dangerous. A prisoner had cut himself on one of the rocks. He had 
cried out, and in front of the other prisoners, he had started 
seizing uncontrollably. Piotr and a handful of others had rushed 
to his side, hoping to get him to his feet before the guards 

And they found death.

The blackness swam in the man's eyes as he stared blankly at 
the sky. There were tiny worm like creatures crawling under his 
skin, worms that made Piotr's very skin crawl just thinking about 
them. They had fallen back with a cry, many of them crossing 
themselves in fear. Then the guards arrived.

Piotr shuddered as he tucked away the memory. It would not 
do to lose control like that. He had to be careful when he began 
his work in the quarry. Never touch the actual rock, he repeated 
to himself quietly as he shuffled to the corner of his little 
cell, waiting for the guards to open the door.

When the door swung open, he saw the shadow fall across the 
room. Instead of the usual guards, the bald man with the glasses 
glanced at him, then gestured to the men at his side. They strode 
in, each grabbing one of Piotr's arms, pulling him out into the 
corridor behind the bald man in the doctor's smock.

Piotr struggled, to no avail. He didn't know what was going 
to happen to him. But he had heard the screams. He silently 
wondered if he could provoke the guards into killing him before 
he had to endure what was in store for him.

But they were too strong. He was dragged into a small 
laboratory, where the doctor pulled out a syringe filled with a 
sickeningly yellow liquid. Without a word, the needle was thrust 
into his arm, the contents emptied into his bloodstream.

Beyond the slight sting, he could barely feel any pain. In 
fact, his arm was starting to become numb. Before he could say a 
word, he felt the darkness surrounding him as he lost 

He awoke to the feel of metal wire on his face. He couldn't 
turn his head. There was what felt like chicken wire covering 
him, confining him to the table he lay upon. He waited a few 
moments for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, then realized he 
wasn't alone. There had to be at least a dozen other tables 
similar to his in the dark room.

He saw movement above him. The pipe that ended a few feet 
above his head started shaking. He squinted to get a better view, 
his eyes widening at what came out of the pipe. He struggled, 
shaking against his restraints, but they held fast. The first few 
spatters fell on his chin and neck, then a bigger black mass 
directly onto his face. He could feel the worms working their way 
into his body, through his nose, his mouth, his ears, his eyes. 
He could feel them crawling around inside.

And he knew without doubt that his eyes were no longer 
clear. The darkness claimed him again, a more complete darkness 
this time.

The screams began...

... and in the cell two floors above, Nikolai Verdi, two-
time convicted thief and murderer, crossed himself as he prayed 
he would not be next.


Arvada III colony, Arvada System
Howard family homestead
Sunday, October 13, 2335

"Happy birthday to you.
 Happy birthday to you.
 Happy birthday dear Beverly,
 Happy birthday to you."

The sound of applause filled the room as the little girl 
blew out the candles. There were more of them than the number of 
fingers on her hand, and she knew that that made her very old 
indeed. Why, she was practically a grownup.

She watched as her mother cut the cake, carefully removing 
and placing aside the candles as she did so. She put the first 
piece of cake on a little plate and handed it to her. The little 
girl smiled up at her mother, taking the plate and reaching up to 
plant a wet kiss on her cheek. She waited until the cake had been 
distributed onto the other plates and among the rest of the 
guests, then ran off to join her friends in the living room, her 
red gold curls dancing around her head.

They finished the cake and were in the midst of her favorite 
game, kadis-kot. Her best friend, Melissa, from the farmhouse 
next to theirs, hooked a finger under the small cross on the 
chain around her neck, holding it up to examine it closely. 
"Oooh! Bev, where'd you get this?"

"It's so pretty," Melissa's sister, Anne, chimed in, 
crowding in to get a closer look as well.

"Yeah!" the girl responded, eager to show off her newfound 
acquisition. "My Auntie Day gave it to me. She said it was an old 
family tradition," she added.

"I..." Melissa began, but was cut off at the loud clatter 
from the kitchen. Both of them turned towards the sound, 

"I'll be right back," Beverly said, laying her game piece 
aside and getting up. Melissa and Anne watched as she scurried 
into the kitchen, where she'd left the adults only moments 

She saw Nana and Auntie Day, leaning over her mother, who 
was lying on the floor, a tray with the remains of the cake 
scattered beside her. "Mama!" she cried, rushing towards the 
prone body. She was stopped, literally scooped up into the air by 
a pair of strong hands before she could reach her mother.

"There, there, princess," the voice behind her said. "Your 
mommy just slipped. She'll be just fine. See, Auntie Day is 
taking care of her." The person holding her turned her around to 
face him.

She was only eleven. But she could tell when she was being 
lied to. She had seen Auntie Day using her black baggie. And 
Auntie Day was a doctor, just like Mama. If she was using her 
bag, then her mommy must be really hurt indeed. She squirmed and 
wriggled until she found herself free of her uncle's grip. She 
slipped to the floor, then rushed past Nana and kneeled down by 
her mother.

What she saw would remain imprinted in her memory for the 
rest of her life.

Auntie Day held her mama's eye open and shone a light into 
it. But what terrified little Beverly was the inky black oil that 
floated over the eye. It flowed like gelatin, but was inside her 
mother's eye. It was inside... And the worms under mama's skin... 
She recoiled. She knew, even with her limited knowledge, that 
this was wrong, very wrong.

She screamed...


46th Street, New York City, NY
Thursday, May 28, 1998
6:19 PM

"... As for our intrepid agents, we won't need to worry 
about them for a while. I'm sure Assistant Director Kersh will do 
a better job of curtailing their interest in our work than Mr. 
Skinner did. Have the results of the hearings been determined?"

"Yes sir. The hearings are due to last another couple of 
weeks at the most. But the outcome is a foregone conclusion. With 
this much evidence against them, there is no question..."

"Good. And the main project?"

"Proceeding as planned, sir. The vaccine we managed to 
procure from the Russians has been remarkably effective in the 
laboratory tests. We should be ready for the first trial runs in 
the field within the next few months."

"Excellent. Very well, that will be all."


Unknown location
Tuesday, April 6, 2371
4:32 PM, local time

He scrolled down the list on the PADD, reviewing the reports 
on various ongoing projects. He stopped on a line indicating the 
status of a project he had a personal interest in.

"I see project 273 has reached the next stage," he observed, 
looking up at the man standing in front of him. "Has a suitable 
planet been found?"

"Yes, sir. A Horta colony in the Belisar system. Our teams 
are in place; we're just waiting for clearance to proceed."

The man seated behind the desk blinked, his mind searching 
for any information it contained about the system. Isolated, he 
recalled. Not on any major traffic routes, situated as it was 
near the Federation border. More important, at least a week away 
from any aid that could pose a significant threat to the 
operation. Barring anything unforeseen, of course. Which, in a 
manner of speaking, was why his people existed in the first 

An excellent choice, he mused. Not that they had many to 
choose from. Not with a physiology like that of these colonists. 
Ironic, he chuckled silently, that the ones most similar to their 
newfound enemies should be so... 'solid'. Yes, they would make an 
excellent trial run.

He nodded, "Very well. I'll take care of the clearance." He 
turned his attention back to the PADD, scrolling down to the end 
before returning it to the aide. "That will be all," he dismissed 
the man.

As soon as the door closed, he turned to his personal comm 
unit, calling up a familiar number. He waited as the connection 
was requested, wondering if he was doing the right thing. The man 
had already been used so much, perhaps it was better to let 

The thought vanished as the logo on the screen faded into a 
view of an airy office. He could just make out the towers and 
cables of the Golden Gate outside the window on the far side of 
the room. The image was quickly hidden by the older man who moved 
in front of the vidcom.

Surprise was evident on his face at the clearly unexpected 
caller. "Luther...?" Surprise, and nervousness.

"Owen, how are you?" He leaned back in his seat, watching as 
the other grew increasingly agitated. "Oh, calm down, Admiral. 
You didn't think I'd call you on an unsecured line, did you?"

The nervousness gave way to thinly disguised hate. "Why are 
you calling me? I thought we'd decided, after last time..."

"We decided nothing," he responded sharply. "As I recall, 
you were the one making all the demands."

"We have nothing to talk about," the other ground out. 
"There's nothing you can hold over my head anymore. My wife is 
dead. You can't touch my daughters, and my son is finally safe 
from you." His voice turned bitter. "And I am long past caring 
what you do to me."

"Oh, didn't you know?" he affected a surprised look. "Your 
precious Katie has requested your son's services as observer for 
her first assignment. In fact, Admiral Patterson should be 
pushing through the transfer from Auckland any day now." He 
watched with satisfaction as the face on the viewscreen paled 
visibly. He smiled to himself. Sometimes it was necessary to give 
small reminders of exactly who was in charge. He placed his 
elbows on the arms of his chair, his chin resting on his clasped 
hands. "I wonder how his presence will be received by all those 
Starfleet officers onboard Voyager."

"Damn you, Luther," the hoarse whisper came. "Damn you to 
hell." Bitterness, defeat, sorrow, all intermingled in his words 
as his shoulders slumped. "What do you want?" The words of a 
broken man.

"A simple clearance request. We have a project scheduled for 
a certain colony in the Belisar system. We need you to make sure 
no missions get assigned near that system for the next two 

The Admiral sighed. "I'll take care of it." He paused, then 
added sarcastically, "Anything else, Director Sloan?"

If he caught it, he chose to ignore the barb. "No, that will 
be all. Good day, Admiral."

"Paris out."


Elsewhere on earth, in a small room in the basement of an 
unassuming building, a display monitor came to life, lighting up 
with various pieces of information about its current activity.

The system had been alerted by a transmission to a certain 
office in the Admiralty, secure and encrypted though it had been. 
Data streamed in, was processed, then sent to a decryption queue. 
The appropriate headers were attached, indicating the date of 
transmission, the parties involved, and other pertinent 
information. Once the message was in the queue, the monitor 
flicked itself off, waiting for the next piece of data to head 
its way, while the decryption algorithms began their work.


Dana Scully's Apartment
Saturday, June 13, 1998
9:13 AM

The soft strains of Tchaikovsky floated through the room as 
he swam up from unconsciousness. He kept his eyes closed, 
reaching out beside him. He felt the pillow beside him, pulling 
it close. A deep breath, and he could smell her. Intoxicating... 
He remembered the night before, a very satisfied smile stretching 
his lips as he burrowed further into the covers.

He would be the first to admit his usual insomnia simply 
vanished when he was with her. There was a time he couldn't have 
imagined a night he'd slept through without waking up from one 
nightmare or the other. But now, even the impending closure of 
the OPR hearings in a couple of days couldn't dampen his 

Slowly, reluctantly, the eyes opened as he heard the faint 
sounds coming from the bathroom. He pushed back the covers and 
jumped out of bed, moving towards the other half of himself. He 
came upon her, lying in the tub, completely relaxed. He took 
another look, grinning as he realized she'd fallen asleep. Not 
too surprising, considering how late they'd been up the night 
before, engaged as they'd been in some rather... worthwhile... 
activities. What did surprise him was the next piece that started 
up on the stereo. 'How appropriate,' he thought to himself.

Quickly washing up, he moved to kneel beside her. Her hair 
was pinned up, a crown of flame against the fair skin. The water 
in the bubble bath lapped against her throat, which lay 
invitingly bared to any advances he might choose to make. He 
contented himself with simply staring at her for a moment, 
marveling at her beauty.

Once again, he found himself wondering what he could have 
possibly done in his miserable life to have deserved such a 
reward. And, just as he'd always done, he immediately shied away 
from following such thoughts through to their inevitable 
conclusion. After all, he'd wished for something, and looking at 
her, there was no doubt the wish had been fulfilled. Looking said 
gift in the mouth would hardly be the height of wisdom.

She awoke to the feel of lips starting at the base of her 
neck, slowly moving upwards. She felt the smile tugging at the 
corner of her lips, but refrained from showing it, keeping her 
eyes closed. Not that she didn't appreciate this way of waking 
up, no. Quite the contrary, it was all she could do to keep the 
fire that had suddenly erupted within her from claiming her. Her 
hands twitched at her sides, itching to reach up and pull him 

The lips had reached her jaw, tracing slow nibbles and 
kisses along the bone as they headed for their target. She was 
having a hard time keeping from shouting at him to speed up the 
maddeningly slow pace. Finally... finally, the lips met their 
destination, caressing hers, tortuous, incensing. Her eyes shot 
open as the tongue traced her lips, begging to be allowed in. She 
melted into the kiss, stretching the moment into a seeming 

"It worked!" the hoarse, yet wondrous whisper traveled along 
her skin, evoking a sensuous shiver even as the lips moved close 
to her ear. "She awakens!" A bit puzzled at his words, her face 
cleared as she heard the faint sounds of the Valse from Sleeping 
Beauty float in from the bedroom. "My prince," she whispered 
back, just as softly. She turned to the side, her lips tracing 
his cheek. "My hero!" She felt the hand trail down her neck, 
tracing her collarbone, then her ribs as it traveled down. She 
felt it touch her, and gasped.

"Why Scully," the grinning query came, the movement of his 
hands disturbing the opaque layer of soap, "do the bubbles tickle 
your Tchaikovsky?"

She growled wordlessly, her hands reaching up to get a grip 
on his body, then pulling him down towards her.


46th Street, New York City
Thursday, April 8, 2371
4:43 AM

"Steve?" A tousled head of dark hair peered out from under 
an assortment of covers, looking around the dark room for the 
missing occupant. "Steve, honey?" she called out again in a 
sleepy voice. "Come back to bed."

"In a minute, Barb," the reply floated out from the 
adjoining room.

"Great!" came the muttered reply before the woman on the bed 
dropped her head back down onto the pillow. Within moments, she 
was fast asleep.

In the next room, however, the man seated at the 
communications terminal promptly forgot his promise as he saw the 
images appear on the screen. The transmission was slightly 
garbled, a testament to the efficiency of Starfleet's encryption 
codes. On closer examination, he could make out a second layer of 
encryption as well, obviously belonging to the anonymous caller. 
No wonder the decryption routines had taken almost... he glanced 
at the header information, his eyebrows rising... one and a half 
days!? The best encryption routines he'd ever come across took 
less than a day to breach using his resources. He sucked in a 
breath. Who the hell had the Admiral been talking to?

As the decrypted information finished displaying on the 
screen, he grinned. "Talk about the judgement of Paris," he 
murmured. It looked like their hunch had paid off after all. He'd 
been sure that Paris was the key, the one who could lead them to 
the ones they were really after. And now, they just might have 
found a way...

He saved the information, then carefully went about covering 
his tracks. By the time he was done, no one would even suspect a 
leak in Starfleet's supposedly secure communications network, let 
alone finger his terminal as the destination of the leaked 

It was beginning, he thought excitedly. Exactly what it was, 
he didn't know yet. But it was what they had been waiting for. 
His fingers danced over the controls as he packaged the 
information, disguising it within layers upon layers of 
encryption. "Computer, verify encryption seal, authorization 
Steven Byers."

"Seal verified," the computer replied.

"Record message." He waited for the confirmation chirp, then 
continued, "Hey Felix, long time no see. How are ya, you old 
goat? Anyway, just thought I'd call and say hi. Oh, and give my 
best to Denise. Later... End message."

He punched in the destination codes, then carefully 
piggybacked the encrypted information on top of his message 
before transmitting it. With a sigh, he got up, switching off the 

"Is everything all right?" the woman mumbled, waking up 
slightly as he climbed back into the bed.

"Everything's fine, hon. Go back to sleep."

"Ok. I love you."

"I love you too, sweetheart." He heard the faint snores 
coming from beside him. He continued to lie quietly on the bed 
for a few minutes, thinking as he gazed up at the ceiling. 
Finally, uttering a quick prayer for his friends, he closed his 
eyes and followed his wife into slumber.   


Chief Medical Officer's Quarters
USS Enterprise-D
Friday, April 9, 2371
0512 hours

... and screamed until her voice was hoarse.

Her eyes shot open.

"Mama!" The soft whisper barely escaped her lips. The 
screams from the nightmare, however, echoed inside her head. She 
blinked the rest of the sleep away from her eyes.

"Computer, time?"

"The time is 0513 hours," it replied in its precisely 
modulated voice.

She sighed. Too early for comfort, yet too late to try to go 
back to sleep. She resigned herself to an early morning, stifling 
a yawn as she roused herself off the bed. She padded to the 
ensuite, her nerves still tingling from the aftereffects of the 

It had been so real. She hadn't had that particular dream in 
so long. Not since... She frowned. It had been so long... Not 
since before she met Jack.

More than two decades.

She wondered what had triggered the dream. "Oh, god. I'm 
finally going psychic, just like Nana warned," she muttered to 
herself as she went about her daily morning routine.


0817 hours

"Captain's log, stardate 48269.4. We're on our way to the 
Parmen sector to chart the collapse of a local neutron star in 
the Endicor Nebula. Stellar cartography has informed me that the 
presence of the gases in the nebula will cause heretofore unseen 
properties to emerge in the resulting quantum singularity. I hope 
the mission will give the crew a much needed break from the 
hectic schedule Starfleet has forced upon us these past few 

First however, we will be making a brief, unscheduled stop 
to deliver our guest to his home on Belisarius IV. In the 
meantime, I have enjoyed having him on board. He has provided 
some very unique views in his work on the relationship between 
geophysics and archaeology."

"Mr. Data. Estimated time of arrival at the Belisar system?"

The android seated at the Ops console hit a few keys, then 
responded, "Three hours, forty three minutes, Captain. We will be 
within hailing range in a few minutes."

"Thank you, Mr. Data. Would you inform our guest as well? 
Well, Number One, how did the Admiral find his accommodations? I 
realize we were a little rushed with the last minute schedule 

The bigger man turned to look at the captain, a small smile 
on his face. "He seemed to like the modifications we made, 
Captain. Said it felt like a bit of Janus VI itself. All the 
comforts of home, and much more luxurious than his quarters 
aboard the original Enterprise. However, he did complain that 
dinner was somewhat rich for his taste. Too igneous, I believe, 
were his exact words."

"Indeed," the captain smiled, his eyebrows rising in 
amusement. "I wonder if that's a matter for the ship's galley, or 
the geophysics department."

"I took the liberty of notifying both, sir." The first 
officer's eyes twinkled merrily. "I'm sure Admiral Naraht won't 
find any fault with his breakfast today." Both the senior 
officers turned their heads as the sound of the turbolift opening 
caught their attention. "Speaking of the Admiral..." They stood 
up, turning to greet the new arrival.

The bridge crew of the Enterprise was treated to a sight not 
often witnessed aboard a Federation starship. They saw what 
appeared to be a sizable chunk of granite slide smoothly out of 
the lift, almost seeming to float as it glided down the ramp.

Admiral Naraht was one of the few Hortas in Starfleet. A 
hatchling from the eggs guarded by the mother Horta discovered on 
Janus VI by the crew of the original Enterprise, he was also one 
of the first to pursue his species' innate curiosity. His 
acceptance into Starfleet had paved the way for the slow, but 
steady initiation of the Horta culture into the Federation. Now, 
after almost a century in Starfleet, he was retiring to one of 
the numerous colonies his people had settled.

"Ah, good morning, Captain Picard. Commander." The 
mechanical voice floated out of the voder strapped onto his 
carapace. "I must say, today's breakfast was much better. Just 
the right amount of hornblende and rhyolite." If the voice box 
could express emotion, the tone of the Admiral's voice would have 
been humorous. "My compliments to your chef."

"Excellent," Picard replied, turning to smile at his first 
officer. "Admiral, if I may ask, you specifically requested the 
Enterprise for transport to Belisarius IV..."

A sound suspiciously similar to a dry chuckle emanated from 
the Horta. "I was wondering when you'd get around to asking that, 
Captain. As you know, the original Enterprise was the first ship 
I served on. And the starships Enterprise have always held a 
special place among my people, ever since Captain Kirk's initial 
mission to Janus VI. When I noticed that the Belisar system was 
not that far out of your way, well, I just couldn't resist. 
Besides, what good is being an Admiral if you can't throw your 
weight around."

The comment earned muted laughter from both Riker and 
Picard. "Well, Admiral, I hope you enjoyed your stay..." Picard 

"Captain...," Data cut in.

"Yes Mr. Data."

"Sorry to interrupt, sir, but I'm not getting any response 
to our hails from Belisarius IV."

"Probable cause?"

"None that I can determine sir," Data replied with a slight 
tilt of his head. "Diagnostics indicate nothing wrong with our 
equipment. Nor do sensors indicate any spatial anomalies that 
could interfere with the communication. Therefore, the cause for 
the lack of response is on the other end."

"Admiral?" Picard turned to the Horta questioningly.

"Not a clue, Captain," the mechanical voice replied. "I 
suppose it's possible there's something wrong with the colony's 

"Very well. However, better to err on the side of caution. 
Helm, increase speed to maximum warp."

"Increasing to warp nine," the ensign at conn acknowledged.

Turning back to the Ops console, Data added, "Revised ETA is 
thirty-four minutes."

Leaning back in the command chair, Picard turned from the 
Admiral to Commander Riker. Raising an eyebrow, he mused, "Well, 
gentlemen. It appears we might have a mystery on our hands."


Larkspur Horse Farm, Charlottesville, VA
Tuesday, December 1, 1998
8:13 AM

The door to the farmhouse slammed forcefully as the man came 
striding out. His wrinkled face was drawn tight in anger as he 
stormed into the adjoining stables.

'How dare they... This time they've gone too far!' His 
racing thoughts came to a halt along with his stride as he 
approached the farthest stall. Opening it, he forced himself to 
calm down as he reached out and stroked the mare that stood 

He sighed. It had been more than two years now, but he still 
missed Bonita Charne-Sayre. Her touch had always seemed to calm 
him, her presence a reassuring constant in his life. She might 
have started out as his personal physician, but she had come to 
mean so much more to him. And he hadn't been able to do anything 
except stand and watch as his work took her away from him. And 

"It's always difficult, isn't it? Losing the ones you love?"

The voice from the shadows startled him, causing him to step 
back in surprise. "Who's there?" the cultured british accent 
asked in return, weathered eyes squinting, trying to make out 
shapes in the darkness of the stables.

From the far wall, a figure detached itself from the 
shadows, moving forward towards him. He watched with barely 
concealed amazement as it approached him.

"Hello John. I'd say you're looking well, but circumstances 
being what they are...," the newcomer shrugged, his gesture 
conveying exactly what he meant.

"Yes indeed," the seemingly older man looked down at the 
other. "And it would appear that the group needs to keep better 
track of its mistakes. Problems we considered taken care of seem 
to keep coming back to haunt us."

That brought a chuckle and a nod from the shorter man. He 
moved past the Englishman, turning to lean against the horse 

Gaunt features narrowed at the other's nonchalance. "What is 
it that you want?"

"I heard about your granddaughter," came the quiet reply.

Nevertheless, it managed to elicit a sharp gasp from the 
hitherto stoic man. He closed his eyes in pain, repeating, "What 
do you want?"

"I came because you are going to need my help for what you 
are about to do."

"Indeed? And what is it that you think I'm about to do?"

"Why don't we go inside and we can talk about it?"


Office of the Asst. Director
J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building
Thursday, December 3, 1998
11:49 AM

Walter Skinner leaned back in his chair, taking off his 
glasses and placing them over the file on his desk. He reached 
up, tiredly rubbing his eyes as he contemplated grabbing a few 
seconds of sleep before his 'appointment'. A glance at the clock 
quickly dispelled that notion.

He'd been in his office since five in the morning, ever 
since the report had come, or rather been brought, to his 
attention. He'd spent the bulk of his time since then on the 
phone, trying to find some way to deal with the situation. 
Unfortunately, with each unsuccessful call, it was becoming clear 
that every channel of action was closed to him, his every 
recourse denied.

Not that he was surprised. He'd been expecting something 
like this ever since mid-June. Ever since that farce of an OPR 
hearing... He could still remember the look on their faces that 
day, one of defeat, of betrayal by the very institution that was 
supposed to back them up. There were, of course, only two agents 
even remotely qualified to handle this particular assignment. 
And, very unsurprisingly, they had been conveniently reassigned.

"Domestic Terrorism, my ass," he muttered as he put his 
glasses back on. His eyes fell on the personnel record file that 
lay on his desk. With a sigh, he leaned forward and opened it. 
After exhausting every possible avenue of hope, he'd come down to 
his last option. It was one he was loathe to choose, involving 
someone so... 'unknown' was the first word that sprung to his 
mind. But then, what choice did he have? He didn't dare do 
anything overt. No, he'd do all that he could, and hope that 
events would unfold for the best. Besides, this particular agent 
had come with some most unusual recommendations.

A quick glance at the clock, followed by the slight growling 
in his stomach, let him know that he'd better get a move on if he 
intended to keep his lunch 'appointment'. He sighed as he put 
away the file and stood.


Sally's delicatessen
12:05 PM

"Here ya go. One tuna with everything on rye. That'll be 

"Thanks." He grabbed the sandwich, slapping down the money 
on the counter as he made the exchange. His eyes roamed the small 
restaurant, seeking then finding his target.

His first impression was one of softness. As he came up 
behind her, he took in the long blonde hair, pulled back into a 
professional knot. As he moved past her, a glance at her face 
almost caused him to back away. 'Jesus Christ! She's just a 
goddamn kid! What the hell was Joe thinking?' The photo in her 
personnel file hardly did her justice.

Before he could do so, however, the woman looked up. Her 
eyes... they were the first indication that maybe he'd been a bit 
off in his initial assessment, that maybe this woman might have 
lost some of that innocence already. Cool Nordic features stared 
back at him, momentarily startling him out of his appraisal.

"Do you mind if I sit here?" The words were out of his mouth 
before he could stop himself.

"Assistant Director Skinner..." She seemed about to say 
something else, but instead gestured towards the empty seat in 
front of her. "Please."

"Thank you Agent... Horton, is it?" he asked as he sat down.

"Yes sir." Her eyes quickly went to her lapel, wondering if 
she'd forgotten to take her ID off, before delicate eyebrows 
raised in confusion as she hurriedly tried to determine if and 
when she'd met the man in front of her before. She couldn't think 
of any reason an Assistant Director of the FBI would happen to 
know offhand the name of a relatively green agent in the Violent 
Crimes Section.

She watched him settle in and take a bite out of his 
sandwich. Her own lunch was temporarily halted as she glanced at 
the man nervously. She jumped when she noticed his eyes staring 
back at her.

"You recently transferred into VCS, didn't you?"

"Yes, sir. This July, from the Seattle field office," she 
stammered, desperately trying to hide the blush that had started 
creeping up her face at being caught staring.

The big man nodded, as if coming to a decision, before 
continuing, "I understand you've been assigned a new case."

The woman swallowed, nodding. "Yes sir," the words came 
tumbling out as she tried to remember what was in the file she'd 
hurriedly glanced through before coming to lunch. Something about 
an investigation into several disappearances down in rural 

"Who are you partnered with, Horton?"

"Umm... I haven't been assigned a partner yet, sir. This 
will be my first field assignment since my transfer, and I was 
given the choice of selecting a partner."

"I see," he smiled in reply, his attention back on the food 
in his hand. After a few moments, he added, "You know, it isn't 
unusual for a new agent to request to be partnered with an 
already established team. In fact, it is actually a recommended 
course of action, designed to let you get your feet wet safely."

The woman sat back, narrowing her gaze at her superior. Was 
he trying to imply that she was incapable of handling this case 
on her own? His next words, however, caused her to rethink her 

"Although, considering the reason you transferred into this 
division, you might have already thought of making some such 
arrangement? Especially considering this case's possible 
connection to domestic terrorism?" The statement was more of a 
suggestion than a question.

Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly. Was he implying what 
she thought he was? She had been waiting almost five months for 
this opportunity.

Finishing his sandwich, Walter Skinner gathered the empty 
wrapper and stood. "I trust you'll make use of whatever resources 
you feel are necessary to get this case solved, Agent Horton." 
With that he turned and strode out of the deli.

Behind him, the seated agent wondered if it was finally 


Belisarius IV colony, Belisar System
Friday, April 9, 2371

The planet was not particularly appealing in any humanoid 
sense. The climate was harsh, the heat and near toxic gases 
barely qualifying it for Class M status. Rocky and mountainous, 
with much of its surface covered with active or dormant 
volcanoes, the mineral rich planet was, however, ideal for those 
who had chosen to colonize it.

The familiar hum sounded amid the arid landscape. A few 
seconds later, four figures materialized on the rocky surface.

The away team looked around, finding themselves at the mouth 
of a large cave. Outside, a few structures stood, in deference to 
any humanoid visitors. However, the Hortas themselves preferred a 
subterranean habitat. Nodding to the rest of his team, Riker 
turned and entered the opening.

A few feet within, the entrance widened into a large cavern. 
On the far end, numerous tunnels forked in various directions and 
angles, an indication of the environment preference of the 
inhabitants of the colony.


Riker was headed towards one of the bigger tunnels when he 
heard Dr. Crusher call for him. He turned toward the cry, 
watching the woman run to the side of the cave. He gestured for 
Data and Worf to go on ahead, then walked over to stand beside 
her kneeling form, watching as she ran her tricorder over what 
he'd initially assumed to be a piece of rock.


She sighed, shaking her head. "It's dead," Crusher replied, 
punching various commands into the tricorder as she tried to make 
sense of the readings she was getting from the once living rock. 
"I'll need to transport it back to sickbay for a more detailed 
analysis. All I can tell you right now is that there seems to be 
a high degree of degradation in the silicate components of its 

"Any probable cause?"

"Not that I can determine here."

"Commander Riker?"

Riker sighed and stood back up, tapping his communicator in 
reply. "Yes Data?"

"I've located the colony's subspace transmitter. The lack of 
response was not due to equipment failure." There was a pause, 
then, "Sir, there doesn't appear to be anyone left alive who 
could have responded."

Their eyes met in puzzled surprise. Riker waited for Crusher 
to stand, then hurried into the tunnel after the rest of their 
team. Catching up to the other two, they found themselves in 
another cavern. They looked around, drawing in a sharp breath at 
what they saw. Amidst the few pieces of equipment, there were at 
least a half dozen dark, unmoving shapes.


"That's 42 and 43, Commander," the ensign said, walking up 
to the two Hortas.

It had taken almost two hours of searching to find all the 
remaining colonists. Unfortunately, the differences between a 
dead Horta and the surrounding rock was not enough to be easily 
detectable by sensors, especially in the subterranean 
environment. So the search was carried out more by visual 
inspection than anything else. A hurried report back to the ship, 
and there had been almost two dozen officers engaged in the 

Riker walked up to the two husks, nestled in the side 
tunnel. He crossed off the last two entries on his tricorder, his 
eyes coming to rest on the forms of the two colonists in front of 

It had been a shock for the entire crew, and even more of 
one for Admiral Naraht. Forty-three colonists, all dead with no 
discernable cause. And with their unique physiology, Doctor 
Crusher had commented on the difficulty in quickly determining 
one. Even as the away teams combed the caverns and tunnels for 
the last of the colonists, the medical team onboard the 
Enterprise worked furiously to solve the tragic mystery.

The movement caught his attention out of the corner of his 
eye. His head jerked in the direction of the farther corpse. 
Riker frowned. He could have sworn he saw something move across 
the lifeless shape. 'Get a grip, Will,' he chided himself as he 
approached the dead Horta.

He blinked, sure that it had only been his imagination, or a 
simple trick of the light. He leaned closer, and uttered a small 
gasp as he saw the dark oil like substance flow across the Horta. 
'It couldn't be!' Memories almost seven years old suddenly 
flashed across his mind as his hands reached out to the carapace. 
Memories of Vagra II and what they had lost there. He could 
almost see the flash of light as a dear friend had been so 
casually tossed aside, so senselessly... 'Oh, Tasha!' He had a 
sudden vision of being covered, being smothered by the oily 
substance. He shuddered, his fingers brushing against the rocky 
exoskeleton. He frowned. Nothing. But he could have sworn...

"Commander? Is something wrong?"

The hesitant question broke him out of his reverie. Riker 
shook his head as he turned back. "It's nothing, ensign. Let's 
get the locator beacons on them," he said, motioning towards the 
colonists. Under his breath, he muttered, "The sooner we get out 
of here, the better."

A few minutes later, they watched the two forms disappear as 
the transporter whisked them away.

"Riker to Enterprise. Those were the last two colonists. 
Prepare to beam..." He paused, suddenly feeling... strange. He 
brought his hand up to wipe his face when he saw it. His eyes 
widened at the sight of the thin wormlike substances crawling 
just under his skin. He gasped, his fingers scratching at the 
skin on the back of his palms. He could feel them, crawling, 
moving subcutaneously up his arms, his neck, his face. "Armus!" 
The whisper was barely uttered when he felt the world turning 

"Commander!" The ensign was already moving towards him, 
reaching out to prevent Riker's fall. "Ensign Stoker to 
Enterprise," he said urgently. "Medical Emergency. Two to beam 
directly to Sickbay."

Waiting for the transporter effect to claim him, Stoker 
never noticed the thin black film on his boots, blending almost 
perfectly against the dark material. A few seconds later, the 
cavern stood empty.


FBI Bullpen
Thursday, December 3, 1998
2:12 PM

The sound of a muffled curse pulled her attention away from 
the stack of inventory reports in front of her.

"I'm going to go feed the vending machine. Wanna join me?"

Blue eyes glanced up to meet hazel, eyebrows lifting in a 
silent question. "Yeah. I need a break from this anyway."

She watched her partner throw her a lopsided grin as he 
blanked his computer screen before standing up. She rose, 
following him through the maze of tables and desks as they wound 
their way to the coffee room.


He stopped in the empty hallway, an inquiring gaze of his 
own directed at his partner.

"What's up? I know you wanted us out of the public eye for a 

"Well I couldn't very well ravish you in front of a bullpen 
full of agents now, could I? I mean, whatever would they think?" 
he asked with mock shock.

"Oh, yeah. I really wanna do it in the coffee room, Mulder," 
she shot back dryly. "How... romantic."

"You mean, you've never fantasized about me and you against 
the vending machine, Scully?" he asked, grinning.

"Well," she said, pursing her lips as if in thought, "our 
old office desk, sure. Skinner's couch, sometimes." She smirked 
at the incredulous look on his face. "But the vending machine, 
Mulder? Lord knows what crap gets collected on that thing."

"Skinner's ...! Oh, Scully. The things you do to me...," 
Mulder began, his mind already conjuring up images of sneaking 
into Skinner's office after hours.

"Can it, Mulder," she cut him off, her tone becoming 
professional once again. "So what was so important we had to take 
it to the coffee room?"

Mulder immediately got the look in his eyes that Scully had 
come to recognize. It was the one that said that he'd gotten some 
sort of information about a possible X-file, and in all 
probability, was going to lead them into another unauthorized 
case. He leaned away from her, his back against the wall. "It's 
starting, Scully."


"I just received some email... Don't ask," he said, warding 
off the immediate question. "It was sent anonymously. Anyway, it 
looks like the reason behind our transfers is finally manifesting 
itself." He paused for a moment. "How do you feel about a trip to 
Charlottesville, Virginia?"

Scully blinked at the sudden leap in topics. "And what 
exactly is in Virginia, Mulder?"

"Latierny elementary school, of course," he replied, as if 
that made everything perfectly clear.

"God, Mulder. Getting information out of you is like pulling 
teeth. Spill, already."

"Oh, all right. Although you're taking all the fun out of 
it, you know." He smiled at the mock glare she shot at him, then 
continued, "Seven children, ages 8 through 11, disappeared under 
mysterious circumstances from Charlottesville General. The only 
thing they have in common is that they all went to Latierny 

"And what exactly is the connection to the X-files, Mulder?"

"Who said anything about an X-file?" Mulder affected an air 
of thoughtful speculation. "Why, this might be some sort of plot 
cooked up by some malcontent Virginia farmer with too much 
fertilizer on his hands. Right up our alley, don't you think?"

She shook her head ruefully. "Only you could draw a 
connection between kidnapped children and domestic terrorism, 
Mulder." She sighed. "Okay, so what's really going on down 

"Ah, but that's what we're going to go down there to find 
out. Now, then, about those sunflower seeds..." Mulder turned, 
moving past Scully as he headed for the coffee room.

Scully glanced at his receding figure. 'Damn! He did it 
again!' she thought to herself. Shaking her head, she followed 

She stopped, almost running into Mulder when he came to a 
halt just to the side of the open door. Curious, she leaned past 
him when she heard the voices.

"Don't do this Lynn," a vaguely familiar voice rang out of 
the coffee room. "You'll be throwing your career away. You know 
what happened to her. The same thing'll happen to you, Lynn. 
They're poison. Stay away from them."

Scully turned to her partner, seeing her own quizzical look 
mirrored on his face. She shrugged.

A new voice, obviously the person who'd been called Lynn, 
answered heatedly, "I am an agent in the FBI, Agent Colton. I 
will decide how to pursue any investigation into the case I've 
been assigned to, and I'll thank you to not stick your nose into 
something that is none of your business."

"Damn it, Lynn. This *is* my business."

Mulder cleared his throat, stepping into the doorway. "Is 
there a problem, agents?" he asked.

Two heads turned to take in the newcomers, shooting angry 
glares in their direction.

"Not anymore," the woman replied, blue eyes flashing icily 
back at her companion. "Is there, Agent Colton?"

Agent Tom Colton took a deep breath, then released it. "No, 
I guess not. I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, 
Lynn," he said quietly. He turned abruptly, tossing another glare 
at the former X-files agents as he stalked out of the room.

"Sometimes, that man..." the woman trailed off. "Aargh!"

"I know exactly what you mean," Scully said, giving her a 
knowing look as she walked up to the vending machine. "Looks like 
Colton hasn't changed much. I didn't know he was assigned back to 
DC. I guess he's still trying to fit the square pegs..."

"Yeah," Mulder muttered, "right up his a..."

"Mulder..." Scully cut in warningly.

"Was that idiot bothering you?" Mulder asked. "You know you 
have the right to lodge a complaint, Agent...?"

"Horton. Alynna Horton. And as for Tom, I should apologize. 
He means well. It's just..."

"You're defending him?" Mulder asked incredulously, "That 
man is an insensitive, loudmouthed, arrogant..."

"He's my fiance," Horton cut in, a smile on her face.

Mulder paused, blinked, then turned to his partner. He saw a 
similar look of shock on her face. "Umm... Scully? Could you help 
me with my foot here? I think I've stuck it in deep this time."

A musical laugh sounded from the woman. "Don't worry, Agent 
Mulder. I know he doesn't always bring out the best in most 

"I apologize, Agent Horton. Seriously though, what do you 
see in him?"

She shrugged. "He makes me laugh?" she replied, although the 
soft tone of her voice implied much more.

Mulder smiled, nodding as he moved forward to join his 
partner. He was about to dump a handful of change into the 
machine when Lynn interrupted.

"Umm... Agents?" she began nervously as the two agents 
turned to look at her. "Actually the reason Tom and I were 
arguing was because... well... he disagrees about the course of 
action I planned on taking with a new case I've been assigned to. 
I was wondering if I could ask you... umm..."

Scully raised an eyebrow, moving back to the counter and 
pouring out a cup of coffee. She sat at the small table, 
gesturing Horton towards one of the empty chairs.

Mulder grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds from the vending 
machine, then joined the women as he leaned against the counter. 
"You know, Agent Horton. Colton was being an ass, but he was 
right about one thing. Are you sure you want to risk the stigma 
of associating with the VCS untouchables?" His tone was jovial, 
but there was an undercurrent of pain lacing it. "It definitely 
won't do your career any favors to be seen hobnobbing with us, 
especially if you're new here."

The blonde's eyes flashed. "I think I'm capable of making 
those kinds of decisions by myself, Agent Mulder."

"As you most emphatically told Tom Colton," Scully 
interrupted. Looking from Mulder to Horton, she sighed. "How can 
we help you, Agent Horton?"

"Lynn, please. And the suggestion to ask for your advice 
came from Assistant Director Skinner." She watched as both agents 
reacted visibly to the information.

Each shot a glance at the other, silently agreeing to notch 
up the importance of any forthcoming information.

"Informally, of course," Lynn hastened to add. "And only in 
the vaguest of terms. But, well, you see, it's a kidnapping case. 
Down in Charlottesville, Virginia..."


USS Enterprise-D
Friday, April 9, 2371
1431 hours

"Are you sure he said Armus?"

The nervous ensign nodded at Worf as he watched Dr. Crusher 
run past him. "Yes, I'm sure. I didn't realize it was anything 
important at the time. I just thought you should know. It was 
just as he was collapsing. He whispered that one word, then lost 
consciousness." He felt someone walk up beside him. Turning to 
see Captain Picard standing beside him, he said, "Captain." Then, 
looking back at Worf, "If that's all, Lieutenant...?" At a nod 
from the Klingon, he quickly turned and headed out of sickbay.

"Captain, it could not have been Armus," Worf immediately 
said. "Vagra II is still under heavy quarantine. He could not 
have escaped."

"Would you be willing to risk Commander Riker's life on 
that, Mr. Worf. Or that of all these other crewmen?"

Both men turned to look at the biobeds filled with 
unconscious members of the away teams. Within minutes of Riker's 
beamout, six others had been transported to sickbay in similar 
condition. The medical team that had started working almost 
immediately on the first officer was now scattered among the 
seven crewmen, trying desperately to keep them alive.

Worf's glance turned in the direction of Dr. Crusher's 
office, taking in the dark-haired woman who stood there, watching 
the same events through the window. He knew that Deanna had been 
in here almost since the moment Riker had been brought in. When 
he'd returned from the planet along with the last members of the 
away team, he had not been surprised to find her here. As soon as 
he'd seen her in sickbay, he'd gone to her side, hoping that his 
presence would comfort her. She'd smiled at him wanly, turning 
her attention immediately to the flurry of activity near the 
Commander's biobed. He knew that she'd probably felt... 
something... when Riker had been hurt. Worf wondered briefly if 
she would ever feel anything like that bond with him.

"It's not Armus."

The calm voice of Dr. Crusher brought him out of his 
reverie. Worf and Picard looked up as the doctor walked past them 
into her office, then followed her in. Crusher walked over to her 
personal replicator unit, requesting a cup of coffee before 
sitting down at her desk.

She sipped at the hot beverage while looking at the three 
people in front of her. She had been working on the away team 
members since they had been brought in almost three hours 
earlier. Her hooded expression was a testament to how exhausted 
she was. With a sigh, she started to explain her comment outside.

"What it is, I can't tell you yet. But whatever it is, it's 
not Armus. With Tasha, there were definite signs of neural 
degradation that are simply not present in Will or any of the 

"Then why would Will have said that?" Troi asked.

"I wish I could tell you. Ensign Stoker did mention that the 
cavern they were in was dark. Maybe Will was mistaken. Or maybe 
Stoker misunderstood his words." Crusher sighed, looking from 
Picard to Worf to Troi. She noticed that the counselor had gained 
a measure of control over herself, her face not betraying the 
emotions she had seen on her face earlier. "Deanna...?"

"He's scared, Beverly," she said softly.

The men turned startled glances at her. Even Crusher was 
surprised at the revelation.

"They all are. I can feel their fear. It's as if they're 
trapped, somehow. Their minds... whatever it is, it's preventing 
their conscious minds from surfacing." She let out a pained 
breath. "All they can feel is the pain... and the fear."

"Sensory deprivation," Crusher nodded. "If they were somehow 
aware of their conscious minds being suppressed, the lack of 
sensory input could easily terrify a person. As for what it is... 
I'm not even sure if it is a virus, or if it's connected to the 
dead Hortas down on the planet. Hell, it could be some sort of 
goddamn allergic reaction to something down there, for all I 
know. I've got them stable for now, Captain, but I'd recommend we 
set course for the nearest starbase with a medical facility."


The cry from the nurse brought all four of them rushing 

"What is it, Alyssa?" Crusher asked as she moved close to 
the biobed the nurse was standing at.

"There was a drop in his neurotransmitter activity, and when 
I checked...," Ogawa trailed off, looking back down at the 
crewman in shock.

When they came close enough, the reason for the nurse's 
agitation became apparent. They could clearly see the organisms 
under the crewman's skin, crawling in various directions. And his 
eyes, which Ogawa held open, were covered with a black substance, 
the whites almost nonexistent.

Crusher drew in a sharp breath. She was vaguely aware of the 
senior staff moving back to give her room, but she was already in 
motion. She glanced at the readouts on the nearby monitors, 
specifically the ones displaying the crewman's brain functions. 
As Troi had noted, there seemed to be some sort of inhibitor at 
work, suppressing the neurotransmitter activity in his cerebral 
cortex. As a result, his sensory and motor functions were 
effectively neutralized. And, unless she was mistaken, several of 
the cortical areas that controlled memory and reasoning were also 
being affected.

"Cortical stimulator," she barked, hoping she could 
forestall the cascading failure in his brain. "Put the rest of 
the patients in stasis," she added. She had no idea how to stop 
this yet, and she dared not let any of the others get any worse 
until she had figured out how to do so. She felt Ogawa move away, 
going to make sure her orders were carried out. At the same time, 
she felt the cool comfort of the familiar instrument as it was 
slid into her hands. She placed it over the crewman's forehead, 
noting even as she activated it that his neurotransmitter levels 
had dropped dangerously low.

Suddenly, another readout caught her attention. Several of 
the other displays monitoring the crewman's vitals started 
flashing warnings. A glance at the numerous readouts caused her 
to utter a muffled curse. Whatever it was, it was attacking every 
single vital system in his body. And from what she could make 
out, it seemed like his very genetic codes were being broken 

"Doctor, his cortex is shutting down," one of the attending 
nurses cried out.

Crusher looked back at the neurotransmitter readouts, and 
gasped. The levels were practically negligible. Damn, too many 
things were going wrong all at once. "Twenty ccs tricordrazine." 
She watched as the nurse pressed the hypo against the crewman's 
skin, then glanced back at the readouts. Nothing. "Another dose."

"Doctor?" the nurse looked back at her in shock. Twenty ccs 
was already close to a dangerous overdose. Another one like 

"You heard me, nurse," Crusher said, her eyes flashing. She 
pulled up a readout of the man's cellular activity as the nurse 
rushed to comply with her order. 'Oh, god! No!!,' she cried out 
silently. She saw the bonds breaking, the carbon molecules that 
formed the basis of almost all known life in the universe 
virtually disintegrating before her very eyes.

"Doctor, brain activity has ceased," the nurse said quietly.

Crusher drew in a deep breath, hanging her head in defeat. 
"Record time of death," she paused, swallowing painfully, "as 
1443 hours." If the lack of brain activity hadn't killed him, she 
thought, he would have been dead moments later of massive organ 

When she looked back at the man's face, she let out a 
horrified gasp. "Oh my god!!" With widening eyes, she saw the 
black organisms flow out of his facial orifices. They dripped out 
of the corners of his eyes, his ears, his nose. She quickly 
reached back, activating the force field around the body. She 
then called for a nurse to secure the organisms for testing.

Turning to the three officers standing back near her office, 
she slowly closed her eyes for a moment, then moved towards them. 
A thought nagged at her subconsciously, and she wondered at the 
eerie familiarity of the entire situation. She was sure she'd 
never come across anything like this in her medical history, but 
nevertheless, she knew she'd seen this somewhere before.

"That must have been what Commander Riker saw down there," 
Picard whispered when she reached them, still stunned at the 
sudden loss of a crewman.

Crusher nodded. "It's definitely related to what happened to 
the Hortas down there. In both cases, the organisms attacked the 
neurotransmitters in the nervous system, causing a cascade 
failure in the cerebral cortex of the crewman, and its equivalent 
in the Hortas we examined. Also, the organisms seemed to break 
down the carbon and silicon bonds in their victims. Either method 
would be enough to cause a quick death by themselves. Together, 
the victims never had a chance."

She blinked, a memory coming to the surface as she 
remembered something... It appeared that her dream that morning 
had been precognitive after all. Had that been only today? 
Suddenly, it felt like she hadn't slept in ages.

"Captain," she said, turning to him, "I... we just don't 
have the facilities here to treat Will and the others."

"I already called the bridge, doctor. We're on our way. But 
it will still take a week at the very least before we reach 
anywhere even remotely suitable. Do you think they will...?"

"I'll do my best. But...," her voice lowered as she 
continued, "Jean-Luc, I think I've seen this before, back on 
Arvada III."

Picard's eyebrows rose. "You think this is related to what 
happened there?" He knew that the incident had deeply affected 
her, shaping her life, and eventually contributing to her 
decision to enter the medical field.

"Yes, I do. Jean-Luc...," she said, pausing to collect her 
thoughts. "When I was in medical school, I tried to access 
Starfleet's information database on what had happened there. But 
every single time, I found that the entire incident had been 
classified way above my clearance level. In fact, even now, I 
think I might need your level of authorization to look up those 
files on the computer."

"That's absurd. Why would Starfleet classify information 
about a medical disaster, especially to a doctor? Wouldn't they 
want any knowledge of treatments to be readily available?"

"My point exactly," Crusher replied. "Unless, of course, 
they didn't want anyone learning about the cause of the disaster 
in the first place."

"You mean..."

Crusher nodded as she saw her meaning register on the 
captain's face. "I'm starting to wonder if either Arvada III or 
our current situation was just an accident."

Picard's expression hardened. If either incident had indeed 
been deliberate... Someone was going to pay for this, he silently 
vowed. "Very well, Doctor. I'll expect a report..." He stopped, 
noting the exhausted expression on Crusher's face. "... tonight. 
Meanwhile, Beverly," he continued softly, "get some rest." With 
that, he turned and strode out of sickbay, followed by Troi and 
Worf. If any of them noticed the counselor lightly brush her 
knuckles against Riker's cheeks as she passed his biobed, none of 
them chose to comment on it.


Saturday, April 10, 2371
1121 hours

Crusher paced anxiously in her office, glancing every once 
in a while at the blue screen on her desk with the Federation 
logo on it. As she waited for her communication request to be 
processed and routed through the Federation subspace network, she 
thought about the events that had led her to placing the request 
in the first place.

After the crewman's death the day before, she'd gotten to 
work wading through the computer's files on the Arvada III colony 
disaster. As she had suspected, she had needed Picard's clearance 
authorization to even get the computer to acknowledge that said 
files indeed existed. However, upon opening the files, she had 
looked at the screen with incredulity. The information was 
sketchy at best, and what was available was contradictory, vague, 
and in some cases, blatantly untrue, as far as she could 

And worst of all, there had been no mention of the disease 
itself, let alone a cure or method of treatment. Yet she knew for 
a fact that her grandmother and aunt had single-handedly been 
responsible for saving a sizeable percentage of the colonists' 
lives, owing to their medical expertise and knowledge of natural 

Then came the next piece of bad news. She'd been in her 
office trying to make some sense of the files when she'd been 
summoned back to Sickbay. When she had seen the comatose bodies 
of Ensign Stoker and his wife, she knew the situation had just 
gotten much worse. Amanda Stoker had not been down on the planet. 
For her to have become infected, the ensign would have had to 
have been a carrier. Which meant that the two dozen or so 
officers who had formed the away teams, including her, were now 
under quarantine, along with anyone they might have come into 
contact with since their return. She herself had been lucky 
enough to escape infection thus far, the only member of the 
original away team to do so. Which meant that, for all intents 
and purposes, she was living on borrowed time.

An analysis of the organisms had provided little 
information. They were multicellular, yet displayed all the 
characteristics of a virus. They seemed to be a combination of 
silicon and carbon based life, which would explain how they could 
have had such similar effects both on the Hortas and on the 
humanoid away team members.

But Crusher still had no idea why some of the crew were 
affected so readily while others didn't manifest the symptoms 
until much later. All she could determine was that the virus 
itself was impossible to detect within the body. They couldn't 
isolate it within the bodies of the infected victims for the 
transporter biofilters to beam them out. Which also explained how 
they'd gone undetected while the away teams had beamed back 
aboard. And, first sickbay, and now, one of the cargo bays was 
slowly filling up as crewman after crewman got infected.

She had tried going through the personal effects her 
grandmother had left her in her will. Unfortunately, most of the 
items she possessed had been more personal than anything. There 
was little or no mention of the events surrounding the disaster 
in any of her diaries. She had finally decided to contact the one 
other person with personal knowledge of those events.

Which brought her back to staring at the bright blue screen 
as she waited for the contact to go through to the Renard 
Foundation. The organization had been listed as the contact point 
for her aunt, and she had been unable to find any other 
information listing for her anywhere else. With a start, she 
realized that the logo on the screen had been replaced with the 
image of a rather impatient looking Tellarite.

She blinked. "Uh... Hello. This is Dr. Beverly Crusher. I 
was looking to reach Dr. Dana Howard, and you were listed as the 

"One moment please..." The Tellarite said gruffly as he 
turned to the side, a hoof reaching out to hit a control panel 
outside Crusher's field of view. The screen reverted to a logo, 
of the Foundation this time.

Crusher tried to ignore the faint chords of the hold music 
as she waited. A few seconds later, the image dissolved to reveal 
a human with close cropped reddish hair, and a pleasant open 

"Ah, Dr. Crusher!" he began, smiling warmly, "My name is 
Steven Byers. How can I help you?"

"Hello, Mr. Byers. I was looking for contact information for 
Dr. Dana Howard. Her last known forwarding address was given in 
your care."

"Is that right?" Byers said slowly, stroking his short beard 
thoughtfully. "If I might be so bold, may I ask why you need to 
speak with her?"

Crusher was first confused, then angered by his question. 
"My reasons are personal, Mr. Byers. If you could just give 
me...," she began, her voice rising.

"Unfortunately, Dr. Crusher," Byers interrupted, his smile 
not quite reaching his eyes anymore, "we are listed as Dr. 
Howard's contact because of privacy concerns. Unless you can give 
me a good reason, I'm afraid I'll have to deny your request."

"You can't do that," Crusher spat back.

"I just did," Byers countered, his face showing no hint of 
the smile anymore. "Now, as pleasant as it has been, good day, 
doctor..." He reached forward to disconnect the channel.

"Wait," Crusher held up a hand. She was relieved when she 
saw Byers pause. "I'm sorry, Mr. Byers. I've been under a bit of 
pressure lately, and..." She sighed. "But it's still no excuse," 
she said, shaking her head. "Dana Howard is my aunt. I wanted to 
get in touch with her because I wanted her opinion on something 
she worked on about 36 years ago."

"Oh?" Byers leaned back as he considered her request. A few 
seconds later, he looked back up to meet her eyes. "I'm sorry, 
Dr. Crusher. I regret to inform you that your aunt passed away 
some time ago."

"W... What?" Crusher had known her aunt for less than a 
couple of months when the incident had occurred at Arvada colony. 
And she had not seen her since. She had always wondered why the 
older woman had not kept in touch. But the news of her demise 
still came as a shock. "That can't be..." she said softly.

"I am sorry for your loss, doctor. However, if I can be of 
any further help, please don't hesitate to ask."

Crusher closed her eyes for a moment in regret of lost 
opportunities. When she opened them again, she found Byers 
staring at her expectantly. "There is something. Did she work for 

Byers smiled faintly at that. "In a manner of speaking. Why 
do you ask?"

"That would mean that you might have a record of her notes 
on file. Would it be possible for me to access them?"

"I'm not sure, but I can check," Byers answered. "What 
exactly are you looking for?"

"Around October of 2335, she was on Arvada III. I'm looking 
for any of her notes of her work during that time. She and my 
grandmother helped to find the cure for the disease that struck 
the colony then. Unfortunately, I can find no records of what 
happened in Starfleet's medical database."

Byers sucked in a startled breath. "Arvada III? Your 
grandmother was Felisa Howard?" At Crusher's nod, he whispered, 
"Well, I'll be damned." He looked back at her. "Doctor, am I to 
understand that you have a... similar problem on your hands now?"

"Yes," Crusher answered guardedly, surprised that he had 
made the connection. While it was possible that Byers intended to 

help her, it was also entirely possible that he was involved with 
those keeping the information she sought from her in the first 
place. Her concern was alleviated somewhat when she heard the 
string of soft curses the man let escape.

"I am sorry, doctor, but I can tell you without checking 
that we have no records of your aunt's work during that time. 
However," he paused, as if weighing what he was about to tell 
her, "I can point you towards someone who might be able to help 
you. I happen to know that, careerwise, your aunt's daughter 
followed in her footsteps. I'm sure she can give you the 
information you're looking for."

"Very well. How do I get in touch with her?"

"Well, from what I remember, she is currently somewhere near 
the Parmen sector. I can send her a message to contact you."

"Hmm... We're in the same sector," Crusher informed him. 
"These are our current coordinates and heading," she added, 
transmitting the data to him. "I'll be waiting for her call. 
Thank you, Mr. Byers. I appreciate your help."

"It was nothing. Dr. Howard's a dear friend. Anything I can 
do to help her family..." He shrugged, smiling at Crusher. "Good 
bye, Dr. Crusher. And good luck."

Crusher leaned back, lost in thought as the screen winked 


Dana Scully's Apartment
Thursday, December 3, 1998
8:29 PM

"Thanks for letting us know, Byers. We'll talk later." The 
redhead snapped the cell phone shut. "Well, that was certainly 
unusual." She leaned back in her chair, turning to look at the 
tall man seated across from her.

"So? What did he have?" Mulder's eyes searched her face for 
any clue about whatever Byers had told her.

"About the children?" Scully asked, her eyes drifting to the 
computer by her side, then back to Mulder. Her eyebrow rose. "Or 
about our new partner?"

"Both," he replied, shrugging. "Either." He rose from the 
couch, moving to stand behind her. His hands automatically went 
to her shoulders, squeezing unconsciously as he leaned down to 
look at the information on the screen.

She sighed, leaning into his hands. She could make out the 
faint scent of him, reminding her that this would probably be 
their last night together for a while. By mutual consent, both 
had long since agreed upon a hands-off policy while in the field. 
And while they had not had to adhere to that rule in a while, 
what with their reassignments and enforced desk-duties, their 
return to field work would once again necessitate certain... 
precautions perforce. The rolled up sleeves tickled the back of 
her neck as she forced herself to concentrate on the information 
Byers had emailed her.

"Okay, Horton first. It looks like most of what the Gunmen 
had, we already knew from her official file. Pretty cut and dry 
stuff. In fact, Byers mentioned that her personal life was more 
interesting than her professional one." Scully glanced down the 
screen. "Alynna Horton, 27," she read. "Originally from Seattle. 
We already know she graduated from the University of Washington 
in 93, with a bachelor of arts in sociology. Let's see, applied 
to join the Bureau about a year after that. Accepted into the 
program in 95, finished two years later. She's been with the 
Seattle field office since then."

"Her transfer request to DC went through in July," Mulder 
continued reading. "That's a couple of weeks after our hearing, 
wasn't it? You think there's any connection?"

"It *was* a couple of weeks later, Mulder. If she is a 
plant, wouldn't they have put her in earlier? Besides, why would 
she ask for our help?"

"Hmm... Maybe the case is a distraction. Or maybe we're 
being given rope to hang ourselves with." He shrugged. "I just 
don't want this turning into another Gibson Praise," he said 
softly. He met his partner's gaze, then looked away to glance 
back at the information. "Let's see, personal info. Hello..." 
Mulder raised an eyebrow, scrolling down the information. "What's 
this? Her fiance fell out of her father's balcony? I thought she 
was engaged to Colton."

"No, look here," Scully corrected him. "She was engaged once 
before, to someone named Robert Bancroft. It was probably before 
she even met Colton. It says Bancroft died in 93, and..." Scully 
paused, clicking on a cross reference.

"Curiouser and curiouser," Mulder muttered, reading the new 
file, a missing persons report. "Her father apparently 
disappeared soon after that. Police found him missing when they 
tried to question him about Bancroft." He stood and walked around 
his partner to perch on the desk. "What is going on here, 

She looked up from the computer, meeting his eyes. "I'm not 
sure, but it does list Bancroft's death as an accident."

"I wonder... Her father disappearing so soon after that 
seems just a bit too coincidental for my tastes."

"I'm sure that's what the people investigating thought too. 
But it says there wasn't any evidence of foul play, so..."

"Okay," he said, holding up his hands. "Maybe it's unrelated 
to the case. I'd still keep my eye on our Ms. Horton though." He 
sighed. "But enough about her. What about the children? The stuff 
Horton gave us wasn't exactly overflowing with information."

Scully obligingly clicked over to the next file, pulling up 
the short screenful. "Well, there isn't much more here either. It 
says here that all seven fainted on the playground at their 
school. Cause of the collapses was still undetermined that night, 
which is when the nurse on duty reported them missing. There 
really isn't anything about any of the children themselves, or 
about their medical condition. Even Byers thought it was strange 
how little information he was able to dig up about this case."

Mulder nodded. "I guess that will take some good old 
fashioned footwork, once we get there."

"Well, at least we won't have to hide our investigation, now 
that Horton officially asked for our help."

"Yeah, I bet Kersh was pulling out his hair trying to figure 
out a way to deny her request," Mulder chuckled in reply. "I hope 
you're packed already, cause I don't think we'll have time 
tomorrow morning."

"You didn't have to book our flights out so early tomorrow 
morning, you know," Scully shot back at him, adding a glare for 
good effect.

"Ah-ah," Mulder admonished, shaking a finger at her. "Don't 
you know it's the early bird that catches the worm, Scully? 
Besides," he said, standing up from the desk. One hand went to 
the computer screen, shutting it off, the other reaching for one 
of Scully's hands. "It's not even nine yet. If we went to bed 
now, we'll be sure to get up in time to meet Horton at the 
airport." He smiled. "Why, we might even have the time to get in 
a coffee before our flight."

"Oh, is that right, Agent Mulder?" Scully allowed herself to 
be pulled up, a faint smile tugging at the corner of her lips. 
"You mean you don't want to stay up all night working out all the 
angles on this case?"

"Nah," he replied, leading her towards the bedroom. "A 
person needs their beauty sleep if they're to function well in 
their day to day activities. I think I read that in one of your 
women's health magazines."

It earned him a chuckle from his partner. "So says the king 
of insomniacs," she said, shaking her head ruefully. "And what 
were you doing, reading up on women's health?"

"Well, it was either that, or read up on the latest surgical 
procedures in your medical journals."

"Hmm... I thought I had some fiction somewhere in..."

"Eewww... romance... ick," Mulder cut her off, making a 

"Mulder, you are a pig," she smirked.

"Oink, oink," he replied self-deprecatingly. "Besides, what 
do they know? I suppose one could live vicariously through a 
fictional character's romance, but they pale in the light of the 
real thing." He affected a grandiose stance, one hand on his hip, 
the other ushering her into the bedroom. "I'll show you romance, 
m'dear, the likes of which will have you swearing off even the 
steamiest of those novels of yours."

"Mulder," she cried exasperatedly, allowing him to lead her 
inside. "There is a difference between romance and unbridled 
lust, you know."

He pushed her backwards onto the bed, leaning in close to 
her, kissing her softly on the lips. "Are you complaining?" he 
asked softly, earning him a reply in kind.

"Hell, no!"


Private Vessel Eagle
Saturday, April 10, 2371
1153 hours

"Thanks for letting us know, Byers. We'll talk later." The 
redhead watched the face on the viewscreen wink out. "Well, that 
was certainly unusual." She leaned back in her chair, turning to 
look at the tall man seated across from her.

"Curiouser and curiouser," her husband agreed, nodding. 
"Those coordinates are almost on top of the Belisar system. What 
are the chances that this is just a coincidence?" Seeing the 
raised eyebrow, he grunted. "Yeah, my thoughts exactly."

"Byers wouldn't have risked calling us, even over a secure 
frequency, if he didn't think it was worth it."

The man nodded in agreement. "How far away are we from the 

The woman turned back to the console, punching in the 
necessary commands. "It's a good thing we were already near this 
sector when we got Byers' first message. We should intercept 
Enterprise in...," she said, glancing at the readouts, "a little 
over 14 hours at our current speed."


She turned to her husband, a questioning look on her face.

"Do you think this is such a good idea? What if she 
remembers you?"

"Mulder," she replied exasperatedly. "Beverly was 11 years 
old when she saw us last. Besides, we weren't at Arvada for more 
than a couple of months. I hardly think she'll recognize me. And 
even if I do ring any bells, she'll probably chalk it up to 
family resemblance."

"It's just... I've got a bad feeling about this one, Scully. 
And what about me? They'll definitely recognize me."

"I know. You'll just have to stay on the Eagle. I can 
probably pass it off as isolating you from any possible 


"Mulder, you know if there's even the slightest chance, we 
have to..."

Mulder sighed. "I know. The last thing I want is another 
Arvada III on my conscience." He got up slowly, moving to the 
rear of the craft. "Why don't you give your niece..." He 
chuckled. "Sorry, ... your cousin a call," he continued softly. 
"Let her know we're on our way."

Scully shook her head, a small smile on her face as she 
watched him enter the living area. Once she was sure the door was 
closed behind him, she put in a comm request to the Enterprise.


Charlottesville General Hospital
Friday, December 4, 1998
11:09 AM

To say it had been an uncomfortable plane trip would have 
been putting it mildly. While it had been years since the X-files 
agents had been partnered with anyone else, the idea of 
partnership had been equally non-existent for their newest 
colleague. As a result, the forty minute plane trip had passed in 
relative silence.

Once they had arrived, it had been a mutual decision to go 
to the hospital first, since that had been the last place the 
children had been at. Each agreed that they simply needed more 
information on exactly why the children had been admitted in the 
first place. Which brought them to their current situation.

"Dr. Kelso will be with you in a moment. Please have a 
seat." The receptionist gestured towards the seats behind them.

They nodded and moved into the waiting area.

"What do you think?" Mulder asked once they were seated.

Horton started when she realized the question had been 
directed at her. "About what?" she asked confused. The question 
had come out of the blue.

"About this case. Why do you think Skinner asked you to talk 
to us about it?" If Mulder thought he saw a flash of uncertainty 
cross her face, it was immediately hidden.

"I'm not exactly sure, Agent Mulder. I assumed it had to do 
with your experience in..."

"The X-files were concerned with paranormal or otherwise 
unexplained phenomena, Agent Horton," Mulder cut her off. "Or do 
you think this has something to do with our recent exile into 
domestic terrorism?" he added sarcastically.

There was a faint hint of a blush on her face as Horton 
looked from Mulder to Scully back to Mulder again. "I don't 
know," she sighed, shaking her head. "I wasn't even aware he knew 
who I was or what case I'd been assigned. He came to my table 
when I was having lunch, and suggested I ask..." She paused, then 
continued smoothly, "... ask you for your help. It seemed as 
though he didn't want anyone to think my request had anything to 
do with him."

Mulder nodded, glancing at his partner. She simply shrugged, 
accepting Horton's answer for the moment.

"Ok, so what do you know about this case," Scully asked.

"Well, I already gave you everything I had on it, which I 
admit wasn't much. It almost seems like they're reluctant to just 
hand over any information about the specifics of the children's 
condition at the time of their kidnapping."

"Maybe they weren't kidnapped," Mulder muttered, earning him 
a questioning glance from Horton, and a chastising one from 
Scully. Before Horton could ask him exactly what he meant by the 
remark, they were interrupted.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Kelso. You are the FBI agents in charge of 
this case?"

"Yes we are," Horton said, rising to shake his hand. "I'm 
Special Agent Horton. These are Agents Mulder and Scully. We 
wanted to ask you a few questions about the children. We weren't 
given much to go on in the official reports."

"Understandable," Kelso replied, nodding. "We didn't see how 
the condition of the children had any bearing on the case itself. 
Perhaps we could discuss this further in my office." He turned, 
leading the way to one of the recessed doors on the side.

"Please have a seat," he gestured, sitting down. "So what 
did you want to ask me."

"Dr. Kelso," Scully began, "we were told that all the 
children had been admitted on the same day. That would indicate 
that they were all admitted for the same reason. However, there 
seems to be no mention of any diagnoses in the police reports."

"I don't see that there would be," he replied, smiling at 
them. "It was just a simple case of food poisoning. They were 
treated immediately, and were recovering. They were being held 
for observation overnight, when they disappeared. I doubt that 
their medical condition had anything to do with why they were 
kidnapped. The person responsible for this probably saw an 
opportunity to get his hands on several children in a weakened 
condition, and took it. I don't know if you were aware of this, 
but all the children came from rather... affluent homes."

"Ah, then you expect there to be ransom demands soon." 
Horton meant it as a statement more than a question.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Kelso answered, shaking his head 
in agreement.

"Dr. Kelso, we were told that you hadn't yet determined the 
cause of the children's collapse as of the time they were 
reported missing."

He shrugged. "A simple misunderstanding, I'm sure. The nurse 
on duty that night was relatively old. I assume she simply 
misread the patient's charts."

"Could we take a look at the charts?" Scully asked. At his 
hesitant look, she added, "I'm a medical doctor. I need to know 
if their prevailing health might pose any threat to them in their 
captor's hands."

The doctor sighed. "I suppose it wouldn't do any harm." He 
stood and went to one of the cabinets that lined the back wall. 
He pulled out a folder, walking back and handing it to Scully.

She quickly scanned through it. "I'd like to make a copy of 
this if you don't mind," she said, looking back up at him. When 
he nodded, she turned to Mulder, who had been quiet during the 
entire interview.

Horton watched Mulder nod. "Dr. Kelso," the agent's voice 
reverberated around the room, causing Horton to look at him in 
surprise. She could feel the cadence of his voice change. She 
couldn't put her finger on it, but the words somehow made her 
want to relax into them. She looked over and saw the same effect 
on Kelso.

"In your medical opinion, what was the children's condition 
at the time they disappeared?" Mulder continued.

Kelso blinked, then frowned. "I told you, agent. They were 
relatively healthy. We had already treated them for the food 
poisoning. They were in no danger. They just needed rest."

Horton shook her head to clear it. For a moment, she thought 
she'd fallen asleep. What had Mulder asked? Something about the 
children's health. She wondered why he'd repeated the earlier 
question. Turning back to Kelso, she asked, "The nurse who 
reported the missing children... could we speak with her?"

"I'm sorry," Kelso replied sadly, shaking his head. "Nurse 
O'Malley died of a myocardial infarction a few hours later. As I 
mentioned, she was rather old. I'm afraid the shock was somewhat 
more than she could handle. Too bad, really. She was due to 
retire in a month."

"I see," Mulder replied. He looked to the other agents, then 
rose. "Thank you for your time, Dr. Kelso."

"My pleasure agents." Kelso grinned as he stood and escorted 
them out the door. He watched them walk away, the grin fading 
almost immediately. He returned to his office and picked up the 


"Well?" Mulder stood outside the hospital, taking in what 
little there was of the noon sun.

"It was rotten luck that the nurse died. She might have seen 
something that could have helped us," Horton sighed, walking 
toward their car.

"Very rotten," Mulder agreed. "Practically stinks, in fact."

Horton stopped in her tracks, turning surprised eyes on her 
partners. "You don't think she had a heart attack?"

"You said it yourself," Scully reminded her. "She might have 
seen something. And now we'll never know, will we? Besides, she 
was the only one who said that the cause of the children's 
collapse hadn't been determined. And now we find a neat little 
explanation for that."

"What was in the charts, Scully?" Mulder asked.

She sighed. "Food poisoning, Mulder. Just like Kelso said. A 
classic textbook example of it, in fact. And nothing in it would 
give anyone any reason to believe otherwise."

"Then why..." Horton began.

Mulder glanced at Scully before replying, "Call it a gut 
feeling." He was about to open the door when something caught his 
eye. "Excuse me," he said, reaching into his pocket as he walked 

Horton and Scully saw him approach a nearby car. More 
specifically, they saw him walk up to a woman in a nurse's 
uniform, his hand pulling out a box of matches. They looked at 
each other, then walked towards him.

"Wouldn't you know it? A cigarette break, and I get stuck 
without a light. Thanks," the nurse said, taking a puff on her 

"No problem," Mulder replied. "I'm Special Agent Mulder from 
the FBI. These are my partners, Agents Scully and Horton. I was 
wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions."

The woman seemed slightly startled, but then shrugged. 
"Sure. My name's Linda. What do you want to know?" She paused as 
a thought occurred to her. "Say, is this about those missing 

"Do you know what they were in the hospital for?" Scully 

"Hmm... I'm not sure. You'd have to ask their doctor or the 
attending nurse," she said, leaning against her car as she blew 
out a puff of smoke. "Oh wait, it'll have to be Dr. Kelso. Their 
nurse, Gretchen O'Malley, god rest her soul, died a couple of 
days ago."

"Do you know what she died of?" Horton ventured.

"A heart attack, the poor thing. It's actually kinda ironic, 
in a way," Linda mused.

"Oh, why's that?" Mulder asked, curious.

"It's just, well, she was strong as an ox, Gretchen was. 
Don't get me wrong. She was pushing seventy if she was a day. But 
she had so much energy, you know. I guess I just never 
expected... well." Linda shook her head sadly.

"Did she say anything to you before she died?"

"No, not really. It was the night those kids disappeared. 
She was doing her rounds after the police left. And she just 
collapsed. Me and one of the other nurses found her just lying 
there on the floor. She was delirious, I think. She was spouting 
nonsense, gasping for air. I guess being in a hospital didn't 
help her much, huh? Dr. Kelso said her heart simply gave out. We 
all loved her so much. It was such a shock."

"Spouting nonsense? What did she say?"

"Like I said, it didn't make any sense. She kept repeating 
the same thing over and over. 'Black eyes' or something like 
that. 'They had black eyes.'" The nurse sighed.

Mulder darted a surprised glance at Scully before donning an 
impassive mask. "Thanks Linda. You've been a great help," he 

"No problem," the nurse replied, glancing at her watch. 
"Well, I've got to get back. I just hope you find those kids," 
she said, walking away.

"Black eyes?" Horton asked. "Does that mean anything special 
to you?"

"Maybe," Mulder narrowed his eyes in thought at the 
retreating figure of the nurse before turning to head back to 
their car.

Horton sighed in exasperation. "What did he mean by that, 
Agent Scully?  What aren't you two telling me?"

"What do you mean?" Scully asked.

"What I mean," Horton snapped, "is that both of you have 
been acting as if there's something more to this case than a 
simple kidnapping. So far I've not seen anything to indicate 

Scully smiled to herself, reminded of the first few cases 
after she'd been partnered with Mulder. For some reason, it was 
exceedingly funny to see someone else go through what she'd had 
to endure early in her assignment to the X-files. The half baked 
ideas that she'd slowly come to accept as viable possibilities, 
the uncanny leaps of logic that were Mulder's particular forte. 
Of course, having been told beforehand that there was more to 
this case than met the eye by one of Mulder's informants didn't 
exactly hurt either.

She tossed a glance at Horton, belatedly realizing it for 
what it was. The trademark Mulder look, one that conveyed pained 
tolerance, condescension, and smug superiority all in one stroke. 
One she'd come to despise, until she'd earned his trust and 
respect. He wasn't as bad as he'd once been, but it seemed she'd 
picked up the habit. She bit her lip to keep the smirk from 
showing on her face as she walked to their car, leaving an 
exasperated agent behind her.

"I think our new partner is starting to get annoyed with us, 
Mulder," she said as she slid into the passenger seat. "And since 
when do you carry matches around with you anyway? You don't 

"Since the last time we found ourselves in the woods without 
being able to light a fire," he answered defensively. "And you 
look like you're enjoying yourself." Mulder smirked, glancing at 
her. Catching her guilty look, he laughed. "Shame, Scully. She's 
an impressionable little agent. Maybe we should show her some 

"Oh yeah. Like you showed me when we were first partnered? I 
don't think so," she snorted. "Let her suffer."

"I never figured your evil streak ran so wide, Scully," he 
teased, shaking his head.

"Hey, I learned from the best," she replied, leaning back in 
her seat, watching Horton continue to stare at them from where 
she'd left her. "I didn't want to say it in front of Horton, but 
what happened with Kelso?"

"I don't know. I suppose it's possible he was telling us the 
truth..." His partner's disbelieving snort revealed what she 
thought of the idea. He chuckled. "My thoughts exactly. Which 
means he either truly believes what he's telling us, or..."

"Or...?" Scully prodded.

"Or he's simply a resistor." Mulder sighed, "We've run into 
them before, Scully. There's just no way to tell." He shrugged, 
watching as Horton slowly made her way to the car.

Horton quietly slid into the seat behind them. "I assume 
we're going to the school now?"

Mulder nodded. "I want to take a closer look where the kids 

"You don't expect to find anything there, do you?" Scully 
questioned. She knew that if this were some sort of cover-up, any 
evidence would most likely have been 'cleaned' up by now.

"You never know what I might spy with my eagle eye, Scully," 
he replied as if in jest.

"So are you two going to tell me why you think there might 
be more to this than a simple kidnapping?" Horton asked. "Not to 
sound ignorant or anything, but just in case it does turn out to 
be a kidnapping, shouldn't we try to keep any avenues of 
investigation in that direction open?"

"You're absolutely right, Agent Horton," Mulder agreed, 
starting the car. "In fact, I think we should go about this case 
as if it were just that. The only reason we have to believe it 
might be anything different is because we've seen something 
similar to this before. We just don't want to overlook any 
'avenues of investigation', as you put it, in this direction 

Horton stared quietly at the duo in the front seat, her face 
not betraying her thoughts. Finally she seemed to come to a 
decision. She nodded. "I suppose I can go along with that..." She 
leaned back in her seat. "For now, anyway," she added to herself.


Latierny elementary school
2:33 PM

They could hear them, even from around the corner. The 
agents rounded the bend, pulling up to a stop behind a yellow 
bus. There were children everywhere, running and shouting as they 
waited for the buses to leave or their parents to come and pick 
them up.

"Those were the days, eh Scully?" Mulder quipped as he 
walked through the schoolyard, heading for the entrance.

"Oh, I don't know about that," Horton piped in, looking 
around at all the activity. "Look at them. Did you notice that 
none of them are coming near us?"

The X-files agents paused to take a better look at their 
surroundings. Horton was right. The children were being careful 
to give the agents a wide berth, even in the midst of their play. 
On closer look, they noticed several of them looking at the 
agents curiously, others more warily.

"I guess it's only natural," Scully replied. "We're not 
exactly dressed like parents. With their friends missing like 
this, I'm not surprised they're being a bit cautious. At least 
they're being taught to be on their guard."

"Yeah," Mulder agreed as he came up to the entrance. "Well, 
let's do this." He pushed open the door and headed in.


The agents were led out to the side of the school. They 
stood in front of a clearing that extended to the woods beyond. 
The school was nestled against a wooded area, enclosing it from 

"It was during recess." The thin mousy woman who accompanied 
them turned to face them, pushing up her glasses as she 
explained. "The break was almost over, so it was just a little 
before noon. I was one of the teachers assigned to supervise them 
that day. Several of the kids were playing over there," she said, 
pointing to a portion of the clearing near the trees on the far 
side. "One of them came up to me and told me that Billy had 
suddenly fallen down and gone to sleep. He seemed so agitated, I 
was worried."

"So you followed him to Billy? Can you show us where he was, 
Ms. Garvin?" Mulder asked.

"Sure, this way." The teacher led them to the area where 
she'd come upon the child. "He was lying right here. It looked 
like he was sleeping, but I could tell there was something wrong. 
I tried to awaken him, but he wouldn't wake up. When I looked 
around, I noticed that several of the other children were down on 
the ground as well."

"Where exactly were these children lying?" Scully walked 
over to where Ms. Garvin stood, kneeling down to get a better 
look at the ground.

"Oh, just a few feet away," came the reply. "All of them 
collapsed pretty close to each other."

"This food poisoning seems very territorial, doesn't it?" 
Mulder muttered to Horton, then moved next to his partner. "What 
about the other children in the yard?" he asked. "We were told by 
the hospital that it was a case of food poisoning. None of the 
others seemed to be affected?"

"No, not that I remember. It was just those seven kids. They 
must have been particularly sensitive or something. We made sure 
to get rid of the food in the cafeteria and had the food for the 
next day checked for any sign of contamination. But as for the 
other children, by the time I found the unconscious ones, most of 
the others had already returned to their classes. No one else 
reported any problems."

"Ms. Garvin, this may sound a little strange, but did you 
see any marks on any of the seven children?" Scully asked, 
standing up.


"Yes, anything out of the ordinary on any part of their body 
that was exposed. Their arms, or their face maybe."

The teacher frowned in thought. "No, nothing really springs 
to mind. Of course, when I saw them, I immediately rushed back to 
the school to call the hospital and have the parents notified. I 
wasn't really by their side for too long."

"Hmm... Thanks, Ms. Garvin. If you don't mind, we'd like to 
take a look around before we leave."

"No problem. If you need anything, I'll be around," she 
replied, pointing back towards the school building.

Horton walked up to the other two agents, waiting until the 
teacher was out of earshot. "What marks were you looking for 

"I'm not really sure. Something that would indicate how 
these children were infected," Scully replied, watching as Mulder 
slowly walked around the area where the children had been found 

"Infected!?" Horton asked incredulously. "Infected by what? 
What do you think happened to them?"

Scully stared at her, eyes narrowing questioningly. "You 
still think it was just food poisoning?"

Horton paused, taking a deep breath as she considered her 
words. Finally, she shook her head. "No, not anymore, I don't. 
Whatever happened to those kids was more than a simple accident. 
Agent Mulder's comment about all of them collapsing so close to 
each other makes sense. Whatever it was, it hit them at the same 
time, probably while they were playing. Besides, none of the 
others in the school reported any illness, even though they all 
ate the same food." She stopped her deductions, pinning Scully 
with a piercing glance. "But I still have no idea what really 
happened to them. And I get the feeling I'm the only one," she 
continued accusingly.

Scully shook her head. "Neither of us has any solid evidence 
either, Lynn," she said softly, stumbling slightly over the 
unaccustomed use of the other's familiar. "It's just..." She 
trailed off, seeing Mulder stare quizzically at a point along the 
edges of the clearing. She frowned as his face paled, his eyes 
focused on one particular spot. When she saw him dart toward one 
of the trees lining the clearing, she started towards him. 
"Mulder?" she called out. "Did you find something?"

She came upon him, Horton at her heels. He knelt in the 
grass, lightly brushing aside some of the dead leaves and brush. 
"Looks like they missed something," he whispered when the others 
came to a stop beside him.

Scully gasped at what Mulder was staring at, then 
immediately scrabbled in her pocket. She wordlessly pulled out an 
evidence bag and handed it to her partner.

Horton frowned as Mulder placed the tiny object into the bag 
and held it up. "I didn't think bees were common this time of 

Mulder stared at the small insect through the clear plastic. 
Quietly, he answered her, "As far as I know, they're not."


Private Vessel Eagle
Sunday, April 11, 2371
0204 hours

"Private Vessel Eagle requesting permission to dock."

"Permission granted. You are cleared for docking in 
Shuttlebay Two. Please disengage engines and prepare for tractor 

"Acknowledged Enterprise. Commencing shutdown on my mark."

The sleek vessel slid quietly into the bigger ship, coming 
to a halt in its assigned space. The woman at the helm completed 
the shutdown procedures, then turned to face her husband as he 
entered the cockpit area.

"Well, it's showtime. Wish me luck."

"I hope you can help them, Scully. I really do. If this is 
anything like Arvada..." The tall man shook his head sadly.

"Hey," she cut him off, moving closer to give him a hug. 
"We're not going to let that happen. Now, are you going to be 
okay while I'm up there?"

He nodded, his hands going around her waist as he pulled her 
closer to him. "Yeah. I'm sure I can find something around here 
to amuse myself. Go on. Knock 'em dead."

The last comment earned a wry chuckle from his wife as she 
pulled away. She suddenly leaned up to place a kiss on his lips, 
then called out, "Computer, patch me through to the Enterprise 
Sickbay." At the answering chirp, she continued, "Anytime you're 
ready, Beverly."

"Stand by...," the disembodied voice replied.

Mulder watched his wife dissolve in a whirl of energy, then 
sighed as he headed back to the aft living compartment.


USS Enterprise-D

Crusher watched the form coalesce behind the force field. 
When the sparkling effect cleared, she saw the woman glance 
around curiously before the intense blue eyes came to rest on 
her. Her cousin had the same red hair she remembered her aunt 
having. Smiling at the familial trait, she absently ran a hand 
through her own auburn locks as she walked over to the edge of 
the quarantine field.

"Welcome aboard, Dr. Kelly. I'm glad you could make it. I'd 
shake your hand but..." She gestured towards the force field.

"Please, just Denise," Scully smiled, shaking her head. "I'm 
just happy I got your message in time. Let's get to work, shall 
we? What's your status?"

They moved together to one end of the force field. Crusher 
stopped next to the wall mounted display panel, entering the 
commands to pull up her files. "Well, we beamed you directly into 
a quarantined area so you shouldn't be affected. But all crew 
members on the away team that went down to the planet have now 
been infected, as well as a sizeable portion of our crew that 
came in contact with them after they come back. That's including 
most of my medical staff." She glanced around the deserted 
sickbay. "In fact, of all the exposed crewmen, I'm the only one 
who has yet to succumb."

Scully looked away from the image of the black organisms on 
the screen, turning to take in the woman standing beside her. She 
looked... terrible, she decided. Crusher had obviously been up 
for a while trying to come up with a solution to her problem. 
While clearly not ill, with the increasing number of infected 
crewmen, the exhaustion from her prolonged activities was clear 
on her face.

"I wouldn't worry about getting infected if I were you, 
Beverly. You were inoculated at Arvada, so you're probably 

"I thought that might be the case," Crusher acknowledged. 
"When I tried to infect blood samples from some of the uninfected 
crewmen as well as myself, mine was the only one resistant to the 
virus. But when I tried to use my blood as a possible base for a 
cure, it just wouldn't work. It's almost as if the original 
source of the disease has changed... mutated somehow. While my 
immunity still works as a vaccine, as a cure my blood is all but 
useless." She saw her cousin's face pale at the information. She 
frowned. "Denise...?"

"Beverly," Scully whispered. "It was hard enough getting 
hold of a cure for the plague on Arvada. If the virus has 

"I know," she nodded in agreement. "It just makes it that 
much harder. What information do you have on the original 
outbreak? I'm afraid our datafiles aren't too helpful in this 

"I'd be surprised if they had been," Scully muttered under 
her breath.

Crusher's eyes widened at the remark. Perhaps she had been 
closer to the truth than she'd realized when she'd voiced her 
suspicions to Picard. She made a note to herself to ask her 
cousin about it later.

"Why don't you show me what you've got so far," Scully 
continued. She turned to the wall mounted console. "Computer, 
establish a link to the Eagle's onboard database, authorization 
Kelly zeta one zero one three." She waited for the link 
acknowledgement. "Download the files on the Arvada colony 
disaster to this terminal." She turned to Crusher when the 
download finished. "This is all the information I have about the 
original outbreak. Why don't you take a break and look through 
this while I bring myself up to date on your current problem?"

Crusher nodded. She started to turn away, but paused. 
"Ummm... Denise? When you docked, I was notified that there were 
two people onboard your ship...?"

Scully had wondered how long it would take for someone to 
ask her that question. "Yes, my husband," she replied. "I wanted 
him to remain on the Eagle. No sense in putting him at risk as 

"I see. Well, I'll let you get started on that data." 
Crusher walked over to her desk and sat down. She saw her cousin 
do the same on the second desk on the other side. With a sigh, 
she turned on her terminal and started to read.


Friday, December 4, 1998
7:29 PM

"Thank you for the information. You've both been a great 
help. We'll let you know the minute we find anything."

Mulder turned away from the worried couple at the door, 
walking down the immaculately maintained path to join his waiting 
partners. He looked around at the quiet subdivision as he 
approached the car. Kelso had been right; to say the people were 
affluent was putting it mildly. The area was entirely too similar 
to the part of Chilmark he'd grown up in for his comfort. He 
tamped down on his sense of unease as he got into the car.

"Five down, two to go," he remarked, starting the vehicle.

"Somehow, I doubt we'll have any better luck with the next 
one than the previous ones." Scully leaned back in her seat as 
she massaged her neck wearily. "So far, the only things those 
kids have in common has been their school. None of them really 
even knew each other." She sighed, knowing already that this 
entire line of investigation was going to prove futile. "So who's 
next on the list?"

"Umm... The Nevilles," Horton replied from the back. "In 
their case, the kid that disappeared is their second daughter 
Elizabeth. Let's see, age ten, fourth grade. Maybe..."

She was interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing. As 
if on cue, each of them reached into their pockets.

"It's mine," Mulder said, pulling out his phone. "Mulder," 
he answered. He immediately turned to Scully, excited. "It's the 
boys. They've found something." He listened for a few moments, 
then said, "Hang on, guys. Give Scully the directions." He handed 
over the phone to his partner.

Scully quickly jotted down the instructions the Gunmen 
relayed before hanging up. Looking down at the pad, she turned to 
Mulder. "So where exactly did I take down directions to, Mulder?"

"Well, I called them after we found the bee. I thought that 
if anyone was actually breeding these insects, they'd need fields 
like the one I saw in Canada. I had the boys look for any likely 
locations near the school that might fit the profile."

"But there could be so many places...," Scully countered.

"Yeah, but not in the middle of winter, Scully. And that," 
he said, pointing to the pad in her hands, "is it. We'll take 
care of the last two families tomorrow."

"Umm... excuse me, but I'm still waiting for that 
explanation you owe me," Horton said. "Could one of you explain 
what bees and fields have to do with this investigation?"

Mulder glanced at Scully. She stared back for a moment, then 
nodded slightly, an agreement passing silently between them. He 
stared at the road as he thought of exactly what he wanted to 
say. "Well, Agent Horton, how would you feel about taking a break 
from the established course of an investigation to look into 
something a bit more... shall we say... unorthodox?"

The question earned him a raised eyebrow from the woman 
seated behind him. "What exactly did you have in mind, Agent 

"During April of last year," he began, "there was an attack 
from a bee swarm in a school in Payson, South Carolina. Several 
children were stung; one teacher was stung so badly she died on 
the spot. An entomologist who had a bee hive in his possession 
for study was later found dead as well. He was covered in bee 
stings, but his autopsy showed that he died of smallpox."

"Smallpox?" Horton gasped. "In this day and age?"

Mulder nodded as he drove. "The children who'd been stung 
displayed the same symptoms, but before they could be 
definitively diagnosed as being infected with smallpox, they were 
taken to a military hospital, treated, and released. Future tests 
showed no signs of any infection in any of them."

"So you believe that the children from Charlottesville 
General were suffering from smallpox?" Horton asked 
incredulously. "That the military took them to what... to treat 
them? You think they'll be returned afterwards?"

Mulder shook his head. "No, not this time. You heard the 
description of the last words of their attending nurse. 'Black 
eyes' are not generally a symptom of smallpox. No, I believe that 
they were only using smallpox that time as an early test for 
their delivery mechanism."

"Delivery mechanism? You mean the bees? Agent Mulder, 
smallpox is... was the most deadly disease in its time. It's been 

eradicated for so long, they don't even vaccinate against it 
anymore," Horton protested.

"Can you think of a better test? Why do you think the 
victims were mostly children? They are the ones more likely to be 
unvaccinated against smallpox. And without immunity, a test of a 
biological warfare agent is just that much more effective."

"But why bees? Surely there are better ways..."

"Why not bees?" Mulder countered. "They're small, but in 
large numbers, are almost impossible to stop. You can't exactly 
fire missiles at them. And given the technical resources, they 
can be bred to be resistant to almost any chemical means of 
stopping them. They're the perfect weapon."

Horton simply stared at the couple in front of her. After a 
few moments of silence, she sighed. She turned to Scully. "Agent 
Scully, do you believe this... theory? That these children were 
being infected by bees carrying something supposedly more deadly 
than smallpox?"

Scully drew in a deep breath before answering. "I wasn't 
present for the case Agent Mulder just described," she said. A 
pained note crept into her voice as she remembered the imaging 
tests she had been taking at the time as part of her cancer 
treatments. She smiled faintly when she felt Mulder's hand slide 
across to grip hers reassuringly. "Nor am I given to wild or 
unfounded speculation," she added. "However, I have seen the 
effects of this new virus. And one of the symptoms is a black, 
gel-like substance floating over the victim's eyes, which would 
be consistent with the nurse's description. The virus seems to 
affect certain parts of the human central nervous system, which 
could explain the children's sudden collapse."

"Okay, let's assume for the moment that what you're saying 
is even possible. Why are we on our way to a field?"

"About a year before the case I mentioned," Mulder replied, 
"I was led by an informant to a bee farm across the northern 
border in Canada. There were huge fields being used to feed and 
maintain the bees. I think the pollen in the crops were also 
transgenic, used to transfer the virus to the bees." He shrugged. 
"I figured they might have a similar setup somewhere nearby. The 
call I just received confirmed the plausible location of a corn 
field outside of town. I thought it might be interesting to take 
a look at it."

Horton leaned back in her seat, digesting this new 
information. She had expected something like this from Agent 
Mulder. Hell, she would've been surprised if he hadn't come up 
with some outlandish theory or the other; his reputation alone 
guaranteed it. But from Scully?

True, the two of them were ridiculed as a team back at the 
Bureau. But Scully herself was grudgingly respected for her 
scientific expertise and her levelheaded, logical approach to any 
investigation. For her to even hint at support for a theory like 
this... Horton shuddered at the possibility. This was supposed to 
be a simple kidnapping case to let her get to know the X-files 
agents. What had Skinner gotten her into here?

Up front, the X-files agents looked at each other, their 
thoughts on their upcoming destination as well as their new 
partner. The rest of the ride continued in silence.


Somewhere outside Charlottesville, VA
8:18 PM

The glow lit up the entire horizon. The transition from a 
dark winter night into the orange light was almost startling. The 
car sped up the empty road, coming upon the source of the 

"Oh my god!"

Mulder heard the gasp from the back as he searched the area 
for any signs of life. Just off the edge of the road, past a 
wooden fence, brilliant orange flames licked at the sky. The 
entire field was on fire.

Mulder spotted a small building nestled near one end of the 
field. He stopped, then turned around and parked the car facing 
the direction they'd come from. "Damn, I was afraid of this. Our 
investigation must have set off some flags. Looks like they're 
cleaning up shop." He got out, then waited for the others to do 
the same before pointing out the building to them.

"It looks like the fire hasn't reached it yet," Scully 
observed. "Maybe we'll find something inside."

Mulder nodded in agreement as he headed for it. Coming up on 
the desolate building, he motioned the women to stop. At Scully's 
curious look, he simply pointed. In the distance, a man emerged 
from the building, wearing a tank on his back, and what looked a 
lot like a flame-thrower clutched in his hand.

They waited until the man had moved towards the field. They 
had determined that the field was not completely ablaze yet. Some 
areas were still untouched by the flames, and it looked like the 
man was going to complete the job. As soon as he was out of 
sight, they crept up to the door he had exited from. The door was 
locked, but Mulder simply gripped the knob tight and turned, 
making sure to hide his actions with his body. With a faint 
groan, the locking mechanism gave way and the door swung open.

They quietly slid inside, and looked around surprised. What 
had looked like a small barn on the outside turned out to be a 
modest office. They found themselves in a dimly lit corridor, 
with doors leading off each side. The narrow hallway ended at 
some steel double doors, leading to the back. They had seen what 
looked like a movable roof over that part of the building. They 
proceeded to check into the other doors first.

The first two rooms were bare, although there were signs 
they'd been emptied recently. The third room they checked 
contained burnt equipment, including computers and disks, as well 
as ashes that might once have been files and papers. Finding 
nothing that could possibly provide them with any information, 
they returned to the corridor, moving towards the last door 
before the double doors at the end.

Mulder suddenly held out his hands, stopping their progress. 
He'd heard... something inside. Someone was behind the last door; 
he could hear movement, and the sound of crashing objects above 
the roar of the flames outside. He quickly relayed the 
information to his partners. As one, each pulled out their gun, 
holding them at the ready.

Scully softly started a countdown, "Three... two... one..." 
At 'one', Mulder kicked in the door, and they rushed inside.

The man inside switched off the flame gun when he heard the 
door. He turned... and promptly ran into a fist that slammed into 
the side of his face. He sank to the floor with a muffled groan.

Mulder pulled back, looking down at the unconscious man, 
then back up to take in the contents of the room. A couple of 
filing cabinets against the far wall were on fire, as were the 
computers. Although they were total losses, the cabinet next to 
the door was as yet untouched. With a grin, Mulder yanked it open 
and pulled out the papers inside. He turned and laid them on the 
table in the center of the room, spreading the papers while 
Scully and Horton kept their weapons trained on the door.

"What are they?" Horton asked.

"This one," Mulder replied, separating one piece of paper 
from the rest, "looks like a Mercator projection of the earth."

Horton glanced down at it curiously. "Isn't that a dot on 
there where we are right now? In Virginia, I mean."

"Uh, hunh," Mulder nodded. "And it looks like there are 
similar dots all over the world. Oh my god!" His voice dropped to 
an awed whisper. "This is it! The locations of other bee farms 
like this one. Look..." He pointed to an area in southern Canada. 
"There's even one where I found that farm I told you about. 
Although it looks like..." He squinted in the dim light. "Looks 
like it's a different color." He frowned.

"Maybe an indication that it's been taken down?" Scully 
ventured. "You did say there was no sign of it when the area was 
inspected afterwards."

"Maybe," Mulder agreed. "The rest of this stuff looks like 
basic farming information. This one lists fertilizer delivery 
times, and this one here..." He paused, frowning as tried to 
decipher the information. "Waitaminute..."

"Those are safety procedures for handling biohazards, 
Mulder," Scully replied, her expression hardening.

"Wait, they have biohazardous material here?" Horton asked, 
horrified. "That's..." She took in a deep breath as she put two 
and two together. "Of course, the virus...," she breathed.

Mulder nodded mutely, still staring at the papers in his 
"Umm... Maybe we should get out of here, guys," Horton went 
on. "It's starting to get a bit warm in here."

The words broke the X-files agents out of their stunned 
trance at the discovery. They looked up at each other, silently 
digesting what they had learned.

"One more door to go," Mulder whispered softly.

The others nodded. They waited while he stuffed the papers 
into his pocket, then headed back out into the corridor. Coming 
up to the steel double doors, they paused.

"Anything?" Scully asked, her voice rising to be heard above 
the noise of the fire outside.

Mulder shook his head. "The door's too thick, I think. All I 
can hear is the fire."

Horton glanced at them quizzically, then watched Mulder 
reach out to pull open the door. Weapons aimed, they moved in.

The blast of air startled them. Glancing around, they saw 
the air vents lining the floor, walls, and ceiling of the short 
hallway they found themselves in. Moving beyond the end of the 
corridor, they looked around the huge room that took up the 
entire back of the building. The high ceiling had some sort of 
machinery attached to it, undoubtedly used to open and close it. 
The walls, most of which were now ablaze, were adorned with 
orange material that, on closer inspection, produced a gasp from 
the agents.

Hives. Every square inch of the walls was covered with 
beehives, from floor to ceiling. However, the agents had little 
time to gape at their discovery. They were more concerned with 
the dozen or so figures in protective suits, milling about the 
room. Each carried flame-throwers similar to the ones they had 
seen on the men outside. They were spraying flames onto the 
walls, busily obliterating any evidence of the bee farm.

One of them turned just then, spotting the intruders. They 
must have had radios within their suits, because the rest turned 
almost immediately, moving towards them. The agents watched the 
flame guns that had been trained on the walls move, coming to 
rest pointing in their direction.

"Oh, sh..." The rest of Mulder's curse was drowned out by 
the roar of the flame throwers. He turned abruptly, his eyes 
widening as he shoved the women forward. "Out! GO! GO!" he 
shouted, pushing them out the door. He got the door closed scant 
seconds before the flames licked at the other side. Grasping the 
handles, he squeezed, warping the door frame, effectively locking 
it behind them.

"I think it's safe to say we've overstayed our welcome," 
Horton gasped.

"And how," Mulder shot back wryly. He glanced around quickly 
when he heard the pounding on the back of the double doors. 
"Let's get out of here," he said, seeing the doors start to 

They rushed down the corridor, heading for the outer door. 
Behind them, they could hear the men coming after them. Once out 
of the building, they ran past the burning field, the others 
right on their heels.

Mulder paused, turning to fire a couple of shots, allowing 
the other two time to get to the car. He looked over his shoulder 
to see them get into the vehicle. Scully sat in the driver's 
seat, her door open as she met his eyes. When he saw them widen, 
he turned back... and ducked. The flames shot bare inches over 
his head. He leapt back, rolling to his feet as he continued 
running towards the car.

Scully's door slammed shut just as he slid in behind her. 
With a roar, the car jerked forward, leaving their pursuers 
standing in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

"Suck gas, evildoers," Mulder muttered under his breath, 
looking behind him at the suited figures standing in the roadway. 
He was surprised at the soft chuckle from the woman in the 
passenger seat.

"Good one, DW."

He raised an eyebrow, looking from Horton to Scully. "What 
do you think, Scully?" He grinned. "Don't I make a cool terror 
that flaps in the night?"

Scully cast an incredulous glance at him in the rearview 
mirror, her eyes moving from him to Horton before returning to 
the road. She shook her head, rolling her eyes. "I'm surrounded 
by children."

"Hey," Mulder shot back in a wounded tone. "If you know what 
we're talking about..."

"Mulder," she replied exasperatedly. "I have baby-sat 
before, you know. Just because I recognize which Saturday morning 
cartoon you're talking about doesn't make me an adolescent." She 
paused for effect, then added, "I'll leave that up to you two."

"Hey, Lynn," he said, still staring at Scully, "you gonna 
let her talk to you like that?"

Horton chuckled again.

"Shut up, Mulder," Scully muttered, smiling indulgently.

Mulder simply smiled back, turning to face the front as they 
continued on their way to their hotel.


USS Enterprise-D
Sunday, April 11, 2371
0712 hours

Images of her grandmother and a vague recollection of her 
aunt floated through her head. She could hear her aunt calling 
her. She turned, looking around the farmhouse, trying to figure 
out where the insistent summons was coming from. "Beverly..., hey 
Bev..." The soft voice pulled her away from what she was doing, 
forcing her to search for its source.

"I'm coming, Auntie Day," the little girl responded 
automatically, putting away her toys. She reluctantly stood up, 
dusting herself off as she ran over to where she thought her aunt 
was. She frowned, coming up empty.

The call was starting to get more urgent. "Beverly..." It 
finally broke through the haze surrounding her. The dreamscape 
shifted, the farmhouse on Arvada coalescing into the stark 
interior of the Sickbay, the image of her aunt resolving into 
reality just a few yards away.

"Auntie Day?" she asked, confused, her voice still low and 
scratchy from sleep. She shook her head, trying to clear it, not 
quite catching the momentary look of surprise on her cousin's 
face. "Denise?" she corrected herself as the sleep faded away. 
She rubbed her eyes, a yawn escaping her lips. "Oh, I'm sorry. I 
must have dozed off there. I was having the strangest dream."

"Don't worry about it," Scully assured her, waving a hand. 
"You needed the rest. But I'm glad you decided to rejoin the land 
of the living. I was almost tempted to let down the quarantine 
field to come wake you."

Crusher smiled wryly at her cousin as she rose from behind 
the desk. She winced at the crick in her back from the awkward 
position in which she'd slept. Rubbing lightly against the spot, 
she walked over to the replicator along the wall. "Computer, 
coffee." When the beverage materialized, she took a long sip of 
the hot liquid before turning around. "Find anything?" Crusher 
asked, walking up to the wall console her cousin stood next to.

Scully nodded. "I just might have. Take a look at this." She 
pointed towards the image on the console screen.

Crusher looked up, recognizing the RNA strand on the screen. 
Her brows furrowed in puzzlement. "The virus? What about it? I've 
already looked at it more times than I can count. The structure 
is unlike anything I've ever seen before. I don't..." She stopped 
when she saw her cousin shaking her head. "What?"

"It's not the virus. Or at least, it isn't yours. Take a 
closer look. Computer, isolate grid two one one and magnify."

The screen highlighted a section of the image and zoomed in 
on it. For a second, Crusher didn't realize what she was looking 
at. Then it hit her. "This is the virus from Arvada, isn't it?" 
she asked in a hushed voice.

"It sure is. Computer, highlight sections 2, 19 and 42." 
When the requested sections brightened, Scully turned to Crusher. 
"You see these? Compare them with your virus. Computer, display 
analogous section from sample E23 next to current image." 
Obligingly, a similar strand popped into existence next to it. 
"See it now?"

Crusher looked at the highlighted sections. "Oh my god!"

"Exactly. I'm not entirely sure if this virus ever occurred 
in nature, but the one you're dealing with is definitely not a 
mutation. These two samples," she said, pointing to the images, 
"have been biologically engineered. The signs are unmistakable. 
Once you know where to look for them, that is."

"How did we miss this before?" Crusher asked incredulously. 
"I mean... I can't believe I didn't see it."

"Wasn't your fault," Scully answered, holding up her hand. 
"I didn't catch it either until I did the comparison between the 
two. The only places that show the signs are these," she said, 
her fingers tracing the highlighted sections. "The areas where 
the two strands differ. And that's not something you could catch 
just by examining either strand by itself."

Crusher stared at the two strands for a few moments, 
possible solutions running through her head. "Do you have any 
idea what the difference is between the two RNA configurations? 
Or why my blood doesn't act as a cure?"

"Yeah, I think so. First of all, I'm not even sure this 
thing can be called a virus, especially since it seems to be 
multicellular. But look at this. I couldn't figure out what these 
sections did until I looked at your notes. You mentioned that you 
thought this thing was a polymorph, a combination of carbon and 
silicon based life?"

Crusher nodded, trying to relate her observations to the new 
information her cousin had discovered.

"Well, going by that information, these sections would seem 
to be the ones that control the balance between the carbon and 
silicon aspects of the organism. The engineered areas on the 
Arvada virus seem to be those that enhance the carbon base. 
Whereas," she paused, moving to the adjacent image, "on the one 
you've got here..."

"... the silicon base is enhanced. Of course... if what you 
said about it being a deliberate infection was true, this one was 
intended for the Hortas, not for us."

"My reasoning exactly."

"It must have enough of its carbon base to affect us too, 
just not enough for the old vaccine to be of any use."

"Yeah," Scully nodded wearily. "The nucleotide sequence that 
made up the old vaccine just doesn't fit the new configuration of 
the virus RNA."

"But why? Why would anyone want to infect a colony of 
Hortas? It's not like they were any threat, were they? I mean, 
most of them were scientists and artists, from what the Admiral 
told me."

"Beverly..." Scully cleared her throat then went on. "I 
don't know. But I will tell you this. I don't think we've seen 
the end of it."

"You think we can expect more attacks like this one?" 
Crusher asked incredulously. 

Scully nodded in reply. "I think this one was a test. You 
were right about the colonists. I looked up their backgrounds. 
They weren't any threat to anybody."

"A test!? I don't understand."

"This virus is a weapon, Beverly" Scully tried to explain. 
"It's only good if you know it's going to work. And not just in a 
lab. You have to test it out in the field. And what better place 
than this? The colony isn't exactly on the beaten path. It's more 
than a week from anyone who'd notice, even at maximum warp. It's 
convenient, and would also minimize the casualties. If too many 
died, it might call unwanted attention to the attack. This way, 
it's just an unfortunate incident. Easy to brush under the rug."


"Cold? I agree, but those are the facts."

"Do you know who's behind this?"

Scully shook her head. "We're not sure. We've been trying to 
find out who they are, but we haven't had much luck. This is the 
closest we've come to them, to tell you the truth. We weren't in 
this sector entirely by accident, you know," she confessed.


"My husband and I, we were informed of something going on in 
the Belisar system. I'm not sure if you knew, but all current 
traffic in this area has been rerouted to avoid it. Any missions 
that might stumble onto the colony have either been cancelled or 
postponed indefinitely."

Crusher's jaw dropped, her eyes widening in surprise. "But 
that would mean...," she managed finally, swallowing as the 
disturbing realization hit her. "That would mean they had someone 
in Starfleet. How high does this go?" The last question came out 
in a whisper.

"High enough. We don't have any proof, of course. Actually, 
I'm surprised you were near the colony at all."

"We wouldn't have been. The stopover at Belisarius wasn't 
exactly a planned mission. We were ferrying an Admiral to the 
colony for his retirement as a personal favor." Crusher shrugged. 
"He served on the original Enterprise, so I guess he thought of 
this as his farewell voyage." Her voice had an ironic tinge to it 
as she considered her words. "Though I doubt he expected the 
farewell would have to be said to his own friends and family," 
she added bitterly.

An auburn eyebrow rose at the comment. "This Admiral you 
mentioned... Naraht?"

"Yeah, you know him?"

"We've met," she answered, her reply deliberately vague. 
"Oh, this must've put an kink in their plans, whoever they are. 
But back to the matter at hand. How do you want to proceed?"

Crusher took a deep breath as she considered the options 
they had available to them. "Well, what you've told me is more 
information than I had before you arrived. Do you know how your 
mother and my grandmother came up with the original cure? Maybe 
we could follow their method of research ourselves."

There was a dry chuckle from Scully. "Oh no. That would make 
it entirely too easy for us." Seeing the questioning look on 
Crusher's face, she continued, "I doubt we'd have any success 
using that method. You see, they had the cure handed to them."

"Handed to them? By whom?"

"Beverly, this virus... Arvada wasn't the first time its 
been used."

Crusher paled at the information. Her cousin had as much as 
confirmed that the virus had been deliberately introduced, both 
here on the Horta colony as well as back on Arvada III. 'How many 
times has this happened,' she wondered, 'with no one else being 
the wiser?' She shuddered. "When...?"

Scully shook her head. "Not recently. It was a long time 
ago. I believe that the people who used the virus initially... 
they misplaced it somehow. It didn't resurface again until 
Arvada, as far as I know."

"I see," Crusher said, dejected. "So it's back to square 

"Well, not entirely. We still have the original vaccine. 
It'll probably be worse than useless for the Hortas... which 
reminds me, did any of them survive?"

Crusher shook her head sadly. "No. They were all dead by the 
time we got here."

    "What about Naraht? He wasn't infected, was he?" Scully 
asked, a concerned tone lacing her voice. She let out a breath of 
relief when Crusher replied in the negative. "Good. I would have 
hated to see anything happen to him. I hope he's under heavy 
quarantine. This virus would probably affect him much faster than 
any carbon based species."

"He's safe. He was placed under quarantine before the first 
beamup," Crusher assured her. Her voice dropped as she added, "I 
just wish I'd thought of similar precautions for everyone else."

"It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known. This virus 
was engineered to be undetectable and deadly. The blame should 
fall on those who were behind this, not us. I learned that lesson 
myself a long time ago."

"Yeah," Crusher replied quietly, not totally convinced.

Scully sighed at the tone of the doctor's voice. She knew 
how the other woman felt. Both she and Mulder were experts on 
assuming guilt for events neither of them had control over. It 
was just a part of the lives they had chosen to lead. And she 
knew, firsthand, how hard it was to put it aside and see the 
situation for what it was.

"Hey, remember, we still have the original vaccine. The 
nucleotide sequence that made up the formula is in my notes. I 
was thinking that we could try different combinations of the 
sequences, see if any of them fit the new RNA configuration. What 
do you think?" For the first time since she'd arrived, Scully saw 
a small spark light up Crusher's eyes.

"It's definitely worth a try," she said slowly.

Scully smiled, nodding. "Well, let's get to work then, shall 


Westside Hotel, Charlottesville, VA
Saturday, December 5, 1998
6:42 PM

"This had to be the single most unproductive day of my 
life," Horton sighed as she pushed open the door to their suite.

It had begun, predictably enough, with them taking some 
local backup back to the bee farm they'd escaped from the night 
before. And continued with them looking extremely foolish at the 
sight of the empty fields, not to mention the lack of a building 
where they had seen the office and attached hive room the night 

Needless to say, the local help hadn't taken too kindly to 
being called out on a wild goose chase. To his credit, Horton 
acknowledged, Mulder hadn't seemed too surprised. In fact, if she 
had to decide, she'd probably have described him as disappointed. 
It was obvious he'd seen this type of cleanup operation before.

She herself was stunned. Not a single piece of evidence 
remained to indicate what had transpired the previous night. The 
fields of burning crops had been cleaned so it looked like the 
land had lain fallow for at least a few months. Of the building 
itself, nothing remained except for a faintly blackened piece of 
hard ground. From the level of response, she knew they must have 
stumbled onto something... huge. The thought brought with it a 
vague sense of unease. And she had a feeling it was only going to 
get worse. The following interviews with the remaining two 
families, uninformative as they'd turned out, hadn't exactly 
filled her with any confidence either.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of her cell 
phone. She flipped it open, her face stretching into a smile at 
the familiar voice. "Hey honey," she said softly, glancing up at 
the knowing grins on the faces of the other two agents. She shook 
her head, then headed for her room.

The door closed behind Horton, leaving two bemused partners 
standing in the suite's common area. "Well, I guess her love life 
doesn't leave anything to be desired, eh Scully?"

"Oh, and I suppose yours does?" Scully shot over her 
shoulder as she headed for her own room.

Mulder simply stood there for a moment, considering. How did 
he get himself into these things, he wondered. He couldn't come 
up with any answer to that that wouldn't put him in very deep 
water, or very deep crap. "I am not even going near that one," 
Mulder replied at last, shaking his head, opting for the safest 
way out. "Maybe we should just talk about this case?"

The smirk on her face clearly indicated that she'd 
recognized the escape tactic. She would let it slide this time, 
she decided, much to his relief.

He followed her into her room, jumping onto her bed. He took 
off his coat and threw it over a nearby chair as he watched her 
put away hers in her closet. He smiled, shrugging when he saw her 
glance at his coat and sigh, then leaned back against the 
headrest as he stretched.

"Don't get too comfortable, Mulder, or I'll throw you out 
early," she teased.

Mulder affected a mock pout, causing his partner to stick 
out her tongue at him. He tried to imagine his staid partner 
acting like that the year before. Impossible, he decided almost 
immediately. He still wondered at all the changes they'd gone 
through in the time they'd been together. They couldn't afford to 
parade it out in public, of course, but there was still a certain 
something that he could see, if only because he knew her... knew 
them so well. There was a relaxation of the old barriers that had 
kept them apart for so long. An ease in their relationship that 
hadn't been there before, an openness that he relished, that he 
savored for the precious gift that it was.

Not for the first time, he cursed their enforced distance, 
the image they had to project to the outside world. Of course, he 
mused, he couldn't ask for a better incentive to bring down the 
consortium once and for all. Anything that would allow him and 
his other half to be together once and for all, not just during 
stolen moments in the safety of her home.

He closed his eyes, envisioning her in his arms, his fingers 
caressing the soft skin at the base of her neck. He brushed 
feathersoft caresses along her collarbone, moving up... tracing 
her cheeks, her lips... He sighed, a slight shudder coursing down 
his body. He opened his eyes, the imaginary Scully transforming 
into the real one. A real, flesh and blood one, with a concerned 
expression on her face... 'Uh, oh!'

"Hey, you okay, G'man?"

A sheepish grin stole its way across his face. "Guess I lost 
myself a bit there, huh?" he whispered softly.

The concern gave way to understanding as she recognized the 
look on his face. She leaned forward to lightly brush her fingers 
across his hand, smiling in shared empathy.

Mulder nodded. "Yeah," he bit out, summing up both their 
feelings with that single word. "Well, let's take a look at those 
papers, shall we?"

And that was that, she realized. A shelving of their 
feelings until it was actually safe to deal with them. Scully 
blinked, then resigned herself to the sudden change in the mood. 
It was for the best, she knew. They couldn't afford to get mired 
in the mechanics of their relationship while out in the field. It 
had been a mutual decision, one made after much deliberation, 
after careful consideration of all the prevailing factors. Which 
didn't make it hurt any less, make it any less painful. Not for 
her, and judging by the expression on his face, definitely not 
for Mulder either.

Papers, right. She sighed, pulling out her briefcase. She 
moved to sit beside him on the bed, spreading out the papers on 
top of the mattress. These were the only remaining evidence that 
the bee farm had ever existed. And for now, they were their only 
lead. The map itself, while interesting in that it confirmed 
their theories, had been all but useless in pinpointing actual 
locations of the other farms. It was obviously a scaled down copy 
of a more detailed map, and the dots marking the other locations 
were large enough to cover territory the size of several cities.

The rest of the papers were not much more help either. Oh, 
there was plenty of information about everything from farming 
equipment and bee nutrition to delivery schedules and irrigation 
techniques. But information about anything outside the farm 
itself was sorely lacking. And there was nothing to indicate any 
actual illegal activity at the farm itself; the existence of the 
crops and bees would be more of a curiosity than an actual crime. 
Even the list of biohazard safety protocols could conceivably be 
argued away as being for experimental fertilizers. There was 
simply nothing to connect the bee farm to the black oil virus.

The agents pored over the documents for almost an hour 
without making any headway. Finally, Mulder broke the silence. 
"That's it. My eyes are going to start a rebellion if I stare at 
these things one more time." He sighed. "Let's face it, Scully, 
we have nothing. I don't think the attack at the school was even 
planned. There would have been more bees, definitely enough of 
them to have been noticed, like in the school in Payson. It's 
more likely that a few bees got loose by accident." He looked up 
to meet his partner's blue gaze, seeing reluctant agreement 
etched on her face. He glanced down at his watch. "I'm going to 
get something to eat. You game? Maybe we can call the Gunmen 
afterwards, see if they have anything about these other farms."

Scully hesitated, her eyes traveling back down to come to 
rest on the papers. Then she sighed as well, admitting defeat. 
"Yeah, I could use something. You want me to see if Lynn's 

Mulder nodded, getting up to get his coat while Scully went 
out to talk to Horton.


Lynn Horton sighed as she leaned back in her bed, the phone 
clutched in the crook of her neck.

"Yeah, I'm turning in my report as we speak," she said, 
peering at the laptop perched on her stomach. She punched in a 
few more keys, watching the upload indicator as it confirmed the 
transfer. "There, it's done. And let me just say, you were dead 
right. The only way to keep an eye on these two is to get 
assigned to the same case as their partner."

She waited, listening to the person on the other end, then 
smiled. "No, of course not. Neither of them suspects a thing." 
She chuckled, remembering when she'd first spoken with them. "You 
should have seen their faces when I told them who my fiance was. 
I think they actually felt sorry for me. They probably think I'm 
just some green agent who ran to them for help on her first big 

Another pause, as she pulled up scanned copies of the papers 
they'd found at the farm. "Nah, we're pretty much at a dead end 
on the case. I think they're hoping one of their sources comes 
through with some information, because what we have so far is 
pretty pathetic."

She listened again for a few moments before replying 
ruefully, "Yeah, I'll be sure to keep that in mind. Thanks for 
the reminder. Well I gotta go now. I'll keep you updated on my 
progress. Later..."

She hung up, then shut down her laptop. She got up, placing 
the small computer into its bag and zipping it shut. She was 
about to turn and head for the door when she felt the cold object 
at the back of her neck. She stiffened, a startled gasp escaping 
her lips.

"Not so fast, Agent Horton," came the steely voice from 
behind her. For a moment, she felt fear at the amount of hatred 
lacing the soft voice she'd come to associate with Dana Scully. 
Suddenly she could see the side that Scully showed to the 
criminals she pursued. And faced with it, she could easily see 
how it made her the effective agent she was. She shivered.

"Hands where I can see them," Scully snapped. "No sudden 
moves, you know the drill." The gun moved away from her neck, for 
which Horton let out a silent breath of relief. "Turn around 
slowly." When Horton complied, she went on, "Move to the bed and 
sit down."

"Agent Scully, I don't..."

"Shut... up...," Scully cut her off, her eyes narrowing in 
anger. "You don't talk unless I say you can. You got that?" When 
she didn't receive an answer immediately, she leaned forward, the 
muzzle of her gun pressing into Horton's forehead. "I said, you 
got that?" she hissed.

Horton gulped, and nodded her reply, a trickle of sweat 
running down her spine. She was afraid, she realized. This woman 
was ready to kill her; she could read it in her eyes. 
Desperately, she tried to remember her phone conversation, and 
wondered exactly how much of it Scully had heard, and what 
conclusions she'd drawn from it. Shit, she berated herself, she 
should have made sure the door had been locked. What had she been 
thinking? She wondered if she'd be allowed to live long enough to 
get out of this one. 'Think, Lynn,' she shouted at herself, 'what 
are you gonna do now?'


The shout brought her attention back to the agent in front 
of her. Scully hadn't taken her eyes off her, and the steel blue 
that met hers made her extremely nervous. Idly, she wondered if 
Mulder would be better or worse. Considering the emotional 
reactions she'd noticed in the two of them since she'd been 
partnered with them, if Scully was this mad... She sighed, 
resigning herself to the shortest assignment in all history. She 
could see her gravestone now, "Here lies Alynna Horton, She died 
of stupidity and incompetence."

"Um... Scully? Something you want to tell me?" Mulder looked 
from Horton's frightened eyes to his partner's hate filled ones, 
his brows furrowing in confusion. "If you don't like her choice 
of restaurants, I'm sure we can work something out."

"I was going to ask her if she'd like to eat out, when I 
overheard the most interesting conversation," Scully replied, 
neither her eyes nor her gun moving an inch from her target. "She 
was reporting on the progress of our case to someone on the 
phone. She said we didn't suspect her at all, and that she'd been 
assigned to us as our partner so she could keep an eye on us."

Horton closed her eyes, realizing exactly how that sounded. 
She was dead, she just knew it. Maybe she'd have a nice funeral, 
she thought to herself. Maybe Scully would be merciful and make 
it quick and painless. Maybe... Sheesh, considering her 
stupidity, maybe she should just grab the gun and shoot herself! 
She snorted silently. Now there was a thought.

She frowned. Mulder should have blown up by now. She opened 
one eye, then, puzzled, opened the other one as well. She had 
seen Mulder's face harden as Scully laid it out for him. By now 
there should have been steam coming out of his ears. Instead, he 
leaned against the cabinet next to the door, barely able to 
contain his mirth.

Scully must have picked up on it too, because she frowned as 
well, then moved back so she could see her partner while still 
covering Horton with her gun. "Mulder?" she asked, her eyebrow 
rising in question.

"So let me get this straight?" Mulder held up his hand. "She 
was assigned as our partner to keep an eye on us," he said, 
ticking off one of his fingers. "To report on our progress," he 
added, ticking off another one. "I don't know, but she sorta 
reminds me of someone from oh...," he shrugged, "five... six 
years ago. Don't you think?"

"Mulder!" Scully was outraged, her tone incredulous. "You 
can't possibly compare..."

"Oh come on Scully. Can't you hear yourself? She's doing 
exactly what you were doing when you were first assigned to the 
X-files. You were more right about her back at the hospital than 
you realized."

By now, Horton was thoroughly confused. Wait! Scully was 
assigned to spy on Mulder and his work? That was something they'd 
left out of her assignment briefing. In fact, they'd left out 
quite a lot of material, she was starting to realize. And just 
what the hell was going on here? Mulder was being just a bit too 
amused by this entire thing for her comfort.

"I never tried to fool you about my intentions, Mulder." 
There was slight note of hurt in Scully's voice now.

Mulder must have realized his error then, Horton saw, 
because his expression immediately became contrite. "Sorry, 
Scully, you're right. You never did that," he acknowledged, 
causing Scully's expression to soften ever so slightly.

"So what are we going to do with her?" Scully was all 
business again.

"I'd suggest lowering the gun, Scully."


"I should have made the connection sooner, when we came 
across your father's name," Mulder said, turning to Horton. When 
she paled at his statement, he added, "By your expression, I can 
assume you're not a Hunter?"

Horton shook her head vigorously, still speechless that 
Mulder had figured her out.

"Of course, you won't mind if we confirm that with Dawson?"

Another shake of her head.

"James Horton?" Scully asked, remembering the information 
from Horton's personal file, and connecting it with where she'd 
heard the name before. "You mean she's a..." She turned to 
Horton, her gun lowering. "You're a Watcher?"

Horton smiled faintly, shrugging. With the gun turned away, 
she uttered a heartfelt prayer of thanks.

Scully coughed slightly. "I guess I owe you an apology," she 
said, putting her weapon back in its holster. Suddenly her eyes 
widened. "Um... Colton isn't... I mean... he doesn't know, does 
he?" She saw that even Mulder was somewhat concerned by the 

Horton shook her head. "Nope, he doesn't. Not about the 
Watchers, or about immortals."

"Good. I hope you plan on keeping it that way," Scully 
replied. When Horton nodded, she added, "You should have told us. 
It's just..." She sighed. "We've had others assigned to us 
before, Lynn, people who've undermined our investigations, 
destroying our evidence and fabricating false leads."

"No, that's just it, don't you see? I couldn't tell you," 
Horton replied plaintively. "It goes against everything we 
believe in. Observe, never interfere," she recited the Watcher's 
motto. "It's all my fault. I wasn't supposed to let you find out 
about me at all." Horton's voice dropped as she hung her head. "I 
don't know what they'll do to me now. Some Watcher I turned out 
to be. I got caught on my first assignment." Her tone had turned 
distinctly mournful.

"I'm sure they'll understand." Scully leaned over to pat 
Horton's hand reassuringly. She'd been ready to kill Horton not 
two minutes ago, and now she was actually comforting her. She 
shook her head at the irony. "We're not exactly in a profession 
that allows for us to be very trusting," she went on. "Especially 
considering the types of cases we're involved in. Actually I'm 
surprised Joe had you assigned to us. No offense, Lynn, but 
wouldn't a Watcher with more experience have been more useful?"

"That's actually why they *didn't* assign someone with more 
experience. It's always a problem when you have immortals in jobs 
like yours. If you'd done a background check on any of our 
veterans in the FBI, you might have found something... well, 

"Like an abundance of cases involving decapitation, maybe?" 
Mulder ventured, smirking.

Horton shrugged. "Something like that, yeah. I was a new 
face, and there wasn't anything in my official files that might 
have set off any alarms. And Joe didn't think you'd make the 
connection with my father."

"I suppose you're right," Scully nodded.

Horton snorted. "And if it weren't for my carelessness, you 
wouldn't have found me out either."

"Oh, I don't know. If we were any other immortal, perhaps," 
Mulder said thoughtfully. "But in our case, we already knew about 
the Watchers. It was just a matter of time before we realized 
it." He pulled out his cell phone as he talked. "I mean, it 
wasn't just what you said on the phone that tipped us off about 
you being a Watcher."

"How did you know anyway?" she asked, curious. "You realized 
it only after Scully told you about my phone conversation, 

"Yup. And I bet that tattoo of yours still itches." He 
grinned when he saw both the women stare at Horton's wrist. 
Raising the phone to his ear, he explained, "I saw you scratching 
at it when Scully had her gun pointed at you."

The line must have connected just then. "Joe? This is Fox 
Mulder." He smiled at the cautious greeting from the other man. 
"I'm doing great," he replied. "Listen, I was calling because I'm 
concerned about a new partner of ours. One Alynna Horton. 
According to her files, her father is James Horton. I remember 
you mentioning that name in connection with the Hunters. I just 
wanted to make sure she wasn't after our heads or something."

Horton turned towards Mulder, surprised. He hadn't mentioned 
anything about Scully stumbling upon her earlier phone 
conversation with Uncle Joe. The way he'd asked made it seem as 
if he'd come to the conclusion on his own.

"That's good to know," Mulder said when Dawson confirmed 
Horton's claims about not being a Hunter. "You must have known 
we'd figure it out, Joe," Mulder was saying. "Naah, if you'd sent 
someone with more experience, our background check on them would 
probably have lit up like a bunch of christmas lights."

Lynn's jaw dropped as Mulder repeated her earlier words 
almost verbatim. She saw him grinning at her as he continued, "In 
fact, if we hadn't known about you guys in the first place, we 
would never have figured her for a Watcher at all."

'No, they would have just gone ahead and killed me,' she 
thought to herself. Nothing Mulder had said so far had been an 
outright lie, just a judicial revelation of the facts.

"Thanks for the info, Joe. We'll talk later," Mulder said 
before hanging up. "I guess you're clean, Ms. Horton," he 
remarked, turning towards her.

"Thanks for not turning me in," she said quietly.

"Out of curiosity," Scully asked, "what would have happened 
if we had?"

"Oh I'd probably get transferred back to Seattle." Horton 
shrugged. "They'd have to find someone else to fill this spot. 
Although, it took them long enough to get me in place, so lord 
knows how long a replacement would take."

"And you?"

"I'd get stuck doing research until they deemed it safe for 
me to go out in the field again, watching some other immortal. 
You guys really saved my ass, you know."

"Well, you can thank us by buying us dinner," Scully 
replied, smiling at her. "That's why I came in here in the first 
place, to see if you wanted to go get something to eat. And I 
just realized I'm starving."

"Yeah, and until we can get a lead on where some of these 
other bee farms might be, we're pretty much stuck," Mulder added.

"Other..." Horton began, then stopped, stunned. "Oh my god! 
I am definitely an idiot. I can't believe I didn't see it 
before!" She turned and headed back to the desk beside her bed. 
She pulled out her case and started rifling through it.

The other agents stared at her in confusion. "Lynn?" Scully 

"Hang on," Horton replied, holding up a finger. "I think I 
may have found something." She pulled out a copy of the map she'd 
been looking at earlier, smiling in satisfaction when she saw it. 
She knew there had been something...

"I was talking to Tom earlier, and he told me the most 
interesting story." She looked up at Mulder and Scully, seeing 
that she'd caught their attention. "He called me from Pittsburgh. 
He'd gone up there to look for a friend of his."

"His friend...?" Mulder asked, his brows furrowing in 

"Yeah, Nick Stein. He's an agent from the Pittsburgh field 
office. Tom went with him to the Academy."

Scully nodded at that. "I think I remember him. Tall, dark 
hair, athletic?" she asked.

"That's him," Horton confirmed. "Tom was at the Pittsburgh 
office for a while, so they've kept in touch pretty frequently. 
Before we left on this case, Tom was telling me about Nick doing 
a little investigating on his own time, looking into something 
not entirely on the field office approved list. Something about 
suspicious deliveries to an isolated farm a few miles south of 
the city."

She paused, her eyes narrowing in thought. "I didn't connect 
it immediately with what Tom just told me. But apparently, Nick 
had been admitted into a nearby hospital about a week or so ago. 
His wife reported that he'd just collapsed suddenly. A few hours 
after he was admitted, he was transferred to a facility better 
able to care for him. Or at least, that was what his wife was 

"But..." Scully prodded.

"But," Horton continued, "when Jess... that's his wife... 
when she tried to follow up on that, there was no sign of this 
facility, or of Nick." She smiled grimly. "Sound familiar?"

"Extremely," Scully muttered. "What about the transfer 

Horton shook her head. "There weren't any. There was no 
record of him even being at the hospital, for that matter. That's 
when Jess called Tom up and asked him to help. She got the 
impression that Nick's superiors weren't too keen on finding out 
what really happened."

"Interesting," Mulder observed, moving to stand next to 
Horton. He pointed to the map on her laptop screen. "Isn't there 
a dot in western Pennsylvania somewhere?"

"Right here," Horton replied smugly, pointing at the spot.

"I guess it's time to pack, Scully," Mulder said, his voice 
betraying his excitement at the new lead.

"Great," Scully shot back, then added, "but can we go eat 
first? I'm still hungry."


USS Enterprise-D
Sunday, April 11, 2371
1511 hours

"This had to be the single most unproductive day of my 
life," Crusher sighed as she pushed herself away from her desk.

"Beverly?" Scully looked up from a similar position on the 
other side of Sickbay.

"Damn it, Denise." Their eyes met, locking for a moment in 
mutual understanding. "It's not working. The nucleotide sequence 
in the vaccine is just too long. We'd never get through all the 
different possible combinations. Not in time to find a cure 

Scully sighed, mirroring her actions. "You're right. I was 
hoping we might stumble onto the right combination, but there's 
no way it's going to happen anytime soon. How long can you keep 
your people in stasis?"

Crusher stood up and started pacing nervously. "Not too long 
before their bodies start to succumb. I'd say another week at the 
most. Stasis only slows down the process; it doesn't stop it 

Scully nodded. "You should reach the nearest starbase by 
next week, but by then it'll probably be too late for most of the 

"I know." Crusher tiredly rubbed her eyes. "But I don't know 
what to do anymore. God, I feel so helpless," she cried out in 
frustration, dropping her face into her hands.

Scully cursed silently, moving forward. She stopped short 
when she ran into the force field. "Aww... dammit." She slapped 
her hands against the invisible wall in frustration, her palms 
stinging from the slight electrical surge that ran through them. 
"Beverly, come on. You can't give up. We'll think of something."

"What else can we do, Denise?" came the hushed protest from 
the tired doctor. "We've tried everything. The damn virus is just 
too strong. We'll never be able to guess the combination for the 
cure. And short of someone handing us the formula, which I don't 
foresee in the near future, the only way we can get a cure is 
from someone who was previously infected or vaccinated. And 
that's pretty damn impossible with an engineered virus."

Crusher looked up, puzzled by the silence that greeted her. 
She'd expected some sort of reply to her outburst, but was met 
instead by her cousin staring back at her slackjawed. 
"Denise...?" she began worriedly.

"Beverly, you make the Howard name proud." Scully had a wide 
grin on her face. "You're absolutely right!"

"I do... I mean, I am?" Crusher shook her head, frowning in 
confusion. "I don't understand."

"You said that we need someone who was previously infected 
or vaccinated."

"Right, but as I told you, my immunity is for a different 
version of the virus. And there aren't any others..." She paused, 
her expression clearing as she realized what her cousin was 
getting at. "Are there?"

"I'm not entirely sure, but I'm going to find out. Computer, 
hail the Eagle." She waited for the acknowledging chirp, then 
softly called out, "Felix?"

Crusher heard the voice reply over the comm channel, 
"Denise? Is everything okay?" She wondered for a moment at the 
strangely familiar voice.

"Hey," Scully replied. "No, everything's not okay. Listen, 
I'm in the Enterprise Sickbay with Beverly, and I need a favor. I 
need a sample of your blood."

"My blood?" came the confused question. "What for?"

"I'm not sure yet. I want to run some tests on it. Do you 
think you can extract some yourself and beam it over here?"

"I think so. Where do you keep the hyposprays?"

"Look in the lab. The cabinet next to the door."

"Hang on..." The sounds of movement came through the 
connection as someone walked around on the other end. "Okay, I 
found them. How much do you need?"

"I think ten ccs should do it. For now."

"For now!?" came the protest. "You know I always hated these 

"It's all in your head, M... Felix. You know you can hardly 
feel them now."

"Yeah, sure, fine..."

"Don't you dare complete that..."

"Here it comes," he cut her off.

Crusher could almost hear the smile in his voice. It was 
infectious, raising her spirits a little. The warning was 
followed almost immediately by a faint whining noise. She watched 
as a hypospray appeared on the desk next to Denise. She saw her 
cousin pick up the instrument as she thanked her husband.

"No problem. Just be careful, okay," came the soft reply. "I 
love you."

"I will. I love you too." Scully broke the link, looking 
thoughtfully at the instrument she held in her hand.

Suddenly her previous words flashed across Crusher's mind. 
"Wait, you said your husband was exposed to the virus too? Was he 
a victim on Arvada?" She wondered why her cousin had quoted a 
risk of infection if her husband had some sort of immunity to the 

"Well, I'm not sure you could call him a victim." There was 
an obvious note of pain in the woman's voice, clear evidence that 
the incident still disturbed her. Scully still remembered her 
worry when Mulder had disappeared in Tunguska, and the relief 
she'd felt in the courtroom when he'd barged in on the Senate 
hearings. "And it wasn't on Arvada," she continued finally, still 
clutching the hypospray tightly. "He was given a vaccine for the 
virus, then deliberately infected. So I guess 'test subject' 
would be more appropriate."

"Oh god!" Crusher breathed, horrified. "I'm so sorry. Is 
he... all right?"

"It never seemed to affect him, so I suppose the inoculation 
must've worked." Privately, she wondered if that wasn't because 
of his latent immortality, rather than due to any effect the 
vaccine might have had. He had told her that the vaccine the 
Russians had been testing wasn't exactly a finished product at 
the time, so it was entirely possible that the former was true. 
She sighed. Well, they'd find out soon enough. "I'm not sure if 
the virus he was infected with was the same one as on Arvada, or 
the one from Belisarius. But I want to check it out anyway."

Scully moved to one of the workbenches next to her desk. She 
pulled out the vial from the hypospray, holding up the blood 
sample. Gently, she placed it under a sensor scanner.

"Computer, scan sample."

A soft hum echoed around the room as a faint light brushed 
across the vial. "Sample scanned," the computer replied.

"Good," Scully replied. "Now let's see what type of effect 
it has on the virus. Computer, add two ccs of the blood sample to 
an equal amount of blood containing virus sample E23. Project the 
results on the screen, magnification level three."


A moment later, the screen lit up with an image of the 
infected blood cells. Even at this magnification, the effects of 
the virus were clear. A dark red tinge indicated the blood being 
added to the sample. Scully and Crusher watched as the two 
samples mixed. For a few moments, nothing seemed to happen.

Scully frowned. "Computer, audio readout of the infection 
levels in the blood."

"Current infection level at 50%," came the obliging reply. 
Which made sense, considering half the blood was infected.

"Nothing's happening," Scully muttered.

"Wait." Crusher held up a hand. She could see a slight 
change in the color of the image. "What's that?"

Just then, the computer chimed in. "Infection level at 47%."

"Oh my god, I don't believe it! It's working! It's actually 
working," Crusher shouted.

"Hang on. I'd wait till the levels drop to zero before I 
start celebrating," Scully cautioned.

"Levels at 39% and dropping."

"Come on..." Scully quietly urged the readout to drop 
further, watching as it slowly edged past the 27% mark.

"Levels at 21%."

"Yess..." Crusher smiled.

"Levels at 23%."

The smiles disappeared, from both their faces. "What!?" 
Crusher shouted, looking from Scully to the image and back. "What 
happened? Why did it go up?"

"Levels at 28% and rising."

Scully moved quickly to the scanner, adjusting some of the 
parameters as she examined the image. She sighed. It had been a 
slim chance to begin with, but the disappointment still hurt. "I 
was afraid of this," she replied quietly. "The rising levels 
aren't indicative of the virus that infected Belisarius colony."

"What does that mean?" Crusher asked, trying to get over her 
disappointment at the failure of their newest approach.

"Levels at 57% and rising," the computer interrupted.

"My husband's immunity is definitely different than yours. I 
think he was exposed to the original virus itself, not the 
engineered ones. The initial reactions were substantially better 
than anything you reached with your blood tests, right?"

Crusher nodded mutely.

"Unfortunately, my husband is also a carrier for another 
rather virulent organism. Both of us are immune to it, and it 
isn't contagious except by direct transfer of certain bodily 
fluids. But his blood is still useless as a cure. The other virus 
would simply overwhelm any positive results. We'd be even worse 
off than before."

"I see," Crusher slowly replied. "There isn't a cure for 

"No," Scully shook her head. "I'm sorry Beverly."

"It's okay. We'll just have to find another way, that's 

Scully was quiet for a few minutes, an idea slowly forming 
in her head. Theoretically, it would work. But...


"Beverly, I still believe what you said is the way to go."

"What I said?" Crusher asked, puzzled.

"We need a previously infected being to get a vaccine from."

"Okay, but we're back to the first question. Where are we 
going to find someone like that? If this virus was engineered 
specifically for the Hortas, there is no chance..."

"We'll just have to provide our own," Scully cut her off.

"I'm sorry?" Crusher frowned, shaking her head, sure she'd 

"We'll have to deliberately infect someone," Scully said. 
"And then we have to harvest their blood for antibodies."

"You're crazy," Crusher replied, her voice rising in 
incredulity. "I have a ship full of infected crewmen, and you 
want to infect someone else? To what purpose? What would be 

"Beverly, there is a difference. None of those already 
infected can come up with a natural immunity to this thing."

"Exactly, hence the search for a cure," Crusher bit off 

"But I can," Scully said softly.

The comment stopped Crusher in her tracks. "I'm sorry. Did 
you just say you had a natural immunity? How do you know? Have 
you been infected? You never mentioned that you were immune."

"I'm not. I mean, I've never been infected. But I *can* 
produce the antibodies once I am. I know it sounds impossible, 
but it's true."


"I need to talk this over with Felix first, but I believe 
it'll work. I know it will." Her voice dropped as she added, "It 
has to."


USS Eagle (CG 74)
Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean
Sunday, December 6, 1998
1040 hours

The two men entered the dimly lit quarters.  The tall 
redhead in the captain's uniform stepped over to the table on one 
side. He looked down at the many maps strewn on top of it, 
leaning down to study them.

"Have you seen these?" he asked, turning to the shorter man 
standing next to him. He held out a sheaf of papers in his hand. 
"They just got piped down from upstairs." At the silent nod, he 
sighed, glancing back down at the maps. "What the hell are they 
thinking? If we follow this course change, we'll be skirting this 
entire section of the East Pacific Rise," he muttered, tracing a 
roughly circular area on one of the maps with his finger.

The other man just shrugged helplessly. "Your guess is as 
good as mine, Captain." He grinned suddenly. "They're probably 
just messing with our minds, sir. With all those psychology 
studies they're always coming up with, this is probably another 
inane idea cooked up by some pencil-pusher with degrees up the 
wazoo." He paused. "Personally, I think it's all a conspiracy. 
They figure we'll analyze it to death, and it'll drive us out of 
our minds." His voice dropped to a conspiratory whisper. "You 
know, that's how they clear the way for the up and coming 
generation without too much fuss."

The captain simply stared at him silently, then blinked. 
"Jesus Christ, sailor," he breathed finally. "For a moment there, 
you reminded me of the prick my sister works with."

"Sir?" came the quizzical response.

"Never mind. So, Riker, is this your way of telling me not 
to overanalyze this course change?"

"Sir, yes, sir."

"Smartass," the captain chided him good-naturedly.

"Following in your footsteps all the way, sir," Riker 
replied smoothly.

"You're lucky there's no one else around. I'd have you 
busted to ensign if anyone heard you talking to your superior 
officer in that tone of voice, mister."

Riker affected a shocked look. "I'm always careful sir. No 
mouthing off to the captain while in the presence of 
impressionable junior officers, check."

The other man sighed. "What did I ever do to deserve you as 
my executive officer, Riker?"

"You were blessed, sir."

He got a snort in reply. "Right, well, might as well lay in 
the course change, I suppose."

The XO nodded and was about to leave to carry out his orders 
when they were interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Captain Scully? Mail call." The young crewman handed the 
captain a thin envelope before leaving.

Scully fingered the envelope thoughtfully, lightly caressing 
it as he considered its contents.

"Ah, romance!"

The comment interrupted his reverie. Scully darted a sharp 
look at his XO. "Excuse me?"

"Aw, c'mon Bill. We both know Tara manages to email you at 
least every other day. But there's just something about an 
actual, physical letter that just... well, it makes the heart go 
pitter pat, skipper."

"Commander Riker," Scully ground out. "We've known each 
other all our lives. But I'll still thank you not to speculate 
about my love life..."

"... or current lack thereof..."

"That's it," Scully cut him off, rising. His body language 
conveyed irritation and anger, but the twinkle in his eyes gave 
him away. He tried to hide a grin as he pointed a finger at the 
door. "Out! Before I have you court-martialed, you sorry excuse 
for a naval officer. Leave me to my 'love letter' in peace, will 

"All right, okay," Riker replied, his hands going up in 
surrender. "I know when I'm not wanted," he added, a grin 
threatening to break out on his face. He turned to go, but paused 
at the door. "Hey, we still on for the game at 2100?"

"Yeah, yeah," Scully waved his hand dismissively at the 
door, his mind already on the contents of his letter as the door 
shut behind his XO. With a sigh, he slid into his chair, 
smoothing out the letter as he read it. Riker had been right; 
there was just something so much more... personal... about 
getting an actual letter.

He smiled as he read through it. Nothing terribly important, 
of course. If it had been anything urgent, he'd have long since 
got the information by email. He wished they'd had the facilities 
back during his father's days for the type of electronic access 
they had now. He couldn't help remembering the times his father 
would go on his tours of duty, when the only means of 
communication would be the slow, irregular mail service.

He'd almost gotten through to the end when the call came.

"Captain to the bridge."

He looked up from the letter, glancing at the PA speaker. He 
sighed. 'What now?' he thought to himself as he rose and headed 
for the door.



"Captain on the bridge."

The flurry of activity came to a momentary halt as the 
person in question walked past the men on duty. He returned their 
salutes as he walked over to where his XO stood.


"Captain," the first officer acknowledged his presence. He 
turned back to the radar image on the screen in front of him. "We 
were just about to lay in the course change when this showed up 
on the scope." He pointed out the small blip that blinked at the 
very edge of the instrument's range.

Scully leaned down in thought. "Hmmm... Any idea what it 

The few men in the vicinity all shook their heads. 
Apparently there had already been some discussion of this before 
he'd been paged. He sighed, then blinked as he took another look 
at the scope, a frown building on his face. "Let me see that blip 
on the charts."

Riker obligingly pulled out a navigational map, pointing out 
where the radar blip was in relation to them.

"And the route our course change would have taken us in?"

The navigator used a ruler to draw a line at an angle to 
their current course.

"Hunh!" the captain grunted. "Now, that's interesting," he 
observed, looking up from the map, his eyes meeting his XO's.

"Oh, yeah," came the muttered response. Drawn this way, it 
was clear that their course change would have put them well 
outside the detection range of their radar anomaly.

"Ummm... Captain?" the navigator asked. "Do you still want 
to continue the course change?"

"Hmmm? Oh, no. Not yet. Just to be on the safe side, I want 
you to contact COMNAVSURFPAC. Make sure the course change order 
is on the up and up."

"But sir, that'll take at least an hour."

"I should hope so," Scully replied, sharing a small smile 
with his XO.

"Sneaky...," Riker mouthed at him, to which he chuckled 

"Mr. Riker, let's take a look at our bogey, shall we?"

"Aye, aye, Captain. Full speed ahead, Mr. Stanton," he said, 
moving forward, looking out over the still Pacific waters.

They still had a bit of time before their order confirmation 
came through. The blip on the radar screen got steadily closer, 
until they could finally make out what it was. A seaplane floated 
in front of them, a submersible in the water next to it. It 
appeared as if some sort of transfer was in progress. The bridge 
crew could make out a vaguely coffin shaped object being lowered 
from the back of the plane onto the deck of the submersible.

"All stop," Scully ordered.

"All stop, aye," came the rapid acknowledgement.

As the cruiser came to a slow halt beside the submerged 
vessel, Scully and Riker moved out of the bridge and onto the 
outer deck. The activity in the water had come to a stop as soon 
as they had come within visual contact with each other. Scully 
watched as Riker walked over to the railing.

"Ahoy, there," the XO hailed, looking over the railing.

Both watched as a tall, thin, blond-haired man walked across 
the submarine deck towards them. He reached the side of the 
cruiser, grabbing hold of the ladder rungs and pulling himself 
up. As soon as he was on deck, he gave Riker a once over. Both 
the captain and the first officer got a distinct impression of 
unease from the gaunt man.

"You are on restricted waters. I'm afraid you'll have to 
correct your course," he told the XO without preamble.

"You showed up on our radar," Riker answered him. "We were 
curious why someone would be out here in the middle of nowhere. 
We came to see if you needed any assistance."

The newcomer stared at the executive officer for a moment, 
then answered him. "As you can see, you were mistaken. I 
think..." He broke off, catching sight of Scully standing to the 
side. He stared, an incredulous expression on his face. 

"I'm sorry?" Scully asked, frowning in confusion.

"I didn't realize you had been assigned... I mean, I wasn't 
told...," he stammered, flustered.

"Um, I think you might have mistaken me for someone else," 
Scully cut him off. He walked closer, holding out his hand. 
"Captain William Scully," he said by way of introduction.

"Oh." There was a moment of silence, the man continuing to 
stare at the captain. "I'm sorry," he said, "you looked like 
someone I knew." He shook his head, as if clearing it. "In any 
case, as I said, I'm afraid you are currently in restricted 


The call made Scully turn away from their visitor. He raised 
an eyebrow as the navigator walked up to them.

"Sir, I just got confirmation from COMNAVSURFPAC. We've been 
ordered to implement a course change."

"Well, I won't keep you from your orders then, Captain," the 
man said, turning back towards the ladder.

"How kind of you," Scully muttered under his breath as he 
watched the stranger climb down onto the submersible deck. Once 
down, he simply stared back up at them. Scully met his stare for 
a minute or so, then turned and nodded at the navigator. The 
captain of the Eagle could feel the man's eyes boring into his 
back as he made his way back to the bridge.

It took a few minutes for the cruiser to lay in their new 
course. As they turned and headed away, they could see the 
coffin-like object disappear into the bowels of the small 
submarine. The deck hatch closed and the vessel submerged, 
followed almost immediately by the departure of the plane.

"What in god's name was that all about?" Riker asked of no 
one in particular.

"I don't know." Scully's face grew thoughtful. "That sub 
didn't look very long-range. What does sonar say is below us?"

"Uh... It looks like..." There was a pause in the response 
from the sonar station. "That's funny..."


"There's some sort of interference, sir. I can't get a clear 
signal reflection from this entire area."

"Well," Riker remarked. "This place is crisscrossed with 
underwater mountain chains and valleys. The sonar signal would 
get bounced around like anybody's business."

"I suppose it's possible," the crewman manning sonar 
replied. He fiddled with the controls, trying to enhance the 
image. "But it looks more like there's something actively 
blocking the reflections and scattering the signal."

"Is that a fact? Maybe our esteemed superiors have some 
answers for us. Get them on the horn, Riker. Put in a request for 
terrain intelligence on this area. I'm going back to my letter. 
Let me know if you find anything."


Private Vessel Eagle
Sunday, April 11, 2371
1701 hours

"Out of the question! I won't allow it. It's too risky." The 
man paced in front of the seated woman, his voice slowly rising.

"But, Mulder..."

"Oh no, don't you dare... Do you even hear yourself?" he 
asked incredulously. "You're talking about infecting yourself 
with an unknown virus that has already got most of the crew on 
that ship in stasis." He turned around, letting out a breath of 
disgust. "I'm not even going to go into the logic of this."

"Dammit Mulder. It's their only chance," she hissed. "*I'm* 
their only chance."

"And what if it doesn't work, hunh? What then? What am I 
supposed to do, put you in stasis as well and just wait around 
till they find a cure? If that even happens." He threw up a hand 
in disgust. "You know there's a good chance they're going to 
cover this up the moment they reach that starbase."

"I don't know about that, Mulder. This is a Galaxy Class 
vessel, not to mention the flagship of the entire fleet. They 
can't just make them disappear. Not after a whole starbase gets a 
look at them."

"Which just makes me wonder if they'll even make it to the 
base in the first place. You, of all people, know what they're 
capable of. Ten to one they're monitoring communications around 
the Belisar system. The Enterprise heading to the starbase 
closest to Belisarius, under quarantine no less... you know 
that's going to set off some major alarms. And if the Enterprise 
does happen to disappear, out here who the hell is going to 
notice it in time? You know there was a reason they chose 

"I know, Mulder. Which just makes it that much more 
imperative that I go through with this. Do you want to have the 
lives of all these people on your conscience? Wasn't Arvada 

"NO!" Mulder shouted forcefully, clearly indicating that was 
the end of the discussion.

"Aaargh! I'm an immortal, Mulder," she cried out in 
frustration. "I'll recover."

"No one knows the limits of our healing, Scully. When was 
the last time an immortal was infected by a bioengineered virus? 
Huh? Tell me that? How do you know this won't be the straw that 
breaks the camel's back? Does being immortal mean you keep taking 
chances like this?"

"No, but it does mean we have an obligation to help in any 
way we can," she replied softly. "What was that thing you kept 
telling me about power and responsibility?"

He knew she had him. Damn her anyway. She just had to pull 
that card, didn't she? She knew he wouldn't turn a deaf ear to 
that. But he had to try, one last time. "I won't lose you, 
Scully." His voice dropped to a pained whisper. He stopped in 
front of her, sinking to his knees. His hands reached out to grab 
hers, squeezing them as he desperately tried to sway her 
decision. "I can't. Please, Scully, think about this..." But he 
could already tell by her expression that she'd made up her mind.

"I have, Mulder. Don't you think if there was any other 

"What about me? You asked for a sample of my blood. Can't 
you use me instead? You're the doctor. I'd have a better chance 
of recovering if you were treating me. What would I be able to do 
for you? I'd just end up standing around helpless."

"Oh, Mulder... Do you really think you're any less important 
to me than you think I am to you?"

"I don't think, Scully. You *are*..."

She raised a finger to his lips, quelling his protest. "No, 
Mulder. I love you so much for suggesting it. But it just 
wouldn't work. Any attempt to use your blood would transfer the 
virus for vampirism as well. And we don't want to end up with a 
crew full of bloodsuckers, would we?" The last was said with a 
slight smile. "Talk about the cure being worse than the disease."

"Yeah, I guess that would be bad for the Fleet image." He 
took a deep breath, already resigned to the outcome. He closed 
his eyes, moving closer to hug her, the side of his face pressed 
into her chest. He slid his hands around her back, even as he 
felt hers go around his neck, hugging him hard in return. "I hate 
this, Scully. Since when did we become the saviors of the human 

"Not just the human race Mulder." She kissed his head, then 
laid hers down on top of his, closing her eyes as well, sharing 
the moment in silence.

Finally, he chuckled. "Figure of speech, Scully. So what are 
we going to do? I assume we'll have to bring the good doctor into 
our confidence?"

"Yeah. I don't see how else we'll be able to explain my 
immune response. Besides, she's the one who'll be monitoring my 
vitals and extracting the antibodies to synthesize the cure. 
And... you're probably not going to like this part..."

Mulder raised an eyebrow. "Hate to tell you this, Scully, 
but that part's come and gone." He saw her pull back to stare 
back at him impassively, and sighed, not needing her to spell it 
out. He'd already come to the same conclusion. "If we tell 
Crusher, then we'll have to tell Picard too, won't we?"

They stared at each other for a moment. "Yeah," Scully 
finally replied. "We won't have a choice. There's no way to 
explain the cure without also revealing the immortality angle 
along the way. Not unless..."

"Not unless we can get the captain's authorization to do 
some pretty creative hacking and slashing through the Enterprise 
computers," he finished for her. "I know we'll have to remove the 
evidence, but I was really hoping we could get around that 

"I've already looked at Beverly's research, Mulder. There is 
a way to get the cure without infecting me, but not in the time 
we have left to us. Those crewmen on that ship have less than a 
week. And the odds of us just stumbling onto the correct 
combination of nucleotides to fight this particular strain of the 
virus are worse than astronomical."

She paused, letting the urgency of the situation sink in. 
"Considering what we're about to do, nothing less than the 
authorization codes from Picard himself will do." Seeing the 
unsure expression on his face, she placed a hand on his arm. 
"Mulder... everything I've heard about him says that he's a man 
of integrity. Both Byers and Lynn have mentioned his strength of 
character several times. We could do a lot worse than confiding 
in him. Remember that conspiracy in the Starfleet Admiralty that 
he helped stop?"

"But he's still going to be hard to convince to help us," 
Mulder offered a final, albeit weak rejoinder.

"Maybe," Scully answered, "but then, we have someone on the 
Enterprise who can vouch for us, don't we? Someone Picard trusts 

Mulder sat silently for a moment, his eyes closed, then let 
out a breath of defeat. "Well, we might as well get around to it 
then. Oh, and while we're doing that, maybe they'd like to meet 
me as well. Cause there's no way I'm letting you do this without 
me standing next to you, holding your hand all the way."

"I think I was hoping you'd say that." A wide smile lit up 
her face.

"You don't think Beverly will faint, do you?" He pulled 
back, grinning up at his wife.

She slapped him lightly. "Chauvinist!"

"Hey," he affected a wounded expression. "Can I help it if 
I'm old-fashioned?"

"Mulder, that attitude became old-fashioned before you were 

He stood up, holding out his hands to her. "So sue me," he 
quipped, pulling her up hard enough that she fell into his arms. 
He reached in to kiss her before she could say a word.

She pulled back from the kiss, a dazed grin stretching her 
lips. "Okay then," she said, feeling his hands slide down her 
shoulder to clasp her hands, "let's do this."