Futures Past 09: From the Ashes

Captain's quarters
USS Enterprise-D

When the words started blurring in front of his eyes, he 
knew it was useless. He was too worried to let himself enjoy the 
book the way it was meant to be. He sighed, leaning back as he 
placed the volume against his chest.

This was supposed to have been a routine scientific mission, 
with an even more routine passenger drop-off along the way. How 
had it gotten so... out of control? He closed his eyes, letting 
his mind drift over the words he'd first heard his chief medical 
officer say... was it only two days ago? It seemed like an 

He'd never felt this helpless before. The speed with which 
the pathogen had overcome the majority of the crew was nothing 
short of amazing. That he'd not been among those who'd succumbed 
had been more sheer luck than anything else. If the infection had 
indeed been a deliberate act... he shuddered at the idea of the 
potential this had as a weapon.

Slowly, he started to work through various possibilities, 
trying to figure out who might be responsible for the incidents 
at Arvada and Belisarius. When he'd spoken to Beverly a little 
while ago, she'd confirmed her suspicions based on information 
from her cousin. He wondered exactly what had transpired at 
Arvada colony that could have led Crusher and her family to that 
conclusion. When this crisis was over, he decided he would have 
to have a serious talk with Dr. Crusher's cousin.

The chime from the terminal on his desk chose that moment to 
interrupt his thoughts. He looked up in surprise, then placed the 
book on the side table and walked over to the desk. A quick tap 
on the console, and the image resolved into a familiar face.

"Beverly," he said, a small smile breaking out on his face.

"Hello, Jean-Luc. Hope I'm not disturbing you."

"Oh, no. Nothing that can't wait. Any news?"

The doctor paused, wondering how to answer the question. "A 
request actually, from my cousin. She and her husband want a 
meeting with you."

Picard's eyebrow rose. It looked like he was going to get 
his wish sooner than he'd anticipated. "Very well, I'll open a 
conference channel..."

"No," Crusher headed him off. "They requested it be face to 
face. They said they had something to explain to the both of us."

"Oh? And you think it is worth the risk?"

Crusher nodded. "I can beam you to a shielded area, like I 
did with Denise. It should be pretty safe. And considering the 
information I suspect they have, I think it might be worth our 
while to accede to their request."

The second eyebrow joined the first as Picard stared at the 
screen. He wondered if the information Crusher referred to wasn't 
more than just about the cure itself. Finally he grunted, 
"Whenever you're ready."

He felt the tingling as the transporter effect whisked him 
away. His surroundings disappeared, the interior of his quarters 
dissolving, reforming into the interior of Sickbay. He saw that 
he'd been beamed into one of the secure areas, cut off from the 
rest of the medical facility by a force field. He looked across 
the floor to see Crusher at her desk. A second later, two more 
shimmering figures appeared behind a similar force field.

The man and woman materialized standing side by side. The 
smaller figure, they assumed to be that of Crusher's cousin. But 
both Picard and Crusher stared incredulously at the other figure.

Picard was the first to find his voice. "Agent Mulder, I 
presume," he asked weakly.

Crusher tore her eyes away from the pair to dart a look at 
him, her expressions clearly indicating her disbelief at Picard's 

assumption. Unless... "Don't tell me, you accidentally stepped 
through another time portal?"

"Nice to see you still remember me," Mulder grinned. "But, 
to answer to your question, no, there was no portal involved this 

Both Crusher and Picard remembered the man from his earlier 
visit to the Enterprise almost a year ago. At the time, he'd 
claimed to be a federal agent from the early 21st century, and a 
brief investigation into his story had confirmed it. Apparently, 
he and his partner had stumbled onto a time portal on Earth that 
had sent him to the 24th century. It had caused quite a stir 
while they tried to figure out a way to send him back to where he 

And now it seemed as if they'd come full circle. Here he 
was, once again in their midst. Picard wondered what the man 
would say by way of explanation this time.

"As near as I can figure, for you, it's been about fifteen 
months since I was here last?" Mulder looked from Crusher to 
Picard for confirmation. When both nodded, he continued, "For me, 
however, it's been almost 365 years."

The silence following his statement was absolute. For a few 
moments, no one spoke. Finally Crusher managed to choke out, 
"That's impossible." She looked to Denise, her expression 
pleading for a saner explanation.

"It's true. Both Felix... or rather, Mulder and I have a 
unique genetic disposition towards longevity."

Crusher looked from Scully to Mulder and back, her 
expression still somewhat disbelieving. "If I didn't know better, 
I'd say you were El-Aurian."

"Ah, but you do know better, don't you?" Mulder pointed out.

Crusher reluctantly nodded. "The scans I did of you at the 
time showed human physiology, for the most part." Her face 
abruptly cleared. "Although, there were some anomalies, like low 
metabolism and the slight flux in your DNA, that I attributed to 
the effects of temporal distortion. I assumed they were merely 
temporary. Are you? Human, I mean."

"If you'd scanned him later, you wouldn't have seen any 
changes in the readings. That's normal for us. As for whether 
we're human..." Scully shrugged. "By every definition that 
counts, we are. We were born on Earth in the late 20th century. 
My parents were normal humans."

"How..." Crusher asked, not quite able to figure out exactly 
what she wanted to ask. A thousand questions came to mind, each 
vying to be the first out of her mouth. Finally one emerged. If 
she was born in the 1900s, then the woman on Arvada... "Your 
mother...?" Memories of the vibrant redhead from her childhood 
flooded her mind as she made the connection. She gasped softly, 
then ventured in a wondrous whisper, "Auntie Day...?"

Scully nodded, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she 
smiled faintly. "You were just eleven at the time. I figured you 
wouldn't recognize me now. In fact, I was surprised you 
remembered me at all. We were on Arvada for such a short time."

Slowly, Crusher was starting to believe. She looked at 
Mulder. A faint memory of the strong hands lifting her up flashed 
across her mind. "I thought you looked familiar on your last 
visit. I couldn't remember your faces, but I could never forget 
you." She let out a small snort of laughter, moving behind her 
desk. Reaching into a drawer, she pulled out a chain. She held it 
up, the light glinting off the small cross hanging from it. "I 
always held on to this," she said softly. "For luck."

Scully reached around her own throat, her fingers hooking 
the cross she wore. "And mine's never failed to bring me hope."

And, incredible as it sounded, Crusher believed her.

Equally obvious, however, was the expression of distrust on 
Picard's face. His eyes narrowed as he went over the story Agent 
Mulder had laid out for them. It just seemed a bit... convenient 
for his tastes, a little too contrived. As a Starfleet officer, 
he wasn't unaware of the possibility of long lived species. The 

normal Vulcan lifespan was easily twice that of most humans. The 
El-Aurians themselves, he knew from personal experience, lived 
for centuries. But humans? Surely, a genetic aberration of this 
magnitude could not have gone unnoticed over the years.

"You'll forgive me, Agent Mulder, if I don't entirely 
believe you," he said. "I have seen others take advantage of time 
travel to interfere with the timeline." Memories of Rasmussen, 
another traveler from the past who had come to their time with 
the intent to alter history, rose unbidden to mind.

Mulder looked at his wife, both sharing a smile at Picard's 
response. "Somehow, Captain," he said, looking back at him, "we 
didn't think you'd be easy to convince. Tell me..." He held out 
his hands invitingly. "What would you have us do to prove 

"If what you say is true, surely there would be records 
somewhere of your..." Picard trailed off, seeing the man shaking 
his head.

"Captain, if such records were available, don't you think 
someone else would have noticed our... condition? We prefer our 
anonymity. There would be nothing in your computers that could 
back us up. At least, nothing you could find easily."

Picard saw the couple stiffen suddenly, as if they'd heard 
something. He saw them look towards the door expectantly, but was 
puzzled as to the reason.

"But, perhaps, Captain," Scully said, still looking away 
from him, "you might be persuaded by someone you know? We took 
the liberty of asking one of your crewmen..."

The door to Sickbay slid open as if on cue.

"Guinan..." Crusher's eyes widened at their visitor. She 
uttered a faint curse as something else registered. "You broke 
quarantine! Dammit, Guinan, what were you thinking?"

The dark woman entered, her eyes traveling around the room, 
meeting each one's in turn. "I'll be fine, doctor," she said, 
nodding reassuringly towards Crusher. A smile touched her lips as 
she saw Picard. "Captain." She finally looked towards the couple, 
and her face broke into a full-fledged grin. "Hello Mulder, Dana. 
It's good to see you again."

"Likewise," they replied, their smiles evidence of their 
recognition. "It's been a while."

"I take it you know them?" Picard asked, an eyebrow rising 
in question. "From somewhere other than Agent Mulder's last 

"Something like that," Guinan answered. "They saved my life 

"Once? How long ago? Agent Mulder has been telling us a 
story about long-lived humans..."

"You mean, like me?" Guinan cut him off.

"You're not human," Picard countered. "Your lifespan is 
common to your race."

Guinan shook her head. "Not all El-Aurians were like me," 
she replied. Her expression grew somber. "The few that were 
mortal were mostly wiped out when the Borg destroyed our world. 
The ones that survived were assimilated. Now all that are left 
are us."

The implications of her words hit Crusher and Picard 
simultaneously. "Then this... genetic predisposition is not 
unique to humans?" Crusher asked.

Scully smiled. "Oh no," she answered, shaking her head. 
"They're there in every species. More in some races than in 
others, but there nonetheless."

"Then there are other humans as well? Like you?" Picard 
questioned the couple. At their nod, he protested, "Even if you 
manipulated computer records, surely someone must have found 

"Oh, they've found out," Mulder replied bitterly. "Some of 
us, the older ones, have had to live through witch hunts and 
persecution by those who couldn't understand what we were. 
Others, including us, have been experimented upon by our fellow 
humans in the pursuit of science or power." A pause, then, "You 
can understand why we're reluctant to come out into the open. 
It's the same with most races. Some of the more tolerant species, 
like the Vulcans, know about our kind among them, but even they 
would not speak of it in public."

Crusher's jaw dropped at his words, but Picard was quickly 
putting the pieces together. "That's why you wanted me here. You 
want this kept from the official records."

Mulder simply nodded.

"But the ramifications of what you said...," Picard 
protested. "The others you mentioned... I cannot withhold the 
knowledge in good conscience if some of them might be a threat to 
the Federation."

"For all our advantages, we're still human, Captain, or 
whatever race one of our kind belongs to. Some of us are good, 
some evil," Mulder admitted, "but most fall somewhere in between. 
But we do keep to ourselves. Even the worst of our kind don't 
usually involve themselves with mortals. And if one of us does 
step out of line, there are more than enough of us to handle the 
problem." Mulder narrowed his eyes, adding in a determined voice, 
"We take care of our own."

"Vigilante justice?" Picard shot back.

"Self-preservation," Mulder rebutted. "Those who would harm 
mortals risk exposing us. It's not a risk we're willing to take. 
Or can afford to, for that matter."

Before Picard could reply to that, Scully interrupted. 
"Captain, we're taking a risk telling you about us. We needn't 
have revealed any of this to you. In fact, we needn't have come 
here at all. But we did. We want to help. All we're asking you is 
to trust us in return. I think you can understand our need for 

Picard grew silent as he considered her words. He had 
certainly seen enough in his years in Starfleet that the 
information didn't so much shock him as surprise him. But for 
now, he was concerned with more important things. "Doctor..." He 
was mildly amused when both Crusher and Scully turned to look at 
him. "About the reason you wanted to meet..."

The statement sobered the others as they were reminded of 
why they were here in the first place. Scully cleared her throat. 
"He's right. The rest of this can wait. Beverly," she said, 
turning to Crusher, "part of the genetic quirk is a heightened 
immune response. I can pretty much guarantee that I'll be able to 
generate antibodies to combat this virus."

Crusher frowned. "I thought you said Agent Mulder was a 
carrier for another virus? Obviously, his immune system didn't 
work as well as you claim yours will. I don't know if I can 
ethically allow that kind of risk."

Scully and Mulder looked at each other for a moment. Scully 
sighed. "That's because the other virus was introduced into his 
system before the quirk kicked in. It's why I'm immune to it. We 
aren't born like this, Beverly. It usually takes some sort of 
traumatic event to trigger it. We're born normal humans, and we 
age normally till then. And our longevity..." Scully drew in a 
breath as she continued, "well, no one we know with this 
condition has ever died. Not of natural causes, and definitely 
not of a disease." There... it was laid out in front of them. She 
knew she was blurring the facts a little, but both she and Mulder 
had agreed to reveal as little about immortality as possible. And 
now that they'd told their story, it was up to Picard and Beverly 
to decide.

Picard was silent as he stared at the two of them for a 
moment. Finally he took a deep breath and turned to Crusher. 
"Doctor, Guinan, if I could speak to you in private?"

The two women obligingly moved towards him, while the other 
two moved away to give them some privacy.


"Beverly, do you trust them?"

A simple question, she realized, with a complex answer. An 
answer that nevertheless finally boiled down to one word. "Yes," 
she replied, "I do. Jean-Luc, Denise... I mean, Aunt Dana offered 
to infect herself in order to find a cure. I don't know what more 
they can do to convince us of their sincerity. Granted, I'm not 
entirely convinced that they are telling us the whole truth, but 
as I see it, it's their business. If their kind want to keep to 
themselves, who are we to stand in their way?"

"They lied to us, Beverly. They've been lying to the world 
for an obviously long time."

"You heard what Agent Mulder said about their kind being 
persecuted through the ages. As I see it, they have every right 
to protect themselves." Crusher paused, looking from Guinan to 

"I agree," Guinan added. "As they said, they need not have 
volunteered for this in the first place. Captain, those 
experiments that Mulder talked about... you know I spent some 
time on Earth?" When Picard nodded, she continued, "I was 
unfortunate enough to be caught in one of the first uses of this 
virus. They rescued me from my captors."

"Damn," Crusher said. "I was hoping to ask you to undergo 
the procedure. If you shared their immune response..."

Guinan shook her head. "I already asked Dana about that. 
Unfortunately, my blood would be as useless as yours is, for 
similar reasons. No," she turned back to Picard, "if you want to 
save this crew, Captain, it's in their hands now. They felt they 
could trust you with the truth about them. You'll just have to 
extend them the same trust. I do."

Picard sighed, nodding. "I don't think I have a choice, do 
I?" His lips broke into a slight smile. "I suppose I just wanted 
a second opinion to justify my decision." He shrugged, his 
expression turning serious. "Doctor, can you hide all evidence of 
how you came about the cure?"

Crusher nodded. "I think so. I just have to be careful where 
I record my work."

"Then you don't have any objections to this course of 

Crusher shook her head.

Even as Picard nodded, the two immortals were having their 
own discussion on the other side of the room.

"Picard may be trustworthy, but he's still a hardass."

"Mulder!" Scully hissed, "keep your voice down. The last 
thing we need is for him to hear that."

"You know I'm right, Scully," Mulder said. But he did take 
care to lower his voice. He looked across the room towards the 
topic of their conversation. "You know who he reminds me of?" 
Looking back down to meet his wife's eyes, he saw the answer 
reflected back at him.

With a grin, both replied at the same time.

"Skinner," Scully said.

"Mel Brooks," was Mulder's answer.

Scully stared at him in surprise. "You're joking."

Mulder chuckled. "Sorry, couldn't help it. Something about 
his eyes. But you're right. He's like Skinner reincarnated or 
something. Especially with that attitude." He paused, an idea 
forming in his mind. "Oh, god, I just had a weird thought. You 
don't think they're related, do you?"

"Who knows?" she answered, her lips quirking into a wry 
grin. Her eyes wandered to the others, seeing them finish their 
conversation and turn towards them. "Mulder," she nodded in their 
direction. Both moved closer to them.

"Very well, Agent Mulder, Dr. Kelly. Where do we go from 
here?" Picard said.


Days Inn, Dayton Falls, PA
Sunday, December 6, 1998
7:12 PM

"This is so strange."

The tall man turned to glance across the room at his partner 
where she sat on the bed. He frowned. "What's up?" he asked, 
moving towards her.

"I just checked my email," the woman replied, pointing to 
the small computer perched across her lap. She looked up from it 
to see him sit down next to her. "There's a message from Bill."

"Your brother?" A dark eyebrow rose in surprise. "What does 
he want?"

"Apparently some information."


"His ship is out on maneuvers somewhere in the Pacific," she 
began, by way of explanation. "He came across something strange 
and he wanted to see if I had, or could get access to any 
information about this area." She turned the laptop to show him 
the series of numbers indicating the coordinates of the area.

"He couldn't just ask his superiors? I mean, he is supposed 
to be patrolling the area, right?"

"That's just it, Mulder," she replied, turning the computer 
back towards her, frowning down at the contents on its screen. 
"He tried, but kept getting the runaround. Apparently he tried to 
do a sonar scan of the area, but there's some sort of artificial 
interference. His superiors in Coronado say that the area is 
restricted, but he got the impression they don't really know 
what's down there either. And the information itself is 
classified highly enough that he was warned to get out of the 
area with all due haste."

"Scully, isn't his superior a vice-admiral in the navy? If 
that office doesn't know, then..."

"Exactly," Scully agreed, nodding.

"So what are you going to do?" Mulder asked. "Or maybe I 
should ask, what does he expect you to do about it?"

"He was just asking if I could maybe find out anything about 
it, if I had any connections that could get the information for 

"He seems awfully concerned about it," Mulder observed. "I 
always thought he was a straight-laced military type, you know. I 
mean, no wonder he hates me." He grinned at the expression on his 
partner's face. "I'm just surprised he doesn't just quietly 
accept the warning from his superiors and forget about it. What 
did he see out there anyway?"

"Normally I'd have thought the same thing. But he says he 
saw someone transferring a..." She frowned, rereading the section 
of the email. "... a coffin-shaped object from a seaplane to a 
short-range submersible. His instruments couldn't give him a 
clear reading of the area. And since his superiors weren't much 
help, he decided to ask me."


"I don't know," Scully shrugged. "Maybe I'll give the Gunmen 
a holler, see if they can find out anything about that part of 
the Pacific. Although, what Bill expects from me, I have no 


"But that's for tomorrow. Right now, I want to go talk to 
Colton. Which room did the front desk say he was registered in?"

"Room 14. Want me to see if Lynn's ready?" Mulder asked.

Scully paused as she was putting the computer away. "Oh? Now 
it's Lynn, is it?"

Mulder's head shot up in surprise. "What else am I supposed 
to call her? It's her name."

"It's been Horton so far," she answered defensively.

Mulder wondered how to answer that, until he caught the 
small twitch at the edge of her lips. "But Scully, don't you 
know?" he replied playfully, "it's not proper to call your 
friends by their last names."

He walked towards her, moving closer until he was well 
within her personal space. He leaned in, his face almost nose to 
nose with hers, his eyes capturing hers, locking with them so 
they couldn't pull away. "That's reserved for people I don't 
know," he added, watching her expression go from surprise to 
indignation. He smirked. "... and for those I know so well, 
calling them anything else would make them an entirely different 
person," he breathed.

Blue eyes widened. Her mouth opened, but all that came out 
was a soft, "Oh..."

Hazel eyes crinkled in answer. "I'll go and see if 'Lynn' is 
ready," he said, smiling as he turned around and headed for the 
door again.

Behind him, the stunned FBI agent watched him leave, 
speechless. Finally, she grinned as well, moving forward to 
follow him.

She was closing the door behind her when she saw him 
knocking on the room next to hers. "Mulder?" she asked 

"It doesn't look like she's in there," he replied, turning 
the knob experimentally.

"Oh? You think she went to see Colton already?"

"Maybe," he replied. He turned and looked down the corridor. 
"You wanna check his room?"

They headed towards the room they'd been told Colton had 
checked into. There was no answer to their knock.

"He isn't here either?" Mulder mused. "Now why does that 
trouble me?"

Before she could answer, her cell phone trilled. She flipped 
it open, the "Scully," almost automatic by now. She frowned at 
the silence. "Hel..." Her voice trailed off as a look of surprise 
stole over her face. "Mulder," she whispered, holding the phone 
so he could hear it as well.

Puzzled, Mulder bent down and placed his ear near the 

First there was silence, then he could hear Horton's faint 
voice. "Tom, are you sure we should be doing this? Shouldn't we 
take some backup? Or at least let someone know where we are?"

Colton's voice came through next. "Someone? You mean your 
two new friends? Forget it. Those two are the last people I'd 
want backing me up," he said harshly.

Both agents winced at the tone. Colton obviously didn't 
realize he was on candid cellphone. They heard Horton sigh at the 

"Fine. So where exactly are we headed anyway?" A pause from 
Horton, then, "Isn't this 221?"

"Yeah," came the muttered reply. "We should be coming up on 
FM 529 soon. Nick said that the farm he was checking out was 
about ten miles west of that."

The line clicked, then disconnected after that. Mulder 
looked at his partner, silently nodding to her unasked question. 
As one, they turned and headed for their car.


Several miles outside Dayton Falls, PA
8:08 PM

The utter darkness was unbroken for miles around. Suddenly, 
twin beams of light lanced out, piercing through the night as the 
agents made their way through the woods.

"Can you even see anything out here?" The question was 
valid; outside the circle of brightness from their flashlights, 
she couldn't make out any features of the dark woodlands. Any 
direction she picked looked exactly like all the others. Scully 
finally turned from her perusal of their surroundings to look at 
the person walking next to her.

"Cut the lights," Mulder said, coming to a sudden halt.

"Huh?" She watched, puzzled, as he turned off his 
flashlight. "Okay," she muttered, mimicking his action. They were 
suddenly engulfed by the night, the darkness feeling almost like 
a cloak thrown around her. She could barely even make out his 
features, the surrounding foliage completely masking any source 
of light.


"What? Where?" Scully looked around, wondering what he'd 

"C'mon Scully." He reached out and grabbed her hand, causing 
her to jump in surprise. "This way," he said, pulling her behind 
him as he moved forward.

"What'd you see, Mulder?"

"This," Mulder replied, coming to a stop, reaching forward 
to brush off some vegetation.

Scully turned on her flashlight again, revealing the hood of 
a dark sedan. She blinked. "How on earth...?" The branches and 
the darkness had served to completely hide the car from any human 

"Hood's still warm," Mulder explained, his hands resting on 
the metal. "They couldn't have gotten far," he added, looking 

"You know, I've been meaning to ask you about that. What 
does it look like anyway? The heat, I mean."

Mulder shrugged. "I don't know. It's like those night-vision 
goggles, I guess. Except the image is a deeper shade of red, not 
like the green false color stuff. Everything just glows a little 
when it gets dark." He paused, looking at her. "Even you," he 
added softly, then grinned at the slight increase in color as her 
cheeks heated up. 'Wouldn't have noticed that before,' he thought 
to himself. Sometimes, he had to admit, his abilities definitely 
came in handy. "This way," he said finally, turning to head into 
the woods.

They walked for a few minutes through the dense forest, 
Scully wondering if they were even headed in the right direction. 
Branches and leaves brushed against them as they made their way 
in. Scully cursed as she ran headlong into one particularly rigid 

"Careful, Scully."

She sighed, pushing the offending obstruction aside as she 
plodded forward. Not for the first time, she envied Mulder his 
night vision. She could hardly even hear him moving in front of 
her, whereas she was sure she sounded like a wounded rhino 
crashing through the forest.

The edge of the woods came so suddenly, they were out in the 
open before they realized it. And there, in front of them, less 
than a hundred yards or so beyond, they saw it. A vast field, 
stretching into the dark hills in the distance. There were a few 
lights strung along its edges, casting an eerie glow over it.

"Mulder...," Scully whispered. They had found what they were 
looking for.

"I know," he replied, his voice echoing the tone in hers. 
"Here, follow me," he added, retreating behind the treeline. He 
ducked, pulling her down beside him. "Stay here."

With that he was gone. Scully had to blink a few times, 
trying to convince herself that he'd disappeared. "Dammit," she 
muttered to herself, looking around in surprise. "Where..."

She realized where he was when she heard the soft rustling 
above her. She glanced up, just in time to see him drop down out 
of the tree, landing next to her. "See anything from up there?" 
she managed to ask nonchalantly, trying to cover up her startled 

"Yeah. There's a building of some kind in the middle of the 
field over there," he said, nodding towards a certain section of 
it. "It looks like it's surrounded by the plants, but there seem 
to be several narrow passages cut into the crops, leading from 
the outer edges to the building."

"You think it'll be like the one in Virginia?"

"Probably. But we'll have to be careful. This one's still 
active." He grew quiet for a few seconds, then softly cursed 
under his breath.


"Over there." He pointed along the edge of the field towards 
one of the passages.

She followed his finger, squinting to make out whatever it 
was in the darkness. Suddenly she saw it. Movement. Her eyes 
narrowed. "It's them," she hissed, just barely making out the two 
forms crouched in the grassy corridor a bit into the field.

"So, what say we pay them a visit?" Mulder asked, moving 
towards them.

Careful not to make any sound, they approached the two 

"Hello Lynn," Scully said, ducking into a crouch next to 
them. "Colton," she added, nodding at the man.

The two agents were visibly startled at the new arrivals. 
While Horton appeared relieved, Colton's expression revealed him 
to be anything but. "What the hell are you two doing here?" he 
barked angrily.

"Shut up, Colton," Mulder hissed, sliding in next to his 
partner. "Lynn, did you tell him what happened at the farm in 

"Yeah," Horton answered softly.

"What the hell were you thinking, Colton? This goes against 
every rule in the book. You should have asked for backup," Mulder 
whispered hotly.

"Oh, that's rich, coming from you, Mulder," Colton shot 

Meanwhile, Scully turned to Horton. "Lynn..."

"I know. I'm sorry. I saw him on his way out. I tried to get 
him to wait for you, but he wouldn't listen. I didn't know what 

"It's okay. You did the right thing," Scully replied softly, 
putting her hand on Horton's arm reassuringly.

"I don't want you two involved in this," Colton interrupted. 
"This is my case, and..."

"Dammit, Colton. You don't have any idea what you're 
involved in. We're working on different parts of the same case. 
But this is so much bigger than simply your friend's 
disappearance, or even that of the children in Virginia. This is 
part of a conspiracy that reaches into the lives of every man, 
woman, and child on this planet."

"Oh, cut the crap, Mulder. Don't bring any of your UFO, 
paranormal, conspiracy theory shit into this, okay? Just...," 
Colton held up a hand, "... stay out of my way, and let's get 
this over with."

Mulder snorted, but didn't say anything. He gripped his gun 
harder as he watched Colton and Lynn quietly move forward through 
the narrow gap in the field. Finally, he fell into step behind 
them, Scully at his side.

"It's funny..."

Mulder figured they were about halfway down the path when 
Scully suddenly broke the silence. He glanced to his side, 
looking at his partner. "What is?" He kept pace behind the other 
two agents, who were oblivious to their hushed conversation.

"Oh, you lecturing to Colton about following the rules. You 
should have heard yourself. Since when have you been such a 
stickler for them anyway?"

He smirked. "I guess having someone to answer to changes 
one's perspective, huh? And I'm not talking about Skinner here." 
His hand brushed lightly against her arm. He could almost see her 
smiling, and grinned. "I've been really good about not doing the 
ditch lately, haven't I, Scully?"

"Yes, Mulder, that you have," she acknowledged. "It's 

"Whoa!" Mulder suddenly shot out loud enough for all of them 
to hear. They came to a halt immediately. "You hear that?"

"I heard it too," Horton whispered. "Sounded like machinery, 
I think."

"We must be getting close to the building," Scully decided.

"What building?" Colton asked, puzzled. "I didn't see 

"Mulder saw it inside the field," she explained. At their 
surprised looks, she shrugged. "He climbed a tree," she added.

Mulder frowned, his ears picking out a soft, high-pitched 
whine. He'd heard the machinery that Horton was referring to, but 
this was something else, something... different. And it sounded 
like it was coming from all sides, slowly getting closer to their 
position. He paled as he realized what it was. "Guys... RUN!!" he 
shouted, turning and heading for the outside of the field.

"What is it?" Scully shouted as she ran after him. Colton 
followed, Lynn right at his heels. By now, even the others could 
hear it.

Behind them, Horton tripped, stumbling to her knees. She 
pushed up from the ground, breathless. In front of her, the other 
agents were getting farther away. Meanwhile, the whine had grown 
in volume behind her. She turned, her eyes widening as her 
flashlight caught the dark cloud moving towards her.

They were almost out of the field when Colton realized that 
his fiancee was no longer running beside him. "Hey, wait a 
minute. Lynn..." He saw Mulder and Scully stop. He turned, his 
flashlight searching for the missing agent. The bobbing light 
caught her kneeling on the ground. She turned, looking at him, 
their eyes locking for an endless moment. His heart almost 
stopped when she screamed.

He could see it... them... surrounding her. She was waving 
her arms, trying to brush them away, her motions woefully 
ineffectual. The insects swarmed around her, merciless, forming 
an angry barrier between her and the agents. He started running 
back towards her.

He almost didn't feel the sudden pain at his temple. But 
then, the burning set in. In some corner of his mind, he realized 
that he'd been shot. In the distance, he could make out the 
suited figures coming towards them. He stumbled forward, trying 
to reach Lynn before they did.

Another shot rang out, but he was pushed aside, out of its 
path. He landed hard against the ground, the breath knocked out 
of him. He could already feel the effects of his injury. The last 
thing he saw before he lost consciousness was Mulder's body in 
front of him, shielding him, jerking as two more shots were 


USS Enterprise-D
Sunday, April 11, 2371
1749 hours

The two redheads were bent over the table, their voices low 
as they went over the steps one more time. With Scully acting as 
the guinea pig, she wouldn't be available to help Crusher during 
the actual experiment. With that in mind, she was trying to bring 
Crusher up to date on anything she might need to know about 
immortal physiology.

"Almost any part of this would keep the research teams at 
Starfleet Medical busy for years trying to figure it out," 
Crusher said as she looked over the biodata her cousin... aunt... 
had provided her with.

"I know," came the tired answer. "Only too well, actually."

Crusher looked up at the other woman, seeing the pain 
clearly etched on her face. 'What were you thinking, Beverly? 
After what they told you...' "I... I'm sorry. I wasn't 

"It's okay. I know what you meant. It appeals to the 
scientist in you, doesn't it?"

Crusher silently let out a breath of relief. "Yes! Exactly! 
How could you resist..."

"I didn't, actually," Scully confessed wryly. "The first few 
years, I was obsessed with trying to explain this rationally. A 
scientific explanation for what I thought of as a unnatural 

"And...?" Crusher asked, curious.

"It took me a while to learn to just accept it and move on. 
We are part of nature, part of evolution. And that's that." 
Scully grinned. "Although, finding out we weren't unique to the 
human race definitely helped."

"I bet you were as relieved as when humans first found out 
they weren't alone in the universe."

Scully grinned at that. She hadn't revealed the truth about 
the Game to Crusher or Picard. She and Mulder had agreed that it 
would probably not go over too well with the Starfleet officers. 
Both remembered the first time that knowledge of alien immortals 
became widespread among the human immortal community. The panic 
at the idea of new players in the Game, followed by the surprise 
at the different rules and beliefs each species followed. It had 
been a watershed in how human immortals had been viewing 
themselves for millennia. "Something like that," she said 

Crusher nodded at the reply, turning back to the display 
screen. She'd been looking over the information for almost an 
hour now, and was mostly familiar with Denise's physiology. Based 
on the data, she could actually see her body producing the 
necessary antibodies. Her clinical mind imagined the course of 
events as the virus would invade the host body. Of course, 
considering that such an experiment had never been attempted 
before, she also had no idea how much of an effect the virus 
would have on her aunt's body.

It was possible that the antibodies would be produced fast 
enough that the woman would show no signs of infection at all. 
Crusher prayed that would be the case. However, it was also 
possible that the virus would completely take over, as it had the 
dead crewman, shutting down her body as it destroyed her cell by 
cell. In which case, it would be up to the vaunted immune 
response she'd heard so much about to come to the rescue.

In spite of Scully's reassurances, Crusher couldn't help but 
wonder at the ethical and moral ramifications of what she was 
about to do. How was this any different than the animal 
experimentation that had been outlawed so long ago on Earth? The 
only difference this time was that the lab rat in this case was a 
willing participant in the experiment.

And then, of course, there was still the small chance that 
none of this would even work. Her cousin had assured her that the 
introduction of the virus into her system wouldn't do her any 
permanent damage. But she'd also confided in her the possibility 
that her body might be able to defeat the virus without actually 
producing any new antibodies at all, although it was small 
considering how unique this particular virus was. It was similar 
to why she herself was immune. The body was able to fight off the 
invaders because of some previous resistance to something 
similar. In her case, and Guinan's, it was the other forms of the 
virus. It was also the reason that other virulent diseases hadn't 
already been eradicated by other well-meaning immortals. Even if 
it took a little time, their bodies usually defeated most forms 
of infection using previously developed immunities instead of 
producing new antibodies.

She sighed, looking around the empty sickbay. Both Picard 
and Guinan had gone back to their quarters, once the decision had 
been made. In the far corner, Mulder sat at her desk, leaning 
back, staring at nothing in particular as he waited. She could 
make out the faint tension in his taut muscles and clenched 
fists. There was nothing he could do; it was up to the two women 
now. He caught her eye, and gave her a small smile. She returned 
it, then bent back to her work.

"Do you have any questions?" Scully asked, moving next to 

"Well, Denise... I mean, Aunt Dana..."

Scully chuckled. "I think just Dana will be fine, Beverly."

Crusher nodded. A thought occurred to her. "Are you really 
my aunt?"

"I suppose so," Scully replied. "Many generations removed, 
of course. You're descended from one of my brothers."

"And Agent Mulder is your... partner?" Scully looked back at 
her, puzzled, so she elaborated. "You're the one he was trying to 
get back to when he was here last?"

"Yeah," Scully replied, remembering that particular set of 
events. "We used to work together for the FBI back around the 
turn of the 21st century."

"I'm glad he found you," Crusher said, pulling her out of 
her reverie. At her aunt's puzzled look, she tried to explain 
what she'd seen in him that time. "It was almost as if he was 
lost, you know. Like a part of him was missing." She darted a 
quick glance at the man sitting at her desk, then turned back to 
Scully. "I look at him now, and I can tell he's worried about 
you. But there's a peace there that wasn't there before."

Scully stared at Crusher for a moment. Finally, she allowed 
a faint smile to stretch her lips. "Thank you, Beverly. I know 
what you mean. I feel the same way. But hearing it out loud..." 
She chuckled, looking down at her hands. "I guess I'm feeling 
more nervous about this than I admitted to myself."

"Dana...?" Crusher looked at her thoughtfully, a hand moving 
to clasp her aunt's. "If you're not sure about this..."

"No!" Scully cut her off. "I've never been more sure about 
anything. This is the right thing to do. The risks to me are 

One look at Scully's expression convinced Crusher of her 
aunt's resolve. Slowly, she withdrew her hand, nodding silently. 
Together, they got back to work.

It took almost another hour before they were satisfied that 
they had covered all the contingencies. Despite her fears, Scully 
knew that Crusher was competent enough to oversee the procedure.

Scully smiled at the thought. It was, of course, to be 
expected that the number of descendents of her brothers would 
eventually grow faster than she could keep track. While she made 
sure that the Foundation kept tabs on all of them, Beverly was 
one of the few whom she personally knew about. And, while she and 
her niece hadn't seen each other in well over three decades, 
she'd made a point of keeping track of her over the years. She'd 
been pleasantly surprised when Beverly had chosen to follow the 
medical profession. Despite all her different vocations over the 
centuries, medicine remained one of her favorites.

She'd watched with almost maternal pride as her niece rose 
through the ranks to become head of Starfleet Medical, although 
she was not a bit surprised when Beverly had chosen to give up 
the position to return to the Enterprise. There was just 
something about exploring the unknown that called to her as well. 
A feeling she could easily identify with.

Her thoughts were interrupted as she saw Crusher walking 
towards her with a hypospray. "I guess it's showtime."

Crusher nodded, coming to a stop beside her aunt.

Mulder noticed the exchange, and walked over to stand beside 
his wife. "So how is this going to work?"

Crusher held up the hypo. "This contains enough of the virus 
to ensure infection. Once it's been administered, her body should 
start fighting it almost immediately, based on the information 
you've given me."

Mulder looked at her questioningly as she paused. An eyebrow 
rose. "And...? What happens after that?"

Crusher looked from him to Scully and back, a flush rising 
up her neck. "Umm... that part, we're not entirely sure of..."

"What!?" Mulder shouted, incredulous.

"Mulder..." Scully placed a hand on his arm, calming him 
almost immediately. "It's just that we're treading on new ground 
here. As we see it, it could go either way. Depending on how 
powerful my immune response is, the antibodies might be generated 
almost instantaneously. On the other hand..."

 Mulder could almost see what was on the other hand. He'd 
been born into an age where medicine had sufficiently advanced 
that he wasn't often exposed to dangerous diseases. But he'd 
heard enough stories from fellow immortals to realize that many 
of the more virulent diseases often killed the immortal before 
they were able to fight it off.

"On the other hand," he sighed, "it's also possible that 
you'll slip into a coma, just like all the others."

"Yeah," Scully replied. "There's just no way to tell."

"Okay, so what happens if you do go into a coma? I'm 
assuming that Beverly is not going to put you in stasis as well?"

"No, she's not. The disease must be allowed to run its 
course, Mulder. Even if I die..." She flinched at the involuntary 
gasp from her husband. She squeezed his hand tighter. "Even if I 
do die, I'll revive as soon as my body builds up the necessary 

"I don't have to tell you that I don't like this one bit."

"I know, Mulder," she whispered to him. She reached up, her 
lips just brushing against his. "And I love you for letting me do 

"Just... promise me...," he asked, his voice just as soft, 
"promise me you'll come back to me, okay?"

Scully could see the tears gather in his eyes, even as he 
blinked to try and clear them away. She smiled at him, reaching 
up once again to claim his lips in hers in a silent promise. This 
time, it was longer, more passionate, as each tried to 
encapsulate their love for each other into one soul searing kiss.

Scully finally broke away, turning tearful eyes towards 
Beverly. She nodded.

"Get up on the biobed," Crusher said softly, not unaffected 
by the display of emotion in front of her. When she saw her aunt 
lying on the bed, she walked next to her head. She placed a hasty 
kiss on her cheek, then pressed the hypospray against her arm. A 
short hiss, and it was done.


St. Clair Memorial Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA
Room 310
Monday, December 7, 1998
6:47 PM

He came awake to an empty room and the sound of hushed 
voices just outside the door. He looked around, taking in his 
austere surroundings. A mistake, he realized immediately. His 
eyes slammed shut as the sharp pain lanced through his head. His 
hand reached up, his fingers tracing the bandage that encircled 
his head. Slowly he reopened his eyes. A hospital room, he 
observed, as his surroundings came into focus. Finally, the 
indistinct voices outside resolved into coherent speech.

"I am his doctor," a female voice hissed indignantly. "He is 
not to be moved without my express authorization and consent." 
The voice rose as she barked, "Do I make myself clear?"

There was a muffled reply that he couldn't quite make out, 
but it must have been in the affirmative. The first voice 
responded with a gruff, "Good. If that's all then I'll be with my 

He saw the door open, but was unprepared for the identity of 
his visitor.

"Good, you're awake," Scully observed, moving next to him. 
"How are you feeling?"

He blinked, trying to clear his confusion. "Where...?" he 
finally managed to utter. The hoarse whisper that came out 
surprised him. He struggled to lean up.

Scully immediately reached to the counter next to the bed, 
pouring out some water into a cup. "Here, let me help you up," 
she said, pressing the controls by the bedside to raise the head 
of the bed. She handed him the cup. "Your throat's going to be a 
little sore, so drink it slowly."

Colton took a grateful sip, the water soothing his throat as 
it slid down. He looked back up at her. "How long have I been 
here?" he asked.

"You were shot," she explained. "You've been unconscious for 
almost a day. It's Monday night." She paused, waiting 
expectantly. After a moment, she asked, "What's the last thing 
you remember?"

"Getting shot," came the clipped response.

"What else?"

Suddenly an image came back. "Mulder... he was shot too." He 
thought he saw her eyes widen just a fraction, but figured he was 
mistaken when he heard her reply.

Scully shook her head. "It wasn't too serious," she said. 
"He was just grazed."

Colton frowned. That wasn't quite how he remembered it. He 
could recall his surprise that Mulder would willingly risk his 
life for someone he didn't even like. He was sure the bullets 
had... He sighed, shaking his head. It didn't matter anyway. It 
wasn't what he really wanted to know about.

"Tom? Aren't you going to ask about Lynn?" Scully asked 

He gritted his teeth. As long as they didn't talk about her, 
he could imagine her in a similar room next to his, or maybe 
sitting in the hospital cafeteria, getting a bite to eat. He 
swallowed, a bitter taste forming in his mouth. "She's not here, 
is she?" came the subdued question.

The look on the woman's face was answer enough. "I'm so 
sorry, Tom. We tried, but there were too many of them. They got 
to Lynn before we could. And the bees were getting closer. We had 
no protection. We had to get out of there."


"Tom?" Scully's voice dropped, going from sympathetic to 
deadly serious. "Did Lynn tell you about the bees?"

"Yeah, she filled me in on Mulder's cockamamie theory," he 
replied, his hostility toward the agent evident. "About the bees 
carrying a deadly virus, or some shit like that. What does it 
have to do with leaving Lynn..."

"We don't have a cure for it. If even one of those insects 
had stung you, you'd be in a coma like your friend, like those 
children in Virginia. We were very, very lucky."

"Yeah, tell that to Lynn. I'm sure she feels very lucky 
right about now. What are we doing to get her back? When can we 
return to the farm?"

Scully sighed. "Mulder went back to the farm earlier today. 
It's been cleaned out. There's no field anymore. Or a building, 
or any bees. Nothing. Just like before."

"You're joking." He stared at her in incredulous disbelief. 
"I saw the field! I saw the goddamn bees, the men in the suits! 
They couldn't have gotten rid of everything so quickly." Seeing 
her pained nod, he closed his eyes. "Who are these people?" he 
asked finally.

"Mulder would probably paint a more dramatic picture, but 
what it boils down to is a group of men who are behind this 
project. They have these... these bee farms scattered throughout 
the world. We believe they are using the bees as a carrier device 
for spreading this virus."

"But to what end?" Colton asked in protest. "Why would 
anyone want to..."

"For the oldest reason in the book," she replied, shrugging. 
"Power, control, you name it. Mulder thinks they plan to use it 
to enslave humanity or to put into effect some sort of mass mind 
control. Personally, I think that's being a little too 
melodramatic. From what I've seen, all the virus does is put 
people into a coma."

"You've studied the effects of the virus?"

Scully cleared her throat sheepishly. "Sort of, but, 

"Well what?" he asked impatiently.

"Well, I haven't actually studied the long term effects of 
the virus," she confessed. "Most of my patients seem to wind up 
disappearing before I get the chance to examine them too 

"Oh, that's just great," Colton muttered sarcastically. 
"Which reminds me, where is Mulder anyway? You two always seemed 
to be joined at the hip. I'm surprised he managed to leave you 
here alone." He saw her eyes narrow at his comment. He frowned as 
the conversation he'd heard earlier came back to mind. "And 
what's the deal with you being my doctor? I don't recall 
consenting to that."

"Mulder is... ah... he's meeting with an informant of his. 
We hope this person can provide us some information about where 
they took Lynn. As for being your doctor, well, that's the only 
way I'd have the authority to keep you here." At his blank look, 
she tried to elaborate. "There was a transfer order that came in 
about a couple of hours ago, requesting that you be moved into a 
facility where you can be better taken care of. We know how well 
that worked with your friend."

"Oh." The reply was short, but his face paled at the news.

"Yeah. I've arranged for a guard to be posted outside your 
room at all times. Although, now that you're awake, we can 
probably dispense with that. I didn't know how long I could keep 
the hospital at bay without any explanation." She shrugged. 
"Anonymous Bureau authority will only get you so far," she added 
wryly. "But the good news is, your head's healing nicely. The 
bullet grazed your temple, but you should make a complete 
recovery. Are you in any pain?"

Colton shook his head. "Only if I move too fast. When can I 
get out of here?"

"It must be something in the male chromosome." Scully 
muttered to herself. Out loud, she said, "I'd suggest you stay 
here tonight. I'll dismiss the guard. I can use the couch over 
there." She nodded towards the far end of the room.

"You're going to sleep in here?" Colton asked incredulously.

"You have a problem with that?" she rejoined sharply. When 
he shook his head, her gaze softened. Memories of the past, of a 
little boy in a similar hospital floated through her mind. Gibson 
had trusted them, and they'd failed him terribly. "I've learned 
from bitter experience that you can't be too cautious when it 
comes to these people. If I left you alone, I wouldn't be 
surprised to find you missing come morning."


"So, I'd suggest you get some rest if you want to get out of 
here tomorrow. I'll be right back." She headed out the door, but 
true to her word, she returned within a few minutes. "The guard's 
gone, but Mulder should be back soon."

Colton saw her move to sit down on the couch, pulling out 
her briefcase and her laptop. He reached for the bed controls, 
lowering the head until it was level again. He realized how tired 
he actually was when the mere act of leaning back felt so 
soothing. He heard the soft tones of the modem connecting as 
Scully worked. Idly, he thought about the two X-files agents. The 
last time he'd seen them had been over five years ago. He was 
surprised at the lack of animosity he felt towards them now.

He wanted to be angry at them for involving Lynn in all of 
this. He tried not to remember that technically, it was Lynn's 
case in the first place, not theirs. He sighed. Maybe it was the 
enforced inactivity, but it was giving him time to think. Too 
much probably, he thought darkly.

He couldn't help thinking that if he'd worked with the two 
of them, gotten a better idea of the dangers they were up against 
instead of brushing them off, Lynn might still be safe. After 
all, it was his fault that Lynn had accompanied him out there in 
the first place. Try as he might, he couldn't fault the agents, 
not with the image of Mulder getting shot in his place coursing 
through his mind every few minutes. He frowned. He'd been sure 
Mulder had been wounded more seriously. But if the man was up and 
about, he must've been mistaken. But still...

"That's strange."

The comment interrupted his thoughts. He looked down the 
bed, his eyebrow rising in question. "Something wrong?"

"I was trying to find your friend, Stein, in the Bureau 
database. It says there's no Nick or Nicholas Stein listed with 
the Pittsburgh office."

Colton chuckled. "Nick is his middle name. He hates his 
first name. Try Francis." He heard the soft clack of the keys, 
followed by a satisfied, "Ah."

"Francis Stein." Scully stared at the information for a 
second, frowning. Her face cleared as she made the connection. 
"Francis Nicholas Stein. Oh, I get it. The poor guy."

"Yup. He used to get teased about it all the time, 
especially with his height and all."

"Hmm... Well, I don't see anything here that would explain 
how he stumbled onto the bee farm. Did he tell you anything?"

"Nah. All he said was that he'd gotten a tip about some 
illegal deliveries at the farm. He told me he couldn't reveal 
much more, but that whatever it was, it was big. I guess he was 
right, the poor bastard."

"We'll get them back, Tom," Scully said softly. "Both Nick 
and Lynn."

"Yeah," Colton replied. Of course, they would. He didn't 
dare think otherwise. He couldn't afford to. He closed his eyes 
as he drifted off to a troubled sleep.


Warehouse 12, Keith Road, Pittsburgh, PA
7:09 PM

"Perhaps, we were being overconfident," the Englishman 
muttered to his companion as he paced the floor of the empty 
building. "There is no guarantee he will come."

The other man leaned back against the far wall, a small 
smile on his face. "He will come," he assured. "If only because I 
asked him to."

"Oh?" A raised eyebrow joined the comment. "He knows you are 
alive then?"

"I'm sure he suspects. In the business you and I are in, 
things are rarely what they appear to be."

"Indeed. I wondered how he found out about our base in Peru. 
Perhaps I've found the leak my associates have been searching 

"My friend," came the chuckled response. "You know there is 
no evidence that Mulder was ever at the base. Besides, I think 
we've both been guilty of 'leaks' when they've suited our 

"And what would yours be?" The gaunt man stared 
calculatingly at the other. "You have yet to inform me as to your 
reasons for being involved in all this. I'm sure you would not 
have come out of hiding for a triviality. And I've certainly done 
you no favors."

"You may not have, but I do have certain... debts I need to 
repay." The man the X-files agents had dubbed Deep Throat 
shrugged. "Very old debts," he added, sighing.

The Englishman's eyes narrowed at the reply, wondering about 
the other's motivations. In an enterprise that perforce required 
a certain amount of secrecy, this man was that much more of an 
enigma. Not many in the consortium knew much about him. He had 
just always been there since their inception. In fact, the one 
person who might have known him well enough was now conveniently 
missing from Peru, leaving behind a small scale nuclear explosion 
that had all but destroyed their base and their work there. He 
wondered if the man wasn't an orchestrator more than he was an 

Their line of work was a dangerous one in which to have owed 
favors or outstanding debts. He knew his own reasons for doing 
this. His granddaughter, and his loss of faith in the 
consortium's objectives. But he couldn't quite help contemplating 
the identity of the person who could cause his cohort to 
undertake the risk in their collusion. Those old debts of his 
must have been very dear indeed. The sudden jerk of the other's 
head caught his attention. He saw the hand reach furtively into 
the trench coat, and wondered if the other was reaching for a 
weapon. He followed the suddenly alert expression, glancing 
towards the doorway.

"I think I'm about to absolve myself of some of my debts. I 
do believe Mr. Mulder has arrived."

As if on cue, the agent materialized in the doorway. The 
Englishman blinked in surprise. He hadn't heard Mulder approach 
at all. The man had appeared almost out of thin air. He hid his 
nervousness, however. He was painfully aware of which cards he 
held, and they were definitely not the favorable kind, something 
he was quite unused to.

Mulder tossed a quick glance around the vast room before his 
eyes settled on the two people waiting for him. He walked towards 
them, coming to a stop a few steps away. He raised an eyebrow at 
the Englishman, but spared a small smile for the other man.

"You're looking better than the last time I saw you."

"I should hope so, Agent Mulder. The last time you saw me 
was at my funeral."

Mulder grinned at the thin attempt at humor before turning 
serious. He looked from his old informant to the taller man next 
to him. "I must say I didn't expect you."

"My daughter is Gwynneth Neville."

This earned a knowing nod from Mulder as he recognized the 
name. "Ah, of course. Elizabeth Neville... one of the children in 
Virginia. Your grandkid?" He saw the man nod. "And you allowed 

"I allowed it, Agent Mulder," came the bitter response, "as 
much as your father allowed your sister's abduction. Neither of 
us were given a choice. Fortunately for me, unlike your father, I 
am in a position to do something about it before it is too late."

"I see. And getting my partner back, what's that? A fringe 
benefit for helping you?"

The Englishman gritted his teeth. "Do not make me regret my 
actions, Agent Mulder."

"You do realize that the others in your group will know 
where I got my information from?" Mulder waited for the hesitant 
nod. "Our mutual friend here," he said, gesturing towards his 
informant, "probably doesn't need to fear any repercussions from 
this little adventure of yours. You, on the other hand... I may 
not be able to protect you."

"I didn't expect you to. I made my choices. I found 
something more important than the work... my family. Now I have 
to live with those choices."

Mulder nodded, accepting the answer. "Okay. What do you have 
for me?"

The two men looked at each other. Finally, at a nod from his 
companion, the Englishman reached into his pocket. He pulled out 
a small package wrapped in paper and handed it to Mulder.

"What's this?" Mulder asked, puzzled. He unwrapped it to 
reveal a tiny vial. He held it up to the dim light, seeing the 
liquid inside splash around.

"A vaccine, Agent Mulder. A cure for the black oil virus."

"That's all there is? This will be enough for my partner and 
all the children?"

The question earned him a snort. "Be grateful I was able to 
get that much for you. You will have to employ Agent Scully's 
redoubtable skills to replicate more from that sample."

"Fine. And their location?"

"On the paper."

Mulder glanced at the paper that had been wrapped around the 
vial. He frowned at the set of numbers written on it. They seemed 
so familiar. His face cleared as he made the connection. Of 
course, it would figure. When it rained... "Not another one. Let 
me guess, an underwater base on the East Pacific Rise?" he asked, 
grinning at the stunned expression on their faces.

"You know about it!?"

Mulder shrugged. With the information from Scully's brother, 
the deduction had been fairly easy. He felt something he rarely 
did from his previous meetings with shadowy informants. A measure 
of control. "I try to keep informed. Although I do wish you'd 
pick your bases in the continental United States. Do you have any 
idea how expensive these trips are getting to be? Not to mention 
the inconvenience." He sighed.

"I'll be sure to bring up the topic at our next meeting," 
the Englishman responded wryly.

Mulder nodded in acknowledgement, then turned to the other 
man. "I suppose I owe you my thanks once again. Although you 
know, if you keep doing this, it's going to be hard to keep 
yourself hidden away."

"I can take care of myself, Agent Mulder. Being dead gives a 
certain freedom that I haven't enjoyed in a long time. Although I 
suppose you're no stranger to the idea. Considering how many 
times you yourself have come back from the dead, I'm surprised no 
one found out about your latest effort."

Mulder could see the confusion setting in on the 
Englishman's face at the strange turn in the conversation. "I was 
lucky," he said simply. He rewrapped the vial within the paper, 
placing the package carefully within his coat. "Thank you both 
for this. I hope... well... just, take care," he said, looking 
directly at the Englishman at his last words. He then turned and 
left without another word.

Behind him, the two men glanced at each other, both silently 
wishing the agent luck, praying he wouldn't need it, but knowing 
that he probably would.


USS Enterprise-D
Sunday, April 11, 2371
1937 hours

"How long?"

Crusher turned to the man asking the question. She saw him 
standing by the biobed, his hands holding his wife's. His gaze 
never left hers, although she had closed her eyes over an hour 

"I'm not sure. I can't actually detect the virus itself 
within her body." The doctor's gaze swept over her console, 
trying to make sense of the readings displayed there. "I'm trying 
to determine if she's been successfully infected. She's slipped 
into a coma, which is common to the first stages of the 

Suddenly, there was a flurry of beeps and alarms as the 
medical sensors started reading... something. Crusher's eyes 
widened as she saw the readouts displayed on the screens. "It's 
starting..." she whispered.

Mulder looked up from his wife's face, turning to see 
Crusher engrossed in the instrument panel in front of her. 
"What's starting? What's going on?" he asked.

"I think..." Crusher began, then paused as another set of 
beeps sounded. Her fingers flew over the console, acknowledging 
the alarm, and keeping track of the various pieces of information 
being displayed. "Yes, I'm positive," she continued, "It looks 
like her body's starting to succumb to the infection."

"What about the alarms?"

Crusher looked up from the console to meet Mulder's eyes. 
She took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to tell him. She 
finally decided on keeping it short and to the point. "Complete 
renal failure. Her kidneys and liver have been compromised, and 
her heart is starting to show severe arrhythmia. I'm also reading 
some anomalous activity around her brain stem." She saw the 
shocked expression on Mulder's face, and tried to explain. "The 
virus seems to start working at different times for different 
people. But once it starts, it causes massive organ failure, 
accompanied by a shutdown of the cerebral cortex. I suppose it is 
a testament to how powerful her immune system is that it took 
this long for even these first signs of the infection."

"Is she in any pain?" Mulder asked, a slight vein of fear 
lacing his voice. He knew he should probably have thought of this 
before. Although, he wasn't sure exactly what he could do should 
the answer be positive. When Crusher shook her head, he let out a 
small breath of relief.

"No," Crusher replied. "Based on what I know, and Dana's 
medical readouts, I think the virus is shutting down her sensory 
and nervous system. She's not feeling any pain." 'Or anything 
else, for that matter,' she thought to herself.

She had discussed the possibility with her aunt earlier. 
Deanna's assessment of the infected crewmen's state of mind rang 
through her head. Right about now, Dana's would be completely cut 
off from her senses. She hated to think of what the unconscious 
woman must be going through. While her rational mind could 
understand the inevitable progress of the infection, a part of 
her would be terrified at the sensory deprivation. As Deanna had 
mentioned, the humanoid psyche just wasn't built to stand that 
kind of loneliness for long.

Another alarm beeped from the console, bringing her 
attention back to the present. "The brain stem is shutting down. 
I'm detecting a decrease in her neurotransmitter activity." She 
silently watched as the neurotransmitter levels in her cerebral 
cortex fluctuated wildly, the besieged immune system trying 
desperately to combat the alien organisms. Her hands twitched, 
her mind calling out almost immediately for a hypo of 
tricordrazine as she made the automatic diagnosis. She sighed, 
trying to convince her body to remain calm and let the virus run 
its course. A lifetime of training warred with what her mind was 

telling her to do. To stand by and watch as a patient died, 
without trying to do everything in her power to save them.

Mulder simply nodded as Crusher regularly gave him updates 
about his wife's condition. He'd long since tuned her out; it had 
simply become too painful to do otherwise. He just sat by her 
side, his fingers lightly stroking her hands. He raised a hand to 
caress her cheek. "It's going to be fine, Scully," he whispered, 
leaning in close to her ear. "You hear me? You're going to beat 
this damn virus, and you're going to come back to me."

From her position behind the instruments, Crusher watched 
him talk to her aunt. She'd already told him that, in all 
probability, Dana wouldn't be able to hear him. Not even 
subconsciously. He had merely smiled at her, and continued with 
his soft words. For a second, she felt a pang of jealousy, a 
sense of loss, a feeling of wanting what they so obviously had. 
She could almost see the connection between them. Not for the 
first time, she silently wondered what would have happened had 
she had the courage to take Jean-Luc up on his offer after their 
adventure on Kesprytt III. She shook her head, pushing the 
thoughts to the back of her mind, trying to concentrate on the 
matter at hand.

She glanced up at the chronometer. It was now about two 
hours since her aunt had slipped into the coma. She'd watched the 
brain activity levels jump all over the scale as they slowly, but 
surely, dropped. Meanwhile, there was hardly a single organ in 
her body that still worked. That she was still alive was in 
itself a miracle. Although Crusher was not sure this qualified as 
an existence. She silently prayed the ordeal would be over soon.

Finally the neurotransmitter levels dropped to zero, just as 
her heart gave up after one final faint beat. It was over. She 
swallowed, her eyes shut tight. A single droplet escaped, 
trailing down her cheek. When she opened her eyes again, she saw 
Mulder looking at her with an expression on his face that she 
hoped never to have to see ever again. He knew, she realized. 
'I'm so sorry, Mulder,' she thought to herself, although she 
couldn't bring herself to say it out loud. Instead she walked 
over to stand beside him, her hand coming up to squeeze his 

He could feel the quickening slowly fading. He knew what was 
happening, and he clutched Scully's hand that much tighter, 
knowing within every cell in his body that he could do nothing to 
stop it. And hating himself for it. When the final spark died, a 
strangled gasp escaped his lips. He looked down at his partner of 
over three and a half centuries, his wife, his soulmate, his very 
life. She lay there, so still, he could almost imagine that she 
was just asleep. He leaned down to place a gentle kiss on her 
forehead. "Don't keep me waiting too long, huh Scully?" he said 
softly, turning to catch the pained gaze from their niece. He 
turned back to look down at Scully. When he felt the hand come to 
rest on his shoulder, he placed one of his own over it, the two 
of them silently sharing each other's pain.



Nothing but white.

She turned, trying to figure out where she was. And saw 
another infinite expanse of white in front of her. She frowned. 
She knew something was wrong. There should have been color, 
pictures. Instead, there was this all encompassing white that 
surrounded her.

She looked around, her eyes coming to rest on... something. 
A faint speck of color amidst the uniform white. Her eyes 
narrowed trying to make out what it was. And widened as she 
realized it was growing.

A few moments later, she knew she'd been wrong. Horribly 
wrong. It wasn't a color that was replacing the white. It was 
something else. A nothing. A void. She turned, and started to 
run. A glance over her shoulder, or what passed for a shoulder in 
this reality anyway, and she could see it, gaining on her. 
Slowly, but inexorably. She tried to increase her speed, but she 
knew it was useless. She could almost feel the darkness behind 
her now. It licked at her heels, dogging her, trying to claim 
her. But she wouldn't allow it! Resolutely, she sped up.

 She could see the darkness beside her now, eating up the 
blank white canvas, tearing apart her... her what? She couldn't 
remember, she thought, panicked. The dark flowed around her, 
moving past her, cloying in its sickly sweetness. It offered her 
an escape from the not knowing, from the unknown. It offered her 
sanctuary, but she knew she couldn't afford the cost. It was most 
definitely too high. She refused.

The darkness reared its head, outraged. This puny thing 
dared to defy it!? It moved closer, surrounding her now. Soon the 
only piece of white left was a small circle around her... feet? 
She could see it shrinking in front of her. She tried to fight 
it. But she was so tired. So very tired. It would be so easy 
to... to just let go. She paused, an image of a man suddenly in 
front of her. Who was he? She didn't recognize him, but she knew 
he was waiting for her. Somewhere. And she knew he wanted her to 
fight. For some reason, it was important. And she knew him, 
didn't she? He was important too. She knew it, deep in the very 
core of who she was. Very well then, she would fight!

That was her last thought before the darkness was complete.


"Now, all we can do is wait," Crusher said to the three of 

Guinan and Mulder sat at one of the desks, looking at the 
doctor as she finished explaining what had happened. Crusher had 
seen little reason to continue to keep Picard behind a quarantine 
field any longer while in Sickbay, since the rest of them were 
already immune and wouldn't spread the virus. But for now, she 
decided not to change the status quo. So, from behind an 
invisible shield, the captain of the Enterprise looked out at the 
three of them. Crusher had also made sure to erect a force field 
around Scully before beginning the experiment. Of course, this 
was all done with the assumption that Picard was still 
uninfected. If not, the entire point was already moot.

And try as she might, Crusher still hadn't been able to 
actually track the viral organisms themselves within the body. It 
seemed almost as if they'd been engineered to mimic readings from 
parts of their host bodies to escape detection. Had she not seen 
the evidence of their exit from the one casualty they'd had so 
far, she might not even have figured out that it was a virus 
causing this epidemic. Although, she supposed that was the point. 
By the time anyone became aware of the threat, it would be more 
than likely that the epidemic would have already spread to a 
significant number of any population, passed along by beings 
unaware of even being infected until the virus decided to strike. 
It was one of the hallmarks of a bioengineered weapon.

She sighed, her glance falling on the somber man sitting 
beside Guinan. None of them were unaware of the toll this was 
obviously taking on Mulder. Crusher looked away from the downcast 
man, her eyes meeting Guinan's own dark ones. Just seeing him so 
distraught caused a wave of anguish to wash through her. She 
looked at the bartender helplessly.

Guinan smiled faintly at her, then rose and moved beside 
Mulder. "Hey, it's going to work out, Mulder. You'll see," she 
whispered softly. But she could tell that the words weren't even 
reaching him. "Mulder..." She sighed. It was rare that she 
couldn't find the words to help someone, at least for a little 
while. But she couldn't imagine what she could say to him to help 
him. He needed to get his mind off the current situation. And 
they weren't exactly helping by simply sitting around, 
commiserating about the patient in the next room. She looked up, 
meeting Picard and Crusher's eyes with a sense of defeat so rare 
for her.

From his vantage point a few feet away, Picard had taken one 
look at Mulder, and known immediately that the man had not been 
prepared for this. After all, how could one prepare to watch 
their loved one die? Picard silently wondered how he might feel 
should it be Beverly lying on the table, instead of someone he 
hardly knew.

Of course, those thoughts inevitably led down paths he'd 
walked all too often. He turned away from the distraught man to 
look again at his chief medical officer. She stood not ten feet 
away from him, yet so unreachable. And not just because of the 
force field separating them at the moment. He'd often thought 
about taking their relationship past that one last line. He knew 
they both wanted to, and silently wondered exactly what it was 
that was keeping them apart.

He'd even tried bringing it up after their feelings for each 
other had been confirmed on the Kesprytt homeworld. Those few 
days when they had been telepathically 'attached' to one another 
had been some of the most trying, as well as the most happiest of 
his life. To finally be able to let her know, to not have to hide 
it anymore. It had been such a relief. He had thought that once 
back on board the Enterprise, they would definitely continue what 
had begun down on the planet.

But, to his surprise, she had refused. He had seen the fear 
in her eyes as she'd uttered the words. He sighed, wondering what 
her reasons had been, what could possibly have caused that terror 
stricken look that had passed across her face for a split second 
before she'd managed to cover it up. It was almost as if, with 
the dissolution of their link, all the old fears had once again 
taken root, more in force than ever before. And with her refusal, 
he'd pulled back. It was so much safer to simply carry on, just 
as they'd always done.

Still he couldn't help wondering where they would be at this 
very moment, had their dinner that night gone in a slightly 
different direction. If only... he sighed. Somehow, so many 
things seemed to come back to that one single phrase. He felt a 
sense of pain as he thought of all the lost opportunities, all 
the missed chances. If only... He looked at her, and saw exactly 
what he was missing. He closed his eyes, suddenly feeling dizzy 
with the thoughts he usually kept hidden so deeply. He shook his 
head, trying to clear the cobwebs that seemed to have suddenly 
take up residence in there. When he opened his eyes again, his 
vision was still clouded. It was then that he knew he was in 

Crusher met Picard's eyes, and saw him suddenly close them 
as if in pain. She wondered if he was feeling the same thing she 
was, if he felt the helplessness she did at not being to help 
this man.

It might have surprised her to know Picard's thoughts from 
just moments before. Her thoughts mirrored his as she wondered 
what her own reaction might be to seeing him on that bed instead 
of Dana. Lord knew, she'd had to do that exact thing more than a 
few times in the past, considering the number of times he'd been 
hurt, while she desperately tried to heal him. And each time, 
she'd convinced herself that this was the reason she'd refused 
his offer after Kesprytt. It was just so much safer. No love, but 
no pain either. 

She'd had to pick up the pieces of her heart after Jack had 
died. And she didn't think she could stand to do that again. She 
thought back to when Ronin had offered her what seemed like the 
perfect solution at the time. Someone to let her forget Jean-Luc, 
someone who wouldn't leave her, someone who would always be 
there... She closed her eyes at the thought, then opened them 
again when she heard it.

"Beverly..." The name came out in a soft breath. Crusher 
looked up to see Picard raise a hand, as if to support himself. 
"I...," she heard him start to say, just as his eyes rolled up in 
his head. She was up and moving towards the forcefield before his 
body hit the floor. "Jean-Luc!!" she cried, "No...!"

The field lowered at her command, her tricorder already 
beeping out readings on his body. It only confirmed her fears; 
the virus had claimed another. If the readings on her tricorder 
weren't proof enough, the blackness clouding his eyes when she 
pulled back on an eyelid confirmed it. Quickly shutting down and 
locking away her feelings one more time, just as she'd always 
done before, she prepared to put him in stasis along with the 
rest of the infected crew. She felt Mulder come up beside her, 
laying a hand on her shoulder, echoing her actions from earlier. 
Looking up into his eyes, she thought she saw a glimmer of 
understanding in the hazel depths. She hastily blinked away an 
errant tear as she and Mulder bent to lift the prone body.


S.S. Meercat, Cargo Hold
East Pacific Rise, Pacific Ocean
Friday, December 11, 1998
11:24 AM

"Now, remember," the man said, pushing stringy blond hair 
out of his eyes. "We've tried to match your air mixture to the 
recommended combination for the depths you're going to be 
reaching. It's not deep enough that we have to use liquid oxygen 
to maintain pressure, but it's still a doozy of a mixture."

The two men were alone in the room. Next to them, a small 
submersible vessel bobbed in the moon pool in the center of the 
hold. Both were carrying what Mulder thought looked more like 
space suits than any diving equipment he'd ever seen.

"This isn't any ordinary dive, Mulder," the blond added, 
seeing the look on the agent's face. "We think we got the air 
mixture pretty close to what you'll come across in their base. 
But it'll still be up to you to check the air if you decide to 
remove the suits."

"We know, Langly," Mulder replied. "I still wish we could 
have gotten a bigger sub though."

"This was the best we could do, Mulder," Frohike said. The 
two men stopped, turning to watch the short man walking past the 
cables on the deck as he approached them. "Subs that can reach 
those depths aren't too easy to come across, especially on such 
short notice."

"I know, I know," Mulder sighed. "You guys still did a great 
job getting us this far. Thanks."

"You know us, Mulder," Langly replied. "Anything to shaft 
these guys."

All three turned at the creak of metal that echoed around 
the room. They saw the hatch on the sub being thrown open with a 
clang as a diminutive figure popped up through the opening.

"Langly, Frohike," Scully greeted the Gunmen as she pulled 
herself out of the sub.

"Hey, Scully," they said in return.

"Now, as we said before," Langly added, "this sub has quite 
a few nifty features. It's got an adjustable pressure system, so 
it'll pressurize to match the ambient pressure levels outside as 
you descend. By the time you reach the coordinates, you should be 
at optimum pressure. This way, you won't have to spend any extra 
time equalizing down there."

As soon as Scully moved away from the hatch, the third agent 
climbed out. "Are those the suits?" Colton asked as he reached 
for the suits Langly still held.

"Yeah," he replied, handing them over. "You won't need these 
unless you actually decide to leave the sub. We're not sure what 
you'll find down there. The acoustic baffle that they've got set 
up doesn't allow any readings for about a mile around the 
coordinates. So you'll have to decide once you get there."

All three agents nodded as they entered the sub. Colton 
immediately set aside the suits and moved up to the front, 
flicking on various switches and controls. Slowly, the instrument 
panels came alive, lighting up as the vessel powered up. Among 
the various instruments, Mulder could make out what looked like 
sonar displays and depth gauges.

Scully and he looked up at the two Gunmen looking back down 
at them from outside. "Good luck," they said, moving back as they 
flipped the hatch shut.

All of a sudden, the agents felt the silence surround them. 
Cut off from the rest of the world, they felt as if they were now 
alone in their journey. They heard the hiss of air around them, 
and looked to the front where Colton was busy with the controls. 
They felt the floor move beneath them, and moved to take the 
seats near the back.

"All systems check out," Colton said into his headset as he 
manipulated the controls. "Preparing to dive." He waited for an 
acknowledgement from Byers in the control room of the boat, then 
with a final "Over and out," he flipped off the radio. The agents 
had already decided against radio contact until they were on 
their way back. It would minimize any risk of their being 
detected. Quietly, the sub started sinking.

The small windows at the front of the sub and the portholes 
on the side provided the agents with a limited view of the 
outside environment. They watched as the light blue of the ocean 
waters turned into a deep twilight just as Mulder noted the depth 
gauge reading about 65 meters below the ocean surface. They sank 
at a steady one half meters per second, the windows slowly 
growing darker as they descended.

It was almost noon now. On the surface, it was no doubt 
clear and sunny. Down here, however, the inky darkness was 
absolute. Half an hour and about 700 meters down, the only 
sources of light, except for some slightly bioluminescent 
creatures, were the small running lights on the outside of the 
small vessel as it knifed through the dark waters, heading in a 
steady downward direction.

Scully sighed as she glanced out the viewports, staring into 
the forbidding nothingness, interspersed with the occasional 
luminous sea denizens as they wafted up past the window in chains 
of ghostly green. With difficulty, she pulled her eyes away from 
the hypnotizing darkness to look around the dim interior of the 

Up in front, the two men sat quietly, staring intently at 
the instrument panel in front of them. Scully could see the light 
from the radar and sonar screens casting an eerie glow on their 
faces. She walked up to join them.

"Scully," Mulder acknowledged her presence, moving over to 
make room for her in the cramped cabin.

"How long till we get there?" she asked, curious blue eyes 
taking in the instrument readouts.

Colton looked up from where he was piloting the small 
submersible. "It shouldn't be too long," he replied. "This 
acoustic baffle is creating a pretty sizeable dead zone around 
the location your informants gave us. But I'd say another hour or 
so to reach the actual coordinates."

"Good," the redhead replied in relief. "I want to get this 
over and done with."

Colton nodded in mutual desire, turning back to the 

Mulder looked from the other agent to his partner, wondering 
about the grudging respect that had somehow developed between 
them. Colton had even been level-headed and calm when they had 
initially discussed this trip.

Of course, the agent mused in amusement, it might have had 
more to do with the fact that of the three of them, Colton was 
the only one even remotely qualified to be here, than any sense 
of camaraderie between the three of them. When Mulder had 
returned from his visit with the two informants, he'd spoken 
first with his partner.

Lynn's location, they both knew, would pose a pretty large 
problem. If the information on the piece of paper was to be 
believed, the base was not only somewhere in the Pacific Ocean 
out in the middle of nowhere, but also a good one and a half 
miles under the water's surface. The trip to the base in Peru 
seemed almost trivial in comparison. He looked at the slowly 
increasing numbers on the depth gauge, then up at the windows 
that showed nothing except the blackness outside, speckled with 
the occasional glow-in-the-dark fish.

A call to the Gunmen and some of their sources had gotten 
the agents access to a submersible that they could use. Of 
course, the problem now was a qualified pilot for the vessel. 
Neither of them had ever dived before, let alone have any 
experience in the conditions they would encounter at the depths 
they would need to reach. And both were leery of involving any 
more people than absolutely necessary. A pilot neither of them 
knew was just one more complication they did not need.

They had debated whether it would be wise to discuss 
Mulder's information with Colton. While neither of them 
particularly liked him, Lynn was his fiancee after all. After 
much deliberation, both had reluctantly decided that the man 
deserved to know. Of course, he'd immediately wanted to accompany 
them, something neither of them was prepared to allow.

Surprisingly, Colton simply stared at them, then actually 
seemed to think about it rather than shouting his mind as they 
might've expected. Perhaps, the agents thought, the man wasn't a 
total loser after all. With a smirk, he'd asked them how they 
intended to get to the location Mulder's informants had given 
him. When the X-files agents had sheepishly confessed their 
predicament, he'd just laughed.

"Mulder," he'd said, "only you two could come up with a 
situation like this. It may interest the two of you to know that 
I got a dual degree in marine oceanography and sociology as an 

At their puzzled expressions, he'd continued, "Oceanography? 
Which involves diving?" Seeing the realization dawn on their 
faces, he'd added, "I have more than enough qualifications to 
pilot your vessel, not to mention the actual licenses to do so. 
So, I guess I'm coming with you guys after all."

And there hadn't been a whole lot the agents could say to 
refuse him. After all, they'd agreed, it did solve a particularly 
pressing problem in the time they had available.

Even so, it had taken them almost the whole week to get 
everything ready. It had taken Scully nearly that long to get the 
vaccine sample analyzed and replicated into sufficient amounts 
for about a dozen people. They had also used the time to get 
familiar with some basic diving and safety techniques for their 
trip. But most importantly, it had given Colton a chance to 
recuperate from his injury, while getting to know the X-files 
agents a little better.

Mulder didn't know what had changed, but he definitely knew 
better than to look it in the mouth. Colton, meanwhile, couldn't 
help but feel a sense of excitement at finally being able to do 
something, anything, to get Lynn back. The night he'd awoken in 
the hospital had been the worst in his life, he thought. Now... 
now, he had a chance to go after her. To rescue her. The moment 
he knew the other two would have need of his skills, it had taken 
all his self-control to keep from shouting for joy.

Which brought them to their current situation. Cramped 
inside a small six man submersible on their way down to the 
depths of the Pacific Ocean, headed for the ultimate unknown. And 
given the lack of any sonar readings, no inkling of what awaited 

And worst of all, each of them was only too aware of the 
fact that, while they had been tremendously lucky to get their 
hands on this sub at all, even if they found any of the 
abductees, at the most they would only be able to fit three or 
four of them into the vessel. If they found any more than that 
down there, it would tear a pretty big hole in their rescue 
attempt. Faced with the choice between attempting the rescue as 
soon as possible, or wait almost indefinitely for a better vessel 
to become available, they had decided on the former.

Mulder sighed for what seemed to him to be the millionth 
time. So many things could go wrong with this trip. He'd thought 
the base in Peru had been hard to break into. But compared to 
this, that one had been a piece of cake.

"Another 20 minutes," Colton's voice interrupted the 
silence. The depth readout read about 1900 meters below sea-

Mulder's eyes wandered from the steadily rising numbers to 
the nearby panel. He frowned as he registered the readings. "Hey, 
Colton. Is there something wrong with that temperature gauge?" He 
turned to glance outside the dark windows. "It looks like it's 
getting warmer."

Colton glanced at the readout, his brows furrowing in 
thought. He then looked up, following Mulder's gaze outside. His 
face cleared as he realized what it was. "No, I think it really 
is getting warmer. We're getting pretty close to the rise. It's 
volcanic in many places, so we're probably near one of the 
surface vents. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised to find the base 
using one of the bigger vents for their power and heat." His eyes 
drifted back to the depth readout. "Get ready, guys. We're almost 

Both the X-files agents leaned forward in their seats, eyes 
straining through the outer darkness as they tried to make out 
any possible details. They could feel the sub slowing down, and 
almost without warning, they were there. The forward lights 
bathed a rocky wall just ahead and beneath them. They rested in 
the water, hanging motionless about 2500 meters below the ocean 
surface. Below them, the floor stretched away into the distance, 
a rubble of igneous rock that somehow seemed to resemble an 
ancient city, worn down by time and left to erode and die. The 
lava rock formations looked like pillars and walls that in places 
stood nearly 20 feet high, forming mock cathedrals and spires 

The agents shivered at the empty and desolate feeling the 
sight evoked. Colton slowly manipulated the controls, and they 
felt themselves moving again. As they got closer to the rocky 
floor, they could make out red tube-like worms that covered the 
surface of the rock. Nestled amid the slowly writhing worm 
colony, the agents saw several small crabs, wiggling their claws 
as they scampered by. Long, thin fish lay motionless among the 
worms, until the backwash from the sub propellers nudged them out 
of their hiding places, causing them to dash out and about in 

Scully sucked in a breath as they moved over a rise, the 
floor seemingly dropping away beneath them, vanishing into the 
never-ending darkness outside the circle of the sub's lights. 
They slowly descended, hugging the ocean floor as they approached 
the coordinates.

Slowly, the ground started rising again, getting steeper as 
they moved forward. They crested another rise, and gasped at the 
sight. A few hundred yards ahead and above them, the structure 
sat, nestled against the cliff wall, standing about four stories 
tall. It loomed above them, perched on a ledge extending out from 
the cliff face. The base exuded a dim, almost ethereal glow, the 
lights studding its exterior winking ominously in the murky 

Colton brought the sub to a stop, then put it immediately 
into reverse. The base disappeared from view as they fell behind 
the rise. He slowly set the vessel down into a niche next to a 
bare ledge of rock. Ensuring that they were securely attached to 
the rock, he started shutting down the engines.

"Well, we're here," he said, flicking off the last of the 
switches. The noise from the propellers died away, leaving them 
surrounded by a thick silence. They looked at each other in the 
dim lighting. "At least we know your information was correct."

Mulder's eyes narrowed in thought at the comment as he 
realized something. "You never really believed it, did you?"

Colton shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, a secret underwater 
base almost one and a half miles under the Pacific? Don't get me 
wrong. I was praying that we'd find something down here. But, 
well..." He sighed.

The other two smiled at him in wry understanding. "So," 
Scully said, breaking the silence, "now what?"

"I want to take a look at the video of that building," 
Mulder said. The sub was equipped with a front mounted video 
camera, set next to the forward lights. They'd activated it when 
they'd reached the ocean floor. For now, Mulder didn't want to 
risk moving out of their hiding place until he could get a better 
idea of the ground layout.

Colton nodded, reaching to activate the playback controls. 
The three of them watched the screen intently, initially seeing 
nothing more than the dark rocky ground interspersed with the 
small inhabitants of the deep. They saw the rise, as they'd moved 
over it, then the base as it came into view. Colton paused the 
video, freezing the image of the structure in the middle of the 

"Hey Colton," Mulder asked, his eyes still on the image. 
"Ever seen the Abyss?" His mouth stretched into a small grin when 
he felt two pairs of eyes fasten on him in surprise.

"Oh, god! Please don't tell me you're expecting a UFO down 
here, Mulder," Colton said, referring to the last scenes in the 

"Relax, Colton. I just meant the general situation."

"That's a relief," Colton replied dryly. He turned back to 
the image on the screen. It looked like a conglomeration of 
modules, each sticking out of the overall structure in every 
possible direction. But they all seemed to be attached together. 
Colton explained that it was probably easier to build and 
transport down here in sections. He pointed to the areas where 
the modules connected with each other, noting that there might be 
some sort of airlock system in place at the junctions to regulate 

His eyes wandered over the rest of the structure, noting the 
modules near the top. He was puzzled at their smaller size 
compared to the ones below them, until he realized what they 
probably were. Escape pods. Following the structure down, he saw 
something that brought a satisfied smile to his lips. "Guys," he 
called their attention to the module. "I think I may have found a 
solution to our problem. Check this out." His fingers traced the 
area as he looked up at them. He saw their faces clear as they 
realized what he'd seen. The lower half of a submersible similar 
to theirs jutted out of the bottom of one of the lower modules.

Suddenly Scully's face sobered as a thought occurred to her. 
"Do you think they know we're here?" she asked.

Colton and Mulder looked at each other. Finally Mulder shook 
his head. "I didn't see any activity around the base. I think 
whatever measures they're taking to block outside sonar might be 
affecting their own scanners as well."

"Of course," Colton chimed in, "that doesn't mean we'll be 
able to stick around in there too long after we get inside."

"Agreed," Mulder said, nodding. "I wonder how much security 
they'll have. I doubt they're even expecting any unexpected 
visitors down here."

"Hmm...," Scully grunted. "Well, we'll find out." She stood 
and moved to the back of the compartment where the suits had been 


The room was large, with several cables and wiring lining 
the floors and adorning the nearby walls. Pale fluorescent lights 
cast overlapping shadows over the floor. Near the middle of the 
room, water gently sloshed against the surface of the vessel that 
floated, mostly submerged, in a square pool about 10 yards on its 

The silence in the room was unbroken except for the rhythmic 
squeaks as the man tightened the bolt on a panel on the sub's 
surface. To take his mind off the monotony of his work, he pursed 
his lips, about to hum a tune. He never saw the white gloved hand 
reach up out of the water between him and the vessel. He didn't 
even register anything out of the ordinary until he suddenly 
found his airway being cut off, so quick was the motion.

"Urk!" He dropped his wrench, his hands instinctively 
reaching up to claw at the vice that seemed to have gripped his 
throat. Before he even had a chance to struggle, he felt himself 
being pulled forward. Losing his balance, he tumbled head first 
into the water, coming face to face with what he thought was an 
apparition. The air in his lungs escaped in a flurry of bubbles 
as he uttered an involuntary scream upon seeing the white clad 
figure. A face black as night stared back at him. Of course, he 
had only a moment to register the image before the hand returned. 
This time the fist connected with his jaw, and his head lolled 
back limply as he lost consciousness.

The water cascaded off the figure as it heaved itself and 
its burden up the ladder by the side of the pool. With a grunt, 
the figure tossed the unconscious man over the side, then pulled 
itself up and out of the water. It climbed onto the slightly wet 
deck, looking around to make sure they were alone, then turned 
and reached down to give a hand to the two others following it.

Once all three were out of the pool, they quietly checked 
their wrist mounted gauges. Satisfied with the ambient air 
pressure, they reached up and unfastened their collars, removing 
the helmets and cautiously sniffing the air. The agents then 
proceeded to remove their suits and place them out of sight 
behind some equipment. Quietly they looked around for any cameras 
or security monitors, but found none.

Looking around they saw a corridor leading off the far wall, 
ending at a door on the other side. As they were about to move 
towards it, the faint groans from the unconscious man captured 
their attention.

"He's coming around," Scully said. "What do you want to do 
with him?"

"We could use his knowledge of the base's layout and crew 
complement," Colton replied.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other, then nodded. Mulder 
moved to kneel beside the slowly recovering man. He saw the man's 
eyes flutter open, widening when he saw the figure leaning over 


Before the man could complete his thought, he was 
interrupted by a low voice. "Listen very carefully," Mulder 
breathed, a firm hand gripping the front of his shirt, "and maybe 
you might make it through this in one piece. Got it?" He waited 
for the man to meet his eyes, then continued, "Now, we want to 
know where that door over there leads." He nodded towards the 
door at the end of the corridor.

The man simply stared at him, his face set in refusal.

Mulder glared back, then looked up at the other two. "Why 
don't you two go see if you can get that door open? I'll see if I 
can persuade our friend to cooperate."

Colton seemed about to object when Scully nodded, then 
gently placed a hand against his back, pulling him along with 

Mulder watched them move away, then turned back to the man. 
He leaned forward, his face inches away from the prone man as he 
pulled him closer. His voice dropped further until it was almost 
a hiss. "Now, where were we?"

The man felt the voice lower, the menacing tone sending 
pinpricks of ice up his spine. He gulped, looking up into his 
interrogator's face, and blinked. For a fleeting moment, he 
thought he saw the hazel eyes glow. And then... he frowned as he 
tried to figure out exactly what it was he was so concerned 

The other two returned in a few minutes to see a curious 
sight. Mulder and their captive were kneeling on the floor, 
hunched over. Coming closer, they could make out Mulder looking 
over the man's shoulder as he drew something on a piece of paper.

Mulder looked up at them, a small smile stretching his lips. 
"Our friend's been very helpful," he said.

The other two looked down at the paper, seeing a rough 
diagram of the base.

Mulder waited for the man to finish, then moved the paper so 
the others could see it as well. He pointed to several marks that 
dotted the map. "He said that there are four technicians on the 
base, including him. These three cross marks here are their 
probable location. These four hashes here are the four 
researchers they have onsite. Apparently they rotate through them 
every once in a while. Other than these eight, he said there were 
about a half dozen security personnel scattered throughout the 

Colton's jaw dropped at the information. "And you managed to 
get all this from him in the time we were gone?" he asked in 
disbelief. "How?"

Mulder shrugged. "I have many skills," he grinned.

"What about the children?" Scully asked. "And Lynn?"

"Ah, look here." Mulder pointed to a section of the base 
near their current position. "They're somewhere in this area. He 
couldn't give me any more details than that. Apparently, that 
section is off-limits to the tech personnel when they have 
'merchandise' in there." His tone conveyed his disgust as he 
repeated the terminology the tech had used.

Colton glanced up from the map, his eyes falling on the 
tech. He shuddered at the blank look on the man's face, so devoid 
of any emotion. He silently wondered what Mulder had done to the 
man to get the information. It almost seemed like he'd been... 
drugged. He turned back to the other two, realizing that Scully 
was saying something.

"We got the door open, and it looks like it leads to the 
next module. I think it's some sort of storage area; there're 
lots of crates and boxes in there. If we go by this map," Scully 
said, tracing a section on the paper, "then we'll need to go out 
that door, and up the ladder on the far end." She softly tapped 
the paper. "Mulder..." She paused, darting a significant glance 
from him to the captive technician. "If we're going to get all of 
them back down here, we might need a little help."

"I think that can be arranged," Mulder replied, turning 
towards the tech himself. "You'll help us, won't you?" he softly 
said, his words more of a persuasive statement than a question.

Colton watched open-mouthed as the man calmly nodded his 
head. "What in...?"

Mulder held up a hand to interrupt him. "Don't think about 
it too much, Colton. He's decided it's in his best interest to 
help us. Who're we to tell him otherwise, huh?" He stood up, 
pulling the tech up with him. "Well, lead on, MacDuff. To the 
captives, men." He chuckled as he followed the tech through the 
corridor and past the door, out into the next module.

The other two agents silently followed, shaking their head 
at Mulder's sudden enthusiasm. Scully found herself smiling 
slightly, while Colton simply tried not to wonder whether the 
pressure was starting to get to them.

They'd moved past the scattered crates to reach the ladder 
when Mulder held up a hand to quiet them down. "There's someone 
up there," he whispered, his head tilted to the side as if he was 
listening to something intently.

Colton frowned, looking up the ladder. He saw it lead up 
into what he figured was the module right above. "You sure?" he 
whispered back. "I don't hear anything."

"If Mulder says they're there, they're there," Scully hissed 
at him. "How many?" she asked softly, turning back to Mulder.

Mulder's face tightened in concentration. "Two. They're..." 
He paused, his eyes widening. "Shit! They're getting closer." He 
moved back. "Hide..." he breathed. While the other two 
immediately scrambled away, he turned to the tech. "Distract 
them," he instructed the man, then jumped over and crouched down 
behind one of the boxes next to the ladder.

Not a moment too soon, as it turned out. He'd barely gotten 
out of sight when two figures dropped down the ladder shaft. They 
started in surprise at seeing the lone tech standing there 
staring at them.

"Hey? You ok, man?" one of the two ventured tentatively. 
Both frowned at the lack of any kind of response. They were about 
to move toward the man when he suddenly pursed his lips and 
started whistling.

"What are you..." the other newcomer began, puzzled. 

Behind the crate, Mulder sighed, shaking his head slightly. 
Well, he *had* commanded the man to distract them. He moved, 
jumping over the crate, his fists connecting with their jaws 
before they even noticed his presence. Without a sound, both  
silently sunk to the ground. The tech simply stood there, staring 
at the agent.

"Not what I would have come up with, but still... good work, 
MacDuff," Mulder muttered to the man, then glanced up to see 
Scully and Colton walk towards him. "Three down, eleven to go."

Scully knelt down beside the two men, reaching for their 
belts. She retrieved their sidearms, holding them out for the 
others to see. "These look like really small caliber weapons." 
She handed one to Colton and stuck the other under her own belt. 
"If we're lucky, maybe we'll come across a couple others for you, 
Mulder," she snickered, remembering his penchant for losing his 

"Funny," Mulder retorted dryly. "Well, they probably can't 
fire anything more heavy duty than those down here without 
risking a breach. I suppose this means these two were security." 
He sighed. If Colton hadn't been here, he might have risked 
putting the whammy on these two as well. But, even then, he 
thought their group was already getting conspicuous enough 
without adding a parade of zombies to their ranks. Besides which, 
he rationalized, security personnel rarely made good whammy 
subjects anyway. "Let's tie them up and get on with it," he said 

A few moments later, the two men were securely immobilized 
using some lengths of cable they found around the room. The 
agents quietly went up the ladder, following behind the whammied 
tech as he led them upwards.

They were unsure whether it was simply luck, or whether the 
tech was just making sure to avoid any of the base personnel, but 
their trip was relatively uneventful. They had almost run into 
some of them a few times, but had managed to duck behind some 
cover in each case. The tech led them through a few more modules, 
and a couple of levels higher, before they reached their 

They walked into a dimly lit room, empty except for a small 
desk on one side, and a door set almost seamlessly into the 
opposite wall. There was a security card access panel next to the 
door. The agents simply stared at it, then at each other as they 
tried to decide what to do.

"I guess this is the end of the line," Mulder finally 
muttered. He made a show of looking up and down the room they 
were in. "There's never a consortium researcher around when you 
need one," he complained, shaking his head.

As if on cue, they heard some voices in the adjoining 
corridor, moving closer towards them.

"You were saying," Scully retorted, quickly moving into the 
shadows behind the desk in the back of the room. The others 
followed her, blending into the darkness, just as a tall man in a 
white lab coat entered the room.

He paused at the entrance, still talking to whoever it was 
outside. The agents caught his final words, "I'll be right up. I 
want to start the next series of tests on the first lot." They 
pressed further back as the man walked in, stopping next to the 
door to pull out a card from his pocket. He slid the card through 
the reader, then waited as the door clicked open and smoothly 
swung aside.

The man had barely crossed the threshold when the agents 
made their move. He didn't realize anything was wrong until he 
felt the hand slide over his shoulder to cover his mouth. He felt 
the body behind him, holding him tight. The voice next to his ear 
seemed almost deafening in the quiet, yet so soothing as he 
listened to the words.

"I'm going to remove my hand now, and you're not going to 
make a sound. You got me?"

He nodded, finding it strange that he'd even consider doing 

Mulder grinned. 'Chalk up another one to the vampire 
whammy,' he silently congratulated himself. He realized how lucky 
he'd been that the two he'd successfully whammied had been alone. 
He still hadn't quite gotten the hang of putting more than one 
individual under yet. Nonetheless, he moved aside to let Scully 
point her weapon at the man's back. While he'd managed to get the 
man under control without raising Colton's suspicions, he didn't 
want the agent to wonder why every consortium agent Mulder talked 
to was suddenly eager to betray his comrades.

"Where do you keep the merchandise?" Scully asked bluntly, 
anxious to get to the object of their mission. She poked the 
muzzle of the gun into the man's back. While she knew that the 
threat itself didn't actually matter, considering the effects of 
Mulder's unique skills, she still felt better just doing it.

"In there," the researcher pointed ahead of him. "Let me get 
the lights," he added helpfully, reaching to the side.

With a flicker, the room lit up. The agents saw that the 
door had led into a large laboratory. Several tables, some of 
which were occupied with the children they'd come here after, lay 
scattered around the room. Mulder's eyes narrowed as he made out 
four of the seven children.

"And the others?" Colton asked, not seeing his fiancee 

"Over there," came the reply. The researcher pointed to the 
far wall, where there were four more doors similar to the one 
they'd come in through.

Quietly, the agents moved through the room, walking towards 
the indicated doors. On the way, Scully stopped beside the bed of 
the nearest child, noting the boy's pallor. He was strapped down 
to the observation table, an IV running out of his arm, a mask on 
his face leading to a respirator, and a multitude of sensors 
attached all over his body. Beside his table, a bank of readouts 
blinked and hummed as they gathered data about his vital 

Scully resisted the temptation to gently touch the boy, to 
reassure him that he wasn't alone any longer. She blinked, 
pushing back the anger she felt. The boy couldn't be more than 
eight years old. That there were people willing to do this to 
such an innocent made her blood boil. She took a deep breath, 
giving the child a wan smile, then moved on to catch up to the 
others. Reaching the far wall, they made use of their host's 
keycard to open the first door. Beyond, a room similar to the one 
they were in housed the rest of the missing children. A quick 
look confirmed that other than the children, the room didn't have 
what they'd been looking for.

"And Agent Horton?" Mulder asked the man.

"In the next room," came the reply. Together, they moved 
over, opening the door to find what they'd been looking for. In a 
smaller room, on the two tables, Alynna Horton and another man 
lay in a similar condition as the children.

"Oh, god!" Colton whispered, immediately stepping into the 
room. He was about to rush over when Scully placed a hand on his 
shoulder to stop him.

Ignoring his quizzical look, Scully turned to the 
researcher. "Are they contagious?" she asked, hoping desperately 
that it wouldn't be the case. She let out a sigh of relief when 
the man shook his head.

"No, of course not!" he replied. "Not at this stage in the 
infection," he said, almost proudly, earning him looks of disgust 
from the agents.

Turning away from him, Scully watched as Colton ran over to 
the table, his hand reaching for Lynn's. He squeezed it 
reassuringly, his other hand moving up to brush aside the blonde 
hair that fell over her forehead. He placed a gentle kiss on her 
brow, then leaned in to whisper softly. "I love you, Lynn. We're 
gonna get you and Nick and the kids out of this. Just hang on, 

"Let's go see the other two rooms, shall we?" Mulder said in 
the meantime, wondering how many others might possibly be down 
here. Besides, he thought the mortal agent could use a moment 
alone with his fiancee.

"Of course," the researcher said obligingly, leading the two 
X-files agents out. The next door led to an empty lab, but both 
the agents froze at the what they saw in the last room. On a 
table, similar to the one Lynn was on, lay a dark-skinned woman. 
Two separate IV needles were attached to her, one on each arm. 
The one on the left led to a bag filled with some sort of black 
fluid. By contrast, the second line showed a deep purple liquid 
flowing through it, leading from her arm till it disappeared 
somewhere in the mass of equipment behind the table. But what 
shocked them the most was the soft tingle they both felt. It was 
weak, but definitely recognizable. They looked at each other in 
surprise. The woman inside was an immortal!

Scully frowned as she moved closer, then gasped when she 
realized what the black fluid was. "Mulder...," she whispered in 
a trembling voice. "That's..." She pointed to the black bag with 
a shaking finger.

"The black oil, yes," the researcher supplied in a cheerful 
voice, almost causing Mulder to belt him. He would have to work 
on the attitudes of his whammied subjects, he thought to himself 
as he moved towards Scully.

"What are they doing to her, Scully?"

"It looks like they're continuously infecting her with the 

"But why...?" Mulder asked.

"She seems to be somehow immune to the effects of the 
virus," the man answered, adjusting his lab coat as he talked. 
"We're trying to see if a concentrated dose will somehow infect 
her successfully. We were curious as to how strong her immune 
system is."

Scully felt sickened at the information. "And that other 
line," she pointed. "What's in it? What else are you giving her?"

"Oh that's the most interesting part," the researcher 
chortled, seemingly excited as if he were about to reveal a great 

"Could you tone down the happy attitude?" Mulder muttered to 
the man. "It's starting to give me a headache."

The man simply nodded in reply. "That's her blood," he said.

The agents stared back at him in shock, then turned back to 
the woman on the table. "Purple blood?" Scully asked, 

"Oh yes! We can't quite explain it, although we think it 
might be an unusual side effect of the infection, or maybe a 
reaction of her heightened immune system."

Scully snorted at the man's theory, then turned to look at 
Mulder. She could almost see the wheels turning as he ran through 
the possibilities. "Not now, Mulder," she whispered to him, her 
hand on his arm gently squeezing in warning. "We'll have plenty 
of time to figure it out later." She turned back to the 
researcher. "Are there any other abductees in this base?"

"No," he replied. "Just the seven children, and the three 

"Good. Now you...," Mulder said, a finger jabbing the man in 
his chest, "are going to help us take all of them downstairs. Is 
that clear?"

The man nodded silently.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh-huh," she supplied helpfully.

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

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

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

They both chuckled tiredly at the joke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guinan simply shook her head in amusement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No," Guinan chuckled in disbelief.

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

"So...?" Guinan prodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You always did like the Bond movies."

"His character was always so underappreciated," Mulder 

"Like you I suppose," Guinan commented dryly.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well?" Mulder asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man took a hesitant step forward at the command.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What about you?" he asked softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


S.S. Meercat, Bridge
5:45 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And that would be...?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Will do, Eagle," Byers answered back.

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

Byers nodded in acknowledgement.

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

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

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

"Roger that," Byers replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"How is she?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You don't underst..."

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

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

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

"I don't think..."

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

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

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

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

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

"Something happened?" Crusher realized.

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

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

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

Crusher simply nodded in silence, turning to greet their 

"Guinan," Mulder nodded at her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not luck."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But how?" Crusher asked, puzzled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Again?" Guinan asked, puzzled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'll say."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Absolute darkness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all, she had promised herself that.

She had promised *him* that.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But the alarms..."

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

"And that activated the alarm?"

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

"So...," Mulder prodded

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

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

Crusher looked at him for a second, then nodded.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

And the knowledge brought with it others.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Their first meeting, so long ago...

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

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

One of their first cases together...

"Do you think I'm spooky?"

A dark car, a mumbled confession...

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

A stark realization...

"I had the strength of your beliefs."

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

... was saving her even now.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crusher merely shook her head, and got to work.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


07:27 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And you're in the navy?"

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


"Into life."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 18, 1998
05:49 PM

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

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

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

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

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

"You still have a week to shop."


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

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

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

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

"Is it working?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, Mulder..."

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Maybe," Scully replied absently.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The captain informed me that you were leaving."

Scully nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Private Vessel Eagle

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

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

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

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

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

The unexpected comment drew a raised eyebrow from her.

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

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

He turned towards her, an innocent eyebrow rising in 

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

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

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

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

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

Mulder nodded, a smug smile on his face.

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

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

"His son?"

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

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

"Uh-huh," he nodded.

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

"Voyager, of course."

The End
Futures Past 09:
From the Ashes
by Arvy 


End Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Futures Past Chronology:

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