Future Winnings 5: The Way of the Cross

Rating: PG-13 for language, graphic description of violence and sexual 
Spoilers: X Files: The Host, Dreamland II

Summary: A trip through a wormhole sends Voyager back in time and the 
ship crashing into Earth. Will Mulder be able to talk his way out of 
trouble, or will he finally clog dance his way into history?

Archive: Do it for me. Do it for yourself. Do it for posterity...

Disclaimer: None of the characters in this story belong to me and I'm not 
making any money. So, please sue me. At least that way I can maybe get 
on Oprah and have the other 7 minutes of my 15 minutes of fame.

E-Mail: Comments, flames, superfluous remarks and vicious character 
assassination can be cheerfully sent to me at: eclectic99@freewwweb.com 
or ecolea@operamail.com.
Author's Note: For the sake of readability I've taken the liberty of 
modernizing some of the language. Mostly in terms of syntax, spelling and 
archaic nomenclature then commonly in use which may be unfamiliar to 
the general reader. But, honestly folks, linguistically speaking and 
Shakespeare notwithstanding, it isn't that far off from modern English -- 
except of course for the accents.

Parts one through four can be found at the Gossamer Archive 

Many thanks to Sue for making me write more. To Leathie, for not 
making me write more. Elf, for especially good nit-picking. And 
Samantha, for beta above and beyond the call.
Dedicated to His Gracefulness Charles, for absolutely no reason. 

Future Winnings 5

The Way of the Cross

The windswept vista of the dead world stared back at Fox Mulder. The 
keening howl of the storm rose and fell in its intensity, yet it never let up 
as he trudged ahead, seeking he knew not what. The journey was without 
end. It had no beginning, or none that he could recall. It simply was. The 
wind, the skin-stripping sand and the desperate wailing moan that 
accompanied it...

Mulder woke with a start at the sound of the alarm, lifting his head briefly 
from his pillow only to let it fall back as he realized where he was. 
Something like relief flowed through him, yet it wasn't without a tinge of 
disappointment. Voyager. He was safe on Voyager -- although safety on 
Voyager was relative.

He threw off the bed clothes along with the feeling of hopeless suffering 
that particular dream always evoked and padded to the shower. Whatever 
his subconscious was trying to tell him, he didn't have time to listen. A 
small thrill of excitement coursed through Mulder as he stepped inside the 

He was being rotated to bridge duty today. After nine months aboard 
Voyager the Executive Officer, Commander Chakotay, had finally 
remembered that Mulder had not done his non-training bridge rotation 
which should have occurred four months earlier. It had been his 
unauthorized trip to the newly discovered Borg home world and his 
subsequent punishment duty which had reminded the commander that 
Mulder was something more than just a ship's counselor. That he was, 
although indeed reluctantly, on the command track and therefore required 
to serve at a variety of different stations.

An hour later, after Mulder had grabbed a quick bite to eat in the mess 
hall, he reported to the bridge and took his post at the communications 
console without comment. Delighted as he was with the change of pace, 
he quickly surmised after a few minutes just how bored he was about to 
become. Listening in on ship's communications was pretty much like 
doing wire tap duty. The only saving grace was the constant scanning 
required to monitor external frequencies, but given the region of space 
they were traveling through, there wasn't likely to be much traffic.

With half an ear he heard Chakotay, who had the con, relate another 
anecdote about his academy days. Not that he minded listening to 
Chakotay at any other time, he just hated being a captive audience. Right 
now he needed to pay attention, no matter how bored he was. The sound 
of voices given his inexperience at handling the controls was mildly 
annoying. Still, he really couldn't complain. He was finally getting a 
chance to do something other than listening to people drone on and on 
about problems they could have solved themselves if they'd just listened to 
what they were saying rather than boring the shit out of him.

So, essentially, he'd traded one boring assignment for another. Luckily, 
this one would end in a week, then he'd get assigned to another station. 
Although with his luck it would either be something just as dull, or 
terrifying in its complexity. For a moment he wished he were back in his 
basement office tossing pencils at the ceiling.

"So, Mulder, did they have any hazing rituals at the FBI?" Chakotay 
suddenly asked.

With an internal sigh Mulder nodded, not looking up from the panel he 
was watching. "Sure they did, but not for me. No one tries to head fuck a 
genius. We get even in really nasty ways," he grinned, remembering one 
or two practical jokes he'd played on older agents who'd tried.

He felt, rather than saw the heads turning in his direction. His "genius" 
might have been common knowledge, but that didn't make it any easier for 
his shipmates to swallow. Chakotay chuckled softly. "Have you given any 
thought to what you might do when we get back to Earth?"

Mulder shrugged. "First, I think we should find the golden wormhole 
everyone's looking for," he responded, referring to their present mission. 
This particular sector was littered with thousands of these spatial 
anomalies and much of the crew was currently engaged in round the clock 
surveys attempting to locate the "one true path" as Mulder liked to call it, 
just as they'd been for the past six weeks.

"We'll find it," Tom Paris announced confidently from his station just as 
Captain Janeway stepped out of her ready room.

"Actually, gentlemen, I think we have."


The news of Seven of Nine's discovery had already buzzed through 
Voyager's gossip mill by the time Mulder and Paris left the bridge. Once 
in the turbo lift Mulder leaned back against the wall sighing with relief. 
What he'd assumed would be a stultifying six hour shift had unexpectedly 
turned into a monumental challenge. The probe sent out to track the 
wormhole had not only sent back positive results, but had enabled them to 
communicate with Starfleet -- with Mulder acting as liaison during the 

"Relax, Mulder," Tom grinned. "You did fine. Even the captain was 

"Me too," Mulder muttered, shifting a little as he eased the tension in his 
shoulders. He silently reminded himself to thank Seven for humiliating 
him into using the neural transmitter after he'd first come aboard. He 
hadn't realized he'd retained as much information as he actually had until 
he'd needed the facts and found them there.

The lift came to a stop and they headed for the mess hall. Not surprisingly 
the place was packed with off duty personnel chatting up a storm, 
laughing as they read messages from home and pretty much making a din 
which nearly shattered Mulder's already frayed nerves. What he really 
needed was some peace and quiet to think things through. On the other 
hand, he didn't really know what to think except that he didn't want to 
think about anything serious. What he wanted was a drink. A stiff drink. 
Or better yet, he thought, a run. A long hard cross country run, where the 
only thing he'd need to focus on was the physical.

After seeing Tom swallowed up by the happy multitude Mulder made a 
quick exit. He stopped by his quarters long enough to change then made 
his way to the holodeck, only to find Chakotay there ahead of him. The 
commander had already keyed in a program and was just entering when he 
spotted Mulder, who'd started to turn away in disappointment.

"Care to join me?" he called.

Mulder glanced back and shrugged. "I'm not much for boxing," he 

Chakotay grinned. "At the moment, neither am I."

Mulder paused then headed back to the holosuite entrance. Anything was 
better than moping in his quarters, or getting morosely drunk while all 
around him were celebrating their good fortune.

"So, what are we doing here?" Mulder asked curiously.

"Nothing so profound as pondering the existential nature of that question," 
Chakotay smiled, leading the way into the suite.

Mulder's eyes widened with astonishment as he took in the alien setting. 
An evil looking place of rocks, swamp gas and eerie overhanging trees 
with hefty thorn covered vines. "Cool. Didn't know you went in for 

Chakotay reached for something just inside the door which turned out to 
be a nasty looking broad sword with a double serrated edge. "Nothing so 
mundane, Mulder. This is one of B'Elanna's programs. Lot's of bashing, 
smashing and traditional Klingon mayhem."

Mulder grinned. "I like that. Yeah, I could beat the shit out of something 
right about now."

"Grab a weapon," Chakotay responded, hefting his sword.

Mulder found a mace in the weapons pile, giving it a couple of test 
swings. This'll do, he thought. Not much skill required, just brute force 
and proper timing. He located a shield, stripped off his sweatshirt and 
joined the commander.

"So, who are we fighting?" he asked taking up his battle stance.

"Not who. What."

A vicious howl rent the air and with it came the stench of something so 
foul Mulder couldn't find words to describe it. A thrill of fear ran through 
him and as the first of the toothsome, drooling creatures came into view 
Mulder glanced at Chakotay and smiled. "Bring it on," he muttered, then 
took a deep breath, let out a primal scream from the depths of his soul and 


"Now that was fun!" Mulder panted, collapsing against the bulkhead as 
Chakotay called for the program to halt.

Catching his breath Chakotay nodded. "I needed that."

Mulder had to agree. The exercise had definitely gotten rid of all his built 
up tension and anxiety. In fact, he wasn't merely physically depleted, but 
emotionally exhausted as well. 

Chakotay held out a hand, helping Mulder to his feet. "Worried about 
going through the wormhole," he asked, "or just getting back to Earth in 

Mulder grimaced. "All of the above and then some. You?"

"Same, but I've got a hearing to look forward to and the possibility of 
prison. Just because Kathryn made me her Executive Officer doesn't 
absolve me of being a member of the Maquis. There's been no general 
amnesty declared by the Federation."

"They'd be fools to hold it against you," Mulder pointed out.

"I broke the law, even though I felt it was the right thing to do. I wouldn't 
change a thing, but I can't say I'm honestly looking forward to the 

There wasn't much to say to that, so Mulder said nothing.

"I meant to tell you," Chakotay paused as they left the holosuite. "You did 
a fine job today."

Mulder ducked his head in acknowledgment. "I appreciate that, 
Commander, but if this wormhole checks out and the captain gives the go 
ahead, you'll probably want to put someone who really knows what they're 
doing at that station. Just so you know," Mulder smiled, "I won't take it 
badly if you decide to shuffle the schedule."

"No shuffling needed," was Chakotay's response. "If the decision is made 
to proceed and you're on duty, then that's where you'll stay. Unless you'd 
rather withdraw from the command track?"

"All or nothing?" Mulder asked rhetorically. "You play hard ball, 

"Only with three hundred year old pale faces."

Mulder laughed. "Okay, I'll be there -- with bells on."

The commander grimaced. "I'd rather you wore a uniform."

Mulder cocked his head. "Now there's a nightmare I haven't had."

"Good night, Mulder," Chakotay responded as he walked away. "And get 
some rest. You're going to need it."


Chakotay may have been right, Mulder thought, suppressing a yawn, but 
that hadn't made sleeping any easier. The word had come through around 
midnight. The wormhole not only led back to the Alpha Quadrant, but 
every test and scan devised by the experts on both sides had proved to all 
concerned that it was safe. In just a brief while they'd be less than a week 
away from Earth.

The knowledge gave Mulder mixed feelings as he fiddled with the comm 
controls. He'd just begun to really adjust to life aboard Voyager, what 
would it be like trying fit into a society where he had to relearn all the 
ground rules?

"Fellow travelers," Captain Janeway's voice rose above the hum of the 
bridge, momentarily silencing all other communication as the entire crew 
listened in. "Let's go home. Ahead one quarter impulse, Mr. Paris."

"Aye, aye, Captain. Ahead one quarter impulse."

Mulder took a moment to glance at the view screen. Part of him was 
terrified at the enormity of the wormhole, while the other part was 
reveling in the sheer beauty of its complexity.

Slowly, Voyager entered the mouth of the anomaly, moving forward 
cautiously despite the clear sailing indicated by all the diagnostic models. 
As status reports started filtering in through communications Mulder 
prioritized and routed them to the con.

"Twenty-three minutes, forty-seven seconds to egress, Captain."

"Thank you, Mr. Kim. Tuvok?"

"Detecting substantial neutrino fluctuations along the hull."

"Re-modulate the shields."

"Re-modulating shields, Captain."

And so it went as the tension on the bridge escalated with each passing 
moment. Mulder's own heart was pounding as they passed the halfway 
mark and sweat trickled down the back of his shirt. He wiped his forehead, 
trying to concentrate on the controls and noticed Harry doing the same. 
They shared a glance. Fear, excitement and a thousand other emotions 
flitted across the younger man's face, then a moment later sudden 

"Captain," he called out. "I'm picking up... I, uh, I think we're being 

"Scanned?" Janeway demanded as she turned in her chair. "Tuvok?"

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, but before he could respond every console 
on the bridge lit up like the aurora borealis.

Mulder leaned away from the console and yanked the comm link from his 
ear as it screeched in defiance. He caught sight of the view screen out of 
the corner of his eye and sheer terror struck him at the image, then sat 
frozen as the wormhole changed into a roiling maelstrom of color, moving 
unaccountably and on its own. Around him as the ship shuddered and 
bucked the rest of the bridge crew fought for control. System after system 
went down as they were drawn at break neck speed through the wormhole 
until they shot like a bullet into the Alpha Quadrant.

And it was indeed the Alpha Quadrant, Mulder realized along with the 
rest. For dead ahead was Earth and an instant later they were plummeting 
forward into the atmosphere.

"Tom!" Janeway called. "Get us up!"

"Only partial control of the stabilizers and thrusters, Captain. I can get us 
down softer, but we're going down!"

"Emergency landing procedures! All hands brace for impact!" the captain 
shouted. "Mulder, get me Starfleet Command!"

Frantically, Mulder worked the controls with a speed he didn't know he 
possessed, but without success. Communications was still up and running, 
but, "Nothing's there, Captain. I'm not getting any response."

For a second Mulder could see the fear in his own eyes echoed in hers, 
then they passed through the cloud cover and she turned back to the view 
screen to watch in horror with the rest of them.

They came in over the ocean, Paris keeping the ship aloft through force of 
will and boundless skill. Day turned to night as they passed the meridian 
and flew head on towards land, their one hope for survival.

"Fifteen seconds to impact," Harry called and Mulder braced himself.

"Location, Ensign?"

"Headed for the British Isles, Captain."

Mulder stared hard at the view screen aware something was wrong as a 
narrow band of land came into view, but uncertain of what until Janeway 
voiced it for them all.

"Where the hell are the lights?"

No answer was forthcoming as the ship went down, gouging out a new 
river bed somewhere in the high country as a lone traveler floated into the 
night, eager to make the acquaintance of its new home.


The emergency lights on the bridge were flickering when Mulder finally 
awoke to find Tom Paris kneeling above him with a hypo spray.

"You've got a slight concussion and some mild bruising, Mulder, but 
you'll live," he said as he depressed the hypo against Mulder's throat.

"So what's that for?" Mulder asked, confused.

"Radiation inoculation. We've got a coolant leak."

Mulder grimaced as he sat up. "Great. Just what I need. More radiation."

"Think of it this way," Tom grinned. "You might get lucky and have a 
wonderful kid -- with six eyes and two mouths."

"Right. Needing three pairs of bifocals and two sets of braces."

Tom smiled and slapped him on the shoulder, moving away to tend to a 
young ensign with an obviously broken wrist. 

Mulder pushed himself to his feet then glanced around the semi-darkness 
of the bridge trying to assess the damage. A quick check of the 
communications console and he realized the ship's computer was on-line 
which meant most of the bridge stations were still up and running. 
Although how much of the ship's systems were still intact and functioning 
remained to be seen. And where the hell were they? The planet had looked 
like Earth -- at least the Earth he remembered. And Harry had said they 
were coming down somewhere in-- 

Mulder took a deep breath and slid into the seat at his station. Curious as 
he might be he didn't have time to ponder these questions at the moment. 
The console was lighting up like a Christmas tree with damage and 
casualty reports coming in from all sections of the ship. This was an 
emergency and like everyone else aboard he knew there were procedures 
to be followed. 

Mulder grinned wryly to himself as he began channeling the incoming 
information to the proper stations. Me? Following procedures?

In the back of his mind he could hear Scully laughing. 


Captain Janeway tiredly brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. The 
reports coming in had been depressing to say the least. She looked around 
the room at the faces of her command staff. Tuvok of course had been a 
soothing island of calm in the midst of this stormy discussion. While 
B'Elanna and Seven were vociferously arguing over the how and why of 
how they'd crashed to the exclusion of all else. Surprisingly, Mulder was 
another eye of calm in the whirlwind of activity going on. Then again, he 
had less reason to panic than anyone else given the number of disasters 
he'd survived.

Janeway suddenly grew tired of the arguing and called loudly for silence. 
"Enough already! Is there any one thing you two agree on?"

Seven and B'Elanna shared a glance. B'Elanna nodded and Seven took 
control of the discussion. "According to the instrumentation in 
Astrometrics we are most definitely on Earth -- in the year 1560 by the old 
Terran calendar."

The news was greeted with shocked murmurs from most of the staff, while 
Mulder slumped in his seat -- his only sign of distress the handful of 
sunflower seeds he pulled from his pocket.

"How we arrived at this point in space and time is still open to debate," 
B'Elanna added.

"Yes," Janeway acknowledge sourly. "So we've heard. Although, I'm 
inclined to worry less about how we got here -- whether it was an 
anomalous neutrino burst or some unidentified entity living within the 
wormhole with the power to send us off course and back in time -- right 
now the point is moot. We're here and frankly, I'm more concerned about 
getting off the ground and back into space. B'Elanna?"

Lieutenant Torres shrugged. "I could repair the actual physical damage to 
the engines in a few days, a week at most, the problem is in the dilithium 
core. When the plasma manifolds blew the coolant leak drained the 
crystalline ore we've been using and the structure broke down to critical 
mass. I had to eject the damaged crystals which means we need to find 
another source of dilithium."

"That shouldn't be too difficult," Janeway responded, nodding to Chakotay 
as he quietly entered the conference room. "If I recall my history correctly, 
the first dilithium deposits were discovered on Io. All we need is a shuttle 
and a team to go out and collect some."

B'Elanna looked relieved. "I'll get someone on it."

"Good. Chakotay?"

The commander gave a half hearted shrug and frowned. "We've got quite a 
bit of structural damage to the hull and several less strategic areas of the 
ship -- luckily, nothing we can't repair, though it may take a couple of 
weeks before all the work's completed. The real problem is the food 
supply. Only a handful of replicators are working and we need those to 
replicate items needed for repairing the ship. It wouldn't be so bad, but a 
plasma leak in the aft cargo bay contaminated most of Neelix's stores. We 
might be able to force grow some edibles in hydroponics but that's going 
to take time."

Janeway nodded. "All right. We'll just have to send out a team to forage."

Mulder suddenly sat up in his seat. "In 1560? Are you insane? Do you 
know what's actually going on out there?"

The captain gave him a steely eyed stare. "It's the Elizabethan Age. A time 
of enlightenment, culture and exploration. An era which gave us men like 
William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh."

Mulder rolled his eyes. "No, it's the end of the Tudor period. Elizabeth has 
been Queen about a year -- and don't confuse that with ruling England. 
Most of the world's leaders are trying to either marry her or assassinate her 
-- generally one in the same. England is on the verge of a civil war with 
Protestants and Catholics torturing and killing each other with zealous 
glee. Exploration is, in reality, the exuberant exploitation of non-Western 
civilizations. And, while most of the English populace is quite literate, 
they still believe in witches, demons, changelings and fairies. A category 
anyone aboard this ship will neatly fall into should they be discovered."

"Mulder," Chakotay told him calmly. "All we need to do is buy some 
food. It's not like we're planning to interact with the culture."

"Buy some food," Mulder nodded slowly. "Sure. And how are you going 
to explain to the locals why you need enough food to feed a small army? 
And if you didn't get it the first time, the key word there is Army."

"I'm surprised at you, Mulder," Janeway began. "That you wouldn't jump 
at the chance to explore your own history, given that you know so much 
about it."

"That's exactly why. Contrary to popular myth I do not have a death wish. 
And if I did it wouldn't be to burn at the stake as a heretic. This is not the 
holodeck, Captain. Those are real people out there -- with real beliefs 
about who and what every individual is required to be in order to fit into 
their society. More to the point, they have real weapons, like guns, knives 
and nasty sharp sticks called pikes to back them up. You can't just send 
out a team dressed in period costume with a general knowledge of the era 
as if this were some renaissance fair and they're off on holiday for a bit of 
fun with the village idiot. These people are masters of survival, not merely 
quaint historic figures. Imagine what it means to go from cradle to grave 
with every day as uncertain as the next, no matter how high or low on the 
social scale an individual is."

Janeway sighed and nodded. "I see your point, but we need those supplies. 
Since you obviously have some knowledge of the period, and as our 
resident expert on time travel, I'm going to assign you the task of coming 
up with a workable plan."

Mulder grimaced in disgust, but he couldn't deny, even to himself, that he 
was probably the only person aboard who had even the vaguest 
understanding of just what they were up against.

"All right, but first things first. It's going to be dawn soon. Any ideas on 
how to hide this big ass anachronism from Farmer John and Mary 
Milkmaid? They're getting up right about now."

B'Elanna chuckled. "I don't think we're in any immediate danger. We're on 
the edge of a forest, Mulder. There isn't a town or village for at least five 
kilometers in any direction, but I can set up a holo shield around the 
general vicinity. We'll just become part of the scenery."

Mulder shook his head, not bothering to look at Janeway for confirmation 
as he briefly took control of the meeting. "Blending in won't do it, 
B'Elanna. These people travel. Everywhere. More to the point, a forest is a 
source of food and fuel. Let's not even go into how many ex-soldiers have 
taken up the trade of highwayman and can claim the forest as their 
primary residence. Anyone could wander through thinking this area is just 
another part of the woods. We need to make this place as unappealing as 
possible. The kind of place any sensible person would steer clear of 
without a second thought."

"How about putting up a castle?" Harry asked. "With a nice big moat."

While everyone else grinned Mulder sighed, rubbing his eyes in dismay. 
"Great idea, Harry. A magical stronghold right out of nowhere. That'll 
keep the locals away. But no one else. People will come from far and wide 
to see the miracle."

Janeway nodded thoughtfully. "All right, Mulder. What do you suggest?"

"A natural barrier. Something culturally acceptable, yet out of place 
enough to--" Mulder's eyes widened and he held up a hand. "A swamp. A 
dark, nasty looking swamp that reeks of witchcraft and sorcery. The kind 
of place with a feel so evil surrounding it even the bravest, least 
superstitious person would avoid it like the plague. Wouldn't even want to 
talk about it except in whispers, for fear of catching the evil eye or 

The captain raised an eyebrow and smiled. "I like that idea, Mulder. It 
would drastically reduce the chances of anyone coming to investigate the 
causes behind the sudden appearance of a new landmark."

"And explain it's disappearance as well," Chakotay added with a grin. 
"The witch or sorcerer was just passing through."

Mulder shrugged. "More like the good Christians of the shire drove out the 
evil by the powerful righteousness of their prayers, but hey, whatever 
blows your hair back."

They were suddenly interrupted by the trill of Janeway's commlink. 

"Captain." It was the doctor's voice, sounding urgent with worry. "Please 
come to sickbay immediately."

"I'm on my way," she told him as she rose. "B'Elanna, get started on those 
repairs and the holo imaging. Harry, take a shuttle and get us some 
dilithium. Seven, you figure out a way for us to get back to our own time. 
Check Starfleet records, I seem to recall a couple of incidents of time 
travel involving the Enterprise. Chakotay, give Mulder whatever he needs 
from the replicators and help him put a team together. And Mulder," she 
paused at the door, glancing back to catch his eye. "Just...be yourself and 
get back with those supplies."

Mulder said nothing as he stood with the others to leave. Never mind the 
fact that Janeway had just implied that she still considered him an 
anachronism, but that she assumed he was somehow closer in mindset to 
the people of this era than her own. Hardly likely, given the fact that the 
hopes and dreams of the twentieth century had made the possibilities of 
this one a reality. He was not, however, in the mood to argue the point. 
Doubtless in the years to come he would meet many more such 
individuals. It would simply be his cross to bear, much like his space cadet 
reputation at the Bureau.

As Seven, Harry and B'Elanna disappeared into a turbo lift, Chakotay 
paused beside him. Mulder looked at the other man and cocked his head. 
"So, does anyone else think being frozen for three hundred years, waking 
up and not going nuts qualifies me as the "resident expert" on time 

Chakotay grimaced. "I don't think the captain meant it quite the way she 
said it."

"Just how did she mean it?"

The commander shrugged. "Facetiously. I think you put her a little off 
balance. History's always been a favorite subject of hers, but she tends to 
look at the past through rose colored glasses. It's fascinating and 
charmingly "quaint" as you put it. As an anthropologist, I can see the 
inherent dangers present in attempting to explore history in the making. 
Too many little things can go wrong. But we have no choice. We can't cut 
rations below the minimum caloric intake. Not with everyone pulling 
double shifts and the amount of physical labor involved."

Mulder rubbed his neck, half nodding. He'd figured as much which was 
why he hadn't strenuously argued the point. "And we can't just hunt the 
forest bare of game and wild vegetables. Not that I'd mind eating venison 
and rabbit stew for a couple of weeks, but we'd deprive the local populace 
of one of the mainstays in their diet, or worse become the cause of one of 
England's historic famines."

Chakotay winced. "You'd also have a hard time serving it up to the crew. 
Deer and rabbits are favored pets back on Earth in our time."

He glanced at Chakotay, who was watching him with a mix of curiosity 
and mild distaste.

"What?" he asked defensively. "I come from a long line of carnivores. 
You want me cry over Bambi and Thumper?"

The commander shook his head and gave Mulder a tired smile. "Nothing. 
It isn't my place to criticize you, or my ancestors for that matter. So, what's 
you're plan?"

"Plan? What plan? I round up Tom, we go into town, hire a bunch of 
drovers and buy up all the surplus food in the surrounding area."

"Then what?"

"Then hope like hell we're long gone before anyone starts to wonder why."


Tom Paris should have been grinning at the news that he was to 
accompany Mulder on his little shopping trip. Instead, he was staring out 
the view port in Mulder's quarters, watching the rain fall and frowning 
deeply, the lines around his mouth drawn tight with worry.

"You don't want to do this, do you?" Mulder asked quietly.

The other man turned and shook his head. "No, I'll go with you. It's just... 
We lost Ensign Holman this morning."

Mulder took a deep breath and nodded. "I'll look in on Lt. Rafferty before 
we go," he said. "I'd heard they were planning to get married."

Paris nodded dully. "She was pregnant, you know."

Mulder couldn't hide his shock. "No, I didn't." He paused to regain his 
equilibrium. He'd liked Karen Holman. A pretty little Bajoran woman 
who'd teased him mercilessly every time he'd gone to hydroponics to pick 
up a new batch of sunflower seeds. "How did it happen?"

Tom closed his eyes and sighed. "It shouldn't have happened at all!" he 
exhaled angrily. "She was fine. I did the exam myself last week. 
Apparently, she collapsed at her station after we entered the wormhole -- 
she was alone in hydroponics. Neelix found her early this morning. She'd 
had a pulmonary aneurysm -- although, for the life of me, I couldn't tell 
you why."

Mulder chewed his upper lip thoughtfully. "What did the doc say?"

Tom shrugged. "He's more confused than anyone. There's no preexisting 
condition -- nothing a half-trained medic wouldn't have caught," he added, 
derisively referring to himself, "even on the most cursory exam."

Mulder cocked his head. "Other than a preexisting heart condition what do 
you think might have caused it?"

"I don't know," Tom responded. "It's like her heart just suddenly sped up 
and exploded from the inside."

Sped up and exploded? "But you're sure it happened during the trip 
through the wormhole?"

"Pretty sure," Tom replied. "Then or just after, right before we crashed. 
She was covered with debris, so I guess we can assume she was already 
down by the time we hit ground. Why?"

Mulder shook his head. "Not sure if it matters or not. It's just...odd. A 
perfectly healthy woman suddenly succumbing to...fear maybe?"

Tom stared at him, nodding slowly. "Maybe," he agreed. "But fear of 
what? She was a highly trained Starfleet officer. A quick trip through a 
wormhole after some of things we've experienced would've been like a 
walk in the park to Karen. She might have been a little anxious -- we all 
were -- but scared to death?" he asked dubiously. "I find that hard to 

"Scared to death," Mulder murmured. It was more than odd, he realized, 
but beyond that he couldn't say. It was just...a feeling. A hunch. Nothing 
substantial which he could take to Janeway.

Mulder gave a silent, sardonic laugh. Talking to the captain would be like 
talking to Scully about one of his more outlandish theories. Worse, a 
woman like Scully who had the power to order him not to investigate. On 
the other hand, Chakotay was a lot like Skinner. Give either man enough 
proof for them to know it was real in their gut and they'd back you all the 

Well, he could do some poking around when they got back. There'd be 
plenty of time for that later. At the moment, he had an appointment with a 
pair of tights -- and the nifty leather codpiece that matched. 


"So where did you learn all this stuff?" Tom asked, fingering the reins of 
the mare he was riding.

The first thing Mulder had done after leaving Voyager was head for the 
nearest village, buy a pair of serviceable mounts and inquire after the 
name of the guild master who represented the local farmers. There'd been 
few questions and even less interest about their comings and goings when 
the wrangler selling the horses realized they were foreigners by their 
accents. Now, headed for Hexham, a good sized town in what had once 
been called Northumbria, he whiled away the hours helping Tom cram for 
his crash course in renaissance living.

"Aunt Muriel," Mulder smiled, genuinely fond of the memories Tom's 
simple question evoked. 

Paris glanced his way and grinned. "Favorite aunt?"

Mulder shook his head and Tom looked askance, obviously wondering 
what he was talking about. He held his breath, then released it slowly as if 
coming to a difficult decision. 

"After my second year at Oxford," Mulder began, "I decided not to go 
home for the summer. My girlfriend at the time invited me to spend my 
vacation traveling around England with her and her aunt. Muriel was very 
into the whole Renaissance Fair thing. Every summer she'd pack up her 
lace and velvets and just travel with the fair from town to town. It sounded 
really neat."


"Yeah, neat. Sophie'd be a tavern wench and I'd be one of the men who ate 

"Mud eating?" Tom asked around his laughter.

Mulder shrugged. "I was nineteen. Being gross is an art form at that age."

"If you say so, mud breath."

Mulder grimaced. "I said I wanted to do it, not that I'd gotten the chance. 
Our first week in rehearsal Sophie took her role playing a little too 
seriously and ended up catching mononucleosis."

Tom tried not to laugh and nodded. "And there you were."

"And there I was," Mulder agreed. "I couldn't stay with Sophie and I'd sold 
my plane ticket home for travel money. So, leaving behind the no longer 
salacious Sophie, Aunt Muriel and I headed out on the road."

"But you said you never got to be a mud eater."

"No, I didn't get to eat any mud. But once I realized none of the girls who 
showed up at the fairs wanted to date, let alone kiss any of the mud eaters, 
I was kind of glad Aunt Muriel insisted I do something else."

"Which was?"

Mulder gave an internal shrug and decided to chance it. He could always 
beat Tom into silence later. "Chicks dig a handsome young lord."

The other man started laughing. "Hell, Mulder, I could have told you that, 
even at nineteen! Especially at nineteen."

"Not having your worldly experience at that age," Mulder justified, "I took 
a little convincing."

"What convinced you?"

"The standup fuck in the wardrobe trailer with Mistress Tilly."

Tom nodded knowingly. "Would've convinced me."

"I got raves from Aunt Muriel on how languidly I moved for the rest of the 
day. She was satisfied, Tilly was satisfied, the women I deigned to notice 
were definitely satisfied, and I spent the next three summers getting 
regularly laid."

"So you were satisfied."


Tom glanced his way curiously. "So you didn't always cope with isolation 
by sublimating the need for interpersonal relationships by using 
pornographic materials as a means to maintain contact with your 

Mulder half turned in the saddle, his eyes rounding in astonishment. "I beg 
your pardon?" he asked, hardly believing the line of psycho babble 
bullshit he'd just heard.

Tom shrugged. "According to Dr. Scully--"

"Fuck that!" Mulder exclaimed, cutting him off. "I look at porn because I 
like it. I like sex and beautiful naked women. And if I'm alone I like 
falling asleep to the sounds made by beautiful naked women having sex. 
End of story. Agent Scully was hardly qualified to comment on my sexual 
needs or proclivities. I very carefully and consciously excluded her from 
that side of my life." Mulder pressed his lips together, fuming. 

Had Scully really believed that crap she'd written about him? Probably. In 
his own mind, he was just a guy. No better or worse than any other man 
when it came to his views on sex. And he'd made an honest effort not to 
offend his partner by keeping his personal business just that -- personal.

He thought briefly about the times he'd tricked Scully into avoiding him 
on weekends, or while he was on vacation. Wild theories about cattle 
mutilations in Scotland, alien abductions occurring in London during the 
rush hour commute on crowded trains, or the best and surest way he'd ever 
found to keep Scully out of his business, that perennial favorite -- crop 
circles. Her disdain for the ridiculous nature of these supposed forays 
made her an easy target for misdirection. Tell her he was going to check 
out a theory on any one of them and he could go where he pleased, meet 
who pleased, and indulge his carnal desires as he pleased without having 
to make some lame ass excuse on Monday morning. Oh, she'd ask, but a 
simple "It didn't pan out," or "Turned out to be nothing," got a knowing 
smile and a condescending nod or head shake, depending on her mood. 
Or, more to the point, he thought wryly, whether she'd gotten any herself . 
He certainly couldn't have told her that two or three times a year he 
dressed up in silk tights and a velvet jerkin whenever he got an invitation 
to one of Aunt Muriel's theme parties. She'd have laughed until she 
choked, passed out and woke up laughing some more.

No, he mused, Scully would never have understood. So, could he really 
blame her for coming up with a bizarre explanation for what she assumed 
was his lifestyle? It was true he hadn't had much of a personal life given 
his obsessive quest for the truth in recent years, but that had only made the 
times he did cut loose that much more intense. 

"Listen, Tom," he finally said, easing the uncomfortable silence. "Scully 
was a wonderful woman, a crackerjack scientist, and obviously a skilled 
fiction writer. But I was never really isolated at home. Not in the way 
you're assuming. I chose to keep a part of my life separate from the prying 
eyes of others. Especially the parts where I..."

Mulder trailed off as he caught sight of a group of travelers joining the 
road to Hexham at the crossroad up ahead. Beside him, Tom relaxed back 
into his saddle, extremely relieved to have the conversation over, having 
learned more about Mulder's personal habits than he'd ever wanted, or 
needed to know. 

It was a fairly large party, Mulder observed. In fact, he estimated, it 
appeared to be made up of several smaller groups, judging by the 
dissimilarity in clothing and horses. A not uncommon circumstance when 
traveling roads considered dangerous. The larger the group the greater the 
safety it was hoped. And, he thought optimistically, the greater the 
opportunity for him and Tom to hide in plain sight.

"Ready?" Mulder murmured to Tom as they drew closer.

"No," Paris muttered. "But does it matter?"

"Just remember your cover story, and don't--"

"Embellish," Tom finished. "I got it the first time."

Mulder took a deep breath, carefully schooling his features into an 
unreadable mask. He let his instincts take over as his body language 
changed to suit the role he'd cast for himself.

"Well met, good stranger," a well-to-do merchant by the look of him 
called out as they approached. "God's blessing to ye both this joyful day."

"God's blessing to you and yours, and well met indeed," Mulder responded 
by rote, acutely aware of the stares they were drawing.

"Come ye hither from foreign parts?" the merchant asked, just as 
routinely, since that was rather obvious.

Thus began the verbal dance Mulder had expected. Information was a 
commodity and gossip a form of trade. And no better man to gossip to 
than a well respected merchant. He'd do half of Mulder's work for him

"As you say," he answered. "Do you also go to Hexham?"

The merchant nodded, introducing himself as Henry Longacre, seller of 
fine wines. His travel companions were variously introduced as men, 
women and a pair of clerics headed in the same general direction.

Mulder nodded to each of them as they were introduced, hiding a smile as 
one young woman dipped a curtsy. His careful choice of costume he was 
pleased to see, had been successful. Dark blue riding leathers with a 
smidgen of embroidery and a plain white shirt with just a hint of  finely 
worked, very expensive looking lace at the cuffs, showing a single, barely 
there matching ruff at the collar. It hinted at wealth and nobility, yet made 
it clear to everyone that he didn't wish to call attention to the fact. And 
almost everyone with that one exception politely ignored what they no 
doubt suspected. Tom, by choice and in comparison was less notable, 
wearing natural brown leathers with a fine, but common lace. And while 
they both wore earrings, important status symbols of the time, his was an 
obviously expensive pearl, while Tom "made do" with a simple gold bead.

"God's blessing to you all," he greeted them. "I am Fox William Mulder, 
and my kinsman is called Thomas Paris."

The statement drew little notice. Having already established themselves as 
foreigners, Mulder illustrated that by giving his full name. Few Britons 
had middle names in this period -- a European custom -- and while Fox, or 
Foxe, was a fairly common surname, it's use as a Christian name was 
unlikely to be questioned.

"Well met again, gentle folk," Longacre responded. "Do thou take your 
repast with us, then join us on the journey," he offered.

Mulder graciously accepted, dismounting then leading his horse to drink 
from a nearby trough. As he unsaddled the mare Tom fell in beside him, 
following his lead.

"That was easy," he murmured.

Mulder shot him a look and gave a tiny shake of his head, silently 
reminding the other man to stay in character. He surreptitiously glanced 
around the well set up way station that marked the cross road, relieved that 
the other travelers seemed more interested in their own comfort than in 
watching a pair of foreigners. After all, Tudor England was fairly 
cosmopolitan on the whole. Foreign travelers, along with their gold and 
silver money, were easily welcomed -- as long as their interests had 
nothing to do with national politics, or stirring up problematic religious 

Once the horses were watered, fed and given a quick rub down they made 
their way over to the trestle and benches that stood out in front of the tiny 
inn set between the two roads. Passing a small shrine, or chantry as it was 
called, Mulder paused, bowed once to the altar and crossed himself, 
making certain Tom did the same. It didn't hurt that the two clerics, who 
were just finishing their prayers, smiled kindly as they caught the gesture 
and the elder of the pair raised his hand in benediction giving them his 

Now, Mulder thought with a small sense of triumph as he and Tom took 
the open places left for them at the table, they would be viewed as 
wealthy, devout men of estate. The best of all possible reputations for pair 
of gentlemen needing to do business in a strange town. He only hoped the 
rest of the mission would be as easy. Somehow he doubted it. Convincing 
a handful of weary travelers was one thing, maintaining a convincing 
persona over several days was quite another.


The inn was small, but catered only to the nobility. An exclusivity Mulder 
was willing to risk paying for on the off chance the mattress wouldn't have 
any unwelcome visitors and the food would be relatively fresh -- or at 
least purchased the same day. The down side of staying in a place 
frequented by the titled and pedigreed, perfumed and powdered set meant 
that they were more likely to be noticed. And not just by the nobility, but 
by everyone. In fact, Mulder ceded with a sigh as he tipped the serving 
boy and shut the door, they'd actually had very little choice in the matter. 
Master Longacre had "suggested" that this was the only place in Hexham 
they should stay if they wanted to remain safe. A strong and genteel 
warning based on Mulder's clothes and bearing, to which he couldn't very 
well say no if he wanted to keep in character and avoid even more notice.

"Oh, this is nice," Tom's voice fairly dripped sarcasm as he lifted the 
candle higher. The small room was a jumble of shabby but serviceable 
furniture with a single large bed.

"Are there fleas? Ticks? Bed bugs?" Mulder asked wearily, loosening his 
collar. Tom eyeballed the bed carefully and shook his head. "Do you have 
salmonella poisoning?" Tom's mouth dropped open. "Then shut up and be 
grateful. The food's edible, the room's clean and we're not sleeping six to a 
bed with pistols in hand fending off rats of the two and four legged 

Tom backpedaled, holding up a hand in surrender. "Sorry. I just 

"More? Better?" Mulder asked and Tom shrugged. Mulder finally smiled. 
"Hate to burst your bubble, but even in my day the nobility threw nothing 
away unless it was completely ruined and couldn't be restored. Only the 
new rich would demand to be surrounded by absolute perfection. Old 
money is old because it wastes nothing and spends even less. Our 
innkeeper may  not be titled, but you can bet which side of the blanket his 
ancestry came out on. And I guarantee he knows it as well as the Queen 
knows her own."

"Point taken, Mulder."

"Fox," Mulder reminded him absently as he went over to the saddle bags 
and started to pull out some clothes for the morning, shaking out the 
wrinkles before putting them in the clothes press. "We're kinsmen for the 
duration, even in private, Thomas. Last names are inappropriately formal 
and one of us might slip. Now put this on," he added, tossing a lawn night 
shirt at his companion.

"I sleep in the nude," Tom grinned as he started to strip.

"Not here you don't," Mulder told him firmly, beginning to undress. 
"Anyone who can afford a bed robe wears one, and those who can't wear 
at least one layer of clothes. It is unseemly to be naked, even in the bath."

"But we're alone!" Tom complained.

"Are you sure?" Mulder responded. It was July and the nobility were 
traveling. Which meant the eyes and ears of the nobility were traveling as 
well. He waited while Tom thought about it then went back to dressing for 
bed. "Besides, what if something were to happen? I mean it, we can't 
afford to slip, Tom. Whatever feelings we have about what we're doing, no 
matter how silly or foolish we know we look, we've got to ignore all that. 
And not just for our sakes. People are depending on us."

When he finally looked up Tom was in the night shirt forlornly standing 
by the bed. Mulder smiled. His forte might not be undercover work, but 
Tom's heart was in the right place.

"Right or left?" Mulder asked as he went to the bed, which stood against 
the far wall opposite the fire place.

"I'll take the inside," Tom sighed, telling Mulder more about how he was 
feeling by that one choice than anything he might have said.

Mulder made no comment, merely squeezed his shoulder sympathetically 
and climbed in after not bothering with the step stool. It was obvious that 
what had started out as a simple adventure for Tom had become an 
uncomfortable reality. Mulder could certainly empathize with what he was 
feeling, easily recalling his first moments aboard Voyager. Changing 
everything he thought or believed to be true in the space of a few short 
hours had been terrifying. By taking the more protected inside Tom had 
subliminally placed his safety in Mulder's hands. A painful thing, Mulder 
knew, for a man whose trust had been repeatedly betrayed. Something he 
himself had never been able to manage, except with Scully. Mulder only 
hoped that he would be able to live up to Tom's expectations as protector 
and defender of the faithless.


Guild Master Fletcher had been most eager to do business with Mulder. 
He'd even offered to handle the details of hiring the drovers and arranging 
for the rental of the warehouse they would need. A proposition to which 
Mulder immediately assented. Payment terms agreed upon, Mulder and 
Tom shared a cup of wine with Master Fletcher to seal the bargain and 
finally departed. By tonight, the first of the carts from the nearest villages 
and farms would have delivered their contents to the warehouse and by 
dawn the edibles -- smoked and dried meats and fish from the nearby lake, 
an assortment of vegetables, roots and barley corn would be beamed into 
the hold of a shuttlecraft under cover of darkness and fog. At least, that 
was the plan. There was still plenty which could go wrong, but Mulder 
didn't want to think about that just yet. His cover story seemed to be 
working and that was what was most important.

"Where to now, Fox?" Tom asked as they walked out into the High Street.

A woman's voice suddenly rang out. "Heads up!" 

Both men quickly stepped out into the road, narrowly avoiding the 
contents of someone's chamber pot as it was tossed into the muck filled 
runnels of the street from above. And both men quickly reached into their 
shirt cuffs, pulling out identical finely tatted lace handkerchiefs to cover 
their noses from the general stench of the streets. Mulder heaved a sigh of 
relief as the exquisitely disguised breathing filter made it possible for him 
to inhale without retching. He'd smelled some pretty awful things in his 
time, but none of them compared to the open sewers of a medieval town. 
On second thought, he amended, that fluke man business in the New 
Jersey sewer system might be able to compete. Past, present or future, he 
thought sardonically, the shit definitely stinks.

"A walk and then to dine, Thomas," he finally answered. "Master Fletcher 
did suggest the Seven Nipples of the Martyrs was a fine tavern with fare 
fit for gentlemen."

"How can you even think of eating?" Paris asked, vaguely nauseated by 
the idea of food as he carefully stepped over another pile of horse manure. 
"And how can we walk anywhere in this pigsty?" A pair of rats scuttled 
past as they left the High Street, chased by an equally odious pair of street 

Mulder grimaced behind his filter as heads turned in their direction. 
"Lower your voice, Thomas." 

"Sorry, Mu-- Fox," Tom muttered.

"It's not about eating," he murmured as he casually linked arms with Tom 
and drew him along. "It's about custom. And when one is in the city one 
dines out and sups in. It's about seeing and being seen. Watching, listening 
and learning."

"That's not what we're here for," Tom insisted, a little shocked by Mulder's 

"Maybe not, but it's what we have to do, because that's how it's--" 
Mulder's face lost it's expressiveness as his words came to an abrupt halt. 
"Tom," he murmured, "don't look around, but we're being followed."

"Cut purse?" Paris asked quietly, carelessly resting one hand on his sword.

"Too well dressed. Might be a spy."

"Whose?" Tom whispered nervously.

"Does it matter?" Mulder responded, feigning a smile as if they were 
engaged in casual conversation. "Time to go shopping, Thomas," he added 
in a normal voice, leading the way into one of the shops along the street. 

It turned out to be a silk mercer's where Mulder made a point of  taking his 
time while examining different bolts of cloth, then making several 
purchases to be delivered to their lodgings. No doubt Captain Janeway 
would enjoy them, or perhaps the historians would like them. A few were 
clearly woven in patterns long since lost to the art. Leaving Tom to pay 
the bill, since a true gentleman never carried cash, he went outside. Sure 
enough the man whom he'd thought was following them had taken up a 
position at a food stall across the road.

More than a bit apprehensive, Mulder wondered what he might have done 
to draw the attention of a spy. They generally had better things to do than 
follow a couple of foreigners about even in...interesting times such as 
these. Or they might not have done anything, he realized. The man's 
employer could simply be curious about the new strangers in town. It 
didn't necessarily mean that someone was suspicious. And frankly, he 
couldn't really see why anyone should be. They were dressed 
appropriately -- he in fine silks and good velvet, Tom in plain, but well 
made woolens and cotton. Both were armed according to their supposed 
rank, though Mulder carried a pistol, or what appeared to be a pistol, in 
addition to his rapier. Which certainly begged the question of how high on 
the social scale he really was, but wouldn't really violate the sumptuary 
laws if he was what he appeared to be. No, they'd done everything they 
were supposed to do, except attend religious services -- a legal 
requirement, but only if you didn't go at least once a month. If they were 
still stuck here come the Sabbath, Mulder figured, he'd break down and do 
it, even if he did think it the ultimate hypocrisy to enforce church 
attendance through fines and floggings.

Having settled the bill Paris joined him and Mulder again led the way, this 
time following Master Fletcher's directions to the Seven Nipples.


"Well that's done," Mulder commented distractedly as they made their 
way arm in arm back to their inn.

Paris gave a relieved nod, glad the warehouse had checked out as being on 
the up and up. As Mulder had pointed out after lunch, it wouldn't have 
done to find that the place was being used as a gambling den or brothel by 
squatters. Or worse yet, that the place didn't actually exist. But it was 
exactly as Master Fletcher had promised. Clean, secure and now, more 
importantly to his mind, tagged with a transponder which would guide the 
shuttlecraft to its coordinates.

"We still have our tail though."

Mulder nodded. "Of course. But I don't think it's anything to worry about. 
And even if it is, there's nothing we can do. Unless we run into real trouble 
we have to wait here until the last of the food arrives."

"Don't even mention food," Paris groused and Mulder grinned. Dinner had 
been a collection of cold meats, dried fruit pottage, bread and ale. The best 
that could be said about the food at the Seven Nipples was that it was 
plentiful and spicy. Spicy enough to hide the fact that the meat was high.

"Better than field rations," Mulder joked.

"Yesterday I might have agreed."

"So would I," Mulder nodded. "Would it make you feel better to know that 
after supper we're going a-drinking, a-gambling and a-wenching?"

Tom grinned widely. "It might."

Mulder chuckled. "That's what I like about you, Thomas, you're so easy to 

As they rounded the corner into Market Street the noise of the crowd 
ahead caught their attention. Not a crowd, Mulder thought nervously as 
the noise resolved itself into angry shouts and screams, but a mob. And 
somewhere in the midst of it a woman was shrieking and pleading for 

"Keep moving," he ordered, tightening his arm in Tom's and pulling him 
forward, while silently praying they could get through before the horrors 

They passed a cart loaded with heavy stones and shared a pained glance, 
both wanting to intervene, but well aware of the consequences.

There was a hard thump of stone hitting wood followed by another 
dreadful shriek of agony as the crowd began to shout, "Confess! Confess! 

A pressing, Mulder realized, averting his eyes as the crowd shifted and he 
had a clear view of the heavy plank which had been laid over the poor 
woman and was slowly being loaded with stones. His stomach rolled and 
he fought the urge to vomit, fairly dragging Tom along as he forced his 
way through the mob. As they turned into the High Street, empty now that 
everyone was taking part in the afternoon's festivities, Mulder detoured 
into a shadow filled alley and brought up what was left of his dinner. 
Beside him, Tom did the same until the two men clung to each other 
panting and trembling with shock, too appalled and disgusted to move.

"I hate this place!" Tom gasped, his voice thick with unshed tears.

Mulder made a guttural sound as he pulled Tom close, rubbing the 
younger man's back. "It'll be okay. We'll get through this," he murmured, 
offering what little comfort he could. "It's not our fault. There was nothing 
we could do." 

A few minutes later he felt Tom's nod against his cheek. "I'm all right," 
Paris whispered as Mulder released his hold. "Let's just get the hell out of 

Mulder rubbed some color back into his cheeks then smoothed his hair and 
straightened his clothes, making sure Tom did the same. He took a 
moment to peer around the edge of the building, relieved to see they'd lost 
their tail. Probably enjoying the show, he thought, revolted by the notion, 
but hardly surprised. In any case, their anomalous reaction to a fairly 
common occurrence had gone unnoticed. Now all they had to do was 
survive until the food stores were secure aboard Voyager, then they could 
get the fuck out of this hell hole -- and not a moment too soon for either.


"That was surreal," Tom commented as they finished getting ready for 
bed. Supper had been a veritable feast followed by an evening filled with 
musicians, jugglers and acrobats. Since neither man had felt up to partying 
with the locals they'd stayed at the inn, hoping in vain for a quiet evening. 
"I still don't get it. What was the occasion?"

Mulder slid into his nightshirt and sighed disgustedly. "They're happy 
they're safe."

"Safe from wh--? Oh." Paris nodded with a grimace.

It had been all anyone could talk about for the rest of the day. A young 
wife had been found dead of no apparent cause. The young woman's 
mother had recalled her having harsh words with a neighbor who had a 
reputation for venality. Witchcraft was claimed, and since proof in this 
day and age was simply an overwhelming preponderance of suspicion the 
neighbor had been dragged from her home and pressed in order to extract 
a confession. Confession or not the woman had died and the locals were 
just as happy to be rid of the old harpy. 

"Don't think about it," Mulder told him as he threw himself into bed.

"I'm not. I'm just amazed we actually share DNA with these savages."

Mulder shrugged, moving to let Tom into bed. "Try not to judge them too 
harshly. They are what they are, as are we. Every society has its place in 
the evolution of mankind. To judge them is to judge ourselves. And no 
matter how we look at it history will always judge our failings more 
harshly than our successes. It's the nature of the beast."

Tom nodded thoughtfully as he settled himself in the mattress. "You're 
right, but that doesn't make it any easier."

Mulder grinned, reaching out to pinch the candle. "It's not meant to, 
Thomas. It just is."


The sound of the door cracking under the weight of someone's shoulder 
woke Mulder from a sound sleep. He felt Tom rising up beside him as he 
reached for his pistol on the bed stand and the door sudden slammed open. 
The room was dark, lit by torch light from outside and would have given 
him a clear shot, but Mulder carefully and cautiously removed his hand 
from the butt of the weapon as soon as he realized what was going on. 
Attempting to stun the half dozen soldiers in livery who quickly barreled 
in would have been suicide. This was not the modern era where one's 
neighbors stood by in times of crises wringing their hands waiting for the 
authorities to come save them. The landlord would be nearby with sword 
in hand along with any number of servants, patrons and bystanders.

Without a word they were pulled from their bed and hustled out of the inn 
to a waiting carriage, which actually relieved some of the tension Mulder 
was feeling. No one had read any charges against them -- a good thing -- 
and they were being treated decently. Though still in their nightshirts 
someone had tossed a blanket at them before a pair of soldiers climbed in, 
taking up a position on the seat opposite theirs. He was worried, but he 
didn't believe they were going to die -- at least not before they got where 
they were going.

More likely, Mulder thought as he shared a glance with Tom and gave a 
minute shake of his head to forestall any questions, they were being taken 
for questioning. And not, he guessed, because they'd broken any laws. 
But, thinking back on the presence of the spy, because someone with 
enough power not to be concerned with the niceties wanted more 

He glanced at the windows as the carriage pulled out of the courtyard, 
noting they'd been blacked out. A technique meant to unnerve one as it 
was quickly realized the destination was unknown. It lacked 
sophistication, but was effective nonetheless. Without their 
communicators which had been cleverly concealed within a pair of 
matching broaches, Voyager would not be able to locate and beam them 
out. Nor would they be able to call for help. Doubtless, their possessions 
would be brought along for inspection, but that didn't necessarily mean 
they'd gain access to them any time soon.

Mulder tried not to wince as the un-sprung wheels riding against the 
uneven cobblestones bounced and jolted the body of the carriage. He was 
still a bit sore from the hours spent riding to Hexham, but glad now that he 
had forbidden Tom to bring anything along but a tricorder -- and that was 
disguised to look like a prayer book. The one item other than the broaches 
-- designed to represent their affiliation to a fictitious noble household -- 
which would go unnoticed and unquestioned.

Surreptitiously, Mulder glanced at Tom to see how he was doing. The 
other man seemed to be holding up fairly well, though he did look a bit 
paler than usual. Although, to be truthful, it might have been a symptom of 
the meager light provided by the two small candle sconces set into the 
sides of the carriage. Unfortunately, there was no way to offer even a 
small modicum of comfort. No way to explain that their arrest and 
execution was neither imminent nor likely. No way to do anything but 
attempt to lead by example.

With that in mind, Mulder grabbed the blanket, though the night was fairly 
balmy, covered their bare legs and leaned back in his seat. Wrapping his 
arms about his chest, he affected a calm, relaxed demeanor, hoping Tom 
would take the hint. As for the guards, what they thought would be 
reported to their master in due time. For now though, Mulder didn't give a 
damn. He'd been in far too many strange vehicles in desperate situations to 
be worried about where he might be going or with whom.

And besides, there wasn't much he could do. Unarmed and virtually naked 
they were not merely at a disadvantage, but completely vulnerable. Which 
was, Mulder belatedly realized with a vague, unsettling jolt, entirely the 


The length and monotony of the long ride in silence had an enervating 
effect on Mulder and Tom. Both of whom were caught yawning as the 
carriage turned from the rutted road of whatever highway they'd been 
traveling and onto the wooden drawbridge that defined a moat. If it hadn't 
been the sound of the horses' hooves and wheels thumping against the 
smooth wood that let them know they'd arrived, it certainly would have 
been the fetid stink of the water filled channel surrounding the walls.

Which castle was of course the question. There were dozens in the general 
vicinity of Hexham and as the carriage doors opened and the light of the 
newly broken dawn startled their eyes, Mulder experienced a flash of 
recognition. There were few castles more famous than this one, and he had 
a good look at it's famed tower, notable for it's most renowned "guest" and 
a legendary association with Camelot, before being bundled through a side 

Up a steep flight of stairs then down a long a series of dark corridors and 
finally into a brightly lit, beautifully appointed suite of rooms they were 
led. Mulder had little time to think, but one fact was clear in his mind. 
This was the last place in England he ever wanted to be. Carlisle Castle, 
which in his own time had still been an active military installation was, in 
this time, one of the most secure and well defended forts in the country. 
And, given the fact that Mary Queen of Scots, the aforementioned guest, 
would eventually be held prisoner here, historically speaking, a bitch of a 
place from which to attempt an escape. More to the point, he realized, 
whoever had "requested" their presence, and he had a fairly good idea of 
who that might be given this particular location, certainly had to have a 
great deal of authority to have free use of one of the most significant seats 
of power in all of England. 

A handful of men and one queen would have fit that profile. The current 
Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, who had inherited Carlisle and 
commanded the Queen's army was his best guess as to who was behind 
their seizure. A powerful man, but not a particularly dangerous one unless 
he wanted to enlist their aid in one of his attempts to unseat Elizabeth. Or, 
maybe the duke thought they were part of a plot and wanted to enlist his 
own aid. 

Mulder would have laughed at the thought had their situation not been so 
precarious. In any case, it was nothing to lose his head over, even if 
Norfolk would eventually lose his own. Most nobles had better things to 
do than kill obscure foreigners over simple misunderstandings. Playing 
dumb as to Norfolk's sympathies and suspicions would more than likely 
get them released. And quickly too if the duke were cautious, especially 
once he realized he had nothing to gain from his prisoners.

Bearing that in mind Mulder stood tall and confident, giving Tom a 
reassuring nod, despite the fact that they both looked ridiculous. The other 
man seemed to marginally relax at the gesture, but his tension was 
obvious. Probably a good thing, in that it was an appropriate way to react 
when having been dragged from one's bed in the middle of the night and 
brought 'round to the castle for a bit of interrogation.

Mulder's confidence did not last long as he heard a door open and close 
then turned to give his most courtly bow. In that one moment time seemed 
to contract with dreadful inertia as their host entered, dressed in a fur 
trimmed bed robe, but wearing his chain of office. Recognizing it, every 
expectation Mulder had culled from his memories fled in the face of his 
dismay and alarm. 

Shakily, he completed the bow, noting almost as an abstract that Tom had 
done the same. With a simple gesture the guards were dismissed as 
Mulder felt his hopes for a quick release fading like the tide going out to 
sea. This was not just one of the most powerful men in England, this was 
Walsingham. Sir Francis Walsingham. Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of 
State. The power behind the throne --  more powerful, more deadly, and 
more dangerous than any one man had ever had a right to be.

What the hell is he doing here? Mulder wondered, taken aback by his 
unexpected presence.

"Well met and welcome, gentlemen," Walsingham's soft, cultured baritone 
filled the room as he took a seat at a small table laden with food. "Be 
seated," he told them, waving negligently toward a pair of chairs abreast 
of the dining table. "See to your own comfort."

Mulder moved forward, not daring to look at Tom, and no less unsettled 
for the seeming decency with which they were being treated. One mistake, 
one thoughtless remark or perceived insult and they could both disappear 
into the dungeons below sans communicators and Janeway would never 
find them.

On each seat a bed robe had been placed, ready and waiting. Not wanting 
to appear rude, Mulder quickly availed himself of the covering, seeing that 
Tom did the same and took the seat closest to Walsingham. He wasn't 
hungry and he doubted that Tom had much of an appetite, but he helped 
himself to a plateful of breakfast, pouring ale for both of them without 

"Be that the custom of your country," Walsingham asked sharply, "that the 
elder and the lord should serve at table?"

Mulder looked obviously startled. "No, my Lord Secretary, it is not," he 
replied then smoothly lied, "but I have been pouring for my kinsman since 
before we were out of skirts and it has become a custom in private. Your 
pardon my lord, if we have offended thee."
Walsingham nodded and a smile lit the normally dour visage, taking 
advantage of the obvious opening. "Speak plainly of thy country, gentle 
sir, and how come ye to England and to what purpose."

Between bites of peeled peaches and sips of ale, Mulder told him the cover 
story he'd laid out in advance. Doubtless the man already knew it, but that 
wasn't the point of asking. How Mulder told it would determine whether 
or not Walsingham believed it.

"My Grandsire, a most honorable and devout gentleman, a Knight of the 
Pope, was commissioned from England to the country of the Swedes near 
sixty years ago. Taking his wife and having never been recalled home, 
they bore a daughter, my lady mother, who married well amongst the 
Swedes, a lord who became enamored of her beauty and grace. There 
issued, to the surprise of my lady mother, since the lord was a man of 
some years past his prime, three children. Having been raised to the 
knowledge that England was the home of my heritage, I made it my 
business some years ago to attend University at Oxford. I am returned to 
look into the matter of some small properties presently in dispute which 
should by right and truth belong to my sister."

"This then explains your name," Walsingham commented.

Mulder nodded, hiding the utter and complete relief that flooded through 
him as it became absolutely clear that not only had Walsingham bought 
the story, but that at the moment it looked like he wasn't planning to 
murder them. He might later, but not right now. "Indeed, Foxe is my lady 
mother's surname. My good father, who forbade her nothing, graciously 
assented to her wish to name one child for herself." 

This was actually pretty close to the truth, although Mulder would always 
wish that Teena Mulder had thought to use it as a middle name. It 
certainly would have saved him the trouble of having to beat the shit out 
of a few dozen kids on his way to manhood.

Walsingham paused to eat more and Mulder dared a glance at Tom. He 
needn't have worried, he realized. The other man hadn't a clue as to who 
Walsingham was, or that they were being gently, but thoroughly 

He returned his gaze to Walsingham to find the man carefully examining 
them and Mulder forced himself not to react. Whatever the man's 
proclivities, and in this place in time it could be either or both, he had the 
power to demand whatever or whoever he wanted. More importantly, he 
would consider it his right to take it whether it was freely given or not.

The moment passed as Walsingham seemed to come to a decision. He 
pushed aside his plate and leaned back in his chair, contentedly digesting 
his breakfast.

"Oxford ye said?"

"Yes, my lord," Mulder nodded, ready for the next round of questions. 

"Then ye be a Papist?" 

Oxford was a Roman Catholic stronghold, and in these uncertain times 
association with the town or the school could be dangerous. Walsingham 
was a zealot, but for the Protestant Reformation.

Mulder took a deep breath and forged ahead. "I have read and agree with 
the tenets of Martin Luther," he stated, which was in fact no more than the 
truth. He honestly didn't think one could buy a Plenary Indulgence and 
escape the weight of one's sins. Or that the selling of Indulgences by the 
Roman Catholic church was anything more than a way to line the church's 
pockets. That he also didn't believe in organized religion as a necessary 
means to salvation wasn't something he wanted to share. Not unless he 
wanted to end up roasting slowly in the middle of the town square. "And I 
predict," he added with just a hint of zealotry in his tone. "That the reign 
of her most noble and devout Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, will one day be 
heralded as the Golden Age of England."

Tom's snort of laughter was hidden in a cough, and Mulder turned 
solicitously to pat his back while glaring furiously. So it was a corny thing 
to say! It was still the truth! And the closer he stuck to that the better off 
they'd both be.

"Sorry," Tom muttered, gesturing with his cup. "Went down the wrong 

"And ye maintain similar sentiments?" Walsingham asked, obviously 
directing the question to Tom.

"In all matters," Tom answered cordially. "My kinsman and I are in 

The Lord Secretary gave a small nod of acknowledgement, thus 
discounting Paris as any threat whatsoever. Mulder felt another surge of 
relief pass through him. One last hurdle, the question of their purchases in 
Hexham, and they'd be done. He silently repeated the tale he would tell of 
meeting a fellow traveler from an obscure village suffering a famine. A 
man who, sick with fever, had subsequently died, but not before extracting 
a promise from them to fulfill his mission to buy food against the coming 
winter for his village. It was simple, plausible, and all too common to be 

And it wasn't going to be, Mulder realized as soon as Walsingham posed 
his next question.

"There be talk of thee in the halls and houses where thou has passed."

Mulder froze in abject terror. Talk? What kind of talk? People always 
talked, but the wrong kind of talking could get them killed! What could 
Walsingham possibly have heard that would have prompted him to abduct 
them based on innuendo and rumor? His mind raced forward trying to 
recall everything he'd ever read about Walsingham in college. It wasn't 
much. Contemporary writers who might have speculated on Walsingham's 
motives and modus operandi tended to disappear from history, even after 
the Secretary's death.

He swallowed hard and wet his lips, hoping Walsingham wouldn't notice 
the quaver in his voice as he spoke. "Talk, my lord?"

"Yes. Talk."

Mulder sensed the irritation in the man's tone. As if Walsingham expected 
him to know very well what everyone was talking about. And if he were a 
native he probably would. Again, he racked his brain trying to come up 
with something they might have done inadvertently, but came up blank. 
As far as he could determine they'd done nothing. Nothing which could 
possibly be construed as treason, which was the only thing, Mulder 
assumed, that might draw such a powerful man's direction attention. 
Denying it, whatever IT was, might get them both killed out of pique. 
Admitting it, if it was something illegal or dangerous would definitely get 
them killed. Either way they were screwed. Their only hope, he realized, 
was to try to get the man to give him some clue as to what crime they'd 
committed, or were perceived to have committed, to bring about 
Walsingham's ire.

"What kind of talk, my lord?" 

Mulder visibly winced at the flash of exasperation in Walsingham's eyes.

"To bed with ye," the man suddenly ordered, waving to a servant who 
scuttled forward. 

"My lord?" Mulder asked, completely confused.

"To bed! At once!"

Mulder rose hurriedly at the servant's tugging, bowing to Walsingham and 
mumbling a flustered "Good night." Tom followed suit, even more 
bewildered than Mulder and obviously desperate to ask the other man just 
what the hell was going on.

As the pair were led away Walsingham smiled, then burst out laughing. 
They were funny young men. Very funny, thinking to play coy with him 
when they knew what he wanted. What everyone who was anyone wanted. 
He called to a servant to bring him their things, spending a good deal of 
time fingering the rich blue velvet cloth of a waistcoat, the stiff white lace 
of  a collar and the fine seams of a pair of silk hose. He examined the tiny, 
uniform stitching and the perfect tracery of the embroidery. He hadn't 
meant to frighten them. Or perhaps he had, not really caring which. They 
had a secret he wanted to know. A secret they obviously didn't wish to part 
with. Well, he would give them a little time to think about it, then he 
would send for them again. 

And if they still wouldn't speak? Walsingham grunted and tossed the 
jerkin back onto the pile. He couldn't kill them -- at least not until they 
talked. And they were far too pretty, sweet smelling and fair of form to put 
them to the question. Yet, he would have what he wanted. They were 
simply being childish. And while that was amusing for the moment, he did 
not see them fighting him in this when they were clearly intimidated by 
his rank and position. After all, no man was fool enough to die for the 
name of his tailor, was he?


The door closed and locked behind them and Mulder, trying not to panic, 
headed for one of the narrow windows. They'd been walked from the body 
of the castle over to the tower, where the rooms were more secure and 
escape nearly impossible. He looked out into the morning sunshine, 
ignoring the sumptuousness of the apartment, listening as Tom moved 
around, until the younger man was finally standing at his shoulder. 

"Do you want to explain this, Mulder?"

"What's to explain? Walsingham is the most powerful man in England -- 
and a borderline psychopath without the delusions of grandeur. He doesn't 
need them. He's already pretty grand, don't you think?"

Tom shook his head. "I mean, what does he want with us?"

"Wasn't it obvious? I haven't a clue." Mulder shrugged away from the 
window and the suffocating presence of his friend.

He headed for the bedroom, Paris' eyes tracking him across the suite. This 
wasn't like Mulder, Tom thought, the gnawing anxiety in his gut birthing a 
knot in his throat. He swallowed hard and it migrated to his chest leaving 
him free to speak as he followed after, again.

Mulder had climbed into the high bed and lay on his back, staring blindly 
at the ceiling above. Whatever he'd planned to say caught in Tom's throat 
as he suddenly realized that for the first time since he'd met the man 
Mulder was truly frightened. No, not simply frightened, but terrified 
beyond words.

Paris took a seat beside him, wondering inanely why anyone would build a 
bed four feet off the floor. "Okay, Mulder, you're not doing this. You're 
going to tell me who this Walsingham is, what you know about him, and 
why he makes you want to shit yourself. Then we're going to hash this out 
together, find a way to get our communicators back and get the hell out of 

After a moment, Mulder closed his eyes and nodded. "All right. Maybe 
I'm just too close to the history in my mind." 

He sighed once, finally opening his eyes. "There isn't much to tell about 
Walsingham per se. He's Elizabeth's Secretary of State, meaning he keeps 
the country safe through spies, assassins, torture and dis-information. Kind 
of like the J. Edgar Hoover of his century, except in J. Edgar's case 
information about the man started leaking out about forty years after he 
died. It never came out about Walsingham. And if it did, even in personal 
journals found centuries later, the Monarchy was likely to have suppressed 
it. He was, after all, the one most responsible for keeping England an 
independent power and out of Spanish, French and Papist hands. 
Walsingham is an expert in terror and intimidation. No one wants to talk 
about him, write about him, or even, for that matter, think about him. And 
no ever wanted to play him as a character as far as I can recall. He was just 
too unsavory a personality."

"Okay," Tom nodded. "So he's bad news. But he seems to be treating us 
fairly well," he waved a hand at the room's furnishings. "Doesn't that 
count for something?"

"It might. I just don't know what's considered the fashionable thing to do 
when keeping someone close. We may have partied like it was 1599, but 
we never went around kidnapping each other."

"Close?" Tom asked, focusing on the one expression he'd never heard.

"That's what they call it when someone powerful takes a prisoner who isn't 
being openly accused of anything -- yet. It's what they did to Mary, Queen 
of Scots. In fact, right in this very tower, and maybe in a few years, in this 
very room. In her case they kept her close enough to watch, while 
gathering evidence against her. Took about twenty years, but eventually 
Walsingham got her executed on something more than trumped up 
charges. He won't need that with us. He can manufacture any evidence he 
likes, or not. We're nobodies -- less than nobodies -- we're foreigners."

 "So we're nobodies. But not to Captain Janeway."

"We don't have our communicators, remember?"

Tom smiled. "They're not just communicators, Mulder. They're also 
tracking devices.  I know we agreed to maintain communications silence, 
but if we're not at the beam out location on time she'll send in the cavalry. 
Don't worry, she'll find us."

Mulder nodded absently. "I hope so."

"I know so. Anyway, let's not buy trouble by worrying about it now."

Mulder snorted. "We'd better worry about it, because I don't know what 
Walsingham wants, and apparently he thinks I should. If I don't give it to 
him and soon..."

Tom chewed a lip thoughtfully. "He said people were talking, right?" 
Mulder nodded. "Well, how about we ask one of  the servants what 
everyone's saying. They hear everything, don't they?"

Mulder sat up on his elbows and stared at Tom for a long moment. Could 
it be just that simple? He smiled, then laughed a little breathlessly, 
flopping back on the bed as his muscles finally began to relax. "Yeah, we 
could do that. Or better yet," he amended, "you could. As the poor relation 
you're considered closer in status to the servants. They're more likely to 
give you honest answers -- not the ass kissing, ego stroking, suck up shit 
they tell the nobility."

"You have such faith in your fellow man," Tom grinned.

Mulder only shrugged. "Come on, we'd better get some rest before we're 
sent for again."

Tom glanced up as they both began to remove the robes Walsingham had 
provided. "Did he really order us to go back to bed?"

Mulder nodded as he tossed his robe onto the floor. "Yup. Just be grateful 
he didn't order us to do it in HIS bed."

Tom looked dumbfounded. "He can do that?"

"He can. And we'd be obliged to obey -- and consider it his right." Tom 
grimaced and Mulder nodded sadly. He only hoped it wouldn't come to 
that, despite how Walsingham had looked them over. Still, he'd played 
that game with powerful men before and come out unscathed. He could 
play it again, even if the deck was stacked in Walsingham's favor. And 
this time his opponent wouldn't have Romulan strength or Vulcan 
telepathy on his side. 

No, Mulder thought sardonically as he settled in for a nap, nothing that 
dangerous. Just a couple of  racks, some hot pincers, a rusty set of thumb 
screws and his very own handy dandy torture chamber ready and waiting 
to persuade the recalcitrant.


"That was...uncomfortable," Tom commented as half a dozen servants 
finally filed out.

Mulder frowned as he plucked at the lightly padded boned stays beneath 
the velvet and silk of his clothes. "I hate doublets," he muttered, wincing 
as he tried to move in the too confining garment. "They pinch."

"And they're really short," Paris added, looking dubiously down at his own 
hose covered legs.

"All the better to admire the view," Mulder wryly pointed out.

Walsingham had been nothing if not thorough in seeing to their comfort. 
Servants to bathe, powder, perfume and dress his latest acquisitions, along 
with clothes and jewels to match their rank. Nothing like the conservative 
shades Mulder had chosen, but colorful reds, yellows, greens and blues.

"Did you find out anything?" Mulder asked, still trying to get the feel of 
the clothes.  

Tom grinned and nodded. "They're talking about our wardrobe." Mulder 
did a double take as Paris continued. "Apparently, everyone thinks we've 
got some kind of super seamstress locked away at home."

Mulder opened and closed his mouth not quite knowing how to react to 
this information. He glanced down at his clothes, this time the real deal 
and not the replicated stuff they'd brought from Voyager. It took him a 
moment of mental comparison shopping to figure it out. "Do you mean to 
tell me that all he wants to know is why my blues stay blue and my whites 
stay white?"

Tom nodded. "That's about the size of it."

It's always the little things, Mulder silently bemoaned. Of course they'd 
been noticed! The damned computer had replicated images from paintings, 
not actual dyed fabrics. What could be done on canvas, the brilliant jewel 
tones and the crisp bleached whites, could not be reproduced in actual 
practice. Artists could take liberties, whereas the average nobleman had to 
be satisfied with the bluff hues and uneven pigment of the current process. 
Only royalty could expect perfection in everything they wore, and even 
then the state of the art could not reproduce that kind of intensity of 

Mulder sighed. "Okay, we'll tell him my mother's ladies make the clothes 
and we have no idea how they do what they do, nor do we care."

"Won't he go looking for your imaginary mother and her ladies?"

"Not unless he wants to learn how to be a ladies maid. They learn by 
doing here. He'd have to become an apprentice to the trade. And besides, 
Walsingham knows very well that noble ladies do not give out that kind of 
information, even under torture. Fashion is everything here. Kingdoms 
have risen and fallen over whether or not ladies could buy enough pins at 
the market. Ever hear the term pin money?"

Tom shook his head, grinning ruefully. "These people really need to get a 

"They have hobbies," Mulder pointed out. "Intrigue, war, pillaging and 
plundering. You know, financing their ostentatious wardrobes."

"That's a bit harsh," Tom responded, watching Mulder sort through some 
items left behind by the servants.

"But true," he answered, pulling out a couple of painted fans. "Hey, this is 
a Holbein landscape, cool." He handed it off to Tom, taking a less 
feminine hunting scene for himself. Men played at being homosexual here 
-- and if he were going to have to play too he was definitely going to make 
sure everyone knew he topped.

Now, powdered and bejeweled within an inch of his life, looking lovelier 
than he'd ever looked and hoping never to look that lovely again, Mulder 
linked arms with Tom and minced his way to the door.

"Shoes pinch, too?"

Mulder punched Tom in the side. "Shut the fuck up and let's just get this 
over with."

"Whatever you say, m'lady."

"Mind your manners, Thomas. Remember, I can afford to have an artist 
paint you in that outfit and put it up in the mess hall."

"You wouldn't," Tom insisted nervously as they exited the room and 
signaled a waiting servant to lead them to the dining hall.

"Count on it," Mulder whispered, trying not to blush as a passing 
nobleman winked and nodded.


Supper had been a very informative affair. When people weren't trying not 
to stare at them, they were happily discussing the new treaty with Scotland 
-- signed only a week earlier -- and the fortuitous death of the real power 
behind the Scottish throne, Mary de Guise, Queen Mary of Scotland's 
mother. She'd suddenly expired the previous month -- of poison, so it was 
said. This last was mentioned in hushed, but delighted tones and with 
discreet glances in Walsingham's direction. 

Walsingham's eyes, on the other hand, never strayed far from Mulder and 
Tom, who'd been seated nearby at a cross trestle below the high table. 
From time to time Mulder wondered with no small amount of amusement 
if the Secretary, who'd looked incredibly pissed after he'd finally gotten 
his answer, was now trying to figure out how to convince the Queen to 
invade Sweden.

The Treaty of Edinburgh, a rather significant one for English history, 
explained not only Walsingham's presence in the general vicinity of 
Hexham, which was on the direct route back to London, but also the who's 
who of the nobility that filled the hall. The only personage not present was 
Elizabeth, and Mulder assumed that for security's sake she'd either 
remained in London, or taken another route home. A pity, he mused, 
because she was the only historical figure associated with this mess that 
he'd have been interested in meeting. Another spunky little redhead at the 
beginning of a brilliant career.

As supper finally came to an end and the tables were cleared and pushed 
back to accommodate the dancing and other pastimes which would now 
take place, Mulder and Tom found themselves at a loss for what to do 
next. It didn't last long as Walsingham approached and Tom hurriedly 
excused himself to join a few of the lesser lords at dicing. Leave it to Tom, 
Mulder thought wryly, to have studied the one thing which could make 
him money.

"Ye look not happy," Walsingham commented as he stood a little too 
closely for Mulder's liking.

Carefully, Mulder clasped his hands behind his back. "My kinsman has 
gone to game -- and with my money."

Walsingham's shoulders shook with mirth. "Then let us pray he wins."

Mulder took a moment to smile and nod at a pair of very pretty ladies 
taking a turn around the hall. When he looked back, Walsingham's eyes 
had narrowed.

"Ye spoke of some properties rightfully vested to thy sister. It would 
please me to search out the matter, if ye wish."

Typical first move, Mulder thought. A favor for his favor. No doubt 
Walsingham would get him those titles if he had to kill everyone living 
there to possess them.

"My grateful thanks, most noble lord, but a matter so insignificant to one 
such as yourself would be a burden I should be ashamed to have thee 
discharge. Though," he added blunting the obvious rejection he'd just 
given the man with a moderate amount of hope, "there is a small favor I 
would ask." Walsingham merely nodded and Mulder went on. "Amongst 
our things at the inn were a pair of broaches, the insignia of our house, and 
a small prayer book belonging to my kinsman --gifts from my lady 
mother. If it be possible, I should like to have those returned. They are a 
comfort to us in this strange and distant land."

Walsingham's expression brightened. "A simple kindness, easily 
concluded." He gestured to a servant, gave the man a terse order and in a 
brief while, no more than a quarter of an hour at most, the items were 
produced and placed in the Secretary's hands.

"Such finely crafted work," Walsingham commented as he examined the 
pieces. "But you would not know the jeweler."

"No, my lord, but I shall, on thy behalf, write my lady mother, telling her 
of your great hearted generosity to myself and my kinsman. Most 
assuredly she will in gratitude and kindliness provide that name." He'd 
have promised the son of a bitch France and Spain on matching silver 
platters if he'd only hand the damn things over!

A moment later he had them, tucking one in his cuff and immediately 
pinning on the other. He looked up to find Walsingham perusing the 
prayer book, a common text written in German with prayers for every 
occasion -- with a wafer thin tricorder hidden in the back cover. Mulder 
wasn't too concerned at Walsingham's interest in this particular item, nor 
was he worried that the man might stumble across the modern technology. 
Even he'd had trouble finding the key to opening it when B'Elanna had 
given it to Tom.

"A goodly volume," Walsingham opined, finally handing it to Mulder. 
"Have ye a favorite?"

Mulder was about to respond when a shocking scream suddenly 
reverberated through the hall. He turned without thinking, racing down a 
corridor which led deeper into the castle. Behind him, at least a dozen 
booted feet kept pace and when he paused to get his bearings, having lost 
the last echo, a second chorus of screams heralded the way. Blindly, he 
searched for his weapon, cursing as he felt only the hilt of a personal 
dagger. He rounded a corner and gently forced his way through a knot of 
weeping women standing in the open door.

The scene before him was not unlike a thousand others he'd witnessed in 
his life time. A woman, better dressed than most, lay sprawled across the 
floor -- eyes wide and staring, an expression of uncomprehending horror 
etched across her face. Moving slowly into the room, he quickly took in 
his surroundings then ignored them for the more interesting manifestation 
surrounding the woman. Dropping to one knee, Mulder touched a finger to 
the white grainy substance and tasted it, already knowing what he would 


He heard several gasps and murmurs of "witchcraft" from behind and 
craned his neck to watch as a number of onlookers quickly crossed 
themselves and moved away from the door. At least, Mulder thought with 
perverse satisfaction, he wouldn't need to explain a protective circle to a 
bunch of hardened skeptics. These people knew sorcery when they saw it.

In the meantime, their retreat allowed several others to enter. Among them 
he recognized both Walsingham and the Duke of Norfolk, who had a 
proprietary interest of course -- and they were all staring at him. He looked 
away, their expressions telling him more than he wanted to know. He'd 
clearly overstepped his bounds. Then he lost that train of thought as 
something more important caught his attention. 

Careful to disturb nothing, Mulder reached across the dead woman, 
plucking a piece of parchment from beneath the edge of her skirt. His 
brow creased tightly in concentration as he slowly read the invocation.

"It isn't witchcraft," he stated as he rose and turned to face his accusers. He 
held up the parchment. "She was attempting, unsuccessfully I might add, 
to summon Lillith."

The faces now reflected fear, rather than anger. It was obvious they knew 
and understood the particular creation myth which claimed that a woman, 
equal in all things to Adam, had been created before Eve. That Lillith had 
refused to submit to her husband's rightful authority, called up the 
unutterable name of God, thereby invoking the wrath of the Lord, who 
then cast her out of Eden and into the desert, condemned to henceforth be 
and breed only demons. She was, of course, a favorite among women 
seeking revenge against men.

There was yet more crossing and a smattering of prayers, then Norfolk, a 
loyal and devout Roman Catholic, spoke up. "How know ye it was 
unsuccessful? The woman is killed. Be it not likely the demon queen didst 
take her soul as payment?"

Mulder smiled grimly. "Not with these instructions, my lord. If she called 
up anything," he added wrinkling his nose in distaste as he sniffed the air, 
"it was a headache from the vast amounts of incense she burned."

"An' ye have this knowledge by what means?" Walsingham interjected.

"I studied Metaphysics at Oxford," Mulder responded. Not quite the truth, 
but close enough. "This incantation is incomplete, my lords. It lacks 
certain necessary ingredients widely known to facilitate the summoner's 
desires." This also wasn't quite the truth, but Mulder had just noticed 
something else next to the corpse. As he made a wide circle around the 
body he went on, distracted by his thoughts, but determined to voice his 

"The lady was no witch," he told them. "Or at the least, not a very good 
one by the look of it. I would hazard that she dabbled." Mulder suddenly 
stooped down to examine a small blade. Gingerly picking it up by the hilt 
he looked around for a better source of light than the candles around the 

"Thomas," he called, spotting the one person who might be really helpful. 
"Bring a torch."

Paris edged his way out of the room, nervously glancing at Walsingham 
and the others. They looked uncertain and deeply disturbed by the 
unfolding events, but not as if they were about to have Mulder arrested. In 
fact, they seemed to be fascinated by what he was saying. And his manner 
was so authoritative on the subject, so downright practiced and proficient 
at handling this unknowable abomination, that they let him continue even 
as Tom returned with more light.

"What do you think?" Mulder asked, standing and pointing to a dark stain 
on the blade.

Paris reached out, feeling the texture of the stuff, then sniffed lightly at his 
fingers. "Blood," he answered firmly.

There were more gasps, more muttered prayers and the sound of several 
persons fleeing the area as they suddenly decided they wanted to be 

Mulder turned back to the body, ignoring his audience, lifting one lifeless 
palm and then the other until he found the small cut he was looking for.

"This is  wrong," Mulder murmured. "She--"

"Enough!" Norfolk shouted angrily, interrupting Mulder and startling the 
handful of onlookers who'd found the courage to remain. "Witchcraft or 
no, she burns on the morrow. Guards!"

"Let him speak," a woman's voice quietly ordered, soft and calm, yet with 
enough authority to silence the duke.

Mulder slowly turned to look at the woman. No, not just a woman, he 
realized, quickly genuflecting. Even in bedclothes and with her flowing 
red hair plaited girlishly down her back, this was a Queen.

"But Your Majesty," Norfolk insisted. "The maid's crime be obvious! 
What need then for such ramblings?"

Elizabeth didn't have to answer, but she did. "Because, Norfolk, I am 
interested." She waved a small hand in Mulder's direction and smiled 
gently. "Continue."

"You've got a fan," Paris murmured, impressed.

Wisely, Mulder ignored him. "I was about  to say, Your Majesty, my 
lords, that in such invocations as this the summoner, if a woman, is 
required to burn a small amount of..." Mulder blushed, glad now that the 
light was dim, "blood of the menses. Her own. But she didn't. She cut her 
finger instead, as if she..." Mulder suddenly stared at Tom. "As if she 
couldn't produce any."

He looked back at the Queen, whose mouth had compressed into a thin 
line of anger. Mulder was about to apologize for what he'd implied when 
she suddenly asked him, "What manner of hex did she seek?"

Mulder felt surprise as Elizabeth cut right to the heart of the matter. 
"Vengeance, Great Lady. For betrayal by a lover."

The Queen nodded once and Mulder found the courage to speak. "With 
your permission, Majesty, I would need to interview your ladies in order 

"There is no need," she interrupted, and Mulder detected a hint of 
embarrassment. "We all, except for Catherine here, were confined this 

Well that settles it, Mulder thought. For some reason he knew, probably 
hormonal, women who spent inordinate amounts of time together tended 
to menstruate on or close to the same date. If Catherine wasn't 
menstruating, and her friends had noticed, she was probably pregnant. 
Like Karen Holman. And maybe the young woman in Hexham? And if 
Catherine hadn't been able to summon up the Lillith egregore, and he 
didn't believe she could have, then what had killed the woman?

"Think ye now there was a demon?" Elizabeth asked, gently leading 
Mulder forward, almost as if she'd read his mind.

He stared at her and nodded. "But not of her calling," he murmured, 
suddenly shifting his eyes toward Tom as the other man hissed in 
understanding. "Something is loose here. Something..." he sighed, "not of 
this planet."


Mulder leaned against the door of their rooms breathing deeply as he tried 
to still his trembling limbs. Elizabeth had insisted on speaking privately 
with him, sending Tom and the rest away. He hadn't had separation 
anxiety this bad since Scully had disappeared. But then, he could imagine 
the list of nightmares which might befall a man, alone and unprotected in 
this society. The Queen's interest in him did not necessarily translate to 
Tom. And he had no illusions about how much or how little she would 
care if anything happened to either of them. A favored pet stood a better 
chance of being mourned.

"You're back," Tom said as he came out of the bedroom, looking as 
relieved as Mulder felt. "What did she want?"

Mulder pushed away from the door, unlacing his collar as he made his 
way to a chair. "The usual. Who, what, where, how."

"What'd you tell her?"

"The truth."


Mulder grimaced. "Not all of it. I'm not entirely stupid. Just the basics in a 
way she could comprehend."

"Which are?"

"Other than a little background song and dance, that we first saw signs of 
the entity onboard our ship at sea, then at Hexham and now here. Once is 
not enough, twice is a coincidence -- and we didn't get a chance to 
examine the body as you recall -- but three times is definitely a pattern."

Tom nodded and joined Mulder in another chair by the large empty hearth. 
"I contacted Voyager," he stated abruptly. "Had the captain send a shuttle 
to beam both bodies out to have the doc do an autopsy." Mulder nodded, 
leaning forward with interest. "It's definitely a pattern. All three women 
were in the first trimester of pregnancy. All three died of massive heart 
failure. And all three bodies showed traces of anomalous neutrinos, similar 
to the ones we encountered in the wormhole."

Mulder chewed a lip thoughtfully, hardly surprised. "The question is, why 
does it attack only pregnant women?"

"Body chemistry?" Tom suggested. "Hormonal changes could attract the 

That received a half hearted nod from Mulder. "Assuming, of course, that 
the entity isn't self-aware and is merely feeding. The by-product of which 
is the death of the woman."

"You think it knows what it's doing?" Tom asked skeptically. "Look, 
Mulder, I know this is going to sound condescending, but not every space 
creature that kills is inherently evil."

"I never said it was evil. Just that it might have a sense of self. Might have 
an agenda specific to its nature."

"Which is?"

"I don't know," Mulder admitted. "If this thing were a human serial killer 
I'd say the fact that the women were pregnant was pretty significant. That 
may be the case, but pregnant women are no more easily frightened than 
any other human beings, if it does, in fact, feed on fear. That being said, it 
could have easily chosen anyone at random. Which means it's probably 
not trying to create fear, but something...."

Mulder's eyes widened as he drew a breath. "Tom, what do pregnant 
women have in common?"

"The fact that they're pregnant, obviously."

"And these women weren't just at any point in their pregnancy, but in the 
first trimester, right?" Mulder asked, leading him along.

"Yeah, so?"

"What if it isn't trying to create fear, but simply trying to create."

Now Tom's eyes grew wide. "Create as in procreate?" 

Mulder nodded. "And what better place to do that than in Earth's past, 
where it could have the run of the planet."

Tom swallowed hard as he ran a nervous hand through his hair. "The 
scan," Tom nodded to himself. "I remember, right before we were yanked 
off course Harry said we were being scanned. After, we just passed it off 
as a neutrino wave. Some kind of odd phenomenon within the wormhole, 
created by our passage."

"What if it was looking for something -- and found it."

"A breeding ground?"

Mulder nodded. "Wouldn't be the first time," he responded.

Tom opened his mouth to say something, but couldn't quite recall how to 
speak. He felt as if he'd had the wind knocked out of him.

"We have to destroy this thing," Mulder suddenly declared. "And we'd 
better be quick about it. Or there won't be a history left to change."

"Oh. My. God," Tom whispered, not having considered that aspect at all.


Morning came with all the attendant weariness of a night spent trying to 
figure out the best and safest course of action. As the experts aboard 
Voyager had quickly discovered, destroying the creature was no longer an 
option. Made up of the basic building blocks of matter, neutrinos, 
deuterons, mesons and the like, an attempt to use particle beams or energy 
weapons of any sort might cause a lethal chain reaction. The only choice 
as Mulder understood it, was to either make contact with the entity or lure 
the creature back into the wormhole. Which meant, as far as Mulder was 
concerned, there was really no choice at all -- making contact was 
undoubtedly a death sentence for anyone who tried.

"So how do we entice it back to the wormhole?" Mulder asked. They were 
having the 24th century equivalent of a conference call and the 
disembodied voice of Captain Janeway responded.

"Well, if you're correct in assuming that the creature wants to procreate, 
and it's obviously failing, perhaps we should try a little matchmaking. 
B'Elanna thinks we can produce a reasonable facsimile of the species by 
cobbling together enough stray subatomic matter to make it believe 
another of its kind is available for mating."

Mulder nodded slowly. "The carrot and the stick," he murmured. "There's 
only one problem. We can't let it come into contact with the bait. If it is 
sentient it will know it's been tricked."

"I agree," Janeway answered quietly. "Which means we have to lead it 
back into the wormhole and lock the door behind us."

Mulder glanced at Tom, who looked crestfallen. No homecoming, at least 
not yet. They couldn't possibly risk leaving the creature an avenue to 
Earth. Mulder sighed. "All right. How long before Voyager gets off the 

"Best estimate," B'Elanna responded. "Sixteen hours."

"Estimated time of beam out?"

"Sorry, Mulder. You and Tom will have to walk out. We've been 
concentrating our efforts on the engines and Voyager's structural integrity. 
Transporters are still off line."

"That might be a little difficult, Lt. Torres. We're being held prisoner in a 

"Come on, B'Elanna," Tom interjected. "Just send a shuttle."

This time Chakotay interrupted. "No can do, Tom. We need to use the 
shuttle engines to power Voyager's lift off. It's too dangerous to do even a 
test run on the ground."

"Great," Mulder sighed after they'd signed off. "That's just perfect."

Tom grimaced and nodded in agreement. "Well, we'd just better come up 
with a plan to get us out of here."

"That's not the problem," Mulder told him. "I can get us out of here and 
back to the general vicinity of Voyager easily enough."

"But you just said--"

"The problem," Mulder cut him off. "Is in ditching our audience. I can get 
us to the site, but guess who's going to want to tag along?"

Tom rolled his eyes. "They really do need some hobbies."

Mulder grinned and was about to respond when a sudden knock at the 
door interrupted them. Without warning the door opened and a page, 
accompanied by a pair of the Queen's guards entered.

"M' Lord, Her Majesty requests the presence of ye and yer kinsman at 


"Ye were not abed, Fox," Elizabeth, fully dressed and sitting down to 
breakfast commented.

"No, Majesty. The night was spent puzzling out the question of how to 
destroy the entity."

"An' ye have untangled the business?" she asked, more than a little 

Mulder nodded. "Enough at least to attempt a curative."

"Indeed," she murmured. "The perhaps ye might hazard a conjecture on 
another matter. Lady Catherine's remains have gone."

Mulder didn't need to feign surprise. Apparently, the doctor hadn't 
bothered to put back what he'd taken. "I expect it's nothing," he told the 
Queen, who seemed not so much shaken by the disappearance of her late 
companion's body, but by the breach in her security. "There are always 
those ghoulishly excited by such things. Or, mayhap, it was to prevent the 
desecration of the departed. Or," he temporized slyly, "an act aimed to 
divert the mind from these our good efforts to abolish the peril."

"Yea, t'would seem likely," Elizabeth agreed. "It sits not well with some 
that ye be charged to manage the affair. Still, Norfolk has nothing but 
Papists to offer and they be a noisome lot."

It was a well known fact that Elizabeth had little use for clerics of any sort. 
She went on to explain that she'd consulted both her astrologer and her 
physician, both of whom were students of metaphysics, and they had 
agreed with her desire to let Mulder see the thing through. And finally, she 
insisted on knowing what he had planned.

Mulder stroked his chin trying to look thoughtful. "Whilst we were in 
Hexham," he began, "my kinsman and I heard tell of a wood which, of a 
sudden one morning, changed from a healthful, quiet place into one of 
such loathsome character that villagers for miles around made haste to 
avoid the region."

Elizabeth's eyes widened and she nodded. "This tale doth reached us, 

Mulder suppressed a grin. At twenty-six, Elizabeth was still as curious and 
delighted by the strange and unusual as a child. It was a charming trait and 
one, he hoped, she would never lose. "Majesty, it bespeaks magic most 
foul and as I believe, is the heart of the evil. For nothing else of note has 
occurred in the district, nor anything so ill omened."

"An admirable deduction, Fox. An' ye know a conjuration to cleanse the 
wood and cast out the demon?"

"Yes, Majesty, but it must be done this midnight. The heavens are in a 
propitious alignment. An' we wait, t'will be another year afore we may act 

Whether Elizabeth was simply eager to get it done, or his less than subtle 
inclusion of her in his plea for haste aroused her enthusiasm, Mulder didn't 
care. With a few terse orders her retainers began their hurried preparations 
and in less than an hour the entire court, some three hundred souls, were 
ready to ride.

"You weren't kidding about the audience," Tom whispered.

"And the best part," Mulder said under his breath, "is that with the Queen 
in the lead we can cut across every field and farm between here and 

"I guess," Tom murmured dubiously, pulling anxiously at the heavy lace 
around his neck. To his embarrassment the Queen's servants had dressed 
them both in even more sumptuous garments than Walsingham had 
provided. According to Mulder it was meant to be in lieu of payment for 
services rendered. And while he might be a good rider on any given day, 
he wasn't sure how he was going to manage in this get up.

"Don't worry, Thomas, we'll be fine," Mulder said, trying to reassure the 
other man. "In fact," he smiled, "it looks to be a glorious day and--"

"By the grace of God, a glorious day i'faith!" Elizabeth called from atop a 
fine Arabian stallion, her face lit with excitement. "An' it be our Fox's hunt 
before the marrow!" she laughed warmly, enjoying her own humor.

Mulder smiled and gave a brief half bow in acknowledgment of her 
doubly witty remark before allowing one of the grooms to assist him onto 
the back of the excellent mount provided.

"I shall leave the princely disposition of the fox's marrow to the morrow," 
he responded, eliciting a peal of laughter from the Queen. "Asking only 
that Her Majesty recollect the ignoble fox is a tenacious breed and doth 
give the hounds of hell a biting run."

His words, purposely evoking the supposedly dangerous nature of their 
mission, sobered her. "We shall," she avowed, laying one tiny gloved hand 
on Mulder's wrist. "An' ye rid us of this devil spawn it shall not be lost 
from our memory."

With a nod to Norfolk and Walsingham she rode to the head of the party 
which slowly made its way through the gate, across the drawbridge and 
out into the road beyond.

"That was smooth," Tom commented, the cacophony of jingling bells, 
spurs and thudding hooves muffling the words. 

"She's very intelligent and very curious. I had to do something to keep her 
or any of her people from following us in," Mulder sighed. "And at least 
she's prepared for when we don't come out."

Tom gazed questioningly at Mulder. "You know, she'd probably give you 
a title of some sort with an income as a reward. If you wanted to..."

"No," Mulder told him honestly. "I hadn't given it much thought, but no. 
It's home, yeah. But not my home. And besides," he added. "Even though 
we all role play to some extent in our daily lives, the idea of playing this 
role for the rest of my existence isn't very appealing."

Paris nodded. "You really are too complicated a man to be happy here, I 

Mulder snorted with laughter. "Actually, I'm a simple man with simple 
needs whose led a very complicated life." And with that Mulder kneed his 
horse into a canter behind the royal party, soon allowing the animal it's 
head as they broke into the simple pleasure of the run.


"Forget it, Seven, he's a dead man," Harry Kim told the woman who stood 
beside him staring into the view screen on the bridge.

"I am certain Counselor Mulder will have a cogent explanation to offer the 
captain, Ensign."

"Is that another cow?" Neelix asked with amazement as a dozen men 
hefted the sixth of the weighty animals into place on a gigantic spit. "Good 
lord! These folks really do know how to throw a party!"

Sometime in the early afternoon the first of the outriders had settled in a 
field about a mile from Voyager's haunted wood. An hour or so later the 
main hunting party had arrived, the rest of the multitude trickling in to find 
tables laden with food and drink waiting while their tents went up. There 
were musicians, jugglers, puppet shows and all manner of entertainment 
for their pleasure, even badminton nets had been raised so the nobility 
might play for pastime.

The door to the captain's ready room slid open and she paused as she 
stepped onto the deck, gazing at the screen in astonishment. "Harry, have 
you located Mulder and Tom yet?"

The young ensign hurriedly returned to his post. "Yes, Captain. They're 
over by the Royal Pavilion."

"The Royal...? Never mind," Janeway shook her head then glared at 
Chakotay who was completely engrossed in his readings. "Anything 
interesting, Commander?"

"Fascinating, just fascinating," he mumbled. "Mulder's trading quips with 
Queen Elizabeth! Want to hear?"

Janeway crossed her arms. "I think we all have better things to do right 
now, don't you, Commander?" She tapped her foot waiting for a response. 

"What? Oh." He looked up, not the least bit embarrassed. "Everything's 
under control Kathryn. Repairs to the hull and primary systems are 
proceeding on schedule and should be completed by the time B'Elanna is 
done. Seven's finished the preliminary work on the trap program, but we 
can't run that until we're off the ground. Right now she's helping Harry 
plot a tentative course through the wormhole. And, according to Neelix 
here, while our food stores aren't what they should be, we've got enough to 
get us back to the Delta Quadrant and see us through until the replicators 
are on line. We're in good shape, Captain. So, no, I don't have anything 
better to do." He turned back to his armchair display, ignoring Janeway's 

"I see," she pursed her lips, then finally sighed taking her place in the 
command chair and giving into her own curiosity. "Harry, punch up an 
enhancement and show me that Royal Pavilion. Isolate the sound as well." 
An instant later and it was done.

"A merry tale i'faith, Fox!" Elizabeth was laughing. She leaned back in her 
seat. A plain, high backed wooden armchair, attractively covered with 
cushions and a few artistically placed cloth draperies. She glanced down at 
her cup, swirling what Janeway supposed was wine and grew more 
subdued. "Now we must to business," she announced. "Tell us how ye will 
proceed. Be there anything ye require of us?"

Janeway stared at Mulder and Tom, who stood behind the older man's 
seat. Grinning as she took in their extravagantly opulent costumes, 
Janeway realized Chakotay had been right. This was fascinating. The pair 
of them looked particularly fetching in all that lace and velvet. And she 
could tell, one woman to another, that Elizabeth thought so as well.

"There is naught to do but bide here, Majesty, until the hour be upon us. 
What prayers my kinsman and I shall make and what skills auger best for 
our success may wholly be determined once we are, by the grace of God's 
infinite mercy, within the lair of the beast. From Your Majesty I require 
only thy wholesome devotions and a place of solitude whereupon I may 
meditate and fortify my wits against the cunning of Lucifer's minions."

"He's good!" Janeway whispered to Chakotay. "All that off the top of his 

Chakotay nodded. "You should have heard him earlier. Like a holodeck 
character, but better. He's adapting to suit their needs. It's not just a 
program modified to suit ours."

Janeway smiled and turned her attention back to the screen. Elizabeth's 
expression had grown thoughtful and, dare she think it, aroused?

"Solitude," she murmured, delicately licking the rim of her cup. "We can 
provide solitude. Leave us," she ordered the two dozen or so on lookers, 
including Tom, who quickly found some place else they needed to be. Her 
gaze fixed on Mulder as she rose and turned toward her tent. "Come, an' 
we may meditate with goodly vigor."

There was no mistaking the look of stunned disbelief on Mulder's face, 
echoed by the faces of those manning the bridge. Still, Mulder rose to 
follow, ever courageous, ever obedient, ever looking like he wished the 
earth would swallow him whole. Either Elizabeth didn't notice or she 
didn't really care. Probably both, Janeway imagined.

"Ah..." Janeway hurriedly tapped her commlink. "Doctor?"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Is Mulder taking any... Is he..."

Before she could find a graceful way of asking what she needed to know 
the doctor chortled. "You mean is he on any form of birth control?"

"Watching are you?" Janeway chuckled.

"Certainly. And in answer to your question. Yes. But I don't think he 
needs to worry about that right now. According to some of the less well 
known, but accurate Elizabethan historians, she got her reputation as The 
Virgin Queen not because she didn't engage in sexual activity, but because 
she preferred her partners to assume the female role."

"The..." Janeway looked at Chakotay, whose eyes had gone wide as the 
color in his cheeks turned rosy. "Janeway out."

Together they watched as Mulder stoically entered the tent. "Think he 
knows?" Janeway asked quietly.

Chakotay nodded slowly. "And if he doesn't, he's definitely about to find 


"Hey, Mulder," Tom whispered once they'd passed through the dark veil 
of the holo shield. "I thought she was supposed to be The Virgin Queen?"

"Shut up, Tom."

"Oh, come on! It isn't every guy who gets to--"

"I said 'Shut up!' Real men don't kiss and tell," Mulder muttered angrily.

"Real men?" Tom wondered allowed. "Don't you mean gentlemen?"

"Them too. Now be quiet and let me think."

"What's to think about? There's Voyager. We're home."

"Shit!" Mulder swore fiercely. "Just keep your mouth closed about this, 
okay? There's no earthly reason why anyone else has to know."

Tom smiled sympathetically. "Mulder, there are three hundred people 
within pitching distance of Voyager. The entire ship knows you went into 
that tent."

Mulder stiffened in his saddle. After a moment's pause he hung his head 
and his shoulders slumped dejectedly. "Then they also know I came out of 
there alive," he sighed, which was more he knew than could be said for 
most of her favorites. Elizabeth might not be bloodthirsty, but the people 
around her certainly had a penchant for disposing of their rivals -- even if 
they also knew one damn well never turned down royalty.

Tom's mouth dropped in astonishment. It was obvious he hadn't realized 
the end result had been in question, or that Mulder might have been a less 
than eager participant. "There's the cargo hatch," he announced, 
deliberately changing the subject.

Mulder looked up, once again impressed by the vision of Voyager's hull 
gleaming resplendently in the moonlight. It never failed to astound him, 
no matter how many times he saw the sight. Wondrous and magnificent, a 
ship that sailed to distant stars, broaching the endless void of space. As 
they reached the gantry way he dismounted, taking a moment to reverently 
caress the smoothly finished hull as he realized he'd never actually 
touched the ship's skin.

Maybe, he thought repressing a shudder, it had been worth the sacrifice. 
Not just what he'd endured in that tent, but the sacrifice of his "normal" 
life in order to help create a future worth living. He'd never wanted to be a 
martyr to the truth, nor even to humanity's cause -- and he didn't honestly 
think he was, though he suspected others had believed it. Arguably, he had 
more in common with those three hundred kneeling worshipers they'd left 
behind in that field than any Christ-like figure he could imagine. They also 
wanted to believe -- in God, in God's creation Man, and in the Natural 
Order of God's Universe. He just wanted to believe -- in something, 
anything, anybody.

Maybe that's what his dream had meant, he mused as he followed Tom 
into the cargo bay. Maybe I'm still searching for something to believe in. 
Something good and pure without flaw. God? No, that was Scully's deal, 
he thought, the ache of her absence suddenly hitting him hard as it hadn't 
for a while. Then what? What am I still searching for? What am I still 
hoping to find?

With a sigh, he handed over the reins of his horse to an awestruck ensign, 
putting his thoughts aside for the moment as the doctor, Chakotay and the 
captain greeted him.

"Well met, Lt. Mulder," Janeway smiled, giving his arm an affectionate 

"Verily," Chakotay chimed in.

Mulder rolled his eyes. "Give it up, guys. It taketh years of practice."

"Mulder. Paris," the doctor cut in as he inspected his tricorder readings of 
the pair. "Come along to sickbay and we'll get rid of all those nasty 
parasites you two seem to have picked up."

"Parasites?" Tom uttered.

"Relax," Mulder comfortingly patted his shoulder. "It's better than fleas or 
head lice."

The doctor snorted derisively as he led the way. "And I've got a nice 
analgesic ointment ready for you as well, Lieutenant."

Mulder's spine went rigid and his cheeks flushed under the thin layer of 
powder Elizabeth's servants had applied. His eyes narrowed and he briefly 
thought of how good it would feel to thrust his sword through that 
holographic moron. Instead, he grinned confidently. Either everyone 
knew, or they merely suspected.

"That's assuming I need an analgesic ointment," Mulder observed smugly. 
"Real men know how to get the job done."

The doctor paused to check his tricorder readings again as the captain 
raised an eyebrow and Chakotay nodded in manly camaraderie.

"No signs of..." the doctor trailed off, puzzled, then glanced at Mulder 
with new respect. "My apologies, Lieutenant, perhaps we'll just check for 
any social diseases."

"Whatever," Mulder muttered as he sauntered past the hologram. They'd 
never know for sure and he wasn't ever going to tell. "First," he growled. 
"I need a shower and a change of clothes. Damn stays pinch like a son of a 


The stars streamed by in an endless display of light and color which, 
Mulder admitted, if he were honest with himself, he'd begun to find 
soothing. Still, being back in the Delta Quadrant had it's drawbacks, most 
of which were glaringly obvious.

There'd been very little trouble getting Voyager back into orbit around 
Earth. A couple of minor glitches B'Elanna had handily fixed. The light 
show had gone down well with the locals too. Apparently, according to 
one historic reference, it was believed a heavenly host had been 
summoned to carry the evil away, along with the two angels who'd come 
to the rescue. That bit had been fairly amusing. Mulder and Paris 
appearing with halos and wings in a period tapestry found by Tuvok in the 

The hard part had been getting the alien to respond to the lure, but with the 
right amount of tinkering Seven had solved that problem as well. A simple 
particle beam had destabilized the wormhole, sealing the creature in 

Maybe that was what was bothering him, Mulder thought with an inward 
sigh. Out of curiosity he'd gone over the doctor's autopsy report on the 
three women they knew of who had died. And again, out of curiosity, he'd 
asked to see a work up on the embryos. The doctor had been surprised, no 
more than surprised, chagrined. He hadn't bothered to examine the unborn 
offspring for signs of tampering.

And therein lay the problem, Mulder thought. The creature hadn't been 
attacking the mothers to find a host in which to reproduce, but in 
retrospect and from what he could determine from the belated autopsies, it 
had been seeking to create a viable vessel in which to transmogrify itself 
into a human being. The spirit becoming flesh, he mused. 
Transubstantiation. The question he'd asked himself over and over again 
had been simple. Why? Why would an entity -- powerful, timeless, free of 
physical constraints -- seek to transform itself into a weak, finite, limited 
corporeal being? Curiosity? Maybe. Megalomaniac delusions of grandeur? 
Doubtful. Loneliness? Something inside Mulder winced at the thought, yet 
it felt right. Especially considering how quickly it had followed the lure 
once they had gotten the subatomic matter correctly balanced.

"Oh, fuck," Mulder whispered, squeezing his eyes shut as he leaned his 
forehead against the window brace. And they'd left it alone, trapped and 
isolated in subspace. He couldn't think of a crueler punishment. And for 
what? For their trespassing into its domain? For it taking advantage of the 
opportunity to examine Voyager's database? For learning that an 
individual did not need to be alone? Or for their own hubris in assuming 
there was no way to communicate with the entity? 

Still, what more could they have done? Perhaps nothing, Mulder realized 
sadly. Perhaps everything.

And what of himself, came the unbidden question. He too was isolated, 
trapped and alone. Or was he? Always before he'd had no choice. He'd 
been trapped, yes, but by his past. Isolated by his own obsessive pursuit of 
a childhood which had in reality been no more than a dream. Wishful 
thinking. No family was perfect. His most certainly hadn't been. But 
before Samantha was taken, before he'd been left alone, at least there had 
been a family. 

He moved away from the window, looking around his quarters as if seeing 
the place for the first time. In an odd way it reminded him of his apartment 
back in D.C. Nothing of this place reflected him. It was as bland and 
sterile as the day Neelix had shown him in. And his place back in 
Washington? He'd gotten it half furnished to begin with, buying only what 
he needed as he needed it. He'd even come home once and found that 
someone had cleaned his bedroom and replaced all the furniture, disposing 
of it only after the waterbed had sprung a leak. Then he'd ordered a 
replacement mattress delivered from 1-800-BED-KING. Apparently, he 
was quite comfortable living with other people's things. What, he 
wondered, did that say about him?

No home, no attachments, no life and no decisions to be made about that 
life. Was that what Scully had been trying to tell him all those years? Not, 
get out of the basement and forget about the past. But maybe that he 
should stop living in it so completely. It hadn't been possible then, Mulder 
silently acknowledged. Not with the past staring him in the face with 
every corner he turned and every case file he opened. A past, he well 
knew, that was just as uncomfortable and fraught with problems as the one 
he'd just left.

Just left. The words sang in his mind like a siren's song. Just. Left. Just 
leave. Leave it all behind. Could he do that?

Well, this is the future. You can do anything. Mulder smiled to himself, 
then it faded as the truth finally hit home. No, it's the present. My present. 
I don't have to live in the past, and the future, my future, is still unwritten.

"I can lay down the burden, but not give up the fight," he whispered, 
knowing in his heart that he wasn't alone, wasn't trapped and didn't need to 
be isolated. No one here gave a damn about his past, except to respect his 
accomplishments. No one here thought he was spooky, except to admire 
his foresight and reasoning abilities. And, more importantly, no one here 
had ever given him the impression that he was an unwelcome guest in 
their home. They'd simply accepted him -- as is. Maybe he hadn't needed a 
housewarming party after all. Maybe he was already part of the furniture.

He glanced at the clock on his desk, recalling he had bridge duty in ten 
minutes and went to get his jacket, absently reaching for his guns on the 
coffee table. No, he thought, pulling his hand back, that was the past 
beckoning. Tempting him with its familiar presence and ease of mind. He 
didn't need that here. Not anymore.

Besides, he grinned, hooking his jacket over his shoulder as he strolled 
through the door, he knew where all the weapons were stored.

Coming Next: Future Winnings 6