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Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998

TITLE: "Sliding Doors"
BY: Ten
E-MAIL ADDRESS: kristena@ocean.com.au
NOTE: I'm in the habit of posting out one part per day, but if you
request the rest, I'll send it to you individually...

CATEGORY: S, A, UST (no more overt than in the movie),
Mulder and Scully Torture, H
RATING: PG-13 for a naked guy covered in goo (Crash, wipe
that grin off your face!)
SUMMARY: A 'what if' story. How would the rest of the
movie have gone if MULDER was the one stung by the bee?
Yeah, anything for MulderTorture!
TIMESPAN/SPOILER WARNING: Moviefic. So it has spoilers
from most of the episodes of the series that come under
the conspiracy arc.

ARCHIVE INFO: It goes to Gossamer through xff. Can be
archived anywhere as long as my name, addy and disclaimer
stay intact.
FEEDBACK: Love it.

The song 'Crystal Ship' is written by and copyright the
Doors.

THANKS TO: The usual suspects...

DISCLAIMER: The X-Files and the characters of Mulder and
Scully belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions
and Fox Broadcasting, and are used without permission. No
copyright infringement is intended, no profit will be
gained.

The X-Files: "Sliding Doors" (1/4)
By Ten, August-October 1998

"You've made me a whole person."

Scully stood in the hallway, listening to his words, on
the verge of tears. When Mulder finished speaking, she
stared at him, overwhelmed and struggling with her
emotions. Then she stepped forward and hugged him. She
kissed his forehead. She rested their foreheads together
as if in benediction.

/I need you to know what you mean to me. You did it in
words, I do it in gestures. If only I had the courage to
take the final step, to put my lips where they belong
.../

Mulder had accepted the touches in a passive wonder, a
man receiving salvation. Then he raised his head. She saw
the look in his eyes. At the same time, his hands came up
from her back to claim her cheek and neck.

His face came towards hers and she gave in willingly to
the pull of his gravity. Their eyes slipped shut.

"Ouch!" One lip grazed hers as his head yanked away.
Mulder pulled his hands off her and stepped back.

The world which only contained them a second ago was now
filled with rejection. She stood mute and shaken. /He's
changed his mind. A mistake... We should never.../

"No," he winced, explaining, "something stung me..." He
held out the hand that had rested at her neck. A stinger
was half imbedded in the flesh of his upper palm. Scully
took his hand in both of hers as he kept speaking. "Must
have been in your collar. There it is." He pointed to the
floor, where a bee lay kicking its legs. "Geez, Scully,
why didn't you tell me you had a personal bodyguard? I
wouldn't have tried making a move..."

She felt a giddy wave of relief wash over her. His
expression was apologetic and bemused and slightly
pained. She gently rubbed the back of his hand. "Let's go
back to your apartment and get it out."

He nodded. A quirky grin passed between them at this
bizarre interruption. But the grins were charged with
more than had ever been shown before.

They turned, his unstung hand slipping around her waist
at the same time as her arm went around his. Two steps
towards no. 42 and Mulder staggered.

"Mulder?"

"Some...something's wrong..." Suddenly his eyes closed
and his arm fell away from her. He sank heavily to his
knees and pitched forward towards the floor.

"Mulder!" Scully caught him. Her arms strained, but she
managed to lower him more gently to the floorboards.
"Mulder! Answer me!" His eyes remained closed. She
checked his breathing and pulse. "Squeeze my hand - come
on, Mulder!" No response. He wouldn't wake up.

Scully hovered over her partner's sprawled form. This
wasn't anaphylactic shock. /Ohmigod... The bee.../ She
remembered Mulder telling her about two different
incidences of bee attacks - the ones he and Jeremiah
Smith found after Bodmill Road, and the ones released at
an elementary school when she was in the hospital for
cancer treatment. Separate incidents, but in both the
bees were carrying a deadly virus.

Her cell phone was in her car - she'd been too distracted
to bring it up with her. /Mulder doesn't have his either
- he said he gave it to that new informant.../ She raced
through his still-open apartment door to the phone and
dialled 911. "This is Agent Scully of the FBI. I have a
medical emergency - agent down!"

She quickly informed the dispatcher of the situation and
their location, then returned to kneel beside her
partner. Doors were opening along the hallway, neighbours
sticking their heads out.

Mulder suddenly let out a strained choking noise. It
abruptly ceased.

"Mulder?" Scully froze, then checked his vitals. His
pulse was beating...

He wasn't breathing.

"Mulder! Breathe!" She tilted his head back in readiness
to give him mouth to mouth, but then he abruptly spasmed
and coughed and began taking air in again by himself.

His eyes fluttered.

"Mulder?" Scully supported his head carefully.

He focused on her. "Now that's...a panic...face..." Her
partner's eyes closed and she couldn't rouse him.

A fragment of song came to her: *Before you slip into
unconsciousness, I'd like to have another kiss...*

By the time the ambulance personnel arrived, Mulder's
body had spasmed several times, then settled. His
breathing was now deep and regular, heartbeat constant,
which should be reassuring...

/The bee was in my shirt. It should have been me... Why
wasn't it me?/

Scully kept giving the EMTs information and instructions
as they strapped Mulder to a gurney and took him to the
ground floor via the elevator. She kept pace with fierce
determination.

"A bee? Carrying a virus?" one EMT asked incredulously as
Mulder was loaded into the back of the ambulance.

"Yes -" She tried to step around him to slide in next to
Mulder, but the medic deliberately blocked her way. "I'm
going with him, let me through!" Scully demanded. "I'm
his partner, his Medical Power of Attorney, AND a
doctor!"

"Ma'am, you're going to have to meet us at the hospital."
The EMT was stepping back to the doors, which were ready
to close.

"Why?" she demanded, "Why can't I come along with him?
Which hospital?" She stepped up in his face, ready to
gain an opening and use her small body to dart past to
Mulder's side.

The blow landed hard across her face. Unprepared, Scully
stumbled backwards, nearly falling. She began to raise
one arm in defense, the other for her gun - /Damn, I
handed it in to Skinner with my resignation!/ - but the
'EMT' struck again.

This time Scully was spun to her left and fell. Her head
struck the side of the curb. She lay on this stone
pillow, moaning softly as blood ran down her brow. One
hand reached out towards the lights of the ambulance,
unaware that what she wished for was gone, that this was
an entirely new vehicle pulling up. The one she _had_
called.

The cryopod was loaded quickly and efficiently into the
aircraft. The Cigarette Smoking Man lived up to his name
as he watched the cryopod pass him. The viewing panels
were beginning to ice up, but Mulder's motionless form
was quite visible.

Motionless - unless you counted the black worms moving
under his skin.

The Cigarette Smoking Man observed this thoughtfully. The
vaccine Mulder had been given in Russia had not cured him
- it had been over a year ago, and obviously was a weaker
batch than the one Krycek handed over - only making the
worms dormant, sending them into hibernation where no
medical tests would pick them up. Now the virus was
making Mulder's body acceptable to their development
again. It would be very intriguing to study the effects
on Mulder since he had survived the retrovirus as well as
this cancer previously. Even the initial infection was
different in him than others - he was in a coma, but not
as badly affected as if an ordinary person was the one
stung.

Well, the Consortium had ordered Mulder killed, or at
least for Scully to be taken away from him. The
unexpected bee had made the choice for them and done the
work. The Elders would adapt to this development; they
always did.

Now to rack up more frequent flyer miles.

"What are you doing?"

"Reading her chart."

"What? How the hell did you get that?"

"Snuck it from the nurses' station down the front of my
pants."

"Plenty of room down there."

"Don't steal jokes. Anyway, I just wanted a look."

Voices... Familiar... Pain...

"They'll notice it's missing! How are you going to put it
back? The fact we're hanging around is worrying her mom
enough without her coming back in and realising we're
reading her daughter's chart!"

"Byers, calm down. In a few minutes we'll go out, you
distract the nurses, and I'll put it back!"

"I still think we're making her Mom nervous. Maybe we
should -"

"Leave Scully? And what would Mulder do to us when he
found out? We have to stay and see if we can help!"

A ceiling... Light fixtures.

"Hey, she's coming to!"

"She's coming to!"

Scully turned her head to the side. Three faces loomed
over her. One in particular was very close. Frohike.

"Scully?"

"Oh God..." She groaned. /This is NOT a good dream. If it
HAS to be a Lone Gunman, can't it at least be Byers?/ At
least he didn't eye her off all the time. She slammed her
eyes shut.

"Scully?"

The pounding in her head eased slightly, and she snuck
another look. This time Byers was the closer one, which
was at least more appealing to her eyes.

She put a hand up to feel her face. Her fingers hit sore
spots that must be bruises and there was a bandage on her
forehead. "What am I doing here?" She was drawing a
blank. But something very very important had hap-

"Witnesses said you were hit twice in the face. Your
forehead struck the curb - concussion; it'll be sore to
talk for a few days at least. Fortunately no fractures."

"MULDER!?" She sat bolt upright and realised it hurt to
yell too. But he was gone, taken...

"We don't know where he is - his ambulance never arrived
at any hospital, local or otherwise. One of Mulder's
neighbours looked for a plate number when the EMTs left
you lying there and drove off, but there was none. The
witnesses say everything happened so fast - boom, you
were down; ambulance doors closed; it disappeared.
Anyway, we know you called 911. We found a bug in
Mulder's phone and one in the hall." Byers gestured to
where Frohike was holding up a vial. "An Africanised
honeybee."

"How long?"

"You've been here for about ten hours."

"I have to find him..." Scully threw aside the sheets and
swung her legs over the edge. The Lone Gunmen didn't know
which way to look or what to hold onto to help her as the
agent unsteadily landed on her feet in the skimpy gown.

Frohike was forced to grab her, and his hand encountered
half material, half bare flesh. "Uh, sorry..." He quickly
adjusted his hold and kept supporting her.

"Scully, they've got someone watch -" Langly began.

"Agent Scully -!"

"Dana!"

Skinner and Maggie Scully came in, looking alarmed. Her
boss - ex-boss? - said, "Agent Scully, get back in bed."

"I have to go to him..." Dana said, dazed. Over his
shoulder she saw someone peering through the strip window
in the door, then disappear. A guard.

"Tell me where he is and I'll find him for you," Skinner
said.

"I don't know!" she said in frustration, fighting tears.
Her head ached. It felt like she had a lump the size of a
basketball. Then she remembered something. As they'd been
wheeling the fireman's body to the morgue to examine him,
Mulder had told her what he was going to do while she
performed the autopsy. *I've found another source. His
name is Kurtzweil - Dr Alvin Kurtzweil - he says he knew
my father. He approached me at Casey's. I gave him my
cellular so I can contact him for more information and
meetings. So don't try my phone.*

"I know," she whispered. "I know someone who had BETTER
know where he is."

Maggie came forward. "Please, honey, lie back down and
tell us how we can help."

Scully took a deep breath as she peeled at the bandage on
her head. "Mom, I need your clothes." The expression on
Maggie's face was classical as she continued, "Unless
you're brought me some of my own." Scully turned to the
Gunmen. "I doubt we can magically change my hair colour
to match Mom's, so I'm going to need a distraction to get
that guard out of the way." She turned to Skinner as the
trio began brewing a plan. "And Sir, can I please have
your cellular?"

Kurtzweil had agreed to meet her - he'd suggested
Casey's. Well - the back alley thereof. He sounded even
more paranoid than Mulder the time he was on drugged
water. But Kurtzweil seemed to know her, or of her - he
said he would know her on sight. No time to think on
that. She wished he'd been able to tell her over the
phone where Mulder was, but the doctor said he was in
some sort of situation and couldn't talk.

The taxi was a few blocks away from Casey's when the
traffic thickened and slowed to a crawl. In desperation
Scully paid the driver, got out and ran down the
pavement. She took the jacket off and tied it around her
waist. She would pay her mother back later on if the
sleeves were stretched. But it was too uncomfortable
around her shoulder blades to keep on, and she needed to
run...

She got quite a few stares when she burst into Casey's,
gasping for breath. Some people were drunk enough or
surprised enough to continue gaping openly; others
immediately became very self-conscious, hastily dropping
their gazes back to the counter or to anything but her
face.

One guy was drunk enough to be bold. "Geez, lady, you
fall off a barstool?"

"Shut up, Mike - her guy probably beat her up! Are you
okay, Miss?" the bartender asked.

She looked around and managed a "No," as she headed for
the back of the bar. She'd only been to this place once
before - with Mulder. It hadn't left much of an
impression.

She exited into the night, facing two forking alleys. And
in one, a man was opening the front passenger door of an
elegant towncar for another man, who was about to get
inside. They turned and she immediately focused on the
elder.

Him. The man from Bill Mulder's funeral. And the orchid
house. The Englishman. One of Them.

"Hello again, young lady." He came around towards her,
away from the open car door. His eyes studied the
injuries on her face. "My, you have had quite a time of
it."

"Where's Mulder?" she demanded. "And don't tell me he's
dead. You already tried that one once, and it's not going
to work this time."

"On the contrary, I have here the means with which to
find Agent Mulder and save his life." He held up a green
felt envelope. "Please." He gestured to the other side of
the car, which his unruffled driver had moved to, now
opening the back passenger door for her.

Scully hesitated. "Where's Kurtzweil?"

"He's come and gone."

She pulled Skinner's phone out of the jacket pocket -
slowly so the man didn't think she was going for a gun -
and dialled Mulder's number. A ringing noise came from
the depths of the towncar's trunk. Scully studied the
trunk for a second, bile rising in her throat, then
glared at the Well Manicured Man as he watched her
calmly, unperturbed by her confirmation. She turned off
her phone. She weighed her options.

Then she got in the car.

END PART ONE OF FOUR
=====================================
TITLE: "Sliding Doors" (2/4)
BY: Ten

XxX

They drove through the wet, darkened streets. Scully
perched uncomfortably in the opulent interior and turned
to look across the back seat at the Well Manicured Man.
He handed her the green envelope without any prompting.

She opened it. Inside was a capped syringe, a small vial
full of an amber liquid, and a piece of paper bearing
written co-ordinates.

She held up the vial, studying it. "What is it?"

"A weak vaccine against the virus Agent Mulder has been
infected with. It must be administered within ninety-six
hours. Though due to his exposures to the retrovirus and
the black cancer in Russia, he might have some immunity
or his system might fight it off longer. Or perhaps
succumb faster..." At Scully's angry look, he shrugged.
"We cannot be sure. He is a unique case."

/Ninety-six hours...and these co-ordinates - that's
Antarctica! A wild goose chase...? Get me out of the way
while they do what they like to him? Dispose of him? Use
him for tests?/ "What do you mean, a 'weak' vaccine? Does
it work or doesn't it?"

"Testing has proven reasonably successful." His tone was
slightly uncomfortable. "We are working on improving it."

"What - the vaccine or the virus itself?" Scully didn't
bother to hide her mistrust.

"This vaccine is Mr Mulder's best hope," he replied with
a touch of defensiveness. "As is your science. If you
walk away now, you condemn him and millions to this fate
in coming years."

"You're lying."

"No. Though I have no way to prove otherwise. The virus
is extraterrestrial. We know very little about it, except
that it is the original inhabitant of this planet."

"If it is the original inhabitant of this planet, then by
definition, it can't be alien." She was not going to let
him get away with anything, especially in assuming she
would swallow this story because of a few hits to the
head and a blind desire to find her partner.

He gave a long-suffering sigh. "However you wish to
define it, the virus originally came from outer space. Do
not look so sceptical, Agent Scully. Remember the chimera
you found in your own blood?"

"Your people - your tests - put it there!" she spat at
him. "You took my ova and gave me a metal chip! Cancer! A
hybrid..." She couldn't go on.

The Englishmen actually looked genuinely sad. "The
tests... One of the reasons I remained part of the
Consortium was to ensure that none of my relatives were
ever taken. But they will still have to face this future
if we are unsuccessful. I am sorry for your ordeals,
Agent Scully, but the testing is necessary. You will see
why. We did give you your life back, just as I am
offering the chance to save Mulder. I wonder what it will
take to convince you what you and he are up against -
that there ARE aliens. But your scientific attitude is as
essential as it is annoying."

"YOU are the ones manufacturing this virus, taking tanker
trucks to cornfields - or have the little grey men
suddenly become farmers and beekeepers?!"

"We are co-operating in the hope of buying time to save
ourselves - humankind. To gain access to the virus - as
you yourself know, that is the first step in searching
for a cure. We have to study what we are up against. We
need humans to test on - hence the abductions and the
taking of ova in secret; the rewiring of brains to
believe they were taken by aliens so no-one will believe
them."

Dana stared out at the passing landscape, mind spinning,
trying to work out whether to be horrified or angry. She
noticed the driver watching them alertly in the rear view
mirror, then his attention returned smoothly to the road.

The Well Manicured Man continued speaking. "Agent
Mulder's aliens arrived on this planet millions of years
ago. Those that didn't leave have been lying dormant
underground since the last Ice Age, in the form of an
evolved pathogen, waiting to be reconstituted when the
alien race returns to colonise the planet. Using humans
as hosts. Against this we have no defense. Nothing but a
weak vaccine. This is why it was kept secret - why men
like your partner's father had to lie and conceal.
Whether you believe it is aliens or humans or a combined
effort, Agent Scully, you must have seen enough evidence
to know that a mass viral release and colonisation is
planned. An overthrow. If the public knew, there would be
mass panic. The aliens would find out and take counter-
measures. Our work would be lost. Until Dallas we
believed that the virus would simply control us; that
mass infection would make us a slave race. Imagine our
surprise when they began to gestate."

"Why are you telling me all this?"

"For the sake of my children and grandchildren. And your
own."

"What?" she asked sharply. "More hybrids?"

He shook his head. "Your future children. Your ova are
still in storage. Perhaps one day..."

She let the pain of her headache channel into her anger.
"You're telling me this to save yourself. You've got some
agenda."

His laugh was as harsh as his refute. "My life is over."
He glanced pointedly at the driver. "I am sorry for what
you have had to endure, but you were chosen for Agent
Mulder for a reason. Your scientific ability and his
determination are our best hopes to prevent the future.
Your joint strength will see you through. You are both
survivors."

"Where is he?"

"You have the exact co-ordinates."

"No. I need more information. Where is he being held? A
secret military base? Under guard? 'Base One' - One of
what? Heavily patrolled? How do I get in there?"

"This conversation is over. Driver, stop the car."

"No!" Scully said angrily, but the driver of course
obeyed his boss and rolled the car to a stop in a
deserted street. Scully rounded on the Well Manicured
Man, only to freeze as she saw the gun now resting in his
hand.

He spoke. "The men I work with will stop at nothing to
clear the way for what they believe is their stake in the
inevitable future."

Scully went for the door handle, but the lock clicked
shut. He was raising the gun.

"I was ordered to kill Kurtzweil, and I was ordered to
remove you..."

He fired. The driver jerked and slumped, his blood
suddenly covering the upholstery. A red-rimmed bullet
hole gaped in the front windscreen.

Dana pressed back against the seat, shaking.

"Trust no one, Miss Scully." With that, the Well
Manicured Man merely lowered his gun and opened his door,
getting out. "Come."

Somehow she willed her body to follow. They stood facing
each other in the empty street.

"I was ordered to take away what Mulder cannot live
without - but fate intervened." The Well Manicured Man
watched her absorb this. "My group recognises that he
cannot live without you. I know the reverse is as true.
Go find him, Agent Scully. Then you will have your proof
that aliens are real - and know the immensity of the
Project. The alien colonists don't know this vaccine
exists. Its introduction into the alien environment may
have the power to destroy the delicate plans we've so
assiduously protected for the last fifty years."

"You have to tell me -"

"Go!" The Well Manicured Man lost patience with her,
cocking the handgun in her face. "Go NOW!"

She turned and ran, not bothering to get her bearings.
She heard the slam of a car door. Then she heard the
explosion the very second the shock wave reached her,
propelling her forward and towards the ground.

/The vaccine!!!/ She twisted in mid air so her other arm
would brace her fall instead of the hand holding the
envelope. The impact jarred her arm, drawing a cry from
her lips. She turned as she lay there to find the towncar
ablaze.

/Were there explosives in the car so that Kurtzweil's
body could be burnt beyond recognition when disposed of?
Did the Well Manicured Man trigger them off as suicide
rather than be hunted down...?/

But as he had said, the Conspiracy wasn't the issue at
the moment. Finding Mulder was.

With a quick check of the contents of the envelope, which
were fortunately undamaged, Scully painfully pulled
herself to her feet. Her head was protesting violently.
/Have to get out of here before people come.../ She
stared down at her clothes - her mother's clothes. The
stylish blouse Maggie loved was covered with muck. /Mom,
I owe you a shopping spree... Big time./

Then she ran. A rat kept pace with her all the way to the
corner.

WILKES LAND
ANTARCTICA
47 HOURS LATER

Dana Scully drove the snowcat with fierce determination.
She didn't have the heater on very high - she was bundled
up royally in clothing. On such short notice the only
spare protective clothing the base could provide her with
was for a medium-sized man. So to keep the coat from
flopping around her or swallowing her whole, she'd had to
put on extra layers underneath. All her sleeves were
rolled up, the same with the legs of the thermal body
suit, jeans and waterproof overpants that she wore, and
so on. The boots were padded.

Ice and snow. Nothing else in the world but her and the
snowcat. Just the tracks behind them. Getting out and
walking would be a quicker option. This cat laboriously
paddled through the snow like an old-fashioned river
steamer.

The song from the hallway was still going round in her
head. *The days are bright and filled with pain; enclose
me in your gentle rain.* She thought of the hug in the
hallway. She thought of the near kiss. She looked at the
empty seat beside her. *We'll meet again...we'll meet
again...*

Her face was still hurt and swollen. The bruises on her
face had gone through more colour changes than the lights
of an aurora borealis, though since she was now in the
southern hemisphere, the version 'aurora australis' was
more accurate.

Every so often, she paused to check her progress.

BASE 1
SOUTH 83 DEGREES LAT.
EAST 63 DEGREES LONG.
326 FEET

This time when she consulted the handheld Global
Positioning System Receiver she found she was bang on top
of her goal. She was relieved, because the hours had
raced even as they crawled, but she was also worried
because a look out the windows showed her quite plainly
that there was NOTHING to be seen. Even an underground
ice base would have something noticeable on the surface
so it wasn't missed by its minions, surely?

There WAS a ridge of rock up ahead, blocking the horizon.
She would trudge to the top of that and look around.

As the top juts of rock came within reach, she crouched
down low and inched her way forward. Scully peered over
the top...and saw a base, sitting in the middle of a snow
plain. Five white little domes, a semi-circle of snowcats
and tractors flanking them.

/I think we're on top of a larger structure.../

She retrieved a pair of binoculars from her fur-lined
parka and scanned the base and surrounding terrain. No
signs of life.

Problem. The base was right out in the open. Exposed.
There was no way to sneak up on it. She wasn't in
camouflage clothing... /Well, nothing for it but to get
down there. No time to waste studying the place from all
angles to pick a line of least defence or the timetable
of movement of personnel. With any luck, they think the
isolation of the base is enough security.../

She came down the other side of the ridge carefully and
began taking on the plain in a ground-eating trot to
conserve her resources. A straight line as she tried to
pick which dome to enter. /Just go up and try a door?
This is crazy... But Mulder's in there somewhere. And his
time is running out. It may have already run out - the
Well Manicured Man said the virus may affect him more
adversely... Don't think. Just find him. Save him./

A sob caught in her throat. /Don't let him die believing
that you were going to quit and walk out on him. Not
after what he told you. As difficult and as frustrating
as its been for me too at times, I feel what he feels -
we make each other whole people... They're NOT going to
divide us./ She kept moving in a straight line, the base
getting closer and closer.

There was still about 500 yards to go when a figure
suddenly appeared from behind one of the domes. Scully
gasped and skittered sideways and down, flattening
herself behind a slight rise in the snow that was no
cover at all, but all there was. Fortunately the person
was not facing her, and went straight through the door of
another dome, closing it behind him or her. No one else
followed.

/Breathe./ Dana picked herself up and kept going.

Suddenly there was a crack beneath her feet. Then there
was NOTHING beneath her feet.

She fell, hit ice and broke through, fell some more, hit
ice, fell again, hit ice, fell and was just getting into
the monotonous rhythm of it when she hit ice that did NOT
give, and got the remaining wind thoroughly knocked out
of her.

Scully lay on her side, clutching her ribs. The fur hood
had fallen over her face and threatened to smother her as
she fought for breath. She knocked it away and gulped in
air. The injuries on her face let her know of their
displeasure, but the pain was banished from her thoughts
in a second when she thought of: /The vial - oh God,
please don't let it be broken!/ She had wrapped it up in
insulation for protection before setting off, but that
may not have been enough... She scrambled to a sitting
position and pulled her gloves off, then unzipped her
coat enough to reach inside.

A few seconds later she was able to see that the vial was
intact.

Carefully she rewrapped it, put it back in her coat and
zipped up again. Scully remained sitting to catch her
breath and pat at her torso to reassure herself that she
was still in one piece. /All these layers of clothes.
Better protection than a flak jacket... But I bet I get
plenty of bruises to coordinate the rest of my body with
my face./ Back on with the gloves. She stood slowly and
took in another breath as she finally looked around.

Ice everywhere. A hole up above, framing the sky. She was
in some sort of air pocket. In the second it took to
realise that the air here was actually slightly warm, her
eyes landed on a circular vent - the source. Vapour
swirled there. The air had formed this space, melted the
ice just enough. The vent was open. It was big enough for
her to fit into. She couldn't see where it went - but she
could see that it was her only option.

And hopefully it would be better than going up to a dome
door and letting herself in.

Within a minute she was crawling along a pipeline. /Some
sort of ventilation shaft. For what? What does this
underground base do?/

The pipe went on forever...then suddenly there was light.
Scully approached it and peered out cautiously. Dimness.
She was up high. Surrounded by indistinct, motionless
slabs. She managed to manoeuvre herself around so that
she could lower herself from the vent. Her feet found
some footholds, then she lightly jumped the rest of the
way to the floor.

The echo of her booted feet landing made her wince and
tense. She squatted down and waited, but nothing stirred.
She pulled a flashlight out of a pocket and turned it on.
The surroundings defined themselves in the light. It was
a corridor full of upright slabs - green slabs coated in
ice and frost. She turned a slow 360 degrees to be met by
the same sight.

She went up to the closest slab and rubbed at the
surface. Soon a face stared back at her. Human.
Translucent. Even more so than the fireman she had
started to autopsy. There was some sort of tube - a
respirator tube? - coming out of the man's throat.

/He can't be alive... But why keep a body in this state?/
Then she remembered what the Well Manicured Man had told
her, and frantically scraped at the concealing ice down
lower.

She found herself staring directly into the blank face of
a classic 'grey'. It was cocooned, frozen, in the man's
torso. She turned and looked at the dozens of other
coffin slabs within view.

Here be aliens.

/Aliens. Colonisation. This is what the Consortium is
working with... Fighting.../ The realisations, the proof,
had come too fast and she fought to handle it, to shrink
it down to a manageable size. /Mulder. They have Mulder.
Find him before he's reduced to this./

Gathering on the shared resource of strength that had
carried them through five years, Scully held the
flashlight out and went to see what was at the end of the
corridor.

She found a junction that branched into more corridors
bearing slabs, and a low opening in the wall. Light was
coming through it, and a sound so faint that Dana wasn't
sure if she was imagining it or not. But she bent down
and went through the archway towards it. She had to squat-
crawl for a minute, then the passageway ended and she
could stand up and move out onto...a balcony...

She gazed around, gaping. "Lots and lots of balconies..."

The roof was so far above her it might as well have been
the night sky. It umbrellaed down in a dome. It and the
walls were dotted with these balconies. Scully moved
further out on hers, feeling air move past. These were
vents, just on a grander scale. /To ventilate...what?/

She looked down. And down.

It was like an ampitheatre lair of a Kraken. Dana's naval
father would have appreciated the imagery. Scully could
almost picture the giant squid spread out below in the
structure. Right in the middle of the floor below was the
centre - the head - and spoked tracks like giant
tentacles stretched up from the centrepiece, up onto the
walls. Some carried ice coffins on runners, hanging
motionless, empty. Other spokes, like the one that ran
past Scully's balcony, were completely empty, disused.
Still others - down below, only in a certain section -
were moving the coffins along. These coffins were a more
bright green, newer, ice not having a chance to establish
so much of a grip. Being clanked along to their final
terminus.

/The other sections must be full.../ Before she could
stop it, her analytical mind calculated an estimate of
how many bodies that could mean.

*The crystal ship is being filled, a thousand girls, a
thousand thrills...*

No human could have built something on this vast a scale.
She swallowed.

/How to find Mulder? Literally my one in five billion./
She pulled out the binoculars and trained them on the
'new' section. There were tanks, rows of slabs
progressing like puppets on strings...

Hang on. Something down there seemed out of place. A
nagging flaw in the symmetry. And that was a phrase that
definitely summed up Mulder... She trained the binoculars
on it. Way down below, some sort of plastic slab lay at
an awkward angle to the rest of the layout. Some sort of
stretcher, with a plastic bubble over the top. Oxygen
tanks on the side.

Some sort of...cryogenic pod? Like the boys in Blackwood
Texas had said their friend was taken away in? To keep a
recent victim alive? Mulder. He had to be in one of the
upright containers near it.

At least, she hoped he was. This was too much conjecture
for her liking. But there was no time to search this
whole place. She had to narrow her search.

Now, how to get down? Surely there was a lift...

But she couldn't find it and Mulder's time was ticking
away.

She stared at the 'tentacle' on the wall beside her. It
had parts jutting out that she could use as foot and
handholds to climb down. They were the Kraken's
'suckers'.

Scully edged out onto it, hands and boots gripping. She
took a deep breath, and began lowering herself down,
carefully feeling with her boots for holds.

She didn't look down. It was taking forever. On and on
and on.

Her foot slipped. Suddenly she was dangling by her
fingers... "God..." she gasped. Her arms burned and
screamed at her. She tried not to kick out with her legs,
instead scrambling with the tips to find purchase, a
crevice. She couldn't hang on much longer... Her fingers
were slowly slipping...

Her left foot settled into a gap and held there. She was
able to re-establish her grips, and clung for a minute,
panting.

/Mulder./ Scully straightened her aching shoulders and
resumed her slow descent.

She knew she was getting there when the tentacle began to
curve more, until she was nearly crawling down it on her
knees. She risked looking below to ensure she wasn't
heading right for an abyss. She wasn't. The abyss was on
her left... Soon she was able to turn over and stand up
to walk down the slope.

To reach the floor she had to step atop a huge tank.
There were a few stains on it. Black. Like oil. She
avoided those patches.

Scully slid down the side of the storage tank, staggering
as she landed, forcing herself to ignore the jarring
pain. /I need sleep.../ She pushed that thought aside and
headed in the direction of the cryolitter, using the
sounds of the conveyor belt of bodies to guide her,
turning on her flashlight. There were no signs of life -
just motionless bodies in their frozen tombs and banks of
equipment.

She quickly found the cryolitter. Habit and training
forced her to check the vicinity first, even though she
wanted to rush forward. Finally she crossed over to the
open litter and looked in.

Devoid of her partner, but not empty. His clothes were
there. Even his watch. She knelt down and picked up his
dark green t-shirt, watching the material flop limply
over her hand, as if the act could make Mulder
materialise back in it, or that he was hiding below it.
*Tell me where your freedom lies; the streets and fields
that never die.* She touched the t-shirt to her cheek for
a second, then decisively dropped the clothing back down
and headed for the nearest row of ice coffins.

Suspended from the ceiling were dozens and dozens of
these coffins. This was her first up-close look at newer,
less iced containers; at people who weren't affected
enough yet to be turning translucent; to see the hideous
thick tubes sticking out of their mouths...; the green
gunk they were floating in - /Please tell me that it's
soda pop in those canisters.../ - hair haloing in a
deceptively peaceful way.

/Colonisation. They'll use our bodies and our minds.
Slave or incubator... All these people.../ Panic
threatened to overcome her.

/Stop. Save Mulder. Then save the world./

/Are the two mutually exclusive?/

The first man she saw was staring wide-eyed, unblinking,
into the future. No translucence to mute the horror of
his expression.

Not Mulder. Not Mulder. Not Mulder. She kept progressing
down the double line of pods, shining her flashlight into
every face.

And then she found the panic face.

END PART TWO OF FOUR
==========================================
TITLE: "Sliding Doors" (3/4)
BY: Ten

XxX

"Mulder!" She pressed her free hand to the surface of the
coffin. "Mulder!" She banged at the pod with her fist and
her flashlight, horrified to see him trapped like the
others, but overwhelmed with relief that she had found
him at last.

The flashlight left no impression. She calmed down enough
to search the sides of his hanging tomb for a handle or
some sort of opening mechanism.

/How am I going to get him out of there?/ It was like
being on the other side of the vending machine door all
over again, lacking the power to smash the door in.
Terrified that his time was up. Though if the bomb
countdown had gotten down any further, she would have
done a Xena and turned the barrier into splinters, baby.

Scully rubbed away a thin layer of ice on the left side
and looked carefully. There...three raised bumps. It was
hard to see, but if she was right... She pressed all down
at once.

Nothing. She pressed again. Then tried one after the
other in different sequences.

She was just about to run back to the cryolitter for one
of the oxygen canisters to implement a less gentle
approach when a hum sounded right in her ear. She jumped
as Mulder's form swayed slightly - the whole pod did.

/Oh God, what have I done...?/

But with a few clicks, small panels slid back in the base
stand of the pod, and the green semi-liquid goo began
draining out into the channel it hung over. The level of
the goo receded with relative quickness down past
Mulder's head, torso, ankles...

Then with a series of creaks and a sharp crack, the front
of the pod swung open a few inches, like a hinged door. A
coffin lid. She pulled it completely open.

"Mulder?"

He stood in place, eyes elsewhere, tube still firmly in
his throat.

/That thing is so big and thick... He's had plenty of
respirator tubes and feeding tubes taken out, but I don't
want to mess with this one... But I'll have to! I don't
dare press any more buttons.../ She thought this while
digging out the enshrouded green envelope for its final
and most important task.

She primed the injection and jabbed the needle into the
flesh of his shoulder. She pushed the plunger of the
syringe, delivering the vaccine into his body. Giving it
via IV would have been faster, but also possibly deadly -
vaccines were not given that way, so she didn't want to
risk it.

Then she stepped back a few millimetres, eyes never
leaving his face. "Mulder?" It was question and prayer.

/Dana, IM shots take at least twenty minutes to work,
remember... Just be -/

Mulder blinked and suddenly gagged without sound. Amber
liquid appeared in the tube, spreading from his throat.

Scully gaped at how quickly it was working. Her wish
granted; but was this speed a good thing or a bad thing?
And as the amber liquid progressed, the...organic
feeding/breathing/whatever tube...shrivelled up. It grew
desiccated, becoming much smaller.

Scully took a deep breath and reached for the tube.

The floor rocked. She was thrown across the corridor,
bumping into the pod of a blonde-haired woman. Dana
shuddered and stared around wildly. Small jets of steam
were suddenly erupting in the walls and floor. The lights
flickered and pulsed. A metallic groaning filled the air,
like a robot giving birth. Mulder's pod, along with all
the others, was rocking on its tethers.

The Well Manicured Man's voice sounded in her head. *You
will have your proof that aliens are real - and the
immensity of the Project. The alien colonists don't know
this vaccine exists. Its introduction into the alien
environment may have the power to destroy the delicate
plans we've so assiduously protected for the last fifty
years.*

/A few cc's of vaccine...and it's going right through the
place?/

In the ice base, Cancerman stared at the computer screen,
at the readings spiralling out of control. He'd once said
that he had never underestimated Mulder... He knew how to
play the agent. Just like when he returned the comatose
Scully at a carefully calculated time, knowing the
effects this would have on the young man. To distract him
from the launch of vital Consortium plans.

But what of underestimating Scully herself?

Scully reached into Mulder's pod and seized the tube. It
felt like a shrivelled garden hose. She pulled as gently
but firmly as she could manage. Mulder made noises in his
throat and blinked for a few uncomfortable seconds as the
long length was removed. Finally it was out and Scully
dropped it.

"Mulder?" She reached in and up to cup his cheek, stroke
it. "Can you breathe?"

His mouth opened and closed several times. He made
gasping noises, eyes straining, then he coughed up
several mouthfuls of goo and was able to suck in breath.
His breathing was harsh and desperate, but he was doing
it. That was the main thing.

He stared at her in recognition. She nearly laughed at
the comical expression on his face. His hair was
plastered flat from the goo - not his best look. She kept
stroking his cheek. She could hear more worrying noises
coming from the bowels of this place - something was
waking up. More steam was filling the air. They had to
get out of here while she could still find the way.

"Mulder, can you move? We have to get you out of here."

She put her hands on his arms and gave a gentle pull of
encouragement. A second later she was lying on the floor
with a goo-coated Mulder splayed on top of her. He made
alarmed noises, struggling weakly. Dana tried to get a
grip on her partner - in some safe location... It was
like mud wrestling. She was able to finally wriggle out
from under him enough to scramble up and gather him into
her arms.

"You're alive, you're alive," she whispered into his ear,
just glad to hold him.

"I'm naked..." he murmur-croaked. He sounded curious in a
detached way.

That was a point. Up until now, her every thought had
been focused on finding Mulder and injecting him with the
vaccine. Then getting him out of the coffin. Now there
was this problem.

/He's naked. We have to go out into freezing conditions
and he's naked apart from a layer of goo... If there was
a guard, I could steal some... There are humans somewhere
above us. They may even be coming down to investigate -
wait!/

She smoothed the slicked hair off his forehead. "Mulder,
just sit here for a minute. Don't move - I'll be right
back, okay?"

He nodded.

Scully hesitated. He seemed okay... She hurried down the
short passage, back out to the cryolitter. Even on that
short trek, she could see the affect of the vaccine
throughout the system. Ice was melting off into the
drainage ditches, wet steam floated, things were getting
much warmer. It was hard to believe there was desolate
icescape above. Hard to imagine there was a world out
there at all. Scully gathered up every scrap of clothing
in the litter, including his shoes, and went back down
the passage.

No Mulder.

Panic gripped her. She dumped the clothes and yelled for
him, racing forwards. At the end of the passage she ran
smack into something soft and wet.

Scully's heart nearly stopped. "Mulder! What the hell
were you doing?"

He stared at her, dazed, propping himself against the
wall with his hand. "Where'd you go? You weren't
there..."

She took his arm and led him back to the dropped bundle.
He let her dress him like he was a little child. Boxers,
socks, t-shirt, pants, shoes. Then she unzipped her coat
and took it off. "Here."

A flare of the old Mulder. "No."

"I've got heaps more layers on than you."

She threaded his arms through the sleeves, then took off
her waterproof outer pants as well. Thank God for the
bagginess - she got them on him. She zipped up the coat.

"Okay, c'mon, partner. We're getting out of here."
/Please let him have enough strength to make it out of
here... I can't carry him... Well, if I had to, I could
rig one of these cryolitters and push it along the
track.../ She remembered racing out of the Federal
Building, the bomb due to detonate in under a minute,
only to realise that Mulder's feet had stopped pounding
behind her. He wanted to go BACK INTO the building, and
Scully had felt an adrenalin surge so strong that if
Mulder hadn't come then, she could have hauled him over
her shoulder and thrown him in the car.

To her relief, as she guided Mulder along, arm around his
waist, he managed to keep pace with her very well. He was
looking around in a puzzled daze, but obeyed her
directions and answered lucidly enough when asked
questions.

Then he started asking his own. "Where are we?"

She couldn't believe she was about to say it, but what
she'd seen was pretty conclusive proof. "Inside a
grounded UFO - I think. Or at the least a Consortium base
in Antarctica storing people...and aliens."

"Ah." He accepted this matter-of-factly. She was sure
that would change as soon as he was alert enough to fully
comprehend what she had said. "How'd we get here?"

"You took the express - what's the last thing you
remember?"

"We were about to -"

"We were about to what?"

"No, that must have been a dream... You were going to
leave...you said I didn't need you." His voice was
faintly accusing.

"We almost kissed," she admitted. "And I was only leaving
because they were splitting us up." He just looked at
her, but the accusation had left his face.

He started to ask something about the state of her own
face, but it was time to climb. She was glad Mulder was
wearing running shoes that had good grip. And that he was
alert enough that she didn't have to drag him up each
'rung'. It was still dangerous though, with the melting
ice and condensation. Somehow they made it to the top.
Mulder was breathing heavily and sat down.

"We have to keep moving..."

"Can't..."

"Can." She pulled him up and pushed him on ahead, towards
the little arch.

By the time they got back into the corridor with the vent
in it, Mulder was still on his feet, but coughing. Scully
patted his back gently as she carefully navigated them
through the mist and water that overflowed the ditches
running along the flooring.

Then she was distracted from Mulder when her eye caught
on one of the ice coffins. Ice no longer, she could see
it clearly, despite a bit of fog. She could see one
trapped human clearly. His face looked like that of
a...Neanderthal! Unless it was the distortion and
disfigurement of being in the goo and being inhabited.
The aliens in their bodies were terrifyingly visible.

And in motion.

/Oh God.../ She could see three fingered - no, clawed -
hands moving, flexing. Eyes blinking. Watching her and
Mulder as they passed. Grey limbs were stretching,
straining the remains of the frail hosts. Making the
bodies move in the pods like zombies.

/Move, move!/ Scully hustled Mulder along until they were
under the opening. "Mulder, can you reach up? If you put
your foot in my hands and I push, can you get up and grab
that vent?"

He coughed and stared at it. She tugged at his coat.
"Mulder! This is important! We have to get out of here -
that's the only way I know for sure. You have to get up
there!" Her blood chilled again as she saw the way the
alien in the pod below the vent was eyeing them. She'd
seen that look on enough mutants in her time: it was
eyeing its prey.

Something bumped her. Scully turned to see Mulder
collapse to the floor. He was gasping for breath.

Then he stopped breathing.

END PART THREE OF FOUR
=========================================
TITLE: "Sliding Doors" (4/4)
BY: Ten

XxX

"Mulder, breathe! Dammit! You're not getting out of this
with just one near-kiss, you bastard!"

She positioned him and forced the air into his lungs,
cursing her small stature because it gave her lower lung
capacity just when she needed...

The aliens were stirring more vigorously inside their
hosts. Dispensing with the human bodies like dead outer
skins...

/Mulder. Focus on Mulder or he's dead./

"Mulder!" Again the mouth-to-mouth. A kiss of life. His
heart was beating, but he just couldn't get air...

/Oh God, if his heart stops now.../ She stared down at
her small hands. Yes, she'd restarted his heart once
before, in Alaska, but back then she'd been in an
equipped ER, using a defibrillator. To actually manually
do the compressions - would it be enough? How long could
she keep doing it for? She breathed for him again.

Alien hisses and hunting cries resounded as the creatures
beat against the pod doors. Again and again. The surfaces
cracking...

"Mulder, breathe!"

He wasn't obeying.

Scully pulled back with a gasp. Things were coming out of
his nose and eyes. Black things. Cancer worms - like
they'd seen in the nursing home after Mulder came back
from Russia. He had reluctantly admitted his own
infection and when nothing came up in his subsequent
tests they were both relieved. The gulag vaccine must
have worked...they assumed... Or this might be a new
batch given to him when he was placed in the coffin. She
had no way of knowing.

Now the things weakly twitched, then lay still on his
face. Hand shaking, Scully used the tip of the flashlight
to flick them off him. There seemed to be no more. There
was no time to wait for any more. She put her mouth back
to his and breathed. Once, twice.

Again. "Mulder..." she whispered, tears forming.

Again.

And his breath mingled with hers.

He moved, gasped, coughed. His eyes blinked instead of
bulging desperately. He stared up at her. She kept a hand
reassuringly on the side of his face.

His lips moved. She leaned right down and could finally
make out a weakly smug: "Had you big time..."

They both grinned. "Okay, okay. I'm buying!" she said.

Then she realised the pounding she could hear wasn't the
blood rushing through her ears, or her heartbeat. It was
the creatures. The pods began to shatter, and unhuman
arms and feet were emerging through the gaps, creating
bigger holes as slush poured through. Creating a way out.

Scully leapt up, grabbing Mulder by the arm and hauling
him up too. He started to slump, then steadied against
her. She made a cradle out of her linked hands. "Mulder,
I'll push you up. You have to grab that vent, NOW!"

Somehow he put his large foot in her hands. Calling on
their special strength, Scully heaved, and Mulder was
lifted enough to snag the vent, scrambling for hand and
footholds as Scully kept pushing at his legs. Her gaze
was nailed by that of the still unhatched alien in the
pod below the vent. It was beating the cracked facade of
its pod, in a frenzy to reach them.

Its fist suddenly broke through. Scully clubbed it with
the flashlight. Both the impact and the beam of light
full in its face caused the alien to scream and pull its
arm back inside.

Creatures were stumbling out of the pods into the
corridor now. Newborn, glistening, dripping. But deadly.
Mulder's legs disappeared through the vent hole and
Scully, her way clear, wasted no time jumping upwards
from a standing start. /Just pretend you're scaling
something in the Quantico training course.../ She grabbed
hold of a protuberance and scrambled up, arms begging for
retirement. She lifted herself up, legs pushing off the
pod. Mulder's hand appeared to help, and then they were
both in the shaft tunnel.

"Keep going, Mulder!" She shoved him forwards.

He muttered something in reply - she could have sworn it
was "You just want...a good view of my...ass..." - and
began crawling. His brush with death below the vent had
made him slower and weaker.

Scully was about to move off when a noise from behind
whipped her head around. Oily three-fingered hands were
grasping the rim of the vent. A head started to appear
over the lip.

Scully drew both legs up together, then sent a double
kick into the alien's head with all her might. She heard
an inhuman shriek and a thud as it hit the corridor
floor. Then she rolled over and crawled madly in the
opposite direction, yelling at Mulder to keep going, and
to do so quickly.

Along the shaft they went. As they were getting closer to
the light at the end, Scully could hear noises of pursuit
behind her. "Hurry, Mulder - we're almost there!" /And
what the hell do we do when we get there with that thing
following us? We'll be stuck in that snow cave.../ She
mentally went through her pockets, trying to come up with
something to use.

She had to help Mulder through the air pocket's vent
opening with a few pushes, then scrambled up herself. She
pushed him forwards, looking around frantically. The area
had gone from having a hole in the roof to being an open
ampitheatre from all the heat and steam jets. The ice was
melting everywhere. The walls were still high, but not as
impossible to try tackling.

Scully looked behind her as she steered Mulder through
the slush and broken pieces to the most promising looking
wall. He let out a few choice words as he gazed at it.

Then the creature sprang out of the vent opening. It
landed on its haunches a few metres from the vent. It
grimaced in the bright sunlight, blinded.

It was a 'grey', but not the small, benevolent
stereotype. This one was a sinewy killing machine. All
coiled potential.

Mulder gasped at the sight. It heard and instantly went
to leap towards the sound, but Scully had been moving as
soon as it appeared, grabbing up a piece of ice big
enough to be a computer printer, and hurling it. The
block caught the alien square in the chest, knocking it
backwards.

"Mulder, climb!" Scully snatched up a piece the size of
two bricks and flung it.

The creature snarled as it sprawled over the vent, nearly
falling back in.

"But -" Mulder began.

"GET OUT OF HERE!!!!" Scully bent her knees and heaved at
a slab that wouldn't be out of place as the top of her
coffee table.

Suddenly a rumbling noise issued from the shaft, getting
louder and louder. Steam appeared. The ground shook. The
alien froze in place, staring down, head tilting in
puzzlement.

"Mulder, duck!" Scully threw herself at him, knocking him
down. She looked back in time to see the alien swallowed
up by an explosion of steam rupturing out of the vent.
The mass of steam fortunately missed Dana and her
partner. It did strike one of the remaining ice walls
though, and when Scully was able to see its handiwork,
she found it had carved a slope for them to use.

They stumbled up onto the ice plain. Mulder groaned at
the even-worse glare and fell to his hands and knees in
exhaustion. She knelt down beside him, hand gentle on the
back of his neck, trying to catch enough breath to get
them both across the plain to the snowcat. She glanced
back at the base. All the snow vehicles were gone. Dome
doors were flapping open. They'd abandoned ship. Steam
jets were everywhere, even more appearing as Scully
looked.

There was something very...precise...about the jets.

She realised - they were at regular intervals, not
haphazard. They were in, as far as she could tell, a
circle. A very very big circle.

Her earlier suspicion was correct. The Consortium had
literally abandoned ship. *A* ship. A UFO that was now
firing its engines... Scully looked around and down...

The ice was beginning to crack up under their feet.

"Mulder, Mulder, we have to run! Get up!" She hauled him
up, put an arm of iron around his waist, and began
sprinting. If he didn't keep up, she'd drag him.

They ran. Behind them the five station domes sank and
disappeared. Bursts of noise raced past them, and ice was
gobbled up behind them, the hole radiating out, bigger
and bigger as it pursued them.

They fell. They got up. They kept running.

The cracks outran them. The ice dropped away. So did
they.

The partners landed on the surface of the spaceship.
Scully had barely felt the impact, the realisation,
before there was the sensation of the ship rising, of
them sliding down the slope... She grabbed for Mulder's
arm as he tumbled limply just before her.

They fell down to the edge of the ice sheet with a shower
of broken ice. Scully threw herself over Mulder's head
and shoulders. A piece of ice glanced off her head. It
felt the size of a small nation. She collapsed forward
over Mulder.

Scraping noises. Deafening. An unearthly humming.
Darkness. Pain and dizziness. Mulder moving under her.
Moving out from under her, shaking her. She groaned in
response.

"Scully, Scully, you gotta see this!"

Because it was Mulder asking, she tried. The emerging
ship was so immense that she couldn't get her injured
head around the concept. /Our crystal ship.../ Mulder was
holding her in his arms, and they watched as the
spaceship rose enough to let them have the sun back, then
it gracefully disappeared into the clouds.

She and Mulder looked at each other. The wind whipped
around them. His gaze was full of exhaustion, amazement
and concern. She wanted to tell him where the snowcat
was, about the radio, that she'd let the base know where
she was going, that rescue should come - especially with
the UFO being one hell of a signal flare - but she
couldn't stay conscious.

He cradled her. She felt him wrap his arms tightly around
her drenched body, pulling her knees in against her
chest. She fit so well. His face was in her hair. He
could carry her to the cat. Her strength would carry him.
Scully passed out.

FBI OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL REVIEW
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
WASHINGTON, D.C.

A.D. Jana Cassidy was in full flight, "- in light of the
report I've got here in front of me - in light of the
narrative I'm now hearing, my official report is
incomplete, pending these new facts that I'm being asked
to reconcile."

Agent Scully sat in front of her, the bruises on her face
still visible. There was not enough makeup in the world
to conceal it all - the marks from the EMT's attack were
faded from what they had been previously, but the ones
from the ice rain were still vivid. And she could not
just brush her hair to cover it. She was making no effort
to mask her determination though.

"While there is direct evidence now that a federal agent
may have been involved in the bombing -"

Scully nearly laughed. After the hearing where she'd
presented the bone fragments and her suspicions, Cassidy
had sent agents to SAC Michaud's house. They found PETN
residues on his personal effects which matched the
vending machine bomb.

"- the other events you've laid down here seem too
incredible on their own, and quite frankly, implausible
in their connection."

"What is it you find incredible?" Scully asked without a
trace of uncertainty or embarrassment.

"Well, where would you like me to start?" Cassidy was
exasperated. "This is the sort of thing we expect from
your partner."

"I wrote down exactly what I saw. What we saw, and the
purposes for which they are being used."

"May I mention something called concussion, Agent Scully?
Something you are familiar with as a doctor and as a
victim. I have several medical reports here, from
Georgetown and Antarctica - the latter facility of which
may be a little behind us, but can presumably still make
a qualified diagnosis of such an affliction - which state
that you not only had concussion from a slab of ice to
the head, you also had an existing concussion from
greeting a city curb a few days previous. How can we, in
light of your condition, be expected to believe your
account? Agent Mulder's recollection is even worse. I
appreciate that you both endured a horrible ordeal, and
it has clearly affected you, but we cannot accept this."

Scully tried not to let her frustration show. When she'd
woken up in the base hospital, her memories of the alien
ship - both the interior and exterior - were still there,
but not quite as clear. It was if they were distanced
from her slightly, detached. Opaque. If she was so
inclined, she could quite easily talk herself into
believing that it was all a hallucination... Or that it
was all a base built by humans and the creatures were
genetic experiments, mutants...

But it wasn't. She knew. She couldn't afford to dismiss
those visions.

"Antarctica is a long way from Dallas, Agent Scully. I
can't very well submit a report to the Attorney General
that alleges the links you've made here. Bees and corn
crops do not quite fall under the rubric of domestic
terrorism."

"No, they don't."

"Most of what I find in here is lacking a coherent
picture of any organisation with an attributable motive.
To go accusing FEMA..." Cassidy had a look of distaste.
"An organisation set up to help disaster victims..."

/Oh yes, the corrupt businessman donates to charity, so
he MUST be a good man... Spare me.../

"The holes in your account leave this panel with little
choice but to delete these references from our final
report to the Justice Department, and until a time when
hard evidence becomes available that would give us cause
to pursue such an investigation."

Scully stood up and walked forward to stand before
Cassidy. She placed three vials, one after the other,
down on the conference desk with precision.

The first vial held a dead bee. The second contained a
few millimetres of a gooey substance. The third held bone
fragments.

Scully glanced at Skinner and the board, then back to
Cassidy.

"We couldn't fit the crater into an evidence bag for you.
But I think the aerial photos will bring it up nicely."
/They'll just say it was a sinkhole caused by the
'earthquake'./ "We've had some samples of what you see
here already run. Some interesting results came to
light." Copies of the tests and samples were safe with
the Gunmen. Unfortunately the vial and the needle were
lost on the ship when Mulder keeled out of the coffin
onto her. "But I don't believe that the FBI currently has
an investigative unit qualified to pursue the evidence at
hand."

Without waiting to be dismissed, Scully dismissed them as
she turned and walked out the door.

CONSTITUTION AVENUE
WASHINGTON D.C.
NEAR FBI HEADQUARTERS

Scully approached the park bench. Mulder sat there,
holding a newspaper. As she got closer, she could see the
fading marks of the mild frostbite on his face. He looked
up at her.

"There's a nice story on page twenty-seven. Somehow our
names were left out." He folded the paper in angry,
precise movements, then handed it to her.

She was not surprised to see: FATAL HANTA VIRUS OUTBREAK
IN NORTHERN TEXAS REPORTED CONTAINED

"They're burying it, Scully. They're going to dig a new
hole and cover it up."

"I just gave OPR the evidence, told them everything I
know. What I experienced. What you experienced. The
virus. How it's being spread by bees from pollen in
transgenic crops. The ice base with the aliens and all
the collected humans. How they're going to colonize.
There should be enough there for the panel to accept my
report or at least look into it without dismissing it
offhand."

"You're wasting your time, Scully. They won't believe
you. It can't be programmed, catalogued or easily
referenced."

"I've come to believe, Mulder. That's something in
itself. That means there's hope for the others. We'll go
over their heads -"

"No. How many times have we been here? Right here. And
now to be right back at the beginning with
nothing...after all that we've seen! You're right to want
to quit. You should get as far away from me as you can.
That could have been you stung. You could have died in
Antarctica. I'm not going to watch you die trying to save
me or follow me because of some hollow personal cause of
mine. Go be a doctor, Scully. Go be a doctor while you
still can."

"I can't. I won't. Mulder, I'll be a doctor, but my work
is here with you now. It always has been. This virus has
a cure. I held it in my hand." She wondered if the
vaccine through the ship's system had defeated the
aliens...how badly it hurt their agenda. There was so
much to do. And one person to do it with.

She took his hand, the one that had been stung and held
it in both of her own. "If I quit now, they win."

They stood for a long moment, hands clasped, saying so
much just with their expressions. A small smile played on
Mulder's lips, and he nodded slightly. One day they would
finish that kiss. For now it hung there as a promise. The
emotions behind it bound them, unstated but acknowledged
at last.

Then, together, reavowed, they turned and walked back
towards the Hoover Building.

In Foum Tataouine, Tunisia, a conversation was being held
in the haze of heat and cigarette smoke:

"He's determined now. Reinvested."

"He is but one man. One man alone cannot fight the
future."

"He's not alone."

In a number of locations, gleaming tankers bore the
declaration "NATURE'S BEST CORN OIL" as they bore
something else entirely.

In Texas, a tray of fossil fragments went missing, and a
cornfield burned.

In Tunisia, a cornfield flourished as a discarded
telegram flapped in the wind.

THE END. (PART FOUR OF FOUR.)