TITLE: Absalom V: The Price of a Man (1/2)
AUTHOR: Joyce McKibben (griffin100@juno.com)
DATE: February 1998

RATING: PG-13 (some profanity)
SUMMARY: I would suggest that you read the preceding
parts of this series before reading this part. This is
part 5 of a developing series.
Jason sets into motion the end game for Mulder's
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Skinner, Scully and CSM belong to
CC and Fox Broadcasting and I am only borrowing
them for a moment and will return them. Jason
belongs to me. No infringement is intended. Lord
knows, I'm not making any money off of this and
have no intentions of making any money from it.

FEEDBACK: Always welcome. Send to: griffin100@juno.com

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: A very big thanks to Meredith whose
editing skills keep me focused and gently prod me in
the right direction.


Absalom V: The Price of a Man

"Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I
redeem them from Death?" Hosea 13:14

13 days after the attack
George Washington Hospital

Mulder slowly floated to the top of the ocean of drugs
cascading through his veins and tried to remember why he
was flirting with permanent narcotic addiction, again.
His mind felt like half-melted jello, not enough form or
substance to hold even a passing thought. Random
flashes of memory appeared and vanished with the chaotic
intensity of a disco light.


A desperate fight to breathe.

A man's fist closing off his airway, smiling coldly then
furious when Mulder did not slide easily into death.

Air, blessed air and the touch of Scully's hand on his

Floating on top of the waves, he tried to remember if he
died and heaven was an eternity of feeling Scully's
touch or if he had survived and had a future where
nothing had been said or settled between them.

"Hey, partner."

Despite the drugs which made even the smallest muscle
movement a challenge, Mulder smiled. He suspected it
appeared more like a lopsided loopy grimace, but he
hoped Scully would know what he meant - she usually did.

"Come on, partner. Time to wake up," Scully said
soothingly, her tone easing him gently back into
consciousness, her hand resting on his, wrapping her
fingers around his while her thumb rubbed the back of
his hand in slow circles.

Mulder made an abortive attempt to answer her and felt
the sting of pain as his throat fought the muscle
relaxants briefly then gave up the effort.

Oh, yeah. His throat. Memory came surging back and he
remembered with stark clarity the knife that had slashed
through his throat on a lonely street.

"Shush, Mulder. Just take it slow and easy. The doctor
won't be happy if you rip out all of his nice stitches,"
Scully cautioned.

Mulder felt the restraints around his wrists and felt
the odd weight of a cast on his left arm. Vague
memories of struggling against his restraints as he was
being murdered came to the fore and the distinctive
sound of bones snapping replayed. Damn. He felt his
lungs expand and contract independent of his will and
stopped a sigh before it had half formed.

Shit. He hated respirators. More memories surged back
on the ebbing tide of drugs. The urge to breathe
against the cycle of the respirator was very tempting,
but hard-learned experience kept him still.

Mulder nodded slightly, being very careful not to jar
the air tube at the base of his throat. Very cautiously
he opened his eyes, blinking a bit at the light. To his
delight, the first thing he saw was Scully haloed by the
light, looking for all the world like his guardian

He squeezed her hand to let her know he was awake and
aware and was rewarded by a smile that rivaled the
dazzle of the overhead lights. For some reason beyond
his fathoming, Scully glowed. Even her eyes, usually
clouded with worry whenever he woke up in a hospital,
seemed to shine with some emotion he couldn't quite

How long, he mouthed. It was dark outside, but whether
that meant he had been asleep for hours or days he
couldn't tell.

"Thirty-six hours. You were in some pain and the doctor
decided it would be best if you simply slept through the
worst of it," Scully assured him. Mulder sensed that
she had not agreed with the doctor's course of action,
but hadn't interfered.

Mulder felt the head of the bed being raised slowly to
give him time to adjust to the new angle. When he was
finally upright he saw the doctor come in followed by a
nurse. He gave Scully a sad look as if to ask if she
could protect him from another exam, but she merely
shook her head and retreated to the foot of the bed. At
least there he could watch her instead of worrying about
what the doctor was doing.

Dr. Ozwin didn't say a word throughout the examination
except for a few random 'hmmms' and a 'tsch' or three
which meant nothing to Mulder, but seemed to say
something to Scully. He read her face for his fate,
knowing her eyes could not lie. He knew the possibility
that the latest attempt on his life could have resulted
in permanent damage, damage that would effectively exile
him from the X-Files. The doctor couldn't know how
desperately Mulder needed reassurance, but Scully did
and the slight relaxing of her eyes along with the
merest hint of a smile was enough to tell Mulder that he
still had a future, at least one that he cared about.

"Alright then, Mr. Mulder, the stitches look in fine
shape. If nothing further interrupts your recovery, I
should be able to remove them in three more days," Dr.
Ozwin said heartily. His cheery manner deflated at the
impatient glare directed at him by his patient. "Just
try not to have any more adventures and maybe we can get
you into rehab and out of here, OK?" he added with a
tone of exasperation marring his professional cheery

Mulder gave his doctor another glare and nodded, very,
very carefully. Dr. Ozwin's rules of recovery were
etched into his brain - no sighing, no exaggerated
movements and, above all, no talking.

It wasn't as if he'd arranged that little attempt on his
life that sent him back into a drugged sleep for thirty-
six hours. Mulder wanted out - out of this bed, out of
the tyranny of the respirator, and out of the depressing
need to have his meals fed to him through a
gastrointestinal tube. Right now, he might consider
cold-blooded murder for a western omelet and whole-sale
slaughter of innocents for a cup of coffee.

Mulder gave Scully a look that mixed inquiry, mild
pleading and worry hoping she would be able to interpret
a plea for some kind of assurance from the doctor that
he was going to speak again. Scully gave him an amused,
but slightly exasperated look and nodded.

"Dr. Ozwin, what are his chances for a full recovery?
You said at the very beginning that there would be a 50-
50 chance of him regaining his voice. Has there been
any change in your prognosis?" Scully was all
professional, crisp, no-nonsense.

Mulder figuratively held his breath as he waited for the
doctor's reply. The damn respirator kept on pumping air
into his lungs, but his soul paused as he waited for his
sentence to be pronounced.

"Mr. Mulder has remarkable powers of recuperation.
Unless something else happens to interfere with his
recovery, I expect he will regain full use of his voice.
There will be residual huskiness and I doubt if he
should consider a career in singing, but with proper
rehabilitation, he should been speaking again in one
month, possibly two," Dr. Ozwin replied in a genial
fashion that involved a lot of teeth and a smile that
actually produced a dimple. Concentrating on showering
Scully with his charm, he ignored Mulder's part in the
equation very thoroughly.

Mulder silently growled at the doctor. For the first
time he noticed that Ozwin resembled a graying Adrian
Paul. He actually seemed to be trying to score with
Scully over his prone body. Suddenly Mulder made up his
mind to be rid of the stitches in two days and out of
the hospital in under a week. This much charm had to be
bad for Scully's health - something along the lines of
too much sugar for a diabetic. He owed it to Scully to
make as fast a recovery as possible.


Engrossed in his silent grumbling, Mulder did not notice
Scully's tender smile as she watched him glower, but
Ozwin did. With a sigh, he hustled out of the room.

"Thank you, doctor, for all you've done," she said
graciously, but with a note of finality in her voice
that told Ozwin his advances had been noted and
rejected. Ozwin turned and gave her a shrug and a smile
to indicate that he understood, then moved on to his
next patient.

Scully chuckled to herself, careful not to make a sound.
Mulder's pouting was the best sign she'd had in nearly
two weeks that his determination to fight back against
all odds had made a full recovery. She had been more
worried about his spirit than his voice. Physical
complications never stood in Mulder's way; he either
overcame them or ignored them in his headlong rush after
his truth. As long as he had the spirit to keep
fighting, she knew he'd manage to get back in the game.

Looking at him drifting into a half-aware world, dazed
by the drugs that were slowly ebbing from his system,
she wondered how she ever thought she could push him
away to save him the pain of losing her. They were
linked too close for that rational plan of hers to work.
Even now, she had only to touch him, to lightly caress
his skin and he would burst through the haze of the
drugs to be with her.

Time had nearly slipped through her fingers. No more
hesitation, no more waiting until the right moment, she
was not going to take the chance that he would be ripped
from her before sharing in her joy. Whoever was trying
so desperately to kill Mulder might not wait until her
'right moment.'

Moving back up to stand beside him, she allowed herself
the luxury of watching him doze, drugged and relaxed,
with all the tension and fire that made him banked down
to smoldering coals. His face was slack and relaxed
with half-lidded eyes that made her wonder if this was
how he would look after sex. For once, Scully did not
banish that thought back to the closet of her fantasies.
Just for now, she would allow herself to see her partner
as a man and understand her own feelings for him, as a

As if sensing her gaze, Mulder opened his eyes and lay
there absorbing her scrutiny. His eyes darkened with
recognition of the meaning of her gaze and a small flush
spread from his neck up the lines of his face. With a
smile at her own daring, Scully took her finger and
traced a long lazy spiral along the lines of the flush.
Mulder licked his dry lips and threw himself into her
eyes, pulling her into a pool of longing, uncertainty,
fear, and passion intense enough to burn both of them to
ash if ever unleashed.

Startled by meeting passion to match her own, Scully
dropped her hand and stepped back. In an instant,
Mulder lowered his eyes and when he raised them again,
they were the eyes of a friend and partner, nothing
more. Perhaps, she thought, there was a hint of regret
lingering, but no sign of despair or shame. Scully
realized that whatever the ultimate destination on their
journey, Mulder had every intention of exploring this
particular extreme possibility.

Mulder smiled as he tapped his finger on the bed to
indicate he wanted free of the restraints and wanted the
chalkboard. Scully quickly unfettered him and helped
him balance the board in against the cast on his left

What happened? You came back early? You OK?

Puzzled, Scully tried to figure out what he was talking
about then realized he was referring to the latest

"Someone tried to kill you and make it look like an
accident. Rather clumsily, I might add." Scully had to
chuckle at the raised eyebrows and outraged look Mulder
gave her. OK, so making comments about the assassin's
competency and professionalism were a bit excessive
under the circumstances, she admitted to herself. The
look on Mulder's face however, almost made the slip

"You were a lot more stubborn about living than he had
counted on, but I wouldn't have made it in time."
Scully laid her open hand against Mulder's face in
silent apology. His eyes absolved her.

You came. That's all that matters.

"Well, if the assassin hadn't been killed by someone
else, I would have been too late. I don't pretend to
understand what is going on here, but I suspect there is
a division in the enemy ranks. Skinner is furious. You
now have your very own private guard right outside the
door." Scully smiled as she recalled Skinner's anger at
the attack. The first agent assigned to guard duty had
told her that the Assistant Director made it very clear
that if anything happened to Agent Mulder that Death
Valley would be a step up from his next assignment.

Mulder looked quizzically at her but accepted the slight
shake of her head. She wasn't ready to fill him in on
the details, yet. She'd save them for the times during
rehab when he was ready to climb the walls and needed a
diversion. She'd save them for a time when her guilt
wasn't quite so raw. The idea that she could have been
tamely sitting in the waiting room while Mulder was
ruthlessly murdered still haunted her.

Not answered my question. You OK?

Scully saw the stubborn lines appear around Mulder's
eyes and the look of concern that he tried to hide
behind a smile.

"More than OK, partner," Scully gave Mulder a full-
fledged smile and watched his expression dissolve into a
look that a man might give if offered a glass of water
in the desert. She noted the snap of the chalk as his
fingers clenched in a spasm of hope and fear.

"Seems I qualify as an extreme possibility. My cancer
has receded. The doctor doesn't know why, but x-rays
don't lie."

Scully was stunned to see a tear roll down Mulder's
cheek. More tears blurred his eyes as they turned the
color of the sea in autumn. The chalk fell from his
fingers as he raised his hand to touch her cheek. His
hand cupped her face as his thumb moved along her chin
and swept briefly over her lips. A look of utter awe
and gratitude shone in Mulder's eyes that drew her into
the eye of the storm, into a silent, private place where
he kept his heart.

Leaning forward slightly, Scully turned her lips against
the palm of his hand and kissed it. Still saying
nothing, making no other move, she acknowledged his
heart and opened her own to him. Finally he smiled back
at her, breaking the spell with a look that combined
lively curiosity, relief and the promise of passion yet
to come.

Fumbling for the chalk, he finally located a sliver of
it and retrieved the chalkboard from his lap.

You'll make me believe in God.

"He's just one more extreme possibility, Mulder. When
you get your voice back, we'll argue which is easier to
believe in, God or aliens," Scully said with a laugh.
She hadn't laughed or smiled so much in ages. She felt
like a prisoner released from a dark, dreary dungeon
coming up into the sun. Mulder was alive and they had a
future to believe in.

It's a date. Welcome back, partner.

"I never really left you, Mulder. I just took the
scenic route for a bit. Now, go back to sleep. I'll be
right here." Scully firmly removed the chalkboard and
chalk and set them on the table. Mulder's initial
protest was deterred by the return of her hands on his
arm and cheek. Leaning into the sanctuary of her touch,
Mulder allowed the drugs to float him away and fell
asleep with a smile, sailing on the hope in a future he
had not dared to believe in before.

Scully watched him sleep and prayed that they would be
allowed the future she saw reflected in his heart and
his eyes. So many enemies remained obscured in shadow.
She watched and tried to believe in the extreme
possibility that they could have a future. At least she
was now assured that she would not leave him alone to
fight on without her at his side.

[continued in part 2]

Subject: Absalom V (2/2) by Joyce McKibben


21 days after the attack
Washington Mall

"A most satisfactory development, my friend," Jason
commented dryly. The smoke from his friend's cigarette
blended with his breath in the cold air to form a great
billowing cloud that obscured faces already hidden in

"Yes, the A.D. is proving to be a most efficient tool,"
the smoker replied with quiet satisfaction.

Jason's smile was lost in the darkness. His friend's
tastes in revenge were simple, but very direct. It was
refreshing. So few in the Consortium these days
understood the exquisite pleasure of a well-planned and
executed revenge.

A gentle drifting snow began to fall, further hiding
the two men from curious eyes. Jason wondered anew if
the devil looked after his own or was merely amusing
himself by sending an entire city into the throes of
panic with the expenditure of a few snowflakes.

"I thought the last clean-up job was handled with more
efficiency and dispatch than usual. He will make an
excellent addition to our team, once he has resigned
himself to the inevitable," Jason noted with cold
appraisal of the walls closing in around Assistant
Director Walter Skinner. Mr. Skinner was now deeply
inveigled in their affairs. Jonathan's foresight in
cultivating this particular game piece was reaping
unexpected benefits. Whatever plans the Elders may
have had in mind for Skinner would now be diverted in
the smoker's favor. Jason allowed himself a moment of
smug satisfaction. Their plans, nearly forty years in
the making, were moving towards completion.

The smoker exhaled a perfect smoke ring that hung
motionless in the cold night air. A second attempt
fragmented in a sudden gust of wind. He shrugged deeper
into his coat.

"I know, old friend, we are both too old to hold these
clandestine meetings in the cold. However, until I can
be completely certain that all the listening devices
have been removed from my office, it would be wise to
meet in unexpected places," Jason said, keeping his
anger under tight control. The Elders were consumed
with paranoia after last week's revolt within their
ranks. The entire power structure of the Consortium
was still reeling from the effects of the mutiny.

"Now, old friend, what is so important to drag both of
us out into this cold," Jason asked gruffly, shaking a
half-inch of snow off his shoulders.

"Your time is running out." Cold words. Clipped,
urgent words.

Jason went very still. He could feel his skin twitch
in anticipation of the bullet's sting. Did he want the
end to come at the hands of a friend, or would he rather
die cursing a faceless drone? His breathing remained
calm and even, but he knew his friend had heard the
infinitesimal catch in the rhythm before he exerted

"Mulder's time is running out. With his goes yours."

Jason fought the urge to sigh in relief. This night
would not end with him sprawled in the snow, staining
the crystalline whiteness with his blood. His friend,
balked of his dreams of writing spine-chilling dramas,
sought amusement in manipulating emotions and fears.
He refused to give his friend any more satisfaction
than he had already gleaned from the situation and
merely cocked a quizzical eyebrow. A brief growling
cough rewarded his control. Tit for tat, my friend,
Jason thought.

"The Elders are in the process of deciding that any
threat to their security must be eliminated," the
smoker continued, this time allowing his anger to seep
into the words.

Jason understood that anger. He too felt the
frustrated fury at having to answer to a bunch of old
fools who were fluttering about like panicked turkeys
on Thanksgiving morning. Now they were turning away
from ravaging their own ranks to contemplating a truly
disastrous course of action.

"Why now? The Project is beyond Mulder's ability to
derail," Jason asked without expecting an answer.
Events were accelerating, hurtling them all to the
culmination of decades of plots and conspiracies. The
Elders felt the loss of control as events twisted in
their hands to control them and were lashing out in

"They are afraid of what they do not control or
understand," the smoker snapped contemptuously.
"Mulder, by necessity, has been kept ignorant of his
purpose in the Project. What he has learned, the
scraps he has scavenged, cannot be reassembled into the
truth - they are only shards of a mirror that reflect
darkly what he seeks to know."

"I would have thought that the Elders would at least
have respected the Compact," Jason muttered softly,
knowing he was a fool to believe the Elders respected
anything other than the intoxication of power. They
must believe that the Compact would never be enforced.
Decades of wielding unlimited power had rendered them
senseless to the possibility of retribution for any
act. Then again, they had been chipping away at the
terms of the Compact before the ink had dried on their

"When souls are sold so cheap and the devil has not
come to collect, the damned may believe themselves free
of the bargain," the smoker replied. "Fools. The
devil comes at his own time. Do they think that he has
forgotten about them?" The smoker puffed irritably at
his dying cigarette, pulling the last fragments of fire
and smoke deep into his lungs.

"Or us," Jason added so quietly that only the
snowflakes heard him.

"With Bill Mulder dead and Fox's parentage in question,
no doubt they feel safe in moving against him," Jason
commented, letting the unspoken question hover in the
air between them. He wondered just how close to the
mark the rumors were that placed Fox Mulder in his
friend's lineage.

The smoker turned to face his friend, giving him an
enigmatic smile before languidly lighting up a fresh
cigarette. The exhaled smoke seared the falling snow
and melted into the night. He stared at the snow-
shrouded statues of the Korean War Memorial with a
distant pensive expression that Jason refrained from
interrupting. Jason stared into the night, content to
wait for his friend to speak. They were used to these
long silences between them. Words were merely the
necessary clutter of their daily lives. Their souls,
such as were left to them, lived in the silences.

"She was a beautiful woman. All beauty and
intelligence, enough to tempt a saint, but no fire."
The smoker gave a self-mocking chuckle, echoed by
Jason's smile. His friend had worn many names and
could claim many titles, but saint was never even a
remote possibility, even before the Compact.

"All the fire has been leached out of them. It is as
if they poured all their fire into one vessel until
nothing was left of themselves but pale shadows, half-
dead wraiths moving among the living, mocking us. And
him - all fire, ready to ignite in a conflagration that
would destroy us all," the smoker mused in a distant
tone that suggested to Jason he was veering dangerously
close to the brink of prophecy. As his voice died out,
lost in the rising wind, the smoker sighed and gave his
shoulders a vigorous shake to dislodge the snow that
threatened to transform him into a puffing snowman.

"The Elders are blind fools. I should let them destroy
themselves by destroying Mulder, but I have no
intention of throwing away four decades of work. I
gave Bill Mulder my word. His son will follow him into
the Project as was ordained." The smoker flicked his
half-smoked cigarette away into the snow-bank forming
at their feet.

"You will bring Mulder to me by week's end, Jason. We
will make Mulder ours. We will reap the rewards of
faithfulness and obedience," the smoker commanded

There was no need for threats. Failure had only one
reward and Jason knew it. Their position was already
shaky. Jason suspected that more than one Elder might
be tendering the proposition that he and the smoker
might also be considered threats. The tightrope of
ambition and power they had walked for these many years
had grown slippery with Jonathan's blood. They had
seen his connection with Fox as betrayal. Few of the
Elders were capable of comprehending Jonathan's deep
understanding of the labyrinthine consequences of the
Compact. If those fools of Elders did not realize the
value of Fox Mulder, then they deserved no less than
the fate they dealt to Jonathan.

"I will see to it personally," Jason assured his
friend. He shivered slightly, from the cold wind that
cut through his thick wool coat, he told himself.

"Well, then, Fox, time to bring you home where you
belong. You've had your fun, now it is time to put
away childish things," Jason murmured as he walked
away, leaving his friend standing in the blowing snow,
staring at the statues of men who had fought in the first
war of the Project and felt the stone-cold emptiness of
its purpose immortalized forever on their weary bronze


Tic-Toc Cafe
Next evening

"You have the tape." Jason's tone made a comment out of
the question. He had been kept waiting by this over-
confident whelp. The familiar surge of his anger at
minor league players who thought they were too valuable
to discard brushed the edges of his self-control.
Little men with big ambitions were so pathetic, so
blind to the reality that no man was irreplaceable.

"Yes. It's gonna cost you, however," the grungy young
man with a buzz haircut grinned in what he obviously
hoped was a sinister manner. Jason tried not to sigh.
He cautiously took another sip of coffee and made a mental
note to hire someone to torch this place. Any cafe that
abused coffee this badly should not be allowed to exist.

"Lenny, we agreed on the price yesterday," Jason said
smoothly. Even the boy's efforts to gouge more money
out of a contracted deal were predictable.

"Yeah, well, this little piece of art is a masterpiece.
You can run it through any test you want and it will
come up clean. I'd say that's worth another thousand,
wouldn't you? I don't know what scam you're pulling,
but from the looks of this tape, I'd say you're gonna
be raking it in. So, I want my share, up front," Lenny
demanded, holding the tape box behind his back. The
metal rings on his nose and eyebrows glinted as he
leaned forward to emphasize that he thought he held all
the cards.

"Very well. You seem to have me over the barrel, so to
speak." Jason gave in with a show of resigned
impatience. Lenny's startled 'oh' quickly turned into a
gloating grin. With a kick of his foot, Jason moved a
satchel from under his seat to the boy's feet. "I think
you'll find everything to your satisfaction."

Lenny's tongue flicked over a tiny ring attached to his
lip as he barely restrained a grab for the satchel.
With a passable attempt at a sneer he passed the tape
to Jason under the table. Pausing only long enough to
give the box a tiny shake to confirm that a tape did
indeed lie inside, Jason slipped the box into his coat
pocket. The boy was an arrogant fool who had developed
unseemly ambitions, but he had been trustworthy in the

"Then our business is complete. Enjoy the rewards of
your labor," Jason said as he rose to leave. Lenny
barely nodded in reply, squirming impatiently as his
feet cradled the satchel. His hands were actually
twitching on top of the table. Jason smiled pleasantly
at his erstwhile minion and departed into the night
unmarked by the bored waitress slumped in a corner
reading an introduction to business textbook.

Behind him he heard the sound of the satchel being
hauled up to the bench and the small snap of the hasp
as it sprung open with a swift, vicious bite. A string
of adolescent profanities followed him out of the
doorway. As the door shut, he heard Lenny give an
exultant 'yes'.

Rejoice while you can, little man. The artist should
never outlive his masterwork, Jason thought with a grim
smile as he climbed into a nondescript car that hid a
V8 engine and a state-of-the-art electronic system
beneath its battered exterior.

"One down, one to go. Welcome to 'This Is Your Life,'
Mr. Skinner," Jason whispered under the strains of a
Scott Joplin piano rag CD.

Lenny, unaware he was dying, gathered up his booty and
scurried out into the night. The poison spread out
from the tiny puncture mark on his hand carrying the
deadly toxin through his bloodstream.


Later that night

"Doctor, I don't remember asking for your opinion. In
fact, I don't recall that our little agreement requires
anything more than absolute cooperation from you. Now,
do as I suggest and I will forget this little faux pas
of yours," Jason let the dagger behind his words be
seen in the icy clipped tones he used to cut short the
doctor's protest. The man was becoming tiresome.
Necessary still, but fast losing whatever advantage the
trust he had constructed with his patient gave him.

"Yes, I know it will be difficult to explain, but it
isn't as if we are asking you to justify a full-blown
resurgence of the cancer -- just a mild setback. If
all goes well, that is all it will be. Another set of
tests, more scans and something as simple as a
technical malfunction can be blamed." Jason tried to
avoid using complicated concepts. For a doctor, this
man was surprisingly dense where abstract motivations
were concerned.

"I thought you would see it my way." Jason said with
cool arrogance. Considering the consequences, doctor,
you're a blind fool to even attempt to argue with me,
Jason thought as he gave the doctor his instructions.
As soon as Mulder was safely under control, he would
have to see about arranging a skiing accident for this
idiot doctor. Such convenient things, skis.

Strangely, he actually felt a twinge of regret over
this particular move in the game. Agent Scully had
been glowing like a young sun this past week, shedding
hope like rays of light into the tired soul of her
partner. Jason watched as Mulder soaked up life
and hope in equal measure and made a recovery his
doctors frankly labeled astonishing. A full week
before the earliest target date for his release saw
him heading home. It was almost a pity to quench that
sun, even for a moment, but Mulder had to face the
consequences of a refusal to join them.

"Your king is in check, Mr. Mulder. Will you sacrifice
your queen and bishop? I wonder. Are you a player as
Jonathan foresaw or something more. The end game is at
hand. Your move," Jason said softly as he leaned over
to move the red king's knight into position to threaten
the white queen. Unless Mulder was willing to sacrifice
Scully and Skinner, the only move left open to him was to
accept checkmate. Common sense and experience told him
that Mulder would capitulate, but Jason knew that in a
crisis, Fox Mulder never did anything he was expected to
do. He was the ultimate maverick in a game where every
move, every stratagem had been predicted and planned
for. The Elders were right to fear him, but fools to
try to remove him from the game.


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