Title: REDEMPTION AND SALVATION 2/?
Disclaimer: The characters of "The X-Files" and the rights belong to FOX network, Ten Thirteen Productions, and Chris Carter.
Rating: Don't know. You decide. PG if you ask me. :o) This is the second part of -- so far -- three, and this second part contains some Mulder-Angst and a little Mulder-Torture. Not much, though.
Summary: With Krycek in tow, Mulder and Scully set off to investigate the location mentioned on the tape, hoping to find Skinner alive. Will they? Read on and find out.
Questions, comments, praise, flames, criticism, etc, is very welcome at the above address. I love feed-back. Both the good and the bad. Helps me get better. In order for me to finish the third part I need to know what you guys think of this one. Please! Send feed-back.
REDEMPTION AND SALVATION
Moon Lake, Nebraska
A light snow was falling, covering the already frozen ground with a powdered white. Krycek stood in the open door, starring out at the scenery with his thoughts miles away and years ago. The dreams he'd had as a kid were a wasted effort. All the hopes he'd had were dust on the floor. Nothing to hold onto. In general, he figured that the disappointment his life had turned out to be had spurred him in his effort to become what he was now. "A looser," he grumbled under his breath. Anger was a big part of who he was. Always had been. He had somehow hoped that it got better with age, but it didn't. Because he kept messing up. Over the past months he had spent with Toni, though, things had worked out fine. And he wanted it to remain this way. He liked it here. Out of the search light. Peace was what he had found here. But the resentment over the way he had been treated by the Consortium was still wedged deeply into his heart. He wanted revenge. More than he ever had before. He wanted them put out of commission. If for nothing other than to protect Toni.
"Hey, hotshot." Toni's voice cut through his sad reverie. "What are you doing out here? You'll get frostbite."
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "Just thinking," he replied and smiled weakly at her. She was a constant in life and he wanted to cling to her with all his might. Because she might be able to lend him a little of her strength and stability.
Shaking herself when a cold breeze touched them, she slipped a hand up under his sweater. "Well, can't you think inside? You're letting all the heat out," she said after a moment.
Grinning, he nodded. "Sure," he said. About ready to turn and head back inside, he stopped short at the sight of a black jeep heading their way. "Damn," he mumbled, afraid that they might have found him again.
Toni squinted out over the field at the rapidly closing vehicle. "Get inside. I'll ward'em off," she said, shoving him inside. He went without complaint, knowing that he stood no chance what-so-ever of defending her if they found him here.
Shortly after, the jeep turned down the dirt track leading to the house and Toni couldn't help tensing up a little. She caught the cat on it's way out, using the big tom as an excuse for standing in the door. He relaxed in her arms although she knew he wanted to go out. When the jeep came to a halt in front of the house, Toni smiled, once again at ease.
Mulder and Scully climbed out and he raised a hand in greeting. "Toni!"
Grinning, Toni released the cat and he ran away toward the shed, annoyed at the company. Turning her head, she called into the house. "It's okay. It's Fox." Seconds later, Krycek turned up behind her.
Mulder smiled weakly at both of them, for the first time not feeling a distinct displeasure at seeing Krycek. "Hi." Grabbing Scully's hand, he pulled her closer. "Scully, this is Toni. Toni, Dana Scully."
Scully shook hands with Toni, then her eyes settled on Krycek. "I owe you my life," she simply said.
For a moment, he remained silent, then he smiled. "And you're welcome to it," he countered, his tone of voice a little ironic.
Shaking her head, Scully fully returned his smile. "Thank you," she said.
"Come in," Toni said and led the way into the big comfortable kitchen.
An hour later, they had exchanged information about what had transpired since Mulder had last been in Nebraska. Mulder excitedly told Krycek about their upcoming trip to Nevada. Krycek was starring at Mulder as if he had lost his mind.
"You can't seriously think about going up there, can you?" he asked, knowing the answer already.
"Why not? Besides, it might be the only chance we have of finding out what happened to Skinner," Mulder countered.
"There's a restricted military area up there. I bet that's where this beacon of yours is. And if that's the case, Mulder, you won't be able to get in there. The security in areas like that is... extreme." Krycek crossed his arms over his chest, starring at Mulder. "You won't get in," he repeated.
"I have to." Mulder's reply didn't make much sense to Krycek, but there it was. "I just have to," he repeated.
In an attempt to keep calm, Krycek looked over at Toni. She merely shrugged. She knew what he was thinking and it was up to him to make the decision. "I could come with you," he finally suggested.
Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, then Mulder leaned forward. "Why would you want to? You told me last time that you didn't give a damn about Skinner. Why would you want to come along and risk your life for him?"
Krycek's expression remained strangely calm until it was broken by a crooked little smile. "Because, after all, he didn't turn me over to the Cancer Man. He didn't exactly treat me well, either, but he didn't turn me in. And God knows that he had every reason to."
Mulder and Scully had accepted the offer to spend the night before they set out the following morning.
Scully slept on a cot they had set up for her while Mulder once again accepted the couch. Early the next morning, Scully woke up first. To her surprise, Mulder was deeply asleep and she didn't want to wake him, so she carefully slipped her jeans and her sweater on and patted barefoot over to the kitchen. She stopped short in the door way when she realized that she wasn't the only one up this early. "Morning," she said quietly.
Krycek turned around from whatever he was doing and gave her a brief smile. "Hi," he countered. "I would have thought that Mulder would get up before you," he added.
Smiling weakly, she went over to one of the big chairs and sat down on it. "He seems to be sleeping better since I got well. It may just be my imagination, though," she replied.
"I don't think so. He was pretty frantic when he came here the first time," he countered and sat down across from her. "I'm glad you made it."
"Why?" she wanted to know. Scully had always had a habit of being frank. It earned her a lot more than beating around the bush.
Krycek didn't seem particularly surprised by that question. He simply shrugged. "I just am. I'm glad I can make up for some of the mistakes I've made. At least in some small way," he said after a moment's thought.
"Your knowledge saved my life, Krycek," Scully said. "And you gave it to Mulder without asking anything in return."
"Oh, but I did ask for something in return. And I got it, too. He didn't turn me in. In a way I saved my own worthless hide by saving your life. It was a price I was more than willing to pay. Especially since I don't want to leave Toni if I can avoid it."
Scully's eyes drifted to his left arm and she briefly considered the fact that Mulder had told her that the file said his arm had been missing when he returned from Russia. "What's the story with your arm?" she suddenly asked, curiosity getting the better of her.
Krycek starred at her and she noted the suddenly distinct paleness of his skin. "Maybe I'll tell you some day. Right now, I'd rather not think about it," he finally said and looked away.
"What happened in Russia?"
Her words made him sigh. He closed his eyes for a second, wrapping his arms around himself. "Bad things. As always," he mumbled. "I'll tell you about it some time, Scully. But I'd rather not get into it at this point. I tend to loose it when I think too much about it."
Scully nodded. She could understand that. "So, you and Toni. You're an item?" she asked instead.
That brought a smile to his lips. "Yeah, I guess. That's another thing we don't think too much about. We just take it one day at a time," he said.
"That's the best way to go anyway, isn't it?" she asked. She accepted a cup of tea and pulled her feet up under her.
"Yeah, I guess it is. It's not like I'm experienced in that area," he said with a chuckle. "Meeting Toni is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is the best thing."
"Well, it's always something that someone gets lucky. It supports ones faith that there is that special someone for you out there," Scully said thoughtfully.
"I'm surprised that you and Mulder haven't..." Krycek began, but trailed off when he saw that rather surprised expression on her face. "Not that it's any of my business, of course."
"What do you mean by that? We're partners. We're friends. There isn't..." she began and then it was her turn to trail off when she realized that there probably was more here than met the eye.
"That's what I mean," Krycek said, picking up on her change of mood.
With a heartfelt sigh, Scully wrapped both hands around her mug of tea and starred down into the liquid for a moment. "Well, even if there is, it could never work. Not as long as we work together," she finally said, then shook that thought off. "How are we going to get to Nevada from here?"
Krycek eyed her for a moment, then opened one of the drawers in the big table and rooted around in it until he came up with a map. Spreading it out on the table between them, he studied it for a moment. "To get to where we're going, I guess it would be the easiest way if we took a flight to Fallon, Nevada. That's right next to where we want to go. The Stillwater Mountain range and of course that restricted area are about 10 miles north of Fallon." Starring down at the map, he frowned. "But maybe avoiding the area between Fallon and Stillwater would be a good idea. It's likely to be swarming with military. And it's not like we can drive right up to the gate and ask to be let in."
Scully watched him intently and imagined that she could almost see the wheels spinning in his head. In his own way, he was just as much of a genius as Mulder. They basically thought alike. They just had different priorities in life. "So, how do we get to that restricted area, then?" she wanted to know and looked down at the map herself.
Tracing a line with his finger, he pointed out a possible route. "We should take the long way around. From Fallon up toward Highway 80 and then up toward Lovelock. There's a small dirt track leading away from Highway 80, right here," he said, pointing. "It's a dead end. It might be the best route to take. We can hike from there." From the corner of his eye he noted the way she was starring at him. Looking up, he met her eyes. The look on her face wasn't readily identified. "Is something wrong?"
"No," she countered, blinked once and looked back down at the map. "I'm just not used to having the route pointed out to me," she added and couldn't help smiling.
Krycek caught the joke and grinned. "Does he still ditch you on occasion?"
"Regularly," she countered and chuckled.
To get where they were going quickly, they started off right after breakfast. Mulder was impatient to get going, but he did leave Krycek the time he needed to say good bye to Toni. That was over relatively fast, though. He kissed her cheek, told her he'd be back soon and headed for the car. Toni's expression told them that she didn't believe she would see him again. Her whole posture was that of a woman who was sending her husband off to war, knowing that he most likely would not return.
Scully shook hands with her and smiled vaguely. "He'll be back," she said.
The corner of Toni's mouth twitched into a half smile. "Maybe. But he is rather rash," she replied, then padded Scully's shoulder. "You should get going," she added.
Scully nodded and walked up to the car. Glancing back, she somehow felt that Toni was the braver one. Then she climbed into the car and Mulder started the engine.
Looking over at her, he tried to estimate her state of mind with little luck. "Ready?" he asked.
"Let's go," Scully countered and glanced back at Krycek. "She doesn't think you'll be back," she added.
He made a face, but didn't respond. There was nothing to say to that.
October 23, 12.00 pm
The first sight that met them when they left the airport in Fallon was the amount of military personnel mulling around town. Krycek's instant reaction was to try and back up, but both Scully and Mulder had seen it coming and stopped his withdrawal.
"You'll draw attention to yourself with this kind of behavior," Mulder mumbled.
"Take it easy. Nothing's going to happen," Scully added, her tone of voice definitely more calming than Mulder's.
Taking a deep breath, Krycek glanced around, feeling trapped. He hated authorities and the military was definitely among that. He noted that an officer was taking an interest in them and felt panicky again. But he managed to maintain a certain air of calmness.
Scully padded his arm and nodded at the officer. The man eyed them for a moment, then turned around and went about his business. "There, that wasn't so hard, now was it?" she asked, smiling.
"Leave it to Scully to deal with a tricky situation," Mulder countered, grinning at her.
"Let's go find a car. I want to get out of this place," Krycek muttered while he kept glancing around, expecting to be identified any second.
Scully nodded. "Yeah, let's."
W. Humbolt Range, Nevada
Scully stopped briefly to readjust the weight of her back pack and looked out over the flat land. They had trekked through the area for a little over an hour after reaching the end of the designated road leading them toward their destination.
Mulder stopped a few feet ahead of her, glancing back her way. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just getting a little tired," she countered, briefly meeting his gaze before she looked out over the surrounding area again. "What a desolate place this is," she added, shaking her head in wonder.
"Not much out here," Mulder agreed and scanned the area, trying to see what they had come here to find. A beacon? He wondered about that for a moment. Why would anybody put up a beacon in the middle of a dry, desolate desert like this? "Let's walk a little further. We can rest when we reach that rock over there," he added, pointing toward a pretty big rock sticking out of the ground about one mile ahead of them. Even at this distance it looked big.
Scully stifled a sigh and nodded. "Okay," she agreed and started moving again. She caught up with him and Krycek and fell in step beside them. "So, what do you think about this beacon?" she asked, voicing Mulder's thoughts.
"I don't know. It doesn't make sense to put up a beacon out here. What's the purpose?" Mulder countered, slowing down enough for her to keep up with him.
"Don't ask me. I didn't build the thing," she said and gave him a wry smile. "And what happens when we find it?"
Krycek glanced at the two of them and started missing Toni's company. "The military compound is a pretty good place for a beacon, Mulder," he inserted, just to be a part of the conversation.
Mulder shrugged. "We deal with that when we get there. I just can't help thinking that the beacon should be visible by now. I mean, beacons usually stick out, don't they?"
They walked steadily toward the rock Mulder had pointed out, wading through tough grass and around low bushes. For a moment, Scully didn't know what to say. She actually had no idea what a beacon on land would look like. Well, she had an idea, but it could have many shapes.
"It could be a radar beacon, Mulder," Krycek said after a moment.
Mulder glanced at him. "Still, shouldn't it be visible?"
Making a face, Krycek stopped. "You may not know it's there until you're standing on top of it and that sure would make for one big ping," he said, sounding a little annoyed.
"Does it matter if it's visible or not? As long as they don't know we're coming, I think it doesn't make any difference at all," Scully inserted, sensing a possible fight coming on.
Both men starred at her, then Krycek backed down. "Of course not. It doesn't matter," he agreed.
Mulder frowned a little at that, then he shrugged. "Okay, fine," he said. "Let's move on."
Half an hour later they reached the rock. For a little while now, they had seen the fence behind the rock and stopped next to the giant boulder. "Well, here's the edge of Hell," Krycek said, starring up at the high chain-link fence with its barbed wire on top and the signs posted at regular intervals telling trespassers to stay out. Besides that, the fence was electrified as well according to the lightning signs next to the trespasser signs.
Mulder glanced curiously at him. "You know what this place is, don't you?" he wanted to know.
For a moment, Krycek continued to stare at the fence, then he glanced back at Mulder. "Not for certain, but yeah, I think I do. You didn't read all of that tape you got, did you?"
"No, we didn't really have time," Mulder countered and craned his neck to look up at the top of the fence.
"I think this is area 3. It fits with the surroundings described on the tape," Krycek went on and stepped closer to the fence. "If it is, then it's very likely that Skinner will be here."
Now both Mulder and Scully were curious. "Why?" Scully asked.
Before either of them could even try to prevent him from doing it, he reached out and touched the fence. Nothing happened. "Because this is where they store the people they abduct," Krycek countered, looking back at them with a grin. He pulled his backpack off, opened it and pulled out a pair of nippers and started cutting through the fence.
Mulder suddenly couldn't get through the fence fast enough. If there was even a remote chance that Krycek was right, this might also be the place where he could reach the goal of his frantic search. "How do you know that?" he wanted to know.
"The tape," Krycek countered, grabbed the edge of the hole he had cut and pulled it open. "Let's get inside," he added.
Mulder pulled his backpack off, pushed through the opening and pulled the backpack in after him. Then Scully crawled through, followed by Krycek. Looking around inside, they saw little other than what they had seen for the past two hours. "So, where to now?" Mulder wanted to know, turning to face Krycek.
Apparently, he came prepared, because he pulled a compass from one pocket and studied it for a second. Then he pointed due south. "That way," he said, pulled his backpack back on and started walking.
Scully glanced at Mulder and raised an eyebrow. "Don't ever tell me that he can't handle himself," she told her partner, picked up her own backpack and started after Krycek.
"I never said that," Mulder mumbled and followed them.
Moon Lake, Nebraska
Toni looked up at the sound of a car approaching. She had expected it would happen, so it came as no surprise, but she wasn't so sure she wanted to meet whoever came to visit her. Pushing out of her favorite chair, she shooed the tom down from her lab and walked over to the door. Opening it, she watched the Sedan close on the house and come to a halt. She didn't pull a muscle while she waited for the man himself to get out.
Smiling, he pulled the cigarette from his lips and nodded to her. "Toni," he said.
"What do you want here?" she countered.
"I thought we had an agreement, Toni," he said, his tone of voice regretful. "You would keep him here and we would not have to worry about him any more."
"Yeah, well, it's like trying to tie down a tornado. He can't sit still. However much he wants to stay, he needs the adrenaline rush the danger gives him," Toni countered, her arms crossed over her chest.
"You let him read the tape. That was very inconsiderate of you," the Cigarette Smoking Man said, shaking his head. "You should know better than to taunt him with it." Briefly gazing out over the snow-covered field, he dropped his cigarette and stepped it out. "Where is he now?"
"Gone," Toni countered. Her dark eyes glittered and when she blinked, they changed color. "I don't know where."
"You lie," he snapped, suddenly angry. "You know very well where he is. Now tell me. Where has he gone?"
Still with her arms crossed over her chest, she eyed him sharply. "You are not the right person to accuse me of lying. Besides, I am telling you the truth. I don't know where he went. And I don't want to know." Her now sulphur-yellow eyes regarded him coldly and then she smiled. "He's beyond your reach now," she added.
"Nobody is beyond my reach," the Cigarette Smoking Man countered, calm again. "Nobody. Not even you."
Blinking again, thereby returning her eye color to normal, Toni took a step forward. A soft smile curved her lips. "Are you threatening me?" she asked, her tone of voice almost a purr.
He met her eyes for a moment, then decided to withdraw that threat. There was no sense in upsetting her. "No, of course not. I'm just telling you how it is."
"You are out of your league here, old man. Why don't you get back into your car and drive back to your comfortable little life. Leave me alone and stay away from Alex. You suggested that I take him in. I did and now I actually care about him. So, whether you like it or not, he's beyond your reach. You know how fiercely I defend my own. I consider him one of us now. No matter what you say and do. I will stand up for him."
The Cigarette Smoking Man knew when he was outnumbered. He had stayed alive this long by knowing when to back down. It was unfortunate that Toni had apparently changed sides and there was only one thing he could do about it. "Then stand up for him," he said, shrugging it off. "What do I care? He will end up dead sooner or later. The knowledge he possesses will kill him."
"The knowledge he possesses will preserve him, old man. When everybody else falls, he will be the only one left standing. And he will have his revenge on you. Because you did him wrong." She shook her head sadly. "You brought me here to do a job for you. What you didn't tell me was that humans are capable of such deep emotions as love and hate. Emotions I knew nothing about when I came here. You don't expect me to go back to the old ways now, do you?"
"I don't expect anything of you any more, Toni. I just wanted to make perfectly sure that I had misunderstood nothing. That the reports I have received are correct. I see now that they are." Nodding to her, he pulled out another cigarette, lit it and turned back toward his car. "I'm sorry to loose you," he added, climbed in and drove away.
Toni stood starring, aware that she had set something in motion, but not knowing what. Shrugging it off, she returned to the house and settled down to wait for whatever came next.
Nevada, Area 3
After having found the compound they were searching for, they had taken cover behind a row of big boulders. The compound itself was virtually invisible, located at the bottom of a big crater dug out of the plateau. Only few buildings were visible and they matched their surroundings so well, that they would be virtually invisible from the air.
Mulder peeked over one of the boulders, using his binoculars to try and spot any action. Apart from a few guards making their rounds, there wasn't much going on down there. "What is this place? If it's so secret, I'm surprised it isn't better guarded," he grumbled.
Krycek shook his head in response, slightly annoyed by Mulder's apparent lack of understanding. "That's the whole idea about keeping it secret, isn't it?" he countered. "Too many soldiers down there would be conspicuous." He looked down at the compound for a second, then dropped back down on the ground. "This is not going to be easy. Especially since we know nothing about the interior. This place could spread out for miles underground. What we see down there may just be the tip of the iceberg."
Mulder eyed him for a second, then returned to starring down at the compound. He was estimating when would be a good time to approach it. "There's only one way to find out, isn't there?" he said after a moment and before either of them could stop him, he had slipped over the boulder and was on his way down toward the compound.
"Mulder," Scully hissed, starting to follow him. But Krycek grabbed a hold of her, pulling her back down.
"Don't be stupid, Scully," he told her.
"He's going to get himself killed," she snapped, angry at Mulder for once again dumping her and annoyed at Krycek for holding her back.
"What's the sense in both of you going down? He's not gonna get far before they pick him up. If there's one thing I've learned about Mulder then it's that he's rash. He doesn't think before he acts."
Scully couldn't argue with that. "That may be, but I'm not sitting here while they blow him to bits," she snarled, trying to twist out of his grip.
"They're not going to," Krycek growled back at her, not having too much trouble holding her back. "If they wanted him dead, he would have been dead a long time ago."
Scully finally relented, but felt anxious nonetheless. "I know that," she mumbled. "God, I wish he wasn't so headstrong," she added with a snarl.
"Well, he is. All we can do now is hope he gets back here. We can't do anything before it gets dark," Krycek countered in a more moderate tone of voice. "I'm not going near that compound before it's dark," he added, more to himself than to her.
Scully starred at him for a moment, then sighed. "You're right," she then agreed and settled in to wait. It was obvious to her that Mulder would be detected. She just hoped that they didn't shoot him on sight.
Mulder hurried toward the compound, very much aware that he was alone. He was partially annoyed at that prospect and partially relieved, too. Because, somewhere deep down, he knew that what he was doing was stupid. He just never had been good at waiting. Halfway there, he fully realized the stupidity of his actions. So suddenly that it startled him into immobility, a soldier stepped out from behind another boulder.
"Hold it, Mister. You're trespassing," he snapped.
Mulder met a pair of cool blue eyes and grasped for an explanation that would pacify this guy. But he found none. Instead, he hastily put his hands up, warding off any need the man might have to blow his head off.
Another solider turned up and within minutes, Mulder was once again on his way to the compound, this time with his hands tied behind his back. It eased his mind to know that Scully was still out there. Whether Krycek would help was a question he would rather leave unanswered. But Scully would get help. He knew she would.
He was guided into one of the bigger buildings and into an lift, which went down. When the lift-car reached the seventh sub-level, the doors parted once again and the soldiers took him to a room occupied by a table and two chairs. He was roughly pushed down on one of the chairs and handcuffed to it.
An officer joined them after a moment. The man was in his mid-fifties, heavy-set and completely bald. His green eyes held no compassion what-so-ever. "Well, well, well. What have we here?" he said, picking up what the soldiers had removed from Mulder. "Special Agent Fox Mulder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," he read the badge, then glanced over at Mulder. "I wonder what a Fed is doing all the way out here. As far as I know, the Bureau does not have jurisdiction over this part of Nevada."
"I'm here as a tourist," Mulder claimed immediately.
"I see. Do you always take your badge and your gun with you on a hiking trip?" the officer wanted to know, glaring at him.
"You never know what you may run into," Mulder said, vaguely amused at the situation.
"And the others?"
Mulder feigned ignorance. "What others?"
"According to my intelligence report, you arrived in Fallon with two other people in tow. Special Agent Dana Scully and a man who's name we have yet to determine. Don't play dumb with me, Agent Mulder. I don't like that." There was the hint of a threat in that statement.
Mulder didn't feel amused any more. He had suddenly become aware that this man could be very dangerous. Something about his attitude disclosed that. "They stayed behind. It was my idea to go hiking and they didn't want to come. I'm really sorry if I trespassed. I had no idea this was a restricted area," he claimed, trying to sound as innocent as possible.
The officer leaned in over the table, supporting his weight with both hands on the table top. "What do you think I am, Agent Mulder? Stupid? You are no more a tourist here than I am," he snarled, starring at Mulder with eyes that could kill. "Where is your partner and what is the name of the man who accompanied you?"
Still feigning surprise, Mulder raised an eyebrow. "They're not in Fallon any more?" he asked. "Then I don't know where they are."
The officer was losing his patience. That much was for sure. The already flushed color on his plump face was darkening. "Don't play games with me, Agent Mulder. I'm warning you. The owner of the car rental place told us that you, Agent Scully and that man left together. We know they're out there somewhere. It's a matter of time before we find them. Don't make it harder on them. Tell us where they are and no harm will come to them."
Mulder starred back at him for a moment. "Are you telling me that you'll hurt them if I don't? If that's the case, sir, then I think you will find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit." He knew it was wrong when he said it. But he just couldn't help himself.
"Is that so?" the officer said, straightening his bulk once again. "You are trespassing on military property, Mr. Mulder. I think you should be grateful if you get away with your career still intact, if you indeed stay out of jail in the first place."
Blinking at the unveiled threat, Mulder took a second to consider that one. "I don't think you'll make a big deal out of this one," he claimed. "That would attract too much attention to this facility."
"And what facility might that be?" the officer asked, fully in control of himself again.
At that, Mulder started feeling a little nervous. "This facility," he countered a little sharply, nodding his head toward the door.
"Mr. Mulder. This facility doesn't exist officially. This is a military base and nothing else," the officer said. "Security has to be in order at a military base, Mr. Mulder. And you've trespassed onto one," he added, looking utterly content. "Since you're not here on official business and you're definitely not a tourist...." He left the threat open, but it was obviously a threat.
Krycek glanced up at the darkening sky and cursed silently. "Why do I keep ending up in situations like this?" he mumbled.
Scully glanced at him, then followed his example and looked up at the sky. "It's going to snow," she countered, ignoring his question. She didn't have an answer for him.
"Really? I think I can figure that out for myself," he said, pulling his jacket closer around him. "I seem to end up half-frozen every time I run into him," he added.
"Would you stop bitching?" Scully suddenly snapped. "I am fed up with people always bitching about everything. The situations you've gotten into, you got into with your own help. Why don't you just open your eyes and look around?" She was angry. Angry at Mulder for running off like that again. Angry at Krycek for being such a wimp. Angry at herself because she kept following Mulder into these situations. What was it about him, anyway? Wrapping her arms tightly around herself, she started grumbling angrily, preventing Krycek from answering her accusations.
For a moment, Krycek didn't know what to say. As much as he hated to admit it, she was right. He did tend to get into these situations nicely on his own. Getting to his feet, he scanned the area, hoping that the guards had not yet noticed them. If they had, they would probably have been here by now. With the sky dark enough to put them in shadow, he decided to do something rather than sit around and wait. "Scully, stay here. I'll see if I can fix the guards," he said. Before he could move, though, her hand had closed painfully hard around his arm.
"You're not going to kill anyone," she snarled, starring intently at him.
For a moment, he met her eyes, then he smiled. If he had been on his own, he might just have done what she feared he would do. But since she didn't want him to, he wouldn't. "Don't worry. I'll just make sure they can't call for help." With that he slipped over the boulder and disappeared in the shadows.
Scully actually expected to hear sounds, but there were none. If there was one thing he was good at, it was moving silently. After fifteen minutes, he returned. Scully looked up at him, frowning. "Well?"
"They're out of commission for now," he countered. "Come on. I think it's time to go." They hid their back packs under a load of rocks before pushing on. Then they quietly slipped over the boulders and, keeping low, they approached the edge of the compound. Krycek was constantly on the lookout for possible danger and that was the only reason for that they managed to get down to the first building without any trouble.
Scully followed his example, moving as he did, and found that she had never been able to move this quietly before. His reactions were fast and as long as she kept an eye on him, she felt safe. As safe as she could feel under the present circumstances.
Squatting down near the corner of the building, Krycek listened into the night. Being able to hear well was definitely an advantage under these conditions. Conditions he had been pretty used to for the past couple of years. His paranoia, which had kept him alive ever since the Cancer Man had shown his true colors, blossomed quickly. He was back to being watchful. He watched the cycle of the of guards closely, taking his time. At the same time he could sense Scully's restlessness and hoped she didn't start talking. There was nothing that carried more in an enclosure such as this than a whisper. No matter how low it was. He glanced back at her and held a finger up to his lips, trying to make her understand. She merely nodded, signaling that she understood.
A few moments later, they were on the move again. Edging along the side of the building toward a door. Both of them froze to the spot, flattening themselves against the wall, when the door opened. A man came out, stopped short to light a cigarette, then walked on, completely oblivious to the two hiding behind the door. The door started to swing shut on its own account, but Krycek stopped it. He glanced inside, noted that this was not the building they were after and motioned for Scully to follow him.
They made it across a yard toward the next building and edged along it toward the door. Krycek tried it and found it open. Waving Scully along, he slipped inside after making sure the coast was clear, then headed directly toward the lifts. Scully was right on his heels, paying attention to him as well as their surroundings. It somehow surprised her that there were no security cameras. She briefly considered mentioning this to Krycek, but decided that she would speak only if he started. They had to be silent for now and as long as they understood each other without words, there was no sense in talking. It briefly struck her that she was putting her life and safety into the hands of a man who had once tried to kill her. But she figured that Krycek had as much to loose from this as she had, so there was no sense in making things worse by not trusting him now.
They took up position next to the lift doors after Krycek had pressed the button. Just in case somebody was in it when the lift-car arrived. When the doors opened and nobody came out, Krycek waved Scully in first, glanced up and down the corridor they were in and stepped inside. He was fully aware that there might be a camera in the car, but that was just a chance they had to take. Knowing that there was nothing to do for the next few minutes than wait, he looked over at Scully. She was tense, but quiet and he silently commended her for her ability to keep her mouth shut when she had to. He was also completely surprised that she trusted him.
The lift car came to a halt at the fifth sub-level and the doors slid open. Nobody was waiting for it, so they slipped out of the car and studied their surroundings.
"Now what?" Scully whispered, glancing up at Krycek.
"I don't know," he countered in a whisper. "I have no idea where we are."
Scully looked either way, then sighed. "How are we going to find Mulder here without knowing where to look? We need to find a map of the facility. A floor plan or something."
Krycek looked down at her with a weak smile. "I like the way you think, Scully," he said. "Let's go find that floor plan. There has to be something here somewhere."
Scully's eyes trailed along the walls and then stopped. She felt much like hitting herself. "There," she whispered, pointing at the wall opposite the lifts. The plan they were looking for was hanging on the wall.
Krycek hurried over there and studied it thoughtfully. "This thing is only for this level," he mumbled.
Scully tapped one section of the map. "Records," she said, causing him to frown. "This is where they keep their records. This is probably also where they keep the floor plans for the other floors," she explained quietly. "Come on," she added and started down the corridor.
Krycek had to admire her. She thought like a criminal. With a grin, he followed her.
The bald officer took a step back, shaking his right hand which he had bruised on his obstinate guest. "You are being stubborn, Mr. Mulder," he said and flexed his fingers. "Why don't you just tell me where they are? I promise you that they will be safe," he added.
Mulder raised his head, wincing in agony at the pain this man was causing him, and glared angrily at him. "Forget it," he spat. Stubborn? He would show him what stubborn meant.
The officer sighed deeply in mock regret. "I can't forget it, Mr. Mulder. Besides, I don't believe you should count on a rescue from your friends. I think you do, don't you?" With that, he hammered his plump fist into Mulder's face again.
Recoiling from the blow, Mulder carefully sucked at his right cheek and jerked at the stabbing pain from his jaw. For a while now this brute had tried to beat him into submission. What he didn't know was that Mulder could stand a lot of beating before he passed out. And he would never talk. "No comment," he grumbled.
Again flexing his fingers, the officer slowly but surely neared the point where he was about to give up on this guy. Just for good measure, he hammered a fist into his guts, making him double up in pain. It was obvious to him that he wouldn't talk. And perhaps he had been right. Perhaps his friends hadn't come with him. His soldiers had made a sweep of the area recently and there had been no sign of them except for an abandoned backpack. Starring down at the man, the officer finally shrugged. "Have it your way. I have time," he said after a moment. "I can keep this up all night. I am going to take a break, though. Which means you'll get a break as well. To think about what I can do to you if you don't talk to me. I am used to getting what I want, Mr. Mulder. I was not put in charge of this facility because I'm a softy, if you know what I mean." Grinning, he put all his strength into the next blow and managed to tip the chair over in the process.
Mulder hit the floor hard and groaned, wondering why he always seemed to get himself into situations like this.
The officer took a step back. Waving at the two soldiers standing guard, he snorted. "Take him to a cell and let him cool off for a bit."
The two soldiers uncuffed Mulder, hauled him to his feet and dragged him along. After dumping him roughly on the floor of a concrete cell, they left him alone. Wincing, Mulder gingerly touched his face as he sat up, one hand pressed against his aching mid-section. "I'm not the one who needs to cool off," he grumbled and got to his feet. The room was square with a cot against one wall and the necessary sanitary installations on the other wall. He glanced around the room, spotted the hidden security camera and grinned a pained grin at it. "All the comforts of home," he mumbled and walked over to the steel sink to cool his burning face. Then he did what he did best. He settled down on the cot and went to sleep. When things were rough, he slept the best.
Some time later, he woke up rather abruptly, when he was more or less kicked off the cot. One of the soldiers from before was back. The other one he knew, too. Before the solider who had kicked him off the cot could do anything more than utter a surprised sound, Krycek had decked him, knocking him out cold. "Hi Mulder. Need some help?" he asked, grinning.
Mulder grinned back at him as well as he could. "I never refuse a helping hand," he replied and got to his feet.
Frowning, Krycek starred at him more intently. "You look like you collided with a wall," he commented.
"I feel like it, too. Let's get out of here." Mulder grabbed the gun from the downed guard and followed Krycek out of the cell.
"You're aware that we'll have trouble getting out of here, aren't you?" Krycek paused, listening to the sounds of rapidly approaching footfalls. "And the trouble is about to begin right now," he added. "This way."
They ran away from the approaching soldiers and were long gone by the time they turned up. Krycek led the way, seemingly familiar with the cris-crossing corridors. Mulder could feel every step he took in his face and ground his teeth to keep the pain at bay. It would be a while before he would be himself again. "What about Scully?" he wanted to know.
"She's trying to locate Skinner. We're going to meet up with her in ten minutes," Krycek countered. "She's some piece of work, that one," he added.
Mulder was a little surprised to hear the distinctly admiring tone in Krycek's voice. He himself had always considered Scully as being able to fend for herself, but also felt that ridiculous need to protect her all the time. "Yeah," he agreed.
They rounded a corner where Mulder overtook Krycek and collided with a fist. The impact knocked him off his feet and onto his back with a groan of pain. The bald officer stood there, his right hand clenched into a fist, a gun in the other hand. Grinning, he eyed Krycek as he hauled Mulder back to his feet, taking a second to survey the damage. "Well, well, well. This must be the mysterious man who accompanied you here, Agent Mulder," he said, starring at Krycek.
Krycek starred back. Seemingly trying to steady Mulder, his fingers were already closing around the gun he had tugged into his pants behind his back. "Yeah, I guess you could say that," he commented, looking a little nervous.
"So, are you going to introduce yourself or do I have to beat your name out of you?" the officer wanted to know, taking a step closer.
All Krycek needed to know was that the man was on his own. Some kind of war hero who thought he could deal with anything. Well, he was in for a surprise. "No, I don't think so. It wouldn't do you any good at all to know my name," Krycek countered and grinned. The officer had almost reached them when Krycek suddenly pulled the gun from his belt and shoved it in the man's face. Holding onto it with his right hand and supporting it with his left, he starred into the officer's eyes with fatal determination. "I have nothing to loose by blowing your head off. So why don't you just drop your gun and back off?" he suggested almost kindly.
The officer had obviously not expected any counter attack from Krycek and was utterly stunned by his sudden switch from nervous trespasser to cool killer. And looking into Krycek's green eyes, he knew that the man was serious. If he made one wrong move, he was dead. Slowly, very slowly, he handed his gun over. Mulder had him covered as well, holding his gun a little more unsteadily than Krycek.
"That's good," Krycek praised him. "Now turn around with your hands in the air." The officer complied, slowly turning his back to them. Krycek shifted his grip on the gun, grabbing the barrel and hammered the butt of the gun against the back of the officer's head. Whether the man would survive the encounter was something that left him cold. "Sweet dreams," he growled to the down man.
Mulder had followed the whole scene with a detached state of mind, trying to get over this latest assault. Seeing Krycek in action was like watching two people. He briefly considered if Krycek was suffering from a split personality. He seemed to change completely when he was on the winning end. "You okay?" Krycek asked, turning back to face him. Mulder nodded, gingerly touching his left cheekbone. "Okay, let's go," Krycek added after a second.
Scully, dressed in a white lab coat with an ID-batch stuck to one pocket, shifted her weight from one foot to the other, scanning the lists of people they kept in this facility. As far as she could tell, they were all in cryogenic storage and that made things much more difficult. She was certain that they had to be thawed through a special procedure, so removing any of them would be a challenge. When she had first discovered the list, she had gasped at the mere length of it. So many people. All who had vanished from their homes, their families. She felt a cold hand gripping her heart when she considered what the government, which she had previously put so much trust in, was doing to the citizens of the United States. And elsewhere, probably. Now, after having scanned through the list, she felt more determined than she ever had before to do something about it. She suddenly understood Mulder's need to interfere. Using the mouse, she scrolled past hundreds of names. They were listed in alphabetical order and when she reached the M-section, she slowed down. She couldn't help looking more closely at the last names starting with M. Just in case.
With a gasp she realized that what Mulder had been looking for all his life was right here. There she was. Samantha Ann Mulder. According to the date she had been put in cryogenic storage about three years ago. Many of the names she had scrolled past had several dates listed. Closing her eyes, she didn't know if she would be able to tell Mulder this without having him go off the deep end. They needed to find the woman. That much was for certain. But whether Samantha would be a viable human being or just a vegetable was a question that remained to be answered. Grabbing a pen and a piece of paper, she scribbled down the section Samantha was in, then hurriedly scrolled down to the S-section. And there was what they had originally come after. Walter Simon Skinner. Scully frowned, realizing that she had never known his middle name. He was also in cryogenic storage. Since he was what they had come here for in the first place, Scully decided that even if she had to beat it out of one of the scientists working here, she would find out how to thaw him out and take him home.
She let out a startled sound when the door suddenly popped open, then sighed with relief when she saw Krycek and Mulder enter the room. Krycek quickly shut the door and locked it.
"Scully," Mulder exploded when she ran over to him and hugged him.
"Mulder, look at you," she said, leaning back to take a closer look at his injuries. "Why did you run off like that?" she admonished him.
"I'm sorry. I..." he began, then shook his head with a painful grimace. "Never mind. Did you find him?"
Scully nodded. "Yes, I did. He's in cryogenic storage," she replied, glancing over at Krycek.
"Don't look at me. I have no idea how to get him out of it," Krycek's immediate response was.
"I wasn't suggesting that," Scully countered, then looked back at Mulder. "I found someone else, too," she added.
Mulder met her eyes and knew who she was talking about. "Here?" he whispered and she nodded. "In... storage, too?" Scully nodded once more.
"Yes. But, Mulder. Please don't get your hopes up. She may not be..." she began, then sighed. "Unless they use a specific method that I have never heard of, there's a good chance that she's brain damaged. And the same goes for Skinner. They've never before been able to freeze people and thaw them again without some kind of damage."
"I don't care. If she's here, she's coming with us." Mulder's expression told Scully all she had to know. Shaking her head, she relented. There was no changing his mind once he was set on something. And finding his sister would definitely mean a lot to him. Much more than she could possibly imagine.
"Where are they?" Krycek wanted to know.
"Two levels below us," Scully said. "Sub-level 9. That's as deep as this place goes, too."
"Well, let's move it. If we want a chance to get out of here in one piece, I think we ought to get moving." Krycek unlocked the door and carefully opened it. Listening, he didn't move for a second, then slipped out into the corridor. "Coast's clear. Let's go." He had barely said it before a shot rang out. "Damn," he hissed and stumbled backwards into the room again.
Mulder threw himself against the door and locked it again. Starring at Krycek, he tried to estimate how bad the damage was. "Can you walk?"
Krycek looked up at him, his expression telling Mulder that he was certain that he would be left behind. "I don't know," he countered, glancing down at his injured leg.
Scully took action instantly and squatted down in front of him to take a closer look. "It's a flesh wound," she finally said, pulled the belt off the lab coat she was wearing and tied it hard around his thigh. He hissed, tensing up at the action, but that was all the reaction she got from him. "Can you walk?" she then repeated Mulder's question, looking up at him.
"I think so," he said after flexing his leg carefully. "I can bloody well walk out of here," he added grimly.
Scully eyed him for a moment longer, then got up. "As soon as we get a chance, we need to bandage that wound. But I don't think it should slow you down," she said, her expression set.
"It better not," Mulder replied. There was a strange kind of quiet out in the hallway. He had expected them to come knocking at once, but apparently they stayed back. Why was beyond him. "Who shot you?" he wanted to know after a moment.
"I don't know. I didn't see anybody," Krycek countered with a frown. He hadn't thought too much about it at the time, but he really hadn't seen anybody.
All three of them exchanged glances. "If this is some sort of system, then why didn't it fire on us when we came in here?" Mulder asked after a moment.
"They may have activated it and now they know where we are. We can't get out without being shot to bits. We're sitting ducks." Krycek didn't sound happy about the prospect.
Mulder frowned. He was not about to give up when they had gotten this far. "There has to be another way," he countered impatiently.
Scully looked from one to the other, then sighed. "The labs on this level are connected. We can get to the elevator by going from lab to lab."
Mulder's expression changed from concerned to afraid. "Maybe so, but they're on to us now. We can't get to Skinner and Samantha. And I'm not leaving here without either."
"Mulder, be reasonable. We can't help them if we get caught. We have to..." Scully began, then trailed off. "Wait a minute," she added and turned back to the terminal she had worked at previously. "Just a moment," she mumbled.
"What? What's on your mind?" Mulder asked, stepping up behind her.
Scully quickly scanned the list, punched a few keys, then pulled the badge off her coat and passed it through a card reader attached to the terminal. She pressed a few more keys, repeated the procedure with the card and switched the terminal off. "We're leaving now, Mulder. Right now. Skinner and your sister are being transferred to another facility tomorrow morning. All we have to do is get there before they do. And I tampered with their directions. So nobody but us will be waiting for them at the old warehouse down by the docks in Washington D.C. in two days."
Mulder starred at her, torn between his reluctance to leave this place without his sister and going with her plan. "What if they detect that you changed something?"
"They won't," she told him firmly. "This badge has top clearance. They're not going to question the order before they reach the place and realize it's wrong. We just have to make sure they don't leave before we have what we want."
Krycek grinned. "You've got one tricky mind, Dana," he said.
Scully gave him a smile. "Thanks, I guess," she countered. "Now, let's move it, boys. We need to get out of here while we still can."
They made it out of the compound without further incidents, even had time to pick up their back packs on the way and were heading as quickly as they could toward the place where their car was parked. Mulder was supporting Krycek and Scully was keeping an eye out for pursuers. They had to rest regularly, both because Krycek's leg was acting up and because Mulder had more than just the backpack to carry. They stopped again, settling down on the icy ground for a brief rest.
Scully kept looking back the way they'd come, actually surprised they'd made it out. "I don't like this," she finally said. "We got out too easy."
Mulder made a move to object, but Krycek cut him off. "She's right. That was way too easy. It would be a qualified guess that they're waiting at the car or the motel for us. And if they arrest us, we're history. You realize that, don't you?"
Mulder looked from Krycek to Scully and back again, then sighed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. But, how do we get out of here in time to get back to intercept the delivery?"
Scully glanced back again. It was obvious that she was considering something. "I don't know," she mumbled and got up. "I think I've got an idea," she added, shrugged out of her backpack and started back the way they'd come. "Wait here," she called back and hurried away into the darkness.
"Scully," Mulder called after her, getting up. He wasn't used to being the one who was ditched. It annoyed him a little that she had adopted some of his bad habits. "Damn it," he mumbled.
"Let her go. I'm sure she's got a good reason for running off like that," Krycek said and stretched his aching leg a little.
"Yeah, but this isn't Scully. She's getting back at me for running off before," Mulder countered. "And she might get in trouble. I..."
"I don't think Dana Scully needs a protector, Mulder. She's quite capable of taking care of herself."
"Yeah, but..." Mulder began, then trailed off. Krycek was right and it annoyed the hell out of him. "Aw, damn it."
"Don't you think you're being a little too rough on her, Mulder? She's a clever girl. She can easily take care of herself." Krycek starred intently at Mulder, wondering silently why Mulder was so overprotective toward Scully. Okay, the woman had been abducted right under his nose, but there was more going on than met the eye.
Mulder refrained from answering him. Mainly because he felt that he'd already given away too much of how he felt about Scully. He could hardly allow himself to acknowledge how he felt about her. He wasn't about to let others in on his little secret. His concerns were flushed away at the sound of an engine. "Damn, they're on to us," he hissed, glancing around for a hiding place and finding none in the vastness of nothing but flat ground.
Krycek starred in the direction of the sound, knowing that he wouldn't be able to run, and then smiled a little. "It's only one car, Mulder. My guess is it's Dana."
And sure enough, a black four-wheel-drive came to a halt more or less in front of them and Scully jumped out. "Come on. I do think they noticed that I borrowed this one," she called and hurried over to help them with the backpacks.
Mulder helped Krycek up and into the rear of the jeep. Then he climbed in on the passenger side and left the driving to Scully. She smiled like a cat that had just caught a canary when she slid behind the wheel and put the car in gear. "I did good, yes?" she asked, her tone of voice slightly mocking.
Mulder grinned and winced at the pain that caused on his bruised face. "Yeah, you did good. Let's get out of here, G-Woman."
Krycek slowed the car down as he neared the house, a cold lump in the pit of his stomach. The house was dark, no sign of life, and that was definitely not like Toni. Something was wrong unless she'd gone to stay with a friend. But he didn't think so. He hadn't been gone that long. He stopped the car, but left the engine running when he got out. Just in case he had to get away fast. Glancing around the yard, he noted the lack of signs which to him meant that nothing had happened around the house for a while now. And that meant trouble. "Toni?" he called, took the two steps up to the porch slowly and opened the front door. The house was both cold and dark. "Toni?" he called again, his heart beating in his throat now. He moved carefully toward the kitchen, dragging his injured leg, and glanced inside. Nothing going on. "Shit," he whispered. This couldn't be happening. "Tee?" he yelled, nervous and angry that he'd left her behind. He should have stayed with her or brought her along. He pushed the door to the living room open and stepped inside, glancing around. His wandering eyes were caught by the rocking chair standing in a corner of the room and he froze. Not much remained of that piece of furniture or the floor below. It had been eaten through by a strong acid and the slightly stingy smell still hung in the air. Krycek slowly approached the chair, starring helplessly at the green slime which covered what was left. He swallowed hard, knowing that she was gone. She had probably died protecting him. Drawing a shuddering breath, he gingerly squatted down and brought one hand up to cover his mouth. "Toni," he whispered hoarsely into it. "Aw, shit," he added and closed his eyes. A solitary tear trickled down his cheek. He had loved her. For the first time in his life he had really loved someone. She had been good to him. She'd given him the love and respect he had sought his whole miserable life. He breathed hard a couple of time, then slowly got up, his hands clenching into fists. "You'll pay for this, you shit," he mumbled. "You just got yourself an ally, Mulder," he added, turned and walked out of the living room again. He went upstairs and collected what he thought he might need including clothes and the portable computer. Briefly clapping his leather jacket, he assured himself that the MO-disk he had made of the tape was still there, glanced around the bed room once more and hurried downstairs. Toni's great love apart from him and the cat had been her four-wheel-drive. It was parked in the barn a few feet from the house and he was gonna take that. Screw the rental. He didn't need that any more. The jeep was in much better condition to get him out of here safely.
Down in the hallway, he squatted down and listened into the silence of the house. "Here, kitty," he whispered. For a brief moment, nothing happened, then the big tom came out from the kitchen. "There you are. Let's get out of here. You're mom's not coming back," he told the animal. Purring, the big tom followed him across the back yard to the barn. For some odd reason he could not explain and felt no need to explain, the tom would follow him anywhere if he asked it. He opened the door. "Hop in," he told the cat and he jumped into the car. Krycek loaded the rest of his belongings into the rear, got behind the wheel and backed the car out of the barn. He paused briefly to look over at the house, then tipped his fingers to his brow. "It's been great, Tee. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you," he said, turned the jeep around and roared out of there.
Mulder leaned back on his couch, not really certain he could relax until they had intercepted the delivery. At least he hoped they would. But at the remote chance that the delivery-van would never show up, he didn't know what he would do. He had been so close to her. So close. Yet Scully and Krycek had been right. There would have been nothing they could have done to get to Skinner and Samantha. He just hoped that things would not try awry. That Scully's plan would work out. "I hope," he whispered, closing his eyes. "I wish," he added, folding his hands. "Please," he then begged, opening his eyes and starring blindly at the TV screen.
He sat there for a while longer, but his sad reverie was interrupted when someone knocked on the door. Afraid of who it might be, he pulled his gun, got to his feet and moved quietly up to the door. Holding the gun against it, he stayed as much clear of it as he could. "Who is it?"
"It's Krycek," the answer came.
He quickly unlocked the door and let Krycek in. "What the hell are you doing here? I thought you'd be back with Toni, licking your wounds," Mulder asked, closed and locked the door.
Krycek was leaning against the wall just inside the door, his face a mask of pain. "Yeah, well, it wasn't going to happen that way, Mulder. Toni's dead. They killed her. I'm once again on the run."
Mulder had to admit that he was shocked by that. "Dead? I'm sorry. Come on in," he said, waving toward the living room.
With an effort, Krycek hoisted himself onto Mulder's couch and leand back with a sigh. "Yeah! So am I. But that doesn't bring her back," he said, his tone of voice tired and labored. "Apart from that I think my leg's infected," he added, grabbing his knee. "And I can't even go to a doctor."
Mulder grabbed the phone. "There's one doctor who you can go to," he said and quickly dialed a number. "Scully, it's me. Could you come over?" He listened to her response. "Yeah, I know, but it's really important. Please?" He listened again. "Okay, great. See you in half an hour. And bring your bag."
"Scully! Funny, I didn't even think of her," Krycek said after Mulder had hung up again.
"You can't stay here. As soon as Scully's tended to your wound, we have to find a place where you can be safe. If I'm not entirely mistaken, the Cancer Man is bugging my apartment and it won't take him long to figure out you're here."
Krycek nodded. He knew that much. "I know," he agreed, then looked up at Mulder. "Mulder, I wanna help you. I wanna help you bring that man down."
Mulder starred back, frowning. "Because of Toni?" he asked and Krycek nodded. "Maybe it wasn't him. Who knows?"
"It was him. Only he would know how to kill her. Toni was... special. Not... human per say," Krycek countered and leand back on the couch to try and relax a little. "She was... alien. What I found was a hole in the floor and green slime. That's all that was left of her. Not much, really. I know that he had her killed. And I want him to pay. He's screwed up my life and now he's taken the only person away from me who cared whether I was dead or alive." Shaking his head thoughtfully, he seemed to be unable to understand that sentiment. "She actually cared about me," he mumbled.
Mulder sat down on the edge of the coffee table. "I'm sure she did," he agreed. "What I don't understand is how you got into this mess in the first place."
Krycek laughed at that. A joyless laugh. "Because I wanted to be somebody. Shit, I had high plans. Goals you wouldn't believe. Not for the truth and not for the good of mankind. For my own benefit. That somebody would finally acknowledge that I was good enough. That I could do something and not screw it up. Looks like I was just having another daydream." The bitterness in his voice told Mulder that he was telling the truth. "I killed for him. I broke every damned rule in the book for him. And all I got was a kick in the face and a thank-you-good-bye and that was it. God, I was so stupid," he snapped almost angriely, covering his face with both hands.
"That you were," Mulder agreed, causing Krycek to drop his hands and stare darkly at him. "But we all make mistakes. Yours are just a little more grave than others. The question now is whether they taught you a lesson or not. Are you gonna work for him again if he offers you the right circumstances?"
Krycek kept starring darkly at him for a moment, then looked away. "I'd rather die than ever have anything to do with that bastard again." Looking back at Mulder, he tried hard to keep his anger at bay. "And that's the truth."
Mulder merely nodded. "I believe you. So, now we do have a common goal. With your knowledge, we ought to be able to bury him."
Scully set her bag down on the coffee table and sat down next to it. "You've been driving all the way from Nebraska with that leg?" she asked Krycek, starring at the infected, swelled shot-wound.
"Not entirely. I took a flight from North Platt. But it's hurting pretty badly now. Is there anything you can do?" Krycek countered, not looking too happy about the whole thing.
Scully carefully prodded the swelling, causing him to hiss. "Well, I'll have to clean it out. And I'll give you a shot of antibiotics to keep it from going septic. That would cost you your leg in any event. But in general I don't think it's that bad. The mere fact that it hasn't spread to the rest of the leg is a good sign."
"Can you at least give me a shot for the pain before you do that?" he wanted to know, sounding a little timid.
Scully starred at him for a moment, then shook her head with a smile. "Of course. I wasn't going to do it without. What do you take me for?" She gave him the injection, waited for it to work and then set about cleaning his wound. It didn't take long and moments later she put a pressure bandage around his leg. "There. That wasn't so bad, now was it?" she asked with a smile.
Krycek merely sighed. "Nope. It wasn't," he agreed.
Scully glanced up at Mulder, then back at Krycek. "Where's Toni?" she finally asked.
Krycek looked away and closed his eyes for a moment. "She's dead," he finally said. "They killed her while we were in Nevada."
"They?" Again she glanced up at Mulder, who gave her a saying look. "Oh, you mean them," she added. "I'm sorry, Krycek. She seemed to be very nice."
Krycek shrugged. "Yeah, well, I'm getting used to loosing the people I care about. What else is new?" He slumped back against the couch and closed his eyes for a moment. "God, what I wouldn't do to undo all the stupid things I've done in my life," he muttered, more to himself than to them.
Scully put a reassuring hand on his leg. "I think we all feel that way sometimes," she said, then glanced at her watch. "If we're going to intercept that van tomorrow morning, I suggest we all get some sleep. It'll be there around eight."
Mulder nodded. "It might be better if you stayed here tonight. Just in case," he suggested and smiled a little at the weird look she gave him. "You can take the bed. I hardly use it anyway. I'll take the chair," he added, waving at the big easy chair.
Krycek frowned a little. "You're not going to get much rest if you sleep sitting up, Mulder," he said, knowing that he himself could never sleep sitting up unless he was completely wasted.
"I'm not going to get much rest before I know Samantha's safe. And Skinner, of course," Mulder countered and dropped down on the chair.
Scully looked from one to the other, then nodded. "Okay. I'll stay here. It's easier if we leave together anyway," she said to Mulder.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to tag along," Krycek inserted.
Scully turned toward him and shook her head. "You should stay off that leg, Krycek. It will heal a lot faster if you take it easy."
"Maybe so, Scully, but I'm not going to sit around here and wait while you two are out having fun. Sorry, but I'm coming along for the ride," he said stubbornly.
Mulder smiled. "He might come in handy, Scully," he tried to convince her.
Scully's skeptical expression made both of them feel that they would never convince her. But then she relented. "Okay, fine. If you want to jeopardize your leg, go ahead," she said, turned around and left the living room.
Mulder got up and followed her, wanting to show her where everything was. "Hey, don't take it too hard. We could use the help in any event."
"Yes, I know," she grumbled, then turned to face him. "Do you have a t-shirt or something I could borrow?"
"Let me see what I can find," he countered and started going through his wardrobe.
Mulder woke up with a start, slightly uncomfortable in the chair but not paying much attention to it. He glanced around the living room, listening intently to his surroundings for a moment, then settled back into the chair. Whatever had woken him up, he couldn't pinpoint it at the moment. He closed his eyes, certain he wouldn't be able to sleep any more and basically passed out.
Half an hour later, Krycek jerked awake on the couch. He was up on his elbows before he remembered where he was. Mulder was asleep in the chair and everything seemed calm. He couldn't for the life of him figure out what had roused him from his sleep. He listened intently, hearing the ordinary noises that ordinary people made and settled back onto the couch. With an exhausted sigh, he draped one arm over his face and went back to sleep.
An hour later, Scully woke up, briefly rattled by something she thought she had dreamt. Then the distinct smell of her partner crept into her nose from the pillow under her head and she smiled lazily before drifting off again. Moments later, she woke up again, frowning. What was it that had roused her previously? She pushed herself up on her elbows and glanced around the bed room. There was no noise anywhere, no indication that Mulder and Krycek were up. She rolled over on her back and sat up, starring out into the semi-darkness of the room. "It felt as if someone just walked over my grave," she mumbled to herself, a little intimidated by that thought. Then she brushed it off. Nerves. That was all this was. Nothing but a case of nerves. She dropped back down on the bed, grabbed the pillow next to her head and hugged it against her. For the flicker of a moment she wished that she was holding someone instead of something, then drifted off to sleep again.
Mulder groaned with displeasure when he of the chair and marched into the bathroom to freshen up. Sleeping upright wasn't his thing, even though he could do it. When he returned to the living room again after having woken Scully up on the way back, he briefly stopped to stare at Krycek. He didn't look good. "Are you okay?" he asked after a moment.
Krycek raised his head, which he had previously supported with his hands and sighed. He was pale and seemed to be in pain. "Yeah. Just a little wasted. You?" he countered, sounding like he was about to be executed.
Mulder eyed him thoughtfully. "I'm not complaining," he replied and sat back down on the chair to put his hiking boots on. "How's the leg?"
"It's been better." Krycek eased into a stretch and grumbled under his breath. "One and a half hours before the shit hits the fan," he added.
Scully turned up in the doorway, looking like she had just missed a couple of nights worth of sleep. "Why don't you use your bed more, Mulder? It's really comfortable," she said and dropped down on the couch next to Krycek.
Mulder made a face. "I don't know. I guess we'd better get going," he replied, trying to avoid the subject as much as possible. He had his reasons for not liking the bed. He also had his reasons for not wanting to get rid of it, either. He got up again and smiled weakly at Scully.
"You're avoiding the subject, big boy," she told him, but didn't pursue it any further. "How are you doing?" she added to Krycek.
"I'll survive," he countered reluctantly, not wanting her to know how bad he felt.
Scully eyed him for a moment, then sighed. "You don't look like you're going to survive," she told him and got up again. "But that's up to you, of course."
"Uhm..." He wanted to ask her for something to take the top off the pain from his leg, but that would also be admitting that he actually was in pain.
Scully raised a hand, nodding. "I get it," she said, grabbed her bag and pulled out a syringe. "Let's have a look," she added, turning toward him. Reluctantly, he pulled the blanket away from his leg. Scully helped him get it up on the coffee table and took the bandage off. "It's still heavily infected. That's not good." She made a face at the puss-filled wound, contemplating what they could do about it right now. "Okay, I'll clean it out again. Then we'll leave. I'm going to take my bag with me, just in case. And after today, you're going to stay off that leg for at least two days, depending on how quickly we can get the infection to disappear. Deal?"
Krycek starred at her for a moment, then finally nodded. "Deal," he countered.
The silence in the warehouse was almost touchable. The occasional car drove by outside and now and again, they could hear voices. But that was all the disturbance they were subjected to. Krycek was sitting on a crate out of sight from the main entrance, resting his leg as much as he could before the action began. Mulder was pacing back and forth a few feet from the entrance, stopping now and again to stare at his watch and mumbled to himself. Scully stood leaning against one of the supporting pillars, watching her partner pace restlessly like a caged animal.
"Mulder," she called out, causing him to glance over at her. But he didn't stop his pacing. "They've still got fifteen minutes to go. Why don't you sit down and rest a bit?" she suggested. Mulder grumbled something under his breath, but kept on pacing. Scully sighed deeply and turned her head to glance at Krycek. "How are you holding up?"
A dark look crossed his face for a moment, but then he gave her a weak little smile. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about me."
Any further conversation was cut short by the low rumble of a diesel-engine. Moments later, a horn honked outside and Scully jogged over to help Mulder open the large double doors. The truck drove in and came to a halt a few feet from the entrance and the two Agents quickly shoved the doors shut again and pulled their weapons. A young man jumped out of the cab of the truck and looked around, a frown on his face. "Hey, wait a minute. This isn't..." he began, then broke off when he saw the two people with their guns aimed at him. He ripped both hands up. "Take it easy. I don't want no trouble," he said, looking nervously from one to the other.
"What have you got for us?" Mulder asked while heading toward the rear of the truck. "Scully, keep him covered," he added.
Scully nodded, keeping her gun trained at the driver. "Don't make any false moves," she advised him, then glanced at Mulder to see what he was doing.
She didn't see it coming and the bullet from the man's gun would have hit her squarely in the chest if Krycek hadn't tackled him. Krycek hammered a fist into the guy's face, knocking him out. "You ought to keep your eyes on your enemy, Dana," he said, glancing over at her.
Scully starred at him for a second, obviously taken aback by the events. Then she nodded. "Mulder?" He had vanished behind the truck.
Mulder climbed up into the back of the truck after opening the rear doors and stopped dead, starring with apprehension at the two stasis-tubes. He stood there, unable to move. The thought that the goal of his life-long search was within reach made him tremble. There was a good portion fear mixed into that, as well. Fear that it might not be her, that she might hate him for not saving her back then, that she might not remember him. All these things flitted through his mind as he forced himself into motion and walked up to the tube on the right. A small glass pane gave a restricted view of the contents and when he leaned closer to get a better look, he saw Skinner. A weak smile slipped over his lips. If this one was right, then the other one might be, too. He turned toward the other tube, leaned in over it and held his breath. The greatest fear he had was that he wouldn't recognize her. That he would look at her face and think that she could be anyone. That he couldn't feel it in his bones that this was his sister. And that fear came true. Looking down at the woman in the tube, he fought an unwinnable battle in his head to recognize her. Providing that this woman was his sister, she would be the adult version of her and he didn't know the adult Samantha. He knew the 8-year-old kid-sister Samantha. His bruised face contorted as he starred down at her, wishing, hoping that it was her, but not really daring to believe it.
"Mulder." Scully's voice came from the end of the truck, causing him to briefly looked over at her. "Is it her?"
He looked down at that female again for a second, then straightened up. "I don't know," he mumbled, sounding very sad. "I have no idea."
Scully came closer, uncertain of what to do. She had seen him crumble and almost fall once before when he thought his sister might have died at the hands of Roche, that lunatic killer who had murdered 16 little girls. Reaching a hand out, she placed it on his shoulder. "Let's get them out of here. We'll find out soon enough if they're who we think they are."
Mulder nodded. "Okay. This one's Skinner. That's for sure," he replied, then glanced past Scully to the rear of the truck and the open doors. "Where's Krycek?"
Scully turned toward the opening as well, frowning. "I don't know. He was..." she began, but trailed off.
The driver had come into view, his right hand clutching Krycek's right arm, his left hand pressing the barrel of his gun against the other man's temple. "Come on out of there, you two," he said, "or pretty boy here get's it."
Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, then they both pulled their guns. Mulder made eye-contact with Krycek, trying to make him understand what he should do. The other man, though nervous, gave a vague, almost non-existent nod. He suddenly doubled up, pulling out of the guy's grip, and Mulder and Scully fired their guns at the same time. With two neat holes in his forehead and a stunned expression on his face, the driver collapsed. Krycek straightened up again and looked back at the dead man for a minute. Then he turned his attention back to the two agents. "I guess I'm lucky you two are good shots," he said and managed a slightly wavering smile.
Scully smiled back at him. "That's right," she agreed with him.
"So, are the tubes right?" he wanted to know as he pulled himself into the truck and got to his feet a little unsteadily.
"Skinner is here," Mulder said, nodding toward the right-hand tube. "But I don't know if this woman is my sister. I have no way of knowing."
Krycek limped over to the tube and looked in on her with a frown. "Difficult to say, really," he then said, looking over at Mulder. "Did you two look alike?"
Mulder shook his head. "Not really. We both had dark hair and brown eyes, but that's as far as it went." Putting a hand on the tube, he sighed. "I've never really considered what she would look like. In my mind, she's still eight."
After having taken the truck with its precious contents to the hospital, Mulder and Scully waited for news on how the technicians fared with thawing out the two people they had rescued. Krycek had taken the car back to Mulder's place, trying to stay out of view for now.
Mulder paced the waiting room, not at ease and not really nervous either. He found himself in an odd state of mind which could not be easily explained. The fact that the woman might be his sister agitated him. He had waited so long for her to return, he just couldn't wait another minute to find out whether it really was her.
Scully watched him for a while, actually beginning to count the steps he took back and forth. Then the doctor finally joined them.
"Agent Mulder, Agent Scully. We seem to have successfully revived both of them," he said, smiling.
Both of them let out a sigh of relief. "So, how are they?" Scully wanted to know.
That made the smile on the doctor's face fade. "Well, they are both naturally traumatized. As far as we can assess the woman has been in stasis far longer than the Assistant Director. But their vital signs are good and with a bit of help from our side, I believe they will both wake up pretty soon. The Assistant Director probably before the woman."
Mulder nodded. "Can we see them?" he wanted to know.
"Certainly. This way."
Mulder gently opened the door and stepped inside, glancing around the room before his eyes settled on the still form in the bed. He stepped up to the foot end of the bed and starred at her. A mane of dark-brown hair was spread out over the pillow, slightly wavy but without any real curls. Her face was ordinary, no sharp cuts, no roundness to give it immediate character. What he needed to see were her eyes. If they were deer-brown, he would start believing. He eased down on a chair and settled in to wait for her to wake up.
Scully stood by the window, starring out at a grey sky, wondering if things would ever be the same now. She hoped that Mulder had found his sister, that the woman in the next room was her, but she also hoped that their boss was going to be okay.
A low moan made her turn around. Skinner was moving. His eyelids fluttered open and he blinked up at the ceiling for a moment. "Sir?" Scully leaned in, trying to catch his attention. He looked like he hadn't slept in a year.
"Scully?" he whispered, starring up at her.
"Yes, sir. How are you feeling?" she wanted to know.
"I've been better. Where am I?" he countered in a slow, sleepy voice.
He made an effort to sit up, but found that he couldn't even raise his head. "What's wrong with me?"
"It's probably due to the prolonged stasis you've been in, sir. Give it time. You need to regain your strength," Scully told him.
"Stasis?" His tone of voice contained just as much surprise as she would have thought. The frown on his face told her that he was concerned and angry as well. "What are you talking about?"
"You've been in... cryogenic storage for about a month, sir," Scully said, not certain how he would react that kind of news.
Somehow that information seemed to give him some of his strength back and he carefully sat up. "Cryogenic storage?"
Scully quickly raised the head of the bed and he sank back against it, completely depleted for a second. "Yes, sir. Cryogenic storage. I don't think you should worry too much about it just yet, though. You need to regain your strength first."
Skinner glanced at her, a little alarmed by his own state of mind. He felt slightly bemused by the whole thing. "Is that the doctor in you talking?" he wanted to know.
Scully blinked in surprise. "Uhm..." she said, not knowing how to answer that one for a second. Then she nodded. "Yes. As a doctor I have to advice you to save your strength."
Skinner merely smiled a little. "All right. If you say so," he countered, too tired to object anyway.
TO BE CONTINUED